Prague, Czech Republic
There’s something special happening at Prague’s Lunchmeat festival, where audiovisual design, ideas and curation are valued as highly as the musical talent gracing its stages. “Creative people and bright minds go where things are happening, and if nothing is happening, they disappear,” said Tresor founder Dimitri Hegemann during his talk on cultural activism at this year’s event.
The week-long programme for Lunchmeat’s latest chapter shed light on the respectful, experiential nature of music listening in Prague’s underground scene. As part of Wednesday’s programme at Ankali, phone cameras were covered and shoes were removed in order to enter the Pluto listening space, which housed dark ambient sounds from the likes of Gnäw, while Mor Wen whipped up a more buoyant atmosphere in the club room. Hakanaï, an immersive 3D performance inside a cube by Adrien M and Claire B, was a gripping metamorphosis of light, sound and body movement, with interactive elements here and at Lunchmeat’s synth playroom on the Saturday. Look around and you’ll see that the events certainly do attract creative, bright minds to spots across the Czech capital.
Much like previous years, the main programme of Lunchmeat took place in the sophisticated setting of the National Gallery, with the Club Stage and Concert Hall programmed on rotation. Clashes were nowhere to be found, so everything was up for experiencing until daybreak, near enough – if you had the stamina for 5am sets. With the dust now settled on this year’s proceedings, we’ve rounded up five standout performances from the 2023 edition featuring the creative minds behind some of our favourite moments.
It felt as if the entire Lunchmeat crowd had turned out to the Concert Hall to be immersed in euphoric, enveloping soundworlds of Evian Christ. On Embers – the lead track from the Trance Party purveyor’s long-awaited debut album Revanchrist opened the show, the auditorium filling with a smog that flared red with each crash of noise. The set slickly changed pace, lulled the audience into a transcendent state where eyes stayed closed and hands reached to the sky before the pace picked up with dizzying intensity. Minimalist streams of light spilled from behind the decks giving the performance a sense of the divine as revellers drank in the new audiovisual show, developed with longtime collaborator Emmanuel Biard. Undoubtedly one to remember.
A celestial Lunchmeat debut from Marina Herlop. Herlop’s structured bolero, designed by Álvaro Calafat, resembled plants reclaiming an urban landscape, emerging through layers of rubble after an apocalypse. The outfit wasn’t the only post-human element of the performance; the call and response songs of Pripyat stirred feelings of longing for a reconstructed world, as though crying out to ancestors or for other species. There’s refreshing, fearless experimentation to Herlop’s songcraft that translated on stage, too. Carnatic music-influenced phrases were chopped, layered and intricately harmonised with vocalists Marta Torrella and Helena Ros. Herlop’s vocal performance was unfaltering, from ballads by piano to the more demanding, percussive sounds. Vocal somersaults and shimmering drum crashes, haunting and yet extremely digestible for the ears. There was lots to be enthralled by.
Oliver Torr and Axonbody (Axontorr)
A collaborative show from experimental composer Oliver Torr and Paris-born 3D artist Axonbody were one of the most anticipated at this year’s festival – and for good reason. It was here that the pair premiered a new audiovisual spectacle, Axontorr. The visuals journeyed through night time cityscapes, barren trees and 3D movies of the metro, toward inhospitable rocky scenes swirling around mountains and space. The speed of clips made gleaming obvious meaning a little tricker, but the show embodied a futuristic dystopia, with blazes erupting over churning metallic tones and deconstructed sounds. Both took to the mic for various tracks, swapping between glitchy synthesised vocals and a kind of electronicore screamo. Their embrace at the end was a loving conclusion to a set that left us thinking, ‘Bristol’s Illegal Data would love this’.
Hyd exuded a gentle but playful energy from the off, when they entered the stage with purposeful steps timed to each chime of vaporous Caroline Polachek-produced tune Afar, from 2022’s stellar Clearing. The first few songs were characterised by more intentional, choreographed movements which later evolved into spontaneous shapes in the pit as Hayden Dunham played through songs from their shining discography. The way the PC Music affiliate reacted to each smattering of applause revealed an endearing performer. Hyd’s touching tribute to the late SOPHIE, who herself had performed on Lunchmeat’s Concert Hall stage in 2020, stirred the room. “I can still feel her here” they say hand on heart, “and in all of you”.
Zoë Mc Pherson and Alessandra Leone
Zoë Mc Pherson and Alessandra Leone, co-founders of the Berlin-based SFX imprint and audiovisual platform, brought all the energy to their performance on Lunchmeat’s Club Stage. Limbs were thrashed and heads were banged to the sonics of Mc Pherson’s third album Pitch Blender, filling the room with static. The chemistry between Leone and Mc Pherson was infectiously lighthearted and fun. Away from the dancefloor, the duo also took part in the festival’s programme of talks and workshops, offering further insight into their collaborative process, methods and ideas spanning various mediums. This was equally as illuminating, albeit a little kinder on the feet.