Radialsystem V, Berlin
13 - 14 June

The experimental and boutique label Denovali from Essen, Germany, has always been focused on interesting interceptions in sound, moving between ambient, drone, electronica, jazz, piano and string oriented modern compositions, since 2005.

In line with its 10 year celebration: this past weekend the label followed up its creative successes, by setting off another festival series, showcasing some of their talent in several European cities. In the cultural mecca of Berlin, a former water pumping station, the Radialsystem V, hosted one weekend long of the label’s influential live acts.

In the furious storm of the Saturday weather that hit Berlin, the music rattled inside against the rain, thanks to a line-up of Nils Petter Molvaer & Moritz Von Oswald, Hidden Orchestra and Poppy Ackroyd, with a billed appearance from revered Brazilian artist Ricardo Donoso sadly cancelled due to travel complications.

The Hidden Orchestra, with electronics leader Joe Acheson and drummer Jamie Graham, pulsed with drum soliloquies; an ambient evolving dreamscape accompanied by scratching brushes, a variety of drum hammers, and the constant feeling of something descending upon your mood. The fluctuating light design lit the two artists front and back, with red and blue, and orange hues between, accenting geometrical configurations or emitting full lunar landings, following the slow or changing pace of the music. The sonic story resulted in live dub infused jazz, with rhythmic undulations, anthem like build-ups, and symphonic breakdowns.

The seminal Moritz Von Oswald was joined by a mystery modular synth grappler to the right, and the Norwegian jazz trumpet player, Nils Petter Molvaer, haunting with his ghostly trembles on the brass instrument. As Moritz fingered familiar keyboard bumps of Basic Channel bass and dub wahs, granular synthesis scratched texture underneath the sullen trumpeter. In between the stillness of the regular rhythm, the mood was slow, dramatic, and immersive. 

Returning on Sunday with the tide of – this time – sun, was a four-strong continuation of the event featuring Forest Swords, the progressive Czech nu-jazz collaborative Floex, Istanbul-based Ah! Kosmos, and the appropriately witchy Witxes.

The diverse Floex group, led by the animated Tomáš Dvořák, intertwined playful personality into the pieces with a positive vocal timbre. Though some of the melodies were digitally laid out, the extensive band set-up still included a sound isolated live drum kit, clarinet, contrabass saxophone, what we spied to be a Roland SH101 keyboard synth, an electronic reed instrument resembling a MIDI-controlled clarinet, and a MIDI pad programmed to be played as a xylophone.

The whole song and dance made for a progressive electronica story, simple but whimsical, with watercolour visuals swimming in the background, and a slowly moving environment, also intermittently charged by the female bandmate who would break into a choral accompaniment of synth-distorted pop. Then an oboe would come in, then pads of echo, delay, then all the reeds playing together while the drummer kicked. An intriguing spectacle of ambient compositions, breaking down into their constituent parts.

Forest Swords, whose 2013 Engravings album was so rapturously received, graced the stage with a simple laptop, electric guitar, and bearded bassist Jay Freedman opposing him across the floor. Smoke drifted through the seated crowd and on the screen, carefully curated to simulate an overlapping environment. Tribal masks, jewellery, and fragmented broken pieces fell on the projected image, complementing the morbid Eastern rhythms of something underworldly coming from the stage. Distorted bass guitar and enveloping dream states moved through the open, and we’d be prone to proffer the name ‘heroin-dub’ to the hypnotic genre that summoned the snake in the room. 

A fittingly intoxicating culmination to yet another weekend of focused yet fluid programming from the people at Denovali.