Residing in the unassuming Tufnell Park Dome and Boston Music Room is the auspiciously titled Raw Power Festival. For three days its intimate setting holds domain over some of the most well respected avant-garde, drone and experimental bands in the scene – and beyond them a diamond mine of undiscovered gems. Bringing in the festival, curated by the eclectic Baba Yaga’s Hut, was a three band bill that from the off let you know that Raw Power is not your average festival. With footage from Riff. Underground and photography by Jose Ramón Caamaño…it’s time to enter the Twilight Zone. I mean Raw Power Festival. Yes.
Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno – [3/5]
Graham Dunning should be burnt at the stake. Performing what I hazard to call ‘electronic techno’ without using a great deal of electricity or technology is the pursuit of a madman who must be stopped at all costs. The fact that it is not just possible to perform his mechanisms live but also to create music that is actually both listenable and intense is sheer witchcraft. The repetitive looping sounds are fascinating to watch in motion – whilst the actual sonics have a personable organic feel to them that screams factory production lines. It is something then that benefits from its gimmick both in terms of performance intrigue and the actual songs it produces; and is a very good fit for today’s headliner. Adding all the more to the excitement is the sheer precariousness of it all…with the entire set up looking like it could tumble as the most expensive Jenga tower ever played as an instrument. I was expecting a novelty, but I actually got something really rather good. I still think we need to build a bridge out of Graham Dunning though just in case he floats.
Graham Dunning’s Website: https://grahamdunning.com/
Teeth of the Sea – [5/5]
Providing the first of many standout performances at Raw Power was Teeth of the Sea – the band that create highway soundtracks for films that don’t exist. After being introduced to them through a knockout performance in support of Saturday’s headliners in 2013 – I can honestly say that Teeth of the Sea have somehow managed become even more essential. Weaving pounding sonic tapestries that bleed neon lit cool; it’s hard not to be completely intoxicated by their mixture of…well…everything. I was greatly anticipating hearing another rendition of ‘Responder’ as the closing track; but it was their newest material that really resonated and demanded attention. It’s hard not to be taken aback as you hear the distorted cries of ‘Animal Manservant’ and boggle at how they are being reproduced. Their mystic and grandeur fails to cover the sheer primeval nature of it all – with crushing percussion cutting through film reel atmospherics and tequila lime flavoured trumpets. There is no doubt in my mind that one day Teeth of the Sea will headline a festival like Raw Power – and with performances like this you start to wonder if that time is far off at all. Utterly gripping.
Teeth Of The Sea’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Teeth-Of-The-Sea-115594505139423/
Test Dept: Redux – [4/5]
Industrial music is a genre that has grown to encompass diverse club scenes and multi-platinum selling albums – and so far spread has the genre become that it is often hard to remember that the scene originated as a progressive working class art form. London’s own Test Dept is a band that comes straight from the piston beating heart of the genre; with their political rhetoric marching to the beat of the conveyer belt. The stage was lined up in such a way that the drums and DJ set were left feeling strangely out of place among the cacophony of warn parts – with coils, propellers and sheet metal all waiting to be abused.
With a backdrop of oppressive images, and a dark multi-story car park aesthetic, Test Dept: Redux acted as a mechanical portal to darker times past and future. With songs morphing between rhythm oriented stomping to grinding metallic dirges, there is a pervading sense of despair with Test Dept: Redux. Much like Graham Dunning before, the mechanical percussion and reused metal carcasses paradoxically created a sound that sounded strangely organic. It’s an absolute marvel what you can create with nothing, and it only feeds into the political messages that weaved throughout the serrated spoken word sections. The biggest strength of Test Dept: Redux though is the most conventional element – absolutely crushing percussion. The sheer force of the drums was dominating and propelled a very well worn and classic sound into something immediately visceral.
One of the, unfortunately, most striking elements of Test Dept: Redux’s performance was that their politically charged rhetoric is still eerily relevant. Among old footage of 80s governments, demolition and barbed wire fences was a constant reminder of the parallels with what is happening in London now. Most telling was the vitalized applause at the repeated calls for social housing to the backdrop of old footage of tenement buildings being demolished – unfortunately not old enough. It’s a strong reminder that Test Dept: Redux are not just parading an old sound that is still entertaining – but old protests that are still relevant.
Test Dept’s Website: http://testdept.org.uk/
All live footage courtesy of Riff.Underground
All photography courtesy of Jose Ramón Caamaño Photography