ULTRA2012 SOUTH - Eindhoven – TAC - 10/03/2012

Euphoria gripped the room – people young and old cut some rug, ran round in circles, talked incessantly about the meaning of art, stole posters and hugged and made up. An absolute triumph and TAC should be proud as punch they pulled this off, this was near legendary.



“Nope, next year a lot of the subsidy stops, I mean it’s not as if there’s much happening in Eindhoven anyway…” Such was the gloomy forecast presented by some of the workers at TAC (Temporary Arts Centre) in Eindhoven… It’s a shame that so many  areas are under threat, but you can’t help but wonder if this is the year of all shake ups in any case. Visitors would certainly get one tonight; we were going to see a band change gender and lift the cut-back gloom a little bit. After a triumphant gig in Nijmegen, TAC was the obvious place where ULTRA had chosen to land for its Southern manifestation.

TAC is a cool space, replete with inner courtyard, galleries and canteen; it has a shitload to offer. At 9pm, it was a very uncool place to be in the sense that no-one was in the building. Miraculously by 9:30 the place was pretty jammed. What is it with people turning up on the dot? Mad… Mad because tonight it offered – for the first and only time ever - a female Minny Pops (culled from OKC, Very Sexuals, April and La Vie de Boheme) and fronted of course by Wally van Middendorp, performing the first single, the “macho” Kojak /Nervous/ Footsteps. According to Wally, the object was to subvert the received wisdom that this record was macho – and realign the original intention - that of a critique of hard cool. And that aim was beautifully realised.

To say I was emotional was an understatement. I welled up a couple of times - it was an astonishing performance all round, Wally’s angular preaching was given a precise, delicate, warmly textured backdrop which concentrated on intuition, on a lightness of touch, on exploring sounds for their own sake. This approach fired all three songs to a level no-one could expect. There was a balance in Kojak’s sonic ambience that was now completely natural, it was edgy for sure, but the way the music was played allowed more space and more light between the previously monochrome, grizzly sounds on the record. All pretence or posturing was stripped away. When Wally started yelling “hold your hands up” it felt more celebratory than anything else.

Then we had a reading by Harold Schellinx of the ULTRA book, not the salubrious reading of the Nijmegen gig but a performance, words garbled into a programmed voice, segmented visuals appearing to stab home some point. The bit where the press quotes saying how god-awful the ULTRA bands sounded were projected onto the wall was a marvellous bit of theatre… Harold sat, jabbing at his laptop, occasionally augmenting the soundtrack with a staccato burst of speech. If only all readings could be this way. Then a little burst of nonsense in cod Dutch and we got April, who have come on leaps and bounds since we last saw them 5 months ago. This was the first gig with their drummer though you wouldn’t really have guessed – a sound issue at the beginning meant that we couldn’t hear Jorn’s bass line on Marching to War, but no matter they were pretty tremendous. They boast a monstrous sound, with huge chorus lines and ambitious, basic, no-nonsense melodies; it’s brash as hell but brilliant - they have the talent to pull singing about big, vacuous themes off. Maybe it’s because of the balance inherent in everything they present, (they do the boy / girl song switch really well) but there’s something burning and exciting about this band despite the large number of reflective, slow tempo songs they boast.  They can deal with silences and slow passages too, there’s an enormous amount of space in their sound that will serve them well and Julia’s voice is astonishing in its clearness, I’d not heard her sing that much back in November but she can belt them out. Yes, very eighties, very Roddy Frame but they have real talent.  

In Nijmegen was a warm evening concerned with rekindling old fires, then Eindhoven was very much the night where Gilded Youth showed off its precocity. We’d seen April, we’d seen the average age of Minny Pops plummet (forget the gender change for a sec), and now we got a dose of what can only be described as Yoof Punk cabaret.

But a moment’s patience -before we delve into this interesting proposition further we should mention TAC’s remarkable looking deejay who at first glance seemed to be the ghost of Leigh Bowery checking out this scene. In keeping with the Bowery motif, the music played was mad – literally at times (we got Wesley Willis)… but that wasn’t the real highlight. After a while the deejay started to note that his remarkable profile was being projected onto the wall opposite. So enraptured was this Narcissus with this huge manifestation of his features –so enchanted with the idea of pulling some 80’s shapes that he seemed lost in reflection, oblivious to his duties…

Back to the cabaret… the very same deejay suddenly took on a new role, that of a static, Klaus Nomi-esque guitarist in a punk line dance which developed into a piss take of the 80s punk/post punk scene- three girls dressed in the very height of Nina Hagen fashion laughed at shoulder pads, pouted and generally shouted that the 80s were shit. Ongemotiveerd Kunstenaars Collectief (for it was they) were marvellous.

Then it was time for Toon Bressers from Dutch legends Nasmak / + Instruments – joined by Younes Riad on laptop duties, in another update of the ULTRA vibe. To say this was a breath-taking performance is an understatement; Toon frankly flattened TAC with his skill, precision and his anti-music vibe. This was a destruction along the lines of Faust or Neu!, where the patterns created by rhythm and  tone mattered far above any melodic concern, and the power of exaggerating some of the basic elements that make up music become invigorating in themselves. This was a series of displays and gestures that didn’t need melody or harmony.

Another moment of insanity followed from Ongemotiveerd Kunstenaars Collectief comprising of a dancing cow and cowgirls – simply put, they did a little jig and fired confetti at everyone, it was that simple and that enjoyable.  Then the bespattered revellers got the final act, Nouveau Vélo who werea complete post punk hoe down. The band is a bunch of lads playing guitars – fair enough we all know what that can entail – but this lot have something incredible about them. The sound is a driving one, pulsating, rhythmical held together by a metronomic bass part which nods to the way Tina Weymouth used to plod through Talking Heads songs back in the day. We also get lots of pedal action which is good. And the singer is restless, slightly wild, walking around in a slightly demented and abstract manner - very much in the style of the singer from Eddy Current Suppression Ring. But it’s the songs that do it; they have a set of songs that are marvellous, anthemic, charming, born of never being noticed in the arse end of Holland but nevertheless keeping a smile on your face. It’s all very Postcard in attitude at times - there’s even a line in their song, What to Do which goes “I want to sing like Josef K” so the game’s up - but what the heck, Postcard was and remains a positive force. Best by far was their take on Dolphins Spurt (the song of choice among young ULTRAs it seems) which was a driving, buzzsaw riot. The bit when the bass goes up a gear was simply great and of course eth whole thing ended in a tidal wave of feedback and screeches. This band could be special.

Euphoria gripped the room – people young and old cut some rug, ran round in circles, talked incessantly about the meaning of art, stole posters and hugged and made up. An absolute triumph and TAC should be proud as punch they pulled this off, this was near legendary.


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