My second pilgrimage to Distorted Perspectives, took place on the May Bank Holiday weekend.
As with most things in life, having been there before and knowing the lie of the land, made the experience all the more enjoyable – that sure and certain knowledge of last year’s event, firmly tucked into the memory bank, coupled with idyllic Donegal weather, made this another one to remember.
It helped also, that my ‘revolutions on the radio‘ podcast of a few weeks back, had focussed on the Regional Cultural Centre‘s annual event – an hour and thirty nine minutes of re-immersion, courtesy of a playlist and chat with Event Organiser Jeremy Howard, in all that this Festival has become synonymous with.
As circumstance would have it, I couldn’t make it up for the opening Friday night, so my apologies go out to BC Camplight, Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts and a curtain closing finale from, Captain A & The Commercial Monsters – now on “Creative Hiatus”, following 12 action packed years in the limelight.
Letterkenny is a two hour jaunt up the road for me, arriving around 3pm, that left me a dangerous 5 hours to catch a few beers and some food with Robert Mulhern, he of Tuath legend.
Lunch came in the unexpectedly welcome guise of Wholegreen, a fabulous health food restaurant, whose motto reminds us to, “Juice Green, Eat Clean and be Plant Strong”. This perfectly set us up for a leisurely afternoon, imbibing that other local delicacy, Kinnegar Brewing‘s Yannaroddy Porter – “rich in traditional dark roasted malt flavours laced with an exotic streak of coconut”. It was great to sit out in the sun, in the beer garden of that fine Letterkenny institution, The Cottage Bar, setting the world to rights.
It is pretty scary mind you, just how quickly those 5 hours evaporated, and I find myself hot-footing it to the venue, following a Facebook reminder from Jeremy, that the show would begin at 8pm SHARP!
On arrival, there is a warm welcome from a gaggle of familiar faces, had it really been a year already since the last one?
TWINKRANES get proceedings underway. As the programme attests, “TWINKRANES specialise in zone out progressive pop music that melds the worlds of motor driven kraut, space rock, psychedelia, drone and avant pop.” And as the NME put it, “..a fantastically unhinged mix of speeded-up krautrock rhythms, dirty drones and wonky synthesisers, which is at once weird and danceable..”
TWINKRANES deliver all of the above and much, much more. Anto & Chris, set the simmering tone, inexorably turning up the heat, unleashing a blistering performance. I had really been looking forward to catching these guys live, as their reputation had preceded them, and I can immediately see and hear why. So much so, that I have just tracked down a vinyl copy of their debut LP, ‘SPEKTRUMTHEATRESNAKES’, which is as I type, winging it’s way from France.
TWINKRANES crawl up inside your brainstem, their shamanic possession of your senses is assured, resistance is futile – submit to the frenetic euphoria…
Hookworms are a band I first witnessed at the inaugural Eindhoven Psych Lab. That mystical evening, they acquitted themselves with aplomb, one of many highlights in a weekend oozing with quality. Quoting from the Distorted Perspectives Programme, “Leeds-based Hookworms are masters of imperious motorik and piercing swathes of noise which make for an exhilarating sonic trip. Flinging themselves into the public’s consciousness with 2013’s ‘Pearl Mystic’, the debut LP was one of the most acclaimed albums of the year.” And, “Anyone who has seen Hookworms live knows that they are an enervating, entrancing, life-enhancing experience. The Leeds quintet create hypnotic, cathartic, discombobulating dance music through a disorientating combination of echo-swamped vocals, garage bred organ, fuzz-blitzed wah-wah guitars and constantly driving rhythms.” – The Quietus.
Hookworms and TWINKRANES prove a match made in heaven, there is barely time between bands to pause for breath, let alone another beer, before the swollen crowd is again uplifted in rapturous abandon, the amassed clambering aboard this melodious, magic carpet ride.
Hookworms deliver a polished set, the flexive ease of their aural temptations, awash with lively colours, sent to freshen up our souls…
All too soon, the house lights release us from our trance. Tonight’s buzz refuses to dissipate, and there is chatter aplenty in the auditorium, slowly spilling out into the foyer, where the celebrated Mishka Westell Posters, form part of the visual art aspect, to this cultural delight.
Proceedings adjourn back to the Beer Garden at The Cottage, (via a pitstop for the best kebab I’ve had since being here last year), where the wee hours are whiled away to the after party sounds, of Shammen Delly and Jamie…
Day 2 has an altogether more relaxed vibe, which for the early part of the day, suits my recovery mode just fine. I arrive at the RCC in good time as I want to luxuriate in, and soak up the Richard Noble Retrospective – “A major retrospective of the work of the New York born artist and photographer. It features work from the different phases of his career over the past fifty years, including ‘Conception’, a spectacular large scale video and sound installation, projected over a dark reflective pool, first shown at Distorted Perspectives 2015.”
The vast body of Richard’s photographic work, is here encapsulated under the broad brush strokes of, ‘Advertising’, ‘Portraits’, ‘Landscapes’ and ‘The Blueprints of Life’.
To experience these briefest of snapshots, from the wealth of material, captured during a lifetime in high profile, is truly humbling. Talking later with Richard, the abiding truism that qualitative output, stems from deeply insightful individuals, again proves to be the case.
8pm brings us to Movie Time, featuring the Distorted Perspectives Collective, Autumns + F12 with, “An evening of live music specifically composed to accompany a selection of film, including a sound and vision mix of the surrealist ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’ by F12, an audio visual performance to David Lynch by Autumns and the 1920 German silent expressionist horror film ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’, by the Distorted Perspectives Collective. Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’, tells the story of an insane hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders.”
‘Meshes of the Afternoon‘ is a 1943 experimental film by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. Deren described the film as being, “…concerned with the interior experiences of an individual. It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons. Rather, it reproduces the way in which the subconscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience.” The mysterious, cloaked, mirror-faced figure finds an echo in the 1972 Sun Ra, Afrofuturist film, ‘Space Is The Place’.
The opening segue, perfectly sets the scene for Autumns and their interpretation of the David Lynch, ‘Fire Walk With Me’ backdrop. Deren was a key influence on American noir and Lynch in particular. Here, Autumns deliver a suitably anguished soundtrack, to this bleakest of celluloid excursions.
I have long been a fan of the Robert Wiene masterpiece, ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari‘ – ever since I made the connection with the EP sleeve of the Bauhaus epic, ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, in my goth infused teens.
Being able to see this on the big screen is a rare treat indeed, and one of the defining pleasures of attending a festival like Distorted Perspectives. Where the aural and retinal stimulus is defined by a holistic approach, enlivening all of the senses in a conducive atmosphere and environment, underpinning Dr Timothy Leary’s mantra of set and setting.
One connection I do make this evening, as a counter-Fortean observation, is that Cesare had slept for an enigmatic 23 years – or is this merely apophenia, driving my skidoo?
‘Caligari’ is a spectral spectacle, a call to rebellion against a deranged authority, the expressionist film sets, reinforcing the thematic presence of distorted perspectives, Pandora’s Box wrapped in a cacophonous sarcophagus…
I had fully intended, on leaving the Regional Cultural Centre, to finish off the evening and the weekend, by attending the festival finale, an “African Set” from none other than the acclaimed JD Twitch – co-founder of the eponymous Glasgow club night, label and worldwide DJ partnership that is Optimo (Espacio).
When I get to the Central Bar at 23:30, the levels of youthful inebriation on the pavement outside, suddenly overwhelm my aspirations, and the prospect of an extra hour in bed, following the two hour drive home wins the day. So apologies to Keith, that is one rendezvous I will save until next time.
Half an hour later as I whizz past the brooding facsimile of the Grianán Ailigh, it serves as a fittingly magickal backdrop, to a weekend spent where Donegal is not so much a place, as a state of mind…