Michael Rother - Label Mates Festival, London - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Michael Rother - Label Mates Festival, London

by charles filtness Rating: Release Date:
Michael Rother - Label Mates Festival, London
Michael Rother - Label Mates Festival, London

Label Mates is a one-day multi-venue festival in and around Hackney and Dalston, North London.  Michael Rother is the main headliner with plenty of other stages and bands to choose from earlier in the day. 

I’m a later arrival so just opt to check out the stage at Oslo which is part curated by the reliable Fuzz Club records.  The Gluts are my start to the festival, a 4 piece from Milan they play heavy psyche with plenty of feedback interspersed with electronics.  In the most part, it works really well, the songs were front man Nicolo focuses more on knob twiddling over screaming into the mike and helping out with the drumming are most effective for me.  Not much music is improved by a screamed vocal and this is no exception. The rest of the band are faultless, on the last song Nicolo exits the stage first leaving the others to indulge in a thrilling and extended feedback frenzied jam.  When it’s just the bassist and drummer left I find myself thinking I could have done with more of this. 

Later in the evening, the duo Throw Down Bones are up.  Also from Italy and signed to Fuzz Club they are however a somewhat different prospect to The Gluts. They opted for pounding techno alongside the more familiar guitars on their second album ‘Two’.  That is what we get.  Things start off with the two of them hunched over their various electronics, loud bass-heavy beats encourage many in the crowd to start jumping about.  Bass and lead guitar with plenty of effects and feedback are played intermittently alongside the pounding techno.  At times the PA system struggles to cope with the volume and frequencies, I thought it was just my system at home that had this trouble.  For 45 minutes they keep the momentum up, ape-like dancing on stage and band members joining us on the dancefloor ensure it’s an ear-ringingly enjoyable and memorable set. 

The main event Michael Rother is billed as playing the songs of Neu!, Harmonia & Solo Works.  This is at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) which is a venue that deserves mention.  It is an art deco theatre that reopened its doors as a gig venue in the summer of 2018.  This was after undergoing an extensive refurbishment whilst managing to retain its look of faded grandeur and hence all of its character.  It's a great venue, a fairly vast space that seems wider across the stage front than the room is deep.  Michael Rother plays guitar and electronics, tonight accompanied by Franz Bargmann on bass and Hans Lampe on drums.   It would be hard to overstate the importance of his contribution to contemporary music with his various releases and collaborations over the years.  Probably most widely acknowledged for the trio of mid 70's albums released with Neu!  They are seminal works that reach beyond their krautrock tag and recognition of this seems to further increase over time. Yet there is no huge fanfare about Michael continuing to tour and play material from his back catalogue.  Admittedly by the time he's on stage the venue is packed out but this is a one-off gig in a relatively modest-sized venue.  When David Byrne tours a show featuring a set peppered with Talking Heads hits everybody wants some, Kraftwerk similarly would sell out this venue over and over yet Michael Rother who is at least an equal to those more famous artists remains somewhat under the radar.

Tonight’s gig is a treat obviously.  The trio plays an 80-minute set with no one period of Michael’s career overly dominating.  The biggest cheers are for the more familiar Neu! numbers; Seeland and E-Musik are highlights but overall the entire set is an upbeat and precision affair that captivates and induces movement. By the time everyone has been encouraged to their feet towards the end of the set it feels like the whole evening has been patiently building towards this very appropriate crescendo. The biggest cheer of the night may actually have been earlier in the set when Michael tells us. "I don't often have much to say as some of you might know, but I just wanted to say I hope you stay in the EU for a very long time". Lots of applause and appreciation for that sentiment suggests London (or the part of it here tonight at least) hasn't lost its appetite for hope, cohesiveness, and collaboration. 

Full setlist

Katzenmusik #5
Hallogallo-Für Immer

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