LEV Festival 2018 Reviewed

LEV Festival Review Gijon

Photo by Oscar Parasiego

LEV Festival gave some food for thought with vivid audiovisual performances ranging from the poetic rumination of Loscil to the meaty concept techno of Atom™.


L.E.V. Festival turned 12 last month. Highly respected both by specialized media and music lovers, this yearly event brings some of the most innovative composers, performers and visual artists to the northern Spanish city of Gijón. The venues, the contrast between nature and industry, the low number of attendees — always sold-out, though —, the food and, above all, the interesting cultural offering, makes this little festival a unique, shiny gem. Let’s see what this past edition was like.

Lev Festival 2018

Michela Pelusio’s performance was a strong introductory note, a nice balance between audio and visual, a playfulness and adherence to a very particular structure and set of self-established rules. The large white string stretched from the ground to the ceiling was a centerpiece, around which the physics of the show were based. The static drone sounds, created by a string and then amplified, created a very organic lumino-acoustic experience - minimal, beautiful and captivating. The string morphed and danced as some kind of alien structure - some unearthly artifact - and Michela’s physical contact with it generated new forms and sounds. It was a charming exercise in striking a balance between dynamics and statics. Increasing amounts of energy were emitted in the form of light and movement, as the show progressed at its slow-paced tempo.

Michela Pelusio

Loscil filled the vast Laboral theater with his melancholic ambient poetry, which is at times very convincing (especially when he goes more minimal) while sometimes overtly dramatic and predictable. Even though there was nothing about the performance that I really disliked, it was not as touching as his releases. For me, Loscil’s music works best when it is condensed into a concept album like some sort of atmospheric sonic film.


Friday’s last performance at the Theatre was Hiroaki Umeda. The multi-disciplinary Japanese artist was a vivid memory for many attendees. The amazing show he gave at that very same spot a couple years back turned him into one of the most anticipated names of the present edition. His Intensional Particle combined intense energy, even raw violence, and delicacy, with an impressive display. Perhaps the negative part was that the show seemed almost identical to the one offered two years back.

Hiroaki Umeda

One of the more exciting and surprising parts of the line-up were the two different Atom™ performances, scheduled over two days. Uwe Schimdt stepped out at his heaviest and most challenging. The Deep State performance was a heavy rhythmic flash, sometimes verging on industrial/techno or harsher IDM. An additional layer of meaning was provided by visuals showing riots and police violence. This audio/video balance created a tension, which reminded the atmosphere just before a riot erupts into uncontrollable chaos. In our upcoming interview Uwe elaborates more on the concept of this performance, but during the conversation he claimed that it should not be treated as straightforwardly political, but rather an illustration of the unstable and disorienting state (state of being as well as the state) we are in now. The performance demanded attention in an aggressive and intense way. On Saturday, Uwe went into straightforward techno-mode, which wouldn’t be out of place in Berghain’s turbine room on primetime. It was a very physical experience, a solid, functional 4x4 stream with twists and turns. However, it did not have the drops characteristic of dancefloor dynamics, but acted more like a single monolithic sculpture - as if the patterns associated with heavy techno were transported into a different, more leftfield context.

One of the new venues was “El Muséu del Pueblu d’Asturies” (Asturian people museum), a charming outdoor replica of an old Asturian village. For this special environment, the organizers chose Murcof, Mimicof and Norwell.

Fernando Corona, aka Murcof, was the first to step on stage around 1 PM and presented his magnificent Lost in Time show. A big part of it comes from the soundtrack he composed for the eponymous film by Patrick Bernatchez. Under the Murcof alias, the Mexican has flirted for a long time with so-called classical music, influenced by Gorecki, Arvo Pärt, etc. His performance, based on Bach’s Goldsberg variations, wrapped the beautiful spot in minimalistic, occasionally shapeless soundscapes.

Behind the MimiCof alias hides the remarkable Midori Hirano. The Japanese sound sculptor uses this name to shape some of her most experimental musical compositions. Yet again LEV organisers were spot-on when they decided to schedule the MimiCof performance for the El Muséu del Pueblu d’Asturies.

Norwell had both the chance and responsibility to close the Vermouth-time gigs (from noon to lunch for Spaniards), and his performance turned out to be one of the most inspiring and surprising in this year’s edition. The Hungarian producer shared his trademark electro, skillfully intermingled with retro-futuristic synth phases and house-ish snippets, forcing everyone to dance. His setlist made it very easy to dive in and get lost among the full palette of high pitched effects, bright layers and electro bass arpeggios.

Rabit and Cecilia’s collab proved to be a very divisive. The majority of people I spoke with did not get it, but I think the inconsistent nature and weird mood were part of its appeal. Cecilia roamed the stage in elegantly convulsive movements, delivering vocals that balanced from silent whispering to withheld hysteria, while Rabit emitted his distorted vision of grime/industrial/ambient collage with abstract interludes. The effect was something that you could call postmodern avant-poetry for the digital generation, a vast, transparent yet strangely gloomy and emotionally tense soundscape for the turbulent world around us.

Rabit and Cecilia

Saturday’s opening gig at “La Nave” was Zombie Zombie, which was one of the most highly anticipated performances. The now three-piece band wanted to give a party to the audience. And they managed to do so. But the performance was at times too predictable and result-oriented. In their sound there is an unquestionable musical wealth - a myriad of influences ranging from no wave and kraut, to Sun Ra or Carpenter synth sounds. But their live set was linear and felt out of place. Of course, “Rocket Number 9” managed to set the spot on fire and sounded amazingly.

Okkre’s (formerly of LCC) performance was one of the high points at the Nave venue as she managed to use the large capacity of the space and overwhelmed it with her epic and majestic soundscapes somewhere between dreamy multi-layererd drones and sharp yet free-roaming industrial beats. It retains the same cinematic quality that early LCC music was full of. It was a flashy burst of sound, grand and elegant at the same time. And this was one of her first performances - I am more than curious to find out what’s next.

Okkre abandoned the stage and was substituted by Lusine plus Gnomalab on visuals. This A/V show mixed an easy-to-listen dreamy pop with house and state-of-the-art IDM. Enigmatic and profound, the sound absorbed the attendees with a strange simplicity and an astonishing combination of harmonies, layers and syncopated beats. The feeling after Lusine’s gig was of profound satisfaction, but it brought unavoidable thoughts about the fusion of pop and IDM/house and where it will lead to.

To bring the gigs at La Laboral to an end, LEV picked Schwefelgelb. It is easy to guess why. This German techno duo aimed to provide the audience with a grand finale. Their aggressive, incendiary and circular mix of industrial, techno and ebm was well-received at 5 am. The gig was a huge blast. Objective fulfilled. End of story.

Another intense weekend was over on the beautiful and windy shores of Gijon. LEV was inspiring overall, even though the impressions varied a lot. The mixture of breezy seaside air of Northern Spain, the wonderful old town, the impressive spaces of La Laboral and the Botanical Gardens, nice people and an unpredictable line-up made this weekend special. It is one of the cases when the city’s surroundings serve as an inseparable part of the charm in the urban festival. Yes, it is a strong possibility that our crew will hit these shores in future as well.

All images made by Oscar Parasiego

Moritz Simon Geist

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An interdisciplinary journal, offering eclectic mixes and smart interviews with original artists and label owners as well as contemporary art reviews.

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