"Hands 2000" festival took place at the Big Bop club in Toronto, Canada with a very impressive line-up of some of the finest, if not the strongest, acts representing power electronics/dark ambient/experimental genres today.
Winterkälte, Ah Cama-Sotz, Orphx, and Vromb empowered our minds and ears with the best they had to offer. Each band gave much more than expected and some played almost over 90 minutes covering a variety of old and the very latest material. Some used heavy introspective and trance-induced videography with their sets, while others gave raw intensity on stage with phenomenal lighting and fog effects with their music. Breakdowns were pretty quick, within twenty minutes or less at times. The crowd turnout was pretty fair, but the appreciation factor was high, with many people moving along with the music. To my knowledge, an estimate of about 70 people was present. Not only did the bands represent the very best they could onstage, but Udo (Hands + Winterkälte) and Herman (Ah Cama-Sotz) brought an enormous amount of very exclusive merchandise from all four bands and more. Growing Toronto-based label Art Of Fact also brought a very diversified collection of power electronic/industrial/experimental merchandise. Hosted by Sophia of EBM 89.5 FM, this evening was definitely worth the restless ten-hour drive from Columbus, Ohio.
Upon entering just a little into Vromb's set (which started at 9:30), I walked carefully into the crowd that at first seemed somewhat distraught and bored. But two to three tracks into his set, movement started to unfold among twenty to thirty people watching the show. French artist Hugo Girard played a ten-track set that included some new unreleased material. Other tracks, precisely arranged and presented, were strongest compositions off his latest Ant-Zen and Hymen releases - "Emission Pilote" and "Périmetre." Tracks such as "organisation e.g.", "electro 01," and "ambiorythmie" were executed with careful and masterful precision. Pulling slow ascending pulsations and soft colliding rhythms that filled my ears with contentment. I have to say Hugo was extremely precise in his methods of controlling modulations, beat loops, and frequency oscillations. Focusing more on depth and the effects of overlapping and interchangeable rhythms and waves of sound modulations, Vromb stayed away for the most part from his earlier more subtle sound. Soft warm red lights accompanied the entire performance while he focused on laying down soft modulated sound rhythms with his minimal gear. Luckily I was able to obtain some close up shots with my old camera, since Hugo was so close to the front of the stage. Vromb closed his set with a highly unique and spontaneous new track that blew me away as well as many others judging by the dense applause. Maybe it was a finished product to what he was intending after "emission pilote", but the programming was astonishing. I can say I always have liked Vromb"s material, but after his performance, my appreciation for his sound is much, much greater now! And with not very many shows under his belt, this was definitely a very good and rare opportunity to witness this French musician at work.
Christina Sealey & Rich Oddie of Orphx took the medium-sized stage to deliver an enlightening performance of elemental visuals for the mind and body. Performing such engaging tracks as a version of "nullity" and "atavistic" from "Vita Mediativa"; "halflife 3" from the Hands 2000 compilation; "surface IV" off the "surface" LP and many new others with a total of about ten tracks. The band focused upon trance-induced beats and modulations with actual raw found sound devices that were executed live along with beautiful visuals on the screen behind the band. Images of earth elements (soil, water, air, and fire) and other mysterious & obscure organic substances accentuated their set nicely. Elements like the air were presented in monochromatic tones of red, while moving clouds paced with nice bouncy tribal rhythm that assimilated with various other frequency modulations and raw sound instrumentations. Throughout the whole set Christina added raw organic and natural sound effects over Rich's highly layered modulated rhythms. She played a primitive stringed box instrument adding nice distant reverbered tones alongside the building beat structures. Using cold shallow voice chants, revolving a stick around the inside of a bowl that gathered nice echoed ambient undertones along ascending rhythms of particular tracks. A larger crowd seemed to be getting into their set more and more as they played for almost a full hour, yielding themselves as the most experimental of all four bands and one I will certainly not miss again.
Next came very mystical and hazardous set by Ah Cama-Sotz. Dr. Blood mixed down thirteen ritualistic tracks for the mind from various strong releases such as "épitaphe" and "terra infernalis" along with a few others. The audience never grew tired, keeping up with his generous hour-plus set. Hypnotic and rhythmic tracks such as "lustt", "deo gratias", "look for graves with holes in them", "narbuhk", "rite & belief", "ill-lektrik", "none of this is true", "zostrah" and "the messengerh" were performed and presented with colossal intensity. Each was complimented with mysterious and shadowy visuals presented just behind the artist on a large white sheet. Images were devised of various short clips of bats, cats, demons, zombies, high priests, pilgrims, cathedrals, skulls, somnambulists, vampires, various metamorphic ACS symbols, and other assorted unknown entities compiled from various sources. Each track blended smoothly into another, building on stronger and more engaging rhythms as Dr. Blood's set went on. Corrosive and harsh rhythms of "the messengerh" were presented with extreme intensity that surpassed my expectations of where the set was going and where it ended. A number of tracks were assessed with live strings, percussive attacks, and frightening vocal subliminals. Very minimal house lights and intense lighting effects where used with thick masses of fog to enhance the music about halfway through the set, making the performance even more mystical and powerful. Being a big fan of this very diversified artist's work and finally witnessing it LIVE made my appreciation of his music even stronger. This was visually unforgettable and best overall performance of the night.
Closing the evening with an extremely heavy and energetic set, German outfit Winterkälte assaulted our minds for almost what seemed like a 90-minute set. I'm not exactly sure just how long it was, but I can say that they covered much more material than I expected. This majestic set consisted of material from Hands 2000 comp, "structures of destruction", "drum 'n' noise", as well as what I think was one new unreleased track. The set included new tracks "toxic hotspot" and "desertification"; "el nino", "slash & burn", "nox over europe", "modulation one" off "structures of destruction" ; "rebound effect vs. sustainability", "structure 04", "tropical timber trade", and "do not vote for industry" off "drum 'n' noise". The music held strong presence, bending the speakers as much as they could probably handle, but not fiercely loud due to the venue's sound system. A fairly medium crowd had interchanged throughout their set, probably getting tired too quickly from the energetic dancing. Many fans literally did not stop moving, and neither did Udo on keys as well as his partner on synth drum kit. Massive and highly layered sound of Winterkälte was just as intense as it was on the studio releases, if not better at times. Viscous dynamic modulations, heavy bass aspects, destructive crunch-downs, and hyper-extreme programming that Winterkälte is so well known for pummeled my brain while I moved to various sides of the stage shooting with my camera at as many angles as I could. Their lighting system included two very dynamic prism lights, two halogen lamps, and a big fog machine. A few times we were blinded by the combination of the fog and lamp shockwaves that hit at random, a very nice and unexpected effect. I believe Ah Cama-Sotz was using the same lightning equipment. By the time we had to leave around 2-2:30, the band played around thirteen tracks. They definitely covered more material than I expected, which I was more than generous, and made many fans very, very content.
Along with outstanding performances there were two large tables of limited Hands merchandise. Udo (Winterkälte/Hands) and Herman (Ah-Cama Sotz) presented just about everything they could possibly sell us, geeks. They had brand new shirts from every band that played and many of the artists' releases on Hands and Ant-Zen. Herman also brought much of his new limited releases - "u-boot" and "okk-ulth" along with "terra infernalis" and some other gems. Yolk from Toronto-based label Art Of Fact brought many strong power electronics as well as new material from his label. For the newcomers and fans alike this was very significant part of the evening. And even though I had most of the material presented on both tables, I still ended up emptying my wallet entirely. The hospitality from the bands couldn't have been much better; as usual everyone was very nice and easy to talk to, just like all the other shows we attended this year. I left with a hope to see all these wonderful bands during a similar show next year, that is if I don't gather up some money to witness them in Europe sooner.