Darken The Moon is a series of Doom metal concerts hosted by Belgian doom death metal outfit Marche Funèbre, since 2009. Since then, the crème de la crème of the international doom scene has occupied several stages. The latest edition was visited by Wim and his trusted camera. He came back with these awesome pictures.
Synchyse / Sitka / Misantronics / Distant Fires Burning / Stratosphere - 6 December 2018, Palazzo Antwerp
So, a little background first. Regular readers might have noticed the severe lack of reviews that say ‘Bjorn’ at the bottom. I have a severe case of writer’s block that resulted in several unfinished reviews on my desktop and several hours staring blankly at my screen, struggling to find words. People who know me will confirm that I’m quite loquacious so failing to do what you actually really like doing is a major bummer. Add to that the fact that you disappoint people who value your input as well as people who look forward to having their stuff reviewed... Thing is, my life hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing in 2017 and 2018. I always say ‘next year will be better...’ and I sincerely hope that 2019 will be just that. I managed to exorcise some of the bad stuff by releasing my full-length album ‘Sattva’ for Hellstorm Of Flaming Nothingness (gratuitous plugging, I know (sorry dude-who-hates-us)) and there are some very concrete plans for a physical release for my harsh noise / power electronics project Pask.. Making noise always helps.
I have to say though that I might have it sound like my life was/is an endless stream of bad stuff. It’s not. A lot of it is really nice. And it will get nicer, I’m confident of that. Which leads me nicely to the actual review part.
One of the nice constants in my life is going to gigs, exploring and enjoying new music, etc.. Seeing shows in the livingroom of Mr. Ashtoreth himself, Peter Verwimp, is something that I immensely enjoy. Peter and Anja host the Palazzo Sessions for several years now and each one I went to was something truly special. It doesn’t even matter who’s playing, or whatever genre they’re playing. You know you will be surprised, intrigued, immersed and entertained on a very high level that very few shows achieve.
The line-up of the night consisted of some familiar faces (Sitka, Stratosphere and Misantronics), someone who I wasn’t yet familiar with (Distant Fires Burning) and the second ever show of the newly formed Synchyse, which I was very curious about.
First up was Sitka. I had a chat with Ben before the show where he explained that he was evolving to a more ‘noisy’ sound. Roughing up the edges, so to speak. And he wasn’t lying either. It was by no means actual noise but I have to say I really, really like the direction that Ben is going for. Delicately and with a solid vision layering his drone loops, but not afraid of letting the electronics and effects take over once in a while. It made for a very adventurous listen, and seeing Ben totally immersed in and captivated by his own sounds made it very enjoyable to watch too.
Next: Misantronics. Serge told me he was a bit nervous because he hadn’t performed live in over 5 years and he was using a new computer program. I told him it would be fine. And it was. With Misantronics, you never know what to expect. His output over the span of his career has been very diverse.
Tonight the set he played was rather restrained and minimal. Subtle percussive beats, oscillating synths, rumbling rushing noise deep in the background and laden with samples of playing children and what sounded like broadcasts in German. What I like most though is that Misantronics sounds ‘wrong’. And I mean that in the best way possible. Sometimes slightly out of tune, sometimes a bit broken. I’m sure this is deliberate and I hope Serge never stops doing it.
Distant Fires Burning aka Gert de Meester was up next. Shamefully I admit that I haven’t heard that much from him yet, apart from some things online, and the collaboration track he did with Stratosphere. That will change after this show though. At first I was a bit puzzled by the lack of direction in the set. It sounded like he was just fumbling at random with his bass and the electronics. The bass was rumbling, clicks and noises happening. It seemed to go nowhere. Then, after a while it dawned on me. Gert was very delicately, deliberately and brilliantly constructing a glitchy percussion track to combine with his bass lines and drones. At the apotheosis, the set consisted of a fantastic mix of very stripped-down postrock and glitchy click-techno. Unlike I ever heard before. Brilliant. I love music that forces you to pay attention and that rewards you for your invested time.
I’ve seen Stratosphere a couple of times now and I absolutely adore what Ronald is creating. First, because he is a very accomplished sound engineer you can be sure that Ronald will aim for the best possible way for you to enjoy his drones. Second, the way he manages to make his loops and drones sound so massive is really second to none. The set he played tonight was actually something he created not long before so we got a first-time exclusive track for the evening. Dreamy, ecstatic drones, lovely sparkling guitar sounds.. It was wonderful. In the end –and I don’t know how he does it- he managed to make the whole thing sound like there was a string section or french horn in there somewhere. This screams to be recorded sometime soon Ronald....
After a brief pause it was time for Synchyse. Expectations were pretty high for me, although the track ‘Aldo’ (which they started the set with) can be heard online for a while now so I knew soundwise what direction they would go to. My main ‘concern’ was how three acts, that sound very different from each other would manage to make it sound cohesive like a proper ‘band’. Turns out that I needn’t have worried. Synchyse played a solid set. Each member retaining his signature sound but together so much more than the sum of their parts. Final track ‘Rembrandt’ was where it all gloriously fell into place. Not really post rock, not really ambient, not really glitch, or shoegaze, or wave.. but a great concoction of all of those things. All three of them were also visibly pleased with how the set was going, which added to the enjoyment. Seeing as this is only their second ever show together, I predict some great things in the future. People of Dunk! Festival: are you reading this??
I left Peter’s home, riding my bike accompanied by some light drizzle, some strong winds and the gloomy streetlights of Antwerp’s cheerless periphery road. Normally that would bother me to no end, but not tonight. I was still too elated from witnessing a truly special show. Plus, I knew it would put me in the proper mood to try and actually write something again...
Wim drove to Brussels for an evening of epic occult stoner doom, or something like that. From the looks of these pics he brought back, it must have been an intense event.
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