Alfa MiTo Club To Club Festival – Turin, Italy
Last week saw the international art crowd fly into Turin for Contemporary Art Week. A scene that doesn’t often meet the techno crowd, but thanks to the 13-year-strong “music, art and electronic culture” festival Club to Club, it sure did.
A carefully selected group of around 50 leading electronica artists, of which 17 were from the UK, performed in a number of spaces around the city. The area’s industrial heritage and the venues’ warehousey ambience brought out a slightly harder edge to sonic proceedings from the likes of Four Tet, Factory Floor, The Haxan Cloak, Sherwood & Pinch, Lee Gamble, Rustie, Kyle Hall, Nina Kraviz and Julio Bashmore over the course of 4 days and nights. As if that wasn’t enough, a series of interactive augmented reality installations that brought together art and music were speckled around the beautiful city centre, curated by Kode9 himself in partnership with the British Council and IED (European Institute of Design).
We arrived for the Grand Finale on Saturday night, just as Four Tet took to the stage for a complex set that travelled the full spectrum of electronic music. Opening with an atmospheric beginning, keeping one note suspended over the expectant crowd, it felt like the whole room was reverberating with a deep sense of anticipation. Gradually building on this with stripped back samples, he isolated every beat, bleep and progression in order to create multi-layered, melodic cadences that eventually dropped far into the heavy, bass-laden depths of techno music.
In a slightly odd arrangement the second stage/room was contained within the main room, a kind of tent-like construction stuck in the far corner, hosted by RBMA. As Four Tet warmed up the main room, Sherwood & Pinch were getting busy inside this bright red cocoon with their trademark bass-driven live set. Whilst their experimental sound proved popular with some clubbers, it might have made more sense from a programming point of view to schedule an act with a more danceable cut to distinguish from the main room at that moment. Nevertheless, this desire was satisfied later in the night as both Modeselektor and Julio Bashmore brought in the beats.
In a country where creative innovation and cultural boundary-pushing is limited, Club to Club stands head and shoulders above its Italian contemporaries. With this year’s Vertigo Festival cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”, the future of Traffic Torino Free Festival at risk and little attention given to boundary-pushing hopefuls, the country’s current musical landscape is far from innovative. Promoters systematically choose the safe option of big names in big venues over lesser-known acts doing strange things in smaller spaces. It’s also a matter of culture; whilst in the UK everyone’s either tried their hand at being a bedroom DJ or at least know one, Italians tend to leave it to the professionals, afraid of disrespecting a sacred art. All this made worse than ever with the current economic and political stalemate hanging heavily overhead.
Club to Club is an exception to this rule. In fact, it is so much more than an event: it’s a meeting of international minds that brings together cutting-edge contemporary creators with established cultural bodies in an open, fertile environment that’s ripe with potential. It’s exactly the kind of forward-thinking event that is so lacking in Italy right now, spoiling its public with an intelligent approach to dance music; the kind that makes your brain work as hard as your limbs.
While there may be a few small kinks to iron out, these are minor technicalities that can be forgiven in light of the festival’s many positive achievements. One can only hope that C2C’s sheer diversity of talks, workshops, showcases and its lineup will act as a catalyst for similar initiatives around Italy. Here’s looking forward to next year’s installment already.