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Fort Process Festival Returns
Ben Graham , August 21st, 2018 16:00

Fort Process festival organisers Lost Property guide us through the third edition of the experimental sound and art festival

Fort Process, the one-day multidisciplinary experimental sound and art festival, returns to Newhaven Fort for its third edition next month, with the line-up of music, talks and installations taking in the likes of Rhys Chatham, Aja, UKAEA, David Thomas Broughton, Kyoka, Grischa Lichtenberger, Max Eastley and Shatner's Bassoon.

The festival, which features many specially commissioned and site-specific works responding to the unique spatial and acoustic qualities of the fort, is also the central feature of an extended programme of events taking place at multiple venues including London's Café Oto, Bexhill's De La Warr Pavilion, and the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Sussex in Brighton. Fort Process: Dispersion continues into September with talks and performances in Newhaven, Brighton and Hastings, including a show by Phill Niblock and Tim Shaw at the Attenborough Centre on September 8.

Constructed in the 1860s and then adapted for use as a last line of defence during World War II, Newhaven Fort is built directly into the cliffs and the rolling South Downs hillside. It includes countless underground chambers, tunnels and rooms which at Fort Process will become venues for musicians and artists to work with, exploring the creative possibilities and limitations of the spaces over the 11 hours of the event. The festival also makes use of the expansive open parade ground, a large metal-walled Romney hut, and the high ramparts overlooking the sea, which this year will host an "Aeolian park" of autonomous wind-powered instruments.

With previous editions of Fort Process having taken place in 2014 and 2016, this year organisers Lost Property have aligned the event with the inaugural Newhaven Arts Festival, further fulfilling their aim of including the local community and avoiding the danger of seeming elitist, exclusive or forbidding to those outside of the experimental music scene.

Legendary punk and no wave-influenced minimalist composer Rhys Chatham is best known for his massed electric guitar orchestra pieces from the late 70s and early 80s, which inspired fellow New York artists Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth and Band Of Susans among many others. At Fort Process he will be performing his 2016 work Pythagorean Dream, a solo piece for trumpet, flute and electric guitar in which loop pedals and phasing are utilised to powerful, hypnotic effect. Visual and sound artist Max Eastley, who has previously collaborated with the likes of Brian Eno, David Toop, Steve Beresford and Peter Greenaway, will be heading up the installation programme, while musician and sound recordist Jez riley French will be collaborating with his daughter, the multi-media artist Phoebe riley Law.

tQ caught up with three members of the Lost Property team - Al Strachan, Daniel Mackenzie and Graham Newbury - to provide a guide to some of the event's other highlights.

Daniel Mackenzie: "One of the essential concepts of the festival is that you go and explore things. There are all manner of tunnels and cracks and crannies and huge spaces that suddenly open out and the nature of the work is exactly that. You arrive on site, you get a beer or something, but then you keep moving. Go and find things. You can emerge from being underground for two hours, run to the main stage and go and see some incredibly loud electronic music and then dive back in and do that for eleven hours, basically."

Al Strachan: "There are quite a few artists who are processing the fort itself. Alice Eldridge and Chris Kiefer have got their feedback cellos and they've got mics placed around the fort which are like networks, and they're feeding everything that you're hearing around the fort into their little area. Isn'tses submitted a proposal where they've basically created something called the Fort Processor, which is a kind of synth/circuit based on the site map of the fort. We're not quite sure how that's going to pan out, but it's looking interesting from their prototypes. And then there are people like Dan Powell who's using lots of objects from around the fort, and Littoral Transmissions who are using field recordings based on recces in the weeks preceding the event."

DM: "Looking at the line-up there are definitely more artists who have their roots in electronica, rhythmic noise and contemporary experimental rave music. The names that I'm angling towards here are Kyoka and Grischa Lichtenberger, who are both on the Raster imprint. It's changed its name and changed a bit but it originated through Carsten Nicolai, [AKA Alva Noto], the multi-media artist, so that label has such a seal of quality in terms of artists that they work with. Kyoka especially is going to be really good to see. She has this approach towards making electronic dance music. Her albums are strange, cosmic and fairy tale-like in a way, but really twisted. They're kind of dark, but without being unpleasant or anything. From what I've seen of her live she's quite wild, and I think a lot of it is going to be improvised on the spot, just allowing her machines and processes to get chaotic. I'm really hoping that festivalgoers get into that in a gung-ho sort of way.

"Obviously Aja and UKAEA will be really good in terms of breaking that barrier a bit, too. UKAEA in particular are known for having this interactive element and playing with the audience. On their recent gigs they've been blindfolding people, and a lot of people who read this will remember how at Supernormal they were actually getting people involved with rituals and wiping clay on their faces. We also have things that leap off the traditional stages as well, and use the spaces in a wider way. Pickett Improv is a good example. This is a dance group who are going to be performing around the parade ground, which is that huge space in the middle that's difficult to programme. So in terms of the programme and the line-up and the way that we're using performers, I think it's much more about seeing what else we can do and seeing how we can play with the formats a bit. In terms of more acoustic traditional instrumentation, Ore will be really good to see. They're self-styled tuba doom."

Graham Newbury: "Shatner's Bassoon. Every gig they've done has been brilliant, but the last gig I saw them do was awesome. It's brutal but really musical. It's so tight it's ridiculous but there's something really organic about it, and when they go for it it's brutal as fuck, without losing musicianship. I think they're going to be the dark horse of the festival actually."

AS: "Jobina Tinnemans comes to mind because she's going to do a very exciting piece. She does these things called panoramic scores which are wrapped around walls, and the musicians play them as they walk past them."

GN: "Voces Castrum is a polyphonic vocal troupe, and the idea is that they'll be doing stuff in the tunnels. We asked them about going into all the different parts of the eastern magazine where the installations are and singing in each room, so the audience can walk around and mix it themselves, and it'll ping around the back tunnels and everything. It'll be quite interesting to see how that goes."

AS: "Tetsuya Umeda is definitely one that's going to be a highlight, I think. The only thing he's requested so far is a gas hob. Basically he's going to do some experiments and make some noises with steam. And Julian Weaver has created this enormous ear trumpet that you can swivel around and listen to the sea or listen to the fort or whatever. It kind of references military listening posts and sound mirrors, and it's been especially fabricated for the festival so it's quite exciting to see that.

"Kathy Hinde is also worth mentioning. She's using this really narrow lighting passage. The piece is called Luminous Birds and you sort of see the nature of bird flight through these paper birds that light up in sequence with their sounds. Then Kira+ has made an interactive piece using the technology that you find in self-driving cars, shooting out beams to map out an area. So then you've got people walking through it and they're triggering sounds, and then these sounds develop as you walk through this thing. I think that'll be nice as it allows people to become sound makers themselves."

DM: "I feel that things like that allow younger audiences to get involved with the installations as well. A lot of the installations are more experiential than intellectual. You don't need to be of a particular kind of intellect; you just wander through and you're part of what the festival is putting out, as well as being on the receiving side."

Fort Process takes place from 12-11 pm on September 22. Full line-up and ticket information can be found here