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Multisensory Essence: Lunchmeat Festival 2022 Reviewed
Jaša Bužinel , November 8th, 2022 11:35

Jaša Bužinel, our dance music correspondent, rounds up his favourite AV shows and DJ sets at this year’s Lunchmeat Festival

Holy Other, photo by Dita Havránková

My 10-hour bus ride home from Prague was not really something I’d planned. With delayed flights and the airlines ghosting me, I had to make a last minute decision and say goodbye to my hopes of making it back to Ljubljana by the early afternoon. Spending Sunday on the road travelling down the former Austro-Hungarian empire, I had all the time in the world to reflect back on the 13th edition of Lunchmeat Festival. Despite it being my first time there, I felt strangely at home during the whole weekend. It may be due to the underlying feeling that we people from Central European Slavic states, all belong to the same cultural sphere. Maybe it was the homeliness of the dining hall at my hotel (which reminded me of some Yugoslav era halls back home). Or perhaps it is just because Prague is such a picturesque city permeated by an air of omnipresent History.

Established in 2010, Lunchmeat Festival has become an important bastion for advanced electronic music and art in the Central and Eastern European region. Along with similar regional festivals like Unsound (Kraków), Elevate (Graz), Next (Bratislava), Sonica (Ljubljana) and ZEZ (Zagreb), it presents and promotes contemporary dance music aesthetics, new trends in experimental electronic music and sound art and cutting edge approaches to immersive AV projects. After walking into the Kolektor bar at the National Gallery, situated at the Trade Fair Palace, I immediately fell in love with the space. Throughout the weekend, it provided all the festival’s infrastructure. The symposium, which I also took part in and covered some currently relevant topics (Eastern music VS Western media, local music infrastructure, AI & music etc.), was held in a room nearby called the Korzo. After the Friday talks there, I went to the room upstairs where the synth-making company Bast Instruments had its showroom, intuitively tweaking knobs on the affordable synths and pretending I knew what I was doing.

The theme for this year was "our essence is non-binary". It acknowledges that we are fluid, ever-changing, multi-layered beings with many voices and faces. Though I’m somewhat suspicious of the conceptual electronic music festival bandwagon, particularly an ambition to come across as sophisticated as possible, I think Lunchmeat Festival managed to pull it off successfully by incorporating the theme into its visual identity. It was built around the AI generated, ever-evolving image of the face of our virtual festival guide Molly. When I was on my own at the shows, I spent time getting lost in Molly’s constantly changing face, projected on the screen of the Concert Hall in-between shows. The vast concrete auditorium provided a great setting for the ambitious AV spectacles that took place there on Friday and Saturday. The immensity of the screen along with the intensity of the soundsystem, which occasionally resulted in a pleasant bottocks massage for those sitting, offered the artists an ideal infrastructure for their music to really come alive. And while the Club Stage nearby was in my experience sometimes a bit overcrowded, it too hosted some solid performances. Here’s my top 5 of the weekend.

Paraadiso (TSVI & Seven Orbits)

Photo by Jakub Doležel

Most AV shows at Lunchmeat Festival start as film projections before they turn into raves. The audience perhaps sit for a track or two and then flood the dancefloor in front of the stage. The show from these SVBKVLT protegees, however, is a bit different. From my experience, it functions better as a sitting session. The duo of Guglielmo Barzacchini and Matteo Zamagni let each track play out in its entirety, ignoring traditional sequencing. Instead, they allow brief pauses between tracks, almost like a band, time to breathe in and out before immersing ourselves in the next song. The ecstatic, at times mellow, rhythmically jerky productions from last year's LP Unison synchronise perfectly with Zamagni’s complex visuals. An amalgam of panoramic, vertiginous nature shots, amorphous digital art, strong flashing light and nauseating editing, their AV spectacle results in one of the most rewarding multisensory experiences of this year’s edition.

Cocktail Party Effect & Jan Hladil

Photo by Jakub Doležel

It’s exciting to hear some of my favourite club weapons of the past few years, such as 'When The Gun Claps' or 'For The Memory Exchange', performed live by its producer. Cocktail Party Effect’s show doesn’t have that pre-programmed vibe, which sometimes makes electronic live shows feel unadventurous and uninspired. He’s mixing hands on, in the moment, replicating the twisting of knobs and moving of faders with his whole body. The Lunchmeat associate Jan Hladil’s laser projections constantly switch between the CPE logo, various familiar forms, a live stream of the hall and dynamic laser movements, which provide the fitting background for CPE’s high-intensity productions. Both the visuals and the music were a bit mischievous, playing with the dancers’ expectations and challenging visual and sonic clichés. They conjure a proper rave vibe.


Photo by Jakub Doležel

Karenn’s show is a highlight for the exact opposite reason. With no visuals, just a phalanx of lighting rigs and strobe lights, their music comes to the fore. And it really comes close, confronting you like a bully, eye to eye, ear to ear. A few minutes into the show, my love and faith in techno is reignited. It is no doubt one of the most hard-hitting live acts I’ve experienced in the past half decade. Adhering to the current trend of fast-paced techno stompers (admittedly, they were one of its early proponents with pre-Covid releases like Grapefruit Regret and the following Music Sounds Better With Shoe), Blawan and Pariah’s performance mesmerises the packed concert hall, locking the crowd into their uptempo sonic assault on all senses. Interestingly, I don’t recognise any of the seamlessly mixed tracks they played, probably because it was all new material. Karenn’s gig at Lunchmeat Festival is one of those unique club experiences that you immediately want to repeat, ideally the next day.

Ancestral Vision & h5io6i54k & realitycongress

Photo by Jakub Doležel

Even though I longed to see even more local talents on the lineup since they don’t often have the chance to present their music to such a large audience, the festival included some intriguing acts from Prague and beyond. One of them was the Unizone label co-founder, DJ and producer Ancestral Vision, who premiered material from his upcoming EP in collaboration with Czech artists h5io6i54k and realitycongress. Their world-building approach to visuals, which stem from contemporary tangents in digital art, were informed by a kind of post-humanist approach, which complemented the similarly alien productions of Ancestral Vision. The hybrid, de-constructed nature of his arrhythmic beats and intricate sound designs reflects the fragmented nature of our everyday experience of post-internet reality. His music is uneven, full of twists, start-stop moments, unexpected sonic trajectories and digressions. I let myself be absorbed into the sound and visuals, trying to understand how I can process music that doesn’t offer the regular structural cue points or evident highs and lows. Ultimately, I guess it’s exactly this sense of disorientation, the inability to really set the music against a more specific image or idea, that makes this strain of abstract post-club electronica worth exploring further.

Holy Other & NYX & Pedro Maia

Holy Other, photo by Dita Havránková

Sitting in the sweet spot, in the middle of the last row of the auditorium, I really get the chance to fully immerse myself into this haunting collaborative performance. The presence of a member of the NYX Electronic Drone Choir adds some much needed dynamic to the show, with ethereal vocals delicately floated over Holy Other’s silky, subdued electronica. They stand on stage in front of one another, completely ignoring the audience, but are accompanied by the most striking visual performance of the weekend. Filmmaker Pedro Maia’s projections are simply something else, magical, intensely psychedelic "live cinema" manipulations of 16mm and 8 films, with colours and textures so mesmerising that the visuals sometimes take over sound, submitting it, pushing it into the background and swallowing you whole.