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PREVIEW: A Guide To Rewire 2023
Noel Gardner , March 7th, 2023 13:25

With this year's edition of the Netherlands' Rewire festival just a month away, we asked Noel Gardner to pick out ten unmissable sets from this year's lineup

Photo by Pieter Kers

Next month sees the return of Rewire across multiple venues in The Hague. From April 6 to 9, the much-acclaimed festival's 12th edition will bring a vast array of musical and interdisciplinary performances, specially commissioned works, club nights, installations, talks, screenings and more to the city.

Beneath huge names like Patti Smith and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are an array of thrilling left-field artists from across the globe and the musical spectrum, each of whom will deliver boundary-pushing shows of their own.

In order to pick out the very best of the bunch, tQ asked our resident New Weird Britain and punk columnist Noel Gardner to select ten highlights from this year's bill. From pneumatic Venezuelan techno to the jewel of Bristol's queer rave scene via a colossus of modern composition, this list alone contains the type of scope most festivals could only dream of. Read on for Noel's picks, and get your tickets for this year's Rewire festival here.


A unit of one Belgian and one Arizonan, electroacoustic rave twosome 33 appear comfortable about presenting what they do as Art, if their sole release to date – 33-69, an LP on Irish label C.A.N.V.A.S. – is any indicator. Their music swoops and accelerates between the crudely visceral (heads-down techno thuggers 'Fireworks' and 'Heaven's Blade') and the swooningly baroque ('Thomas The Obscure', aided by violinist to the experimental techno set Patrick Belaga). It's as smart and jarring as the site-specific live installation performances Billy Bultheel, the aforenamed Belgian, undertakes in various European locations.

Bultheel's CV also includes a couple of collaborative LPs on PAN with Anne Imhof and Eliza Douglas; Alexander Iezzi, 33's Arizonan half, has a chequered mid-2000s past as a teenage hardcore punk nogoodnik in Issei Sagawa. "An edition of 50 copies with an exclusive 12-page booklet were sold soaked in the band members' urine," recalls the label which released that group's only EP. Hey, it was a long time ago, and whatever form a live show by Iezzi and Bultheel might take, I proffer no sarcasm when I say that 33 have edges you might cut yourself on.

CS + Kreme

In their pre-album years, Australian purveyors of desert bliss CS + Kreme professed a policy of never playing indoor shows. I would hate to think they're now compromising themselves, but their evident relaxation of this rule has to be a boon for those of us who might wish to see them in Europe during springtime. Snoopy, the duo's 2020 debut album following some scattered 12-inches, was CS + Kreme's breakout release. Meandering and insouciant, with a sound design that often felt like Conrad Standish and Sam Karmel were trying things on for size, actual songwriting was nevertheless apparent, and a consistent glinting suaveness prevents these slow-winding numbers from becoming dour.

It might make a listener recall the good bits of mid '90s Mo' Wax releases or proto techno a la Chris & Cosey, or investigate Standish and Karmel's old bands (indie-via-Roy Orbison types Devastations and the Carla dal Forno-featuring F Ingers, respectively). Orange, the second CS + Kreme album from late 2022, is long, winding and weirder again, finishing on a 20-minute track named 'Storm Rips Banana Tree'. As a live act, there's equal chance of them soothing or frazzling.

Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden

I Get Along Without You Very Well, an album released last year on Thrill Jockey, was the second on-record collaboration of these two Swedish composers. The first, 2017's For Organ And Brass, found Ellen Arkbro writing pieces played by other musicians, including organist Johan Graden, and the solemn deep-listening drone meditations captured therein is a sound that’s become associated with her (as well as Stockholm peers Kali Malone and Maria W Horn). With all this in mind, as well as Graden's own grounding in itchy piano-led jazz, I Get Along… was quite the curveball.

Embellished by a varied bank of brass, woodwind and percussion, these eight songs make ample use of drones and the arrangements tend to be pointedly minimalist even when employing multiple (p)layers. The term 'songs', though, might have clued you into the major difference between this and previous works by Arkbro, whose role here as a performer is almost entirely vocal. Intoning emotively over slowly blossoming dub-pop inertia in segments of between two and five minutes, touchstones for this music might include Talk Talk, Movietone, Low or Robert Wyatt. I would anticipate a live interpretation of it being a moving experience.

Ellen Fullman & The Living Earth Show

The more senior of Rewire's – and indeed our era's – two 'just intonation Ellens', US composer and installationist Ellen Fullman is a colossus of modern composition's fringes. Her first release, a 1985 LP titled The Long String Instrument, is by no means the sole provider of this status, but is the genesis of it. Fullman began developing this instrument in the early '80s, stretching metal wires between resonator boxes and tuning each wire to a precise pitch; the current version of the LSI has strings just shy of 25 metres at its longest point, and takes up about as much space as a school swimming pool. (As such, its setup entails one of the most intense tech riders I've ever read.)

At Rewire, she will perform with Andrew Meyerson and Travis Andrews, AKA The Living Earth Show, who augment their manipulation of the Long Strings with turns on steel guitar and the Iranian santur – a related type of metallic resonance, at a more easily transportable size. For most attendees, the opportunity to witness this performance is likely once in a lifetime. Immerse oneself accordingly.

Elvin Brandhi & Nadah El Shazly

Freya Edmondes, or Elvin Brandhi as she most commonly pseudonymises herself, is as complete a one-off as is currently operating in any nominal underground. She's evidence for the hypothesis that if one listens to and internalises as wide a range of music as possible, their own creative output will be exponentially more individual. Her first recordings, dating from her mid-teens, were as half of Yeah You, completed by her dad Will: they improvised songs during car journeys, harsh lo-fi electro meeting Elvin's deeply wild lyrical freestyles. From there, she's been an inveterate collaborator – as discussed in Stephanie Phillips' tQ interview from 2021 – so much so that there are few recorded pointers as to what form an Elvin Brandhi performance might take. Shelf Life, a 2019 solo tape again released by C.A.N.V.A.S., is one of the best things she's been involved with – mostly instrumental, with gleaming bursts of melody baton-charged by abstract digital noise.

During the weekend, she'll also perform Pollution Opera, a set with Cairo's Nadah El Shazly: another musician who parlays a hugely singular vision into work with myriad others (on the new Algiers album, for example, and with peers like Sam Shalabi and Alan Bishop, who also perform at Rewire in the Dwarfs Of East Agouza). This show promises to "embrace dissonance, and look into poetic ways of re-establishing intimacy," which in the best way could mean basically anything.

Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals

If the essence of this two-dude, Baltimore-originated deconstructo-rap project is contained in any one of its songs – and there are multitudes to Infinity Knives and Brian Ennals – it's 'The Badger', from 2022's King Cobra. Ennals, the MC, outlines his sticky situation: estranged from his son and evicted by his landlord, he's decided to ambush and shoot the latter with assistance from a PTSD-addled Iraq veteran buddy. This is carried out with mixed results, largely "because cops is fuckin' incompetent"; this brisk yarn of radical-left nihilism is interspersed with adlibs ("Shout out to sex workers! Trans lives matter!") and, courtesy of producer Tariq 'Infinity Knives' Ravelomanana, squealing synths in an '80s boogie/funk style, like Zapp on a knackered boombox.

King Cobra and Rhino XXL, their two albums to date, have tons of great bits like this. Ravelomanana is an ingenious producer, bending rap tropes to his own will and folding in jazz and classical influences, among others. Politically they're dead-on too, and not in a passive 'nodding along to let everyone know you agree' sort of way.

Safety Trance

Venezuelan producer Safety Trance is better known as Cardopusher, an alias he's worked under since the mid-2000s, though we can call him by his real name Luis Garbàn if we need to cover all bases. The Cardopusher discography is marked by a sharp turn from lurid and entirely OTT breakcore to more conventionally danceable twists on acid house and EBM, and the honing of Garbàn's beatmaker chops through the years is a big key to the quality of his two Safety Trance EPs to date, where those styles meet the reggaeton rhythms that rule the roost both in Venezuela and his adopted home of Barcelona.

Noches De Terror, the project's four-track debut from summer 2022, opens with a vocal spot from Arca (whose previous 'KLK' single had brought together Garbàn and Catalan icon Rosalía) and stakes out excitingly fresh, industrial-maximalism territory. Lágrimas, the longer follow-up, is better still for its extra fine-tuning, with recontextualised whomps of peak-Gatecrasher synth and beefed-up reggaeton/dembow vibes. Iceboy Violet, Brodinski, Madrid's Virgen María and outrageous Argentinian DJ Sustancia are the guests here, and the entire thing is a pneumatic scream liable to spread the dancing plague.

Okkyung Lee's Yeo-Neun Quartet

Rewire's 2023 roster will provide plenty of aural punishment, and depending precisely how you've engaged with the oeuvre of cellist Okkyung Lee you might expect her to take enthusiastic part. However, Yeo-Neun, the 2020 LP for which the New York-based Korean gathered Maeve Gilchrist (harp), Eivind Opsvik (double bass) and Jacob Sacks (piano) for a grouping which has remained in situ, is a measured, even gentle outlier for Lee, more commonly given to testing her instrument's sonorous limits in the company of dinmakers from Lasse Marhaug to Stephen O’Malley. (A 2016 duo performance with Ellen Fullman has also been released, titled The Air Around Her; one pleasing element of this year's festival is the amount of shared content on guests' respective CVs.)

At times, such as 'In Stardust (For Kang Kyung-Ok)', her strings wail and protest at the bow's rough treatment; more often, these are slowburning pieces with an air of the chamber and the influence of the Korean folk she grew up with.


Bristolian queer-rave jewel Sarahsson has made a point of pulling out all the stops when it comes to live performance, making up for lost years perhaps – as she explained to Alistair Shuttleworth for tQ last year, "I was nearly a theatre kid, but it was maybe a bit 'too gay' for me at the time." No such reticence evident in the person she became, or the persona she's embodied: The Horgenaith, Sarahsson's debut album, is named after a sort of Industrial Revolution-era cyborg with "many, many necks" which exists only in her head.

Its music is suitably hydra-headed, switching with alarming grace from high-BPM pointillist digital hardcore to ripples of medieval-sounding folk and spoken word passages which talk of gullets and sea cows to queasy effect. No two Sarahsson shows are likely to be the same, and with the artist herself describing Rewire as "my favourite festival I've ever been to" we can legitimately anticipate some aesthetic bells and whistles among a programme teeming with similar.

Slikback x Weirdcore

This one's a do-over from Rewire 2022, when Kenyan electronic bossman Slikback (AKA Freddy Njau) and maker of hectic live visuals Weirdcore (AKA… anyone who knows ain't telling, it seems) were booked to play a peak time late-night set. They did, too, but Njau appeared via livestream as a result of his visa application being denied; if nothing else, there is some instructive value in knowing this sort of reflexive bureaucratic racism is prevalent in mainland Europe as well as Britain.

If clipboard wankers are capable of curbing Slikback's movements, neither they or anyone else can stop his breathtaking rate of production, with a new set of tracks released via Bandcamp every month or two and no evidence of lax quality control. Stylistically, he's impossible to condense to a soundbite even while establishing his own tics and motifs, but the Slikback sound palette sits adjacent to Berlin-beloved industrial techno, austere grime auteurs like Terror Danjah and even a corrupted version of EDM gloss at times. It's a cerebral pummelling that the eyebleaching graphics of the UK's Weirdcore feel pretty smartly suited to, as demonstrated on the pair's 11-minute track/vid collab from 2021, 'Void'.

Rewire will take place from April 6 to 9, 2023. Find more information here.