Incubate In Review: A Design For Life

All pictures Stu K Green/ Reconstructed from notes written on the backs of beer mats by John Doran

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Tilburg seems like Heaven. A sea of bikes everywhere. Fit and healthy burghers everywhere. They’ve never seen a fat man before. They may build a religion round me and the photographer Stu. No burgers. No fast food, just cafes where everyone sits talking, drinking coffee, having enjoyable lifestyles and so on.

No one seems to realize that the Incubate Independent Culture Festival is on, taking over about 30 different venues in the smart new town. The day we arrive it’s the culmination of fresher’s week and orderly posses of rosy cheeked young adults walk from bar to bar shouting slogans as they go. Two members of Mayhem sip coffee under and awning and watch the world go by. This is how they are when no one’s watching you see.

The festival used to be called ZXZW but changed its name after getting a call from the distinctly more uptight SXSW people in Texas. Just in case anyone got confused and accidentally went to the lowlands in Europe instead of the Lone Star State. Anyway, I’m sure this is the superior experience whatever it’s called. It’s certainly my festival of the year alongside Capsule’s Supersonic in Birmingham. (It runs along similar lines, drawing in avant garde, experimental and extreme music as well as art and culture from the perimeter.)

There is no tokenism here; something that’s great for the punter and perhaps not always so good for the artist. Cheek by jowl they are judged. Some melting primal circuitry. Some found wanting by comparison.

Lasse Marhaug creates feedback drones under unforgiving green gels. It is lackadaisical and irritating. There’s something wrong with the sound, incorporating, as it does, cabinet rattle and equipment feedback, which ends up trapped and twitching in the loop for the whole performance.

We return to the same venue later in the evening to see The Caretaker, aka James Kirby. Well, not see, exactly. The lights are off and the giant haired visionary sits in the broom cupboard with his horrortronix while we sit in the pitch black. The only illumination is some ambient orange spilling in through a skylight from a sodium lamp in the street. Above the cupboard door, a safety sign warns of electrocution in Dutch and a picture shows a cartoon bolt of lightning striking a stick man. The show is initially built from scraps of tunes (which represent old memories) lurching out of background noise and fading away again before taking on too much clarity. You are made to feel like an amnesia victim coming round slowly. Scratchy 78s and snippets of big band jazz are combined into a collage.

How long has he actually been in the cupboard? How long have I been in this room listening to this sound? Maybe we’ve always been here. The best gig I can imagine is getting The Caretaker to play from a cupboard in the Royal Albert Hall in complete darkness and then just letting four people in, who don’t know each other from different entrances in the pitch black.

Aufgehoben are dynamic, funny, arresting, moving, sexy, funky and all the other things that free/improv music can and should be when not deployed by wankers with clenched sphincters. Gary Smith, the guitarist with the UK group that takes in double drumers, electronics and manipulation of breeze blocks, has a glint in his eye and barks laughing as he shreds some Little Richard off before they start. Sleazy P Christopherson sits down next to us to eat his kebab but unfortunately leaves when he notices my Throbbing Gristle T-shirt*. The quartet’s sound blisters into jazzy finger picking, scorching shredding and even some stadium metal tapping which burst through the musculature of the oppressive sound, like mountain spires poking through an ocean sized glacier.

It’s all of the above and much more. Except on reflection it isn’t funky and it’s only moderately sexy.

Shackleton is a functional and sparky panacea for feet that don’t own bicycles. Our friends from Drowned In Sound have gone to watch a lecture on Black Metal and folk in the woods; personally we’re going to have to listen to that stuff soon enough as it is after society collapses and not out of choice either. So tonight Shackleton’s electromagnetic pulse rushes across the globe burning out circuits as it goes. Shimmers of burning Polynesian rhythm and Pacific rim beats are added to the aqua crunk. Get it while it’s hot.

Where to begin with Hermann Nitsch? Well I guess it’s Art with a capital ‘A’ and that means we should take it seriously and all that. We’re in a large warehouse and long strips of sheeting are laid down the length of the room. Trestle tables are are decked out in white sheets and used for a couple of goats and pigs to be slaughtered on. Watching from a gantry an orchestra of participants in black literally make a racket with rattles and saxophones. Two naked women and one man are mock crucified against a wall and have pigs blood poured on them and giblets rubbed over them, overseen by a guy who looks like Bob the shape changing serial killer from Twin Peaks, who in turn takes orders from Nitsch. The artist uses a megaphone to direct procedings over an interminable three hour period; allowing him to remain completely seperate from the gore. And there’s a lot of it about in pools on the floor and on tables and in people’s hair and clothes. Despite the fact that it’s like a completely charm-free rehash of a scene from Jodorowski’s Holy Mountain, it’s hard not to search for some kind of deeper meaning in what’s happening. Of course, Nitsch casts his net so wide, his imagery is so visceral and universal that his ‘work’ supports an almost endless stream of interpretation; especially in these days of ‘only connect’.

A few hours later I come down with an ironic case of swine flu.

The man on the cross, hilariously, looks exactly like Brian Topp, the artist from Spaced.

Instead Justice Yeldham is the real revelation playing with faulty equipment to a room of about 20 people. He blows onto a plate of glass attached to a contact mic which he runs through a series of FX pedals. As the performance goes on the glass shatters becoming smaller and smaller, cutting his mouth open and the sound becoming more and more intense. His performance speaks of violently shrinking noise horizons and the need for inventiveness that this stirs in some of us.

Outside it’s obvious that Incubate points toward some new form of spiritually beneficial tourism. A moveable feast where a new town, a blank canvas, is used to paint ideas onto; ideas of contemporary art, noise, philosophy . . .

Click on the photos below for Incubate gallery

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