REVIEW: 2015 Match&Fuse Festival in Dalston

MOPO from Finland at Match&Fuse Festival. Photo credit: Tim Ower

Match&Fuse Festival 2015
(Vortex, Cafe Oto, Servant Jazz Quarters, Rich Mix 15- 17th October. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

It's not every week that musician's from fourteen different European nations pitch up on your doorstep, but over three days this week we had the pan-european musical network Match&Fuse to thank for gathering the continents finest together. Breaking into its fourth year, Dave Morecroft's organisation have charged themselves with bringing together bold new music from cutting edge and diverse contemporary european music scenes. Based on the festival's sheer energy and passion alone, Match&Fuse has met its objective, with bells on.

Each line-up presents a surreal story, with the rumbling vocals of Snack Family opening proceedings on Friday at Rich Mix as viceral and gritty as they come. Persistent hounding drums and trademark Allsopp mayhem on the baritone accompanied sinister singing as this genre-dodging trio got lost in the Bermuda triangle of Rammstein, Queens of the Stone Age and Eric Dolphy. The brief addition of Natali Abrahamsen Garner tempered their tone a little during a mellow duet, the Snack Family trio like a besotted big burly monster trying to slow dance to impress Natali their new civilised lover, but still rippling with contained tension behind the show.

Their intensity melted away for Attwenger - part band, part Austrian comedy duo - playing reliable electro punk pop with free-flowing monotone rapping over the top. Their rolling beats and jumping accordion inspiring the Snack Family boys into an impromptu macarena amongst the audience. In contrast to Attwenger's casual summer wear (vests and shorts in October?) and light-hearted beats, the sartorial seriousness of Toulouse's Alfie Ryner ushered in the emotional intensity of their Jazz trash.– all dynamic rhythm sections and juxtaposed horns. There is real muscularity in the sax/trombone combinations, and a raw anguish in Paco Serrano's vocals when he puts his alto aside.

The program closed with slick jazz rock veterans Get the Blessing launching their new album Astronautilus, a more introspective affair then even their last outing, but still anchored on those deep West Country atmospheric grooves. Out of the slew of new work Green Herring and Phaenomena stood out as exciting developments, with Jake McMurchie and Pete Judge working off each other well from opposite sides of thee stage. The new album is strong but soothing - particularly when accompanied by psychedelic live video streams projected behind them - but upbeat crowd pleasers like OCDC still have serious traction in bring the audience back in to the fold.

For the first two nights of the festival the story was laid out for you with one venue hosting each evening, but on Saturday three venues in Dalston opened their doors letting the audience pick their own narrative through the evening. Brass Mask started in the heavy-timbered low cellar of Servants Jazz Quarters, an all-star London octet presenting New Orleans marching bands with a chaotic Loop Collective twist. Raucous intertwined horns switch over an imaginative percussive back line with little left in the tank as they bowl through intense original pieces, Crowley in particular blowing his lungs out on the set opener with Tom Challenger adding texture at his side. Swinging between Mingus and Mardi Gras, the strong unision finish to Francis P with its kazoo chorus and thumping synth is a promising marker for their forthcoming new release. Energy abounds as InterStatic follow, the prog-rock power trio driven by the shimmering Jarle Vespestad as organs scream over rapid guitar, tempos switched like a light amongst the comfortable trio.

Slipping out of the heat of the SJQ basement and crossing Kingsland road to Cafe Oto we see the introspective side to Match&Fuse - a full Cafe Oto seated in silence, enthralled by Alexander Hawkins and his unconstrained style. From lyrical grand pianos, to Latvian vocal groups, How Town may well have been the surprise act of the festival. Huddled tight in Cafe Oto's Project Space, architecture collective Assemble's atmospheric sandbag pebbled-dashed annexe posed the perfect venue for their beautiful quirky vocal interplay. Falling somewhere between New York's Dirty Projectors unhinged style and the light feel of the Juno soundtrack, How Town's short tight compositions full of clear harmonies and unconventional vocal sounds were played with a sort of magical purity, underlain by understated guitar and sparse double bass.

Back in Dalston's Jazz mothership the Vortex, Ireland's Alarmist were making experimental soundscapes bigger than their quartet's visible numbers, bringing the momentum and richness of Jaga Jazzist to the stage by sheer focus. Interchanging guitars for synths and constantly driving, Alarmist are a fantastic example of why we should be looking west for groundbreaking new music as often as we look to our south and east.

The eclectic ambition of the festival hit a climax as three collaborative orchestras, one from each venue, collected with any portable instruments around to soundpaint together in Gillett Square under the guidance of Loris Pertoldi, the drummer from Afie Ryner. It is a joyous spontaneous thing – an opportunity for the musicians involved to do something different together. After the outdoor jaunt Match&Fuse finished in the Vortex where it all started on Thursday night, the place at capacity and full of the festival's musicians all collected to see Strobes close out the evening. Afrobeat grooves run through the electronica - this is modern club music through the filter of a Dan Nicholls' jazz brain. A fittting end to an eclectic collection of performances.

With human rights, economic zones and refugees dominating inter-European discourse, creative initiatives like Match&Fuse become more important than ever in cutting through the realpolitik. Collaborations like these, pointers to how the future really should be, are something precious.

LINKS: Review: Bristol launch of Afronautilus
Review of 2014 Festival
Match&Fuse website

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