Live Report: Tremor Festival 2019

Live Report: Tremor Festival 2019

A superb glimpse of music's left field in a genuine paradise...

In Ancient mythology and the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, Ariadne leads Theseus to safety out of the labyrinth by leaving a thread through the twists and turns of his captor’s lair.

In some versions, this thread is a vibrant red. Arriving in the Azores my first experience of Tremor features a similar striking detail in the form of Natalie Sharpe’s collaborative piece with the festival.

An artist also known as Lone Taxidermist (amongst other creative aliases) the piece involved a short trek through the serene, rocky landscape, alongside the ocean, marked by a trail of red thread leading us through the luxuriant Azorean terrain.

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Yet whilst the setting is picturesque and tranquil, there’s an underlying sinister atmosphere; sound-tracked by faint murmured incantations and growling sounds (purveyed via mp3 players we’re each given at the beginning) there’s a growing sense of unease created as this sonic accompaniment and the dashes of red on rocks, on trees, and amongst the landscape in the form of red ribbons, create a mounting unease.

And that feeling is affirmed as we step through a gate marked ‘beware of the dog’ only to be welcomed (if welcome is the word) to “Hell’s Garden” which sees Sharpe and her musical partner draped in red, crafting eerie, beautiful soundscapes that ebb and flow with undulating intensity.

As the first thing I fully witnessed of the festival, this surreal, breath-taking nightmare of a piece, where the line “you are in Hell’s Garden, your bones are bloating” is repeated over and over with visceral enunciation, is very much a befitting beginning to the wealth of multidisciplinary performances and works of art that followed throughout the course of Tremor.

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The aforementioned analogy of Ariadne’s thread, and the labyrinth feel quite apt for the overall experience of Tremor, in the sense that a lot of the festival leads you on an intrepid, exciting adventure filled with uncertainty. There’s a lot of boarding minibuses and entering spaces without much knowledge of where we’re headed or what’s entailed, eliciting this particular sense of adventurous intrigue that we often lose amidst the day to day mundanity of adulthood.

And within each space any expectations and preconceptions are very much dispelled and warped as everything from the natural fauna to a mechanics garage host performances and interact with the art in varying innovative ways.

Amongst days brimming with unforgettable experiences, a particular stand out highlight is Instytut B61 – Intersellar SUGAR Center. A collaborative, immersive piece that takes us through the life-cycle of a star by way of a ingenious, bizarre, emotional rollercoaster of a journey through a sugar factory.

To say that this performance was one of the most, if not the most, surreal, unusual works of creative genius that I’ve ever experienced is perhaps an understatement. More than just a performance, during those couple of hours or so, that began with being herded onto a blacked out coach and involved the birdie dance and candyfloss to give just a few details, it was something of a life-altering experience.

The work of Polish artistic and scientific collective Instytut B61, along with Indian band Laxmi Bomb and Azorean artists, witnessing the performance the day after the first ever image of a black hole surfaced felt particularly pertinent.

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Elsewhere, Hayley Heynderickx’s rich, lilting folk intonations felt perfectly suited to the illuminated gilt church where she played a breath-taking set imbued with her particular endearing charisma. Going from Heynderickx’s performance to the hypnotic, thunderous percussion of CZN in another church just down the road highlighted one of the particular elements that makes Tremor stand out: the carefully considered use of space and landscape.

Whilst the incredible, interdisciplinary array of artists collated on the line-up was filled with ground-breaking, innovative creatives in so many different fields, the consideration afforded to the interaction between performance and the Azorean landscape, both naturally and architecturally speaking.

The art-deco theatre where Maria Beraldo played felt incongruously befitting for the Brazilian artist’s experimental sounds and otherworldly performance, whilst witnessing Catalan duo ZA! in the round, on a stage in the centre of a mechanics garage added to the potency of the duo’s eccentric dynamism.

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Speaking of ZA! another striking, unique element of the festival was the way in which it very much honoured and celebrated the island of Sao Miguel. Getting to experience a traditional Rabo da Raixe procession, and then a collaborative performance between the locals and ZA! offered a really pure demonstration of how music and arts can be so unifying.

And throughout the various days of the festival, this unity prevails not just between artists and those attending the festival but also with the spaces; in the Black Box Lafawndah’s celestial, mesmerising cinematic pop created an atmosphere of enrapturing magic that lingered long after her performance ended.

Elsewhere Lisbon producer and DJ Odete delivered a searing set in Arco 8, a wonderfully DIY, independent creative space that also saw Free Love play a suitably outrageous set with singer Suzanne Roden writhing through the crowd with a certain entrancing ferocity.

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To put it succinctly, Tremor is incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced in my twenty odd years of existence; for something to feel so considerately boundary-pushing, both in artistic intent and in manifestation, is quite rare. Especially in the context of festivals where often there is a quite formulaic, safe structure to many such events.

Tremor, however, isn’t your usual festival. It’s an experience that feels almost unreal, and that it takes place in such a unique ecosystem and interacts with this so harmoniously that it truly is one of a kind and here to shake up the very notion of what a festival can be.

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Words: Kezia Cochrane

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