Offf 2004 – Valencia, Spain – July 1-3, 2004

Text and photo by: Mike Whyte

Futuristic venue for cutting edge festival
What can you expect from a festival billing itself as “Experimental Audio/Unusual Video”? This was the question that led me to pack my things and head over for a week to the sunny climbs of Eastern Spain. Arriving in the beautiful city of Valencia was a real treat, and certainly geared me up for the festival, until I found out where it was!
Something I wasn’t expecting was the location being quite far out of the city – but when I saw the location I realized why this place had been chosen ahead of Barcelona, where the last three festivals have been held. The Feria de Valencia is a fantastic futuristic looking set of buildings, basically in the middle of nowhere, and looked every inch the part for what is basically a very cutting edge, forward thinking festival of talent from all over the world.

Cancelled performances
Split into a variety of different sub-venues within the main hall I began to notice that the emphasis was slightly more on the "look" of electronics, rather than the music. The main venue rooms were set up for the digital artists, and the electronic music acts were being placed in a rather smaller side room. This however, turned out to be quite a nice space to see the various talents on offer, with various beach inflatables strewn across the floor, and cushions to casually prop yourself up as you took in the music.
Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with festivals, things didn’t necessarily go to plan with the acts. The first casualty of the night turning out to be BlackJewishGays, who it was announced had pulled out. Further on from this the main act for day one, V/VM, the mad English bad music manglers, eventually got timed out from playing, basically because they didn’t want to perform to the handful of people in the room at the time – with most people being in the main auditorium for yet another graphic/animation demonstration.

Autechre with live drums?
Day two picked up considerably though, especially based around the two acts Kapital Band 1, who for me were the festival's main success music wise – mixing the beats and sonic tweekings normally found in the Autechre/Spark Records category, with live drumming. One of the few events on the music stage where the room finished more crowded at the end of the show, than at the beginning, which is praise indeed.
A close second were the duo of Noriko Tujiko and Lionel Fernandez. Seen by many as one of the highlights of the festival, and so playing to a packed out room, it was unfortunate for them, and for us, that the technicians failed to gauge the levels sufficiently within the first few songs, making Tujiko’s "Björk-like" vocals barely audible for that time. Once the technical problems had been dealt with, the music they created helped to show how these hefty comparisons had been made. What people failed to pick up on though, was the fact that the accompanying music to Tujiko’s voice was more Atari Teenage Riot than "Violently Happy"; an interesting combination.
The most varied day came on day three, with The Vegetable Orchestra, the highlight performing, with weird tripped out organic/electronic compositions, but overall it didn’t match what went before.

All in all, I left the festival in two minds as to my opinions; on the one hand the ideas and effort that had been put into the festival were admirable, and there was a genuine feeling of community and a strong creative energy flowing through the whole place, but if you had been enticed simply for the music I think you would have been left slightly flat by the proceedings. More of a celebration of electronics in general than of electronic music, but with hopefully a stronger presence in the music area, to at least match the attention given to the digital art side, I feel this could be a great showcase provider for acts of the future, and who knows, maybe even the stars of now.