On the third day of Nuits sonores, all the young people scattered around the city of Lyon with the serious ambition of having fun have to contend with the cruel fact that exhaustion, very much like capital, knowledge, and wisdom, is something that accumulates. This is also the same natural phenomenon that is responsible for seeming increase in the distance between festival venues—I swear, it wasn’t that long of a walk the first day.
To overcome the issue, I have to become highly strategic. As if preparing to go into battle, I have to define primary objectives and draw huge crosses on my map. Today, I shall head to the MAC for the “Carte Blanche à Tokyo” [Tokyo residency], and make a decisive nocturnal move to the main venue, the Marché Gare, at sunset, to catch the “Nuit 3” [Third Night]. Secondary objective: find some time to eat a sandwich before breakfast tomorrow—I’ve failed at this last task the past two days.
TOKYO AREA SOUNDS – TOKYO VJ NIGHT
The main lobby of the MAC offers me a serene and reassuring sensation. Joao Vasco’s chirping birds keep chirping, not bothered by the frequent bursts of violence coming from Punch right below.
The auditorium welcomes another type of artistic violence, organized and conducted like a masochist maestro by Daito Manabe. Tonight, we have the occasion to introduce the Nuits sonores public to the self-inflicted ‘torture’ sessions of this rather peculiar artist. Daito is an experimental electronic musician and a crafty programmer who, among other things, has created a performance that is both a reflection on sound as material and an exploration of the bodily response to music.
On stage, Daito faces a traditional DJ set-up, albeit augmented with custom hardware and wires that link the music impulse to Daito’s face with about a dozen electrodes. The electric influx flowing through the wires is directly controlled by the electronic music, so the artist’s face becomes the visual element of the show. It moves in a frenzy, twitching in sync with the beats, the muscles contracting and easing up at a hectic pace. To make the show even more impressive, Daito invited a friend and willing victim to join him on the stage, doubling the visual impact of the performance. The two faces surrender and lose all autonomy, they are now in perfect sync, muscles moving in time to the music to create a stunning mirror-like effect. In the audience, we really are under the impression that two puppets, robots, automatons—anything but human beings—are performing. This forced synchronization seems to signal the dawn of the posthuman era, where the boundaries between the body and the machine become so blurred as to be virtually indecipherable.
The electrodes and the “torture” sessions they induce are hugely impressive but painless. Yet, from what we can see, the show is exhausting, like an intense gym session. Daito joyfully plays with this ambiguity—he may have surrendered the control of his body, but it is only to control the emotions of the audience. Everyone looks torn between genuine fascination, joy, anxiety and sympathy for the guinea pigs facing them.
NUIT 3 – MARCHE GARE
After two crazy nights in this vast wasteland that used to be the biggest wholesale dock of the region, the place feels wrapped in a warm familiarity. Once I get there, I feel at ease, relaxed, a bit at home, maybe even more so than at the hotel (which may explain my current exhaustion).
Everyone on our team now fully understands the musical identity and atmosphere of each stage, and once again we discuss our plans for the night at the main entrance, right below United Visual Artists’s futuristic gateway. For tonight, I had plotted a while back an infidelity to the electro/techno identity of Nuits sonores—I aim to join the rock stage for an energetic combo of Crystal Stilts and Ty Segall—a somewhat unexpected lineup for Nuits sonores. This kind of audacious programming is what makes this festival really different. They refuse to stick to a narrow music spectrum and willingly embrace a wider scope, seeking out the coolest acts in the indie realm.
Those two bands, coming from the two coasts of the U.S., each have a really distinctive sound. Crystal Stilts manage to recreate a post-new-wave sound with strong shoegazing influences and end up with a sound truly their own. Their stage performance may be a bit shy and closed-off, but the obvious qualities that made their two albums so great are all there. Ty Segall came all the way from San Francisco to give Lyon a demonstration of their fuzzed, ecstatic garage and lo-fi sound, in a place more keen to TR 909 and MPC beats. Definitely one of my favorite acts around here.
For the first time in three days, I allow myself to head back early – meaning around 2.00 A.M. To fulfill my professional duty and justify the Press credential I carry around, I decide to wander around all the other stages to get impressions from our team.
Night 3, as felt by everyone:
General impression, which seems true in Lyon and the entire world at this point:
2011 = Dubstep.
All photos: Oram Dannreutner