To state the obvious, when Rewire held its last full scale festival across The Hague in 2019, the world was a very different place. Before the pandemic and this year’s devastating war in Ukraine, Rewire had been running its events annually since 2011, melding performance, art and discourse, in what retrospectively seemed like a halcyon moment of inter-European contemporary electronic music conferences. At Rewire, the Dutch city no doubt best known for international law and arbitration, became instead a hub descended upon by the global experimental underground and forward-thinking music practitioners. Now three years later, with the complete festival at last returning this weekend, we still live in a kind of social and political interregnum. There’s a feeling of uncertainty regarding the future and towards being together, offline from the digital mediascape, and within a Europe fractured by ghosts of its past.
The French economist Jacques Attali once posited that music can signal coming changes to politics and society. His 1977 book Noise — referring to ‘noise’ as something incoherent or a broken transmission — spoke of various paradigm shifts in Western music culture, and how they preempted developments in the political economy of Europe. He began his analysis by considering how the dissolution of the ‘ritual’ function of music made way for a new professionalisation, signalling in turn a wider segue towards capitalism.
While perhaps not intentional, it’s fitting then that the themes for Rewire 2022’s discourse programme riff on terms from Attali’s lexicon: RITUAL and NOISE. These topics, along with a third, AFFECT — how music might communicate beyond language — are ever relevant in the current moment. As we’ve come to appreciate during the pandemic, even in the toughest times music continues to hold as a vital tool in making sense of the world, or at the very least in finding ways to cope within it. This weekend, such concepts will percolate across talks and lectures in Rewire 2022’s festival venues, complementing a full international programme of club nights, concerts, and exhibitions throughout The Hague. It follows an online-only programme in May 2021, as well as a smaller offline festival in September that brought performances by the likes of Loraine James, bbymutha, Nazar and others, originally slated for the 2020 edition which was cancelled at the outset of the pandemic.
This year’s highlights include a live performance from Evian Christ, where the producer and founder of seminal euphoric UK party Trance Club will debut new material ahead of a forthcoming debut LP on Warp. Helm’s exploratory and melodic noise will meet in a performance with the high-sheen synthetic qualities of Nate Boyce’s visuals. South London collective Curl’s Coby Sey and Tirzah will each make live appearances, as will Salford’s Blackhaine, known for his post-industrial drill and dark atmospheric choreography. Others in the expansive music programme include Saudi Arabian singer MSYLMA with Cairo-based producer Ismael, set to perform live emotive vocals sung in classical Arabic and lush electronics, as heard on the recent collaborative album مذاهب النسيان / The Tenets of Forgetting. Japanese-American artist Golin will in turn present her vocaloid-inflected hyper pop, with an ethereal cybernetic tinge. Other appearances will be made by the likes of aya featuring Sweatmother, SKY H1 & Mika Oki, Myxomy (James Ginzburg & Ziúr) and more.
As is the case with past editions of the festival, Rewire 2022 holds a particular focus on discourse and the social conditions surrounding music and art. For this year’s programme, such critical discussions are to be brought from a mix of artists in conversation along with workshops and lectures from theorists. These include a keynote from ethnomusicologist Luis Manuel Garcia Mispireta, whose work deals in the queer intimacies of club spaces and affect theory, as well as seminars from acclaimed sound artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle. Discussions with Nkisi, JJJJJerome Ellis, The Caretaker, among others, will sit in tandem with their performances at the festival. Adding to an extensive emphasis on music and performance, Rewire 2022 will likewise play host to a visual programme of screenings as well as an exhibition, Proximity Music: Sensing After Thought, with artists including Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork, Kexin Hao, Arvid & Marie and more.
As we return to the ritual spaces of concert halls, or to the affect and intimacy of dance floors, there’s no doubt that audiences of a contemporary festival such as Rewire 2022 carry with them the baggage of today’s new social, political and ontological tensions. While any event such as this in the midst of turbulent times becomes more than ever a place for self-reflexiveness and discourse, allowing for moments of collective joy still maintains a sense of importance. Rounding out the festival’s packed schedules over the weekend, DJ sets by TSVI, Jana Rush, DEBONAIR and more will usher in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, and no doubt can be expected to bring a much needed visceral release and pause for togetherness among the noise of the present.**