Club to Club 2018: Festival Review

Showcasing a diverse range of acts from the realm of electronic music and 'avant-pop', Club to Club is a stand-out on the annual festival calendar

Review by Nadia Younes | 14 Nov 2018

Celebrating its 18th year in existence, Club to Club festival returned to the Italian city of Turin from 1-4 November with another stellar line-up of artists under the brand of ‘avant-pop’. With artists including Beach House, Iceage, Jamie xx, Blood Orange and Aphex Twin all featured on this year’s bill, the festival remains a diverse and exciting addition to the circuit.

While the festival’s main events take place at the Lingotto on Friday and Saturday night, other events are also held at venues across the city over the course of the weekend. Following on from Thursday night's opening event at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni, a brand new Innovation Hub and Arts Centre – featuring performances from Gang of Ducks, Tirzah, Palm Wine and Call Super – Italian-born, London-based DJ Elena Colombi opens the Crack Stage at the Lingotto on Friday night with a solid set of slow-building techno.

Colombi is just one of seven acts included in The Italian New Wave strand on this year’s line-up, which aims to promote new Italian artists internationally through a series of showcases and initiatives. Next up on the Main Stage, dream-pop connoisseurs Beach House perfectly ease us in to the evening; their classic ethereal soundscapes and Victoria Legrand’s haunting vocals bringing an intimacy to the vast setting.

The Baltimore duo, comprised of Legrand and Alex Scally, are joined on stage by their live drummer James Barone, all shrouded in darkness in typical Beach House fashion, with the focus very much on the music and the striking, bright visuals behind them. They play a good mix of tracks from their previous albums – including Bloom highlights Wild and Myth – and their latest album, 7 – opening with Lemon Glow and continuing through the likes of Pay No Mind and Drunk in LA, before closing with the perfectly-suited Dive and its epic crescendo. At this point, the space is still only about half full but the room quickly fills in the lead-up to Jamie xx’s set, and soon enough the full scale of the venue becomes very clear.

As Jamie xx takes to the stage, the room is lit up by three disco balls hanging above him. Sadly though, there’s not much disco to be heard in his set. Instead it feels a bit flat, with lots of repetitive, bass-heavy track selections, but with enough drops to keep the crowd happy. In contrast, young German prodigy Skee Mask’s set on the Crack Stage is packed full of eclectic selections, travelling through techno, breakbeat and grime – with his inclusion of Skepta’s Pure Water a particular highlight. With the energy levels kept high from the get-go and never showing signs of stopping, his set is one of the weekend’s best.

Moving back to the Main Stage, surely one of the busiest DJs of the year, Peggy Gou’s set is a bit more of a builder, but once it gets going she throws in some heavier tracks to really get the dancefloor going. An exciting addition to her set is a drop of Marie Davidson’s Work It, from her latest album Working Class Woman, slotted in about halfway through. Closing the stage, and concluding the evening’s proceedings, is software designer-turned-DJ/producer Avalon Emerson, who doesn’t let the crowd get away easy, with a set largely made up of heavy, industrial techno ending the night on a high.

On Saturday night, we begin at the Main Stage with Blood Orange – the musical project of London-born, New York-based musician Dev Hynes. The unusual stage set-up – with the band performing on raised platforms at either side of the stage, with Hynes and his two backing singers, Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah, below them – is a clever move and allows a clear view of all the band members, without obstruction. The band walk on stage to a sound clip taken from 2018’s Negro Swan, spoken by transgender rights activist Janet Mock, with more scattered throughout the performance.

The first half of the set is largely dedicated to tracks from the new album, with Hynes switching between piano, guitar and vocals on the likes of Saint, Jewelry and Charcoal Baby. On Holy Will, the spotlight is handed over to Tolkin and Isiah, whose vocal sparring throughout is a highlight of the show, who are given our full attention here. Isiah’s piercing falsetto and Tolkin’s silky smooth R’n’B-tinged harmonies complement each other beautifully and prove them to be stars in their own right. But Hynes doesn’t deny fans of some throwbacks, performing Champagne Coast from his 2011 debut as Blood Orange, Coastal Grooves, as well as Chamakay and a closing back-to-back of It Is What It Is and You're Not Good Enough from 2013’s Cupid Deluxe.

Over on the Crack Stage, fellow New York-based musician serpentwithfeet performs a much more minimal set: just himself, a laptop and a keyboard on stage. Unfortunately, this kind of stripped-back style works against him on this occasion and, despite his stunning vocals and incredible range, he is often drowned out by the sound of the crowd. As we head back towards the Main Stage, the venue is the busiest it’s been all weekend, with crowds flooding in the same direction and anticipation for the most talked-about artist on this year’s line-up, Aphex Twin, at an all time high.

Lisbon’s DJ Nigga Fox does his best to warm up the crowd back on the Main Stage, despite being oddly positioned at the sound desk in the middle of the room and live-streamed onto two screens at either side of the stage. The reason for this appears to be to make room for Aphex Twin’s massive stage set-up, which includes the whole back wall of the stage being covered in screens to allow for his immense visual show, beginning with the artist's infamous symbol projected onto the ceiling and the stage.

As is to be expected, Aphex Twin’s set is a massive sonic assault, full of crashing beats and body-shaking bass, constantly building in intensity until reaching a blistering conclusion. During the tailend of his set, the screening visuals show a collaboration between himself and video designer Weirdcore, which features a selection of chopped up and distorted images of famous faces, mostly from Turin, including players from the local football team Juventus F.C., the Turin-born singer Rita Pavone and fellow Warp affiliate Lorenzo Senni.

The night’s surprise guest, following Aphex Twin on the Main Stage, is revealed as Glaswegian producer and Hyderdub founder Kode9, and he feels a perfect fit to continue the night’s proceedings – his dubby, bassline-leaning set allowing for more movement to return to the dancefloor. On the Crack Stage, however, it’s a much more chilled-out affair to end the night, as Courtesy’s track selections lean more towards the ambient and are a drastic change following the pounding beats heard over on the Main Stage.

The following day, at the Club Palazzo Block Party – a special edition of the traditional Balôn market, held in Turin’s Borgo Dora district – the half-indoor, half-outdoor style of the Porta Palazzo market provides a unique setting for Red Bull Music’s Diggin’ in the Carts. Kode9 makes his second appearance at the festival, as part of the collaborative show alongside renowned Japanese video game soundtrack composers, Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, with accompanying visuals from fellow Glaswegian Konx-om-Pax.

No setting is as unique, however, as that of the closing night event, held in the grand surrounds of the Reggia di Venaria – an actual palace and former royal residence, located just outside of Turin. The evening’s programme includes a series of film screenings co-curated with 4:3, Boiler Room's film platform, as well as DJ sets from Primitive Art, Mana and DJ Nigga Fox, situated in different rooms in the palace.

Club to Club is a real stand-out on the festival calendar, with exceptional programming and a dedication to showcasing the best in contemporary music and ‘avant-pop’. The only problem you’ll have is trying to fit it all in.

Club to Club 2018 took place in Turin, Italy, 1-4 Nov