Electrónica En Abril occupied two rooms of the building, Sala Courtyard and Sala Auditorium, both of which had been completely transformed for the occasion by architect Jorge López Conde. When I got to the venue on Friday, Carla Dal Forno had just started in the dark Auditorium, joined onstage by a guy on synths while she handled vocals and guitar. She got the evening off to a great start. There was something ethereal, even spiritual about her performance. Her vocals, which were soaked in heavy FX and delay, fit perfectly with the smoky layers of ambient sounds.
From there I headed to Courtyard, where Aïsha Devi stood, one arm bandaged, before one of the youngest crowds I remember seeing at Electrónica. Behind her, visuals were projected onto a huge screen, filling the room with light. Her voice reminded me slightly of Björk, and the performance was memorable, building slowly in intensity and emotion throughout. Yves Tumor, who I had been looking forward to all day, was more of a let-down. (My heart sank as soon as I saw his setup: two Pioneer CDJs, a mixer and a microphone.) The show, which had nothing to do with last year's excellent Serpent Music album, began with Tumor cursing and shouting at the crowd, demanding more volume and even cutting the music twice. When he eventually got going, he sang over jungle beats while pogoing about onstage, turning the room into a punk concert. Part of the crowd seemed thrilled; the rest simply stared in astonishment.
I returned to La Casa Encendida on Saturday and headed straight to Auditorium to catch Samuel Kerridge, who was presenting The Mysterious Other, his audiovisual project in collaboration with fellow Downwards artist Taylor Burch, of DVA Damas fame. Day tickets had sold out—some people were even pleading for spares at the entrance—so the space was packed. Inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1962 documentary S'adresse à l'an 2000, the show featured a black and white video of text and close-ups, mostly blurred, of Burch's face. This was accompanied by Kerridge's music, which, though full of tension, was subtle and smooth, with none of the raw and raging sounds we've come to expect from the producer. To finish, a vocal repeated the line "control is a dangerous thing" while the whole crowd cheered and applauded.
As soon as Kerridge ended, I switched to Courtyard, where Demdike Stare were putting the finishing touches to their hardware setup. The Manchester-based duo took the roof off the place, aiming squarely at the dance floor with a set that moved from noisy industrial to more UK garage-influenced cuts. Lone, who was joined by visual artist Konx-om-Pax and drummer Chris Boot, played straight after, his blend of live jungle and drum & bass doing more to capture the crowd's attention than his housier passages.
Electrónica's 2017 finale was reserved for London-born Warp artist GAIKA, who had been booked to DJ. He took little time in showing off his dancehall and reggae influences, mixing quickly and smoothly between tracks with different and varied rhythms. The only downside was that it was all over too soon—one hour isn't long enough for a DJ to tell a story. Even so, the crowd left delighted, smiling and chatting animatedly about all they'd just seen.