I thought that all of you might like to learn about what the festival was like. I'm sorry for the length but I wanted to be as comprehensive as possible... cvz
Based in The Netherlands, KLEM is an organization devoted to the promotion of many forms of Electronic Music. KLEM focuses on Spacemusic and The Berlin School but also New Age, Contemporary Instrumental and to a lesser extent Prog Rock.
KLEM publishes a wonderful newsletter/magazine several times a year, the contents of which are written entirely in Dutch. In a typical issue the reader will find: articles, music reviews, interviews, photos, discographies, news, concert announcements, adverts, editorials, etc. all relating to the international Electronic Music scene.
KLEM is also well know for the KLEM Dag events, of which there have been ten years worth. More like a one day convention, KLEM Dag takes place in Autumn in the city of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The highlight of the event are the concert performances. Over the years KLEM Dag has hosted concerts by well known and not so well know names in the field of Electronic Music. The line-up is truly international and democatically selected; based on votes tallied from the previous year's KLEM Dag. In years past performers at KLEM Dag have included a wide range of artists in electronic sound: Suzane Ciani, Patrick Kosmos, Michael Garrison, Paul Haslinger, Robert Schroder, Ian Boddy, Solitaire, TeeKay, Mind Over Matter, Ron Boots, John Dyson, Steve Roach and others.
When the live music is not happening in the main hall, video presentations, demonstrations and (sometimes) more concerts are happening in one of the smaller rooms in the complex.
In the reception area outside the large concert hall the KLEM Dag visitor will find a variety of vendor stalls. Among them: labels, mail order services, synth retailers, artists, used CDs & vinyl, magazines, radio shows, space art and anything else you can think of relating to Electronic Music.
As many as 2000 Electronic Music enthusiasts, mostly from Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and other parts of Europe attend KLEM Dag each year. KLEM Dag is a very good place to meet others with a shared interest in music and even a better place to meet: the artists making the music, the labels putting it out, the businesses selling it, the radio shows presenting it and the journalists reviewing it.
The admission price for KLEM Dag '97 was 33 Guilders ($17-$20US).
The concert line-up for KLEM Dag '97 was split into two sections, an afternoon concert at 12:45pm with N-Force, follwed by Radio Massacre International and an evening concert at 8pm with Michael Stearns followed by the headliner Ashra.
Throughout the day videos were playing in the Videozaal. Baraka and Chronos featuring music by Michael Stearns, a new video from Paul Haslinger, a video presentation by Wolfgang Flur and others were scheduled.
The advertised Bernd Scholl/Nik Tyndal concert in the Annazaal, must've been cancelled.
The solo act N-Force, also known as Norman Friedenberger of Germany, opened the concert portion of KLEM Dag '97 by performing pieces from his new CD "Collector" (on Spheric Music). The music was warm, accessible, enjoyable and not very demanding. I'd have to compare N-Force with Asana in that they both seem to be interested in combining aspects of old school melodic Electronic Music with the infectious rhythms of today's Techno. To achieve this end, N-Force brought quite a bit of gear including a computer, samplers, synths, mixer and modules. Making an already wonderful light show even better was the addition of a laser. As the beams cut through the theater one would almost think that a impossibly massive structure of light was passing just overhead. The N-Force set lasted about 45 minutes with no breaks in the music. At the conclusion, audience reaction brought N-Force back for a very simple yet effective encore performed using only the arpeggiator on one of the multitude of synths on stage.
RMI are a trio from England following the path laid down by Tangerine Dream on releases like "Rubycon" "Phaedra", "Encore" and "Ricochet". Using guitar and both modern and vintage (Mellotron most notably) equipment, RMI use the live environment to "feel" their way through a concert with often lengthy improvisational encounters. RMI must choose some kind of direction to follow before proceeding into the concert because some of the pieces performed coincided with tracks found on their new CD "Knutsford in May" (on Centaur Discs). RMI's KLEM Dag concert lasted well over an hour with a few breaks and remarks to the audience. It was very refreshing to experience a concert where the outcome is not exactly known. Through improvisation RMI chart new sonic territory each time they play, the best part being that they take the audience with them.
The evening concerts began with Michael Stearns. Stearns lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the USA and it was mentioned that this KLEM Dag appearence was to be his only European concert. It seems ironic that I had to go all the way to Europe to be at a concert by an artist from The States, but such is the state of things here in the USA. I guess the reason Stearns does not perform out live more often is because he is too busy working on music for the film industry. Maybe this too is the reason why there has not been a "proper" CD release from Stearns in such a long time. Recently we've seen a 3" CD, soundtracks, collaborations, edited re-issue anthologies and the occasional contribution to a CD sampler, but not really music made by Stearns expressly for the sake of and to be experienced as a full length solo CD release.
Stearns began the concert rather uniquely; all that was heard was the simple sound of a woman singing with gamelan accompaniment coming from a boombox on the stage. Stearns soon made his entrance, took off his boots and remarked to the audience that he'd wanted to give us some Small sounds since there'd been so many Big sounds from the stage that day. To the music coming from the boombox he slowly added layers of the typical huge Stearns sound from his samplers, synthesizers and CD players and gently got the concert underway. Stearns knew where he was taking us and we were going inside, inside him and inside ourselves. His performance contrasted the other concerts that day and actually contrasted itself as well. This concert remains unique in my experience. Stearns covered alot of ground sonically. There were very grand, beautiful moments where a piece would build up with synth washes, deep bass growls and his own voice, producing a feeling of bliss and light; later, just as easily, he'd be exploring the darkest reaches of some sonic underworld, using subtle synth timbres, samples of sacred stones, the Lyra sound constellation and his Beam instrument. Stearns played for what seemed like under an hour. Personally, it would have been more enjoyable if instead of breaking to talk to the audience several times throughout the concert, Stearns had presented his performance as one lengthy piece, bringing the audience into his Sound World and keeping us there for a while.
After a brief intermission, the biggest audience of the day filled up most of the seats, the lights dimmed, three musicians took the stage (synths, guitar and drums) and we began to hear a loop from "Echo Waves". The musicians started in and the music was going for a few minutes before Ashra leader and founder Manuel Gottsching came out and began jamming on guitar and later on synth. This was quite a wonderul experience because, having listened to this piece and this music for so many years, it was extraordinary to hear an updated variation live. I also had to come to terms with what amounted to a living legend effortlessly performing his art. It was a singular experience for me to hear the source, to hear one of the founders of the Spacemusic genre, one who has influenced so many and is so widely imitated. Every guitar player in the Spacemusic genre will no doubt pay tribute to Gottsching, but hearing the real deal for the first time was, for me, a significant experience.
Somewhere during Echo Waves I realized that the musicians were having some serious fun up on the stage. I could feel it even though I was in the balcony, in just about the last row of the hall. It was as if a feeling of positivity was floating through the hall. I've been at enough concerts to know when something is "happening" up on the stage and I got this feeling big time for Ashra.
After each set of music the audience responded very enthusiastically and ultimately with a standing ovation, bringing the group back for an encore.
Alot of attention is paid to the concert portion of KLEM Dag, but there are other aspects to the event.
While waiting for the evening concerts to start, I went into the Videozaal. Just by luck the new Paul Haslinger video was playing! I got a great impression from just the few minutes I saw of it. I'm told that it is entitled : "Planetary Traveller" and is available on the Web from Third Planet Inc at: http://www.thirdplanet-inc.com
It is a great deal of fun to visit all the stands and check out new music, and there is a ton of it. Many labels wait till KLEM Dag to release their new CDs so there are always lots of people milling around the vendor tables. Just about every vendor had means for the potential customer to preview CDs before purchase, so if you wanted to check out the sound quality of that live T Dream bootleg recorded in 1977 or hear what the latest from Bernd Kistenmacher sounded like, you could.
From the minute I got to the front door till the minute I left KLEM Dag I was running into people I knew or wanted to know: Steve Dinsdale (of RMI) needed a hand carrying in CDs, Wolfgang Flur (of Kraftwerk) complaining that he'd spent too much on the "Tournado" CD, Dave Law's (Neu Harmony) invitation to play live at Jodrell Bank, thanking Mario Schonwalder (Manikin) for his fine work on The Nightcrawlers CD, asking Adrian Beasley (Air Sculpture) about their concept of live music, Mark Jenkins' (Amp) invitation to play live in London, chating up the Star's End Gathering CD to Jorge Strawe (Cue), Arndt Maschinski (Ardema) and Mick Garlic & Carl Jenkinson (Sequences), speaking with Dirk Serries (Vidna Obmana) about coming to do a Star's End Gathering and introducing him to Andy Garibaldi (C&D)) and even meeting up with a friend from home. There is so much opportunity at KLEM Dag. No where else in the world does there exist a Gathering of this magnitude.
Although KLEM is run by what appears to be some kind of board or council, Frits is the most visible. It is rumored that he spends upwards of 50 hours a week working on keeping KLEM going. I assume that this is in addition to his paying "day job". This is a great deal of work and commitment. It's a tough job running the biggest and most prestigious Electronic Music organization in the world. I sincerely admire and appreciate the dedication shown by the people running KLEM and consider myself fortunate to have had my life enriched though their fine efforts. So Thank You Frits and everyone else involved in KLEM. I hope that you will somehow find the strength and resources to carry on you work for years to come and that the rewards continue to make KLEM a worthwhile cause for you.