Vula Viel get them boogying at Bezau Beatz

NIck Hasted
Thursday, November 14, 2019

Nick Hasted reports back from the idyllic Austrian festival that packs in an adventurous mix of artists among the Alps

Vula Viel
Vula Viel

Bex Burch doesn’t want Bezau Beatz to end, playing so many encores with her band Vula Viel that it tips past midnight into an unscheduled fourth day, as her Ghanaian gyil xylophone leads Doors-like trance grooves which crash through cultural restrictions. A growing crew of local children and happy wild ones are dancing down the front, led by Alabaster dePlume, a Shabaka Hutchings-lauded Mancunian whose prior, jazz-rock devotionals of ecstatic individuality and acceptance, feyly fragile articulations of fantastical enquiry and spindly paroxysms of righteousness leave his own band on besotted tenterhooks. The Austrian alpine village of Bezau has learned to embrace such challenging bookings, linked only by the individuality they powerfully put over. Created by successful local musician Alfred Vogel, this is an ideal festival, in its revelation of location and community magic.

Space and sound are a lovingly-crafted equation, as in the sauna-like farmers’ hut where we ritually encircle Portuguese trio Boden Wilson’s modal conjuring. A cable-car ride finds Manu Nude pushing standards as far as a tourist restaurant will permit as three nations’ Alps rise through fog. Then a low-ceilinged inn brings the tensions and connections between young Capetown singer-songwriter Brendan Adams and worldly Harry Marte’s Americana close enough to touch. Similarly, Trixie Whitley fights her way through nerves and malfunctioning synths in a gig built and lived in the moment.

Another constant is distinctive drummers. Vogel himself is utterly unique with the electric Miles-influenced Intensivstation, hitting his kit without violence, finding muted intensity and restrained urgency. Then there’s South Korea’s Near East Quartet, whose Soojin Suh drives dreamy laptop eddies, and Sudden Infant, whose punk poet Joke Lanz’s words are scattered like confetti by a brittle snare crack. Outside, local folk dancers add the sharp percussion of thigh- and arse-slaps. Of course, in blessed Bezau. 

Nick Hasted   

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