The 22nd edition of Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival provided a playground of baffling novelties. Spanning five days, two stages, four theatres, a no-man’s-land of installations and a sprinkle of churches – my experience lasted two nights – so this is my personal account of LUFF 2023, and trust me, it’s nothing that you would ever expect.
As I stepped outside Lausanne railway station, I sweated my first thoughts out on the hilly streets of Lausanne. While feeling an abundant tension in the air, my feet followed the echoes of loud crow caws and chanting from nearby protestors. I call it the fitness city and if you walk between the venues as I did, I can testify that you will gain novel muscles. However, all this effort is subdued by the stunning views of the Swiss Alps and the charming Lac Leman.
Inside the Casino de Montbenon – a prestigious edifice built in 1908 and temporary LUFF headquarters – elegantly dressed diners delighted their taste buds at the Brasserie du Casino de Montbenon, whilst a totally alternative crowd assembled in the hallway to experience a niche experimental horror movie at Cinema Paderewski, whilst others sifted through record crates from Disc-À-Brac Records.
American filmmaker Ericka Beckman reminded viewers through her audiovisual experiments that ‘in the return, there is change‘ – I decided to chase the festival’s summit at Cinema Bellevaux for her early performative films deconstructing the mass consumption of society in the 1970’s. At the end, the director spoke on the microphone, contextualising her work in an analog landscape.
Not long after that, a full night of sonic experiments took place in the underground chamber of Casino De Montbenon. Pollution Opera – also known as Nadah El Shazly and Elvin Brandhi – opened the ceremony, transporting attendants to a colossal garbage dump located on the outskirts of Cairo. The duo sounded like nothing else and Omar El Sadek’s visuals amplified the dystopian nature.
After a short interlude by Hugo Esquinca, eminent Japanese musician and vocalist Jon The Dog appeared in the centre of the room dressed in a full size dog suit. Frisking the organ, whilst psych melodies and Japanese lyrics emitted through the room. I left the space with a heightened sense of confusion. It proved humans don’t need to talk in order to interact. Whilst wandering through the hallways, I witnessed a surreal scene of Jon The Dog striking a pose to a group of photographers.
Former LUFF curator and composer Nikola Mounoud stepped up on the stage to provide a pure feedback session with lights and saturated frequencies. As the end of the night approaches, double bass maestro Otto Willberg appeared in a free-jazz scenery, shrouded in dense smoke and mystical spotlight.
Surrounded by an assembly of attendants, Otto Wilberg delivered submarine-like frequencies. Highly stimulated by the quadraphonic sound system, the bass player donned sunglasses to operate the final grooves before Shitty Shed’s half-gabber closing performance.
Shrouded in a dense fog, Lausanne woke at a slow pace for another mind-bending experience. I started my day with the UFO-like movie ‘The Belgian Wave‘ paying tribute to the early nineties New Beat scene with the likes of Elzo Durt – psychedelic graphic designer and Teenage Menopause label head.
As the sun set, deconstructed jazz duo Drone Operator provided an overdose of noise and psych riffs. My audiovisual craving led me to the Cinematography room for a series of short documentaries ‘The Lighting‘ – a deep reflection about racialised optical lens structures challenging movie directors from around the world.
Australian noise maker Tarab gently opened the basement with a computer-like performance in the middle of the venue. Renowned for his trash sound collection, the producer filled the space with second life frequencies. After a quick break, I stepped inside the obscure room for a brief interlude with Matriarch propelling saturated sounds from her corporate library-like setup, whilst scrupulously watching the crowd.
Dreamcrusher entered the basement encircled by static dancers. Highly frustrated by the motionless crowd, the American artist bellow through the microphone “am I the first n*gga you’ve seen in your life?”. While cleansing the space and warding off evil spirits with a palo santo stick. Dreamcrusher enveloped the the room with swirls of vocalised noise and psyched-out experimentation, bewitching the crowd like a dreadlocked tornado, chaotic mosh pit and goth-trap skits.
Following Dreamcrusher’s performance, the audience prepared themselves for another sonic storm. The digital punk duo Kill Alters step up on the stage, with vocalist Bonnie Baxter dressed up in a silver outfit – screaming and singing at the same time, whilst the half-naked drummer, Hisham Bharoosha, provided a speed tempo lesson. Beads of sweat started dripping from the ceiling, the trance was realised.
Last but not least, activist rebel AGF closed out the night with a disturbing request: ‘Who’s brave enough to say that they don’t feel well?’. A few people raise their hands and the show commences with a whole room focused on her noisy poetry.
Both local and international artists delivered a unique experience, characterised by boundary-pushing soundscapes, entangled by highly skilled light and sound technicians. LUFF appeared to be a grounding and contemplative encounter crossing the borders of sound, where harmony and chaos join forces unilaterally.