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Raw Power Festival at The Dome and Boston Music Room, London - live review

Tomaga, Sly & The Family Drone, Dead Neanderthals, Evil Blizzard, The Cosmic Dead, Shitwife, K-X-P, Loop and White Hills break down the barriers at Raw Power

A crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

Few things are as tedious as the tiresome bores who claim that music today ain’t as good as it was back in their day. Indeed, these are the very people who should be promptly dispatched to Raw Power, a festival spread over two interconnecting venues, and the event is one which proves that, in the main, the areas of psychedelic, experimental and progressive music are currently going through something of a renaissance, if not a whole new golden age.

What becomes apparent over the course of the three days is how the emphasis of these forms has altered over the course of time. Where once the gaze was held by seasoned virtuosity, the opening overs of the 21st century have seen the balance shift more in the direction of rhythm that acts as a foundation and launch pad for third-eye-cleansing activity.

Tomaga’s set is a case in point. Essentially The Oscillation’s rhythm section of Valentina Magaletti and Tom Relleen, they pick up Can’s baton and totally erase all conventional norms of music as their hypnotic and unorthodox drum patterns mesh with drones and throbbing pulses. In the process they blow Faust clear out of the building and into irrelevancy.

Similarly, Sly & The Family Drone’s collaboration with Dead Neanderthals sees drums and percussion take centre stage. Their rise from a whisper to a scream, via incrementally insistent percussion and ever-menacing synth activity, plus heavy duty sax skronkage that makes you feel like you’re in the grip of some monster fist that shakes out any perceived torpor. So much so, in fact, that Evil Blizzard’s usually disturbing combination of fright masks, space rock and post-punk, all duly delivered on four basses, keyboards and drums, comes as something akin to light relief.

Of course, not everything hits the mark. Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead prove that the line between inspired intoxication and over-intoxication is indeed a fine one, with the latter option almost derailing their set. Nevertheless, the strike rate remains satisfyingly high, as evidenced by the appropriately titled High Octane Party Banger, Shitwife’s electro blitzkrieg. It’s further emboldened by drummer Henri Grimes’ gonzo onslaught, which creates one of the weekend’s standout sets.

Likewise K-X-P. Though the bpms are dialed back, their blend of electronics and live motorik drums hits the mark and then rubs it out. Not that any of this is to suggest that six-string action is out. Revived hypno-monotonists Loop sound better than ever, with Collision having barely dated, while White Hills’ sonic grooves are as dependable as ever.

Existing purely in the here and now, the Raw Power festival more than lives up to its name