Who stole the show at the 19th edition of Vancouver's favourite dance music festival?
Rapid real estate monopolization is the main reason why New Forms was forced to abandon its original turf this year, switching instead to nine locations spread across downtown Vancouver. The multi-venue setup gave the festival the feel of an extended weekend of reality-distorting club hopping, with spaces running the gamut from a large function room to a renovated nightclub that was once a dingy porno theater.
For a festival pushing new and upcoming talent, it was refreshing to see younger artists take the same stage as touring legends, performing in front of dedicated, open-minded crowds. Each act was accompanied by a talented visual artist, meaning every performance brought a singular, immersive energy. During the day, the programme also included free, all-ages panels, workshops and meets led by Los Angeles's Dublab Radio. This solidified New Form's mission to connect the broader local community with the most ground-breaking sounds and the artists behind them.
Here are five key performances from New Forms 2019.
Everyone was talking about the Purple Tape Pedigree showcase on Thursday, of which Via App was undoubtedly the highlight. The Brooklyn-based artist, known for their otherworldly sampling and alien instrumentation, revealed a refreshingly focused sound in the DIY setting of Fox Cabaret. Their live set was full of surprises, with seamless transitions between abrasive industrial loops, gabber-style basslines, driving trance melodies and Middle Eastern-inspired percussion. The dance floor often came dangerously close to becoming a full-throttle mosh pit. When they finished, long-time fans, and I suspect many new ones, beat their hands at the foot of the stage in giddy celebration.
Born in Istanbul and based in Berlin, Nene H is currently one of the standout artists pushing boundaries in techno. Playing live at The Pace at around 10 PM on Friday, her aggressive yet restrained synths set the tone for the rest of the evening. The intimacy of the venue allowed the audience to see her every movement, as the music slipped from pummelling bass to light ambient textures. Like the majority of the acts, there was a large focus on visuals during her set, with stark imagery of fiery protests and video game-like traverses through forests. They demanded the audience lose themselves in Nene H's trippy world.
As soon as I heard LSDXOXO receiving applause before he'd laid a single finger on the CDJs, I braced myself for a killer set. The formerly New York-based artist is hard to catch in North America these days, given his recent move to Berlin and current buzz in the European underground. Donning a diamante halter, he followed Ciel's high-energy tech house with a drizzling jungle track that immediately roused the crowd. His versatile style carried the room until long after the 60-minute mark, with exhilarating shifts from old-school hard trance, like DJ Yoeri's "Fuck On Cocaine," to his highly-anticipated ha sound and perfectly timed scatterings of baile funk. The only snag was the venue. Although the psychedelic visuals at The Pace complimented his high-intensity performance, the massive, dim setting of the afterhours venue, Open Studios, might have been a better fit.
If anyone hadn't heard of DJ Marcelle before Saturday night, they were properly educated during her indulgently off-kilter set at Japanese Hall. Whereas other acts felt incompatible with the large space, the bold energy of Marcelle's sets felt almost uncontainable by its four walls. Known for her encyclopaedic, three-deck vinyl sets, the Dutch artist pulled off a surreal mix of Afro house, old-school dubstep, strange acid tracks and hard style, with the occasional deep dive into sluggish reggae. My favorite moment of the entire festival saw her whip out a record that opened with an amusing series of high-pitched screams, encouraging a boisterous mixture of cheering and laughter from the audience. It was one of those rare, liberating musical experiences in which listeners were energized by the constant sense of the unexpected.
House Of Kenzo
The Pace carried some chaotic energy on Saturday night. It hit its peak at 11 PM with San Antonio radical collective House Of Kenzo, who fused metal-leaning noise, experimental and Southern trap in the basement, which quickly became a sweaty mess. Cofounder Ledef and dancer Brexxitt repped the seven-strong crew with their shenanigans. Both seriously delivered. Decked out in gothic stripper attire and glittering high-heel platforms, Brexxitt's dynamic presence enticed audience participation. In the span of 20 minutes, I saw s.M.i.L.e.'s Baby Blue make out with Brexxitt, a swarm of strangers collectively crawl to the ground and Ledef abandon the decks to vogue in an organically formed pit.
Photo credits /
Jason Mannings - Via App 1
Richard R Ross - Via App 2
Cole Schmidt - LSDXOXO
Lauren Goshinski - Nene H, DJ Marcelle
Culum Osbourne - House Of Kenzo