Numero Festival: Lisbon

Portugal gets overrun by a coterie of future-facing beat-manglers...

The torrential winter rain sweeping in from the Atlantic isn’t the only

thing battering the big top tent erected at the foot of a hillside park in the

centre of Lisbon. Its canvas sides shiver with every low frequency thud emanating from Finnish avantists Pan Sonic’s customised technology.

Most unnerving of all, though, is the inch-deep stream of water that runs off

the hill and straight through this temporary venue. The organisers of the

inaugural three-day Numero Festival of all things multimedia and electronic – the first of this nature in the Portuguese capital – had anticipated a kind of structured chaos to proceedings, but no-one assumed we’d require wellies for an indoor event.

It was only a matter of time before Lisbon hosted a festival celebrating the more interesting aspects of contemporary culture. Already every style-conscious budget Euro traveller’s destination of choice, thanks partly to the attention attracted by plush seafront nightclub the Lux, co-owned by one John Malkovich, its status as the new, ahem, Berlin has not been harmed by this government-funded arts weekender.

And where there’s a cool cosmopolitan party, there’s bound to be Chicks On Speed. Minor European techno-fashion celebrities sporting bespoke black binliners, the girls’ lo-fi cyber-Madonna spectacle always amuses, occasioning you to wonder how they get away with it. Coventry’s sonic extremist Russel Haswellspins Chris Morris’ ‘The Gush’ sketch in its entirety to a few hundred bewildered Lisbonites, then pummels heads with the darkest death metal and harshest techno.

The following, drier evening, the impressively side-parted To Rococo Rot’s tiftler musik and pleasant pastel washes are

distracting enough, while DJxDJ, the double-headed Technics tag team comprising Mute chief Daniel Miller and NovaMute boss Seth Hodder, remix their label rosters in under two hours. Everyone then heads to the Lux, where scores of beautiful people in powder blue Lacoste and Prada dance seriously to boring house music. Yawno.

An appearance by Aphex Twin at midnight ensures the tent is customarily heaving on the final night. Before him, People Like Us’ Vicki Bennet weaves an alluring spell using field recordings, folk records and synthetic drones. Next, jetlagged San Francisco PowerBook jockey Kid 606,

face bathed in the screen’s luminosity, spends an hour reprocessing and dissecting vintage hip-hop, splicing glitch after click into tracks by Detroit Grand Pubahs and NWA.

As thrilling as the Kid’s set is, it sounds prehistoric compared to the music loaded onto Richard James’ hard-drive. Aphex may have the same records as everyone else – old skool hip-hop, early jungle, deviant rave – but the ways in which he plays them, his ability to forge new from old, never ceases to amaze. Pity poor Expander, Lisbon’s hottest techno DJ, who follows him with a commendable effort. But by now the tent is deserted. And the rain pours down once more.

Piers Martin