Various – Interactions: A Guide To Swiss Underground Experimental Music 2xLP (BR120)
I don’t remember exactly what was my first musical contact with Switzerland. Perhaps when I discovered The Young Gods through their records by the end of the 1990s. What I do remember clearly is my first direct exchange with Swiss experimental musicians. It happened during a series of concerts that occurred in Lima 10 years ago. Particularly, I remember the shows put together by Günter Müller, Jason Kahn, Norbert Möslang (Voice Crack), and Dave Phillips (Schimpfluch). They had arrived as part of a South American tour, and performed together with many of Lima’s underground experimental musicians.
After these exchanges, I understood that Swiss artists travelled frequently. Partly because of the very nature of the international experimental music circuit, but Swiss artists also travel vastly because funding is available to promote Swiss culture abroad. Because of Switzerland’s proximity to many other countries, there is a lot of communication and cultural activity, especially with France, Germany, and Italy. At the same time, there is a large number of foreign artists living in Switzerland, well integrated with the local scene. Considering the cultural diversity of the country, represented in its four official languages (French, German, Italian, and Romansh), together with a high rate of immigration, Switzerland is a country of complex cultural convergence.
How to forget Cabaret Voltaire, in Zürich, founded by Hugo Ball from Germany. Cabaret Voltaire was the historic meeting place of the Dadaist movement, and housed exiled artists from different nationalities, and different languages. Such a cosmopolitan atmosphere made possible the emergence of the so-called “verses without words”, a non-language capable of speaking to the most diverse crowd.
One of the most active labels in the experimental music scene in Switzerland is Institute of Incoherent Cinematography, from Zürich, where silent films are screened with live music performed by experimental musicians. During these screenings, one can find often ‘free improvisation’, a genre deeply rooted in Switzerland, and one largely practiced by Swiss experimental musicians.
Two notable experimental music venues in Switzerland are Cave 12 in Geneva, and Misterioso Jazz Club, in Zürich. Equally important are alternative places like Cabane B, in Bern, as well as festivals such as LUFF, in Lausanne. LUFF is a festival of extreme music that presents artists from different parts of the world. Other important festivals such as Ear We Are, in Biel, and Zoom In, in Bern, are dedicated to free improvisation.
To me, record labels perhaps are the best way to understand the different styles and visions of how the experimental music scene has developed. Many experimental music labels stand out: Everest Records, Veto Records, three:four records, Präsens Editionen, Cruel Bones, A Tree in a Field Records, Pulver & Asche Records, Wide Ear Records, and Bongo Joe Records. Bongo Joe is also a specialized record store worth highlighting, together with the stores Oor and Plattfon Records.
“Interactions” is a word that refers to a connection between two or more things that influence each other reciprocally. It is a useful word in discussing and understanding what is different, and a word that reminds us that if something must prevail within the experimental music scene, it is its openness towards what is different. (Luis Alvarado)