On April 1, 1996, a group of five Barcelonians connected to the music scene signed the founding statutes of Gràcia Territori Sonor (GTS), a non-profit association that, among other objectives, seeks to foster “The projection of the district of Gràcia as a European experimental territory through the exchange with the other musical areas of experimentation in Europe.” A noble objective, which along with other initiatives, has been consolidating since that very year with the Festival LEM, whose first edition was attended by musicians from Barcelona, French Catalonia, Switzerland, Japan, Portugal and England.
The 23rd edition of the LEM kicks off on September 27 with a concert by Sergi Sirvent Trumpets Affairs at the city’s Cinemes Texas. In his fresh escapade, the Barcelona pianist (who in this instance plays the trumpet) offers a really intense agenda, with twenty performances that will take place in nine locales in the city. The bill of artists involved in the different projects that feed the program adds up to 44 musicians from many different countries.
Musician and writer Víctor Nubla, the festival’s art director, explains that “we always try to present acts that the public does not know, encouraging people to discover new stuff. Ours isn’t a festival for sacred cows. This is like a harvest, and logically some years are better than others, with more emerging projects to show.”
“Barcelona has an interesting scene with very high standards regarding non-orthodox or exploratory musicians”
Acts like Sleaze Art, an orchestra of guitars and basses directed by Franco-Polish Kasper T. Toeplitz, who performed at the Hipòstila Hall at Parc Güell in 1997; The Walter Thompson Orchestra, the American composer’s ensemble with several Barcelonian members, in 2000; or Italian group Goblin, who performed the soundtrack of Dario Argento’s film Suspiria in 2014, are some of the great moments experienced over the festival’s two decades. A period, explains Nubla, in which “there have been several generational renewals of the public, which we like very much. We noticed that especially last year and the year before.” The same renewal, by the way, as has been experienced at the GTS itself, since our interviewee is currently the only survivor of the founding team.
The agreements that the LEM has established at different times with other festivals in Sardinia, Poland, Portugal or France, have not only made it possible for artists from other countries to perform in Barcelona, but for local musicians with whom the organization is permanently collaborating—we can talk about initiatives that take place all year round, like Encontres en l’Espai-Temps some other time—to showcase their creations around the continent. Without bathing in self-satisfaction, Víctor Nubla considers that “Barcelona has an interesting scene with very high standards regarding non-orthodox or exploratory musicians.” An ecosystem that shows, of course, in the LEM 2018 programme. This is the case of Gemma Lloret, among other local acts. She is the former keyboard player of the group Ego:Trip, who after changing synthesizers for the piano will present her album Sonder next October 13 at the Nota 79 venue.
One of the acts that has raised most expectation at this year’s LEM is Czech composer, artist and multi-instrumentalist Lenka Morávková. The artist will show her work with the unique Bohemian crystal instrument that she has built herself following the model that brothers Bernard and François Bachet (one an engineer, the other a sculptor) designed in 1952. With her voice and the electronic processing of the sounds of this spectacular artefact, Morávková will take the stage at the Auditorium of the MACBA Contemporary Art Museum on October 11. Another major date of the festival that can’t be missed is the concert by Pole Zbigniew Chojnacki, an accordionist who has worked with great improvisers in his country such as Michal Urbaniak, Zbigniew Namysłowski and Jacek Kochan. Taking advantage of the possibilities of electronics, Chojnacki will unfurl the new capacities of his instrument at the Centre Cívic Convent de Sant Agustí (October 5th), inspired by such everyday sounds as the noise of a bus’ engine or of an old chair. It is also an excellent idea to go by the Nota 79 venue on October 19 to contend with Simone Weißenfels (piano and laptop) and Bert Stephan (trumpet and flugelhorn). Two German musicians with a long history (her on the improvisation and contemporary music scene, him with rock-fusion band DEKAdance) who have for a decade been exercising tandem sessions without a safety net that they have defined as “free jazz without jazz.” No joke.
[Simone Weißenfels & Bert Stephan, flh]
Off the international section of the programme, there are propositions by artists nearer to base such as one of the founding members of Lagartija Nick, Mar Pareja from Granada. This time, Pareja comes to Barcelona (Almo2bar, October 27) to perform songs from her first solo album Disonancia, which takes her into electronic rock. Also watch out for Sara Fontán, who many may remember from her stint with Manos de Topo; on her set at the Soda Acústic bar (October 6th), the Galician artist will present her new personal project, in which she will squeeze every possibility out of her violin with the backing of all sorts of processor effects. And there’s no question of missing the traditional LEM Àgape (a fraternal meal in Catalan), a multisensory experience that since 2005 has wedded gastronomy, poetry and music. This year, the stars of this unusual food fest are the group Mancebía Postigo, the poet María Sevilla and the multi-instrumentalist Oriol Luna, who will be expecting you on October 14 at the venerable Casa Almirall in carrer Joaquín Costa.