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Elevate Music Guide

Since its very beginning, the Elevate Festival has made it its goal to track down musical trends and illuminate the many facets of contemporary sounds. From minimalist composites to Detroit techno, from playful synth-pop to adrenaline-soaked rave, the 2023 line-up includes no less than 55 international and local acts. Among them are established greats like Luke Slater, Pharmakon, The Gaslamp Killer, Sonic Boom and Panda Bear as well as up-and-coming acts. What there is to discover and how diverse the programme is, you can read in our music guide.

Atmospheric instrumental improvisations

This year, the Mausoleum will once again be transformed into a backdrop for atmospheric and immersive concerts. Among others, saxophonist Alex Zhang Hungtai and accordionist Yegor Zabelov will perform there. As Dirty Beaches, Alex Zhang Hungtai was one of the protagonists of Montreal's indie scene. In the meantime, the musician with the Taiwanese roots is stationed in the USA. For some years now, Hungtai has been performing under his real name and dedicating himself to the saxophone, which is coupled with abstract electronics. The Belarusian composer and musician Yegor Zabelov also amplifies his acoustic instrument and thus expands his sonic spectrum. Zabelov is considered one of the most innovative and original accordion players in Eastern Europe. He fuses experimental approaches with elements of jazz, rock and neo-classical, filtering the most wondrous sounds from his accordion. 

Synth worlds: From transcendental spheres to sparkling sci-fi visions

We had to wait a year, but in 2023 the time has finally come: Caterina Barbieri, one of the most acclaimed synthesizer acts worldwide, will enter the stage of the Orpheum in Graz. The Italian composer and musician is considered a virtuoso in her field. Her synth pieces evoke timelessness and are of universal beauty. Mystical and trance-inducing, they open up connections to sacred music and are at the same time cosmic and intimate.

On the stage of the Dom im Berg, JakoJako will be another synth magician at Elevate. Berlin-based musician Sibel Koçer creates sparkling, concise pieces that testify to sensitive sound design and an impressive sense of long-reverberating melodies. Someone who not only deals with synthesizers musically, but also in a very practical way, is Brian Bamanya. The multidisciplinary artist from Uganda is considered one of the pioneers in the production of electronic musical instruments in Africa and has achieved international fame with his self-built synthesiser. In the course of the Nyege Nyege Labelnight, Bamanya will perform as Afrorack, fusing abstract scapes with techno beats and acid sounds.

Bogdan Raczynski has also been intensively involved with modular synths for some time. He tests modules, writes reviews and records tutorials for the synth community. The Polish-American producer has been active since the mid-90s and has made a name for himself as one of the leading breakbeat/IDM musicians with releases on Aphex Twin's label Rephlex and has played a decisive role in shaping the "Brain-dance" label. With his album "ADDLE" (Hyper-dub), released this year, he takes a somewhat different path. These tracks are much more subtle, airy and atmospheric. The sets of the Iranian-Austrian multimedia artist Reza Kellner, who combines field recordings and found sounds with digitally synthesised sounds in his minimalist compositions, are also atmospheric. We follow slowly unfolding movements and explore immersive atmospheres. The tracks of the Vienna-based composer and producer Mo Nahold function in a similarly immersive way. As Subletvis, he moves skilfully between post-digital pop aesthetics and abstract composition. Inspired by genres like rave and metal, but with strong references to acts like Oneohtrix Point Never, the tracks are carried by sci-fi synths, crystalline textures and seductive me-lodies. At the festival, Subletvis will present an A/V set together with visualist Klimentina Li.

Deconstructing Roots / Sounds from the Global South

A musical focus of the festival this year is on global sounds and on acts that appropriate elements of traditional musical forms to negotiate questions of identity and self-empowerment. One of them is the Vienna-based musician and composer Rojin Sharafi from Tehran, who will perform at the Mausoleum. Sharafi flits freely between genres and combines influences from traditional Iranian music with noise, ambient and metal. She uses acoustic and extended instruments as well as electronic and digital sound generators.

Naaljos Ljom also deal with traditional music. The sounds of the Stavanger-based duo oscillate between tradition and modernity. They merge past and present. To achieve this, the musicians interweave Norwegian folk music with electronic sounds. The result is bold acid folk. Sofia Kourtesis also refers to her roots in her numbers. The Berlin-based Peruvian-Greek producer and singer-songwriter is inspired by her hometown Lima and the mystical spirituality of her community. Her deep house fuses colourful, sun-drenched sounds with dreamy, bittersweet tunes. Again and again, samples of the most diverse provenance appear – whether it's the sound of the Amazon or of protest movements. Ninos Du Brasil do not filter field recordings, but rhythmic textures from traditional South American music styles. They combine elements of punk and tribal techno with Brazilian dances like samba and batucada, developing a uniquely driving sound. Rhythmically and energetically, the duo docks with South American carnival music.

Kiki Hitomi and Shigeru Ishihara aka DJ Scotch Egg, known as a break-core legend, confront us with a similarly ecstatic performance. Together they are WaqWaq Kingdom, a Japanese tribal bass dubstep duo. WaqWaq Kingdom fuse traditional Japanese Minyo music style with Jamaican dance-hall, footwork, dub, techno, indigenous polyrhythms and Super Nintendo soundtracks in their neon sound. They will be performing at the Tunnel as part of the Nyege Nyege Labelnight, as well as Catu Diosis. The DJ, producer and activist commutes between Kampala and Cologne, is an active member of the Nyege Nyege collective and founder of Dope Gal Africa, an organisation that promotes African and diasporic talent identified as female. Her DJ sets and music productions focus on Afro-inspired bass music, such as African dancehall and energetic, driving global sounds. Also part of the Nyege Nyege collective is Rwandan singer-songwriter, spoken word performer, music producer, DJ and actress Sheja Cheryl aka Binghi. She has been collaborating with bands and musicians from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, for over 10 years. For some years now, she has also been active as a music producer, devoting herself to experimental electronics, deep techno and spiritually charged rhythms.

Of techno icons, breakbeat aficionados and genre benders

Luke Slater is a cult figure for many. For more than 20 years, the Briton has had a decisive influence on the techno genre. From the beginning, he has made the Berlin-London techno axis strong and is a resident at the legendary club Berghain. Since his first release in 1989, countless singles, albums and compilations have been released under numerous pseudonyms - Planetary Assault Systems is probably the most important. This is the name Slater will be performing live at Elevate. Expect hypnotic techno of the master class, refined with elements of acid and hardcore

Also performing at the Dom im Berg will be his colleague DJ Bone. Bone is not only considered one of the champions of the Detroit underground - he is the resident DJ in four renowned clubs in the city - he is also one of the most technically skilled techno DJs in the world. It is not without reason that Resident Advisor describes him as "one of the most sought-after underground vinyl technicians". His sets reflect the typical sound of Detroit - they have a certain hardness, but also carry the funk of electro. Menal Batti aka Ehrenschwesta's sets are fast and powerful. With her unyielding style, she has made a name for herself in the capital in no time. Her straight techno sound is characterised by perfectly designed tracks that are as hypnotic as they are driving.

And beyond the 4/4 beat, the programme also includes exciting dance floor acts: one of them is the Norwegian-Algerian DJ Karima F. Her sets are a testament to her preference. Her sets reflect her preference for Hi-NRG, disco, broken house and all kinds of other syncopated beats. Vienna-based musician and DJ Farr also has an affinity for rhythms that don't exactly stomp along. His sound is strongly influenced by the UK bass spectrum. He produces tracks that move between post-grime, dubstep and speed garage. US DJ and producerAyeshais a resident at Nowadays, one of New York's most renowned nightlife institutions. Known for her penchant for trippy sound design, her DJ sets collide driving techno rhythms with break beats and sub bass. Ayesha will be at the Parkhouse with free entry.

The DJ sets of hip-hop and electronic producer The Gaslamp Killer are neither techno nor UK breakbeat. William Bensussen is considered a major player in the L.A. music scene and is also one of the figureheads of the influential Brainfeeder label. In his DJ sets, he mixes all kinds of energising sounds and displays astonishing turntable skills. His musical spectrum ranges from bass, tropical, jazz and hip hop to acid rock and funk of the most diverse origins.

Fast forward - post-club and high-BPM rave

But friends of the progressive club sound will also get their money's worth at this festival edition. Aïsha Devi, a figurehead of the post-club genre, has been invited. The musician and DJ with Nepalese-Tibetan roots runs the influential Danse Noire label and is interested in trance-inducing music in all its different facets. Her hybrid sets contain esoteric elements as well as political and philosophical ones. Bristol-based Mun Sing moves in the realm of post-club. Mun Sing is the solo project of Harry Wright, 1/2 of the hyped industrial techno duo Giant Swan. His releases, like his DJ sets, are uncompromising and adrenaline-soaked, ranging from fragmented cyber-grime to frizzling trap, from polyrhythmic neo-club sounds to auto-tuned R'n'B and melodramatic pop anthems. Anthems can also be found in the sets of Courtesy. Najaaraq Vestbirk is a Greenland-born artist, producer, DJ and label owner. As a DJ, she convinces with playful sets in which she turns to the genre of trance. She features oldschool tracks as well as underground new discoveries.

Felix Benedikt aka Alpha Tracks also proves that the formerly disreputable genre of trance is increasingly finding its way into the techno underground. When trance was rediscovered a few years ago, he was at the forefront. Since then, he has been considered one of the genre's figureheads. The producer and DJ, who is socialised in the Viennese Cheap environment, harks back to the rave era of the early nineties in his high-BPM sets, ignoring speed limits and taste doctrines. Vienna-based DJ Diamond also cares little for conventions. With her DJ sets, she moves in the hardcore continuum and likes to kick the crowd out of their comfort zone. 

Abysmal sounds between industrial, dark ambient and improvised noise

But the festival programme is not only about dancing. With Pharmakon, Rent and PLF, acts have also been invited who turn to more rebellious sounds. The New York musician Pharmakon will unleash the crowd in the Forum Keller. For some time now, Margaret Chardiet has been considered one of the most important industrial acts worldwide. She herself describes her music productions as exorcisms. And rightly so: her sounds are ecstatic and conjure up abysses. Chardiet's live performances are notoriously confrontational. Rent can also be abysmal. The Vienna-based musician and artist Katrin Euller filters gloomy ambient scapes out of her synthesiser, lets them collide with distorted voices and digital artefacts and develops a narrative moment in the process. PLF is the name of the trio around vocalist Freya Edmondes (Elvin Brandhi), drummer Lukas König and guitarist and electronic musician Peter Kutin. Together, these exceptional artists move on the border of noise, free improvisation and industrial. PLF confronts us with ecstatic energies that culminate in violent screams - acoustic noise at its best, presented at Orpheum Extra.

Referential Pop: Of New Formations and Retro Loops

Music journalist Simon Reynolds has already noted that the pop cosmos seems to move in constantly repeating retro loops. At the Orpheum, three acts will expose the never-ending trend towards referential music-making. The acts Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, who have been performing as a duo since recently, are both known from band formations. One is a member of the experimental pop formation Animal Collective, the other is the founder of the space rock band Spacemen 3. With "Reset", the two musicians have now released their first collaboration. The album was created in reference to the sun-drenched sixties pop and manages to transfer this sound into the present.

The musician and singer Kate NV works in a similarly referential way. After experimenting with the Buchla synthesizer on her last album, the versatile Kate Shilonosova now concentrates on the song format. Her songs are all uniquely magical. They are inspired by Russian and Japanese pop music and films of the 70s and 80s and create a fairytale-like sound cosmos in a light-footed way. Tents, the Viennese formation around Clemens Posch and Paul Stöttinger, also deliver synth-pop numbers that show references to the sounds of the 80s. Catchy melodies and sophisticated rhythms, yearning synths and lyrical lyrics, tight guitars and the singer's nonchalant voice are the recipe of their numbers, which move from post-punk to cold wave.

And finally, there is Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge, who can be experienced at the invitation of Atropa in the Heimatsaal in Graz. The Berlin-based duo of musicians Niklas Wandt and Joshua Gottmanns create precise songs with an array of analogue synthesizers and rhythm machines and a lot of linguistic subtlety that move between synth-pop, post-punk and wave. The retrofuturistic numbers are full of references to the 80s and references to NDW and conjure up acts like Palais Schaumburg or Pyrolator.

Lokale DJ-Line

And of course there will also be numerous local DJs. On the opening night there will be uplifting sounds from the DJ duo Likely Alliance, consisting of Uschi Ultra and DJ Assisdance. The next day, Milès Borghese, Paul Junk, Feta Chris and Rollo Royce from the IILW collective will play the Parkhouse, while Rosa Rauschen, another Graz-based collective, invites you to the Kombüse for DJ sets by fshstk, Jakobo, Selene 2.5 and Kheodor Turner. In the Dom im Berg, the GreyNote DJs d:enigma and Pulp Kitchen will be heard as well as Olgica and Polyxene b2b Puschmann, then in the Tunnel Nilu and Julia Caballera. On Saturday, Viennese DJ Inou Ki Endo will round off the programme at Orpheum Extra, while Tezibel, DJ Deadlift and Apua will take over the afterhour at Parkhouse. Finally, on Sunday, DJs Andrea Ida and Attila will kick off the daytime programme curated by Atropa at Heimatsaal.