This year’s Bells Echo edition took place last Friday. We were there – and absolutely thrilled.

The Bells Echo concert series is known for constantly playing new, unconventional locations for its ambient, drone and experimental concerts. Something that definitely adds to the appeal of this series. And so there was great curiosity and slight excitement when we entered the Heilandskirche in Plagwitz. A new district center, the Westkreuz, was recently opened here, which apparently also has space for exciting concerts. The evening before Bells Echo, the UK band Arab Strap played here.

Bell’s echo welcomes us into a diffuse, blue-violet lit church space, which is lower than in classic churches due to the mezzanine level. The organ is basically at ground level here. What you notice first: There are two stages and dynamic seating. Apparently it’s not clear how many people actually come – in the end so many that a lot more chairs have to be brought out of hiding.

Before Stefkovic vaninterest begins, there is a sound prologue from the audience: everyone slides their chairs in front of his stage with a loud clink. And then Stefkovic starts. Rugged and delicate patterns nestle together in a minimalist way. When he adds the bass in the second piece, the whole church suddenly shakes.

He is the only one with his own visuals this evening – a homage to a recently blown up chimney in the south of Leipzig. They accompany his set with rushing recurring image sequences. The real wow moment is the later precise mapping of the church arches. Together with his expansive ambient sound, Stefkovic and VJ GenPi provide the first goosebumps moment of the evening.

The next ones will be with Yosuke Fujita aka FUJI|||||||||||TA – this time on the opposite stage. His show is like an unpredictable, highly intense, spiritual ceremony. After a gentle, repetitive start with his self-built pipe organ, he whips short, archaic sounds into the Heilandskirche with his voice. Staccato and shaman-like as well as menacingly distorted. Sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. But always extremely intimate.

His performance is completely different than I expected. But only because I had only heard one of his albums, “iki”, on a continuous loop beforehand. I didn’t realize that his voice was such an important element in his shows – it’s disturbing and flashy at the same time. At the end, FUJI|||||||||||TA rises up out of the blue-violet fog and lets out a bright-sounding flute. Directly in front of him throughout the concert: a boy with Down syndrome, tapping in fascination, imitating FUJI|||||||||||TA’s movements on the organ. Super impressive on many levels.

For the third and final concert it’s time to turn the chairs again. Maya Shenfield plays on the other stage – and even though I find her performance to be the weakest, she manages to create the greatest sound presence in this church space. Full and clear, using the entire height and width.

Their set starts strong, loud and dissonant, but later meanders into a certain complacency with teased wave and rave elements, which unfortunately robs the edges of their sound of some of the urgency. There is also a choir at the end, which fits perfectly in this church context, but really raises the level of pathos. But it’s complaining at a high level. This Bells Echo edition will be remembered – also because of the excellent sound. I’m excited to see where Bell’s Echo welcomes us next time.

All photos by Susann Bargas Gomez


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