The Haxan Cloak


The Haxan Cloak, or Bobby Krlic to his friends, is performing as part of the Mary Ann Hobbs curated Dark Matter strand of the Manchester International Festival, “eight immersive shows from pioneering national, international and Manchester-based musicians…with a light show that will transform Gorilla and the Ritz, creating new universes for each artist”, according to the blurb. Having seen Haxan at Pitchfork Paris a few years ago and been mesmerised by his bass and drone-heavy show with quite a minimal light set up in an absolutely huge venue, I’m intrigued to see what tonight’s specially commissioned light show in the relatively small environs of Gorilla will throw up.

On entering the venue, free ear plugs are given out on the door, which to my mind is always a good sign of the night ahead. Luckily I’ve brought my own, having experienced the power of the Cloak before, when no ear plugs led to a few days of dulled hearing – protect your ears kids! The plugs are an eminently sensible choice, and seeing the amount of people around me throughout the gig mashing their fingers deep into their plug-less ears proves that it was the right choice. For this is an unbelievably, almost indescribably, LOUD event. I’ll go as far as saying it’s one of the loudest, most disorientating, most challenging and intense live music experiences that I’ve ever had, and it was extraordinary because of this.

The set up is simple but effective: Krlic front and centre, a large moon-esque disk of light behind him, and what can only be described as a fuck-ton of strobe lights dotted around the venue, deployed to devastating effect throughout the evening. What Krlic does best is bass and drone, both separately and synchronised, and the gig starts off with bass at such a volume and frequency that it makes my eyeballs jittery. I can feel it running through every vein in my body, every nerve jangling with pure, unadulterated bass vibes, and it’s sensational. It’s like being physically assaulted by sound, but in a strangely pleasant way. When he drops doom metal drone noises into the mix, with skittering, syncopated beats popping and fizzing amongst the mix, and the beams of light shooting across the stage to half highlight Krlic, it’s utterly absorbing, I’m transfixed by the sheer force of the noise going on around me. Ostensibly, this is ‘dance’ music, or electronic music at the very least; but there is very little dancing going on – it’s mainly people rooted to the spot, hypnotised by the power of what Krlic is creating.

There are a few nods to some kind of ‘drop’, as the EDM kids would say, throughout the performance, but they never really land; you’re always on the precipice of something like an actual song structure happening, but it never really does. At one point I feel like I’m in a horror movie, such is the terrifying nature of the bass and drone running through my very being. The noise all but stops, Krlic is barely visible, and he slams massive decibels of bass though the speakers in short, sharp bursts, sounding for all the world like a huge monster’s footsteps are getting nearer and nearer, and all you can do is stand there and shit yourself waiting for the impending doom. That I am slightly hungover from the New Order gig the night before adds infinitely to the sense of dread these noises create in me, and when a repeated helicopter blade noise morphs into high pitched, wailing sirens, it almost, almost sends me over the edge.

The best and most intense section is saved for last, as Krlic deploys every bomb in his arsenal at once to destructive effect. The bass booms, the drones wail, the beats pound incessantly, and the strobes go absolutely mental, flashing the crowd into submission in some kind of post apocalyptic thunder and lightning storm that I feel may a) never end, and b) send me under. I cannot watch the stage such is the intensity of the lights, I have to look at the floor, but stolen glances around the crowd reveal a lot of people doing the same, some people with their eyes closed, enveloped and blissed out, and others rushing for the exit. It ends, and I’ve survived, and I feel pretty pleased with myself – I was close to tapping out at one point, but feel almost cleansed after subjecting myself to this destructive, but powerfully mesmerising performance. It’s not something I’ll readily do again soon, but if The Haxan Cloak comes back round to Manchester in a couple of years, I’ll definitely be steeling myself for another bout; music shouldn’t always be easy, sometimes it must challenge and push your limits, and that’s what Krlic has done tonight, and I love him for it. Now home, to check under the bed for those monsters…

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