Electronica greats in magical settings
Semibreve Festival Preview

Monasteries and music festivals are not terms you seldom see in the same sentence. One often involves vows of silence, while the other generally requires lots of volume, so they’re not the most obvious of bedfellows.

A magnificent monastery will be taking a key role in an intriguing new event over in Portugal, however. Semibreve takes place in the historic city of Braga in mid-November, bringing some key names from the world of electronic and avant-garde music to a couple of the city’s grandest buildings.

The main performance hub will actually be another breathtaking Braga landmark: the 96 year-old Theatro Circo, which usually hosts highbrow operas and plays, will welcome artists like Mexican minimalist Murcof and Austrian glitcher Fennesz, plus all manner of installations and visual artworks from the stylistic boffins at the nearby University of Minho.

The festival kicks off at the mighty Monastery of Tibães, though, with a discussion day featuring a genuine legend of experimental sound, the 76 year-old German genius Hans-Joachim Roedelius. He’ll be joined by American ambient techno dude Taylor Deupree and German experimentalist Stephen Mathieu, who’ll combine the following day at the Theatro Circo for an exclusive performance of their transcendent 2009 album ‘Transcriptions.’

Also performing over the three performance evenings will be the aforementioned Fennesz (with video artist Pedro Maia) and Murcof (with AntiVJ), Roedelius and Onnen Bock’s project Qluster (with Luma.Launisch), former Imogen heap keyboardist turned electronica type Jon Hopkins, German sound artist Alva Noto, plus Portugese producers Vitor Joaquim (with Hugo Olim) and Blac Koyote.

Braga is probably best known to many British blokes for having a half-decent football team, but the city itself is a hidden treasure, and due for a major reappraisal next year. 2012 sees Braga become the European Youth Capital, and they’re taking it seriously, with 16,000 hours of events programmed and some longer-term projects, including the re-imagining of an old dictatorship-era police block into a centre for creative entrepreneurs.

Before that, though, Semibreve will be showcasing some of the city’s more illustrious old buildings in a splendidly forward-thinking fashion. If you thought visiting a monastery and opera house wasn’t your thing, this might just change your mind.

Semibreve takes place in Braga, Portugal, from 10-13 November. Visit www.festivalsemibreve.com for details

Words by Si Hawkins

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