But, when you lie down in the grass of Parc Thong Nhat in Hanoi on Oct. 19, you should know that you’re going there to interact with the music, not the scene.
“An electronic festival is usually a place and a time dedicated to dance music,” says Samuel. “But we’re not that kind of festival. Or, let’s say, we want to promote another form of electronic festival.”
He adds: “Ours is a daylight form of festival; concerts are held in the afternoon and stop at the sunset. So [the] Vietnamese audience has to expect something more quiet than dancy, more experimental than purely electronic — even if after the daylight part of our programme, we’ll organise dancy after parties. We love to dance too!”
The concept requires a bit more attention than your typical dance party — something that’s to be expected when you partner with mind-expanders like The Onion Cellar and Cama ATK, and enlist the likes of former La Blogotheque filmmaker Vincent Moon, ethnic field recordist and Sublime Frequencies collaborator Laurent Jeanneau, and hardcore drummer, DJ and all-around hustler Jean Nipon on the French side of things. Orchestral, experimental, electronic composer Vu Nhat Tan will supply the local colour from Hanoi, while erstwhile Time Keeper (wait, does anyone know if they’re still a band?) keyboardist Nguyen Hong Giang will be the experimental music liaison from Saigon.
In addition to the usual suspects — Berlin, Kyoto, Montréal — Les Siestes has made something of a habit of going “a little outside our comfort zone”. The past two years they’ve gone to the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and, believe it or not, Vietnam is pretty far afield for your average IDM fest.
“We’ve been travelling like this,” Samuel says, “not because we’re in search of some kind of exoticism. The reason is that we’re trying to push a little bit further the definition of what an electronic festival could be, and one of the best ways to do so is to be confronted by different contexts and crowds. These are really enriching experiences!”
After the Party
In addition to the four daytime hours of music planned for the festival, Hanoi is hosting an afterparty (although the Hanoi one is more like an after cup-of-coffee, taking place in the bodybuilder’s corner of the park for just one twilight hour) and a Vincent Moon film screening — selecting from a catalogue that includes film work with the bands Mogwai, Efterklang, REM, Beirut, Arcade Fire and The National, and stuff from his Petites Planètes film label, “which aims to document aural and visual traditions from all around the world”.
Les Siestes relies on its unpredictable moving parts to give it its evolving identity, and Vincent is definitely one of the more important ones. He’s a grassroots, small-picture music archaeologist who says he’s “trying to create another approach to music with the use of simple tools like digital cameras and small sound recorders, to come back to the very essence of music”. He’s not the type who would headline a traditional festival, but for Les Siestes, his approach seems just right.
“Far from any commercial approach,” says Vincent, “I make all my work for free and I want to simply show the uniqueness of musicians in their environment, and not work for their careers.”
This is what he did with his Take-Away Shows project for La Blogotheque — a series of quirky music videos done in cinéma vérité style, which crammed the 10 pieces of Arcade Fire into an elevator for an unrepeatable performance of Neon Bible, gave The Tallest Man on Earth an East Village, Manhattan music shop-cum-museum to pick through on a piecemeal rendition of Nico’s These Days and set Man Man loose on a Parisian sidewalk for a tribal-shrieking, lost-girl-bemoaning, trashcan-thwacking, neighborhood-kid-mesmerising jamboree loosely set to the tune of the Marx Brothers’, Everyone Says I Love You.
From a 2011 New York Times Magazine article: “About five years ago, a prodigious young French filmmaker named Vincent Moon reinvented the music video.”
This is what we’re in for.
The Vietnam Factor
So Les Siestes isn’t your traditional festival. But then again, the parks of Vietnam aren’t typical venues. Everyone on the slate is a researcher, a digger, a listener. And they want to know what Vietnam has to say.
“I plan to make a few short films in Vietnam,” says Vincent. “[I want to focus] on different aspects of the music there, from very ancient and traditional to new sounds based on those same roots.”
Ethnic musicologist Laurent Jeanneau has a similar objective.
“I will focus on remixing ethnic minority music from Vietnam,” he says, “from the very north of the country and from the central plateau. I think this music sounds foreign… to people who live in big towns, who are usually not very interested in ancient music.”
This is part of what Samuel sees as the challenge of his brand of festival. It’s not music that will please every park-goer who happens by.
Laurent agrees, and sees this as a good thing. Talking about his field-recorded set, he says, “Let’s see the degree of understanding an experimental soundscape based on the ethnic minority music of Vietnam can achieve in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in 2013.”
The Moon screenings are coming to a TBD location in Hanoi on Oct. 18, followed by the concert on Oct. 19 in Thong Nhat Park, Tran Nhan Tong, Le Duan, from 3pm to 7pm. The “after party” for that one happens in the bodybuilder’s corner from 8pm to 9pm.
On Oct. 23, Vincent Moon will be putting on a by-donation (minimum requested is VND100,000) film workshop with The Onion Cellar at Cama ATK, 73A Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung.
For more information on all of this, go to les-siestes-electroniques.com. All events besides the Vincent Moon workshop are free