Semibreve Festival is an electronic music festival in Braga, Portugal's third biggest city. With an unspoken tagline of 'quality over quantity', the festival prides itself on intelligent and considered booking, hand-picking a few artists that can be classified by making cutting-edge, electronic music. Semibreve is lucky enough to frame these performances in the breathtakingly beautiful Theatre Circo, a wonderfully ornate Neo-Baroque century old theatre. In just its third incarnation, Semibreve has repeatedly impressed an international audience with its attention to detail, inspired line-ups and remarkable surroundings. Here are The 405's Five Discoveries of Semibreve.


1) Semibreve is a Unique Festival.

What a pompous statement to open with. It's true though. Semibreve challenges conventional festival norms in everything from its forward-thinking programming of innovative and emerging electronic artists, to its unique location (the remarkable Theatre Circo - more on that later). Few other festivals would allow an audience to see performances from some of the most innovative and exciting artists such as Forest Swords and Haxan Cloak in such an ideal, if not unusual, environment.

  • Forest Swords

    2) Experimental Electronic Music Is Difficult.

    By its very nature, experimental music isn't intended to be particularly obvious or easy listening. Instead, it exists to push boundaries and to challenge norms. While that might be fine as a premise, in the context of a three day festival devoted to such music, it becomes slightly more challenging. The first act of the weekend, Philip Jeck, perfectly demonstrated this. Experiencing the 61 year olds infamous 'Vinyl Requiem' with Lol Sargent was far from easy. The performance, which consisted of a replay of his piece with 180 Dansette record players, 12 slide-projectors and 2 movie-projectors, felt like coming off Heroin (or at least how I'd imagine it to be); uncomfortable, confusing, at times fairly painful, but ending with intense relief and rejuvenation. Semibreve demonstrated that experimental music isn't about instant gratification; it's thought-provoking and deliberately challenging. It must be said that I was glad that each night had no more than three acts playing. After all, the dense soundscapes of Helm and unforgiving became an intense and often overwhelming experience. It's no wonder that I took such solace in the noughties indie-rock disco at 3am.

    3) The Backdrop is Perfect

    Braga is a beautiful city. Permanently sun-kissed and full of beautiful rolling cobbled streets, it's the perfect backdrop to any festival. Furthermore, despite Semibreve being almost exclusively performed by laptop-based musicians (which let's face it doesn't provide much in the way of a spectacle), the majority of the performances were engaging and interesting. As if the backdrop of the elegant Theatre wasn't enough, there was a colossal screen that framed the artists. Clearly every artist had meticulously planned out their stage design, from Atom TM's mesmerizing Kraftwerk-esque visuals that included a spinning, animated version of his head (see below) and a homage of Bob Dylan's video for Subterranean Homesick Blues declaring that 'MTV was empty', to Haxan Cloak's potent ambient lighting set-up. Not only were these visuals perfectly tailored to the artist, they provided a welcomed , let's face it, is often missing from electronic performances.

    • ATOM TM

      4) Semibreve Shows How Festivals Should Be Run

      Everything ran perfectly on time. The sound was flawless. The artists were looked after. Unfortunately those aren't three statements typically associated with festivals. Of course if you can't tell from the above, Semibreve is no ordinary festival. The organization of the festival was instantly obvious. I can quite honestly say that I've never been so relaxed at a festival. Not only were both venues blessed with (luxuriously plush) seating but the programming deliberately avoided clashes and both venues were in the same building. Take note Latitude 2007 for making me miss all my favourite bands.

      • Haxan Cloak

        5) Portuguese Cuisine Is The Best

        Custard tarts, grilled chicken, port. The list goes on. Portugal might be known recently for recession and mass unemployment but its cuisine is nothing to be depressed about. Far from the hideous hairy hippie 'food huts' and over-priced 'exotic meat' burgers that usually plague British festivals, Semibreve is slap-bang in the middle of the city, offering countless options for cheap, incredible food. Highlights included Portuguese custard tarts (known in Portugal as just 'Custard Tarts') and an incredible grilled chicken restaurant, whose grasp of English was as bad as the chicken was good.