5th November 2012
The Forum, Camden, London
First published in Clash Music Online on 7th November 2012
Comebacks are a risky business. It’s rare they work out as hoped. Very few succeed in matching the level they once did and all too many end up sullying the legacy they had worked so hard to create. Just ask Michael Schumacher.
Still, comebacks seem to have been in vogue in recent years. Blur, Pulp and The Stone Roses immediately jump to mind. But selling out the reunion gig is only half the story. Riding the crest of a jubilant wave at hearing old classics is the easy part. It’s when it comes to penning the new material and coping with the weight of expectation that most are found out.
So given their career long commitment to staying underground and avoiding rock clichés it came as a surprise that Montreal’s post-rock heavyweights Godspeed You! Black Emperor decided to do just that in 2010 after nearly 8 years apart. A resoundingly successful ATP curation followed and you could be forgiven for thinking that would be that. But no, never one’s to follow the conventional path GY!BE finished the reunion tour, got back into the studio, produced a work as good as anything they have done before and are back on the road once more. Tonight is the second of two headlining performances at The Forum, a venue whose size and decorative style could not be more fitting for the orchestral experience of these Canadian misfits.
Mladic is undoubtedly as good as anything GY!BE has ever released and tonight it is played with an energy and togetherness that can only be the result of a band who are full of fire and passion for what they are doing.
Opening with ‘Mladic’ the lead track from their still hot-off-the-presses long player ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ there is a heightened sense of anticipation from the assembled congregation (yes with Godspeed it is a congregation). In trademark style the members (there are eight in attendance tonight) shuffle and move about as the opening drone of bowed and sustained notes slowly build. Eventually they settle, guitarist David Bryant facing back as quasi-conductor, and in perfect unison the sound explodes into a series of exquisitely heavy riffs that assault every sense. ‘Mladic’ is undoubtedly as good as anything GY!BE has ever released and tonight it is played with an energy and togetherness that can only be the result of a band who are full of fire and passion for what they are doing.
The projected train track visuals acting as perfect metaphor for the thundering locomotion at hand.
Next up is the ever popular ‘Moya’ from their 1999 long player ‘Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada’. Its melancholic string swells gliding effortlessly into subtle picked guitars to a visual background of flickering sepia coloured dandelion fields and calm seas. The dynamics are sublime and without any noticeable transition it is not long before another intense acceleration is consuming all before it, the projected train track visuals acting as perfect metaphor for the thundering locomotion at hand.
We are treated to five songs overall but these last just under two hours. It is astounding how such a length of time can pass so fluently and with such sustained captivation, the ebb and flow of the compositions hypnotizing all present into the rhythms and reverberations of the music.
In their own inimitable way Godspeed are taking post-rock by the scruff of the neck and exposing it to a new and informed audience on their own, highly integral, terms.
The set closes with ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’, a choice that is met with much approval from every corner of the room. Its gradual intro overlaid with an earmark political sample, ascends towards a frenetic crescendo of distorted guitars and screaming strings. There is of course no encore. What else would you expect?
And as a throng of fans clamour for the merchandise (it’s not like you can buy it on the internet), it is clear that what we have seen here tonight is no swan song. No, it is the second coming of a band that simply refuses to be pigeon holed and who have returned from their hiatus to discover the form of their careers. In their own inimitable way Godspeed are taking post-rock by the scruff of the neck and exposing it to a new and informed audience on their own, highly integral, terms. And a privilege it is to witness too.
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13 November 2012, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Music, Reviews and tagged Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, Blaise Bailey Finnegan III, Camden, Clash Music, David Bryant, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mladic, Moya, Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada, The Forum
4th November 2012
The Roundhouse, Camden, London
First published in
Clash Music Online on 6th November 2012
On Thursday evening the great and the good of the UK music industry descended on this small corner of Camden for a quintessentially English affair, the Mercury Music Prize. Well tonight the scene couldn’t be more different as the same venue hosts an East Coast psychedelic takeover courtesy of the ever-experimental Animal Collective. Boffin-chic indie, this is not.
The night opens with Prince Rama the brainchild of Brooklyn sisters Taraka and Nimai Larsonx. Signed to Animal Collective’s own label their hallucinatory drama school theatrics and mystical genre mash-ups result in a deranged amalgam that is a fair indication of the distorted synesthesia expected to follow.
Boffin-chic indie, this is not.
A half empty hall quickly fills as the house lights dim to mark the arrival of the main event. Back as a four piece and premiering their first full studio album since 2009’s acclaimed ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, it’s clear Animal Collective are raising the stakes on this tour. This is confirmed by the impressive stage decoration. The band is surrounded by giant inflatables forming a surreal toothy mouth, which is in turn bathed in retro animated and live action projections. The outcome is a colourful and hypnotic visual that suitably compliments the demented fairground ride melody of opener ‘Rosie Oh’.
As the band race through their opening few songs, the cohesiveness of it all is immediately striking. Within three songs we have been treated to the vocal talents of three quarters of the band with Lennox, Portner and Dibb all taking centre stage. Equally the transition from song to song with barely a break in sound provides a momentum and intensity that is both absorbing and inspiring.
The cheer is perhaps born from relief, as this crowd appears to have invested less time in the new material than is necessary to get maximum enjoyment from the show.
But alas, something seems to be missing. Playing almost the whole new album in its entirety leaves the atmosphere somewhat flat. A noticeable cheer rises when six tracks in we are offered our first taste of known material in the form Merriweather’s ‘Lion in a Coma’. The cheer is perhaps born from relief, as this crowd appears to have invested less time in the new material than is necessary to get maximum enjoyment from the show. This is a shame because the new works merits better than being played to an obviously hit-hungry audience. The epic ‘New Town Burnout’ segueing seamlessly into the Super Furry-esque mayhem of ‘Monkey Riches’, a notable high point.
Inevitably the crowd eventually gets its wish with the closing numbers ‘Brother Sport’ and ‘Peacebone’. It may have taken over 45 minutes to arrive but the party finally lands and the turnaround is immediate. The venue bursts into life as a few thousand rapturously pogo their way through the songs they clearly came to hear. And they are not disappointed by the encore either with firm favourite ‘My Girls’ achieving the rousing high water mark expected from this eagerly anticipated appearance.
For all of their famed musical discordance, Animal Collective remain dedicated to the musical storytelling of the album format and are willing to live with the difficulties that can bring.
By the time the band leave us with the final chords of the awesome ‘Amanita‘ ringing in our ears the overriding feeling is that they have won the day… but only just.
In a week that has brought the future of the album back to the front of the musical agenda Animal Collective have nailed their flag to the mast on the side of the in-threat medium with their approach to this tour. For all of their famed musical discordance, tonight they have proven they remain dedicated to the musical storytelling of the album format and are willing to live with the difficulties that can bring in a changing musical landscape. For their sake, hopefully next time their audience will have found their way onto the journey too.
Photography courtesy of Matt Wash
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7th October 2012
This review was originally published on Clash Music on 9th October 2012
Anyone affiliated with Radiohead is going to be watched intently when they wander into territory new. And sure as you’d expect, Ultraista, the latest project from Radiohead producer and oft credited “sixth member” Nigel Godrich, are attracting a level of hype befitting their originator’s lofty musical credentials.
Tonight marks the London debut of this heavyweight three piece. Comprised of Godrich himself, one man musical explosion Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins) and the captivating Laura Bettinson (Femme, Dimbleby & Capper) there is a strange mix of the new and the familiar permeating the air in this small corner of Dalston.
It is difficult not to be drawn into the inevitable comparisons. The band will have to get used to this, as it is both inescapable and on the basis of this opening, justified.
Opening with the impressive “Bad Insect” it is difficult not to be drawn into the inevitable comparisons. The band will have to get used to this, as it is both inescapable and on the basis of this opening, justified. However much you try to be objective you just can’t avoid noticing the same click clack rhythms and chamber like synthesizers that have become a mainstay of Radiohead’s sound. But these are not identified as a stick to beat with. If anything their recognition serves only to provide proof that Godrich is as much an architect of this sound as has long been assumed and has every right to be experimenting with it as he chooses.
It is fair to say therefore that Ultraista have a legitimate ownership of the music they are making. Far from being derivative it is more a logical evolution and dare I say, exciting progression to see it expanded into such fresh and unapologetically Pop filled horizons. Admittedly most of the ‘Pop’ comes from Bettinson, infectious visually as she moves amongst the spectrum light filled projections, it is largely her delicate feminine vocal that pulls the songs out from their kraut-electro routes and into the glitter-filled light of the mainstream.
The performance is an assured and confident one and the pre-released mini singles “Small Talk” and “Static Light” live up to every expectation. In fact the only real disappointment is that the mini singles do seem to be the high watermarks and there is a noticeable disparity between them and the album tracks played here.
This should be taken in context though and neatly brings us full circle to those same unavoidable problems of association identified earlier. It is a strange conundrum for the band that they will inevitably garner greater interest and exposure as a result of the elevated affiliations of their members. In that respect Ultraista has a definitive head start on the competition. But it may equally prove to be a limiting factor in what the band can realistically achieve with the heavy weight of expectation blinkering the sizable microscope they will be under.
This is a band with no agenda and nothing to prove. They are formed purely through the love for their work and it is with this backdrop their music should be read.
It is therefore pleasing to see that Ultraista do not seem to carry this weight with them. Preparing for their final track, the aptly titled “Easier”, Bettinson and Godrich take the opportunity to say some thank-yous. Stumbling through them like embarrassed Oscar winners you can sense a genuine innocence and joy around the stage. This is a band with no agenda and nothing to prove. They are formed purely through the love for their work and it is with this backdrop their music should be read.
On one level Ultraista find themselves under a glass ceiling of their respective pasts. But on another level what they are doing is very special indeed. They are taking a music, which, let’s face it, has for so long been synonymous with a dry and critical seriousness, and they are expressing it with a warm affection and carefree sensibility. If you join them in this mindset, as a hundred or so faithful did tonight, Ultraista deliver on every level.
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17th – 19th August 2012
Glanusk Park, Wales
This review was originally published in edited form in Clash Music on 22nd August 2012
In a year devoid of a Glastonbury the smaller festivals come under a larger spotlight than usual. Green Man is no exception and this independent festival, celebrating it’s tenth year, has delivered an enviable line up for 2012’s version.
Friday starts with Toy, a hyped London outfit making waves across the music press. They seem out of place at this festival, their dark primal scream dirge better suited to an underground city club than the rolling fields of Wales. There are, however, enough points of quality within the set to suggest these will be ones to watch in the future.
Next up is Errors bringing their uniquely post-electro sound to proceedings. It has been an interesting year for the Scottish four-piece adapting to the loss of a member and touring their third studio album ‘Have Some Faith in Magic’. It is a typically solid set but with early EP lead Mr Milk still gaining the biggest reaction you do feel more work is required if these boys are to rise up out of the midday slots.
Continuing in the Far Out stage are Lower Dens the psych-folk brainchild of Baltimore based Jana Hunter. It is a nice change of pace as songs with traditional folk structures are realised with chugging beats and swirling echoed synths. Comparisons with Baltimore neighbours Beach House are inevitable but stand out track ‘Alphabet Song’ illustrates this quartet have more than enough quality to justify a look.
The tent bound part of Friday concludes with electronic pop duo Junior Boys. Unfortunately they fail to prove they are more than just a band with one good song as 2007’s In the Morning only really delivers the sort of punch one would hope for at 10pm on a Friday night.
It is no matter though as thoughts have already turned to Friday’s headliner the wonderfully indefatigable Mogwai. The Green Man main stage with its amphitheatre like hill surroundings is ideally suited for such a spectacle and Mogwai live up to expectations. It is a less ferocious set than usual but no less impactful with set mainstays ‘I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead’ and ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ offering up moments of emotive genius for the assembled masses. It is a wonderful end to an exceptionally high quality day both in terms of music and general atmosphere.
The Green Man main stage with its amphitheatre like hill surroundings is ideally suited for such a spectacle and Mogwai live up to expectations
Saturday is met with a fuzzy head and a late start following the excitement of Friday’s festivities and there is no better way to ease into the day than the delectable sound of Dark Dark Dark. Swaying between the atmospheric balladry of early Elbow and the playful and sprightly ditties of Regina Spektor they conjure a relaxed atmosphere to the now sun kissed site.
In a change to the advertised billing Van Morrison plays third from the top of the main stage. It’s business as usual for the somewhat out of place mega-star who arrives and leaves in a conspicuously grandiose tour bus. The older members of the crowd are clearly enjoying his performance though and there is a now a real sense of togetherness and joy that permeates every part of the festival.
Saturday evening is ushered in by multi-instrumental maestro Yann Tiersen. Those who know him as “the man who did the Amelie soundtrack” would perhaps be disappointed to see him line up with a band of skinny indie kids surrounded by racks of analog synthesizers but those who follow the enigmatic Frenchman know this is the real Yann. Playing selected songs from his last two albums he put’s in a set worthy of its billing with a haunting and virtuoso violin solo arguably proving the musical high point of the day.
And so the stage is set for festival headliners Metronomy. The dynamic of audience has changed somewhat as the main stage is filled with youngsters all eager to witness a band who with the release of 2011’s ‘The English Riviera’ are at the top of their game. It’s clear this is a big night for Metronomy, so often found in the daytime slots of big festivals it is a treat to see and hear them at such close proximity and with such a crystal sound. This is not lost on the band either. Looking fantastic and playing everything anyone in the audience could ever have requested they deliver a festival defining performance that catalyses the Saturday night atmosphere into an electricity set to last on into Sunday and beyond.
Looking fantastic Metronomy deliver a festival defining performance that catalyses the Saturday night atmosphere into an electricity set to last on into Sunday and beyond
There is no mistaking what the main event of daytime Sunday is as The Far Out stage is filled to capacity for art rock newcomers Alt-J. It has been a fairly meteoric rise for this Cambridge quartet bursting into the top 20 with their debut album barely a couple of months ago. They justify the interest though displaying an impressive array of influences, genres and an exhibition of ensemble singing few bands could ever hope to match. Add to this the fact that they look about 12 and you can only feel big things are in store. Keep on your radar.
It all turns a bit noisy then as Islet and Three Trapped Tigers bring their equally raucous yet distinctly sounds to the afternoon. Islet are an interesting mix, psychedelic synths and chanting vocals underpinned by frenzied percussion solos. Guitarist Alex Williams steals the show equally as mesmerising hitting a single floor tom as he is jamming his guitar with a metal bolt. Three Trapped Tigers similarly proves to be a one-man show with guitarist Matt Calvert producing an authoritative display of guitar and effects control. Unfortunately not every aspect of the set was at this same level but with influences being drawn from as wide as Aphex Twin and 65 Days of Static there is promise that with time and refinement good things will come.
The math-rock theme of Sunday continues with the creative and experimental tUnE-yArDs, before sunset falls to the sound of The Walkmen. There is a real feeling of festival togetherness as they roll out a collection of songs suitable to ears both young and old. Crowd favourite ‘The Rat’ is met with a chorus of singing and dancing that even the sticky mud can’t contain.
Green Man is a national treasure of English folk tradition
And so we come to a close with Sunday’s headliner Feist. The former Broken Social Scene vocalist is resplendent under the festival lights and opts for a softer and dreamier closing set than expected. Her delicate and seductive purr is more than fitting though and proves to be the perfect lead up to the now traditional, ritual of burning the giant Green Man bonfire.
So how does Green Man fare overall? It has indeed come a long way from its humble 300 capacity beginning but incredibly has managed to retain its free spirited folk fare feel. From buggy pulling Mum’s to wizard bearded hippies to excitable and energetic groups of kids this festival has something for everyone that even the lamentable Welsh valley weather can’t dampen. It may not have the scale of Glastonbury or the line up of Reading and Leeds or even the hipster appeal of Secret Garden Party but Green Man is a national treasure of English folk tradition and one that will hopefully be here for many summers to come.
Photography courtesy of Matt Wash
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29 August 2012, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Music, Reviews and tagged Alt-J, Errors, Feist, Green Man Festival 2012, Islet, Junior Boys, Lower Dens, Metronomy, Mogwai, The National, Three Trapped Tigers, Toy, Van Morrison, Yann Tiersen
2nd July 2012
Royal Albert Hall, London
First published in Clash Magazine on 2nd August 2012
At first glance there appears to be a hint of irony about Regina Spektor’s UK return. There are after all, few less frugal settings to showcase an album entitled “What We Saw From The Cheap Seats” than the Royal Albert Hall. Yet for New York’s anti-folk darling it couldn’t be more fitting. Blessed with an unmatched ability to combine the grandiose with the mundane and loaded with a back catalogue that can draw both tears and laughter, there is a sense of belonging that accompanies this career landmark performance.
Effortlessly conjuring an intimacy and inclusiveness more akin to the back street bars of her formative East Village tonight’s set comprises the majority of her most recent work. Everything hangs together beautifully as songs like the immediately classic “Small Town Moon” and full blooded ballad “How” chime in perfect unison with the now established fan favourites from 2009’s “Far” and 2006’s Begin to Hope.
There is a sense of belonging that accompanies this career landmark performance
There is a consistency to the sound, each song markedly individual but all bound together by a common thread, that unique blend of wistful beauty and jaunty playfulness she has made her own. Albeit predictable it is nevertheless captivating and a combination that allows the purity and subtlety of her infectious personality to shine through.
The result is an almost religious fervor and the assembled congregation is rewarded for their loyalty with an encore of undoubted classics culminating in the timeless “Samson”. Delivered with trademark vocal elegance and poetic artistry Regina’s triumph over this great hall is absolute. And as she leaves humbly declaring, “It’s been a pleasure to play for you,” the truth is that the pleasure was all ours.
Photography courtesy of Matt Wash
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I have nothing to say about this except that it is genius! (and that it has just confirmed how badly I want a Moog!!!!!)
From analog drum machines to vintage guitars, orchestral percussion to circuit-bent children’s toys, 1980s Russian synthesizers to Indian harmoniums…these are the instruments of Robot Repair.
Robot Repair is a unique music production company creating music for commercials, TV, film, and visual artists.
For more information go to: robotrepair.net
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12th May 2012
Brixton Academy, London
First published in Clash Magazine on 7th June 2012
A requisite stop on any musical career path for over a generation, the art deco interior of the Academy in Brixton has played host to more than its fair share of innovators. In this time it has witnessed many changes but being mostly incremental these transformations are often imperceptible.
Occasionally however the catalysing moment is obvious. In evolution they are called mutations, in science, Eureka moments; those who experience them know immediately that nothing will ever be the same again. It is not overstating it to say that those who have witnessed Amon Tobin’s ISAM live know what this feels like.
The visuals palpitate in perfect unison with every scratch and clink of sound
The show opens with ‘Journeyman’, its tense intro soundtracking the reveal of a three-dimensional cubic structure bathed in oscillating waveforms and radio static. The visuals palpitate in perfect unison with every scratch and clink of sound. As the intensity builds the imagery remodels into smoke and circuitry eventually unveiling Tobin himself as the pilot of an interstellar craft navigating our way through a recondite sensory landscape.
Much will be written about how abstract Tobin’s music is, bringing sound art to the masses, but equally there is no denying the fact it is still eminently listenable
As the initial awe subsides the soundscapes and spectacle develop, metamorphosing through an immersive and transcendent universe. Each track with its own signature aesthetic, ranging from Chris Cunningham inspired robot mechanics to supernova vistas layered under flexing wire constellations.
And what of the music? Much will be written about how abstract it is and how Tobin is bringing sound art to the masses (which he undoubtedly is) but equally there is no denying the fact it is still eminently listenable. ‘Lost & Found’ has picked guitars layered over lush choral sweeps and Boards of Canada style tremolos. ‘Goto10’ delivers huge Dubstep bass hits. And in the melodic ‘Wooden Toy’ and enchanting Kitty Cat’ a delicate humanity breaks through the sci-fi fabric both in Tobin’s own gender modified vocals and his appearance as an organic avatar figure conducting in real time from within his capsule.
So why the preamble about Eureka moments? Granted, projection mapping is hardly new and its incorporation into dance shows done before (see Deadmau5’s last tour). Yet history regularly illustrates that being the first to do something doesn’t necessarily make you the game changer. In the same way that Steve Jobs didn’t invent the MP3 player the real innovators recognise the potential of a medium and deliver the defining format. This is what Tobin has done with ISAM.
In ISAM Tobin has set a new baseline for live performance and reframed future audience expectations of the live music experience.
Carefully conceived, the sound and visual are inextricably linked with every permutation of the audio corresponding to a dependant visual. In addition ISAM steps beyond abstract light forms and into the realms of narrative. The result is a fully integrated installation that takes the viewer beyond 3D and into a world where the artist is real time live curator of a sensory vision. In ISAM Tobin has set a new baseline for live performance and reframed future audience expectations of the live music experience.
The future is coming and tonight in Brixton, Amon Tobin showed a few thousand of his followers what it will look and feel like.
Photography courtesy of Matt Wash
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5th and 6th May 2012
Various Venues, Camden, London
First published in edited form in
Clash Music Online on 8th May 2012
Day One – Saturday
“The Camden Crawl is the one time you will see middle class families shopping, surrounded by teenagers racing around on amphetamines!” quips a fringe comedian on Saturday afternoon. And so goes the old adage that this early summer showcase is a fare of oddities and juxtapositions.
It starts with the time-honoured ceremony of a pint accompanied, examination of the schedule. Another festival truism decrees then decrees the inevitable frustration of realising that the three acts you are dead set on seeing are all on at the same time. Thankfully this year’s Crawl line up has more than enough variety on offer to remedy such a situation.
Things get underway with a special showcase acapella set from The Futureheads in the comfy surroundings of the Holiday Inn. “You’ve heard of Barber’s Shop well this is Butcher’s Shop,” declares front man Barry Hyde and you can’t help feeling there is a fair share of butchering occurring here as they race through Richard Thompson’s tender folk tale ‘Beeswing’ with the subtlety of Fred Elliot hacking away at a joint of the countryside’s finest.
You can’t help feeling there is a fair share of butchering occurring here as they race through Richard Thompson’s tender folk tale ‘Beeswing’ with the subtlety of Fred Elliot hacking away at a joint of the countryside’s finest
Next up is a battle through the assembled lager-fuelled FA Cup Final watching hordes to the upstairs of The Enterprise and Brixton’s Melodica, Melody And Me. Their gentle Latin American infused folk is a welcome rest bite from the rough barking and bawling below. A quick dash down the road leads to the dense, reverb-laced drone of Echo Lake. Unfortunately they have drawn the short straw of having to contend with the terrible acoustics of The Monarch’s glass window backed stage. Clearly aware of the importance of such a showcase (illustrated by the visibly shaking lead in Linda Jarvis) they deliver a performance fully justifying the attention that is currently surrounding them. You sense that if they could harness a melody or two to compliment the sumptuous landscapes they create, great things will surely beckon.
The first queue of the night is negotiated upon entry to The Barfly to see the ‘shambling’ indie jangle pop of Veronica Falls. Though criticised in some quarters for having a derivative sound, they are the first act of the weekend to conjure the sort of dirty underground vibe Camden is synonymous with and it goes down a treat with the sweaty, leather-clad throng.
A change of pace follows as six strings are traded in for the mixing decks and laptops that are the weapons of choice at The Cuban. The main draw being the exceptional Actress whose latest offering ‘R.I.P.’ has dropped to critical and mainstream acclaim alike. Arriving ten minutes before Actress is due on there is initial confusion followed by the gradual realisation he is completing the last moments of his set and handing over to the night’s closing DJs. There is disappointment across many faces and a distinct shadow is cast across what was hoped to be the highlight of the evening.
The promised variety and adjacent weirdness has been present in abundance but nothing has really raised the roof
Still dumbfounded at such a significant organisational howler we leg it down to KOKO to catch the rest of D/R/U/G/S whose minimal take on 90s euphoria helps to soothe away the outrage still rippling through the veins. Staring into psychedelic rave visuals and settled into a trance-like calm it is possible to reflect on what has been a mixed bag for this year’s first day. The promised variety and adjacent weirdness has been present in abundance but nothing has really raised the roof. Hopes are high that day two will fare much better.
Day Two – Sunday
Nursing heavy hangovers and carrying fragile dispositions, Sunday starts with much optimism as a quick glance at the schedule discloses an extensive and impressive assortment of acts to guide the way through the day.
Resuming at KOKO, Niki & The Dove open up with a dark brooding electronic pop that is fast becoming an archetypal Swedish export. Inevitable comparisons will be drawn with fellow Countrywoman Fever Ray but in reality there is a lot more to this Stockholm quartet than simply drawing this obvious relation. Malin Dahlström is in ostentatious and melodramatic mood and the performance is executed with an iconographical awareness and maturity that belies the band’s newcomer status.
A quick hop over the road to The Purple Turtle and into the land of Fiction, a South London five-piece making waves with their tropically flavoured angle pop (think Atlas era Battles crossed with Yeasayer and you’d be getting close). With gems like ‘Big Things’ in their armoury it’s clear these guys have something interesting to pitch, but unfortunately this is one of those gigs with more media types than actual punters in the crowd and the atmosphere suffers as a result.
It is a sound that could only have originated East of the Rhineland and the result is more akin with the experimental fringes of ATP than the indie pop mix of Camden Crawl
A dash up to Dingwalls follows for the classical orchestral techno of Brandt Brauer Frick. Dressed as London Fashion Week styled sons of Kraftwerk, the German three-piece huddle behind an array of electronic inputs creating classical timbres more often associated with Mozart than Krautrock. These they craft into pulsating beats and stomping rhythms guaranteed to move even the most steadfast of techno ravers. It is a sound that could only have originated East of the Rhineland and the result is a performance more akin with the experimental fringes of ATP than the indie pop mix of Camden Crawl. If hunting out the little gem is what you look for in this type of event, these guys are arguably the find of the festival.
At a festival sometimes derided for pretention it is a timely and welcome reminder of how gigs should be
And so how to finish? The mainstream money is on The Cribs at KOKO but this reviewer takes the controversial decision to check out Belfast quartet And So I Watch You From Afar at the Electric Ballroom. A happy decision it is too as they thrash out a consistently epic hour long set of angular math rock riffs intertwined with ambient, shimmering breakdowns and crushingly ferocious drops to an adoring and raucous crowd. It is the first time all weekend a band have been so in touch with their audience with no preening or posturing, just a no frills focus on the music. It’s genuinely touching to see a group play for their audience instead of to it and guitarist Rory Friers takes the time to thank the crowd for their support at every opportunity he gets. At a festival sometimes derided for pretention it is a timely and welcome reminder of how gigs should be.
There is no avoiding the fact the Camden Crawl is an odd beast of a festival: the only thing you can ever guarantee is an inconsistent experience. But this downfall is equally its great asset. It is a place that you leave with your expectations in tatters, and yet somehow your desires are still fulfilled. If approached in the right way, this festival will reveal its many secret treasures and on that basis this year’s Crawl has delivered with aplomb.
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13 May 2012, 2:44 am
Filed under: Music, Reviews and tagged Actress, ASIWYFA, Barfly, Brandt Brauer Frick, Camden Crawl, Clash Music, D/R/U/G/S, Echo Lake, Electric Ballroom, Fiction, KOKO, Melodica Melody & Me, Niki & The Dove, The Futureheads, Veronica Falls