ATP: The Mangum Edition (pt.I)


I returned today to London along the fog-clad lateral trunk that is the M4 having spent the weekend immersed in the fascinating (if uneven) Jeff Mangum-curated edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties at Butlins, rescheduled from its original December date. Here are some thoughts and pictures on the music and other excitements of the last few days.


Matana Roberts, performing with Seb Rochford

We didn’t arrive until early evening on Friday, too late for the first couple of acts but in time for a mesmerising set from Matana Roberts, with drums from Seb Rochford of Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear fame. They made for a beguiling combination, Rochford barely breaking through a polite (though no less delicious for it) experimentalism which kept his explosive tendencies in check. This allowed Roberts to explore a vast range of tones and dynamics on saxophone, equally comfortable producing a classically-perfect richness or a swampy, liquid rasp. Great stuff, though the feeling of ephemerality often associated with improvisation was only made stronger by the unique setting.

Young Marble Giants

Young Marble Giants were next, and the contrast between their colossal youth and their actual existence was palpable. Not age but demeanour seemed to define them as tourists on a trip through their own pasts, but they breathed life into every rediscovered song. They looked sometimes utterly cool, sometimes vulnerable and sometimes amused, sounding at all times that delicate balance of teenage bedroom, bus shelter and boardwalk. N.I.T.A. – here in its 1980 vintage – was particularly wonderful, a bizarre coach trip soundtrack perfect for an imagined early Reeves and Mortimer effort.

The Fall

An exquisite twenty minutes of Joanna Newsom – of whom more in the next installment – was followed by The Fall. Now, I had been perhaps more excited by seeing the latest merry band of pirates assembled by Captain Mark E. Smith than anything else at this festival, but as a cautionary tale I must alert you to the dangers posed by the Exmoor Beast. I was rendered a gibbering fool by this delicious, treacly brew and the hour of thumping declamatory rock ranting passed in a flash. None of my all-time favourite Fall tracks had appeared until the final offering, a glorious pound through Theme from Sparta F.C. We live on blood indeed.

Problem was I had a hell of a thirst on

I had one more act in me before I hit the sack, and it must have taken something special from Thurston Moore to keep me vertical. I’d like to say I remember ringing, rangy guitars, shuffling drums and fragile eternally-youthful vocals, but all I really remember is promising everyone I would be up at eight to make a cooked breakfast and drive us up on to the moors. You may surmise how that went. Sonic Youth are among my heroes but I will need to pay their (former) members reverent homage some other time I’m afraid… (to be contd.)

Thurston Moore

Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 12:09 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great writing here – you’re spot on about YMG and their combination of ‘boardwalk, bus shelter and teenage bedroom’. I wanted to find them more spellbinding than I did, but there were times when I closed my eyes briefly and really did feel that I was listening to a Peel Festive 50 from around 1980. A great place to be.

    • Thanks Mr B., you’re too kind as ever. And yes, Peel Festive 50s surely constitute one of the Elysian fields.

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