ATP: The Mangum Edition (pt.II)

Saturday. I was supposed to be making black pudding, eggs and beans for everyone to fuel a trip out to the moors, as I said, but I was in bed feeling very sick indeed until lunchtime. It was A Hawk and a Hacksaw that dragged me out of my self-pity, and after I had dressed (as usual) like an extra from Edwardian Farm, we trundled gingerly over to Crazy Horse to hear the duo playing their soundtrack to Parajanov’s 1965 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. It was a bizarre affair made more so by my headspun state, but compelling and quite charming. Jeremy Barnes (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel) laid down low accordion chords and bass drum beats as a context for both his right-hand melodies (which came in a startling variety of tones) and Heather Trost’s beautiful, highly emotive violin. They picked up on actually existing sounds and added new material as deemed appropriate in a mix which was really quite unsettling. At times it was difficult to hear the divide between live and taped music which made it pretty unique, particularly with the seemingly bonkers visuals going on behind them. The richness of the sound and coruscating interplay between instruments really intrigued me, and I’ll certainly seek out some of their other work.

Beside the seaside

I was still feeling ropey, so we went for a walk by the sea and had an ice cream before heading in to hear – and, equally, to see – Boredoms. This was an extraordinary show, but so desperately loud that I lasted only an hour before having to retreat from multiple blasts on a banshee-like whistle which gave me a little Orestian insight. Goodness knows what heights of total sonic onslaught were reached by the group in the remaining thirty minutes. Five drummers were arranged in a circle around vocalist, physical performer and eight-guitar-chimaeric-monstrosity-whacker-in-chief Yamantaka Eye, who could later be found graffitiing price lists at the merch stand. Eye’s atavistic, Munchian wails bubbled up from somewhere truly primeval as he crouched and grew with the swell of the serried ranks of guitarists and other contributors. In one piece, or section of a piece, the drummers circulated a fill, speeding up and slowing down to emulate a chewed tape in conjunction with some synth pitch bend. At points, Yoshimi P-We traded vocal riffs with Eye, cutting across the top of his earthy bellowing like a strong sea breeze. This show was unlike anything I’d seen or heard before, perhaps as if Sonic Youth had been cloned five times, arranged as an orchestra and locked away for a week with a Japanese Schoenberg. Apparently they are named after a Buzzcocks song. An extraordinary hour of noise-art-music creation which seems like it couldn’t exist outside of ATP, though of course it does.

Boredoms: A sonic youth orchestra

After such a singular encounter, the relative simplicity of upbeat shufflers The Apples in Stereo came as a bit of a let down. There wasn’t anything necessarily bad or wrong with them – at times they brought Supergrass or Weezer to mind – but their late ’90s optimism hardly sat well with the rest of the weekend’s offerings. There were a couple of endearing anecdotes, a lot of four-chord pop tunes and a general air of a job well done, but I was ready for something a little more ethereal. Fortunately it was time for Joanna Newsom.

Joanna: Winsome

I had managed to catch a bit of her first set on the previous evening – including about half of my favourite of her songs, Emily – and, though not one of those Newsom puritans, I was keen to catch the second set. It turned out to be a transcendental experience, every bit as impressive an aural onslaught as that of Boredoms but emanating only from the mouth and hands of one extraordinary musician, lyricist and performer. The end of Have One on Me was a real highlight, as was the wry balladry of Monkey and Bear. I didn’t know the newer material – three records’ worth! – of Have One on Me, but what I heard was great, as were the versions of earlier treats from (especially) Ys and The Milk-Eyed Mender. (There are recordings of one of her songs from ATP, as well as those by The Fall and Low, here). Probably my highlight of the weekend, all told.

We got to Mount Eerie

We skipped Low to eat some chalet cuisine, though Butlins’ cookware proved too fragile for our purposes. After loading up, we headed in to Mount Eerie, on this occasion embodied only in main man Phil Elverum and his lush 12-String. He was totally endearing, and had the audience held rapt even when he stumbled. He wrung an incredibly complex canvas out of his guitar, with high echoing noise and low bass interventions upon which his effortlessly smooth voice sat well. Though lacking the fullness of some of the recorded work, this show was another apogee of ATPism. I thought he was really good and as with AH&AH, I am keen to hear more, but time was getting on and we needed to head over to the main stage for Yann Tiersen…

That's Monsieur Tiersen to you

Our collective knowledge of Yann Tiersen‘s work was that he was big in France and had probably made a fortune off the back of Amelié, but that was really it. Such ignorance proved no barrier to enjoyment, and while there were the strains of familiarity in those songs which traded in his French rural/gypsy-folk sound, there was a hell of a lot of other stuff going on. Jarresque synths, some almost Killers-ish dance-rock and a defiantly continental euphoria meant that the set was often just at the edge of naffness, but it never really got there. The violin-based material was just fantastic and everyone involved was superb, often on a number of instruments. It felt like a trip through a whole gamut of genres, each mastered and assimilated by someone who is evidently a tremendously talented arranger as much as anything else. A lot of fun, and a great choice for the main Saturday evening slot.

Demdike Stare... at their laptops

All of which magnified the abject crapness of Scratch Acid, who were – sadly – jaw-droppingly bad. I can see the theoretical appeal, with first-wave punk vocals over hardcore backing, but the execution was just risible. The highlight was a genuinely great stage dive from frontman David Yow, fully supermanning it – or should I say Daleying in this Olympic year? – into the pit. We didn’t linger too long, and headed down to experience the doomy electronica of Demdike Stare. Waves of noise and walls of disturbing visuals piled up, each threatening to take a more recognisable form – dub, techno, photomontage, cutup, screensaver (to be a little cruel) – but never settling. For the sober observer there wasn’t much to chew on – it was an interesting, holistic vision of an audience experience, but completely devoid of hooks. Still, it was interesting. The coldness was what undercut it, an overwhelmingly digital performativity which I always felt I could obtain in their existing (and impressive) online presence. The appeal of the dance floor was greater though, and we ended the day throwing ourselves around to some cracking tunes selected by Justin Spear. I’d assumed from his staggeringly abrupt segue ‘technique’ that DJing wasn’t his forte, not knowing that he was best known precisely for that talent in conjunction with Stereolab. Ah well. He played the Slits, Devo and Roxy Music so what more can you ask.

(final part tomorrow)

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Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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