London’s Victoria Park never looked finer than when it played host to a very solid lineup of electronica artists, many of whom I had never seen before. Read on, intrepid festival-watchers (and forgive my camera-phone pix).
Epic beard, epic sound, limited crowd. But a few bongos and some spacey disco edits don’t go astray at 2 in the afternoon. Also notable: he was spinning vinyl. However I suspect he was really looking forward to his set at the after-party. Not that we were spared the smoke machine.
James Holden live
I feel reasonably convinced that James Holden’s modular synth wizardry is already the best thing I will see all festival. It didn’t start out that way. Nothing sends chills down the spine of a grizzled jazz vet like walking into the dance tent to the sound of an auto sax player jamming to a “funky” beat played by a drummer in a bad hat, with a bit of synth squall unintelligibly roaring in the background. Horrible memories of fusion gone rancid soon left, replaced by some Deutsch rock throb, with Holden’s eurorack setup unleashing a full band’s worth of noise, arpegiatted melody caught in an infinite regression and the sax player actually fitting in for once. (He’ll be kicked out of the overplayers’ union, I’m sure.)
Even a laptop malfunction that sent Holden scurrying backstage seemed to fold comfortably into the show, like a long drum solo that builds anticipation for the inevitable roaring finale. Holden was a pro through it all, grinning boyishly as the crowd clapped their encouragement. So far, so very very fucking good, Field Day.
I admit that my scheduling was a bit short on the hedonistic fun-o-meter but Omar Souleyman made up for it. Dec ked out in traditional Bedouin garb and sunglasses, despite the dark tent, Souleyman and his keyboardist – an adept synth performer, putting plenty of melody and feeling into his playing via some expertly controlled pitch bends and octave popping – got the party started.
The lack of a band wasn’t really an issue; Souleyman worked the stage like a pro, measuring every gesture to elicit the maximum crowd impact. And the tunes from his latest, Wenu Wenu, went down like a shandy on a hot day. (I noted the albums producer Four Tet getting down to the rhythm at side stage. Along with what I think was his mum? Cyuute.)
Oneohtrix Point Never
There’s that inevitable exodus of all the hot girls whenever someone like Daniel Lopatin announces his presence by emitting a volley of unconscionable noise. Amazingly, his set survived, and perhaps even thrived, thanks to his inventive textures, able Veejay providing flickering echoes of David Lynch-esque landscapes and freak 3D-rendered creatures being distended and torn before our eyes. There’s also his mastery of extreme volume – at times it.felt like a noise show and an ambient set flipping in and out of focus like two TV stations jockeying for the same frequency. And it was a lot more fun than I’m making it sound. Seriously, I would say Lopatin is doing for melody what Apex Twin did for drums, if it didnt make me sound like a pretentious asshole. (Too late.)
Dev Hynes can sing. He can also play guitar, damn well, and his band is formidable. But be honest – it’s all a bit Terence Trent D’Arby, isn’t it?
After a quick chorizo sandwich and a not so quick queue for a Red Stripe, the train arrived at the set of this very talented, very young, and mercifully very American dj. I say mercifully because I hadn’t realized how much I needed to hear some cussing over trap beats (it had been several days) until that handsome white-t-clad gent started rapping along to a storming Weezy verse and I suddenly felt the bass hit me somewhere in the back of my throat. He showed some dexterity by dropping a couple of his own, distinctly hard and dry riddims, such that I saw the women in front of me convulse slightly. But when he dropped a fresh Young Chop beat there were right back with him. Sweaty trap party, yes please.
I was promised a live set, dammit, and all I got was this not lousy DJ set with cuts from his album (“Delorean Dynamite”) as well as some tasty disco selections. But where were the cascading keyboards, the odd-timed drum freak outs, the interminable bass solos? Nowhere to be found. Maybe Danny Brown had borrowed them. Few spinners are as adept at reading the crowd as Terje, and fewer still have crates as deep, which made his set pleasurable despite the crowded environs and the tilt towards deep house. If anyone’s going to go there, Terje is uniquely placed to do it, and while I was slightly sore about the lack of a live PA I can’t complain about the conflagration of fine sexy ladies in the RA tent that he brought. When in Field Day, do as the girls with the flowery dresses do.
Until tomorrow, Vic Park…