Field Day: Day 1

Field Day Sat

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).

Gerd Janson

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.

Gerd Janson

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.)

James Holden 1

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.
James Holden 2

Omar Souleyman

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.

Omar Souleyman 1

Omar Souleyman 2

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.)

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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.)

Oneohtri Point Never

Blood Orange

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?

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Evian Christ

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.

Evian Christ

Todd Terje

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.

Todd Terje

Until tomorrow, Vic Park…

Crowd Shot

Grime ain’t dead: Jammer

Jammer

Living The Dream
(Boy Betta Know)

Jammer - Living The Dream cover

Everyone’s shocked that grime hangs on, but the first wave of MCs stay hungry regardless of whether their pop forays succeed (Dizzee & Wiley) or fizzle. Case in point, Jammer returns three years after his polished yet strong Big Dada outing Jahmanji with Living The Dream, a record as gritty as anything you’d find on a bootleg DVD sold out the back of a van. There’s no Toddla T-produced throwback rave single on here; instead the album opens with a confession that all is not well in Jammer land: “I was in court on New Year’s eve and wouldn’t even give me bail … and I know a lot of reckless things made me break up with my girl / all the drugs and drink didn’t really go down too well… the labels didn’t wanna help me, I had to go out and do it myself,” an’ ting. The whole disc is full of defiance and bragging about conquests in rugged double-time flows, delivering the unfiltered street talk and explosive mix of ambition/desperation that American rap either can’t or won’t exhibit anymore.

It’s also much more varied than I’m making it sound; “Declined” is a great concept for a diss track about the singular embarrassment of watching someone get their credit card turned down, “On The Ball Pt. 2” is full of playfully pithy then-and-now rhymes worthy of Gucci Mane and “Big Man” is the four-on-the-floor posse cut with enough energy and bristling competition for the best verse between old pals Viper, JME, Flow Dan et al that, had it been on Jahmanji, might have turned Jammer’s best-promoted album into a hit. (Admittedly, the bassline was already a hit for Skepta when it was 2006’s “Duppy.”) But don’t cry Jammer for, because apparently he’ll be hanging in there anyway, chart success be damned. No sell out.