The festival for people who can’t be doing with the ballache of proper festivals returns, seven days after the postponed Neutral Milk Hotel-led weekender should have been, with a killer triple-bill of headliners/curators:Les Savy Fav, Battles and Caribou.
Snipes aside, the site is ideal, with the distance between chalets and stages making a nonsense of the Glastonbury hike and that of most other festivals – and as such it affords attendants an opportunity to take in as much of the rich bill as could ever be feasible at such an event.
Friday ushers in LSF’s considered selection, and our weekend begins in fine style with The Budos Band. It’s brass-led funk all the way, and a terrifically shrewd booking in this slot.
Archers of Loaf have existed on the periphery for some time now, you suspect by design, and they’re feverishly anticipated by this informed crowd. They don’t disappoint, delivering angular, balls-out indie-rock of the highest order.
Following that lineage come No Age, so atypical a Sub Pop band that they could have existed within those confines any time in the last two decades, and a terrific live proposition – offering stinging, assured takes on some of the killers from last album ‘Everything Inbetween’.
Holy Fuck round off our evening, taking on the finer qualities of Errors and Fuck Buttons and adding not a little magic of their own. They’re made for this role, as evidenced by their triumphant Green Man appearance a few months back, and thankfully this time they’re a darn sight louder, ensuring the impact isn’t lost.
As is the way of the billing, Battles open the main stage on the Saturday, giving a variation on what’s to be their closing set nine hours or so later. In truth they’re still fighting to reignite the fireworks – and never attempt to do this, kids – of their former incarnation (before Ty walked), but they’ve found their feet and their swagger again. Whether ‘Gloss Drop’ matches the raw power of ‘Mirrored’ is open to debate (it doesn’t), but they’re still pretty special when they peak.
London duo Walls also share ground with Fuck Buttons, and with the parallel being even more pronounced – even down to the template which acts as their foundation. But while FB operate within a forcefield of electronic feedback, Walls are more reliant on melody, and that stays to the fore to fine effect – indeed, recent album Coracle comes into its own in closer quarters.
Over to Washed Out, singularly failing once again to do their fine Within and Without longplayer justice with another tepid showing that, in contrast to Walls, sucks the vitality from the record and leaves it sounding like Zero 7 at times.
Axel Willner and cast – The Field to the world – show them how to do it soon after, and we hope they’re here to witness and learn. Via his three albums Willner has shown himself to be arguably the most important dance producer of recent times, and the considered slow-build of his tunes is milked to huge effect, with the giant peaks totally overwhelming at times. He’s also got a live drummer who is both breathtaking and highly amusing.
Relatives of previous ATP curators Slint, Bitch Magnet also represent a fine booking, and they’re one of the weekend highlights for many even before they’re plugged in. What they deliver exceeds what was so eagerly anticipated, with the finest sticksman you’re likely to see and riff-heavy hooks marking them as grandmasters.
We’re then off to the Interstellar Fugitives set – a live electronic band featuring Mad Mike and part of the esteemed Underground Resistance family. It’s classic techno edging towards the housier side, with a righteous social purpose – something that’s underlined at every turn, and driven by razor-sharp beats. It’s a revelation in every way.
Matias Aguayo is the third Kompakt signing of the day, though his solo work takes a backseat to storming main-room DJ set, consisting mainly of party electro – with occasional vocal contributions from the livewire behind the desk.
In the closing slot elsewhere is Juk Juk, equally pumping but more eclectic and self-aware.
Sunday is Caribou‘s day, and he gets things underway with a set from his Vibration Ensemble that takes Caribou and Manitoba catalogue gems and transforms them into big band masterpieces. Dan Snaith is a man of many ideas, so much so that at times they jostle for supremacy, but every element is effective and the detailed arrangements complement one another perfectly. He also sets the bar unfeasibly high for his subjects in his wake.
Toro y Moi is one such, and his reshuffled early evening slot pulls a decent number to witness his endearing brand of 80s soul funk. Chas Bundick is both achitect and focal point, and the strength of his compositions proves he has more substance than many of his peers who feed from the era and simply rely on their influences.
Our final unmissables are Roll The Dice, the American electronic Krautrock duo whose recent In Dust stands alongside the most compelling albums of 2011. Though there’s little in the way of spectacle they still work it live, with the hypnotic looped grooves building to immense crescendos, and with the subtleties somehow emphasised more than on record. They’re a memorable conclusion to a wonderful weekend.
Photo by Mark ‘Harry’ Harris