Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 4: Real Festival Write-Up Starts Here

My adventures at the Jeff Mangum curated All Tomorrow's Parties continue

By now you may be wondering – did I actually see anything at this ATP? Well, yes, I did. See Executive Summary for a full list. But let me talk about a few of these acts in a bit more detail, starting with some people who were completely new to me.

Feathers proved to be an interesting proposition, being an all-woman band playing music that nodded back to synthpop of yore without sounding like electropop revivalism. They also were striking in their visual appearance, being done up to look quite glamorous, none more so than their lead singer Anastasia Dimou. Now, I am a bit suspicious of bands comprised entirely of beautiful women ["O RLY?" – Reader's voice], but there seemed something a bit different to this lot that made them come across like a fascinating art project than just something for the dads. It also helped that in Ms Dimou they have a striking and unusual front person. I feel this band would repay further investigation and I note that they have a some songs people can listen to on the YouTube.

I had not heard of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble either, but they do what they say on the tin, being an ensemble from America and playing contemporary music. But of course, you have to be wise to the lingo – contemporary music does not mean all music that is contemporary, so they were not playing Katy Perry covers, but rather it is contemporary classical music [And yeah, I know some people do not like the term "classical music", but do they have an alternative?]. And they were playing at midday on Sunday morning, so it was like one of those concerts at the Hugh Lane Gallery I sometimes go to. They played a couple of pieces, but the biggie was this Gavin Bryars thing called Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, which features a sampled voice repeating some little song about how Jesus' blood has never failed him yet, over which the musicians play their stringy modern sounds. It was very involving and in the darkened environment of the Crazy Horse venue it made for an affecting and otherworldly experience.

Now let me move on to talk about people I saw at ATP whom I have seen before. Maybe you have seen them before too. We wandered along to see The Fall with no great expectations – they had been a bit below par last time we saw them in Dublin. People always seem to tell me that The Fall are patchy live but up until that time they had always been exceptionally good, so for me a below par concert raised the worrying prospect that this once great band are in terminal decline. But they turned out to be great, huzzah. The line-up was apparently more or less the same as when we saw them before, I think, so maybe they have just become more used to Mr Smith and his funny ways. In fact, the band generally were great, playing out the songs well with a great "who gives a shit, we are not long for this band" demeanour. And the latest Mrs Mark E. Smith on keyboards seemed less visibly terrified of him than the last time, which was nice. Mr Smith himself was flying, rambling incoherently in a most engaging manner. An emblematic moment was when between songs he muttered "[something-something] Joanna Newsom [something]". Could he be already lining up the elfin harpist as the next Mrs Mark E. Smith?

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