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ArcTanGent 2018: Day Three - Saturday | Festival Review

September 13, 2018

 Photo: Carl Battams

 

As the masses furiously down coffee to subdue those ever-lethal end of festival hangovers, the Frenchmen in Jean Jean (7.5) take to the breezy air to provide the visceral soundtrack to everyone’s hungover extensional crisis. Supplying post-rock with substantively cinematic influence, the group’s output carries enough emotional and climatic heft to rival the work of Hans Zimmer. With the group performing content from their most recent offering FROIDEPIERRE, primal, almost ancestral drumming and walls of static build and reverberate upon a foundation of shimmering electronics, with the constant swarm of noise ebbing and flowing in seemingly naturalistic pattern. Whilst such sensibilities deadly aloof and stoic, Jean Jean carry an air of youthful energy, utilizing such adolescent ambiance to bolster a sense of childlike wonder and amazement within their deeply visceral soundscapes. With their youthful demeanor keeping such negative archtypical connotations at bay, it’s easy to see why this act are so revered within the underground contemporary French scene.

 

Despite it only being MØL’s (9.5) second trip to the UK, judging from the turnout it’s clear that their reputation proceeds them. Whilst their recently released debut JORD has been the subject of nothing short of universal acclaim, there seems to be an unspoken air of pressure within the PX3 stage, one that concerns if they are able to meet the brilliance of such work. However, the Danes don’t just meet such lofty expectations, they completely surpass them. Opening with the euphoric blackened winds of ‘Penumbra’, tracks from the aforementioned release perfectly resonate the punishing intensity and ecstasy the record has become swiftly renowned for, with such devastation being intensified and made metaphysical with vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf’s repeatedly adventuring into the crowd. Such a live triumph is simply phenomenal to bare witness to, with the group manifesting and animating the glacial beauty of blackgaze with crystal clarity. As ‘Ligament’ blossoms into ‘Burma’, it’s inarguable that MØL are not only the current trailblazers of the genre, but shall one day reign above the genre as leaders and trendsetters.

 

“Thanks for coming to watch us fail” cites Andrew Groves of Arcane Roots (8.5) prior to their synth set. Typically confident and cocksure, it’s an unfamiliar sight to see the members of this incredible left field act taken aback by the thought of premiering new material unheard. However, it seems such anxieties and fears of failure are simply redundant, for once the trio gracefully transition into the synths and dub of ‘Before Me’ the group truly seem to have found a new home, melting into the celestial and multidimensional sounds being manifested. Even for an act who have been fundamentally associated with synthesizers for a number of years and with left field experimentation since their inception, the reimagining of content from Melancholia Hymns feels like the compassionate soundtrack of deep space. Webbings of electronics blossom and ebb and flow naturally and by no means do the group simply tame the extremity of their work during the process, it’s simply reimagining such content to fit within the realms of another musical realm. It honestly feels like a set such as this has been inevitable for several years now, with finesse and comfort the group display transparently showing how this musical performance has been in the works for an extended period time, being refined within the shadows of the groups endeavors in order to be immersive and refined as possible once unveiled. What could have been a simple curiosity of a set is realized as an emotionally powerful and lifting experience, one that displays the substantial dynamics of this band in ways previously only pondered.

 

 Photo: Joe Singh

 

To the uneducated and ignorant, Giraffes? Giraffes! (9) mainstage set would simply be nothing more than a brilliant and jovial lesson in math rock dynamics and ideologies. However, this is far more, with this set being the etching of math rock history due to the fact that this performance is the Massachusetts’s duo first ever performance within the European territories. Fun, madcap and charmingly upbeat, the duo present the genre at it’s most charming and characteristic. Despite it being the collective’s first excursion outside the America’s, the duo seem collected and confident, pacified by being in the company of many a like minded individual. The charming and pacifying nature of ‘A Quick One While She’s Away’ perfectly presents their inclusiveness and dexterity, illustrating how the group fly from contemplative post rock structures into spasmodic math rock insanity at the physical and metaphorical swing of a stick. However, when the duo balance both sensibilities simultaneously, the spectacle is nothing less than spellbinding. Tight yet flexible, like a neon liquid flowing between time signatures and genres, such a performance is simply a masterclass of wild contemporary ideologies and skill and one that shall be discussed for years to come. Seriously lads, don’t make it so long before the next visit to our shores.

 

Ghastly, intimidating and authentically naturalistically gothic, Myrkur (8) sound less like a standard act and more like the personification of the frozen north. Draped in pristine satin, a contrast to her hooded band members, the vocals of Myrkur soar above the masses in sermon, with the reverberating shoegaze and blackmetal intermingles in majestic unison. With a setlist primarily composed of material from 2017’s Mareridt, whilst some acts forcibly and aggressively channel the biblically devastating atmosphere associated with doom, Myrkur conjurers such an ambiance with composure and elegance, with seekers of doom rejoicing in the atmosphere being conjured. As the angelic hymns of ‘Ulvinde’ break down into droning and horrific screams their devotion and embodiment of their Scandinavian heritage is transparent. This Danish act projects their northern inspirations of extremity and beauty with ease and finesse, never sinking to superficial conventions to intensify such elements within their work. Striking, imposing and completely genuine, Myrkur excels in bringing the sounds of the permafrost bitten wilderness to the people of drizzly south Bristol.

 

 Photo: Joe Singh

 

Even with ArcTanGent being a festival entirely devoted to left field innovation, Tokyo's Mouse On The Keys (9) offer something completely unparalleled within this lineup. Embedded within a respective scene of their own, the Japanese collective offer a true hybrid of metropolitan jazz and post rock sensibilities.  Like their moniker suggests, it’s a frantic yet deeply rhythmic take on a genre that’s whilst used to frequent experimentation but has been rarely pushed into territories such as this. Tight, progressive and incredibly multidimensional and immersive, the manner in which this elusive band carry themselves today truly embodies their borderline eccentric sound, with the majority of the collective remaining composed whilst occasionally indulging into frantic stage antics. However, for the most part each collective member seems lost within their duties whilst situated within a semi-circle of synths and keyboards, focused on their painstakingly detailed craft. Whilst spiraling keys dance with frantic drum leads accompanied by tasteful saxophone riffs and solos, there are subtle elements of noise sprinkled in, adding volumes to their contemporary sound and potentially providing a subtle nod to the legendary Japanese noise scene. A wonderful, unparalleled set that rips the fabric of the post rock and jazz genres, creating art that defies definition and just radiates the joy of innovation.

 

Whilst this year’s event has been dotted with numerous members of the blackgaze population, it’s immediately transparent to see why Alcest (8) are hailed with such high regards. Performing a setlist mainly composed of material from their most recent full length Kodama, the mainstage swiftly becomes swamped with steel waves of shoegaze and forlorn and pensive ambiances. Emotionally bulldozing, the emotional toil associated with this genre is damning, with the forsaken French vocal talents of Neige intermingling with the tidal strings. For the majority of their respective set, the group distance themselves from the black metal themes associated with the blackgaze movement, choosing to focus on the emotional anguish that’s synonymous with shoegaze, as is evident with a touching yet rousing rendition of ‘Autre Temps’. However, once Alcest dive into the darkened marshes of extremity, as evident with leveling performances of ‘Oiseaux de Proie’ and ‘Je Suis D'ailleurs’, the balance between the howling winds of extremity and emotional respite is simply staggering to perceive. Often underappreciated and undersung outside of the blackgaze scene, Alcest are clearly educated on the art of balancing touching sonic wonderment and screeching extremity.

 

The plethora of praise surrounding tonight’s Yohkai stage headliners, Arcane Roots (10), has been impossible to ignore lately. Whilst we’ve frequently attested to their brilliance, this headline set is honestly beyond the reaches of comparison. Maybe it’s the sense of relief following the success of their synth set, possibly it’s the adrenaline  of being offered a headline slot or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that after 12 years of activity, their run is coming to an end. Either way, once ‘Off The Floor’ peaks into frantic ecstasy, it’s clear that more than blood is running through their collective veins, with the amount of energy being irradiated by this act verging upon almost nuclear levels. This, combined with that fact that their fanatics mirror every word and feed into the energy, results in easily one of the most active, explosive and energetic sets of the weekend. Still, one of the most greatest elements of their live set is how the group utilize their prowess to spontaneously expand on their sound live, transitioning seamlessly between tracks and creating an endless wall of excitement that grips the thousands in attendance. Such fervent energy only peaks with the spasmodic sensibilities of fan favorite ‘Triptych’ being pushed to their absolute limits, rivaling the insanity  of most math rock not only on this lineup, but on the planet. Judging from this set alone, Arcane Roots were on track to outright headline this fantastic festival, but of course such a possibility seems slim now, considering their recent announcement. Regardless, it’s an incredible end to another successful ArcTanGent. Roll on 2019.

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