ATP : review of the Shellac curated festival
As a hardy veteran of these noisy Pontins affairs I feel I have to point out that this was the best one yet and a sharp reminder of what alternative or independent music really is. Instead of insipid, watered down sixties pop that is what indie has become the weekend treated us to an inspired choice of some very noisy and some very grand sounding musics that were linked by being chosen by Shellac to perform at the event.
There were so many highlights that they came thick and fast, causing me to run between the two venues that were probably more used to Coco the clown or some ruddy faced, cabaret band churning out yesteryear hits. The Sunday was the day that it really took off with a dependably brilliant set from Shellac that featured many new songs and was a perfect exercise in their stripped down, minimalist rock. Each instrument takes on a lead role with perhaps the best rhythm section in rock providing a tough and gnarled backbone for Steve Albini's surprisingly virtuoso guitar to scurry over.
Shellac had to be at the top of their game as they were preceded by The Ex who had an added brass section making their discordant and hypnotic clanking machine sound like the most unlikely party band on the planet. Their diverse set of Hungarian folk songs, Ethiopian workouts and Dutch discordant was as invigorating as ever and they were rapturously received by the crowd.
The other band who slot in very neatly into this equation of bands and really made the weekend for me were the Membranes who returned to ATP and played a very well recived set of new songs that sees the band lurch into the future with what sounds like their best material yet. If bands can come back this good after two decades maybe they should all have enforced lay offs and the band's intense and powerful performance left many people open mouthed at its unexpected brilliance.
Neurosis droneful take on metal was surprisngly hypnotic and, like the Swans, they have somehow found a way of making the loud and intense into something oddly soothing quite meditative. Their vocals were meant to be twisted and ugly but were oddly like a silken massage of phlegm fury. Melt Banana made their usual rush of angular, inventive racket even with less of them on the stage whilst Wire were stunning- perhaps the best I've ever seen them, they were truly psychedelic and once the sound had settled their ghost like melodies and classic songs rearranged at a whim cut through the murk with a glacial power. By the end of their set they had cranked their noise and you could swiftly hear where Big Black had got some of their inspiration from.
A solo Kim Deal really worked with her personal charm winning over an audience that was more than ready to welcome her and that great catalogue to ATP, her version of Cannonball should not have worked but it did. Brilliantly.
Zeni Geva and the KK Null solo set was really pushing the limit and was typical of some of the great inventive noise that popped all weekend- a lot of it with amazing drummers. There were so many great drummers at ATP that it felt like a drummer convention.
And if your drummer is Yoshida Tatsuya you are going to be worth watching for the rhythms alone. Always testing, KK Null announced to the audience. 'I'm about to play my solo project. If you only came to see Zeni Geva now is a good time to go to the toilet'. Oh how we laughed!
Prinzhorn Dance School were small furry mammal minimalist with their bass sounding twanging and facing off that stripped down guitar as they played a sort of hipster funk with a tough edge that sounded really good. Mono were sat down and created this incredible wash of sound like My Bloody Valentine though a fuzz box and were a real trip.
It was great to catch up with Mission Of Burma and the band sounded great and justified their innovative tag even with the drummer encased in a plastic surround- you can hear the echo of where Fugazi and even Shellac found their inspiration in their angular take on hardcore. Rachel Grimes was mesmerizing and her music dripped emotion over the sparse piano backing.
The whole weekend was a great exercise in music that occupies the real edge and I could have stayed there for ever.