All Tomorrow’s Parties I’ll Be Your Mirror
Alexandra Palace, London
25-27 May 2012

Slayer playing Reign In Blood live in its entirety; first ever ATP curators Mogwai returning for another stint at the helm; and plenty of top flight indie, rock and more – Declan IOM gives us the lowdown on the latest ATP’s festival.

Friday was Metal Night with Slayer playing their lp “Reign in Blood”Â in full. Apparently, this is a big deal amongst aficionados, with fans travelling from Europe and Japan to attend. Consequently, it was the only night that used the Main Room, the Saturday & Sunday’s main stage serving as second stage this evening.

Most weekend tickets holders avoided the Slayer night or left early. The support bands included Yob, Melvins, and Sleep. These aren’t bad bands, they play with commitment and passion but they’re one-dimensional. The night needed someone to let some light into the shade. A melody, perhaps, or a tempo change. The best band on the evening’s bill – Wolves In The Throne Room do this on record, but there’s little on show here, just gutteral comedy metal vocals and one pace tempo.

Most of the metalheads have not returned as Harvey Milk kick off Day 2 in a similar angry fashion, thankfully, though they shun the Metal growl style of singing. Meanwhile, on the second stage, Antoni Maiovvi dark impassioned synth pop, that borders on melodrama.

Chavez are the first of the weekend’s reformed US 90’s Alt-Rock bands. Despite featuring Will Oldham collaborator Matt Sweeney it is a competent but unexciting performance.

Some welcome variety is provided by The Soft Moon. The singer wears a Neu! T-shirt and Kosmische Musik has influenced the band’s sound – spacey, dense, atmospheric rock with yelping rhythmic vocals and prominent keys. A very effective performance.

Bill Wells and Aiden Moffat are next up on the second stage, they play to a small audience. The ex-Arab Strap singer, acknowledging himself that he’d have chosen Mudhoney on the main stage. I hear the Seattle band’s set was thrilling, but I gave it a miss as they’re also playing Primavera the week after.

Those that remained were rewarded by a warm performance of dark songs. Wells leads a jazz combo on keys, whilst Moffat sings melancholic Scottish tales. I was particularly taken with the one where he as a child breaks into his former home.

Second last on the main stage are the Dirty Three. They perform moody soundtracks with out a film. Vocal-less, they are lead by Nick Cave collaborator violinist Warren Ellis, who provides rambling introductions to tunes (most of which seem to be from the perspective of Bono’s hemorrhoids. During performances he is a high-kicking mad professor of the fiddle. The music is atmospheric and compelling at times.

Curators Mogwai close out the second day, with a loud and compelling headline set. The show is enthralling as the band expands upon a theme. The highlight of the performance was the appearance of Luke Sutherland on violin, adding a new tone to the show.

The final day continued the dark instrumental themes of the previous night’s headlining acts. Forest Swords‘ eldritch electronics & eerily videos are playing as I arrive. The contrast between this environment and the blazing sun of walk from Alexandra Palace is spooky. More so when a power cut plunged venue into blackness & silence.

Blanc Mass follow more ambient electronica also interrupted by a power cut. After the intermission ghostly voices penetrate a white noise rhythm track. The result is a kind of a dubstep My Bloody Valentine.

Demdike Stare are the third dark electronica act. Their video backdrop is like a 50’s Eastern European horror art movie, where a nightmarish trip follows after the villager falls foul of the local shaman. Spectres and phantoms abound whilst later a pre-raphaelite woman floats past.

It’s dark and compelling stuff, but by now, after two cinematic instrumental acts closing last night & 3 dark electronic this afternoon we need songs…

Tall Firs are a diffident duo. Two electric guitars are played quietly with hushed vocals. It’s gentle, tender and compelling.

The Oh Sees are the first band to get a soporific audience standing. Up-tempo and energetic, with creative post-punk rhythms and yelping Frank Black vocals. Self contented bordering on cocky they build a strong groove which distorted guitar wipes away, then as the guitar diminishes the grooves still there.

In the small room Siskiyou play well crafted, structured songs, these are neatly arranged with echoes of Lambchop to a politely supportive audience.

Occasionally upping the volume & intensity. The singer/drummer looking demented as he sings “I am nobody’s friend, nobody’s friend am I.”

They’re followed by Sleepy Sun whose histrionic southern stadium rock fails to impress.

On the mainstage the reformed Archers of Loaf play fiesty collegiate 90’s tuneful grunge. They’re clearly well prepared and up for reunion. They’re passionate and good humoured.

Yuck have a challenge to prove they can cut it with the 90’s American alt-rock acts that fill the bill. They can, it is a triumphant performance. The video backdrop is like something from Snub TV. Images caught on digital camera, are live video mixed against kaleidoscopic visuals. The band are certainly a step above The Make Up’s subsequent unconvincing amateur dramatics, however, they’re nearing the point where their debut lp has been toured enough and new material is needed.

Tennis, on the second stage have the only female lead singer of weekend? They play pleasant indie-pop.

The Afghan Whigs appear in front of a red velvet backdrop to a heartfelt welcome. They dress all in black, and are very professional as they attack the songs with vigour. This was an enjoyable run through of their old songs that was greeted enthusiastically by theirs fans, but contained enough quality to keep the un-aligned interested.

All words by Declan IOM. You can read more from him here.

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  1. …okay so not everyone likes hard rock/ metal but there are some comments equating to sheer ignorance here… If you think Sleep need ‘some light into the shade’ then you truely missed the point. And if you want a ‘tempo change’ then didn’t you even watch The Melvins? ‘one dimensional’?, a bit like your review.


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