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Afterwards, I stayed around to watch the Mercury Prize-winning indie rock of Alt-J, who managed to almost exactly replicate their recorded material (right down to the ‘distinctive’ vocals) while somehow stripping it of all its appeal. In a pair of headphones, the tracks from their début An Awesome Wave can sound smooth and reassuring, but live, it just felt placatory and lifeless, though almost no-one else around me seemed to share that opinion. Disappointed, I sought relief in Mount Kimbie. Due to set-up delays, I managed to see almost the entirety of their set, which began in a relaxed manner but built up towards a heavier, more rhythmic climax. The composition of their performance meant that rather than a group of songs, their show felt more like a collection of musical scenes, with a sound or texture played with and developed towards completion and then discarded in favour of starting anew. It was a refreshing approach, completely disregarding traditional notions of song structure, and gave the show a feeling of organic experimentation and authenticity often missing from live electronic sets. 

With the Mount Kimbie show ending on a wonderfully grungy and discordant note, I left the Melt!Selektor stage on a high, and quickly scoffed the first of several XXL cheeseburgers on the way to securing a prime location for one of my most anticipated acts of the festival, The Knife. After being subjected to around 15 minutes of vague pronouncements by a bearded man in bright pink lycra, the crowd seemed relieved when he finally left the stage and was replaced by clouds of smoke, from which shrouded figures slowly began to emerge, taking up oddly-shaped percussive instruments that glowed fluorescently through the haze. An affecting build-up, it signalled the Swedish collective’s musical intent: tonight was going to be all about rhythm and bass and their relationship to bodily movement. As the show developed, it became clear that it wasn’t so much a gig as a piece of performance art. For several songs, as the music continued to blast through the phenomenal sound system, instruments were discarded and/or ignored in favour of intricate, full-band dance routines, which were preceded by exhortations for the audience to “shake your asses, or if you don’t have asses, shake something” in unison. There were more costume changes than there were songs, particularly for figurehead/lead singer Karin Dreijer Andersson, who also performed a duet with a gilt-edged screen portraying a blonde man who appeared to have been assaulted. Despite the high concept and (at times) cloying ‘smash the patriarchy through dance’ ideology, it was clear that every member of the ensemble was having a ball on stage, an energy that balanced out the tone of theatrical seriousness and encouraged the audience to buy into and participate in what was going on. Weird, wonderful, and totally unlike anything else you’re likely to see on the main stage of a major music festival, the show managed to be groundbreaking, experimental, and a thumping good time all in one.

The habitual having thoroughly been shaken, my night ended with glimpses of two very different pairs of veterans. The first, Metro Area, twisted classic house hooks that in less-experienced hands could have felt cheesy and clichéd into a mix of slinky bass and old-school synths that struck a perfectly mellow chord. In contrast,  Diamond Version (the collaboration between Raster-Norton label heads Byetone and Alva Noto) blitzed the beach with crushingly beautiful collages of noise that belied a considered style of layered song construction. Exhausted, I stumbled back through the grounds to catch one of the last shuttle buses back to camp, to catch a few hours of sleep before sunrise.

Continued on page 3

 

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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