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Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 1

  • Published in Live


For the third year running, Primavera Sound is the festival of choice. Especially for a city slicker like me, there’s something about the beach festival right in the beautiful city of Barcelona that just works. Standing at the top of the staircase if one wants to go down to the Pitchfork or Adidas stages you can see the city lights along the beaches stretch from left to right, and, when at one of the main stages, you can see the tall, Barcelona buildings betraying the fact that, yes, you are smack in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest cities out there. If you go to festivals for the camping, camaraderie, or wellies and mud, this might not be your thing. For those alienated city weirdos, the eclectic programming only enhances that there’s no singular group one belongs to.

Beak> starts off my festival, and do so amazingly well. The trio knows how to do their brand of rock, and the way they slide from one part of a song to the next is a real marvel. The guitar work is really splendid, throwing out some nifty lines, and the set is varied enough throughout to keep people exactly where they are for the entire duration. You can see this is a band of pros, who know what they are doing, and who then apparently can enter a new synth player into the starting line-up without any major hitches during the songs. They, themselves, seem to enjoy it all as well and thus the start of the fest is as positive as one could hope for.

It goes quickly downhill though, as I love Destroyer, but the sound is muddled. Any time there’s a guitar that enters the song, the pristine craftwork of the band comes tumbling down. Which is a crying shame, because last year seeing them in an indoor venue at Le Guess Who? was amazing, with Dan Bejar fronting his band’s intricate works with passion. Here, too, he goes for it, but what worked indoors doesn’t work at the Ray Bans stage today. I’d happily see them again, somewhere, someday, but this makes for an exit before their full time is up.

Which doesn’t get us in time to Air, at least not to see them in a proper position. Chatty people surround us everywhere, which isn’t necessarily the way you want to enjoy the super clean, even pristine, sounds of the French band. The vocals sounds angelic, and it seems they have their stuff together for this one, but it is a bit too rowdy where we are standing, which means we don’t get the beauty, and it only comes off as tame. We wait until ‘Sexy Boy’ comes (oooohhhh-hooo), and then we go from the main stage to one of the smallest stages there is.

Now, being brought up with MTV Unplugged, I’m curious to see what an unplugged version of electro-pop artist Jessy Lanza will sound like. It is the Ray Bans Unplugged stage after all. Apparently, not really, as the show starts wildly late because of all kinds of difficulties with the electronics, cables, and assorted instruments that are on it. When she does start, she starts hesitantly, with not everything completely doing what she wants yet. Drum sound is a tad off, and the microphone doesn’t seem to register her lower singing, although it evidently does manage to catch the high yelps. The two women on stage are down two sets to love and serve is to the other side.

If one band can be proud of today’s set, it is though these girls. Not only do they right the ship, they rebuild it to a cruise liner with the best party in town. The crowd is getting increasingly more into it (it’s packed, and then some), and they are regaining their swagger, which breathes new life into the tunes. This year releasing her album Oh No, she rolls through catchy and punchy songs like the title track and a prolonged, dancey version of ‘Never Enough’ in which she gives it her all. Being last on the stage, she can make up for some of the time she lost at the start, and all there are all the happier for it.

From a young woman ready to reach a wider audience to an old all-American music composer showcasing the oeuvre he has built up during years and years in ol’ Hollywood. That, and doing some Ennio Morricone to boot. John Carpenter has a full band backing him as he does all these well-known synth riffs from the movies we grew up on or belatedly watched somewhere during our lifetimes. That deep synth sound is the key, and the rest of the band fleshes out the sound perfectly. In the background we see the images of the movies these tracks graced, and he does some work off his Lost Themes albums too. Carpenter shows you don’t need to be a fresh, young face to suddenly appear at festivals and engage and hype up crowds, you just need some quality work and a keenness to play them. So, from slasher flick soundtracks to album material, we get it all, with the haunting synth sounds giving the Barcelona night some extra flavour.

Back on the main stage we celebrate the return of LCD Soundsystem, and in a headliner set we get everything we want and more. The roster is one of all-stars, with Nancy Whang and John MacLean from The Juan MacLean with Pat Mahoney and Gavin Russom, staples of the DFA roster, and Al Doyle from Hot Chip we just have it all there on stage. And then, the main brain behind it all, James Murphy, rocking, dancing, and yelling out all the frustration and anxieties that one builds up in life. From dance-punk tracks to all-out disco, from rawness to the super slick; we get everything and more in a headline-worthy set by the New York band.

We get the old work, with tracks like ‘Yeah’, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’, and ‘Losing My Edge’. The last one has a beautiful, slow moving bass base, making you dance and swing your body as Murphy narrates what basically seems like a nervous breakdown turned around, for, in the end, yeah, they might be more interesting, prettier, and have an amazing web plan, but I was there when all that fantastic shit went down.

‘Home’ is one of my favorites off the last album, such a slick creature it is, Talking Heads-inspired, and ending with that fab line "If you’re afraid of what you need, look around you, you’re surrounded, it won’t get any better". Closing out it’s the piano anthem ‘All My Friends’, saying what, in the end, after all, turns out to be really important. That you’re there, with friends, and surrounded by people with similar anxieties, dancing and losing it to a band that — for perhaps a niche group but still — defined a generation for some. And they, here, tonight, showed why in a strong, get-yr-feet-moving set.


The Weekly Froth! - 20160429

  • Published in Columns


The Weekly Froth! A weekly take on six tracks, most of which have recently popped up somewhere in the blogosphere. Bit of a mixed bag with a slight leaning towards house, disco, and remixes, but generally just anything that for some reason tickled the writer’s fancy.

Track of the Week: ‘Mastermind’ by Roisin Murphy

Miss Roisin Murphy is back, starting this one with some lush synths through which we can slowly hear a rhythm synth emerging. After about thirty seconds we get the vocals, almost narrating a story in a mysterious, near menacing vocal turn. She says she is Scared out of her mind, she is Petrified, and that she Has been waiting for too long, for something wrong. So no pop diva vocals here, but a sort of performance poetry, though at 2:20 she strips the gadgetry, some of the music as well, and from that point on we get a very clear vocal, also with lighter sounds surrounding it, this for the full immersive experience. From the moment her vocals start, by the way, the track gets a little pulsing beat underneath, and from the three minute mark that one is also helped by some of that bass. Later that minute we get another change up in the form of an instrumental interlude, harking back to some dark italo bass synths coming from some soundtrack or another from the 80s. It is a really theatrical piece this (especially hitting home when the backing vocals hauntingly appear as well), and shows that Murphy still has plenty of creative juices left in her.


‘Lose Control’ by Shit Robot

Shit Robot leaves no moment unused, immediately getting that bassy vibe in there for some getting down to. At the thirty second mark we get the lighter percussion sounds to juxtapose the heavier rhythm line, and half a minute later we get even more drum & rhythm to shake our bootie to. It’s got this forceful feel to it, a nice pounding it gives you. At the 1:30 mark, the DFA go-to vocalist appears, with Nancy Whang singing that Every day I’m waiting for, you to wake up, wake up, wake up. The great thing about Whang is that she’s got a nice, rhythmic voice for this sort of work. In the mean time Shit Robot keeps it all rolling down, adding all kinds of drum and rhythm elements to the core that is always present, really making sure this is a dancing tune (and don’t you forget about it!). Whang’s vocals return, singing that she Can’t fight this feeling, Lose control, which are dancing words. After that, Shit Robot takes the beat away for a moment, just going with the rhythm synth, and then bringing it back in for that little push. Lovely dancefloor tune, as we are accustomed to from anything that has to do with either DFA, Nancy Whang, or Shit Robot.


‘Under One’ by Toomy Disco

Toomy Disco starts this one with a hard hitting beat, doing the glitchy a bit as well. After the thirty second mark we get more of a thudding main hitter to get that rhythm right, and a minute in we also get some diva vocals. At least, for a moment, soon traded in for the bass sound. But not too much later they show they can co-exist, with the bass still rolling, and the vocals urging you to Bump (pump?) the party. And this definitely is a party track, no bones about it. After the two minute mark, suddenly, it opens up, getting some of that piano in, stripping some of the rhythm sounds for a moment (and at about the 4:10 mark doing a similar thing as well). But Toomy Disco soon works its way to the beat and go, giving the people on the dancefloor not too much of a rest as they need to keep a movin’! And it certainly pounces that home, doing the party vibe and the hard going with this one.


‘Long Water’ by Wilson Tanner

Wilson Tanner is a combination of John Tanner and A.R.T. Wilson, giving us a peaceful moment at the start, with some piano and a little bit of that slow guitar to really set the tone. Then, to add, a bit of those sad & jazzy horns, putting us in that particular state of mind. And so, slowly, it adds certain sounds, but without any form of clutter. It is a real clear cut song, getting everything out of all the sad notes for all the sad sacks to reminisce and reflect to. It is an instrumental piece that would not be out of place at a Jazz festival, and definitely it gives you all that a good jazz tune is able to give you as far as I’m concerned. The atmosphere is constant, the sounds clean and packing the emotional feel they want to exhume, and that for a good six minutes straight on. A feat they pull off with confidence and skill.


‘Pleasure’ by Formation

Formation are a young British band putting the bass full in at the start for this electro track, one with a little bit of that punk intensity in there as well. The bass is really the main rhythm, but drum rhythms help to give it the dance vibe, while the punk-ish delivery and a certain rawness provide that intense quality. The drums and vocals, for the most part, give each other a moment of rest, and at the two minute mark there is a full stop. Just some vocals before, first, the drums come back, and after that, the whole works, but a little more upbeat and with a bit more air than at the start. Trading in the basement for something with a bit more sunshine.


‘Do I Believe In God’ by Prince (LNTG Muscle Mix)

After Bowie now Prince has left the building as well, but that doesn’t mean we cannot funk to either songs like ‘Fame’ or tracks like ‘Controversy’, a classic Prince tune where he talks about people wanting to know about other people and, Oh lord, is he gay or straight, is he black or white, and does the man Believe in God? Controversy! One of my favorite edits is the Late Nite Tuff Guy mix (which I was fortunate enough to dance to live when I saw the man perform behind the decks). Starts out with a lovely beat, but also already the guitar riff, building up the familiarity until, after a good minute and a half or so, it dives headlong into the track, giving us the funky to do the sexy to. The vocals come in, the rhythm is spot on, and you can get crazy to Prince saying that I just can’t believe the things that people say, as people are getting down on the dancefloor doing things that might give people actually something to talk about. There’s plenty of the guitar, plenty of the vocal work, and enough funk and catchy stuff to really get it going on too. One of my favorite mixes of an artist who has influenced many.

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