The Nightmare Before Chrismas - Day Three - Butlins, Minehead - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Nightmare Before Chrismas - Day Three - Butlins, Minehead

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

Sunday's curators are Caribou, Canadian resident Dan Snaith and his backing band, who along with the previous days' headliners also commence proceedings with an afternoon set. Emerging dressed almost entirely in white, they provide sonically enhanced beats with the aid of two drummers and a brass backing. As all Sunday afternoons should be, the atmosphere is laid back, never more so than with 'Melody Day', sounding more Beach Boys meets Mercury Rev, than ever before. The summery sound is certainly the antithesis of the torrential downpour with soaked us on the way to see them. The highlight of the set is 'Jamelia', sung by Dan's bassist, a gentle, melodious number with a simple trombone backing. Caribou produce a nice, short set, in the vein of early 90s ground-breakers Disco Inferno, with a bigger budget but without as many ideas, but there is the niggling feeling that they are saving something for their later set.

It's a pity that there is such a sparse audience for New Zealand troubadour Connan Mockasin, as those absent have missed the highlight of the day and probably the whole weekend. Appearing as Roxy Music fronted by Guy Chadwick from The House of Love, Andy Warhol or Luke Haines, with his band wearing interesting wigs and outfits and his bassist resembling Vic Reeves starring in Spinal Tap, Connan applies his delicately fragile vocals to a spacey, spectral guitar and a hugely melodic and psychedelic backing.

After an excellent opening number seemingly consisting of Peter Gabriel covering 'Theme From Shaft', the band play a beautiful, relaxed and varied set, with nods to Kings Lynn's finest Magoo, Bobby Gillespie and possibly the best Prince impression of the weekend. The band are clearly enjoying themselves and when the topic strays to lizards, how can you not? Like Alice in Wonderland imagined by Kevin Shields, Connan Mockasin has produced an excellent set full of rolling melodies and humour that was immensely pleasing to witness.

After a brief interlude with the Dutch ensemble The Ex and their guest saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, whose wandering brass and guitar-heavy sound was a little let down by their enthusiastic vocalist, a rescheduled Toro Y Moi awaits. Like many of this weekend's acts, Toro Y Moi is unashamedly 80s, but more towards Steve Arrington or the Thompson Twins than anything credible. With synths direct from the worst part of the 80s - ie, the middle - the band only provoke interest when the guitars come out. However, the set is still stuck in a timewarp, with Living in a Box and The Alarm as the nearest, blandest reference points.

Roll the Dice are far more intriguing. Two Swedes stood facing each other with a wall of analogue electronics between them, playing behind a thin screen for their visuals and releasing throbbing electronica. The beats are quite dark and harsh at times, but are awashed with a gliding, symphonic swirl of melody, resembling perhaps a milder Factory Floor or an aggressive Fuck Buttons. The closer, 'Way Out', with its luscious, descending downbeat is both melancholic and uplifting, and a gorgeous finish that stays long in the memory.

After the relative youth of Roll the Dice, the veteran electronic pioneer Simeon Coxe III, aka Silver Apples, is up next, showing the youngsters how electronics are done. With his simple, atonal wedding singer vocal and banks of analogue sounds of varying pace, Simeon provides a combination of 60s warm primitivism and pioneerism with more contemporary noises, making his performance feel very fresh and original. The strange and simple lyrics, such as "I found a purple egg in a ukelele bush", seem to suit the almost naïve, child-like melodies. His signature song, 'Oscillations', is the highlight of the set, with it's Kraftwerk-esque, descriptive lyrics and connects most with the receptive crowd. A great performance.

After the eternally optimistic Silver Apples, it's a return to harsh 1970s no wave dystopia for Factory Floor. With an opening that resembles Logan's Run in places, they produce pulsing, relentless and intense electronica, adding live, frenetic drums and bashed guitar with interferes with the senses and the electrical rhythm of the human body, but transfixes the listener. A cold yet engrossing experience. Apart from an occasional gothic 'vocal' from Dominic and Niki's Alison Shaw-esque vocals, the band appear expressionless and emotionless and feel almost distant throughout the set, but still remain engaging. With perhaps a far kinder PA than with previous live appearance taking the rough edges off, Factory Floor produce another excellent, hypnotic performance which gets much of the crowd dancing incessantly.

Last up for the weekend is the second performance of the day from Caribou, this time adding further musicians for the Caribou Vibration Ensemble. With extra members Keiran Hebden from Four Tet, Getachew Mekurya and others, the set is a shade dancier than their earlier performance and the brass backing is far more prominent. However, there is also a feeling of a missed opportunity, as despite these additions the set feels rather unfocussed and is surprisingly dull.

So three days and 25 bands later, another Nightmare Before Christmas is at an end; a festival I've enjoyed more than many previous ATP weekends due to the number of surprisingly great performances from artists I've not seen before or had little contact with in the past.

Comments (2)

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What a great line-up! I'm very jealous. Can't believe you didn't like Toro Y Moi though, Steve!

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yeah it was really good, varied lineup - the gig-goers were pretty much split into two camps - those into bleeps and those into riffs - I thankfully straddle both
If Toro Y Moi had been on first I might have enjoyed them a bit more but Washed Out...

yeah it was really good, varied lineup - the gig-goers were pretty much split into two camps - those into bleeps and those into riffs - I thankfully straddle both
If Toro Y Moi had been on first I might have enjoyed them a bit more but Washed Out were far better at retreading the 80s than them!

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