Into Chapter’s dark spaces and weird corridors for the fourth year running, and From Now On’s 2017 edition, which even in this year’s slightly slimmed-down version is a fine splurge of noise, ideas and music that jumps genres and geographical borders. Is it smuggling high art into fun and dancing, or the other way around? Either way, Shape Records’ curation works the brain and the heart, and feels like a pure celebration of people.
In this context, a Saturday night Gruff Rhys premiere of an artistic response to a Catalan prison makes perfect sense, and, after a lengthy introduction that involves five separate people and touches on poetry, architectural drawings and photos of sculpture, anticipation is raging. A gang of musicians file onstage, armed almost randomly with clarinet, keyboard, melodica and more. They interpret various slides of flowers and insects at various speeds determined by their resting heart rates, measured beforehand, as a man called Kliph ‘conducts’ by slowly moving eggs from one box to another. It’s a great honking cacophony that moves between invigorating, irritating and tedious like a hopscotching child, and is exactly what this festival is for. After 30 minutes the racket subsides to leave Gruff playing a yodelling record on a mini turntable, and the audience disperse looking bemused but mostly happy.
Back to the opening Friday night, and some musicians playing actual tunes, the bourgeois sellouts. It’s hard to overstate how good Twinfield is, or how sad it would be if they carry out their grumpy threats to quit playing. The music Tom Winfield makes (played live with Rhys Aneurin) is icy electronic pop, neon dystopias with hefty doses of squalor. A vocal similarity means the spectre of Datblygu is never far away, but there’s also bits of John Carpenter, Vår and the Pet Shop Boys floating around, making magic.
Also in the stark Peilot room, Yeah You’s soundcheck becomes the start of their set, a gapless rush of hyperactive glitches and clanks that Elvin Brandhi tongue twists over, while her dad Mykl, the sensible half of the duo, attempts to make noises from the inside of the studio space’s sink. While it’s not as unhinged as some of their online, hedge-diving videos, it’s still deliriously enjoyable, grin-worthy stuff. More blissful smiles greet Flamingods, cutting a typically bum-waggling psych set, and Yama Warashi, seemingly beamed in from some benign jazz fusion island between Japan and Britain. The latter band in particular, adept at fleshing Yoshino Shigihara’s folk fairytales with shivers of guitar and brass, create a cloud of hazy wonder difficult to escape from.
Four unassuming men in pyjama bottoms open Saturday night proceedings. This is Aftersun and their taut, full-bodied meanderings on organ and guitars prove terrific, a way-enjoyable melding of krautrock, garage and the kind of prog you don’t want to push off a cliff. Preceding a serenely gliding slice of guitar scree from Thought Forms’ Deej Dhariwal, and a weekend-closing, audience-roaming set from Islet, hailed as returning heroes, lies Roshi and Pars Radio, and a more gentle thrill, of delicate keyboard pop that loops vocals around snapshots of life spent between Wales, London and Iran. The closing number, a live score to a silent film that twists and repurposes the onscreen dialogue, is a rich and clever brew.
There’s a faith in artists here that’s reflected in the weekend’s open-minded, welcoming audience. You could trust From Now On with your PIN number.