SŵnSŵnSŵnSŵnSŵnSŵn… Sŵn. Keith’s full-scale preview is on the way. In the meantime, having trawled the 200-odd bands playing this year’s newmusicfest, here are some of the names you should underline or at least highlight in some sort of primary colour.
Eagulls played last year’s Sŵn, the crowd comprising ten people and a big Clinic-shaped hole. Don’t be a fool this year: the Leeds band make a terrific sneering racket, shambolically loose and ASBO noisy, their scuffed shoes guitaring coming off like some awkward meeting between Dinosaur Jr and Earl Brutus. Hopefully the bassist won’t feel like comedy machine gunning the audience again (though that was quite cool).
So glad this band haven’t been shelved amidst the ruckus surrounding Islet. TS include JT and Alex from said band; they also feature wailing violin, mutli-tempo drum seizures and guitar work that ranges from mathy fret abuse to prog-tinged meandering. A Squirrels gig still, unfortunately, being quite rare at the moment (Joy Collective coaxed a support slot out of them earlier in the year, to an audience of thousands), your presence is required here.
THE RUSTY TROMBONE OF GOD PRESENTS…
Freeform heaven at Undertone. Rusty Trombone bring the out there bands into Cardiff, and this one’s a heavy dose. Headlining is one Phil Todd, better known as Ashtray Navigations, and responsible for a heroic slew of home recorded brilliance, of tapes and CDRs that smoosh up fried psychedelia, raga bliss outs, twitching circuit boards and a general atomising of genre boundaries. Phil is a DIY dude and has probably released a few more albums since you started reading this. Go see. Stellar support too: Team Sports played certainly the best laptop/drums/cello/static storm set I’ve seen this year, and are the only Sŵn band to have performed halfway up a mountain (probably); Ultrahumanitarian (another Leeds crew) aim improv Moog and drum noise into the heart of several great galaxies, while His Naked Torso make bastard sounds to please that deranged garage/no wave skronk section of your brain. Obey your brain!
Still unsure about whether this appearance will quell fears of ‘dude behind laptop’ syndrome (though yer man James Welch has promised ‘singing’ in his future work, whatever that is), it’s a humongous fact that the music of Seams at least is covered in tonnes of glory. Check ‘Nightcycles’, all hushed hums and buried beats, or the ‘Tourist’ EP, which took sampled Berlin street chatter into warm, atmospheric places. They’re the best sounds, presented in obsessive detail.
Lowercase darlings, dots.filmband will inject much classiness into your Ginsters-snaffling weekend. Their M.O. is collaboration with filmmakers, providing the musical backing to animated or live action images. Sŵn details are sketchy at time of writing; what’s clear is even a cursory listen to previous work shows great sweeping brilliance, of delicate piano and strings that makes the incidental vital. Sit near the front.
TWO WOUNDED BIRDS
You might not position a ghostly, crooning, surf-inflected rock band as springing from Margate but it kinda makes sense here: Two Wounded Birds contain both the delicious faded glamour of rundown treasures and the underlying creepiness that hides behind net curtains in David Lynch films. Their quiet songs work best: crawling within clouds of guitar lurk, waves shivering over leather-jacketed dead bodies. Sort of thing.
Could well be that this geographically seasoned (Pontefract/France/London) duo fill what’s known (in my head) as Sŵn’s Still Corners hole i.e. some sort of species of swooning, whooshing, pop tremendousness. While not as lush and retrogleaming as that London band, Elephant’s precision sighing may still yield live results if singles ‘Ants’ and ‘Allured’ are any yardstick: breathy female vocals at the forefront, conducting things skyward.
Sometimes, the oldies are the besties. David Dondero has the unfortunate curse of sounding a fair bit like the chap from Bright Eyes, though Dave has the drop on age and experience: active since the early ’90s in bands like Sunbrain and This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb, the Minnesotan now makes effortless-sounding country blues shapes, easy rolling with good humour and life well lived. Another gem from the good promoting folks of Gathered In Song.
LESSON NO.1 PRESENTS…
If it can match the best of last year’s brutality (Bellini/Arabrot/Wounds is a sandwich any true Epicurean should salivate over) this will be real fine times. Another raw feast: The Skull Defekts are from Sweden and sound like they worship scary Gods – their anvil psych is like a repetitive nose hammering (in a good way). Joining them are The Good Wife, who just sound nasty: deranged wailing, Jesus Lizard-style scraping, a slow, creeping death (in a good way). And please be upstanding for Cardiff’s premier scumbags Brandyman, back from the dead with a rejigged line up and a renewed purpose of sounding like a feral landlord kicking metal fans out of his pub. They really are the fucking best.
(With further nods to Gentle Friendly, Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells, Yaaks, Stay+, Niki & The Dove, Esben & The Witch, Ren Harvieu, Mechanical Bride, Winter Villains…)