Fourth year not out for Sŵn, the Cardiff-based festival that spans the city like an excitable spider, dangling a bewildering array of bands before you like a grand cake selection. Before you dive into the, er, spidercakey goodness though, these previews will show you our own personal paths through the weekend: bands to look out for, plans to be discarded. This is just what we recommend – tattoo it on your body, dismiss it completely or plough through 140 MySpaces and draw your own route. Get involved.
Thursday. Fuwch Goch. See a funny Danish man play songs about social network websites on an acoustic guitar. Dad Rocks! is the name and promises good quirk. Then to Undertone for a little of Brown Brogues‘s whacked-out, two-man blues hollering before dashing to Buffalo to see Zwolf‘s ace electro, currently chunkier than elephant cat food. Awesomely heartwarming local label Shape kick off their night with the woozy meanderings of Sun Drums in the Model Inn, though baaaack at the Arts Institute Crash.Disco! offers terrific primary colour beats and bloops, while at roughly the same time Spectrals crouch downstairs in Clwb, firing spindly and fuzzed out indie towards your heart. Champion Cardiff imprint Barely Regalcap a fine year up the Demspeys stairs; a sweet local bill has devil horned, guitar loopers Right Hand Left Hand and fret-tapping, bum-baring yodellers Samoans as highlights. Back at Fuwch Goch, Mimas‘s weirdly country-inflected post rock could be a winner, though there’s always the guaranteed weirdo hit of Clinic (Clwb) or the reformed shonky clatter of Attack+Defend (Model Inn) to contend with. Diamond-quality promoters Lesson No.1 are a three day presence at Sŵn this year; you are ordered upstairs at the Model Inn to at least go and see fearsome Norwegian skullcavers Årabrot as well as Bellini‘s tricksy, densely constructed rock. Between those last two you have a choice between Undertone, and White Ring‘s unsettling, walls-closing-in computer creep, or ground floor of the Model Inn, where Munch Munch will ply you with slanted pop rushes. Then fall over.
Friday. Chapter Arts Centre comes into play, kicking off with Drains, the side-project from various members of upstanding rock bands Kutosis and Samoans. They’ll be loud and in hoods. Good. Then, upstairs in Clwb: Brandyman. Their headbanging mass of post rock riffs, furious dynamics and a Northern man shouting about stuff has been one of my year’s highlights and if you don’t like them you are a fucking dunce. Possible last gig, and they do actually carry brandy on them. Ask for some. In nearby Undertone Trwbador wraps enigmatic glitches and folk quietness together, while at the Arts Institute total dudes Electroneg begin a Very Good night of machine thrills with local wunderkind Plyci. Inside Buffalo TEETH will make stupidly cool synth noises, or maybe you want another dose of Wickes, the supergroup(ish) responsible for a great debut gig a month back. Back to Chapter if so. There’s also the rejigged Truckers Of Husk, in Clwb and edging back towards winningly danceable post rock fun, plus Glasgow’s Dam Mantle (Arts Institute) and London’s Becoming Real (Buffalo), both full of mangled circuitry and thumping speaker clout. At Undertone, Stricken City chase ghostly guitars and malevolent female vocals through haunted houses, Quinoline Yellow unleashes Warp- and Skam-affiliated IDM (he’s also played three ATPs fact fans) at the Arts Institute, while the Lesson No.1 Clwb night has only got a bloody hour’s worth of The Ex, the long-standing collaboration-friendly, genre-rejecting, Dutch punk legends. Highly recommended. After that, it’s lovely bruised blues from Peggy Sue (Chapter) before deciding which happy ending you’d prefer: queasy beats from Raffertie (Buffalo) or relentless grime bangers from P Money (Clwb). We’ll dance with whoever’s asking.
Saturday. Sod the venues. Strikes me that 1pm is a good time to suffer the screaming twin bass attack of Exit _International. The sort of hair of the dog that’ll ease you into H. Hawkline‘s shaggy kraut freewheeling i.e. it’s the return (sort of) of much loved local gems Means Heinz. It’ll all make sense, trust me. John Mouse brings the shambolic unpredictability straight after (and some anti-folk-ish tunes) before you follow all sane people to the Arts Institute for the first of two Saturday sets from Y Niwl, the North Walian surf rock band who’ve made me happier than almost anything else this year. Seriously, they’ll destroy, and play shortly before another band whose name should only appear in excited flashing lights: Still Corners are dusty, precious, full of breathy female vocals and utterly great. Listen to ‘History Of Love’ and pretend there’s something in your eye. Annoyingly, they’re also on at the same time as Kamikaze Veterans, a bunch of twelve year old boys who play punk rock with a fiddle player, and who have a song called ‘Thatcher For Pate’. Get in. Scriber, on muggy, psych-y folk duty, makes an intriguing Devendra Banhart-shaped sound, while back at Buffalo terrific Brighton ladies La La Vasquez rattle through spooky Wet Dog-style wailers. Go to the Model Inn and see Y Niwl again. Wish they played a third time. Let’s Wrestle‘s chirpy indie could get annoying after a few songs but their videos remind me of Madness so I’ll let them off. Chapter has the lovely hushed folk of Gentle Good, leading towards the strange and beautiful Trembling Bells, Alex Nielson’s wandering sea shanty psychedelicists. Way under-rated are The School, Cardiff’s heartbreaking girl group classicists. Heckle them for some Ramones covers, they’ll enjoy that. Harsh choices and potentially full venues now: Would you prefer the rusty, crumbling love songs of Perfume Genius? James Blackshaw‘s 12-string genius? Beach Fossils‘ sun-dappled indie? Or Veronica Falls, all strident cool, ex-Royal We members and random Roky Erikson cover? True heads will be congregating at the Model Inn, where Islet‘s set should achieve more than escape velocity: celebratory scenes for a great year predicted for Cardiff’s multi-drumming exorcist cult; currently the best live act in Britain, no problem. Before and after that though, the reformed Swans are lurking with a two hour set. You need a seperate ticket for this (and indeed Blackshaw), but can you miss the chance to see Michael Gira’s overwrought, mental, cloudscraping band? I dunno, toss a coin.
(Oh, and don’t forget Dim Swn, the Sunday hangover session in Gwdihw. Last year saw cawl, Y Niwl, Sunday papers and free beer. No Meze Festival to go to straight after though – everyone email Jonny and ask him to go mental again)