Saturday of The Great Escape 2014. Future Islands draw a crowd. White Hinterland divides the office. Trust makes us go all-a-quiver and Girl Band live up to a large part of their name.
So the end. Last rites. Final flings. As The Great Escape 2014 comes to a close, the day begins with The Dumplings, playing the Green Door Store as part of a showcase of acts from Poland. They have the look of a pair of rabbits with photodermatitis caught in a the lights of a particularly large, particularly wheel-heavy juggernaut. But their poised electronica doesn’t lack polish. (Sorry.)
Australia’s Sheppard put forward a pretty damned solid case for emigration, all smiles and tans and exuberant joy, and they do a great line in indie-pop uplift. It’s easy to see why they’ve made it to Number 1 back home and the six-piece are easily one of the most accomplished acts of the entire festival. Heck, they even make the trawl out to Concorde 2 worthwhile, which is about as high an accolade as can be bestowed.
“Their sound melts minds into liquid” promises the spiel about Mammut, which sounds like drivel but actually isn’t far off: this Icelandic sextet make music that’s really quite difficult to define. A thoroughly captivating assembly of alt-rock riffs and Nordic eccentricity, of melody and rhythm and sudden jarring screams.
But they’ve nothing on Future Islands for sheer tonal veer, frontman Samuel T Herring moving from impassioned croon to terrifying growl within the same line, his face contorted and tears running from his eyes at points. It’s impossible to resist a singer that feels every beat and synth and shift of his songs like he does, and no-one in the room even tries: the crowd move as one, leaping and flailing and sweating together, and when their 45 minutes are up the demands for more could be weaponised.
White Hinterland is a little divisive. Fiddling with her voice, multitracking coos over synths that tread on the side of folky, for some it’s enough to seek refuge from the kook downstairs. But for those who see past it, there’s definitely something there, something that hints at Zola Jesus’ gothic charm emerging from these songs.
Sometimes a room just isn’t right for an act. Coves at the Corn Exchange fall into that category. It’s too boomy, too distant, too lacking in the atmosphere that seeps out of their debut record. Even songs like Beatings, that should be dressed with enough reverb and echo and psyched-out noise to make you squeal, are muddy and unmemorable.
If you’re looking for atmosphere, or at least if you’re looking for an atmosphere that reeks of deviant pleasure, you should seek Trust. There’s also something in the nihilistic, eastern-bloc disco he offers that suggests he could offer a few suggestions around making you squeal. Sultry, icy and moody, it’s intoxicating stuff. And that’s despite on his greatest weapon, that Vincent Price croon, being somewhat unfortunately buried.
Twin Atlantic get to close the stage at The Warren. They are indie-strident powerful and extremely polished, if a mite too prone to pursuing an easy chorus to properly stand out. Still, they’ve a great frontman in the wonderfully monikered Sam McTrusty, and there’s enough invention in their arrangements to more than hold our interest, particularly with the use of cello to leaven the distortion.
Girl Band look somewhat unassuming, but they sound feral. Which is probably the better way around. There’s also something incredibly nonchalant about them, loping around before the set starts with a slackery indifference. Then they play. Then it’s noisy, feedback drenched and absolutely brilliant. It is an unholy, almighty racket that climaxes with an blistering Lawman, causing one member of the audience to leap about with such ferocity that pretty much an entire can of beer is deposited in a perfect arc around him.
It falls to Jon Hopkins to bring the curtain down on The Great Escape 2014 and it’s something he does with almighty aplomb. Ok, he’s hardly Jerry Lee Lewis in terms of stage presence, but Collider, Open Eye Signal and We Disappear, plucked from last year’s Immunity, sound immense and suitably climactic.
By Christian Cottingham, Tim Lee