bluedot 2016: Five acts to watch
Underworld? Caribou? Jean-Michel Jarre? Bluedot's got it made when it comes to headliners, but if you're wondering where else you should point your attention, let us be your guide
Like music? Like science? Sure you do. But imagine if there was some way for the two to be combined somehow. At an iconic observatory, for instance, allowing you to ponder the greater meaning of the cosmos under the pale glow of the stars themselves, all soundtracked by some of the finest and most future-facing performers in the sphere of pop. What's that you say? 'Too good to be true'? Nonsense, dear reader – it's already a reality.
Taking place amidst the glorious surrounds of Cheshire's Jodrell Bank Observatory, bluedot is a festival where technology and music collide head-first; where innovation and artistry are prized most highly of all. With an astonishing array of acts on the bill, from electronic pioneers such as Jean-Michel Jarre to psychedelic stargazers Mercury Rev, we peruse the programme and offer some suggestions from our lengthy list of favourites.
Fully in keeping with bluedot's forward-looking, cosmic programming, Yorkshire electronica duo worriedaboutsatan conjure a glittering, stratospheric voyage via their composite blend of ambient techno and grand post-rock architectures.
Otherwise known as Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale, the pair often accompany their live sounds with arresting visuals, amplifying the cinematics inherent in their haunting, propulsive compositions. 2015’s Even Temper is their first release after a half-decade hiatus – it's a textural, umbral return to form for these Leeds College of Music grads. [George Sully]
The Lovell Stage, Friday
If you’ve been paying close attention to Leeds’ ever-hyper DIY scene, chances are you’ll already be familiar with the kaleidoscopic racket of Cowtown. Active for over a decade, the panoramic scope of their imagination has evolved from the hitherto-undiscovered middle ground between Deerhoof and Devo, to their current explosion of fun-first, lounge-later garage rock.
Forthcoming fourth album Paranormal Romance is further proof of their powers, riding roughshod over the slain corpses of tedium and misery while making multiple stops at various ports of post-punk en route to victory. The best part? They’re even better live – any opportunity to catch ‘em in the flesh must be taken. [Will Fitzpatrick]
It seems many of us are still fangirling over Beth Orton since her Trailer Park-era early days, which saw her pioneer a new fusion of folk, electronica and trip-hop. Following a few years of relative quietness, she’s back with her seventh album, Kidsticks, co-produced with Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung.
Kidsticks sees the singer-songwriter push into compellingly synth-heavy, dancier realms, bringing her classic electronic sounds bang up to date through upbeat loops and tune-yards-style frenetic drumbeats. Fingers crossed for much of that intriguing latter-day material, alongside a huge fistful of her timeless classics, please. [Jess Hardiman]
The Lovell Stage, Saturday
Innovative, warmhearted, industrial pop – a LoneLady show is the kind of fun that everyone deserves. Manchester’s Julie Campbell is embarrassingly charismatic, and needs roughly 30 seconds to turn a room of nodding heads into a sweaty mess of bouncing bodies.
Last year’s album Hinterland (released by Warp) was the sexiest, catchiest record to have ever been inspired by concrete architecture; play Bunkerpop loud and you’ll know. Joined by a formidably stylish live band, Campbell’s already opened for New Order this year… we recommend you get to the front now, if you still can. [Katie Hawthorne]
The Vryll Society
Thanks to Richard Ashcroft's dogs dinner of a solo career, The Verve get a bad name these days. But for those who recall them before the definitive article took hold, there's still a mysterious magic to those early sky-scraping singles like Slide Away, Gravity Grave and Blue. It's this magic that's recalled with all its wide-eyed wonder by Liverpool's Vryll Society and captured perfectly on debut single Deep Blue Skies – a thunderous storm of kaleidoscopic riffs, psych rock and Mike Ellis' blissed-out vocals.
The young five-piece were the last discovery of the late, great Alan Wills, whose Deltasonic label prompted the last great rush of Merseybeat with the Coral and the Zutons. Don't be put off by the Society's grounding in classic northern tunage: the fact they write melodies to die for combined with a genuine gonzoid live sense of propulsion and dynamics only makes them more precious. A must-see. [Jamie Bowman]
bluedot 2016, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, 22-24 Jul