Latitude Festival 2009 - Sunday: Part II

Blog by Gareth Vile | 20 Jul 2009
  • Tricky

I am lost in the woods. There are neon signs on the trees, above my head, proclaiming PURITY, TRANQUILITY, PEACE and TRUTH. There are faeries from the Royal Opera House appearing around me. I thread my way past a collection of apparently random road-signs suspended from the branches and out into the Film and Music arena.

SonVer have created an instrumental suite exploring alchemical transformation. Accompanied by films that illustrate the stages of a simple alchemical process, they go heavy on the moaning cellos and rippling, chiming guitar, the percussive effects gradually rising into an urgent, martial drumming. They build and ebb, clearly indebted to Godspeed You Black Emperor and evoking far more of alchemy’s mysterious exoticism than the videos, which are either simple narratives on a theme or sparkling, psychedelic light shows. The attempt to merge film and music is as sadly unsuccessful as the quest for alchemical gold, even if SonVer’s extended instrumentals are uplifting and driven, standing alone without the unimaginative short films.

I lost track of Tricky when the clash between his pop sensibility and abrasive beats was resolved into a dense obscurity. He starts off slowly, wearing a dress, backless and black, facing away from the audience and letting his band introduce his deep-frozen rhythms. The set is initially formless, lurching uneasily between heavy rock and his pulsating, erotic bass vibrations, his voice hoarse and fragments of piano slipping in and out of the harsh but muddy sound. A man next to me begins to flirt with a girl in a red tracksuit top. He lights a cigarette and she sips shyly at her drink. He puts his arms around her and talks about his festival in a loud voice. Even a rousing 'Black Steel' can’t distract from his seduction, and Tricky seems to be struggling. He has gone topless now, pacing about the stage, disappearing.

The man’s friends arrive with shouted greetings. They hug each other, and ignore the girl. I notice her look of utter disgust when, suddenly, Tricky tears into 'Ventoline'. The asthmatic bass takes up the melody, Tricky wheezes out disgust and desire and movement radiates out from the stage in concentric half-circles. The guitar takes up the melody, rougher and harsher, Tricky’s voice floating, bruised on the surface, the dancing becoming wilder. He pauses, the band stops, the only sound the bass, barely breathing. The man shouts out.

The band kick back in, and around me an eruption of dancing. A sixteen-year-old girl in a wedding dress is propelled backwards, striking the 3 friends who slip backwards, lost in the crowd. A stray fist strikes me in the throat, knocking me over two bodies lying on the floor, curled together. Tricky moans. “I can hardly even breathe.”

He strikes himself on the chest. My head goes beneath the line of the crowd and for a moment, the music is muffled, as if I am hearing it beneath the water. The band pauses. Tricky is at the front of the stage, his hands in prayer and he kneels, penitent. The band kicks back in. Dark blue light, Tricky slides into the crowd, surfing above them and out of the hall. The vicious bass still pulses steadily.