Beacons Festival 2014: Friday 8 August
We're reporting live from Beacons Festival in the tempestuous Skipton countryside, where flash rains are no match for Yorkshire's commitment to a fancy dress theme. Togas at the ready for Golden Teacher, Daniel Avery and Daughter
Mother Nature loves a good festival cliché. Playing on the only outdoor stage of the festival, Kult Country open up the suitably panoramic repeato-rock of recent single Trembling Moon mid-set – just as the heavens open and thunder makes the ground shake. It’s something surely not lost on Yousif Al-Karaghouli either, a frontman with a penchant for viewing the world through a subversively poetic spectrum. Trembling Moon is among a raft of newer songs from the collective that point to a more restrained, poised, anthemic sound, and it’s a potentially fruitful development to Al-Karaghouli’s songwriting. As a group, though, they still judder the senses hardest when going at it full-tilt, the likes of Amongst the Dead Forever surging to near-outage as the six onstage lock into an unceasing groove.
Fast forward this one ten hours or so, and Championlover’s piston-like repetition, stabbing saxophone and Middle Eastern-drawn drones would have the Noisey tent a seething mass of limb-on-limb revelry. At half three in the afternoon, though, it’s a more guarded reaction to the Manchester-based five-piece as they rattle their way through a half-hour set that upsets the suspense and release of an act like Factory Floor, and re-builds it atop more sandswept plains, vocals drifting in and out of the melee. It takes them a while to find favour, but as each revolution spins round they draw more and more in.
Scotland’s carnival electronic troupe Golden Teacher face a similar task of pulling a slowly waking-up throng into afternoon carousal – but the Optimo signees manage it in no time at all. It helps that, in the vocal pairing of Charles Lavenac and Cassie Oji, they’ve two firecrackers who writhe with the will of a duo who’d be just as happy at the barrier in the pit as they are onstage. Behind them comes a bombardment of human and machine-tandem rhythms, rushing forth and crashing over the bobbing heads below. Lavenac and Oji half-talk, half-bark barely intelligible instructions at the crowd as the tumult swells and swells, but this isn’t punishing – there’s a euphoric freedom to the musicians' onstage horseplay that's impossible not to replicate.
"We spot a sea-creature-headed couple lit up beneath a jellyfish umbrella, swaying to King Creosote”
When you’re the sort of gearheads that Vessels are, normal stage changeovers can be slightly edge-of-the-seat stuff – never mind a half-hour festival line-check on a stage in slight disarray, due to a closure earlier on amid a torrential downpour. The group are only marginally less frantic when hauling drumkits, synths, hardware and amps than they are when actually playing them. When they do finally get going, they’ve the look of slightly unhinged amateur scientists setting a basement invention in motion, furrowing their brows and leaping around the assembled mechanics to tweak and fine-tune their sprawling instrumental matrix.
To newcomers it’s maybe not apparent, but the transformation of the Leeds fivesome over the past couple of years has been stark – a result, seemingly, of growing tired of being tagged 'post-rock' after the arrival of their debut LP White Fields and Open Devices in 2008, and also of a deepening interest in progressively minded techno. This is made explicit as they open with their careering re-work of Border Community man Nathan Fake’s The Sky Was Pink, setting their stall out early on for a set that eschews slow-build crescendos and guitar lines riding mountain tops for deftly placed drops and a restless sense of forward momentum. Old habits haven’t quite died, with siren guitars perforating the edges mid-set, cutting open the tightly woven polyrhythms and allowing things to breathe a little easier. It’s a mesmerising performance in all, though with none more immersed in it than those furrow-browed scientists onstage. [Simon Jay Catling]
There's lightning outside and in for Max Graef, the megawatt flashbulbs around him matching the jolts of white beyond the Resident Advisor tent. The dude dressed in his own tent, though, is probably oblivious to both (and also on to a winner; try that, rain). The young producer's grassy, ululating house lays the groundwork for an afternoon setpiece of acts that is almost unnecessarily good, with Daphni, Daniel Avery and Roman Flugel in sequence on the same stage until the morning.
As Daphni, Caribou's Dan Snaith is becoming a formidable force; he works old-school samba through hard cuts and Bunny Mack to feral response. Unexpectedly, at the one hour mark he feeds in the warm, cauterised chords of his band's latest, Can't Do Without You; the ripple of recognition as it passes through the crowd is an uprush you'd bottle. The track was, of course, engineered for precisely this effect, a sunset-ready synthpad ballad that paws the membrane between mush and melancholia – but actually experiencing it for the first time, in the environment for which it was written, is genuinely moving.
Where Snaith guides, however, Daniel Avery possesses. The last year of touring Drone Logic, playing lean-bodied, mean-minded back to backs with Erol Alkan and working across an array of projects – from his Rinse FM show to an upcoming residency at Fabric – has resulted in a flawless act of glass-cut acid, sutured and soldered with surgical precision. Lately, he's developed a habit of trailing tidbits of early single Taste for what feels like hours at a time; teasing the white-eyed, flat-mouthed “taste it; kiss me again” refrain through the whole set but never dropping it. Early evening, though, he breaks with tradition and gives a baying Beacons what they're after; later, a gauzy Roman Flügel pays homage to his predecessor by sending the track out amid a bumpy set that touches on haunted pop and Kölsch. [Lauren Strain]
Submotion Orchestra enter to cascading piano as the sun begins to set. In between the muzak organ, chimes and horn flourishes, revellers dressed as tribesmen hold up skulls on sticks; an, um, unusual greeting. In floral gown and generous to the crowd, singer Ruby Wood is the emotional anchor; the seven-piece’s ambient dub building in a powerful and cohesive way. Horror chords bloom into futuristic interludes, ending in thunderclaps from the two percussionists. We can’t help but be swept away by the undercurrent.
Nightfall at the outdoor Argyll stage for King Creosote is a gentler affair; we spot a sea-creature-headed couple lit up beneath a jellyfish umbrella, appropriately swaying to Cargill’s fishwife-romance of “I’m the finest catch you'll ever land” – then, a polka shanty with cello and accordion. With his shuffling Scottish drawl, Kenny Anderson is a starry-eyed choice to close the stage – a collaborative Super-8 film rolls above his head, showing himself as a playful raconteur making Cluedo references in You’ve No Clue Do You. As he croons through A Month of Firsts, it’s relaxing just to ease out of the crowd, warm the hands with a hot drink, and observe how the city does look better through the rear-view mirror.
Daughter prove to be a bit of a downer as the night turns bitter cold. With the stage in almost complete darkness barring branched beams and a backdrop oddly resembling Stargate, they close Friday with a haunting minimalism swathed in hues of blue and black, led by Elena Tonra huddling in on the mic to whisper her heartbreak. There is something of the séance about Tonra’s presence; aggression surfaces in her bandmates, but in her there is only sadness, as she cries “I’m trying to cross myself out/I want to disappear.” This is Daughter’s first time closing a stage, and they aim for the top, with Candles’ torched dreams offering a welcome change of pace and Youth’s rolling drums rousing a massive cheer. “If we’re still breathing, we’re the lucky ones,” Tonra murmurs, before her bandmates take her Home, back to the netherworld. [Chris Ogden]