ArcTanGent Festival 2014 – Friday | Live Review

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The hellish and sludgy roar of Russian Circles sounded like the end of days as the wind battered the helpless crowd.

Despite disappointment the previous evening, Friday at ArcTanGent was approached with fresh optimism. After shaking off the aches and pains of tent sleeping, braving the portaloos – which were surprisingly fresh considering how bad they looked – grabbing a quick breakfast and chilling to Massive Attack over the Arc stage’s PA, it was time to see what new acts ArcTanGent had to offer.

Monsters Build Mean Robots were our first port of call, simply because of the name. With no prior knowledge, it was weird to see assumptions based on the name crushed in one fell swoop. For those unfamiliar, MBMR play a style of post-rock akin to múm tinged with a hint of Coldplay. At least, that’s the sort of prognosis one could make from hearing ‘Psalm 57’ at the main stage; chilled out, with mass appeal – a festival band for festival people. (3)

Sticking with the Arc stage, Rumour Cubes were up. In a similar vein to Saturday headliners Mono, Rumour Cubes centre their music on the giddy swells of string sections, ‘voiceless’ singing and ebbing highs and lows, when a triumphant burst of percussion or a few woozy guitar frets would burst forth from the tranquil sonic ocean. It’s an inoffensive, tried and tested style of post-rock, one that appeals to people more often than not. (3)

After lunch – coffee, from ‘the good place’, and peanut butter sandwiches – it was time to head to the Bixler tent to see Memory of Elephants. Chopping time signatures every few notes was enough to give those brave audience headbangers whiplash, but the band’s weighty notes were almost too difficult to resist. Case and point: ‘Pansarefuckingonuts’. Truly epic. (4)

After a brief excursion to the Yokhai tent to see The Physics House Band again (in place of the missing Purson), we returned to the Bixler tent for math pop four-piece, Tellison. It was great to hear vocal bands weren’t totally forgotten in the mostly instrumental ATG line-up, and Tellison were one of this year’s token –presumably Johnny Foreigner-sized – bookings. It was quite clear from the crowd that a lot of people had been waiting to see the band all day, with more than a passing familiarity of the band’s music and lyrics. (4)

Next up was Cleft, which further established Bixler as the place to be. The Manchester-based duo were a true highlight of this year’s ATG, armed with a sound that’s experimental, energetic, and bursting with personality. Hearing audience members calling out for ‘Alec Baldwin’s Hair’ was both bizarre and entertaining in equal measure, yet everyone was up for it. In a time slot that saw clashes with Tera Melos, Cleft held their own and put on a hell of a fun set. (5)

Immediately after, a rush to the main stage to see this year’s first official headliner, This Will Destroy You. I think it was safe to say people expected great things from the band, which they no doubt exceeded. For the Arc stage, the sound was surprisingly crisp and not a sound was lost; even the crowd were surprisingly quiet during the music’s low moments. Listening to the thumping pulse of the ‘The Mighty Rio Grande’ as it manoeuvred, twisted and turned along its way, as the sky drew grey and the evening moved in, was nothing but a spectacular gig moment; breathtaking even. To orchestrate a sound so beautiful and to see the world around changing in its course may be coincidental, but it’s something you dream of seeing at festivals like ArcTanGent, and I’m glad it did. (5)

Maybeshewill and El Ten Eleven had a tough act to follow, performing concurrently at the Yokhai and Bixler tents respectively. After This Will Destroy You, any additional music felt like a slight departure, like the main event had already happened and we were in the aftermath. It’s a shame, because both bands were still extraordinary; Maybeshewill stormed out a fierce rendition of ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ that could be heard halfway across the site, whilst El Ten Eleven performed hype inducing electro-post-rock (‘Jumping Frenchmen of Maine’) that worked the Bixler crowd into a frenzy, with Kristian Dunn on a double-neck guitar/bass no less. This was a tough one to call, but whoever you saw, I doubt you’d have been disappointed. (5)

Finally, our Friday headliners Russian Circles running unopposed on the Arc stage brought the evening to a close. By this point, the rain was so heavy it making waterproof coats and wellys redundant, soaking straight through to the skin. Many who couldn’t get under the shelter of the Arc stage turned away and called it an early night, to avoid catching their deaths, but those brave souls who persevered huddled in amidst the crowd to keep the collective warmth up. What can be said about the sludgy, hellish roar of Russian Circles, as the rain swept in and the wind battered a helpless crowd through the abyss of night, is that is looked fucking awesome and sounded like the end of days. However, after fifteen minutes, the conditions really made the set an ordeal; the doomy crescendos, like waves crashing against the shores of the River Styx, became tiresome, endless and repetitive. The end of days it may have been, but it just wasn’t interesting anymore. (3)

Check out a bit of This Will Destroy You right here: