Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Festival report: Futuresonic09 (part 2)

Following yesterday's intro report on Futuresonic, here's our summary of the musical output of the festival, written originally for NME.

A leftfield mix of art, technology, debate and music, Futuresonic is an intelligent, demanding festival.

Now in its 14th year, Futuresonic will in 2010 transform into Future Everything. In between tech-focused debates at the cities Contact Theatre, we pinned down Drew Hemment, Futuresonic artistic director to discuss his favourite musical acts.

Thursday’s musical action kicked off with an astounding performance by electronic wizard Murcof, featuring jaw-dropping live visuals by AntiVJ (video footage on the way).

Venturing over to Urbis, we found leftfield hip-hop legends Anti-Pop Consortium arriving late onstage and performing only new material. Hitting form as their set draws to a close, the Radiohead-endorsed mavericks fired out bouncing beats and cutting urban rhymes.

On Friday evening, the Bjork-like Soap&Skin enthralled a tiny crowd at a Unitarian church near trendy Deansgate. Her set is taut with emotion and stunning harmonies, she sends daggers to an errant soundman before delivering a mesmerising finale on the chapel’s grand piano before exiting through church doors and into the night. Hauntingly special.

Saturday brings an all American lo-fi indie showcase and post Great Escape, the US entourage are a little worse for wear. Opening band Times New Viking impress both on and off stage. We caught them pre-soundcheck to discuss Manchester, electric toothbrushes and Joy Division.

On stage, they’re a rocket fuelled trio, high on Sonic Youth fuzz and art-rock melody. Drummer/vocalist Adam dedicates songs to Henry Rollins and Heath Ledger before performing a fiery new track name-checking Martin Luther King. Not afraid to bare themselves with a dozen tracks over a breakneck 30 minutes, TNV are our favourite band of Futuresonic.

Next! Crystal Antlers begin sluggishly, their swampy rock struggling to pierce Urbis’ questionable sound system. They recover with closer ‘Parting Song For The Torn Sky’ which shows that underneath the grizzle, there’s a potentially great modern rock band itching to emerge.

Tonight’s line-up is so hip that the soundman sports a Hype Machine t-shirt and crowd haircuts veer from the comic to severe. Marnie Stern provides an intriguing live performance, but her stop-start artiness means it’s hard for momentum to be sustained.

Later, headliners Ariel Pink begin inauspiciously but quickly fire out a curious mix of surf-garage, 60s pop and crunchy punk. ’22 Eyes’ sounds like The Fall minus the Salford accent, while new single ‘Can’t Hear My Eyes’ sees wired frontman Pink croon to lounge soul. It shouldn’t work, but there’s method within Ariel Pink’s wayward madness.

Reverential and arty, Futuresonic is unlikely to appeal to a mass musical audience, but organisers should be commended for pushing eclectic, worldwide talent towards futuristic celebration.

The Future is Everything.

* Photo and video content courtesy of Charlotte Dearsley

P.S. Try the F&L YouTube channel and our Flickr feed for more coverage from Futuresonic09.

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