Last year’s Arctangent was possibly one of the best opening years for a festival I’ve ever seen. The 2000 Trees spinoff, specialising in post-rock, math rock and experimental music drew together a dedicated niche of fans from all across Europe to Bristol’s Fernhill Farm, creating a hugely welcoming and lively atmosphere for dozens of like-minded bands who would be the black sheep at any other festival. Thankfully, Arctangent’s sophomore year was just as terrific as last year, with a lineup to match. Here are some of the heaviest highlights from this year’s festival.
One of the returning acts from last year, local Bristol punks The St. Pierre Snake Invasion once again busted out a solid blitz of aggressive instrumentals, dynamic stage presence and an arsenal of deadly ripostes aimed at hecklers, industry snobs, and your favourite band (“YOUR! FA-VOURITE! BAND! IS! SHIT!”). They also win the award for the funniest set between vocalist Damien Sayell‘s recounting of a friend’s failed attempt to flush a humungous shit at a French ski resort. Keep it classy, gents. Sayell will also be playing with friends Andy Falkous and Julia Ruzicka at the Mclusky reunion show later this year, and the band’s coming out with their long-awaited debut album in 2015!
Recent Sargent House signees No Spill Blood are sure to be turning heads soon as one of the surprise highlights of Arctangent. The Dublin three-piece put on a ridiculously solid set at the Bixler stage on Saturday, bringing the house down with just a trio of bass, drums and synth, sounding like the hellish fusion of Neu!, Gary Numan and Lightning Bolt. The guys rocked out a tight performance despite a few technical hiccups, putting all their energy into the set. Best example of this came from the drummer continuing to pound away at his kit with furious precision even after cutting his hand open and smashing a couple of sticks. That’s dedication. If you’re seeing No Spill Blood in the near-future, expect a heady maelstrom of psychedelic noise that could double as a soundtrack to Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void.
From friends’ experiences attending last year’s Damnation festival, and the amount of praise surrounding their 2013 album Tocsin, I had nothing but high expectations for French post-metallers Year Of No Light. Between all the eager superfans, extensive walls of amps, two drumkits and the six band members, the stage was pretty cramped, but feeling intimate and visceral. One of, if not, the loudest band at Arctangent, unleashing a powerful, but minimalistic sonic onslaught, an equivalent to Swans without the heavy-handed nihilism. An experiential and evocative set.
Another returning act from last year’s festival, Baby Godzilla were moved down from the main stage to the smaller Yohkai stage, but this didn’t stop them at all from doing an equally, if not more chaotic set than last year. Busting out fan-favourite swashbuckling anthem ‘Powerboat Disaster’, amps were scaled, guitars took flight, stages absolutely trashed, as per norm for a BG show. One of the most memorable moments of Arctangent 2014 came from one of the band’s amps somehow making it into the audience’s hands, being savagely torn apart and re-purposed as a makeshift board for some extreme crowdsurfing. If you have an opportunity to see Baby Godzilla, do not waste it. They are the best fucking live band in the UK right now.
Crippled Black Phoenix‘s set was an absolute treat to witness. Despite the supergroup’s (in the past featuring members of Mogwai, Electric Wizard, Portishead and more) formation coming slightly after post-rock and instrumental rock becoming much more modern and sensationalised, Crippled Black have always conducted themselves with a sense of venerable humility on stage, as if they had come from a different time and feeling like the much-loved grandparents of Arctangent. The band tipped their hat to their rockist influences with odes to classic space and prog bands with extended, strung-out instrumental jams which featured an arena rock-esque passion and showmanship which felt absent from many of the other post-rock bands performing that weekend, feeling engaging, tense, and humble.