Festival Frolics: Offset, Sunday.

Nursing hangovers and headaches in hedonism-smeared, drably-pigmented Cheap Monday's, at least 50% of Sunday's clientele look a little more rough, a little less ready than they perhaps may have 24 hours previously following a grizzly night in drizzle-spattered Essex. A motley crew of aging, transgendered odd bods tackling Ladytron therefore doesn't quite compliment scrambled braincells as succinctly as Proxy Music presumably suppose, as they run through a covers set as tight as Bryan Ferry's forehead that's unfortunately about as appropriate as, well, Brian Eno producing Coldplay. Evidently taking more fashion direction from one of Roxy Music's more vintage eras, there's about as much glitter and glimmer on show as there would have been were Ziggy Stardust invited to Bowie's Berlin Trilogy brandishing Wayne Coyne's streamer shotgun, blasting holes in acetate as if the records were wayward clay pigeons, although what with the real deal, the whole Eno-less shebang rekindling artsy glam rock all over Europe throughout the past handful of months the interest in a capable, if slightly careless covers troupe is microscopic.
Equally microscopic are Monotonix main man Ami Shalev's Y-fronted private parts, as an overeager throng of perspiring hyperactivity shreds minimal underwear with bare hands, as the Israeli trio ditch Offset's purple Main Stage tarpaulin in favour of a relocation to the beating heart of hysterics. Approximately 4% of this afternoon's checkered/leather/American Apparel-clad gathering witness all three members of the Tel Aviv outfit, and perhaps even fewer detect a discernible track blurted out from a rotting Fender and half a drum kit, yet Monotonix provide one of the most vital shows of hours upon hours of progressive musical revolution processed this weekend, Shalev tumbling out of bins and kicking Carlsberg bottles incessantly throughout. A little more... subdued... are German duo Cluster. Hans-Joachim Rödelius (75) and Dieter Moebius (66) are not only significantly older than Ami Shalev in all his tramp chic rampage, but are to Krautrock what Black Devil are and were to blippy Italo disco electronica, batting minimal coherency between their heady stacks of synth programming, hypnotising a White Heat marquee rammed to the rafters. Sounding akin to the robotic half of the Star Wars cast drifting to a cosmic junkyard in the outer reaches of some inherently distant solar system, the pair's 'Musik' is most certainly 'Kosmische', although Fantastisch - not quite. Nor can Kiwi retro crooner Connan Mockasin's remade/remodeled earnest self-indulgence be described overtly positively however, as the sheer thought of airing Sneaky Sneaky Dog Friend is evaded like wasp pie, Mockasin instead opting for a monotonous tropicalia that meanders sluggishly to nowhere.
Ignorantly snubbed by this year's Mercury Music Prize the most innovative, inspirational and exceptional album conjured up over the past twelve months, few could argue, was conceived by three chiseled urchins that dared to drag the bassoon out from the depths of the orchestra pit, three miserablist visionaries from 30-odd miles down the road. For Hidden, the sophomore long player from Southend-on-Sea trio These New Puritans is sensationally grim, its orchestrated drone and trenchfoot rock sure to shoot to the summit of nigh on every end-of-year album poll and barring a raucous take on Elvis (off of debut Beat Pyramid), it's Hidden that's aired copiously amidst a smog of dry ice and oppressive musical effulgence. From the tribal dual drums of We Want War, to the devastating drawls of Three Thousand, These New Puritans deliver a little over half an hour of aural perfection, provided the sounds of skulls shattering in vacant warehouses is along your lines of inventive percussion...
Shrouded in a similar cloak of pessimism are recent Matador signings Esben & The Witch, who bring sounds of forestry solitude, sprawling guitar lines and xylophones to the White Heat tent, ripping open the chest of their forthcoming debut record for us to clasp its pulsating vital organs and bask in a mighty misery. The trio are undoubtedly at their most omnipotent when superfluous tom tom shudders are stripped to reveal a vulnerable body of musical flesh composed of ethereal vocals and trundling Epiphones (Marching Song), and haunting vacuousness (About This Peninsula). Whether or not the record which will have caused a few to devour a month's worth of nails lives up to the intensity of early EP 33, or the omnipresence of potentially paralleled contemporaries The xx (whose set at Offset '09 paved the way for future ventures) remains to be witnessed, although the otherworldly dynamism of these particular gloom mongers has to be witnessed burning on your retina to be fully processed.
Another musical master likely to scale essential album lists imminently is Canadian Daniel Snaith Ph.D. or Caribou, who battles through final hurdle sound squalor to unravel a frenetic disco weave so off-kilter were it knitted its vibrancy may incur epilepsy. Snaith intermittently throws toys, shoes and bead shakers at soundmen (proverbially at least) struggling to cope with the grandiosity of latest record Swim. From the rhythmic slink of Sun, to the percussive, almost Liquid Liquid-esque effervescence of opener Leave House, Snaith recreates an unparalleled sense of immediate elation. Kaili is a swirling comatose of synths that hurtle towards your heart before exploding in a frenzy of kinetic melancholy, Odessa as mangled as an evening inside Keith Flint's pierced skull were every cell subsided by Prozac (with added secondary school recorder solo), and Jamelia produces more (air) instruments than the Rickenbacker factory could merely envisage over the course of a year. And almost as many teary bleary eyes. So as a cold September breeze briskly evaporates any lingering body vapours, and Alec Empire's Atari Teenage Riot revive digital hardcore in front of a slightly sparse petting zoo humdrum hoo-ha awaits, until trends are fashioned and minuscule bands are propelled to prominence all over again, this time next year.