Festival Frolics: Sunday, I'll Be Your Mirror 2012.

Only ATPers would arguably opt to fester in darkened rooms listening to largely incessant doom during enduring heatwave. However the way in which the festival has come to represent a safe haven of sorts, concealed from the perils of the wider world and the mainstreams which amble through it makes the way in which the mercifully well air-conditioned West Hall figuratively seems quite so far removed from the wildly stifling climes outside appear exceedingly germane. It's the sort of atmosphere in which creative freedom may be birthed without deformation; in which a sense of liberty and self-expression are greeted with acceptance and never antipathy. As ever, the now-esteemed "No Assholes Policy" is both scripturally enforced and actively upheld, this somewhat insular community only intermittently invaded by they who came plastered in obscenity 48 hours previous. However on this, the third and final day of this I'll Be Your Mirror, a diminished number pitch in for Forest Swords. It's incontrovertibly all too early for Wirral resident Matthew Barnes' twitching micro-genre deconstruction: P.M. scarcely transcended A.M.
Barnes would of course be better suited to some idealised bewitching hour and the flickering streetlamp imagery onto which two svelte silhouettes are projected lends itself further into this leaning into the deepest of nocturnal recesses. Musically too, the sparse and sterile dub hybridity of Miarches has more to do with the gritty twitch of maggots mouldering in rotten socks (we may in this instance be analogised to legless larva as we linger in this damp and dusky space) than with, say, some sticky clump of Sunday roast. Yet irrespective of scenario, Barnes portrays his tropically infused thump-step stylings with a great conviction and aligns himself with an impression of our very own Jaar. He powers through a similar audiovisual maelstrom until the power itself cuts out – an outage in the local area accredited for the temporary issue – and once the immortally irredeemable wording: "It's beyond us" gets yelled from the sound desk it'd seem as though Forest Swords are today to be felled. They'd have been the fifteen best midday minutes in serving memory had nothing more occurred. He does however eventually return to resume where rudely interrupted: "Sorry about that", he muffles as though it were in any way his fault and from hereon his Scouse origins are belied by a sound that's unmistakably Bristolian. The live bass takes all lower end engagement to another dimension, whilst vocals murkier than the monochrome visual aspect to the show are a little too hazy; seemingly all too unnecessary within a wider context: one dictated by an impeccably potent instrumental ambience.
Ben Powers' Blanck Mass offshoot suffers similar fates: it's still too early to be revelling in glitch-infested gloom as the morph-like outline of a man and his trusty laptop is cast on disconcertingly phallic graphic transmutation. Sundowner pertains ever more to the aqueous slooshes of Surf Solar whilst there's a lucid, almost baptismal cleanliness to Land Disasters that sounds like the blooming of spring; like the very first unravelling of eyelid. The Beeb need to have Powers in to soundtrack an Attenborough prior to the ineluctable popping of clogs really. Then of course, as if nature itself curls up, shrivels and perishes under external pressures, the power again flips out. "There's probably not enough money in the meter", one nettled beard articulates. "This never happens at the one in Minehead..." Alas this may largely be true but this inadvertent break nicely divides Ben's set between a more Fuck Buttons-ish and a more full-frontal approach, elements of the latter sounding like bitty stuff rerooted through sci-fi sitcom soundtrack.
Keeping with the theme of the downright dirgelike articulated through the medium of cables, MacBooks and minatory footage are occult-infected pairing Demdike Stare who epitomise a meteorologically miserable, downpour-laden December weekend down beside Somerset seaside. Nonetheless midway through their early afternoon stint a virtual sun arises from behind the barely mobile heads and quite magically things then take a turn for the brighter. Certainly anything but aestival, it's undoubtedly more brilliant than last time out. It's quite counterintuitive therefore that they're booked in to boggle the totally sunless West Hall whilst the dim, if ne'er dimwhitted wretchedness of the Tall Firs is played out in the irradiate Panorama Room.
It persists to perplex how this momentarily jovial contingent are a) not related in any way, shape nor chromosomal form and b) that they continue to profusely negate any mental dishevelment despite their great fascination with an all-consuming morbidity. They josh and jest as they both set and balls things up, spilling misplaced sips of ale over live pickups. "How 'bout a formal intro? You wanna formal intro? We're gonna fuckin' rock" the first of numerous humorous quips courtesy of the instantaneously affable Dave Mies. These jocular interludes would provide the high point of most shows, were the pair's rummaging through the depths of low not quite so wondrous: from the wallowing swoon of Edge Of The World, to the most graciously tender of Arthur Russell covers in I Couldn't Say It To Your Face any rhythm comes from the unrelenting clacking of SLRs. Understated and shamefully underrated, Barry and Deborah actually got this booking bang on as their downcast denouement of Waiting On A Friend sits morosely in the stomach like that indeterminate pub alimentation aforesaid. It is their "hot day of sad guitar playing", and it effortlessly thrashes the jingling, jangling, jolting stridence and Armstrong wrestling of Thee Oh Sees which bleeds through an open door as though pus-like gunk oozing out from either Mies or companion Aaron Mullan's ruptured ticker. Colin Huebert's Siskiyou then deliver a subtly delightful, rather organic set of bumbling acoustica that, were it of mammalian breed, may be charted somewhere between Modest Mouse and the Mountain Goats, before such lulling soporifics are counteracted by Sleepy Sun.
Through the gurgliest of voice warps, lead vocalist Bret Constantino enquires: "Anybody got any mushrooms? Acid?" despite seeming as though he already shan't sleep for the rest of the week. Wiggier than their resplendent manes, although they may slur gratitude at all in attendance electing them over Yuck it's as much of a no-brainer as their adversaries' schmuck-rock is brainless. Whether it's the gung-ho bravado of Stivey Pond or the rickety wobble of Boat Trip or the fug fuzzier than Afghan rug that is Martyr's Mantra – Constantino's mortifyingly cocksure posturing aside – it's like the booze-soused best bits of The Brian Jonestown Massacre whipped up into a heady swirl capable of ripping up the entirety of their native West Coast. The surf hair and nonchalant flaunting of double denim render the five-piece an exotic proposition, and Spine Hits is in turn rephrased as a collection of nervous system-knackering rawk blowouts. Constantino sounds as though half the High Desert is lodged in his larynx as he manipulates fork-tongued hissing over rattlesnake maracas and bluesy pentatonics. It's a San Fran sandstorm of incendiary exhilaration. Serve soon returns to Tennis as Morricone intro music adds more drama than even that affiliated with The Make-Up, inclusive of every choreographed high-kick, the doorstop fringes and scripted preambles.
Intrepid voyageurs these Denverites may once have been but the melodious territories they tread are adorable, if never all that adventurous. In fact as eyes glaze over with a loving glint and the faint shape of some coronary bulge, their estival fare that's as seasonal as a strawberries and cream-scented dream is all too easy to fall helplessly head over heels for. Alaina Moore's voice has been assuming a progressively more timeless tone as it teeters on the outstandingly soulful – oh what Phil Spector may once have done with it etc. – and belief is building similarly. When she poodles out from behind her keys as on the imperious stomp of Petition she now sways awfully comfortably to its casually breezy vibe. It's as though salt-freckled wind were in her hair on cruise ship topdeck were Barry ever to decree a fervent "Ahoy!" to the notion of an ATP cruise. And although Origins may be the sort of song to round off any which stage at any which festival, it's Cape Dory coup Pigeon which soars most successfully.
Another and moreover one final band prompts the last of the weekend's cinematic intros as a glittering disco ball begins to revolve and regurgitate each spotlight cannoned off in its general direction as it momentarily embellishes the cloak of rouge against which it hangs. Comparably melodramatic are Greg Dulli's dashing confessionals as The Afghan Whigs return for their first "hotter than fuck" UK show in yonkers. Lest we gloss over actuality, it's a fucking brilliant moniker and one worthy of a lifetime's supply of the finest Middle Eastern smoke of Sleep's preferred variety but the way in which the tempo tos-and-fros intimates the paranoiac fidget incurred by reckless intemperance. Thus an indolent When We Two Parted is proceded by the blurt-along anthemia of Gentlemen as Dulli et al. are doused in the tawny complexions of the track's eponymous LP sleeve. What Jail Is Like too – hacked out from the same tracklisting – invigorates like anything at an overjoyed adolescent's first Reading Festival before the mere thought of such a misspent weekend becomes intolerably awful. As any monumental ATP-headlining set should it gathers momentum as it advances just as you sense that, upon reflection, I'll Be Your Mirror is undergoing a disciplined evolution. Whatever your preferred B-side may be, this one must surely be your favoured festival scion...