Festival Frolics: Sunday, Latitude 2012.

Come Sunday that oppressive sense of impending end begins to engulf your every emotion: patches of verdure sprout from space smoothed by humanity, moods dampen under the dribble of dread that the return voyage engenders each and every time, and your final few pounds dissolve in your final few drinks. Praise be to all manner of things holy therefore for Rufus Wainwright; the preacher in the ornate, Orientally styled blazer and sequinned collar. Opening with an a cappella Candles to melt into unthinkingly, his is an appositely languorous set come Sunday, what with lassitude beginning to settle in the stomach.

First in and most probably first out, Latitude's early afternoon showings have become a thoroughly credible hallmark of the festival and a supremely artful, almost Reichian Art Teacher ought assure Wainwright be recollected as still is Thom Yorke of 2009 whilst elsewhere songs are strong, if conservatively so. The dinner party jazz of Rashida, the Elton John-esque Jericho and the hobbling jollities of Respectable Dive all accentuate the distinction of Ronson-produced latest Out Of The Game, although seemingly for every beauty there's a bore: even Barbara side of stage seems indifferent to Barbara, whilst The One You Love is overplayed tedium in the extreme, this afternoon resembling bad Badly Drawn Boy. Yet this particular sojourn was and always would've been about his most contemporary oeuvre, and the explicitly homosexual humour to the surrealist paean of Montauk is both fanciful and about as farcical as anything chuckled out of The Comedy Arena throughout as Wainwright itemises a selection of activities he and baby Viva's "other dad" may be performing if and when she were ever to make it to the tip of Long Island. His pleas for we to dance to the preposterously addictive Bitter Tears (lyrics of being "disgusted with the morning" resonating appropriately to this timetabling) fall on deafened ears and cracked and knackered heels, and if initially a disorientating reordering of what we've come to know and love we're still soon swaying in fragile glee to its meteorological guff lyrical and – yup – '80s schmaltz musical. Could we "crazy British eccentrics" eschew the ritual Sunday roast every week in favour of this seasoned delight, please?
If Rufus were on early, even a small hour Sunday morning would be too early for Gabriel Bruce who appears to have gone all deranged Italo-disco on us. Backward rolls and bravado feature throughout Dark Lights, Shine Loud as his voice vibrates at frequencies so low they're almost unintelligible to the human ear. Backed by a modish re-imagining of Pepsi & Shirlie, the hypnotic and aptly soporific Sleep Paralysis is prime Solpadeine soul though Bruce moves as if on unspeakably potent amphetamines and to all extensive purposes it'd appear as though he's lost it altogether. I, personally, have picked up plenty of shakes by now although those of an Alabama variety ain't one as they bawl Hang Loose from the Obelisk Arena. The knowingly, irksomely anti-counter culture vibes of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros then do comparably little to remedy the now generally unwell as Jade Castrinos thrusts a purported picture of her "mommy" in the direction of a lens. "Oh! Are there screens or somethin'?" Alex Ebert quizzes, midway through a lackadaisical Home and therefore prior to the mass departure of the circa 5,000 as they flee from this pseudo-messianic cult figurehead of sorts.
Commensurately cultish, if endowed with an unspeakably more empyreal power is St. Vincent who, like a jejune and rather more jovial PJ Harvey, proves the saviour of this particular Sabbath. Jittering on scuttling heels and emitting finger-in-socket distortion, it's as though she and that quite majestic frizz of hers are repeatedly struck by surges of unearthed amp voltage.

Electrifying at any rate, lightning hasn't caught her once, nor twice but thrice and most strikingly so with third full-length Strange Mercy and it's upon this one that she props herself this afternoon: Northern Lights, all lyrics of "modelling days", gets White Striped with askew drums and octave pedal action overwhelming the most controlled theremin abuse of the weekend, whilst Year of the Tiger is transmogrified into a right old prog-out. Indeed to all extensive purposes Weller can go push himself along for Clark is irrefutably the six-stringed musician of this year's festival, coming across also as the most inspirational and with it aspirational on a particularly trenchant Surgeon, purportedly provoked by an entry in Marilyn Monroe's diary. Needless to say it's a somewhat more crafty citation than Lana's "Elvis is my daddy/ Marilyn's my mother" flotsam, with shockwave guitars then returning on a hair-raisingly rambunctious Chloe in the Afternoon. Nonetheless it's LP standout Cruel, its Irwin Kostal-ish intro soon superseded by the riff of the weekend that, transposed up an octave or three, sounds ever more celestial. Certainly despite her guitar tones oft sounding as though dredged up and out from gravelled gutter, her voice is irrefutably supernal and irregardless of the ample amounts of men – many; no, most of whom are armed with digital cameras and/ or iPads – a celebratory Cheerleader intimates that there's little to no possibility whatsoever of a return to that flouncy, frat-arousing pastime. Then again with that mane such college métier always seemed unlikely really...
Lamentably, what has felt progressively more likely over the recent months and years is the deterioration of the magazine industry and with The Word (whose 'Entertainment for lively minds' unquestionably enlivens this edition with far and away the best bill) now deceased, you begin to question and probe for a potentially detrimental effect on words written, spoken and now sung. One band to forego any form of word almost entirely are Battles, and in doing so they've become one of the more formidable bands orbiting the planet upon sporadic tours. However following on from the cancellation of last weekend's second and final day of a quite disastrous reconstruction of Bloc., the trio's cursed fortune continues as technical disasters befall them for twenty minutes or so. Maybe it's the screens.

Either way, it's an AV feast once they get in gear to stomp a pedal or two: from the menacing ice cream van jingle and a-jangle of Africastle – Ian Williams a possessed Mr. Whippy splurging flake-like fingers across condensed keys – to the motorik buoyancy of Sweetie & Shag (Kazu Makino condemned as per to LED ensnarement) the band's chronically poor time management fades into irrelevance as their four songs (four fucking songs they're afforded, Ice Cream being the fourth for the sake of completism) envelope all thoughts entirely. Numb as though engulfed by all-encompassing, exclusively aural brain freeze, we are thus by the time they thumb through the invigorating pages of Atlas, I'm entirely lost somewhere scarcely in – around p.3 maybe – as snare skins crumple and Braxton's vocal bits and pieces get dramatically rejigged and resampled, John Stanier getting his customary sweat on as he rapidly morphs into cymbal-clattering, stick-churning powerhouse. As oft seems their wont, it's been something of a skirmish to put the show on at all although it's been inexpressibly special. Praise be to Annie Clark or someone equally beatified therefore that it proceeded to pass.
Sporting new bangs and with them a new band, Natasha Khan's Bat For Lashes flutter around the usual old marvels for a short while, the chilling opacity of Glass and the enlightening, Björk-y balladry of Travelling Woman enthralling as effortlessly as they did back in '09. Featuring more theremins and swanning about in flares, that '80s influence remains an ever-present and as Khan continues to align herself with the astral talents of Kate Bush, she begins to lose touch with the terrestrial – and that despite shedding the cosmic-cum-lupine backdrop. With it she seems to have estranged herself from the pop sensibilities and her heroic ability to summon songs such as Horse & I, Prescilla, Daniel etc. Anyhow, had she bred the latter two for forthcoming third The Haunted Man she'd incontestably have birthed something favourable to the almost motionless serenade that is Laura. "Can we dance upon the tables again?" she enquires, imploring this mythical Laura get her "glad rags on" in wide-eyed, high-heeled and glittery social commentary that fits her about as well as them there trouser legs. A Wall meanwhile is plagiarism straight from the book of Zola Jesus – Conatus to be precise – and as she this time beseeches: "Just sit still. Does it hurt?" as we begin to fidget the answer is, well, yes. For although Khan may be more interactive, animated and above all enthused than ever previous, it's become a little painful to behold.

It's then up (or down – however you want to regard this particular transition) to Anthony Gonzalez' M83 to alleviate the displeasure and distress. Set closer Couleurs proves a typically prismatic affair and although Midnight City may be thrown away a touch early, given the track is now all but inextricable from a certain, and certainly grim E4 context one could cogently argue that any time is too early. You can practically envision some SW10 blockhead – some of which were here rather inexplicably earlier on in the weekend, strutting mucky stuff atop The Waterfront Stage – pontificating over some fictitious fling atop that Gerry Rafferty-esque sax solo, just as you can virtually visualise a swell of smartphones hoisted aloft were batteries not already inevitably flattened over the course of the weekend. Van Dyke Parks then somehow squeezes onto the Film & Music Arena stage with an ample clutch of musicians from the Barbican's Britten Sinfonia, delivering a gloriously orchestrated if less gloriously sung career-retrospective to a tent's worth of more sagacious programme dissectors and Ben Howard defectors.
As though indoctrinated by Parks' Smile arrangements, Michael Hadreas seems remarkably ebullient of attitude, even smirking: "Thank you! You're more than affectionate." Of course concerts in ecclesiastical surrounds are becoming decreasingly novel although to witness Perfume Genius N 2 It and out of church is strangely bewildering. Then the silence that preceded and proceeded every song was as captivating as they themselves. Here, hushed muttering takes its place although when you've songsmithery as eyeball-tingling as Dark Parts; as riveting as an elongated interpretation of Hood (granted, Hadreas only tacks on the initial verse to its ending but he could do so interminably without inducing even a scintilla of ennui) you can't help but gawp, and gape, and gush. Katie even momentarily begins to resemble Beth/Rest, and indeed Perfume Genius verifies his headlining status as Vernon could only dream of doing. As with Walls 24 hours previous, Apparat's soi-disant 'late night entertainment' slot is anything but late – it almost begins and categorically ends before Weller – although tonight entertainment comes at a premium. As odd as it was to witness Sascha Ring pick up a guitar as part of Moderat at the penultimate Bloc. (to stick out a neck and presuppose), it's similarly bizarre to see the weaselly thing sing for forty-five. That Apparat now sounds rather a lot like The Appleseed Cast is even more peculiar, and does so despite acquiring a little of that past Moderat material: Rusty Nails, hammered home quite emphatically as per, gets dusted down to constitute a scintillating staple of what now seems a mildly onerous show, whilst The Devil's Walk and A Bang In The Void feel more closely affiliated with Music for 18 Musicians than they may with Modeselektor. Certainly at times Apparat seems more closely akin to an orchestra than it may a band, a weirdly reconfigured Ash / Black Veil sounding like In Rainbows expiring amid the rancid midday dry ice and sordid decay of Berghain.
Conversely however, as already inferred, this one ends a little earlier than most soirées out in Ring's native Berlin and indeed once again Latitude is all over all too soon as the multitudes disperse into comparatively minuscule globules of humanity, each one aglow with what has been an unendingly inspiring weekend. The best line up of the year proffered just about the best layabout of a lifetime back there...

Josh Holliday.
Supplementary photography courtesy of Tom Rhys.