For Øyafestivalen, this is a year of change. The Norwegian festival is set to wave farewell to its current site, Middeladerparken, and move to a new home, one that will allow it to expand and attempt new possibilities.
All that is in the future, though. Arriving fashionably late on Thursday, Clash’s first sight is Cat Power (pictured) preening onstage. After Chan Marshall’s well-documented health and financial issues, simply putting on any show whatsoever is a miracle in itself. What really impresses, though, is her confidence, the way in which experience lends an authority to her delivery. Ending the set by tossing white flowers out into the crowd, Marshall is on truly effervescent form.
Grimes, though, fails to impress. On record, Claire Boucher is worthy of all the praise that comes her way – a succinct, continually imaginative producer whose dreamy house impressionism has gone global. Live, though, she’s a slight bore. Backed by two dancers the Canadian attempts to inject some visual stimuli into the show, but a problem remains: this simply doesn’t have the life or vitality which streams through her recordings.
Which is where Godspeed You! Black Emperor come in. The seminal post-rock group treat this with the reverence they would a headline show: lining up in traditional circular format, the band focuses on intensity, sonic perfection as a means of driving the message home. Sure, at a festival you’ll lose a fraction of the crowd in doing so, but staring out across the Norwegian skyline to such apocalyptic fervour is a rare, rare experience.
Friday opens with sunshine, plenty of fish-based sustenance and Parquet Courts. The brattish Noo Yoikers have produced one of 2012’s (hell, 2013’s too) sleeper hits with their album ‘Light Up Gold’, and their live show enjoys the signs of countless weeks on the road. Tight but loose, their sound owes much to Sonic Youth, but those hella catchy, smart-but-dumb chorus lines are sheer Ramones bravado.
Angel Haze is one of the most provocative, inspiring talents to emerge from stateside hip-hop over the past 12 months. A performer who retains a genuine magnetism, her set draws everyone from hardcore fans to curious onlookers. Seizing her change, she plunges into the crowd for finale ‘New York’, retaining her ferocious flow as she laps the entire audience. A neat trick, but there’s substance here, too.
An intensely personal listening experience, James Blake sometimes fails to find his footing in a live setting. Of course, if that setting is beside the babbling waters of a Norwegian stream, then all the better. Polite to a letter, the post-dubstep troubadour completes a loose-knit set, gelatinous bass sounds reverberating across a city in reconstruction.
Kraftwerk’s much-vaunted stint at the Tate Modern seemed to underline their legacy in a profound manner. More of a conceptual art project that produced hit records than a mere band, their current incarnation reinvigorates the human side of the Man Machines. This is, simply, a wonderful show – the 3D aspect is perhaps rendered slightly redundant in a wider festival environment, but the sheer spectacle of witnessing this back catalogue brought to life against the Oslo skyline is breath-taking.
Haim are a slightly curious phenomenon, in that for all their industry hype the trio seems to fall flat. Perhaps this isn’t the show to judge them – with one member ill, the sisters are forced to re-jig their parts, to hurriedly improvise new arrangements. A cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green-era classic ‘Oh Well’ is a fun nod to their roots, but it seems to inadvertently show up just how darned their music is. Haim seem to want to ‘rock out’, but can’t quite break free of the punctuation.
The Knife’s stage show is a continually evolving process, one that fuses a near relentless questioning of their surroundings with an undaunted bravery in their delivery. Yet on the final night of Øya, something special is needed. So it’s to Slayer that Clash turns, the metal act proving a physical assault, a near-unrelenting barrage of frenetic, hardcore punk tempo and all-out Sabbath-style sludge.
Gary Holt steps in to replace Jeff Hanneman, adding his own style whilst remaining respectful of the role the late guitarist played in the evolution of thrash. Naturally, it’s classics from the ‘Reign In Blood’ era that leave the biggest impression, but the band’s humble approach enthrals mainly due to the complete dichotomy it enjoys with their music. Ending by unfurling a banner dedicated to their fallen comrade, Slayer post-Hanneman remain an untamed beast.
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Words: Robin Murray
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