Rescheduled from last December in immaculately preserved indie secrecy, this edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties promised to be a twisted freakzone of musical oddities. Its desperately enigmatic posterboy, after all, bore an album from his obsession with Anne Frank, in what eventually became an immortal cult masterpiece and one of the only recent examples of indie rock utilising an Irish Uilleann bagpipe.
Our furtive protagonist bolts straight out of the stable doors with the opening set of the weekend – bleating out a shiver-making slew of songs from Neutral Milk Hotel’s aforementioned 1998 album, ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’. Hunched alone on stage, his initial fragile appearance is swiftly dispelled by ‘Holland, 1945’ and the achingly beautiful ‘Oh Comely’, untarnished by the loss of their original backing strings and brass. This guy can pull the whole thing off alone, although when some melancholy trumpets and a musical saw step in for ‘Ghost’ the experience turns stratospheric. It’s a perfectly balanced set, with debut album ‘On Avery Island’ fairly represented, and the fact that Mangum banned all camera equipment was a finicky quirk but meant the set felt especially clandestine.
His selection for the rest of Friday remained in a classic, cult vein, with Young Marble Giants performing their genius 1980 album ‘Colossal Youth’ – an intimidatingly pared down exercise in introspective new wave that was recorded in four days in rural Wales and remains frozen in time. The naively sweet vocals of Alison Stratton chirrup over Philip Moxham’s plundering basslines on ‘Searching For Mr Right’ and ‘Salad Days’, while ‘N.I.T.A.’ and ‘The Man Amplifier’ introduce their trademark Wurlitzer wobbles. Their sound is like nothing preceding or since – if anybody dared to imitate it would inevitably end in messiness as this level of simplicity requires seamless execution. YMG achieve this with trademark poise, closing with ‘Credit In A Straight World’, a song later covered in a slightly more belligerent manner by Courtney Love’s Hole.
Elsewhere, Mark E. Smith enters stage left to lead post-punk Manchester heroes The Fall through a rampantly-charged gnarling set. This band can be an absolute shambles, but in tonight’s mayhem their seams remain intact, for which credit should be partly awarded to keyboardist and calmly collected band adjudicator Elena Poulou. Motorik drums and plenty of material from recent album ‘Ersatz GB’ – recorded during a drug-tinged excursion to Germany – make for a commanding and beastly show of theatrics, but earlier singles ‘Bury’ and ‘Theme From Sparta FC’ are highlights. Twenty-nine albums and many ousted band members later, The Fall’s style is an ever-unpredictable entity, but with Smith’s abstract chunterings still delightfully intact they, like Mangum, remain enduring.
Considerably chirpier but also firmly post-punk, The Raincoats blitz through a clattering set led by founding members Ana da Silva and Gina Birch. Their scatty freeform is perfectly showcased by tracks from latest release ‘Odyshape’, but their 1979 jerky cover of The Kinks’ ‘Lola’ closes proceedings down with droney dry-wit and jubilant chorus bouncing.
Words by Natalie Hardwick
Photo by Rosie Welsh