Curated by Mogwai
Mogwai: ATP - I'll Be Your Mirror

After the cilia-bashing antics within the first evening of this little brother to the All Tomorrow's Parties festival family – an almost standalone metal leviathan headlined by thrash titans Slayer, which we'll spare you for reasons of extreme volume – Saturday dawns in an Alka-Seltzer haze. The prospect of US heavyweights Harvey Milk and Mudhoney tearing the West Hall a new one is unusually uninviting. Instead, decamping to the Panorama stage seems rather smarter, where the wizardly-whiskered Bill Wells and equally razor-shy ex-Arab Strap arch grumbler Aidan Moffat are in full majestic flow. Much like the pair's collaborative album, 'Everything's Getting Older', it's an aural exercise in panning for gold. Yet the search is worth every second when the finest nuggets are marbled with such disarming beauty, 'The Copper Top', and brilliantly hopeless defeatism, '(If You) Keep Me In Your Heart'. Such potency is only equalled by Moffat's between-song banter, which really should be bottled and sold as heckler repellent.

Nowhere are IBYM's boundary-bothering intentions better harnessed than during Aussie outlaws Dirty Three's hour-long set, however. Tonight they're all things to all (wo)men in a manner unachieved by anybody else during the entire weekend, perhaps logically for former ATP curators. Even hardened heavy rock fans admire de facto leader Warren Ellis's hobo beard skills – and shredding violin magic – floral shirt half untucked and half undone as he goes. His explanatory introductions are as blackly affecting as what follows, yet the gist is a paraphrased constant: “This one is about everybody dying.” After which, we desperately need the creeping electronic soundscapism of Balam Acab, vaguely evoking the poltergeist rhythms of Burial, only floating through the Pennsylvanian wilds rather than the claustrophobic air of the last nightbus.

Nobody does soundscapes quite like Scottish veterans Mogwai, though. And while – to these ears – their personal zenith was almost a decade previously headlining the very first ATP, snaking feedback-spitting monsters such as 'Mogwai Fear Satan' still remain mighty decibel-bristling propositions among more mature meanderings.

For a festival deliberately named after a b-side (the flip to The Velvet Underground's 'All Tomorrow's Parties'), Sunday skates perilously close to lesser billing. Not only are the crowds noticeably thinner, but a bereavement deprives us of the night's closing highlight, Brooklyn hip-hop rewirer El-P, immediately setting up potential for anticlimax. Long before that, the ordinarily exhilarating garage surf fuzz of Thee Oh Sees rattles around like stones in the particularly treble-wracked can that is the West Hall. And polite psych-rockers Sleepy Sun resolutely fail to move us beyond a lazy nodding lie down across on the Panorama Stage. Two reformed American cult names are the excitement engineers today, but a decade from respective original splits, DC gospel-punkers The Make-Up nor not-quite-grunge Ohioan slowburners The Afghan Whigs convince entirely. The former's Mick-Jagger-for-the-post-punk-generation frontman Ian Svenonius has put a few miles on the clock since his snake-hipped prime. And the latter's trademark soulful bombast somehow hasn't dated well. That's despite Greg Dulli commanding all before him without breaking nearly as much sweat as we do in the sweltering West Hall, occasionally – take 'Congregation' cut 'Conjure Me' – recapturing former glories. To half-inch the title of another ATP spin-off series, on certain occasions it's really is better if you don't look back.

Words by Adam Anonymous
Photo by Matt Wash

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