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Three Songs No Flash

Cruising Through The Park: Saturday At Field Day Reviewed
The Quietus , June 11th, 2015 15:02

Bryan Brussee, Adam Bychawski, Christian Eede, Suzie McCracken, Hazel Sheffield, Laurie Tuffrey, Luke Turner review Saturday's excellent entertainment at Field Day. Photographs by Valerio Berdini

14:00, The Quietus/EYOE

"Thanks for coming down early. You'll be rewarded in the next life, if not this one," says Spector's singer Fred Macpherson a few songs in. Recompense during a stay at Saint Peter's pleasure or receiving some karmic dues does seem a powerfully generous offer, especially for attendance of a set that comprises some fine, if perhaps unspectacular, indie pop songs. In fact, the corporeal benefits of the performance come mostly from Macpherson himself: he's a fluster of gestures - dramatic mic stand clasps, singing into Thomas Shickle's bass pickups, proudly holding the mic aloft in one hand and declaring: "Field Day's not enough about poses like this" (fair point) - and in-between song quips. "We're Spector from London, England... Don't get up," he says, noting the decided loucheness of the early afternoon crowd, and introducing the set closer with: "Let's enjoy this last song, the rest of the day, the rest of our lives and then on to death." Happily, that last song is the brilliant 'All The Sad Young Men', which maps F. Scott Fitzgerald's calling card of empty-hearted decadence onto a burnished Simple Minds chorus that soars, the band eking every last drop of ephemeral glamour out of it as the synths fade away. Laurie Tuffrey

Elijah and Skilliam

14:30, i-D Mix

Elijah and Skilliam have had a busy year. They've staged their Jammz club nights up and down the country, toured with Kano, regularly DJed as a duo and also found time to run their Butterz label. It's no surprise then that their dedicated fanbase has continued to grow. Here at Field Day, they draw a significant crowd despite clashing with the inaugural Born and Bred festival which features many of their label-mates on the bill. To their slight detriment, the two appear early on in the afternoon and have only an hour to work with. They don't lose a minute, however, with bars from 'German Whip', 'Hard', 'Ps & Qs' and 'Shutdown' all getting airings over classic and more recent instrumentals in quick succession. In a club setting, such a shelling would have whipped up a frenzy but here the reaction seems comparatively subdued. It takes Solo 45's 'Feed 'Em To The Lions' to finally fire up the crowd who chant the hook back at the duo. Flowdan's searing verses from The Bug's 'The One' also prove to be a highlight; the Roll Deep MC put in a masterful appearance on the ongoing 'The Elijah & Skilliam Show' podcast earlier this year. The pair set the bar high for the rest of the day with very little else matching their energy. - Adam Bychawski

Clarence Clarity
14:55, The Quietus/EYOE Stage

It's early in the day and the crowd isn't really here yet when Clarence Clarity takes the stage, streaks of green in his hair and a headless electric guitar in hand, but otherwise looking pretty put-together for a man who'd released an exploded pop song about incest as a single. He begins the set with little flare, save for the collection of gold plastic doll heads adorning his modest drum kit, and much to this reviewer's pleasure, it becomes apparent this set won't devolve into a vapid conceptual art project.

Clarence and the Holy Fathers run through stripped down versions of No Now's glitched-out funk jams, the occasional wave of feedback or noise rock freak-out filling in the gaps left in songs whose album counterparts chop and screw themselves into oblivion. Other aspects of the labyrinthine studio versions are lost in translation (of particular ill decision is the choice to play 'Will To Believe''s queasy midi sax riff on bass), but otherwise the show stands as proof that, absent of their melon-twisting electronic flourishes, these are damn good pop songs. With workmanlike efficiency, the band burn through the bangers of the Clarence catalogue. I would have preferred the zany denouement of 'Cancer™ In The Water' to the sedated slo-jam 'Bloodbarf' but, regardless, Clarence Clarity and the Holy Fathers prove themselves an airtight and outright groovy live outfit. Kudos. - Bryan Brussee

Owen Pallett
15.15, Crack Magazine

“25 minutes?!” Pallett says incredulously, bounding onto the stage. “Are you guys all set? Because I'm going to play for 45.” And he's off, just his violin and a floor full of pedals. He's misheard a sound man – there are cheers all round when he realises he doesn't have to break any rules to get the best part of an hour. A guitarist and drummer join him to bolster some tracks. Dan Snaith of Caribou watches from the wings (Pallett supplied the string arrangements for Caribou's 'Mars'). 'Song For Five And Six' from last year's In Conflict is a feat of timing. Alone on stage, Pallett executes whirling runs looped over violin stabs, before cutting the sound dead to sing the melody. Playing with loop pedal requires flexibility around a flat note, a missed beat, and Pallett's songwriting bends in the moment, his vocals leading the way like a machete through jungles of sound. He apologises for rocking out on the violin: "I'm always like, 'No, no, stop! It's not cool like on the guitar!'” But his enthusiasm is irrepressible. By the final song, 'Lewis Takes Off His Shirt', it's caught on in the crowd.  - Hazel Sheffield

15:45, Bugged Out!

Under the scrapes of mud coating the Bugged Out! tent's ceiling, Clark's performance goes off like a fission reactor. The Warp veteran turns in a textured set, moving gracefully from magnesium fizz static to basement sledgehammer kicks. It's packed with peaks of individual brilliance - the antsy trance synth lines percolating behind the mechanised voice on 'Growls Garden', the regal horn blasts of 'Unfurla', the momentary subsiding of 'To Live And Die In Grantham' - woven nicely together with the visuals. Sparks from an animated fire in a forest clearing ascend at one point before we shoot into the future, where dancers, previously dressed as Mylar-coated robots, reappear with Predator-style tresses and geometric armour. By the time the set winds down, it feels like we've covered far more territory than a mere 45 minutes, a masterful mid-afternoon high. - Laurie Tuffrey

Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté
15:55, The Quietus/EYOE

Owen Pallett's superlative performance under canvas of the Crack Magazine tent is a masterclass in smart, sensual, beautifully arranged pop music. It leaves me on something of a high (no ales yet consumed, either), which is only increased as I wander into the gloriously burbling web cast by Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté on The Quietus/EYOE stage. This is pretty much definition of pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon, slowly baked by the sun, the father and son duo's intricate skills on the kora rippling forth across a contented crowd. The peaceful and ego-free (though Sidiki, wearing a blue as splendid as the sky does occasionally rise from his stool as he plays) interplay between the two of them is wonderful to behold coming, as it does, as the latest birthing of a griot tradition that stretches back for over 700 years. The joy of this music, which chimes with eternal bells, is what made the comments in a Noisey review of Field Day written on iMessage (LOL) by PC Music's GFOTY so offensive, and why I called it out on Twitter on Monday, causing something of a stir. No matter what persona you're hiding behind, to call an African artist "tribal" is limiting and racist. To then describe them as like a "blacked up bombay bycicle [sic] club" is even more racist, and the comparison to a bottom-of-the-barrel landfill indie band entirely demeaning. Though I'm not usually one to be overly-fussed by skilled musicianship, the learning, familial love and experience that goes into the flowing beauty of the Diabatés' skill on the kora is, in this half-hour set, more profound than anything GFOTY or her irony-basted and privilege-stuffed PC Music pals are likely to achieve as they flash, briefly, on their pop career gap year. - Luke Turner

MssingNo / Mumdance / Bok Bok / John Talabot
Various times and stages

Arriving on site around an hour later than planned owing to a merciless, irresponsibly-induced hangover, mention must go to my error of missing an early set from NTS regular and Idle Hands-associate Shanti Celeste whose characteristically rolling, smooth house sets seem befitting of the early afternoon sun that blesses Victoria Park as I arrive to catch MssingNo, who follows Celeste in the RA tent. Despite minimal output - an EP via Tri Angle is expected this year - the producer sets about working through a selection of his own productions, both released and unreleased, shifting with ease between the simultaneously crystalline and abrasive beats that have formed much of the output of Tri Angle's signees over the last couple of years. An ending of  'XE2' gets the inevitably rapturous response expected, leaving the sizeable crowd visibly happy ahead of Sophie.

Playing the i-D Mix stage, Mumdance uses the opportunity, as on his recent Fabriclive mix, to showcase the various club spheres that make up his sound today. Often lazily characterised as a grime producer, the set makes instrumental just how many influences, within the history of club music, inform Jack Adams' output. Tearing through an early selection of techno and various strands of bass music, he comes into his own in the latter part of his set, working in a number of classic and current grime instrumentals before dropping and subsequently reloading Novelist collaboration, 'Take Time', as well as a smattering of the Riko Dan VIP of the track which featured on the aforementioned Fabriclive compilation. Again, like that mix, he rounds out proceedings on a selection of the music that he and Logos most potently drew on with their collaborative album Proto earlier this year, working through 10 minutes of 90s jungle and rave music with aplomb - specific mention goes to the finale of Liquid's 'Sweet Harmony'.

A little later, back at the RA stage, Bok Bok takes a different tack to those that might have been expecting the sharp-edged club constructions of much of Night Slugs' output over the last couple of years. Working mostly around the 100bpm mark, Alex Sushon opts for a more subtle approach than perhaps many other DJs at Field Day would on an early evening, but it pays off as he works in music indebted to hip-hop, R&B and kuduro - helpings of Tinashe's '2 On' and Que's 'OG Bobby Johnson' certainly don't go unappreciated by myself. Moving along to a rather different set, the crowd spills out of the Bugged Out! tent as John Talabot steps up, weaving his way through a discerning selection of techy house over the course of 90 minutes or so, ahead of that tent's headliner, Nina Kraviz. Building effective drops out of effortless EQ play, he works the sweaty, packed out crowd to a frenzy before climaxing with the anthemic synths of his recently-released 'Machine' edit, previously featured on the Spanish producer's DJ Kicks compilation. Talabot has certainly played better, more stimulating sets in his time, but as a preceder to Kraviz' headline showing, his approach to sticking with the more tech-driven facets of his output, rather than drawing from various other pools of influences, no doubt still makes for a triumphant and well-placed set. - Christian Eede

Yung Gud
16:40, i-D Mix

I mostly go to indie basement shows, partly because that's all I can afford and partly because that's all my Midwest college town seems to give a fuck about. That said, my, for a miserable three months last year, proudly declared that I had spent more time listening to Yung Lean than any other artist. Though today I manage to attribute this grim statistic to a scrobbling snafu, I still figure I am, among the  hardened industrialists here from tQ, the best qualified to see a Sadboy DJ set. Maybe I'm not.

After stumbling on stage five minutes late and in dire need of a quick rundown from Mumdance, Gud delivers a set that sounds like everything else coming from the i-D Mix stage today, his uncharacteristically limpid EDM hijinks failing to live up to last year's splendidly hazy Beautiful, Wonderful EP or his idiosyncratic Sadboy productions for that matter. This particular set, though, isn't so much sad as disappointing. - Bryan Brussee

17:20, The Quietus/EYOE

It seems that Adam Bainbridge is doomed before he steps on stage. For a start, he's walking on after Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté, and on top of that half of his band have just turned up to the site, meaning that Kindness arrive a little late and, supposedly, a little haggard.

The real problem, though, is that Bainbridge's ability to experiment and tinker with slap-bass funk and mid-80s soul on record doesn't translate brilliantly to the live arena with a full band. And for all of his strutting, he's often outdone by his band, both for physical and vocal presence. Really, though, it all boils down to this: if you're going to do a half-crooned, mid-paced groove cover of The Replacements' 'Swingin' Party', you'd better make it incredible. And I'm not sure that's possible. - Alex Ross

18:15, Crack Magazine

I have seen tUnE-yArDs perform many times. At least twice per album, in fact. So it won't surprise you to hear that I'm pretty enamoured with Merrill Garbus' thing: the ukes, the loops, the horns, the funny faces, the high notes. I love it. And I don't think it's really possible for her to put on a bad show, because her talent is one of those sorts that can't help but head-butt you. But as she rattles through a set mainly comprising of songs from Nikki Nack (two from w h o k i l l and none from BiRd-BrAiNs), something seems off. She confides that this is the last European festival show of the tour – the final lap of her 2014 gigs rather than the first of a summer on the road.

Everyone on stage is professional, energetic and joyful. In the past year she's got this set, and her set-up, dialled-in beautifully. Her classically trained percussionist, specifically, has every beat at second-nature status. But the tiredness is there.

The Saturday crowd are keen on the Lauren Laverne faves, so 'Water Fountain' and 'Wait For A Minute' are great. Merrill even musters a throaty growl during the latter, bringing a bit of punch to what is the album's most sonically shallow track. The extended version of 'Stop That Man' provides the crowd with an opportunity to shake. But in the end, I just want to put her on a plane back to New England, perhaps with some tea. - Suzie McCracken


18:15, Resident Advisor

Madlib's addition to the Field Day lineup comes as an unexpected and welcome surprise. The Los Angeles DJ's appearances in the UK are rare and he's granted a spot on the Resident Advisor stage, one of the largest tents, for the occasion. Unsurprisingly for such a consummate turntablist, his set is an eclectic and old skool mix of boom bap rap, G-funk, reggae and other rarities. While he spins, visuals of Blue Note jazz records, which invited him to remix their back-catalogue in 2013, and the late J Dilla, who he also collaborated with, intermittently appear on the screen implying a lineage to which Madlib himself belongs. Appropriately then, classics like A Tribe Call Quest's 'Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)' are woven with cuts from Madlib's extensive production discography such as Madvillain's 'Avalanche' and 'Harold's' from his and Freddie Gibbs' Piñata. Diverse though the selections are, the tempo is never raised above a sluggish head-nodding pace over the course of the hour. Just as Madlib seems to relent by firing off Future's 'Move That Dope' and the Danny Brown-featuring 'High' from Piñata the set comes to an abrupt finish leaving a lingering sense of disappointment. - Adam Bychawski

Todd Terje
18.40, The Quietus/EYOE

It's Album Time, Todd Terje's debut album, had already been released when he played the Bugged Out! tent at Field Day 2014. It's a mark of the album's slow burning success that he's back on the main stage a year later with a three-piece band, the Olsens. He looks a little nervous. The set starts with loungier tracks - 'Swing Star Part 1' and 'Leisure Suit Preben'. The crowd gets distracted by a hyperactive cameraman beaming clownish crowd members onto the big screens. Ears prick up to the strains off 'Strandbar' and 'Delorean Dynamite', the former executed with bongos and live drums while Terje bashes out ringing house piano. He slips in his first track as Todd Terje, 'Ragsh', another reminder of the distance travelled in the last four years, before 'Inspector Norse', the single that took It's Album Time to heady new heights and catapulted Terje to the big stages. A troupe of dancers dressed in white bodysuits file in from the sides to a massive reception. People start trying to crowdsurf over arms too busy dancing to hold them up. Behind the troupe onstage, Terje can just about be seen, grinning. - Hazel Sheffield

Chet Faker
19:45, Crack Magazine

In the nicest way possible Chet Faker is a playlist musician. He rarely commands attention for long enough to draw you in for an album, but he's got a few songs that would sound great at a barbeque.

Building his tracks from the ground up and lacing his constant syncopation with smooth hip hop, he runs the risk of sounding scattered or, worse still, dull. Surrounded by the blaring heat, though, it's a welcome relief with each of his vocal interjections gentle enough to provide solace from the buzz outside. In many ways, Faker has the perfect billing, acting as a release valve for the first few hours of the day. 'Melt' drips slowly, '1998' is sultry enough to carry, and a tentful of people leave happy enough. - Alex Robert Ross

Future Brown

19:50, i-D Mix

“This is our home ground,” says Riko, “Viccy Park is home turf.” The East London MC is one of twelve that join Future Brown on a packed stage for an unexpected appearance at Field Day. Alongside him are fellow Roll Deep member Roachee, D Power, Jammz, AJ Tracey, North London trio YGG and RD. To further add to the sense of occasion, Ruff Sqwad's Tinchy Stryder, Dirty Danger and Prince Rapid are all present. Behind them all, it's just about possible to catch the occasional glimpse of Future Brown. The group, made up of Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, have often stated that the purpose of their project is to produce tracks for vocalists and here they do just that, quite literally taking a backseat. With their work so dependent on collaborations, the success of their live act too has often rested on what guests can join them. Here they've assembled an all-star cast and the group slip comfortably into the background as the MCs take turns to pass the mic over Future Brown productions and classic grime instrumentals. It's chaotic, lively and spontaneous in total contrast to many by-the-numbers festival circuit appearances I witness during the day. Both Qadiri and Maroof get caught up in the sheer joy of the moment. When they finally emerge from behind the decks during the encore, they bound around the stage grinning. Though it's difficult not to share their reaction, the performance raises the question of why grime's homecoming has been so belated. - Adam Bychawski

John Talabot
20:00, Bugged Out!

John Talabot will play a Field Day afterparty supporting Daniel Avery when Saturday's proceedings are through - tickets for which sold out ages ago. Outside the Bugged Out! tent it's magic hour, silver light landing on bodies stretched out in the grass, the pneumatic siren of laughing gas calling to people from the trees. But it might as well be midnight already in the recesses of the tent as people cram in to catch Talabot's daytime set. He's hardly saving himself for the nighttime. A cowbell and moody synths emanate from the speakers, anchored by dirty bassline. The set settles into Talabot's brand of woozy, psychedelic house, tripping into techno beats, then back into lazy melodies under a ticking high hat. That fuzzed, lolloping sound has helped secure Talabot's place as one of Spain's most successful producers. If the attention he's getting today is any indication, it's a reputation that will only grow. - Hazel Sheffield

Django Django
20:05, The Quietus/EYOE

It's to the credit of Eat Your Own Ears that they've maintained a roster of crowd pleasers on Field Day's main stage – the kind of summery, melodic music that will sit just as well with big fans as with those less familiar. Django Django have the penultimate slot before Caribou's headline set. It's unclear how many people in the audience came for the show and how many were simply too smashed to move when it started, but Vincent Neff copes admirably, chatting and leaping about, encouraging a curious two-step from the crowd. 'First Light', the lead single from new album Born Under Saturn, gets things moving. Neff brings on a fifth band member for 'Reflections', announcing his arrival proudly – though glazed expressions suggest it would take more than a surprise saxophonist to put anyone off dancing at this point. “Are you going to come up with us? Higher and higher and higher…,” Neff shouts during 'Waveforms', segueing into the marching beats of 'Skies Over Cairo'. They end on 'Silver Rays', a frantic, squelchy number from their eponymous 2012 album. “We've been Django Django, thank you!” Neff says triumphantly at the end. If the crowd remember anything, it'll be that Django Django can host a party. - Hazel Sheffield

Run The Jewels
20:30, Resident Advisor

The first thing that hits you about Run The Jewels is just how, well, dorky they are. They smile like children, they dance like idiots and they act like the Chuckle Brothers with synchronised actions. Sure, they haven't had much sleep. But Killer Mike's grin is too massive to merely be the result of sleep-deprived hysteria. His sling (won after an on-stage kerfuffle at SXSW), forces him to move in the manner of a T-Rex – mustering all the expressivity it is possible to from only the use of a wrist.

The set, which spans much of their two records but concentrates on the crowd-pleasing second, is punctuated by the giggles of two friends barely able to contain their glee at thousands singing along with “She got my dick in her mouth all day.” It is their relative old-age, coupled with this immaturity, that makes them beyond endearing.

'Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)' prompts such enthusiasm that El-P apologises to “anyone in the first fifty rows”. They maybe don't feel familiar enough with the locals to say anything political with a capital 'P', but El-P's little comment that “especially the police” are guilty of the acts central to the song 'Lie. Cheat. Steal.' does not go unheard.

The beats get a little lost due to the sound, but their voices do not. Commenting on their annunciation may be the most boringly white thing possible, but in a festival context it does matter that people who may not know your record can hear what the fuck you are saying. And these two have a clarity that doesn't compromise their character. They are a really exceptional festival act, and well worth getting sweaty for. - Suzie McCracken

FKA twigs
21:14, Crack Magazine

When FKA twigs kicks off, the tent is heaving with expectant faces and people are spilling from all the edges of the tent. But, only a few bars into her first song, hundreds turn around and leave.

A lot of this is to do with the general tone of Tahliah Barnett's record. Loud and minimal bass sounds with her crystalline vocals over the top do not translate well in the space. Not until about half an hour in does it begin to get good, which is, unfortunately, a lot to do with the fact the crowd more than halves in that time. But when the sound has room to breathe, it breathes heavily, seductively, and fully.

It also helps that at this point she turns to songs that are slightly more bombastic, like 'Glass & Patron'. Her band also seem to gain a new sense of enthusiasm, even when the songs demand a feeling of the forlorn.

And her voice is nearly in mourning. The only thing that could improve her tone would be listening to it in a Turkish bath. Her serenity is unique; her bodily contortions are expected, but never predictable. She utters “London” repeatedly, in the manner of a long-haired ghost child in an episode of Goosebumps: it'd be hilarious if it weren't genuinely spooky.

Her dancing is, of course, a highlight, with every movement perfect to a millimetre. From a distance she looks like a double-jointed Bratz doll. And her look and movements do enhance her performance, in a way much more artistically important than the Daily Mail would have you think.

But in a way, it is a triumph. The disappointing aspects of the set merely act as an advert: after Field Day, there will be many keen to see her in a more acoustically friendly venue. - Suzie McCracken

21:35, The Quietus/EYOE

Following on from last year's Our Love, Dan Snaith's Caribou have come into their own as a live outfit in the last year or so - just the right time then for them to earn their first UK festival headline slot as they close Saturday's proceedings on the main stage against competition that includes FKA twigs and Nina Kraviz. The set-up is fairly minimal, the stage adorned by a background depicting the artwork for last year's aforementioned LP and a number of columns of bright light in front, backlighting Snaith and co., dressed in all-white, as they huddle in tightly across two drumkits and various keyboards and synthesisers.

Fresh from his afternoon set in the Crack Magazine tent, Owen Pallett, with whom Snaith has previously collaborated on his Daphni side-project, stands to the side of the four that make up Caribou's live incarnation, adding violin accompaniment throughout. It's hard to know how much rehearsal has gone into Pallett's guest appearance, it being his first alongside Caribou, but it's a combination that comes off effortlessly. It punctuates many of the more mournful moments of Snaith's last two albums as Caribou with an even greater sense of underlying melancholy than on record, music that is both functional for the body and the heart.

Opening with the title track from Our Love, with its Inner City-indebted bassline, and extending it out beyond its five minutes on record to climax on a burst of percussion, a feature of many of the tracks that form the rest of the set, the band quickly follow with a few more restrained moments from last year's album before dipping into 2010's breakthrough Swim and moving between the two for the remainder of the set. Sure, a few people start to filter out a few tracks in once it becomes evident that Caribou won't perhaps offer the more rowdy, day-topping climax of other stage headliners like Nina Kraviz and Hudson Mohawke. Those who stick it out though are rewarded with a set from a live act evidently prepared to step their status up to the next level, fresh from their largest ever shows, bearing witness to an ever-ebullient Snaith as the four, plus Pallett, close out on the one-two euphoric blow of 'Can't Do Without You' and 'Sun' - two of Snaith's most simple, yet satisfying moments as a producer. - Christian Eede