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The Great Escape - Day Two

We're on a roll now - soaking in some wildly different styles, singer-songwriter to dubstep to prog. At least a couple of excellent discoveries and all rounded off with another blast from the wonderful Cloud Control.

Lunchtime with the snappily named Woodenbox With A Fistful of Fivers, who'd driven through the night from Glasgow to be there. Sax and trumpet alongside two guitars, bass and drums. Less folky than I was expecting - driven from frontman Ali Downer's tightly strummed acoustic but subtle, shifting rhythms and excellent textures from the brass. Confident enough to begin one song with some whistling... The final 'Twisting Mile' (also available on white vinyl 7", collectors) has almost show-tune elements before storming into a frantic controlled accelerando to finish. Downer remarked after one song 'We normally play this off our faces, late at night... I don't know why I told you that.' Appetite nicely whetted for their (evening) appearance at the Heb Celt festival in Stornoway in July, especially after a nice chat with their fine and friendly drummer Nick Dudman.

They were followed by fellow-Scot Rachel Semmani - lovely, big voice, good fingerpicking, sweet stories (the travails of working on a burger van)... I was less immediately convinced by her songs, but definitely worth a listen.

Then an unplanned stop for Coda, not knowing what to expect. They were great: guitar, trombone, drums, keyboards and what the frontman introduced as 'effects and shit', seamlessly blending dub, techno and almost metal guitar parts into something infectious and accessible. I was left reflecting that The Clash really started something with 'Police and Thieves' on their first album - and that testosterone will win out whatever genre young lads choose.

The evening shift began with Sweden's Thus:Owls, on the basis that any band with a colon in their name deserves some attention. (Punctuation is important: I always placed 'Paint It, Black' higher in the Stones' canon than it would otherwise be on the song's merits because of that crucial comma. But I digress... ) Slow, portentous prog - but always interesting and effective. Singer Erika Angell has a striking and powerful voice - if you can imagine a Venn diagram of Björk and Renate Knaup of Amon Düül II (do try, now), the interface will be pretty narrow but it's a good place to be. Erika also has an appealing habit of jumping up and down on the spot at moments of particularly high drama. Definitely worth further study.

My cunning plan then was to squeeze in to the Hope, if possible - it's always heaving, and wait for Cloud Control's set at the end of the evening. The plan worked but involved absorbing a determinedly weird set from Paris Suit Yourself (loud, punky, repetitive beats, incomprehensible frontman giving the front row libations from a litre bottle of Smirnoff, wild (male) drummer in a black miniskirt - I know it all sounds good in theory, but it didn't really gel for me); and a rather duller one from Breton, boys in hoodies and caps from central casting, hunched over laptops, projecting seemingly random images onto a creased white sheet they'd clipped to the back wall, beats, beats, beats - oh, and beats... It was also boiling hot.

Still, the plan worked - and brought the bonus of a chat at the bar with Cloud Control's lovely Heidi Lenffer who'd spotted my notebook and suspected journalistic intentions. We touched on their BTV session (it was cold) and I said that it was a good test of a song's strength that it will hold up in very different arrangements - duly exemplified when they opened with a blistering take on 'Meditation Song #2'. It was a similarly structured set to the day before, and delivered with the same intensity. Guitarist Alister Wright seemed more relaxed, grinning through streaming sweat with a rueful comment of 'My voice is fucked', although it didn't seem to be... A great set and well received. Onwards and upwards, Heidi - you're definitely on your way. I'm sure Bliss Release is going to get a fine reception when it's finally released here later this month - of course some reviewers, like this one, were well ahead of the pack and even placed it in their 2010 top ten...


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