From Now On:
Curated by Shape Records, From Now On is a hidden gem of a festival that showcases the finest experimental music from the Cardiff music scene and further abroad. Situated over three days at Chapter Arts Centre, the venue becomes as integral a part to the festival as the musical acts. Art projects litter the festival line-up, with the interactive exhibit Arc Vertiac and the expansive CAM Sinema two installations that amuse and amaze outside of the traditional musical sets.
Kicking off the weekend, Cardiff via Netherlands’ Accu hit the ground running with a set reminiscent of larger synth-pop acts such as Purity Ring or Grimes.
Possibly the headliner of the whole weekend, Julia Holter played the last set of the night, picking material from 2013’s Loud City Song and last year’s Have You In My Wilderness, both critically acclaimed releases that serve as chamber pop’s best instalments in the genre in some time. Despite some technical difficulties, Holter remained calm (and hilarious) throughout, satisfying a packed Theatre with exquisite renditions of her great studio tracks.
Away from the main Theatre and out in the Stwidio, former Race Horses member Meilyr Jones put on an impressive performance that will continue to raise his profile ahead of debut solo album “2013”. Jones was a joy to watch on stage, with his antics extending to pacing across the front of the stage frantically, ripping up pieces of art of the walls and just generally taking the piss out of the audience. The set certainly paid homage to great frontmen of old, or a more modern comparison could be that of Ought’s erratic Tim Darcy.
Dark, booming electronic music is the theme of Saturday, with Mark Lyken’s interpretation of Ben F Laposky’s “Oscillon”, mixing ethereal wave graphics with gloomy, ambient compositions. Bristol’s Giant Swan upped the ante with raw, driving techno-noise that blows any cobwebs away, before Apostille became the personification of a human wrecking ball or what a reincarnation of LCD Soundsystem would sound like if James Murphy thought his signature dance-punk was not explosive enough.
If the previous sets were too dark for someone’s liking, Happy Meals came along to brighten up the day with infectious synth-funk: so infectious that one half of the duo, Suzanne Cook, decided that a dance-off in the crowd is essential. In a similar vein, Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep closed out the day with a tight performance consisting of sunny psych-pop tracks reminiscent of former tourmates Django Django.
However, the major talking point of the Saturday schedule was that of Breadwoman, a product of cult 80s release Breadwoman & Other Tales given a physical performance by Anna Homler, Steve Moshier and the Breadwoman herself. As Homler’s godly chanting and Moshier’s heavenly melodies proliferated around the Stiwdio, a mood washed over the audience that fused together fear and fascination that was only enhanced by the Breadwoman’s hypnotising, almost static movements. Unfortunately, words don’t really give the performance justice; it’s certainly a ‘see-it-to-believe-it’ piece.Sunday
If there was one day that could be put forward as an example of how different From Now On is from other festivals, Sunday’s offerings would be just that. Not every festival is able to put on an opera, and even more so an ‘anti-opera’. Tim Parkinson’s ‘Time With People’ is a fascinating look into what an opera actually can be. Starting off with a therapist-esque outpouring of seemingly random life events by two performers while others wade through a pile of garbage in the background, ‘Time With People’ only gets more amusing, bizarre and several other characteristics that lend to its offbeat nature. Spending a significant amount of the allotted time beating up said garbage between takes of choreographed pointing and standing formations, ‘Time With People’ culminates in a drum and chorus combo that peaks with screams of “Together!”
The facilities on offer in Chapter also allowed for a great experimentation by H. Hawkline and co., who live soundtracked Gruff Rhys favourite 70s Welsh horror movie Gwaed ar y Sed. From the today’s perspective of modern cinema, Gwaed ar y Sed comes off as a cheesy B-movie, but add the element of a superbly creepy psychedelic soundtrack that mixes with the movie so well that it feels as much as home as the original soundtrack does and the project becomes an apt love letter to the filmmaking of old.
Not finished for the day, H. Hawkline joined Sweet Baboo (who also played bass in the Gwaed ar y Sed performance) for Synthfonia Cymru, a performance that was shaped as much by the audience as the musicians themselves. With the appropriate theme of ‘Love’ – seeing as it was Valentine’s Day – audience members were able to express their view of what ‘Love’ is by typing it into a larger projection, with the musicians changing the output of their synths to match the mood of the latest input. The spontaneous nature of the project could have resulted in a messy affair, but each musician worked together exquisitely to react to the changing moods. Some examples include the input of “Love is losing track of time”, which resulted in a more ambient production, while “Love is as scary as typing in front of everyone” created a more sinister, unnerving atmosphere.
Juxtaposing the grand nature of the earlier sets, Thomas Benevolt, stage name L’Ocelle Mare, brought together banjos, rushing feet tapping, blown amps and a wide array of equipment for a manic one man band set that was brimming with raw emotion. L’Ocelle Mare’s set felt like a coming together of sorts for everyone at From Now On, instead of facing a stage as per tradition, the set-up saw the audience curve around Benevolt in the middle of the Theatre. Impassioned, mad scientist-esque displays were met with a dazed crowd who would then erupt into applause during down periods, only to be met with a humble “Merci” from Benevolt and a nod.
By Jack Boyce
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