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LIVE REVIEW: Slowdive, DR Studie 2, 30.09.2017

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Slowdive live at DR Studie 2 in Copenhagen

Slowdive have played in Denmark since reforming three years ago, but their set in DR’s Studie 2 is their first in a venue rather than a festival since the ‘90s. The setting is perfect for the evening:  It’s intimate, it has just the right amount of polish, and it just barely contains the expansiveness of the music.

Blanck Mass proves to be a highly appropriate opener. Though he performs in almost total darkness compared to Slowdive’s dizzying light displays, he is a kindred spirit of the post-ambient derivation of electronic music. His pedals may be hooked up to synthesizers rather than guitars, and he may lean more towards harshness than delicacy, but there is a familiar dynamic range in the bright chimes he uses to counter his often aggressive songs.

There is a bit more consistency in the sonic range of Slowdive’s set. About half of the songs come from either this year’s self-titled album or Souvlaki, and they seem cherry-picked to match that evenly metered chiming and chugging. Songs that have been reimagined from their album cuts — for example, “Crazy for You” being pulled back from its looping electronica or “Dagger” being filled out from its soul-destroying minimalism — are now fashioned into something that fits neatly in a setlist. It’s a demonstration of the band’s maturity as musicians as well as their understanding of what exactly was successful for them.

It is also interesting to see how the audience have embraced the new album; songs like “Slomo” and “Sugar for the Pill” garner a bigger response than older songs like “Avalyn” or “Blue Skied an’ Clear.” The new album has clearly given Slowdive a new focus. With the addition of synthesizers to their live arrangement, it’s also given them a new shape. This subtle change adds a new and different density to their songs (and given us Rachel Goswell’s small, inflatable flamingo ring that she balances on her keyboard and keeps her egg shaker in).

Not every band that reunites after extended periods away is quite so committed to their current or future incarnation. Though Slowdive are still treading familiar territory, and indeed may now have played Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” live more than he ever did, they’re clearly back as a living band and not just for nostalgia.

Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 4, 01.07.2017

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Circuit des Yeux’s only Danish shows before today were in Copenhagen and have only been at Jazzhouse (she gives them a nod of gratitude toward the end of the set). So it’s pleasantly surprising to see how many people have turned up for her set at Gloria, given that the rain has stopped as well. We’ve been taken with her tenor-range alto since the first time we saw her, but it was exciting to see her performing with a band instead of solo. She is bolstered by a drummer and violist (and a bit of programming), turning her sinister folk somewhere between rocking and terrifyingly demonic. She closed the set with a new song, so we hope this means she’ll be back again soon.

It doesn’t matter how many times we see Jenny Hval, if she’s playing live we’ll be there. The main reason is that we know that no matter how recently we’ve seen her, the performance itself is going to be different from the last time. A festival stage is a very different setting from a small club, but she compensated with her own take on volume, namely billowing sheets of plastic.

In addition to her usual person behind the control panel, she had another synth player/vocalist and a tuba player, both whom were occasionally called upon to abandon their instruments and leap around the stage while Jenny sang as though none of it was happening around her. It takes tremendous commitment to an idea to jump to the rhythm of an odd ball song while swinging around a big fuck off sheet of plastic like it’s a normal activity.

Slowdive have played Roskilde fairly recently, but not surprisingly their 2014 set at 02:30 wasn’t very highly attended. Not the case at their set at Avalon at what they refer to as a more reasonable hour of 18:00. Then they were riding on reunion buzz, but now they’re supporting a new album. They’ve balanced their set well, weaving in new songs with their back catalogue and still seemingly genuinely excited that they’re performing. Whether it’s Avalon’s sound system or the band’s own mixing choice, there’s a lot of bass in this performance, and it’s melodic and driving enough that we don’t mind that it matches the guitars in volume at all. Interestingly, it’s the new singles “Star Roving” and “Sugar for the Pill” that elicit the biggest cheers. It seems Slowdive have succeeded in introducing themselves to a completely new audience.

Some bands appear to have been specially designed and cultivated in a B-movie laboratory in order to headline a festival, and Arcade Fire are without a doubt one of the prime examples of this. The massive hooks and singalongs that sound more than a little bombastic on record make perfect sense in this massive muddy field. Opening with “Wake Up”, the band do just that, warming up the audience in record time, to the degree that it’s only a few minutes into the set that Win Butler has managed to jump on top of our very own Morten Aagard Krogh in the photo pit. New material from their soon-to-be-released fifth album, Everything Now, is carefully sandwiched between some of their more dance and electronica-leaning work, with the transition between “The Sprawl II” and “Reflektor” being particularly pleasing in its smoothness. Having whipped themselves up with an obvious closer like “Rebellion (Lies)”, Win insists on returning to the stage for one last goodbye, with “Neon Bible”.

It feels like a natural quiet ending, but ance outfit Moderat  – a hybrid of Berlin electronica acts Apparat (Sasha Ring) and dance duo Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) – have other plans. The after-midnight gig lasted three hours (at the tail-end of a rainy festival, even our hardiest reviewer only lasted one) and cemented why the outfit has been much-hyped as the ultimate electronica live act. Pounding beats were accompanied by a visually-intricate light show, oscillating from pulsating singles with frenetic drums before moving into mid-tempo ambient tracks. The festival setting meant the volume was higher than any club, leaving a lasting impression of a powerful show for festival-goers to trudge home to.

Roskilde Festival 2014, Saturday 5th July

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Bottled in England 

Bottled In England is perhaps an unorthodox band name choice for a pair of Danes. They’re loosely described as “electro punk”, but this is a thin disguise for their brand of high energy, imaginative and exciting drum n’ bass. But instead of plugging in laptops and pratting about onstage, August Dyrborg and Daniel Vognstrup play all their instruments and mix their beats live, with an almost continuous conveyer belt of collaborations. There are vocalists, male and female, including Zambian born Lucy Love. Singers are then replaced with an electric guitar, the distorted strings of which sound like screaming. Then comes a trumpet trio, who instead of bringing a big, brassy jazz note, carry a soft ambience to the performance. They are slow and subtle, whilst the drums remain frantic and paranoid in anticipation of the drop, or, in Danish, the ‘fucking klimax’.

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Psyched Up Janis

Before there were The Raveonettes, there was Psyched Up Janis, both created by Danish noise rock musician Sune Rose Wagner. Their last performance was in 1999, also at Roskilde Festival, so there’s a lot of pressure to make this homecoming performance one of their finest. Crashing, clashing and overdriven-into-the-ground guitar is fuzzy with the wailing vocals of the duo. The concert is heavy with reverb, drenching the Orange Stage area and everywhere surrounding it with sticky grunge. The slightly lighter, melodic tones of hit track ‘The Stars Are Out’ seem out of place with the rest of the set, but manage to bring the concert to a neat finish before the encore.

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Omar Souleyman

It’s been a great festival for international music (never, ever refer to it as “world music”) this year, and Saturday is no exception. While Mali’s Les Ambassadeurs play the Arena stage, Omar Souleyman is playing at the more humble Apollo. The audience throngs around the small stage, making it look tinier and more like a magical pumpkin than ever. The Syrian singer is not one for great stage theatrics—not much interaction with the crowd, and only a producer pressing play on the backing tracks on the desk behind him—but the manic quality of the music wins through. Towards the back of the audience several apparently spontaneous dance circles form as “Wenu Wenu”, the titular track of his debut album, erupts with its techno beats and lightning-fast keyboard scales. The definition of party music.

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Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Manu Chao

In 1986 José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao underwent a series of drastic medical procedures in order to become a super-being known as the “6 pesos man”: a human genetically engineered to be amazingly popular at music festivals throughout Europe. Little did he know then that this was to be a curse as much as it was a boon. His fingers were bent out of shape, allowing him to play only three chords, always in the same sequence. He didn’t notice this affliction for twenty years. But listen, I’m sure we all have moments when we want to listen to “flamenco-tinged ska” (or whatever verbal wallpaper you wish to use to hide the fact that this is some real hippie shit), and thank god this usually only manifests itself during festivals. Imagine a place where people listen to this all the time. Sigh. Pass me the siren and the whistle then.

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Manu Chao (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Manu Chao (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Mano Chao (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh 

Arctic Monkeys

The things I’d do for Alex Turner. The leather jacket, the cuban heels, and that quiff. And I’m not the only one; the pit queue for Arctic Monkeys is stretching so far back I don’t even know where it ends, but once it’s cleared, I find a nice spot of my own underneath the screen to see his greaser locks blown up several times over. Behind the stage, the album artwork for AM is lit up, flashing and rushing through the sound waves like a heart scan. I get flashbacks to their headliner show at last year’s NorthSide Festival in Århus, where Turner was powerfully in command of the entire crowd. But when he finally enters the stage with his band members in tow, it’s more of a stumble than a sexy glide. The band slightly awkwardly open their set with ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘Snap Out Of It’. By the time they’ve reached ‘Arabella’, he’s lit up either a self rolled cig or something else, and drawls the words out with low, improvised licks and brooding murmurs. Even when he appears high as heaven, his voice is still warm as honey, if not better for the differentiation from the record, the lyrics are still genius and the melodies still hit precisely the right point. The song finishes, he looks dazed and holds the microphone to his mouth as he decides what to say. An awkward pause. “We’re the Arctic Monkeys, baby,” he says, like a drunkard impersonating an old Hollywood Movie Star.

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

“This one’s called ‘Brianstorm’,” he continues. It’s the first old track they’ve played, and it goes down a treat with the Roskilde audience. But Turner’s heart isn’t in it. He stares into the audience with a glazed look. It’s a song from the past. Now he seems older, more mature, but for the first time in a long time, frightened. The same thing happens when they play ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, which has been slowed down to match Turner’s bumbling pace. The woozy sound of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ sees the frontman closing his eyes and summoning his words slowly. It’s genuine, emotional, and cuttingly beautiful. At an earlier point in the evening Turner told the audience that the Arctic Monkeys were “having a good time.” But as the Sheffield band juggle old, fast-paced indie with more balladic new directions, they appear disillusioned, and I wonder whether his remark was genuine.

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Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol

Four rather dapper looking gentlemen take to the stage at Arena, reminding everyone that in the great Interpol-Editors war of the mid ‘00s it was the Americans who got the more good looking band. Weaving the odd piece of new material in with the ‘hits’, the set is something of a walk down memory lane for people in their mid-twenties, albeit a glamorized, slightly artificial walk. Interpol certainly have their sound locked down, with real confidence and precision, but that same precision has the undesired effect of making many of the songs sound identical. Though I listened to Interpol as much as anyone when I was 15, I find that I can only identify a song by the lyrics in the chorus. But it is undeniable that the band is as slick as frontman Paul Banks’s hair.

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Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Slowdive

Anyone remotely interested in shoegaze music will have felt a thrill when it was announced that Slowdive would be replacing Chromeo at the Avalon tent. The recently reunited quintet are second only to My Bloody Valentine in their hold over the genre, and a fair number of Roskilde’s hippest have been draw away from the likes of Major Lazer to be able to witness tracks from Souvlaki played live. Unlike MBV, Slowdive retained some of the influences and sounds of 80s jangle-pop, and temper their moments of pure, joyous noise with delicate, almost clean guitars. “Allison” and “When the Sun Hits” punch and swirl, and the magnificent “Souvlaki Space Station” features a delayed guitar sound that might be better than the one on record. Slowdive might not have the most commanding stage presences (the only interaction is a couple of thank-yous from singer Rachel), but their sound is unlike anything you will hear at this festival, pure and simple. Audiophile- and guitar-fetishist-heaven.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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