ArcTanGent Festival 2016 live review - Somerset

Post-rock fest ArcTanGent goes forth into new musical realms!

TODO alt text
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Cementing its reputation as one of the summer’s most unpretentious and musically rich connoisseur festivals, the fourth annual ArcTanGent brings around 5,000 freaks from across the globe to rural Somerset for three days of all things prog, psych, post and beyond.

The twin peaks of Thursday night are Three Trapped Tigers, whose sci-fi electro rock rips up the larger Yohkai tent, and math punk quartet Axes, whose mix of noisecore with shimmering high-life guitars brings an incongruously joyful energy to the smaller PX3 stage.

Three Trapped Tigers

Three Trapped Tigers
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Early on Friday, Three Trapped Tigers drummer Adam Betts is back again, demolishing PX3 with a machine gun blast of slick electronica and driving rock beats. Always good value for money, Knifeworld bring their kaleidoscopic psych prog steampunk surrealism to the Yohkai tent before Arcane Roots arrive on the main stage, warming up the mid-afternoon crowd. The highlight of their set is an electric take on If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves from their last EP, though with an album on the way as a follow-up proper to 2013’s Blood & Chemistry, no doubt big things await.

Arcane Roots

Arcane Roots
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Cerebral jazz fusion meets post metal shredding on Friday when Animals As Leaders pack out the Yohkai tent. They make their virtuoso twin-guitar tapestries look deceptively effortless, but the super-complex sound they make could be Pat Metheny jamming with Miles Davis and Metallica. Sublime stuff.

Animals As Leaders' Tosin Abasi

Animals As Leaders' Tosin Abasi
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Meanwhile, on the smaller Bixler stage, Cleft’s final show is a cause for much outpouring of grief. Having graced every instalment of the festival so far, they are virtually the house band. Playing a mix of tracks like Frankenstein from this year’s farewell LP Wrong, alongside a fan‑voted setlist, it proves to be the highlight of the festival. Closing on a medley with help from members of Trojan Horse and Alpha Male Tea Party, they leave the crowd tired and stunned in the early evening rain.

Multimedia soundscapers Nordic Giants grow grander and weirder by the month, but they really need a bigger screen for their cinematic extravaganza at Arc. The surging instrumental swells in this show sometimes veer a little too close to Coldplay-style inspirational uplift, but their accompanying short films are as dazzling and darkly dystopian as ever.

Cleft

Cleft
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Arc is not a festival built on big brand stars, but this year’s most noteworthy major-league players are Montreal post-rock legends Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who headline the main stage on Friday. Midway through their interminable widescreen tantric drone symphonies, it starts to feels as if this particular Black Emperor is wearing no clothes. However, they redeem themselves with a late run of super heavy sea shanties that sound like Black Sabbath playing at half speed. Awesome, in other words.

Godspeed! You Black Emperor

Godspeed! You Black Emperor
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

Blowing the Saturday morning cobwebs away in appropriately riffy fashion, Denmark’s Town Portal mix Swervedriver-esque shoegaze with a progressive metal-inspired rhythm section that recalls Meshuggah. Likewise, the stunning crescendo of Black PeaksSay You Will, from their debut album Statues, provides another early‑afternoon standout.

Black Peaks' Will Gardner

Black Peaks' Will Gardner
(Image: © Ross Jennings)

And So I Watch You From Afar were a highlight of the inaugural ArcTanGent, with frontman Rory Friers telling Prog last year that their set here was a career peak. If any single band can challenge Cleft on raw power and crowd reaction, it’s this Belfast foursome. Heavily trading in early material like Set Guitars To Kill, Search:Party:Animal, Beautiful Universe Master Champion and Gang, they stir up so many crowdsurfers that the security guards become completely overwhelmed. After three days in Arc’s mind-bending musical hall of mirrors, we know exactly how they feel.

Image 1 of 144

Image 2 of 144

Image 3 of 144

Image 4 of 144

Image 5 of 144

Image 6 of 144

Image 7 of 144

Image 8 of 144

Image 9 of 144

Image 10 of 144

Image 11 of 144

Image 12 of 144

Image 13 of 144

Image 14 of 144

Image 15 of 144

Image 16 of 144

Image 17 of 144

Image 18 of 144

Image 19 of 144

Image 20 of 144

Image 21 of 144

Image 22 of 144

Image 23 of 144

Image 24 of 144

Image 25 of 144

Image 26 of 144

Image 27 of 144

Image 28 of 144

Image 29 of 144

Image 30 of 144

Image 31 of 144

Image 32 of 144

Image 33 of 144

Image 34 of 144

Image 35 of 144

Image 36 of 144

Image 37 of 144

Image 38 of 144

Image 39 of 144

Image 40 of 144

Image 41 of 144

Image 42 of 144

Image 43 of 144

Image 44 of 144

Image 45 of 144

Image 46 of 144

Image 47 of 144

Image 48 of 144

Image 49 of 144

Image 50 of 144

Image 51 of 144

Image 52 of 144

Image 53 of 144

Image 54 of 144

Image 55 of 144

Image 56 of 144

Image 57 of 144

Image 58 of 144

Image 59 of 144

Image 60 of 144

Image 61 of 144

Image 62 of 144

Image 63 of 144

Image 64 of 144

Image 65 of 144

Image 66 of 144

Image 67 of 144

Image 68 of 144

Image 69 of 144

Image 70 of 144

Image 71 of 144

Image 72 of 144

Image 73 of 144

Image 74 of 144

Image 75 of 144

Image 76 of 144

Image 77 of 144

Image 78 of 144

Image 79 of 144

Image 80 of 144

Image 81 of 144

Image 82 of 144

Image 83 of 144

Image 84 of 144

Image 85 of 144

Image 86 of 144

Image 87 of 144

Image 88 of 144

Image 89 of 144

Image 90 of 144

Image 91 of 144

Image 92 of 144

Image 93 of 144

Image 94 of 144

Image 95 of 144

Image 96 of 144

Image 97 of 144

Image 98 of 144

Image 99 of 144

Image 100 of 144

Image 101 of 144

Image 102 of 144

Image 103 of 144

Image 104 of 144

Image 105 of 144

Image 106 of 144

Image 107 of 144

Image 108 of 144

Image 109 of 144

Image 110 of 144

Image 111 of 144

Image 112 of 144

Image 113 of 144

Image 114 of 144

Image 115 of 144

Image 116 of 144

Image 117 of 144

Image 118 of 144

Image 119 of 144

Image 120 of 144

Image 121 of 144

Image 122 of 144

Image 123 of 144

Image 124 of 144

Image 125 of 144

Image 126 of 144

Image 127 of 144

Image 128 of 144

Image 129 of 144

Image 130 of 144

Image 131 of 144

Image 132 of 144

Image 133 of 144

Image 134 of 144

Image 135 of 144

Image 136 of 144

Image 137 of 144

Image 138 of 144

Image 139 of 144

Image 140 of 144

Image 141 of 144

Image 142 of 144

Image 143 of 144

Image 144 of 144

Have A Cigar: meet the team behind Arctangent Festival

Black Peaks' Will Gardner on why he loves French metallers Gojira

Critics' Choice 2015 - Nordic Giants