Eppyfest 2016 live review - Stroud

Judy Dyble and William D Drake join a cast of innovative musical makers at this year's event.

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(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Tom Slatter

Tom Slatter
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Rivalling Glastonbury as the epicentre of magickal hippie Englishness, Stroud is the perfect location for EppyFest. Held in a community hall next to a spiritualist church, the atmosphere is a mix of village fete and obsessive fan convention. Welcome to sleepy Middle England, with all its occult oddness bubbling away just below the surface.

Festivities begin with guitar-strumming balladeer Tom Slatter. He leavens his surrealistic Sci-fi lyrics with self-deprecating humour, which is charming but overly whimsical in places. A more seasoned and impressive singer-songwriter is Marvin B Naylor, whose 12-string musings combine Bert Jansch-level melodicism with Roy Harper-style tonal shifts, free-form song structures and sudden swerves into tremulous falsetto.

Marvin B Nayler

Marvin B Nayler
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

An early EppyFest highlight are the electro-acoustic improvisation duo Darkroom, consisting of Michael Bearpark and Andrew Ostler, swollen to a trio on this occasion by their Turkish guest player Elif Yalvaç. Mixing laptops with modular synthesisers, guitars and woodwind instruments, their set features a series of explorations into Eno-esque ambitronics, ebbing and surging before the sonic storm clouds finally dissipate to allow soft rays of Floydian guitar to shine through. Potent stuff.

Darkroom

Darkroom
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Asaf Sirkis

Asaf Sirkis
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Bringing 50 shades of jazz to Stroud are The Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet, led by Israeli-born virtuoso drummer Asaf Sirkis and Polish vocalist Sylwia Bialas. Their agreeably multicultural mixtape sound ranges across genres and continents, with Sirkis covering the percussion spectrum from sloppy post-rock clatter to Gene Krupa-style dynamic wallop.

A faint aura of legend surrounds prog folk veteran Judy Dyble, whose half-century in music includes integral involvement with Fairport Convention and the embryonic King Crimson. Backed by a tight band that includes two keyboard players, her EppyFest set applies cut-glass trilling to songs of rueful introspection and pastoral celebration. Behind her impeccably English reserve, there’s grace and darkness, and a quiet emotional force in melancholy confessionals like Silence and the Crimson classic I Talk To The Wind, all arranged and delivered with a watchmaker’s precision.

Judy Dyble

Judy Dyble
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Former Cardiacs keyboard player William D Drake and his band are EppyFest regulars, having topped the bill at the very first gathering five years ago. Their richly embroidered headline set is a carnival of queasy listening and psychedelic sea shanties, picking up the prog punk music hall ethos of the Cardiacs but without their seething Dadaist mania.

A rollicking, purposely wonky cover of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic is about as rowdy as they get, but most of this joyous late-night performance has the slightly sinister sunshine sweetness of vintage Syd Barrett. A fitting finale to a day of magic and mischief in this leafy corner of old, weird, psych folk Albion.