ATP: Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare Before Christmas

This review of ATP is constructed from notes written by my numerous companions at the event (credits given in text). They were almost exclusively written at the performances they discuss, usually in the dark (this may or may not be noted in the text). My favourite three acts have hash numbers next to them eg. #1. Photos are a mixture of those taken by Chris and myself (the good ones are Chris)

Additionally, Chris has compiled a 41 minute video of our exploits, featuring the likes of Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Keiji Haino, GY!BE, Berg Sans Nipple and others. It can be seen here

‘A collision of music the likes of which we’ve never seen…in a three day period’ – Deerhoof

Considerably better than last year; crowds were much friendlier and more mixed, fewer ‘hipster’ dickheads knocking around. The diversity of the lineup allowed from some interesting and unexpected moments of crossover and juxtaposition. Again, the Pavilion stage, which has the largest capacity, was completely underused (4 acts over 3 days). Godspeed, who had three hour long queues on the Centre Stage should obviously have been on the larger capacity one. Oh well. I look forward to the same mistake next year.

Growing ‘Very loud’ – Lee, Age 26
Big crowd, zero movement. Analogue gear largely, and they are somewhat self involved. Guitar on later tracks, though this and vocals were largely lost in the mix owing to the perennial sound issues on the Centre Stage.

The Berg Sans Nipple
Bonnie-Prince Billy lookalikes with an over reliance on delayed vocals. Pretty run-of-the-mill folktronic sounding, though the constant switching from keyboards to drums was enjoyable.

Black Dice
Classic noise/rock cross with ridiculously punchy drums and interesting variations.

‘-Listening mainly to my earwax vibrate
-One song they played made me think of Born Slippy
-That is a song by the band Underworld
-It was on the Trainspotting soundtrack
-It was fairly unavoidable 1997-2002’ – Tom

White Magic
A brief singer/song writer argument before hand. Lee suggested a Pretenders comparison.

Re: Tom relays Liam’s Joanna Newsom related assertion, writing the account in the notepad on a pool table in Reds
‘I didn’t cry!* I’m not a faggot like you! There are other ways to deal with trauma than than**sucking milk from ya own breast!’

Philip Jeck
The Anti-DJs DJ. Vocals struggling to get through the crackle, a distinct and visually apparent separation between the technical practice and the intended outcome (the needle falls slowly on to the record). The crowd are filling gaps with pointless claps.

GY!BE – Friday
Room is too hot and smells like a hotdog took a shit. In for the last 30 mins, for Slow Riot’s entirety. Muddy sound, but good drums. Interesting film loops over the top. Crowd is compact and unpleasant. Probably because they’re sweaty. Performance will perhaps improve day on day?

Tim Hecker
Played material from Ravedeath 1972 I think, as well as fragments from Rainbow Blood/Blood Rainbow, Sea of Pulses, Springheel Jack Flies Tonight and The Inner Shore and something that sounded like a song from the Mos Eisley cantina if it was situated at the bottom of an ocean. Lots of low end (at the back, sitting down – Liam slept – the chairs are shaking) and static. Performed in complete darkness. Pulses rising and falling. Vacant, distant voices.

ATP Cinema, Saturday Morning
The Last Days of Contrition by Robert Kerr, 1968?
Palm trees and a solitary umbrella. Swings looked after by a lonely looking black dude. Video aracde, out there, welcome to the eternal.

‘Being sleep deprived may not be conducive to enjoying the cinema experience of short, black and white polemic films. However, the raw visuals and soaring dissonant soundscapes left my bowels and armpits a-trembling’ – Liam

‘The millions of tanks passing by reminds me of the opening to Spaceballs. American Patriotism of the 60s/70s seen from this vantage point is quite hilarious’ – Lee (potentially inaccurate, as some of it is written over the top of itself in the dark)

In the next war, we shall carry the dead. Say ‘I do’. Air raid sirens, fighter aircraft high up, joshua trees.

Two films by Paul Sharits: 1 – t,o,u,c,h,i,n,g (when asked how to spell it, Lee said ‘I can’t be bothered with commas) and 2 – Epileptic Seizure Comparison (30 mins too long)

1- Destroy! After a while, this phrase sounds more like a man yelling ‘Jarvis’ or ‘It’s dry’. Looks a bit like Russell Kane, the shit comedian, trying to tear his face off and cut his tongue out. Lots of flashing…an epileptic’s nightmare

2- An actual epileptic’s nightmare. Two epileptics having seizures induced. Black/white flashing.
‘Owl, train, backwards laughing, colours, feeling sleepy, brain fuck, William Shatner having a seizure’ – Lee

Flower/Corsano Duo
Would have worked better if I’d been down the front. Difficult to appreciate Corsano’s skill from a distance, but apparently competent as ever. On at the wrong time of day.
‘Too intense, I’m not feeling it’ – Dan

Bardo Pond
Set mixing old and new songs. Heavy, deep, well rounded sound for once on the shitty Centre stage. Sludgey, dark, mellifluous like stoner treacle.

‘Sexy front lady with presence, unrelenting intensity, heavy, melodic, discordant’ – Chris

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – #3

13/14 members, including a small child on miniature drums and a middle aged man on maracas. Grand fun, though a song that could have been titled ‘I’m Not Afraid of You’ had a similar chord sequence to Imagine and ‘However’ sounded identical to Come Up and See Me by Steve Harley, to the extent that the man behind me started singing it.

Oneida’s Octropolis (Joined by The Dead C when I saw them)

Organ looping, improv loving, headset wearing, klangbad sporting fun, with detuned guitars and frantic off kilter drumming that occasionally headed in to a krautrock groove. This formed part of a 10 hour performance, where Oneida were joined by various guests. White Hills worked better than The Dead C, who in turn worked better than Thee Oh Sees, as Tom explained.

John Butcher – #1
A curious range around perambulations of scale. His style makes it seem as though he is forcing the music out from somewhere other than the instrument, like it is a conduit, contrasting this with subtle melodic passages. Three mics, the first normal, the second delayed for playing short notes, the third used for resonance from the instrument, the keys, breathing and the room itself. Sound spread varied as he move away from the mic and toward the audience. One piece is all keys and feedback. An honest and genuine performance.


Shrill, all high end, and interesting follow up to Butcher. E-bow guitar and piercing sax. Tom said they spent the first 20 mins arguing with the sound engineer.

GY!BE (Saturday)

Sound much improved. Played unrecorded early stuff, Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls and East Hastings I think. Drunk man behind Liam asks him about liking onions, whispers in my ear ‘What’s it like to be in Ellen’s head…I bet it’s a lot of tasty cake’, before ruffling my hair. I move away, offering vague threats of violence for no reason.

The Ex
More straight up than I expected, but then it is just one performance amongst many, rather than a solo gig for them. Atmosphere up the front seems better. From the back it seems…ok.
‘The most fun I’ve had with my clothes on’ – Danny

Marissa Nadler
Fairly heartbreaking opening. Songs about loss and lost love and being spurned.
‘Haunting, tits, sultry, melancholic, glacial, lady in red, mounting girl, mournful, folksy, stark’ – Lee, Dan, Liam

GY!BE (Sunday)
Their best performance of the three. Drums and bass nicely balanced, though the xylophone was way too loud. Played the entirety of Static from Lift Your Skinny Fists… which was most enjoyable as it is my favourite song of theirs.

Francisco Lopez – #2
Hallucinatory. Sitting in a rough prism with numerous others, all blindfolded, whilst a larger audience watches us. Tom finds it disconcerting. Eye plasma swirls about in an odd purple/white narrative throughout the piece, punctuated by distant shapes looming in and out of light sources. Sound changes as I move my head, as people move in and out of the noise.

Charlemagne Palestine

Shamanistic, he’s travelling his own path and we’re not necessarily on it yet. Guttural in places, forceful, primal but also tender, gesturally tentative. Samples of sheep, kids playing and tangled piano innards. Tones develop slowly but purposefully.

Cluster (fuck)
KOSMISCHE! Or two old guys pulling sounds out of various boxes. Blending all sorts of bits from their career including 90s techno beats and bleeps with 70s washes of analogue synths.

Keiji Haino
A Boss Pedal fan. Playing low end and amp buzz via pedals. He’s reminiscent of Sadako from Ring. Occasional vocals along a similar line to Palestine, though less pronounced or vital. Walls vibrate with the sound of it. Afterwards, I’m pretty queasy.

Dedicate ‘Passing Away’ to Sleazy. They’re like Garcia, only better. Majority is vocal drone with occasional guitar lost in the mix. Later, nice synth stuff from the Prophet. Guy on the far left treats each song like a techno masterpiece. Odd.

Daniel Menche
It’s his birthday! Drones created via effected singing bowls, whistles, a small flute type thing and some kind of ouroborian throat singing. Beating himself in the throat with a contact mic on a stick, then playing the stick with a variety of percussive implements. Crowd expands significantly during the performance. A nice noise round off.

On classic form, tightly structured off sync poprock hybrids, with the drummer rambling as ever. This was one of the first acts I ever saw at an ATP (2004 in Camber Sands), and despite not being dressed as fruit this time, it seems like the perfect way to round off the experience.

‘Having deliberately stayed oblivious to the additions to the line up for eight months, and being genuinely thrilled when I arrived and found out what I was in for, by Saturday afternoon I had come to an understanding that the festival and line up operates almost like each act has witnessed some humanitarian atrocity simultaneous with each of the other acts and this gives the impression that the peculiarities of their own particular sounds serve as interpretations, or contributions if you will, of the personal emotions each act experienced as a result of witnessing said atrocity’ – Danny

*in reference to two performances of Ms. Newsom’s where Liam allegedly cried
**sic – intentional repetition


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3 Responses to “ATP: Nightmare Before Christmas”

  1. Broughall Says:

    “White Magic
    A brief singer/song writer argument before hand. Lee suggested a Pretenders comparison.”

    I vaguely recall what I said – something about a cross between someone and the Pretenders – but have no recollection of seeing White Magic. Which ones were they?

  2. Chris Stokes Says:

    I fell asleep before posting the rest of my photos. Will post more later, including Keiji Haino. I have videos too which I want to stitch together and dub “my collected memory”

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