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Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 1

  • Published in Live


For the third year running, Primavera Sound is the festival of choice. Especially for a city slicker like me, there’s something about the beach festival right in the beautiful city of Barcelona that just works. Standing at the top of the staircase if one wants to go down to the Pitchfork or Adidas stages you can see the city lights along the beaches stretch from left to right, and, when at one of the main stages, you can see the tall, Barcelona buildings betraying the fact that, yes, you are smack in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest cities out there. If you go to festivals for the camping, camaraderie, or wellies and mud, this might not be your thing. For those alienated city weirdos, the eclectic programming only enhances that there’s no singular group one belongs to.

Beak> starts off my festival, and do so amazingly well. The trio knows how to do their brand of rock, and the way they slide from one part of a song to the next is a real marvel. The guitar work is really splendid, throwing out some nifty lines, and the set is varied enough throughout to keep people exactly where they are for the entire duration. You can see this is a band of pros, who know what they are doing, and who then apparently can enter a new synth player into the starting line-up without any major hitches during the songs. They, themselves, seem to enjoy it all as well and thus the start of the fest is as positive as one could hope for.

It goes quickly downhill though, as I love Destroyer, but the sound is muddled. Any time there’s a guitar that enters the song, the pristine craftwork of the band comes tumbling down. Which is a crying shame, because last year seeing them in an indoor venue at Le Guess Who? was amazing, with Dan Bejar fronting his band’s intricate works with passion. Here, too, he goes for it, but what worked indoors doesn’t work at the Ray Bans stage today. I’d happily see them again, somewhere, someday, but this makes for an exit before their full time is up.

Which doesn’t get us in time to Air, at least not to see them in a proper position. Chatty people surround us everywhere, which isn’t necessarily the way you want to enjoy the super clean, even pristine, sounds of the French band. The vocals sounds angelic, and it seems they have their stuff together for this one, but it is a bit too rowdy where we are standing, which means we don’t get the beauty, and it only comes off as tame. We wait until ‘Sexy Boy’ comes (oooohhhh-hooo), and then we go from the main stage to one of the smallest stages there is.

Now, being brought up with MTV Unplugged, I’m curious to see what an unplugged version of electro-pop artist Jessy Lanza will sound like. It is the Ray Bans Unplugged stage after all. Apparently, not really, as the show starts wildly late because of all kinds of difficulties with the electronics, cables, and assorted instruments that are on it. When she does start, she starts hesitantly, with not everything completely doing what she wants yet. Drum sound is a tad off, and the microphone doesn’t seem to register her lower singing, although it evidently does manage to catch the high yelps. The two women on stage are down two sets to love and serve is to the other side.

If one band can be proud of today’s set, it is though these girls. Not only do they right the ship, they rebuild it to a cruise liner with the best party in town. The crowd is getting increasingly more into it (it’s packed, and then some), and they are regaining their swagger, which breathes new life into the tunes. This year releasing her album Oh No, she rolls through catchy and punchy songs like the title track and a prolonged, dancey version of ‘Never Enough’ in which she gives it her all. Being last on the stage, she can make up for some of the time she lost at the start, and all there are all the happier for it.

From a young woman ready to reach a wider audience to an old all-American music composer showcasing the oeuvre he has built up during years and years in ol’ Hollywood. That, and doing some Ennio Morricone to boot. John Carpenter has a full band backing him as he does all these well-known synth riffs from the movies we grew up on or belatedly watched somewhere during our lifetimes. That deep synth sound is the key, and the rest of the band fleshes out the sound perfectly. In the background we see the images of the movies these tracks graced, and he does some work off his Lost Themes albums too. Carpenter shows you don’t need to be a fresh, young face to suddenly appear at festivals and engage and hype up crowds, you just need some quality work and a keenness to play them. So, from slasher flick soundtracks to album material, we get it all, with the haunting synth sounds giving the Barcelona night some extra flavour.

Back on the main stage we celebrate the return of LCD Soundsystem, and in a headliner set we get everything we want and more. The roster is one of all-stars, with Nancy Whang and John MacLean from The Juan MacLean with Pat Mahoney and Gavin Russom, staples of the DFA roster, and Al Doyle from Hot Chip we just have it all there on stage. And then, the main brain behind it all, James Murphy, rocking, dancing, and yelling out all the frustration and anxieties that one builds up in life. From dance-punk tracks to all-out disco, from rawness to the super slick; we get everything and more in a headline-worthy set by the New York band.

We get the old work, with tracks like ‘Yeah’, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’, and ‘Losing My Edge’. The last one has a beautiful, slow moving bass base, making you dance and swing your body as Murphy narrates what basically seems like a nervous breakdown turned around, for, in the end, yeah, they might be more interesting, prettier, and have an amazing web plan, but I was there when all that fantastic shit went down.

‘Home’ is one of my favorites off the last album, such a slick creature it is, Talking Heads-inspired, and ending with that fab line "If you’re afraid of what you need, look around you, you’re surrounded, it won’t get any better". Closing out it’s the piano anthem ‘All My Friends’, saying what, in the end, after all, turns out to be really important. That you’re there, with friends, and surrounded by people with similar anxieties, dancing and losing it to a band that — for perhaps a niche group but still — defined a generation for some. And they, here, tonight, showed why in a strong, get-yr-feet-moving set.


The Weekly Froth! - 20160401

  • Published in Columns

Tim Zawada

The Weekly Froth! A weekly take on six tracks, most of which have recently popped up somewhere in the blogosphere. Bit of a mixed bag with a slight leaning towards house, disco, and remixes, but generally just anything that for some reason tickled the writer’s fancy.

Track of the Week: ‘To Be Free’ Tim Zawada edit

Love that on-the-low-down Chicago bass that this one starts off with, like we’re riding the inner city streets ready for whatever the night brings. Then, the jazz saxophones, which come in after a bass and percussion combo laying down the rhythm. That combination comes back, before ditching the percussion and returning to the sounds that it all started out with. Then, at 1:45, the vocals, singing that We are the one, and that, yes, We’re going far. Then, the clear singular male voice, singing We gotta get away from here, before the bass lets us flow down the river that takes us once more. This time, after the three minute mark, the bass gets the guitar and the saxophone to go along, before diving into the hazy vocals again, thinking about flying away before there’s a little growl in the male voice, insisting they’re going to spread their wings. I mean, that bass, by golly, it’s so sexy, and then with all the helping elements like the sax, guitar, percussion, and then with the vocals coming in time and again; a lovely rhythm piece to get it on to here.


‘VV Violence’ by Jessy Lanza

Jessy Lanza starts this off with some sass, saying that she May say it to your face, but it doesn’t mean a thing (just so you know, hon). She keeps up with the rhythmic vocals, singing that You don’t even talk to me, this all the while there’s some quick firing percussion going on helped out by, around the 45 second mark, a deep, bass like thing. At the minute mark the thing moves to the electro-pop side of it all, upping the tempo, going up a pitch in the vocals, and doing the thing you can dance to before dialling it back with the slow bass sound. Later in the track there is a more dance interlude, where the focus moves to rhythm and beats, though later on the vocals do make their entry again. It is a nice combination of pop, more experimental electro, and dance, giving it an edgy but catchy feel that fits the Jeremy Greenspan produced album that she put out.


‘Beau Sovereign’ by Leon Vynehall

Leon Vynehall has someone whispering in our ear about Our love, which clearly is doing something or another to this person. In the mean time the percussion and, a bit later, the actual beat come in there, kicking this deep house tune by Mr. Vynehall into gear. Then we also get the synth in, providing us with some of that house vibed goodness for the dancefloor. Apparently, our love is all that she wants, putting the sex there where it belongs (namely, in House music). At the two minute mark the synths really start to build up, making no mistake that you should be jackin’ it up on this one. There are some nifty synth shifts in there, from the old house hands to some more atmospheric sounds for the track to slow it down to. However, there are always the drum and beat for the midnight people who want to dance, giving them all plenty of opportunity to do so on this nice deep house track with some vintage elements to take us way back down the alley once more.


‘Star Tripper’ by Breakbot

That’s as close to entering space as you can get really (without risking copyright infringement, that is), with Breakbot starting this one out the way you expect Star Tours in Disney to start out (or at least, to treat you to as the waiting room music). Surely, the first minute is more about the start of a cinematic space adventure than that it is about slow burning space disco, which with the drums and rhythm sounds it veers closer to the rest of the track. And it takes until the 2:40 mark to really get the catchy in, with the bass and sans the synthesizers that basically spell out Up, up, and away. One thing cannot be denied though, that they don’t know how to put theme in their music, and when they say ‘Star Tripper’, dear me, they mean it, giving this a nice, slow space burner to do some shuffling to underneath the starts at night.


‘Keep Moving On’ by Satin Jackets feat. IsaacO

This one starts by laying down the atmosphere, with the high pitched “ooooh-hoo-ooohs” mixed with the deeper, soulful vocals announcing that They will keep moving on. Those vocals are accompanied by the piano first, before slowly but surely other sounds start to arrive. It takes a while before we get to drum sounds of this, and when they do, they are idiosyncratic as opposed to a steady beat line. It helps the head nodding on this low-paced track, giving us the heartache and the yearning through the vocals and the piano, with the drums adding to the solemness. The high pitched backing vocals keep singing the title line, as the singular drum and all the accompanying atmospheric sounds ride this one to a fitting close.


‘Starr-Let’ Dr. Packer rework (Preview)

There comes the disco and funk, courtesy of The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band, who’s track ‘Starlet’ is reworked by Dr. Packer. From the start, there’s this amazing disco tempo that just has dancefloor written all over it. There’s a nice bass in the back there, providing the rhythm along with the drums, and you’ve got a plethora of vocals. Especially in the verses the bass and the vocals are the starlets (…) of the show, and of course it is all about love and dance and taking a chance. Just one of those funky disco reworks with plenty of good vibes, and all kinds of pace to make sure the dancefloor stays packed. At about 3:20 that pace is dialled down for a moment, though you can already hear it gear up again, though that’s asking a bit much for a preview. Though, before it fades out you hear the guitar riff again, all the rhythm elements being back, so you know they will be at it even after sundown. 



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