Live Review: ArcTanGent Festival 2018

ATG 2018
Photo by Helen Messenger

From guttural vocals which will rip your face clean off to some of the most technical and innovative guitar riffs, you have ever seen. ArcTanGent really has something for everyone. Already Heard once again returned to Fernhill Farm, situated about 10 miles outside of Bristol for the three-day festival which brings you post-rock, post-hardcore and everything in between.

What makes ATG even more fun is the site is an absolute dead spot for phone signal, so people aren’t on their phones constantly they were actually floating between the four stages and taking in all the music on offer.

Thursday

  • Delta Sleep - Arctangent-12
    Delta Sleep - Photo by Helen Messenger

A welcome change this year was that the ground was not an absolute marshland despite a heavy downpour before the first band we saw of the weekend. Body Hound (3/5) on the PX3 stage, who were a great appetiser for what was to come for the rest of the weekend. Their brand of post-rock was unoffensive yet not the most technical.

The ATG party really got underway with Alpha Male Tea Party (4/5) who may as well be the festivals resident house band. The bass tone was a bit heavy and after seeing them on the Arc stage last year, it did feel a bit strange them being on the smaller stage.

Svalbard (4/5) showcased exactly why they are a band changing the game in the UK. Their sound filled the PX3 tent with songs addressing issues such as the term Feminazi, sexual assault and animal breeding. After a swift right hook from the Bristol four-piece, Delta Sleep (3/5) provided a bit of a different approach with a bit more of a funky rhythm to their riffs. It wasn’t long before the Yohkai stage was dancing and singing along.

In true ATG fashion the pace was once again mixed up as Rolo Tomassi (3/5) took over the Yohkai. Opening with ‘Aftermath’ was a brave move from the band, but it didn’t take long for the controlled frenzy to take over.

One of the pleasant surprises of the festival was Foxing (5/5) not because you didn’t know what to expect, it was the fact they were that good. Play a mix of songs from their recently released album ‘Nearer My God’ and older material. Vocalist Conor Murphy’s range is phenomenal, and he hits every single note.

Closing day one of ATG was And So I Watch You From Afar (3/5) who played ‘The Endless Shimmering’ in full. A decision which some members of the audience groaned at, but with such musicianship on display even for those not so familiar with the record it was a spectacle. Along with twiddly guitars and an incredible light show, ASIWYFA seemed right at home on the Arc stage.

Friday

  • Talons - Arctangent-19
    Talons - Photo by Helen Messenger

Kicking you in the gut to start day two was Modern Rituals (2.5/5) their grungy sound was raw and bitter, and maybe missed the mark so early in the morning. On the other extreme, there was Orchards (4/5). The four-piece produce some of the most earworm-worthy guitar riffs and had the whole crowd singing along. Throughout their set, you could not help but feel the infectious upbeat vibe from the band who had huge smiles on their face the whole time.

When six men dressed all in white walk out, you could be mistaken for being in some type of science fiction film. Instead, Talons (3/5) were the men in white. The band have really honed their craft and have found the perfect blend of heavy guitars mixed with the subtlety of the violins.

If heavy music is your thing then look no further than Conjurer (4.5/5) from the moment their set started a tone was set on how much of an onslaught of the senses this would be. Whether it is the brute force of the duelling vocals or the windmill machine which is their bass play this is a band you cannot take your eyes off and may injury your neck from headbanging.

After the ATG crowd went to pay their respects at the church of Zeal & Ardor (5/5). The blend of southern blues vocals and death metal riffs is something on paper that shouldn’t work. But as the six-piece walked out all in black robes the atmosphere turned into something spiritual, and the ATG crowd were transfixed the whole set.

But the day truly belonged to Glassjaw (5/5). From the moment a bleach-haired Daryl Palumbo placed his rucksack on the stage and took the microphone a different beast awoke. Having a reputation for not being the greatest live band, the New York band turned up to play. Dropping in a mixture of new and old material it was quite possibly the perfect Glassjaw set. When ‘Ape Dos Mil’ hit it sent goosebumps down your spin and ending with ‘Siberian Kiss’ was nothing short of perfection.

Saturday

  • Mol- Arctangent-17
    Møl - Photo by Helen Messenger

Giving Already Heard the wake-up call on day three was Jean Jean (3/5) who delivered a high energy performance of their drum driven brand of post-rock. Then for something completely different, we witnessed deathgaze band Møl (2.5/5). Even though the PX3 tent was full for the band and there is a certain intensity to them, there is very much a sense of “I could be watching Deafheaven” and it dampens the experience. Also on the PX3 stage were Coldbones (3/5) whose short sharp bursts of post-rock were a welcome change as the festival began to wind down.

Another surprise of the weekend was Giraffes? Giraffes! (4/5) The two-piece was like watching a whirlwind but in the best possible way. Every movement of the band was not wasted, and everything just seemed completely effortless.

On of the highlights of the whole weekend was Myrkur (5/5) from the band being totally in black and vocalist Amalie Bruun all in white to the theatrics of the performance they truly were a stand out of the weekend. Bruun’s vocal range is also something incredible to witness.

Finishing off ATG was Shellac (3/5) who despite their odd rhythms and discordant tones showcased how incredibly tight and rehearsed they are as a band. As each instrument came in at the beginning of their set, as if the trio were just about to embark on a practice session, the wall of sound built and built. The interaction between all three members was entertaining to watch and to see how they piece together their songs was just mind melting.

ArcTanGent maybe for the music fan with a specific taste, but it also caters to many different palettes. It is one of those festivals where you go to see your favourite bands but come away with a whole list of new bands you have fallen in love with.

4.5/5

Words by Tim Birkbeck (@tim_birkbeck). Photos by Helen Messenger