London, Camden, Saturday, 05/05/12
michael baggs
11:02 7th May 2012

Feeling the effects of Saturday’s exploits, Gigwise decides to ease into the second day of the Camden Crawl by relaxing on the couches in the Holiday Inn while watching Charli XCX perform. She’s a little less frenetic than usual and her vocal benefits from it, the low notes in her vulnerable rendition of ‘Stay Away’ sounding particularly good.

She’s followed on stage by James and Rab of Glasvegas, who perform a short set of songs using just acoustic and electric guitar, including a slowed down version of familiar chant-a-long ‘Geraldine’ with a country and western lilt that suits it well. ‘Daddy’s Gone’ is as affecting as ever and, as it’s delivered, through the glass wall behind the stage, a long boat hosting a wedding party can be seen floating along the loch, creating a weird juxtaposition with the tortured lyric.

Sufficiently roused, we’re soon up on our feet, heading to The Wheel Barrow for a spot of Johnny Foreigner. The band have released three albums worth of perfectly imperfect, precociously messy guitar pop now, and deserve a little more recognition than they’ve had since the initial hype of their first releases. It seems to be getting to them. Alexei introduces ‘Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’ as “a song from when we used to be famous” with more than a hint of bitterness. When they’re actually playing, though, the irrepressible energy they’re known for is still vitally present, bringing to life both the old and new material.

Needing a breather after the stifling crush of such an intimate venue, we meander out into the overcast day. As we pass Camden Gardens we hear Crossfaith doing their thing and, it has to be said, they were probably the best example of a Japanese metal-techno fusion band we heard all day - which is saying something...

After a making few regrettable decisions with regards to the quickest way to a cash machine and the best way to feed ourselves with said cash, Gigwise manages to fight off indigestion and reach KOKO in time for Niki and The Dove, which is fortunate because they’re incredibly good.

The high drama created by the layered percussion and electronics give a context to Malin Dahlstrom’s ethereal vocals that make comparisons with Bjork and Kate Bush almost inevitable. However, underneath it all, the band is centred on their instinctual ability to create pure, unadulterated pop joy, and they owe an important debt to the lighter side of the 80’s. Putting aside colossal soundscapes for a hypothetical moment, they could take easily take on the likes on Cyndi Lauper at her own game and consistently win. Their debut album is out this week and, we can confirm, it is brilliant.

We round off the festival with a run of three acts at the Jazz Cafe. First Lady Leeshur entertains us, spitting syllables at such a rate, you’d need significantly more than your naturally allotted compliment of ears to catch them all. She’s followed by the staggeringly good, Micachu and The Shapes.

The brainchild of classically trained experimental musician, Mica Levi, the group deliver short blasts left field, lo-fi genius. Clever, but never contrived, the music is puzzling, enthralling and maddeningly enjoyable. Nothing is predictable but everything feels natural (even with train tickets stuck between the guitar strings). The drums are primal and precise, the guitar playing is expertly naive (generally utilising no more than two fingers at a time to bring utterly original compositions out of the weirdly tuned instrument) whilst the keys set everything off perfectly. Their next album is out in July, and the wait will be agonizing.

If that weren’t enough, veritable post-punk legends The Raincoats are up next. The band that proved such an important inspiration to Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and countless others bring the festival to a heart warming close. Opening with their amazing 1982 single ‘No One’s Little Girl’ the band embark on a set showcasing the inventiveness that makes them so special. The tempo changes and dissonant strings from Anne Wood in ‘Shouting Out Loud’ are a particular highlight, but throughout Gina Birch’s bass playing, which has intonations of reggae and funk to set off its more direct attacking lines, provides the perfect foil for Ana Da Silva’s biting guitar.

Seeing such a legendary act playing straight after one of the most impressive young groups in the country ensures the weekend ends on a high that even the prospect of the night bus relay home can’t diminish.