The Deer Tracks, Parlure Spiegeltent (****)
A belated performance by Sweden’s The Deer Tracks (Patrick Wolf’s fault, apparently) gets the evening off to a slightly soporific start, wind-up music boxes vying with a familiar Scandinavian landscape of glitches and synths to provide appropriate backing for the vocalists’ ephemeral siren-song. Their songs are delicate, fragile things, morning dew refracting moonlight, and whilst the combined hangover of Sigur Rós, múm and Efterklang never quite relents there’s enough eerie, understated beauty here to keep the déjà vu from becoming terminal.
Telepathe, Digital (****)
Several near-death experiences en-route to Digital (apparently leafing through the festival programme whilst navigating four lanes of traffic isn’t particularly wise) means we’re jostling for a view of Telepathe with just two songs to go: fortunately theirs is exactly the kind of soundtrack that befits an airless club pressed with perspiring flesh, nocturnal beats and drawling synths meshing with singer Melissa Livaudais’ urgent narrative to form a kind of dystopic pop, a Blade Runner you can dance to. Closer So Fine sounds like a night coming alive, shadows commingling with clockwork motions and staccato jolts.
Die! Die! Die!, Po Na Na (***)
It’s unlikely that Po Na Na has ever witnessed the like of New Zealand trio Die! Die Die! before, although to be fair the name should have provided something of a clue. Anyone of a more sensitive disposition would likely have followed their advice, as vitriolic guitar lines and end-times drums tear away at the small room, singer Andrew Wilson scanning with Terminator zeal for new parts of the stage to launch himself from. Said stage quickly exhausted, he extends the hunt to the crowd, breaking the fourth-wall and presumably a few bones: it’s like Brecht for the ADHD, theatre for those who find pneumatic drills a touch on the melodic side.
Sad Day For Puppets, Parlure Spiegeltent (**)
Back at the Spiegeltent, and sets are still running late (another opportune moment to blame Patrick Wolf…), which means that the scheduled Marina & the Diamonds look remarkably like Sweden’s Sad Day For Puppets. Theirs is a fuzzy, shoegaze-inflected smudge of poppy optimism, major chords and echo-heavy: it’s diverting if inessential, the overriding effect of their performance an unnerving dissonance between knowing that time has somehow passed without any memories having been formed to account for it.
TV Off, Komedia Studio Bar (***)
Another of the lineup’s ubiquitous Scandinavian offerings, Finnish duo TV Off shamelessly appropriate The Knife’s template of introducing dark-tinged electro-pop to an eccentric female vocalist. Daubed like Björk she marauds the stage like an overwrought marionette, her cohort lurking in the shadows behind, illumined only by the uplighting of his MacBook as he marries fuzzy basslines and synth loops to her somewhat dubious rhymes. Whilst they never quite reach the heights of their many reference points, TV Off are enough fun to make invoking them irrelevant.
White Denim, Pavilion Theatre (*****)
One of the key draws for this year’s Great Escape, the queue of hopefuls still snaking from the Pavilion Theater’s doors when White Denim take the stage could have filled the venue anew. Fortunately they warrant the attention, although that likely isn’t what those left outside want to hear. What they likely want to hear is restless guitar lines that scrape away at the air and drum-snaps that cleave it in two. Vocals that bark like the possessed before clutching at us with melody, and bass-lines that curdle around outros that rage in defiance of the truncated set-time. Songs that assume the form of garage-rock, and then mutate into something not quite served by lazy genre-labeling, and a band that seem at once unashamedly shambolic and faultlessly poised. Which is exactly what those inside got to hear, in one of the best performances of the weekend.