ArcTanGent is just about to put on its fifth event. From tomorrow, no fewer than 74 acts and around 5000 punters will descend upon Fernhill Farm in Somerset to enjoy three days of sun (hopefully), frolics (likely) and great music (certainly). One of the country’s most diverse festivals, yet startling consistent in quality, there are going to be a lot of fantastic bands playing, including headliners Converge, Explosions In The Sky and Russian Circles.
Watching these bands is a given, but what about further down the bill? To help you plan your days, meal times, and where you’ve got to be and when, we’ve picked five of the unmissable acts from further down the bill.
We begin on Thursday with:
Playing: 5:25pm, Yohkai Stage
Like jumping on a bouncy castle and having bubbles blown everywhere, Totorro can be summed up in one word: fun. It’s the kind of music where no matter how horrific and depressing life is, it’ll always put a smile on your face. The French quartet have a knack for making something seem quite simple on the outside, but once you delve deeper, you find a treasure trove of subtleties and nuances that is more addictive than playing Final Fantasy 9 (it’s the best one, fight me) for the first time.
Granted they may not be the most technically proficient or be the most grand in nature compared to a lot of bands under the math/post-rock spectrum, but you’d be hard pressed to find a band which encapsulates sheer joy so well. Both Come To Mexico and Home Alone are well deserved at least one listen based on that very fact, and it’s that very fact that makes them one of the bands I’m most eager to see over the weekend.
If by any chance you actually are there in attendance (I assume you would, because why else would you be reading this), then I urge you to take punt on something which will make you see the good in the world, if only for a short period of time.
Playing: 7:25pm, PX3 Stage
Any given day that you have an opportunity to see HECK is a good day, and an opportunity you should take – but this performance is extra special, in a bittersweet way, because it will be HECK’s last ever performance. Announced without fanfare just last night, the disbandment of one of the country’s most exciting, incendiary live acts will be a huge loss, and even more so because so many of their fans won’t be able to witness it.
So for those who can’t make it, make sure you do. We’re not sure why HECK are breaking up, but as far back as their 2014 Takedown Festival performance, Simon keenly identified that “Baby Godzilla (as they were called then) probably aren’t going to be around forever. There’s no way they can keep up this level of intensity indefinitely, so take every opportunity to witness the phenomenon while it lasts.”…and it seems we’ve perhaps arrived at that destination only three – albeit fun-packed – years later.
It’s something that really needs to be witnessed. HECK played the first ArcTanGent in 2013, and did everything short of setting fire to the main stage – no doubt giving the stage manager kittens while they shaking a damage waiver impotently – and they’ve not really slowed down since. An eruption of energy and an exercise in self-preservation, this is not one to miss.
Playing: 8:50pm, Bixler Stage
Were it not for another soon-to-be-departing band – The Dillinger Escape Plan – we might not have come across New Jersian outfit Ho99o9 until this weekend, and would have needed to reboot our brains in the middle of a field as a result. As it is we’ll be prepared, and it’s worth preparing you too.
Across two separate dates of TDEP’s UK tour earlier this year, we got to see Ho99o9 (pronounced ‘Horror’) deliver their discomforting blend of noise, beats and rhymes via a sparse amount of instrumentation – just a live drum kit and stand with various samplers and electronic doodads on it – and a complicated thesis on stage attire (think arctic expedition meets fairy-tale wedding).
A complete whirlwind on stage, frontmen Eaddy and TheOGM are absolutely electric – you can’t take your eyes of them, and you might have to to learn to aim your eyes independently of each other just to keep up. This is hip-hop for rock fans; outbursts of punk beats, swapping soul for aggression.
I’m not gonna lie; it’s a bit weird. Ho99o9 won’t be for everyone, but if you’ve a keen eye for this end of the spectrum – think Death Grips or clipping. – then you cannot go wrong with this one.
Playing: 11:00am, PX3 Stage
Cast your minds back to February, and you may recall our Featured Artist that month, Poisonous Birds, who I’m delighted have been given the opening slot on PX3 on ATG’s final day. The pair, Tom Ridley and Finn McClean – formerly of tech metal group Chronographs – have sidestepped their previous output and instead moved their focus towards multi-layered dystopian compositions; cinematic in scope and distinctly more post than rock.
In bringing it to life on stage, Tom uses live loops and sequencing in concert with Finn’s drums to interpret their material – which thus far consists of debut EP Gentle Earth and a few demos – to delivering vivid waves of unsettling sounds, where dreamy vocals complement hazy electronics and build into big ol’ payoffs.
The array of equipment they use lands them safely in ArcTanGent territory; plenty of pedals, effect, knobs and doodads to excite the gearheads, and just a huge amount of soul to start off your Saturday morning. Get down there, yeah?
Playing: 11:40am, Yohkai Stage
The complete opposite to the grand soundscapes and delicate guitars you may otherwise associate with this festival, Boss Keloid bring a big bag of sludge to ArcTanGent, which just proves how diverse this festival is. It’s easy to see why they would be included though, as beneath a very thick, sludgy exterior, there’s a band that are actually very complex and diverse when given half the chance.
An amalgamation of heavy stoner grooves, powerful vocals and monstrous riffs, their music takes the form of a wall of noise with the same power as two planets colliding, but the fact that they’re never afraid to go outside the box, means that you’re never bored.
Catering to such a wide variety of tastes, they’ve been gaining somewhat of a cult following in a vast array of musical circles, helped along by a mainstay of a lot of people’s top 10 album lists of last year. More specifically their 2016 album Herb Your Enthusiasm, which may just rival the Bongripper song “Reefer Sutherland” as the best stoner band pun of all time – but jokes aside, the record is just wall to wall riffs, with enough variety to keep you engaged for every listen. I’m very curious to see how it translates to a bigger stage, as even in a small backroom of a pub they can be as mighty as a thunderbolt from Zeus.