little-dragon-2 © Chinashop Magazine

In his first post, new music blogger Chris Parkin directs his critical antennae at Glastonbury 2011 and is reminded that music is currently healthier than a five-time Olympian.

You’ll find no snarking about Glastonbury here, just intense jealousy. Green-eyed resentment that I wasn’t there up to my neck in mud on Friday, then burnt to a frazzle on Sunday while the finest music people from around the world gathered, ‘standing in the conference of ley-lines,’ as Sir Paul McCartney put it a few years back.

Instead we were glued to the telly, to the radio, to Twitter, to the broadsheets, to everything, our critical antennae directed at what was going on and unaffected by the sort of mass hysteria and hallucinogens that make a person find any pleasure in Jessie J.

Surprises abounded, such as Tricky’s ropey rabbit-in-the-headlights appearance with Beyonce, a face-scorching set from The Chemical Brothers, Outkast’s Big Boi doing his ‘willy dance’, The Wu-Tang Clan in fierce form, old-timers Pentangle’s aerated psychedelic flights of fancy, and Rastamouse ‘makin’ a bad ting good’.

But the weekend was one massive reminder that naysayers’ doom-mongering about today’s music are stuck in so much metaphorical mud. Things are more diverse than ever and so was Glastonbury 2011, with a middle-aged Syrian hype-man shouting dancing instructions along to Arabic hard house in the same field that U2's Bono was boring the arse off everyone. Here’s what we found off-the-beaten-track...

Prince of Persia
Omar Souleyman – a man who, until recently, released music only on cassette and is now signed to the experimental Sublime Frequencies label – is a bandleader and wedding singer who shouts over wildly frenetic rhythms and beats so banging they resemble something from the hardcore continuum. That he looks like a man who’s never heard a drum machine let alone a note of happy hardcore, replete with an enormous moustache, only makes the experience of his mind-harrying Persian disco all the more fantastic. What he’s shouting over his wheezing synths and raw, jerking rhythms is all rather irrelevant. He’s soon to appear on Bjork’s latest album too. Check out his Glastonbury performance here...

Take the Monae and run

The stats say it all, really: since the broadcast of Janelle Monae’s eye-opening and frankly bonkers set – the sort of pop performance that bears comparison with Prince and Grace Jones – her two albums Archandroid and Metropolis have seen a 7,750 per cent and 5,739 per cent increase in sales respectively. The voice, the rapping, the dancing, the vision of a glorious post-apocalyptic future in which robots and humans fall in love, the hair – it’s what pop superstars are made of and after this it looks like she’s finally on her way to the throne...

Stealing the show
Cassetteboy, Terror Danjah and Mount Kimbie all made star-turns, but it was the electronic music of a man making a brief guest appearance at the festival that deserves more attention. Warp Records’ intricate rockers Battles were clever-clever as always but their set really served as reminder of how magnificent Matias Aguayo is. He lit up their recent second album Total Gloss and arrived in Pilton to grunt, pop his cheeks and mumble in his own inimitable style on Ice Cream. If there’s any justice in the world, people will now seek out the cosmic, almost shamanic vocal-looping post-house made by this Chilean-born, German-based, Kompakt-signed wunderkind.


Old friends
Sweden’s Little Dragon have brought their dreamy, sun-dappled and gently-pulsing electronica to Red Bull Music Academy Stages in the past and they will have been just the escape required on Friday when all around was mud, mud and wellies stuck in more mud; Chile’s Nicolas Jaar (listen out for the feature in the radio show below) was just as soothing. But it was RBMA alumnus (Melbourne, 2006) Daniel Brandt, the leader of the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, who made the most complex music at the festival accessible. Their underwater pulses and wiry riffs make for a kind of live-techno cum algebraic-rock, only way more groovesome and heavy than that suggests. An honourable mention, too, to onetime RBMA radio hosts Crystal Fighters, whose self-styled Basque punk was just the right side of global for the less mud-encrusted at the festival. Lesson learned: come new-born quintuplets or snow blizzards, we won’t be missing Glastonbury 2013.


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