Butlins, Minehead, May 13th-15th
It was bound to happen eventually: angry trolls decrying ATP as no good anymore, that its organisers are out of ideas. But that’s piffle. The real reason for the smaller numbers heading west for a weekend shepherded by [a]Animal Collective[/a] was probably that the vibrant phantasmagoria on offer terrified the cloth-eared and fearful. There have been few finer ATPs (which makes it all the sadder that this was recently announced as the last spring outing), and fewer still that have shown such healthy broad-mindedness.
On one hand, there’s [a]Big Boi[/a], whose presence alone should’ve sold the rest of the tickets. He shouts out to us “wild Bristol motherfuckers” and fires through a thrilling hip-hop show, rapping quickly and lithely, and swinging between OutKast hits and tracks from his surreal gutter-level report, [b]‘Sir Lucious Left Foot’[/b]. [a]Big Boi[/a]’s flow is as easy as his smiling presence, and when he begins waving his mic like a cock, it’s just right: he is the big willy and the buzz continues to reverberate through a set from ageing chief of minimalism [b]Terry Riley[/b].
On the other hand – and several universes away from Southern States hip-hop – there’s Wet Sounds, a sonic installation in the pool. Rake-thin indie kids shiver through a two-hour delay, and above the water the rumbling noises mean nothing. But below, it’s like listening to [a]Burial[/a], all bleeps and woozy ambience that make fragile minds ponder sonic science before giving up in befuddlement.
In fact, forget counting the different elements; there’s too many. Up there with [a]Big Boi[/a] are [b]The Frogs[/b] – the scourge of American censors in the ’80s thanks to song titles like [b]‘Hot Cock Annie’[/b], beloved of Kurt Cobain and, after a full band set and a solo show from Jimmy Flemion when Zomby fails to show, this corner of Somerset. Little drummer Dennis is dressed as Patti Smith, Jimmy is in his glam-rock-on-K bird costume and songs about dropping the soap and a “lovely little crippled boy” are both hilarious and grimly foreboding.
In the end, it’s not really about [a]Animal Collective[/a]. You must understand why they were booked to curate – in 2009 they headlined O2 Academy Brixton, but two years spent teasing audiences mean they’ve lost fellow travellers. They do ramp it up with two sets of bubbling improv that explode into 30 minutes of cosmic rave, yet they play second fiddle to psych-cadets hitting higher peaks, such as [a]Gang Gang Dance[/a] and Ariel Pink’s [b]Haunted Graffiti[/b]; to a more colourful and skewed Micachu And The Shapes; to a more blissful Oneohtrix Point Never. If [a]Animal Collective[/a] can channel all this taste into a new album, the naysayers will kick themselves for staying away.