Homelands 2002 : Winchester Matterley Estate

The likes of Basement Jaxx, Soft Cell and the Beta Band excite...

It’s been an unremarkable year for mainstream dance music. [I]Bona fide[/I] anthems are scarce and club attendances low. Blazing sunshine and a three-day Golden Jubilee recovery ensure Homelands is as popular as ever, even if its line-up reflects the conservative state of clubland today.

Why feature the endlessly funky trance of [a]Seb Fontaine[/a] and [a]Judge Jules[/a] on rotation yet totally ignore garage? For many, adrenaline levels peak when they realise a compulsory police sniffer dog search awaits them on entering.

Still, on a day as fine as this, it’s difficult to act the churl about anything. Even [a]Tim Westwood[/a] endears himself, despite a) spinning on a sound system apparently supplied by Fisher Price and b) talking. ROB DA BANK’s set of Latin house, meanwhile, manages to detract from the legions of lairy, flagwaving wankers who have inexplicably chosen to spend their Jubilee weekend here.

In terms of taking pleasure where you find it, The Beta Band are a splendid sideline. Maybe it’s their singularity on this bill that elevates them above their recent, uninspired Essential performance; ‘Dry The Rain’ and ‘Squares’ sound more coherent than ever and guitar naysayers dance in droves.

Although Anti-Pop Consortium’s ‘Arrhythmia’ is the best leftfield hip-hop LP of 2002 thus far, their murky, fractured cut-ups are hardly prime festival fare. The likes of ‘Silver Heat’ float over blithely nodding heads, but a great moment comes when the sound dies and a mic-less MC Beans freestyle-screams into the front row’s faces.

[a][/a], slightly disappointingly, content themselves with ponderous ambient mush but make a late stab at excellence with the bleeptastic rush of ‘Melody AM’.

Young and sexy [a]Soft Cell[/a] are not, but in ‘Lazy’ the dad-house trio have a crossover classic that’s played everywhere here, not least in extended form by Ashley Beedle and Rocky & Diesel themselves, whose fearsome early evening six-deck assault leaves few questioning their credentials.

Edgy and innovative 20 years ago, [a][/a]’s seedy electro pop enjoys a hi-NRG facelift as Dave Ball and a particularly perky Marc Almond strut through a 15-minute version of ‘Tainted Love’ – welcome relief after several new songs.

Roots Manuva‘s case is not helped by another soundboard disaster which repeatedly silences the excellent DJ Skitz. It’s a sterling job under the circumstances, ‘Witness’ still shining on lyrical mettle alone and one can only laud a hip-hop icon whose first words to his audience are ‘I can’t see a thing without me glasses on!’ – but it’s still a damp squib.

Prime attraction Basement Jaxx‘s Latin love parade involves feathered dancers, a brass section and two vocalists, Mandy and Sharlene, whose bawdy presence enhances the duo’s formidable carnival disco soul revue – from ‘Red Alert’ to ‘Romeo’, theirs is ideal festival fare.