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London Highbury Garage

The fantasy is CBGB's in '76, the reality is closer to, well, the Garage on a wet Sunday afternoon...

London Highbury Garage

As the industry fractures and flatlines, everyone's looking for A Scene. So while the organisers of this all-day celebration of challenging art-rock meanderings claim that the featured bands have little in common, there's an obvious, unspoken desire to see a shared attitude emerge.

The audience can't be fooled, though. While Electric Sound Of Joy play to an enraptured crowd Upstairs, below we find Scala emptying the room. Few people seem to have just dropped by on the off-chance of seeing the new Stereolab: there are cliques of Clinic fans, packs of Pram aficionados and while all these disparate sets mix, allegiances are still important. If the fantasy is CBGB's in '76, the reality is closer to, well, the Garage on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Not that this seems to worry Novak, who refuse to be pigeonholed. Their fractured folk involves a number of incongruous instruments (accordion, flute, glockenspiel) which belie the claim that this is all just a beano for the Moog. A glorious antidote to the specious demands placed upon the listener by the abstract guitar manglings of Billy Mahonie or Karamasov, Novak are charmingly naive. It's a warm, woozy sound, which also manages to be the most visionary music of the day...

...Along with Electric Sound Of Joy, of course, who are hardly Kraftwerk when it comes to looking dapper behind banks of knobs and buttons, but nonetheless share that band's love of sci-fi melodies. Like Air, they manage to be chic and cheerful, allowing a potentially icy groove to melt into a fantastic fanfare of sizzling synths. While SCALA and headliners LAIKA rely on the raucous reverb of the guitar, attempting to beat the audience into submission with waves of feedbacking noise, Electric Sound Of Joy tease and taunt with bossa nova beats and subtle atmospherics.

Tellingly, then, it's the two bands who sound out of place who remain the most memorable. There are always a few good groups to be found in any scene, but both Novak and Electric Sound Of Joy know that only the best music transcends such limitations. Watch them soar.

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