LIVE: ArcTanGent 2018 – Friday

By Mark Johnson

ArcTanGent has provided a home for those of a math and post-rock persuasion for six years now and with each passing event, the subtle changes and continuous improvements make this one of the best events on the British calendar. This year, the Main Stage has been given a makeover, the opening day gets three stages instead of two, and the line-up features some outstanding talent, promising to make ArcTanGent number six one of the biggest and best to date.

Images: William Pavli, Words: Mark Johnson 

Seven Colour Drive open the Arc on day two and the combination of an early start and a particularly slow, gentle opening song gets their set off to a laboured start. As the instrumental quintet progress through their set, the build ups get shorter and the crescendos heavier, creating a more active spectacle for the still-waking crowd. There’s a sludgy, stoner vibe to the riff heavy, half tempo sections which are balanced nicely against more melodic, finger tapping guitar breaks and soaring chord progressions to round off an interesting instrumental palette. Though the band admit to some nerves, they don’t show, making for an assured set that displays a lot of potential.

The instrumental prowess continues with Blackpool’s Blanket. The post rock quartet sound huge on stage, striking with more power than anyone on Yokhai so far and in particular, tracks from the quartet’s recent new record ‘How To Let Go’ are pristine and full of impact. Blanket’s cinematic sound is highly visual, often conjuring images in your head with sweeping soundscapes and emotional tones, and to make this more literal, they stream visual clips and videos to accompany their songs on a pair of monitors. It’s an altogether visceral event and with Blanket having just released their best work to date, this is a band definitely on the rise.


Codices’ brand of instrumental rock takes a more direct approach that’s less concerned with build up, preferring to deliver defined riffs and recognisable song structures. It’s rare to decipher verses and choruses in instrumental music but while this may seem overly conventional for an ArcTanGent band, the repetition of certain passages does their music a great service rather than detract from it. Having central riffs to come back to gives Codices structure and purpose and when the riffs are as good as this, it’s worth hearing them more than once. This quartet shows that you don’t have to be overly complicated to succeed in this genre and their set goes down as a head-bobbing crowd pleaser.


God Mother grab us by the scruff of the neck and yank us out of our instrumental reverie with blast beats, pulverising riffs and guttural screams. The Bixler stage didn’t open on day one, and having been dormant until now, vocalist Sebastian Campbell is quick to explore it, jumping straight into crowd, all the way to the sound desk. There’s not much subtlety in what this Swedish hardcore act produce, but an aggressive onslaught like this would never pretend to be anything different. It’s the first time the quartet have brought their ear drum damaging barrage of noise to the UK and off the back of this performance, there will be plenty of people begging for their return.

God Mother

Having been bruised and battered by God Mother’s onslaught, Astralia offer comfort with the warm and soothing embrace of their ambient, instrumental post rock. With a cinematic quality like Blanket before them, Astralia conjure up images of natural beauty, like a soundtrack to a film of sweeping mountain ranges as dusk begins to settle. Beneath it all lurks an imminent threat of darkness, a minor tone always threatening to punch through, which lends a sinister subtone to their music. This edge gives each track suspense, never knowing when, and if, something heavier will break out and when it does, the impact is breathtaking. To generate this much atmosphere between just three musicians is superb and Astralia can be proud of lifting the whole mood of ArcTanGent with this performance.


We last saw Talons at StrangeForms festival back in April, their first performance in 22 months. Now back on the main stage at ArcTanGent and with a brand new album under their belts, it’s safe to say that the instrumental sextet are back and bigger than ever. Opening with their signature wall of sound, with two violins leading the way through a cacophony of noise, Talons make their way through endless rabbit holes of musical exploration, building to rousing crescendos that justify why they came back to write another record. Talons have plenty of creativity still to offer and when they can execute as well as this, there’s no wonder so many people crowded into the Arc to witness their triumphant return.


It’s been an outstanding year so far for Conjurer, who stunned us all with their jaw-dropping debut ‘Mire’ back in March, and have since taken every opportunity to blast it in our faces on stages across the country. And much to our delight, they’re showing no sign of slowing down. There have been some heavy acts at this festival so far, but nothing quite as punishing as Conjurer; if violence was distilled into a sound, this would be it. Far from being mindless violence though, there’s a premeditated complexity to the band’s sound, characterised by the shifting tempos, seamless transitions between time signatures and the startling amount of atmosphere that cuts through the chaos. It’s a marriage of styles that can only be executed by superb musicians and with yet another mind-blowing performance to add to their name, the future looks very bright for this quartet.


Vennart bring together several of the varied genres and styles of music we’ve seen thus far at ArcTanGent into one package, managing to be ambient and atmospheric in one instance, building gradually to a measured impact, heavy and riff led in another, then purely pop rock, led by catchy vocals. It makes for a multi faceted and interesting set, but while they may be jack of all trades, it may be better to lean on one aspect more heavily to truly be a master of at least one of these, as some of their transitions ultimately fall flat. It’s difficult to put your finger on Vennart’s sound and while that’s admirably creative, it comes at the risk of being forgettable once the festival crowd disperses and seeks its next, more easily definable, fix.


Tides From Nebula emerged as one of the stand out acts of Tech Fest last month, thanks in no small part to the respite their ambient post rock offered against a slew of otherwise heavy, aggressive bands. Here at ArcTanGent, the band are surrounded by kindred spirits playing a similar form of artistry but even among their peers, this Polish quartet stand out as a masters of their craft. Though the band’s sound is often ethereal and ambient, painting vivid dreamscapes of imagery in your mind, it’s delivered with venomous potency, imprinting each vision firmly inside your skull. The swelling bass tone and thundering drums do much of the damage while the guitars swirl and cavort with soaring melodies. It’s another best in class set that underlines an impressive festival run for this excellent band.

Six figures in white boiler suits, hoods, face masks and sunglasses step out onto the PX3 stage and stand in formation while a voiceover states that our Black Futures expedition is about to start. As a countdown from 10 begins, the two musicians that make up the band take their positions behind a drum kit and synth-station ready to start the set. The band’s sound is heavily drum groove orientated with synths, samples and guitars thrown in for good measure, punctuated by shouted, anthemic vocals that intend to rouse and engage the audience. At the end of the first song, it’s clear that’s not all that’s intended to engage the crowd, as two of the white clad figures hop into the crowd and dance to the next track, inciting those around them to join in. It’s one of the more visually interesting sets of the weekend and this kind of creativity is always warmly received at this festival.

Strobes’ sound is pieced together with drums, a guitar, keyboards, samplers and loop pedals, which offers a wide range of creativity and intrigue and while this initially holds true as they begin their set, it fails to come together as one coherent package. Too often their ideas meander at tangents to one another, rarely meeting in the middle to produce something memorable.

Tides of Man’s first foray into instrumental post rock, 2014’s Young and Courageous, was one of our stand out albums of that year and still remains one of the genre’s crowning achievements. Until just recently that is, when the Florida-based quartet released follow up ‘Every Nothing’. With a four year gap between albums, it’s clear that the band haven’t wanted to rush perfection, and now the record is in our hands, it’s impossible to argue with that sentiment. Last time we saw the band, the turnout was sadly meagre, but here they come out to a fully packed tent and by the time their set is through, the crowd goes beyond the tent boundaries into the field beyond. The reception clearly touches the band, who can’t thank the crowd enough, and it’s no less than they deserve; every song has been precisely crafted to produce just the right amount of build up before progressing to the next stage of the journey, which often ends in a stunning conclusion. No moment of any Tides of Man song feels too drawn out or unimportant and as they impart their hearts and souls into each note live on stage, the emotion in the music transcends even that of the records, to produce easily one of the best sets of the weekend.

In its five year history to date, ArcTanGent has been known to snag some high profile headliners, last year’s UK exclusive performance by Explosions In The Sky being an obviously noticeable one, but even among these past acts, legendary post-hardcore heavyweights Glassjaw might just be the biggest yet. With a big name comes big expectations and the set doesn’t exactly start with a bang. There’s a lengthy pause beyond the band’s scheduled starting time while soundchecks continue, but as they launch into their opening track, it’s not clear what the engineer was taking so long over, as the sound is muddy and unclear, with the guitar particularly difficult to decipher. Luckily Glassjaw have an arsenal of excellent songs to draw from and the likes of ‘Mu Empire’, ‘Ape Dos Mil’ and ‘Tip Your Bartender’ are good enough to incite enthusiasm from the crowd despite any technical difficulties. Tracks from the band’s new album ‘Material Control’ make up the majority of the second half of the set and they mix into the playlist well, letting us know that Glassjaw are well and truly back in business. The new era Glassjaw is fronted by a more subdued Daryl Palumbo than the front man of old, choosing to pirouette around his mic stand without expending too much energy, delivering his lines competently if not as enthusiastically as his younger self. Ending with the ferocious ‘Siberian Kiss’ provides a wonderful hit of nostalgia and reminds us how the name Glassjaw got so big in the first place. The production may have been underwhelming compared to our day one headliners, but their stature and collection of excellent songs make for a solid end to day two.