Longitude day three: Hot Chip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kraftwerk
The big guns came out to play on the last day of the festival, but there were a few gems to be discovered away from the headline slots
Brian Chase on drums and Nick Zinner on guitar provide the musical oomph to sustain Karen O’s relentless energy, all monitor-baiting, water-spitting, microphone-helicoptering, grinning, screaming brilliance. It’s hard to think of another front-person in contemporary rock who is as engaging. Heads Will Roll, with the refrain “Off with your head / Dance ‘til you’re dead”, sees the park descend into an indie disco, the perfect juxtaposition for Maps, a track of such emotional depth, yearning and despair that it’s difficult to listen to it ever without shedding a tear.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the most anticipated acts all weekend, and probably draw the largest crowd. And while songs from Mosquito don’t shine as brightly - the title track is slightly throwaway, the opener Sacrilege works - the New Yorkers deliver with aplomb. UM
One act you couldn’t accuse of not working hard enough is SBTRKT. Here, Aaron Jerome is running solo, whipping up a frenetic DJ set without the live help of collaborator Sampha. This is blistering dubstep that seems like the distilled essence of all that’s currently good in British electronic music.
Anyone feeling short-changed by not having the full live show isn’t disgruntled for long. Jerome draws on what feels like his full back catalogue and brings something new to each track with a terrific display of DJing craft. When he drops Wildfire, the tent roars its approval, and when he rolls that into a Kendrick Lamar track, he’s got the crowd right where he wants them. This is a terrific act to close out the festival’s dance/electro venue. LM
Kraftwerk are an interesting headliner choice because on one hand, why would they not headline? They are pioneers with instantly recognisable tunes. On the other hand, for those who aren’t fans or just don’t know, their cerebral electronic minimalism isn’t exactly a populist way to end a festival.
There was extra pizzazz though. 3D visuals are on the menu and when their set time rolls around, thousands wait facing the stage wearing cardboard specs.
The Kraftwerk stance is iconic, and as Ralf Hütter, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz, Falk Grieffenhagen spend the next hour and a half or so standing behind their consoles and amid the retro-futuristic visuals, the gig takes over.
Opening with The Robots, the classic tracks keep coming, songs and sounds that changed pop music and pop culture forever: Computerwelt; The Man-Machine, with its Mondrian-esque visuals; and The Model.
The visuals vary in quality. The 3D effects are fun, but quite sparse. It is really the knowing minimalism of their aesthetic, showcased perfectly with the hypnotic visual accompaniment to 1975’s Autobahn - following Volkswagens down a motorway in something that looks like a kid’s computer game - which is achingly simple, yet captivating.
The phenomenally stylish euphoria of Tour de France is perfect. And as the crowd thins out, it benefits the gig, cutting down on the chatter on the fringes as the levels of appreciation, concentration and enjoyment increase.
Radioactivity is another excellent moment, and then Trans-Europe Express, with black and white train visuals and disconcerting synths, is showcased sublimely.
With a lighter touch on record, there are certainly some beats beefed up, some rhythms unfurling in a slightly more frantic manner, but in a world where the dastardly cynicism of EDM is churning out some of the worst electronic music of our lifetime, it is almost a relief to hear the pure and perfect minimalism of Kraftwerk cut through the night sky with such clarity and freshness. Tracks composed 40 years ago still sound urgent and immediate.
Ending as they generally do with Musique Non-Stop, Kraftwerk simply own the weekend, capping a great three days with the perfect track. UM