Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

10 things we loved about Trans Musicales 2011

(1) There’s something quite alluring about a winter festival like last weekend’s Trans Musicales affair in Rennes. But unlike the summer circuit, there’s surprisingly not as many gatherings of the indie and electronic tribes when the nights are long and …

Mon, Dec 5, 2011, 09:36


(1) There’s something quite alluring about a winter festival like last weekend’s Trans Musicales affair in Rennes. But unlike the summer circuit, there’s surprisingly not as many gatherings of the indie and electronic tribes when the nights are long and the days are short. Perhaps promoters figure that audiences aren’t just interested but, as we see with events like Trans, Eurosonic (Groningen, January) and Airwaves (Reykjavík, October), there is always a demand if the acts are up to scratch. And this is something which the folks behind Les Trans have been doing this since 1979.

(2) The act who were top of my must-see list last weekend were Shabazz Palaces and they didn’t disappoint. Ishmael Butler and co’s debut album “Black Up” has been one of the releases I’ve returned to again and again this year. The former Digable Planet talks a good game but he and onstage foil and ace percussionistTendai Maraire play an even better one. Over gigantic bass torpedos and thumps with freestyle licks running back and forth, the pair traded lines which were as far removed as hip-hop’s normal concerns as you can get. Slow-mo, syrupy, bleepy and off-kilter, this was a lesson in how music which goes off the beaten track is often worth tracking and trailing if those heading the pack are as smartly wayward as these.

(3) Despite the fact that there was no big act to hook it all on, 30,000 people still paid good money to see acts in venues in the city-centre and in a couple of enormous halls (which had been dressed up to the nines) in the Expo Park by the airport. Again and again, you had to marvel at just how the festival’s booking and curation policies got it right. The audience trust Les Trans to deliver and away they go.

(4) As usual, my main focus was on the acts I’d never heard or seen before which is how I ended up experiencing Carbon Airways. A teenage brother and sister from Besançon in eastern France – and when we say teenage, we mean 14 and 15 years of age – Carbon Airwaves were a sparky, energetic, unhinged blast from the supersized, distorted electrorave school of doing things. A little bit Prodigy, a little bit Crystal Castles and a little bit Sleigh Bells, they had no problems rocking the biggest room at the festival with swagger and poise. A Les Trans’ hit.

(5) OTR has already showed some love for the Janice Graham Band and that love is certainly not misplaced. Four lads from Manchester armed with guitar, bass, drums and trumpet, JGB knock out chippy, brassy, swinging, dropdead gorgeous urban anthems about life, love and ennui with nochalant cool. You can tell that they’ve listened to their parents’ record collections – especially the Sixties’ rock, pop and soul – but they’ve also taken pointers from everyone from the early speed-freak excitement of the Arctic Monkeys to hip-hop’s attitude. They looked at home on that big stage too.

(6) Consider us totally wowed by Hollie Cook. From London (and with a Sex Pistol for a da and a Belle Star for a ma), Cook’s hazy, sandy, high noon riddim pop brought a touch of summer to a rainy night in Rennes. Great band, fine voice and brilliant tunes: she’s the sort of act you could imagine getting a berth on Later and going supernova afterwards as a result. Will be checking out her debut album on Mr Bongo this week.

(7) In terms of new French acts to catch the ear, it turns out that the French for Battles is Im Takt, a feverish three piece who’ve got the punk-funk ants in their trousers and who’d no problem slamming out muscular shards of shapely, shimmering indiehouse. Also thumbs up for the soulful old-school hip-hop bounce of Backpack Jax and the 80s’ synthopia which Splash Wave were mining with chic style.

(8) Other acts from out foreign in addition to the previously cited who were Les Trans’ hits: Breton (now purusing a much different and tougher brand of sonics than was the case when we saw them at In the City in 2010), Factory Floor (the ultimate go-to festival band for the 3.30am slump), Hanni El Khatib (our new favourite Californian rockabilly snarler who kicked out the jams with some razorblade guitar rock), Group Rhoda (a San Fran girl called Mara making delightfully dark, foggy pop music with eerie bleeps and sublimely turned melodies), Michael Kiwanuka (the new-school Shuggie Otis), Orchestra Of Spheres (a Kiwi band channeling Os Mutantes, psych-rock and the more fried frontiers of acid freakery), Colin Stetson (one man and some extraordinarily out-there effects-free wind instrument sonic booms and bombs), Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Oxford producer Orlando bringing the monster mash) and Spoek Mathambo (bouncy townshiptechtronica with some rudeboy hollering on the mic, though nothing heard bested “Control”).

(9) It’s also reassuring to go to a foreign festival and realise that, likes les Irish, (a) French punters are also fond of falling around after copious amounts of the gargle and (b) French male festival punters urinate wherever a wall presents itself and need arises. That said, though, every urban festival in Europe which uses a shuttle bus service to get punters to and from an out-of-town centre could learn loads from how les navettes operated.

(10) Yes, we’ll be back. There are, after all, quite a few crepes’ cafes we didn’t get around to visiting this time around.