A dash from The Orchestra Object Tent, to Orbit, to Mission Control, ending up in Nebula
Bluedot has lots of cool little asides and distractions to dip into while you’re wandering around. The Orchestra Object tent, for example, houses all manner of wacky, Heath Robinson-looking “musical instruments” forged from old milk churns, bits of industrial tubing, used traffic cones and other such detritus. Kids big and small engage with it all and have a go, just bashing, thwacking and playing at will. Great fun.
A quick zip over to the Orbit tent to catch LA’s Belief, aka Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and hip hop producer Boom Bip. Operating from a compact semi-modular/laptop set-up, the duo make bleepy, ravey, experimental techno and electronics – mostly taken from last year’s self-titled debut album – with pounding beats that knock you for six. A big crowd is up for the Saturday evening party, and Belief duly respond. The pair’s set builds and builds, as they twiddle knobs, heads bowed, deep in concentration. The squiggly acid vibes are strong, as tracks are seamlessly segued into one long continuous mix, with clear nods to the likes of Orbital, Bicep and early Warp. There’s a good-time feel, as we all happily succumb to Belief’s clubby vibes. Embrace the squelch!
At Mission Control, acclaimed stand-up Nish Kumar delivers his gloriously loud, angry and biting political shtick at 100 miles an hour. I catch the first half of his set, as he rails against the many failings of the Tory government and all their “crimes” and misdemeanours. He’s certainly not one to mince his words. On prime minister and fellow Asian Rishi Sunak: “He’s British, he’s Asian, and he’s a cunt.” At this point, a couple of parents with very young children quickly scuttle away, quitting while they’re ahead. Kumar gets funnier, more cutting and deliciously abstract, declaring “I’m sexually aroused by the tears of failed racists.” Ex-PM Liz Truss (“a controlled performance art experiment”) comes in for ridicule too, as Kumar wonders whether she was “breast-fed by a car exhaust”. You get the gist. Amidst this country’s political maelstrom and the Tory government’s “moral vacuum”, thank goodness for essential voices like his to kick against the pricks.
Saturday evening, and after a miraculously dry day – somehow swerving the forecasted rain apocalypse – the heavens finally open and the Nebula tent is rammed. “I hope some of you are here to see us, rather than just escaping the rain,” says Ishmael Ensemble saxophonist Pete Cunningham, and there’s an almighty cheer. His five-piece band are clearly about to play to the converted. With two acclaimed albums under their belt, and high praise from the likes of Gilles Petersen, Tom Ravenscroft and Caribou, Bristol’s experimental jazz/electronica collective have been getting up quite a head of steam. But it’s on a live footing that they really show their chops.
Musically, there’s so much going on. Layers of sax and celestial keyboard fills rub up against electronic pulses, frenzied guitar riffs, an array of shimmering FX and dubby echoes. As a sax virtuoso, Cunningham certainly gives fellow saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (The Comet Is Coming, Sons Of Kemet) a run for his money. And singer/pianist Holysseus Fly’s hugely resonant voice really hits the heights, especially on the ‘The Rebuke’, an “angsty” track about her battle with breast cancer. As she nails the high notes with pin-sharp, soulful precision, the emotion in her voice is palpable.
Formidably tight, this is a band that knows each other’s nuances inside-out. Amid the searing density of their joyous fusion, they’re all lost in their own sonic worlds but somehow remain a cohesive whole, navigating their dazzling interstellar groove. It’s over all too soon. Holysseus Fly blows us a kiss, and they’re off. On the up and up, and with a third album in the offing, Ishmael Ensemble look set to soar.