It’s a cliché, but given that this is the UK leg of a festival held between Barcelona and Liverpool – and that the Kazimier Garden is full of Spaniards (/Catalonians!) – it’s only fair to mention the weather: the skies are eggshell-hued and it’s raining profusely. Happy July, BATHYMETRY, who have the difficult job of holding a crowd who are still mostly off-the-street punters at this time in the afternoon. As such, their very casual style isn’t a hindrance, and their slightly stoned 60s guitar and ants-in-your-pants stop/start basslines eventually draw appreciation from the be-ponchoed audience. There’s also a song in Cornish, which could be a roundabout show of solidarity with the Catalan independence movement. Maybe.
Next up is PAU VALLVÉ, who treats us to a varied run of songs ranging from introspective picking that leaves room for slight, melodic vocals, to thunderous loops of percussive strumming with a strong flamenco feel. Despite this, it doesn’t feel like a token ‘world music’ crossover. Comparisons with José Gonzalez would be lazy – a better comparison would be Damien Jurado. It’s common to see singer-songwriters getting worked up in the space of three minutes, with the results sounding more epic in their heads than the audience’s ears. Fortunately, Vallvé knows about form and balance, and when his voice soars it’s in tandem with the listeners.
MINION TV close the Garden line-up with sweeping post-rock instrumentals with swaying on the spot and head-nodding mandatory. Everyone here is compliant – the rough wood and old brick surrounds always suit this style, with few songs under eight minutes. It’s not as easy to do as it might seem from the number of Liverpool bands who did it so well a few years ago, and Minion TV get it right.
A few hours later, in the darkness of the Kazimier proper, STRANGE COLLECTIVE assemble. They’re an endangered species who play a very brief set marked by a discerning taste in their own songs. Strange Collective probably best fit the description of a Liverpool band as given by someone not from Liverpool, but they’re more than the sum of their jangling guitars and baggy pretensions. Songs like Heavy and Super Touchy are instantly catchy – the sound is alien, but these aliens, far enough away to receive 1960s radio transmissions, have spent the long journey to Earth perfecting that sound, and it’s almost convincingly human.
MUJERES have great songs and a high-velocity, tight garage rock sound that makes you wonder what the Spanish for ‘Parquet Courts’ is. However, a bass solo (plus excursion into the audience) misjudge the tone uncomfortably, particularly as everyone assumed the bassist was joking by announcing, “One song left. It lasts an hour.”
How do you classify CLINIC? Impossibility demands metaphors about sand running through fingers, hourglasses etc. They won’t do, and new hyperbole must be invented. We all know (from that advert with the sausage dog) that Barcelona has over two miles of beach; trying to pigeonhole Clinic is like trying to play catch with a sand dune. You may hear some typical late 90s guitar on début single I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth and everything makes sense, but not when it follows See Saw, a song filed under ‘straight-up woodwind bangers’, full of the mysteries of how exactly one plays clarinet through a surgical mask.
Fifteen years on from Internal Wrangler, Clinic can pick and choose songs that give the crowd of aficionados what they want: music that’s a little bit sick, melodica (Children Of Kellogg), Morricone (The Dream Of Bartholomew), and sex noises (all three in Porno). It’s worth mentioning the beautiful Harvest, five songs in, when the show really matures. Their anaesthetised drone can be daunting but it’s audible and, tune after tune, Clinic’s diversity shines through. Trust them, they’re doctors.