Woolf Music

August 2013

Well, it seemed like it was never going to arrive but, all of a sudden, here it was. Woolf Music might not have been so much Terrastock as Tinystock but had many of the essential ingredients of a classic festival. Let me see there was the sumptuous setting (Cleeve House in the heart of Wiltshire), eateries, ales, and an interesting and eclectic audience surpassed only by the hand-picked line-up performing alternately and alternatively in an amply proportioned marquee and up in the historic house. Oh, and for day one (Saturday) we were also inundated with some typically unseasonal festival weather. This inclemency meant that the less adventurously inclined (and here I’m guilty as charged) clung to the marquee area and just occasionally venturing out for (usually liquid) sustenance and periodic checks of the lavatory facilities.

There was nothing unadventurous about the entertainment though. The marquee line-up on day one featured mostly free form experimental electronic music and unleavened drone but occasionally more conventional fare. Indeed, what a jolt it was to the system The Left Outsides, performing one of the longer sets of the weekend, proved to be. I mean melodies and song structures?! Who let these weirdoes in? In truth they were a highlight among many notable turns, which included a frustratingly short set by the wonderful Thought Forms and one of the revelations of the weekend, Bear Bones, Lay Low (Ernesto Gonzales from Belgium via Venezuela). Like many acts who either spent time bent over tables strewn with boxes and wires or else sat on the floor manipulating various gadgetry (in this case the latter) Ernesto was not the most visual of acts and would have been well served by an eye-catching backdrop. More optically stimulating was the much-anticipated Black Tempest but alas their sound suffered somewhat from a rather rushed set-up which was the result of trying to keep the programme on schedule. Terrascopic darlings United Bible Studies closed proceedings in the marquee in ebullient and entertaining style at which point, thankful for the fact that we’d now seen the last of the rain for the weekend, we all decamped to the house for some well-received readings by Byron Coley, the organic folk of Sharron Kraus and Woodpecker Wooliams (how you’d hoped Joanna Newsom would sound like).

Sunday dawned brightly and held its shape throughout. Alternating more between the house and the marquee – with occasional forays into the library to see what Koru Kosmou was up to with his/their bass drones, backdrops and occasional guest artists were up to -, special mention must go to Ellen Mary McGee, Bare Bones (no relation to Bear Bones, Lay Low), Deej Deerwal of Thought Forms – a master of overload and under-length sets it seems – and the delightful Kull from London who served a similar purpose to The Left Outsides on day one in providing a welcome diversion from Death by Drone (not that too many were complaining about the latter). The nightly decamp up to the House following Plinth’s closing set in the Marquee was rewarded by sets from the very fine Bridget Hayden, guitarist Joshua Burkett and arguably the big name of the weekend Josephine Foster, who trilled sweetly enough although her cellist affected a look that suggested there was something deeply unpleasant under her nose (that would be my trainers then). Her look of mild disapproval and annoyance at everything around her was somewhat undone when she started bowing her hair instead of the cello at one point. What larks, Pip.

And that was that. Two days of perfectly convivial entertainment and company – thanks especially to Heather, Simon, Cara, Steve and on the occasions when we got to see him, Genial Mein Host Phil McMullen and to the many others we met and enjoyed. Thanks too to Katie and Kim’s Kitchen for their deliciously sloppy Dahl and no less delicious but even messier bacon wraps, but most of all to Phil and Sonic Sanctuary for putting on such a great little event. I’m already compiling my wants list for the next time (Phil, are your reading this?).

Ian Fraser

The reader is also politely directed to Sophie Cooper's rather lovely review of the event, here:
 link to SophieCooperMusic.com