Fifth year of the AMFest Barcelona, formerly known as Aloud Music Festival, and Thursday-Saturday, November 3rd-5th, we had a luxurious line-up of this gathering about instrumental music that wisely opened itself to other genres that also used profusely words in music. The La 2 room of the Apolo hosted most of the program, with some incursions to the main room, on Friday.
In three nights, some of the best national and international bands showed their creativity and prowess. First night in, and local band Gambardella offered an interesting take on post-rock, to which they added a hint of jazz, especially at the beginning of their slot. The main thing we didn’t like was that their tunes seemed to be somehow elusive, and only in the last song, “Benicarló”, after the beautiful town in the Azahar coast of Spain, they seemed to face the audience and really wanted to overcome them.
Frenchmen Lost in Kiev changed the tone of the evening with their take on Red Sparowes – and even Russian Circles – shoegaze, goth and noise, all mixed to display dense and dark tones that really set them apart from the rest of the festival bands. Two of the songs of their latest offering, Nuit Noire, were “Narcosis”, with its orient Mediterranean flavour that reminded of the most accessible Moonspell, and “Insomnia”, a less enigmatic tune than the aforementioned one, more concrete but also spacious, one of the main traits of the Gauls, who exchanged the reflective mood of their peers for energy and direction.
The first night ended with the return of Yndi Halda. They still are bucolic, relaxed, melodic and epic, and the addition of folk details and passages only re-emphasizes the fact that they were really the outsiders of the movement a decade ago, when Red Sparowes, Russian Circles, Errors, And So I Watch You From Afar or Crippled Black Phoenix appeared in a matter of two years. Delicate and elaborate, nostalgic and hopeful, the set by Yndi Halda was genuinely precious, genuinely honest.
Our Next Movement, a local band that were presenting their new work, 119, released by Aloud Music, introduced the math-rock element to the festival. Only the owners of the three-day pass to the festival were able to access the venue, but were treated to a feast of rhythm that grew and grew with some noisy passages. Worthy of a listen.
Right after, at the main Apolo to watch the gig of one of the bands that’s not exactly instrumental, but that gives lustre to this young enterprise. Norwegian metallers Leprous offered their histrionic and kinda operatic vision about Northern European metal. The difference between them and many other bands of the genre is their incredible skill in any instrument, a machine that works perfectly and tackles any kind of pattern and melody. And the ballroom was packed, so kudos for the organizers for their audacity.
Headliners God Is An Astronaut delved into the most spatial side of their tunes, in songs that required a longer melodic development, with staples in their discography such as “Echoes”, “Vetus Memoria” or “Red Moon Lagoon”, but still sound a bit more repetitive than one would prefer, with very few songs that really stand out in their repertoire. Anyway, the audience didn’t mind and packed again the main Apolo room.
The night ended with Americans The Album Leaf. The starting point for them was some tracks of their most recent offering, Between Waves, a work with way more agitation (if you wanna call it that) than previous records. Four multitasking musicians offered a way more entertaining gig than that of GIAA, more imaginative and with all the ingredients of post-rock: melancholy, hope, light, darkness, anger, class and depth. Ideal to cool down and to appreciate the real value of Jimmy Lavalle’s craft.
Last but not least, at all, was American DJ Arms and Sleepers. With a set that echoed the classical DJ Shadow, gems like “Life is Everywhere” or “Time Will Tell”, were the best way to dance and to discover a really interesting project. Pity that Max Lewis had to play mixed with the audience (as much as there was left, anyway), while The Album Leaf’s stage was being dismantled, but nevertheless, it’s always nice to be treated to such high quality music.
For starters, a surprise. All local bands in the AMFest had an unmistakeable Spanish flavour to them. Not Barcelonans Mardemarmo, whose debut record will be available for Christmas. Taking the best ingredients from the forerunners of the genre (space, anger, density), you really ended up thinking they were from abroad and not from a close district to yours. They have a bit of a hysterical side, which could be really interesting, once they develop further their sound. We’ll be ready for their debut work, and will try to review it here.
Another local band, Ànteros, also introduced their first work (also released by Aloud Music, the label of the organizers). This is a band formed by members of other bands of the genre, who twist all notions of how such a band should sound, adding hardcore hints and some screamo. Rockier than most, they’re yet another promising local band, something you shouldn’t ever had enough of.
Bala, a duo from Galicia (northwest of Spain), were yet another pleasant surprise. With just guitar and drums, both youngsters reminded of a mix of Melvins with DZ Deathrays. Energetic, blunt and very skilled, they will be heard of not only in Spain but also (much probably) in Europe.
Londoner Three Trapped Tigers felt exactly like that, three tigers trapped in a tight space, fighting for their survival. From the impossible beats of the Keith Moon of electronic post-rock, Adam Betts, through the sense of space of keyboardist Tom Rogerson, to the unusual sounds of frontman and guitarist Matt Calvert, the power trio are, literally, a steamroller. They can take on any band, any day of the week, and crush them. They should play in bigger venues. Math-rock? Forget about any label. TTTs go way beyond that.
The end of the festival was a freaky and camp and, overall, fun one. Locals Za! brought their post-rhumba, electronics, irreverence and camp sense of humour to the AMFest. The best way to finish this 2016 edition, with fantastic songs like hit “Badulake” or their own vision of how Slint’s “Breadcrumb Trail” should be. The answer is: Very different! A clear example of a duo that know how to take advantage of technology to produce surprising music.
So, if you want to come to Barcelona, do the tourist bit and attend a really good and innovative festival, the AMFest is the ideal choice.