More than just another artist convention, From Now On is a chance for Cardiff’s musical community to sample the odd and quite wonderful creative alternatives in a laid back local setting. Beginning life in 2014, the festival has carved itself a niche in the Welsh arts events calendar, fostering a unique spirit of camaraderie between local musicians who play in various groups and local favourites like H Hawkline and Sweet Baboo, who this year presented their own special projects. This year Mark Thomas, the man behind Shape Records and Islet, promised to fill the ultra modern multi-purpose Chapter arts venue with ‘adventurous, fresh and boundary pushing music’, multi-media performances and films. And he stayed true to his word. In order to explore more of the boundary-pushing artistic practices and showcase yet more talent, in 2016 the festival expanded to a full three days across the entire weekend.
Meilyr Jones, former singer with North Walian art pop band Racehorses and GIITTV’s 2016 hopeful, vividly depicted the scope of his artistry with his recent exploits in film, theatre and music. Displayed across Chapter’s spaces in the week leading up to the festival, his art curation was complemented with a rapturously received sold out Friday night set that celebrated the release of his much anticipated debut solo album 2013. Julia Holter‘s captivating live performance was another confirmation of all those 2015 end-of-year accolades for her album Have You In My Wilderness.
But that was just the beginning of the story, so here is our top moments of the From Now On Festival 2016:
A not-so-new name on the scene, Accu is actually Angharad (formerly one half of Trwbador) whose new solo electronic project adds to the growing local electronic scene that includes artists such as Gwenno, Y Pencadlys, R Seiliog and Ani Glass. Based in Camarthen, she spent the last year working with Richard James on LOCUST, a rolling residency at the Welsh millennium centre. This adventurous approach to music-making has influenced her current project. Splicing cut-ups of Welsh language melody and synth motifs with samples from historical radio programmes, she is a beguiling live performer and one to watch.
Bas Jan is a new project from London’s harp-wielding songstress Serafina Steer, working alongside Sarah Anderson and Jenny Moore. Their kraut-pop sounds and earworming melodies are as insidious and intricate as they are alluring, a artful take on pop music that stays in your brain for days afterwards. Their track ‘Sat Nav’ is all spacey bleeps, thuddy baselines and delicately snaking melodies, like Kraftwerk colliding with Nico in a new open road of possibilities.
Glasgow couple Happy Meals were the unexpected show-stealers lighting up Chapter’s theatre space in a whirl of rave pumping beats colliding with the sweetly unique Franco-Scots melodies. Their surprising notes scaled the register in a manner reminiscent of early Bjork and Kate Bush. Singer Suzanne Rodden was a true star. She started off behind the decks and danced down to the front of the stage, invading the crowd for dance-offs on excellent cuts like ‘Electronic Disco’ and the enrapturing ‘Le Voyage’. A collision of heady melodies, Happy Meals hit the sweet spot between dance four-to-the-floor beats, infectious samples and artfully seductive melodies that intrigued and enticed. An absolute marvel to watch.
Taking to the stage in a whirl of psychedelic wonder, Liverpool’s three piece Stealing Sheep were framed by visual backgrounds from their video, including the one for ‘Not Real’. Weaving a world of rapturous beauty to a rapt and attentive crowd, their psych pop majesty enthralled and beguiled in equal measure as they brought everything to a suitably ecstatic rapture with ‘Shut Eye’, leaving the stage to a standing ovation.
DIY London trio Witching Waves release their Crystal Cafe album this month. Its spiky treble-pronged melodies laced with abrasive noise pop that eschew the boundaries between gaze, garage and indie; a hurricane of artful sounds. Perhaps one of the most straightforwardly melodic bands of the weekend their riotous guitar sound cut through the bullshit and got right down to the heart of the matter, to their cracking songs with a bittersweet underbelly.
So the entire event was another success story, offering delights of boundary-pushing pop alongside an exploratory bevvy of challenging sights and sounds. An interesting selection of new and emerging talent; not to mention the coup of securing a local artist-in-residence in the shape of rising star Meilyr Jones and the critic’s darling Julia Holter. When they return to Cardiff it is likely they will be headlining much bigger venues. Big thanks to the From Now on team for another fantastic weekend of experimental art in the Welsh capitol.