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A long weekend of music (parts one and two)

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 08:12 UK time, Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Part one is 'Context'. I've spent the last couple of months in an existential fug. I'm 41 years old but I still don't own a complete suit. Recently I've been checking out secondary schools for my daughter and I arrive looking like a Little Britain caricature: ageing Indie Kid... deputy headmistresses are greeted with a bro handshake.

Shirt-tucked-in parents are dismissed with a scowl from behind my imaginary John Cale sunglasses. They're asking about Ofsted scores - I want to know if anyone who has left the school got played on 6 Music or written about by Drowned In Sound.

I may not have added anything of worth to my CV in 20 years, but I do have a double professorship in Unsuitable Trousers and Dogmatic Refusal To Grow Up.

I love my role here at BBC Wales but I don't regard my steadfastness as dedication; it just is what it is. Most other things make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but tunes in my inbox, and putting a show together - trying to find the right sounds and arrange them in an order that works - is my savannah.

It's just the image of what happens to those knackered old lions when their paws get too slow for hunting that is proving harder to shake. It's the only time my David Attenborough impersonation sounds halfway convincing.

So, the sensible work goes elsewhere. I'm the guy who plays the weird sounds late on a Saturday night.

I love those weird sounds. Clearly I'm a martyr to my cause; everything I do, I do it for those of you who make music that is repelled by supermarket shelves. That has been number one in my hit parade for 1,000 weeks and counting.

Oh, I do it for money too. And sometimes free records. And because it's an excellent way to fill the hours between waking and lying awake fretting about 'context'.

Part two is 'The Night Before'. I'm supposed to be at 2000 Trees festival in Cheltenham now but I've had a science show to record, and there is an appointment to see another local school in the morning (Future Of The Left's You Need Satan t-shirt duly ironed and laid out on the Ikea ottoman).

I look at my watch at 3pm and realise I have already missed Straight Lines - one of the Welsh contingent at the festival that I'm most looking forward to.

I badgered the people behind 2000 Trees for a pass. It's an independent festival, not a subsidised, corporate orgy. I told them I would use the pass to watch as many bands as I could and do what was in my power to spread the word about them and their fine festival. Already that feels like something of a lie.

Half Avian

Half Avian

So I troop over to my local venue to alleviate the guilt with a few stouts and a couple of conveniently placed Welsh bands. Half Avian grew out of the discarded cogs and liberated springs of Mechanical Owl.

Mold wasn't born yesterday and talk of its cultural renaissance was probably greatly exaggerated by me in these very pages in previous years.There have always been artists in Mold. The renaissance, if there really has been one, was in people willing to shine a light on it and - maybe - stake a claim in it.

If you're gold prospecting for interesting new sounds, Klondike joy abounds in the relaxed electronic eddies of Half Avian's music. It's a soulful mist, blown along by Mike's lovelorn voice. Such is the subtlety on show, it's difficult to get a grasp on any individual songs - but it's a fine and rather wonderful debut. If you can do a couple of dimensions as well as this, there's no need to over complicate the project. It worked well for Monet, after all.

Ah, Pseuds' Corner... I'm an honorary member after multiple sentences like the end of the preceding paragraph.

DRKMTR are next. They're Sophie McKeand and Andy Garside (The Absurd), Steve Nicholls and Steff Owens (Camera) and Sophie Ballamy.

Individually excellent people, involved in some of the projects that have most excited me - musically (Camera, Sophie Ballamy) and logistically (the events The Absurd have brought to Mold) - in recent years. But this leaves me cold and unengaged.

It's a dodecahedron of Pseuds' Corners welded together with limited grace and perfunctory imagination. Sophie's poetry is delivered in an unflattering monotone that is at odds with her imagery, at odds with her imagery. There is a lot of repetition. A lot of repetition. A LOT of repetition.

Musically it's all a bit ploddy and predictable: off duty bankers jamming in 4/4 time. I hear a few eastern scales that would might have sounded outre to a passenger on the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1966 or on a Doors b-side - but not here in 2012.

Steve cooks up textures from his iPad and pedals but they're a little spice-less. If you're going to flirt with the experimental, tie it down and get all Marquis De Sade with it. This was Five-ish Shades of Grey. I really, truly, honestly wish I had something more positive to say about it.

Matters improve considerably when Sophie picks up her ukulele for one track. Steff plays the drums with his hands and DRKMTR prove that there are evocative climes at the edge of the po-faced doldrums they, for the most part, becalm themselves in.

On this track's evidence, they're an intriguing prospect brave enough to try something different, just not brave enough to be different enough - yet. I'll illustrate each of those 'enoughs' with a melodramatic wave of my right hand.

There are banks of salvaged screens on stage, manipulated by Andy and his laptop. The imagery dislocates and is the most arresting aspect of the performance. It still has a whiff of the third-hand about it. I imagine that is the point: images recycled from various sources displayed on obsolescent screens.

The Butthole Surfers had TV sets on stage showing a sex change operation upside down and in reverse 25 years ago. If you aspire to the avant garde, it is incumbent on you to be thrilling and original, to push the envelope, not to just lick it gently.

Their move. Despite this experience, I look forward to it.

Part three is 'tomorrow'... a long drive to a valley filled with mud golems, music, unfathomably flat and deadly cider and friends amplified by adversity.

I go home and feel aggrieved with myself for not hearing much that was positive in DRKMTR's set. I put the Future Of The Left t-shirt away and iron a shirt. I wonder what I'll say when tomorrow morning's headmistress asks me what I do.

"I'm training to be an accountant" is the falsehood I polish up as my head hits the pillow.

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