Cocoon Counter Culture Festival The GRV, Edinburgh 12/13 September 2009 By Simon Brand Edinburgh has always been notorious to me due to it's intensely bad metal scene; if you say to someone “Do you like metal?” the response you will normally get will be something along the lines of “Yeah! Bring Me The Horizon are my favourite band!”. The last thing I expected to see around was a music festival completely dedicated to out-of-the-norm acts in various genres. It took ages to find the venue; hidden down a back alley of a back street, but it was nice and secluded. By the time I got there, the first band, Of Spires And Thrones had nearly begun. Drawing in a crowd of around 25, they played two twenty-minute odd tracks of funeral doom. The crowd seemed pretty split, some got really into it which others – evidently unsuspecting – were seen cupping their hands to their ears and leaving. After being near-blinded by some unexpected strobe lights to the face, I emerged dazzled to let the next band set up. A good start to the festival. In startling contrast to the ultra-heavy dirges of Spires, on comes upbeat one-man breakcore act, Project Serendipity. With his cheerful blips 'n' beeps, contrasting harsher sections and a great visual track shown on a projection screen, he shows just how varied the show will be. Reception from the now 40-50 strong crowd seemed almost unanimously positive; smiles all round on exiting in preparation for Wraiths. I don't think anything could have really prepared me for them though. Out of the back come two men dressed as wraiths, one armed with a man-sized forked staff and a bell, one armed with a tambour. On the stage sits an electronics table and tambour-wraith slowly walks over, setting off the start of an abstract 30 minute odd set of pure electronic drone. Stick-wraith walks around the crowd ominously, his costume complete with a flour sack over his head and bangs his staff off the ground, rings the bell, bang staff, ring bell. After a while, he goes over to join his black-cloaked accomplice and proceeds to scream incoherently into a microphone over the drones until both walk back off in the same fashion as their entrance. Cue very confused glances flying around the room, coupled with some murmuring and some blank stares at the stage. An odd, but entertaining act. The first word I wrote in my notebook coming out of Human Greed really explains my feelings about the set. “Phenomenal.” I wrote, in a trance after their circa 30 minute audio/visual experience; sometimes calm, sometimes noisy but always enveloping ambience played over a visual track of nature, space and children. Over the visual track is placed some abstract poetry about – as far as I can tell – abandonment and isolation, making frequent references to the moon in comparison with stars. All of this together made for a really breathtaking experience. An error message stating “cannot read disk” up on the projector screen sets the tone for this rather underwhelming act in comparison to the fantastic Human Greed. Cut Hands is a one man act playing electronic “Afro-Noise”; very harsh noise over bass heavy drum programming and some African influence as far as I could make out. The technical use of electronics was impressive, but I felt it really lacked the soul of the previous acts, and some of the intelligence also. The final act of the first day was Justin K. Broadrick's industrial, shoegazy doom project, Jesu. Being a long-standing fan, I was very eager to see them live and they did not disappoint. Despite some initial mixing problems (especially with the vocals), the venue managed to catch their very involving sound, the music washing over you in waves of droney goodness. I was particularly pleased that they didn't just stick to playing their new material, with 'Friends Are Evil' from their self-titled being the highlight of the night. A very fitting ending to a great day of music. After an hour late start to kick off the second day (allegedly due to some bands not having had soundchecks), Malcolm La Maistrie (ex-Incredible String Band) finally got on stage armed with acoustic and an awesome hat. He set the night up as the less extreme of the two with his relaxed English folk. Joined halfway through the set by an Emily Scott, they played together well, the great voices of both musicians playing off each other. Despite some duffed notes, synchronicity errors, forgotten words and lost capos, it was an enjoyable set. Next up was a voice and piano/guitar set by Amy Duncan. She had a wonderful voice and accompanied herself effectively with the instruments. It was a bit of a shame that her set was cut short due to time restraints, as there were numerous calls for more songs. Billed as If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now on the literature, only one of the band members turned up, forcing a very nervous looking woman (apparently usually the pianist) to play guitar and sing. In the circumstances, she did pretty well, but her interesting, almost cartoonish voice was marred somewhat by some suspect guitarwork and failed usage of a tape player. Although some may not have agreed with me, I thought that Zorras were the best band of the second night. A very unique mix of poetry, music, stories and just plain weird. The poetry was sharp and funny, the placement effective, the visuals fitting; a rather unforgettable experience, I highly recommend checking them out to anyone looking for something different. At some point after Zorras, I turned to someone I had met at the festival and said “How the hell do you follow that?”. I believe his answer was “More beer”, but Anni Hogan would now be my answer. A very odd visual track played behind some well done ambience and off-beat, oft-discordant piano, only somewhat ruined by some offensively generic dance beats. A strong set overall. Although I had never heard of Crippled Black Phoenix before I read about the gig, I definitely recognised some names; featuring members from Mogwai, Electric Wizard and Iron Monkey, experience is definitely not in short supply. Their set started off good, but not great. The crowd weren't really feeling it, and you could tell the band had noticed; some confused glances thrown around by the band and “You guys are pretty quiet...”. Fortunately they quickly improved and built the crowd up to a gargantuan climax at the end of the night. Leaving a good impression, they went off earlier than they intended due to time limitations. Leaving the second and final day of the festival, I was left feeling very glad I had went; there was a great variety of bands (even if I didn't enjoy some of them) and the festival provided a great platform for exposure for those less well known.