Coventry Rhythm Weekend – Tin Angel Taylor Johns House ReviewsFrom the ashes of the Jazz Festival, Coventry Rhythm Weekend rises like a phoenix, and festivities on Spon Street kick off at 8pm on Friday night in the glorious surroundings of St John the Baptist’s Church. Leeds-based Glissando get the ball rolling over the May Bank Holiday weekend with chamber pop that is almost tailor-made for winter, darkness, snow and all. Slow, funeral-esque arrangements are lifted by Elly May Irving’s eerily angelic vocals (by eerily angelic, imagine the girl from the film Let The Right One In, but blessed with a note-perfect soprano). As nice as the 5-song set is, it doesn’t quite manage to fill and/or transcend the performance space – unlike Jóhann Jóhannsson, performing with the Ilskra Quartet, who seem to move heaven and earth in a set of consumate professionalism. Given how Jóhannsson’s albums are heavily rooted by narrative and conceptual themes, it’s a surprise that the set list flows so naturally, even with the slight bias towards material from 2008?s Fordlândia.

Saturday’s programme begins with a packed (Taylor John’s) house for Malian superstars Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba. Originally meant to be playing on an outdoor marquee stage – scrapped long before the clouds open on the Canal Basin – the indoor confines of the former coal vaults helps create a good atmosphere. Technical issues hinder the band through the first half of their set, issues the band are visibly irked by, but once those are overcome in the second half of the set, they are a band transformed. The lead lines from Bassekou’s ngoni are highly charged, and Amy Sacko’s vocals, whether on the more blues-orientated or upbeat material, are infused with sass and passion. A short postlude involves a ‘Frère Jacques’ singalong, and a storming final jam leaves everyone close to euphoria.

Later in the evening, Italian instrumental noiseniks Stearica punish anyone within a five-mile radius with a bone-crushingly loud set that goes as far as to not just rob you of your hearing, but most of your other senses too. Air raid siren guitar, low-end that could incite a scene reminiscent of Jacob’s Ladder and drumming powerful enough to cause post-traumatic stress create an impressive sound, but one that should definitely come with a health warning. The same applies for the night’s final band – Japanese acid prog rock purveyors Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Pariso UFO – for similar reasons. There are guitar pyrotechnics aplenty and bass that sucks the air out of the room before destroying what remains of your wits. For all their instrumental expertise, they lack anything that register as being truly memorable musically, although it’s obvious that they couldn’t give a monkeys. Either you get it or you don’t – and won’t ever.

Sunday kicks off with singer-songwriter Al Britten back at Taylor Johns,  mixing up ditties about the job from hell (‘Graveyard Shift’) to sweet Ramones’ covers (‘Danny Says’) with skill and precision to an unfortunately sparse audience. Following up their support slot for Paul Curreri at the beginning of the month, the expanded line-up of Nuneaton ensemble Boat To Row deliver a performance of lilting violin lines and some delightful boy-girl harmonies that lift their material to something a little bit more interesting than your average nu-folk scenesters (Mumford & Sons, I’m looking at you). A band that you couldn’t accuse of being twee is The Bellows, a cacophonous outfit mixing folk with punk via a everything-including-the-kitchen-sink mentality. Despite this being their first performance for some time, the band go for it from start to finish without letting up, and the strength of the songs on display suggests that new album Big Steam is one to watch out for. Finishing off Sunday afternoon are Canadian indie rock entity The Acorn. On the eve of releasing new albumNo Ghost, and in front of a now decent-sized, and fairly boisterous crowd, Rolf Klausener’s five-piece troupe run through a set heavy on two-part harmonies, e-bowed lead guitar parts and clattering percussion, with an alive-and-amplified ‘Hold Your Breath’ standing out in a set that’s high on quality.

To finish off the official Rhythm Weekend line-up at Taylor John’s House, Friday Night Dole Club gets a Sunday-on-a-Bank-Holiday makeover. OpenersThe Skellion Gang race through a performance combining post-punk and synth lines to the extent that Klaxons may be seeking a lawsuit relating to copyright infringement (leading to several cases against Klaxons for their own abuse of other’s copyright). Following them are the reggae revivalistsKifaru (Swahili for ‘rhino’), whose easy-going demeanours – and the lightning-fast fingers of guitarist Paul – help lift some of the stuffier members of the audience out of a mood of indifference. To close out the festival in this corner of the city are mods-with-mods Reubens Cane, whose post-Kaiser Chiefs indie rock doesn’t end the festival with either a bang or a whimper, but a modest – average, perhaps – performance that sees the fire of the phoenix return to smouldering ashes.

Jóhann Jóhannsson + Glissando (28/05/10)
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba (29/05/10)
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Pariso UFO + Stearica
The Acorn + The Bellows + Boat To Row + Al Britten (30/05/10)
Reubens Cane + Kifaru + The Skellion Gang (30/05/10)

St John the Baptist’s Church/Taylor John’s House

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