Levitation Festival 2022 – Whitby 4 & 5 November 2022

Go back 40 years to my school days; if you were into music, it was all about tribes. At our school in the Black Country, we had a few – Mods, Ska, Metal and more. Of course, there was a bit of cross-pollination between them, but mostly, you were in one of them or not at all.

My daughter is approaching the end of her teenage years. Things have shifted, and probably for the better. It is acceptable to like a bit of this, a little of that. Everyone’s horizons are broader. One only has to look at a typical Glastonbury festival lineup to see the diversity of genres.

Sometimes, though, I yearn for that single focus. An event promoting a certain type of music. A narrowly focussed evening with nothing extraneous to bump the wheels off the road. A night where you know what you will get within some distinct boundaries. Enthusiasts gathered to celebrate a niche.

The Levitation festival in Whitby was one such event. Arranged by Colin Morrison, head of the beautiful Castles In Space label, this was two evenings of electronic music. There was one guitar courtesy of Jilk, but we’ll quickly gloss over that.

It’s a relatively homespun affair. Home is Flowergate Hall, essentially a church hall run as a not-for-profit arts venue. There’s lovely homemade food in the basement cafe. The apple cake was made with fruit from the owner’s garden. How’s that for sustainability? There’s a hatch in the hall which serves as a bar. There are some fold-up chairs and bean bags for those who wish to remain closer to horizontality. The music on offer somewhat lends itself to this trajectory.

What do you get musically for your fantastically priced ticket? Three acts on Friday, five on Saturday. And tremendous company. I ended up going on my own, not the original plan. I decided quickly that what you get out of these weekends is based on what you put in. So I moved a little out of my more introverted comfort zone and got chatting. I met a woman who had built her own theremin and then, having decided she needed more theremin, had invested in a proper Moog bit of kit. I chatted with Will, who runs Modern Aviation, a cassette-based record label from Wiltshire. I tapped Nathan on the shoulder and asked if he would publish the wonderful cartoon sketches he was drawing all weekend (he was on Instagram).

What of the music? All of it was heartfelt and committed. All the artists brought something individual and distinct. My personal highlights were:

Dalham – John had crashed his hard drive a few weeks before the festival and had created his set in the subsequent period. His music was lush with mood and melody, as demonstrated on last year’s Funf EP. He said to me afterwards that there were glitches. I told him I didn’t notice any – I wasn’t blowing smoke. John stayed all weekend for the next day‘s sets. No ego. The whole event was devoid of ego.

Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan – Graham’s a star. He was number 61 with a bullet after releasing his latest album Districts, Roads, Open Space, a few weeks ago. His third LP referencing urban planning in the post-war period and brutalist architecture sounds like it ought to be an arid listen. It isn’t, and the use of public information archival footage as a backdrop enhanced the experience. He’s on a roll, and it was lovely to see his fist pump as the music gained momentum. Emotionally demonstrative electronic musicians – whatever next?

Jilk – the most rhythmically nimble of the acts I saw- got my head nodding as captured in Nathan’s sketchbook. Jon’s probably a decent entry point into the Castles In Space universe if your background is the Orbital 90s sound. There’s a noticeable backbeat to what he does, but it has similar English humour as the Hartnoll Brothers, combined with a rich palette of sounds, even sampling his guitar during the set.

Field Lines Cartographer – Mark Burford’s music felt the most generative of the weekend. I loved his long-form pieces. They are perfect for headphone listening, the Buchla twinkling away. Live, the ebb and flow are magnified with blasts of discord and bass to interrupt any inference of prettiness, not that the music isn’t beautiful. It is elemental and tectonic. It is of the Earth and the stars. Mark was part of a West Country contingent that provided most of Saturday’s lineup, alongside Jilk, Kayla Painter and Twelve Hour Foundation.

The weekend was topped off with a set by the Orb. Where can you get to see these guys in such an intimate environment? Starting with Castles in Space appropriately, the set moved through hot-stepping reggae via the Blue Room to Little Fluffy Clouds. I scanned the room. We had ravers, head nodders and chin strokers. Everyone was leaving out on the floor.

I ended up standing next to organiser and curator Colin Morrison. He was in perpetual motion for the weekend – sorting riders, helming the awesome merch table, sorting out the raffle (yes, we had a raffle. How bloody civilised is that?). I asked him if he had enjoyed the weekend. He answered yes, but he needn’t have. The smile gave it away.

Honourable mentions also go to Band of Cloud, whose Friday night set opened the weekend with some beautiful, if chaotic, improv. A nice counterpoint to some of the more structured music performed by the other artists.

How do you define the success of a tribe? Perhaps it’s the ability to adapt and integrate. The people attending may have enjoyed jazz or heavy metal, drill or Americana. For 48 hours, though, it was irrelevant. I was welcomed and absorbed. I left a better person.

This video captures perfectly what I most enjoyed about the weekend. We’ve got the Orb at the controls, the raver in his own zone, those more reserved souls on the beanbags or fold-up chairs and standing next to me is Nathan, sketching away as ever.

Since then, the Levitation festival has revealed the best of social media and Twitter in particular. There is a very tight online community that supports this music. The bin fire directly following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform threatens that. I don’t hold out much hope for Twitter, but I’m sure those attending the Whitby festival will find their own ways of communicating, regardless of what happens to Space Karen.

And there’s Levitation 2023 around the corner too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

LondonJazzCollector

Adventures in collecting "modern jazz": the classical music of America from the Fifties and Sixties, and a little Seventies, on original vinyl, on a budget, from England. And writing about it, since 2011. Travelling a little more widely nowadays, and at lower cost

PETALENGRO

Printmaker and Artist

the Heat Warps

Live Miles 69-75

The Fall in Fives

All the Fall songs, five at a time.

#KeepingItPeel

Commemorating the life of John Peel

The Bobsphere

Ramblings on Books, Music and Films

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Wolves Molinews

Your place for everything Wolves

The Old Noise

"This old noise?" she demurred.

The Sunday Dinner Diaries

On the Gravy Trail

Pushing Ahead of the Dame

David Bowie, song by song

Punk Rock Reviews

Reviewing Music

Every record tells a story

A Blog About Music, Vinyl, More Music and (Sometimes) Music...

WORDS AND MUSIC

News, views and reviews on hi-fi and beyond, by Andrew Everard

downatthecrossroads

Where the blues and faith meet

LondonJazzCollector

Adventures in collecting "modern jazz": the classical music of America from the Fifties and Sixties, and a little Seventies, on original vinyl, on a budget, from England. And writing about it, since 2011. Travelling a little more widely nowadays, and at lower cost

PETALENGRO

Printmaker and Artist

the Heat Warps

Live Miles 69-75

The Fall in Fives

All the Fall songs, five at a time.

#KeepingItPeel

Commemorating the life of John Peel

The Bobsphere

Ramblings on Books, Music and Films

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Wolves Molinews

Your place for everything Wolves

The Old Noise

"This old noise?" she demurred.

The Sunday Dinner Diaries

On the Gravy Trail

Pushing Ahead of the Dame

David Bowie, song by song

Punk Rock Reviews

Reviewing Music

Every record tells a story

A Blog About Music, Vinyl, More Music and (Sometimes) Music...

WORDS AND MUSIC

News, views and reviews on hi-fi and beyond, by Andrew Everard

downatthecrossroads

Where the blues and faith meet

%d bloggers like this: