All Tomorrow's Parties, Camber Sands Holiday Centre, East Sussex

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The Independent Culture

When it was announced toward the end of last year that the semi-legendary Louisville band Slint had accepted the invitation to curate 2005's first All Tomorrow's Parties weekend - that is, to headline the event and hand-pick the bill - ecstatic gasps were raised in certain corners, and all tickets were quickly sold out without one other band being announced.

When it was announced toward the end of last year that the semi-legendary Louisville band Slint had accepted the invitation to curate 2005's first All Tomorrow's Parties weekend - that is, to headline the event and hand-pick the bill - ecstatic gasps were raised in certain corners, and all tickets were quickly sold out without one other band being announced.

The reasons for such a reaction become obvious when you consider the long road to this reunion. At the turn of the Nineties, Slint were reinventing their corner of rock, adapting and advancing the sound of hard-core, from which they evolved, and presaging the emotive sonic adventures of post-rock by a matter of years. Their two albums (1989's Tweez and its universally acknowledged better Spiderland, of 1991) blended the furious power of hard-core with a studied calm that gave them the unpredictability of weathered jazzmen - all set to Brian McMahon's macabre, haunting lyrics.

Then, for the best part of a decade, nothing. In that time, the myths have grown, and Slint are now perceived as perhaps the high-water mark of independent bands' aspirations, with the autonomous purity that comes from failing to compromise, never thinking to court the mainstream, and being the sort of band that people either love wildly or have never heard of.

All grist to the mill of the infamously eclectic All Tomorrow's Parties. Yet one band do not make a festival, and the hordes filling out the chalets of Camber Sands would have to wait until Saturday evening for the focal point of their weekend. In the meantime, Friday's line-up offered the opportunity to see whether concerns about Slint's ultra-obscure (even by ATP's standards) choice of running-mates were founded.

Although the dank grunge of The Melvins was a suitably charged high on which to end the night, some of the lesser names shone brighter, particularly Bad Wizard and Early Man, who both delivered strutting punk-metal. Deerhoof also provided the discordant Japanese influence without which any festival of the world's most perfectly odd music would be incomplete.

Despite being perhaps the biggest name on the bill besides Slint, Mogwai found themselves relegated to Saturday's opening slot - which, fortunately, didn't stop the Glasgow quintet delivering what many considered the set of the weekend, a monstrous, beautiful symphony of elegiac tenderness and clashing guitars that frightened the hangovers from the crowd.

To argue about whether Slint's set was more enjoyable than Mogwai's is to miss the point. The people who charged down their tickets knew what they wanted from this band, and it was there in spades. Like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Slint are a man-made mountain of sound, sounding like a great rock record slowed and sped-up intermittently, with McMahon's half-heard intonations tying everything together. Most of the audience will look back on Slint's set as a defining personal moment, which was all that mattered.

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