The Big Chill encamps each year on what is surely one of the UK's most naturally beautiful festival sites, its stages set in a tree-dotted dip, clustered around a string of small lakes. Even though the weekender's roots are buried in a post-rave chill-out, the festival's lately witnessed an increasing expansion into related music. The general line-up seems to be increasingly sympathetic towards jazz, global and roots sounds, embracing, for instance, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
Nevertheless, there's no shortage of DJs and lap-top musicians, with a typical run allowing a skip from Bugz in the Attic to DJ Derek, followed by Plaid. If hip hop appears, it's not in gangsta mode. Arrested Development seized a prime Saturday afternoon slot to make their comeback after a five-year hiatus. The night before, Philadelphia rap poet Ursula Rucker had already established an aura of fiercely individual, politically wired confrontation. Heard on disc, she sounds cool and collected, but Rucker's live presence is harder, almost frightening.
A jaunt to the opposite side of the site presented a different angle on the art of inspired showmanship. Jamie Lidell's roots are in electronica, but he also happens to be a brilliant soul singer. He opened his set accompanied by drums and piano. Then, suddenly, the band disappears and he's sampling his own vocals, creating a song with spluttering raw musical matter. Lidell's a star, and if all was right with the world, everyone will soon realise this.
Maybe Saturday night's Sparks show required a certain amount of ingrained familiarity with their classic 1970s repertoire, but the Mael brothers ended up conquering the festival.
Sunday's headliners were the Heritage Orchestra, inviting Brazilian composer Eumir Deodato to use their massive brass, string and woodwind resources to realise the grandeur of his funked-up "Also Sprach Zarathustra", more commonly known as the theme to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
However, the ultimate embodiment of The Big Chill was Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings, a sound and vision out-stallation. An hour could be well-spent, laying on the grass, watching an illuminated triptych bleed from one image to the next, as Eno's soothing bass blobs seeped out onto the Enchanted Garden.Reuse content