It comes as no surprise to anyone who heard her gorgeous debut album that Natalie Prass can write a tune. This is old-fashioned music making, equal parts sweet and sorrow, funk and blues given levity by the crack of a smile. Live, she’s as charming as you’d expect, and her voice, sometimes a little slight on record, never cedes the centre stage.
She’s also clearly comfortably holding her own on a roster next to her label boss Matthew E White. She gets him on for a song, and he makes mischief with some cracking squally guitar licks and riffs. They’ve been playing together since the eighth grade, so the rapport is as comfortable as a warm leather chair, but Prass is more than capable of dirtying it up with a mid-song wig-out before popping back into a perfectly turned out chorus. And anyone who isn’t seduced by Why Don’t You Believe Me or Bird of Prey must have an actual heart of stone.
The Sunday-afternoon Virginia road show continues on the Main Stage when Matthew E White and his band pick up the quality rock’n’roll gauntlet thrown down by Prass. This is a leaner unit than White brought to two stages of last year’s Electric Picnic: there’s no brass or piano, with White opting for a more straight-gunned guitar-driven affair. It grooves and shakes and rattles in all the right places, but there’s definitely a bit of dynamic and texture missing on the bigger numbers.
The squally sound mix does the detail no favours, and White’s almost whispered vocal can be tricky to capture live. But there’s still enough playing chops on display to put most bands to shame, and when White and band indulge their competitive edges, the results are electric. Big Love gets a thorough shakedown, and Rock and Roll is Cold gets the hill singing along to its faux country, all style and pure substance. Laurence Mackin
Opening the Midnight Circus On Sunday is New York DJ Jonathan Toubin with a two-hour vinyl set. An oppressively nice spell of sunshine outside ensures that the shady tent is completely vacant bar a handful of cartwheeling, hand-standing gymnasts who flip around to the beat of Dolly Parton remixes and other old-school renditions. It’s easy listening, but an absent crowd doesn’t allow him any momentum. Families and some of the more delicate members of festive society (hiding from the reality of bright light) are the main attendees, and for these delegates Toubin fits the bill perfectly. Otherwise, it’s a pity he wasn’t out in the great open space for the afternoon.
Clu becomes the first act to own the Midnight Circus On Sunday, with acidic and grimy psychedelic undercurrents to a slow-burner setlist. A devout following of the Dublin pair fill out the arena, hooked on an aloof compositional swagger. The lads look unhappy with the sound deck, so the volume gets incrementally louder to the point of a ribcage-shuddering vibrato. Warped, soprano vocals break up the heaving oppression of the bass and the set continues to deliver a rake of bangers until they are asked by a sound deck to clear out at overtime. This arguably cuts the pent-up highlight of their set short. Emily Longworth
Rarely will you see two people enjoy their set as much as Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen. As Kiasmos, The Icelandic duo deliver a beautiful set of gorgeous techno, minimal in places and then built up to rushing, lush crescendos. There is huge detail in what they do on record and here you can clock each beat and push in a pitch-perfect set. In reward, they get one of the biggest responses of the weekend; it seems to be exactly what people on the far side of three-day festival need to keep them going for a few hours more. LM
Somehow managing to follow Kiasmos is an enthralling James Holden live set. A perfected trifecta of synthetic beats, saxophone interludes and percussive backing creates a storming wall of sound. Stylish, interesting progressions rope in a lot of unfamiliar passers-by, and the mellow electronic preamble sets the tone well for the remainder of the night. Holden announces that his sax player isn’t wholly familiar with some of the numbers but it never would have been noticeable; an innate musicality keeps pace with the techno psychedelia. In all, the trio create a mystifying ambient sound that lingers and uplifts. EL
Those looking for a play-the-hits set will have been disappointed, with Neil Barnes preferring tracks from recently released Alternative Light Source. That said, the style or sound has changed little in the 16 years between albums, and it makes for a satisfying Sunday night. This is perhaps not one of the greatest Body and Soul headline performances, but it’s still one worth sticking around on the last day for, in a festival rich with diversions. LM