Oxford’s Audioscope Festival marks its 15th birthday on 21 November, as a host of acts converge on the city's Bullingdon venue. Founded in 2001, the alternative music event has raised money for homelessness charity Shelter since its inception. To guide us through some of the 200 bands from around the world who played over the years, co-organiser Stuart Fowkes has made Q a 15 strong playlist he feels "epitomises the adventure and creativity we've put on stage each year".
Plaid – Hawkmoth (2015) "A special birthday year for us demands a very special headliner, and that’s what we’ve got with electronica legends Plaid. They’ve collaborated with Bjork and the London Sinfonietta, scored award-winning film soundtracks and influenced pretty much every electronic artist for the last two decades, and sit along with Four Tet, Luke Vibert and Kid606 as big-name electronica artists gracing our stage."
Gazelle Twin – Belly of the Beast (2015) "She’s already sold out the Barbican for her show a few days after Audioscope, so we’re really excited to have her playing Oxford for the first time with such an intimate show. Unflesh is one of the most striking, characterful and disturbing records of recent years, so we can’t wait to see how that translates into her live show."
Silver Apples – Oscillations (2014) "The Velvet Underground of electronica: everyone who ever heard them went on to form some knob-twiddling synth outfit. That this track still sounds fresh and exciting – and like no one else – almost 50 years later is such a testament to their genius. Last year’s lovely festival moment: a gang of Audioscope punters teaming up to help Simeon from Silver Apples get his enormous synth rig up onto the stage. You just don’t get the chance to rub shoulders with legends that way at the Brixton Academy."
The Telescopes - High On Fire (2014 + 2003) "Two Audioscope shows for The Telescopes in 11 years, and it was like seeing two different bands. In 2003, the band played freefrom, experimental drones – last year, it was pure, heads-down guitar noise taking us back to their heady Creation days, only with a side order of extreme aggression. We go way back with The Telescopes – they’re part of our festival’s musical furniture."
Grumbling Fur – The Ballad of Roy Batty (2013) "Alexander Tucker had already played the festival as a solo artist, but it was his show with Grumbling Fur that really sticks in the mind. A room full of festival-goers singing these lines from Blade Runner back at them during this song was unforgettable."
Can – Mother Sky (2012 + 2004) "Short of a miraculous and impossible reformation of the classic Can lineup, this is as good as it could ever get for us – Damo’s spirit of musical exploration is everything we’re about. Damo Suzuki, with a hand-picked lineup of some of our favourite musicians, improvising like it’s 1973. In 2004, it was locked-in guitar grooves, and in 2012 we paired him with six drummers. Obviously the improvised performances live in the moment, so here’s a classic slice of Suzuki-era Can to be going on with."
The Oscillation – All You Want To Be (2011) "Long-standing favourites of ours (in fact, frontman Demian Castellanos brings his drone/electronic solo work to this year’s show), The Oscillation are a dream of a band. Psychedelic grooves, shoegazey guitar noise and basslines that lodge in your head for days - plus a live projectionist creating visuals with oils and lights."
Wire – Comet (2010) "We hosted Wire’s first Oxford show in 26 years, in the same north Oxford venue where Radiohead and Ride cut their teeth. Everything you could ask for in a band: a catalogue of iconic albums, and the inventiveness and restlessness to keep moving on and pushing themselves into new challenges, even in their fourth decade together. Graham Lewis’ impassioned on-stage speech about how vital Shelter’s work is will always stay with me."
Cluster – Caramel (2010 + 2007) "Dieter Moebius from Cluster, another bona fide krautrock legend, headlined the festival twice - once as a solo artist, and once alongside Michael Rother from Neu! Both times, he brought the sound of antique drum machines and analogue synths and blasted us all into spacerock heaven. Dieter sadly passed away earlier this year, and our 2015 festival is dedicated to him."
Don Caballero – June Is Finally Here (2008) "As well as the annual festival, we also put on a series of special events – none more special than the return of the mighty Don Cab, playing for us in a restored art deco bingo hall (which, alas, like so many other spaces is no longer used as a music venue). We didn’t think we’d see them re-emerge with a new album, let alone that we could bring them to Oxford in such a special venue."
Shit And Shine – Practising to be a Doctor (2007) "One of the all-time great Audioscope performances: four drummers, one bass, one keyboard and one groove that lasted for 35 mesmerising, hypnotic minutes. Half the audience left the room, the other half thought it was the best thing they’d ever seen, which is a kind of microcosm for our booking policy in one set."
Clinic – Family (2006) (pictured) "Still one of the most underrated and undervalued bands in the UK, Clinic are the prime example of a band who, in our parallel world, would be headlining Glastonbury and bringing twisted pop to the masses, not just those relatively few devotees in the know."
Four Tet – Smile Around The Face (2005) "Not only did Kieran Hebden support us by playing the festival, but he wrote a brand new track for one of our fundraising albums, and even titled it Audioscope. As you can imagine, that’s become as much an anthem for the festival as his solid gold set of Everything Ecstatic-era tunes like Smile Around The Face."
Young Knives – White Sands (2003) "Audioscope has always promoted the best of the Oxford music scene too - every year, one or two of our favourite local artists are prominent on the bill. It’s always amazing to see them go on to bigger and better things as The Young Knives have, and to hear them making brilliant, uncompromising music entirely on their own terms."
Avrocar – Ueno (2001) "And here's something from back where it all started in 2001. Avrocar are a wonderful electronica outfit from Birmingham who, as far as we know, are still going strong, but haven't performed live in many years. This, from 1999, showcases what they're all about - warmth of synth lines and an ability to build something rich and gorgeous from what seem to be the simplest of parts."
For more, including the line-up and tickets, head to Audioscope.co.uk