FRACTURED AIR

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Something’s Going On: Le Guess Who?

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Come wander the canals and streets of beautiful Utrecht and be immersed in the best of independent music as the city’s prized Le Guess Who festival makes its eagerly awaited return. Utrecht, Holland provides the dream backdrop for a host of awe-inspiring music, from the legendary Australian trio Dirty Three to the songwriting queen, Sharon Van Etten. Over the course of four days, from Thursday November 29th to Sunday 2nd December, intimate performances will grace the centuries old, university town. The heart of independent music is happening right in the heart of the city for the sixth time, having started in 2007.

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry

Last night, the opening festival performance of Colin Stetson sparked amazement and inspiration to all those fortunate to be present. Stetson’s avant jazz has been celebrated and universally acclaimed by the entire international music community. Stetson’s solo saxophone compositions are performed in single takes with no overdubs, which in this advanced age of technology, is something truly special to witness. His music defies both genre boundaries and the physical boundaries of what one person can sonically create without resorting to the aids of technology. I recently interviewed German composer Nils Frahm and while discussing his favourite music, he likened hearing Colin Stetson’s solo saxophone to discovering ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ by Steve Reich for the first time. Is there higher praise possible? Mr. Stetson kicked off Le Guess Who? last night, epitomising the sheer quality and multitude of compelling artists that this unique festival attracts.

Tomorrow night Dirty Three will transcend the centuries-old city of Utrecht, with their unrivaled intensity of emotion-filled instrumental music.  I was fortunate to recently see Dirty Three in concert last Friday night in Dublin. It was amazing to witness Ellis, Turner and White in person. Almost mythical, almost an impossibility. Their sound was just so beautiful as it poured through the space and up to the rafters. Ellis is one of those rare iconic figures. A conductor. Jim White’s drums were incredible. To hear the range of sounds and harmonies rising from his very touch of hand. Mick Turner’s guitars were awash in soul and exhaled a spectrum of emotions. Undeniably this year’s highlight of Le Guess Who? and a must-see for Thursday night’s festival. The band have released one of their finest works to date, earlier this year with ‘Toward The Low Sun’. A stunning masterpiece from a band whose recordings and live performances forever illuminate and inspire.

Friday night sees Julianna Barwick perform her unique ambient choral-pop creations. Last year, Julianna Barwick’s gorgeous album, ‘The Magic Place’ flooded the sound clouds with its healing tones and blissed out ambient soundscapes. Barwick’s looped vocal harmonies evoke a church choir with wordless harmonies, where fragments of sound combine to form the loveliest of intricate patterns. As the title suggests, Julianna Barwick’s music is indeed magic. Furthermore, the cinematic journey of Barwick’s unique sound is full of hope, joy and solace. ‘The Magic Place’ has been one of my most cherished albums from last year, together with Julia Holter’s ‘Ekstasis’ of this year, who like Barwick, conjures up an otherworldly dreamscape of wonder and beauty. The chance to witness Julianna Barwick’s live performance is one not to miss out on. This year, Barwick unleashed her wonderful collaborative project of OMBRE. OMBRE is a new musical collaboration between Julianna Barwick and Helado Negro. Their album ‘Believe You Me’ was released earlier in 2012 on the wonderful Asthmatic Kitty label. Barwick’s clean, soaring harmonies and church choir sensibilities merge effortlessly with Negro’s rustic-Latin-psyche-folk. It’s an album full of hazy sunshine pop fused with drone ambient wrapped in warmth and beauty.

A seamless array of indie music giants grace Friday’s stage. Liverpool-based indie-rock band Clinic will summon their post-punk noise revival to the masses, following their recently released, seventh studio album ‘Free Reign’. Baltimore’s Lower Dens, led by Jana Hunter, are a must-see band. Their latest album ‘Nootropics’ is a milestone of 2012 and beyond, in its interstellar sonic journey. Lush future pop (the single ‘Propogation’), hypnotic krautrock infused rhythms (‘Brains’), swirling meditative hymns (‘Lamb’) are meticulously crafted. Lyrically, the album deals with transhumanism and feelings about technology. The Baltimore collective have made an ambitious work which exceeds on every level. Cincinnati’s finest and recent City Slang signings, Why? will bring their inventive blend of hip-hop and sunshine pop harmonies to Le Guess Who? on Friday. Other acts on this good Friday are headliners Deerhoof, Mathew Dear and Fuck Buttons, who should all be pencilled in to the timetable schedule!

Saturday is all about one person, and that person’s name is Tim Hecker. The Montreal based electronic musician is at the forefront of contemporary music. His ‘Dropped Pianos’ record is one of my most cherished albums with its cinematic soundscapes and drifting piano notes. This album in addition to its companion ‘Ravedeath 1972’, showcases Hecker’s gift for minimalist composition. The live performance of Tim Hecker’s richly textured ambient music is a vital and must-see performance. The magic of this great composer cascades down on the heart of Saturday night in Utrecht. You do not want to be anywhere else.

Sunday night belongs to Brooklyn-based, American singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Her third studio album ‘Tramp’, released in January, stands as one of the finest records of 2012. ‘Tramp’ is one of those very special records that resonates powerfully to all those who hear it. Van Etten’s songs come from a real place, where I feel the beautiful weight of words and music flow endlessly throughout. The album was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and features her friends Julianna Barwick, Zach Condon (Beirut), and members of Wye Oak and The Antlers. Importantly, it is the unique voice of Sharon Van Etten that lies at the heart of her empowering music. Utterly inspirational.

Also on Sunday night is the Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley. A national treasure. His latest album ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is a true awakening of the senses. Crowley’s lyrics are sheer poetry. The string arrangements are divine. Crowley’s peerless baritone immerses you into a deeply contemplative listening experience. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is timeless, in the truest sense that captivates the heart. This enchanting album is Crowley’s strongest to date, and is a fitting addition to a rich body of work.

Indie kings DIIV bring their atmospheric indie-pop masterpieces to Le Guess Who? on this closing night. Their debut album ‘Oshin’ is filled with beautiful atmospheric guitar pop soundscapes. ‘How Long Have You Known?’ is one of the year’s standout songs. ‘Oshin’ is one of my most played records of 2012, and to witness Z. Cole Smith and co. live on the closing night will be very special indeed.

Le Guess Who? Festival allows you to explore the heart of independent music, right in the beating heart of Holland.

Le Guess Who? happens on Thursday Nov 29th, Friday 30th November, Saturday 1st December and Sunday 2nd December in Utrecht, Holland.
http://www.leguesswho.nl/

Written by admin

November 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm

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