Weekly Roundup #3
Yeah, I know, I’m three days late with ze Weekly Roundup. My bad. I have had way too much free wine at the IJzeren Podiumdieren (congrats by the way to Rotown, Roadburn, Welcome To The Village and Le Guess Who? for snagging some of these bucks), so if this entry has proportionally more bad takes than usual, well, that’s the reason why. Forgive me.
(I’m surprised some gruff security guy didn’t end up giving me the sleeper hold, dragging my limp body out of the room by my tongue. I mean, those dance moves I did when WIES performed their song; I can totally understand why people didn’t take kindly to that. It was rather offensive. Again, blame the surplus of wine. No clear head can be morally culpable for those types of hijinks).
Because I have been trotting — and sometimes swerving — across Groningen this past week, I’ve been blindsided by all these new releases (Vince Staples!). Never mind the fact that one of the most rewatchable B-films, Tremors, turned 30 last Sunday. Next to The ‘Burbs and Big Trouble In Little China, this remains one of the juiciest chunks of cinematic comfort food ever.
From lowbrow to highbrow we go. Let’s look ahead a bit to some of the music-related IFFR events. The Ummah Chroma will extend their short film AS TOLD TO G/D THYSELF with an installation at Het Nieuwe Instituut, which is exciting as hell. For the not so initiated, The Ummah Chroma is a collective comprised of Terence Nance, Jenn Nkiru (who made this piece of pop iconography), Marc Thomas, Kamasi Washington (yup, THAT guy) and Bradford Young, bringing a confluence of disciplines together to carve out a new discourse zone where new voices are highlighted.
Another documentary I’m personally very invested in is Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, about a most remarkable artist and human being. I’m just gonna be lazy and forward you to a sizeable interview I did with him about two years ago. Furthermore, I hope Glenn will re-release ‘Crossin’ Over’ next, because the outline of that record is, well, mind-blowing.
In his own words: “Crossin’ Over was my emotional attachment and re-exploration of my slave roots. In the US, slaves were not allowed to have drums. Many of them were Muslims, which was something never really explored by slave masters. And because they all spoke different languages, it became very hard for them to communicate with each other. Because everything was jumbled up: you were lucky to find anyone who spoke the same language as you. So Christianity became sort of the Sunday service for two hours; it was the only time slaves could congregate with one another as a group. So they began making up songs, which sounded like very Christian songs about life after death. But they have actually coded messages on how to escape from slavery.”
There’s probably more amazing stuff happening that I need to look into, but definitely here for these two. Alright! Time to reflect back on four exhausting days of Groningen.
Every year, the carousel that is Eurosonic elicits a dizzying amount of impressions. For all the hype building up, Black Country, New Road left me a wee bit underwhelmed. Ok, sure, there’s definitely a lot to like about this band: their set at the Vera had both unnerving and downright beautiful moments. Bands that deftly reconcile such lush jazz sonority with more brittle, decaying slowcore-leanings are fairly hard to come by.
But frontman Isaac Wood was unable to hold my attention with his Delphic sprechgesang. It just fell flat and performative, even when he was exulting in more deranged moods. His presence was neither terrifying (a prime Nick Cave), perplexing (Mark E. Smith, Elias of Iceage), witty (David Byrne, Ought’s Tim Darcy) or hilarious (Sleaford Mods, Squid). It wasn’t anything really. To put it bluntly, it all felt like a marching band channeling the cavernous, burrowing forays of Slint’s Spiderland. Which is, by all means, not bad. But not incredible either. Let’s just chalk it up to taste, given the abundance of wax lyrical responses this band has assembled over the weekend.
The 10-minute session Dry Cleaning did at the Martinikerk was a whole lot more fun. Lewis Maynard, Tom Dowse and Nick Buxton churn out wiry post-punk tunes in an obligatory fashion, which usually is a big no-no. Usually. But some bands work well because of the contrasts they contrive on stage, and Dry Cleaning is def one of those bands. With her three mates sort of wingin’ it, singer Flo Shaw stares a thousand-yard stare as if she’s addressing lost spirits only she can see. That schismatic quality is where Dry Cleaning really thrives: Shaw exults in semi-morbid post-modern surrealism, patching together snippets of YouTube comments into lyrics and delivering them with religious fervor. There’s no wink-wink-nudge-nudge innuendo here (likely the reason I can’t seem to get into a band like Sports Team), everything is carried out straight-faced and deliriously. To summarize, what a fun FUN band! I can’t wait to see ’em again during Motel Mozaïque.
Unfortunately not all the acts live up to their promise. Initially, I was sooper intrigued by Czech ensemble VIAH, which sounded like the kind of artsy-fartsy genre-bending live act that would tickle my fancy. I mean, look at this live show, and it’s hard not to be curious. Plus that single Samurai is by all means very, very cool. But at Huize Maas, VIAH rolled out a pretty straight forward pop show with dull choreography, without the charisma and talent someone like NAAZ possesses. Too bad. It does feed into the tinfoil-hat conspiracy that far too many European artists cater to the hot-and-happening BBC shortlists, instead of filtering out the truly extraordinary original stuff. Someone like Charlotte Adigéry for instance, who truly seems to do her own thing. Following up a fringe techno record with a •takes a VERY deep breath* discombobulating 17-minute spoken-word track, count me the FUCK in. At this rate, Charlotte could become this generation’s Laurie Anderson and/or Grace Jones. Let’s hope that Iggy Pop collaboration works out (I got a feeling it will).
The notion that there are far too many overlooked gems performing the unofficial showcase events was reinforced when I saw a pair of fab Danish groups at the Sauna only five-minutes from Huize Maas (I don’t exactly like Huize Maas by the way, far too dark and seedy): Collider and Rýk. The former conceivably sounds like Broken Social Scene in their salad days, flying off the rails with infectious glee. Their swooning combi of noisy shoegaze, indie rock and a touch of Vangelis woodwinds really evokes those whippersnapper jitters and then some. Rýk played their doomy brand of post-punk for maybe ten people as if their life depended on it. Stupendous gig. One of their guitarists did some medieval-styled self-maiming in the end, smashing his axe into the concrete floor like a guillotine. If this was the band’s final gig I’m glad I was there (it sure felt like a Final Gig), secretly keeping my fingers crossed the peeps at Left Of The Dial will invite these cats over come October.
Two artists who are pretty much a lock for the biggest fests are Georgia and Working Men’s Club. The latter played an infectious show at the Kokomo: each song conjures an imaginary montage of an eighties John Carpenter flick. It’s sort of a camp take on DEVO, LCD Soundsystem Duran Duran and Suicide, but the lion’s share of the songs are rock solid. Plus, their frontman‘s name is Sydney Minsky-Sargeant; I’m pretty sure this band will be errwhere this summer.
When I saw Georgia perform at Simplon, for some reason, I had to think about Elvis in his Renaissance years. Backed by probably the best damn session band ever assembled, yet the one spotlight solely on this one guy. Incredible! Georgia too was wearing one of those elegant frilled suits, but the difference is: she wasn’t just the performer, she was the whole friggin’ band as well. Her show really homes in on the most sentimental of pop music euphoria, blending familiar elements — from Madchester house to late nineties R&B — with the immediacy of someone hearing those stylistics for the first time on the radio. Barnes is, of course, the daughter of Leftfield’s Neil Barnes, so instinctively finding that pulse for the pleasure zone comes naturally. Some artists have the mentality to try and impress and exhibit, but Barnes’ giddy energy feels more empathetic to the crowd, shaking her fists and making her presence felt on a more tantamount level. This notion is very much invigorated with one of the most authentic renditions of ‘Running Up That Hill’ I’ve ever witnessed. I love uncompromising elusive artists as much as the next music snob, but there’s as much unmitigated joy in what Georgia does, feeding into the spirit of a room with maximum exuberance.
Since this entry is already getting way too long-winded, let’s give a more succinct rundown on some Noorderslag highlights while we’re at it. My highlight was undoubtedly S10, whose album Snowsniper is an intrusive but highly remarkable self-exposé on her psychiatric toils. She was personally responsible for one of the most incredible moments of Dutch TV, so there was little doubt that this was going to be one for the books. Even though it’s dubious to always bring up looks, she looked pretty austere with that pitch-black cenobite dress, yet her in-between stage banter was vulnerable, awkward and downright apologetic at times. Strange contrast indeed.
Musically speaking, there’s nobody quite like her over here: marrying the unfiltered, freewheeling quality of Dutch hip-hop with sort of an avant-garde sensibility. I get the sense that bringing in a guitarist could cater to the more ‘rockist’ crowd (which felt a little on-the-nose at times), but it does give into what has clearly become S10’s mission to spread awareness to larger audiences of what this fractured pixelated world does to our fragile psyches. Her lyrics leave no stone unturned and her duet with fellow artist Wende was extremely touching, tracing the words of Dutch author Joost Zwagerman, who committed suicide five years ago.
There was an article in The Guardian recently about Dutch artists embracing their own language, and I surely hope that appeal will also be recognized by those who don’t understand a lick of Dutch. Because what S10 showed today was simply transcendental, a deep artistic expression that goes far beyond the binaries of language. What a chilling and simultaneously heartwarming performance it was.
Eefje de Visser and Altin Gün, both excellent at The Grote Zaal, were exemplar to this as well. But at the same time, I don’t believe we should frown upon homegrown artists who sing in English all of a sudden either. Lieke Heusinkveld’s folk-pop outfit la loye was downright spell-binding with all its sepia-toned intricacies, The Sweet Release Of Death went Kevorkian on us once again, Pip Blom is expanding her stage show to new heights, and Willem Smit proves to be just as eloquent as his Anglocentric peers with his rambunctious outfit Personal Trainer.
2. Twenty Of Twenty-Twenty, Week 3
Assembled a new playlist, and I must say, I’m finally finding my footing with this weekly update. The idea to cap it off with an older track (it was Rush last week) sort of stuck. I picked ‘Fangless’ by Sleater-Kinney because No Cities To Love turns five. Got some Soccer Mommy (with a banjo!), Vince Staples has a new one.
The Homesick just released my fav track off their upcoming LP The Big Exercise, and I have been personally involved with that particular record. I’ve been downright blown away by some of the tracks on the new Mura Masa record, in particular, ‘Today’ featuring Tirzah.
Oh, and WHY NOT another Ween song for good measure. This week I picked ‘So Many People In The Neighborhood’, as a nod to all the warm encounters with fellow industry worker ants this past week.
(YES IT’S TRUE: Weekly Ween is going to be a thing from now on!)