Hong Kong’s biggest international outdoor music and arts festival takes place this weekend December 1st-3rd, 2023, featuring a lineup of distinct and diverse artists from around the world. Headliners include Britpop legends Pulp, former internet sensation turned rising superstar Joji, and J-pop superduo Yoasobi.
Showcasing an eclectic mix of musical trailblazers, current chart-toppers, festival favourites, and some of the best popular and emerging Asian artists, Clockenflap is shaping up to be the best way for a music lover to end their festival year. Here are five key acts from across the globe to keep an eye out for.
In the pulsating heartbeat of Britpop’s red-and-white-dyed heyday, Pulp, led by the idiosyncratic Jarvis Cocker, didn’t just embrace the glamorous music scene – they reinvented it. Like bohemian bricoleurs, Cocker and bandmates threaded together a sonic and visual world appropriated from the discarded and marginalised, weaving tales of suburban ennui and sexual escapades into a sonic tapestry that fetishised anything that represented potential.
Pulp’s musical manifesto, collaged together through now-decades of utopian wish-images usually intoned by Cocker over glossy instrumentation and convulsive arrangements, works in a way that is only ever exuberant and lovable (unlike a lot of their Britpop comrades). For a band that is steeped in the past, it’s a fitting subversion that they’ve only aged like fine wine.
In the ever-increasingly kaleidoscopic realm of contemporary J-pop, Yoasobi stands as a luminous example of the form, and one that defies its own boxy categorisation. Ayase and Ikura, the enigmatic duo behind the band, weave together electronic beats, ethereal melodies, and poignant lyrics, crafting sonic tapestries that is as eclectic as it is constantly evolving.
It is a delicate fusion of pop sensibility and introspective depth, resonating with a generation of Japanese pop fans seeking both solace and celebration. Ikura’s crystalline vocals dance with Ayase’s masterful production, creating a hypnotic allure that transcends linguistic boundaries.
With their entrancing soundscapes, Yoasobi emerges as a captivating force, and as a group that formed right before the global pandemic, you should relish in seeing them perform live any chance you get.
Soldering her voice to the mechanics of electronic music, Caroline Polachek’s fullmetal vocal mania liquifies against adhesive beats, percolating through a woozy, glittering sound that blushes into freefall. The world has caught up with hyper-dilated maximalism since her debut solo album Pang and is no longer drowning in past nightmares of silence or presence.
On stage, she matches lithe funk basslines with darting dembow beats to instant rapture, and where the roots of flamenco guitar and bagpipes ravel under the same mud and soil. Searing choral perspectives erupt from the sludgy architecture of PC Music’s discordant scion before laterally spiralling into honeyed litanies while sound flees back to quiet dewy highlands.
No Party For Cao Dong
Fusing post-rock intricacy with indie-pop sensibilities, No Party For Cao Dong emerge as avant-garde architects of a new and vibrant undercurrent of Taiwanese indie music. Their melodies, like whispers in a bustling metropolis, carry the weight of modernity and tradition.
Fronted by the enigmatic and soulful vocalist, Wood Lin, the band’s introspective narratives are like a pilgrimage into the heart of contemporary Taiwanese youth culture, threading tales of introspection and painting nuanced portraits of societal disquiet and leading the listener through a sonic house of mirrors, where the unexpected awaits around every corner, making them heralds of a new, eclectic Taiwanese sound.
In the musical drumshed the band haven’t so much carved as bulldozed out for themselves, Idles very quickly squared their own place politically, but also culturally, in a U.K. music scene which has been lately largely dominated by a new energy — groups which are sometimes ungracefully labelled as “post-punk” which include fellow Clockenflap featured bands Squid and Yard Act — pummelling a new and exhausted emotion into the atmosphere: one of being fed up with singing about the same tired shit their idols had to.
If an artist’s purpose is to incite ideas, to provoke their audience to take action, then punk music (in whatever form) does that better than anything. Choking-with-righteous-anger Idles are raw and rare, and personify this weary, deafening cry for change.
Clockenflap Festival runs between December 1st – 3rd.
Words: Bryson Edward Howe