Nestled in the far north of the Netherlands and buffeted by cold North Sea wind and rain, Groningen might not be top of many people’s list for a weekend away in January. But that would be to reckon without Eurosonic Nooderslag, Europe’s biggest and most important showcase festival.
Featuring a colossal 310 acts spread over four days and nights, the great and good of the continent’s music industry descend on the city to hear the best new music, with labels, bookers, agents, managers, press, and fans all hoping to discover which acts will light up the year ahead.
With so many artists performing, there’s something for everyone – from post- classical to avant garde pop via industrial noise and experimental techno – and plotting a schedule each night is no easy task. We could recommend fifty bands that are worth checking out, but we don’t have the space – and you don’t have the time.
So here instead are seven of the best, most interesting artists – genuinely special talents who stand poised to make a big impact over the coming twelve months, and who you really shouldn’t miss.
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With precious few songs online and an extremely elusive digital presence, Black Midi are an enigma that have nonetheless become London’s “most compelling new band”. The four-piece have been the talk of the town for a number of months now, their post-punk and math-y noise rock deconstructions winning critical acclaim and fans in equal measure – their regular shows at Brixton’s The Windmill are now quite the event.
Expect dirty grooves, jazzy riffs, atonal guitars, primal screeching, and explosions of noise – truly they make a glorious racket – from a group subverting notions of what a guitar band can be in 2019.
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Blending elements of prog, metal, and shoegaze, the soaring post-rock of The Ills is reminiscent of Mogwai’s brute sonic force and the masterful, wide-screen crescendos of Explosions In the Sky. Built around melodic – and at times, surprisingly delicate – riffs, their songs bloom into vast, colourful clouds that fill the horizon, wild rides of euphoria that are as thrilling as they are thoughtful.
With a new album slated for an early 2019 release, this will be the first opportunity to hear how they’ve progressed from the majesty of 2016’s 'Ornamental Or Metal'.
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It’s unlikely that songs titled ‘Wolf 1061 C’ or ‘HD 40307 G’ will ever storm the charts, but there’s an otherworldly, enigmatic charm to Tomat Petrella’s futuristic sounding jazz-meets-electronica creations.
The Italian duo – Turin based multi-instrumentalist Davide Tomat and world-renowned jazz trombonist Gianluca Petrella – craft songs that sound like a more upbeat Blade Runner soundtrack, full of elegant synth washes and deep, unsettling, trombone blasts and loops. Lord knows how they’ll reproduce such deft textures and complexities live, but it’ll be fun watching them try.
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How to describe the madness that is Icelandic band Hatari? Imagine a trio of steampunk industrial cyber-goths spewing out twisted electronic beats, guttural growls, and buzzsaw synths while offering tales that illustrate their “underlying philosophy of deep social discontent”. Sounds intense, right?
Their shows are frighteningly aggressive, in-your-face affairs, brutal sonic assaults that leave you in no doubt how seriously they take their music – in many ways, the perfect band for troubled times. If you want to full on lose your shit or exorcise some demons, get down the front for this and let loose.
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Being hailed as UK rap’s “most vital new voice”, Best New Track for ‘Watchout’ from Pitchfork, packed clubs on her first headline tour; these are just some of Flohio’s 2018’s accomplishments.
The South London MC and rapper – real name Funmi Ohio – combines grime, rap, and industrial trap with lyrical punches and a relentless, dexterous delivery, a genre-defying mix that brims with a swaggering confidence and fiery intent. Few performers are as visceral or possessed of such a magnetic presence; catch her while her star is burning white hot.
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The enigmatic and mysterious producer and DJ crafts some of the most forward- thinking, captivating electronica we’ve heard in quite some time. A member of Mäss, a Slovak micro collective, record label, and club night, his post-industrial soundscapes are shot through with joyful melodies and bursts of euphoria, like a more playful Aphex Twin. Live, his beats are a touch heavier and the bass a little more insistent, but it’s not techno for chin-scratching musos – this is dance music for the feet as well as the brain.
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Technically part of the Nooderslag festival on the Saturday, Rotterdam’s Lewsberg are one of the finest guitar bands to emerge from The Netherlands’ burgeoning scene in 2018 (their self-titled debut is set for a proper UK release in February via Cargo Records).
This is clever, alt. college rock in the style of the Modern Lovers. This is a throwback to classic NYC sounds, a beguiling mix of Television, Talking heads, and The Velvet Underground. This is sardonic wit and detachment, delivered in a sing-speak style that reflects Big City melancholy. This is, quite simply, brilliant and unmissable.
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Words: Derek Robertson / @DerekRocks
Photo Credit: Holly Whitaker
Eurosonic Noorderslag runs between January 15th - 18th.
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