Acts to watch this coming year...

Showcasing some of the most compelling rising European talent of today and tomorrow, the digital execution of Eurosonic Noorderslag 2021 represented numerous awe-striking moments.  

To display the variety of new music at the showcase festival, Clash handpicked five rising acts who performed this year.

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Alyona Alyona

A winner of this year’s Music Moves Europe Talent Awards, Ukrainian Alyona Alyona is becoming an important name in rap.

Culturally thriving, Ukraine is an evolving country, it continues to challenge what has been and what is ahead, and new trends appear all the time. Traditionally, there has been a tendency to look to Russia and Moscow for inspiration, but things are changing at a rapid pace. The music scene is as good a place as any to illustrate this.

Alyona Alyona’s debut album ‘Ribki’ focuses on women, who do not feel accepted by society. A former nursery teacher, Alyona Alyona’s real surname is Savranenko, and she is a kind of symbol of the cultural transformation that been unfolding in Ukraine. She has been rapping for more than a decade, her career is beginning to shape up, and she is fast becoming a role model for young women.

Her set at virtual Groningen is empowering and explosive. Her flow has a vibrant energy, and even though the tracks are sung in Ukrainian, it is not hard to get a feel for some of the social and political sentiments expressed in her lyrics. It is clear that Alyona Alyona is the real deal, and now it is time for the rest of the world to check out her work.

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Also a winning act of the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards this year, Melenas hail from Pamplona in northern Spain.

Melding krautrock and garage with ease, the band are responsible for writing mesmerising, jangly indie songs. To some degree recalling iconic ‘90s bands such as Stereolab and Broadcast, this group put their own stamp on their brand of music, adding plenty of finesse and elaborate ideas to finely tuned pop ears.

Initially emerging in 2016, they built their reputation around the delivery of prestigious festival sets in their home country as well as the release of two albums, and it seems as if the trio may just be scraping the surface of what they are capable of.

Their imaginative use of keyboard instrumentation, reverb and fuzz contributes to a striking performance for Eurosonic. Their set comprises a versatile array of sound. Performing songs from ‘Dias Raros’ (Rare Days), the title of their second album released last year ‘Primer Tiempo’ (First Time) and ‘No Puedo Pensar’ (I Can Not Think) emphasise the strength of their writing and the vibrancy of their performance.

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London based alternative-pop duo Jockstrap prove some time ago that they are a fantastic force to be reckoned with. Meeting at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2016, violinist Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye recorded their debut mini-album ‘Love is the Key to the City’ with a 21-piece string orchestra.

Genuinely embracing the idea of eclecticism, and seemingly unfazed by most musical challenges, they are adept at mixing elements of jazz, synths and alternative music, creating sprawling and adventurous sound layers brimming with fresh experimentation.

Showcasing at Eurosonic is a suitable platform for bringing their eclecticism to life. ‘Acid’ brings to mind the quirky sounds of singer songwriters like Regina Spektor. Flowing organ notes accompanied by vocals that alternate in between clear, crisp and more manipulated effects. The complexity is perplexing and clever.

Reaching for higher notes on the song ‘Charlotte’, the track melds electronic looping with tranquil effects before the sound of robotic vocals, synths and violin vary the flow, while indie-folk ballad ‘City’ is more Bjork-like in instrumentation and vocals.

Numerous words about this performance spring to mind, but perhaps the greatest thing about Jockstrap is that they are impossible to pin down and describe properly. It is a multi-faceted sound adventure.

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Daði Freyr

Idiosyncratic and a complete one-off, Daði Freyr was originally due to represent his home country Iceland in last year’s Eurovision, when festival organisers officially announced the cancellation of of the majestic yearly event due to the global pandemic.

Wacky and off kilter, the competing track ‘Think About Things’ shows the individuality and character of the eccentric Reykjavik-born songwriter. Currently residing in Berlin, the musician has been releasing music on a regular basis, and his new single ‘Feel the Love’ came out in 2021. Upbeat and sparkly, the funky disco-infused track shows an artist of strong potential and a bright future ahead of him.

His performance at Eurosonic does not let down these attributes. Beginning the set with ‘Where We Wanna Be’, the infectious, electronic soul-inspired track is performed on keyboards with vocals, ensuring the delivery of a uniquely entertaining version.

Alternating between English and Icelandic, the track ‘Skiptir Ekki Máli’ (Does Not Matter) surprises when a snippet of Britney Spear’s ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ is brought in.

“You’re amazing, and I think you know that you are,” Freyr concludes, just before he starts to perform the third song, his Eurovision entry ‘Think About Things’. This was a treat!

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 Spill Gold

The Dutch duo Spill Gold are already experiencing a fair amount of success, touring the UK, US and Europe with their contemporary take on psychedelia.

Woozy and hypnotic with some inspirational origins in stoner rock, punk and synths, Amsterdam-based musicians Rosa Ronsdorf and Nina de Jong are growing their reputation on international ground, and deservedly so.

Starting out in 2017, they cite influences as far-reaching and diverse as Can, Soulwax, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno and The Velvet Underground. Knowing that, the rich, multi-disciplinary compound of their sound represents no surprise.

Their Eurosonic set celebrates some of their sound achievements to date. Starting out with the enticing ‘Mercury’ works as a suitable set intro with its hypnotic vibe and energy.

Part of Spill Gold’s appeal lies in the unconventional use of instrumentation such as drums and their experimental use of vocals. There is no stopping in-between tracks, and it makes the performance feel one hundred percent consistent, creating a relentlessly immersive flow of sound.

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Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Maxwell Granger

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