Black Midi

Our 6 Favourite Artists from Eurosonic Festival 2019,

Jan 24, 2019 Photography by Bart Heemskerk Web Exclusive
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There is a particular buzz around Groningen when Eurosonic Festival comes to town. There always is a buzz, of course, when major music events pass through a place, but this buzz is fortified by a sense that something worthwhile is percolating. Eurosonic Festival exists to promote the music of Europe, with emphasis on the countries and cultures that are too routinely overlooked by the Anglophile musical industrial complex. It is a moment to celebrate the artists that have historically been guilty of the crime of not coming from the right patch of land, and tens of thousands of music fans have congregated to drink it up. It is as if there was an audience for it all along.

The legacy of Eurosonic and its peers is becoming more evident. Non-English based artists now more readily find a foothold in the mainstream media, as evidenced by the success of Scandinavian popsters like Sigrid and Zara Larsson, as well as guitar bands like Pip Blom and Hinds. With that in mind, we are in search of the best that the continent has to offer. Here's what we found.

Any Other

One of Europe's eminent emerging singer/songwriters is the Milan-based Adele Nigro, aka Any Other. The two albums that she has to her name are more than enough to stuff the sizeable Vera venue to its limits on Thursday, and enough to stuff the handkerchiefs of those in attendance with big, fat tears. "I've cried to Farewell Transmission," she confesses on "A Grade"; most of us have cried to Nigro's second album Two, Geography now, too. Tracks from it dominate the set, which only propels yet higher when her band temporarily leave the stage, leaving Nigro alone, allowing her raw, primal vocals to rip and shred through the air, cowering any disrespectful talkers at the back into silence. Nigro has an unignorable presence on stage, switching imperceptibly between vulnerable and formidable, the inner and the outer.

Jungle By Night

Making the short jaunt from Amsterdam are the 9-headed Afro-jazz monster Jungle By Night, the most brass-bopping, funk-bass-popping, disco-ball-spinning band to hit Groningen this week. Evidently already sporting a loyal home country fanbase, they have the Grand Theatre in constant, uncontrollable motion. Channelling the spirit of '70s funk-jazz explorers William Onyeabor and Osibisa, they give each player their spotlight moment, each fully justifying their own ovations. The trumpet/trombone/saxophone power trio lie at the band's adrenaline control center, spurting off fireworks at will, drilled from below by the double-drummer engine room. Like Thundercat and Ibibio Sound Machine's stoned love child, keep this band on your radar.

Hatari

"This is the soundtrack to the myth of Sisyphus," harks Klemens Hannigan moments after they take the stage. If any band wanted to set themselves a challenge equal to that of the mythological boulder-pusher, then they could probably take a lead from Reykjavik's Hatari. Decked out in a dress code that lies somewhere between gothcore Halloween and BDSM leathers, everything about them is orchestrated to provoke SOMETHING from an audience. Hannigan seethes and prowls, the band spin webs of sound that draw from industrial, punk and goth, and everything is presented through a slyly political lens. By the time that a BBC News report about a North Korean nuclear attack is playing out, it's hard to tell whether the whole thing has been a hallucination. If that report didn't happen, it sure felt real.

Tittingur

Originally a noise rock group from Slovakia, Tittingur have been resuscitated since the release of their debut album two years ago as a pulverising techno duo. Before their arrival at Groningen's News Café, the subterranean venue was a welcoming and warm cubby hole. Once Tittingur are done with it, the wallpaper fairly droops from the walls, the foundations of the restaurant upstairs barely having passed the test. The duo themselves refer to their music as maximal techno and it makes sense; only on occasion does a discernible beat emerge but when it does it's cherished and nurtured by the crowd. Tittingur have taken the core ingredients of hardcore electronica and slung them into a liquidizer, with a few razor blades added in for seasoning. Rising smoke and heavy strobing complete the picture of Tittingur's beautiful, brutalist destruction.

Black Midi

No band at Eurosonic 2019 arrive with a comparable level of hype to London's Black Midi. The band's four members are graduates from the esteemed Brit School, but it's hard to imagine that this is what they're teaching at that government-funded establishment. They assemble noise in the way that doo wop groups assemble harmony, blistering and scarring the eardrums of the overpopulated venue whilst maintaining their thus-far impeccable street cred by studiously ducking and diving out of melody's way. The crowd reactions reflect the band's coolness, with knowing appreciative applause taking the place of moshpits-Black Midi appear to be the thinking person's new play thing. They are formidable players, the drummer especially scything through his parts with enough power to draw every camera lens to his direction. One imagines they have spent some considerable time pouring over the no wave classics, which perhaps inevitably will lead to them being proclaimed as the new Sonic Youth from some quarters. Expect some big things from Black Midi.

Maarja Nuut & Ruum

Estonian ambient composer Maarja Nuut introduces her set explaining that her music is intended to represent an attachment to the environment and history of the land in which it was made. As the set plays out, it becomes clear that it really is as simple and as complicated as that. At times, Ruum's electronic manipulations are delicate and quiet enough that one feels they have tapped into the terrain's natural vibrations, at others sub bass seems to evoke the march of war, reflecting the human truth that history is made as much from strife as from serenity. Added to that, Nuut's finger-picked violin parts and her beguiling vocals call on centuries-old folk traditions. The changes in pace and tone reflect not so much changes in season as changes in epoch-the entire history of Estonia in capsule form.

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