The best of every imaginable genre and every inhabited corner of the world has been on Le Guess Who? for years. That can no longer be called a well-kept secret. Also the free part of the festival, Le Mini Who? has built a reputation over the past eleven years. This year, the Cartesius area, in the northwest of Utrecht, is the setting where some of the best 'unknown' artists in the Netherlands are presented in old factories, cafés and more, unexpected locations. This year, Front has the honor of curating part of the line-up, a great opportunity to give a stage to our favorites from the most diverse genres.
Written by: Ruben van Dijk
Eklin is by no means a newcomer. At the end of the nineties, a ruthless noise group à la Fuck Buttons, reincarnated in 2010 as a grim company with a preference for minimalist, almost horror-like dream pop – call it nightmare pop – and now, eight years after the last release, they're back. In recent years, foreman Michiel Klein has mainly been in the picture as a guitarist for Lewsberg, where he is responsible for sporadically derailing Arie van Vliet's literary pop songs. Klein's urge to experiment has free rein with Eklin, however, and that is especially live a sight to behold in the most introverted sense of the word. Eklin doesn't rumble. Eklin doesn't scream, but with a live band in constant state of change (Marijn Verbiesen from Red Brut is a regular drummer) knows how to silently play your soul.
MERU, 23, is a colorful spring garden. Even her Instagram, with a multitude of plant photos and floral portraits, breathes oxygen. It's the aesthetic of a generation for whom caring for plants is a lifestyle, a generation that fills its dorm room with monsteras, calathea and cacti and keeps cuttings until it's indistinguishable from a botanical garden. But for MERU it is more than visual. 'Jardin' from debut EP Revez endorses how grounded the Venezuelan singer is with nature; her hands and the flowers she plants with them are one. There are 7.7 billion people whose life is given by plants – and yet it sounds special when MERU sings about it. It is the changeable nature of nature that seems to fascinate MERU in particular, as can be seen from the butterflies that also adorn her Instagram, the track 'Cocoon of Life' ("The now is happening, please stop panicking") and the fact that the MERU's music seems to exist in a constant state of transformation or, on a genre-wide scale, in evolution. MERU is R&B in 2019, inspired by a zeitgeist in which there is no distinction between contemporary DIY bedroom soul and plant-friendly ambient from the seventies, just to name a few.
There are no press photos and for studio recordings you have to search very carefully. Global Charming has to rely mainly on the live reputation for the time being, although it is still early. So you'll have to take our word for it – or with prior knowledge of the many other bands the four members were part of before. A series of bands, each of which is even more elusive than the other: live sensation Torii for example, idiosyncratic song band Petersburg, or the absurdist, Dutch-language Meetsysteem that makes synthpop in a niche you didn't know existed. In that respect, Global Charming has a more comfortable sound, set in a musical landscape formed by Parquet Courts, Nap Eyes, B Boys and the illustrious artsy post-punk bands that preceded them. But that all roads eventually lead to Talking Heads is not so important to Global Charming. That charm is mainly in the small virtuosity; silences you didn't see coming, riffs like from a top hat. Tension is in a corner with this band and all the more so if you've never heard a track before.
The album Sun Kil Moon released earlier this year, This Is My Dinner, his fourteenth since Benji (2014), features a song called 'Bay of Kotor', at 23 minutes his longest to date. It can hardly be called a song anymore; structural cohesion is clearly subordinated to mood and atmosphere. Kozelek's words still play a leading role, but they also seem completely entangled with the soundscape. It's symptomatic of everything he's released since Benji, and although the Nijmegen brothers Rindert and Jordi Lammers named themselves after that album, it's the meandering, moody Sun Kil Moon from after that that Benji regularly reminds of. But the brothers have more examples. On the most recent single 'De Vuurvlieg', the music of Rindert and the spoken word of Jordi are supplemented by Joseph Shabason (also on Le Guess Who?, Saturday evening in Theater Kikker), the saxophonist who left his mark on Destroyer's Kaputt - another atmospheric masterpiece. For example, Kozelek, Shabason, Destroyer, but also Mount Eerie and Julianna Barwick, form the framework within which Benji has found a niche that is unique to the Netherlands. For fans of “soundscapes and poems about glass deer”, if you ask the guys themselves.
In a world where the cassette is mainly fetishized for its aesthetic and nostalgic value and has been declared 'back in style' many times, a small vanguard in the musical avant-garde has always recognized the usefulness of the sound carrier. However, for Red Brut, the pseudonym of the Rotterdam artist Marijn Verbiesen, the cassette is more than just a utility. Her music is based entirely on self-recorded cassette samples of creaking doors, guttural sounds, screaming children, out-of-tuned guitars, squeaking gates, whooshing traffic and tinkling cow bells; dissonant, often “nasty sounds”, as Verbiesen calls them herself, which she mixes into a unity with a collection of cassette players in front of her. That's how she does it on record and that's how she does it live. Thus, even rewinding the tapes becomes part of the music.
Le Mini Who? takes place on sunday 10 November plaats in Utrecht. You'll find the timetable here.