On his first article for One Quart Magazine, Matti Nives previews the impressive line-up of Le Guess Who? festival, which takes place in Utrecht, Netherlands in mid November.
Sometimes good things come bundled up together. Browsing through a copy of the WIRE magazine, I stumbled upon an ad for Le Guess Who? festival. Having read through the early lineup announcements and stared at the colourful swirl graphic on the ad, I was hypnotised. I knew that I need to be there.
After reading into it more I found out the place (Utrecht, Netherlands) and the date (10-13 Nov). The bonus round, as it were, was discovering that the Utrecht MEGA Record Fair was taking place during the same weekend. Not a coincidence, I suppose, for the lineup is bound to attract a herd of us MEGA record nerds.
So, the names on the bill. Wilco, Julia Holter, Laraaji, Deerhoof, Tim Hecker, DJ Nigga Fox, Fennesz, Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids, Josephine Foster, Peter Broderick, Jerusalem In My Heart, Bassekou Koyaté & Ngoni Ba, and so on. And so on. Damn, they even have Lau Nau from up here! The festival program ranges stylistically from indie rock to the avantgarde, and historically from the pioneers to the topical newcomers.
I would call Le Guess Who? meticulously curated. Turns out, there’s actually several different people doing that. The four artist curators are Wilco, Julia Holter, Savages and Suuns. Then there’s the general program, curated by the festival people themselves, as per usual. All the different programs have favourites and potential discoveries galore, and I would be hard pressed to choose even a personal favourite amongst the curators this year.
I would call Le Guess Who? meticulously curated. Turns out, there’s actually several different people doing that. The four artist curators are Wilco, Julia Holter, Savages and Suuns.
A full report will follow. As of now, here are my top picks in anticipation of the festival.
1) Pauline Oliveros
Seeing the legendary 84-year old composer and accordionist on stage is an unexpected delight. Oliveros is a true pioneer in experimental and the so-called “post-war electronic music”, which is to say, early electronic music. She’s one of the original members of the mythological San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960’s and has remained active for six decades or so, producing inspiring and thought-provoking works and writing about “lesbian musicality”. Then there’s tons of awards, of course, but I think the best way to describe her greatness is hearing a track such as the sublime ‘Horse Sings from Cloud’.
On the liner notes of the classic 1989 Oliveros album Deep Listening there’s the immortal line which I like to think about every now and then: “What does this music sound like when no-one’s listening?”
2) Patty Waters
Another unsung hero, Patty Waters has been a personal favourite of mine since I heard her 1966 ESP-Disk’ release Patty Waters Sings. On the album, her haunting vocals range from a little more than a whisper to full on screams. The last time I listened to the album was at night. Loud. Only after a while did I realise that the neighbours might dial 112 unless I revert into the confines of my headphones. The track I’m referring to here is the 17+ minute rendition of ‘Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair’. The utterly beautiful opener, ‘Moon Don’t Come Up Tonight’, however, would probably serve as a more fitting introduction into the world of Patty Waters.
The last time I listened to the album was at night. Loud. Only after a while did I realise that the neighbours might dial 112 unless I revert into the confines of my headphones.
An afterthought: Just imagine what J Dilla could do with this track…
3) Oliver Coates
I discovered cellist/composer/producer Oliver Coates through his wonderful recent album Upstepping. His music is hard to pin down, in a way seemingly originating from a similar world as that of fellow classically trained modern geniuses Arthur Russell and Owen Pallett. Perhaps the combining element here is a certain kind of “out of the map” thinking with regards to how to approach the art of modern songwriting, utilising the tools of the trade of classical music as the starting point.
A band I have wanted to see for some time now. Held In Splendor is a masterpiece of contemporary indie rock in by books, and Plaza, released in February, is equally rich in sonic colours and a logical step forward for the group. Listen to ‘Roller’, one of the lead tracks on the new one.
5) Elza Soares
Another larger-than-life legend on the lineup. Catching the Brazilian diva Elza Soares live? I have to admit that the thought never crossed my mind. This is the absolute beauty of of Le Guess Who?: they seem to present not only the simply brilliant but also the unexpected in modern music, be it legends or the “next” stuff.
As noted above, a full Le Guess Who? report will follow. I will be there from start to finish, based on the Le Guess Who? hotel ship, trying to figure out how to cope with the abundance of possibilities proposed by the festival and the MEGA Record Fair. “That is one of them good problems”, some might say.
Le Guess Who?
Utrecht, The Netherlands, 10-13 November 2016