The year in music tends to find its own rhythm, its own path of progression.
There are set times when big albums are unfurled, when huge acts go out on tour, and there are also times to focus on new talent, to unearth something unexpected.
January is one of those times. Eurosonic Noorderslag is aptly timed, then, with the mammoth Dutch festival set to return in just a few times, and bring with it a host of fresh faces.
Clash is packing its bags for another visit to the historic city of Groningen, and we’ll be keeping you updated as we go.
For now, though, we present a quick run-through of some of the acts we’re looking forward to catching at this year’s Eurosonic Noorderslag.
Anna Meredith (UK)
Part avant garde classical composer and part odd-pop maverick, Anna Meredith is a bundle of contradictions – but that’s the way she likes it. Debut album ‘Varmints’ was superb, rattling between moments of extreme dissonance to deft, almost polite, beauty.
Rightly named Scottish Album Of The Year in 2016, her live performances are, if anything, possessed with more itchy energy and creative static than her recordings. A must.
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Sturla Atlas (Iceland)
One minute Sturla Atlas was making beats in his native Reykjavik, the next he was opening for Justin Bieber. But playing before thousands of screaming pop fans isn’t enough to phase the Icelandic newcomer, whose temperament is a cold as the glaciers that inch down the slopes of his homeland.
Blessed with dexterous flow and huge imagination, Sturla Atlas can really stretch – each track seems to take the hip-hop prodigy in a fresh direction, resulting in endlessly inventive material that refuses to sit still. Fashion-forward and hype-laden, his Eurosonic set will surely be a roadblock.
Sailor & I (Sweden)
Swedish producer Sailor & I – aka Alexander Sjödin – has released on Black Butter and Life And Death, and it’s easy to see why such alert taste-makers would fall for him. Aware of the sheer physicality of sound, his club-ready productions nonetheless have subtle inflections – faint traces of emotion that whisper in the distance.
Debut album ‘The Invention Of Loneliness’ is forthcoming, and with new single ‘Black Swan’ earning respect from Maceo Plex you wouldn’t bet against Sailor & I enjoying a particularly lucrative 2017.
By now it’s perhaps an over-used cliché to refer to the style, class, and panache of our French cousins. But listening to Rennes duo Her, those are exactly the adjectives that come to mind. Imagine the digital soul of James Blake crossed with the itchy funk of Jungle and you’d be close, with early singles such as ‘Quite Like’ or ‘Five Minutes’ stamping out their potential. Travelling to Eurosonic for a no-doubt special showcase event, Her are best enjoyed with some well-selected Chardonnay, some loose hips, and a smile on your face.
Amber Arcades (Netherlands)
Amber Arcades is essentially a vehicle for Annelotte de Graaf, a songwriter whose ability to fuse fuzzed out psych with cotton-bud melody made her debut album such a delight. Released on Heavenly here in the UK, her vibrant, dream-like oscillations have a surreal quality, but are blessed with a rare lucidity. A chance to catch Amber Arcades on home soil (well, almost – Annelotte is from Utrecht) this looks much too good to pass up.
Saint Sister (Ireland)
Somewhere between blissed out 60s folk and billowing electronics, somewhere between a love for modernity and a respect for tradition – that’s where you’ll find Saint Sister. An Irish duo, debut EP ‘Madrid’ was marked by huge promise, their innate songwriting ability matched to a shrewd, almost sparse, use of sound. Since then, Saint Sister have blossomed, with recent single ‘Tin Man’ matching the words of English metaphysical poet John Donne to divine folk-hewn melody. Definitely ones to catch.
Holy Nothing (Portugal)
Eurosonic Noorderslag has a continent-wide remit, and this year’s focus nation is Portugal. With Lisbon scoring international acclaim as hub for the arts – seriously, everything from Hinds to Buraka Som Sistema have emerged from the city – it can’t come a moment too soon.
Holy Nothing hail from Porto, a three-piece who twist and distort analogue equipment for their own nefarious electronic ends. Causing a stir at last year’s SXSW, the trio’s divine 2015 release ‘Hypertext’ is an enthralling filtration system of global influence.
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Eurosonic Noorderslag runs between January 11th - 14th.