With one month before the 24th edition of Roadburn, I’m picking the ten concerts I want to see the most.
Have I mentioned yet that the Netherlands is the best place for festivals? If not, let me remind you – they have Le Guess Who and Rewire. In the music triangle of my interest, they also have Roadburn, which I haven’t yet to go to, but I intend to change that in a month.
“Roadburn is a metal festival – not just metal-metal there but a much broader spectrum of genres,” a friend of mine explained to a colleague over the summer when he told her about the Tilburg event. The event, which began at the end of the 20th century as an outgrowth of the interests of a music blog of the same name, first focused on stoner rock, expanding its field of interest year by year: from both internationally known names and emerging artists.
Looking at the program today, it isn’t easy to classify what we will hear in Tilburg regarding aesthetics. Instead, I like the festival slogan: ‘Redefining Heaviness’. The festival is open-minded, and looking for different aspects of the heaviness in sound: whether we are dealing with a metal band, trance music, folk groups, or electronic music.
I have selected ten concerts from the program I want to see.
I caught Alison Cotton’s concert at the Hertz Hall during last year’s Le Guess Who? I wrote that the cellist sounds like a soothsayer, electrifying the instrument, using effects, and creating a mystical solo message. I wasn’t at the whole thing then, and I was highly captivated by her music in the concert edition – so much so that I want to listen to it again. At Roadburn, she will play an additional special concert with Dawn Terry.
The combination of metal and rap is nothing new, but Backxwash adds a new dimension to this direction. With evocative beats and walls of sound, she weaves a personal narrative about faith, her identity, and the modern world. All the more so when HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING, released in the autumn, closes an album musical trilogy – a monumental, characterful, and expressive work of music.
Category: excellent last album. “Nature Morte” is as powerful in sound as it is highly emotional. Primarily due to Robin Wattie’s extraordinary vocals but also to the evocative compositions, which combine heaviness, arranging eccentricity that does not fall into cliché, and full of distortion. Instead of polished parts, we get a dense, rumbling and rough sound, full of tension.
Towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Bo Ningen – a Japanese band whose musicians met in London – started to organize regular concert meetings ‘Far East Electric Psychedelic’. Later they release a albums, whose trademark was a heavy psychedelic sound full of distortion and walls of sound, treated with an inbred, original outlook. Theatrical expression and virtuosity are gained, above all, during live performances.
How does it feel to miss one of the best concerts at the festival you’re attending? I had that with Brutus a year ago. Then I gloated over their live sessions, listened to Unison Life, and couldn’t get enough of how a seemingly simple trio line-up can create powerful-sounding yet original songs on the borderline of alternative metal.
Deafkids, on the other hand, take as their starting point the borderland where punk, d beat, metal, and noise meet. I wrote about their album Metaprogramação that it’s a psychoactive journey – distorted vocals, aggressive punk inflections, layers of noise and reverb, electronic pulse, gnarly guitars, and polyrhythmic drum excursions. One of the most exciting bands on the guitar scene nowadays and one of my main reasons for visiting Tilburg.
France (on the Guillaume Morel photo above)
Theoretically, a classic rock trio, but yet not – because of bass, drums, and a hurdy-gurdy. France, over the years, has developed an unmistakable style based on trance-like repetitions in which the sound of the traditional instrument provides a canvas for meditative, hypnotic forms. The second band I’m mostly going to see at Roadburn.
Mai Mai Mai
Although I don’t keep track of every subsequent album in Mai Mai Mai’s catalog, I remember very well their first release by the Italian label Boring Machines. It initially intrigued me with inspirations from ritual music, folk, industrial, or synth-pop. Which, in a live version, can gain a unique flavor of an unusual, mystical, yet mysterious experience.
The solo album Toquei no Sol is one of the most I’ve been regularly listening to this year. I like its mystical atmosphere, its folk and electronic themes, it’s drawing on the contemporary, but also its immersion in the past and tradition. I’m curious how these meditative, atmospheric, and trance-like songs will turn out live.
Poil Ueda was born when progressive rock meets Japanese medieval chanting; when folk’s broken rhythms merge with the metre of guitar passages. What’s all the more interesting is that it’s not uncommon for prog-rock suites to get lost in self-indulgent solos and walls of sound, and here, the whole thing is worthy of driving drama, plot shifts, combining minimalist playing with abundant playing, with vocalist Junko Ueda dominating the backdrop.
Roadburn 2023 will take place in Tilburg from the 20th to the 23rd of April — more info on roadburn.com.