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PREVIEW: Le Guess Who?
Colm McAuliffe , November 7th, 2014 15:11

Ahead of this year's edition, featuring a none-more-sterling line-up, we pick six must-see acts at the Dutch festival

As someone who has always defined himself by the ability to effortlessly distinguish between Arnold Mühren and Franz Thijssen, the fact that I have never actually been to the Netherlands is a glaring and heinous oversight and one which can only be rectified by the line-up of this year's Le Guess Who? festival. The four-day extravaganza taking place in Utrecht, is a quite staggering collision of brute force, seminal artistry and, rather promisingly, a twenty four-hour drone fest. The festival utilises some fifteen different venues ranging from churches to pop-up stages and this year is part-curated by the formidable presence of Michael Gira, whose mighty Swans also headline. Other headliners include Autechre, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Wire and Silver Apples. To say Le Guess Who? is deftly curated is somewhat of an understatement; the festival programming towers over all competitors in an already-saturated festival circuit. Take a look at our picks below with tickets available from the festival's website here:

Einstürzende Neubauten

Blixa Bargeld and co. have long since abandoned their feral industrial sonic onslaughts in favour of an altogether more refined - albeit no less exhilarating - blitz on the senses. For this performance, the band will be showcasing their newest work: Lament, ostensibly Blixa Bargeld's case stating how the First World War never ended - the interwar and post-war periods being essentially pauses for breath, as the great military powers carry on their conflict at some remove in faraway wars fought by proxy. This grand narrative is realised through First World War flow charts or scored from calendars of the involvement of the 20-plus countries embroiled in the Great War. This potentially astonishing piece of musical bricolage is unquestionably without equal in terms of sheer scale and ambition.


The return of Robert Hampson and Loop was surprising by virtue of the repeated and insistent denials of such a reformation proffered by Hampson in the intervening years of the band's absence. But the returning iteration of Loop only lasted six months or so, appearing to disband entirely due to unspecified issues, only for Hampson to return within days with promise of new material and a new line-up. The latter has certainly occurred and it's arguably a better time than ever for the glorious tones of Hampson's guitars to hammer through to the depths, with their thick, molten repetition, ripping holes in the earth's surface.

Julianna Barwick

The Louisiana-born Julianna Barwick is a startlingly intense live performer, ever on the verge of igniting a pagan inferno with her hypnotic, wordless, heathen hymns. Barwick creates haunting prayer services, physically embodying each of her songs, displaying a meditative and undeniable virtuosity within her vocal polyphonics - a welcome spiritual release from the all-consuming chaos up for grabs elsewhere in the line-up.

24-Hour Drone Fest

On its own merits, a drone fest sounds promising, but an entire day of noise with only meagre harmonic variations for respite? Sounds like absolute heaven, especially considering William Basinski, Stephen O'Malley and Tim Hecker are at the helm. Also worth investigating as part of the affair is the Dutch-Irish combo House Of Cosy Cushions whom inveigh their enigmatic noise experiments with a beguiling folk sensibility worthy of Mellow Candle or Comus at their most uncompromising.

Dean Blunt

Redeemer or narcissist? The last time this writer saw Dean Blunt, in a teeming Cafe OTO, the man seemed utterly possessed in his mission to single-handedly free jazz, only stopping to pause sporadically to sprint over to the piano and nonchalantly play some vintage Beyoncé. Witnessing Dean Blunt live often requires a recalibration of one's biorhythms in line with the frightening unpredictability of he and his band's demented excursions into and beyond the man's tortured psyche, an experience both redeeming and narcissistic.

Selda Bağcan

A pioneering, radical protest singer from Turkey active since the 1970s, Bağcan produced superlative folk-hybrid albums, but remained relatively unknown as her proletarian call-to-arms exhortations ensured she was often imprisoned by the Turkish authorities and suffered extreme travel restrictions as she became more comparatively well-known. Sampled by Mos Def and hailed as an influence by tUnE-yArDs (also playing at this year's Le Guess Who?) and Cate Le Bon, Selda is a true and worthy icon of revolutionary and groundbreaking music-making.