A Guide To Le Guess Who? 2022 By Richard Foster

For those of you lucky enough to be heading to this year's edition of Le Guess Who? in Utrecht next week, tQ's man in The Netherlands Richard Foster selects the ten must-see acts he's most looking forward to

Photo by Melanie Marsman

The only constant in life is change. The hoary old epithet can be applied to the fifteenth edition of Le Guess Who? festival, with co-founder Johan Gijsen announcing this will be his last as co-director. Le Guess Who? has always been adept at responding to social and cultural change and absorbing the demands of its audience as a means to growth. The first edition took place in a very different cultural time in the Netherlands. Back then, those in the music game could use the still intact network of squats and free spaces for shows. And, maybe unsurprisingly, early editions utilised the wonderful old Tivoli building on the river Oudegracht. Tastes were noticeably different too, with the stranglehold of the Anglo-American music industry much more apparent in lineups up and down the land.

Now, the race for both cultural headspace and physical inner city space (and the greater urge to better represent both) has seen the festival literally reimagine itself throughout all of Utrecht. This year, for example, the excellent COSMOS initiative “brings” music from other countries into the Ballardian new Tivoli complex. COSMOS is a hybrid platform that allows a number of international partners to “present their local scenes through audio-visual content”. What this means in practice is anyone’s guess but – like the legendary 24 hour drone from the 2014 edition – COSMOS could create its own ecosystem within the festival. We are promised creative link-ups with Slemani (Kurdistan-Iraq); Goa (India); Cairo (Egypt); Pernambuco (Brazil); Mexico City; Khartoum (Sudan); China and Palestine. For those who can’t be there as a hybrid-physical being, COSMOS will be freely available online.

Another positive ground-level change has been the gradual integration of Dutch acts into the main lineup. Previously the Saturday showcase, Le Mini Who?, did a sterling job of showcasing local talent in shops and cafes on the bohemian Voorstraat, with a riotous ending normally programmed in the anarchic freestate in miniature that was ACU. Speaking as a regular enthusiastic visitor to Le Mini Who?, I always had a feeling that international visitors missed out on some sensational shows by acts like Charlie & The Lesbians, WOLVON, Space Siren and The Homesick. The explosion of Dutch underground music talent from 2007 onwards – maybe the old squat network’s last hurrah – deserves greater exposure, which is what we get in 2022. This year, the glorious deadpan cool of Lewsberg, the thumping techno of Animistic Beliefs, the heartfelt chamber pop of Eerie Wanda, the off-kilter indie of Personal Trainer and the legendary and nigh-on indescribable vibe of Bong Ra are all worth catching. What could prove the cherry on the cake will be Rotterdam’s Rats On Rafts, who are set to perform a theatrical version of their hard-hitting last album, Visions Of Chapter 3. The band’s sound currently has something of This Nation’s Saving Grace-era Fall, but this time it will be the audience not the band that is kurious, oranj.

As ever the festival is stuffed full of great music worth staking a place in a long queue for, or a lung bursting bike or hike around the city’s environs. There is always the option of sacking off the run-around, settling down in a venue and watching a curation unfold over the weekend. One of the festival’s signature strengths is to allow artists room to dream through curation: notable participants have been SUUNS and Moor Mother. Now the mighty Moor Mother finds herself as part of CURL’s curation, with rapper Billy Woods. The lineup picked by the London-based collective (members include the redoubtable Mica Levi, Brother May and Coby Sey) seems to favour collective, collaborative work. Shows by Speakers Corner Quartet, Eve Stainton, Laurel Halo, and artist collective Tutto Questo Sentire promise sensational things. A fabulously eclectic pick can also be found with Animal Collective’s curation (although the band themselves have pulled out of all their European dates due to an “economic reality that simply does not work”). It seems to focus on artists who have carved out unique creative spaces, such as pop performer and poet, Mary Ocher, Japanese Moon worshipers Kuunatic, all-female Tuareg band Les Filles De Illighadad and renowned hurdy-gurdy man, Valentín Clastrier. The wonderful Dennis Bovell will be DJing too. Kampala-based label Nyege Nyege focus on some head-shaking and soul-quaking African High Tempo with DJ Chengz, DJ Diaki, DJ Travella, Judgitzu and DJ Munchi. It sounds like a terrific prospect and will doubtless be a popular pick for many, especially given the label’s atom-busting manifestations at the 2021 edition.

It can feel that these sonic riches are all too much to take in all at once, but succour for those who need a home banker or two can be found courtesy of some longstanding – and new – Quietus favourites, such Alison Cotton, GNOD, Širom and Mabe Fratti. GNOD continue to reinvent heavy music for this alienated and disaffected age whilst one can only hope for a good workout of Alison Cotton’s bewitching release, The Portrait You Painted Of Me. Cotton’s mesmerising music should create a throbbing omphalos of calm to balance out the festival cavalcade. Širom is a definite tip: the Slovenian “acoustic folk avant-garde experimental band” made a remarkable album in The Liquified Throne Of Simplicity and their live shows are ones that can really surprise. And you may not know it yet, but Mabe Fratti’s forthcoming LP Se Ve Desde Aqui will irrigate our parched souls. Fratti’s previously lush and romantic work takes a more sinuous and tensile direction: her last European shows earlier this year ran the gauntlet between dry, intense, Terry Riley-esque chamber pop and slow burning Velvet Underground-style wig outs. It really is “all too much”.

Mabe Fratti

The Guatemalan cellist is about to release her best work to date. A serial experimenter and collaborator, Fratti’s beautiful voice is balanced out by the tensile electronic explorations of her band. Expect a committed and compassionate show.


A visceral and witty performer, Evicshen explores noise in ways that employ the immediate spaces and artefacts around her. This could involve rubbing drums, drills and bums on the floor, or putting microphones into crannies where they shouldn’t be.

Moor Mother & Billy Woods performing BRASS

2020’s BRASS is one of this decade’s most remarkable albums. Now there is a chance to see New York rapper Billy Woods and avant-garde poet, musician (and Le Guess Who? stalwart) Moor Mother play it live for the first time.


Part mystic trip, part hoe down, the Slovenian folk collective spin a serious web. They profess to make “mostly imagined” folk music in the hope that the woolliness and worthiness associated with the f-word gets a righteous kicking.

Rats On Rafts’ Visions Of Chapter 3

The vision that drove this cussed, uncompromising Rotterdam band to make what in all intents and purposes is a post-punk opera with Excerpts from Chapter 3 – The Mind Runs A Net of Rabbit Paths, seemed too grandiose to stage as a normal gig. Now they have a chance to show what was in their heads. With actors, props and all. Intriguing.

Thiago Nassif

This Brazilian trickster made one of the best records of 2020 with Mente</>. Reminiscent in places of Mik Quantius or late 70s Dusseldorf sounds, but with a dystopian take on tropicalismo and bossa nova.

Alison Cotton

Cotton is the maker of some seriously bewitching music: ancient soundtracks of an otherland that settle somewhere in the back of your consciousness. Cotton’s sense of strength and resolve – as channelled through viola, harmonium and vocals – is something that should be experienced live.


The name is confrontational enough if you know your Polish. Expect theatrical outpourings of anger and wit and some futuristic incantations, set over an grumbling electric backdrop that sometimes sounds like a magma flow.

Nyege Nyege presents African High Tempo

A wondrous coming together of Caribbean and African artists under the Nyege Nyege banner. Too much to pick, but the burning Soca workouts courtesy of DJ Chengz, Malian party starter DJ Diaki and the rubble eschewed from Judgitzu’s sonic craft will transport us to another plane of being entirely.

Valentin Clastrier

It is obvious that, along with the accordion and lute, the hurdy-gurdy should be the rocker’s instrument of choice. A Valentin Clastrier gig is not something that will divest you of this notion: one of the instrument’s few active practitioners, Clastrier’s shows are spellbinding.

Le Guess Who? takes place in various venues across Utrecht from 10-13 November. For more information and the full lineup, click here.

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