Le Guess Who has gained a reputation for being one of the most forward-thinking, boundary-pushing festivals in Europe and in 2017 it certainly isn't resting on its laurels.
Held across multiple venues in Utrecht, Holland - and occuring 9 - 12 November - it offers a long weekend of musical (and other) activities that would be nigh-on impossible to summarise in the confines of a single article. Nevertheless, here's what we are looking forward to:
Even outside of their collaborations with artists such as The Body and bis Osaka's Vampillia have covered an incredible amount of ground. Using strands of post-rock, death metal, neoclassical and jazz as their core elements they create something utterly unique, and their live performance is as puzzling and as joyous as their plethora of recordings. Zeal & Ardor, the project of Swiss musician Maneul Gagneux is similarly unconventional, whipping up a storm of metal-tinged electro-blues that is making as much of a cross-over as you can expect a storm of metal-tinged electro-blues to make.
Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked At Me carries with it an intimacy that makes even a casual listen feel like an invasion of privacy. Phil Elverum's reflection on the passing of his wife through cancer; him, an acoustic guitar and the faintest ghosts of accompaniment, is at times unbearable in the most honest sense of the word, and one can expect his performance of it will be the same. No stranger to an ode to death himself, Mark Kozelek will also appear at the festival, hopefully leaning more on Benji and earlier works than the “Randy Newman for meme kids” shtick he currently finds himself churning out with perpetual motion.
Dalék and Moor Mother speak of struggles that are personal, social and global, both timeless and horrifically modern. Both speak of slavery, brutality, the stamping down of the underclass. Both tell stories fictional, non-fictional and somewhere in between, both using tropes of post-modernism to bring to life something that is, again, horrifically modern. Both do so against a background informed by hip-hop, noise and punk-rock attitude, backgrounds that are as urgent as their narratives.
The acts playing across the four days of Le Guess Who are as varied geographically as they are from a genre point-of-view. From the Siberian throat singing of Yat-Kha to the ambient West Coast (USA) hip-hop of Dedekind Cut through to Bulgaria's enigmatic choir Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares and further to the unconventional folk stylings of Egypt's Nadah El Shazy and China's Liu Fang there is a true global feel to the festival.
Not content with all the above the festival will present Le Mini Who, an accompaniment to the main festival that will use other venues in the city to strengthen its ties to it, something done successfully by Primavera in its original location of Barcelona. Outside of a quite frankly ridiculous line-up the city will also host what is billed as “The World's Largest Record Fair” with full support from the festival.
Seeing The City
Should the need for pleasures outside of music occur then Le Guess Who is well situated for that, too. Utrecht is regarded as The Netherlands' second cultural capital after Amsterdam, and is the home of a wealth of art galleries and museums including the Duitse Huis and the Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, which contain collections dedicated to medieval coins and the history of railways, as well as an idyllic canal thoroughfare. For those wanting to visit the countries' true capital, it is only a half-hours train ride away. But with such delights, both musical and non-musical, there's not much call to leave.