Eurosonic Is A Proven Launchpad For New Music
To say 2020 has been challenging for employees in the live music sector would be an understatement. Everyone has faced challenges greater than it would have been possible to imagine at the start of the year, leading to tour and festival cancellations and postponements on an unrivalled scale.
Rarely has the ability to problem-solve been more acutely sought after as the profound impact of Covid-19 is becoming clear. As the number of livestreamed shows and virtual artist Q&As continued to grow, the volume of record releases appeared relatively stable, even if some initially were postponed by a month or two.
But even though things have been difficult, there is at least a sense that this has been a shared problem. No country is alone in facing the crisis in isolation, and it seems that people have been listening and relating to others.
Clash took a look at eight acts who performed at ESNS in January with a view to assessing what has happened since, and where they find themselves now.
With the level of hype that surrounded Ireland’s indie band Inhaler, their appearance at ESNS was always going to be one of high anticipation. With a stage time scheduled for just past-midnight, crowds had been gathering in time to secure the best viewing spots available.
The Dublin band did not disappoint. Showing that they had what it takes to go all the way, their performance was delivered with confidence and energy. It is possible that the boost they got from this show provided some of the necessary fuel for their sold out UK tour in February. As the hot ticket in town, the shows were in high-demand, gaining them lots of support and enthusiastic reviews.
The group’s recent single release and video ‘When It Breaks’ highlights their ability to produce strong hooks and choruses, which might be an exquisite hint of what’s to come – their debut album. As recently confirmed nominees for the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards 2021, there is much reason to be cheerful about the next chapter in their career.
Having topped Spotify and Deezer’s talent playlists last year with her single ‘After Ten’. Still just a teenager, Parisian Crystal Murray offers a novel, captivating take on soul and jazz.
Intelligent and dynamic, her ESNS performance showcased her as fresh but also timeless artist. The fact that the singer songwriter was actually playing her first live gig outside France didn’t seem to affect her.
Her eclectic debut EP ‘I Was Wrong’ was released in June, it looks like it could come to play a vital part in building her wider, international reputation.
Also, a confirmed nominee for the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards in 2021, it will be good to see how far she is going to go.
Working Men’s Club
The West Yorkshire indie four-piece have found themselves in a position of favourable acclaim for some time. Having rightly enjoyed the back of critics, and as a ferocious force, it has become very obvious that they deserve to go places.
As raw and versatile live as they are on record, Working Men’s Club have created their own hybrid of electro guitar music. Having delivered a haunting and atmospheric, hypnotic set at ESNS, the strength of their live sound was cemented, showing their true potential, and instantly creating a thirst for more.
October 2020 saw the release of their self-titled debut album. Winning over critics and fans alike, the record recalls ‘80s electro-pop sensations such as early Depeche Mode, New Order and Human League, whilst incorporating elements of Detroit techno and post-punk. Its aim for stylistic perfection and good songs makes it a joy throughout. It is a record that revels in imagination and measured experimentation.
A hard worker, Oscar Jerome is someone who has gone far for his repertoire, while establishing himself as a name that resonates on the live circuit.
Now, with at least one major milestone against his name, the Norwich-born guitarist and songwriter has been making waves following the release of his much approved debut album ‘Breathe Deep’.
Jerome’s performance at Eurosonic showed him as an accomplished musician, who seemed consistently unafraid to take jazz and soul to irresistible, lesser known places. While attempts to label him as ‘nu-jazz’ or ‘nu-soul’ seem tempting, it is clear that there is more to his music than that.
A member of afrobeat collective KOKOROKO, the guitarist’s solo career looked set to take a new, surprising turn when he signed to Caroline International. Jerome’s creative potential is open and unlimited.
One of the most invigorating acts at Eurosonic, Pongo’s set was punchy, uplifting and forceful. The enticing blend of African rhythms, techno and rap made for a distinctive sound and vibe.
An artist on an ongoing journey, she has had to deal with struggles and difficult situations as an ambitious, young African woman who was focused on launching a music career in Portugal and much further afield.
With production values in place, the staging, choreography and vocal delivery worked smoothly, and Pongo’s performance was self-assured and charismatic. With her distinct blend of electro-pop and Kuduro (a particular type of music and dance from Angola), she left strong impressions on everyone.
Following a collaboration with rising French duo Sunapson, Pongo featured on single track release ‘Lengueno’. The singer has also announced details of a full UK tour in April 2021.
My Ugly Clementine
Austrian quartet My Ugly Clementine have up until recently been a well-kept secret.
Led by songwriter Sophie Lindinger, the Vienna based grungy foursome make catchy, melodic alt-rock. Having delivered a bouncy, lively performance at Eurosonic this year, the prospect of where they can take their music in the years to come is fascinating.
Released in March 2020, ‘Vitamin C’ is the title of their debut album. Focused and consistent, there is a dedication to lyrics and raw delivery, and the record goes the extra mile in overall ambition, melodic strength and compelling arrangements. On top of the album release, the band also put out ‘Peeled’, an EP of acoustic versions in June.
My Ugly Clementine have also been confirmed as nominees for the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards in 2021.
Stockholm’s indie band Violet Days offer an effortless mix of alternative rock, folk and pop. With vague echoes of the likes of The Cardigans, the group continue to build on their following in Sweden and other parts of Europe.
Having offered a varied, handpicked set that showcased their smooth, easy songwriting, it was the warm stage presence that won them support on the night. The combination of original material and two cover versions including Tame Impala’s ‘Let It Happen’, and rather unpredictably, Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’, was interesting.
August saw the release of new material from the group in the shape of the mesmerising and emotional single ‘Still Dreaming’.
Hungarian psychedelic rock group The Qualitons write vibrant, thoughtfully-arranged songs that integrate sonic elements of ‘70s funk and ‘60s guitar music.
Following a captivating live performance and recording at Seattle’s KEXP radio station as well as numerous live shows around Europe, the Budapest based band continue to expand and build on their reputation.
Their ESNS performance was persuasive and alluring. The combined sharpness and tenderness in their sound is at least partly what makes them stand out. And while the richness of their sound showed depth and range, the mesmeric sound layering also left a strong, lasting mark.
The Qualitons were scheduled to play a live gig in their hometown at venue Metro Club this month.
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ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) runs between January 13th - 16th - grab your ticket HERE.
Words: Susan Hansen