Playlist chosen by Adam Ryan –
Main Great Escape Festival programmer
Now entering its twelfth year, The Great Escape (TGE) goes from strength to strength and continues to be an established and much loved showcase for new music from around the world. In a time when heritage acts and old timers are increasingly exploiting our hard earned spare cash, TGE is an island of freshness, surrounded by the (sometimes pleasingly, it has to be admitted) stench of artists rolling out the hits once again, taking away valuable exposure to new music. And contrary to some perceived wisdom there has never been so much good new music. You may have to dig a little deeper at times and you may have to wade through a lot of mediocrity to get there, but believe us; the democratisation (and globalisation), of the tools available to make and hear music means that there is a deep well of excellent and global new music, a more than healthy dose represented here, across almost all genres known to man: from Indie to electronica, from folk to dance and from grime to hip hop. And that’s why The Great Escape consistently sells out. It’s all damn fine music!
Although there are, as always, a few established acts performing TGE, the vast majority of artists are relatively unknown (many acts here don’t have tens of thousands of Facebook ‘likes’, such is their infancy), many of them playing Brighton for the first time, from countries around the globe including Canada, India, Switzerland (who are this year’s TGE lead international partner), Australia, Israel, Finland, Holland, Norway, South Korea, Germany, Austria and many others. Even those few established acts are, for the most part, performing new music and not casually reaching into their bag of ‘hits’. It’s practically written into the contract. With their stage sets generally short (usually between 30-45 minutes) the onus is on the artists to really make it count, to give it their all. After all, this is a showcase first and foremost, of new music, performed in front of genuinely hungry new music fans and to the legions of industry folk, here to attend the concurrent TGE Convention (and to enjoy a jolly by the sea).
Even though we do of course have the big ‘spotlight’ shows (this year we have Rag’n’Bone Man, Slaves and Kano), even for seasoned music journalists and industry pros, most on offer at TGE is unknown to them. And wading your way though the lineups (450+ acts performing at 20+ venues) can be very time consuming. Furthermore, there’s the no small matter of the Alternative Great Escape (AGE), an official Fringe to the Festival, which this year looks bigger and better than ever, featuring hundreds more acts in many other venues, some of the acts performing at both the TGE and AGE.
Where to start and who to see? Below Brightonsfinest provides a few tips, followed by various music industry movers and shakers offering their thoughts on some must see acts. These are some of the stars of the future:
London duo IDER first came to notice with ‘Sorry’ last year and since then their immersive, R&B tinged, electronic pop has been the perfect soundtrack to a chill out session, drawing comparisons to London Grammar, Oh Wonder and FKA Twigs.
The Japanese House
Name-checked by Julia Jackson of The Big Moon as one of the acts she enjoyed most at the recent SXSW in Austin, Amber Bain is The Japanese House, maker of intricate and cavernous dream-pop.
Unearthing the ghost of alt-noise rockers My Bloody Valentine, Los Angeles’ Froth make an (un)holy racket of spellbinding and sensual music that also crosses over into more laidback and melodic krautrock terrain.
With affinities to the British new wave of Orange Juice and Prefab Sprout, this French duo sprinkle some wit into their music, a close to (fine) cheese terrain that includes some ludicruously infectious Francois-Bossa Nova leanings. Big in their native France and looking to invade their British cousins.
Delivering the brash honesty of rap music, with her unique blend of soul and R&B spirit, Ray BLK weaves between genre boundaries, subtly swaggering through hip-hop breakbeats and jazzy licks before throwing back to 90s US R&B. The winner of BBC’s Sound of 2017 poll.
At the age of 19, Harrison Brome is making waves in the darker side of the bedroom pop and R&B scene. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Brome is the love child of Josef Salvat and James Blake in creating sensual, sharp and sombre songs. Despite his young age, it’s clear that Brome is wise beyond his years, having channelled his upbringing as a home schooled teenager with a learning disability into a musical vision. This is his first visit to the UK.
Fuck Art, Let’s Dance!
Indeed. These Germans are the epitomy of youthful confidence and irritability, coalescing guitars and dance into a satisying pop whole. Taking their name from a quote from the American liberal activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti, they basically want to get your bodies moving on the dancefloor.
Bitter-sweet synth urban-pop led by the arresting lyricism of Ellie Kamio, with influences that range from Grimes to The Neptunes. The seductive late-night electronics are supplied by Paul Taylor Wade and Simon Milner.
Incendiary and artsy indie-punk rockers are rapidly making a name for themselves. Not only does the singer do a pretty good imitation of Jello Biafra, but they also see their (satirical) art as having positive social and political consequences, such as on their ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ track.
Young New Zealander Amelia Murray is yet another example of the exploding female Kiwi music scene, along with the likes of Aldous Harding (who herself makes a return visit to TGE following her truly startling performances of last year) and Nadia Reid. Her debut album Morningside has just been released on the legendary New Zealand label Flying Nun and is full to the brim of charming indie-pop snapshots. The Pixies spring to mind a couple of times, but elsewhere it’s intoxicatingly dreamy, but with an edge.
Wistful and weightless retro-sci-fi-pop from these classically trained musos from Brooklyn, whose debut album was released on the Brighton-based Bella Union label late last year. “Pavo” is Latin for peacock and the group’s name is inspired by a southern constellation of the same name.
Helping to keep the faith in indie rock, Los Angeles’ Cherry Glazerr pitch their sound somewhere between early 80s post-punk and synth-guitar pop. Dreamt up by singer and guitarist Clementine Creevy and complimented by drummer Tabor Allen and multi-instrumentalist Sasami Ashworth.
Douglas Dare is a London-based singer-songwriter, originally from the coastal town of Bridport, Dorset. His live sound combines his poems with acoustic instrumentation and glitchy electronic elements. Inspired by the likes of Portishead, Elliot Smith and James Blake, his latest album, Aforger, questions the boundaries between reality and fiction.
As a jazz composer, percussionist and producer born in the USA, raised in India and living in London, Sarathy Korwar knows plenty about the cultural interplay surrounding migration. The basis of his debut album Day To Day (Ninja Tune) saw Korwar spend time with the migrant Siddi people of southern India, specifically the Siddi Troupe of Ratanpur in rural Gujarat and his field recordings of their hypnotic chants and percussive African-derived polyrhythms underpins Day To Day and is fused with jazz and electronica.
Australian band Parcels hail from 2017, but they would have fitted in nicely with the mid-70s era of such phenomenons as Chic, Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan, all purveyoys of polished, groove-based sophisication.
The Fiction Aisle
Led by former Electric Soft Parade co-founder Tom White, The Fiction Aisle make majestic and epic progressive indie rock. Not unlike a more melodically song based Radiohead, their debut album Heart Map Rubric – which only got a limited CD release at the time – is being re-released on vinyl, including a re-working of the simply sublime ‘Outskirts’.
The Bergen-based pop singer Sigrid Raabe was signed to Petroleum Records at the age of 17 and her first single ‘Known You Forever’ was instantly playlisted on Norwegian national radio. She is currently recording her debut album in London, Berlin and Bergen. Recently signed to Island/Universal.
A five-piece, multi-instrumental band formed in Bahrain in 2009. The band was founded by Kamal Rasool and now consists of Rasool, Sam Rowe, Charles Prest, Karthik Poduval and Craig Doporto. Based in both the UK and Bahrain, the band has carried out operations online as much as in person. The group puts a focus on exploration and experimentation, often taking influence from different cultures around the world by use of an extensive collection of instruments from as far as Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and Tanzania. Think Goat meets Tinariwen via Hawkwind.
Sampa The Great
The rise of Sampa The Great has been swift and strong. It has been a little under a year since the Zambian-born musician released her debut mixtape and made a spectacular impression on tastemakers and punters alike. Like her many influences – both musical and political – Sampa hopes to inform and inspire, delivering her message in a way that is bold yet inclusive. “I’m great,” she proclaims not as a boast but instead a rallying call, “You’re great. We’re great.”
Brighton, as reflects this most musical of cities, is once again healthily represented at TGE. Magic Gang, Our Girl, Blood Red Shoes, Abattoir Blues, Fickle Friends, Jacko Hooper, Kudu Blue, Lakuta, Prince Vaseline, Sons, White Room and Yonaka are just some of the acts performing, plus there’s a slew of acts performing as part of AGE.
450+ artists is a lot to get through and planning your time at TGE can be tricky. We get that, so there’s a nifty app which allows you to research the artists, build your own schedule and share it with your friends. Notifications for schedule changes and secret shows will also be sent out via the app. And during the festival the app will also display capacity updates, which can help you avoid any queues that occur at the more popular shows.
Below, some Brighton movers and shakers give us their top picks for this year’s Great Escape.
Ben Walker – Brightonsfinest
A brilliant variation of indie psychedelics and pop who are definitely making some huge waves on the underground scene right now.
Incredibly powerful riffs and some of the catchiest tracks I’ve come across in a while, Darlia embody everything that garage and grunge rock are all about.
Some seriously mellow hip-hop beats from an incredible mind, all wrapped in a smooth silky voice that is really something you can relax to.
It is bands like Honey Lung who keep indie-rock interesting, a powerful band with an awful lot to say.
Transient, atmospheric electronic vibes which utilise some seriously strong vocals incredibly well, creating an overall sound that is completely euphoric.
Phil Nelson – Manager and BIMM Ambassador
One of the first bands to be released on the new Pool Valley recordings here in Brighton.
Bex Redwood – Digital Product/Artist Manager, Republic Music
An Israeli musician, singer-songwriter, keyboardist and producer. Her music exploits the more physically dynamic elements of electronic music whilst embracing its sensitive side. Signed to City Slang, she recently released her politically-charged debut single ‘Dance Whilst You Shoot’, an explosive first offering of off-kilter beats and moody synths. Blistering.
Nick McAllister – aka DJ Bollocks
What do I want from live music? I want a riot that burns itself into my retinas and leaves me a dancing wreck. There is one band on the line up that can deliver on that. Wrapped in cling film, smeared in red lipstick messages with white bread jewellery, Lias Sauodi (of Fat White fame) prowls the stage with his usual abandon proving he really is the best frontman since Iggy, while Mr Sexah Flanagan slams out the glorious sleaze punk synth nuggets. The rest of the band is equally outrageous and you would not believe that Rebecca Taylor is actually more famous being in the Slow Club, as her inner Amazonian goddess drives you into torment. Everything pop should be and so much more.
Natasha – Resident Records
My absolute highlight of last year, so it will be interesting to see where he’s at now. Still no album. Still doing things very much on his own terms. A truly captivating performer.
Now signed to 4AD, her new album has stepped her sound up to a whole new level so I can’t wait to see how this translates live.
Strang’s slacker-alt-rock caught our ear on his debut album last year but what we’ve heard so far of his new material has got us really excited.
Having delivered one of the most beguiling albums of recent times in January, we can’t wait to immerse ourselves in Julie’s otherworldly magic.
Live, they are absolutely ridiculous in the best way possible and their album also happens to be a mighty fine piece of work.
David Elphick – Bmusic
I’m looking forward to The Lottery Winners to kick off Thursday with a bang.
Emme Woods is a Glaswegian artist that I’ll try and get to see.
Local pick is Bess Atwell on Saturday and her manager also manages Locks who are at the Paganini Ballroom on Friday so I will also try and catch them.
Also worth checking out End Of The Trail and Fierce Panda’s collaborative stage at the East Street Tap on either Thursday or Friday
Mark Ede – BiGiAm
Because with People We Become she proves she can write as well as she can sing. One of the finest artists this country has ever produced.
Because she is an innovator with her unique fusion of folk and jazz laced with electronics and who also writes with complete integrity.