On October 20, 21 and 22, Rotterdam’s Left Of The Dial festival turns the Dutch Port City into an unruly expressway for some of the most promising nascent bands and artists. With a rich infrastructure of autonomous music venues – WORM, Roodkapje, Light Vessel 11 and festival organisers Rotown among them – the playing field has expanded significantly this year: now we have over a hundred performers hauling around flight cases left and right across the city’s stark geometric features.
Left Of The Dial is an easy event to root for: this festival couldn’t give two shits about billing hierarchies or the notion of headliners. Everyone’s jumping into the fray on equal footing, and with the lineup’s increased scale, that’s sure to reach some new combustible pinnacles this year. Additionally, the festival has devised clever ways to help UK bands who are dealing with post-Brexit merch woes. So if you’re entering the Left Of The Dial hacienda in style, best be sure to pay a visit to the Merch Church when you can.
So without further ado, we’d like to highlight the following artists are bound to make a splash next weekend.
Divorceare a miraculous, fresh combination of a number of stylistics: the Nottingham foursome have a knack for vivid novelistic storytelling, yet strangely there’s a raw, grungy edge to them as well. The three singles the group have released so far: “Services”, “Pretty” and “Checking Out” have all hit it out of the park. Indeed, the anticipation for Divorce’s debut EP Get Mean, out December 2nd via Hand In Hive, has reached fever pitch.
Sacrificial Chanting Mood
Having witnessed this strictly Rotterdam-based affair at Tilburg’s Roadburn Festival back in April, this one can immediately attest that Sacrificial Chanting Mood are indeed a scorching, sand blasting live experience. Sacrificial Chanting Mood is the project of artists Doortje Hiddema (Euroboy, Rats on Rafts) and Alicia Breton Ferrer (The Sweet Release Of Death, Neighbours Burning Neighbours); their combined talents dovetail into sweeping melodies and cascading noise attacks. The band’s debut EP is filled with fun fiery sonic innuendos, and as a live unit, they are rapidly mutating.
Some bands just ooze cool so effortlessly, you just throw your hands trying to approximate it. Deep Tan channel the swagger of The Slits and The Raincoats and add their own suave-but-spooky contemporary twist to that lineage. Though rooted in retro chic appeal, they seem happy to burst that bubble of their mystique with sly one-liners. To indicate: one of their songs is actually called “hollow scene”, which I reckon would earn a thumbs up from Justin Vernon. Deep Tan play floor-filling bangers that embrace stark contradiction, questioning and rallying all at once, without feeling the need to beat their chest over it imperiously. Yup, they are quite brilliant.
Let’s just quote John Amen’s review of post-rock/slowcore heralds deathcrash‘s debut Return at the start of this year: “…there’s a sublime and transcendent beauty that persistently emanates from these tracks. Imagine dying in a sunny room while on the other side of a wall, inches away, spring explodes.” Indeed deathcrash are a band who should be wholly embraced by fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Low, Mogwai, and Black Country, New Road. An enrapturing, sonically potent ensemble that shakes the pillars of the very heavens on stage.
Swedish collective Makthaverskan bring a dark brooding romance to their music which should gravitate fans of DIIV, Real Estate and The Cure to them like flies on wallpaper. The Gothenburg outfit still somehow seem infuriatingly underrated and relatively unknown, even for a band hotly tipped by Pitchfork that has been around since 2008. Their songs make you swerve across the floor like a frivolously flapping moth in search of light sources; their shoegazey bursts aren’t of the epic kind either, they strike more like incidental swells of emotion, intimate and candid.
Jake Xerxes Fussell
Georgia songsmith and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell’s take on American Cosmic is uniquely his own, as he’s keen to exhume forgotten blues and folk traditionals into modern consciousness through his own warm-hearted, world-worn lens. It’s a quest he shares with someone like Alasdair Roberts, who does pretty much the same with Scottish folk spirituals. Luminaries such as Bill Callahan, William Tyler and Jeff Tweedy have been cited as big fans. Fussell will bring a healthy dose of tranquility and poignant storytelling to Rotterdam.
Maybe, just maybe, in order to stand out in this dizzying wave of post-punk instigators, it’s for the best to not give all that much of a fuck. Berlin’s Liiek sound exciting, giddy and just really happy to be here; they seem oblivious of the notion that they’re not goth enough, not militant enough or not artsy fartsy enough. They’re just a happy, snappy and wide-eyed bunch. Sure, that whole Gang Of Four wiry punk sound potentially works well for more high-strung, stick-it-to-the-man narratives. Liiek, however, wield it like some dumbstruck kid who has opened his Christmas presents too prematurely. And in that loosey-goosey approach, they bring a jolt of excitement into what’s currently a pretty saturated genre. Also: nearly all their bass lines are catchy as fuck.
Nuha Ruby Ra
Nuha Ruby Ra is an artist whose music feels like a fertile primordial soup from which all kinds of riveting cross-pollinations will inevitably emerge. Her debut EP How To Move channels everything from Tricky’s ink blot trip-hop apparitions to the skeletal noise bursts of Big Black. Those aural extremes easily bend under Ruby Ra’s magnetic stage presence and risqué brand of poetry, and at the Arminius Church it’s anybody’s guess how it will unravel. And that, true believers, is the most thrilling prospect of all.
“Every rose has its thorns” is a common saying, and Brighton’s Lime Garden epitomise that to a tee. This band has a keen ear for pop hooks and also bring plenty of tension whenever the moment calls upon it. To boot, they are relentlessly creative in coming up with unconventional song structures. That puts them on a similar playing field as the likes of Wet Leg and Girl Ray, with a je ne sais quoi that is uniquely their own. All of Lime Garden’s songs seem to hit that elusive sweet spot between mainstream appeal and irreverently doing their own thing.
The Bug Club
When I hear The Bug Club all I can think of is “I sure as hell hope Jonathan Richman finds out about this band”. Their mischievous jangle pop tunes bring a uniquely Welsh take on the wonderfully thrifty garage rock by The Feelies, Beat Happening and Violent Femmes. But unlike those aforementioned bands, The Bug Club possess the kind of free-wheeling guitar wizardry of Big Star and Wilco as well. A band of familiar charms that somehow feels like a new step in an evolution.