We spent the weekend battling our way through Brighton's premiere new music by the sea festival to bring you our highlights.
The Great Escape hosts hundreds of bands from every corner of the world, and whilst we didn't quite make it around all 33 featured in our preview, we witnessed an incredible amount of talented performances. Here Charlotte Krol, Andy Hannah and Lauren Down distill their favourites from a weekend of venue hopping and head nodding.
Pink Oculus is the alter ego of Amsterdam artist/producer Esperanza Denswil who first cut her teeth in national TV soap opera acting before pursuing a music career in 2013. Her off-kilter pop - that bridges hip-hop, soul and jazz - is borne from a love of Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Sam Cooke and Wu-Tang Clang, all of which feed into her quirky interplay of clever, highly metrical rap and rib-shattering soul singing.
Enlisting the support of hip-hop duo Badjekkah (Mano Yeah and Gino Cochise) for a rework of her unreleased song, "sweat", in 2013 has since led to national airplay and touring. Badjekkah provide much of the rhythmic backbone to Denswil's confident, playful melodies.
Denswil may not have much music to her name, but what she does have simply has to be heard in a live environment. Her Thursday evening show at Shooshh was the perfect party-starter - be it her effortless meandering around rap and singing, Badjekkah's thrilling, propulsive subs and syncopated beats, or Denswil's wild yells to the crowd. Pink Oculus have a fun and infectious energy that has to be seen to be believed. CK
It's barely a year since Dutch electro pop duo Klyne (vocalist Nick Klein and producer Ferdous Dehzad) shared their buzzy debut track "Paralysed". In the relatively short time since, the Eindhoven pair have supported Years and Years on their European tour and won over a legion of fans with their blend of skeletal beats, staccato synth lines and Klein's incredibly powerful croon.
Latest single "Don't Stop" is impossibly catchy modern R&B centred on a trigger-sharp call and response, emitting a strangely fluid robotic groove. No song better carried the duo live than this - Komedia Studio Bar rattling underneath the song's heave and Klein's booming vocals. Klein has the kind of flawless, soulful voice that warrants solo stardom, but his pairing with Dehzad makes a successful future seem all the more plausible. CK
Noah Kin and View might be Finnish compatriots, but when it comes to their takes on rap and hip-hop their approach could not be more different.
Noah Kin, billboard campaign looks and dress, delivers engaging and approachable raps shot through with elements of his Nigerian heritage, his bright cadence and personality the main attraction above the blaring 808s and hi-hat percussion, a combination which points to making inroads in the commercial market. And that’s something, which is not out of his reach given the quality of music on display.
The highlight of Kin’s set comes when he’s joined by View, someone whose approach to rap could not be more different. While Kin is all eyes-up, connecting with the audience, View is all about the disconnection, keeping you at arms’ length. AH
While the 808s and percussion are basically the same, perhaps a little harsher View makes music and delivers raps which are heavy on paranoia, introspection and claustrophobia. With eyes hidden by baseball cap and coloured contact lenses, the Finn’s vicious mutterings are thrilling, drawing the audience in who hang on every word.
There is a dark simplicity to what View does, relying on the bare minimum to deliver societal takedowns. It’s utterly brilliant in its execution; little nods to his percussionist and electronics man so that the synths overwhelm at just the right point, that a ticking beats spills over into a brassy and bassey thud at the moment View’s rasp of a vocal snaps down on a consonant. If “Coldest Season” is just an early example of what he can do, View could be the most exciting rap voice to ever have come from the Nordic region. AH
Nadia Reid creates the kind of straight talking folk that you begin craving come day two of a festival awash with guitar bands and buzz. The New Zealand singer/songwriter’s warm voice and blunt words cut squarely through the noise, reaching directly into the weary souls of those gathered at Sallis Benney Theatre.
It’s the little touches - the gentle ilk of her voice, the tender touches of lap steel that scatter winding acoustic strums – that make her such a mesmerising performer. A lot of what she does has been before, sure, but it doesn’t stop this being the most beautiful thing we heard all weekend. LD
Australian singer-songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish producer/pianist Caspar Hesselager are Copenhagen-based band Palace Winter. Their songs are peppered with country, indie, synth pop, folk and psych, but the pair's sound is frequently indefinable beyond carrying a heady, melodic heart.
Every song played at their midday set at The Hope and Ruin on Saturday was thick with layered, chiming guitars, fuzzing synth, and beautifully harmonised singing - most memorably the jangle-pop throes of set closer "Positron". Where melody stays at the core, rhythms are more malleable, changing from steady motorik beats to low swings of country.
Palace Winter may continue to shun the pigeonhole, but with songs as gorgeous as this we're more than okay with that. CK
A hip-hop family born from initial collaborations between Regina, Saskatchewan based rappers/producers/FruityLoops masters Kav The Bruce (Ivan) and Stupid Clay (Amoz), Queen City Stoop Kids are Kav the Bruce, Okaymoz, Voodoo Doll, Kid Kris, and James Worthy. That’s just who they are on paper, in real life they are so much more.
Queen City Stoop Kids are an incredibly talented five-piece who bring such a raw and infectious verve to the stage - bouncing off one another, bringing different energies and styles whilst still remaining very much a group. They own the mic with a wry and cocky smile, blast hip-hop beats with an organic edge, create damn beautiful electronic backdrops and melt your face off with acid spit lyrics.
Patterns is emptier than it should be for what we consider to have been one of the most exciting performances of the weekend, but as their set progresses they manage to convert every damn person in the place to an avid fan. There lunchtime show the next day is rammed, and their upward trajectory seems secured. LD
“Hands up if yer no’ in the music industry?” Sixty percent of the hands in the room go up. “That’s no’ bad actually” says Catholic Action’s singer Chris McCrory.
As starts go, it’s a typically confident one from the Glasgow band, displaying all the gall and devil-may-care attitude many of the artists they share a city and sound with. Catholic Action are reaching a point, or they should be, where they’re filling venues out with their own fans and not having to bother with showcases like this.
They have the songs - that’s not in question. They have the right (wrong) attitude, dismissive of the likes of us at shows like this but smart enough to know they still need to deliver the songs to those that are there to hear the music and not to glad-hand and network. 90% of the time Catholic Action get it right and that’s why they’re a band people are talking about.
All they need to do is lose some of the laddish cheekiness which titles a song “Rita Ora” - leave that to Catfish and the Bottlemen, you’re better than that. The slower songs need to snap with a Jesus and Mary Chain menace or threat, and that will come in time. And Catholic Action know this: as their set finished, their bassist was off stage and out the back of the venue before anyone had time to put their hands together. Confident they’d pulled it off, Catholic Action left with a swagger, knowing their songs had left them in the position to be able to do that. AH
“Everybody at this party is already over it” sing Sego’s Thomas Carroll and Spencer Peterson on last year’s break through single “The Fringe”. It’s only the second day of The Great Escape, but they’re probably right and everyone knows it - which basically means everyone at The Shipwright’s Yard is on their side.
A frenetic blend of half spoken vocals and howling guitars plucked at lightning speed is exactly what’s needed to shake our collective hangovers. There are Girl Band comparisons thrown around by those present but early LCD Soundsystem springs to mind as well. Today’s tightly wound licks, sprung electronics and danceable beats stick in our head through the weekend’s remaining shows so it’s a good job the LA based, Utah born band’s debut album Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around is out now. LD