VENUE VARIOUS VENUES, TILBURG, THE NETHERLANDS DATE 19-22/04/2018
Roadburn Festival is known for its sheer volume of musical variety. Across a number of venues in Tilburg over four days, there’s everything from intense metal to out-there prog. It also frequently showcases musical collaborations, from Damo Suzuki jamming with Earthless (more on that later) to a bunch of Icelandic black metal bands playing music they wrote especially for the festival.
Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas have collaborated before, on their spacey post-rock 2016 album Mariner, and tonight they play the album in full for one last time on the main stage. Christmas’ vocals are reminiscent of Björk at times, and the album has an apocalyptic, almost sci-fi vibe that’s made all the more mesmerising as the band appear silhouetted onstage by the strobing lights and bursts of smoke, with Christmas dancing and shaking like a woman possessed.
Motorpsycho are one of the bands on the bill chosen by the festival curator, Converge frontman Jacob Bannon. The Norwegians’ expansive blend of progressive psych and experimental heaviness takes up two hours on the main stage on Friday, but the length doesn’t deter the masses. Against a trippy backdrop of swirling imagery, the band play a set that’s bursting with hypnotic guitar riffs and which perfectly spans their career, from 1997’s Un Chien D’Espace to the title track from their new album The Tower which closes the set to the audience’s delight.
The Green Room that plays host to Finnish quartet Kairon; IRSE! may be small, but the band’s sound is anything but. They take us on a journey that encompasses psychedelic prog, shoegaze, pastoral interludes and jazzy experimentation, with varied vocals that even elevate to falsetto levels. Visually, they’re entirely lost in the music, shaking their dreads against a backdrop that features a stonedlooking, blinking cartoon frog.
Roadburn Festival this year boasts a special presentation of Japanese psychedelia, and as part of this, Can legend Damo Suzuki plays two special sets, first with Earthless at the new venue Koepelhal on Friday, and again with fellow Japanese musicians Minami Deutsch on Saturday in the Green Room. Both are entirely improvised, full of drawn-out jams. Earthless’ set is more heavy psych and Minami Deutsch more neo-Krautrock. With Suzuki at the helm both times, waving his arms as if in a trance and lost in the creativity that’s pulsing around him, both capture the spirit of Roadburn.
Hugsjá is another musical collaboration, this time featuring Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna’s Einar Selvik. It merges Norse history with grandiose music that’s both contemporary and primitive – some of their instruments even date back as far as the Stone Age. It’s richly cinematic and moving, but also a full-on cultural experience, with Selvik explaining the concepts and stories behind the songs.
Dressed in a billowy bright red dress, Zola Jesus, aka Nika Roza Danilova, is an expressive performer, dancing across the stage with intensity and enslaving the audience with her rich vocals and unique musical blend of electronica, gothy prog and classical. There’s no visual backdrop to her set in Koepelhal, but as such a captivating artist, she doesn’t need one.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor play two sets over the course of the weekend, opening both performances with the darkly atmospheric Hope Drone. Godspeed have always been about dynamics and crescendos – riding the wave between beauty and extremity, pummelling heaviness and sweeping melody, sometimes swerving into psychedelic pastures.
Behind them, images of desolate, urban landscapes provide a bleak yet entrancing backdrop. The packed main room remains enthralled during both of their expansive sets, as Godspeed provide a cathartic end to what has been a bewitching weekend of avant-garde music.
“GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR RIDE THE WAVE BETWEEN BEAUTY AND EXTREMITY.”
DREAM TEAM: CULT OF LUNA WITH JULIE CHRISTMAS. TIME TRAVELLER: HUGSJÁ’S EINAR SELVIK ON A TRIP THROUGH NORSE HISTORY.
LADY IN RED: ZOLA JESUS BEWITCHES THE AUDIENCE.
MOTORPSYCHO’S HANS MAGNUS ‘SNAH’ RYAN.
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK THE EMPEROR: ENTRANCING AUDIENCE WITH TWO SETS.
CAN DO: DAMO SUZUKI GOES IMPROV.