Le Guess Who? 2016 – Day Four
How to close the festival with the line-up to end all line-ups? How about a day full of sterling performances from Anna Von Hausswolff, Suuns and Junun?
It's the final day, and Le Guess Who's thrilling yet relentless nature has left us feeling somewhat dizzied. Still, our dim recollections of religious tradition inform us that it's also the Lord's Day, so what better way to warm into proceedings than with a bit of Gregorian chanting? The Schola Cantorum's Karolus Magnus hail from the city of Nijmegen, and their solemn, near-mantric intonations would almost feel soothing if we han't already been informed that they're songs of lament and memorial to female victims of violence. And all in the splendour of the Leeuwenbergh, a former plague house, hospital and church! Blimey.
Continuing the day's ceremonial aspect are Russian collective Phurpa, who take to a dimly-lit Ronda with their faces obscured by veils, the stage littered with horns, cymbals and trinkets. One swift inhaling of an indeterminate vapour later, they marry electronic drones to an overtone-heavy vocal style that roars guturally from the speakers, pulling all in the room into the centre of its sonorous rattle. Half an hour of this (and a mere quarter of the show) later, we emerge confused yet intrigued, ready for hometown heroes Amber Arcades to soothe our ears with some heavenly indiepop over at Ekko. "I always feel like a pretentious asshole, talking in English to a Dutch crowd," announces singer Annelotte de Graaf halfway through. "I'm going to carry on speaking in English – vit a dootsch ackshent, if joo'd like it...!" Well-received gags aside, it's a stunning set, lending weight to the suspicion that they're destined for bigger stages.
We also catch veteran psych-folk singer Scott Fagan, recently the recipient of new admiration thanks to the re-release of his 1968 debut album. A broken string means the set overruns and momentum is slightly lost, but he's in good voice; we feel kinda lucky to have caught him at all. There's a bigger treat in store from Anna Von Hausswolff, however. Foregoing the organ-led majesty of her signature records, her new set is weighty, dark and drenched in bassy texture (metal bins at the back of the room begin to vibrate noisily as the sound echoes across a packed-out room. Having opened with a deafening, soul-hollowing 20-minute newbie, she announces: "The next song is the last one." Another lengthy exercise in volume later, she leaves the stage to uproarious cheers. That next album will be special.
Grote Zaal hosts a rare outing for free jazz legend Patty Waters next, and she absolutely does not disappoint. Flanked by free jazz pros of the most exporatory kind, and with the mystery of her near-whispered voals still intact, Waters tears new holes in our understanding of melody, repetition and rhythm, disassembling songs as they unfold and climaxing with a spectacular rendition of Wild is the Wind. Perspectives are realigned. Minds are blown. You'd never imagine that post-rockers Tortoise could follow that – after all, it's years since their name became virtually synonymous with the genre's chin-stroking excesses – but they most certainly do: a jazz-funk-prog-whatever dance party duly follows, and the band emerge victorious. Miss this year's The Catastrophist at your peril.
The day's headliners Suuns are on equally dazzling form. Sounding, as ever, like Clinic with a newfound sense of bottom-shaking groove and a relentless electronic pulse, they slay all before them on the Ronda stage, even inviting solo artist Brian Case to join them onstage for some additional layers of strafing, atonal guitar: simply scintillating. Chicagoan producer Jlin opens to a relatively sparser crowd upstairs at Pandora, but her infectious, arrhythmic house frenzy soon sees the dancefloor filled with grinning, dancing punters.
It'd take something pretty special to close the festival and do some justice to the last four days, but somehow LGW manages it. Junun, the collaboration between Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, the Rajasthan Express ensemble and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, and it's the biggest party of the weekend by far. A packed Grote Zaal bounces and whoops joyously throughout; almost a transformative experience. The rapturously-received encore contains all the delirium of a crowd that wishes it could remain here in Utrecht forever – what a band, what a festival, what a weekend.