Le Guess Who? 2016 – Day Two

From Krautrock grooves to blistering electro, the Utrecht festival provides yet more riveting performances – and an unforgettable accordion experience too

Feature by Will Fitzpatrick | 12 Nov 2016
  • Savages at The Art School, Glasgow

'Woah, can't wait to see the guy with the accordion' – said no one ever. Mario Batkovic is different, however. Born in Bosnia and currently residing in Switzerland, Batkovic declares himself to be uninterested in genre, and that's borne out by a frankly astounding performance at the Janskerk. Sometimes delicate yet melodic, a la Yann Tiersen, other times conjuring visions of Viking warriors sailing across the ocean in their hordes; it's by turns light, heavy, minimal and virtuosic, particularly when he plays so quietly that all you can hear is the percussive tapping of his fingers on the keys. The seated audience rise to applaud at the close, euphorically greeting an utterly captivating set.

Over at TivoliVredenburg's Ronda theatre, Geoff Barrow leads Beak> through some grade A krautrock fun, all motorik grooves and hypnotic bass patterns. There are times when it all begins to feel like an impressively well-written love letter to Jaki Liebezeit, but it's all in good fun. By contrast, Maarja Nuut's looped violin mantras fashion something fascinating from Baltic folk and classical traditions, while musical foil Hendrik Kaljujärv manipulates the sound from a table piled high with gadgets and wires. The spell is almost broken when Nuut begins to tell folk tales during the music's more hushed moments, dampening the effect somewhat. Still, the peaks are so high you barely notice these relative troughs.

Savages, meanwhile, do exactly what a headline act should: they tear the roof off the place. Jehnny Beth's commanding stage presence has an authority that seems to come from an earlier, less self-conscious era of post-punk, while Gemma Thompson's strafes of atonal guitar simply add to their driving intensity. It didn't take long for this band to catapult themselves onto bigger stages, and they look incredibly suited to them. The crowd responds with open arms.

Equally at home on bigger stages are Wrangler, the current project of Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder and Tunng's Phil Winter. There's an immediacy to their primitivist electro that's utterly compelling; an excitingly energetic show that quite simply makes mincemeat of the usual dismissals of live electronic music. This feels alive, and it's brilliant. Ectopia are an intriguing proposition to follow – their mixture of cello and electronics marries well with gown-clad Adam Christensen's howled narration, to unsettling effect.

Tim Hecker continues the downer mood with a typical set of blacked-out, static-fuelled drone. As ever, it's a remarkable noise that he concocts, and the dislocating sensation of experiencing one of his dry-ice-soaked sets remains utterly unique (as much like being lost in a forest as an actual gig) – it seems a shame, though, that the more melodic tendencies of this year's excellent Love Streams LP are lost in favour of this admittedly wonderful fug. A Dead Forest Index bring the night to a close with their eerily precise harmonies lending a slight alien quality to their mournful balladry. Close your eyes too long and you'll drift away on the softness of these beautiful songs; the perfect sound to usher a tired 3am crowd towards bed.