New sounds of the global underground – our picks from The Great Escape

Pip Blom @ The Great Escape - festival review
Pip Blom @ The Great Escape

Each year, Brighton, becomes the nucleus of the global music underground for The Great Escape, attracting the most beautiful budding talent to spaces in the city.

Pubs, churches, marquees and underground dungeons become the site of new music happenings creating the zeitgeist.

Defying the post-Brexit reality, The Great Escape embraced a global identity, turning the spotlight on some of the best acts from Europe, with showcases of foreign bands that deserve to infiltrate our UK minds.

Fresh performances from Holland and Scotland were the media’s playground, sweet indie vibes from Canadian and Chilean bands flowed through Brighton’s streets, and Russia offered us some of its most eccentric creatives to date. Ranging from the spiritual to the down-right comical, every show built piece-by-piece on The Great Escape’s reputation as a central hub for exceptional global talent.

Here are a handful of artists which Bloop believe rose above the rest: 

Rascalton

Off the back of touring for the two weeks prior, Glaswegian four-piece Rascalton propelled their most explosive indie-rock (reminiscent of the noughties new rock revival) throughout Horatio’s Bar. Unphased by the wonky jangles of the nearby Pier’s fairground rides, lead singer Jack Wyles growled at an intoxicated crowd in a thick and gritty Scottish accent. The quartet’s rebellious and raucous sound came to fruition on ‘Police’; an angst-ridden rock ‘n’ roll anthem with pervasive percussion, venomous vocals and serious sting. 

Dizzy 

Katie Munshaw is a voice for the digital generation, illuminating suburban coming-of-age stories with her contemporary pop tones. She was unobtrusive on stage, hovering between three brothers Charlie, Alex, and Mackenzie at the Green Door Store. Based in Ontario, Dizzy recite millennial poetry over twinkling keys and steady bass. Munshaw, dewy-eyed, told us the tale of her and former lover ‘Joshua’, with whom she fell deeply in love with only to later lose. She finished with his intimately lovesick serenade, fading quickly behind a veil of thick smoke. 

Soccer Mommy

A talented songwriter and humble speaker, Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison put on a strong performance in front of a notably large crowd. Allison had an unassuming but totally commanding stage presence, propped up by her witty lyrics, meandering tone and lof-fi, bedroom indie-pop gems. Standout track ‘Your Dog’ boomed under the bright white canopy of the Beach Club. She maintained a delectable sense of vulnerability while shrouding her words in an opaque slacker indie cloud; her breathy vocals acted as droplets of rain that cooled the sting of her venomous words. 

Goat Girl

Following the release of their debut self-titled album earlier in the month, London-based, hype-band Goat Girl are continuing to rack up praise from fans and critics. The four-piece wandered on stage, through plumes of hazy smoke and dusty darkness at The Arch – a small venue neatly tucked away under Brighton beach walk. Their live sound was completely effortless; snaking vocals, rolling basslines, and an atmospheric electronic violin made for a sultry, nonchalant set. Subtle nuances of twisted folk and gothic punk meandered through lead vocalist Clottie Cream’s snappy riffs and runs, which she projected with such ease she seemed almost disinterested in the entire affair. 

Kate NV

Weird, wonky, wonderful. Those were the three words people used to describe Kate NV’s live set, before I’d seen her take to the decks at run-down pub Volks. And boy, were they right. Flitting erratically in and out of fun and danceable 80s synth-pop and glitchy, space-age electronica, Kate NV distorted the lines between genres and gave us a sneak preview into her carefully crafted process. She bounded between gadgets, soundboards and pedals for ‘Binasu’; bouncing and flicking her silver hair and raising her vocals to heavenly heights above dark electronics. 

Pitou

Dutch indie-folk sensation Pitou framed her emotionally intelligent commentaries within hypnotic harmonies and a wistful gaze. Komedia centre stage was her barstool at the pub, where she gushed to her crowd about how proud she was of her new EP and how grateful she was to us for abandoning the sunshine to listen to her play in a sweaty, underground basement.

A charming smile flickered across her face as she layered harmony upon harmony for ‘Give Me a Glass’. It’s a curiously intellectual pop-folk song that explores how we see ourselves and the outside world after drinking, with its excellent production quality lending itself to stand out in a live set. It would be unfair to compare the Amsterdam-born musician’s sound to the likes of Laura Marling or Daughter, because her music is totally individualised by her spellbinding church-choir tone, intelligent lyricism that perfectly balances the darkness and light of human emotion, and way she uses multiple tiers of vocal harmonies as an instrument by themselves. 

Pip Blom

The difference between Pip Blom’s studio recorded music and her live performance was laid bare in broad daylight on the main stage at Komedia. On record, her and her band’s volume is muffled and muted which produces a softer, lo-fi sound. Live, however, the band are champion boxers, throwing every ounce of blood, sweat and energy into each individual thumping beat, dirty lyric and scuzzy guitar strum. Pip’s lead vocals were chock full of raw grit as she spat the edgy words to ‘I Think I’m In Love’, and instead of being swallowed by the clashing cymbals and thronging bass, her volume filled the dusky basement. As a band, they boasted explosive energy, authenticity and a grassroots, DIY sound.

Canshaker Pi 

Canshaker PI are the sexy college band that stayed together and actually made it. Their lifestyle would make a mother tut, their sound is authentically DIY and their live sets are infectiously dance-worthy.

On a sweltering night in Brighton, they personified the contemporary indie rock spirit; from dirty, frenzied lyrics about girls and cars and naughty winks to the crowd, to smashing the neck of a guitar with a broken drum stick. Feeding on the energy from the crowd, the Amsterdam-based four-piece threw blustering, frantic guitar riffs at one another, never stopping to take a breath or wipe the sweat from their eyes. The boys were a joy to behold, writhing and wriggling to a hammering beat with smug grins on their faces from start to finish. 

Polo & Pan @ The Great Escape
Polo & Pan @ The Great Escape

Polo & Pan 

Representing team France in the early hours was intergalactic duo Polo & Pan who spun together masterfully the sounds of hybrid electronica and early noughties pop music with searing synths and space-age samples. Polo & Pan threw down some movers and shakers that featured multiple drops, each bigger and better than the last; other tracks like ‘Zoom Zoom’ were slow-burners which allowed the duo to show off their ability to add twists and flicks to original tracks and craft a generally well-rounded set. They experimented with vocal synthesizers and bubbling samples, giving a nod to the 70s-avant-garde scene.