Roskilde is a festival of contrasts – there is truly something for everyone. Today, coming from Cate le Bon’s excellent show, with a stopover at Megan Thee Stallion’s performance on the main stage to Klein, with one of most experimental sets at Roskilde this year – that became palpable.
Le Bon was definitely among the artists I’ve most been looking forward to in this year’s programme. To begin with I was mostly familiar with her collaboration with White Fence in Drinks and subsequently her solo albums. Taking cues from the likes of Kate Bush and Television, the music can hardly be called accessible (with a few exceptions) but somehow always fresh and surprising.
On stage she is flanked by some of the most intriguing musicians I’ve seen at the festival – both in terms of looks and skills. In a way, they make up for Cate le Bon’s lack of stage presence. She appears more like an artist who is trying to maintain a persona (donning chain mail and a medieval style tunic) than someone who enjoys being on stage. It’s all part of the work of art. But her songwriting is so inspiring that I lose track of time and space – simply disappearing into her musical world.
Thanks to a solid rhythm section, a few of the tracks even has the crowd swaying side-to-side. The music never quite transcends the experience of listening to a record, but that’s not a bad thing in this case. On the contrary, it creates space and opportunity for deeper reflection on the songwriting, which adopts a pop medium while staying avantgarde at its core.
Cate le Bon obviously doesn’t talk much on stage, but I would like to say how moved we were by both Yasmin Williams and later Klein, who wove the critique of the looming ban on abortions in the US into their sets. As artists they couldn’t be further apart, with Williams focusing purely on melody and beauty, while Klein profusely neglects harmony in her noise-laden set, which incorporates both heavily distorted guitar and Freedrum (the first time I’ve seen anyone using these sensor-equipped sticks live).
Klein is a mysterious figure whose real name remains obscure, and during the performance on the Gloria stage at Roskilde Festival she is mostly shrouded in fog. The sparse audience can’t see her face at all as she – dressed in dark clothes and a hat – intentionally faces the back of the stage every time the lightning picks up slightly. Klein is based in London, with a Nigerian background, and is active both as a composer and multidisciplinary artist.
It takes a good while to get into the mood for Klein’s set, which is abrasive to say the least. On her most recent album Harmattan (for Dutch classical label Pentatone), Klein experiments with classical music and jazz while exploring different compositional techniques, based around chance and repetition.