Every year in January, new music enthusiasts, eagle-eyed bookers, label A&Rs and suited industry reps descend on the sleepy Dutch town of Groningen for ESNS – a four-day music showcase and conference dedicated to exploring the cutting-edge of Europe’s live music circuit.
Many use it as an opportunity to network, take meetings and share industry experience. But first and foremost, ESNS is an opportunity to discover new talent. Over the years, it has provided an early launchpad for such huge talents as Dua Lipa, IDLES and Sigrid.
Below, we’ve rounded up five standout performances from the 2023 edition.
Ukrainian trio Chillera take surf and psychedelic rock influences and run them through spacey FX chains borrowed from dub – so what’s not to love? Particularly impressive is the band’s rhythmic core, held down by bassist Ganna Bryzhata and drummer Nastya Marykutsa. Their sturdy, looping grooves provide a solid backbone for Polina Matskevich’s zippy guitarwork. Imagine CAN taking a beach holiday and you’re in the right ballpark.
Out of the multitude of alt-pop artists that turned up to this year’s showcase, our ‘star quality’ crown is handed firmly to ELOI. A self-taught singer-songwriter and producer based in Paris, her sound, style and stage presence draws heavily on 1980s synth-pop and minimal wave, albeit with a healthy dose of post-Charli-XCX hyperpop to bring proceedings rapidly up to date. Her songs are catchy and joyous, driven by a clear pop sensibility that will undoubtedly take her swiftly to wherever she’s headed next.
Marina Herlop’s brilliant 2022 LP Pripyat has already received heavy play from our side – and even ranked among our best albums of last year – but witnessing its live iteration proves to be a different experience altogether. Flanked by a pair of virtuoso backing singers, Herlop’s vocal arrangements take on a balletic quality, pirouetting in perfect harmony through a dizzying array of bird-like trills and loose glissando rolls. Here is an artist who has mastered her medium in its most classical form and moved beyond to create distinctly unclassical results.
M I M I
Keen club trainspotters may have already crossed paths with this Brussels-based DJ, whose high-energy DJ sets have already earned her a Boiler Room Barcelona stream and a slot at Dekmantel’s 2022 chapter. Her set at ESNS made clear what all the fuss is about: ranging dynamically between eyes-down amapiano cuts and bass-heavy hard drum workouts, she makes complex, modern and uncompromising club music feel fun and effortless.
Danish sound artist Sofie Birch is best known for her slow, dream-like ambient compositions, but in her new live show she makes a move towards centre stage, shapeshifting into mystical frontwoman from some pastoral realm. Supported by a double bass and keyboardist, and saxophonist, her bolstered live set-up gives added form to her cloud-like compositions. With her gentle vocals brought to the fore, her lush sonic world felt more intimate and personal than ever.