Noorderlicht, Amsterdam

Over the course of two days, Strange Sounds From Beyond took festival-goers on a trajectory of sonic discoveries. Installed on the site of NDSM stood a collection of red metal fences that resembled a rocket, and metaphorically represented the musical voyage the festival was to embark upon.

The first stop was Les Filles de Illighadad at the Red Light Radio Stage. Nestled on the bank of the IJ river, each beat of the water drum added to a string of resonant sounds. Partnered with a traditional folk style, it gave listeners some insight into the musical expression of the Tuareg people.

Vladimir Ivkovic’s mystical selections shaped the sounds of the second stop. While the festival’s environment provided the perfect accompaniment to his set, the decision to divide his set into two parts proved to be a rather ineffective method in enhancing the quality of his selections. An extended sound check led to the first half lasting a mere half hour; however, Ivkovic confirmed his ability to grip a crowd with a distinctive tempo in the second half.

Closing Saturday evening was Lanark Artefax – aka Calum MacRae – with a live performance of cerebral sounds. Enclosed in a netted booth to the right of the stage, MacRae casted a shadowy figure through a haze of red smoke. Strategically placed just in sight, the curation of the show allowed for attention to be mostly drawn to the visual installation in the centre of the stage. As the ubiquitous track Touch Absence from his acclaimed EP Whities 011 reverberated around the venue, the industrial crane of NDSM loomed over as an ever-increasingly ominous presence.

Undoubtedly, the most highly anticipated performance of the weekend was Letta Mbulu, who didn’t disappoint. Normalizo was met with a homecoming atmosphere, feeling like a homage to enthusiastic diggers in the crowd. Taking us back to her South African roots, she delivered a captivating and soul-stirring performance.

What became evidently clear over the weekend was Red Light Radio’s ability to curate a stage line-up that struck a balance between diversity, intimacy and energy. Zozo kept the crowd in full swing with a charged set of Istanbul’s underground sounds. SSFB resident Mad Miran gave an equally energetic excursion of high-octane sounds on the Sunday, dropping the track Lekker by Hustle Athletics – much to the crowd’s approval. As festival-goers climbed out of the red rocket installation and began to acclimatise back to reality, one thing was clear: the voyage on which Strange Sounds From Beyond had embarked upon was a huge success in providing its audience with a diverse range of cutting-edge sounds.