By Sidney Roy, The Indie Aisle Co-Host
Wednesday, Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, an experimental festival that features unconventional musicians and films, released its initial lineup for this spring’s March 22-25 festival. Wednesday.
While most people will only be familiar with roughly half of the lineup, the next few months will be exciting and vital chances for attendees to discover the artists. For those who might need a help on who to check out first, here’s five artists everyone should look out for:
Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens’s music combines ethereal pop vocals with ambient techno beats. After playing in several indie bands in the past, Owens has transitioned towards dance music with her self-titled album. Previously Owens collaborated with fellow Big Ears artist Jenny Hval, including a remix of Hval’s “Kingsize” and a feature on Owens’s track “Anxi.” This year will be one of few shows she has played in The United States.
After producing three studio albums, Montréal’s Suuns have created a unique combination of krautrock, psych, punk and house, making their music unsettling yet danceable. The band’s music often features vocalist Ben Shemmie whispering over hypnotic, industrial beats and delayed guitars. They are set to release their fourth album this spring, so the Big Ears crowd can expect to hear new material from Suuns.
Hailing from Niamey, Niger, Tal National are among the wave of West African rock bands who have found critical acclaim among Westerners. Their music combines the traditional music of Niger with American blues and rock. Fans who enjoyed Big Ears veteran Bombino’s performance in 2016 would be wise to attend this show.
Laurel Halo is an American electronic music producer currently based in Berlin. Her music combines 90s dream pop with sample-heavy electronic beats. However, Halo distinguishes herself from other dream pop artists with her vulnerability. Many dream pop musicians drown their vocals in reverb, Halo ensures her vocals are prominent in each track. Since her 2012 debut, “Quarantine,” the artist has received several accolades, including magazine “Wire’s” Album of the Year. Halo’s latest LP, “Dust,” was released this past June to critical acclaim as well.
Innov Gnawa are a New York City-based musical collective led by Moroccan musician Samir LanGus. The band’s performance will introduce Gnawa music of Morocco’s black community to Knoxville. Though the band is based in the U.S.A., the music of Innov Gnawa showcases Malian and Mauritanian influences, and very few Western influences can be found in their music.