Essential new acts witnessed at MENT 2020

Neighbours Burning Neighbours performing at MENT 2020
Neighbours Burning Neighbours. Photo - Katja Goljat

Showcase festivals! There’s at least one a month these days. A network of music industry types networking and hyping a steady stream of bands. In this process, Slovenia’s MENT festival feels like something special – a community event for those really passionate about exposing incredible music.

It’s mish-mash of sounds, with very few additions from the UK is a testament to the concept of diversity of expression that is not found at many events over here. Expecting the unexpected is all you can bring to MENT.

The fact that so many of the main musical events occur in small venues in the free, autonomous Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre, an old army barracks with a history of artistic self-determination, alongside grandiose halls, arts venues and even the stunningly ornate Ljubljana Castle, illustrates the alternative thinking this event embodies.

Whatever MENT brings ideologically it is essentially about the music. Here is some of what we discovered at the festival:

Neighbours Burning Neighbours

After seeing Alicia Breton Ferrer’s other band The Sweet Release of Death at Rockaway Beach 2020, Neighbours Burning Neighbours were top of our must-see list. They didn’t disappoint in Klub Gromka.

The highlight of the festival, they created beauty in violence and melody in the strangest of ways. A full-on collision of NYC no wave, the chaotic freeness of Liliput/Kleenex, the distorted charms of Sonic Youth, and the rhythmic otherness of Fugazi, their tight playing and freeness of musical ideas made them a stunning experience.

This is a new band already at the peak of their powers live, if it goes further than this they could be something truly exceptional.

Интурист / Inturist

Jenya Gorbunov’s ever-evolving, member-fluid Moscow project Интурист / Inturist set themselves apart. While their recorded material is good, something incredible took over Kino Šiška. Creating a sound collage of free jazz, Roxy Music’s art-pop, no wave funk, post-punk and, even, Gong’s sense of drugged-out exploration, they somehow turned this into danceable party music.

Always doing exactly what was needed the rhythm section kept a solid groove, with some insane flashes of ingenuity allowing the saxophone and guitar to journey around the tunes freely. Constantly funky, regularly baffling and insistently hypnotic, in full flow Inturist is one of those bands you need to see.

Gnoomes

From Perm, Russia Gnoomes make psychedelic music in its purest form weaving a rich tapestry of hypnotic sound. Initial sound issues were quickly overcome during their set in Klub Gromka, as they created an aural vortex to swallow the crowd. It was a perfectly rendered swirl of kosmische rock, coldwave and shoegaze using noise as a mind-altering narcotic.

Slift

At odds with Gnoomes deep, hypnotic trance, French three-piece blast the heavier side of psych with juggernaut riffs and intertwining solos dancing above the krautrock rhythms and layered fuzz. Their set at Menza pri koritu was the purest rock experience at MENT as they took classic rock riffage into astral plains.

Wooden Whales

At first Russia’s Wooden Whales’ dream-pop doesn’t appear much out of the ordinary but as singer Svetlana emotes tones from some other world, their music evokes regions not easily understood. This makes sense, theirs is a sound from the literal ends of the Earth, Murmansk, that sits on the extreme northwest of Russia at the edge of the arctic circle. The band play like a rock band, always on the edge of “rocking out” (to use a cliché) but there is something bleak and cold in their delivery, that delivers an austere beauty.

52 Hertz Whale

Apparently, Slovakian band 52 Hertz Whale weren’t performing as they could, restricted by the small stage and touring fatigue. But if that is not them at the best, they must be something really worth seeing when they are. Their amped-up, melodic take on melancholic rock created an intense performance packed with euphoria and grit.

Trupa Trupa

Poland’s Trupa Trupa is an enigma! Taking to the stage inside Ljubljana Castle, their fourth member (we saw them in January as a three-piece) adds more complex layers to their sound.  A singular type of rock band that comes with familiarity but live outside our understanding they burst with a vibrant rhythmic backdrop, crushing walls of noise and psychedelic pop melodies. When their violence dissipates for calm, they hit heights of engulfing beauty.