An essential part of our mission and lifeblood is scouring the world for the most exciting new voices in modern music, from electronica and classical composition to free jazz and folk music. Today, in our final lineup announcement before unveiling the entire 2019 festival in late September, we are thrilled to announce five young acts that have never graced Big Ears and are helping shape our current musical landscape. They will all play Big Ears 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Allow us to introduce them….
THE COMET IS COMING
During the last decade, Shabaka Hutchings—a saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and absolute visionary raised in Barbados and now based in his native London—has become one of the most important new voices in jazz. Not content to simply update the accomplishments of past masters, Hutchings has reoriented not only his horn but also the entire idiom in a modern global context. With his trio The Comet is Coming, he welds funk’s gusto and jazz’s fluidity to electronica’s sense of infinite propulsion; this is urgent dance music made in our moment, with The Comet is Coming breathing the world in to blow it out again in intoxicating new shapes.
In late 2016, a mysterious musician named Yves Tumor released Serpent Music, a fascinating set that slinks through the darkest corners of R&B and disco, ambient electronica and techno. It is soulful but sinister, a rich collage that restlessly moves in and out of moods. Serpent Music became one of the year’s most intriguing debuts, earning Tumor high-profile press accolades that all seemed to wonder who he was. The truth? Yves Tumor was raised in Knoxville before becoming a globetrotting polyglot. He will return to Knoxville for Big Ears 2019 on the heels of “Noid,” one of the year’s most agitated and sophisticated singles and his first music for the legendary label Warp. The song has a righteous sense of focus and power, suggesting that we’re very much hearing the development of Yves Tumor in real time.
As with Yves Tumor, the shape and scope of the music Canada’s Kara-Lis Coverdale makes is an act of active evolution. Her 2014 breakthrough, A 480, cut anonymous vocal samples into a series of loops, played across different channels at different speeds, producing disembodied drones punctuated by incidental rhythms. It is immersive and eerily gorgeous, like listening to a remix of the tide wash in and out. A year later, Aftertouches found her fusing modern classical composition and electronica into pieces both playful and ponderous; in her work, Coverdale cleverly reckons with a world in which everything seems available all the time. And last year’s brilliant one-track EP Grafts is a mesmerizing meditation of soft noise and surprising harmonies and singing bells, a dream world in constant motion—not dissimilar to those of her longtime collaborator and Big Ears veteran Tim Hecker. At Big Ears 2019, Coverdale will pull us all into one of her hyperactive trances.
In October, audacious British cellist and composer Peter Gregson will address the albatross of his instrument’s repertoire—Bach’s Cello Suites, six midlife majesties that are among the most revered cello works ever. (The first suite’s prelude is one of the world’s most ubiquitous pieces of classical music, ranking alongside Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”) On his debut LP for the legendary Deutsche Grammophon, Gregson has reimagined those suites for the modern day, mostly retaining their original structure but now interpreting them for six cellos, rather than one, and analogue synthesizer. Gregson’s epic Bach: The Cello Suites is the latest piece in Deutsche Grammophon’s Recomposed series, where contemporary composers take on the classics; Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the previous commission in the esteemed set, was a Big Ears 2015 highlight. Gregson will bring this masterful project to Knoxville in 2019.