Winter music wonderland is indeed happening and it’s again taking place in Cologne. During the week of January 15 to 20 a vibrant selection of hand-picked newcomers as well as established acts spread some festival atmosphere at the tenth jubilee of the Cologne Music Week. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION editors Igor and Chris select five highlights that are especially worth attending.
Who are Blauw? Although the Cologne-based band came into being more than two years ago, we admit that we first took considerably notice of the young trio in late summer last year when several members of the so-called Cologne scene started liking their Facebook posts. Still, the group’s social media appearance doesn’t help much in answering this question: their info section just reads “blauw”. As becomes apparent, their refusal to share their life online is more of a statement than laziness. Even when the release of Blauw’s debut EP Nervous Entertainment was imminent, the band forwent epic announcements and just put out a few tracks beforehand on YouTube.
The first few tracks released were accompanied by an artwork by Lucas Aritz, showing a known religious motif with a plain but effective modification: The faces of the painted figures are blue. Altering something most common, something seemingly polished with a specific manipulation which eventually leads to something rough and helps evoke instant confusion is also a technique Blauw are aware of. This is precisely how their production works – the band head for the unexpected within a traditional sound outfit. They add shimmering old school synth elements to the songs, put way too much emphasis on the singer’s voice, let the drums come to the front, guitar chords come fly by. Nervous Entertainment sounds like a proper demo rather than a polished production. That’s what makes it such an exciting listen. And that’s why we want to experience these newcomers live.
When: Monday, January 15, 9 PM
Where: Zum Scheuen Reh
Other recommendations that day: Urlaub in Polen, 8 PM, at WDR Funkhaus Wallrafplatz, tickets € 10
With a debut EP Blood Red Wine (2016) and a subsequent first full-length album Moon Bordeaux (2017) out, Suzan Köcher does great if it comes to establishing herself in the region’s two most influential musical cities. Her label Unique Records is situated in Düsseldorf and it’s virtually a small island that has gladly taken up the cause of cherishing young and promising artists such as the Blackberries. Now that a new year has only just started, it seems about time for the band to embark on a headling tour as well as play a prominent slot at the Cologne Music Week.
Within the wide range of musical contributions this year, Suzan Köcher’s country- and pop-infused tunes are rather outstanding. It’s specifically noteworthy how light-footedly Köcher delivers catchy, yet sophisticated pop arrangements while flirting with a potential mainstream audience without being all too mainstream herself: be it surprising chord changes in the music, flamboyant outfits on stage or aesthetic artworks representing the packaging. Everything about the band seems passionate. Above all, there is Suzan’s voice sounding gracious, enchanting, majestic. It becomes apparent that the young Suzan Köcher (she’s in her early 20s, mind) even now possesses the imposing voice of a future granddame of pop. Therefore, the singer’s presence at this early Cologne festival is especially of importance as she embodies a strong new female voice of the region’s prospective indie pop.
When: Monday, January 15, 10 PM
Where: Stadtgarten Café
Other recommendations that day: see above
We’ve been following Lunas‘s trajectory since the release of his debut EP Dive, a record that was still very much informed by the vibes collected during his travels through the southern hemisphere. When he reappeared on the live circus after almost a year of relative silence, the electronic producer presented an entirely overhauled sonic appearance – debuting an arsenal of new songs, his sets were now permeated by a nocturnal, urban flair that had largely supplanted the tropical touch of his earlier works. This is best exemplified on his recent remix of Coma‘s Happiness and the pop-leaning Night Out, the latter of which also features Marvin Mauelshagen’s singing upfront: his new works showcase a club-ready, colourful sound that takes cues from UK garage house.
When: Tuesday, January 16, 10 PM
Where: Stadtgarten Café
Other recommendations that day: oh sleep, Gray, Piet Julius, 7 PM, at Christuskirche
Also from Cologne, three-piece band Ray Novacane have already been around for a while. Named after their lead signer Ray Lozano and a song from Frank Ocean‘s debut album, they distill both the pop sensibilities of their hometown as well as their own prowess as professional musicians for other artists into blissful soul-pop tracks. While their first release, the Reminiscence EP, had been deeply routed in atmospheric, electronic R&B resembling artists like Jessie Ware, their 2017 follow-up Mabuhay has shed some of the gloom in favour of more analogue instrumentation, at times evoking the funk-pop of their contemporaries Woman. At their center, powerful frontwoman Ray does not aim for the big impressions of America’s R&B queens, instead opting for a tender delivery that might as well appear in one of Bonobo’s extroverted tracks.
When: Saturday, January 20, 8 PM
Other recommendations that day: Martin Centaury, same venue and time
Though electronic producer Simon Ebener-Holscher still hasn’t made a name for himself as a public figure, the music he released under the moniker Moglii have taken on a life of its own in the depths of the internet. Also a part of Düsseldorf/Cologne band Moglebaum, his collaborations with singer NOVAA have accumulated several million plays while disseminating into the blogosphere, where songs like Mother, Tonic Water or Fantasy have become staples in electronic and future bass playlists. Like his peer Mura Masa, Moglii relies on the combination of whirring, jazz-infused synthesizers, organic samples and chopped-up vocal stems sometimes sourced from his own singing. The most defining characteristic of Ebener-Holscher’s craft, however, is his tendency to orchestrate big moments in his music, which you will have the opportunity to experience during his performance at popNRW Abend.
When: Saturday, January 20, 8 PM
Other recommendations that day: Bellchild, 10 PM, Stadtgarten Café
Be sure to check out NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION‘s Cologne Music Week playlist on Spotify for a round-up of the best tracks from this year‘s festival. For other more frequent news don’t forget to follow NBHAP on Twitter and Facebook as well.