When David Byrne was announced as the curator of Meltdown, the biggest surprise was that he hadn’t been invited to the role sooner. The festival fits perfectly with the former Talking Heads frontman’s aesthetics, with one toe in pop and the other in the avant-garde. Whether you lean more towards the late 70s African synth-funk of William Onyeabor or the dulcet flamenco of Estrela Morente, this year’s fortnight-long season really does provide something for everyone.
Byrne is known as one of the first Western pop musicians to integrate African rhythms, and his programme brings international sounds to the fore like never before. As well a stage show celebration of Onyeabor (20 Aug) and a full-band appearance from Morente (17 Aug), there is the Italian singer-songwriter Carmen Consoli (21 Aug), the Catalonian chanteuse Maria Rodés (20 Aug) and the former Paris Metro busker (21 Aug) Benjamin Clementine. Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who fuse gypsy and calypso inspirations with jazz and hip-hop (20 Aug), will bring music that crosses borders.
Well-represented, too, are today’s music trailblazers. Drone deities Sunn O))), who previously appeared during Jarvis Cocker’s curatorship in 2007, will be supported by the Tibetan-inspired Phurpa (17 Aug). A newly commissioned piece by American composer John Luther Adams will see 64 French horns played outside, across the entire Southbank site.
Even the indie selections tend to the experimental: critic’s favourite Anna Calvi will perform with a twelve-piece choir (22 Aug). If you only book one of the concerts, make it this one. Calvi may only have released two albums, but both have been nominated for the Mercury Prize. She's a killer live act, and will sell out at speed, so don't delay.
Dirty Projectors leader David Longstreth (25 Aug) will go it alone. Psapp, who make electronic music using toys and household objects, promise a unique live experience (19 Aug), while Matthew Herbert (23 Aug) will get the audience’s bodies moving. The only potential ‘heritage’ act, the Young Marble Giants (27 Aug), are anything but old warhorses, with a graceful minimalist sound that feels contemporary today.
Something of a departure this year is the presence of theatre. Berlin-via-Nottingham collective Gob Squad will bring a new interactive piece (27-30 Aug), while Byrne himself takes to the stage for playwright Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die (27-30 Aug), based on her album of the same name. With several more acts to be announced, Byrne’s Meltdown already looks to be a banner year.
|What||David Byrne’s Meltdown, Southbank Centre|
|Where||Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Embankment (underground)|
17 Aug 15 – 30 Aug 15, Timings TBC
|Website||Click here to book via the Southbank Centre website|