As regular readers will know, I’m not that much of a fan of covers of songs. The only point, for my money at least, in revisiting an already well-known song is to do something different with it, after all why bother trying to reinvent the wheel and then try to sell it to a bunch of wheel enthusiasts who are more than happy with the original wheel. Okay, not a great analogy but you get what I’m saying. This is why I don’t watch cover bands and don’t get me started on tribute acts. It’s all substandard wheels as far as the eye can see.
Say what you like about Jamit but you can’t fault the speed at which he turns out new material. It seems as if there is a new offering in the review pile every couple of weeks and who can blame him. In this short attention span world, it pays to keep your name ahead of the pack and the best way to do that is to do the work, keep your music flowing, offer new and intriguing sonic delights. It’s the shark analogy all over again, the idea that they have to keep moving all the time, well, musicians need to do the same.
Ahead of her appearance at PolyFest, Laura Beth sat down with She, Robot to find out more about the artist, the music and the machine.
You are playing PolyFest this year. You are obviously an X-Ray Spex fan. What tracks will you be playing from the classic ‘Germfree Adolescents’ album which is being celebrated for its 40th anniversary? Also, could you explain what those tracks mean to you?
It comes as no surprise to find out that the lives and career of the people who make music as The Venus Fly Trap are intrinsically linked to those of fellow explorers of dark music, Bauhaus. Same home town, same art college, same gigging circuit, Kevin Haskins was even to be found as their producer from time to time.
I have to confess that I don’t cover too much dance, hip-hop or rap music on this site. It isn’t that I have anything against such genres, it is just that most of the things that come my way from the grassroots of those scenes seem to follow the same mumbled, trap beat driven, self-aggrandising lines and when you have heard, dissected and written about one, you pretty much end up writing the same review in different ways over and over again for everything that follows.
I love music that refuses to sit in neat generic demarcations. I love music that is happy to exist in a multi-cultural sonic world. I love music that looks to the future rather than back at past glories. To find that all in one place is a rare and wonderfully satisfying thing but that is exactly what I found when giving Songs With Venissa a spin. I might not know exactly what Afro-Futurism, the description that producer Paul Edwards uses to indicate the nature of the music that he makes is, but when you come out the other side of this 6 track e.p. you realise that it is the perfect name for what him and Cuban-American jazz vocalist Venissa Santi create here.
And for all the dark, sultry beats and spacious electronica that the name implies, there is so much more going on here. My Schwinn blends the sound of that continent with more exotic India traditions and Lucky mixes heavy dub grooves and infectious pop with warped western classical outbursts. Heartbeat takes a turn into lazy late night jazz-hop and If I Could Write A Letter is so ahead of its time, so unlike anything you have heard so far that it might truly be the sound of the future.
The world is an ever shrinking place, certainly culturally speaking. Tools and traditions, sounds and styles which may never have crossed paths in the past are now creative bed fellows. As people mix so do their sounds and stories, their attitudes and ideas and the more that happens the more interesting and original those new blends of music become. Genres are dead, long live music.
Being a child of the 80’s I remember seeing various bands on Top of the Pops, the fashions were wild, the pop stars were cool and the instruments on stage ranged from guitars and drums to rows and rows of keyboards and synthesizers. The 80’s, particularly the early 80’s, is regarded as the time period when synthesizers really took their place in the charts, bands such as Human League, Ultravox, Pet Shop Boys and Erasure took bedroom tinkering to the masses and took the baton from bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes and proved that, if handled correctly, complete albums could be produced through this exciting new medium.
One imagines that London duo Moonshot saw and heard the same things as me during these years and, deciding to ignore the path of Slush Puppy’s and skateboards, picked up a keyboard or two because the songs on Last Train Home sometimes feels like a homage to these bands.
The album starts in pop territory, the first two songs are something that wouldn’t sound out of place in Sara Cox’s vinyl collection, but then it cruises through the genres and sub genres like a train visiting stations.
Acoustic guitar features on an early track and is used again as a percussive addition, something that works very well and bridges the gap between electronic and conventional. Personally, I would have liked the addition of an acoustic drumkit for some songs to give the songs a punch but the drum patterns are well selected ranging from dance beats to bordering on jungle and what they’ve made is a polished, complete offering.
The bonus of having two singers is an advantage, the vocals can intertwine, harmonise and switch lead vocals giving different songs different character and atmosphere, tag-teaming from the deadpan vocal similar to ABC’s Martin Fry or Human League’s Philip Oakey to a singer who at times resembles Jeff Lynne.
Often electronic music can lack variety, relying sometimes on one common sound or theme but what we get is varied and it doesn’t repeat itself, if you want an album written and performed by fans of the music, this is it.
Well worth a listen.
For tasters of the album, and previous releases by Moonshot, visit https://fandg.me/moonshot/
If this were a competition I would already be awarding additional points for the band having such a cool and interesting name. But this is a music review and as such things can’t be so easily measured but I can award interesting words. Words like strange, beguiling, hypnotic, exploratory perhaps even challenging, all meant in their most positive of applications.
Light Sketch is a mesmerising and musically left-field piece that combines spoken word with glitchy electronica that at once sounds like early synth experiments combined with a spaced out beat poetry performance but also a futuristic reappraisal of electronic music combined with a zen meditation class. Where it fits into the musical canon and what it is really all about is a pointless discussion really, it is so unique, so offbeat that it probably means something different to everyone who encounters it. Sci-fi jazz? Deep Space Avant-Gardening? Computers teaching themselves to write music? That would explain all the 11 11 business!
To be honest I don’t know what’s going on really, you don’t have to, that’s the joy of it. I just know that I like it. Let’s just call it just another mystery of the universe that cleverer people than me will one day be able to explain. Probably using Quantum Physics. Or perhaps drugs.
Music is a battle between the technical and the emotional. One makes it happen, the other is why it happens, one its physicality, the other its personality. The Far Side is the perfect example of this. Think about it too deeply and you get into the realms of sonic academia, you can talk about its myriad textures, its musicality which seems to happen in the distance a long way from the vocals, its haziness and the drifting ambient structures that lie at its core. But music is not about facts and absolutes, at least it shouldn’t be and the personality of the song, the bit you fall for, is simpler than that.
The Far Side is strange, dark, hushed and beguiling, it is odd and atmospheric, it is distant and transient, otherworldly and brilliantly non-conformist. Its strange musical shapes and emptiness are held loosely together by simple beats but it largely comes on like a swirling mass of sounds come together by happy accident, a musical mishap that seems so unplanned if you went back and played the song again, which you will immediately do, a different musical maelstrom would present itself.
Odd is good..no, odd is great. Raise a glass to odd!
Different times can conjure different things to different people and when I think of the 1980’s my mind is cast back to watching The A-Team or Buck Rogers, collecting football stickers, wishing for a BMX, eating Highland Toffee and watching Top of The Pops on a Thursday evening.
One thing I noticed, aside from the ‘cool’ people in the studio dancing without a care in the world, was how more and more acts would have keyboards and computer monitors littering the stage and getting in the way of the dry ice, yes, synthesizers had arrived en masse from the prog rock bands of the 1970’s with a palette so broad that if you could imagine a sound, the chances were, someone could create it with the help of a selection of knobs, buttons and sliders. Music was dead. There was panic in music shops up and down the country, skips were filled with Rickenbackers and Fenders because Yamaha, Moog and Casio were the new makers of music and if you wanted to be taken seriously then you had better trade in your chord charts for a programming course at the local polytechnic.
Bands like Pet Shop Boys, Yazoo, Ultravox, Bronski Beat and Human League were dominating the charts but where these bands gave us the plink-plonk-pling of radio-friendly tunes, others chose a darker route. Bands like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Talking Heads were exploring where these new sounds could take us and, finally, we arrive at No Side Effects.
The debut album from Thomas Haynes and Adrian Wallington challenges the listener to question what makes us human and where we end up when we’re dead. All heavy stuff but it sits naturally in the synth arena and never feels cheesy or gimmicky. On first listen it can feel a bit over-bearing but stick with it because on the second or third listen the songs take on their own character and it then starts to unravel its secrets. The opening track, ‘Anti-Trust’ is a short taster of things to come, I like these sort of tracks at the start of albums, it hints at what is in store for the listener and, if done correctly, can tease you into what treats are to follow, and what is to follow is a vast, cleverly-planned trip into an electric landscape. At times the songs seem a little light on bass, particularly in the earlier tracks of the album but to suggest a pumping drum and bass line would be in total contradiction to what is on offer, but the earlier songs almost work as an evolution towards track five.
When I was given this cd, special attention was made about track five, a song called ‘In Your Brain Right Now’ which, running at 8 minutes, cleverly uses snippets from a lecture by American author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. The music plays between the audio of the lecture (similar to what the Blue Man Group has done in the past) and encourages the listener to breath and take notice of his/her own existence as a living, breathing thing, at one point the vocals echoes the words of Sam Harris and uses them to create backing vocals to good effect. But this song also acts as something of a shift in mood, the following songs, particularly ‘Outstare the Square’ and ‘Pessimonster’ are strong tracks with an energy that will keep most listeners interested and intrigued in equal measure.
‘Dark Light’ – which appears next on the album – recently received attention from BBC Bristol and featured as part of BBC’s Introducing, and rightly so, there is a Depeche Mode feel throughout leading to a powerful trip into what synth music is capable of with a steady, effects-laden bass line and slow burning production.
Actually, the production is the king here, with this much going on it would be easy to miss or misjudge a certain sound or rhythm, but each sound comes through clearly throughout this album. Record production is a labour of love at the best of times but there is a lot of sounds jostling for space. I’ve heard this album through car speakers and headphones and each method is a different experience.
If you fancy listening to some grown-up electronic music with messages that cover isolation, loss, mental health and all things in between, give these guys a listen, you might just find yourself going back for more.
Pre order Reinventing Failure
On the strength of Astronomical Twilight’s previous album, Unheard, new music coming from this artist is something I already look forward too and so a new full album of sounds landing on my review pile really made my day. As expected, as an overall vibe, Zoetrope is a continuation of where we left off last time, which is perfectly fine. It isn’t that it is repetitious particularly, it is just that this is music that deals in moods and atmospheres, emotions and meditations and even if it were what is wrong with an artist realising what they are good at and just revelling in the beauty of what they do. And doing it far better than the competition too. Nothing, that’s what.
And this is an album to which the word beauty doesn’t feel in any way hyperbole. Most music stops far short of such terms, it might be fun, functional, energetic, euphoric even but Zoetrope, and Astronomical Twilight in general, creates soundtracks for the universe itself. The creative minimalism of what is being built here is so understated yet so majestic that it feels as if it is either the sound score, or possibly even the sound itself, to all of existence, the natural song of the universe just with all of the man-made white noise filtered out.
A Star in The Sky, for example, is just a drifting moodscape that initially conjures images as big, as distant, as dramatic as the title suggests, Restored is a blend of ambient pulses that trails off into its own world of distant radio noise and A Quiet Search For Joy is the perfect by-line for the music being made here.
Zoetrope is less beat driven than its predecessor, though that was hardly a dance record, but rather it is the drifting and meditative side which is the main concern this time around. If it proves one thing it is this. You can create powerful, elegant and eloquent music from so very little but of course the art is knowing exactly which “very little” to use and how position it on the musical canvas so effectively. Until someone else in the music community works that out, Astronomical Twilight will remain in a field of its own.
A wise man once said that we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. What he failed to add is that some of those stargazers are writing their very own musical suite to describe what they see and feel too.
London band The Lazlo Device are set to share another single from sophmore album You Stumble, I Fall. Having recently released their glittering end-of-the-night track ‘Beetle’, and the huge, desert-summoning album closer ‘You Stumble, I Fall’, the experimental post-rock foursome smash out an energetic beat complete with synth-fringed nightclub-ambience in ‘Known to You’. Seamlessly switching from ska at one end of the album and towering rock at the other, all whilst remaining true to their signature warm, noise-laden sound, the band’s versatility knows no bounds.
The dancefloor-ready ‘Known to You’ is, like Antidotes-era Foals, equal parts smart, fidgeting math rock-esque drums tapping out disco-friendly rhythms and earthquaking percussion and cymbals courtesy of drumming powerhouse Leo Fenn; flashes of soft synth and soaring saxophone peek out from the thick guitar-and-bass that characterises the heavier parts of The Lazlo Device’s sound. Out 10th August, ‘Known to You’ touches on the dark and danceable elements of this London band’s composite sound.
Arriving after their 2016 debut album Duelism – and several EPs in between – the upcoming You Stumble, I Fall is out 31st August. They’ve been compared to post-rock heavyweights such as Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Beta Band, amongst others.
‘Known to You’ is out 20th August.
NYC’s Future Generations have shared a new single “Suddenly.” The track is off their upcoming new album Landscape (Frenchkiss Records) set to be released on September 14. Of the single they note, “Sometimes things just happen the way they are supposed to and they happen all at once, but it takes a bit of patience leading up to it. Suddenly encompasses that message both in its lyrics and in the way it came about. After a bit of a writing slump, we wrote and recorded it in one day and didn’t touch it again until we mixed it with the rest of the album.”
Produced by Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, Hamilton Leithauser), Landscape is the first release from the band to feature their full lineup of Eddie Gore (vocals) Mike Sansevere(synthesizer, guitar, percussion), Eric Grossman (guitar), Devon Sheridan (bass), and Dylan Wells (percussion). Of the album’s title, Gore notes it “came from ending the first significant relationship of my life. And with the band’s move to Brooklyn, we were all put into this world we’d never experienced—living on our own and navigating the landscape of being in New York City.”
Despite having only encountered Floating Beauty twice before, via the single Larissa and the album that spawned it, Larva, I already look forward to any of their music which finds its way to my review pile. Why? Because musically it is so different from almost everything else that comes my way, it runs against the usual fads and fashion of pop culture, in short it is always a truly unique experience. Floating Beauty makes music which is slow and purposefully, which builds tension and anticipation, that demands patience and rewards the listener for taking the time to journey with it.
Like a Glare in the Night sees Floating Beauty continue to mix classical grandeur with ambient electronica, but whereas the previous album seems to come more form the former, full of sweeping strings and drawn out elegance, this time out there seems to have been a slight shift to the latter. Not so much that you would say that the sound has significantly changed, rather that the style is less about classical sounds being formed into ambient landscapes but more interested in ambient sounds capturing the blissful grace of those timeless sonics.
Right from opening track Glow, there is a more electronic feel, glitchy and echoing radio noise, and punctuated by industrial sound shocks and pummelling beats yet between these sonic peaks the more expected gossamer-like textures still reign supreme. Halo takes such near emptiness to the extreme, twinkling acoustic guitars and the noise of the natural world forming the translucent body of the song and Gleam returns us to a place of piano led beauty with just enough droning electronica to remind us that this album is a meeting of worlds.
It is a meeting of the formal and the inventive, of the old and the new, of the familiar and the strange. And it is as those parameters get used in differing amounts that the music takes its form. The music seems to reflect the differing night time visuals that you might see looking out over a cityscape… The Glare a pulsing beacon broadcasting at intervals, Glitter the gentle shimmer of effervescent patterns, The Whisper, the slightest of flickers and Dark Storm the crackle of thunderous energy and dancing lightning as a storm approaches.
This is music as light, light as sound, sound describing a visual aspect, vision as a sonic rendering, it’s brave and marvellous and such an intriguing concept. It is almost like the soundtrack to a piece of film that is yet to be created, or perhaps one that only needs to exist in the listeners mind. Or maybe this is the starting point of a new creative process whereby, rather than have musicians and composers create music for existing films, that film makers instead create the visual component to accompany the music. Now that really is a tantalising new idea.
Montreal’s Marie-Hélène L. Delorme, aka FOXTROTT, has dropped the second in a trilogy of EPs today via One Little Indian Records. The second instalment, Meditations II sees the inimitable producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist expand on the contrast of an inner peace and the tension felt in response to an outer fast paced, outraged world. While Meditations I explored the inside and the desire to let the world in, Meditations II opens a window and lets a complex and noisy world swarm in. Meditations I saw an abundance of radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC6Music – Headphones Moment), Annie Mac (BBCR1) and Phil Taggart (BBCR1).
Kalli Ma, the brainchild of producers/DJs Danny Sanchez and Jeremy Sliwerski, return with new single ‘Offence-Defence’ on 27th July on Tip Top Recordings.
Last year’s debut track ‘Promises’ and sophomore ‘High Shot’ featured their hybrid of analogue and digital electronics swerving from Techno’s rhythmic synths and structures to the harsh but beautiful energy of Acid and EBM, inspired by Not Waving, Factory Floor and Gesaffelstein in the process.
‘Offence-Defence’ dials up the mix with a dirty-heavy beat driving Angela Won-Yin Mak’s (Josefin Öhrn, The Go! Team, Prom) vocals through a sea of swirling analogue sounds that bring about a biting, evocative, urgent and dancefloor ready display of Kalli Ma’s production diversity and depth.
02 August – The Waiting Room, London – w/Timothy Clerkin TICKETS
04 October – The Old Blue Last, London – DJ set
18 October – The Shacklewell Arms, London – DJ set
Musical pairings often seem like odd partnerships when you look at them a bit more closely. Take Days of Thunder, a green-fingered, eco-academic and musical avant-gardener and a creature of the night, rock and roller don’t seem to be the obvious collaborators but music is all about celebrating the common ground rather than worrying about the bits that fall outside the central part of the collective Venn Diagram.
If anything is being celebrated here, it is certainly the post-punk pioneering ethic, that adventurous and questing spirit that saw ex-punks and Blitz Kids ditch the trusty guitar and rewire keyboards to their will to create a new sound, a new style and new genre. But it is no mere pastiche of the past, no nostalgic, rose tinted spectacle moment, because it sounds very much of the here and now and also looks to the future.
Most interestingly though, is given the rock drama that often swirls around Billy Jon Bingham’s Ghosts of Machines and the experimentalism of Thomas Haynes’ Grasslands (though this is a lot closer to his work with No Side Effects) there is a real understatement at work here, a grandeur built from the atmosphere and anticipation which comes from allowing space to be one of the key components. As debut singles go….okay, you have definitely got my attention.
Montreal’s Marie-Hélène L. Delorme, aka FOXTROTT, has shared brand new single Better With You – taken from the second in a trilogy of EPs, out on August 10th via One Little Indian Records. The second instalment, Meditations II sees the inimitable producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist expand on the contrast of an inner peace and the tension felt in response to an outer fast paced, outraged world. While Meditations I explored the inside and the desire to let the world in, Meditations II opens a window and lets a complex and noisy world swarm in. Meditations I saw an abundance of radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC6Music – Headphones Moment), Annie Mac (BBCR1) and Phil Taggart (BBCR1).
Each of the three self-produced EPs – which are to be released throughout 2018 culminating in a full album release on October 5th – were developed during a solitary retreat to southwestern Mexico, with Delorme even mixing ambient sounds present while she was writing, into the music. Lead single from the brand-new EP – Better With You – incorporates the sounds of police sirens outside, juxtaposed with deep, pulsing beats and layered vocals, characterising the “inside”.
There is a grace at the heart of Chantitown’s music which has rarely been seen amongst modern artists. It harks back to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carol King and a small number of artists who were part of that wave of rootsy pop and folk-revivalists who are still seen as the golden age of the art. But, thankfully, she is also well aware that mere pastiche or copy-cat plagiarism doesn’t cut it in the modern age either and the skill she employs to fashion her songs means that although they beat with a quietly nostalgic heart, they also sparkle with modern sass and deftly wander all points in between.
The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient acoustic vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.
Truth immediately draws comparison with Natasha Khan’s gorgeous electronic balladry, the same ethereality meets electronica, emotive ancient sentiments evoked through cutting edge musical technology. And Bat For Lashes is not a bad reference point, sharing the same eclectic approach, the same blend of past and present, the same genre-hopping, musical gene-splicing and, in the case of this track in particular, the same exotic blend of eastern spice and western bite, of occident meeting orient.
At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum Prince of Pain is the most dominant of the four songs presented here, but even then it still works more in an ambient surrounding than a pop one, yet like all of Chantitown’s songs it walks a fine line between the cool and cultish, and the accessible and commercial, and that is a trick that most artists never master. But here it is done so skilfully that you could almost use this as a template as to how to blur the lines of those two, often conflicting, worlds.
But it isn’t just the music which is tantalising and enticing here, Cause and The Cure in particular is spacious enough to showcase what an astonishing voice she has, weaving narratives which take in the personal and the poetic, which shift from direct, almost spoken word deliveries to the harmonious and cinematic, a style which runs through all of her songs but which for my money is epitomised best here. The final song found in this showcase of music is Mother of Sun, an epic, slow burning thing of haunting beauty, though, to be honest, that is a phrase which could apply to anything which has gone before.
In Chantitown I think we have found someone truly important, someone game changing, someone who sits on a line that links Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Portishead to Natasha Khan and who shows that music can be accessible, infectious and beguiling and also (fingers crossed) commercially successful, without being obvious and cliched.
Micronations sounds like the result of a computer achieving a sentient state and then as a result leaving the IT world to become a folk musician. Its a wonderful clash of worlds, of the organic folk sound and the hushed and clinical inner workings of what a computer might be singing to itself when it thinks no one is listening. For folk music this is, but it is folk music embracing and perhaps even predicting the future, and the result of the meeting of that ancient and the organic form with the cool, technological driven potential next chapter is both intriguing and beautiful.
Andrew Howie, armed only with his trusty compact synthesiser, converted songs originally written on guitar and piano into, ambient an reworking of their original or, for want of a better word, folktronica. There is a hushed gorgeousness to the songs from pulsating opener Memory Verse to the washed and brooding Look At Her Go and from the claustrophobic depths of Pick Axe to the shimmering dream-pop grooves of Fragile.
Micronations reminds us that the instruments are merely tools, means to an end and if the songs are good enough then they will stand on their own two feet whether built from acoustic guitars or synthesisers. It is safe to say that Andrew Howie has created an album that is both fragile, gentle and beguiling yet robust and striking in its beauty.
In my experience the term “multi-instrumentalist” allows a musician to fall into one of two categories, there are those who become a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ because they flit from one thing to another without really grasping what their chosen instrument at that time can do, and there is the other who’s musical curiosity is so great that they decide to pick up different instruments because within their musical endeavours they struggle to find anybody who can do what they have in their minds better than themselves.
London-based singer songwriter Koichi Yamanoha sits firmly in the later and his weapon of choice changes as often as the genres he tiptoes between, he deftly sweeps through electronic music, into acoustic folk-tinged ballads, synth led instrumentals before finding a brief home in pop yet it still feels natural and connected.
It’s a brave choice to open and close the album with instrumentals but it enables the listener to hear the album on loop without it feeling like the experience has ended. Pink Floyd did something like this on ‘The Wall’, Coldplay also did this on their 2008 Brian Eno-produced ‘Viva La Vida’ which, in some ways is not totally surprising given that there are moments on Cliffhanger that Brian Eno would be proud of.
Track two is dominated by the sound of an organ, similar to one you would have heard at a fair or carnival accompanying a carousel, once you realise the track is titled ‘Take Me Down To Coney Island’ the choice of organ tone makes total sense. At around the two-minute mark the organ goes up a few keys to become almost church-like, perhaps we’re invited to pray to the Gods of carnival…
The vocal performance of Koichi Yamanoha puts me in mind of the current music of bands emerging from Norway and Iceland, particularly the avant garde band Sigur Ros. It’s wispy, ghostly but sits perfectly on tracks ‘Still Smiling’, ‘Final World War’ and, the albums shining star of a song, ‘Wheel’.
Guest female singers Charlotte Courbe and Dee Sada bring a different angle in their approach to songs ‘Cliffhanger’ and the monotone, spoken worded ‘Orange Coloured Everywhere’ that puts me in mind of Radioheads ‘Fitter Happier’ from OK Computer.
To name Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Brian Eno and Radiohead in the same review must say something about how well this album is put together, there is something within these songs that creep beneath the skin and encourages you to have a repeat listen, I’m not really doing the album justice but I don’t want to give away all of the nuances and quirks this album has, there are Asian-inspired guitar, moments of confusion where you ask yourself “where are we going now?” and plenty to keep your ears and mind happy.
This is the second album (there is also an EP released in 2014) so there is more to discover about this artist and I think it’s well worth buying a ticket and seeing where the ride takes you.
Cliffhanger is out now on Some Other Planet Records
I’ve always been a sucker for ambient, drifty, dreamy music. I’ve also always loved strange, glitchy electronica. But it isn’t often that you find the two coming together in such a complimentary fashion. Kate Bush led the way and the likes for Bat For Lashes carried the torch, but outside of, say, Mandalay and Lamb it has been a fairly quiet scene, a spacious musical plain marked only with the occasional sonic temple for aficionados to worship at. But maybe that is how it should be, it makes albums like this gorgeous and beguiling eponymous beauty all the more refreshing for its rarity.
The logical starting point is the single Undo which lies at the heart of the album, a song built of the same vocal grace and classic lines as those found on a Dead Can Dance album, a song which explores space and drama through its dynamic shifts and atmospheric conjuring. It’s an approach that runs through the whole collection to varying degrees. Crystalized sitting at the minimal end of things, a slow burning and gentle instrumental, growing increasingly claustrophobic as it nears its musical destination, Phonetics being a robotic and staccato alt-dance groove and Nodus Tollens the pinnacle of the albums disarming and addictive white noise buzz.
It ends with The Sea, another previous single, which acts as a brooding, industrial and cinematically epic swansong to this visionary debut album, an album which plays out like a possible alternate sound track to the recent Blade Runner reboot, capturing the same echoes of 80’s electronica, trippy futurism of the alt-dance fringe, the same dark designs and dying world drama.
As debuts go, its a triumph. A mesmerising weave of mutant EDM and warped pop, hazy ambience and alien dance music; it is forward thinking yet remembers the past, it is clinical, ritualistic and otherworldly. Someone should write the ultimate dystopian movie just so Searmanas can provide the sound track.
Imagine if jazz had evolved from the New Romantic synth experimentation of the late 70’s or that punk had been instigated after the invention of the affordable synthesiser or even that computers had been programmed to write acoustic pop songs. All unlikely scenarios for sure but each of those does say something about the three tracks that make up Butsenzeller’s latest collection of mercurial musical musings.
The title track hits the listener’s consciousness, less like an opening musical salvo more like an oozing sonic life form, a dirge from the far reaches of space sounding like music which has fallen between the cracks, and indeed tracks, of a studio recording and that then gradually came together in a strange synchronicity to form a creeping doom jazz soundtrack. Miles Davis meets The Apocalypse.
The wonderfully named Voteshutupworkconsume says a lot about some of the underlying attitudes of Butsenzeller and is musically a call back to the industrial dance-noise-art-punk disco that we found on Seqs & Drums & Rockin’ Synths, a short sharp sonic shock and an infectious groover. The less expected inclusion here is Isabel, potentially just a rudimentary busking guitar tune but put through the blender, warped and weirded out, effected and affected and turned into something otherworldly, angular and only half-human.
As always Butsenzeller manages to surprise you with his music, even though you already knew that something surprising was going to happen and it is that ability to keep pulling the rug from under the listener’s feet that keeps things exciting, fresh and fantastically odd. Then again normality is a pretty overrated concept if you ask me.
Silent Animals may be the debut album from Italian trio Crimen, but it arrives over a decade into their career. Simone Greco (bass, voice, sound engineering) and Patrizio Strippoli (guitars, voice) formed the band in the Centocelle district of Rome in 2007, before recruiting Giuseppe Trezza (drums and electronics) six years later. After a string of successful EPs and two years hibernating to record the opus, the band feel now is the time to release a full length.
A heady cocktail of krautrock, psychedelia, noise rock and post-punk, Silent Animals will be released on Fuzz Club on June 29th and it takes us on a whistle-stop tour of Europe’s musical history with a newfound stomp and malignancy. Conceived in their own DIY studio in Rome, the Flamingo Recording Studio, the band have self-produced and engineered their debut in a state of total creative independence. The group says of their long-awaited debut: “Silent Animals talks about emotive fragility and wasted loves. It sounds nocturnal and psychotic, though essentially it’s a work about love and the exorcism of fear and anxiety”. An exorcism it certainly is, full of gnostic grooves and cathartic releases. The most forthright example of this is the first single from the album, ‘Six Weeks’, which the band are sharing now. It’s hard rocker cloaked in reverb, feedback and throbbing electronics – sounding downright satanic as Simone bellows “six-six-six” as the song constantly veers on the verge of sub-atomic explosion.
Originally formed by 3 passionate female Leeds based producers, Luna Pines showcase modern electronica and refined dream pop and mix it with ambient, almost post-rock echoes. Influences ranging from Explosions In The Sky to Beach House can be felt across their debut EP ‘The House We Lived In’ that is due June 1st. Today, the band have released their new single taken from it, ‘Spring’.
A deeply sensitive tone is felt in ‘Spring’ that serves as a spacious, indulgent moment on the EP, exploring painful issues such as death and loss in a mask of Cocteau Twins inspired melodies.
Leeds based producers Luna Pines, showcase modern electronica and refined dream pop and mix it with ambient, almost post-rock echoes. Influences like The Japanese House and Daughter can be felt within their beautiful new single ‘Spring’.
Heptapod exists at a point where pop falls into a dark abyss, where electronica starts to become self aware, where gothic music finds its way from the dark basement venues and onto the neon glare of the clubland dance floors. Apocalyptic disco? Doom pop? Gothtronica? Take your pick, they all work. Imagine if Depeche Mode and Zola Jesus had a couple of strange children (how could they be anything other than strange from such a union) or if Nine Inch Nails went into the commercial pop business.
Because for all its mercurial ways there is something wonderfully commercial about Heptapod, not as in chart hit, TV advert, mainstream radio playlist type commercial but there is an army of movers and shakers, discerning pop pickers and tastemakers who will dig its otherness, its ability to wander down the same streets as the regular folk, to walk hand in hand with the conformists of the music industry machine but still retain their weird and beguiling musical persona. You don’t have to try and change them, you don’t even have to try to understand them, but you do have to admire them.
The strangely named Forbidden Cheese seems to be the result of what happens when technology and mystique merge, where the cutting edge of music making is used to create something ancient and otherworldly, where man and machine meet but the result is something primal. The song runs along on a pulse like groove, a planetary heart beat which is surrounded by minimalist electronica, beguiling washes of sound and smoke like sonics, as much a soundtrack as a song, hypnotic and coming from the left field.
Other works by this artist range from energetic, dance fuelled scores to pastoral techno-washes and here the emphasis seems to be on the vastness of space, the slow and achingly ponderous nature of the universe and the reminder to us as the watcher from this small planet that we are a fleeting, insignificant event in the grand scheme of things. That’s one interpretation at least, the joy of such music is that it is ambiguous enough that each listener can make of it what they will rather than be guided by the artist.
But it seems to approach such an idea from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, painting poetic pictures rather than factual ones, the physical embodiment of the artists mission to describe “the rising mists of holding grounds unveil around me while I gaze onto the sky.” Enigmatic, reserved and questioning.
Right from the start, there is something of the 90’s Rave scene about Reach a Star, the same vibrancy, the same euphoric rush, but there is also more than a hint of wild, Euro-pop and the slick clubland cool of the modern House scene. But it is also a song built on clever dynamic balance and the way those high octane beats are tempered by wonderfully sparse breakdowns, and vocal and rap interludes, is what marks this out as something very clever indeed.
So with it’s sonic extremes marked out, the song is free to wander between taking in vibrant electro experimentation, fierce dance floor grooves and chilled breakdowns, vocal sweetness and high octane urgency. It may start out in the nostalgic neon glow of rave culture’s past but for the most part this is the sound of Electronic Dance Music of today or even of an era still to come. A future where genres have become irrelevant and the rules are there to be ignored.
Ambient hip-hop? Cosmic rap? Space-groove? Sure, I’m just making things up now but truly original music requires you to do that and Dimension comes from a truly original place. Okay, you can pick at the sonic weaves and find urban threads, trippy electronica, ambient vibes and late night haze but as always it is how these are put together that counts and GoldenB has found a new angle on blending all of these disparate sounds.
So GoldenB may prove to be the master of deconstruction but the main thing that he uses to piece his musical building blocks back together, the musical glue if you like is space. It is the atmosphere, the gap between the beat, the things which aren’t played and the pause between the lyrics which make it all so effective. Many musicians believe the most effective form of communication is to get up front and in the listeners face… or at least in their ears but GoldenB’s Dimension shows that less is most definitely more and that absorbing music by some sort of creative osmosis is equally…no, make that much more, effective.
After a wildly successful sold out west coast run, The Naked And Famous are pleased to announce additional headlining dates in the US and Europe on the ‘A Still Heart Stripped‘ tour. Tickets go on sale for the European dates Thursday, March 29th @ 10am GMT, in the US Friday, March 30th @ 12pm EST/CST and can be purchased through the band’s website HERE.
The tour is in support of their new album ‘A Still Heart‘, a collection of acoustic interpretations of the band’s hits and fan favorites over their decade long career.
Set to begin June 23rd in Washington, DC the band will embark once again on a series of intimate live shows in the same “stripped” format across the US and Europe. These performances and recordings will give fans a chance to feel the heart of the group’s songwriting and performance prowess as TNAF reimagine the heavy electronic rock production that has made them a concert and festival favorite around the world for the past decade.
2018 A STILL HEART STRIPPED TOUR DATES
6/23 – Union Stage – Washington, DC
6/25 – Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
6/26 – Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
6/27 – Iron Horse Music Hall – Northampton, MA
6/29 – The Queen – Wilmington, DE
7/2 – Space – Evanston, IL
7/15 – Trinity – Bristol, UK
7/16 – Union Chapel – London, UK
7/20 – WUK – Vienna, AT
7/21 – Acoustic Lakeside Festival – Sittersdorf, AT