Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 53 / the alternative music tabloid
Connan Mockasin Animal charm
contents octob e r 2013
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . th e hard drug ch ron icles From a new book on heavy narcotics, James franco presents twilight on crystal meth
10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Songs & Books The latests singles, EPs and Page-turner, from theo verney, the men and more
cover photography gabriel green
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . G etti ng to kno w you We asked a load of recording artists what they’d be doing in a worlD without music Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
omar sou leyman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 We let Omar souleyman do the talking, about being a wedding singer, recording with four tet and impersonators
kw es . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Editor - Stuart Stubbs Art Director - Lee Belcher Sub Editor - Alex Wilshire film editor - Ian roebuck
kwes is finally releasing a debut album. We spent a day snooping around the studio he made it in
E lliott Sm ith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Contributors Bart Pettman, Carl Partridge, Chal Ravens, Chris Watkeys, Cochi Esse, Daniel Dylan Wray, Danny Canter, DAVID Sutheran, DK Goldstien, Elinor Jones, elliot kennedy, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Gareth Arrowsmith, Janine Bullman, LEE BULLMAN, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Gemma Harris, Leon Diaper, Luke Winkie, Mandy Drake, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Olly Parker, PAVLA KOPECNA, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp, Reef Younis, Samuel ballard, Sam Walton, Sonia Melot, sonny McCartney, Tim Cochrane, Tom Pinnock, TOM Warner
10 years after the tragic and sudden death of elliott smith, daniel dylan wray travels to portland
J u ng le . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 The guys that filmed a 6-year-old girl spinning on her head speak for the first time
W ay T h r o u g h . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 Amy Pettifer meets Claire Titley and Christopher Tipton for a lesson in post-pastoral post-punk
forte bo w i e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 inspired by everyone from Fiona Apple to Phil Collins, ForteBowie discusses representing Atlanta
Lau re l Halo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Laurel Halo gives a rare interview about new album ‘chance of rain’
Con nan Mockasi n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Connan Mockasin discusses new album ‘Caramel’, an ambient funk record recorded in a Japanese hotel room
This Month L&Q Loves jane third, johnny brocklehurst, leah ellis, marcus scott natasha parker, sinead mills The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2013 Loud And Quiet. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Sharman & Company LTD.
36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . albums films . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Polica, cass mccombs, arcade fire, tim hecker, laurel halo and more
Philippa burt reviews filth and runs down our top 10 bent coppers from cinema history
44 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . li v e party w olf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 kate b, Willis earl beale, yuck, deptford goth, Scociety & body/head
Idiot Tennis, Thought sport, Crush hour, rumour pie and The unfortunate world of ian beale
welcome More than ever, musicians have low expectations concerning their own shelf-lives, a term that is fittingly `marketing speak’ in a world where pop music has gone from art form to commodity over the last 10 years. Most acknowledge the flippancy of the game and are happy for any level of success, however short lived. Even Spector, a decidedly Xfm buzz band with road show singles and a frontman of `good copy’, named their major label debut album `Enjoy It While It Lasts’. There are also those who go one further, keen to impose their own end – to jump before they are pushed, not for reasons of pride, but because there’s other things to do. Punk bands, in my experience, don’t buy this, but Bat For Lashes did in 2009, when she told me she’d like to become a marine biologist next (Loud And Quiet 12). Three years later, Natasha Khan went as far as doubting whether she’ll make another record (Loud and Quiet
41). Lauryn Hill didn’t, and it looked like Lily Allen had decided the same, until she recently announced otherwise. This month I met Connan Mockasin, which reminded me of all this, when the impossible louche New Zealander told me that his new, second album, `Caramel’, might well be his last. Connan likes the fairground rides that fold up on the back of trucks, so maybe there’s something in that. He’s cautious of music becoming a job, and so for this month’s Getting To Know You feature (page 12), we’ve asked musicians what they’d be doing in a world without music. A marked difference between Mockasin and Khan, Hill and Allen, is that he hasn’t already made life-savings from music, and yet `Caramel’ could very well be an account-opening record. It follows 2011 debut `Forever Dolphin Love’, an LP that he only made at his mother’s behest, and one that he didn’t imagine anyone hearing
until Erol Alkan did and released it. `Caramel’ remains a cult pop record; a train of thought that ignores conventional structure and pulls in funk, soul, ambient and easy listening over its 12 loose tracks that don’t always feel the need for lyrics on their cosmic, feather-light way. Still, it feels like the start of something bigger and better for its author, who discusses the making of the record from page 28, along with his childhood in a small beach town on North Island New Zealand, listening to Michael Jackson and singing about Klingons. To be half as relaxed as Connan would do me. I imagine he would make a good physiatrist. Maybe there’s something in that if the fold up carnival rides fall through.
beginning octob e r 2013
VOus Aimez Patiner?
the Hard Drug chronicles
Win a limited edition skateboard from toro y moi
James franco presents twilight on crystal meth
Since team Zephyr first slid around cones in the mid-70s car parks of Santa Monica, getting down (literally) to Hendrix and The Stooges, US outsider rock and pop has gone hand in hand with skateboarding. From Black Flag to Bad Brains, from Blink 182 to Wavves, homemade videos of kickflips, rail rides and failed stair jumps wouldn’t be the same without the disillusioned bark of ’80s hardcore or daft slacker punk pop. In the UK we spend years thinking that skateboarding is just for kids; now the cast of Made In Chelsea do it. And thanks to the DIY revival that shows no sign of slowing down, party bands like FIDLAR are even named after skate culture acronyms, while Odd Future having reintroduced thrashing and grip tape to young fans of hip-hop. The music of Toro Y Moi, then, might seem a little at odds with skate culture. It’s neither breakneck nor stemmed from punk rock, even if it is definitely DIY. But the bubblegum funk and RnB that Chazwick Bundick has arrived at three years after his chillwave-establishing debut is simply more for the old school kick-push skater. Bundick rediscovered his love for skating while making this year’s ‘Anything In Return’ LP, his third in three years, his most upbeat record and his most progressive. As a kid he when to skate camp. He also took to sketching while making his 2013 album and that, plus the skate camp, times by Toro Y Moi’s sunny side up electro pop, has this month led him to design a pair of Vans and a limited edition deck for Alien Workshop. You don’t have to look far to find an opportunity to win a pair of the trainers online (you can enter competitions on both the Vans and Toro Y Moi sites), and 100 more pairs will be given away as Bundick tours the States in February 2014, but that’s a long way to go for a free pair of trainers. No one, as far as we can tell, is giving away one of the limited Alien Workshop decks, though, which are available in selected stores (again, in the US) from October 15. So we thought we’d put that right, as we’ve managed to get hold of one. We think it’s a pretty impressive prize so here’s how we want you to throw your hat into the ring: Design us a skateboard of your very own, to the brief of, quite simply, ‘Loud And Quiet’. It can feature anything you like and we must receive all entries either digitally to email@example.com or physically to our address on page 4 by 12 November 2013. We will then pick our favourite design as the winner and send you a nice, new skateboard.
If you’ve ever tested the theory that ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ syncs perfectly with The Wizard of Oz, you’ll know that it doesn’t, unless you’ve smoked the right kind of weed and a lot of it, but then everything syncs, I guess. In The Hard Drug Chronicles – a 700-page new collection of stories chopped out into three lines marked cocaine, speed and heroin, and including new work from Howard Marks and Lydia Lunch within this vast compendium of addiction, desperation and dark humour – Actor James Franco is onto something far more tangible as he simply renames an extract from The Twilight Saga ‘Crystal Meth’. In the below extract, Franco explains his intentions, which are then presented alongside the original passage in the book. The Hard Drug Chronicles is published in the UK this November. JAMES FRANCO: I was asked to write this thing for this magazine about crystal meth and the dangers of it. I didn’t know what to write. Then I had this idea: I would write this thing that was like Twilight but then wasn’t. I mean, I would appropriate the story of Twilight but call it Crystal Meth and not change anything, and maybe with the new title it would feel different when people read it...I kept thinking about the scene in the biology classroom where Edward gets upset because Bella smells so good he wants to kill her. This, this, I thought, surely this will work, this is addiction, but not just addiction, it is flirting with death, this is a love that kills. It was difficult to see how I would parse out the desires of the characters and parallel them to crystal meth addiction because I was starting with Bella as the focalizing character and switching to Edward when the addiction element came into play. Then the editor suggested I add some actual parallels between vampires and tweakers: never sleep, paleness, sensitive to sunlight, selective diet, one sole hunger, the burdens of living forever. But I suppose she gets just as addicted to him, in her own way. I mean, he is all she thinks about. And then other things happen. He drives cars really fast, people get killed, and she almost gets raped, and they can’t have sex because he is afraid that he will kill her, and blood is always on his mind, and teenagers get killed and kidnapped, and they hide out in hotel rooms from other murderous teenagers, and she is with a hundred-year-old man and she is underage, and then they go to the prom. It seemed like ALL teenage emotions were there, all wrapped up in a fantastical premise, and they were getting away with it because it wasn’t real, it was just vampires and shit.
The Hard Drug Chronicles cover art by Sharm Murugiah
the uk spent years thinking skateboarding was just for kids
beginning songs & books 01 by L ee & Ja nin e B u l l m a n
(HATE HATE HATE) Out OCT 21
Mo v e me n t US
T he Me n C a mp f ir e S ong s
(Modular) Out Oct 21
(Sacred Bones) Out OCT 14
Listen again to ‘Us’, the second single from Sydney trio Movement, and it’s more original than you first thought. On a base level it stands up in any case, as a smooth slab of post-club RnB and modern soul, like a James Blake melancholic tribute to love and missed opportunities. But the dancefloor lingers here more than usual. After 57 seconds of syrupy vocals and muffled bass notes there’s a subtle drop. It’s not huge, and Movement don’t seem the types to write brash bangers on any level, but after those 57 sumptuous seconds the high-hat patters double time, the bass rises and a synthesiser solos and surges to a vocal break. You’d have trouble dancing to it any other way than in slow motion, but the club haunts ‘Us’ all the way home. Unsurprisingly it’s backed by two remixes (a Technicolor ’80s take from Giraffage and a completely opposite, paranoid glitch rework from Kowtown), but the weight of ‘Us’ lies in its meticulous mix of RnB and club music.
Recorded at the same time as ‘New Moon’, this year’s classic rock turn by Brooklyn punk band The Men, ‘Campfire Songs’ is a 5-track EP recorded, yep, around a campfire. Campfires, it turns out, are no more suited to recording earthy versions of US indie rock than The Men’s songs are to being stripped of their ballsy delivery. Granted, out of the band’s records, it’s the tracks from ‘New Moon’ that are most ripe for this kind of outback makeover, and so it’s ‘I Saw Her Face’ and ‘The Seeds’ that feature alongside an acoustic version of B-side ‘Water Babies’ and two new tracks, but the awful quality of these recordings is made instantly apparent as ‘I Saw Her Face’ sets the wobbly tone like a 2001 Limewire bootleg of Noel Gallagher doing ‘Fade Away’ on his own. And there’s the continuing, unforgiving problem – there are way too few intricacies to these songs as acoustic chords endlessly rattle out for 5 minutes at a time.
bir t h s c hool me ta l l ic a de at h . V ol ume 0 ne B Y Br a nnig a n & W in w ooD ( Faber & Faber )
The latest offering in Faber & Faber’s astonishing line of music titles is an in-depth look at Metallica, the men in black with their hair in their eyes who’ve been building dreamy cathedrals full of noise for three decades plus. The writers, Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, are both ex-editors of Kerrang magazine, and Birth School Metallica Death is the first volume (of two) of their in-depth and unflinching biography of the band’s many highs and lows. Made up of interviews with the musicians and those closest to them, the book follows Metallica’s extraordinary trajectory from their early days in downbeat L.A. to universal rock majesty on the eve of releasing their iconic Black Album. Read it by candlelight.
God is no t gr e at B Y c r is t op he r hi t c he n s (Atlantic Books)
Eight years on from its original publication and almost two since the untimely death of its author, God is Not Great, Hitchens’ finest, most heartfelt and most bang-on-the-money rant about the useless brainwash of religion, still sounds a call to those who look askance at anyone who claims to know the unknowable. The idea that God is probably bullshit and that one life is all we get is not new, but rarely is it argued with such genuine wit, warmth and righteous indignation as it is here. Extraordinary thinker and dedicated drinker, Hitchens takes on all comers, from Baptist fundamentalists to Mother Theresa and, it has to be said, wipes the floor with each and every one of them. God is Not Great is for anyone who ever sat on a bus and wondered about the bigger picture, especially if they happen to find fairytales of angels, floods and parting seas a little hard to swallow. The best book on religion since The Bible.
Single reviews by Stuart Stubbs Blowback by Lee Bullman and Michael Forwell published by Pan Macmillan available now
THEO V ERNE Y HEAV Y SUNN
Theo Verney is something like Britain’s (Brighton’s, specifically) equivalent to Ty Segall. He plays and records every instrument himself, for one, at freakishly high levels of aptitude, every sludge riff, cymbal wash and dropout yell. This is only his second release, but give the guy a chance – he chalks up prolific points in the fact that ‘Heavy Sunn’ follows a 6-track cassette EP from spring, and nothing has been recycled for this 5-track garage rock assault on the 10” format. But where Verney is most like Segall is in his ability to be all things to all DIY fuzz fans – a heavy, outrageously psychedelic guitarist (the distorted throbbing flange of the title track that sounds like J Macis’ instrumental project Heavy Blanket), a doped up loser (“Lobotomy, lobotomy, you’re the only one for me” – ‘Lobotomy’), a dreamy skateboarder in the sun (‘Wailing Road’) and a purveyor of sweet, light pop melodies on ‘Count It Up’. Often, he jams all of this together in songs that only breach two and half minutes just once (the Led Zep, loud/quiet, almost prog ‘Wake Me Softly’). Verney doesn’t even fall down on the trapping of bedroom recording, not because the tape hiss is all part of his thing, but because there isn’t any. Impressive stuff.
beginning G etti ng to kno w you
to also sell some slightly more substantial foodstuffs, a selection of good magazines and books, a small section to rep the work of local artists, and import some tasty beers.”
Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost The Carribean Fisherman
“We’ve been asked this question a number of times before and it’s always difficult to answer, because we love what we do to the extent I’m not sure if we’re equipped to do anything else. It’s not like we’re bankers who dream of being sailboat captains every day of their working lives – we’re doing exactly what we want to do and have been doing it since we were 17 years old. That said, though, if we weren’t making music we’d love to get out of the city and retire and be fishermen in the Caribbean, get a boat and live the simple life. That’s the other dream job we could definitely get used to.”
Charlie Rotberg of Beaty Heart The Paintball Marshall
“Due to the nature of our trade and the unreliable income that accompanies it we have all done several weird jobs to keep us a float, be it mixing vats of garlic butter for hours on end or selling garden trowels to middle aged couples. Having said that, if I had the choice over another profession bar music I would probably opt to work at a paintballing ranch (think that’s what they are known as). I reckon the mark up on those balls are BIG and that you can’t beat shouting down a group of pumped up men on a stag doo with, “put your googles back on you maniac!”. Those paintball marshalls are always so cocky something about their profession must be desirable right? Possibly due to the power they hold or maybe the sheer amount of Richmonds they smoke! Either that or a fireman.”
“Last January I was lucky enough to go to a party at the Museum of Natural History, where I ‘met’ Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) of the Beastie Boys. I’m putting ‘met’ in quotes because I spent about an hour in a corner of the room gulping wine and nervously rehearsing what I would say. When finally the room cleared enough for me to stumble over, blurting out how very important the Beastie Boys had been in my life, what an honour it was to meet him, etc. etc., I started to cry. I am not a hysterical crier and I’ve met celebrities before, but there I was... blubbering. Then I began gesticulating wildly in an attempt to dissipate some of the emotion and I nearly knocked Kim Gordon’s drink out of her hands as she walked by. Not the most shining moment of cool, but a pretty good story.”
Melanie Pain The Screenwriter
“Writing songs and performing on stage for the last 10 years has of course been my dream job. I am still amazed every morning that I’m a singer! But if I wasn’t a singer I think I’d like to write screenplays for TV series. I’d love to spend my days thinking of how to tell a story, how to develop characters, interactions between characters… and how to write awesome dialogue. It would be great as well to choose the music for the shows, as I’m often frustrated with the music in TV shows. This or writing a novel would be another dream job for me.”
Erika Forster of Au Revoir Simone The Colour Predictor
“If I wasn’t doing music, my dream job would be to work with colour, either to pick/predict colours for trend
If I wasn’t doing this... We asked a bunch of recording artists what they’d be doing in a world without music forecasting or freelance as a colour advisor. I used to work as a textile designer and my favourite part of the job was sitting under a light box and picking pantones and colour combinations. It’s really like telling a story, using nostalgia and aspirations to make something simple more special and beautiful. But maybe 40 hours a week of that would be really hard!”
Seam The Spätkauf owner
“If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing right now, I’d probably try and open a Spätkauf (German convenience store) in my neighbourhood in Berlin. Working in a Späti seems pretty relaxed – usually there’s the store worker and a couple of friends chilling with Youtube or something open, chatting to people as they come and go. As well as selling the usual fare of club mate, bottled beer and paprika crisps, I’d love
“My dream job in the best of all possible worlds would have to be a llama farmer. These majestic creatures that have spread across the globe, due to their awesomeness and general skill to flourish in any environment (including wet and dark west Waleian winters), have always sparked my imagination. I would love to have a small settlement of llamas and use their wool to make clothing and sweet wall hangings. I’d make llama hair bucket hats for the festival season and giant stockings for Christmas and our family holiday could be a llama trek across Chile. Think of the fun.”
Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone The Environmental Biologist
“Last year I finally realised a long-term dream of mine when I graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Environmental Biology. Doing so took much longer than I ever imagined because I juggled my research and my music for nearly seven years. I’m still uncertain about which of my two passions will ultimately claim the majority of my attention, but for now I’m wearing my music hat, and have put my science hat back in the closet. If I wasn’t in Au Revoir Simone, I would definitely be pursuing a PhD in tropical soil microbial ecology with my mentor, Dr. Krista McGuire, although it’s somewhat bittersweet for me to put my research aside for the time being, being active in the band again gives me access to a whole other range of opportunities. I’ve realised over the years that one of the best things about being in an all-female band is that I’ve gotten to act as a mentor to young girls who reach out to me on my band’s website. It’s saddening to me how few of them have the confidence to follow their dreams, especially in music and the sciences, historically male-dominated fields. Consequently, one of my long-term goals is to start a sciencebased public outreach program targeting young girls.”
Illustration by Yoyo - www.weloveyoyo.com
Johnny Rogoff of Yuck The Shipwreck Archaeologist
Alex Williams of Islet The Llama Farmer
te l l m e a b o ut it
Omar Souleyman on... p h o to g r a p h e r - Hi s h a m B h a r o o c h a
There are many things that mark Omar Souleyman out from other singers – part of these are due to his music, the others are mainly down to his unusual past. Starting out as a wedding singer in Syria in 1994, it was two years later that he met and started working with long term collaborator Rizan Sa’id who was playing in a local Kurdish combo at the time. It marked the beginning of a collaboration that would see them add a propulsive electronic element to the traditional acoustic form of Arabic dance music called Dabke – a combination that would see the music become harder, faster and, important for what was to later come, louder. Playing at weddings was a theme that would long continue, and their performances at these nuptials were often recorded and kept by the bride and groom as a memento of the day. Sometimes the recordings would later surface on cassettes in the markets in and around the north eastern part of the country, something which later led to over 500 recordings being made available for purchase – more recently it has become not uncommon for copies of these early clips to wash up on Youtube. Yet despite becoming a household name in Syria, it wasn’t until eight years after Souleyman and Sa’id began working together that they started to be recognised by people from further afield and the West. Some of the duo’s work appeared on 2004’s ‘I Remember Syria’, a compilation of field recordings made by Mark Gergis, which were later released through the American label Sublime Frequencies, huge supporters of Souleyman and traditional Middle Eastern and North African music in general.
w r i t e r - n a than westley
Today, praised by Björk and Damon Albarn, with whom he’s also collaborated, Omar Souleyman sits on festival bills amongst the hip and new and mostly Western; his pitchy, celebratory Syrian dance music matched by no one in terms of authenticity.Yet nothing quite marks Souleyman’s arrival on the Western alt. music scene like ‘Wenu Wenu’. Released this month via Domino, officially speaking it’s his debut album, produced by Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet. Souleyman doesn’t give too many interviews but with the aid of his translator, Karoulin Kanj, he gave us these words.
… p l ayi n g w e d d i n g s
… th e b e g i n n i n g
… a d d i n g n e w e l e m e nts to tr a d iti o n a l m u s i c
“It started when I was a child, everyone encouraged me – family, friends, everyone encouraged me. In 1994, it became a bit more professional and soon after that I became well known, that was how it started.”
“It comes from the tradition of the region that I come from and it is something that happens throughout the whole year – summer, winter, anytime that people want. The recording that takes place during the wedding is something that is ordered by either the family of the bride or the groom asks if they can record it. Later, I got some press and became known because of that – that’s why there is a lot of wedding recordings.”
“The kind of music that I present is based on traditional music and has been known for more than ten years now. Adding the electronic element to the traditional music has helped to make it more popular; the audience are happy with it – it’s moved the audience. It’s made them react in a different way to how they used to react to it before; it’s a positive reaction, the audience like it and I like it.The audience like a different mingling.”
… th e l o n g l a sti n g p o p u l a r it y o f c a s s e t te ta p e s “In our region they still use the cassette; they still use the word and the actual cassette. It’s the most common format – everyone uses it. When you put something on cassette it is definite. “The CD is still not common. With the advent of the Internet and the popularity of TV, people are starting to know what a CD is and what an album is – it is something that is still working its way around the region, but only some people are aware and it is why the use of the cassette is still ingrained in our culture.”
… th e i m p o rta n c e o f c o l l a b o r ati o n “It’s always good to work and collaborate with other artists. Working with an artist that is so well known as Björk or with other artists is something that I would wish to do again. Working with other artists does both sides good.”
… F o u r Te t
… d i f f i c u lti e s o f p l ayi n g a b r o a d
“It was down to my manager Mina that made the connection happen. It was perfect; there was harmony from both parties from the beginning. The recording process was excellent. The results at first, even the voice of the vocals, was good. It was an ideal collaboration. “Before arriving, I hadn’t met Kieran before – my only hearing of him was through Mina. I didn’t expect anything when I went into the studio; everything was new to me. Afterwards, when the album was finished and I heard it, everyone was saying they liked it, and I instantly knew I was working with a really professional person.”
“The main problems usually come when something goes wrong with a keyboard. There is always technical problems that crop up with electrical equipment, but it is soon fixed. Sometimes a Visa issue may occur when I travel and it happened with the last tour for entry into Sweden, but normally there is no problem, it was just on that one.”
… p l ayi n g to W e ste r n a u d i e n c e s
… i m p e r s o n ato r s
“In the beginning it was hard for me to play in front of a Western audience. I was used to playing weddings and in front of audiences who knew the languages that I use in my songs. Afterwards, as things progressed, it became natural to me.TheWestern audience does not understand what I am signing about, the words are alien to them, they do not understand – it is harder, they move to the music and to the rhythm, they react. “Either at home in Syria or in other places where I sing and where they understand me it is different; they can identify with both the words and the music. For me now, the only two differences between the audiences is the language.”
“My music is known in Syria by most of the traditional singers. There are singers that sing in the same style and who usually take my work and copy it, but I don’t feel bad about this or the success that they may have, as they all know that they’re copying me.”
my p l a c e
at hom e with Kwes
When the Olympics left town after the greatest two weeks known to man, Stratford and its surrounding areas returned to their natural, unglamorous states of being at an alarming, Team GB rate. All the flags and Disneyland cheer, they vanished with Lord Coe’s pink and orange army of life-dopers; brutalist tower blocks, marshy mudflats and the one-time futuristic Docklands Light Railway remain. South of the Olympic Park, as far as the Thames, is a quayside community happily of its own world, perhaps even oblivious to the events of last year.Trinity Buoy Wharf ’s vibrancy is patently projected onto and by its centrepiece – a complex of modern apartments made from converted shipping containers painted red, blue and yellow, stacked like overhanging Lego.It speaks to the resourcefulness of the neighbouring, fiercely independent tenants below, from Fat Boy’s freestanding American diner to Lightship 95, the recording studio of Rory Attwell that’s aboard an impressively robust seafaring vessel. Micachu has a base here, too, and two doors down is her sometime collaborator and fellow lover of found sounds, experimental ‘free pop’ musician Kwesi Sey. Kwes featured on the front cover of Loud And Quiet in January 2012, having just signed to Warp Records. It sounded like a debut album was finally on its way, three years on from the Lewisham-born producer’s debut single, but “headspace issues” have kept us waiting another 20 months for ‘iLP’, out, one hundred percent, on October 14. This time it’s definitely happening, and when we arrive at his shipping container his label Publicist presents him with finished copies on CD and vinyl. Kwes is a little overwhelmed at the gifts as he invites us into the place where he recorded this album that combines shifty bedroom RnB, DIY soul and purposely ropey electro pop, but he’s noticeably more confident than he was in late 2011, joking frequently. He doesn’t even hate singing anymore, which was something of a necessary evil a couple of years ago. Since then he’s found distractions in playing in Bobby Womack’s live band, hanging out with Damon Albarn (“I’m sure if I took a keyboard out of Damon’s studio nobody would notice because he’s got at least 60 keyboards on this shelf in his control room”) and producing a new record for Dels. I’m happy to see that he’s still got the Brompton bicycle he admired when we last met, and he’s more than happy to talk us through the hoard of instruments that litter the place, demonstrating how each of them sound, sometimes with a thump to get the old things working again. I count 12 that have keys until he opens the door to a small kitchenette stacked with more keyboards. “This one is on its way out, I think,” he says of a reed organ,“but it’s full of great, bad sounds, which I love. “All of these are recent purchases,” he says, pointing at a bunch of drum machines. “I’m always buying and selling equipment. Mica’s saying I need help or something.”
R a i n sti c k “I’ve no idea where it’s from. My mum bought it for me for my birthday. I’ve used it loads on a lot of new stuff. I’ve just done a song with George Maple and Kilo Kish [‘Gripp’], and that’s on there.”
C h a p p e l l U p r i g ht P i a n o “This was the first thing that I bought when I got this place. It’s featured on the record a lot.”
B r o m p to n B i cyc l e “Her name’s Rose. She’s very sweet. She’s going to be annoyed with me because I can’t remember if I got her three or four years ago. I think it was four. I gave her a bath a few weeks ago. I had a moment a few weeks ago when I thought about putting her on eBay, but I just couldn’t do it.The b-side to ‘Rollerblades’ [‘Rosab’] was named after that bike.”
F i r st i n str u m e nt “I think I mentioned this to you before. This is my first instrument. I mean, at first I had a Vtech smalltalk toy telephone that had a keyboard on it, and then I played on my grandparents’ organ, and when they saw me do that they got me this. So it’s over 20-years-old. The last time I played it was last week. I don’t know who made it but I know it’s from the Avon catalogue.”
photograph e r - p h i l s h a r p writer - s t u a r t s t u b b s
Fat b oy’s D i n e r C a p “Y’know I actually bought – I didn’t get it for free – because the merch wasn’t really selling. I paid him like two quid for it. This is a bit of free publicity, although this year I was playing Glastonbury with Bobby Womack, and I should have worn it then. Y’know, playing with Bobby is always an experience.”
A l e s i s HR1 6 D r u m M a c h i n e
B o bby W o m a k to u r j a c k e t
“I don’t know if I only like old stuff. Like, I’ve got this drum machine, which is new, or would you count something that was made in 1991 old?”
“This is the Bobby Womack tour jacket that I wear onstage. On the inside the lining looks like Louis Vuitton but when you look closely it’s XL, so it’s them being a bit cheeky.At the XL office, actually, they have it all over the carpet in the toilet, but in the Louis Vuitton colours. Each of the jackets has a different number, which you were allowed to pick. I picked 11 – I just love that number.”
Microphone “I’m a lot more comfortable with singing now.This isn’t my nemesis or anything – I’m happy to do vocals now. I’m really getting into what mic sounds are best for certain people. Since getting this space everything’s opened up.”
Y a m a h a V SS 3 0 “I love this one here. It’s a little voice sampler. It looks like a toy, but it really isn’t. It’s a serious bit of kit that just happens to look like my first keyboard.”
W u r l itz e r “This is all over the record. It’s probably my most extravagant instrument. I got it from eBay. I was quite a way into the album by then so I re-recorded a lot of Wurli emulation parts on the real Wurli.”
F e n d e r M u sta n g B a s s g u ita r
T e a p ot
“I got this off eBay as well. It’s based on the Autoharp. I’m going to be away next week and I’m thinking of taking this with me instead of my laptop. It’ll get me working in a different way.
“I write a lot of songs on the bass. I like that with popular music bass dictates everything, but I’m moving away from that a little bit. Now, I’ll try to get a keyboard sound out of the bass.”
“I’ve got this label called Buckle, which I’m eventually going to really get together and this is the teapot to create the logo. I love tea, but I don’t want to make that kind of music – that coffee table music, nothing like that – it just felt right for the label. How many cups of tea do you get through a day? I’m on seven or eight, but I can go as much as ten.”
F utu r a m a G u ita r “I can’t remember his name. In fact, I can’t find much information on it at all. I think it would be late ’60s, and it sounds gorgeous, but I didn’t use it on the record, because there’s not actually any guitar on the record at all.”
r e to l d
Th e Ete r nal Roman Candle
Daniel Dylan Wray travelled to Portland, Oregon, for the 10-year anniversary of Elliott Smith’s premature and tragic death, in search of Smith’s music over his troubles and the rumours they’ll forever propel wr i t e r - D a n i e l D y l a n W r a y
Ten years on after his tragic passing, the presence of Elliott Smith in the Pacific Northwest is still omnipresent. His albums adorn the walls of record stores all the way from Portland up to Vancouver. In Seattle you can even order a ‘Figure 8’ pizza (the name of his 2000 album). Posters still hang onto lampposts and bar-room walls advertising the recent tribute show to Elliott that took place in Portland, featuring Gus van Sant and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle among others, to celebrate what would have been his 44th birthday. Even walking the streets of Portland, one can’t avoid the presence of Smith. Walking a few blocks and reaching the city’s infamous Powell Books, I’m instantly reminded of the lyrics to ‘Needle in the Hay’ – “Now on the bus / Nearly touching this dirty retreat / Falling out 6th and Powell / A dead sweat in my teeth...” But a decade on, what still hangs around even more, like a foul stench, is the rumours: for every album anniversary, birthday, or whatever other landmark that can be justified for an article on Elliott Smith, the rumour mill churns out more articles filled with regurgitated myths and stories, and in doing so throws accusations at someone who cannot defend themself and also at his friends and colleagues who are exasperated trying to respond to them. Even the hotel I am staying in, The Crystal, is riddled. Below the hotel lies the Crystal Ballroom, a venue in which Elliott played his last ever Portland show, a show which the Willamette Week described – in a tribute piece only days after his death – thus: “With strands of uncharacteristically long hair matted on his gaunt face, Smith exhibited the signs of the memory loss and butterfingers that alarmed his fans in his final two years.” The more research I did for this article, the less I wanted to write it, all aware of the irony – or flat-out hypocrisy – of writing an introduction like this to yet another article on the very subject I am chastising; fearing all I was doing was insensitively adding to this pile and being yet another unqualified person to talk about the life and death of a person whom I never knew or met. Article after contradictory article I read, an overwhelming strand often found tying these together – aside from the more canonizing, unctuous pieces – is the removal of compassion, treating Elliott as though he was nothing but a story, an object, a subject for copy. Not a human being or a person or a remarkable artist. Even The Guardian wrote in 2004: “No one was too surprised when Elliott Smith – a boozy, druggy Oscarnominated folk singer who had talked openly about killing himself – was found dead.”Well, actually, I suspect quite a lot of people were, especially his friends and family who had seen him get clean from illegal drugs (he was still on prescription drugs for anxiety when he died) and working on making new music; and naming his primary attributes as simply being ‘boozy’ and
‘druggy’ and a ‘folk singer’ slides into territory that teeters closer to tastelessness than it simply does objectification. Part of the problem is the ambiguity surrounding Smith’s death – Coroner’s officials couldn’t determine whether he committed suicide or was murdered. Even more so, website The Smoking Gun released publicly the official coroner’s report for all to witness in full at the click of a button, and by doing so, arming anyone who can read with an opinion to offer on the horrendous death of someone, creating something of a never ending discourse, instead of allowing a sense of closure and finality to take place. It still goes on: as I write this very sentence I see that another book on Elliott was published just yesterday (Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith) while a 2009 documentary called Searching for Elliott Smith made in collaboration with Jennifer Chiba (Smith’s girlfriend at the time of his death, whom many believe was responsible for putting the knife into Smith’s chest) is still doing the rounds, being screened, while a second documentary Heaven AdoresYou is also in motion after successfully meeting its goal on Kickstarter in 2011. The allure towards sensationalism can be somewhat understood however. Smith has been through it all: purported sexual abuse as a child, drug addiction, alcoholism, rehab, mental hospital incarceration, runin’s with the law, depression and suicide attempts. His penchant for drug-use metaphors and allusions to taking his own life in his music has certainly not aided his posthumous reputation as the dark, tormented, drugaddled, reclusive songwriter. One such example is a rumour that likes to be passed round is Smith being found passed out in the toilet cubicle of a Silver Lake club in L.A with a needle stuck in his arm. Even the original source of this claim states it’s a ‘rumour’ yet it’s printed over and over, again and again. Yet, speak to David McConnell who worked with Elliott through much of his heaviest drug abuse period and also joined Smith in huge drug binges himself, attests that Elliott never injected, only snorted. Cutting through the bullshit and the hearsay is a constant slog. But it’s not all gossip and lurid melodrama. Smith still attracts so much intrigue and attention because of his music, which – now nearly 20 years on since his debut album – still
‘ I th i n k th e s u g g e sti o n th at a l l my s o n g s a r e p e r s o n a l i s i n s u lti n g ’ - E l l i ot t s m ith
resonates powerfully and emotionally with many people today, myself included. So, in the spirit of celebration and remembrance of the talent and life of Elliott Smith, I spoke to some people (many, many friends and associates turned down interviews for this article, understandably fed-up with a decades-worth of what I have tried to point out above) about the music of Elliott Smith, trying to gain some truth and rationality, remembering his music, maybe offering a glimpse of the untold Smith and, with genuine and sincere intention, to leave his personal life where it belongs. Maybe it’s time to stop remembering, extending and falsifying the tragedy of Elliott Smith and instead revel in the beauty of the body of work he left behind. Or, perhaps it’s better summed up in the words of Smith himself, from ‘XO’’s ‘Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands’ “You say you mean well, you don’t know what you mean/ fucking ought to stay the hell away from things you know nothing about” Speaking to Matt LeMay, author of the ‘XO’ title of the 33 1/3 series, he immediately concurs from his research to the perpetuated myths that circulate endlessly. “The biggest misconception, I think, is that Elliott was a sad-sack folk artist whose work was a direct extension of the darker parts of his life,” he says.“Even a cursory listen to an album like ‘XO’ should roundly disprove that notion, but I think there are a lot of reasons we’ve collectively bought into the romantic myth of the suffering artist.” In fact, some of these misconceptions actually proved the impetus for LeMay to write his book. He says: “I don’t think it had as much to do with the strength of my relationship to Elliott’s music as it did with the sudden, overwhelming sense that Elliott’s work was broadly and sadly misunderstood. This isn’t just retrospective allocation; Elliott fought this image and misunderstanding throughout his career, stating: “I think the suggestion that all my songs are personal is insulting because that assumes that I have a bunch of issues that I feel the need to unload on strangers. That is not the case. It also assumes that I just talk about myself the whole time which, again, is not true.” Or, as he told NME in a response to a reader’s question of ‘What makes you so sad?’ – “I’m not ‘so sad’. There has to be a certain amount of darkness in my songs for the happiness to matter. Just ‘cause I’m not singing about sex and sports doesn’t mean I’m sad.” He would elaborate even further to UNCUT, telling the monthly title: “Sometimes it seems that the simple fact that I’ve played acoustic music equals that I’m some sort of hermit, a very depressed hermit who can’t do anything but sit on the edge of his bed and look at his shoes writing songs and it’s not like that at all. I dunno, it’s a strange thing. I can talk to people, but sometimes I
I don’t want to.” David McConnell, who worked with Smith on and off for two years, producing, engineering and collaborating on ‘From a Basement on a Hill’ (completed and released after Smith’s death) offers an insight to this period working with Elliott. “He was upset with the experience with Jon… [Smith had just had recording sessions severed with Jon Brion – apparently Brion struggled to deal with the level of drug abuse taking place - Ed]… but he was upset with so much in life at that time.We saw revitalisation and positive outcomes in the new approach but of course there were hiccups along the way. Usually it was something like a disagreement on something meaningless and we wouldn’t speak for three days, then it would be back to work. He was definitely self aware and wanted to reach for the positive outcome but it was such a challenge for him. “He was meticulous with the music,” McConnell elaborates,“not so much with communication, although he had his bright moments. He was shy if you weren’t close to him. After we got close he basically talked my ear off sometimes and I would have to leave the room to get some space. He also had a great sense of humour. Super silly sometimes which I liked because I could join right in with that.We even had little late night skit kind of things where we would do impersonations and stuff for laughs.” The emphasis on Smith’s humour is one that reappears over and over again whenever I speak with people. His wry, quiet smirks and softly spoken cracks lie in stark contrast to the doom and gloom often on offer. Russell Simins from the John Spencer Blues Explosion was a friend and collaborator and remembers a playful, animated side to their introduction. “Our tour manager was a really good friend of Elliott’s and she brought him around to a few shows of ours when we were out in the Pacific Northwest and there was Elliott on the side of the stage grooving to our music, moving, bopping, pretty much dancing unabashedly throughout our set. The first of these shows he came to and danced on the side he introduced himself to me and said he was a huge fan of our band and my drumming. He said on more than one occasion that I was one of his two favourite drummers, the other being Steven Drozd (who appeared on ‘From a Basement on a Hill). Man, that was something else to hear that from someone I admired so much. And he would follow that up with one of the reasons he loved our band was because it always made him wanna dance. It was both really touching and just funny coming from someone like Elliott. His honesty and brashness was something else.”. Benjamin Nugent, author of Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing also had his viewpoint changed during the process of researching and writing his book. “I think I started with an image in my head of a guy in a bar in Portland falling off his stool and crying,” he tells me, “which was a side of Elliott Smith you hear in his music, but not the centre of who he was.” While friend and collaborator Pete Kreb says,“My memory of Elliott isn’t of a stupid junkie shadow of his former self. I remember the guy who was always cracking jokes.” Luke Wood, who worked with Elliott at Dreamworks (The label he moved to after Kill Rock Stars, the indie that launched him) once offered, quite astutely, “To Elliott, life was a very beautiful and brutal place, and his songs were that ground in between.”
mith released five LP’s in his career – ‘Roman Candle’, ‘Elliott Smith’, ‘Either/Or’, ‘XO’ and ‘Figure 8’ – and on those records he moved from the early-day rudimentary – almost entirely acoustic – musings that held an eerie, forceful power, tantamount to listening to the gust and roar of an orchestra filtered through one singular voice and gliding guitar pick to bolder, occasionally sweeping, full-band productions that swung between full-on pop realisations in homage to his childhood heroes The Beatles and ones that almost seemed set out to undermine those same artistic inclinations. “Playing things too safe is the most popular way to fail,” he said. Perhaps it’s the fragility in his voice that leads to so much presumptuous despair about his music. It’s simultaneously softer and harder than a whisper. It sails like the wind but wobbles like a tree shaking in the power of a gale. Did Elliott Smith spend evenings sat alone, propped up at bars, crying into whiskey glasses while filling up his notebook? Supposedly, yes, he did. But was he also someone who would pop off his shirt and sing drunkenly along to the Stooges? Also, apparently so. Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh remembered Smith touchingly in 2003, offering a firsthand glimpse into the misplaced complexity and charm of the man. Said Barlow: “I was in Reykjavik when I called home and Kath told me what had happened. I responded with tears ‘why’d he have to go do that?’, but I knew why, he’d been suffering for a long time. “I first met Elliott on my birthday in Boston years ago, mid ’90s, he was playing in town that night. I had heard a record, the self-titled one; I was captivated, intrigued and jealous. Someone had come along with
‘Th e b i g g e s t m i s c o n c e pti o n i s th at E l l i ott w a s a s a d-s a c k f o l k a rti st’
songs so sad and beautiful – the nervous guitar, the whisper voice, it sounded like what I was after but never quite reached. My friend Ramona dragged me backstage; he and I talked and got on well. Soon enough Elliott Smith was opening for Sebadoh – the ‘Harmacy’ tour. Lots of people heard him for the first time then and lots of people talked right over him. Funny thing is, he preferred it that way, when the crowds were quiet it made him uneasy. I related to that back then.We did a drive from Phoenix to San Diego, the two of us in his rental car; we talked the whole way. I was beginning to reach the uneasy conclusion that Sebadoh needed a new drummer, he talked about leaving Heatmiser and continuing alone, the difficult decisions we were making and the reality of hurting friends, the implications of changing. Elliott had a lot of insights that helped me gain perspective; he was a very intelligent guy.There was a darkness to him as well, but beautiful. “I saw him off and on after that at shows, he moved to LA a little while after I did. He had become famous, was under incredible pressure, touring and recording constantly – he fell back into drugs. I went to a small get together for his birthday this summer at a local bar, I talked to him a little, he seemed younger, softer, more childlike. It was a change from the person I had met. I had noticed it before but now it really struck me, everything had taken a toll on him. I wasn’t surprised when I got the news, he did seem happier lately but you never know. I’m sad he didn’t make it, I’m sad for the people that loved him. I’ve been remembering things about him: he taught me to play croquet, he was fucking good at it too; we didn’t know each other at the time but we both lived in Northampton, circa ’89 and he worked in our favourite supermarket – we loved the bakery, turns out he worked in the bakery. Elliott Smith made delicious blueberry muffins; he did ‘13’, a Big Star song during a sound check on the Sebadoh tour and brought me to tears, the first time a peer’s voice made me cry; I watched him sing along with ‘Raw Power’ (by the Stooges). I believe he took his shirt off, we had drunken, excited plans for a ‘Raw Power’ tribute band. Elliott on vocals, of course.” Re-reading quotes, articles, reports, memories and reflections of someone who died so atrociously has been testing and emotionally battering, and I’m not even someone who has been harassed into speaking about it over and over again for the last 10 years. It is an article that I wish I had never proposed writing. Despite many positive responses to my angle of questioning and intent from interviewees, 10 years on, the death of Elliott Smith remains as tragic and heartbreaking as ever, just as it will in another 10 years, but it’s not just a story to be told and re-told that is devoid of feelings, nor should it be an excuse to pitch an article, book, film or documentary to tie in with something you can make money from. I, for one, will be leaving the memory of Elliott Smith well and truly alone from here on in. His records can offer me more than I can ever offer in return, and I leave these closing words to close friend Sean Croghan, who laments on the liner notes of Smith’s posthumous LP ‘New Moon’ incredibly movingly. “I feel both lucky and distraught that I knew him so well. Lucky that I was privileged to get that close to genius, distraught that everyday I miss my friend and I can’t find him in the night no matter how hard I look.”
Welcome to the Jungle The guys that filmed a 6-year-old spinning on her head speak to Reef Younis in their first interview writer - Reef Younis
“Well I’m T…” “And I’m J.” As introductions go, it certainly isn’t the most dazzling but sometimes the simplest questions uncover the most fundamental answers. In an increasingly anonymous age of burgeoning young bands, producers and artists propelled by a rabid, digital virality, these small details often get overlooked, social media accounts get forgotten, and shining a light on the people behind the music becomes an event in itself. For T and J, aka Jungle, it’s just another result of being the latest producers summoned to the electronic forefront. Armed with the charm of first single,‘Platoon’ – the video featured 6 year-old BGirl Terra breakdancing to the track – and an equally impressive follow up in the lazy, summer haze of ‘The Heat’, the growing interest has been accelerated, even if the revelations haven’t. “It’s weird,” J begins, “we haven’t really done that or got around to making a Twitter or any of those things you’re supposed to put your name on.We just wanted to put the music up and names and locations didn’t really come into it. Then people are like, ‘Oh god, there’s nothing out there about them, there’s no Wikipedia page, and no profile picture!’We just never got round to doing a photo, and with BGirl Terra on the video, she kind of became Jungle for us.” That video was something of a catalyst, garnering Radio 1 airplay from the ever-excitable Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens, and also became the kind of workplace distraction that drops into your inbox and waterfalls down your Facebook news feed. “It’s interesting when you make something, like a video or a song, because it can reach your family and your friends but then on the Internet, everything just gets passed on and it’s crazy to watch,” J enthuses, “but
also it’s a 6 year old girl doing a head-spin, so…” “It’s also about human emotion,” T continues. “You see so many bands do the anonymous thing and they put images of trees and skies as their visuals…we wanted to do something a bit more connected.” It’s an outlook that’s helped inspire the summer jam of second single ‘The Heat’ and drives the playful approach J and T use to give the tracks the depth of feeling they want. Connection again plays a vital part but there’s also a flourishing sense of fun to counter the melancholy. “It’s all about the visuals and the vivid imagery,” J tells me, “it’s fun to create the locations and characters with the music. For us ‘The Heat’ is a monkey on the beach with a Pina Colada and it’s just quite a fun image. The other one is a massive Where’s Wally beach scene in Miami where there’s a band playing, and people pulling up in cars, rollerblading, sharks in the ocean, people surfing. If we had the money, probably a couple of million, we’d do the video like that,” he laughs. “That imagery is always the top layer of the track, and something you can get a sense of place and feeling for. The lyrics tend to be an outpouring of our subconscious, which is kind of hurt and thoughtful, I suppose, but I think there’s depth there that can also be taken at face value.” Despite the positivity surrounding the first single, the duo isn’t prepared to let expectation cloud their judgement around the next release. To Jungle, the two singles are definitively different but more positive for it. “They’re completely different tracks,” says T. “We can’t expect people to love both tracks equally because for us it’s a case of continuing to give people the opportunity to get involved and offer their opinions.We just want people to take these songs on board themselves and just have something to say about them.”
Even at this early stage in their story, there’s a thoughtfulness and depth to Jungle. So far, it’s manifested itself in two impressive singles but when, or even if, they approach their debut album, it feels like a track won’t just be a track – it’ll be part of an immaculately crafted journey. “I think you get surprised by the little interludes between tracks, not just the singles,” J muses. “An album captures your imagination and transports you into the world of that artist and what they’ve tried to communicate to you as a listener. I think that’s what’s a bit lost at the moment and the shuffle generation’s a really good way of putting it: people just have a load of set songs on their iPod and there’s no journey in that.” “With tracks like that,”T picks up,“you’ve got to give people an upfront, emotional response, but by writing songs that catch people immediately you also give yourself the opportunity to write things that are deeper, more meaningful, more ambiguous…” “I think the catchy stuff can be ambiguous too,” J interjects, “it just depends what level. I think music has to be written on a variety of levels. There has to be that initial level that everyone can get into, everyone can move to, and everyone can respond to emotionally.Then there are the people who want to go deeper and connect with it, put onto their own lives, and use it as a kind of narration. “I think you can only preserve your position as artists by creating great output,” J thoughtfully adds. “Look at Jai Paul for instance: he might be an artist who only ever releases two tracks and people love him because they’re still connected to that music.You can start with four or five great singles but if the album’s poor, it’s a let down. We don’t want to let anyone down, we want to keep surprising them.”
pproaching an evening turn of the River Lea Navigation, as it snakes off into the distance, I spot the figures of Claire Titley and Christopher Tipton perched on standing stones in the jewel quiet of a north London nature reserve. Out of a list of suggested meeting places (including an overgrown church rotunda and the desolate shore of Queenhithe Dock) this so called ‘Hackney Henge’ seemed the most welcoming. The henge isn’t some terribly documented prehistoric treasure, it’s a new-age art monument built in the ‘90s of stones dredged from the surrounding mill beds, several of them pierced with rusting apertures left by industrial rods, others subtly marked with wear, work and age. At its centre, Titley and Tipton, otherwise known as Way Through, are waiting. “I’ve just been slobbered on by a gigantic dog,” relates Titley as I approach, “there are parakeets too!” Sure enough, over the next hour, swathes of displaced tropical pets zoom overhead, drowning out conversation with squawking. This carnival of nature feels portentous and wildly atmospheric; actually it couldn’t be more perfect as it’s details like this - which mark the particular experience of a place and moment in time - that are at the heart of Way Through’s music. Hailing from Shropshire - a landscape they remember for its ring-roads and retail parks rather than any inherent bucolia - the pair are now rooted in London where they founded Upset the Rhythm, one of the most inspiring DIY labels in the country. On top of this are backgrounds in biology and archival research and on top of THAT is their life as a band, making what Tipton calls “postpastoral, post-punk” – although he recoils at that summation as it’s nothing quite so glib. Their aesthetic, put simply, is a sonically dismantled clash of guitar and drums, but the third, looming member of the group is the English landscape, a source of detailed and infectious fascination for them both. Tipton explains how their interest “seemed a brilliant way to step outside the tired conventions of punk and try something new. After writing songs about places we broadened the challenge and started trying to channel what we thought the landscapes we were looking at would sound like,” he says. “How do you try and convey a place in music?” The day after we meet Claire sends me a quote by WG Hoskins, a pioneer of local history study that references the experience of our natural surrounds as
symphonic. With their second serious album ‘Clapper is Still’ (a stolen line from the Hillair Belloc poem Ha’nacker Mill), Way Through delve into what Hoskins calls “the historic depth and physical variety that England shows almost everywhere.” Alongside their vibrant punk racket, tracks are composed of field recordings, broken loops, lyrical echoes, improvisation and passages of spoken word filled with snatches of text from information signposts and bus stop graffiti. The 13 songs cover as many specific locations, from the picturesque heritage of Constable’s Dedham Vale, to the plague village of Eyam, to Wharram Percy, one of Tipton’s beloved DMVs (Deserted Medieval Villages). Titley remembers visiting the site under a blanket of snow; “we were on tour with Gentle Friendly and Peepholes, who we sort-of forced into a trip there, although I think they got swept up in our enthusiasm! The village itself has all but gone… the main feature is the church, which though roofless, remains and actually retains the only clues to the village’s inhabitants through its handful of memorial tablets. I remember feeling slightly guilty for dragging everyone else to investigate such a niche interest, especially when the weather was so bleak, but the place had a compelling melancholy and peacefulness that didn’t only seem to affect us.” Out of the experience comes an emotive recording that features the refrain, “Listen to the voice that’s no longer here,” the echoes of which seem to resound in each of the liminal places they capture. Most fascinating among the ghost villages and ruins eulogised on the record are the sites that have been uprooted by more recent history, like Sipson, a town on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport’s third runway. “It’s amazing,” says Titley, “you’re barely outside London but the place has totally gone over to nature... the people still living there have nets up around their roofs to catch any falling tiles that there’s no point repairing…the abandoned garden centre was full of horses!” Throughout our conversation they relate encounters with nature spilling over and glimpses of feral dominance that linger precariously outside the bounds of city life. But they’re both eager to eschew hypersensitivity and romanticism; nature can be scary, landscapes and the stories they conceal are complicated.The pursuit of this sonic cartography takes guts and endeavour, trailing endless dirt tracks in unsuitable cars, following poetic
instructions in ancient books, rooting around the burntout houses of MOD training sites – it’s no walk in the park. So if the countryside as we know it is changing, littered with industry and the scars of modern warfare, does the nature of the traditional music that documents it need to change too? I ask about classifying Way Through’s output as Folk, both in the sense of it passing on stories and histories, and in its Morrissey-esque cadences – whose poetry of the urban pastoral is perhaps the most interesting of the last 30 years.“We’re delighted with that,” enthuses Tipton. “The thing I really admire about Folk music is the idea that each singer or musician can make their own mark with the song, there’s no definitive recording or version written down, it’s a living organism evolving from one performance to the next, lyrics can change so that the whole meaning can slip into another realm that’s spontaneously generated.” They critique the boundless British Heritage industry too, viewing it in a way that perhaps only generations whose childhoods are coloured with school trips and rainy holidays to National Trust sites can appreciate. “Yeah we can probably never tour!” Tipton jokes. But what they do is clearly fascinating, to art and literary audiences as well as musical ones.They’ve played in front of Turners in Tate Britain and dedicated an album to the streets of Bethnal Green, a project that fans of psycho-geographic fiction would surely appreciate. But, in that Folk tradition, it’s not about creating definitive soundtracks or rendering everything explicit. As Tipton explains,“the very essence of our songs is that they try to document a rarefied moment, that’s the only honest way of dealing with place in song.” The cover of the new record shows a Shetland grazing by the Whiteleaf Hill chalk drawings, these ancient markings serving as a further tribute to the joy of the inexplicable; as Tipton explains,“there’s something terribly poetic about leaving a message for future generations to puzzle over, intended or not. As time gathers and original meaning is lost, the very processes of memory, guesswork and fable takeover. I think this is something we’d love to achieve with making an album. “That people thought to express themselves by chopping away turf to expose the chalk hillside astounds me, it’s literally writing with nature, a two-way conversation, what’s more inspiring than that?!” What indeed.
wande rlust Amy Pettifer meets Claire Titley and Christopher Tipton, aka way through, in a nature reserve for a lesson in post-pastoral post-punk and England’s p hotogr ap h e r - Da n k e n d a l l writer - A m y p e t t i f e r
Feeling Gucci Overseas for the first time, Atlanta’s ForteBowie discusses representing his hometown with his own voice, inspired by everyone from Fiona Apple to Phil Collins and Tears For Fears p h o t o g r a p h e r - Ph i l Sh a r p
ForteBowie – “no space bitch,” as he puts it on his Twitter profile – is a 23-year-old Atlanta native who has just left his home country for the first time. He has come here to showcase his music to a UK audience as part of a support slot at London’s Corsica Studios and a one-song cameo appearance during his pal and precious metal enthusiast Trinidad Jame$’s performance at Brixton Academy. It’s a brand of smooth, contemporary RnB, infused with a twist of hip-hop, but while his ability to both croon and hold his own as an MC will draw comparisons to Drake, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, ForteBowie approaches his music with an eccentric sense of pop playfulness that aligns him more closely with Prince, Andre 3000 and swaths of blue-eyed soul.
w r i t e r - D a v i d Zammitt
As I’m introduced to both of his managers, it’s obvious that lofty hopes are being pinned upon him.Though for all his eagerness – words tumble out of his mouth at a rate of knots – he is resolutely grounded, stating that just the simple act of being able to connect brings him fulfilment. “It’s amazing just seeing opinions. Even if people don’t like it, just seeing that people are listening, that means a lot. Reaching more and more people.” Sitting outside a pub in Dalston, we speak at length about ambition, his ardent appreciation of ’80s pop and the significance of Atlanta to his ethos, as well as, interestingly, how he’s actually a shy guy beneath it all. Our chat, as it turns out, ends up lasting almost an hour and when, about twenty minutes in, Forte starts to yawn
and I gesture to round things up, he implores me to ask more questions. It’s a personal reminder of how enjoyable it is to meet a musician who possesses that raw zest for their art, and while I usually loathe to deploy exclamation marks outside the realm of text messaging, an interview with such an effervescently cheerful force of nature just wouldn’t ring true without them. “Everything is good,” he insists. “I’m in London, man! This is my first time out of the country.” He isn’t lying. His Instagram posts from today chart his and his team’s journey across the Atlantic, climaxing with their trip into central London along the Piccadilly line. I suggest that they seem to have had a lot more fun on the Tube than their fellow commuters. “People were
just looking. Tourist motherfuckers! I thought, these people look really sad.” As if on cue, a beggar comes over to ask us for change and Forte stops to check his pockets. “I can’t use American money out here for anything, right?” Unfortunately not, I say, but he remains wide-eyed and nonplussed. I don’t think he quite trusts me yet. “For nothing?” A huge part of Forte’s charm comes from this seemingly blissful unawareness of life’s conventions and he appears to have an equally healthy disregard for social expectation.While a lot of artists certainly profess not to care, he seems genuine, and he channels this blithe spirit into an appetite for everything life has to offer. “I could go to a show where there’s nothing but indie motherfuckers and, like, hipsters and have fun.” I tell him that he’s come to the right part of the city. “Yeah, well I love hipsters. I love hipster women. I can be there and be comfortable and then I could go to the hoodest club on the southside and chill. I just grew up kinda different. I grew up around a lot of close-minded people but my parents moved to the States from Cameroon. They were never really extremely strict. I just get on with people and musically I’m a bit of a chameleon.” While there is an innocence to his worldview, that’s not to say he’s just fallen out of the sky. A lot of graft has gone into getting even this far. Forte writes the songs, plays every single instrument and produces the music himself – he has done since beginning to tinker with Fruity Loops in school. “I was making doper beats than anyone else in tenth grade,” he says. “I feel like I was training all my life up until that point.” An offer to join the roster of TIG Entertainment, a label he now shares with Jame$, came about just under a year ago. “I’ve known Trinidad for a while,” he tells me. “He was my friend from before he even started doing music. He got up with Fly [CEO of TIG] and Fly was like, ‘Yo, let’s make something happen. I’m putting a label together.’ But it’s all hard work and love. I couldn’t have told you where Trinidad Jame$ would be at… ‘cause he didn’t even know! Everything’s just a blessing, man.” It looks, then, like he could be a part of something special, having been on the imprint from the outset. “Yeah, and I end up on it with a friend of mine. Even if there’s an issue we gotta talk it out and find common ground. Our situation at the label is a lot different from a lot of people’s. It’s a hands-on situation. It’s all love.” The gang mentality of TIG is forged out of a strong sense of where it’s come from and Atlanta is a pervasive force in its music as well as a key reason behind Forte’s arrival in the UK. “Trinidad happens to be in London touring with Wiz Khalifa this week so I was like,‘Yo, let’s do the song together.’ The song’s called ‘Southside’, which is pretty much about the south of Atlanta, where we’re both from. So we thought it would be epic to do
that song in London, to be like,‘We came from here and now we’re here.’ I think when I get older I’ll be like, ‘Man, that was something crazy.’” While adamant not to repurpose what’s gone before, Forte is conscious of his place in the city’s musical lineage. It boasts TLC, Killer Mike, Janelle Monae, Deerhunter, Usher, Toni Braxton and, of course, the original Atliens, OutKast amongst its stars. “Definitely. Definitely. I’m 23 and I think a lot of artists around my age know about that legacy and lineage of Atlanta,” he says,“the culture and what we’ve done for music, period, but a lot of people don’t take that into consideration and just say, ‘Let’s make music for Atlanta right now,’ instead of, ‘Let’s make music from this city and give it to the world so they can keep it forever.’ A lot of people get caught up sounding like copycats of what was before. A lot of people feel like their first resort is to do some OutKast-type shit and it just comes across as just some fake-ass OutKast shit.Your best bet is to do you. I always keep that in mind.” As we talk, it becomes clear that these grasps for something original, something genuine, are a recurring theme. Imitation won’t suffice: “I gotta find my own way.” The music of the city is only a small part of what has shaped Forte’s music, however. He’s namedropped everyone from The Police to Phil Collins and the mention of the latter elicits a noise so guttural that I’m not sure whether the reaction has been good or bad. It turns out to be extremely positive. “‘Easy Lover’, man. That’s one of the greatest songs ever. The intro is amazing. That’s what gets me going. A lot of pop music influences me, especially ’80s pop. I grew up listening to everything. Like the soft rock stations, my aunts and my mom would listen to that a lot and they would play nothing but ’80s shit all weekend. That’s why my favourite song is Tears For Fears – ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’.You know those songs as soon as you hear them. There’s just something about ’80s pop.” Before I even get a chance to mention my own personal pin-ups of choice, he swoops in: “I have the best of Daryl Hall and John Oates in my car.” Modern indie is also a source of inspiration, indicative of an RnB and hip-hop scene that has come to have an osmotic relationship with rock music, traditionally the preserve of white musicians. Indeed, he samples Fiona Apple on his debut EP, ‘Vice Haus Deluxe’. He says: “If I wanted to get up and do a whole indie folk project I could do that. I’m one of those dudes that can take something and internalise it so when I do it, it sounds like me, it doesn’t sound like me trying to do an indie folk album. Music is music.There shouldn’t be any genre block-offs. I know a lot of people who I talk to and know in Atlanta aren’t going to listen to Fiona Apple just because it’s Fiona Apple and they’ll be like, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ But if I sample that and put a beat behind
it they might go back and listen to it. I’ve got Kate Bush samples on there. I’ve got George Duke.” He bubbles as he lists off John Denver, Joni Mitchell, krautrock and UK house and garage. It’s obvious that he does his research; something he’s been doing since before he could walk.“My mom says by eight months I knew how to use a cassette player. I knew how to put tapes in and put ‘em on and press play.” Forte’s voracious appetite for music continued into his teenage years, when a missed sports trial proved serendipitous. “I was gonna try out for football but the physical from my doctor didn’t come in on time and I was so mad. All my friends thought I was so lame. My manhood has always been tested because I’ve always been in chorus instead of football.” When he tried to study music, however, he found that its structures quelled his love of the art. “Then I went to one school and I majored in music and that was the worst thing I could’ve done. I was doing all the theory, history. I don’t want it to be an assignment and it almost ruined it so I would just go to my dorm and record all day. My parents were so upset when I flunked out but they support me 100% now.” With his first proper music video under his belt, set to excellent debut single ‘Gucci Mayne’, his parents may well see that faith pay dividends, though he downplays the significance of his starring role. “It was hot that day. It was hot and fun, that’s the only way I can describe it. We had paper towels to wipe down after every shot. If being a rockstar means I need to be sweaty as fuck then I’m not sure if I want to be a rockstar.” And what about the song’s title, taken from fellow Atlantan of the same name? “‘Gucci Mayne’ is a term we use in Atlanta. There’s a rapper called Gucci Mane, of course, but if somebody asks if you’re ok you say, ‘Yeah, I’m Gucci,’ like, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ People say that all the time. When I found out a lot of places don’t say that it was just crazy because that’s just slang out there. But I have to give you me, and I’m from Atlanta.You can tell when an artist does something for a certain area or a certain demographic.” By laying bare the various stages of a breakup, from bravado to hurt, Forte also proudly wears his fragility on his sleeve, a quality that isn’t generally equated with his style of music. “I can’t make songs about stuff I don’t know about. I really have to get off what’s on my chest. If I’m feeling really emotional then that’s gonna come across. That song is pretty much what every human being goes through during a break-up. People rarely break up with someone and move on the next day.” He pauses. “Why shouldn’t I make a song about that? Because somebody’s gonna be able to connect with that more than, ‘Look at my car.’” I see that we’ve been speaking for just under an hour. Forte, however, stills wants to chat. “I thought we had more questions, man! Let’s talk about shit.”
Out of Quarantine Her 2012 debut made her a cult star of experimental dance music, but ‘Chance of Rain’, Laurel Halo’s impending follow up, sees the New York based artist return to rhythms and her instrumental roots p ho t o g r a p he r - Ge o r g Ga t a s
Musicians, be they professional or amateur, famous or obscure, all tend to fall on a certain social continuum. At one end is the mega collaborator – for the sake of argument, let’s call him Damon. Damon’s always in a new band with a different bunch of people, feeding off every last scrap of music he hears and playing it with everyone he can get into a studio with. He’s fond of some audience interaction and is probably a bit of a show-off. At the other end, though, is the lone genius – the musician who squirrels herself away, alone with all her equipment, appearing almost suspicious of the outside world, relying only on her bubbling creativity to make something musically appealing, rarely playing shows and barely acknowledging her fans when she does. She unwittingly creates a mythology around her and a slavish cult of fans. For the avoidance of doubt, let’s call her Laurel Halo. Halo’s music is undeniably solo work – unique, introspective, sonically isolated – and Halo herself seems the same. A phone interview, let alone a face-to-face conversation, was out of the question for this piece – her label Hyperdub reported that “she’s very cautious about interviews and prefers email”. Even then, apparently, there are certain banned topics, and when questions were finally submitted for Halo to tackle electronically, she herself declined to answer several. Her debut album, 2012’s ‘Quarantine’, was perhaps the most forward-thinking, original piece of electronic music since Burial appeared in the mid-noughties. An eviscerating 45 minutes of sub bass, emotional outpouring and serpentine, tangy melody, it was a record undeniably synthesised from circuit boards – precise, pounding, addictive – but which also had a looseness and push-pull that would shame everyone from Nina Simone to Nick Cave, from Thom Yorke to Björk. However, as her new album, ‘Chance of Rain’, confirms, with its total lack of vocals and melody, that record might turn out to have been a blip: “You might have missed the catalogue that came before [‘Quarantine’],” she writes, slightly scoldingly, in her emailed reply. “If anything, [‘Quarantine’’s] sound and approach was more a departure for me.” Then again, perhaps not. Both records are claustrophobic affairs with a sense of dramatic introspection and no little neuroticism, not to mention both darkly brilliant – they simply manifest those qualities in different ways. Back in April, presumably while ‘Chance of Rain’ was under construction, she tweeted,“I feel like making some fuck you in the ass techno now.” While her new record is no way as straightforward as that mission statement would imply, as brands of fuck-you-in-the-ass techno go, Halo’s furiously intense interpretation certainly commands attention – even if Halo the person doesn’t particularly want the attention herself. “I would prefer that the music be listened to without this weight of extramusical information,” she writes in
w r i t e r - s a m walton
one of her responses. “I couldn’t care less about this sense of artistic identity.” The irony is, though, that in rejecting all context outside of the music, she is creating an identity that tessellates intriguingly with the lonely, guarded, inward-looking music she makes. Sam Walton:You’re “classically trained” – to what level did you train? And how did that training prepare you for the writing and performing of the more experimental electronic styles in which you work now? Laurel Halo: I grew up playing piano and studied it in school, although my experience with learning theory and classical performance as a kid has very little to do with the music I make now, apart from perhaps an understanding of deep listening and musical expression in general. I had to unlearn a lot of rules that had become ingrained. For example, when I started heavily listening to ambient music or dance music I would have to suspend the part of my brain that would want to instantly identify all the pitches of different parts and analyse why those pitches were used, when in fact many of these pitches were probably accidental harmonics that the artist may or may not have intended, perhaps pitched just to hit the right frequency in the mix. Separating pitch information from concrete musical justification of those pitches is just one example of this unlearning. SW: How do you feel about performing live? Are you more comfortable on a stage or in a studio? LH: I love playing shows! I’m equally at home on stage and in the studio. SW: When you play live your set-up looks impressively bare, and the music itself in your recent shows has been incredibly direct and primal – are the two linked? If so, what draws you to this performance aesthetic? LH: I guess you could call the sound stripped or primal, just because there are only a few sound sources in the live setup. I like playing with a few pieces of kit because it makes you go deeper with specific sounds, plus the fewer sounds in the mix the more they stand out. It’s more a positive by-product that it also has this visual aesthetic – that wasn’t the reason for it. SW:There’s more of a direct jazz flavour to ‘Chance Of Rain’ than in some of your previous work, particularly on the bookends to the record and the central interlude ‘Melt’. Do you think that that jazz influence has always been in your work, or is this a new arrival? Why did you decide to make it more pronounced here? Where have those influences come from? LH: The jazz influence I feel has always been in my work, though not as specifically referenced as on this record. For example, you identify these tracks as having a jazz flavour, but that flavour entirely comes from the use of historically utilised instruments like the Rhodes or the Wurlitzer, and also the use of “recognisable” harmonic progressions or modal shifts. But with my music I’ve always tried to have this sense of time
unfolding and harmonic exploration that you get in jazz music. In school I played in a free improvisation ensemble and got a lot out of that, learning how to hear the music in between the lines. Jazz is commonly referenced in techno music as well – the two seem to represent two different sides of or different approaches to transcendence. SW:‘Chance Of Rain’ feels like quite a shift in direction from ‘Quarantine’ – particularly in the removal of melody and singing as the primary focus – what inspired this? What’s stayed the same? Can you see an evolutionary flow from ‘Quarantine’ to ‘Chance Of Rain’? LH: I have been releasing rhythmic, instrumental music for a while, and have played out live sets without vocals long before I released ‘Quarantine’. So if ‘Quarantine’ was an entry point you might have missed the catalogue that came before it. ‘Quarantine’ was a studio record with specific goals that required incorporating vocals and lyrics and, if anything, that sound and approach was more a departure for me. With ‘Chance of Rain’ I wanted to represent on record what I do live and have been doing for a while. Yet there is still a link between the two records, in terms of the flow of the tracks and feel. SW: Given that stylistic shift on the new record, how do you feel about ‘Quarantine’ now? Do you think you’ll sing on future records? LH: I can’t say whether I’ll sing on future records. I know that I don’t like singing live, and find much more satisfaction out of writing rhythms than melodies. SW: How did you feel about the huge critical warmth given to ‘Quarantine’? Did it affect the way you write? Given its emotional rawness, did it leave you feeling exposed at all? LH: Once you release a record it’s basically out of your control how it’ll be received, so I’m beyond grateful that people got into the music and supported it. In terms of the rawness, it wasn’t an autobiographical record per se, so it didn’t feel like TMI for me. You do feel exposed when releasing music in the sense that it’s no longer in your head – it has become recordings, mastered and manufactured and finally let out into the public – and I find the best way to deal with this is just not to care too much about what others say. I could never imagine writing music with an end audience in mind. Not to say that this is wrong – I just could never do it. I have to love the music and be confident that even if the whole world hates it, I’d still think it’s a great record and worthy of being put out into the world. SW: There’s plenty of emotional rawness in your records, which can be very compelling. Some musicians are incredibly frank about themselves in their music, and others insist that it’s all fiction or just designed to make people dance. Where do you think you sit on that continuum? And do you feel comfortable with how much of your personality comes across, and which sides are visible?
LH: I would prefer that the music be listened to without this weight of extra-musical information (artistic identity), but it can be hard for listeners to separate the two, particularly when you have put out records with vocals and lyrics that incorporate the word “I” – haha. When I’m making music I’m not thinking about myself. In a way, the self shuts off, turns into a non-entity and everything is done in service to the music. I’m only about making music, and couldn’t care less about this sense of artistic identity. SW: ‘Chance of Rain’ has a very digestible, almost traditional structure – overture/three tracks/interlude/ three tracks/coda – is it important to you that the album be listened to in a single sitting, in that order? Do you feel that albums should still be stand-alone pieces of art? LH: The order of ‘Chance of Rain’ was designed to have a flow from start to finish. If you’re putting out a full length it should have a coherent musical arc to
justify putting all these tracks together on one album, instead of just releasing them in a series of EPs. SW: Do you go clubbing? What kind of qualities do you look for? Is ‘Chance of Rain’ club music? Or headphones music? Or somewhere in between? LH: I do go clubbing although these days I find I’m playing these nights more than going to them! I’ve been on tour last month with Objekt in Australia, and it’s been great to hear such intricate club sets every night. When I’m going out for the sake of it I just want the club to have a good vibe – good music, good sound, chill crowd. I’d say ‘Chance of Rain’ has some more usable tracks for the club but there are also some pure listening tracks on there as well. SW: As someone who was making electronic and techno music before the recent boom of stadium EDM – the likes of Deadmau5, Skrillex, David Guetta etc. – how do you feel about that music and its sudden global popularity?
Do you think it’s a crappy bastardisation of the form, or more a good “gateway drug” that will help kids progress to the good stuff? LH: EDM is fun to observe for sure! My best jokes all have to do with it:Why was Skrillex in the bathroom for four hours? Because he was waiting for the drop! But there’s always going to be monolithic shitty mainstream versions of music that reflect corporate control and the police state, that reflect the void mentality of mass market culture, and instead of getting bummed out about it I find it more interesting to analyse, and see where the psychological cracks in the EDM argument might be, and what ways forward it might show.
A Confectionary Tale Surrounded by dead, sexy beasts, Connan Mockasin discusses new album ‘Caramel’, an ambient funk record recorded in a Japanese hotel room and inspired by the smoothest of toffees photograph e r - G a b r i e l G r e e n writer - S t u a r t S t u b b s
“That polar bear has no neck. It’s like a sausage with a face on it.” Connan Mockasin, née Tant Hosford, is from Te Awanga, a small beachside town on the North Island of New Zealand. He’s 30 years old, although he looks younger and radiates another time. The cosmic end of the ’60s, or some dimension we don’t know about yet. To say he has an aura about him is not to be melodramatic, and to call that aura ‘otherworldly’ is as accurate as the sausage neck. For the record, Connan is referring to an actual polar bear, although he is just as likely say something along those lines in an empty room. As Erol Alkan, the man who releases Connan’s space soul through his Phantasy label, says,“He has an amazingly vivid imagination,” and it’s made a fan of Julian Barratt, who during this afternoon will, on a number of occasions, text Connan ahead of them meeting for the first time later today. He’s
asked if he can direct Connan’s next video, a first for the Mighty Boosh’s Howard Moon, who is currently rehearsing a new stage show with Noel Fielding a couple of blocks away. Even the artwork for Connan’s debut album, ‘Forever Dolphin Love’, is ripe for the absurdist world of the Mighty Boosh. It features a selfportrait by Connan that looks more like coconutheaded Boosh anti-hero Milky Joe. Connan then spent a year dressed like the painted portrait, his face flaky with white powder. He’s got an idea for a stage show of his own, where he plans to dress himself and his band in uniform, non descript clothing, and his bassist as a centaur.The bassist – a guy called Nick – will also be under a spotlight. These ideas just come to Connan, and when you ask him how, he can never seem to remember. The concept behind new album ‘Caramel’ is similarly
hazy, featuring the dolphin from Connan’s debut and ‘The Boss’, who is sad because he loves the dolphin, which is leaving. The Boss gets over it and is happy again, but then there’s a car crash. “There’s a story that goes along with it, but it’s really not very good,” Connan dismisses. “If it was a book it would be appalling.” This morning, having played a one-off, sold-out show in London the night before, Connan awoke to flowers in his hotel foyer, a gift from one of his fervent admirers. He left for an early morning walk where he was approached by two equally farcical characters. The first, he says, was a man who’d been stung by a bee on the top of his head and wanted advice on whether he should go to hospital or not. “I asked him if he was allergic to bee stings and he said no, so I told him he should be alright. I don’t know why he asked me – I mean, do I look like a doctor?” Next Connan met a young girl who may or may not have left the flowers, and who may or may not have been staking out the hotel all night. She ran across the street and proceeded to tell Connan about how she had come to the show last night and how at the precise moment he played ‘Dolphin Forever Love’ her wristwatch, emblazoned with what else but dolphins, miraculously began working again after years of being broken. Spooky right? Well, how about this – the time was only 2 minutes out! Connan went back to bed.
But yes, the polar bear. It’s big and sausage-like, but it’s nothing compared to the one downstairs.The King’s Head is a very particular members’ club in Dalston, London, an area of town where members’ clubs don’t exist. Its exterior fits right in, but behind the crumbling, sooted pub façade is a zoo of opulent taxidermy. A tiger looms over the island bar downstairs, and a rearing, 12foot polar bear over club diners on the first floor. We take our place in a meeting room at the top of the stairs, which is completely outrageous. We join two lions and two tigers, a leopard, a panther, a cheetah (I think it’s a cheetah), the polar bear and the heads of two unfortunate zebras protruding from the fireplace. The elephant foot umbrella stand and hooved lamps are hardly worth mentioning. It’s deadly silent and powerfully relaxing. A room of good-looking death, it’s sexy and unnerving at the same time, not unlike Connan’s new record, released next month on November 4. ‘Caramel’ is named after its sole, literal influence – the sticky, smooth confectionary that you’ve never thought of as glamorous until now. Connan liked the onomatopoeic quality of the word, and so decided to write an album around what it means to him. I’ve obviously been going to the wrong sweet shops.“It’s just smooth, easy music,” he says in his soft speaking voice that lilts with the calming accent of Te Awanga, but it’s more than that.‘Caramel’ is a melancholic, outsider funk
record that is blissfully unaware of current trends, largely because Connan hasn’t bought any new music in ten years, and because he doesn’t do the blog-trawling thing either. There happens to be some similarities to Ariel Pink on the skeazy ‘Do I Make You Feel Shy?’, and to Mac Demarco in the title track’s half-speed spoken introduction, but that’s down to coincidence rather than homage. Connan opted out of the conventional pop world as soon as he entered it in 2006, having left New Zealand for London. Had he not, there’s a good chance that he would never have written ‘Why Are You Crying?’, ‘Caramel’’s 6-minute drunken waltz that features sobbing where words should be.“And that’s real crying,” he says.“It started as fake crying but became real crying.” I tell him that the track creeps me out a bit. He looks at me perplexed. ‘It’s Your Body’ would have been a no, no, too. Instrumental and split over parts 1 to 5, it makes up half of the album. No label was going to get that, so after a year of being courted by record companies in London, and another in Sussex once the city had become too suffocating, Connan Mockasin flew home to New Zealand, concluding that the UK music industry was no place for him. “I just wasn’t impressed with the way they were trying to make you do particular songs,” he says.“There’s
‘It seems like there’s so much rubbish out there now, and it’s all designed to make money. These people should get into property or something’ basically businessmen trying to make records, and I found the whole thing really depressing so I came home after a couple of years. Y’know, they dangle money in front of you, like,‘you don’t want to have a day job, have an advance.’ So I found that I didn’t want to go down that road, so I went home and was just hanging out at the beach.” We’d probably have never heard of Connan again were it not for the encouragement of his mother who insisted that he should still record an album, just for the hell of it. “She was like, ‘you should make your record; you’ll make a good record’, but I was like, ‘I don’t know how to record or anything, and I’m not very good…’, but my mum is very good at encouraging, so I just did it for no reason, not thinking it’d ever get released, and I couldn’t imagine playing the songs live or anything, and then Erol Alkan stumbled across it. I didn’t play it to anyone – I was so embarrassed by it. I played it to my mum of course, and then Erol was probably the second person and he wanted to sign me, so I was like, ‘alright, you seem like a nice person, a bit different to the normal label people.’ And here I am now. It’s all a bit weird.” ‘Dolphin Love Forever’, originally released as ‘Please Turn Me Into The Snat’ in 2010, was constructed as it was presented, innocently in order, with Connan feeling his way through the record and writing each song on the fly, depending on his mood that day. “I was like, ‘this sounds nice now,’” he says,“rather than having songs and putting them in an order – I hate that. It’s not a record, it’s singles and then, okay, here’s the sensitive, acoustic, quiet track, we’ll put that at the end, this is for radio – it’s just crap. It seems like there’s so much rubbish out there now, and it’s all designed to make money. These people should get into property or something like that, but I suppose you don’t get the fame with that. It’s usually people wanting to be famous and other people wanting to make money out of them, so it’s a real bad mixture.”
onnan pads around The King’s Head in his blue socks, a man that grew up outside but now spends most of his time indoors, since moving to Manchester earlier this year. It’s a city he’s still at odds with, but, then, London never bowled him over on first impression either. “We’re in a really rough part of Manchester,” he says, referring to himself and Manager Sophia, also present and originally from France, a nation most in love
with Connan’s eccentric pysch pop. “We’re in Walley Range, but the house is really nice so I just stay inside.” He laments a time when he was more in touch with nature, in the Sussex town of Lewes and in the vineyards of Te Awanga, where he figures he’d be working were it not for his mother’s encouragement. “You just need somewhere that’s relaxing, near to an airport and where it’s nice to go outside.That’s important.” Connan surfs, too, which suits his tangled, shockblonde beachhead and messianic, stars-aligning whisper. I’m surprised to hear that he’s never tried meditation, although he imagines it’s a lot like surfing, or playing live – activities that exist wholeheartedly in the present. “When a live show is right, it’s over like that,” he says, clicking his fingers. He says that he misses New Zealand and the very thing that most young people strive to get away from – the isolation of the place. “It’s quite closed off to a lot of stuff,” he says. “Even with the Internet it takes a long time for things to reach there. It’s just so far away, which is also good, because you feel completely isolated there, so I can go home and it’s like a retreat for me now. “People always go New Zealand and go to Christchurch and Auckland, but they’re the worst two places. They’re the two biggest places, but you wouldn’t go to New Zealand to go to a city – that’s not what’s good about it.” Connan’s parents still live in the house they self built in the 1970s for themselves and their three sons. Nearby Connan’s aunty and uncle introduced him to popular music via ‘Star Trekkin’’, the 1987 parody hit by The Firm. “Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow,” sings Connan, quietly to himself. “I loved that. Every time I’d go to my aunty and uncle’s I’d get excited about stupidly dancing around to that.” Then hair metal reached New Zealand television and Connan liked what he saw, if not what he heard. The long hair, the leggings, the sleeveless shirts, the Star Spangled bicycle shorts – his eyes had been opened to the dress up of pop. “I didn’t particularly like the music, but I wanted to do that!” he says.“Then Michael Jackson came along and I loved him like every kid did.” Now, mention Michael Jackson to me and you’re never going to get that time back. His was the first gig that I went to, and since his death, especially, it’s a story that’s quadrupled in kudos, but with Connan, I may have met my match. He already knows every detail about the show I saw, without having been there himself. The rocket entrance, the roller coaster, the countdown,
the kids on stage (okay, there was always kids on stage); he reels it off. “One of my friends was one of those kids when he came to New Zealand, and without their parents begin told they were all given Rescue Remedy in pills or something, so that was kind of weird. And then my friend tried to run off and jump into the crowd and Michael held him back. But yeah, he was a big thing, and then I took up guitar because a friend was doing it as we were moving up to middle school. “I remember watching Under Siege [the Steven Seagal movie] and then there was this… [Connan impersonated the intro to ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’] …and I was like,‘What is this?!’, and my parents were like,‘this is a guy called Jimi Hendrix, we’ve got a record of his upstairs’, and from that point I wanted to play the guitar like him, so I just practiced for a year or two.” Connan has become a much more accomplished guitarist than he’s so far been given credit for. His felt hats, bewitching falsetto and general cosmic being can pull focus from what he’s doing with his hands, but as a musician he has a natural, loose way of playing the only guitar he’s ever owned, like an old blues player that’s got it in their blood. It’s what gives ‘Caramel’ much of its eroticism and boudoir soul, yet Connan feels that the guitar has had its day, not to be replaced with electronics (“I don’t know anything about that – I like instruments that you have to physically touch”), but something else, something completely new.“I think it’s overdue time for a new instrument, and it has to be something that’s very expressive,” he says. “Like, a guitar is very expressive and it took, like, hundreds of years to get to where it is, and it’s portable and it’s an actual thing that you actually play, y’know, it’s not electronic. I reckon there has to be a new instrument at some stage, but again, it might take hundreds of years to get here.” He gives in to the urge to stroke the polar bear’s immaculate white fur.
aramel’ is a record for all your bedroom needs, from lounging to sleeping to the other. It exists largely in that bewildering space of semi-consciousness – the pockets of snooze time where your brain decides that anything goes. A dolphin, The Boss, a car crash – sure, why not? It’s merrily without conventional structure and was recorded accordingly, in a hotel bedroom in Connan’s favourite place in the world, Tokyo. Japan, he says, is “kind of sexy. It excites me there,
‘I’ll be doing something else completely unrelated and a song will just come to me – everything, the whole thing’ 32
and I like having limitations and I don’t really like studios, so I just locked myself in a room for a few weeks. It was not far from Lost In Translation.” Tokyo is Connan’s megalopolis service station when he’s travelling between England and New Zealand. From the first time he stayed the night, he felt an affinity with the place, telling me, “It was so foreign and strange to me, but I felt weirdly homesick when I left – really down, even though I was only there for a night – and I have that every time I go there.” He decided to record ‘Caramel’ en route back to the UK, having flown home to visit his father who was close to dying. Once on the road to recovery, Connan holed himself up in a Tokyo block and opened his door to friends to stop by. He had a lot more by the time he left, but people act more as inspiration and company to him, rather than collaborators. He’s written songs with Charlotte Gainsbourg before, and last year toured as a member of her backing band (the rest of the band were Connan’s touring group), and he’s recorded a whole record with Sam Eastgate of Late Of The Pier, to be released next year under the name Soft Hair. But he’s happiest working alone and completely free. It’s difficult to think how you’d go about writing music with Connan Mockasin, anyhow, considering he doesn’t exactly write songs. “I like stuff that surprises me,” he says.“I never write on guitar or anything, I don’t sit down to make music. I’ll be doing something else completely unrelated and it’ll just come to me – everything, the whole thing. And when I record it I don’t try and work it out, I record it straight off as I can hear it, and it’s usually a bit messy, but I’ll leave it for a day and then I’ll be like, ‘actually, I quite like that.’ I like catching that initial thought.” ‘Transient’ is perhaps the best word to describe Connan. He is himself, bouncing from New Zealand to Japan, to London to Lewes to Manchester, to France with Gainsbourg, always feeling at home but never staying long. It reminds me that we have met once before, briefly on a roof in Barcelona. He was up there with his guitar, happily alone, from what I remember. I got the impression that he wasn’t stoned but rather a comfortably nomadic kind of guy, something to be envied, just as Erol Alkan envies Connan’s indifference to collecting music (“Being a music collector doesn’t make you any more of a connoisseur,” says Alkan). Musically, too, Connan believes in the naturally conceived, “catching that initial thought” to make ‘Caramel’ the weightless, ambient funk record – the smooth record – he wished for it to be. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t listened to it since it was recorded, he says because he’s embarrassed by it (and by being a musician), but it’s just as likely that he feels it’s a moment that has passed. And so I’m not surprised when he tells me that he doesn’t want to do this forever. But what else is there, I ask. “I’m really into carnival rides that fold up onto the back of trucks,” he says. “I like houses at the moment because I’m getting older and my dad used to draw houses. Drawing and painting is my main thing, actually more than music, and I don’t know how much more music I’ll do. I’m not sure if I’ll do another record or not, only if I get excited again. As soon as this becomes a job I’ll do something else.”
Loud AND quiet ALBUMS LIVE FILM REviews
Al bums 07/10
Arcade Fire Reflektor (Sonovox) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Oct 28
Laurel Halo Chance of Rain (Hyperdub) By Sam Walton. In stores Oct 28
Laurel Halo’s last album, ‘Quarantine’, was a one of most distinctive releases of 2012, with hallmarks of propulsively strange melodies, strident vocals locked in skin-tight harmony and burbling blissful synths that led you somewhere between Björk and Aphex Twin. Throw in obliquely coruscating lyrics about loss and paranoia and it was the kind of delicious record that kept on offering up surprises, paradoxes and intense excitement. More than anything, though, it reminded the cynical listener that amid dance music’s current obsession with its own short history, there is still something genuinely forward-thinking and new to be consumed. Perhaps that sense of exploration and neophilia goes some way to explaining how Halo has decided to approach the follow-up to her debut: while many of that album’s instinctive calling cards – thrilling disorientation, inky darkness, brooding claustrophobia – reveal themselves on ‘Chance of Rain’, Halo executes them in a totally different way to previously: the introspective rush is provided here by darting polyrhythms and the kind of aural texture that only gets more complex the closer you examine it. Percussive elements pop in and out of the mix
with almost three-dimensional clarity, and ‘Quarantine’’s idiosyncratic vocals are nowhere to be found; in their place are two suites of hulking, testing but deeply rewarding techno underneath flourishes of classic jazz keyboards. Indeed, the jazz flavouring that’s peppered a lot of Halo’s previous work has become a base ingredient and almost a stylistic tool on ‘Chance of Rain’ – while the huge, alien beats rain down, the innate humanness of nearly-familiar chords and progressions offer a welcome organic approachability and looseness among the colossal precision.There’s also a half-way breather in the form of ‘Melt’, an ambient Melotron-and-clarinets interlude that could almost have come off a Miles Davis record. But for all the melodic dilettantism, the real delights in ‘Chance of Rain’ are in the knotty, aggressive but deadly controlled electronic explorations into rhythm and sonics, which take the established building blocks of club music – four-to-the-floor kick, juddering bass and futurist synth – and repurpose them as something more foreign. Accordingly, ‘Oneiroi’ offers only snatches of familiar samba percussion and acid house keys in measures designed either to tantalise or seduce, and ‘Serendip’ starts by quoting LFO but ends with a wall of hiss and decaying swathes of harmonics. While ‘Chance Of Rain’ is no party record, and constantly and densely intricate, it’s never intimidating in its dislocating approach and primordial throb. Instead, it’s an album at ease with its own oddness, and all the stronger for it.
It’s been three long years since ‘The Suburbs’ expanded Arcade Fire’s efforts to reach for the stars, and progressed their already grandiose sound into something very nearly monumental.Three years later, journos tasked with reviewing the band’s fourth album ‘Reflektor’ must do so under supervised lab conditions, having previously signed a weighty legal disclaimer that amounts to “thou shalt not leak”. Yet for all the commercial enormity this kind of thing signifies, Arcade Fire still retain a cultish feel and an almost religious devotion amongst their fans. And so the first whispers of the album’s release, and then the more recent lead single ‘Reflektor’, have cranked up the fever to near-evangelical levels. The album’s title track is also its opener, and there’s a nervous energy running through it that sets the tone for a record that seems to sit right on the edge. At eighty minutes, it’s firmly in that often-dodgy double-album territory, but the band’s seal rings though this opus in every note, and while there’s been a development in their sound, with producer James Murphy’s stamp felt distinctly in places (especially on the beat-driven ‘After Life’), it is still distinctly the group’s own. Stylistically,‘Joan of Arc’ is the most typical Arcade Fire track here, carrying strong echoes of previous albums.‘We Exist’ has a superb,‘Billy Jean’-esque bassline, sitting strangely against a church-ey, organ-spliced feel, while ‘Normal Person’ is a blistering rock song and the heaviest on the album. But within the schmaltzy ‘Awful Sound’, and the sub-Clash cacophony of ‘Here Comes The Night Time’, there are a handful of misses on this record, and no sign of a pop anthem in the mould of ‘(Rebellion) Lies’. If only Arcade Fire had eschewed self indulgence, ‘Reflektor’ could have been something very special.
Cut Yourself Free
A Sun Full & Drowning
(Happy Death) By James West. In stores Nov 4
(Sacred Bones) By Jack Doherty. In stores Nov 4
(Marshall Teller) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Oct 28
(Ribbon Music) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Oct 21
Black Hearted Brother
There’s no escaping it, New York City’s Ejecta are a dead ringer for Yazoo.They’re a boy-girl duo – just like their early-80s equivalents – and they make the sort of rubbery synthpop that the Basildon pair pretty much pioneered. Similarly, the relationship of Leanne Macomber (Neon Indian) and Joel Ford (Tigercity) blossomed whilst on a joint tour with their separate bands, but in contrast they’re no forwardthinkers. In fact, their debut album is a sugary re-revival of foppish electro: the same well-versed nostalgia that spawned La Roux and Little Boots in 2009, although there’s a niggling feeling that nothing on ‘Dominae’ is earworming enough to make them as successful. Sure,‘Mistress’ is a universal tale of heartbreak fit for a retro nightclub, but while it could bob happily alongside OMD in stonewash jackets, this specific past-affection is rather too recent to resuscitate.
Some people say that they can hear music in terms of colour. Before today I would have said this was a load of old baloney, but after hearing ‘Cut Yourself Free’ I’m going to have to reconsider my viewpoint. Away from his band The Fresh & Onlys,Wymond Miles’ second solo effort of wobbly Bowie-esque cold-wave pop is so grey you can almost taste it, never mind hear it.‘Cut Yourself Free’ is more miserable than a member of Interpol would be if they dropped their mint choc chip ice cream onto the floor.The greyness doesn’t stop there though. Just like the colour, the LP is stubbornly dull. Miles spends so much time forcing his painful sincerity down your earholes that the music feels like an afterthought. It’s clear that a lot of grey is definitely too much grey. Maybe try a few shades of blue next time,Wymond. Or a dash of green? Everybody loves green.
This debut album from Yorkshire quartet Grass House is the kind of record you really want to like; a set of songs by obviously talented musicians who want to present us with something special and new. Various influences fight their way to the surface early on, ‘Spinning As We Turn’ oddly bringing to mind a slowed-down Six By Seven, and ‘Faun’ suffused with the menace, bombast and story-telling vibe of a decent Nick Cave song. Final track ‘Avocado Eyes’ throws another curveball into the mix, channelling as it does the lyrical rhythm of Inspiral Carpets’ ‘This Is How It Feels’.The production throughout feels (perhaps deliberately) rough, yet expansive, and there are one or two moments of near-epic crafted beauty, but ultimately what the record boils down to is this: another forty minutes of pretty good, but not startlingly great, conventional guitar music.
Once simply an incredibly popular Syrian wedding singer and purveyor of traditional music souped up to head spinning levels, Oman Souleyman has now been adopted by an Alt. set (Caribou / Björk) and is likely to be found at SXSW, or ATP or in the vicinity of some other indie acronym.This is no bad thing as the occasional bolt from a totally other sonic planet is generally good for everyone and ‘Wenu Wenu’, Souleyman’s first proper studio release, is as intense as that kind of experience comes. Relentless, squalling Zurna melodies pipe crazily over thumping beats and Souleyman’s own impassioned cry. Four Tet genius Kieran Hebden produces, although what that brings to the table I’m not sure.This is not domestic music. It’s insane dance party music. Do not listen at home because you might turn it off and that would be a shame.
Stars Are Our Home (Sonic Cathedral) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Oct 21
Slowdive’s Neil Halstead makes up a third of this new project (along with Mark Van Hoen and Nick Holton), and the result, as title and reputation demands, is a varied, softly psychedelic voyage that floats between Stereolab-like pop-drones and Spiritualized-like psych lullabies. Occasionally ‘Stars Are Our Home’ feels somewhat scattered and inconsistent – seemingly due to the equal songwriting input of all three members – but there is also an overwhelming consistency and richly rewarding focus here. A density hangs in the record, too, clouding and imbuing it, be it with hazy, spacey, mushy guitar tones or a production that clings to the tone of the record like an inescapable fog. It’s a record that skips between the minimal charm of a deserted beach at dawn and the thrashing, engulfing motions of the ocean that laps at its shore.
Lorde Pure Heroine (Virgin) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Oct 28
For a 16-year-old, New Zealander Ella YelichO’Connor, aka Lorde, is abnormally preoccupied by the dread of getting older. She’s more cynical than her classmates, too, dispelling the myth that mid-teens are the most fearless of God’s creatures over the 10 ready-to-love RnB pop tracks on this debut album. Also older than her years: her vocal resemblance to Lana Del Wray (on ‘Team’ and ‘Glory And Gore’) and Santigold (‘White Teeth Teens’), and that her songs, or at least ‘Royals’ (a hipper take on Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ mantra), are covered on X Factor, instead of her being in line to hack them to death and cry on TV. More in keeping with her age: citing SBTRKT and Burial as influences, writing lines like, “I remember when your head caught flame” for the purpose of a rhyme and basing her best song around going down to the tennis court and talking it out, “like yeah.” It’s then that Lorde combines the frivolity of youth and the new science of FM pop 2.0 to unchallengeable affect.
Al bums 08/10
Years Not Living
Life In Units
Day of The Dog
In The Silence
What Makes Us Glow
(DFA) By Jack Doherty. In stores now
(Hybrid Vigour) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
(Bar None) By Sam Cornforth. In stores Nov 4
(One Little Indian) By David Zammitt. In stores Oct 28
(The state51 Conspiracy) By Josh Sunth. In stores Nov 11
Modern psychedelia is a funny little thing.The majority of groups waving the good flag psych are nothing more than 21st Century guitar noodlers, more bothered about drum echoes and concept albums than freak outs and narcotics. Larry Gus is different to these closest Genesis fans; Larry Gus makes psychedelia that’s actually pretty psychedelic.‘Years Not Living’, his first major release, is all fluffy and floaty and strange, just like psych-pop should be. It sounds a bit like the future too, like something the rich people would listen to in that Matt Damon film about wealthy people living inside a big Frisbee in the sky. Most importantly though, the record helps you forget about that pile of ironing you’ve got to do, or those dishes that have been lingering in the sink for far too long, and if that’s not the true purpose of the psychedelia, then I don’t know what is.
There’s a static, mangled hiss that distorts the opening ‘Woodcutter’ to the point that it almost feels intentionally suppressive and disparaging of the flurrying, melodic undercurrent that attempts to glide below. It’s an opening track that challenges any listener’s arrival at the record, which is perhaps a fitting emblem for Blood Sport as a whole.‘Life in Units’, t he band’s debut album, is a glorious fusion of opposing forces: charging, Africanensconced rhythms that lock into endless, melody-imbued grooves wrangle with seething, disputatious antagonism that come via contorted, electrical fault vocals, guitars that scatter and scythe, and drums that switch from tribal to kraut to disco in the twitch of a tom.With Blood Sport, who call this sound Aggro-beat, you never quite know if they’re here to start the party or to destroy it.Which, of course, is what makes them so fantastic.
After 2012’s soft and tender ‘The Year of No Returning’, Chicago songwriter Ezra Furman has furrowed a more rebellious path with a blend of old rock’n’roll, folk, pop and punk held together by his deranged snarl on ‘Day of the Dog’. A confusing listen, it’s similar to a game of roulette, with the result sometimes going your way (like on opener ‘I Wanna Destroy Myself ’, which is frantic and invigorating), but more often not (Furman’s bark quickly loses its bite, with ‘And Maybe God Is A Train’ sounding like a Buddy Holly tribute act).The album’s title track, meanwhile, is a dead ringer for a Lennon ballad, and a pretty good one. And yet while Ezra Furman hasn’t successfully reinvented himself here, his grittier moments suggest that it might not be too long until he does. After all, he’s been pretty much averaging an album a year since 2007.
On ‘In The Silence’, Ásgeir Trausti is tasked with repurposing a debut album that proved so popular in the country of his birth that it is now owned by 1 in 10 of the Icelandic population. Essentially an English language version of last year’s ‘Dýrð í dauðaþögn’, his attempt to break into the Anglophone market is an exercise in mellow electronic pop and middle of the road folk that will have the marketing execs who paired the Sony Bravia with Jose Gonzalez rubbing their hands.The compositional insipidness is bolstered by the banality of its nauseatingly hollow lines and although the language barrier has a part to play, it’s difficult to ascribe any meaning whatsoever to a sentence like ‘hope and faith give me back my joy’.This emotional vagueness and general aura of inoffensiveness, however, should help ensure that ‘In The Silence’ fills quite a few stockings this Christmas.
Psapp, if you didn’t know, were somewhat responsible for the genesis of ‘toytronica’, a slightly peculiar variation of electronica that employs toys and toy instruments to make sound. It may come as no surprise, then, that even with a considerably less electronic sound, and more of a propensity for recording vocalist Galia Durant’s snores or milk-laden cows than anything else,‘What Makes Us Glow’ still suffers at the hands of its own disposition to flee from realism. Ever the able creatives, the duo channel quirky lyricism and almost-tribal rhythms with palpable relish, and though this can be enticing at first, Psapp struggle to maintain any marked force behind their music – the only real exception here being the wholesome, twitchy album closer ‘In and Out’, whose rich layers of sound hint at the (yet to be properly tapped) talents of these playful Londoners.
Tim Hecker Virgins
Is this Tim Hecker hitting his droves of devotees with an album of distortion-less drones? The thought does seem mildly unsettling; like Ryan Gosling brashly filling all those mysteriously alluring pauses. Fortunately, the Canadian’s latest record – which owes a debt to the New York Downtown scene of the 1960s – is a defining point for the critically-lauded ambient maestro, not least because his transformation sees him manage to take on the complexities of minimal music’s pioneers without comprising any of his loud and brooding back catalogue, although you wouldn’t detect his change of spots on opener ‘Prism’, a sonic blast that climbs ominously in the same way long-term collaborator Oneohtrix Point Never did so frequently on 2011’s ‘Replica’. However, the lighter, piano-centric moments that inhabit large parts of ‘Ravedeath, 1972’’s follow-up are the real lure. Here, he shows a Philip Glass-like eye for a poignant hook, before looping it disjointedly towards a gloriously affecting climax that can’t fail to resonate.
Photography by Gem Harris
(Kranky) By James West. In stores Oct 14
Poliça Shulamith (Memphis Industries) By Joe Goggins. In stores Oct 21 It doesn’t seem as if success (or rather acclaim) has gone to Poliça’s heads; this sophomore LP follows hot on the heels of their debut,‘Give You the Ghost’, released just eighteen months ago and lapped up by fans of progressive dub pop and RnB.With their disarmingly potent live shows already well-established (who needs guitars when you’ve got two drumkits?), the Minneapolis band formed around Gayngs’ mastermind Ryan Olson and singer Channy Leaneagh don’t tread too far from their debut album’s palette of synths, beats and overt autotune here, although on the playfully bouncy ‘Trippin’ and the opening ‘Chain My Name’ (the band’s take on oscillating disco) they’re certainly more upbeat than at any time on the eternally bruised breakup debut. Leaneagh is clearly still working through some stuff, though, more gung ho than before but still treading a line drawn from nervous uncertainty (‘I Need $’ and ‘Smug’) to downright menace (the slithering ‘Very Cruel’). Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon makes good on his lavish praise of the band, too, with a guest vocal on lead single ‘Tiff ’, although a band already so confident in their sonic approach scarcely need interference from elsewhere. Poliça are already fast approaching a mastery of creating atmospheres that are at once both powerful and delicate, with ‘Shulamith’ serving as a hugely promising statement of intent.
(Finders Keepers) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Nov 4
(GMBLS) By David Zammitt. In stores Oct 28
T.R.A.S.E. stands for Tape Recorder And Sythesiser Enable: the woodwork, metalwork and science homework project of Andy Popplewell who was 16-years-old in 1981 when these kitsch coldwave soundscapes were made. Of course, they weren’t kitsch then, and today bands like LA Vampires and others on future-retro, lo-fi label Not Not Fun try to write outsider C90 pop exactly as unpretentious as this. It’s only now that their failures are clear. ‘T.R.A.S.E.’ – performed on primitive, self-soldered electronic instruments and largely instrumental throughout, which is a shame when you hear Popplewell’s unimpressed, frozen-in-time new wave vocals on Gary Numan cover ‘We Are So Fragile’ – is a passion project frozen in time, from an age when alternative pop music was striving to be of its time and the future. Ironically, it’s probably only coming out now due to our fetishisation of the ’80s, but that only makes this time capsule of DIY sci-fi electro all the more special. At last, in revival-mad 2013, the real thing.
The debut LP from Matthew Daniel Siskin contains three instruments: the New Yorker’s splintered vocal chords, his buzzing, barely-tuned acoustic guitar, and, crucially, the room in which it was created.The last element gives ‘Trust’ the raw, ineffable power of a live performance, with the space’s ghostly echoes suggesting a hushed silence.The intimate atmospherics add punch to a collection of songs that come together as an up front and poignant confessional on the breakdown of a relationship and a meditation on the reliability of human connections.The fractured imagism of the lyrics is studded with beautiful details throughout, as he zooms in on lips, hands and mouths, and the range of dynamics elicited from each of the six strings available to him means that Siskin’s music stays interesting despite its sparseness, from the bruising aggression of ‘Schemes’ to the autumn-coloured gentleness of ‘You Are Truth’ and the jewel in ‘Trust’’s crown, the heart breaking lullaby ‘Rooftops’.
Al bums 07/10
Cass McCombs Big Wheel + Others (Domino) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Oct 14 This is the seventh album from the sporadically prolific, classically troubadour-esque songwriter who nominally calls Baltimore his home.You don’t get as far as releasing this many records, especially in the crowded singersongwriter pool, without having a certain something about you, and so it’s proved here.‘Big Wheel And Others’ is a slow, languorous album – a record for a road trip on a sunny day, despite its several dark passages. ‘Sean I’ has a stoned, cloudy-eyed feel, with Dylanesque vocals and slightly country-ish lyrics sliding over a repetitive two-note riff, and ‘Morning Star’ has overtones of Elliot Smith in both sound and style, but the high point here is ‘The Burning Of The Temple’, which carries echoes of Leonard Cohen. It’s a superbly downbeat song, which if personified would be sitting in a basement bar, its hands cradling a triple whiskey, an inescapable melancholy consuming its soul. Another highlight comes in ‘Joe Murder’, a brooding rock epic with grandiose tendencies and vaguely hippy-ish lyrics, like,“I burn my wallet and purge my soul”.With such a strong set of influences so evident, you sometimes wonder where McCombs is in all of this, and yet while there’s nothing particularly startling about ‘Big Wheel and Others’, compared to McCombs’ output so far, it’s a record that exudes a quality from start to finish that will see his existing fan suitably pleased.
Teeth of The Sea
(Rocket) By Reef Younis. In stores now
(Phantasy) By Sam Walton. In stores now
If previous album ‘Your Mercury’ taught us anything, it’s that Teeth of the Sea aren’t afraid of diving into their churning, self-made gloom without an escape route. Content to muddle around dense melodies, electronic murk, foundation-shaking pulses and ragged Mariachi trumpet, third album ‘Master’ is another opaque collection of weighty, ever-evolving landscapes. From the static, dead tones and creepy spoken word interludes to the fragmented, hacked noise of ‘Black Strategy’, the dark mist regularly descends. On ‘Reaper’ it’s channelled into a rolling electronic storm of duelling robot guitar battles and stadium rock grandstanding but hits with a metal weight and dropped-chord drama on the shredded thrash of ‘Pleiades Underground_Inexorable Master’.Tense, intrepid and wilfully impenetrable, ‘Master’ is an album built on gargantuan guile and no end of grit, but buried amongst the tumult, ‘Siren Spectre’ is a titanic piece of music of a different measure. The brief oasis of calm in an otherwise violent sea.
Daniel Avery is a former record store clerk, current Fabric resident and clearly a man of refined taste. And now, discovered by Erol Alkan and hyped as a next big thing by Andy Weatherall, he’s trying to condense all his favourite records into his own debut. Accordingly, we get ‘Exit Planet Dust’-era Chemicals intermeshed with ‘Rez’-era Underworld, among plenty of other nods towards electronic greats, but sadly without the energy or intensity of either. Avery’s DJ sets are sprawling, trippy affairs, but while his debut has similar aims, the medium lets him down – where he can spend several hours in a club establishing a mesmerising acid house monster, the enforced brevity of an album, coupled with Avery’s magpie approach, means he never dwells anywhere long enough to build a head of steam. Individual tracks, particularly the insistent, darkly sexy ‘All I Need’, hint at his sharp ear for propulsive, addictive dance music but, taken as a whole,‘Drone Logic’ makes for a darting, restless listen.
(Gadzook) By Josh Sunth. In stores Nov 4
(Captured Tracks) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Oct 14
(Lucky Number) By Hayley Scott. In stores now
Jagged and unkempt and totally unashamed,Young Knives create the sort of oddly poetic music that derives much of its appeal from the adroit lyricism of vocalist Henry Dartnall. Sometimes shunning tunefulness and melody, though rarely losing the observational edge that seems to undercut most of ‘Sick Octave’, the Leicestershire trio that refuse to quit have produced a record of small things; models of Obi-Wan Kenobi, girls called Maureen and pennies. Specificity seems to be all important, and whilst this makes for deliciously witty music (see ‘Marble Maze’), it can be alienating at times in its pure disregard for any sort of universality. There are tracks such as ‘We Could Be Blood’ and ‘Maureen’ that occupy wholly earnest and wholly ironic spaces respectively, and these work well as single offerings, but ‘Sick Octave’ as a whole is often too jagged for its own good.
Heavenly Beat is the solo project of Beach Fossils bassist John Pena. His second album, ‘Prominence’, sounds like something introspectively created – solitary and private – its vocals like whispers captured by a secret Dictaphone. Unlike his group endeavours it’s lighter, more overtly danceable and tingling with steel drums, classical guitar, and stuttering wood block percussion that owes a debt to Phoenix, via the Kings of Convenience, via Ariel Pink’s ghostly tape deck aesthetic.The monosyllabic track titles (‘Honest’, ‘Thin’,‘Forever’) hark at a darker mood but the overall sonic effect is sunny – if a little on one level. If you’re resisting the oncoming season of big jumpers and hotpot, then this record – from the bright picked notes of ‘Lengths’ to the brass crescendo of the title track – is like an attractive person in Ray-bans passing you bottle after bottle of lime spiked, frosty beer.
Thrash Pop, break-beat; call it what you want, but Sleigh Bells essentially make unapologetic noise. Like past ventures, ‘Bitter Rivals’ takes the archetypal concept of pop and blends it with rock to cartoonish effect.While their incongruous cacophony remains intact, the duo edge closer to accessibility, ever so slightly eschewing their traditional heaviness for a more FM sensibility, the title track and opener fusing overzealous vocals with thrashing, prevalent guitar riffs that prove to be an overbearing, recurring theme.The album’s strengths are within its aptitude for melody – palpable on tracks like ‘Sugarcane’ and ‘Young Legends’ – and the more ‘reserved’ moments, like the mellow but petulant ‘To Hell With You’.Thing is, it’s sometimes difficult to get past their sonic aberration without mistaking it for parody. Sleigh Bells will need a new trick next time.
Luke Temple Good Mood Fool
Future of The Left How To Stop Your Brain in an Emergency (Prescriptions)
(Secretly Canadian) By Sam Cornforth. In stores Oct 14
By Joe Goggins. In stores Nov 4
Chances are that you know Luke Temple even if the name isn’t familiar.The Massachusetts musician is the band leader of Here We Go Magic, but on this solo record he trades in their spacey indie sound for a full on funk assault. Despite, being conceived in the snowy climes of a log cabin, ‘Good Mood Fool’ features multiple cuts of disco-infused tunes, tailor-made for balmy summer evenings.‘Florida’ is the most languid of these, as it waltzes along effortlessly creating an indulgent slice of hazy soul to devour, whereas ‘Katie’ is the cool breeze that rolls in and offers refreshment with its sharp beats. Although at times this solo record floats out of attention, more often than not Temple shows he is more than capable of a textural, rich and expansive sound that is fun to become lost in, even if it’s no more challenging than his full-time band.
This record’s title – and a quick scan over its track listing – tells you that, if nothing else, ex-Mclusky man Andy Falkous has lost none of his keen appetite for naming his work in a manner as verbose as it is funny. This is probably the most experimental FOTL effort yet. Falkous adopts a Golden Age radio accent on ‘Singing on the Bonesaws’, an ingenious diatribe against modern popular culture. ‘Something Happened’ brings in acoustic guitars in decidedly prog-rock fashion, whilst there’s more than a little Weezer to both ‘The Male Gaze’ and ‘The Real Meaning of Christmas’.There’s misses to go with the hits, too – ‘How to Spot a Record Company’ has its vicious message blunted by its droning, directionless sound – but it’s still a joy to hear one of the country’s most acerbic songwriters on something close to top form.
Miracle Mercury (Planet Mu) By Mandy Drake. In stores Oct 21
Miracle’s debut album, inspired, its two creators say, by 1987 vampire movie The Lost Boys, consists of eight overtly gothic synth pop numbers and one 10-minute end credit instrumental made up of a bossa nova beat and foggy chords.You’ll be begging for the latter within three tracks of the former. ‘Mercury’ gets off to an attention-snatching start. It’s resolutely retro, but ‘Good Love’ shares the same noir-ish danger of leather cap Depeche Mode. ‘Something Is Wrong’ then pulls in a bit of Fleetwood Mac, which somehow works amongst the dry ice, but it features a chorus that conjures up the ’80s one big dank afternoon, which grounds the track but also siphons out any potential joy. Everything that follows falls somewhere between the two, eventually suffering from the album’s single pace, overly long songs and a vampiric vocal cry that’s long had its day. It just goes on, and where The Lost Boys essentially dines out on nostalgia in 2013, ‘Mercury’ is largely beyond the benefit of the doubt.
Willis Earl Beal St. Giles in the Fields, Holdborn, London 03. 10.2013 Words by James West Photography by Tris Hall
THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL IS LOST. So reads the front cover of tonight’s programme. The copies, neatly scattered along each row of the solid oak pews, are eye-grabbing to say the least, not just because they’re blood red or decorated with one of Willis Earl Beal’s trademark doodles, but because the block capital statement vaguely resembles the sort that might top a deeply political propaganda leaflet. Of course, it sums up the Chicago artist perfectly; this is a man not content with simply being a gifted vocalist and exhibiting such for the benefit of his adoring hordes. Consequently, his strength, composure and authority permeate every aspect of his St Giles-in-the-Fields Church show this evening, with the wine-supping congregation hypnotised by the music, the man and the message.Yes, if you didn’t know it before strolling down the capital’s Tin Pan Alley and entering the small Gothic brick building on the right, Beal has something to say ¬– a rarity in modern music – and even if his manifesto is slightly diffused and at times preachy, it’s refreshing nonetheless. Beal arrives head to toe in black, sporting an eye mask, his own ‘Nobody Knows’ flag (which he utilises as a cape) and gloves seemingly nabbed from The Undertaker’s wrestling locker. He looks like a superhero and provokes a similar kind of awe. “We’ll
start out with a little prayer considering the environment,” he drolly announces before an acapella version of ‘Blue Escape’, one of the spine-prickling highpoints of his patchy, but occasionally exceptional sophomore record. It works amazingly in context, with Beal’s voice flitting between a Howlin’Wolf-like roar and a silky croon at whim – a titanic concoction that envelopes the tall room like an intervention from a higher power. Strangely, a lack of interjection from his band adds to the command; he works the space like a powerhouse pervading the pin-drop silence with gruff erratic yelps that are often swiftly followed by a piercing look of intent from behind his Zorro disguise. The playful concealment certainly adds to his mystery and his allure so far. It’s no secret that Beal struggles with the concept of fame and his need to self-sabotage when things get a little too slick suggests that he constantly fights an internal battle; part of him desires to be a full-on somebody and part wishes to revel in being a resolute outsider. ‘Wavering Lines’ epitomises this, and while honeyed and even a mite corny on record, it’s delivered with a sloppily loose arrangement and a throat-ripping shout tonight, as if frustration forces him to sully any layer of sugar that might be on offer. He even acknowledges this after a
doom-laden ‘Everything Unwinds’, in which his glorious bellow thunders off the pillars and checkered stone floor. “I do not perform. I just yell a lot,” he concludes during a lengthy monologue, the sort that would seem more at home at a god-awful An Audience with….The inner-tussle continues on ‘Coming Through’, although this time it’s more finely balanced.The spiky guitar prompts a splatter of applause and Beal, clearly spurred on, moves unpredictably, like a hose filling with water, rising like a charmed snake and pinging erratically from side to side. It’s well-executed, but stood up by the strutting brilliance of ‘2 Dry 2 Cry’ and the whisky bar blues of ‘Disintegrating’, both of which feel like the sound of Beal at his most genuinely likeable. Of course, that’s the thing with such an unpredictable talent; it’s not all enjoyable, but it enhances the intrigue.Will this night provoke anyone to stumble over their words in a fit of excitement? Probably not, and nor is ‘Nobody Knows’ an album that deserves to be worn out. However, as an unmasked Beal croons beautifully on closer ‘The Flow’, you can’t help but feel that he’s an extraordinary, confusing, self-spoiling enigma that deserves to be indulged and that this is just another weird, semi-nonsensical page in his beguiling backstory.We’ll certainly continue reading.
Society Sebright Arms, Hackney, London 01.10.2013 By Stuart Stubbs Photography by Roy J Baron
First shows are a more even playing field than you might think.There’s little fair about judging a band getting up there for the very first time, but such an auspicious occasion will usually fill a room with encouraging friends and family members. It’s certainly that way for Society’s live debut, which is propelled forward by hysterical cheers aimed at the project’s face and singer, James Girdler. It’s a band’s fourth show that’s really worth seeing.Tonight’s warm wishes aren’t completely bias though, nor are they misplaced. Backed by an adept rock’n’soul band, Girdler cuts a comfortable figure with lights in his face, probably because he’s done this before in a band that nearly did something some years ago, called Beggars. Society, on record, at least, retreats the guitar and makes more of a thing about dusty string and old soul samples, a la The Avalanches.That’s less the case here – perhaps down to a venue size that the group have sonically outgrown before they even plug in – as the orchestrations are sometimes lost and focus shifts back to the band setup. It means that one or two tracks sound more like what Oasis should have been doing five years before they imploded (melodic rock’n’roll with more groove than faux snarl), rather than 2013’s answer to Lee Hazlewood and cinematic ’60s soul. Here Girdler’s vocal finally resembles Richard Ashcroft, as it’s been likened to on new single ‘14 Hours’, and there’s no question that he can pipe it out. He is the focal point and reason people are screaming. Even the ones who’ve never met the guy.
DeptFord Goth Union Chapel, Islington, London 27. 09.2013 Words by Chris Watkeys Photography by Roy J Baron
I might as well say it first off – the Union Chapel, as a venue, has an ineffable but undeniable power to enhance pretty much any gig. Perfect acoustics combine with beautiful surroundings here; even the theme tune to Peppa Pig would end up sounding somehow ethereal under these hallowed arches, and so it is that many of London’s churches are being progressively bankrolled by gig promoters schooled in rock’n’roll - the Devil’s music. So when an artist such as Deptford Goth takes the stage (in front of the pulpit), you can expect something pretty special. String section, check; set full of emotionally exposed songs, check; low lights and dry ice, check. Sat at his keyboard,Woolhouse’s voice, poised and not-quitepure, floats over the downbeat electronica and warm strings like a shadow over a calm sea. ‘Union’’s layers of sound overflow with poignancy, while on ‘Time’ Woolhouse strips things down to just piano, one cello and his voice, to immensely powerful effect. During the encore, the musicians are joined onstage by the Roundhouse Experimental Choir, who add another layer of offbeat beauty to proceedings.You really get the feeling that here is a man who – while perhaps not revelling in enforced solitude – certainly uses it as a theme in his music. After ‘Feel Real’,Woolhouse looks towards the lighting guy. “Can I have a bit more light?” he asks, and then adds after a moment: “perpetually?”; and you wonder whether underlying that small joke there might be something with a rather deeper meaning.
Body/HEAD The Works, Portland, Oregon 19.09.2013 By Daniel Dylan Wray Photography by Natasha Bright
As part of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, the entire audience at this show is kept outside of the building before it starts. Locked inside an enclosed, gated-off area, there is food and drink (craft beer from local microbreweries, of course), along with poets typing up off-the-cuff poems on antique typewriters, while a more modern incarnation, via a computer screen filled with rolling, cynical text, makes observations about the audience and the author’s immediate surroundings. It’s difficult to see why Portland has the reputation it does.The rolling shutter doors to the warehouse are suddenly let up, clattering and clanking, and for the next forty-five minutes Kim Gordon and Bill Nace hammer out spasmodic bursts of growls and wails from their guitars that almost appear to go out of their way to distance themselves from the very instrument that created them. Kim Gordon has spent a career in a band that were very good at making the guitar often sound like anything but a guitar, and in 2013 – at an unbelievable 60 years of age – she still does so with frightening ease and originality.The guitar sounds the pair weave together – along with Gordon’s vocals, which switch from the up-front, powerful, aggressive and confrontational to the far-away, fractured and echo-filled haunts that sound like they are coming in from the vents of another building – are both, at times, complimentary and also in brutal opposition to one another. Squeals, hisses and fractured, stuck glitches scratch throughout. Bill Nace does a sterling job of making his instrument sound like it is constantly malfunctioning. Atmosphere and abrasion lead the way throughout, until the dying moments, which sputter out in the same atonal vs tonal boxing match that started the show. A blistering performance. of noise.
Yuck Soup Kitchen, Manchester 02.10.2013 By Joe Goggins Photography by Elinor Jones
“Thanks for coming out to our album launch!”Yuck’s new frontman, Max Bloom, is underselling the evening ever so slightly.This is less a relaunch than a rebirth for a band that haven’t enjoyed the smoothest of rides towards their sophomore full-length – their old singer, Daniel Blumberg, departed suddenly earlier this year. A slew of new tracks make the cut tonight, and it was always going to be interesting to observe what’s been retained from Yuck MKI, and what left with Blumberg (the answer to the latter, sadly, is pretty much anything that was endearing about that first, self-titled LP). ‘Yuck’ less wore its influences on its sleeve than had them tattooed on its face, but there was something irresistibly appealing about the way the band managed to bring them all together and repackage them in an impressively punchy, if unoriginal, manner.These new songs, though, are sadly turgid in their inferiority to the artists they ape. On a couple of tracks tonight, ‘Out of Time’ included, they seem to have moved on to the kind of chiming harmonics that the likes of Real Estate and DIIV are already doing so much better.Where they have stayed true to album one’s sound, they haven’t managed to avoid sounding derivative and while ‘Rebirth’ channels My Bloody Valentine, it does so with little of the Irish outfit’s penchant for sonic density. A spirited cover of New Order’s ‘Age of Consent’ is a nice touch, though, and cuts from their debut are largely relayed faithfully; Bloom himself, if nothing else, is a far more affable frontman than his predecessor. I wasn’t impressed with Blumberg’s new venture, Hebronix when I saw him open for Low earlier this year; on tonight’s evidence, perhaps both sides need to think about building some bridges.
Katy b Xoyo, Old Street, London 01.10.2013 By Sam Walton Photography by Abi Dainton
For Katy B, the stage is set – and not just the one that awaits her in XOYO on an October Tuesday. Although her 2011 debut LP was a success on its own terms, over the past year it appears that all the elements have fallen into place for the one-time Rinse FM hype girl to make a more permanent pop cross over: another former Rinse colleague, Jessie Ware, has softened large mainstream crowds to a peculiarly South London brand of soul singer that’s half dork half diva, Disclosure’s triumphant 2013 has made everyone re-evaluate the addictive joy of all things two-step, and this summer’s domination of ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Blurred Lines’ suggests that the public may finally have grown weary of deeply joyless stadium brostep occupying the charts. Add to the mix a pre-album publicity campaign that’s at pains to point out the newfound maturity – not to mention Radio 2 accessibility – in her writing, and you’ve got the kind of combination over which major record label executives lose serious saliva. And yet, though the planets feel so carefully aligned, there remains something pleasingly earthy about B’s performance tonight. Aesthetically, her only nod to impending megafame is a cheekily kitsch diamondencrusted mic; aside from that, she bounces around the stage in a plain blue t-shirt and trousers, her garb and demeanour less pop star, more just excited clubber. Indeed, her last
album’s central theme of going clubbing with her mates appears to have endured: “I’ve had so many amazing nights here,” she says dreamily as she surveys a sea of raised iPhones, before introducing a brand to new track as being about, you guessed it, going out clubbing with her mates. That, and a second newbie that follows, turn out to be infectious funky house bangers cut from the same cloth as B’s debut, and delivered with a confidence that attests to her familiarity with the form.The fun – and comfort – is not sustained though when B’s third new song in a row rather surprisingly ditches clubland for the type of huge, belting torch song that X-Factor hopefuls invariably try to “make their own”, and which could easily be bound for an encounter with Adele’s lawyers. Rising quickly from an initial whisper to full-blown melismatic honk and accompanied throughout by only a single piano, ‘Crying For No Reason’ is a ballad so commercially chiselled that by the advent of the first chorus, the majority of the initially fidgety crowd has been tamed, or maybe just stunned, into silently admiring B’s considerable vocal gymnastics. It is, in short, One Of Those Songs: even if the emotional darkness, implied by the title, of irrational tears is somewhat diffused by B following that phrase with the word “because”, it’s undeniably ripe, well-oiled pop
craftsmanship. A look of relief crosses her face as she finishes, the night’s biggest cheer follows, and after that, as if satisfied that she’s shown her club-loving fans she can do Deadly Serious Pop, she reverts to type: ‘On A Mission’ is all wildly euphoric crowd sing-along, previous single ‘5am’ is frisky and full of pep and finale ‘Lights On’ is merely conducted by B, as she donates her biggest tune to her enthusiastic public. And with that she’s off. At barely 45 minutes in total, it’s a professional job, short, sweet, and very carefully planned – right down to the inter-song chat: between each entry on her setlist are printed sentences like “Talk, excited about new album, say what album will be called” and, before ‘Lights On’, “Thank you all so much for coming XOYO” – presumably because, y’know, manners cost nothing. In the event, though, the prompts are unnecessary – B radiates a genuine sense of excitement throughout tonight’s show. But it’s small things like this, alongside her voice occasionally emanating from the PA even when she wasn’t singing, that suggest she might be heading for a place a long way from her natural clubbing habitat – and for all the triumphs of tonight, there’s an occasional unevenness to her performance that suggests a diffidence over what she’s facing.The stage is set, then, for Katy B. It’s now up to her whether she wants to take it.
C I NE M A REVIEW
By Philippa Stubbs
filth Director: Jon S. Baird Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots
filthy buggers In Jon S . Ba ird’s fi lth, p o lice detective b ruce robertson is f ar from a law- a biding p illar o f the community, d esp i te his j ob description . H e’s j u st one o f many bent copp er s f rom cinema’s p ast. here’s our t op 10.
6 . Captain Louis Renault Renault is undoubtedly the most loveable bent copper on this list.The man has no morals and no loyalties other than to himself, but you still somehow buy the “beautiful friendship” payoff that closes Cassablanca (1942).
10. Dennis Peck The only thing better than Richard Gere shimmying up a fire escape is Richard Gere as Dennis Peck in Internal Affairs (1990) – not the cop he first seems, simply bending the for his mates, but rather a ruthless killer intent on shagging the wife of everyone he meets, including the Internal Affairs officer who is investigating him. Big mistake. Huge mistake.
5. StansfielD Norman Stansfield is a chance to see Gary Oldman at his most psychotic. He’s the pill-popping cocaine dealer from Léon (1994) who just happens to be a high-ranking agent from what appears to be the world’s worst Drugs Enforcement Agency. He’s only happy when his killing.
9. Lois Einhorn/Ray FinklE Often overshadowed by Jim Carrey at his best, Lois Einhorn is the epitome of a cop using their position of power to exact revenge on the man (or dolphin) who did them wrong. She intimidates, coerces and sexually terrorizes the entire Miami-Dade Police Department, only to be foiled by the junk in her trunk in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994).
4.Police Captain Hank Quinlan Orson Welles’s Quinlan is a well-respected yet bullish detective who doesn’t let the lack of proof stop him from putting away a suspect. His downfall comes at the hands of possibly the poniest surveillance equipment ever, but, then Touch of Evil was made in 1958. 3.Colin Sullivan Matt Damon’s Mafia-affilated Sullivan in The Deptarted (2006) is an arrogant prick who gets a lot of people killed, which makes it all the better to see Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) kicking the shit out of him.
8 . D e p u t y s h e r i ff l o u f o r d Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford is an upstanding pillar of the community, a friendly neighbour who is willing to help out anyone in trouble. But the baby face and good manners hide a sociopath serial killer with sexual perversions in The Killer Inside Me (2010). Beating a woman to death while saying you loves her is a particularly dark character trait.
If it’s your first day at work and you’re hanging out Denzel Washington, killing ex-cops and stealing drug money, you’re probably in Training Day (2001).
7.t-1000 Okay, so technically speaking Terminator 2’s (1991) T-1000 is not a real policeman, but he certainly rocked the uniform. Never again will cops just be fat men scoffing doughnuts, and you’ll seriously think twice about inviting one of them into your house.
1.Captain Dudley Smith To be honest, all of the LAPD circa 1953 seem pretty dodgy, but Captain Smith is undoubtedly the worse.While looking like a friendly farmer, all Smith plants is evidence one his march to becoming a drugs lord in LA Confidential (1997).
2. D e t . A l o n z o H a r r i s
James McAvoy is stuck in a rut. Whatever the film, whatever the situation, you know that at some point there is going to be a close up of his face while he laughs manically down the camera. It seems to have become something of a trademark. And sure enough, it pops up in Filth a couple of times. But what is so marvelous is that for once it actually works. Jon S. Baird’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel sees McAvoy play Bruce Robertson, a dirty Scottish detective who is out for promotion and willing to engage in a healthy bit of back-stabbing to make sure that he gets it, treading on who he needs to with twisted glee. Pursuing the brutal murder of student by day, Robertson spends the majority of his time manipulating his colleagues, screwing their wives and making lewd phone calls. His world is presented as one rank high, where drugs and women are plentiful. When the inevitable comedown hits, you are taken down with him, where you start to question your own sanity as pigs and witches start appearing at every turn and everything begins to look bleak in the cold light of day. What is perhaps surprising is just how funny all of this is. In a different pair of hands we could have been dealt another gritty Scottish drama, but Baird manages to bring out the humour of Welsh’s black story, not least thanks to Jim Broadbent as the wonderfully disturbing Dr Rossi. So easily Baird could have tried to simply out-grime Trainspotting. He shows a keen ability to not overwork certain stylistic techniques, too – McAvoy looks straight down the lens enough to underscore a point, for example, but not so much that you feel like you’re trapped in an episode of Miranda; hardly a show with a supporting cast like this one. Most, perhaps with the exception of Shirley Henderson, who seems intent on playing every role as Moaning Myrtle, very nearly match McAvoy in excellence, who here gives his best performance yet, as Bruce Robertson becomes an unlikely sympathy case in a British film very close to perfection.
Impress your friends by listening to the Loud And Quiet issue 52 mixtape only at www.loudandquiet.com Featuring this monthâ€™s featured artists
party wolf idiot tennis Game. Set. Twat.
thought sport In the heads of tennis fans 1
MOST LIKELY TO SAY
“Well, this looks shitter than how I make it”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY
“I like this mainly because you’re fit”
He does say ‘SEVEN!’ a lot
IDIOT POWER PLAY
There’s a reason Paul’s only friend in the World is 86
GAME, SET & MATCH
This guy, obviously
1. Oh yes! Lovely stuff! 2. Yay, Cliff! 3. Hmmm... yeah...What the fuck is he doing now? 3.Waiiit...Wait for it... If it doesn’t go up the whole show is a bust.Waiiit...
crush hour Finding love in a hopeless place
RumoUr pie Big mouthfuls of gossip
To the young lady who offered me a sip of her water when I fainted on the bus, I swear I’ve never done that before. Drink(s)?
Fainting man To the girl who prized me out of the tube doors at Canning Town, wouldn’t that make a great ‘how did you meet?’ story?
The risk-taker To the girl I threw up on on the Northern Line, I swear I’ve never done that before. Drink(s)?
Remember how Lily Allen always wanted to be left in peace? Well, she’s back and on Instagram now. Less a rumour this one; more a cold, hard, oh fuck, here-we-go fact Miley Cyrus has been nominated for a Tool Demonstration Society Award after organisers saw her handy work in her ‘Wreckingball’ video. A spokes person for the awards has said: “When I think of Miley Cyrus, I think TDS!”
Since X Factor has come back onto our screens, reports show that murder has increased by 250%
To the guy who threw up on me on the Central Line, I still would ;-) Please.
Danny Dyer reportedly chose his own character’s name for his forthcoming role in Eastenders as landlord Mick Carter. Insistent on having a name that “weren’t too soppy bollocks”, Dyer’s first suggestion of Wellard was thrown out as a mark of respect to a previous cast member considered a “far greater acting talent” Could Spencer Matthews now be stealing his best mate’s business? He’s thought to be in talks with McVities to produce a biscuit called The Cad, made of chocolate, wheat, tears and infidelity. Yum!
( Hi Dot, did you have any joy with... erm... y’know?
) Sorry Ian, I did try
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
Photo casebook “The unfortunate world of Ian Beale”