Crack Magazine | Issue 108
VICTORIA PARK LONDON E3
KRAFTWERK 3D IGGY POP
JOHNNY MARR CHROMATICS
KIM GORDON GRANDMASTER FLASH JEHNNY BETH
+ MANY MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED
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January has a terrible rap. One minute you’re riding the buoyant tide of collective joy and familial comfort that is the festive season, only for the wave to recede to reveal a barren shoreline of brittle mornings and broken resolutions. Come, friendly juice cleanse.
Yaeji Guap Harry Styles Cherry LCD Soundsystem Too Much Love J Hus Must Be Squid Match Bet AYA funemployed Moses Boyd Only You Lauren Auder ouroboros Altin Gün Leyla Georgia Intro Cabaret Voltaire Just Fascination RIMON dust Bad Bunny Vete
I’m being needlessly sour. Who doesn’t love a new year, a hard reset, a clean slate? Trust us, there’s plenty to look forward to, starting with this seasonably appropriate future-facing issue, covered by the brilliant Yaeji. Walking the line between house and pop, the New York via Seoul producer and singer has a style that is uniquely hers, one that feels joyful and fresh. Nina Posner visited her studio for an in-depth conversation that spans family, fame and – perhaps most importantly – her friends. If you’re seeking something life-affirming, we reckon this may do the trick. Maintaining that spirit of looking forward, our first issue of 2020 also sees us grabbing a drink with the mischievous Squid, the Brighton band who are set to dominate the year ahead with their surrealist take on art pop. We also discuss Jacques Brel and teenage angst with the precociously talented Lauren Auder and dig deep into AYA’s performative, disruptive take on club music – because heaven knows this year will need a little disrupting. But perhaps the most sage advice for the ensuing months comes from Moses Boyd, interviewed days before the UK’s general election delivered the final death blow to the cursed 2010s. “Things are far from perfect but I’ma try, and if everyone tries maybe we’ll get somewhere.”
Who knows what the new decade holds, but I imagine these words will come in handy.
Yaeji shot exclusively for Crack Magazine by Neva Wireko in New York, October 2019
Louise Brailey, Editor
Gorilla Biscuits O2 Forum Kentish Town 26 January
O ur g ui d e to wh at's goi n g on i n y ou r c i ty Eurosonic Noorderslag Amnesia Scanner, Scalping, Flohio Groningen, Netherlands 15-18 January What began as a Battle of the Bands in the late 80s is now one of Europe’s leading musical showcases. The first three days, known as Eurosonic Festival, are devoted to established and up-and-coming acts from across the continent, and this year includes Becky Hill, Flohio and Scalping. A metamorphosis takes place on day four, as the event becomes Noorderslag Festival and turns its gaze inward towards homegrown Dutch artists such as Benny Sings, Merol and GIAN. Year after year, Eurosonic Noorderslag shines a light on the next big things, so come with an open mind and take a glimpse into the future.
Object Blue XOYO 17 January Journey Fest Floating Points, (Sandy) Alex G, Ho99o9 Various venues, Copenhagen 18-29 February Whether it’s the fast techno promoted by the likes of Euromantic, Fast Forward Productions and Kulør or bill-topping exports like Iceage flying the flag at festivals across the globe, Copenhagen has garnered well-deserved recognition as a clearing house for boundary-pushing music of all stripes. Journey Fest brings things back home with a series of special concerts across the city, spotlighting some of underground music’s most exciting artists from the UK, US and, of course, Denmark. Whether you’re after the bedroom-pop of (Sandy) Alex G, the smash-and-grab punk-rap of Ho99o9, the modular club ruminations of Floating Points or all of the above, this year’s edition is going to be right up your street.
Peach Party Corsica Studios 11 January
CTM Festival Sherelle, Tomasa Del Real, AYA Various venues, Berlin 24 January-2 February
DjRUM Queen Elizabeth Hall 18 January Snowbombing Sherelle, Ash, Liam Gallagher Austria 13-18 April Whoever decided that having a week-long rave up a mountain was a good idea is a genius. Is there anything more enjoyable than tearing up the slopes before dancing the night away to some of your favourite DJs and live acts for a whole week? The bill is optimised for maximum fun too, with the one and only Liam Gallagher, resurgent indie royalty Ash, emergent bass music star Sherelle and the always entertaining Kurupt FM crew all sliding into Snowbombing. What’s more, there’s a brand new comedy stage to take in as well as igloo raves, street parties and a seemingly infinite number of spas and saunas to rehabilitate body, mind and soul. Also, chairlift speed dating. What could possibly go wrong?
black midi Queen Elizabeth Hall 18 January
Theo Parrish All Night Long E1 London 25 January
KOKOROKO Roundhouse 28 January The jazz-leaning, Afrobeat stylings of London eight-piece KOKOROKO head to one of the capital’s most historic venues for ‘In the Roundhouse’ – the venue's series of intimate seated shows that place the performers at the heart of the room. Inspired by legends like Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, KOKOROKO’s live show is a harmonious blend of looselimbed improvisation and tightly focused songmanship, as its many members weave through flowing arrangements with alarming dexterity. Don’t miss the opportunity to see them up close and personal.
Riding high off the back of their 20th anniversary last year, CTM returns for a new edition in a pensive mood. This year’s 'Liminal' theme seeks to explore the unknown within music and art, and keeping to topic, the complete line-up is yet to be revealed. But what has been announced presents an intriguing glimpse at the scope of the festival to come. The opening night at Berghain features some of the UK’s fastest rising electronic acts like Giant Swan and Afrodeutsche, while the closing concert sees Baltimore maximalist Dan Deacon perform off the back of his latest album Mystic Familiar, released earlier that same month. As for in between? Expect an extensive programme of talks, workshops, concerts, club nights and installations to both blow and expand your mind.
Loefah XOYO 24 January
Big Joanie Moth Club 23 January
017 Omar Souleyman EartH 6 February
Sampa the Great O2 Academy Brixton 18 January Elevate Festival Peach, DJ Lag, Casual Gabberz Graz, Austria 4-8 March
La Roux fabric 5 February
A non-profit devoted to furthering the discourse around the current issues surrounding music and art, Elevate Festival aims to reach beyond the typical festival experience towards something more meaningful. This year’s theme is 'Human Nature.' Inspired by a quote from activist Greta Thunberg, the theme hopes to work as a starting point for exploring the bond between people and their environment. Besides the talks, panels and films (which are free to attend for all), there are plenty of excellent ways to unwind – otherwise known as dancing like mad – with top-tier selectors Casual Gabberz, Peach and DJ Lag. What’s more, Graz is only an (affordable) stone’s throw away from most major EU cities – you know what to do.
Donna Leake Printworks 1 February
DJ Boring E1 London 31 January
Roman Flügel XOYO 31 January Kano Drumsheds 7 February
Black Country, New Road The Bussey Building 23 January
Ricardo Villalobos fabric 25 January
Young Marco The Pickle Factory 11 January Amsterdam’s Marco Sterk – better known as Young Marco – has been vital in propelling the Dutch capital’s underground electronic scene. Buzzing around the city’s clubs for over a decade now, he made his producer debut on Lovefingers’ revered ESP Institute label in 2011, which launched him into a string of residencies across his home turf and beyond. Spinning everything from rainforest rhythms, proto-house, African disco and oddball techno, let his unique approach to the rave take you on a ride.
Lana Del Rey The O2 Arena 25 February Goddamn, Lana… Norman Fucking Rockwell! was our saviour last year. On her extensive tour for the frankly sublime album, Lana has surprised audiences with special guest performances, recently telling Interview that you “have to get all your girls together” to create a sense of community in the scene. And when those ‘girls’ have included Julia Jacklin, Weyes Blood and Joan Baez, you can guess you’ll be in for a treat as the NFR! tour touches down in the UK. Get lost in her cinematic universe.
BEAK> Electric Ballroom 4 January Slowly and unassumingly, BEAK> have built up a pretty remarkable catalogue of sludgy motorik, bleak psychedelia, and low-slung oddities. Their latest album, >>>, as their label Invada Records suggested, was a response to “the infinite cut & paste fuzz pedal kraut bands on the planet.” On their stop at Electric Ballroom, expect more of the same no-bullshit attitude as well as nods to the soundtrack aesthetic that has informed much of BEAK> member Geoff Barrow’s postPortishead output.
After making her live debut this side of the world last year, Young M.A heads back to town and into London’s favourite cinema-turned-venue, Scala. At 27, Young M.A’s had a more colourful life than most, as chronicled in her recentlyreleased – and critically acclaimed – debut album Herstory in the Making. The record expands on what made 2017 breakout hit OOOUUU such an unlikely smash – a confessional, angry and vulnerable look at the past that made her who she is, delivered with acres of hard-earned composure. Come and see for yourself.
Danielle Corsica Studios 25 January
Jacques Greene Studio 9294 29 January
Shanti Celeste All Night Long Phonox 7 February
Grime’s OG has had a hell of a year. Drake dragged Top Boy out of purgatory, meaning we got to see Kano’s troubled Sully character sink deeper into London’s dark underbelly. Then, ahead of his latest album Hoodies All Summer, he released Trouble, a deeply affecting music video highlighting the repercussions of knife crime, which features a now-iconic cypher with Ghetts and D Double E at a wake. The former Crack Magazine cover star’s critically acclaimed album proved to be similarly arresting, weaving through different musical styles (grime, dancehall, UK garage) while never losing sight of the hometown narrative. Bringing it back to where it all began, this London show will be one for the ages.
Young M.A Scala 29 January
KIWI JR WED 29 JAN THE WAITING ROOM
ROSIE LOWE WED 19 FEB EARTH HACKNEY
GHUM OUT THURS 30 JAN SOLD ELECTROWERKZ
ISAAC DELUSION TUES 25 FEB OMEARA
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KENNETH WHALUM TUES 25 FEB SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS SLEATER-KINNEY WED 26 FEB O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON SOL CROFT WED 26 FEB SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS LADY LAMB THURS 5 MAR CHATS PALACE ALBERTA CROSS TUES 10 MAR OMEARA CAROLINE POLACHEK WED 11 MAR HEAVEN JESSY LANZA WED 11 MAR SPACE 289 WOLF PARADE WED 11 MAR TUFNELL PARK DOME JERKCURB THURS 12 MAR BUSSEY BUILDING GEORGIA THURS 12 MAR HEAVEN SHYGIRL OUT THURS 12 MAR SOLD SPACE 289
PETER IBBETSON THURS 19 MAR BERMONDSEY SOCIAL CLUB KEDR LIVANSKIY WED 25 MAR STUDIO 9294 EGYPTIAN BLUE WED 25 MAR THE LEXINGTON LUKE DE-SCISCIO THUR 2 APR SET DALSTON ANDY SHAUF WED 8 APR O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE JUNIORE WED 29 APR BUSH HALL NURIA GRAHAM THUR 30 APR THE LEXINGTON PUBLIC PRACTICE TUES 5 MAY ELECTROWERKZ LISA MORGENSTERN WED 6 MAY SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS BAMBARA WED 20 MAY TUFNELL PARK DOME THE STROPPIES THURS 21 MAY OSLO HACKNEY THIS IS THE KIT THUR 1 APR 2021 ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Altın Gün Words: Gunseli Yalcinkayala Sounds like: Baroque psychedelia for the 21st century Soundtrack for: Car rides with the top down File next to: Barış Manço, Ahmed Fakroun Our favourite song: Cemalım
Where to find them: altingunband.bandcamp. com
Listening to Altın Gün’s latest album Gece, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s been pulled from an old record store in Istanbul. The Dutch five-piece, whose name translates to ‘golden day’, might have started their journey into Turkish psych rock in Amsterdam, but their sound is deeply loyal to the genre’s Anatolian roots, which is characterised by its unique take on Western psychedelic rock – think the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin – and traditional Turkish folk scales.
“I was fascinated by the combination of Turkish folk music and the psychedelic sounds of the 70s: the synthesisers, the flangers, the fuzz guitars,” he tells us over the phone. “I visited Istanbul with my previous band, Jacco Gardner, and that sparked more of an interest in Turkish music in general. We decided to stop playing [as Jacco Gardner] live, but I wanted to keep gigging because it’s my favourite thing to do. I thought, ‘Why not play this music live, because no one seems to be doing that [here] yet?’”
While a Dutch musician starting an Anatolian band with little cultural connection to the genre could raise some initial red flags, Verhulst was careful to involve Turkish musicians in the project. On his return from Istanbul he immediately began posting callouts on Facebook, and soon enough, Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz were selected as its two vocalists. “They were the first two people who came into my rehearsal space. We instantly felt like this could work. We had chemistry from the start,” says Verhulst. Yildiz is a traditional Turkish folk singer and saz player, who chooses most of the songs. “Erdinç is the musical genius,” explains Verhulst. “He started playing Turkish weddings with his dad when he was 12. This music is in his blood.”
Still, Verhulst maintains that “music is a universal language,” and it’s when performing live that this becomes most apparent. “We didn't even plan to make albums at all, it was just a live project. But after a few shows, we noticed that people really wanted to buy this music and take it home with them,” he laughs, “so we became a recording band too.” Closing our conversation, I ask how he feels Altın Gün has been received. “We didn’t expect anything from this. We thought we’d do some shows, maybe some festivals, but no one expected us to go full-time. It’s great to know we can bring people together.” Gece is out now via Glitterbeat Records
Founded by Dutch native Jasper Verhulst in 2016 after a trip to Istanbul, the band models itself on 70s and 80s musicians such as Barış Manço, Erkin Koray and Selda Bağcan, legends of the genre whose impact is still felt across the region’s cultural zeitgeist today. But the music itself is Turkish too, with songs taken from across the Turkish folk canon, and the inclusion of classics like Leyla and Cemalim. Undoubtedly, Altın Gün cleave closely to their Anatolian influences, with reverberant minor key guitar riffs, electric solos and a declamatory vocal style. But, according to Verhulst, that’s the entire point.
Jacket and Trousers: Penultimate
All together now
Yaeji learned a lot about herself after her breakout success. Now, with her friends by her side, anything is possible
Words: Nina Posner Photography: Neva Wireko Styling: Monica Kim
Top: VeniceW Skirt: Vintage Yâ€™s from James Veloria
Your favourite artist is performing and suddenly you’re overcome with feeling, like you’ve been enveloped underwater in a heated pool. Every sensation is heightened, mind and body connect together in boundless ways; here is where you are supposed to be. Maybe you cry, or scream, or grasp the hand of the person next to you. Or maybe you’re dancing hard at Panorama Bar in August 2018, having a sweaty, messy time of your life while watching singer and producer Yaeji play to a packed room, and in the heat and rush of it all, you and your partner decide you want to be together for the rest of your lives. “I was like, wow, I can't believe that can happen, that kind of moment,” Kathy Yaeji Lee tells me, as we sit across from each other in her Bushwick studio on an overcast October morning. It was her first time playing the storied Berlin venue, and the crowd had been sending her messages throughout her set with memo paper from the bar. When she went through them all at the end of the night, she came across a note that gave her pause. “Thank you so much for this moment,” it read. “Thanks to you, me and my partner got engaged on this dancefloor right now.” She takes a deep breath to steady her voice as she continues: “Whenever something like that happens, I really try to put myself in the perspective of when I loved going to a show so much that it put me in a completely different place, or mood, and the power of that. Then I get really humble and appreciative of touring again.” Though this is the first major interview Yaeji has sat down for in 18 months, she's relaxed and at ease, choosing her words with genuine and expressive verve. Cosy in the studio, she looks effortlessly put together in wide-legged black jeans (“I love big pants”), a black and white striped shirt, and an array of round gold accents – glasses, nose ring, hoop earring. We're speaking at the tail end of a long process of selfreflection, growth and hard work, and in anticipation of a big 2020. Though the details are hush for the time being, two things are for certain – there will be a new project and an upcoming tour, during which she'll perform a new live show. We sip hot drinks as she brings me up to speed on her life after 2017's breakout EP2. The release was a watershed moment for Yaeji. Warm, inviting tracks like raingurl, drink i'm sippin’ on, and a rework of Drake’s passionfruit attained a passionate cult virality, along with her music videos, which all bear the mark of Yaeji's unique visual aesthetic:
“I needed time to soak it in and actually go through the growing pains,” she recalls. Though being able to focus solely on making music “felt like a dream,” the speed at which everything was unfolding was, understandably, a bit disorienting. She began to take stock of her newfound circumstances, and realised she needed to slow the pace to reassess where this path was taking her. “I was [thinking], what do I signify to these people who love my music and listen to me or look up to me? I really sat with it and wanted to make sure that I understood myself and caught up to myself 100 percent before I [kept going] or else it wouldn't feel like honest music.”
process and the meteoric rise of her music, which has led her to this point and this place, right here: a swivel chair in between two white Yamaha monitors, in front of a computer with almost-finished versions of the new project. Though she appreciates the opportunity to connect face-to-face with her fans on the road, she’s an artist who prefers being in the studio. You can feel it when you walk in; in addition to the homey touches and decorations, the space has a calm, positive aura.
glowing light and shadow, a balance between comfort and style, the ability to make any space feel intimate. Her newly dedicated following came out to see her perform at events like Coachella, All Points East, several venues across North America and Elancia, the rave that she threw in a Brooklyn warehouse in September. It all happened very fast, and in a way that was nearly impossible to prepare for – she went from making music in her home, playing one-off shows around the States, and working a day job as a graphic designer, to doing music full-time and touring all over the world. Very quickly, she had to navigate being thrust into the spotlight, and talking with adoring listeners, many of whom lined up after gigs to express their gratitude for her music.
The studio proper is painted white with gloriously high ceilings, soundproofed by Yaeji herself. A Korean flag hangs near the lofty windows. On the other side of the wall from the studio is the room that she and her crew use for meetings and creative workshops. One of her managers sits on his computer across from a support beam covered in Polaroids; each photo depicts friends, musicians, and other assorted visitors, laughing or smizing for the camera. A large IKEA shelf, the kind most people use to store records, holds a different artifact per square: two kinds of Pocky (chocolate banana and matcha, for the heads); a plastic Pokeball perched atop a stack of magazines; a pink potted plant; a single spray-painted CDJ. Yaeji moved out of her living room studio (which followed her bedroom studio) in early 2018 and into this building, wanting to more concretely separate her work life from her home life, and logistically needing to establish a physical headquarters for her team.
Raised between Queens, Long Island, Atlanta and Seoul, Yaeji eventually moved to Pittsburgh to attend college at Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied painting, conceptual art, and graphic design. Pittsburgh was where she discovered her love of the club – both within the student radio station, WRCT, and at the legendary queer rave Hot Mass – and began to DJ and produce her own tracks. Upon moving back to New York in 2015, she took to Brooklyn nightlife with a fervour, dancing hard more days of the week than not, and soon enough, she was playing out and throwing her own parties. At the end of 2017, after a year of two EPs, multiple music videos, and hype coming in from all over the world, she quit her job to make music full-time. In the two years since EP2, Yaeji has became a fully independent artist. It was a decision spurred from the desire to have full creative control over herself and her music. She's deliberately assembled a new team of her closest friends to act as managers, creative resources and collaborators, while also experiencing “extreme [personal] growth.” This period of growth, she explains, was not necessarily related to, but perhaps accelerated by the development of her artistic
There’s a special kind of moment you can experience once, or maybe a handful of times if you’re lucky, at a live show.
“A lot of my songs are so personal and private, and part of the reason why I can sing them is because most of the people I perform to might not understand what I’m saying”
Top: Vintage John Galliano from James Veloria Jewelry: Yaeji’s Own Trousers: Yaeji’s Own Socks: Comme Si Shoes: VeniceW
“The Yaeji that people see is a culmination of all of my influences and all of these friends that inspire and help me put it together”
Other “rotating homies” use the studio as well, she clarifies with a grin. The importance of not only creating but maintaining space for her community, be it permanent and physical like the studio, a temporary environment like a live show, or the strong, intangible bond between friends (the word appears 21 times in the transcript of our conversation) near and far, comes up again and again as we talk. “This project is obviously called Yaeji, and that’s my Korean name and my middle name that was given [to me] by my grandfather,” she says. “But at the same time, the Yaeji that people see is a culmination of all of my influences and all of these friends that inspire and literally help me put it together. I see it almost like a family business in that way, which is such a Korean thing too – to entrust your family to take on business because you can't trust anyone else." This sentiment is embodied in her new music as well – one song is explicitly about treasuring your friendships. Though she’s recently worked with Charli XCX and Robyn, and hung out with Arca at a Korean arcade, she wants to use her platform to put on artists who aren’t exceedingly wellknown. She plays me an interlude, on which a few of her friends freestyle playfully into the mic, pitched up in a way that's goofy and charming.
The former track boasts a bassline that's surprisingly sexy for the subject matter, but also demonstrates the organic trajectory of her sound, which seems fuller and more comprehensively fleshed out than the most recent music she's shared with the public (2018’s One More). There's icy house, ravey
breaks (a reworking of a piece she performed for a show at London’s Serpentine Gallery), and another new one that they’ve all been calling the “Linkin Park song” which, believe it or not, makes a cheeky kind of sense. In her own words, the music “sounds better [and] cleaner than before,” which she attributes to putting in the hours learning how to use gear (though she's been using more plug-ins lately) and watching tutorials, as well as more fully understanding how to mix and hear the nuances of sounds. “It’s easier for me to make stuff now, and therefore easier for me to communicate an idea I have right away,” she theorises. “That’s really the biggest change – feeling comfortable.” For Yaeji, the approach of taking things at her own pace extends to more ineffable elements of production too. Her lyrics, previously informed by the notes she took on the subway to and from work, have become less literal and more like abstract unbridled streams of consciousness, based around whatever thoughts and feelings she's having at the time. Previously, she treated her studio sessions like a full-time job, heading into the ‘office’ at a certain time and trying to fill eight hours each day. “Now,” she reflects, "I’ve been so much more relaxed, like if I’m not feeling good that morning, I’m gonna stay home and do some housework or whatever until I feel OK, and then come in and assess – OK, what happened? It’s almost like self-therapy too. I’m giving myself some space.” With her main artistic focus at present being music, she’s been able to play around with her visual art practice,
often with (who else?) her friends. Though she calls them passion projects, each endeavour is fun and impressive in its own right: there’s the pixel art-based redesign of her website, where you can draw a scene with items modelled after her friends’ living room; a small-scale online RPG, which takes place in a town where there's “only a juice shop and a club,” and your club experience is informed by the type of juice you drink. Lastly, a short animation that features Subwoofer the Venue Dog, a sunglasses-stealing pup who loves dubstep, and his best friend DJ Bong Water, the father of ghetto house, who’s trying to get his shades back from Subwoofer by trading him a valuable dubstep record. As a musician, it’s clear that Yaeji’s accomplished what she set out to do when she became an independent artist: work on her own terms and her own time, all while surrounding herself with the people she loves and cares for the most. The new live show she's developing will heavily involve choreography and dancers, as well as new forms of set and stage design she's put together with her creative director. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is the dawn of a new era, bolstered by years of careful and intentional planning; later, when we consider our personalities as two slightly reserved Leos, she asks, “are Leos thinking a lot?” and then answers herself almost immediately: “‘Cause I am.”
and it’s also where Yaeji spent her teenage years, and where her family lives. “Imagining the scenario of ‘Oh my god, I can actually talk to these people in my language’ made me so emotional through the whole tour,” she says. “A lot of [my] songs are so personal and private, and part of the reason why I can sing them is because most of the people I perform to might not understand what I’m saying. But in Korea, they know everything crystal clear, there’s no hiding myself. That was a very sensitive but special thought.” To no one’s surprise, the show was “absolutely crazy.” The crowd sang and screamed along, and when she began to cry while telling the audience how much she had been looking forward to the show and how proud she is of being Korean, everyone else started crying with her. And whether in a 1,000-capacity venue filled with family, friends, and fans in the city where she grew up, or a darkened club where two people come together in the midst of it all and decide to be together forever, it's clear Yaeji naturally creates spaces of connection and community, love and support. It comes through in her music and her studio, in the places where she performs, and lingers and lasts for a while. At the end of the Seoul show, she remembers, “Everyone was like ‘don’t cry, don’t cry,’ and I started crying more” – she smiles – “and then it was a happy ending.” EP2 is out now via GODMODE
She was certainly thinking a lot about her show in Seoul months before it happened, and the idea of performing for a Korean crowd was on her mind during her entire Asia tour last summer. Seoul was the last stop,
Top: Yaejiâ€™s Own Trousers: Penultimate Socks: Comme Si
SOMETHING IN THE WATER
Audacious and eccentric, Squid are part of an exciting new wave of British alternative rock
“Vic Reeves said we sound like early Roxy Music and Captain Beefheart. It’s huge”
031 There are a lot of achievements that Squid could cite as their proudest so far: being playlisted on BBC radio, opening for post-punk pioneers Wire, selling out their 2020 London Scala show six months in advance – and all of this while still unsigned. Their actual answer, however, is a little more niche. “We just found out Vic Reeves likes us,” beams guitarist and singer Anton Pearson, peering at me from across a cramped cafe table on a chilly December day. “He told The Times we sound like early Roxy Music and Captain Beefheart,” lead singer and drummer Ollie Judge expands, equally impressed, before Anton takes over again. “It's huge, actually, because I grew up watching Shooting Stars and we chat about Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer all the time. It just feels completely bizarre that someone we’ve grown up with enjoys the cultural output of the likes of us.” It’s not the first time surrealist comedy has seeped into the mythology of the five-piece. Last September’s debut EP boasted a working title of Barry Homeowner, a name borrowed from Mortimer’s wildly tangential football podcast Athletico Mince. When Anton says he’s “still bitter” that the rest of the band eventually overruled him to call the collection Town Centre, it’s initially difficult to tell whether he’s joking or deadly serious. The same goes for much of Squid’s press so far, which
is littered with stories that often seem too absurd to be real. For example, the story that guitarist and vocalist Louis Bourlase was set upon by a SWAT team aged 13 is true. Also true: Laurie, Anton and Ollie used to be in a funk and soul covers band that was variously named Better Call Soul and Soul Campbell, before they finalised Squid’s line-up in late 2015. And so too is the fact that their name is inspired by Ollie’s near-fatal experience choking on calamari. “He definitely did almost die,” bassist and brass player Laurie Nankivell confirms today. “We were there, watching on.” Not true, however, is the rumour that their debut album is being produced by Quincy Jones and will be released via Roc-A-Fella Records – Louis and keyboardist Arthur Leadbetter admit to fabricating that one while bored in an interview. As far as the Squid backstory goes, however, this anecdote serves as an effective insight into the psychology of the band and their innate playfulness. This playfulness, unsurprisingly, bleeds into their music too. The origins of the outfit can be traced back to a jazz night in Brighton, where Anton, Ollie, Louis, Laurie and Arthur first met while studying (four out of five members are former University of Sussex students). “I vividly remember meeting you, Louis,” Arthur smirks. “We were standing outside my flat, late into the night, and you came up to me, glass of wine in one hand, and said, ‘Arthur, didn't you think that piece by Terry Riley that we listened to today in lecture was fascinating?’” As the rest of the band explode into laughter, Louis bats back, “And what did you say? ‘Leave me alone?’”
Words: Gemma Samways Photography: Ashley Bourne
“Who knows, the album might end up being so strange that we'll be forced to self-release it”
With shared inspirations that range from minimalist composers Riley and Philip Glass to Munich-based jazz label ECM Records and krautrock pioneers NEU!, it’s little wonder Squid don’t sound alike from track to track, let alone the current crop of British guitar bands. Released in September 2018, their nervy breakout single The Dial was as if Television met Gang of Four. Meanwhile, last February’s spiky follow-up Houseplants found Ollie excoriating London’s extortionate rental market through his whimsical deadpans, underpinned by motorik beats and no wave-style sax, featuring not one but two lengthy breakdowns. Today, the quintet maintains there’s never any overarching plan during the songwriting process. “We just get together and play, and whatever's most fun to make, that's what it sounds like,” Anton says, which explains why September’s Town Centre EP ricochets from ambient soundscapes (Savage) to weirdo punk-funk (The Cleaner) and soundtracks to nonexistent spaghetti westerns that seem to be set in an alternate universe (Rodeo). Louis Bourlase
It makes perfect sense that all their releases since The Dial have been put out via Speedy Wunderground, the singles label currently setting the agenda for British guitar music. Founded by Bat For Lashes and Hot Chip producer Dan Carey, and run from his south London recording studio, in the past two years alone the cult 7-inch imprint has nurtured a new wave of truly inventive bands. Think black midi, Flamingods, Black Country, New Road and Sinead O’Brien.
Having worked exclusively with Speedy Wunderground for the past two years, Squid clearly have a special relationship with Carey. I wonder whether that’s because they think
Carey is the only producer versatile enough to wrangle their scattergun ideas into some coherent shape. “I don't think we really know that yet,” Louis replies. “But he has these Speedy Wunderground rules – like, record it in one take, with the lights off, with no lunch break – that definitely makes us work in a specific way.”
evasive when discussing how many record labels there are currently courting them. “There've been a couple of lunches here and there,” Louis concedes and Laurie quips, “some Greggs sausage rolls. Some incognito service station meetings.” Arthur insists, however, that the band’s priority is writing new music for the album.
“We turn the lights off and have lasers on,” Anton expands, “and sometimes they go in your eyes and it's hard to concentrate. So I think we haven't always abided to every rule.” Arthur takes over: “You need someone who allows you to feel comfortable pushing your own boundaries, and who can help you create a new vision of what’s in your head. That's what I think a good producer does, and that's what Dan does. For that moment you're in the studio, he's the sixth member of the band.”
“This week we’re going to a cabin near Bristol, doing a Bon Iver, but for three days,” Anton grins. “I’ll bring the craft beer,” laughs Ollie. They hope to have an album out at some point next year, but as for the shape that new material might take, well, your guess is as good as theirs. “Who knows, it might end up being so strange that we'll be forced to self-release it,” Louis says semiseriously, causing Laurie to exclaim, “I'd quite like that!”
As lyricists too, they insist their intentions are far less calculated than close readings would suggest. Take The Cleaner, which finds Ollie playing the titular character who’s being roundly ignored by everyone else in the office. Surely it’s critiquing the dehumanising nature of late-stage capitalism? “Maybe it is subconsciously,” he says hesitantly, “but I prefer to think of it as [looking at] small issues that relate to a wider picture. It’s more stream of consciousness than storytelling.” “That doesn't take away from the fact that some people might see a song like Houseplants as political,” Arthur concedes. “There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. And that might be the case, because it's what you take from the track that can make it political.” Considering how resolutely Squid swerve definitive readings of their work, it’s unsurprising that they’re as
However the record ends up sounding, the audience eagerly anticipating its release already extends far beyond the British Isles. “Belgium seem to love us,” says a bemused-sounding Ollie, while Louis seems equally mystified recounting a fan encounter in Germany. “I remember walking through Berlin after playing a gig in some quite nondescript area of town, and this guy just walked past and hissed, ‘Houseplants!’ at us. Honestly, it was surreal.” You sense Squid wouldn’t want it any other way. Town Centre is out now via Speedy Wunderground
Produced for Crack Magazine by Bafic - @Bafic
What you keep in your bag tends to say a lot about you. A journalist, for example, might have a pen, a notepad and something to record with. Medical professionals often carry first aid kits. I know an engineer who at any moment, can be guaranteed to have at least two screwdrivers on his person. The day I meet Moses Boyd, the first thing he takes out of his gym bag is a small, hand-held Korg drum machine. It’s a fitting first impression for the south Londoner, a prolific drummer and producer. As the team set up rails and light the studio for his upcoming photoshoot, he plays around with the sequencer casually, conjuring loops it would no doubt take lesser musicians hours to try and make on a cracked copy of Ableton. Born in Catford and educated at Trinity Laban, Boyd is best known as one of the leading lights in the new London jazz circuit. A frequent collaborator, he’s played the drums on Sons of Kemet’s Mercury-nominated album Your Queen Is a Reptile, produced Zara McFarlane’s 2017 album Arise and released a clutch of his own music, both as Moses Boyd Exodus and as one half of Binker and Moses, alongside saxophonist Binker Golding. He’s also the host of a monthly show on BBC Radio 1Xtra where he can be found orchestrating live jams with the likes of Swindle one moment and playing Bulgarian choral music the next. Boyd is well-loved for his ability to fold influences from grime, hip-hop and far beyond into his music. On his debut album, Dark Matter, out in February on his own Exodus Records, the sound of Britain’s bass music stands shoulder to shoulder with jazz. The unofficial campaign for the record started with shows in London at Corsica Studios and Fabric, venues that aren’t usually associated with the jazz circuit. However, Boyd has had a home on the dancefloor since his breakout single Rye Lane Shuffle found its way into the hands of Four Tet and Floating Points, who helped mix the track and introduced it as a mainstay at nights like Deviation and clubs like Café Oto. In fact, while Dark Matter features contributions from many of Moses’ fellow jazz musicians – Joe ArmonJones, Nubya Garcia and Tomorrow’s Warriors co-founder, Gary Crosby OBE, to name just a few – their playing has often been so dramatically cut up, sampled, looped, re-produced
and sampled again that not even the musicians themselves know who is playing what and when. “They’re still baffled that they’re on the album! They don’t recognise themselves!” Boyd chuckles, referring to his collaborators and friends with a comfort that has come from years of playing together; at the Roundhouse, at Warrior’s and now on stages across the world. “Theon [Cross] will message me randomly being like, ‘Is this me on this track?’” he continues, grinning, before insisting, “I know every single piece though!” The best example of this new approach is Only You. The second song Boyd released ahead of the album, mournful vocals loop over his skittering drums and crashing cymbals while a piano line tries to claw its way out of the murk. Boyd describes it as a “crying in the club record”, though it’s much more akin to having a paranoid breakdown in the toilets. It started life as a drum solo, intended to highlight Moses’ jazz chops among his more electronic work on Dark Matter, but true to form, he “heard one sick loop in it and couldn’t let it go, so I tried to make it into something else.” Beyond merely breaking down genre boundaries, Boyd is also working to break down the models that underpin the modern music industry, most notably with the Exodus Hotline. A WhatsApp broadcast system that allows fans to connect directly with Boyd and vice versa, the hotline serves as another way to engage his audience beyond social media. It also gives him unfiltered access to the data – who you are, where you live, which Moses Boyd records you buy, etc – that social media companies and streaming giants like Apple and Spotify feed on, which he uses to plot tours and market his shows. Boyd hopes that eventually it will allow him to bypass the near-mystical algorithms, cranky billionaires and general clutter of the timeline completely. Moses started the hotline after a trip to South Africa in 2017, as gqom was reaching new heights in the country and abroad. “They were distributing a lot of gqom music via WhatsApp groups,” he explains, nodding to DJ Lag among others as inspirations for the model. “So, I was talking to a guy I met in Johannesburg who was a computer programmer, and we realised we could build our own thing,” he says, as nonchalant as ever. Where other artists have created custom apps for similar
purposes, Boyd chose WhatsApp, in part because it was free and easy to customise and in part to further “break down that gulf” between artists and fans. “There’s the artist there, the fans here,” he says, leaning forward in his seat as he gestures enthusiastically to emphasise his point. “In between are like four or five tech companies that control the mediation. That’s not good.” It’s a reflection of the understated politics that also inflect Dark Matter. “There’s a lot of darkness,” Boyd says matter of factly, explaining both the album’s title and how the last few years, the Windrush scandal in particular, have led him to question his identity. “Like, I’m British, but am I British when I turn on the TV and they’re deporting people that look like me, that helped rebuild their nation?” he asks with a grave laugh. Instead of tackling the issues of the day with ferocity – as his peers Sons of Kemet did – Boyd let the existential gloom of the UK seep into Dark Matter’s pores, filling much of the space between the notes with a familiar sense of unease. “I didn’t sit down to write political songs,” he says reflectively, “but I was turning on my TV everyday, I was seeing tower blocks burning, I was seeing people being deported, I was seeing the NHS on the brink. I was just responding to what was around me.” Perhaps the reason Boyd doesn’t want to class Dark Matter as a political record is that for many politics has become hopeless. And despite it all, he still has hope. That hope illuminates the record in skits and bursts of joyful melody from the triumphant, welcoming horns on opening track Stranger Than Fiction to the Burialgoes-bebop shuffle of 2 Far Gone. As our interview comes to an end, Boyd stresses that the album isn’t a eulogy, it’s a “question mark”. It asks listeners: “where do we go from here? What are you going to take from this? These things will continue to happen,” he stresses, rounding off with a final encouragement, “what are you going to do?” For Boyd, the answer is simple.“Things are far from perfect but I’ma try, and if everyone tries maybe we’ll get somewhere.” he says, as buoyant as he’s been throughout our conversation. “My grandma used to say, ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope’ so as long as I have blood and bones, we’re good.” Dark Matter is released 14 February on Exodus Records
Words: Mike Vinti Photography: IVOR alice
Moses Boyd makes jazz that speaks to a new generation – but his ambitions don’t end there
The Manchester-based producer disrupts dancefloors with club commentary from the heart
Words: Jake Indiana Photography: Kevin Mason
“You're probably feeling quite melodramatic right now.” It’s not a phrase you would expect a DJ to utter into a microphone during the emotional peak of their set. Most of us would be surprised to hear a DJ speak so intimately to their crowd at all. But this is par for the course for AYA – an artist whose live appearances strike a balance between heady critical theory and cheeky irreverence, respecting the vast heritage of dance music and its communal spaces while also, well, taking the piss. A typical night of DJing from AYA prominently features live commentary of the set as it is happening, hopping on the mic midtrack to offer up such quips. This is far from an act of trolling – for AYA, the thrill of a live performance comes from subverting the audience’s expectations, completely breaking down the wall that separates them from the performer, and pulling the rug out from under them. AYA’s music acts in essentially the same way. Her 2019 EP and departt from mono games (released under former moniker LOFT), is ambiguous and hard to describe. It condenses an array of genres into a whole that is not quite dance and not quite ambient, coursing with an undercurrent of profuse feeling but pointedly denying the listener a chance to get their bearings or emerge with a coherent interpretation. It is brilliant through and through, but as a standalone work, it simply can’t convey the multitudes of a full AYA performance. In headphones, she is an artist who presents an evocative head trip through decades of club music, while in a live set she is a true character – replete with otherworldly make-up and the occasional accent – who actively guides the crowd through this journey, toying with audiences’ perceptions of the role of a DJ and the social dynamics of the club. Watching her play, I am reminded of nothing so much as a Commedia dell’arte performer, as if a student of the centuries-old improvisational theatre practice was given charge of the rave.
With that in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising to hear about AYA’s extensive art school training, though I am admittedly surprised by her unassuming nature and winsome conversation when we meet in Berlin. She exudes a homespun charm that grounds even the most lofty of our theoretical discussions with disarming sincerity. And even though her face is elaborately made-up in wintry shades of blue and white, I can’t quite comprehend that this is the same figure who can confidently, and dramatically, hold court with crowds of clubbers. Drama is a force that really began at home. Born in Birmingham and
raised in Portisfield, her parents met at Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and eventually ran theatre companies. But a stereotypical ‘theatre kid’ AYA was not; her parents were running an abstract physical theatre company making “procedural, generative, theatre art.” Music was a constant focus from an early age. AYA began playing drums from age six, perhaps the clearest indicator of things to come. Piano and guitar were to follow, but in such an esoteric household, it is little wonder that experimental music was never far from her, producing a precocious youngster who knew who Steve Reich was before most people could name a musician outside a children’s television programme. And aside from a brief teenage dalliance with the world of the salon – “There was a time when I was
like, 14 or 15, where I was going to become a hairdresser,” AYA says wryly, “I was particularly good at dying hair and doing interesting things with dye” – music was always going to be the primary focus of her energies. AYA was lucky enough to catch “the last of the real art school education that used to exist in provincial cities around the UK,” a formal training that was, in essence, a proper fine art course which AYA centralised around a musical focus. This meant that her core musical foundation was taught in tandem with Dadaism and installation art, a cauldron of aesthetic dogma that instilled the sense that divisions between artistic mediums were nonexistent. It was an enriching experience, one that included a healthy deprogramming of AYA’s once staunchly held beliefs. “I was a total elitist little shit while I was there at
first,” she laughs. “And then it taught me to remove those prejudices as time went on. Learning the value in pop, things like that.”
group coalesced around me somehow. I turned around and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I'm in the middle of a queer collective. How did this happen?’”
For obvious reasons, AYA is a frequent club-goer. However, her approach to composition is informed by the fact that she began writing when she was still a teenager, well before she could step into nightclubs herself. This meant that her initial forays in creating electronic music were developed through a practice of mimicry, foraging for sounds online and attempting to duplicate them from the ground up. It accounts for the quality of craftsmanship in her work today. “I learned through imitation,” she explains. “I've spent time learning the techniques, learning how to repurpose them and use them as reference points that an audience understands. It allows you to shift people's expectations of
We discuss queerness as another form of societal deprogramming, one that AYA neatly compares to her approach to arrangement and composition – a conscious “undoing” of linear narratives that comes with the rapid tonal shifts between different worlds or manners of thinking. In the end, this process is about settling into, or reckoning with, identity. It is what compels AYA to wield an amorphous performing persona in constant dialogue with her actual self, stepping back to see how they are “growing and influencing each other.”
what a piece of music can be. But really, it's about expressing this thing, the emotional core that comes before any of this intellectualisation. It gives a narrative to my musical experience but also allows me to communicate things to a bunch of different communities.” Relocating to Manchester was instrumental in kick-starting AYA’s career. The city is having a “real moment” as AYA tells it, attracting a broad swathe of techno and electronic artists working tangentially to where she was heading, i.e. “nervy club stuff.” It was through the city’s vibrant club scene that she would get to know a handful of peers with whom she would create the queer collective boygirl, a group of like-minded DJs who came together almost accidentally. “They are people that I’d met independently,” explains AYA. “But I only really saw them at [club] nights. After a while, a
The and departt... EP serves as the acme of this dialogue. In a statement accompanying its release, AYA expounded on how the project was the manifestation of an “aggregate three years of instability” that stemmed from the dissolution of a relationship, addressing what had become a “functional drinking problem,” and beginning hormone replacement therapy. There are hints of darkness lurking beneath the surface of AYA’s work – the warped collage of recognisable pop songs on 2018 mixtape ell oh eff tea too oh won ate being the most obviously nightmarish examples – and though and departt... unfolds subliminally, its underlying sense of disorder is clearly felt. AYA describes its energy as “frantic”, a release concerned first and foremost with tension. Surely it is no coincidence that this project has become the final release as LOFT. Even if the music comes from a personal place, AYA would not be able to see it through without actively considering how it would affect the energy of the dancefloor, or how it would sound in a club setting. “I've always made music for a purpose – to be played in a place,” she says. “I can't write without intention.” AYA has written for chamber ensembles and bands alike, but the intention of crafting music to suit the space or anticipate the needs of its listeners is the most pronounced in electronic music. It has a rigid sense of decorum that accounts for why AYA, with her acutely deconstructionist education, is drawn to subverting it. Her disruptive use of spoken word stands as the sharpest rebuke to such notions. “This is kind of ridiculous,” AYA says in demonstration of her onstage demeanour. “I'm one person with a microphone, and I'm playing other people's music. Have you noticed that?” and departt from mono games is out now via Tri Angle Records
“I’ve spent time learning the techniques, learning how to repurpose them. It allows you to shift people’s expectations of what a piece of music can be”
Lauren Auder Words: Alice Nicolov Photography: Michelle Helena Janssen Styling: Ade Udoma
Lauren Auder arrives on set in the black suit that’s become a signature. Tall, unkempt hair, bare-faced. “Day-to-day, I basically wear black suits because I like not having to think about these things,” the 21-year-old laughs, flashing a gold front tooth. “It's comforting to act like a cartoon character.” For anyone who’s followed Auder’s story, the east London-based musician’s upcoming EP Two Caves In is a clear step change. Written five years ago but only now seeing the light of day, the songs are heavy with teenage anguish. For their author, they resonate more today than at their inception. “There's a lot of trying to accept past pain, past struggles and coming to terms with yourself on this record. Those things ring even more true to me now.” While such heartrending themes fit comfortably into the artist’s oeuvre, the cradle of music they come in is different. Earlier offerings from Auder have felt insular and sparse, but this new work is a lush movie score; colourful and warm. Paired with the familiar melancholy baritone, guttural and raw in places, the project is a cinematic coming of age story – a choral herald for Lauren Auder.
Reflecting on this recent sonic change, Auder is candid: those first projects were born from isolation. Originally from the sprawling English satellite town of Watford, at seven years old Auder relocated to “literally the middle of nowhere” in the southwest of France. With nothing to do, they would spend hours drawing, wormholing on Tumblr and discovering new music and aesthetics. Take a look back at past interviews with Auder and you’ll find a kaleidoscope of references mentioned – from 60s rock stars like Marc Bolan and David Bowie through to electronic music and UK rap. By 17, the Auder moniker had crystallised and they were dabbling in music-making. “By my last year at school, I was obsessed with the idea of getting out,” the artist says. The music became a vehicle for escape and Auder began to email furiously, eventually striking up a relationship with the team at True Panther. “The day I finished high school, literally the very same day, I flew to New York.” The work that came after fleeing France would be made in bedrooms,
alone. Stark production, pensive lyrics and simple aesthetics spoke to other lonely souls. Now, though, Auder wants more. Inspired by playing to huge live audiences while touring with Christine and the Queens last year, the artist wants to make big music for big spaces to communicate with as many people as possible. “I make music so I can talk to people,” they explain. “It's about finding the most effective methods of doing that while staying true to my tastes and my ambition.”
already decided. That deep-rooted tie between aesthetic and sound, as well as an innate talent for beautiful selfpresentation, has seen the musician modelling for the likes of Céline. For this shoot, Auder was involved from the start, tying its vision into the wider Two Caves In project. “The team let me moodboard it all, which is awesome,” the artist enthuses about the bold head-to-toe Gucci looks, an opulent crimson gown especially catching their eye.
Since the last release, Auder has been resurfacing those songs written by the solitary 17-year-old and inspired by Scott Walker and Steve Reich. With this record, although it can be universally enjoyed, its creator wants especially to talk to teenagers: the ones who might need it the most. “My dream would be for 13 or 14-yearolds to hear it because it's about my experience at that age,” Auder says before acknowledging, ruefully, that this could be a challenge: “Sometimes my reference points are slightly esoteric and annoying.”
When asked about relinquishing control to other creatives, Auder is surprisingly practical. In fact, the musician revels in the power of collaboration as a means of communication. “I try not to have a myopic perspective on these things. Even though I'm pretty precise and clear with what I want, I know that ultimately it’s way more effective to have other perspectives.”
In homage to those teenage years, the musician has been working tirelessly on composition, arrangement and writing songs that are more concise. “I went full throttle to give it a grand treatment. Teenage experience and emotions are often belittled and seem twee, but really they’re extremely formative. They deserve more,” Auder says. This new iteration of Auder ushers in colour and texture. Ever the romantic, Auder describes the five-track EP’s visual identity as baroque and flamboyant, pulling reference from the glorious works of William Blake. The accompanying video for the lead single, June 14th, is a showcase for this new lens, full of energy and movement. And the palette, opalescent and rich, is a far cry from the bedroom records of before. “It felt natural that if I was trying to open up to the world lyrically and sonically, then I would reflect that aesthetically,” the musician says simply. For Auder, making music is a “super visual process”; before a single note becomes concrete, the visual is
Entering these new visual and sonic performative realms has felt like a natural progression for Auder. But it has also felt exposing. When we move on to the question of how selfexpression can be displayed through costume, makeup and jewellery, it prompts the first pause in our conversation. Auder takes a moment to collect their thoughts, explaining that becoming comfortable has been a long process. “When it comes to my self-expression, it's always a struggle,” they muse. “I’m always trying to feel more comfortable in the way I express myself.” But exposure does have creative benefits. Citing the visceral, highly emotional work of modern chanson and spellbinding performer Jacques Brel, the musician explains how being stripped bare lets you speak more truthfully. “Looking at the artists that I've always admired, it's in those moments of true, intense emotional expression that I’ve felt connected,” they reflect. “I want to give that to people.” Two Caves In is coming soon
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Stephen Mallinder Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder on shedding skins and starting again
In 1995, I decided to take a pause on things and relocated, for what was intended to be a brief hiatus, to Australia. I’d been working as Cabaret Voltaire for over 20 years and it felt like a good time to draw breath. We’d released around 30 albums in various forms plus all the attendant stuff – built a studio, run labels, made films, toured. We’d started so many things and done so much it felt we were at a crossroads. It was the early 90s, there was a shift from analogue to digital, and in every respect, music was in flux. We’d just released a triplet of instrumental albums which had offered a sense of closure. I was reluctant to keep repeating the pattern ad infinitum. I had two young daughters and my focus was in need of realignment.
my bands, DJed across the country and had numerous residencies. I lectured at university and wrote my PhD on ‘rhythm’. And, as a single parent, looked after my girls.
the clock and recalibrate, and find out what you can do when you simply have to. Um Dada is out now via Dias Records
So I did. After six months, I started working in arts radio – RTRFM – doing late night shows, eventually running daytime arts and current affairs programmes, successful electronic shows, and becoming the station producer. I wrote for music magazines, newspapers and various radio stations, set up a label – Offworld Sounds, in partnership with Pete Carroll – released albums (my own and many others from across the globe), and set up a production company, Offworld Productions. I also became a vinyl importer, ran music stores, played with
I ended up staying in Australia for over 10 years, a period of my life little known to other people, but transformational for me. I often wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed in the UK. But also wonder how much I’d miss the opportunity to do other things; to stop
I’d been living in a bubble, with homes in London and Sheffield, but now the world seemed like it should be bigger than just me. Moving to the edge of the planet was probably as extreme a thing as I could do: a serious reset. To go somewhere alien to me, where I knew no one; I had to simply survive, and as a consequence, reinvent myself. That turned out to be quite challenging, particularly in a pragmatic place where music and art doesn’t generate the same amount of money, or attention, as elsewhere. But I realised I couldn’t give up music. I discovered I just had to make it work however I could.
06 08 06
Beatrice Dillon Workaround PAN
Okay Kaya Watch This Liquid Pour Itself Jagjaguwar
Okay Kaya’s debut Both was an intricate avant pop album that centred around the concept of duality, cementing her as an artist to watch. The follow-up, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, departs from many of the minimalist approaches that defined its predecessor. Instead, she hones the bittersweet singalong structures that have become her signature, supporting them with more playful instrumentation and production. From the scuba diving instructions turned mantras of Ascend and Try Again to the cheerfully dreary Psych Ward, Kaya always has a charming way of making light of life’s dilemmas with tongue-in-cheek wordplay. On Asexual Wellbeing she muses, “I know sex with me is mediocre/ But I can probably feel what you’re feeling”. A sense of drowsiness settles about midway through the 15 tracks, evoking the warmth of an afternoon nap, but the daze wears off on Guttural Sounds, a lamenting hymn narrating the thrills of being a lovesick 30-something. Mushy acoustic lullabies like Popcorn Heart and Hallelu Ya Hallelu Me build on this mood as well. Toward the end, Kaya slips in a beautiful song in her native Norwegian called Helsevesen that is truly enchanting. While you can tell Okay Kaya has poured her whole self into this immersive project, the end result overflows with too many ideas for it to be truly effective. !
There’s a moment almost three minutes into Square Fifths, a track from Beatrice Dillon’s new album Workaround, where moody two-step transforms, without warning, into a warbled dubstep rhythm that would be right at home on a FWD>> dancefloor. It’s one of the many striking left turns in a looselimbed experimental debut that finds influence in Afro-Caribbean music as much as it does in UK club sounds. Finding a home somewhere between the synthetic and organic, Dillon has enlisted the help of a number of collaborators across varying instrumentation: Kuljit Bhamra on the tabla, Kadialy Kouyaté playing the kora, Batu providing samples, and Lucy Railton on cello, to name a few. On Workaround Five and Workaround Six, strings are employed to ominous effect; the typically balmy intonation sounding distorted and foreboding. Tabla rhythms and kora riffs weave warmth through the rigidity of staccato drum machine claps (Workaround Four, Clouds Strum) and synths that could have been plucked from a Barker record retain brightness above rumbling low end (Workaround Seven, Workaround Eight). Dillon has found inspiration for this record from the late modern dance choreographer Rudolf Laban, as well as the work of abstract artists like Bridget Riley, Tomma Abts and Jorinde Voigt. Just like Dillon, these artists have produced work that is at once formulaic yet unconstrained, psychedelic yet literal. Dillon’s DJ sets are valued for her playful affinity for rhythm and groove – Workaround is a thrilling extension of that dancefloor fascination. !
Stormzy Heavy Is the Head Atlantic Records Stormzy transcended grime a long time ago. Author Zadie Smith pens essays about him in the New Yorker, ill-informed politicians like Michael Gove quote his lyrics on Twitter in disastrous attempts to appear relevant, and pockets of the British media report on his movements with more scrutiny than the prime minister. In the wake of his triumphant Glastonbury headline set, the south London rapper has become a national treasure. At this point he feels more like a symbol of British perseverance and ingenuity than solely a musician. From platforming Wicked Skengman videos on YouTube to launching his Penguin book imprint #Merky Books, this is the kind of success story that’s impossible not to feel drawn in by. Legendary artists in this vein are expected to create their own blueprint, but there’s a sense on his second studio album, Heavy Is the Head, Stormzy is just following the winning formula of others. Syrupy ballads like Crown and Don’t Forget to Breathe could have been ghostwritten by Ed Sheeran, who shows up on the underwhelming Own It. Stormzy’s falsetto feels as if it was designed to be the acoustic 'lighters in the air' moment at a live show. At one point, he fully leans into the cliché: “You’re the only one who sweeps me off my feet/ Makes my soul complete”. The most obvious influence on the album is Drake. The way Stormzy consistently shifts between delicate crooning and braggadocio reminding us of his greatness is clearly inspired by the Canadian artist. Songs like Rachael’s Little Brother, which sounds like a diluted version of Nice for What’s soulful trap, fall flat, with a few awkward turns of phrase (“I keep dragons with me like Peter Jones”). Stormzy is at his best when he finds his footing on Big Michael and Audacity. The latter features ascendant drill rapper Headie One and is immediately thrilling, with bars like “They calling me the Virgin Mike/ How the hell I bust so fast?” a reminder of how piercing Stormzy can be as a lyricist when there’s some fire in his belly or he’s walking on familiar ground. The way Stormzy persistently grapples with holding the crown is also a reminder of his innate ability to draw you into his imperfect world. The suspicion that drives Do Better (“Having visions of my friends with RIP sweaters”) is hard to stop thinking about, and a bold reminder that being at the top isn’t just about trophies, but paranoia too. These haunting moments of introspection are quickly followed by tinny bops like Pop Boy and Bronze, where he raps: “I’m the king of grime by default”. This bar speaks to the problem with Heavy Is the Head: an album which secures Stormzy's spot on the throne, without offering any music that's truly game-changing. It’s a solid album, but the fact it comes from a king means you’d be right to expect a lot more. Stormzy is still an invaluable symbol in British society, but you’re left with the feeling that he’s a symbol that’s been momentarily bent out of shape, the music just one facet of a vast empire. !
Georgia Seeking Thrills Domino With the release of dancefloorfiller Started Out, Georgia Barnes began to find her feet and her voice. The 12 months since then, underpinned by the release of her euphoric, Robyn-esque pop stomper About Work the Dancefloor, have been a revelation for the London artist. She exits 2019 as one of Britain’s most exciting new pop stars and a staple on the A List at BBC Radio 1 – not bad for a DIY pop star signed to an indie label. Second album Seeking Thrills arrives at this high point. And, in a refreshingly bullshitfree scenario, her success is simply because the songs are that good. The three radiominglers, Started Out, the aforementioned About Work the Dancefloor and the thumping Never Let You Go, kick off the album. Track number four, 24 Hours, is surely destined for the airwaves too. It’s the purest, slickest pop song she’s written yet. The rest of the album travels down slightly weirder paths, channelling Georgia’s acidic, rave-ready heritage (her father Neil Barnes is a founding member of Leftfield), and placing her in a malleable middle-ground between mainstream radio and the dancefloor, with the baggy, dub-influenced Ray Guns a late highlight. Seeking Thrills is at its best, though, when heading full pelt through pop euphoria. Expect to hear even more of Georgia in 2020. !
La Roux Supervision Supercolour La Roux’s Elly Jackson is no stranger to making hits. She scored her first international smash with In for the Kill four days after her 21st birthday. She quickly became the sound of off-centre British pop, along with then-musical partner Ben Langmaid. Now a solo act, Jackson returns for Supervision, La Roux’s third studio album and a smoother, more subdued project. Whereas La Roux’s earlier songs were compressed tightly into radio-friendly singles that were as fleeting as they were catchy, Supervision lets each song simmer for longer than you’d expect. A more laid-back approach to her typically upbeat synths and guitars gives Jackson’s voice more room to explore its range. It’s easy to listen to, but just as easy to tune out; where songs like Bulletproof and In for the Kill demanded attention, Supervision plays out in the background, like the Wham!-tinged Everything I Live For, which fades from memory quickly, in part because of Jackson’s gentler songwriting. Tracks like the seven-minute epoch Gullible Fool owe as much to George Michael’s soulful belting as they do to Carole King’s folksy ballads. La Roux is known best for synth pop bangers, and while Supervision doesn’t lean into her signature melodramatics, this album seems perfectly comfortable at its own pace – it just might be a bit too slow to keep up. !
06 07 05 Pet Shop Boys Hotspot X2
After 16 records, we’re only now getting a glimpse of the real of Montreal. Much has been made of frontman and founder Kevin Barnes touring his last record, 2018’s unusually forthright White Is Relic/ Irrealis Mood, without the drag and stage costumes that had become a staple of his shows. This back-to-basics approach continues apace on UR FUN, with Barnes’ blossoming relationship with his girlfriend, songwriter Christina Schneider of Locate S,1, at the heart of the album. Barnes wrote and recorded UR FUN entirely alone, an impressive feat of isolationism for a man who’s assembled many a loose musical collective around his project over the years. The result is a collection of songs that are musically concise and lyrically complex, with varying degrees of success on both fronts. Lead single Polyaneurism is an 80s-indebted earworm, and there’s something gently anthemic about the drowsy You’ve Had Me Everywhere. Barnes is at his best when he’s playfully dipping into the peaks and valleys of a deepening romantic relationship, but on UR FUN’s latter half, the mood clouds and the sonic warmth cools a little, particularly on the chugging Don’t Let Me Die In America and the capricious Deliberate Self-Harm Ha Ha. Still, that Barnes is producing work with this many ideas this far into his career is to be applauded. !
Just shy of five years since Dan Deacon released his last full-length solo record, the Baltimore-based electronic composer returns with an ambitious concept-led album, Mystic Familiar. Whether or not you buy into the language of Deacon’s world-building (he describes a ‘mystic familiar’ as our inner subconscious, “an entity that communicates magically with another person”), or his twee, enthusiastic grappling with wonder, it’s clear that the themes he explores on the record have been deeply considered in his absence. Meditation runs as a thread throughout, with Deacon’s lyrics at times commanding the listener to follow him under. “Close your eyes, float away, feel so fine,” he repeats as a mantra throughout the tightly choreographed four-part Arp sequence that forms the album’s core. But despite Deacon’s insistence on seeking freedom and transcendence, it seems he’s never truly able to achieve it himself, bound instead by the precise arrangements of his songwriting. There’s a veneer of disorder, but the music never truly loses itself. It’s not until halfway through the closer, Bumble Bee Crown King, that the squall of synths breaks out and, for a short moment, is allowed to caterwaul into the ether. In spite of bright spots – such as the euphoric jostling on death, decay and rebirth of Sat By a Tree, or the warmth in the call-and-response chorus of Fell Into the Ocean – this inability to relinquish control and lean into a disconnected state yields frustrating results. !
Squarepusher Be Up a Hello Warp Tom Jenkinson may have taken a step back from his Squarepusher project in recent years, but that’s not to say he’s been twiddling his thumbs. He formed his robot-fronted Shobaleader One band to reinterpret old Squarepusher cuts, and even scored an ‘ambient hour-long wind down’ CBeebies show. Now, he makes a welcome return to his vast array of vintage analogue hardware for Be Up a Hello. As the album opens, Jenkinson is in a playful mood – in fact, the most joyous-sounding he’s ever been. Oberlove’s chord progressions are almost tooth-achingly sweet, while Hitsonu could be the saccharine soundtrack to a Gameboy game about puppies. As the record progresses, however, he delves deeper and darker into his signature furious, skittering breakbeats and zipping acid. Ambient interlude Detroit People Mover offers some respite from the breakneck drums, an oasis of calm before Vortrack’s nervous and slamming acid squelches – a track surely made for cavernous warehouse listening. Terminal Slam matches glitchy drums to ominous bass notes, while Mekrev Bass’ synths rasp argumentatively over 8-bit NES-style chirps. The album ends on its most unsettling track, the unrelenting 80 Ondula, which serves to reinforce the record’s severe mood drop over time. 25 years into his career, Jenkinson’s lost none of his mischievousness. !
An artist hunkering down to make their ‘Berlin album’ suggests something serious and gloomy. Leave it to Pet Shop Boys to obliterate this notion entirely. Hotspot uses electronic music’s de facto capital as the backdrop to an unabashedly zany set of songs, not so much wearing the city’s influence on their sleeve as bedazzling it. It may well be their campest full-length to date, which – coming from the group who reimagined a Stephen Sondheim show tune for Liza Minnelli – is saying something. Recorded at Berlin’s legendary Hansa studios, and reuniting with producer Stuart Price, the production throughout Hotspot is, unsurprisingly, immaculate. In marked contrast to their previous collaborations with Price, Hotspot pulls from a diverse pool of sounds: Happy people teases a vintage Italo intro only to plunge into a proper house stomper; the effortlessly catchy I don’t wanna is a hardy step into electroclash; Burning the heather is a downtempo ballad emphasising gentle guitar. A lot of moments on this record shouldn’t work, and a few come perilously close to not working at all. Monkey business is fairly foul, only saved by the meme-worthy image of Tennant in the club demanding “margaritas, champagne, and red wine”. Dreamland borrows so heavily from the sonics of their 1987 masterwork Actually that you start wondering why guest vocalist Olly Alexander sounds so much like Dusty Springfield. And if you thought Wedding in Berlin wouldn’t be bold enough to include a pipe organ playing a wedding march, think again. But for all the bizarre choices and sidesteps made on Hotspot, Pet Shop Boys live up to their own adage of never being boring. For a legacy act entering its fourth decade of existence, what more could you possibly want? !
Kaytranada BUBBA RCA Records
Holy Fuck Deleter Last Gang Records When Holy Fuck’s self-titled debut emerged in 2005, it felt right at home among the crossover output of labels like DFA and Kitsuné. Awash with swirling electronics, muted yelps, frantic rhythms and distorted punk-funk, it was exciting and new. Deleter, the band’s fifth album, doesn’t deviate dramatically from this original template. There are moments – such as when Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor adds his electro-pop croon to the modular melodies of album opener Luxe – that reaffirm what an excellent template it still is. Holy Fuck have always managed to weave dreamy melodies into high-energy noise, and the wistful Endless is just as good as any of their earlier work. Joining the surge of artists exploring the punkier reaches of electronic music, tracks like the sludgy, hard-edged San Sebastian draw direct lines between the vanguards of the past and present. It’s a highlight that is disappointingly followed by title track Deleter, which sounds mawkishly quaint at best, as well as Free Gloss, which chugs along mediocrely, neither here nor there. Sure, there are moments on the album that demonstrate Holy Fuck’s ability to electrify, but our sonic landscape has significantly shifted and developed since the band first carved out their sound. Too much of the material on Deleter sounds oblivious to this, and as a result, dated. !
Kaytranda’s Polaris Prizewinning debut 99.9% came seemingly out of nowhere. The album shot through the mid10’s R&B scene like a bat out of hell, featuring now-era-defining collaborations with everyone from Anderson .Paak to Little Dragon to the most elusive of early 00s legends, Craig David. The wait for a follow-up has been a long one, and the risk of a veritable sophomore slump is more than real – so, a lot is riding on BUBBA, and Kaytranada knows this. This is maximal R&B; 17 tracks of layer upon layer of soul, funk, disco and pop, whose mission statement is to fully embody the idiom ‘go big or go home’. The only real criticism of this approach of more-is-more production value is that these kind of mammoth records can be prone to filler, and unfortunately, there are a few less than stellar moments on BUBBA that could have easily been sacrificed to the cutting room floor (for example, the 1:53-minute lite-funk exercise Puff Lah goes nowhere fast). But when Kaytranada delivers, it’s a banger for the ages: 10% with its rolling funk and surely soon-to-be-cult lyric, “You keep on taking from me/ But where’s my 10%?” casts critical darling Kali Uchis as a fed-up lover in the grand style of the most dramatic disco divas. BUBBA’s best tracks cull from Kaytranada’s deep understanding of black music past and present, like Go DJ, which makes great use of skittering backbeats and scintillating synthesizers that look to history. BUBBA may not be Kaytranada’s final form, but we know what he is capable of – and as a step in his fascinating evolution as one of this decade’s most important R&B producers, it delivers. !
Dan Deacon Mystic Familiar Domino
of Montreal UR FUN Polyvinyl
Harry Styles Words: Hannah Ewens
Harry Styles' Fine Line plays dress up in genres, but none of them quite fit
The first three released tracks, Lights Up, Watermelon Sugar and Adore You, were straightforward pop songs with grooves that seemed like deliberate palette cleansers. Still, they lacked the vocal delivery and charm that he previously demonstrated (see: howling and purring on his debut album). But since Styles has an established track record of releasing more uncomplicated tracks as singles (the sure-fire classic rock of Sign of the Times and Two Ghosts were singles from his debut, ignoring the charismatic Carolina and Only Angel), this didn’t necessarily point to much.
Then he is the psychedelic dabbler: the new age Brit having his drug phase in California, writing at the intersection of hallucinogenic exploration and heartbreak. Both the languid psych rock of She and Sunflower, Vol. 6 could be about a love of drugs or women (“I’ve got your face hung up high in the gallery/ I love this shade, sunflower, sunflower”), perhaps the diving into one to reminisce about the other. Alongside those, the creepy choral chants and Andrew Lloyd Webber-style claps of Treat People With Kindness are a cold ode to finding a vague sociopolitical “good place” that sounds a lot like dissociation from reality.
if anything, to know even Harry Styles experiences his breakups as soundtracked by The Script.
And, disappointingly, the Harry Styles his cynics would have originally imagined post-1D: a ballad-loving ex-boyband favourite. Pop-hued singles and the tepid To Be So Lonely aside, this is never more evident as on Falling, the confessional piano ballad dangerously deep in anonymous chart music territory. As he sings “What if I’m down?/ What if I’m out?” he could easily be anyone from Shawn Mendes to James Arthur. It’s a comfort,
But it’s the intimacy of his heartbreak that makes for his most notable – and most personal – work yet. Despite his extraordinarily private life, he confirms on Canyon Moon and standout track Cherry that he thinks, feels and struggles with love. On the latter, with its Bon Iver sensibility and Japanese influence in its delicate guitars, lyrics are heartbreaking and, for him, specific: “Don’t call him what you used to call me” and later “I confess,
I can tell that you are at your best”. The recording of ex-girlfriend Rowe speaking in French is touching and his fans will be delighted by both the reveals and physicality of his lyrics (“I noticed that there’s a piece of you in how I dress”). The album, which ends on the soaring Bright Eyes-pomp of Fine Line, has flashes of brilliance. Certainly, the lines are narrow enough between the identities he tries on. While it’s still not clear who the ‘peculiar’ boy Harry Styles is, he’s finally shared enough to intrigue.
Harry Styles proved his musician credentials on his 2017 self-titled debut album, albeit to mixed critical reviews. With that out of the way, what would Harry do next? Who could he be, after a breakup with model Camille Rowe and time off to find himself in Japan? Who could Harry Styles be when he writes, as he told Rolling Stone, an album about “having sex and feeling sad”?
On Fine Line, Styles tries on many costumes – and seems to be very selfconsciously doing so. There are flashes of the Harry Styles he established with the first record: a 70s-inspired Rolling Stones-loving traditionalist, a younger Mick Jagger with a spritely smirk who brought some playfulness and virility back to classic rock. Opening track Golden immediately allays fears that Styles has scrapped all this. After the bravado of his self-titled album, he arrives with a sensitive side, psychedelic guitars and an obvious nod to Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain.
Harry Styles Fine Line Columbia Records
On an island where no one smiled, there was a boy who beamed. “The boy was peculiar,” muses Rosalía on the voiceover on Harry Styles’ video for Adore You, in which a bakerboy cap-wearing village lad with a devastatingly dazzling smile – Styles, of course – has to hide away after attracting so much attention. In reality, when Styles returned to the spotlight after One Direction’s split in 2015, he emerged the peculiar one for possessing a unique charm that outshone his previous bandmates’ solo efforts – many of the 1D fans went flocking to him – and a willingness to reject the mainstream pop approach.
LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem’s debut album captured the brittle energy of a very different New York City
Label: DFA Records Original release date: 24 January 2005
As a teenager, far removed from the peak of Brooklyn hipsterdom, hearing the lyrics of this self-confessed failure was less relatable than oddly aspirational, aided by the helpful call sheet of touchstone acts listed by Murphy in the song itself: “This Heat, Joy Division, Gil! Scott! Heron!” By the time their self-titled debut arrived via Murphy’s own DFA Records in 2005, LCD Soundsystem were already a formidable live band and the most vital export of a scene that melded dance and rock music from a new, DIY angle. Acknowledging this reputation, the album simply collected some (then) new songs on one disc and a number of live favourites and 12-inch singles on another. It’s an urgent record that feels almost noncanon compared to their ambitious, emotionally rich work later on. LCD Soundsystem’s best tracks are snotty, tense and feel as indebted to Murphy’s love of The Fall as his later immersion in disco culture. With the stock price of irony, sarcasm and white-male listmaking at an all-time low, LCD Soundsystem could arguably feel even more inaccessible in 2019 than in the mid-noughts, when the band were, at worst, an easy punchline for those
keen to wipe the smug look from the face of the emerging wave of Pitchfork hipsters. Even then, few could resist the bassline on Daft Punk Is Playing At My House, nor the refreshingly diverse group of NYC oddballs they revealed themselves to be, as they ripped through clubs and festivals with the sweat and attitude of a genuine punk rock heritage. Murphy, a keen student of popular culture and a sensitive soul, would later wisely balance the band’s more acerbic streak with the likes of Someone Great, Home and All My Friends – vulnerable anthems that now dutifully serve as cathartic tearjerkers at millennial weddings. Back on LCD Soundsystem, it feels as if the band are struggling to decide whether to expel or embrace the acidic tendency. Murphy’s awkward clarification that the trendy ghouls he mocks throughout Losing My Edge are “actually really, really nice” is funny and self-aware in a manner that is exquisitely them. For all Murphy’s laser-focus disses in the direction of “art-school Brooklynites in little jackets,” LCD Soundsystem finds him mercilessly documenting the underwhelming life he’s about to leave behind. On the underrated and pleasingly lethargic Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up, he attempts a charmless seduction (“When I was a little boy, I laid down in the grass/ I'm sure you'd feel the same, if I can fuck you here tonight”), whereas the cultural stock take on Movement is far from hopeful. “It seems the punk rock as an experiment, well it pulled up lame,” observes Murphy, a self-appointed “fat guy in a t-shirt doing all the saying”.
These nuggets of self-deprecation are sometimes lost in the live arena, where Movement remains a gnarly, pogoinducing highlight of the band’s pristine set. Yeah (Crass Mix), a repetitive, escalating jam built around the band half-heartedly intoning the word “yeah” is still a knockout, a timeless classic in the sphere of what we might have once called ‘indie-dance’. It’s pure ecstasy, and revelatory of the amount of energy bubbling throughout a scene that was at least sincere in wanting to see club culture and the ever-present threat of “borrowed nostalgia” in a very different way. Revisiting LCD Soundsystem, you may find yourself glad that Murphy dropped the act. But you’re still reminded that, when administered in the right direction, a little cynicism can go a long way.
Words: John Thorp
There’s an interview on YouTube in which LCD Soundsystem founder James Murphy discusses failure. Or more specifically, he describes his former life as “like really, really, really a failure.” At the end of this decadelong slump, Murphy wrote Losing My Edge, a satirical takedown of musical gatekeepers that affectionately skewered the exact figures it moved on the dancefloors of indie discos worldwide, himself included.
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Design: CokeOak Words: Rachel Grace Almeida
Welcome to Downtime: a regular series in which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations. This month, we catch up with Georgia.
First arriving in 2015 with her excellent self-titled debut album, Georgia was a promising leader at the forefront of a new wave of British artists. The album, a work that jumps between pop and electroclash, packs an emotional punch, exploring all the ways heartache can shape a person. It wasn’t until 2019 that we heard from the London-based singer and producer again – high-energy comeback single About Work the Dancefloor suggested she was an artist reinvigorated. Here, she tells us what she did with all that downtime.
Frankenstein By Mary Shelley For me, there is nothing better than losing myself in a book. Over the years I have taken this for granted, however recently I found myself enjoying some downtime (a rarity indeed) and picked up an old classic, Frankenstein. It's pure genius and so poignant given the times we live in. Shelley’s language is beautiful and poetic, but her concepts are simple and accessible, making it an easy read that explores themes so relevant to today. It really is a book you can read in a matter of days and totally immerse yourself in its gothic beauty.
Chef Dir: Jon Favreau I really enjoy cooking, especially since I’m vegan and find myself cooking more and going out to eat less, just for matters of ease. I absolutely love this film, Chef – it’s a great insight into Los Angeles food culture and the phenomenon of food trucks. When I was 19, I visited Cuba, and also really enjoyed the references to Cuban food in the film. It's a great feel good movie, one that I could watch over and over again!
Turner Collection At Tate Britain
Whenever I can spare the time, I head to the Tate Britain just to sit and stare at Joseph Turner’s paintings. An artist considered the ‘father of modern art’, his work is very classical, but I find it so calming and therapeutic to look at. I’ve spent so many hours just sitting in place and getting lost in my thoughts. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Seeking Thrills is out now via Domino Records
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It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Best Coast (nearly five years, to be exact). The Los Angeles duo, made up of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, first arrived with their sun-soaked debut album Crazy For You in 2010 – a blissful iteration of surf rock, with Cosentino’s breezy vocals evoking the West Coast warmth that’s proven such a lasting influence. Four albums later and the pair have finessed their distinct sound, incorporating indie pop, garage rock and folk into songs that tackle the pains of growing up – a subject that never gets old. With a new album on the horizon, we spoke to Cosentino about her journey so far.
Best Coast’s new album Always Tomorrow is out soon
1. What’s your earliest childhood memory?
Seeing my dad play guitar at home. I owe my career to those moments.
2. What annoys you the most? White supremacy.
3. How would your friends describe you in three words?
Funny, caring, annoying.
4. Favourite meme?
The one of the dog sitting in a room on fire saying, “This is fine”. I really feel that.
5. What would you want written on your tombstone?
“She tried her best.”
6. Best survival tip for 2019? Self care.
7. What’s your worst habit?
Smoking cigarettes. I keep quitting and relapsing, it’s so annoying.
8. The best thing about the internet? Having a voice, a community, and getting shit done.
9. The worst thing about the internet?
Giving a voice to people that have bigoted views.
1O. Best tip for looking chic? Sunscreen.
11. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Words: Rachel Grace Almeida
My mom got me a Joni Mitchell 1976 tour letterman jacket. It’s so beautiful, I now have it hanging on the wall because I never want to lose it.
12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Learn to let things go.
13. What makes you feel nostalgic?
Music that I listened to in my formative years. I can listen to a Blink 182 song and be immediately transported back to middle school.
14. What piece of advice would you give young Bethany?
It gets a lot better.
15. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Walk away from destructive patterns in my life that I knew weren’t good for me, but I struggled leaving behind.
16. Have you read anything good lately?
The Little Book of Self Care for Scorpios. It’s really sweet.
17. What’s the weirdest party you’ve ever been to?
We played Billie Joe Armstrong’s surprise 40th birthday party and Joan Jett and Lars from Metallica were there. His wife booked us because we were his favourite band at the time. Very bizarre.
18. Favourite food?
I love eating any food that can be eaten in a bowl – rice, beans, stuff from the land. My palette is very boring.
19. What’s your biggest fear? Guns. It’s scary living in a country where a mass shooting could happen anywhere.
2O. What’s the biggest realisation you’ve had in 2019?
I orchestrate my own chaos and I’m really good at getting in my own way. This year I realised I don’t have to continue doing things that are very broken. We’re capable of re-learning.
Words: William Doyle Illustration: Jude Gardner-Rolfe
the suburban surreal
From Pet Shop Boys to Brookside, the suburbia of England is presented as gritty and stifling. Here, William Doyle, fka East India Youth, relates how he learned to find beauty in the brown brick and cul-de-sacs. As a teenager I devoured the work of David Lynch, whose 1986 film Blue Velvet is one of the best depictions of suburbia ever produced. The opening scene is a montage of the “perfect” 1950s American neighbourhood that turns slowly into eeriness and tragedy, as the frame zooms into the grass revealing the bugs crawling beneath. Blue Velvet, and other David Lynch films, subverted the conservative foundations of the American suburb to produce works of mysterious beauty. There are numerous cultural depictions of American suburbia that do a similar thing. Arcade Fire’s brilliant 2010 album The Suburbs, described by singer Win Butler as being “neither a love letter to, nor an indictment,” features many vignettes of life in suburban America, often nostalgic in tone and open and triumphant in sound. Similarly, too, the photography of Gregory Crewdson whose large movie-style sets feature small town environments full of loneliness and intrigue; an alien abduction in the middle of the street, or an abandoned car with its door open and its lights on. These very North American representations of suburbia seem to bristle with possibility, and are unafraid to introduce absurdity and surreality into their scope. But the kind of British suburb I grew up in has been repeatedly shown as anodyne and uninspired; the art born from it resorting to gritty realism instead of deep imagination.
One of the more popular instances of the British suburbs being represented is the soap opera Brookside, set in an actual cul-de-sac purchased by the production company to achieve a high level of realism. Brookside’s
socially conscious storylines of domestic abuse, incest and the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss ever seen on British television made it a huge hit in the UK. The surroundings for these scenes were the kind of winding labyrinthine streets and brown brick houses that looked like where I lived, though thankfully nothing nearly as dramatic was happening in my life. While the British suburbs have provided fertile ground for musical inspiration – The Kinks, Pet Shop Boys, Blur and Suede have often cited the suburbs they originated from in their work – it has almost always come from a derisive point of view: of wanting to escape it for the nearest urban centre.
An obsession with realism seems to pervade most of the work made regarding these landscapes in Britain. Even the gorgeous paintings of George Shaw are near-photorealistic renditions of these environments. Across the board, very little abstraction seems to be taking place. It’s important to notice the differences between US and UK suburbs that may contribute to their contrasting depictions. American suburbs are sprawling; large houses with huge front lawns stretching out to infinity. British suburbs, on the other hand, cram many houses into smaller plots of land that nestle on the outside of cities, abruptly turning into countryside. But despite these differences, they occupy a
similar role in their respective societies: liminal zones between urban metropolis and open countryside. It’s strange, then, that British art has scarcely been able to access the psychedelia that American artists have repeatedly mined from these places. My experience was not like the drab scenes I watched and listened to. When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of my time walking around where I lived, blaring music through my headphones and merging those sounds with the world around me. It was an often bizarre mixture, superimposing the volcanic landscapes of Björk’s Homogenic onto a dreary cul-desac, or mixing the mechanical funk of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light with brown bricks and driveways. But these excursions lent my surroundings an ethereal quality that helped me appreciate them, and even grow to love them. Once I opened myself to the possibility that my neighbourhood held something beyond its surface, the epiphanies ran fast and deep. Making my most recent album, Your Wilderness Revisited – which is situated in the real and imagined suburbs of my childhood – I attempted to tap into the otherworldliness of that time through progressive song structures, electronic flourishes and moments of free jazz – not something one usually associates with the suburban environment. Towards the end of the album is a quote read by writer and broadcaster Jonathan Meades, who was a huge inspiration on this project. In it, he says, “I, too, regard suburban avenues and riverbanks, backstreets and woods as the best free show on Earth.” Upon hearing these words, everything sort of clicked into place for me. It was OK to find the beauty in a place that I’d repeatedly been told had none. Your Wildness Revisited is out now via William Doyle
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