Crack Magazine | Issue 89
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Slowthai: Peaches 40
Holly Blakey: Nakhane 58 52
Rising: Snail Mail – p.29
Recommended – p.26
Discover – p.31
Reviews – p.69
My Life as a Mixtape: Buzzy Lee – p.67
Retrospective: Tha Carter III – p.79
20 Questions: Chad Hugo – p.85
A Love Letter To: Reggaeton – p.86
Editor's Letter – p.23
Deep down, we all share a fierce attachment to a location – some place that laid the concrete of our identity. For most people it’s where they grew up, a part of themselves they’ll happily defend against those who could never understand it. For me, it’s Slough, a city on the outer fringes of London which is not exactly known for its glamour – in fact, it is seminally grey – but its diversity and dysfunctionality have kept me grounded. Where was it that shaped you?
Jorja Smith Don’t Watch Me Cry Ben Vince What I Can See ft. Micachu Lotic Power Nakhane Interloper 2 Bad Mice Gone Too Soon (Sully remix) K-LONE BB-8 upsammy A Picture of U Buzzy Lee Coolhand Arctic Monkeys Four Out Of Five Amber Mark Conexão Playboi Carti R.I.P. Fredo [Notice Me] ft. Young Nudy Brenecki Esoteric Body Music Kelsey Lu Shades of Blue A$AP Rocky Fukk Sleep ft. FKA twigs RP Boo U Don’t Know Body/Head Change My Brain Joe Armon-Jones Ragify ft. Big Sharer
Jorja Smith shot exclusively for Crack Magazine by Laura McCluskey in London, May 2018
The artists featured in this issue each speak powerfully about somewhere that made them whole. For slowthai, the MC with a magnetic charm, Northampton is the centre of his universe, kindling the passion he injects into his grime scene theatrics. Lotic and Peaches, two generations of boundary-blurring artists, find a common thread while speaking on the gravitational pull of Berlin, a city that offered the possibility they both craved. If not a geographical location, then an essential sanctuary offers some a sense of belonging. For Nakhane, his deeply expressive music, along with his scene-stealing role in South African film The Wound, traces a journey to self-acceptance. Choreographing music videos became Holly Blakey’s calling, before spurring her on to push away the elitist parameters of the contemporary dance world. In this month’s cover story, Jorja Smith marvels at how her Midlands accent is proudly flaunted on her debut album Lost & Found. Smith’s strong ties to Walsall colour her commentary on class, race and heartbreak as her modern soul probes at social issues – just one of the reasons she’s becoming a role model on her way to pop stardom. Jorja Smith is poised for far reaching success, but her music still feels like home. Anna Tehabsim, Editor
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Erol Alkan All Night Long Phonox 1 June
O ur g ui d e to wh at's goi n g on th i s su m m e r
Meltdown Festival Placebo, Deftones, Vessels Southbank Centre, London 15–24 June Romare Phonox 9 June
It feels rare to be able to enjoy a cultural event as big as a 10-day-long, multi-venue festival in London – especially considering the slow-but-sure shutdown of cultural spaces, clubs and venues – so we’re in for a treat here. This year’s edition of Meltdown Festival is curated by The Cure’s iconic frontman, Robert Smith. Throughout the middle of June, he’s booked a varied music and multi-disciplinary performance bill including sets from rock experimentalists Deftones, resident indie sad boys Death Cab for Cutie, genrebenders Placebo, electronic necromancers Vessels, and many more. As the festival’s 25th anniversary, we’ve got no doubt it’s going to be extra special.
Dimitri from Paris + Alex from Tokyo XOYO 2 June Roskilde Festival Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Massive Attack, Stormzy Roskilde, Denmark 30 June–7 July
Lovebox Festival SZA, Skepta, Anderson .Paak Gunnersbury Park, London 13–14 July It goes without saying that this year’s edition of Lovebox has well and truly knocked it out of the park. After relocating from East London’s beloved Victoria Park to the more suburban surroundings of Gunnersbury Park out West, the festival’s full lineup announcement came like Christmas for fans of hip-hop, grime, R&B, pop and electronic music alike; they’re bringing us the likes of Childish Gambino, Skepta, SZA, Wu-Tang Clan, Mabel, Novelist, The Internet, Jon Hopkins and Kali Uchis. We can’t imagine tickets for this will be available for much longer, so act quick and you’ll be on your way to singing along to The Weekend with your mates down the front.
Living in a tent for eight days straight might sound like your idea of fresh hell, but hear us out for a minute. Taking place just outside of the city of Copenhagen, Roskilde Festival is Northern Europe’s largest festival, running as a not-forprofit event since its inception in the early 70s. The site spreads out over a whopping 80 hectares, with this year’s line-up keeping it as eclectic as it gets – David Byrne, Danny Brown, St Vincent, (Sandy) Alex G, Dua Lipa, Fever Ray, Interpol, just to name a few. We don’t know about you, but this bill is certainly worth getting in touch with nature for.
Le1f Birthdays 1 June
Waxahatchee Oval Space 11 June
Citadel Festival Tame Impala, Chvrches, Kelly Lee Owens Gunnersbury Park, London 15 July Hideout Festival Peggy Gou, AJ Tracey, Mall Grab Zrce Beach, Croatia 25–29 June
Preoccupations Village Underground 5 June
Animal Collective Troxy 11 June
John Maus Electric Ballroom 14 June
Now in its eighth year, Hideout Festival returns to Croatia’s renowned Zrce Beach for another five days and nights of pool parties, intimate boat parties, secret beach parties and on-site sets. This year, the festival brings live performances from the likes of Ladbroke Grove grime MC AJ Tracey, fun loving house aficionado Hunee, lo-fi house posterboy Mall Grab and kinetic disco queen Peggy Gou. For those of you who fancy getting away from the inevitable sea of snapbacks for a little while, take the tropical, mountainous beauty of Pag Island all in by doing some water sports or trying out the local cuisine and bars. You might need it.
People say indie is dead, but it’s still alive in Gunnersbury Park. After launching in 2015, Citadel Festival has been the laidback and much-needed Sunday comedown from Lovebox’s rowdy Saturday antics. Over the one-day event, you can catch live music performances, debates, theatre and comedy, with a UK exclusive headline show from your fave psych-pop collective Tame Impala, who haven’t stepped foot on a fuzz pedal in England since 2016. Joining them are electro pop outfit Chvrches, neo-jazz troubadour Kamaal Williams, dream-pop producer Nabihah Iqbal and many more. It’s the ultimate Sunday affair.
Aïsha Devi Oslo Hackney 14 June
Jenny Hval St John on Bethnal Green 5 June
30/70 + Vels Trio + Laura Misch The Jazz Cafe 14 June
D’Angelo Brixton Academy 20 June
The Jazz Cafe Birthday Jazz Cafe 16 June
Farr Festival Daphni, Shanti Celeste, Dixon Bygrave Woods, Hertfordshire 5–8 July Bluedot Festival The Chemical Brothers, Gilles Peterson, Slowdive Jodrell Bank, Cheshire 19–22 July Bluedot Festival takes the intersections of music, science, culture and art to a new level. Set over four days in the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, you can enjoy a host of music performances, live science experiments, expert talks and debates, and immersive art installations. Leading the way for music is The Chemical Brothers, Future Islands, Helena Hauff, Hookworms, Laura Misch, among more acts also known for innovation within their genre. In between all the music, you can catch talks from leading scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts, or go peep the giant Lovell Telescope. Bluedot is truly a celebration of unity, progressive thinking and art in all its forms, so don’t miss this experience.
Melt! Festival Kali Uchis, Fever Ray, Badbadnotgood Ferropolis, Germany 13–15 July
Hosted in the Bygrave Woods in Hertfordshire, Farr invites some of the best selectors in the game to spin their tunes in the uninhabited woodlands just outside of London. Boasting more stages and an even bigger line-up, the weekend-long party is seeing Hunee, Jacques Greene, Lena Wilikens, Tom Misch, Maribou State and more touchdown at the boutique event. If enjoying deep house, techno and disco in a hot tub – yes, seriously – is your thing, then this is the place for you.
Imagine watching The xx, Tyler, the Creator, Modeselektor, Princess Nokia, Mount Kimbie, Ben Klock and Cigarettes After Sex by a sparkling lakeside setting. Now stop imagining it, and go buy a ticket to Melt! Festival, where you can do exactly that. Located in Leipzig, just 90 minutes south of Berlin, Melt! offers a lush refuge away from the city, where music goes on for 24 hours over a number of stages and dance spaces. Get a group of mates together and lose yourselves in Ferropolis’ wilderness.
Hunee XOYO 15 June
Lee “Scratch” Perry Dreamland Margate 7 July
Decolonise Fest DIY Space for London 23 June
Todd Terje Christopher Street 23 June
Terraforma Jeff Mills, Plaid, Batu Villa Arconati, Milan 29 June–1 July
In a bid to bridge the gaps between sound and collaboration, Kallida Festival is bringing a stacked new programme to the historic Baskerville Hall in Wales, where you can cut shapes nestled within hundreds of acres of Welsh countryside. Heading up the three-day affair is Daniel Avery, Wayne Snow, Nilüfer Yanya, Spinee, and more artists, DJs and producers across all genres. With light and art installations peppering the location, reinforced by the hard boom of the heavyweight sound systems, Kallida is sure to bring out the best of the West Country.
Courtney Barnett Roundhouse 6 June
Lets Eat Grandma Rough Trade East 29 June
Just four years since its inception, Milan’s Terraforma Festival has already established itself as one of Europe’s lowkey festival highlights. Set in the wooded gardens surrounding the palatial Villa Arconti, the festival invites a clutch of the most forward-facing contemporary electronic artists for a three-day celebration of experimental music and art. Established names like Jeff Mills and Plaid are joined by new-school favourites Batu, Powder, DON’T DJ and Lanark Artefax, who play alongside an impressive programme of lectures, workshops and sitespecific art installations. Count us in.
Nachtdigital Optimo, Beatrice Dillon, rRoxymore Bungalowdorf Olganitz, Germany 3–6 August Nachtdigital is one of those festivals that gives you a lot for a little, and these rare gems are hard to come across these days. Just outside of Leipzig, the green habitat of the site serves as the perfect backdrop for a four-day excursion through deep house, techno, disco, bass and electronic music in various experimental forms. Sets from the likes of Ben UFO, Objekt, Courtesy and Blawan will keep you shuffling all night long, with some stages going on for 24 hours straight. Coming in at €130 for the whole affair, it’s no wonder Nachtdigital sells out so quickly – seize the bargain while you can.
Kallida Festival Daniel Avery, L-Vis 1990, Afriquoi Baskerville Hall, Wales 22–24 June
Rising: Snail Mail
Words: Rachel Grace Almeida Photography: Michael Lavine
Sounds Like: Emotionally raw indie rock Soundtrack For: Solo late-night drives File Next To: Soccer Mommy / Frankie Cosmos Our Favourite Tune Pristine Where to Find Them: snailmailbaltimore.bandcamp.com
When I call Lindsey Jordan, the 19-yearold singer and guitarist behind Baltimore-based indie rock project Snail Mail, she’s driving back home from a photoshoot in the city. It’s her mom’s birthday and she’s on her way to a supermarket to buy flowers in between a hectic day of shoots, promo and tour prep ahead of the release of her debut album, Lush. “I’m home so little that sometimes just being in the neighbourhood I live in feels nostalgic. I have perfumes from middle school that I’ll spray around my room for no reason. I feel this rush, or a thrill, to return home, which can be a weird thing,” she tells me. These same themes of nostalgia ring throughout Snail Mail’s music. When her debut EP Habit hit Bandcamp in the summer of 2016, its guitar pop encapsulated the essence of being a shit-kicking teenager, in all its awkward and vulnerable glory: the fun, the confusion, the heartbreak, the feeling of time being endless. What’s particularly special about Snail Mail, however, is how unembellished the music and lyrics really are – everything is laid out bare, demanding your attention, and, most importantly, your understanding. Off the back of the cult success of Habit comes Lush – an astute
collection of songs openly navigating the nature of being a teenage girl. Growing up is difficult for the best of us, and doing it in front of an audience can be just as powerful as it is confusing. “As I got towards writing the last songs on the record, I was in an emotionally difficult place,” Jordan says. “I was moving around a lot and having to make decisions and become mature in a short period of time in order to not crash and burn. The most important thing for me has been to keep [music] as an outlet and not something I feel like I have to do.” In a way, it feels like we’re all watching Lindsey Jordan grow up in real time. What started off as a bedroom project has turned into a public safe space. With Lush, she’s taking us down her road of self-growth and self-discovery – from her wide-eyed, lovesick admissions, to her self-assured, razorsharp declarations. Capturing early adulthood in all its messy splendour, Snail Mail is straightforward and disarming, kind of like the wall of feelings you’re hit with when you visit your hometown that you left for bigger things.
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TICKETS & INFO: WWW.SEQUENCES.CO.UK @SEQUENCESUK
File Next To: Real Estate / Sparklehorse Our Favourite Tune: Better For Me Where To Find Him: soundcloud.com/ fakelaughmusic
Wayne Snow Imagine D’Angelo’s soothing falsetto with a deep house backdrop. Now you’ve got a taste for Wayne Snow, the Nigerian-born, Berlin-based newcomer seamlessly blending neo-soul vocals with lo-fi, electronic productions. Often collaborating with fellow Berliner producers Max Graef and Glenn Astro, his tunes tackle themes of freedom, struggle and identity with the self-assured delivery of an artist who’s been in the game for a decade. Snow’s explorations of cosmic funk and deep grooves go unparalleled in his scene – this is one to watch.
When you listen to Hilary Woods, you feel yourself being transported to the abandoned flat in which she writes and records her music. The Dublinbased multi-disciplinary artist creates songs – if you can call them that, they sound more like compositions – that feel entirely weightless. With whispered and measured vocals, her melodies tentatively move along with the piano’s crescendos, tense chord progressions and atmospheric build-up. Even if you’ve never heard her work before, the music she makes manages to sound completely familiar yet just out of reach, like a half-remembered dream. File Next To: Grouper / Jenny Hval
File Next To: Homeshake / Jordan Rakei Our Favourite Tune: Whatever Comes to Mind Where To Find Him: soundcloud.com/ mormor_music
Penya Hotly tipped by master curator Gilles Peterson, experimental collective Penya are making serious moves within the UK circuit. Founded by producer and multi-instrumentalist Magnus PI, the quartet's sound is marked by by sleek electronic production and grip-tight percussion. Some songs are sung by vocalist Lilli Elina, and others are entirely led by the grooves inspired by ancient Afro-Latinx melodies – either way, this is sonic exploration through the diaspora to get your feet moving.
Our Favourite Tune: Inhaler
File Next To: Bonobo / Afriquoi
Where To Find Her: soundcloud.com/hilarywoods
Our Favourite Tune: Why So Angry Where To Find Them: penyaofficial.com
File Next To: Oscar Jerome / Duke Hugh Our Favourite Tune: Rosie Where To Find Him: soundcloud.com/waynesnow
Sometimes, an artist encapsulates the feeling of a carefree sunny day so well in their music, it’s hard not to feel buoyant when you’re listening to them. Even if they are quietly spouting lyrics about monotony, longing and unfulfilled aspirations. Fake Laugh, aka songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Kamran Khan, is one of these artists. His brand of slow-moving, guitar-led indie pop blends humour and heartbreak with the kind of deadpan inflection that makes you think twice about what he just said. With new releases underway, Fake Laugh takes all the tough shit life throws at us and turns it into wistful guitar bops to take the edge off.
Toronto newcomer MorMor is impossible to bind to one specific genre – and in 2018, who needs arbitrary boxes, anyway? So, we’ll introduce him like this: the singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist has only released two tracks so far – soulful bop Whatever Comes To Mind and indie pop banger Heaven’s Only Wishful – but their slick and careful production prove that MorMor isn’t just making DIY R&B-tinged indie tunes for his bedroom. The crooning falsetto, spacious synths and galloping drums that characterise his music play off his demandingyet-subtle guitar sound, making for one of the most enjoyable pop listens so far this year.
Black Dress: Tommy Zhong Trainers: Nike Earrings: Becca Jewellery
Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a timeless elegance to breakthrough pop star Jorja Smith, but her modern soul speaks directly to todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s youth
Words: Owen Myers Photography: Laura McCluskey Styling: Helen McGuckin Photographer's assistant: Dom Fleming Styling Assistants: Pete Clubb & Aoife Steyaert-Hernon Set Designer: Lucy Cooper Hair: Zateesha Barbour Make-Up: Carol Lopez Reid Studio: Grand Palace Studio Lab: Labyrinth Photographic
Smith told the audience. “I still am.” At the song’s climax, Smith unleashed the full power of her voice: “I said what I can/ But do you hear me?/ Do I know who I am?” The crowd erupted with an affirmative cheer.
Jorja Smith’s connections to her audience feel spiritual. At a sold-out show this May, the soulful British artist used her voice, and her intimate lyrics about tangled emotions, to capture and keep the crowd’s attention. It was a warm Saturday night at New York’s Brooklyn Steel, a venue that holds 1800 people, and Smith wore a red top with corset detail, swaying her hips to the jazzy music of her four-piece band. A lone stick of incense, valiantly burning from her drummer’s amp behind her, did little to dispel the weed haze that filled the room.
As lights drenched the stage in a Ribena-coloured hue, Smith sang the swelling mid-tempo track Let Me Down, which describes the languorous pull of an unhealthy relationship. Two young women with “X”s marked on their hands — a sign, perhaps, that they aren't of legal drinking age in the States — gazed into each other’s eyes while singing along. At another point in the set, Smith played Tomorrow, a minimal piano ballad responding to an ex-lover who destroyed her confidence, leading her to seek out therapy. “I wrote this when I was a bit confused,”
That kind of reaction might not be entirely surprising, given that Smith inspires a cultish fervour online. “Jorja the kinda woman to snatch your soul,” reads one fan’s comment on her YouTube channel. It’s not unusual to read this hyperbole from fans on social media, but Smith is the rare artist that justifies it. There is a quality to the 20-year-old singer’s music that feels out-of-time; her deeply resonant voice — truly staggering when heard live — would suit a Harlem renaissance jazz bar, the luxe textures of 70s disco-soul, or, as Smith proved with her zippy Preditah collaboration On My Mind, the golden age of UK garage. Since posting her debut single Blue Lights on SoundCloud in early 2016, Smith’s ascent has been swift. Her focused debut EP was followed by a spot on the 2017 BBC Sound of… poll and two features on Drake’s More Life project. Earlier this year, Smith won a BRITs Critics Choice award and then appeared with her own track on the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack. Her debut album Lost & Found is an independently-released collection of songs that imbue neo-soul mid-tempos with subtle influences from jazz, hip-hop, and rumbling electronic beats, pulling off another uncommon feat: delivering on the hype. “I never had any plan for this,” Smith says. It’s two weeks after the Brooklyn concert, and we’re on a comfy sofa in her publicist’s West London apartment, as sunlight streams through large French windows. “I don’t do plans because I don’t like to be disappointed.” When I say that she has
an amazing voice, she nervously laughs and says, softly, that she’s “always doubted” that fact. “On my last [UK] tour, every show was shit,” she says, pursing her lips. “I would come off stage and apologise to my band: ‘I’m sorry that you have to perform with me.’ It could just be a note gone wrong, but that can make the whole show awful.” Frequently, Smith casts herself as her own worst enemy. That’s an instinct she shares with modern soul artists like SZA and Kali Uchis, whose journallike lyrics expose the inner turmoil of post-adolescence, like the quietly crushing feeling of your text message being left on read by someone you really like. The knotty lyrics of Smith’s retro-flavoured Teenage Fantasy lay out the destructive effects of being indecisive in relationships. Meanwhile, she has never sounded as bereft as on Lost & Found’s crushing closing track Don’t Watch Me Cry. While Smith says that her lyrics aren’t always entirely autobiographical, her music, with its unflinching willingness to expose self-inflicted emotional wounds, brings to mind the agonised songwriting of her hero Amy Winehouse. But if Winehouse’s voice sounded, at times, like gravel, Smith’s has a lustre like mother of pearl. In person, Smith lightens her music with moments of levity. She has a flair for bringing anecdotes to life by adding absurd, comic details (“We got, like, a mousse from Pret,” she says dryly, recalling one ill-fated first date). And she can be quite irreverent in person, too. As the light catches her gold nameplate necklace, she says, “Please don’t look at what is going on with my hand” — before enthusiastically extending her dagger-like beige nails towards me. A few of the acrylic tips have been maimed, leaving serrated stumps. “Disgusting!” she shouts.
Metallic Silver Coat: Malene Oddershede Bach Shoes: A.F Vandervorst Earrings: Becca Jewellery
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“None of the locations in the Blue Lights visuals have been in videos. I wanted to put Walsall on the map”
She didn’t grow up in a strict religious family, but her dad would take her to a local black New Testament church at Christmas. When Smith performed Silent Night at one service, age eight, her talent was clear. At her local comprehensive school, Smith learned the oboe and took classical singing as part of a music scholarship. Before she’d done her GCSEs, Smith was uploading covers of songs like Katy B’s On A Mission and Alex Clare’s Too Close to YouTube, accompanied by her friend Immie on acoustic guitar. Her voice is unpolished in the homemade videos, but it can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. On the strength of those clips, she signed a management deal at 15. As a teenager, Smith was insecure about her appearance, and worried
that she wasn’t popular with boys because of her full lips and curvy figure. Aged 16, she worked part-time in a local McDonald’s to get some money of her own and afford the clothes she wanted from Topshop. Around that time, she switched from wearing her natural curls, to styling her hair in a long straight ponytail. “When my dad used to pick me up, he used to think he was picking up a white girl,” Smith says. “He would tell me that I’m not white. He would be like: ‘If it came down to it: you’re black.’”
indictment of the government’s failure to protect the capital’s low-income groups and people of colour. This negligence resulted in 72 deaths. The fireproof cladding that Grenfell needed would have cost less than a tenth of the royal wedding’s reported £32 million expense.
When we meet, it’s a few days after the royal wedding, and tabloid magazines are still announcing themselves as Collectors Editions — to be cherished, unread, by nans across the nation — to capitalise on the occasion. Smith did not watch the ceremony, but has a distinct point of view on Meghan Markle. “I wish she’d had an afro, ‘cause she’s mixed-race,” Smith says. “That’d be” — Smith’s face lights up as she slaps the thigh of her flared Supreme jeans for emphasis — so!! cool!! Imagine young girls seeing a princess with an afro. How great would that be?”
Smith is troubled by social injustice, and sang on a Grenfell charity single last year – a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water – to raise money for victims’ families and survivors. A fiery new song of her own, Lifeboats, critiques the UK’s unequal benefits system. Smith wrote the lyrics when she was 16, after a conversation with her father, who is a benefits officer. A deftly rapped verse asks, “Why are all the richest staying afloat?” delivered a tone that is pure Walsall. Smith’s Midlands brogue, with its rounded vowels and subtle sing-song lilt, is not a cadence that you habitually hear on blockbuster Spotify playlists, but she loves the way that it peeks through on Lost & Found. “My accent sounds really strong,” she says, of a spoken word outro on February 3rd. “How cool?”
It’s jarring to remember the gulf between headlines about the more inclusive modern royal family, and the lived reality of lives for people of colour in the UK. Draconian new immigration laws mean that thousands of the Windrush generation — people who moved from the Caribbean to Britain in the 50s and 60s — are currently facing deportation and loss of healthcare. A five minute walk from where we sit talking, the charred remains of Grenfell Tower still stand, in a damning
For Smith, representing her hometown is a point of pride. Earlier this year, she re-released Blue Lights, which humanises men who get mixed up in knife crime. A new video for the song, shot in Walsall, depicts moments of tenderness between men of colour: a barber giving a shape up with care, and young Asian boys eating a chicken shop takeaway on courthouse steps. “None of those locations have been in videos,” she says. “I wanted to put Walsall on the map.”
Smith’s narrative in Blue Lights riffs on a school project she did about police and grime music, as well as a troubling-sounding experience she had with a male friend. “He came round to my house to hang out, but he left his bag,” she says. “It was a little Armani pouch. I opened it, ‘cause it was really light, and it was a flick knife. I went and washed it and put it back. I mean, I didn’t want my fingerprints on it.” Does she think it was for protection? “Yeah,” she says. “Because what’s he gonna do? He’s a mentor for young kids; a sports coach.” She sighs. “People do move like that though.” In her songwriting, Smith’s superpower is to balance the specific struggles of her generation with the messy minutiae of her own life. Hers is the kind of real-talk that we need. Towards the end of our conversation, as the sun drifts behind a cloud, she speaks about the personal significance of her album’s title Lost & Found, remembering a time when she was lost in Ladbroke Grove, aged 16, in a blur of bustling commuters and blaring horns. “I felt like a small girl in this big world,” she says. “I’m in this big city and it’s a lot to take in.” Even though she’s still grappling with those feelings, Smith is developing a quiet sense of ease with them. “I never really find myself on the album, and I still feel very lost in this world,” she says, as a small smile creeps onto her face. “But I know that I want to sing, and write songs. I definitely know what I want to do. I know the gift I’ve found. Lost & Found is out 8 June via Famm Limited. Jorja Smith appears at Flow Festival, Helsinki, 10 - 12 August
Smith says that she feels like an old soul. She grew up in the industrial West Midlands town of Walsall, which is eight miles north-west of Birmingham, to a Jamaican father and white English mum. When she was a baby, Smith’s West Indian nan said that she had already walked this earth before. “I knew too much,” says Smith with a laugh. The first CD she bought was Atomic Kitten’s 2002 cover of The Tide Is High. Her taste later expanded to include Lily Allen, Damian Marley, Mos Def, and Winehouse’s debut Frank. Her dad is a former musician, and played in a neo-soul group called 2nd Naicha before Smith was born. Her own song Teenage Fantasy is, in part, a tribute to one of the group’s compositions, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, Or Is It Just A Teenage Fantasy?
In Partnership with SONOS
t me n base
e h t n
Two generations of transgressive artists on reshaping counter-culture and bringing a dose of disorder to their adopted hometown of Berlin
Lotic in co
t i ersation w
P e s a e c h Words: Nathan Ma Photography: Elizabeth Herring
New York is the city that never sleeps, and perhaps Berlin is the city that never sits still. The German capital has been divided by wars and by walls, but the preclusion of settling down has kept the city’s circuit churning toward new artistic frontiers for decades. Heralded as the epicentre for aroundthe-clock parties and groundbreaking music, Berlin offers a much more intimate experience for artists and performers looking to break new ground: it’s a home.
Peaches: [You and I] met there after the show. I think we rode in a cab together. I got in trouble for eating potato chips in the taxi.
For legendary Canadian electronic musician and performer Peaches, it’s a city that grew up before her eyes in the (nearly) two decades since she crossed the Atlantic; For Lotic, it’s been a city in which they saw their personal work bloom since they moved here from Houston six years ago. We brought the two artists together for a candid conversation on breaking out, breaking down, and breaking into Berlin’s scene.
Peaches: That afterparty was incredible, too. It was at OHM. Who else played that party?
Lotic: We were starving.
there was a lack I found – and I'm sure people will be appalled that I say this – but I couldn't find my own queer at the time. I feel like a lot of the people that are coming in are bringing such a great new and diverse feeling. It’s definitely super different.
going to be bashful about that. And the more I do it, the more I see it happening. It helps me feel like I'm a part of it because it feels like I'm helping propel it. Even though I'm an old lady!
Lotic: I struggle a lot with the queer community here too. It's changing even in the six years I've been here. It's way more inclusive than it was. But coming from music, I've noticed that only certain kinds of hip-hop will pass, and only certain kinds of electronic music will pass. It's supposed to be this quote-unquote "more open community", and they're not open. I have more success, unfortunately, with a straight white male crowd than I would in a queer crowd in general. I think we in the queer community need talk about that a bit more, I think there's a little bit of denial. Also there's a little bit of misogyny that's not being addressed especially in Berlin. It can be male-centric.
Crack Magazine: What brought you to Berlin?
Peaches: We were hungry! Björk didn't feed you! Lotic: We ate, but it was before the show and then we were on our way to the afterparty, which was in town.
Lotic: It was just me and Arca. Peaches: Björk didn't end up playing, she was just dancing around, having a great time, which is always such a great thing – how she is so supportive. I remember when I would play and her audience was so hostile, she would come and dance in the front so that people would be like, "Oh, wait! Björk likes this! Okaaaay!". I'd been away from Berlin for a while, I was living in LA for a few years, and when I came back, I shared the summer, fell in love, and actually I was taking my boo on a date that night. The first date! We went to OHM, and it was like, "Berlin is still Berlin... thank you". Lotic: What were the venues and the crowds like at the time you moved here?
Crack Magazine: How long have you two lived in Berlin?
Peaches: It was funny. There were these bars called, like, The Monday Bar, and everybody would just show up at The Monday Bar. And it'd be a crappy, dirty floor in a half-abandoned building. Then, there'd be The Tuesday Bar, which would be kinda the same thing in a different part of Mitte. I was never really big on the techno scene.
Lotic: I have lived in Berlin for six years. Peaches: Really? Six years? I've lived in Berlin for 18 years. Oh my god! Crack Magazine: Do you want to talk about the story of how you two met? Peaches: Well, how many years ago, how many Björk albums? She just keeps putting them out.
Peaches: Yeah, definitely. Lotic: It was Vulnicura  right?
Peaches: Yeah. You opened for Björk! Just to tie things in – I also opened for Björk a long time ago. But my experience was quite hostile. I had people taking their index fingers and putting it across their necks horizontally like: “I do not want to hear this, I want my queen, I want my queen!”. Lotic: I mean, her fans are... her fans.
Lotic: I don't know if it was always this way? Maybe it's more recent.
I like crappy places. I've always been sort of low-key. There was such a strange, amazing freedom in that way, but there was also a lack of diversity and also even in the queer scene
Peaches: To me, I think it's actually less misogynistic and less exclusive in some ways. I always say this: things grow exponentially in every direction, also. There will be more of every kind of scene. So then you have to come stronger with your idea… I have an agenda. I have a queer feminist agenda. It's so obvious, and I'm not
Peaches: I was in Toronto being weird and being, like: What is this? What is this music? Is this performance art? I don't understand? With friends that were making completely different music, but we were all feeling the same way. I visited here with my friend Chilly Gonzales. It's funny because we both came here and we didn't set up a tour or anything, but we decided to play electronic music. 1998. And I had a Roland MC505 Groovebox and he had a double CD player in one. We didn't even have microphones. But also we had no plan. We were just playing weird crap. We came to Berlin and found this place – Gallery Berlin Tokyo – right now it's called Pan Asian restaurant. And it was this underground of artists and musicians, and we were like, "Can we play here?" And they were like, "Yeah! On Thursday! The Thursday Bar!" Lotic: The Thursday Bar! Peaches: We weren't even particularly good. It was just something very experimental and interesting. I went back to Toronto and I started to write The Teaches of Peaches and sending
Lotic: For me it was not dissimilar actually. I’ve been doing music since I was 12, so I kind of always have known that I would end up being a musician somehow. Before I moved here, I was living in Austin. I wanted to move to Montreal, because me and my boyfriend at the time were both very frustrated. He hated his job. I was like, "I can't graduate into this economy". Peaches: Montreal! In my country. Lotic: I love Montreal. We had never visited here though, but he had heard of this magical place: Berlin. He somehow managed to land a job and they basically took care of everything. It sounds like a fairytale, but it's what happened. It was actually really horrible. I was like super depressed and sick for the first year that I moved here. It was very shocking, culturally and the weather and everything. Obviously, it worked out enough. Peaches: How did you find your scene, your people? Lotic: It was slow, but the Janus parties started happening in the fall of 2012, and so then I had a regular gig to start learning more about myself as a DJ and as an artist. The rest is history.
Peaches: Amazing! Wild!
get my looks, get my voice ready because singing and dancing is not easy. I don't know how these girls do it. Oh my god.
a lot of people who come to Berlin and leave. It's too experimental, or not enough commerce-based...
Peaches: You've got to sing and jog, that's what Beyoncé has done since she was like, I dunno, five?
Lotic: Or not in the way that they wanted it to be.
Lotic: I know, you can't capture it. If you've been to a Peaches show – first of all, you know what you're getting into, and you also don't. The big, giant phallus... Peaches: Yeah, it's a big, condomphallus that goes over the audience, propelled by a fan, then I walk through it over everyone. Lotic: So Peaches. Peaches: I get away with a lot of vagina, penis, penis-vagina stuff that is wrong but right in the context of what I do. It's very visual and it's very visceral, and I think that's something we share – that it's very visceral. Lotic music, you have to feel it. Crack Magazine: What are you two working on now? Peaches: It's gonna be a monster. I'm doing a work with Stuttgart – the theatre, opera, and dance department. I don't know how much I can say. They're doing an opera, and they asked me to do an answer for the second half. So I'll do new music for it. It's gonna happen in November.
Lotic: In heels! Peaches: Are you going to do a lot of dancing?
Lotic: Yeah, Janus is – y'all gotta go! The Janus parties were for two years at a space called Chesters, which I don't know if you've been, but it's just a tiny 200-capacity club.
Lotic: I notice I can't not dance. It's just part of my performance. I've always enjoyed music that can make me dance. My stuff hasn't always been the danciest but I still have to move around. I have to move around. I’m trying to shoot videos – you know, the album thing. And I have this project Fleshless Beast with my friend Roderick (George), a kind of dancetheatre piece. It's a different kind of performance for me.
Peaches: It's kinda like an old-school Berlin club.
Crack Magazine: Do you think you'll ever tire of Berlin?
Lotic: Yeah, it is. It was not really a club when we started there. We agreed to buy CDJs and add a few more speakers, but it was a rock club, and I think before that it was a sex club. We just wanted a place to practice – that’s me, M.E.S.H. and KABLAM. Janus is organised by Dan DeNorch and Michael Ladner. We did that for two years so we could practice DJing but also to start booking acts that we weren't seeing here, like Total Freedom and Venus X, who we really modelled Janus after, to be honest. We did that for two years, then Berghain invited us to do a night twice a year since then.
Lotic: Of course, yes. It depends on who's here, what's happening, what you're doing. It can be very hostile and cold at times, but I don't think overall I'll get tired of it. One: I think there isn't a place like it, and two: there're always some new, fresh people coming through and revitalising the city, shaking it a little bit. Hopefully that doesn't change, but who knows…
Crack Magazine: Can you tell us more about the Janus parties?
Lotic: That sounds so fun. Peaches: That's the kind of stuff I want to get into. I love doing my own shows, and I can go forever, I really could. Just play Pride forever and ever – which I will be playing in Bucharest and Llubjana, which I'm really excited for. Places that really need Pride. Not like, "The bank is sponsoring Pride". Lotic: I'm putting my first album out on the 13 of July. Peaches: That's exciting!
Crack Magazine: Could you describe each other and the work that the person sitting across from you does?
Lotic: Wild! Amazing.
Lotic: It is exciting! I was able to play two live shows already, so I'm excited to get a real, proper tour going. Might
Peaches: I can't tell if I'm just a fixture in Berlin. I've lived in the same apartment for 12 years, which is so weird in my head. I think Berlin can help you develop new ideas and collaborate. It's so open especially with dances and music and with art spaces. Artists come here with the mindset of experimentation. For some people, it really disappoints them. There are
Peaches: Or they feel like, "I'm going to change Berlin, I'm going to make it this way" – that doesn't work here! Lotic: We don't care. Peaches: We don't work that way! This conversation took place at the SONOS Store in Mitte. Listen to the podcast and others from our Berlin: Here and Now series at mixcloud.com/ CrackMagazine
over demos. I came here and played a show and this small label was like, "Come over and drink champagne.” And they're like, "We just signed you!" and I was like, "Oh, you did? OK. Alright. I'll come over here."
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The Prince of Northampton Bursting with small-town angst and big dreams, rising rapper slowthai stands tall with pride
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slowthai is a very excitable guy – we shake hands three or four times during my time with him, and at one point have a full on hug. He’s also quite famous now. His angry tirade of a breakthrough single, T N Biscuits, cemented him as one of the most exciting new rappers in Britain. Since then, he’s delivered the groundbreaking video for his new song Ladies – basically a feminist critique of street culture – in which he poses naked and vulnerable alongside his girlfriend, who lies fully clothed. As a result of all this attention, these days slowthai often has to travel 67 miles south to be in London. He doesn’t like that. He prefers being in Northampton, it keeps him grounded. When you meet him, he can’t help but tell you stories about the place. Bob Marley played here twice, slowthai will tell you, while wearing a Northampton FC training top with a gold pendant rested over the top. He’ll tell you about the often flooded Aquadrome caravan park he’d play in as a kid, where he bought a VHS of 8 Mile from a barber who sold bootlegs. He’ll tell you about the secret gaps in the fencing around the Northamptonshire
County Cricket Club, so you can sneak in for test matches if you’re clever and like cricket (he doesn’t). Even when we’re talking about one of his favourite songs, Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi by Radiohead, he qualifies it by telling me that Thom Yorke was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, so, you know, he’s actually one of ours. slowthai grew up on Lings, a council estate in the Eastern District of Northampton. “It was the realest place,” he tells me. “All them estates are real. There's no snidey weird vibes with people trying to befriend you – if someone don't like you, they don't like you. Everyone knows everyone. It's like a big family. But not everyone gets along, just like in a family.” He remembers once, at school, his teacher asked him what he was going to be when he was older. He shouted back, “I’m gonna be a fucking drug dealer, what you on about!” At the time, it seemed like a fair reality. “Because of where I was and who I was surrounded by, it seemed like my only avenue. When you're in a small town, you either sell drugs, become a builder/labourer, get an office job, or go to university. The majority that go to university realise it isn't what they wanna do, and end up working as a builder anyway.” In secondary school, he started to hang out at Treasure Box Recordings, the official name for an MC’s mum’s house where local youths would all gather and freestyle. The walls were painted yellow, and everyone’s signatures would be scrawled over it in marker pen, kind of like an East Midlands version of Jammer’s basement – the London dungeon that helped cultivate grime. “It was like a sweatbox,” describes slowthai. “Everyone was in there
bunning snout. I'd jump in and try to do something. It was jokes because I would never write, I would just do it off my head.” Even to this day, slowthai doesn’t enjoy actually sitting down and writing lyrics that much. He likes the finished product, and invoking the thoughts, but he constantly feels his mind running frantically for the next line. He’s like that in conversation, too. Sometimes, he gets so enthusiastic about what he’s trying to tell me, that his words slur into one another, like his mouth can’t keep up with his brain. But then he has these sobering moments of verbal clarity where the clouds separate and what he’s trying to say comes across like a great orator standing on a podium. “I want to be so switched on that I'm amazed by everything I write,” he asserts. “I want to think about what I'm saying and get a certain point across and tell a story.” And what are those stories? “About everyday life and growing up in Britain. There’s nothing great about Britain.” This is a sentiment he explored on a recent song called The Bottom, which explores how no matter where you go
slowthai is excited to show me his backyard. When his mum started renting this house in Northampton, the backyard needed work. It was basically just a pile of old bricks, so slowthai dug it all out, laid down some white gravel, put the wall back up. Today, it looks really lovely. The 23-year-old takes me to a bushy dwarf palm tree in the corner, where he apparently sometimes hears strange noises. He tells me he thinks there might be an evil monkey living in it. He picks up a spade and starts shaking the tree to check. No evil monkeys today.
in the world, there are always people who have been forced to the bottom of society. In the first verse he raps about a life of choosing the pub over the doctors, drugs over a job, about lacking confidence and feeling nervous. It was part autobiographical, but also a reflection of what he saw around him in the other young men growing up in the corners of Northampton. “Everyone needs to go to the bottom,” he reassures me, “because once you're there, you're at ground zero and you can only build.”
do stuff nobody has ever done, for the sheer fact of: we gotta keep things moving forward, and we gotta bring back the element of theatre to a performance.” Speaking of crazy, here’s a trick from slowthai: if you take a bottle of Lambrini and put it to your mouth, tilt your head back and point the bottom of the bottle to the sky, then start spinning while you down its contents, the combination of dizziness, sugar and alcohol intake will make you feel immediately and stupendously smashed. slowthai calls this ‘spinnies’. One night when he was a teenager, he was on a street corner with his mates, riding his bike, smoking weed and doing spinnies, when he noticed the long, grey-haired figure of Alan Moore striding towards them. Moore is a local character in Northampton, having lived most of his life in the town, and is globally renowned as the greatest comic book writer of all time – responsible for Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke and many more – as well as being a novelist, a cartoonist and a magician. “He introduced himself to us and told us what he did,” explains slowthai. “He gave us a little speech, being like, ‘Yo, this is what I do, and I’m from here, so this is what you can do with your life’.”
Like a lot of what slowthai does, there is a dualism to the song. He’s also a dreamer. In the second verse, he describes his dream house. It’s a surreal and fantastical place. There’s gates to the grounds, a fountain in the shape of a giraffe, a granite floor car park, black diamonds, Mars bars and glasses of milk. He’s had this exact vision since he was a child, and he won’t stop until he gets there. “I see it as a big farm,” he tells me, “where all my family can come to live.” He likes calling himself a ‘farmer’ – a slur that people from the city often call folk from places like Northamptonshire. “The farmers are coming,” he warns me, in a rare moment of seriousness. One thing slowthai takes very seriously is his artform. On every song you’ll hear, his vocals have been done in one take, and he cites old blues and soul artists as inspiration for this technique. His live shows, too, demonstrate his respect for the art of performance – often he abandons the stage for long sections of the gig, and ends up in his boxer shorts amongst the crowd. “I want everyone there to perform it to me, then we go crazy and dance, like it's some mad ayahuasca trip,” he beams, staring right past me. I heard that one time you were brought on stage in a closed coffin? I ask.
“That was just the smallest thing I could do. When I have serious money, I’m gonna go crazy,” he replies. “I'm gonna
“I'd rather learn about one place in depth than to have a wide knowledge of the world,” Moore said in the 1993 film Don’t Let Me Die in Black and White. “I think that if I can learn about Northampton, I'll probably understand something about every community.” He still sees Alan Moore occasionally when he goes for coffee at the BP station. According to slowthai, there’s loads of characters like that in this town, but very few have pushed themselves to success. “There are creative people here, people who could really change things. But so many of them get trapped in the mindset that what they want to achieve is unobtainable, so they just stop.” One of the things that makes him happiest about his recent success is that it might inspire other people from around here to keep making their music or keep writing their stories. In a weird, cross-generational way, slowthai and Alan Moore have something in common: this insatiable love and pride for, and feeling of connectedness to, their town of Northampton, a strange town that sits almost perfectly centre on a map of England. They don’t want to leave home to achieve their dreams, they want to take it with them. Polaroid is out 22 June via Method. slowthai appears at Appelsap Festival, Amsterdam, 11 August
“Everyone needs to go to the bottom because once you're there, you're at ground zero and you can only build”
Top: Northampton FC Nike Training Top
A Class of Her Own Words: Sirin Kale Photography: Laura McCluskey Styling: Charlotte Moss Make-up: Elle McMahon Hair: Masayoshi N Fujita
MUSIC + CULTURE
Top: Simone Rocha
Sending an electric shock through contemporary dance, Holly Blakey shakes off tradition to close the chasm between pop culture and the arts
â&#x20AC;&#x153;I found a place for myself choreographing, after a really long time of not understanding where I belonged. That sense of fitting in my own skin was empoweringâ&#x20AC;?
Leotard: Base Range Top: Base Range Plaid trousers: Marlene Birger
“No. I still feel the same way. There’s a wild, steadfast old snobbery surrounding what dance can be and where it can exist and how,” Blakey answers. “It’s an institutional issue. The same people have been showing in the same spaces for an extremely long time, and the system doesn’t allow for any other form of penetration, in a way.” Despite her steady rise to the highest levels of contemporary dance, Blakey essentially considers herself a maverick outsider. Fresh from choreographing and directing new show Cowpuncher at the Southbank – with music scored by Oscar-nominated Mica Levi and with costumes designed by Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood – Blakey’s about to start collaborating with über-hip genderqueer fashion collective Art School on a show for Fashion East. A tongue-in-cheek pastiche of masculinity, Cowpuncher explored gender politics and identity out in the sandy playground of the Wild Wild West, and Blakey will likely tour it in other spaces. Now, Blakey wants to focus on the tomatoes growing in her garden: Cowpuncher was the biggest show of her career, and enormously stressful.
the status quo allowed. We’re still locked in.”
Like birth? I suggest. “Yes,” she affirms. “I was thinking of that, actually.”
She speaks sincerely about the trust she has for her company of dancers, many of whom are gay or queer, and who have been with her over the last six years. “I’m a loyal person,” she explains. “If someone is bringing something to the table, I value that.”
Blakey’s big break came in 2012, when she was asked to choreograph the video for Jessie Ware’s song Night Light. “There was no money in it, that age-old thing, but I enjoyed her music and found her inspiring, so I really wanted to do it,” she reminisces. Afterwards, things changed for the classically-trained dancer, who until then had struggled to find her place within the rigid structures of first ballet, and then contemporary dance. “I suddenly found a place for myself where I wasn’t performing, I was choreographing, and I felt like this was where I sat, after a really long time of not understanding where I belonged,” Blakey explains. “There was a feeling of, this is where I’m supposed to be. That sense of fitting in my own skin was empowering.” Professional success followed. Blakey choreographed Florence Welsh in a seedy American motel for the awardwinning Delilah video, and changed Coldplay into CGI-generated dancing chimps. She’s collaborated with Hannah Perry to exhibit via Boiler Room, and won funding from Arts Council England to stage live show Some Greater Class in 2015. Much was made of the overt eroticism of Some Greater Class: Blakey’s company writhed together in a pseudoBacchanalian orgy, soundtracked by Gwilym Gold and Darkstar. In press interviews at the time, Blakey emphasised how she’d felt shut out by the contemporary dance world when she began making music videos. But even though Blakey considers herself to be on the fringes of the dance establishment, the very fact that she was one of the first to show in the Southbank’s recently renovated Queen Elizabeth Hall proves that she’s effecting radical change from within. “It would be better if people allowed dance to become new things,” Blakey muses. “It’s a very old fashioned world. That’s partly why I love dance so much – because of that deeply rooted, strict practice that stems from ballet. But because of that heritage which I value so highly, there’s not much strain from
“On the day of the show, I was 100 percent hearing things that weren’t happening,” Blakey explains. “There was this huge amount of pressure and anticipation.” On entering the 916-capacity auditorium, Blakey became tearful. “I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t get anything done for an hour. When you give yourself so completely, and you work night and day on something, and it comes to the moment in which you perform, the feeling is like nothing else I can describe.”
There’s a serenity around Blakey, a composure that reminds me, inexplicably, of a swan-necked debutante in a Regency-era portrait, albeit the tattooed, 2018 version. Her responses to my questions are as precise as a foot turning from first position to second position, a neat swoop outwards in classical ballet style.
To be a choreographer is a curious thing: you fashion movements that are of you, but give them away, for another to perform. You have ownership over the work, but you give agency to others. “I used to think, why on earth would you choreograph something and give it to another body to have?” Blakey admits. “But I still feel a massive sense of ownership. What’s incredible is that moment just before they perform live, where they’re walking on stage, and you’ve done everything you can, and you really have to just give it away.” Partly as a result of her music video heritage, and the pelvic rhythms of Some Greater Class, Blakey’s work is often described in terms of its sexuality. Blakey appears frustrated with this labelling. “People always want to talk to me about how sexual the work is,” Blakey says. “Sometimes it is sexual. I’m interested in the idea of pleasure and how sex can be a kind of pleasure that doesn’t have to involve gender or societal norms.” But, she goes on, that’s not always the case. “It is sometimes sexual. But not always in my thinking.” More than sexuality, she explains, Blakey is interested in the intersection of comfort and discomfort; light and dark; challenge and acceptance. “I always fall on the side of things that challenge me more than they make me feel comfortable,” she explains. “I’m so interested in beauty, but often I look for beauty within darkness, in a different way.” Post-Cowpuncher, Blakey’s going to pause for a while – and focus on her tomatoes. Whether they ripen, or not, one thing is certain: Holly Blakey will continue to hit whichever mark she chooses. @Holly_Blakey
MUSIC + CULTURE
“Do I feel like the dance world has become less snobby?” Choreographer Holly Blakey sits opposite me on the sofa in her living room, considering. She compacts her thoughts, rolling them around her mind like a dancer loosening their hips.
056 MUSIC + CULTURE
“There’s a wild, steadfast old snobbery surrounding what dance can be and where it can exist”
057 MUSIC + CULTURE
Dress: Marta Jakubowksi T-shirt: Aries Shoes: Suicoke
Nakhane Words: Jake Hall Photography: Yis Kid Styling: Dariusz Kowalski Make-Up: Kite Chuang using M.A.C. cosmetics
For Nakhane, disruption is second nature. As he recalls, even at a young age he was challenging establishments. “When I was at school, my mentors were like, ‘you have a real problem with authority!’” he laughs. “I was like, ‘no, what you’re really saying is, don’t question it.’” This kick back at convention informs everything Nakhane offers the world. Musically, it manifests itself in the fluidity of new album You Will Not Die, a tangle of gospel, R&B and soaring pop melodies. Visually, it creeps into his robust and sensual music videos – one of which, Clairvoyant, was slapped with an age restriction by YouTube. And it comes into full bloom in his awardwinning role in The Wound, the 2017 film about a Xhosa initiation camp in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape. This approach isn’t without controversy; The Wound recently stirred fierce reaction and protests from religious groups due to its portrayal of homosexuality amid the process of initiation. As we chat on the long, communal tables of a trendy East London coffee shop, Nakhane is captivating. When our conversation quickly exceeds its predesignated time slot he happily bucks regulations and extends the interview without hesitation. “I find interviews fascinating,” he explains. “You choose to give up an hour of your time to really just talk to a stranger, you know? We don’t tend to do that anymore.”
Refreshingly, Nakhane has a lot to say. He was raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa by an auntie he referred to as ‘mom’. He was also raised in the confines of a religion that taught him to fear his sexuality. He may have since shrugged off these ideological shackles, but their residual scars linger throughout the album. “I read that apparently your brain stops developing in your twenties, and at some point – click! – that’s it. You’ll always be fucked up by that one thing that one person did when you were seven years old. Can you believe that?” But Nakhane is striving to overcome his fears. “It’s interesting, I’ve recently
started reading The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and he says the thing about fear is that you can’t avoid it. The only way you will ever get past it is if you look it straight in the eye.” After being taught for so long to be afraid of his sexuality, Nakhane now channels queerness into everything he does. His signature iridescent suits – often designed by the talented Rich Mnisi – are exemplary; a twist on a uniform drenched in connotations of power and conformity. For Crack Magazine’s shoot Nakhane shapeshifts between loose, layered linens and oversized bomber jackets, partially-fastened with their sleeves left hanging, his shoulders exposed. He has a rare sense of poise and grace which adds a lick of feminine energy to even the most conventionally masculine looks. “I’ve recently started wearing a harness on-stage underneath a suit,” he says of the subtle subversions woven throughout his visuals. “I’ll scan the audience, and I can see that some people understand the BDSM reference, whereas others don’t necessarily. That’s interesting to me.” What’s also interesting is that queerness is now, at least superficially, more celebrated than ever. The fashion industry is welcoming queer collectives like Art School and Gypsy Sport with open arms, headlines suggest trans people are now more “visible” than ever, and even Gucci shoe campaigns are emblazoned with the moniker of a queer subcultural movement: ‘Queercore’. Non-normativity has never been cooler. “Queer people get reactions like, ‘oh, slay! Oh, werk!’” he laughs, acknowledging that corporations are also quick to muscle in on queer culture’s newfound popularity. “What those people don’t understand is just how much self-love it took you to get to that ‘slay’. You don’t just wake up one day and think, ‘I got this!’ No. You have to convince yourself that you’re worthy of claiming that identity. The people profiting from us have no idea, so they think they can just print it onto a t-shirt.”
Crucially, the recent success of Black Panther has seen Africa similarly lauded by mainstream fans and critics. Naomi Campbell recently argued that the continent should be acknowledged for its brilliance through a new Vogue Africa publication. Nakhane smiles. “Let’s deconstruct that. Vogue Africa. It’s already problematic – we have over 50 countries. Do you know how different they all are? What we shouldn’t be doing is replicating, but instead creating new institutions.” He further reiterates his frustrations with Africa’s global treatment: “It’s there in terms like Afrofuturism. But there’s no Asiafuturism, no Eurofuturism. Why does Africa, as a continent, always have to be othered?” The conversations Nakhane touches on are continually happening, just rarely in mainstream media. Instead, knowledge is being shared predominantly through social media to facilitate genuinely groundbreaking discussions. Nakhane is hopeful. “Twitter is amazing,” he enthuses, praising the platform he has used repeatedly to spark difficult conversations and voice his thoughts on, amongst other topics, censorship of his work and the backlash to The Wound, which received an X18 rating, a classification generally reserved for pornographic films. If anything, these reactions don’t deter Nakhane – they spur him on. He discusses everything from colonialism to existential crises without ever flinching or recoiling from a question. In that sense, he’s a perfect poster child for today’s increasingly informed youth. “I’m so excited by this new generation, you know? It’s like a leak has allowed everything to spill out and for people to truly open things up. I really feel like things are going to change.” You Will Not Die is out now via BMG. Nakhane appears at Afropunk Paris, 14 - 15 July
Bomber Jacket: Blood Brother Trousers: DOOM 3K Sneakers: Rombaut Earrings: FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE
Dress: Monki Trousers: Monki Earrings: FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE Sunglasses: Illesteva @ net-a-porter.com
Shirt: Blood Brother Trousers: DOOM 3K Sneakers: Rombaut Necklace: Harumi Hatta Sunglasses: Illesteva @ net-a-porter.com
Suit: Ergo Proxy Shirt: Xander Zhou Sunglasses: Xander Zhou
Opening Concert Performing in a 2,000 year-old Roman amphitheatre:
Kraftwerk 3-D Nils Frahm, Moodymann
Nubya Garcia, Josey Rebelle, Debora Ipekel Main Festival:
Aaron L Alessandro Adriani Alex T Alexander Nut Alfa Mist Alix Perez Alleged Witches Amoss Amp Fiddler Anastasia Kristensen Ant TC1 Ariwo Ash Lauryn Avalon Emerson Avoid aka Vladimir Acic Azymuth & Marcos Valle Bambooman Batu Ben UFO Billy Nasty Bjarki Bjeor Bluetrain (live) Bonobo (DJ)
All Night Long
Born Cheating Borut Cvajner The Bug (In Dub – DJ Set)
Butter Side Up DJs Central Processing Unit Champagne Funk Children of Zeus Church of Sound The Comet Is Coming Conor Thomas Cosmic Slop Courtesy CPSmith Craig Richards Daisy Moon Danielle (Phonica) Darker Than Wax (RAH, Funk Bast*rd & Marco Weibel)
Darkhouse Family Darwin dBridge Debora Ipekel Detroit In Effect Dimensions Soundsystem DJ Labud DJ Lag DJ Python DJ Stingray DMX Krew (live) Eda Eddy Ramich Electrix Records The Exaltics (live) Ezra Collective
Fatima Felix Claus Felver Fixate Gigi Masin Gilla Halogenix Harri Pepper Heels & Souls Heinrich Dressel & Teslasonic (live) Helena Hauff Hessle Audio Hunee Il Bosco / Red Laser Disco Ilija Rudman Insolate James Holden And The Animal Spirits
Jan Kincl & Regis Kattie (live) Jlin Joachim Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin Jogarde John Talabot Jon Hopkins (live) Jon K Josey Rebelle Josh Cheon (Dark Entries) Julio Victoria Just Nathan K-HAND Kamma Kancheli (Bassiani) Kerem Akdag Kiara Scuro Kid Drama Klaps Kuniyuki (live) Kwasiba Savage Lady Blacktronika aka Femanyst
Lebawski Lee Gamble Lefto Leo Leal Lexis London Modular Alliance (live) Lucy Locket Mala Marcellus Pittman Margaret Dygas Mark Turner (The Orbit) Masalo Massimo Mephisto Maurice Fulton MC Fokus MC GQ Michael Upson
Milo Mimi Molinaro Mona Lee Monty MXMJOY:[maximumjoy] Nas1 Nick Williams Nicolas Lutz Nina Kraviz Oakm Onset Open Mike Eagle Oyvind Morken Palms Trax Pangaea Paula Temple Peanut Butter Wolf Pearson Sound Peggy Gou Petar Dundov Ploy Poppy Ajudha Red D Red Greg Reuben Roli rRoxymore Sam Hall San Soda Saoirse Sean OD Sheridan Shy One Silicon Scally aka Carl Finlow (live)
Skee Mask Skeptik Skeptical SNO Sonja Moonear Sons of Kemet SP:MC Steve O’Sullivan (live) Steve Spacek Sue Avenue Thang Tom Hannah Total Refreshment Centre Underground Resistance pres: Depth Charge
Umfang Upwellings (live) Volruptus Volster Volvox Wallauer Will Lister Willikens & Ivkovic WLC Yazmin Lacey Yuri
actually seen the movie but I know all the words: “Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea…!”
Words: Anna Tehabsim Photography: Brantley Gutierrez
Since hearing Chilly Gonzales’ Solo Piano at college, Sasha Spielberg has strived to capture its youthful essence in her own music: “It sounds like a kid doing ballet”. Spielberg, daughter of Steven, achieves a similar weightlessness on Facepaint, her debut solo EP as Buzzy Lee. Full of dreamy drama, her elegant vocals pirouette around a haunted ballroom of production by Nicolas Jaar. Following previous Jaar collaboration Just Friends and her former band Wardell, Buzzy Lee finds Spielberg tip-toe gracefully into her own space as an artist. Here, she remembers the music that has inspired her along the way. A record I bonded over with my family: The prologue to the movie Guns of Navarone . My dad knows every single word to the prologue. He used to blast it on the drive to elementary school and recite it to me and my siblings. We all used to cover our ears and say ‘turn it off!’ I used to beg him drop us off a block away from school. I despised it, but now if I hear it I love it more than anything. I’ve never
An album which had an irreversible effect on me as a teen: Led Zeppelin III [Atlantic, 1970] was one of my first vinyl records. It opened up a whole new world of classic rock. I had been listening to Spice Girls and Britney Spears before this. Once I realised there was a whole world before 1995, it was mind expanding. Then I just wanted to play guitar so well. An early influence on my music: The Kick Inside by Kate Bush [EMI, 1978] was huge. I was into musical theatre so she really stuck with me – you could make pop music and also sound like you were wailing and belting in an opera, almost. I thought she was just a genius. A record which encapsulates my 20s: Judee Sill’s Down Where the Valleys Are Low . You know when there’s a song that you’ve skipped over, then you’re driving or standing or walking in a specific place and it just makes sense. All of a sudden you hear the song in its true entirety and you fall in love with it. It’s like falling in love with your best friend. I was driving down Mulholland Drive and I really listened. That song has been an anthem to my past five years. It captures this
My Life as a Mixtape: Buzzy Lee
dreamlike childhood quality that I’m constantly trying to preserve in my life. I never want to grow up, I always want to make my own music sound like there’s a child inside. My go-to karaoke anthem: Ginuwine – Pony [550, 1996]. I performed it in November in Bushwick. You text the request to the person in charge of the karaoke machine. I texted: ‘Sasha. Ginuwine. Pony.’ I was like, I want that on my headstone. I was leaving the bar because there was a long queue to sing. As we were leaving the song magically came on, I grabbed the mic, sang it, then left. It was a literal mic drop. A track I recorded which is deeply significant: Facepaint from my Buzzy Lee EP [Future Classic, 2018]. The song was me trying to get help for myself, reaching my arms out and hoping someone pulls me out of something. It’s about me trying to get out of my own head really, but out of a specific relationship that I was really drawn to. Just trying to keep my head afloat but also really drowning at the same time – so dramatic! The last minute, it’s all one take and improvised. I could have never recaptured that. It was truly everything I was feeling at that moment, in that song. Facepaint is out now via Future Classic
Love Saves the Day Eastville Park, Bristol 26 - 27 May
Lost & Found St Paul's Bay, Malta 3–6 May
On a cold Saturday morning, neon disco pants and glittery cheekbones fill Eastville Park as the seventh edition of Bristol’s Love Saves the Day is underway. Our first stop is the Crack-hosted Paradiso stage, one of the first stages you can see upon entering the park, where ascendant Bristol producer L U C Y starts her set. The set begins with haunting strings, which then develops into a mix of energetic dub and grime. Halfway through, a raver nudges me and shouts, “she’s sick.” An auspicious start. Then it was time for South London rapper Octavian. The Paradiso tent’s sound was tested to its full with Hands – a track laced with raspy verses over wonky grime. As such, Octavian owned the stage, every lyric he spat was packed full of energy. Next up, Avelino. Opening with Know My Name, smoke filled the inside of the tent while he rhymed over grime beats. His whole crew stormed the stage to the track So Fine, throwing water on the crowd as soon as the beat dropped. By contrast, Smerz opened their set with a slow, hard-hitting beat that reverberated through the tent, layered with whispery vocals. However, after previous high-energy performances on the Paradiso stage, Smerz’s set felt a bit slow moving. Over on the main stage, Mabel opens her show with a silky R&B version of Thinking of You leading into her set of chart-ready pop. Though her performance seemed to be lacking in energy at some points, it was still undeniably fun. Closing out the main stage was the eagerly-anticipated Sampha, whose disarming voice gave new life to the nowfamiliar songs from his 2017 album Process. Love Saves the Day is one of those festivals that has you lost in meditation one minute and throwing up gun fingers the next. This year’s edition was the perfect start for the festival calendar and the long summer ahead.
If aliens crash-landed onto the Mediterranean island of Malta over the bank holiday weekend, they’d think Annie Mac was a god. Here, innumerable ravers wear merch featuring the DJ’s iconic head of curly hair and across the four days of her AMP Lost & Found festival, the Radio 1 stalwart felt worthy of worship. Lost & Found is the essential pre-summer party spread across the island. The daily pool parties, boat parties and castle raves gave way to four festival stages by night. Against a backdrop of golden coastline for his pool party, Mike Skinner cut up an array of genres for his set, from funky house and grime to trap and old school garage. To the crowd’s delight, Four Tet took everyone on a nostalgic trip after sunset, spinning out melodies like nursery rhymes. Diplo’s set was also diverse, going from thumping bass to unashamed pop and dropping in a few unexpected gems like Soulja Boy’s Crank That and Spice Girls’ Wannabe. Things mellowed out when he took a moment to pay tribute to long-time friend Avicii – Diplo recently described the late DJ as “a real groundbreaker and influencer” in a heartfelt homage. Notably, there was a strong female presence across the line-up with women like Clara Amfo, Mabel, Peggy Gou and Stefflon Don all performing across the festival. Annie Mac has famously critiqued majority-male line-ups, saying “music festivals have always been heinously lacking in women. I have been DJing for 12 years, starting out as the lone woman on all-male lineups”. Lost & Found was her opportunity to ‘show not tell’, and it was one of the reasons the event felt so refreshing. One of many.
The first All Points East offers a no-frills take on the city park festival, with the focus squarely on the headliners: LCD Soundsystem, The xx and, in her first London show since the release of Utopia, Björk. The rest is eclectic but indistinct: neither as edgy as Field Day nor as youthful as Lovebox, it’s a bag of happy grooves (Tom Misch, Glass Animals), indie oddballs (Beck, Father John Misty), buoyant rap and dancehall (Stefflon Don, Popcaan) and a hefty amount of dance acts who struggle to conquer two awkward stages. Kelela’s vocal acrobatics aren’t big enough without the assistance of the backing band she surely now deserves, while Dixon’s drifting techno is barely loud enough to mask a conversation. But with their enormous rig of lights, mirrors and amps, Justice have the clout – and the volume – to kick the stage into life on Saturday night. At the X Stage, DJ Richard’s crunchy techno should turn any dancefloor into a sweatbox, but there’s no focal point for the drifting afternoon crowd. The atmosphere improves as night falls: Yaeji draws a big crowd for her blend of sensual house, while The Black Madonna does the business with fist-pumping festival techno. The bonus this weekend is the presence of Despacio, the bespoke sound system helmed for six hours each day by James Murphy and 2ManyDJs – their Balearic mix of new wave, Afro-disco and low-tempo heaters makes time disappear inside a smoky rave cave. On the main stage on Friday, early ‘00s nostalgia is the theme. Seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs smash their equipment after Date With the Night, but their rabid energy is a shot in the arm before the closing euphoria of LCD Soundsystem. “Most of what I say is a reminder we’re all gonna die,” quips James Murphy, nailing his band’s memento mori disco: life is stupid and short, but you can see all your friends tonight. The xx try to convert the hushed intensity of their albums into a communal experience during their headline slot, but their low-key presence struggles to compel casual listeners. In stark contrast, Björk brings a menagerie of flutes, flora and rotating junglescapes to her Sunday set, performing almost all of 2017’s Utopia from beneath an orchid-like headpiece. Adding a supernatural spark, an electrical storm lights up the sky throughout the show, as if her voice is summoning the elements. She only offers a few back catalogue hits (Isobel and Human Behaviour) but it’s a set that radiates joy and renewal under a full moon. ! Chal Ravens N Santiago Felipe
! Hamda Issa-Salwe N @amplostandfound
! Dion Hesson N Matt Eachus
All Points East Victoria Park, London 28 May
SOMERSET HOUSE SUMMER SERIES WITH AMERICAN EXPRESS ®
Presents Bass Forward
Ft. WILEY, CONGO NATTY (Live) JAZZIE B, NORMAN JAY MBE (DJ sets)
A celebration of the evolution of bass culture 07 JUL 2018
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SUN.10.JUN.18 THU.20.SEP.18 FRI.21.SEP.18 SAT.22.SEP.18
THE WAITING ROOM
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ELDER ISLAND WED.27.JUN.18
ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
FRI.06.JUL.18 WED.26.SEP.18 THU.27.SEP.18
HACKNEY ARTS CENTRE
SOCCER MOMMY SCALA
O2 KENTISH TOWN FORUM
TITUS ANDRONICUS ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
TRUDY & THE ROMANCE
VISIONS FESTIVAL ARIEL PINK
O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE
BY THE SEA FESTIVAL
FUCKED UP HANGAR
ROYAL ALBERT HALL
HACKNEY ARTS CENTRE
THE ORIELLES HEAVEN
GROOVE ARMADA DJ SET
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PETE UT LD O SOTONG
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DREAMLAND X ONE LOVE FESTIVAL
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PRESENTS LEE ”SCRATCH” PERRY
ANDY (808 STATE)
SARA COX PRESENTS JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH 80S
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Kamasi Washington’s thrilling vision sends jazz to sublime heights
Words: Stewart Smith
Kamasi Washington’s runaway success has exploded the conventional wisdom that jazz can only cross over when it’s smoothed out or fused with contemporary genres. Associations with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus have certainly helped the Los Angeles-based saxophonist reach new audiences, but his own music makes few explicit nods to hip-hop. In essence, Washington’s music is part of the soul jazz continuum, absorbing elements of spiritual jazz, Latin, fusion and R&B. It might not be formally radical, but the tunes are irresistible, and Washington and his band The Next Step have a winning charisma. Heaven & Earth builds on the sound established on Washington’s 2015 debut studio album The Epic. Disc one, Earth, opens with a bold new arrangement of the theme from the Bruce Lee classic Fists of Fury. Washington embraces the daft but righteous spirit of the original, stacking choral fanfares over hot Latin
The Next Step’s mastery of dynamics and space is all the more apparent on their version of Hub Tones (a piece originally performed by late trumpeter Freddie Hubbard), where Brandon Coleman’s nightclub organ tempers the heat generated by Dontae Winslow’s trumpet. Connections breezes along on a hip West Coast groove, its airy sax and flute theme alternated with striking trombone and synth features. A soul tune in the key of Stevie Wonder, Testify is a showcase for Quinn’s delicious vocals, bejewelled by Coleman’s clavinet. The free blowing introduction to The Invincible Youth hints at the tumult of John Coltrane’s 1966 album Ascension, but out of the chaos emerges an elegant piano and horn melody, buoyed by Thundercat’s fluid bass. While Earth focuses on consolidating the group sound, the album’s second
half Heaven sets its ambitions higher. Space Travellers’ Lullaby is a dreamy venture into sci-fi exotica. Strings glide through a piano starred cosmos, buffeted by celestial choirs and echoplex saxophone. Vi Lua Vi Sol is a curiously appealing hybrid of Daft Punk and Quincy Jones which explores the vocoder’s strange robot soul, while Street Fighter Mas injects g-funk into West Coast jazz via Thundercat’s lubricious bass and Cameron Graves’ wheedling synths. Drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr lay down a low-slung funk beat, while Washington comes in at an angle with waspish triplet licks. In an inspired invocation of the sacred and the profane, the choir comes in over the dirty groove, before Bruner takes it home with a furious burst of junglist polyrhythms. The gospel undercurrents come to the fore on the final tracks. On Show Us The Way the stately choral refrains and elegant piano voicings recall the sacred music of Duke Ellington and David Axelrod, but it’s shot through with an ecstatic quality. Having made his appeal to the Lord, Washington turns to the people on Will You Sing. A gorgeous piano introduction provides a moment’s reflection, before an athletic drum fill takes us into a squelchy bass and clavinet groove. The piano theme continues, its wistful tonality transformed by the setting into something brightly optimistic. It might sound patronising to talk of Kamasi Washington’s generosity of spirit, but his music gives great pleasure and emotional uplift. No wonder it has resonated so widely.
Kamasi Washington Heaven & Hell Young Turks
rhythms and outrageous bongo fills. It’s winningly audacious, but as the music gathers momentum via a series of powerful horn solos, Washington’s serious intent becomes clear. The original lyrics – “I use hands to hold my fellow man/ I use hands to help with what I can… When I face unjust injury/ then I will change my hands into fists of fury.” – are delivered simultaneously by Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible. While Quinn sings with a steely resolve, Trible testifies like a Pentecostal preacher, his voice distorted to sound like a recording from the Civil Rights era. In the context of police brutality and Trumpian white supremacy, these lines become a forceful expression of Black Power.
08 Jenny Hval The Long Sleep Sacred Bones
Norwegian avant-pop performer Jenny Hval is an artist of versatility. Her approach to musical styles has shifted and developed over time, from early gothic metal as a member of Shellyz Raven to the eerie choral folk of her initial solo venture, Rockettothesky. As Jenny Hval, her music mixes provocative social commentary on gender and sexuality with a lyrical sophistication that’s both matched and assuaged by delicate sonic compositions. For The Long Sleep, more subtle conceptual movements are taking place across four tracks, which were recorded with touring member and long time collaborator Håvard Volden – as well as an additional quartet of jazz musicians on percussion and wind instruments. Opening track Spells presents an elaborate layering of electric guitar, saxophone and keys, underscoring Hval's bellow of the chorus, “You will not be awake for long.” The Dreamer is Everyone in Her Dream to follow, picks up on that same lyric in a more sparsely arranged piano number, along with the whisper, “You might be in pieces, but let’s call it something else.” That particular song echoes the simplicity of PJ Harvey’s 2007 catalogue diversion, White Chalk, which speaks as much to the stylistic similarities between the two records as it does an aesthetic mutability between the two artists. Perhaps following a similar trajectory, Hval builds up and out of the more combative themes and approaches to earlier albums like Apocalypse, girl and Blood Bitch with the more meandering rhythms of indie pop that’s swathed in poignant romanticism. A free-spirited flush of melody for mending a broken heart. !
Various Artists Patina Echoes Timedance Anything feels possible pressing play on the first Timedance compilation. There are, of course, some traits one expects – hi-tech production acrobatics, confident reframing of club music traditions, a healthy dose of weirdness. All those elements are present in abundance, and still this collection from known and lesser-known artists feels like a welcome jolt from a defibrillator strapped to the temples. Despite being among the most exciting artists in leftfield UK dance music, label-head Batu has chosen not to appear, but there are Timedance regulars in attendance. Fellow Bristolbased producer Bruce has ditched the beats and plunged into visceral, widescreen sound design, while Ploy has shaken up a fermented bottle of 90s Mo Wax samples and poured it over a dish of errant synth. Other familiar names making their first moves on Timedance include Simo Cell, whose contribution Consider The Internet is bloated and psychedelic in equal measure, and Berlin’s rRoxymore, who steals the show with the limber, rubber band techno brilliance of bRINGTHEbRAVE. But the compilation also showcases some fresh faces – Cleyra’s Naked Echoes is a heart-melting opener, Rae’s Sleep Rotation is a textbook modular ping-fest, and Neinzer lays down a staggering, highpressure broken beat roller. Each individual track feels like an occasion, which can often make for a disjointed compilation. Not so here – Timedance’s classy execution holds strong across 11 tracks, delighting the mind and forging ahead into new territory – just like everyone expected. !
Various Artists Modeselektor Presents: Modeselektion Vol. 04 Monkeytown Records There’s an impossible-todefine skill in the art of the compilation, and Modeselektor have had plenty of practice. As artists, they are rightly revered for their snarling, crunching fidgeting electro and big room techno, as well as more delicate material (with Apparat) as Moderat. But if you could level a criticism at their own work, it’s that Modeselektor’s playfulness and boisterousness could occasionally become a bit mawkish and repetitive. They have been arguably more consistent and influential through the Modeselektion compilations that have showcased dozens of breaking and established artists over more than a decade, and this latest collection is no exception. A gentle, bumping track from Actress reveals a less acerbic side to the producer’s palette. The criminally underrated Lone brings his day-glo synths but keeps them locked behind a lolloping bassline and understated rhythm on Smoke Signals, a low-key highlight. And Claude Speede’s offering is a beautiful, almost tranquil take on leftfield, melodic techno. A harder edge is provided by FJAAK, and the consistently brilliant Peder Mannerfelt, who provides an enjoyably warped contribution, and Modeselektor themselves provide both a glitchy edit (of Vatican Shadow) and a blistering new track of their own, Kalif Storch. A masterclass in how to curate a compilation, the Modeselektion series thunders on. !
Snail Mail Lush Matador Records
Oneohtrix Point Never Age Of Warp As Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin has always been something of a ghost in the machine, bridging and simultaneously destroying the gap between ideas of humanity and technology. In its fascination with horror, 2015’s Garden of Delete came closer to achieving this than any of his previous work. With Age Of, 0PN has once again taken things up a notch. The titular opener is a twisted combination of medieval and MIDI that echoes Garden of Delete track Stick Drama, wherein 0PN provides the most distilled version of his sound to date: something that speaks to both old and new ideas, conjuring thoughts of faith and Final Fantasy in equal measure. The elegiac Babylon goes a step further still, putting the focus on the compassion of Prurient’s vocal take. Where Age Of differs most dramatically from its predecessors, however, is that it feels more like cut scenes interspersed with gameplay, with Lopatin having embraced a more fluid narrative feel. With its pitch bends and shimmering synths, Toys 2 evokes the curiously unnamed sensation of learning to sincerely feel for arcade game characters in story mode, while myriad.industries combines the blissfully uneasy feeling of exploring new terrain with the frenetic energy of half-expected violence. As an album, Age Of is another lesson in machine empathy from 0PN. Between the self-destructing, Black Snow – which is voiced by Anohni – and the hectic roboticism of the James Blake-featuring We’ll Take It, these are 13 tracks which stand as testament that melancholy – above all – is not an exclusively human experience. !
That 19-year-old singersongwriter Lindsey Jordan has grown up in these apathetic times and created such tender songs is nearly as remarkable as the talent she’s accrued at her young age. Tutored by fellow Matador artist Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag), Jordan’s guitar playing spans sparky and insistent strumming to waterfalls of complex fingerpicking. Each song creates its own idiosyncratic ecosystem in which a new relationship blooms, or withers. On her debut album as Snail Mail, Jordan pines for a series of former lovers throughout the album, and it’s refreshing to hear the emotions which we usually thrash out in our own heads being clearly communicated with no shame. In fact, this becomes a theme of the album: Jordan repeatedly finds that a consequence of showing herself so plainly to the world is that she has her ego and sense of self knocked around. But she keeps on loving even when that’s hard to do. On Full Control, she asserts the importance of keeping a sense of herself, even when she’s utterly smitten: ‘I’m not lost, even when it’s love’ she repeats, determinedly. In a world of ghosting, situationships and an innate fear of ‘catching feelings’, Snail Mail’s Lush is the sound of Lindsey Jordan reminding us authentic emotional connections really are out there – even if you have to wade through some terrible shit along the way. !
Leon Vynehall Nothing Is Still Ninja Tune Leon Vynehall is nothing if not sentimental. His 2014 breakout LP Music For the Uninvited originated from the hip-hop, funk and soul tapes his mother bumped on school runs. Now, on Nothing Is Still, his first album for Ninja Tune, the producer and DJ pens a love letter to his grandparents and the story of their emigration from a southern UK suburb to New York City in the 60s. It's a musical collage that spans nine ‘chapters’ interpreted from old photos and family anecdotes. From The Sea/It Looms evolves over six-minutes to crescendo, building to an expanse of sound that almost tries to escape from its own waveform; Trouble shimmers with not-unlike-Terry Riley melodies before eclipsing itself with bellowing bass rumbles that explore subterranean hertz. Fans of Vynehall’s 2016 EP Rojus will find thrills in the tectonic thump of English Oak and the jazz-noir of Drinking It In Again. But Nothing Is Still never truly immerses itself in the dancefloor fodder Vynehall has become known for. Rather, the influence of Steve Reich and Philip Glass is so overt it’s almost lazy to point it out, which makes for moments of genuine encapsulation, but at times falls into self-indulgence. Regardless, with an album entrenched in Vynehall's own personal story, Nothing Is Still has the ability to resonate far beyond its roots. !
Lykke Li so sad so sexy RCA Records Since emerging in the late 00s, Lykke Li’s appeal has always been the hyperbolic emotionality of music made for the heart. Along with the fellow Swedish artists Robyn, Peter Bjorn and John and Miike Snow – all of whom have been, or continue to be, Li collaborators – her flawless soprano harnesses the hooks of 60s pop with a touch of sleazy euro electro to produce something alluring. Tracks like Get Some and I Follow Rivers from 2011’s Wounded Rhymes are lasting testaments to an attention to detail that endures with so sad so sexy. Li’s foray into the deep edges of hip-hop and R&B come in the minimal bass and skittering beats of deep end. Björn Yttling’s usual production is substituted here with producers working with Frank Ocean, Zayn, Drake, Nicki Minaj, as well as Kanye West collaborator and Li’s partner, Jeff Bhasker. This new development – following a rather typical contemporary pop career trajectory – is delicate, though, where Li’s skill and versatility sees the sound of so sad so sexy remaining her own. Smart and sophisticated, it’s a fourth album reaching a new stage of maturity, while staying conscious of the industry that informs it. !
Eartheater IRISIRI PAN Digital production and classical composition combine in ISISIRI, the third full-length record by New York-based artist Alexandra Drewchin, better known as Eartheater. Set to a backdrop of organic harp chords and pillowy vocals, Drewchin manipulates her musical landscape with arrhythmic melodies and trippedout beats which come together to form her unique sound. At times, this record can feel uncomfortable, with its abundance of vocal falsettos and staccato synths, but it is in this discomfort that ISISIRI reveals itself. On Inhale Baby, collaborators Odwalla1221 open with the words, “I am naked on the floor,” before repeating, “there is so much stuff coming out of my skirt”. With depersonalised and mechanical verse, the record explores the power of technology and the danger that comes with it. An interest in the relationship between technology and nature aligns ISISIRI with electronic avant-garde artists like SOPHIE and A.G.Cook, whose music encompasses the pre-packaged spirit of the digital age. Lyrics such as "these tits are just a side effect" and "you can't compute her" combine technology with sexuality, conveying a depersonalised vision of society. Unlike many futuristic artists, who coat their music with sickly nitrous oxide tones to reveal a feeling of irony, Drewchin's music is in revolt. The album's lead single C.L.I.T sees Drewchin yell, “Yeah / I rejected that culture / Do you blame me? / No". Her singing has a ritualistic quality and the collision of metal guitar riffs and vocal distortions provoke active listening from the audience. Much like her moniker suggests, Drewchin's music envelops and swallows you whole, but boy, does it feel good. !
A$AP Rocky Testing RCA Records Braggadocio is nothing new for A$AP Rocky: self assurance, after all, has always been part of his charm as an artist. The New York native’s first full-length offering in three years, however, is nothing if not testament to an unrelenting drive for pushing the limits of his own trademark. Dropping lines like ‘I don’t feel a thing’ on opener Distortion Records, Testing has Rocky at his most confident. Backed by a dark and quivering bassline, exuding nonchalance without sluggishness, it may not be necessary to make a statement of intent with a third record, but that’s nonetheless what A$AP MOB’s most prolific polymath has given us. Moving between shout outs to hustling and full-on assaults against the likes of Donald Trump, as ever, Rocky isn’t afraid to namedrop on Testing. But, to his credit, he managed to stay well clear of punching down. It’s a concoction which, when combined with the spacious and dour production, makes for a palpable air of optimism: a drive toward progress also highlighted in the album’s list of collaborators, from the FKA twigs-featuring Fukk Sleep to soaring Moby sample on A$AP FOREVER to Frank Ocean ender, Purity. While Testing bears all the unapologetic hallmarks of classic Rocky, it’s also steeped in an unwillingness to accept the status quo, both in his own work and in the state of the world in 2018. This culminates in the drifting production of Buck Shots, which opens with unafraid, taciturn determination and ends with a warning and a call to arms in the sound of the shot itself. !
Blawan Wet Will Always Dry TERNESC Blawan takes time over his work. With incredibly sparse releases since his 2011 breakthrough track Getting Me Down, his debut album Wet Will Always Dry is a head-turner for fans of one UK techno’s most highly regarded producers. His releases on his TERNESC label has showcased flourishes beyond the tougher palette he is known for, but Wet Will Always Dry sets out its stall early as a rugged exploration of analog techno. Over the album’s eight tracks, there is a level of repetition in a certain theme; Blawan's trademark raw energy is present throughout, with crackling distortion acting as a backdrop. Or, in some cases, it warbles away creating a real feeling of dissonance. However, the most exciting moments on the record are the ones in which more playful sounds are allowed in, such as the slower, more kinetic Stell and album closer Nims. As a whole, Wet Will Always Dry stays true to the textures Blawan craves, but doesn’t necessarily translate into a cohesive statement, feeling more akin to a punchy collection of well-produced Blawan tracks than any kind of journey. !
serpentwithfeet soil Secretly Canadian / Tri-Angle Described by Björk as “one of the most emotionally generous singers”, few artists in contemporary music are as special as serpentwithfeet. The New York-based, Baltimoreraised musician’s debut EP blisters featured stirring swells and impossible acrobatics of harmony. Released by leftfield label Tri Angle, it was an ostentatious introduction to serpentwithfeet’s world. But it still won’t prepare the listener for his debut album. soil. These tracks seem to march with a murderous menace, armoured and hulking, leaving The Haxan Cloak’s production on blisters seeming modest by comparison. For soil, serpentwithfeet creates a baroque sound palette to match his intricate tales of love and loss. The track cherubim encapsulates this best, using the language of the church to celebrate physical love between men. “I get to devote my life to him,” he chants, elaborating: “I get to keep my mouth filled with you/ I love the taste of you”. On mourning song, serpentwithfeet is stalked by a monster. For fragrant, his voice pans and widens in the mix as the beat wheezes and stutters, its call and response layering tension and release. serpentwithfeet is blessed with a staggering voice and a flair for writing intensely personal yet universal songs, overloaded with drama thanks to a penchant for occult imagery and the traditions of church music. There a few tracks here which feel like obvious singles, but with soil, serpentwithfeet creates a completely realised world, and it’s stunning. !
06—18 MOTH Club Valette St London E8
Friday 8 June
THE MANTIS OPERA
Wednesday 20 June
mothclub.co.uk Sunday 10 June Wednesday 6 June
GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA
CRACK CLOUD Wednesday 20 June
Friday 8 June
THE PLAINVIEWS Thursday 21 June
Tuesday 19 June
GIRLS NAMES Friday 22 June
MEATRAFFLE Saturday 23 June
ESSAIE PAS Monday 2 July
CRX Friday 6 July
HEY COLOSSUS Saturday 7 July
TESS PARKS Tuesday 10 July
THE COSMIC DEAD
APEMAN SPACEMAN Friday 22 June
Friday 22 June
FANTASTIC TWINS Saturday 23 June
THE PERSUADER Saturday 30 June
ZOMBIES IN MIAMI
The Lock Tavern 35 Chalk Farm Rd London NW1 lock-tavern.com
Saturday 23 June
Thursday 7 June
DITZ Sunday 24 June
Friday 8 June
BAD NERVES Tuesday 26 June
Thursday 14 June
H0NKIES Thursday 28 June
The Waiting Room 175 Stoke Newington High St N16 waitingroomn16.com
Friday 15 June
HUSSY Wednesday 27 June
Friday 13 July
Friday 8 June
Friday 13 June
Shacklewell Arms 71 Shacklewell Lane London E8 shacklewellarms.com Wednesday 6 June
THE GOLDEN DREGS Thursday 7 June
Saturday 9 June
BOOKS Wednesday 13 June
SOHO REZANEJAD Friday 15 June
Wednesday 18 July
CUT Saturday 21 July
LA BÊTE BLOOMS Saturday 4 August
Tha Carter III With a bulletin from Planet Weezy to New Orleans, Lil Wayne captured the attention of the whole world Words: Duncan Harrison
First coming to notoriety in his early teens through New Orleans group Hot Boys, Wayne started moving forward after the turn of the millennium. But it wasn’t a conventional growth spurt. He was getting more strange, his wordplay more eccentric. Hot Boys had built a legacy as the ultimate New Orleans rap group and created a blueprint for a new generation of reality rappers, signed to Birdman’s Cash Money records. They’d asserted the South as rap’s new capital with grit and bounce. But Wayne was beginning to operate on a totally different axis. From the mid-00s, he was challenging the limitations of the beats he was bodying with flow patterns spilling across bars and remarkably unorthodox rhyme schemes. He was finding agency in experimentation and the instant connectivity of web 2.0 meant that very little was getting left on the cutting room floor. His
In the 2009 documentary The Carter, Wayne bluntly refuted a journalist's suggestion that he is part of a lineage that includes New Orleans jazz. But stylistically, Wayne’s loose performance and freeform delivery on Tha Carter III could be interpreted as a modern translation of those earlier New Orleanian movements – rooted in the streets, born from improvisation and carefully laced with hope, tragedy and humour. Wayne became a local hero on a global stage. Perhaps unwillingly, he was a Louis Armstrong-type figure – outperforming sounds from surrounding states by creating something novel and unique in the same way Dixieland jazz did at the start of the 20th century. And it’s a post he took at a time when his city needed it. For all the bangers of Tha Carter III, there are a number of poignant moments dedicated to a post-Katrina New Orleans. “Take away the football team, the basketball team / And all we got is me to represent New Orleans,” he raps on Tie My Hands. When he performed that track at the 2009 Grammys, the performance was bookended by a homage to his city – complete with local brass band and a rendition of New Orleans funeral parade classic Feet Don’t Fail Me Now. Though the album’s pathos is rooted at home, its magic is otherworldly, like a foreign transmission. There’s a reason why Phone Home opens with
an automated voice saying “Greetings from Planet Weezy”. Much like Andre 3000 before him and Future after him, Wayne was keen to assert his power as something alien, something supernatural. The surrealist postlyrical mumble-rap he exhibits feels like a prototype of the styles which are berated by old school fans today. Indeed, if you search “worst freestyle ever” on YouTube then a 2008 video of Wayne on the Carter III promotional trail is one of the top results. The studio album which came after Tha Carter III was Rebirth in 2010 – a poorly received rap-rock crossover record where Wayne shifted from extraterrestrial gangster to bigger-thanrap rock God. The album transcended the confines of rap through the lens
of science fiction or rock music, blueprints which today’s luminaries like Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug have followed almost like a script. So that earth-conquering success, those numbers that now seem eyewatering, make more sense in light of what Wayne was doing on this LP. Carefully balancing touching themes of home with a novel delivery that carved out an eccentric future for commercial hip-hop. Rewriting rap’s DNA and phoning home from a distance.
Original release date: 110 June 2008 Label: Cash Money Records
Released June 2008, the record was an anomaly, diving off the industry’s sinking ship and achieving the impossible. Tha Carter III sold 1.1 million record copies in seven days – an accomplishment that hadn’t been achieved since 2005, as the industry had been struggling to adjust to the digital era. The record outsold Taylor Swift, Coldplay and a freshly autotuned Kanye West. Coming off the back of a legendary mixtape run, Tha Carter III was Wayne’s blockbuster arrival to hip-hop’s top table – complete with a tatted-up baby photo as artwork.
lyrical demeanour is fascinatingly blasé throughout. He cribs lines from other artists then thanks them for it; introduces surreal metaphors then drops them only to pick them up again a few lines later.
It seems counterintuitive to claim that huge sales figures can somehow add to an enigma, but the magnetism of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III is enhanced by its astronomical commercial success.
08 Studio 54 dir: Matt Tyrnauer Starring: Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager, Sandy Linter
07 Jeune Femme dir: Léonor Serraille Starring: Laetitia Dosch, Souleymane Seye Ndiaye, Grégoire Monsaingeon
! Kambole Campbell
My Friend Dahmer dir: Marc Meyers Starring: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche “I like to pick up roadkill but I’m trying to quit,” says teenager Jeff (Ross Lynch) early on in My Friend Dahmer. It’s a knowingly dark line in a film that frequently flirts with the extreme darkness of its subject matter without ever indulging in shock and gore. Because, yes, this is Jeffrey Dahmer we’re talking about, the infamous serial killer who murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991 before he was jailed in the Columbia Correctional Institute, and then beaten to death by his cellmate. This isn’t Making A Murderer: Teen Edition, though. ‘Becoming Dahmer’ would have been a more apt title, as none of the Wisconsin native’s unsettling crimes are portrayed here. Instead, director Marc Meyers adapts John ‘Derf’ Backderf’s same-named graphic novel. As one of Dahmer’s high-school friends, Backderf was there for Dahmer’s formative years, and they’re played out here in slow-burn detail as Dahmer struggles with his fractured home life, with school, and with his own burgeoning homosexuality. The disturbing moments are often beautifully underplayed. Meyers forgoes slasher movie cliche to perfectly capture an understated ’70s mood, and his star – former Disney kid Lynch – is equally mesmerising; his often expressionless, dead-eyed but hugely physical performance is a revelation. Why did Dahmer become obsessed with dead things? Would it have turned out differently if his parents (played with grotesque glee by Anne Heche and Dallas Roberts) hadn’t abandoned him? Meyers refrains from offering easy answers, perhaps because there aren't any, instead watching Dahmer as he careens towards the inevitable. The result is quiet and lingering, blowing apart the Hollywood notion of what constitutes a psychopath to reveal the troubling, unsettling reality.
! Beth Webb
Solo: A Star Wars Story dir: Ron Howard Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke Take an iconic character, give him the fastest ship in the galaxy, add one Wookiee and a wardrobe full of capes, and what have you got? Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest of the franchise’s spin-offs. Nothing on display here matches the epic scale of The Last Jedi, but it was never meant to: Han Solo’s secret weapon is being able to turn any encounter, no matter how small, into something funny, thrilling and smart. Ron Howard infamously assumed direction of the film after Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) were fired, and the melding of styles is often obvious. The action is gripping, delivering the lightsaber-free grit that Rogue One never managed, but the story often feels feeble. Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is at his best with his back against the wall, defying all odds, but we rarely feel like he’s ever in danger of failing. The script from original Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan also struggles to raise much more than a Han Solo smirk. Lando (Donald Glover) and his magnificent capes steal a fair few scenes, as does his rebellious droid L3 (Fleabag’s Phoebe WallerBridge) in her pointed quest for robotic rights. Chewie is as charming as ever, although the Kasdans miss a trick not making more of the emotional bond between Han and his furry co-pilot. Solo is a welcome addition to the Star Wars galaxy, though it never delivers on the huge potential of the series’ most lovable character. It’s just a shame that the script gets caught halfway between being a fan-pleasing caper and a serious political story. With a few different choices, it could have been both. ! Tom Bond
! Josh Winning
A boisterous, unpredictable film about an equally unpredictable protagonist, first-time filmmaker Léonor Serraille’s Jeune Femme centres on a woman who hasn’t exactly got her life in order. Occupying the same space as Phoebe WallerBridge’s series Fleabag but with the intensity dialled up, the film ends and begins on the piercing, heterochromia stare of its protagonist, Paula. When we first meet her, she’s trying to break through her ex-boyfriend’s apartment door with her forehead – a successful photographer, he’s dumped her for another woman. Following a hilarious and blistering stream-of-consciousness rant at her doctor, Paula decides not to wallow in what happened and sets out to create a new life for herself. Each step forward feels more tenuous than the last as she pinballs around Paris, her impulsive nature leading her into various new jobs and relationships, all on shaky foundations. It’s a fantastic, spiky and unpredictable central performance from Dosch, bolstered by Serraille’s direction; the camerawork is consistently alluring throughout the film, but it’s at its best when most still, allowing us to soak in the film’s wonderful use of colour as well as Dosch’s captivating performance. This immaculate photography is almost in juxtaposition to Paula’s attempts to escape from various perceptions others have of her, and the film itself strives to create a more realistic portrait of a woman than the lofty ideal found in the photogrpaphy of Paula's ex. Paula isn’t emblematic of anything, she just is. Jeune Femme is a precise, beautifully composed piece of work that resists making its main character into some kind of message. Narrative curveballs that might swallow another film of this nature are dismantled with a refreshing matter-of-factness that allows us to enjoy Paula for who she is, rather than what she might represent.
Watching Studio 54, a lovingly crafted documentary about the world’s most renowned former nightclub, will draw out something that you didn’t know you were missing. “They were all my friends. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me, but I didn’t care and they didn’t care. That’s how we danced at Studio, we danced with the entire club.” These are the fond words of Sandy Linter, a club regular who comes alive recalling the nightly stampede to the dancefloor. With closures and curfews currently stifling nightlife from London to Georgia, Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary ignites the longing for a community that provides a desperately needed escape. Talking about Studio 54 for the first time in decades, co-owner Ian Schrager starts from the bottom up, recounting the club’s origins (disco music brought in gay men who attracted models who attracted straight men) to a lengthy stint in prison and the tragic demise of his best friend and colleague Steve Rubell. AIDS knocked the wind out of New York, and Studio 54 was in the eye of the storm. “All these young men were just fading away,” remembers former staff member Scott Taylor as grainy photos of dazzling bartenders and drag queens fill the screen. The legacy of Studio 54 is hardly undocumented, but Tyrnauer struck gold with a trove of archive footage that plays like home videos and candid moments with those who witnessed the magic first-hand. This is more than an education in club culture, and will leave you wishing you’d made it past that velvet rope.
SOLD OUT SOLD OUT
100 Club Stories fredperry.com £24.99
Fleet Ilya x Arca Headphones www.ssense.com £4840
The iconic 100 Club reaches its 75th anniversary this year, and celebrating its world-famous legacy is this retrospective from independent publisher Ditto. Founded by Robert Feldman in 1942, the storied club has been instrumental in cementing punk as a subculture, and has seen musical legends BB King and Muddy Waters walk in. Including stories from punters and rare photos, this is essential reading delving into the history of one of the UK’s most revered clubs.
Former Crack Magazine cover star Arca has teamed up with leather goods company Fleet Ilya for a collection that’s exclusively sold at SSENSE. And in true Arca style, one of the standout items is a leather cage headpiece with headphones; mixing fetish with functionality. Sold as an art piece, use of the cage is, as the website states, “at the user’s own risk and peril”.
Ace & Tate: Grace Glasses in Bio Black aceandtate.com £98
Clifford Jago x Jonathan Castro Broadsheet cliffordjago.com £50
An essential staple for the summer months, step into the warmer season with these punk-inspired shades that channel the spirit of nights spent at the CBGBs. From the Me, Myself & I collection – which celebrates creativity and multiplicity – these are wonderfully dramatic and timeless, all at once.
Looking to inject some life into your bleak shared kitchen? Check out this trippy newsprint poster, created in collaboration by maximalist Jonathan Castro and stylist Clifford Jago for the Tate Modern’s Offprint Fair.
Sportsbanger x Slazenger Trainers sportsbanger.com £29.99 Alert: Slazenger are teaming up with your favourite legit bootlegger, Sportsbanger. Their collection of trainers drops this month. The affordable price is based on Corbyn’s slogan: For the many, not the few. The best detail though? See-through soles with five pound notes. We’re sold.
Staging imaginative runway shows with designs informed by his own club kid paradise, LOVERBOY, Charles Jeffrey is one of the most exciting and daring designers on the London circuit. In case you haven’t noticed, berets are fashionable again – but wool isn’t best suited for the summer months. Pick up this headwear from Charles Jeffrey instead, designed as an exclusive for Dover Street Market
LOVERBOY Beret london.doverstreetmarket.com £175
A Love Letter To… Reggaeton Words: Eddie Cepeda Illustration: Tim Lahan
It always comes when I least expect it. The sun creeps back over New York City, and with it, the late-spring street slush and icy winds subside. Parkas trade closet space with t-shirts and sundresses, bringing signs of life back to the daily commute. Fruit vendors, beaming over their colourful bounties, offer pre-sliced mangos and pineapples: the perfect accessory to summer in the city. Around the corner, fold out chairs make their way back to their rightful nooks, and bluetooth speakers thump with that syrupy dembow riddim – a thumping that’s so desperately absent from the streets during the bleak winter.
Now it’s warm enough for cars to cruise with their windows open, the air resonates with the classics that first brought reggaeton to a wider public consciousness: Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderon, Ivy Queen and Noreaga’s treasure chest of regional perreo. These mid-aught staples carried the genre out of the underground, and into living rooms, nightclubs, and televisions across the world. Nowadays, you might come across a new single by Maluma, or until fairly recently, what seemed like a concerted effort by every Uber driver to beat us to death with Despacito. What all of these artists have in common, however, is
how they ushered Latinx music outside of crossover novelty, and showcased the realities of our communities to a mainstream Western audience. The representation that came with this wave was commanding and, above all, invaluable. Reggaeton began as entertainment for commuters on Panama’s Diablo Rojo buses. Singers like El General and Renato toasted in Spanish over Jamaican riddims. In Puerto Rico, visionaries like DJ Negro and DJ Playero added their touch, as they spread the sound through their seminal mixtapes and live battles. And it was in Philip Smart’s Long Island studio that the Jamaican dembow riddim was given a Latin makeover and reworked into Panamanian singer Nando Boom’s Ellos Benia – a crucial metamorphosis in the creation of what we call reggaeton. Or as Don Omar called it, Reggaeton Latino. It’s now a global phenomenon, no longer exclusive to Puerto Rico, Panama, Dominican Republic, or even Latin America. The boom-chk boomchk backbeat occupies space around the far reaches of the globe. From futuristic neo-perreo out of the UK, to Rosa Pistola’s self-proclaimed Mexican reggaeton, Latinx communities the world-over see representation as the genre spreads. Its growing popularity has managed to pierce the West’s musical climate with such force that it not only legitimised reggaeton as a valued art form, but led in a new period for Latinx visibility.
Reggaeton originally spread through an informal distribution network largely based on bootleg cassettes and CDs, and the careers of many now-household names began on these mixes. At its core, reggaeton is a musical movement founded on community; the barrios in which the
genre thrives in pulsate with love, loyalty, and, most importantly, profound kinship. Reggaeton is the unspoken common tongue – a simple nod of acknowledgment or casual fistbump from an appreciative passerby signifies a mutual understanding and a communal bond. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting genre for non-verbal musical comradery. But further than that, it has mass appeal. Reggaeton dips its toes in other musical styles, but never compromises its own uniqueness. It has all the components to the formula of popular music today – pop melodies, punchline choruses, waistwinding rhythms. Sure, other genres are crucial to summer’s soundtrack, but there’s nothing quite like the slap that reggaeton’s addictive rhythm delivers as you go about even the most menial of tasks. It envelops and permeates the landscape around it with transcultural signifiers like Jamaican dembow, Puerto Rican clave, and Dominican perico ripao. Trips to the bodega can only be made more wholesome by the comforting knowledge that someone within close-range will undoubtedly have a reggaeton playlist on deck. Reggaeton’s global popularity may waver, and this current peak will inevitably come with a valley. But there’s comfort in knowing that just like we can count on the sun to return after a hard winter, we can also count on reggaeton to fill the warm air with the sounds of perreo, year after year. Season after reggaeton season.
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