Issue 96 - Shabaka Hutchings

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Shabaka Hutchings

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Crack Magazine | Issue 96


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Shabaka Hutchings

015

Contents

Object Blue: 30

Black Midi 38

Angel-Ho 21

Ian Isiah 54

Greentea Peng 44

Editor's Letter – p.17 Dear Frankie – p.68

Recommended – p.18

20 Questions: Toro y Moi – p.69

Reviews – p.57

A Love Letter To: Celine Dion – p.70

CONTENTS

crackmagazine.net

22


Black Midi

SOLD OUT

SOLD OUT


January 2019

Crack Magazine Was Made Using

The new year typically brings with it a sense of renewal. A thirst for something different. A new chapter.

Men I Trust Say, Can You Hear Ama Lou Wrong Lesson Mariah Carey We Belong Together Celine Dion Because You Loved Me Greentea Peng Sensi Ian Isiah Persistent The Buzzcocks Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've) Chief Keef Awesome Overmono iii’s front Roddy Rich Die Young Kodie Shane Love & Drugz II ft. Trippie Redd Kiah Victoria Ornament Chrome Corpse With Your Head

Shabaka Hutchings shot exclusively for Crack Magazine by Michelle Helena Janssen in London, December 2018

For us, the step into 2019 carries more weight because it means we’ve reached our tenth year of operation, which, given the current climate of the publishing industry, is something we’re proud of. (Don’t congratulate us just yet – we’ll be making more noise around our 100th issue in May.) Across the decade, we’ve supported a broad spectrum of music, in fact it’s a key part of our vision. We’ve had DJs and MCs, pop stars and metal behemoths (hey, Slayer), indie darlings and cult producers bless our covers. But we’re entering 2019 with a first – we’ve never had a jazz artist on the cover before. Shabaka Hutchings fronts our future-facing issue of rising artists, which also features experimental techno newcomer object blue, Black Midi, the mysterious band who sent a shockwave through the industry with their first single, the hazy vibrations of Greentea Peng, and the songs that have sexed-up Brooklyn singer Ian Isiah “feeling nasty”. As for our jazz cover star, it’s worth noting that Hutchings to some extent rejects the label. The visionary bandleader, composer and saxophonist is, in his own way, concerning himself with reinvention. As our cover story highlights, Hutchings is part of an emerging generation building on the legacy of jazz and using its foundations to tell their own story. A cosmic leader to the flourishing South London scene, Hutchings is opening up imaginations to what the music can be, and what you can say with it. A celebration of the past, but pushing forward with a rebellious spirit. That's the kind of energy we can get behind in 2019. Anna Tehabsim, Editor

crackmagazine.net

Bruce Ore

EDITORIAL

Ex:Re The Dazzler

017

Issue 96


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Recommended O ur g ui d e to wh at's goi n g on i n y ou r c i ty CupcaKKe The Dome 8 January

Neneh Cherry Roundhouse 14 February Modern life is hard to navigate when the current state of the world resembles a dumpster fire. Music usually helps us make sense of it all. On Broken Politics, Neneh Cherry confronts the world with the burning questions we all have on our minds: how do we act in these fraught times? How can we actually incite tangible change? To the backdrop of eccentric melodies and Four Tet and 3D-produced trip-hop beats, the 90s icon patiently seeks answers. Join her in the fight.

The Twilight Sad Rough Trade East 24 January

The Beat Hotel Palms Trax, Mafalda, Andrew Weatherall Fellah Hotel, Marrakech 28 March–1 April

Elevate Festival Jayda G, Sun O))), Puce Mary Graz, Austria 27 February–3 March

Fucked Up The Garage 25 January

Returning for its 15th edition, Elevate Festival will bring its powerful combination of art, music and political discourse to the Austrian city of Graz once more. The 2019 festival features ‘truth’ as its theme, a concept which will be explored by the work of human rights activists, climatologists, electronic musicians, and artists. Alongside a line-up of speakers including controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the event will offer musical treats from the likes of Deena Abdelwahed, Jayda G and Kode9. Perfect for those of you who want a side of woke alongside your typical festival offerings.

You might not immediately think of Marrakech as a rave destination, but over the past few years, Morocco’s vibrant city has had a growing appetite for electronic music. Inspired by its renowned Parisian namesake, The Beat Hotel offers a stacked, genre-spanning line-up in the boutique settings of the Fellah Hotel. Lounge by the pool for day time sessions, hit up a talk for some brain power or dance at the late-night villa parties with the likes of Hunee, Palms Trax, Peach, Awesome Tapes From Africa and more. A shakedown to the glorious backdrop of the Atlas Mountains? Count us in. Snowbombing Stormzy, Special Request, Mall Grab Mayrhofen, Austria 8–13 April

Nightmares on Wax Phonox 27 January

Have you ever dreamt of watching Stormzy smash a live set on a snow-covered mountain top at a ski resort? Consider this your lucky day. Austrian mainstay Snowbombing is celebrating its 20th anniversary by bringing us a party in the snow that can’t be missed. 2019’s line-up welcomes sets from Stormzy, Flava D, Palms Trax, Saoirse, Hunee and many more, as well as igloo raves (yes, seriously), pop-up butcher shop parties and a massive fancy dress street party. Time to start practicing your shuffle in ski gear.

Azealia Banks Electric Brixton 27 January

Black Midi Bloc 25 January

Heavy Lungs Sebright Arms 28 January Patti Smith Roundhouse 25 January

EVENTS

Ghetts Islington Assembly Hall 31 January

Paigey Cakey Camden Assembly 29 January

Black Midi seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The South London band, comprised of four Brit school students barely out of their teens stormed onto the scene with their puckish, punkbut-not-punk song bmbmbm. Since then, they’ve garnered considerable attention with a high-energy NTS Live session that also appeared out of the blue, and headline shows up and down the UK and beyond. Enigmatic, but never relenting their in-your-face fervour in a live setting, Black Midi are set to have a huge year.

Swearin’ Moth Club 29 January


019 Adrianne Lenker Union Chapel 15 January

SXM Festival Axel Boman, Guy Gerber, Apollonia St Martin 13–17 March

Spotlight Series Camden Assembly 3–29 January Camden Assembly’s Spotlight Series returns for its second year. The schedule of intimate gigs will run throughout the month of January, highlighting the artists to look out for in 2019. Some of the best in the music business will have a hand in the curation, with Spotify heading up selection and drafting in the likes of Live Nation, Link Up TV, and ATC Live. Thanks to a partnership with Ticketweb, each and every one of the 15 scheduled dates will be completely free. If you’re broke and looking for cheap reasons to leave the house despite the general dread of January, this is definitely it.

Five-day electronic music festival SXM allows revellers to enjoy the best in house and techno amongst beautiful paradisal settings. This year, Neapolitan techno selector Marco Carola, Parisian trio Apollonia, Rumors boss Guy Gerber and electronic veteran Axel Boman are some of the biggest names set to grace the Caribbean island of St Martin. Taking place across beaches and large-scale clubs, the festival’s billing of world-class selectors is only one of many reasons (read: it’s a Caribbean island) to make your escape to SXM this spring.

Circle of Live Village Underground 2 February If the thrilling nature of live improvisation is your thing, then read on. Label and live electronic event series Circle of Live is heading to Shoreditch’s Village Underground, where members Sebastian Mullaert, Ame’s Frank Wiedemann and Mathew Jonson will curate a night entirely rooted in spontaneity. Longtime Mullaert collaborators Ljudbilden & Piloten will also perform, along with spoken word poet Boelja. It’s safe to say that Circle of Live will be a one of a kind experience.

Pantha Du Prince Barbican Centre 19 January

Romare XOYO 5 January Afriquoi XOYO 19 January

Dimitri From Paris XOYO 12 January

AVA London Printworks 15 March Ahead of the full festival this summer, AVA will present an special conference and club night at London’s massive rave HQ, Printworks. The (free!) daytime conference will be spearheaded by keynote speakers Bicep, and the ticketed evening event will bring us DJ slots from much-loved crate diggers Mall Grab, Joy Orbison, Job Jobse and Or:la. Bringing together the leading figures in electronic music and provoking discussion about the future of dance music, this day-long celebration of the audiovisual arts is a must-attend for club kids and fledgling DJs alike.

DJ Sprinkles + Izabel Phonox 25 January

Kiasmos fabric 12 January

Did you ever think you’d see Kode9 ride into Berghain on a crane armed with giant subwoofers? We didn’t think so either. But it’s happening, and it’s at this year’s edition of CTM Festival. The forward-facing Berlin festival has always had a penchant for booking artists that are pushing the boundaries of electronic music and technology as we know it. This year, they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary by bringing an eclectic host of noisemakers from all corners of music to the mix – Lightning Bolt, Kode9, Yves Tumour, Machine Woman, Lotic, Eartheater, Tirzah and many more. With added lectures, workshops and A/V performances, this is set to be quite the bash.

J Mascis Islington Assembly Hall 19 January Kojo Funds O2 Kentish Town Forum 22 January

Ghostface Killah Printworks 19 January

EVENTS

In her long career as a deep house favourite, DJ Sprinkles’s critical eye has been unflinching. Online distributors, misty-eyed rave nostalgia and the heteronormativity of the family unit have all come under her gaze. But her high-concept productions don’t skimp on warmth and groove. For this set at Phonox, alongside Izabel – from the excellent Red Light Radio show Lullabies for Insomniacs – expect musings on sexuality and sonicsemiotics to make you move.

CTM Festival Kode9, Yves Tumor, Lightning Bolt Various venues, Berlin 25 January–3 February



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Rising: Angel-Ho

Sounds Like: Tense, hip-shaking electronic music Soundtrack For: Getting sweaty with the lights down low File Next To: LOTIC, Arca Our Favourite Tune: Drama Where to Find Her: soundcloud.com/ angel-h0

Angel-Ho smells like Chanel No. 5. “I’ve only gotten into it for the last year – I’d always been an Esteé Lauder bitch,” the young DJ and producer tells me over Skype in her rich, opulent purr. “It makes me feel like I’m smoking a cigarette in a ballroom. Like I’m wearing a glitter gown – with Chanel gloves – and I’m just puffing away on a nice cigarette, and I’m just watching the ball go on. I’m enjoying the classical music.” She pauses for a breath before continuing: “And I’m a bit drunk.” For now, though, she’s calling me from her home in Cape Town just days after she announced that her debut album Death Becomes Her is coming via London’s Hyperdub. Angel’s been busy since she shook up the tenets of club-ready bangers with her 2015 EP Ascension, which was released on Halycon Veil and mastered by Arca. The EP was frenetic, industrial, and dramatic. Dripping with tension and anxiety.

“SoundCloud changed my life completely,” she recalls as she lists Queezy, K Rizz, Baby Caramel and the guests she’s brought on board for her album. “That was the only way for us to connect. The internet was a tool that I used to allow myself and my music to be heard.” With the release of Death Becomes Her floating on the horizon, AngelHo is ready to take the stage. The album’s grounded in swift, abrasive

production from the likes of Gaika and Nguzunguzu’s Asmara alongside Angel’s own beats. It’s also a celebration of Angel finding her voice. She’s spent the last two years refining her songwriting, and the album puts her singing and rapping at the forefront. A veteran ballroom performer and DJ (she name checks this year’s Sissy Ball in Sydney as one of the first places she debuted rough cuts of her album), Angel’s vying for a spot at the top of pop. “I envision stadiums. I envision a full-on jam-packed show with different sets, a great, big audience, a roaring crowd,” she continues. But the album of course has its place in the club – "full of people jumping up and down; being sweaty; being misfits; being rude and rowdy and enjoying my music.” There’s a softer side to Angel-Ho, too. Throughout our conversation, she

makes it clear that there’s a line in the sand between Angel the performer and Angel, the young woman on the other end of our call. It’s an exploration of the self that’s unfolded alongside her exploration of her own gender and transition. “It’s made me not think of a woman as an ideal beauty, but as a figure of exploration and a figure of self-discovery. I really feel like the woman is a map – there’s always something to be discovered with being a woman, and a woman is not a location or a destination for me."

Words: Nathan Ma Photography: Jody Brand

But for now Angel’s keeping herself busy with more immediate matters. “Going out these days, everybody in Cape Town always recognises me!” she laughs. “How the hell am I gonna disguise myself?” Death Becomes Her is set for release 1 March via Hyperdub

MUSIC

The same year saw her team up with Chino Amobi and Nkisi to found the underground electronic music collective NON Worldwide. With joint headquarters across the UK, USA and South Africa, the three artists met online and created a space for their dystopian dance music that was as sonically left-field as it was ready to disrupt the systems of gender, race, and politics that divide us.


Shabaka Hutchings has something to say

MUSIC


Hat: Laulhere Waistcoat and Top: Nicholas Daley Accessories: Shabaka's Own

Ushering in London’s jazz revolution, the saxophonist is the movement’s visionary leader


Words: Ammar Kalia Photography: Michelle Helena Janssen Art Direction: Ade Udoma Grooming: Laila Zakaria Assistants: Tamara Odibi & Euloge Zola

Awards ceremonies tend to be predictable, boring affairs. The endless nominations, the cramped tables, the free alcohol you can’t be too quick to drink – the list goes on. The much-fêted Mercury Music Prize is no different; industry chums gather annually to back-slap and congratulate each other on the usual selection of household names, tokenistic diversity, and the jazz choice. The 2018 Mercury Prize felt different. This time, the ‘token jazz act’ felt like one that could actually win. Gone were the Basquiat Strings and Kit Downes of yesteryear, instead this was a product of a new jazz scene which had taken hold. The cluster of musicians at the centre of this movement, trained as much by free local workshops as by universities, is led most prominently by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. It was his band, Sons of Kemet, who earned the nomination. Their music isn’t something to sit and chin-stroke to, it is kinetic and infectious.

MUSIC

Perhaps this is because Hutchings has had an unusual route to jazz. First studying classical clarinet before switching to saxophone during mixed-genre jam sessions led by MC and instrumentalist Soweto Kinch in the early 2000s, Hutchings then immersed himself in the intricacies of the genre. He has lived through the academic traditionalism of jazz, earning his stripes in dimly-lit basement bars before graduating to festival stages and the makeshift venues of this movement, such as London’s Church of Sound, Steam Down and the Total Refreshment Centre. His music is as much informed by the sounds of the

British postcolonial diaspora, as it is by the solos of John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. Maybe, then, this nomination would have been the vindication for a much misunderstood genre which was finally picking up a younger, more diverse audience. A genre which is increasingly coming to characterise the musical identity of the UK, just as grime has in recent years. Of course, Hutchings didn’t win. What he did do, though, was perform one song during the ceremony, My Queen Is Harriet Tubman, and jolt the lethargic, alcohol-soused audience members into a rapt submission, providing the only standing ovation of the night. An unusual formation of two drummers – Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick – along with tuba player Theon Cross and bandleader and saxophonist Hutchings, Sons of Kemet provided their signature blend of coruscating saxophone, blown at reed-breaking intensity, a cacophonous groove from Skinner and Hick, and Cross’ earth-shaking tuba. Their four minute performance felt like a sonic slap to the face; an uncompromising show of musical integrity which the room wasn’t quite sure what to do with. Hutchings has been nominated and lost once before, in 2016 with his synth-andsax trio The Comet Is Coming. When it came to this second nomination then, “a lot of people around us were hopeful we’d win,” the 34-year-old says in the Deptford community café we meet in – a stark contrast from the enforced glamour of the Mercurys. “But I have no faith in the music industry,” he continues, “I have no idealism that they’re going to vote for the outside option, ever.”

Softly spoken and towering well over six feet tall, Hutchings is a gentle giant. He is also an encyclopedia of knowledge, covering everything from academic Paul Gilroy’s theories of double consciousness to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and French classical composer Olivier Messiaen during the hour that we speak. And this knowledge is poured into all that he creates. The album that his Sons of Kemet project was nominated for is called Your Queen Is a Reptile. Over its nine tracks of maximal rhythm and bombastic melody, Hutchings and co posit a radical alternative to the British monarchy – one which is playfully (or maybe seriously) considered through the lens of David Icke’s conspiracy theories. The Illuminati aside, Hutchings names each track after an ‘alternative queen’ of his choosing – from Underground Railroad anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman to anti-colonial Ghanaian monarch Yaa Asantewaa, and his own great-grandmother. In this way, the record foregrounds the female figures Hutchings believes to be of just as much, if not more, importance than those we have no choice in being led by. With this complex narrative in mind, Hutchings concedes that “the music industry is an industry because it considers money and certainty. So in that respect, Sons of Kemet is a wildcard. The day they start voting for a four-piece jazz band with two drums, tuba and saxophone is probably the day that Brexit doesn’t happen.


025 MUSIC

Hat: Nicholas Daley Coat: Michael Browne Top: Our Legacy Trousers: Our Legacy Necklace: Shabaka's Own


“This record is a way of reclaiming British identity for me. By saying you’re not British, you’re saying you don’t even have the right to change those issues”


Since he has experienced the upheaval of migration twice, Hutchings has an intrinsic awareness of the difficulties surrounding the perceptions of immigrants today, and it’s something he feels his music should address. “It’s not enough to just record sounds and put them out with a semi-decent picture as an album cover,” he explains. “The role of the artist in society is to accept your visibility, which gives you a platform to say how you’re feeling on any subject. Singers can express themselves through their voice and lyrical content; with instrumentalists, you can be reduced to a performer of sound. So I need to have a dynamic relationship to what’s happening around me.” Hutchings wrote Your Queen in late 2017, as the beginnings of the #MeToo movement were rumbling. “I was thinking of the experiences of women in the naked light of patriarchy and how you don’t normally see the oppressive structures that control us,” he

Hat, Top and Trousers: Nicholas Daley Accessories: Shabaka's Own Shoes: Asics

One woman who has personally influenced Hutchings, and who appears as an ‘alternative queen’ on the album, is his great-grandmother Ada Eastman. “In the Caribbean there’s a strange situation where it’s possible to not know that many generations of your family because of a lack of records due to slavery,” Hutchings says. “So for me, I needed to articulate and appreciate the people in the past who I have drawn inspiration from – we should learn as much from them as we can. My great-grandma was pretty much illiterate but she got a job as a domestic servant and provided for her whole family, working into her mideighties and even owning three houses by the end of her life at 103.”

a voice within society,” he gestures, impassioned. “What is it that binds us apart from just saying ‘we are English’? It’s a feeling of agency and having a say in the people who are leading you. In considering alternate structures of power, it forces you to appraise if the structures governing you are appropriate. As a member of a minority community and a historically marginalised one, that’s one of the most important things we can do.” It is for this reason that Hutchings includes Doreen, police reform campaigner and mother of Stephen Lawrence, on the record. An example of “a real British citizen,” he explains, “because she’s using her voice to make a change.” In the current political climate, British nationalism can bring with it a prejudicial, right-wing narrative,

especially for minorities. Yet, Hutchings believes that “this record is a way of reclaiming British identity for me.” He adds, “by saying you’re not British, you’re saying you don’t even have the right to change those issues. My grandparents and parents really struggled to get a foot in this society and the racist abuse that was given to them was because people thought they weren’t British. So the triumph is to be able to say, ‘we won't stand for this because we’re as much citizens of the country as you.’”

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elaborates. “I was also addressing the lack of women in jazz without wanting to be tokenistic. I was questioning how the patriarchy shapes me and then thinking about the people that I look up to, and I realised that it was harder to think of the female figures than the male. That set off a chain of events whereby I started finding out stories of powerful women throughout history.”

It is for these reasons that the Mercury nomination was significant. It was never about winning, it was “having someone say ‘your queen is a reptile’ on national television and that ‘my queen is Harriet Tubman’. It’s something I never thought would happen,” he laughs.

The resulting track opens the record, an undulating calypso rhythm that heralds Hutchings’ virtuosic playing with a languorous solo, cascading in ascending lines over the spoken word of Joshua Idehen. His vocals act as a manifesto for Hutchings’ work: “I’m still here and still unruly/ All sound and all fury”. Ultimately, Hutchings’ musical expression is an enactment of what it means to him to be a British citizen. “You’re not a citizen if you don't have

MUSIC

Speaking of Brexit, Hutchings’ work has become increasingly politicised in recent years. Sons of Kemet’s previous record, Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do, was penned partly in response to the environmental crisis, while his project with South African musicians, Shabaka and the Ancestors, references the Civil Rights era Afrofuturist mythologies of Sun Ra. It is testament to his varied experiences growing up in London in the early 1980s and then moving to Barbados from the ages of 6 to 16, before returning to the UK to study music, that Hutchings has such a wide range of interests – both musical and otherwise.


Almost a decade older than the new generation of jazz musicians who have gained popularity in recent years – artists like drummer Moses Boyd, saxophonist Nubya Garcia, and Hutchings’ bandmate Theon Cross – Hutchings has become something of an elder statesman to this new breed. Having toured with older, establishment acts such as Courtney Pine, Jack DeJohnette and Charlie Haden when he left music college, Hutchings is familiar with the rigours of a working musician’s life. “15 to 20 years ago, there wasn’t the same level of optimism in how far the music could go,” he says. “When I was with [experimental group] Polar Bear, we played jazz on festival stages before it was a common thing. You have to learn how to transmit improvisational ideas to a big audience, it’s not something that just appears.” And the audiences have certainly been getting bigger in recent years. One of the London-based new jazz groups Ezra Collective recently sold out the 2,400-capacity Koko in Camden, while other groups like Nérija have signed to major independent label Domino, and Maisha to Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint. Gone are the hushed tones of Ronnie Scott’s; at these shows you are more likely to find a moshpit than a chin-stroking aficionado. The level of media focus is heightened at the moment though, and Hutchings voices his concerns. “The hype will fade, as that’s its nature,” he says. “But I can’t imagine learning what I did 10 years ago when I was 24 with the kind of attention people are getting now. I wouldn’t be able to be as experimental or level-headed. When I was 24, I didn’t believe in anything, I was just seeing what worked from gig to gig and changing things as I went along.” With his mentoring, the new generation may resist succumbing to the hype. Hutchings acted as musical director for the We Out Here London jazz compilation of 2018, a key documentation of the scene and an establishing principle for the players as they move forward. “I’m so hopeful for the future,” he says, his voice rising. “There are so many exciting young players doing their own thing now – people like Nubya Garcia and Cassie Kinoshi – as well as a new generation who are still being supported by grassroots organisations like London’s Tomorrow’s Warriors. The boundaries are also loosening, it’s getting to the point where it’s not about being jazz, it’s just having the training which allows a person to create freely.”

Hutchings himself has another busy year ahead. He tells me he’s been gigging so regularly in 2018 – only taking four weeks off from shows – that 2019 will be for writing and recording. Having been signed to legendary American jazz label Impulse! – home to John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders – Hutchings is set to release the next The Comet Is Coming record in March, he’s flying to Johannesburg to record the follow-up to his collaborative project Shabaka and the Ancestors this month, as well as heading back to the studio in the spring with Sons of Kemet for their next album. “I’m at a stage where I can play my instrument with full technical ability,” he says defiantly, “so I can concentrate on individual projects with all my focus. I can do whatever I want – I don’t need to prove myself compositionally or instrumentally. I can have a crazy idea and make it happen, and I don’t feel the need to create an intense masterpiece.” Yet, intensity is something that will certainly remain a hallmark of Hutchings’ music. “As a saxophone player, I want to blow myself into a frenzy,” he explains. “Intensity is a commitment to a principle; a communion between the mind and body.” This communion is what we see when Hutchings performs: jittering about the stage, pressing his body forward into his mouthpiece as if trying to speak through it. “I am just surviving and blowing as hard as possible,” he continues, “it feels like every single molecule in my body is vibrating: I could explode.”

“As a saxophone player, I want to blow myself into a frenzy. It feels like every single molecule in my body is vibrating: I could explode”

It is this explosive power that so marked Sons of Kemet out among the brightly-lit kitsch of the Mercury Prize stage. Whether Hutchings is making a statement on redefining the power structures that govern us, claiming agency as a citizen of a divided country, or representing his family’s lost histories, the belief in the message and its intensity is always present. You can hear it in the breath through his saxophone, panting, scraping, bursting to get out. “Being politicised isn't something I have to be defined by,” he proclaims, “but if I want to say something, I'll say it. People can make up their own minds – I’m not scared.” The Comet Is Coming's album is set for release in March via Impulse! Records

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Hat: Laulhere Jumper: Our Legacy Trousers: Our Legacy Necklace: Shabaka's Own



A face in the crowd

object blue fell in love with experimental music. Now she’s on the other side of the stage



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Words: Maya-Roisin Slater Photography: Oscar Eckel

While she says a lot of people making music have musical parents or have been “DJing since they were 13”, blue grew up in the suburbs of Beijing in a relatively sheltered community of expats. “My family aren’t very musical or into the arts in general and I didn’t really have a club or community to go to,” she remembers. Fortunately the internet was there to pick up the cultural slack her immediate surroundings didn’t provide. “What I often did was find albums that I liked in CD shops when I went back to Japan, ‘cause CD shops were really hard to come across in China, except for the pirated stuff. I would read the liner notes on CD booklets and see the collaborators then look them up and find people talking about those artists.” Among her musical discoveries through this advanced method of forum sleuthing, Björk, Aphex Twin, and Aaliyah became major influences. There are many elements from these early inspirations that still thread through her deconstructed club music today. The high frequencies she discovered from Björk surface as frantic drum sounds on her first EP Do You Plan to End a Siege?, and her track The Princess Is No Longer At This Address makes use of Aaliyah vocal samples.

Before these releases, blue officially emerged on the music scene about three years ago where she got her rise performing sets of mostly unreleased material. Following up on her growing reputation as a live artist, she unveiled her production skills with Do You Plan to End a Siege?, released with London’s Tobago Tracks. With her fresh sound design-centred approach to techno, her witty online presence and performances at places like Unsound Poland, she’s quickly become a newcomer with serious clout. I first met blue in a toilet queue at the 2018 edition of Berlin Atonal. Having attended the experimental music festival right around the time she started making music, landing a spot on the bill was a bit of a milestone. She played a blistering live set of fast-paced experimental techno with surprising vocal samples and piping hihats. Afterwards, in the five minutes we had together as people snailed in and out of the stalls, she declared her love for experimenter Lucrecia Dalt before lamenting the Berghain installation from three years ago by her all-time favourite artist Alva Noto. She’s both a passionate stan and a blunt critique in true internet music nerd fashion. Even as her career blossoms, shifting her role from consumer to performer, the forum reader inside never dies. Take the time she shared a bill with Alva Noto in Amsterdam. “I asked him for a photo and he was like, ‘maybe when I’m done eating’ and I was like, ‘oh my god I’m so sorry’. I wanted to die.” The German electronic artist did eventually finish his meal and loop back for a photo. “I took a selfie with him. And then my fucking phone froze and the photo didn’t take.” She laughs as she recalls her partner’s observation: “blue, you’re like a cartoon character, this is something that could only happen to you!”

Similar to artists like Ziúr and Deadboy, blue’s productions sit in the realm of experimental club music, a genre which allows her to continuously push at boundaries. “I really love the forgiving nature of dance music and culture. Like I can put really weird stuff over it but as long as it’s got a good beat underneath, people keep dancing,” blue says. She tells me of a significant gig at one of her favourite venues, London’s Corsica Studios. “Up until then – and this is still sometimes the case – I’d always hear people talking [over my set],” she says. “So I was like ‘I’m playing on Corsica's Funktion Ones, I’m going to play as loudly as I can, I’m going to shut everyone up’. I wrote a really aggressive set of material and that’s what became …Siege.” In July 2018 she followed the EP with Rex, which takes a gentler approach while still maintaining an experimental club fervour with a driving and eclectic mix of percussion the sharp edges of each sound feel refined and sanded down.

“I never thought more than 200 people would listen to my music,” blue says through puffs of a long slim cigarette. “I never thought I would play a gig. I never thought I would be recognised on the street. And I’m not complaining… but I’m finding it a bit weird. Some people have messaged me saying ‘you’re my role model!’ and I’m like ‘you clearly haven’t met me because I’m a fucking mess!’” Underneath the veil of object blue’s alluring confidence is someone more shy, who blushes when she talks about her girlfriend, whose perfect afternoon is spending six hours alone digging through freesound.org, who dances in her own personal rave world in the front left corner of her favourite artists’ shows, and embarasses themselves in the pursuit of that one selfie. When she dedicated her first release to “all the women on the dancefloor” it wasn’t just an ode to us, but a celebration of herself. @objectblue_

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“When I first started using Ableton to make stuff, I thought ‘well, I have no leverage compared to everyone else,’” object blue admits. While absentmindedly peeling an orange at breakfast, she’s telling me about a period in her early 20s when she had all the the drive but none of the tools. “I was like ‘what can I do to make my music not noticeably as crap?’ The only thing I can do is make really weird stuff, like no time signature, no tempo,” she laughs. “I would like to tell 23-year-old me that that’s all been done before now.”


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“I love the forgiving nature of dance music. I can play really weird stuff but as long as it’s got a good beat underneath, people keep dancing”

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Produced exclusively for Crack Magazine by The Mannequin Collective - @themannequincollective


038 Words: Tom Connick Photography: Yis Kid

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BLACK MIDI


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The young London band are making some of the country’s most esoteric new guitar music


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Think of the Brit School, and balladry is surely the soundtrack. The Croydon creative hub is famed for its alumni: a who’s who of supermarket shelf-filling big hitters like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis; a major label A&R’s Christmas bonus in waiting. Any big-shots sniffing around the school last summer, though, may have been in for a surprise. Holed up in a practise room, four fresh-faced, soonto-be graduates were fine-tuning their industrial noise rock, each warped jam session yielding evermore twisted, experimental wares. X Factor fodder this was not. Fast forward to 2019, and the group are on every hype-chaser’s hitlist. Under the name Black Midi, they’ve been talked about in not-so-hushed tones as one of the country’s most exciting new bands. An indefinable group, pushing guitar music into strange, hypnotic territory. Not that the four of them care much for the hyperbole – today they’re far more concerned about my bowling skills. I meet the group in Lewisham’s MFA Bowl, expecting, as it’s their requested meeting spot, something of a challenge. (Sports become an unexpected theme, as the band also

suggest a fencing club for the location of our shoot.) As it turns out, they’re far better at playing music than they are bowling. It takes us 10 minutes to get started, because all of the balls are too heavy for them to pick up. Softly-spoken bassist Cameron Picton, meanwhile, has “the same style of play for every sport,” deadpans drummer Morgan Simpson. “Yep – caveman,” smirks singer and guitarist Geordie Greep, as Cameron launches another ball skyward, it landing on the lane with an almighty thwack. The frustration from the band when Crack Magazine top the scoreboard three times is almost enough to derail the whole afternoon. It almost seems incongruous that this ragtag, calamitous bunch (completed by guitarist Matt Kelvin) could be producing some of the UK’s most cerebral new music. Their sound calls to mind everything from Battles, to Anna Meredith and This Heat. As it turns out, though, Black Midi’s music might not be as meticulously constructed as it may sound. “It’s weird,” says Geordie. “It’s not like we were like, ‘Ooh, we all like this crazy music’. It’s just that we were friends, innit,” he shrugs, as if any group of schoolkids would come up with these sounds on a whim. “We didn’t set out to make this music; it’s just the music that came out,” agrees Cameron. Initially starting life as “two-hour ambient jams” between Geordie and Matt, the band recruited Morgan behind the kit in their final year at Brit School. A school show was part of a world music assignment that saw them take on Neu!’s krautrock jam Hero. “We must have taken up about half the show,” recalls Matt, “because we made it 15 minutes long. I wasn’t even playing guitar in that one, just smashing a cymbal,” he shrugs. From there, things freewheeled. Geordie sent emails around to “every venue [he] could think of” in search of a gig. He only one got reply: The Windmill in Brixton. At that point, they realised they needed a bassist. “We only had one rehearsal with Cameron on that day,” Geordie remembers of that first show, in June last year. “But hey, it went alright!” After that, the group began playing at The Windmill with increasing regularity, tightening the screws of that live show and

building a word-of-mouth following in lieu of any recorded tracks or social media presence. Months later, an NTS Radio session unexpectedly popped up on YouTube, gathering views like wildfire, crowds clamouring for scraps of information on a band by then dubbed by fellow Londoners Shame as ‘the best band in London’. If it all seemed mysterious, that wasn’t the intention. “People cottoned on quite quickly and we didn’t have much money,” shrugs Cameron of those quiet early months, not even a demo to their name. “And we really were just starting out, as well,” picks up Morgan. “Every little thing is a bonus. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all. It’s just one thing at a time.” From there, they were snapped up by producer Dan Carey, a man with a knack for drawing the wonderful out of British indie’s weirdest offerings. “He came up to us after a show and was like, ‘I want to record that one – boom, boom, boom’,” recalls Geordie. That then-nameless track subsequently took on an onomatopoeic description, the lolloping, bluesmeets-a-helium-balloon of bmbmbm becoming Black Midi’s debut single. Now, the group are back in with Carey, working on a debut album. Sessions are going “really well,” Geordie says, reticent to offer up much more. There have been setbacks along the way – a big-time London show at Electrowerkz was nearly derailed by an exploding amp, he explains – but given their evermutating state, they’ve learnt from every bump in the road. It lends that debut an unknowable edge. It’s a first-work that could take Black Midi’s sound anywhere. “If you’re setting out to be a thing, you’re already pigeonholing yourself,” shrugs Morgan. It’s a totally open approach to creativity which feels core to Black Midi’s being. Every show they play finds them morphing further still; no two sets are ever the same. It’s that – more than hype, mystery, or any other buzzword – that makes Black Midi such a beguiling prospect. “We don’t want to be the same in two months, or four months, or six months,” says Morgan, looking to the future, before pulling out a word surely no-one would use to describe his band: “We don’t want to get… complacent.” @bmblackmidi


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“If you’re setting out to be a thing, you’re already pigeonholing yourself”

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Morgan Simpson


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Greentea Peng

Words: Niloufar Haidari Photography: Charlotte Hadden Styling: Jack Collins MUA: Laila Zakaria Hair: Wake Adachi Assistant: Tamara Odibi

“I’d rather spend my time getting high and stay the night/ It’s all connected”, Greentea Peng croons over drawn-out, warped synths on her debut single Moonchild – an antidote to the increasingly moneydriven and egocentric society we’ve found ourselves in. The 24-yearold Bermondsey-born artist is concerned with bigger things: healing, manifesting, positive energies.

and love,” she says of her music. “It’s me and it’s honest and frank, and relatable because of that, I guess. A lot of [my songs] are introspective, sometimes I write to myself about myself from another point of view.” Her musical inspirations are fitting: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Finley Quaye, and more recently, Jill Scott – “I only just started listening to her properly and she’s fire.”

The lo-fi footage accompanying Moonchild sees her walking around London at night, a blur of brightly coloured prints, textures and scarves, all accentuated by piles of gold jewellery and distinctive tattoos. Clips of the singer are spliced with images of incense burning, spliffs being rolled, flowers and – of course – green tea.

Her debut EP, Sensi, released in October 2018, is six tracks of psychedelic R&B with influences of the dub and reggae she loves overlaid with twinkling electronic productions and reverb. Following a period of time in which she was “moving mad” and stopped singing for a few years, the EP is a sort of cleansing of the negative, dark energy and tough personal times that led her here. “I slowed myself all the way down and took myself to some low vibrational place, and I’m still trying to get back on top form. But it will happen,” she muses both in regard to her personal journey towards spiritual betterment and her music.

But she’s cautious not to be pretentious about her references. “I don't wanna make spirituality my whole thing,” she clarifies. “I don't want people to think I'm preaching, because I’m like here on my spiritual journey,” she says, pointing out a space just above ground level while rolling a joint. “I don't want people to think I’m trying to be something I’m really not.”

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Despite her concerns, Greentea Peng’s authenticity shines through within minutes of meeting her. “It’s always coming from a place of honesty

“I think I look like my music,” she says of the visual side of her aesthetic. “I'd like to think that anyway!” Greentea Peng describes her style as “ragamuffin.” Charity shops have been her go-to for clothing since she was a teenager, but she’s learnt to

keep an eye out for things in more unconventional places too. “Clothes recycling bins – I always have a look in them. I'm really good at just finding stuff. Some of my best pieces I’ve just found on the road. Like this,” she says, pulling out a multi-coloured crocheted cardigan from her wardrobe. “I found it on the top of a rubbish bin. It's one of my favourite things.” In an ideal world, she’d love her entire wardrobe to be made up of outfits in her favourite colour – green, of course. “When I’m around green I just feel better. I wish I could just wear all green clothes every day, but I don't have them, and I don't have any money to buy all green clothes. But one day I’ll have accumulated enough green clothes to do it.” Greentea Peng’s love of the colour is tied simply to the way it makes her feel. She spent this morning, it turns out, singing some of the new music she’s been working on to her beloved collection of plants. “Green makes me feel… just peace,” she explains. “It makes me think of trees and the jungle and leaves and smoking weed… all the good green shit. I love it.” The Sensi EP is out now via TENNNN


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Cardigan: Stone Island Scarf: Vintage



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Dress: Pleats Please Issey Miyake Hat and Jewellery: Greentea’s Own


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Jacket: Xander Zhou Jewellery: Greentea’s Own


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All Clothing and Jewellery: Greentea’s Own


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Jacket: Stone Island Top: Maxine Beiny Skirt: Pleats Please Issey Miyake


Lanzarote

01/02—19 MOTH Club

lanzaroteworks.com #lanzaroteworks

Programming

Shacklewell Arms

The Waiting Room

Valette St London E8

71 Shacklewell Lane London E8

175 Stoke Newington High St N16

mothclub.co.uk

shacklewellarms.com

waitingroomn16.com

Thursday 17 January

Wednesday 9 January

LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE Friday 18 January

THE STALLION Saturday 19 January

MADONNATHON Wednesday 23 January

CHLOE HOWL Thursday 24 January

AJ LAMBERT Tuesday 29 January

SWEARIN’ Friday 1 February

THE VRYLL SOCIETY Wednesday 6 February

MOLLY NILSSON Tuesday 19 February

PETRIE

WITCH FEVER Saturday 19 January

FOUR FISTS Saturday 2 February

THE MURDER CAPITAL Tuesday 5 February

IAN SWEET Wednesday 6 February

ZOLLE Thursday 7 February

PUBLIC PRACTICE Tuesday 12 February

GRINGO STAR Friday 15 February

SPIELBERGS Saturday 16 February

ABJECTS

Thursday 10 January

LÉONIE PERNET Wednesday 16 January

CC HONEYMOON Tuesday 22 January

OCTOBER DRIFT Wednesday 30 January

RHUMBA CLUB Monday 4 February

TEMPERS Wednesday 13 February

UNHAPPYBIRTHDAY Thursday 14 February

OUZO BAZOOKA Wednesday 20 February

KYOTI Tuesday 26 February

STONER Thursday 28 February

Wednesday 20 February

LOYAL

Tuesday 19 February

OHMME

TWO TRIBES

Test Pressing Festival Saturday 23 February

VINYL STAIRCASE Friday 1 March

BRONCHO Saturday 2 March

TEETH OF THE SEA

Thursday 21 February

BREATHE PANEL Friday 22 February

POM POKO Wednesday 27 February

CID RIM

Various venues, Hackney Wick @testpressingfestival Saturday 27 April

MOON DUO LUST FOR YOUTH ANCIENT METHODS + MORE


Words: Rachel Grace Almeida Photography: Joshua Woods

In a world that commodifies and demonises sexuality in equal measures, Brooklyn singer Ian Isiah proudly says: live your best sexed-up life. On recent mixtape Shugga Sextape Vol. 1, his message reaches intense new heights. Through high-pitched Auto-Tune, grinding bass and hip-winding R&B croons, Isiah delivers lascivious, sexpositive jams. We spoke to him about the music that gets him going. Albums that remind me of my first love. Destiny’s Child self-titled [Columbia, 1998] and Dangerously In Love by Beyoncé [Columbia, 2003]. Those two albums taught me how to distribute my emotions through sonnets. Hearing all the words they had to say about love really moved me. The words had

such meaning, it was almost like I was singing the song myself. An album that reminds me of New York. Lil’ Kim Hardcore [Big Beat, 1996], forever and ever. Not just because I’m kind of old school, but because it reminds me of real New York. New York is considered so many different things now because it’s a portal for creativity. I still want to go back to the origins and say Lil’ Kim is what makes us New Yorkers who we are. An album from this year which resonated deeply with me. Empress Of, Us [Terrible, 2018]. The lyrics, the production, the love. I study music, so I can tell when something’s a fresh update. Her production skills

055 are off the hook – it’s so cool to see a female producer, singer, a full project. She’s not a fragment – she’s a full story. An album that changed my life. Full Moon by Brandy [Atlantic, 2002] literally changed my life, musically and personally. She helped my mental growth. Her whole style and vibe of production was Christmas in my ears at all times. Brandy really changed my idea of what it meant to be a singer. Growing up singing in the church, you learn a lot of acrobatics, but when I started listening to Brandy, I noticed she was a singer that had tone. Tone is everything. You don’t have to do backflips in the gymnasium to get your tone. A song that gets me turnt. This is so funny and it makes no sense, but right now, Stir Fry by Migos [Capitol, 2017]. That gets me together. Also, if I’m in the club and someone wants to do a throwback, any first-album T-Pain song gets me going. I’m Sprung [Konvict, 2005] gets me feeling nasty. A song that spurred on my sexual awakening. Honestly, every single song I’ve ever heard. I know I might sound like a crazy, horny person, but I think the world is crazy and horny. I feel as though everything could be translated into something sexual; everything represents sex. Shugga Sextape Vol. 1 is out now via UNO NYC

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My Life as a Mixtape: Ian Isiah



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Earl Sweatshirt, Some Rap Songs Words: Davy Reed

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“Tryna redefine this shit, I redefine myself,” Earl mutters on Nowhere2Go, referencing his struggles with depression. Over the years he’s connected with the New York freespirited rap collective sLUms (who are name-checked a number of times on this album) and jazz-loving experimentalists Standing on the Corner. This musical development seems to have ran parallel to his emotional and spiritual growth.

Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs Tan Cressida / Columbia

When Earl Sweatshirt re-emerged with Nowhere2Go, the lead single from his first album in three years, even his most ardent fans might have been caught off-guard. Under two minutes long, the track’s stop-start beat was initially jarring, and the notoriously sharp spitter’s flow was slightly slurred, his voice just about treading above the surface of the busy mix.

At the age of 16, he became memeified and mythologised as a generation of teenagers screamed “Free Earl” while he was trying to compose himself at a school for troubled kids in Samoa. When he eventually joined his Odd Future group mates onstage, he’d not had a chance to practice his mic technique, and for his first song his voice was hardly audible. The trip-up felt symbolic: Earl couldn’t possibly be prepared for the fame that had hit him.

In hindsight, none of the tracks on Some Rap Songs would have performed well as a traditional lead single, but Nowhere2Go now sits snugly inside this strange and compelling project. Some Rap Songs is unpredictable, but that’s not to say Earl is being intentionally difficult (on Twitter he appeared to take offence to a magazine’s description of Nowhere2Go as “wonky”) or that the record’s roughness isn’t deliberate.

But Earl’s 2013 album Doris was a creative success – he matured his craft, retaining some of the OF’s skate-rat energy without resorting to the shock-tactics of his old lyrical content, which had become a source of embarrassment for him. Then after becoming increasingly disengaged with the culture of Odd Future fandom, in 2015 Earl came into his own with I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, a largely self-produced, hype-stifling

album with greyscale beats and bars that felt like the diary entries of a stoned, nocturnal genius. Recorded shortly after I Don’t Like Shit…, Some Rap Songs is the sunnier sequel. Earl still approaches subject matters like his reluctant rap star status (“Sometimes I wanna call it off… big dog, finna rip the collar off”), his cannabis dependency (“Three spliffs had my wing tips clipped”) and being held in the grip of depression (“Two years, I’ve been missin’ livin’ life”), but the soundscape is wholesome. Comforting voices are morphed, soulful guitar licks glimmer, pianos loops have a warm crackle while gentle strings usher the album’s most tender lyrics on Azucar (“My cushion was a bosom on bad days/ There’s not a black woman I can’t thank”). Playing Possum intertwines the voices of Earl’s parents, Cheryl Harris and Keorapetse Kgositsile. Having been absent for the majority of his life, Kgositsile – a renowned South African poet laureate – had frequently been the subject of Earl’s lyrical scorn. After reconciling their relationship, Earl intended Playing Possum to be a surprise. Kgositsile passed away earlier this year before hearing the song, and it rings with a deep sense of poignancy. In just under 25 minutes, Some Rap Songs explores a great deal of psychological territory. It’s a record that’s unconcerned about being liked, but it’s worth spending some time with it. Earl Sweatshirt has important things to say, and you’ve got to lean in close if you want to hear them.

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Most of the album was recorded a couple of years ago and the only material Earl chose to add more recently were the experimental closing tracks Peanut and Riot!, the former reminiscent of the surreal sounds of London-based musician Klein.


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Releases

06 04

08 Machinefabriek With Voices Western Vinyl

Deerhunter Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? 4AD

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How equipped is indie rock to reflect the increasingly digitised times we’re living in? What would it sound like if a guitar band took on the kind of themes that producers James Ferraro or Holly Herndon tackle in their work? The press release for Deerhunter’s latest Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? suggests the band are taking a stab at answering this question. Algorithms, shortened attention spans and live streaming from the afterlife all get a mention, and nostalgia is renounced as ‘toxic’. When it comes to the actual record however, the theme is handled so timidly that it’s easy to start questioning whether it’s there at all. Sonically, it’s not much different to the Atlanta band’s previous releases. The soaring, anthemic interludes and krautrock influences are all still there. The only track that delivers on the record’s mission statement is Détournement; a spacey dreamscape narrated by a digitised text-to-speech voice that guides the listener through a surreal world of ‘electronic brains’ and ‘eternal jetlag’. It’s the record’s most exciting moment, one that feels like new territory is being broken. Frontman Bradford Cox does turn away from the diaristic writing of previous releases and there’s a sense that he’s now singing about culture at large. But tired indie tropes – wilderness metaphors and twee imagery about village greens and country roads – keep resurfacing, like a New Year’s resolution that has quickly slid away to be replaced by the same stale habits. !

Steve Mallon

Dutch experimental artist Rutger Zuydervelt has been making hypnotic, slowburn electronic music as Machinefabriek for 14 years. His dense back catalogue loops gracefully through stuttering bursts of static, shimmering rushes of melody, and plaintive soundtracks and scores for films and other performances. His work is in the same restless, spectral space as artists like Tim Hecker, or Christian Fennesz. Field recordings, sonic abstractions, swooning cyclical motifs – all of these define Machinefabriek’s extensive discography, and most of which are present on With Voices. So what’s new? The clue’s in the title: in this (relatively) conventional set of songs, Zuydervelt has assembled eight vocalists to lend their voice to his audio stew. The backbone of the album is a 35-minute composition that each of the vocalists were encouraged to improvise around, bringing to mind the gleefully chaotic David Shrigley album Worried Noodles (where dozens of musicians wrote songs based on Shrigley’s oddball scribblings and poems). ‘Using the voice as an instrument’ is one of those well-worn experimental tropes, but Zuydervelt expertly executes it. Peter Broderick’s burbling brook is especially captivating, his single word utterances punctuating Zuydervelt’s menacing meandering. Marianne Oldenburg’s neo-classical lilt creates a temporary moment of melodic concentration before the clanging, discordant contribution of Zero Years Kid, while Marissa Nadler’s 11 minute closing opus is something beautiful to behold, bringing this strange but endearing album to a bittersweet finale. !

Adam Corner

08 07

Sneaks Highway Hypnosis Merge Until now Sneaks’ songs have mostly been taut, minimalist post-punk numbers made with drum machines and bass. The Washington DC native’s 2016 debut Gymnastics clocked in at 14 minutes. A year later, the slightly longer It’s A Myth heard Sneaks – aka Eva Moolchan – retain skinny rhythms and graffiti lyrics but inject songs with synths and rounder pulses. Highway Hypnosis may still fall short of half an hour, but Moolchan packs more styles into it than on previous efforts. Nowadays, the artist is more inspired by hip-hop and electronic music and has switched up the format for a motley of synthetic textures and syncopated beats. On The Way It Goes, breakbeats merge into polyrhythms while Moolchan raps about suburban skate culture. Beliefs’ looping dub bass and celestial piano make for a lush, meditative listen. And We’re Off may feel out of place with its skeletal punk makeup but it does little to detract from the record’s warmer tone. As if to cement richer grooves and a more wonky direction, Moolchan ends with the incendiary Hong Kong To Amsterdam. Beats ping-pong with her staccato while trap beats trill, proving Moolchan works best when she’s got space to experiment. !

Charlotte Krol

Girlpool What Chaos Is Imaginary Anti- Records It feels reductive to define a band by how much they’ve grown, but Girlpool’s growth feels more tangible than ever. Their self-titled debut in 2014 saw them chanting in unison about parking lots and receiving oral sex while watching American Beauty. Sophomore album Before the World Was Big was characterised by sweeping, front-and-centre harmonies that added shape to their minimal instrumentation. Then Powerplant was a welcome departure from that, adding drums to the mix as a cushion for more poetic lyricism. Now, on fourth studio album What Chaos Is Imaginary, Girlpool’s evolution has accelerated once more, creating a world that’s extending deeper and louder. In 2017, Cleo Tucker began undergoing hormonal treatments, lowering their voice an octave in the process. Harmony Tividad experimented with her solo music, some of which ended up on the new record (Stale Device, Lucky Joke). Consequently, for the first time ever, the members of Girlpool now mostly sing separately, each taking the lead on half of the album’s 14 tracks. Tividad and Tucker have their own stories to tell, on their own terms, in their own voices. Although they share fewer lines together, Tividad and Harmony are consistently on the same page. Surreal imagery is scattered throughout the record as each singer considers dreams and distant memories, mythical lakes and landscapes inspired by what they see on the road. Girlpool’s new expanding arrangements provide the armour for lyrics that are deeply personal and more poetic than before. On the title track, a string quartet accompanies Tividad’s restless questions about reality. Most lyrics are as liquid as the bodies of water the pair describe, proving not everything can be summarized by simple words or observations. Girlpool’s previous stripped-down, DIY nature made mistakes more noticeable, forming an inherent vulnerability within each melody. On What Chaos…, their voices stand proud and tall. Album centrepiece Pretty is an exercise in intimacy and self-deprecation, with Tividad cooing “I’m not the person down the block/ I’m not the kid you like a lot/ I drive 500 miles a week/ I count my words I hate to speak”. She breathes what feels like one long, frustrated sigh. Then, just when it seems like Tividad is at her most solitary, Tucker joins her in harmony, as if to remind her that they have her back. Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker are growing up as individuals, but Girlpool remains one strong unit. !

Natalia Barr

Toro Y Moi Outer Peace Carpark Records “Does sex even sell anymore?” muses Toro Y Moi on his sixth studio album, Outer Peace. “I feel like I’ve seen it all/ Or maybe I’m just old/ Or maybe I’m just bored,” he continues, offering an ad hoc treatise for the LP, which finds the artist at odds with the disposability of our contemporary culture and his place as a creator in it. Perhaps as a sleight of hand, earnest lyrics about attempts to re-center oneself in a hyperattentive world are wrapped in feel-good dance grooves and head-bobbing hip-hop throughout the album, almost as if to say the substance is optional. The Todd Terje-esque lead single, Freelance, explores the plight of the extremely-onlineyet-isolated millennial who, he bemoans on New House, can’t afford to actually buy a new house. It’s no coincidence that the album’s most poignant statements are also its most sonically muted. Outer Peace ultimately strikes a cool balance between playfulness and pensivity, the energy of youth and the calm of adulthood, and introspection that avoids becoming too morose or cynical. !

Krystal Rodriguez


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07 08

Subjective Act One: Music For Inanimate Objects Sony Goldie is a Member of the British Empire these days. In the 90s he was decried as the bad boy of the UK music scene. Now, he’s lauded as some kind of patriarch. In this era, he's back with a new project, Music For Inanimate Objects, a collaboration with James Davidson, an engineer and producer affiliated to Metalheadz. It begins with Midnight Monsoon, a melancholic shuffler with violins luxuriating into swelling melodies and muted trumpets fading in arpeggiated reveilles. There are some lovely breakbeat vocals on Find Your Light and Stay, the kind of thing Mood Hut were aiming for on Always On, and I Saw Her Last Summer features a hook that immediately burrows into your brain. However, applying heavilyreverbed pianos as a way of communicating heavy emotion, on Silent Running, doesn’t feel that effective anymore, and the reliance on delayed snatches of violin wears thin towards the end. That said, this is Goldie’s best work in years; a well-crafted, cerebral package with nods to ambient, jazz and Goldie’s own work in drum ’n’ bass, jungle and hardcore. This is music for the thinking person’s inanimate object. !

Robert Bates

06

Twilight Sad It Won/t Be Like This All The Time Rock Action “It’s the next stage of who we’re meant to be,” James Graham, the Twilight’s Sad lead singer has said of It Won/t Be Like This All The Time. Having traversed continents touring with The Cure (they’re Robert Smith’s “favourite band”), said goodbye to drummer Mark Devine and signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action Records, it feels like a new chapter for the band. Yet the fabric of their sonic DNA remains the same. Their songs have always been therapy sessions, a soundscape where it always feels like it’s raining, but this time there’s a big-heartedness to the darkness. The album begins in exhilarating style with the turbulent, urgent electronics of [10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs], as Graham pleads “Why can’t you remember me?” With song titles their label bosses would be proud of (Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting) and Sunday Day13, it’s as gloriously miserable as it sounds. Robert Smith advised the band on the creation of the album, listening to their demos and providing feedback. And as last song and first single Videograms flickers that influence comes to life – it’s a brilliant, shimmering Cureesque pop song that stops the rain for a minute to make way for a bright sunset. A fitting ending indeed. !

Danny Wright

Nkisi 7 Directions UIQ

Beirut Gallipoli 4AD Four records into Zach Condon's career as Beirut, there's a sense that you can divide it neatly. The first two albums were the ones in thrall to other cultures. Gulag Orkestar channelled Baltic folk, whilst its 2007 follow-up, The Flying Club Cup, was a love letter to France. The split happened there. Both 2011's The Rip Tide and 2015's No No No toned down the wanderlust and instead focused on the songcraft, with sparser arrangements and more oblique subject matter. In interviews to promote that last LP, Condon spoke of insomnia, burning out and chronic writer's block. A fifth Beirut full-length was never assured. It's here, though, and Gallipoli is the record that bridges the gap. Condon is still tapping into the same creative vein as in the last two albums: melody first, everything else second. But the leitmotifs of his early work, the things that the casual listener most closely associates with him, return. When I Die and Varieties of Exile are flecked with ukelele, whilst the sumptuous title track swells with brass. It's occasionally scattershot, but Gallipoli provides clear evidence that Condon has married past and present, locking back into a creative groove. !

Joe Goggins

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but currently based in London, DJ and producer Nkisi has spent the past few years steadily gaining popularity for her wildly inventive blend of experimental electronic music and traditional African polyrhythms, all released under her NON Records imprint. Now she’s releasing her first proper album, an abstract collection of seven expansive and world-building tracks entitled 7 Directions. Simply numbered I through VII, each instrumental song builds upon the last, pulsing and spiralling, until the entire record ends up sounding like the ambient noise of a salvaged spaceship idling in the Earth’s atmosphere. Named after spiritual Congolese totems, Nkisi’s music draws deeply from the well of her African heritage, but just as importantly, reaches for the future, an Afrofuturistic hymn that seeks to translate an ancient language into something beyond modernity. I is a rolling dreamscape of muted synths and ghostly percussion that deftly sets the stage for the rolling, driving force of II, a 10-minute journey that finds a way to sound simultaneously meditative and frenetic. Nkisi’s use of syncopated beats is really what sets 7 Directions apart from a lot of similar techno being released at the moment. Her tremendous understanding of rhythm creates an endlessly engrossing ebb and flow. Even though parts of 7 Directions may mesh into each other a little too seamlessly at times, it’s a searing debut, and an auditory manifesto for an artist who will surely continue to explore and expand on their culture in even more unique and surprising ways. !

Cameron Cook

07 Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow Jagjaguwar

CUTS A Gradual Decline Village Green A sense of foreboding permeates the debut from Bristol’s Anthony Tombling Jr, aka CUTS. Long-term filmmaker and commentator, Tombling’s passion for tackling issues have seen his documentaries take on pollution and poverty in the UK. On album A Gradual Decline, he fixes his gaze on the overarching complexity of climate change. This is widescreen, cinematic electronica. Builds, crescendos and field recordings (Tombling went to Iceland to record for the project) are used to create a soundscape essentially crafted with a landscape in mind. Much like climate change as an entity, there are elements of desperation such as the skitty and gritty Kernal Panic and the urgent Polar, which is reminiscent of Jon Hopkins at his most expansive, up against colder moments of reflection such as beatless and melancholic pieces including the excellent Time is Not Your Friend and album closer Fear Of Everything. Inspired by a gradual decline in sound, all of it hangs together in this thread. An ambitious attempt at condensing such a sprawling, kaleidoscopic issue to record. !

Larry Pitch

“Sitting at the bar, I told you everything,” croons Sharon Van Etten over sparse piano keys and buzzing drone on the opener to her new album, Remind Me Tomorrow. Setting out her confessional stall from the off, the US star unveils the record's heart-on-your-sleeve universe. The source of love from which Van Etten draws her inspiration has shifted from the decaying romance of 2014’s critically-acclaimed Are We There. Van Etten is now a mother (as well as an actor who has also gone back to academia) and this record deals in an exciting new kind of love, albeit one that inhabits dark and stormy landscapes. Working with producer John Congleton, she swaps with organic folk guitar for synths, and Remind Me Tomorrow proves the anthemic potential of the keyboard and drum machine, where life-affirming pop is powered by the alternative energy of a Roland TR-808. The shiny new sound comes into focus in various different ways throughout the album. No One’s Easy To Love sounds like it’s about to crack open the breakbeats. Memorial Day swoons with cavernous echo, while synth-pop squiggles light up first single Comeback Kid. Returning to her songcraft after marking off epochal moments in her personal life, Remind Me Tomorrow pops with vibrancy on a record that makes Van Etten’s voice feel more alive and present than ever. !

April Clare Welsh

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photo: Domi ni que Jul i a n - 2018 ©

C o n cre te Po rt d e la Ra p é e 75012 Pari s

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...Baby One More Time Britney Spears’ debut kicked open the doors for a generation of pop provocateurs Words: Alim Kheraj

This underdog status gave Britney Spears space to experiment with her place in music. Pop’s box ticking didn’t apply, which gave her the ability to carve out her brand: pop focused specifically on the experience of young women and teen girls, performed by a young woman living out those experiences in real time. Singing about the hyperbolic highs and lows of love, heartbreak, sexuality and the hedonism of adolescence, Britney’s seemingly naive allure became her weapon. Presented as the relatable, downto-earth Southern belle she was, the public’s opinion of her was often limited to just that. Her intelligence and selfawareness, however, broke through to her fans at full speed. Britney represented every underestimated teenage girl around the world. Original release date: January 12, 1999 Label: Jive

In the hands of any other pop star, a song like ...Baby One More Time would have just been a hit. At the command of Britney Spears, the song – and its subsequent album of the same title – altered the course of pop music and launched the career of one of the most successful recording artists of all time. ...Baby One More Time is iconic. At just 17 years old, Britney Spears shouldn’t have become the biggest star on the planet. Commercial pop in the 90s had centred around boy bands, Britpop, balladeers and female singersongwriters like Alanis Morissette. Hell, even Madonna had gone all Earth Mother by 1997. Britney, with her pigtails and girl-next-door charm, was somehow an oddity.

In 1999, ...Baby One More Time was the catalyst for pop’s revolution. Britney was the self-aware pop rebel, flirting with controversy and public opinion from the offset. The commercial music of the 90s had become stale and Britney – perfectly coquettish, intensely relatable and vocally distinctive – was the perfect antidote. And it all started with ...Baby One More Time. With her malleable vocals and enviable star power, ...Baby One More Time introduced the world to her chameleonic approach to pop. Britney Spears attacked genre like a master curator, picking sounds and sonic flavours with bold-faced shamelessness. On ...Baby, she

doesn’t so much interpolate different genres, but stitches them together through inventive production to create monstrous pop hits. Songs like Thinkin’ About You weld together R&B and funk with bubble-gum production. (You Drive Me) Crazy takes scuzzy guitars and glues them to disco and dance-pop. On Soda Pop, Britney’s does her best Mariah Carey-meets-Toni Braxton impression on top of dancehall beats and acoustic guitars. A song like Born To Make You Happy takes on the watery texture of trip-hop and marries it with dance beats to create a song that, somehow, drips in inescapable melancholia. Britney, quite bizarrely, even rounds out the album by a soupedup cover of Sonny and Cher’s The Beat Goes On, subtle hints of the vocal filters that would later go on to characterise her career. We may not immediately think of Britney as the blueprint, but her off-centre approach to pop became today’s standard. The democratisation of music has diversified people’s tastes while also opening up avenues for artists to explore different sounds. Popstars like Charli XCX have adopted Britney’s chameleon pop, taking it into the future with genre-bending mixtapes like Pop 2 and Number 1 Angel. Newcomers like Rina Sawayama owe much to Britney’s shapeshifting sonic exploration, proving once again that it’s possible to colour outside the lines of pop’s expectations while embracing its most recognisable tropes.


FEB - APR A GUY CALLED GERALD • BEANS ON TOAST CRAIG CHARLES • DUB PISTOLS • HANNAH WANTS LEFTFIELD • NOUVELLE VAGUE • PHIL TAGGART SLEAFORD MODS • THE MAGIC GANG • TOUTS ADVAN CE TICK E T S AVAI L AB L E AT D R E A M L A N D . C O . U K


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SORRY TO BOTHER YOU dir: Boots Riley Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler Easily one of the most dizzyingly inventive films of the year, Sorry to Bother You functions as both a rallying war cry for the average working citizen, and a nifty little farcical sci-fi that feels all-toorelevant despite its near-future setting. The natural successor to Get Out (commenting on a similarly potent mix of social and racial issues) it manages to tell a cross-genre story that delivers belly laughs, bizarre twists and considerable food for thought as a telemarketer is drawn into the increasingly outlandish world of workplace exploitation. Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) is an Oakland, California resident just trying to make enough money to pay his rent. After he lands a job at a company called RegalView, he finds success when he adopts a 'white voice' (where he's dubbed by Patton Oswalt) to make his customers feel more at ease. Promoted to the position of 'Power Caller', he ends up socialising with his uber-rich CEO (an exceptional Armie Hammer in full smarm mode) and, it's fair to say, biting off a little more than he can chew. To reveal any more would do the film a huge disservice. Suffice it to say that writer-director Boots Riley has crafted a brilliantly unique dark comedy that unveils unexpected invention at every turn. The cast – headed by an excellent Stanfield, and including Tessa Thompson and Donald Glover in key roles – embraces the spoof vibe, and Riley's film lampoons everything from reality TV (clips from the TV show I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me are cringe-worthy in the best possible way) and internet memes along the way to a jaw-dropping conclusion. It's a little bit Brazil, a little bit Truman Show, and completely, brain-fryingly unique. !

Josh Winning

Off the back of something as cynical and cruel as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lantimos’ latest film feels downright compassionate by comparison. Set in 18th century England, the film follows the fracturing of Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) relationship with Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) after the arrival of Sarah’s ambitious cousin Abigail (Emma Stone). Colman’s performance as Queen Anne is astounding, despite appearing as something of an odd precursor to her upcoming role as Queen Elizabeth on The Crown. She veers between hilarious and vulnerable, as the reasons behind her erratic temper and behaviour become clearer, and as her condition worsens, her subjects fight over her to further their own ambitions. Weisz is also on top form as Anne’s longtime friend-turned-lover Sarah, exuding power and sympathy in the breadth of a single, savage oneliner. When it comes to the men, the same needling of heterosexual coupling of Sacred Deer and The Lobster feels ever-present here. Both Nicholas Hoult’s and Joe Alwyn’s characters are practically helpless when set up against Sarah and the scheming Abigail – the latter spends most of his screen-time either being strung along in his wife’s schemes or just ignored by her, even in the midst of their wedding night. The Favourite might be Yorgos’ most sympathetic film, but by no means is it the dullest. The director mixes decadent period drama stylings with rougher contemporary techniques, at one point using fisheye lenses and wide angles that wouldn’t be amiss in a skateboarding video to film a room full of rich men racing ducks. Expanding Lantimos’ detached style into something far more palatable, The Favourite stands as a unique historical piece, a fascinating and funny portrait of how greed, ambition and decadence trample over personal relationships. !

Kambole Campbell

06 VICE dir: Adam McKay Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN dir: David Lowery Starring: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck Few actors have enjoyed as long and successful a career as Robert Redford. From the heroic romps of his 60s heyday to the more elegant dramas of his latter years, the Sundance Kid has twinkled his way through six decades of movie-making. Now aged 82, he’s finally getting out of the game, but luckily, Redford’s curtain call is as graceful as they come. Based on true events, The Old Man and The Gun tells the story of Forrest Tucker, a 70-yearold criminal who pulled off a series of high-profile robberies during the early 1980s. As part of the ‘Over The Hill Gang’, Tucker ransacks dusty, small town bank after dusty, small town bank using nothing but politeness and charm. By chance, he meets ageing cowgirl Jewel by the side of a lonely highway and their love blossoms. But can Tucker leave the outlaw behind for a quiet retirement on the farm? Well-written and perfectly cast, Redford’s swansong is yet another stellar performance. His turn is commanding yet sensitive, while Sissy Spacek provides the perfect foil for Tucker’s slick, suited-and-booted panache. Apart they hold attention, but together it’s as if the movie goes from black-and-white to technicolor, such is their chemistry. By contrast, Casey Affleck’s beleaguered detective John Hunt – tasked with tracking down the mischievous old-timers – acts as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. It’s a convincing display, and one that makes Redford’s cheeky glint even more joyful. This slightly corny, happy-go-lucky tale is a marked change for writer-director David Lowery. His last picture, A Ghost Story, was a haunting think-piece about life and death which delved deep into the human experience. The Old Man and the Gun isn’t shallow, but it’s definitely more of a crowd pleaser. !

When Vice President Dick Cheney was in office there was an unshakable feeling he was playing US president George W. Bush like a sock puppet, and the circumstances leading to that strange political union are explored with comedic flair in director Adam McKay’s Vice. In terms of tackling a political shitstorm with humour, this film continues in a similar vein to McKay’s previous biography drama The Big Short. Vice charts the rise of Cheney as a major political force, analysing how his questionable decisions after 9/11 changed the world forever. As Cheney, Christian Bale turns in a disciplined performance, absolutely nailing the former vice president’s icy demeanour and emotional restraint. The way Bale’s face is completely lacking in emotion, even when suffering a heart attack, is hilarious to observe and should make him a leading contender at the Oscars. Amy Adams’ fidgety performance as Cheney’s wife Lynne is also compelling, the power-hungry couple prepared to do whatever it takes to climb to the top of Washington, DC – even if that means feeding their lesbian daughter Mary (Alison Pill) to the wolves. But that’s not to say Vice is without its flaws. McKay hamfistedly stretches out a metaphor of Cheney having no heart via an extended chest surgery sequence, while the side story of the film’s narrator (Jesse Plemons) feels completely pointless. Yet, on the whole, Vice remains an entertaining political biopic, which dares to do something unconventional structurally. When the Donald Trump biopic is finally made, McKay should be leading the queue of potential directors. !

Thomas Hobbs

Alex Flood

FILM

THE FAVOURITE dir: Yorgos Lantimos Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone


“ Advice on dancefloor politics and the holiday season from the member of NYC’s Discwoman collective.”

FULL COLOUR MAGAZINE

NOVEMBER ‘99

$5.00

Design : CokeOak

Dear Frankie,

Hi Frankie,

Hey Frankie.

As a club promoter I've found it frustrating when DJ managers and agents throw their weight around during the programming process, demanding you book their lower tier acts, seeking overpriced travel/accommodation, being really difficult when it comes to billing, and generally making the situation really tough for small promoters. How would you recommend we deal with these industry bullies? And in your opinion is there anything that can be done to change the culture?

Can you please leak your skincare regime?

Year after year, I make New Year's resolutions and just don't stick to them. Whether it's picking up that new hobby I've been fantasising over, calling my grandparents more often, or even just drinking less – I always fail. What tips do you have for finally pushing yourself to doing the things you want?

Yeah I really can’t with agents and promoters who are like this, they’re the villains of the industry. Like I’ve said previously, for me if I even catch whiff of someone communicating in a way that positions them as more important or condescending, I like to say something. And it almost always catches them off guard – it feels like you’re catching the flaws in something they may be oblivious to because they’ve been like this for so long. It shouldn’t be our job to break their patterns. However, it can be really satisfying and increase your confidence, so see it more as an exercise in that. Also adding ‘love” to anything softens even the hardest blow. Additionally, we obviously just need more promoters/bookers who are interested in supporting talent who aren’t only interested in making money. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to make money, but we need folks who are interested in both money and caring about the artist/scene they’re supporting too.

Looking for wisdom on sex, politics, techno and reality TV? Ask Frankie at agonyaunt@crackmagazine.net

Lol ummm my bar for this kind of stuff is pretty low but in my older years I’ve tried to give my skin a treat so currently I use DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, Burt’s bees cucumber wipes and Kiehl's face cream. Have no idea if it actually does anything tbh.

Hey Frankie, 2019 is the year I'm finally going to leave my day job to pursue my own creative endeavours. What tips do you have for achieving this? When I was really spiraling in NYC, I felt like I had no creative prospects. I was working in food service. I got a South Park tattoo on my legs and my mum messaged me, like, “you’re never going to get a job because of this” lmao. Pretty much no one believed in my creativity. I was desperate for people to see me as an amazing writer, critic, thinker, etc. and in these stages of desperation I think I was my least creative as I was thinking so much about what people thought of me – and looking back at shit I wrote then you can tell. Everything I wrote was trying desperately hard to be smart or funny. NYC in particular is the land of selling yourself to people, you’re basically a walking resume. There is insane pressure to be appear successful and very little room for you to reveal how sad and desperate you are. I don’t think I ever successfully hid my vulnerability and as a result of showing weakness I don’t think I was taken completely seriously. However, I ultimately feel like it’s worked in my favour. I think people gravitate towards openness and vulnerability. It’s a refreshing energy. So I’d say, don’t be scared to show your flaws and admit your struggle in this process of getting your dream job, or whatever it is you’re pursuing in 2019.

Hmmm, this is really hard to pinpoint. I’ve had some successes in my life in regards to routine, but have mostly just developed with getting older. Also some habits are just harder and perhaps more pressing to fix than others, i.e. drinking or smoking. I used to be a way heavier drinker, like everyday. When we started Discwoman, it came as a welcomed distraction from a fairly dangerous pattern I had developed. That being said, I’m pretty useless at sticking to things and kind of resent the “getting things done culture” where people think they’re failures if they don’t get a certain part of their lives together.

Dear Frankie, As we slide further into winter I feel some seasonal sadness creeping up. What are your self-care tips for surviving the bleaker winter months? I mean if you’re rich you can just avoid ever being cold, so maybe try that? Or what I’ve done with friends is cook for each other. Honestly I hate potlucks but somehow don’t hate spending twice as much money to feed my friends. Another thing I’ve done to burn time during winter is go to the Roger Ebert film site and look up the Great Movies tab and just start from A and work my way through. I’ve found some incredible films this way.


20 QUESTIONS

TORO Y MOI - EST. 1983 -

Chaz Bear – aka Toro y Moi – has a kaleidoscopic vision. Rising with the chillwave movement of the late 00s, the songwriter and producer has been instrumental in pushing the parameters of indie music as we know it. Drawing influence from funk, R&B and electronica, his music is colourful and layered, chasing themes of unrequited love, modern life and disposable culture. Now about to release sixth studio album Outer Peace, we spoke to Chaz about the internet, household chores and trying to stay balanced.

Words: Rachel Grace Almeida

How would your friends describe you in three words? Creative, confusing, chill. What’s your earliest childhood memory? My dad pushing me around in a wheelbarrow. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? I remember being a kid and watching this film in school that talked about how life is going to have all of these things coming at you and no one will be there for you but yourself. What’s the strangest party you’ve ever been to? Once we played this fashion designer’s house with Kendrick Lamar. We were playing to maybe 50 or 60 people by this pool at this mansion in Beverly Hills. It was the day Good Kid, M.A.A.d City came out and we couldn’t believe that we were playing this pool party with him the day that record came out. I was just like, ‘this is cool and weird’.

What has disappointed you the most this year? Probably not having enough time to take care of my personal life. Stuff like laundry or cleaning my bathroom. What’s the biggest realisation you’ve had this year? I kind of know where my life is going now. Favourite meme? The moth memes. Truly next level. What’s your worst habit? Speaking before thinking. The best thing about the internet. Free information. The worst thing about the internet. Free information. Is there anything inspiring you right now? Trying to maintain balance on the waves of the craziness going on right now.

Music or painting? Painting. I want to throw everyone off.

What makes you feel nostalgic? Rice and eggs, mixed together.

What would you want written on your tombstone? I’d rather be cremated.

What’s the weirdest thing someone has caught you doing? Flexing.

Which city really feels like home and why? Columbia, South Carolina. It’s where I grew up.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? When I was 15 my mom gave me a fourtrack player and a guitar for my birthday. Here we are now.

Heavy metal or EDM? Heavy metal, always. Favourite song of all time? Imagine by John Lennon because it’s simple. Can you tell us about something you read which has stuck with you? I mostly just like to scroll on Facebook and see pictures.

Outer Peace is released on January 18 via Carpark


Celine Dion

Words: Tom Rasmussen Illustration: Jimmy Hay

Growing up where I grew up it was not cool to love Celine Dion. In fact, growing up anywhere in the world it is probably not cool to love Celine Dion. But my love for Celine Dion – for her coos, her belts, her incredible ability to lean almost all the way backwards when huffing out a big note, the way her little finger arches when she’s switching registers, the fact she holds her mic in her left hand when she sings, and her right hand when she addresses the crowd with niche statements like “this is for all the parents and the children” (ergo, like, everyone) – was very much a totem for my sexuality, and my gender, and so cool didn’t come into it. Cool, much like my sexuality, was not a choice. It started covert, laced with shame. For it was to Celine Dion’s tour de force album Let’s Talk About Love (a CD I played so much it melted) that I first slipped on a black chiffon and sequin dress at the age of nine, with it learning the power of both lip synching, drag, and a good chaise longue (which we were storing for some family friends). I was glorious: escaping a world where people punished me for my femininity to a world, all on my own, where I was free from homophobia and misogyny and was, finally, a star. Celine taught me that I was a star in a world that was desperate to make me disappear. Yet my love for her, and my sexuality and gender, remained secret for the next half decade.

OPINION

She sings love songs, and in the past when I was full of shame and doubt and terror and misplaced self-loathing, I needed love songs. With Celine there’s no pretence, no attempts at obsessive zeitgeist catch up, no tropical house beat atop a

mono-tonal vocal belying the certain death of originality. Celine was never trying to shape the zeitgeist, she was never trying to appear original, she’s never heard of trop-house. She sings love songs. Gooey, sometimes spine tingly cringeworthy love songs that I, once upon a time, was ashamed to tell my friends I knew every single word of, every single riff of. And there I was — thirteen years old, on the 555 bus from Lancaster, having rocks thrown at my head for being a “faggot”, denying every claim while blasting Celine Dion’s Falling Into You through a see-thru Alba CD player to drown out the sound of half a bus full of school kids shouting “Puff Puff Takes It Up The Chuff.” I came out, as gay. I became the hardest stereotype imaginable, but it helped me survive. And every night I would go home and listen to more Celine Dion, watch old VHS tapes of her live in Memphis in which she wore a full gold lamé look, and it helped me to survive. And there, with one of the only people who had allowed my emotions to flow free and not assume the position of fab, fat gay, I was allowed to escape, to work out who I was for myself without having to implement endless survival techniques. Celine saw me for me. And I was complex, sensitive, emotional, not the bitchy clap-back gay I had become. At university, after eight years of playing the Dame in the popular pantomime that is High School, I became more comfortable with my gayness, and my femininity, and so, one day on

Facebook, I came out via a status: I love Celine Dion. There, I said it. I have been carrying this around with me for so long, thank you for all your support. It was a joke, but it was the first step in a new kind of honesty which allowed me to be honest about more things: sex, queerness, all the pain I’d experienced growing up, my non-binary gender. I listened to A New Day Has Come as my heart broke for the first time at university, after listening to The Colour of My Love when I was falling for aforementioned heartbreaker. Her songs were, and still are, a mirror to my emotions in a way that’s indescribable: I can’t tell you why I love her, I need her, I can just tell you that I do, I always have done, I am an obsessive Celine Dion fan. Much like I am gay, and I am non-binary. During and after university, I met friends who thought the coolest thing you could be was honest. And so I led with that honesty: I have Celine’s name tattooed on my bum inside a heart. Just last year I came out as non-binary to my family, and that night we were going to see Celine Dion in concert.

It was my first time ever seeing my deity in the flesh. And there, as she appeared on stage singing The Power of Love I broke down. I looked across the row to see my mum, my dad, my partner, and myself. Here, 15 years on. And I wept; I wept and wept for that nine year old who had no idea both how hard it was going to get, and how glorious it could all turn out. I wept at the sound of her voice, I wept at how far my parents have come, I wept for my partner who loves the fact I love Celine Dion, I wept for the butch lesbian couple in front of me who were weeping too. I could never afford therapy, but I could afford a bargain bin Celine Dion CD. It feels extreme to say that Celine Dion saved me, because I saved me. But she, more than a few times, Loved Me Back To Life. That’s why I love you Celine Dion, Because You Loved Me. And, frankly, in a world so full of hate — there’s nothing cooler than love. Tom’s debut book, Diary of a Drag Queen, is published 7 February via Ebury


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