Issue 97 - Slowthai

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slow thai Crack Magazine | Issue 97

Nicolás Jaar Group, Low, Jlin & Company Wayne McGregor, Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble, Doon Kanda, Flohio, Yves Tumor, Gazelle Twin, William Basinski & Lawrence English, Laurel Halo (dj), Mark Fell, Lotic, Xiu Xiu, Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones, Lafawndah, Kelly Moran, Tanya Tagaq, Yona feat. Ash Koosha (live AI)

Other People showcase feat. Nicolás Jaar (solo hybrid live/dj), Pierre Bastien & Tomaga, Lucrecia Dalt & Alessandra Leone, Patrick Higgins, vtgnike, John Bence Nyege Nyege Tapes showcase feat. Kampire, Otim Alpha, Bamba Pana & Makaveli + many more (to be announced)


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© All rights reserved. All material in Crack Magazine may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of Crack Industries Ltd. Crack Magazine and its contributors cannot accept any liability for reader discontent arising from the editorial features. Crack Magazine reserves the right to accept or reject any article or material supplied for publication or to edit this material prior to publishing. Crack Magazine cannot be held responsible for loss or damage to supplied materials. The opinions expressed or recommendations given in the magazine are the views of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of Crack Industries Ltd. We accept no liability for any misprints or mistakes and no responsibility can be taken for the contents of these pages.


slowthai 28



The hustle: battling burnout in the creative industries 46

Phoebe Bridgers

Conor Oberst 36

Juliana Huxtable: 48

Editor's Letter – p.23

Recommended – p.24

My Life as a Mixtape: U.S. Girls – p.67 Dear Frankie – p.88

Reviews – p.69

20 Questions: HEALTH – p.89

Rising: BbyMutha – p.27 Retrospective: Nights Out – p.85 A Love Letter To: Mixtapes – p.90


Miink 56

February 2019

Crack Magazine Was Made Using

It’s tempting to find some neat parallels between this issue’s cover, hosting selfstyled ‘Brexit Bandit’ slowthai, and the everescalating fiasco of current British politics. But with everything in such a mess, trying capture a definitive tie-in here feels awkward. Though it’s certainly less maddening than engaging with the parliamentary pantomime clogging our timelines right now.

Koss Endless Fight Molly Nilsson Out Of The Blue Soccer Mommy Memories Valerie Dore Get Closer The League Unlimited Orchestra Things That Dreams Are Made Of Ellis The Drain HTRK Dying of Jealousy Girlpool What Chaos Is Imaginary Garbage Vow Anthony Naples Ris James Blake Where’s The Catch? Scalping Satan II Ken Chic Eternity 99 Sharon Van Etten Jupiter 4

As I write, the picture of Britain is bleak. With 56 days until the scheduled date to leave the European Union, reports suggest we are teetering on the edge of a disastrous no-deal Brexit. Threats of empty supermarket shelves fill our screens as the Tories jeer over the spoils. Sorry, I’ve killed the mood, haven’t I? But it’s a strange sensation, this kind of mindnumbing chaos. While slowthai doesn’t hold all the answers, his restless fury is resonating with today’s disillusioned youth. For our coming-of-age cover story, we get a vision of Britain as seen by the rapper – one away from the hysteria, but with its own shades of havoc. Photographer Joshua Gordon’s portraits capture his surreal slant, while our writer Joe Zadeh takes a guided tour through Northampton to trace slowthai’s story: an anti-hero sharing his reality in a country stacking the odds against him.

Bad Bunny Solo De Mi


Issue 97

As we send this issue to print, the rolling news is exasperating, and there’s no neat solution. But if there is one trait the artists in these pages have in common, it’s letting this righteous frustration flow through them, and finding a voice among the noise.

slowthai shot exclusively for Crack Magazine by Joshua Gordon in Northampton, January 2019


Anna Tehabsim, Editor


Jayda G Phonox 8 February


The Streets O2 Academy Brixton 5 February

O ur g ui d e to wh at’s g oi n g on i n y ou r c i ty

Anna Calvi Roundhouse 7 February Kala Festival Mafalda, Inner City, Jordan Rakei Dhërmi Beach, Albania 12-19 June Fresh from the success of its inaugural edition, Albania’s Kala Festival is brewing up an even bigger 2019. Though the festival sells itself on its location, spread out across several beaches on a strip of the Albanian Riviera, this year the programming has levelled up, with dance music bigwigs Derrick May, Jayda G, Mafalda, Fatima & The Eglo Live Band, Inner City and Jordan Rakei. And if you’re feeling rough after partying all night, you can recover with some beachfront meditation on the idyllic coast of Dhërmi beach. The perfect hangover cure.

Late Junction Festival Gazelle Twin, This Is Not This Heat, CURL EartH 28 Feb-1 March Octavian 02 Kentish Town Forum 28 February Octavian’s determination knows no bounds. After the death of his father, the rapper moved to South London from France and was offered a full scholarship to the Brit School when he was a teenager. He took it and soon dropped out. Following a period of homelessness, Octavian then released his anthem Party Here in 2017, gathering fans like Virgil Abloh and Drake. 2018’s Superman mixtape was among the most distinctive UK rap projects of the year, making it obvious that Octavian is here to stay.

If you’re a big fan of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction programme, you’re in luck. Set in Hackney’s newest multi-disciplinary arts venue EartH, the inaugural edition of Late Junction Festival offers up two days of live music, keeping the show’s adventurous and eclectic ethos at the frontline. The bill sees live performances from unearthly electronica from Brighton’s very own Gazelle Twin, Richard Dawson's band Hen Ogledd, cult favourites This Is Not This Heat and CURL – a collective featuring Mica Levi, Coby Sey and Brother May.

Awesome Tapes from Africa Oval Space 16 February

Shabazz Palaces The Jazz Cafe 7 February

Tommy Genesis Oslo Hackney 20 February

ESG The Jazz Cafe 1 March

Troye Sivan Eventim Apollo 28 February

Theon Cross The Bush Theatre 6 February

Music owes a lot to ESG. Formed in the South Bronx in 1978, the band were discovered by Factory Records boss Tony Wilson at a show in Manhattan. Three days later they were in Manchester recording their first singles, including UFO – one of the most sampled songs of all time. Get down to The Jazz Cafe to experience their distintctive style of dance-punk – which still sounds fresh today.

Sega Bodega Hoxton Hall 7 February Tommy Cash Electric Ballroom 1 March

Joe Armon-Jones Village Underground 12 February


Tommy Cash is a creative chameleon. The Estonian rapper, model, conceptual artist and talented krumper has been on the up since the release of his surreal – and controversial – video Winaloto. Since then, he’s collaborated with resident pop angel Charli XCX, walked for Rick Owens at Fashion Week and released his debut full-length ¥€$. A sonic shapeshifter, the rapper blends trap, PC music-esque hyper-pop and elements of Eurotrash into his music. But it’s his live shows that are the most captivating. Here you can expect uncanny projections, hyperreal images and Cash bodypopping all over the stage.

Yo La Tengo EartH 17 February

025 Jay Rock Electric Brixton 18 February

Pan Daijing Kings Place 9 February

Gideön Corsica Studios 15 February

Piano Day 2019 EartH 29 March Though it was invented in the early 1700s, the piano has managed to evolve with each generation, lending itself to all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds. It’s about damn time we recognised it as the GOAT. Luckily, we can. Piano Day, founded by Nils Frahm and other like-minded piano savants, will see a host of experimental artists take their craft to the acoustic instrument. At EartH you can catch mindful electronica connoisseur Luke Abbott with Jack Wyllie for a special improvised performance. Reeps One will bring the beatboxing and Float artist Andrea Belfi will perform tracks by Moondog with his trio Hobocombo. One for the diary.

Du Blonde The Lexington 26 February

Caprices Festival Peggy Gou, Ricardo Villalobos, Black Coffee Crans-Montana, Switzerland 11-14 April

Frequence Resonance Remote Control fabric 16 February Frequence Resonance Remote Control is back. The night, presented by German-Chilean DJ minimalist legend Ricardo Villalobos, is taking over fabric. On this night, you can catch Bringing his wonky minimal cuts to the room, with help from Craig Richards, Edward, Bristol label Livity Sound, NTS frequenter Danielle and more. Expect angular electro, house grooves, oddball techno and high-energy vibes.

Have you ever dreamt of dancing to techno atop the icy peaks of the Swiss Alps? Well, you can open your eyes now. Swiss mainstay Caprices Festival is welcoming another four-day affair by bringing three different stages to the snow-covered mountains. With sets from the likes of South African producer Black Coffee, minimal techno legend Ricardo Villalobos, kinetic mixer Peggy Gou and more, all propped up against a breathtaking Alpine backdrop, you can expect this to be special. If you’re into skiing and dance music, this sounds right up your slope.

Djrum Patterns, Brighton 2 March

Bodega Scala 20 February

Jammz The Pickle Factory 20 February

R&S Records affiliate Djrum heads down south to Brighton’s Patterns for a night alongside NTS Radio resident Breakwave. Djrum is an Esteemed producer and turntablist, who has made waves internationally with genre-melding sets at Freerotation, Gottwood and Berlin’s Atonal. Throughout her career, Breakwave has toed-up with the finest names in the industry, hosting the likes of Avalon Emerson and Roman Flügel at her secret Meine Nacht parties in Liverpool. With both acts making their longawaited Patterns debut, we’re in store for a highintensity workout.

The Comet is Coming Village Underground 6 March Last month, Shabaka Hutchings graced Crack Magazine’s cover. The spiritual leader of London’s grassroots jazz movement, Hutchings has been an integral force in the scene. The Mercury Prize-nominated saxophonist plays in a host of bands, but this time he’s bringing the heat with experimental jazz project The Comet is Coming. Formed in 2013, the London-based three-piece whip up a dizzying concoction of jazz, psychedelia and funk. Rest assured that their live show is out of this world. Massive Attack O2 Arena 22 February

Palms Trax Corsica Studios 23 February


Coming up through appearances on Rinse FM, BBC 1Xtra and NTS, Hackney born and bred MC and producer Jammz made a strong name for himself in grime. That’s no surprise, though – music is in his blood. The son of a session musician who has toured with the likes of Jools Holland, he was influenced by the soul, jungle and old school garage his parents used to play around the house. Experimenting with rhymes since he was 11, his big break came in the form of stomping 2014 single Hit Then Run. Since then, he’s toured with the legendary Kano and graced magazine covers with fellow grime royalty. Now he’s bringing the party to you.

Molly Nilsson Moth Club 6 February

Oval Space—2019

Oval Space × Machine, DJ Bone b2b Ben Sims, Slam Live, Kirk Degiorgio, Tasha 08—02—19

Sadar Bahar, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Mim Sulieman Live, John Gomez, Debora Ipekel 16—02—19

Andrew Weatherall, Roman Flügel, Radioactive Man Live, Minou 22—03—19



Rising: BbyMutha Sounds Like: In-your-face hip-hop Soundtrack For: Effortlessly stunting on your enemies File Next To: Junglepussy / Dai Burger Our Favourite Track: Heaven’s Little Bastard

“I’ve been busy on Twitter arguing with people because everybody knows that's what I do. I go out for people disrespecting me,” Brittnee Moore tells me over the phone. It’s late afternoon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the rapper, better known as BbyMutha, has just woken up with a story to tell.

Where To Find Her: @bbymutha

Specifically, the story of how she parted ways with her soon-to-be former manager. After finding out that she was being shopped to record labels, BbyMutha put her foot down and fired her. It’s a decision backed by her history. BbyMutha has been the architect of her own success since her Glow Kit EP went viral in 2017. An independent artist from the get-go, she caught the attention of SZA, Kehlani, and fans around the world with her effortless flow, unapologetically sexual bars, and laying down of the law.

The attention follows her naturally, though. 2018’s Dancing on the Dick video casts BbyMutha in haunting tones of red and green light as she playfully spars with a lover, swinging crystals and summoning a fire before dragging his corpse into her arms on the bathroom floor. The video woozes in and out of lo-fi footage like it's been recorded with a turn-ofthe-century handheld camcorder. It’s an intoxicating blend, dizzying and atmospheric as layered recordings of people talking bleed onto the track, mimicking the feeling of being buzzed at a party, listening to muffled chat

in the room next door. “The older we get, the more sober we get, and that’s why we try so hard to get shitfaced as adults. We miss being kids,” BbyMutha tells me. “Working on this album has been the most difficult thing,” she admits to me as we wrap up. It’s not hard to imagine why. As her own PR, her own writer, and now her own manager, she’s got a full schedule. She’s also a single mother to two sets of twins, all bubbling with personality and charisma. (They provide the cooing vocals that lead in and out of her tracks.) Today, however, her kids are next door at her dad’s place as it’s a US holiday. BbyMutha is enjoying some time to herself before work shifts into gear for the year. Something says that her 2019 won’t be this quiet. The Bastard Tape, Vol. 1 is out now via 825402 Records DK

Words: Nathan Ma


Scrapping the old material recorded with her manager, BbyMutha’s bouncing back with her signature nonchalant delivery and the selfpossession that made her track Rules a global smash. Her songs are written by and for herself – any secondary validation is just the icing on the cake. “I work because I want to express myself, not because I think, ‘I’m going to drop this album today and I’m going to get rich’, because I know for a fact that’s not how shit works.”

028 Words: Joe Zadeh Photography: Joshua Gordon Styling: Daniel Pacitti

the miseducation of slowthai

Everyday life in forgotten Britain, as seen by the anarchic rapper MUSIC



slowthai’s mum, Gaynor, listens to her son’s song Doorman every morning as soon as she wakes up. “It really gets you going,” she says. She listens to his songs on the way to work, at work, and on the way home from work; she knows all the words. “There’s not a day that goes by without someone messaging me saying ‘I just heard [slowthai] on the radio!’,” she beams. “He’s really speaking to the people, you know?” Gaynor is half Bajan, and has medium length black hair, dark eyes, and the kind of laugh that could be recorded and sold as an antidepressant. She’s young; she had slowthai at the age of 16, then his brother (who passed away shortly after his first birthday) and his sister, and she brought them up largely as a single mum. When I ask what kind of music she’s into, she says “garage, funky house and jungle.” Today, she’s in a great mood because she’s just qualified as a semi-permanent makeup artist. “I can do your eyebrows,” she says with a smile. In past interviews, slowthai has described Gaynor as his “idol” and a “hero”. In a forthcoming unreleased song, Northampton’s Child, he explores the story of her life as a single mum, including a hook that goes: “Only queen, raised me up and kept me clean/ Taught me right even when I’ve wronged/ Wiped my arse and changed nappies/ 12 hour shifts a week”. He hasn’t let her hear it yet. She makes a cup of tea and places it on the dining room table. Within 90 seconds, slowthai wanders down the stairs, yawns, picks it up and takes a sip – like it was a telepathic signal. He’s wearing all black everything: coat, tracksuit bottoms, and a furry hat with big ear flaps that makes him look a Russian diplomat. “I’m just back from a holiday in Jamaica,” he says, acknowledging why he’s rolling out of bed late. “I got you a present, mum,” he says, handing her a fridge magnet wrapped in newspaper. He gets her one everywhere he goes. It says “NO STRESS” on it. Prior to 2018, slowthai had been abroad once, but now the fridge door is like a travel agent’s window. Last year he toured the UK, Ireland and Europe, and played shows as far flung as New York and Cape Town. In Dubai, he looked out in disbelief as a massive crowd of strangers gathered to watch him perform, 4,500 miles away from the East Midlands town where he grew up.


It’s no coincidence that slowthai (real name: Tyron, but also regularly called Ty, T Dog, and sometimes simply, T) has become a poster boy for UK rap during the era of Brexit. He tells lucid stories of hardship and criminality with

a level of self-awareness and emotion that makes you believe he’s actually seen it and been touched by it. And while his political moves can sometimes be a bit gung ho – he calls himself a “Brexit bandit” and likes to start chants of “Fuck Theresa May!” at live shows – he injects nuance and detail into narratives about living wage Britain that we’ve become desensitised to. He somehow manages to toe a line between anarchic experimental protest music and BBC Radio One playlistfriendly singles. And all this has come from just two EPs, which explains why critics and fans are in such a frenzy about the prospect of a debut album. There’s a growing sense that we may have something truly special in our midst, a visionary outsider; a kind of millennial Mike Skinner. “How’s the album going?” I ask him, as he tucks into a sausage and egg sandwich in a greasy spoon down the road. It’s the kind of place with a cosy fug, full of old couples who’ve known each other for so long that they don’t really need to talk anymore. “I don't even want to think about it,” he says, waving his sandwich. “The deeper you get into it it's like a fucking puzzle, man.” The songs aren’t set in stone yet, but the concept is: it will be titled Nothing Great About Britain, and will capture the characters, stories and politics of a youth spent in the council estates, parks and pubs of his hometown, Northampton. “The whole tape is based around what makes us Britain and what builds us up as a place,” he says. It will be a self-portrait in which others might see themselves. If you’re going to pick a town to reflect Britain, then Northampton is a good mirror. This was a boot and shoe town with a proud identity, and whenever there was a war Northampton made the footwear. On the outskirts, you can find all the quaint pastoral beauty you expect from a shire, but these days the county is better known as the most disastrous Tory-run council in Britain. Last year they declared themselves effectively bankrupt and announced widespread cuts to public services. Look for news stories about the place and you’ll find residents complaining of overflowing bins, dilapidated housing and large ghostly retail spaces where big chains have left town. I see some of this flash past the car window. slowthai is taking me out for the day, to show me places and memories that inhabit his music. In the front seat is Lewis, slowthai’s childhood friend, manager and video director, and driving us is Chad. Chad, you can tell, is one of those extremely reliable guys, one of those “Sure thing, where and when?” guys. When I ask slowthai why he’s never learned to

“The album is based around what makes us Britain and what builds us up as a place”

slowthai’s Britain is one that will be familiar to some and utterly alien to others. The first 14 years of his life were spent on a council estate on the East side of Northampton, in an area known as Lings. Back in the 70s, Lings and numerous other housing projects were built here by the government as a way to relieve overcrowding in London and Birmingham. Old news clippings show happy young families arriving to their wonderful new homes; gathering for street parties, exploring nearby woodlands, and planting saplings together. “I just can’t wait to be in Northampton!” sang Linda Jardim in the promotional track released by Northampton Development Corporation at the time. But by the time slowthai was born, in the mid 90s, the utopian vision had disintegrated into a forgotten land. “Everywhere you'd go there would be bare youths on bad shit,” he says, as we walk onto the estate. It was common then to see people taking heroin and crack, usually down in the wooded area near the pond. Today, it’s deserted, except for two kids jostling each other as they try to ride the same bike. slowthai was an imaginative and energetic little kid, the type that would come tearing out of the house with no clothes on. Him and his mates would ride stolen bikes, smash wasps nests and go cherry door knocking, focusing mostly on the neighbours they knew would give chase, like ‘Mad Bob’. Every now and again they’d stumble across the charred skeletons of burnt out cars lurking in the trees, like they were old religious ruins. At the age of eight years old, someone threatened to stab him with a screwdriver. Someone also tried to stab his mum, with a shiv made from broken glass and sellotape. “It was just normal council estate life innit,” says slowthai. slowthai’s real dad was absent, and a large presence in those years was his stepdad: a big guy, Irish, six foot two,


with a head of grey hair that he’d had since his twenties. At points slowthai describes him as everything from a “man about the ends” to a “debt collector” – in an as yet unreleased song he calls him a “drug dealer” – but also someone who taught him to fish and made him join cubs. When his stepdad was around, the family home was a revolving door of local characters and strangers, usually there to buy or sell something: a bin bag full of Lacoste kids clothing, a 50 inch television, a box of Armani jeans. “If you asked anyone where anything came from,” explains slowthai, “they'd say, ‘It fell off a lorry.’ I used to love that.” Plain clothes police officers would sit on the estate in a car, watching. His stepdad would smile at them and take tea over. slowthai hated going to school and the act of flunking was like a meticulously planned prison break. The carjack was his tool of choice. On a Sunday he would take one down to the school perimeter, which was lined with a tall wrought iron fence. “You’d find a quiet spot, put the jack between the bars and start winding and it would go ‘PHEOO!’ and blow them open,” he says, “then you had a way to get out come Monday.” Sometimes they would go to the part where the fencing is paused because of a stream, about seven feet wide and waist deep, and wade through it like American soldiers in the Mekong. By the age of 13, he was drinking almost every day – usually White Ace, Lambrini or beer they’d nicked from the shop. He thinks that’s why he can’t really drink anymore. “My liver is fucked,” he says. That’s about when he began smoking weed for the first time. “None of us had an understanding of what life was actually like,” he says. “Everyone's mum and dad didn’t work. For us, if someone's parents had a job it would be a fucking abnormality. We'd be like, ‘What the fuck?’” We pull up outside a house on a terraced street in the Kingsley area of Northampton; it’s painted a strange greenish white, somewhere halfway on the colour spectrum between vanilla ice cream and dead body. It’s for sale and stands empty. “Rah, they've changed everything,” says slowthai, touching the door knocker and flicking the letterbox. When his mum left his stepdad, she brought slowthai (now in his late teens) and his sister here. She’d got a job working in a card shop and wanted to get them away from council estate life. “She was doing everything for us,” says slowthai, “working hard to keep a roof over our head. Anything that ever happened was because of her.”


drive he says, “Cos Chad can.”


“I used to have a proper shit outlook on life.


Then I had an epiphany. I re-thought everything”






“None of us had an understanding of what life was actually like. If someone's parents had a job it would be a fucking abnormality”

“But this was my dodgy stage,” admits slowthai, “my time of fuckery.” Most days he would sit in his room, smoking weed and selling weed, while a revolving door of friends and customers wandered through. He’d go to bed at 6am, wake up 2pm; his demeanour was “standoffish”, constantly “monged out my head.” He attended college, but that was partly to increase his customer base. Paranoia was rife: each night he’d go outside and store his weed under a loose bit of fencing or inside an old grit box. But he’d rather risk prison than get up everyday for a 9-6 job. “I became like my stepdad,” he says, “All I was drawn to was making money. I didn't care who got hurt in the way of doing it, and I didn't care what it done to the people around me.” slowthai didn’t hear the knock at the front door the night it happened, at around 9pm. He was upstairs in his bedroom with five of his mates. When his sister answered, a man in a balaclava pushed her to the floor and began stamping on her. He then made his way up the stairs, the knife in his hand leaving scratch marks on the bannister as he went. slowthai had heard the screams. He burst out of his bedroom, friends behind him, baseball bat in hand, and came face to face with balaclava man, who immediately bolted. slowthai ran after him through the streets, barefoot and crazed, but he was gone. He asked everyone to find out who did it, but nobody knew anything. To this day, his sister has a fear of answering the front door. When I ask his mum about that night, she says, “Nothing really shocks me, we just got on with it as a family.”

Little Houghton is a village two miles east of Northampton. It’s quiet and idyllic, with a population of just over 400 people and a gothic style parish church. Everything around you is rolling, vast and green, sloping down towards the town in the distance. We pull over next to a large converted farmhouse. Once again, it’s empty and for sale. slowthai rubs the window with his sleeve and peers in. “This was my bedroom,” he says, like Scrooge staring at Christmas past, “this was where I got a conscience.” When his mum moved to a house outside Northampton, slowthai wanted to stay local, so he moved here with a close family friend and his wife and four children. He stopped selling weed and his mum helped get him a job at Next, where, she tells me, he became a very charismatic figure amongst the female customers. He walked two miles to work each day across the fields. At night, in his bedroom – two mattresses on top of eachother, three books (one about The Streets, one about photography, and one about Amsterdam), a laptop and some speakers – he began to properly focus on his music. He wrote numerous songs here, but most importantly, Jiggle – one of his very first singles to get proper traction online, racking up over 200,000 plays on SoundCloud. In it, he raps, “Feeling great/ Nothing great about Britain.” He helped look after the four kids, who ranged from 4 to 15 years old. He cooked and ate meals with them, watched movies, played football and hide and seek, helped them do their homework, and watched them be happy. They became like his kids. "The youngest was my little angel,” he says. He even spent one Christmas day with them. “I used to have a proper shit outlook on life,” he says. “My family was always kinda broken. I only had my mum, I never had a proper dad. I had no boundaries, no rules. When I came

here I felt like my fantasy la la land got washed away. They brought me into their sacred place – I could no longer do wrong shit. I had an epiphany. I rethought everything.” Four years later, on holiday in Jamaica last month, he had that epiphany feeling again. It was hot, pushing 30 degrees, and he was walking through the jungle with his girlfriend to a beach two miles away. The voice of a preacher in a nearby church carried on the warm wind; he was singing gospel – “The way you’re living’s not right, the way you’re living’s not riiiight”. Maybe it was dehydration, maybe it was sun stroke, or maybe it was the residual effects of some local produce he’d smoked, but it felt like the preacher’s words were dancing in his brain, kicking up neurons with their heels. He started to think those big big thoughts you get, about the way he carries himself, the way he talks, the things he puts out into the world – like his album. It’s important to slowthai that this isn’t just another rap record. It needs to disrupt and incite – it needs to make something happen. “I want to change things for everyone that is on my level,” he declares. “I want to change the way we look at people from certain sides of life.” Nothing Great About Britain is coming soon via Method Records slowthai appears on the Crack Magazine stage at Love Saves The Day, Bristol, 25 May


His mum knew he was taking the music seriously but he preferred not to talk to her about it. She would sit on the stairs outside his bedroom door and listen to his beats taking form, then, if she heard his footsteps, she’d spring to her feet and pretend to potter. Sometimes he would catch her. “I’m just interested, T Dog!” she’d protest.


Soft Oblivion Words: Lauren O’Neill Photography: Jake Millers



Joining two generations of sad indie rock, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst avoid duet clichés on their new collaborative project, Better Oblivion Community Centre

038 Conor Oberst

Bootleg Theater, where a mutual friend of ours, Kyle, books the bands. I was making a record in LA and he called up and some band had dropped out, so we kind of ended up putting together this random show with Gillian Welch and Jim James, it actually turned into– On 23 January, Better Oblivion Community Center were billed as the musical guests on US TV programme The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. So far, so anonymous – until, of course, they showed up on stage. Quickly it was revealed that the project is actually the brainchild of two titans of indie rock: Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos to name a few, and Phoebe Bridgers – one of the most distinctive singer-songwriters currently working, fresh from her 2018 stint as a third of supergroup boygenius. After their live, televised performance of buoyant lead track Dylan Thomas, Better Oblivion Community Center released a surprise self-titled album on streaming platforms, giving indie rock its first proper “head’s fell off” moment of 2019.


Oberst and Bridgers is a meeting of minds which feels destined for rock ‘n’ roll lore. Since they appeared together on Would You Rather, a track from her 2017 debut LP Stranger in the Alps, it’s been clear that the two musicians share a sensibility – a common ability to articulate complex aches simply,

certainly, but, rarer still, an overarching wryness, a willingness to joke. It’s this combination of fun and feeling which makes their joint album such a wonder, as it glints alternately with sadness, mischief and the spirit of friendship. Before the release went down, we hung out in London with the artists now known as Better Oblivion Community Center, and listened in as they discussed the two years that have passed since the project’s inception, and what it’s like to have a partner in crime. Phoebe Bridgers: I grew up on the cool side of my parents’ music, which was Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell. But it certainly didn’t really feel like mine. When I heard Bright Eyes in high school, it felt like there was finally a band that was doing that thing, but for me. It was one of the first bands that I felt like I could truly stand behind, what felt like my generation doing something good. Conor Oberst: And I first heard you play around two and a half years ago. There’s this place in LA called the

PB: SUCH a backdoor brag. [Bad impression of Conor] “Yeah, we ended up like throwing something together with uhh, you know, Gillian Welch and Jim James. But yeah, it’s chill. CO: It was just one of those stars aligning moments. Everyone played under fake names. And Kyle was like, “My favourite songwriter in LA is Phoebe Bridgers, can she play too?” So I saw you play that night and I remember just being amazed by the sound of your voice. PB: But the seedlings of the idea for this project started here in London, weirdly, when we were on tour, in the beginning of 2017. CO: Yeah – it’s like exactly two years pretty much, from that trip, to being back with this whole different band. PB: After one of the shows you said we should start a band. And then I jokingly said that you never actually follow through to start a band with anyone you ever mention you’re going to start a band with.

CO: It’s a long list. I feel like you hang out with someone for like, a night, and you’re so stoked. It’s actually a great idea for a compilation – actually starting all of your fake bands. PB: Then we ended up writing one song together and it sounded totally different from either of our styles. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what the vibe was. CO: This was a great thing for me to do. I fell into this world where writing had become such a solitary thing for me. Spending more time in LA and being around you and your group of friends, it’s very normal for you to get together and work on writing songs, because you’re all songwriters. There’s a bit more co-writing culture in LA. PB: My heart shrivelled then. When I think of a “co-write” I think of something so different [adopts a Music Industry Guy voice] – “I’ll give ya… 15 percent of this if you come up with a couple lines.” Oh my god.

or a demo idea. With this we actually just sat with guitars and figured it out. There were some songs we were literally making up in the moment.

into some fucked up amp. That was us trying our hardest to conceal our acoustic roots. “It’s not a phase, mom. Get out of my room!”

PB: I feel like you gravitate towards melody. I’ll be humming along, not thinking, and you’ll say, “Oh, 15 seconds ago! You did a thing! Wait, not that thing – the thing before!” And I’m like “What? This thing?”

CO: We trade verses on some songs, but like 80 percent of it we’re singing at the same time, which reminds me of rock bands I liked in the 90s. We talked about Teenage Fanclub – that sort of woozy, sloppy indie rock kind of stuff that is weirdly somehow classic now.

CO: I feel like you’re more of a perfectionist than me, which is great because I tend to blow through stuff then move on. Sometimes I’m quantity over quality. We also talked about the idea of not falling into Duet Land. We didn’t want it to be a cutesy duet album. We knew more what we didn’t want it to sound like than what we did want it to sound like. PB: I actually don’t think that would have been possible for us in retrospect, too. I don’t think we’re capable of “cutesy duet”. CO: It would have been a nightmare.

CO: It was just nice to be around people writing songs when you’re a songwriter. Usually I’d email a track

PB: Every time there’s an acoustic guitar on the record, we’d plugged it

PB: We wanted this project to be rockier than normal, and the lyrical content is strangely different than we would do separately. One of the reasons I wanted to surprise release it was because I felt like I had my own presumptions about what our music was going to sound like. CO: It’s more fun than you might think, right? PB: I’m not stressed about any of the things that I’m normally stressed about, because I think you can deflect some of that with hanging out with your friends. You’re the bigger diva though. CO: No you are! PB: No, you are. My worst tour habit is sitting backstage on my phone. CO: Since it’s a new thing, expectations are kind of non-existent. It’s always nice to have a partner in crime – if people really hate it, I can say “Oh well, Phoebe did that part.” Basically, all the heat’s not just on me. It’s gonna be mellow – we’ll have a rider of like, coconuts, pineapples, birthday cake everyday. We’re like Itchy and Scratchy. PB: That should totally be our dynamic. Better Oblivion Community Center is out now via Dead Oceans


“The project’s gonna be mellow – we’ll have a rider of like, coconuts, pineapples, birthday cake everyday”


041 Phoebe Bridgers


“We also talked about the idea of not falling into Duet Land. We didn’t want it to be a cutesy duet album”


The hustle: battling burnout in the creative industries

Recently, there’s been a lot of public discussion about ‘burnout’, following a viral article published by BuzzFeed titled How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. Burnout isn’t unique to just one generation, but millennials are a particularly responsive one – they’re fully engaged, constantly connected, always reaching out for new information to digest and spit back out in innovative ways. At its core, burnout is nothing new. The term, in a clinical sense, dates back to the early 1970s, coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the physical or mental collapse caused by overworking

and stress. If that sounds uncomfortably familiar, that’s because it’s still affecting our society at large – just in more ubiquitous ways. In the creative industries especially, worklife boundaries can become easily blurred or fail to exist at all. You only have to look as far as the uphill struggle of being a freelancer, or our dependency on social media as a round-the-clock tool for socialising and work alike. Here, we speak to figures in creative industries who offer insight into how burnout culture affects them and how they try to relieve the fatigue.

Musicians are in an industry where people want you to stay on stage through any means necessary. You have to stay in people’s faces. It’s always easier to give everything that you have – that’s why people burn out. I take time for myself to make sure that I’m safe. I had to learn this balance – the time to work and the time to play. Personally, I was blessed to be able to go through learning experiences in my life to have that type of discipline there for when I joined the music industry. There’s a time and place for everything. On my off time, I don’t think about work. When I’m working, I’m not thinking about my off time. That’s the equilibrium. Burn out has an effect on artists’ creative lives because artists just stop being creative. Staying so publicly present all the time isn’t doable. Phones are in people’s hands 24/7, and they’re always looking at something, and that something isn’t always going to be you. You need to sleep, you need to rest.

The music industry is the most fucked up industry in the world. Nobody cares about your health. If the music industry cared about their artists' health, you wouldn’t have people out here dying of overdoses. They think, ‘If you’re happy and that’s making us money, then let’s keep you happy. If you’re out here not making any money, we don’t give a fuck about you’. If they think you make your best music when you’re stressed the fuck out, they’ll think, ‘go get stressed, just make us money’. Doing your best work when you’re feeling bad is a myth. Most times people truly express themselves when they’re in a bad place because they just don’t care and they let it all out. The industry doesn’t care about you and your good spirits, just give them that fire music. No one wants to hear songs about drinking more water. We need to be capitalising on happiness and motivation. iLoveMakonnen is a singer-rapper who rose to fame in 2014 when Drake remixed his track Tuesday


iLoveMakonnen: “Doing your best work when you’re feeling bad is a myth”

Call Super: “By placing ambition as a lifestyle choice you may well burnout...but not before making our scene a little bit worse” Questions around burnout are essentially an extension of the 21st Century Silicon Valley values that have insidiously affected much of our creative fields. The way people come into the music scene with careerist goals of being as big as possible and looking at success simply as a goal in itself has a rotten impact on how we make and engage with art. Choosing an artistic pursuit in life should be the only option because you are so lost in what you love and it can’t be any other way. Making the choice should involve a degree of despair because it’s a life of being lost in trying to express your ideas. It’s a life that will probably be mostly unsuccessful and you need to be happy with that. Any degree of success is obviously nice, but it needs to be essentially ignored if you’re keeping your mind on your art. The evolution of work is what consumes the best musicians. If this isn’t you, then you’re probably bringing an element of Big Tech capitalist values into the scene. Your emphasis is on success over art. By placing ambition as a lifestyle choice you may well burnout... but not before making our scene a little bit worse.

I kind of drew up my own mental guidelines on how best to engage with social media for my own work. Cyber technology is changing how we live, think about ourselves and relate to one another more than anything has since the industrial revolution. I’m fairly comfortable thinking it’s probably going to have a more dramatic impact on us than that, and we probably won’t appreciate how dramatic it is for a decade or two yet. Presuming that you, like me, are begrudgingly going along with it for the sake of pursuing your own practice. There are some added dimensions if you’re an artist. What kind of scene do you love and wish existed? What’s inspiring, what’s not and how are you contributing to your vision? You might find that the convergence of lifestyle and branding gets you really jazzed and that is precisely what you want your voice to sing. Just ask yourself the question before you post something, that way at least it’s a conscious decision. One thing social media allows is for you to develop your own language visually or in text. Hopefully it’s an interesting one. It’s difficult to get a handle on just how damaging living by comparison can be because it plays out most brutally on those who are vulnerable to comparing themselves negatively to others. If your ego is massive or you’re just very resilient, this isn’t going to be such a worry, but you need to know where you exist on this spectrum. Don’t see every career achievement as a social media opportunity. Physically, the answer is to do less. Place your ambition into substantial things. Remember that saying ‘no’ is a powerful artistic tool. Use it. Berlin-based DJ and producer Call Super is a fixture of underground electronic music


Munroe Bergdorf: “As an activist, people expect you to say something profound about everything” A lot of creatives can’t support themselves just doing what they love, so they overwork themselves. As an activist, people always expect you to say something profound about everything. I think it’s difficult to not take it to bed. In other industries it’s easier to remove yourself from your work and switch off. Stepping outside the office, as it were. But I don’t just do activism. It’s difficult to navigate my media career as well as my activism. There needs to be some form of balance; I need to use my platform from the modelling to get my activist message across. Having a transgender woman of colour on the cover of a magazine is a form of activism in itself.

Xosar: “The key is for artists to learn how to say no” Burnout has happened throughout many phases of my life. The most recent instance has been taking on too many shows, more than my body was capable of handling. This was mostly a physical burnout because I'm incredibly sensitive, and the act of going on an airplane and travelling was just tearing my energy apart and made it really hard for me to function. Being in that extreme situation taught me to consider what I needed to recover physically. I had to take eight months off. I had to sacrifice a lot of shows and "opportunities" but it was simply what I needed to not burn out completely. I got my yoga teaching license during that time and started trying to spread knowledge to other artists struggling in the community. I think a lot of artists, who normally make art for the sake of making art, but eventually turn it into a career, face a point where lines are blurred. There’s a need to uphold some degree of expectation in order to feel like their career is validated. They are now financially dependent on their art, so they have to drain their creative forces to sustain this.

I'm willing to feel the burn of whatever comes along with self-care. Whether that’s less followers or getting yelled at by my agency because I'm not getting enough booking requests. I'll take that over sacrificing my mental and physical health. I hope that more artists are honest and open about how they are suffering as soon as they feel their health is starting to be compromised. I believe general awareness is spreading in people's needs to honour their own limits, but many are still stuck in toxic cycles. The pressure of success is immense and overwhelming, but people should align with their own definition of success. You have the power to re-define the conditions of your life. The key is for artists to learn how to say no when enough is enough, for agents to not push artists past their boundaries, and to be compassionate in helping an artist define those boundaries, instead of exploiting them for what they're worth. Sounds typical, but keep trying and don't give up. Xosar is a Berlin-based DJ, producer and wellness instructor for artists in the electronic music community

Burn out is probably the hardest thing that I have to contend with. A lot of the time you don’t see it coming. I find it hard to recognise the signs, especially when you’re so close to your cause. With me, speaking about racism and transphobia, it opens up old wounds about how I’ve felt in my life. You can block out the noises from other people but burnout definitely forces you to look inside yourself and that can be a scary place when there’s trauma there. This hits creatives hard because a lot of us are doing what we love but sometimes the boundaries that we set for ourselves get pushed because we’re doing what we love. We think, ‘oh, I’ll just do this for a few hours’ and then that turns into more hours, days, weeks. We take on too much because we’re scared of losing out on opportunities that might not come so frequently. We overcommit or overpromise. We don’t think about the fact that we need to be there for ourselves rather than other people.

Figuring out what works for you will help stop you from burning out. I’ve realised out that there’s no one form of activism – some things work for me that don’t work for others, and vice versa. We’re all working together as a machine rather than individual parts. We’ve all got to play as a team. For example, I find protests extremely triggering. It’s about selecting what works for you. Know what your strengths are. My strengths are my writing, my platform, my reach. I use my platform to amplify the voices of other people. I think the key is to try to think about how you’re going to feel, not how you feel at the moment. Whenever I feel like I’m burning out, my go-to self-care regimen is: scent, sex and ice cream. It’s about finding your happiness and being aware of your surroundings. Munroe Bergdorf is a model and activist leading the fight for trans visibility

Sandy Marris: “There’s a general feeling that if your job is perceived to be fun, who gives a fuck if there’s negative elements to it?” Du Blonde: “Learn to budget, do your taxes, keep spreadsheets. Know your worth” I feel like I've been experiencing burnout to varying degrees for the past 10 years. I've been working in this industry since I was 15 years old so I don't have much experience with a regular 9-5 job with weekends for myself. Any time I take to relax just leads to anxiety that I should be spending that time figuring out where next month's rent is coming from and learning another skill. The result is regular sleepless nights, low energy, depression, anxiety, low self worth and physical illness. You have to have thick skin, and you have to really love your job to make it worth it. Thankfully, I love my job. For me, as streaming and illegal downloading lessened my income from music, I turned to art and animation, but with my clients mostly coming from the music industry, they also lack the funds to pay a real wage. Even 10 years ago it was still possible to pay your rent with what you made as a musician. Nowadays musicians are sinking what little money they do have into the production of their records without any possibility of a decent advance to cover their costs, only to have people consume two years of hard work for free. So you have a generation of creatives working ungodly hours for less than minimum wage, which is both psychologically and physically damaging.

true, I love my job. But telling myself I enjoy working seven days a week, often in spates of 16-hour days, has also been a way for me not to lose my mind the way I would if I realised I don't actually have a choice. To myself and other people in this position, I would say, take time off. Make sure you get out of the house once a day before the sun goes down. Take time for yourself and leave computers outside of the bedroom. Keep work correspondence to email as much as possible – it's harder for people to take you for a ride when you have written proof of their initial requests. Frequently reassess what makes you happy, what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Learn to budget, do your taxes, keep spreadsheets. Know your worth. Don't let the squares of the world convince you that you're doing anything other than a job that has value that deserves a living wage in return. Beth Jeans Houghton, also known as Du Blonde, is a multi-disciplinary artist working in music, animation and design

There are probably more professional DJs working than ever right now. The global interest is higher than it’s ever been in the kind of dance music that I work with. Due to the competitive nature of the underground dance music scene right now, there’s a general pressure for artists to tour as much as possible. Not only do artists need to keep playing the UK and Europe and the occasional tour to the US and Australia, they have to pay attention to every country in the world. Which can be exhausting. People must empathise with what touring lifestyle entails. I used to just look at four dates in a row on a date sheet and think ‘that doesn’t sound so intimidating, does it’, but when you go and travel with the artist, it’s a very different beast. It’s invaluable for people not to hound the artist until they experience it themselves. Travel with them, see what it’s like. There needs to be more patience with both the artist and those working around them. In the music that I work with, generally the more underground side of techno and dance music, fans are quite loyal. There doesn’t need to be a rush. You don’t need to cram too much into their diary. Something I’m trying to enact is planning holiday time for artists, instead of just planning shows. Time off is very important.

Social media can also cause a lot of artists anxiety. A lot of people think that they need to be constantly seen and let their audience into their own lives. There’s also a pressure to present yourself in a certain way which may not be reality. Everyone wants to see DJs who are constantly grateful and upbeat about their lives. Obviously there’s many brilliant aspects about what they do, but there’s also less good aspects like relentless travel and general pressure. Burnout certainly has an impact on health, both mental and physical. It’s good we’re having conversations about mental health in dance music, because when I first started working in this industry eight years ago, there was zero. There are countless examples over the last couple of years where DJs’ lifestyles have had an incredibly negative impact on their lives, and even in some cases ended up killing them. Not just in music, there seems to be a general feeling that if you do a job that is perceived to be fun, who gives a fuck if there’s negative elements to it, which is not a very empathetic standpoint. There needs to be a lot more understanding, a lot more support from everyone working in the music industry. I’m hopeful that slowly we’ll start to see a difference. Sandy Marris is a booking agent at Coda Music Agency

I think there comes a point where you have to recognise that working so hard for so little return becomes unhealthy. It's important to remember that no matter how much you want to continue doing the job, you won't be able to if you get sick. I've worked seven days a week for as long as I can remember. I tell myself I liked doing that, and it's


Financially, I barely stay afloat, but I subsidise my income by selling art. Psychologically I've stayed afloat through the support, kindness and generosity of certain people in my life, alongside my inability to give up and hope that it'll all end up okay.

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There are few creative figures who currently occupy as unique a space as Juliana Huxtable. She is a poet with a bracing lexicon and a multimedia artist with an incisive eye. She DJs and she writes and performs music. She is both a nightlife icon and a darling of the art world, capable of hosting a warehouse rave and rubbing shoulders with trustees of the MoMA in the span of a single weekend. She’s one of the most crucial voices in current transgender discourse, yet she is reluctant to agree with attempts to position her as such. She is, as she tells me when we meet, “really bad at describing” her practice succinctly. A logical attempt at doing so would need to begin with her use of the written word. A self-proclaimed “theory head,” Huxtable has been writing her entire life, and her poems were a staple of her illustrious Tumblr page, the means to which she found a mass audience. The highly-acclaimed 2012 work Untitled (For Stewart) offers a distillation of themes she returns to time and again in her work; namely, systemic sexist and misogynist power structures, body disassociation and dysmorphia, and the radical potential of new technology. That poem, along with a huge swathe of pieces from various stages of her career, was collected in Huxtable’s first published book, 2017’s Mucus in My Pineal Gland. “A lot of the text in there had previously existed as something I did for a performance or maybe something that started as a Tumblr post that I then revisited,” she says, “there [were] a lot of different types

of writing in various states of finality and so it was intense to really have to commit to. Gallery shows I find more fun, because it's less expansive than a book.” Of all her exhibitions, Huxtable is most proud of 2017’s A Split During Laughter at the Rally. Combining visual pieces with an immersive video installation, the show was a dissection of “the aesthetics of conspiracy and American paranoia,” weaving in further elements such as the history of protest chants and its relationship to hiphop. It remains both utterly of its time and ahead of its time; a colourful, if discomforting, reaction to the thenearly stages of Trumpocracy whose resonance continues to ring with ever more clarity as time passes. We discuss how she might envision a best-case scenario future. “Things feel dark, generally,” she begins. “Ideally there would be some sort of revolution that was able to sustain itself. I don't know if that would take a little Marxist revolution. I don't know if it would take a queer revolution. Ideally, it would be a little bit of all of those things, but just one, a movement, just to be able to sustain enough steam to cause a real impact. “I guess my most base desire would be that public discourse can progress beyond the pitfalls and traps that it's currently in,” she continues. “I wish the conversation around what is and isn't progress could be focused on a little bit of the conditions, the extreme conditions that so many people are living in or navigating.” While a coming Marxist revolt may seem far-fetched, the seeds of a queer revolution may already have been planted in the freedoms created in nightlife spaces. The world of the party has been a major element of Huxtable’s life and work since she moved from Texas to study at New York’s Bard College.


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“I wish the conversation around what is and isn't progress could be focused a little on the conditions, the extreme conditions that so many people are living in”


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“Going out was definitely a goal,” she reminisces. “When I was younger, I always loved the idea of clubbing… I love Studio 54 and the club kids and I was obsessively studying and fixating on New York nightlife.” The years spent travelling down to the city from her campus to organise events (“manically hustling”) laid the groundwork for her rise on the scene when she located to New York full time upon graduating in 2010. Over the years, Huxtable’s Shock Value parties have showcased her skill of community-building within the queer underground, in addition to her electric abilities as a DJ and her ravishingly imaginative club looks.


The sanctity of these spaces is a given, but Huxtable is opposed the notion of her parties as ‘safe spaces.’ “I don't really believe in safe spaces,” she explains. “Not in the sense that ‘I don't feel like people should feel safe,’ but I think that nightlife and going out

to clubs is inherently a risk based experience. Shit can go down. People are drinking. People are doing drugs. So I feel like safe space as a concept is a sort of trap. It’s less about a sense of safety than a sense of platforming. I wanted to see music and artists platformed that I didn't think were being platformed, and I also really like the idea of crowd building an audience and building a constituency as an experiment.” Huxtable’s breadth of knowledge is formidable, and her insights often put forward narratives that are absent (but much-needed) in the mainstream. An interview with Office Magazine following a 2018 performance at the Park Avenue Armory found her approaching the topic of trans identity from a viewpoint rarely amplified by her peers: “I don't think visibility is an end goal. I don't think visibility in and of itself is progress." Even as someone very much engaged in the conversation surrounding the evolution of gender identity, I was struck by the blunt force of this sentiment. She elaborates, proffering that “there's an idea of liberal progress that would celebrate and say ‘Yay, we have Time Magazine covers, we have TV representation,’ which is great, but

to think that that's the same thing as protecting the trans people that are the most at risk is not the same. A lot of times visibility comes with backlash and it can cause a lot of harm for people. The conflation of visibility and progress is a problem. “It's important to be invested in onthe-ground activism,” she continues. “It's like, ‘what about education? What about underground resources?’ I doubt we'd be dealing with children being kicked out of bathrooms if all the effort that was put into visibility was also put into actually educating the public on what it means to be trans, and protecting people, and giving money and resources to activist groups that have been doing work for decades in areas where those resources are really needed. It feels like there needs to be a more complete idea of what progress is.” For better or worse, Juliana Huxtable is often put in positions where she is expected to summarily deliver an answer to such complex questions. But as befits the mark of a truly great artist, one is much more likely to find such answers in her work itself. @HUXTABLEJULIANA

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“When I was younger, I always loved the idea of clubbing. I was obsessively studying New York nightlife”



Words: Thomas Hobbs Photography: Kaj Jefferies Styling: Ade Udoma “Right now, everyone is trying to make a Travis Scott song. There are lots of writers and the music is designed to get people moving as a unit, crowdsurfing and shit,” says 25-year-old West London singer Miink. “I am not one for that. I want people to go to my show and for it to smell nice. I want everyone to be calm and almost in a meditative state.” This commitment to creating songs built around soothing introspection runs deep through Miink’s 2018 debut LP, Small Clan. Its opener Who Are You is a sexy, psychedelic playground, with dub-bass bubbling under the surface. An angelic-voiced Miink, who sings like he’s in a trance-like state, repeatedly asks: ‘Who are you and who you with?’


Miink’s sonically rich, genre-splicing R&B is created in solitude from his bedroom in Richmond. “Everything

you hear is produced by me,” he says, confidently sitting up in a wooden chair, sporting an oversized Stone Island parka as rain pours down on a gloomy January afternoon.

came to me as I was writing the song. I don’t see any divisions between music and visuals. Look, I see a lot of artists getting so much support, but I like to be left to my own devices!”

There's a sense that Miink doesn’t think in genre, but in textures. Take the reflective Totals, a tender pop song that takes an unexpected turn with chaotic synths you’d expect to hear at a rave at 3am. Or Sheep Shackle, a song that channels Björk’s penchant for haunting howls, ascending into grandiose strings. Just when you think you’ve got a Miink song figured out, it takes an exhilarating change of direction, flipping your expectations upside down. “There’s no longer any rules to genre,” he explains. “Hybrid culture is the only way forward. There’s not a lot left to discover, so it’s about who can mix different sounds in the best way."

Yet nothing is what it seems with Miink’s music. Yellow Dust manages to sound sensual despite vicious lyrical imagery of slitting throats. But even though his music is unconventional and hard to define, Miink, who was brought up in a "big, musical Jamaican family" in West London, still feels he unfairly gets placed into a box. “People don’t put me on the intellectual music tip because of the colour of my skin, yet James Blake was put there immediately because he went to Goldsmiths.”

Miink's music holds a certain intimacy, like it’s designed to tap into the innermost private corners of your mind. “For me, making music is a very lonely process,” Miink admits. “I am always alone when I write. It’s all directly from my head so there’s maybe a dream-like quality to it, too. I want to channel the spirit of slaves, so sometimes my lyrics are about tapping into the spirits of my blood line. I don’t ever want dozens of songwriters on a track or my music would lose its rawness.” This individualistic approach to making music is something Miink applies to his visuals, too. Rather impressively, the colourful, hallucinatory video for track Yellow Dust was filmed on a set Miink created in his own flat. “The visuals

Smirking mischievously, Miink tells me he plans to release three new albums in 2019. He says each project will sound entirely unique, revealing that the first release will be even more experimental than Small Clan: “I am going to be using these distressing sounds, which I’ll be looping over and over so I can almost hypnotise the listener.” Above all else, Miink wants to continue to live up to his namesake. Fittingly, he’s inspired by a creature whose looks deceive its prey. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a video of a mink in the wild. It looks cuddly but it’s absolutely brutal too and will kill a bird in a flash; its looks are deceiving. It’s the same thing with me.” Small Clan is out now via Miink


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My Life as a Mixtape: U.S. Girls Words: Rachel Grace Almeida

An album that helped shape my political identity. I have two. Pussy Whipped by Bikini Kill [Kill Rock Stars, 1993] and Stations of the Cross by Johnny Thunders [ROIR, 1987]. Those two together were the first records I heard that were very overtly political and clever – trying to mix entertainment with a message.

A track that has the most cutting lyrics of all time. Bill Withers has this song called You [Sussex, 1974] and he’s just really taking this woman to task. In the song he kind of reveals that she’s trying to get him to see a therapist, telling him he needs help. And he’s basically, like, ‘oh, you think I need help? I know this and this about you, and my friend saw you do this’. It’s a straight-up slam song. It’s really nasty.

A song that embodies love to me. Soul Driver by Bruce Springsteen [Columbia, 1992]. It embodies what I would like love to be, which is that [love] is gonna fight until the end, but if something is just not working, why waste time? It’s honest, it’s not trying to make love seem perfect. It reveals how messy and complicated and difficult love actually is. In A Poem Unlimited is out now via 4AD

The perfect pop song. Toxic by Britney Spears [Jive, 2004]. It’s perfect, it’s a little weird, it’s sexy, it’s instantly lovable. My go-to comfort album. Definitely Street-Legal by Bob Dylan [Columbia, 1974]. It hits all my marks of what I look for in music. I listen to it so much and know it so well. You know that feeling when you want to zone out to a shitty show? It’s engaging you but it’s not engaging you too much, allowing you to be present, giving you that comfort.


The first song to break my heart. The first time I heard Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers [Philles Records, 1965]. I was about four or five years old at this community picnic in a park and there was a DJ in a pavilion, and I was on a swing. I heard that song and it made me instinctively understand that someday I was going to have my heart broken. It made me feel something that I didn’t understand yet. It put a placeholder in my brain, like, ‘someday you’re gonna understand what this is about’. I remember being so moved that I cried and ran to my mother and asked her what this song was.

Photography: Colin Medley

When U.S. Girls released In A Poem Unlimited last year, its resolute message sent a shockwave through every listener it reached. The seventh solo album from AmericanCanadian singer-songwriter Meg Remy, Unlimited... was a razor-sharp evisceration of the patriarchy and all its precarious failings. Her comment might be neatly packaged into joyous pop and disco grooves, but don’t let that fool you: Meg Remy is mad as hell. Here, we speak to her about the records that helped shape it all.





Azealia Banks KOKO, London 25 January

Epizode Festival Phu Quoc, Vietnam 28 December-8 January Epizode Festival relies on a certain level of commitment from its attendees. It takes place on the idyllic Phu Quoc island south of Vietnam’s border with Cambodia. Across 11 days of programming, there are very few moments where the music actually stops. It’s an endurance test, but this level of partying is a lot easier when you have the climate and beaches of the Gulf of Thailand. Now in its third year, 2019’s edition saw the event expand, both in terms of the size of artists and its ambition. The festival takes place across severalstages on the beach, flanked by huge bamboo treehouse structures, and as night gives in to day the sunset sessions are breathtaking. While the organisers have made it their mantra to cater for a huge variation in styles and sounds, the sheer amount of music being played at Epizode leaves little room for complaint: numerous sets are extended, surprise sets pop up all over the place and, in the case of the minimal techno and house that represented a substantial part of this year’s line-up, very few DJs seemed to go home. This resulted in the Shell stage (essentially the afters area of the festival) running for a further full day after the event had finished with the likes of Rhadoo, Zip, Binh and British minimal wonder kid Digby all playing extra sets to a small but committed crowd. From techno’s biggest hitters in Nina Kraviz (whose set is the musical highlight of the weekend) and Ricardo Villalobos, to fresh faces and new finds in the form of DJ Masda, Digby and a host of Russian club talent that have found favour with the organisers from their exploits in their homeland, there was much to love for fans of sleek European techno. Still, what makes Epizode truly memorable is its beautiful location, something which should keep the festival in firm favour with party-goers looking to go the extra mile. ! Thomas Frost N Epizode Festival

The 1975 are the biggest band in the United Kingdom. It’s been like that for some time, especially since their 2015 sophomore record went straight to number one. But over the past 18 months the band have entered a slightly different space. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the band’s third album, found them reaching a new level of credibility and prestige. The record uses themes of online behaviour as a lens with which to view humanity, with frontman Matty Healy delivering lofty, self-referential anthems for those feeling simultaneously hyperconnected and out on their own. Despite moments of true pop songwriting mastery, the record’s depiction of kids-on-phones is a little on the nose. Still, despite the heavy-handedness, the album has connected deeply with their fans. A Brief Inquiry…’s elevated manifesto was met with equally dramatic (and almost unanimously positive) reviews. Following a quote of Healy’s lyrics, Pitchfork concluded their review with the statement: “Life becomes him.” NME described the LP as “OK Computer for millennials”. So this tour – including a two-night stop at The O2 – was a milestone in a new chapter. Huge screens buffer into life as the warbled Auto-tuned album intro to A Brief Enquiry… hums through the arena. Dressed in suits, the band enter and launch into Give Yourself a Try. The catchy emo-pop track prompts Healy to spring across the stage with a rehearsed bashfulness, clutching his floppy fringe and stumbling over himself. The energy continues for TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, a tropical house bop that sounds like a Drake crossover hit written by AI. By leaning so heavily on the topics of digital existence, The 1975 have allowed themselves to move through ideas at light-speed. It’s also a license to make sweeping statements with no requirement to dig deeper, scrolling through social issues with barely a pause. Perhaps most notable in Love It If We Made It, a musical moodboard of soundbites designed to reflect the fidgety millennial attention span. Moments like this – such as the production effect which depicts Healy stood inside a giant iPhone screen – deliver a Black Mirror effect. At their best, they’re wellproduced ways of telling us basic truths (phones make us sad, we’re valuing celebrity gossip over world crises). At their worst, flashing visuals of the Grenfell Tower disaster and one-line references to police brutality, paired with a band so flagrantly plotting for superstardom, leave a bitter taste. Express nods to trending issues because, hey, that’s how we consume this stuff, right? Through unrelenting self-reference and calculated self-deprecation, The 1975 have made themselves immune to interrogation. When they play Sound in the encore, quotes from negative reviews flash up on the screen, portraying criticism as a meanspirited, arbitrary sport. But that hook, “I’d love it if we made it,” stayed with me. In the song, Healy is singing about breaking through the malaise, bulldozing the algorithm in search of something real. But perhaps the line is just a reference to wanting to be as big as is humanly possible. When you’re watching 20,000 fans scream along, what’s the difference? !

Duncan Harrison N Jordan Hughes

As Azealia Banks was due to perform in London for the first time since 2014, the run-up to her UK and Ireland tour had been plagued with controversies due to a clash with an “aggressive” Aer Lingus hostess. The incident, in true Banks fashion, spilt over into Instagram, with a social media rant insulting Irish women and referring to “leprechauns”. The bad press could have swallowed her appearance. But an Azealia Banks show is a typically emotional experience anyway – fans spend all year justifying her missteps. Our love for Banks outshines her controversies. When I walked into KOKO, I weaved through a crowd of fishnet tights, heavy goth-inspired makeup, hair of every colour and a sea of bobbing ocean-blue 'Make Azealia Great Again' caps. DJ Cosmo commandeered the crowd with the perfect mixture of New Orleans bounce, Jersey club, Afrobeats and house that kept people alive despite the late start. When the lights went down and smoke began to swirl on stage, the 'Azealia!' chants began. The energy was at tipping point. She strutted on stage in an all-white corset and long black weave and pandemonium broke loose. Banks opened with an acapella rendition of Luxury, her voice belting across the venue, before DJ Cosmo and her two slender, shiny-latex adorned dancers joined her for the dance routine. The show was a demonstration of Azealia's relentless talent. When it came to the bassy rap songs like Pyrex Princess and Heavy Metal and Reflective, Azealia knew how to contort her face and body to get you reacting to every lyric like a punch in the back. When house-infused tracks Count Contessa and Miss Camaraderie came on, the atmosphere became lighter and hands flew up while people vogued the house down. This show felt like an enormous middle-finger up to those that tried to write Banks off. It was a statement performance and confirmed that despite her controversies, and not dropping a full body of work since Slay-Z in 2017, there is still a lot of support for her unique sound. There’s no need to 'Make Azealia Great Again' – she’s already a cult figure. ! Chanté Joseph N George Brown


The 1975 O2 Arena, London 18 January



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07 Homeshake Helium Sinderlyn



2019 marks the year Blade Runner warned us about. Synthetic humanoids, flying cars, outer space colonies. In that same sci-fi dystopia, we’d surely all be listening to music like HEALTH. The LA bruisers’ digitised take on heavy music has always held a future-facing appeal. On VOL 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, that approach takes over. FEEL NOTHING is a stomping Transformer of a track, clipped synths coughing and spluttering like Optimus Prime after a twenty deck, while The Message’s menacing stomp pummels through with Code Orange’s Jami Morgan on backing vocals, roughing up the edges of this robotised call to arms. There’s barely a second that doesn’t hit as hard as possible, even HEALTH’s Jake Duzsik’s waifish vocal does little to ease the assault. As SLAVES OF FEAR progresses, the constant bludgeoning becomes a little numbing. HEALTH’s heavyhanded MO still packs a punch, though, and SLAVES OF FEAR proves that. We might not be living in the futuristic world we were once promised just yet, but we can still rely on HEALTH to push music out of its present-day comfort zone. !

Tom Connick

Peter Sagar began his solo project Homeshake in 2012 with the idea that he “wouldn’t aim for anything in particular with it”. While this may sound nonchalant, the result was a woozy, lo-fi mixture of quiet R&B and bedroom pop that felt singular yet rough around the edges. Four albums later, the Canadian artist has carved out his own world: a calm and surreal place full of wonky guitar riffs, narrated in his signature sleepy falsetto. Latest effort Helium is no exception. Sagar continues to speak about the mundanities of daily life with quiet moments and small battles with himself. Relatable lines like “Book is beside my bed/ I’ll probably read my phone instead” are handled with a skilful mix of sadness and calm, tethering his otherworldly atmospheres to places most of us have been. In album standout Nothing Could Be Better, he hypnotises the listener over a seductive beat before disarming you with the chorus “Nothing could be better/ Better than you”. It’s a love song in disguise, one that feels all the more startling and real for the murk he shrouds it in. But while Sagar’s unassuming writing is a strength, it can also be his downfall. At times too lackadaisical to find tangible direction, Helium proves an impressive benchmark of what he’s capable of when he’s focused and sharp. But for now it feels like he’s just waking up. !

Steve Mallon

Chaka Khan Hello Happiness Island Records Drenge Strange Creatures Infectious Records Despite having their style cramped slightly with a cosign from Tom Watson of the Labour Party, grungey UK band Drenge’s early singles pulsed and raged with palpable disgust, and the adolescent sincerity of songs like Dogmeat and People in Love Make Me Feel Yuck held a certain charm. Sadly this is no longer true. Drenge now resemble a mediocre Arctic Monkeys tribute band, although vocalist Eoin Loveless displays none of Alex Turner's wit and brass. The result is their third studio album, Strange Creatures: a work devoid of nuance. It starts with a bang (as in, the words “it started with a bang”) as the lads set out with Bonfire of the City Boys, painting themselves as successor to Guy Fawkes: young radicals with a match at the touchpaper of youth revolution. From here it’s an almost exhaustive list of hackneyed reference points and glib examinations of ‘issues of the day’. Fake news! Prom night! Motorway raves! Philip K. Dick! In fairness, beefing up the group to four members sees them expand beyond chunky riffage, and musically, they succeed at creating the “nocturnal” record they set out to. But even this feels derivative. Music doesn’t always have to be original, but it should never be this dull. !

Theo Kotz

Sleaford Mods Eton Alive Extreme Eating Records Sleaford Mods’ snarling machine-punk has provided an angry, working class critique of the grim political injustices of Austerity Britain. In a more scattershot way, it takes aim at the preening and posturing of Britain’s privileged elite. Tied Up in Notts, the withering hometown anti-anthem on their eerily-titled breakthrough album Divide & Exit set the tone. The template has been in place ever since: punchy drums and ragged bass from Andrew Fearn’s programming, and rattlesnake vocals from wordsmith Jason Williamson. Eton Alive drops just as the polarisation and resentment of Brexit has really begun to bite, reflected in what feels like an increasingly recriminatory lyrical focus. There’s a shade more melody (the brilliantly hypnotic When You Come Up To Me) and the production is sharper (the restless punk-funk of Discourse, or the synth line fade of Top It Up). But the band’s take is that the middle class commentariat has seemingly moved on from them, while other acts commodify their righteous dissent. Sleaford Mods sound angrier than ever. In a recent tweet, the band said: “Being working class isn’t cool anymore is it. We got away with it whilst austerity was sinking its teeth in and people wanted shit kickers to entertain them...” For Sleaford Mods, the music industry is swarming with privilege which replicates itself endlessly. The Blur reference (“Graham Coxon looks like a leftwing Boris Johnson”) on Flipside makes sense in this context: this was a band that in their art-school-does-cockney shtick arguably monetised cultural appropriation, and there’s been plenty more like them since. With political ultra-elites routinely claiming to be the antiestablishment ‘voice of the people’, Sleaford Mods’ indignation at well-to-do young men adopting the aesthetics of the working class for commercial gain feels as relevant now as it was in Blur’s heyday. In keeping with the political mood of the moment, Sleaford Mods’ revenge algorithm has gone slightly haywire. The almostindecipherable lines in Big Burt take aim at the music press (“You music magazines/ Lying to us, just to stay in print”) alongside misplaced demonic children’s TV references. But beneath what feels like an increasingly chaotic veneer, Sleaford Mods have retained the vitality and venom of their earlier work. A menacing, lo-fi endeavour that perhaps isn’t at the top of its game, but stings all the same. !

Adam Corner

These days, the term “iconic” gets bandied about haphazardly. There are few artists who really deserve the moniker of legend. But the inimitable Chaka Khan is one of them. Her decades-long career has spanned everything from funk, disco, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and gospel, and her glass-shattering vocal range is amongst one of the most revered in the game. That being said, while her 13th studio album, Hello Happiness, dutifully showcases her impeccable talent, the album itself doesn’t quite rise to her level of greatness. Produced by ex-Major Lazer member and frequent M.I.A. collaborator Switch, Hello Happiness seeks to marry Khan’s trailblazing 70s roots with a more contemporary feel, and tracks like the disco-tinged Like Sugar achieve this effect through inventive percussion. But clocking in at merely seven songs, Hello Happiness feels more like a brief study in divadom than the reinvigorating comeback album Khan deserves. Don’t Cha Know tries to revive the infectious funk of Khan’s time with her first band Rufus, but comes off as more of a meandering interlude that could use more of her personality and power. As her first album in 12 years, Hello Happiness is enough to satisfy Khan stans’ thirst for new material. But as the reigning Queen of Funk, it’s a shame that the album doesn’t see her reach for the heights we know she is capable of. !

Cameron Cook





08 07

Panda Bear Buoys Domino

Octo Octa For Lovers EP Ninja Tune Octo Octa wants to fill your heart with joy, sorrow and vulnerability. On new EP For Lovers, she invites us into her personal space. Across a backdrop of glittering synth melodies, foggy breakbeat and ecstatic piano stabs, she documents her journey of “selfacceptance and becoming”. And you’ll want to join her every step of the way. The EP’s hooky nostalgic opener I Need You is a poignant, after-hours love letter to the Brooklyn-based producer and DJ’s support network (“This is for my friends / This is for my lovers/ This is for the people I care about”). It’s the first vocal performance she has recorded since her transition, using reverberated vocals to introduce a haunting housemeets-rave roller that rushes like a lost 90s classic. Throughout the record, physicality, music and spiritual catharsis are inextricably linked. With its flashes of dreamy synth pads, Bodies Meld Together furrows into the deeper house end of the spectrum, while the transcendent lo-fi of Loops for Healing assumes the role of a “personal tool for healing”. On For Lovers, Octo Octa beams like a light therapy box on a dismal winter’s day. !

April Clare Welsh

After the acid-washed freakout of his last major release, Panda Bear has careened in the opposite direction with Buoys, the Animal Collective member’s sixth solo LP. It’s his most austere effort by a long shot, consisting of little more than his trademark croon, jangly guitar, and a rumbling behemoth of a sub bass. These sonics may come as a shock to long time fans. Never before has Panda allowed the clarity of his voice and lyrics to stand so far to the forefront of the mix. While this reinvention is intriguing, the record’s execution is spottier. Opening track Dolphin is its strongest offering, utilising Autotune and the sound of plinking water drops to brilliant effect, while Token is a summertime jaunt that doubles as the most explicitly sexual song in his catalogue. But the bizarre twang of Master and the title track highlight the limits of this minimalist approach. Lacklustre moments aside, the only quality really in danger of sinking the enterprise is Panda's half-hearted attempt at speaking to today's tumultuous social climate. He has stated that the record is "definitely" influenced by this notion, but the heart-on-the-sleeve pleas for joy that worked for Animal Collective's twee albums feel spectacularly trite. Still, Buoys manages to float by in spite of its flat points, but only just. !

Jake Indiana

Ghostface Killah and Czarface Czarface Meets Ghostface Silver Age

Jessica Pratt Quiet Signs Mexican Summer Jessica Pratt’s sound recalls another era, evoking the New York coffee shops inhabited by Joan Baez in the 60s, or the hazy, free-loving folk festivals of the 70s. Yet her relevance still feels timely, her expansive thoughts resonating loudly with a generation struggling to find meaning amidst the relentless racket of modern life. Quiet Signs, Pratt’s third solo album, feels like an antidote to such neverending noise. Her sparse instrumentation and delicate melodies demand calm attentiveness, few artists can silence a room as intently as Pratt does. Part escapism, part serious comment, Pratt’s delivery forces a dramatic change of pace. Listeners are encouraged to absorb the lingering echoes of solitary instruments such as on dreamy opener Opening Night, where single piano keys echo. Entirely produced in a professional studio for the first time, snatches of greater musical complexity exist on the soaring Aeroplane and Fare Thee Well. Yet on Quiet Signs, the most intense moments are often where the sound is most fragile, when Pratt encourages us to find more tangible meanings in the quieter moments around us. !

Liz Aubrey

AJ Tracey AJ Tracey Self-released A standout figure among the next-gen grime kids of 2015, AJ Tracey has taken plenty of time to deliver his debut full-length album. While contemporaries rushed and clamoured for time in the spotlight, AJ took a step back, surveyed the landscape and planned ahead. He knew the grime bubble would eventually burst. That’s not to say his selftitled LP is short on grime flavour – Tracey is still one of the UK’s best young barrers, but it does manoeuvre around notions of genre with calculated fluidity. From summery Top 20 hit Butterflies and the woozy, SoundCloud rap lean of Psych Out, to the oddball acoustic guitar twang of Country Star and the bubbling, throwback UKG of Ladbroke Grove, he ticks boxes that other grime MCs wouldn’t. But it’s not versatility that makes this record such an emphatic one, it’s AJ’s clinical ear for melodies, samples and hooks, and the components of a song that make you want to return to it. While it’s sure to piss off a few day ones, you can’t help but applaud AJ’s ambition. !

Tomas Fraser

It’s not been even a year since Czarface locked horns with MF DOOM on joint album Czarface Meets Metal Face but the supergroup (Wu-Tang soldier Inspectah Deck and Boston underground kings 7L & Esoteric) are back with another killer comic book crossover. On paper, it seems like a marriage made in Marvel heaven. Ghostface Killah and Deck obviously go way back, and the Czarface project has drawn from the same panelled-page mythology that has inspired Ghost for years. Entirely produced by The Czar-Keys (7L & Jeremy Page), this cracked odyssey sees the superhuman rappers trade blows over a set of grubby beats that draw from rugged East Coast hip-hop and zany Saturday morning cartoons. The collective take turns spitting trash like a group of duelling Kaiju, but maybe Ghost is still not quite at his absolute peak. Morning Ritual offers a play-by-play account of him rising one sinister day that is gripping but doesn’t exactly ring with the same rich specificity as, say, Shakey Dog. Still, his flow and writing are sharper than on recent solo effort, The Lost Tapes. With Czarface in his crosshairs, Ghost’s mean streak sounds vicious enough to take down cities. !

Dean Nguyen

Maximum Joy emerged from the 1980s post-punk scene in Bristol, made famous by their revolutionary co-conspirator’s The Pop Group and Rip Rig+Panic. Produced by UK dub pioneers Adrian Sherwood and Dennis Bovell, the band never received the same level of fame as their cohorts. But those early records have aged well and picked up new generations of fans thanks to the Discogs era. After reforming in 2015 for a handful of gigs, band members Janine Rainforth and Charlie Llewellin are back with a new name and new record. Their trademark “funk-punk” sound lives on in this album, which draws on a host of stabby bass guitar grooves as well as the kind of shimmering synths you might hear in house music. But the world feels like a more complicated and volatile place in P.E.A.C.E compared to Rainforth and Llewellin’s earlier 80s vision, which is distinctly more optimistic. Lyrics like “How can we keep hope when there’s no hope to be found” are delivered with sliding, airy vocals, lending a spooky quality to the tracks, like a ghost slipping in and out between worlds. Yet Rainforth’s words aren’t condemning as much as they are pragmatic. “We can’t run/ we can’t hide from this history,” she sings in We Breathe to a backdrop of moody, monotonous beats. But the free-spirited optimism associated with the band’s early days is not completely diminished and Rainforth’s dictum to “feel the love” in Slipping Down feels not so much a suggestion but a demand. Sung to a crunchy dancehall drums, the track feels like a celebration of togetherness. Perhaps MXMJoy have chosen this album as an opportunity to reference the current Brexit landscape, or a more general state of entropy. One thing is sure: the pair want change and they want it now. !

Gunseli Yalcinkaya



MXMJoY p.e.a.c.e. London Field Recordings

DJ set & live keys


James Blake, Assume Form Dismissing the “sad boy” label, the emotive crooner swaps heartbreak for happiness


Words: Chal Ravens

Blake might have felt particularly tetchy at that moment because anyone hoisting the sad boy flag had missed the point. Don’t Miss It is a veiled declaration of a happier, healthier man. He warns us to pay attention, because things do get better: “When the dull pain goes away, don’t miss it/ When you stop being a ghost in the shell and everybody keeps saying you look well, don’t miss it” But the sentiment is hard to grasp – the lyrics are tricky, and sung over some devastating piano balladry. This aesthetic tangle is the undoing of Assume Form, an album of gorgeous moments going nowhere in particular. When Blake took off the post-dubstep mask to introduce himself as an avantgarde electronic soul singer, he made this unheard-of transition look easy. His production was daring yet tasteful, and his voice contained multitudes – cracked, mournful, somehow both gritty and ephemeral. He sounded sad. On his rap collaborations – RZA, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar – he traded this tragic aesthetic for more overtly masculine energy, shared a strategy with Bon Iver, another former collaborator. By now, this mode of emotional vulnerability has in fact become the dominant mood of

contemporary rap – from Future and 21 Savage through to Yung Lean and Post Malone. On Assume Form, there’s a gap between what we hear and what he means. This time, Blake is a happy man. He’s very much in love with Jameela Jamil, the ever-present “she” in his lyrics, and their life in California has brought him a sense of security. On some tracks he allows himself to wallow in his happiness and test out what this would actually sound like, with mixed results. Can’t Believe The Way We Flow is shimmering, sampladelic pop, like the Avalanches at their most sunshine-bright and cloying. I’ll Come Too is a gesture of puppy love so cheesy it might make Donny Osmond blink: “Oh, you’re going to New York?/ I’m going there, why don’t I come with you/ Oh you’ve changed to LA?/ I’m going there, I could go there too”. Perhaps aware that this smug lovebird deal could wear thin across a whole album, Blake also flicks through his stacked Rolodex to bring in some admittedly great guests. Mile High finds Travis Scott saying not a lot over a comfortably numb beat by Metro Boomin. In the headline slot is a pensive Andre 3000, questioning his inability to sit back and enjoy success on Where’s The Catch? Harking back to his chemistry with RZA on 2013’s Overgrown, Blake lays down a challenge with a cloudy, off-kilter arrangement, which Andre turns into an album highlight without breaking a sweat. On a different note, Moses Sumney and Rosalía bring voices not so different to Blake’s – quivering, unstable, breathily romantic. Rosalía in

particular is like a mirage, a shimmering temptation that reflects your yearning back at you. They wrap around each other on the bilingual serenade Barefoot In The Park joining up for a memorable but distinctly weird chorus: “Barefoot in the park/ You start rubbing off on me”. On the ecstatic Don’t Miss It, Blake’s digital quiver seems to borrow from the hyper-melismatic gospel singer serpentwithfeet. The vocals are the vanguard edge of the record, in many ways – a reflection of the two-way traffic between hiphop’s AutoTuned blues and pop’s emotional overspill. Blake has a propensity to blur edges, leaving cadences unresolved and spaces unfilled. This has led him into dark and lonesome territory before, allowing his opaque lyrics to come off as emotionally complex when, maybe, they weren’t. On Assume Form, he’s tried to seal up the leaks and make everything solid, but he doesn’t have all the right pieces.

James Blake Assume Form Polydor


Last summer, after unveiling I Don’t Miss It – a gut-spilling moment from his loved-up fourth album, Assume Form – James Blake made an exasperated plea on Twitter for us to stop calling him a “sad boy”. Invoking the current epidemic of male suicide, Blake argued that the term was a dangerous pejorative, an “unhealthy” way to describe men who are honest about their feelings. And after years of bottling things up, he wrote, he finally saw the strength in doing the opposite.



Nights Out In the era of indie landfill, Metronomy’s genreshifting album was a refreshing oddity Original release: September 2008 Reissue: February 2019 Label: Because Music

The late 00s indie scene was topped off by a trilby. An era now not-solovingly dubbed ‘indie landfill’, cookiecutter, Camden-based calamities flooded the airwaves and the pages of NME. Even Razorlight mouthpiece Johnny Borrell was a regular TV fixture. In this scene, Joe Mount, the man behind Metronomy, was an outlier. Bleach-white drainpipes and dodgy headwear were eschewed for an everyman aesthetic, itself a world away from the warped sounds he was creating, tucked away in his bedroom studio. Musically, Metronomy’s second album couldn’t have been further removed from the three-chord snoozers the scene was addled with. It’s easy to forget just how odd Nights Out really was. Metronomy weren’t the first to fuse indie sensibilities with dance music’s unifying, floor-filling

Quipping that the record was a “halfarsed concept album about going out and having a crap time”, Mount never seemed one to follow the crowd. Metronomy’s support acts at the time saw the plonky piano-led Kate Nash of old opening proceedings one minute, before Brazilian nu-rave wünderkinds CSS exploded onto the stage soon after. It was deliberate shithousery from Mount and his bandmates (Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing, who took Metronomy from the one-man-band of its debut to a collective effort on Nights Out). It was evidence of a desire to fuck with expectation, and pull the rug at every opportunity. Musically, Nights Out followed suit, recordings of squeaky doors and pitch-shifted childrens’ yelps turned into floor-filling electro. And yet, despite all its sample-heavy silliness and deliberate obfuscation, Nights Out became a modern classic.

The cardiovascular double-act of My Heart Rate Rapid and Heartbreaker were anthems more than worthy of their numerous Glastonbury billings, while the Nights Out era saw Metronomy’s live show become the late-00s’ most unmissable evening, spanning the gulf between rave culture and riotous indie shows in a way that their peers had largely failed to do. Electro soon took hold of British nightlife, both in clubs and gig venues, with Metronomy at the forefront. Leapfrogging cliche-ridden nu-rave, it gave electronic indie a much-needed dose of longevity. To this day, Nights Out remains Metronomy’s masterstroke. Summer 08 – Metronomy’s latest album, released back in 2016 – even found Mount openly admitting to want to capture the Nights Out-fuelled naivety of its titular period. “Since that summer, I’ve not had a summer off,” he told Crack Magazine before its release. “From that point on, our lives changed into the lives of touring musicians.” It’s a seismic shift that affected not only Metronomy as a band – now one-man project, once more – but British pop as a whole. Above all, Nights Out remains testament to boundary pushing. A deep dive into oddity and musical excess, its box of production bells and whistles could still shake up the scene 11 years on. Thank fuck for crap club nights. Nights Out is re-released by Because Music on 8 February


Words: Tom Connick

mantra – arguably, Hot Chip paved the way – but they were perhaps the most out-there. Popping up on student union lineups alongside those aforementioned lot, the outside assumption was that Mount was another indie identikit. In reality, Nights Out’s opening one-two of its title track and The End Of You Too flirted with the avant-garde, pulling away from the Conversetoting backbone of the scene. There were bridges, of course – the wirey guitars calls Foals’ just-released Antidotes to mind – but Metronomy’s mindset was staunchly individual.


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09 If Beale Street Could Talk dir: Barry Jenkins Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King

Based on two different stories entitled Barn Burning, one by Haruki Murakami and one by William Faulkner, Lee Chang-dong’s latest film Burning contains multitudes. Without missing a beat, Lee and co-writer Oh Jung-mi weave together observations on class struggle, consumerism and masculinity in South Korea into a slow-burning thriller. Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), is an aimless, unambitious figure. While out performing odd jobs, he bumps into Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), a childhood classmate. He goes on a date with her, they sleep together, she asks him to look after his cats while she travels to Africa. She returns with Ben (Steven Yeun), who is confident, wealthy and handsome. Where Yoo is amusingly gormless as Jongsu, Yeun is disarmingly charming as Ben, who suggests a hint of something darker with an unsettling twinkle in his eye. Ben eventually confides a strange, destructive habit, which sends Jong-su into a spiral of obsession. Through the three key characters, the film becomes a pointed look at differences in privilege between class and gender. Lee himself has described the film as a ‘dance for the meaning of life’, contrasting Jong-su’s futile search for meaning with the indulgences that Ben enjoys. He’s a Great Gatsby, minus the angst. The film’s turning point (and quite possibly its peak) occurs in one transcendent moment set at sunset on the edge of the Korean DMZ, as Hae-mi forgets about her peers and begins to dance. For one brief moment, the country falls still, the North Korean propaganda blaring over loudspeakers in the distance goes silent, and she feels unburdened. Of course, the moment is brief. Ultimately, Burning asks us whether it’s better to pursue meaning, freedom, or pleasure, while suggesting that these things probably won’t give you the answers that you seek. It’s a beguiling masterwork that resists category, and long after it’s over, the embers will linger in the mind. !

Kambole Campbell


Beautiful Boy dir: Felix van Groenigen Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Steve Carell, Maura Tierney Most addiction movies follow the same format: fall, nadir and redemption. There’s little room for nuance and the rigid narrative rarely reflects real life. “Relapse is a part of recovery”, we’re told in Beautiful Boy, and the heartbreaking tale of a family broken by drug abuse is a fresh take on a tired genre. Based on the best-selling memoirs of journalist David Sheff and his son Nic, Beautiful Boy recounts the latter’s descent into drug addiction and his father’s desperate (yet fruitless) attempts to intervene. Ultimately, only Nic can decide if he wants to get clean – and even then it’s unlikely to be forever. His illness isn’t something he can control and eventually, David is forced to confront his greatest fear – that he is unable to help. Brutal and tender, director Felix van Groenigen has crafted an affecting portrait of parenthood for his English language debut. Two strong leads anchor the film and awards buzz is already growing around Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. Narratively, Beautiful Boy sometimes stumbles: Nic is a walking cliché, frequent time-jumps grow confusing and the women in his life are somewhat ignored. At two hours, Beautiful Boy is slightly overwhelming. Not because it grows tiresome, but because 120 minutes is far too long a cry for anyone. When Carell and Chalamet go head-tohead, the results are distressing in the extreme. As a Hollywood tearjerker, this deserves its place in the pantheon of cinematic weepies alongside Requiem for a Dream, Brokeback Mountain and Stepmom (seriously). But what Beautiful Boy doesn’t do, thankfully, is reduce a serious subject to popcorn fodder. !


Thomas Hobbs

Colette dir: Wash Westmoreland Starring: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw It’s been 17 years since Bend It Like Beckham turned Keira Knightley into a minor lesbian icon. An ice age in dyke years. Then, female queerness was verboten at the mainstream box office, and a straight romantic interest was an act three necessity. Now, we’re living through an era of abundance with Lizzie, The Favourite and now Colette all opening within weeks of each other. The latter, a biopic of French author SidonieGabrielle Colette starring Knightley is perhaps the least exciting on paper. A literary period drama set in Belle Époque Paris, well, it’s hardly the court of Queen Anne is it? But directed by Wash Westmoreland (best known for Still Alice, but worth noting he cut his teeth in queer porn and cult cinema), Colette is much more than the sum of its William Morris prints. The story opens with Colette recently married to intellectual Willy and transferred from the country into the salons on Paris. Willy (a charismatic Dominic West) is a self-styled literary entrepreneur, putting his name to reviews and novels written by a stable of put upon freelancers. Soon, his lavish lifestyle outstrips his output, and Colette is grafted in to his proto-content agency. Filling cahiers after cahiers with what will become the blockbusting Claudine series, she powers him to literary superstardom. Knightley brings a robust, naturalistic energy to the role of Colette. The film’s second half is given over to exploring her sexuality – and agency – buoyed by the queer-adjacent bohemian circles she moves in. When she falls in love with Missy, a butch Marquise (Denise Gough) – who, in a truly revolutionary step for cinema, is neither tragic nor killed off – the film addresses queer desire in a way that feels real. But Colette delights in other ways – employing trans actors to play cis characters and portrayals of dyke sex that evade the prurient and cringe. Ultimately, for all the lavish costumes and theatre, Westmoreland makes light work of scrutinising intersections of identity and relationships. An unexpected joy. !

Louise Brailey

Alex Flood


Burning dir: Lee Chang-dong Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo

Barry Jenkins has strengthened his position as one of Hollywood’s most promising filmmakers with If Beale Street Could Talk, his follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight and a seismic cinematic achievement that powerfully captures how America invalidates black people. An adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, Jenkins, aided by Nicholas Britell’s beautiful yet haunting score, captures the legendary author’s penchant for routinely shifting between tenderness and bitter anger. In a film built around a tragic romance in the early 70s, a man from Harlem, Fonny (Stephan James), is imprisoned for a crime he insists he never committed, as pregnant girlfriend Tish (KiKi Layne) does everything in her power to fight a conviction weighted on racism. Sometimes this couple’s mournful glances can get a little too heavy, but thankfully the film is able to shake things up with its uniquely dark comedic energy. This is most evident during an early, infinitely quotable, party scene where Tish and Fonny’s families venomously argue after finding out the former is pregnant. There’s a feeling of hopelessness that punctuates If Beale Street Could Talk, a sense that America, no matter the era, will do everything in its power to weaken black love and freedom. Although it’s only a small part, the nightmarish pain in the eyes of Daniel (played by Brian Tyree Henry, who you’ll recognise as Paper Boi from TV’s Atlanta), a friend of Fonny’s who has already endured the horrors of prison, will stay with you long after the picture ends. “This country doesn’t like niggers,” he says, soberly.


“Advice on self-sabotage and finessing the life-club balance from the member of NYC’s Discwoman collective."




Design : CokeOak

Dear Frankie,

Dear Frankie,

Hi Frankie,

I’m really into partying and nightlife and I like to go pretty hard to be honest. But as I get older, I’ve started to hate the aftermath – after a big weekend, I won’t feel 100% for days afterwards. I’m still in love with music (house and techno mainly) but I need to tone it down a bit with drugs and that sort of thing. Do you have any advice for someone wanting to keep connected to the music but who needs to rein it in a bit?

I put a lot of pressure on myself. I know I'm doing pretty well in my career for my age (I'm 27), I have a fun social life when I really put myself out there and I'm living in a city I love. But I constantly think I could be doing more - that the work I'm doing is mediocre, that I'm letting myself and others down, that I should have more fun, more friends, more sex, whatever. How I can stop comparing myself to others and try to combat this self-doubt?

I don't believe in the corporate institution of Valentine's Day, but want to do something nice for myself anyway. Any hot tips for an alternative Valentine's Day?

Charlie, South London

Anonymous, Berlin

Pretty sure everyone comes to this point in their raving careers. It’s still something I grapple with and work hard to fight against. I’m also very open when it comes to talking about it, as I think as soon as you start to hide your drugs and alcohol consumption it can become more of a problem. Everyone is so different when it comes to these things, so there’s no one size fits all answer. I think if you are finding it’s hindering your daily life, then I’d seek help even as small as talking to a friend about it. I personally put parameters in my life so I’m not tempted, like I book therapy appointments at 8am so I don’t go out the night before. I sign up for overpriced boxing classes so I’m forced to go there and won't go out before. The money you spend on partying is insane and when you start thinking about how that could go into other things better for you, it makes a little more sense. But like I said it’s hard to say that my methods work for everyone. If you’re really struggling absolutely seek professional help. There’s no shame in that. This shit can be fatal.

Looking for wisdom on sex, politics, techno and reality TV? Ask Frankie at

This is huge. I think it’s common downfall for a lot of artists to compare themselves to others. I mean how can you not? It’s highly competitive and can make one rear a very ugly head. I have also found myself comparing myself to others, we’re human beings. But the challenge is not letting that thought become dominant because it will eat you alive thus your art becomes secondary to self-doubt and then nothing happens at all. Then you become depressed. I think everyone has the feeling of needing to do more and it fucking sucks. I constantly feel like I’m letting people down and not doing enough or people hate me, lol. It’s completely irrational and I often feel like I’m falling apart but there’s very little space for me to fall apart as there are so many people dependent on my work so it’s a lot of pressure. However I try and remind myself how blessed I am to do what I do, and that’s a huge part of it. It’s definitely a privilege to be able to make art as a job so treat it that way. Remember how much you love the work and it can feel less like work and less like pressure and more like love.

Sasha, San Francisco I have been single every single Valentine’s for my whole life (that’s 31 years) lmao so I know what it feels like to not believe in this day. It’s exceptionally corny but I don’t think love is. However the day is built on the backs of single people feeling bad about themselves, it fucking sucks so don’t pay it any attention whatsoever. Dear Frankie, A few of my close friends have recently moved abroad and I don’t have the money to visit them any time soon. What are your tips for maintaining friendships long distance? Megan, Bristol Lol as someone who is about to enter a long distance relationship, I’m looking for the answer to this myself. However my very best friend lives in London and if we’re lucky we can see each other once a year, we call at least once a week. I think if your bond is deep enough, no amount of time can change the friendship so I don’t think there’s a need to put so much pressure on it. That shit never dies. Just do the best you can. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to control something that you can’t really control.


HEALTH - EST. 1983 -

For a band so adept at making a racket, Los Angeles-based noise trio HEALTH are especially skilled in retreating back from the spotlight. With the arrival of 2015’s full-length Death Magic, their first studio output in nearly six years, the band cemented themselves as one of the most radical experimental bands coming out of the West Coast. Then they went silent again. Now, four years later, they’re back with new album VOL 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, a wall of artfully crafted sound. With each raw synth, distorted vocal and stammering beat, singer Jake Duzsik’s ruminates on the hellscape we call modern life. Here, we speak to Duzsik about his own.

Words: Rachel Grace Almeida

How would your friends describe you in three words? Persona non grata. They wouldn't say that but it's the best three-word phrase I could think of. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Don't eat yellow snow. My dad has literally been telling me that since I was a kid. What annoys you the most? Awkwardly carrying things… that and eternal cosmic meaninglessness in the face of certain death. What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen online? A video of a drunk guy in a shithole motel room impulsively decides to do a pirouette and it ends incredibly poorly for him. It just keeps on giving. Perhaps I lack empathy, but whenever I feel low, YouTube videos of idiots hurting themselves always buoy my spirits. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Trite as it may be, I have to say first guitar. What’s your earliest childhood memory? Walking into my living room to let someone know I had just shit my pants.

What’s your worst habit? Easily losing my temper. Fucking useless. Is there a particular movement inspiring you right now? 90s revival. I can't help it, I grew up in the 90s. The best thing about the Internet. The endless store of worldly knowledge and enlightenment at your fingertips. The worst thing about the internet. Doing nothing with the endless store of worldly knowledge and enlightenment other than posting photos of your stupid face. What’s the weirdest thing someone has caught you doing? Nothing that wacky. Probably jerking off, something along those lines. What would you want written on your tombstone? Shit, I can't think of anything clever enough. But I do think I'd want them to play The Simpsons theme song at the funeral. Which city do you have a unique connection to? Seattle, Washington. I hate the weather, but I grew up there, made all my memories.

Tell us about the happiest day of your life. First time we played Primavera festival. The whole experience was magical.

Favourite conspiracy theory of all time? That Stanley Kubrick shot the fake moon landing. I don't believe it but it's amusing.

Favourite meme? Where will you be when diarrhoea hits.

What has shocked you the most this year? The recent longest government shutdown in US history over a ridiculous and grotesque border wall.

What makes you feel nostalgic? On a pragmatic level, I find nostalgia to be unpleasant and useless, so I try to avoid it. But underground music from the mid-00s really gets me. It represents such a formative time in my life. What’s the weirdest party you’ve ever been to? I somehow found myself at a brunch where the majority of the people there were rocket scientists and astrophysicists at the Jet Propulsion Lab. I felt like a caveman so I drank a lot of beer.

Heavy Metal or EDM? Heavy metal. No question. VOL 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR is released on 8 February via Loma Vista Records


I remember a lot of things that make me feel properly old. I remember watching my mum sprawled on the stairs, gossiping with people on the house phone, twisting the cord around her fingers. I remember knocking on friends’ front doors to see if they were home and wanted to hang out (and leaving a note if they weren’t). I remember Limewire. My Walkman. The Frosties advert. The Tracy Beaker theme tune. MSN. Oh, and I remember mixtapes. I especially remember mixtapes. Probably because they never went away – not really. Not for me, at least. The process of making a mixtape for someone isn’t really to introduce them to new music. When I was a teenager, I would burn tracks onto disc for friends

who I thought might enjoy Courtney Love or Bikini Kill – or at least might want to listen to them in the car. These days though, you’d just send someone a link if you felt like sharing some songs. I have a friend who always WhatsApps me Spotify links, and that’s our only online interaction. There’s a warmth to that, too, but mixtapes are something else entirely.

know when to stay in”. So I decided to make two tapes for someone – one for going out, one for staying in. The ‘going out’ one was red and glittery, full of party tunes, each of them scrawled on the inner sleeve in biro. The ‘staying in’ one was blue and bleak. I filled it with Neil Young and Lana Del Rey, maybe some Yazoo. Both of them took a whole evening to make. I didn’t mind.

Making a mixtape for someone is to show a person you like them so much that you want to make them an object. You want to put your time and energy into curating something. Mixtapes are time capsules. They are emblems, and they are tokens. When you give someone a mixtape, what you’re really saying is: “here, have a bit of me to keep.” People come and go in our lives all the time, but if you give them a mixtape, they might find it in 15 years, gathering dust in one of their drawers, barely held together. Then they’ll see your handwriting. They’ll remember the songs you both liked in 2019, or 2005, or 1982, and they’ll remember the times you spent together – a private moment of intimacy.

I’ve never received a mixtape myself. This either says something about me, or the company I keep. Maybe I’m more romantic than other people. Maybe someone out there has made me a mixtape, but they’re too shy to hand it over. Or maybe it’s just too much effort these days. We’re used to life moving very quickly, and to make a mixtape you need a CD player with an in-built cassette. You need blank tapes, which require trawling the streets or Amazon (who has the time?). You need a whole evening to yourself. You need staying power. But this is also what makes mixtapes so special, that make them an entity unto themselves, or as something that expresses love, affection and confidentiality.

The last mixtape I made was at Christmas. Have you heard that David Bowie song Modern Love? At the beginning he says, “I know when to go out/ I

So if anyone’s reading this – and you’re not a creepy stalker who I do not want to hear from – please feel free to make me a mixtape. I like mid-90s grunge. I like 80s film soundtracks. I like German electronic music. I like Shania Twain. And I love mixtapes. I love what they are, what they’ve come to represent, and I love why we keep returning to them, after all these years.

Words: Daisy Jones Illustration: Jimmy Hay

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