Anna Meredith, Sassy 009, Danny Brown, Spencer., WaqWaq Kingdom, KEYAH/BLU, Spike Fuck, Ergo Phizmiz, The forgotten music history of the 2010s
JPEGMAFIA Itâ€™s hot in Baltimore
THE NEW ALBUM - OUT NOW TUESDAY 19th NOVEMBER LONDON MOTH CLUB
SATURDAY 23rd NOVEMBER LIVERPOOL STUDIO 2
WEDNESDAY 20th NOVEMBER BRIGHTON KOMEDIA
TUESDAY 26th NOVEMBER EDINBURGH THE CAVES
THURSDAY 21st NOVEMBER MANCHESTER RNCM CONCERT HALL
WEDNESDAY 27th NOVEMBER GLASGOW CCA
FRIDAY 22nd NOVEMBER LEEDS BELGRAVE MUSIC HALL
FRIDAY 13th DECEMBER NEWCASTLE SAGE GATESHEAD
SATURDAY 28th MARCH DELIGHT IS RIGHT LONDON BARBICAN
Contents Contact email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Loud And Quiet Ltd PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Founding Editor: Stuart Stubbs Art Direction: B.A.M. Digital Director: Greg Cochrane Sub Editor: Alexandra Wilshire Contributing writers Abi Crawford, Al Mills, Alex Francis, Alexander Smail, Colin Gannon, Colin Groundwater, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Dominic Haley, Fergal Kinney, Gemma Samways, Guia Cortassa, Hayley Scott, Ian Roebuck, Jamie Haworth, Joe Goggins, Katie Beswick, Katie Cutforth, Liam Konemann, Lisa Busby, Luke Cartledge, Max Pilley, Megan Wallace, Ollie Rankine, Rosie Ramsden, Reef Younis, Susan Darlington, Sam Reid, Sam Walton, Tom Critten, Tristan Gatward, Woody Delaney. Contributing photographers Andrew Mangum, Charlotte Patmore, Colin Medley, Dave Kasnic, David Cortes, Dan Kendall, Dustin Condren, Gabriel Green, Gem Harris, Heather Mccutcheon, Jenna Foxton, Jody Evans, Jonangelo Molinari, Levi Mandel, Matilda Hill-Jenkins, Nathanael Turner, Nathaniel Wood, Phil Sharp, Sonny McCartney, Sophie Barloc, Timothy Cochrane, Tom Porter.
“At this point I feel like I’ve built my own universe,” says Danny Brown in this issue. “I can only work with people who can work in Danny Brown’s universe.” People like JPEGMAFIA, who features on Brown’s latest album, uknowhatimsayin¿. While Brown has recently returned to a more direct kind of hip-hop, though, ‘Peggy’ is throwing the kitchen sink at his own, splurging all of his experimental noise influences across All My Heroes Are Cornballs – a keep-up-if-you-can collage of sound whose density should make its coherence impossible rather than unexpected, and its ability to carry themes of politics, gender and modern fame completely off the table. Katie Beswick flew to Baltimore to meet a man becoming a cornball himself. Stuart Stubbs
With special thanks to Annette Lee, Ben Harris, Dan Carson, James Cunningham, Ken Li, Keong Woo, Lottie Depresstival Bowater, Tommy Hudson.
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2019 Loud And Quiet Ltd.
ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Gemini Print Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte
Spencer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Sassy 009 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 KEYAH/BLU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Spike Fuck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 WaqWaq Kingdom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 JPEGMAFIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Ergo Phizmiz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Danny Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 The Forgotten History of the 2010s . . 62 03
ALARM WILL SOUND & DONNACHA DENNEHY THE HUNGER
OUT NOW ON NONESUCH RECORDS
DEVENDRA BANHART MA
THE BLACK KEYS “LET’S ROCK”
DAVID BYRNE AMERICAN UTOPIA ON BROADWAY
RHIANNON GIDDENS WITH FRANCESCO TURRISI THERE IS NO OTHER
KRONOS QUARTET TERRY RILEY: SUN RINGS
BRAD MEHLDAU FINDING GABRIEL
GABY MORENO & VAN DYKE PARKS ¡SPANGLED!
MANDY PATINKIN CHILDREN AND ART
RACHAEL & VILRAY RACHAEL & VILRAY
JOSHUA REDMAN & BROOKLYN RIDER SUN ON SAND
CAROLINE SHAW & ATTACCA QUARTET ORANGE
YOLA WALK THROUGH FIRE
Leonard Cohen obsessives Assemble At the times I think I find pop fandoms most uncomfortable, I realise I’m probably going to name my first child Leonard Cohen. He once said that if your life is burning well then poetry is just the ash. But here I am, 24-years-old and about to board the Thursday morning flight to Dublin, having booked off my last remaining holiday from work for the sole purpose of celebrating what would have been his 85th birthday with some strangers that I met through his Facebook page. I wonder how Leonard Cohen would describe that ash. He’s not the natural poster boy for a posthumous cult of any sort. The modern-day musician is meant to be a living and breathing canvas for your own self-projections; here’s the clothing line and that’s what they smell like. As for Leonard, when the world asked for another studio album, he quietly vanished to the Californian hills and became a monk. Middle-class literary students couldn’t renegotiate their social status by studying him as they could the down-and-out Beats; Leonard Cohen was as middle-class as they came. Sure, he wrote about alcohol, but he combed his hair and got on well with his mother. Despite dropping a poem-come-diss track from the grave last year shunning endorsement culture (“I am the Kanye West of Kanye West, the Kanye West of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture from one boutique to another”), one small step onto Irish ground is one giant leap into a who’s who of the Fedora trade. Jill is the first person I see, a 70-something-year-old powerhouse of a woman from Cornwall, who runs one of the more tentatively titled Facebook pages, called “I need a regular dose of Leonard Cohen” (or “regular dose” for short). Hers is the task of coordinating 120 Cohenites from across the globe, at the envy of every non-retired CV. She’s just cracked a rib, dropping a 20kg suitcase full of Cohen memorabilia mid-flight from Newquay, but who needs medicine when you have the natural remedies of a fine hat and an Old Ideas European Tour t-shirt from 2013? Thursday night in the Red Room of Dublin’s House Hotel, a Sligo-based musician called Jerome performs covers of Cohen songs, joined by friends further down the whiskey line. A plumper, more Irish man called Paddy forgets the second verse of ‘Anthem’ while a buoyantly swaying crowd fills in the gaps like a dirge of ‘Happy Birthday’. It’s not all bath tubs and razor blades. In fact, most Cohen fans will rightly tell you it was never that at all. Listening to his music has always been a solitary pursuit, reimbursed by the fleeting experience of someone else laughing to the punchline that everyone thinks is about suicide. And maybe because no one you meet is ‘almost’ a Leonard Cohen fan, there’s some boundless joy in the way that two strangers here will greet each other. From Montreal, there’s the self-named Sisters of Mercy contingent – three women reeling off one line after the other. Between Jerome’s songs, a Norwegian writer called Jorunn reads from pamphlets of poetry she’d penned in response to Leonard’s
words by tristan gatward. illustration by kate prior
work, looking and sounding more like Cohen’s muse Marianne with each line. There are British expats who followed Leonard’s lead a retirement-age too late, resigned to spending their years on remote Greek islands without electricity. Even the guitarist of Just Mustard’s Dad is leaning against one of the pillars, surprised that I’ve heard of his son, or a place called Dundalk. There are other Irish musicians, jet-lagged American academics, an older, drunker man in a kilt who will tell anyone that listens that Leonard was actually a Scot in a suit, and not from Canada after all. On the River Liffey the next morning, a tour guide assures us that we’re not the weirdest group he’d had on the boat this week, carefully dismantling the portside crucifix for a Philippino Catholics Day of Celebration. Watching 120 people in fedoras single-file back out from the riverbank and onto the terraced walkway, though, you’d question that. On Saturday evening, we make our way to Dublin’s National Concert Hall for Between Your Love and Mine, a requiem by John MacKenna, reimagining some of Leonard’s final music and poetry. The stage is aptly sparse: a lectern draped in blue cloth depicting a Unified Heart, and next to it a big wooden table. Leonard’s own musicality was always underplayed (“people said that I only knew three chords when I knew five”), and there’s something church-like about hearing these songs played without the gravelly anti-melody that came from Leonard taking up cigarettes again aged 80. The violin and drum parts moved so deftly together that his strangely inclusive spirituality – being a Christian, a Buddhist and a Jew – became aligned (although maybe that was a result of the Red Needle, a cocktail he invented in 1975 of tequila, crushed ice and cranberry juice, that was in heavy supply back at the Hotel). Wandering back, disorientated through the streets of Dublin, was the first chance I had to listen to ‘The Goal’, a new song Leonard was working on before his death, to be released posthumously by his son in collaboration with the 37d03d collective. The most anointed lyric on somebody else’s tongue – “I’m almost alive, I’m almost at home” – feels so direct and wrapped in sincerity. Unlike a lot of the group I’ve just left, I never met Leonard Cohen, but right now, it feels like he’s reaching out of my headphones and telling me to stop feeling sad that he’s gone, to charge my phone and get some sleep.
Abolishing Eton could unlock our cultural potential At this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton several motions were passed to build the most radical policy platform I can remember from a serious British party. From the essential Green New Deal to bold plans to move towards a far more progressive, humanitarian approach to migration, the raft of policies to emerge from the conference represents a vision for a genuinely different society. Yet for all the transformative potential of these ideas, there was one policy proposal, green-lit by Labour delegates, that’s caused quite a stir among the British media: the Abolish Eton campaign, or the motion to rid Britain of private schools. The figures speak for themselves: as the motion notes, “only 7% of UK students attend private schools, yet the Sutton Trust 2019 report revealed that 65% of senior judges, 52% of junior ministers, 44% of news columnists and 16% of university vice-chancellors were educated in private schools”. And in a society that has allowed the ultra-privileged to portray themselves as somehow antielite scourges of the establishment – Farage (Dulwich College!); Johnson (Eton!) – even our unusually deferent population thinks there’s something amiss, with 63% of people agreeing that “it is unfair that some people get a better education and life chances for their children by paying for a private school”. Removing the charitable status and redistributing the privileges of private schools (read that again – this is hardly the language of some Maoist plan for forcible collectivisation) is clearly and unambiguously a positive step towards dismantling the class infrastructure that supports the ever-deepening, cross-generational divides between the mega-rich and everyone else in this country. The part-hilarious, part-offensive moral and intellectual gymnastics in which the headmaster of Rugby School was forced to engage is proof enough of this (as reported by The Independent last month, he warned “We would have a Margaret Thatcher mining crisis in so many areas of the UK if they decided to get rid of us,” going on to say an “attack on excellence” was not the solution, and defending the £36,000-per-year school by saying that they have employed local building firms to build new buildings in the past). That’s not to say, however, that it won’t raise questions about which we need to think carefully: most relevantly for readers of L&Q, what has all this got to do with music? Depressingly, many of our most successful musicians – commercially, if not critically or, well, musically – are drawn from the same elite as the aforementioned judges, ministers, and journalists (how surprising that half the British media were up in arms
about their old schools being integrated with the rest of us shitkickers). The examples are obvious and legion: arguably the two most globally ubiquitous British bands of this millennium, Coldplay and Mumford and Sons, are made up of former public schoolboys; most of the latter’s late-’00s indie peers were also privately educated, including The Maccabees, The Horrors, Florence Welch, Bombay Bicycle Club, Yuck, Foals, Laura Marling, and others. The way that class and education are tastefully omitted from most conversations about such acts is striking, considering the nakedly classist media treatment of their more resolutely working-class musical contemporaries – see the demonization of grime and trap, or, for a more aesthetically similar comparison, the routine ridicule of indie bands from beyond the bubble of Greater London independent schools who broke through at approximately the same time. I’m no fan of Kasabian, The Pigeon Detectives or The Enemy, but are they really any worse than the (admittedly uncool, but hardly comparably reviled) likes of fucking Mumford and Sons? I’m not so sure. A decade of Conservative austerity – not to mention New Labour’s downright gleeful attitude to the privatisation of public services – has left arts education in the state sector in ill health. This isn’t news – under an education system that is predicated on exam results and hard finance, the somewhat more abstract, long-term benefits of children’s access to the arts are easily dismissed by a post-Gove Department for Education. The disproportionate effect this has on poorer kids, unable to pay for guitar lessons, never mind private schooling, is also pretty obvious. A recent quip from Alexei springs to mind: “austerity is the idea that the global financial crash of 2008 was caused by there being too many libraries in Wolverhampton”. The integration of private schools into the public sector won’t automatically solve these problems, nor will it come unencumbered by issues of its own, but it’s a radical step in the direction of a more egalitarian Britain, and the possibilities this implies for our music and art are significant. Imagine a country whose first public reaction to the music of working-class, multiracial artists is not pearl-clutching hysteria (invariably shadowed by a far less hostile view of the deeply problematic excesses of white, middle/upper-class cultural icons), but a recognition of the innovation and ingenuity of our blossoming underground. A country in which everyone has the same access to arts education, allowing for a true diversity of artistic voices, can only be culturally richer: mathematically as much as ideologically, this seems self-evident.
words by luke cartledge. illustration by kate prior
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Sweet 16: Anna Meredith and her band T-shirt bluff of 1994
In 1994 I was doing an odd mix of trying desperately hard to be cool and do the things that I thought teenagers should be doing, and really loving nothing more than playing in about a million different youth orchestras and wind bands, all the time. Every night after school I would go off and do some geeky orchestra. I’m the oldest in my family, so I didn’t have a way into music from an older brother or sister, but I have one very cool school friend called Sarah Robertson who had a 9-foot stack of Melody Makers, so we’d all hop onto the back of what she was into. She had an undercut and piercings, and we all had giant Docs with our names Tippex’d on the side. I had a massive A on one and an M on the other – I thought it was pretty cool, although I had white laces, which I later found out was a Nazi thing, which was unfortunate. In my orchestra world we were in the stage of everything having to be a bit dirty. So I remember that the guy I lusted after a lot in wind band, who had long, curly hair and a million friendship bracelets up his arm, once saying to me, “yeah, I can’t wear any of my clothes clean, so as soon as my mum washes them I’m out in the garden rubbing them with dirt.” And I was like, “oh yeah, man, totally” – be still my beating heart. We went to a lot of gigs but most of the time I didn’t know any of the music. The very first gig that I went to was the Velvet
Underground, but the caveats on that are: I hadn’t heard of the Velvet Underground; and then we got there, to the Edinburgh Playhouse, wearing our best Docs and flowery skirts and band T-shirts, and we’re watching the band thinking why isn’t anyone here? Everyone was outside drinking – I thought that must be what you do at a gig. We were ready to go – “that was so great; they were so good” – and it turned out that that was the support act. I had no idea there was such a thing as a support act. I also went to a lot of Blur shows, and Teenage Fanclub, and the Posies, Pulp – all that stuff. I enjoyed it without knowing the songs, but I’ve always been a bit of a wuss, so I’d be there worried about getting home on time. There was a kind of kudos if you pretended to find a band that could be yours, and my band was Throwing Muses. And also Dinosaur Jr, which you can see in this photo, which was taken at Euro Disney when I was there with the National Wind Band of Scotland. We played to precisely nobody, but I was wearing my brand new Dinosaur Jr T-shirt – I had heard none of their music, but I loved the cow. I know lots of composer friends who were writing little pieces when they were six. That wasn’t me. The first piece I wrote was for my GCSE equivalent, on one of those single-finger keyboards. You had to headbutt the keyboard to change the sounds because there was no spare hand. But I didn’t want to be a composer; I probably thought I might be a clarinetist or maybe do creative writing. My status at school was not high – I was much mocked, and so geeky. By sixteen I’ve got a few of the trappings, but a couple of years before that we’re talking big plaits, giant badge of a clarinet, and a huge rabbit scarf. This is at a school where everyone else has a perm. And that might sound quite cutesy and About A Boy, but it was quite a hardcore comp, and we were locked in for the day. People would throw coins at my head. And what was even worse was there was another girl who was referred to as a hotter version of me. People would say, “if you don’t do that I’ll tell people you fancy Anna Meredith”. It was horrible, but I don’t really blame anyone – looking back at myself, I think, God, what an annoying little shit; you’re trying so hard. I remember trying to gain some extreme kudos, because my dad is Canadian and we went to see my Canadian cousins, and I told them how much I loved Bill & Ted, and one of them was like, “Oh, I went to school with Keanu Reeves,” and I thought, this is my in with the heavy crew, as we called them at the time. So she photocopied me a page of her yearbook which had a photo of him on it, and I took this thing back thinking it was my way in, and it was the most unfortunate thing that a Dairylea Triangle squished onto Keanu Reeves’ face, and then I tried to fill it in with felt-tip, and nobody would believe me. It was this awful, cheesy disaster.
as told to stuart stubbs
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“Genre-hopping French star’s energetic return”
“There are tracks here that demand attention.”
LOUD AND QUIET
Whenever my mum makes me take a bath I make damn sure I use Bingo Records.
Van TV and its college dropout star, by Tristan Gatward Photography by Nathanael Turner 10
You know the introduction: now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. Remove the banana stand from every episode of Arrested Development and add in a transit van trailing across the United States. Remove the disgraced Bluth family and add in a guitarist named Kyle who refuses to take off his neck pillow until Spencer Allan, musician and star of the show, pretends to strangle him. Remove the surreal narrative that ends up discernibly paralleling modern politics, and add in the same guy in a neck pillow exclaiming he is only allergic to baloney and “all of this stress”, as he shoves the final mouthful of a three-meat sandwich into his mouth, lying horizontally across the back seats of the van. This is the pilot episode of Van TV, and like any good reality television show, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. It’s the first in a series that the latest addition to 4AD’s roster, Spencer., has pioneered from the slow-paced days that punctuate life on the road. The first big plot twist to the action comes when Kyle, neck pillow around his neck, slowly walks in front of the television propped up on the backseat, where the rest of the band are playing video games. “Why did he do that?” read the subtitles, correcting the former image of a group of friends that all got along with each other. The deafening silence is finally broken when they drive past a huge truck and become starstruck by the size of the vehicle’s tires. “It was just this really dumb idea we had, to make a reality TV show based on what went on in our tour van. It’s a lot of improv. It’s kinda funny,” laughs Spencer, aware that he’s released as many episodes of this soft-hitting new drama as he has songs on his new label. It’s broadcast on the yet-to-reallytake-off IGTV, and maybe this could be what the platform’s needed. Gracefully somersaulting himself from the backseat to have a serious chat with the driver, Spencer’s sincere expression is a constant ‘pleading face’ emoji, staring at a miniature puppet of Beaker from the Muppets, that occasionally makes its way into the camera shot. “You didn’t really need to bring up the tires, you know we’re all upset about the tires.” — Gus and Spencer — There are no such distractions this afternoon, despite the long drive they’re making from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It does give way to them bathing in precision, though. A simple question of how far through this tour they are leads to a panicked shuffling of papers within the van as the band count through the tour dates one-by-one. They are eight days in, supporting Gus Dapperton, one of the most exciting acts in a new DIY dream-wave of indie music. Gus’s own career is exceptionally visual, and his fan base emphatic. In one song he’s
played to both the meme generation and their digital dissatisfaction, comparing the breakdown of his former relationship to going out for a meal with someone who just wants a snack. It’s called ‘I’m Just Snacking’. “A lot of Gus’s fans are really open minded to our music,” says Spencer, excited by the reception he’s receiving as the support act on the road. “They definitely pay attention to the opener – they’re really appreciative. You kind of expect now that a lot of people go to shows and miss out on the opener, and that’s just how it is. But for us, we’re really lucky with Gus’s crowd, they’re super open to wanting to watch us and they’ve started feeling like our own fans pretty quickly.” There aren’t any murmurs from the van, which seems to give him a nervous confidence to continue. “It’s been really great actually, like the bands all get along. I’m getting more comfortable performing each night too.” It comes back to this seemingly unimportant Van TV, yet again. Gus and Spencer seem to have formed a friendship that fans can invest in on the social sphere, whether it’s cosigning each other’s merchandise table, or making a cameo in each other’s live sets as hype men-come-limp figures for the other to throw into the crowd. It’s not so much a stage dive, as it looks like one man getting rid of a dead body. “Anyway buy tickets so I can hopefully land on You,” tweets Spencer to promote the next show. Their friendship was formed digitally, when Spencer moved to New York City at the close of 2018. “Gus was already living there and I saw he posted on his story about an art gallery event or something, and I was like, ‘oh this could be a good opportunity to meet him.’” He ended up playing him his music and they both started hanging out. “We’d go out a lot of the time on weekends with each other and eventually became friends.” I ask which show has been the standout so far, and quick as a flash he says: “Portland. Portland’s been the best so far. Portland was awesome. So was Chicago, so was Seattle. All those were the biggest shows. And I’m very excited for LA.” You realise quickly that all of this is still very new for Spencer, and it’s all a little far removed from where he grew up in Rochester, New York State. “Yeah, that’s a huge impression people have. Like, when you say you’re from New York, people think New York City. Rochester’s like a four hour drive up North from there. There’s a small city but it’s much more suburban. It’s not as connected. I grew up in the suburbs – there’s definitely a music scene but it’s low-key. “Rochester has a lot of pride in its arts,” he adds, talking me through the Eastman School of Music, the Institute of Technology that places a lot of weight on art, film and photography, and the jazz band that he played trumpet in through college. “There’s this huge appreciation for art and culture everywhere there, but it’s weird, there’s just not a lot going on.”
“A lot of my taste is from the internet, and the people I look up to now are just as old as me”
— The college dropout — It was only almost exactly a year ago that Spencer told his parents he was dropping out of college to give music a try. “It was very like, I mean, they were definitely thrown off by it. I intentionally botched my lessons because I was worried my parents would send me back regardless. They gave me like a year’s time, and said if it doesn’t work out within this year then you’ve got to go back. In that final year I really didn’t do a lot of work; I was focusing on making music and what my next steps were in terms of the career I wanted to have. In class I’d always just be writing down what I wanted my stage setup to be for shows, my goals for that year and whatever. It was always kind of what it was about.” His first single ‘Automatic’, from a new EP scheduled for early next year, has only been out for a couple of weeks at the time of writing, but it’s already clocked up a few hundred thousand streams. You can’t see the invisible hand beckoning him back to economics class soon. It’s built around a propulsive drum loop that makes Spencer’s melancholic lyrics on unrequited love sound straight out of Steve Lacy’s Apollo. “I think it’s only the second song I’ve ever collaborated with someone on,” he says, talking again about how the opportunity stemmed from an Instagram DM. “The internet is just a
tool, man. A couple of weeks after I met Gus, these guys Beshken and José Benjamin Escobar asked if I was interested in coming to New York City. I got lost in the day and we had to reschedule. It got to about 9pm and yeah, I just walked in and they already had shit going on. I really fuck with those guys. They had this drum loop that they were playing and we just started messing around with it. From that day I had the sample of ‘Automatic’, and then in July I went to LA and re-recorded it. “Playing live has always been my favourite part of it, though. I’d always see my idles playing these really big rooms and becoming friends with each other and collaborating. I just want to be in the same space as people, that was my idea of success,” he says, telling me what would have stopped him returning to school. Cosigns from Brockhampton and Omar Apollo followed his breakout song ‘Want U Back’, self-written, recorded and produced, transformed live by the four-piece band that shatters any image of the solitary bedroom Soundcloud artist as just one person and their Macbook. Spencer’s recruited a whole hostel full of bedrooms. For a second he speaks very resolutely, still not breaking the laid-back voice at the end of the phone. “In my strategy to make a music career I was looking at Steve Lacy and Omar and seeing how they were interacting with fans online. It’s some sort of formula, I don’t know. When I was younger I was listening to a lot of older records, like Erykah Badu and Maxwell, and my dad put me onto a lot of RnB and gospel at a really young age. It was mostly about talent then, I guess. Now it’s kinda different. A lot of my taste is from the internet, and the people I look up to now are just as old as me.” The great instant gratification salvo of internet culture can be a burden to a young musician, but Spencer is enjoying it. “In a way I think you can control how much you want to give away to other people. I can see it being intrusive if you’re Billie Eilish, you know, and people are seeking out details. But I feel like for the most part I have control over what they’re putting out. It’s fun, man.” We end the conversation, coming back again to Van TV one last time. This is what he’s choosing to give us just now: a rolling credits scene where each band member has the word “van” in their name (Dick Van Dyke), and a “thanks” to Michael Cera for the music.
NEW RELEASES OUT NOW
HEADLAND ‘What Rough Beast’
NOLAN POTTER’S NIGHTMARE BAND ‘Nightmare Forever’ Castle Face LP/CD For fans of Embryo, the Mothers, Pink Floyd, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Moody Blues, the Stark Reality, and Placebo. They’re from Austin, Texas, but you’d swear it’s from 1972 Europa-Mothership.
Erased Tapes CD / 3 x 12” “Frahm’s calling card has always been his mastery of subtlety and, whether he intended it or otherwise, Encores 1, 2 & 3 tessellate impressively neatly. All Encores demands to be heard in its entirety; this is no companion piece, but a thoughtful progression all its own.” – Loud & Quiet
Erased Tapes CD/LP Berlin based cellist and composer Anne Müller, announces the release of her long awaited debut solo album. A solo record in every sense of the word, Müller wrote, recorded, arranged and produced Heliopause. The album is named after the boundary where the sun’s wind ceases to have influence. It is ultimately, the border of our solar system.
VARIOUS ‘Crumb: OST’
SABA LOU ‘Novum Ovum’
JONATHAN FIRE*EATER ‘Tremble Under Boom Lights’
BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT ‘Veils of Winter’
In a world chock full of flame-outs, coulda-been contenders and great white hopes, the band Jonathan Fire*Eater are among the “almost-est.” Widely praised as the mid-Nineties next-big-thing, they are largely credited with being the earliest purveyors of the “New York City Rock and Roll Revival” circa 2001. Which would be great, if only the band hadn’t imploded by 1998. First reissue since original ‘96 release.
Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts. It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once. For fans of Myrkur, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Screaming Trees, My Bloody Valentine, Chelsea Wolfe.
GUIDED BY VOICES ‘Sweating The Plague’
KELLEY STOLTZ ‘My Regime’
Agitated LP/CD New album from Australian collective Headland, with Murray Paterson and Joel Silbersher at the helm, they are joined by the likes of Amanda Brown (Go Betweens), and Brock Fitzgerald (Wolf and Cub) amongst many others. There are references to the likes of Alex Chilton, Nick Drake and Daniel Lanois, Calexico, New South Wales Coastline, and Scenic. File under Salty.
Cinema Paradiso LP Pic Disc
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the documentary Crumb, Cinema Paradiso Recordings are proud to announce that they will be releasing the soundtrack to the film for the first time ever on vinyl.
Khannibalism LP 2nd LP from Berlin based Saba Lou - Daughter of King Khan, Pop Chanteuse, Singer Songwriter since age 5. A new songwriting direction with bigger arrangements and some soulful 60s strut.
RICH RUTH ‘Calming Signals’
VARIOUS ‘Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip’
PICTURE DISC limited to 1000 only
General General / Plant Life LP Michael Rich Ruth has composed ambient music for a long time. After a break from years touring with different bands, he spent his free time in a small home studio in North Nashville. The blueprints for ‘Calming Signals’ began to emerge through a more dedicated focus on the diverse traditions of ambient, new age, spiritual jazz, and minimalist music.
Riding Easy LP/CD The forthcoming ninth edition of the popular compilation series featuring long-lost vintage 60s-70s proto-metal and stoner rock singles, Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip is set for release on Halloween 2019.
NILS FRAHM ‘All Encores’
Third Man Records LP
Guided By Voices Inc LP/CD Latest by long-running cult rock band spars playfully with their historical lo-fi sound through stadium-sized fidelity via producer Travis Harrison.
ANNE MÜLLER ‘Heliopause’
Riding Easy LP/CD
Banana & Louie LP/CD “Another gem from one of the most underrated artists of the last 20 years.” – Brooklyn Vegan **** – MOJO
Interview That 4am techno-pop, I want to be by myself feeling, by Gemma Samways. Photography by Julie Lauritzen
Despite describing herself as “super curious”, Sunniva Lindgaard has always hung back in social situations. “As a child, I could stare at other kids playing in my street for hours without going over to them and saying hello,” she explains over the phone from her Oslo apartment, laughing as she recalls eventually breaking the deadlock “after way too long staring”. There’s a lot to be said for being reserved, and for embracing self-imposed solitude, which society tends to confuse for loneliness. Certainly, Sunni seems upbeat today discussing the decision to revert Sassy 009 to a solo project, following the departures of bandmates Teodora Georgijevic and Johanna Scheie Orellana at the start of the year. As she tells it, the whole process was “very natural, really”, though she’s polite yet firm in her refusal to reveal whether the split was amicable. “I’m used to working alone with music,” she insists, silencing my digging. “[With the others] I made the music first on my own, and then
we finished the tracks together. So the process now is just taking away the part of presenting my ideas to someone else who has their opinions and their input. And now it’s about the friction inside myself instead of friction with other people.” Sunni has always been an independent spirit. Born to classically-trained musicians, she spent her early years immersed in music, first in Stockholm – where she was born – and then in Oslo, where she moved with her mother at the age of six, following her parents’ separation. Concerts and recitals were a regular fixture of her childhood, as were music lessons, with Sunni picking up and subsequently quitting violin, cello, flute, piano and double bass. “I think I just had teachers that didn’t really understand that I just wanted to play,” she reflects. “And I was so caught up in playing beautifully, instead of practising techniques and methods... So I guess classical music has been a big part of my life, but I’ve also always been kind-of rejecting it.”
Interview Her epiphany came in eighth grade, when she signed up to her high school’s music course. “I picked the course quite randomly, thinking we [would be] playing in a band or whatever. But we were given these different tasks on the computer, making covers of a song, like, actually producing music. So that was my strange route into understanding that [music] is something that I really, really love to do.” Inspired by watching female producers like Grimes thriving, Sunni started uploading her productions to SoundCloud, with her page’s throwaway handle ‘Sassy 009’ adopted as a placeholder name for the project, which subsequently stuck. However, it was some time later, while attending folk school, that she invited childhood friends Teodora and Johanna to collaborate on the project. As Sunni recalls, from that point onwards things accelerated rapidly. “I had never played in a band myself, so this was just a thing we threw out there. Everything just went so fast: it took half a year or something from when we became a band to when we met [producer] Andrew [Murray, AKA Baya] and things started going quite well.” Quite well counts as an understatement: their single ‘Pretty Baby’ received glowing praise from press in both the US and UK – who adored its techno-rooted take on electropop – and soon the trio were touring internationally, including performing before Norwegian royalty at SXSW. Their debut EP, Do You Mind, arrived in November of 2017. They didn’t know it at the time, but it was to be their last release as a three-piece. — Kill Sassy 009 — Now back after a break, Sunni is reclaiming Sassy 009 as a one-woman project with eight-song collection Kill Sassy 009, due at the end of November. Recorded in Baya’s studios at Luft Recordings, just outside of Oslo, the EP pools Sunni’s most experimental work yet. On lead single ‘Thrasher’, dreamy harmonies collide with distorted synth effects, like some fucked up cross-hybrid of Smerz and Crystal Castles. An ethereal yet abrasive mix of eerie vocals and skittering beats, ‘Maybe In Summer’ evokes Halfaxa-era Grimes, while ‘Are You Still A Lover’ channels Sunni’s lifelong love of Joy Division, adding reverb-laden post-punk guitars and a Peter Hook-style bassline to the haunting soundscape. As she explains – in terms that are deliberately vague – the EP was born out of a period of intense turbulence, and it captures the ensuing disorientation. “I realised that the songs that I picked for this record came together as a result of the emotions I’d been going through this last year,” she says. “You know, just things that happen in your life and to people you love that you can’t really choose. The songs were recorded at quite different times, so it was more picking about what felt true to me now. And it feels good to hear those songs put together. “I had a really hard time picking a title for this record,” she continues, warming to the topic. “Then I just thought, ‘What’s the strongest word that we have in our language?’ And, in my
opinion, ‘kill’ is. It’s so dark and intense and strict. For a long time I’d been picking the songs for the record without having a title, and without knowing what the real thread was. The title came to me after I put these songs together, because I realised that Sassy 009 was so close to disappearing for me as well. I was so close to giving it up and doing something completely different, and I realised that this trial was the thing I had to go through to make a record. It’s a very strong title. I love it.” In terms of the creative process, very little has altered from her earliest musical experiments, with Sunni still doing the lion’s share of her composition using software synths in Logic, though her recent acquisition of a hardware synth suggests those methods are likely to change in the future. And without Teodora’s and Johanna’s input Baya proved an indispensable sounding board for ideas, as well as acting as co-producer. Though, as Sunni explains, she isn’t entirely comfortable embracing with the tag of producer. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this to be honest. I’ve been seeing myself as a producer for all these years – making songs and posting them on SoundCloud – but in the last couple of months I’ve realised that producing is a term I’m quite afraid of putting on myself, because it means so much. I think people are a little bit confused about what it means, because nowadays everyone can produce music with programmes and stuff. I’ve come to a point where I see myself more as a songwriter and composer than a producer.” And yet both terms feel like a major underestimation of Sunni’s talents, and of her complex productions, which are a world away from straightforward singer-songwriter fare. She almost acknowledges as much in her description of EP-opener ‘Okay’ as a “very deconstructed song that somehow still feels constructed”, and again later when discussing the genesis of ‘Thrasher’. “I was very inspired by the energy M.I.A. has in her music,” she says, “and how [songs] can be strict and beautiful at the same time. So [‘Thrasher’] is a track of extremities put together: sharp, intense beats and beautiful melodies, screaming and calming synths and harmonies. It was me trying to wrap a feeling into a track for a few minutes. When I made the track I was in a very dark place in my life, so I was letting myself know it’s ok to feel these things. Because in that moment in my life I didn’t really feel like things were going to be ok.” Thankfully, this period cuts a stark contrast with her life now, where there is much to look forward to. As well as the release of Kill Sassy 009, Sunni hopes to finally share the collaborative track she wrote with Clairo last November (tentatively entitled ‘Lara’, after the Tomb Raider protagonist). And then there’s studio time booked in with Baya for December to work on new material. “I’ve been watching Stranger Things and I’m super inspired by it,” she gushes. For now, however, Sunni is simply excited for people to hear the new EP. “I feel like it’s good music for when you’re wanting to dig into something within yourself, perhaps while you’re walking through the night.” There’s a pause, before she instructs with a smile, “Listen alone.”
KEYAH / BLU London’s most inventive new rapper didn’t even consider music a passion, by Joe Goggins Photography by Tom Porter
“The thing is, I’m a little bit all over the place.” This pronouncement from KEYAH/BLU, which arrives after an uncharacteristically long pause in her otherwise rapid South London parlance, is initially surprising. Her rise over the past couple of years, thanks in no small part to an ongoing series of collaborations with another of the capital’s most exciting young talents, Denzel Himself, has been rapid, and she’s carried off her clutch of singles to date with poise beyond her twentysomething years; nothing about it has felt scattershot, or indeed scatterbrained. Her latest, June’s self-produced ‘Choker’, is the opposite; sharp, smart and searingly ambitious. Plus, her publicist had warned me days in advance that this would be her first phone interview, and that she was nervous about it, but the Keyah who picks up is warm, witty and engaging, making a compelling case for her fledgling creative vision. Why, then, does she still feel as if she hasn’t got it together? “I just think there’s some things I could say now and then change my mind about tomorrow. When I first started out, I thought it would maybe take me a year to figure out what I wanted to say – what the message behind my music was going to be. Now, after four years, I’m in a space where I know that’s going to be an ongoing process, forever and ever, until I die. I’m always going to be finding something new to say.” The important thing to remember is that before four years ago, when she first made contact with Denzel Himself, she’d never imagined that she’d make music. She hadn’t really imagined herself doing anything specific. “I didn’t really have any passions in life. I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue. All I really knew is that I’d always liked performance.” Accordingly, she applied to a drama school in Los Angeles on a whim, never expecting much to come of it. “I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to get out of the UK; do something different, see some new shit. The school offered me a scholarship, and suddenly it felt like I was maybe onto something. I went out there just knowing I wanted to get away from everything I knew.” Two of her roommates dabbled in making music from their bedrooms, and she would find herself chipping in. It was all very piecemeal, though; just little ideas here and there, nothing concrete, continuing a theme that’s followed her from childhood, when she would try her hand at writing poems, scripts and screenplays without ever making them into anything more concrete. “It was just something to do in my spare time. I was still going to classes, still doing the drama thing.” Late one night, things changed. Drunkenly scrolling in the early hours, she spotted a tweet from Denzel, who was looking for a female vocalist. Dutch courage already on hand, she sent him the only recording of her singing voice she had – a voice memo on her iPhone of her singing Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinking Bout You’. When she woke up the next morning, he’d fired six beats back over for her to put vocals over. “I spent the next three days missing school – I was sick, or at least I think I was – and just working on what he’d sent me. That was a real turning point. It was the first time somebody had really validated me,
and something about those beats brought something out in me that I didn’t really know I had. We kept going back and forth with more tracks, to the point that I ended up dropping out of school, because I’d just stopped turning up. I was just at home working on music all day. For the first time in my life, I knew I wanted to do something. Before that, I didn’t give much of a shit about anything.” Inspired, she returned home to London, meeting up with Denzel within days. Probably her biggest exposure to date came through her feature on ‘Melty’, the track he performed for a COLORS Berlin session last year, which sits at 800,000 views and counting. The style of her delivery is something all her own: when she raps, there’s something quietly confrontations about it, and when she sings, her tones are honeyed without hiding her accent. The thing is, she doesn’t flit between one and the other from verse to chorus or even line to line; she kind of glides between the two simultaneously. It’s something that sets her apart from obvious contemporaries like Tirzah and Jorja Smith and makes you wonder how much more of this originality we’d get to hear if more artists stumbled into music the way she did, allowing her to operate without preconceived ideas of how she should sound. —Shit was fucking peak — KEYAH/BLU is happy to admit that she didn’t know that she’s been on a long journey of discovery that, as her stage name hints at, almost suggests two different musical personalities. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have any kind of musical grounding, though – her mum, evidently a huge inspiration to her, was a singer herself, and Keyah remembers being around her as a kid as she recorded and performed. “Things were a little bit difficult with my parents when I said I was dropping out of school and not going to uni,” she recalls of the period immediately following her departure from LA, which she sums up in characteristically unvarnished fashion: “shit was fucking peak.” Once she made clear she was pursuing her music, though, “my mum saw her eighteen-year-old self in me. She’s been mad supportive from the jump because she did it, too. She’s a massive influence in music and just in fucking existing. I don’t think I feel skilled or practiced in any specific part of my music, because growing up I was stubborn and I kind of pushed it away because I was around it so much. But I still soaked that shit up like a sponge, I think, even if I didn’t even know it.” That contrariness is still there; you can trace it through the musical decisions she’s made up to this point. Her collaborative work with Denzel has been hugely fruitful, but she knew she had to stand on her own two feet if she was going to get a sense
Interview “I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to get out of the UK”
of herself as a musician, so she started producing her own beats. “It felt a bit mad to be calling myself a musician when all I do is write rhymes, so I felt like I had to do more to earn that authenticity,” she says. “I’m still getting used to that, and it’s a different process every time, but the more I worked on my own production, the more I felt I could be myself, and say what I felt I needed to be saying. The lyrics are quite personal and introverted, but the bottom line is always love.” — Making sense — After releasing a handful of singles, she still isn’t sure where she wants to go next, other than that she’ll finally release her debut EP early next year. One minute she says she likes the idea of being an album artist who records and tours extensively, the next she admits she isn’t so sure. Similarly, early interviews like this one should be littered with references to her influences, but she maintains that she can’t really name names even if she wanted to. “I find it easy to repeat what I’m told when people say you sound like this artist or that artist,” she explains. “I’ll be like, ‘shit, yeah, that makes sense because I do like them and
listen to them.’ Honestly, though, there’s not one set of artists I look up to because I never treated music like that in the first place. I never knew I wanted to do it until recently. I think I’ve probably been shaped by everything I’ve heard in some way. I can’t narrow it down.” What’s helped mould her, too, is south-east London: as well as imbuing her with a sense of purpose, her journey into music has rekindled her love for the corner of her hometown that she was doing anything and everything to get away from just a few years ago. “My music has become the foundation of a community around me here; I’m not part of a scene, but there are people around me who have held it down for me, even if it’s just a case of having friends who come over to get drunk and record with me in my bedroom, you know? “It’s just the feeling of having a home, and belonging somewhere. I didn’t have that for a long time, and now I’ve got all these possibilities to collaborate, all of these people reaching out to me who I really respect, which is crazy.” She pauses again, for maybe the only other time in the conversation, and then laughs. “I mean, it feels like I’m only just starting out. What the fuck do I know?”
THE CAMDEN ASSEMBLY, LONDON ----NOV 6
JULIE BERGAN THE GRACE ----NOV 12
THE GARAGE, LONDON ----NOV
TEGAN & SARA UK TOUR ----NOV
AURORA UK TOUR ----NOV
UK TOUR ----NOV
GEOWULF UK TOUR ----NOV
THE AMAZONS UK TOUR ----DEC
UK TOUR ----DEC â€“ FEB
MELANIE MARTINEZ SOLD OUT
Spike Fuck Beyond the clickbait, the hard drugs and the karaoke, by Megan Wallace Photography by Milly Cope
It feels like nowadays, in the age of social media marketability and lightning-quick digital journalism, every artist on the come-up needs a buzz-worthy story. For Melbourne-based musician Spike Fuck, an in-your-face choice of stage name (“which was a joke initially but somehow it stuck”) and honest treatment of issues around addiction, gender and sexuality create a readymade, clickable narrative. Yet, with fashion designer Rick Owens already among her fans and the 2016 Smackwave EP garnering a devoted online following (and full release last month via Partisan Records), it’s her music – rather than her bio – that has drawn the real attention. Flitting between styles including dark country and ’80s-inspired post-punk, she delivers diaristic accounts via rough and raw sonics. But what led Spike Fuck to music infamy? “There were two distinct periods in my musical career and life in general,” she begins, speaking over the phone from Australia. “Prior to changing my name to Spike Fuck, I was advertising online, like, ‘I’m a versatile singer-songwriter and I can play your weddings’ – so I was looking down the barrel of a career as a guitar player for hire.” The next period of her life took a somewhat darker turn from the doldrums of a stalling musical career, into developments that have inspired her output to date. “Then, I basically had a long period of getting into drugs, which was just awful. But returning to music after all of that I realised I had something to say and an important perspective.”
The idea of music as therapy, of pouring your heart out into your lyrics to offer some kind of catharsis or emotional release, is a common one; particularly with the likes of Ariana Grande dominating the charts with tracks that do just that, albeit with a glossy pop filter. Besides the obvious sonic differences between the two artists, Spike Fuck’s musical output is less her own form of talking therapy and more the natural output of someone that’s “pathologically honest” by their own admission. “Music has always been my main outlet for life matters,” she explains. “I’m never going to write a song like Bruce Springsteen; what’s the good me trying to write about somebody else’s position? I’ll write about my own direct experience, for better or worse.” Whilst she’s clearly not a fan of Springsteen’s work, she’s much more favourable towards psychedelic rock musicians like Roky Erickson, or the equally elusive until his death, Scott Walker. Their appeal for Spike is maybe not what you might initially think. “I’ve always been interested in people who have been on the edge of reality,” she says, “and people who grappled with fame or the promise of fame and money and then fucked it up.” It’s this sense of thwarted potential that she wanted to honour with her music, rather than any specific sonic quality. “I wanted to create something that was a nod to those people who got lost in the cracks of music and life.” — Between authenticity and artifice — Due to her own experiences, she felt something of a kinship with artists who made music while struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, and didn’t feel an obligation to gloss over the tough elements of their experience. “You gravitate towards the people you feel quite akin to. I never glorified them,” she notes. “I never thought these musicians were amazing, or anyone in the public eye for that matter. I just saw that there was a lack of pretence to these people.” It’s for this reason that she hasn’t shied away from putting so much of herself into her work, and why she knows that she can experiment in terms of genre and style, as long as she maintains a core sense of authenticity. “My music isn’t unique – nothing is,” she says. “But there’s something in the way that I tell [my story]. I don’t think my appeal hinges on any sonic element, so I don’t need to stay in the box of what I’ve done before. However, she does feel like some of her previous artistic choices, and specifically the way that people reacted to them, might be boxing her in. “I was being clickbaity, I’ll admit, with the name and the frankness [of my lyrics],” she says, in a manner that is alarmingly casual in its self-critical tone. I can’t help but wonder if this is a genuine reproach or an impulse to pre-emptively silence the kinds of criticisms so often levied against female artists – whilst everyone from Grimes to Beyoncé has been attacked for being overly provocative or, worse, “attention-hungry”, their male peers are able to sidestep so much of this superfluous chatter. Understandably, Spike is keen to push past preconceptions such as these that
cloud listeners’ perceptions, of both her and her work. She says: “People tend to just think of me as the ‘heroin musician’ but that’s only reflective of a certain time in my life.” There’s an inevitable fissure between her realities as a human being – particularly one who has experienced trauma – and her presentation as an artist. The vulnerability of her lyrics, drawn from the pain of losing years of her life to heroin, speak of her own truth and the truths of a wider society damaged by the opioid crisis and pharmaceutical companies’ greed. These truths are delivered, however, via a performative, artistic persona presented on Instagram and other digital platforms, and it can be hard for people to tell where the line is drawn between art and actuality. “On Instagram I would do these really lengthy stories and people never used to know if I was being serious or not,” she laughs. “It got me in a bit of strife from time to time.” It’s a curious tension between authenticity and artifice; one that’s initially hard to wrap your head around. The Spike Fuck you might see at a live show is a “character” inspired by performance art tactics, but through that fiction greater truth is able to emerge. “I was dating someone in the art scene and got involved with that scene,” she tells me. “It was cool to meet people from that side of things, and it made me see music from a different perspective. I have an aversion to the ‘pretentious’ art thing and the ‘pretentious’ performance art thing but I realised I wanted to create a character who would make it possible to tell my story with as much honesty as possible. It began as me with a computer doing karaoke.” However, she’s keen to point out that “there’s a difference between my personal self and my outer self ”. At the heart of every artist is another person who deserves kindness, just like the rest of us. This is something Spike Fuck wants to make sure no-one loses sight of, even as she reaches higher levels of renown. “I just want people to see me as normal. I don’t want to be a novelty, I don’t want to be a freak. I just want to be a normal, well-adjusted human being. Try as I might, I might not get there, but it’s what I hope for.”
Interview A shamanic urban duo invent Minyo footwork, by Ian Roebuck Photography by Marco Tinari
WaqWaq Kingdom “You know there is such a thing as good globalisation,” Shigeru Ishihara politely informs me as his friend and musical partner Kiki Hitomi joins in: “Of course we are both Japanese but we have lived in London and Germany as well so we’ve naturally absorbed things from different people and we hope that this comes across.” Judging by their well-mannered and convivial nature, I’d say that it most certainly does. “We are globalising in a good way!” Kiki and Shige make up WaqWaq Kingdom, an indescribable outburst of artistry that’s really quite hard to put into words. You could simply label them as tribal bass but it would be fairer to say that WaqWaq Kingdom is a culmination of each individual’s journeys and more than just a dance duo. “Well yes,” says Kiki. “My first music project was called Dokkebi Q – it was dubstep. At that time I hadn’t sung anything in front of everybody – I didn’t know anything about the music scene – but based in London dubstep was rising up at the time. Then I moved onto King Midas Sound, where I learnt so much from Kevin Martin (the Bug) and Roger Robinson. Now I am with Shige (DJ Scotch Egg), I think about not just making music but how we present it, that’s really important for me. “Kevin was picturing the imagery of King Midas Sound as well as the music so that element I have taken to WaqWaq Kingdom. It’s great that all the study from the other bands now translates to working with Shige.” Right on queue, Shige speaks up. “Let the man talk, Kiki,” he injects, with a quiet civility that makes everyone laughs. “Kiki is really easy to work with, she listens to me, she always brings good ideas. I can be really honest with her; if I don’t like something I can just tell her and she doesn’t take it personally.” Having worked with so many strong willed artists in the past, Kiki seems to relish this personality trait. “I really appreciate how open minded he is but also he tells it like it is. We are both Japanese so we share a lot of history, how we grew up, our influences, our language.” The difference between this project and Kiki’s former direction with King Midas Sound is apparent from a first listen to WaqWaq Kingdom… and you will remember that first listen. “This new work I am more honest about myself and my Japanese
background,” Kiki says. “For King Midas Sound I sang mostly in English but this time I wanted to bring the Japanese vibe and I sing a lot in Japanese. I really want you to feel that energy and my lyrics use ancient Japanese philosophy.” That blend between Japanese heritage and the contemporary can be felt through every surprising electronic beat of the upcoming album Essaka Hoisa – their label Phantom Limb are calling it Minyo footwork. “I didn’t write that!” jokes Shige, who likes the music to be open to interpretation. “Well, Minyo is in our blood,” says Kiki. “It’s Japanese folk. When we have a Matsuri festival it’s always on so we have been listening to it since we were children. I never felt Minyo was a cool thing though, you know? Once I moved to Europe though, I felt the Minyo side more deeply. When you record something you record a hype track, you know, vibey stuff, yo, yo,” she continues to chant, but this time in Japanese. “That kind of vocal I use a lot for vibing us up and I thought that’s really interesting for European people to hear that, so I am being more honest about where we come from. Shige’s beats use a little bit of footwork or trap, so I think that’s how it is being described. As you’re listening though you can hear all the elements of other music.” A career-long magpie, Shige is well versed in plundering genres as DJ Scotch Egg. His love of gabba music translates to WaqWaq but here he’s also added influences from travelling to Africa, and of course his Japanese background (plus colourful dashes of 8-bit techno and dancehall), to create something that fuses old and new, though he’s quick to correct me when we say it sounds intentional. “No, no, I didn’t intend to do so, it came naturally. We are already interested in old traditional music so it came naturally, certainly nothing was planned that way. Music exists to escape the ups and downs of everyday life and a lot of that came to this album. We really did keep it positive.” — Keep smiling — Positivity is a strong through-line in Essaka Hoisa, which is conceptually about the rejection of materialism, and an attempt to control our greed. Even the title is an optimistic Japanese mantra made to keep you smiling. “I want to enjoy the
process rather than get to the destination, says Kiki. ‘Essaka Hoisa’ in Japanese is normally at Matsuri festivals – you have miniature shrines which maybe 20 or 30 people are carrying. It’s so heavy, and you have to do this for a couple of hours, so you need a word, a vibe, that keeps the sprits high.” Kiki begins to chant for a second time, repeating the album title Essaka Hoisa over and over. “On the rhythm, you know. “Life isn’t just happy things, there are sad things and Shige is always there for me,” she says. “We talk about personal things and he always helps me out, and I feel we are a good team.” When I ask if making the album was a struggle, Kiki replies with her usual openness. “It was hard but there was a good balance, yin and yang. If it’s too hard then I won’t be able to carry on but there was a happiness too. The opening track was about losing my parents last year and Shige helped me a lot to escape to the music world – if there is no musical output then I would probably go insane. We fight of course but the next day we are best friends again.” If the music is constantly evolving and taking on new cultural influences and forms, then so is WaqWaq Kingdom’s aesthetic. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen such bright colours
across every aspect of a project’s output, not just in its music, but in Kiki’s illustrated cover art too, which depicts her and Shige as kago carriers, two people carrying ruling-class or religious dignitaries over great distances. “I wanted to bring the total experience, with the visuals I created being something that I wanted to do for a long time. Colour, lighting, costume wise, I always like to prepare, I always had a dream that I could wear the same clothes as a partner on stage, like a duo, so I am really happy about that; it’s a really psychedelic look and the music is syncing together with the visual. Shamanic but urban, we wanted the decoration to go with that music, trippy and hypnotising and after the show you go wooooo and all the negative feelings are gone, positive feelings are back.” Shige’s trips to Africa, where he’s due to go back to before the end of the year, have also heavily influenced their vision. “For sure it was African inspired too, a big happy vibe,” he says. “So by fusing all these different cultures we are able to present what we do – the costumes have an African feel alongside Japanese, so mixing everything is essential.” Good globalisation everyone agrees in unison, as Kiki finishes, “the more we explore the better we will be. Practicing, and finding something new.”
YEULE FRI 1 NOV SOLD OUT SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS GEORGIA TUES 5 NOVSOLD OUT SCALA GIRL BAND TUES 5 NOVSOLD OUT ELECTRIC BALLROOM ALICE HUBBLE TUES 5 NOV SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS CORRIDOR WED 6 NOV SOLD OUT THE WAITING ROOM MELLAH THURS 7 NOV CORSICA STUDIOS PALACE SAT 9 NOV SOLD OUT ROUNDHOUSE ONE TRUE PAIRING MON 11 NOV DALSTON VICTORIA SHARDS WED 13 NOV CHATS PALACE SHURA THURS 14 NOV ROUNDHOUSE EZRA FURMAN THURS 14 NOV O2 FORUM KENTISH TOWN MEGA BOG THURS 14 NOV THE ISLINGTON
KATHRYN JOSEPH MON 18 NOV EARTH HACKNEY
PONGO WED 27 NOV REDON BETHNAL GREEN
COUSIN KULA MON 18 NOV ELECTROWERKZ
JERSKIN FENDRIX WED 27 NOV BERMONDSEY SOCIAL CLUB
DOG IN THE SNOW TUES 19 NOV SET DALSTON
BC CAMPLIGHT THURS 28 NOV ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
HONEYMOAN WED 20 NOV PAPER DRESS VINTAGE
PEOPLE CLUB THURS 28 NOV THE ISLINGTON
KEDR LIVANSKIY THURS 21 NOV BLOC
GREAT DAD THURS 28 NOV BERMONDSEY SOCIAL CLUB
TINA THURS 21 NOV BERMONDSEY SOCIAL CLUB
FAT WHITE FAMILY MON 2 - THURS 5 DECLD OUT EARTH HACKNEY 5th SO
NIKLAS PASCHBURG MON 25 NOV ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
HAYDEN THORPE TUES 3 DEC CECIL SHARP HOUSE
W.H. LUNG MON 25 NOV RICH MIX
KIWI JR WED 29 JAN THE WAITING ROOM
ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND TUES 26 NOV RICH MIX
GHUM THURS 30 JAN ELECTROWERKZ
NURIA GRAHAM OUT TUES 26 NOV SOLD SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS
DEVENDRA BANHART TUES 4 FEB O2 SHEPHERDâ€™S BUSH EMPIRE
SODA BLONDE TUES 26 NOV PAPER DRESS VINTAGE
IDER WED 5 FEB ELECTRIC BRIXTON
SIR WAS WED 27 NOV SCALA
ANNA MEREDITH WED 5 FEB EARTH HACKNEY
JAPANESE TELEVISION THURS 6 FEB DALSTON VICTORIA (SANDY) ALEX G WED 12 FEB D OUT SOL EARTH HACKNEY ROSIE LOWE WED 19 FEB EARTH HACKNEY ISAAC DELUSION TUES 25 FEB OMEARA KENNETH WHALUM TUES 25 FEB SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS SLEATER-KINNEY WED 26 FEB O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON JERKCURB WED 26 FEB BUSSEY BUILDING PETER IBBETSON THURS 19 MAR BERMONDSEY SOCIAL CLUB PUBLIC PRACTICE TUES 5 MAY ELECTROWERKZ LISA MORGENSTERN WED 6 MAY SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS BAMBARA WED 20 MAY TUFNELL PARK DOME THE STROPPIES THURS 21 MAY OSLO HACKNEY
Various Artists — Kraut Jazz Futurism (kryptox music) Titles are important, particularly with compilation albums, and there are several ways you can do them. There’s the scenesetter, like Warp’s classic Artificial Intelligence series, which frames the album’s contents; there’s the title-as-advert, where the voice of the enthusiastic compiler is present when you encounter the record, shouting Now That’s What I Call Music at you, or, in the case of last year’s excellent London jazz comp, We Out Here; and then there’s the Ronseal format – Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul series, for example, compiling soul music that’s somewhat eccentric in nature. Apparently opting for the third method, Kraut Jazz Futurism hints that it might contain some futuristic jazz from Germany, and indeed, a handful of the tracks here fulfil that brief perfectly. (Before going any further, incidentally, is it definitely still okay in 2019 to describe music from Germany as “kraut” when, only a few weeks before this album is released, Vote Leave is being forced to apologise for using the same word as a xenophobic slur? After all, it would be a bit weird to call a compilation featuring Etienne De Crecy and Laurent Garnier Frog House, and plenty of the original practitioners of krautrock have publicly rejected the term. Then again, this is a record featuring German nationals – or allies thereof – and compiled by German national Mathias Modica, who can obviously call himself and his compatriots whatever he likes in the spirit of solidarity or affection. Anyway, back to the record itself.) So it’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the tracks here that have three ticks – German, futuristic, and jazzy – are also the most appealing. Topping the pops is C.A.R.’s ‘Dick Schaffrath’, all sinewy
synth tones and super-dry drums, with a bracingly cold, single-chorded sense of tunnel vision, its experiments with texture falling just the right side of the line that separates the accessible from the impenetrable, and its vast swathes of space creating an addictive sense of sci-fi void. That rejection of flashiness while maintaining the jazz spirit of improvisation and adventure within musical form is also nicely realised in Torben Unit’s ‘Free’, where modal harmonic weirdness, polyrhythmic manipulation and seductively alien atmosphere combine to excuse the slightly whiffy voiceover (“Show me a piece of your mind!”) at the beginning. Both Niklas Wandt’s and Keope’s appearances, too, remind us rather elegantly that jazz needn’t be a noodle-fest, and that efficiency and economy, even in contexts as free as percussion jams (the former) and unplanned synth workouts (the latter), are still as musically powerful as maximalist virtuosity. Elsewhere, though, things are a little more hit and miss. Salomea’s ‘Magnolia Tree’ feels emblematic of much of the compilation, in which instruments are expertly played and recorded, but any flecks of soulfulness or human emotion feel ersatz at best, the players more concerned with showing off their chops than pouring out their hearts. Ditto JJ Whitefield’s ‘14/08’ (what’s with jazzers naming their tracks after their non-standard time signatures?) where the worst cliches about German creativity – cold, clinical fetishisation of technicality over passion – begin to bubble up. When this tendency restricts itself to brief mood music – the Arabian scales and film-soundtrack vibe of Shake Stew, for example, or the delicious groove on Karl Hector’s ‘Orange Man’ – the precision bite covers any lingering smugness; when it’s drawn out over the 12 minutes of the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, however, the relentless presentation of high expertise quickly dulls the senses. At least these are clearly jazzinspired, though, even if they lack much in the way of futurism. Other tracks, by contrast, appear to have been included simply on account of their German-
ness, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing: Stimming/Lambert’s piano deconstructed through studio trickery and weed smoke, and Sissi Rada’s combination of saxes with dusty grooves of old soul records both evoke Massive Attack on the happy pills, and a pair of fairly straightup indie numbers, too – the dream-pop of Oracles, and David Nesselhauf ’s afrobeaty post-punk – are enjoyable, even if they feel like they’re at the wrong party. Of course, eclecticism is the meat and drink of every good Spotify playlist, but within a conceptualised compilation such meandering leaves Kraut Jazz Futurism feeling a little lost. On the one hand, there’s something here for everyone (even those not really into jazz or futuristic-sounding music), and in that way it’s an excellent sampler record, a gateway to somewhere else. As a standalone piece of work, however, it falls foul of a title that’s writing cheques its contents just can’t cash. For all its appeal Ronseal transparency, Kraut Jazz Futurism doesn’t really do what it says on the tin. 6/10 Sam Walton
Bonnie “Prince” Billy — I Need a Place (domino) According to Bonnie “Prince” Billy, the whole world of recorded music – in the way that such music is conceived, perceived, recorded, released and distributed – has been atomised. We have been witnessing the fragmentation of artistic culture via throwaway mediums. After all, the Internet gives us far more choice than the limitations of broadcast media. In other words, it’s a lot harder to make a lasting impact in the music industry these days because we’re inundated with information and choices; there’s simply too much for one person to consume. Indeed, in terms of the mainstream, the dearth of pop music began a long time ago.
Albums There may well be a crisis of musical saturation – where undeniable talent has become lost in the ether – but this means that it’s now up to us to discover new music ourselves. Every music fan knows all too well that warm, fulfilling feeling of hearing something life-altering for the first time. And if you’ve discovered that yourself – through taking chances on new bands and doing a bit of digging – that’s far more rewarding than responding to hyperbole. Bonnie “Prince” Billie is an anomaly because – while he may disagree – he’s reached the kind of musical status that’s difficult to achieve now, particular within the genre his operates: prolific, well-respected, influential and very in tune with what’s happening around us – both socio-politically and musically. Initially, his first album in 8 years is somewhat of a disappointment. Theoretically, it works: his articulate take on country music is a well-wrought theme, but if, like he says, devastation is our new landscape, then why is this such an optimistic sounding record? When we’re living in a world in turmoil, happy music has the ability to sound drastically effusive. Here, the heavy dejection that litters ‘I See a Darkness’ is left wanting at times. There are two sides to the record, however. There’s the sad optimism of the latter half and the big dense celebratory feel of the first half. Combined, it elicits the notion of remaining hopeful in times of darkness. Inspired by the music of Hawaii – mainly the recordings of Johnny Lum Ho and Edith Kanaka’ole – ‘I Need A Place’ is a breath of fresh air when listened next to many of Billie’s contemporaries. With an accompanying line-up made up of extremely proficient musicians, the sound is big, bold and often grandiose. Most notably, there’s a lot of heart in this album, in a very human sense, and it celebrates other cultures with understanding and respect: it targets the sprawl and bloat of Western Civilisation by focusing on the intricacy of things that are not typically celebrated by modern populist mind-sets. That, coupled with a desire to have killer hooks and songs
you can sing along to, results in a record that’s both heartfelt and a lot more fun than our current times probably deserve. 7/10 Hayley Scott
SebastiAn — Thirst (because music) SebastiAn’s stature in the music industry has been established not by his solo output but by his production work for others – Frank Ocean, M.I.A., Charlotte Gainsbourg, to name a few. His debut full-length, 2011’s Total, was received warmly but did not launch him into orbit. This eventual follow-up is a stronger collection, bearing the hallmarks of the aforementioned collaborators, but more crucially reaping the benefits of its master’s musical dexterity. Thirst proves that the key quality at SebastiAn’s disposal, the trait that is best served to lift him above the fray of runners and riders in electronic production, is his facility for reframing and reconfiguring his energies through the prism of the collaborator put before him. It explains why ten of the fourteen tracks here have a listed featured performer, with no name appearing more than once. This is a glittering pot pourri of styles and genres, all happily housed under one roof. Whether it is his rubbery basslines or his highly instinctive hedonistic arrangements, there is always an essence to SebastiAn’s tracks here that tag them as his own: the maxed-out menace of the title track and the ’90s French house of ‘Beograd’ clearly share a personality. But somewhat paradoxically, he is also able to shapeshift into whatever form the music desires, covering on this record multiple horizons: consider the slinky, seductive ‘Doorman’ with Syd (an album standout) or the indie dance of ‘Handcuffed to a Parking Meter’, which features a typi-
cally deadpan comedic turn from Sparks. That these two tracks should co-exist at all, let alone with relative ease alongside appearances from Gainsbourg and Mayer Hawthorne, is an impressive trick. The album sags at times, but there are tracks here that demand attention. 8/10 Max Pilley
Sudan Archives — Athena (stones throw) The violin probably isn’t the instrument you first associate with hiphop-infused RnB, or indeed with pop music in general, but that hasn’t stopped Cincinnati-born, LA-based Sudan Archives (Brittney Parks to her mum) anchoring her debut album around it. But this isn’t the sort of polite, precise violin playing cultivated by music conservatories – indeed, it’s almost the opposite: Parks is self-taught, by ear, from recordings of northeast African desertfolk fiddle, all visceral and feral scraping, plucks and expressive swoops, full of playing techniques that would get you a fail in your Grade 3. Crucially, though, despite being unexpected, it’s a juxtaposition that works. On ‘Down On Me’, delicate plucked strings offset low-end throbs of synth bass, Parks slipping her sweetly sing-song, yearning vocal gracefully in between. Equally, on opener ‘Did Ya Know’, a pleasingly unvarnished violin riff complements the minimalist beats, leaving something that feels simultaneously accomplished and unshowy. Elsewhere, however, Parks isn’t afraid to leave the violin and write a straight-up pop melody: ‘Iceland Moss’ has the kind of chorus that breaks into your internal jukebox, changes the locks and declares unilateral ownership after a single listen, and the same goes for ‘Limitless’, a bittersweet 3-minute epic
Albums that’s set around infectiously moreish rising chords. Athena isn’t a perfect album by any stretch – there’s frequently too much haze and lack of definition to the songs, and Parks’ clear compositional skill often seems undermined by her lack of selfconfidence in delivery, leaving several tracks tantalisingly just short of greatness. Two forty-second vignettes, too, suggest that Parks has perhaps more ambition for the abstract than the rest of the album lets on. However, it’s a record unusual enough to be increasingly intriguing over repeated listens as you try and unpick quite what Parks is trying to say, and – perhaps the more pertinent question here – the unique way she’s trying to say it. And for now, that feels enough: it leaves Athena as a marker, a sort of statement of intent and demonstration of pleasingly original thinking, and a warning of what might be yet to come. 7/10 Sam Walton
Sassy 009 — Kill Sassy 009 (luft) With a name that sounds like a Tumblr blog title or someone’s chatroom username, it feels only natural that Sassy 009 (the moniker of Norwegian singersongwriter Sunniva Lindgård) makes music that sounds as if it was discovered after hours spent digging through rabbit holes online; searching for that obscure DIY bedroom project that only a small community of fans have heard – listening to her latest batch of songs feels as if you’re being let in on a secret. Following the departure of her two fellow band members, Lindgård’s new material has a slightly more personal feel to it. Her brand of nocturnal, down tempo dance music would sound just as much at home being played in a shadowy, cramped club beneath urban sprawl as they would
through headphones in solitude past midnight in your bedroom. There’s an intimacy and sensuality running throughout, that makes Kill Sassy 009 fit in neatly alongside artists such as Tirzah, Smerz or Park Hye-jin. The rich atmosphere to the EP oozes from both the crackly recording and the hushed vocals, murmuring like a ghostly siren luring you into their shimmering, oceanic musical environment. Behind this are subtly infectious beats and dreamy, lo-fi melodies, best exemplified on the addictive ‘Thrasher’ and ‘Maybe in the Summer’. As the autumn nights draw in darker by the day, it feels like the perfect time for the moody, enticing sounds of Kill Sassy 009 to arrive. 8/10 Woody Delaney
TNGHT — II (warp) As their disemvoweled name suggests, TNGHT are all about minimalism. With II EP (their first release since the 2013 track ‘Acrylics’), the transatlantic duo of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice continue to provide quality over quantity. Their second substantial release is brilliant, inventive and jittery, managing to unsettle whilst also providing floor fillers. It is music for a comedown, to be played at 4am as you wait for pizza, hours old FIFA highlights playing in the background. The middle-ground between Trent Reznor and Young Thug, TNGHT provide rattling experiments over twenty-five minutes by effectively throwing the kitchen sink at you. Vinyl scratches interrupt layered flutes. 8-bit noise dings above dirty sub-basses. Metallic drums bark through chopped and screwed samples. It zigs and zags, showing the experience the pair have gained this decade (Mohawke through producing for everyone, Lunice through his ambitious solo debut) whilst
also providing the same anarchic energy they brought on their 2012 debut. The majority of the album will be murder to search for without Shazam and goes to some truly strange places: ‘I’m In A Hole’ sounds like Tubular Bells, ‘Serpent’ sounds like a war drum, ‘Gimme Summin’ sounds like Windows 98 crashing. The only real deficiency is when you can picture how the instrumental could work as a beat (‘Clever Pants *’ seems to be missing a Pusha T verse but that may be because it isn’t as arrhythmic as the rest). But ultimately, this is a triumph. It takes work to sound this effortless, and bravery to be this bold. 9/10 Sam Reid
Deliluh — Beneath the Floors (tin angel) After a wave of venue closures hit Toronto, post-punk band Deliluh began looking for ways they could help rehome their city’s music scene. They turned their focus towards alternative spaces, playing gigs in a disused subway station and local veterans clubs; they also invited fans into their own apartments for shows that were as intimate as they were illegal. The artrock band upheld that DIY ethos when recording material together, steering clear of professional studios during the production of their brave and exploratory new album, Beneath the Floors. Designed as a sibling to their Mayreleased Oath of Intent EP, it is striking how accomplished Deliluh sound on their second full-length record. From the moment they first clank into gear on ‘Incantessa’, they know when to show restraint as well as when to escalate their experimentalism, helping them keep an air of wintry mystery alive throughout. A saxophone echoes throughout ‘Lickspittle A Nut In The Paste’, while Erika Wharton-Shukster’s hypnotic violin is integral to the atmosphere of ‘Hang-
Albums man’s Keep’ – a gripping track that ends in unresolved calm. ‘Master Keys’, the second of two longer mid-album tracks, begins coyly before descending into erratic paranoia. The album’s structure is carefully considered: it is only after these more expansive songs that Deliluh feel ready to trust the listener with a trio of pieces that go deeper into the darkness. The first of these, ‘Via 5A’, drifts along with the help of a hypnotic sax before being absorbed by ‘Falcon Scott Trail’. This daring instrumental, which imagines life on the doomed Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1913, is utterly haunting. Through dronelike textures, Deliluh create a cold sense of terror that feels too pervasive to resist. The lack of conclusive breaks between tracks also gives the album a dreamlike quality, making it all the more jarring when ‘Con Art Inc’ suddenly glitches near its end to reveal the mechanisms of a primal underworld. The voyage ends in a dilapidated hotel where frontman Kyle Knapp sounds more deadpan than ever in his role as tour guide. His forensic description of the “scum-smothered dishes” on ‘Beneath the Floors’ at first seem like a dose of realism – but this intriguing band would never dream of being so straightforward, and the record fills with an ambient haze one last time. 9/10 Jamie Haworth
DJ Shadow — Our Pathetic Age (mass appeal) When DJ Shadow released his last record, The Mountain Will Fall, three years ago, he explained that he came up with the title when contemplating how intimidating a prospect he finds starting out on a new full-length to be – ultimately, he said, you pick away at it piece by piece and, eventually, the proverbial mountain comes down. The follow-up,
Our Pathetic Age, is sprawling enough to suggest that he might have considered it a personal Everest when he first started out on it, but the fact that its back half is littered with blockbuster cameos means it was not a lone construction job. After the runaway success of ‘Nobody Speak’ last time out, it’s no surprise to see Run the Jewels return on ‘Kings and Queens’, but the hip hop highlight here is the colossal ‘Rain on Snow’, which sees Shadow enlist a heavyweight Wu-Tang hat-trick in Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. Not all of these hookups are successes – the chaotic ‘Drone Warfare’ squanders the might of Nas and Pharaohe Monch, whilst Paul Banks of Interpol continues to baffle with his incursions into the genre on the forgettable ‘Small Colleges’. In truth, Shadow does a better job of speaking to the highs and lows of the technology age on the early electronic tracks, which run like powerful mood pieces: at one end of the spectrum there’s soft menace to ‘Intersectionality’, and at the other, ‘Beauty, Power, Motion, Life, Work, Chaos, Law’ is a glimpse at future jazz. Not a flawless expedition, but a diverting one. 6/10 Joe Goggins
Mind Rays — Course of Action (pnkslm) “We wanted to get an album down quickly,” Mind Rays guitarist Christophe Adriaensens explains in the release note for his band’s new album. “Even if it sounds like a cliché – we wanted to sound and feel like we do live.” Well, if that’s what the Belgian punks were going for on Course of Action, then I have to say, mission accomplished. This record fizzes along with an urgent yet undeniably focused energy. Compared to the Mind Rays of two years ago, when the band released their chaotic PNKSLM
debut, 2019 finds the quartet oozing confidence. Here, track after track is delivered with an almost psychotic level of polish. It’s probably helped that Mind Rays made this record under the watchful eye of Raketkanon’s Pieter-Paul Devos. This is one of the more polished-sounding punk records I’ve come across recently. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain charm to those DIY records with every instrument smothered in tape hiss and compressed into a low-throbbing mush. But it’s also a refreshing change of pace to find an album where the guitars sound crisp yet still in your face, the vocals are pushed out to the front and you can hear what the drums are actually doing. In fact, the only thing that lets this record down a little bit is the absence of one standout stone-cold banger. There are high-points here, to be sure – ‘Pristine Condition’’s jerky, nervous-sounding riffs recall classic pub rock, while ‘Dead Centre’ is a menacing garage punk number with an explosive chorus – still, there doesn’t seem to be one song that really captures the essence of the album. And that turns out to be Course of Action’s Achilles heel. Taken together, the album’s ten songs rattle by quite nicely, but at no point do Mind Rays manage to find a hook or breakdown to really fix your attention. 6/10 Dominic Haley
TOY — Songs of Consumption (tough love) What became of the early 2010s British psych revival? Not, it would turn out, a great deal at all, and for a time Toy seemed destined for the same lacklustre, mushy shoegaze fate as their other halfforgotten contemporaries. That was until this year’s Happy in the Hollow, a bolt from the blue that saw Toy discover a menacing
Albums pop sensibility that didn’t ever seem to be previously present. This is cemented now by a covers album that proves both interesting and genuinely exciting. You’d have to concede that even your most reductive psych group would have the best record collection, and naturally Toy have choices popular and choices obscure all in the pot. Familiarity can castrate music, and a faithful guitar rendition of ‘Down on the Street’ by the Stooges would carry little impact – mercifully, Toy reinvent it here as throbbing, four-to-the-floor electronica and recover from the track a real danger and sexuality. ‘Sixty Forty’, a relative Nico obscurity, is reimaged as a seven-minute opiate odyssey – all Eastern scales and woozy, blissed-out sonics. It’s only their version of ‘Always on My Mind’ that fully disappoints, deviating so little from the Pet Shop Boys’ definitive version as to be almost karaoke. 7/10 Fergal Kinney
Pumarosa — Devastation (fiction) “Sometimes I fuck shit up just to check that I’m breathing,” intones Isabel Muñoz-Newsome on ‘Lose Control’. It’s a striking line that, combined with multiple lyrical references to falling apart, allude to the singer’s personal experiences in the wake of Pumarosa’s 2017 debut. Diagnosed with cervical cancer, the relationship with her body altered as the band reconvened to write Devastation. Changes were also afoot within the London outfit, with bassist Henry Brown departing (to be replaced on this release by Tool’s Justin Chancellor). Both of these ordeals led to a reassessment of their direction. Bored of guitar music, they sought inspiration from Aphex Twin and old jungle tunes. It’s a transformation that’s obvious from the opening notes of their second album,
with ‘Fall Apart’ combining drum and bass with brooding synthesiser. This sets the template for the remaining ten tracks, which swing between the pop sensibility of ‘Heaven’ and the more rock influenced ‘Into the Woods’. It’s when they’re at their darkest that they’re most convincing: the semiindustrial drones on the smoggy ‘Factory’ and the sultry jazz on the saxophone driven ‘Adam’s Song’. Underpinned by Nick Owen’s precision playing, which sounds more like a drum machine, the boundary between organic and electronic is further blurred by Muñoz-Newsome’s vocals. Slightly mannered, her control reins in the emotional impact and is processed on occasion. This all means that if their debut was, according to The Guardian, the “missing link between Joy Division and Pendulum,” then Devastation is the bridge between Pendulum and Red Snapper. 6/10 Susan Darlington
Health&Beauty — Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure (wichita) For over fifteen years now, Brian J Sulpizio has been the sole member of the ever shifting, amorphous Health&Beauty collective – a sort of improv country Mark E Smith on the quiet. The band has been both vessel for Sulpizio’s various musical obsessions and an incubator for talents; most notably the avant-folk hero Ryley Walker. The scale of this record is widescreen (three of the album’s ten tracks clock in over the ten-minute mark) but don’t confuse that for lapsing into indiscipline; far from it. Opener ‘Saturday Night’ is careful to brood for the right wrong amount of time before the wig out commences; likewise, ‘Bottom Leaves’ – a reimagining of the pop stan-
dard ‘Autumn Leaves’ – stretches that familiar melody into something anxious, gnawing and studiedly anguished. Single ‘Yr Wives’ oscillates between the strident and the unsure over a repetitive, Stooges bassline, allowing the spidery guitars to build and eventually overpower Sulpizio’s vocal. Indeed, there’s a highly redemptive quality to his wrinkled phrasing as he matures record by record, and this vast, wintry album is an impressive addition to a now towering body of work. 7/10 Fergal Kinney
Peter Ivers — Becoming Peter Ivers (rvng intl.) In one iconic scene during David Lynch’s Eraserhead, the mysterious Lady in the Radiator begins performing to an empty auditorium. “In heaven, everything is fine,” she sings queasily while an ominous organ looms in the background. It’s a moment that still stands out for its eeriness in a film not short on nightmarish sequences. The song has since inspired numerous covers, but was originally composed for Lynch by Peter Ivers – a cult L.A. musician whose brutal murder in 1983 remains unsolved. Ivers made two solo albums before his untimely death – both were certifiable flops upon their release in the mid-’70s, rejected by a mainstream that couldn’t warm to his nasally voice. But four decades on the songwriter’s playful arrangements and bohemian lifestyle continue to intrigue a growing community of fans. Created with the blessing of Ivers’ close friends, a new compilation album from RVNG.Intl recovers a wealth of the musician’s previously unheard demos and studio takes (including his own version of ‘In Heaven’). The double LP captures a prolific artist navigating each phase of his creative process, rewarding uninitiated
Albums listeners and devout followers alike with its tenderness and frequent humour. Ivers can be heard chipping away at ideas, thumping the keys of his home piano on rough sketches of tracks like ‘Untitled’. There is a solemn beauty to these early drafts: his voice cracks when trying to process heartbreak on ‘The Night You Didn’t Come’, while ‘Even Stephen Foster’ sounds melancholic and confessional. Ivers is a vivid storyteller, taking care to drape his words over a laidback electric guitar on ‘I’ve Seen Your Face’. Elsewhere, he plays his harmonica with such lyricism that the lack of spoken words on ‘Window Washer’ and ‘Nirvana Cube Waltz’ goes unnoticed. There is a playful slinkiness to the music that evokes Hunky Dory-era Bowie. A cast of characters star in late night vignettes, with Ivers barely concealing a string of euphemisms on ‘Holding the Cobra’ and ‘Deborah’. Uncluttered songs are elevated by saxophones or strings only when the moment calls for them; when the groove clicks, as it does on ‘Miraculous Weekend’, the results are infectious. Becoming Peter Ivers is an archive of often semi-complete ideas. Its songs do not develop a common narrative thread but instead dig into the mindset of a nonconformist and celebrate his unique inventiveness. 7/10 Jamie Haworth
Omni — Networker (sub pop) Following the release of their second album, Multi-Task, in 2017, we left Omni taking their stand as members of that postpunk, art-rock upswing that circled around bands like Ought, Preoccupations and Protomartyr, all of which seemed to be continuing the work of giants like Wire, The Fall and early Talking Heads. Networker is the Atlanta trio’s first record for Sub Pop, and is without a doubt a big
step forward in Philip Frobos and Frankie Broyles’s songwriting, who turned once again to Nathaniel Higgins to record this new one in their native Georgia. Still sharp and energetic, their new, more focused sound has lost all of its distracting, hectic frenzy and is now way more refined, making the guitar lashing even harder on the filtered, abrasive vocals. Pre-Room Inside the World Ought are still the main reference here, but Omni are way less afraid to make their late ’70s and early ’80s inspirations clear, and therefore they sound more interesting than before, with syncopated rhythms and jangly, upbeat guitars taking the edge off. Sometimes a synth even gleams through this tight-stringed net, on what is clearly Omni’s best record yet. 7/10 Guia Cortassa
Moor Mother — Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes (don giovani) With the ongoing legitimisation of far-right, racist and fascist politics across the globe, much has been made of the changing face of protest music. There’s no mistaking Moor Mother’s – aka Camae Ayewa – body of work as a carrier of an especially belligerent, sardonic form, and Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes feels like the roughhewn crystallisation of discontent over the first few years of the Trump presidency. What’s more, the Philadelphiaborn composer-poet diagnoses the rise of white supremacy as more of a constant plateau. “They’ve been killing since the beginning of time,” she rages on ‘Don’t Die’, over a beat that shares a postcode with ’80s hardcore punk. Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes flits through time, from chattel slavery America to the 1992 LA riots, to the age of hashtag activism, throughout which vignettes of black struggle reflect
one another in an endless hall of mirrors. Senses overload with myriad images and sound from all directions – sampled slave spirituals and soul crooners, pasted atop malfunctioning electronics and horror score sonics – drawn together by Ayewa’s rap sermons into a continuum of suffering and resistance. “These stories run deep,” declares Ayewa on ‘The Myth Hold Weight’, and the message is two-pronged: structures exploitation and inequality are deeply entrenched, but means of escape are dotted along the way, if we could only see the full picture. As Sun Ra once dreamt of uniting black diasporas through jazz, poetry and space travel, Moor Mother too seems to voyage across time and space in a makeshift craft of her own, on-boarding an enormous cast — from John Coltrane to George Lewis to Dizzee Rascal — with her searching lyrical fury. 2016’s Fetish Bones bore similar wormholes between past and present, but given the ensuing shower of bullshit, that Ayewa’s project is ever-ongoing should speak to a deeper need for revolutions. The giant, knotted twine ball of racism-colonialism-capitalism-patriarchy is impossible to untie; if Moor Mother’s protest music can’t unravel it completely, it can at least determine what the threads are made from. 9/10 Dafydd Jenkins
Iguana Death Cult — Nude Casino (innovative leisure) Is it just the ‘iguana’ effect, or have Iguana Death Cult gone a bit… desert rock? The pieces have always been there, of course, but on their second album, Nude Casino, the Rotterdam five-piece have drifted further towards this dusty arena than ever before. If nothing else, the title track and the galloping desperado rhythm of ‘Liquify’ are enough to plant the album firmly in the realm of the cacti.
Albums On Nude Casino there are more high points than not, but the record is book-ended by lulls: the somewhat muted ‘Castles in the Sky’ at the close, and an instrumental prelude to open (we’ve talked about this before, guys – just take us straight into the tunes). In between, though, and to greater success, the band wrestle with capital-B and capital-I Big Ideas. The peak of these is ‘Tuesday’s Lament’, a catchy indie tune more danceable than a five-chapter epic about the difficulties of mortality and faith has any right to be. ‘Half Frysian’ is another high point, it’s spiralling riffs and jerky beat reflecting the combined neurosis and psychosis of the sleep paralysis storyline. Nude Casino is a counterweight to the band’s previous youthful excess, taking on a more cynical, world-weary outlook. As it turns out, Iguana Death Cult wear it well. 7/10 Liam Konemann
Dog In The Snow — Vanishing Lands (bella union) Helen Ganya Brown, aka Dog In The Snow, wrote the songs on ‘Vanishing Lands’ after a period of strange monochrome dreams. They were then lent flashes of colour, which rarely extend beyond muted purples, by co-producer Rob Flynn. Exploring a “ruined world” scenario, the Brighton based musician links the tracks on her second album through repeated phrases. This layering of references to “harsh light, obscura” and “nightmare empires” create a claustrophobic, liminal space even before she starkly gasps, ‘I’m sick of fearing everything’. The dread shifts and ebbs across the ten tracks and although the grip never loosens, partial relief is provided in sonic variation. The release opens with a clutch of songs that turn up the darkness within Self Esteem’s electronic-pop, the sickness
on ‘Dual Terror’ infecting background vocals that are being squeezed out of an air tunnel. The sense of unease is often amorphous, although ‘Fall Empire’ opens with an environmental warning from experimental documentary Koyaanisqatsi. Elsewhere it’s created through musical motifs: the low-slung guitars of early New Order on ‘Icaria’, and the spacious, desolate atmospherics of the Cocteau Twins on ‘This Only City’. It closes with ‘Dark’, on which the ascending notes suggest a final parting of the black clouds. 8/10 Susan Darlington
HXXS — Year of the Witch (captured tracks) It sounds like HXXS have had it pretty tough this year. Having spent six months of it living out of a van while they toured to support their debut EP MKDRONE, everything appeared to be going great until their completed roadside recordings were knicked. As a result, the version of Year of the Witch that you see before you is actually more a tribute to a lost original, the band having to re-record it from memory and to a brutally crunched timeline. Unsurprisingly then, HXXS describe their first full-length for Captured Tracks as a record “born of anguish”. Sonically, at least, they aren’t kidding. If Gavin Neves and Jeannie Colleene ever had pop sensibilities, then the last 12-months has hacked them off with a rusty knife. What remains is a mutilated form of electronica, fractured and torn with discordant noise. A lot of Year of the Witch might nod towards pop, but mostly the songs throb and sting like an exposed nerve. Perhaps due to their misadventures on the road, the album also finds HXXS in an embittered mood. Like a lot
of art created in the aftermath of the 2016 US election, the songs speak of a nation divided. Still, cleverly Neves and Colleene have turned their rage inwards instead of outwards. The result reflects the new fault-lines that have been driven through almost every family in America. With a profoundly cynical edge, the duo paints a picture of grievances that fester like open wounds. A new America where the ‘bones can’t be placed back where they’re buried’. By hook or by crook, HXXS have somehow managed to create an unerringly accurate-feeling depiction of the unease and entrenchment that lies at the heart of the West’s current culture wars. For that reason, YOTW might not be the easiest of listens, but it feels like a vital one. 7/10 Dominic Haley
Josienne Clarke — In All Weather (rough trade) In All Weather takes its title from a line in the record’s opening track – “Learning to sail in all weather”. This, Clarke says, is what we are all trying to do, “to right ourselves when things feel turbulent and uncertain...to stay true to the things you believe and need and let all the rest go.” The record emerged from a turbulent and formative period in Clarke’s life, which saw the conclusion of personal and musical relationships as well as a relocation from London to the Scottish Isle of Bute. This is a break-up record, about moving on but not forgetting; of regaining self-worth and self-understanding and gathering lessons learnt. Each song is special – simple yet full of depth. Clarke’s songwriting conjures darkly beautiful imagery; her voice as heart-breaking as it is soothing, and melancholic to its core. ‘If I Didn’t Mind’ explores the mindset of a person trapped in a passive-aggressive and emotionally
Albums manipulative relationship. Despite the serious subject matter, the song is irresistible, setting Clarke’s pure folk vocals against fuzzy indie-rock instrumentals. As Clarke explains, “I’m imagining it next to ‘Motion Sickness’ by Phoebe Bridgers on a playlist of dysfunctional relationship break-up bangers.” 9/10 Katie Cutforth
Laima — Home (deewee) Brazilian producer Laima Leyton may only just be releasing her debut album but she’s already amassed quite the CV. For the last 15 years she’s been one half of techno outfit Mixhell alongside her husband Iggor Cavalera, while more recently she’s produced alongside Diplo, Moby and Joe Goddard, played keys for Soulwax, and formed GRRRL, a musical collective bringing together women from Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Ghana, the UK and more. Amidst all of this, she’s also raised a family. Home, Laima’s debut album, finds her trying to marry these two very different aspects of her life, searching for fulfilment as both a producer and as mother and wife. The dichotomy is summed up in the unsettling title track: “We build a nest/ A lot of comfort,” Laima half-sings over sparse electronics, before deciding that “Home never feels like home”. On a very literal level, the album too is disjointed. Laima’s vocals and the synth sounds exist on one disc (titled TONAL) while Cavalera’s accompanying beats are relegated to a second (RHYTHMICAL). The idea is to play them simultaneously. It’s an interesting concept, but ultimately it’s just an unnecessary barrier to the music. The tracks here are refreshing and brilliantly produced but, divorced from their other half, feel incomplete. 6/10 Alexander Smail
Friendship — Dreamin’ (ordinal) The story goes that Dreamin’ is the product of a period during which Friendship singer Dan Wriggins and drummer Mike Cormier worked as live-in groundskeepers at an estate in rural Pennsylvania. The sound of passing headlights in the small hours, this record feels like the result of the kind of reflection and perspective that can only be truly afforded by physical distance. In creating the follow-up to 2017’s Shock out of Season, the fivepiece Philly band have dispensed with the programmed percussion that made its predecessor sound, at times, like a demo version of what was to come, and Dreamin’ feels infinitely more complete as a consequence. Recorded directly on to tape, it is imbued with a warmth and compassion that lifts these songs far above anything the group have done before, striding into the alt country territory occupied by the likes of Will Oldham and Bill Callahan for so long. And there’s poetry. From opener ‘I Don’t Have To Imagine Your Love’, Wriggins places himself as the omniscient narrator of a series of discoloured snapshots, capturing the fleeting interactions of his characters in scenes which are, on the surface, unremarkable and yet which become all the more poignant for it. His talent to focus on imagistic detail, free of unnecessary ornamentation but full of colour, means that a passing conversation between acquaintances or the sight of a bird making its nest in a suburban tree become transfigured and significant. “Blessed is the front porch,” Wriggins sings on ‘Dusky’, a love letter to his vantage point as he surveys the comings and goings of daily life. Blessed indeed. 8/10 David Zammitt
Keaton Henson — Six Lethargies (mercury kx) At the height of last year’s incessant summer heatwave, Keaton Henson decided to put on a concert at the Barbican Centre, exploring music’s relationship with emotion through a series of biometric studies. An audience more comfortable with a glass or two of red wine at the interval instead found themselves being wired up to a machine that read their emotional responses through electrodermal activity, and mapped them onto an algorithm that controlled the lighting behind the Britten Sinfonia. In the twelve months since, Six Lethargies has continued to shape into a pioneering collaborative work with neuroscientists, psychologists and music theorists. The actual cross-examination hasn’t differed from the sad falsetto folk songs he was self-releasing almost a decade ago, but it’s a relief to the image of Keaton Henson as a fragile artist battling with his own mental health who – long before the comforting hand of a hashtag – always had a scratchy marriage with the expectation to perform. The composition feels liberated without the burden of being centre stage. Recorded with the Liverpool Philharmonic, ‘Initium’ sprawls across ten minutes with the effortlessness of water on a marble floor. The trouble comes with mental health being such a nuanced experience that his Lethargies in all their gorgeousness don’t toy with discord, bar the closing minutes of ‘Trauma in Chaos’. Through two concertos called ‘Unease’ and an intricate extension into ‘Lament’, each movement has a resolve, each sad battle has a moment where both sides lay down their weapons. Invisible realities will always be hard to extend into an audible concept quite like this, but the visual and scien-
Albums tific fascination of the live show only halftranslates when you isolate the senses. 6/10 Tristan Gatward
Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox — Myths 004 (mexican summer) The latest addition to Mexican Summer’s Myths EP series is a collaboration that was always inevitable. Much like Cate Le Bon’s alliance with White Fence’s Tim Presley, the working relationship between this pairing is one of understanding and compromise, all while experimenting with the very thing that brought them together: an ear for the absurd, and an extraordinary breadth of vision. Recorded in Marfa, Texas – a town that, according to Cate Le Bon, feels like nothing else exists when you’re in it – Myths 004 elicits the comfort of madness, and the juxtaposition between, safeness and the disconcerting. Here, the two commit themselves to embracing the chaos, surrendering to all moments and moods that are travelled through. It’s a crude holiday scrapbook shared by all involved. Here, the best of two worlds collide to reveal something that belongs, distinctly, to both Le Bon and Cox (see the rigid, peculiar otherworldliness of ‘Secretary’ and the familiarly jagged, post-punk proficiency of opener ‘Canto!’). But there are also moments where the two boldly step away from their typical trademarks, ‘Constance’’s more electronic disposition being a particularly unusual yet sublime turn of events. Even here, there are tiny inflictions of warm, measured melody though, where you can really feel Cate Le Bon’s lingering presence. The EP finishes with ‘What is She Wearing’, a seemingly playful ode to the primitive, shambolic prowess of The Raincoats.
What we have here is an example of how collaborations can and should work: it’s at times unexpected, but never unfamiliar, their respective styles blending together seamlessly, despite the few disparities that separate them. 8/10 Hayley Scott
Some Bodies — Sunscreen (funnel) Look out the window and you’ll see a face-shaped swimming pool with all the conjectural warmth of David Hockney’s California. The opening bars of ‘I’m Tired All The Time’ from Bristol five-piece Some Bodies comes in with lashings of slow Indiana soul, crested by a voice that sounds like Salad Fingers on a smooth wave of doo-wop harmony. The voice laments its own existentialism, looks into booking an appointment with a celestial therapist, and then muses about the many ways they could break into their house instead. That’s about as normal as Sunscreen gets. For the most part, it’s playing frisbee with the surreal crooner rock that’s jumpstarted the ignitions of the Connan Mockasin crowd. The ecstasysmoked ‘Silver Screen’ is a slowly lolling trip over a television, thick with stories of plasticine skies and shiny-skinned people, before the punchline strikes in ‘Higher Self ’, literally being blinded by the quest of finding themselves: “I was looking to the sky for my higher self, but the sun was in my eyes”. Each spoof-sultry riff subtly draws out a hollow and love-struck longing underneath, and that’s why it works. You don’t listen to Alex Cameron and think he’s genuinely looking for love with the fraudulent Nigerian princes he chats up online. There’s a melancholy to ‘My Name’ that gets a little dragged out with an outro blending feedback and cartoon laughter, but everything before plays
like Foxygen being booked in for the slow dance instead of the roller disco. It’s an unhurried, infectious and boundless cynicism that plays through all ten tracks of this debut, right to the last song, which is called ‘Last Song’. 7/10 Tristan Gatward
Sea Change — Inside (self released) You know that feeling when you’re dancing in a club and out of nowhere a paralysing jolt of anxiety hits, and suddenly it’s all you can think about? On Ellen Sunde’s second album she pulls and stretches that moment out like taffy. From the get-go, Sunde conjures a feeling of claustrophobia. “The dress I wear’s too tight/ Feels like second skin,” she sings breathlessly on the opening title track. Her modulated vocals float over humming pads and as she tumbles into malaise. The rest of the album is tightly packed with ethereal bangers, though Sunde remains firmly in her own headspace. While the Norwegian artist’s debut dripped with the glacial natural beauty of her homeland, Inside walks the neonsoaked streets of a city at night. The thumping ‘Scratch That Itch’ follows the structure of a classic dance track, carefully building to a cathartic drop, but Sunde’s vocals haunt the mix like a spectre. The angry synth stabs dance and pummelling bass drum of ‘Stepping Out’ conjure images of a seedy dancefloor but the producer’s thoughts are instead on transforming into an animal: “My new body can set me free,” she fantasises. On closing track ‘Flown’, Sunde finally untangles her thoughts. “I focus on breathing,” she sings, her deep vocals riding light-as-air melodies and angelic vocal pads. As the song comes to a close,
Albums the airy synth sounds slowly fade into half a minute of silence. Her head is clear. 8/10 Alexander Smail
Xylouris White — The Sisypheans (drag city) The epic seems to exude everything Australian-Greek duo Xylouris White do. As is customary to each of their releases, The Sisypheans included, the first track recalls something like the opening lines of Homer’s Odyssey, in which the storyteller appeals for a tale from the ancients, a plea of “speak, memory”. It’s easy to believe we’ve heard ‘Tree Song’ before — opening their previous triad of albums Goat, Black Peak and Mother — George Xylouris’ laouto setting a scene like the opening sitar drone of a raga, as drummer Jim White scrambles for a rhythmic thread, never once having the audacity to drown out Xylouris with the chime of a cymbal. It’s rare to find such sensory interplay between two formidable players outside the realm of free jazz, and rarely do free jazz musicians seem as adept at conjuring a vivid story through sound alone. This is especially true of Xylouris White if you understand as little Greek as I do. But then again, how does newness emerge into your world when your musical laurels rest so firmly within tradition? Xylouris White’s sound, as thoroughly inspired by the ancient folk music of Greece as it is, seems continually on the cusp of some unspeakable more, and asks for a subtler ear for slight changes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but much of The Sisypheans is predicated on hearing the same songs, over and over again. But as Albert Camus wrote in 1955, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. If it’s good enough for Xylouris White, it’s good enough for us. 7/10 Dafydd Jenkins
Girl Ray — Girl (moshi moshi) The sleeve art for Girl Ray’s second album shows the band relaxing in a bright red convertible, its hood down in the sun. It’s a strong visual representation of Girl, which is a blast of summer to be enjoyed in the company of your best female friends. This big sister bond is a continuation of the North London trio’s 2017 debut, Earl Grey. But where that was firmly rooted in C86, taking its cue from the jangly guitars of Orange Juice and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, there’s been a significant musical shift. Poppy Hankin had started to write new indie-pop material when the band realised their early guitar influences didn’t represent their current Spotify playlists, which were full of Ariana Grande and Calvin Harris. Acknowledging they needed to revamp their sound to reflect what excited them musically, Hankin learned how to compose over beats on a computer. The resulting eleven tracks are still clearly crafted by the same three women. There are warm, close knit harmonies from drummer Iris McConnell and bassist Sophie Moss (it’s especially pleasing when they answer Hankins’ “yeah” on ‘Friend Like That’). The lyrics have an endearing artlessness as they sweetly meditate on romances and friendship. “We can have fun‚ play games/ Or you could just hold my hand,” Hankin sighs on the title track. Her deadpan voice, which is still accurately described as a Finchley Nico, also draws out the humour in more plaintive lines (“He dipped me like a casual fondue,” she complains on girlfriend advice track ‘Keep It Tight’). Yet the music has stepped up to the pop mark and is more keyboard than guitar based. The electronic pop and R&B influence of Grande can be heard throughout but the synth lines are too clunky and
rinky-dink to be genuine attempts to copy the genre. Instead, the band are filtering their early loves through their new pop crushes, which can clearly be heard in Ash Workman’s production (who’s previously worked with Christine And The Queens). It’s this love of pop that shines through and sidesteps potential issues of them trying to align with cool new names when they bring upcoming London rapper PSwuave into the fold on ‘Takes Time’. She’s not the only guest slot, with ‘Just Down The Hall’ featuring a male vocal line in its soulful, electric piano outro. The funky guitar work on ‘Show Me More’, meanwhile, is so precise and tight that even Nile Rodgers couldn’t pass through the strings. If these tracks are all about change then the last three hark back to their debut. ‘Go To The Top’ is heavily influenced by early Belle And Sebastian while the lazy, sun-kissed ‘Beautiful’ manages the unthinkable of mixing their sound with a vaguely dub-reggae vibe and wafting flute line. Early Grey had hints of a band with wider ambitions – the title track’s thirteen minute centre-piece, for instance – but few would have anticipated them following it up with an album quite this wide eyed, sunny and geared towards the pop market. 8/10 Susan Darlington
Warmduscher — Tainted Lunch (leaf) For the uninitiated, let’s get one thing straight: Warmduscher are ridiculous. They have “quirky” pseudonyms like ‘Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft’, and their songs are filled with animal noises and sex sounds. On the surface, we might as well write them off as this decade’s Bloodhound Gang and have done with it. Except – and this really makes me quite angry, because they have absolutely no
Albums right to be – Warmduscher are, for the most part at least, bloody good. With a few exceptions (the oddly placed track-switch ‘Burner’, featuring Kool Keith, and ‘The Chimp’, the less said about which the better) their second album is a shifting, wonderfully technicolour affair. Genre-wise, Tainted Lunch is a mixed bag. In places it slots neatly into the storied history of punk, as when ‘Blood Load’ builds into hysterics with a Stooges-style vocal. Elsewhere this influence is taken to its natural conclusion, as Iggy Pop lends his voice to album opener ‘Rules of the Game’. But there is funk and hip hop in the mix too, like on the synthheavy ‘Dream Lotion’, and the aforementioned ‘Burner’. Despite the caricaturish elements, Warmduschers’ best work here is in the interplay of desire and superficial pleasure. Pushing forth in fits and starts, lead single ‘Midnight Dipper’ is a seizing, jerkily danceable tale of one-night-only euphoria. Meanwhile, ‘Fill It, Don’t Spill It’ is half-indictment, half-exultation as it paints an image of an attention-seeking man with “everything except substance”. Warmduscher know the mania and disillusion of the high, and on Tainted Lunch the truest points are when they can distil it. 7/10 Liam Konemann
Matt Maltese — Krystal (7476 records) We’ve all had our fill of breakup records, have we not? Matt Maltese, the London-based singer-songwriter whose 2018 debut Bad Contestant introduced a distinctive, sardonic new voice, one often referred to as the British Josh Tillman, has offered a new entry into the genre; one that at least maintains his singularity. Written and recorded in his Elephant and Castle bedroom, Krystal
prospers through honesty; a direct and personal account of the last few months of Maltese’s life. The titular character is never far from his mind, but wisely, Maltese opts to shine a focus on his own frailties. “Long baths, podcasts/ I’m crying when I’m smashed/ Haha, welcome to grieving,” he sings, self-effacingly, on ‘Rom Com Gone Wrong’, whilst on ‘Curl Up and Die’, he shares the lines, “I worshipped the towel you dried on/ I’d kill all my friends for you”. His knack for a wry turn of phrase keeps the album from the perils of morose self-indulgence. The production is warm, the arrangements are uncluttered and the mood is reflective. It does mean that we can meander a little too freely into the realm of the daydreamy, however, with tracks such as closer ‘When You Wash Your Hair’ somewhat hammering home a point that had long since been clarified. To criticise seems unfair, though, when so often the charge of disingenuity is levelled at emerging acts. Maltese is authentic and shows a winning personality throughout Krystal. 7/10 Max Pilley
WaqWaq Kingdom — Essaka Hoisa (phantom limb) When you sit down and think about it, electronic music fits fairly neatly into two distinct categories: “Thinking Music” and “Feeling Music”. “Thinking Music” is, believe it or not, all about the mind; the sort of music filled with surreal bleeps and bloops that take you away from reality and inside of that little brain of yours. Conversely, “Feeling Music” is all about movement. It’s music with its heart set on the dancefloor: music with big breaks, catchy hooks and throbbing loops; music built for the club, rather than the bedroom. Some artists are able to straddle the two masterfully. However, rarely, if ever, does a group fall outside
of the categories all together. Enter WaqWaq Kingdom. Essaka Hoisa, the second record to come from Japanese musicians Shigeru Ishihara (aka DJ Scotch Egg) and Kiki Hitomi of King Midas Sound, melds together the remnants of dance music’s past, present and future to create a dense if sometimes confusing blend of modern electronica. You’ve got hip hop, you’ve got 8-bit, you’ve got schoolyard vocals, you’ve got… well you’ve pretty much got it all. Take standout ‘Hototogisu’ for example, which builds on everything great about WaqWaq Kingdom, forming a freak scene kaleidoscope of anime themes and dancehall decadence, almost questioning the purpose of modern dance music in the process. From the opening synth stabs of ‘Mum Tell Me’ to the ghostly finale of ‘Medicine Man’, WaqWaq Kingdom deliver a lesson on the values of sitting outside of recognised genre tropes. It turns out fitting inside a box isn’t all its hyped up to be. 8/10 Jack Doherty
Rachael Dadd — Flux (memphis industries) English experimental folk artist Rachael Dadd returns with her sixth studio album, Flux – a record of twists and turns and unexpected treasures. Produced with Marcus Hamblett (Villagers, Laura Marling), Flux is Dadd’s first full-band record, and also features collaborators including Kate Stables and Rozi Plain of This Is The Kit. It’s a record full of bold, literate folk songs, playing with experimental instrumentation and variation in style. ‘Two Islands’ blends merry brass with banjo; ‘Animal’ is warmly familiar with picked acoustic guitar; ‘Language of Water’ starts as a calculated piano ballad, built upon with oboes and jazz drumming.
Albums A constant force throughout the record is Dadd’s vocals, delicate and immaculate, with a soft, understated power reminiscent of Aldous Harding. The record also dares to address the current political climate. On ‘Cut My Roots’ she considers the question “In our hearts, can we always be free?”. As a British citizen with a Japanese husband, and living half of her life as a travelling musician in Japan, issues of residency and citizenship are material and immediate for Dadd. The song was written “to stand up for our collective liberties” against rising nationalism and white supremacy. It is instantly memorable as a syncopated swing number, but the power of the song is found in the lyrics that blend sharp realism with traditional folk sentiment. “My love is from another land,” she sings. “So we never settle down/ And if my country says no/ We will be ready to go.” 8/10 Katie Cutforth
Jaakko Eino Kalevi — Dissolution (weird world) Anybody who caught Out of Touch, the last album from Jaakko Eino Kalevi, will have found the Finnish one-off in curiously subdued mood – it was a record that was personally introspective but also, in a manner ill-suiting Kalevi, musically timid, too. He seeks to redress the balance with Dissolution, a mini-album on which he rediscovers the ambitious touch of old. It’s a seven-track taster menu that sounds like somebody exploring their musical whims and collating the results. On the one hand, we get chirpy synthpop in the form of ‘Uutiset’ and a weird, restless blend of electro and krautrock on ‘I Am Looking Forward’, but there’s also room for a descent into dark disco (the groove-driven ‘The Source of the Absolute Knowledge’) and a psychpop odyssey (‘The Search’), on which he
finds profundity in the loss of his car keys. That track is one of three to feature vocals from Yu-Ching Huang, who pitches her contributions halfway between Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem and the double-dutch chants of The Go! Team, to stirring effect, particularly on the title track – probably the standout here – with hints that Kalevi may have tapped into a potentially lucrative new creative well. On this evidence, he carries off funkflecked dance with real verve. Dissolution is more than just a reshuffle of the pack, then – it’s a blueprint for where Kalevi goes next. 7/10 Joe Goggins
Hemlock Ernst & Kenny Segal — Back At The House (ruby yacht) Currently in theatres is Gemini Man, a movie starring Will Smith as a hitman and Will Smith as his younger clone. It’s mostly a tech demo, where one of our greatest directors (Ang Lee) along with one of our most charismatic stars put their considerable talent into a lifeless story, the result being akin to Michelin Star chefs making a Big Mac. Sadly related to this is Back At The House, the debut rap album from Future Islands frontman Sam Herring: a technical experiment that serves to impress rather than convince. Future Islands are a good band with fantastic stage presence, and a lot of that is down to Herring and his endless energy. Throughout the album you can hear his proficiency on the mic: he’s been rap battling for twenty years but that experience feels like a detriment here. Tracks often have the feeling of a cypher, which are sadly rarely engaging outside of the live context. It’s all similar flows and cadences, which means the album kind of just sits there; an argument for how fast rapping isn’t the same as interesting rapping. It’s not annoying, nor does
it give the sense of trying too hard, but it does end up sounding like background music to a skills show video. There’s value here, but it all comes with a caveat: ‘Less Unsettled’ is a poignant closing statement to a thesis that the rest of the album doesn’t provide; ‘Addicted Youth’ is a song that offers experience on addiction, but it has too few lines that stick out. Herring seems unconvinced by himself throughout, never straying too far from his comfort zone and his single technically stellar flow. 5/10 Sam Reid
Young Guv — II (run for cover) “Nostalgic” is the adjective of choice used to introduce the mood of Young Guv’s second part of his 2019 release. And nostalgic it is, no doubt. Placing himself at the farthest point from the sound of his collective venture, Fucked Up, Ben Cook takes a backward trip in time exploring a number of different retro styles on the nine tracks here. It runs: archetypical indie pop (the opening ‘She’s a Fantasy’), Brit-pop melodies (‘Try Not To Hang On So Hard’), ’80s chart pop (‘Song About Feeling Insane’ and ‘Caught Looking’, which is all drum machines and saxophone accompaniment), and disco-funk (‘Trying to Decide’). Other tracks delve deeper into jangle pop, lo-fi reverberated sounds, split voices and sharp guitars. After all, jangle pop and college rock are not so distant relatives, and the latter was the genre Cook turned his eyes (and ears) to when working on accompanying release I earlier this year. He does finally hit that genre here with ‘Can I Just Call U’ – the best song of the record, which adds some thickness to an otherwise not so memorable tracklist. 4/10 Guia Cortassa
Albums Live Holly Herndon Barbican Centre, London 16 October 2019
Earlier this year, the Barbican Centre hosted an A.I. exhibition called More Than Human. It was installed shortly after Holly Herndon dropped her third album, PROTO; a record made with the use of machine learning – or, to be more specific, a record made with an ensemble of real life choral singers and one “A.I. baby” that she’d created, called Spawn. Since the album’s release, Herndon has been defending the point of PROTO: not to automate composition, as is often the accusation levelled at evil A.I., taking our jobs and turning our minds to mush, but to offer us a greater sense of human connection. If anyone still isn’t buying that, they should see her new live show, where Spawn is nowhere to be seen (a latency issue in this new technology still means that Spawn would be as useful up there as a real baby) and Herndon is joined on stage by husband and collaborator Mat Dryhurst, and five choral singers who, for reasons unknown, are dressed as country peasants in white smocks and head scarves. For all the tech that went into PROTO, it’s by far the most people
Herndon, previously a lone, laptop musician, has ever had on stage with her. The music – at turns ethereal and full of twisted maximalist bass; both settings suiting the giant screen visuals of an augmented wasteland made for a nuclear fallout Xbox game trailer – is triggered by a couple of laptops. To have a go at this “lack of live music”, though, is to prove Herndon’s point – that of us allowing technology to do the things we’ve told it to so we don’t have to be machines ourselves. Tonight, what that means is that the electronic soundscapes she’s made can boom away and crackle along, and Herndon and her singers can… well… sing. A lion’s share of Herndon’s vocals are goblinfied or passed through a filter of extreme static, although at their cleanest moments sound more like Enya than anything else. Her troupe of peasants more often than not sing with a purity that is clearly designed to offset the futurism (and horror) of the music. They cuckoo back and forth at the end of one song and sync with the electronics best at the start of ‘Eternal’ – an early moment in the evening that hints at the vocal display we’re about to witness. At other times the singers perform completely acapella, like on climate crisis track ‘Frontier’, where pairs of plants in the crowd (from the London Sacred Harp
choir) suddenly stand under spotlights on their seats to join in halfway through. At times we don’t know when the choral singers are done singing and when is the time to clap. With it being so clear that human voices are the star of this show, Herndon captures ours in a recording as we all sing ‘Evening Shade’ back to her, one line at a time. She’s going to take the audio home and feed it to Spawn – a parting reminder of how this project is an experiment in technology that exists because of and for human beings. Stuart Stubbs
Adam Green Soup Kitchen, Manchester 19 October 2019
Once again, Adam Green is back with a new record, and once again, that’s not all there is to it. September’s short, sweet Engine of Paradise came accompanied by a graphic novel called War and Paradise, available for free online or as an elegantly-bound hardback at the merch stand for £20. Green’s last run through the UK saw him both screen his reimagining of Aladdin and play songs from the soundtrack, but references to the multidisciplinary side of this new project are limited tonight to a plug for the book and the stage backdrop, adorned with the novel’s title above a scene from it in Green’s signature cartoon style, hinting at the record’s themes of the uncomfortable collision of humanity, technology and culture – a castle and skyscraper hybrid, a floating airship carrying a treasure chest, a faceless humanoid in a dress with its arms bound. Instead, this feels like the first time in a while that Manchester’s been treated to a run through the back catalogue by the New Yorker. In places, there’s a frailty and nervousness to Engine of Paradise about the state of the world around him that’s rare in Green’s work – this is a man who’s recent output has been defined by escapism and the building of alter-
photography by mark allan / barbican
Albums Live Jesca Hoop Brundenell Social Club, Leeds 1 October 2019
nate realities. He’s certainly not subdued tonight, though; instead, he’s very much his old self, dancing goofily, casually chatting to the audience, even taking the odd request (he dusts off his old take on The Libertines’s ‘What a Waster’, one that achieves the extraordinary feat of making the original sound refined). He brings out Jackie Cohen (supporting tonight) for a couple of sweetly low-key duets at the midpoint, and ratchets the Saturday night energy back up for noisy singalongs (‘Jessica’, ‘Friends of Mine’) and quickfire rock and roll freewheelers (‘Hollywood Bow’, ‘Dance with Me’). There remain two sides to Green – the studio eccentric, and the onstage entertainer. They’re equally endearing. Joe Goggins
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Alexandra Palace, London 5 October 2019
Streaming sludgy psychedelia across Alexandra Palace’s stained glass windows and down into the growing ‘Gizzverse’ below, the seven-piece King Gizzard (complete with two drummers because why not) rampage 90 minutes of relentless riffed mastery tonight, all topped
photography by luis kramer
with an added dose of “have some heavy metal in your Gumboot Soup and thank us later”. How do you create a setlist out of fifteen records? Answer: play the straight-ringing bangers, the Infest The Rats’ Nest anarchy and scuzzy harmonicalicked blues; get Stu Mackenzie tongue out and hair-whipping, and inevitably everything will fall into place. Forward rolling track into track of grooved gluttony, the majority of the night feels as if crowd and band alike are trapped inside a cracked screen VR machine, which, in its modern mania, is causing attention seeking stress only heightened by a back-of-the-mind inkling that you’ve not only forgotten to shut the fridge door but also left the gas on. There is no escaping the distortion bug and nor do we care. ‘Boogieman Sam’ into ‘Mr. Beat’ is everything it says on its rusty lidded tin, while crowd bruisers ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Planet B’ are two warped, world-growling Greta reminders that life is too ecologically short not to join the pit. In the whole lot of confusion, men everywhere begin to rip off their shirts in sweaty devotion. Loud, proud and eternally marmite on brand, closing the night on the slow drifting ‘Float Along-Fill Your Lungs’ is an unpredictable choice but indeed settles our kaleidoscopic stomachs soundly. Al Mills
Jesca Hoop’s gothic heart has rarely beaten as steadfast as on fifth album Stonechild. The term given to calcified foetuses that often go undetected in the abdomen for decades, it unifies a body of songs that explore motherhood and the female experience. Playing many of them for the first time on the opening night of her tour, the California-born, Chorlton-based artist is cast as the Victoriana-clad matriarch of an ever-expanding band. Having previously toured solo, with just guitar and loop station, she now has three backing musicians, including support act Chloe Foy on keys and guitar. Their musical contribution is often subtle, ‘Passage’s End’ being underpinned by electronica that’s so gentle it barely registers, and ‘Hunting My Dress’ featuring a lilting violin. Yet if there’s more equipment on stage than is strictly necessary (many tracks lack drums despite a kit and other percussion instruments being available) the band’s presence is more than vanity. Their harmonies are indispensable to the new material, which frequently draws on traditional English folk. ‘Old Father Of Fear’ has a Wicker Man strangeness, the gentle psychedelia of ‘Footfall To The Path’ is redolent of Fairport Convention, and ‘Time Capsule’ conjures ghosts through looped voices. These vocal arrangements elevate songs that are superficially simple. Hoop’s finger-picked guitar may chase interesting time signatures and chord progressions but without the massed voices the material would lack dynamics on occasion – a problem that hinders the first half of ‘Shoulder Charge’. Hoop nonetheless proves she’s still capable of low-key readings. The breakup of ‘Pegasi’ is beautifully bittersweet and set closer ‘Storms Make Grey The Sea’ is performed solo and acapella, its jazz phrasing cleaving the way for life beyond folk. Susan Darlington
FilmAlbums and Books
A Dog Called Money (dir. seamus murphy) In 2015 PJ Harvey did something unexpected. Following a career-high album (2011’s Let England Shake), the notoriously private musician, who’s always refused to explain her lyrics and creative steer, allowed us, the public, to watch her record her next record, The Hope Six Demolition Project, from behind one-way glass in a special studio built in the basement of Somerset House. The album was released in 2016, a few months after an accompanying book of Harvey’s poetry called The Hollow of the Hand, and a collection of photos from filmmaker/photographer Seamus Murphy. All of these elements came from Harvey and Murphy visiting Kosovo, Afghanistan and the poor areas of Washington D.C., and A Dog Called Money has until now been the missing part of this curious jigsaw puzzle. It’s curious because Harvey still hasn’t given any interviews regarding the project, rendering the intentions of the experiment unclear. In that sense, they’re no clearer with the arrival of Seamus Murphy’s making-of documentary: we see Harvey and her band record in their basement box as invisible onlookers stare through the window, yet the influence/purpose of the voyeurs is not once addressed – they seem, in fact, to have zero affect on the process or the outcome of the music. Equally, Harvey isn’t about to start spelling out the relevance of – or connection between – Kosovo, Afghanistan and D.C., and how and why they became the root material for Hope Six. Characteristically for Harvey, A Dog Called Money is smarter and more stealth than that, and while still ambiguous on the whole, it slowly starts to fill in some of the blanks that frustrated some when they first heard her new record in its finished form that still felt half complete from time to time. It was Harvey’s say-what-you-see, literal lyrics that grated most on the record
– they make a lot more sense now that we can see through her eyes as the film continually flits between Murphy’s travel footage from these decimated communities and the recording of these simple words in the studio. It begs the question if Harvey could have made sense of the poverty she was seeing beyond listing what she found. On a base level, the addictive viewing of A Dog Called Money gives us a rare, candid insight into who Polly Harvey is (a woman whose intense creativity can overshadow her laid back demeanour, who makes dirty jokes and mucks around in the studio with her producer, Flood), and if that was all this film did, it would be enough. More to its credit, then, is that it pulls the album it’s about into a new realm of appreciation. Hope Six may still not be PJ Harvey’s greatest record, but as part of a greater whole A Dog Called Money will have you revisiting it as soon as the credits roll. Stuart Stubbs
The Plural Atmosphere — Stewart Lupton (third man) “I did not mean to leave the fold, only digress.” The line stands out and sits heavy in The Plural Atmosphere, the first collection of poetry by Stewart Lupton, the late singer of Jonathan Fire*Eater. This small chapbook is a melancholy testament to the talents and troubles of a man who left music and the world too soon. Lupton and Jonathan Fire*Eater might have been a footnote had they not been canonized in Lizzy Goodman’s instant classic Meet in the Bathroom. That book explained how Lupton’s band laid the groundwork for the rock and roll revival in New York City in the early 2000s. But while the scene took off and Lupton’s bandmates formed the Walkmen, Lupton spiraled into heroin
addiction and mental illness, disappearing from the culture he helped create. As bands came and went and music evolved, Lupton fought to get well in various treatment programs. Unbeknownst to many, he also committed himself to poetry. Third Man published The Plural Atmosphere this October with a reissue of Jonathan Fire*Eater’s influential 1996 EP Tremble Under Boom Lights. Lupton won some important, harrowing perspective in the decades between the two. The poet and the songwriter are both fixated on nightlife, but while the songwriter is looking for an adventure, the poet is focused on reaching dawn with his head on straight. The similarities between the two, meanwhile, reflect Lupton’s insuppressible star power – the man had a theatrical sense of imagery and a smart sense of humor. That’s most apparent on “The Yellow Square Works”, a biting account of a man working through a meditation exercise with mixed results. “Clear Blue Tea” is the collection’s finest poem, and the most brutal to read. Lupton wrote it while in psychiatric treatment in Los Angeles. The introduction notes that he read it at an open mic night days before taking his own life in 2018. Recurring phrases from The Plural Atmosphere come together – “ape song”, the grim rhetorical question “What is this life, anyway, but an absurd case of the bends?”. He quotes himself on the Boom Lights song ‘The Search for Cherry Red’: “I remember it all, the fangs and the claws”. I see you, Stewart. You wear your headaches like a crown. Your thoughts become time; time, age. You are the cough woven in the recording of the piano recital by an undisputed genius. The poem is a visceral summation of the man’s life’s work. Posthumous collections such as these can be hard to read, but The Plural Atmosphere is an important and necessary addition to Lupton’s legacy. It’s a reminder that even when a stream breaks off from the main river, if you follow its current, you can still find flecks of gold flowing through the water. Colin Groundwater
JPEGMAFIA is still making political music, but his new album is also a free-wheeling expression of human acceptance and how flawed our heroes really are, by Katie Beswick. Photography by Andrew Mangum 45
It’s hot in Baltimore – early September, and
still thirty degrees outside. It is so humid that, at lunch, a waiter comes over to tell me it’s too warm to eat on the patio – he’s sweating just serving me; he says I’m going to need to sit with everyone else in the air conditioned restaurant, away from the dangerous heat. Despite the weather, JPEGMAFIA, the rapper I’m here to interview, arrives wearing a sweatshirt. It hangs loose around his wiry frame, over shorts. He has gold earrings in each ear – the one on the right moves gently as he speaks, catching the light. JPEG, or Peggy, as everyone calls him, has this look in his eye that reminds me of bars from that old track ‘Return of the Drifter’, by the British rapper Jehst. It goes: ‘Soldiers hold a cold stare like they’ve never been scared/ but live life like they know their time’s precious and scarce’. Peggy’s ex-military, so maybe that’s how he’s perfected the soldier stare. His eyes are amber-brown, intense and alert, if slightly glassy from weed smoke – he is watching, taking everything in, holding the world at a distance as he looks you in the eye, the way soldiers have to in order to conceal their vulnerability. He is not fucking around – although I don’t mean to suggest that Peggy is aggressive: it’s fearlessness is all. He is serious about this stuff. “The only thing I want people to take from me,” he says, “is, like, don’t expect anything else other than hard work. Don’t expect it to sound or be about something, because I could talk about anything at any point.” It’s hot in the 8x10 too – the club on the city’s East Cross street, where JPEG is performing to launch the release of his latest album All My Heroes Are Cornballs, supported by his Baltimore friends and peers (Butch Dawson, Abdu Ali, Ghostie). People are queuing around the block a couple of hours before it starts – testimony to the rapper’s growing popularity here, following the success of his 2018 album Veteran. Certainly, there’s a sense of something more intimate than your usual relationship between an artist and his fans in the exchange between Peg and the crowd waiting outside. A young guy at the front of the line has come all the way from Richmond, Virginia, to see this, he tells me, and he’s excited, travelling alone – his friends are going to catch the livestream back home. So far, so normal. But later, as the queue grows and Peggy runs a sound-check, there is some trouble in the street – a drunk or drugged up guy is threatening fans in the queue. The boy from Virginia knocks on the window of the closed club for help, and Peg leaves his sound-check to see what’s happening, not bothering to wait for security to arrive. He eyes the drunk guy with that soldier-stare, steps forward and talks in a low voice: precise, but unconfrontational, as his management look on uncomfortably – starting something with the crowd would not be an ideal way to launch this album. Eventually, the drunk guy nods at whatever Peggy is saying and stumbles away. On stage Peg is frenetic, vulnerable and sexy. There’s nothing of the veteran now, other than his lean physique – topless and slick with sweat, hunched over himself as he delivers his lyrics to the mic, his voice occasionally breaking into a register somewhere between a wail and scream. All My Heroes
Are Cornballs contemplates the state of the world in fractured, gender-bending tracks that veer between desperate and nostalgic. “I can’t feel my face, oh god!” he cries, on ‘Jesus Forgive Me, I am a Thot’, and then, “Show me how to keep my pussy closed”. The track ‘BasicBitchTearGas’ is an auto-tuned cover of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ – another track is called simply ‘Kenan vs Kel’. If Veteran was a straight up political statement, there’s something more irreverent about Cornballs – it’s a strange and playful riff on popular culture, composed as a kind of improvisation in the wake of Veteran’s success. “When Veteran was released I knew I didn’t want the next thing to sound like Veteran,” Peggy says, “but I didn’t really care what that meant. I guess the only thing I was thinking was, like, I want it to be more me, and more like I’m not just laser focussed on political topics or anything. I’m just talking in general and if they pop up they pop up – and they still do. I guess the difference is I’m just letting the songs form themselves rather than trying to form something around them.” On the Veteran tour, Peggy kept working on new music: producing more than ninety instrumentals (at one point he scrolls through his phone, showing me the long list of unused
“I was thinking I want it to be more me, and more like I’m not just laser focussed on political topics” beats he made while working on Cornballs), which he returned to months later when he was ready to write lyrics for the new album. “And I did that on purpose – because I wanted it to be like I was two different people. So I made the music, stepped back and listened to it again after not listening for a while, so it was fresh, new. So it was good to work through because it was two genuine things, happening at the same time, smooshing them together or something like that.” — All my Heroes are Cornballs — The politics of Cornballs might be more irreverent than its predecessor, but as Peggy says, a politics is still present – how could it not be, in these end times? At first though, when I ask about the intentions of the work, Peg brushes my questions off lightly, as if he hasn’t really considered the deeper meanings at play. “So my titles for songs are usually kind of whatever,” he says, when I ask the (admittedly unoriginal) question about how he names his tracks. “Unless I want it to be some specific thing, like ‘Kenan vs Kel’ I named it that on purpose, but sometimes I
“You can still have heroes. You just need to accept the reality of the situation. Because things aren’t that black and white” name something something just because I don’t have a name for it. Like ‘Jesus Forgive me I’m a Thot’, I didn’t have a name so I just named it that.” It soon becomes clear, though, that Peggy doesn’t really do anything without thinking about it. The ‘thot’ in the title is a provocation, as much as anything. “To draw out stupid people, because you know niggas who be like, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that, it has the word thot in it’, I’m just gonna save them some time, like let’s not waste each other’s time.” As for the album title, “I’m very specific about [that]. This title means – it just sums up how I feel about the state of celebrity I guess. In an era where all of your skeletons are out the closet and people nit pick specific things. It’s just an era where you can’t hide anymore. You can’t be like a douchebag or a rapist, and just exposing the fact that lots of people we thought were really great are just doing the same bad shit normal people are. Because they’re just normal niggas. So All my Heroes are Cornballs is just a blanket statement about we’re all human, or something like that. “You can still have heroes,” Peggy explains, leaning forward to emphasise his point. “You just need to accept the reality of the situation. Because things aren’t that black and white. Because there’s no all good person, you know what I mean? You can still have role models, I have role models, but you just have to accept. That’s what All My Heroes Are Cornballs is about. Acceptance. We might not want to think it’s this way; we might want to think people are all good or all bad, but really people are just a mix of both. Sometimes leaning one way or the other, but usually not…” — Becoming a hero/cornball — Given the crowd that gathers for his launch, and the fans who recognise him in the Baltimore streets as we shoot the cover photos, I wonder whether Peg feels any sense of extra responsibility now he is on the cusp of fame. Is he more careful about his behaviour when there might be consequences beyond his own reputation – now that he’s an influencer of sorts? “I think it’s impossible not to feel some kind of responsibility, at least subconsciously. But whether or not I’ll act on that – I don’t really feel obligated to do anything for anybody. I have my morals and I stick by them, so that’s really it for me. I’ve been making music for so long, and no one cared until, like, last year. So for me all these niggas are new. I don’t feel no type of way about
Cover story being myself because I really believe that’s what got me here.” He takes a sip of water. “All the issues that people are talking about on Twitter, I was rapping about them in 2015, because I gave a shit. And I didn’t make that up to make myself look better or anything. It is what it is, I stick to myself. It seems that at least social media caught up to what I think rather than me trying to catch up to them, so whatever. I feel some kind of responsibility, but, like, I’m gonna stick to my moral code. So I’ll stick to that – and you can accept that there’s gonna be something you don’t agree with me about at some point. But maybe you’ll agree with me about everything. Who knows? As long as I’m not doing some kind of crazy shit.” — It’s just Baltimore — Back at the album launch Peggy jumps into the crowd so that he is right at the centre of the teeming mass I’m viewing from my position on the balcony above the stage. The skin from his torso is hot against the skin of his fans. At different points during the set the audience get on stage to jump out and be held up by one another. There’s this intoxicating sense of connection moving around the club, drawing us together, boundaries dissolving; the body of the crowd becoming part of JPEG’s own body. It’s fair to say I’m finding it… affecting. “That’s just Baltimore,” Peg tells me backstage when I ask him whether his gigs are usually this intense. And maybe he’s right – it’s a city known for its raw intensity, The Wire, Serial, all that investigative reporting at the Baltimore Sun (admittedly I’m not sure where Hairspray, Baltimore’s other iconic cultural product, fits into this analogy, but you get my point). That’s why he chose this city as the place to launch the album. Although he was raised in New York – relocating to Atlanta just before he became a teenager – Peggy feels a profound connection with Baltimore. He moved here in 2014, after a four-year career in the US military. Very soon after his arrival, the death of 25-yearold Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore City Police led to uprisings across the city. The defiance of citizens in the face of state violence had a profound effect on Peg, who released his first project as JPEGMAFIA, 2015’s Darksin Manson, as a response to Baltimore’s resistance in the wake of Gray’s killing. Although he is based in LA now, his affiliation with the city and its citizens endures. And the racial politics that have inflected Peggy’s work to date simmer under the tracks on the new album too. I notice it in his use of the word ‘cracker’ – a class-inflected racial slur for white people, related to the ‘white trash’ concept that marginalises America’s white poor. Peggy uses ‘cracker’ repeatedly on this album (and on previous records), and I wonder how he squares the class and race aspects of that. It isn’t that I personally find the word cracker offensive (I’m white, but it isn’t used in the UK, where anyway the relationship between race and class is quite different to the US), it’s more that the mash up between that word and ‘nigga’, which he also uses, seems to signal some sort of class solidarity – as well as directly acknowledging the racism that is endemic in US culture.
“It’s actually really interesting you bring it up. Because, like, yeah the word cracker does have a class aspect to it because when other white people use that word, or when they used to, they were talking about lower class white people. So it’s like their n-word in a way. It’s funny because with white people it has this context of like, ‘you’re lower’, but its just because, like, I dunno, because cracker for black people it has a positive context, at least for white people, because it’s supposed to come from like cracking the whip or something. But yeah I put words like that there on purpose because they’re meaningless, ultimately.” He clearly doesn’t think words are meaningless though. It’s that flippancy again – his habit of initially dismissing what it turns out is actually a conscious politics. “People listen to people like me, talking about other people that look like me all the time. But as soon as that gun is being pointed at a cracker – and what I mean is as soon as that same antagonistic viewpoint is pointed back at them – they don’t know what to do with it. But yet they listen to other people do it all the time. It forces them to think about the idea that they looking at this shit like some zoo shit or something. Because its like, ‘why you upset I’m saying shit like cracker, but you listen to x amount of niggas talking about they killed x amount of niggas all the time, with no thought process?’ You don’t think about it at all. Niggas be arguing whether they can rap the lyrics. ‘Can I say the n-word with this?’, you know? I like using those words, the reason I put those words in there is to force stupid people to reveal themselves. Because someone who’s smart and racist will not react – but someone who’s a dumbass will see and have an immediate stupid reaction, because that’s all they can do, you know what I mean? Yes, I said cracker specifically so you could do this, and you’re doing it. You did what I wanted you to do. It’s supposed to draw those people out, because these kind of people are liars. So if I put that kind of language in there it forces them to reveal who they really are, which they wouldn’t have otherwise. They would just wrap it up in some bullshit. ‘Oh I’m not racist, I love black people, I have a black dog’, or some shit. But its just if someone has a problem with me saying cracker – you can guess the rest.” He shrugs. “Sometimes I use the word cracker with that connotation, like I’m a white person using it to talk to someone lower class, because it has double the disrespect. They don’t feel like I should be saying that anyway, so for me to be masking myself as someone better than them – stupid people do not know how to react to something like that. It’s too thought out and drawn out, and they only can react stupidly to it.” Peggy’s use of language is also something of a reckoning with the inherent classism and racism of military life that he’s left behind, about which he has no nostalgia. “Anything in the US is going to be mostly white males, because that’s the majority of the population. So the military in the US is mostly white, some black, some Hispanic. There’s nothing surprising, there’s nobody interesting, there’s nothing interesting going on in the military other than what you think is going on. So for me I just don’t like the culture around it. The bro-y kinda like frat boy culture. I can never exist in spaces like
Cover story that. The people are too stupid for me, they’re not – it’s not saying I’m smart, but these people are like the lowest common denominator of people that you find.” Like many US military recruits – and like many UK recruits too – Peggy enlisted because, as a poor kid in the city, he had few other options. The military on both sides of the Atlantic recruit poor kids the way drug dealers do – turning up where they know vulnerable children hang out, offering a salary, adventure, the possibility of strong father figures and a way out of poverty. (And the military recruiters are just as cynical as the drug dealers too: a friend who worked in advertising once told me how officers would refer to these type of recruits – poor, inner city, few other options – as ‘cannon fodder’ during client meetings where they designed recruitment campaigns.) “They have a target audience,” Peggy says. “They know that option is not enticing to private school kids, because they have options. Children like me didn’t have options. So this was one of the ways I saw to make a living for myself. When I was in the military there were different types of people – the people who joined because they genuinely want to defend their country and they loved it, there’s people who are just crazy and want to kill different races, and there are people who just cannot function in society and are skating by in life, and they are just there. And that makes up the majority of them. “I didn’t have any fucking money. I’m not like these trust fund niggas; they get into the rap game and they parents be paying them and shit. I didn’t have any help so that was the only option. You know, when you’re poor recruiters come down there to where you’re at and they present you with the option. I had no money for college, no prospects – no nothing. I just wanted to make music. But I wasn’t even thinking about it for music. I was just thinking ‘I should do something with my life’, ‘cause, either [join the military] or I’m just gonna be dead.” — What the fuck is going on here? —
“All the issues that people are talking about on Twitter, I was rapping about them in 2015, because I gave a shit”
Music had long been a calming influence for Peg, and his expression through hip hop was a means of channelling his rage both before he joined the military and after he left. “I been making music since I was fourteen. When I was in [the military] I had already been like five, six years deep. I just been making music for a while. I always had an interest in it, because, I dunno, just something about it made me feel calm or some shit. It still does. So I just always liked it. So one day when I was 18 I just realised, yeah I think I like this, I wanna do this. I don’t really like anything else, this is what I enjoy doing.” He tells me how experiments with noise especially inspired him in the early years. He’s especially fond of UK grime – of the way grime artists play with sound to upend the listener’s understanding of the world. “Odd sounds, sounds that you don’t find in things normally. But making them make sense. I love that about grime and like, fucking – the beats, like the old, old grime beats, it’s like the craziest shit, like what the fuck is going on here? I love it.”
And you can tell he does, because there is this sudden joy in his voice and his gestures when we’re talking about grime; a tangible pleasure in the possibilities of noise. “They like, they take sounds that are really whacky and strange and they make them rhythmic,” he says. “It’s interesting, taking something that’s unappealing and just forcing it to be something that people like. It’s fire, yo! It’s so beautiful man. This is the basis of why I love making music. The possibilities are infinite. I have, like, a weird bath of sounds,” he turns to his manager, “is that a word man, like bath of sounds? – Like a plethora of sounds, I like to texture things. I enjoy it, man. It’s like making a cake or something.” Still, if his own music has become known for its experiments with noise, then Cornballs, he hopes, offers something of an antidote to that. This is a new flavour – softer maybe, at least more carefully woven. This new direction is most clearly realised on the track ‘Free the Frail’, a collaboration with the vocalist Helena Deland that peters into a beautiful, watery close. The lyrics for the hook that Deland improvised during a recording session were moved to the end of the track to achieve this cascading, waterfall effect. “Nah, she’s a genius,” Peg says, when I ask him about working with Deland. “I contacted her because I think she’s an excellent songwriter, and the way she structures music is just wild. Like she just – I don’t understand how she writes. The way she writes is just like a rapper or something like that. And I wanted to harness that energy on the album, and I just thought
that song was the best fit. She, like, hummed a little bit on it, and I was waiting for her to do something, like she was gonna add some words, she was gonna flesh it out, but then we decided it sounded good as is. Then she added that thing at the end where she did it a cappella. She did actually put those words to [the hook] at first, but I decided it [worked better] as a standalone thing because you can hear all the intricacies.” This texture, these intricacies, are maybe not what his existing fans expect, but they mark the place where Peggy is at now. He has, maybe, processed some of the trauma of living in a culture of racism – at least, he’s able to command the expression of that trauma in his music more keenly than in the past. “I think people have, like, an idea of me,” he says. “But before, the difference is that I wanted to put this rage out, because that’s what I felt at the time. This was fresh when Michael Brown happened [18 year old Brown, an African American teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014]. I had a lot of rage and shit and that was the energy I wanted to put out. And now, I still feel that rage, I’m just able to control it and go into it when I need to rather than letting it consume me. I couldn’t do anything but what I was doing when it was coming out. But now I’m able to control it more. Like, now I’m able to show more variety because I’m in a better headspace, as opposed to just broke and depressed and angry. So like yeah, I wasn’t thinking logically at the time is the difference.”
Interview Decoding the latest album from the underground radio artist, by Stuart Stubbs. Photography by Lottie Depresstival Bowater
Ergo Phizmiz The forest floor of Spotify is littered with albums by zero-budget artists like Ergo Phizmiz; or would be if any other artist was like him, which they’re not. In 2018, he dropped a new collection of tracks called Fstarstark Mstarn Winkyface onto streaming services. That it was missed by most (myself included until a CDR of it reached our office last month) can be levelled at Ergo’s prolific crossmedium output almost as much as his not being able to afford the sponsor spots and playlist inclusions essential for a successful release campaign. It’s practically impossible to know how many albums of music Ergo has made since his 2004 collection of Aphex Twin
covers in the style of a vaudevillian orchestra. Discogs counts 38, but excludes his most recent. As Ergo told Wire magazine in 2013: “My old website had a page that had endless hours of downloadable music… I really embraced the free music thing when it first started to happen on the internet.” It’s little wonder that he shared a 7-inch with R Stevie Moore in 2011, called Food And War. The following year Ergo released the closest thing he’s had to a ‘break-through’ record: Eleven Songs encapsulated his ability to conjure a DIY project full of modesty and charm but also grand ambition, convincingly on this occasion in the vein of the late ’60s Canterbury folk scene. His latest record is far uglier, but we’ll get to that.
Interview “Radio is my darling,” he tells me with a smile, at a pub close to the high-rise London flat where he made Fstarstark Mstarn Winkyface. And when you consider all the things that Ergo Phizmiz is (writer, composer, collagist, dada artist, surrealist, theatre and opera maker, “Paul McCartney’s favourite meat substitute”, as his blog has it), radio producer is his bread and butter, and his constant. He’s been making radio shows from scratch for his entire career, for art stations in the UK, like Resonance FM and Soundart Radio, the BBC on a couple of occasions, and a lot in Germany, where the medium is still well funded, fully appreciated and considered more than a stepping stone to television. Of course, when Ergo says that he’s a radio producer, he doesn’t mean that he mans the desk for a host to play records and take calls every now and then from the listening public; he creates fantastical audio adventures bound only by his own imagination, full of uncanny stories and inventive sound effects – cosmic, mind-bending radio plays, like his story for the BBC’s Between the Ears about a man recreating the Paul Klee painting Twittering Machine in a town hall, only for Klee himself to bust in and take him on a hot air balloon ride through his artworks. “I’ve got this theory about obsolete media,” says Ergo. “There are lots of art forms where their lifespan has been cut short… silent cinema is one of them, because I think it is a completely different art form to sound cinema. Radio is the same thing, because it’s the place where, without budget of any kind, you can say, ‘this scene is going to happen in a living room in Bradford and the next scene is going to take place on the surface of Jupiter.’ With no money at all, you can do it. But because television happened when it did, the progress of radio as an art form got its head chopped off, so our perception of radio is where either DJs talk or there’s radio plays. I think radio should be more along the lines of how filmmakers work, creating visions. I’m a proponent of quick, cheap art, and I think radio is the optimum place of artistic freedom.” Most recently, Ergo’s love for radio has manifested itself in his own “weird, avant garde community radio station”, on air for two weeks at the time that I met him, launched with his collaborating partner Lottie Depresstival Bowater. Wolverton FM is based at Wolverton Manor on the Isle of Wight, where Ergo and Lottie live in one of the out buildings. Its intention is to be “a radio station where it’s possible to do anything”, and it’s already attracting avant garde program makers from New Zealand and America, even if the local community is taking a little longer to embrace the station’s schedule. (Submisions for new shows are welcome at www.wolvertonfm.hotglue.me) It’s a lot to be getting on with, with or without Ergo’s childhood obsession with Gilbert and Sullivan manifesting itself into an ongoing string of weird and wonderful operas, written, performed and produced by Ergo. Made possible thanks to his and Lottie’s Avanthardcollective (a group of volunteers with members aged 10 to 67, “largely made up of autistic people, trans people, people outside the mainstream of the system”), Ergo’s currently working on a Gilbert and Sullivan opera that features Michael Winner as
the lead character. Past works have included an opera in which Chris Evans is so tormented by callers on his radio show that he jumps out of the window. I could go on. Surrealism, you’ve probably guessed, lives in all of Ergo’s work, including Fstarstark Mstarn Winkyface, described on his blog and bandcamp page in pointed hyperbole as a “blisteringly brilliant barnacled behemoth of a record, a grand Panjandrum of juddering, stamping, tear-yourself-apart-and-reconstituteyourself-like-the-corned-beef-you-are hardcore axe wielding cockpop.” Its building blocks are an analogue drum machine, muddy, unimpressed, half-spoken vocals and digitally manipulated guitars that together make Ergo feel like an early Beck incarnate angry at the world. Within its bubbling broth of climate change, fascism, middle class values and nihilism, are a bunch of intriguing reference points, Easter eggs and mysteries that Ergo obligingly casts some light on.
FSTARSTARK MSTARN WINKYFACE When I ask Ergo to explain what the hell the record title means, I don’t even know how to pronounce it, except for its “Winkyface” ending. He tells me: “It’s pronounced, F-Star-Stark-M-StarnWinkyface. It’s because initially it had a different title and I tried to release it on the internet but it couldn’t get through any of the obscenity regulations on the social networks etc. Because it’s called Fuck Men Winky Face.” This was poor research on my part: a cursory Google of the record will return a second of Ergo’s bandcamp pages featuring the album alone, where it still has its original title as well as its original artwork – not the picture of Ergo’s four-year-old daughter sticking her middle finger up (“she’d hurt her finger and walked around with it sticking up like that for the whole day”) but a photograph of Donald Trump shaking hands with Kim Jong Un emblazoned Fuck Men ;). “Obviously it’s a political statement rather than towards everyone who’s a man,” he says. “What the album is, to an extent, is my detachment from the world of men. Obviously, it’s a very anxious record, and it’s like a soap opera as well, going through all of these archetypes. “I wanted to do something that reflected the atmosphere of the time, because most of my work is engaged in fantasy, or putting together ridiculous or disparate ideas and making something new out of it, and with this I wanted to just
Interview do something that was really direct. We were also living in that flat, looking out of the window at all of the car crashes that were happening everyday; all the people that were screaming on the street, society crumbling. I wanted to make an album that sounded like the bits of the brickwork were falling out. The mess of it all.”
Ergo says the song is about, “just a guy that I’ve probably met lots and lots of times. The whole album has been attacking masculinity, but the song is about this guy’s actual gentle heart – he really loves his dog. It’s about finding that little light of humanity.” MYSTIC MEG
WALERIAN BOROWCZYK The opening track on the copy of the album that I have is mysteriously missing from all streaming platforms, which is a shame, because ‘Walerian Borowczyk is Dead’ is perhaps the finest piece of collage pop that Ergo Phizmiz has made. You can at least hear it on YouTube, where its sample crackles like the type once mined by the Avalanches. The deceased in the title, Ergo tells me, was a Polish animator-turned-pornographer, operating from the late ’40s until the late ’80s, indeed dead, since 2006. “It ties together lots of strands of my work because I did loads of work about animation,” says Ergo. “Again, going back to my radio work, I do think the way to treat it is like animation – putting together small fragments of things to create illusions. Walerian Borowczyk is my favourite animator because even in his pornographic films there’s something kind of terse and removed in them. They’re more about looking at strange beauty.” The track is “a gentle plea for people to have more fun than they’re currently having”, built around a dismembered choir and hook of ‘Walerian Borowczyk is dead/ And no one wants to have sex anymore’. PAUL POTTS Fuck Men ;) also features a song called ‘Paul Potts’, who, I’m sure you’ll you’ll never forget, won the first series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. He was like a proto-Susan Boyle, who had a film made about his life starring James Corden. Potts’s track is a slimy electro number about mundanity and the love a man can have for his dog. An easy one to decode, this, or so I thought. “Yeah, this is a coincidence,” says Ergo. “I liked the name Paul Potts because it sounds like [Cambodian dictator] Pol Pot. It granted the song some more weight when I found out about the Paul Potts you mean.
At least it’s impossible to mistakenly identify Mystic Meg – the celebrity medium who was a household name in the early ’90s as the National Lottery’s official astronomer, these days scoring a similarly extra naff horoscope gig for Sun Bingo. Putting on his dada cap, Ergo pieced together the lyrics to this peppy number of nonsense by reconstituting Meg’s own words from a tarot book of hers that he had lying around the house. “I’ve got a problem with the whole think positive thing,” says Ergo. “Because I think that thinking positive, historically, does not work.” Lean in and you can hear Ergo babble, “Empty of feelings, your true love can grow, if your heart is still free.” Definitely sounds like Mystic Meg.
MECONIUM Ergo admits that Fstarstark Mstarn Winkyface was not an enjoyable album to make; and you could say rightly so considering its overarching theme of toxic masculinity and its various subplots of social ills. A track like ‘John and Sarah Are Just Like You’ though, with its cranky indie guitar and call-and-response hook, is, despite being about climate change, danceable wonky pop, and positively euphoric compared to ‘Meconium Suicide’ – the album’s most aggressive moment; the sound of Suicide colliding with Atari end-of-level boss music. I didn’t know what Meconium was until I Googled it. Don’t do that. And look away now if you don’t want to know that it’s the first faecal matter to come from a newborn. “That track is a light-hearted song about aggressive arseholes,” says Ergo. “It’s aimed at people who go on stag dos in Kraków.”
The BesT New Music
TiNDeRsTicKs NO TReAsuRe BuT hOPe
LiNDsTRØM ON A cLeAR DAY i cAN see FOReVeR
GiRL RAY GiRL
‘New ways’ is the fourth fulllength album from Montreal singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk. it’s about engaging and changing, touching and being touched. it’s a physical record, with louder and tighter grooves, and the rawest lyrics the musician has ever recorded. The heat of the night and the cool blue of morning, hints of Prince and Bill withers.
Rich in intuitive warmth, lush melodies and an inquisitive spirit, ‘No Treasure But hope’ casts a fresh light on Tindersticks’ core qualities, bathed in the glow of a band intent on rediscovering what they can do.
in the autumn of 2018, Lindstrøm composed a commissioned piece for Norway’s premiere art centre henie Onstad Kunstsenter. sketches from the sold-out performances became the foundation for the new tracks on the album.
Aşa released her debut album in 2007, it was a quiet landslide: a platinum selling album, hundreds of concerts around the world... The stunning story of an unclassifiable revelation that blurs the classic genres, somewhere between europe, Africa and America.
North London band Girl Ray return for their second album with a delightful, sun-kissed tribute to their love of pop and R&B.
This is also the first time ever Lindstrøm has made an album entirely with hardware instead of computer-plugins. he utilised thirty plus synthesizers and drum-machines. This is making music without inhibitions and the results are staggering.
Aşa’s songs are always inspired by life. The new album speaks only of love in all its guises pain, joy, pleasure, closeness... singing more about our lives than her own. That is what artists are for.
ROBeRTO FONsecA YesuN
hiRO KONe A FOssiL BeGiNs TO BRAY
V/A TuRNOVeR BACK TO MINE - JUNGLE ALTOGeTheR Back To Mine
Run For Cover
‘A Fossil Begins To Bray’ is NYc producer hiro Kone’s follow up to her 2018 album ‘Pure expenditure’, which further collapses techno, industrial and ambient paradigms in order to employ absence as a means of cultural critique.
Jungle take the reins for the latest Back To Mine mix that delves through the band’s personal collection of leftfieldpop, deep house, modern jazz, Afro-funk and symphonic soul. The album includes a mix of household names, an exclusive track from the band along with some hidden gems.
There is a closeness at the heart of Turnover’s aptly titled new album, ‘Altogether’. The record represents the group’s most collaborative and connected work to date, showcasing the intuitive, near-telepathic relationship frontman Austin Getz has developed over the years with his bandmates.
LeiF VOLLeBeKK New wAYs Secret City
“An elegant new collection of waltzes, lullabies… and even an unconditional love song.” Uncut
Kele, founding member and lead singer of Bloc Party, announces the release of his new solo album ‘2042’, heralded by the visceral first single Jungle Bunny.
havana-born pianist Roberto Fonseca releases ‘Yesun’, his ninth solo album. Fonseca has been at the forefront of the renaissance in cuban music for nearly three decades.
As an artist, Kele Okereke has never stood still, relentlessly seeking new ways in which to present his luminous songs. whilst sonically markedly different from ‘Fatherland’, lyrically ‘2042’ picks up a thread from that record whereby Kele’s life experiences and relationships suffuse the album with some of his most personal lyrics yet.
“’Yesun’ is the album i’ve always wanted to make,” says Fonseca of a record that combines everything from jazz and classical music to rap, funk, reggaeton and electronica, ripping up the rulebook along the way.
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“sweet, shiny modern pop songs” Q Magazine Released 8th November Rough Trade east in-store performance 13th November
catch Turnover on tour in the uK from 24/10 until 2/11 London, when they play The Roundhouse (Mirrors Festival)
Tell me about it
Tell me about it
Danny Brown What propels the American rapper through his self-built universe right now, told in the artist’s own words, by Alex Francis. Photography by Tom Keelan
Danny Brown isn’t going to lie to you. He may have made his name off the back of outrageous punchlines, but the heart of his music has long been the honesty with which he approaches difficult emotional territory. He might at one moment feel “sorta like Squidward and his clarinet”, and in the next be talking about how “the downward spiral got me suicidal/ But too scared to do it, so these pills’ll be the rifle”. The great thing about him is the way that he’ll treat both lines with equal weight and let you decide what you want to hear. On his breakout record, XXX, and its follow up, Old, Brown generally split up the tracks between where he played the goofy superhero and where he talked about more serious subjects. Since 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, however, the two sides of his persona have come together into a more ambiguous whole. Brown’s leaned further into grimy, absurd punchlines – a typical line on new album uknowwhati’msayin¿ (produced by Q-Tip) goes “I die for this shit like Elvis”. In amongst them, though, it’s not hard to find references to regrets piling up, abusing drugs to forget and the weight of trauma. Just as Brown’s persona anaesthetises himself with sex and drugs, it’s easy for the listener to use the out-there punchlines scattered through his records to distract from the underlying sadness that permeates his discography. The man himself is currently in higher spirits, coming off the first run of his TV show on VICELAND, Danny’s House. He’s just as animated and exciting an artist as ever, but I get the sense during our brief conversation that he’s happier rolling out this album than at any point in the last few years. It’s no coincidence that the hook of one of uknowwhati’msayin¿’s standout tracks goes “ain’t no next life, so I’m trying to live my best life”. I spoke with him over the phone to talk about mental health, YouTube conspiracy channels and sensory deprivation tanks.
Q-Tip wanted me to go back to how I rapped on The Hybrid He wanted me to keep my voice a little more controlled. As far as the writing, he let me do my thing, but he just wanted to make sure that the performance was up to par with what he wanted. It’s less stressful for me. I’m usually making these albums – I’m finding beats and I’m usually doing everything by myself – so just to ask someone to go to work with you helps, you know what I’m saying? Ain’t nothing like strength in numbers. I’m approaching ten years doing this. At this point I feel like I’ve built my own universe, you know? Sometimes you see people work with stuff that don’t even match up and it gets weird sometimes, so for me I only want to work with people who can work in Danny Brown’s universe. It’s different, working with Q-Tip. Usually at this point I’d be screaming and kicking shit all the time, working myself to death – but you know, working with Tip has been the easiest process of putting an album out, I would say. I think I’m just at a different point in my life right now. I’ve been doing it for so long, I know what I’m getting myself into now. A lot of stuff isn’t uncharted territory no more. I think I’m just happier in my life right now. I don’t go out much I’m like a home person, I stay in a lot. My girl, she’s teaching jiu-jitsu classes and stuff. I just hang out at the crib for the most part, so I’m not doing too much. Not partying. I’m not partying or nothing like that no more. I stopped doing Adderall I was doing a lot of Adderall, man. It’s like, once you stop doing certain stuff then other stuff stops too. So that’s where I was, and I just started taking better care of myself. I stopped caring too much, you know what I’m saying? I found myself being one
Tell me about it finds the freaks of the world on YouTube and makes documentaries about them, it’s real cool. He finds these real eclectic characters who are just around on the Internet and makes in-depth documentaries about them, it’s hilarious. I love playing videogames That’s the basis of [my Twitch stream]. I’m into a lot of different stuff, like playing RPGs – my homies just play Madden and 2K, shit like that – like FIFA. Not too many people are into RPGs where I’m coming from, so it’s good to go on a platform like that and be able to meet people from different walks of life who are into the same things that I’m into, you know? I’m trying to get more involved with the videogame world too, like doing soundtracks and scoring. Not so much just putting rap songs in videogames but actual scoring; I’d love to be involved with that. And I’m studying more with my comedy, taking acting classes all the time – I’m part of a YouTube series called Dad, so I’m just working on stuff like that. I think that side-scrollers are coming back – people are being more creative with the retro-looking games so I’d love to work on a cool side-scroller. Like Cuphead – I really loved Cuphead, as much as it frustrated me and I died 3 billion times, I love the music and I love the look. That game is real artistic – videogames can be art too.
of those people who gave a fuck about the wrong shit, you know? You’ve only got so many fucks to give in life, man; you can’t be worried about the bullshit. Now I’m not stressing myself out over stuff I can’t control. I started doing sensory deprivation, so that helped a lot. It almost gave me like an ego death kind of thing. You can zone out and a lot of crazy shit can happen when you’re floating but it just made me stronger mentally, you know? It’s almost like you go die. That’s the only way I can describe it – it feels like you die for two hours, so once you get out of that tank you feel refreshed, you’ve got a whole new take on life. Danny’s House is just Daniel That ain’t me trying to be cool, that ain’t me trying to be a rapper, that’s just me being goofy, you know? I think Danny’s House is more real to me than my rap songs, to be honest. [It’s] just made me more seasoned. I don’t get irritated by doing a whole bunch of takes on something, you know what I’m saying? Working on the show definitely gave me more humility towards camera people, interviewers, you know what I’m saying? It helps you to not be a dick when you put yourself in their shoes. I’m on YouTube all day That’s my cable, that’s my TV in some sense. I watch a lot of conspiracy theory breakdown channels and stuff like that. Beige Frequency is probably my favourite YouTuber. He does documentary-style content about comedians or weird people. Another one of my favourites is this guy Dank Net. He
I often have a one-dimensional portrayal in the media Half of it is my fault too, but I think it’s cool. We can see the growth. I don’t have a problem with it: we always knew there was some depth there, all the time if you really listened to the writing, the music. I just didn’t like it when people would come in to meet me like they already knew me, you know? I hate when I meet someone and they’re like, “you’re so chill, you’re not like the crazy crazy Danny Brown I expected you to be”. It’s like, what the fuck did you want me to do, jump off the table? I don’t think it’s any song I regret making, some of them I just wouldn’t play in certain situations. I don’t regret making anything, it’s all art and it’s all… everybody’s in a different time and place in their life in certain situations. I want you to see my immaturity, you know? I want you to see all of it. I’m not doing it on purpose, it’s an organic thing but I just hate when art is so fake you can just tell. It’s too perfect. I just don’t take myself too serious like that. I’m just very self-aware. I don’t blow smoke up my own ass, you know what I’m saying? And nobody else’s.
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History The forgotten music history of the 2010s, by Clive La Bouche
It felt like a big deal at the time
2010 Now that we’ve all agreed that the best album of the last decade is A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay, let’s imagine a not too distant future and the resurrection of the BBC’s I Love XXXX franchise, where whoever’s running Heat that week and comedians of the day who you half remember and have never seen before in your life talk fondly about how mad the past was. We’ve reached I Love the 2010s, of course, and Russell Howard is finding his own reactions to the big headlines of the past decade particularly hilarious. It’s a light show: Jimmy Saville is definitely out; Trump is in as long as participants focus on the colour of his skin rather than his race hatred; Boris Johnson (three years dead) is similarly included, but only when falling over. There’s a really long segment on the 2017 Oscar mistake, everyone has a go with a fidget spinner and discusses whether that dress was blue or gold, the montage of 40-year-old men falling off hover boards is strong. Russell Howard might piss himself, and impersonates how he’d fall off a hover board. Phil Jupitus does a plummy voice implying that it’s how the monster from Stranger Things would speak. What they don’t talk about so much is the music of the 2010s, which (no judgment) is boiled down to Kanye Vs Taylor, Beyoncé Vs Jay-Z, Adele and Ed Sheeran. I get it: it’s been a long and messy decade, and there’s still the Colleen Rooney stuff to get through. But I’ve checked – it wasn’t always remarkable, but things did happen in music in the 2010s. Here’s what I’ve got.
Music doesn’t perform well at the end of any given decade, flumping over the line with a disregard for its own identity that the slug in me massively respects. The ’00s were no different, seen-out by number 1 covers albums from Susan Boyle and Michael Bublé. But the 2010s were just around the corner for music to reinvent itself. The first number 1 selling album of 2010 was Sunny Side Up. I don’t think it’s Paulo Nutini’s best work either, but we were keen to not write off the entire decade within its first week – it was bound to heat up sooner or later. 2010 was a bit of bastard though and proved us wrong on that front, which was probably to be expected of the year that David Cameron tried so desperately to get “Big Society” happening (the “Bev” of its day, but twice as shit). By April 8, Malcolm McLaren was so bored he opted to die. If it didn’t already feel like the emoji with the horizontal line for a mouth was designed as shorthand to express the music of 2010, Jamiroquai then released a record called – and I’m not making this up – Rock Dust Star Light, before the year closed as if it had never happened at all (probably for the best) with Susan Boyle dropping another massive-selling collection of inappropriate covers, called The Gift. Outside of Drake’s Thank Me Later, the real musical high of 2010 was the Bedroom Intruder song, and that’s not a good sign is it; the most memorable track of the year being a viral song that heavily autotuned a news story about a sexual predator at large in a poor, black neighbourhood. Not a great start, 2010s.
2011 2011 marched to a similar drum, with a slightly more promising beat. Not the death of Amy Winehouse, which will remain a tragedy of a generation, but at least Cameron finally phased out the “Big Society”, to this day claiming it was a dare. It was replaced with a much more enjoyable delusional catchphrase – “WINNING!” brought to you by the squareroot of daft, Charlie Sheen. In an act of extreme masochism, Sheen did not take being sacked from Two and a Half Men well, and went on a media blitz where he turned the word ‘winning’ into an emotion and a verb. Increasingly rolling his eyes at interview questions and responding, “duh, winning”, I’ve got to admit, I liked the optimism and simplicity of the guy. I bailed when he told Good Morning America: “I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body.” The year delivered hard on it’s viral music hit too, without a sexual predator at large in a poor, black neighbourhood in sight. I still watch ‘Buttery Biscuit Base’ once a week. It is perfection. You should go and watch it right now, and don’t even come back to this article until at least tomorrow. ‘Buttery Biscuit Base’ is what Charlie Sheen must have been talking about. ‘Buttery Winning Base’, I call it. And of course 2011 will be remembered for the final ever LCD Soundsystem show, held at Maddison Square Garden on April 2. Thousands planned to go from all over the world, cashing in their life savings to make sure they were there one last time. Isn’t that a little rash, their concerned families would say, but this was their only chance to ever see LCD again. Ever. No more shows. 100%. T’s & C’s apply.
2012 Considering 2012 was the last year that some of us smiled, let’s not pretend that it wasn’t the peak of the decade, or perhaps the history of life on earth. The London Olympics was an event in which doctors and nurses were finally put in their place as true
heroes were recognised as Games Makers showing members of the public to their seats in the hockey arena. The whole lot of them had sex on tap, and inspired a generation to wear purple and orange tracksuits and point towards Stratford Tube station while shouting goodnight. Second only to the Games Makers (and the sport, and the Queen jumping out of a plane, and Super Saturday, and Meat Free Mondays) was the music of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. Expecting it to be as dogshit as what was hinted at when Boris Johnson arrived at the Beijing 2008 closing ceremony flapping from a routemaster, Boyle’s production provided us with a rare moment of unbridled pride in our country, using it as he did to eccentrically celebrate the NHS one minute and Monty Python the next. Dizzee Rascal got to perform to an audience of one billion in his own postcode, and we got to show off the historic clout of British pop music. Most importantly, it wasn’t all The Beatles, the Stones and The Sex Pistols; Underworld, The Prodigy and Soul II Soul all had their say too. And some of us had to watch all of this with shit in our pants because the opening soundtrack to the whole event was – still unbelievably – ‘Surf Solar’ by Fuck Buttons. Later, the London Symphony Orchestra would cover ‘Sundowner’ by Blanck Mass at the raising of the Union Jack, although I’d had a heart attack by then.
2013 It was impossible to keep up with 2012, so 2013 didn’t even try. Take your pick of which of these you think is the lowest point of the year: James Blake wins the Mercury Prize, but with his second album; Myley Cyrus twerks on Beetlejuice as they perform ‘Blurred Lines’ at the VMAs; Lou Reed dies aged 71; Robbie Williams releases a cheap and offensively titled second swing album called Swings Both Ways. You’ve chosen Robbie, haven’t you, and perhaps not even because you don’t agree with the fetishisation of sexuality by a profiteering pig in a suit singing ‘Putting On The Ritz’. Robbie Williams is a rare creature who makes everything unbearable by being involved. If you won the Lottery but your cheque had to be delivered by Robbie Williams you’d think twice about calling the hotline.
Accents were all the rage for musicians in 2014, as long as they were completely different to their own and simultaneously unrecognisable to the country they were inadvertently offending. Alex Turner went first, accepting Arctic Monkey’s Best Album Brit Award in an almost American voice. I’ve watched this speech back recently and either it’s not as bad as I remember or I’d completely missed the true bum-shrinking moment in real time – the wise words he was saying, which is basically a very slow story about “that rock’n’roll, aye?” that “sinks back into the swamp” but “keeps coming back, looking better than ever.” He then announces that he’s going to do a mic-drop and does one. It might be the most horrible moment of the decade, despite Paul McCartney’s perfectly imperfect Jamaican accent that accidently started to slip out of his mouth halfway through a YouTube appeal to take up Meat Free Mondays. All we needed to do was “log on to pledge dot meatfreemondays dot com,” Macca kept saying, firing himself up and turning a repetition of the URL into a chant that soon had him clicking very nearly in time. “You can do it, right now, please,” he finally said, inexplicably in his finest Jamaican accent, which was very bad. Naturally we all did – well you do, don’t you, when you think an elderly loved one is having a stroke.
The MOBOs in 2015 should go down in history as the site of the greatest acceptance speech of all time. It was by Sir Lenny Henry, who picked up the Paving The Way award at the end of the night. In under two minutes he managed to thank 78 people by machinegunning through their names, from Moira Stuart to Cyrille Regis, to Desmond Decker, to Floella Benjamin. He did not announce or do a mic drop, because he didn’t need to. You should go and watch it right now. See you tomorrow. Earlier in 2015, Kanye was involved in a couple of massive shit pies. The first was the launch event for a streaming service that doesn’t exist anymore called Tidal. Tidal was set up because Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Madonna, Rhianna, Kanye, Daft Punk, Chris Martin and a few other struggling musicians were getting a bum deal from streaming services so they made one of their own, by buying an existing company for 56.2 million dollars. In a clever marketing play to show just how much they needed the money, they held their launch event in a local community centre in front of an audience of 60 people who tried their best to clap louder than was possible for 60 people. There was a roll call as each Tidal ‘owner’ walked onto the stage, and then each of them signed the company’s ‘declaration’, about fairness, or money, or gold, or something. Naturally, Madonna felt the need to lift her leg onto the table when signing, for fear that more people were looking at deadmau5 than her. I’d like to stop talking about this sad day now, and besides, it wouldn’t be long until Kanye would bravely throw himself under the bus to pull focus from the Tidal debacle. His Glastonbury headlining set was sensationally Kanye, in which he declared himself “the greatest living rockstar on the planet” around the time he forgot the words to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. He performed ‘Touch The Sky’ from a cherry-picker but kinda got stuck in it, a la This Is Spinal Tap, and spent a lot of time talking on mic to the lighting guy, who I want to say was called Ron. Somewhere in the function room of an All Bar One, the Tidal lot were watching on via the BBC. “I can’t believe he actually did it for us,” said Calvin Harris. “Told you,” said Jay-Z. Madonna was doing the can-can.
History 2016 The day after the result of the EU Referendum I was in New York at this party, right? We were sat around and this guy realised I was from the UK. “Whoah,” he said, “you guys really shit the bed last night.” It did not make me feel good – becoming the idiot nation. I take no pleasure in now knowing that a few months later his guys would shit in everyone’s bed by electing Trump, but man, that would be such a good comeback if I could just find that guy now. Trump and Brexit have set the tone for everything since 2016, so much so that we almost wish for a repeat of the unprecedented celebrity death toll of that year as respite. It was fitting that Bowie went first, giving the impression as it does that everyone else thought, “Bowie’s gone? Oh, well, fuck this then, goodbye world.” As the year trolled on though, and we lost more and more great public figures, we inevitably started to forget who’d leapt into the void with the Starman. Think about it now – you’ve got Bowie, Prince and George Michael, but who else? Leonard Cohen? Pete Burns? Sharon Jones of The Dap-Kings? Rick Parfitt? Alan Vega? George Martin? It’s a glib memory game, and yes, I really have resorted to reminding you of all the people who died in 2016 so we don’t have to think about Brexit and Trump, but it was weird, wasn’t it. From Terry Wogan to Alan Rickman, from Carrie Fisher to Caroline Aherne, Muhammad Ali, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels, Gene Wilder, even the death-dodger Fidel Castro. I am going to stop now, but how the fuck did Bruce Forsyth make it out alive, and was he involved somehow?
2018 This exercise really should get easier the closer we get to present day, but when I think back to last year in music I have only one image in my mind. That image is Bez and Jarvis Cocker competing against one another on a celebrity special of Bargain Hunt. You know the specific part of the show I’m imagining, I’m sure – it’s the part when Bez is being disqualified. Insider Trading was the charge, and Bez copped it. He’d planted his own girlfriend in the auction room to bid on his own biscuit tin, to drive its price up and win the show. It’s unclear how Bez got caught, but I’m at least 85 percent sure that it would have been because he was seen giving a double thumbs up to his lady as soon as the gavel went down, shouting “we’ll definitely get a Chinese on the way home tonight”. Hey, the hustle is real.
In 2017 Gemma Collins fell down a hole.
Us reaching the end of this article together and awake feels likes a metaphor for us reaching the end of the 2010s together and alive. The fact is it’s been an often unremarkable mess (the decade, I mean), and here we are about to flump over the line once again into a new decade. Remember that it might take a year or two to ignite, although 2019 has given us Slowtai holding the severed head of Boris Johnson on our national broadcaster, and we eventually saw grime headlining Glastonbury, like it should have done fifteen years ago. Things will continue to happen in music in the 2020s, but it “needs more oomph”.
Although I’m not a personal friend of Nick Hucknall’s, I think he’d be the first to admit that Simply Red have always put their music before their album sleeves, all of which (sorry Nick) have been quite dull. They’ve all featured him by himself, looking to the side or, in his younger days, standing up. I’ve always admired the confidence of Hucknall, and how comfortable a man who looks the way he does has always been with an extreme closeup of his own face. As the begrudging leader of the group, it also says a lot that he’s always taken the hit and never insisted that the rest of the band appear on any cover with him (or speak in any interviews). That is until now, and what a way to welcome the rest of the team onto the sleeve. I mean, let’s say you’re one of the guys Photoshopped over the second best side of Nick’s face here, knowing that after 35 years in the band this could very well be the only piece of cover art you’ll ever feature on – just how happy would you be that it’s this sleeve?! Hucknall, of course, remains the central component of the image, but his players are tastefully emanating from his head/mind, as if to suggest, you could argue, that he is controlling them, or that they are an extension of him,
rather than people in their own right. It’s Hucknall, too, who is not bathed in golden light, as it first appears, but emitting it himself, casting it upon three of his lucky band members while the other three (the guy with the trumpet, the guitarist who’s trying a little too hard, and the man being electrocuted in the middle) are cast in moody purple – perhaps a sign that they are the least popular members of the group, perhaps something as simple as Hucknall bravely attempting to prove that orange and purple don’t look terrible together. It’s all about the finer details though, and while it is unfortunate that the holy beams of light near Nick’s chin look like stray long hairs, and although the flare on the sunglasses does cheapen the image a little, there’s a surprise for us all in Hucknall’s hair, as his curls morph into the arms of a cheering live crowd. What that means is that someone designed this image – layered it all up, added the electricity lines, greyed out the unpopular members, added the sunglasses flare feeling like they’d gone a little too far – and someone felt it was missing something; felt it didn’t quite nail the admiration that Nick Hucknall commands. “Now put some fucking cheering arms in my hair!” that person said, for the good of the band.
Gregg Wallace has existential crisis in egg factory
illustration by kate prior
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JPEGMAFIA / Danny Brown / KEYAH/BLU / Sassy 009 / Anna Meredith / WaqWaq Kingdom / Spike Fuck / Spencer. / Ergo Phizmiz / The forgotten musi...
Published on Oct 29, 2019
JPEGMAFIA / Danny Brown / KEYAH/BLU / Sassy 009 / Anna Meredith / WaqWaq Kingdom / Spike Fuck / Spencer. / Ergo Phizmiz / The forgotten musi...