Dai Burger, Moses Boyd, 15 Years of Loud And Quiet, Anna Meredith, Lazarus Kane, Keeley Forsyth, Alex Niven, Baxter Dury, P.E.
A different man
Contents Contact firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com 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 Book Editor: Lee Bullman Contributing writers Abi Crawford, Al Mills, Alex Francis, Alexander Smail, Colin Groundwater, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Dominic Haley, Esme Bennett, Fergal Kinney, Gemma Samways, Guia Cortassa, Hayley Scott, Isabelle Crabtree, Ian Roebuck, Jamie Haworth, Jemima Skala, Jo Higgs, Joe Goggins, Katie Beswick, Katie Cutforth, Liam Konemann, Lisa Busby, Luke Cartledge, Max Pilley, Megan Wallace, Ollie Rankine, Robert Davidson, Reef Younis, Susan Darlington, Sam Reid, Sam Walton, Tom Critten, Tristan Gatward, Woody Delaney. Contributing photographers Andrew Mangum, Annie Forrest, 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. With special thanks to Corinne Chinnici, Henry Evans Harding, Holly Mason, James Parrish, Monique Wallace, Leah Wilson, Nathan Beazer, Rachel McWhinney, Trip Warner.
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 2020 Loud And Quiet Ltd.
ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Gemini Print Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte
Before now, only 4 artists have appeared on our cover twice, due to a pledge we made to ourselves to features as many different artists as possible. That was 15 years ago now, and although most of the time we’ve found it an easy party line to stick to, occasionally we’ve heard a new album by an old love and known that we need to go again. A lot has gone on with Archy Marshall since our cover story in August 2013, most of it over the course of the last year. Halfway through making his third album as King Krule he became a father for the first time and moved to Wigan. King Krule leaving south east London; it doesn’t sound right. Like Ian MacKaye leaving Washington. But he did it, and spoke to Gemma Samways about how everything and nothing has changed. Stuart Stubbs
Dai Burger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P.E. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lazarus Kane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Moses Boyd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . King Krule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Years Covers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Keeley Forsyth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anna Meredith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
. . . . . . . . .
. 12 . 16 . 18 . 22 . 29 . 46 . 56 . 62 . 66
★★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★★ The Independent
END OF THE ROAD 2020 3—6 September Larmer Tree Gardens Dorset PIXIES / KING KRULE / ANGEL OLSEN / BIG THIEF / BRIGHT EYES / RICHARD HAWLEY / LITTLE SIMZ / ALDOUS HARDING / WHITNEY / THE COMET IS COMING /
FIELD MUSIC / GIRL BAND / PINEGROVE / ROMARE / R IC H A R D DAW SO N / WA R M DUSC H E R / A N DY SH AU F / SQUID / CREEP SHOW / GIRL RAY / BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD /
NADIA REID / VANISHING T WIN / ARLO PARKS / DRY CLE ANING / B IG JOA NI E / J ER KCU R B / DA R R EN H AY M A N / SH YGI R L / PENELOPE ISLES / BUCK MEEK / JUST MUSTARD / FENNE LILY / W. H. LUNG / 75 DOLL AR BILL / MONOPHONICS / PLUS MANY MORE AC TS
Music Made Me Do It
As Loud And Quiet reached its 15-year anniversary last month we posted the final episode of our 10-part podcast series about obsession and blind stupidity within the music industry. In making Music Made Me Do It, I saw it as a celebration of the music fandom that led me to start printing a fanzine in 2005. It was also an opportunity for me to educate myself in all the rolls within music that I’ve pretended I’ve understood over the last 15 years. The series ended with an episode unpacking what it is to be a live agent through the life and career of Alex Hardee – agent to Liam Gallagher, Lewis Capaldi, Sia and Janet Jackson, and a partner in the prestigious Coda Agency until it merged with US giant Paradigm in 2019. As in our previous 9 episodes – each one dedicated to a different profession and leading figure within it – I asked Alex exactly what it is that he does and how he became so good at it. The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ were the purpose of the podcast, to say to listeners – and perhaps myself – these are the jobs that make up the music industry, getting one seems to be case of obsessing hard enough. Just as Alex explained to me that, due to agency laws that protect the restriction of employment, live agents are unable to have contracts with their artists, and are therefore constantly a risk of losing them, professional songwriter Eg White (a man who went 19 years without a hit until he wrote ‘Leave Right Now’ for Will Young) shocked me in his episode when I asked him how he knows how much to sell a song for. “You don’t charge anything,” he said. “It’s a day of their time and it’s a day of mine.” That didn’t sound right either, until he pointed out that he then owns half of that song’s income (or a third of it if written with two other people, and so on) forever. For that one day’s work. It’s a pretty
words by stuart stubbs. illustration by kate prior
good deal when you write ‘Chasing Pavements’ with Adele and songs for Florence and the Machine and Pink and Sam Smith. “But don’t forget that that’s the end of my investment,” he said. “Their investment [as the artist promoting and performing the song] goes until they bloody die. I get paid for doing nothing… This is a violation of banking proportions.” Ok. So obsessing hard enough won’t cut it with Eg’s line of work. If you can’t hum a tune, you probably shouldn’t be writing songs for James Blunt, although many would say that you should be (lol). And similar rarified talents are caveats to our episodes entitled ‘The Record Producer’ (with Paul Epworth), and ‘The Mastering Engineer’ (with Bjork’s/Aphex’s/Prodigy’s/ everyone’s preferred ear, Mandy Parnell), although both guests learned much of their trade with formal training, which they speak highly of. Enthusiasm really is king though, and it’s the thickest thread running through the entire series, as it has been with Loud And Quiet over the last 15 years. It’s the only thread in my case, and it felt that way for Guv Singh too – a rave promoter and seller of cakes to stoners before he founded Catalyst Management and started hustling big deals for rappers MIST and Michael Dapper, and the Afroswing producer Steel Banglez. “I came to my unit one day and it was flooded,” he told me. “There were cheesecakes floating everywhere. And I thought this is a sign, to concentrate on music.” We dubbed the series ‘a podcast about music obsession and blind stupidity’ because of stories like this; of Simon Taffe turning his decorating company into End of The Road festival the weekend he went to Green Man; of Barbara Charone moving from Chicago to London in the 1970s to become a music journalist and later a PR guru for Madonna, Keith Richards and Rod Stewart. The ‘blind stupidity’ doesn’t so much apply to floating cheesecakes, or Taffe’s tale of drunkenly flipping a 4x4 the night before his festival opened (although that is pretty dumb), but rather the naïve recklessness of gunning so hard for a career in music simply because you like it so much. Everyone I spoke to had a DIY ethic that I could relate to – “an undeniable hustle,” is how Guv Singh put it – from Paul Epworth mixing Bloc Party’s debut album in his flat to Martin Mills starting the Beggars Group (the world’s biggest independent record label) as a mobile disco in the early ’70s. In speaking to Martin, I didn’t need to wonder for long if anyone could replicate his success today – they couldn’t. The same goes for founding a live agency like Alex Hardee’s. The music industry isn’t build that way anymore. It isn’t even build how it was when I started Loud And Quiet in 2005. But when I consider our place in it – and our achievements that are huge to us if not to others – I believe that you can still elbow your way in here. Everyone is, after all, making it up as they go along. The full series of Music Made Me Do It is available now from wherever you get your podcasts
I was invincible in my Christmas hat On 12th December 2019, the climax of a rollercoaster few weeks, I spent the evening in Battersea, South West London, knocking on doors and making sure local residents had voted in the day’s UK General Election. I was knackered – weeks of canvassing for Labour around work and music commitments had taken their toll – but as I collapsed onto the Overground train from Clapham Junction just before 10pm, I felt oddly tranquil. We’d all done our bit, and I felt grateful to have been able to contribute in some small way; whatever happened with the result, I thought, this campaign for a better society had been enormously positive. I sat back in my seat, swearing quietly as I spilt a little beer over myself opening the first can of the night, but otherwise content. Then the exit poll came in. Labour’s defeat was catastrophic. There’s no getting around that. As a person on the left, everything following the exit poll that night – the depressing inevitability of the drip-fed results, the ashen faces of my friends when I eventually got to my local in New Cross, the immediate finger-pointing, responsibility-shirking and opportunism – added up to a profoundly, painfully bleak experience. That might sound melodramatic – after all, able-bodied, young, white and male, I’ll probably be alright, and I’m aware of the privilege that is – but it’s true. For all of the shortcomings, limitations and missteps of the parliamentary Labour party, it’d felt like something new and hopeful had been within reach, before being snatched away from us. Back on the Overground, Tyskie soaking gradually through my trousers, I stared aghast at my phone as the initial reactions began to pour in. I may be projecting a little here, but it seemed that the carriage went silent at 10 as the exit poll was announced. Conversations, political or otherwise, petered out swiftly, replaced by a stunned hush. I reached for my headphones. I wanted to retreat into them, close my eyes and wrap myself up in something safer and warmer than the cold reality of what was unfolding. First, I put ‘Come Down To Us’ by Burial on, but then I pulled my head out of my arse and chose something else. I went for The Blue Nile instead – hardly the choice of a man avoiding drama, but at least a little less specifically clichéd – and did my best to focus on the stately beauty of ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’. A few days later, I took another night-time trip across South London, this time to the Windmill Brixton for a one-off Christmas gig featuring two bands whose respective emergences have provided a much-needed glimmer of light in recent months: Black Midi and Black Country, New Road. Black Midi, New Road, as they were called that night, spent the first hour of the show on a freeform, improvised jam, all loping groove, semi-deliberate dissonance and occasional instrument-hopping. In lesser hands, this might well have been a) boring and b) self-indulgent, yet for such incredibly capable musicians, it was a thrill to witness. By way of an explanation for their prodigious talent, The Times recently noted
that BCNR are a vanguard band for the first generation of artists to have grown up with and benefitted from the improved investment in music education that was one of the few silver linings of the last Labour government. Good thinking, The Times. After a brief interlude following the improv set, Black Midi, New Road returned to the stage. The crowd were pretty tanked up by this point, so the ensuing set of Christmas songs was met with enormous enthusiasm. Mangled versions of Mariah Carey and Wham classics sailed by, before a festive rework of BCNR’s ‘Sunglasses’ (‘I am invincible in my Christmas hat!’) tore the roof off the place. In an earlier edition of this column, I wrote about how bands like these two could well be understood as the first green shoots of something new, breaking through the murk of capitalist realism’s stranglehold on popular culture. Walking down Brixton Hill from the Windmill later that night, a few days into the recovery, I felt more convinced of that than ever. As Alex Niven says in my interview with him over the page, one shouldn’t put the cart before the horse when trying to understand how social change and popular culture interact with one another. Yet at street level, away from the Westminster soap opera and in the context within which bottom-up social change can be engineered, it does feel important to have an adventurous attendant popular culture. At this point, I’m taking my victories, however small, where I can.
words by luke cartledge. illustration by kate prior
Spring highlights ... 17 & 18 Feb Max Richter: Voices Sun 23 Feb These New Puritans: The Blue Door
Tue 24 Mar The Lark Ascending: People, Music, Landscape featuring Andrew Weatherall, Deep Throat Choir, Vashti Bunyan and more
Sat 29 Feb Efterklang
Sat 28 Mar Richard Dawson: Delight is Right
Fri 6 Mar Kelly Moran & Missy Mazzoli
Tue 7 Apr Lee Ranaldo & RaĂźl Refree
Fri 6 Mar Patrick Watson
Wed 15 Apr Lankum
Sat 14 Mar King Creosote: From Scotland with Love
Fri 17 Apr Shards
Mon 16 Mar Chick Corea
Beyond England: Better politics and economics lead to a better culture, not the other way around, says author Alex Niven “In 2017 I cast my vote with my partner and our six-month-old son in a polling station just around the corner from the West End Foodbank. It was the first time in my life that I felt fully enfranchised. After years of alternating between voting tactically, voting with a held nose, or spoiling the ballot paper, it was disconcerting and moving to know that my “X” now corresponded to the ideals of a party I truly believed in.” So much about the closing passage of Alex Niven’s new book, New Model Island: How To Build A Radical Culture Beyond The Idea Of England, rang true for me when I read it in late 2019. The above excerpt, though, is the one that stuck in my mind most prominently a few weeks on, its guarded optimism and visceral power coloured (but, crucially, not negated) by the heavy defeat suffered by Labour in December’s general election. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, whichever way one looks at it, was flawed, and was unable to sufficiently turn historic tides and survive an increasingly hysterical culture war to avoid such a loss. Yet that sense of cautious hope that it produced, of a nascent rebuilding project, of a generational hunger for social justice, remains utterly valid, and perhaps more important now than ever. New Model Island is a book thick with emotion, of which those feelings listed above are only a few. A discursive yet concise meditation upon regional identity, solidarity and community, its power lies in Niven’s ability to instil each anecdote, theory, and piece of political analysis with a potent mix of universalism and intimacy; to indulge a cliché, he makes the personal deeply political. We speak the week after the election, our conversation beginning, inevitably, with some reflection upon the result. “It’s just reiterated the massive difficulty of getting in an even slightly progressive government,” he says, sadly. “We were on strike [Niven is an academic at Newcastle University, and took part in December’s nationwide UCU action] for the last couple of weeks of the campaign. I went out [campaigning] in Newcastle, and a couple of marginals – Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland – and we did our best… but it didn’t seem to make any difference in the end.” One of the major themes of the book is the desperate need to address the profound alienation that has been allowed to fester by Britain’s deepening political and cultural divides. Much to Niven’s disappointment, the symptoms of this alienation
were clearly identifiable on the doorstep, and Labour’s solutions were too-often unwelcome. “There was this sense of the possibility of change not really existing, in England particularly. A lot of the encounters on the doorstep were quite negative – there wasn’t a great love for Boris Johnson, but there was the anti-Corbyn thing, the anti-EU thing, a sense that Johnson was the lesser of two evils, that the promises in the Labour manifesto wouldn’t amount to anything.” In the book, Niven writes at length about England’s sense of itself as a “cursed country” (“Englishness is so often felt as a condition of loss”), and the outcome of the election, not to mention the tenor of the public reaction to it, would appear to bear this out. Yet he also avoids sweeping generalisations throughout; his central argument that “England” is so ill-defined, so multiplicitous, so contested a place that it can hardly even be said to exist in any meaningful way. On that theme, much has been made – not entirely helpfully – about Labour’s loss of its “traditional heartlands”, and more ghoulishly than that, its vote among “the white working class”. Though of course the ceding of those constituencies to the Conservatives inflicted an enormous blow to Labour, it’s vital to resist the temptation to sweep them all into a homogenous post-industrial caricature; some flat-capped, flat-vowelled fantasia inhabited by the “real” working class. As much as anything, this characterisation – beloved of Blue Labour headbangers and crowing Tories alike – erases a significant portion of the Actually Existing Working Class of today’s England: young, without property, precariously employed, BAME, city-dwelling, skint. Niven suggests one way in which lack of curiosity in England outside London has, counter-intuitively, fuelled this distortion. “I guess one thing the book argues against is a London-centric way of looking at England,” he says. “A lot of discussion is very centred on the south east, and a refusal to grasp that the island has multiple identities is partly behind the narrative of the North getting ignored. Which it has been – but with caveats.” It isn’t just that Labour misjudged its tactics in its former industrial strongholds (although it did): our very understanding of class and its relation to political possibility has become impoverished by a systematic process of geographical and sociological misrepresentation.
Literature As he notes in the book, Alex Niven wasn’t always an author and academic. He was also, as one interviewer recently put it, “the Pete Best of Everything Everything”: the original guitar player in the Manchester art-pop group, with whom he parted ways prior to their debut album. He’s circumspect about his time in the band now. “[The music industry] is very London. One of things I didn’t like about being in EE was that for various reasons there wasn’t any sense of organic development. We had an A&R at our very first gig… within a month of starting someone came to view us rehearse, the daughter of one of the bigwigs at EMI or something, in our basement in Didsbury.” He points to Manchester’s legendary Factory scene as the kind of milieu whose absence he clearly felt at the time, although “maybe I’m romanticising an idea of something that didn’t really exist.” The conversation turns back to regionalism. “It doesn’t feel like there’s much of an organic culture in this country at all, particularly outside of London,” he says. “The scene in Newcastle is awful, an O2 Academy and a couple of weird venues.” I suggest that grime may have been the last notable, organic British scene to have truly broken through to the cultural mainstream, and to have been identifiably British in a way that transcends the nostalgic, village green cartoon peddled by most prominent “patriots”. He’s hesitant about this – partly as he admits that grime isn’t entirely his area of expertise – but is “in favour of forms of Britishness that aren’t the establishment conservative narrative… but grime for me was a very London thing.” He’s pragmatic as he further spells out the complex relationship between politics and culture. “Without wishing to be reductive, the 20th century idea that you’d have a counterculture – people in bands, psychedelia, punk, hip-hop, the hardcore continuum – that can pre-empt political change was shown up to be false, wasn’t it?” he asserts. “Clearly in some small-scale contexts people were politicised by, say, punk, but it didn’t lead to anything: what followed the ’60s and ’70s was Thatcher, then Blair, Cameron, May, Johnson… “One of the lessons of our time is that we have to do this the other way around. That was how the pop music explosion of the ’50s and ’60s happened – society was changed by the previous generation, who created the welfare state, expanding higher education, created an economy where full employment was pretty much guaranteed. That allowed people to go to university for free, be in a band on the dole, not work if they didn’t want to, have periods of messing about and experimenting. You have to change the politics and the economics before you can get better culture.” Despite everything, Niven expresses a certain optimism about the possibility of this change. “The positive thing is that if we’d lost in 2017, as badly as everyone thought we were going to, it would’ve been the end of the Corbyn experiment. Tom Watson or someone would’ve retaken control of the party, the NEC was in control of the right of the party; this time, the left will retain control of the party, as it’s had time to build itself up, and I’d be surprised if RLB doesn’t get in. The left’s control of the Labour party – membership and PLP
words by luke cartledge. illustration by kate prior
– isn’t going away any time soon.” He has, however, reservations about the usefulness of what he’s called the “activist on every corner” impulse that has possessed many since the defeat. “The grassroots are really powerful: it’s at the overall strategic level where we can improve. There needs to be better media strategy, we need to think more about areas like Scotland – if we won back 25 or 30 seats there that’d be hugely positive – or the South West, now the Lib Dems have vacated that region.” He’s also characteristically subtle in his view of the grand rebuilding project of the Left as a whole, in both cultural and parliamentary terms. “The Greens, the SNP, I’m glad they exist, and there’s a sense that the growth of the Scottish independence movement pre-empted Corbyn, yet under first-past-the-post those parties damaged Labour, and you sort of think we just need a two-party system at the moment. I wish we had a form of proportional representation that would make small parties more viable, but we don’t.” That closing passage of New Model Island is an arresting conclusion to this strange, powerful book. In it, Niven recalls his feelings as the 2017 election results came in, revealing the Conservatives’ loss of a majority, “a stab of emotion that was weirdly unfamiliar. It felt as though some kind of curse was beginning to lift, that a new version of this disparate, strangely formed country might finally start to come into being.” Gingerly, I ask him how he feels about that passage now. “Obviously I’m devastated,” he says, sounding it. “But I was more insulated this time. I was more prepared for defeat, weirdly, even though we had higher hopes. We didn’t win last time, so we know that life goes on – but I shouldn’t say that, because it doesn’t for everyone.” That ‘everyone’ feels pointed, as one of the key figures in the book is no longer with us, and narrowly missed seeing what he would’ve understood as “a crack in the façade of capitalist realism”: the pre-eminent cultural theorist Mark Fisher, a friend and colleague of Niven as well as an enormous inspiration for much of the British left, who took his own life in early 2017. One of New Model Island’s many strengths is Niven’s constant questioning of received wisdom, his dialectical analysis of how England’s self-image has come into being, how it contradicts itself, and how it might be steered in a more progressive direction. It is through this critique that Fisher’s ideas echo most keenly; his concept of capitalist realism described a cultural malaise which made it easier to “imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”, and so much of his work sought to galvanise us into building an alternative. New Model Island situates that same struggle within the geographical boundaries of the British Isles, and reflects upon the ways in which that alternative can begin to take shape via a radical reappraisal of how this archipelago’s inhabitants understand ourselves. “It is quite grim now,” he says as we wrap up the interview, “but if you are still alive, you have to work around to a point where you’re positive again. Some people won’t be that lucky.” New Model Island: How To Build A Radical Culture Beyond The Idea Of England by Alex Niven is out now on Repeater Books.
Sweet 16: Baxter Dury and his drug dealer nanny, the Sulphate Strangler
This photo was taken at a funeral in 1989, for a bloke whose real name was Pete Rush, but he was referred to as the Sulphate Strangler. He was this strange character that had worked for dad [Ian Dury] in various different capacities. He was a roadie by definition, and had worked with Led Zeppelin, but he was also a drug dealer really, who sold and took a lot of speed, so he became known as the Sulphate Strangler, because every now and then he’d strangle someone. I don’t think he’d terminate them, but it was his speciality as an enforcer. He worked for Boy George and Freddie Mercury, and he was a colourful character who you wanted around – very funny. And dad liked to continue the stage act off stage, so he moved him into our house in the mid-80s and he’d work for dad, driving him around and getting the shopping. At the same point, I was pretty chaotic. I’d been thrown out of a couple of schools and was a bit unscheduled, and as a bit of a brave social experiment dad decided it would be good if I just lived with the Strangler for a while, while I started a new private college. He kind of became my nanny, but I think my dad was trying to show me the edge so that I never fully jumped over it, because this guy was basically the most irresponsible person you could ever leave a child with. In due course, we really bonded. He’d drive me to college in a tiny, white Nissan with a kamikaze sign on the front window that you could barely see out of, and he was so big you couldn’t sit in the front with him. He’d drive me to school and freak everyone out. Most of the kids at the college had been thrown out of top public schools – seriously wealthy people who I’d never come across before. For about a week I was disgruntled, and then I had
a complete ball. They were the most radically lawless people I’d met, with access to houses and cars and drugs. It was incredible. And the teachers were amazing. The first one I met gave me one of her Rothmans. It was the first year of GCSEs and she cheated our first exam to give us a sign that she was on our side, and I thought, this is the best place I’ve ever been. So the Strangler and I sort of coexisted relatively well. I mean, he was pretty nuts. Every now and then he’d drive me to school and someone might carve him up in a lane of traffic and then he wouldn’t actually drive me to school anymore, he’d spend 40 minutes chasing that person. But he died in a police cell in Bournemouth, which is where he was from. They all knew him there, but he must have died of a heart attack or something in the night. I mean, he was an insanely unhealthy bloke. So the funeral was in Bournemouth, and barely anyone was there, which was really unfitting for a man who was best friends with people like Phil Lynott and Lemmy. They’d always said that at the Strangler’s funeral he was going to have this big glass coffin and everyone was going to do lines of speed off of it, but that didn’t happen. My sister drove my old man, and he made her wear a chauffer’s hat. And this might be bullshit – because that happens with me, where I’ve got this great story and I still embellish it – but I’ve got a feeling we stopped at a pub on the way to meet someone that may have escaped from an open prison, and we met him because dad wanted to get the uniform off of him to wear to the funeral. Over all, I was alright, though. I didn’t leap into too much craziness. So maybe it worked.
as told to stuart stubbs
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Dai Burger I meet Dai Burger outside a monochrome hipster café (my choice) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on the second day of 2020. The café is playing ’90s RnB and serving egg-white omelettes with roasted tomatoes. Already, the New Year feels pretty grim – fires burning up Australia, floods in East Africa, stirrings of unrest in the Middle East. Even the unseasonable blue sky is foreboding: a reminder of impending climate catastrophe spread all out across the great grey New York winter. But then there’s Dai, standing on the street like an antidote to the misery, in her black tracksuit with flashes of primary colour, jewelled nails and hair a shade of purple somewhere between your great nana’s blue rinse and a Groovy Grape flavoured Hubba Bubba. She orders a green tea, and we sit down to chat. Dai is (and there’s not another word for it, I’ve spent fifteen minutes browsing an online thesaurus) fabulous. I love her within seconds of the interview starting, and not just because I really need something to hold onto amid the relentless bad news. She’s literally colourful, like a kindergarten mural, dressed down but styled perfectly – matte gold eye shadow and sweeping liner pulling the whole look together with an unexpectedly delightful flourish that can only come from someone who knows what she’s doing when it comes to fashion. “I’m not afraid to be weird,” Dai says, describing her approach to self-styling. “Weird works. It took a little figuring out in the beginning, but we got past that.” This ability to pull off a look is the result of seven years working under the legendary designer Patricia Field (of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada fame), styling visitors to Field’s infamous lower East Side boutique store. It’s a time Dai describes as formative – both in the sense of refining her fashion skills and in developing the sensibility that has come to shape her approach to music. “We had LGBTQ friendly clothing sizes and everything. You could come and you could leave a brand new person. And even if you have five dollars we’d find something for you. It was a place of treasures. I worked there for a while and that kind of shaped who I am. Because she’s so amazing, I learned a lot of things in fashion behind the scenes too. Merchandising, visualising – I put the eye for fashion, colours, into the music. You gotta look good while you’re talking about feeling good. You got to, you know, put it out there for people to understand. Look good, do good, feel great. I throw it all in there. It’s fun. I like having fun. People used to come and see me at the store. And they knew there was cool music, and I’ll help you get dressed for
Absolutely fabulous, by Katie Beswick Photography by Annie Forrest
the night. It was like a perfect place, a spectacle. And then I took it on the road.” — Bite the Burger — We’re here to discuss that journey, the latest stop on which is the release of Dai’s second album, Bite the Burger (following 2017’s Soft Serve) – the cheeky, playful title encapsulating the queer aesthetic of the music. Dai is heavily influenced by the Baltimore club scene, known for its mash up of hip hop and house and its queer-embracing, any-thing-goes energy. For Dai, queerness undercuts all aspects of her work and life. “People know I’ve dated females. I’ve had boyfriends in the past-past. That’s who I am. It’s part of the culture, that’s how I came up. I can’t pretend to be anything else but that, so you know, it comes across in the music. I talk my shit about whoever I want and I do whatever I want. I like queer because it’s an umbrella, more than it identifies one thing. I don’t have to, you know, choose a letter. It’s a nice umbrella to just still be unlabelled in a labelled margin. I’m chillin’. Just know I’m bout this life, this is where I stand.” So, I ask, does queerness have a sound? She smiles, takes a sip of her tea. “It’s about identity but it does somewhat have a sound. My stuff, it’s underground derived. I have producers from Baltimore, the Baltimore club scene, so that sound helps infuse … like house beats, vogue beats, things like that so there is a [queer] sound. It is a culture behind it. It does embody that, because that’s the source: those drums, that underground house tone. People like that, people like to dance. [Queer] is a sound but it’s also intermeshed, because you can dance to it, anyone can dance to it, you don’t have to identify like this to know good music when you hear it. It’s good music man.” Dai laughs. “People like that – like the rawness mixed with the club beats, it’s good. We love it.” And if people do seem to love Dai, it’s not hard to work out why. She’s a skilled and respected musician with growing international acclaim – headlining at the DICE festival in Berlin (“they have a great respect for the music out there. So if we get the Berlin approval I know this is good”), and embarking on college tours across the States. She’s just a really likeable person too; humble, generous and kind, peppering the interview with references to projects her friends are doing – TT the Artist’s Dark City Baltimore documentary, and her collaborations with “legend in the making” producer Mighty Mark.
Interview Her humbleness is the result of having to work hard, and for a long time, before gaining any recognition. Dai began making music in 2011, having worked as a backup dancer for Lil Mama before deciding to take the leap into music making herself. And it was an underground hustle for years before she began to break through. She describes dancing at raves with friends, building up a following, before bigger opportunities opened up avenues in the mainstream. This slow burn has meant she has honed her public persona in a way that’s allowed her to stay true to who she is. “Yeah. I have a spunk to me, I have an edge to me. I’m from Queens. I had my childhood. It wasn’t super tough, but it wasn’t super easy, I still had to figure stuff out, being a young black girl, like who’s a little different at times too. I used to wear a Mohawk and certain makeup and people thought I was fashionable, but I’ve always been just a little different. And that’s ok. “When I first started I would meet people who would see what I was doing, and they’d be like, ‘let’s work together, but maybe you should tone this down, or try that, or you should be a little more this, or a little more that,’ and it’s like, ‘Errr: I wanna be what this is right now.’ I have evolved, yes, but at my own speed. Not because someone steered me in a certain direction. I’ve always stayed true to just being myself. So just dealing with likeminded people who see the vision. And changing as I see fit, not because I’ve been told to. I don’t care what your vision is, this is my vision.” It’s a vision whereby Dai remains totally and unashamedly herself, but also committed to giving back. This is epitomised by her ‘Where My Girls’ programme, after her popular song of the same name, through which she works with young women across New York, teaching them music making skills as part of an outreach imitative run through her studio. “I like to give back and be a mentor of sorts, because I didn’t have a mentor. Or big sister, big cousin or anything, so it’s a
group, ages nine through eleven, just offering what I know, showing different avenues, different routes in music.” ‘Where My Girls’, she tells me, was also inspiration for another friend’s documentary of the same name – “I’m one of three featured in it,” she says. — Politics of fun — If there’s a politics to what Dai chooses to spend her time on, then it’s a politics steeped in fun; one with music at its core. “I really love music so my albums they play through like that. So you can just like start at the beginning and play through. So you go through the upbeat, then I’ll have a couple of like RnB-, ’90s-inspired tracks, then I’ll bring it back up again. Then I kinda have a full on club track. I kinda like to post through the genres, meld them together so it’s not jarring to hear one from the other. I think I found a good medium where I get to play with all the genres. It’s not political, it’s just derivative of my mind, like when I do the brainstorming with the girls I’m like, ‘What do you like? What are you guys doing? Yell some words out! What are some awesome words?’. And then they’ll say an awesome word and it’ll be like, ‘Oh, cool roller-skate, let’s talk about why you like roller-skating,’ and then it turns into a song. Like pulling these ideas that are really around you anyway. I’ll talk about going to these parties; that’s really, ‘this is what we do, we’re getting ready, how do you feel?’ Or, I dunno, because is it about the depth or a good message, or an overall something that people can relate to?” She points at her half-empty cup. “Like, green tea. I can do a song that’s like, ‘sipping on my green tea’, and you know somebody might like that, they’re sipping on they green tea… just a moment. I like capturing moments. It feels political because you’re speaking to your higher self, but I don’t have a full on political message, except be yourself, which is a politic in itself.”
CARIBOU Suddenly 28.02.20
Interview When two bands realise they can make music with vacuum cleaners if they want to, by Isabel Crabtree Photography by Andrew Jansen
P.E. New York has a lot of underground scenes. Hand-lettered posters are given out in attic venues, Sharpie X’s mark hands, and everyone ends up back at that bar they always end up in. At one such bar, Milo’s Yard in Ridgewood, Queens, just on the border of Brooklyn, P.E. are DJing for the night. The bandmates mingle with the rest of the customers. Someone showers a girl at the bar with air kisses, then mans a turntable to change the record. Another musician gets up from one booth and immediately sits at the next for a chat. People laugh and take photos together and seem to relax, despite the Instagram post declaring it an Event.
In New York, the DIY scene has flourished once again, supported by a community of musicians, and P.E. – the Brooklyn-based band consisting of Jonny Schenke, Veronica Torres, Jonny Campolo, Ben Jaffe, and Bob Jones – are new to the landscape, even if their individual members are all veterans; a mix of musicians from two beloved bands, Pill and Eaters (hence the acronym). Their upcoming album, Person, out March 6 via Wharf Cat Records, is a major and celebrated step in the community they’ve joined and serenaded over the last decade. P.E. officially came together when neither Pill nor Eaters were available, so a few artists from each took over
Interview the entertainment for a friend’s party. “There were enough people that were like, ‘Woah that needs to be a thing, how is that not a thing’ that we kind of convinced ourselves that it was worth pursuing,” Campolo says, gesturing to the rest of the band, all gathered on a cold, gray afternoon in Schenke’s studio in Greenpoint. That party was June 1, 2018. The morning after, Wharf Cat emailed them begging to know if there would ever be more. The band did get together more, playing shows and experimenting. They collected raw materials of improvised sounds – Schenke, the calm, reassuring, leader-type, distorting synths; a vacuum cleaner making rounds on the carpet; Jones, quietly sunny, and his dog playing in the studio. “It was so open-ended and playful from the very beginning, like getting goofy in a way that neither of our other bands did or maybe felt like they could,” Schenke says. “So I think it allowed us to explore, consciously or not, just the things that maybe we always wanted to try.” The band all found a fascination with the in-between sounds of life while recording: radio feedback, the static of an old TV between channels. At times, Person is reminiscent of the ’80s, the result of each band member’s relationship to media consumption in their childhoods. There’s a paranoid nostalgia in the record, with clashing synths and scratchy echoes bristling under Torres’s vocals. Campolo, squinting through round eyeglasses, is the emotional barometer for the band. He describes the record as “darkly optimistic”. It’s melancholy but gives listeners permission to dance and release their anxiety without ignoring it. While there’s so much darkness in the United States now, P.E. explain there’s also power in expressing yourself despite it. Catharsis under the clouds. — Apocalyptic dance party — Listening to Person, start to finish, brings to mind an apocalyptic dance party. Party-goers might wear slick, sexualised military gear, akin to Aeon Flux, one of the band’s aesthetic and psychological muses. P.E. don’t necessarily look like this MTV dystopian cartoon. Jones’ pastel yellow sweatshirt and Schenke’s grey sweater next to Torres’ mix of prints and patterns lead the eye in a zigzag to Jaffe’s fuzzy cheetah-print hoodie and Campolo’s neon-emblazoned t-shirt and painter’s pants. They’re unique but complement each other, in image and musical references – just one is whole-heartedly agreed upon: Black Devil Disco Club – which adds to the eclectic but collaborative nature of their work. Their songs were recorded and written via experimental studio sessions before Torres came in to record the vocals on top. Each member of the group pushes the work of the others until they reach the point where no one knows who exactly is doing what, even live. Audiences are sometimes confused. “What you hear, and what’s happening, it’s much more fun when it’s not explained right away,” Jaffe says. Jaffe cracks jokes at lightning speed, but turns earnest on a dime. Later, he leans forward on the couch and, amid a
dissection of “experimental” music, insists, “If you’re accepting the way things are made and given to you, then maybe you shouldn’t be here. You’ve gotta always be examining things. You don’t ever want to become inactive and complacent. Be excited about the people around you, the place you live, be interactive, get involved.” Part of the reason such experimentations and improvisations and “dueling feedback solos” are able to find their way onto the record is because of the band’s support in Brooklyn. “The community here is really special, the DIY community that we have grown up in,” Torres says. She means the people that come to every show, support each record release, pull free beers. “If you don’t keep making stuff the scene gets smaller and smaller because people don’t stick around or they give up, and if you just want to make stuff and that’s why you’re in it, then you’re gonna stick around,” Jones says. — Community action — P.E.’s New York is the city of a sitcom dreamt up by aspiring young artists. People bouncing from studio to venue to bar to home and back again, where hanging with friends is oftentimes the same as working on the next project. “And you’re gonna eventually know everyone, because you’ve all just been doing it,” Schenke says, after rattling off the names of a handful of old standby Brooklyn venues P.E. can be found at on any given weekend. “Every show that we’ve played, including that first one and the one at The Glove [a recently shuttered popular DIY venue], it’s all with friends and people that either were fans of or played with either of our old bands. It’s been very supportive and really lovely to hear feedback from people we’ve known for a long time, just genuinely excited about what we’re doing.” The close community that heralds P.E. as one of its own also allows for sincere emotional risks in their music. “After the first [album I worked on] I was like, ‘Am I still a musician?’” says Torres. “It was also the first project I made sober, which was really different. There’s a nakedness that was really open.” She speaks with intention, without rehearsal, and it’s clear the visceral emotions in the lyrics are an accurate portrayal of their author. The songs, from ‘Soft Dance’, about the end of a relationship, to ‘Mandarin’, about reclamation of Torres’ sexuality, are intimate, but revel in putting vulnerabilities up against a more abrasive sonic rawness. As she wrote, authenticity as a motif revealed itself, and the band upheld that as a virtue of the record while admitting that everyone questions their own intentions sometimes. “It’s much harder to be vulnerable and raw than it is to be abrasive and loud,” Campolo says. “There’s such a bigger challenge in making it impactful, but the record has all of that. That’s the odd pleasure of it – it’s hard and soft, intimate and abrasive, dark and goofy, optimistic and nihilistic. There’s a lot of contradictions in the music, and if you can be on the line instead of on one side or the other, that’s the human part of it.”
Lazarus Kane The American Dream is alive in Streatham, by Ollie Rankine Photography by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Huddled in the booth of some seedy looking pub not far down the road from tonight’s scheduled show, I’ve barely sat down with our drinks before Lazarus Kane takes his chance to exhibit his new kimono. “This one’s custom made,” he says with a grin stretched wide across his face. “I decided to get brown on brown because it’s the colour people find most ugly. I thought why not get something to compliment my face.” The embroidered paisley is only partially visible behind its matching silk brown liner. Much like his adorning garment, Kane blends in seamlessly to our skewed and haphazard surroundings. A self-proclaimed ‘anglophile’ and a proud graduate of Speedy Wunderground’s class of ’19, he’s known respectably by fans across social media as ‘Mr. Kane’. Though his mannerly reputation precedes him, he sits slumped across the velvet sofa, dimly recounting his all-American upbringing. “I grew up in a time where you had to call your father ‘sir’. Because of that, I like to think there’s a few artefacts of formality left in my approach to things.” Born in Arizona and raised into a religious travelling community, Kane spent the majority of his formative years travelling up and down interstate highways. Speaking hurriedly in his thick cowboy twang, he makes no secret of his attempts to escape the subject. Adding with a grim expression, he says, “it’s a period of my life that I tend not to look back on too fondly.” Opting out of his contract with God and deciding to redirect his faith into making music, he spent years circuiting small-town venues, playing to practically any passing trucker or hillbilly who’d listen. “Back then, it was just me. I didn’t have the whole ensemble,” he explains. “I used to get really nervous performing too. I had a whole bunch of cassettes tapes that I used to listen to just to calm myself down.” Having suffered decades of limited success, it wasn’t until his triumphant arrival in Britain and an encounter with Speedy Wunderground poster boys Squid that his current project, Lazarus Kane, was born. — Times are weird — “It sometimes feels like the line-up changes every week,” he says outlining his band’s ever-revolving door policy. “When we’re playing shows, I spend half the time just making sure
everyone’s in the building. I’ve always loved bands with members constantly coming in and out. We’re a bit like that. Sometimes there might be six of us, sometimes there might be ten.” He’s not joking either. Counting his current line up across his fingers, he struggles to recall the name of his new guitarist. Tonight will be his first show. It’s this mantra of manic spontaneity that Kane cites as the driving force behind his creative process. “Your first idea is usually the best idea. You should never dampen that initial spark,” he says with a sudden air of assertion. “Some musicians spend months in the studio trying to come up with some mega hit, but I think it’s more interesting to keep hold of the imperfections and natural blemishes in creativity.” Just listen to the pelvic-pounding punch of his sleazy disco debut track ‘Narcissus’. A bold statement protesting our dystopian, self-obsessed reality, it’s exposé of commonplace vanity serves up a deeply unsettling blueprint. “Times are weird. People take themselves so seriously,” he says wearing a bleak expression. “When I was growing up, celebrities belonged in the movies and on the cover of magazines. You look around now and that could be anyone. But what people fail to understand is they’re actually just the small version of that. It all equates to just a completely meaningless existence.” With an unmistakeable bitterness, he continues: “People don’t care as much about their fellow person anymore. On ‘Narcissus’ I was trying to highlight the hypocrisy. Everyone’s pretending to be so self-righteous all the time when the truth is, nobody really gives a damn. No one is holier than the first line of that song.” Narrating the track’s leading statement, he recites: “Kindness isn’t simply a test. This isn’t some kind of dick swinging contest.” In just a few utterances of explicitly detailed satire, it paints an ugly portrait, and one that’s all too difficult to avert your eyes from. We spend our lives relentlessly preaching to one another, each of us armed with a manifesto of so-called wholesome and virtuous beliefs. But remove the platform to showboat and does anyone actually care? Kane doesn’t seem to think so and continues to rattle off excerpts from his poignantly directed commentary: “I know your flaws and I know your faults. Alcohol intake and righteous retorts.” Never before has compassion felt so
“Everyone’s pretending to be so self-righteous all the time when the truth is, nobody really gives a damn”
oddly transparent. “Writing that song was a really cathartic experience for me,” he says. “I wanted to get out all my frustrations and that’s what it’s really about. But really, we’re all the same. We’re all narcissists, it’s a fundamental human flaw.” — The most rhythmic thing you could imagine — As we each pause to ponder our own deeply fabricated existence, our moods begin to reconcile as is he averts the conversation towards his budding relationship with none other than Mr Speedy Wunderground himself. “You only need to look at his work. The guy’s a genius, a fucking genius.” He’s of course talking about Dan Carey; the enigmatic producer who’s prolific and pioneering record label has birthed some of last year’s most exciting and influential new artists. Having first heard Squid’s name through feverish word of mouth, Kane recounts how a
meeting with the band’s drummer and vocalist Ollie Judge helped steer him in Carey’s direction. “When I first heard ‘Bmbmbm’ by Black Midi, I knew he was the guy I needed to record with.” With the original demo clocking in at just three and a half minutes, Kane laid out his specifications for ‘Narcissus’ upon the first time he went meet Carey in his South London studio. “I wanted it to be the most rhythmic thing you could imagine. I didn’t want to use live drums, I wanted it all to be drum machine. I wanted it to feel like it had grabbed you and was shaking you by the collar.” Succeeding to secure Carey’s undivided attention, he ordered Kane to assemble a band and promptly set about getting to work. Caught up in the furore of his own nervous excitement, he recalls, “I got really fucking drunk the night before recording. Dan had told me that I needed to be in Streatham for 9am the next day. By the time I woke up, I was feeling fucking dreadful.” Bleary eyed and barely conscious, “Dan told us to unpack and set up our equipment. All the while he’s placing these huge guitar amps side by side around the room. There must’ve been about fourteen of them.” Still sweating out the remnants of the previous night’s session, Kane set out an agreement with Carey. “I hadn’t told the others, but I’d asked Dan to get it all in one take.” Now beating his hands together to accentuate his point, he explains, “that’s the way I like to work. The immediacy is very important to me. I want everything to be kept as spontaneous as possible.” The band played for fifteen minutes straight and Kane describes the manic scene of tangled guitar wires, straining amps and a frenetic energy connecting each individual band member. “Dan told us it was very important to only stop playing when he said so. Every time I looked up from what I was doing, he was running around adjusting things like a lunatic.” Pausing briefly to consider his next words, Kane says, “it was literally straight out of something you dream about. It was this completely unique, immersive and all-encompassing thing. It was a performance. All of it captured.” It’s clear the experience has imprinted a lasting effect on Kane, yet upon enquiring whether he’d work with Carey again, he seems regretfully uncertain. Appearing to sit and deliberate, he’s curious about his own interpretation of what truly makes up the age-old American Dream. Lightly chuckling, he defines it to me. “Back home, folks really buy into the idea of the so-called ‘dream’. It’s what keeps people going, even in their darkest hours. But in a weird sort of twist, I’ve found mine over here instead.” It’s a warming sentiment of achievement, and even more so from someone who’d spent so long a criminally unsung voice for the masses. If I took away anything from meeting Kane, it was his innate unpredictability as an artist and whether or not he himself knew what was truly instore next.
NEW RELEASES OUT NOW
DOUGLAS DARE ‘Milkteeth’
UT ‘Nightmare Forever’
Douglas Dare has established himself as a serious 21st century singer-songwriter with an enduring lyrical poise and elegant minimalist sound.
Erased Tapes LP/CD/LP Ltd
Out Recordings LP/CD
SHITKID ‘Duo Limbo / Mellan Himmel Helvete’
Radical No Wave pioneers UT reissue their critically acclaimed second studio album originally released in 1988 on Blast First Records now fully remastered with original cover artwork, song lyrics and band photos. **** — MOJO
PNKSLM LP (Ltd Edition) / LP
Castles In Space LP
Recorded with The Melvins and feat Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers. “somewhere between the eternal static-pop cool of Jesus and Mary Chain, the ear-splitting cheer-punk of Sleigh Bells, and the lyrical, pre-apocalyptic doom of early Bauhaus. It’s as intoxicating and chilling as the feeling of wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses for the first time.” — SPIN
“...a refined exercise in pulling human emotion from the synthetic. Kl(aüs) 2 recalls a time when sonic exploration of electronic instruments required playing rather than programming. “ — Electronic Sound RIYL: Severed Heads, Tangerine Dream & Kosmiche Music.
KIWI JR ‘Football Money’
EDDY CURRENT ‘Suppression Ring’ Castle Face LP/CD
MAXIMUM JOY ‘Station M.X.J.Y.’
MR. ELEVATOR ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’
Persona Non Grata LP/CD
1972 Records LP
Castle Face LP/CD
A gloriously raggedy piece of indie pop, one that recallseveryone from early R.E.M. to those imperial Pavement singles in its Rickenbacker sweep. — Clash UK
“Oz cult rockers return with punky gem”
A focal point for the unique punk-funk that was comingtogether in Bristol as the bridge from the ’70s to the ’80s arrived, Maximum Joy was formed by Glaxo Babies multi-instrumentalist Tony Wrafter and 18 year-old vocalist Janine Rainforth.
Dreamy psych pop with vintage synth from SoCal quartet formed by Oh Sees’ Tomas Dolas & friend Justin Martinez. “For fans of Tangerine Dream, Air, Donovan (think the Hurdy Gurdy Man LP), The Troggs, Irmin Schmidt, Egg, Stereolab, and even early Mute records.” — John Dwyer — UNCUT 8/10
— UNCUT 8/10
OH SEES UK 2020
BIRMINGHAM –- The Crossing
MANCHESTER - Albert Hall
GLASGOW - Barrowlands
18 & 19/5
DUBLIN - Button Factory 21/5
22 & 23/5
BRISTOL - SWX
LONDON - Electric Ballroom
Moses Boyd 22
Interview Moses dreams of jazz, by Sam Walton Photography by Sophie Barloc Inside the ornate Victorian conservatory in the gardens of south London’s Horniman Museum, on the second-to-last Wednesday morning of the decade, drummer, bandleader and local boy Moses Boyd unexpectedly starts talking about making sushi. “Have you seen that show on Netflix, Jiro Dreams of Sushi?” he asks, veering off topic for a moment. “It’s about this sushi chef in Japan – he’s got the smallest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, in a subway station, and there’s this whole process to how his sushi is made: he gets his knives sharpened by this guy up in the mountains, his rice has to be made after an apprenticeship for like ten years, you know the kind of thing.” Except, Moses Boyd isn’t really talking about making sushi. Moses Boyd is talking about making jazz: “And there’s a whole similar process to playing jazz, that’s not just about learning the notes,” he goes on. “You have to watch somebody who’s done it before, you have to talk to them, you have to learn about the history, you have to play those gigs in them odd places and work out how you can fill up two hours without your own music, you have to learn tunes that aren’t your own, you have to learn how to improvise on tunes that aren’t your own, you have to have a vast repertoire…” he pauses, out of breath with all the you-have-tos, nearly running out of fingers on which to count them off. “And there are so many things that go into it, it really changes a musician, even when they’re not playing jazz. If I played you Herbie Hancock on a pop record, you could tell that he knows: he’s been through that process. “And that’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just a process thing, but…” Boyd starts another breathlessly enthusiastic list, a rhetorical feature of his speech that’s rather charming to encounter, “… Max Roach has done this, Buddy Rich has done this, Philly Joe Jones has done this, Billy Cobham has done this, Jeff Tain Watts has done this, all of these guys have done this. You can just hear it: like with the sushi, if I taste your sushi, I can tell that you’ve been through that process, and that was what was appealing to me, when I was going to workshops at the Roundhouse at 16: I was starting that process.” — Dark Matter — Boyd has got onto this sushi/jazz analogy as a way of explaining a path that has taken him from being a fresh-faced teenager in Catford, south-east London, with no particular interest in playing music – “I was into other stuff, skateboarding, basketball, just normal kid stuff ” – to becoming a 28-yearold rising star in one of the most hyped cities on the planet to play jazz, with an album and fistful of EPs and collaborations behind him and a new solo record, Dark Matter, due out this
Interview coming Valentine’s Day. He originally caught the drumming bug aged 14, after first seeing a boy from a couple years above “destroying” a kit in his school music block, and then one of the school’s peripatetic music teachers, an old jazzer with an ear for promise, turning their allocated lesson of half an hour a week into extended masterclasses that allowed Boyd to flourish. There was then the Camden Roundhouse jazz workshops in the midnoughties hosted by pianist Leon Mitchener that Boyd describes as opening his ears to jazz and other experimental music by the likes of Frank Zappa, followed by a trail of £40 cash-in-hand jam sessions across the capital as a sixth-former, acceptance onto the jazz performance degree at Trinity Laban in Greenwich (at the third time of asking), and finally, after graduating in 2016, integration into the currently thriving London circuit that is causing music fans who may once have been circumspect about British jazz to prick up their ears. That process of integration for Boyd now feels cemented by the release of Dark Matter, a patchwork quilt of a record as much in love with neo-soul, grime, ’60s movie soundtracks, bass music and Caribbean soundsystem culture as it is with straightup jazz – not that notions of genre purity, or even what constitutes “jazz” in terms of musical style, pray particularly on Boyd’s
which, particularly in a form as knotty as jazz, is probably fair enough. For one, there is a slowness of maturation baked into jazz’s tradition that’s not as fetishised in, say, the DIY punk or bedroom electro world, meaning that at 28 he’s still considered young with much development ahead of him: after all, whereas Paul McCartney had already broken up the Beatles by the time he was Boyd’s age, Miles Davis was 44 before he released Bitches Brew, Thelonious Monk was 40 for Brilliant Corners, and Sun Ra had to wait until his 50s for his own purple patch (although, obviously, they count the years differently on Saturn). For another, jazz as a genre label is currently used so loosely – describing anything from a Radiohead song with augmented chords to a Yo La Tengo fuzz freakout to LA hip-hop – that it renders the term’s application to a specific style (as opposed to approach) of music almost meaningless. That sense of a craft still being honed, within a style whose borders appear increasingly diffuse, perhaps better explains Boyd’s somewhat gnomic stance. — A lived in experience — What seems clearer is that in the past few years, as the jazz scene has blossomed in the UK, London jazz carries a very
“London is still grey, and British people are a bit awkward: we’re not that friendly at face value, but we’re not bad people”
mind: “I mean, I don’t think I’m the person who should be defining it,” he demurs, avoiding the question of what characterises a jazz record in the 2020s, given the myriad influences that flow freely through his and other successful crossover records of recent years. “The problem with what I and the people I’m connected with do is that jazz is only one part of it. Let’s take Sons of Kemet, for example [not a bad example, either, given Boyd’s considerable drumming contributions to Your Queen Is A Reptile]: It’s as much Duke Ellington as it is Buju Banton as it is Machel Montano as it is D Double E. I don’t mind it being put under the banner of jazz, but two things you should know – one: it’s not the whole picture; and two, for me, if I’m calling something jazz, it’s not even about a style. There’s something that connects a Wayne Shorter to a Branford Marsalis to a Glasper to a Herbie to a Yussef Kamaal Trio to a Shabaka,” Boyd says, his eyes popping slightly as he reels off yet another list of influences he so evidently adores, “and that’s that process I was talking about with the sushi. When I listen to all of those, I hear something they’ve all gone through as musicians that’s different to what I hear when I listen to Sleaford Mods or IDLES – no disrespect to them, obviously.” While Boyd’s take might read as potentially elitist on the page, in person it’s clear that he’s actually just a young musician totally immersed in his work and still trying to find his voice,
distinct sound – it’s difficult to confuse, say, the big-skied, nearpsychedelic maximalism of Kamasi Washington or Thundercat with the likes of Boyd, something which, reckons the drummer, is down to the make-up of London itself: “On a rhythmic level,” he begins, trying to tease out the niceties of an archetypical London jazz record, “it’s that perfect understanding and appreciation of the Afro-Caribbean and west and east African diaspora across London – that story of these rhythms and cultures living alongside each other, being fed through soundsystem culture, which, sure, is a very Jamaican thing, but also has loads of roots in London. For instance, if you listen to Youssef Kamaal it definitely sounds like someone who grew up listening to jungle breaks and So Solid and Lonnie Liston Smith and the Wailers and Fela and Kano. “That’s not to say that couldn’t happen in Scotland, or even in Tokyo, but it’s so much easier for it to happen here, if you live in it,” continues Boyd, gesturing beyond the Horniman gardens and out across the London skyline beyond. “If you grew up when Sidewinder was happening back in the day, and going to the late show at Ronnie Scott’s, and Steez, you just had this amazing plethora of scenes and communities. So distilling that through a jazz and improvised lens, that’s what I would say makes a London jazz record: it’s not just an understanding, but a lived experience.”
Interview Added to that, he suggests, is the small matter of personality, of both London and its people: “London is still grey, it’s not picturesque all the time, and British people are a bit awkward: we’re not that friendly at face value, but we’re not bad people, and that attitude is infused in the music too, where it’s not a big song-and-dance number; it’s more unassuming.” — The man at the back — On topics of theory, history, and philosophy, then, as well as his peers and influences, Boyd is naturally ebullient. When it comes to slotting himself and his music into those matrices, however, he’s a little more tentative. At the heart of that trepidation maybe lies the fact that Boyd is both a drummer and a bandleader, a combination necessitating positions at the back and the front of the music-making process simultaneously. “I’d rather be the guy in the back that nobody knows is making all the calls,” he says of his ideal role, although it seems that’s more through a naturally felt obligation to making the best records he can, than through a sense of shyness, given it’s Boyd’s name on the album sleeve, which ultimately he’s fairly bullish about: “I mean, I’m not afraid of all that,” he concedes, “but generally it’s a difficult one: I’m not afraid of it, but it’s also important that it’s not about me. It’s my songs, and someone’s got to represent it, sure, but it’s still a constant front–back battle. I like being at the back, but I’ve got to be at the front, and how does that work? Ultimately, there are some statements where I’m really at the front, and others where I’m really at the back.” All of which comes over surprisingly clearly on Dark Matter – Boyd is rarely a showy drummer, with his patterns expressive and accomplished while always in service to the track, but at the same time he’s undoubtedly the most polished
performer on the album, too: where the guitar lines veer occasionally into smell-the-glove bombast, or the bass into overpowering boom, the drum lines are invariably just right. That’s most likely down to a simple case of a drummer having longer-standing experience in producing drums than other instruments, but the secondary effect is to parade Boyd in the subtlest – and probably classiest – way possible. Fortunately, too, it’s a neat way for Boyd to shine while also remaining where he’s most comfortable, at the back of the room: “I mean, I’m okay with this,” he accepts, nodding towards the dictaphone on the table between us, “and with being on camera, but the people I admire and have learnt most from are the people in those positions where you’re at the back – the Quincy to the Michael Jackson, the Raphael Saadiq to Solange, the Pharrell – and I’m much more into that: I like the anonymity, I like the freedom.” It’s an identity that, I suggest, as we start a new decade and can’t help but look forward another ten years, could leave him at the beginning of the 2030s as an out-and-out producer, not having picked up a drumstick in years. “Yeah I wonder about that too,” he admits. “I wonder how soon it’ll be before I get other drummers on my sessions. People will be like, ‘but Moses you’re the drummer!’, but you know, I want to tinker those buttons!” If that ends up being the case, it could actually be a natural resting place for a musically restless mind: after all, this is a man who, in the hour we talk, references 66 different musical acts, and to date (according to his Discogs page), has appeared on over 50 releases in one form or another. “I’m very happy to just chill and see the records I work on go somewhere – that’s contentment for me,” he smiles, lightheartedly, when asked if he has any grand plans. It’s obviously working for him for now.
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It’s the return of indie rock royalty Nada Surf! These royals aren’t stepping back from their duties or using any taxpayers’ money. Instead they continue their tireless public service by delivering “Smart, literate, idiosyncratic power pop” (Uncut) to the masses.
A welcome return for the much-loved duo. This album of new songs is the soundtrack album to Elizabeth’s critically acclaimed documentary film tribute to her favourite film genre. Features the single Women In Love.
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Available on limited edition white vinyl.
Frances Quinlan has built an identity for herself over the past decade as the lead songwriter and front-woman of the Philadelphia-based band Hop Along, and her distinct voice is among the most recognizable and inimitable in music.
New Zealand juggernaut Fat Feddy’s Drop return with a brand new studio album, ‘Special Edition Part 1’, out now on CD and coloured double vinyl. The new album follows on from 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Bays’ LP and will see a full global tour in 2020.
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Basic Plumbing Records A new album from Patrick Doyle (Veronica Falls / Boys Forever) recorded before he passed away in 2018. Profits from this release go to Los Angeles LGBT Centre + CALM. “‘Keeping Up Appearances’ is a very worthy final instalment of Doyle’s modern indie pop legacy.” – Loud & Quiet
Caribou — Suddenly (city slang) Over the last decade, Dan Snaith has reached an omnipotence that’s felt like he’s never too far away from the studio or a live set. Dovetailing between Caribou and Daphni, his prolificity makes this album number six in 10 years, if you include FabricLive93. But with more than five years since the release of Our Love back in 2014, and Snaith primarily in Daphni mode for the latter part of the decade, Suddenly seemed to pop up out of nowhere like a little blast of sunshine and dopamine to wave off these SAD winter months with a cheery two-finger salute. It seems that five-year gap between Caribou albums owed a lot to Snaith adapting his creative process. More accustomed to magicking music purely from imagination than referencing his home life, incorporating more personal aspects meant compromise – and accepting a much slower process. “There’s a tension between those sudden things which blindside you and the more glacial, gradual day-to-day changes,” Snaith says. “That’s why so often when something drastic happens, suddenly it catalyzes all sorts of changes in our lives – our perspective shifts. “Whether those are losses and traumas from my life and the lives of the people around me, or reflections on the joys and challenges of seeing my relationships with my kids and my parents change over time, things from the grain of my day-today life insisted on making their way into the music.” So, when his youngest daughter learned the word ‘suddenly’ and started repeating it non-stop, and his wife suggested it as the album as title, it “resonated on all sorts of levels”. And as well as inspiring the title, those ideals of time, family and reflection also appear on the album itself on ‘Sister’.
“The line I used is my mum singing a nursery rhyme to my sister when she was just a baby,” he explains. “For all that I’ve said about putting my life into my music, that moment is the most personal”. It’s an adaptation that might have slowed things down, but in the same way like-minded peers Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) and Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) emerge with fresh music to an expectant buzz, new work from Snaith always excites, whatever moniker it’s under. That anticipation is no different this time around, but Suddenly initially confounds, too, with those first listens feeling a bit like a Caribou album in name only; a blind sound test that doesn’t instinctively lead you where you think it will. The lead singles set the tone with the Gloria Barnes-sampled ‘Home’ hitting like the joyful soundtrack to the bride and groom’s first dance – all loose and happy and soulful – and the echoing ’80s Chromatics atmospherics and RnB switch of ‘You and I’. Both were designed to get you to do a double take. Snaith doesn’t want you to get comfortable or get settled because he’s out to get a reaction, even at those double-digit numbers of 10 albums and almost twenty years. First impressions are tough to shake but he’s here making power moves. “It’s been great watching the first few people I let listen to it react at those points and to see the genuine shock when they first hear those moments,” Snaith says. “I wanted to balance the familiar – the sound that people associate with my music – against these moments of surprise.” That reaction embodies the entire album. It’s bait and switch, Three-card Monte, Snaith as Danny Ocean: one step, two beats and 900 thoughts ahead of you. Songs drop out and morph into something else entirely just as they’re hitting their stride, pitched vocals drift over stretched pianos, punchy boom-bap beats punctuate flamenco guitar with Snaith’s high, milky vocal a fluctuating feature on every track. Once upon a time, it would have felt strange – an interruption as opposed to an embellishment – but here his vocal feels a natural, essential feature, even
if Snaith hasn’t fully convinced himself. “I’m not a strong singer,” he admits. “It’s taken me a long time to build the confidence and find a way to sing my songs that I can live with.” Opener ‘Sister’ moves with dubby, slow focus, ‘Sunny’s Time’ stirs with a haunted piano loop and rewired vocals, ‘Lime’ spirals from light interlude into low end chaos like Flying Lotus trapped inside elevator music. It sounds anarchic but the ability to convert chaos into complexity has always been part of the appeal; the mathematical mind creating sweet, undecipherable melody. Snaith believes this is some of the most intricate music he’s ever created, distilling almost 1000 ideas down to create the final tracklist. It’s undoubtedly his most diffused work but it feels fresh and light for it with aspects nodding back almost 13 years to the blooming ambient swells of Andorra, but it’s still a sound driven by the futurism that’s underpinned his more recent output as Daphni. It’s that wide, technicolour point of reference that makes a track like ‘New Jade’ feel like a snapshot of Jai Paul fully realised (in an alternate future where he didn’t disappear) and gives the cowbell and pots’n’pans percussion of ‘Never Come Back’ its looping, danceable momentum. Elsewhere, ‘Filtered Grand Piano’ sounds exactly as the title suggests, as keys swim into focus during its 50-second interlude before ‘Like I Loved You’ eases into an RnB slow jam with butter-smooth bass, Spanish guitar and key change falsetto – another surprise on an album that consistently, politely defies. ‘Ravi’ then flicks things back to something a little more propulsive with itchy hi-hats and a peppy 4/4 house beat before the lullaby softness of ‘Cloud Song’ brings things to a close. From Manitoba and the genesis of Caribou to Daphni’s contemporary take on the club, Snaith has never taken a backwards step. He talks of his albums as “photo albums, snapshots of my life at that time”, a musical catalogue of the places, moments and people closest to him. Suddenly certainly doesn’t have
Albums the immediacy of Our Love or Swim but by setting out to create something that’s a more intimate reflection of himself, it feels like the closest, if not most literal, realisation of that snapshot intent. The result is an album that’s as complex and compelling as anything he’s ever made and while it doesn’t provide the instant gratification of its predecessors, Suddenly still has that intangible quality that’s characterised every Caribou album to date. Sometimes you have to do something for yourself, even if it comes as a total surprise to everyone else. 8/10 Reef Younis
Brooke Bentham — Everyday Nothing (allpoints) For London via North Shields singer-songwriter Brooke Bentham, her debut album, Everyday Nothing, came out of an extended period of, well, nothing much at all. Following graduation, her life pared down to increasingly sparse parts – no real interests, no songwriting on the go, no job. It’s a melancholy familiar to many – what are you supposed to do in your early twenties? – and Bentham as a lyricist is an engaging – novelistic even – guide around the interior of a life paused at a red light. “Every day falls apart,” she sings on the excellent, swelling ‘Keep it Near’, “it’s everyday nothing.” She’s good on the details too (“twenty-three in hot water/ Dead flowers on your windowsill,” on ‘All of My Friends are Drunk’) and emotional truths, at one point singing, “Even my mother will tell you I’m not good affection/ I don’t know where I learned that.” Fans of Bill Ryder-Jones might recognise his fingerprints across points of the album; carrying much of his Pavement-inspired shifts in dynamics, where dirge guitars arise out of nowhere like lumps in an ill-fitting carpet. Its wide-
screen slacker rock is compelling, but frustratingly the album deviates from this too infrequently, failing to match the emotional register of Bentham’s gifted lyric writing. 5/10 Fergal Kinney
Moses Boyd — Dark Matter (exodus) Over the course of the past four years Moses Boyd has won two MOBOs, graduated from the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, toured with Sampha, collaborated relentlessly, picked up a slew of production credits, scored fashion shows for Louis Vuitton and contributed to last year’s soundtrack for The Lion King. Why, then, does it feel as if the pressure’s still on him to deliver a real mission statement with this debut solo record? The answer is in the fact that the album is his first under his own name; with such a wildly varied CV already accrued, how does he figure out how best to sonically define Moses Boyd? On this evidence, it’s by careening through styles at breakneck pace, retaining a strong sense of his jazz roots whilst greedily hoovering up key touchpoints from across a clutch of other genres. The jazz scene in Boyd’s native London is arguably in its rudest health for decades, and that success is something he’s already shared in, having drummed on Sons of Kemet’s incendiary Your Queen Is a Reptile in 2018. As with so much of the city’s finest recent output – SEED Ensemble’s Driftglass and Nérija’s Blume are a couple of cases in point – the capital’s past and present live and breathe on Dark Matter. In that respect, Boyd spins the stylistic wheel in a manner that sees him deftly incorporate everything from grime to afrobeat (the thrilling ‘Dancing in the Dark’ is a case in point on the latter,
with a brooding star turn from spokenword innovator Obongjayar), and he makes that leap via such left turns as the frosty ‘Only You’, which comes off like Burial remixing industrial metal, and the simmering tension of closer ‘What Now?’, which almost hints at post-rock. In the background throughout is the spectre of his hometown’s club scene – ‘Nommos Descent’ and ‘Shades of You’ evoke UK garage and UK funky, respectively – with Boyd’s drumming providing the through-line. Perhaps the closest point of comparison for the alchemy that’s been achieved here is the similarly rich blend of jazz and electro that Shigeto pioneered in Detroit with his early releases on Ghostly, and it seems fitting that an album this varied should announce a talent this singular. It is, after all, Dark Matter’s lack of regard for traditional boundaries that makes it so engaging. 8/10 Joe Goggins
MHYSA — NEVAEH (hyperdub) The internet births legions everyday with vague claims to the onerous title of “the new popstar”. Few make as strong a case for themselves as MHYSA. With 2017’s fantasii, the Maryland RnB abstractionist approached ’90s production like a bedroom studio, feeding cyber resistance and queer black femme culture through glitter-encrusted filters, scant percussion and mournful synth washes. With her Hyperdub debut, NEVAEH, where all and sundry might expect a doubling-down, MHYSA instead pulls her greatest trick yet 31 in pairing back. Her self-awareness is never clearer than on ‘Sanaa Lathan’, one the LP’s sole moment of earful bombast: “‘bout to make you cum, then I switch”. Curiously, all the remarkable austerity of NEVAEH, which flits between
Albums the voice memo-core reprises of ‘when the saints’, the skeletal trap self-discovery of ‘w me’, and the hard atonal synth blaaams of ‘no weapon formed against you shall prosper’, draws tantalising links between liberations: racial and, more often than not, sexual. MHYSA strips ‘ropeburn’ by Janet Jackson bare, transforming a lusciously lurid celebration of BDSM into a droning torch song nestled somewhere between Julie London and a Godspeed You! Black Emperor ambient passage for 5 minutes. More often than not, she is an artist who delights in discomfort, igniting in this particular instance a deeply unsettling psychosexual re-contextualisation between consensual kink and – hear me out – the history of lynching in her native American South. Regardless, her taste for the unexpected proves her vitality among contemporary avant garde creators drawing a tantalising link with pop stardom. NEVAEH may not have the bangers of fantasii, but MHYSA proves she doesn’t need a hit to stake her claim. 8/10 Dafydd Jenkins
Cornershop — England is a Garden (ample play) Cornershop haven’t made a record like England is a Garden for eleven years. Since Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast they’ve released albums that have explored Punjabi dance music (the brilliant Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove Of) and have repurposed their 1994 debut album Hold On It Hurts into an instrumental lounge trip called Hold on It’s Easy. Such underappreciated versatility is apparent on this ninth album in microcosm as, like on Judy Sucks, Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres appear to be the only band who can be so clearly inspired by the mid-60s rock’n’roll sound without sounding like a horrible impersonation
of the Stones – even the ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ drum rap on the opening ‘St Marie Under Canon’ can’t overpower that most Cornershop of sounds: Singh’s joyful, semi-congested British Asian vocal. England is a Garden is said to be a celebration of Singh’s birthplace in the Black Country and the Midlands’ first wave of heavy metal. A jamboree of flutes, tamboura, dholki drums and the usual rock band set up, the sound of Sabbath and Deep Purple is in fact switched out for T-Rex more than once, but a celebration it certainly is; brand new, vintage rock’n’roll with its thumbs up, not its middle fingers. 7/10 Abi Crawford
Sink Ya Teeth — Two (hey buffalo) Sink Ya Teeth’s debut was one of 2018’s most charming albums, weaving a tapestry of New Order-tinged machine funk with a side of bedroom DIY aesthetic to make a record as loveable as it was addictive. Two years on, the duo of Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford return for a follow-up cut largely from the same cloth, but this time a little rounder and fully realised in its first half, and a little more expansive and exploratory in its second. Accordingly, the opening trio of songs add irresistible four-to-the-floor drum programming to rubbery basslines, make-the-face filter sweeps, and Uzor’s whispery sibilance with even more guile and heft than before, with ‘Somewhere Else’ in particular building into the kind of icy, heads-down epic of which Underworld might have once been proud. On side two, the duo – never afraid to wear an influence on their sleeve – broaden their musical net somewhat, and dabble with straight-up post-punk (‘Shut Down’), a touch of industrial (‘On The One’) and, on closer ‘Blue Room’, something impressively if incongruously
gothic, all crunchy guitars and histrionic vocal delivery. If the results are slightly more uneven here than earlier, it’s by no means fatal to the record as a whole. Indeed, one experiment, ‘Breathe’ – the cleanest, airiest thing they’ve ever done – is quietly revelatory, emblematic of a band developing rather appealingly, with just the right combination of ambition and integrity. Bring on album three. 8/10 Sam Walton
Sign Libra — Sea to Sea (rvng intl) There are 23 “seas” on the moon. None of them have water in them, they’re just vast balsamic plains, volcanic eruptions once mistaken by astronomers too quick to identify their darker colouring. There are 20 so-called “lakes”, too. Their philosophical and mythological nature is the thesis of Latvian artist and composer Agata Melnikova’s second full-length, Sea to Sea, under the alias Sign Libra. It’s the kind of music you can imagine would be playing at you in a downtown massage parlour to disguise the fact that you’d remortgaged your life for the simple pleasure of being hit by wooden sticks in an off-white towel. But there’s some homespun warmth in Melnikova’s strange celestial quest that makes you leave feeling psychically cleansed and in Libran balance. Viva the horoscope renaissance. Completely free from restriction (Sign Libra’s last album was written for a contemporary ballet at the Latvian National Opera), Sea to Sea is a sprawling expanse bereft of the soft static beat of Antinote releases past). Melnikova’s synthesised cartography renders the ‘Sea of Islands’ full of surrealist sensibilities, a subtle car-crash of Laurie Anderson, Glasser and Grimes with an enchanting vocal hoot. The landing site of Apollo 11
Albums glugs with everything from Krautrock’s “kosmische” to new wave, as each plain is mapped in a largely nonsensical aural voyage over melismatic drones and crisp kick drums. In a very literally otherworldly soundscape, it kind of sounds like Melnikova’s taken the moon and smoothed its surfaces with a potato peeler: intergalactic anthems for unmapped waters feel beautifully unspooling, if rarely divergent from track to track. There’s still enough space to get lost. 7/10 Tristan Gatward
Tame Impala — The Slow Rush (fiction) For much of the opening track of Tame Impala’s fourth album, Kevin Parker seems caught in two minds. “We’re on a rollercoaster stuck on its loop-de-loop,” he notes on ‘One More Year’, grappling with whether he considers this a good thing or not. Half a decade has passed since his last album, and the success of Currents weighs on the Australian’s mind. His project has morphed many times previously, from its bluesy debut EP in 2008 to the modern psychedelia of Lonerism, through to the slick electronica of late. Now, Parker wants The Slow Rush to show the same levels of ambition but can’t help question his own ability to pull it off. ‘Instant Destiny’ plays it relatively safe to start, having no trouble recapturing the RnB daydream sound of Currents but shying away from offering anything more just yet. ‘Borderline’, however, feels much more pressing and joins a jittery narrator out of his comfort zone after having “gone a little far this time”. A palpable anxiety builds as programmed beats, flutes and layered vocals pinball around in an increasingly crowded space. It’s noticeable how much more intense the album version of this track feels
compared to the single take released last May – Parker must have spent many nights in between then and now toiling away at this richly textured story. On ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ his voice washes in and out of earshot as he speaks with cutting honesty to his late father (“you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave”). This sprawling, Isaac Hayes-inspired song breaks into a new dimension with its last breath where the singer mellows and shares his own regrets. Left turns like this one are integral to the mystery of The Slow Rush: an album that meditates on unfinished processes rather than inevitable ends. ‘Breathe Deeper’ features a lush, danceable bassline that distracts the listener before the song descends down a rabbit hole full of loud, angry synths. The track’s arresting final minute feels like a key juncture in the record (and perhaps also a reward for those who made it through the preceding run of consistently long songs) as Parker appears to home in on the thick fog of intrigue he’s been searching for. Questions of time permeate The Slow Rush – in particular, an anxiety about the passing of time and the threat of it running out. But in a moment of clarity on the beautiful ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’, Parker frees himself from these self-imposed pressures and remembers “there’s no use trying to relate to that old song; and no use trying to tell if the bell has tolled”. With this realisation, the record grows more malleable in sound and its horizons expand. Parker sounds self-assured by ‘On Track’; whenever self-doubt surfaces, he stands firm. Next, a muscly synth riff rips through the upbeat and catchy ‘Lost in Yesterday’ – a kaleidoscopic song that feels very much like trademark Tame Impala. The Slow Rush is finding its groove now, growing confident in its dancier, Italo disco inspired sound. “You aren’t as cool as you used to be,” Parker says to himself on ‘It Might Be Time’, but he doesn’t consider this to be a problem anymore. Instead, it’s a license to do what he wants without worrying – to do things like merging a Daft Punk riff with a meandering, Caribou-like
instrumental on ‘Is It True’. Not everything delivers in the album’s final phase, though: end of the night song ‘Glimmer’ glides by without incident, and it’s tempting to tune out as ‘One More Hour’ echoes round an emptying room. On first listen – or perhaps first handful of listens – this record feels more ‘slow’ than ‘rush’ in nature. But there is a human quality to its flowing and sometimes indecisive structure; the moments it spends treading water are, more often than not, cut short by outbreaks of urgency that achieve real lift off. Painstakingly fine-tuned in the studio, The Slow Rush provides Tame Impala with the punch needed for stadium tours while still meaningfully evolving a complex, liquid sound. 8/10 Jamie Haworth
The Homesick — The Big Exercise (sub pop) The Homesick’s second album, and their first on Sub Pop, has a shockingly distinct sound. It appears the band were quite consciously removing themselves from the clichés of their indie-rock contemporaries – there are no harshly twanging lead guitar lines or built-up anthemic choruses in sight. The opener, ‘What’s In Store’, is a self-aware proclamation of what the project will bring. Its dreamy neo-psychedelia and eerie creepings of piano provide a gentle introduction to the remaining nine tracks; the stretches and warm up for what will prove to be quite an arduous and ‘big’ exercise. While the floating phantasmagorical sound crafted by the Dutch trio is undeniably interesting, it breeds little to no further sonic variation across the LP. Every now and again a sparse flickering of electronics, a wash of warm shoegaze-y guitar or a jilted woodwind riff slips into the mix, producing a bit of energy on top
Albums of a sound that otherwise quickly falls to samey lethargy. These ghostly fairground, carnival-esque arrangements do produce a few highlights (the uneasy pop of ‘Children Day’ and the monstrously brooding outro to the title track, accompanied by a distorted bass that crunches to the core), but ultimately the whole record stands as a sped-up and darkened set of ‘For The Benefit of Mr. Kite’ pastiches. The sonic concept is engrossing for an EP’s measure of songs but beyond that it can feel as if you’ve been force fed a dose of acid and strapped to a vintage carousel. There is promise in the song-writing but a lack of diversity smudges this with devastating effect. 4/10 Jo Higgs
Hamerkop — Remote (drag city) Hamerkop’s debut album, Remote, was inspired by Annabel Alpers’ collection of field recordings from her New Zealand homeland and travels around the world. It’s a conception that’s not immediately obvious from the three opening tracks, which are very much a continuation of her previous work with Bachelorette. This results in hazy electro-dreampop that sounds like it was recorded on cheap, vintage synths and drum machine. Pleasantly nondescript, tracks such as ‘We Can Wing’ could be Beach House if not for audio engineer Adam Cooke’s motorik drumming. Things get more interesting when Alpers and Cooke shift their energies towards psych-folktronica. Here the tracks are layered and looped with floating vocals and shimmering synths that pan from speaker to speaker. Interwoven throughout is the burble of conversation and the crackle of a bonfire, most notably on ‘TINY’ and ‘Mourning Bells’. These field sounds help to give the Baltimore-based pair a sense of
place and mood, be that the drifting fug of Clear Horizon on the title track or the slightly eastern feel to ‘Polisher’. At its best when it fuses these samples with the pop sensibility of Alpers’ early work, Remote tends towards sonic wallpaper when it doesn’t get the balance right. 6/10 Susan Darlington
Caroline Rose — Superstar (new west) When, after two albums of country blues, New York’s Caroline Rose began to exclusively wear the colour red as she pivoted to bubblegum synth pop big on serious issues (misogyny, death, mental health), she struck a chord of her own: 2018’s Loner introduced a new Rose who combined Martini-dry humour with a goofiness that made for an independent pop sound that, evidently, proved too awkward to make Rose the star she deserves to be. It’s hard to work out how much she cares: Superstar sees her sticking with the red, the glittery synthesisers and the nods to RnB, soul and pop regardless, but via what seems to be the record’s selfinspired anti-hero, she’s also moved west to Hollywood, still in pursuit of fame. Over the opening six tracks, Rose’s inability to write a dead melody continues as before, although where Loner was all about the message, the lyrics here are more difficult to pick out of the cocktail of synths and disco beats, meaning you’ll never know exactly how she’s rhymed “Paris” with “banana hammock” on ‘Got To Go My Own Way’ – one of a number of dancing-down-Main-Street, I’m-thestar-of-my-own-movie tunes that almost hit hard, but don’t quite. Because life is a massive bastard, the not so thumbs-up songs are the best, and they all arrive after all of that first-half hope. ‘Freak Like Me’
bridges the gap as an underdog love song with a jazzy, tumbling piano hook, followed by the stand-out ‘Someone New’, combining Fleetwood Mac and Klaxons, and ‘Pipe Dreams’ – perhaps one of the slow rollers that Rose has said she’s written for Lana Del Rey in the past. As the record sighs to a close in even more LDR fashion, with ‘I Took A Ride’, Superstar is beginning to peak just as it’s ending, just as it’s getting really slow, just as Rose is at her lowest. 7/10 Abi Crawford
Bambara — Stray (wharf cat) Good news for people who like Nick Cave but have over-played every Nick Cave record: Bambara are back. The trio have long been compared to the gothfather and his murder ballads, and despite its name, their new album, Stray, keeps to this menacing track. From the stalking, ominous bassline of album opener ‘Miracle’ to closer ‘Machete’’s marching beat and psychopathic lyrics, Bambara’s third album is awash with darkness. Stray is assembled almost like a collection of short stories, with the brothers Bateh and William Brookshire seizing the opportunity to show off their narrative skills. With influences ranging from Leonard Cohen to French noir and Southern Gothic writers like Flannery O’Connor, the trio’s lyrics blend the surreal and sublime, the romantic and the deeply twisted. As a ‘for instance’, the blackly humorous ‘Death Croons’ sees the reaper fend off an ardent prospective lover as he continues to amass a collection of his victims’ remains in the boot of his car. Elsewhere, album highlight and recent single ‘Serafina’ explores a pyromaniac love story, with deceptively simple lyrics building into a poetic, distinctly Southern
Albums narrative. Then there’s ‘Sing Me to the Street’, its atmosphere more funeral dirge than rock song with dragging, defeated vocals and mentions of murdered babies. On album number three, Bambara have gotten heavier than ever. Stray is ice cold, and sharp as a knife’s edge. 8/10 Liam Konemann
Katie Gately — Loom (houndstooth) Given her notable remixes for Björk and Zola Jesus, in addition to handling production work for serpentwithfeet, it’s tempting to view Katie Gately as one of many secretly influential architects in popular modern left-field music. Like all artists of note, approaches change to suit an occasion. On her second LP Loom – her first on Houndstooth – sadly, it begins with an ending. Gately reputedly scrapped a nearcomplete album at the time of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, whereupon she relocated from LA to her family home in Brooklyn, and one might always wonder what could have been of Loom 0.5. But there’s an overwhelming feeling all across the presented work that were these songs written in any other state than fitful late night bursts of feverish creativity, they would’ve sat incomplete and reconfigured to absurdity until the end of time. “I didn’t have time to worry about perfecting things,” says Gately. “I was just working when everyone was asleep – it was the only time I had.” Whatever was to come before the inception of Loom, it’s hard to imagine anything that could be this difficult, lengthy or fractured. Gately’s mother passed in 2018, and Loom is reflective of the discombobulated process of grieving, a process by which people act uncharacteristically in forfeit to the mind-scramble of mourning. It’s the sound of life moving
forward, and all the pain it entails. It’s a scattered archive of loss in a shattered life, full of memories misplaced or mislabeled, threaded together in an attempt at patchwork remembrance. This allows the album the heightened dramatic flare of opera throughout (with Gately as its moonstruck winedrunkard) making it hotly reminiscent of last year’s CALIGULA by LINGUA IGNOTA and the late work of Scott Walker (sans his lyrical cock and ball torture); Loom is an album that demands to be heard, if only once in its entirety, so all-encompassing its theatricality seems. On the mammoth centrepiece ‘Bracer’, we appear to hear the LP’s few discernible lyrics, brought into stark relief by gradually amplified repetition: “take my sin and shove it into yours”. Easily missed at first in the smokescreen of digitised noises, one of the sole transferences from Gately’s 2016 debut Color are her melodic sensibilities, occasionally bordering on upbeat pop on ‘Tower’ and swaying like seasickness on the maniacal ‘Waltz’. The sonic kitchen sink approach, which entails a recording process that incorporates recordings of earthquakes, howling wolves, screaming peacocks (not that any of these are discernible as such in the slightest) lends the album a flavour of the baroque. In other words, Loom is an obsessive fool’s errand; exhausting, if not also dizzyingly exhaustive. 8/10 Dafydd Jenkins
U.S. Girls — Heavy Light (4ad) Tucked away four tracks into Meg Remy’s last record as U.S. Girls, 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, was a twenty-six second vocals-only curio called ‘Why Do I Lose My Voice When I Have Something to Say’, on which, sure enough, she sounds as if she’s in the thick of a particularly nasty bout of
laryngitis. Still, it would have been a title accurate only in medical terms; Remy certainly didn’t lose her nerve when, after ten years and six records, the explosion of the #MeToo movement had finally shone an uncompromising light on precisely the kind of issues she’d long since been delving into. That she wrapped up her stinging treatises on domestic violence, power imbalance and geopolitical turmoil in songs that gloriously ran the gamut of decades of slick pop – Bowie here, Blondie there – attested to the fact that her voice had, in fact, never been louder or clearer. Heavy Light feels like a natural expansion; buoyed by how stylishly she fused her influences last time out, she’s indulged her more adventurous impulses on a kaleidoscopic LP that finds room for everything from fizzing disco (‘4 American Dollars’) and Latin-inflected electropop (‘And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve’) to softly reflective torch songs (‘Denise, Don’t Wait’) and smart piano confessionals (Woodstock ’99). Throughout, Remy strives to marry the sharp politic of In a Poem Unlimited to the unblinking introspection of her earlier work, and she largely succeeds. Heavy Light is absent of poses and gimmicks and scored through with subtlety and nuance – it’s a razor-pointed, laser-guided pop record that speaks with fierce intelligence to the times. 8/10 Joe Goggins
La Roux — Supervision (supercolour) Elly Jackson holds a unique position in the cultural landscape. In 2009 she was the crown princess of streetcred pop, as revered by the then allpowerful indie community as she was popular in the mainstream (lest we forget, ‘Bulletproof ’ went to number 1). She rocketed to stardom in short order but never consolidated her place there.
Albums A lacklustre second album took five years to arrive, and now, after effectively voiding an entire decade, we arrive at album number three with anticipation levels modest at best. Pop, in that time, has changed beyond measure. The charts are now bursting with TikTok-aping, memedriven tracks that are lab-made to populate corporately-curated playlists. The industry is engaged in a race to find the shortest time it can take to co-opt its audience’s attention. Based on Supervision, Jackson has no truck with any of that. With six of its eight tracks clocking out at or after the five-minute mark, it appears that La Roux believes the power in dance pop music derives from such old fashioned notions as song progression, sonic world-building and restraint in the face of excess. She draws from some of the old masters – there are guitar licks that echo Nile Rodgers on ‘Automatic Driver’ and hallmarks of Thriller-era Michael Jackson on the vocal overlaps on ‘Do You Feel’. With new artists like Georgia now occupying the hot new thing space that was once hers, La Roux now fits more easily into the lane that has been home to LoneLady and Roisin Murphy; mature voices that understand how to mine the quarries for uncut bangers. As the brilliant opening track here, ‘21st Century’, attests, she’s still more than capable of producing the goods, too. 7/10 Max Pilley
Islet — Eyelet (fire records) It’s been seven years since Islet last released an album of experimental pop. In that time there’s been notable personal changes for the Powys trio: band members Emma and Mark Daman Thomas welcomed the birth of their second child, and Alex Williams lost his mother.
Yet these changes haven’t significantly translated into creative development. Their early days of creating songs out of jams may have passed but they continue to spurn anything as conventional as a USP, unless this is taking a jukebox approach to music making. The range of styles on Eyelet broadly sit under the psych-pop umbrella but its eleven tracks lack a unifying theme. Flitting from the dream pop of ‘Caterpillar’, on which the crawling synth line emulates the insect’s movements, to the krautrock rhythms on ‘Radel 10’, which is named after the tabla drum machine it features, their free spirit alternately risks disorientating and frustrating the listener. This lack of cohesive thread is a shame because there’s plenty to enjoy about their third long player. ‘Geese’, in particular, has an ambition that they’d be encouraged to develop. Starting as a One Dove style chill out, it builds over seven minutes with textured hypnotic washes of synth until a drum kicks in to give it wings over a “fly, fly, fly” mantra. The duet ‘Treasure’ is another standout, having some of the understated synthpop of Metronomy about it. Sequenced amid unrelated styles, however, the band make both individual tracks and the overall album forgettable too many times. 6/10 Susan Darlington
Kevin Krauter — Full Hand (bayonet) It makes sense to learn that Kevin Krauter’s formative music experiences came at home sitting in front of MTV and VH1, in a time when Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind and Sugar Ray were all on A-list rotation. Those types of influences are instantly detectable in the Indiana songwriter’s second album (he’s also bass player in the band Hoops), much more so
than his engaging debut album Toss Up in 2018. Prior to those hours engrossed by the box it was all Christian music – as dictated by his parents – but here, in these songs that explore self-acceptance, confidence and his developing sexuality, those threads of pre-Millennium radio rock are strong. So too is the post-Bright Eyes wash of folky-emo. No bad thing. In Krauter’s delicate hands these solid echoes of Goo Goo Dolls, Rival Schools and The Postal Service sound perfectly acceptable, and remind that modern masters – the likes of Kevin Parker (on ‘Opportunity’), M83 (‘Surprise’) and Mac Demarco (‘Green Eyes’) – may have found more illumination from that period than previously credited. ‘Piper’, built on a plinky synth and drum machine is one of the exceptions; an Alex Cameron tune, but sincere, without the crude punchlines. These songs are comforting, melodically astute, open-ended, dreamy, and if one had popped up on the soundtrack to Jonah Hill’s mid90s movie you could’ve sworn you heard it before. Instead you’ll be Shazaming them in Urban Outfitters. Now, time to dust off that Semisonic record. 7/10 Greg Cochrane
Beatrice Dillon — Workaround (pan) The term “experimental electronic” seems to be used for two sounds lately: skull-shaking acts signed to Sweat Equity, and otherwise normal albums drenched in reverb. It’s nice, then, to hear Beatrice Dillon’s new record, Workaround, which is – whisper it – actually trying something different. Dillon makes a point of resisting reverb, instead clipping and vacuum-sealing every drum hit and beat. She explained in a recent Guardian interview: “People sometimes use reverb in a lazy way [...] I’m not going to do that.
Albums Then you’re grappling with space and how to keep something interesting with this sense of emptiness.” Dillon succeeds on that goal. Tracks like ‘Square Fifths’ manage to feel airless, jerky and rhythmically pleasing all at the same time. Its close cousin, ‘Workaround 8’, pulls off a similar trick, sounding variously like a YouTube glitch, a CD skipping and an engine spinning itself apart, all the while shivering along at the album’s consistent 150BPM. It’s a shame, then, that there are several tracks on the second half of the record which feel lightweight by comparison. ‘Workaround 9’ clicks along well but unmemorably, while the interlude ‘Pause’ sounds like a broken doorbell. I get the sense that the album’s strong theoretical underpinning holds it back from achieving greatness, but at the same time it’s difficult not to admire Dillon’s dedication to her ideas. Workaround is more than willing to fail as long as the results are interesting, and even where the album falls flat it’s rarely dull. There’s an exciting future here. 7/10 Alex Francis
Douglas Dare — Milkteeth (erased tapes) “Are my parents proud of me?” wonders Douglas Dare on the third track of Milkteeth. It is a question that prevails on the record as he revisits his childhood with bittersweet nostalgia. Growing up as the youngest of a large family on a farm in rural Dorset, Dare never felt like he fit in. Now an adult, and free, he feels compelled to reconnect with his younger self; to give him permission. “Brother, cousin, won’t play with me,” he laments on ‘Silly Games’, and there is a strange intimacy to the childlike words on the adult man’s lips. He conjures characters like ghosts; family members
and friends. On ‘Where Ever You Are’ he addresses an old friend whom his mother had loved “as one of her own”, wondering how someone who had meant so much could be lost to him. The record is dotted with soft solo piano interludes cushioned by the use of pedal. ‘The Stairwell’ meanders with the naive curiosity of an infant. An image comes to mind of the small child exploring his rural home, no company but his imagination; Dare’s musicality is almost more transporting than the references in his lyrics. Elegant and delicately layered, Milkteeth feels grandiose despite its minimalism, like a solo dancer performing an elaborate piece of movement. It acknowledges that no matter how far we have come, how much we have grown, our most childish fears are often with us for life. It feels honest, organic, and will undoubtedly resonate with anyone who has ever felt strange, or shy, or small. 7/10 Katie Cutforth
HMLTD — West of Eden (lucky number) Many of the tunes on HMLTD’s debut album, West of Eden, have existed in some form over the last three years. The story is such: a little-known band called Happy Meal (abbreviated to “HM” only to be lengthened again with a “Limited” suffix) sign a big major label deal, release their best songs and instantly retract them again, in place of a slightly underwhelming hype EP, Hate Music Last Time Delete. They then retract the major label contract, too, still with an arsenal of unexploited live and cult favourites, free from legal complication. In the school of false starts, HMLTD, as lawyers no doubt insist they are called now, have long been that band on the cusp of a debut album since their
inception. West of Eden is exactly what the devotees wanted – a subversive preservation of the dystopian disco to the tune of Wooze and Sweat that’s heard through the drippy residue of the Brixton Windmill walls. Danky clubbers unite under the faux gaze of “irony with a capital ‘I’”, and continue the bravado to the promised land, of sorts. “West of Eden” is the new interface for “East of Eden”, the land where Cain was banished in a vengeful Old Testament. Moral questions of Cain’s Biblical atonement parallel the current West’s fazed inability to save itself from the self-aggrandising cuddle of capitalism. The realities are quite different. The most potent takedown of the aforementioned major label days and the music machine’s thrall was the first single, ‘LOADED’ (“I sold my soul to the devil tonight ‘cause I was pretty fucking poor”), but it sounds a bit like The Killers on an adrenaline fix. Elsewhere the clip-clopping desert sprawl of ‘Calamity James’ is Khruangbin with a battle cry, leading seamlessly into the ever-present ‘To The Door’ – a twanging dose of Tarantino and still their best song. The one-two of ‘Joanna’ and ‘Where’s Joanna?’ is an ominous murder ballad of repression, toxic masculinity and – you guessed it – dismemberment. Otherwise, their patchwork labyrinthine stories are only mostly enthralling – the whole piece doesn’t quite match the promises of full technicolour. 6/10 Tristan Gatward
Alex Rex — Andromeda (tin angel) Alex Rex is what former Trembling Bell Alex Neilson calls himself now he’s solo. It’s unclear whether he’s adopted the “Rex” to propose he be the king of something, or perhaps that he’s now somehow comparable to the mightiest of the dinosaurs, but both possibilities nod towards
Albums the kind of delusions of grandeur necessary to make a record as bombastic as Andromeda: indeed, Neilson appears so enamoured by his third album’s supposed momentousness that he’s forgotten how it might sound to anyone else, laying bare his extraordinary voice and startlingly heavy-handed lyrics for all to hear. Unfortunately, Andromeda doesn’t contain the sort of batshit grandiosity that made, say, Life of Pablo-era Kanye entertaining, or even the near-charming ripeness that is Arcade Fire’s stock in trade; instead, it’s entirely unselfconscious, at once excruciatingly precious and virtually impossible to take seriously; the kind that would be harmlessly daft were it not so overbearingly earnest; the musical equivalent of someone reading aloud their teenage diaries, with am-dram voices for every character, to their co-workers. It starts as it means to go on: opener ‘Song of Self Doubt’ pits aimlessly twinkling windchimes beneath a poem by Neilson, read by octogenarian folkie Shirley Collins in the kind of disengaged register more usually heard in the queue at the Post Office, and from there follows a pair of Bad Seeds pastiches which would be inoffensively game were they not topped by Neilson’s disastrous singing, as performatively ardent as it is off-key. The latter, ‘I Am Happy’, powers through about 20 different pronunciations of the title’s final word (most as if to rhyme with “puppy”, some with “lippy”, and one, inexplicably, with “Popeye”) before a coda of tremulous guitars and tumbling drums evoking peak-exaltation Godspeed, but at no point do any of these histrionics ever actually land a punch. Undeterred, Neilson plows on through a spoken-word lament designed as his own funeral music, a yodelling lullaby that stops unexpectedly (but not entirely unwelcomely) mid-song, and yet more mannered yelping in an accent that suggests less a background of Leeds via Glasgow (as Neilson is) than some pinballing existence between Melbourne, Mumbai and Merthyr Tydfil. Andromeda ends with Neilson repeating that “nothing can heal or destroy you better than time”, like it’s his
grand discovery and not one of humanity’s oldest truisms. The preceding 44 minutes may have helped heal whatever was ailing him; for everyone else, destruction may be preferred. 3/10 Sam Walton
King Krule — Man Alive! (xl) Halfway through the creation of this third King Krule album, Archy Marshall became a father for the first time. If it is to bring a bright reinvigoration to his art, then we will have to wait until album number four to hear the results. Man Alive! is a step further into the depths of Marshall’s recesses, following on from 2017’s acclaimed The Ooz. Like its predecessor, it is less a sweeping state of the nation commentary, but rather a compendium of snippets of overheard conversations as we the listener drift through a metropolitan haze. It is a clip gallery of lives, connected by time and spirit, a collage of urban unease, dissatisfaction and distrust. Strung out, low-hanging basslines tussle with textures rather than melodies of guitar. Indiscernible, chopped up snatches of unfamiliar, seemingly unwelcome voices drift in and out of the mix. Denseness is king on Man Alive!, and whilst it may not amount to a cohesive narrative, Marshall does not appear to strive for closure from his music, but expression. Optimistically, the denseness could be described as a benign haze (I’m looking at you, lead single ‘Stoned Again’), but more often the lack of fresh air on Man Alive! appears to be suffocating its characters. Subject matter pings from paranoia on ‘Supermarché’ (“another pair of eyes, LET GO!”), through low selfesteem on ‘Underclass’ (“I’m unsure at all of what I was supposed to be, the demons keep showing me up in times of
need”) to isolation on ‘Perfecto Miserable’ (“another lonely night, you’re my everything”). Marshall ties these alienating, mental health-adjacent social issues to nocturnal, industrial soundscapes in much the same way that Burial has been mastering in another musical form for the last decade and a half. You have to lean into Man Alive! to receive its message; it won’t come to you, but what lies in wait if you do is the dark, harsh truth. King Krule is one of the few artists ready to stare it in the eye. 8/10 Max Pilley
Mush — 3D Routine (memphis industries) It never ceases to amaze quite how many different sounding bands can come out of the same distinct roots of post-punk (Talking Heads, Gang of Four, Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Fall, etc.). You’d think the formula must be worn out (and yes, sometimes the spectrum is used with minimal effect), but Leeds quartet Mush prove on their debut album that, at least for now, the machine still works. Of course, this isn’t to discredit the band and the plethora of other current post-punk bands that have floated across our radio waves over the last few years. Each of them that, like Mush, do it well, add in a little indescribable something of themselves that keeps it all fresh and raw. Drawn in by aggressively jaggy guitar lines scattered over a propellant rhythm section, ‘Revising My Fee’ sets itself up as a charmingly churned-out tune that will come to stand as a typical track from this Leeds group. They skip any potentially dulling pleasantries by darting straight into their all-encompassing but simultaneously concise record. Next comes the brutal brick-wall-beat and odd and flavorous vocal tones on ‘Eat the Etiquette’, forcing itself to stand
Albums out as a pop-song that has been beaten and battered into a grisly pulp of memorable melody. Mush appear powerfully millennial, despite their sound being wrung out of the ’80s cloth. Lyrically, the toothsharp spitting presents constant issues that could only come from a group recording at this point in time: “I take my coffee with existential dread”. Some bands just don’t accept temporal confinements. 8/10 Jo Higgs
Spinning Coin — Hyacinth (geographic) World War Three could well be imminent, Australia is on fire and the only thing to do is sit and idly watch as it all blows up in our big, stupid faces. 2020 is here and so far there’s not too much to be hopeful about. For a band that have been through it, surprisingly, Spinning Coin are sick of our complaining. Having reshuffled personnel by recruiting Canadian bassist Rachel Taylor, the band had been based in Glasgow as ever, until increasingly strict visa laws forced Taylor out of the UK. She moved to Berlin, and guitarist and vocalist Sean Armstrong went with her, splitting the band across Europe and releasing their tight hold on the Glaswegian indie scene. Eventually rendezvousing in western France to complete Hyacinth, the band’s new album ditches the scratchy social commentary of their debut for a somewhat lighter rhetoric. It’s all lovestruck indie pipedreams delivered through twangy, psychedeliasoaked pop. It may as well be a meticulously preserved antique; a mint condition mid-noughties British guitar band with all the visceral energy of something that wasn’t yet already long out of fashion. The band will you to succumb to lovesick intoxication on tracks like
‘Laughing Ways’ and ‘Feel You More Than World Right Now’, and sometimes succeed, because aside from the melancholia, Taylor’s wispy vocals on a song like ‘Black Cat’ flirts with the sort of reassuring optimism that everything might just turn out to be alright after all. 6/10 Ollie Rankine
P.E. — Person (wharfcat) “You wanna groove with me? Then I need strict compliance,” intones Veronica Torres on ‘Top Ticket’. Expressed with all the passion of a bored supermarket announcer, this repeating call and response lyric feels like a strapline for P.E.’s debut album. Enigmatically called Person, this is a piece of work that blurs the lines between seduction and violence. This is what the band describe as “human music for the 21st century”. The members of P.E. are basically a who’s who of the New York experimental underground. Lead-singer Torres, Jonathan Campolo and Benjamin Jaffe were all formerly of criminally underrated art punks Pills until they joined forces with Jonathan Schenke and Bob Jones of electronic post-punk outfit Eaters. Beginning as an improvisational outfit has informed an equally free-form recording process, resulting in what is in effect a Cronenberg movie turned into an electronic album. A proper Chimera of a record, Person, walks a tightrope between welltrodden punk and industrial tropes yet remain fiercely original. For those looking for straight forward tech-noir then ‘Machine Machine’ and single ‘Top Ticket’ have got you covered, but it’s on the quieter numbers where P.E. are their most subversive: the dehumanised classic rock of ‘Lovers’ Lane’ and ‘Pink Shiver’ sees hokey lyrics about backseat make-out sessions delivered
with disturbing emotional flatness. This album’s best moments are when the pop feels like it’s been coldly punched out by a machine, and, like all machines, either it will fascinate or appal you. 8/10 Dominic Haley
Fat Tony & Taydex — Wake Up Album (carpark) Since his debut album RABDARGAB a decade ago, Fat Tony has consistently flexed his muscles with his embrace of experimentation and imbued each of his subsequent three solo albums with a diaspora of sounds from all across the U.S. and the musical spectrum to accompany his narrative-driven lyricism that provides hooks in both senses of the word. This conscious construction culminated in his last LP, 2018’s 10,000 Hours, which served up a sonic pick’n’mix that successfully had its tendrils splayed throughout his entire oeuvre. His fifth album, Wake Up, made alongside Macgregor Park collaborator and L.A. based producer Taydex, reverses the maximalist trend of 10,000 Hours, condensing it to 9 songs totalling just over 20 minutes. However, what it lacks in length, it attempts to make up for in density. Album opener ‘Get Out My Way’ bursts out of the gates with a deliberate winding beat that is infused with an eerie hum that recalls Pixies’ ‘Where is my Mind?’ before splicing in a sparse electronic arrangement and topping it off with a verse from Sophia Pfister. Next song, ‘Godly’, thumps along with a bassheavy bop that is ruthlessly punctuated by gunshots, which eventually gives way to a stadium-sized meaty riff that Post Malone wouldn’t turn his nose up at. The album then abruptly loses steam and meanders through the acous-
Albums tic-led ‘Big Ego’, saunters past the gastronomically-laced ‘Magnifique’, flits through the jumpy ‘Run It Up’ and drives bathetically through ‘Omaha’. It all sounds slick but is lacking the narrative punch and verve that Fat Tony is revered for until the album’s titular track, where his loose lyrics perforate Taydex’s nightmarish soundscape. His verse, while fleeting, is the most engaged he’s sounded through the entire album, carrying with it the weight of a summer jaunt in its middle section, but also relatively navel-gazing lyrics and tawdry experimentation that don’t add to the overall taste of the record. The album finishes strong with ‘Cut That and Make It’, but despite the satisfying starter and filling dessert it appears that the main course never made it out of the kitchen. 6/10 Robert Davidson
Grimm Grimm — Ginormous (tip top) Grimm Grimm, the nomme de guerre of Koichi Yamanoha, has been bubbling away as a project since 2013. When his first album, Hazy Eyes Maybe, was released in 2015, it was to quiet appraisal; an approving yet subtle nod of the head from the music press in his general direction. Now on his third album, Grimm Grimm continues to simmer away, having amassed a healthy social media following and supported the likes of Cate Le Bon and Bo Ningen. This slow build makes sense in the context of the music. Ginormous is understated and minimalist, betraying an understanding that a sparse timbre works better to let the ideas behind the music breathe. With this in mind, Yamanoha makes sense as a new iteration of the singer-songwriter trope, except instead of a battered guitar, he wields synths and reverb. The whole album is intensely intimate, from Paz Maddio’s closely
harmonised vocals on ‘In A Glass Jar’ to the quiet optimism of ‘We’ve Never Been This Far Before’. ‘Spomenik’ is a standout track; a musical tribute to the abstract brutalist statues built in Yugoslavia under Tito to commemorate the losses under German occupation. From the echoing percussion to the humming synth melody, it conveys a quiet admiration that such man-made structures can evoke the presence of sublimity. On Ginormous, Grimm Grimm pays tribute to the great indie bands for introverts (Can, Belle & Sebastian, Beach House) while adding another name to their ranks. The perfect album for an introspective rainy day. 7/10 Jemima Skala
Haleek Maul — Errol (lex) Brooklynborn, Barbados-raised rapper Haleek Maul released his debut EP when he was just 16 years old. Oxyconteen impressed many a critic back in 2012 with its haunted, ambient hip-hop and found its way onto several publications’ albums of the year lists. But the acclaim may have come too soon for Maul, who somewhat faded from view for the remainder of the decade. He now returns with Errol, a mature and inward-looking debut LP that sees the rapper deal with loss while searching for hope. Throughout the record, Maul’s nimbleness between musical styles is notable. On first listen, it’s hard to ignore the horrorcore intensity of lead single ‘Glass Ceiling’ and the sinister chimes of ‘Glitching’. With repeat plays, however, flickers of ear-catching instrumentation, such as the shimmering whirs on ‘DWGWY’, bring greater depth to the soul searching. Made after the passing of his grandfather, Maul uses the album to
reflect on himself as well as the motives of those around him. When music industry types manipulate him on ‘Pretty Colours’, he hopes he can “remember where I’m from and shrug it off.” On this track and elsewhere, Maul shares his self-doubt and bouts of paranoia amidst a weed-induced haze; from time to time, on songs like ‘Lucid’, he arrives at precious moments of calm. Frustratingly, album closer ‘Feelings’ seems a bit too neat in its positivity considering Maul’s toil throughout the rest of the record. But on the whole, Errol is a rich debut full of ideas that underline the rapper’s continued promise. 7/10 Jamie Haworth
Wrangler — A Situation (bella union) Given their impressive CV, combining members of Cabaret Voltaire, Tunng and The Maths, Wrangler’s third album is unsurprisingly an expansive and well-designed listen. Their MO has always been to use old equipment to create something new, and that theme of building with old parts continues here. A Situation excels when it sounds like tiny people constructing the songs inside your speakers; the whirring drills on ‘Machines Designed To Eat You Up’ and the flickering noises of the title track give the impression of creative people crafting together. It’s engaging and fun, the band wringing the concept for all it’s worth. Yet their insistence on limitations seemingly bleeds into the songwriting, which often feels safe. Vocals are masked with reverb and distortion to give the effect of HAL-9000 covering The Smashing Pumpkins, which sometimes gives intriguing depth (‘Anarchy of Sound’) and sometimes just sounds silly (‘Knowledge Deficit’). And oddly for an album so obsessed with process, it’s at its best when
Albums things sound uncontrolled, when the hats rattle or the distortion clips, which I wish it did more. It’s an album that is half way between a Boiler Room set and a launchpad falling down the stairs, peaking when it’s the latter: a scrappy futurist rumination. 7/10 Sam Reid
‘Describe’ ends things on a definitively experimental note, with off-kilter, tinny percussion and ominous bass. The resolutely DIY quality of Handle paired with their focused, angular vision makes for an endearing and triumphant debut. 8/10 Esme Bennett
Handle — In Threes (upset the rhythm) Manchester’s DIY underground hasn’t been short of innovative music recently, and now three former members of DUDS have formed a collective known as Handle, described by vocalist and BQT artist Leo Hermitt as, “a synthesis of experience… we’re capturing movement”. Fittingly from the Upset the Rhythm label, the swirling, violent tempos on their cathartic debut album, In Threes, move between the fringes of artrock and post-punk. Echoing the post-punk cytoplasm of A Certain Ratio and the frenzied drawls of ESG, the LP speaks to a higher power of sound manipulation and poetic formation. ‘Step by Step’ combines an unstoppable rhythm and infectious energy, echoing the vocal yelp of bands such as The Slits and Public Image Ltd. Employing abstract lyrics with jagged, avant-garde tempos, such as on the explosive track ‘Lifeswork’ (“Definition definition, useless useless information”), we are taken on an instantly addictive journey of swirling patterns. Handle also make use of DUDS’ affinity for sound manipulation, the almost hysterical sax on ‘Mhmm’ keeping the tempo chaotic. They often sound like A Certain Ratio a la Sextet, making use of avant-funk percussion, while the frenzied guitar riffs of ‘In Tension’ and abstract slampoetry of ‘Punctured Time’ make for an explosive other-worldly listen that never settles in one place.
Squarepusher — Be Up At Hello (warp-) “Comfy” is a descriptor you might not expect for a Squarepusher album. Free Jazz, rotted electronic textures and heady drum and bass aren’t usually a warm embrace, but to hear a restlessly inventive artist like Tom Jenkinson return to his old stomping grounds (of fifteen albums ago) is definitely that. It’s been five years since we last got an album under the Squarepusher name, with Jenkinson comfortable to experiment in other avenues, such as perfecting highly technical bass playing with numerous side projects. That exploratory spirit was abruptly stopped last year, when he broke his wrist falling on ice. Through a need to look inward, as well as a necessity to recapture his creative spirit, he found himself digging out old analogue equipment. It was equipment that wouldn’t require massive amounts of dexterity, but also allowed him to crack out music without overthinking. The result is Be Up At Hello, a collection of instantaneous yet rewarding electronic tracks that feel indebted to his early days. Each track is complex and lovingly crafted, while the urgency and frenetic energy of the best IDM doesn’t get lost in how familiar some of these ideas are. It’s wonderful to listen to an album where from the first few seconds you know you’re in the safe hands of a master. ‘Oberlove’ is a sweet, accessible opener with a classically indebted chord sequence that
keeps the groove steady while the beat and buzzing synths are free to flourish. From here, the album gets progressively riskier, diving deeper into discordant harmony and unsettling sounds. But for a few tracks you can hear just how much run Squarepusher is having right there in the cheery presentation. It’s clear that Be Up at Hello was written with the past in mind, but there’s nothing creaky or dated about it. It’s a love letter to his fans, and perhaps the perfect entry point for new ones. 8/10 Stephen Butchard
Riki — Riki (dias) Visual artist Niff Nawor’s solo project Riki is exactly what you want a debut to be: it’s bristling with energy and ideas; it reminds you of Kate Bush; some of it is in German. Nawor’s history of anarcho-punk in the Bay Area is filtered through these echoing chords and bright synth flicks, and the result is so, so much fun. It smells like vintage Grimes with none of the unfortunate Elon Musk. Lead single ‘Napoleon’ (a club anthem with a chamber pop sound) is a perfect example of the power of sound design and good mixing – every element from the bass to the lead is distinctive and will get stuck in your head. Expansive pads and slick stabbing synths make up the majority of the album, well noted ‘Bose Lugen (Body Mix)’ and ‘Know’, but they’re so well crafted and varied that they never sound repetitive. The album starts with this sugary hammer of classic new wave cuts, but as it goes on Riki tries different experiments, with similar success – ‘Spirit of Love’ and ‘Monumental’ are slower ballads but Nawor couldn’t be dull if she tried. This debut is superb on account of being so fun and, in fact, something beautiful. 9/10 Sam Reid
Albums Live Italia 90 & Scrounge The Lexington, London 23 January 2020
Whyte Horses Royal Northern College of Music Manchester 18 January 2020
Anyone would think Dom Thomas has got something to hide. In tonight’s performance you’ll see Whyte Horses – the loose collective behind which Thomas operates as bandleader and songwriter – do all manner of things to distract you from what might really be going on. Take the visuals: the seven-piece group perform largely in darkness beneath a large projection of markedly trippy archive footage; a hypnotic Bollywood dance routine here, some severely off-kilter children’s animation there. Distracting you further, the show is punctuated by appearances from a 16th century jester and the recreation of a 1970s Top of the Pops set. So what is it Thomas has got to hide? Well, across three albums now (tonight’s performance a celebration of their third, entirely of covers), Thomas has proved himself to be a highly gifted and surprisingly sad songwriter, all disguised by the totality and eccentricity of the group’s aesthetic and practices. On the one hand, his writing seems to evoke childhood and a wideeyed innocence at the world, but look closer and you’ll find a constant undercurrent of cynicism bordering on disgust (‘Empty Words’) and genuine terror at
day-to-day existence (‘Fear is Such A...’). Simon Reynolds dubbed Stereolab “record collector rock”, which makes Whyte Horses almost certainly the next logical extension – reissue record rock. Thomas’ background is as co-founder of seminal world-psych label Finders Keepers, and much of that label’s shapeshifting, genre-bending ethos has bled into the Whyte Horses project. This is why their covers album, Hard Times, makes sense in a back catalogue that often blurs the line between original material and covers. So sure, tonight we do get a pretty iffy cover of ‘Bang Bang’, but it’s justified by gorgeous excavations of more forgotten corners of pop history – 1969 soul single ‘Want You to Know’ is transformed into something so anthemic you’d swear it was a global megahit. Likewise, ’70s pop hit ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ is reimagined as a motorik dirge that threatens to never end. To be sure, Whyte Horses are psychedelic, but it’s a psychedelia that eschews nearly all the tropes of the genre’s modern purveyors, and instead often sounds like a kind of wallof-sound Belle and Sebastian. As tonight proves, this is a group who are ploughing their own furrow unconcerned by fashion, and they just might be pulling it off. All the while, Thomas stands at the sidelines, playing guitar and looking for all the world like a man who’s been roped into some DIY or held up in a traffic jam. Fergal Kinney
It might just be that Blue Monday was three days ago, but punk feels like it’s in a bleak phase right now. Not to say that’s a bad thing. The downbeat, world-weary snarl of the likes of Mura Masa, High-Vis, and Football FC increasingly feel like fair reflections of the general atmosphere of post-Christmas/pre-Brexit despair. Tonight is the first gig of Italia 90’s first major UK tour, and they’ve chosen South London duo Scrounge to warm up. Their set might only consist of drums, guitar and a couple of microphones, but the two-piece manage to get a mountain of sound out of it. With intricate drum patterns, slashing guitars and syncopated vocals reminiscent of Q and Not U, Fugazi and other bands from the peak posthardcore era of Dischord Records, go and see this band right now. After a short break, we arrive at the main event. The bulk of Italia 90 tune-up their instruments and then wait for singer Les Miserable to climb up on to the stage. Dressed in a long black coat, checked shirt, suspenders, laced up Doc Martens and fresh buzz cut, he looks like an extra from The Young Ones. Without as much as a hello, the band launch into a whistle-stop tour through their best songs so far, delivering cuts like ‘Tourist Estate’ and ‘An Episode’ without pause or explanation. Over three mini-albums, Italia 90 has perfected a style that takes in old punk tropes, chops them up and spits them back out as hyper-relevant chunks of polemic. Anchored in cold, pulsating bass, the songs often come across like two-minute jazz jams, swerving choruses and bridges ending in downbeat chanted outros and shouted refrains. The band wrap up by launching into a spirited rendition of ‘New Factory’, a bouncy, repetitive shout-along that is, weirdly enough, both the most traditionally punk song of the evening, and a sharp, post-punk takedown of a society
photography by holly mason
Albums Live that promises a lot but never quite seems to deliver. As the crowd pogo along, singing the refrain back to Miserable’s outstretched mic, I realise it’s also a song that perhaps best sums up Italia 90 as a band. I mean, even their name could be considered a byword for disappointment, recalling a football tournament that, from an English perspective at least, started with so much golden promise and ended in total, bitter defeat. Dominic Haley
Patrick Wolf St Pancras Church, London 16 January 2020
Few artists can have been happier to close the door on the 2010s than Patrick Wolf. It all started promisingly enough, with the release of his widely-lauded fifth LP, Lupercalia, in 2011, followed by an acoustic retrospective a year later. For the remainder of the decade, however, the South Londoner all-but disappeared, plagued by personal setbacks, including suffering a serious car accident and losing his mother to cancer. Announced with very little fanfare, there’s a sense that this intimate, threenight residency at St Pancras Old Church was booked as a way for Wolf to test the
photography by corinne chinnici
waters for a proper comeback. It’s heartening to discover, then, that he doesn’t feel the need to downplay his dramatic tendencies for this 120-capacity venue. Quite the contrary, in fact, with the added jeopardy of him being beset by flu thrown into the mix. The house lights drop and all eyes turn to the figure playing pipe organ on the balcony, only for Wolf to sashay through the audience to the stage, singing ‘Ghost Song’ unamplified. With his asymmetric cape and long black hair, he resembles Severus Snape more than he does the otherworldly, pastel-haired wunderkind of yore, but musically, he’s still the same prodigious talent. Across a set heavy with The Bachelor and Wind in the Wires’ more brooding cuts, Wolf switches between autoharp, guitar, piano and violin, playing with arrangements and adding flourishes to the already-complex melodies. More often than not, these improvisations land, most notably a sublime rendition of ‘Damaris’ driven by violin loops, and a sparse take on ‘Hard Times’ featuring insanely impressive vocal runs. There are also fluffed lyrics and aborted song attempts, including a Sandy Denny cover dedicated to his late mother that was presumably too painful to perform. Ultimately, these uncharacteristic flashes of fallibility only serve to make Wolf seem human. Gemma Samways
Sinead O’Brien The Lexington, London 13 January 2020
The annuls of January in their sorrily spitting sadness don’t do much to inspire the wake of a new decade’s gig-going. The Islington streets are quiet, one shade darker with some uninspiring rain. It’s even quieter inside the venue when we start, Sinead O’Brien the outlier of an otherwise indie pop bill, pulling in people with bright white Fickle Friends caps worn backwards. It looks like the first time many people have stepped foot in this room. Of the other mainstays here, this is no folk lethargy of James Yorkston’s annual Christmas gig, no album launch for a small post-punk bands to forge their own moshpit. It’d be generous to call this more than a quarter full. This is where the sheer brilliance of Sinead O’Brien comes in. Timidity fades quickly. Alongside her two-man band, the next half hour is like watching some green-blazered Pied Piper swaying around to their own rhythm. Those who don’t follow her requests to move closer at first find themselves hazily drifting that way anyway. She runs quickly through her singles: ‘A Thing You Call Joy’ and ‘Limbo’ don’t curtail the urgency of their Speedy Wunderground genesis. ‘A List of Normal Sins’ swells on the phrase “we could be so happy” like it’s the spiralling tornado draining your bathtub. Now freed from the songs that a few people know, her Irish post-punk poetry climbs up the walls like Rolling Thunder-era Patti Smith, with a rhythm section playing Crime of the Century. The guitarist loses his dressing gown/ kimono hybrid – is he Arthur Dent or an extra in You Only Live Twice? Either way, they’ve long given up on playing in time, and Sinead O’Brien has been hypnotically indifferent to anything they do. They run with a new song she wrote about living in a mansion with 50 people and a cat, apt with the lyric “I’m the one that keeps the clock working.” You can’t move for people as she finishes. Tristan Gatward
FilmAlbums and Books
Little Joe (dir. jessica hausner) The opening scene of Little Joe fucks with your eyes. Set in a botany lab where symmetrical rows of identical plants are surrounded by a whole lot of white, the figures of Chris (Ben Wishaw), Alice (Emily Beecham) and their fellow scientists in their mint green coats look augmented like Sims characters. They appear like cut outs. Low res, almost. Much of Little Joe is set here, and while your eyes will adjust, the weirdness simply shifts into other elements of the film. Take the music, for example: a discombobulated jam of everyone’s least favourite instrument, the recorder, squealing along with pipes, bongos and often joined by the barking of dogs. Along with a sudden clank, these sounds signify that something strange has just happened – and something strange is always happening in Little Joe. It kind of has to be that way when you make a movie about a genetically engineered flower designed to make people happier, but that, in reality, fucks them up, although only to an almost imperceptible amount… perhaps. Little Joe is a dark little film about paranoia. Alice has engineered a plant that she’s made sterile, only there’s a theory going around that the plant doesn’t like that at all, and in a bid for its survival, it’s infecting people to go to bat for it and make sure nobody harms it. Maybe Alice shouldn’t have brought a plant home for her son Joe after all, although there’s also a good chance that real life Joe suddenly becoming a horny teenager who doesn’t like joking around with his mum so much might be something to do with his age. Throughout the film, its your job to believe what you like, although all those recorders do a pretty convincing job of suggesting that the plant is definitely bad news. Director Jessica Hausner occasionally adopts disconcerting zooms too, into dead
space between two characters whilst they’re mid conversation, alluding to some malign spirit. The most powerful weirdness comes from those who may have been infected though, which includes Wishaw’s Chris. He speaks in a strange, stilted way, although so too do Alice and whistle blower Bella, presumably to confuse matters further. Maybe everyone’s insane; maybe no one is; maybe I am. Perhaps I need to stop watching Little Joe now. The lasting effect isn’t quite that of Get Out, but it sticks with you, for sure. And while you can’t help feel that Little Joe needn’t have been so humourless, this Ex Machina meets Little Shop of Horrors is pleasingly a thinker. Stuart Stubbs
William Blake Now: Why He Matters More Than Ever — John Higgs (w&n) British writer John Higgs certainly never makes it easy for himself. A glance at his list of publications throws up some frightfully complex subjects: Anarchy-inspired electronic pop machine The KLF; ’60s counter-culture manufacturer and LSD liberator Timothy Leary; the zeitgeist of post-referendum Britain and, in his last book, just, you know, the future. Despite his proven track-record of shining clarity onto convoluted corners of culture in his non-fiction, it’s fair to say that his latest book has his sternest subject to unravel yet – the visionary London poet and painter William Blake. Despite dying in almost complete obscurity in 1827, Blake’s cultural value has swelled and his works have made an indelible mark on both mainstream and counter-culture since his death. His reputation in Britain, in particular, has ballooned to a mythic level with his poetry a staple of British education with
children up and down the land gleefully reciting The Tyger and legions of adults singing Jerusalem together at The Last Night of the Proms. It appears that on the surface everybody loves William Blake. However, Higgs insists there is much more to learn, and seeks to show that far from being a revered relic, Blake is more relevant than ever. Higgs uses the first half of his book to re-trace Blake’s impact on 1960’s Beat and New Age culture before dipping into his superficial impact on 21st century culture including influencing Devil May Cry 5 and the Hannibal Lecter film franchise. It’s a rather pedestrian beginning – but entertaining nonetheless. It is only in the second half of this 70-odd page essay where Higgs elucidates the beauty of Blake’s personal philosophy that this book truly comes alive. Higgs suggests Blake’s universal appeal stems from his admiration for the diversity of thought that he distilled into his powerful maxim: “Without contraries is no progression”. This reconciliatory outlook is custom-built for contemporary British society with its divided sides and it is this attitude that makes Blake’s work pertinent today. Higgs argues that by isolating ourselves from opposing sides of thought, we cut off the fabled Jerusalem that Blake prophesised on British shores. He utilises the national jubilance during the 2012 Olympics as a cultural apex where the country most resembled the Britain Blake envisaged. He asserts that this unity is not lost, only forgotten, and in embracing Blake’s worldview we can grasp that unity again and face the big issues that strangle contemporary society: The Climate Crisis, poverty and, of course, Brexit. It’s a beautiful passage of writing that is gripping and optimistic and it leaves you with the sense there is much more to unearth and learn from Blake. You can only assume this was Higgs’ objective – to give us the end of a golden string to urge us to follow our own way to Blake’s prescient opus, and if that is so, then Higgs can rejoice in his success. Robert Davidson
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An enthusiastic new father who still distrusts writers, loves cheap cinema and relocated from the city that’s defined him to a town near Wigan, King Krule is planning on sticking around… until he’s 30, by Gemma Samways Photography by Sophie Barloc
On a bright Sunday afternoon, Crystal Palace Park provides a pretty comprehensive cross section of life in south east London. Young families, dog walkers, joggers, elderly couples, teenage skaters, party casualties: they’re all here, mingling beneath the clear blue sky, as brilliant sunshine medicates the harsh January chill. Strolling south for today’s photo shoot, past the towering BBC transmitter and between two terracotta-pink sphinxes, Archy Marshall is in his element, sharing information on the area over the squawk of stray parakeets. “This would have been inside the original palace,” he explains in his gruff drawl, gesturing to the stone steps beneath our feet. “And the plinths over there would have supported the palace’s columns.” To the north of us, by the park entrance, is a compact museum, which the 25-year-old earlier praised as “low key”. To the east is the Concert Bowl, where Archy’s mother once saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads play, back in the early ’80s. We push on towards the athletics stadium and the sprawling, brutalist complex that make up the National Sports Centre, past amusingly incongruous beach volleyball courts and a miniature racing track currently occupied by one man furiously revving his radio-controlled car. Archy laughs as he recalls the displeasure of regulars, when he would turn up at the same track with his toy car as a child. He reminisces too of breaking into the gated tunnels of Crystal Palace subway as a teenager, and of his disappointment when it was subsequently opened to the public as a tourist attraction. Everywhere we go today seems to strike a cord with Archy, having had close friends here when he was 15. Indeed, he’s actively seeking memories out, persuading us to take detours to former haunts. Disappointingly, the Collector’s Market is closed today, but the Royal Albert is open and Archy subtly manoeuvres us away from the busy, soulless gastro pub we’ve booked a table at, to conduct our interview there. It’s a strange place, half-empty and seemingly only semirefurbished, with the more recent additions of polished, pinestyle flooring and faux-leather chairs clashing horribly with the pub’s original dark wood features. “It’s a long time since I’ve been round here, actually, so it brings back quite a lot [of memories],” he says, settling down to a coke. “Those were really important moments in my life,” he adds with – what transpires to be – quite rare transparency. “It’s a really influential age.” — 10,000 photos in 10 months — For Archy, the age of 15 proved far more pivotal than it is for most. Having started writing songs four years previously, 2010 was the year he released his first collection under the pseudonym Zoo Kid, conjuring a unique musical universe that was as in thrall to Chet Baker, Fela Kuti, and Django Reinhardt as it was The Ruts and Fugazi. Listening to the coruscating guitar line and fantastically gnarled vocals on skeletal single ‘Out Getting Ribs’, you could have been forgiven for assuming Archy was twice his actual age. It was only the accompanying
video that gave the game away, depicting a fresh-faced teenager with a shock of red hair cut into an Elvis Costello quiff. Less than 12 months later, his debut EP as King Krule arrived via True Panther Sounds, launching a wave of press interest that has scarcely subsided since. In the intervening years, Archy has received glowing reviews for all three of his studio albums and has inspired an array of thoughtful, journalistic profiles. Despite this, he hasn’t yet warmed to the scrutiny; a fact I discover when we finally sit down to discuss his forthcoming fourth LP – his third as King Krule – Man Alive!. It’s remarkable, really, the shift in mood that occurs the moment I set my dictaphone down on the table. It’s like watching a wall come down between us, with the hitherto curious and open Archy suddenly avoiding all eye contact, blankly muttering “I don’t know” to enquiries, and leaving pointed silences at the end of the answers he does give. After 50 minutes or so of trying to engage him in a flowing conversation, I can’t stop myself blurting out, “You don’t enjoy interviews, do you Archy?” to which he bats back without hesitation, “No. I don’t trust you guys. Not you [personally], but…” Still, at least he turned up to do this interview, which is more luck than Q had when it came to the feature they had organised to promote his last LP, 2017’s Mercury-nominated collection The Ooz. I wonder if this wariness is a consequence of being misrepresented previously in the press. “To be honest, I’ve had it pretty good,” he concedes. “But [there’s] still stuff that pisses me off. Sometimes it’s the delivery of words that can change everything. When you read it back, it’s like, ‘Ugh, you dickhead, man.’ Especially when you read it back yourself, you’re like, ‘Ugh, I’m cringey as hell.’ I used to not really care, and I never read [my interviews] anyway, but I think it’s because I’ve got this extra something to protect now.” That extra something is Marina, his daughter with photographer Charlotte Patmore. Born on March 14th 2019, she has irrevocably altered Archy’s life for the better, to the extent that he admits he’s having to monitor how much he speaks about her, such is the temptation to overshare. He laughs recalling how he deliberately bought a new phone with an empty memory before her birth, and has already amassed over 10,000 photos in 10 months. “I never used to really take that many photos, and when I did it was of random shit. But now you look [at my camera roll] and it’s this little chubby face on the whole thing.” Fatherhood is one of the few subjects that causes Archy to become truly animated today, and when I mention I have an 18-month-old myself, he really opens up. “She’s already got such a big interest in the guitar,” he smiles. “I’ll play it and she’ll come over from the other side of the room and grab it. And she’s got good at strumming, and clapping. She’s got rhythm. I guess, when you’re around these things you pick up on them whether you like it or not.” In Archy’s experience, parenting is easier than all the people “scaremongering” would have you believe. “I just knew, because I’ve got a lot of love inside me, that that love would
prevail,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s about setting a human up with an understanding of the world, and as long as they’ve got the right spirit that’s fine. I just want her to be happy and have a good personality, and be clear about the beauty in the world… I think deep down, I always wanted to have kids because I wanted to be proud of something like that. And I’ve spent a lot of my life not really around family, and not really being the best at appreciating family. Now I can understand it.” — To Wigan and back — Archy’s childhood was more eventful than most. He and his older brother Jack were raised in South London, dividing their time between their mother’s house in East Dulwich and their father’s flat in Peckham. Encouraged by their set-designer parents, both brothers excelled in art before Archy switched his attentions to guitar and won a place at Croydon’s BRIT School. A troubled teen up to that point – prone to crippling insomnia, depression and playing truant from school – music provided him with some much-needed focus, and a new set of friends based all over London. He remembers the freedom that provided, fondly. “We were going round exploring other people’s neck of the woods, which was something that I don’t think a lot of kids
from round here got at the time. I remember someone telling me that at their school there were kids who had never gone to north London. It wasn’t even that they hadn’t left the country: they’d never even gone north of the river.” London has always loomed over Archy’s output as King Krule, a recurring character that’s at once oppressive and reassuringly familiar. It’s there in his Estuary English enunciation, in the recollections of being hassled by the Metropolitan police that make up the verses of ‘Easy Easy’, in the suffocating streets of Bermondsey that play host to ‘Biscuit Town’. The grime, the grind, the beauty: it’s all so inextricable from Archy’s ouevre that it feels almost absurd to imagine him anywhere else. And yet, for the last 12 months he’s actually been based in St. Helens, near Wigan, having moved up there to raise Marina near Charlotte’s family. He’s initially quite cagey when I ask how he’s settling in up in Merseyside. “It’s got good and bad things,” he says noncommittally, staring at the table. “I don’t know anyone up there really, apart from Charlotte’s family and some people. It’s different, but it’s been perfect for the task at hand.” It must be a big change, I perserve. What are the specific benefits he’s enjoyed since the move? “I enjoy the pace of life outside of London. I enjoy the air and the landscape.” Relaxing a
little, he continues: “I’ve matured over the past year in conversation and appreciation and humanity, and maybe it’s down to [the fact] there’s less boundaries and less walls in front of people up there. A lot of people are really open to converse, or are just naturally a lot more vocal. But I don’t think if you escape London you escape pretentiousness – I think everyone’s pretentious in their own way.” For Archy, a change of scenery was long overdue. “London is just the place I’ve been for 24 years,” he shrugs. “You get bored of anywhere, really.” But he’s spoken previously of the malaise he fell into there, exacerbated by drink and depression. He tackles this claustrophobia head-on on Man Alive!, in the slack-jawed blues of ‘Stoned Again’, and ‘Comet Face’’s examination of suburban violence. Along with the opening ‘Cellular’, these tracks, share more in common with The Fall than anything else Archy has done yet. Then there’s the soporific lead single ‘(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On’, which features Archy’s drawl sinking to subterranean depths, layered and distorted over woozy guitar noodling and shimmering waves of cymbals. It’s accompanied by a startling, self-directed video depicting the singer lip-syncing, bloodied and bruised, the camera gradually zooming out to reveal him being burned at the stake.
“The song’s set in the darkness of the bedroom – a glint of light through the blinds,” Archy explains when asked to elaborate on the concept behind the black and white visual. “When I wrote it, that’s the location I was in. It’s about eternal illness or struggle, but I think the video represents that in an extroverted way – it’s melodrama.” He cites the French-Czechoslovakian sci-fi animation La Planète Sauvage as a big influence, alongside Adventure Time, from which the track’s playful title is taken. Future single ‘Alone, Omen 3’ is a film reference too, inspired by the time Archy watched the titular – and increasingly ludicrous – trilogy in consecutive nights. He laughs today, remembering the plot of the final film, which features the now 32-year-old antichrist-turned-businessman attempting to run for US president. Cinema is a huge passion for Archy, to the extent that he still runs a bi-weekly underground film club in London, even if it’s definitely more difficult nowadays for him to attend. He did, however, make last week’s screening of French language animation Belleville Rendez-Vous, one of the few silver linings of being kept in London for promotional activities. It’s not just art house movies that fire his imagination. “The most recent films that I’ve watched have been B movies,” he says, suddenly becoming enthused. “I love cheap cinema that’s on really late at night. Like on London Live. That’s my
“I’ve just got a problem with the idea of what people think I am sometimes”
biggest love really. Because it’s just brilliant. It’s brilliant to see how terrible it can be, but then how they’ve got it together to make it quite cool. I mean, I could talk about cinema for a very long time…” — Man Alive! — There’s always been an air of take-it-or-leave-it to Archy, who delivered his new album to his record label fully formed, for them to either release it as is, or not. Man Alive! is being billed more as “a collection of snapshots and stories” than a thought-through album, and in terms of its convoluted gestation that makes sense. Begun prior to Charlotte’s pregnancy, at Nunhead’s Shrunken Head Studios with The Ooz’s producer Dilip Harris, the album was finally completed at EVE Studios in Stockport, six months after Marina’s birth. In terms of its content however, Man Alive! is every bit as cohesive and immersive as its predecessors, its twilight, jazzindebted textures accentuated by the fluid riffing of Argentinian saxophonist Ignacio “Galgo” Salvadores. When I ask Archy about his listening habits during the period, he’s initially evasive, explaining, “I’m a bit protective over some of the things I listen to, because I don’t want other people to listen to them. I don’t know... it’s just about... something that means a lot to me.” Begrudgingly he then cites Daniel Johnston, Canadian post-punk band Daddy’s Hands and Brazilian music in general, but specifically bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto. Suddenly, he elaborates further. “I listened to a lot more of The Beatles. As a teenager, it was like, ‘Yeah, fuck The Beatles’, but I really like them now. ‘A Day In The Life’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Blackbird’: the songwriting is what got me. Because as a musician I have this love of composition. And being up north I’d listen to music differently. Like, when Charlotte was driving, we’d be listening to music and there’d be visual stimulation. So it was nice to put on some Astral Weeks at sunset.” You can absolutely hear this visual influence in the shimmering atmospherics of ‘Energy Fleets’ and ‘Please Complete Thee’, which are mood pieces as much as they are songs. And Archy’s lyrical approach throughout is similarly evocative, serving up a succession of vivid vignettes of London life: “Chemtrails poke holes through commuters,” on ‘Theme For The Cross’, while on ‘Stoned Again’ he talks of being “back in the park with the middle class yobs, trying to get lucky.” Being studies of human behaviour, the songs are innately political, though Archy is careful to leave judgements to the listener. Only ‘Theme For The Cross’ stands apart in that respect, referencing the “Men that drowned holding on their daughters,” adding, “We aren’t allowed refuge from the horrors.” It’s a heart-breaking if all too familiar image, and it leads me to observe that post becoming a parent, I now find current affairs doubly terrifying. “Yeah,” Archy agrees, adding with a laugh, “as soon as you have a child it’s like, ‘Oh shit, now I’ve got to start caring about things.’” I wonder how else becoming a father has changed him, specifically in terms of his attitude towards his career, especially now he has the added pressure of financial dependents. “I mean, I made a lot of jokes about how I’m going to sell out,” he sniggers. As someone who has doubtless turned down more opportunities than he’s ever taken, I wonder what would constitute “selling out” for him? “Anything,” he semi-jokes. “Lots of things.
Pretty much half of what everyone else does. I’ve just got a problem with the idea of what people think I am sometimes. Or what people think musicians – or whatever you want to call my role in society – are. They think [this role] can be a bit more malleable, and that if they’re offering the right money you can do this and that.” A mercenary, Archy most definitely isn’t. This authenticity is one of many reasons he’s arguably become one of the century’s most influential young artists, paving the way for up-and-comers like Rex Orange County and Nilüfer Yanya, and winning the admiration of the great and good of the music industry, including Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator and Beyoncé. Aside from possessing a prodigious talent, it’s always been his restless drive and innate curiosity that make Archy such a fascinating prospect, and a decade into his career he still isn’t taking either attribute for granted. “I think I’m lucky because there’s a desire in me,” he reflects modestly. “I was first and foremost really into drawing and art, so I always drew. I had a desire to become a guitarist, so I started to play. I had a desire as I got older to become a poet, so I started to write. I had a desire to understand humanity so I got into sociology. I had a desire to know who else had walked the same kind of paths, so I got into history. I’ve been lucky, because I’ve got a desire to do those things. “And I’m proud of the work I’ve done. My first record came out 10 years ago, and I think the [musical] landscape when I started out was a lot different to how it is now.” I ask him to elaborate on what he thinks those changes are, and he looks
uncomfortable again. “I think a lot of people didn’t play guitar the same way. I was lucky back then because there was less of a surplus [of music], so I was able to pierce through really easily. I was pretty young, and the landscape was a bit boring back then, but it’s a bit more interesting now.” Having spent his entire career being defined by his age, it’s not especially surprising that Archy is keen to move away from the tired perception of him as a precocious talent. “I want to mature, and make more and better music. But there’s only so much you can do and say, you know? Unless you’re physically going to make a change or something. I like characters and I like stories so I’m really lucky to be in a position where I can create my character and my story. The way I’m maturing, I’m liking, and I have a vision of sticking around for a bit.” He continues with a smirk: “Though when I reach 30 I kind of just want to skip everything and go straight to 50. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with 30. The thing is the shape of the numbers. I don’t like 4s, I don’t like 3s that much, and that means I’ve got to spend 10 years with a 3 next to my name, or a 4 next to my name. I want a 5 next to my name. I’m going to try and go into hiding at 30 and not come out for 20 years, maybe. Then you’ll see me running for president of America.”
OUT 21ST FEBRUARY
15 years of Loud And Quiet
The design got better The history of Loud And Quiet in selected front covers: 2005 – 2020
When I showed the first edition of Loud And Quiet to a friend in January 2005, featuring a violently cropped internet still of Pete Doherty, where I’d clearly guessed the lay of his hair and bluntly hacked off his left hand somewhere between his wrist and elbow, he said, “Oh mate, these are too good to just give away.” He was being a good friend and overly positive; a little condescending, perhaps. I’m pretty sure I saw none of that at the time. “I know,” I probably said, concerned only by whether or not Billboard would sue me for colouring in the holes in my logo’s letters like they did. That’s how deluded I was and remained to be for a long time, at the very least until a friend, Lee Belcher, offered to design the magazine for me, from issue 17 to present day (issue 140). Last month Loud And Quiet reached its 15-year anniversary. So, via some of the covers designed by Lee (and most recently by him and his team at B.A.M.), the following few pages are a celebration of our unexpectedly long run; for all of the artists we’ve met, and for everyone who’s ever contributed an article, review, essay, photograph and/or illustration in order to fill our pages each month. Vol 1, Issue 01 Pete Doherty, January 2005 Photograph by Unknown
VOLUME 1 of Loud And Quiet ran from issue 1 – 29. The first 2 issues were home-printed in black and white. All issues were A5 in size and made up of approximately 32 pages.
15 years of Loud And Quiet
Vol 1, Issue 04 The Rakes, May 2005 Photograph by Unknown
Vol 1, Issue 08 The Long Blondes, December 2005 Photograph by Andrew Kendall
Vol 1, Issue 25 Dizzee Rascal, August 2007 Photograph by Unknown
Vol 1, Issue 27 Black Lips, October 2007 Photograph by Guy Eppel
Vol 2, Issue 01 Santogold, May 2008 Photograph by Guy Eppel
Vol 2, Issue 02 Battles, July 2008 Photograph by Andrew Kendall
VOLUME 2 lasted just 2 issues due to cost. It was a bad idea. Closer to A4 in size, at 44 pages.
15 years of Loud And Quiet
Vol 3, Issue 01 Metronomy, November 2008 Photograph by Timothy Cochrane
Vol 3, Issue 07 Telepathe, June 2009 Photograph by Tom Cockram
Vol 3, Issue 21 Fever Ray, September 2010 Photograph by Jรถrgen Ringstrand
Vol 3, Issue 35 Charlotte Gainsbourg, February 2012 Photograph by Gabriel Green
Vol 3, Issue 48 Pissed Jeans, May 2013 Photograph by Frankie Nazardo
Vol 3, Issue 49 Solange, June 2013 Photograph by Laura Coulson
VOLUME 3 ran for 91 issues, on tabloid sized newsprint, at approximately 52 page.
15 years of Loud And Quiet
Vol 3, Issue 54 Katy B, November 2013 Photograph by Phil Sharp
Vol 3, Issue 60 Charles Bradley, July 2014 Photograph by Gabriel Green
Vol 3, Issue 63 Karen O, November 2014 Photograph by Gem Harris
Vol 3, Issue 77 LEVELZ, May 2016 Photograph by Charlotte Patmore
Loud And Quiet Japan September 2011 – January 2012
Vol 3, Issue 82 Brian Eno, December 2016 Photograph by Phil Sharp
JAPAN ISSUES Vol. 3 Issues 32–34 were also distributed in Japan, with each edition including a supplement of our features translated into Japanese.
15 years of Loud And Quiet
Vol 3, Issue 84 Jarvis Cocker, March 2017 Photograph by Gabriel Green
Vol 3, Issue 89 Protomartyr, September 2017 Photograph by David Cortes
Issue 123 David Byrne, March 2018 Photograph by Gabriel Green
Issue 127 Gazelle Twin, August 2018 Photograph by Jenna Foxton
Issue 131 Julia Jacklin, February 2019 Photograph by Gem Harris
Issue 137 Richard Dawson, September 2019 Photograph by Jonangelo Molinari
VOLUME 4 is currently 18 issue deep, averaging 70 pages. We consolidated the numbers from the previous volumes.
NICOLAS GODIN THE NEW ALBUM FEATURING ALEXIS TAYLOR, COLA BOYY, KADHJA BONET, KIRIN J CALLINAN AND KATE NV
“GODIN HAS A GIFT FOR A VERY RESTRAINED KIND OF BEAUTY”
“ELEGANT POP SONGS FROM AIR’S RENAISSANCE MAN”
“AN ABSOLUTE REVELATION…”
“AS DREAMY AND CAPTIVATING AS ANYTHING GODIN HAS EVER DONE”
A podcast about how the music industry works, and making your DIY project into a big career. Find it on your app
Tell me about it
Tell me about it A TV and film actor starts over, told in her own words, by Gemma Samways. Photography by Tom Porter
Keeley Forsyth If Keeley Forsyth’s face seems weirdly familiar, don’t worry, you’re not hallucinating. The Oldham-born actor has been on and off our screens for a quarter of a century now, playing characters as disparate as a heroin-addicted single mum in The Casual Vacancy, a sex worker in Happy Valley, and the “Mottled Prisoner” in Guardians of the Galaxy. Four decades in, she’s starting over, taking on a brand new role as a musician. It may well prove to be her most rewarding venture yet. Released in January, her debut album, Debris, was written in collaboration with British jazz musician Matthew Bourne, and largely recorded at her home in Harrogate (where she lives alone with her two daughters) aside from some select sessions with producer Sam Hobbs. Throughout the 8-track collection, arrangements are kept sparse, centred largely around piano, guitar, or harmonium, and often silhouetted by the inky drone of synths or strings. This haunting minimalism proves the perfect foil for Forsyth’s rich, characterful vibrato, which is akin to some wonderfully otherworldly cross-hybrid of Billie Holiday and Scott Walker. Not everyone’s a fan, of course. Sipping green tea in a King’s Cross cafe today, Forsyth laughs recounting her daughters’ appraisals of her music – “When we’re singing The Greatest Showman in the car, my kids are always like, ‘See! Why can’t you sing like that on your record?’” But then Debris definitely isn’t aimed at the under 10s. “It’s deliberately unlistenable at times,” she smiles. “I wanted to make something that was repulsive and primal.” It is a bleakly beautiful record, with Bourne’s desolate arrangements accentuated by Forsyth’s abstract lyrics. Largely rooted in the natural world, they’re underscored by an almost oppressive sense of dread that reflects the troubling events in her personal life that preceded the record’s creation. Today, the 40-year-old singer is deliberately evasive about the specifics of the period, and throughout our conversation her tone remains carefully optimistic, almost masking the quiet sadness that lurks behind her warm demeanor. “Maybe I will be happy after
all,” she smiles at the end of our hour together. It’s difficult to tell to what extent she’s joking. “There are other places in the world than London” I left London four years ago now, and I do really miss it. I always felt really safe there, and invisible. I moved there when I was 19, trying to fulfil that romantic idea of being in the West End: the dream of living your life between your dressing room and the stage. Not that it happened! Bizarrely, I just went straight into TV and film. Having kids, that’s when things started to separate for me. London, this dear friend that I’d made, was suddenly not there for me in the same way. I used to think, ‘If you move out of London, then your whole world is going to collapse.’ And in some ways it kind of does, but it doesn’t as well. I’m happier coming down to London now, under these circumstances. “It was a shock to get work as an actress” I trained as a dancer and as a singer, and acting was something I didn’t have any sort of skill in but that I enjoyed doing. I remember that my friends were all very passionate about acting, and my passion was music. But I felt quite singular within that world because nobody else talked about music or felt it in the way that I did, and certainly nobody sang because they were all actors. I was working enough for me not to stop and reassess things but I knew that acting was just a road that I was on, and that there would come a time when I would reach the end of it. But I didn’t know what I was going to do after that. This feels a much more natural place for me to be, and I say that with so much gratitude. “Growing up, I never listened to any pop music or any bands” I really loved opera instead; the way they would sing entire sentences always engaged me. And I loved more traditional voices and orchestral music, so I listened to a lot of old singers, like Edith Piaf and Doris Day. And one day I realised, from singing
Tell me about it
“I knew that acting was just a road that I was on, and that I would reach the end of it”
along with them, that my voice came from a place that sounded similar. My voice has always had this kind of packed vibrato – I’ve got recordings of me when I was 12 singing, and it’s the same. There was this retired opera singer who lived not far from me so I used to go to her every week for lessons, from when I was in primary school. We would sing all the operatic, Italian songs, and she’d teach me to start feeling my voice as a wind instrument, which is something that I do more now. You can feel it in your face. “Hearing Matthew Bourne changed everything” I have weird instruments around my house, so I just have a play, and sing sentences. I’ve always been doing that. And sometimes my writing would start off as poems. [With this album] I wasn’t trying to make music, I was just trying to express something. I had loads of recordings of myself on a harmonium and I kept feeling like I needed to do something with them. One day I heard Matthew Bourne’s music on the radio, and it was very droney and there were no vocals, so I just started singing over the top. And I remember feeling goosebumps and thinking this is perfect. So in the interview on the radio he said he lived in Keighley, and I’d just moved to Harrogate, so that night I got in touch and said, ‘I have these recordings. I know you’re busy and I’ve done nothing like this ever, but these are some recordings and if it resonates with you can we somehow get together?’. It was one of those times, you know? Where you get goosebumps? It rarely happens. And it wasn’t like, ‘This is meant to be,’ but I knew that he would say yes, and I knew that I would somehow get to this point. So I sent him my ideas and then literally within a few days he sent them back, but my harmonium was now a synth. And then that made my world bigger, and from there I started to make music from a character. “When I sing I connect to this female energy” The only way I can explain it is by talking about her – the singer, the performer – and me. It doesn’t feel like I’m expressing what I’ve been through; it’s like freeze-framing an intense feeling –
whether that’s happiness or whatever – and literally going into it. When I perform live I feel like I connect to and almost become possessed by what this feeling is, so that I feel it in different parts of my body. And I hear the songs in pictures. When I rehearse with the band I won’t say, ‘It starts with this beat.’ I’ll tell them the time of day we’re in, what I hear, where I am. There are probably loads of other ways to make music which are so much better, but that’s what happens when you get to the point where you’ve left it 40 years before you do anything. “I lost the ability to speak” 18 months ago, I got myself to a place where everything totally shut down. I think it’s probably a survival thing, and it was just for two weeks, but [it was] totally terrifying. There was no diagnosis, but I felt like I was walking the wrong path, and over time even the thought alone can affect you. I just knew that I had to stop and get myself better. Now I understand what that stillness is, and I am grateful for it. When I sing and perform now I really give a lot of attention to feeling my tongue move, and to my voice. “I work with a choreographer” Pina Bausch is a massive reference for me because her performances are set using domestic settings and each dancer is seen as an individual. The dancers move just as a consequence of what they’re feeling, and that’s the same thing I want to do with my music. So rather than just singing a note, I prefer to know what pressure is behind that note. My choreographer really helps me to cut all my senses off, and to get into a state where I can see the world of the song. “In hindsight, I’m absolutely glad I waited to pursue music” Though I didn’t know I was waiting at the time, I thought I was being forgotten. If I knew I was waiting, I would have waited a lot more graciously! But yeah, now I can make work and I don’t give a rat’s arse if anyone likes it because I’m not doing it for any other reason other than it’s in me. So, yeah, I’m glad I waited. Maybe I will be happy after all...
Anna Meredith It all comes from this small room without a view, by Stuart Stubbs. Photography by Gem Harris
Two days ago, Anna Meredith was at Buckingham Palace collecting an MBE for services to music. “I didn’t get her maj,” she says, “but I got Will.” She shows me a photo on her phone of her speaking to the prince mid-ceremony; him standing on a small, for-Royals-only rug, her telling him how shit school was, and so she and her friends would barricade themselves in the music room to escape the verbal abuse and occasional hale of coins. “Well, look at you now,” said William, and shook Anna’s hand. “You’re told beforehand that your time is over when he shakes your hand,” she says. “That’s the sign that you need to leave.” Accordingly, she went to the pub and got pissed. And now, in Anna’s studio in the basement of Somerset House, it perhaps feels like she was never there at all. In the long corridors of heavy doors that hide the creative spaces of countless audio and visual artists, where PJ Harvey constructed a glass-walled recording studio and invited the public to watch her record The Hope Six Demolition Project in 2015, there’s a sense that time both stands still and runs away from itself down here. Anna’s room does have an outside window, but a few feet in front of it is a brick wall that stretches up to the giant Georgian building’s cobbled quadrangle – home to an open-air cinema in the summer and a skate rink in the winter, both of which are as high in ornate beauty as they are low on 21st Century comfort, each of them as likely to cause piles as the other. Pointing to her dying plants, Anna says that sunlight makes it through the gap for about ten minutes each day, but the continual late-night-cram-sesh feeling of this womb-like space seems to play to her strengths: few people are as prolific as Anna Meredith; even fewer are as continually creative. Aside from her two experimental electronic pop albums (2016’s Varmints and the equally brilliant FIBS of late 2019) – all galloping brass builds, thwacked drums, and techno led by a clarinet – Anna has become a serial composer at the Proms, and sound-tracked the best film of last year (Eighth Grade)
and Paul Rudd’s new Netflix series Living With Yourself. She’s composed an opera with YBA storyteller Philip Ridley, and mentored Goldie for a TV show about the practice of classical composing in 2009. She seems to approach each of her projects with the same conceptual commitment, regardless of how big-time they may be. On the fireplace in her studio she shows me a jewelry box that was part of a piece devised with Leeds University, where each student fitted an old box with a coloured light and a chord from an original composition by Anna. When the group opened their boxes in the sequence they were instructed to, they would perform Anna’s piece in full. Similarly, in 2017, she composed an interactive piece of music for the Zamboni that cleaned the ice on the Somerset House ice rink upstairs – a piece that a very low percentage of the skaters would have probably realised was forever evolving as the driver cruised the ice. Eighth Grade director Bo Burnham calls Anna “a genius” with good reason, although her originality is best surmised by a note to herself scrawled on her whiteboard – NEVER STOP EXPLORING!!. When you watch Anna’s music performed by a ginormous orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall on the BBC, it’s nuts to think that it all starts in this small subterranean room, stacked high with her own merch and “full of tat”, as she says. Talking me through the tat, at one point she gestures to a framed illustration of The Legend of Korra. “The boobs are bit much,” she says. “I think that’s a male artist. It’s bit too sexy, but fuck it. There’s a lot of stuff in here that I wouldn’t put up at home.”
Dark Souls board game Y’know how sometimes one gets a bit swept up in Kickstarter, and you end up backing something that you have no interest in – well, this is Dark Souls the board game. Dark Souls is a really hard computer game that I’ve never played but used to sit next to my old boyfriend and offer helpful advice on, like, “smash that crate!”. But I somehow saw this thing on Kickstarter, and it was REALLY expensive, and this was three or four of years ago, but look how intimidating it is! It’s got 15 dice! I’ve not even opened it, and then the other day an expansion pack has turned up. This is the year though; this is the year I play it. Album track sketches This is the map of FIBS – it’s how the album looks, essentially. It’s how I write the songs to make sure the pacing makes sense. It’s like a mood board that makes sense to me, where different things happen. Getting the drama right and the builds right is always what I’m working on in my music. If you have a shape where you know that you’re trying to push to a B section, for example, then you have a bit of a map of how to get there. It’s really reassuring. It’s like an essay plan. I’ll often think, what’s the biggest moment, and I’ll write that first.
Field Postcard Last year I composed a piece for the Proms called ‘Five Telegrams’. One of the movements was about these things called field postcards. If you look at it, it’s a multiple choice thing, and in the First World War, if you wrote anything else on here to send home, it would be destroyed. So your choices were, ‘I am well’, ‘I am in hospital’, ‘I am being sent down to the base’, and so on, and soldiers would just send these back all the time because the postal service was so good. So I set these words as vocal words for that Prom. I’ve seen loads of these because they were so commonplace, and I think most of them were people saying ‘I am well’ – they were the equivalent of the ‘landed safely’ text.
Tapestry I did a British Council project in Chennai in India, and I bought this from a local craft stall because I thought it was just bonkers and amazing. Like, is it urban or is it rural? I loved Chennai. People had told me the south of India was much more chilled but it was still quite an overwhelming experience with lovely people, great musicians, beautiful and heart-breaking sights, amazing food and palm-sweat inducing traffic. As a generally pretty anxious person I’m not as laid back about the zesty highs and lows of travelling as Id like to be. I can quite often ruin large quantities of time by bellowing, “but what’s the PLAN?!” at whoever will listen.
“We did a gig in Glasgow and I got a message on Facebook from a guy who said his name was Barry Daft” Sundance Film Festival ticket The very first time I saw Eighth Grade was at the premier at Sundance. Bo [Burnham, the director] was like, “I really want you to come up on stage afterward.” He introduced Elsie Fisher, who’s the amazing star of the film, and everyone goes crazy. And then the guy who plays the dad, and everyone screams and claps. And then he said, “And genius – total GENIUS – Anna Meredith!” and it was a mix of silence and confused half clapping. Like, who is this? But Sundance was fun – not very glamorous, because it’s so cold and people are just skidding around in the snow, and everyone had their own Uber driver. It’s just like a quaint little town with a disproportionate amount of cinemas, and then when I went to see the film it was the first time anyone had seen it. Everyone was worried – I was kind of nervous and then really chuffed, because the moment when my first song came in it was deafeningly loud. I was sat next to the sound editor and she leaned over and said, “we put you really high in the mix.”
Photo with Goldie This is a photo of me and Goldie from a TV show called Classic Goldie , where they wanted him to write a piece for the Proms. I think there was a sense of, ‘yeah, yeah, that’ll be fine, he writes music’, but writing a piece for an orchestra is not the same as writing something on a computer, because ultimately classical musicians need to see sheet music. He ended up drawing this beautiful graphic score of what he wanted, but we did then have to get my friend who’s a composer to spend a ton of time helping him interpret his ideas, mainly in Nandos, because Goldie has a Nando’s black card. We got on really well, although I think this picture was taken at a particularly stressful time.
Printed spec of a Zamboni This was really fun to do – I wrote this piece for the Zamboni that cleans the ice rink here at Somerset House. It was called ‘Sarabande’ and was a piece that would play when the Zamboni came out, and the music was affected by the way the driver drove. So when they turned it would go faster or slower – things like that. There was a phone stuck to the back of it sending information back to a laptop. Some of the drivers would really milk it, cruising around once they realised they were affecting the music. And for some reason they sent me the spec, which I thought was funny, so I framed it. The Vapours artwork And beside it is the Vapours snake from Varmints; the artwork we used for the single. I’ve always really liked it, and we’ve got some dodgy made hats with it on. My sister Eleanor painted it – she’s done all of my artwork as a massive favour to me. We are a sort of artistic family as my mum was a paintings conservator but even though I do a mean doodle (lots of triangles) I’ve not got The Gift in the same way Eleanor has. My drawings are like shit versions of hers but as if I’ve held the pencil with my foot.
Plastic flowers and sunglasses We did a gig in Glasgow a few years ago and I got a message on Facebook from a guy who said his name was Barry Daft. His photo was of him in a clown’s nose holding a tuba – a sousaphone that wrapped around him. And he said, “I really want to come to your gig but I can’t afford it,” so I said, “Y’know what, come on the guest list.” And he turned up, and I could see him in his outfit, and then after the gig he said, “I want to give you something to say thank you,” so he gave us a pineapple, those sunglasses, and the plastic flowers. The glasses were quite important to him as he said he used to wear them in his act. He said he’d been playing my music to neighbours really loudly and getting a lot of complaints. I got the impression he must be a professional clown. Jameson’s This is actually Bo Burnham’s Jameson’s. There was a festival where they were playing Eighth Grade, to which I wasn’t invited, but I got this message from someone saying we’d really like to get this bottle of whisky to Bo, and Bo said send it to Anna and he’ll pick it up. Obviously, he’s never getting it now. We do keep in touch though. I’ll blackmail him into coming to our LA show.
For the record, I used to love Morrissey. Like, really love him. It sounds silly now, but I even started liking Gene at one point. But things were said, weren’t they? Bad things. Morrissey was ruined. And Gene. And Neil Morrissey. And Morrisons. I’ve told myself that none of this will impair my critique of Morrissey’s new album sleeve. You have my word. As a professional. Still, I’d be thinking it too, and so I want to put your initial suspicion to bed straight way: I did not design this sleeve myself in order to undermine Morrissey – this is the official sleeve of I Am Not A Dog On A Chain, which you will be able to buy from a store that employs people of multiple ethnicities from March 20th. Let’s start with the title, which, again, I have not made up. It’s a pretty Morrissey title, isn’t it. Not as Morrissey as The World Stopped Caring, Bury Me Happy, Lumpy The Enforcer, Slipping Off Brighton Rock and From Berlin to Chichester With Remorse (which I have made up), but it’s not bad. The rest of the cover is… questionable. I can see what he’s going for: that kitsch, SandyShaw-is-my-best-friend, bring-back-the-kitchen-sinkdrama, rejection of modern design vibe; but come on, mate
– there won’t only be three of these pressed to be discovered in a box of Vera Lynn records at a Bridlington carboot; they’ll be ordered from Amazon and stocked in Fopp and shrunk down to appear in a Spotify playlist called ‘The Best Kind of Sad’. Morrissey’s leaned in just a little too far here, aiming for rarity but landing on mid-90s Camden Market bootleg. It’s the crop of his head – clearly from a live show – that’s done it. I’m pretty sure I had what for years I thought was an official Stone Roses album called This Is The One that looked identical to this. I bought it because it had ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ AND ‘Love Spreads’ on it. But I Am Not A Dog On A Chain doesn’t contain ‘Suedehead’ AND ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, only ‘Darling, I Hug a Pillow’ and ‘My Hurling Days Are Done’ (real titles). Morrissey does look handsome here, though – I’ll give him that. And to be shot from the bottom like that! Fair play. But the intestine grey of the lettering, trying so hard to look so shit that it looks so great, goes all the way back to looking so shit again. Shall we just finish with some more made up Morrissey album titles? Ok. When I Fall to My Knees, Sally’s Last Disco, At Least I Tried, Flick Knife Fancy, I Never Claimed I Wasn’t Right, Last One In Catches Their Death, Lie With Me Until Tony Comes. Cheers.
The real reason why Hollywood stopped casting Macaulay Culkin
illustration by kate prior
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New music magazine featuring: Moses Boyd / Dai Burger / Keeley Forsyth / P.E. / Lazarus Kane / Anna Meredith / Alex Niven / Baxter Dury / 1...
Published on Feb 7, 2020
New music magazine featuring: Moses Boyd / Dai Burger / Keeley Forsyth / P.E. / Lazarus Kane / Anna Meredith / Alex Niven / Baxter Dury / 1...