LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 43 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID
Dan Deacon AMERICAN IDOL
Interviewed : TRUST, COV ES, R ACH EL ZEFFIR A, PATRICK WOLF, INTER POL, GR ASS HOUSE, NZCA/LIN ES Plus INSIDE HOOKWOR MS’ SU BU R BA N HOM E STU DIO
contents No v e m b e r 2012
0 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . c h e c k o u t d i s c o / Ta k e A . I . M . reef younis laments the lost art of the b-side while austin laike goes sticker mad with belly kids
1 0 - 1 2 . . . . . . . . . . TR a c k & B o o k s / L e f t o v e r s The month’s singles, EPs and page-turners Gabriel Bruce asks Flo Rida about blowjobs
sou n ds of th e su b u rbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Inside the Northern studio of HOOKWORMS main man Matthew Johnson
N Z CA / L i n e s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 Why Michael Lovett traded indie pop and songs about girls for electro RnB inspired by science
G rass House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
cover Photography Elliot Kennedy
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Editor - Stuart Stubbs Art Director - Lee Belcher Sub Editor - Alex Wilshire film editor - Ian roebuck
It’s never too late to start planning. Grass house just don’t want to
co v es . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Contributors Bart Pettman, Carl Partridge, Chal Ravens, Chris Watkeys, Cochi Esse, Daniel Dylan Wray, Danny Canter, DAVID Sutheran, DK Goldstien, Elinor Jones, elliot kennedy, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Gareth Arrowsmith, Janine Bullman, LEE BULLMAN, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Gemma Harris, Leon Diaper, Luke Winkie, Mandy Drake, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Olly Parker, PAVLA KOPECNA, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp, Reef Younis, Samuel ballard, Sam Walton, Sonia Melot, sonny McCartney, Tim Cochrane, Tom Pinnock, TOM Warner
not a load of rubbish
P at r i c k W o l f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 ad 29, Patrick wolf still thinks that everyone hates him, just as he’s reaching 10 years in music
Trust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Infatuation with Ace of Base can lead to a darkly euphoric place
Rach e l Z e ffi ra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 The cat’s eyes singer discussed danger flights, deportation and record swapping with faris
D a n DE a c o n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 Living with america: Dan Deacon comes to terms with his nationality
In t e r p o l . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 8 Daniel Kessler revisits ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, a modern classic ten years on
This Month L&Q Frazer lawton, Jamie Woolgar, Banaszkiewicz, Stuart Davie
Loves Keong Woo, Jodie Richard Onslow,
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2012 Loud And Quiet. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Sharman & Company LTD.
36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . albums films . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Crystle Castles, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Prince Rama, The Soft Moon and more
Ian Roebuck previews what’s next for british director Lynne Ramsay
42 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . li v e party w olf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Dirty projectors, errors, King krule, iamamiwhoiam, radiohead and more
the inappropriate world of ian beale / my time win searching for sugarman dvds / idiot parade
welcome no v e m b e r 2012
For all of its supposed majesty, 3 will never be held in such high regard as 10. When you’ve been married for 10 years, you get tin, which gives you an idea of how shit the present on your third anniversary will be. We even count in tens – we turn the big 3 0, not the big 3 3; and next month when we publish our End of Year issue, it’ll be made up of lists that, like every other ever made, will either be in their tens or multiples there of. There will not be a top 12 songs of 2012, although that’s actually not a bad idea. Coincidently, a few tens have come together in this month’s Loud And Quiet, just as 2012 was looking like a wholly unworkable number, save for the canny spin of the Olympic Committee. It’s because moments of note don’t only happen on 00s. It would be much more convenient if they did, but that way we would have missed out on the birth of Interpol, who next month celebrate ten years of their debut album, ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, with a deluxe reissue as indulgent as the original is sleek and sober. It’s a record that time has rightly been kind to – a modern classic that gives an extra sophisticated weight to The Strokes’ rock’n’roll Year Zero of twelve months earlier. On page 32, guitarist Daniel Kessler talks Reef Younis through the ups and downs of the record’s making, and what it feels like to be rejected by every label in the world.
contri b utor
n at h a n a e l t ur ne r photographer
Nathanael is a photographer who lives in Los Angeles, a city he traded for New York a year ago. He’s since been commissioned by magazines like Sup and Self-Titled, as well as Businessweek, for whom he makes careers look fun. In this month’s Loud And Quiet we asked him to trek up the Hollywood Hills to Laurel Canyon to shoot Patrick Wolf at small a cottage. “It was just the two of us, which is an amazing way to work,” says Nate. “It allowed us to take our time and really discuss what we wanted to create. He would throw out an Idea and that would spark something in me. This job is much more satisfying when I know the work reflects a collaboration and is not just my first impressions.” Visit www.nathanaelturner.com to see more of Nathanael’s work.
Patrick Wolf knows a bit about that himself. He’s been through five albums and just as many recording contracts in his first decade of music – “a ten year adventure,” as he puts it. He’s still a year away from a neat, round 30, but a new, reimagined collection of tracks called ‘Sundark and Riverlight’ will this month celebrate that rarest of things – a 10-year career built on tenacity rather than record sales. And so to Dan Deacon, the High Priest of lawless electro noise who’s always been far more concerned with making his congregation dance on mass than skimming off the church collection. Earlier this year, he released concept album ‘America’ by way of coming to terms with his own nationality. Deacon is an American, and he can never escape that. It’s science, like the number of years he’s been making music. 10.
cover shoot: Dan Deacon By Elliot Kennedy King Cross, London. 26 September 2012
Illustrations by Jade Spranklen - www.spranklen.com / Gareth Arrowsmith - www.garetharrowsmith.blogspot.co.uk
no v e m b e r 2012
There’s plenty of music out there on the high street. Let’s go clubbing!
Indie labels go head to head for new clubnight to get kids dancing
Can you imagine what it must have been like the first time a shop owner piped the wireless through the walls and over the clothes racks? I imagine it was like the first time the Fonz said “Aayyyy”, or the first time Frankie Boyle was a bit of a cunt. Out there. Few things surprise us these days, but shopping to music is so familiar we’ve gone beyond the contemplation of it ever having been new, to a point where it’s practically invisible. Listen though, and you’ll find that in Recession Britain you can get your clubbing kicks for free by simply tootling down the High Street and ducking through a few doors. In terms of narrative arc, a day of shop-floor raving should follow your normal nightly routine – you don’t go straight for the super club; you meet somewhere to catch up and drink up. Marks & Spencer has a food court, so that’s the drinks taken care of, with the added bonus that the store’s PA seems to be one MacBook Pro embedded in the ceiling above a sea of tweed (menswear) or pictures of Twiggy (womenswear). It sure is a subtle volume they’ve gone for, perfect for a powwow by the Autograph range before moving on. Cock an ear as you leave and you’ll realise that that faint murmur has probably been Beverly Knight or The Noisettes for the younger ‘Mylene Class’ crowd. Moving on to BHS now would be like trading your iPhone for a Nokia 2210. They’ll be playing Travis anyway, although admittedly at a brazen volume in comparison. Pass it by for Uniqlo, who’ll be spinning Italo Disco. It’s a shop made for that pre-mixed gin and tonic you bought in the food court. Foot Locker is something of a Slug And Lettuce in the world of High Street clubbing, a place you might pass through for the sake of it rather than somewhere to end up. They’ll only let you in in trainers, too, ironically. That’s probably what they’re shouting over Labyrinth’s ‘Earthquake’. Ultimately, that leaves you with the Ed Banger-pumping Urban Outfitters – where the staff are better looking than you, are having more fun and, it turns out, love flirting with each other but definitely not with the customers (trust me on this one) – and retail’s own Fabric, Topshop. The former has an abundance of Saved By The Bell T-shirts to mop that sweaty brow with, but Topshop (on London’s Oxford Street, at least) is a five-floor indie party playing The Walkmen’s ‘The Rat’ one minute and an Alt-J B-side the next. It’s where you can wear sunglasses indoors, too, and besides, everyone else you know is ending up there. Hit Poundland on the way home for cheap snacks and a one-hit-wondersof-the-80s wind-down. Magic (FM)!
As veteran DJ Terry Farley posed on his clubbing site faithfanzine.com: When did we stop dancing? His point was that the real stars of club culture have always been the punters, not the ballooning superstar DJs, but it’s a question that also applies on a much simpler level, and to smaller, independent club nights, too. With the introduction of live bands to every basement in town, the records we now hear are usually little more than a substitute to stony silence as amps are hauled and line checks completed. When the last band has played, it’s time to go home, not dance. A new night from The Association of Independent Music, The AIM Social, is proudly about the records. “I’m not anti live bands as part of a club night, but there is plenty of that going on already,” says Al Mobbs, AIM Director and founder and MD of CRC Music Group/Ambiguous Records. “As you say, this is all about the records and that’s what we do as labels, make records, so why not have a night dedicated to it hosted by the main protagonists of the indie scene?” Other AIM Directors involved include Matador label head Natalie Judge and Hospital Records MD Chris Goss, and between them they came up with the idea that each Social should be hosted by two duelling indies. Bella Union would take on Ninja Tune one month; Hospital Records would battle Matador the next. “Diversity is really the key with it,” says Natalie. “People don’t just listen to one genre of music any more, so why not throw as much at people as possible?” “And it’s great to bring a bit of personality into it all,” says Al. “It was a joy to see two established label bosses like Simon Raymonde from Bella Union and Peter Quicke from Ninja Tune showing each other rare and favourite records like a couple of teenagers.” Chris notes that Hospital would be “on their arses” without indie club nights, while Natalie points out that The AIM Social, should be just that – a chance to experience music with others. “Music to me should be an inclusive experience and we’re in danger of becoming solo consumers in the age of digital and online interaction,” she says. “In my indie rock/punk world you could wait a year for a band to come over to the UK to play a show, or even make it over here at all. So club nights are the next best thing. Music should be experienced with others as much as possible.” --The AIM Social takes place at The East Village, Shoreditch, London. Check www.musicindie.com for listings and info
Foot Locker is something of a Slug And Lettuce in the world of High Street clubbing
beginning singles & EPS / books
by L ee & Ja nin e b u l l m a n
0 1 I watch you
0 2 S/T EP
0 3 breakdown
by charlie boyer & the voyeurs
by Pure Bathing CulTure
(Memphis industries) R e l e a s e d N o v e m b e r 1 9
( AS l ) R e l e a s e d N o v e m b e r 5
(Heavenly) R e l e a s e d O c t o b e r 1 5
0 4 Something Big EP
0 5 Gull
0 6 blue velvet
by Sylver tongue
( D a n c i n g C o i n s ) R e l e a s e d N o v e m b e r 5
(house anxiety) R e l e a s e d N o v e m b e r 1 7
From the cosmi-kitch artwork, right down to the cute, feather-light vocals and spewing Casio tones, Charlotte Hatherley’s electro-pop project Sylver Tongue has just made it even harder for Little Boots to make a comeback. It’s hard to know what to make of that, isn’t it? ‘Something Big’’s title track – little more than a Ladyhawke off-cast – really has turned up to the indie disco 4 years too late, while the jabber disco of ‘Creatures’ is plain annoying. The prom-night smooch of ‘Hook You Up’ is much better, as is the EP’s ‘Two Become One’, ‘Faraway Son’. Sylver Tongue works best in the swoon.
Last year Dominant Legs – the side project of GIRLS guitarist Ryan Lynch – released debut album ‘Invitation’. It should have been brilliant, but the white funk ran riot as the camp ballooned and popped, covering everything in saccharine good times too peppy to feel real. If they’d kept it in check, Portland duo Pure Bathing Culture wouldn’t have had to make this debut EP, which shimmers like Fleetwood Mac on a budget of two. What tracks like ‘Ivory Coast’ and ‘Lucky One’ do best is sound like they’ve been made in romantic sunlight while a relationship crumples.
Perhaps the best thing about ‘noise pop’ – the vaguest of all our post-millennium genres – is that everything is noise, right?, so you can incorporate any sound you like into the racket you make. London’s Crushed Beaks have been doing a good job of that already, reaching volumes that far surpass their manpower, and continuing to be more inventive than those guitar’n’drums duos who opt out at garage blues. ‘Breakdown’ is their best track yet, adding a mellow skank to the mix, a touch of the tropical, some backing oooohs and an unforeseen snap into double time that’s inspired.
by woodpecker wooliams
(robot elephant) R e l e a s e d N o v e m b e r 2 6
People obsessed with birds are usually fucking irritating. Bill Oddy. There are others. Hundreds of twee folkies fixed on nature and pencil drawings of winged beasts. Woodpecker Wooliams – whose debut album is called ‘The Bird School Of Being Human’, and whose previous single was called ‘Sparrow’ – is, against the odds, a proud (ahem) feather in the cap of the fowl army. ‘Gull’ is a stringently vocals and harp affair, which, ok, is so wilfully impish it might bring up your lunch, but if it doesn’t, it’ll have you building a hide and embracing the simpler things.
Before moving to London and becoming a quartet, Childhood were a duo making indie demos at home, which were probably no less wrongly dubbed ‘psychedelic’ than debut single ‘Blue Velvet’. It’s a fine few minutes of arpeggio pop, but it’s not ‘psychedelic’, not even to the extent that The Stone Roses or The LAs were, two clear inspirations from the sound of the duff-duff drum beat and wilting guitars fed through a bank of delay pedals. Childhood sound more like Weird Dreams and Spectrals than anyone else. Those friends in high places (touring pals Palma Violets and 2:54) might come in handy.
Unk no w n P l e a s ur e s B Y P e t e r hook (simon and schuster)
Early on in his second book, Peter Hook lets slip that Joy Division, the band who for many changed everything, were very nearly called Boys in Bondage. Luckily, calmer heads prevailed and the band of young northern punks eventually chose a name from a book Ian Curtis was reading at the time about concentration camps. The contentious choice of moniker would eventually lead to people asking if they were Nazis. Their reply was succinct and to the point: ‘No. We’re not fucking Nazis. We’re from Salford.’ There are people out there who take Joy Division very seriously indeed. Thankfully though, Peter Hook is not one of them. With Unknown Pleasures, Hooky takes the opportunity to peel away the layers of myth that have grown up around the band and tell the real story; a story which is in turns warm and human, hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad.
W ome n M a k e Nois e : Gir l b a nd s f r om Mo t o w n t o t he mode r n B Y Jul i a n D o w ne s (supernova)
Any book that begins its journey with all girl 1920s country and western bands and ends with Pussy Riot has to be worth a look, right? In Women Make Noise, Julia Downes has assembled a series of chapters covering an alternative history of women in rock. Chapters on pop princesses or talent show no-marks are thin on the ground here – instead we are presented with a selection of serious and thoughtful pieces on the female bands and musicians who could (whisper it) actually play an instrument and cobble a song together. Imagine that, Cheryl.
Single reviews by Stuart Stubbs Blowback by Lee Bullman and Michael Forwell published by Pan Macmillan available now. www.leebullman.com
When Electricity In Our Homes frontman Charlie Boyer was left to his own devices a couple of month’s back he came up with ‘Ducks’ – an out of tune, out of time demo masquerading as a fully formed solo single. Now backed by The Voyeurs and produced by Edwyn Collins, Boyer’s ‘I Watch You’ is far superior in pretty much every way – an unhinged take on Supergrass that has the singer teetering on the edge of tears as keyboardist Ross Kristian goes Sparks all over the place. B-side ‘Be Nice’ meanwhile sounds like ‘Tiger Feet’.
by crushed beaks
beginning le fto v e rs
GB: “People say ‘This is my Jam!’ all the time. I’ve heard people say it when Neil Young comes on in the coffee shop or say it about three songs in a row at a party. It’s bullshit. In my mind you can only have one Jam – ‘Low’. It is surely the song that the term ‘this is my Jam’ was invented for. What, however, is your Jam?” FR: “Wow! Thank you for the complement, I think it’s the best I’ve ever gotten… LOL! I’m just happy that I made a song that brings people joy all over the world, even to this day. When I go in the studio, I put my heart and soul into making sure I come out with a hit. There are times I lock myself in the studio for 2-3 days, with no shower or change of clothes. It’s very important to me that I deliver great records to my fans. For me, my jam has to be ‘Good Feeling’. It’s just a timeless record that people of all ages, races and creeds can enjoy. I like using the power of my voice to spread positivity and love through music.” GB: “It occurs to me that when you hear ‘Low’ come on in the club you can actually say ‘this is MY Jam’ because it’s actually YOUR Jam. How do you feel about that song now that 4 years have passed and you’re one of the biggest artists in the world?” FR: “Aaash man, it’s a true blessing. I still get goosebumps when the record comes on and the whole clubs sings it word for word. I still am amazed because I feel like I’m still dreaming of having that big record that has been embraced all around the world.” GB: “Let’s talk about party rap? What influence do you think dance music has had on rap and RnB?” FR: “I think rap music has expanded into all genres of music. Music is so universal now, which is a positive thing, because it’s keeping the music game fresh with new sounds. It’s always interesting to hear the different terms people come up with, like party rap, house music rap, etc. But, I have always been a person that stepped out the box in everything that I do since I was younger. I’ve always been a focused person. So, I went in the studio and created a lane for myself that is a fusion of different types of sounds. If you listen to my earlier albums, like ‘Mail on Sunday’, I have some songs for everybody on there. To me, there’s no limits when it comes to art.” GB: “I read this thing where Skrillex or Deadmau5 said
how drugs are bad and give dance music a bad name, but it all seems like such a sanitised, white bread version of the music it’s derived from. Where would you say your music comes from?” FR: “The core essence of my music comes from Hip Hop. I’m a rapper before I am anything else in this business. I am also a creative person. So, I’m not afraid to go in the studio and come up with new things. I challenge the producers I work with to push the envelope. I’m always working on new concepts for songs, so when the combination is right, you come out with B-I-G worldwide hit records that people can relate to and enjoy. That’s my goal.” GB: “You make songs that make people dance, that bring joy and relief and that get people rubbing up together. I’ve seen people making out in the corner of the club to ‘Be On You’, How do you want people to react to your music?”
“That’s so false. I don’t make records about blowjobs”
FR: “Just like that! LOL! Nah, I want people to really enjoy the records I make. I want people to come to the club or one of my concerts and forget about whatever they might be going through in life for that period of time that they’re with me. I want to have people come together and spread love. And if you so happen to end up in a corner of a club somewhere making out, that’s all good. LOL!” GB: “Where in the spectrum would you put yourself between say, LMFAO and like, Waka Flocka Flame?” FR: “I would have to honestly say both sides of the spectrum. I have records with both LMFAO and Waka
Flocka. I did a record on my album with Red Foo from LMFAO called ‘Run To You’. I also did a record with Waka Flocka featuring Nikki Minaj and Tyga called ‘Get It Low’. I enjoyed working with both those guys. I think it shows my versatility of my work.” GB: “In 1966 Serge Gainsbourg wrote a song called ‘Les Sucettes’ (or ‘Lollipops’) for an 18 year old, France Gall. It caused outrage as it was quite clearly about blowjobs – France Gall claimed to not have been aware of the hidden meaning (I kind of think an 18 year old French girl in the ’60s would be pretty fellatio savvy, so I don’t really buy it). When you wrote ‘Whistle’ were you aware of other pop songs that tackled the same sticky subject?” FR: “No not at all. My ‘Whistle’ record is actually about when I’m out and girls see me, they can get my attention by whistling. That’s the only meaning I ever had for it. People heard the record and basically ran with their own interpretation of it. It’s funny if you ask me... LOL.” GB: “But you did change the lyrics to ‘You Spin Me Round’ by Dead or Alive so that it would be about blowjobs. What is it about oral sex that interests you so much?” FR: “That’s so false. I don’t make records about that. My records are about getting my attention, bringing people together and having a good time.” GB: “What are your biggest Non-Musical influences?” FR: “I would have to say my Mom. She is truly the biggest influence in my life. I am the only boy in the family among 7 sisters, so I have a great respect for women. My mom always instilled good values in us. Respect people and put your best foot forward in whatever you want to do in life. She always taught us to be strong and keep God first in our lives. Because, without him, nothing it possible.” GB: “You’ve named yourself after your home state. Are you patriotic? And what is it like to be an American at this time?” FR: “Yes, I have... I am patriotic, but I love all countries and people around the world. I definitely rep the USA, though. I have my USA flag that I put on my mic stand during performances. We definitely ROCK OUT, so it’s all good (Smile)!!! I party all over the world, so you know I gotta take the red, white and blue with me!”
Photography by Gabriel Green
Last month we interviewed Gabriel Bruce he left these queries behind for Flo Rida
s t udio prof il e
Sounds of the Suburbs The DIY resurgence of the North is in rude health, but have you ever thought who’s producing these waxy discs of punk, garage and drone rock? The chances are it’s Hookworms’ main man Matthew Johnson, from beside a crusty bowling alley Photographer - Danny Payne
Nestled into the heart of an industrial estate in Leeds, near a bowling alley and resting next door to a cake factory, Suburban Home Studio is placed in an odd, almost seemingly antithetical location for creating art. That is until you step inside and the cold, grey slabs of Yorkshire concrete are replaced by warm, homely, glowing lamps, sink-into leather sofa’s and – as if trying to muster that magic feeling of walking into your favourite bar – a Brooklyn Lager sign that hangs above the studio’s drum kit. If I were to unnecessarily delve into the sign’s placing and meaning, in a rather faux-philosophical manner, I’d probably draw a metaphor to the studio’s musical output and ethos – fresh and punchy, young and hip, and above all else, as sign of assiduous workmanship. On a much simpler lever, it is what it is: Matthew Johnson’s favourite beer. Johnson is the man behind Suburban Home Studio, a studio he has been at the helm of for round about a year. Down South, new bands go to Rory Brattwell for an on-side producer; here in Leeds, they come to Matt, who’s recorded the likes of Eagulls, Mazes, Spectrals and Nope. On top of this, he is also at the forefront (both vocally and production-wise) of the UK’s best drone band, Hookworms, who this year gathered fans as diverse as Julian Cope, Geoff Barrow (who personally requested them as tour support) and Richard Formby (“I have a secret ambition to jam with Hookworms,” the acclaimed producer confessed last month). Today, a local band were due to join us (or rather us join them), but they’ve cancelled their booking. Never mind – with releases planned every month until February 2013, Matt and Hookworms have
Writer - Daniel Dylan Wray plenty to get on with, and so fill the space themselves to work on a full band remix of an up and coming Goat single, taken from their unrelenting gut fuck, blitzkrieg of a record ‘World Music’. The details of said song are currently clandestine, but today I sit and watch Matt, along with the newly appointed Hookworms drummer Jon Nash (see also: Nope, Cowtown, Runners), pick Goat apart and rebuild them in pounding, rolling, glorious fashion. Sam, the band’s bearded, trucking, red neck-cometeddy bear guitarist was due to arrive at 2pm to throw down his six strings worth, but an austere hangover stretches his arrival time to almost 6pm, meaning I missed the caterwauling, gloopy waves of crunchy sound that will no doubt end up coating the song. Almost instantly – wires, mixers and drums aside – you actually forget you are in a studio. Studios are meant to be sterile and workmanlike.“I do my best to make it homely,” says Matt, softly. For a man whose live performances often border on the demonic and possessed, Matt is a very humble and gentle man; his replies always come in hushed whispers and usually in a solicitous yet humorous manner.“I just get obsessed,” he enthuses when talking about his fixation with recorded sound. “Actually obsessed!” he reiterates. “With there being no windows in here, I’ll sometimes be working and then suddenly realise it’s 5am. Or sometimes I’ll sleep here [Matt points to the couch] for a few hours, wake up and then start working straight away again.” He leans back on his studio chair, as Nash pounds away in the neighbouring room.“I’ve got quite good at listening and talking at the same time,” he smiles. A proclivity towards production and time spent in
the studio has had an often-overwhelming effect on Matt, as he tells me,“It just becomes a part of you.You listen to the depth of a record, the width of a record and the frequency build up of a record. You have to learn frequencies when you do this… You start to hear in a different way. Say, if a bus goes past, it’s just sub conscious, but you think ‘that was about 60Hz’.” Ultimately, even though it’s a world that Matt stepped into as an avid music lover, he says that this role can at times have the reverse affect. “Sometimes you find yourself not enjoying music” he tells me. “I don’t go home and listen to records like I used to. I still buy records but the size of the ‘to listen to’ section on my LP shelf is getting bigger. If I walk, I don’t listen to my iPod, and if I do I’m always listening to mixes that I’m working on… you hear things in music that would never bother anyone else, it just bothers you. “But producing has always been something I’ve been interested in, since I was a teenager,” he says. “I then went to Leeds College of Music and dropped out after a couple of weeks because I couldn’t see me learning anything that I didn’t already know.” Matt is an autodidactic and looks scornfully at educational institutions doing music courses that “sell an ideal”. “There are no jobs in the industry anymore,” he says. “The old process of being a tape hand and working your way up doesn’t exist anymore. So these courses are all focused on giving people transferable skills instead of focusing on what the subject is actually about.” This is something Matt has experienced first hand. He says: “When I’ve taken on interns, they’ve all
below: MAZES (TOP) and EAGULLS, just two bands that have recorded with matthew at suburban home studio. additional Photography by Owen Richards & Bart Pettman
had no idea. In their minds, what they want to do is record rock bands, but they have no idea. Very few people are lucky enough to do that full-time and I’m really pleased and grateful that I’m one of those people. “You put them in this situation and none of them have anything other than these transferable skills.The main skill that you need is an ability to deal with people and to deal with situations, and nobody is being taught this. Being able to deal with those situations is much more important than the actual ability to engineer a record.” Suburban Home Studio is carpeted with a sprawling mass of equipment that my luddite and illinformed brain knows nothing about. “You just accumulate a lot of these things without actually realising,” says Matt, looking at a mixing desk the size of a fucking space ship.“I did a year without drinking and it was helpful as I was going out with a girl at the time who didn’t drink, so I spent all my money on equipment that year. I still do, to be honest. I don’t pay myself very much. I pay myself enough to live and to drink Brooklyn beer and that’s about it.” Clearly someone enamoured and ingrained within the world of sound production, and evidently selfeffacing about it too, this is reflected in Matt’s studio ethos, arguably something that sets him and SHH further apart from any other studio around. “I charge by the project, not by the hour,” he tells me. “My first experience in a band in a studio was a tough one, we had time booked but didn’t really hit our stride until about 11pm. The studio boss came in and said, ‘oh, don’t worry about it, it’s fine, keep going’.We kept on going and at the end he presented us with a huge bill
we couldn’t afford to pay. I never wanted to do that to a band. I want both the band and myself to be pleased with the end outcome; I want the project to come to an end when the record has been made and is finished, not when they run out of money.” “I became obsessed,” Matt once again spits the day’s most reoccurring word. “I would find any picture I could of Steve Albini’s drum set up and study it intensely and try to copy it. I use a lot of the same mics as him now. I just love recording drums,” he bubbles, although Matt has shifted from his onceidolising stance of Albini somewhat. “I used to agree with Albini’s judgment that recording music is not an art form, it’s just a documentation of sound, but if Albini is all the way to the left then I’m not on the right or even hitting the centre yet, but I’m certainly moving that way,” he laughs. “Initially, recording is a necessity and you are fulfilling that purpose for someone, but as you develop and when people start coming to you and requesting you to ‘produce’ their work, it’s not out of necessity anymore, it’s because they want your mark on their record.” Mazes provide an ample example of this situation. As Matt – who has just produced the band’s second album – tells me, “Jack (Mazes lead singer) had said that Hookworms, along with Cold Pumas, were the biggest influences on this new record.” And this work has led to further in-house work at labels such as FatCat and Wichita with further requests coming in so thick and fast that we will no doubt see the infinite rise of Suburban Home Studio and its exports throughout 2013.
NZCA / Lines Why Michael Lovett traded indie pop and songs about girls for electro RnB inspired by science fiction Photographer - Sonny McCartney | Writer - Reef Younis
Seduced by psychology, spirituality, science fiction, Peruvian geoglyphs and forward-thinking RnB production, NZCA/Lines’ arrival at gossamer, synthladen electro pop came as a welcome surprise when his debut dropped earlier this year. Born from a desire to take control of his own project, and time spent indulging in classic pop and Dr. Dre, Michael Lovett’s glistening pop take on honeyed bump and grind made his self-titled ‘NZCA/Lines’ album a triumph of craft and form – a dedication to high-quality, often complex production that is a measured mix of sexless vocal robotics, cut-crystal falsettos and breathless mourning glided between the concertedly cold and a simplistic joy of pop harmonies. Despite a relatively small advertising push around the album’s release in February, the buzz of press anticipation made the record an early stand out, even if that favourable reaction hasn’t transformed Michael’s life just yet. “I’m sitting on a bench in Peckham Rye and not currently sipping Cristal in LA right now. Hopefully that paints a picture for you,” he laughs. Michael is currently a student juggling a growing academic workload with an equally burgeoning music one, and the build up to his debut album marked an early turning point for a young man previously a member of the polar opposite indie twee band Your Twenties. At the stage of starting his electronic alter-ego, balancing his university outlook with his music wasn’t too much of a consideration, but after the release of debut single ‘Compass Points’ late last year, he quickly realised the two elements would have to co-exist. “Last October, we were putting out ‘Compass Points’ and I was toying with the idea of going on an exchange,” Michael remembers, “and I just thought we’d put the record out and it wouldn’t really matter. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen then at all, never mind radio play, so it was a nice surprise. It’s now raised my expectations to the point I’m disappointed, constantly,” he laughs. It’s marked an evolving journey of exploration for Michael ever since. After playing in bands previously, NZCA/Lines was the concerted attempt to take control of his own project, and the opportunity to move away from the band dynamics that he felt compromised what he wanted to do. “I’d kind of always done my own stuff but I’d also been second fiddle in other bands,” he admits. “It’s great because everyone’s writing but there’s always that
clinical thing of wanting to write your songs and have your project. I wanted to approach music not in the band way of four boys, four guitars, but in a more conceptually driven, planned out way. I wanted to make a focused record that progressed the narrative stuff I was doing and I had these demos that I started working on with Charlie [Alex March] and that helped bring out the soundscapes I’ve got now.” It’s those dystopian landscapes, populated by lost souls and lost lovers, that create the sleek, synthetic backdrop for delicate, programmed beats and Lovett’s diaphanous vocal. It sets the standard for the album’s beautiful, layered production, pulling in elements of Cliff Martinez’s neon haze, Junior Boys’ purring downbeat pop and even Metronomy’s off-beat tendencies. “I like the sense of the fact you can’t really hear the mark of the hand,” Michael enthuses,“and I like the fact the vocals became this kind of an instrument instead of one person singing their heart out. The reason why it ended up being about a general sense of longing and loss was because it has to have a human emotion, so in terms of themes, as long as I keep feeling melancholic and longing, it’ll sound like that.” Away from the process of production, the diverse themes and concepts behind ‘NZCA/Lines’ firmly play to Michael’s artistic focus, and fierce determination to give his work a shape and narrative. Combining the different pop and RnB influences with a science fiction slant is a complicated combination, but the overriding concept, in Michael’s mind at least, is a relatively simple one.“I am a perfectionist over stuff and I think that’s one of the reasons I work so well with Charlie because he’s the same,” he says. “We gelled quite well because we both want everything to be very specific and complete. Charlie’s a great sculptor of sound and I think I’m very obsessive over the songs in terms of how things fit in the arrangements, so together, I think that’s what made it work. I can’t take full credit, but yeah, it’s very important to me. “I wanted to write narratives in songs,” Michael continues, “so instead of approaching songs with the thought of ‘what am I feeling like today?’, I wanted to have a theme. Invariably they end up incorporating emotion, which is what makes them songs, but even though there are these disparate science fiction themes, in the end they come down to simple things really. “At the time I was listening to a lot of Dr. Dre and listening back to a lot of the commercial RnB stuff and
really good pop music, but whatever the highfalutin concepts for the record were, or are, it’s hopefully just catchy songs people can enjoy.” It made for a time-consuming process, spaced out over a year and a half, snatching time to sketch out the blueprint Michael desperately wanted to create. It was here he let his perfectionism and experimentation come to the fore, unburdened by having to compromise and incorporate a raft of outside ideas. “It was quite an exploratory process really,” he admits.“It wasn’t a case of going into the studio and recording it; it was doing bits and bobs with breaks in between over a long period of time. Once the idea became clearer, it was easier to write other songs, but the initial stage took a while to solidify. It was really kind of exciting because I used to write a certain way when I was making electronic music in my teens, but then I got distracted by the pop band dynamic. I’ve basically ended up going back to what Daft Punk call ‘bricolage’, where you paste elements over each other and do stuff that throws you off. If you sit down with a guitar, you kind of know what to expect, but if you record a vocal and rearrange it and change the pitch and the rhythm, you can surprise yourself.” The experience has already helped shape and inform future material of Michael’s – he’s now keen to simplify instead of further diversify the NZCA/Lines sound. With the live show presenting a logistical and economical challenge, it’s forced him to consider the impact of how the next album will translate in the ever-evolving live setup. “It’s been a liberating experience,” he nods, “but I think the next stuff is going to go back to basics and just try to find the best bits of traditional song writing. The record, looking back on it, it’s very busy, particularly in the vocals and arrangements, so it’s about making it more sparse and immediate. The producing, I’m proud of, but it’s quite complex; I’m looking to make the next one more straightforward. “In terms of the live approach, there wasn’t one, really,” he laughs. “It was pretty much what’s good for this song and afterwards it was a case of, ‘Oh fuck, how do we play this live?!’. Partially, it was down to the economy of recording, but bearing in mind I can’t play five keyboard lines now, it’s about questioning what’s essential and whether it can be dropped.” So after adapting and expanding the band to a live performance three-piece, it’s been a steep learning curve and a lesson learned in more ways than one.With such a focus and concentration on outlining album and song
narratives, Michael’s had to amend his initial thinking and relinquish some of the control when it comes to making the NZCA/Lines live show the experience he wants it to be. “It’s been great to play out live because at the start I’d be like, ‘these are the tracks, these are the parts’, and sometimes it didn’t always work out and we’d try something I’d never have thought of,” he says, candidly. “Originally, it was a case of trying to make it sound as close to the record as we could but now it’s much more about slowly starting to change it and realise that things can be different. It’s still a solo project in terms of authorship but live it’s all three of us. It’s given it a different perspective and I’d like to have more members, but at this stage we can all fit into a Nissan Micra which is helpful.”
“I wanted to approach music not in the band way of four boys, four guitars, but in a more conceptually driven, planned out way”
‘NCZA/Lines’ was released via electronic indie LOAF Recordings, but his follow up is currently without a home, not that that has diminished Michael’s desire to get his second record finished. He points out that,“the gap between finishing a record and releasing it is huge,” but says that he still hopes to release another album next year. “When you start getting into the music business, with a small or capital ‘B’, there’s a lot of crap that comes along with that,” he says. “For me, I think it’s about not losing sight of the spirit of the first record, because that was made for the love of it. It’d be great to find a new home, and find someone who is as excited about the music as we are.”
rass House, who consist of Liam Palmer (vocals, guitar), Steven Dove (guitar, vocals), Nicholas Jones (bass, vocals) and Ross Hall (drums, vocals), have been a slow-burning, albeit burgeoning talent in London’s underground for around two years now. Keeping well off the terrain of industry – and sonic – convention, they have existed and flourished against a rise of fads and fashions of which their musical output and collected aesthetic has stood in stoic opposition.They started their own small label (Holiday Club), released their own records, gigged hard and focused inward, sharpening, refining and honing their indistinguishable sound even further with lush textures, choral vocals and an everexpanding lyrical palette. More recently, their vast experimentation of melodies and time signatures has seen them abandon almost everything they have recorded in their earlier, more primitive guise. “I think you spend a long time trying to figure out what you sound like and I think we sounded like a lot of other people for a good while,” admits Liam. “I don’t think we play anything from the first two EP’s at all anymore,” adds Ross as we huddle up on the bunk beds backstage at Manchester’s Deaf Institute, post a support show with Cold Speck. What this means is that aside from the excellent current single ‘The Boredom Rose’ (out now on Dancing Coins), and the delightfully infectious, Johnny Cash croon of previous single ‘A Cradle, A short Breath’, the band exist in an ever-expanding, ever-changing, almost unknown quantity. “We’re quite ruthless,” says Liam. “If something’s not very good, we’ll just cut it. We wrote a song that we thought was amazing about a month ago and played it three times and then cut it because once you play it live you begin to figure out what it’s like and what we thought was incredible turned out to be too simple and pointless.” “We’ve played a lot of gigs,” says Nick, “so it’s also pretty easy to gauge an audiences reaction to a new song, which can help in working out what goes and what stays.” As Liam puts it, “There is always a song in our set hanging below the guillotine, waiting to be cut.” There are, however, many instantly recognisable sonic characteristics to Grass House, from Steven’s melancholic (and melodic) guitar lines that weave and glide through the song’s cores to the inescapable, purred vocal delivery. Liam has an undeniably distinctive and idiosyncratic voice – it can be dense, coarse and syrupy all in the space of one song, however, in the wrong hands it could prove to be both an overpowering and overshadowing element. Thankfully, in the hands of Grass House it sits alongside three other equally important voices that collectively act as one, albeit one that manages to avoid sinking into the gloopy mire of twee, superfluous harmonising. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” Ross tells me. “I think as we’ve grown closer as a unit and become more comfortable with our vocals it’s become a lot more prominent, to the point where I feel we can succeed with that sound.” “The backing vocals are supposed to be like monk chants,” Liam says, then rather solicitously frowns at himself and asks his band “is that right?”. “Sort of,” comes the wry, deadpan response from Steven. “Maybe more operatic?” Liam rethinks. “I think more like a church choir,” says Ross as Nick
chuckles at the back and forth. Perhaps the point being made here, even unknowingly by the band themselves, is that the Grass House’s sound is difficult to pin down. It can’t be compartmentalised, nor is it easily definable or instantly familiar by genre association, which has led to an often bizarre series of comparisons from journalists that have ranged from Captain Beefheart to Bon Iver to ‘horror rock’.“Whatever that is,” quips Steven. “It’s nice to be quite hard to pigeonhole because it means we’re in some way carving it out for ourselves,” he says.“If every song is considered a different style, but at the same time still recognisably ‘us’, then we cannot be accused of sticking to formulas in any way.” Indeed, resting on their laurels seems an utterly abhorrent concept to Grass House. “The moment you believe you’ve got to where you thought you’d go to, the whole thing starts to rot,” says Liam when speaking of his band’s perpetual and irrefragable desire to experiment and move forward. “I don’t think you can stop creativity progressing the sound or output of the band, and when you try to, you end up working to bland formulas that probably only succeeded because they were once new and exciting to you.There is nothing worse than reproducing the same trite ideas, year-in year-out, in a bid to keep the listener onside. It is patronising to the audience to think that they would want to listen to the same song wrapped up in a slightly
different guise over and over again, and in truth, they are not the kind of audience we want. “I also feel I’ve a long way to go as a lyricist,” continues Liam. “I want the words to stand on their own without music and not read as clichés or quasi-philosophical bullshit. At every point throughout our lives we reckon we know it all, it is only with time that we realise how naive we were, while at the same time believing ourselves to now be privy to all the secrets of the universe… and so the cycle continues. What I am going a long way round saying is that I do not want us to ever stop moving and evolving in every direction. If we continue to challenge ourselves we can really start to justify our reasons for doing this. Music is an art-form and should be treated as such, though hopefully without pomp or pretension and, most importantly, without boring the audience.” At the end of October the band will hole up in a studio in Wales for a week and whittle down a potential “seventy or eighty” songs to make their debut album, and in typical music-orientated fashion, the pragmatics of the process come low down on the priority list. “We’ve got this far without too much planning so it’s probably best we don’t start now,” Steven reasons.“All we want to do is make a great record, and hopefully people will get what we’re trying to do.That way we’ll be able to make another one.”
Grass House It’s never too late to start planning. Grass House just don’t want to Photographer - Elinor Jones | Writer - Daniel Dylan Wray 18
COVES Not a load of rubbish Photographer - Elinor Jones | Writer - Ian Roebuck
“Yes, I pissed in Elton John’s dressing room.” John Ridgard, the male half of Coves, is talking us through his new lifestyle. “We were in Belgium and I was just so tired in the shower… it went all down the side of the dressing room that Elton John uses and because I’d been drinking Berocca it had gone a funny colour and looked like something out of a ’70s horror film.” Rebekah Wood, John’s counterpart, fails to control her giggling fit. Just a year ago, urinating over Rocket Man’s wallpaper would have seemed far-fetched to say the least, but the two friends from Royal Leamington Spa have come a long way in a short space of time, or at least long enough to take a leak in a world star’s vacated locker. Coves psychedelic-tinged, layered, propulsive spin on rock and roll cast a spell too pronounced to be ignored in the ashes of 2011, and just months after they had formed, the duo were hand plucked by Echo and the Bunnymen to support their European tour. “We just wanted to get on the Leamington show but Ian [McCulloch, Bunnymen singer] and Will [Sergeant, guitar] really liked what they heard so we couldn’t believe they asked us to do the entire tour,” exclaims Rebekah. “We work in a music venue and we’ve always had to deal with getting riders, so it was so nice to be on the other side of it,” says John. “To be on a bus and to wake up in a different city was just insane – ‘ooh look, there is Paris’.” The pair are still coming to terms with their rapid fortune, with their feet firmly rooted to the floor. But as for the music, that’s for an entirely more lofty attitude and altitude. Sprawling, epic and beat-driven, there is a glorious strut to Coves’ clatter. The recently released ‘No Ladder’, for example, sees Rebekah’s bewitching vocals drop-out over John’s intricate production – a song full of spindly complexities and a weightlessness that really should come with a music video filmed underwater. It came to the attention of Lauren Laverne whose 6music session was recorded just hours before we meet.
“She was just so awesome and makes you feel really comfortable,” Rebekah gushes. “We haven’t done anything like that before.” “[Being on the radio] kind of phased us,” admits John. “Lauren asked us what our new songs were sounding like and I said ‘rubbish!’. We aren’t the best at self-promotion.” “You’re such a dick,” says Rebekah. Maybe hearing yourself on the radio will make all of this seem a bit more real, though, seeing as Echo and the Bunnymen seem to have missed the spot. “Not really,” says Rebekah, matter of fact. “It just feels so supernatural that I could achieve that; getting on the radio to me feels odd. It really is the best feeling in the world, but all this is happening to someone else, not me.” She finishes with a humbling smile. “We tend to feel negative about everything,” says John. “‘Oh listen, they’re playing us on the radio, well they won’t play us again’,”. “You are such an idiot,” says Rebekah. This is a charming friendship; a barbed contest of chiming putdowns. John and Rebekah clearly “go back”, as they say. Rebekah explains how years ago John was the sound tech in Moody’s a Leamington bar that she used to hang out in. “One drunken night, John said he wanted to start a band and he asked if I could sing, I told him my Dad says I can…it was like the X-factor or something!” John rolls his eyes at the thought of it.“I honestly had no idea what would come of it, but she opened her mouth and…well I used to love Mazzy Star when I was younger and it reminded me of the singer. I just stopped everything and said holy shit!” For a band so young, Coves maturity and richness in sound is something to behold.“That’s all down to John,” winks Rebekah, like a sister throwing a sibling a nugget of overdue respect. “Everyone in Leamington knows John and takes their hat off to him,” she adds. “We all admire him because he’s got such a good eye and ear to
what he wants – he listens to a lot of music and he can do it himself.” It is no surprise these two often get taken for a couple; so much so that their manager stops me on the way out to make sure I don’t report it as such, while John spends our time saying “my girlfriend” more times than we care to remember. Coves have an easy way about themselves that could be misunderstood.“We’ve developed our own language,” says John.“Becks has never worked in a studio before, so I’ll finish a track and she will be like, oh it sounds a bit wet or a bit soft and I will instantly know what she is talking about. If she says she wants a ‘square sound’ I will understand.” A Coves debut release is already out there, released under the radar on the Cross Keys label back in May of this year. At once brittle and lustrous, this collection of early material burnt brightly, although evidently not brightly enough calling for a second single from the record (‘No Ladder’) to be released last month. “Think of it more as a re-release,” John says. “The first single was a straight up pop song, but this is the track that gets to people, this is the track that stays with them.” (For the record, they do a pretty alluring cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ too). You’ve got to hand it to Coves – with ‘No Ladder’ now getting the attention it deserves, John and Rebekah are doing as they please, making sensual psych pop for whispered perfume campaigns. More live shows are coming up soon, too, providing they don’t tell us they’re rubbish as well.“I have always had this thing where I say, ‘what is the point in being a live band because the Flaming Lips have done everything?’.” Oh John. “But,” he says,“actually, we want our shows to be like that! We want people to jump into a Coves bubble and be spat out the other side.”
Patrick Wolf At 29, Patrick Wolf is still convinced that everyone hates him. His 10 years in music as a generation’s most eloquent outsider suggests he’s wrong Photographer - Nathanael Turner | Writer - Stuart Stubbs
Shooting and Madonna. October 10, 2012: Patrick Wolf ’s diary is suitably made up of firearms and showbiz, the lifeblood of Los Angeles. He can pretty much lick the Hollywood sign from Laurel Park’s Canyon Retreat, a pseudo rustic cabin on the hillside made for cowboys of the entertainment industry.This is Joni Mitchell country, where she lived and recorded two of Wolf ’s favourite albums, 1970’s ‘Ladies of Canyon’ and 1974’s ‘Court And Spark’. “Liberace lived here too,” laughs Wolf. “He’s definitely one of my favourite performers of all time. Who else? Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix – the free love movement lived here. It’s not so much like that now, there’s just Rick Rubin and Ke$ha that live around here now. I’m trying to bring the other spirit back.” Patrick Wolf loves a challenge. It’s been the one constant in a musical career that this month celebrates its tenth year with the release of ‘Sundark and Riverlight’ – a collection of reimagined Wolf tracks stripped to the bone and propped up by subtle, brooding strings. Wolf is still just 29, a number that in itself makes hitting the ten-year mark all the more impressive, but one outdone by how he’s got here – his uncompromising nature, his rip-it-up-and-start-again approach, the level of commercial success that still alludes him, his refusal to fuck off.“I don’t see it as a career,” he says.“I didn’t go to the career advisor for it, do you know what I mean? It’s been a 10-year… adventure! “I’ve definitely gone a bit mad, but I don’t think that’s been detrimental to continuing, and luckily with my writing I can use that insanity and all the tiredness and rejections from the industry to carry on. I think that’s why people relate to me as an outsider, and I have a lot of fans who are outsiders or loners.” Wolf ’s fans (The Wolf Pack) are as ardent as any; a loyal lot that gave us a taste of the things to come in 2008 when they helped their hero bypass the music industry altogether and deliver fourth album ‘The Bachelor’. Today, we’re well acquainted with PledgeMusic, but in ’08 the idea of fans investing in and bankrolling the making of an album was borderline obscene. For Wolf it was made possible by the launch of BandStocks.com (coincidently created by the singer’s lawyer), but it came at a strange time.Wolf was without a record label having released his third and most successful album still to this day, 2007’s ‘The Magic Position’, his first and last for Polydor subsidiary Loog Records. “Loog dropped me because they were terrified of me,” he says.“You try and say to me,‘Patrick, now that you’ve got a boyfriend we think you’d be more marketable if you made a record that sounds like Erasure’. What kind of reaction do you think you’d get from that? And do you think you’d be terrified of me after that or not? “The BandStocks thing was amazing because I was already halfway through the album, and Loog had heard my demos I’d done with Alec Empire, and then Mark Ronson got involved, in a very friendly, sweet, lovely way, but they jumped on that and wanted me to pay for Mark Ronson’s production fees when I was already well into making an album with Alec. Mark had actually said that these demos don’t sound like demos, they’re perfect
“It’s never over for me. Why would it be over just because some record label doesn’t believe in you anymore? ”
as they are and that he didn’t think he needed to work on them.The album was pretty much finished and it was on the day I was recording the string section and the gospel choir that they dropped me, which was nice because otherwise I would have had to pick up the fees, which I obviously couldn’t have afforded.They didn’t even want to hear what I’d done once they’d heard the demos for ‘Vulture’ and ‘Together’.” Wolf gathered together his hired string section, explained that they would now be contributing to an album without a home and asked each of them if they were happy to do so knowing that there would be a delay in their payment. He finished ‘The Bachelor’ and released it via his own Bloody Chamber Music imprint. “When in doubt, DIY,” he says cheerily. I note that most young men, having finally landed a large record deal only to lose it after seemingly giving the label what they wanted,would have been inconsolable. “It’s never over for me,” he half yells.“Why would it be over just because some record label doesn’t believe in you anymore? “The thing is that before ‘The Magic Position’ I had been touring for five or six years, around Europe and America, all off my own back and sometimes without a visa, smuggling myself into countries. I’d put in a lot of groundwork before that label, so I really wasn’t depressed when it was finished. I mean, thank god I had my audience and that wasn’t my first record deal, it was my third. I just knew that I had to finish ‘The Bachelor’ record and find some financial support for that.” In 2012, the anti-wallowing-Wolf has signed five different record deals and been through one less management team, each one fuelling and reflecting his appetite for change and his refusal to re-tread where he’s already been. “I just don’t think life is about repeating your motions,” he says. “I think it’s about moving on to new things constantly.” It’s a motto that Wolf applies to his live shows (he’s rarely hit the same venue twice since his days as a 13-year-old playing the fiddle in London’s folk clubs) and albums alike. From 2003’s ‘Lycanthropy’ through to 2011’s ‘Lupercalia’,Wolf has wildly veered from baroque pop to post-industrialism, to vogue-ish Depeche Mode electronics, to sombre folk, to lush ’80s pop that belongs on Magic FM.This is the man that sang “Reruns get me so bored” on ‘The Magic Position’’s ‘Get Lost’. “It’s why it doesn’t feel like ten years,” he says.“Every time I make an album I wish I could erase all existence of all the other albums, because I learn so much from record to record I treat every one like it’s a debut.” But how do you treat an acoustic covers album as a debut, especially when the covers are of your own songs? ‘Sundark and Riverlight’ is, “how I wish these songs always sounded,” says Wolf. They are not direct repeats played a little quieter. Tracks taken from the more crystalline ‘Lupercalia’ (‘Bermondsey Street’, ‘Together’, ‘House’) might err on the side of songs that have been ‘unplugged’ above anything else, but with the intense, scurrying clutter gone from the likes of ‘Oblivion’,‘Paris’ and ‘Teignmouth’, Wolf has reshaped his earlier material into the desired mould of Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ album, Leonard Cohen and late Johnny Cash. It’s the test of
every songsmith, stripping away the bombast and seeing what’s left. It’s why The Black Eyed Peas will never record an unplugged session for MTV, and why ‘Wonderwall’ really is a stroke of contemporary genius. For Wolf, this project that stemmed from an invitation to write his autobiography (an offer he declined, citing it too early and fearing “I might die as soon as I had finished it”) has given him a chance draw a line under his first decade in music, and us a chance to feel even closer to a man who’s hardly been a wallflower when it comes to his emotions. “I put it down to the fact that, in my personal life, I wouldn’t be able to do this interview or feel as free and happy as I do now without psychotherapy,” he says, “and with that you look back at your past in order to feel liberated about your future. So what I’ve done with my personal life I’ve now managed to do as a musician and look back at the past and feel as if I understand it and know it, but this is how I feel about it now. It’s me publically saying what I relate to now.”
atrick Wolf is the man that sang “Reruns get me me so bored”, but he’s also the man that sang “No, I don’t care about cash”, rather pointedly on ‘The City’, and not in a bogus ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ kinda way. It’s key to longevity, he says. That and the determination to be heard. “I feel that the joy of being a solo artist is that you really have to rely on yourself for all of your decisions,” he says. “I mean, I’ve been through four different managers and four or five different record labels, but I have a determination to keep my work out there, and I have no shame in that. But I also don’t have a big drive to make money, so if an album I make doesn’t make money I don’t care. I get dropped and move on to finding the finances some other way. My second album [‘Wind In The Wires’, 2005] was made for three hundred pounds. I scrabbled together the money I made on tour, and there was one PRS cheque from a karaoke bar in Sweden where they’d been singing ‘Bloodbeat’, which was for £330. That was all I had to work with, but longevity comes from the drive to keep creating, and as long as you don’t care about the money you’ll have a very long career. No, a very long adventure.” The fight of artist against solvency is a noble one, made all the easier by its romantic ideals. Great art, after
all, often comes from great struggle, and there are no greater slog-fests than man versus cash. But Patrick Wolf has also needed to manhandle fashion to make it to a decade in music. A much scrappier fight. Perhaps what’s most astonishing about ‘Sundark and Riverlight’ is that its tracks are so evenly spread between Wolf ’s five albums, and without any noticeable bumps in the road. Of course some of his records are better than others, but by transforming these chosen tracks into smoky, autumnal ballads, you can’t help but notice that the standard hasn’t slipped too far from that set by ‘Lycanthropy’ and ‘Wires In The Wind’. Patrick Wolf hasn’t lost it; his popularity in recent years has dipped because you can’t be approaching a decade of output and simultaneously be the new thing. “So many of my favourite records by my favourite artists were totally misunderstood in their prime,” he says, “and that makes them, at 80 years old, more intriguing and more wonderful.They’ve been through a story of complete rejection for their generation. And I’m not saying I’ve experienced that, but I’ve been through it in part, like total misunderstanding from the media, closed doors and being black listed from TV shows etcetera. I’m happy for that to be my present day when I’m in my twenties and don’t give a fuck enough to change my tune, and I think that when I’m 80 it will make a very good story. Like Patti [Smith] or Buffy [Sainte Marie] – these are icons that weren’t particularly icons of their time. People in retrospect are less scared of people who were challenging at the time.” Wolf shares a particular affinity with Smith, whom he played seven shows with in 2008. Other greats he’s collaborated with include Arcade Fire, Marianne Faithfull (who provided backing vocals on ‘The Magic Position’ album track ‘Magpie’) and American photographer/artist Nan Goldin.“I still don’t think that I’ve experienced myself at my best as ‘Patrick Wolf the Solo Musician’,” says Wolf, “and that’d been quite an emotional test over the past ten years. Looking back, the moments I’ve felt the least lonely were when I was collaborating with those other people, and playing the fiddle for them. The shows I did with Patti Smith were a real vitamin boost – a real courage boost as a writer. Those shows were very inspiring. And the thing that I did for Nan Goldin at the Tate Modern was really beautiful. I was the only person to ever write a soundtrack for one of her slideshows, so that was amazing. When I was younger Nan also used ‘The Childcatcher’ in a big show in Paris that was banned – it’s these extra curricular activities that are more thrilling for me, because I find the ‘Patrick Wolf ’ thing… I don’t know… it’s so personal to me, I constantly look out in the crowd and think that everyone hates me. “But I’m planning something quite extreme,” he says. “Just expect the opposite to what you’re expecting.” And with that, Patrick Wolf heads out into the Hollywood Hills for an afternoon of shooting, followed by Madonna at The Staples Centre in town, a woman a few months away from three decades in music. Look out, Madge.
Infatuation with Ace of Base can lead to a darkly euphoric place Photographer - Phil Sharp | Writer - Chal Ravens
Frozen pavements and Arctic winds; dry ice and blackedout basement clubs; pulsing metallic rhythms tempered by narcotic lethargy and lashings of pulse-quickening euphoria. Half Eurohouse and half haunted house, the debut album by Trust, titled ‘TRST’, as our faddy vowelphobia currently demands, is the latest in what’s become a long string of records inspired equally by the sharp lines of primitive electro and the murderous theatrics of goth. Among others, we’re talking Salem, Zola Jesus, Crystal Castles and Toronto band Austra, whose drummer, Maya Postepski, was once one half of the band whose original and sole remaining member, Robert Alfons, is this afternoon’s interviewee. Since its release in early spring, the album has been gently gathering pace and turning heads, pleasing the ears of all those who, yes, like a bit of goth and yes, like some dancing, but are allergic to the crushing scenesterism of the sprawling genre that we might as well call witch house. Now touring the album without Postepski but with two extra hands on synths, Alfons is in London as part of a European tour, which includes last night’s show at the Shacklewell Arms and a performance out in the artists’ enclave of Hackney Wick. Arriving at a studio in north London’s soon-to-betrendy Manor House, Alfons cuts a slender figure, encased in black from neck to boot but otherwise quite unlike the affected gothic scenester you might fear him to be. Softly spoken and obliging, he appears to be enjoying that fleeting, happy moment that belongs to a band on the cusp of something, whether success or failure, when touring is still a holiday and interviews are just like hanging out. “I love coming [to London],” he says. “People have been receptive, which feels great. I’m flattered because there’s definitely some sort of intimidating vibe going on here – or maybe that’s because I’m quite sensitive...” Growing up in Winnipeg in the middle of the flat Canadian prairies, Alfons was always something of an outsider, keeping himself to himself and disappearing into music, particularly the European pop on his family’s record shelves. “I think I was always kind of a loner as a kid,” he says, noting that Winnipeg’s music scene offered little for a teenage Pet Shop Boys fan. “I didn’t really go to live shows. People are very passionate about the live music scene there, but it’s more of a hardcore and punk scene.There’s not really any electronic music. So I played the piano and wrote music, and I would fool around
with electronics, but it was always for myself.” Most of his musical heroes were an ocean away at the time, clogging up the British charts with poptastic baubles of Hi-NRG dance workouts. “When my sister got her first boombox, the first CDs she got were Real McCoy, Ace of Base, lots of that early ‘90s Eurodance stuff – and I just loved it,” he says. “My aunt had a big collection of CDs that I would listen to whenever I went to her house, usually in big compilations – I mean I don’t think there was like, a Whigfield album that I loved, it was more like choices, the real dark stuff, real moody stuff.” Desperate for a change of scene and a chance to develop his music, Alfons packed his bags and moved east to Toronto, opening a blank page on his life. “I needed to get out of Winnipeg,” he explains. “I wanted a bigger city, something with a little bit more opportunity. Toronto intrigued me for many reasons – I didn’t know anybody there and I had no idea what it was like. I thought it was like a big metropolis with this endless sea of huge mountainous buildings and cold streets. It’s not – it’s very small town-y and liveable, and it has a soul.” Gradually he worked on his music, building a sound that mingled his beloved pop melodies with gothic melodrama and a touch of the industrial edge found all over Toronto’s electronic scene. Creating the project that eventually became Trust was a slow process at first, though. “I’d never really played in a band so there were a lot of walls I needed to shatter, personally, to get myself to play. I think I’m kind of reserved and there was a certain reluctance,” he notes. “Of course I still doubt myself all the time, and I think it has an influence on how the music comes out and how it’s presented. “The first show was exceptional,” he continues. “I remember feeling embraced right from the start, very
“When my sister got her first boombox, the first CDs she got were Real McCoy and Ace of Base and I just loved it”
luckily. That would have been maybe two and a half years ago. It feels like 10 years ago. It was just after New Year’s, just a small show in a goth club and we played maybe four songs. In those early shows we played specifically for like 20 or 25 minutes, strictly.We thought, we’re not in the place where we can be playing for 40 minutes. I don’t want people to get bored.” Fast forward two years and Alfons had cut a deal with Arts & Crafts, the Canadian label helmed by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, and finished an album with Postepski that wraps his childhood pop fantasies in a shroud of frigid darkwave. “The darker stuff is like my filter over it all,” says Alfons. “I have tastes that I guess would be gothic, things like the Sisters of Mercy or Suicide, but I don’t know what those qualities are [in my record] – maybe it’s the album cover or maybe it’s my low voice.” The latter is an obviously gothic reference point, hovering somewhere between the cape-swishing histrionics of Sisters of Mercy and the bleak intonations of Interpol’s Paul Banks. “I don’t use any effects or anything, but I think the most unique and strong instrument is your voice and people forget that. For the stuff I’m writing now I’m using my higher register a lot more. Some of it is kind of maniacal, almost ridiculous,” he says. Is it a way of disguising what he’s singing about, perhaps? “Maybe. Like, I really can’t stand it when there’s lyrics in the liner notes. When I buy a record and I’m putting it on I think the worst thing is when you have the words there, and you’re sitting there with a cheat sheet and not really listening, not really feeling it. It’s almost more fun when I’ve made up my own words for other people’s songs,” he says. “That’s not to say I’m not proud of my lyrics, and I spend the most time on the lyrics, even more than the music. But lyrics, you know, they’re heard, so I digest the sound, the alliteration – that stuff to me is almost more important than the actual literal meaning. Some of my favourite singers are like that, like Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins.” Beyond the music, the album’s cover has done as much as anything else to get Trust filed in record shops under ‘goth’.The image of a double-chinned transgender clubber caught in the flashbulb, head lolling back and eyes vacant behind a mask of Rocky Horror make-up, is gloomy yet glamorous, depressingly druggy but somehow exotic. Why that image? “It’s a picture I took
at a club in Toronto that’s no longer around. I was taking a lot of pictures then, I always carried a camera around, and I thought she was beautiful and really striking. It just fit as I was writing this music and it was like, this needs to be the cover of this album,” he explains. Postepski’s touring commitments with Austra dragged her away from promoting Trust, so the band is now solely Alfons’ vehicle. “The record was a collaboration, but I’ve been touring it without her,” he says, noting that the split was down to clashing schedules rather than the old ‘musical differences’ chestnut.“I have two members in my live band, both doing keyboards. It will definitely change again, but this feels like the best it’s ever been and it makes the most sense,” he says.“A lot of this project was rooted in dreams that I had before we even met, so it felt like my baby anyhow.” With the first record now receding into the distance,
Alfons is already focused on the next one, which so far he thinks will be “volcanic, in a lot of ways.” Um, sorry? “I’m just getting fascinated by volcanoes,” he smiles, obviously without sarcasm. More specifically, he expects to up the tempo and push further into danceable territories. “As I’m writing now the BPM is going up, it’s even getter faster and I especially notice it playing live. You can see people reacting to it – people want fast music,” he says.“So sometimes I’ll write a ballad on piano and it turns into a song on the album, and the BPM moves up and becomes like a dance song.” He’s also been experimenting more with his higher vocal register, tapping into his inner diva and challenging himself to hit weirder heights.“A lot of ideas that weren’t explored on the first record are now going to be born on the second record. I’m working with different
keyboards, different tools and challenging myself with vocals, using higher registers, because the songs are calling for it,” he explains. Is that the “maniacal” voice mentioned before? “Yeah, that’s ‘her’ – it’s like, ‘she’s coming out’! It’s very feminine but at times ridiculous.” It takes guts for a loner kid from Winnipeg to bring his Ace of Base and Sisters of Mercy records to the party and come up with a song as fine as ‘Candy Walls’, the album’s unarguable highlight, and from his quietly assured words you can expect this polite gentleman’s best work to be ahead of him still, as he notes finally: “When I wonder if I’m allowed to be doing this or if people are going to laugh at it, then I know that I’ve achieved what I want to do.”
Rachel Zeffira Olly Park er discusses danger flights, record swapping and deportation with Catâ€™s Eyes singer Rachel Zeffira ahead of her debut solo album Photographer - Gabriel Green | Writer - Olly Parker 26
’m sitting in a church beneath a large picture of Jesus Christ on a cross. Blood is gushing from his feet and I’m guzzling expensive cheap wine. An anxious Woody Allen style character runs from pillar to post sorting out final details and it’s safe to say St. Andrew’s Church in Holborn hasn’t seen this much retro ’70s fashion filling its pews since, well, the ’70s. So it’s surreal enough already when a church organ with parts dating back to 1750 starts playing behind me, accompanied by a choir all decked out in matching denim. Rachel Zeffira’s voice rings out, as does the assembled orchestra and then the singer emerges from behind the organ. It’s as grand and surreal an entrance as you’re likely to see at any gig this year, and it perfectly matches the scope and ambition of the music that Rachel Zeffira is reaching for, released in solo debut album form next month. “I’m from a small place on the west coast of Canada called The Kootenays,” she’d told me a week previously while rehearsing in St. Andrew’s. “The nearest city is Vancouver, which is twelve hours away, and it has the world’s largest copper and zinc smelter, which pours mercury into the river. It has some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen and it makes Twin Peaks look like a big city. “My dad emigrated from Italy and most people there are Italian. It’s like nowhere else.You can fly there, but it’s the world’s most dangerous airport. To get there you have to fly through a hole in the mountains and if it’s cloudy, you can’t see so you just have to wait in the air and the wings can just ice up and the plane goes down.” “It’s a really remote place then,” I say.“Did it influence some of the space and dynamic in the album?” Rachel Zeffira: “Yes, definitely – I hated it when I was there, but now I’ve come to appreciate it.” Olly Parker: “Every interview mentions the fact you were classically trained, what was the journey that took you from that to the music you make now?” RZ: “I always thought I’d be a classical music professional. I was working as an oboist in a symphony orchestra and I thought, ‘Now what? What’s the next challenge?’ Then I thought I’d be a soprano and I was determined to sing, but the deportation changed the course of my life completely.”
Yes, a ‘deportation’. It seems a bungling border official under the guise of guarding our fair country perceived Rachel to either be a benefit cheat or a threat to national security and promptly sent her back to Canada. “It meant I never got into the typical classical circuit,” says Rachel. “I went to Verona to study instead and I sung a lot, and I was pursuing my goals again then, but when I came back to London I started wondering if all the preparation you had to do – no heating, no airconditioning, no talking on the phone – was really worth it for the hour on stage. “Once that seed was planted I realised I don’t actually listen to opera. I like some opera, but it’s not my favourite type of music and it was around that time I met Faris ([Badwan], Horrors frontman and other half of Rachel’s other band, Cat’s Eyes). “At that point I found that I started cancelling gigs, and I used to live for gigs, and when I met Faris I’d pretty much decided not to sing anymore. We used to swap music – he gave me CAN and Neu! and at first I hated it, I thought it sounded like health spa music, but now I love it. I had a huge void of certain types of music and the void I had Faris knew everything about and it was vice-versa, so we exchanged lots of things and I learnt so much.What I listened to changed and once my tastes started changing so did the music I’d play, then Faris convinced me to sing again. “The people who succeed in Classical Music have to do so much preparation, they give up their lives to do it and I wasn’t prepared to do that. I never practiced, I would forget to go to concerts I was playing a major part in.” OP: “Was it a case of finding a way to express yourself that suited the way you are?” RZ: “Definitely, this suits me more, I have a defect and I’m chronically lazy. It suits me to do things last minute.” Now I have to interject here. How can someone who put on a show at the Royal Festival Hall with a full orchestra, a debut show in a church with choir, orchestra and organ from 1750 and another show at, y’know, the Vatican – it’s on YouTube if you don’t believe me – possibly describe herself as lazy? I find it more than a little odd that music that reaches into genres as disparate as classical, girl groups and
shoegazing, and is staged with such huge scope and ambition, could possibly be described as being “last minute”. “Originally, the church show was just going to be me playing the organ and piano,” she says, “but then I realised I needed some help with other instruments that I play on the record and it just kept building up. The Royal Festival Hall show, it was like the night before, and I thought ‘I’d better write the string parts’, and it was all thrown together last minute. It’s the way I work.” Cat’s Eyes’ Royal Festival Hall show was remarkable precisely for the way the band used its string section. When a group gets the money to do something like that the instinct is to soak everything in strings and brass and it becomes saccharine. Rachel Zeffira, however, has a deep understanding of the way you use classical instruments in this form of music; restraint, space and dynamic are far more important than bombast. This instinct is demonstrated on her debut album, ‘The Deserters’.The album features collaborations with TOY and S.C.U.M drummer Melissa Rigby and was engineered by Ben Thackeray, who previously worked with My Bloody Valentine. However, Rachel wrote, produced and played many of her instruments herself. “The My BloodyValentine cover [of ‘Loveless’ oddity ‘To Here Knows When’] was the starting point for this album,” says Rachel. “It was a real challenge to do it and I really liked doing it. Then I kept writing and then it evolved from there.” OP: “So what are the themes running through the rest of the record?” RZ: “It’s just clear that there are threads through the record. There’s a theme of nostalgia and desertion, but not in a bad way as there are many different types of desertion. I find in the songs you can always find someone in there who is a deserter. It’s not a grand statement, it’s not blatant, but there is a subtle thread, and then there’s the musical thread of the instrumentation.” Nick Drake’s ‘Five Leaves Left’ is mentioned as inspiration for the string arrangements in particular, but you can also trace remnants of the usual modern contemporary female suspects in ‘White Chalk’ era PJ Harvey and Cat Power. But there is something in the scale and ambition of Rachel’s sound that sets her apart. ‘The Deserters’ will be released by a new label called RAF (Rachel and Faris, duh), who will also release the second Cat’s Eyes album sometime next year and then hopefully move on to do some releases by other artists. Although there are no concrete plans yet, Rachel does plan to continue collaborating with members of TOY and S.C.U.M on new projects.
s the orchestra departs the stage I wonder what she can do to top it next time.The only things that are certain are that there are no plans yet (“that’s just not the way I work”), and that she definitely will find a way to top this somehow. “The inspiration can come from anything, not just music,” says Rachel. “I hate being repetitive, the only thing is it has to keep evolving and hopefully improve.”
LIVING WITH AMERICA Dan Deacon is an American, whether he likes it or not Photographer - Elliot Kennedy | Writer - Sam Walton
In the middle of the floor in an otherwise empty King’s Cross Scala there’s a man up a ladder, adjusting a spotlight from its normal target of the stage. At the bottom of the ladder, Dan Deacon, composition graduate from the New York Conservatory of Music turned electroprankster-maverick turned composer again, dressed in what can only really be described as sweat pants and a tatty cardigan, is arranging several synthesisers, sequencers and small boxes covered in day-glow electrical tape on a trestle table. There’s a set of cheap, mobile-disco-style traffic lights propped up behind him and, above the table, perched precariously atop a flimsylooking tent pole, is a plastic skull that sporadically flashes a luminous Halloween green. In a few hours this whole ramshackle set-up will be surrounded by ardent fans – the only things on the Scala’s stage will be two drummers and a huge speaker stack. Behind his neon table, Deacon, still wearing the same jogging bottoms, will be conducting his latest musical communion, giving orders to his audience to kneel down as one,“like Rafiki from the Lion King was the only character in the only movie you’ve ever seen,” or dance off against one another in a huge, coordinated group hokey-cokey. Without fail, they will obey. If this concept for a show – lights from Maplin, everything seemingly held together with gaffer tape and daisy-chained four-way power adapters, music emanating direct from the mosh pit, bouts of mass audience participation – sounds slightly unusual within modern, sanitised gig culture, not to mention fraught with potential disasters, that’s because it is. What’s stranger still is that once the gig is under way, like a farfetched action movie that appears nonsensical on paper, something in the room makes everyone suspend disbelief for its duration and join in.The site of Deacon head-banging in unison with his front-row fans now seems an utter inevitability; any ickyness at the thought of being coerced through a round of zany dance moves
is unfounded. In short, the sense of triumph doesn’t just stem from a startlingly original, entertainingly bizarre spectacle, but also from how difficult it is to imagine something this madcap actually coming off. Then again, the same could be said of Deacon himself: here is an oddball of the highest order, wildly un-preoccupied with blending into any background socially, physically or musically, making records that are confrontational, harsh and complex, and doing so with an élan that only really makes sense once it’s witnessed. However, if the rickety DIY aesthetic in his live performance is something that Deacon has cultivated to near perfection over the last ten years, his recorded output is going in the opposite direction: where once he was content making records called things like ‘Silly Hat Versus Eagle Hat’ that were blasts of 1,000bpm absurdist electronica, his latest album is simply and calmly called ‘America’ – and deliberately confronts all the meanings and evocations that that word conjures.Most impressively it contains a 22-minute ‘USA’ suite, inspired by his first trip outside the States in 2007 and scored subtlety, with considerable craft, for chamber orchestra (although still laced with electronic savageness). The four movements deliver melancholy and delicacy, and the result is like Fuck Buttons filtered through Aaron Copeland and Steve Reich at their most bucolic – a far cry from ‘Goose on the Loose’ and any number of his once-trademark raging bursts of white noise that sounded like armies of toddlers licking batteries. There runs the risk of a collective groan when a once “fun” musician decides to start making “serious” music, but Deacon wears his maturity well, if slightly bashfully. In our forty-five minutes together, he talks enthusiastically about the intensity and relentlessness of his music, although never for very long: within a couple of minutes of discussing his actual recordings, he’s disappearing off on a tangent about the internet, or
conspiracy theories, or the DIY scene. His favourite diversion, however, is grander than all of that and, thankfully for the patient interviewer, also the inspiration for his latest LP. “Oh, it’s complicated!” he laughs when asked how he feels about America, and why he wanted to write an album about it. “We’re probably not on the best terms. When I first went on tour to Europe, I, like many other Americans, didn’t identify as ‘American’. The United States was an evil, Earth-destroying monster of war and bigotry, you know? But then when I got to Europe, I felt like an outsider. I was alone in foreign lands, and realised I am an American, and nothing I can do will ever change that, and that was a massive shift in consciousness for me.” Deacon is now in full flow, gabbling but super-lucid, imploring me to listen. “It also got me to thinking that my ambivalence and apathy towards my country is almost part of the system that I hate. Like, as soon as you start realising that this is all just to make the rich people richer, you start thinking, ‘there’s nothing I can do, fuck it, I’m not a part of this bullshit system anyway, I don’t care if it falls apart.’ And then you slowly realise that holy shit, of course they want you to think that! If you don’t care about something, there’s no reason to try and better it, or save it. It’s like having a rotting shack in your back yard – you’re not going to go out and fix it unless you care about it.You’re just going to tear it down.” Like he said, it’s complicated. “And then I started realising that actually there are aspects of American culture that I love, and that I think are beautiful and awesome. I started thinking how much I loved travelling across the country and going from coast to coast and seeing the landscape slowly change over the course of the seasons, and that’s what inspired the music on the album.” Indeed, a love of the dramatic American landscape is clear on ‘America’. Grand, sweeping brass and elegiac
“A lot of people think voting is a joke. I don’t care if you vote for Daffy Duck On Acid, but it’s important that your voice is there and present”
strings evoke the quintessential widescreen Western frontier that everyone from Ennio Morricone to George Gershwin has had a go at making musical in the last century or so, with the burbling, relentlessly repeating electronics offering a counterpoint of constant movement and exploration. Indeed, listening to ‘America’, is Deacon rather more fond of his country than he is of his countrymen? “I see what you’re saying,” he answers guardedly.“But I don’t think it’s the individual people so much as the system that’s put there to control everybody. I mean, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any American who’s like, ‘I love the government! I think the choices they make are great!’.” It goes without saying that Deacon isn’t one of those Americans. But this month he also has the right, regardless of how American he feels, to have his voice heard on that matter in the presidential elections. Given his previously stated opinions though, it seems fair to wonder if he’ll even bother putting a cross in a box. He insists he will be: “A lot of people think voting’s a joke, but it’s important to represent your demographic. I don’t care if you vote for Daffy Duck On Acid, but it’s important that your voice is there and present. And with local issues I feel you can have direct action through voting. You can really change things on a small, local, town-county-state level – I don’t think that’s idealistic. I think it’s actual.” And herein lays perhaps Deacon’s essence: despite his cynicism and apathy towards so much of the modern world in general and his homeland in particular, he remains upbeat, and absolutely unswervingly sure that change is possible. That sense of hope against adversity shines through in his recordings, too, albeit in quite an intangible way: half of America is instrumental, and the other half ’s lyrics are virtually unintelligible.Nonetheless, the lyrics are there – and published within the album packaging – and they’re of particular note, he says, as this is the first time that he’s actually tried to make them mean something. “I don’t like the obvious ‘this is my ideology, this is how I think’ lyrics,” he explains when asked what he was aiming for with his words. “The problem with the general modern protest song is that I’m just like, ‘oh God, shut up! I hate that I agree with you!’. I’d rather there just be that spark of an idea instead. For example, there’s this one line in ‘USA’ that goes ‘I’m not the shapes that I’m shown’, and people will be all like, ‘oh, well, of course he’s talking about his body issues and yadda yadda yadda,’ but that’s better than the lyrics being all like [at this point he starts singing in a comedy X-Factor melisma] ‘I’m a fat person in a skinny society and I feel bad for many reasons about it!’. It doesn’t have the same hit, you know?” It should be noted, at this point, that Dan Deacon is not a slender or particularly tall man, but neither is he particularly overweight.That said, he wears comfortable clothes and has a straggly beard and unkempt hair that looks genuinely like the product of not caring, rather
than a deliberate attempt at the “bed-head” look – in fact, his whole demeanour is rooted not even in antifashion, but in a world where fashion just doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, when I pick up on his mock confession, he’s surprisingly candid and self-lacerating. “Of course I feel like a fat person in a skinny society, 100%,” he admits. “And I also feel ashamed because I know that to become fat you have to eat more than your body needs. I have these internal battles, and it bugs me quite a bit, but what bugs me even more is times like when the album got streamed on The Guardian, and almost every single comment was about my beard: People kept calling it a ‘hipster beard’, and I really wanted to respond by saying, ‘it grows out of my face whether I like it or not!’.” Did it frustrate him that people didn’t want to discuss the music? “I was pretty excited for the comments to be about the music,” he admits, “but at the same time I just acknowledged that The Guardian is a mainstream publication, so of course it’s going to be more interested in fashion than experimental music.The thing is, I don’t harp on about these things but they’re things that I think about a lot – so in the ‘USA’ suite I was trying to wrap them all up and gather everything that is constructing my American identity.” At that point, for the first time since we began talking, there’s a silence that suggests Deacon feels he’s said too much. “Okay!” he beams with an avuncular, if slightly nervous chuckle. “Let’s talk about something else!”
ack at the Scala, Deacon’s trestle table is now encircled by eager fans, waiting for the fat person in a skinny society to come and make everyone do a bit of exercise. He arrives at his station chaotically, bumbling through the crowd, and ten minutes later he still hasn’t played a note of music. Not that it matters: he has got the crowd onside by telling bizarre, stream-of-consciousness jokes and making them all point at the ceiling while chanting “omm”, kneeling first on one knee then on both and “imagining the saddest you’ve ever felt in your life.” Then at the touch of a fluorescent orange button he’s away, and ‘Guilford Avenue Bridge’, the opening track from ‘America’, gallops into the distance while the pair of drummers behind him try to hang on, like cartoon cowboys on a bucking bronco. There then follows a section where Deacon creates a circle in the crowd so the more exhibitionist among it can dance off against each other. He also arranges a human tunnel that snakes around the entire building, up staircases and back into the main room. He parts the crowd down the middle and nominates one fan from each half to lead that section in what resembles the world’s most inadequate but joyously daft workout video. And then, once events have grown so surreal that you believe magic could happen, it seems like it does. Deacon’s party piece on this tour is the interactive Dan Deacon Live Show app – presumably the logical progression for a performer whose act is so inexorability linked to his public – which, once running, listens and responds to the music. “We send out a calibration tone,
USA! USA? USA It’s complicated: five tracks that embody America’s tricksy relationship with itself:
Woody Guthrie T h is L a n d Is Y o u r L a n d ( 1 94 0 ) Guthrie’s bluegrass hymn was written in direct response to Irving Berlin’s saccharine ‘God Bless America’ and, years before Dylan even picked up a guitar, became the protest singer’s protest song. Key lyric: Was a high wall there that tried to stop me A sign was painted said: Private Property But on the back side it didn’t say nothing This land was made for you and me
B r u c e S p r i n gs t e e n B o r n In T h e US A ( 1 98 4 ) The Boss’ most successful single is so frequently mistaken for a patriotic anthem by political hopefuls that it could almost now represent America’s terrific ability for self-denial. Key lyric: So they put a rifle in my hand Sent me off to a foreign land To go and kill the yellow man
James Brown L i v i ng I n Am e r i ca ( 1 98 5 ) For every self-examining critique of America, though, there’s a no-nonsense, flag-waving chunk of funk tethered to pyrotechnics, synchronised horn sections, fist-pumping blue-collar earthiness and Sly Stallone beating seven bells out of some dirty Commie. Key lyric: You might not be looking for the promised land But you might find it anyway Under one of those old familiar names
like an old modem sound,” he explains before the show, “and the app analyses it and then knows to trigger the lighting sequence for a song, or to turn the phone this colour or do that sequence. Since we’re just starting out with it, it’s interesting to see how it interacts – it’ll either work well, or it won’t work at all.” As it turns out, the former possibility is an understatement. Midway through the show, Deacon sheepishly requests that everyone who has downloaded the app get their phones out (“The main thing I’m having a hard time with at the moment,” he confesses, “is how to make it not awkward to say ‘okay now take out your phone! Open up the app!’ – it hasn’t exactly been integrated into the lexicon of punk rock yet”), and hold them in the air. The aforementioned calibration tone rings out, and seconds later, Deacon and his drummers are pounding through ‘True Thrush’ while 200-odd screens dotted around the Scala change colour, in unison, to the beat. When the chorus kicks in, the flash on the back of each unit begins to pulse too. Some wag down the front has even brought an iPad, which obediently dances the same as its brothers and sisters until its comparatively giant screen starts to feel like the leader of this army of devices, cheerleading its way to some handset heaven.“It needs a critical mass of phones, or else it’s just weird,” warns Deacon earlier. “But when we reach a certain number, it looks awesome.” He’s not wrong. Not only does it look awesome, but, in the context of so much oddness, the sight of mobile phones taking on lives of their own and dancing
alongside their owners feels genuinely fantastical, even for Deacon, whose reputation for memorably unconventional live shows has preceded him for years, this spectacle is extraordinary. For all the jaw-dropping magic, though, his final piece of crowd interaction is perhaps the most symbolic. Each audience member is asked to close their eyes and put their hands on the head of the person in front of them. He then asks everyone to take a step to their left, and all of a sudden the crowd is rotating serenely around the room as one, like the free-spinning front wheel of an upturned bicycle, where all the spokes point towards Deacon. As the audience perform as instructed, Deacon sets off a tinkling, graceful drone on another primarycoloured gizmo and points out what they’re doing: “Feel how the actions of each one of you is directly affecting another person?” he asks. “And that by cooperating with one another in doing something really simple you’re making everything look beautiful? And how if any one of you stopped it would all have to stop?Well, I want you to take that thought away with you tonight.” Ugh, you may think, how schmaltzy; you could almost imagine Jerry Springer ending another of his perversely moralistic talk shows with something like that, or a cynical presidential candidate using the speech as a more poetic version of “we’re all in this together”. Ugh, you may also think, how American – and if so, that’s perhaps Deacon’s greatest trick yet, given his recent preoccupations. But while it could be all of those things, the most overriding feeling in the room is, simply, how Deacon.
S u f ja n S t e v e n s Ch i cag o ( 2 0 0 5 ) Stevens’ paean to his Midwest homeland doubled as a tribute to the minutiae of American life in general, both in terms of the opportunities it can offer and the fears it can induce. Key lyric: If I was crying In the van with my friend It was for freedom From myself and from the land
Da n D ea c o n US A ( 2 0 1 2 ) “Oh, it’s complicated! We’re probably not on the best terms, you know...” laughs Deacon, explaining his relationship status with his home nation. Travelling abroad for the first time led him to question American-ness itself, his perception of it and his ultimate inability to ever escape it. Key lyric: Feel like I’m all flesh and no bone I’m not the shapes that I’m shown Hope I get it right tomorrow
There is a light... As ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ reaches its tenth anniversary, guitarist Daniel Kessler revisits Interpol’s modern classic Photographer - Michael Edwards
Few bands ever truly go the distance. It’s a cold hard fact of growing up obsessing about, falling in love with, and endlessly discussing the demise of your music heroes as they burn out in a blaze of misguided ambition, stubbornly fade into obscurity or painfully evolve into Bono. And while they rarely defy the corrosion of tastes, trends and time for too long, albums typically fare much better, often capturing bands at their most vital. But let’s not get this confused with wet-eyed, rose-tinted romanticism; the majority of bands and albums make perfect sense at the time but only some truly stand the test of it. A decade after guitar music’s last great resurgence, Interpol’s monotone, monochrome introduction stands as aloof and lovelorn as ever with ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ the immaculate calling card; as clean, sharp and effortlessly dark as Daniel Kessler, Paul Banks, Carlos Dengler and Sam Fogarino’s perfectly tailored suits. On August 20th, the album turned 10; next month, on December 3rd, it will receive a respectful, deluxe re-issue. It’s one of the albums that’s characterised and crystallised that renaissance, while creating one of the most memorable band aesthetics of this generation: the clinical beauty, slow-burning intensity and dedication to a simple black and white image. But the music was anything but, melding the despondent weight of Banks’ penetrating lyrics with Kessler’s tumbling guitar melodies. Looking back isn’t something Interpol have ever been comfortable with, but after promising to mark the ten year anniversary of their debut in the right way, they were aware that it demanded the same attention to detail as any of their other work. “Once we committed to doing it, like with all our records, if we are going to say something, we really want to have something to say,” explains Kessler from a break in Italy. “And once you commit to doing it, you need to do it properly and spend a lot of time and energy digging through photographs that were never published and the rare tracks and the DVD footage. “I remembered a recording of us was playing in New York City in the Mercury Lounge. I’m not really sure why we decided to record that show, but I think we needed it to send off to a festival or something. That was Sam’s first show and you’d think the first show might be something you’d throw away, but I remember it being a really good show and feeling really committed. I was looking back at it and I felt we were a really tight band and you could feel the chemistry. Now looking back through all this archival stuff, looking back with some objectivity, it’s pretty amazing to see how significant that show was all these years later. Kessler notes that this is not an exercise in fishing for new fans with old material. “We’re not going to
Writer - Reef Younis
convince anyone now,” he says,‘so this is more for the people who like the idea of an anniversary, commemorative edition record. We have really great fans and we thought they’d appreciate it and care about it.” Loaded with rarities, demos and footage of that first gig with Sam, it’s a re-release done right, as well as for the right reasons. But as with any re-issue, there’s always a level of cynicism about the motivation behind it and something Kessler is up front about. “I don’t think it is a way of making money, especially the way we’re doing it!” he exclaims. “The album version of it is really beautiful, it’s like a coffee table book and it’s quite limited. There’s much better ways to make money doing something like this but that’s not the route we’re taking. All of our discussions and our discussions with the label were about doing something nice.” ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ is an album recorded to a backdrop of struggles, rejection and a very urban tale of surviving in the city. It’s one that carries and conjures memories, capturing the verve of NYC that, to those of us across the Atlantic, was emerging as the focal point for the guitar music that defined a generation. “I think I would have done the same thing and romanticised it too, but for the most part,” admits
Kessler who, although raised in the States, is an Englishman by birth.“I started hearing about all these bands when they started getting attention. “New York’s obviously a huge city and there are a lot of bands who can co-exist without really being aware of each other, and I’m friends with a lot of those bands now, but friends in the way that you meet other bands touring in other cities. It wasn’t like the same building or the same rehearsals or anything. It’s a question people ask and I always wish I had a better answer.” Five years of toughing it out in New York, battling against the label rejection and resolutely working to perfect and finesse the Interpol dynamic ultimately paid off. After being turned down by “every record label in the world”, including Matador, who they eventually signed with, despite the struggle, Kessler clearly holds that period in fond regard. “They’re incredible memories,” he reminisces. “We spent five years being rejected by every record label around and struggling to play gigs in New York City. It’s expensive to get by and most bands don’t make it that long in New York because people’s attention spans are pulled every which way, and it takes a lot of work to stay together. “We had very simple dreams and ambitions, so
reissu e in t erv ie w
when you finally get to do it after being rejected so many times, you relish the experience. Even Matador rejected us twice before signing us.” There’s a conviction and vindication with Interpol that hasn’t dissipated in all these years. It’s an example of the strength of feeling and sacrifice that went into ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ and while the rags to recognition stories are well-trodden, it was the patience and dedication to perfection of the time that helped make the record as passionate and esteemed as it is now. “Making the record, we all lived in the same house, fighting over the room with the best bed, battling the cabin fever of being so close together all the time,” laughs Kessler.“It was an incredible process.We mixed the record one way and had a choice to put it out as it was or wait several months until the studio was free and amend the songs. It was difficult to wait but it was the right thing to do. Going back there the second time and working with Paul and fixing some of these tracks to make them better than the original mixes felt great. “It’s a pretty painful process, in a great way. When you’re making a record and when you’re playing songs and they sound right, it doesn’t mean you’re going to capture that in a recording studio.You have
such a small window to get it right, so there’s a lot of pressure and you don’t want to leave any regrets. There’s nothing worse than leaving the studio and wishing you’d gone another way. We’ve sacrificed a lot to never be in that position. Once you get it right and feel good about it, you have to let it go. We were so close to not letting that happen, but then it felt like we always intended it to.” To many, the band’s debut was the benchmark; the albatross that would inevitably, gradually weigh Interpol down, like The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’. Blessed and cursed by a debut that was as essential then as it is now, Interpol’s subsequent albums undoubtedly haven’t scaled the same heights, but that doesn’t leave ‘... Bright Lights’ legacy any less diminished; it’s a defining reminder of the seminal catharsis and beautiful gloom Interpol seduced us with from the very start. “We were always aware that with first and second records, you don’t want to take too much time,” says Kessler. “We were writing in between the Bright Lights tours and were very mindful of keeping the continuity going between the writing process and the touring. On ‘Our Love to Admire’ we took a very different approach artwork- wise with dioramas and the animals, and that’s always been symbolic of what we’ve always done as a band: it’s not about a career; it’s about what you want to say in that moment.There are no guidelines, but the truth is we are who we are to a degree – I do wear a black suit every day, it feels comfortable, it feels right. It actually feels like the simplest thing I could do, in a way.” And yet, somehow there’s always been a gnawing sense that Interpol are a band that shouldn’t have emerged from the New York melting pot so successfully; that without that city spotlight, everyone else would have been scuttling in The Strokes’ commercial shadow. And after those years of painstaking toil, desperately searching for a collective alchemy, instilling an infinite loyalty in the group of hardcore fans who would ultimately drive the band forward, you understand why ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ is so special. In 2002, it was the passionate absolution for a band determined to make it work; the statement of proof they’d make it, whatever it took. Now, it’s just how Interpol want it to be: a love letter to the fans that got them here in the first place. “I think it [the album] just set everything in motion,” Kessler muses. “I appreciate the sport of discussing music, but the first time you hear something, there’s only one first time. I did that a million times over but for me I’ve never looked back at what we just did and compared it to what we might do or could do. “It’s always been an organic thing for us and we either felt it or we didn’t. I think if we’d had those kind of discussions, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. It was always a case of, ‘Are we into what’s happening in this room or are we not’ If we are, then it moves forward, if we’re not, it comes to a standstill. We’ve always kept it that simple and fortunately we’ve always had enough to inspire and motivate us to go in different directions. I wouldn’t want to sit there and try and do something we already did. “Artistically I’m always excited about what the next record will do and we’ve never looked at this from the point of view of ‘this didn’t work, we’ll try this’. I think if we did, we’d be a very different band. It’s always been about what we have to say and I think we’ve always had enough to say.”
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Al bums 08/10
Cold Pumas Persistent Malaise (Faux Discx/Gringo/Italian Beach Babes) By Austin Laike. In stores Nov 5
Crystal Castles III (Fiction) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Nov 5
In making it to a third album, Crystal Castles have proven a lot of people wrong. Fads aren’t meant to last this long, but then most fads don’t come with Crystal Castles’ live show. It’s no secret that it’s the shows that have gotten them here, with albums ‘I’ and ‘II’ merely allowing us to take a slice of the glitch metal chaos home as a reminder of what the hell just happened here. ‘III’ will no doubt play out just as brutally as everything else Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have crumbled theatre walls with before now, simply because they could attempt an xx medley and it would sink a cranium or two, but there’s no denying that this is something new – a Crystal Castles album for the home. “Oppression is the main theme,” claims Alice, who freely admits that she’s lost what little faith she had in humanity since the release of ‘II’ in 2010. “It feels like the world is a dystopia where victims don’t get justice and corruption prevails.” It’s a point she seems to drill home once the goblin jibber-jabber and warped speeding vehicles of ‘Keroscene’ cease and make way for an extremely rare moment of absolute clarity. “I’ll protect you from all things I’ve seen,” she assures us, back-lit by some hopeless wasteland,
at last crystalline and free. Otherwise, Alice’s vocals appear to be Ethan’s play-thing once again, ‘III’ constantly hacking at her syllables and either reforming them into zombie-like HEALTH remixes (see ‘Affection’), or burying them beneath a steady pulse, a slo-mo, rat-a-tat snare and static-riddled synths. If that sounds like Crystal Castles have turned into White Ring, it’s because they have, and wonderfully so. Witch House suits Crystal Castles, perhaps because it’s so theatrically oppressive itself – claustrophobic and drastic. At its most overindulgent we get ‘Insulin’ (two minutes of barbed, killer riffs and inaudible lyrics recorded so far in the red that everything cuts out on the offbeat right until the end), but tracks like ‘Plague’, ‘Wrath of God’ and ‘Pale Flesh’ – all controlled and weirdly calming – are what make this an album for your headphones, and perhaps the band’s best yet. Claims that ‘III’ was made by a self-imposed one-take policy seems almost as unbelievable as the reported “no computers” rule.This is, after all, electronic music at its most synthetic, and how much can an album really be made up of single-take tracks when so much over-dubbing has surely had to occur? But true or not, they’re needless boasts or lies. ‘III’ is neither ‘I’’s collection of wily experiments, nor ‘II’’s lazy thirst for more live bangers; it’s an impressive, oppressive album that marks a new, more considered era for Crystal Castles, the recording artists.
There’s a simple trick to sounding completely off-the-cuff, and that’s to be the complete opposite – to meticulously plan your execution. It’s like spending 40 minutes making your hair look like it’s been styled in 4 seconds, and it’s something that LA noise band HEALTH do particularly well.That grindcore din, it sounds like they’ve left the tape rolling and improvised themselves to brutal greatness, until you listen again and realise that the snare alone took a day to get sounding like that. Similarly, Brighton’s Cold Pumas are also ones for the long game when it comes to creating the desired effect. ‘Persistent Malaise’ is their debut album, and it comes four years after the trio formed and fled Exeter’s underground. In that time, their peers (Male Bonding, Mazes, Sauna Youth et al) have all either signed deals, completed albums and tour cycles or – with the greatest regularity – split up. Cold Pumas have hankered down and refined their endless kraut jams that have always had them sounding unlike their friends in any case.With more vocally driven tracks (they’re hardly piped out like Adele, but drummer Patrick Fisher’s reverb gargle is at least clear enough now for you to make up your own lyrics alongside) the band have added just enough of a human touch without upsetting the mechanical applecart that forever surges forward. Occasionally Cold Pumas take a moment to look up from their two guitars and drum kit, too, allowing the relentless, duelling riffs to slowly come to a stand still. ‘Fog Cutter’ is their best track yet, sounding as taut yet ultimately joyous as Abe Vigoda once did, and even if you only have a fleeting interest in repetition, the methodically planned looseness of ‘Persistent Malaise’’s constant groove is thoroughly captivating.
Living With Ghosts
(Hot Flush) By Sam Walton. In stores Nov 19
(Future Classic) By Olly Parker. In stores Nov 19
(Fat Cat) By Reef Younis. In stores now
(Sonic Cathedral) By Melanie McGovern. In stores Nov 5
(Different/Pias) By Reef Younis. In stores Nov 12
Sigha (pronounced ‘Sire’, or James Shaw to those who matter) is a Berlin-based London producer who, on the strength of his debut record, is not afraid of auditory confrontation. Split broadly into three sections, ‘Living With Ghosts’ delivers thunderous, heads-down but also gorgeously subtle techno that mesmerises as much as it annihilates, offering washes of white noise and acid-flecked burbles to offset the considerable underpinning aggression. Neatly dividing these sections are shorter ambient tracks which offer not only a bleak, surprisingly musical foil to the sturm und drang surrounding them, but also pace the record expertly.‘Living With Ghosts’ is undeniably an exercise in both stamina and commitment, but it is also an absorbing, uncompromising and frequently astonishing chunk of forward-thinking electronica that both begs for and deserves attention.
Flume knows what gets a modern dance floor moving. Builds, hooks and drops follow one after another at a rapid pace without letting up here. A DJ could spin this alongside Passion Pit, Gold Panda and SBRTKT without pausing for breath. By the time ‘On Top’ repeats its catch for the thirteenth time in three and a half minutes, though, it’s starting to get claustrophobic. I could have included Jamie XX in the list above, as some of the ways he programmes are similar, but his understanding of depth, space and structure way outstrips that of Flume, his former touring partner. Though there is some real undoubted potential here – “hit” single ‘Sleepless’ is a great song – the album peters out with underwhelming attempts at dubstep electronica, hip-hop and some really clunky guest appearances. By the end you’re left feeling exhausted and utterly deflated.
There’s something wilfully defiant about lo-fi; the dishevelled vocals, the amp crackles and dead space, the hiss of a sonic two finger salute. It’s often done with an angry insolence, revelling in the noise and discordance of the budget racket it creates, but sometimes it can be oddly beautiful in its determined imperfections. It’s a sound Meghan Remy has resolutely battled with since her ‘Introducing’ debut - her abrasive, alternative take on pop typically moves slow, forcing you to sift through the distortion and swim through the fuzz and feedback of the electronic tipping points. But this abstraction gives ‘GEM’ its theatre as Meghan rattles her chains on ‘Rosemary’, makes ‘Down in the Boondocks’ the crazed play-date it always should be, and gives ‘Slim Baby’ its sleazy, glam-rock scuzz. Let this one seduce, and you’ll be (un) pleasantly surprised.
A recording artist for over a decade and an esteemed published poet, Christopher Porpora is greatly inspired by the minimal psychedelia of Spacemen 3, as his music nestles between soundscape and the heady folk of Nick Drake, with atmospherics and nostalgia charging its centre. Contemplative guitar works are interspersed with sonic enhancements (‘She Went Walking in the Rain’) while folk songs are transformed into ghostly, candlelight affairs (‘Once I Had a Sweetheart’) that feature alongside a cover of The Walkmen’s ‘Red Moon’. Playing out a sedate and synth string-laden shoegaze, Porpora takes his simplicity and gauzy layers of lo fi musical stylings to someplace between wake and sleep, his barely audible whispers resting amid memory and dream. This is no immediate long player, rather an elegant exhalation plucked straight from slumber.
A former Wiseguy, Black Ghost and the man behind the brilliant, but brief, DJ Touche,Theo Keating has taken on many guises throughout the last 18 years. But after five years of propping up DJ playlists with stellar remixes, ‘Cells’ finally blows out the Fake Blood Midas touch. A DJ with a dedication to a party set, and a producer with a proven knack for an anthem – in 2008 it was ‘Mars’; in 2010 it was ‘I Think I Like It’ – ‘Cells’ comes with all the requisite Keating calling cards. Opener ‘Yes/No’ wastes no time presenting the first anthem, ‘Airbrushed’ drives on with an upbeat techno bounce, and ‘Phantom Power’ brings the acid-tinged reverberations. A buoyant mix of big beat, electro and house, offbeat funk and garbled, grimy bass, ‘Cells’ gives Fake Blood the permanent home it deserves.
The Soft Moon Zeros (Captured Tracks) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Nov 5
Luis Vasquez has been bucking San Francisco’s pot-headed psych rock trend ever since he became The Soft Moon in 2009. His debut album was a suffocating, one-way autobahn of motorik drum machines, industrial narrow-mindedness and black kraut terror. 2010’s ‘Total Decay’ featured much of the same gothic bleakness and ‘Zeros’ is no less fit for an Orwellian factory floor where emotion is considered a complete waste of concentration.Tracks like ‘Want’ and ‘Die Life’, built around a hissing piston that keeps even the occasional human cry of horror strictly regimented, conjure up the same old phrases that forever greet Vasquez’s introverted project – chief amongst them post-apocalyptic. Album highlight ‘Insides’ is no real respite from the gloom, but it does come on like an early, whispering Cure demo, which is as hopeful as The Soft Moon is likely to get. Next time Vasquez will need to learn a new trick, but for one last time,The Soft Moon has beaten us in line.
Al bums 08/10
El Perro Del Mar
We Don’t Even Live Here
(Rockaction) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Nov 12
(Rhymesayers) By Chal Ravens. In stores Nov 5
(Memphis Industries) By David Zammitt. In stores Nov 12
Civil Disobedience For Losers (Sargent)
Following quickly on the heels of last year’s excellent ‘Have Some Faith in Magic’, Errors seem keen to keep that magic alive and have fashioned ‘New Relics’ in what feels like frightening speed. However, rather remarkably, the opulent textures and floating atmospheres ruminating throughout this record give off the feeling of being anything but hurried. It’s heavy on the electronics and the pop-smattered offerings of some of their previous numbers find themselves submerged under a hazy sea of dense, pulsating keys and smoky, ethereal vocals that when combined with big, singular, spacious drum pounds – such as on ‘Relics’ – border on Slowdive territory.And yet the most remarkable element here is the feeling of evolution, with growth and progression bursting from every song, which perhaps proves that Errors are a band developing faster than most.
For reasons known only to Illuminati, chart-bound hip hop has been bopping to a four-to-thefloor beat for the last few years, and on hearing corks popping to David Guetta in the velvet-roped penthouse above, certain inhabitants of hip hop’s underground basement have decided to take a break from stony-faced righteousness to throw their own goddamn party. Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. is as ticked off as ever on his fourth solo record, but he’s dumped the rumbling punk rock vitriol of 2009’s ‘Never Better’ in favour of a surprisingly on-the-button party record featuring rhymes twice as good as you’d expect from a record with Boyz Noize on it. Of particular note is the blistering second half, which knowingly skirts self-parody by piling on electrogasmic Ed Banger beats and joking snatches of J-Kwon’s ‘Tipsy’ until the plaster falls from the ceiling.
On her fourth proper full-length, Sweden’s Sarah Assbring - aka El Perro Del Mar - completes her gradual shift away from lo fi folk and baroque pop, going fully electronic in a heady cocktail of new wave, RnB and ’90s pop. There isn’t a guitar in sight and ‘Pale Fire’ is all the more coherent for it.Twin Shadow and Purity Ring have already shown that 2012 is the year of intelligent, dance-friendly pop and ‘Pale Fire’ ensures that the bar remains high. ‘Love In Vain’ provides a sparse, dub-infected canvas around which Assbring’s sinuous vocals can twist and turn, while ‘Love Confusion’ recalls Heaven or Las Vegas-era Elizabeth Fraser, and ‘Walk On By’ is a gorgeous slice of house-infused trip hop. Indeed, stick ‘Pale Fire’ on shuffle with ‘Club Classics Vol. One’, ‘Blue Lines’ & ‘The xx’ and it’ll hold its own. And that’s as big a compliment as they come.
By Melanie McGovern. In stores Nov 12
Heavy basslines and cymbals open Canadian power-duo Indian Handcrafts’ sophomore release and it is with this loud procession that it continues. ‘Civil Disobedience...’ is at once a loud and brash record, and yet all the while an incredibly tight effort, made all the more impressive by DB Allen’s apparent lack of pain threshold – being supposedly recorded whilst the guitarist’s hand was broken! While the vocals take a while to get the hang of, and are often too low in the mix to decipher, they do harbour something (certainly on opener ‘Bruce Lee’) uncannily similar Jack Black’s Tenacious D in delivery.With rich and thick melodies juxtaposed with a staple of bread and butter drums and guitar, ‘Civil Disobedience…’ is one easily accessible and playful musical kick, full of dense riffs, delay-soaked cries and tumultuous drum rolls.
(Crossbill) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Nov 5 Indie-folk-rock has been steadily pouring out of the U.S since a young man named Zimmerman picked up a guitar, and groups like The National, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver have become not just more groups in the genre’s long, but surprise, gargantuan nearly stars. The Loom tick most of the boxes to suggest they could do the same: militant drums tap and tease, horns blast with refrained precision, the acoustic guitars strum and the electric guitars occasionally blast loud (but never too loud, of course), all accompanied by that ever familiar beardy Americana drawl. ‘Teeth’ fluctuates between quiet, folky, sombre acoustic moments and the steadily controlled explosions that occupy the more indie-rock end of things. But the structures often lean towards the formulaic and unsurprising, rendering it something of a mid-tempo slog.
Chad Valley Young Hunger (Loose Lips) By Sam Walton. In stores Nov 19
If the logical answer to the current fashion for glossy ’80s pop – be it filtered though dusty record boxes like Toro Y Moi or reimagined for a post-Spotify world like Chairlift – is simply to make a dead-straight, no-blinking glossy 80s pop record, then Oxford’s Chad Valley must be the clearest thinker in pop today. Unfortunately,Valley’s aesthetic aim of an “80s record in every sense... meticulously produced, big sounding, with no room for hiss and noise”, as his press release insists, has left ‘Younger Hunger’ so smooth as to be frustratingly textureless. Autotune and flawless synths rule, resulting in a record so devoid of emotional heft that even guest vocalists Twin Shadow and Glasser struggle to jog it from its flatness. Occasionally, as on ‘Up & Down’ and the title track, a human touch surfaces briefly, but is quickly suppressed among layers of faceless wash, and while this might be the artistic intention, it makes for a rather disturbing, uncanny listening experience.
Melody’s Echo Chamber Melody’s Echo Chamber (Weird World) By Chal Ravens. In stores Nov 5 As a classically trained multi-instrumentalist and singer from Paris, it’s no huge surprise to hear shades of Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier all over Melody Prochet’s accomplished debut record of delicate psychedelia, intricate melodies and all manner of fuzzy and frazzled twists and turns. Opening track and recent single ‘I Follow You’ sets the tone for an album of clever pop that never sounds like it’s trying to be clever – close attention has been paid to knitting textures and tones together so you barely hear the joins, as softly distorted low-end sounds melt into buzzing guitars, twinkly synth echoes and Prochet’s own husky and inviting voice. Bringing in Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker as producer was a wise move, adding some well-placed dirt and grime and plenty of chunky bass and beats to Melody’s feminine sweetness. ‘Mount Hopeless’ introduces scuffed up breakbeat drums under a gorgeous duet of voices and winding guitar, while ‘Crystallized’ is a breezy motorik groove that owes a heavy debt to Broadcast, a band Prochet must be very familiar with. ‘Some Time Alone, Alone’ has another sneakily addictive melody buried under wall of sound drums and twangy guitar, but its gentle strangeness prevents it from sounding like sickly retromania.An accomplished debut and a deeply satisfying listen, if collages of bleached out hypno-melodicism are your jam.
The Defenestration of St Martin
A Wrenched Virile Lore
(Drop Anchor Music) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Nov 26
(Rockaction) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Nov 19
Everyone did back then, of course, but it should be noted that Gene sold over a million records from the mid nineties until 2004. And where Blur could attest their sales to Graham Coxon’s Malkmus-esque guitar lines as much as Damon Albarn’s acute take on invading American culture, Gene was really a collective term for Martin Rossiter and that Morrissey swoon of his. Rossiter’s voice sold those records, and it’ll sell this debut solo album, too, all fifty copies of it.‘The Defenestration of St Martin’’s problem is in its stubbornness in the face of its ability.As Rossister unapologetically sticks to a lone piano for accompaniment, it makes for one arduous, forlorn listen. It doesn’t help that the opening ‘Three Point Compass’ is ten minutes long in itself, or that the following 9 tracks strictly play to the same dejectedlounge-pianist speed.Vocally, Rossiter’s still got it, but as the ivories wallow and the dynamics further diminish, you’ve got to ask if maybe the rest of Gene have been overlooked and underappreciated.
Mogwai are endlessly creative and wilfully divergent, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve invited a disparate bunch of collaborators to cannibalise, disassemble and re-imagine their music for this, a collection of remixed tracks from their last album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will’. One of the most radical reworkings here is Klad Hest’s take on ‘Rano Pano’, which is transformed from the sleazy, menacing original to a high-bpm electronic opus. ‘How To Be A Werewolf ’ gets a spacey and hypnotic new digital face, while a curveball arrives in the form of the largely acoustic ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ by Chemikal Underground’s RM Hubbert. A remix album, by nature (and perhaps by intention), is always going to have a disjointed, incohesive feel, and so it does here; several remixes are boldly inventive and they’re certainly all musically interesting, but any really thrilling moments are distinctly lacking without simply returning to the original album.
Al bums 08/10
Prince Rama Top Ten Hits of The End of The World (Paw Tracks) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Nov 5 If the world ended right now, the top 10 tracks of earth’s sorry finale would sound embarrassingly similar. At least 8 of them would feature Rihanna. A lurid mulch of urban/euphoria bangers indebted to ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’. Perhaps that’s what inspired Brooklyn sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson to create ‘Top Ten Hits…’ – their third album and the first ever that sees a band invent 10 different pop acts that died during the apocalypse and channel their ghosts. It’s a pretty far out concept, I know, but not necessarily for Prince Rama, who grew up in a Hare Krishna commune and before now have written records inspired by utopian architecture. Safe to say, none of the tracks here feature Rihanna any more than they all sound the same. As with Prince Rama’s previous albums, the backbone of ‘Top Ten Hits of The End of The World’ is constructed of Sanskrit chants, cyclic structures and eastern thunder drums that make them a little more psychedelic than a Big Muff guitar pedal and a weed addiction. One of the band’s imagined acts sound like Telepathe (the ones that wrote ‘No Way Back’ before the planet went boom), another like a Toyah Wilcox fronted Italo Disco project (‘Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever’). Claire Grogan made it to Armageddon too, amongst a bunch of gentle Indian dub. Let’s end it now.
(Domino) By Olly Parker. In stores Nov 12
(Destination Moon) By Nathan Westley. In stores Nov 5
It’s been fifteen years since Clinic emerged from nowhere, fully formed and with a sound like no one else.Though this sound has become more mature and refined over the years, the basic formula has been stuck to pretty rigidly, so if you’re not a fan by now it’s quite possible you never will be. Despite being pushed as a return to the more homespun recordings of their early days, it’s clear here that the band are still more interested in pushing their sound in new directions. Atmospheric opener ‘Misty’, a melodic slow burner, hints at the more quiet and reflective tone of ‘Free Reign’, while older fans looking for their ‘Walking With Thee’ styled fix can grab ‘See Saw’’s keyboard pop-riff and harsh edges, and even earlier fans can take ‘Seamless Boogie Woogie, BBC2 10pm (rpt)’ – proof that the band hasn’t lost any of its distinctive songtitling ability. Utterly unique, always challenging and with another great album, Clinic remain one of our few genuinely brilliant outsider bands.
In today’s musical climate, few bands make it to a third album. Rolo Tomassi have always emitted a suborn staying power, though, never feeling like they belong, but never shrinking from the fight. A new line-up has not heralded a dramatic shift for ‘Astraea’; a violently playful mathcore record we’ve come to expect from this Leeds quintet. Here, the band’s prog tendencies are once again pushed to the forefront, ahead of a vicious high-speed collision of time-shifting interludes, deathly growls, melodic phases and cacophonous outbursts of abrasive noise that, all pummeled together, happily slam you in the face, casually run off and then come back around to land another sucker punch. Rolo Tomassi remain the kind of band who will be the smartest you’ll see at Download, channeling their rage into the unexpected, and ‘Astraea’ stands as another step forward in their ever-winding journey of angst grinding.We should be thankful that they are still battling on.
The Lovely Eggs
(Badabing) By Edgar Smith. In stores Oct 29
(Full Time Hobby) By Chal Ravens. In stores Nov 12
(Sonic Cathedral) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Nov 5
(Counter) By Nathan Westley. In stores Nov 12
(Egg) By Mandy Drake. In stores Nov 26
‘Dreamsludge’ is the kitsch term under which Nadja’s music frequently gets lumped – essentially drone metal with pussier elements from the worlds of shoegaze and ambient music thrown in. Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff peel back the asteroid-crushing distortion to reveal an almost Radiohead-like, sober texture (see the outro of ‘One Sense Alone’). So if Sun O))) are something of a terrifying prospect for you, you may want to try cutting your teeth on this kind of thing first. Amp rumble imported from countries with no daylight and sonic aesthetics with a smacked out Anders Breivik vibe might be du jour reference points in 2012, but with Mac McNeilly of Jesus Lizard on drums there’s a reminder of the past here too. He provides the muscle of the build up in the excellently titled ‘Falling Out of Your Head’, which channels Burzum’s 1996 album ‘Filsosofem’.
If you’re familiar with the pared down, buttoned-up Casio funk of Fuijiya & Miyagi, there’s not much you won’t already know about Omega Male, the side project of that band’s singer and guitarist David Best. It’s a funny thing when a musician decides to fly the coop, only to end up making music that sounds almost more like his old band than his old band. Present and correct on this record are softly chirruping synths, a restrained, asexual funkiness, and Best’s breathily deadpanned English vocals – all the trademark sounds of his musical mothership. But where F&M’s songs are laden with impenetrably cryptic lyrics, ‘Omega Male’ is more like a manifesto for the pitiful creature of its title. “Why try when you’re just gonna fail?” he mumbles placidly, adding, “I’m apologetic when I know that I’m not wrong.” Sonically pleasant yet faintly dispiriting.
In the hands of the right people, there really are few finer sounds in combination than those of an acoustic guitar, a violin, a piano and the human voice. Former Slowdive and Mojave 3 man Neil Halstead, here on his third solo outing, combines these simple elements to superb effect.There’s nothing startling about the record, and it’s an album which is stylistically fairly generic – typical singer-songwriter fare – but the sheer strength and beautiful simplicity of Halstead’s songwriting elevates his music from the ordinary to the remarkable. ‘Wittgenstein’s Arm’ is a storytelling folk song, which has tinges of Nebraska-era Springsteen in its low-toned vocal delivery, while ‘Spin The Bottle’ is suffused with mournful melodies, leading to an awesome bittersweet crescendo. Singer-songwriters of the world, take note: this is how it’s done.
To many, Pop Levi is a mysterious character teetering on the edges of the mainstream like some mystical figure whose main ambition is to breathe new life into the music of yesteryear. An expert in creating outsider psychedelic pop that is brimming with funk edged rhythms, ‘Medicine’ is a retrofuelled romp through musical history, where Levi once again attempts to capture the spirit of past glories and recast it in new and interesting shapes that fizzle and bubble with the wild abandonment of Prince, and the outlandish swagger of Bootsy Collins. From the stomping beats of ‘Motorcycle 666’, which hit like a funkasised non-knuckle dragging version of early Kasabian, to the hand clap-inducing garage rock overtones of ‘Rock Solid’ and the psychedelic swirls of ‘Coming Down’, if this doen’t raise a wry smile you’re beyond medical care.
NOTHING should be called The Lovely Eggs, not even eggs. Not even eggs with bobble hat cosies and indie pin badges. Such queasy quaintness is what’s expected here, and the opening indie fuzz of ‘Allergies’ seems to confirm the worst; expertly produced by Gruff Rhys, but, y’know, still a song about being a big wet flannel. But then something unexpected happens – The Lovely Eggs man up… and then down… and then up… and so on. ‘Wildlife’ spends half of its time shrieking and clanking like The Raincoats mixed with a Japanese punk band, unable to break the 60-second barrier (‘Don’t Patent That Shoe’), and the other half excruciatingly twee, fussing about food (‘Green Beans’). The strike rate is smack bang down the middle, and considering the expectations, we’ll gladly take 50%.The good half really is worth your time.
Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti & Peter Christopherson Desertshore / The Final Report (Industrial) By Chal Ravens. In stores Nov 26
At the time of Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson’s unexpected death in 2010, the former Throbbing Gristle member had been arranging this reworking of Nico’s ‘Desertshore’, a record so profoundly desolate it’s impossible to believe it arrived in the same year as The Partridge Family. Determined to complete the album in tribute to their departed bandmate,TG’s Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti called in Marc Almond, Blixa Bargeld, Antony Hegarty, ex-porn star Sasha Grey and filmmaker Gaspar Noé to contribute voices in three languages to their own abrasive, mesmerising interpretations of Nico’s monochrome classic, proudly showcasing both her lyrical gift and their own tact in handling the source material.Then comes another eulogy, this time from the remaining TG members to their missing friend, constructed from their final sessions together.‘The Final Report’ is a Hadean landscape of lava and molten metal, obstinate and uncompromising, grainy and dark – with a still-beating heart.
iamamiwhoami Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 10.10.2012 By Sonny McCartney Photography by Sonny McCartney
From the tongue twister name to the modern embrace of YouTube, iamamiwhoami is a dark horse who has been drip-feeding us since her first video was uploaded back in 2008.With song titles like ‘188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.220.127.116.1115 5’ and ‘u-2’, she certainly had our attention. Early speculations had it that this was all fake and it was actually Christina Aguilera or Lady GaGa behind these mystical and un-naturally beautiful viral videos. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but rather singer/songwriter Jonna Lee, who was just your typical girl-next-door solo artist until she vanished into thin air and was reborn into a semi-naked forest elf with long eyelashes. Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that, but this has to have been one of the most dramatic changes an artist has ever undertaken in the name of music and performance art. Once every blue moon a new bizarre (like, really weird) video would pop up on a handful of music blogs to give us our fix of iamamiwhoami, but beyond this, she was strictly
a 2D crush, until the release of debut album ‘Kin’ brought with it a handful (literally five) of live shows true to the project’s multimedia obsession. After a 40min film screening of ‘Kin’ (the album is also a film) in the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the doors open to the sold out audience.There’s a rush and a distinct feeling of no going back, like a Fever Ray sermon. In front of us is a 10ft black box that does the job of casting an immediate sense of wonder and curiosity before, on the dot of 8.30pm, the lights slowly dim to the appearance of Unplugged70 – a fellow YouTube enthusiast who has covered numerous iamamiwhoami tracks. It seems only fair that Jonna Lee should contact him and ask him to open for her London debut. Halfway through his opening cover, people that look like tennis players, dressed in white polo shirts, shorts, caps and shoes, join the stage and take their places as they backing band. They’re followed by the semi-naked forest elf,
currently fully dressed, and for the next 75 minutes our eyes and ears are overwhelmed by a set that includes the whole of ‘Kin’ and some cult hits from the project’s early ‘Bounty’ series that built the foundations for the band’s underground fame. Costume changes are rampant, from white to black to the infamous hair suit costume (it is how it sounds), which covers the front row in loose strands of, well, hair.The black box on stage transforms into a white translucent cube, with a silhouetted dancer inside copying Jonna’s erratic moves, as the singer herself slowly walks through the audience, singing as she goes. To say this is a well orchestrated show is something of a massive understatement. It’s as avant-garde as Bjork, as precise as a Drill Sergeant and yet somehow loose beneath all that technology. It feels like a virtual Woodstock or what it was like to see The Rolling Stones for the first time, before floor seats would cost you £400.
Dirty projectors Roundhouse, Camden, London 16.10.2012 By Stuart Stubbs Photography by Sonny McCartney
David Longstreth is sometimes uncompromising to his detriment, like when Dirty Projectors, in rather contrary fashion, played the whole of ‘The Getty Address’ at The Barbican in 2010 – a tough album even for the comfort of your own home.Tonight, though, no pretence gets in the way of Longstreth’s and his band’s undeniable genius.With a set made up purely of material from ‘Bitte Orca’ and this year’s ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ (plus one inspired choral flurry from Bjork collaboration ‘Mount Wittenberg Orca’), this is Dirty Projectors as accessible as they’re going to get, melty and loose as the opening ‘Swing Lo Megallan’ and the closing ‘Impregnable Question’ bookend what feels like spying on a rehearsal.That’s not to say that Dirty Projects are tonight sloppy in any way, but they notably thrive on being tightly off-balance, like when ‘About To Die’ feels like it’s had two false drum starts, or when the batteries of ‘Maybe That Was It’ beg for a recharge as it oddly slopes on like ‘The White Album’ at half speed. Even the constant flutter of guitars are precarious for a band so well rehearsed. It’s part of the act – that of a great forgotten jam band from 1972.
Errors Heaven, London 18.10.2012 By Austin Laike Photography by Roy J Baron
Heaven’s bum-rupturing PA could make a trump down a whistle sound like a choir of bassy angels, but it has to be said that Glaswegian trio Errors are specifically made for this arch-roofed nightclub. Tonight the drums snap so tightly they sound processed and the band’s love for devilishly detonating a bowel-bubbling synth note certainly works best at such deafening volumes as this. Errors comfortingly look like third year students, gawky-to-normal as they scientifically display all they’ve learned on their 8-year course in electronic soundscapes. It’s precisely what dance music has always been about – making stars of the decidedly unglamorous – and it doesn’t take a connoisseur to see that Errors have effortlessly mined every corner of the quarry.They slip from Pretty In Pink dreamscapes (“for all the romantic people”) into an ambient psych groove that nabs the 3-note bass riff forever pedalled by Wooden Shjips, into Depeche Mode at their most balearic, into what might or might not be the lion’s share of Simple Minds’ ‘Alive And Kicking’. And it’s here, when reimagining the ’80s without hankering after it that Errors are at their best.
Live 01 ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead Photographer: Anni Timms
02 Hatcham Social Photographer: Roy J Baron
The Lantern Theatre, Leeds 06.10.2012 By Kate Parkin
The Red House, Sheffield 17.10.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray
Tonight is a rare social outing for Oxo Foxo, a shy creature, most often found hidden in the confines of the studio and now dubbed Sheffield’s Best Kept Secret. Crouched low over row upon row of pedals and clad in a black animal hood, Roo O’Hare (for she is Oxo Foxo) cuts a lonely figure against the warm glow of this old fashioned theatre. Stripped of its electronic backing, her precision a capella stands in stark contrast to production heavy contemporaries. The hollow echoes of ‘Blindfolded’ swell before turning slowly in on themselves. Clinging steadfastly to the shadows, she sounds at times quiet enough to disappear completely into the scenery, while with its buzzing naivety and shuffling handclaps ‘Starfish’ softly captures our hearts, like whispering fairytales under torch-lit bed sheets.Throwing a few curveballs, like an off-kilter Peter Frampton cover, O’Hare hints at a wry winking sense of humour, too, although conversation is limited to a hushed whisper and the set is hurriedly short, the singer admitting afterwards to holding something back for her first EP. This brief glimpse shows these are songs to hum along to down dark, back streets, with the rest left to the imagination, and given her hidden talent for lush orchestration, Oxo Foxo could be headed for Bat For Lashes territory, or even beyond.
As Carlton Melton take to the stage, they start amidst a haze of woozy ambience. It’s a gentle and enticing entry coated with delicate spirals of melody that rumble from the bass and oscillating guitar lines that float forth from the stage. However, this is not so much ‘the calm before the storm’, as ‘the being completely fucking unaware that a hurricane is just to about to burst through your door unannounced and rip your house to shreds’. As the beer guzzling guitarist moves from his position sitting down on the edge of his amp – where he has quietly sat playing minimal, ethereal guitars lines with gentle strokes of his fingers – to behind the drum kit, the metamorphosis occurs.While the emphasis on texture, melody and dense layering never dies amongst the three piece, it is all now accompanied by a furious, ear-bleeding onslaught of noise; the drums pound and smash mercilessly to the point that the snare literally collapses, torn through like paper, rendering it a crumpled mess.The bursting sound waves are unrelenting, intensely powerful and quite simply brilliant. As they wrap up, it looks like a second snare is for the chop, but it survives, unlike many eardrums present tonight.
... And you will know us by the trail of dead The Scala, Kings Cross, London 10.10.2012 By Reef Younis ▼
Trail of Dead have been hurtling and caterwauling at a wild velocity for the best part of eight albums and 15 years, but their appetite for destruction has been no less diminished.Tonight, armed with a barracking back catalogue of sinew-straining vocals, power percussion and gargantuan dynamics, they lay waste to the Scala. It’s a 100 mile an hour set, barely stopping for breath, only briefly pausing to tune instruments that have somehow survived the pounding. It might explain the regularity of the guitar swaps, but with Conrad Keely in a gleefully disruptive mood, Jason Reece applying the same jack hammer force to both strings and skins, Jamie Miller bringing the thunder and Autry Fulbright II working the bass like a post-rock Pharrell, demolition is the order of the evening. ‘Ode to Isis’ is the perfect opener, booming and shaking the Scala’s diminutive walls, ‘Up to Infinity’ sets the blazing marker for upcoming album ‘Lost Songs’, and regular forays back to their ‘Madonna’ and ‘Source Tags and Code’ era material maintain the blitz. In the expected encore, ‘Another Morning Stoner’ briefly slows the pace before ‘Will You Smile Again for Me?’ crashes into climactic life, finishing on trademark Trail of Dead volume and bombast, Conrad centre stage, soaking up the aftermath with his giddy Grinch grin.
LIARS Sound Control, Manchester 21.10.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼
The smell that greets you upon walking into Sound Control tonight is a foul concoction of what appears to be vomit, cleaning products and humid body odour wrapped in layers of dank, musty clothing. It’s an antithetical atmosphere, especially one for a group who have created one of the year’s most atmospheric records. That said, shortly into their set the surroundings become unnoticeable as the band burst into electronic fury with the charging and rampant ‘Brats’, which sends a Sunday evening crowd into bouncing, dancing loons. ‘Let’s not Wrestle Mt Heart Attack’ is an unrelenting cavalcade of manic, bruising drums and eerie, baritone chants that screeches from the stage with never ending delight, and as Liars launch into ‘Scarecrows on a Killer Slant’ they ignite on stage, the charge, volume and degree of precision delivered with powerhouse fury. Expelling maximum control over their set, the trio dip and weave between periods, tempos and tones seamlessly.Their ability to flip between minimal, haunting and ambient (‘The Other Side of Mt Heart Attack’) to guitar-spewing onslaught (‘Plaster Casts of Everything’) is a perpetual delight to witness and a stark reminder of Liars’ range. Beating the stench, tonight proves once again that very few can do what Liars do.
Black Dice / DAN FRIEL Birthdays, Dalston, London 04.10.2012 By Edgar Smith ▼
Dan Friel, the ex-Parts & Labor machine fiddler, sets a buzzing tone tonight with his soaring instrumentals and their ambience of a tragic-comic ecstasy death, in which naïve saccharine melodies sit atop pulsating, satisfyingly analogue sounding bass and drum machines.Think Manuel Göttsching on a school shooting spree. Anthemic debut single ‘Valedictorian’ gets a particularly warm reception and it’s odd watching a man in his thirties madly nod along to such indulgence; the unassuming thirty-something and his table of frying circuit boards the sole figure in front of Black Dice’s obscene amp stacks.The headliners, unlike the capacious support, sound dull and cramped. In keeping with disappointing last LP ‘Mr. Impossible’, Black Dice pump a kind of funky techno – a genre, which if it does exist, shouldn’t. They borrow semi-knowingly from mainstream dance music and crank it up to the ear-fuck volume of their previous – and much more effective – acid punk shtick.The juxtaposition is strange.You could hear a dubbed out deconstruction of electronic pop but you’d have to be their best friend and loaded.We hear a halfway fudge of LCD Soundsystem and Flat Eric that loses out in cool terms even to Birthday’s hipsterish diner-cumtex mex menu upstairs.
O2 Arena, Greenwich, London 09.10.2012 By Chal Ravens
The Ritz, Manchester 06.10.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray
The Lexington, Islington, London 0.10.2012 By Stuart Stubbs
Dingwalls, Camden, London 16.10.2012 By Austin Laike
Haunt, Brighton 12.10.2012 By Nathan Westley
One miserable day in the late 1990s, five successful young men called Radiohead decided to get off the bus, in a manner of speaking. From now on, they said, this stadium-filling rock band wouldn’t be playing stadiums.They wouldn’t be playing rock, either. Tonight’s show neatly demonstrates the uneasy ongoing pact between band, fans and industry, as Radiohead try to pull off bashful underdog-ism and bleeding edge electronica while performing in a tented dome so vast it requires its own Tube station. The audience remains surprisingly static as the band walk on stage and kick off with a bouncy ‘Lotus Flower’ and a string of material from last year’s beat-driven ‘The King Of Limbs’. A man in front hyperventilates his way through ‘Videotape’, gulping down snotty tears as the looped piano dissolves into shuffling beats, but otherwise the first half fails to incite the levels of deranged devotion usually seen in a half-mile radius of Thom Yorke. Newer songs are embellished with unexpected techno percussion and flavours of underground dance (probably inspired by this year’s remix album), but really they’re hobbling forward with a ball and chain, forced to play and replay ‘Planet Telex’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ to our froth-mouthed joy.Whatever, the show is faultless, and Radiohead remain essentially the best stadium-filling band in existence.
John Cale quite literally shuffles onto the stage this evening and while his 70 years seem to have taken their toll on him physically, the second he opens his mouth his voice is another matter altogether. Tonight’s performance is a vast departure from the Welshman’s recent ‘Paris 1919’ shows, void of strings and lush arrangements, and gone are the songs from said album. Guitar, bass, drums and keys are all that accompany Cale tonight as he pushes forward with his new material, relying heavily on his latest EP and LP.There are odd snippets of the past, such as a jittery and firey ‘Guts’ and a guitar shredding ‘Helen of Troy’, while more recent classics such as ‘Things’ get a most welcome outing. Cale’s voice still soars high, smooth and languid yet lively and still full of gusto as he plays both piano and guitar with such ease and fluidity it’s simply a joy to watch.The occasional misfire of songs, such as ‘Hey-Ray’, throw a few bumps in the road but Cale’s refusal to give us an easy ride almost becomes an engrained part of his performance this evening. Like much of his new work, it’s occasionally difficult and testing, but to see a man in his 70s pushing forward with such conviction and blatant disregard for others is a wonderful spectacle.
London’s MT start off a lot weirder than they are, and that’s not to say that they start in a completely bat shit fashion, just that singer MT (yeah, this is a solo-project-come-band kinda deal) harmonising with himself down two mics, one of which is wired into a keyboard he cradles and presses for a rudimentary auto-tune effect, is not in keeping with what follows. “Well, that’s the serious bit over,” he declares, having slowly crooned for the last four minutes while his band watch the clock through the many pauses between pitch-shifted cries. It’s charmingly lax in that he corpses while searching for the next key before continuing to sing each line of his robo lullaby.The next song is about a sexy teacher. MT – who looks like he’s in Trash Talk but performs like Brandon Flowers – leaps off the stage for a spot of faux serenading: much more this band’s thing.They briefly flirt with the obnoxious chatter pop of Matt & Kim, via the eccentric disco of second album Mystery Jets, before settling into being a less polished ‘Hot Fuss’ era Killers, which is no more evident than on ‘Travelling’. The cute indie girl on keys; the hairy topless drummer; the moustachioed, mute bassist; and, of course, the compelling, handsome host at the front. It’s at times like these you wish you were an A&R for Sony.
Patience is a virtue that most bands increasingly lack. And who can blame them? If you’re not an overnight sensation, you’re not considered a sensation ever. London’s Hatcham Social appear to still be taking the Pulp route to greatness – y’know, the route where you’re underappreciated for the first ten years or more.That tonight they’re opening is a little rude; that they’ve agreed to it is more than a little admirable. Singer Toby Kidd – hunched in a Mark E Smith overcoat and blackened under his Mark E Smith eyes – is physically starting to show the signs of seven years of relative obscurity, yet Hatcham Social aren’t about to appear bitter or antsy. David Claxton bites his lip and scowls as he wrings the neck of his guitar throughout, although that might be aimed at the 38 years olds snogging in the front row – love’s old dream. Otherwise, the band whip through a set of their lyrical, murder-at-the-prom pop, not like a group giddily here for the first time, but neither like one that feels as if we owe them. It’s telling that they’re still happy to play so much from a debut album that came out in 2009, ultimately to a lot of people who wouldn’t know any different. And as for the closing, all-new ‘Lion With A Lazer Gun’ (five minutes long, wailing to a guest violinist and curly of tongue like an Alex Turner track), it’s proof that Hatcham Social’s patience isn’t unfounded.They’re working on their ‘Common People’.
Despite possessing a name that could conjure up clichéd images of forty-something men with overhanging beer bellies caught up in a midlife crisis, in the flesh, Dad Rocks! proves to be quite a different beast.This woolembracing group are not intent on being the leaders of any punk renaissance, nor are they concerned with reigniting any idealisms of youth – Dad Rocks! is a more folkish affair rather than an outlet for pent up frustration.Tonight in the confines of The Haunt, this drummerless Icelandic quartet, who are led by the bearded Snaevar Njáll Albertson, embark on a musical tour that swerves away from MOR blandness and drives towards a healthier and more luscious destination that is awash with intricately constructed melodies. Song after song of violin and brass-adorned, eccentric folk-pop sails by, coated with lyrical content that deals with such modern day likes of working in Burger King, while harbouring larger and more artistic ambitions. Tonight is a relaxed and laidback performance that doesn’t scream in your face but rather slowly lures you in with its serene understated beauty. Dad Rocks! possess the power to entice a shy smile for anyone with a passing interest in nu folk.
C I NE M A REVIEW
By IAN ROEBUCK
sightseers Director: Ben Wheatley Producer: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Sara Stewart,Tony Way
Lynne Ramsay on the set of We Need To Talk About Kevin
Cinema Preview After We Need To Talk About Kevin, what’s next for Lynne Ramsay? Ever since Ratcatcher scurried into view in 1999, with stark cinematography to match stark subject matter, we’ve been watching Lynne Ramsay closely, her talented voice both refreshing and invigorating. Ramsay’s follow up, Morvern Callar, spoke a strident language and had a depth and soul rare in British film that set her apart. Samantha Morton’s supermarket clerk knocked us for six, the ever reliable actress putting in a performance of a lifetime, and along with Ramsay’s dream-like visuals and enigmatic narrative the film became a cult success. Fast forward nine years to 2011 and we had Ramsay’s third and perhaps best feature yet, We Need to Talk About Kevin. From the film’s heart-stopping opening sequence to its shocking denouement, the Director’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s muchdiscussed novel delivered on all of Ramsay’s promises. Whip-smart casting may have helped, of course,Tilda Swinton utterly convincing as a tortured soul and Ezra Miller stunning as the torturer. Ramsay got the most from Miller, particularly – a talent waiting for the right vehicle to truly explode on screen and somewhat underused since. It was a brilliant cast alright, but it was the auteur’s touch that lingered long after viewing, like her use of the colour red, from the splat of a tomato to blood on the walls. Ramsay paints a vivid memory as her skill with tension is realised in scandalous style as Kevin finally becomes the monster his mother feared. So what now? Thankfully another nine year wait is not on the cards as pre-production is already well
under way for Jane Got a Gun, a western of all things, far removed from the very British fare she’s provided so far and a movie due to begin shooting in the New Year. Once again Ramsay already looks to have a killer cast, made up of Natalie Portman (as Jane) looking to reach the heights of Black Swan once more, and Michael Fassbender who simply can’t put a foot wrong these days. Unsurprisingly, the plot holds all the human elements that make Ramsay’s films tick – Jane asking her ex-lover to help save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him. Rumour has it Joel Kinnaman is to step in as the husband, the Swedish born actor who impressed in the American remake of The Killing and who will next year play Alex Murphy, or Robocop as you and I know him. As if a Western wasn’t enough of a departure, Ramsay has also signed up for a sci-fi Moby Dick with the rather tickling title of Mobius; an ambitious project that she is currently co-writing with her husband Rory Kinnear (together they adapted We Need to Talk About Kevin for the screen). Apparently it is a “psychological action thriller set in deep space, in which a captain consumed by revenge takes his crew on a death mission fuelled by his own ego and will to control an enigmatic alien”. Sounds a bit like Star Trek 2:The Wrath of Khan, doesn’t it. I’m sure Ramsay has the skill to pull it off, though, her majestic paintbrush seemingly able to translate to any genre, whale sized or not.
If you’ve ever sampled the entirely British delights of Blue John Cavern or the agreeable Pencil Museum in Keswick then it is unlikely that “feature film destination” was the first thought that crossed your mind. For years though these provincial gems of holiday making at home have served to inspire Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, the stars of Sightseers and brains behind its black, wonderfully witty screenplay. Oram and Lowe play Chris and Tina, newly courting on a caravan journey across the country taking in the aforementioned sights amongst others.Tina – a cotton ball of restraint still living with her mum – and Chris – a wearisome ginger bearded soul with bones to pick and a caravanning world to set to rights – embark on a trip that begins in innocent fashion (should they bring the potpourri?), but soon spirals into twisted territory. It turns out that behind Chris’ faintly fusty exterior there’s a serial killer waiting to get out; dropped litter or a better mode of transport enough motive for blood on the anorak. Their psychotic meanderings conjure up an oddly poetic vision of Britain, made up of bludgeoned brains and wafts of witchcraft, with all the darkness underpinned with a ripping, smart humour.The unflinchingly brave script is a joy to behold and behind the belly laughs is a real warmth and subtlety.Yes, they talk dirty to each other about using turd as lipstick, but for every gutter joke there is a personal touch too – the way Lowe demands ‘mint me’ one morning is especially touching. A man in high demand after impressing with Kill List, Ben Wheatley was always one to watch and his direction on Sightseers is a masterful display of flair. Here is an artist not afraid by a demanding and surreal script; a director inspired and set free by beautiful scenery.Wheatley handles the killings with special aplomb, one particularly gruesome murder accompanied by Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ is an elegiac moment that captures the films deeply original tone.
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party wolf competition Just that
WIN a DVD copy of searching for sugar man The story of Sixto Rodriguez is one that all music fans should hear; up there with Dylan turning Judas and Ziggy Stardust’s last stand. So it’s a good job that Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul has captured this tale of obscurity, mythology and eventual recognition in his debut feature, Searching For Sugar Man. Having gained a limited theatre release earlier this year, Bendjelloul’s documentary receives the DVD/Blueray treatment this month, hitting stores on November 19th and spreading the word of a Detroit folk singer who, in 1970, was poised to snatch the ‘fine melody’ crown from Love and Dylan. As you’ve probably guessed, Rodriguez did
no such thing. His two albums spectacularly flopped, to which he allegedly responded by committing suicide by setting himself on fire live on stage. Unbeknown to the singer – who traded in folk songs that were as political as they were masterfully melodic – Rodriquez’s debut album had made him bigger than Elvis in South Africa as he became the soundtrack to the country’s anit-apartheid movement. It’s the stuff of movies, right? Well, yes, and we’ve got 3 copies of Searching For Sugar Man to give away. Simply email us the name of Rodriquez’s debut album to info@loudandquiet. com by November 20th to be in the hat.
And last month’s Alt-J single competition answer: Alt-J used to go by the name FILMS, not Straigh To DVD.Thomas Samuelle was our winner.
MY TIME Diary of a somebody
“Choo choo!” Susan mimed blowing the train’s horn as we rolled out of the station. I made a joke that I had thought it was the platform that had started to move and not us, partly because I did for a second, and partly because I was very nervous. I’d never done anything like this before. “They never check in rush hour,” Susan assured me once again, “and this way we’ve saved in excess of £40.” I’d never felt more alive as I dreamed what I’d spend the extra lolly on. Cheese mainly. Lashings of cheese. But just as I was licking my lips to the thought of a Stinking Bishop, plod turns up and things go wrong. I’d heard about what people try as excuses in the papers, and went for: “Oh, sorry, is this not the right ticket, boss?” Susan already had Mitchell on the phone. A body on the track.
“There’s no need to make him current. No need at all!” Gary Barlow on last week’s X Factor. Steve Brookstein must be spinning in his grave. He is dead, right?
‘Ere, Pat! Bit of a favour please love. Nothing big, but I think I’ve popped out, as it were. Just jog on over and rea...
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
Photo casebook “The inappropriate world of Ian Beale”