Special Interest – Loud And Quiet 156

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Weyes Blood, Italia 90, Heartworms, Billy Nomates, Rainy Miller, 404 Guild, Richard Dawson, Naima Bock, Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals, Jessica Winter, Sarathy Korwar, Albums of the Year

issue 156



it down

Contents Contact info@loudandquiet.com advertise@loudandquiet.com Loud And Quiet Ltd 445 Hackney Road London E2 9DY Founding Editor: Stuart Stubbs Deputy Editor: Luke Cartledge Art Direction: Ed Seymour / B.A.M. Digital Director: Greg Cochrane Contributing writers Alex Francis, Alexander Smail, Andrew Anderson, Ben Lynch, Colin Groundwater, Dafydd Jenkins, Daniel Dylan Wray, Dominic Haley, Fergal Kinney, Gemma Samways, Guia Cortassa, Hamza Riaz, Hayden Merrick, Ian Roebuck, Jack Doherty, Jasleen Dhindsa, Jemima Skala, Jenessa Williams, Jessica Wrigglesworth, Jo Higgs, Joe Goggins, Jumi Akinfenwa, Katie Beswick, Katie Cutforth, Liam Konemann, Max Pilley, Michelle Kambasha, Megan Wallace, Mike Vinti, Nadia Younes, Nick Tzara, Ollie Rankine, Oskar Jeff, Patrick Clarke, Robert Davidson, Reef Younis, Sam Walton, Shrey Kathuria, Skye Butchard, Susan Darlington, Tara Joshi, Tom Critten, Tristan Gatward, Tyler Damara Kelly, Woody Delaney, Zara Hedderman, Zhenzhen Yu

Issue 156 There are so many things that make Special Interest one of the most exciting bands on the planet at the moment, but the characteristic of theirs that I keep coming back to is their clarity of vision. They know exactly who they are, what they stand for, what is truly radical in this world and what will prove to be insubstantial corporate reputationlaundering as soon as you scratch the surface; presented through the medium of their hard, direct fusion of glam, punk and techno, those radical convictions feel as thrilling as they are inclusive. After a couple of days in LA with them, I too saw everything a little more clearly. Luke Cartledge

Contributing photographers Andrew Mangum, Annie Forrest, Cielito Vivas, Colin Medley, David Cortes, Dan Kendall, Dustin Condren, Eleonora C. Collini, Emily Malan, Gabriel Green, Gem Harris, Jake Kenny, Jenna Foxton, Jody Evans, Jonangelo Molinari, Kyle Johnson, Khali Ackford, Levi Mandel, Mathew Scott, Matilda Hill-Jenkins, Michael Lawson, Oliver Halstead, Owen Richards, Phil Sharp, Sophie Barloc, Timothy Cochrane, Tom Porter With special thanks to Aoife Kitt, Dan Carson, Dan McCormick, Harriet Brampton, James Crosley, Jamie Woolgar, Jodie Banaszkiewicz, Ken Li, Louisa Worskett, Matthew Maxey, Melanie Sheehan, Nathan Beazer, Rob Charlton The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2022 Loud And Quiet Ltd.

ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Gemini Print Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte

404 Guild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Technology + Teamwork . . . . . . . . . . 14 Sarathy Korwar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Rainy Miller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Heartworms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Jessica Winter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Italia 90 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Billy Nomates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Special Interest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Weyes Blood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Albums of the Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Customer Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 2022 in Tracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 03

The Beginning: Previously

Since the last edition of Loud And Quiet

Elsewhere After an extremely difficult period for independent venues, with the pandemic, inflation and energy price rises taking a heavy toll, the team behind Margate DIY space Elsewhere announced they were set to close down in early October. The venue had originally opened in 2018 in the wake of a successful crowdfunder set up by local promoter and Art’s Cool founder Sammy Clarke, going on to play host to the likes of Yard Act, Wet Leg and more. Now, as the bills piled up and the future looked very bleak indeed, it seemed like Elsewhere needed the support of its community once again.


Clarke went public with the venue’s difficulties and launched a new crowdfunder, inviting locals to come down the venue on mass for a group photo to physically show how many people cared about the space. Immediately, the campaign went viral: over 400 people turned up for that photo and soon legendary Margate resident, artist Tracey Emin, was in touch to donate one of her prints to the venue’s art auction, which sold for £9500. Acts like Hot Chip also chipped in, signing records and spreading the word, and the £25,000 target to stabilise the venue’s future, in the medium term at least, was reached.

photography by joshua atkins

The Beginning: Previously

Balls In early November, London production duo Mount Kimbie released a new album, MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning via Warp. To launch the record, they collaborated with artist Tom Shannon to create Four World Set, an installation of four giant silver baubles in Central London’s St Giles Square. Yet their plans for this striking piece of public art were messed up by Storm Claudio, with extremely high winds taking the installation apart and sending storey-high shiny balls rolling down Tottenham Court Road. It’s definitely a shame for Art, and definitely not hilarious.

Grime artists pushing boundaries Grime heavyweights Stormzy and AJ Tracey both launched new social initiatives in the past few weeks, aiming to give something back to the communities and cultures in which they grew up. Stormzy’s scheme is Merky FC, a programme which seeks to improve diversity in the football industry. “On the pitch, we do our thing. But off the pitch, it’s like we don’t exist,” he says, outlining Merky FC’s aim to address industrial imbalances which mean that “we barely see any black team managers, coaches, sports presenters, assistants, ops managers, sales managers, accountants, marketing managers or physiotherapists.” Tracey, meanwhile, has launched a new fund for students from underrepresented backgrounds at St Peter’s College, Oxford, to both improve access opportunities for those students and support them throughout their studies to help them fulfil their academic potential. merkyfc.com / spc.ox.ac.uk

Pharoah Sanders In September, Pharoah Sanders passed away at the age of 81. The pioneering saxophonist and icon of free, spiritual and experimental jazz died at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by friends and family, ending a life of exceptional contributions to contemporary music. A protégé of John Coltrane, he also collaborated with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and many others, creating a body of work rivalled by few artists of his or any other generation.

years, LiS was a must-read for music fans in the capital as the city’s premier gig listings resource and an important platform for breaking new music and journalism. As DIY publishers ourselves, we know how hard it is out there – the underground music and publishing industry is as unstable as it’s ever been. Happily though, in their farewell statement LiS did say that “the future looks bright, watch for what comes next”, so fingers crossed it won’t be long before we hear from the team behind the magazine again in a new form.

El Clasico The tragic/embarrassing money pit formerly known as FC Barcelona pulled another humiliating financial lever in October as it continued to cosy up to grassroots football fan Daniel Ek. Having bet Camp Nou on a lucrative sponsorship deal with Ek’s streaming giant Spotify earlier this year, the club were compelled to display Drake’s extremely naff owl logo on their shirt in their El Clasico match against arch-rivals Real Madrid to mark the Canadian weirdo’s achievement of 50 billion streams, making it look quite a bit like Sergio Busquets was playing for Sheffield Wednesday. We should probably be grateful that having saved the music industry, Spotify is now on hand to sort out football too.

Aphex Twin’s Samplebrain In September Aphex Twin launched a new free app for “mashing samples” called Samplebrain, in collaboration with engineer Dave Griffiths, who has said that the app is designed to function “like a giant brain that you could feed samples to.” Aphex expanded: “This idea came about a long time ago, not sure exactly when, 2002 ish, but when mp3s started to become a thing. [I] started thinking, ‘Hmm all this music sitting there, maybe it can be used for something else other than just playing or DJing.’ What if you could reconstruct source audio from a selection of other audio on your computer? What if you could build a 303 riff from only bubbling mud sounds? What if you could sing a silly tune and rebuild it from classical music files? You can do this with Samplebrain.” gitlab.com/then-try-this/samplebrain

The Wombles Judee Sill documentary A new documentary about the maverick outsider folk songwriter Judee Sill has been announced. Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill tells the story of the artist from her troubled adolescence, marked by addiction and Sill’s participation in a spate of armed robberies, through her brief, brilliant music career up to her tragic death of a drug overdose at just 35. The film includes insights from contemporary artists who have been inspired by her work, including Weyes Blood and Adrianne Lenker, and premiered at this month’s Doc NYC festival. docnyc.net

London In Stereo We were very sorry to see our fellow independent music magazine London In Stereo end its operations in October. For eight

illustration by kate prior

Resourceful south-west London group The Wombles have gone to considerable lengths to ensure their pioneering legacy remains untainted for future generations. Songwriter Mike Batt (played by Orinoco) has destroyed all the original multi-track master tapes from their seminal four-album run in the 1970s, so that people “can’t fuck with them after I’m gone,” apparently reacting to the recent remixing of a series of Beatles albums by producer George Martin’s son, Giles. “The Wombles aren’t The Beatles,” Orinoco revealed to NME, as he wrapped the tapes around a leaking car battery and dropkicked the lot into the Thames.


The Beginning: You’re the Worst

Daft Punk were amazing before we found out that they weren’t actually robots I’d like to begin with an apology. Over the last year I’ve subjected you, esteemed reader, to a series of articles on the worst albums ever made. Together, we discovered that heroes like Madonna and Bowie are fallible. That rappers should never rock, and that rockers should never rap. And that Metallica just suck. I took us on this journey in the hope of unearthing some albums that were wrongly ridiculed. That we might learn something about the flaws of critical consensus. Indeed, I opened the series by asking, “Are these scorned musical moments really as bad as everyone says, or will we find some pearls amongst the rotting shellfish slime?” But reader, I was wrong. Because as wars rage, forests burn, monarchs die and Ed Sheeran continues to live, the last thing we need is more negativity. We don’t need trusted and beloved publications like Loud And Quiet bringing us bad news. Why should we root among the “rotting shellfish slime” when we’re already rifling among the wreckage of our broken system? We shouldn’t… and we won’t. And so no more bad news. No more searching for the worst. Let us instead look for the best. Onwards! Having said all that, my honourable editor informs me that I have a contract, and that I can’t just stop because it feels “wrong”. “The search must continue,” he says, banging his fist on the table. A good man – a decent man – and we must trust his judgement. And so, let us shove our snouts into the trough of musical history one final time. Perhaps we’ll find a ripe treasure rather than a rotten turnip. Or finally discover that holiest of grails: the worst album ever made. ... “This feels like not just a failure, but a heartbreaker.” – Rolling Stone “Dominated by overly repetitive, lumbering throwaways” – Entertainment Weekly “The robots were more fun.” – Q Magazine The band is Daft Punk. The year is 2005. The album is Human After All. Daft Punk were the darlings of the millennium generation, making music that both critics and regular humans adored. Yes, it was dance music for the dirty masses, but it was French so that meant it was also clever and cool. Like a Big Mac with the burger uncooked, tartare-style. Or an alcopop served in a champagne flute. First There was Homework (1997), a playful album where you could feel the edits and edges. Then came Discovery (2003), where everything became stadium-scale epic. There were also some remix and live albums. But Human After All is different from those acclaimed earlier efforts. Recorded quickly, it doesn’t have the handmade textures of Homework or the shiny surfaces of Discovery. Instead, you’ve got 10 tracks where not a lot happens. Essentially, each track is built on just a few parts that drive along in a motorik fashion. But unlike the best Krautrock, something prevents you from losing yourself in the repetition. Maybe it’s the


aural texture, which would be best described as burps sampled after a full English breakfast. Maybe it’s that the hooks are too big to be ignored. Maybe it’s all just a bit too ironic. Whatever the reason, the effect is sharp rather than soothing. ‘Robot Rock’ is maybe the worst offender. Great riff. Great guitar sound. Could have been a great song. Instead, it’s super annoying, and the riff repeats so many times that you begin to feel like you’re in some sort of depatterning experiment. That you might wake up and not remember your name, your family or the words to ‘God Save the Queen’ (‘King’, sorry). ‘Technologic’, the other big hit, is just ‘Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger’ but not as good. And again with the burp-inspired synth sound (here’s a tip: you can eat beans and eructate at home with a more satisfying effect. And, as we prepare for yet another round of austerity imposed by our enlightened overlords, you need all the bean protein you can get). All that said, Human After All is not the worst album ever. In fact, I think it might be the best of all the ones I’ve tried for this series. Yet somehow it provides the most unpleasant listening experience. You feel tired after it’s over, like after a long drive through heavy traffic. Champagne flute alcopop this is not. I’d like to end with a thank you. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It was decent of you to do so, given the unpleasant premise. I promise that next time we’re together we’ll do something more positive (contractual obligations permitting). Who knows, we might even enjoy ourselves – we are human, after all.

words by andrew anderson. illustration by kate prior




















BE20 CA USE 22

The Beginning: Tribute

Remembering Mimi Parker

When a famous musician dies, the complicated matrix of sadnesses that accompanies it often revolves around the loss of a much-loved personality and the ending of a creative life that’s brought people together in admiration and kinship. On the one hand, the death from ovarian cancer aged 55 of Mimi Parker, one half of Low alongside her husband Alan Sparhawk since 1993, follows that pattern: her steadying stage presence and soothing temperament during performances offered a therapeutic calm, both to the crowd and her husband, amid the surrounding emotional overflow. Her singing and songwriting, on stage and on record, too, had a cathartic and unifying character around which fans felt they could build a relationship, with Parker and with each other. On the other hand, though, her death cuts far deeper, taking with it not just a singular musician but also an array of relationships with Sparhawk that were as inspirational and publicly observable as they are irreplicable. Most obviously, there’s Low, an indivisible musical collaboration and one that seemed entirely born of a mutual trust, support and adoration. Particularly galling in that context, too, is that while many 30-year-old bands have their best days long behind them, Parker’s untimely death has cut down Low in its prime, with a sense that the band’s astonishing second phase that began with 2018’s Double Negative and continued with last year’s Hey What had only just begun. Just as cruelly premature is the abrupt end to Parker’s performing relationship with her husband. Her singing voice alone was beautiful – soulful and plaintive, crystalline and searching – but her duetting with Sparhawk made a sound unlike anything else in rock music. The reality that that atomically perfect fit of voices will never be heard again is difficult to accept today. And then, away from music from one perspective, but from another completely intertwined with it, there’s the brutal ending


of a marriage that felt ideally matched. One of the few highlights of the Covid lockdowns was Friday I’m In Low, a weekly 20-minute home concert by Parker and Sparhawk, beamed unadorned onto Instagram Live straight from the couple’s living room. The shows were brimming with homespun warmth, tangible intimacy and a three-dimensionally authentic chemistry. During these little shows, Parker would from time to time nudge Sparhawk, with love, out of an inter-song ramble, and it was as sweet a couple-interaction as you could wish for, emblematic of what a great fit they were. Of course, being a band together, theirs was a very publicfacing marriage, and although never paraded as some sort of paragon, there was a sense that it was just as successful privately, with the band helping to sustain the marriage, and vice versa. That love will surely remain with Parker gone, but with perhaps a shift now from contentment to anguish to just plain hard loss – and it’s tough to think of a soul as sensitive as Sparhawk’s having to go through those changes. I met Parker twice, once as a fan and then again professionally. As a fan, I queued up at End of the Road in 2019 so that she and Sparhawk could sign my copy of Songs For A Dead Pilot. As they signed it, I garbled something brief to them about how that EP in particular had helped me massively through a very difficult time in my life 15 or so years earlier, and Parker responded with a wordless facial expression of such allyship and comfort, halfway between a smile and a frown, that I felt even more understood by her, then, than by her and her husband’s records. It felt to me like an unusually warmhearted gesture, but for Parker it was clearly just a natural reaction. Then, during the third lockdown in April 2021, I interviewed her and Sparhawk over Zoom about their favourite underappreciated bands, and was struck by how good a listener she was, and how kind and patient, intellectually creative and thoughtful she was. I came away from that 90-minute conversation certain of what a dream musician Parker must be to play and write with, and what a perfect life-partner she must’ve made for Sparhawk. I felt delighted they had found each other and made something that neither could’ve alone. Much of the sadness felt about any death lies in the void that the departed leaves in the lives of those carrying on. During that interview in 2021, Sparhawk remarked, during a discussion of the dangers of working with one’s spouse, “Who wouldn’t want to go on the road and be creative and do something with the person they love, twenty-four seven?” The tragedy of Parker’s death is that it instantly prohibits that innocent, almost uniquely pure sense of togetherness, but it’s also rather beautifully indicative of what might be Parker’s greatest asset: she was clearly a brilliant, empathic and compassionate partner, in every sense of the word, someone you wanted to be with all the time. Her beautiful records and the memories of spectacular gigs will live on; how bereft Sparhawk must be feeling right now, as the partner left behind, is perhaps the saddest part of all.

words by sam walton. photography by joe cunningham

404 Guild You may recall May 2021: lockdowns were lifting, foreign travel was opening up and what remained of the entertainment industry was beginning to clamber back to its feet. For most people it was a period coloured by nervousness, frustration, hope and relief, a time to venture back out into the world at last. 404 Guild, on the other hand, were planning to enter a brand new voluntary lockdown all of their own. The South London-based experimental hip-hop quartet had, like so many other musicians, used the break in the world’s usual order as a chance to hunker down and get creative. They knew they were working on their debut album, after nearly a decade of establishing themselves as one of the darlings of the UK underground, and the whiteboard in their Wandsworth studio was swimming with fifty-odd song titles in various stages of development. But for whatever reason, the pieces were not falling into place. “We all had bits that we liked, but there just wasn’t an album there,” says Elliot, one of the band’s producers. “There was no through-thread running through everything, it wasn’t cohesive. It was just a load of stuff.” The whiteboard represented the results of 18 months of creativity, but the band’s dissatisfaction forced their hand into trying something radical. They booked themselves a cottage deep in the leafy West Sussex countryside and decamped there for an unbroken two-week period, with the stated aim to conceive, write and record an entire album’s worth of new material. “We locked ourselves away into this little place and solely dedicated our time to writing this project,” explains vocalist Devenny. “We’d literally wake up, break bread and then make music all day, go for a walk, sleep, rinse and repeat. I think the intensity of that made the project quite clear for us.” It was a headlong dive, a sizeable gamble, with no antecedent in their career to date. The four, friends since meeting as teenagers in Bournemouth, began the process by sharing conceptual ideas for the story they wanted to tell before agreeing to take yet another maverick decision and record the album’s tracks in chronological, setlist order. “We made them one track a day, and that’s how they appear on the album,” says Bathwater. “There was a fury to the writing, which was really exciting,” continues Elliot. “It did feel like a 14-day fever dream. It was very weird, we were in the middle of nowhere, there was nowhere to go. There was one shop that shut at four, there was one pub, but it was half an hour away. The weather was really


weird the whole time, it was either sunshine or storms. It was cabin fever in full effect.” The results are there for all to hear, the strange intensity of its setting borne out across False Dawn’s twelve richly atmospheric, hauntingly contemplative tracks. The refinement of their focus and the purity of their vision makes for a stunningly cohesive and complete record, an album that plays out like one unbroken thought. Rarely does a debut album hold together this well. “It was a fascinating process, we found it to be a winning formula for us,” says Sonny. “All of us were 110% engaged.” “It’s really cathartic to put something out like this, because I think it’s the best representation of us as a whole project so far,” agrees Devenny. “It’s a really good introduction into our world and all of our influences and what we’ve been listening to since we’ve known each other.” From the eerie, creeping, mildly paranoid aura that envelops opener ‘At Square One’ to the agitated, popping anxiety of ‘Feedback Loop’, the record neatly builds upon the groundwork that the group laid on their trilogy of early EPs, released between 2019 and 2021. Low-voiced, lyrically dexterous raps serve as the humming engine driving the tracks inexorably toward their end point, a place somewhere in the neighbourhood of Young Fathers and Clipping. In addition to their early releases, their reputation was established by their hard-gigging schedule on the London circuit, where their vibrant shows soon began to catch the attention of their contemporaries. One early adopter was Theo Ellis, bassist for Wolf Alice, who made a recommendation to his band’s label Dirty Hit, who liked everything they heard and swiftly signed the group. — Rip it up and start again — The drastic move to discard the whiteboard songs (they say many of these are still likely to see a release one day) and start with a blank new page also opened up the possibility for a sharp sonic left turn, something that they were very relaxed about. “If we’d have sat down and found that we were only making dance music, then that’s what it would have to be,” says Devenny. “The story was going to come and whatever sound it took, so be it. The catharsis of the completion of the project was the main thing for us; how it ended up sounding was irrelevant in some ways.”

Hip-hop catharsis from a cabin in the woods, by Max Pilley. Photography by Jody Evans


“We’ve weathered so many storms and I think this album is like climbing that mountain and shoving the fucking flag down”

Where in the past, members of the group have paired off to collaborate on projects, the cottage environment allowed all four corners of 404 Guild to work in close tandem this time around. “Building up to this, all the different factions of 404 were tributaries, and now we’ve got this river that’s got all of the sounds and all of the areas that make up our universe,” says Bathwater. “Having made those other projects, we’ve already discovered a lot of sounds and atmospheres we can make together, so I think we just naturally moved through a lot of them in the album. There are micro-relationships between us musically, you hear things emerging and you trust that one of the other guys will pick it up and take it to an interesting new place. The album is about the journey of our friendship.” The necessary limitations of the cottage – to which they only brought a very limited range of instruments and software – inevitably contributed to the end product, too, as did the place itself. Frequently, tracks are built on a bed of misty, chilly ambient sounds that could pass as extracts from the score of a Ben Wheatley-style cabin in the woods film. “It definitely lent itself to a folk horror set, where we were at,” says Sonny. “Our stuff has always had this slightly haunted, pastoral, countryside landscape – spooky small towns and fields in the middle of nowhere,” adds Bathwater. “We went to exactly that place, so it is all pretty full circle.” — A long, dark road —

In the final event, the music they made followed their earlier work relatively closely, at least on an aesthetic level. “This project is arguably our most mellow,” Devenny continues. “A lot of elements in it are very tame, and I think that was partly on purpose because it is somewhat easy to make people nod their head or move or feel something when it is aggressive, and they don’t have time to think. But when you do have time to think, when you slow it all down and get people to really listen, if you can make people move that way, that is even more powerful.”


Once the record had been completed, the band could more easily reflect on the fruits of their labour, ultimately describing it as “a flag stuck in the ground at the end of a long dark road”. One could understand that difficult journey as having begun in May 2019, when their friend and bandmate Mina took her own life. It was a total shock for the group. “I think perseverance and love are the key things,” says Devenny. “For us, we all dealt with her passing in different ways. For me personally, I wanted us to stay together to make sure that this record came out, just to honour her. That’s a voice that needs to be heard, and it will be heard. I don’t think you ever really get over that, and I don’t think we ever will, but on a musical level, it’s that thing about immortalising someone’s voice and preserving how beautiful her talent was. This album is ultimately dedicated to her.” There were discussions about whether 404 Guild could carry on in the aftermath of her passing, but it is now fully agreed that they made the correct decision. With False Dawn now delivering on their potential in spades, the group’s focus has never been clearer. “There would have been no shame in deciding to stop,” says Sonny. “But we’ve weathered so many storms, and I think this album is like climbing that mountain and shoving the fucking flag down and saying, ‘Thank God we got here’. And then realising that there is more in the tank. If we were able to do that, surely we’re able to do so much more. That’s the triumphant thing about this project. It’s not flag down, we’re finished. It’s flag down, there’s more to do.”



GUERILLA TOSS Famously Alive












Weird Nightmare


My Other People

Songs Without Jokes



I Can’t Let Go

Up and Away

Giant Palm

When the Wind Forgets Your Name

Inner World Peace

Coming in 2023 WEYES BLOOD

And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow


Make Up The Breakdown Deluxe Edition


Breaking the Balls of History


Smalltown Stardust


Cuntry Covers Vol. 2

Technology + Teamwork A late gift from ’00s indie that would never have fit into that world, by Jasleen Dhindsa. Photography by Luke Atkinson Curious electronic duo Technology + Teamwork are multitalented virtuosos Anthony Silvester and Sarah Jones. Their friendship has clocked nearly two decades, during which they have lived lives far beyond the kitsch decadence of the 2000s scenes in which they met; they’re now making unconventional and intelligent electronic music solely for the joy of doing so. Our conversation starts way back in the day, when the two artists first met, and Anthony was in his post-university band XX Teens. “We sort of thought being in a band was embarrassing,” he admits. “We only played in art galleries [and] we were taking it way too seriously. I think when Sarah came along it started to be fun again.” “That was you taking it seriously?” Sarah says. You can’t tell if she’s joking or not. Sarah joined XX Teens as previous drummer Leo Taylor’s replacement (Leo went on to play for Hot Chip, Floating Points and many more) and met Anthony for the first time at Bestival. This was deep in the era of what people now call indie sleaze, and Sarah and Anthony were right in the thick of it, with Sarah playing drums for bands like New Young Pony Club and Bat For Lashes. “I read one of Mark Fisher’s books, this cultural theorist,” she recalls. “He was talking about that time being one of the worst in music ever. I kind of partly agreed with him, it was fun but also maybe terrible. Britpop into retromania…” The duo now have a sibling-like relationship that’s lasted longer than several of their professional pursuits. Anthony composes and provides sound design for art films, as well as performing across the world in galleries, whilst Sarah has been a staple in the pop and alternative spheres, releasing solo music


as Pillow Person and drumming for the likes of Bloc Party and Harry Styles (she’s not been home for six months and today’s one of her first days off in weeks). Despite the richness of their respective careers, Sarah and Anthony don’t credit them as influences on their Technology + Teamwork project – but they do agree that this band could never have worked out like this ten years ago. “When I’m touring with bands, I see how they’re on major labels and stuff happens really fast,” Sarah says. “The thing with me and Anthony [is different]: life happens first and then we write music based on that. I think lots of people are missing that, they go: ‘Right, got to get the next album out by that time’ – [but] have you got anything to say?” Apparently, they do have something to say now. We Used To Be Friends, their debut album, is out in early 2023, following the three singles they released in a flurry of early activity back in 2016 and 2017. “We got excited, released some music, and then life happened in between and we didn’t have time,” Sarah says regarding the break in releases. “The type of music we were making wasn’t quite gelling…[we were] trying to figure out what it really was that we wanted to do. We switched genres, pretty massively in all of that time, and then it just sort of clicked.” The title of their debut album is a tongue-in-cheek quip on the duo’s ever-changing friendship, and was only able to come to fruition due to a rarity where the pandemic meant that they were living only seven miles from each other. It’s an incredibly progressive record, that melds various genres in the electronic music world – think a hazy, neon-lit club full of fun house mirrors, soundtracked by distorted synths and vocals. “I wanted it to be so different to what I usually do,” Sarah says of the sonic direction of the album. “I’m shy as well, so it’s a bit [about] getting into a character.” “The inherent political nature of electronic music really appealed to me,” says Anthony. “I was always a fan of ’60s San Francisco counterculture movements, then realising electronic music came out of it and all these amazing female artists that were from that time, living lives which were so hard. There’s so much heart and rich history, [more so] than this didactic idea of a guitar somehow being something which was real or sincere. People that made these electronic instruments originally were imagining future utopias, where people didn’t have to be wealthy, didn’t have to go to music college, and they didn’t have to know music theory. Anyone could make sound.” “I want people to feel joy,” Sarah says, “and realise that people are still out there making music, for the real reason that music is supposed to be made.”


20 22



“Feels like a major step: a cohesive and original musical statement that builds on their prior work while breaking new ground for both of them” – 7.4 PITCHFORK

“Immaculate synth pop... The Runner is perfectly at home on stage or screen—you decide which pill to swallow” – RESIDENT ADVISOR




“Electronica Album Of The Month” – 8/10 MOJO

“It’s a calling card for one of modern music’s most interesting groups” – NME



"Munich jazz upstarts continue to impress” – 8/10 UNCUT

“Patiently spinning experimental compositions with the quiet contentment of an artist gradually getting comfortable with his low-key genius” – 8/10 LOUD & QUIET



“Great albums create worlds, not all of them play by the same rules, and that should be celebrated” – 8/10 CLASH

“One of Gold Panda’s most riveting statements” – 8/10 CLASH



“A gripping body of work from the offset” – 8/10 LOUD & QUIET

“An immersive, gently hypnotic and sporadically sublime album” – 8/10 UNCUT



“Tuareg rockers reconnect with the serenity and sadness of their home” – 8/10 UNCUT

“A pop record that glows like the light of a low-watt bulb; an impressionistic blending of late-night R&B and architectural sounding electronica” – LOUD & QUIET





“You’ll be hard pressed to find a warmer, more welcoming collection of understated, open-hearted soul music this year” – 8/10 LOUD & QUIET

"A 90s mood indigo inspired by Portishead, Mazzy Star and P.J. Harvey” – MOJO

“A sweet entanglement of romantic Latin pop and early-noughties R&B” – 7/10 UNCUT

“A narcotic, seductive adventure” –





“Yet another late-career highlight” – 9/10 UNCUT “An expressionistic, existential musical masterpiece” – 9/10 GOD IS IN THE TV

“Britain's coolest new instrumental party band” – MOJO

Listen HERE

“Lambchop’s finest records in almost 2 decades” – 8/10 BEATS PER MINUTE



“Every second is unconventional, rule-breaking, and mind-bending” – THE SKINNY

W W W. C I T Y S L A N G . C O M

who came before us, in the history that was made. The central theme of Kalak is those events and people like Begum Rokheya, and how these rich pasts have been lost in the new discourse of media and literature.” Korwar claims to have written an Indofuturist manifesto on his new record, one which sways away from the Westernised idea of the future. “Who gets to speculate on our utopias or dystopias?” he asks. “When all our narratives around a better tomorrow are dominantly influenced by right-wing political agendas, it is difficult to imagine a singular idea of utopia.” — Transcendence through repetition —

Sarathy Korwar Decolonising utopia, by Shrey Kathuria. Photography by Tom Porter Ever since Sarathy Korwar’s debut full-length Day to Day was released in 2016, his pursuit of a more political form of ‘Indo’ jazz has become more layered with subsequent releases. The 34-year-old percussionist integrates sounds drawn from his Indian heritage with contemporary jazz, and the resulting album, Kalak, is driven by narratives of anti-colonialism and disrupted promises of utopia. “This record embodies yesterday and tomorrow,” Korwar tells me. “It’s a telling of the way different cultures think about time. For me, the idea was to write the album title as a palindrome – Kal, meaning tomorrow, reads the same from both right and left side when written as ‘KALAK’, just like in Hindi and Urdu.” In the age of misinformation dominated by right-wing and nationalist rhetoric, our understanding of the future is severely detached from our cultures and histories. With Kalak, Korwar seeks to present a new way of conceptualising the future by bringing back the anti-colonial spirit of South Asian pasts. On ‘Remember Begum Rokheya’, for example, he pays tribute to Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, aka Begum Rokeya, a feminist pioneer who worked towards women’s education and emancipation in British India. “It’s about rethinking our relationship with the future, and with time,” he explains. “It is not a standalone, abstract entity – it’s cyclical. [The future] is rooted in the voices of people


On Kalak, Korwar took two distinct approaches towards the idea of ‘India’, a word that he is reluctant to use because of its colonialist connotations and paradoxical exclusion of other countries and cultures in the subcontinent. “First, I tried to imagine a manifesto that’s different from other futurist philosophies like Afrofuturism,” he says. “One that encompasses a myriad of cultures of South Asia, be it India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. This Indofuturist manifesto has to be anti-fascist and anti-colonial, and transcend the far-right sentiment of Hindu purity in India [under Hindutva-aligned Indian prime minister Narendra Modi] and the Rohingya crisis of Sri Lanka. It has to be aware of gender, caste and of queerness.” The other key pillar of his Indofuturist manifesto is his conception of Kal (‘tomorrow’): “It’s about the ideas of karma, of time not being linear but cyclical. We don’t die, we’re reborn. My manifesto understands that life has consequences far beyond our time on earth,” explains Korwar. “When we think of the future, we think of utopia,” says Korwar, turning to the album’s lead single, ‘Utopia Is A Colonial Project’. “This track is based on Thomas More’s book from 1516, Utopia. In the book there’s a fictional island which is being renamed after being colonised as the final move towards the erasure of histories and cultures. The so-called utopia was a blueprint for colonisation. Utopias [are mostly looked at] as pristine untouched lands – this comes with the idea of exploitation. Why is utopia never looked at as chaotic cities?” Korwar’s conceptual commitment on this album extended all the way down to his songwriting approach. To express his ideas of cyclicality, he developed a non-hierarchical system called the ‘Kalak rhythm’ which became central to the album’s composition: “In most music, there is an inherent hierarchy. Verse, chorus, verse. So I started envisioning rhythms that are symbolic of time and cyclicality.” This new approach incorporates repetition as a songwriting tool, and takes on varied forms throughout the new record. “A non-hierarchical method was liberating to work with,” he says. “My goal was to reach transcendence through repetition. It was about taking an idea and pushing it as much as we could,” says Korwar. The result of a wide range of speculative ideas and political principles, Kalak is a musical and conceptual meditation. Perhaps most crucially, it is not about claiming victimhood for his identity and ethnic heritage, but owning and taking pride in it.


The new single

out now



The idea of genre is less important now, by Michael Lawson. Photography by Callan Dooley “It’s funny, you get banded into this Salford/Manchester thing but for me, when I’m writing music it’s retrospective. It’s all based on tales from growing up around there.” Rainy Miller is reflecting on how his hometown of Preston has shaped him as an artist. While he accepts that it’s far from the most fashionable of cities, an air of pride infiltrates his voice when he acknowledges the tenacity it has instilled in him. “It’s the underdog innit? This forgotten place sat in between Manchester and Liverpool. In terms of my character and mindset it has definitely had an effect.” Now based in Manchester, Miller is an integral part of an experimental electronic scene riding a wave of critical acclaim. He shares a studio and regularly collaborates with contemporary ambient duo Space Afrika, and Blackhaine, the iconoclastic fellow Lancastrian who Miller describes as a “generational talent”. Shaping cinematic autotune vocals around deconstructed drill and industrial ambient soundscapes, Miller’s own output is nothing if not strikingly unique; genre, he insists, is little more than an afterthought. “When I’m listening to music these days, I find myself doing so to build this toolkit of sounds or gestures or motifs,” he says. “The idea of genre feels less important now.” His passion for music and production can be traced back to the idiosyncratic grime sound that swept through his hometown in the early 2000s, when Miller had barely reached secondary school. Far removed from what was coming out of London, this hyper-localised scene paired grime beats with rapid-fire bars akin to that of a donk MC. “These MCs were like local celebrities,” he says, citing the likes of Clean Cut Connection, Killer and Worthy as some of the leading figures. “You’d struggle to find a kid in the city who wasn’t writing bars. It was a really fertile, creative thing and also so accessible.” Providing a crash course in production, the Preston grime


scene would lay the foundations for Miller’s own musical forays. He began making “two or three hip-hop beats a day” after leaving school, something that ultimately culminated in the release of his debut album, Limbs, in 2019. A soulful neo-R&B excursion, it saw him dubbed “the Lancashire Frank Ocean” upon release, largely thanks to his novel approach to using autotune. “I didn’t want to rap, and I couldn’t really sing, so it’s something I kinda fell into,” he says. “It feels really central to what I do now. I’m not musically trained, I’ve never had money to buy loads of instruments, and I wasn’t raised by a musical family, but to me that shouldn’t stop you from making music if that’s what you want to do.” Three years on, Miller is conscious of how much he has grown as an artist in the period since his maiden LP. Illustrating this creative development is new album DESQUAMATION, a record that eschews the more pop-oriented elements of his early work for something altogether more experimental. “I now feel like I have the confidence to take my music as leftfield as I want to,” he says, insisting that this newfound freedom is the result of him “embracing subjectivity as a creative entity”. Its title derived from the term for the shedding of outer layers of skin, DESQUAMATION comes steeped in introspection and honest emotion, with Miller candidly admitting that it was created during a time in his life when he had experienced “a bit of a meltdown”. “But this was me coming out of that as well,” he adds. Space Afrika and Blackhaine again feature, as do the likes of Jam City, Maxwell Sterling and Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery, but the album is unmistakably Miller’s. “I’ve put so much time and effort into other people’s records in recent years,” he reflects, “now it’s time for me to stand on my own two feet and be my own person.”

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Heartworms Playfulness, confrontation and a military obsession, by Zhenzhen Yu. Photography by Camille Alexander

Heartworms’ ‘Consistent Dedication’ music video is a black-andwhite gothic tableaux; Jojo Ormine, the musician at the heart of the project, performs to the song hypnotically, concealed coldly behind a pair of sunglasses. The project’s only officially released single so far, the track writhes with a tense post-punk backing and twisted imagery. But the Heartworms name isn’t just nightmare for the sake of nightmare; I had assumed it was chosen to fit in with the rest of the project’s macabre imagery, but it’s actually derived from the name of the sunny 2017 album by The Shins, a band Ormine holds close to her heart. It’s a nice analogue to the dark, cryptic exterior that belies an open friendliness at Ormine’s centre – when we chat over Zoom, I’m surprised that she speaks dreamily and earnestly, exuberant with passion. This is a person who leaps out of her seat several times during our interview to show me the things in her room related to my questions, from Post-Its of her poetry to her drawings of Spitfires. When I ask her about her obsession with the latter, she answers, in sincerity, “I’ve been struggling with a lot for a very long time. And I found something [military imagery and history] that makes me feel very grounded.” Ormine signed to Speedy Wunderground in September of this year (she’s just moved into a house near label head Dan Carey) and her sound certainly fits with their catalogue. In her music, you hear the cold wryness of Speedy alumnus Sinead O’Brien, the bullet-like bluntness of Kraftwerk and the sharpness of Interpol. In line with the latter band’s strict, minimalist sense of style, Ormine boasts a sizable collection of 1940s military paraphernalia (her favourite is an RAF bomber jacket) in which she often performs as she opens for artists like Lime Garden and Sports Team. Yet Ormine reveals to me in a whisper that she already is growing tired of performing in her uniforms. “I mean, it gets so hot,” she laughs. But her passion for World War II is still at the heart of everything she does. She volunteers at the Royal Air Force Museum (her last gig, as of the interview, was at the Queen’s Jubilee), and behind her I can see that her apartment is dotted in build-it-yourself kits of aeroplane models. She holds an obsession with the era’s codebreaking as well: inspired by Simon Singh’s The Code Book, she intricately details her plans for multi-step ciphers in her record packaging (I won’t spoil the surprise here). — A poet’s gaze — As a post-punk fan who is keenly aware of the genre’s occasionally problematic tendency to flirt with fascist imagery,

I ask her about how she manages her relationship to this history. She says that she doesn’t take it too seriously – “it is art” goes the brief clarification she sends in an email later – but does note that she does try to mix and match pieces of uniforms when she wears them, to make something new. “I feel like there is a line to cross,” she says, carefully. “Me – my military stuff – I don’t go for a full uniform that’s all the same. I mix up as much as I can.” Her lyrics, as she says herself, are very Kraftwerkian: simple, eerie couplets punching rhythmically like pistons. Ormine was a poet before she was a musician, but when I ask if she’s changed the way she writes poetry after all the songwriting, she answers, “It doesn’t change because of the music; I just changed the poetry because I’m getting better at writing it.” She’s a deeply imagistic poet, in any case; there are many graphic motifs across both Heartworms’ released and unreleased songs, with eyes featuring the most prominently. ‘Consistent Dedication’ features a pulverising refrain of “Endlessly mad / He’ll chew his eyes.”

“I’ve been struggling with a lot for a long time. And I found something that makes me feel very grounded” Choreographically, Ormine’s live performance style is inspired by Prince and Michael Jackson, but she also mentions that she often tries to channel Aldous Harding, especially in terms of her eye contact. I wouldn’t have expected Ormine to name a folk singer rather than some gothic rock icon – but there’s that paradox behind the Heartworms name rearing its head again. “[Harding] makes you feel quite uncomfortable, but you can’t stop looking at her,” Ormine says admiringly. When I posit that there might be a connection between this and her lyrical fixation on eyes, Ormine stops to consider it. “Maybe,” she muses. “I never thought about it. I like eye contact; there’s something quite nice about it. You’ll get to know a person in more depth if you actually look them in the eye. Some people just like to look around when they’re face to face with you.” I can’t help but suddenly recall her performance in ‘Consistent Dedication’s video, and how she manages to balance the clashing edges of darkness, playfulness and confrontation.


Jessica Winter “It’s not hard for me to switch to my deranged side,” laughs Jessica Winter as she describes the unhinged music video for epic synth-pop single ‘Funk This Up’ in a snug corner of East London pub the Wenlock Arms. “We wanted two parallel visions where you see the day version of me – that’s the one you’re talking to now in case you need clarification – and the night version, a naughty temptress luring you into all the things you shouldn’t do. It’s that juxtaposition in life and in music that excites me.” Jessica’s demeanour veers between highly enthusiastic and extremely tired; today, she’s recovering from breaking out her ‘night version’ while attending the Attitude Awards. “I got to take my brother,” she tells me. “He’s gay and he was saying, ‘Jess, I haven’t supported you in your music career this long for you not to take me to the Attitude Awards! This is outrageous if you don’t take me to this!’ I also got to meet my hero Jake Shears; we had a really decent conversation and I was holding back how star struck I was. He was saying maybe we can do something together soon, which would be a dream come true – he has his own dance album coming out as well, so it would be the perfect combination.” No stranger to collaboration, Jessica has carefully carved a unique space for her darkness-tinged take on pop music. She’s proved herself a versatile artist, equally capable of reworking the music of Metronomy as partnering with similar industry outsiders like Death Grips and Lynks. “When I was on tour with Lynks it was so fun,” she recalls. “It was straight out of lockdown and I hadn’t practiced at all. I almost had to find myself again. You have an online persona but then you can’t figure out your real life persona until you’re on stage. When I did that tour I was like, ‘Ah okay, I get it, I have found who I am once more. We had such a good time and said we must do it again. So I had the track ‘Clutter’ and I just knew it would be perfect for Lynks’s vibe.” I wonder if Jessica’s background in leftfield pop bands like Pregoblin has predisposed her to this way of working. “Well I started with a punk band and I always miss having people around me,” she explains. “It’s a very lonely world sitting up there on stage by myself, no-one to hang around with, nobody to banter with. So I feel like I get that from collaborating in the studio; you get so much inspiration from working with other people’s ideas. I think the main starting point for me was when I was in Pregoblin because that was the first time that I got out of my own world, I enjoyed it so much, I thought, ‘This is really fun’, and then ended up saying yes to lots of other people. Now I’m kind of going the other way a bit and saying no a lot more. I feel like Simon Cowell nowadays,” she chuckles. Jessica’s wild imagination ultimately shines through though as a solo artist, which is demonstrated to great effect on her recent release ‘Choreograph’, a powerful take on modern romance. “People are so obsessed with the idea and look of being


Properly going for it, by Ian Roebuck. Photography by Sophie Barloc


“I am always going to hold the torch for ‘Crance’: if you can cry and dance at the same time, you’re experiencing it all” in love, rather than actually experiencing a deep connection,” she says. “You know, thinking, ‘Wow, that was a great conversation and we got lost for a moment’. Instead it’s just, ‘You look like the kind of partner that I want to have by my side and we do the same things, so we have to be together.’ Everything is labelled and that’s all because of social media and the way we’ve all suddenly become labels ourselves – we have to behave in certain ways to fit algorithms. It’s not connecting as much as I want to.” — Crying at the discotheque — Jessica Winter is queen of the sad banger, and accordingly coined an original name for her music: ‘Crance’. “I think I am always going to hold the torch for ‘Crance’. To me juxtaposition in music is the best, so if you can cry and dance at the same time, you’re experiencing it all aren’t you?” It brings us back to the impressively ambitious ‘Choreograph’ – a pure ‘Crance’ song with whip-smart production ( Jessica is a noted producer too, for artists like The Big Moon) and stunning Hollywood-like, dancing-in-the-rain visuals, that clearly signal how big Jessica is aiming. She has been doing so from a very young age, despite unusual circumstances. “I was born with hip dysplasia, which then turned out to be Ehlers-Danlos syndrome,” she tells me. “It’s kind of a new thing that they discovered and my body produces too much collagen, which sounds like a good thing but means all my bones are being pulled out of the sockets and my muscles take the strain, so over time my hips and joints in general will probably


all need replacing. In a cheesy way this has given me the drive to get out there and want to do something special. I had a lot of time in bed to come up with ideas! I was thinking about this the other day because my mum would fix me to the piano stool when I was two years old – I had a bar across my back which held my legs into splits and I would be just attached to this instrument. It was my sole entertainment, it’s the reason I got into music and my only source of joy from really early in my life.” Jessica’s mother provided further inspiration for her later in life too, via her career as a glamour model. “She had some amazing pictures through her time – and in the ’80s getting your tits out was quite a crazy thing to do. I didn’t really realise that until I became an adult myself because it was so normal for me growing up, seeing my mum naked in pictures. When I stop and think about it she was going up to London when she was 20 years old and being put into situations that were very dangerous and really exposing herself. “I find it inspiring. The glamour modelling days in the ’80s were so amazing – they properly went for it with production value, the backdrops, the art direction, the colours, everything was shot in film as well. I feel like I am exposing my deepest darkest feelings through song, where she was exposing the layers on top, but both are empowering I think.” So you put a lot of emphasis on creative direction? “Of course! I feel visuals are as important as music at the moment, which is worrying. Because of that I have purposely not tried, maybe to my own detriment, to do what I know will get the algorithm going. I just want to make sure that by the time I get to my death bed I don’t go, ‘Arrrgh why did I give in?!’”

Italia 90

A radical punk band finding cult success despite themselves, by Dominic Haley. Photography by Jonangelo Molinari


Italia 90 look more like strangers waiting for a train than a band. Sat together in the corner of the Dog and Bell pub as a busy Friday night swirls around, they all seem completely engrossed in their own worlds. Singer Les Miserable, sporting tightly cropped hair and a Fred Perry shirt, thoughtfully sips his pint while next to him, drummer J Dangerous absent-mindedly scrolls through his phone. Guitarist Unusual Prices, meanwhile, is eating cold pasta from a Tupperware container while bassist Bobby Portrait sorts himself out after a trip to the bar. In fact, the only thing that gives these people away as musicians is the pile of drum breakables and guitar amps stacked up on a seat nearby. As it turns out, the band are actually pretty comfortable with silence. Having been friends since childhood and former flatmates, they’ve pretty much come to terms with each other at this point. When I ask about the band’s dynamic Dangerous rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. “I reckon the shortest relationship in this band is twenty years. We all went to school together, moved to London together and have basically been hanging out with each other ever since.” It’s hard to overstate the importance these deep bonds play in explaining Italia 90. As a group, they really are friends first and a band second, and this is the main reason why four admittedly very different people can meet up regularly and make music together, creating a space where personal egos are set aside and the music is the only thing that matters. Initially forming in 2015 when three members of the band shared a house in Whitechapel, the band have moved at their own pace ever since, almost deliberately ripping up the rule book for a postSpotify band. Hardly the most active band on the capital’s music scene and only hitting the studio when the finances of the band allow, until now the group’s recorded output has sat at roughly one four-track EP a year. Yet somehow they’ve managed to achieve cult-like status on London’s punk and DIY scene. Miserable just gives a bemused shrug when I ask about the reasons for the band’s success. “We’ve never been the most prolific bunch; maybe that’s because we’re all friends. There’s never been a sense of urgency with this band, and we don’t have a guiding mission or anything like that. My only explanation for the consistency is that we all know that no one is going anywhere.” — Frankenstein’s monsters — One of the most interesting side-effects of Italia 90’s long, steady rise is the way that it has allowed listeners to follow along as their sound has shifted and evolved. Originally inspired by the punk they devoured as kids, the band have always taken a test pilot’s approach to music, pushing the genre as far as it goes. This has been evident right from the beginning: even on the band’s first couple of EPs (I in 2017, II in 2019), you can find songs with the familiar textures and energy of punk slotted into song structures that stretch and warp the genre into long hypnotic freakouts or brooding potboilers. From there, the band have gotten bolder and bolder in their choice of inspiration, and the 2022 version of Italia 90 are just as likely to reference jazz, jungle and bossa nova as they are UK Subs and Sham 69. Discussing the band’s evolution reveals that the secret is

to all dart left when you should go right. “We have a tendency to back away from anything obvious,” explains Prices. “Whenever we’re writing music and a song is starting to sound familiar, an alarm bell rings, and we head off in a different direction. The fun part of being in the band is the way we’re always creating our own little Frankenstein’s monsters.” “It also helps that none of us are punk ‘true believers,’” adds Miserable. “Don’t get me wrong, we all love that kind of music, but we’re definitely not down with the restrictive nostalgia bullshit. Whenever we’ve tried to set parameters for ourselves, it hasn’t worked, and personally I see parameters as a bit of a cop-out. Why would you want to stump your own development?” An album is the obvious next step on the path. For most of the summer the band worked on their debut, Living Human Treasure, and are determined to make sure that every twist and turn of the band’s sound is included. Recorded with the Folly Group’s Louis Milburn, the record feels like a real step change for the band. “The whole process of recording was just a totally different experience for us,” says Dangerous as he recounts the week spent recording in Eastbourne. “We ended up recording most of it in the first two days, so we had the time to add layers and details that we often overlook. It was actually exciting to be able to spend a significant amount of time kicking around ideas and working through concepts. It’s allowed us to crawl inside our music and understand it on a deeper level.” For a band who seem so keen to take a hammer to their own work and recreate from the bottom up, it’s pretty curious that Living Human Treasure is a mix of old and new songs. While the bulk of the tracklist is made up of the latter, the record also includes re-recorded versions of fan favourites ‘Competition’ and ‘New Factory’, songs that were originally featured on the very first EP. “There’s no big mystery – we’re just really proud of those songs,” explains Portrait. “Rather than sticking with the versions we recorded on a shoestring, we wanted to do them justice and record them properly. I’ll admit that they sound nothing like the newer songs, but I think it adds to the album having them on there. It makes it feel more like a document that tells the story of the band; it shows where we’ve been, but also where we’re going.” An album is an exciting point in the lifecycle of any band, but Italia 90 are certainly not letting themselves get carried away. In fact, as we speak, it’s notable how calm everyone is about the whole thing; they’re all eager to downplay any notions of progression and stress, that an album is just business as usual. “Success has always been the furthest thing from our mind,” says Miserable when I point this out. “Our priority is to enjoy ourselves first and put everything else second. In a way, any recognition we’ve got along the way has really been in spite of our best efforts.” — Don’t turn into a fucking arsehole — Italia 90 certainly give off the impression that success and ambition mean different things to them than many other groups. As a collective, the four-piece genuinely don’t seem bothered


about headlining huge shows, selling loads of records or receiving critical plaudits. They’re more interested in the business of using music to highlight the plight of the powerless in the face of the powerful. The band are uncompromising about making music, and this includes the lyrical content of the songs; unsurprisingly that means that they’re unafraid to visit some uncomfortable places. “The point of music is having something to say, and every song is a chance to say something,” explains Miserable when I press him on the band’s philosophy. “It’s never about being prescriptive or telling people what to do; I think you can definitely go wrong if you beat people over the head with meaning, but if I can use my words to identify problems and maybe offer a solution, that has to be worth something.” Although they bristle at the suggestion, Italia 90 are a political band and can see the value of music as a tool for activism. They have deep collectivist principles who have no time for ego-stroking or empty posturing, both among themselves and with the punk scene at large. A recent song, ‘Leisure Activities’, for example, is a sharp response to bands that Italia 90 feel spend too much on style and not enough time on substance. “It’s not like it’s a diss,” explains Miserable. “The point was never


to slag off any one band or say that ‘This band isn’t real’, it was more to call out those bands who say that they’re being political when in actual fact they’re just focusing on the banalest of points. If you’re going to say something with your music you should at least try to be radical – otherwise, how are we meant to change anything?” Refreshingly, Italia 90 are also determined to practice what they preach, and I’m interested to find out how they are planning to keep their feet firmly planted on the floor. “It’s certainly getting harder,” admits Dangerous. “These days, the band seems to be constantly clashing with our normal lives, and we definitely end up having to say no to a lot of stuff. That being said, I still can’t see this becoming a full-time job, and to be honest, I’m kind of happy with that. It might mean that we’re moving slower than other bands but it also means that we’re not beholden to anyone either. It’s the best of both worlds, really.” Miserable nods sagely in agreement. “I have to say that any process that takes you from doing your day job to being a full-time musician is something to avoid. At best, it turns you into a weirdo, and at worst, it turns you into a full-on fucking arsehole. Personally, I see a job as a good way to keep yourself from becoming either one of those.”







‘NEVER LET ME GO’ (So Recordings)

(Sacred Bones)

(Captured Tracks)






















(City Slang)

(City Slang)

(Full Time Hobby)

(Totally Snick Records)

(City Slang)

(City Slang)

(City Slang)

(What’s Your Rupture?)

(Modern Sky)

(Full Time Hobby)



(Lucky Number)

(Names Records)











(Saddle Creek)

(Un Real)



(Stranger Than Paradise Records)


Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce, Tor Maries has Billy Nomates, by Jumi Akinfenwa. Photography by Khali Ackford

Billy Nomates The clouds are gathering in on a dismal Bristol day, but Billy Nomates, who now calls the city home, is still in high spirits. Her pet cactus, one of a collection of plants acquired recently, is peeking into shot during our Zoom chat. “I live by myself, so sometimes it’s just that thing of my mental clarity sometimes coming from watering the plants,” says the artist otherwise known as Tor Maries. CACTI, her upcoming second album, doesn’t just take inspiration from the botanical haven of a flat that it was partially recorded in, but also the pricklier aspects of life as it currently stands. “I had the title before I had anything. I knew it was gonna be about survival,” she reveals. “There’s something so symbolic about them, they’re just these odd things that look kind of unapproachable, but they’re just part of nature. They’re just doing what they need to do.” The dreaded ‘difficult second album’ is somewhat of a music industry cliché at this point, but given Tor’s critical acclaim to date, it wouldn’t be the most unreasonable assumption to make that she might be feeling some unease ahead of the release. After all, her 2020 eponymous debut received praise from Iggy Pop, Florence Welch and Juliette Lewis to name a few and an Album of The Year nod from BBC 6 Music. For Tor, however, CACTI was a different beast entirely, being anything but difficult. “I feel it’s a broader representation of the way I write and who I am as an artist,” she says. “I think you can get quite boxed in early on in your career.” Frequently included under the ‘earnest post-punk’ umbrella, her mostly self-produced follow-up is as acerbic as before, yet sonically covers far more bases, dipping its toes into Americana on tracks such as ‘fawner’, ’80s power pop on ‘spite’ and synth-led indie on ‘blue bones (deathwish)’, a Catholic spread of influences thanks in part to her music-teacher father. Her debut was a pandemic baby, born with a silver tongue rather than rosy chubby cheeks, but it’s not a time that Tor looks back on fondly, given the precarity of that period. “I’m glad that I’m still here to be able to put another album out,” she says, looking relieved. “I was gonna say less fractured world, but who knows?! But in a hopefully less completely uncertain environment than my first album was.” Part of the change in environment came from Tor being able to dedicate all of her time to music, a privilege that was completely new to her. “My life had changed as I wasn’t working a 9-to-5 job anymore,” she says. “I’d always made music late at night after work.” Her life would alter even further due to the pandemic, presenting a unique moral quandary over whether to lean into the


unprecedented events and rally against the government and overt displays of societal inequality, or focus on the more personal existential issues that were raised as a result. Tor chose the latter. “Like most people, I had this time to sort of think, and I didn’t want to talk about the pandemic really,” she says. “I think what I was trying to do, maybe it’s selfish, but I wanted to ignore the apocalypse and focus on relationships.” As a single woman in her 30s, she can’t really be blamed for wanting to lean into what this truly means in this day and age and the “human spectrum of emotions” that she was overcome by, especially as the pandemic seemingly exacerbated what it meant to be truly isolated. “I think it’s difficult for anyone navigating the world in a career by themselves at any age,” she states. “And I think for women especially, there’s a lot of pressure to have it all and be successful.” For Tor, there is an element of tightrope walking that feels at odds with her true self, an authenticity that was essential to the messaging of the album. “That idea that women can be successful but not too successful. There just seems to be an element of that that’s still entrenched in things. And I have definitely felt the pressure to be less sometimes. And that’s hard because it’s not natural. I’m just a soul. I’m just a person and I just want to deliver things how I deliver them.” — Don’t you act like I ain’t the fucking man — The complexity of the human psyche lies at the heart of CACTI, and is something Tor is continuing to learn and grow from. The pressure is explored on ‘saboteur forcefield’, an airy synth track that speaks to one of the most frustrating psychological phenomena around – imposter syndrome: “There’s a lot of guilt, it never goes away.” Despite her successes and genuine self-belief, Tor isn’t immune from the age-old bad habit of self-sabotage, something she is still trying to grapple with. “You don’t always know you’re doing it until you sort of look back at a situation,” she says. “It’s kind of a bit of a constant battle, that one of essentially feeling worthy. I struggle with it.” With all of the lockdown household bubbles and government-imposed ‘sex bans’, coupled with society’s general disdain for any woman past the age of 25 who might dare to exercise vague quality control when it comes to inviting a partner into her life, it’s no surprise that it was a period of time that inspired Tor creatively. “Being a single woman’s hard,” she says, exasperated. “And just figuring it out and actually just surviving, where we are


“A lot of it falls back on, ‘get your crystals out, have a massage’, and it’s like, no, can you fund some actual therapy?”

and what we’re going through is quite a lot, you know? Without everything else that interrupts it.” These nuances of survival mode are perhaps best encapsulated in ‘spite’, which speaks of the “fake it till you make it” mentality with its “don’t you act like I ain’t the fucking man” refrain, a mindset that many have to adopt in order to be viewed as equals. “You know, Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce, I have Billy Nomates,” she chuckles. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the two in any way, but in that headspace of ‘No. Fuck this, I’m here’.” She speaks of the need for women to go into situations tooled up in our best metaphorical Gladiator-esque armour, remaining stony-faced when confronted with opposition. “We’re not supposed to hint at the fact that we get so frustrated that we feel violently moved by it, because that’s not something we’re ever really allowed to express.” With sad girl indie and male manipulator music being popular subgenres of indie music today, this same arbitrary labelling of music isn’t so readily ascribed to male musicians who are open with their emotions, she believes. “It’s totally okay for men to express it in their work, but sometimes I just want that equal billing. We have the same spectrum of emotion.” This spectrum is explored from the off on album opener ‘balance is gone’, an earnest exploration of the mindset when things are off-kilter. “It just represented where my mental health was at,” she admits. “It’s quite brutal but that’s how it is.” The brutality of recognising one’s mental health is perhaps not in its most stable state was one that Tor was initially a bit apprehensive about putting out into the ether, but it made the cut for that very reason. “I often write things and I hear it back and go, ‘Oh, are you okay with that going out into the world?’ And often the answer is no,” she says. “That’s normally how I know that I need to do it because it’s tapped into the thing that is uncomfortable or on the edge. But it’s still terrifying for me to put it out.” Despite her openness, Tor questions whether it is something to truly be proud of. People are often told that we’re brave for speaking openly and honestly but in the same breath chided for oversharing, especially when there are “real problems” going on in the world. “If I’m being brutally honest, there’s just a lot of stigma and shame. I fear, especially being a female artist in the industry, that I don’t want to be painted with the ‘crazy’ brush a little bit,” she sighs. “It’s a deeper conversation, it’s more complicated and like any human being’s mental health, it’s just not one colour and it never will be.” Opening with the line “My inner peace is broken into five / I meditate but I am not alive”, it’s a damning reflection of a world that tasks individuals with mediating their own mental state through self care practices, without addressing the impact that societal structures have on mental health. No man is an island, and the individualisation of care for one’s self is a frustration that Tor and I share.


“Awareness is like the hot word, isn’t it?” she believes. “If I’m aware that my foot’s on fire, my foot’s still on fire. I don’t know if being aware of it changes that.” With all the ‘Awareness’ days and ‘Be Kind’ hashtags, there is the argument that the mental health rhetoric rarely goes beneath the surface and focuses on ways to cope with rather than improve circumstances. “It’s still a good thing that we talk about it but the funding and the infrastructure for people’s mental health just isn’t there. A lot of it falls back on, ‘get your crystals out, have a massage’, and it’s like, no, can you fund some actual therapy? Can our government actually put some infrastructure in place?” — Class consciousness — Whilst the intention of CACTI was to focus on the interpersonal relationships in Tor’s life, it was impossible to explore these without the wider context of societal inequality at the hands of a “concerning” Tory government and the knock-on effect that this has had on her livelihood and wider music industry practices. “I think the music industry needs to just be aware that it is becoming very singular and how it addresses that, I’m not entirely sure,” she argues. “The funding just needs to be there. If you’re going to cut the arts out of education, you know, that’s where it starts.” As someone who admits to struggling in school (“I failed my Music GCSE”), she believes that greater class consciousness is needed in the music industry and more support given to working class voices through funding and sharing of resources and information. Though it’s become a bit of a running joke that every new post-punk band that emerges consists of public school-educated sprechgesangers, it’s not far off from where things could head if more isn’t done to nurture working class talent. “The music industry will have to pay the price because, if we’ve got one type of music, we essentially have the same class voice throughout the whole of the next 20, 30 years,” she says. “Where’s the representation? So I think we do need to be really careful on a broader cultural level that we aren’t just shooting ourselves in the foot.” Ultimately, her main hope is that musicians from a similar background are able to find their way into the industry and are given the support they need to succeed. “Someone’s probably being rejected right now, being told that it’s not worthwhile for them right now. And hopefully they find a way, regardless of our horrible systems, to entertain us in 30 years, which will be very noble of them.” Having found her way through the horrible systems to entertain us in the present, despite struggle being integral to the Billy Nomates story to date, Tor views her ascent as less noble, more necessary. “It’s a bunch of songs written from different experiences, conflict and an array of emotions,” she tells me in her signature bluntness, shrugging. “And if that resonates with people – great.”






Richard Dawson — The Ruby Cord (weird world) After a year of almost exclusively listening to Richard Dawson’s 2014 oddball opus Nothing Important, I spent a long weekend in the singersongwriter’s hometown of Newcastle. Part getaway, part pilgrimage, I entered the world of his songs, and a physical reality began to route the landmarks that littered his social realism. This experience induced a reverse Paris syndrome, in which further depth was added to the rich tapestry of Dawson’s first-person character studies. Places and institutions that had once existed only on central track ‘The Vile Stuff ’s lyric sheet were brought to life on road signs and metro maps; Featherstone Castle, Haltwhistle Hospital, Tynemouth College. Being in Newcastle further imposed the understanding that Dawson’s songwriting is entrenched in location and specificity. The mundane is skewered as settings familiar to us (childhood bedrooms, chip shops and high street stationers) are used as canvases for revelations. Banal environs house memories that cycle through the psyche, haunting and reminding one of past indiscretions. Onto the canvas of a geographical normality mini epiphanies are surfed and heartbreaks are endured. His last album 2020 told of relationships developing in the O2 Carling Academy, of despair being barely concealed in an Amazon Fulfilment Centre and of playing Call of Duty to escape the “seething viper’s nest” of a loathed office environment. Off the back of 2020 arrives The Ruby Cord, Dawson’s seventh LP, and the final part of a trilogy that began with 2017’s Peasant, continued with the aforementioned 2020, and here concludes. Set in a pre-medieval era Peasant challenged the aphorism that the past is


a foreign country, where things are done differently. Although the landscape was indeed foreign, the album showed that things were done then much as they are now. Old professions were used allegorically to show how past trials and tribulations are equally valid today. Take ‘Scientist’ for example, where the title character’s scientific developments are plainly rejected, the chorus that greets them (“We do not require the use of your abandon”) eerily parallelled Michael Gove’s pronouncement that we have had enough of experts. Here the universal was moulded from material that initially appeared archaic. Whilst Peasant looked back, The Ruby Cord looks forwards. On the former, previously bygone intolerances were shown as alarmingly evergreen; on the latter, we’re situated some 500 years in the future, where parallels are drawn to the modern day through the fugue of its alien setting. As the album progresses its warped, futuristic landscape begins to bear striking similarities to our own epoch. Inspired by video games, and the glitches inherent in them, the fundamental setting of this record is disturbed. Its location is seen through the lens of virtual reality, but the reality within has become virtually unidentifiable. On ‘Thicker Than Water’ a journeying character travels home, but is met by deserted towns that are “now desolate capillaries of stone”. The once bustling buildings now stand as gravestones, doing little more than symbolising a life once led. As the journey continues the character finds the house they once called home, yet here lie the corpses of the narrator’s parents, and shockingly the dead body of the narrator themselves. Agog they rip off their goggles and “smash the screen” but the nightmare continues. Closing track ‘Horse & Rider’ has the narrator ask their companion if they know “There’s no way back / To the world from which she was born? And that the only way out / Is forward and down”. Necessary conflict in a classic narrative structure perhaps, but set against a terrain that is deceptively bucolic the line takes on a different hue. Dawson has

explained that The Ruby Cord’s natural landscape initially appears to adhere to a “slow rural dream”, but eventually “the picture… (begins) to go slightly wrong”. This eerie scenery of deserted splendour appears to be an apparition and a consequence of environmental collapse. ‘Museum’ describes exhibits of “distant memories”; one of which being “riot police beating climate protests”. In The Ruby Cord’s reality such protest is redundant; the climate is now a fabrication. ‘Museum’s’ “archive of futility” depicts holograms of the folk who led the quotidian lives depicted in 2020. The “throngs of football fans” and “shoppers idly flicking through clothes” are now but a “distant memory”, their lives are nothing more than curios to be observed; who is left to gaze upon these artefacts is left unsaid. As with many of the songs on The Ruby Cord, this landscape reveals itself to be barren and uninhabited. Against the loss of civilization comes the advent of futuristic technologies. “A bounty of data” is reachable at the “merest flick of a lash”, yet these gains bring scant consolation. As ‘The Fool’ would have it, the only force that necessitates survival is love, a force “older than the sun” and thus an anachronism in a world shaped by the need for constant evolution. As is probably apparent, The Ruby Cord’s lyrical world is cast in tropes recurrent in imagined dystopias and science fiction. There’s an obvious absurdity to proceedings but Richard Dawson’s sheer conviction encourages the listener to take these leaps of faith. In other hands ‘The Fool’s’ tale of an ill fated, seasonal romance, set in a world populated by “cross-eyed juveniles” who navgate “flyboats”, and wander “almshouse catacombs” would be a stretch too far. But Dawson’s giddying vocals are allowed to joyride through octaves as the assonance of this rich language is revelled in. Furthermore these pieces of time tourism invariably showcase his great gift for storytelling. ‘The Fool’ begins by depicting its central character as someone oft seen through the lens of “prisming beer”; the performative absurdity that follows this

Albums drunken revelry is a strain but a concession made to garner popularity. The first verse unexpectedly meditates on the social pressures often unwillingly assumed by a heavy drinker, revealing a nuanced and empathetic take. One can’t help but recall the references to alcohol in ‘The Vile Stuff ’; in that song, a younger character relents to the pressures of teenage binge drinking so as to socially assimilate and here, this social pressure has led to a fractious relationship with the self, done in order to make quick companionships. “I play the role of the fool… / to the newly arrived here / not as I am but how they prefer”. Whilst lyrically these tracks are very much akin to the other two thirds of this trilogy, sonically there’s a clear departure from 2020. Largely gone are the bombastic multi-instrumental workouts, and back is the more tonally consistent and limited palette of Peasant. 2020 expanded Dawson’s fanbase with killer singles and an endearingly wonky take on a spirited brand of prog-pop, and if such a thing as ‘crossover appeal’ still exists then after 2020 Dawson was primed for it. The Ruby Cord however, begins in the most uncompromising fashion imaginable, with a track the length of most albums. To say patience is required of a 40-minute song seems fairly obvious, but from the off it’s utterly gorgeous, starting with a lengthy passage of ebbing and flowing instrumental free-form folk that gently undulates. The likes of No Neck Blues Band (or more recent acts like Caroline) are brought to mind as freshly-tuned instruments begin a tentative conversation with one another. Dawson’s guitar is paired with Angharad Davies’s violin, the harp of Rhodri Davis and Andrew Cheetham’s drums, and together they create a delicate nest of interwoven parts that float gracefully for 11 minutes before the arrival of the singer’s unmistakable vocals. After the dawn delicacy of the song’s beginning a more menacing prevailing part takes over. Here a characteristically knotty vocal melody cycles around as if chasing its own tail, then

a flurry of energy is contrasted with a moment of clarity, as all instruments drop out and the words being sung are acapella. Dawson regularly starts his live sets with an unaccompanied voice, but to allow this to happen (twice) for extended periods on one song seems especially daring. It’s captivating and leads perfectly to the track’s glorious finale. Haunted, and akin to the muted majesty of Low, a repeated refrain is repeated with layered vocals in harmony. It’s beautiful and desolate too; thus pairing itself perfectly to the landscape that’s being described. Sonically, The Ruby Cord expands into an endless vista, while lyrically it takes our most human desires and places them further than our current reality into a setting that’s mired in an unease that won’t shift. Over this trilogy of records, location and time has shifted but the hopes and fears of the characters within are every bit as real as the places that formed ‘The Vile Stuff ’s psychogeography. 8/10 Theo Gorst

kind of lines which only work when belted out by a singer who really, audibly, defiantly means it. Luckily, that’s exactly the kind of artist Freeman is. The ultra-sturdy rhythm section allows Freeman to pursue their idiosyncrasies without having to worry about the fundamentals of each track becoming lost in the squall; songs like ‘Huge’ and ‘Easy Peeler’ could spin out into the ether without such an anchor, but instead they strike an admirable balance between freneticism and control. This dialectic of escapism and reality is central to Miffed: as much as it’s an exercise in mischievous, galactic-scale ambition, it’s most vitally an expression of the trauma, rage and occasional bleak hilarity Freeman experiences on a daily basis as a queer, neurodivergent person in the hostile environment of contemporary Britain. It makes sense that this kind of escapist joy is all the sweeter for its solid connection to the material facts from which it’s cartwheeling away. 8/10 Luke Cartledge

Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something — Miffed (trapped animal) On their second full-length album, Miffed, Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something drive further down into the eccentric, day-glo psych-punk of their debut, once again taking a maximalist approach to form and genre to create a record of searing, Led Zeppelin-like force. There’s little in the way of restraint on Miffed, but that’s the point: the solos are wild, the riffs joyously unencumbered, Freeman’s siren vocals corkscrewing around enormous hooks with liberatory conviction. Lyrical zingers like “You’re not controversial, you’re just a cunt” are pleasingly on-the-nose, the

404 Guild — False Dawn (dirty hit) It’s taken a while for London experimental rap collective 404 Guild to arrive at their debut album, but not without reason. Clearly, two years of pandemic have taken their toll, as has the ever-increasing material strain of living and making work in the capital; yet in 2019, the group also had to deal with the tragic death of their bandmate Mina Topley-Bird, 37who ended her own life after a long period of mental ill-health. Her passing is not explicitly mentioned on the album, but the scars of the event mark much of its flesh; it’s hard not to connect it to the macabre, intimate dejection of lines like “Whole way through


Albums your life I saw you stare death in the face / The end was always there, you didn’t care, you weren’t afraid” (‘Contact’) and “Getting bad news in slow motion / Burnt out, the sun hits / Can’t believe the timing of this / Can’t deal with it, I don’t want it / It’s way too real if I’m honest” (‘Sodium Light’). Aesthetically, False Dawn is a smart coagulation of the group’s wide array of influences. The earnest verbosity of classic alternative hip-hop from both sides of the Atlantic looms over much of the record, as does the tundral atmosphere and trudging pace of UK drill. The album is also flickered with the darkest shades of contemporary London jazz, with occasional tracks sounding more than a little like Tom Misch or Kamaal Williams in a fugue state. Perhaps more than anything, False Dawn sounds exactly like what it is: a sonic analogue of a wounded, uncertain city, its bountiful riches never far away, but largely obscured by the trauma and instability that stalks so much modern life. It’s bleak, definitely, but the record is at its most compelling when it fully embraces that darkness, as on ‘At Square One’, whose louche beats recall fellow London genre-splicer Wu-Lu, or ‘Chiron’, a screwface monster of a tune which swaggers with the hard confidence of someone who has absolutely nothing to lose. It’s not easy out there, and 404 Guild know it; at least, with that knowledge, they’ve managed to make something so honest, accomplished and cathartic. 8/10 Luke Cartledge

Liv.e — Girl In The Half Pearl (in real life) Springboarding from a duo of buzzy EP projects, singer-songwriter


Liv.e (pronounced ‘Liv’), used her 2020 debut album Couldn’t Wait To Tell You to demonstrate an immediate, affable sense of artistry. That record’s musicianship and creativity have a certain magic, in no small part thanks to the universality of Liv.e’s songwriting themes. Raised in Dallas and now residing in Los Angeles, her work is full of Southern syncopation, but thanks to her holistic, instinctive soundscapes that encompass a wide palette of jazz, soul and experimentalism, there is an inescapable familiarity for listeners from further afield too. Girl In The Half Pearl continues this effortlessness. Tracks like ‘Ghost’ and ‘Gardetto’ deploy the sort of breakbeats to which UK garage fans will be accustomed, while their expressive lo-fi soul singing and choppy samples create aethers akin to Burial’s genre defining classic Untrue. ‘Find Out’ and ‘Clowns’, meanwhile, balance the smart beats of Tyler, The Creator and Flying Lotus with the compassionate yet radical lyrical approach of artists like Solange and Lauren Hill. Considering this year saw Beyonce thrust the prospect of soul, electronic and experimentalism into one of the biggest releases of the year with RENAISSANCE, Girl In The Half Pearl could scarcely be any more well-timed. 7/10 Tom Critten

The Cool Greenhouse — Sod’s Toastie (melodic) In a landscape that is somewhat oversaturated, Sod’s Toastie, the second album by The Cool Greenhouse, earmarks the London post-punk outfit as one of the best in their field. Charming, and genuinely hilarious, the follow up to the group’s self-titled debut is a

real delight. It sees the band bound into musical pastures new, whilst retaining the pervasive sense of humour that made The Cool Greenhouse an unforgettable oddity. A lot of the group’s touchpoints remain the same – Grotesque-era Fall, Arab Strap, The Shadow Ring – but a renewed melodic focus enhances the group’s sound twofold. Tom Greenhouse, the group’s alien-obsessed ringleader, is front and centre of the project. His vocal stylings are sprechstimme anecdotes where the commonplace often meets the absurd. On ‘The UFOs’, a claustrophobic number punctuated by choppy Gang of Four guitar licks and atonal electronic noodling, a domestic scene is interrupted by extraterrestrial visitors. Meanwhile, ‘Musicians’ is a joyous semi-fictional origin story of the band, detailing Greenhouse’s intrepid trevails putting together his motley crew – beginning only with drum machine clang and angular guitar scribbles, it reaches a wild conclusion as bongos and horns sneak into the foray. Greenhouse breaks rank and sings from the heart on ‘I Lost My Head’, whilst closer ‘The Neoprene Ravene’ sees him dream up an alien version of The Velvet Underground, complete with chugging cosmic garage-rock skronk. Sod’s Toastie is fantastic, musical nous and caustic wit come together perfectly on one of 2022’s most novel post-punk records. 8/10 Cal Cashin

Billy Nomates — Cacti (invada) On her debut record as Billy Nomates, Tor Maries took aim at the world around her - at dead-end jobs, at consumerism, at societal expectations. Obvious targets

Albums for a punk-leaning indie rock record, yes. But her sharp spoken delivery and caustic, minimal instrumentals were convincing enough to make you feel it. There’s real frustration in her voice on tracks like ‘No’ and ‘Call In Sick’, emphasised by its shoestring DIY presentation (though having Geoff Barrow on production makes it a pretty fancy shoestring). Still, this was a record often more about the frustration lurking under the surface than the surface itself, and an inner melancholy hiding beneath her swagger. Her follow-up album is a record about internal pressure rather than external ones. Cacti is finished with sarcasm and confidence. It’s a dark and reflective album that sits with despair rather than describing the potential reasons for it. The snide asides of the last record are traded for fuller, more thoughtful songwriting. Early single ‘Blue Bones (deathwish)’ saves the starkness for its lyrics, where suicidal ideation is thrown around as a casual conversation topic (“If you wanna die then do it, you don’t need my permission”). The tune itself borders on jaunty, while melancholy, anger and grief all battle for the spotlight in her vocal. It’s a more mature and wiry approach, for an artist who began with such a direct and deadpan delivery. Opener ‘Balance is Gone’ is just as brutally honest as any of that early material. She dismisses meditation and healing rituals, but as poetic symbols that reflect her own crumbling self-actualisation, rather than something to scoff at over a drum machine. Despite the weightier topics, Cacti is a more accessible record. Witty punchlines and icy verses are replaced by wistful melody lines and a grander instrumental presentation. It’s a pop album, which might disappoint those who came for the spoken word and the attitude. But the bright guitar lines and memorable refrains that colour the record often help to create a sense of dynamism. Still, there are other moments where this more polished approach can flatten the appeal. With its overly cheeky chorus, ‘Spite’ reminds of any

number of anti-love songs from the past 40 years, from Meredith Brooks to Paramore. ‘Spare Gun’ is an ’80s piano-rock throwback that doesn’t find a groove to sink into, and starts to sound a bit Hall and Oates as the layers are added. The jarring major-minor shift on the chorus of ‘Vertigo’ encapsulates the slight identity crisis on the record, as woozy guitar and bass rub awkwardly against bombastic multi-tracked vocals. While the song is going for queasiness, it sounds more unsure than the sour notes of the first record. These slight missteps are bound to happen when aiming as high as Billy Nomates. Her songwriting style has morphed and evolved in a short period, and these experiments with form are clearly in the service of searching for a great song. She finds that on tracks like ‘Apathy is Wild’, which combine gutpunch lyricism with lilting songwriting to powerful effect. Here, Mories finds real power in sitting with the uncomfortable festering of apathy, and how it morphs into pure nihilism. That it’s composed so beautifully acts as the ideal contradiction to its message. Closer ‘Blackout Signal’ is even bleaker, and offers no easy answers for crawling out of that despair. The churning bassline, far-off pianos and drum machines all feel detached from Maries, who sings at us directly, as she always does. “I have always known that I’ll meet you at the end / Just something in my bones, bittersweet bitter end”, she sings as a siren blares, buried in the noise. Though she doesn’t find peace anywhere on the record, there’s a weird comfort in wondering who the ‘you’ of the song could be. Billy Nomates presented herself as a performer barely holding it together on her debut, but where she formerly implied that through cryptic clues and outward anger, her new record artfully explores her personal battles with a universal depth. It’s also a record that can be as confused and complicated as those feelings themselves and will be polarising as a result. There is still so much promise and heart in what she’s

doing that many will go with her into this bold shift towards more traditional pop structures. 7/10 Skye Butchard

Plaid — Feorm Falorx (warp) A lot of fairly ripe nonsense accompanies the release of Feorm Falorx, about how Plaid’s 11th record is the recreation of a live set that the electronica veterans performed at the Feorm Festival, apparently “an intergalactic shindig held on the planet Falorx”. There’s sci-fi bollocks about the duo being converted into lightbeams to survive Falorx’s inhospitable atmosphere, and therefore not being able to operate traditional musical equipment, and how the record is only an “acceptable” reimagining of their off-world gig. All of this shouldn’t distract from the fact that Feorm Falorx is actually really good, and is totally unrequiring of all the spacenerd dress-up. Indeed, it’s all the more impressive to consider that the record was probably made in the far more terrestrial environments of a south London studio by a couple of blokes in their 50s, thus rendering its retro-futurist crispness and clean, gridded machine funk as less some hokum documentary caper and more an act of glorious human escapism: listen to standout ‘C.A.’, for example, an endless pulsating monster moving at multiple speeds at once, or the metallic clunk of ‘Wide I’s’, all intimidating midpace thuds and swooshing synths, while staring out the window at late-2022 UK drizzle, and the imagination on display is infectious. The slow builds in complexity on ‘Return to Return’ and ‘Perspex’, too, are wonderfully knotty experiences with more in common with mid-period Radiohead – tuneful, stuttering, always


Albums tumbling away – than anything you’ll find in space opera. It renders a Feorm Falorx a genuine Earthly delight, regardless of the attempted framing. 8/10 Sam Walton

Hyd — Clearing (pc music) The future of pop continues to be forged in flagrant and polarising ways with PC Music. The collective’s jagged-edged hyper-pop has pushed some to disregard the earnestness of their cartoonish discord, but it helps that some of its young disciples are closing the gap between its abrasive present and an ethereal future. Hyd’s highly-anticipated debut, Clearing, may be the bridge into that future – just not in a manner that perpetuates its current caricatured nature. As PC Music’s least abrasive release to date, Clearing subverts expectations, even by hyper-pop’s wacky standards, by eschewing its usual near-industrial dissension to lean into avant-electro-pop sublimity. Between its ethereal pulse, utopian hum, and Hyd’s elegant voice, Clearing beckons listeners to wade in and surrender to its thematic core – the necessity of destruction for new life. Hyd understands the discomfort of endings and the transitionary period before new beginnings. However, they’ve miraculously rendered this discomfort harmonious and of peace. From the ruins of entrapment, codependence, and shame, the first half of the record especially encounters Hyd braving these destructive forces needed for growth. Tracks like ‘Fallen Angel’ and ‘So Clear’ echo this inevitability with boldness; while a most romantic moment like ‘Oil + Honey’ (aided by the divine presence of Jónsi) adopts nuance in view of necessary pain. Still, by forming meaning from


ruin, Hyd sprouts new life from all this required, arduous self-realization. There might not be a more emotionally affecting record to come out of the PC Music camp and the hyperpop genre than Clearing. Some might argue that this project strays too far from either, but I see it as an evolution, suggestive of a hyper-future that holds chaos and confusion in the same hand as harmony and sensibility. Before Hyd, their friend and producer on this album, SOPHIE, had been building toward this utopia so comely of paradoxes and transition. But with SOPHIE gone far too soon, Hyd has done the hyper-pop matriarch’s vision justice, enlivening the record with the humane vocal performances and universal sentiments needed to connect this weird present with a beautiful future. 8/10 Kyle Kohner

Lord of the Isles — Subtle Thoughts (lapsus) Lord of the Isles, aka Neil McDonald, has form for creating panoramic odes to the outdoors. Inspired by the wide open spaces of his native Scotland, you’ll probably find him out and about the moors and rippling waters of quiet Highland lochs. That natural abundance easily lends itself to the drifting ambient and downtempo beats on Subtle Thoughts, one of two albums landing at the tail end of 2022 – the other being the forever delayed Night of the Endless Beyond. Here, we’re playing in a world of immersive soundscapes and deep rumination as opener ‘Storm Mother’ gets things moving with field recordings of rain and rumbling skies providing the backdrop to a quivering electro melody. The distant dubbiness of ‘Lo-Theory’, soft techno of

‘Return to Yourself ’ and twinkling arpeggios of ‘Peak Flow’ continue the journey, playing with states of mind as much as time and place before ‘Open Mode’ and title track ‘Subtle Thoughts’ close things out on high. Where the former is a bleepy, dubby, Aphex Twin-esque shapeshifter, the latter lets McDonald’s sci-fi influences beam through with pulsing electro and a sample of Carl Sagan, leaving behind a vivid image of Highland hikes where space, time and your own existence lie out there in the mist. 7/10 Reef Younis

Smut — Soft Engine (bayonet) A nostalgic sound floods your ears with the first chords of Smut’s second album How the Light Felt. The Cincinnati band combine the cathartic vocals of Tay Roebuck with the 1990s-inspired instrumentation of her bandmates, but they don’t use rose-tinted glasses to create some long-gone dreamscape. Instead, they lace their music more subtly with soothing reminders of the past, using memory to ignite the record with energy. ‘Supersolar’ could fit right in with a Sabrina the Teenage Witch montage, while the title track weaves cosmic synths into their sound. Gentle and alluring, the acoustic guitar keeps the song grounded as the Boards of Canada-esque melody floats in the background. This tenderness is what prevents the record from simply sounding like a ’90s tribute record. ‘Let Me Hate’ and ‘Person of Interest’ keep the familiar rhythms but use personal stories of teen years and love to stand apart. A change of pace towards the end of the record, ‘Morningstar’, switches out the weightless synths for dance melodies, in a way that feels more like day becoming night than one genre jumping sharply to

Albums another. Add all this to the record’s warm production and you’ll finish each listen feeling a little less alone than when you began. 8/10 Sophia McDonald

Backwash — HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING! (self-released) Ghouls and goblins are not the only things going bump in the night this All Hallows’ Eve. Behold the carnivorous presence of Zambian-Canadian rapper, Backxwash, who is back with thirstier murderous intent on her new album, HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING! As the final installment of a threepart series that digs into the intersection of queerness, faith and mental illness, HIS HAPPINESS… sees the emcee bring the heavy like a lobotomy. Wielding her unbending flow like an orbitoclast and her fury like a hammer, Backxwash compels listeners to bear the sharp thrust of her pointed words and the traumatic experiences that continue to yield such darkness. HIS HAPPINESS... was born of a world of abuse and oppression. While not the same kind of personal, diaristic bullet to the head as her first two records, HIS HAPPINESS... commentates on the same themes of transmisogyny, racism and religious abuse with equally startling candor. Whether she’s tearing into rigidity and judgmentalism of religious institutions on tracks like ‘VIBANDA’ and ‘MULUNGU’ or slicing into the complexities of identity on ‘JUJU’, Backxwash grasps these topics with a restless emotional precision and thoughtfulness seldom experienced with an album this extreme in spirit. But as HIS HAPPINESS... unwinds with distressing

potency and unyielding honesty, Backxwash only drives deeper pain to the brain. Once again, industrial rock and trap metal are Backxwash’s canvases of choice. But this time, a far more concentrated sense of wrath burns deeper within Backxwash, rendering her music a shade darker and bleaker. In fact, with more pronounced fury and possession barreling from her chest about condemnation and eternal judgment over noise rock arrangements, hell has never felt more real in Backxwash’s music. It’s as if every moment was constructed with fire and finality in mind. HIS HAPPINESS... may not be the experimental overhaul many expected from an artist constantly breaking new ground to reach the underworld beneath, but it is a refinement of a style so uniquely and ferociously her own. She’s no longer one who borrows and honors the behemoths of rap, industrial, metal, and adjacent realms in between, but a singular voice and wellspring of influence for others to draw from. 9/10 Kyle Kohner

Rozi Plain — Prize (memphis industries) Over the course of four albums, Rozi Plain has been driven by a muse every bit as singular as Aldous Harding. It’s therefore logical that their paths fleetingly converge on the London-based musician’s latest offering. It’s a convergence based on their more pop-centric material, which is seductively radio-friendly yet slightly odd. And it’s there in the occasional use of brass, with Alabaster dePlume being brought in on free-floating sax. On a couple of tracks, including ‘Agreeing for Two’, Plain even seems to have adopted Harding’s Warm Chris vocal style.

Yet while Harding often seeks to deliberately disconcert, Plain is all about organic warmth. The album has contributions from 15 friends, including long-term collaborator Kate Stables (This is the Kit). This gives tracks a sense of community, as when harmony vocalists add support to the line “believe in yourself ” on ‘Complicated’, which is about coming to terms with being self-consciousness. Its sense of ease is such that tracks, when untethered from their pop edge, tend to lose themselves in hazy atmospherics. There’s nonetheless always something of interest to offset her guitar as it makes circular, hypnotic patterns. The silly synth sound on ‘Prove Your Good’ suggests she doesn’t take herself too seriously; the space-rock keys on ‘Painted the Room’ never quite achieve lift-off; and the whooshing noises on ‘Blink’ are the closest she gets to creepy. Combining elements of folk and jazz, yet never committing to either, Prize has an unassuming beauty in its sense of community and spirit of hope. 7/10 Susan Darlington

Queasy Pieces — Queasy Pieces (fatcat) There’s something really satisfying about a record with a clear, coherent idea of what it wants to be. This album by one-man DIY pop project Queasy Pieces is admirably compact and intentional, the bizarro new wave of Devo combined with Molly Nilsson-like auteurism and restless Power Lunches itch-punk. Tinny drum machines and tremulous vocals rattle and somersault around one another with knowing vim, and the occasional spoken skits – think David Byrne’s oddball sidebars rather than landfill sprechgesang – are just arch enough to offer a divert-


Albums ing counterpoint to the histrionics found elsewhere within these tight, economical tracks. It’s perhaps not the most originalsounding project, very much of a piece with the kinds of lineups one could expect at Upset The Rhythm all-dayers or the Night School catalogue at any point over the last decade or so, but it’s an undeniably spirited, dextrous iteration of an otherwise familiar aesthetic. Perhaps central to its appeal is Queasy Pieces’ ear for a hook – ‘Turn That Wagon Around’ has an appropriately juggernaut-y chorus, while the meandering verses of ‘Rapid Growth’ wrap themselves insistently around a compelling piano loop – meaning that even when the record gets a little carried away by its own daft momentum, a reassuringly engaging melody is never far away. 8/10 Luke Cartledge

Weyes Blood — And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow (sub pop) And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow finds Californian singer-songwriter Natalie Mering, better known as Weyes Blood, picking up where she left off on her transcendent 2019 record Titanic Rising. Billed as the second part of a trilogy, And In The Darkness… feels stylistically very similar to its predecessor; Mering has again enlisted Jonathan Rado as co-producer, and his maximalist, almost baroque approach mirrors the ambition of her philosophical songwriting. Where Titanic Rising contemplated future disaster, this album was written in the midst of actual tumult, a time of climate, health and civil rights crises. Mering’s take is characteristically shrewd without ever being didactic. On ‘Children Of The Empire’ she seems to contemplate white guilt and the inaction


it often results in: “We don’t have time to be afraid anymore,” she sings mournfully. The deceptively upbeat ‘The Worst Is Done’ perfectly captures the uneasy feeling of having to return to so-called normality after a situation which was anything but. “They say the worst is done, but I think the worst has yet to come,” she croons over a Carpenters-esque melody. As with life, it’s not all political: ‘Hearts Aglow’ and ‘Twin Flame’ are among Mering’s best love songs, but even they can’t escape the sense of impending doom: “It’s been a death march, the whole world is crumbling / Oh baby let’s dance in the sand”. Her immense voice has a timeless quality reminiscent of Carole King or Joni Mitchell, and she is not afraid of borrowing from her idols – Scott Walker, Kate Bush, Harry Nilsson and John Cale all have their fingerprints on this record. What’s most impressive about Weyes Blood is the way she uses these references to create something that feels utterly contemporary and original. 9/10 Jessica Wrigglesworth

DØSSI — Love, Let Go and Love Again (gems) Love, Let Go and Love Again, the debut album from Norwegian newcomer DØSSI, uses textural production to flesh out well-written, tender pop songs, often otherwise simply arranged on guitar or piano. She compares her songs to birds, and you can hear the flap of their wings and scratch of claws in many of the album’s pastoral samples. Eschewing the dominant synths of the day, DØSSI favours pop culture references as shortcuts to contemporary relevance (‘Tough Love’ namechecks Taylor Swift and cribs from Billie Eilish’s ‘Ocean Eyes’; ‘Jasmine, Darling’ paraphrases Kate

Winslet in Titanic). Coupled with acoustic guitars, glitchy backing vocals and amniotic beats, the effect is reminiscent of The 1975’s latest effort, in its emptying out of their self-effacing wit in favour of earnest emotional interrogation. Ostensibly two EP halves written as a whole album, the first examines love, while the second covers moving on. In reality, the thematic distinction is unclear, seemingly more a marketing strategy than a creative decision. The project’s Necessary Singles stick out for the same reason: ‘Art of Letting Go’, recorded with Sigrid producer Odd Martin, feels heavyhanded when stacked next to standouts ‘How It Ended’ and ‘Standstill’. Their brief, meandering nature is gleefully free from a mandated chorus. The dePresno feature on ‘Wildflower’ is a rare case when business choices pay off. Ultimately a little lengthy, Love, Let Go and Love Again could benefit from ditching the pretence of an album and standing as two separate projects, but its unique textures and proficient performance ensure DØSSI’s birdsong mostly takes flight. 7/10 Jake Crossland

Leftfield — This Is What We Do (virgin) Given their status within the canon of UK dance music, Leftfield have both a surprisingly small back catalogue (just four studio albums) and no ‘Born Slippy’-style signature track that’s bled deep into the cultural consciousness. Nonetheless, 1990s dance music heads will attest to the duo’s undeniable significance; tracks like 1993’s ‘Open Up’ and 1999’s ‘Phat Planet’ epitomised the cutting-edge qualities of dance music during the ’90s and saw the London duo effectively invent the progressive house subgenre.

Albums The inadvertent problem faced by ‘legacy’ producers such as Leftfield is that electronic music ages very quickly. It’s difficult to continually remain fresh and exciting as new trends and technologies fly by at an increasingly rapid pace. Leftfield’s fourth full-length album This Is What We Do falls foul of this problem. From the distorted stomp of ‘Let’s Have It’ to the cut-up big beat vocals of ‘Making A Difference’, these 11 tracks forego aesthetic innovation in favour of a Frankenstein’s monster of well-worn ideas cribbed from the history of Leftfield and their peers. If you find this innovation-based criticism an unfair charge to hold up against Leftfield, there are some more objective pleasures to be found within This Is What We Do. ‘Rapture 16’ is a strange, spacious scene-setter, while ‘Full Way Round’ is a techno banger driven by the unmistakable vocals of Fontaines D.C.’s Grian Chatten. Given Leftfield’s noted history of using guest vocalists, a few more appearances would have provided some welcome injections of charisma and individuality. Overall, the album just feels that bit too familiar and uninspired (particularly the weird Kraftwerk pastiches ‘City of Synths’ and ‘Machines Like Me’) to leave much of a lasting impression. 5/10 Tom Morgan

Meekz — Respect The Come Up (neighbourhood) Meekz raps with an assertiveness that assures he’s beyond being labelled a newcomer. At times, the alpha-raps alone do enough to command your attention, but they’re best when working in tandem with the rapper’s crisp delivery. Meekz’s Manc inflections are the crux to his new mixtape and what make him so distinctive in the UK trap

space. His sullen voice commands the highlights, particularly when the production leaves little to work with. The jazzy ‘Hustlers Ambition’ and the triumphant ‘Take Losses’ show what’s possible with distinct beats, toppling tracks from less imaginative artists that rely on trap knocks too frail to alert the houseowner. Still, you’re always waiting for Meekz to say something profoundly memorable. Catchphrases like 2020’s ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ are missing from the arsenal, leaving Respect the Come Up with passable short straws that are a hook away from hitting like the lead singles. He comes close on certain occasions, attempting sharp flips like “Selling tic tacs is how I learned my tactics” on the ominous ‘Say Less’, though flat statements such as “I don’t rap, I make sounds” negate their impact. As a harmless serving of trap mantras, Respect the Come Up is wisely a tight affair, but needs more weight to tip the scales. 6/10 Hamza Riaz

White Lung – Premonition (domino) If there were a word to sum up White Lung, it would probably be ‘relentless’. With a career spanning a little over a decade now, the Canadian three-piece have left a trail of hooky, emo-tinged pop-punk, but now all that’s coming to an end. Premonition is White Lung’s fifth studio album, it’s also going to be their last, as the band have announced that they’re breaking up straight after the release. Recorded before the pandemic, the record has been waylaid until now due to the birth of singer Mish BarberWay’s two children. With so much going on, it’s not really all that surprising that the ten

songs on this record are lyrically more mature sounding than the tracks found on 2016’s Paradise. Written over a period of personal change and sobriety, Barber-Way’s lyrics feel more vital and earnest than they’ve ever sounded before – whether it’s reflecting on the brutal nature of Los Angeles on the furioussounding ‘Date Night’ to ‘Tomorrow’, a song that captures the mixed feelings that swirl around pregnancy. However, it’s ceiling-punching closer ‘Winter’, that most feels like a eulogy for White Lung. A song whose message is that even within a world of shit, a little hope and love can always find a way, it feels like the perfect exclamation mark on a career spent saying just that. 6/10 Dominic Haley

Aviva Endean — Moths & Stars (room40) So much experimental sound art can go one of two ways: things end up gloriously, with the listener swept away to an unknown land full of intrigue and delight, or – and this happens more often than not – everything falls apart, leaving you with nothing but painfully self-obsessed nonsense. It can often feel like there really is no middle ground. Thankfully, Aviva Endean has proven time and time again that she is an expert of the aural adventure. Moths & Stars, her second solo album, masterfully walks the tightrope between indulgence and weirdness, resulting in a suite of deeply effective soundscapes that trouble and excite in equal measure. The album masterfully melds together disparate sounds to create an unnerving feeling of dread. The heavy pipe breathing of opener ‘Between Islands’ creaks into life like an ancient


Albums spacecraft. The track is equal parts robotic and mystical, each mechanical whirr pushing you further and further into the abyss. Meanwhile, the sweeping murmurs of ‘Nightwork’ slowly transform from calming waves to something almost wasp-like, luring the listener in with a false sense of security before dumping them into the deepest, darkest unknown. This trick is repeated throughout. As soon as the listener finds solace in the soundscape, everything is turned on its head. The comforting hums of ‘Moths & Stars’ and ‘Same River, Twice’ slowly develop into ear-ringing terror with the click of a finger, reminding you that, in the world of Aviva Endean, you’re never far from danger. 8/10 Jack Doherty

Helen Ganya — Polish The Machine (bella union) Helen Ganya kickstarts her latest release on a vulnerable note, confessing her deep-seated “feat of the ordinary” on opening track ‘I Will Hold That Hand For You’. Formerly recording under the name Dog In The Snow, she may have dropped the alias but her songwriting remains dark and unflinching as ever. Amid nightmarish vistas of fire and ice she covers identity, isolation and the failure to connect, alongside turning 30 in a world pathologically obsessed with youth, ‘Young Girls Never Die’ bristles at certain celebrities wheeling out inexhaustible freshfaced girlfriends who “rot inside” once their time is up. This existential tone characterises the record, with Ganya’s austere, ice-cold vocals posing questions that have no easy answer. ‘Delicate Graffiti’ explores the anxiety of influence, while


the battering-ram percussion of ‘Afterparty’ is punctuated with celestial arias and what sound like muffled screams. Despite densely-layered synths and ghostly overtones that recall ’80s gothic acts, the effect is far from ethereal: for all the swooning production and twinkling piano, her lyrics hit more like smelling salts. Yet within that bleak worldview, there’s a warped optimism and strength in making sure she’s the one to define it, confronting its reality head-on. Helen Ganya might quake at the ordinary, but pending apocalypse is something she can cheerfully sink her teeth into. 7/10 Orla Foster

Isomonstrosity — Isomonstrosity (brassland) It’s easy to overthink it, but music’s main job is to entertain. You should be able to stick a record on or go to a show and just escape for an hour or so. That’s the theory, at least, but occasionally an album comes along that transcends this purpose and points the way to the future. With their self-titled debut, Isomonstronsity might just have done just that. A supergroup made up of producer Johan Lenox, famed for his work with Travis Scott, Kanye West and Lil Nas X, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid and crypto pioneer Yuga Cohler; across a dozen songs, the trio chart a trek across cinematicsounding classical landscapes and fractured pop. Along the way, we get to meet a revolving cast of guest vocalists and contributing artists who deliver constant surprises despite being thrown miles from their comfort zones, from progressive rappers Danny Brown and 645AR, to Kacy Hill, Danny L Harle, Empress Of,

Vic Mensa, Tommy Genesis and Zacari. In spite of wall-to-wall big-name cameos and slick production, though, Isomonstrosity swerves the obvious pop tropes. The tracks on here will no doubt be too experimental to bother the charts, and their kaleidoscopic structures will keep them off the radar of TikTok creators. However, this won’t stop Isomonstrosity from quietly changing the world in the background. A record that simultaneously collapses genre lines and builds up whole new ones, this just could be the sound of pop to come. 8/10 Dominic Haley

Honey Dijon — Black Girl Magic (classic) If you’re looking for the dependable feel-good, you go to Honey Dijon. Club promoters in her hometown of Chicago knew that, and now so do clubbers and festival goers around the world. Beyoncé knew it when enlisting her to produce on RENAISSANCE. Honey Dijon has become an icon within the club world by presiding over dancefloors that celebrate pleasure, inclusion and reverence for classic dance sounds. Her selections always feel like they’ve been done with love and class. That spirit carried on when she began to produce, around the turn of the millennium, years after earning a reputation as a DJ. No more is this spirit clearer than on her new record, Black Girl Magic, an opulent 15-track celebration of vocal house and club music euphoria. She’s joined by vocalists like Eve, Sadie Walker and Pablo Vittar, among others, who gladly take up the role of the diva on a joyous collection of tracks that don’t waste a breath when it comes to exploring love on the dancefloor.

Albums Songs like ‘Not About You’ and ‘Love Is A State Of Mind’ rely on classic house chords and familiar drum patterns, but not just anyone can infuse a house track with this kind of energy. Take the glorious flanged hi-hats on ‘Love is A State Of Mind’, which bubble under the beat as vocals pop in and out of focus. Honey Dijon takes an elegant, muscular approach to production that’s ideal for a project so centred on crafting a utopian vision of the dancefloor. What makes the record hit is its depth. The upright bass and horn blasts on ‘Work’ with Mike Dunn could so easily come off as a fun beat element and nothing more, but Honey Dijon enlists live trumpet and piano to turn it into an alive jam that earns its extended runtime. What the record is missing is that sense of a holistic experience, a strange decision given the flow of a sweaty club set is something she’s already mastered. Instead, the record becomes a mixed bag of high-energy offerings that listeners will dip into when they need to be lifted up. From its opening poem to the closing moments, Black Girl Magic offers that in abundance. 7/10 Skye Butchard

Leland Whitty — Anyhow (innovative leisure) On the cover of Leland Whitty’s debut album in blurred green, a young boy cuts across a wide path running parallel to a river, ignoring the overgrown trees declaring some guard of honour. It’s the kind of image you could only capture momentarily: a calm landscape troubled by another storyline for all of a second. The BADBADNOTGOOD collaboratorturned-member has built up a remarkable

discography over the years outside the raucous Montreal quartet, working with Kendrick Lamar, MF DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt and Kaytranada among others, but Anyhow is noteworthy for its unassuming but assured tranquillity. Even when its flourishes appear, cutting across the record’s rhythm section like the aforementioned boy, you don’t need to focus on them to enjoy the view. From the surprisingly meditative opening notes of ‘Svalbard’ that twist like a feather on the breeze to the gentle humming chorus up next, Whitty’s first solo steps charter a lot of ambient ground for its fleeting, half hour runtime. Though keys tumble into a freefalling jazz in ‘Glass Moon’ – resembling the rotational interludes of St. Vincent’s ‘Strangers’ more than his instrumental contemporaries – Whitty’s saxophone squalls shatter the ambience like sunshine cutting through a heavy cloud rather than something unwelcome. Likewise, the swirling woodwind of ‘Windows’ and ‘Silver Rain’ – boosted by the playing of BADBAD bandmates Alex Sowinski and Chester Hansen – make any one-dimensional criticisms of Anyhow end as soon as they begin. It’s an album routinely in the image of the easy listening jazz fusion made vogue by Kokoroko and friends, sure, but when flashes of guitar hit the trad bebop keys in ‘Awake’ and the crunching drums pierce the skin of ‘In Circles’, there’s no shortage of space to explore. 8/10 Nick Tzara

Gentle Stranger — Upon Return (prah) If I had a penny every time someone said, “You haven’t heard anything like this,” over the 18 years or so I’ve been allowed to desecrate the pages

of this magazine, I’d certainly be poor, but probably much more excitable if that statement rang true on a more regular basis. Every so often, though, that lofty claim hits home, for better or worse. Self-described as a “post-clown” musical outfit, Gentle Stranger’s sound (and world) is a completely illogical one. To say it makes Upon Return a polarizing listen is a hefty understatement because this is an album that can only come from a place of wild, unhinged imagination. ‘Life Without Natural Snow’ is the sound of Basil Fawlty replacing Zach Condon to front Beirut; ‘Order Up’ goes all-in on the bad theatrics early, barking and gargling over the sound of a noiserock improv band; ‘Dunce Disco’ hits with nightclub bass (blasted out of a modified Corsa driving past McDonald’s) in a Metronomy-esque pastiche of a Saturday night out that’ll perversely speak to anyone who grew up in a small town. At this point, if you’re still searching for a coherent structure, you’d have more success creating a catwalk look from a school Lost Property box, but you can wholeheartedly believe Gentle Stranger when they say that their sound is like “throwing a bouncy ball into a hall of mirrors”. That description continues to bear out on ‘Since the Hares’ with its folky guitar, wheezing accordion and lyrical focus on dead animals, and on the similarly traditional ‘Since the Plough/ Kinclaven Brig/Morpeth Rant’ with peppy flute and festival drums creating a feeling of a more wholesome, olde time England. But then ‘In the Name of Love’ lurches into dirgey guitar grunge, ‘Imagine Roses’ becomes an exercise in dark, Alfred Hitchcock-esque sound design, and the album’s longest track ‘Do You Wanna Go?’ flits from flamencotinged acoustic to wailing, mania-driven anguish. Ranging from twelve seconds to almost seven minutes, these 20 tracks are as much snippets and scribbled notes of sound and poetry as they are bonafide songs, each one a puzzle piece lifted from a different jigsaw then glued together to create a magpie Picasso of everything, everywhere, all at once. By the time


Albums Upon Return reaches its bewildering end, you’re inevitably left with way more questions than when you started. 6/10 Reef Younis

Nyx Nótt — Themes From (melodic) This could all become a little silly: the second outing of Nyx Nótt, the instrumental project of Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat, so named after two mythical goddesses of night, was originally conceived as 20 different blink-andyou’ll-miss-them television themes. As a concept, it’s not so much a break from his bleakly unspooling debut album Aux Pieds de la Nuit as it is a clifftop plummet. But realising the gimmick, Moffat instead decided to lure these songs out from their 90-second hovels, turning them into full compositions more deserving of an album’s gravitas. Still, he conceded, “if the first Nyx Nótt album was like looking out on dark prairies before dawn, this is more like a walk through a neon Soho after a few cocktails.” Across the eight tracks that outlasted Moffat’s culling, the snapshot of some cinematic whiplash remains. Here we are on the long road through thrillers, pornos and swashbucklers. Album opener ‘Docudrama’ hints at the late ’90s/early ’00s shoegaze of Film School or SerenaManeesh, only it’s slowly populated by bulletin-style synth arpeggios rather than shredded guitars, and pre-set strings that demand a very specific outrage rather than blurry-eyed choruses. Between the tumbling upright bass of ‘Caper’ and sleazy intonations of ‘Hardboiled’ and ‘Porno’, you’d be forgiven for calling this a jazz record, although the muddy flood of saxophone and clanging cymbals is more Bernard Herrmann than Kenny G.


But in all, this feels like little more than a master mathematician doing the easy sudoku on their morning commute. It’s very to-the-brief, but then what’s a little showing off? 6/10 Nick Tzara

Sophie Jamieson — Choosing (bella union) “You’re a woman and you’re only on Side-A / You still got the whole long play to twist,” Sophie Jamieson intones on the closing statement of her debut record, Choosing. It’s a fitting send-off, signalling a period of adventure awaiting the selfassured London-based singer-songwriter. It also heralds a hopeful air to the work, one that’s otherwise dominated by Jamieson’s fraught relationship with alcohol and the self-destructive tendencies it incurred. In spite of Choosing coming almost a decade after Jamieson’s earliest EPs, this feels very much like a coming-ofage body of work. She goes from leaving her “dignity four bars behind” and admits to having “searched all corners of this town to fill me up”. Ultimately, the confidence and eagerness in her voice as she considers her future outweighs the darkness that informs the record. Musically, Jamieson moves seamlessly between minimal arrangements where her vocal is the focal-point, accompanied by an electric guitar sparingly strummed or a melancholic piano melody, before the instrumentation becomes suddenly exhilarated, as it does on the thrilling opener ‘Addition’. In this regard, patience is rewarded as Jamieson and co-producer Steph Marziano expertly build tension within these vast compositions. This is most effectively done on the gothic ‘Fill’. There are plenty of instances where Sharon Van Etten and Cat Power

feel particularly influential on Jamieson’s artistry. Elsewhere, Julia Jacklin comes to mind on ‘Runner’, while Colorado duo Tennis’ pop sensibility permeates the hook of ‘Empties’. Throughout the overall essence and atmosphere of the record, however, there’s a kinship to Blake Mills’ material and production-style in how these songs warmly envelope the listener. Admittedly, Choosing requires a couple of concentrated listens before completely clicking. Once everything falls into place, there’s something oddly comforting about how Sophie Jamieson makes sense of the chaos that inspired this astute introduction. 7/10 Zara Hedderman

Minder — Sanctuary (hypercolour) The slow burn return of jungle and techno has been unexpected, to say the least. Of all of the subsections of music to receive a second wind, you’d have been hardpressed a few years ago to find anyone beyond the most dedicated old-schoolers backing a return of the rattling snares and whomping bass of ’91, but here we are. Minder is the latest in a long line of rave-adjacent revivalists, but unlike the majority of the harkback crew, the producer manages to put a unique spin on an increasingly decaying sound. Sanctuary is overflowing with ingredients from dance music’s storied past. ‘Ard’ and ‘Service’ are full of wobbling synths, keyboard strings and crackling breakbeats, but where most modern dance fails through sheer loop fatigue, Minder manages to do something different, moulding familiar pummelling repetition into something much more sinister. The deep, almost trance-like state of ‘Dollar Bill’ unnerves with every

Albums rattle, while the erratic jabs of ‘Shard’ could have been pulled straight out of Aphex Twin’s twisted squelch playbook. It’s during these moments that the album shines brightest. At points Minder strays away from the experimental towards something much more “traditional”. ‘Popcorn Lover’ and ‘Show Me’ are fine enough, but when placed deep within the darkness of the rest of the album, you can’t help but feel taken out of the moment. Despite these minor slip-ups, with Sanctuary, Minder has managed to create an album that leans heavily on the past while never falling into the pitfalls of pastiche, proving that there’s life in the old genre after all. 7/10 Jack Doherty

Tristan — Wellif (pias) Recent years have seen a cultural rewiring of the medieval Belgian city of Ghent (Gent in its native Dutch), and as it has emerged as a modest but significant artistic hub on the continent, a vanguard of predominantly female-identifying musicians have been leading the way. Whether it’s Tsar B’s delightful Arabic-tinged baroque R&B, the film-noir swagger of Sylvie Kreusch’s dream pop or the melancholic indie rock of Dutch-born Eefje De Visser, this port city is awash with enthralling artists who are filling the plentiful stone-walled venues sat along its two rivers with innovative new sound. With her debut album, Tristan aims to join the takeover. From its first moments, there’s a singular zeal evident within Wellif that aligns with the growing number of records from young, ambitious, multidisciplinary artists that are being written, performed and produced almost single-handedly. It’s the sort of nouveau-

musical auteur approach of which Jerskin Fendrix’s Winterreise is perhaps the bestexecuted recent example. Tempos, chords and electronics all slam against one another in a methodical madness, with standout track ‘Muscle’ a theatrical conflagration of Ableton, strings, and a Theremin (maybe) that all squeeze in between Tristan’s whispers, spoken words, and glorious jazz-inflected vocals. However, for all that this industrious album throws at you, the balance seems off at times. Spicier tracks such as ‘Hellballad’ lack a certain warmth, whereas the stripped-back ‘It’s Him’ and sober closer ‘Privé’ brim with heart, but miss invention. Tristan appears burdened with talent and ideas, trying to serve the dual masters of pop and experimentation without entirely satisfying either. As a result, like the lowland city she calls home, Wellif is a solid record lacking in true high points. 6/10 Robert Davidson

CVC — Get Real (cvc) The heavilymemed Steely Dan have been retrospectively celebrated a great deal by audiences fifty years removed from their initial 1970s run. These days, we’re hearing more acts sprinkling some motifs from the Dan’s extravagant style into their own music than we have for some time. CVC are the latest outfit drawing from the smooth hooks and golden tones of jazz-flecked ’70s psych-rock. The Welsh group show promise with their proficient musicianship and harmonies on Get Real; yet this wears thin quickly as we become more acquainted with the record, especially CVC’s undercooked and juvenile lyricism. Made up of a sonic palette that references the aforementioned Steely Dan,

Harry Nilsson and Pink Floyd, Get Real does have some engaging moments/ The overriding issue with Get Real, however, is that the whole record ffeels like a band warming up with ’70s rock tunes before settling down to business. The overly derivative nature is distracting. With little of their own sound or vision on display, this record reveals the slightness of personality and originality in the songwriting, resulting in an anonymous quality. It’s not CVC’s name you remember, it’s the bands they’re emulating who stick in your mind. 5/10 Zara Hedderman

Mansur Brown — NAQI (amai) Mansur Brown is another of your south London jazzers, this time a conservatoire-trained guitarist with a clear predilection for flamenco flourishes and early-’00s hip-hop beats. His debut LP, NAQI, is very much a record of two halves: the first is all club bubblers cut from the same Timbaland cloth, full of swaggering syncopation and throbbing bass pads with elegant shifts in movement driven by ornate nylon-string guitar figures, while the back half comprises 20 minutes of explorations into and beyond multitracked solo guitar. There’s good stuff to be found in both of Brown’s incarnations: ‘Path’, for example, has Princely nods towards emotional funk, and ten-minute finale ‘Meikai’ is chaotic but impressively cinematic when it eventually works out what it’s doing. Unfortunately, though, there’s not enough variety or persuasiveness on here: once you understand the idioms in which Brown is working, a sense of the inevitable descends, leaving most of NAQI as a parade through the predictable. 5/10 Sam Walton


Albums Live clearly resonates with the deeply attentive audience, and the performance is one of a triumphant and transformed artist at her prime. Jessica Wrigglesworth

Bon Iver OVO Arena Wembley, London 25 October 2022

Angel Olsen O2 Academy Brixton 18 October 2022

The last time Angel Olsen performed in London was at Hammersmith Apollo in February 2020, when she brought the grandiosity of her 2019 opus All Mirrors to life complete with a sky-high beehive, icy blue lights and a large marble staircase projected behind her. It goes without saying that a lot has changed since then, but for Olsen it has been a particularly transformative couple of years: she has lost both her parents, fallen in love with her long-term partner and come out publicly as gay, experiences she tackles in depth on her latest album Big Time. All the warm, easy sentiment of Big Time is present at tonight’s Brixton show, which sees the artist noticeably more relaxed. She has eschewed the beehive for a casual hairstyle and flared jeans, and sways gently as she sings, her vibe more club singer than the ice queen we saw last time around. What hasn’t changed is the power of Olsen’s voice and the ease with which she manipulates it. Opening with the slow burning ‘Dream Thing’, her ever-soslightly gravelly tone and gentle country twang are instantly recognisable. It’s one of those voices that is so imbued with


emotion that it’s hard not to be captivated, even if the staging is somewhat bland. As the band kick into gear for the anthemic ‘Big Time’, her transformation into a Lucinda Williams-esque Americana starlet is complete. Huddled close to Olsen and dressed in jewel tone suits, a six-piece band including cello and violin emulate the rich bluegrass sound of the record. But despite the earnestness of lyrics like “I’m loving you big time, I’m loving you more”, there’s a glint in Olsen’s eye which suggests she’s lost none of her sardonic wit. “I wrote this one today, and I think it might be a good one,” she quips before launching into fan favourite ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, which along with‘Give It Up’ offers an injection of energy in an otherwise relatively mellow set. A cover of cult folk singer Tucker Zimmerman’s ‘Slowing Down Love’ slots beautifully into the set, a prime example of the kind of deceptively simple songwriting which clearly inspired Big Time. For all the lilting melodies and breezy bluegrass riffs, there is a profound depth to the record on tracks like ‘This Is How It Works’, a stark contemplation of grief, or the soulsearching ‘Go Home’. It’s a depth that doesn’t always fully translate in this set, perhaps because Olsen seems so genuinely comfortable and at ease. For the most part though, her extraordinary voice packs an emotional punch which

Justin Vernon has never been one to seek the limelight. A purveyor of often inwardlooking and indoor-voiced music, he’s known, perhaps ironically, for keeping to himself and staying as close to his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin as possible. Collaborations with Kanye West and, more recently, Taylor Swift may have nudged the Bon Iver mastermind closer to being a household name. Still though, it seemed slightly out of sorts that his return to London after Everything That’s Happened finds him headlining Wembley Arena two nights running. On the first of those two nights though (Swift made a surprise appearance alongside The National’s Aaron Dessner on the second night, just my luck!), Vernon and co prove that even the quietest moments in the Bon Iver back catalogue can command a crowd of 12,000+ people. Throughout the night Vernon provides a lesson in balancing the organic and artificial. Tracks from the more experimental 22, A Million and i,i sit alongside older, more acoustic cuts from For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, the latter often beefed up slightly with horns, keys and the immersive soundsystem travelling with the band. It’s a credit to the musicians that ‘Skinny Love’ doesn’t feel like the anomalous hit a la Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, but rather one highlight among many in a varied set. Even the visuals for the show reflect the balanced ethos of Bon Iver in 2022. Vernon and the band are mostly unkempt and dressed casually in caps and t-shirts. Around them jagged neon tube lights and a constantly-shifting aerial display of

photography by maggie koo

Albums Live mirror and lights variously transform the stage from rave-worthy lasers and strobes to a glorious yellow sunrise during preencore closer ‘Naeem’. Justin Vernon doesn’t want to, nor does he need, to be a rock star: he’s capable of captivating tens of thousands with little more than a glitchy-auto tuned whisper. Mike Vinti

PVA Village Underground, London 3 November 2022

PVA have built a reputation on their live show. Long before much recorded music emerged, word got round about addictive gigs full of throb and sweat, and accordingly their latest run of UK dates feels like a victory lap after three years of relentless performance. And like a victory lap, tonight’s triumph seems shared between both band and loyal audience, with special appearances on stage and gleeful abandon in front of it from the PVA faithful. Also like a victory lap, however, there’s a marked lack of intensity compared to what’s led up to it, with the band more preoccupied by enjoying the spectacle of their own success than delivering the concentrated full-throttle

photography by phoebe fox

techno-DIY assault that brought it to them originally. So it is that a pair of dancers from Queer House Party join for the first three songs and completely steal the show, consequently leaving something of an energy void after they awkwardly depart fifteen minutes later; in the same vein, when the band request a metal gig-style circle of death be formed before ‘Kim’, the sense that they’re distracted by their surroundings continues. There are moments of the old, hyper-focused PVA – ‘Bad Dad’ has a delicious, mendacious lurch to it, and there’s impressive heft and rumble to ‘Sleek Form’ – and their heavier, industrial songs work better with Village Underground’s vocal-heavy, drum-light mix. But the contemplative ‘Seven’, featuring guest singer Tony Njoku and pre-announced as a “breather before we go crazy again” misreads the room – no one tonight wants any breathers – and closing by reimagining ‘The Individual’ as a sort of nu-metal blast makes for an incongruous ending. No one could argue that both PVA and the fans who have followed them here haven’t earnt a night like this, and the palpable sense of self-celebration is heartwarming. Yet neither could anyone argue that this is the band, with their enormous live pedigree, at their best. Sam Walton

Rina Sawayama O2 Academy Brixton 26 October 2022

When Rina Sawayama asks “Who here goes to therapy, London?”, the crowd responds with a cathartic, collective scream that reverberates through Brixton’s sold-out O2 Academy. Here, at her packed homecoming gig for latest album Hold the Girl, she matches substance to spectacle, bringing her reverent audience on a journey that ends somewhere between devil’s disco and counselling session. It’s a young, diverse crowd, visibly elated to be in the presence of the artist who smashed the charts with an ambitious album filled with infectious, genre-defying pop bangers about caring for your inner child, queer resistance and the contradictions of racialised selfhood (she opens the show with ‘Minor Feelings’, which references Cathy Park Hong’s essay collection about the possibilities of a ‘purgatorial’ Asian-American identity). In a space like this, where Sawayama herself once queued to see her idols as a teenager, this feels nothing short of revolutionary. Live, her presence is electric. From the soaring melodies of ‘Catch Me in the Air’ to the soulful, heady emotion of ‘Send my love to John’, Sawayama’s vocals are achingly precise, leaving no room for doubt of her considerable talent. The show is slickly choreographed, with Sawayama supported by two powerhouse dancers through costume changes that see her morph from double-denim cowgirl to ‘couture jellyfish’ to sequined club icon. Closing the set with ‘This Hell’, she divides the audience in two: ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’, who chant the song’s refrains at her and each other, each “Got my invitation to eternal damnation” and “Get in line, pass the wine, bitch – we’re going straight to hell” getting louder and more giddy with each repetition. That’s part of Sawayama’s skill, her charm: she brings you in, asks you to contribute, makes you feel seen. People scream, people cry: we’re all just thrilled to be involved. Joanna Lee


FilmAlbums and Books

Meet Me in the Bathroom (pulse films) Like every indie rock fan my age, I devoured and marvelled at Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 book Meet Me in the Bathroom, undeterred by the fact that it’s as thick as a brick. What a feat of music journalism it is – a 600-page history of the New York music scene from 2001-2011, told exclusively in the form of an oral history, by practically every artist involved. How do you even go about starting to write a book like that? There is an answer to that that’s so simple it belies the craft and hard yards of Goodman’s bestseller: you essentially spend hundreds of hours interviewing everyone from The Strokes to Vampire Weekend and then you spend a thousand more editing what you have into a comprehensive, entertaining, truthful story. Nostalgia played more than its part in making it such a hit, but it was Goodman’s edit job (and her ability to use one interview to influence the next so effectively) that made her book such a frequently funny page-turner. From what I remember, The Strokes – and especially Julian Casablancas – came out of it as the undisputed heroes of the scene; James Murphy, not so much. The movie shares the book’s name and premise, but it is not an adaptation. From the team that made the excellent LCD Soundsystem film Shut Up And Play The Hits, it’s a documentary made up of lost live footage, old video interviews and pre-existing audio interviews. And herein lies its own challenge (and limitations) – of telling this tale with what it has, rather than what is has created. Inevitably, it focuses on far fewer bands, and a shorter timeframe, which is no big problem because we’re all here for The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD. It’s curiously light on music from the time, offering us instead plenty of early


live footage and photos, the strongest being The Strokes’ famous Mercury Lounge residency, The Strokes generally pissing about and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Brooklyn yard party. For obvious reasons, none of it hits anywhere near as hard as the still shocking footage of planes flying into the World Trade Center, while other unseen video sees Paul Banks of Interpol at the site walking amongst the ash. But despite its best efforts, Meet Me in the Bathroom struggles to not frustrate when we hear quotes from its stars that can’t be followed up with an obvious question now hanging on the air. They are time capsules, and we (and the film producers) have to make do and live with them as they are, while, after a time, the old footage strangely starts to make the scene feel more insular and less exciting than we’ve ever allowed ourselves to imagine. Stuart Stubbs

Spaceships Over Glasgow — Stuart Braithwaite (white rabbit) In Spaceships Over Glasgow, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwaibhas managed to write an account of his childhood, love of music and path to fame that shows the depth of his devotion. It starts with Braithwaite’s happy upbringing in rural Scotland and steady growth of an obsession with punk and shoegaze. He recounts concerts and gigs attended from his teenage years through present day with an impressive attention to detail that belies his concurrent love affair with alcohol, drugs and the pursuit of a great night out. He comes across as a music fan first, musician second, which adds to the conversational style of writing that makes him likeable and charming to readers. Those who are similarly enamoured with the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody

Valentine and The Cure will adore Braithwaite’s worshipful stories of performances and encounters with his idols through the decades. The uninitiated might feel lost, but that being said, Braithwaite’s stories of discovering a love for music in his early adolescence will resonate with any and all music fans. Eventually the book covers Mogwai’s inception and rise to fame, punctuated (very) regularly with descriptions of debauched nights out, in Glasgow, at festivals and on tour stops around the globe. Though Braithwaite admits that his drinking and drug use wasn’t always as glamorous as one might imagine, he stops short of truly reflecting on how his propensity for getting fucked up might have shaped his experiences. He comes close a few times, like when he explains that organising the ATP festival is one of his proudest career moments, but he blacked out for most of it. Similarly, he writes a lot about his romantic relationships, but doesn’t delve too deeply into the emotional impact they had on his music. Perhaps there’s a connection between what Braithwaite writes of the Scottish tendency to “downplay achievements and go to any lengths not to look conceited” and a tendency to hold certain emotional vulnerabilities close to his chest. He isn’t looking for pity when he recounts mistakes, but might err too much on the side of caution and not let readers in on some of the thoughts and feelings that moulded the music his fans love. Most of the accounts about the particularly difficult parts of his life are described through matter-of-fact accounts of how he drank and worked his way through stress. Where Braithwaite writes beautifully and poignantly is about his family, especially about the passing of his father and the loving, close relationship they had. Earlier parts of the book are written in compellingly conversational and straightforward prose that makes colourful descriptions of music and shows pop, and while most of Spaceships Over Glasgow is essentially a rundown of killer gigs and festivals, Braithwaite shines when writing about his loved ones, making it clear how much of an impact they’ve had on his life, music and success. Isabel Crabtree

The state51 Conspiracy

GROVE Sound Of The Underground 7” Single First release on Greed

LOU TERRY Warmly, Alexandria 4 Track EP

HOTEL LUX Hands Across The Creek Debut Album 27th Jan 2023



Build it out


The plates keep coming. Pad see ew, calamari, tom yum broth, sticky rice; scattered peanuts, fragrant lime slices, piles of noodles, scrambled eggs and deep-fried meat, lathered in glistening sauce and pungent garnish. The restaurant’s matriarch, a gregarious woman in her 60s, is gently mocking the choices we’ve made from the menu. But this is a real feast: tasty, generous, nourishing – and cheap. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, really – on the drive here from central Los Angeles, the people I’m dining with scoured the internet for the best place to eat around here. “We read so many reviews,” says Alli Logout. “We take tour food very seriously.” Double Delicious Thai Cuisine is somewhere in the endless suburban sprawl south of LA, five minutes away from the venue Special Interest are playing tonight as part of a short Californian tour. I’m joining them for a couple of shows to meet a band in transition: from local legends to an international concern, from dive bars to festival stages, from the intersection of radical culture and the experimental underground to the alternative music big time.


It’s arguable that they’ve been ready for this for years. Their various projects first coalesced into Special Interest in 2015 in New Orleans; by the time the pandemic halted everything in 2020, they’d released two albums and several singles and EPs, from the scorched-earth noise-techno of 2016’s Trust No Wave to 2020’s more expansive (but no more compromising) The Passion Of. From the start, they stood out, Alli’s gale-force vocals crowning the glorious squall of Maria Elena’s spidery guitars, Ruth Mascelli’s feral drum machine and Nathan Cassiani’s explorative, syncopated bass. In Alli, they’ve got a genuine starquality frontperson, oozing charisma and wit, but it’s not just about them: the whole band lock together perfectly, their disparate energies complementing one another on and offstage. All the elements are there, and now that they’ve signed to indie giant Rough Trade, Special Interest appear limitless. Their new album, and first for Rough Trade, is called Endure. It’s their most complete work yet: full of the same venom that made their early releases so invigorating, but with more tenderness and subtlety underpinning the familiar skronk and sizzle of their industrial melodicism. Lead single ‘(Herman’s) House’ encapsulates this perfectly: a four-minute death disco banger, complete with a massive hook, four-to-the-floor pound, inside-out rave piano and lyrics about Herman Wallace of the Angola Three (so called due to their incarceration at Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison), a revolutionary and member of the Black Panthers, who was imprisoned for 41 years in brutal conditions, largely in solitary confinement. Wallace’s treatment was based on charges that were dubious even on the inhumane terms of the US penal system and exacerbated by the state’s opposition to his radical politics; accordingly, it was protested by activists the world over, from grassroots organisers to Amnesty International. The house in the song title emerged from Wallace’s ongoing correspondence with multidisciplinary artist Jackie Sumell, who asked him to describe his dream home to her while he was incarcerated and turned the results into The House That Herman Built, a collaborative art project that has been exhibited the world over. Doing such a story any kind of justice – inextricable as it is from the ongoing violence of the American state, its carceral system and what Cedric J. Robinson famously termed racial capitalism – in the space of a concise pop track sounds functionally impossible; somehow, Special Interest have managed it.

ROMANTIC, NOT POPPY A lot of people have been commenting on the ‘poppier’ sound of tracks like ‘(Herman’s) House’, the band tell me without much enthusiasm. They seem tired of such remarks already. Maria is most forthcoming, preferring to reframe this idea rather than dismiss it out of hand: “I think ‘romantic’ is a better term for it. It’s not more pop, it’s more romantic. I think this whole pop thing


is really weird – to me, that’s the stuff you hear at Forever 21, but that’s not melodic music. And is punk not pop music too?” It might be tempting to connect this slightly more accessible sound to their signing to a big international label, but that’s not correct either. The vast majority of Endure was written before Rough Trade got involved – and the label’s initial interest was based more on the aggression of their early work than the crossover potential of their melodies. “I’d known Ryan [Rough Trade A&R] for a while,” says Nathan, “and he hit me up about The Passion Of. We were going to play [legendary UK hardcore festival] Static Shock, and he said he could send some Rough Trade people down, but we were already sending off the masters – it was a bit late. But then, a year later, he started sniffing around again.” “That Static Shock was the first time I realised people were listening to us,” says Ruth. “[It felt like] what are all these people doing here?!” “‘(Herman’s) House’ was one of the first songs we wrote for it,” recalls Maria. “It was when we could take off our masks after we got vaccinated and we wrote it immediately.” “‘Midnight Legend’ was like ‘Disco III’ [from The Passion Of] – it just felt good,” picks up Ruth. “The vibe was already there – we just had to bring it in, let it land.” He pauses over a steaming bowl of egg-fried rice. “But also we learned to play better together as a unit, which might make things more accessible – we’re not just turning everything up at the same time, we’re listening to each other a bit more. It just felt more natural.”

DIRTY MONEY The sheer scale and atmosphere of Los Angeles is disorientating, particularly for a first-time visitor, particularly one from the UK. This city has been romanticised to death by proud locals and misty-eyed dilettantes, so there’s little point in providing yet more material for the Californian tourist board here, but the grandiose, over-familiar reputation of the place is not completely unfounded. The thick, syrupy light; the arcing palms cascading over the endless streams of traffic; the flowing contours of the San Gabriel foothills, gradually cresting up into the watercolour traces of the mountains beyond. It’s a strangely liquid place: fluid, serene, unknowable, with danger somewhere below the surface.

At least that’s how it seems to someone more used to the anxious density of European cities, thrown together by necessity over the course of centuries, a far more improvisational, precarious urbanism, smaller in breadth but no less intense. It’s the night before our conversation in the Thai restaurant, and Special Interest are playing at The Echo on the western end of Sunset Boulevard. It’s a no-frills venue in a neatly fashionable part of town; the lush Echo Park is nearby, with the patchwork neighbourhoods of Silver Lake eventually morphing into East Hollywood a couple of miles in the other direction. Yet its back-to-basics appeal is undercut somewhat by the airport-style security I have to go through on the way in. As I put everything back in my pockets having been thoroughly scanned and patted down, the band’s US publicist, Melanie, and her LA lifer friends bring me up to speed with the inevitable story of gentrification and paranoia that precipitated the venue’s recent scaling up of security. A little while ago, it was bought out by a multinational corporate promoter. In came a stripping-back and reorganisation of the interior (my companions seem a little dismayed that the room they remember from so many happy nights out has been altered so clinically), an intimidating surveillance system and, as we’re about to find out, price hikes behind the bar. It’s not that it’s an unpleasant or ill-fitting venue – it does the job perfectly well. But its story is indicative of the same cycles of gentrification, displacement and dislocation that are just as familiar in the UK as the US. Those cycles haunt LA as they have done for decades, its international cultural prestige constantly in the process of ripening for co-option and commodification, with any inconvenient contradictions or obstacles – any inconvenient people or communities – cast aside like old peel. Earlier that day I’d wandered around the city for a few hours, a typical outsider who doesn’t realise that that’s not really the done thing here, and witnessed for myself the way in which the desperate poverty of this place is in a continuous dialectic with its fabulous wealth, the mini-metropolises of tents and squats cowering in the shadows of its celebrity mansions and dynastic film

studios. Of course, that’s the nature of capital accumulation – mass deprivation doesn’t proliferate in spite of the flourishing of private luxury, but because of it. And I live in London – I’m used to seeing privilege and squalor coexisting, the elevation of the former constantly prioritised at the expense of the alleviation of the latter; but like everything in LA, it’s just bigger and more visible here. It’d be crass to suggest something along the lines of the fate of DIY music venues being the thin end of the wedge – these issues are deeper, older, international in scope – but it’s telling that even in this bohemian, not-yet-entirely gentrified corner of the city, tonight playing generous host to an emancipatory punk band, the processes of dispossession which form and reform the character of so much contemporary urban life are clearly, inescapably visible. Of course, Special Interest are more than aware of this stuff. Our conversations during my time with them are peppered with mentions of their involvement in community organising, grassroots culture and industrial action; at one point, they lament the lack of tenants’ rights in the States, and the impact this has on working class communities. And it’s written into their lyrics, from ‘Foul’s call-andresponse workplace angst (“Dirty money, dirty boss… I’ll save up for vacay smoke break!”) via the disintegration of ‘Concerning Peace’ (“Who gets offered the American dream to OD on fent in a fascist regime?”) to ‘Midnight Legend’s ode to the fleeting instances of liberation which occasionally make all this shit feel tolerable (“Won’t you tell me all about your story, and about the day that you didn’t have to fight? I’m just here to listen, sound board for your visions, all you need to say, you say with your eyes”). This is a band painfully attuned to the reality of life in modern America, with all the violence, injustice and all-too-infrequent joy that that implies. Anyway, back to the show. Inside The Echo, queer kids in bondage gear and older crusties in ancient denim rub shoulders, a nice reflection of the band’s multi-subcultural appeal. Yet even among these eclectic groups, not to mention the countless annoyingly attractive, well-dressed Angelenos wandering the street outside, Special Interest stand out immediately. They’re a remarkably varied yet cohesive-looking group of people: Alli in red jumpsuit and vampy Julia Fox makeup under their gold-tinted Afro; Ruth in tight T-shirt and waistcoat, a bright pop of eyeshadow complementing his neckerchief; Nathan the

“Being from Texas, if you’re gay or weird at all, you move to Austin, but I already saw through the liberal bullshit. I was very adamant I wanted to live in the south, to change this place and have southern pride, and New Orleans is a southern city I actually feel like I can be myself in”


erstwhile DIY scene stalwart, bearded, dressed stylishly but pragmatically; Maria with Horses-era Patti Smith fringe and shoulderless top, casual but focused. They file onstage one-by-one, Ruth’s pneumatic drum machine heralding the show as Alli emerges last, just in time to reach the mic for the opening lines of ‘Cherry Blue Intention’. Their lips curl into a snarl as they spit the track’s insistent vocal part, the crowd collapsing into a feverish, gyrating mass before them. It’s an entrance. The set barrels forwards from there, alternating between the jaw-clenching noise-punk of Special Interest’s early releases and the sleeker art-rock of Endure. ‘(Herman’s) House’ becomes a bona-fide anthem in a space like this, bolstered by a meaty soundsystem; the gang vocals of ‘Foul’ bounce around the room like Shopping playing Berghain; ‘Street Pulse Beat’ transcends its recorded atmosphere of Blue Nile-meets-Helena Hauff turbine hall melodrama and becomes something even more cathartic. Alli glowers over the audience imperiously, fully aware of their power. It’s tempting to say Special Interest are like a well-oiled machine live, but quite apart from how clichéd that is, it also fails to capture the specificity of the experience. If this band is a machine, it’s a snowplough, heavy but economical, a purpose-built device to cut through the encroaching cold, carving out a wide path for Alli to dance along and across at their own pace, following a general route without being constrained by their bandmates’ precise line of flight. When I say hi after the set, meeting the band for the first time, they’re still catching their breath. Nathan, shy but assured, has made a beeline for his shift on the merch table; Alli lets out a quick hello before dashing off to meet some old friends on the other side of the room; Ruth is giggly and self-effacing; Maria welcoming and keen to catch up with the label people who’ve accompanied me to the gig. After a while, we head to a barely-lit bar across the road, where some friends of the band are performing as part of a drag show. Everyone unwinds, jetlag and alcohol definitely making me even more charming and not even more awkward and weird, and the night meanders to a close a few hours later.

TO NEW ORLEANS The four members of Special Interest took circuitous routes to the city that’s now inextricably linked to their work. Alli grew up in small-town Texas, and some of their formative musical experiences played out on the fringes of a local hardcore scene which briefly achieved national notoriety. “It was the biggest thing that was happening in American underground music at the time – but I wasn’t in a cool enough band to be part of that situation,” they recall. “I have a lot to say about the 2012 hardcore era, because it was just a bunch of rich white boys who were really elitist. They were really mean to me and they were really mean to the boys in my band, because they


didn’t know how to dress the cool way.” A move elsewhere began to appeal. “Being from Texas, if you’re gay or weird at all, you move to Austin,” they say, “but I already saw through the liberal bullshit of Austin. But New Orleans is a southern city I actually feel like I can be myself in. And it’s a Black city. I was very adamant that I wanted to live in the south: I want to change this place and have southern pride. The first few years there were really special, really messy and really fucked up. I’d just turned 21, which is the legal drinking age, and it was great. And intense.” Nathan is matter-of-fact about his arrival in New Orleans. “It was 2012; I’d been living in Oakland, California and my boyfriend at the time had been back and forth between New Orleans and the Bay Area. And he brought me there. We drove across the country, and we got to New Orleans on Twelfth Night [the first night of carnival season]. I left a little bit after Mardi Gras. I didn’t actually love it at first: I think the transient party culture around carnival that exists there wasn’t really my thing, and still isn’t really. But then he tried to get me to move to Atlanta, and I hated it from the get-go. And so I was just like, ‘I’ll just live in New Orleans.’ It was close enough.” He shrugs. They’re all a little like this in conversation: invariably friendly and charismatic, but honest and unsentimental at the same time. There’s little in the way of convenient myth or simple categorisation with this band. “I moved from Pennsylvania to New Orleans in 2009,” says Ruth. “And I never really played music at all; I was in my mid 20s and I really wanted to be in a band. So I started doing a little solo project to try and attract some people, and I was a really big fan of Maria’s band at that time – like, obsessed – and I did a T-shirt design for them. And that’s how I met them, going to the same shows. Maria and Alli were the ones who really started Special Interest.” Before New Orleans, Maria had been in Minneapolis, part of an arts collective who brought a series of underground artists to the city. “I was part of the post-punk revival thing,” she recalls. “They were the things that I was booking in Minneapolis. There were bands coming out of Texas that were really exciting, and also in the Midwest. And there were all the British bands I booked too – like Rachel Aggs and her pre-Shopping stuff.” She already knew Alli, and they’d spoken about forming a band together before; the plan eventually came to fruition once they were both in New Orleans. Nathan was already there – “You were




so established [on the scene],” Maria tells him when this comes up, “I didn’t realise you’d only been there a year” – and Ruth was recruited soon enough, his clattering drum machine and windy synth production favoured over a live drummer. “We didn’t want a real drummer,” says Alli. “One, because they’re unreliable; two, because of how much space they take up. They have so much stuff to carry around.” Although relying on a drum machine presented its own challenges. “It was like, ‘How do you play these DIY shows and get to hear it?’ We had to carry an extra PA around with us.” The practical choice of drum machine over drummer immediately informed the aesthetic direction of the nascent group – after all, machines are “uncompromising, so we just adapted our composition to that, creating angles. Nathan would find the groove [on bass], and it’d take a while to figure out. But we knew something was interesting.” The early shows also featured Alli ‘playing’ the power drill, the band taking ‘industrial music’ quite literally, Einstürzende Neubauten-style. The drill actually makes a welcome return on Endure track ‘LA Blues’. “Yeah, I didn’t know how to play anything, but liked playing music and loved performing,” says Alli. “In my first band, I just sang and loved it. Then I started wanting to jam with other people but I didn’t know how really, and I wasn’t interested in, like, learning a chord. So I just took a more noisy approach. This was happening when I was in Denton, Texas, and there were a lot of really great OG noise people there. Being friends with them really encouraged me to be like, ‘Fuck it, make noise, with anything.’ “That’s actually the whole reason my first band went to Ne Orleans – to play this festival, but our drummer got arrested and our guitarist hated the bassist, so we couldn’t go and I was hanging out with these noise girls at a bar, crying like, ‘I’ve never done anything outside of Texas!’. I hadn’t like travelled at that point in my life – I was like, 19. And they were like, ‘Fuck it, get a toy drum machine and just write a whole new set.’ And that’s what we did. And we went and played in New Orleans.”

QUEERNESS ISN’T A SOUND Those early shows, in different bands across the South, clearly mean a lot to Alli. But it’s also obvious that like so many queer people of colour in contemporary America, their experiences were far from uniformly positive; they wince a little when recalling them now. “In my first band I was really adamant about being like ‘We’re a queer band’, but it completely destroyed me. I had no idea what was going on, and I didn’t understand how my blackness was being fetishised, and it killed my soul. One day, the memoir…” Alli lets out a hollow laugh. It’s a recurring trauma that continues to this day. At one point in our conversation, I briefly reference an interview with

Special Interest from another publication, and their groans come out immediately, in perfect unison. “The headline [which caricatured the band’s identities and politics with tabloid crudeness] was so embarrassing, it was one tiny thing Maria said at the end…” Alli is still lamenting as I try to steer the interview in another direction. But it’s clear what the issue is: quite correctly, they’re sick of being pigeonholed and caricatured by the mainly white, heterosexual gaze of the music press, and even in supposedly ‘progressive’ publications (or DIY scenes for that matter), they can’t seem to escape its othering tendencies. “Nathan hit it the other day: queerness isn’t a sound,” says Alli. “We’re just so clearly part of a queer legacy, and that is something that’s really important, but it doesn’t describe what we sound like at all, so being put under that umbrella doesn’t make sense. But we definitely see ourselves as part of that lineage, and a lot of our art is about being queer and the politics of that; but we don’t need to be lumped in with a lot of [corporate queer culture] stuff, we don’t really have anything to do with that. It goes back to branding. It’s just such bullshit.” “As homosexuals, we love it when we find out people are gay,” says Maria. “That’s cool and it’s nice to interact with them. It is exciting when there’s a band you like and you see that they’re queer – I get it, I would be pumped on that too.” Alli nods sympathetically. “Even the bands we played with last night, they’re queer, and we had a great time with them, but we’re not marketing our show as a queer show. I know how important that is to people, and I know how important that was to me – if I saw something labelled as queer, I knew that I could go there. It’s just really frustrating when people do that all the time, just talk about literally who we’re fucking – there’s more to everything than who we’re fucking.” All four of the band are queer, and they’re visibly tired of their identities being commodified and fetishised in this way. Ruth even fake-protests, “We’re all straight!” as a jokey way of evading the question; yet through their own internal bond, as well as the solidarity they share with other marginalised artists and communities, it seems like they’re finding new ways of at least keeping that shit at arm’s length. “I’ve been really wanting to sit and process these feelings [from their early band experiences],” sighs Alli. “It’s also happening in this band, but it’s completely different. But there’s such an intense toll that’s taken on you mentally and physically when you’re being fetishised in this way, and I’m a really sensitive person. I didn’t understand a lot about how my body was being perceived. There was this article about an old band of mine that


“It’s just really frustrating when people do that all the time, label us as a queer band and nothing else, just talking about literally who we’re fucking”

was like, extra punk, and it described us as ‘soulful’ [obviously, a massive dog whistle] – it just sucks. But wait for the memoir. “But it’s rewarding to be in this band, to collaborate with these specific people. This feels good and easy, and it’s literally because of them, and I can hold onto them.” Alli looks up. “And that’s why we’re the best band.” Everyone laughs, partly out of relief.

ENDURE We return to the album that this best band have made. I’m curious about the title, and what it implies: we’ve already discussed the challenges they’ve faced and continue to wrestle with, but in the specific context of this record, how would Special Interest describe what they’re enduring, and what do they believe awaits them on the other side? “We wrote this album mid-quarantine – pandemic time,” explains Alli. “That was such a time of reflecting and uncertainty, and there’s also this legacy of enduring and staying true to who you are with songs like ‘Herman’s’ and ‘Concerned with Peace’ – like, we must endure and move into the future. I think enduring is just this thing we have to do to keep going. It sounds heavy, but also if we’re enduring, that means there’s a future.” And that’s a future about which, despite everything, there are some reasons to be hopeful. “People are learning how to handle conflict more,” says Maria. “Since the pandemic people are willing to engage in actual action, addressing things that are going wrong. It’s natural to respond with the most negative response when


asked to reflect about things, and maybe that’s why interviews always come out weird…” “A good thing that’s happening is more labour organising,” adds Ruth brightly. “People becoming more conscious of their working conditions, talking to each other, unionising. Talking about pay discrepancies, that’s really cool – everyone being in a horrible spot because of the pandemic, that’s pushed them into that stuff for sure. It’s inspiring.” Soon, the band have to run to their soundcheck for tonight’s show, and that’s the focus for the rest of the day. At tonight’s venue, too, the security is pretty full-on; it all feels a bit suspect to me, but maybe I’m being either way too cynical or way too naïve. The show itself is another triumph – the crowd is a little thinner and more timid than last night, which is probably to be expected in this more sparse, suburban area, but the band’s intensity remains undimmed, and everyone in the room looks as thrilled as I feel to be watching them. Again, after they play, they’re back to their unassuming normal selves, making deadpan in-jokes and packing their gear down in workmanlike fashion. Eventually, we pile into the people carrier that Special Interest use as a tour van (without a drumkit, they’re able to fit into something more “cosy”, they enthuse), the band having kindly offered me a lift back to central LA. Before long, the downtown skyscrapers rise above the freeway as we leave the hunched suburbs behind, streetlamps and billboards floating and amber. It’s hard to deny that there’s a certain glamour to this place, even if its dark underbelly makes one feel queasy about indulging it. Perhaps ‘romantic’, meant in its fullest dimension – often intoxicating, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes painful, both un- and hyper-real – is the right word here too.

Yard Act

404 Guild

Sofie Royer



Alice Boman

Macie Stewart


THE BLACK KEYS Dropout Boogie ‘Exhilarating. Rock‘n’roll in 2022 doesn’t get any better than this.’ – Classic Rock




Lola Kirke

Black Country, New Road

Federico Albanese




‘A superpower-themed symphony… a titanic composition.’

Weyes Blood



– Guardian




mui zyu

black midi

Ghost Woman



Nadia Reid

Son Lux




The Golden Dregs


Big Thief


Aldous Harding


Big Thief

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF Life on Earth ‘A major step forward for one of today’s most vital artists. The first great album of 2022.’ – Uncut

ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN & GEORGE JACKSON Steve Reich: Reich/Richter ‘Few artists maintain quality into advanced old age, but Reich’s mastery seems undimmed.’ – The Wire



Help She Can’t Swim

The Tallest Man On Earth



Yard Act

The Beths

CÉCILE McLORIN SALVANT Ghost Song ‘Music of sensitivity and intelligence, which underlines Salvant’s growth as an artist of stature whose stylistic choices are as daring as they are mature.’ – Jazzwise

WILCO Yankee Hotel Foxtrot



Rose City Band

Nils Frahm


THU 11 JUL 2024 FRI 12 JUL 2024 SAT 13 JUL 2024 SUN 14 JUL 2024 BARBICAN HALL





(Super Deluxe Edition)

‘A model of box-set shock and awe. This reissue goes the extra, illuminating distance.’ – Mojo


Final Third: In Conversation

Preparing for


the apocalypse

Final Third: In Conversation As Weyes Blood, Natalie Mering has spent the last decade establishing herself as one of America’s most adventurous contemporary songwriters, and new album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow might just be her most impressive collection yet. On the day of the Queen’s funeral, she meets Gemma Samways in East London to discuss the role of the artist, her friendship with Adam Curtis and why it’s so important to stay earnest and hopeful as society continues to deteriorate. Photography by Gem Harris

Natalie Mering is fascinated by polarities. A former noise musician now famed for a velvety croon that could rival Karen Carpenter, the Californian singer-songwriter better known as Weyes Blood is responsible for some of the most wildly beautiful records of the last decade. Look beyond the plush vocal harmonies and sumptuous arrangements, however, and you’ll usually find a needling sense of unease, communicated in lyrics contemplating issues as dense as the climate crisis and social mediainduced anxiety. In a strange piece of synergy, this morning she’s wearing jeans that work as a physical manifestation of that inner duality, with one black leg and one white. Mering is in London to promote And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, her fifth studio album and the second part of a trilogy that she began with 2019’s universally adored Titanic Rising. She describes this new record as a “dystopian romance novel”, examining human connections, or the lack thereof. Sonically, the album was inspired by Scott Walker’s late ’60s output – specifically Scott 3 and Scott 4 – but predictably the results are much more complex. Extending from celestial soft-rock (‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everyone’) to Vangelis-esque soundscapes (the Daniel Lopatin-assisted ‘God Turn Me Into A Flower’), the record is rich with ambitious sonic tapestries, variously combining strings, harps, choirs, galactic synths and the hopeful chirrup of birds. In a piece of particularly surreal timing, when we sit down to talk today – in the restaurant of a swanky East London hotel in mid-September – Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral is being relayed live in the background. Already a slightly unsettling interviewee by virtue of her inscrutability, Mering’s low murmurs are given a weird gravitas by the sombre sounds of the Westminster Abbey Choir bleeding from a nearby TV. In some respects, it feels like the perfect first impression.

Gemma Samways: It’s definitely a strange time to be in the UK. What do you make of all the pageantry? Natalie Mering: Well, I thought about going and looking at the coffin, but it was a 16-hour line so I didn’t do it. Do you know the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis? GS: Of course. NM: So I was supposed to meet up with him later and he was like, “Oh yeah, it’s the Queen’s funeral but we could meet up.” And I was like, that is the biggest flex for me, an American, to be like, “During the Queen’s funeral I was just hanging with Adam Curtis.” GS: Why are you hanging out with Adam Curtis? NM: I’m just such a huge fan of his work. He came to one of my shows and we’ve just been, like, loosely in touch for some years now. GS: I find his films such a mindfuck. The way he shows that the smallest actions in the past cause ripples in history that impact our daily reality… NM: That’s what we talk about. Like, what happened in 1999? Why did culture just suddenly plummet into the ground? Because the boomers were afraid of death. We just jam. I’m just really into history. I think if I hadn’t been a songwriter, I probably would have been somebody like that who’s just constantly mining for clues. But yeah, the funeral. As an American, we get so gaga about pageantry because we don’t have anything like that. So it’s easy to be fascinated by it. And also the British Empire was just so massive. She’s kind of the last big reigning monarch. GS: Which feels a neat way to segue into your new album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, and the song ‘Children Of The Empire’. NM: Yeah, I mean, it’s inspired by being an extension of


the British Empire, for sure. Just the idea of an empire being an is about the external and observing things, whereas this one’s influential thing that changes and kind of flatlines the culture more about feeling. And so I figured the next one would be about globally – you know, a lot of technology and things are all the hope. Then I could go do something else. GS: Introducing the album, you described the current same. But the empire could refer to children of the western state of the world as “a fully functional shit show.” What would empire, or anywhere. you pinpoint as the specific causes for that? GS: The album artwork feels very nostalgic. NM: I think there’s a hyper-isolation situation going on NM: Like Blade Runner meets Pride and Prejudice. I wrote the song ‘Hearts Aglow’ and when I was thinking about where technology has created this environment where people the album artwork, I was like, well, you know, what I’ve never are expected to be completely self-sustainable and not interdedone is built a prosthetic. So I found somebody that could build pendent on other people. There’s this idea that you should be a prosthetic, glow-in-the-dark chest plate. I just thought that this unit that functions independently of needing anybody and would be so fun to take pictures of and make videos with. So we I think that that is a falsehood. It makes people deranged. And I just went for it. And the dress was actually a Halloween costume think that it’s getting worse. GS: Do you lay the blame for that squarely at social media? that I just happened to put on for one of the shoots. NM: I think social media is definitely very isolating. But GS: What was the Halloween costume? NM: Just a sexy, dead, 17th-century hottie. I was walking I do think it’s also late-stage capitalism. And the technology down the street and I just walked into a vintage shop and saw itself is just so carceral, where it’s like once you buy into it the dress and was like, “There’s my costume|.” But the album’s you can’t necessarily buy out. It’s like we’re all gridlocked into visual concept is definitely cohesive, and that artwork appears using it and there’s really no way back. We can’t reverse it and in some of the videos. But this video I’m about to put out for ‘It’s be like, “Oh we’re all going to quit our phones,” like people quit smoking in the ’80s. I just don’t think Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’ is kind of a that’s going to happen. different universe. Social media aside, look at the GS: A different universe in what “There’s this idea concept of emails. You write one email, sense? it makes 25 more and before you know NM: Have you ever seen [1945 that you should be this it you’re like sitting at a computer for six film] Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly, unit that functions hours doing work that might have been where he dances with Jerry the Mouse? completed with an hour of phone calls. It’s loosely based on that dance, but with independently That technology itself perpetuates a lack an animated cell phone. Like a Techof real-life interactions. nicolor musical apocalypse stage thing. of anybody. It makes GS: How do you think we repair GS: Were you a theatre kid people deranged.” those human connections? growing up? NM: I mean, at this point, it feels NM: Kind of. Not totally, but I like it’ll be something like a movement was definitely into it. I played Rizzo in Grease twice: once in middle school and once in high school. But of people that consciously make an effort to artificially create I’m a big fan of the Technicolor musicals, the MGM musicals. that space. But I think we’re kind of down the rabbit hole at this There’s very little plot, it doesn’t totally make sense: it’s just point. The younger generation is so raised on that technology these huge visual displays with practical effects and lighting and that that’s just their new norm. I used to feel a little bit more things like that. So it’s fun to experiment with that. In this video like a Luddite. Like, let’s smash the phones! Let’s go back! But you can’t really go back. I’m dressed like a sailor. I would hope that we can create some kind of system GS: I’m imagining On The Town. to keep the technology from invading everybody’s personal NM: Totally like that. GS: And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is the second privacy, because at this stage it’s just a mass surveillance part in a trilogy you began with Titanic Rising. At what stage project. But it seems like if it were up to the younger people, this is just their new normal. [Complaining about it] is like did you decide this was going to be a trilogy? NM: I mean, I definitely felt like Titanic Rising was sound- being somebody hanging out in the 1950s going “television is ing the alarm of things to come. And I knew the record after that bad.” Like, this is obviously going to ruin politics, because it’s was going to be a continuation, because it’s almost as if every- going to prioritise politicians who look like JFK and are good thing happened that I thought was going to happen. So it was on television versus, like, William Taft, who was a 300-pound, at the start of this record that I was like, “Oh this is definitely balding president but who probably knew how to do politia trilogy,” because I knew it wasn’t going to be the [record] cal discourse. Television probably single-handedly destroyed about hope, because there weren’t many solutions in sight yet. political discourse. And maybe cell phones single handedly It was like, alright, this album is about being in the thick of it destroyed something else. But what are people going to do – about everything actually happening for real. Titanic Rising about it?


stylist: lucy upton-prowse. stylist assistant: olivia moore make up & hair stylist: lydia warhurst using lumene, elf cosmetics & moroccan Oil

Final Third: In Conversation

Final Third: In Conversation GS: You could blame social media for dividing society in terms of the political discourse, particularly because there’s no space for nuance anymore. Do you make the effort to engage with people outside of your own echo chamber? NM: Definitely. I have to because my family is all different, so I don’t have the privilege of thinking that the world is just one note. I have a lot of different people in my life with different experiences – and not viewpoints I necessarily agree with. I think the pandemic was hard in America because there’s so much polarity and it was really easy for families to really argue about the vaccine. At a certain point, I had to decide that I wanted a relationship with my family more than I wanted us to agree on everything. GS: To go back to ‘Children Of The Empire’, you rail against inaction in the line, “We don’t have time anymore to be afraid.” The climate crisis is something you discussed extensively on Titanic Rising. Do you think there’s hope for humanity to reverse the damage we’ve caused? NM: Well the billionaire CEO of Patagonia just gave his company away to fight the climate crisis. So yeah, I think it would take some billionaires dipping into their pockets… I mean, the idea of pushing deeper into the frontier of technology to solve the climate crisis is – I think – kind of a bad idea. I don’t think that we’re going to create carbon sucking vacuums that just magically get rid of the carbon in the atmosphere. I think it’s just going to evolve into something where geoengineering is going to become more of a thing, which would probably destroy the delicate balance of the system even more. I mean, I think it would take something so radical at this point [to reverse the damage]. To me, it seems like everybody’s just trying to get the last bit of the dream that they can. We gotta go on vacation, we’ve got to start the family. Everybody’s locking down and trying to have some semblance of normalcy, versus doing radical activism to try to change the future. GS: Preparing for the apocalypse. NM: Like I said before, I think people feel like we’re gridlocked into this situation and there’s so much abstract information it’s so hard to turn it into tangible action. GS: As a musician, what influence do you think that you can have? I mean, you’re having these conversations publicly – maybe you’re helping people engage with those ideas? Do you see you have a role to play in changing perceptions? NM: I don’t think so at all. I stand with Adam Curtis on this: I think that I made the choice to be an artist. In my own

way, I do live within an echo chamber of preaching to the choir. I think, at this point, I focus more on being the salve for the anxiety and the depression that comes from living in such an unstable world. I hope I can shed light on the disillusionment and make it clear for people to understand where their disillusionment might come from. Because the more you let go, the more you can find peace. We’re kind of entering this dark time of uncertainty but we are beings of light and we can let go and experience reality and have things exceed our expectations, even. For example, the first time I went to a party after Covid, it was a transcendent experience and people were so sincere. So I think that in times of destruction and change, as well as disillusionment and depression, the contrast will be very soft, sincere, open people. GS: That reminds me of the line you announced your album with: “My heart is a glow stick that’s been cracked, lighting up my chest in an explosion of earnestness.” NM: Well, you have to crack a glowstick to make it work. So if your heart’s been cracked, you glow more… To use a raver metaphor. GS: The term ‘earnest’ has become something of a pejorative. Do you see it as a wholly positive thing? NM: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s definitely something that certain cultures have looked down upon as being cheesy, but I think that it’s actually a pretty noble and honour-filled mission to stay earnest and not get, you know, bitter and jaded. GS: What other missions do you have at this stage in your career? NM: I hope to accomplish sonically the stuff that I hear in my head. And I’ve never been able to totally do that. It’s a real struggle. Whatever I create is always like a fraction of what I think it could be. But that’s the really beautiful part of being an artist. Your masterpiece is in your mind and then you have to kill it, serve it on a plate and be like, “Ok, here you go world.” But when it’s alive and running around, it could be anything. So I do feel like my biggest ambition is to make a record that sonically marries all of my phases, like the experimental noise phase, the songwriting phase, the crooner phase… I want to make a completely futuristic record where you can’t tell that it’s futuristic because it feels like home. I’m really into polarities. GS: The trousers! NM: The trousers.


elf somethin s r gn ou y i y


Weyes Blood, Italia 90, Heartworms, Billy Nomates, Rainy Miller, 404 Guild, Richard Dawson, Naima Bock, Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals, Jessica Winter, Sarathy Korwar, Albums of the Year

issue 156


Special intereSt

Whitelands Born In Understanding

it down

Digital single Out now

Andy Bell Flicker

2LP / CD / DL

Martin Carr Strange Journey

Subscribe to Loud And Quiet for a year of new* music excellence loudandquiet.com/subscribe

*and Pavement


Out Now

MOLLY Picturesque

LP / Dinked Edition LP / CD / DL Coming in January 2023

bdrmm Port

Pye Corner Audio Social Dissonance

12-inch / CD / DL


bdrmm Three


7-inch / DL

LP / CD / Tape / DL

Digital single

LP / Dinked LP / CD / DL

Pye Corner Audio Let’s Emerge!

Dummy Dumb EPs LP

LP / Limited LP / CD / DL

Mark Peters Red Sunset Dreams


Pye Corner Audio Let’s Remerge!

Neil Halstead Palindrome Hunches

Andy Bell I Am A Strange Loop

Andy Bell Untitled Film Stills

Andy Bell The Grounding Process

10-inch / DL


10-inch / DL


10-inch / DL

10-inch / DL

10-inch / DL

Final Third: Albums of the Year

Loud And Quiet’s favourite 40 albums of the year, as voted for by our contributors – plus interviews with the artists responsible for three of them



Megan Thee Stallion Traumazine (Warner)


Sniffany & The Nits The Unscratchable Itch (Prah)




Wu-Lu Loggerhead (Warp)


Hatis Noit Aura (Erased Tapes)


33 67

Szun Waves Earth Patterns (Leaf )

Sasami Squeeze (Domino)

Denzel Curry Melt My Eyez See Your Future (Loma Vista)

Alt-J The Dream (Infectious)


Final Third: Albums of the Year


Julia Jacklin Pre-Pleasure (Transgressive)

Black Midi Hellfire (Rough Trade)


Billy Woods Aethiopes (Backwoodz Studioz)

Oliver Sim Hideous Bastard (Young)


Gwenno Tresor (Heavenly)


Kikagaku Moyo Kumoyo Island (Guruguru Brain)


Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (4AD)


Keeley Forsyth Limbs (Leaf )


Naima Bock Giant Palm (Sub Pop)



The Smile A Light For Attracting Attention (XL)




Daniel Avery Ultra Truth (Phantasy)

As a founding member of the kinetic indie rock group Goat Girl, South Londoner Naima Bock packed a lot into her teens and early 20s. The chaotic nature of being a young person in a touring band was intense, and after the promotional cycle for the first Goat Girl album finally drew to a close, Bock decided to leave the band – and, for a time, the music industry altogether. An extended period of self-discovery followed, involving university, gardening work and travel around some of “the world’s great trails”, one of which was an exploration of the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage route through the Iberian Peninsula and southern France. This sense of geographical scope and cultural variety permeates the entirety of Giant Palm, the solo album with which Bock returned to music this year. As well as the pastoral and intellectual breadth of her recent experiences, the record is heavily influenced by both the aesthetics of traditional British folk and the harmonic textures of the Latin American standards introduced to her by her Brazilian family. The result is a lush, quietly unpredictable work of inquisitive, free-floating songcraft, among the most understatedly beautiful we’ve heard in 2022. I spoke to Naima Bock and her close collaborator Joel Burton (producer and arranger of Giant Palm) to reflect on the album and this breakthrough year for her as a solo artist. Having experienced the music industry with Goat Girl and then taken some time out, what did you expect from this (very different) solo album? Naima Bock: I feel that being in a young, punky rock band lends itself to a raucous energy around touring; this fun chaos – but now all of us are a bit older and we approached it quite considerately. Like a job, but in a nice way – not like it’s a chore, but we were more mindful. And that’s what felt different to being in a vibey, fun rock band. It’s more intentional and more emotional. Touring this, every night feels like a therapy session. But in terms of the music industry, it’s all the same heads – coming back after taking a break, it’s nice to see all the people again, who support music despite it making no one any money. I feel like industry people get a bad rep but all I’ve experienced is a huge amount of support from very hardworking team members who get no real payoff. interview by luke cartledge

Final Third: Albums of the Year How did you two start working together, and what led to the deal with Sub Pop? NB: I was aware of Joel’s music before meeting him; I supported [his band] Viewfinder at their last gig and we agreed to work together – well, he agreed to work with me. Josh Cohen [from DIY label Memorials of Distinction] helped put us together. He wasn’t my official manager, but we were friends, we started a gardening company together, with our friend George – calling ourselves the Avant Gardeners – but he heard the music and just started sending it to people. Joel Burton: I remember we were walking through Hilly Fields park and Josh, in a way only he could say, just went “I’m managing this now by the way.” NB: Our ambitions weren’t that high – I was starting university, and music wasn’t really in my field of vision for the future; I wasn’t sure what to do with it. But he was sending it out to loads of record labels, and we got three offers, but Sub Pop seemed the best fit.

NB: I’ve definitely moved on, but I look back on it fondly. I still actually quite like the songs – they don’t make me sick – but I don’t actually listen to the album at all. But touring the songs helps keep you in them for a bit longer, which I’m not complaining about; it’s a way of experiencing them in a completely different way, in lots of different live setups. We’ve had to reimagine these songs over and over again anyway.


Hinako Omori a journey… (Houndstooth)

There are so many audible influences on the record, from such a variety of contexts – how did you balance them to make something coherent? JB: I consider myself as a bit of a musical sponge, taking in loads of stuff – once you wring that out, you get the record. NB: Joel had some references he wanted to put in, some specific hints to things, but just as a way of describing a certain sound. But in terms of songwriting I was influenced but didn’t have direct references – I didn’t want to rip anyone off. How do you feel about the album now, a few months on from release?

Danger Mouse & Black Thought Cheat Codes (BMG)


“When touring or making an album, you have to preempt things and sacrifice instant gratification” JB: I felt quite excited about it, but it all felt very serendipitous – we weren’t bashing it out, we were led into it by chance. NB: It was a tight timeframe for other people to come in and do their parts – we only had the studio for a week. They’re all our friends and it was lovely that people came in and wanted to chat, but we had to be a bit strict about it. We didn’t drink much alcohol when we were making it, so we could cycle home every night and get a good night’s sleep. It’s like touring, you have to pre-empt things and sacrifice that instant gratification.


Rina Sawayama Hold The Girl (Dirty Hit)


Shygirl Nympth (Because)


Special Interest Endure (Rough Trade)


Claire Rousay, Everything Perfect is Already Here (Shelter Press)


Pusha T It’s Almost Dry (Universal)


Makaya McCraven In These Times (XL)


Final Third: Albums of the Year


Richard Dawson The Ruby Cord (Weird World) Over the past decade, Newcastle songwriter Richard Dawson has quietly put together an astonishing body of work, his blend of folk, metal, art-rock and experimental music a sound all of his own. In doing so he’s become one of UK independent music’s most beloved artists almost without anyone noticing how much his audience has grown. Not that his work is without its striking qualities or outré moments (he’s made some of this century’s most distinctive, eccentric and viscerally beautiful music of any genre) but his progression from underground cult hero to, well, more famous cult hero has been slow, steady and irrevocable in its influence. The Ruby Cord is a perfect crystallisation of the creative power that’s got him to this point in his career. His rippling, febrile guitars and moonbeam vocals are as carefully intertwined as ever, unspooling over diffuse song structures that heave and lurch like waking monsters. Yet central to it all is his singular approach to lyric-writing: a freeform procession of characters and images that don’t so much move through tight narratives as populate an ecosystem that’s constantly made and remade by their interplay, a storytelling manner that evokes experimental fiction writers like Thomas Pynchon and M. John Harrison as much as the kind of leftfield folk singers he may be more readily compared to on an aesthetic level. The Ruby Cord contains some of Dawson’s best work yet, and that really is saying something. The album begins with ‘The Hermit’, a track that’s over 40 minutes long. How did that song begin to formulate, and what made you decide to start your new record with something as long and uncompromising as that? It was the first one I wrote from the album, so it was fronting up the whole time. It wasn’t going to be as long in the original plan, but the more I got into it I realised it needed this space to tell the story. The first third of the song is about where that person is now, then it cuts back to them remembering how they got to that, and for that to work it just needed this space. My idea about that part of the song [the extended instrumental opening] is that it’s like a forest set to idle, in its most basic mode; so like the improvisation should


never build, it’s just a semblance of a gesture, a drawing of a frond waving in the dark, or a little animal scuttling, or a little trickle of water running down a tree trunk. Then it really matters when the character wakes up and comes to consciousness. Tell us about the trilogy that The Ruby Cord concludes, parts one and two having been Peasant (2017) and 2020 (2019) – was it always intended to be a three-album suite, or has that emerged gradually over time? Everyone has asked me this. I can’t remember whether I always intended it to be a trilogy or not, but I also don’t know if it is a trilogy or not. I’m not trying to avoid the question – it would be lovely to think I had this intention, but as I’m not even sure if it is a trilogy, I don’t see how I could have intended it. Your sound is so much lusher and fuller now than in your early work, back when it was mainly just you and a guitar. How has more access to other musicians and creative resources (studio time, instruments, arrangement techniques) impacted your songwriting? Well, The Magic Bridge [2011] was me getting from one place of not taking things seriously enough to somewhere else where I took responsibility, then when I did The Glass Trunk [2013] I thought about lyrics in a different way, and got to enact that more on Nothing Important [2014], and since then I think I’ve had some approaches and rules through which I’ve found a way to write. So it has changed over the years, but that’s also just natural as you get older – you don’t have the same desperate drive to do stuff, so you have to find ways to keep doing it when you don’t necessarily feel like it. With this last record it’s a bigger production, much more complex, which wouldn’t be possible without the backing of a label, but if it were the case that I wasn’t signed it’d still be the same thing, it’d just have to be presented differently. The spirit would be the same – the songwriting comes first and the arrangements are about how you deliver this as directly as possible. Every instrument has to be a character, or an environment, or a prop, or a chair. But if you didn’t have those things, the text and the melody have to stand on their own; instead of it being a production at the Globe, it could be a school play – it’d still be the same play. I love going to the studio. It’s always the best time. I like having somewhere to go to work as well, because otherwise I’ve got no structure. My work is like a gas, and for a few weeks it becomes some nice, solid, oaky thing. There you go, that’s the wordsmith in me [laughs]. I’ve no conception of what people think of what I do, and I’ve been steeling myself for people not to like this album. I don’t want to be self-aggrandising but I really believe in it, but I’ve been preparing for it to be absolutely slated. So it’s nice to hear you like it. interview by luke cartledge

Final Third: Albums of the Year



Kendrick Lamar Mr Morale & The Big Steppers (Universal)

Hudson Mohawke Cry Sugar (Warp)



Thank Thoughtless Cruelty (Box)

Beyonce Renaissance (Columbia)



Caroline Caroline (Rough Trade)

They Hate Change Finally, New ( JagJaguwar)


Dry Cleaning Stumpwork (4AD)

Charli XCX Crash (Warner)


Katie Alice Greer Barbarism (FourFour)




Kai Whiston Quiet As Kept, F.O.G. (Lux)


Jockstrap I Love You Jennifer B (Rough Trade)


Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals King Cobra (Phantom Limb) Going to a diner or drive-thru to talk and eat is a common occurrence for Brian Ennals and Tariq Ravelomanana. The friends and collaborators have easy chemistry both on and off record, but this trip to the diner ended in a weekslong silence. The two had planned to listen to their newlyfinished album King Cobra together. When it ended, neither of them liked it. “We both pretended we thought it was good, and then we stopped talking to each other,” says Ravelomanana, aka Infinity Knives. Both admit its creation was a hard slog, financially and emotionally, and the result was a strained friendship – at least in the days directly after the work was done. They’re back to calling each other ugly and messing around in interviews now. The record fuses hip-hop storytelling, wild electronic soundplay and present-day politics with an apocalyptic atmosphere. There’s aggression, melancholy, isolation and camaraderie laced throughout King Cobra. As a vocalist, Ennals has the power to provoke and inspire, while the off-kilter production from Infinity Knives provides a unique space for his ideas. It’s hard to understand what they were hearing in the car. The record has been a word-of-mouth success, and the pair have set aside that early doubt, which largely comes from spending time on something that might never get its flowers. Now, as they look for ways of touring the record widely, they share what went into making L&Q’s album of the year. When envisaging King Cobra, is it right that you saw it as a country record at first? Brian Ennals: Not sonically country, but that Americana

Final Third: Albums of the Year storytelling. You see remnants of that in ‘The Badger’ and ‘Headclean’. It’s slices of life, where we’re at right now in society, all that heady shit. Tariq has this country artist he really likes called Charley Crockett who we were listening to around that time. But there was also that desire to make a Stankonia type record. There’s nihilism on the record, but there’s a running theme of unity among the underclass which makes it feel hopeful. BE: I think that whether you’re white working class, or Black, or trans, we have all these divisions, but we have a common enemy. There’s a small percentage of people who have their boot on everybody’s fucking neck. That’s the way I see the world. Tariq would throw me concepts and give me parameters within that to help me finish the stories.

“We have all these divisions, but we have a common enemy. There’s a small percentage of people who have their boot on everyone’s fucking neck” You can fully tell that this wasn’t a case of emailing beats back and forth. IK: If that was the case my name wouldn’t be on it. BE: Then it would be a solo record – when somebody sends you beat packs and you’re writing to it. That’s what rap has turned into in some cases, but that’s not the collaboration we’re working with. We would sit down and say, “You should rap about this” or, “Let’s not use this beat, let’s use this one.” IK: I would give him a skeleton of a beat, and then he would send me a demo. I’d chop up parts and change the beat based on what he was saying. Take the line “Fuck Ted Cruz forever” – I react to that to make it hit. Did you clash when it came to making those decisions? BE: The first batch of beats he made, I couldn’t write to. When he did give me some I loved, he didn’t really like the raps. There was a constant push and pull. What was the hardest part of making it? IK: Hunger and being broke. interview by skye butchard

BE: We started the album in late 2020. We didn’t have a studio session until June 2021. We did seven records and most of them didn’t work. We’d paid all that money and didn’t use many vocals. I was so disheartened because I thought we’d come out of it with the majority done, and we almost had to start from scratch. IK: We spent a lot more time planning it than we did in the studio. It was really meticulous. Everything is intentional. Maybe if this gets bigger I’ll sell the notebooks that we have. This is a hip-hop record, but there are also influences from folk and neo-classical. Do you have a favourite instrumental, Brian? BE: ‘The Bushman’. I still listen to that. I didn’t hear any of them properly until we’d finished it and played it as a whole. I can’t listen to ‘Headclean’ without listening to it first. You’re referencing classic ’80s sounds in your drums. How do you look back on those sounds without making it just nostalgia? IK: As far as production goes, I grew up poor, and one of the things to do when you’re poor is embrace the limitations. In the ’80s, they couldn’t sample for that long and the gear was all wack. I tried to put those limitations on myself to bring out that feeling. It’s hard not to make it sound like shlock. And we all love that ’80s shit. I still listen to LL Cool J. Since I asked Brian, do you have a favourite line from the record, Tariq? IK: “You don’t want a revolution, n*gga, you want a Tesla.” What’s funny is we’re not dissing anybody. We’re talking about ourselves. I like air conditioning and modern amenities. BE: I love my iPhone. IK: In revolutions you lose power. You shit in buckets. I don’t want that. BE: War is scary. IK: I’m laying down and eating chocolates right now. It comes off as preachy, but the record is us talking to us, trying to hold each other accountable. If the shoe fits other people, there you go. But these are conversations that Brian and I have. We’re not impervious to propaganda or capitalism. It’s a weird paradox. I know you’ve said this could be the last collaboration. Do you still feel that way? BE: We’ve got something else in the chamber. IK: I grew up with UK IDM, Richard D. James shit. We’d like to mix that in too. BE: We really want to ruffle some feathers. IK:We’retired,we’rebrokeandnobodywantstotakeusontour. BE: Except for Loud And Quiet, which we really appreciate. You’re off the snub list.


Final Third: Customer Survey

Our comprehensive poll of up to six people to help you make sense of another horrid year



Final Third: Customer Survey Sum up your 2022 in one word. GEORDIE GREEP, BLACK MIDI: Good. LUCY DACUS: Chaotic. GEORGIA ELLERY, JOCKSTRAP: Rollercoaster. SISTER SNIFFANY, SNIFFANY & THE NITS: Okay. SHERELLE: Boundaries. LYNKS: Actuallyreallyfuntbh. What was your first thought when you heard the Queen had died? GEORDIE: More or less, “there we go”. The same thought as when a particularly recalcitrant morsel of food lodged between your teeth gives way at last to the force of your tongue. LUCY: Good riddance. GEORGIA: They’ll cancel the Mercurys. SNIFFANY: YouTuber Trisha Paytas was about to give birth so I needed to Photoshop a picture of the Queen in Trisha’s tummy, it was very important. SHERELLE: I was actually checking the Arsenal score whilst taking a poo. But I guess... I didn’t think I would find out that way so that was eventful. And then I thought about my ancestors. Then the Arsenal score. And then how hungover I was from my birthday celebrations the night before. I’m really bad at bowling. Got some water... Went on Twitter and then DJed that night for the George Riley party in South. Just wanted to be with friends I guess. LYNKS: The lettuce won! How did you celebrate England finally winning a football tournament? GEORDIE: Had little to no awareness until this question reminded me. So no celebration, no. LUCY: Good for them! Lots of good players on the team. I got into watching football a few years ago and have my pet favourite players. I had Rashford and Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold on a fantasy team one year. GEORGIA: I like football but I don’t really follow it. SNIFFANY: Chocolate bar. SHERELLE: I was actually pre drinking at I. JORDAN’s house before their set at UNFOLD. One of the greatest days ever. LYNKS: Why are you asking me about football? What made you laugh most this year? GEORDIE: Official Competition – a great, great movie. Hilarious. LUCY: Honestly I laugh the most when I’m exhausted with my friends. When you’re super tired, everything becomes hilarious. On tour, my merch seller and photographer Ashley can get me laughing easy. GEORGIA: My friends. SNIFFANY: My musician boyfriend Romeo Taylor is so funny, he gets confused between time and money often due

to the amount of pennies in a pound not being the same as how many minutes are in an hour. He has proposed we start using ‘The Metric Minute’, 100 seconds in a minute, one pound earned from each minute equals 100 pounds an hour and so forth. SHERELLE: My mental health. LYNKS: Probably the drag performer Dairy King performing at the Man Up 2022 final. He did ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis, dressed as a creepy milkman with udders. It was exceptional. Who was the biggest letdown of 2022? GEORDIE: The Fury/Joshua debacle. The Eubank Jr/Benn debacle. The lack of free time. LUCY: What a question. I think the fact that I can’t think of anyone is a good sign. GEORGIA: Not sure! SNIFFANY: I played my first music festival this year and it turns out there isn’t like a secret living room behind the stage with four poster beds and free massages and haircuts and free presents. It turns out it’s a music festival, which I found difficult. That’s okay if you think I’m spoilt but they’re just really strange places. They had dyed loads of sheep pink and had them fenced in the middle of the festival during an intense heatwave under a tiny sheet of tent fabric tied between two trees with one bucket of water, and hundreds of people just completely bored walking past them because they weren’t like, twerking, they were just suffering and miserable in a still heap in the blistering heat, opposite a Greenpeace tent!!! SHERELLE: Fruit flies. They took over my home and I haven’t been the same since. LYNKS: Doja Cat cancelling her Glasto set. Heartbroken. Best TV of the year and why? GEORDIE: The only show I watched start to finish was The Apprentice, and that was just awful. But I guess, by proxy, it wins. Whoopee.

“What did I think when the Queen died? ‘The lettuce won!’” — Lynks LUCY: I loved the conclusion of Killing Eve. Survivor is still going strong, obsessed with that show. Yellowjackets technically ended early this year, that show is amazing. Drag Race All Stars was thrilling. Good stuff recently. GEORGIA: Succession season three, last two episodes of Euphoria season two. SNIFFANY: I’ve been watching a lot of Hoarders. I don’t


Final Third: Customer Survey think a lot of people get the same kind of soothing feeling as I do seeing truly depressed individuals on TV. It’s comparable to the feeling I get watching Isabelle Huppert films, often the hoarder is stubborn and irrational and unlikeable, which stems from humongous amounts of abuse and pain and is one of the few instances where the depth and complexity of traumatised individuals is shown on TV. SHERELLE: World Cup surely? Or maybe when the Que–... Actually I didn’t see that on the telly. LYNKS: Probably Succession or Severance, but I reckon everyone will be saying those, so I’ll go for The Other Two. Season 2 is literally one of the funniest seasons of anything I’ve ever seen, but also had some gay story lines that actually take advantage of the mad comic potential of gay dating, which I feel like I’ve never seen before.

“No-class, no-talent, hack-fraud. Mr Naff” — Black Midi’s Geordie Greep on Harry Styles What was actually not as shit as you expected in 2022? GEORDIE: The quality of these questions. LUCY: I thought the descent into cold weather would really mess me up, but I think as the summers get hotter, the winters feel more relieving. GEORGIA: The weather! SNIFFANY: Okay so I tried to leave the music festival early, packed up the tent and everything and it turned out that every single bus was on strike and I was completely trapped. I sat on the dirt in the car park for a while and got back up and made my sorry way back. After that I had a really great time because I didn’t really have a choice. SHERELLE: Arsenal. And I am living my best life. LYNKS: The summer. Silver lining of climate change eh? But did Harry Styles actually spit on Chris Pine though? GEORDIE: I’d like to think so. It fits his character as a no-class, no-talent, hack-fraud. Mr Naff. LUCY: Unfortunately I don’t think so but I love to believe the suggestion piqued their interest and it has since happened in a private setting. If only for a commitment to the bit. GEORGIA: Not sure what this is.


SNIFFANY: Well probably but I wouldn’t want to sit next to someone I wanted to spit on. I think they’re both losers. Spitting on someone and then sitting down adjusting his jacket, exhaling scrunching his mouth looking around knowing he’s being watched and Chris Pine stopping mid clap and looking up one eyebrow raised. Both of them exhibit anti human behavior. I think they have parasites inside them like the long worms that wriggle out of spiders once they have been bashed. SHERELLE: I stay out of rich white men’s business. LYNKS: I literally could not care less if I tried really hard. What did you learn this year? GEORDIE: What a peninsula is. The word entoptic. That Ang Lee is from Taiwan. My favourite type of Oyster (Permaquid). Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco, California. Armani’s Aqua Di Gio is the most sold men’s fragrance of all time. LUCY: Exercise is actually important. Terrible news. GEORGIA: Some gaps in my geography got smaller. SNIFFANY: Sims 2 architecture tips. SHERELLE: To be okay. And know what I want. LYNKS: The chorus of ‘The Ketchup Song’ by Las Ketchup is the same as the start of ‘Rapper’s Delight’. What gives you hope for 2023? GEORDIE: The possibility of Spence/Crawford, Fury/Usyk, Fury/Joshua, Ruiz/Wilder and Lomachenko/Haney. All fights that, at one stage or another, could’ve happened this year. None will probably happen next year either, but one can hope. LUCY: I have more time at home! Gonna rest up and write as much as I can. GEORGIA: Bands back on the road, New Year’s resolutions. SNIFFANY: Please God please… you’ve done a good job so far… Answering these questions could mean I might be starting to be someone… Please make this art and music stuff go somewhere god, my life is in your hands now… I don’t want to make any decisions about my life anymore… SHERELLE: The queers taking shit back, but from the top. LYNKS: Normally some kind of amphetamine. Any other business? GEORDIE: Enjoy Christmas. Go dancing. Meet the love of your life. Turn to your friend and say, “friend, you mean a lot to me”. Write the book you want to read. Sing the song you want to hear. Cook the meal you want to eat. And all the rest of it. LUCY: No! GEORGIA: Perhaps! SNIFFANY: Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating. SHERELLE: Anyone fancy an album?

Final Third: Albums of the Year

The story of 2022 and the tracks that made it the best year since 2021, by Stuart Stubbs

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SO EASY Cast your mind back to the final hour of 2021 and the most ecstatic Hootenanny of all time. Gregory Porter was on, wasn’t he. And Rag’n’Bone Man. Ed Sheeran performed with his loop pedals and you thought, “How does he remember which ones to press? So clever.” Lulu was coming up and every now and then Jools Holland shouted “Hootenanny!” and the studio audience and crew shouted “Hootenanny!” back. And you were smiling. Smiling like you never had before at the Hootenanny, and never will again. Perhaps at anything, ever. And it wasn’t because of the Hootenanny and Gregory Porter and Rag’n’Bone Man and Ed Sheeran and Lulu and Jools Holland shouting “Hootenanny!”. You could have been sat in a bin not watching the Hootenanny, or in an O’Neill’s, or anywhere, doing anything, and you would have been experiencing the same level of overwhelming euphoria. Because it was finally over. 2021 was over.

At some point or other that night I felt so good about it not being 2021 anymore I made a New Year’s resolution to learn to snowboard. 2022 was here – good vibes only! With a full month still to go, anything can happen between now and January 1st, but enough of it has passed for us to look back at just how many of 2022’s vibes were good, and, when things were at their lowest, what songs got us here, to the age of living from one Hootenanny to the next.

JANUARY January played its part beautifully in 2022, once again getting the year off to the sluggish start we were all hoping for. It was no longer 2021, Easter eggs were in the shops and we were happy. But we didn’t want to jinx this new era of certain success and relaxation. Some people had


Final Third: Year in Tracks

started to suggest that the toxic energy of 2021 might not be contained simply by the year changing by one number. That didn’t sound right at all, but just in case, sitting as still and as quiet as possible was widely considered the best thing to do for an entire month. Adele took this course of action so seriously she pulled her Vegas residency 24 hours before it was due to open and was thanked for it by everyone except the selfish few who’d bought $1000 tickets and non-refundable flights to the desert. After a valiant (and hilarious) fight for a number one album by who would prove to be the year’s most hardworking band, Yard Act, the month ended with ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ topping the singles chart and refusing to vacate the position for seven weeks, to the joy of all of your friends with kids who insisted that Encanto “is actually really good”. At least they’d stopped talking about Bluey for five fucking minutes. 2022 was still very much on track.

FEBRUARY As January turned into February and the last of us accepted that it was now too late to wish someone a Happy New Year at the beginning of an email, even if it you phrased it “is it too late to wish you a Happy New Year?”, the first solid gold track of 2022 was released by Leeds noise band Thank. Their second album, Thoughtless Cruelty, is full of modern rage, parts of it deeper than others, all of it sweetened by industrial strength Northern sarcasm, with ‘Dread’ having singer Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe spitefully claiming “there’s never been a good band from London”, then Leeds, then “under the age of 25”, then “that’s ever been alive.” More of this please. Four days later, at the Brits (yes, there was a Brits this year), having learned guitar in lockdown, Dave performed his new instrument in front of an audience for the first time. At the O2. To a TV audience of 2.7 million. While it shot fire from the end. Why do people as young and talented as Dave keep doing things like this to the rest of us?!


And then Good Vibes Only 2022 ended, as Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. We can all remember how devastating that was because it’s far from over. It is the defining story of 2022, for its instant local devastation and its enormous global fallout, including a new refugee crisis and unlivable fuel and energy prices. 2022 was about to get a lot harder, and we were only 55 days in.

MARCH In March I finally realised my two-month-long dream of wanting to learn to snowboard. My first lesson ended with me covered in so much sweat that I was certain some of it must have come from my instructor. The second (final) lesson started with me breaking two ribs and not being able to sleep lying down for the next 12 weeks. What was worse was that nobody wanted to talk about my brave attempt at following my dreams because Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. It was all anyone wanted to talk about... for a whol… for half a day. By the time everyone had agreed to stop listening to the disgraced rapper’s albums, talk (from me) of my ribs was usually met with a dismissive, “wasn’t that days ago now?”. At least South African rapper and Kwaito musician Moonchild Sanelly gave us ‘Strip Club’, her “love letter to the hustlers, the strippers and the twerkers – a celebration of the continuously judged”, featuring Ghetts. The bassheavy tune saw Sanelly at her lean best ahead of her second album, with one of the UK’s greatest rappers perfectly placed to not overcomplicate things. Charli XCX released her album Crash too, and you really can isolate any track on there and call it the best pop song of the year.

APRIL You’re only as bad as your latest scandal, which is why you don’t remember April as being the month that a Tory

Final Third: Year in Tracks

MP was caught watching porn in the House of Commons, and why you wish you did. Neil Parish’s defense was that he’d opened the porn by accident, explaining why he only watched 15 minutes of Boobs On Parade. It’s confusing. In the world of independent music, April enjoyed a wealth of excellence from new artists, starting on day one with reluctant South London DJ yuné pinku and her Bluff EP. ‘DC Rot’ was particularly strong from the release, mixing UKG and slinky house, like Yaeji remixing the Artful Dodger for a skateboarding video. Bristol’s Bingo Fury needed just 1 minute 40 seconds on ‘Birchall & Kings’ to show off his singular brand of squalling noir pop, while Jockstrap stretched a full 6 minutes to breaking point on ‘Concrete Over Water’ – a track that, following the club jabber of ‘50/50’, made it no more clearer what their debut album was going to sounds like, only that it was going to be very special and scutter over your entire record collection collecting inspiration, from twee pop to dubstep and beyond. We liked April. Apart from the mucky MP, the government attempting to deport living human beings to Rwanda, the ongoing war and my ribs, which I really need to tell you about.

MAY May brought with it news that people were still watching Stranger Things, and that through watching Stranger Things they had all become completely obsessed with ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush. Naturally, everyone who’d heard the track before was livid that it was now a contender to soundtrack a tango on the Strictly Come Dancing Halloween special. Kendrick released Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, but let’s talk about the real moment of the month: the Eurovision Song Contest; Sam Ryder, the hair, the beard, the smile, ‘Space Man’, the 10s and 12s, the boiler suit, the points; the sweet, sweet alien points. To be real for a

minute, ‘Space Man’ is a mammoth tune. The sort of song that can (and probably will) sell you stuff this Christmas, at Argos, who like to keep their tracks intact. In as little as four years from now John Lewis will slow it down and a boy will drop his toy spaceman (on the nose, but it works) in a puddle and… you know… it’ll be moving. Cynical, I know, but those songs are always BIG songs, and we were here first. We watched in real time Sam Ryder, the happiest Fleet Fox on the planet, technically win Eurovision after we’d told Europe to get in the bin. We needed this, Sam. We really needed this. He just knew, didn’t he? He sensed it. We were approaching the furthest point from the last Hootenanny and the next and he knew. God, we needed it.

JUNE We had reached the midpoint of the year and 2022 was performing well, y’know. Not quite what we had been guaranteed on December 31 but we were up on the torrential grief of 2021 at least, and what more could we really hope for. From this point on though, 2022 escalated. The good and the bad. There are lots of words for it, but most shocking was America’s reversing of the 1973 Roe vs Wade case, which as of October has now stripped 1 in 3 American women of their legal right to an abortion (a statistic that will only remain or grow, but not lessen). In 2022! Or any other year for that matter. A reminder that progress is never secured indefinitely but must be continually fought for and maintained at all costs. What a disgusting moment in modern history. In music, Beyoncé proved herself to be a supporter of British rail unions when she released anti-capitalist, anti-work, pro-Love Island banger ‘Break My Soul’ the same day our rail workers striked on mass, although this timing might have been a coincidence as the following Renaissance LP also contained the lyrics: “Versace, Bottega, Prada, Balenciaga Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy,


Final Third: Year in Tracks collect your coins, Beyoncé / So elegant and raunchy, this haute couture I’m flaunting.” Former Priests singer Katie Alice Greer released a unique debut solo album of noise pop melodies and Baltimore’s Brian Ennals and Infinity Knives teamed up for a second time to later be voted Loud And Quiet Album of the Year. ‘The Badger’ is the track that really captures their storytelling prowess, political lens and humour best.

JULY You’ll remember July of course for those two really hot days. Not nice really hot days where you had an ice cream at lunch time on a weekday; two biblically scorching days where the UK reached 40 degrees for the first time and we were all told to not leave the house. Two days that were so hot people didn’t even have the energy to reference the heatwave at the beginning of polite emails anymore. The forthcoming end of the world aside, July was a doubly happy time. Mr Potato Body Boris Johnson finally resigned as Prime Minister, promising a new era of leadership in the UK. We were all excited about who would replace him and were sure they were going to do an excellent job. And England won the Women’s Euros, making them the first England side to win a major football tournament since… I can’t remember the exact year. All of this was soundtracked by Comrade Knowles’ excellent ode to Ballroom culture, Renaissance.

AUGUST Absolutely nothing happened in August. Nothing at all. It was quite depressing really. We still had lots of heat to talk about, and even on the cooler days we could recall July when it was so hot for those two days that we couldn’t go outside. But that’s no way to live, is it? Worst month of the year!


SEPTEMBER September ended August’s reign as the worst month of the year, cramming 10 years of chaos into 30 horrible days. Let’s get the Liz Truss bit out of the way first. Harry Styles was or wasn’t spitting on Chris Pine on the day that Truss was voted in as Prime Minister by Tory members, half as a Victorian joke, half to categorically show the rest of the country how much they despise us. Two days later, the Queen was dead. People were saying it couldn’t have been a coincidence, until they saw more footage of Truss doing absolutely anything. She appeared to be using every ounce of her strength to pass as a sentient being. “Breathe, breathe, breathe, cheese,” went her mind. “Breathe, breathe, breathe… breathe then!” A killer? Of livelihoods, perhaps, but not our Queen, whom I imagine simply met Truss and finally thought: “Annnnd, I’m done. Goodbye!” Truss got to attend the funeral, where she harboured a deep secret: her plan to ruin the lives of everyone in the country (but not the rich) within… let’s be kind and say two weeks, but it was really 24 hours. We made the most of this Tory wheeze by having a laugh at Truss less successfully fulfilling her role as PM than a lettuce did fulfilling its role as a lettuce, but considering how her appointment and actions will be strongly felt by many for years to come, it’s actually very depressing. Meanwhile, the Queen was dead and because all television and fun was cancelled (the Queen must have really hated fun and many common aspects of life considering how much of it was now seen as inappropriate all of a sudden) thousands joined a queue to pass the time and show other countries just how correct their reductive stereotypes of Britishness can be. We either queued or watched the queue, which was streamed 24 hours a day on the BBC, which now went by the name MournHub. And yet there was still enough time for Ian Brown to tour as a karaoke act and for Johnny Borrell to launch a new band called Jealous Nostrils – a classic politician play, that,

Final Third: Year in Tracks sneaking some awful news out while the country’s attention is elsewhere, probably queuing. All other music was cancelled. The Queen had died. It just wasn’t appropriate.

OCTOBER In many ways Kanye succeeded in making October all about himself from the moment he wore his White Lives Matter T-shirt at Paris Fashion Week. Anti-Semitic remarks online and in a Fox interview followed, and more and more reports of West’s hate speak and racism in recent years. No jokes to be made here, but it feels like the tide has finally turned against West and that he won’t be excused for his behaviour due to his mental health issues or his supposed genius. It’d help if everyone stopped talking about him all the time, so to point our lens at the music of October, two artists managed to successfully drown out the sad news that Blink-182 were reforming – world-enders Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys. It was pretty much more of the same from each of them in terms of their preceding albums, and on an Arctic Monkeys front, at least, that was a good thing. It wasn’t all gold on The Car, but ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ couldn’t even be ruined by that unfortunately accurate tweet likening it to Vic Reeves’ Club Singer. Away from these ginormous stars, Dry Cleaning released ‘Conservative Hell’ on the same day (and more deadpan inner monologues lifted directly from your own brain on second album Stumpwork), Dallas alt-R&B artist Liv.e returned with scorched jungle track ‘Ghost’ and London producer Loraine James continued to be an electronic musician disinterested in making the same album twice as ‘Enfield, Always’ played its stratospheric, beatheavy part in her ode to cult avant garde US composer Julius Eastman on her album Building Something Beautiful For Me.



November is where we are now. As in, I’m writing these words in mid November. I can only tell you what I know and what I think I will know, from now on. What I know: Elon Musk has recently been forced into buying Twitter and is pretending he really wanted to. It’s a mess over there. He sacked a bunch of people on day one and then asked some of them to come back because it’s hard to run a social media giant without people who’ve been in their jobs for more than a day. He’s going to fix the broke company by charging $8 per blue tick, which nobody is going to pay for. Glastonbury tickets have sold out again, despite Guns ‘N’ Roses being rumoured as one of the three 2023 headliners. On the 6th of the month, news broke of the death of Low’s Mimi Parker, who had been living with ovarian cancer since 2020. Her death was met with waves of affection from the alternative music world – the loss of a great talent and beautiful person. What I think I will know: Elon Musk will delete twitter by the end of the year. He just seems like the type. In mid December Barry Manilow will receive a call from Glastonbury offering him the Sunday afternoon legend’s slot. They will have already taught the security guards the choreographed dance they have to do when he performs ‘Copacabana’. It involves a hula motion and is just a bit of fun, but it really does work best if you can try to be in time please, unlike those who won’t be returning from last year. And then the year will slowly coast to an end amidst the usual cacophony of Christmas songs we already know and love and those same Christmas songs rerecorded by Anton Du Beke, James Martin, Bradley Walsh and other male guests from this year’s episodes of Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh. We’ve done well to enjoy what we can in 2022. Just think what we can improve next year.


At this point of the year, every year, we must stop discussing the rights and wrongs of album art and focus on something that’s actually important – the incoming official Cliff Richard calendar for the fast-approaching New Year. 2022’s calendar certainly was a triumph for Cliff, featuring, you’ll remember, Cliff hugging his knees, Cliff rowing a boat, Cliff at a swim-up bar, and Cliff standing on a rock with a red electro-acoustic guitar and a gesturing arm that appeared to be saying, ‘This guitar is for sale’. 2023’s calendar is, of course, a very different beast. It’s Cliff’s most punk calendar yet, comprising of exactly zero professional photo shoots and instead features 12 live photos of Cliff in his natural habitat, all cropped from his nipples up, ensuring that his face will appear nice and big on your wall for the whole of 2023, making it a perfect gift for tortoise lovers too. It’s the cover that we’ve got here, so let’s talk about that. Firstly, it’s reassuring to know that this is the Official CR cal, a guarantee that none of the photos inside will be of Paul McCartney, which still sadly happens on the counterfeit Cliff calendar market. Beyond that, it’s all about Cliff’s red snakeskin blazer. It’s bold and raunchy, but also a savvy choice. At any given Cliff concert, up to 77% of the audience will be wearing snakeskin. By doing so too, Cliff has a greater connection with his fans and can also disappear into the very slow moving crowd after the show. Especially if things ever turn ugly, which, despite his best efforts, never do.


6 Music’s celebrated Band T Shirt Day allegedly hit the wall last month after an anonymous BBC employee called Clare Balding raised concerns about how many of the shirts her colleagues were wearing were official merchandise. She was overheard saying, “I’m just saying that the Daily Mail could hear about this.” Sources say that a special unit calling themselves the Tee Birds was instantly set up to tackle the problem, headed by Scott Mills, who spent the rest of the day prowling the corridors of Broadcasting House and demanding to see proof of purchase. When Greg James couldn’t provide any for his Maximo Park tee, it was apparently ripped from his body and destroyed.

Aldi tops the list of best supermarket carpark tarmac, beating Waitrose and M&S

illustration by kate prior






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