Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 76 / the alternative music tabloid
Anohni Hoping for a miracle + Cullen Omori / Pantha Du Prince / John Carpenter Olga Bell / SassyBlack / Julien Baker
sassyblack – 12 julien baker – 14 pantha du prince – 16 cullen omori – 18 anohni – 22 John carpenter – 28 olga bell – 30
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 76 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Contr ib u tor s
Ad ve r ti s ing
i n fo@lou dandq u ie t.com
ale x wi sg ard, Amb e r M a ho ne y, Amy Pe ttif e r , Chr is Wa tke y s , dav id zammitt, Danie l Dyl a n- W r a y , De r e k Rob e r ts on, Elino r J o ne s , Edg ar Smith, Gab r ie l G r e e n, ga r e th ar r owsmith, Ge m har r is , G e m m a Samways, Gu ia cor tass a , ha yl e y scott, he nr y wilkin so n, IAN ROEBUCK, J AMES f . Thom p s o n, J a nine Bu llman, je nna f oxton, je nnife r Jonson, joe g og g ins, jo s ie s o m m e r , jang e lo molinar i, kat ie be s w ick, le e b u llman, liam kone m a nn, M a nd y Dr ake , Nathan W estle y , P hil Sha r p , Re e f You nis, Sam cor nfo r th, Sa m Walton, tom f e nwick
ad ve r ti s e @l o ud a nd quie t.co m
Hoping for a miracle + Cullen Omori / Pantha Du Prince / John Carpenter Olga Bell / SassyBlack / Julien Baker
Lo ud And Qu ie T PO Box 67915 Lo ndon NW1 W 8TH
c o v er ph o t o g r aph y D a n S u l l y / P hi l sh arp
I’d always appreciated Antony and The Johnsons without being much of a fan. I felt like you couldn’t deny Antony Hegarty’s talent anymore than you could PJ Harvey’s, say, whether it was your thing or not. Everybody has one or more of those artists, who you’d probably check out at a festival, open to the idea that they might just change your mind but not exactly holding your breath. So I dipped into Antony and The Johnsons’ headlining set at Primavera Sound in 2015 and ended up staying for the whole thing. An odd booking, I thought – unusually hushed in a headline spot and out of time considering there was no new A&TJ music to hear. The ensemble did perform a new track that night, though, and ‘4 Degrees’ – about global warming – instantly piqued my interest. Antony Hegarty is now Anohni and ‘4 Degrees’ features on her first album under that name. ‘Hopelessness’ is a collaboration with Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never. It’s the mark of phase two of Anohni’s career, where the music is more accessible and ‘up’ than the pastoral, understated songs of Antony and The Johnsons. It features Ross Birchard’s beats and Daniel Lopatin’s electronics. You can definitely dance to parts of it, but its lyrical themes are difficult to ignore. Is this song about drone bomb attacks? Climate change? Government surveillance? Capital punishment? Torture? Anohni might have embraced her love for electronic pop but there’s still an arresting bleakness at the centre of an album she’s chosen to call ‘Hopelessness’. It wasn’t a breeze, featuring her on this month’s cover. Demands were demanded and schedules shifted. As for the conversation, it was as intense as the subject matters stipulated. It’s easy to dismiss musicians’ crusades against issues as frightening and overwhelming as climate change, of course, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can’t ignore them forever, and Anohni is as compelling in discussion as she is in song. Stuart Stubbs
Ed itor - Stu ar t Stu b bs Art Dir e ctor - Le e Be lche r D IGITAL DIRECTOR - GREG COCHRANE S ub Editor - Ale xandr a Wilshir e fi l m e ditor - Andr e w ande rson Bo ok Editor s - Le e & Janine Bu llman D esig n b y b .a.m.
T hi s M o nth L &Q L o ve s be n a yr e s , be n ha r r i s , j a m ie w o o l ga r , ka te p r ice , ke o ng w o o , Se a n Pa tr ick R ho r e r , to ne s s a ns o m .
The view s expre ssed in Lou d And Quiet are those of the re s pective contributor s and do not nece ssari ly reflect the opinions of the magazine or it s s taff. All right s res erved 2016 Loud And Quiet LTD. ISS N 2049-9892 Printe d by Sharman & Company LT D. Di stribute d by loud and quiet LT D. & forte
U.S. GIRLS recalls that magical teenage year, running down the clock at Catholic school
eg Remy: In 1981 I was outside of Chicago, living with my mum. I was going to a private Catholic high school, where I had no friends. Well, one. There was only one other punk person. The town wasn’t too small, but small minded enough, you could say. What was small was my school, and you had either the uber rich kids or you had the kids whose parents didn’t want them going to the public school so they were working their asses off. My parents were middle class. They weren’t religious, but my mum didn’t want me in the public school. But I was living my life mostly in my head and outside of school anyway. At school you had prayer everyday, and you had mass once a week. It was religious. Like, the science class was: ‘we’re going to teach you evolution because we have to, buuuut really the truth is that God made everything in seven days.’ That was at a period of time when I was getting very into the truth. I was obsessed with truth – the truth about America, about politics, about my family, the truth about science, the truth about woman, the truth about everything. So I was constantly running into brick walls in that school, because I couldn’t accept the things that they were saying, and that there was no wriggle room for other perspectives. It was frustrating, and yet I knew that high school wasn’t going to be my time. I just had to get through it, and it was going to be ok. I was always in trouble for running my mouth off.
A s to ld to St uar t St ubb s But I had one teacher who was really good with me and I asked him if he would let me speak in front of the class about different topics. He let me talk about anything I wanted, pretty much. During that time period I’d made my first connection with the transgender world, and all this stuff about gender – I made a friend, Katie, who was transitioning, and that wasn’t common back then. When my mum found out that she was trans a bomb exploded in our house. But the struggle of gender and people wanting to change genders, I related to it somehow. So I spoke a lot about transgender issues in front of my class. It was very bizarre, really, but it was pretty amazing that my teacher let me do that. I can only remember him stopping me once, when I was giving a talk on STDs and I was like: ‘if you don’t use a condom, it’s fine,’ and he was like: ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.’ All these things that I was reading about and learning about, I was so compelled and moved by them that I wanted to share this stuff. I wanted people to get riled up as well, but they weren’t – they were just picking their nails. It’s funny when I look back on it. I don’t know what I was thinking. Class time wasn’t when I had problems with other students; it was more in between, in the halls and in the lockerooms and at lunch, when the real meanness comes out. They weren’t picking on me because I didn’t believe in God; they were picking on me because I had short hair and they just
wanted to call me a dyke. It wasn’t really a hard time for me, though, looking back on it. School was like working a job – I was watching the clock, the bell would ring, and I’d be free. I went to the city [Chicago] a lot for shows. On school nights. Just any show. There was a venue called The Fireside Bowl that was an all-ages venue that used to be a bowling alley but now did punk shows. I’d go see anyone there and punk bands changed my perspective a lot that year. I saw Wolf Eyes that year; Glass Candy;The Gossip; Caroliner; Lightning Bolt. I had my one friend that I went to school with. He was the only other punk, weird kid, and we’d go to these shows together, but I had a whole new set of friends that I made from the city, who were older. I mean, I lived a huge part of my high school years pretending to be a completely different person in the city. I didn’t give anyone any information on myself, and would just meet them at shows to hang out. It came out who I really was and how old I was once I dated someone, but I needed another world to survive what my reality was. It was a great comfort to leave school and put on a CD that I loved in the car and play it really fucking loud while I drove out of the parking lot. Corny shit like that, but it was good. And experiencing these older friends in the city and how they lived taught me that you don’t have to work five days a week – you can choose to not play that game.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Keanu Reeves Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / effortlessly as any equivalent bit-part Britpop act did back in the UK. So Dogstar committed to record, releasing a four-track EP (‘Quattro Formaggi’) and debut album (‘Our LittleVisionary’) in 1996. Sad, then, that the album was only distributed in Japan, setting the scene for the second half of Dogstar’s curiously successful story. With REM, the Manic Street Preachers, Fatboy Slim and Lenny Kravtiz gracing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 1999, most would have missed Dogstar’s name listed on the ‘Other Stage’. Veterans of shows in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Japan (five times!), their Glastonbury appearance saw the band pelted with apples, tennis balls and chunks of orange to the extent that even the Rome News Tribune felt compelled to report that: “Reeves smiled even after he was splattered with an orange and narrowly avoided a pear.” So with Reeves becoming a Hollywood name (and key ingredient of an unexpectedly aggressive Somerset fruit salad) the band’s second – and last – album arrived a year later to even less fanfare than the first. The aptly titled ‘Happy Ending’ was as forgetfully competent as its predecessor.
Before he embarked on excellent adventures, survived speeding buses and dodged flying bullets in a PVC trench coat, Keanu Reeves was all about the bass. For an actor as heavily typecast as Reeves, Dogstar was his musical equivalent. Falling somewhere between post-grunge and radio-friendly MOR, it was all delivered with a capable consistency that made the most of the band’s 11 year lifespan. After forming the group in 1991 with fellow actor, Rob Mailhouse (who you don’t know from 2011’s A Christmas Pageant), Dogstar would go on to enjoy surprising longevity, only wrapping things up in 2002 as a result of Reeves’ increasingly-heavy schedule as the greatest actor of his generation. Once they’d worked through some scatological kinks – early band names included Small Faecal Matter and BFS (Big Fucking Shit) – Dogstar opened for David Bowie at the Hollywood Palladium, earned a slot on Bon Jovi’s ’95 tour of Australia and New Zealand, and played gigs with Rancid and Weezer as their support. At this point, Reeves’ supposed vanity project had squeezed more highlights into a few years than most do in entire careers, Dogstar happily slipping into the American grunge landscape as
by j anine & L ee bull man
Mr Jolly. Short stories. by Michael Stewart valley press
After poems, plays and two novels, including last year’s hip revenge thriller Café Assassin, Michael Stewart releases his first collection of short stories. Each of the sixteen tales included here are a trip in themselves. In Mr Jolly, for example, God wears a blue suit, shiny Oxfords and an open necked white shirt, and leagues of bald men first harass, then sit down to discuss the nature of freedom, while elsewhere in the book a heartbreaking and mysterious phone call is made before the phone is dropped to the bottom of deep water. This being Michael Stewart, weirdness abounds in Mr. Jolly, but so does the humour, skill and honed craft of one of our most interesting contemporary writers.
Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters EDITED by Nick Soulsby
Modesty Blaise: Ripper Jax by Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero
Twenty years on from his tragic death and subsequent alt-deification, Kurt Cobain still plays an active role in popular culture as he haunts its collective psyche. In Cobain on Cobain, Nick Soulsby has gathered together the largest single collection of interviews with Cobain and Nirvana, some of which have never been seen in print before. The interviews and conversations capture a scratchy, young American punk band caught in a whirlwind, tracing their career from the release of their first album to the world tour that saw them implode. Covering the band’s key moments, Cobain on Cobain also deepens the mystery surrounding their mercurial, deeply talented singer.
Modesty Blaise is the British ’60s pulp legend who looks as though she just stepped off the set of a Russ Meyer movie, and she’s back. Titan Books have again come good on their promise to reprint all of the original Blaise strips with Ripper Jax, a beautifully presented large format collection of four stories that find our heroine tracking mystery and adventure in her own inimitable style. Far more than an exercise in retro-kitsch, Modesty Blaise marks the moment comics got smart, layered and thought-provoking, and Miss Blaise, with her murky criminal past and shady accomplices, is a unique and important character within the canon of British pop culture.
getting to know you
Beth Orton This month Beth Orton returns with her seventh album, ‘Kidsticks’, made once again with a progressive electronic mind of the day – Andrew Hung of Fuck Buttons. The Norwich-born artist filled in our Getting To Know You questionnaire. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given Don’t count your nits before they’ve hatched. Your favourite word Cunt. Your pet-hate Litter. If you could only eat one food forever it would be... ... Delicious The worst job you’ve had Working to become a parody of my former self. Being abandoned and rejected for trying to be someone I thought those I looked up to wanted me to be. Forgetting that all I ever wanted was to make something resembling art. On and on an endless cycle of self-loathing. Until… I forgave myself and remembered how it was working as a waitress. The film you can quote the most of Paris, Texas.
Your biggest disappointment Getting home and finding out the jeans don’t actually fit.
was off my rocker. I thought she was really like someone you could like and it was one of the most brilliantly unusual nights out all round.
The thing you’d rescue from a burning building Family photo albums.
Your guilty pleasure Reading the press of people I’m really fucking jealous of.
The characteristic you most like about yourself I’m actually quite a good Mother as it goes.
Your biggest fear Being haunted.
The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them It’s impossible to begin and oh-so-difficult to end and it’s not big or clever…
The worst present you’ve received The Past?
Your hidden talent Cooking and eating.
The one song you wished you’d written The one I hear someone else singing that I know I could have written better if only I’d seen it sitting right under my nose. The worst date you’ve been on That time he turned up with his girlfriend. Your first big extravagance My first guitar – a Gibson Hummingbird. Your favourite item of clothing A proper pair of jeans that actually fit.
People’s biggest misconception about you It’s none of my business.
Your biggest turn-off snot
Who would play you in a film of your life? Marilyn Monroe. What is success to you? Acceptance of what is.
Favourite place in the world New York. Because I was there just last week and Spring broke in two all over my face and the faces of those around me and poured into our very beings and let us into one of the best feelings ever. Your style icon Annie Hall.
The best book in the world Anything by Graham Green.
What talent do you wish you had? To be flexible. The most famous person you’ve met The Queen, at Buckingham Palace. I was in a little huddle with Jeanette Lee (Rough Trade), Mick Jones and Jarvis Cocker. We were eating peanuts and dry curly-edged cheese and ham sandwiches, drinking warm champagne and giggling when the Queen rocked up to us, her aides bustling nervously around her because she’d gone offpiste. We all found her very jolly and thought she was incredibly genuine all things considered. She seemed truly interested in us all and curious to know what it was like to write a song, like she’d never met musicians before, when of course she’s met billions. She asked me if my mind was forever whirring and pointed her finger at her head and did little circles with it. Maybe she just thought I
How would you like to die? I want to fall asleep in the arms of my dearest. The most overrated thing in the world? Being with someone so as not to be alone. What, if anything, would you change about your physical appearance? I’d get perfect tits and big fat lips. What would you tell your 15-year-old self? You don’t have to have sex with him if you don’t want to. Your best piece of advice for others Be kind to yourself and the rest will follow.
SassyBlack Concept albums about the modern dating game â€“ itâ€™s what your student loan was made for Photogra phy: kyle jonson / writer: david zammitt
Le f t : c a t h a r r i s - w h i t e in Wa s h i n g t o n P a r k A r b o r et u m, S ea t t l e.
at Harris-White has just blown her college fund – and she couldn’t be happier. In her infinite thirst for solo success, the singing half of THEESatisfaction has made it her business to not only write and perform the 13 tracks that make up her debut LP, ‘No More Lame Dates,’ but to take each and every aspect of the album’s recording, release and promotion into her own deft hands, depleting her savings account in the name of her art. But what her passbook lacks in zeros, her CV has gained in skills. “I just want to learn and get better at production,” she says, taking a deep breath before rhyming off the strings she’s been busily working on adding to her evergrowing bow, “and PR and managing and marketing myself. This is kind of like my grad PhD program for myself; it’s going to cost me pretty much as much as that would!” Having steadily released her own music in the background, HarrisWhite chose 2016 as the year to finally step out from the shadows of the duo that’s made her famous in underground hip-hop circles. After touring THEESatisfaction’s acclaimed second LP, ‘EarthEE,’ the timing felt right. And when the decision was made, it came together with lightning speed. “It’s been really interesting,” she says. “I work a lot faster by myself. With this album, I started in October and finished in January, and had it mastered by mid-February. Which I guess is kind of crazy but it just moved a lot faster. “I think the difference is that, working with someone else, you’re like, ‘Hey, do you like that?’ and I kinda use them to balance what’s going on, but with this I had to be like, ‘This song is good enough. This beat is fine, let’s keep going.’ So I had to learn to trust myself, essentially, with the creative process. I learned a lot more about myself.” Brought up in Hawaii before settling in Seattle at the age of ten, Harris-White has been working on her music’s blueprint for as long as she can remember. “I had goals, even at that age,” she declares, before channelling a ten-year-old SassyBlack: “‘I want to write, I want to act, I want to be on stage.’ My parents were very supportive and I’ve literally been doing it ever since I got off the plane.
“Before we get to a new place we’re already planning,” she says, having moved around Hawaii and lived for a time in San Francisco. “Not everyone does that, and it took me a while to realise that. But we got here, to Seattle, on a Thursday and on Friday my mom took me to sign up for school and I started on Monday.” It’s this enterprise and sheer, brute determination that was vital in forging the young artist in the early stages of her life. “It’s definitely what inspired me to be creative,” she says, gleaming with familial pride. She also credits the freedom of the lifestyle in America’s 50th state and the home-schooling she received during that period as key in ushering her towards a life motivated by the romantic rather than the prosaic. “My parents were involved in the community in Hawaii so we were just in the scene taking African dance classes and learning different things like basket weaving and stuff,” she recalls. “I just remember having the ability to be in my own world so when I came to Seattle it was definitely a culture shock in a lot of ways,” she exclaims, transported back to those uncomfortable initial steps. “And when you’re ten and eleven that’s when everything gets super harsh, so that was an intense experience for me in itself. But everywhere my family goes, we hit the ground running.” That same sense of liberty has shaped her spectral sense of self. For Harris-White, notions of gender, sexuality, identity and culture are fluid. She resists being classified as exclusively female, and she identifies as neither straight nor gay, instead describing herself as queer. “I can’t control who I fall in love with,” she admits sheepishly, as though she’s tried her best but just can’t help it, “and I fall in love a lot. I’m not a binary person; I have many spirits and energies within me.” She says this without missing a beat, and I get the sense that this particular thesis has been gradually polished over time. “I’m not just masculine, I’m not just feminine. For me specifically, I don’t just date women, I don’t just date men. I date whoever I want and that’s why I feel queer works best for me. I’m a queer person in general; I’m a weird
person. So it encompasses a lot of my dimensions. A lot of people are like, ‘You’re a lesbian, why are you with that guy?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not a lesbian!’” She remembers how she would update online profiles as a teenager as she moved further and further away from societal norms. “I just remember that when I felt confident I changed my bio from ‘straight’ to ‘lesbian’ and then ‘queer.’ And then it was ‘unidentified,’” she giggles, “‘don’t care!’”
he roads of this rich biographical backdrop have led SassyBlack to her first full-length album, a record that draws on hip-hop, jazz, soul and electronica but which refuses to be pinned down. The fruit of her musical labour and the manifestation of that hard-earned would-be college cash is a concept album that takes the trials and tribulations of Generation Y courtship as the muse for its agile brushstrokes. While it may sound like a narrow framework – how much, you might be asking, can one possibly say about Tinder? – there is more to ‘No More Lame Dates’ than first meets the eye. With the dating game as its kernel, the narratives snake off in countless directions, each song becoming a separate scene in the overall play of Harris-White’s chequered love life. Consequently, it reveals more than just the musician’s growing exasperation at the quality of the ‘scene’. Rather, the collection becomes a platform from which she can declare her fluid sexuality, where she can confront the actualities of human sexual desire and skilfully explore the psychological complexities of human relationships. Crucially, loneliness also lurks at every corner for the Millennial narrator; a reminder that all is not as well as it may seem for a generation characterised by its delaying of life’s traditional milestones. “I’m 29, I’m going to be 30 this year. When I was younger I thought I would be settled down by now and there have been a couple of relationships which I thought would be lifelong and it didn’t turn out that way.” She sighs and orders her thoughts. “So it’s kind of me being vulnerable and dealing with adulthood.
I created all the beats and songs with those concepts in mind.” Her take on what passes for love for a queer woman in the 2010s is also boldly idiosyncratic; the characters in her sketches of romance’s early fumblings won’t find their lips meeting at the end of the same strand of spaghetti. Instead Harris-White acts out disturbing stalker-ish phone calls from flirtations gone sour and imagines first dates at comic book conventions as she packs her songs dense with references, from Seattle suburbia to sci-fi. “You were chillin’ with a sexy Trekkie,” she teases on ‘Comicon,’ “I’ll be your second in command.” It’s these quirks that imbue the album with a personality that’s light-years ahead of the love song landscape in 2016. “It might lose the listener,” she asserts, “but it also engages them. I like making references that they might not get but they might want to research afterwards and it can spark their interest.” The wholehearted embrace of the quirks that make up Cat Harris-White is what sets her apart, but she’s quick to point out that self-assurance didn’t always come so easily. Science fiction, which has been a constant thread running through the music she makes with both THEESatisfaction and Shabazz Palaces, embarrassed her at first. “I was kind of a closeted sci-fi fan,” she laughs. “My family likes DC Comics and Marvel and stuff like that and I was always like, ‘Oh, I dunno,’ and felt uncomfortable about it.” Since then she has honed an aesthetic indebted to the space-age musical pioneers of the ’70s and ’80s. “Michael Jackson is a huge afro-futurism sci-fi artist, which I don’t think is truly acknowledged,” she says. “He had Moonwalker and Captain Eo for Disney, the one where he’s the captain of a spaceship. Those things also inspired me in terms of being an entertainer who can have the sci-fi effect.” Parliament, Sun Ra, and Erykah Badu are also name-dropped and she waxes lyrical on the “fearlessness” of the likes of Herbie Hancock, Prince, Stevie Wonder and Stanley Clarke, who refused to be straitjacketed not only by genre, but also by time and space. “Knowing your boundaries but not being pushed into a box, that’s what really inspires me.”
Julien Baker Voice of reason, somewhere between Nashville and Memphis Photogra phy: Kyle Dean R einfor d / writer: IAN ROE BUCK
LE F T : J u l i e n b a k e r i n S h el b y P a r k , Ea st N as h v i lle , te n n essee.
ello, sir? ... Sir, can you hear me?”There is a slight pause before she tries again. “Mr Roebuck, is that you? Oh my goodness!” Julien Baker is on the phone, a 20 year-old singer with spectacular manners from Tennessee. “I’m actually driving midway between Nashville and Memphis,” she says. “I grew up in Memphis but I moved to Nashville for school so I spend a lot of time on the interstate going back and forth. I have a show tonight and then I’m driving back for church tomorrow.” I must sound concerned as she bursts out laughing. “It used to make my manager really nervous but I have those headphone things on so we will be fine. My friends jokingly call me Grandpa Julien because I abide by the rules and everything.” Driving down the open road but remaining firmly within the speed limit, Julien has the world at her feet. A wondrously received debut album has caught everyone off guard, even herself. “I am so honoured by its reception,” she says. “This is all new; talking to you is totally new. My high school band got our picture in the paper once and that was amazing to me and then all of a sudden I am doing interviews with London and I am like, oh my gosh! It’s overwhelming. It really is.” Nine personal songs have taken Baker on this journey. Nine beautifully constructed stories about Juilen, laid out immaculately inside ‘Sprained Ankle’, the remarkable album in question. Now this body of work will take her around the globe, something she hasn’t quite got her head round yet. “I have actually never left the United States so my tour that’s about to start will be my first time in London or Europe or anything like that. Some people go on Spring Break to Cancun or a mission trip to Nicaragua but I have never done it – I joke with my advisors that I am leaving school to study live music abroad.” Julien has a way with words. Polite, sure, but there is a wicked undercurrent to her humour that carries into the music and her performances. “I am so excited about coming to London,” she buzzes. “Everyone has told me I will love it there. I am playing in a beautiful venue called St Pancras church – it
looks breathtaking. When I think of church venues, though, my immediate inclination is to not think of large open knave areas with big reverb. That traditional liturgy is different to me. I grew up in my church and we would ask my pastor, ‘hey, can we use the place after hours for this punk show?’ because we needed a venue for the all ages scene where kids could come, and so I always imagine church venues as hardcore floor shows.” All of a sudden she disappears. Oh God, I think, somewhat inappropriately. “Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Roebuck, don’t worry I am still driving.” And so we move on to doughnuts. Julien has a disproportionate amount of social media photos dedicated to a well known American doughnut vendor and even a tattoo of the baked snack. “Oh yes, I love them,” she says, “but it’s more of an obsession with that brand’s coffee actually. I have a thing about coffee and it’s my final vice, you know. I have quit smoking, I don’t drink, I don’t do anything, but I have to have the coffee. That’s it, that’s all I rely on. It’s a little bit of a stereotype, but tea, you guys drink tea don’t you? I had a British professor that drank black tea, like really bitter and strong black tea every morning instead of coffee. I am a tea person – I was getting a weird heart rate and heart palpitations with my coffee intake so I switched to tea in the evenings, but I didn’t know how stereotypical it was.” Yes, Julien, we drink tea, sometimes paired with a doughnut. “Oh good,” she answers, “that’s settled it.”
t’s astonishing to discover that the open wonder and intimacy of Julien’s music can be felt after a few minutes on the telephone. She’s as grounded in conversation as she is on her lyric sheet. “I feel like if art is genuine you can’t go wrong,” she tells me. “You can be in a screamo band or you can be a hip hop artist and as long as it’s genuine then that is a characteristic that will be evident in your work.” The word authentic pops up and she jumps on it. “The authenticity of it, yeah. I guess it reminds me that one of my
roommates is a filmmaker and he says this thing that art has to be a little selfish to be honest. He said if an artist sets out with a mission statement, like, ‘I am going to make an inspirational record to help these people,’ it will undoubtedly come off as artificial, so all you can do is write from life and hope that it means well.” It’s that life experience that has connected with such a wide audience. ‘Sprained Ankle’ – an intimate listen of young adult vocals and clean guitar and nothing else – deals with pretty weighty issues, like depression, anxiety and faith, but Julien’s directness still has a lightness of touch that resonates with every listen. “I keep getting messages from people in Spain or Austria and it is so cool to see it have that far of a scope; it makes you feel really connected with fellow music consumers. I think what’s made it easier to be vulnerable is seeing the positive response, when I go to a show and a stranger I have never met in a city I have never been to comes up to me and says I have had an experience and I can relate to this record and it’s helped me, that is the most precious and most valuable treasure of sharing music, and accruing those reactions and putting them away in my mental file is what gives me the boldness to be that open. Otherwise I would be more reluctant.” We discuss the track ‘Brittle Boned’. When I mention to her it’s my favourite and clumsily give my interpretation of it she handles it beautifully. “There is a Gabriel Garcia Marqeuz quote I love that is human beings aren’t born the person they are when they leave their mothers womb but we are obliged to rebirth ourselves day after day, after day. Well, ‘Brittle Boned’ is kind of focused more on the internal version of yourself; it’s your inner psychological flaws. I just don’t think there is anything to be necessarily cured; we are the people that we are with our biological and psychological faults. I could spend forever not trying to be a type A anxious person with a nervous disposition and it would never happen. But I can choose how selfaware I am and I can choose how to cope with that. I can choose to be positive or negative, I can choose to lose parts of myself that I don’t like,
like my negativity or fear and try to kill those. It doesn’t mean that I am never going to have another panic attack, I’ll probably have panic attacks my whole life, but I can choose to laugh about it and I can choose to talk to other people who are depressed or anxious and use it for good. In that way, we can shape even our negative attributes into positive tools. Sorry, sometimes I talk like that and it seems a little motivational speaker at a conference, I don’t want to come off that way!” After reassuring Julien that her heartfelt speech is well received, I ask her how she’s going to follow ‘Sprained Ankle’ – if she can follow Sprained Ankle? “Well, to some degree I didn’t have any personal ambitions for this record,” she ponders. “I wasn’t shopping it around to the labels or trying to become an international artist; I just wrote the songs and released them thinking I’ll take it on a DIY tour and friends of friends will hear it. At first it was weird. I am aware that now it’s more than my friends at school listening, and at first I was like, well, how does that shape what I say? I think you can’t make art in a vacuum, and I try to preserve the honesty and conversational nature of my music and the vulnerability because I think if I had known that the record would be received on this level then would it be the same record? Of course not! But then it wouldn’t have been the art that people have connected with and I might have over-produce it or agonised over every lyric and made it into something it wasn’t, so now when I am over-thinking a song I just shelve it right away. I always keep genuineness at the forefront of my artistic pursuit, you know.”
Pantha Du Prince Hendrik Weber composed his new record floating above a city he feels out of time with Photography: Jenna Foxton / writer: daniel dylan wray
Le f t : h en d r i k w eb er a t H a u s d er K u l t u r en d er W el t (‘H o u s e o f t h e W o r l d ’ s C u l t u r es ’ ), b er l i n .
s anybody that has ever been to Primavera Sound in Barcelona will know, the indoor auditorium they have there is a strange black vortex once inside. It is the sort of room that has life-sucking power should you be functioning on little sleep and an accumulative festival hangover. It’s a room I’ve had to leave as crippling nausea has taken over me on more than one occasion, although one time that was just because of My Bloody Valentine. It is a room that has defeated my fragile psyche on multiple occasions, and as a regular and longtime attendee of the festival I often enter it riddled with fear and anxiety. Once such instance was in 2013 when seeing Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Laboratory – I almost left before it began due to a growing sense of unease, depleted serotonin levels and a clouded head full of mush and selfloathing. However, what soon unfurled in front of me was one of the most quietly euphoric musical performances I’ve ever encountered. As cloaked people walked the aisles gently ringing bells with a masterful delicacy, the room soon transformed into a humming, meditative organism that pulsated and breathed. This sonorous black box came to life and acted as a tonic, bringing me around to do the same. It built and grew from the resonating organic twinkling of the bells into an almost tropical techno flourish as the beats carried it forward, raising it higher. People got to their feet and danced in the aisles; they whooped in delight as the music carefully crept and rose. It was about 4pm and I left invigorated and resplendent. It was a transformative musical experience that has long lingered within me. As I arrive to meet Hendrik Weber, the man behind the moniker Pantha Du Prince, at the House of World Cultures in his home city of Berlin, the first thing I see is a huge freestanding tower with multiple bells within it, a giant, 42m tall carillon comprised of 68 bells, which is played as a musical instrument from a central cabin, the musician having to use his fists and feet to play it on a baton-and-pedal keyboard. A condensed and more transportable version of this instrument was taken on tour by
Weber and used at the very show I had witnessed years earlier. But Weber has chosen the location for more practical than symbolic reasons as he is currently working on a project in the neighbouring building where our interview takes place. It is this project and concept that will form the basis for the next Bell Laboratory record. That, however, is way into the future. Right now, Weber has his first Pantha Du Prince solo record (‘The Triad’) out since 2010’s ‘Black Noise’. We walk to various crevices and corners of the cavernous building (which is a bit like the Barbican) and we sit down to chat but then something catches Weber’s eye or blurs his hearing, a workman’s clank or some distant chatter, and we move about four times before settling on a location Weber feels comfortable talking in. I’m guessing that such silence is important to him in the creative process. “Environment is very important but it is also not vey important,” he says paradoxically with a slight smirk behind a thick, full beard, “because if you are there and the music is there [that’s enough]. But I do realise that it needs some kind of remoteness, some kind of silent, special place. I think every record has a footprint from the space it’s made from. “For this record the footprint was this apartment in Berlin,” he says, “where I had this tiny room that overlooked the whole city, which felt like you were floating across the city because it was this greenhouse situation with a lot of plants. It was very nice. This is very much the vibe of the record, this airiness and floating sense and a very transportive openness. It’s more up than down. ‘Black Noise’ was earthier; the new one is more airy, windy, fiery. It’s a wind and fire album whereas ‘Black Noise’ was more earth and wood and crystals.” If that sounds rather ambiguous then it’s only because it’s an emblematic statement of Weber’s musical constructs on the record that, despite his tendencies for complex metaphors and defined concepts, does toil in woozy ambiguity. Like previous work, ‘The Triad’ blurs sounds and shatters genres, ranging form ambient techno to immersive shoegaze to noir-pop, all whilst retaining a core characteristic
that feels uniquely Pantha Du Prince. The record floats in an in-between state, almost as if it is drifting in and out of consciousness, which, as it transpires, was sort of the point. Weber describes the paradigm of the album as being like “this concrete utopia that is conscious and unconscious at the same time.” He then goes on to describe some of the functions and personalities of this utopia he has created, that whilst expansive in scope and ambition still remains distinctly personal to him. “I would always say that I [as a person] really come from the material. To dive into the material is also something very personal. I always really try to stay close to this rather than have a conceptual approach. It’s more like, what does the music really tell me in that moment where I let go, when I’m not present anymore – this mystical moment where you’re not the person who is sitting here with this physical identity. That moment when the music takes you is a very relieving moment; a very healing and very uplifting moment.”
riad’ is an elemental record with large nods to nature, both literally, via the song titles, and texturally. It’s an affinity that Weber feels closer to than the raging, hedonistic life of Berlin’s techno scene. “I’m not part of the Berlin techno culture,” he says. “I was for a while but you go out sometimes and it’s not like I feel it’s my family or anything, or that I’m a symbol figure for any kind of scene in this Berlin world. I’m not into the lifestyle; I’m more into the music. I prefer going out into the countryside or going to other countries to work on projects there. There was a time for me when that scene was interesting but at the moment it has reached this level [of becoming the same]. Berlin gives you interconnecting possibilities – for me it’s not so much about the music scene, it’s more about the other scenes of the city and going out is just something extra, something that you almost don’t need on a certain level.” It’s a realisation that Weber has come to after some time in the city and from operating in its music world. “I just discovered this after being on tour for almost ten years
now, that music is like the same space I’m moving in when I move in nature. It’s giving me the same energy and then I have to go back to nature to connect with the music again. I could probably just spend my life running through the forest and singing.” Yet the most challenging aspect of this record for Weber has been his immersion into the analogue equipment that shaped it and, as like most things with Pantha Du Prince, it boasts a larger social metaphor too. “This is something that really bugs me at the moment,” he says, “people trying to get this full self-efficiency through the machines they have in front of them. Social interaction reaches this stage where if it’s not perfect it’s not right.This record reflects this idea of using analogue gear and just using it as it is. You are then given the possibility of embracing the situation as it is and not try to control it all the time and make it better and better. That process can be good, I enjoyed it very much on ‘Black Noise’, to go deeper and deeper into the detail and control it even more and make it more your thing. I like the accepting nature of this record, I like the tonality of it, the sound is connected to this [analogue] machine.” ‘The Triad’ continues the previous trajectory of Pantha Du Prince in confounding expectation but retaining a sonic consistency and it’s an approach that has been both welcoming and troublesome for Weber. “It’s not pop music,” he says. “It’s not conceptual electronic music either – it keeps the doors open and the windows open and that’s something that I think is very valid for this project. I have a tendency to be a little bit ahead of time. Previously I’ve been criticised by some of my techno friends about the music I make and also some of the indie world would always ask, ‘why do you need this beat?’ The same is probably the case with this record. I always take the risk of trying to be a little bit ahead of time whereas other people might be a bit more concerned about hitting the right spot to be successful.”
Cullen Omori What you do when your high school band falls apart Photography: David Kasnic / writer: katie beswick
ullen Omori is porcelain-doll pretty, with a long, oval face, full lips, flawless olive skin and peroxide hair, the dull yellow colour of overripe lemons. He is tired when we meet, his amber eyes squinting in the afternoon sun, shoulder-length hair poking out from the bottom of his beanie hat, like straw. He’s pensive, tired; he seems like a man with things on his mind, leaning against the blue-framed windows of his Chicago apartment, a little distracted, chain-smoking as he answers my questions at shot-gun speed. He speaks in fast, fractured halfsentences, driven by an internal logic that it takes me a while to understand. His thoughts float abstractedly to the surface, one idea interrupting another, as if they exert too much pressure inside his mind and he needs to get them out, as quickly as possible. Perhaps the world-on-hisshoulders demeanour is because it’s been a rough few days. Midway through his current tour Omori’s van gave out, and his stress is palpable; he pulls furiously on a cigarette as he recounts the details: “I was just on this tour that was supposed to go down the West Coast for another two weeks, and my van straight up died at the border crossing into Canada.” The next day all his belongings were taken. “I had a rental car with clothes in it and that got stolen.” He rubs his forehead and shrugs, like, what you gonna do? “So I’ve cancelled those dates and I’m having some time off to just re-group and figure out what my plan is.” Omori returned to Chicago the day before our interview and he has a lot to straighten out before he heads back on the road, with an imminent East Coast tour and European dates later in the spring. But there’s something else, a core of sadness, an unresolved pain that seems to run deeper than the petty
irritations of the daily grind. It’s like talking with someone who has been recently heartbroken. And in a way he has. The dissolution of the Smith Westerns, the band he had fronted since high school, has clearly affected him profoundly. He’s upfront about that. “I really try to, like, stay away from super-relationship words when I’m describing it,” he says, “but it is definitely that vibe, you know?” I do know. The breakup of the Smith Westerns is a life change it’s clear he’s still working through. And, like all the recently broken-hearted people I’ve ever met, Omori’s conversation is a little barbed, veering between remorse and bitterness as he details the end. “If I had known at the time that people were gonna be like, ‘oh that sucks’, I would have put more time into making it an official thing,” he explains, as he talks me through his decision to announce the band’s separation on Twitter. But then again, “Until I announced the Smith Westerns were done I thought we were an afterthought in people’s minds. But when anything ends, all of a sudden it gets this memorial status where it’s like: ‘That was really great. I wish I could have come to see the Smith Westerns’ – and its like: where was this support when no-one was coming to see the Smith Westerns’ shows towards the end? Or where was the support when our whole label situation imploded?” I get the sense, from the way he peppers his answers with stinging asides aimed at ex-band mates and hangers-on, that he wants to set the record straight before he moves on, but that he isn’t quite over it enough to let go. “I know there’s this thing of every single person who ever played in Smith Westerns calling themselves a ‘member’ or whatever,” he tells me at
one point, “but it was always just the three of us: Max, Cameron and I. We had different people sit in and play drums and shit, but it was always the three of us.” He shakes his head firmly when I ask whether they are still in touch, and then seems to change his mind. “I talk to Cameron because he’s my brother. I’ll talk to Max occasionally – I don’t talk to him as much. Him and all the other, like, satellite members went off and formed that other band [Whitney], doing some Dave-Grohltype-shit.” He exhales cigarette smoke in a long, deliberate streak and stares off into the middle-distance. “I don’t know; I wish ‘em well and whatever.” That’s not to say he regrets the band’s demise; it was obvious it was over, he says, and the siren call to work differently had been sounding for some time. “I think that for me when it wasn’t working it wasn’t working. It’s like being in a relationship with someone since high school until you’re 24 – seven years or something like that. Which is fine – it’s cool when you’re in Chicago and don’t have a ton of other options, it makes sense. But after doing the whole Smith Westerns thing and meeting all these different people and seeing other kinds of music and other ways to pursue music I think I was ready for it.” Omori’s first solo effort, ‘New Misery’, would certainly suggest he is ready for it. The album is a dizzying, genre-bending collection that is strange and beautiful, showcasing his encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music history and giving form to his off-beat, melancholy persona. It is an incredible album, and he switches from distractedly preoccupied to upbeat and animated when I ask about the writing process, outlining his working methods with forensic precision. “I always have the TV on
interviews Cul l en o mo ri p ho t o g ra p hed a t his ho me in t he l o g a n squa re n eig hb o urho o d o f n o rt hwest Chica g o
when I write,” he says. “One, because its something to watch, you know, but also, I’ve always lived in apartments where you can hear through the walls what someone else is doing. I always felt that was, like, a security blanket. Like I’m in a spy movie, turning the water on and the fans on and the and radio up really loud so no one can hear what I’m doing.” I think he’s finished, but he is just taking a moment to light another cigarette before he continues. “And I also figure out skeletons of songs, and – this is something I’ve done since Smith Westerns, since I was like 15 years old or whatever – I would just kind of like write on an acoustic or an electric. I have this old electric guitar that I always write on. It’s just the right volume where its not fully acoustic but its not electric either, and I’ll write on that and I’ll come up with the skeleton of a song and then once I have the bare bones of it I’ll record and kind of put little things on it.” Omori’s joy in the process comes across as unpretentious; he isn’t making music for the sake of it, that much is clear from the sheer pleasure in his voice as he talks about working on the new album. “I am not into the idea of just polishing a turd, you know? I won’t sit there and compose a
chord progression and just put a bunch of shit on it. I know that’s what some bands do and some bands are very successful doing that, but that’s something I was never really into.” He doesn’t think of himself as a poet either, despite the poignancy of his lyrics. “I read somewhere that Elliot Smith would write his lyrics before they put any music to it,” he says. “I couldn’t do that. I don’t know why. I mean, I like to write lyrics but I don’t consider myself a pseudo poet or anything like that. I’m not gonna cram ten dollar words in just because I wanna make it sound like I’m smart.” So how do you write the lyrics then? “There will be a certain kind of rhythm to whatever the melody is, and maybe, like a kind of stream-ofconsciousness trying to figure out words from it. For example, the ‘tastes like sin/cinnamon’ part [from the track ‘Cinnamon’] was just something that came from the cadence of singing that melody when I was writing the song.” Cullen is genuinely passionate about the business of being a musician, in the making of the work, rather than the acclaim of being a recording artist. “I like the writing process much more
than I like promoting a record or touring a record,” he says. “If I could just write I would do that.” Unfortunately – and I get the sense that Omori is savvy enough to know this – his exquisite face makes a behind-the-scenes career unlikely.
f all the artists I’ve ever spoken to, Omori thinks the most about his audience. He is acutely aware that he writes music for listeners; that the artistic process engenders a two-way relationship, which he describes as a collaboration of sorts. “I feel like you are constantly trying to make something that other musicians can listen to,” he explains. “Not just other popular musicians, but other people who play guitar. I would like if someone likes the songs and happens to play guitar, that they can sit down and play the songs – just the chords and sing the vocals.” You get the sense that this is how he started out, all those years ago, a young teenager playing guitar in the basement, just jamming with the music, yet to make an impact with his high school band. “I want it still to be an experience that’s almost relatable to the song,” he says. “Not the same, but a
kind of a shared experience – that I created and it moves them to playing it on their own. I always think that’s a really cool thing to have with a song.” Despite his ambivalence towards the performance element of releasing an album, and the inevitable attention it brings, Omori is fascinated to the point of obsession with accessibility. While he is clear that his musical influences include obscure bands and artists, he is also heavily influenced by what he calls ‘Top 40’. “I wanted to make something that was accessible,” he enthuses, “something that wasn’t hard to grasp. The thing I like about super-popular music is that it’s alright for a seven-year-old girl to listen to it, but also a 50 year old man – Adele is like that – and that’s such a funny, cool thing.” Accessibility is what he hopes will set his solo work apart from what he achieved with the Smith Westerns. “That accessibility is a really cool thing to play with and something that as a musician I feel that I’ve never had. Everything I’ve done has always been critically received very well, and always points to music history more than accessibility, so I wanted to play around and try something like that.” All the signs point to ‘New Misery’ being very well received. Early reviews swing between positive and glowing, and he is especially excited about the European response, and looking forward to playing the UK in May. Most of all though, he is clear that he needs to make that step away from his Smith Westerns’ accomplishments and create something new. “I don’t want to look back like, ‘I did this and it was great this one time in my life, and everything else after that is whatever,’” He says. “I’d rather look at it like [Smith Westerns] is something that I’ll be remembered for but not the thing that I’m remembered for. And keeping that mind-set, it’s hard – especially when you’re living through it. But for me, especially now I’ve put the record out and done some touring and stuff, I feel I can buy into it more.” He stubs out a final cigarette and shrugs. “I mean, we’ll see how it does – but to turn it around and put something out and get on just as good a label, in my opinion a better label, and not get destroyed in the reviews, people still liking what I put out critically – I think I’m very fortunate for that.’ He pulls those full lips into a half-smile. “Yeah.”
Photogra phy: dan sully & Phil shar p / writer: greg cochrane
to ignore Made in collaboration with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, Anohni’s ‘Hopelessness’ squarely calls out capital punishment, torture, government surveillance, the misdistribution of wealth and our continual reluctance to take responsibility for the destruction of our planet
It’s the beginning of March, three days after the Oscars have taken place in Los Angeles. At the fulcrum of the world’s most high-profile awards night, Leonardo DiCaprio walked up to the stage, orchestra billowing in the background, to pick up his statue for ‘Best Actor’ after six times of being nominated. With the global media’s eye fully trained on him he thanked his friends, family and The Revenant’s cast, but like the devastating final twist of a Hollywood movie, he then told everyone in the decadent old theatre, and those watching at home, that our collective inactivity was murdering our futures. “Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” he said, looking into the camera. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” He continued: “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all humanity.” DiCaprio was clapped offstage, and the race to the cloakroom and the after-party vol-au-vents began. But from the ceremony, it wasn’t those incendiary comments that generated the shares, the memes and the regrams. Instead, it was Chris Rock’s cutting jokes about diversity and a screengrab of Leo holding his prize with a sly middle finger. For all the comparative headlines it spurned, it felt like an almost hopeless stand. One of the most influential voices on the planet, atop the ultimate
platform, telling humanity that it’s on a precipice, and the reaction was hardly even a shrug. Anohni was also nominated at this year’s Oscars. She decided not to attend. ‘Manta Ray’, the song she cowrote with J.Ralph for climate crisis documentary Racing Extinction, was up for ‘Best Song’. In the week preceding the event, Anohni explained in an online post her reasons for staying away. She got as far as the airport before choosing not to travel. She had not been asked to perform, unlike other nominees Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and The Weeknd. Some media outlets reported that she was one of two performers to have been cut (not true). “The producers seemed to have decided to stage performances only by the singers who were deemed commercially viable,” she wrote. “I tried to force myself to get on the plane to fly to LA for all the nominee events, but the feelings of embarrassment and anger knocked me back.” “I want to be clear – I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered. I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the US, singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space.” Her post went on to explain that she felt it was a symptom of a much greater issue. “But if you trace the trail of breadcrumbs, the deeper truth of it is impossible to ignore. Like global warming, it is not one isolated event,
but a series of events that occur over years to create a system that has sought to undermine me, at first as a feminine child, and later as an androgynous transwoman. It is a system of social oppression and diminished opportunities for transpeople that has been employed by capitalism in the US to crush our dreams and our collective spirit.” “In the United States it is all about money: those who have it and those who don’t. Identity politics are often used as a smokescreen to distract us from this viral culture of wealth extraction. When we are not extracting wealth from nature, we are extracting it from the working and middle classes.” It closed with this line: “I want to maximize my usefulness and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and the pursuit of human decency within my sphere of influence.” It was a powerful, inspiring fuck you.
ut now it’s 72 hours since the Oscars, and we’re sat in a central London hotel lounge that Anohni at one point aptly describes as “the sandwich room”. The surroundings are old fashioned and vaguely quaint. As we chat, the room fills up with business meetings. An hour in, a harpist begins playing cover versions in the corner of the room, providing a juxtaposed backdrop to our conversation. Before our interview
begins, Anohni politely asks if she can record it on her smartphone, and for the first ten minutes of the conversation, she sketches in a gold notebook as she talks, before folding it away. “I was surprised by how positive the reaction was, generally speaking, more in America than England,” she says, speaking softly about The Oscars. “I think it was good in the end; I was glad with the way it all worked out. I’d much rather participate in the way I did than to attend. It was more useful in a way. Standing there just being another stuffed shirt would have been really un-useful and it would have sent a weird message.” In person, Anohni is pale skinned, has an infectious laugh and, on a couple of occasions breaks into a hilarious impression of an American accent that sounds like a Texan farmer. She’s softly spoken (her own accent is a mix of Chichester, where she was born, and New York) but direct, wellinformed, highly engaged and obviously willing to confront and articulate her feelings on the very biggest of topics. We’re here today to talk about ‘Hopelessness’. Despite its tagline, her fifth studio LP is inspirational. In fact, it’s more than that. It’s an earthquake of an album, unexpected, brutal and one, I imagine, with a lasting impact. It’s the kind of work that’s so stirring, angry, majestic, beautiful and thought provoking that it will either have tears streaming down your cheeks, or have you banging on the gates of Downing Street. An album that gets into your
rig ht : A n o hn i at So fit el St James ho t el , west min st er, Lo n d o n .
Articulating Hopelessness Anohni on the key issues tackled on her new album Surveillance We’re living in a society that’s very geared towards containing us using insidious fear. Containing and controlling us. Just going through an airport is enough to make you shut the fuck up. When I go back to the US now they do iris scans for everyone even if you’re a citizen. Like twenty years ago that would only have been reserved for criminals. How quickly we’ve succumbed to this idea that we need to volunteer our privacy in order that they can best protect us – it’s a creepy relationship with a paternal protector. Housing Everyone is living off the fumes of probably your grandparent’s generation, in terms of assets and the trickle down benefits. You’ve got a whole generation of kids at 30 still living in their parent’s house because they couldn’t afford to buy houses as working middle class people. Why can’t anyone buy a house anymore?! How can it be that what were slums are now being sold for half a million or a million pounds? My grandmother’s house, they were so poor, and they bought a house in Surbiton [south London] for something like £7000 and it was like everything. They sometimes didn’t have money for food. Now that house is worth just this extortionate amount of money. It just doesn’t make sense to me because what would a family do now that were in my grandmother’s situation? An immigrant family? Like my grandmother was an immigrant, what would a family like hers do today? I read an article recently which said we no longer encourage young people to buy houses. It’s no longer tenable to buy a house, we encourage them now to rent. And I was like, “Well, what the fuck was that all about!?” It’s like we’re sinking back towards serfdom. President Obama I feel like I was naive – I thought that he would be the silver bullet – and joining that mass moment, the mass hysteria that he evoked in us and he did… that’s why he was given the Nobel Peace Prize within a month of taking office, because he had evoked the heroism of the great American leaders of the 20th century. Martyn Luther King and
probably Robert Kennedy. He described a very high moral standard that he’d be reaching for as president. He was elected on a campaign of transparency and closing Guantanamo Bay, and we didn’t expect that that would mean the NSA scandal and execution of every future terrorism suspect overseas. I can’t speak to him as a betrayer. I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days, it’s more about my naivety and how infantilised I’ve become that I’d expect to elect a man to look after me and to look after this world.
The US election I’m much more sceptical about advocating a specific candidate, for Hillary [Clinton] for instance, because I walked into that trap with Obama and I really live to regret it. I really campaigned for him when he was on his first election cycle when I was doing my tours, when I was doing my press. Again we’re faced with potential, a really volatile fascistic totalitarian candidate versus a dynasty of sallow bipartisanship, which is always like the finger in the dyke kind of model for me. The finger in the groaning dyke – that seems to have been the Clinton’s dynasty. Maybe something good will come of it, but I feel like they move too slowly. It’s like what Nina Simone said in ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ – “We don’t have time for this”. The problem is there’s no more time. The death penalty You look at the death penalty in America, that’s another subject on the record. America is still executing people because they think they’re innately evil and the only way to punish them is to kill them. Whereas in Norway they have that guy who killed all those kids on that island and they have that whole sort of very public processing of what had happened where everyone cried and they even gave him a forum to speak. They treated him with dignity. That was an incredible model, what they did, and it was in such stark contrast to the American model where they gave that Boston bomber boy, who was just a teenager, the death penalty. He’s just like a kid.
head and gnaws at your subconscious. You’ll have heard ‘4 Degrees’ by now. Performed live last year at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound and released in late 2015 – it’s a shocking and sarcastic wake-up call about humanity’s nonchalant attitude towards the destruction of the environment. “All those lemurs and all those tiny creatures / I want to see them burn / It’s only 4 degrees,” she sings. It’s rightfully been recognised as a protest anthem (“People aren’t used to hearing me say ‘bring it on,’” she tells me later. “It’s confounding expectations a bit by taking a sort of reverse psychology approach to the subject matter.”). And there’s ‘Drone Bomb Me’, a Trojan Horse of a dancefloor track. It’s a love song, maybe from the perspective of a 9-year-old Afghan girl whose family has been killed by a drone bomb. The lyrics go: “Let me be the first / I’m not so innocent / Let me be the one / The one that you choose from above / Drone bomb me.” It’s both euphoric (musically), damning and desperately sad. These, though, are just a hint. ‘Hopelessness’ is an album that takes aim on politics, surveillance, foreign policy, torture and capital punishment. Most striking is how there’s no soft cotton-padding around Anohni’s lyrics; they’re direct, urgent and thrillingly provocative. ‘Obama’ – “When you were elected / the world cried for joy / We thought you had empowered the truth telling envoy / Now the news is you are spying / Executing without trial / Betraying virtues / Scarring closed the sky.” ‘Watch Me’ – “Watch me in my hotel room / Watch my iris as I move from city to city / Watch me watching pornography / Watch my medical history.” ‘Crisis’ – “If I tortured you brother / In Guantanamo / I’m sorry / Now you’re cutting heads off innocent people on TV.” The 11 tracks are, as Anohni has stated, an artist “speaking her own truth” and testing the parameters of her sphere of influence. It’s an LP as intense as the character of its architect. She may be slightly shy in her demeanour but these songs do not hide from themselves. “I found myself increasingly making these pastoral albums, but then talking about these really vivid issues in interviews,” she says placing
her teacup back on the table. “I just thought I want to write songs that say exactly what I’m really thinking.” “When I was writing the lyrics I was so shocked. Am I really singing this? It felt scary to sing because people often associate my voice with a kind of comfort in a way… I’ve always thought that something that scared me was probably a good indication that it’s something I should explore.” Besides perhaps MIA, there are few other artists at a comparative level making such forthright statements. “I am scared,” she tells me. “I’m still scared about it because I don’t know what the repercussions of saying this stuff in a pop song are. I haven’t seen it happen before. I don’t know what to expect. I just thought, life is short, and we should try and do as much as we can while we’re here.” Musically it’s her most accessible record to date. ‘Hopelessness’ began as a conversation with Dan Lopatin (producer Oneohtrix Point Never) three years ago, intended as something more “soundtracky”, before Ross Birchard (Hudson Mohawke) joined the collaboration. The production is bombastic and, at times, confrontational – a full immersion into an electronic world fans had a taste of with Anohni’s 2008 collaboration with Hercules and Love Affair’s ‘Blind’. The jagged teeth of the lyrics mesh with the cinematic production in an astonishing way. The idea, for example, of ‘Drone Bomb Me’ being DJ’d at an Ibizian summer pool party is almost thrillingly subversive. “I love dance music,” she says. “I love electronic music. I grew up in the early ’80s – in those days, as a kid, you were really reacting to the sort of grimy yesteryear-ness of guitars. Guitars at that moment were almost considered completely tacky. Electronic music was so crisp and futureforward.” She recalls being a fan of voices like Boy George and particularly Alison Moyet’s work with Essex synthpop duo Yazoo. “I remember hearing her voice on those records when I was 12 years old, and being shocked by this feeling I had inside when I was hearing it. I hadn’t felt that way before, I didn’t know what it was. I thought I was
“When I was writing the lyrics I was so shocked. Am I really singing this?”
Anohni sings in Antony and the Johnsons. That’s my name – Anohni is my real name and it has been for a few years in my private life. It’s as simple as that really.”
going to be sick.” In a way, this album has been a long time coming – it’s where issues and influences Anohni has been thinking about “forever” converge. It’s certainly a huge evolutionary stride if you’re only familiar with the songs on her 2005 Mercury Prize winning album ‘I Am A Bird Now’ and her work since then (2009’s ‘The Crying Light’ and ‘Swanlights’). While sometimes the subject matter has been spiky, the delivery has almost always been pastoral. It’s also the first to be released as ‘Anohni’ rather than ‘Antony and the Johnsons’. “It was something I was exploring
in my private life, changing my name for a long time,” she explains. “I don’t really want to use the name Antony anymore, I haven’t used it for a few years. It just made sense. “I remember in 2005 when I won the Mercury Prize and there was one interviewer, like, ‘Why do you wear make-up? Why do you hide behind make-up?’ I said,‘Actually I’m showing you more clearly who I am by wearing make-up. It’s actually giving you a clearer window into my spirit.’ I think it’s the same for transpeople when you choose a spirit name. It gives people another indication of your nature.” On her official website the homepage is now divided in two,
Anohni and Antony and the Johnsons. It says ‘archive’ next to Antony and the Johnsons and I ask if A&TJ is now a closed chapter? “Not necessarily, I might do a tour as Antony and the Johnsons – it’s my band’s name. It’s sort of like James and the Giant Peach. I don’t use the name Antony anymore but in a weird way I like the idea of it becoming a band name. It’s quite abstract. I like the idea that it’s not me.” I ask if she would do an Anohni and the Johnsons record in the future? “No, I would do an Antony and the Johnsons record in the future if I did The Johnsons, because that’s the name of the group, but then it would be
n the day of our interview, the news agenda is dominated by Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign. The previous day it was about a row over retirement age, the day after, Brexit. Since then, take your pick, terrorist attacks, health scare scandals, celebrity deaths, the threat of nuclear war, tax evasion and a thousand other pressing topics. They’re things most people care about. But, such is life, they tangle with personal issues on a daily basis. Trying to digest the Big Picture and these immediate challenging issues can, meshed together, feel unfathomable. ‘Hopelessness’ approaches some big issues – like the US death penalty or President Obama’s presidential tenure – but Anohni also tries to frame them all in one overriding problem. The album is, she says, an exploration into the idea of “human brokenness”. “Racism, endgame international corporate governance, trickle up economics, ever-greater wealth disparity, fundamentalism, extremism, corrupt foreign policy, weapons trade, fossil fuel, endgame mineral extraction, stealing and raping earth… It bottlenecks in ecocide,” she says. “It all draws together into a bouquet that you could call ecocide.” The definition of ecocide is the destruction of the natural environment, especially when it’s deliberate, and it’s her way of thinking about humanity’s position in an holistic way. She continues: “Because we’re used to addressing those issues each individually, we get overwhelmed after about three of them. But if you can hold space for it, I’ve started to see it as sort of a bouquet that you can call ecocide. A bouquet of co-dependent conditions.” These “co-dependent conditions” manifest themselves in the stuff that’s everywhere everyday. Trying to get a job, a mortgage, to have a family. Anything like that. Products of the systems and lifestyles we inhabit, which, Anohni says all continually come back to the environment. “How can we ever hope to change our trajectory if we’re not capable of being honest with what our trajectory even is, or what it is that’s happening?” Anohni says. “We’ve got this almost whack-a-mole approach right now
where it’s like, ‘there’s racism! There’s income disparity! There’s income collapse!’ Almost like moles popping up in a field. By the time you get over to it, it’s gone and it’s something else over there, and you’re running around a field like a chicken with its head cut off trying to address the big picture.” The future Anohni paints is a scary one, mostly because it’s one of stark realisation. There are seven billion people in the world right now. There’s projected to be 9.6 billion by 2050 and we haven’t figured out a sustainable way of feeding them all. Recently, NASA also warned of a “climate emergency” after global temperatures recorded a significant rise, blamed on human-generated greenhouse gases. It’s estimated that 30% of species will be endangered by the middle of the century. “This is probably what’s differentiated this time from most of the other times, any other time in human history. In the past, we’ve had capacity to destroy our local environment, and we’ve done that many times, but it’s only been since WWII that we’ve started to have the ability to do the whole planet in,” she says. “I can’t bear the idea because I don’t have any faith in all these heaven systems and paradise elsewhere systems, 17 virgins waiting for you… or a bunch of white budgies waiting for you in heaven or whatever. I just think that the best things that we’ll ever find are all the things that are suddenly disappearing while all this crap is preoccupying us.
“We turn around and ask ‘What were the Germans thinking in 1942?’ That’s what they’re all going to be saying about us, ‘What was humanity thinking in 2015? For that matter, ‘What were they thinking in 2000?’ ‘What were they thinking in 1990’?’ Because we knew all this crap then. It’s been a quarter century of us not acting on this.” Maybe the key and the thrill of ‘Hopelessness’ is that it’s an uncomfortable record. Uncomfortable because it demands the listener to face Anohni’s truths, but also front-up to our own complicity. Anohni lives in New York. Later this year she has chosen to take ‘Hopelessness’ on tour. Starting in the US, she’ll travel to Sydney, Europe, the UK, and back to America to play shows. That touring obviously has repercussions. “It’s not easily resolved,” she admits. “It is a conflict. I don’t know how to resolve it. “It has made me change the things I do already. You keep making subtle adjustments to make yourself comfortable. I saw this chart about how many barrels of oil you burn when you take a flight, if you’re flying to Australia, it’s like 15 barrels per person or something unbelievable. There’s no way around it, even people working within these [environmental] fields as advocates find that their footprint is abhorrent. The obvious conclusion is to stop or try to work within in a sort of… in a recycle-y type way.” She thinks for a moment: “I don’t know honestly, I haven’t resolved it.
Obviously I’ve decided to move forward with my campaign, so for today I don’t know if I’m an enemy of the earth. I may be an enemy of the earth even today.”
eonardo DiCaprio’s call to arms was saying that humanity is at a crossroads. Ecocide has been a pressing issue for 25 years, but humanity has focussed on some of its co-dependent conditions deemed to be more important. ‘Hopelessness’, and the inevitable discussions that surround it, can conjure a very doomy, depressing outlook.There are a couple of moments in the conversation where we both sit in silence trying to articulate the enormity of the topics or pause to take it all in. Having said all of this, Anohni does have belief in a brighter future. “It’s actually an incredibly exciting idea that we’re being asked to evolve in a really profound way, collectively,” she says. “We’re not just being asked, we’re being required to do it – or to perish. Actually it’s an issue of survival. “There’s a tremendous opportunity for us to evolve. Really we have no choice but to evolve, we’re really at a crossroads – we’re either going to keep moving forward in the way that we’re going to finish up sadly at the expense of everyone else, or we make a shift.” I ask what she thinks it will take to create mass awareness? An event? “Events themselves…. Obama being elected was an event. The Arab Spring was an event. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The collapse of the Soviet
Union was an event. One event doesn’t do anything. You have to light up a series of events like a Christmas Tree and it needs to sustain over a giant period of time I imagine in order to effect a lasting shift. Especially when you think about how cross-cultural it needs to be, or how international that series of events needs to be... We’re asking for nothing short of a miracle. Miracles happen. Amazing things happen all the time. So, yes, I think it’s possible and I think it will require a miracle.” I tell Anohni that I think that’s a scary thought. “I want to affirm people,” she says. “If they’re feeling hopeless and scared, it’s absolutely appropriate to feel that way right now when you look out on the world and look out on the media that we’re being forced to ingest. “Those are feelings, they’re indicators, another set of primordial indicators we have to help us make decisions. Fear is supposed to help us know that we’re facing something dangerous. We are facing something dangerous and are also stewards of biodiversity – we’re not even just here to advocate for ourselves anymore. We literally have the weight of the only life system that we know of as our responsibility.”
And the good news? Ecoside expert and author of Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change George Marshall on why records like Anohni’s can make a difference Giving people stats and statistics doesn’t do anything. They don’t engage people or they go over their heads. Or, if people do internalise, they can rapidly move into a sort of indifference or cynicism. The big issue is how do you create the opening for people to even think or engage with these issues. There’s a really important role for the arts, generally. Part of the problem with this, psychologically, is that there’s never any space to talk about your fears. A lot of people who work on the issue have become convinced that if you just talk about it in terms of doom and gloom you lose people – if you say, ‘we’ve got to take action because otherwise we’re all fucked and we’re going to die,’
people just don’t believe you or they move away. The role of the arts and the role of powerful personal voices – I think that’s what’s great with songwriters. To be a kind of conduit for other people’s’ feelings, it’s important. I can’t see where else in society anybody has the ability to do that, to speak for us. We can’t do it through religion, and politics is all bullshit. Those of us who really care about this, when we try and raise it with people, we just find the conversation just dies; it doesn’t want to go anywhere. The role of artists who say, ‘no dammit, I am going to talk about this because this is important’, the crowbarring open of the topic, it’s important. I can’t quite see how
it happens otherwise. Climate change, species extinction, deforestation, or any of these big issues, they all have issues of silence around them and we’ve faced issues of silence in the past around things like sexual abuse, gender issues, racism, the attitude towards gays, for example, where silence has been a huge deal where you didn’t talk about it. With all of these campaigns the key thing is for campaigners but also for artists to speak out and say ‘no this is important’. They’ve always been on the forefront of making that happen. This is another area of social silence which needs to be crowbarred open. Change absolutely comes through artists like Anohni and the
influence she has, but it also happens through the influence of people who might be nothing like her. It happens through a progressive man preaching in a mosque, or it happens through a conservative farmer talking at the national farmers union. You need people talking at all levels, in different ways. We move forward because all of those conversations start to overlap. Take the model for what has happened with gay rights, or with attitudes to race, that’s been based on exactly that – conversations happening at all levels. It takes a generation; we’ve got a long way to go. But the shift on those issues has been phenomenal in my lifetime. I share Anohni’s confidence that things can change.
tell me about it
John Carpenter The master of horror movies has retired. So why has he started releasing albums and touring the world? Photogra p hy: Kyle Cassidy / writer: james f. thom p son
ight from its first moments, 1978 slasher classic Halloween does a great job of instilling a pure sense of dread. Not so much because of the garish orange-on-black title credits, or the glowing pumpkin face menacingly staring down the audience through the screen, but the soundtrack. That initial high-pitched, minor-key piano melody is scary enough – and almost as infamous as the film it serves as the theme for – but it’s when the fat analogue synthesiser bass starts that terror truly arrives. John Carpenter’s directing work on Halloween rightly saw him crowned the king of low-budget horror and helped birth the modern slasher genre in the process (think Scream, I Know WhatYou Did Last Summer et al). In making the film, Carpenter employed clever techniques, like first-person filming perspectives and having characters seemingly come back from the dead; well-worn horror tropes today but ground-breaking back in the ’70s. A word-of-mouth success, Halloween ultimately grossed $70m on a measly $300k budget. Heading into the 1980s, Carpenter consolidated his new position with follow-ups like The Fog and The Thing, as well as building upon the success of early sci-fi classic Assault on Precinct 13 with Escape from New York. Yet for all his directing success, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Carpenter’s films from that period is the fact that he personally composed fantastic soundtracks for almost all of them too. Acting as both director and composer, Carpenter was able to create soundscapes that shared truly symbiotic relationships with their companion scenes. It’s hard to imagine Halloween being anywhere near
as frightening, for instance, without its sinister stabs of synthesiser at all the right – or wrong – moments. Alongside his directing career, Carpenter has been responsible for well more than a dozen companion scores for films and even computer games, influencing perhaps just as many musicians as filmmakers in the process. The pieces are invariably synth-heavy and decidedly ominoussounding productions, as though recorded by Giorgio Moroder with a ski mask on. Even the great Ennio Morricone took his cues from Carpenter in producing the soundtrack to The Thing – another Carpenter flick. Given his obvious pedigree as a musician in his own right, it’s surprising that it took Carpenter until last year – nearly 40 years after his selfdirected debut film – to release ‘Lost Themes’, his first solo LP. Produced in conjunction with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies (himself son of Kinks singer Dave Davies), ‘Lost Themes’ came out of nowhere last February as an imaginary film score very much in keeping with Carpenter’s moody, analogue aesthetic. As one reviewer noted, “The more ’80s it is, the more vital it sounds.” He shouldn’t have waited so long. ‘Lost Themes’ went down a storm, already holding the distinction of being the highest-selling release for Brooklyn-based record label Sacred Bones. As if to make up for lost time, Carpenter is already back with a bombastic sequel, ‘Lost Themes II’, and potentially more releases to follow. Picking up where the last LP left off, this time Carpenter leavens the mood slightly with some tracks but still broadly operates within a sonic sphere
of portent and foreboding. Even the track names are intimidating: ‘Windy Death’, ‘Virtual Survivor’ and ‘Last Sunrise’ are amongst the best of them, each sounding like they could accompany a 1980s dystopian sci-fi blockbuster. That said, there was no overriding theme or influence, Carpenter claims, as much as I try to dig deeper later on (“I hate to disappoint you,” he laughs). Whereas the first LP was the product of enforced virtual collaboration online (Cody was traveling during recording), this time the three architects worked eyeball-to-eyeball in the studio, which meant a lot of bouncing around improvisations and motifs and, as Carpenter tells it, just having a lot of fun together. “Oh hi,” he says cheerily when I first call him in Los Angeles. I ask what’s on the agenda for today. “Oh nothing, just hanging out today,” he says in a languid drawl. Yeah right. In the past Carpenter has spoken of his immense relief at slowing down in his advancing years (he turned 68 in January) but if anything he’s actually diving headfirst into a new career as a bona fide musician. This summer he’s off to Europe embarking on his first-ever tour, dropping in on festivals like Primavera Sound. Ultimately he’s scheduled to play upwards of 25 shows this year. Some retirement.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it?”
I’m touring the world. My kids were the ones who convinced me to do this. They said it’d be a great idea to do it. My wife said, ‘Look, how many people get to tour with their son and godson around the world?’ It just doesn’t happen. So I thought about it long and hard, I swallowed my pride and decided to do it. I should be relaxing, taking life easy and not worrying, but here I am, all fucked up. “I’ve changed my tune!”
In the past I’ve joked around and stuff, or said I couldn’t do it, but I’ve figured out a way to play my music live. I mean, it doesn’t have to be identical to the record! So we’ve got a six-piece band – a great band that sound fantastic – and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I mean, obviously I’m a bit scared
Jo hn ca rpen t er a t Va squez Ro cks Na t ura l Area Pa rk in t he Sierra Pel o n a Mo un t a in s, Ca l ifo rn ia .
Carpenter was a prominent professor of music in America]. But by this point in his life he was deaf so he never got to hear the new record. It’s a shame but it’s all right. “I would love to do music for another game”
because I’ve never done this before and that’s the big thing – the fear of the unknown – but I’m doing this. I’ve changed my tune! I’ve changed my damned tune, alright?
and 1980s? Maybe, I don’t know man – I can’t really evaluate it. It’s an imaginary movie theme. “Making movies is hard”
“Everything is lighter”
It sort of evolved that way. The differences between the first and the second record are that the three of us were in town together to do this album, all at the same time. The last time my son was in Japan but this time we were all together. Being together I guess we just had a lot more fun and maybe that’s showing on the record. It’s not quite as dark and ominous, not quite – it still has that “feel” – but it’s not as bleak as the first record. I don’t know if that’s good or bad – I don’t know! We just improvised it – it came from inside. There was nothing more than our love of music that pushed this. Is it still influenced by the 1970s
Making movies and directing is very hard. It’s very stressful. I’m not going to say I disliked it because it’s the love of my life – I love directing and I love cinema. But especially the way things are today, in the modern movie industry, they’re different to how they used to be. Plus nobody knows anything now, but I guess that’s okay – nobody knew anything back then either! Anyway, you get to a certain age and you think, you know, what the fuck am I doing this for? It’s such stress.The music side used to be part of the job but making records today doesn’t feel like a job, not at all.
“The pressure’s off”
Is music the sound of freedom? Oh God yes. Oh God yes! First of all, making music does not have to be enormously commercially successful. It’s as good as it is. So what the hell, this is great – the pressure’s off, man! I don’t have any pressure – it’s awesome. Plus Sacred Bones is a great label full of nice people and they love music. They’re a small label and I get to have this resurgence in my career, this late in my life – I love it! People say there are no second chapters, right? But you can! “My dad never heard the new album”
My father passed away, just recently. Because of him I love music like I love cinema. It was always part of my life. He was an accomplished man, very accomplished [Howard Ralph
Nobody’s asked me for a while, but I’d love to do it [Carpenter composed the whole soundtrack for the videogame ‘Sentinel Returns’ in 1998]. I played Far Cry Primal recently and enjoyed that a lot. I just finished Fallout 4 and that was really fun! [Virtual reality with Oculus Rift] looks interesting but none of that’s ready to go yet. The problem is with movement – the frame rate isn’t good enough so you can’t move fast or you’ll throw up! Seriously, you have to move very slowly. You can see the potential though, for sure. It’ll get there. “One thing at a time”
I don’t know [about doing more music] yet; let’s just take it a step at a time. It’s the second album that I’ve done so we’ll see how it goes. It seems to be going pretty well so far, we’ll see how the playing live goes and the future might be bright or this might be it, I don’t know. I’m having a great time. Making music, on the level we’re making music, is just a joy. It’s all about joy – there’s nothing more to it than that. I’m in a great place right now.
Olga be ll wro te h e r ne w album in he r ne w y or k apar tme nt , be twe e n nights ou t c lubbing alone
lga Bell left Russia at the age of 7 to spend her formative years in Alaska; that most northern of U.S. states that bizarrely has Canada between it and the rest of America. While her friends were out skiing, Bell spent whole days sat at the piano, which is how she went on to graduate from Boston’s New England Conservatory – the country’s oldest and most reputable music school. She’s lived in New York for the past decade (playing in Dirty Projectors and Chairlift), and in her own corner of Williamsberg, Brooklyn, for the past five years, a block away from renowned alt. venue the Knitting Factory. She lives here, in a minimal, mezzanine apartment, with her partner – a designer. “Clean, empty space helps you think,” she says in her breezy way when I note just how ordered and stylish her home is. It was here that Olga wrote her forthcoming third album, ‘Tempo’, which in many ways flips 2014’s ‘Krai’ on its head. Performed entirely in Russian and centred in traditional Russian folk music, ‘Krai’ was as intellectual as it sounds, with each of its 9 songs representing a different region of Bell’s homeland. ‘Tempo’ has been no less academically conceived and produced, but it sure is more accessible. She describes it as “a record first for the body, then for the mind.” It’s her exploration into club music and dance culture, inspired by the 1991 documentary movie Paris Is Burning, itself a chronicle of New York’s late ’80s gay ball culture. “Even though I’m not a direct participant in that demographic, I was so inspired by how everything felt, and the energy of it,” she says. “And it being deeply connected to the
community. I wanted to see if some of that energy was still around New York. I didn’t go specifically to vogue nights or gay clubs; I just wanted to gauge the general dance landscape. I wasn’t looking for Paris Is Burning, or those bankers and models gross clubs that have evolved over the last 20 years – I wanted to see if there are places where you can just go and listen to great music, where there’s no judgment and people of all ages and orientations.” Olga says she found the community she was looking for by forcing herself to go dancing alone, at New York spots like Cielo and Output. After a month or two of partying she returned home to start work on ‘Tempo’, which is far from a record of mindless bangers. Tracks like ‘Randomness’ and ‘Ritual’ are clearly inspired by early ’90s club music, but Bell’s love for a slower BPM – and in particular Portishead and West Coast hip-hop – also permeates songs like the Bjork-ish ‘Doppio’ and the screwy ‘ATA’. She jokes by insisting that all the late nights out were “for research, quote-unquote,” but I believe her.
‘Tempo’ is a dance record that’s too strange and varied to not have been masterfully planned. From her days studying the nuances of classical piano, I’m not surprised to hear that she now feels compelled to learn how to mix records in order to fully understand the type of music she’s now making. “You can kind of be anybody in a club,” she tells me as we tour around her place. “You can be that person who’s totally sober and losing their shit in the centre of the dancefloor – it’s totally fine. You can leave your life behind. I don’t meditate, but I feel like dancing can fill a similar need.”
02. Photo of alaska
This is a photo that my friend, Alix, took in Alaska. She’s a photographer and gave it to me because it’s where I grew up. I moved to Alaska from Russia when I was 7 and lived there until I went to college in Boston, where I studied classical piano at New England Conservatory. Alaska is beautiful. The air is sweet and clean there. But I wasn’t super outdoors-y because I had to stay inside and practice the piano. 03. piano
01. Mario hugo canvas
You can’t see it, but there’s white embroidery on this canvas. It’s an artist called Mario Hugo, who’s done a lot of great album covers, like the Lorde ‘Pure Heroine’ artwork. My boyfriend knows him – he’s a designer, which is another reason we’ve got this minimal feel going on. The embroidery says, ‘Nowhere to go and everything to see.’
When I first moved to New York I taught a lot of piano lessons as a means to supporting myself while I figured out what I was going to do with my life – I was learning Ableton and going to open mic nights and teaching piano. These lovely students who were moving to Singapore gave me this piano, which was very fortunate. For the first three years that I was in New York I didn’t have a piano, and that was
At home with Olga Bell Photogra p hy: guy e pp el / writer: stuart stubbs
hard. These days I don’t play the piano much at all, because I’m always on Ableton, on the computer, but I used to play for 4 or 5 hours a day. I’m preparing for a tour at the moment, so it’s all about sequencing and singing. I kind of struggle with being a front person a bit, and putting on a show rather than performing a piano recital, because I think that it’s hard to get recognition as a producer when you’re also the principle performer of the music – people presume that you didn’t produce the music if you’re singing it. Sometimes I wonder if I should just shut up and stop singing so that people would appreciate the whole production is part of the work.
don’t mean to do – I mean to compliment classical music in that you can do it your entire life. What I really appreciate from my schooling in classical music is that there’s this really intense attention to detail – what are you meaning with a certain phrase? And one of the things that inspired the whole idea of ‘Tempo’ is how the pace of something can set up this whole mood world. So some of the songs are obviously dance songs, but others are pretty slow, and I was thinking about the most compelling, physically active music at the super low end of the BPM spectrum.That for me is the first Snoop Dogg record and Portishead and Massive Attack. ‘Dummy’ is SO good. There’s so much feeling in Beth Gibbons’ voice, and so much groove.
05. aphex twin, ‘come to daddy’
I discovered Aphex Twin when I went to Boston for music school, so I was 18. I got ‘Drukqs’ when it came out in 2001. I just picked it up in a store and thought it was amazing – its crazy piano cover and the weird, jumbled song titles – and I hadn’t really heard Aphex Twin, but I got it and it blew my mind. It was all I listened to for a year, and I would go running to‘Vordhosbn’. From there I got Boards of Canada and Squarepusher and Autechre, and I went down that Warp rabbit hole.
haven’t mastered it yet. For me it always turns into one polyrhythmic mass, and I enjoy that. I keep reminding myself, no, stop listening to these weird rhythms, try to align them. I’m basically just playing two records at the same time.
07. japanese artwork
I’m currently learning how to mix records. It comes from making this record inspired by clubs. I thought, if you’re to understand anything about club music, you have to learn to DJ with vinyl. It’s really difficult, and I
We got this print on a trip to Kyoto. It’s really cool because we were just shopping around this old print store, and it’s really old, and it’s got this crazy orange colour in it that looks like neon. I don’t know how they did that.
04. sheet music
This is my past life. But what’s good about concert music is that you can always go back to it. The popular, performing, touring club world is for the young. If you’re doing it when you’re 50… I don’t know, I’m about to make an ageist comment, which I
I got this shaker in Brazil, and I call it my C-3P0 shaker. It sounds really good. I used to use it all the time.
This is one of my favourite things in the world – the OP-1 from Teenage Engineering. I’ve used it for years on all my records. And I’ve used it live, and when I was touring with Dirty Projectors. If you look on YouTube, there’s a cover Dirty Projectors did of Usher’s ‘Climax’ for Triple J’s Like A Version series, and I’m using it there.
09. exercise ball
07. kit-cat clock
Traditionally, the Kit-Cat clock is black and white, and that’s what inspired my album art [above]. I think it’s the happiest little time-keeper, and I wish that when I was a kid – I mean, I spent hours with metronomes, practicing – and if metronomes had looked like the Kit-Cat clock it would have been a lot more fun. I know it’s a little bit of a stretch to look at the album cover and think of the clock, but we tried giving me vertical pupils but it just made me look like a snake.
Have you heard about how toxic sitting is? Y’know, there’s all these articles about how we’re dying from sitting. Sitting on the ball is still sitting, but you’re bouncing around and your leg muscles are firing as you’re stopping yourself from falling over. 10. jaw harps [not pictured]
Have you ever heard of a jaw harp? Some people call them Jew Harps, but that’s not very PC at all. It goes boing boing boing and makes this springy noise. It’s a traditional folk instrument that they have in Russia, and they have it here in America, from bluegrass music. The second movement on ‘Krai’ was this region called ‘Altai’, and the indigenous music of that place has the signature sound of the jaw harp. I taught myself to play it and recorded it in the closet.
You can do so much with this thing. There’s, like, 8 different synthesiser engines, a ton of different sampling drum machines, a 4-track sequencer, you can sample the radio… It’s just awesome. It’s my favourite piece of outboard gear.
Reviews / Albums
Eagulls Ullages Par t i s an By dan i el dy l an wra y. I n sto res Ma y 13
Eagulls’ 2014 debut album fizzled with the reckless urgency and potent vigour of youth. It was a record made by several young men being given their first platform to the world and then using it as a funnel for everything that came gushing and swelling to the surface. It was a directed and skilful explosion bound by equal parts frustration and enthusiasm – a projection of anxieties through the power and speed of post-punk. Whilst the Leeds band have always raged hard and wanton in their output, though, they’ve also always been buttressed by a great melodic gift that has perhaps often gone overlooked, given their spunkier tendencies. There’s certainly no danger of that on ‘Ullages’ – 11 tracks of sweeping, opulent songs that shimmer with such illustrious tones and harmonies there’s almost a blinding gleam that bounces from
them. It’s a big record, one with thick, heavily layered textures and massive, unapologetic guitar parts that are far from shy in displaying their origins. ‘Ullages’ is an album born from genre- and decade-defying bands such as The Smiths, The Cure and Cocteau Twins. The definitively Johnny Marr guitar jangle that opens ‘Heads or Tails’ initially creates an uneasiness that this album could be more regurgitation than progression but thankfully any such anxieties are squashed as the album unfolds into its own cadences and creates its own melodic ingenuities. ‘Ullages’ is heavily in debt to predecessors but it manages to avoid tired pastiche, and instead takes a textural template most commonly explored in the 1980s and melds it amongst its own more contemporary-leaning – and increasingly unique – palate.
Some of the song construction here is really masterful, too. George Mitchell’s vocals have deepened and are more sung than shouted, and his ability to mirror the role of guitar lines in creating layers of melodies is a constant joy to be found, no more so than on the surging ‘My Life in Rewind’. The dual guitar work of Liam Matthews and Mark Goldsworthy is complimentary to the cause and they have created a sonic depth between them that creates an immersive depth akin to stepping into a cloud. As for bassistTom Kelly, he’s moved from the juggernaut hammering assault approach of the band’s first record into a more soulful and dulcet tactic whilst the drumming of Henry Ruddel continues to veer between the manic and the restrained, understanding the power of a solitary thwack as much as a well placed rapid fill.
The musical advancement here is clear and whilst maturity is both a dirty and condescending word when misplaced, the expansive nature of ‘Ullages’ does feel to be directly in line with a slightly more aware and experienced group of musicians behind it. That said, whilst occasionally slower, denser, more considered and refocused, this is not an album lacking in bite or pace. ‘Lemontrees’ sparkles from the album and is a song that charges forward with a familiar (ahem) zest and menace. Ultimately it’s one of the tracks that feels remarkably emblematic of the group as a whole, in being that one of the most defining and enjoyable aspects of Eagulls is that they move with an undeniable sense of British swagger, but thankfully it’s one free from the arrogance that normally accompanies it.
Gold Panda Good Luck & Do Your Best c i t y s lan g By reef y oun i s . In store s ma y 27
Few capture contented loneliness quite like Gold Panda, but the misty window isolation that helped make ‘Lucky Shiner’ and ‘Half of Where You Live’ so brilliantly introspective feels a little different here. After the glitching melodies and bright, busy eclecticism of his debut, and the Orient-inspired, analogue imagination of the follow up, album number three is Derwin Panda’s most optimistic release to date. Perpetually inspired by time spent in Japan, he might have lifted ‘Good Luck and Do Your Best’ from a Hiroshima taxi driver’s farewell, but the understated positivity behind that sentiment characterises the entire record.
You hear it in the rhythmic crackle of opener ‘Metal Bird’; in the slow, plaintive sigh of ‘I Am Real Punk’; and in album closer ‘Your Good Times Are Just Beginning’ – a track created to make any Sunday comedown a little more bearable. It’s arguably Derwin’s clearest attempt at exuding straight-up happiness, but even with this new, relaxed clarity, there’s still a pragmatism that stems from his familiar take on the ephemeral: a constant sense that this private introspection will always be uninterrupted. Still, there’s an art to capturing serenity and both ‘Autumn Fall’ and ‘In My Car’ are beautifully understated in their upbeat
simplicity. Built around boom-bap beats, playful keys, synthesised strings and subterranean ‘womps’ they coalesce to create little slithers of head-nodding happiness. ‘Haylards’ is equally endearing, ebbing and flowing with a dulcet, dub-techno ambience that could go on for days before lead single ‘Time Eater’ switches the pace with ricocheting beats and busy rhythms to break up the peaceful pace of the album’s slower-jams. In that respect, ‘Good Luck and Do Your Best’ is also Gold Panda’s most complete release. As ‘Lucky Shiner’ bounced from the positivity of ‘You’ to the 8-bit jerk of ‘After We Talked’, and ‘Half of Where You Live’
shifted from the itchy shuffle of ‘Junk City II’ to the plunge-pool depth of ‘S950’’s analogue textures, this record feels fluid and connected. ‘Unthank’ might be the only misstep, but with subtle contrasts between the Zen-like state of ‘Pink And Green’ and the soft dub of ‘Chiba Nights’ it’s left to the skittish percussion, off-beat bongos, and clipped vocals of ‘Song For a Dead Friend’ to step out of relaxed line. Ultimately this is Gold Panda’s soft groove, and this time we’ve got the full picture of wandering through Japanese cities, admiring the light and pink haze, deftly spinning those happy fleeting moments into warm cherry blossom odes.
It’s nearly eight years now since The Long Blondes ceased to be. It wouldn’t really be right to call it a split, because that suggests some dramatic fault line in terms of personality or creativity, when in fact it was just the cruel arbitrariness of fate that put paid to Sheffield’s shining stars of the noughties. Dorian Cox’s stroke left him unable to play guitar, and rather than throw herself back into a scene that would’ve graciously embraced her, Kate Jackson instead took a step
back, moved to Rome and became a painter, specialising in architectural paintings. In actual fact, she announced her intention to put out her own record back at the time of the split, in 2008 (!), but only now has she made it so, with the help of Bernard Butler. Good things come to those who wait – ‘British Road Movies’ is a ferocious skewering of the last decade of rankand-file synthpop that’s largely comprised the British indie-pop scene since Jackson disappeared.
She’s as romantic (and British) as ever, too, in that deep vocal and also her theory behind these songs – why should it only be American roads that dominate popular music? British roads can be just as cinematic. Opener ‘The End of Reason’ sets the tone, boundlessly energetic, and everything else just falls in line – ‘Metropolis’ so playful and bouncy, ‘Stranded’ so sharply melodic, and ‘British Road Movies’ such a short sharp shock to the core of British indie pop.
Kate Jackson British Road Movies H oo H a By joe goggi n s . I n store s m a y 20
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
The Lines Hull Down
Oliver Coates Upstepping
Beth Orton Kidsticks
Torn Hawk Union & Return
Ac u te
P r ah
a n ti
M ex ic a n s u mm er
By chr i s wat keys. I n sto re s May 13
B y t o m fe nwi c h . I n s t o re s ma y 1 3
By ale x w i s ga rd . I n s t o res ma y 2 7
B y r eef y o u n is . I n s t o r es M a y 1 3
‘Hull Down’ is a ‘lost’ album from a post-punk London band who expired over thirty years ago – an unreleased collection of tracks, which, in the early eighties, might or might not have eventually coalesced to form The Lines’ third record. It completes the label Acute’s admirably completest compilation, and release, of all of the band’s material. But while a document of a lost album from a band whose obscurity largely hid them from view, even during their own time, spikes the interest and inspires a feeling something akin to watching a BBC4 documentary, the music itself needs to stand up on its own – and happily, it very much does. The sparse structures, sharp synth melodies and thin drum machine sounds in songs like ‘Single Engine Duster’ hit home like an unpolished ‘Blue Monday’, while ‘Nicky Boy’’s Groove’ has tinges of Krautrock, and you can see why The Lines were once booking shows with The Cure and Bauhaus. As the living ghost of an era long departed, ‘Hull Down’ is fascinating. As an album in its own right, it’s just as good.
If I’d told you your next favourite minimalist dance record would come from a classical cellist you probably wouldn’t have believed me, but Oliver Coates is here to prove you wrong with his second LP. Perhaps Coates finest trait is his abject lack of fear. He draws from a vast palette of sound, bringing order to chaos across eight arrangements, each uniquely complex, divergent and captivating. So you get tracks like ‘Innocent Love’ and ‘Timelapse (Walrus)’, which fuse the warmth of deep house and techno to the chill of classical strings; ‘The Irish Book Of Death And Flying Ships’, with its ominous atonal vocals and shuddering beats; and ‘Bambi 2046’, which convulses with unnerving footwork. The album’s shortest track, the baroque ‘Memorial to Hitchens’, is then a requiem wrought in spectral ambiance and a reminder of Coates’ power when he’s simply working with string arrangements. In short: ‘Upstepping’ blends stark electronica and experimental classicism into a magnificent album, which sees Coates skirt the edge of perfection.
Despite her early critical kudos (and a Brit Award to boot), the everunassuming Beth Orton has never really had the acclaim and success her shapeshifting music deserves – she’s just sort of always been there. ‘Kidsticks’, her seventh album, is unlikely to change this, which is a desperate shame. A world away from its rootsy 2012 predecessor, ‘Sugaring Season’, Orton coproduced the album with Andrew Hung, and these ten songs have the former Fuck Button’s fingerprints all over it. The pulsating, mantra-like loops ofTalking Heads-esque opener ‘Snow’ and the stuttering Casiotones of ‘1973’ are unlike anything in Orton’s catalogue, but her beguilingly wispy voice fits perfectly with this captivating new direction. Meanwhile, the ethereal ‘Dawnstar’ may unfurl itself slowly, but swiftly proves itself to be four of the most beautiful minutes of music Orton has ever recorded. She may claim that “I’ve lived through the worst of times and never even came to life,” but ‘Kidsticks’ is very much the sound of Beth Orton being resurrected.
Inspired by the German Romantic movement, Luke Wyatt’s third album as Torn Hawk is another new age adventure through the instrumental, the experimental, and the expansive. For a man used to amalgamating music and visuals, the sentiment of ‘Union and Return’ starts with the album cover itself. On it, a city dominates a soft-lit cloudscape – the type of setting Zelda’s Link would explore – and it sets the album off on an endearing fantasy tangent. It flows straight into the breezy lilt of opener ‘The Romantic’ and is impressed over and over again as the album develops. Where ‘Borderlands’ and ‘Thornfield’ are big pictures of sweeping strings and layered grooves, ‘The Archers’ is straight from Assassin’s Creed; a tense, semi-urgent soundtrack of avoiding detection. It’s a credit to Wyatt’s exploratory ambition how easy it is to spin your own narratives around his ever-evolving guitar lines. By choosing fluidity over focus, there’s plenty to explore, then, but in a world as boundless as the one he’s created here, it also leaves plenty to forget.
Olga Bell describes her third LP as “first for the body, and then for the mind”, by which she means: ‘Tempo’ is all about the beat. Bell used a metronome to compose this record; feeling the connection between its beat and the rhythms of her body, she has worked from the outside in to produce this odd but hypnotic collection inspired by ’90s club music and drawling West Coast hip-hop. As a listener inclined to start from the lyrics, I found ‘Tempo’ difficult at first, but it improved with repeat
plays, as I allowed the beat to dominate my listening experience, carrying Bell’s canorous vocals along behind. This is soul music for the dance floor, a rhythmic fusion of hip-hop and dance beats with techno and electronic influences. And it isn’t a purely solo effort; it features contributions from Bell’s long-time collaborators Jason Narson and Gunnar Olsen, and lyricist Sara Lucas. These collaborations work particularly well, with ‘Ritual’, which
features Lucas, a kind of ravey chillout anthem and a stand out track. The skill that goes into a record like this is unquestionable and smartly showcased, even if, at times, ‘Tempo’ can feel a little too experimental for its own good – who knows whether history will judge the trippy ‘Your Life is a Lie’ as genius or folly. Still, it’s hard to deny that this is a clever, courageous album, deserving of a wide audience. Just follow Bell’s advice and let your body do the listening.
Olga Bell Tempo on e l i ttl e i n d i an By kati e bes wi c k. In st o re s ma y 27
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Adam Green Aladdin
Pantha Du Prince Triad
Karl Blau Introducing Karl Blau
Ro u g h t ra d e
b e l l a un io n
JC Flowers Driving Excitement & The Pleasure of Ownership
By s am walton . In sto re s ma y 13
B y j ame s f . t ho mps o n. I n s t o re s may 2 0
By dan i e l d yl an w ray. I n s t o r es m a y 1 3
ATP B y J o e g oggi n s . In s t o r es m a y 6
If the prospect of erstwhile Moldy Peach Adam Green re-recording the Aladdin soundtrack seems the finest example yet of post-ironic nostalgia for the dimly remembered early ’90s, it’s positively sane compared to the actual contents here: instead of reworkings of ‘A Whole New World’ etc, we’ve got a series of original songs and dialogue snippets from Green’s own Kickstarter-funded, Macaulay Culkin-starring homemade movie of the Aladdin story that reimagines the lamp as a 3D printer, the princess as a decadent socialite and the population printing out an analogue version of the internet, all shot on post-psychedelic cartoon sets made of papier mâché. Lyrics tackle the distinctly Disneyunfriendly topics of taking coke on a visit to Disneyland alongside lines like “Your breasts are like two wrists / That I’ve handcuffed to my dick,” and while the music is whimsically entertaining enough to stand alone from the film, the overriding impression is just how preposterous this all is: ‘Aladdin’ is the quintessential hipster vanity project, and all the more compelling for it.
It’s tempting not to delve too far into Pantha Du Prince’s biography here, if only because obvious descriptors like “minimal house” and “experimental techno” are polarising to the point of being anathema for some. The truth is that German producer Hendrik Weber makes music that’s generally more than the sum of its parts, taking in shoegaze and ambient influences on the way to producing records that defy reductive categorisation. This fifth LP switches from the percussive, belldominated instrumentation of last record ‘Elements of Light’ and instead serves notice of Weber’s knack for weaving complex ideas into club-worthy, icy-cool dance music. Nowhere is this more apparent than ‘Dream Yourself Awake’, which starts off sounding like a potentially skippable indulgence before gradually morphing into an extended swirling coda of glacial pads, a lockstep groove and Weber’s baritone voice. Ironically, the rest of the record actually does better without vocals, but collectively ‘The Triad’ is a chilly but ultimately approachable affair.
This is a covers album, taking the raw, ragged country music of the 1960s and ’70s and coating it with a glossy contemporary sheen. It’s a silken smooth record, produced by Tucker Martine, rich in sweeping strings and a velvetiness so lush that on occasion it threatens to suffocate the record; so pristine, life-flattening and sickly sweet. For the most part, though, ‘Introducing…’ is complimentary with Karl Blau’s voice, a subtle, gentle and likeable croon; a voice that glides perfectly along with some chosen tracks such as ‘That’s How I Got to Memphis’. But overall the album lacks huge variation – its pace and tone is a little one-note despite the breadth of the covers stretching from the Bee Gees to Link Wray. It feels like an ode to classic songwriting in every possible sense, the record unfurling like one elongated Harry Nilsson track. It’s difficult not to like Blau’s voice and his take on these songs (or what the singer is all about, as a DIY icon who has self-released 40 odd records) but there is an overwhelming feeling of wishing he had just done a little more with them.
I strongly get the impression that this fabulously titled debut album from JC Flowers wasn’t really meant to be pored over critically. It’s not that it doesn’t feel cohesive, because there’s this brilliantly consistent core of the key features – vocals flecked with reverb à la Real Estate, guitars that ground the track even though they sound like they’re going nowhere – but that gut feeling comes more from the against-thegrain flourishes that make ‘Driving Excitement and the Pleasure of Ownership’ what it is. There’s four inter-track instrumentals – all labelled ‘Jazz Hole’, and perhaps not inaccurately – and they flag up a layer of sonic ambition to this LP that you perhaps wouldn’t pick up on were it all just floating melodies and gorgeously crafted interplay between the acoustic and electric guitars, as comprises so much of the rest of this album. JC Flowers won’t be the last band to – just about – pour too many ideas into their debut album, but that shouldn’t matter: this is still a pop debut wise beyond its years.
“There’s nothing more a perverted ear with a certain outlook can find out from this record,”Thomas Cohen said to Loud And Quiet earlier this year; a kind of defensive disclaimer ahead of his debut solo LP release. All the same, there’s undeniably a sense of emotional voyeurism in hearing the 25 year-old widower of Peaches Geldof sing couplets like “I will hold on to / The part of me that is in love with you” about his late wife. ‘Bloom Forever’ roughly
chronologically charts the birth of Cohen’s two young children, the passing of their mother and their father’s progression from the depths of grief to acceptance. Cohen is right in that this isn’t the place for lurid detail about his deceased partner, her battle with drug use or her passing. What it is, though, is a searingly honest account of a young man’s loss of the one he loved most. Having recorded much of the album in Reykjavik, the former
S.C.U.M. vocalist has parlayed influences from people like Van Morrison and Scott Walker into a deeply personal singer-songwriter’s album of seventies-style bluesy Americana and languid piano ballads. From jazzy six-minute opener ‘Honeymoon’ (replete with sax solo) through the painful ‘Country Home’ and cathartic closer ‘Mother Mary’, this is the album Cohen simply needed to make. Its emotional resonance is its biggest asset.
Thomas Cohen Bloom Forever st ol en By james f. T h omp so n. In sto re s ma y 6
White Lung Paradise
Methyl Ethel Oh Inhuman Spectacle
Melt Yourself Down Last Evening on Earth
Do min o
Capture d trac k s
By katie b eswi c k. In sto re s ma y 6
B y c hr is watk e y s . I n s to re s May 2 0
By to m fe nwi c k . In s to re s m a y 6
B y g ui a c o r t a ssa . In s t o r es a p r il 2 9
Punk, surely a firmly 20th century phenomena, gets a 21st century makeover on White Lung’s ‘Paradise’. The record – the fourth from the Canadian group – is supershort at 28-minutes, and at this break-neck speed it attempts to bunk the punk mould, with well-written, earnest lyrics and a cotton candy but decidedly non-vintage sound. It’s a challenge, songwriter Mish BarberWay has said, to the snark and cynicism that infuses the genre. At times, it’s brilliant – there’s something edgy and exciting about the poppy ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’, and the title track is an unexpected showcase of all that is beautiful about this genre of loud guitars. So, there are signs that an attempt to bring punk to the contemporary mainstream might just work, but the record as a whole is a little bland. Of course, there is something to be said for concision, yet, perhaps because of its brevity, ‘Paradise’ never really builds the steam to power a journey for the listener. And, when it comes down to it, punk without the humour – punk void of bile, politics or irony – is hardly punk at all.
Perth’s Jake Webb is one of those prodigiously talented multiinstrumentalists who has enough strings to their bow to record every part of their music themselves. After a couple of EPs and a bit of local buzz in Western Australia, this is his debut full-length, and it starts very well indeed; ‘Idée Fixe’ is like a weirded-up eighties soft rock power ballad, channelled through a gently psychedelic prism, while ‘Rogues’ is a sunnily melodic effort that evokes wide skies and sunshine. There’s a psychedelic, hazy thread that runs though ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle’, interspersed with slabs of melody. ‘Twilight Driving’ has distinct shades of Fleetwood Mac, the kind of song that evokes images of sepia-toned concert footage from the seventies. Elsewhere though, songs like ‘Sweet Waste’ are ineffably dull; one of those numbers that would sound good on drugs but is otherwise pretty tedious. This is a huge-sounding album with grand ambitions, and Webb’s skill as a songwriter is self-evident. But there’s just not quite enough here to tip it from good to great.
Jamil Rashad’s debut brims with infectious swagger, staying true to its exclamatory title ‘Groove!’ across twelve non-stop funk jams, which — to a large extent — bring to mind the work of Pharell Williams, specifically on ‘Up On Your Love’ and ‘Patience’, which conjure up images of warm summer nights and hip parties that don’t stop until the break of dawn. But unlike genuine modern-funk pioneers like Dåm Funk (who seems entirely embedded in what he creates) ‘Groove!’ never feels less than synthetic. It’s almost as though Rashad (the ex-metal and punk kid from Raleigh, North Carolina, with the R&B radio DJ father) has been commissioned to soundtrack a new Apple advert and these are his twelve attempts. They’re bright and shiny, they have pep, they even shimmy close (but not too close) to funk masters such as Prince on ‘Talk To Me’ and Rick “cocaine is a hell of a drug” James on ‘Cold Call’, but mainly they stumble into vapidity. It’s hard to knock Boulevard’s enthusiasm, but ultimately what ‘Groove!’ may have in funk, it lacks in soul.
What is ‘World Music’, anyway? Does it still make any sense in 2016? Melt Yourself Down might have – and be – the answer for these questions. Back on the scene after a 3-year silence, Pete Wareham’s and Kushal Gaya’s creature, while remaining the loud cultural mixture it was in 2013, this time takes it to town. For the first time sang completely in English (with the exception of the final ‘Yazzan Dayra’), ‘Last Evenings on Earth’ is the band’s trip into the black holes of migration and integration in the contemporary urban landscape. ‘Dot to Dot’, the first single from the album, is a perfect mix of David Byrne-esque vocal upon manic tablas, mizmars, electronic beats and guitars; ‘Big Children’ and ‘Body Parts’ take the listener to a night gathering in some African city street, making you feel the irresistible pulse of beating life that is arising in our Western towns. But elsewhere it all sounds disappointingly too similar to the great breakthrough of the band’s previous production, and it’s a pity, because, great as that record was, MYD aren’t meant to tread water.
As one half of space-age hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction, Cat HarrisWhite has been honing her skills via a series of promising, rough-edged Bandcamp EPs that give an air of quiet expectation to her debut solo LP. ‘No More Lame Dates,’ as its title hints, takes the early stages of courtship as its subject, acting as a concept album on the highs, lows, fruits and frustrations of the process of seeking out a lover in 2016. And Harris-White paints those early steps into the unknown
with great skill so that when she evokes the fizzing vulnerabilities, leaps of trust and harsh lessons of a nascent relationship she does so nimbly: very much from the point of view of a gay, black female but while addressing the universality of the themes. But this is not a book of poetry and unfortunately the music isn’t so succesful. A key part of THEESatisfaction’s draw is their resolve not to fall into worn-out melody lines and stale structures
but too often the songs here are loose to the point of meandering, with the hypnotic mantras that have become her band’s calling card stumbling towards limp repetition. There are exceptions – ‘Mysterious Calls’, ‘Secret Dreams of a Baller’ and ‘Forest of Desire’ see the collection chugging into an intermittent groove – but they serve only to prove the rule as jazz chords are thrown together seemingly at random and tracks wander towards frustratingly overdue conclusions.
SassyBlack No More Lame Dates su b pop By my le s Mac N aghte n. I n sto res ma y 17
Jessy Lanza Oh No
Chris Cohen As if Apart
Boys Noize Mayday
Andy Shauf The Party
bo ys noi z e
An t i
B y d av id z ammi tt. I n s to r es m a y 2 0
B y a l ex w i s g a r d. In s to r es m a y 2 0
To listen to Chris Cohen’s music is to be transported, both in time and place. Trouble is, you could argue endlessly about exactly to where and when. An L.A. native who has been a touring member of Haunted Graffiti and Cass McCombs’ band, that particular brand of sunny, Seventies, slightly psychedelic optimism that made yesteryear California so special is baked into all ten tracks here; a woozy, faded glamour, the music pulled in and out of focus repeatedly as if being beamed through a Laurel Canyon haze. But the solitude of Vermont, and endless nature, is also present here. These songs sound slowly crafted, as if they’ve been allowed to naturally unfurl and grow layers at a speed of their own choosing. Either way, ‘As If Apart’ is every bit as beguiling as Cohen’s debut, and no less accomplished – it builds on and refines what made 2012’s ‘Overgrown Path’ so good. Taken as a studied exercise in crafting soothing, timeless pop it’s almost without equal, but taken as an aural escape, a headspace away from the modern world, it’s simply wonderful.
I have to hand it to Alexander Ridha. Despite entering his 34th year on the planet he remains steadfastly determined to stick with his tacky, juvenile Boys Noize moniker. Perhaps – and I may be reading too much into this – it is because he feels it is representative of his tacky, juvenile music. Luckily for Ridha, he’s been able to build a decent career on trotting out second-rate pastiches of other, better artists and so why should he break the habit now? ‘Overthrow’ faintly recalls ‘Dig Your Own Hole’era Chemical Brothers, El-P could have made ‘Rock The Bells’ on his phone, while ‘Los Niños’ sounds like Dave Gahan playing about with a new keyboard. Perhaps, indeed, I’m being a bit too harsh. ‘Mayday’ – Ridha’s forth ablum – is okay (Adjective: satisfactory but not especially good). But then so many things are okay. Lettuce is okay. Sofa beds are okay. And just like these totems of bland, if you’re at a party and the conversation turns to Boys Noize then you know, deep down, that it isn’t going particularly well.
After a few self-released albums, ‘The Party’ is Andy Shauf’s first effort on a Real Label, and he makes the most of it. An elaborate collection of complex ballads, its meticulous string and woodwind arrangements would make Jim O’Rourke jealous. Heavily indebted to the more end-ofthe-seventies singer-songwriter spectrum, songs like ‘Quite Like You’ are gorgeous, tightly composed things, like a more together take on Epic Soundtracks’ criminally unheralded stint as a piano troubadour. There’s only one thing that lets ‘The Party’ down, though, and it’s a pretty major issue: the double-tracked, marble-mouthed vocals of its Canadian host. It’s a huge disappointment, because Shauf’s mumbled delivery all too often renders his sparkling melodies indistinct from the ornately constructed music behind it. Only on the lovelorn ‘Eyes of Them All’, with its breezy acoustic strum and Zombies-like baroque hook, does Shauf really establish his presence. It’s just a shame that it takes him so long to sound comfortable being at his own party.
Now that it’s still light beyond 8pm, and the mercury is permanently set to double figures, it seems as good a time as any for a new Woods record. For the images and sounds they’ve cultivated over the last decade are tailor made for spring – a pastoral innocence, hazy warmth, and deceptively simple yet endearing melodies are what have earned the Brooklyn folk rockers a cult and devoted following. And from the breezy horns and soft bustle that adorn opener ‘Sun City Creeps’, it’s
comforting to realise Woods haven’t abandoned the rustic mellowness that suits them so well. That’s not to say they lack ambition or haven’t grown; they simply know what works best, and when the music is this gorgeous, who can argue? “I dream of sunsets almost every night,” Jeremy Earl croons on ‘The Other Side’, and it’s easy to believe him. The grandness of nature is a common theme here, and the band are happy to just reflect the beauty of the world around them
as opposed to searching for deeper meanings. Never mind that this is their first record since moving back to Brooklyn from rural upstate New York; Woods are still the ultimate outdoorsy group who’ve ploughed their own, consistent furrow of modern country music a whole career before the likes of Whitney. So the real revelation is that being yourself and staying true to your path is the grandest ambition of them all. On their ninth album,Woods have started to make it look easy.
H y per du b By s am wa lt on. In store s Ma y 13
In Jessy Lanza’s genre, tempo matters. Since releasing her 2013 debut of gossamer slow jams, she’s successfully teamed up with both Ikonika and Caribou, and made her own DJing appearances, and that exposure to more upbeat club-ready material is manifested on her followup album by a rise in the heart rate. It’s for the better too: where ‘Pull My Hair Back’’s seductive lullabies were occasionally so diaphanous as to almost disappear, the increased tempo here adds a welcome heft to Lanza’s slinky songs, leaving a record of confident statements in comparison to its predecessor’s whispers. That’s not to say Lanza’s delicacy has dissipated; indeed, ‘Oh No’’s greatest trick is preserving the falsetto filigree glide that’s become something of her calling card. However, it’s now given contrast by a brassy, brattish braggadocio that recalls Grimes’ slightly feral nature with added dancefloor substance: both the title track and ‘VV Violence’ are a pleasingly screwy whisker away from being bona fide bangers, and mark ‘Oh No’ as a record of Lanza’s satisfyingly swift progress.
ca pture d tra c k s By de re k ro be rts on . In s to re s may 6
Woods City Sun Eater in the River of Light Woo di st By der ek r ober ts on. In store s now
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
LUH Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing Mu t e By h en r y wilki n son. In store s ma y 6
No one can accuse LUH of not having much to say. The Amsterdam-based duo, comprised of Dutch video artist turned vocalist Ebony Hoorn, and former Wu Lyf frontman Ellery Roberts, release their debut album under the acronym for ‘Lost Under Heaven’ this month, and it comes as a gargled rebuke to the post-modern age. With the glittering career of Roberts’ former band cut short, it seems he has unfinished business and the genre-bending music here makes for as confident a debut album as you’ll find. Since their first releases at the tail end of last year, you got the distinct impression that LUH fancied themselves as something more than
just a band. Most notable was their initial press release-turned manifesto; a poetic rambling placing their music on a pedestal and imbuing it with political significance. Viewing the world through Pynchonborrowed binoculars, it spoke of being “beyond disillusionment … with the utter fallacy of the world built around us”, of censorship and bullshit and a false sense of “freedumb” turning heads away from a human engineered apocalypse. A “dystopian present culturally normalized” with LUH standing in opposition. Heavy stuff, then, and best not tackled by saccharine threeminute pop songs, which this certainly ain’t. Instead, LUH lean
towards the cacophonous and bleak with only a few moments of peaceful respite, tackling heavy topics with a heavy approach, Roberts’ barking, strained vocal (marmite or an acquired taste, you decide). ‘Beneath The Concrete’ is an intense piece of dark electronica sounding a bit like it was produced by The Haxan Cloak on a remote island off the east coast of England (which it was) while ‘Someday Come’ starts out with a synth pop, Future Islands influence, only set in a time when all the islands have turned to dust and ash. The track ends with a classical string section only to be followed up by the non-sequitur post-dubstep of ‘$oro’, complete with an auto-tune
R&B style that could feasibly see some high profile collabs come calling. Elsewhere there’s garage grunge, stripped back XX-style guitar and gothic indie, driven on by vocal interplay and surging, crescendo-ing instrumentation. It’s a confident and occasionally confrontational record, though; one that some will undoubtedly accuse of conceitedness or taking itself too seriously. Despite the manifesto’s call to “navigate this world with laughter and light”, there is little on show here, but what there is, is unquestionable sincerity. Who knows how long LUH will stick around for, but it’s fair to say they’ve got a few things off their chest.
Despite their apolitical disposition, Orchestra Of Spheres still manage to create music that evokes the darker times we’re living in, as well as peddling a certain type of bouncy but abrasive, cross-genre dance music employed by the likes of ESG et al. Explain the band: “It’s a time of remote war, mass deceit and money worship, and somehow the mood of the time filtered into these recordings.” Their abstract interpretation of political music is manifested in the
occasionally eerie, downbeat instrumental tracks such as ‘Day At The Beach’, ‘Reel World’ and the particularly sinister ‘Let Us Not Forget’, all of which counteract the more sprightly dance-inspired tracks here with satisfying cohesion. The esoteric hybrid of Sun Ra otherworldliness, part Sublime Frequencies and part ESG, sounds like an exciting coalition on paper, but in reality ‘Brothers And Sisters of the Black Lagoon’ is frustratingly tuneless and lacking in spirit for the
most part. (It takes one Google image search of New Zealand’s Orchestra of Spheres to come to the conclusion that their true strength lies in playing carnival-equse live shows with things on their heads, but still...) Combining expertly crafted, dark, melodic dance music with spectral instrumentals creates a clever juxtaposition for those who care about the boring technicalities of music, but ultimately, they prevail most when things sound a little less doom and gloom.
0 4/ 1 0
Orchestra of Spheres Brothers & Sisters of the Black Lagoon Fire By h ay ley sc o t t . In store s m a y 13
Reviews / Live
Primal Scream London Palladium 0 1/ 0 4/ 20 16 wr i ter : sam wa lto n Ph otogr a ph er : da niel quesa d a
A previously unobserved dimension to Primal Scream’s career-long quest to become the Rolling Stones has recently emerged: riding shotgun to Bobby Gillespie’s looselimbed Jaggeresque dance steps and the band’s residual predilection for honky-tonk blues nonsense is the modern-day Stonesian phenomenon of writing largely awful new albums, touring them and then, mercifully, playing virtually none of the new material at the accompanying gigs. And of course, while it’s perhaps not the most progressive spectacle to see Dartford’s finest bash through ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ night after night, it does rather drive home the undeniable truth that few other bands have a catalogue to rival it. And so it is with Primal Scream: here’s a band who can open
a show with ‘Movin’ On Up’ almost as a gesture of brinkmanship, content that their songbook runs as deep as the loyalty of their public. It’s a seductive, rather winning stance to take at the beginning of a potentially tough gig, too: after all, a sanitised West End theatre like the all-seater Palladium, all waistcoated icecream sellers in the aisles and Wizard of Oz posters, is a pedestrian cry from the grubbier venues in which Primal Scream’s music works best. ‘Movin’ On Up’ serves a utilitarian purpose here, too, softening the blow of back-to-back new songs that follow, both of them ephemeral, gutless bollocks in comparison to the opener’s majesty, although fortunately brief enough to prevent the accumulated good will from dissipating entirely. Not that dubious quality stops
Gillespie from trying to sell us his newest paper-thin clichés with all his might. Indeed, the sight of a snake-hipped 53-year-old snarling his “obsession, position/temptation, transgression” fridge-poetry claptrap is amusingly quaint and, as it transpires, the brace from ‘Chaosmosis’ sets up its successors perfectly: the swagger of ‘Jailbird’ precedes ‘Accelerator’’s stillterrifying squawl, and when a further pair from ‘XTRMNTR’ – ‘Kill All Hippies’ and the monstrous krautrock noise wall of ‘Shoot Speed/ Kill Light’ – appear a shortly after, there’s a sense of Primal Scream on a victory lap: Gillespie could sing the UKIP manifesto to the tune of ‘Agadoo’ now and still prevail. Of course, he doesn’t, opting instead to bludgeon his crowd with hits: the antagonistic yelp of
‘Swastika Eyes’, the preposterous, absurdist delight of ‘Country Girl’ and the compulsory ‘Rocks’, which, thanks to Primal Scream’s newly stripped-down line-up, resembles less ‘Brown Sugar’ and more, deliciously, White Stripes. The band encore with ‘Loaded’ and ‘Come Together’, Gillespie conducting the crowd in one massed singalong of the final song’s refrain. An endearing, slightly unbecoming smile drifts across the singer’s face and, with it, the flimsy pap of ‘Chaosmosis’ is either forgiven or forgotten. “I admire the Pope: I’ve a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album,” goes US comic Rita Rudner’s best-known quip. While Primal Scream may not have Papal levels of authority quite yet, performances with this much rapture conceal a multitude of sins.
The Meatbodies 100 Club, Oxford Street London
US Girls The Deaf Institute, Manchester 07 / 04 / 2 01 6 w r it er : j o e goggin s
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P h otogr a p h er : M a x p h y t h ia n
wr iter : dom i n ic hale y
Two questions. First: is it really a live performance if all you’re doing is singing over a backing track? Second: who cares? Sure, that might be all that’s happening tonight, with Meghan Remy and her right-hand woman Amanda Crist relying on just their effects boards for backing, but it’s not that they don’t provide a spectacle anyway. The underlying concern is that without proper instrumentation, this fifty-minute set is effectively karaoke, but the duo’s enigmatically choreographed dance moves, as well as their nonchalance (“yeah, we usually do an encore”) draws in a crowd that’s not far short of capacity. It takes a great deal of skill and dexterity to carve out a new niche in a crowded market, but when you see how this audience reacts to, for example, an assured rendition of ‘Damn That Valley’, you know that U.S. Girls are well on their way.
The Meatbodies are a great way to end the Easter weekend. Chad Ubovich’s well-honed glam-rock (he also plays in Mikal Cronin’s band and Ty Segall’s Fuzz group) is pretty much the musical equivalent of a Die Hard box set; easy to get and extremely easy to get caught up in. Announcing their arrival on stage with a riff of monumental proportions, the LA band fly into favourites ‘Disorder’ and ‘Mountain’ without pausing for breath. The crowd laps up one gigantic guitar-lick after another and the Meatbodies keep pouring it on, despite blowing the bass amp out towards the end of their set. New song ‘Valley Girl’ comes at the end. A sideways homage to a classic Zappa freak-out, it’s a great illustration of what the Meatbodies are all about – crushing guitars, thundering drums and a refusal to take anything seriously.
Let’s Eat Grandma The Forge, Camden, London
Anna Meredith ICA, Westminster, London
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29/0 3/ 2 0 1 6
wr iter : r ach el re df e rn
wri t e r: S am walton P hotogra p he r: sc a l ett d ello w
Norwich duo Let’s Eat Grandma – 16 and 17 years old a piece – weren’t kidding when they said in last month’s Loud And Quiet that a majority of their fans are 50-year-old men. To be fair, tonight’s industry worker-heavy crowd does contain plenty of women, but they’re older too. The point is there aren’t any kids here, which means that there isn’t anyone here to be inspired by LEG’s devil-may-care approach to performing, and we could certainly do with more young musicians giving this sort of thing a go themselves. Jenny and Rosa are clearly learning on the job – figuring out when’s the ultimate time to lie on the floor for 20 seconds (which they do twice), and when to swap their million instruments mid-song – but you’ve got to be grumpy bastard to not see the fun in all this, and very glib to ignore their musical worth on account of their young age.
So much of the appeal of Anna Meredith’s music lies in its compositional complexity and poise that attempting to reproduce it on stage seems almost an exercise in self-sabotage. Tonight, however, it works, on the whole. A cadre of exceptional classical musicians conducted by Meredith and driven by an extraordinarily tight tuba/drums rhythm section, do justice to the knotty work. Occasionally, the shear volume combines with Meredith’s more labyrinthine textures to make a slightly muddy blare that rather undermines the latticework precision her songs demands, but slower, simpler tracks are rendered exquisitely. Meredith encores with her chopped and screwed reimagining of Jennifer Rush’s ‘Power of Love’: brash and unpredictable, virtuoso and decidedly zany, it’s a fitting summation of the performance.
NZCA Lines Old Market, Brighton
Protomartyr 100 Club, Oxford Street
13 / 0 4/ 20 16
04 / 04 / 2 01 6
wr i t er : na th an we stle y
w r it er : j ames f . t h omps on P h o to g r aph er : ma x p h y t h i an
Joe Casey strides on stage to lead his band looking like a dishevelled accountant with a passing resemblance to David Cameron. If that sounds contemptuous, consider that his unaffected normalcy perfectly conveys the lack of pretension at the heart of Protomartyr, a Detroit band whose barbed wire post-punk and artdamaged poetry have grown like weeds amidst the rust and ruins of the Motor City. Live as on record, gloominess still shrouds songs as Casey’s baleful baritone coils around muscular riffs and rhythms. Stacked against the last album’s cuts, though, the tracks from the new LP are possessed of enough extra dynamism to suggest there might just be a glimmer of hope emerging over the horizon for Casey and his young charges. In fact tonight Protomartyr actually enjoy themselves. Shhhh.
‘Infinite Summer’, Michael Lovett’s second album, released earlier this year, saw NZCA Lines embark on a slightly more pop-focused route than his self-titled debut, and when transposed to the live environment these songs sizzle with pure pop perfection. Now a trio, but whittled down to a duo tonight with guitarist Charlotte Hatherly absent, these new songs are presented in a new guise. One where layers have been taken off and we can fully see their skeletal structure underneath. Upon the rhythmic structures that drummer Sarah Jones builds, Lovett lays a series of luscious guitar riffs and synth melodies that make up the core the sci-fi-touched ‘Persephone Dreams’ whilst ‘Jessica’, with its steady rhythm and catchy chorus, and the Eighties inflected ‘Two Hearts’, are the kind of songs radio secretly yearns for.
Shonen Knife / Leggy Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Trembling Bells Cafe Oto, Dalston, London
14/ 0 4/ 20 16
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wr i t er : Patr i ck gle n
write r: S tua rt s tu bb s P ho to grap he r: ma x p hythi an
As concert-going goes, waiting for a friend locked in a pub toilet is an inauspicious start. Luckily the evening improved. Leggy – playing in the UK for the first time – bring a sonic mess of overdriven and offkilter garage punk, great grrl attitude lyrics and Midwestern Ari Up delivery. They’re somewhere between Useless Eaters and a haunted Bratmobile. Shonen Knife, now veterans of 35 years, retain the kitsch punk joy that has always been their thing. Who else play bubblegum punk songs about fruit and Capybaras that aren’t shit? The new album is great live, with ‘Wasabi’ and ‘Rock’n’ Roll T-shirt’’s ZZ-Top riffs giving ample chance for studiously rehearsed stadium poses. Finishing with ecstatic versions of ‘Rocket Ni Notte’ and ‘Buttercup (I’m a Supergirl)’ then nearly kills nostalgic Gen-Xers with high cholesterol.
Trembling Bells are an old fashioned prog band. Their fringing is long and hangs from under the arm; their cloth cap “groovy” and outdated; their fuzz boxes smooth and vintage; their female vocals banshee-wail, operatic and ungodly. They don’t sound Scottish at all, but rather like a group from West Coast America in the early ’70s, or the Canterbury Scene in 1968 on highlights like ‘My Father was a Collapsing Star’. Like those bands, they sing a bit and play a lot, except for when they’re performing two trad folk acappella numbers to a silent room. Sometimes they’re just the right amount of Fleetwood Mac (which is a lot), and at others they sail a little too close to Lynyrd Skynyrd but fortunately never go full ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. And they do all of this by being extremely good, raw musicians, because people could really play back then.
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
Ferry Cross The Mersey (1965)
In July 1964 The Beatles released A Hard Day’s Night. It didn’t cost much to make (around £200,000), wasn’t all that original (plenty of films featuring bands had already been made in the ’50s) and hadn’t got a star cast (aside from The Beatles, of course). Nevertheless it was a smash success due to its charm, humour and The Beatles’ burgeoning popularity. It changed the cultural landscape, made millions at the box office and is one of the most influential films of all time. But we’re not here to talk about A Hard Days Night. Instead, lets take a look at Ferry Cross The Mersey, which came out just one year later. It also features a band from Liverpool (Gerry and The Pacemakers), was produced by Brian Epstein (who also managed them) and is shot in black and white. However, this is where the similarities end; this film did not change the cultural landscape, make millions of pounds or influence anyone at all as far as I can tell (if anyone ever saw it in the first place). Which is a shame, because in its own way it is rather sweet movie, which documents the love lead singer Gerry Marsden has for his hometown. However, it also has a number of notable deficiencies that explain not only why this film was not a success but also why The Pacemakers never came close to matching The Beatles’ success. Problem number one: the title
song. ‘Ferry Coss the Mersey’ isn’t a bad track as such but it is, well, a bit wet. The guitar riff is kinda cool, the lyrics and vocals are strong, but ultimately It’s more likely to send you off to sleep than send you to the top of the charts. The film doesn’t even contain the group’s classic rendition of Rogers and Hammstein’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which is like the Kingsmen doing a film and not including ‘Louie Louie’, or Chris Evans making a film and not being a total twat. Problem number two: The Pacemakers. The Beatles always looked so natural on screen, exuding an indefinable charismatic quality... whereasThe Pacemakers look rather like a group of 30-something accountants dressed up for a wedding (what I like to call ‘Futureheads Syndrome’). It would be alright if you’d hired them as a Beatles cover band for a function, but as onscreen stars they fall short. Two of them are called Les, for Christ’s sake. Even the genuine presence of Gerry Marsden, who here resembles a cheerful Tony Hancock, can’t quite compensate for this. One similarity withThe Beatles: The Pacemakers can’t act for shit. Also, these days ‘Pacemaker’ just makes you think of someone with a heart condition – it isn’t a rock and roll image. Problem number three: the plot. Plot isn’t crucial to a top band flick,
but the one here is a bit thin all the same. The opening sets it up as a gritty northern kitchen sink drama, which it quite exciting – it’s all sootstained streets and kids in ragged clothes – but this social realism never really materialises. Instead, it shifts into silliness, with the band stopping off in multiple points around Liverpool as they try to write a song for a big talent contest. They play one number in each location (on the ferry, in a restaurant, at an art school etc.) and by the time they’ve done all that there really isn’t much space left for story. Also, people keep asking if they’ve written a hit and they keep saying no, which makes you think they don’t have much confidence in their own songwriting. Problem number four: the Asian restaurant. The band stop off at an Asian restaurant and behave in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable today. I’m not for a moment suggesting they or the film is overtly racist but this scene – which includes a joke about Asian people eating dogs – has not aged well. Not horrific, but to modern eyes and ears more than a bit offensive. Problem number five: Jimmy Savile. A bit of a shock, this one. Just as I was starting to settle down and buy into Ferry Cross The Mersey Jimmy Savile shows up in a cameo as the talent show compere. He looks a bit like a dodo in a wig, and spends
most of his time on screen waving his arms around like a total tit. These days there’s no way of seeing Savile without thinking ‘that man is a paedophile’, which kills the fun-time vibes a bit. Not the band’s fault, but still an issue. Problem number six: A Hard Day’s Night. That film had already happened a year before, so no matter how good this one was it was never going to have the same impact...and no amount of saying ‘smashing’, ‘gear’ and ‘fab’ can fix that fact. But enough of the negatives because, as I said at the start, it really is a rather sweet film in its own way. It has some good songs (like ‘Why Oh Why’ and ‘Think About Love’), a rather good car chase sequence done in the style of a Mack Sennett silent film and, while the band aren’t on-screen-sex-bombs, you can’t help but find their innocence rather endearing. If you like ’60s beat groups and British invasion bands then you’ll like this film. Gerry Marsden clearly loved Liverpool; the film’s dialogue even has him say how he will never leave (unlike The Beatles, who pissed off to London as fast as they could). I guess that is what I takeaway from Ferry Cross the Mersey: The Beatles were an international band who made their home wherever they laid their guitars, but The Pacemakers belong to Liverpool and are theirs alone.
Party wolf Fitness plan: Guys, it’s going to get hotter soon – people are going to want to see your skin
Join the gym
what you’re thinking: ... but doesn’t that mean I have to run?
what you’re thinking: Dare I test the myth about piss turning the water purple?
what you’re thinking: Jesus, what’s that smell in here? It’s like boiled meats and cheese?
what you’re thinking: Why are we doing this en mass? Hmmm. Are yoga people show offs?
WHAT YOU’ll NEED: A comfy pair of trainers (Crocs or Toms), special running leggings, special running shorts to go over the special running leggings and a Nike top with the word ‘Tech’ somewhere on it in small letters. Total cost: £85.00.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Goggles and a disused pair of your old pants/bra and pants. Total cost: £5.00.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Guys: a massive vest to show off those nipples, and some small, red (always red) shorts. Ladies: a lycra Adidas branded croptop and tight shorts, which you might as well make Adidas also.Total cost: £45.00 + that important gym membership at £50.00 pcm.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Surely you’re looking at the swimming setup minus the goggles, right? Wrong! You’ll need a mat, of course, but more than that you’re being judged on what you’re wearing, your hair and your breezy attitude to life as much as how well you can cross your legs.Total cost: £Paranoia.
TOP TIP: ‘Going for a run’ is the single most boring thing a person can do. Why not liven it up by shouting “c’mon, chase me!” as you pass people in the street. You never know, someone might go for it. WARNING: Presuming you’re no longer 7 years old, it turns out your legs aren’t happy about running these days. They’re going to take tomorrow off, okay? DID YOU KNOW: Running releases endorphins in the brain to give you a high that can be replicated at home with cocaine.
TOP TIP: The saying ‘pick a lane’ comes from your new hobby.That’s your one, over there, with the old lady who’s managed to keep her hair completely dry and the two guys on their backs pretending to be jellyfish. By the time you’re good enough to move up a lane you won’t even want to. Who are they kidding over there? Hardly any of them are singing. WARNING: The lifeguards don’t like it when you wave at them every time you complete a length of the pool. DID YOU KNOW: Swimming makes for a great first Tinder date. It says: ‘well, this is me, take it or leave it.’ They seem to be taking awfully long getting changed.
TOP TIP: Need a break from your workout – simply offer to ‘spot’ someone. It basically means watch someone while they workout, leaving you to enjoy a Mars Bar completely guilt free. WARNING: Exclusively spotting others at the gym is not cricket and makes for very expensive Mars Bar breaks. Pop yourself on the rowing maching from time to time, yeah? DID YOU KNOW: A Lucozade would go great with that Mars Bar. And they sell them here!!!
TOP TIP: When a yoga teacher says, ‘just go as far as is comfortable for you’, they think you’re pathetic. You probably don’t even have a Nutribullet. WARNING: All this bending and flexing can... well... all this bending can... Okay, there’s a chance that someone will guff in your face. Doesn’t seem so wholesome now, does it, this yoga? DID YOU KNOW: There is absolutely no benefit to doing yoga in a group of people rather than by yourself.
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale Cheers, but I’m good I wouldn’t eat in there, mate. The guy who owns it, Ian, has got mucky ol’ hands!