Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 81 / the alternative music tabloid
Gold Panda I Joey Purp Katie Gately Calvin Johnson Rising Sun Collective Alex Izenberg Acid Arab La Femme
We have a new w eb si t e! Interviews Reviews Shorts Podcasts Listening Post Magazines + More
Alex izenberg – 12 joey purp – 14 katie gately – 16 RISING SUN collective – 18 gold panda – 22 calvin johnson – 28 welcome to paris – 30
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 81 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Gold Panda I Joey Purp Katie Gately Calvin Johnson Alex Izenberg Rising Sun Collective Acid Arab & La Femme
c o v er ph o t o g r aph y j o n a n g el o m o li n ari
I’ve wanted to do a big feature with Gold Panda in Japan perhaps since our first cover story with him in 2010. For that article I spent a day with Derwin in his uncles’ home in Essex – a county with bad PR that we both happened to grow up in through the ’80s and ’90s. In 1999, though, Derwin did something that no one else in Essex has ever done (an exaggeration, sure, but barely) – he went to Japan for two weeks of techno clubs and getting hammered.Two years later, he moved toTokyo for 6 months – enthralled by Japanese culture as a teenager, he’d already learned the basics of the language before his first trip. Japan has been a huge part of Derwin’s life ever since, and an unquestionable influence on all of his music, from his ‘Lucky Shiner’ debut that we discussed at his uncle’s house in 2010, to this year’s ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’ – the third Gold Panda album, and one that’s named after a parting shot from a taxi driver in Hiroshima in 2015. I thought it would be cool to go and experience Japan with Derwin – to see his shows there and be given a tour of the alien, back-alley sights documented in the recently released photographic book also called Good Luck And Do Your Best; the work of photographer Laura Lewis, and essentially the genesis of the record. Then I stopped thinking about it until one of our great photographers, Jonangelo Molinari, emailed me to say that he was going to be in Osaka in October, just in case there was anything we wanted shooting while he was there. I apologies if my resulting feature skirts a little close to indulgent, or comes across like the mad, excited jabber of a child hyperventilating as he attempts to describe the sensation of riding Space Mountain at Disneyland to his mum who’s just been waiting with all the bags. If Japan isn’t quite as exciting as that, it’s close. Between Gold Panda shows in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, over five days, we even managed to schedule in an interview. Stuart Stubbs
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For all the bullies, glue-sniffing and zoo crime, SHIRLEY MANSON appreciates her teenage rebellion
hirley Manson: I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I was the furthest from the term ‘Sweet 16’ as you could possibly imagine. I was in the throws of my real teen rebellion. I was difficult to live with and very angry. I had dreams of becoming an actress, and I put most of my energies into that. I struggled through school, which I hated. In primary school I really loved it and was a good student. A very dedicated, serious soul. But when I went to secondary school I was unfortunate enough to have a crazy girl in my class. She was really physically big and intimidating, and she came from a really hard part of town. She basically bullied me. It wasn’t actually for that long, but it felt like an eternity at that age. For about a year it went on. Although, mercifully for me, she got pregnant and then left school, I was relieved of my torturer, but she had robbed any kind of joy that I had gleamed from being there. I was skiving school and hanging out with older boys. Smoking, drinking and starting to experiment with drugs. I was just sort of wild. My hair literally looked like a birds nest, but I thought I was cool as shit. There was a female singer in Edinburgh at the time in a band called Hey Elastica. I was kind of obsessed with her. The people I was hanging around with in an extracurricular fashion were not people who stuck around [as friends for life]. I realised they were kind of mildly self-destructive. A lot of them were really from a hard background, they defined
As told to Greg Cochrane themselves as punks or mods or whatever was happening around then. We broke into Edinburgh Zoo. It was a large expanse of land, and we weren’t anywhere near the animals, nor did we at any point even seek out animals, we just found a place inside the zoo that was quiet where everyone would sniff glue and smoke cigarettes. We’d get massive Coca Cola bottles and mix our parents’ liquor cabinets – make these lethal concoctions. Looking back now I’m amazed that one of us didn’t kill ourselves. Most of my dedication was to Edinburgh Youth Theatre at that time. I think that was a real escape from school, and where I also fell back into being a child. It was creative, playful and joyful. Everything else was pretty dark at that point in time for me. I think a lot of it was down to hormones. I come from a really lovely family, and I really loved my sisters and got along with everybody pretty well. But I know that I caused my parents a lot of stress. I basically just turned my back on my studies. I was an intelligent girl and a really good student, and then, for whatever reason, I just stopped attending to my studies and it drove my dad insane and worried my mum sick. My mum, who was a singer herself, lost her voice. I feel so terrible about it now. She actually had to go to a therapist because she had lost her ability to sing – I literally stole my mother’s singing voice because she was so stressed out. I don’t
think they really understood what was happening to her. I was just very combative at home – I was always challenging my father, intellectually, over the dinner table. So I’d ruin dinners. They would invariably end with me bursting into tears and running up the stairs. Thatcherism was beginning to bloom around that period, too. That had a huge impact on me because my dad railed against her. Every night, it would drive him insane, somewhat like we’re experiencing now with Donald Trump. I remember a terrible quote from her that my dad railed against: “There’s no such thing as society, there’s only the individual.” My father, as a religious man, was so upset by that. I remember that making a huge impact. I’m a socialist at heart, as a result. Looking back, I was very lost and confused. I felt really self-conscious the whole time. I feel relief that it’s over. But I’m also grateful that I had all that happen to me in that way. I lived my teenage years fully. As I’ve gotten older, I see a lot of adults feeling frustrated because they never rebelled, never spoke up for themselves and never challenged, debated and argued. Much like babies experience by putting everything in their mouth, I think teenagers are somewhat the same. They’re railing against the status quo, and I think that’s important to learn about yourself. Now I feel relief to know that I will never be that lost again. I wouldn’t want to relive it, let’s put it that way.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Mr. T Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / So where ‘Workout’ encouraged lazy kids at a bus stop to use a boom box as a free weight, ‘Frustration’ saw T stubbornly try to play the cello, extolling the virtues of determination as he eventually learns how. Even with these highlights, ‘Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool’ wasn’tT’s true musical masterpiece: that arrived in ‘Mr. T’s Commandments’ – his purpose rap EP for kids. Taking it upon himself to help guide the youth of America through life’s travails once again, T’s lessons on love, not talking to strangers, doing homework and saying “no!” to drugs confirmed that T took his paternal role seriously. Dishing out advice and PG-rated violence on the video for ‘Mr. T’s Commandment’, he combined words on how to love and respect your parents with hurling various miscreants through windows in his very literal take on a powerful message. A fighter, an educator, and a kick-ass babysitter (probably), Mr. T’s influence as a role model may have become more meme than mentor since his ’80s heyday, but with lines like “Honor thy mother and father/The Bible makes it clear/If you break the rule, God help you fool/You got Mr. T to fear!” he’s a kind of gruff, violent Santa all kids should believe in.
One look into Mr. T’s dead eyes in the video for ‘Treat Your Momma Right’, and you can see the moment a cold realisation hits his chain-laden soul. Stood there in a pair of budgie-smuggling camo shorts, sharing a stage with three mumsylooking backing singers, and moving with the awkward, uncertain mobility of an early Japanese human robot prototype, T’s mind is clearly elsewhere. He’s there in body, but as he intensely stares into some existential void (or the autocue) he’s trying to reach his happy place – like the right side of a choke hold or the inside of a Humvee. Somewhere around his time as Rocky III’s Clubber Lang, The A-Team’s B.A. Baracus, and an Alvin and the Chipmunks cameo, LawrenceTureaud was also embarking on a wholesome mission of which Helen Lovejoy would approve. Thinking of the children, the motivational video ‘Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool!’ arrived in 1984 with Mr. T growling helpful advice at the ’80s yoof. From tips on how to dress fashionably without buying designer labels (naturally) to how to make tripping up look like breakdancing (an essential life lesson), it later spawned an album of the same name, roping in another famous T (Ice) to write some raps.
by j an i ne & Lee bu llm an
Love In Vain: Robert Johnson, 1911 – 1938 by Mezzo and J.M. Dupont faber & faber
Love In Vain is a gritty, evocative and atmospheric graphic novel exploring the myths and legends that make up the story of Robert Johnson. Johnson was the legendary bluesman who made his devilish Faustian pact at the crossroads before going on to record the twenty-nine songs that would influence everybody from Dylan to the Stones and help form rock’n’roll as we know it. This beautifully drawn book follows the musician as he makes his way from his birthplace in the rural American south to the cities of the north, and takes in his childhood, his womanising and his musical career against the backdrop of a divided America. It’s a fitting and exceptional work of art to honour him.
When the Screaming Stops by simon spence
I am Dogboy by karl hyde
faber & faber
In the seventies, just before punk, The Bay City Rollers got about as big as a boy band can get. To the outside world, the Rollers looked as though they were having a ball, they had hit records on both sides of the Atlantic, their own TV show and thousands of screaming girls at every turn. In When the Screaming Stops, Simon Spence pulls back the tartan curtain and reveals what was really going on, and it’s not a pretty sight. By the time the tale draws to a close the band’s Svengali manager, Tom Paton, is serving time in prison for gross indecency while others come to grips with the miasma of death, drug addiction, prostitution and millions of missing pounds that have come to define this sad and fascinating story.
Karl Hyde, one half of Underworld and accomplished artist in his own right, has been keeping an online diary made up of observations, poetry, abstract prose and found visuals since 1999. In I Am Dogboy, aided and abetted by longterm collaborator John Warwicker, from arts collectiveTomato, he rearranges selected excerpts from his diaries and intercuts them with an autobiographical narrative that follows a young musician’s journey to the early days of Underworld. The result is a million miles from the usual rockbio fare – a surprising and intriguing book in look, feel and content. In it, Hyde proves himself an able and enigmatic writer with an intriguing and absorbing way of chronicling his world.
getting to know you
Nikolai Fraiture This month sees a couple of new Strokes projects get off the ground, from Nick Valensi (CRX) and the group’s enigmatic bassist, Fraiture. Now recording as Summer Moon, the ‘quiet Stroke’, as rock lore dictates him to be known, opens up in our GTKY questionnaire. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given There’s no such thing as divine talent, everything can be learned or figured out. The film you can quote the most of My Own Private Idaho.
Your pet-hate Colour-coordinated bookshelves. Your favourite word ‘Escucha’. The worst job you’ve had Delivering VHS tapes and laser disks to people on the Upper East Side. I was delivering a porno to a customer once and met the guy’s wife in the elevator. She demanded I show her what I was delivering. It got awkward fast. If you had to eat one food forever, it would be... Chocolove Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt. Favourite place in the world Miami Beach during Spring Break because of the amazing nightclub scene. The best book in the world Win or Learn. I’ve never read it but I like the title. The thing you’d rescue from a burning building Let it burn and start over.
Your style icon “flavor flav”
Your guilty pleasure Locked Up. Or Candid Camera. Your biggest disappointment The ending of The Never Ending Story. The worst present you’ve received My grandparents gave me a used travel iron that didn’t work for Christmas. Your favourite item of clothing A red suede tasselled motorcycle jacket that I wore at the O2 Wireless Festival in ‘06. Now, I threaten to pick up my kids from school in it if they don’t listen. The worst date you’ve been on I narrowly escaped an undercover police arrest trying to impress my date with reckless vandalism of a marked car. But I think it worked because we’re married now. Your first big extravagance Not counting instruments, a 1979 Triumph T-140 D motorcycle. The most famous person you’ve met David Bowie backstage at Roseland. A true gentleman. He answered all my questions about his music and production. The one song you wish you’d written ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’ by Daniel Johnston.
Your biggest fear “A celebrity being elected president of the United States of America”
The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them Donald Trump. People’s biggest misconception of you That I broke the zoom. Your hidden talent Poaching eggs.
Who would play you in a film of your life? Julia Roberts. What is success to you? A nauseating amount of bling.
How would you choose to die? Set adrift in a hand-made canoe.
What would you change about your physical appearance? I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of pandrogeny.
What’s your biggest turn-off? Having a conversation with someone while they scroll on their phone.
What is the most overrated thing in the world? Internet grammar.
What would you tell your 15-year-old self? One day, your calculator will be in your telephone and beepers will be embarrassing.
The characteristic you most like about yourself My dance moves.
Your best piece of advice for others Don’t believe everything you read, especially on the Internet.
Alex Izenberg The reclusive L.A. musician tentatively discusses Simon & Garfunkel, hating books and his fear of the wind Photography: nathanael turner / writer: ian roebuck
Le f t : A l ex I zen b er g in Chatsworth, his ne i g h b o u r h o o d i n nor t h - w es t L o s A n g el es .
was a very paranoid child. I was terrified of the wind, every time the wind would blow I would run inside scared.” Suddenly, the previous half an hour spent chatting to the 25-year-old Alex Izenberg is beginning to make sense. “Every time a van went by as well I thought someone would get out and kidnap me so I ran inside to the house too,” he tells me from his new home in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, some 20 minutes from where the now reclusive singer grew up. It makes perfect sense because Alex is somewhat withdrawn in conversation, a master of distraction and a man of few words. I can’t tell if he is reluctant to share, or if the lack of engagement is because I got him out of bed. When I introduce myself he coughs loudly and tells me he is just hanging out drinking coffee, and later when I ask if he’s still afraid of the wind he tells me very slowly, “I have my moments, even now.” Alex, like his music, I discover, has an enigmatic quality that’s hard to pin down. His shape-shifting debut album, ‘Harlequin’, has arrived on Domino imprint Weird World and it’s an immersive, off kilter journey full of dead ends, blurred lines and wide-open space. There is a captivating childhood naivety to its make up, despite the rather adult arrangements that move effortlessly from track to track. Alex’s playful vocal’s take us down avenues of hope but never stray too far away from a dark path and much like this bizarre telephone call, the road to nowhere lies softly on his sat nav. Why is the album called ‘Harlequin’? An early icebreaker gets the silent treatment. “It’s a secret,” he finally replies after a sip from his mug. The stunning body of work is Alex’s debut album proper but it also marks a culmination of half a decade’s writing and recording under various pseudonyms. “No comment,” is his reply when I try and dig further. There are moments of light of course, and once engaged Alex is charmingly eccentric. He really springs to life when we talk through the recording process. “I finished making it a year and a half ago so it’s nice that things are finally moving in a different direction. My album has a lot of arrangements on it due to working closely with Ari Balouzian who
produced and arranged the record. He knows the twists and turns of all my songs and is very adept with classical music but ultimately he is a kindred spirit, musically speaking. We’ve known each other a while, you know. I started making records at his house.” Then Alex stops. Another long drawn out pause. “We met through a mutual friend and he started helping me make songs as my recording set up is pretty limited where I live and he likes collecting gear and microphones. We are constantly showing each other new music.” Maybe the coffee kicked in or Alex got used to my voice as he’s in full flow now. He even asks me what my favourite track is and I answer ‘The Farm’, a sprawling album opener recalling Scott Walker at his most psychedelic or ‘Yellow House’ era Grizzly Bear. “Cool!” is his animated reply. I tell him I particularly enjoy the train sample that signals the end of the track and the beginning of the record’s exploration in sound. “Yeah, well the producer of the album, Ari, works on films. He has a bunch of sounds that he has recorded in his computer. I asked him if we could use it and that was that.” All of a sudden silence, another sentence from Alex abruptly comes to a finish and we slide back into the quiet of the LA morning. “I don’t really remember the details to be honest, it was almost two years ago.” In a rather neat twist, Alex’s complex phone manner seems to mirror the winding, complex nature of his work and I find myself admiring his defensive attitude when questioned on the recent media attention. “Someone called me jazzy last week, which I didn’t really understand. I am definitely not thinking about making certain kinds of music at all. It’s not something I think about when I sit down to write. Sometimes the songs come up a certain way and that’s just how the songs come up.”
lex has also regularly been compared to throwback artists that toy with melody, like Simon & Garfunkel. “I really like them a lot,” he says. “There are certain songwriters like Richard Harris or Paul Simon who
have in some cases the ability to compose a lyrical line that is so perfect, so distilled, so clean and pure, they can just write a couple of lines and make you expect something and then hit you with something else. Somehow it has a double meaning… I don’t know what I am saying.” He trails off but there was genuine passion in Alex’s words, then we catch a slight chuckle. For a 25-year-old, these are touchstones from another generation, so what did he listen to growing up? “I don’t know, I think it was just stuff I was exposed to, from friends and family.” You can almost hear him smiling. Such a multifaceted album must be difficult to translate to stage, and performing all the intricacies of ‘Harlequin’, and the secrets that lie within, would, I imagine, be a daunting task. Maybe that’s the reason Alex has yet to play and even plan any shows in his most recent of incarnations. “No, there are no plans to tour at the moment,” he tells me. “We don’t have any plans yet. We don’t even have a live show.” But is it an ambition of his to hit the road, one day? “Seeing a band whose record you love live can be a great experience for you as a musician and a person,” he says, “but I didn’t really go to a lot of concerts when I was younger. I am 25 now and I still don’t go out to see a bunch of shows. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been to concerts, I just haven’t been much.” OK so no immediate tour, even with his spiritual musical partner Ari? “The live set up is going to be a little different and I think he is going to play select shows with us. To be honest though, we haven’t even got into it yet.” We swiftly move on to pop culture. ‘Harlequin’ and its dreamlike, feverish atmosphere it manages to resonate long after it’s finished playing. Like your favourite film or book, it lingers. So despite it being a long time ago, I ask Alex if he remembers what he was reading or watching in the studio? “I hate reading,” he says. “Honestly. I just think it’s so boring. I would much rather watch a movie or go on my phone. I liked Children of Men though.” Cool, I say, not quite remembering the British lead in the film, Clive
something. “Owen,” Alex perfunctory replies. To be taken at face value, Alex’s short replies are often a delight. “It would be nice if people heard my music and just wanted to be a better version of themselves,” he gently explains when I inform him I found the album to be hopeful and at times almost romantic. We discuss melancholy and its use in music and move back to his childhood again. “I have always been musical,” he tells me. “My friend’s brother played guitar so I wanted to play the guitar like him, so my parents got me a guitar, you know.” Alex wonders what his young self would have made of all this, releasing an album and having international press ringing him up at all times of day. He laughs. “Well I feel very lucky to have a label like Weird World behind me. Many of my friends don’t have any labels and they are super talented. I am really lucky as an artist to have this platform behind me giving me an extra push and having that support. I just hope people take something from my music.” So we get ready to say our goodbyes and trade pleasantries on the weather. “Errr, well it’s hot, like the 80s,” Alex says, puzzled by my rather British send off. Without thinking I say the seasons are changing in London and the wind is picking up. “The wind,” he replies tentatively, “it still makes me a bit uneasy.”
Joey Purp Chicago made him a rapper without even trying Photogra phy: david kasnic / writer: katie beswick
Le f t : J o ey P u r p i n h i s h o met o w n o f c h i c a g o , wh er e h e g r ew u p i n s p i r ed by K a n y e, C o mmo n a n d L u p e.
oey Purp is a vegan. I don’t know why this information surprises me as much as it does. It isn’t that I’m expecting a throwback hip hop stereotype, holding a hamburger in one hand and a Sony PlayStation console in the other, but for someone who raps about the dark underbelly of Chicago – about money, murder and all the girls in “the Mercedes Benz with their tits out” – over bouncy popping instrumentals, he’s not what I anticipated. Joey is in Atlanta with his manager when we speak over Skype, at an environmental initiative hosted by Toyota. They’ve got wind of his veganism and asked him to be involved in their green coalition – he’ll stay on in Atlanta for the Afropunk festival later in the week. “I’ve been a vegan for almost a year now,’ Joey tells me, when I express surprise at his dietary habits. “I’ve been vegetarian for almost seven years so it was a logical step.” Listening back to my tape of our interview, I think it’s fair to say that I stay on the veganism thing a little too long, asking him a few too many complicated (and perhaps unnecessary, since I’m writing for a music magazine) questions about the effects of the diet on his body and lifestyle. I’ll admit I have a vested interested in the subject as I’ve been flirting with the idea of a vegan diet myself. It is a mark of Joey’s good character that he answers my questions without once rolling his eyes. In fact, he offers sincere, carefully thought through responses that are actually quite revealing about the man beneath the music. “I just feel after researching the human body slightly – I mean I’m not a doctor or anything – but finding out a little bit about the human body and our make-up, and how we’re designed to break things down and stuff like that, I just felt it was the best decision. When I first became a vegetarian I was really unhealthy. I was really overweight when I was a teenager and it just changed my life so drastically in a positive manner that I just kind of stuck with it.” He tells me that he has seen a visible impact on his body, beyond the weight loss. “It’s better for your blood stream,” he says. “It changes your breathing and your lung capacity. It changes your skin. And the way your
skin looks and your skin feels. It’ll change your hair. It’ll change everything. Your nails get stronger. Your body just goes through changes and then you’ll feel more energetic.” He pauses, looks at the glass of wine I’m holding (in my defence it is past 9pm on a Friday night). “But also hydrating. Hydrating is very important. I’m big on water.” It is certainly true that Joey Purp has flawless skin, perfect, soft bouncy curls and bright, clear eyes that are alert to the world. In fact, he tells me, warming to the subject, it is this alertness to the world that veganism has really given him. “When I became vegan I turned up. I didn’t really think about that before. My life got better since I became a vegan. When I made the project I wasn’t vegan yet, but I became vegan shortly after releasing it. And my life definitely got better. I’m sure there were other factors but being a vegan definitely coincided with me becoming more successful. I never thought about that.” ‘The project’ is what I have called to talk about. ‘iiiDrops’ is a mix-tape that Joey released online earlier this year. He’s loathed to call it an album, he tells me, with characteristic modesty, because it isn’t for sale. Despite being as yet unsigned, word of mouth, and Joey’s status as a member of the SaveMoney Crew (a collective of artists that includes Chance the Rapper, Towkio and Donnie Trumpet), have drawn attention to his music and his career is starting to take off. Listening to the album, it is easy to see why. ‘iiiDrops’ is a confident, complex record that combines Joey’s anecdotal accounts of his own life (‘You see the world in my daughter’s eyes/If you had seen what she had seen, you’d be traumatized’) with commentary on race relations and the state of America at large (‘Judge us by our skin tone/No fighting when there’s guns drawn’). It’s a remarkably accomplished collection of songs that is, in places (especially ‘Cornerstore’ and ‘Girls @’), reminiscent of Jay Z. Joey beams when I tell him this. “I’ve heard that from a couple of people,” he says. ‘”It’s really flattering; I smile every time I hear it because it’s a really good feeling to even be mentioned in the same light as someone whose art I respect that much.” He pauses and
checks himself – he does this often, whenever a statement might come off as a little boastful. It’s endearing and uncontrived. I get the sense that Joey is humble and ambitious, aware that getting ahead of himself is likely to impede his growth as an artist. “But I don’t think I’m at that level yet you know? He was, like, 26 when he dropped his first album. I just grew up.”
oey’s upbringing included, unsurprisingly given that his home is Chicago, exposure to a vital music culture that has seeped deep into his psyche. He tells me that he was raised listening to his mother’s favourite reggae tracks, and you can feel this influence on ‘iiiDrops’; the beat on the track ‘Kids’, for example, has a mellow reggae quality. “I listen to a little bit of everything,” He says. “Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye. Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. James Brown, I listen to a lot of James Brown. John Legend. I’m really into that type of stuff. I listen to everything; it just depends on the mood.” In his late teens, Joey began to learn more about the rich music history of the Chicago area. “Growing up it was cool because we had Lupe [Fiasco] and we had Common and we had Kanye. So we had a couple of like hometown guys that we knew were popping or whatever. But it wasn’t like,” he breaks off. “Oh! and Twister, I can’t forget about Twister and Do or Die but they were like a little bit before. So it was cool growing up in Chicago. But when I was young I didn’t really… like, I knew we had blues clubs and stuff like that, but I didn’t really know a lot about the blues and jazz history until I got older. But now it’s fucking cracking being a musician in Chicago, because everybody makes music and we’re all, or in my opinion, there are a lot of really good musicians and artists in general. So it’s really fun now because everything is possible you know? You can do anything in Chicago now. “The music is happening everywhere. Little studios all over. From people making hits in their Mom’s basement to the studios downtown that are really professional, you know what I mean?” It was hard
not to become a musician, he tells me, being so surrounded by creativity. “It’s very very genuine how the music comes out of Chicago. We’re not all working in the same studio. Everybody’s doing their own thing.” Along with writing his second big music project, which is currently a work in progress, Joey has big plans. He tells me that he has mapped out what he wants to achieve within the next five years. “I want to work with Lil Wayne,” he says. “He’s the goal. That’s like my favourite rapper ever. I want to open some type of store or just do pop up shops with [existing] stores – clothing stores, with a brand that I designed. I want to have a food truck, a vegan food truck within five years. I want to own a property. And I want to have released multiple projects in other mediums outside of music.” I wonder whether these are simply pipe dreams, but Joey insists he has the contacts and experience to expand his creativity beyond music. “I work with one of my friends,” he says. “His name is Nico Washington, and we designed a couple of things together. We designed all of my merchandise – all of my logos, my typeface, fonts and stuff like that. So really we just do my creative design right now, but I’m looking forward to expanding that into another project that we’ll do together.” I’m surprised, given that Joey Purp isn’t signed to a label yet, that a record deal isn’t on his list of things to achieve. “I’m open to it,” He says, “but I wouldn’t say I really want to because we’re doing all right. I’m not complaining. It would be cool to have somebody give me a cash cheque or something, but I’m not really doing it for the cheque.” He shrugs – there’s that modesty again. “That’ll come if it’s worth it. I’m not too thirsty.”
Katie Gately Your electric toothbrush vibrates in the key of C Photogra phy: MIC HA EL A NTHO N Y HE RN A NDEZ / wr i t er: eug enie joh n so n
Le f t : K a t i e G a t el y n ea r h er h o me i n L .A ., w h er e s h e ma d e a d eb u t L P w i t h th e s o u n d s o f h er h o u s e.
hen you cleaned your teeth this morning or ordered coffee from a shop on the way to work, did you stop to listen to the sounds the machines around you were making? You probably wouldn’t think that the buzz of a toothbrush or the clatter of a coffee maker was particularly musical, but LA-based field recordist and electronic musician Katie Gately has a knack for finding tones in everyday objects. “I have an espresso maker and that vibrates at a C, like a C1 on the piano,” she explains. “Electronic toothbrushes are also designed to vibrate around C. It’s interesting how we design objects that aren’t musical instruments and that, maybe because we like music, we design them to have familiar tones.” Much like humans, other common objects aren’t quite as inclined towards being musical. “If you listen to the collective hums in a room, like with an air conditioner or a refrigerator, they can all glom together into something that’s not specifically a tone,” she explains. Not that this stops her from trying to get something more out of them. “They can be pushed towards a note,” she says. “It has an interesting ambient effect. I definitely find myself drawn to industrial sounds, machines, things that squeak, door hinges, anything that moves. Anything that moves will get rusty and the rustiness will squeak and it’ll sound kind of vocal, so there’s always that potential there.” Currently, Gately has a new obsession – yet another often overlooked but non-electrical piece of furniture. She tells me: “I think the thing that excites me most is door hinges. If you open a door you never know what you’re gonna hear!” Gately’s enthusiasm for field recordings and the ordinary have worked their way on to her debut album, ‘Color’, a collection of songs that compress the everyday world into often unrelenting maximalist electronic compositions. Tracks such as ‘Lift’ are blasts of unstoppable energy, sounds and vocal loops layered on top of each other to create a leftfield rave, epitomising her “49 per cent obnoxious and 51 per cent fun” mantra. Meanwhile, the likes of ‘Sift’ tone things down a little and focus
more on pulsating rhythms. It’s laterally about the construction of bombastic, even in comparison to sound and music. The art of foley is some of Gately’s earlier work, and famed for creating seemingly ordinary harnesses what she describes as a noises from unlikely places, and, for “crashy-smashy kind of sound.” It’s a Gately, that’s incredible. “People know record that, as its name suggests, sees it exists but you don’t want the its maker turning objects that we audience watching to think ‘oh that might usually perceive as grey, bland, punch is really a pineapple being or utilitarian into rich musical palettes. slammed on to the floor,’” she laughs. “‘Color’ has things breaking,” she says, “Cinematic sound is about that; it’s “like a string breaking, or a door hinge. about amplifying real life. When It’s a lot of metallic sounds from people kick and punch each other it around my house. My garbage can, doesn’t make a lot of sound, it’s very processed voice, me dropping things.” anti-climactic! But in film it’s very Nothing is off limits. As Gately says, heightened and intense.” “any sound can be in any kind of song. While it might seem odd, the You just have to find a way to jam it in illogical nature of foley helped Gately or process it properly.” to think differently when it comes to compositions. “It’s great for coming up with ideas and changing the way you think about sound,” she says. olor’ is the product of a long- “Instead of being literal and having running fascination with field everything correlate very logically, you recording and sound design, which have to think outside of the box.” stemmed from a couple of different Gately’s work in foley eventually experiences. As a teenager, Gately read led her to making her own soundtracks, an interview with Keith Levene, but she began to find herself “getting founding member of both The Clash lost on tangents” and found working and Public Image Ltd. In it, Levene for others increasingly restrictive described hearing the sound of a because “you have to do what the radiator while in a bathroom and director wants.” emulating its sound with his guitar. It “I found I had to have an outlet for astounded her. “I was like, ‘what?’ these instincts,” she says. So, after I was a teenager and I was like, ‘you’re taking an electronic synthesiser class allowed to do that?’ I didn’t know while still at university, she realised people were that open minded!” She what she really wanted to do with her later found that Levene’s actions work. “A week later all this information perhaps weren’t so unusual. “I was in kind of crystallised in my head and I college and listening to a lot of made a track, which was on my first EP, experimental music and I started to called ‘Last Day.’ I was just like, ‘oh, this realise that a lot of musicians, people is what I want to do!’ I want to sing, who properly use instruments, would and have these off-kilter sound effects also sometimes add recordings or layered and maybe that could be interesting sounds that they would music,” she explains. “It happened in find in the studio just to add another just a couple of weeks. I wasn’t a music texture,” she explains. “It totally maker and then two weeks later I am!” changed the way I thought about Despite this, it’s still relatively easy music.” Trying to make the days to draw a line from Gately’s work on working in a variety of menial jobs soundtracks to ‘Color’. Her music for after university a bit more bearable, Miguel Jiron’s animated short film she began to experiment much more Sensory Overload – where sounds such as with found sounds herself. “I worked clicking pens and tapping feet are in a lot of kitchens, and did line massively amplified to represent the cooking,” she tells me. “It’s a tough torturous impact of the everyday on a job on your body and it’s exhausting. young autistic boy – bears a distinctive I was like, ‘well, I’ll record the oven or similarity to the industrial nature of these plates and that’ll make this day a her debut album. Indeed, some of the little more useful to me.’” noisiest and most chaotic moments on It was Gately’s work as a foley artist, ‘Color’ are like manifestations of though, that really helped her to think nervous energy, something that
doesn’t escape Gately’s notice. “I’m naturally an anxious person but the only way I can arm-wrestle with the anxiety is to lean towards it,” she explains. “So when the record gets really crazy, that’s how I feel like sometimes when I’m anxious, or really excited or sad.” Despite its clattering and cacophonous nature though, ‘Color’ is, at its heart, a pop record – certainly the most accessible release to come from Tri Angle Records. It defies your expectations of what a stereotypical album by a field recordist is supposed to be with memorable hooks and pulsating, danceable beats. At times ‘Color’ is vaguely reminiscent of the playfulness of Grimes, or even the swaggering attitude of Charli XCX. It’s not that Gately is averse to traditional field recordings (she says that she loves “the stuff that’s very much more nakedly recorded in a field, birds and things”) but at the same time, she’s not interested in playing it safe either. “I’m always interested in taking what I like and what I do and saying, ‘how can I challenge this?’ I think it’s because I get bored doing the same thing,” she says. In the past she’s certainly not been one to settle into one particular style. “I started off, especially in film school, really with minimal soundscapes and the not very tonal or melodic ends of things,” she reflects. “But then I’ve veered very much into pop music structures, with experimental timbres and weird effects.” Gately hopes that her insatiable desire to experiment with sound might rub off on others looking to be a bit more adventurous with their music. “With this record in particular, my general feeling is that I’m not afraid to look like a fool!” she laughs. “If other people are afraid, I hope that my music would make them less scared because they have someone in front of them that other people can laugh at!” Far from becoming a laughable figure though, Katie Gately has shown on ‘Color’ that being constantly inquisitive and unafraid to try new things can lead to exciting new soundscapes and musical forms. In her eyes, even the craziest of ideas could turn into a revelation. As she says: “what’s the worst that can happen?”
Rising Sun Collective
Above : the r is ing s un colle ctive ’s h om e m a d e st u dio. Ove r: h ous e b a nd A hou se in th e tr e e s .
In a repurposed pub in New Cross, a bunch of art graduates are making trip-hop and partying their way out of our annus shitus
I read a newspaper article recently that was a kind of rumination on whether 2016 is literally one of the worst years in modern history. Media histrionics aside, we’ve certainly had a bit of a shitter this past ten months or so. Bowie’s dead, Prince is gone, terrorism is everywhere, Trump continues to utterly appal and we’re staring down the barrel of a hard Brexit. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for London nightlife, either. Fabric has lost its licence and joined a roll call of recently permanently shuttered clubs that includes Dance Tunnel, Pacha and Cable. Over the past eight years, more than half of London’s clubs have closed their doors, falling to victim to a perfect storm of gentrification, restrictive licencing and drugs deaths. The Night Tube has finally arrived but we barely have anywhere left to go. At least, that’s the prevailing narrative. As much as it’s tempting to just pack up shop and move to Berlin, the truth is that after-hours life in London isn’t entirely dying – it’s
changing. Just as rave culture headed underground in response to the oppressive strictures of the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, so too are today’s best parties and most exciting scenes as they run out of legitimate venues to coalesce around. Out East, it’s Seven Sisters, Manor House and Hackney Wick leading the way with sizeable converted warehouses still available to artists and musicians at (relatively) affordable prices. By day, these spaces exist as living spaces and studios but by night, many are throwing some of the capital’s best parties, with up-andcoming DJs, cheap drinks and predictably lenient drugs policies. I should know – I lived in Manor House with a motley crew of 20 artists and musicians back in 2012. Across the river down South, the Rising Sun collective have had much the same idea. Taking their name from the inconspicuous converted pub that they’ve effectively colonised, the double-digit posse mainly comprises of
Goldsmiths arts graduates in their early 20s who’ve decided to live together both as a creative and lifestyle choice. Over the past year or so these kids have worked to build a kind of music and partying Eden amidst their unassuming little pocket of South East London. Not convinced? To be honest, neither was I, confusedly trudging between similarly named spots on a rainy October Wednesday night. “I’m outside the place,” I say on the phone. “No, wrong one,” comes the reply. Ah. Sometimes situations like this just end up turning into a perpetual house party, albeit with a monster soundsystem and fuck-tons of MDMA. In other words, not my idea of a good Wednesday night. As I eventually cross the threshold of the former boozer though, it becomes abundantly clear that the Rising Sun gang are pretty serious about all of this. I immediately clock a beefy modular synthesiser perched on the dining table of the gargantuan living space, halffinished with its guts strewn across the
floor. There are records everywhere. People mill about but everybody seems pretty level-headed. “Hi there,” I say, clumsily shaking half a dozen hands throughout the room. First and foremost, I’m here to speak with six-piece outfit A House in the Trees, who, I’m told, form the core of the collective. They’re still having their photos taken by Dan, our photographer, in the basement says Joe, my chaperone into this weird and wonderful world. “Let’s go downstairs,” he suggests. Okey-dokey. This, it turns out, is the real base of operations for the collective. To my left is a fully kitted-out recording studio, replete with soundproofing and mood lighting. Dead ahead we have the band themselves, sprawled across the floor and joking around in front of some camouflage netting as they pose for pictures. Beyond them there’s a makeshift dancefloor, then around the corner there’s a mixing room, listening booth and snug. Consider my early scepticism duly checked.
Photogra phy: Dan ken d all / writer: James F. T hom pson
Finally sitting down to get acquainted, it turns out we’ll be missing one of the band – Cameron – who’s managed to scald his face with a plate of baked beans at work and, it transpires, has had to take a trip to A&E. The rest of the band are present and correct: rakish bandleader and seeming de-facto spokesman Sam, dark horse Chris, the effervescent India, boyish Dan and the permachilled Geraint, or G. Tonight it’s probably best that we stick to first names only, all things considered. The genesis of the group was a recording project by Sam back at Goldsmiths a couple of years ago, which yielded an EP (‘To Adore’), which you can find on Soundcloud, along with a gig at the Waiting Room in Stoke Newington. That early work set the broad parameters for A House in the Trees: dark pop and ambient dance fit for the morning after. “Yeah,” says Sam. “We’re on a constant comedown.” Since then, A House in the Trees has become a sextet and branched out into trip-hop meshed with experimental hip-hop; Portishead as imagined by Clams Casino. Over the past year or so the six have been prolific enough to put together a mixtape (which I’m later gifted as an actual tape on the way out the door), a bunch of remixes and enough material for at least a couple of
albums, or so I’m told – there are 27 songs circulating between the band on a private link at the moment, apparently. Having such an incredible place in which to work is one hell of an advantage, I say. “Finding the place was a complete stroke of luck,” says Sam. “I remember the first day when Chris had told us about it, saying they were looking for two people and me and G were looking for a place to live at that point. We came down, saw the name the Rising Sun and before we even stepped into it, I was like… done! [Laughter] I think it was just moving in with like-minded people who all saw this space and instead of just saying, ‘Oh, that’s a cool dirty basement,’ it was, ‘That’s a basement we can transform and do something with,’ you know?” Dan agrees. “It was just the fact of having the space; you’ve got to use it. I completely understand it’s very hard to get a place like this.”
n the main, the group were already good friends at Goldsmiths and many of them had already lived and collaborated together on an artistic level. After graduation, the gang were just looking for some way to continue the arrangement. Last November,
everything fell into place. “The moment of [finding] the Rising Sun was kind of when it went from being the idea of the collective to putting it into serious practice, because we had the means to do so,” Sam says. “That’s definitely I think when things changed.” As for the band’s moniker within the collective, I’m hoping to hear some fantastical tale behind it but all I manage to tease out is a fairly prosaic yarn. “The name itself came from a house and… some trees… in southwest Wales, near where Geraint lives,” Sam laughs. “It was just an image that I saw and, you know, you see something and it imprints itself on your mind and the name just came out from there. But a lot of the theory behind what we do comes from many different [other] things. We have terms that define that kind of stuff and it’s a lot of referencing mundanity and escapism; as trip-hop has always been.” Collaboration is one term which is surely important in talking about what A House in the Trees and the Rising Sun contingent are all about. The band walk me through all the dizzying permutations of projects and side projects either between themselves, the collective or outsiders. For one, visual art is a really important aspect of everything they do – sometimes the visuals come before the songs. “The
visuals completely set the reference point for the music,” Sam says. “If you watch the visuals for the music it gives you complete clarity of the intention of the song.” More broadly though, jamming and exchanging ideas are at the centre of the whole endeavour. The idea of being within a collective is important to the whole band. “You’re fully immersed in a creative environment, rather than having to apply yourself each time.You’re already in it so you’ve got more drive,” Dan observes. A House in the Trees would be a worse proposition without it, says Sam. “You can see it either when we’re playing live and jamming around one of our songs, or when we’re just sitting in the studio jamming and someone who isn’t even affiliated with A House in the Trees – someone completely new – starts making music with us. You’re always going to have a much richer form of inspiration very immediately.” This tribe was recently out in Bulgaria for the Meadow in the Mountains festival, along with fellow Rising Sun member and selfproclaimed “flow lord” Boyan Levchev. Between them, they lugged along a portable studio setup and immediately got recording with whomever they
found out there. They’re toying with the idea of taking the concept on the road – rocking into towns for a few days and working with local musicians and producers before moving on. They’ve already cooked up music with Dutch producer Sample Proper, grime producer Last Japan and Australian duo Ginger and Ghost, who’ve come back over to London to record more. Back home, it also helps that southeast London is a fertile breeding ground for new bands. As with some parts of the east of town, rents still just about exist within the realms of reality and the combination of affordable housing and Goldsmiths makes for a burgeoning experimental electronic scene. “South-east London is amazing,” marvels Sam. “There’s so much good stuff happening down here and there’s so many good people doing good things. We’re all a part of that and it’s just good that we have a space where people can reap the benefits of it.” Indeed, with such a useful space at their disposal, it’s easy to imagine the Rising Sun collective as some kind of a focal point for the broader scene, I say. “A little bit of it yeah,” says Sam. “I mean we also have a non official sister venue, the Five Bells, which opened up in New Cross. That’s just a pub that’s opened and they’re trying to upstart and do some other interesting stuff with the space as well. “Then we have the Siren Girls who are an all-female technical collective, India who’s a part of A House in the Trees and does a lot of the visuals for us, some of the Rye Wax lot in Peckham come here, some of the people that have come from Goldsmiths. I find that I come out of my bedroom almost every day and I meet someone new – I can’t get away from that!”
t least once a month, the Rising Sun plays host to some sort of event
deep within the bowels of its sweaty basement. A couple of months ago, the gang threw a big bash to celebrate the release of their first mixtape. Vice stopped by, mentioning that the whole thing felt half like a nightclub and half like an art installation. One of the guys covered the toilets in bubble wrap, while the ‘Reflection Room’ had a small chair in the middle of four mirrors with Alice Deejay’s ‘Better Off Alone’ pumping out of the speakers on repeat. The attic was reserved for recreational indulgence. It all sounds like great fun, but surely the neighbours give them relentless shit? Not so, apparently. “One of the guys who lives here, Ed, went over to knock on one of the neighbours and said you know, we’re having a mixtape launch if you want to come over,” Sam recalls. “They brought their kids along and their kids were in the ‘bubble bath’ loving it! “That was really nice, to sort of appease them. I think as time goes on and we solidify ourselves it would be nice to give back to the community in some way. There’s a school nearby and maybe we could get involved with them, and we’ve come to a good agreement with our neighbours.” In any case, opening their home up to the outside world for nights like this brings its own perils for the collective. Boiler Room also dropped by a few months ago for a BBC Asian Network set, and the Rising Sun housemates found themselves relieved of a kitchen blender for their troubles. “They didn’t take the top bit though,” laughs Geraint, incredulously. “They just took the thing that makes it go.” It all sounds like it might be hard work at times. “You just do it, don’t you?” reasons Dan “You make it work.” “As a house we’re pretty tight,” says Sam. “Even from a living [together] perspective we keep on top of each other about stuff and for the most part it stays clean!
“At the end of the day, it’s still a bunch of people who’re living here and we love this and we want to preserve this as long as possible, so we keep it as low-key as possible. To be honest, it’s at a point now where people – like the people who come here and hang out here – they know about it, so it’s not like we have to create a bunch of fliers or create a huge Facebook invite. We’re not inviting the whole of Goldsmiths.” The group are gearing up for a public reveal of sorts very soon, though. Thursday 3rd November will see A House in the Trees hook up with Junk Son at the Flying Dutchman in Camberwell for a proper showcase event. They’re bringing a major sound system along and they’ve got visuals planned too. An album is also on the way, with a preceding single and video, although there’s as yet no decision on whether it’ll be an independent release or through a conventional label. In any case, between themselves A House in the Trees have probably got enough kit to set up on their own. Get hold of a vinyl pressing machine and they could churn out a record from start to finish within the confines of their own basement. “We’ve thought about it, as a label type thing, but I think it’s open just to see what happens – we’re open to discussing everything,” Sam offers cryptically.
ith that, I’m spirited upstairs by Joe to have a word with fellow Rising Sun member Ellie, also known as BYFYN. She’s stood in the kitchen, hair in curls, chopping an onion for dinner. “Hello there,” I say for probably the fifteenth time tonight. BYFYN makes dark, ambient electronic dream pop and has an EP out already on Soundcloud. She’s also involved in visual art and is a fellow Goldsmiths alumnus. “I wouldn’t have got to the kind of stuff I’m making now if it wasn’t for these guys,” she says, gesturing beyond the kitchen. She’s in a relationship with Chris; they previously lived together. “He was doing a computer music course and he showed me Logic, Ableton and then I basically started making my own stuff, just in Garage Band to begin with; I was using an iPad in a laundry cupboard with a really shit mic. When I moved in here with the studio, I bought some proper kit!” It bears mentioning just how much kit there is lying around the Rising Sun house. I count easily more than half a dozen synths, several mixers, decks, guitars, amps; you name it. “We’ve got shitloads,” Ellie laughs. “I’m now one of those gear heads; I love it. Because I do electronic stuff I get inspiration
from what I use.” Like many in the house, Ellie made her first bona fide release in the studio downstairs. “We all want to do the same kind of stuff so it’s really helpful to be around each other,” she says. “We inspire each other all the time.” Right. It’s time to head all the way upstairs to the attic for a quiet conversation with Scott, otherwise known as one half of trip-hop duo Parliament of the Owls. We’re in Boyan’s room – the Bulgarian rapper I mentioned earlier – and fabric is draped all over the rafters. Cosy. Scott’s tall, very well spoken and studied sonic art at – you guessed it – Goldsmiths. He’s also a member of indie rock three-piece Crushed Beaks, who’ve already put out a couple of records and are signed to Moshi Moshi. “Trip-hop was one of those things where, if I get back from a night out or something or I just really want to chill and disconnect from the world, my go-to would be Portishead,” Scott says, stifling a laugh. “It’s not particularly relevant and I don’t think there’s lots of other trip-hop coming out at the moment, particularly. “When me and Sam were talking about our love of Portishead when we first moved in, it was almost a bit of a running joke that we felt like we had to hide it from the world. I mean, who’s into Portishead?! But then we felt, no actually, let’s be proud of our love of trip-hop and all that kind of stuff. We’ve been trying – in our various projects – to bring it to life, to reinvent it in some way. People seem to be responding to it better than I ever expected, to be honest.” Like Ellie, it wasn’t until Scott landed at the Rising Sun that his ambitions really began to take shape. “With Parliament of the Owls, there were a whole load of tracks which I had been writing since I was at Goldsmiths but I just didn’t put them out, at all. They’ve just kind of been sitting there; I’ve got an album’s worth. It was only then coming into the house and seeing more – in this group, there are people writing similar stuff – where it seemed like the perfect platform [to release] it.” Steeling myself to leave the warming glow of the Rising Sun and instead face the sideways rain outdoors, I’m under no illusion that anybody here is taking this for granted. I think everybody recognises that this is a special time in all their lives and a period of unbridled creative freedom at a time when making music and having fun in London is becoming harder by the week. “I would regret it so much, if we didn’t make the most of this,” Scott insists. “So we’re just trying to make the most of every second.” Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for 2016 after all.
There’s A It’s midnight on Sunday in Kyoto when Gold Panda, dressed as a corn dog and with an easy flow, raps ‘Juicy’ by Biggie Smalls. Although he’d never admit it, he’s nailing it. Even the Total hook is sung in tune by the London-born, Essex-raised musician who grew up obsessed with hip-hop and fleeting rapped as RUM?ELST!LSK!N, Olivia Neutron Bomb and Kiss Akabusi. Clearly, Derwin wasn’t a teenager that took himself all that seriously, but the fact remains that tonight he sounds good. As Japan’s thousand-year capital quietly prepares itself for another working week, he continues to sound good, too, as he croons Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’, mock rocks ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and duets on ‘Hollaback Girl’ with friend Miho. I murder my halves of ‘Faith’, ‘Common People’ and, devastatingly for me, ‘Panic’, but Derwin is a karaoke king, dressed as a corn dog… sometimes a sailor. Why can’t all cover features be like this? In 1999, at the age of 19, Gold Panda flew to Tokyo for the first time in his life. By all accounts he felt prepared, having video recorded a bunch of documentaries on Japan over the preceding years, and having taught himself the basics of the language with a BBC tape pack. He arrived in August in 90% humidity to a storm of massive flying bugs that gave the city an extra dose of alien that it really doesn’t need. “Even going to the supermarket was exciting,” he remembers, which might explain his continual love for the Seven Elevens and Family Mart convenience stores that are never more than an irregular block away.
For two weeks he stayed with his friend Phil Wells – from Techno group Subhead – and techno DJ Mayuri, followed them to the Maniac Love club in Omotesando, Shibuya, and a love affair wasn’t so much born as cemented. Derwin was sure that he’d get on with Japan – how couldn’t he; they liked all the same things – Street Fighter, animation, arcade games, hip hop, house and techno. He flew back two years later for six months of the same, renting a room once more from Phil and Mayuri, working a little as a teacher – but not much – and getting hammered. “Oh well,” he says. “Maybe it was better that way.” By October 2016, now aged 36, he’s lost count of how many times he’s flown to Tokyo. Japan has become part of him. He’s fluent in the language, has a wealth of friends here – including some that he met on his very first trip in ’99 – and his latest, third album, ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’, was directly inspired by a 2015 visit with his girlfriend – photographer Laura Lewis. Together they’ve just released a book of Laura’s photographs from that time; the field recordings that were supposed to act as its soundtrack ended up becoming ‘Good Luck And Do You’re Best’. As guides to Japan go, then, and having never been myself, Derwin is the perfect host, who I’ve gotten to know since the release of his debut album, ‘Lucky Shiner’, the ambient techno sleeper hit of 2010. Over five days we’ll travel from Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo, for three shows – perhaps the last he’ll ever play here as Gold Panda.
Stuart Stubbs spent five days in Japan with GOLD PANDA, shopping for tat in the country that inspired his latest album, and discussing whether he’ll ever make another one loudandquiet.com
Photogra phy: Jonangelo Molinari
Osaka When we meet in the lobby of our hotel in Osaka at 6pm I’ve had two hours sleep and Derwin, a self confessed lightweight, is severely hung over. Last night he arrived in Tokyo and uncharacteristically stayed up late and got wrecked with friends he hadn’t seen for a while. The centre of Osaka – a short metro journey away – is what both of us need, and probably Dan Tombs, too, although Derwin’s soul tour mate and live visuals coordinator (Dan is also responsible for the screen displays of Jon Hopkins, Factory Floor and The Charlatans) looks pretty fresh. Since returning to London, I’ve realised that attempting to describe Japan is almost as futile as enthusiastically retelling the dream you had last night – “You were there, but your arm was a bubble, but I didn’t find that weird, and then we were in a park, but the floor was made of egg… but different egg…” Many elements of Japan are like that. The trinkits and souvenirs are wonderfully abstract, from the recurring white cat with a piece of sushi on its head, to the ¥200 gashapon vending machines that dispense every baffling thing from miniature figurines of dogs in baked goods to tiny coloured wheelbarrows and hardhats. One of them spits out a
series of 2cm long toilet rolls and accompanying holders. It’s all cute cute cute and so intoxicating that before long you find yourself almost buying a bottle of Domestos because it’s got a picture of a bear’s face on it. Every other street either illuminates like Times Square or is a single-file passageway lined with restaurants for a maximum of 10 diners. In the middle of Osaka, quite unexpectedly, there’s a straight river where a road should be, on which a brass band sails up and down playing New Orleans dixie jazz, past an oval version of the London eye wrapped around a you-can-literallybuy-anything-in-here store called Don Quixote. The floor is not made of egg, but you can see what I mean. For the next five days, Derwin, Dan and I will spend our time buying the most bizarre tat we can actively find (crisp key rings, bullet train shaped staplers) and sampling Japanese food not available in Tesco (puffer fish, sea urchin sushi). There will then be a brief interruption while Derwin plays a show to a dark room of bubbling bodies that negate the myth of Japanese audiences being completely static at gigs, which I’m looking forward to the most, and Derwin most certainly isn’t. “I don’t think people really like my music here,” he says when I ask him what I should expect at Club Circus tomorrow. If you’ve read any of our previous
interviews with Gold Panda, you’ve probably picked up on how selfdeprecating Derwin can be. And funny. And dry. When he says things like that, it’s not false modesty, but he is wrong. Club Circus is a black box on the first floor. It’s hardly cavernous, but it’s close to its capacity of 200 when we arrive. “This is alright,” says Derwin as we enter. “This is all I want. I don’t want to be playing stadiums, because then your know your music is shit.” Each of the three shows on this mini tour outdo the one before, but it’s in Osaka where I notice how much the room is moving, and how Derwin has equalised his 8-year catalogue to a level marked ‘club’. Mid-set high point ‘Clarke’s Dream’ has always been classic house faire, its horns and groove sounding like a set opener for Larry Lavan in 1980s New York, and ‘Vanilla Minus’ continues to dare you not to hook into its jabby techno pulse, but even new songs like the mellow twostep of‘Halyards’ kick harder in between. When a guest on our podcast earlier this year, Derwin said that he didn’t consider what he does ‘club music’ and I agreed – now I’m not so sure. “I have made the songs more banging,” he says when I mention all this to him. “Because I want to have fun. It’s getting closer to club music, and I listen to club music, I just don’t listen to it in clubs. “I don’t really have any experience
of clubbing, in the way that Detroit DJs would. I don’t find them to be the type of places I want to be in. It’s sold as this free environment where everyone’s friends and on the same level – I’m not convinced by that, but I like to think that that’s how a club night I’m not going to is going to be. I’m hoping that everyone’s there together and there’s great house tunes on, and they’re soulful, and there’s a positive vibe, and no one’s looking at each other because no one cares. That’s why Berghain’s good. That does have that vibe. Some weird shit goes on there, but that’s how a club should be, I think, where people are just wanking.” Derwin, having lived in Berlin for three years while he recorded his second album, ‘Half Of Where You Live’, played the infamous Berlin club Berghain last week. He says he had a great time, although he almost blew out his ears due to his monitor being too loud. When he returned to London he was concerned enough to visit a hearing specialist in Harley Street. “And the guy there said that he’d seen my name come up and said that he’d do this one because he’s a fan of my music.” I can imagine how embarrassed Derwin would have been by that, while in Osaka, once his set is over, there’s a queue of fans waiting to meet him for photos and autographs. He signs not one but two iPhones. This post-show ritual happens again in Kyoto and
Be low: Gold p and a d r e s s e d as a corn dog ( Th a t ’s t h e costu me ’s st ic k, g uy s ) . Be low that: O ne of ky o t o ’s many b e autif ul t e m p le s .
Tokyo, which I take to demonstrate how enthusiastic and genuine the Japanese people are, and how much Derwin underestimates his appeal and what his music means to some listeners. When I ask him if he ever allows himself to enjoy those moments enough to take stock of everything he’s achieved as Gold Panda, I should have known that he’d say, “No way. I feel like I’m learning on the job.” Kyoto The following day we take the still futuristic bullet train (The Shinkansen) to Kyoto in 20 minutes flat. Rather offensively, it arrives on time, like everything else here, although I’m still marvelling at the fact that Japanese
ticket machines can read multiple tickets when all inserted at once, rather than regurgitating just one because it’s slightly bent, or, of course, not bent enough. Not for the last time I am left wondering why Britain seems to have bought all of its computerised machinery from an end-of-the-line factory outlet store. The Shinkansen, meanwhile, has been operating since 1964 and is still around 100 years from our wildest dreams. God help us, HS2. The donut shop in Kyoto station identifies your chosen filling via an infrared scanner, while the escalators at one end stretch up to the outside roof of a neighbouring, 11-storey department store. Halfway up, a stage us been built for today, where a school brass band are playing the theme tune of Super Mario. Away from the station, Japan’s
former Imperial Capital is a much more traditional city, full of beautiful temples and parks. Finding a bin anywhere is easier said than done, yet it’s one of the cleanest places I’ve ever been to – littering is no more done than crossing the road before the green signal, even if there isn’t a car in sight. It makes you check yourself if you’re hurrying, and again I can see why Derwin loves this place and continues to visit around twice a year. Yet visiting Japan for fun and visiting Japan as a touring musician are two very different experiences. Or at least they are for Derwin – the country he loves being facilitated by the thing he loathes to do. Derwin has always struggled with selling his wares on tour, regardless of how good he is at it. His shows are dedicated parties for fans of smart electronic music, and he’s a natural at meeting people – it just makes him feel uncomfortable and anxious. The worry now is of the country that’s always been his escape becoming entrenched in work. “It hasn’t ruined Japan for me yet,” he tells me, “because I try to keep it separate. Most people would jump at the chance to play Japan at any time, but I’ve turned down gigs here this year, because I like it too much. Now I’m stressed out and I’ve got to do gigs, and I’m stressed because of what people might think. I’ve got to do interviews and speak in Japanese and impress people, which is not fun. “When I arrived this time I was the most depressed I’ve ever been being in Japan. Like, ‘this is the worst, I don’t want to be here, I’ve got to do gigs.’” It was the first thing he said to me when we met in the lobby in Osaka, too, not long before saying it was a shame that
I couldn’t have visits with him when he didn’t have any shows on. In that sense, Derwin is like a touring musician inverted. We’ve all heard about how the road has driven artists mad, but the set narrative is about all that waiting around for one hour of pure, unbridled joy and purpose. For Derwin the opposite is true – the 23 hours of not playing a show can easily be filled with adventures in a place like Japan; the stress of having to disrupt that peace and excitement for a show in the evening becomes more and more impeding as a tour roles on. Although he was on the road longer with ‘Lucky Shiner’ and ‘Half Of Where You Live’ (his decision to move to Berlin for the latter record was partly informed by Germany’s geographical proximity to other European cities for booked shows) Derwin’s done his fair share for ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’ with the end in sight, which is of course when the end feels further away than ever. “The problem with live gigs is that I always feel like I’m ripping people off,” he says, “because I’m just playing the same thing every time with a slight variation. There’s a thing with electronic music, like, how do you do it? Some people just turn up with a laptop [Derwin doesn’t], and people go wild while they’re not really doing anything. And I wonder if anyone really cares? Am I worrying too much? “But I never get to see my own show,” he says. “I can only think what it must be like, and I think, ‘gosh, I wouldn’t want to be there.’” When I ask why not, he says: “I think I’m not a fan of live music. I’ve always liked being at home and making stuff. Listening to records, cup of tea,
Jaffa Cakes – that’s more me. I’d like a music room that’s just records, books… I want one of those John Lewis snug chairs – like a tiny sofa but a massive armchair – and a nice blanket and a lamp and a table.” No wonder Derwin didn’t get on with the nocturnal Berlin, although when Four Tet is going on at 6am, he reasons, you can get a good night’s sleep before heading to the club. Needless to say, Derwin is almost ecstatic when he finds out that all three of the shows on this tour have early stage times of 8:30pm, tonight’s being at Metro Club – a boiler room in a subway station that’s got a good feeling about it. Again the room jumps and vibrates. Again ‘You’ gets the cheer it always will, but again the reception for new track ‘Time Eater’ – ‘Good Luck…’’s and Gold Panda’s most outwardly Japanese-sound track, all spidery ’80s
goth plucking and skittish drums – beats it. For an artist who adamantly doesn’t do encores, Derwin’s hand is forced tonight when he’s trapped between the small stage and exit with the realisation that people aren’t going to leave. It’s an awkward, British, Derwin 5 minutes as we all wait for Gold Panda’s equipment to reboot for ‘You Pt. 2’. When he jokes that someone could buy him a gin and tonic while we wait, a number of people fall over themselves to be the first to the bar. Surely he can’t really think that people in Japan don’t really like his music. “I do genuinely think that,” he says. “Maybe some people like me because I like Japan. But most people don’t want Japan again. They want the Rolling Stones or Orbital or Oasis. “When I was first here western music was huge, and now it’s kind of gone. Now it’s all J-pop and J-rock and
J-rap. They’ve got their own stuff that’s come through and it’s outselling the western music. We really think we’re the best, but we forget that you can go to another country and they’ll be like, ‘well, we’ve got all of our own pop music and charts. Why would we want your band?’ So except for the usual suspects, like Red Hot Chili Peppers, it’s pretty tough to come here and do a show. In Tokyo the capacity is 500 people, perhaps, and, like, Kode9 would fill that easily, three times over in the UK, but here it would be tough.” The Kyoto show is followed by more signings, selfies and catching up with a few friends who’ve come to see Derwin from years back. It’s not late, but in the taxi afterwards he says that he’d normally be the first away from the venue, were this Italy or anywhere other than Japan. “I’d probably be in bed with a cup of tea by now,” he says. But this is Japan, and it’s Derwin’s
A b o v e: C o r r e ct ! p ap ier mach e s w eet p o tat o es in a s ev en el ev en , k y o t o . L ef t : T o k y o ’ s cat cafe h as b et t er cat s t han o urs.
friend Miho’s birthday, so in less than an hour, it’s corn dog hip-hop. Tokyo It’s in Tokyo where sushi is completely ruined for me, on account of how good and different it tastes compared to what they’re serving in M&S. Of course pizza tastes better in Rome and tapas in Barcelona beats tapas in Basildon, but the difference between the sushi in the nothing-special-butspecial-to-us restaurant we’re sat in and anything I’ve ever had before is staggering. After four days of watching Derwin speak and read Japanese it’s still an impressive sight. He orders “a bunch of usual stuff” (salmon, tuna) and “a load of different things that we can just try” (deep fried oysters, eel, salmon caviar, flounder and sea urchin). Derwin has of course tried all of these before, and it’s a mark of his selflessness that he includes dishes that he already knows he dislikes. Everything tastes soft and fresh and incredible, apart from the sea urchin, which Derwin correctly describes as tasting like “a geography teacher’s breath.” We have almost as much fun shopping in a department store called Tokyu Hands (Derwin buys gardening gloves and a blanket, I’m happy with some stickers for recycling bins (better than they sound), and Dan plumps for a small flatbed truck with a velociraptor on the back of it), and in a toyshop with a name that’s suspicious to us cynical westerners – Kiddyland. Over breakfast on the day of Gold Panda’s Tokyo show (the biggest of the three at a raked, brutalist venue called WWW), Derwin tells me: “Japan has a nostalgia attached to it, but the thing is that after being here so much I’ve really become more interested in seeing England, to the point where the next thing that I’d like to do is travel around the UK. Because they’re quite similar,” he insists. “Despite us thinking that England isn’t very good, if you ask my friend Ryo what he thinks about it, he loves it, because it’s complete freedom. Here everything works very well and everyone gets to work on time; England is a little bit more free and rough – less serious. “The only people that bump into you here are other tourists. The Japanese people generally don’t bump into each other. “I’ve not travelled much around the UK, but the more I see of it the more I see the similarities between a little shop in Chiba that sells all this junk and places like that are everywhere in the UK. Charity shops in little towns filled with tat. People just selling fish and chips in a chippy is just like coming here and finding a place that only sells Kushi Age [deep fried cheeses, vegetables and meats on wooden sticks]. They’re the same things.
l ef t : d er w i n r ec o n n ect in g w i t h o n e o f h i s f i rst j a p a n es e l o v es i n osa ka .
“I used to think it was so different, but now I see the similarities. Like, everyone’s a little bit racist, and foreigners just get in the way. We stand around on the bullet train taking up space and not getting into our seats quick enough, being really inefficient.” The first thing I did when I landed in Japan, as embarrassing and Hollywood as it is to admit, was listen to ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’. I suppose I wanted to see if an album that is so inspired by one place would feel any different – any more heightened – when listened to there. I’m none the wiser, no doubt because I did this in a fucking airport on half an hour of crumpled British Airways sleep, completely unaware of what day of the week it was. I know that it sounded it good, but the trademark warm crackle of Gold Panda always does. Derwin points out that it would be impossible for me to make a call on that anyway – the story of ‘Good Luck…’ (how the title came from a taxi driver’s parting gesture in Hiroshima, and all the rest) is in me and that’s that. Most albums, he says, are sold with a story, from the artwork to the track titles, certainly to the lyrics. “I don’t think my music sounds particularly Japanese,” he says, “but it’s got the repetition that I feel like Japan has visually. It’s got the feeling I want
to capture about Japan, but I don’t want my music just to be about Japan. It’s just a place I like to escape to. That’s when I feel like I’m ready to create more music.” He says he’s inspired by the way Japan looks, rather than how it sounds. “But it’s weird being a musician here because is it some appropriation that I’m doing, or am I saying to Japanese people, or to myself, ‘this is really good, you probably wouldn’t notice this anomaly if you lived here, because it’s just a machine that sells tobacco, but it’s actually really cool’? It’s mainly older stuff that I like. The ticket machines.” Indeed, the technology that we’ve admired the most on this trip hasn’t been the AI robots in the perfume stores and toilet seats that play ‘privacy music’ when you sit on them, but the ramen restaurants with the serving trays that whiz to your table on magnets and the underground ticket machines that date back to at least the 1970s. This technology appears to have been so far ahead of its time, and so well made, that it’s never needed to be updated, and Japan has therefore retained its character and retrofuturistic allure. It might explain why a MacBook is distinctively missing from Gold Panda’s live show, and why Derwin chooses to rebuild his tracks with two identical, old fashioned
MPCs that he is dexterous at driving. “I’m happy to go home tomorrow,” he says. “I love it here, and I’d like to stay again for 6 months or something, but living here is not for me. I’ve done it and in England and London, despite Brexit and the atmosphere that’s portrayed by the media, it’s pretty free and accepting, compared to Essex when we were growing up. In London you can wear what you like and people don’t give a fuck. Here you stick out and you’re very aware of it.You feel like you’re towering above people. I don’t know about you but I feel clumsy in Japan.” I’m not surprised to hear that Derwin will be happy to fly back to London after tonight’s show. For all the talk of foreign influence and exotic inspiration, home has always been central to Gold Panda and his music. His first and third albums were, after all, recorded at his family home in Essex; ‘Lucky Shiner’ was named in honour of his grandmother; even ‘Half Of Where You Live’, although recorded in Berlin, came with themes of place and belonging, from its title down. “Going away, getting inspired, not making music for ages and then getting really ready to go home and make lots of music – that’s how I do it,” he says. This has been the lasting appeal of Gold Panda, and Derwin’s humbleness is audible on his particular brand of dance/non-dance music and vintage samples. As Loud And Quiet writer Reef Younis wrote of ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’ this year, “Few capture contented loneliness quite like Gold Panda.” I read that back to Derwin as we sit in a street in Shibuya. He nods approvingly. “I strive for loneliness,” he then laughs. “I think there’re a lot of positive things about loneliness. It’s always seen as a real negative – some people are happy to be alone and do their own thing. People think that happiness will suddenly be bestowed upon you by meeting a partner and starting a family, but that’s a real lie.” While we’ve been knocking around Japan, buying a load of crap for friends back home who won’t fully appreciate the wonder of miniature coloured wheelbarrows and hardhats, once or twice Derwin has pondered what he might do next, and if it includes Gold Panda, or perhaps even music at all. On our first night in Osaka he said, “I’ve been thinking about getting a job.” When I asked, oh yeah? Doing what? He dryly replied: “I don’t know, it’s probably just a pipe dream.” On the subway we discussed his idea of putting Gold Panda up for sale. Name, music, royalties, web presence – the whole lot. The concept being that if an aspiring Deadmau5 can supply
their own Gold Panda suit, they could probably turn the whole project into a faceless, dumb EDM project and tour the world to make hundreds of millions at Spring Break. I’ve heard more ridiculous plans, and it’s really no more nutty than buying a bar or a house in Japan, which Derwin also mentions in Kyoto. These ponderings all point to a musician considering his next move. Originally he wasn’t sure whether to release ‘Good Luck…’ as Gold Panda or under a different name, although he says now that he’s glad he chose the former. “I’m happy that I’ve done these three albums and I feel like I’ve seen through what I started with ‘Lucky Shiner’,” he says. “This record definitely feels like the closure of that period, and it might be the closure of Gold Panda – I’m not sure. “I’m definitely going to park Gold Panda, palette wise,” he adds. “You know, 11-track albums with an arc, that’s over. But I’m still working out if anything I do is Gold Panda, or if it’s this certain sound. I’ve worked hard at this for so many years, should I just continue the name and do whatever I want, and be prepared that some people won’t like and others will like it more? Because when I started Gold Panda, I chose the name because it sounded like the music I make – it was warm and fuzzy. Pink Worm [another name he considered] would be an industrial group. It was a bad thing to do, because now the music has to fit the name, for me. But I feel free from the pressure now,” he says. “I feel like I should just believe in myself a bit more. “The new album gives people a complete package of this music.There’s no reason for me to make another album in this style. If you want to hear music that sounds like old Gold Panda, just listen to these three albums and the 20-track compilation – there’s plenty of music there.” The show at WWW sees all of Derwin’s friends turn out, including Mayuri, Ryo and Miho. It’s the biggest and best show of the short run, and punishingly loud. Afterwards, a few of us go to a dive bar called The Legless Arms. As we enter, Derwin’s friends clap and cheer. The owner leans over the counter top to embrace him before putting on ‘Good Luck And Do Your Best’ and goading Derwin to sign the wall with a thick marker pen. It’s a rare moment when Derwin allows himself to quietly acknowledge his musical talent. “I’m finally coming to accept that I have some tiny bit of musical ability,” he says. “A molecule. A Ricicle, really.”
The Beat Goes On DIY hero Calvin Johnson is still out there, singing in community centres without the aid of a microphone Photography: gabriel green / writer: dominic haley
It’s hard to imagine what modern music would look like without Calvin Johnson. Like Bowie, he really does boast a back catalogue that is chock full of seminal, genre-defining work. His first band, The Beat Happening, shaped the future of indie rock; their stripped-back egalitarian sound paving the way for the whole twee rock movement. His follow up, the Go Team, brought together some of the key movers of ’90s rock, with drummer Tobi Vai and guitarist Billy Karren eventually going on to form Bikini Kill while a young Kurt Cobain filled in on guitar. Even his dress sense has caused lasting waves, his ripped jeans and baggy sweaters becoming the unofficial uniform of grunge. But it’s the label Johnson founded that has been his most important and lasting contribution to the indie music scene. Since opening its doors in 1982, K Records has built a soaring reputation as an important jump off point for many of the most influential artists working in offbeat pop, indie rock and DIY scenes, giving the likes of Beck, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill their starts. Elevating cassette releases to a near art form, K has also been an important incubator for riot grrrl and the second wave punk. Yet despite all his achievements, most people would recognise the name Calvin Johnson as the best wide receiver the Detroit Lions currently have, but then, that’s always been Johnson’s style. If Bowie flamboyantly led from the front, then Johnson has acted more like some one-man illuminati, subtly directing and shaping things from behind the scenes. Over the years he’s dabbled in many sounds, from heart crushing acoustic pop, through rockabilly and alternative rock to the oddball funk of the Dub Narcotic Sound System. Through all this, his trademark, downbeat baritone delivery has remained unchanged. It’s as if he’s a character superimposed onto a show reel – Johnson remains the same; the music changes around him. For his latest record, he has returned to his Selector Dub Narcotic moniker, the name he’s been using for his DJ sets since the mid-90s. An evolution of the disco, trip hop, dub hybrid he perfected with Dub Narcotic Sound System, his new album, ‘This
Party is Just Getting Started’, adds more strings to his bow. Songs like ‘Hotter than Hott’ and ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ might add jazz and even samba-like elements, but mostly it is a record that sees Johnson layering a lush, pop sheen to stripped down, no wave bass lines and tightly wound funk rhythms. It’s a remarkably polished-sounding record by Johnson standards. Eschewing a live band for a world of samples and electronic beats, it’s a record that moves into almost pop-like spaces and is an ambitious leap from the normal frugal sounds you’d find on his recent Hive Dwellers output. Selfreleased at a time when K records is struggling with well-publicised financial issue, it’s telling that Johnson remains committed to pushing the envelope while simultaneously releasing joyous, weirdo party anthems.
“I don’t like playing pubs”
First of all, I want every show that I do to be an all-ages show. That usually precludes playing in pubs. The whole atmosphere of bars or pubs are such a killer of a vibe anyway. They’re mostly dreary places and a bummer to play The last couple of times I’ve been in the United Kingdom I’ve been lucky enough to mainly play church halls. I’ve done a couple of shows with Upset the Rhythm in some amazing churches in London. It’s such a fun vibe to play in those kinds of spaces – I mean, they are built for the human voice. I’ve tried to make sure I play cool places on this tour. Last weekend I played this crazy fun show in Plymouth. It was at this place called Union Corner, which is sort of like a community centre. It looked pretty new, as if a couple of people got together and said, ‘there should be a community centre around here’, so they made one in an old storefront and said to themselves, ‘hey, let’s do some events’. I’m used to the community centre shows: all sort of things can happen. Most of the time the people who run them just give you the key and say don’t use the piano, but these guys; not only were they there, but they were dancing and having fun.
Shows like these are the epitome of what I want to be doing. Just people having a good time and coming together in a joyous way. “What I’m looking for is people to go with a feeling”
If that feeling tells them to move, great. If we get a physical reaction, that’s even better. I just want people to go with a feeling and let it take them over. “I haven’t used a microphone for ten years”
I’ve been on tour with The Hive Dwellers and we don’t use microphones and when I play solo I don’t use one. When you play without a PA, people are completely taken aback for the first minute and a half of most shows, but once you’ve made it through the first song they don’t even notice anymore; they’re just so into it. Using a microphone, you don’t get that – from the first beat people are switched on and paying attention. When I play with The Hive Dwellers we get such a wide variety of different reactions. Sometimes, people are like ‘cool’ and start dancing, but others are a bit taken aback. They’d stand there going ‘but, it’s not loud enough to dance?’ The thing is, amplified music is quite a new phenomenon. Cajun and zydeco singers in the 1930s and ‘40s didn’t have PAs to fall back on. Most of the time, they were just three people in a room and the whole room was dancing. They were just playing music with a rhythm and they didn’t need a drummer to get people moving. I feel the same – when I used to play solo with just an acoustic guitar and people danced, those were like the best shows. When people feel comfortable enough to respond physically - that’s the best feeling. “I’m all about appropriate technology”
On Selector Dub Narcotic I collaborated with a producer called Smoke M2D6. Originally I had the idea that we’d do
shows together – he would the do the beats and I’d sing and play melodica. We did a few shows like that, but he’s such an in demand producer that pretty soon he was like, ‘I don’t really have time to do this, but you can do it; here, I’ll show you.’ To start off with I was trying to jury rig it my own way. I’d get a cassette player or a Walkman and I’d just sing along to that, but that didn’t really work. Eventually Smoke was like, ‘just do it the way everyone else does it’, so reluctantly I went out and got this controller thing, with a laptop and a little keyboard. All the problems I was having were solved straight away. I instantly thought, ah, maybe there’s a reason why people do it this way. “I’ve had to adapt to using a backing track”
With a band you have to be able to communicate on a telepathic level.They can be like, ‘we want to play that part again’ and I can be like, ‘OK, I can sing this thing over it’, so you can change a song on the spot without even having to talk about it. I can’t do that with this, but what I can do instead is alter the phrasing, change the words or change the order. You find that there are other ways to express a feeling other than just changing the music around. “Music and passion should really go together”
I first started working with Smoke after he did an album on K called ‘All Your Friend’s Friends’, which was a compilation of North Coast hip hop artists. The concept behind the album was that Smoke produced all the beats by sampling different K artists. He’d take the drums from, say, a Mahjongg track, add them to the guitar part from a Mirah song and mix them with some Jeremy Jay to make a whole new song. He did such a good job that a lot of the time I couldn’t even recognise where he got certain songs from. He even sampled one of my songs and I didn’t recognise it; he actually had to point it out to me. Anyway, he was doing this album and I was like, ‘wow that’s cool –could
tell me about it
I be on it?” Together, we worked on a song called ‘All for the sake of Rhymin’’ but we couldn’t quite make it work. The deadline came and went and it still didn’t really work. After the album came out I really wanted to finish the song, so I offered Smoke his regular day rate to come in and finish it. He was like, ‘no man, you don’t have to pay me – let’s just finish it.’ So we eventually got it finished and he was like what else you got? From there, we just started collaborating. Pretty soon it was like, ‘I guess we’re just making an album.’ “Every song on ‘This Party is Just Getting Started’ was its own thing”
We just worked on it song by song. It was a collaborative process. We’d get all these different K people to come in and
play. Chris Sutton, for example, who has been in several K bands, would come in and we’d say that we need a bassline that kind of goes like this. He’d take that and usually come up with his own thing, which most of the time was actually better than what we wanted. This is probably how session musicians work everywhere – they never actually play what they are told, to the benefit of everyone. “Disappointingly, we didn’t get everything that we wanted finished”
I had this one song called ‘St George’s Cross’, which I’d started writing with the Vaselines when the Beat Happening was on tour with them in the 1980s. While I was working with Smoke, the Vaselines happened to be touring through the Northwest. I thought,
we’ve got to get this song done so they can play on it’, so we rushed and recorded it three days before calling them up and asking them to sing on it. They were like, ‘no, we can’t – we’re tired, touring is hard.’ Just before the album came out I was on tour in Scotland and met up with them again. I really wanted them to be on the album and finish up this song, but they were like, ‘you don’t need us; it’s great just the way it is.’ I mean, yeah, but it would be better if the Vaselines were on it, so I still haven’t gotten it done, but we’re in negotiations. I guess it’ll be on the next record. “All I can make is Calvin Music”
With this album I feel like a lot of people have been like, ‘what? Is this a hip hop album?’ It’s not a hip hop
album. I might be working with Smoke but I don’t know how to do hip hop, or reggae or folk, I only know how to do my own thing. I’m not really into one type of music over another. For example, I recently cut a single with a band on Arkham records called Hartle Road, who are just one of the best bands I’ve seen. It’s got a garage rock/rockabilly kind of vibe. I think it’s really fun. Hopefully I’m going to be doing a bit more with them in that sort of vein. At the end of the day all I know how to do is Calvin music. Whatever I do is Calvin music, that’s all there is. I’m not pretending to be this or that - I’m just being me.
utside the Bataclan on a brisk and wet October morning there is little about the building that indicates what took place here almost a year ago. Currently closed and under refurbishment, the building is wrapped in metal sheets that are scribbled in messy graffiti. People walk past, joggers jog, cars drive by, scooters whizz past, a homeless man with a thick white beard flashed with nicotine yellow plunders the bins for salvageable foods and the washing machines in the neighbouring laundrette spin and continue their cycles. Life moves on. Like any public tragedy, often the only thing to identify an atrocity has taken place is the limp and scattered flowers that remain. The Bataclan is no different and where a mountain of flowers, candles and message of love and grief once lay in a kaleidoscope of colours, now are just three small bunches: a dulling handful of white roses next to a dying bunch of red ones and a rotten and drooping pair that bend over in half, saturated from the previous evening’s heavy rainfall. A laminated French poem with Clip Art flowers clings to a nearby lamppost but beyond that there is little indication of the attack in November of 2015. Two people stop in front of me for a moment and stare, soaking it in in quiet reflection as though they are paying tribute at a graveside. They soon pull out laminate wallets stuffed with map print outs and it becomes clear they are essentially sightseers, turning the place into a grim tourist attraction for a fractured world. I realise I am fundamentally doing the same and I leave. To say great art stems from trauma or prolonged hard times – be them fiscal or social – is often as true as it is a cushioned cliché to press your face into in the hope that it wasn’t all for nothing. France is certainly not alone in its turmoil surrounding national identity and a creeping rise in racial and religious bigotry (even a cursory glance at the tabloid headlines in the UK is enough to realise we’re living in troublingly pernicious times) but the
city of Paris currently seems to be bustling with activity, in which the nightlife and the music it produces are being reclaimed as an inclusive, expansive and unifying creation – sonic bridges that connect cultures, countries and religions. This hasn’t been taking place in the wake of – or as a reaction to – last year’s terrorist attacks, necessarily, it’s been going on for years, but its impact feels stronger and more defiant in the fallout. Three artists from the city, all who represent a globetrotting exploration in one way or another, have all recently released new material. La Femme, the pop-rock-psych-surfnew wave outfit who recently released their second album ‘Mystere’; electronic duo Acid Arab (who sound exactly as the name suggests) just put out their debut album, ‘Musique de
France’, and the suave disco outfit Bon Voyage Organisation’s ‘Geographie’ EP is newly released also. Each in their own very distinct ways – and in positions that weave between the deep underground and the mainstream of Paris music – embody a multi-cultural musical examination and expression of the city they live in. La Femme have their ears and minds open to sounds and genres from anywhere in the world; Acid Arab are intent on exploring and giving a platform to various types of Eastern music (with various contributors from all over the world) through the channel and template of western electronic music and BVO’s Adrien Durand is as fascinated with exploring African and Chinese music as he is cosmic disco. Some people may suggest that people taking on the sounds of North Africa
“ c i t i zen s o f t h e w o r l d ” La F emm e a t t h e A c c o r A r en a
and the likes to be a form of cultural appropriation but the point being made here is that this is part of French culture. It’s ingrained within it. The two are entwined. If national identity is something that feels like its being tightened into a one-dimensional categorisation then these are groups that personify the loosening and expanding of it. “We are citizens of the world,” La Femme’s Marlon Magnée tells me backstage at the Accor Arena where the group are supporting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers for their sins. It’s a statement that combats the UK Prime Minister’s recent comments at the Conservative Party Conference in which she declared, rather terrifyingly, “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” For many of these groups, though, this is not a case of being political, it’s just a natural part of their ethos, a common sense approach of being better off together, of sharing the party and moving forward together in unison. The commonality the groups all share primarily though is their home city of Paris, a city that has seen enormous changes but is currently undergoing a boom in its music scene, be it through bands such as La Femme – rising from playing basement venues to arenas in a space of six years – to the pioneering club culture in places like Concrete to the illegal squat and warehouse parties that are sending people flocking to the suburbs for the best and wildest nights out.
a Femme are a group that embody a contrast – the sleazy grit and grub, as well and the glamour and the gleam – and it’s a duality the band love to operate in both sonically and aesthetically. A great deal of this has come from the sense of liberation they feel in the city after Magnée grew up in the small surfing town of Biarritz. “I moved here when I was 15 and there was this huge culture of music and movement,” she tells me. “In Biarritz
Welcome to Paris One year after the horror of the attacks on the Bataclan theatre and Stade de France, Daniel Dylan Wray travels to Paris to meet three groups that symbolise the city’s continual multiculturalism and acceptance, despite what the far right want you to believe Photogra phy: Michela C uccagna / writer: Daniel d ylan wray
it’s like a little town, everyone likes the same stuff and if you are dressed too much weird you are called a weirdo or a fag but in Paris you can be whatever. If you want to be punk you can be punk, if you want to be Rasta you can be Rasta – there’s all these different cultures.” The result of this approach is a sound that on stage feels so much more varied and alive than the band they are supporting, an allencompassing broadness and vitality to the stagnant and antiquated churn of the Chilli’s. Adrien Durand of BVO, who began making music as Les Aeroplanes around 7 years ago, tells a story of an ever-changing neighbourhood as we sit in his newly refurbished studio filled with glorious and pristine analogue equipment. “When I was a lot younger and I would come home at 2am and I was really quite afraid of walking home to Republique, which is now crazy because there is nothing to fear. Although the nearby metro stop Oberkampf in the ’80s and ’90s really was the place for heroin and crack dealers, and there used to be crack heads walking down the streets.” Durand has no issue with gentrification in that sense and feels the neighbourhood has benefited from a cleaning up. “What is bothering me is the uniformisation of everything,” he says. “All the shops that open are the same and they don’t specialise in anything. It’s just like, ‘have brunch,
w h en a c i d a r a b mo v ed t o t h e 1 0 t h a r r o n d i s s emen t o f pa ris, i t wa s a l l t u r k i s h , i n d i a n a n d a f r i c a n c a s s et t e sho p s
have records, have bikes.’ I’m not into this. It lacks a dynamic and it’s true that it used to be more edgy and that might be bad for curiosity.” As we move onto a local bar, over white wine he tells me that he only sleeps three or four hours a night and is a staunch workaholic. Like La Femme he currently finds himself an artist in the midst of a crossover stage in his career, his early work being released on Hieroglyphic Being’s hip Mathematics Recordings and now he has recently quit his job, signed with Columbia and aside from working on BVO releases, is also an in-demand producer that will soon be working with an act that have already gone platinum in the country. When trying to crowbar open an insight into the world of the Parisian underground, Durand finds that it’s not quite as binary as underground and mainstream in his world. “The lines are blurred these days,” he says. “It’s very difficult. I mean, would you say the last Solange record is a mainstream record or an underground record?” He also feels it’s tough for French bands to break beyond their home country before conquering it first. “It’s tough for bands to break through straight away, I don’t know any acts that became internationally famous before becoming famous in France – we’re not as open to the world as we appear to be.”
The conversation inevitably turns to how the music community has been impacted by the events of 2015. “We all lost people that we knew because it’s a small world, so everybody knew somebody that knew somebody. “We played the Bataclan opening for FFS a few months prior to the attacks so it was very strange. For me – and I used work in an organisation that was international and dealing with crises abroad – my view of things is that what is happening here now, it’s ten times worse over there, you know? And nobody gives a shit about people living in Beirut that have been living in fear for thirty or forty years. It’s like [a mind-set of] when it happens to my neighbour I don’t give a shit but when it happens to me, I care.That time it felt so close to them they had to react. I had a radio show the next day and I just played Arabic music for it.”
ia propulsive disco and shimmering pop on ‘S.S.D’ – taken from their recent LP – La Femme recall (in French, always in French) the tale of a crazy night out in the area around the city’s metro stop of Strasbourg, Saint Denis, a notorious party district, and it’s near here in the 10th arrondissement that Acid Arab are located in a homely and inviting studio that is wall-to-wall
synthesisers crammed in a room. A framed Throbbing Gristle poster hangs on the wall and there’s not a guitar in sight. Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, the core duo of Acid Arab (although Pierrot Casanova and Nicolas Borne are both members and are also present in the studio) sit down and talk about the ongoing changes of the city, culturally and musically, as well as to their neighbourhood. “I’ve been here 20 years and the neighbourhood has changed a lot,” Minisky says. “It’s taken a gentrified step now but it still has a real mix of community and culture here – you have Indian people, Kurdish, North African, Chinese and Turkish.” It was the music of the Turkish and Indian communities that was an early musical awakening for Minisky when arriving in the city. “One of the first things I discovered when I moved to this neighbourhood was the Turkish cassette shops,” he says. “I was not at all into this music at the time – it was a bit of a shock. Then we discovered Indian Bollywood CD shops, the North African CD and cassette shops that were all around this neighbourhood. Now there is only one music shop still open and there were around 15 near my apartment.” Minisky met Carvalho around 9 years ago in the city’s party scene and soon began hosting parties themselves under the guise of Acid Arab, with the intention to host an event that celebrated the best in western electronic music
and acid house, alongside flavours of the Eastern music they were becoming slowly infatuated with. “The first party of these that we did was a squat party,” Carvalho recalls. “I have a friend who is still doing squat stuff here in Paris and was living in a squat in this area and I was working in a bar nearby and we organised a party together in the squat once. At this time there wasn’t too many illegal or squat parties in Paris, it was a bad moment for the night in Paris at that time. It went well and we thought about doing it again and so this illegal party ended up coming to this club, Chez Moune. In this club we had a lot of freedom, so...” “It was wild,” Minisky interjects. “It was really wild,” says Carvalho. How wild? “You could do almost anything in there,” Minisky says with a slight glint in his eye and he puffs on a cigarette. “It was a very small club and there was this huge line outside every month. It was crazy and everybody was allowed to do whatever they wanted, including smoking and fucking in the toilets and whatever. The beer was very cheap; it was the cheapest beer in the history of beer in clubs in Paris. The music was wild as well.” There were four DJs, each with a distinct personality as Carvalho recalls. “One was pop, one was coldwave, minimal synths stuff, Guido more disco and I was more house and acid house stuff, and so between the four of us it created something really special at this party.” A liberating experience having such freedom in a club, one must presume? “Oh yeah. Too much even,” Minisky laughs. “A DJ once pissed whilst playing and I thought that night, ‘maybe that’s too much.’” Whilst that club has now been taken over and sanitised, there is a mirror to be held up to the Paris of today, which is brimming with underground parties and illegal raves as Carvalho tells me. “There is an amazing place called Champs Libres that is a bit like a squat and it’s worse than the backroom of Berghain,” he says. “There are a lot of places like this in Paris now – the club nightlife is really exciting now.” For years the duo held parties and they would work on remixes as Acid Arab, released first on EPs and finally
t h e c o s mi c d i s c o o f B o n V o y a g e O rg a n isa t io n is a s in sp ired b y c h i n es e a n d a f r i c a n mu s i c a s it is a n yt hin g el se
reissued collectively as ‘Collections’ in 2013. It featured remixes of everyone from Omar Souleyman to Etienne Jaumet.
t sounds like a hedonistic and cultural awakening is taking place deep into the city’s night but what is every day life like in Paris after last year’s attacks? I ask Acid Arab is there a palpable tension in the air? Both go quiet for a moment and Minisky rather cagily answers. “We don’t even think about that, we’re not at all into politics or religious questions or whatever. This is only about music and culture.” But as citizens of Paris, I say, they must feel the impact. “A lot of racism has emerged during the last year, but it’s not only the terrorist attacks, it’s the politics. Nicholas Sarkozy’s administration, they gave the feeling to a lot of people that they were right about fearing immigration.” “They put the problem of national identity to the forefront,” says Carvalho. Minisky: “They created a national identity ministry [The Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Codevelopment of France – 2007], which thank god is now shut down but it existed” Carvalho: “I mean, what is the national identity of a country with all this immigration? The name of our album is a response to this kind of bullshit. What we are doing is not about exoticism, or a trip or a journey, it’s about the French culture, what’s in front of us.”
Minisky: Some people may ask us, ‘have you been to North Africa to hear the music from there?’ and I say, ‘We don’t have to, we have it here.’ North African’s have built this country, whether you like it or not it’s like that. It’s very easy for some people to say today, ‘We have a nice country with freeway’s and buildings and stuff so can you please go the fuck back to your place,’ and no, it’s not like that.” Carvahlo: “Some of these people have been here for three or four generations, they are born and raised here and their culture is part of this country as well. It must be awful for someone whose father has been born in France and they are born in France and they grow up in France and then when you go somewhere they ask you were you are from. It’s like asking an African American each time you see them, ‘which country are you from?’ You know, they are more French than you maybe.” I ask how do they feel about the future. Are they hopeful that racial tensions will subside? “It’s really touchy,” Carvahlo says. “I think things are going to get worse than now, for sure, but to which point things will go, I don’t know. It’s going to be worse; we are just in the beginning of something really violent.” Whilst it’s clear that Acid Arab are a group that promote a multi-cultural Paris and all the forces the music can bring as a result, how much of this collision, I wonder, takes place in the city? I mean, are their gigs and parties as racially integrated as their music? “Certainly not,” Minisky says, rather sadly. “Maybe after one year of
us playing as Acid Arab we had this opportunity to have a party at the Arabic Institute in Paris and for this party there were pre-sale tickets and before that we had party’s in clubs where people showed up and they got in or not, and so that night we had a lot of Arabic people there. It’s not a good term to use but people with Arabic roots, I mean, and we really had a lot there, like 50% of the people and a lot of people came up and said, ‘Ah, great we finally get to see you.’ We were like, ‘We’ve played this place and this place,’ and they said, ‘We cannot go to these places, when we arrive at the door they say, ‘no, not you.’” The group are keen to now do more pre-sale ticket shows to expand the diversity of their audience, which in the wake of their debut album has no doubt expanded further through their widespread variety of guests, such as the Syrian dabke player Rizan Said, the Algerian singer Rachid Taha, the Turkish composer Cem Yildiz (also a member of Insanlar) and various other musicians. The resulting collaborations on the debut lead to an album that hums with the vibrancy and diversity of the city streets you walk around near their studio and sparks with the life and energy of the nightlife they are so deeply immersed in. For Acid Arab, and everyone else I speak to whilst here, the sound and identity of France and Paris is not captured and projected in the rising rhetoric of the likes of the National Front but in the multicultural heart of the place that beats louder and funkier than the drum of hate and intolerance.
Reviews / Albums
Virginia Wing Forward Constant Motion Fire By dan i el Dy l an wra y. I n sto re s No v 11
For a band used to operating in such slow, smoky and dreamy sonic textures, Virginia Wing are currently accelerating at techno pace. Since their 2013 debut EP they have metamorphosed from a Broadcastindebted dream pop band to a sprawling, unpredictable and deeply exploratory electronic two-piece, trading London as a base for Manchester in the process. A fast paced musical evolution combined with the stripping down of members is a potential recipe for scattered incoherence but the depths and textures that they are now exploring means any sense of the restless-and-wild feels woven into their stylistic leanings and natural progression rather than it representing any flaw or failure. Reduced to the pair of Alice Merida Richards and Samuel Pillay, Virginia Wing are a group that are currently
bubbling with fresh ideas, and their second album is overflowing with triumphs – not dissimilar, on those counts, to the streamlined, always progressive Factory Floor. ‘Forward Constant Motion’ – an almost painfully accurate, to the point of irony, title – sees the group explore glitch, pop, ambient and a plethora of production techniques that feel extracted from as wide and far as contemporary R&B to Aphex Twin to Jim O’Rourke. It means the album’s palette is staggeringly vast and it’s a persistently challenging record. Crucially, it is also a consistent and profoundly beautiful one too. It’s a beauty that wrestles against the backdrop of anxiety, however, be it the itchy, sputtering and occasionally pummeling electronics, which sound like lost Oval tracks being given a FKA Twigs makeover,
or the lyrics that capture a sense of alienation and disparate eerie desolation. ‘Miserable World’ bounces with an oriental skip and jumping slabs of electronics as the equally sweet and deadpan vocals – often sounding like Nico attempting to do a house vocal – of Merida Richards declare, “You’ve got to keep your head in this miserable world / Your time is too scarce to stay in one place.” It oozes an aura and frightening tangibility that could have been heard floating perfectly around the grey slabs of brutalism captured and presented in Ben Wheatley’s recent JG Ballard adaptation of High Rise. Perhaps on a more literal level, it also explains why the duo has left the capital for Manchester. There is a sense of the disaffected and fractured in the output ofVirginia Wing generally, and their music
floats in broken and cut-up chunks around the edges of the popular, joyous pristine pop music that rushes through the record in brief moments like bursts of sunlight through a torn curtain. It then disappears once more under a wave of eclectic explorations. Over the ‘Forward Constant Motion’’s fourteen tracks it becomes impossible to isolate and identify just what Virginia Wing are doing with this record. It evades genre labeling and stylistic familiarity with skipping ease. It’s the party, (see the crashing fury of ‘Local Loop’) the quarantined comedown (the metallic paranoia of ‘Baton’), the deconstruction of all of the states in between melded into an exquisite mutant beast. Virginia Wing have explored more musically in the last three years than many manage in a decade.
Thee Oh Sees An Odd Entrances C as t l e f a ce By Al ex Wi s gar d. In sto re s No v 25
In the five years since Thee Oh Sees last dropped two studio albums in such quick succession, John Dwyer’s motley band of garage rockers has become even more chaotic than usual. Their most stable line-up dissolved in 2013, as Dwyer left his native San Francisco for the cheaper climes of Los Angeles, though their work rate refused to let up. Come 2016, a year in which you can charitably say nothing can be relied on, Thee Oh Sees have hit a new stride. L.A. living may have mellowed the 42-year-old frontman’s outlook, but it didn’t subdued his output. Now firmly re-established in San Francisco (“I like techies now!” he told one local paper), July’s ‘Live
In San Francisco’ saw a fearsome new line-up of Thee Oh Sees recontextualise their past, bolstered by a double-drummer approach that hasn’t been so effective since The Fall circa ‘Hex Enduction Hour’. The twelfth album to bear Thee Oh Sees name, ‘An Odd Entrances’, throws August’s ‘A Weird Exits’ into sharp relief. Recorded in the same sessions with the road-hardened latest line-up, the pair’s titles and artwork are indelibly linked. ‘Exits’ found its bliss in imagining the Stooges jamming with Can, pitting Dwyer’s thrash – seriously, I have no idea what he did to his guitar to make it sound like a broken television at the end of ‘The Axis’ – against a
three-man rhythm section. The sixsong, half-hour ‘Entrances’ takes a different approach, more welcoming and playful, but no less unusual – the dawn after the dark. Sometimes, the playfulness can be a drain; the formless, four-note meander ‘Jammed Exit’ is interminable – a fact gently winked at by its false ending, six minutes into the song. Meanwhile, closer ‘Nervous Tech (Nah John)’ is cut from similar cloth, but gives us the album’s most convincing show of Dwyer’s histrionics. Of the gems buried amongst the noodles, ‘The Poem’ could almost pass for an early Nico cut, all nimble finger picking and Mellotron, and
makes for one of the most straightforwardly beautiful things Dwyer has yet written. Likewise, ‘Unwrap the Fiend pt. 1’ seems like his stab at writing a boneheaded instrumental anthem as indelible as ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’. The cover of ‘A Weird Exits’ may have left you unsure where to look first – the mound of sludge? the beast claw? the cobwebbed plant? – but it sounded like a single-minded statement of intent. The same artist is responsible for the image gracing ‘An Odd Entrances’ (a centipede leaving a human ear), but that single arresting image ultimately belies the disappointing sprawl and confusion of its grooves.
When he was two years old, Roger Sellers spent hours watching Eric Clapton Unplugged at his home in Austin. His parents bought him a drum set when he was six, and Phil Collins quickly became his hero. They’re both surprising starting points. On the surface, his debut album under the moniker of Bayonne doesn’t appear to have much in common with either; Panda Bear and Caribou seem like bigger influences on his work than arena stars of the late 1980s and 1990s.
As its title might suggest, though, ‘Primitives’ sounds almost like Sellers releasing his inner child. It’s all in the drumming. ‘Intro,’ ‘Appeals’ and ‘Marim’ in particular are built on strong, pounding beats. Phil Collins’ style looms large over the album, but Sellers manages to create something intriguing around it. He forms deep layers of looping electronica and twinkling synths around his handcrafted beats. ‘Waves’ and ‘Steps’ even have a folktronica feel thanks to the
introduction of guitar and piano, the latter featuring a chopped sample of a child’s voice. Indeed, there’s something comfortingly innocent about ‘Primitives’. Its obsession with repeating sweet melodies as opposed to harsh synths is childlike but not at all childish. Though these incessant loops sometimes bleed into one, you’ll be too hypnotised by its charms to really care, much like the two-year-old Sellers mesmerised by one Eric Clapton.
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Bayonne Primitives C i t y s l an g By eugen i e Joh nso n. In sto re s no v 4
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
Tasseomancy Do Easy
Psch-Pshit Parfaite et Impudique
Savoy Motel Savoy Motel
CRX New Skin
Be l l a Un i on
W ha t ’ s Y o u r Ruptu re
C o l umb ia
By kati e bes wi ck. In sto res no v 25
B y gu i a c o rt as s a. In s t o re s no v 2 5
By c hri s wat ke ys . I n s t o re s n o w
B y j ames F . T h omps o n . I n s t o r e s n o w
Now that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature we can expect a spate of experimental folk music releases from young creatives who realise they don’t have to do anything as tedious as write a novel to rise to the dizzy heights of the literary elite. Tasseomancy, fronted by Canadian twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman have been around long enough to avoid accusations of bandwagon jumping.This is ethereal, dreamy folk-cum-pop music: Kate Bush meets Joni Mitchell by way of the soundtrack from Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet. In the opening track, ‘Dead Can Dance & Neil Young’, they encourage the listener to “fade into folk music”. That call frames this whimsical, trippy album quite perfectly. ‘Do Easy’ channels a ’60s folk vibe. It’s the kind of record you imagine would be greatly enhanced with a spliff full of mellow hashish and a burgeoning interest in Eastern religious practices, although the orchestral ‘Wiolyn’ and the pretty, haunting ‘Gentle Man’ might induce a psychedelic epiphany without the addition of narcotics or transcendental spirituality.
A feminist collective stripped to a duo, made of a former couple: this is a brief outline of the story of Psch Pshit’s second coming, a Lyon via Venice electronic outfit back on the scene with ‘Parfait et Impudique’ after splitting up in 2012. Their multifaceted worldbeat melds industrial, synth pop, techno and psychedelia in an obscure and charming sound: a mix of Chicks on Speed, Goat and Cocorosie. At times, their French vocals are reminiscent of Asia Argento’s ventures with Brian Jonestown Massacre, as in the opening ‘L’Ancêtre’, while English tracks like ‘Derailing’ fly straight to the darker side of New Wave and World Music, evoking some wicked rituals. ‘M’ sounds like a love dedication to the namesake Fritz Lang monster; ‘Cochonne’ and ‘Phoenix Autruche’ are hardcore nightmares that mark the end of this descent into hell. Not even being presented as “songs of love and sexual desire” washes away the eerie and spooky mood of the album – an all-round collection of the most occult sides of feelings. Perfect and shameless.
Sometimes a band arrives whose music bursts with so much energy that from the very first listen they’re completely compelling. Nashville’s Savoy Motel are one such band. Original, they’re not. Something like a blend of glam rock, garage rock and buzzy pop, their whole sound and aesthetic is lifted lock stock and barrel from the early seventies. But it’s all done so well that this thoroughly retro mindset can be forgiven. This self-titled debut fizzes with a kaleidoscopic, primarycolours energy, delivered with verve and huge confidence. They’re also possibly the first band of recent years that have been completely unafraid to throw in a huge guitar solo and, crucially, make it sound good. ‘WesternVersion Boogie’ does indeed boogie, with a bassline almost as cool as Blur’s ‘Girls And Boys’ tethering some swirling glamrock. Meanwhile the drums on ‘Mindless Blues’ are simply huge, and ‘International Language’ is a sprawling nine-minute jam. This is a superb debut, and deserves to be the soundtrack to every teenage road trip between now and next summer.
Julian Casablancas and poseur pals the Voidz failed with 2014’s ‘Tyranny’ but the record was nothing if not wildly ambitious, pinging between dozens of ideas and venturing into the kind of dark and scary places the Strokes would never tread – an exciting if ultimately unrewarding listen. Now, with his own side project debut (the final Strokes member to do so), axe-slinging bandmate Nick Valensi instead proffers a mash-up of the band he’s always been a part of and Queens of the Stone Age (Josh Homme produces here) that comes off like the sort of anaemic flotsam and jetsam you’d find dumped on the scrag-end of one of those bargain bin Father’s Day rock compilations because it was cheap to licence. There’s a dearth of everything here, be it musical inventiveness, lyrical conviction or song title ideas (‘One Track Mind’, ‘Slow Down’, ‘On Edge’, ‘Broken Bones’, etc…). Sure, Casablancas took a rightful pasting for the self-indulgence that sunk ‘Tyranny’ but at least he was experimenting. Often on ‘New Skin’, it seems like Valensi () is just killing time between Strokes records.
The title of this debut solo record from the frontman of Los Angeles psych rockers Wand hardly suggests a modest affair lacking in thematic ambition and, accordingly, you might be initially surprised by the nature of some of the album’s compositions, which are frequently a long way from showy. Where Cory Hanson’s work with his group subscribes to the same sort of tried-and-true breakneck pace that contemporaries like Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin promote, ‘The Unborn Capitalist
from Limbo’ is a sedate affair that, in its best moments, relies on little more than pretty guitar lines, shuddering strings and Hanson’s barely-there vocals – the standout ‘Violent Moon’ is a case in point. Sonically, you can hear bygoneera influences like Nick Drake and The Plastic Ono Band all over the record but, by way of a counterpoint to them, the lyrics are unyielding in their opacity, throwing up nightmarish distortions of everyday life. ‘The Garden of Delight’ perhaps
best elucidates what seems to be the central theme of the album – the banality of the outside world set against the violent nature of introspection. That track also serves as an example of the album’s biggest strength – Hanson’s formidable ability as a string arranger, with the record featuring consistently lush violin work. The message is muddled on ‘The Unborn Capitalist from Limbo’, but the medium is alluring; enough to make the diversion from Wand a worthwhile one.
0 7/ 1 0
Cory Henson The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo dra g ci t y By j oe goggi n s . In sto res no v 18
This Becomes Us This Becomes Us
Honeyblood Babes Never Die
The Wharves Electa
Bl ood an d b isc uit s
Pr es c r i p ti o n
F at c at
g r in g o
By sam wa lt on . In store s no v 18
B y davi d z ammi tt. I n s to r es no v 1 1
By k ati e b e s w i c k . In sto r e s n o v 4
B y g em m a s a m wa y s . I n s t or e s n o v 4
Strobes are a trio of virtuoso musicians with, independently, a raft of entries on Discogs. Nonetheless, ‘Brokespeak’, their first album together, retains the feeling of three individuals still learning how to become more than their parts’ sum: the performances are packed with chattery polyrhythms, jagged microsolos and effectively turbid arrangements, but the seven pieces here resemble more a series of wellexecuted circus tricks than anything more expansive. Battles’ Ian Williams famously claims he invented the term ‘math-rock’ as a diss to overly scientific, mechanised acts when he watched a friend’s band, refused to react and then took out a pocket calculator to work out the exact value of their performance. It’s a critical response one could apply to Strobes: the textures, rhythms and structures here are all admirably complex and frequently arresting, and the flashes of motorik calm, which pepper the surrounding histrionics, suggest potential for something rather hypnotically brilliant. For the moment though, it doesn’t quite add up.
You might recognise Julia Ruzicka’s name. But you will certainly recognise her bass lines. As a member of Future Of The Left and, before that, Million Dead, she has shaped the sound of her bands from the low end, injecting earworm hooks and unrelenting energy with just four strings. Now, under the guise of This Becomes Us, Ruzicka has created a fascinating debut LP of grunge, punk and post-hardcore with a host of pals, from Kristian Bell to Black Francis. And having enlisted FOTL’s Jack Egglestone on drums, you might think you’d have the sound pinned, but whilst there are moments out of that Cardiff canon (‘Undervalue Love’ deconstructs the abject emptiness of laddism and consumer culture with caustic acuity), there is much more here. Lead single, ‘Painter Man Is Coming,’ featuring that Pixies frontman himself, is a dark post-punk number that sounds like Interpol when they were still decent. ‘At The End Of Everyday’ is a superb chunk of Ty Segall-esque psych-rock, while ‘Sassessa’ takes on glam rock and throws in a wall of distortion pedals to superb effect.
Babes Never Die is a phrase that Honeyblood’s lead singer, Stina Tweeddale, is trying her hardest to spread as a kind of camp, new age mantra. She’s taking it quite seriously: the slogan is tattooed on her ribs, there’s a paragraph of her press release dedicated to it and, along with her band, she’s written a second album to spread the Babes message, which she has devised a whole non-gendered philosophy around. “Indifference is a plague,” she says, by way of explanation. “Perhaps we should stare straight into the face of what frightens us and say that we will never let them win.” (Is Tweeddale being ironic, or losing her mind?) The album itself is a series of ‘gruesome romance stories’, playful reflections on twenty-first century love. Its DIY, post-punk sound is fresh and fun, and if the tracks are a little derivative at the start (the title song channels the ’90s, with an Avril Lavigne meets Alanis Morissette sound), they improve incrementally as Tweeddale finds her voice, with the final three (‘Hey Stellar’, ‘Cruel’ and ‘Gangs’) offering a delicious climax.
On 2014’s ‘At Bay’, The Wharves delighted in defying expectations of DIY indie-pop, interpolating ’60s girl-group harmonies alongside elements of prog, psych and folk.The formula hasn’t changed much second time round. Producer Rory Attwell returns to lend a deceptively homespun veneer to the work of three adept and versatile musicians, whilst ensuring this set of songs, which switch styles with alacrity, remains cohesive. On the latter score, ‘Electa’ is every inch as playful as its predecessor, segueing between 4AD-inspired dream-pop, portentous folk, and fuzzy powerpop-meets-prog-rock, in a randomsample three-song run. Also as per ‘At Bay’, the trio’s tight harmonies are captivating. One moment their keening uh-ohs resemble SleaterKinney (‘JohnThe Stitcher’), the next they’re showcasing lilting vibratos to rival The Unthanks’ (‘Venus Of Hornchurch’). Ultimately, this refusal to be pigeonholed proves a strength and a weakness, charming the listener with variety in the shortterm, but leaving no enduring impression of The Wharves’ identity.
Archie Fairhurst’s debut album, ‘Projections’, had many reaching for giddy superlatives with his cut’n’paste homage to jazz, funk and soul, and for album number two, he’s feeling the love again. No stranger to a concept, the narrative for ‘Love Songs: Part Two’ might be less academic than the previous theme of cultural appropriation in America, but with Fairhurst deftly easing through the full range (lust, tenderness, affairs, doubt...) ‘Love Songs…’ is still rich
with the same gilded production style. From the dirty, electronic bass of ‘All Night’ to the happy-Get-Lucky house bounce of ‘Je T’aime’, the vibrant, busy rhythms that coloured ‘Projections’ have either been replaced or toned down by a looser disco energy that melts into Fairhurst’s increasingly impeccable ability to hit a groove. It’s evident on the lenient thump of ‘Come Close To Me’ as it builds through a gentle Gold Panda-esque
intro into a long-played, spasmodic head-nodder; the psychedelic bongo repetitiousness of ‘New Love’; and on the sawing Justice-inspired build-up of the funk-heavy standout track ‘Who Loves You?’. Elsewhere, Fairhurst lays the velvet touch on thick with the soul and steel drum sounds of ‘Who to Love?’, the easy flute harmonies of ‘Honey’, and the late-night curtain call of ‘My Last Affair’ to ensure ‘Love Songs: Part Two’ signs off with a cigarette and a satisfied smile.
0 7/ 1 0
Romare Love Songs: Part 2 n i n j a t un e By reef y oun is . In sto re s no v 11
Body/Head No Waves
Gabriella Cohen Full Closure & No Details
Mat a d or
Ca p ture d trac k s
Pavo Pavo Young Narrator In The Breakers
By s am wal t on . In sto re s no v 11
B y Ch r is Watk e ys . I n s to re s no w
By gui a c o rtas s a. I n s to res d ec 2
b ella u n i o n B y E u g en i e J o h n s o n . In s t o r es n o v 1 1
The follow-up to Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s debut improvised noise record, ‘Coming Apart’, is essentially a live LP, recorded shortly after the release of that album at a festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2014. ‘Coming Apart’’s experiments into long waves of tremulous feedback and gravelly distortions are extended here, although the studio’s precision is discarded in the concert hall: Gordon’s vocals become wordless moans on stage, and neat fingerpicking is lost under shimmering drones. Much is made of the host venue’s cavernous proportions via the recording’s distant reverberations, and crowd appreciation is left in, offering an enviable sense of intensity in which, one imagines, the flow between performers, audience and space must have been rather electrifying. Unfortunately, the album playback process – and subsequent decoupling of listener from band and venue – has a somewhat numbing effect: that delicious flow is stripped away here, leaving a tantalising document of a clearly visceral experience that feels, frustratingly, just out of reach.
Mexican electro pop merchants Titan have been knocking about since the early nineties, but this is their first new release since 2005. This time out the trio have drafted in an unusual and eclectic bunch of collaborators including Gary Numan, and Siobhan Fahey of eighties bubblegum pop outfit Bananarama (and, more credibly, Shakespeare’s Sister). Opener ‘Dama Fina’ is pleasant and unassuming electro pop, but ‘Tchaikovski’ is darker, dirtier and buzzes with menace, channelling retro console game music. When Numan makes his appearance on ‘Dark Rain’, things start getting really interesting; sparse, shiny and coldly melodic, it’s an industrial slice of genre-driven majesty, like Duran Duran put through a grinder. ‘El Rey Del Swing’ meanwhile recalls a more dance-driven PiL. Most of ‘Dama’’s vocals are in Spanish, which helps fend off a prosaic, slightly naff sound on the whole. Elsewhere, in between some musically thrilling moments, though, the dated air eventually blunts its sharper edges.
Gabriella Cohen is yet another top player in the folk-grunge-slackersinger-songwriter team. Hailing from Brisbane and with a past as a lead singer in a band, Cohen is now debuting as a solo artist with an album described as “the product of ten days and two microphones” and a reflection on relationships and heartbreaks. The first name to come to mind listening to ‘Full Closure and No Details’’s 10 tracks is yet again Angel Olsen (particularly her ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ era) with outstanding guitars serving as the mainstay of the album, reaching their best in the instrumental ‘Dream Song’. At times, Cohen adds touches of psychedelia to enrich her sound, too, while ‘Piano Song’ stays loyal to its title revealing a great pianodriven ballad. ‘Feelin’ Fine’ is then an interesting pop song with a vocoder filtered voice and the end of ‘This Could Be Love’ consists of a choir of mooing and meowing – literally pet sounds. There’s nothing particularly new or innovative in Gabriella Cohen’s music (except for the singing cats, perhaps) but it’s still very enjoyable.
When a wave breaks, it transforms potential energy into more turbulent, kinetic energy. It’s almost the perfect metaphor for the often tempestuous transition from childhood to adulthood, a force that Brooklyn’s Pavo Pavo aim to capture on their debut album. ‘Young Narrator In The Breakers,’ though, sounds more like the quiet blossoming of a recluse than an explosive rite of passage. Despite being bookended by the fast-paced ‘Ran Ran Run’ and propulsive ‘2020, We’ll Have Nothing To Go On,’ it’s an album that meanders along with its sepia-toned version of psych-pop. The instrumental ‘A Quiet Time With Spaceman Sputz’ creates a soundtrack to a lost ’60s sci-fi with its haunted whistling and languid, retro synths, while the slightly atonal ‘Annie Hall’ is as neurotic as Woody Allen himself. The pounding percussion of ‘No Mind,’ which is reminiscent of early Tame Impala, injects some much-needed energy, but doesn’t offset the fact that this isn’t quite the stormy portrayal of youth you might be hoping for.
Just as you already know exactly what Noel Gallagher’s new album will sound like, regardless of year or what member of The Coral it will feature, you’ve probably got a very accurate idea of ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ – another Peter Doherty rag-tag record of Knees Up Mother Brown, head-in-the-clouds vocals made up of round vowels, audibly sung with tragically innocent, massive eyes, and references to Brighton Rock (literally on ‘Kolly Kibber’) and other tomes of a dusty
Britain. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Peter’s less-than-prolific output (he sat out of writing the songs on the last Babyshambles record) means that his voice alone has become wholly nostalgic for a certain generation. The other side of that doubleedged sword has led to one track featuring twice (the pretty decent ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Anyone)’), as well as a reworking of an Amy Winehouse collaboration, ‘Flags From The Old Regime’. After
six months in a Hamburg recording studio you’d have thought that 11 original songs wouldn’t have been an unreasonable ask, while it’s impossible to tell if ‘Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven’ – written after the 2015 Paris attacks – is incredibly insensitive in tone, or the very sardonic bomb that could bring down ISIS by its second jaunty chorus. Still with glimmers of melodic genius and daft romance, I still believe in Peter Doherty, I just wish he would a little bit more, too.
Peter Doherty Hamburg Demonstrations BMg By s tuar t s tu bb s. In sto re s de c 2
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
0 5 /10
Yama Warashi Moon Egg
Richard Youngs The Rest Is Scenery
Brandt Brauer Frick Joy
S tol e n bod y
G la ss Re d ux
Sm al l to wn s up e r s o und
Be c a u se
By Ja mes F . T h om pso n. In sto res no v 11
By reef y o unis. I n s to r es N o v 8
By d avid z ammi tt. I n s to r es n o v 2 5
By a le x wisg a r d. In s t o res n ow
Yama Warashi’s lead single ‘Quagmire Moon’ is all about the moon getting pissed off with smoke from a chimney, which probably says all anybody needs to know about the Anglo-Japanese Bristolian sextet (whose Japanese moniker translates as a “small child-like spirit which lives in the mountains,” by the way). By turns liltingly folky and malevolently unhinged, debut LP ‘Moon Egg’ has its fair share of whimsy but works best when it indulges the dark side of bandleader Yoshino Shigihara, who alternates between her native language and heavily-accented English. The jaunty opening title track is pleasant enough and takes its cues from Japanese folk dance music – Bon Odori – but it’s more intense passages like the guitar wig-out on ‘Funa Uta’ and the Mahavishnu Orchestra-style coda to ‘SpringTide’ that push this record beyond novelty art project status and into the realms of fascinating listening. “Moon Egg is being kept warm and will hatch soon,” says Warashi on spoken word piece ‘Tsukino Tamago’. Do make sure to bear witness.
Richard Youngs has been many things over the last 25 years or so, but whether he’s flitting between acoustic, a cappella, folk or out-there electronics, he’s always willfully prolific. Releasing somewhere over 50 solo works – rising to 100+ with his numerous collaborations – Youngs’ back catalogue is so extensive, it’s little surprise he’s persistently tweaked his approach. On ‘The Rest is Scenery’, his rough and ready combination of stubborn acoustic and flashes of synth set the tone. Sparse but spirited, there’s a fondness for monotony but also an appreciation of space that’s pushed to minimal limits. Opener ‘Where Are You Going to Get Your Luck From’ hisses with angry static and a satisfying industrial clang, but it’s tracks like ‘Strangest Day on Earth’ and ‘Where Are You Going to Get Your Luck From’ that sketch out the album’s blueprint. Amidst the handclaps, oscillating Theremin squall, and faintly tumultuous backdrops, Youngs’ vocal flicks in and out, filling the dead air, conducting his own little orchestra with manic, repetitive vigour.
The Anglophone music press is often guilty of assuming that all music hails from Anglophone shores. Or at least is heavily influenced by music that does.The mention of prog rock will therefore elicit reminiscences (laments?) of the hazy halcyon days of King Crimson and the Canterbury scene. And yet at the same time Sweden was creating a vibrant prog scene of its own. It’s a lineage Dungen are proud to stretch into 2016 with this, their ninth LP. They’ve bravely made it their first album completely shorn of vocals and it proves to be an unbridled triumph as it burns visuals into your mind without the need for words. Recorded directly on to tape, it flicks between cosiness and claustrophobia; eerie and yet oozing with soul as the band move from sparse, spacey jazz to walls of Krautrock organs and on to out-andout psych rock riffage. It sounds like the Dungen boys found a copy of Kubrick’s brief to Alex North when he was scoring 2001 and decided to have a crack. Luckily, they’ve succeeded in a big way. File next to Goblin, NEU! and Tangerine Dream.
For an album that explores the feeling of euphoria, the fourth LP from experimental trio Brandt Brauer Frick cuts a dark, desperate figure. The monochrome face on the cover of ‘Joy’, contorted into a grimace, is as ambiguous as the music contained within. The skittering beats and subtle brass swells of ‘You Can Buy My Love’ offer a swirling start, as if beamed from a parallel universe where ‘Blackstar’ had become Bowie’s most influential album. The group have tempered their more chaotic instincts here, enlisting Canadian poet Beaver Sheppard for lead vocals on every track. His delivery veers between emotive slam poetry, as on ‘Society Saved Me’’s industrial introduction, and a James Blake-style processed purr. The fog lifts by the album’s second half, with shades of both Massive Attack and The Blue Orchids on ‘Keep Changing’, and the minimalist uplift of ‘Facetime’. Brandt Brauer Frick’s restless genre-bending approach – not quite jazz, but not exactly electronica or post punk either – makes it an uneasy listen, but a compelling one.
After 2015’s ‘Tone Systems’, XAM (MB from Leeds psych band Hookworkms) has now multiplied into a duo (by adding Christopher Duffin of Deadwall, also of Leeds) and in doing so has taken the improvised modular synthesiser output of the first release and morphed it into something far richer and more expansive. The textures here are deeper and much more capacious, the gently bubbling modular synths float and sparkle underneath breathing fogs
of ambience, haunting drones and dense blasts of saxophone. It often goes deep, with three of the album’s six tracks making up almost an hour by themselves, but it always feels exploratory and never stagnant, and for an album of improvisational pieces it displays remarkable lucidity and feels poised and collected despite the clear ambition and density of the work. In the midst of the most elongated moments – as on ‘I Extend My Arms Pt I & II’ – it creates an enveloping
presence, wrapping and sucking the listener into its swirling sonic tornado in a forceful yet warm embrace. All this results in ‘XAM DUO’ being, despite what you might be thinking, a very human and tender album in parts, yet in others it feels otherworldly and cosmic in its sci-fitinged explorations; a sort of spacejazz Cluster. Ultimately though, it’s a record that remains consistently transfixing and absorbing until the dying squawks of the synthesisers.
XAM DUO XAM DUO son ic c at h e dr al By Dan iel Dy l an wra y. In sto res no v 4
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
Slowcoaches Nothing Gives Le i s ur e + Di s t r ict By ha y l ey s c ot t . In sto re s d e c 2
‘Nothing Gives’ elicits the same kind of angry optimism that was evident in a lot of bands during punk’s epoch: take the happy/sad disparities ofThe Buzzcocks’ music and lyrics, for example – it’s a quality that’s enduring for all the same reasons the first time around: being angry is far more rewarding when you’re having fun with it. There’s also a lot to be said of a band who negate trivial subject matters in order to expose their own anxieties. On the surface, ‘Nothing Gives’ is your typical, high-energy punk album. Frontwoman Heather Perkins spits out her words furiously, while simultaneously retaining a quality in her voice through the
occasional cracks that at times sounds both vulnerable and aloof. It’s not always about your average grievances, though. Love and loss still loom large, but the theme of despondency runs throughout, and its playful exterior prevents the album from ever sounding bleak. Having suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks from the age of 7, Perkins finds comfort in playing “really fucking noisy music”, with Slowcoaches’ live shows being a cathartic experience for her. It’s a facet that’s managed to translate onto record, and despite subjects dealing in break-ups and breakdowns, and drug induced mental illnesses, it’s musically
upbeat. It often denotes hopefulness far more than despair, in fact, resulting in an album that’s deceptively optimistic despite its existential themes. The subject of mental health is dealt with admirable, clumsy authenticity as opposed to the rosetinted sentimentalism of a lot of songs that portray anxiety and depression. Take the paranoid cynicism of ‘Drag’, for example – for all its irritability there’s a familiar feeling of relief in Heather’s voice. It’s this kind of honesty that makes ‘Nothing Give’ sound like the perfect punk album for a generation of dejected but hopeful twentysomethings.
Simplicity is the key here, but this record is not without its subtle idiosyncrasies. ‘Ex Head’ is a perfect example of poppy, accessible punk with substance, and the dirgey ‘WSH’ represents everything Slowcoaches do best: happy nihilism that’s not afraid of being confrontational. Elsewhere, album pinnacle ‘Raw Dealings’ exposes the band’s melodic instinct that triumphs over anything else. Slowcoaches genuine frustration is a welcome aspect in a world where, now more than ever, we have so many reasons to feel angry. For all its indignation, however, ‘Nothing Gives’ is more life affirming than you think.
The biography for Alex Izenberg on his record label’s website features a GIF, taken from his video for ‘To Move On’, of the man himself banging on the bottom of a glass bottle of ketchup in a frustrated attempt to eke some of the sauce out. We all know how that story ends – with a gush of far more than you actually needed – and presumably that’s where the metaphor comes into play as far as ‘Harlequin’, the Los Angeles native’s debut fulllength, is concerned. It’s been five
years in the making, with tons of ideas for songs written and discarded in that time, and the excess slowly cut away. What’s left over ends up feeling like a surprisingly sparse affair given that Izenberg is evidently not a man of narrow musical tastes. There’s stylistic variation, from the groovedriven strut of ‘Hot Is the Fire’ through to the ambient swell of ‘A Bird Came Down’, but the compositions are united by their bare-bones nature, with subtle nods
to grandiosity often helping to fill the sonic space – ominous drum rolls, or mournful strings. The repeated comparison to Simon and Garfunkel is not unfounded, either. Any album that flits between genre cues as much as this does – baroque pop one minute, offbeat piano balladry the next – is always going to tempt you to cast Izenberg as a bit of a dilettante, but he carries it all off with the necessary conviction. A protracted gestation, then, but one that’s paid off.
0 7/ 1 0
Alex Izenberg Harlequin we ir d wor l d By j oe goggin s . In sto re s no v 18
Reviews / Live
Angel Olsen Koko Camden, London 17/ 10 / 20 16 wr i ter : gemm a sam ways Ph oto gr aph er : carol ine q uinn
“I’m still learning about myself day by day,” Angel Olsen asserts, two thirds of the way through tonight’s show. “I only know myself through you,” she continues, adding with a laugh, “That’s heavy, isn’t it? That’s pretty fucked up.” Regardless, this statement serves as a decent introduction to the complex ideas driving her third album. Released in September, ‘My Woman’ explores identity, the refraction of identity within relationships and – on a broader level – our capacity to connect with others. It is, by turns, heartbreaking, joyous, cathartic and unapologetically confident, and finds Olsen raising the bar she already set vertiginously high with
2014’s ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’. Tonight, she treats Koko to nine out of ten tracks from it, accompanied by two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboardist/backing vocalist, all dressed like country music matinee idols, in matching blue-grey suits and bolo ties. Eyes narrowed in mock-suspicion at an errant wolf-whistle emanating from the stalls, Olsen plunges straight into the set-opener without a hello. Like many songs tonight, ‘Never Be Mine’ begins with just Olsen’s vocals and guitar, before the other members of the band sensitively flesh-out the torch song’s widescreen arrangement. The pace continues with the fuzzy ‘Hi-Five’ and ‘Your Woman’’s glammy lead
single ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, before it drops during country-tinged ballad ‘Lights Out’ from ‘BYFFNW’, featuring Paul Sukeena’s yawning slide guitar notes complimenting the swooning vocal. Astonishing as Olsen’s voice is on record, nothing can quite prepare you for witnessing it in the room. During subdued sections of songs, you can practically hear the audience gawping in awe. Throughout, she skilfully plays with dynamics to wring maximum impact from her compositions. At the beginning of tonight’s rendition of ‘Sister’, she sounds tremulous and beaten-down; by the climax her vibrato tones soar so powerfully and effortlessly you’re convinced they could reach the
rafters without amplification. If Olsen’s voice is a vehicle for naked emotion, her face remains impressively inscrutable during songs, bar the occasional furrowed brow. Yet between songs, she’s in good spirits, speculating about Koko’s ghosts, demanding 50 bucks per request, and suggesting we all head to church together after the show. A haunting version of ‘Intern’ in the encore eliminates any need for the latter, with its languid organ chords and almost hymnal harmonies, and Olsen concludes with ‘Woman’, a spellbinding sprawl that addresses the failure to connect. Conversely, she connects deeply with everyone present, as she has all night.
Jambai Oslo Hackney
Sampha Jazz Cafe, Camden, London 1 3 / 1 0/ 2 01 6 w r it er : g r eg c o c h r a n e
0 3 / 10 / 20 16
P hot o g r a ph er : C a r ol in e Qu in n
wr i ter : c hr i s wa tke ys
Previously, Sampha’s sporadic interviews and performances have been characterised by timidity, but it feels like the 27-year-old is ready to fully embrace his solo career. Dressed simply in black, he speaks to the crowd with confidence and looks comfortable. His voice (until now mostly used to make something of songs by SBTRKT, Drake and Kanye) cuts through with all the crackling pain and craggy soul that makes it so distinctive. The set itself isn’t bombastic. It creeps, tip-toe, into action, and shifts from one lowlit mood to another. It begins with the unfurling layers of ‘Plastic 100°C’, then slips into the contorting slowjam of ‘Timmy’s Prayer’. The nervous glances to his bandmates will stop soon enough and the power of the low-key moments will grow. After five years of stops and starts, the time for tinkering with these songs is over.
Jambinai are the biggest name on the bill of the K-Music festival, a series of events showcasing Korean music of all kinds.They sit somewhere on a blurred line between post-rock and hardcore metal, with fragments of traditional Korean folk thrown in, and tonight we revel in their strangeness, their asymmetric rhythms, and their unusual instruments. The overarching quality of this performance though is that it is brutally, viciously loud. Yet there is melody in the maelstrom and at its best it’s immersive and enchanting stuff. Of course there are the gradual, menacing builds and the inevitable hurricane crescendos, the menace and fire of all the best post-rock. But it’s when their bows meet their strings that Jambinai really draw you in, like on set highlight ‘For Everything That You Lost’, which is never not completely mesmerising.
Mitski The Deaf Institute Manchester 0 5/ 10 / 20 16 wr i ter : joe gogg ins
“Somebody shouted “Mitski!” at me in the street earlier, and it wasn’t anybody I knew. I’m still coming to terms with being a celebrity.” Mitski Miyawaki doesn’t say much to a nearcapacity crowd during her debut Manchester show, and when she does, it’s characteristically droll. Such is the emotional punch that her material packs you suspect she’s trying to make sure she doesn’t puncture the suspension of disbelief. Tonight’s short set is finely balanced between tracks from this year’s terrific ‘Puberty 2’ and her 2014 breakthrough, ‘Bury Me at Makeout Creek’. It’s a no-punches-pulled affair; stripped-back arrangements from the three-piece band, emotionally draining topics and Mitski’s heavy conviction. A nice touch, then, to lighten the atmosphere with a mid-set cover of Calvin Harris’ ‘How Deep Is Your Love’.
John Carpenter Brighton Dome, Brighton 20/1 0 / 2 0 1 6 wri te r: nath an we s tl e y P ho to graphe r: m i k e b urne ll
Horror and Sci-fi movie director John Carpenter has undertaken an unconventional route when it comes to live performance – at an age where most musicians would be looking to reduce their live commitments, at the age of sixty eight he’s just starting to tour the world. Tonight performance – his first ever in the UK – has a set list that spans forty years of cinematic history, including the melody-orientated title music of Escape From New York and the theme of 1976’s Precinct 13. With minimal rhythm the night twists and turns its way through some of horror’s best loved theme tunes, along with a handful of songs from his recent ‘Lost Themes’ album series. There is no grand fanfare, instead tonight is purely centered on the cinematic soundscapes, each delivered in a focused manner that’s geared to showing the songs’ dynamic depths.
By The Sea Dreamland, Brighton
Beth Orton The Forum Kentish Town
3 0 / 0 9 / 20 16 – 0 2/ 10/2016 wr i ter : C h r i s wa tke ys
06 / 1 0/ 2 01 6
PHOTOGRAPHER : NEIL THO M SO N
Margate’s cultural renaissance is gathering pace with the recent arrival of two-day seaside shindig By The Sea. Now in its second year and with an expanded capacity, the festival attracts trainloads of London-based fans, together with a hefty proportion of locals, and has two big plus points: it’s bang in the middle of Margate with easy access to the town’s quaint and contemporary cultural highlights, and – perhaps more importantly – it’s based at Dreamland, a retro theme park at which all the rides are free. Although the bands play indoors, you couldn’t quite describe this as an indoor festival – with the two stages separated by Dreamland, studded with food stalls and bars under the Kentish sky, it has the feel of something quite different. Quirkiness is this event’s USP – from wooden rollercoasters and mermaids being pushed around in shopping trolleys, to Jarvis Cocker manoeuvering himself into a booth to play a DJ set at the dodgems, By The Sea is nothing if not characterful. The crowd really is in holiday mode – everyone has a warm bed to go to at the end of the night and the bands don’t start until teatime so everyone has spent the day either on the Dreamland rides or taking bracing walks along the beach. It makes for an ultra-happy vibe on Friday night. As you wander between the marvellously close stages, your eyes are benevolently assaulted by the bright lights of the funfair, the ferris wheel and the old-school arcade. Equally engaging is the music of Wild Beasts, performing their shiny, perfectly assembled pop in front of a backdrop bedecked by a devilish figure with dead eyes. Energy throbs and pulses throughout the room, the neon without matching the neon within, while the ultra-catchy falsetto yelps of the likes of ‘Watch Me’ pierce the heated air. The undisputed kings of Friday night, though, are Super Furry Animals, resplendent as always in standard-issue white biohazard suits. ‘Rings Around The World’ starts the party in a big way with its sub-Quo riffs, while at times the set is as close as you can get to an indie rave; the Furries’ stylistic canon is wide enough to embrace all-
w r it er : J a m es F . T h ompson
In professional wrestling, a wrestler’s ‘gimmick’ – the character that they sell to the fans – is crucial.That’s why everybody knows the trash-talking Rock and fearsome Undertaker but has a harder time recalling the Gobbledy Gooker. Music works surprisingly similarly; bands need backstories and singers need personalities. In a career spanning almost 25 years, Beth Orton has never settled on a gimmick of her own. Tonight she vacillates between electro popper, folk songstress and baroque troubadour via tracks from the new ‘Kidsticks’ LP and the ‘Central Reservation’ and ‘Trailer Park’ albums, respectively, yet to these ears and eyes, never quite inhabits any of those moulds convincingly. Her voice fills the under-capacity venue as well as always but the question remains: will the real Beth Orton please stand up?
Kate Jackson The Hope Brighton 07 / 1 0/ 2 01 6 w r it er : n a t h a n w estl ey
comers, and they’re on buzzing form tonight. When the classic ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ drops, the touchpaper is lit and the place virtually explodes. On Saturday there’s a daytime fringe event at the town’s museum, and in a wonderfully ornate room Slow Club somehow pull off one of the sets of the weekend – Rebecca Taylor’s poised, poignant and at times incredibly soulful voice conveying depthless heartbreak. Let’s Eat Grandma, by contrast, are compellingly odd, their icy music matched by an equally icy performance; their vaguely unsettling, unsmiling synchronicity plays well against their sometimes otherworldly songs. Meanwhile Natasha Khan’s bloodred dress and bridal bouquet have been her props throughout Bat For Lashes’ tour of remarkable latest album ‘The Bride’. Khan is a performer who exudes artistry and
class, her graceful movements on stage tied to the polished, intelligent art-pop of her music. She moves with a theatrical intensity, seeming to really deeply feel the emotions in these songs. She peppers the set with a couple of hits; ‘Daniel’ is huge, while ‘Laura’ soars, its bare simplicity of a piano and a voice bringing hot, sad tears to the eyes of the crowd. Classical composer turned purveyor of oddball floorfillers Anna Meredith is a genuinely innovative artist. Tonight there’s the odd but welcome sight of a huge tuba on stage as she rips out a vicious cacophony of thrilling, hard-edged noise. Meredith periodically attacks a snare drum like she’s trying to kill it, and for those who really want to dance on a Saturday night, this is where the fun is. And that’s the overwhelming vibe of the perfectly formed By The Sea festival. Having a laugh by the coast.
It has been eight years since The Long Blondes unexpectedly came to an end, but tonight’s performance by singer Kate Jackson (and her backing band The Wrong Moves) often largely feels like a continuation. With her concept debut album to draw from, tonight’s set is fraught with songs that take on similar lyrical themes bore out of trucking around the UK (main roads, flyovers, motorway services and the trivialities of city life). Each track burbles with musically upbeat pop and indie disco that shimmer with a strong Northern down-to-earth attitude, from a musician famously adopted by Sheffield in her formative years. Songs such as ‘The End Of Reason’ are propelled forward by driving post-punk bass lines, the sensibilities of new wave and Jacksons’ allure, but are so in thrall to the mid-noughties that it at times feels like a grittier recasting rather than a new beginning.
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The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)
David Bowie is the ideal rock star to play a cinematic version of himself. He’s cool, he’s got incredible presence and heck, he can even act a bit. So it is a shame that in his 69 years on earth no one ever thought to devote 90-plus minutes of silver screen time to Bowie playing Bowie. Ah well. What we do have, though, is Bowie at the height of his considerable bony-cheeked powers playing a character that would go on to become David Bowie. Confused? You should be – after all, this is the wizard of weird we’re talking about here. Let me explain. In 1975 Bowie had killed off Ziggy Stardust and was looking for a new on stage persona to inhabit. At the same time he signed up to play Thomas Jerome Newton in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth (TMWFTE). Newton is a fey, detached alien who stands out from the crowd like... well, like David Bowie in a crowd. So Bowie decided to keep playing the character after the film was over, re-titling himself TheThin White Duke. Hence Newton became The Thin White Duke who, in turn, became Bowie. Think of it as method acting in reverse. All of which is just my tortuous way of saying that TMWFTE is Bowie playing Bowie after all. Got it? This movie opens with Bowie falling from the sky and staggering around in some gravel.The first thing
you notice is that he looks stylish for an alien – imagine the red-haired lady from Sex and the City dressed as a mod and you’ll get the general impression. He wanders past some demented carnival folk and eventually reaches civilisation. It turns out Bowie is a very clever alien (except in the ’90s of course when he was a very embarrassing alien) and knows about all kinds of cool technology. With the aid of a patent lawyer who looks like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys he has soon set up his own company and achieved global domination. By today’s standards the technology looks pretty lame: his main invention is essentially a Polaroid camera (which had already been invented in 1948), but never mind. The journey from landing on earth to technology tycoon only takes about 20 minutes, which seems, well, a tad brief. In fact TMWFTE spends more screen time on Bowie shagging than it does on telling the actual story. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I like watching Bowie’s skinny little bum going up and down as much as the next man – but it does mean that you’ll spend most of the film asking yourself, ‘what is going on?’ or ‘what is this film actually about?’ or ‘is that Bowie’s skinny arse again?’ Around this time we’re introduced to a character called the Fuck Professor (okay that’s not his real
name but it might as well have been). The Fuck Professor gets his kicks by shagging his students, who say creepy shit to him like ‘you’re not at all like my father’ while he makes a series of gurgling sexual sounds. It is not clear what this boob bonanza bit is all about, though it must have been a godsend for teenage boys who came across it in their parent’s video collection in the pre-internet age, if you’ll excuse the pun. Later on the Fuck Professor helps Bowie with his inventions... but his earlier sexual actions remain unexplained. Oh I forgot to mention that Bowie has severe travel sickness, and whenever he moves too fast (in a car or a lift, say) he starts bleeding out of his nose and throwing up. He must have been a fucking nightmare on the interstellar journey to earth. One of the people he throws up on is Mary-Lou, a slack-jawed southern type who becomes Bowie’s carer/ lover. After getting smashed on gin he tells Mary-Lou he is an alien, peeling off his skin and taking out his contacts. Mary-Lou literally pisses herself with fear (an act we see in gratuitous close up), before experimentally boning him, at which point she gets covered in alien jizz, which looks a lot like normal jizz, and then she runs away. As you will have gathered, an awful lot of things happen in this film. It is around two hours and twenty in length, which is at least 45 minutes
too long. The storytelling – not lucid at the best of times – disintegrates as it progresses, and once the novelty factor of watching Bowie act has worn off TMWFTE becomes pretty hard to bear. As a result, I can’t come close to giving you a successfully succinct synopsis of this film. There is, though, one major element that I’ve yet to mention. ThroughoutTMWFTE we are treated to cutaways of Bowie’s family living on his home planet. The filmmakers clearly had run out of budget by this point as Bowie’s alien house looks more like a motorised turd train than a liveable dwelling. His family, meanwhile, resemble a squadron of emaciated pest control professionals. Unfortunately, TMWFTE just sort of peters out. All of the characters (except Bowie) get old, and in the end he realises his family must have died in their dry dung domicile back on the planet poo. As a result he has to live on earth forever, watching the friends he has made slowly pass away. Ultimately, it’s not a very good film. The plot is stupid, the acting poor and the direction – particularly the use of extreme zooms – laughable. Of course it has one major redeeming feature: David Bowie. Whatever he does looks cool, even when it is hopelessly contrived. That’s the magic of the man, and why he will be so missed.
Party wolf bring a bottle: What to expect from the house parties of your fabulous lifetime
The year 15
the uni regression
the family new year’s
REASON TO PARTY: Judy Merchant’s mum’s away, who’s really sound anyway. It’s your last year of school and Neal’s goatee, although chronically shit, can finally get you all served.
REASON TO PARTY: It’s five years after university and you caught yourself enjoying Bake Off last week. You can’t go out like this. Not this early. You’re mates are thinking the same. Have a party.
REASON TO PARTY: Once you’ve already had 31 birthdays, it’s not really on to make a big deal of it anymore. Plus, you and your friends are too busy to see each other unless Pop Chips and wine is on the cards.
REASON TO PARTY: Party is a strong word at this point. But it’s New Year’s. You’ve got kids who’ve gone and made friends. Good for them, but those friends have parents... So here we are.
attendees: Literally everyone you’ve ever known. This will NEVER happen again.
attendees: All the uni lot. And maybe some work people? (They’re not coming).
attendees: The inner circle... and your partner. HA! Save that for the ‘gathering’.
attendees: Linda and Paul. Bernice and Terry. Sue and Ian. And their shit kids.
As a host: Wrong! You should never be the host of aYear 15 party. Someone might put their boner on your duvet. Gross.
As a host: Buy red cups. Like the ones from American Pie. Now face the chairs into the middle of the room. That’s right, like a wake.
As a host: Get pleasantly shit-faced with everyone else, nobody pisses on the carpet at a ‘gathering’.
As a host: See if you can judge how long you can stay in the toilet for before it gets weird and you have to get back out there.
As a guest: It’s not about getting drunk, it’s about seeming drunk. For every stubby you manage, tip 3 away.Then trip over and laugh loudly, you absolute legend! PARTY drug: Blowbacks off of a box of 10 Sovereign, bought with silver money... And paracetamol mixed with Coke, which is just coke. outstanding quality: That there’s only 2 albums on loop and they’re both incredible.
As a guest: Arrive at 9, not 7:30. At 11:15 do the Fresh Prince rap. If it goes well (it will) do the running man in one hour. PARTY drug: It’s the golden age of a different kind of coke, now. Y’know, a different kind of white powdery thing. Yeah? Oh, you’re the one we’ve been hiding it from. Sorry. outstanding quality: The denial.
As a guest: Take a bottle of wine that was meant to cost £8.99 but was marked down to £5.99. Tell everyone that it cost £8.99.
As a guest: See if you can judge how long you can stay in the toilet for before it gets weird and you have to get back out there.
PARTY drug: We’ve gone back to the weed. It’s more sociable, Peter had his ‘incident’ on the other gear, and let’s face it, work is stressing us all out.
PARTY drug: It might be a good time to get back on the coke, but who are you kidding – it’s all about Nespresso these days.
outstanding quality: That you finally managed to get your friends down to 9 you REALLY like.
outstanding quality: A new, horrifying appreciation for Jools Holland’s Hootenanny.
Photo casebook: The inappropriate world of Ian Beale Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
) Can we make the font bigger?
It’s not too late for us to change the image. Y’know... for when the time comes.
Gold Panda / Calvin Johnson / Katie Gately / Joey Purp / Alex Izenberg / Rising Sun Collective / Acid Arab / La Femme