Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 91 / the alternative music tabloid
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
+ Lido Pimienta Stella Donnelly Benjamin clementine Golden Teacher FELT Albums of 2017
Who releases 5 albums in a yearâ€‰?
Albums of the year – 12 stella donnelly – 14 golden teacher – 16 Lido pimienta – 18 king gizzard and the lizard wizard – 22 benjamin clementine – 28 felt – 32
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 91 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
+ Lido Pimienta SteLLa donneLLy Benjamin cLementine GoLden teacher FeLt aLBumS oF 2017
Who releases 5 albums in a year ?
c o v er p h o t o g raphy J a m i e Wd z i ek on s k i
So that’s 2017. In the bin. Good, wasn’t it?The year that Gemma Collins fell down a hole. Cast you mind back to January and you’ll remember how optimistic I was feeling about it all. On this page I wrote about laying the ghost of 2016 to rest, astutely pointing out that everyone dies (a theory that I alone came up with) and that continuing to talk about Donald Trump and Brexit was the quickest route to spoiling an evening with people who think the same as you. No, I was feeling pretty good about what was in store for us all in 2017, and now here we are, having seen Gemma Collins fall down a hole to remind us that life is worth living.Trump, I’m told, has matured into a best friend kind of figure, and Brexit is all but sorted out. So I was right – 2017 wasn’t an empty promise, it was the bollocks. (Except for Weinstein, Spacey, the continual sexism of the entertainment industry, the death of Bruce Forsyth, the war in Syrian, the ending of La La Land, the new Arcade Fire album, the continuing refugee crisis, the fact that Brexit isn’t sorted out all, Love Island, the real life Donald Trump and – eternally – The Daily Mail.) It’s not just us who’ve enjoyed these halcyon days, having started 2017 with controversial ideas that have come to pass. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard promised to release 5 albums from January until December. They’re currently one short, but I’ve never been wrong before and I’m sure they’re going to do it. We certainly liked the sound of this ridiculous plan when the band put it out there at the end of 2016, and probably pencilled in their cover feature around the time it looked like they were actually serious, when February’s ‘Microtonal Flying Banana’ was followed by their horror rock album ‘Murder of The Universe’ on June 23rd. Surely, they’d run out of puff and give us plenty of time to work out who we’d really be putting on the front of our Dec/Jan winter issue but they didn’t. King Gizzard released five albums and Gemma Collins fell down a hole. Thank you 2017. Stuart Stubbs
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There was a time when Belle & Sebastian’s STUART MURDOCH fully embraced the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘let’s make lots of money’ vibe
tuart Murdoch: When I was 16 it was my last year living in Ayr before I moved to Glasgow to go to university just after I turned 17. I don’t want to put a damper on things, but 16 was absolutely my worst year, my least social year. I was pretty lost: I had loads of stuff going on when I was 12 and 13 – I was in every club at school, doing lots of music and part of the school show and the school magazine, and I had a great girlfriend – and then everybody else grew up while I stayed the same size. Suddenly I started getting pushed around and I just fell back on academia. But by 16, even academia was boring – there were teacher strikes all the way through that school year, so we weren’t even in school that much – and I was just kinda lost: everything had gotten boring and I just wanted to get away and up to Glasgow. One thing that helped me through that year though was that I had loads of interesting jobs, and looking back it’s those weekend and part-time jobs that are much more interesting than school or parties – or the lack of parties. For instance, when I turned 16 I’d been working on a farm that whole summer, and it turned out to be bit of a rite of passage: it felt like I had one foot in the adult world because I was doing a man’s job – I was driving a tractor and raking fields and harvesting potatoes and milking cows, all that sort of stuff, and hanging out with the other farmhands, who were these really tough guys.
A s to ld to sA m walton
I started to get strong, and I figured by the time I came back to school after the summer for the last year of school, everybody would take notice: girls would look at me a different way, I’d come back bronzed like a young Robert Redford. But it didn’t happen! Nobody noticed, nobody cared. I was deeply unfashionable and I didn’t really have any friends, so I just kept on working that year: I worked in a newspaper shop and I was a salesman, selling dairy produce – I was an ace salesman, I put everything into it. My parents never saw me when I was 16 because I was always out working, and had this period of embracing this sort of Thatcherite ethos. It wasn’t deliberate – I think the whole “let’s make lots of money” Pet Shop Boys sort of vibe was just in the air – but at the same time it seemed that money equalled freedom, and if you could earn your own money, that was the only way to break away from parents and the boring stuff that was happening in Ayr. So that’s what I did, and I was fairly flush – I worked all the time and didn’t spend anything – and I remember I had a shoebox full of five pound notes. I probably had more money then than at any time over the next 10, 15, maybe 20 years! But still, it was a pretty in-between stage for me. There’s a book by Saul Bellow called The Dangling Man and, well, I was The Dangling Boy, just waiting for things to happen. In every regard I was a late developer: at 16 I was clinging onto
childhood things, still doing piano lessons because that’s what I always did, and going to church because that’s what I always did, and still going to Bible class, but also sitting on the outside and starting to question it all. I remember seeing The Breakfast Club when I was 16 and loving it because those characters were saying things I felt but couldn’t express myself. I saw The Graduate for the first time around then, too – that had a big effect on me: Benjamin’s whole rebellious spirit was such an anathema to where I was at the time. I was a grade-A scholar, everybody around me expected me to do my studies, get through university, get a good-paying job, all that sort of stuff, but seeing that awakened something in the background. When Benjamin comes home and flips out, falls out of the rat race, that was a really attractive thing to see, even though I didn’t embrace it until much later. Instead, at the time, everyone told me I was good at science, and I was good at physics – there was something genuine there – so that’s what I thought I should do: be a nuclear physicist, get through university super fast and be driving a Porsche by the time I was 21. Sixteen was my last year of being a boy, I think. And then Glasgow at 17 immediately started to teach me how to live, and unfortunately that was at the expense of those careers and things like that. After 16, all that went down the shoot.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Jason Schwartzman Reef Younis catalogues the curious music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / erstwhile drummer, Phantom Planet would go on to do little else, but for Schwartzman it was the perfect opportunity to step out from behind the kit and into centre stage as Coconut Records. So with Zach Braff muscling in on his full indie credentials with the immortalisation of The Shins in Garden State, and with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel mere glints in his eye, Schwartzman set about doing the best James Mercer/Elliot Smith/ Weezer impression he could, releasing his debut solo album, ‘Nighttiming’, in 2007. An album of power pop, indie disco and West Coast charm, it proved his credentials as a musician and songwriter, even if it didn’t get close to those heady ‘California’ days. Undeterred, his second album, ‘Davy’, arrived two years later with a similar array of likeable tracks that played on a similar style to his debut. But with the apex of his acting career on the horizon, it was left to the jaunty, Beatles-aping ‘Drummer’ where Schwartzman delivered the line (and coup de grace) of his music career, singing “I was a drummer in a band that you’ve heard of.” Something few in the Anyone Can Play Guitar Hall of Fame can truthfully say.
When your mother is Talia Shire, your uncle is Francis Ford Coppola, your cousin is Nicolas Cage and your grandfather happens to be an Oscarwinning composer, Hollywood doesn’t look so difficult to navigate. But before Jason Francesco Schwartzman made his name as one of the silverscreen’s go-to indie actors, he had the indie band to go with it. (Of course he did – this is Wes Anderson’s safe pair of hands.) As the drummer in Phantom Planet, a young Schwartzman split his time between the sticks and the screen through the mid-to-late ’90s. Back then, the band caught the eye of Geffen Records and released their debut album ‘Phantom Planet is Missing’ in 1998, around the time Schwartzman was cast in Rushmore. As the band’s debut tanked almost as badly as the big label record industry, Phantom Planet shifted over to Epic Records, opened for Elvis Costello and wrote The O.C. theme song (‘California’) blasted out for all eternity on E4. Building off that momentum, world (or at least State) domination beckoned for the band as they went into record album number three – only for Schwartzman to quit midway through, presumably to focus on I Heart Huckabees. Without their
b y j anine & L ee b ullman
Basquiat: Boom for Real by Dieter Buchhart, Eleanor Nairne & Lottie Johnson
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One By philip pullman
Over his short, 27-year life, Jean-Michel Basquiat went from enigmatic New York graffiti artist to one of the most important and celebrated painters of his generation before his early death in 1988 from a heroin overdose. So established has his reputation become since that one of his skull paintings recently sold for over 100 million dollars. Boom for Real is filled with Basquiat’s stunningly visceral work that found influences in bebop and hip-hop, street culture, TV and high art, and turned them into something we had never seen before. Chaos and beauty exist side by side in Basquiat’s oeuvre, much as they did in his life, and are fabulously showcased in this tribute to a truly unique talent.
In La Belle Sauvage, Philip Pullman returns to the world he built and populated over the course of the massively successful His Dark Materials trilogy. We find ourselves once again in a magically realised Oxford for the prequel to his previous three books, and fans will be delighted to hear that Lyra is back. La Belle Sauvage is an expertly crafted, creepy and epic story and bodes very well indeed for the new trilogy. As with His Dark Materials, this is a tale full of adventure, thrills and something far, far deeper. For anybody who’s been hanging on for The Book of Dust, the wait was well worth it. For anyone wondering what all the fuss is about, this is a great place to find out.
Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre
John Le Carre is our greatest living writer and his permanently worried and slightly myopic George Smiley (played by Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy) is one of the greatest characters ever to grace the pages of fiction. I am more than happy to fight anyone who disagrees with either statement in a car park. Legacy of Spies finds Le Carre on top form and once again, finding a way to look at the world of secret men in a way that says something about all of us – in this case by returning to the incident of cold-war subterfuge that started it all through the eyes of Peter Guillam, Smiley’s man-Fiday. Measured, smart and exquisite, Legacy of Spies, in vintage Le Carre style, tells a huge story by concentrating on a small one.
Customer Survey 2017 A little feedback to help 2018 improve its service
Hello Jason ( Willia ms o n, Sl eaford Mods)
What will be your lasting memory of 2017? Too many things.
My kids growing up. The mad crowds that keep getting bigger at gigs. ‘English Tapas’. – What did you do on your birthday this year? Went to Ireland. Sat in a posh hotel. Did nothing. – Were there any other standout days or moments? It was all great to be honest. Band wise. And personally, things are getting there, proper. – There must have been a shitty time too? Yeah of course. But they don’t dictate anymore. – Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? I stayed in Los Angeles after the US tour for a week. Family came out and some mates. Was good. Didn’t think I’d like it. – What was the song you listened to most? Ours. We gigged like fuck. – How about the movie of the year? Nothing really got me. Watched loads. Mostly horror. Think it’s a Turkish film if I remember rightly – a horror called Baskin. It’s bleak. Really bleak. – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? I didn’t see whatever series that one came off. Was there a bit of controversy? I dip in and out. Gets a bit daft though, doesn’t it? World’s on its arse and we’re discussing the pink piping on a house made out of cookie dough. – What positives will you take from 2017? Keep going. – And the best gig you saw? Royal Trux. Some euro fest we played. They made me like rock’n’roll again, briefly. They did it properly. It was hopeless, abandoned almost but completely professional. You have it
in your blood don’t you, but I guess the trick is to not have too much of the ‘other’ thing in your blood at the same time. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? Putin looks like a discarded shit tea towel that’s been brought to life by an ancient wizard. That twat. – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? I don’t do them. – Any other comments? Why are you still falling for that shit. It’s fuckin shit. – Thank you Jason, we value your feedback
Hello Rebecca (Tay lor , a ka S el f E st eem )
What will be your lasting memory of 2017? A year of
looking through previous grey areas with people in power and asking myself if that was ok and sexy or not ok and ultimately not sexy at all actually, thank you. – What did you do on your birthday this year? I went on the Scenic Railway at Dreamland in Margate and ingested various and copious calories. – Were there any other standout days or moments? I played my very first solo live show and proved to myself that there is life in the old dog yet. – There must have been a shitty time too? Yes, a lot actually. My closest family member died and I experienced true grief for the first time. My leaping into the unknown with a new project became incredibly terrifying and uncertain. I got a hair cut that makes me look more like an Auntie Debbie than a Debbie Harry. – Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? If you can count laying in my bed watching Drag Race a holiday, then I went there a lot for many days at a time.
What was the song you listened to most?
Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? Fuck no.
It’s late in the year but I currently can’t stop listening to ‘New York’ by St. Vincent. Also, I know it’s basic but I listened to ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, like, 12,000 times when it first dropped. – How about the movie of the year? Call Me By Your Name. – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? LIAM. – What positives will you take from 2017? I am braver than I thought. – And what was the best gig you saw? Perfume Genius at Heaven. He is perfection. That record was unbelievable. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? Feels impossible to not say Trump. Followed by Pheelan on Corrie. – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? Be less embarrassed of the space you take up. – Any other comments? More gay episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride, please. – Thank you Rebecca!
– What was the song you listened to most? Honestly, it’s a track from our second album that I’m trying to find the lyrics for. 300 listens. Someone else’s: I have listened to ‘Pears For Lunch’ by Girl Band every day for quite some time. – How about the movie of the year? I can’t remember watching any except a really, really shit one called Baby Driver – I fucking hated it. I’ve just watched Ozark, which is pretty mega. – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? Steven. Hands down. – What positives will you take from 2017? That we have built a community of like-minded wonderful and open-minded people that came about at a time when I thought the world was cunts. Beautiful. – And the best gig you saw? Shellac at Off Festival. We watched them from the side of the stage and it was one of those moments that you know you wouldn’t have without it being gifted from grace. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? I don’t care for accolading pricks. – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? Drink less. Read more. – Any other comments? The 1975 are the best band in the world. – Thank you for helping us improve our service, Joe
Hello Joe (Ta l b ot, I d l es)
What will be your lasting memory of 2017? Taking a shit on
the side of the M4. – What did you do on your birthday this year? Argued with my girlfriend and then went to Berlin for a gig. – Were there any other standout days or moments? There was fucking loads of stand out moments. The whole year was. – There must have been a shitty time too? Yes. The worst moment of my life.
Hello Nadine ( Sh a h )
What will be your lasting memory of 2017?
Therapy and self help books! – What did you do on your birthday this year? Got dumped by my boyfriend and
then that evening had to play an acoustic show and had an onstage meltdown. Don’t bother googling it, I had the video evidence removed. – Were there any other standout days or moments? Sharing the stage with John Cale and singing ‘Femme Fatale’ was a definite highlight. – There must have been a shitty time too? Was my birthday anecdote not painful enough for you?!! – Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? I hijacked my parents holiday to Italy. I ate loads, drank loads, had the best time with them and they paid for it! It›s funny how you spend so much of your youth trying to avoid hanging out with your parents; the older I get the more I want to hang out with them. They’re mint. – What was the song you listened to most? One of mine called ‘Ordinary’ cause I can never remember the lyrics and needed to learn it for the tour. – How about the movie of the year? I watch so many bloomin films I dunno! I thought the new Blade Runner was awesome and a film called Mother by Darren Aronofsky. – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? LIAM OBVS. – What positives will you take from 2017? The new series of Stranger Things, Blue Planet II, series 4 of Peaky Blinders and natural wines. I like telly and wine. – And what was the best gig you saw? I’m sure loads of people are going to say the same as me… Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds at the O2. Oddly, it was the first time I’d ever seen them play and they somehow made it feel like they were playing in your front room. Class. I also saw Depeche Mode play the Barrowlands in Glasgow and that was the total opposite thing to the Bad Seeds show. I’ve seen Depeche play so many times and only in huge arenas and this venue was tiny in comparison. It too was class. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? Too many to mention. Let’s just say Daily Mail headlines. Sick and evil idiots. – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? Probably to vacate London. – Any other comments? Yep. It may not be front page news but
the refugee crisis is worse than ever AND it’s getting cold. Here is one of the many charities you can donate to https://helprefugees.org Thanks so much! Love Nadine x Your feedback is important to us, Nadine
Hello Rachel (Goswel l , S lowd i v e)
What will be your lasting memory of 2017? An incredibly
busy and positive year for both me personally and for Slowdive. My lasting memory possibly will be how did we all get through all the touring in one piece, still smiling?! – What did you do on your birthday this year? We played a show in Buenos Aries and the crowd sung happy birthday to me whilst a cake (with thankfully not as many candles as my actual age) was brought out on stage. – Were there any other standout days or moments? Musically speaking, when ‘Star Roving’ was released in January that was pretty exciting to see the reactions along with the album release. Also, having the opportunity to share stages with and talk to musicians that influenced us early on (notably J Masic, Thurston Moore and Robin Guthrie) and having a mutual appreciation natter with Debbie Goodge. Personally, getting engaged back in April was very special. – There must have been a shitty time too? Actually this year has been devoid of shitty times pretty much on a personal level, which is a first! However, plenty of shitty things are going on around the world on a daily basis. – Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? I managed a one-week holiday down in Falmouth in August, which was lovely and not too far from where I live so that was a bonus. – What was the song you listened to most? I’m terrible with song titles but I put forward both Japanese Breakfast and Zola Jesus as repeat players on my turn table. – How about the movie of the year? I struggle to even get to the cinema when I’m home. I tend to watch movies on planes so it’s kinda hard to remember... I’ve just watched War For The Planet of The Apes on the way back from the States and enjoyed that.
Wonder Woman was wholly disappointing though! – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? No idea! Have never watched it. – What positives will you take from 2017? Getting older is fun. – And what was the best gig you saw? Dinosaur Jr at Pointu Festival in France. That was immense and I didn’t stop dancing. They are on fire and it was such a privilege to see them at a smaller festival. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? Brexit. – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? I don’t ever make resolutions as I just think it’s always a sure fire way of setting myself up for failure. – Any other comments? (Silence). – We appreciated your feedback, Rachel
Hello Wesley (G on z a l ez )
What will be your lasting memory of 2017? It’s hard to say.
Personally, I’ve been very happy with my record being released and touring it was great fun. I met so many lovely people and I’ve had great people working with me throughout the year. But, other than that, it’s been fucking terrifying. What an odd time to exist! The second half of the year has been easier to stomach, I guess, or maybe I’ve learnt how to cope better. – What did you do on your birthday this year? I went to see Blade Runner, which I thought was shit. Then I went to Wetherspoons, put my table number on social media and watched the drinks flow in. – Were there any other standout days or moments? The day I found out I was going to be on the cover of Loud And Quiet was pretty great, so thank you. I think I was at my most elated this year when my muse, Euan Hinshelwood (who has been voted Mr. Younghusband for 5 years in a row and also plays synth and sax in my band), did an impromptu DJ set at the Rough Trade tent at Green Man. I was doing UK
garage-style MCing over the top of Kate Bush, Madness and Simple Minds – long live DJ Ian. – There must have been a shitty time too? Yeah, but that’s all going on the second record so I don’t want to set off the spoiler alarm. – Did you go on holiday this year? Anywhere nice? I went to Ibiza on a lads holiday with one other lad, who isn’t really much of a lad – neither am I. We made a video. I get scared of leaving London without a bunch of mofos to hold my hand, so the two days I spent making a video in Ibiza is the closest I’ve had to a holiday in the last few years; something I need to rectify. – What was the song you listened to most? ‘Tomboy’ – Princess Nokia. ‘Namekuji’ – Part Chimp. ‘My Boo’ – Ghost Town DJs. ‘Gabriel’ – Roy Davies Jr. ‘Watching Him Fade Away’ – Mac DeMarco – How about the movie of the year? I very much enjoyed Get Out. I went to see it at Peckham Plex and it was packed and super rowdy (as it usually is there). It was absolutely terrific! I also liked that new Planet Of The Apes film – absolutely fucking love apes! – Big question now – who should have really won the Great British Bake Off? Hillary Clinton. – What positives will you take from 2017? I released my best LP to date. I can think back on yet another difficult year fondly because of that. – And what was the best gig you went to? Princess Nokia at Brixton Electric – she’s great! Could’ve done with being 15 minutes shorter but it was absolutely banging. She’s my human of the year. – There’s a frontrunner for the villain of the year, but who or what do you think is second to that guy? Hillary came second to that guy, have you not read up on it? – What will be your new year’s resolution for 2018? Be positive, stay interested and push myself to do more – Any other comments? Happy Christmas to all living beings. – Thank you Wesley, we appreciated your feedback and have passed on your details to a PPI reclaim company
Albums of the Year 2017 Our top 40 records released this year and a reminder of exactly what they are 01
Protomartyr Relatives In Decent
Kelly Lee Owens Kelly Lee Owens
Richard Dawson Peasant
Vince Staples Big Fish Theory
( D om i no )
(Sm alltown Su p ersou n d)
(We ird Wo rl d )
Timber Timbre Sincerely, Future Pollution
The Detroit band’s forth album of British-sounding post-punk, which questions the notion of truth from Trump’s phoney America.
A debut album of subtle techno from a former cancer ward nurse from Wales who also used to play bass in shoegaze band The History of Apple Pie.
The DIY folk master’s mournfully beautiful concept album about life in pre-Medieval Britain and humankind’s inability to fix itself. :-)
(C i t y Sl a n g)
The Compton rapper’s concise second album, inspired in part by UK Garage and Amy Winehouse, with guest spots from Kendrick and Bon Iver.
Kendrick Lamar DAMN.
Aldous Harding Party
Alex Cameron Force Witness
Sleaford Mods English Tapas
Chastity Belt I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone
An inky collection of retro lounge songs played by a bitter ’80s Vegas house band… if Taylor Kirk’s group weren’t Canadian.
( V irgi n EM I )
( P o lydor )
(Se cr et ly C an adian )
(Rou g h Trad e )
Kendrick’s return to straight-up RAP, following the colossal free-jazz epic of ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’.
The second gothic folk album from the New Zealand artist, whose voice flips between Nico’s deep seduction and Joanna Newsom’s nymph shriek.
A road-pop album of Heart-like melodies and double-take lyrics about shagging, wanting to look like David Beckham and being shat on by an eagle
The Nottingham duo’s debut release on Rough Trade, still reminiscent of John Cooper Clark at the tail end of a cheap amphetamine binge, but with better songs.
( H ard ly A rt )
Wesley Gonzalez Excellent Musician
Kevin Morby City Music
Father John Misty Pure Comedy
Mount Kimbie Love What Survives
(M o shi Mo shi )
(De ad Oc e ans )
(B el l a Un i on )
The debut album from the ex-Let’s Wrestle frontman, in which he rejects guitars and plumps for XTC-ish pop performed on a Korg with a saxophone for added coke vibes.
A companion piece to last year’s ‘Singing Saw’ LP, taking its cues from Lou Reed and Patti Smith in the city rather than US country music in the wilderness.
Josh Tillman’s Black Mirror of a third album – less ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, more, ‘Modern Life is A Complete Waste Of Time’.
The third album from Kai Campos and Dom Maker – a floating mix of motorik beats and woozy pop with star turns by King Krule, Mica Levi and James Blake.
Alejandro Ghersi’s first album to feature vocals – sung by himself, like a confessional Gregorian monk adept in claustrophobic electronics.
Lower Slaughter What Big Eyes
Deerhoof Move Mountains
Forest Swords Compassion
Baxter Dury Prince of Tears
( B ox Records)
(D e ad Oc e an s )
(Ni nja Tu n e )
( He av e n ly )
A relentless debut album of sludge riffs and screamo vocals, from a band split between Brighton and Glasgow.
An art-rock-bricolage career highlight from a San Fran band who even get away with covering Bob Marley on their 14th album.
The rarest of things: a reunion album that justifies the return – in this case, 22 years after the press first threw shoegaze under the bus.
Matthew Barnes’ hopeful take on these silly times, via field recordings, indistinguishable vocals and clattering electronic beats.
An anti-pop breakup album with all the requisite depression, obsession and delusional grandeur that’s given us the immortal line, “I am the sausage man!”
The Washington band’s third and best album yet, blending lyrical dejection with musical optimism, for that happy/sad feeling inspired by Elliott Smith.
Blanck Mass World Eater
( Sac r ed B o n es )
(Virgin EM I)
Wiki No Mountains in Manhattan
(B a lle y Re c o r d s )
( RCA )
Benjamin John Power’s punishing and wordless reaction to the joyless year of 2016. More than noise, something other than post-rock and beyond electronic drone.
Lorde’s second pop pop POP album, which articulates the unbearable emotional heaviness of being on the brink of adulthood. Like Taylor Swift with actual feeling.
The debut LP from the year’s break out British punk band, who are angry about everything but not too furious to have a bit of a laugh with it.
The much-delayed debut album from the Jersey-born RnB singer who fiercely sings about sexual freedom as well as loneliness in the digital age.
Algiers The Underside of Power
St. Vincent Masseducation
Clark Death Peak
LCD Soundsystem American Dream
(C a ro l i n e )
(Wa r p )
( C olumb i a )
More virtuoso neo-soul bass acrobatics tinted with yachtrock and hip-hop, featuring, appropriately for a feline, odes to lying around doing nothing very much.
Annie Clark’s fifth solo album. Steely and enigmatic, but this time channelling Prince, G-funk and Giorgio Moroder electro-disco.
Chris Clark’s ninth album – a baffling run of ambient techno, house and noise that doesn’t need to make sense to be as good as it is.The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend, respectively.
The album James Murphy promised he’d never make – a rueful and defiant comeback with plenty of nods to his hero and pal David Bowie.
Iglooghost Neo Wax Bloom
Priests Nothing Feels Natural
Princess Nokia 1992 Deluxe
DUDS Of a Nature or Degree
( B ra inf ee d e r)
(Si ste r Po lyg on )
(D r ag C i t y)
(Rou g h T r a de )
( C a stle Fac e)
Seamus Malliagh’s debut album of ADHD, pick’n’mix electronica that soundtracks the absurd story of a gelatinous time-traveling worm named Xiangjiao.
The D.C. band’s debut album that calls bullshit left, right and centre via fucked-off surf-punk, lost indie-pop, jazz and the odd piano.
A more thought-out psych album from the LA band, where the wig-outs are perfectly placed beside songs that sound like The Beatles.
The New York rapper’s debut album proper, made up of her 2016 mixtape and eight new tracks for fellow skaters and comic book heads.
The dead-eyed post-punk debut from a Manchester band with the stop/start chops of Devo and Pylon.
Kite Base Latent Whispers
Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology ( F ire )
Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales Room 29
Nadine Shah Holiday Destination
( Li ttle S omething)
Ho99o9 United States of Horror
The industrial-pop debut from two bass players (Kendra Frost and Ayse Hassan of Savages) and a drum machine called Alan.
The sixth album from Manchester’s most cosmic folk singer, who doesn’t make folk music.
Toys H ave P owe r s
(Deuts ch e Gr a mm o p h o n )
The debut noise/rap/punk album from a New Jersey duo who like to get naked.
A piano and vocal collaboration conceived at the mythical Chateau Marmont hotel that celebrates the magic of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
An alt. rock album inspired by Shah’s documentarian brother, that takes on the Calais refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war, the rise of nationalism and mental health issues.
( B ra inf ee d e r)
The second album of distorted protest songs from the AngloAmerican gospel punk band.
The old-school hip-hopreferencing debut album from the former Ratking member – a love letter to his beloved hometown.
( 19 65 )
Stella Donnelly The fight for safe spaces in Perth, Australia, via the social realness of Billy Bragg Photogra phy: timothy cochrane / writer: gemma samways
Op p o s i t e: S t el l a D o n n el l y in C a r n a b y S t r eet , s o h o , C e n t r a l Lo n do n .
tella Donnelly sits in the dimly lit back bar of a Swiss restaurant-cummusic-venue in Soho. Thanks to yesterday’s 23-hour red-eye from Perth to London, the 25-year-old is sniffly and congested, though still sparklyeyed and chipper. During our time together, her enthusiastic, attentive chatter is punctuated by occasional pauses to self-medicate with delicate slurps from a pot of rapidly-cooling ramen, and her attention only briefly diverted as she jumps up to warmly welcome the young support act and her mother. Not counting an open mic night she did for laughs while visiting her sister in Brighton, tonight’s sold-out show is Donnelly’s first in the UK and she’s buzzing with anticipation. “I’ve been in London a bunch of times, but it feels new every time,” she beams, her grin as striking as the over-sized, silver, cartoon mouths she wears as earrings. “Look, if every year’s like this year, I’ll be very happy. I think it’s been a big shock, because I put out an EP that was meant to sell 40 cassette tapes, and then move on, and then everything went a bit bonkers.” 2017 has been a landmark year for Donnelly’s burgeoning solo career. Having taken a temporary break from her other musical commitments – punk band Boat Show, and all-female alt-rock outfit Bells Rapids – the singer-songwriter’s arrestingly lo-fi and humorously-titled debut EP, ‘Thrush Metal’, was released in April to widespread acclaim. She then secured a spot at Australia’s answer to The Great Escape, Brisbane’s Bigsound festival, where she won the inaugural Levi’s Music Prize honouring the most promising new artist, and $25,000 in prize money that’s already funded this promo trip to Europe and helped secure the services of Lorde and Flume’s PR, Claire Collins. “It’s always been very important that I work with good people, because I’d rather not do music if not,” she explains of her recruitment criteria. “I was gonna start university this year, doing social work. It’s really important I get to do this the right way, and not treat people badly, and have the people who represent me have integrity, because I’m an advocate for gender diversity in line-ups, and safe spaces at
shows. So Claire’s one of those people.” Donnelly herself is a member of voluntary community group Safer Venues Western Australia (SVWA), which sets out to improve “standards of inclusivity and safety in Perth’s music and entertainment spaces.” Working alongside members of venue staff and other hands-on industry professionals, Donnelly is tasked with raising awareness of the initiative, though she downplays her role today, somewhat self-deprecatingly. “I don’t do any of the work because I’m never there, but I try to advocate for artists to take more responsibility. A lot of the girls that work [at SVWA] have been venue managers in different positions whereas I’m a musician, so I try and educate the white, hetero, male musos in Perth. So, when they play their punk shows and they see guys shoving each other, instead of egging them on – even if they’re doing it ironically – they’ll be like, ‘Guys, stop. Girls to the front. Let’s make this a safe space.’” Donnelly’s activism isn’t confined to her extra-curricular pursuits, as is abundantly apparent in her breakout track, the satirically-titled ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. A haunting, acoustic ballad, it squares up to the perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse with a steely-eyed determination (‘You invaded her magnificence / Put your hand over her mouth’) and attacks the surrounding culture of victimblaming (‘Why was she all alone / Wearing her shirt that low’). At tonight’s show, she introduces ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ with a trigger-warning. As Donnelly explains, the song is rooted in real-life events. “I wrote it about a personal experience that happened to a friend of mine, and it affected our group of friends at large. I noticed this victimblaming thing; a couple of people had asked her, ‘Why did you go home with him in the first place?’ rather than questioning why women are getting raped. So that was my way of trying to articulate what was happening, and then as I wrote it, it became less about me and her and more about the culture.” In a post-Weinstein world, where a raft of high-profile allegations of sexual abuse are being uncovered in all industries on what’s starting to feel like a daily basis, the song’s pertinence is uncanny. “It’s become bigger than me, and the timing of it has been so weird
and fortuitous,” Donnelly agrees. “I’m still not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing: it’s a bit of a beast. But it’s important that people talk about this stuff, whether it’s from my song or from anything else. It’s really important that men are actually allies in helping this stuff stop. And it’s not just women who have been subject to this kind of abuse or harassment. “But it is exhausting,” she says. “A friend of mine said the other day, ‘Good people go down in a revolution,’ and that’s the thing: it is a bit of a revolution right now, where people are standing up and saying, ‘You can’t treat me like this; we won’t put up with it anymore.’ It needs to happen. I look at the Australian music scene and feel like there’s an ominous cloud on the horizon…”
hile Donnelly praises the supportive sense of community in Perth’s music scene, and its inspiring “underdog mentality” at length, she concedes, “I think we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of diversity and safety and that kind of thing. Perth has still got its bogans – racist, bigoted, rowdy boys that are Australia’s answer to ‘lads’ – and that can create some violence.” As for personal experiences of harassment, Donnelly cites the period she performed in a tribute band – immediately after finishing her studies at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts – as an eye-opener. “I was the only woman in the band and I was wearing heels at these corporate functions,” she recalls. “I just found myself in these situations as a young woman, getting groped by business men and stuff like that, which has really helped me gather my strength and fuel me in the way that I write now.” If there’s a common thread running through Donnelly’s songwriting, it’s her brutal lyrical frankness, which is as likely to manifest itself in deliciously dry humour as it is searing social commentary. Amongst the material played at St. Moritz tonight is a love song in which she compares herself to a “malarial mosquito”, a score-settling number dedicated to a former employer, featuring a line about him
jerking off over a CV, entitled ‘You Owe Me’, and ‘I Should Have Stayed Home’, an enjoyably excruciating examination of a disastrous Tinder date. Donnelly credits this candour to her childhood – which included a stint in Swansea – and, in particular, her Dad’s long-time love of Billy Bragg. “I think his lyrics really stuck with me,” she says. “‘Workers’ Playtime’ was more about love than politics, and I remember this one line [in ‘The Short Answer’] where he’s like, “No amount of poetry would mend this broken heart / But you can put the Hoover ‘round if you want to make a start.” You know? Just the very suburban, relatable way of talking about real life. I think maybe I wanted to take those aspects on in the way that I write.There are no frills; I think I’d struggle to be too hyperbolic.” She elaborates further: “[Songwriting’s] a way of working through my brain. I suffer from anxiety sometimes and when I feel like that I’ve got adrenaline running through my body, I don’t know what to do with it. I’m holding on to something so I need to work out a way to write this stuff down and get this out. My own material feels like a release in that way.” A debut album is cautiously slated for release in the summer of 2018. Indeed, it’s already in the works, and just prior to this trip Donnelly recorded two songs in Melbourne with Dean Tuzer, who previously produced ARIAnominated five-piece The Rubens, as well as Donnelly’s band Boat Show. “Dean’s got a pop mentality but I wanted him to approach recording with punk sounds, so it doesn’t sound too polished. I’m making sure that the record feels real. You know, I’m gonna do a bit more instrumentation this time, but I still want me and the lyrics to be at the forefront. I’d really like to have something I’m really proud of in terms of my writing.” She looks up from her now stone-cold noodles, unwittingly recreating the pose from her EP cover for a moment, before adding with a grin, “I hope I can do it.”
Golden Teacher Wolfish abandon writer: daniel dylan wray
Above : Golden te ac h e r aft e r a qu ie t ni gh t in t he champag ne r e g ion of france .
driver stands totally naked with a shirt on his head and trousers around his ankles, two brothers wrestle on a plush red velvet sofa with one strangling the other, a bemused venue steward stands beside them looking dead at the camera, whilst others around them present a variety of looks amongst discarded wine glasses. “Yeah, that is a problematic photo,” says Golden
Teacher’s Sam Bellacosa of a particularly drunken evening at the end of a tour in the Champagne region of France. “Maybe it’s a little too tongue in cheek.” Aside from looking like some sort of LSD-induced nativity scene gone wrong, this backstage photo in circulation of the group somehow feels emblematic of the group as a whole: busy, chaotic, fun, animated
and intriguing. Golden Teacher have been making some of the most heady, immersive and eclectic dance music to come out of Scotland in recent years. They are a six-piece group that dance around genres seamlessly, hurling out ESG-like disco-tinged grooves one minute, agitated no wave the next. Then there’re nods to industrial or house music, winks to dub and dancehall, always under the full
embrace of jilted rhythms and complete experimentation. Having released a series of 12”s and EPs on labels such as Optimo over the years, the group finally just released their debut LP, ‘No Luscious Life’, one of 2017’s true underground gems. Catching up with Bellacosa in Glasgow, the group haven’t even had time to let the release of the album sink in because they have been split between other projects and stretched out across different continents. They also consists of brothers Laurie and Oliver Pitt, Cassie Oji, Charles Lavenac and Richard McMaster, who between them all are in enough different bands and projects to fill their own festival line-up. Such projects include L.A.P.S, Silk Cut and Blue Sabbath Black Fiji. “In an ideal world we’d be touring this record right now,” Bellacosa says, “but we’d have to work an enormous amount to get into the tight grooves of that record – to get back into the collective frenzy of that moment.” The collective frenzy that makes up the record, and indeed the band, is one that comes from funnelling a huge amount into it.The group are voracious consumers of music and this is very much a head band. “We’re into music in various ways,” Bellacosa tells me. “Be it collectorship, scholarship or creating and authorship – in all senses we’re obsessed with music. It’s about music for posterity, getting as much out there as possible.” What gives the group this sense of idiosyncrasy is the smashing together of ideas, and of styles and of amorphous roles. “I was drawn to how zealous everybody is with what they do,” Bellacosa says of the group’s ability to move around. “A lot of what the band was about was each member really trying to formalise what their role was rather than what their instrument was. It was less what do you play in the band and more about what am I as a musician, and I think for the six of us it was about having the belief in being able to call yourself a musician and not necessarily be an instrumentalist in any way. That’s a very punk approach, I guess, but that term has become a little Xeroxed now. The whole thing is about a wolfish abandon. Like a pack of wild animals loaded with abandon and improvisation. I’ve now come to know
these guys as not just people but unique geniuses and I say that as someone who has a bit of a bugbear about the term unique.”
hrowing six unique people into the mix and melding genres, paces and switching tone from record-to-record could, and perhaps should be, a hot mess. However, over the last five years Golden Teacher’s career almost mirrors one of a truly mesmerising DJ set, as they continue to unfold in this rolling, overlapping way that manages to all feel part of the same sonic voyage but covers masses of terrain whilst on it. “Golden Teacher is a therapeutic way to filter this obsession,” Bellacosa offers. “It’s an obsession through a compulsion.” On a practical level, how do you get six people to land in the same place and want to make the same music, though? “It’s tough,” admits Bellacosa of the literal process of getting the band all in the same room to begin with. “Initially it was getting together at people’s houses to make music and then whatever would get put on the hi-fi over dinner might be enough to form a new idea, a certain rhythm or something. There’s a certain mystery to how music comes about but sometimes it can often be as circumstantial as that.” What begins with the screeching noise of various ideas and inputs is then simmered down to the group’s essence – a groove. “I think the more we’ve played together, we’ve found a certain amount of restraint between us in the instrumentation and performance, and this new record is the essence of that. That’s the spirit of it, when we can get really reductive and listen to each other. It’s about taking all the ideas thrown together and just harmonising those.” A great deal of such harmonising has been done at Glasgow’s Green Door studios over the years. It’s an analogue recording studio that also runs a free training programme for young people not in education or employment – something that all six members of the group have been through themselves, offering a meaningful and explorative platform for them to develop. “When
we were leaving school everybody knew about it because it was a place you could spend time if you were unemployed or hadn’t been to uni or had finished with virtually no prospects,” Bellacosa says of the small back alley studio. “We needed outlets to make that music; it became a real legitimisation that somebody would record your music and give you that space and platform. Coming from that background means you’re prone to be open to progressive ways of doing things.” Members of the band are still involved with the studio now and are now passing on their own expertise to young people on the courses. A cassette tape release of covers recorded at the studio from 2009-2017 by various people who have been through the course was released earlier this year, seeing some delightfully warped and imaginative takes on music by the likes of Butthole Surfers, The Cramps, Devo and The Stooges. In Golden Teacher’s early days they were a self-proclaimed party band, exploring hedonism in its purest form through the reckless abandon of music and inviting audiences to throw themselves into the sonic maelstrom that is the band live. They even have a song called ‘Party People’, an irresistible seven-minute funk strut through Afrobeat-flavoured percussive flurries, bouncing electronics and the animalistic growl of dual vocals. A few years down the line, and with the group somewhat dissipated into various other projects and commitments, this approach has altered somewhat. “Being a party band is hard work,” Bellacosa tells me. “Some of the music on this record, I would suggest that maybe you can hear a slight weariness in the music. Now we’re in a very different set of circumstances to what we once were. You can think about this album as a nice companion to the earlier stuff. Maybe it’s the comedown record. On record we can be headphone music – I’ve always viewed the two as being very different.” Ultimately, being a party band means a fundamental commitment to something that becomes unsustainable unless it’s your full-time job. “We practised being a party band, we specifically asked for night club spots
and partying festivals,” Bellacosa says. “That takes it toll on you, as it means putting in those really insane hours. In a gig environment it is swirling with 24 hour party people – it can be a little overwhelming sometimes.” The term ‘partying’, here, is often applied in the most innocent sense too. “I don’t really think the band ever really saw intoxicants as a means to make that sort of music,” Bellacosa says when asked if the group got stuck heavy into drugs and booze and needed to take a step back. “If anything we had to get prohibitive with ourselves to reach that place. Drugs and alcohol never led the music – it’s not a drug band. Even someone like Spacemen 3 would probably balk at them just being known as a drug band. I’m sure there are some teetotallers tripping out to Spacemen 3 right now.” Bellacosa goes on to describe the sound of the band’s current incarnation as “A Scanner Darkly party music,” referring to Philip K. Dick’s bleak novel. “We make disenchanted dance music,” he says. “Regardless of the party, dance music is something we’re always going to be invested in.” It’s ultimately this continued immersion into dance music that still creates both the push and pull for the group. It’s a sense of shared catharsis that sparks and ignites both ways. As Bellacosa says: “Whether we’d admit it to ourselves, either as a group or individually, the way we’ve made it through a lot of stuff in life is through making dance music and engaging in raucous performances. It’s us exercising our own dramas.”
Rig ht : l id o pimien t a in her ho me st ud io in t he west en d o f To ro n t o .
Lido Pimienta From Columbia to Canada, everything she does ends up being a political statement Photography: colin Medley / writer: katie beswick
In a deck of tarot cards, La Papessa, or the High Priestess, is depicted in blue. She sits under the tree of life, at the gates before the Great Mystery, halfway between the darkness and the light. The partially concealed scroll in her lap reads ‘TORA’ (‘divine law’). The High Priestess is the guardian of the unconscious, symbolising feminine intuition, self-discovery and the will to change through love and understanding. The thin veil that hangs behind her is all that separates us from the full knowledge of our inner selves. “She is concentrating on her education, and on her power to grow on her own,” Lido Pimienta tells me. “And that’s what I did.” We’re chatting about her latest record (‘La Papessa’, after the tarot Priestess), and how it marks a chapter in her life. After separating from her husband, Pimienta explains, she was initially bereft, unsure whether she’d be able to write an album alone. Entering into what she calls ‘High Priestess mode’, she began writing and performing songs that dramatically detailed the end of her marriage, slowly connecting with musicians and artists in Toronto, where she’s currently based. By the end of the process she was creating music that celebrated her love for herself and for the community she’d forged along the way. “You’re meeting me at this point where I’m figuring out who I am as woman, as a mother, who I am as an immigrant. Who I am as someone who collaborates with artists – from not just music, but dance and theatre.
And so it is important to always make it clear that every album is a different chapter, every year that you get older is an opportunity to change, and that’s what I like to create.”
orn in Columbia to an indigenous family who were weavers by trade, Pimienta has lived what she describes as a ‘wild life’. She was raised in the shadow of an on-going civil war, and spent her childhood acutely aware of the injustices wrought by broken systems of power. “I started playing live shows when I was ten, eleven, in punk and metal bands, and hard-core bands. I grew up resisting a government. I grew up with a fear of being disappeared by the government because of my activism that started very, very, very young.” Throughout her teenage years, she immersed herself in music, becoming especially obsessed with the trip hop scene. Periodically, Pimienta would travel from the city, where she lived in the vivid glare of ’90s global pop culture, back to the desert to visit her grandmother – it was during these trips that she came to understand herself as a person who would always live a hyphenated existence. “Like: to-the-city-to-the-desert, to-themountain-to-the-river. And then back to the city. Growing up like that, with all these different narratives. Living in a hyphen. Being a kid of the ’90s, watching MTV, but then every three
months I had to be in the desert without aTV and trying to communicate with my grandmother and with the elders in their own language.” Pimienta married young, aged just nineteen (“I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what my mother was thinking – why she didn’t stop it.”), after fleeing to Canada to escape the civil war in Columbia. She gave birth to her son, now nine, when she was twenty-one, and released her debut album, ‘Color’, produced by thenhusband Michael Ramey, in 2010. They separated soon afterwards and she found herself living in a house with two friends, sharing a single room with her infant son. Still, the things society might understand as barriers – early pregnancy, immigration, divorce, single motherhood – Pimienta has embraced as part of life’s rich tapestry. She points out that her son was planned, that, in fact, she had him later than she would have liked. “I wanted to have my son when I was 20, and that was my dream. I had him when I was 21. The difficulty of it wasn’t even from my own life, it was the perception that other people had around this idea that why are you so young with a kid, this must be a mistake. But then, at the same time, that also motivated me because I just proved everyone wrong.” Even through a faulty Internet connection, Pimienta exudes an incredible energy and sense of purpose. “I’ve always had conviction, and I’ve always had the motivation to be an artist. I feel if I’d wanted to be a doctor,
be a lawyer, whatever I wanted to do I was going to do it, no matter what.” She is grounded and articulate, speaking in precise sentences, utterly self-assured – as if she knows the answer to all your questions before you’ve even thought of them. “I don’t look at those times when I had to share a room with my son for three years as difficult. It was a big room that I turned into a little apartment. It was my music studio, my art studio – it had my desk where people would come over to write essays and stuff like that.” She breaks off for a moment and I hear the clatter of something in the background. As if she’s painting, or making dinner, opening and closing cupboard doors while we speak. “When you want to do something you just do it. And people outside of you, they will tell you that this is impossible, and people will tell you that you’re stupid. People will tell you that you’re dumb because why would you make your life difficult. But then the joke’s on you because you know I’m entering my 30s, I’m just entering my 30s and my son is 9 years old. And the freedom that I have when I go on tour – I leave him with my best friend and I FaceTime him and then it's over – so I’m able, because I was on that quest of being myself, doing what I wanted to do how I wanted to do it, I don’t ask for anyone’s favours. I don’t give account to anyone. I guess that’s a part of the messagethat I carry in my music. Let me show you how I’ll kill it. I’ll do great.”
'I don’ t look at those times when I had to share a room with my son for three years as diff icult'
The sense of injustice that drove her childhood activism is still palpable, bubbling through her work, culminating in a cultural mash-up where the personal and the political collide. At her shows, she doesn’t shy away from the power imbalances at play in the room, asking audience members who might feel uncomfortable because they are in a minority to step to the front, creating a safe space for people who might feel vulnerable. During a recent performance at the Halifax Pop Explosion music festival, several white audience members and a white volunteer photographer reacted violently when she asked for “brown girls” to step to the front of the venue. The festival organisers issued an apology, acknowledging that their volunteer had displayed “overt racism”, and promising to do better. Although her political actions seem considered, Pimienta explains that the political inflections of her practice happen, if not by accident, then unconsciously – as an inevitable response to the cultural landscape. “I think that in 2017, people our age, or millennials or whatever you want to call it, we can’t really escape the
political landscape that we’re trying to survive in. I don’t make music that is ‘this is the song that’s going to change the world’, that’s not why I write. I write music that resonates with people that are tired of being pushed around. And, I think, music that people enjoy, and that resonates with folks that are interested in a voice that is not heteronormative. So you know I make songs about polyamory, and impossible love. This is the world that I live in and its not a conscious decision, but it still consciously comes out.” Her hybrid identity, she implies, makes her especially sensitive to the fraught global politics under which we all live. “I cannot ignore it. It’s just interesting when you live in this hyphen – like Canadian-ColombianIndigenous-Black – all the hyphens and all the boxes that I can check off in any application or whatever. I am stuck in this hyphen so it doesn’t matter. If I wanna write a song about flowers, it ends up being political, just because of my body, just because of, you know, not singing in English. Everything that I do, whether I like it or not ends up being a political statement, even if I’m just writing about fucking, you know?”
f previous work has only been unconsciously political, then the next album, she tells me, is deliberately, definitively so. Living in Canada she has begun to reflect on the country’s legacy of colonialism, and the parallels it has with the political turmoil that endures in Columbia. She is outraged that the colonisation of Canada by the English and French is “Canada’s little secret”, more or less invisible to tourists and recent immigrants. She tells me that indigenous Canadians have the highest rate of incarceration of any ethnic group in the country. “In jail on your own land! That was really odd, trying to understand – am I a settler too? What is my participation in this Canadian project? So I was figuring it out. Me being a Canadian. Me as maybe not so much an immigrant any more because I’ve been here for a decade. I’m thinking about my home country because every year that goes by that becomes more strained. More distant, like I don’t feel like I belong there as much. I’m writing about that. These are the songs I’m writing now. It’s like the cynical love letter to my country. Because you know I love my country but I have so much beef with it.” Some of this beef stems from the result of the Columbian referendum in 2016, when the populace voted to reject a peace agreement to end fiftytwo years of war with Farc guerrillas. (A revised, though fragile, peace deal was signed in November last year, and the Farc began disarming in February 2017.) Her enduring anger at the conservative attitudes in her homeland is the driving force for this next chapter. “All the right wing, the Christians – and the church is involved – the family; in politics anti-abortion is a big thing, all of this pro-life. Extreme right. Anyone who is a nationalist, you know ‘I’m a nationalist’ it always means zero immigrants, don’t bring anyone else here. So those people, who control the media, control the police, control the government; they decided that they didn’t want the
peace agreement. The president we had before the one we have now, his hands are covered in blood. But he’s a politician so nothing’s gonna happen to him.” The paramilitary Farc, she explains – though reviled by the right-wing media and much of the public – were mostly recruited as child soldiers. “For the most part [they] are young, poor, poor kids that were brought to war when they were children. And they grew up with nothing else, because the government never offered them a better opportunity. And those people they’re chastised, and they’re rejected by the community because ‘they’re murderers’ – well what are you gonna do when you’re eight years old and they give you a shot gun and they tell you ‘now you are called paramilitary’ and you don’t know where your parents are? “So that’s the research that I’m doing and those are the things I’m doing for the next album. Because it would be so easy for me to write an album about queer or hetero love and just write like the Sam Smiths and the Selina Gomezes of the world. That would be so easy for me. But you know that’s just,” she gives a long exhalation. “It’s dumb.” There’s a cultural shift, she explains, and she wants to be part of it – a chance, maybe, to make things better. “I feel like our generation is far more interested in bringing truth forth, and far more interested in like, ‘hey, I wanna have an ocean and be able to swim in it with my children next year.’ So that’s pretty much it. That’s the moving elements. That’s the pushers of the things that I do.”
Photography: Jamie Wdziekonski / writer: joe goggins
Year of the GizZard By New Year’s Eve KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD will have released 5 albums in 2017. Stu Mackenzie explains why his experimental psych band hatched this ridiculous plan, how they’ve managed to execute it with such wildly different LPs, and what might come of the record they gave away to the world, with its copyright now in all of our hands
“We’ve been busy, but I try to put that into perspective. I don’t feel as if I work as hard as a doctor does.” To realise why Stu Mackenzie feels the need to contextualise his work ethic, you have to understand how closely to the grindstone he and his bandmates in King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have held their noses this year. Most bands do well to turn out a new full-length once every three years, but in November of 2016, Mackenzie announced plans for his group to release no fewer than five albums over the course of 2017. They were hardly lazy before that news broke – in the six years since
their formation, they’d already made eight LPs – but this particular endeavour seemed like ascension to another level entirely. Anybody who then glanced over the septet’s live schedule for the year would’ve been forgiven for wondering if they’d crossed the line from ambition to insanity. Mackenzie’s laid-back demeanour belies his prodigious output, and as much as that might seem like it sets him up for mischaracterisation (how many times have we heard the hard-touring Mac DeMarco described as the world’s premier purveyor of slacker rock?), it might just be the band’s serene
‘ w e w e r e s ta r t i n g t o f e e l g u i lt y a b o u t t ry i n g to g e t p eo p l e to b u y so much stuff all the time'
approach to their work that’s allowed them to be so productive. “I hope we’re actually going to make it to five records!” laughs Mackenzie over the phone from his native Australia – LP5 is still in the works, roughly scheduled for a Christmas Day release. “We’ve been busy all year, and that’s been cool. I try to write a little bit on tour, but not a lot tends to come off that. Once we’re at home, the studio’s just around the corner from my house, so I’ll go there every day and tinker away at whatever I’ve got going, and just make shit. Plus, you know, we don’t really have much of a filter, either; most bands will write fifty songs, and then whittle them down to twelve for an album. We just put all fifty out.” There are few details on the fifth record at this point in time, but if it’s going to follow the trend set by the four that have preceded it this calendar year, it’s likely to have an identity all of its own. It’s little wonder that so many ascribe the ‘experimental’ tag to King Gizzard when their 2017 releases to date have all had such different feels to them; the first of them, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’, was the woozy comedown to 2016’s fierce, complex ‘Nonagaon Infinity’, temperate in terms of both pace and structure. ‘Murder of the Universe’, meanwhile, was quite the opposite – a manic, intense rock and roll workout threaded together with sinister spoken-word exposition that extolled the apocalyptic themes of the record’s lyrics. ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’, released in August, was a collaborative effort with Alex Brettin, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter with a penchant for sunny guitars who records under the name Mild High Club, and perhaps the most compositionally abstract of the bunch in terms of the way the songs came together. Just last month, the fourth King Gizzard effort of 2017 was surprise-released, and the abrupt nature of its arrival wasn’t the only thing about ‘Polygondwanaland’ that raised eyebrows; it’s available as a free download that comes free of any copyright stipulations, which the group have altruistically waived. Already, there’s a Kickstarter campaign well on its way to full funding, run by a fan who intends to press the album to vinyl himself. (On Reddit’s last count, 32 small labels were planning limited runs; at Loud And Quiet we reeled off 50 cassettes in aid of the Refugee Crisis.)
There’s been so many twists and turns for King Gizzard this year that it’s a wonder Mackenzie can actually remember what the reasoning behind the five-album plan was in the first place. “I think there were a few things that led to us coming to that bizarre conclusion,” he says from the band’s tour van, which is headed from Canberra to the airport, to catch a flight to Perth. “Towards the end of 2015, we were finishing up ‘Nonagon Infinity’ and that was kind of a brutal record for us. We were coming straight off of some pretty heavy touring and jumping straight into that one, and because we made it in New York, it just felt like we were living and breathing it the whole time we were there. We were rehearsing the songs a lot, because we wanted to them to be so tight that we could go in and nail them
in one take. The whole process was a bit of a head fuck, so by the time it was done, we were ready for a break.” Around the same time, in early 2016, the band began hiring out a warehouse in their native Melbourne, which quickly became – for all intents and purposes – Gizzard Headquarters. They now had a considerably more relaxed environment to make records in than the one in which ‘Nonagon Infinity’ was cut, but the burnout that album had culminated in meant that nobody was in any mood to do so. When the ideas did start to finally formulate, Mackenzie recalls, they were disparate in nature. “We toured heaps last year, but ‘Nonagon Infinity’ was the only thing we actually put out. So, instead, we were messing around with all kinds of different stuff; fast, heavy stuff that felt
really linked to ‘Nonagon’, and then chilled-out, jazzy ideas that just seemed like they were from a totally different universe to that. Eventually, it felt like we had these four different ideas, to build four distinct albums around, and then somehow, that ended up becoming five. I think I got a little bit over-excited, but the challenge was something that felt really invigorating. It’s been really fun. We’ve maybe toured a little bit more than we’d anticipated, though, which is why this fifth record still isn’t done!”
hronologically, the first instalment in the Gizzard 2017 series came in March, with the fabulously-titled ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’; the album, a relatively sedate and breezy affair,
was named after the guitar that formed its bedrock. “I went to Turkey a while back and I came back with this sort of folk instrument called a bağlama,” explains Mackenzie. “I was messing around and having fun with it for a while, which led to a few songs, and I thought we could maybe make our own Turkish folk album. We never actually recorded any of it, because once we started jamming, it became clear how difficult it is to translate the melodic parts from the bağlama to the other instruments. Instead, I had this guitar custom-made to resemble the bağlama in a simplified, more rigid form. That guitar was what we were calling the flying microtonal banana, and all the ideas for the record escaped from that instrument. We buried a couple of them pretty deep on ‘Nonagon Infinity’, but on ‘Banana’, all of that microtonal stuff really came to the fore.” Instead, it was June’s ‘Murder of the Universe’ that had the closest ties to ‘Nonagaon Infinity’, both in terms of the way it sounds and with regards to the highly conceptual aspects of its vision. Where the lyrics on ‘Banana’ focused on a more tangible and real threat to the future of civilisation – environmental concerns and climate change – ‘Murder of the Universe’’s take on the End Of Days was more akin to the sort of things you’d see in horror fiction, from the ominous voiceovers to constant nods to monstrous transformation. “I think all the albums actually needed to be a little bit conceptual, in order that we could separate the songs into their appropriate categories,” Mackenzie relates. “That’s part of the reason why the four that are out are all so distinct from each other. With ‘Murder of the Universe’, though, the aim was basically to make a version of ‘Nonagon Infinity’ that was just more brutal, more disgusting – something like that. I wanted it to be scary and gross and, honestly, a little bit challenging.” Anybody moved to suggest that ‘Murder of the Universe’ is the most indulgent of the 2017 releases to date might also have a point, by Mackenzie’s own admission. “Everyone always says that you should make music for yourself – that’s what you should be aiming for, so that you can kind of cast off the weight of expectation. But, to be honest, I think a lot of the time, you’re actually making music for your friends – or at least I am. I’ll write a song, and as I’m working on it, I’m
thinking, ‘I’ll play this for such a person, because I think they’ll really dig it.’ ‘Murder of the Universe’ was an exception to that, because the whole time I was writing it, I was convinced that everybody was going to hate it except me! So I guess I made that one for myself, for a change.” Given both the close ties of ‘Murder of the Universe’ to ‘Nonagon Infinity’ and the gruelling process that the band put themselves through to finish the latter, it’s possible that they were reacting against it and finding a little bit of catharsis in aiming to remake it in such an extreme new image. “There’s some truth in that,” Mackenzie agrees. “That’s something that would’ve happened subconsciously, for sure. ‘Nonagon Infinity’, at least for us, was a fairly calculated record, and although ‘Murder of the Universe’ was coming from the same place, and some of the most difficult songs and takes we’ve ever put down are on there, it still felt a lot more free, because when we were in the process of finishing it, we were letting the tracks go their own way, and if that meant they ended up in these farout places, then great. That’s how the record took on so much of its concept
and personality, and it was a much more enjoyable experience for us. We got to mess around a lot more, I guess.” In turn, what followed ‘Murder of the Universe’ felt like a kick back against it. Had we not known in advance that every record that King Gizzard have put out this year has been by design rather than accident, it would’ve been easy to consider August’s ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ a bit of a fluke. There was no bloody-mindedness about it, or roadmap of any kind; it simply fell together when Mackenzie cajoled his long-time tourmate Brettin into some collaborative sessions in Melbourne, once they finally got off the road for a little while. “We toured with those guys quite a few times,” recounts Mackenzie. “I want to say that it was mostly through 2015. We played a lot with Mild High Club in Europe and in the States, and we just became good friends with them. Alex and I got on especially well, which is weird because I think we both have very different musical upbringings – it’s just that we arrive in this very similar place. I can’t read music or anything like that – I grew up just playing as loud as I could in pubs,
you know? I just don’t know what I’m doing, most of the time. I’m always just kind of fucking around, but I’m curious, too, and I think Alex’s background is the sort of thing I’m fascinated by.” Regardless of what the carefree tenor of his music might suggest, Brettin is a serious student of jazz, and it was that discipline and knowledge that drew Mackenzie towards the idea of a collaborative LP. “It’s like a horseshoe effect or something, the way we seem to meet in the middle. We just formed this friendship and I don’t really even know whose idea the record was. One day, we obviously decided between us that it was a good idea. At that point, as nice as it sounded, I’m not sure that we ever expected it to go anywhere, or end in something tangible. I think it was December last year that Mild High Club came down to Australia to play Gizzfest and I said to Alex, ‘why don’t you just stay here for another week, you can sleep at my place, and we’ll just go to the studio every day and try to make something.’ We had maybe ten or twelve weird ideas, that were usually just a chord progression with a melody over the top, and we just bounced them back and forth.” As Mackenzie and Brettin began to hammer ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ into shape, it became clear that they’d been able to tap into the same creative vein; the album’s title stems from the fact that, for much of the creative process, the individual ideas that became the songs on the record were just that – sketches of where the duo wanted to go. They’d turn on the tape machine as they played, and by the end of Brettin’s seven-day stay they had the basis of the record; work then continued in fits and starts, as the two traded recordings back and forth between Melbourne and Los Angeles. That was something that continued for another six months before ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ was actually ready, and as much as Mackenzie is now a staunch advocate for that kind of openended process, he does stress that an experimental environment doesn’t necessarily mean that the pressure is automatically off in creative terms. “There’s always a little bit of pressure, and a little bit of pressure is always a good thing,” he says. “In some ways, if you’re going in blind, the stakes are a little bit higher. That was especially true of ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’, because Alex is this incredibly talented guy and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got to make something that he’s going to like.’ At the very least, it had to be something that he’d be able
to latch onto, and figure out where it could go next. I’d be trying to push him in a certain direction, but I’d also be holding back, because I didn’t think I was smart enough to know what chord inflection he was going for. I was happy to just hand it back and let him put his own sparkle on the songs.When he left Australia, I was stoked because I knew we had some good stuff, but at the same time I was kind of scared to listen back to what we had! I didn’t know what the fuck we’d just made! And there was a lot of chopping and changing, and editing – we almost sampled ourselves a few times.”
ypically, King Gizzard were already thinking about their fourth album of the year by the time that ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ was out in late summer. ‘Polygondwanaland’ is, by some distance, the most compact and cohesive of the 2017 releases, scored through with a sense of urgency and purpose that we haven’t necessarily come to expect from the band. More than that, it’s also public property; it arrived in November as a free download (including liner notes, high resolution artwork and master mixes for your chosen format), with the prospect of a physical release being left in the lap of the gods – or, rather, the fans. “I think we were maybe starting to feel guilty about trying to get people to buy so much stuff all the time,” Mackenzie laughs. “I know that, for my part, I was becoming really conscious of the band becoming this business entity, which I really don’t want it to be. It was overwhelming, that feeling of constantly selling yourself, and your music, and your merch, and I think what we wound up doing with ‘Polygondwanaland’ stemmed out of this thought of, ‘let’s try to change this, somehow.’ It just seemed to make sense to let people do whatever the fuck they wanted with it, you know? If we were going to give it away, then let’s do it properly. Let’s actually give it away. It wasn’t as overly thought out as it looks, I suppose.” Effectively, the future of ‘Polygondwanaland’ remains openended; as Mackenzie points out, if somebody wanted to re-release it on wax thirty years down the line from now, there’d be nothing stopping them from doing so. Similarly, if anybody wanted to put it out on cassette, for a limited run with all proceeds to helprefugees.org, that’d be OK, too. “We had no idea what was going to happen, and honestly, we were as curious as anybody else as to where
King of the Gizzards: The 2017 albums rated
1 – TBC We’re rating an album we’ve not heard yet as King Gizzard’s best of the year because it’s what trend dictates. Each release has topped the one before, with this, the final LP of five, rumoured for Christmas Day. There’s no way they’re going to end all of this on a shit sandwich.
2 – Polygondwanaland Although not the band’s shortest album of 2017, the totally free ‘Polygondwanaland’ feels like their most concise – perhaps ever. Featuring modular synth segments and nods to CAN within its mellow ’60s psych, it suggests TBC could easily be the band’s first frazzled dance album.
3 – Sketches of Brunswick East Stu Mackenzie's jazzy collaboration with Alex Brettin is King Gizzard for a different mood – a Sunday morning, lounging around album that waltzes around flutes and electric pianos and gets weird at the exact moment when you’re zoning out.
this whole idea would go,” he says. “Would people be interested at all? Would one of the big labels swoop in and try to put it onto vinyl? It’s going to exist in this weird state forever. It’s an ongoing experiment, and we’re as fascinated by it as anybody.” As much as the record will always retain a sense of mystery, the primary source of intrigue for King Gizzard fans is LP5, which remains on schedule for a festive release at the time of writing. Mackenzie, though, is tight-lipped on it, only suggesting that it might sonically and thematically fall outside of the territory explored by the other 2017 records. “I think we’re gonna need every day we’ve got to get it finished! It’s cool, though. We’re figuring out how to execute it, I guess. It’s going to be it’s own thing. I think it’s maybe the most fun of the five records, or at least it has been to make it.” Already, the seven-piece are turning their thoughts to 2018, which is –
4 – Murder of The Universe The set’s high concept album is a breakneck rock record about the end of days, combining hysterical playing, ridiculous horror imagery of transforming beasts and the deadpan narration of a cyborg harbinger of doom called Han-Tyumi. Obviously check this one out first.
surprise, surprise – set to be a busy year. In February, they’ll play their biggest UK shows to date, with a gig at Brixton Academy. “It’s humbling and intimidating at the same time,” says Mackenzie. “Brixton’s going to be the biggest headline show we’ve ever done, I think. We’re just trying to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We’re probably peaking right now – we’re probably maxed out – but it’s cool. I like going to the studio when I’m home – I feel like a real human – and I like driving around playing rock and roll and exploring beautiful places with my buddies when I’m on the road. I don’t have much to complain about.”
5 – Flying Microtonal Banana If we were judging names alone, naturally this would be number one. Named after a Turkish folk instrument that inspired its swaying hips, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ is the breezy new entry point for King Gizzard... at least for the next month or two.
tell me about it
Benjamin Clementine The restless Mercury Prize winner does all the talking, about his polarising new show, Shakespeare, love, racism, Jesus Christ and James Bond Photogra phy: timothy cochrane / writer: greg cochrane
When Benjamin Clementine won the Mercury Prize in 2015 it was the prompt for his extraordinary story to be told more widely. Born in Ghana, he was the boy who grew up in Edmonton, north London, in a strict Christian family. He left home at sixteen and spent three years in Paris without a fixed address. When he could he’d stay in hostels, busking on the boulevards and the Metro to get by. It was there that his potential was spotted, and he was given the support to make his debut album, ‘At Least For Now’. He expected “50 people” to hear it. It went on to beat Aphex Twin, Jamie XX and Florence and the Machine to the award two years ago (he’s hasn’t spent the £20k prize money yet). At the ceremony the 6’4 figure with a soft speaking voice dedicated the trophy to those affected by the Paris terrorist attacks – that had taken place less than a week before – and invited his fellow nominees to share his crowning moment on stage with him. It was a poignant gesture, and an introduction, for many, to an intriguing emerging artist. What followed was a heavy period of touring – he used New York as his base, living in Manhattan for almost two years. During that time, his working visa credited him as “an alien of extraordinary abilities”, a label that he found both apt and inspirational. It was there where he recorded ‘Hallelujah Money’ with Damon Albarn, the first taste of new music from Gorillaz in six years, shared the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration back in January. That was how 2017 began for him. With his own songwriting, those expecting more of the same from Clementine on his second album were wrongfooted. ‘I Tell A Fly’, released in September, was an avant-garde concept LP based on the story of two flies. Stylistically jumpy and conceptually layered, many reviews highlighted its
technical craft but troublesome connectivity. In other words: an uncompromising album that tackled themes like the ongoing refugee crisis via classical music and about eight other genres was tough going. It’s taken his recent live tour to bring into sharper focus the stories he was trying to convey. In the past, the 28-year-old would perform bare-foot sat gently at his grand piano. The Wandering Tour has not been that. A hint came early on when he turned up on Later… with Jools Holland to perform ‘Jupiter’ and draped a life-sized plastic pregnant woman in an American flag. Liam Gallagher stood in the background looking delightfully bewildered. The full show is an explosion of that. Part dance show, part art installation, part rock show, part musical theatre. Let go of any questions (you’ll have many) and it’s just thoroughly entertaining. For it, Clementine is joined on stage by a drummer and bass player all wearing mechanic’s overalls. They walk in unison and slide across the stage on a truss with wheels. Clementine serenades the mannequins. Funnily enough, it’s not been for everyone. During a recent stint in Europe some fans walked out, a small number even asked for their money back. But the show is undeniably original. Tonight, as the UK leg kicks off, under the ornate ceiling of Brighton’s Dome, there are 13 figures on stage during soundcheck – men, women and children. In a small dressing room, in the subterranean corridors beneath the venue, Clementine sips on a plastic cup of tea and reflects on his year. “If I think as a musician, I just want to go on stage and play an instrument...” So I started thinking like an artist, instead. That was to somehow show the story in a different way, instead of
just going on stage and telling a story like you could do from a book. I wanted it to be seen. “I’ve got the mannequins because I can’t afford 21 actors” That’s the first thing. And secondly, I had played a couple of festivals with backing singers, and that’s too traditional. I thought I’m not going to do that anymore. I want to do something different; I don’t want to copy what other people have done.The mannequins came from somewhere in Europe – possibly Poland. It’s a very special place where they make customised mannequins. Some pregnant, some fat… all different shapes. Children as well. The way they make it, it’s really beautiful. I found them on the Internet. Ordered myself. They turned up at the place we were rehearsing, so it was right on time. “Obviously, I’ve had a lot of complaints from fans” But that shouldn’t be my concern. You’ve got to take me as I am. [Some people] on Instagram, on Twitter, they want their money back. But that shouldn’t be amplified because out of the people I’ve played in front of only 50-odd out of 20,000 or 25,000 are complaining, so it’s not really a major problem. It just sucks a little bit that I’m realising and seeing that because I really believe in people and believe that… I really think people get it, and if you put your hand in your pocket and take out a chunk of change and you come and see my show, you’re not doing that for no reason. I suppose those people came to see the part of me that made them come. I don’t think they dug deep enough to realise that I am what I am on stage. I’m doing this for myself. Every time something has hit a chord it’s always made me stronger so, yes, I’m absolutely doing the right thing.”
a b o v e: B en ja min cl emen t in e a n d his po l ish ma n n equin s a t t he d o me, b rig ht o n .
“My fans often speak to me during the show” It’s because they know my music and they feel like they’re part of me, and I’m grateful for that. I’m very fortunate to have that. I invest a lot of time in them as well. Without them I’d just be singing in my room. They are very important – after me, but I’m not going to put them first. So when they talk, they’re trying to converse with me, they’re trying to show their feelings. I totally understand them. It’s just that I will always win, and they will have to accept it or reject it. That’s the only choice they have.
“The mystery about art is that sometimes it’s not meant to be understood” Especially when it’s life. If it has relevance or meaning it will always come back – that’s when eventually it will be understood. So in terms of what people have made of ‘I Tell A Fly’, you’d have to ask them.
from me. It’s certainly got a theatrical side to it, but I don’t think that’s the only thing. I think acting, if not on screen, it’s a bit too over-exaggerated. It’s a bit too… it’s theatre and you have to SPEAK LOUD, but come on, give me a break. It’s over the top and you don’t get the essence of the writer or the play.
“Would I do musical theatre?” I like the idea of it, but I think I’ll stick to what I’m doing because it’s a blend of both. That’s because I haven’t got actors on stage acting – it’s just coming
“I’m a great fan of Oscar Wilde” I can recite some parts of almost all of his work. I discovered Oscar Wilde in Paris. I bought a lot of books of his. I just started eating all of it.
“Shakespeare? That fucking guy” School was all about Shakespeare. That fucking guy. So fucking boring. Carol Ann Duffy was alright, she was very sentimental and emotional.” “Damon Albarn and I got together and thought ‘imagine if Trump becomes president’” Damon had the chorus of ‘Hallelujah Money’. So I just had to fill in the gaps. The idea is ‘imagine Trump becoming president’. I mean I don’t know what they’re telling the press but this is
tell me about it
what… we knew that Trump would be president. We knew, way before. Imagine if Trump didn’t become president? I don’t think that music would ever have come out. It wasn’t for Trump but it was for people to realise the situation.
that I was coming out there to somehow fight with them. And I was like, ‘what?’, so I was chasing after them. Going, ‘hey, no, come on, let me sign it for you,’ but they were running away. It was crazy. I’ve met so many people, especially in my darker times, so there are a lot of stories that I’ve kept under my sleeve, but this one was one of those moments that I found it so confusing. I wouldn’t call that racism – I wouldn’t call it that because I don’t know what racism is. Obviously, some people might say it’s racism, but if they’re saying it’s racism then I would say that this was a guy who was upset because I didn’t take the picture and so he thought about a way to hurt me by saying that. But if that’s meant to hurt me, then it’s impossible.
“Trump becoming president was the final straw” I think there’s actually hope. Trump becoming president was the final straw, for us to realise that we need to shake ourselves and do something about this thing called the world and this thing called love and care and support. We’re learning our lessons, we human beings, we do learn. Eventually. We’re going to come back. I’m actually optimistic. “It’s not a United Kingdom.” It isn’t. It’s absolutely divided. If you look at schools of young people, the schools that some young people go, and where other young people go – it’s unbelievable. Out of that they grow up and become something we all don’t want. I’m not going to be very specific, but you know what I mean. Most of the time we’re making a mockery out of the leader of the apparent free world, the leader of America, but, you know, we’re still not looking at the man in the mirror. The lady called the United Kingdom is not looking at herself in the mirror. And it’s a joke.” “I’ve decided to not really say that the UK is my home” The people who are around you are your home, because in these times I guess it’s all about who you care for, and the person closest to you. But that’s the life of London. People who live in London, they think London is great, they think London is amazing – I might sound like I’m complaining but London will be great again when people start caring for each other. London has really never cared for anyone, making it the richest city in the world. It’s this obsession with America. I personally wrote the song [‘Jupiter’] saying, ‘I’m wishing Americana happy/I’m wishing Americana free.’ That’s merely because I lived there. I wasn’t just sitting here and imagining things.” “I don’t give a shit about Jesus Christ.” But as soon as I go to my plane, sit down, and the plane is about to go up there, I do a cross [crossed his head and chest]. I can’t explain to you why I do that. Even though I try to stop myself from doing that I still do it. Maybe it’s a matter of upbringing. But I believe that I’ve let go of everything else. I’ve forgotten, and I don’t want to remember anything about my
upbringing. But making that cross sign – Hail Mary, all that rubbish – I do that. I’ll restate that God and religion is bullshit. It’s absolute bullshit. That’s what I believe. I respect people who actually believe in that because it takes a lot of courage to believe in such bullshit. It takes a lot of life to be a human being, and to believe in such a thing is quite impressive because if we look at how some people are born and how some people are born into impoverishment, for me, that just makes me believe a million percent that God does not exist. If there’s a God then that’s you sitting in front of me, because you’re making me speak. You’re asking me questions and I’m answering them. “Love is such a funny thing” I think saying I believe in it would be wrong. I think I’d rather say that love is love and the quicker you know it the better you live. In terms of hate, it’s a bit like light and darkness. Without hate, love would be useless. It’d have no meaning.” “I used to be afraid to talk about race but I’ve grown out of it” I personally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how I look. I do believe that I am very beautiful. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking… I never used to, in fact, spend any time thinking about my colour, because I had a lot of things to do. I had a lot of songs to write and a lot of ideas to come up with that I had forgotten that I looked like a colour. But, as time goes on, I’m beginning to start to think about other people and how they feel and their opinions. I’m beginning to listen to other people and what they have to say.
“Recently, an autograph hunter told me to ‘go back to Africa’” It was about a week or two ago on the tour in Germany. It’s a funny story, I must say. When you go to a venue, there’s always some fans standing outside waiting to get a signature or whatever. There’s something special about the people who come very early morning when you arrive on the bus. They’re either there because that’s their job – so they just stand there waiting for the new artist to come, sign the thing, then next day they do the same thing. But these guys actually looked like they were my fans. They asked for an autograph. I gave it to them. They wanted a picture. The camera was not working. I was very tired, it was early morning, so I just walked to the venue and I was going back into the bus and they started following me. I’m not scared of anyone so it’s like, ‘what do you want?’ As we’re going towards the bus, they wanted a picture, and they’re fixing the camera as they’re walking behind me. So I stopped at the bus, pressed the pass key and the bus opens and the guy says, ‘the camera’s working, the camera’s working,’ and I said, ‘hey, I’m too tired, man, I have to sleep,’ and as soon as I was about to press the switch for the door to close the guy retorted, ‘Go back to Africa’. All of a sudden it was almost like I was transported to another place, because, first of all, I didn’t know what that meant. And also, it confused me. It was the first time that I’d heard that phrase ever – first time. But I found it so funny that I reopened the door and I went back there to take a picture. As I walked out, I was laughing. ‘I said, hey, what the hell? What are you talking about?’They started running away. So they thought
“I still haven’t spent the Mercury Prize money” I’m going to put pianos in public places in Edmonton. By hook or by crook that will happen. I won’t forget about it because it’s something that I really want to do – it’s very important to me. I want to make it more than just that. I don’t want to just put this piano in a place and it be there – I want to get people more interested in the arts and music. I want it to be bigger than just that.” “$450million for a painting? I think Leonardo Di Vinci would be pissed off” It’s horrible. 450 million dollars… I’m a thousand percent sure that Di Vinci would be pissed off. They’re raving on about Di Vinci and Van Gogh and all that but they suffered in their time. I’m thinking about writing a song or an album about this – an artist who comes back and realises that his painting is in a fucking Russian Billionaire’s house and goes there and kills him and takes back his fucking painting. And guess what he does with it? He burns it. Ha! “A Bond Theme? I’d love to” As in the song? Tell them. Bond is such a great franchise. My mum loved James Bond – Pierce Brosnan. It’s interesting. I would love to of course. I always love writing stories and if there’s a story for me to sing about it’d be amazing. I don’t know how to sing those whatsitcalled? Poppy, lovey songs... it just makes me cringe. But never say never.
The Picasso of Pop In a parallel universe FELT became as big as The Smiths off the back of ten albums that spanned the 1980s. Lawrence – the group’s enigmatic leader – recalls their trip into indie folklore and draws a line under the decade’s definitive cult band Photography: phil sharp / writer: dominic haley
ater Orton is a strange place to start a story about pop music. If it wasn’t for the railway station slap bang in the middle of it, then you’d struggle to imagine much happening there at all. As a kid, I’d often pass through it on Saturday jaunts from Nuneaton to Birmingham, and the impression I had was that the industrial revolution that swept through the rest of the midlands gave up when it met the sleepy red brick houses and swaying oak trees. I had no idea that one of Britain’s most enigmatic and beloved underground bands started out from a small village in North Warwickshire. “Maurice Deebank also lived in Water Orton and that’s probably one of the luckiest breaks I’ve ever had,” smiles Felt’s frontman Lawrence as he thoughtfully sips tea from a paper cup in his East London flat. “Maurice was in the year below me at junior school and he had classical lessons. I’d see him go in and think, ‘ah, that kid plays the guitar.’ One day I got him around to tune my guitar because at that point I couldn’t tune up. He tuned it in a few seconds and started playing ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. Immediately I said: ‘what’s that? – it’s amazing?’. It was just three chords, but it totally blew me away.” Felt are one of the great mysteries of the 1980s. Informed by a love of Tom Verlaine, Television and Lou Reed, they spent the entire decade creating sweet, minimalist pop that mixed well-spoken lyricism with gorgeous, radio-friendly melodies. At their head, lead-singer Lawrence combined shy, bookish good looks with fierce intellectual intensity; his selfproclaimed ‘new puritan’ philosophy eschewing alcohol, tobacco and drugs in a peculiarly English take on straight edge. By rights, they should have been
as big as The Smiths, but somehow it never really happened for them. Despite the weight of history and unfulfilled ambition, Felt made a difference nevertheless. “I think we were forerunners, and when you’re a forerunner then it’s your job to pave the way for the people who come later,” Lawrence tells me magnanimously. “I think if we’d started in 1990 rather than 1980 then we would have been on the TV and in the charts. I’m convinced that ‘Primitive Painters’ would have been a top 10 single and we would have been a big band, but you know, timing is everything. Looking back now, I can say I’m happy with the position that Felt got to, but at the time it was frustrating.” Felt was always a band that was going to break the rules. Spending time with Lawrence you find that behind the warm smiles and selfdeprecating sense of humour burns fierce ambition and a determination to do things his own way. Take ‘Index’, Felt’s first single, for example. It was bedroom pop before bedroom pop was even a thing. Self-produced by Lawrence and recorded on a portable cassette player, its stripped-back, deeply impressionistic style set it apart from the big, brash sounds of punk, ska and heavy metal that filled the local pubs and clubs. “Punk was an interesting time for me,” Lawrence explains when I ask him about his experiences in Birmingham’s anarchic punk scene. “On one hand, it drew a line in the sand and said, ‘now everyone could join in,’ but on the other, it led to a near disaster. Too many people joined in. You had people who perhaps shouldn’t have been there who had made that leap, and it felt a bit too crowded by the time I got there.”
The subject of punk in Birmingham clearly throws up mixed feelings for Lawrence. Even though he was inspired by the energy and DIY attitude of the city’s punk scene, he’s also equally keen not to be defined by it. “Birmingham was very traditional,” he tells me, recalling his time watching bands like Misspent Youth and Swell Maps. “Heavy metal was invented there and almost everywhere you went all that the pubs would play was heavy rock and RnB. There was nothing that fed into books, arts and films, which is what I wanted to do. The closest was probably The Prefects. They had really great lyrics when you could make them out, and you knew that Robert Lloyd was a really great writer. “By the time I started making music, I’d already told myself that I wasn’t going to be part of any local scene. We didn’t want to be in some incestuous local scene where we’d have to be friends with all the other musicians. I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t want to know anybody. No one even knew we were from Birmingham when we first played there; people used to think Felt was from London.”
y 1980, the first version of Felt was starting to assemble from musicians and schoolmates living in or around Lawrence’s village. Adding guitarist Maurice Deebank and drummer Tony Race, the band was fiercely committed to realising Lawrence’s vision and, according to legend at least, his control over the group was absolute.The band practised relentlessly. “To me the worst criticism is to be called ramshackle,” he says, suddenly becoming more serious. “I love being professional. I want to be
professional. I’m an amateur in a professional world.” Felt’s major innovation was a joyous, feather-light guitar sound that deliberately rejected the scuzz and distortion of punk. Alongside the work of bands like Aztec Camera, Pylon and REM, the band’s unique sound ended up becoming a standard for the ’80s jangle pop revival. Melding the duelling, wire-like guitars of their heroes Television, Felt’s rejection of almost any effects or distortion led to a lush, ’60s style brightness. “Maurice was definitely the better player, as he’d had classical lessons,” recalls Lawrence. “My favourite thing in the world is guitar solos when they’re done properly; it’s because of ‘Marquee Moon’ I suppose. Originally, Felt was going to be all guitar solos and this guy had the credentials to do it. We had an HH transistor amp, which was a bit against the grain as bands like Orange Juice were really into their valve amps at the time, but we loved it. It only had ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ settings. So that’s the secret: the HH 100 Watt amp on the light setting. That was our sound.” With a line-up sorted and a collection of songs written that they could play in their sleep, it was time for Felt to play their first gig. However, in typical no-compromising style, there was no way they were going to support some random band on a Birmingham pub bill. Lawrence was resolved that Felt got off to the kind of start that would make the history books, and it was a fan letter of all things that netted the band their first big break. “Nick Gilbert (Felt’s bass player) and I were big fans of The Fall and he wrote him a fan letter asking him questions about the songs. Right at the end, he said ‘by the way, we’re also in a band.’ The funny thing was
Mark E Smith actually wrote back. It was the usual, thanks for your letter blah, blah, blah, and then he said ‘why don’t you come and support us? We’re playing two nights in Manchester next month’ and we just couldn’t believe it. It was the dream beginning. “We played a place called the Cyprus Tavern and we were first on. I’d never been on stage in my life. I was nervous, but I was also thinking I have to get this right. We played a short set – we had about six songs – and when we came off stage The Fall all ran over to us going ‘fucking hell, you’re amazing – where the hell have you been!?’ Their manager was saying, ‘come and play with us tomorrow, we’re playing Liverpool and then we’re playing at the Marquee in London.’” Soon after, Felt continued with their letter writing campaign and managed to net themselves a few big club shows in London, as well as an interview in the legendary Sounds magazine. All this pricked up the ears of Mike Alway, who had been brought in by Cherry Red Records to move their roster away from reprints of American bands like the Dead Kennedys and The Runaways. Felt’s skewed and highly unconventional take on classic English pop fitted in perfectly with Alway’s equally quirky internal dreamworld of carousing aristocrats and public school shenanigans and he was keen to get the band on board. The group had big plans for their debut album. According to the statement on the ‘Crumbling of Antiseptic Beauty’ reissue, Lawrence’s
ambition was to release the best debut album ever. “The beginning period was over and we had to really deliver – we were great and the songs were amazing and we had it all but we chose the wrong producer,” Lawrence explains. “We were going to do it with a guy called Adrian Borland who was in The Sound. He phoned up right at the last minute and said, ‘we’re going on tour, I can’t do it’, so I had to quickly revise our plans. “It would have been a different album – he would have been a sympathetic ear and would have really got the guitar sound,” says Lawrence. “We ended up going with John Rivers because he’d done the Swell Maps album. He became our producer afterwards, but at that point, he didn’t get us at all. He’s a great producer and it’s not his fault, we were very young and we needed a lot of guidance. We didn’t know how to make a record, so reality really hit home at that point. I’d wanted us to make the best English album ever and we didn’t do it. That really hurt. People liked it, and I loved the songs, but I know what they sounded like in the bedroom with Maurice and we didn’t capture that sound.” I ask if he’d ever been tempted to remix the album. “Straight away,” he shoots back. “In those days, you could either hire the tapes or you could buy them, so if you were on a major label, you would obviously buy the types, but on an independent label sometimes you would hire the tape off the studio and once you’d made a production master the studio would use the tape again. Of course, I didn’t know this at
the time, so I rang up John Rivers’ studio saying can I get the tape, I’d like to remaster parts of it, and he said, ‘oh, you’re too late – I’ve already gone over parts of it.’ I was so annoyed.”
elt went on to make ten albums and ten singles for Cherry Red and Creation during the 1980s, before succumbing to internal friction. Despite being hailed as one of the greatest underground groups of modern times, the band have left a Helen of Troy-like legacy.They went on to be one of the cornerstones of the British indie scene, inspiring the look and feel of bands like Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, while former members went on to become respected musicians in their own right. Deebank released acclaimed solo albums and keyboardist Martin Duffy became one of the founding members of Primal Scream. Lawrence went on to form the ’70s-inspired Denim in 1992, before putting out his own solo work under the name GoKart Mozart. “The only thing that didn’t happen with Felt was success,” laughs Lawrence. “I’d always wanted to just do ten years. I remember telling Maurice once and he just said, ‘what are you talking about?’ I decided to keep quiet about it after that, but always in my mind, the plan was to exist for a decade. I hated the ’80s, so I only wanted to be part of that decade as an antidote to what was around – all those big famous bands. I wanted to be a big underground band. I wanted to
L ef t (L - R ): Ma r t i D uffy, L aw r en c e & G a r y A i n ge in 1 9 8 9 . p h o t o b y PP H art n et t .
take the underground, overground.” Since 2014 Lawrence has been slowly collecting, remastering and re-examining Felt’s output. This has culminated with Cherry Red confirming a major re-release of the group’s first five albums in February of next year. Alongside, new pressings of the records, you’ll also find a collection of memorabilia, gig posters and a couple of badges for your backpack and duffle coat. “It’s an exercise in narcissism really,” admits Lawrence with a sheepish grin. “I wanted to do a proper overview and revisit a few things so I could or at least put these records out as I’d originally intended them to be. ‘Ignite the Seven Cannons’ [the band’s fourth album, from 1985] for example, I never liked because you couldn’t hear most of the songs. They were just like mood pieces, covered in reverb, but I knew that they were brilliant songs. Luckily, I remembered what had happened with the first record and I stole the master tapes so we could remix it later.” Viewing it as the last word on Felt, Lawrence is keen to look forward. Next year will also see him release 17 new songs with GoKart Mozart on his West Midlands Records label. Called ‘Mozart’s Mini Mall’ it sees him adopting the persona of ‘the sardonic Lucifer’, a character the press release describes as ‘pin-pricking his way through a myriad of absurd scenarios while dragging a bin-bag of pomposity and injustice to the council tip of songdom.’ Also due for release in February, Lawrence intends it to be the final record in a cycle of GoKart Mozart records he started back in 1999. “Who is there from my generation who is still making good music?” he asks me as we talk about the new record and his future plans. “Is there anyone out there who isn’t resting on their laurels and making new music? Tom Waits maybe, he’s still doing it. Artistically, he stands alone. “I want to be the Picasso of pop,” he proclaims as he finishes off the rest of his tea. “Picasso was painting brand new stuff right into his ’80s. He never went back to his blue period. Really, I’m more like a painter than a musician. Musicians rest on their laurels, play their old songs but stop making great new albums. But painters keep struggling and pushing forward. “I’m trying to put myself in the same category of Lou Reed and Tom Waits. I still want to create, invent and not look back – that’s the kind of artist I want to be,” he says before surrendering to an urge to crack one more joke. “Mind you, I wouldn’t mind having some of the money that comes with it as well.”
Reviews / Albums
Shame Songs of Praise dead oc ean s
Photography: Dan Kendall
By Au sti n L ai ke. I n sto res Ja n 12
School friends Shame wrote their first song and played their first show when they were 16-years-old, to four mates at The Queen’s Head, Brixton – the same stale south London pub that was Fat White Family’s petri dish.The song was called ‘One Rizla’ and everything about it – and its inclusion on the band’s debut album – says a lot about the five young men who’ve made ‘Songs of Praise’. It pretty much starts with singer Charlie Steen pre-empting criticism and owning it, as he bluntly sings: ‘My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard / And you can choose to hate my words / What do I give a fuck?’. As a punk singer who blurts his way through songs like Mark E Smith or an Oi! bruiser, Steen knows his limits, although perhaps he’s unaware of just how wonderfully ‘Songs of Praise’ hangs on his deranged, deep yell. He doesn’t care about what we
make of him, of course, and although that might seem like youthful bluster, it’s a vital ingredient in any half decent punk debut, and is a recurring theme here. ‘I don’t want to be heard if you’re the only one listening,’ he sings as softly as he ever has on ‘The Lick’, because ambition is clearly on Shame’s radar, too; ‘I like you better when you’re not around,’ he chants on ‘Tasteless’. And then there’s ‘One Rizla’’s tune – the kind of perfect ragged sing-a-long that The Cribs may have managed once or twice by now, but that Shame nailed on their first attempt. Steen says that the song is still around due to its honesty, whilst also drawing attention to its immaturity. “It shows where we were at that time and when we started the band,” he says, which is perhaps most telling of all. Because when you listen to ‘Songs of Praise’ the big
take away is how it sounds like a living scrapbook of a group of mates still working it out. ‘One Rizla’ is no more representative of ‘Songs of Praise’ than the opening and quite brilliant ‘Dust On Trial’ – a song that features a nu metal whisper at one point, having rumbled on to the sound of an increasingly irate Steen who eventually howls: ‘Just. One. Step. CLOSER TO ME!’ Or the sideways glancing ‘Concrete’, with its calland-response vocals and Rakes-ish jitter. OR the drooling ‘Donk’ – the album’s most straight-up punk moment via a less friendly ‘Popscene’. Shame continue to careen around in this exploratory way, inevitably hitting downward strumming postpunk (‘Lampoon’, about standing up for yourself and freedom of speech) and most oddly arriving at a dopey baggy tune called ‘Friction’ ¬– an
ode to Happy Mondays and a convincing one at that, even if it’s hard to distinguish if it’s more or less at odds with the group than the closing ‘Angie’, the album’s biggest misstep and Shame’s ‘Champagne Supernova’ – a little limp after all the shouting. On that note, the sound of Oasis is something of a recurring presence, particularly on the lead guitar of ‘Gold Hole’ and certain vocal parts of ‘Tasteless’, from a time when Oasis were any good. And yet for all their exuberant diving into the furrows of British rock history, Shame feel like a band searching rather than one that’s lost. They’re a young bunch, but a politically engaged, angry, wise lot, smart enough to not overthink something as instinctive and fun as your first album. It works because they’re so convincing in each of their furious explorations.
Hookworms Microshift we i r d wor l d By j oe goggi ns . In sto res feb 2
Long-time followers of Hookworms might have been forgiven for fearing that this third record from the band would never materialise. Despite the lavish critical praise that was heaped upon the fivepiece’s debut, ‘Pearl Mystic’, as well as its follow-up, ‘The Hum’, there were signs that Lady Luck wasn’t smiling upon them as early as March of 2015, when visa issues outside of the group’s control conspired to torpedo a planned tour of the U.S. and Canada. Considerably worse was to come, though; the Boxing Day floods of the same year that ravaged large swathes of the north of England devastated Hookworms HQ – frontman Matt Johnson’s Suburban
Home studio in north-west Leeds. Having already taken a significant financial hit after their transatlantic tour was pulled, Johnson and the band faced potential ruin in the wake of the floods, even though they’d been able to get down to the studio and salvage equipment before the rising waters could claim it. Hookworms’ GoFundMe-friendly fanbase, as well as Johnson’s standing as one of the country’s most in-demand underground producers, helped dig them out of the situation, although it took a full six months before Suburban Home was back up and running. The reason that all of this background is so important when
discussing ‘Microshift’ is that, put simply, the title of the album is a red herring. This group of songs represents a major change of pace. In a recent interview, Johnson selfdeprecatingly suggested it was necessary because the band had “made the same record twice already”. It’s certainly a departure from ‘Pearl Mystic’ and ‘The Hum’; the extended, krautrock jams are eschewed this time in favour of lighter, bouncier soundscapes that place much more importance than ever before on melody. Plus, Johnson’s vocals – previously shrouded by a veil of reverb – now ring out with real clarity, bringing to the fore his lyrics, which
are diametrically opposed to the relatively breezy sound of the album; he tackles, head on, the state of mind that both the floods and a raft of personal issues have left him in. There’s probably an argument that in lightening the aural mood, though, ‘Microshift’ sacrifices a little of the intensity of old, even if the epic likes of ‘Ullswater’ and ‘Opener’ simmer towards the sort of chaotic territory the band are well acquainted with. (Expect those tracks in particular to sound absolutely blistering live.) One thing for sure, though, is that Hookworms sound a damn sight more energetic than anyone could have expected in the circumstances. Rejuvenated, even.
Watch Nils Frahm play and you see an artist totally immersed in his craft – his parade of vintage and custom-made equipment a deft extension of his hands and fingers. But listen to the German composer, and he’s a man unsatisfied with his own unattainable ambition. “The music I hear inside me will never end up on a record,” he says, “It seems I can only play it for myself.” That admission, however true it may be, does nothing to diminish the beauty of his seventh
album, ‘All Melody’. After twelve years of creating a piano-focused ambience that’s served as a perfect entry point for those looking to delve into modern or neo-classical music, Frahm has always struck a profound balance between virtuoso creator and master manipulator – from stark minimalism and freeform jazz to rolling dub techno or pretty piano lines. Here, Frahm expertly showcases his full repertoire on the solemn
angel chorus of ‘TheWhole Universe Wants To Be Touched’, the isolated piano of ‘My Friend The Forest’ and the lone trumpet of ‘Human Range’ before switching gears on the trio of title track ‘All Melody’, ‘#2’ and ‘Momentum’ to submerge the latter half of the album in a 25-minute space odyssey. It’s a subtle, brilliant shift, and whether Frahm admits it or not, when it comes to playing with people’s feelings or trying to make sense of his own, he rarely gets it wrong.
Nils Frahm All Melody Er a s e d t ap e s By reef y ou ni s . In sto res jan 26
No Age Snares Like a Haircut
Porches The House
Nadine Oh My
Salad Boys This Is Glue
dr ag c i t y
me m ph i s i n d u s tri e s
t r o u bl e i n m i n d
By susan d arli ng to n. In sto res jan 26
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By d avi d z a mmi tt. In s to r es j an 2 6
B y r os ie r a ms de n . In s t o r es j an 1 9
No Age’s fourth full-length release signals a retreat from the art-punk of 2013’s ‘An Object’, which saw them dabbling with sound collages and lean noise rock. Galvanised by recent world events, guitarist Randy Randall and singing drummer Dean Allen Spunt have made a back-tobasics album “for the disparate band of misfits who 2017 couldn’t kill.” It sounds urgent, righteously angry, and very much like it was recorded during the heyday of ’90s noise rock and grunge. Lead single ‘Soft Collar Fad’ is an early warning of this simmering rage, being a pithy blast of pop-punk that’s part Sonic Youth and part early Nirvana. Both acts are touchstones throughout but there’s also the smack of The Vaccines covering The Wedding Present on ‘Stuck In The Changer’ and ‘Squashed’. There are occasional remnants of experimentation, namely in the ambient touches to the title track and ‘Third Grade Rave’, but the defining feature of ‘Snares Like A Haircut’ is its fuzzy chords and nononsense attitude, which isn’t so bad, but isn’t so strong.
The last half-a-decade has seen Porches undergo a significant refurbishment from the intimate slacker rock of 2013’s ‘Slow Dance’. The shy, introspective, corner-ofthe-room jams – gurning to their own desperation – were punched to one side with ‘Pool’. Now, ‘The House’ sees Aaron Maine and friends plunge further into their glamorous revival. Variegated soundscapes and acutely vulnerable lyrics offer up ‘Leave The House’ and ‘Find Me’ as the PTSD dance anthems for a new world. Still taking shelter under their selfprescribed “bummer-pop” slogan, for the first time it seems benignly truthful. Subservient romance and brooding meditation is treated with unadulterated plinkerpop and other eccentricities. It’s an accolade for a 14-track album to parade itself without any filler or over-indulgence, but this is what ‘The House’ does. Each second seems thoughtfully fashioned, meticulously punctuating the highs and lows of carefree youth and drained adulthood, with voyeuristic minute-long interludes. ‘The House’ feels like Porches’ most poignant record to date.
No, not Nadine Coyle! Like Loud And Quiet favourites, Whitney, NADINE are actually a group of humans operating under a singular name. Mad. Thankfully, they have their own unique sound, though they do also possess a knack for melody that seems beyond their years. NADINE are sweet without being syrupy and they make music that would have bothered the mainstream in the days before chart music was created by spreadsheets and algorithms. There are elements of Air, Passion Pit and Zero 7’s semi-decent moments in there, while debut single, ‘Ultra Pink’ – a song, interestingly, about knowing you can do something before you’ve done it – is a Talking Headsy chunk of bouncy new wave. Well, it beats always singing about love. ‘Nook’, meanwhile, is a plush pop number that adds bass brawn as Nadia Hulett channels Nina Persson, while ‘Contigo’ is an aching, throbbing, bursting slab of sensual pop that veers into Silk Rhodes territory in their keenly felt absence. Michel Gondry will be all over this – mark my words.
In a move that harks back to their debut album of existential melancholy (‘Metalmania’), New Zealand’s Salad Boys have returned with their latest full-length offering, ‘This is Glue’. Darker and more claustrophobic in lyricism than ever before, ‘This is Glue’ sees the musicality of the Christchurch trio more seamlessly recalling the sound of their Flying Nun predecessors, The Bats. Indeed, the confrontation of anxiety, mortality and fear has never sounded so transcendentally effortless. ‘Blow Up’, the album’s first single, kickstarts the LP on a moreish note, with motorik drumming and the frantic intercutting of jangling ’80s guitars licks with a doomy, more fuzzed out variety. Later, ‘Psych Slasher’ ebbs and flows with melodic denouement awash in phaser and swimming synth, while the likes of ‘Exaltation’ and ‘Divided’ embody, in their gloomy themes, Joe Sampson’s blistering and finely-honed song-writing skills. This album is, above all, torment at its most exhilarating. Indeed, despondency has never been as inviting as it is on ‘This is Glue’.
When The Go! Team tumbled into 2003 with comedy sweatbands, clattering maximalism and a giddy enthusiasm usually reserved for TV fitness instructors, there’d have been long odds on their Tiswasdoes-DJ Shadow cut’n’schtick approach lasting the summer, let alone for fifteen years and five albums. Yet here they are, bounding into 2018 with a record full of pogoing sitar samples, kids spelling out song titles, school choir singalongs, shambling marching bands, tinkly
glockenspiels and, at one point, a breakdown where a series of guest singers introduce themselves with their star sign: you don’t have to be crazy to be in the Go! Team, but, you sense, it helps. Yet despite the wacky tone that envelops ‘Semicircle’, a really rather persuasive collection of songs lurks beneath. ‘Chain Link Fence’, with its steelpans and dusty string samples, is insistently and charmingly catchy, while the bratty girl-group sensibility of ‘The Answer’s No’ matches its
surrounding musical detritus. ‘She Got Guns’, too, while not breaking any particularly new hip-hop ground, has a fairly irresistible swing, and when the band streamline their ideas, on ‘If There’s One Thing’, they reveal themselves to be quietly expert songsmiths. Ultimately, though, ‘Semicircle’ is an acquired taste: for all the hints at pop genius, indiscipline permeates the record, manifesting itself as grating zaniness. “Warning,” the cover should say, “contains nuts”.
The Go! Team Semicircle mem ph is In du s trie s By sam walt on. In sto res jan 19
Poppy Ackroyd Resolver
Hanz Plasty I
The Spook School Could It Be Different
o n e l i tt l e i ndi a n
tr i-a n gl e
Alien Stadium Livin’ In Elizabethian Times
By c h ri s wat keys. In stor e s feb 2
B y s tep he n b utc ha r d . In s to r e s j an 1 9
a lc o p o p ! B y h a y ley S c o t t . In s t or es J a n 2 6
double six By bri an c o n e y. In s to r e s n o w
Neo-classical, as a genre, is a big deal these days, and one of its most interesting exponents, the London-born/Brighton-based Poppy Ackroyd, has made the step to One Little Indian for this, her third album. Ackroyd is an artist known for her non-conformist approach to producing the actual sounds she makes in her music – various inventive new ways of making a noise with a piano or violin – but that’s of consequence only to the muso geeks amongst us. For everybody else, the end result, especially so this time around, is something rich, sweeping and enveloping. The string section on ‘Light’ is just magnificent; it carries you with it, inexorably, like a huge wave on an open sea, possessed of huge drama and power. Stylistically, this record doesn’t differ wildly from her work so far, but where it really excels is in its sublime consistency and the range of emotions it engenders. Listen to ‘Resolve’ casually and it’s a wonderful record; but really engage with this music and it’ll reciprocate tenfold. It’s often exceptional stuff.
At just nineteen minutes, and after countless plays, ‘Plasty I’ feels impossible to get a hold on. This first part of an experimental beat collage two-parter from American producer Brandon Juhans finds its heft in shadows. It anxiously cycles through muffled voices, gritty drum loops and eerie textures. At its best, it feels like a dozen pirate radio signals bleeding together on a long ride through a derelict city. When a shift properly clicks, or a groove settles, like on the gurgling build-up of ‘Plasty’, it’s a tense listen. Sour pianos and human and animal voices are spliced around a hollow, clattering drum. Each space of silence between these sound fragments feels like a vacuum you could fall into. Though the minimal production establishes a sinister mood, though, some moments are flat, and the glitchy shifts occasionally suck momentum away rather than turning heads. But this project is meant to be taken in at once. Its pool of sounds pile on top of each other to make a brittle, decaying portrait. It’s hard to know what of, but you’ll be jittery once the ugly picture reveals itself.
Despite comprising four tracks, ‘Livin’ In Elizabethan Times’ – a quintessential “shit, yeah, that actually makes sense” collaboration between The Beta Band’s Steve Mason and Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy – is offered up as a mini-album. Gutsy? Perhaps, but in traversing tangential orchestral-pop and celestially-minded experimentation over 28 minutes, calling it an EP would be doing it a disfavour. While, as a self-proclaimed concept minialbum, it suffers from an identity crisis (the lyrics conjure the outer reaches of known space, the artwork depicts Mason and Duffy in ancient Egypt via Hollywood, and the title directly references the 16th century) this is a release that not only rewards but demands a repeated listen. Only then does its glints of inspiration – from the free-jazz freak-out at the tail-end of ‘The Visitations’ to the simmering Kosmiche noodling on ‘The Moon Is NotYour Friend’ – shine through. All things considered, a curious, at times deftly earworming debut that sets up its hopefully more single-minded follow-up nicely.
Since the release of The Spook School’s 2013 debut LP ‘Dress Up’ – a masterclass in indie pop authenticity – the band has become unlikely but necessary voices of a generation. By addressing issues surrounding identity and sexuality, they’ve marked a timely shift in indie pop’s discourse, inspiring a new breed of bands to confront their own experiences. Unsurprisingly, the Scottish group remain true to their principles on ‘Could It Be Different’ by depicting the nuances of modern life with strength and conviction. Their propensity for discord and melody reimagines the noisier end of C86, but it’s less shambling than its predecessors. Here, the bittersweet punk of Buzzcocks is a more noticeable influence. It’s also typically upbeat, despite its occasional existential themes. ‘Less Than Perfect’ and ‘Body’ deal with anxiety and self-doubt using a bouncy, pristine pop approach, for example, while the album as a whole elicits a heightened confidence in The Spook School’s songwriting. It’s the most realised thing they’ve done so far.
Enigmatic London musician, stage music composer and sound designer Rocheman has an arid scent of a decaying sophisti-pop star about him, like Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile nursing his hangover after a big night out, or a rotting Prefab Sprout. His five years in the making eponymous debut album (largely worked out on a laptop) is a bleak document of once-lively sounds, gasping for breath, neck-deep in a marsh of tape hiss – and a cheerily detailed account of each
failing organ. ‘Pestle Pusher’ and ‘Stay Here’ wheeze dying breaths. ‘Parades I and II’ can barely hold itself together on collapsing limb percussion. ‘Old Sign’ is a perfectly serviceable indie pop tune for the first 3 minutes before descending into a frosty waltz. ‘Mottled’ is just as its title suggests; a malignant pop song with bouts of health and wincing pain in its melody line. ‘Rocheman’ is full of songs that begin at the point of exhaustion;
their Sisyphean nightmare dictates that they must continue regardless, as if sadistic Fates alone decide when they’re to rest. Despite his Scott Walker chanteur baritone, Rocheman seems to be yet another singerwho-doesn’t-really-like-singing, preferring to slip by unnoticed. That is, until album closer ‘Mira’ finds him marginally louder in the mix, the swamp of tape noise miraculously drained. “Not that it matters,” he croons.
Rocheman Rocheman N X R ec o r ds By daf y dd jenki ns. In stor e s no w
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
Dream Wife Field Music Dream Wife Open Here l uc ky n u mber
me mph is in d us tri e s
By r osi e r amsden. In sto re s ja n 26
By chr is watk e y s . I n s to re s f e b 2
The She’s All Female Rock And Roll Quartet
La Feline Triomphe Kwa id a n B y d av id z ammi t t . In s t o r e s j a n 1 9
Em pty c e l l e r B y su s an d arl i ngto n. I n s t o r es j a n 1 9
Dream Wife, the British/Icelandic trio of fire signs best known for their tribalistic brand of smirking guitar pop, have finally released their eponymous debut album. Marrying Courtney Love’s gritty, bittersweet vocal stylings with a touch of Kathleen Hannah’s energy, this record is a brimming riot of the expectedly unexpected. Vicious (and I’m particularly talking about when, with banshee-like venom, they repeat, ‘gonna fuck you up, gonna cut you up,’ in ‘F.U.U.’) and nonchalant in equal measure, ‘Dream Wife’ offers, as its name might suggest, a cutting critique of patriarchal society and its objectification of women. Nowhere is this made clearer than on ‘Somebody,’ in which lead singer Rakel Mjöll adamantly insists, ‘I am not my body, I am somebody.’ Here, the band do a pretty good job of implementing the art of story-telling without sacrificing the primal energy and wild, fuzzy guitar lines that embodies their sharpened signature sound. It’s an old sound, of course; tired even – but not as tired as the fact that young women still need to spread this message of equality.
Over the thirteen years of their existence, Field Music have established themselves as one of those bands for whom a below-par album would be a real surprise – they’re the indie band’s indie band, perched on a pedestal of genuinely deserved respect. So here’s their sixth album, and – no surprises – it’s a thing of quality. There’s the beautiful vocal melody of ‘Time In Joy’, and the light funk strut of ‘Count It Up’, which carries with it an acerbically political message; a refreshingly direct portrayal of western privilege. And underneath the inventiveness and intricacies of their music is that inherent and indestructible songwriting talent. Sometimes that talent comes through uncluttered and beautifully bare, like on the very Beatlesy title track and the lightly psychedelic ‘Cameraman’. And although every now and then the record takes an aimless turn, as on the empty funkby-numbers ‘No Key No Princess’, there is enough joy and beauty here to chalk this album up as another success for the forever understated Brewis brothers.
Six years since their last album, The She’s are still soundtracking a low budget teen film about boys, heartbreak and kissing. Filled with the breezy ’60s-influenced pop of Best Coast, ‘All Female Rock And Roll Quartet’ (sarcastically named after the band’s recurring description by others) leaves the feminist politics to the title alone. Selfproduced – with a little help from tUne-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus – the San Francisco outfit’s second album has moments of mild experimentation, including the backwards tape on ‘Be Alright’ and the surf-inflected instrumental of ‘Local Favourite All Female Rock And Roll Quartet’, which bleeds with half-buried conversation. For the most part, though, they stick to what they know best: straightforward indie-pop. ‘Anywhere But Here’ and ‘Ashes’ fill the void that had been left by The Breeders, while ‘Sick’ is how great The Bangles were as a garagepop band. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before but it’s delivered with enough conviction to make it sweetly yearning.
Agnès Gayraud wrote her own review when she gave this album its title. From opener ‘Senga,’ a shadowy, tactile chant in the vein of ‘I See a Darkness’-era Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, to the ghostly, plucked Ink Spotschannelling lullaby ‘Nu, Jeune, Léger’, this is a significant evolution from the synth pop of her last two albums. Fusing folk, art pop, jazz and electronics, this is a superbly thought-out record that covers a spectrum of mood and sonics while feeling like a single whole. If there is justice, this should be Gayraud’s breakthrough (or at least the one that gets a massive label to ask her to ruin everything and translate the songs into English). Now, my GCSE French (A*, thank you) isn’t quite enough to get me beyond the prepositions, but I know what Gayraud is singing about (and we all know what ‘Triompe’ means, right?). Highlights include ‘Le Royaume’, with its piercing brass freak-out, and the impossibly gorgeous dream pop pair of ‘Comité Rouge’ and ‘La Mer Avalée’. Just think, if David Davis gets his way, this music will be banned.
Five years ago, Django Django emerged with a full sound. Not many bands do that. It was a fresh collision of psych, surf and dance pop that put melody above all else.They stood out from the usual Britrock bands with their studied rhythms and nerdy charm. Three albums later, they’re happy to be jamming to that same sound. Less Fresh?Well, yes. ‘Marble Skies’ plays it safe, from its breezy forty-minute runtime to its secure choruses. Thankfully, this is the comforting,
warm-hug version of ‘safe’, though, and that’s because Django Django know what they’re doing. There’s never a worry that the album could go off the rails. The band guide you through a seamless collection of songs, with authority over their writing and performances. It makes it easy to lean back into these Sunday morning tunes knowing that what’s around the corner is going to be pleasant. Sure, it’s also easy to wish that the vocals would burst out more, and
that the songs didn’t pull so closely from what indie has been churning out: eighties synths on the opener; cute-but-awkwardly-white dancehall on ‘Surface to Air’; C Duncan-y soundscapes; Jaguar-Ma-y revivalism; a good bit of hip-hop and chamber pop swirled in. But these tunes make you smile, and that’s not an achievement to belittle. If ‘Marble Skies’ is a little vanilla, it’s a deep and pleasurable kind. And when Django Django do end up rolling the dice, it’ll be something.
0 7/ 1 0
Django Django Marble Skies bec au se By steph en bu t cha rd. In sto res ja n 26
The Soft Moon Criminal
A Grave With No Name Passover
sa cr ed bon e s
Fo r g e d ar t i fa cts
Schlammpeitziger Damenbartblick auf Pregnant Hill
Ghost Music I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here
By daf y dd j en ki ns . I n sto res fe b 2
By j am e s aut o n. In st o re s j an 1 9
B ure au B
a r len
B y re e f yo uni s . I n sto re s j a n 1 9
B y s a m wa lt o n . I n sto r es j a n 1 9
Despite having the name of a death metal band, A Grave With No Name is the long-standing art rock labour of love of Alex Shields and ‘Passover’ is his sixth album. Written after the death of his grandmother, it bears a striking resemblance in atmosphere and style to Sufjan Steven’s ‘Carrie & Lowell’, a record about the death of Steven’s mother. When the mood shifts it also has a jaunty Ryley Walker influence; when it isn’t stark it’s folk rock that sounds like the best bits of Conor O’Brien’s Villagers. New single ‘Wreath’ meanwhile is a close cousin to Gomez’s ‘Tijuana Lady’, a ballad of alt-country acoustic guitar and bass. ‘Passover’ marks a change in personnel for AGWNN as Shields rejects the varied contributors on previous albums that were characterised by drone-pop and instead strips it back to a simple three-piece band setup. What the album possesses in earthy atmosphere, though, it eventually lacks in dynamics and texture. A record based on loss and the aftermath at the family home, it has it’s moments of plain emotion, but at times it feels as if the pain was almost too much to get across.
It’s tough to know where to start with Jo Zimmermann. Perhaps it’s with the fact he launched his solo career under the German word for ‘weatherfish’? Or his long-time devotion to creating music with a Casiotone? OR the probability of him delivering the line “Your farts smell like the breath of a rainbow unicorn / so sweet / and so soft” on an unsuspecting Tinder date like an even more Eurotrash Antoine de Caunes? On previous releases there was a kind of music box clarity to his work with tracks like ‘Honkytonk Schlickummpittz’ ticking over with that tinny Casio click, but here, on album eleven, trying to unravel Zimmermannn’s contrarian world is much more complex. When he’s not ruminating on fart bouquets, ‘Bock Bounceburg’ is fun and playful, ‘Smooth Motion Kaukraut’ has a satisfyingly melodic squelch and ‘Kandierte Jammerlochlappen’ sounds like the electronic interludes SFA spent most of their career weaponising to great effect. Ultimately, though, it makes for an album that’s definitively more weird than it is wonderful.
A quintessentially ’90s soporific slacker fuzz hangs over the debut from Ghost Music, and perhaps appropriately so, given that its oldest song was written in 1997 and its writers have been kicking around various lo-fi indie bands pretty much constantly for the last twenty years. And while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that aesthetic, it does allow a sense of strange familiarity to permeate ‘I Was Hoping…’, both for better and for worse: ‘Heart Shaped Holiday’ is a neat exercise in sleepy Yo La Tengoism, ‘Blackbird Stars’ evokes the lethargic misanthropy of Silver Jews, and ‘Queen of England’ – the best thing here – matches a melancholia to its weary delivery in a way that transcends its influences rather poignantly. Elsewhere, though, the hazily meandering (‘Home Dog’) rubs shoulders with the brazenly shambling (‘Blind Spot’) and the wilfully unremarkable (‘This Kingdom’; ‘Let’s Meet’), creating an almost proudly unambitious record by a band of veterans too world-weary to indulge in much beyond gentle reminiscence.
Pairing the mottled, neo-psychedelic talents of Ian Skelly of the Coral and Paul Molly of The Zutons and The Coral, Serpent Power is a project that “takes it cues from no-one, and is powered only by the twisted wheels of their own imagination.” A bold assertion and no mistake, but two years on from the duo’s 2015 eponymous debut, the lysergicdappled, Technicolor horror of ‘Electric Looneyland’ goes some distance to uphold such a claim. While at a conceptual level their
tongue is firmly lodged in cheek (the pair have said the record stemmed from “stumbling across a skip of mysterious keyboards, seemingly beamed in from a distant solar system”) the music stands on its own merits. From lead single and opening gambit ‘Golden Dawn’ – an ambitious traipse of fuzzed-out glam swagger – to the Motorik groove, Haight-Ashbury haze and interstellar Hawkwindian cosmosis of ‘Black Angel Rider’, ‘Electric Looneyland’ brims their joint knack for marrying
snaking, dark melodies with slick, CSNY-leaning harmonies and an overarching tenor of cavalcading menace. And while this brand of lysergicdappled rock could very easily slot onto, say, the roster of L.A.’s Castle Face, there’s a distinctly British strain woven throughout this album, not least on the infernal Northern soul of ‘Witching Hour’. In a realm often steeped in mimicry, Skelly and Molloy have excavated some genuinely progressive new territory.
On his fourth LP, California’s The Soft Moon (musician and producer Luis Vasquez) mines a more lateral vein of industrial rock than 2015’s neo-darkwave ‘Deeper’. ‘I wish I could be somebody else,’ strains Vasquez on ‘Burn’, flipping Trent Reznor’s animalistic libido inward, to the same hyperviolent EBM pulse. What is industrial rock without a tall glass of the dark stuff? Although ‘Criminal’ finds Vasquez plumbing the depths of his self-hatred in a way that isn’t always as pleasant as it sounds and that supports the idea that he stalled around his 2010 debut. It’s hard not to think of a B-grade Jesse Lacey when Vasquez sings, ‘how can you love someone like me?’ on ‘The Pain’, or when he meditates on his frisson with addiction on ‘Choke’. “Waste me / kill me now,” he sings on the title track, and it surprises nobody. This isn’t to say that ‘Criminal’ lacks shock value – a wayward bongo appears at one point. Still, with acts like Sacred Bones label mate Pharmakon still whipping industrial music into ever-obscene forms, it’s hard to know where groups like The Soft Moon stand these days.
Serpent Power Electric Looneyland skel e ton key By br i an con ey . In sto re s d e c 15
Tune-Yards I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life 4ad By kati e bes w i ck. In sto re s ja n 19
Written in Oakland between January 2016 and August 2017, ‘I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life’ is a joyful, ’80s-inspired, electronica romp through the fraught socio-political landscape of the privileged white millennial. Tune-Yards creator Merrill Garbus places herself at the centre of an examination into the state of things, asking what she ought to do with her whiteness in the wake of Trump, Black Lives Matter, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice. The title suggests that we can no longer ignore our inescapable participation in the production of inequality. This is a serious, if oddly celebratory, attempt to explore complicity through a white,
cisgender, heteronormative lens. The machine beats on opening track ‘Heart Attack’, Garbus explains, were inspired by a garage door she passed on her coffee breaks from recording, traversing a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood. “I reluctantly admitted to myself that I enjoyed the pricey food and kombucha selection at the new gentrification-signalling ‘corner store.’” On ‘ABC 123’, Garbus uses a literal metaphor to depict both the state of race relations and the environmental crisis on the West Coast. “California’s burning down,” she sings – a refrain that, she argues, is only timely because “it was literally burning at the time I wrote
the song […], and because it will presumably continue to burn for quite some time.” On ‘Colonizer’ Garbus uses her thin, silky voice as both the instrument and object of analysis, asking how far she has colluded in the production of racism (“I use my white woman voice to tell stories of travels with African men/I comb my white woman’s hair with a comb made especially, generally for me”). Meanwhile, ‘Look at Your Hands’ draws attention to consumerism and the contemporary culture of waste, as she calls on us to “look at all the objects in [our] hands”. There’s no doubt that this is a serious and ultimately necessary
attempt to examine inequality through whiteness. The dismantling of racism, renewed attention to environmental devastation, and the reorganisation of wealth to overcome systemic economic inequality, will not materialise unless those of us with greater privileges examine our role in fuelling the status quo. Still, this record – though eminently listenable, with its upbeat intensity and light-hearted dance loops – seems void of the white-hot anger that ought to result from its subject matter. It is intellectually detached from the realities of the world it depicts, which I guess is at least a truthful representation of the hipster-millennial experience.
As Xylouris White, Cretan laouto player George Xylouris and Australian drummer JimWhite fancy themselves world builders. 2014’s ‘Goats’ weaved like the album’s titular animals, and last year’s ‘Black Peak’ constructed a rocky landscape on which they might live. ‘Mother’, the final entry of this trilogy, feels like the perimeters of their world finally drawing to a close, albeit haphazardly. White’s performance – like anything else he’s done with The
Dirty Three and beyond – isn’t too preoccupied with keeping time. He mobilizes his kit primarily as an instrument of timbric accompaniment to Xylouris’ spacey serenades, or as tailwind when Xylouris decides to step it up a gear.Textural playfulness nicely complements the measured, raga-like scene setting of ‘Daphne’ and ‘Achilles Heel’, but bursts of energy like ‘Only Love’ find Xylouris barrelling forward, leaving White in the dust. It’s the former slow burners that are most affecting, making the
latter jauntier moments of ‘Mother’ sound too much like The George Xylouris Show featuring a keen but slipshod house band. Nonetheless, ‘Mother’ demonstrates a level of thematic and musical consistency across the duo’s contemporary Cretan folk trilogy. Taken as a whole, the three records tell a heterogeneous story in which past and future, myth and everyday life, fold into one another. It just so happens that ‘Mother’ isn’t the most satisfying of endings.
Xyloris White Mother bel l a u n i on By daf y dd j en ki ns. I n sto re s ja n 12
Iceland Airwaves Vocoders, venues and vistas: 5 days of discovery in the home of the world’s only penis museum People go to Iceland and come back with two TripAdvisor comments – about the relentless beauty of the place and how upsettingly expensive it is, always illustrated by how much a pint costs (a tenner). Since the Reykjavik-wide Iceland Airwaves, I’ve become one of these haughty Phileas Foggs obsessed with the price of alcohol – a trait as true to the British as talking about the weather (Iceland is cold).
To really experience the awe of the country, I learnt that you should take a short drive out of town, although the walkable city of Reykjavik also has a handy vista of snowy mountains facing it on the other side of the waterfront, as if it’s been put there by Instagram. The cost of beer is what it is and extends to the cost of everything else: perhaps the truest indication of Airwaves’ greatness is how much
our team enjoyed itself while three of us shared a Dairy Milk for lunch one day. Considering the festival is five days in total, we allowed ourselves to begin in a counter-intuitive fashion with a screening of Olafur Arnalds new movie Island Songs – a film that elegantly boasts of Iceland’s volcanic panoramas as it follows the neo classical pianist on a journey to the homes of seven
indigenous musicians (including a choir master, a poet and a church organist) where they then set up a portable recording studio and compose and record a song together for an album of the same name. It’s a humbling, beautiful film that you can now find on iTunes. Always nearby is one of Airwave’s ‘Off Venues’, where we enjoy that Dairy Milk and get an initial sense of the community spirit
Writer: Stuart Stubbs / Photographer: Timothy Cochrane
Cl o c kwise fro m fa r l eft : Fev er d rea m, R eykjav ik a n d it s ug l y mo un t a in s, Reykjav íkurd æt ur.
of the festival. Over the heads of a couple eating fish soup, one local woman making a shopping list and a family of tourists trying to ignore the whole thing, we see KRÍA perform her twisted RnB about politics and conspiracies through a tonne of auto-tune (vocoders are currently big in Iceland, with mixed results from the likes of the Drake-lite Aron Can), in a family-run restaurant with lanterns on the wall. Off Venues like these (there’s hundreds of them, from bookstores and record shops to boats in the harbour and the public library, where we find a death metal band called Nexion) are key to Airwaves’ inclusive feel and the support of local artists. They’re free for everyone and sprawl the whole of Reykjavik, so when you hear the sell of ‘Iceland Airwaves takes over the whole city’ it’s not some tourist board half-truth. With much of the daytime line-up consisting of new Icelandic musicians with limited bios, the game we play is a pin-in-the-map exploratory one, ticking off bars and venues along with the artists themselves. IDA Zimsen Bookcafe gives us the pleasant but not thrilling Rökkva, who sound like Damien Rice, so we go hunting for Slugz purely on her name, and eventually find her at her final show of four at Kaffibarinn, a cosy bar co-owned by Damon Albarn. She stands over a laptop resting on the bar and ignores the gentle candlelight as she pummels the room with sound art made from archive dialogue of an American talking about Icelanders having sex on their first dates – and the voice of Paul McCartney. The ‘strangest’ thing we see all week, it’s worth the run-around. At Loft (you can guess what that place is like), Big Muff enthusiasts Godchilla are a fuzzy reminder
that bands are thin on the ground in Reykjavik as its burgeoning hip-hop scene blows up. In front of a driving POV videogame projection, and over sludgy surf riffs played exclusively on the low E string of the bass guitar, they growl lyrics like, “Get away from me you little shit,” and tentatively jump into the crowd. They make way for an untimely but welcome booking – Grimm Grimm, whose frazzled space folk from 2015 is crying out for a follow up. (Instead he plays songs from ‘Hazy Eyes Maybe’ and a Misfits cover of ‘Hybrid Moments’ in his dreamy way.) We wander up and down the High Street, down to the docks and back again, past the Punk Museum and the Penis Museum (ok, the real talking point for TripAdvisor), much in this fashion for five days straight. It never gets boring even when you hit a run of shoddy shows, because the spaces they’re in are something in and of themselves, from KEX Hostel where Lido Pimienta delivers a fierce per-formance of trad Columbian percussion and synth pop, to the sightseeing boat Andrea where we see Minneapolis group Graveyard Club who sound kinda like The Bravery but hey, we wanted to sit in a boat for a while and all the autotune was getting us down. Each day the official program gets going at around 7pm, spanning a variety of larger venues and classic dive bars, and hosting more familiar international acts. Benjamin Clementine delivers his theatrical new show fittingly in Reykjavik’s old theatre, where he paces the sparse stage and serenades three mannequins from GAP, only to take sporadic breaks to scoot around on a bit of scaffolding. It’s a trip – one that earns him a standing ovation.
The atrium of the Art Museum is a bit of a night-time hub, where silly monster rock band HAM play to a full room, and where Sigrid proves that she’s going to be a huge pop star in 2018 – a scientifically constructed act from the people at Universal, it can’t fail, and probably shouldn’t on the strength of the Norwegian’s vocals performance and scrappy attitude. It’s also here where Reykjavíkurdætur leave their yearly mark on the festival. The local feminist rap collective – tonight 11 members strong – enter to slow bass drops that fire in time to flashes of white light that illuminate the group’s silhouette. They’re all wearing swimsuits as they stand below spinning Love Hearts that spell out the web-friendly abbreviation of their name (RKVDTR). They pause for a beat and then begin rapping hard. Due to their gender, they were originally rejected by Iceland’s hiphop community – dismissed as a joke – but naysayers will need to think of something truer than ‘they
can’t rap’ to keep that up. There’s just the right amount of chaos going on for Reykjavíkurdætur’s message of equal rights and sexual freedom, and when the next rapper up isn’t dashing for a free mic to deliver her barbed verse down, members are bating the crowd, bending each other over or, in an inspired moment, drinking shots from butlers in buff and climbing on their shoulders. Reykjavíkurdætur’s splinter groups that also play the festival include Fever Dream, who’s best when she’s rapping her message of veganism in Icelandic rather than English (and before she invites her bossy younger brother up for a final number at her performance in a CND campaign centre) and the trio-cumquartet Cyber. A real discovery of the five days, theirs is a slower, sexier brand of hip-hop, with songs about skiing in Aspen, eating cheese and having sex. I also like that halfway through their opening song at the quayside bar of Slippbarinn they announce that they need a power nap and lie on the floor. There’s plenty more besides, of course – brilliant acts we already know, from Kelly Lee Owens’ techno closer to Nilufer Yanya’s staccato, lounge greatness – but Iceland Airwaves isn’t so much about that. Perhaps it’s because it’s out there in the middle of nowhere, but it feels most like a festival of discovery; to tap into an arts-based city and its community feel. Pack more chocolate, but go.
Grandbrothers Rich Mix, Shoreditch
Pissed Jeans Leeds Brudenell Social Club
21/ 11/ 20 17
12/1 1 / 2 0 1 7
writer: c hris wat ke ys
write r : W o od y D e l a ne y P ho t o graph e r : Rya n Mc Go n agl e
Grandbrothers possess that unique and enviable combination of marvelous technological geekery and beautifully creative artistry. Their recent album, ‘Open’, is a thing of wonder and poise, but thankfully – as can be the case with neo-classical artists playing live – tonight we’re not getting merely a clinical facsimile of the record, but a living, breathing, pulsing performance; human and warm. This is music with a technical genesis, but with a living, beating heart. ‘From A Distance’ comes through taught, tense, and exciting at a soul-deep level. The German brothers are endearingly keen to explain the construction of their live sound to the audience between songs, but their modesty is drowned in the majesty of the music. “These are songs about nothing,” explains Lukas, and the single ‘Bloodflow’ is just that – wordlessly, viscerally engaging and superb.
For a band whose music focuses on the misery and general dissatisfying nature of modern life, Pissed Jeans’ primal live show proves to be a rare space in which to escape such things. From the moment the Pennsylvanian foursome take the stage tonight there’s a joyous energy in the room – a sense of light-hearted camaraderie juxtaposed with the wrought sounds that follow. As the artwork for their latest album ‘Why Love Now’ suggests, the idiosyncratic punk unit aren’t intent on taking themselves too seriously. They begin their set by projecting muted YouTube footage of themselves onto a screen behind their kit, telling the eager audience that they’re “getting two shows for the price of one” this evening. That’s their kick off point. They then proceed to thrash through a rhythmic surge of songs spanning their five-album discography.
‘Ignorecam’, ‘Romanticise Me’ and, in particular, the sludgey groove of ‘The Bar Is Low’ are greeted with the most chaotic receptions. As often expressed in their lyrics – and in an article vocalist Matt Korvette wrote for Loud And Quiet earlier this year entitled ‘How to dance at a Pissed Jeans show in 2017’ – the band have no time for the macho masculine behaviour traditionally associated with hardcore punk gigs, and the charismatic Korvette is true to his word tonight.
At one point he sarcastically mocks an overly enthusiastic stage diver (“oh my god, did you guys see what he did? That’s crazy!”) before making a purposefully poor attempt at one himself. This doesn’t mean watching a Pissed Jeans show isn’t entertaining. They just don’t want any knuckleheads. Moments later Korvette is back on stage ripping his drenched shirt open from the collar and plastering duct tape to his naked chest for audience members to tear off.
made from paper plates, sinister as they switch between instruments. A baritone saxophone phonetically mirrors each step. Musically, it’s minimal. Slow and intense rhythms are treated harshly through Maxim AWOTT’s glitchy electronic programming, existing purely to accentuate Alyokhina’s monotonous chants. The fuzzy thick guitars of Pink Kink’s joyous
support slot have been replaced by a pounding synth – a reminder that Russian feminism, while hosting the same narrative at its core to the “trans-European party punks”, is still dealing with a different type of oppressor. This incarnation of Riot Days is darkly humorous, while intelligent lyrics paint a bleak representation of years of suppressed activism. On the screen behind the band is footage of Pussy Riot’s original punk prayer, their trial and Russian landscapes from historic revolutions to the Moscow subway. Intermittently, a slogan sprawls across in plain subliminal text: “Mother Mary be a feminist!” As the set comes to a close, several members of the company break into raucous dance, lighting up their cigarettes and stripping out of their jackets with a firm address to the criticised authority: “Do I have the right to do this?” As it ends, no one quite knows what to say. A woman in the audience jumps up on stage to hug Alyokhina before she runs away. I wonder how that authority would feel now, to know that 49 seconds of wrongly accused crime would result in three hours of a powerful, punkfuelled call to arms.
Pussy Riot Theatre’s Riot Days Islington Assembly Hall 17/ 11/ 20 17 writer: T ris tan Gat ward Photo graph er: Mark A llan
Speaking to Loud And Quiet in September, Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina said that she never expected to be arrested, but then what started as a protest for equality and freedom of expression quickly became one charge of hooliganism and a two-year prison sentence. Her “punk prayer” had made its guerrilla debut half a decade earlier. In February 2012, Pussy Riot gained notoriety when they burst into a Moscow cathedral and performed at the altar; guitars in hand, colourful balaclavas covering their faces like French Fancies, frenziedly waving and punching the air to varying mantras. It’s clear where the protest was aimed: “Shit, shit, the Lord is shit!” / “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist […] put Putin away!”. The retelling of Alyokhina’s story of protest, arrest and incarceration exists as a samizdat book, but now a world away from the clandestine
circulation of her written word she steps onto the stage in Islington with the uncontaminated defiance of the Riot Days audio-visual live show. Standing to attention, she yells a thick introductory line, subtitles above her: “Anyone is Pussy Riot!”. She seems powerfully solitary despite being surrounded. Two members of Russian punk rockers AWOTT patrol the stage in masks
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Singing Pictures andrew anderson unpicks the video evolution of the christmas single
In Iceland they read books. In Australia they go to the beach. In Britain, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by betting on which shit song will sell the most copies. It’s this kind of behaviour that makes us international leaders in culture. But we haven’t always had Noddy Holder and his exceptionally ugly elves to help us out in this cause; there was a time when we harmonised to ‘Deck the Halls’ rather than screaming “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” into our friends’ faces. So how did this crass custom come about, and is it still going strong? Let’s turn to the archangel YouTube to find out.
careens and careers. Sexual acts are performed on his being. Carole Vorderman and Garth Crookes endorse him with their presence. I endorse him too: nice one, Mr Blobby.
3. PERFECT At the time of writing, it looks like Ed Sheeran is the best bet for a 2017 Christmas number 1 by a living artist. His habitual ugliness harks back to the Christmas acts of the ’70s, but unlike Holder and Co. there is no innocence to what Sheeran does: he is a soulless song selling machine. In ‘Perfect’, we witness Sheeran on a skiing holiday with his attractive and insufferable friends. They drink beers, down shots and ski along dark slopes while wielding flares, all the action captured in crisp HD. One of them is a pretty lady, who at first ignores poor Ed. He then plays her a song he’s written and she starts crying, but not in pain – she’s crying because she now loves Ed, and is drawn to his personality (and wallet) like a fly to a succulent turd. They dance under the moonlight in their pyjamas.
1. Merry Xmas Everybody As Christmas heroes go, Noddy Holder is a pretty unlikely one. A gurn-faced, sideburn-toting rocker from the Black Country, he’s hardly an angel you’d stick on top of a Christmas tree – switching on the Blackpool lights would be more his thing. But the lord works in mysterious ways, and so it is Holder’s fanfare that announces the annual coming of fairy lights and credit card debt. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ was, in fact, the first Christmas number one in the modern sense. Released on 7 December 1973, it ushered in the era of novelty pop songs vying for sales supremacy. Slade’s Top of the Pops performance isn’t a music video as such, but it captures the carefree spirit of the song. The band play in a getup that could best be described as ‘clown-chic’ for a vaguely enthused audience of teens and children. A brave few attempt to pump their fists in time to the music (they fail). Noddy wiggles his hips in the manner of a sherry-soaked septuagenarian (he’s rubbish). Yes it’s naff, but this is honest, irony-free entertainment.
2. Mr Blobby At first, artists attempted to follow Slade’s star by writing good songs and making honest videos. Sometimes they succeeded (‘Lonely This Christmas’, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’), sometimes they failed (‘Mistletoe and Wine’, ‘When a Child is Born’), but they made an effort. Then came along came Mr Blobby, and everything changed. Set to a fartbased beat, it is a song that eschews all logic; the sort of sickness that could only have come from the
demented head of Noel Edmonds. It’s also – and it pains me to say this – rather brilliant. For those that don’t know, Mr Blobby was an obese Dalek with a skin disease, who terrorised the nation circa 1992-1997. This single heralded his coming through the prophetic lyric: “your influence will spread throughout the land.”
The video begins with a rather well-realised space launch sequence, a portent of the meaningful three minutes and thirty seconds we are about to witness. Our saviour arrives not on a donkey, but in a pink convertible driven by Jeremy Clarkson (he was, lest we forget, a prick in the ’90s as well). Children then swarm Blobby, who cavorts,
The ’70s was a golden age for Christmas. Not only did fashion dictate that you dress like a prat all year round (a shit jumper was for life) but also blackouts, race riots and the fact that the Internet hadn’t been invented yet meant December 25th was a date people genuinely looked forward to. Novelty Christmas songs were an innocent affair. But we are now living in a Yuletide hinterland. Festive jumpers are no longer valued for their heat-trapping qualities, but instead as items of ironic projection. Families gather not for a sense of communion, but rather so they can watch television in separate rooms using Sky Multiscreen. Carole Vorderman and Jeremy Clarkson are still at large, only their faces and careers have been utterly distorted. And yet, the fact is that Ed will probably not be number one this year. His song is too smooth, too American. When artists turn out dross like this we react by sending a totally inappropriate song to number one (‘Killing in the Name’, for example). Sheeran is – and I can’t believe I’m writing this – not crap enough to be Christmas number one. So long as that holds true, all hope for Christmas is not lost.
FanFIction: Christmas Day when you’re about to become a Royal
“It’s only natural to be nervous, but trust me, Megs – today is going to be an absolute riot.” Harry strode into Sandringham like he owned the place (because he kind of did) with his new fiancée in tow. Now, which of these great, big, bloody rooms was everybody in? “Hello, you little tinkers,” he said poking his head around the door of one sitting room, where seven or eight small children were quietly watching the television. “Merry Christmas.” “Merry Christmas, Harry,” the children shouted in unison. “Don’t you all look sweet in your World War II costumes,” said Megan. “And what’s this you’re watching? Is that uncle Charles and his doggy?” “Nooo,” said one of the children,
“it’s Wallace & Gromit. We watch it every year – it’s about a bad man who mistreats his pet.” Megan and Harry ghosted back out of the room like you do once you’re bored of talking to children. Harry thought that they might as well drop in on Uncle Andrew as they were passing his room, marked with a wooden name plaque that read ‘Andy’ on a piece of wood shaped like a boat. “Errrr, hang on,” they heard when they knocked. “One second! JUST A MINUTE!”There was a frantic scurry, the sound of a glass smashing, a definitely mutter of “it’s everywhere,” and then, an overly composed, “Come in.” Andrew was sat at his desk in a vest with a duvet over his legs. “Just some emails,” he said
nodding at his closed Dell laptop. He promised he’d catch them up if they wanted to join everyone else in the drawing room. As they entered the room, it was William who saw his brother first. “H BOMB!” he shouted across the room. “BIG WILLY STYLE!” yelled Harry. They embraced as if trying to crush each other to death and then did the robot dance from Gavin & Stacey. Yeah, maybe this would be a riot, Megan was starting to think. The whole set was there, pretty much. The level-headed Anne, swearing her head off, Charles with his upside down smile, Kate, who shot over a wide-eyed look that said, “Fuck me, I’m glad you’re here,” Edward, who seemed to still take everyone by surprise with his existence, Beatrice and Eugenie in ridiculous hats and The Queen, of course – the only person who didn’t get up to say hello. Naturally, there was no Philip, because he hated people. Harry stooped to hug is his grandmother. Megan curtsied and said, “Merry Christmas, Your Royal Highness.” “Now, now, Megan,” said the Queen. “We’re to be family in the near future.There really is no need to be so formal. How about from now on you refer to me as… Bunty?” Megan could tell that this was a big honour from the smile on Harry’s face and the way Kate wrinkled her nose at her. “Maybe I could call you Bunty, too,” suggested Edward, but the Queen ignored him and so he took a dislike to Megan and attempted to undermined her for the rest of the
day by tutting whenever she spoke. Things were made worse when, later, he accidently called Megan ‘Rachel’, after a role she’d played on TV. Charles nearly choked on a quail egg as the Queen called him a “daft twat” and the room roared. Philip would have enjoyed that moment, and make no mistake. Charles got his, though, when he stood to carve the turkey. “I’ll take that, thank you very much, dear,” said the Queen, gesturing at the knife. “But last year you said…” “The knife please, Charles.” “Bu…” “The knife!” The atmoshphere tanked as the Queen lopped chucks rather than slices off of the massive bird. “Don’t forget that I’m a vegetarian now, grandma,” said Eugenie. “Yes, but you’ll have some ham, dear,” said the Queen. “Erm, well... yes, ok, but just a little.” Too late – the slab served up was the size of her face. As everyone tucked into a Christmas meal that was one better than Waitrose (so, Wholefoods), the Queen announced that everyone’s present was under their place mats. Except for Megan, they all knew what was coming, although they did a pretty decent job of hiding it. “I’ve got you all a little picture of me,” said the Queen, biting down a laugh. Everyone opened their envelopes to extract their ten pound notes (five, in Edward’s case) and politely laughed along with the Queen. “Seriously, though,” she said,” I thought this year I’d give you all money and then that way you can buy whatever you like. Now... let’s watch my speech.”
Nah, fair enough, that’s the fifth complaint... I’ll ask them to leave
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The inapproriate world of Ian Beale