Debby Friday, Kelly Moran, Fucked Up, Lonnie Holley, Ditz, Black Midi, Haiku Salut
Gazelle Twin Look what Brexit is doing to us
The Three E.P.â€™s
20th Anniversary Remaste red
Out S ep 14 t
The entire Beta Band album back
Heroes To Zeros
Hot Shots II
The Beta Band
the first time on vinyl and CD r o f d e gue re-issu 12th October
The Best Of
Contents Contact firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Loud And Quiet Ltd PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Founding Editor: Stuart Stubbs Art Direction: B.A.M. Digital Director: Greg Cochrane Marketing & Sales Manager: Dominic Haley Sub Editor: Alexandra Wilshire Book Editor: Lee Bullman Contributing Editor: Dafydd Jenkins Contributing Editor: Stephen Butchard Contributing writers Abi Crawford, Aimee Armstrong, Andrew Anderson, Alex Weston-Noond, Ben Hewitt, Brian Coney, Cal Cashin, Chris Watkeys, David Cortes, David Zammitt, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Derek Robertson, Gemma Samways, Guia Cortassa, Hayley Scott, Ian Roebuck, Joe Goggins, Katie Beswick, Liam Konemann, Luke Cartledge, Max Pilley, Mike Vinti, Patrick Glen, Rachel Redfern, Rosie Ramsden, Reef Younis, Sarah Lay, Susan Darlington, Sam Walton, Tristan Gatward.
The last time I got to edit a print magazine I was 22. It was a supplement about student cities, mostly about where to find cheap shots and avoid Chlamydia. Therefore, commissioning issue 127 (Stuart took his first decent holiday in a decade) was a real treat, even if July was a month where reality took a side-step into surrealism. England doing okay in a World Cup. An inflatable Trump baby flying just a few miles from the office. The heat. The only thing to do was to embrace the sense that all normalcy was lost. Gazelle Twin symbolises that. Elizabeth Bernholz takes a cracked mirror and holds it up to expose the more sinister parts of our society. It was worth putting her on the cover to see onlookers’ faces as she pranced across a north London bowling green. Greg Cochrane
Contributing photographers Ant Adams, Brian Guido, Charlotte Patmore, Colin Medley, David Cortes, Dan Kendall, Dustin Condren, Gabriel Green, Gem Harris, Heather Mccutcheon, Jenna Foxton, Jonangelo Molinari, Matilda Hill-Jenkins, Nathanael Turner, Nathaniel Wood,Phil Sharp, Sonny McCartney, Timothy Cochrane. With special thanks to Bowls Club Bob, Colleen Maloney, Dan Carson, Joe Parry, Leah Ellis, Lloyd Young, Lucy Hurst, Luis Kramer, Michelle Kambasha, Zoe Miller. The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2018 Loud And Quiet Ltd.
ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Wyndeham Grange Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte
Debby Friday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Kelly Moran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Haiku Salut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Black Midi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Ditz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Gazelle Twin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Lights Down, Sound Up . . . . . . . . . . 54 Lonnie Holley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Fucked Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 03
NEW RELEASES OUT NOW
MASAYOSHI FUJITA ‘Book Of Life’ Erased Tapes LP Ltd / LP / CD
Castle Face Records LP/CD
LFZ ‘Name Plus Focus’
VARIOUS ‘Give Me My Flowers’
SORROW ‘Under The Yew Posessed’
With Book of Life Masayoshi continues his mission in bringing the vibraphone — a relatively new invention in the history of instruments often kept in the background in orchestras and jazz outfits — into the spotlight.
Otherworldly synth and guitar soundscapes by longtime Bay Area ringer Sean Smith.. For fans of JD Emanuel, Edgar Froese, Syrinx, Michael Rother, and Wendy Carlos
Powerhouse Gospel Music from the 50’s and 60’s on Nashboro Records out of Nashville TN which recorded some of the most potent and forceful gospel music of the time period.
**NOW AVAILABLE ON CD AND BLACK VINYL VINYL REPRESS **Under The Yew Possessed is the debut album by Sorrow, a group comprised primarily by Rose McDowall and her then husband Robert Lee. Self-recorded by the duo with guest musicians from the hidden reverse of the U.K.’s post industrial landscape.
Third Man Records LP
Night School CD/LP
THE GRIFTERS ‘So Happy Together’
ROY MONTGOMERY ‘Suffuse’
WARM DRAG ‘Warm Drag’
ROSALI ‘Trouble Anyway’
Memphis’ Grifters made some of the finest recordings of Clinton-era America, their mixture of Memphis blues/roots influences, classic pop songwriting and lo-fi aesthetics saw them as one of the shining lights of the ‘90s indie-rock scene. Sorcerer Records is pleased as heck to announce that it is reissuing their first full-length LP, So Happy Together, out of circulation for over two decades.
An album of guitar compositions, each created for a particular singer.. including Haley Fohr (Circuit Des Yeux), Liz Harris (Grouper) and Julianna Barwick. Alternatively elegant, cutting lamenting and mesmerizing, these songs play to the vocalists strengths and display Montgomery’s elegiac sound webs.
Los Angeles samplers-and-switchblade post-noir disco two piece are members of Oh Sees, !!!, Modey Lemon, K-Holes, and Golden Triangle. Imagine Blondie’s Parallel Lines meets The Bomb Squads production style.
With a band including Rosali’s close friends Charlie Hall (War On Drugs), Paul Sukeena (Angel Olsen), Mary Lattimore, Mike Polizze (Purling Hiss), Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn, Black Twig Pickers) and Dan Provenzano (Purling Hiss, Writhing Squares), this album is a cohesive collection of lush, intimate rock songs, featuring Rosali’s warm, natural vocals and powerful riffing and rhythm guitar.
Sorceror LP only reissue!
Scissor Tail Editions CD/LP
In The Red CD/LP
Forthcoming Aug 17th…
2LP / CD
Indies Limited Colored Vinyl
UK TOUR Aug 31
MARGATE Winter Gardens
DORSET End Of The Road
BRISTOL 02 Academy
LONDON 02 Forum
“Interstellar overdrive! Album 20 sees John Dwyer’s prolific band blossom into expansive, psychedelic maturity.” – UNCUT “It’s a bullseye” – MOJO
The digital war is over – coffee is just coffee again
In March 1998 a company no one had heard of released a product no one wanted to buy. The MPMan, created by SaeHan Information Systems, was a small box that weighed about 100 grams. It was impressively ugly and had a user interface that only a fan of cryptic crosswords could love. However, it did one thing that no other portable product could: it played MP3s. In June 2018 an artist everyone had heard of released an album everyone wanted to listen to. Drake’s ‘Scorpion’ has since been played about a billion times, with millions added to that figure everyday. Better yet for the Canadian mumble master, streaming’s two biggest hitters, Spotify and Apple, fought over who got to kiss his bits. These two dates mark the start and end of a 20-year digital transition, one that sent the music industry reeling like a 13-yearold taking their first hit of poppers. Like most revolutions it began with grand ideas, but – after a lot of violence, chaos and confusion – ended up with the same bosses back in the big chairs. While the MPMan might have been a first, it didn’t start the revolution on its own. Yes, it could play MP3s – a compressed audio format whose origins date back to the 1980s – but since you couldn’t really buy MP3s anywhere the MPMan was about as much use as a condom in solitary confinement. And that’s where Napster came in – launched in 1999, it made it possible for people to share their digitised music collections with anyone, anywhere. Suddenly pube-sprouting spods like me – whose total album archive consisted of ‘The Band Who’ by Travis and ‘Onka’s Big Moka’ by Toploader – suddenly had access to the entire back catalogues of actually good bands (although I must confess I mostly used it to download more crap music). At first the record industry didn’t give a shit, but suddenly Napster had 80 million users and other imitation services were popping up faster than bad tattoos on a footballer. This wasn’t the first time the music biz brains had gone
words by andrew anderson. illustration by kate prior
berserk. When recorded music was first retailed at the start of the 20th century, concert hall owners thought it would ruin them, while the ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’ campaign of the ’80s was based on the same fear. But this digital stuff was a far greater dilemma, because it suddenly looked like consumers didn’t need the industry at all. What followed was the age we’ve just lived through, where those who wanted to make music free fought it out with those who wanted to make sure it was monetised. Experimentation – some of it interesting, some of it idiotic – followed. Some artists nobly went along with the whole ‘keep it free’ thing. These libertarian lawbreakers included some you’d expect (Chuck D, for example) but also some you wouldn’t, like Billy Corgan, whose ‘Teargarden by Kaleidyscope’ project from 2009 was entirely free for fans (which to non-fans of Corgan still seems expensive). U2 famously forced their ‘Songs of Innocence’ onto all iPhones, thus proving that the new digital age had not dampened Bono’s ability to be a massive nob. Then there was the ‘pay what you want’ pack. Inspired by a business model usually restricted to vegan restaurants, the most notable example was Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’. The surprise digital release – made possible by the fact the band had completed its contract with EMI – ended up earning more than any of their other albums. It was later sold as a regular CD in shops, which sort of undermined the magic a bit. Others decided to deliver their music in tandem with existing commodities. Prince’s ‘Planet Earth’ came free with The Mail on Sunday, an odd choice given their long-held views on race and sexual liberation. Paul McCartney, meanwhile, made one of his classic embarrassing dad decisions by signing with Starbucks, where his album was sold alongside other slightly stale products. Some went further still and effectively had their albums sponsored, as Rihanna did when Samsung stuck its cash behind ‘Anti’. But while artists were busy coming up with sexy solutions, the invisible hand of the market had other ideas. File sharing servers were shut down, replaced by streaming services. Some of these worked pretty well, plus Tidal and Pono. What they all had in common was that musicians could not make much money out of them, unless they were already famous. The same went for record labels. Indies struggled, with Spotify sued for failing to pay royalties, while large labels did just fine: Sony and Universal both posted record profits in 2017. What started out as an easy way to share music with the MPMan has come full circle with the corporate colossus that is Drake and his conventional release campaign. MP3s and easy sharing broke a hole in the dam and we were flooded with free music and interesting ideas about how and why we commodify art. Now, though, the big boys have poured a blob of concrete over everything and are back in control. It was a fun ride though, right?
By the numbers: Moving Beyond List Fatigue Us music obsessives love lists. We might not have a sexy site like the film buffs do over at Letterboxd, but if you’ve found yourself on the productivity-sponge called Music Twitter this month, you’ve probably seen a few users proudly listing their favourite albums of 2018 so far. It’s a ritual come the halfway point. Some take it very seriously, writing multi-part threads, complete with playlist links and mini reviews, read only by other obsessives and enabling friends. Ranking and labelling music is a time-suck if you’re going to honour every release you’ve heard, and a downright chore if you want to do it numerically. Like Trainspotting (both the hobby and the heroin metaphor), it’d be easy to wonder why music nerds bother doing it if you’re on the outside. For me, it’s about connection. Reading through other people’s lists might give me a warm feeling of relief when my own picks are reflected, or a migraine when they’re not. I might get a treasure trove of albums to dig through, or I might never think about the #1 ranked mixtape by 03 Greedo again. Either way, I’m going to get the sense of what it was like to be another music listener over the past few months. As niche music communities become increasingly online and amorphous, those quarterly blocks to reflect on the best stuff emphasises the feeling of community and the deeply personal nature of music. Publications love lists too, and that’s largely because the nerds love them. We can’t help ourselves. Even if you’ve written something as banal as the Top 10 Bananarama covers, a fair few of us are still going to be clicking. It’s comfort reading and easy ad revenue. What’s wrong with that? Well, the last few years suggest that we might have reached peak list. Last month, Rolling Stone released their picks for the Top 100 songs of the century so far. (‘Crazy in Love’ is number one. It’s not ‘1 Thing’ by Amerie, but
at least they didn’t pick a U2 song or something). They’re very proud of this list. There’s an extensive ‘making-of’ article that catalogues who was behind its creation, and they used it to push their shiny magazine redesign. I didn’t get a warm feeling of relief or a migraine from that list, and that’s because I’ve read it before. Rolling Stone have done a lot of these. There’s a whole section of their site dedicated to it, from the specific Top 25 Country and Americana albums of 2018 so far, to the overarching, like the best of a whole damn century. They’ve done the best of the 2000s, and each individual year since, stopping to spotlight their favourite acts with their own listicles. As personal, thoughtful and contrasting as the writers are in their individual blurbs that accompany each song, it’s hard not to see the latest list as a Frankenstein monster of all the ones they’ve done before. They’re not the only offenders. Everyone from Pitchfork to Consequence of Sound have given you their own picks for the best of the year so far. Everyone is fighting to be first. NME decided to publish theirs all the way back in May. No doubt, the overall lists will pop up before you’ve even got your Christmas tree up – in previous years, late contenders like Run the Jewels and D’Angelo were left out of the conversation entirely because of it. On the flipside, publications now break their lists down by genre, which could be seen as highlighting albums that might otherwise get left unappreciated, or milking as much as you can out of an easy format. We’ve reached list fatigue, and that’s perhaps the fault of the framing of a listicle itself. Ann Powers perhaps put this best writing for NPR: “Beyond getting the groceries, lists are fundamentally lies. They reflect unconscious biases and whispered compromises; they solidify beliefs that may seem relevant in the moment, but become incomprehensible to the next generation.” Rolling Stone essentially invented the music canon with their 500 Greatest Albums of all Time list. Whether it makes you wince or not, there’s no doubt that they helped establish the pop standards, and we’ve been living in the shadow of that list ever since. The beneficiaries of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Bob Marley are forever thankful. What’s just as important as what’s on a list is what’s left off it, as powerfully demonstrated by Powers, as part of a small group of writers working for NPR, who last year decided to come up with their own alternative canon, of 150 albums written and performed by women, called Turning the Tables. “Before canons are handed down, someone has to make them,” they assert. “The atmospherics around that consecration tend to default to masculinity because the mechanisms that do the consecrating are overwhelmingly male.” Going through each pick was exhilarating, with firm favourites and wonderful surprises to be found. It’s a list with a point to make, one that captures the joy of embracing a numerical canon while questioning the procedure itself. It reminded me that the standards of music journalism can be more than just standard, that even with something as tired as a listicle, we could be giving our readers community.
words by stephen butchard. illustration by kate prior
The BesT New Music
DARWIN DEEZ STONE FOUNDATION 10 SONGS THAT HAPPENED EVERYBODY, ANYONE 100% Records WHEN YOU LEFT ME WITH MY STUPID HEART
WILD NOTHING INDIGO
CHILLY GONZALES SOLO PIANO III
DEVO TOTAL DEVO
Darwin Deez once again shows off his ability to write enormously catchy and accessible songs. Sparse guitar songs that have vulnerability and relatable, intelligible lyrics. He’s refreshingly able to be both goofy and grim, with the songwriting chops to express the human condition artfully, cutting through clouds of cultural static.
Stone Foundation return with ‘Everybody, Anyone’ their second album recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studios. Features contributions from Paul Weller, Kathryn Williams, Mick Talbot, Steve White, Dr Robert and The Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart. Out 24th August on 100% Records.
‘Indigo’, the fourth album from quintessential dream pop artist Wild Nothing, is its own cyborg world, utilizing the artful mechanisms of human touch with the precision of technology to create the classic, pristine sound Jack Tatum had been seeking his entire career. A return to form from the pivotal Captured Tracks artist as the label celebrates its 10th year.
‘Solo Piano III’ completes the Solo Piano trilogy. Like any final act, there are complications and consequences, followed by an urgent race to the finish line. Like its predecessors, it’s a mostly happy ending in C major, but there is more dissonance, tension and ambiguity along the way. The musical purity of ‘Solo Piano III’ is not an antidote for our times, it is a reflection of all the beauty and ugliness around us.
Long out of print and never reissued, this summer Futurismo proudly presents a limited 30th anniversary deluxe edition of Devo’s 1988 album – ‘Total Devo’. It comes as a beautiful limited colour double vinyl in a spot laminated gatefold sleeve with a huge poster and photo postcards.
WHITE DENIM PERFORMANCE
CHARLES WATSON NOW THAT I’M A RIVER
OUR GIRL OLIVER COATES SHELLEY’S ON ZENN-LA STRANGER TODAY
THEY’RE BACK! ‘Performance’ collects nine expertly crafted songs that twist and turn, bending genres in the way only White Denim can. The Texans’ blues and soul fuelled garage jams contort beautifully through psych-pop and progressive art rock, incorporating elements of post punk and touches of glam, to form a unique record of intricate, kaleidoscopic rock’n’roll.
“The best thing he’s ever done. It’s absolutely brilliant… Might just be my Album of the Year so far” Lauren Laverne
Celebrated cellist, composer, and producer Oliver Coates offers us a realm of time and space in which Shelley’s – a once-legendary nightclub Out now on vinyl and CD. in Stoke-on-Trent – can Includes the singles No Fanfare, simultaneously exist on the Everything Goes Right and Now fictional planet of Zenn-La, That I’m A River. to house a devotional, alien ritual of early UK rave culture, pioneering IDM, and deep minimalism.
Our Girl release their debut album ‘Stranger Today’ via Cannibal Hymns on CD and deluxe 2LP, including a bonus ‘Bedroom Recordings’ vinyl. Featuring the singles Our Girl, I Really Like It and In My Head. “…one of the most exciting new bands around.” – The Line of Best Fit
Includes the singles Magazin and It Might Get Dark.
support Your Local independent Retailer check www.republicofmusic.com
THE VRYLL SOCIETY COURSE OF THE SATELLITE Deltasonic
The Vryll Society’s debut LP ‘Course of the Satellite’ for Deltasonic Records is hotly anticipated, thanks to the promise the band have shown through their blistering live sets and recent single releases. This is an effortlessly cool album, the sort of record that makes friends easily. The world is ready, willing, and more than able to take The Vryll Society even deeper to their heart. It’s a path that leads to greatness.
Sweet 16: In 2002 Matt Helders left school, cashed a bond from his grandparents and bought a set of drums
I was 16 in 2002, which was when I left school. I still lived at home, in a village that’s between Sheffield and Barnsley. It was a village where there was a couple of pubs, a small supermarket and a butchers – the usual things. By that time I was going into town with 10 pound and seeing what I can get. I turned 16 in May, left school, had the summer off and went to Barnsley College in September. I only went because everyone else did, so when I got there I cheated my way onto the music course by learning one song on piano. And I did Photography and Media Studies. It was that summer that I started playing drums. I’d never played until then. I had some money that my grandparents had given me when I was born – a thousand pound from a children’s bond – so I went to the Cayman Islands for four weeks, because my brother lived there, and then bought a drum kit when I got back, which was all my money gone. Turns out it was a good investment. It was very inconvenient for me to buy drums because we didn’t have anywhere to put them in our house, but it was the only choice because the others had already got their guitars. If I wanted to be in the band it was drums only. So I used to keep them in Alex’s garage, and we practiced there. It meant that I could only practice whenever we all practiced. It was a slow start. I just didn’t want to be left out.
The others hadn’t started playing together, yet – they’d been learning Oasis songs in their bedrooms and didn’t pick it up much until we decided to do it altogether. We didn’t play a show until we’d rehearsed for a year, until we were really ready. In the first rehearsals the goal was to get to the end of a song without stopping – White Stripes songs and Strokes songs that we thought we could have fun playing. Alex hadn’t decided that he’d sing at that point – we were just playing and no one was singing. Me and Alex went to the same primary school and lived on the same street. The other two – our parents’ houses are all within 50 feet of each other, so we grew up on the same estate. We all went to the same college as well. We’d hang around in the street after school and started talking about a band because some of our other friends were in bands. We didn’t realise before then that it’s something you can do – we just thought that bands were on TV – it didn’t seem like something that people who lived near us did. Then we saw friends do it and it became more accessible. We played our first gig in Sheffield, at a pub called The Grapes. It was good. We’d been patient enough to know that we’d be good enough to do it. We had four of our own songs and four covers, and we just went on and nothing went that wrong. The covers were ‘Harmonic Generator’ by The Datsuns, ‘Hotel Yorba’ by the White Stripes, an acoustic version of ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, and ‘Teenage Kicks’ by The Undertones. We had a bias crowd of friends and family there – there were a lot less people at our shows 6 months later. I wouldn’t say that I was instantly good at the drums but I was good enough to know that I should carry on pursing it. I think I got decent quickly and then stayed the same forever. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until I’d been playing for a year, and then I couldn’t wait to have been playing for five years. I was trying to learn stuff that was too difficult and feeling put off by it. My other interests were skateboarding and basketball. I played basketball at school but didn’t grow enough. And BMX. Me and my brother used to race, and although I didn’t by the time I was 16 I still had my bike. I wasn’t bad at skateboarding – I got to a kickflip and then gave up; I went to the skate park and dropped in on a half pipe and thought that’s good enough – if that’s as good as I am, that’s fine by me. Musically, it was a transitional time from being at school listening to rap (Eminem and Dr Dre) to getting into guitars. There was a danger there, for me, of getting into Limp Bizkit. All the kids that were into rap got into that, especially as I was into skateboarding. I don’t know how I narrowly escaped that but I got into The Strokes, The Hives and The Vines instead. I could be in a very different band right now.
as told to stuart stubbs
08â€”18 MOTH Club Valette St London E8
Friday 24 August
Thursday 30 August
mothclub.co.uk Wednesday 29 August Wednesday 22 August
Friday 31 August
RON GALLO Thursday 30 August Thursday 23 August
Saturday 1 September
TIJUANA PANTHERS Friday 31 August Wednesday 29 August
Tuesday 4 September
WHITE DENIM Saturday 1 September Saturday 1 September
Saturday 8 September
TANGLED HAIR Tuesday 4 September Tuesday 4 September
MATT HOLLYWOOD & THE BAD
Thursday 13 September
FEELINGS Friday 14 September
Thursday 6 September
Thursday 6 September
ACID TONGUE Saturday 15 September
Sunday 9 September
INFINITE BISOUS Tuesday 11 September
HOLY WAVE Thursday 13 September
ESCAPE-ISM (IAN SEVONIUS) Tuesday 18 September
TERRY & THE HOMOSEXUALS Friday 21 September
Shacklewell Arms 71 Shacklewell Lane London E8 shacklewellarms.com
Thursday 23 August
Sunday 9 September
PRINCESS CHELSEA Tuesday 11 September
PRETTIEST EYES Wednesday 12 September
THE BLANK TAPES Monday 17 September
The Waiting Room
The Lock Tavern 35 Chalk Farm Rd London NW1 lock-tavern.com
Saturday 18 August
L.A. PEACH Friday 24 August
JERSKIN FENDRIX Saturday 25 August + Sunday 26 August
175 Stoke Newington High St N16
Friday 24 August
YYYY Saturday 25 August
Various venues... Saturday 27 April 2019
TEST PRESSING FESTIVAL
Interview Canadian thunder, by Max Pilley Photography by Debby Friday
Debby Friday “I am an aggressive woman so my music is aggressive. I live in a world that is aggressive towards my identities and the body that I inhabit, so of course my reaction is going to be aggression.” Take it as a mission statement. The Vancouver-based independent electronic producer Debby Friday doesn’t sound angry as she speaks, rather quietly resolute. “There is a whole stigma around being an angry queer black woman. I’m just really tired of it, it’s very un-nuanced. The energy I have in my music is about not being afraid to embody that confrontation.”
Energy is certainly the word. The adrenaline-charged, fulminating pace at which Friday’s debut EP ‘Bitchpunk’ moves is something to behold; a cyclone of styles and modes of expression that defy genre categorisation, but that certainly draw from punk, drill and techstep. Call it what you will, but Friday’s own description is far closer to the mark: “I would describe my music as ‘thunder’.” “It just came out of me. I had no idea what it was going to sound like when I started making it. It was the first time I was making a comprehensive body of work, but it was a very natural
Interview progression.” It may be their first release, but there is certainly no sign of early tentativeness from Friday. Opening track ‘C’est Quoi Ça?’ finds them snarling lines like, “I beat ya like a face, honey/Pretty lil’ Debby but I bet I leave that nose runny,” and you can hear the hubristic smirk on her face as she says it. “I think a lot of queer artists of colour can identify with feeling enraged when waking up to the realities of oppression,” she says, “but I find that these days that’s not really what motivates me. Of course, I’m still upset about it, but I find now that I channel my anger in a more constructive way. Instead of being angry about the way the world is, I feel more animated to change it. My whole thing in life is waking up to my own ability to shape my life. Part of that is being authentic to yourself, saying ‘fuck it, I’m not going to live by society’s rules of what a black woman is supposed to be doing or the music I’m supposed to be making.’” Friday is suddenly animated, on the potency for art to steer society. “Change is a violent force. It doesn’t often happen quietly or nicely. It’s what brought the universe into being, it’s what allows society to progress. It’s an aggressive force. The energy I have in my music is about not being afraid to embody that aggression. The things that come up in our cultural artefacts are just a reflection of what is going on in our collective consciousness. I’m aggressive about changing the world, I’m not going to apologise for that.” — Life in a moving diaspora — As well as identifying as a queer black woman (she chooses to use ‘she’ and ‘they’ pronouns), Friday has also spoken about identifying herself as a confrontation. “We grow up with all this conditioning about how we’re supposed to be or act, and a lot of the time mental barriers keep us in a place of fear or shame and of not being true to ourselves. Identifying as a confrontation of me against myself is my way of challenging myself to break out of whatever shell I made for myself to survive.” This lucid method of self-reflection extends to Friday’s own family heritage. She moved to Canada from Nigeria with her Yoruba mother when she was two years old, and so identifies with both cultures. “My experience of my background is very much informed by the fact that I grew up in the Western world,” she says. “The way that I identify as Nigerian is going to be different to the way someone who was born and grew up in Nigeria does. I think that’s the same for a lot of people who are in a diaspora or who are immigrant young people. Our cultural identity is in the stage of taking form as something different, because we are something different. Even though we share the same background, we don’t share the same lived experiences as those who are, quote unquote, ‘back home’.” 2018 has seen some fundamental changes to Friday’s life too, though. Two months ago, she took the decision to undertake a 3600km relocation across Canada from Montreal to a new base in Vancouver. “Basically I just needed a complete and total change of environment. I felt Montreal wasn’t really conducive to my journey.”
The change came as Friday was barely a year into life as a producer, having previously travelled across North America as a DJ in 2016, playing underground electronic club music. “At first, it was just something I did after finishing school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. But by 2017 I’d got to the point where I didn’t feel like I was challenging myself [as a DJ], so I became more and more obsessed with producing,” she explains, clearly still enthused by the change in direction. She set about making the ‘Bitchpunk’ EP as an entirely solo project, somewhat out of necessity, but also as a result of that phase of her life. “It was in a time when I was taking the decision to leave Montreal and I wasn’t doing live shows. I was in a funk. I felt very dissatisfied with a lot of things in my life and I was alone. I was in a period of deep isolation.” She posted the finished product on Soundcloud, where it quickly drew significant attention. “I am part of a community of Internet-based artists and I have met a lot of people through Soundcloud. But at the same time I feel outside of that because I do often feel alone. I don’t know if that’s something I’m imagining, but I do feel separated.” I suggest that perhaps this is more and more the norm for artists starting out now, but Friday’s reply is enigmatically supportive of the online structure. “You can’t touch the Internet, but you can feel the impact on your life. A lot of [Soundcloud artists] come from personal histories of being ostracised growing up, and it carries over into your work.” Some of the people she has met have become professional allies, too. “I have been slowly starting to collaborate. Eventually, I do want to produce music for other people. It’s still under wraps, but I have a few things coming out with people whose work I really admire.” On the subject of future releases, she also suggests that her second EP will be coming out “sometime in the late fall”, and she speaks about the possibility of working with a label for it too: “I have had offers, quite a few actually.” Unsurprisingly for a young and hungry artist, one medium is not enough to contain Friday. “I consider myself an experimentalist,” she says. “If I discover something I find interesting, I’ll most likely take it up and see what I can do with it.” She has a penchant for live coding, which has now begun to expand into the even more improvisational world of visual live coding, and she has been taking more and more interest in the world of experimental film-making. “I never thought of myself as a visual person,” she tells me, “but then I did a project for Abstract Without Abstraction, which involved some video art, and I found that I really liked it. With my next EP, I plan to direct some music videos.” She goes on to talk about future dreams of writing the score to her own film, leading to an enthusiastic sidetrack that finds her eulogising René Laloux’s 1973 French sci-fi animation La Planète Sauvage as well as Mica Levi’s spellbinding score for Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’. It is just a sample of the voracity of Friday’s creative urges. For now, though, music production is her obsession. If her very first outing is as uncompromisingly fierce and exhilarating as ‘Bitchpunk’, just imagine what the next bout of thunder could sound like.
How to make a piano do more, by Sam Walton Photography by Timothy Cochrane
Interview In the summer before she went to the University of Michigan to study music performance and composition, while in a practice room at the Manhattan School of Music, Kelly Moran had a moment of clarity. “I could hear someone next door practicing the exact same piece, and they sounded so much better than I did,” she recalls of her pre-college preparation. “It was really disheartening, and I just thought ugh, I don’t want to do this. I want to do something that makes me stand out.” Up to this point, having been obsessed with the piano since seeing one on TV when she was six, Moran was on the road to becoming a classical concert soloist – or, at least, that’s what her teachers wanted: “They told me that I needed to focus on piano and get serious. They were telling me that if you keep fucking around with recording and playing bass and playing in all your bands, you’re never going to be good enough at one thing to be successful.” Turns out her teachers were wrong. A decade-pluschange on from that chastening day in the practice room, the outcome of Moran experimenting with musical pursuits beyond (and within) the piano is the kind of uncategorisable career that can only result from concentrating on more than one thing. After a spell as the bassist in Voice Coils, the acclaimed underground prog-metal band once fronted by Mitski, she has slowly become one of Oneohtrix Point Never’s most trusted collaborators as part of the producer’s ‘Myriad and Age Of ’ live band, while also accepting composition commissions from noted avant-garde performers – none of which, one imagines, would have happened if she’d given herself obediently to the rigours of the traditional concert hall aged 18. Primarily, though, Moran remains a pianist, composing and recording three solo albums of experimental music for electronics and prepared piano since leaving college, with a fourth, ‘Ultraviolet’, landing this autumn via the hallowed turf of Warp Records. While that may resemble, albeit obliquely, the same goal of professional solo pianist that she was set in her teens, the sort of music that Moran writes and performs today remains several steps removed from what her teachers presumably had in mind: fluttering and timbrally rich, with moments of both extreme dissonance and prettiness, Moran’s pieces are full of furrows and dense thickets of notes masking slyly insistent hooks, with modernist buzzes and burbles betraying the music’s rather romantic, impressionistic DNA. While gently repetitive and pulsing, Moran’s music is too slender to dance to, but nonetheless it shares characteristics with home-listening electronica of both abstraction and sophisticated intricacy – indeed, her latest album appears uncannily palindromic. How Moran arrived here, though, is almost an accident. Her classical piano continued into her first year at university, where she reports she “was tortured into playing Haydn sonatas for a year and was fucking miserable”, with her course leaders refusing to acknowledge any music written after 1950 as worthy of study. It was only thanks to the help of a professor in the music technology department, who offered to teach Moran avant-garde piano for the fun of it, that she threw herself
into the world of mid-century modernist composers, with their unconventional, provocative approaches to making music. She talks fondly about discovering via these lessons Schoenberg and twelve-tone compositional techniques, Philip Glass and minimalism, but more than anyone else, Moran fell for John Cage. The American composer is perhaps most famous for his “silence” piece ‘4’33’, but Cage was also a pioneer of prepared piano, and that subversion of inserting foreign objects into the body of a piano to alter its sound was catnip to Moran’s longrebellious personality. “I had never seen or heard any pieces that use these sounds, so in college, when I started learning about extended piano techniques, I was like, holy shit you can generate so many different sounds from a piano,” she enthuses of her discovery, and her subsequent thankful escape from the ubiquity of the piano’s traditional sound. “I immediately knew that’s what I wanted to explore: I wanted to spend my life unearthing every possible sound you can get from this instrument.” — The same four dead white dudes — The problem with Moran’s newfound exploration, however, was its environment of fairly abstruse academia, fascinating but somewhat joyless and self-involved: at college, she would spend months writing pieces that would only ever be performed once (if at all), often to just a handful of ears, and the rarefied intellectual isolation grew frustrating. “Something that really turns me off about academia is that you’re in such a bubble. Once you leave the conservatory and go out into the real world, most people aren’t seeking out this kind of music.” Moran sighs, comparing the worlds of classical and pop (for want of more nuanced terms) that she has always straddled. “The modern classical world just doesn’t bother with the same sort of engagement, and that’s something where it has to look at itself and ask what it’s doing wrong. For one thing, not everyone has access to learn it, but on top of that, there’s so much discrimination: like, we still have to say ‘women composers’. The label ‘woman composer’ is still a thing. We still have to fight for a shred of the same representation. Several classical orchestras in the US still programme full seasons that don’t have any women in them – and the track record is even worse for people of colour. “And that’s why rock music and electronic music is way more diverse – I mean, sure, classic rock music is still dominated by white men, but on the whole it’s progressed so much faster, and that’s why I don’t think classical music has the same audience, because representation matters: audiences get bored of the same four dead white dudes.” Indeed, if this is something Moran sounds particularly riled about, it’s for good reason. “I’ve been dealing with sexism as a musician since I was in fourth grade,” she explains. “Literally. Being bullied by boys in my oboe studio in summer camp who were dicks to me, right through to the guys in my classes at college, who would be talking about contemporary classical music and then turn to me and be like, ‘I like your hair today’. It was constant shit like that, and I might seem confident now,
but in college I was way more shy. It took me a while to work out it was okay to be taking up space.” — Black metal for a chamber ensemble — But while Moran’s disenchantment with academic contemporary classical music was clearly structural, it was also a matter of taste: despite (or maybe because of) all her expertise and training, her seemingly innate predilection for more traditional harmony and melody – however well disguised it may appear in her finished work – means she would never be satisfied writing within that field. “I liked learning about twelve-tone and serialism,” she confesses, “but it’s never what I’m going to seek out and listen to. I like the Cageian approach, but I like applying it to different harmonic worlds, applying experimental processes to pretty music, and seeing what happens.” That figures: at a one-off London performance last month to celebrate her arrival on Warp, Moran opted to play solo piano, stripped of any preparations or electronic accompaniment, during which her debt to the impressionistic fantasias of Debussy and Ravel, as well as to the bucolic minimalism of late film composer Johan Johansson, shone through far brighter than anything as relatively esoteric as Cage or Schoenberg. Suddenly, her pieces felt airy and uncluttered, standing as proof that Moran’s isn’t music for the demonstration of technical chops, but something more emotionally rooted, prioritising joyful escapism over anything else. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that at one stage in our conversation she cites the German pianist Hauschka, who also specialises in prepared piano, as someone she admires specifically for his sense of fun, proving to her that “there are ways to do this without being so academic about it all”; at another, she extols the virtues of early-noughties laptop duo Telefon Tel Aviv, whose blend of elegantly simple synth lines and elaborate percussion programming clearly bleeds into her work, but whose dreamy textures cuts even deeper; and at another, she draws comparisons between black metal – the true musical love of her teens, despite all those years of piano practice – and classical minimalism, suggesting that Steve Reich just sounds like black metal transcribed for a chamber ensemble. The upshot is a picture of a musician who, depending on the angle of view, can often appear part-everything, voracious in sonic appetite but admirably bloody-minded when it comes to making exactly the sort of sound that she desires, regardless of external categorisation. After all, her music has been included at various times in high-profile lists of the best classical releases, the best avant-garde, best electronic, and even the best metal. “Perhaps that’s why Warp likes me,” she muses, pondering this stylistically nomadic existence and her new recording home, “because it’s all weirdos who don’t fit in anywhere else.” With that in mind, maybe her aim in that practice room years ago is finally coming true: sooner or later, if you’re not fitting in, the chances are you’re standing out.
“They were telling me that if you keep fucking around with recording and playing bass and playing in all your bands, you’re never going to be good enough at one thing to be successful”
A folktronica trio and their robots reconnect with community, by Sarah Lay Photography by Dan Kendall
Haiku Salut 16
Interview A gateway to the open space and scenery of the Derbyshire Peak District, in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution where the power of the Derwent was harnessed for cotton mills, sits a picturesque village, which folktronic three-piece Haiku Salut call home. Walking up its streets criss-crossed with bunting, past a mill pond over which a ramshackle book store presides and stone cottages lean against each other, it is something of an idyll. As well as the tourist draw there is a sense of creativity in the air, bolstered by the arts and crafts crammed shop windows. It fits perfectly as the backdrop to the band’s quiet and gentle demeanour, although not necessarily as an obvious location for their electronic music. Described as ‘baroque-pop-folktronic-neo-classicalsomething-or-other’, Haiku Salut’s instrumental electronic music builds in intricate cycles, layer on ambient layer. Hidden away in one of the small cottages they make music with a warm touch and a big heart, intellectually fascinating and emotionally resonant. The home studio and rehearsal space replicates as closely as possible their stage set up – a carefully constructed central bank of keyboards and synths, packed pedal boards below. To one side the percussion; to the other guitars and homemade robotics. A trumpet balances on an amp, pointing out of the open window. The thick stone walls make for natural soundproofing, and out of what looks like a chaos of instruments comes striking and sublime sounds. It can be a surprise – the swells of sound, the complex arrangements, the flourishes of detail, all from just three people. On record you assume the process supports the sound but to see the band pull it together live really brings the performative aspect into their music – they’re carefully choreographed as they move around each other, weaving together both digital and analogue instrumentation. Tonight they take up their positions around me in the small room and play a new piece accompanied by homemade robots tapping in sync against percussion from
cymbals and glass bottles. The sound resonates inward, vibrations physically enveloping us as they take cues from each other and build the track from its quiet beginning to its crescendo, where everything in the room seems to be in movement. We move downstairs and sit in the cosy front room, their dog lying companionably on the floor between us. A deep and long-lasting friendship exists between the three. As we talk they turn to each other and sometimes without speaking will all fall upon the same memory or same train of thought. It feels inclusive though, rather than I’m the outsider that I am, looking in. All three of the band are quiet and gentle in tone, thoughtful in their approach to music and speaking about it, as they ready for the release of their third album, ‘There Is Nowhere Else’. It’ll be their first for experimental electronic label PRAH Recordings. “We wanted to evoke a sense of place,” says Sophie Barkerwood. “It’s called ‘There Is Nowhere Else’, which has various meanings, especially when coupled with the song titles. Derbyshire is a very beautiful place, and we have a sense of belonging here for the moment. The landscape is really dramatic and sheer – it’s hard to say the landscape directly influenced our music, but this is where we write and it does seep in. I think our songs do have those dramatic areas; they do drop away. This landscape has influenced us.” “We’re looking to evoke community too,” says Gem Barkerwood. “We have used a local artist for the album artwork and we used Glastonbury Brass as brass bands give that sense of community. To be in a room with that much brass was quite overwhelming but we felt so together.” “I love that sense of cohesiveness,” says Sophie. “That idea of togetherness, we needed that lift, that triumph and celebration of community – the brass band captured it perfectly for us. It’s really easy to see these are really awful times and it is so tense and uncertain for so many people. We would come here and write and practice music and it would feel nice and ok to
separate ourselves from that turbulence for a short while but it is hard to see why we would pursue a creative endeavour against all the things going on politically at the moment. When things are so bad it does feel like a privilege to write electronic music in a village in Derbyshire. But celebrating community, making tiny changes and having positive conversations and rejoicing and celebrating each other is what we need to do. That’s the feeling we want to put across – that triumph and joyousness of working together. Making music helps us feel we belong, and we hope people feel the album belongs to them. A sense of belonging is really important.” — These things take time — The three members of Haiku Salut met in 2006 while at university and after playing in a few bands decided to attempt something more ambitious when Louise Croft was given an accordion in 2010. They wrote intensively and a debut EP was released in 2011, followed by debut album ‘Tricolore’ in 2013. Their ‘Etch and Etch Deep’ LP was released in 2015. The band has written more slowly since, and in a considered but serendipitous way, they’ve found that songs don’t often present themselves whole but rather fragments come together unexpectedly over long periods of time.
Sophie tells me: “The new album has been three years in the making and the writing process has been more disjointed, but when things came together they came together quickly. I felt there was more meaning behind this one – that celebration of togetherness.” New single ‘The More and Moreness’ was started on Christmas Days a few years ago. “We wrote the beginning part, and two years later we thought ‘that would fit well with this bit’,” says Gem. “I love that things go unused for years but then find their fit.” “You realise they belong together,” say Sophie. “Things are just waiting around and it happened a lot with this album; lots of pieces coming together. But often I don’t remember how tracks come together; they just do.” The band have collaborated with many other artists including Grawl!x (who has also directed videos for the band) and Public Service Broadcasting. That partnership came about after Haiku Salut added a PSB track to a Spotify playlist, something they described as “an amazing set of coincidences leading to incredible experiences.” This open way of working with others helps to keep their influences broad, ranging from Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s surreal and fatalistic tales to electronic musician Baths. Their live shows are a fully musical affair with the band remaining mute throughout the performance. Beyond the closely practiced moves between instruments and each other they are also known for their lamp show, which they’ll take on the road again this autumn. You can probably imagine what that is – adding to the intricacy, intimacy and dreamlike nature of their music, a ramshackle collection of programmed vintage and kitsch lamps glow around them, visually punctuating the sound. Louise tells me that getting their music ready to play live can be complex: “Sometimes we have to change songs around to perform live, just because there aren’t enough limbs to play it how it’s recorded. Learning to play ‘The More and Moreness’ live was like that – we needed more hands. But that’s part of the fun of playing our songs live, we’re never all in the same place playing the same instrument.” Having worked so long on ‘There Is Nowhere Else’ the band are looking forward to touring and to playing with a line-up extended by self-playing instruments. “We do keep a close knit between organic and digital sounds,” says Sophie, “so it’s quite nice that we as people are now interacting with musical robots. They sound quite glitchy so they fit well with us.” “A lot of people think we just press a few buttons, that what we do is quite easy,” says Gem. “I like that we’ve taken that idea and become musical in different ways, and we’ve made it more complicated, then made it organic again.” Modest about their music, quietly determined in what they do, and passionate about the ideas they are exploring through sound, with their new album, Haiku Salut have created a collection reflecting the importance of togetherness, only possible because of their own connection as a trio patiently plotting in their Derbyshire cottage.
EZRA FURMAN + GENGAHR + DU BLONDE TUES 4 SEPT O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON
MARTIN KOHLSTEDT MON 8 OCT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
BC CAMPLIGHT THURS 25 OCT OMEARA
OLDEN YOLK SAT 10 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS
DILLY DALLY TUES 9 OCT SEBRIGHT ARMS
PALM THURS 25 OCT MOTH CLUB
PARQUET COURTS MON 12 NOV ROUNDHOUSE
NEGATIVE GEMINI FRI 12 OCT THE SHACKLEWELL ARMS
GOLD STAR MON 29 OCT THE WAITING ROOM
LAURA JEAN TUES 13 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS
77:78 MON 15 OCT OSLO HACKNEY
SERPENTWITHFEET THURS 30 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
FLASHER TUES 13 NOV THE LEXINGTON
GWENNO THURS 18 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
LUCY DACUS WED 31 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
KELLY LEE OWENS THURS 15 NOV VILLAGE UNDERGROUND
STEADY HOLIDAY THURS 18 OCT THE ISLINGTON
THE KVB WED 31 OCT CORSICA STUDIOS
W. H. LUNG THURS 15 NOV CORSICA STUDIOS
RINA SAWAYAMA FRI 19 OCT HEAVEN
THE GARDEN WED 31 OCT & THURS 1 NOV THE GARAGE
TIRZAH MON 19 NOV VILLAGE UNDERGROUND
JIM GHEDI THURS 27 SEPT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
LEYYA TUES 23 OCT SEBRIGHT ARMS
SNEAKS THURS 1 NOV THE ISLINGTON
SUBURBAN LIVING FRI 23 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS
SKINNY PELEMBE THURS 27 SEPT CORSICA STUDIOS
OKAY KAYA TUES 23 OCT CHATS PALACE
GOAT GIRL FRI 2 NOV KOKO
HOOKWORMS SAT 24 NOV O2 FORUM KENTISH TOWN
IDER TUES 2 OCT VILLAGE UNDERGROUND
SAM EVIAN TUES 23 OCT HOXTON HALL
INSECURE MEN TUES 6 NOV QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
JUNGLE THURS 21 FEB ALEXANDRA PALACE
WASUREMONO THURS 4 OCT THE WAITING ROOM
GIANT PARTY WED 24 OCT THE LEXINGTON
CURTIS HARDING THURS 8 NOV KOKO
ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND FRI 5 OCT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
SOLOMON GREY THURS 25 OCT UNION CHAPEL
CAR SEAT HEADREST THURS 8 NOV O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON
(SANDY) ALEX G WED 5 SEPT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL ODETTA HARTMAN MON 24 SEPT THE ISLINGTON HALF WAIF MON 24 SEPT SEBRIGHT ARMS GENTLY TENDER WED 26 SEPT THE LEXINGTON MITSKI WED 26 SEPT O2 SHEPHERDâ€™S BUSH EMPIRE
Progression in South London, by Cal Cashin Photography by Dan Kendall
The UK music press is still talking about “the South London scene”, but for many the periscopes seem to be permanently facing the likes of Shame, Goat Girl and HMLTD. If you’ve spent any amount of time eavesdropping in the smoking areas and live rooms of the capital this year, though, the name Black Midi will have cropped up more than any other, as they’ve garnered themselves the title of London’s most compelling new band. They regularly play at venues like The Windmill in Brixton, but are infamously elusive online; their digital presence is limited to one studio recording, an esoteric Facebook account and a few rough live videos on the South London archivist Lou Smith’s YouTube channel. Meeting Black Midi for a drink in Effra Hall, a gorgeous pub just off Brixton Road, it’s difficult to imagine that this group of unassuming teenagers are the talk of the town. Lead vocalist Geordie Greep is humble and deflects all imminent praise with a wry smile. “It is what it is,” he laughs. “I’m glad people like us, but we don’t want to get bogged down in that.” After talking to the band for just a matter of minutes you can quickly piece together that their lack of online presence isn’t a shrewd PR stunt or an attempt to create mystique; rather, that Black Midi are a shy bunch that have skilfully veiled their awkwardness. It’s the same story when you see the band live: audience interaction is kept to a minimum while the group seem much more at ease communicating simply with each other. It’s all part of their musical chemistry, and their live shows feel like the product of a highly intuitive hive mind where individuality
Interview is not important. The focus is on each member’s contribution to perfectly executing the group’s bastard musical hybrid of clanging math-rock, visceral noise and frantic post-punk in the best way possible. At times it has a real sense of humour. At others it’s exhilarating. Sometimes it’s just bloody good fun. But Black Midi are deadly serious about their art and Greep constantly refers to the idea of ‘progression’. “In two years, Black Midi’s music will be unrecognisable compared to what it is today,” he declares. “We just want to use the available resources to make something good. Make something good. Make something good. That’s our mission.” This focus is what defines the band far more than any catch-all genre term could. — Brit School / Brix School — Black Midi met at Brit School, a performing arts institution in Croydon that seems at odds with their music, on account of its celebrated mainstream alumni, which you probably know
includes Jessie J, Adele, Amy Winehouse and bands like The Kooks. Greep and lead guitarist Matt Kelvin first dabbled in the idea of a band mid-way through their music course, when they were joined by drummer Morgan Simpson and bassist Cameron Picton. Diverse in musical influences and tastes, bonding over a passion for Talking Heads, Deerhoof and Danny Brown, all of them have been avid musicians since their pre-teens (Simpson allegedly having drummed “since he was two or three”). They formed “properly” last summer once they’d graduated, feeling prepared to start playing live immediately. “You do shows every term and stuff,” Greep says, “so once you get out you’ve got a really good idea of how sound works. It meant we left school, could play at the Windmill and knew how to soundcheck straight away.” Another product of this education is the very name of the project. “We used to have MIDI lessons, learning to make beats and that,” Greep says. “And I was like, ‘Matt, have you ever heard of this thing called Black MIDI?’” The band’s name refers to a Japanese Internet genre that consists of literally millions
“In two years, Black Midi’s music will be unrecognisable compared to what it is today. We just want to use the available resources to make something good. Make something good. Make something good. That’s our mission.”
of notes inputted into an interface. “We thought it was a good name for a band,” he continues. “We haven’t spent more than five minutes watching a Youtube video on it, but that’s where our name comes from.” Although the group have very little in common with their genre namesakes, the frenetic nature of the band is something that it’s hard not to notice. When talk of the current South London scene comes up so too does the Brixton venue The Windmill – more so than some of the of the bands. The pub’s chief booker, Tim Perry, is among Black Midi’s biggest fans [it was Perry who first told Loud And Quiet about them when we were delivering copies of the magazine to the venue], and the group are quick to state that the venue is a force for good. “When we first started the thing, I sent emails to every venue in London,” Greep says. “The Windmill was the only one that replied… Once we played there once, we just kept playing there again and again. It’s really great for bands. Tim’s really great at what he does.” — The song that goes boom, boom, boom — For the most part of our conversation, Greep quietly answers the questions in a way that is calculated and subdued as he sups his tall glass of water, but when I ask about the group’s afternoon spent at Team Sport Mitcham (South London’s finest go-karting centre where Black Midi regularly meet to unwind), his face lights up. “It was so good, man, you go on the go karts and it’s so amazing. He won the both times,” he says, pointing to guitarist Matt Kelvin. “It was so much fun. I wish you were there. It’s just fast and furious, man.” He stands up and gestures about a near crash before excitedly telling me about his love of bowling. It’s evident from both their onstage chemistry and dynamic elsewhere that this is a band built upon a solid friendship. You can even hear it in debut single ‘bmbmbmbm’, released via producer Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label. “Tell me about your debut single, be-em-be-em-be-em,” I ask the group. Greep looks back into my eyes and says: “Boom, Boom, Boom. That’s how the song goes.” “It’s funny, because no one really says it like that,” Kelvin interjects. “Dan Carey wanted to put that one out. I think it’s most immediate, and the one that people seem to latch onto,” adds Greep. Five minutes in length, it starts with a chugging guitar
riff akin to a clean-cut version of ‘Something’ by The Butthole Surfers, before Greep’s maniacal howls turn the song into something else entirely. His vocals are the best thing about the song; goblin screeches and tetchy repeated motifs place the band’s sound somewhere uncanny. “I just try and sing in an interesting way,” he says. “I’d rather do something poorly that’s at least unique, rather than something widespread in an adequate way.” Piercing, demonic and often operating as another jarring layer rather than a narrative Centre point, Greep is a volatile force at the helm of Black Midi; where everything else feels calculated. He feels like a feral dog ticking and scratching. Behind him, a razor sharp rhythm section keeps everything moving along with a steady immediacy. Morgan Simpson’s improvised drum fills are “the key” to the band’s regimented stomp, whilst Greep and Kelvin’s guitars constantly sound like a hexen battle cry. Live, they are an absolute unit, a singular power that is unlike any other currently playing in a pub near you. Black Midi’s music is an enigma, but for the most part the group are very much shy and unassuming. They might be the talk of the town, but their introverted minds are elsewhere. “We’re not wild guys,” Greep mutters, “we really don’t go out partying.” Quite. Greep is visibly disinterested by talk of hedonism, but his face lights up when he finds out that I share his passion for composer Meredith Monk. Approaching a state of notoriety only through word of mouth, bands as elusive as Black Midi are rarely as interesting in the music they make. It’s hard to work out whether they’ll be at ease with the attention coming their way or not. This is the group’s first proper interview and they stick to sentence-long answers almost without fail. It’s difficult to imagine them becoming the indie music press faces that Shame have become over the past six months, and it’s difficult to see them finding an audience as large as Goat Girl or Fat White Family across the rest of the country. But what Black Midi have done already is showcase an obnoxious, upsetting amount of potential, and accumulate a following of people that might have been drawn in by the enigma but who are sticking around for experimental guitar music that could go just about anywhere next.
You’ve got to be a shit band somewhere, by Dominic Haley Photography by Luis Kramer
“Long sleeves and black jeans definitely wasn’t a good idea today,” sighs Ditz drummer Jack Looker as he pulls out a seat and joins us at our long table. He’s not wrong. Just outside the window, Brighton is roasting in 32-degree heat. To make matters worse, it’s also graduation day, so as we peer out of the Hope & Ruin’s massive front windows, we’re occasionally treated to the sight of a student, wilting in their robes, passing by like characters from Hogwarts who have inexplicably been pitched onto the set of Miami Vice. Inside our air-conditioned pub, the five members of Ditz are busily devouring plates of vegan poppers and chatting about their new single ‘Seeking Arrangement’, which has just been released online. Evidently happy about the write-up, the band are now speculating on the reaction in their hometown.
Interview “They’ve said that we’re part of Brighton’s hardcore scene,” says lead singer Cal with a shrug of resignation. “That means people are probably going to be pissed off again.” They might have a point. Ditz are definitely not your usual, run-of-the-mill hardcore kids. Sat together like this, with their contrasting styles and mannerism, they feel more like the cast of The Breakfast Club than a noise band. Meeting via gigs in the city and working behind various bars, the band are a curious hodgepodge of different tastes and characters. When he’s not playing drums, Looker, for example, is a driver/roadie and has just come back from a long tour with HMLTD. With a broad grin, he’s ever ready to jump in with a story or some gossip from the studio. In contrast, Anton, the band’s guitarist, is quieter and seems slightly more reserved than the others. The band’s fixer, he’s a long-time sound engineer and promoter – his company HotWax puts on shows throughout the city. Cal and guitarist Caleb go back the furthest, though. “Me and Caleb both lived in Gloucestershire together,” explains Cal. “We tried starting bands out there but there was really nothing going on in that part of the world. I mean, the only bands where we were from was the Wurzels.” — Fugazi goals — Although they clearly love living here, Brighton, it seems, is yet to take Ditz to heart. The band hasn’t played a show in their hometown in ages and the quintet has recently been seeing bigger crowds when they hit the road. “We tend to get a better reception when we play in London” says Cal. “Maybe it’s because we’ve never been a ‘shit band’ in London. We were a ‘shit band’ for ages in Brighton before we became a ‘good band’ – I reckon that’s the reason why we kind of get overlooked.” As much as it might piss off the local scene kids, no one can deny that there is more than a trace of Flipper and Black Flag in Ditz’s collective DNA. However, they’ve taken the bone-crushing guitars and chugging basslines of the genre and have morphed it into something that doesn’t really sit in any clearly identifiable category. Thanks mainly to a revolving door of drummers in the early days, the band have only released a handful of singles and tracks at a sporadic pace, however ‘Seeking Arrangement’ is certainly impressive for its brevity besides anything else. Shambling its way forward via wiry, telegraph-line guitars before dropping like a huge slab of squalling noise, the song feels like a one and a half minute quest through twenty-five years’ worth of punk, grunge, noise and thrash influences. Indeed, the best way to think of Ditz’s sound is like one of those big top tents that’s just wide enough to cover all of the various member’s tastes and personal inspirations, of which there are many. Asking them what kind of music they all agree on, I’m met with a five-minute barrage of band names and sounds from each member of the band. “I’m a massive indie kid,” fires off Looker jokingly, getting his shot in quickly as the voices start to jumble up, “I’m all about big riffs.” “I’m kind of into math rock – I like all the weird rhythms,” says bassist Caleb. “I’m a massive At the Drive-In fan as well.”
“Yeah, them and Big Ups,” adds Cal. Eventually, guitarist Anton Mocock pitches in: “It has to be Fugazi, right?” The rest of the band nod sagely. “I think we aspire to be a band that isn’t really definitive of one genre,” agrees Cal. Ditz are one of those rare bands that manage to work despite some clear differences. Cal, Anton and Caleb seem to gravitate towards the more experimental and freeform end of the post-punk spectrum, while Looker and second guitarist Archie are more rooted in classic rock song structures. It’s the fact that they’ve managed to find a way of combining these philosophies into something that clearly works that I find so intriguing. “Me and Jack are quite straight up verse-chorus, verse-chorus kind of guys,” Archie tells me as the rest of the band nip out for a cigarette. “Personally, I like working out song structures and things like that. I like that there’s a simple, pop element to everything we do.” Pop, especially of the leftfield variety, is also a big influence on lead singer Cal. “I’m pretty into a lot of electronic music,” he tells me when they get back. “I’m really into the whole PC music thing like, Charli XCX and SoFar Sounds. I think it’s pretty similar to listening to Sonic Youth in a way; the sounds are all about texture. It’s all about the whole rather than the different chords and progressions.” In Cal, Ditz has got the thing that any good noise bands needs; a frontman who can really get in your face. The very antithesis of the overly macho, meathead singers that people associate with anything even slightly resembling hardcore, he comes across like Dave Insurgent (the infamous lead singer of Reagan Youth) inhabiting the body of Penny Crayon. Like an angry librarian, he cuts a striking figure as he nonchalantly patrols the front of stage in a beige denim dress, peering out from under a cutesy blonde fringe and cheekily messing with the audience. Although the five of them are nice and polite to a fault – with Cal even launching into a three-minute diatribe on the evils of littering at one point – the band clearly are not afraid to mess around with their audience. Ditz shows are unpredictable, to say the least, and audiences are at risk of being wrapped up in gaffer tape or showered in chewed up flowers. “The best thing is to get people riled,” says Caleb, “like, people come together. Although it’s hard work when you’re only playing to seven people. “I think people like being pissed off – it’s a catharsis. The only difference between the people on stage and the audience is that the people in the band need that catharsis more often. You have to pick your targets, though. I mean, I had one the other day when I was nicking people’s hats. There was this one guy’s hat that was like this straw fedora and while on one hand I really wanted to nick it, on the other you’ve gotta think ‘what kind of person shows up to a punk show in a straw fedora?’ Eventually, I plucked up the courage to steal it, and you know what, he seemed alright.” “His mate thought it was funny at least,” say Alfie.
Midnight chats Available via all podcast apps and at loudandquiet.com
Mitski — Be The Cowboy (dead oceans) Mitski Miyawaki has introduced a persona for her fifth album. It is, she writes, that of a “very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel.” That the Japanese-American musician has started to experiment with what she calls “narrative and fiction” on ‘Be The Cowboy’ is either a radical departure from her previous confessional lyricism or a logical development of her actorly songwriting. How the character is interpreted depends on individual views about breakthrough album ‘Puberty 2’. Universally praised, some thought the 2016 release was an update on ‘90s emo, kind of like Angel Olsen fronting Weezer. Other people saw it as an angsty satire on early adult life through the concept of an idealised picket fence America. As someone who spent much of her childhood travelling - living in at least 13 countries before settling in New York at the age of 15 - she was able to observe high school clichés with the gimlet eye of an outsider. This was most particularly heard on ‘Your Best American Girl’, which uses the classic indie-rock of a teen rom-com to skewer an “all-American white culture […] that is inherited instead of attained.” Yet when pundits picked up on this theme and described the Technicolor video - in which Mitski watches a white couple kissing - as an attack on ‘white indie America’ she took issue. Her reaction was reflective of her attitude towards growing recognition and the discomfort she felt with the overanalysis of her work. An innately private person, she repeatedly challenged her perception as an over-sharing millennial and questioned why people thought that, as a woman, she didn’t have any agency.
“Why is it so hard to understand that I’m in control?” she rhetorically asked The Guardian. It’s hard not to read this reaction as the galvanising force behind her decision to return with a persona for whom control is centre stage. Stating upfront that she’s writing in character erects a barrier to intrusive personal questions and, as with any playwright or novelist, it places the onus on whether the role is played with conviction. In this respect Mitski is faultless, to the extent that it’s hard to ascertain where she ends and the persona begins. Her character is initially seen on the cover of ‘Be The Cowboy’, on which she stares out at the listener in a swimming cap and gash of bloody lipstick as a disembodied hand applies a pair of tweezers to her eyelashes. She can also be seen in the video to lead single ‘Geyser’, in which she resembles an icy cross between The Matrix and Madonna in ‘Frozen’ before she loses control and scrabbles furiously at damp sand. In both there’s a tension between the overt and covert persona, explicitly the artifice that’s associated with being a woman in the public domain. These are songs filled with references to the ephemerality of socially acceptable femininity, including high heels and lipstick. It’s at its most direct on the sprightly indie of ‘Me And My Husband’, in which she’s “the idiot with the painted face” when left alone and unloved, and on the brassy ‘80s synth and jagged guitars of ‘Why Didn’t You Stop Me’, on which she seems to question Instagram photo editing (“I look for a picture of you […] but I can’t seem to find one where you look how I remember”). On the vintage country of ‘Lonesome Love’, meanwhile, she spends “an hour on my make-up to prove something” only to crave self-love (“nobody fucks me like me”). The persona also brings a gentle satire to gendered norms that challenge the lyrical clichés of many pop standards. “I know I ended it but why won’t you chase after me?” she pouts on ‘Why Didn’t You Stop Me’, playing on the classic break-up and make-up mentality. “Maybe I’m the
same as all those men writing songs of all their dreamings,” she swoons on the Lana Del Rey country-noir of ‘Come Into The Water’. In this context the latter’s sister track, ‘Pink In The Night’, is analysed for any traces of gendered irony when she odes like a Jackie reading teen “I could stare at your back all day” with a poker face. This ambiguity between persona and personal is part of the beauty of the writing, which has seen her hailed by Iggy Pop as “probably the most advanced American songwriter that I know.” The first person throughout feels natural and the songs aren’t always what they seem, to the extent that all the talk of a persona could easily be there as smokescreen. That said, there is an undoubtedly a development in her writing. It’s not as radical as the shift between her first two albums (2012’s ‘Lush’ and 2013’s ‘Retired From Sad, New Career In Business’), which were released as student projects during her time at Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music, and her third (2014’s ‘Bury Me At Makeout Creek’). This saw her switching from a jazzy piano style, on which fellow students accompanied her on strings, to learning how to play the easier to tour electric guitar and embracing a more indie-pop direction. The most obvious shift is the growing use of electronics. This has already been signalled on singles ‘Geyser’ and ‘Nobody’, both of which hint at why Lorde asked her on tour this spring as the support act. The former turns three separate song parts, each fractured by bursts of static, into devotional Lykke Li style electro-pop. The twist being that the object of her devotion is her relationship with music (“I will be the one you need / The way I can’t be without you”). ‘Nobody’, meanwhile, sees her upgrading her piano for a classic slice of disco that marries loneliness with the kind of euphoric chord changes usually found on a boy band record. Yet by the time she’s repeated the title a dozen times it becomes treated and robotic, creating a disorientating feeling that sounds like The Cardigans running out of battery charge. This use of static and treated sound is part of the wider gendered artifice; of
Albums the mechanics being blown on the perfect three-minute pop song (with only two of these fourteen tracks coming in over this magic mark). ‘Me And My Husband’ starts with a sigh, while the swinging country tones of ‘Blue Light’ finds her voice becoming increasingly gauzy before the track ends in a burst of heavily distorted found sound. This artfulness and satire is nothing new, even if the person fronting the tracks is more assured and assertive than the one fronting ‘Puberty 2’. Likewise, much of the instrumentation offers a direct lineage with her previous recordings. ‘A Pearl’ builds on the indie-pop of her last record, with added blasts of brass. Elsewhere, ‘A Horse Named Cold Air’ and ‘Two Slow Dancers’ reprise her classical piano training. The starkness of the former is accentuated by the briefest use of harmony vocals, which comes with the realisation that this is a rarity throughout. It transpires that the absence of layered vocals was a deliberate move, with Mitski and long-time producer Patrick Hyland wanting “to achieve that campy ‘person singing alone on stage’ atmosphere.” It’s a solitariness that album closer ‘Two Slow Dancers’ achieves to perfection, its piano line having the mawkish sentimentality of the last dance at a school prom before a woozy synth line enters. It’s a tipsy reminiscence that the lyrics capture as she asks at the start, “Does it smell like a gymnasium in here? / It’s funny how they’re all the same.” She then goes on to explore the idea of people changing within these static environments, concluding that “It would be a hundred times easier if we were young again.” The track’s sentiment brings a world-weariness to an album that sees her leaving behind an extended teenage period and entering with trepidation the confidence of Adult 1. It’s a confidence that could all be a charade, a move to protect her privacy and a reaction against raw confessionalism. Either way, with ‘Be The Cowboy’ she’s seized control of her image and taken her writing to the next level of detached gender critique and sincerity. 8/10 Susan Darlington
The Goon Sax — We’re Not Talking (wichita) The Goon Sax’s debut album, ‘Up To Anything’, dabbled in teenage vulnerability without ever sounding naive. The trio’s propensity for worldweary indie pop was filled with warmth and promise, but elicited it’s on ‘We’re Not Talking’ with more confidence and conviction. Here, the enthusiasm of youth collides with darker sounds and more sophisticated lyrical themes, but without smothering their impulses for bright melodies. Relationships – which were depicted with wide-eyed fragility on ‘Up To Anything’ – are now laced with remorse and compassion, even if it’s served with a regular dose of self-deprecation. Louis Forster’s accented turn of phrase – eerily reminiscent of his dad Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens at times, particularly on ‘Sleep EZ’ – is more assured and dominant. The dynamics have shifted, too: drummer Riley Jones and bassist James Harrison’s contributions are more prominent, with all three adding vocal parts that form a vital backbone to the album’s overall sound. Jones’ soft refrain on the leisurely ‘Strange Light’, for example, beautifully recalls the gentle melancholy of The Pastels. It’s these new instrumental additions that add a nuance to where it was missing on ‘Up To Anything’ – the inclusion of strings on ‘She Knows’ recalls The Raincoats’ famed brand of uninhibited chaos. Drum machines also make an appearance on ‘Losing Myself ’ where Riley and Harrison’s contrasting, calland-response vocals work together seamlessly, in the same way, say the sweet sincerity of Beat Happening’s Heather Lewis’ voice counteracted the smooth baritone of Calvin Johnson’s. However, ‘Make Time 4 Love’ might be the song that best cements The
Goon Sax’s reputation as a band who haven’t made wrong step yet: this is indie pop at its melodic, bittersweet best – honest, heart-felt and replete with hooks that stay in your head for days. Seemingly, the difficult second album was a non-issue for The Goon Sax: ‘We’re Not Talking’ manages to further embellish the adolescent brilliance of their debut. They experiment with pop’s history while still continuing to grow into a sound that’s undeniably their own. Shamelessly introspective and romantic, but not afraid of making light of life’s grievances, The Goon Sax are an anomaly – they’ll get better with time, and that’s a very exciting prospect indeed. 9/10 Hayley Scott
Oh Sees — Smote Reverser (castle face) John Dwyer’s name-morphing rock project is a relentless beast. With ‘Smote Reverser’, their discography can now legally drink in the US, but that insane prolific spirit hasn’t dampened the band’s commitment to the campier side of psych and garage. They’re pros. It’s all slick grooves, and jams that wander through every pocket of the blues scale. Take ‘Abysmal Turn’, where the drums still find moments for fluid, electric fills when the backbeat is throttling enough on its own, or where the guitar and bass find playful moments of off-the-cuff interplay while keeping up the pace. So, Oh Sees are a well-oiled machine, but that machine looks more like a conveyor belt with each release. One glimpse at the DnD monster lurching over a decimated city on its cover and you already know what this album sounds like. This isn’t to say that the band aren’t pushing themselves. The 12-minute ‘Anthemic Aggressor’ is a hot-blooded bubbling whirlwind of improvisation
Albums and performance; you can almost hear the ache in the bassist’s muscles through the analogue crackle as the song reaches double figures, and his hands briefly flub the runaway riff. Twenty-one albums in though, it feels that Oh Sees need more than just a tweaked name to inject fresh purpose and meaning into their sound. 6/10 Stephen Butchard
Sauna Youth — Deaths (upset the rhythm) Quite simply, ‘Deaths’ is a satisfying end to Sauna Youth’s highly energised triptych. Beginning with debut LP ‘Dreamlands’ in 2012, and the stellar ‘Distractions’ three years later, the group have forged themselves a legacy with intense indie-pop. Their flagship has been two-minute battlecries, the whole group barking the lyrics in unison. A band that always come at you. In some respects ‘Deaths’ treads the same paths laid by ‘Distractions’. Despite coming three years later, it bristles with a greater sense of youth; look deep into this record and it will stare back at you, wild-eyed. The album was shaped by deadlines – studio booked before the first song was written – and that feeling of urgency is evident throughout. But it’s not rushed. It’s not a “that’ll do” album. It simply sounds spontaneous and lively, more so with every play. The “ssss”, potentially a sample of spray paint in action, that nestles alongside the licks of ‘Percentages’ sounds like the catharsis of urban claustrophobia, whilst the relentless guitar skronk on ‘Leisure Time’ channels the frustration of working oh-so-hard making music during your only free time. However, the best moment on ‘Deaths’ comes when the band break away from the formula – ‘Swerve’ – where rock intensity subsides for a noise-
rock soundscape, as vocalist Ecke coldly delivers a monologue from a recent piece of writing. Sauna Youth are one of few guitar groups who make music for now, rock music riddled with current paranoia. On ‘Deaths’ this is continued in wonderful fashion. 8/10 Cal Cashin
Interpol — Marauder (matador) There is a palpable sense of urgency to this sixth Interpol record and you wonder how much of it has to do with the peculiar few years they’ve had since their last fulllength, 2014’s ‘El Pintor’. That album was their first as a three-piece and met with genuinely mixed reviews; some saw their return to the tried-and-true indie rock of ‘Antics’ and ‘Our Love to Admire’ as both welcome and wise after their the spacey experimentalism of their self-titled LP in 2010, whilst others felt ‘El Pintor’ was at best too safe and at worst, the sound of a band running out of ideas fast. Equally conservative was the decision, last year, to mark the 15th anniversary of their seminal debut ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’ with a front-to-back tour – never a progressive move, and a touch peculiar given that they’d largely ignored the more obvious 10-year milestone. Around the same time, Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom chronicled their early days and, in the main, reinforced the image they’d worked so hard to cultivate; slick sophisticates who were capable of maintaining a laser-guided singularity of musical vision even whilst giving New York’s hardest partiers a run for their money – hedonism without a hair out of place. It’s hard not to imagine that between them, the tour and the book raised the stinging possibility to the band that they were on the verge of becoming yesterday’s men. ‘Marauder’ certainly feels like a rebuke to the idea. It’s an
album scored through with a fierce sense of purpose, and it has the trio less entertaining new sonic avenues than actively chasing them down. Frontman Paul Banks is the band’s studio bassist now and he’s settling nicely into the task of wrapping his vocals around the instrument; bouncy opener ‘If You Really Love Nothing’ is a case in point, as is the infectious ‘Surveillance’. Producer Dave Fridmann is the world’s premier recorder of drums and Sam Fogarino has not passed up what for him will have represented a golden opportunity; he’s the record’s driving force, both in terms of the electricity of his playing and his willingness to try new things – see his freeform performance on ‘Party’s Over’, as well as the hip hop influence hanging over both ‘Stay in Touch’ and ‘It Probably Matters’. ‘Marauder’ twists and turns and not all of the myriad ideas it throws at the proverbial wall end up sticking, but when they do, they suggest there’s plenty left in the tank. In that respect, mission accomplished. 7/10 Joe Goggins
Mark Lanegan + Duke Garwood — With Animals (heavenly) ‘With Animals’ is an analogue sort of album. Partly recorded in Joshua Tree, the desert atmosphere has seeped into its grooves, conjuring images of dust bowls and vast skies. In general, Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood’s latest collaboration is a traditional blues album, mourning lost loves and fixing broken hearts. The title track sees Lanegan retreating from human society to lick his wounds, relying on the companionship of animals to pull himself through. It’s a gravelly, mournful tune that captures the spirit of the record – that of a man grasping for a light in the darkness.
Albums ‘L.A Blue’ expresses this more overtly, hinging on the line “I keep slipping baby / Between the dark and light”. In this same vein is ‘Upon Doing Something Wrong’, a plaintive country tune about the cycle of screw ups and redemption. So there’s a clear target audience here. Blues or country fans will appreciate the emotive guitar, raw vocals and lyrics that veer predictably from sorrowful to hopeful and back. But while ‘With Animals’ is tender and even vulnerable, the more optimistic tracks aren’t quite as dynamic as you might hope from two journeymen songwriters. An album maybe for those who, like Lanegan and Garwood, struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 6/10 Liam Konemann
Still Corners — Slow Air (wrecking light) The American wilderness – be it the Texas valleys, California’s national parks or the Arizona deserts – has formed the artistic backdrop for so many projects over the years that it’s almost beyond cliché. Crossing those wide spaces becomes a soul changing experience: the atavistic rejoice in getting back in contact with Mother Nature after, usually, an initial struggle. London duo Still Corners are among the latest to take to America (they’re now based in Woodstock, NY) in search for inspiration. Written in the hills around Austin, but inspired by some country-wide trips, ‘Slow Air’ sees the duo getting back to their original guitar-driven psychedelia: brooding, trembling and scorching hot, just like midday in the punishing Texan heat, filled with silence and Fata Morgana mirages. That said, their more recent love for synth-filled dreampop still shows in the 10 tracks (‘Whisper’, ‘Fade Out’), but the atmosphere isn’t lost.
Tessa Murray’s vocals are ethereal rather than ghostly. There’s some classic, soul-searching desert songwriting going on, but a drastic shift in location hasn’t resulted in a wholesale change in sound. 6/10 Guia Cortassa
White Denim — Performance (city slang) White Denim’s eighth record opens with a few seconds of white noise as the radio dial is turned between stations. It feels like a fitting lead-off for an album that frontman James Petralli has openly admitted is meant to represent a marked counterpoint to their last effort, 2016’s ‘Stiff ’, which saw him reshape the group in his own image; slick, melodic indie rock with confessional lyrics. This time, he’s embraced a more chaotic approach, once again reshuffling the lineup (the only other permanent member is bassist Steve Terebecki) to welcome drummer Conrad Choucroun and keyboardist Michael Hunter, both of whom were apparently genuine collaborators rather than hired hands in a writing process that put major emphasis on jamming ideas out, as well as random word association in the penning of the lyrics. The results, at their best, are exhilarating; opener ‘Magazin’ quickly ditches ‘Stiff ’’s softness-of-touch for groovedriven, bluesy swagger, whilst ‘Moves On’ is breathlessly unpredictable in its experimental rock stomp. Holding the highlights together is Choucroun’s choppy, jazzy style behind the kit, which lends a gripping amorphousness to the likes of the pleasantly breezy ‘Sky Beaming’. Elsewhere, though, there’s plenty of evidence of where a producer would have been not just welcome, but crucial; the meandering ‘Fine Slime’ collapses under the weight of its many ideas, and the sonic landscape of ‘Backseat Driver’
is far too busy. Those moments, unlikely as it might seem, recall the more indulgent side of Animal Collective in their lack of restraint. Petralli could have done with somebody reining him in at points here, but if all he set out to do was leave ‘Stiff ’ firmly in the rear-view mirror, then he’ll consider ‘Performance’ a resounding success. 6/10 Joe Goggins
Low — Double Negative (sub pop) Low are marking their 25th anniversary but, judging by the tone of ‘Double Negative’, they’re not in a celebratory mood. The album is a remarkable step-change for the Duluth trio and sees them return to the experimentation of 2007’s ‘Drums And Guns’, which responded to the Iraq war with distortion and loops. As if galvanised by a world that’s once again collapsing, they’ve pushed their sound even closer to the edge of disintegration. Traditional songs and recording techniques have been ripped apart and re-built in a manner that engenders discord and confusion. The trademark harmonies between guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker are fragmented, snatches of vocals rising to the surface of the mix to ominously intone “it’s not the end / it’s just the end of hope.” This gives the impression that tracks were recorded from the inside of a wind tunnel, the electronic static on ‘Quorum’ creating a woozy effect as the instrumentation is brought in and out of focus. ‘Always Trying To Work It Out’, meanwhile, sounds like the vinyl recording became warped after being left in the sun too long. With so much distortion and boneshuddering bass, it’s the unexpected moments of clarity that provide the greatest jolt. ‘Always Up’ has the hallmarks
Albums of classic Low yet, set to just a drone, it feels disembodied, while ‘Dancing And Fire’ turns serenity into a weapon of despair. These two emotions are inextricably linked throughout the album, with the expression of desolation also the start of hope. 7/10 Susan Darlington
Anna Calvi — Hunter (domino) An exercise in uncensored honesty, ‘Hunter’, the third album from art-rock musician Anna Calvi, is a galvanising record that, at its heart, embodies the freedom of true release. Written during a turning point in her life – the breakdown of an eight- year relationship and a move to Strasbourg with a new partner – it’s the tool through which the south Londoner was able to reimagine and question her own identity. “My girlfriend encouraged me to explore myself in a way I never had before – I was exploring pleasure, and my sense of gender, which is something I had been suppressing for a long time. Through the process of making this record and writing these songs I found myself questioning whether I wanted to identify as a ‘woman’, with the limitations that label brings,” explains Calvi. “As well as my very own intimate journey exploring my sense of gender, I was inspired by this electric moment of artists and the wider community talking about gender and sexuality. I wanted to write an album where the woman is seen as the hunter, rather than her usual stereotypical role in our culture as the hunted.” With primal percussion, unleashed guitars and arresting lyricism (her recording band included members of The Bad Seeds and Portishead), Calvi pushes the boundaries of her instrumentalism and vocal skill here in a manner that perfectly mirrors her internal struggle against the confines of preconceived
notions of gender. The album’s lead single and focal point, ‘Don’t Beat the Girl out of my Boy’, is a raw and wild celebration of unbridled freedom and defiant happiness. Infectious in its empowering and climactic vocal melodies and heart-beat drum rhythms, Calvi says that the song is “about being free to identify yourself in whichever way you please, without any restraint from society.” This theme – one that permeates the entirety of the album – is particularly notable in ghostly closing ballad ‘Eden’ and the David Hockney inspired ‘Swimming Pool’, both of which see Calvi envisioning a utopian alternative to contemporary society, constricted by the trappings of exclusive social and ideological frameworks. The former, complete with saintly vocal and a shimmering melody, narratives the purity of a tryst with a new lover, reimagining the difficulty and pain of queer adolescence as an idyll. Using glimmering, harp-like guitar lines and repeated vocal refrains, the latter perfectly captures the summer-hued and unrestrained queerness of Hockney’s 1960s artworks. This is Anna Calvi, a trio of albums in, turning unrest into contagious liberation. 7/10 Rosie Ramsden
School Damage — A To X (chapter music) School Damage make the kind of primitive bedroom pop synonymous with New Zealand. Frankly, the Melbourne band wouldn’t look out of place on Flying Nun Records’ roster from 1988. But their second album, ‘A To X’, also borrows from myriad UK and US bands of yore: from Young Marble Giants’ quiet introspection to Devo’s wonky pop prowess, ‘A to X’ is – appropriately given its title – a glossary lesson in how to pick apart post-punk’s past in a modern context and make it sound refreshingly new.
There’s a peculiar charm to it that makes this music instantly likeable. Replete with organ-filled hooks and a wobbly, DIY pop style, on the outside things seem playful and frivolous, but lyrically subjects are serious and deal with life’s everyday grievances. ‘What’s The Point’, for example, focuses on apathy and depression, while the infallibly catchy ‘Isn’t Easy’ tackles loss and heartache. In a world where indie pop has become a polished parody of itself, School Damage’s jagged, DIY sensibility is a welcome antidote. Of its time while simultaneously informed by the more obscure side of music’s past, it’s bustling with melody, chaos and authenticity, and comfortably sits alongside the greats of the DIY pop world, past and present. 8/10 Hayley Scott
Mogwai — KIN: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (rock action) The perennial risk of releasing a film’s score separately from its accompanying images is that the music’s role as scaffold for the onscreen drama is either too complex or too insubstantial to make sense in isolation, often leaving soundtrack albums as something only for completists or those looking for mere Spotify background fodder. However, and unsurprisingly given their customarily cinematic studio albums, Mogwai appear more adept than most at finding the Goldilocks zone in their scores, and their fourth – following the art-house documentaries about Zinedine Zidane and nuclear history, and the french TV series Les Revenants – largely continues that trend: while ‘KIN’ might lack the heft of last year’s ‘Every Country’s Sun’, there remains plenty of nuance and bite, tension and release, and (of course) massive dynamic range.
Albums Moments of aimlessness abound – ‘Flee’ and ‘Miscreants’ are closer to cues than fully fledged Mogwai pieces, both tracks containing all the right ingredients but waiting, presumably, to be blended by what’s on screen. But these occasions are pleasingly infrequent, and when the band has time to stretch out, the material transcends that of a standard soundtrack album: six-minuter ‘Donuts’, with its pulsating synths and shimmering melancholy, is an impressively original post-rock interpretation of, of all things, European trance that builds into something simultaneously apocalyptic and still. The title track’s weightless melody, brooding drone and slow, stalking pace would be as comfortable on one of the band’s mid-noughties albums as it is on a summer sci-fi crime thriller. Despite their clear affinity for soundtrack writing, ‘KIN’ doesn’t represent the full Mogwai experience – the track titles are disappointingly plain, and despite the engrossing composition and arrangement, the music retains a slight feeling of utility rather than one of pure self-expression – and it’s only the credits song ‘We’re Not Done’, another entry into the band’s recently developed penchant for brazen verse-chorus indie rock singalongs, that sounds truly unconstrained. But as a demonstration of Mogwai’s range as they push on into their third decade of making music together, ‘KIN’ holds up as an admirably strong minor work for what has become a major band. 7/10 Sam Walton
Teleman — Family of Aliens (moshi moshi) Let’s do a quick rundown of songs on Teleman’s new record, shall we? There’s ‘Song For A Seagull’, about withdrawing from life and flying off somewhere better; ‘Somebody’s Island’,
about escaping the world and going to the moon; and there’s ‘Submarine Life’, about ditching the land and going to live underwater. Raise your hand if you see a theme developing. In the past, Teleman have been pretty set in their ways, with Thomas Sanders reluctant to loosen his hold on the writing, but these days roles are less clearly defined. As a result ‘Family of Aliens’, their third LP, is more fluid and flightier in theme and tone. There’s also a tinge of science fiction to the record, with the strobing synths of the title track turning lyrics about detachment, depression and Martian abduction into something danceable. There are more earthly touchstones, though, as with the ELO-esque ‘Between the Rain’, about the futility of trying to avoid hardship or pain. But the standout here is ‘Fun Destruction’, which in its opening bars sounds strikingly like that Eurythmics song, but lyrically speaks about drinking too much, not knowing where you’ve been, and giving yourself the fear – then doing it all again day after day, because the sober world is too much to handle. Not an alien feeling to a lot of people. 7/10 Liam Konemann
Oliver Coates — Shelley’s On Zenn-La (rvng intl) Shelley’s Laserdome was a late ‘80s/early ‘90s nightclub based in Stoke-on-Trent. Zenn-La is a fictional planet, a distant world far from the industrial town. On his new album ‘Shelley’s On Zenn-La’ though, cellist, composer and producer Oliver Coates brings the two together, marrying IDM with minimal touches resulting in the impact of a supernova. The cosmic dreamscape that Coates creates seems to be constantly shape-shifting and keeping the listener
on their toes. Its arpeggiated tones can be both hazy and pulsating, with complex drum sequences helping to provide a deep sense of layering and texture to the mix. When Chrysanthemum Bear’s airy vocals are introduced into the dreamy ‘A Church’ or the looping patterns of both cello and voice interact on the neoclassicaltinged ‘Cello Renoise’, the deep intricacies of Coates’ compositions are made even more apparent. Even within the slightly fuzzedout mix of ‘Lime’ and the lush pastoral string sweeps of ‘Prairie’ – tracks that act almost as interludes – the inherently creative and boundary-pushing nature of ‘Shelley’s On Zenn-La’ still remains. Across its span, Coates weaves a galaxy of sound that was made in London’s Elephant and Castle area, but harks back to the rave culture of Shelley’s while also residing on its own intergalactic plane. 8/10 Eugenie Johnson
Szun Waves — New Hymn to Heaven (leaf) Underground experimentalists Luke Abbott, Portico Quartet’s Jack Wyllie and PVT’s Laurence Pike have been playfully connecting the dots between jazz, classical and electronic on their own. With their collaborative project Szun Waves they tastefully conjure the out-of-body spiritualism explored by legends Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra through the mingling of these genres. The cosmic sense of scale is realised with just three core elements – Pike on drums, Wyllie of sax, Abbott on modular synth. It’s how they emphasise that scale that’s most impressive. Their unhurried, heady jams find power at the microcosmic level. On the title track, the creaks of the floor, the wheezes of the sax reed and the shuffle of sticks against the drum skin feel just
Albums as important as a clever melodic flourish. The group pull us into their space, so we can sense where they’re sitting in relation to each other. The weight of their interplay is there before they’ve even begun. Just like their contemporaries Floating Points and James Holden, the impeccably vivid mixing acts as a secret killer element. The three other star elements are just as masterful. The synth work is expansive and alive with detail, while Pike’s skittering drums find space to colour arpeggios with shots of wild energy or a meditative air, depending on the track. Wylie’s sax is the beating heart of the album, emphasising the emotional peaks with his dynamic, unpredictable melodies. These six tracks are complex compositions, but Szun Waves write and perform with the freshness that could trick you into thinking it poured right out of their heads. 8/10 Stephen Butchard
Wild Nothing — Indigo (captured tracks) When Jack Tatum shared his first tentative musical posts online nearly a decade ago, he ascended rapidly to the heights of blogosphere adoration. The first Wild Nothing album, ‘Gemini’, was lauded as a landmark in bedroom lo-fi. In the years since, two further albums have documented Tatum’s transition into a studio hound, a highly refined, maximalist producer. On this fourth record, he has recruited Ariel Pink/Gang Gang Dance collaborator Jorge Elbrecht to co-produce, in an effort to refocus, to dial in some of the previous excess. ‘Indigo’ is the title, a reference to the backlight of a smartphone screen, a more romantic take perhaps than the Black Mirror analogy with which we’ve become so familiar. That’s about where the excitement ends. ‘Indigo’ is antiseptically clean, a
hall of mirrors in an empty room with bleached white walls. It serves to focus the spotlight on the songwriting, and whilst Tatum does provide a few toetappers, there is unlikely to be anything here that will drive listeners’ fingers back to the play button when they’ve finished ‘Indigo’’s 42 minutes. It is an exercise of drawing within the lines, a peaceful and tasteful record, musically correct and enthusiastically devoid of menace or spontaneity. Cam Allen’s drums are played live, but have still been passed through the shiny processor to ensure they lose any sense of human imperfection. Benji Lysaght’s guitars slide and wobble, but never pose a threat to the equilibrium. It is the musical equivalent of one of those awards-fodder films that arrive at the end of every year, micro-managed so as not to alienate any major voting groups. ‘Indigo’ is technically perfected, and thus lacks a trace of the unpredictability that makes music fun in the first place. 4/10 Max Pilley
Menace Beach — Black Rainbow Sound (memphis industries) Since their 2015 inception, Menace Beach have been locked in their own creative rivalry. The on-going tug-of-war between the band’s natural guitar-based safety net and Liza Violet’s maturing synth experimentation has felt well documented, but only now has their sound’s direction been turned fully on its head. With an impressive history of collaborators boasting Pulled Apart By Horses’ Robert Lee, Mansun’s Paul Draper and previous producer MJ of Hookworms, Menace Beach have ditched their past by turning to the production savvy of Matt Peel from fellow Leeds outfit Eagulls. Their third album sees, for the first time, Violet’s instinctual synth drive
defeat the brawn of the band’s guitarrooted foundations. The hypnotic static of analogue synths stand with authority at the forefront of the mix throughout. The lead single and title track featuring former Fall member Brix Smith Start makes for an appropriate scene setter imposing driving force and smouldering atmospherics. Buried amongst the heap of vintage electronics, the band still tip their hat to their recently familiar sound during tracks like ‘Mutator’ and ‘Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling’, but otherwise Menace Beach have stepped out of the old and into a truly sonically sweeping new. 7/10 Ollie Rankine
Honey Hahs — Dear Someone Happy Something (rough trade) Ok, let’s get this out of the way early on: the three members of The Honey Has are very young. You’ve probably heard about this. The youngest of this trio of sisters, their drummer, is eleven. They’re already assured live performers (I first saw them playing, unfazed, to a full to capacity tent at End Of The Road 12 months ago), and Rough Trade have thought nothing of putting their considerable heft behind a band so inexperienced. The studio can be a revealing place, but an unmistakable, inherent songwriting skill is obvious from the outset. ‘Forever’ is a tale of post-apocalyptic survival, cocooned in strummed chords and sweet harmonies, dealing with big themes in a straightforward way (“Would it not be scarier than dying / To live forever”). Meanwhile ‘Rain Falls Down’ is a slice of buzzy punk hanging off a drum machine, and ‘Olive Green’ is a perfectly melancholy, lyrically potent acoustic lament. Elsewhere, echoes of early The Jam and the White Stripes make themselves felt.
Albums It’s assured stuff. A collection of stylistically varied, skillfully put together pop vignettes. And despite the fact is that it’s difficult to divorce the listening experience of the album from the tender years of its creators we urge you to try. The rewards are there. 7/10 Chris Watkeys
Haiku Salut — There Is No Elsewhere (prah recordings) As watery, trickling noise turns into a foundation for glacial electronic pulses and glitchy beats that Glastonbury Brass turns into a triumphant fanfare of horns on ‘Cold to Crack the Stones’, Haiku Salut give out a message: that they are entirely comfortable in their own space. For the Derbyshire trio, their third album ‘There Is No Elsewhere’ is, as its title might suggest, about being proud of what you believe in. It’s with that spirit in mind that they’ve crafted their most beguiling record to date. It’s a collection that sees them continue to marry electronic soundscapes with folk elements (including a twinkling glockenspiel on ‘For Twinklr’, accordion and piano on the stately ‘Choke Points’) but with a steelier confidence and bolder vision. ‘The More And Moreness’ does indeed capture a feeling that more is more, with chopped vocals becoming harmonious alongside pounding drum rhythms and brass. Despite the waves of sound it never feels overwhelming. Maybe their finest achievement though is creating these textured compositions without making the mix ever come across cluttered, leaving air and breathing room where needed before continuing to pack a punch. Haiku Salut are clearly comfortable in who they are as a band and, with results like this, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. 7/10 Eugenie Johnson
Mothers — Render Another Ugly Method (anti) There’s something matter-of-fact about Mothers, from the metric rationality behind their debut album’s title – ‘When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired’ – to, now, their sophomore effort brimming with block capitals and economic astuteness. Reading the tracklist for ‘Render Another Ugly Method’, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a pharmaceutical company’s end-of-year fiscal report, not the follow-up to one of the most hypnotizing releases of 2016. ‘Render…’ is different to anything we’ve heard from Mothers before. Variegated textures come with jagged rhythm guitars and heavy percussive lines; the polyrhythmic influence is evident on tracks like ‘PINK’ with a brilliantly thunderous mesh of pedals and distortion. Lyrically there’s a conflict that makes you doubt everything: you’re dancing euphorically to ‘BLAME KIT’, a searing criticism of society’s impulse to finger-point; you’re nodding your head to a track exploring the caverns of mental illness; the jarring chords of ‘WESTERN MEDICINE’ fill you with unease at a concept meant to compel trust. The delicacy of their debut release that grouped Mothers vocally with the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Big Thief has become fuzzy and disjointed. The record closes with a lo-fi math-rock gem, just after you’ve endured a drowsy eightminute folk-rock track expending Christian iconography as a metaphor for sex. When Kristine Leschper says she finds a small amount of pleasure in alienating her listener, it’s hard to question her. But while ‘Render…’ is a glorious middle finger to convenience listeners everywhere, at times it’s just a little too fragmented to really make an impact. 7/10 Tristan Gatward
Spiritualized — And Nothing Hurt (bella union) If Spiritualized’s eighth studio album is really to be their last, as Jason Pierce has hinted in recent months, then invoking the proposed epitaph for Slaughterhouse 5’s Billy Pilgrim (“everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”) seems apt: after all, Pierce’s career has been defined by a certain sort of resigned optimist/fatalist romanticism, packed with extremes of love and pain, beauty and anger, cacophony and drone, all kicking against the unforgiving harshness of real life in his perfectionist quest for some measure of musical utopia. While the ideological positioning may be perfect for a swansong, though, the album’s content is uneven. Citing a lack of funds to make the album that Pierce was hearing in his head, ‘And Nothing Hurt’ was instead recorded straight into a laptop at home, with the aim of exploiting advances in portable technology to mimic the scale of Spiritualized’s previous epics. Unfortunately, however, the results present something of an unintentional advert for the irreplaceable power of expensive studio recording, as multiple tracks present gorgeous songwriting paired with tantalisingly underpowered production: frequently, the album longs to explode heavenward, but lacks the necessary muscle. One advantage to this is that Pierce’s singing voice, stripped of almost any manipulation, has seldom sounded so intimate, disconcertingly earthbound and consequently rather affecting; around that, though, synthetic string parts and low-wattage rhythm sections leave promising songs sounding like well-developed demos. ‘Let’s Dance’, with its Velvetsy nursery song slink, meanders instead of building; ‘On The Sunshine’, similarly, rings with ersatz din. Only ‘The Morning After’, a classic Spiritualized 8-minute/2-
Albums chord wonder, truly achieves take-off: the honking brass squall and rattling organs are equal to Pierce’s best work, and an entire album of this to send the Spiritualized project off into deep space would be an unmitigated triumph. As it is, though, most of ‘And Nothing Hurt’’s best moments are its most tender. ‘Here It Comes’ is a comfortingly small-horizoned country-rock love song about life on the road, charmingly and gently tear-jerkingly middleaged. Equally, if ‘Sail On Through’ turns out to be Spiritualized’s final song, it’s a fitting farewell: far rounder and more complex than much of what precedes it, Pierce arrives in his last frame customarily cracked and damaged, but also hopeful. Indeed, as Morse code spells out the album’s title during the fade, one can almost picture Billy Pilgrim observing Spiritualized’s end as he did so many others, sighing, wistfully, “so it goes”. 6/10 Sam Walton
Dilly Dally — Heaven (partisan) ‘Heaven’, the second album from Canadian rockers Dilly Dally, is a glorious contradiction. Downbeat and doom-laden in sound it’s an album that mixes fuzzed-out ferocity with calm optimism. In some senses it’s dealing with a crash. Having paid their dues in their hometown punk scene in Toronto and debut ‘Sore’ delivering some success the pressure of touring caused a minor implosion. In limbo frontwoman Katie Monks retreated to write alone. The results were dreamlike and drone-drenched melodies over which her rasping and raw vocal poured from her subconscious. It was only then that she got back in a room with the rest of the band and producer Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck).
And together they only sharpened, not smoothed, the edges of those songs. There’s a nursery rhyme quality underlying ‘Sorry Ur Mad’, while the full volatility and velocity of the rhythm section is unleashed on opener ‘I Feel Free’. Adding to the variety, there’s a distorted garage rock jangle to ‘Pretty Cold’ and a pounding doom metal to ‘Bad Biology’. So, the songs do sound urgent, but it’s also proof that positivity can as potent as fury in getting the message across. Dilly Dally have survived the turbulent early years of being in a band, and despite of some of the difficulties ‘Heaven’ is an album that looks up instead of down. 7/10 Sarah Lay
Capital Punishment — Roadkill (captured tracks) This reissue of Ben Stiller’s high school band could easily play out like a scene from his trilogy of Meet the... films. Imagine it: Robert De Niro is tipped off by one of his bungling informers that Gaylord Focker was once a drug-taking, heavy-drinking punk rocker in his youth. Cue a scene where Stiller is playing air guitar to a Ramones song, probably ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, and De Niro is hanging by his fingertips from a second story window ledge before being spotted by Stiller and he falls into a skip of mattresses. Except, Capital Punishment aren’t really a punk rock band. Especially not in your late ’70s traditional meaning. It’s very avant-garde, kicking off with a news commentary of a “hillside strangler” seeping into bagpipes and white noise. ‘Confusion’ is reminiscent of early Talking Heads, so much so it could be David Byrne’s new single. It’s quite remarkable that a bunch of teenagers from New York City, who would end up being judges, professors,
documentary makers and, one, a Hollywood megastar, would make a record with such a melting pot of ideas and influences. There’s even a parody of Spinal Tap on ‘Delta Time’, aping the faux English accents that were already taking the piss out of Mick Jagger. There’s a definite post-punk new wave feel, a sense that even as teenagers they’d decided that punk-by-numbers was dead. This is a piece of social history that could easily come straight out of a movie. 7/10 James Auton
Uniform — The Long Walk (sacred bones) Alternative metal has come a long way since the late ’80s, today appearing at both commercial peaks and DIY obscurity. In the latter case, everyone seems to hang out together. It’s no surprise that New York group Uniform have already collaborated with The Body this year (who hasn’t at this point?). What could be a more adequate palette cleanser before Uniform’s second album proper. But in short, ‘The Long Walk’ isn’t quite as good as debut ‘Wake in Fright’. The backwards gear shift (lo-fi production, three-piece set-up, overall hastiness) makes it seem like a pitstop album. It might’ve made a compelling EP, sounding like days in a studio figuring out their next destination, having enlisted the help of Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) behind the kit. That said, the riffs here are solid, Sabbathian classics. Halfway through ‘Transubstantiation’, they move into something with more legroom – nearly as much as they allowed on their debut. Such moments are precious on an album that usually bludgeons with hissing noise. Lyrically, vocalist Michael Berdan sought inspiration from the Catholicism he incrementally rejected throughout his life, finding hope, peace, and tolerance where
Albums others only see monolithic, organised religion. Titles like ‘Anointing of the Sick’ indicate as much, even if lyrical content is obfuscated by two-bit production. Listen close and you’ll hear the sludge chords of closer ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ momentarily shimmer as they ring. Much of ‘The Long Walk’ may refer to an increasingly insular America but don’t be fooled; this is metal for optimists, and a pained call to do something. Anything. 7/10 Dafydd Jenkins
ESCAPE-ISM — The Lost Record (merge) This record is called ‘The Lost Record’ despite it never having been missing, ignored or unappreciated. “…. for ESCAPE-ISM, it seemed easier to circumvent the rigmarole and just get on with it.” Well, good for them but not everyone got the opportunity to avoid this record and waste half an hour of their life listening to it. Weirdly, for a large portion of this album it seems that its architect – author, filmmaker and punk rock veteran Ian Svenonius – isn’t that interested in it’s existence so why should anyone else be. It’s a folly, to see if he could do it. First song ‘Lost Record’ is sung from the perspective of the album itself, questioning why it is unloved by record companies and customers at the record shop flicking it away by its spine. Sort of answered its own question, really. The finale is asking what star sign Frankenstein was over a guitar line so lo-fi it’s like a barely-being-played version of T-Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’. If you take the name literally then you may ask if the album was forgotten because it was written and recorded in a single night whilst on speed and they had no recollection of it when they woke up. It’s minimal in every sense of the
word – minimal musical ability, minimal instrumentation, production, effort and minimal result. At least in the world of underground punk, something like Liam Lynch’s ‘United States of Whatever’ has the good grace to be not just knowing but funny and catchy, something that ESCAPE-ISM lacks. 2/10 James Auton
Mass Gothic — I’ve Tortured You Long Enough (sub pop) Husbandwife duo Noel Heroux (formerly of Hooray for Earth) and Jessica Zambri (of Zambri) have put themselves through self-imposed artistic purgatory to make their first collaborative album. Heroux had released one record under the Mass Gothic moniker in 2016, but that in essence was a solo project. For this, the couple ripped themselves up from their Queens roots and relocated to LA, living on floors and in cars, bereft of home comforts. Quite where we’d be if they hadn’t taken such action we’ll never know, but the results are rich. ‘I’ve Tortured You Long Enough’ is conditioned by urgency, a sense that panic lurks just under the surface. The album is a battlefield between the duo’s smiley songwriting tendencies and their destructive experimental reflexes. ‘Call Me’ is typical of this: a tuneful, sherbetty chorus duels with atonal squalling guitar, good and evil wrestling for control. Here, and in most cases, the former eventually triumphs, the sparkling melodies and Zambri’s sunkissed vocals shining at their full brightness. The title track too, although not beholden to a poppy chorus, does force any light to tussle for its place, a repeating vocal refrain emerging from a soup of electronic fuzz and distortion, resulting
in a lite-psych headiness that’s increasingly pleasing on repeated listens. Just occasionally, like on ‘Keep On Dying’, a generic production sheen falls into that all-too-common 2010s trap of muddying together sounds that should be crisp and independent. But overall this is the best work of their respective careers to date. Just as the duo forced themselves into discomfort to create something essential, their earworm-ready songs are made to fight for their right to party. 7/10 Max Pilley
Gulp — All Good Wishes (e.l.k.) On their second album, Gulp – formed by Super Furry Animals bassist Guto Pryce and collaborator Lyndsey Leven – create a psychedelia that struggles to live up to its influences and ambitions. ‘All Good Wishes’, the follow up to 2014’s well received ‘Season Sun’, was inspired by Pryce and Level’s relocation to Scotland – cue pastoral themes of the natural world and imagery of sunlight and sea emerging consistently across the record. In their analogue synths and b-movie innocence, the duo are looking to a lineage that includes Broadcast and Stereolab – unfortunately, a lack of adventure and occasionally will-this-do lyricism delivers a record that fails to match the output of similarly minded contemporaries such as Jane Weaver and Whyte Horses. The reverb pop of ‘I Dream Your Song’ is one of the stronger moments here, an eerie folk melody refracted through gorgeous sawtooth synths. All too often, however, tracks struggle to deliver on their early promise – take ‘Morning Velvet Sky’, which begins with a fine disco-not-disco groove, but without any real hooks or sonic invention, it folds into something altogether underwhelming.
Albums Super Furry devotees will still find plenty to enjoy. Gulp are at their best when at their most ambitious, be it the throbbing Kraut noir of ‘Beam’ or the dreamlike title track, which sees Leven’s vocals brilliantly ghost the wintry soundscape. The production is glowing and cinematic, bringing to mind Vangelis or Morricone at his most lounge, but the overall effect is less one of transcendence and more one of landfill psychedelia. 5/10 Fergal Kinney
Trevor Powers — Mulberry Violence (baby halo) After three albums under the name Youth Lagoon – three albums of chiming, celestial guitar pop that echoed the indie confessional of Sparklehorse and Mercury Rev – Trevor Powers abandoned his former moniker and began studying jazz, classical and ambient music. “It’s odd,” he explained at the time, “to realize that something you’ve created can have the power of wrapping a leash around your neck and holding you hostage.” Two years since this point, ‘Mulberry Violence’ is Powers’ first release under his own name – it’s an album of icy electronica, marked by its sonic scarcity as well as its distance from any of his previous output. If Youth Lagoon could be introverted and adolescent, ‘Mulberry Violence’ is similarly self-lacerating but more mature, more worldly – “Love has changed among us,” Powers reflects on tortured torch-song ‘Plaster Saint’, “cocaine can’t quiet the conscience, but yes it’s tried.” The first noise you hear on the record, on opening track ‘XTQ Idol’, is Powers’ strained scream – this becomes something of a motif throughout, like a Francis Bacon painting where neurosis lurks constantly beneath the surface.
More striking than any musical shift is Powers’ vocals, reducing his voice to something shrill, often heavily distorted, and the effect is haunting – indeed, Powers thrives in the discord. On ‘Ache’, one of the album’s clear highlights, the louche triphop is interrupted by the sudden arrival of stabbing staccato strings – it typifies a spirit of invention that runs across the record. A certain kind of adolescent indie star has been lost, but Taylor Powers has produced an experimental, sonically threatening record that often meets its ambitions. 7/10 Fergal Kinney
Blood Orange — Negro Swan (domino) Dev Hynes released his last Blood Orange album, ‘Freetown Sound’, just weeks after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Freetown was his father’s birthplace in Sierra Leone; as a collection it disentangled the rhizomes of black culture in a world more attuned with white soul-bearing. Cameos from queer icons were dealt an even more somber context – a ubiquitous melancholy was tinged with a brand-new powerlessness. ‘Negro Swan’ talks the same talk, overlapping introspection with a greater narrative of black existence and black depression. ‘Orlando’ opens the record with a funk-infused bassline you don’t know whether to dance or cry to, as it vocally appears to second-guess 2016’s nightclub shooters: “First kiss was the floor, but God it won’t make a difference if you don’t get up.” You hear another voice later shouting, “Shoot baby, shoot!” Lead single ‘Charcoal Baby’ is a standout, calling for self-examination above a lavish groove and delicate sax line akin to 5 Spot-era Eric Dolphy and Mal Waldron. ‘Saint’ and ‘Take Your Time’ are beautifully melodic RnB pieces – lush female vocals intersperse with chattering
and alt-jazz chops of the New York passers-by. In ‘Jewelry’, Janet Mock makes an appearance as narrator with an abrupt tale of social intrusion and the psychological impact of de-colonizing white spaces. In ‘Dagenham Dream’ she later explains that “part of survival is being able to just fit in.” Musically, ‘Negro Swan’ is both Hynes’s most energetic and most subdued work, playing like a carousel lampshade illuminating and warping the brief patterns of melodic soul, jazz, hip-hop and RnB. At its most rich vocal moments it recalls Moses Sumney’s ‘Aromanticism’ and Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’; at its most curious it hits with the sampling playfulness of J Dilla. In normal protest, you’re allowed a core belief but not the ability to expand upon it. But ‘Negro Swan’ takes a look at “Black Lives Matter” and carefully starts to add the “because.” 9/10 Tristan Gatward
The Lemon Twigs — Go To School (4ad) When The Lemon Twigs released ‘Do Hollywood’ in 2016 you knew how you felt about it, didn’t you? I mean, you either like unashamed classic ’70s touchstones (the themes from Minder and Grange Hill, Martin Scorsese prom waltzes, the absurdity of Queen – sometimes all played at once), or you really don’t. Just how wacky were you feeling back then? If you really weren’t – and if the D’Addario brother’s flamboyant, glam-rock live chops did little to change your mind – you’ll have to be in a very different headspace right now to back ‘Go To School’. It’s a musical, of course – the most ’70s and ridiculous of all musical expressions. It features the band’s heroes Todd Rundgren and Jody Stephens from Big Star. It’s about Bill and Carol and their son Shane as he enters high school. Shane is a chimpanzee.
Albums Now, I’m sure you can imagine the problems that that creates within ‘Go To School’’s 15-track narrative (kids can be so cruel), but what I think you can also imagine is exactly how this record sounds. For all their eccentricities, The Lemon Twigs are master magpies, so here it’s all obnoxious stage school vocals of the lead singing like a spider and over emoting. It’s bonkers song structures and big crescendos. But it’s all about a chimpanzee. There’s a lovely bosa nova number called ‘Bully’ (all about a chimpanzee), a Love-esque track that is grand and full of dreamy strings called ‘The Student Becomes The Teacher’ (about a chimpanzee), a song about the “queen of the school” fucking (a chimpanzee). I keep getting a hook in my head, but the line is, “I know how you like your bananas.” I’m going to give it a 5. 5/10 Stuart Stubbs
IDLES — Joy as an Act of Resistance (partisan) My mother works ten hours, five days a week. My stories are hardly the amplified fables of class-struggle and political deception as in ‘Brutalism’, but it does seem like IDLES are a band people feel a certain ownership of. Not that long ago the Conservative cabinet quit in such volume that it wouldn’t look out of place in an IKEA; BoJo and David Davies were rumoured – jokingly, I think – to enter the Love Island villa (work visas permitting); Farage fought his post-Brexit depression by killing an endangered tope shark. As for the last couple of months? You can’t help but feel IDLES would have despaired at the lot of it. No one saw ‘Brutalism’ coming last year. Their debut album was furious, concrete-faced, politically acute punk rock. Not only that, but it was an album that the South West had been calling for. You can’t underplay its geographi-
cal significance. You could taste the salt of Exmouth’s night-time sea front and shitty neon lights with Joe Talbot’s every vocal slur, the delirious sweat of Exeter’s Cavern Club with every grungy intonation. What do you get when you take the platitudes and cider away from The Wurzels and hand them a Red Stripe? A still life of monotonous small-city-living in thirteen fetid sketches. They’ve now grouped around Bristol as their spiritual home. At least, it’s a place less like “a fish bowl of torrid little bellends.” You could see them on the cover of last month’s Loud And Quiet. The forthcoming Joe Talbot was adorned with Sting’s face on his T-shirt. Guitarist Mark Bowen’s handlebar moustache has taken on an air of the tamed Arthur Shelby from Peaky Blinders. Their reputation for delirious live shows and fasttempered music is all well and good, but ahead of their second album they look like the same cuddly punks who satirised Mary Berry as a metaphor for snobbery and the class divide. The two lead tracks from ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ take on two completely different sides of the IDLES equation. Album opener ‘Colossus’ is a furious twopart drone-rock protest against toxic masculinity – “I am my father’s son, his shadow weighs a tonne” – while ‘Danny Nedelko’ is a song about how much Joe “fucking loves immigrants”. It is to ‘Joy…’ what ‘One Rizla’ was to Shame’s ‘Songs of Praise’: an unrestrained outburst of pop royalty. Written about their Ukrainian friend, frontman of fellow-Bristolian band Heavy Lungs, it’s as much an A-to-Z of everyone’s favourite immigrants as it is a merry middle finger to white supremacy. One of the more poignant YouTube comments gets it: “how can a band make me want to punch a wall and then hug a stranger in two singles?” ‘Joy…’ comes with a whole new sincerity, from guitar licks that hark back to late ’70s UK punk rock pioneers and the Mod revival scene (‘Rottweiler’) to globalised cult trailblazers Hüsker Dü (‘Great’). There’s no attempt to imitate a scene; it’s both a natural product of its Bristolian DIY heritage and a beacon
for the all-inclusive punk-rock revival, recently revved up by releases from the likes of Protomartyr, Preoccupations and Iceage among others. A defining trait of ‘Brutalism’ was its humour: ‘Rachel Khoo’ didn’t only complement IDLES’ curious sensibility to namecheck British chefs, but it found mischievous pleasure in quoting Lonnie Donegan’s ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ word for word. The same world brings you cutting lyrics like “you look like a walking thyroid” and “you’re one big neck with sausage hands” in the tentatively titled ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’, before going on to quote ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’. Not even Nancy Sinatra (or maybe Jessica Simpson) is safe. The peaks of ‘Joy’ are actually the slow moments – and arguably the peaks of IDLES’ discography so far. ‘June’ is a heartwrenching track about the still-birth of Talbot and his partner’s daughter in 2017. Each iteration of the six-word story “Baby shoes for sale, never worn” sounds more painful, but determined for the story to be told. No subject is off-limits. Elsewhere, Talbot’s lyrics could be scrawled on cardboard protest signs, from searing critiques of the government to fighting against the millennial name-callers: “This snowflake’s an avalanche” (‘I’m Scum’). ‘Love Song’ quips absurdist romanticism that Ivor Cutler would be proud of – “I carried a watermelon, I wanna be vulnerable” – even a bizarre cover of the ’60s soul/ R&B classic ‘Cry To Me’ comes through as punk with compassion. ‘Joy…’ is a self-confessed parade. It’s a punch-up and it’s a bear hug. It’s a less chic release than ‘Brutalism’, but the curse-of-the-second-album is not even a consideration. Where vulnerability is a strength, the thunderous closing track ‘Rottweiler’ is a reminder to check-in. The last you hear is a faint yell: “keep going, keep fucking going”. If ‘Brutalism’ was a pub brawl, ‘Joy’ is a reflective effort to break-up the fight, if just for a second, and talk about things. It’s solidarity and painful sincerity. It’s a protest that continues to define IDLES as an articulate force – a message that sharing is mending. 8/10 Tristan Gatward
Visions Festival Hackney, London 4 August 2018
On a small field in Hackney Paddock, a group of people have formed a circle around a group of dogs and their owners, in the shadow of St John’s Church. However, instead of the vicar and maybe his wife – who is also the chairwoman of the local W.I. – judging the show, it’s members of Savages, Happyness and Blaenevon. A dog dressed as Vladimir Putin riding his horse wins. This is the opening gambit for Visions Festival, happening in and around Hackney and London Fields, at several venues scattered around E2 and E8 – a day’s worth of music, from up and coming Porridge Radio at the Sebright Arms to the toast of pretty much everyone, IDLES, headlining the dark, dank and sweaty bunker of Hangar. Visions is a parade of music, food, colour, light, beer and laughter up and down the main drag from Bethnal Green in the south to leafy London Fields in the north. Collect your wrist bands at Oval Space, traverse the railway arches and the edges of the River Lea, up the road following the brick raised rails to Space Courtyard, Hangar and LFB The Arches. Then there’s the Sebright Arms pub with its East End brick facade
and stained glass; cold beers upstairs, a hotbox venue downstairs. I start at Oval Space, on the sun drenched balcony looking over the gasholders, now empty with their giant metal rib cage stretching into the bluest of skies. Inside the stark exhibition room Alaskalaska are opening up the day’s music. It’s pleasurable enough. A mix of Brand New Heavies and Zero 7 ambient grooves and sweet vocals. New single ‘Monster’ has a bit more fury with the lyrics clashing with the sax and looping guitar hooks. Sassy 009 unfortunately aren’t able to make their set, so Mellah step in at the last minute, but it was time to venture up to The Courtyard. With 45 minute turnarounds between acts it’s easy enough to check out the majority of what’s on offer without too many tough choices. The SPACE Courtyard was hosting a Super Bock beer garden, DJ stage, ping pong, GIF photo booth, “Visions” cross-stitch, T-shirt printing with designs by the likes of Hookworms, a plethora of street food from Mexican to Lebanese, tattooists playing a game of “roll the dice” to see what design the lucky (or unlucky) punter might get, and a Tarot Card reader for a “vision” (yep) into your future. DUDS then keep up the brass theme with an energetic set in the depths of Hangar, made darker by me forgetting
to take my sunglasses off (mind the step). The band’s ska-punk and Castle Face experimentalism has a whiff of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Blinking back the sun in search of shade in the beer garden, there’s fierce table tennis battles and fancy dress in all shapes and sizes. Sorry are as sly and special as always – Asha’s lip curls upwards with a mischievous smile as she sings. Their clever post punk, grunge and pop sensibilities are heavier and angrier than normal. They make a stupendous racket. It’s a tempo change back at Oval Space for the glorious Nilufer Yanya; a heady concoction of lo-fi sound with husky voice that borrows from soul as much as indie. It’s a blissful comedown from the hectic shenanigans up the road and an appreciated blast of air-con away from the low ceiling and sticky bodies in the Hangar bunker. Marika Hackman and band are plagued with technical problems as they soundcheck but once underway she is a force of nature that is up a notch from her records, which range from folktinged acoustic and indie pop. ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Blahblahblah’, from last year’s ‘I’m Not Your Man’ LP, bring things to a ferocious climax. Stage left, behind double-doors, it is possible to see HMLTD, stripped half naked and getting covered in white body paint. They are clearly going all out for this headline show. News is filtering down that well before IDLES are due on that it’s one in/one out at Hangar, so I’m staying put to bare witness to the theatrical performance that is the London collective’s live show – sinister entrance music, mannequins silhouettes, flickering white light and what appears to be The Crow hovering mid-air. The band launch into ‘Proxy Love’ as frontman Henry Spychalsk channels Brett Anderson via Adam Ant. It’s all camp glamour and earbleeding breakdowns; Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Visage meeting with the the stage presence of a West End. It’s impossible to keep your eyes off. Then into the night. Beer Pong with photography by eleonora collini
Live Sorry missed earlier. Wrong place, wrong time. To next year. The vision indelibly burnt into the mind. James Auton
Caroline Rose The Victoria, Dalston 12 July 2018
If you want an insight into the character of Caroline Rose you don’t have to go much further than the cover of her second album, ‘Loner’, released earlier this year. She’s there; a goofball oddity in a flashy red polyester tracksuit with a full pack of cigarettes shoved in her mouth. She doesn’t make herself a puzzle, she’s here to have fun, even if some of the songs are light-hearted plays on serious issues. Inside east London pub venue The Victoria, the chosen décor is almost a little too in conjunction with the theme. Red feather boas are snaked around mic stands and red plastic roses are sprinkled in their masses across amplifiers. Even the prop-like Red Stripe beer clutched in Roses’ hand is on point. “Red is just my favourite colour,” she told Loud And Quiet earlier this year. This is the New York resident’s first London show, she says, explaining that the night before in Manchester
photography by maggie koo
was “a God awful shit show because it all depended on England winning in the World Cup.” Her stage persona – more likely just her personality – falls between Courtney Barnett’s awkward composure and Mac DeMarco’s goofy grinned charm. Rose is captivating, both musically and characteristically. Bound by fairground synth stabs and rock’n’roll leg kicks, she showcases her unquenchable pop presence during tracks ‘Cry’ and ‘Jeannie Becomes A Mom’; before unloading ‘More Of The Same’ she regales the story of the song’s messy inception that involved anticlimactic parties, boys in salmon coloured chinos and shit back garden sex with the punch line eventually being, “the lawn was wetter than I was”. Later, Rose downs her Red Stripe, whips out a recorder and plays a ridiculous rendition of Céline Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’. There’s also a bit where she strokes a stuffed toy cat (Chelsea), giving it a human voice, and a rubber chicken. “Only three more hours of comedy then we’ll play some music,” she quips. Mulling over her intense dislike for encores, she wraps it up with the eerie, submerged melody of ‘Die Today’ before ramping it right back up with ‘Loner’’s closing crescendo, ‘Animal’. Though still relatively unheard of, Caroline Rose bears all the hallmarks of a full-on entertainer to be reckoned with. Ollie Rankin
Keaton Henson Barbican Centre, London 20 July 2018
Henson has made no secret of his transactions with anxiety but despite openly admitting that buying milk in public is enough to test his comforts, there was still an expectation that he’d perform. His last few projects thus have been predictably solitary: curated playlists pre-dating Spotify’s “mood” excursions, classical melancholia (‘Romantic Works’) and daytrips into vocally-distorted electronica-cum-interpretive-dance (‘Behaving’). Having thousands use his music to examine their own wellbeing is an important part of his new composition, ‘Six Lethargies’, played by Britten Sinfonia. Tonight’s premiere is an experiment into the mechanisms of empathy and selfremoval: if music is a tool for communication, is a sad note always a sad note? If emotional experience is shared and can be materially exhibited, can the sketchy lines between physical and mental health be systematically rubbed out? The first pieces are gorgeously melodic. A series of staccatos fade gently into silence – there’s no questioning its sadness. The visual display has been coordinated by Brendan Walker, a biometric artist who is monitoring a small section of tonight’s audience for their electrodermal reaction to the sounds being played. Data collected on their emotional response will control the lighting. Sure enough, the third lethargy titled ‘Trauma / In Chaos’ begins with flickering lights over a vibrating minor chord. The Barbican begins to look like a long school corridor. Building slowly into something more impactful, ominous sounds are met with part-strobe, part Morse Code. It looks fantastic and the concept is absorbing, but the result is unclear. ‘Six Lethargies’ might not be the piece to contains the answers, but the questions it asks of music’s capabilities within mental health has started the discourse down a fascinating path. Tristan Gatward
Film and Books
Ant-Man and the Wasp (marvel) Of all the creatures suffixed with a binary gender that have crawled and flapped from Marvel’s lesser-known pages over the last decade, Ant-Man was the one that sounded like it wasn’t really a thing. Spider-Man – sure. Ant-Man? No. Not ANT man? I didn’t see Ant-Man One in 2015, although I’m confident that that’s not why I hated Ant-Man and the Wasp so much. I could see where the call-backs were and
fill in the blanks – the jokes were not good. I must admit that I’m not a big comic-book movie guy. I can’t tell you the background to the beef between Wolverine and The Green Goblin, say, but I do know enough to know why that sentence would piss some people off. Also, whenever I do sit down and watch a comic-book movie, I rarely regret it. They’re good action films, even in isolation, even without knowing where we are in the timeline of the vast Marvel universe. Unless the film is AntMan and the Wasp. Paul Rudd is Ant-Man and to his credit does the best he can with the comic relief lines he’s given. (That’s not to say that they’re good – his big funny comes when his body is taken over by Michelle Pfeiffer and he starts ‘acting a like a woman’.) They feel at odds with the science babble so earnestly delivered by The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her physician father with the extremely Marvel name, Dr. Hank
Pym (Michael Douglas), but Rudd is desperately trying to inject some humour into this old fashioned movie, with the help of some dim-witted assistants. Because what’s so weird about Ant-Man and the Wasp is how seriously it takes itself. It’s a film where people say things like, “It’s so crazy it might just work” (not ironically); where people in laboratories talking about atomic physics can’t detract from how thin the plot is; where the ‘science’ continually says, “Seriously, guys, here’s why this could actually happen...” Fuck that. When Peter Parker was bitten by a spider, the fact that it was radioactive was enough – now show the guy jumping off some walls. It’s quite an achievement to utterly destroy the simple pleasure of seeing things and people shrink to Borrower size on a big screen, but to make a film as straight-faced as this while knowing that Snakes on a Plane exists, it’s almost impressive. Stuart Stubbs
The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities — Wayne Kramer (faber) Wayne Kramer spent the end of the 1960s in the MC5, the motor city radicals who bought you dope, rock and roll and fucking in the streets, and encouraged motherfuckers everywhere to kick out the jams. Astonishingly, he even remembers some of it. Art, addiction, destruction and redemption all play a role in the long and winding story of Kramer’s Life of Impossibilities, a tale that takes in dark lows and shining highs, good times and bad. Inspiring, searingly honest and written without compromise, Kramer’s autobiography is the tale of a true maverick. Lee Bullman
Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music — David Stubbs (faber) In Mars by 1980, veteran music journalist David Stubbs diligently traces the evolution of electronic music, taking in its relationship with technology and its myriad of forms and permutations, from the laboratory to the mainstream, with all the enthusiasm of a true fan. These days you could write and record a hit record, shoot the artwork and release it to the world via an iPhone, but it wasn’t always so. Stubbs’ guide to the music he obviously adores is meticulously researched, including interviews with the practitioners who formed the new sound and turned the underground into the future. Lee Bullman
David Bowie: A Life — Dylan Jones (windmill) David Bowie touched all of us whether we knew it or not. The hole he left in popular culture with his sad, elegant death is one that will never be filled and all the clichés about genius are, in his case, true. Dylan Jones’ book is an oral history of the Starman, which reminds us that David Robert Jones from Brixton was as human as you and I, even though at times he seemed to be anything but. There are sixty-two and a half million books written about David Bowie; this is the one that has been unanimously praised. Indeed, David Bowie: A Life might be the only one that you really need. Lee Bullman
AUG 8 - SHACKLEWELL ARMS
DJ. FLUGVÉL OG GEIMSKIP MAN FROM URANUS AUG 22 - SHACKLEWELL ARMS
LAURENCE PIKE MARCUS HAMBLETT BEACHERS
SEPT 5 - SHACKLEWELL ARMS
ALEXANDER TUCKER PAPER DOLLHOUSE SEP 7 - CAFE OTO
ZIMPEL/ZIOLEK ROTTEN BLISS SEP 9 - THE LEXINGTON
SEP 15 - 100 CLUB
EVIL BLIZZARD MICHAEL SEP 19 - THE LEXINGTON
THE OSCILLATION LUMERIANS SEP 28 - MOTH CLUB
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS BONNACONS OF DOOM SEP 28 - STOKE NEWINGTON OLD CHURCH
OCT 2 - HACKNEY ARTS CENTRE
RIVAL CONSOLES THROWING SNOW
OCT 4 - STOKE NEWINGTON OLD CHURCH
NOV 7 - HACKNEY ARTS CENTRE
COLIN STETSON HATIS NOIT
OCT 8 - SHACKLEWELL ARMS
NOV 9 - THE LEXINGTON
SWEDISH DEATH CANDY
OCT 9 - THE LEXINGTON
NOV 10 - CAFE OTO
GET THE BLESSING
OCT 13 - SEBRIGHT ARMS
NO SPILL BLOOD BODIES ON EVEREST
YONATAN GAT & THE EASTERN MEDICINE SINGERS WOVEN SKULL MÉSANGE NOV 14 - THE DOME
FIRE! ORCHESTRA OCT 17 - THE LEXINGTON
COCAINE PISS USA NAILS
OCT 19 - THE LEXINGTON
BIG LAD LOWER SLAUGHTER OCT 26 - CAFE OTO
GHOST BOX RECORDS: BEAUTIFY JUNKYARDS SHARRON KRAUS THE FOCUS GROUP (DJ) OCT 27 - CAFE OTO
NOV 16 - MOTH CLUB
ENDLESS BOOGIE NOV 18 - CAFE OTO
SAX RUINS STEREOCELIA
NOV 18 - MOTH CLUB
TERMINAL CHEESECAKE NOV 23 - ST JOHN ON BETHNAL GREEN
DAVID THOMAS BROUGHTON FOON YAP & YUSUF AZAK
TONUS. MONOGRAPH 50 NOV 2 - MOTH CLUB
LYDIA LUNCH’S BIG SEXY NOISE NOV 3 - THE GARAGE
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE DEAD DAYS BEYOND HELP
NOV 24 - THE DOME & BOSTON MUSIC ROOM
ESBEN & THE WITCH HILARY WOODS DEC 1 - 100 CLUB
Photography by Jenna Foxton
Britain by Ben Hewitt
Gazelle Twin has given Brexit a suitably twisted face and written a soundtrack for the bitterness beneath our green and pleasant land The black-clad figure ambling through the halls of the National Gallery wouldn’t draw many furtive glances. The closest she comes to provoking any side-eye is when a slightly nonplussed attendant overhears her comparing the dramatic, doomy skies of a 19th-century painting to a scene from Ghostbusters 2 (for the record, Elizabeth Bernholz, better known as Gazelle Twin, is absolutely on the money: it really, really does). You wouldn’t suspect that, only a couple of days previously, she’d been skulking around Walthamstow Village while dressed as ‘the jester’: a half-menacing, half-mischievous… thing. Even for someone with Bernholz’s knack for stomach-knotting theat-
ricality, it’s an unnerving sight. It has red Adidas trainers on its feet and football socks pulled all the way up to its knees; it wears a red tracksuit with white piping, and red tassels draping from its elbows. There’s a pair of tights, red again, stretched over its face, a white star-shaped collar around its neck, and its disturbing near-blank head is sandwiched between a white hat and chin-strap. The only visible flesh is its mouth, which is permanently fixed in aleering, tooth-flashing smile. It looks like a creature from Pan’s Labyrinth that’s gone on a trolley dash in Sports Direct. As she prowled past the well-kept lawns while posing for Loud And Quiet’s photographer, Jenna, passers-by tended to
Interview either look at her askance or avoid eye contact altogether. Some youngsters, though, were more curious. “I was trying very hard to stay away from children, but we did bump into a few kids. A lot of them thought I was Spider-Man,” she laughs. Every time Bernholz brings those tights down over her face, she says, she starts to feel physically different. “Pulling that red veil down is really scary. The first time I did it, I just felt like I needed to grin. It totally transforms me… I felt like I instantly needed to get up to mischief.” Bernholz has fun making mischief on ‘Pastoral’, too. It’s her third official album as Gazelle Twin, following 2011’s debut ‘The Entire City’ and 2014’s ‘Unflesh’, and it might be her most startling record to date – which is pretty impressive, seeing as she only really makes startling records as a general rule. Her vision of the pastoral, unsurprisingly, is very different from its roots. Traditionally, pastoral artists would mythologise the countryside as a place of peace and purity, rhapsodising the delights of bucolic havens where good-natured shepherds and meek maidens could flourish away from the decadent rot of the city. But Bernholz, who moved from Brighton to Leicestershire in 2014, found that the simple life actually wasn’t very simple at all – especially after her new neighbours voted in their droves to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. And so, in the same way David Lynch delved beneath the well-manicured lawns of whitepicket-fence America to show the slime and ooze underneath, on ‘Pastoral’ she exposes the bizarre bitterness lurking beneath Middle England’s chocolate-box facade. — This is England — Originally, Bernholtz planned on making an album about “the bizarre desires related to objects”, before the weird realities of rural life began creeping into her thoughts instead. “I moved away from the city – a very liberal city – to a very provincial and mostly conservative part of England,” she explains. “I’d just had a kid, so I was feeling really protective and strange about life in general. As soon as my son was born, I was assessing everything: Where do we live? Are we safe? What are the next ten years going to be like? “All of that was already going on in my head, and then when the EU referendum took place, I just felt like a shell. But I was also really angry at the same time, and quite disappointed to discover people I know who supported and justified the Leave vote. I felt very helpless and deeply worried, too, given the sort of vitriol it seemed to encourage from people. So we had this instant thought of: ‘Oh my God, does everyone around here feel the same? Are we living in a place we clearly do not belong?’” On ‘Pastoral’, the jester is the anarchic mascot for an environment that can be scary, hostile, surreal and creepy. It’s full not of rustic cheer, but instead suspicion, fear, eye-rolling pettiness, infuriating ignorance and small-minded stubbornness. There’s a xenophobic taxi driver ranting and raving about the good old days and a tubthumping zealot trying to whip up thirst for a crusade, as well as snooty baby-boomers and village
busy-bodies. They’re all voiced by Bernholz, and her vocal changes to suit each character: alternating between sinister whispers, panicked wheezes, sonorous trillings and, at one point, Mr Punch. In the way it chews over the complicated relationship between places, people, history and identity, it doesn’t feel a million miles removed from PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ – except Bernholz’s compositions mix computer-tooled sounds with toots on her old recorder from school, and instead of soldiers wounded fighting at Gallipoli there are old bigots muttering darkly at village fetes. She insists, on more than one occasion, that this album is not intended as a one-sided polemic or moral judgement. It’s more about the confusion and bewilderment she’s felt in the last few years. On a personal level, she remembers feeling “really pissed off” that she’d finally got herself into a position to “make a basic living from music for the first time in fifteen years”, only for that sense of security to vanish as soon as the referendum results were announced, because of the implications for touring in Europe. More broadly, she’d hear people in public starting to “spout venom” and feel isolated. “The idea with the rural is to move into God’s country, and be somewhere safe, where everyone’s like you and on your side,” she says. “But we suddenly just felt very afraid.” That’s why ‘Pastoral’ sounds so disorienting, like it’s trying to wrongfoot you at every turn. Its sound is a clash of modern noise and traditional instruments, as if wistful folksy notes and melodies have been wrung through an electronic mangle. Bernholz was a huge folk fan as a teenager, and credits both her recorder and a Midi harpsichord with imbuing the record with the “misty”, “dreamy” tones that are squished together with more modern production ideas. There are snatches of old voices and songs, too, while ‘Dance Of The Peddlers’ mixes its condemnations of the tabloid press with excerpts from William Blake’s poem The Tyger (the red-tops, says Bernholz, are the only papers available in her local shops). It feels telling that the album’s opening track, the mystical-yet-ominous sounding ‘Folly’, asks four questions – “What species is this? What century? What atmosphere? What government?” – and never answers any of them. “Imagine if you were a viewer from another planet and landed here now,” she stresses. “You’d be trying to make sense of it, and you can’t. It’s gotten to the point where it’s just so incomprehensibly mad that you wonder, are we all the same species?” There’s something equally disconcerting about the artwork, inspired by a painting from the Bolton-born American artist Thomas Cole’s The Course Of Empire series – part of the reason we’ve come to the gallery today is to get a closer look at the real thing. The cover for ‘Pastoral’ depicts a similarly lush environment, but there’s only one figure in view – the jester – and its mere presence is enough to make you feel uneasy. Another image inside the album, of Bernholz-as-the-jester in some medieval stocks, will provoke a similar reaction. “There’s loads of them where I live,” she says. “And you think: ‘Christ, there’s so many of these, someone must have died on one of them.’ Now they’re picture-postcards, and when you see them you think of people
Interview having wet sponges thrown at them. But at the back of your mind, you remember that there was probably a corpse on this, once.” — Birth of the jester — For the first 30 minutes or so after meeting Bernholz, something feels slightly strange, and it’s not until we sit down to talk about ‘Pastoral’ in more detail that I twig what it is: I’m so used to seeing photos of her with a pair of tights over her head that it’s oddly distracting to see her actual features rather than fabric. She’s been playing with her identity and image, obscuring her face through various means, since ‘The Entire City’. That record came on like Karin Dreijer holding a night-time seance with spirits from the netherworld – not just because of its use of spooky synths and supernatural imagery, but because seeing Dreijer performing as Fever Ray was what inspired Bernholz to embrace her own theatrical side. Finding the guts to make that change was her artistic turning point; the moment she “stopped thinking about what was going to make me feel attractive and cool”, and freed herself from “uncomfortable live situations where I felt not myself, and really boring”. Dressing up was liberating, even if she’s come far enough since that she now describes those initial looks as a “jumble of costumes whichl never really made a lot of sense”. What did make sense was her next album, 2014’s ‘Unflesh’, which was both tremendous and terrifying in the way it fused its unsettling sound and visual presentation. She started to manipulate her voice more and more, warping it into something less recognisably human, and the gorgeous gloom of her debut was stripped down into something more nightmarish, thrumming and pulsing and crackling with tension and nervous energy. She sang about illness, miscarriage, feral children. The record started with her emitting a blood-chilling howl to simulate a panic attack, while one of its most striking songs, ‘Anti Body’, detailed a suicide attempt she made in her early teens, and conjured up the dread she felt every time she had to get changed for PE because it meant exposing her prepubescent body to the world’. Later, she realised the costume she’d made, with its blue hoodie and tracksuit trousers, was inspired by that same hated PE kit, and that putting it on made her feel like “a superhero”. “It made me feel really powerful,” she says today. “I wasn’t assuming the role of tortured, scared teenager; I was going into it with a different mindset, with knowledge and revenge. I really want to make that story into a graphic novel, because it’s just calling out for it.” The initial spark behind the jester costume actually predates ‘Pastoral’. In 2016, she and her musician husband, Jez, worked on an audiovisual project called ‘Kingdom Come For Two Vocalists’ that was commissioned by Future Everything Festival; in addition to the live shows, in which Natalie Sharp (AKA Lone Taxidermist) and Stuart Warwick performed in front of films by Tash Tung and Bernholz’s long-time collaborator Chris Turner, an album of studio recordings was also released. It was based on sci-fi visionary JG Ballard’s 2006 novel, and it seems like you can trace a line between the red-and-white clad jester and
the book’s violent hooligans, who wear shirts emblazoned with St George’s crosses while they storm around in an intimidating horde, beating up immigrants. Bernholz says she sees that cross much more often now, especially with the recent World Cup, and it’s hard not to be uneasy about its connotations. “I’m sure it was never intended that way,” she says. “George was Greek.” Bernholz insists all of her work has been political, and she has a point: themes covered on ‘Unflesh’ included miscarriage and euthanasia. But ‘Pastoral’’s impulse to muddy the quaint myths of the countryside feels especially urgent given the resurgence in an ever-uglier trumpeting of Britain’s treasured national fictions. “I’m not ready to forget this / I’m not ready to accept this,” she half-whispers, half-hisses on ‘Mongrel’, and while she’s adamant that ‘Pastoral’ shouldn’t be taken as her wagging her finger, there’s still an element of fighting back. “It feels impossible to make a difference but, at the same time, you can’t ignore it,” she says. “It’s overwhelming, but we can’t ignore it. Another lyric on that song is ‘I’m too tired to protest this / But I’m worried I’ll regret this.’ So it’s very much about being stuck in that horrible cycle of terrible news after terrible news, and feeling overwhelmed, to the point where you don’t know what you could possibly do – except for protest, but even that’s so exhausting.” “Watch your back / For they’ll recruit / The quiet ones / At Summer fetes,” she warns on the same song, over a peculiarly queasy melody that sounds like a corrupted ice cream van jingle. It’s an intentionally absurd image, the idea of unsuspecting villagers being radicalised into foam-mouthed English nationalists while taking a break from pinning the tail on the donkey, but it’s not as if there’s a shortage of real-life fanatics to point to. In June, Bernholz says, she came to London to film the video for the album’s lead single, ‘Hobby Horse’ (a perfect relic of the past for the surreal, nightmarish world of ‘Pastoral’, given that it’s a “jaunty prop that’s also really hellish and scary”). On the same day, police clashed with far-right protestors at a violent demonstration on behalf of former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson. In that sense, both the song’s frenetic, fractured hullabaloo seems eerily prophetic. “My fears are growing / My wounds are showing / My time is up, I want to get the fuck out of here NOW,” pants Bernholz, like she’s being hunted by a pack of wild animals. There’s something similarly disquieting about ‘Glory’, on which, underneath shrill, spiralling electronics, you can hear the clashing of metal and marching drums, while Bernholz’s booming vocal channels a zealot trying to stir religious fervour: “Will you become the saint you want to be / Spreading your disease all on one sunny afternoon?” The Crusades have long been fascinations of hers. “Even when I was sort of a pseudo-Christian, when I was a teenager… I loved the whole ritual of it all, and the music and the art. But I remember thinking the Crusades really are a problem, because we can’t just ignore that genocide-plus-rapeand-pillage-in-the-name-of-God thing. When I started learning about that, I fully rejected my Christian upbringing, because it’s pretty obviously full of horror. But I’ve been really interested in
Interview “Imagine if you were a viewer from another planet and landed here now. You’d be trying to make sense of it, and you can’t”
Interview that idea of religious fervour and frenzy, of just loving murder underneath it all, done in the name of God.” I ask if she thinks there’s a link, perhaps, between the way people used those causes as a way to indulge their worst impulses, and violent expressions of toxic masculinity today, especially when it comes to nationalism. “Probably in a very different context,” she says. “We’ve seen it, haven’t we, with these riots – the need to aggressively make a stance or make claims or spread a message. I think there’s this very masculine thing about the Knights, just going off to slay some evil foreigners. The mindset hasn’t really changed. You still get blokes dressed as crusaders going to football games or going on these marches.” Some of the album’s most memorable characters, though, use poisonous tongues rather than fists; cranky villagers who treat every newcomer with suspicion, and live in permanent fear that their quaint way of life and all they hold dear is under threat. The incredible ‘Better In My Day’ is told from the point of view of a disgruntled cabbie who works himself into a frenzy about how much better everything used to be: “No locked doors! No foreigners! … “Streets were safe back then! Boys were boys! Girls were girls!” His voice gets increasingly tetchy and flustered, and there’s even a sort-of breakdown built around his clucking disapproval: “Tut tut tut tut!” Elsewhere, on ‘Dieu Et Mon Droit’, Bernholz wonders how some people can look at those forced to live on the fringes of society, “kicked into kerbs like empty Coke cans”, and feel only contempt. That song’s title is taken from the motto on the British passport, even if the words themselves, she points out, are actually French (where those all-important blue passports will be made). “I was thinking about Brexit, and the passports and the hilarity of that,” she says. “But also at the same time, really lamenting a degradation of people’s empathy. I’m talking about a generational divide, and this disappointment in our elders.” Its stark opening image, of people “eating from bins outside supermarkets”, was actually inspired by her time in Brighton, when she’d see young people taking leftover food thrown away by the Co-op near her house. It feels, she thinks, like “we’ve gone back a couple of centuries in that sense.” And yet still, there will always be some people who’ll insist on keeping the scales on their eyes, a “sort of generational clash that you can’t get through”. “God,” she jokes. “I’m saying I’m not finger-wagging, but I really am. Baby-boomers!” — That’s the way to do it! — But ‘Pastoral’ never comes across as preachy. It’s too haunting, too discombobulating. It’s also too funny. There’s a reason that the jester is the conduit for all these stories: it’s a figure that suggests mockery and caricature, of taking things to their farcical extremes, of finding laughs in absurd places. “The political stuff is obviously very serious and dark, but it’s also meant to be in the spirit of English humour,” says Bernholz. On ‘Little Lambs’, for example, she’s so irked when some entitled Little Englanders jump the queue ahead of her that her seething
becomes comical. “Of all the songs, that’s the most mocking,” she laughs. “Like, ‘Fuck you and your little flags.’ Go ahead, jump in line. I’m carrying a newborn baby, or I’m six months pregnant, but you should sit down on the train first.” Funnier still, perhaps, is the bathetically titled ‘Jerusalem’, on which a worried citizen rings the police to report a suspicious-looking vehicle, all the while being egged on by Mr Punch (“That’s the way to do it!”). The discordant, nightmarish score and Punch’s rasping cackle make it sound like some dread horror is truly afoot, but the real threat isn’t the abandoned car: it’s that Bernholz has now turned into one of the local curtaintwitchers. The real-life call she made is recreated for the song, and after hanging up, she remembers thinking: “‘I can’t believe I am that person now.’” “Am I becoming this paranoid village spy?” she elaborates. “You know, protecting my little corner of the village, just to make sure that no nasty teenagers do something to us. It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Shit, I need to check myself, because this is not my concern.’” To voice Punch, the devil-on-her-shoulder coaxing her to the dark side, she learned to use a swazzle, a piece of metal you put inside your pharynx. “There’s a lot of spit,” she confirms. “Disgusting.” You wonder what her fellow villagers would make of ‘Pastoral’, but she tries to keep her identities separate, and anonymity is one of the benefits of her elaborate costumes. “I like the idea that people can see me, even at gigs, and not really know if it’s a very spritely bloke or a 36-year-old woman,” she says. Skipping out after shows and being able to blend in with an unsuspecting crowd is one of her favourite things. “I’m a bit disappointed when people do recognise me,” she admits. “If people want to meet me, I’m happy to do that… and I’m grateful and surprised. But I really hate everyone knowing it was me.” It allows her to be more confrontational onstage than she is in real life, too (it’s usually men, apparently, who seem most scared). She remembers one show in Missouri, America, in a tiny bar, with a young man who seemed like he was drunk or high (as if seeing Gazelle Twin live weren’t already intense enough). “He was making filthy gestures at me, and squaring up to me. He was being a bit of a dick, trying to intimidate me. So I remember just grabbing his hat and wearing it for the rest of the gig, and the rest of the room was with me then, and he just shrank away … I didn’t keep his hat.” She’s unlikely to face any such opposition with ‘Pastoral’, and even if she’s “bracing myself for people to get irritable” with its more overtly topical bent, she’s not ruffled, either. “I’m prepared for that and don’t mind it at all,” she shrugs. The truth is that these strange, fucked-up times needs strange, fuckedup figures like Gazelle Twin. When people gripe about the lack of political bands, they almost always mean more dreary boys with guitars, when what they really need is more of this: alien shapeshifters with tights pulled over their faces who can fashion something vital and visceral and vibrant from all of the mess. And if you see that red, impish horror prancing towards you, pay heed: it might seem an unlikely prophet, but many a true word is said in jest.
Subscribe to Loud And Quiet Loud And Quiet is free from nationwide stockists but they get picked up pretty quickly. It's probably best if you subscribe to be on the safe side, from ÂŁ35 per year. We appreciate your support. www.loudandquiet.com/subscribe
Lights down, sound up
The film score renaissance is upon us, written and performed by our favourite contemporary artists, by Daniel Dylan Wray 54
Movie Music Experimental film scores by alternative artists and composers have long been a part of film history. The score for 1956’s Forbidden Planet by John Cage affiliates Louis and Bebe Barron marked the first ever entirely electronic soundtrack, and an unnerving one at that. By the time of the 1970s, such curious and stimulating film scores were commonplace across both mainstream and independent cinema. Works by the likes of Wendy Carlos (Clockwork Orange), Tangerine Dream (Sorcerer), Giorgio Moroder (Midnight Express), Popol Vuh (Aguirre, Wrath of God) and Can (Deadlock) were all seminal, along with a rising movement of directors who scored or co-scored their own films: David Lynch (Eraserhead), Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and John Carpenter (Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13). As times moved on, scores didn’t necessarily disappear (countless pivotal works continued throughout the decades including Vangelis’ Blade Runner to Air’s The Virgin Suicides) but during the CD retail boom of the 1990s, along with a shift in cinematic tone, the high octane or hip soundtrack began to take the place of more mood-based scores by outsider artists, the exception being big hitters like Hans Zimmer and John Williams, who’ve remained omnipresent in the upper echelons of Hollywood. As the 2000s rolled on, the countless Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson mimicry soundtracks grew stagnant and directors once again began to explore the idea of alternative artists performing original score. In recent years this has flourished not only into a boom period but arguably moved into a phase of innovation to match the 1970s explosion. Such key scoring artists from non-traditional composing backgrounds include Clint Mansell, Geoff Barrow, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Ben Frost, Mogwai, Liars, Johnny Jewel, Oneohtrix Point Never, Colin Stetson, Scott Walker and Trent Reznor. Alongside these are those who have some form of compositional or classical training but have continued in the lineage of Philip Glass, Krzysztof Penderecki and Steve Reich by ditching lush, sweeping, bombastic strings for more disobedient and unpredictable pieces, such as Mica Levi, Max Richter, Jonny Greenwood and the recently departed Jóhann Jóhannsson. Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite unquestionably feels we’re in a boom period. “I think how good – and well received – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtracks have been has opened up the film and TV industry to using more non-traditional soundtracks,” he says. Having been scoring projects since 2006’s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Braithwaite says he’s seen a noticeable shift. “From our perspective, after The Social Network (2010) more people were willing to talk to us about these things.” Another landmark release was Mica Levi’s Under the Skin (2013). “That was just a moment of absolute brilliance,” says Geoff Barrow. “I remember hearing it and I just said, ‘what the fuck is that?’ It’s influential. It’s a massive step forward.” Braithwaite echoes this. “Her work is so good that I think it made people take a step back. People heard that music and saw how well it worked in a film and maybe then realised that just because someone turns up in jeans and a t-shirt, it doesn’t mean they aren’t brilliant or technically valid or reliable.”
The film industry is a notoriously tough place to work in. Mogwai were sacked from their first ever project and so was Geoff Barrow. “The film industry makes the music industry look like Paddington,” says Barrow. So what keeps artists gravitating towards it? “Doing soundtracks has definitely set up some kind of working process,” Warren Ellis tells me. “There was a freeing up of things and this fed back into the band. Each project keeps informing each other. It’s help set up a foundation for how Nick and I work that carries on to this day.” Braithwaite also sees this as something that can reinvigorate the working process of a band. “It’s a challenge,” he says. “We’ve been put in situations where people have asked us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. Doing things in a different way then informs your own music.” What, then, is attracting directors and film studios to work with these less traditional artists? “There’s a generation of directors who have come from a non-standard film school background,” says Ben Salisbury, who co-scores a lot of work with Barrow but is a trained composer. “They’ve grown up with a much more sophisticated understanding of music for picture and are open to more things. Also technology. If you don’t need to book out a massive studio or bring in an orchestra for something then directors can become much more experimental because they can afford to be – they can just try something and see if it works.” Warren Ellis feels it’s both “creatively and financially driven.” This is something that Barrow concurs with. “The more independent the film is, the less budget and therefore the more chances it will be able to take and the more interesting the scores will get.” Expectations can change with bigger budgets however. “The problem is when you get people intervening who have no clue at all,” says Ellis. “The more money that is involved, the more morons become involved.” Barrow too has experienced this. “When I make music with Beak> or Portishead there is nobody telling me how it should be done and a film executive is worse than any music executive you’ve ever met in your life, saying stupid stuff that makes absolutely no sense. The weaker the executive, the more notes you get about the music because they are afraid to criticize the film directly so they direct it at the music instead of the edit.” The unique position that these artists find themselves in is being able to dip in and out of this world. “It’s not something I would like to be doing as a job,” says Ellis. “I wouldn’t want to have to do everything that came along. I like to feel that each project that we do we bring something unique to it.” Again Barrow mirrors this. “More traditional and professional composers can glide between doing a comedy and a drama but I think for us lot it’s more a case of waiting for the right film to come along.” This leads to a consistency in the quality of the score work from these artists, as well as work being created in less pressured environments that results in more risks being taken in the final music. For Barrow, this area is the most exciting place to be hearing contemporary music at the moment. “The most interesting noises, sounds and productions that I’ve heard in the last ten years have been soundtracks.”
Movie Music game-changing Under the Skin score or her Academy Awardnominated Jackie, Delete Beach is a score that is just as innovative, fusing static hisses, discordant string work, sputtering to sweeping electronics and eerie clangs. Good Time (released 2017) synopsis: Robert Pattinson is a bank robber on the run with his disabled brother. soundtrack artist: Oneohtrix Point Never. listen for: Daniel Lopatin’s eerie drones rumble alongside big, squelchy, bubbling, oscillating synthesisers, sounding like a lost gem from the weirder corners of 1970’s science fiction.
West of Memphis (released 2012) synopsis: Documentary about the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers wrongly convicted of the murder of three 8-year-olds. soundtrack artists: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. listen for: A step away from the violin-heavy score that permeated Cave’s work on The Proposition in 2005, West of Memphis shifts into more synth-based ambient explorations. It’s a key piece of work that would go on to shape the Bad Seeds’ following album, ‘Push the Sky Away’.
Mandy (released 2018) synopsis: Nicholas Cage in a bonkers, 1980s-set horror film about ravaging cultists and supernatural creatures. soundtrack artist: Jóhann Jóhannsson feat. Sun O)))’s Stephen O’Malley. listen for: The last ever project that the Icelandic composer worked on, which also features guitar from monster drone titan O’Malley. Expect menacing synth gurgles, gut-churning guitars and dense atmospherics. Obviously.
Delete Beach (released 2017) synopsis: A short animé film by acclaimed artist and Turner Prize nominee Phil Collins. soundtrack artist: Mica Levi. listen for: A less well known release compared to her
Kin (released 2018) synopsis: A sci-fi crime drama starring James Franco as a crime lord. soundtrack artists: Mogwai. listen for: “The music in the film is some of my favourite Mogwai has ever made,” says Stuart Braithwaite. It’s heavy on electronic ambience, looping pianos and big spacious atmospheres that give way to post-rock eruptions.
Film: 1/1 (released: 2018) synopsis: The directorial debut from Jeremy Phillips about a 20-year-old girl in rural Pennsylvania and her struggles with sex, drugs, love and loss. soundtrack artists: Liars. listen for: The final Liars recordings before Aaron Hemphill left the band. 1/1 is a skipping, jolting and often abstract electronic score that is dark in mood. Such is the uniqueness of the tone and structure of this soundtrack that, unusually, some of the film was edited around the music itself to make room for it in the film.
Annihilation (released 2018) synopsis: A sci-fi psychological horror that follows military scientists into a mysterious quarantined zone known as “the shimmer”. soundtrack artists: Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury. listen for: A deeply varied and texturally rich score that feels like it uses the width, breadth and power of a full studio whilst remaining thoughtful and restrained. As a result, it shifts from ghostly drones to intense paranoia constantly.
DHP PRESENTS FRI.07.SEP.18
THU.04.OCT.18 SAT.13.OCT.18 THU.20.SEP.18
THU.20.SEP.18 FRI.21.SEP.18 SAT.22.SEP.18
Tell Me About It
The American sculptor on his unlikely musical journey and waking up in a fucked-up America, by Joe Goggins. Photography by Nathaniel Wood 58
Tell Me About It
The fact that Lonnie Holley is only now, at the age of 68, truly announcing himself on the musical stage should be surprising. Honestly, though, it registers as one of the more mundane details of his life story. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950, meaning that his tumultuous childhood played out against the backdrop of a segregated Deep South, under the long shadow of Jim Crow laws. The seventh of twenty-seven children, he was working by the age of five, by which time, he once claimed, he had already been traded by his adoptive mother to a different family for a pint of whiskey. His early life saw him working as everything from a litter-picker to a grave-digger, surviving a serious car accident, and spending time in juvenile detention. Chaos reigned through the entirety of his childhood – if you can even describe it as one – as well as most of his twenties. At the age of 29, he became an artist, working primarily in sculpture and using any materials he could find as part of his craft. He would paint and draw and take photographs, but it was in sculpture that he found he was most able to realise the narrative arcs that were dancing in his brain, made all the more vivid by the intensity of his experiences to that point. He had seen and been subjected to brutality, and had learned first-hand the power and value of endurance. All of it began to spill out of him, and many of his early works are defined by themes of violence and redemption. By the nineties, his work was being exhibited in museums and galleries, as he was taken under the wing of Atlanta art collector William Arnett, a longstanding champion of southern African-American artists. Since then, Holley’s art has been displayed everywhere from the United Nations to the White House Rose Garden. His story would already make one hell of a compelling biography and that’s before, at the age of sixty, it took the turn that landed him in this music magazine. He’d been making his own recordings since the 1980s, taking a similar patchworkquilt approach to his music as he did his sculpture – anything’s an instrument with a bit of imagination applied. By 2012, Arnett’s son, Matt, who is now Holley’s manager and constant road companion, sat up and took notice of his musical expression. Now, he’s practically an evangelist for it. “I listened to his new song ten times last night before I went to bed,” he says animatedly as he picks up our call. “Just a recording of it from a few nights ago in Atlanta. I mean, it’s brilliant.” He’s with Holley in Denver, in the thick of a run of dates supporting Animal Collective. Once Arnett found the means for Holley to make some actual studio recordings, his undefinable style – and the excitement that came with it – spread like wildfire. Deerhunter took him on the road. Bon Iver sampled him on ‘22, A Million’. He’s worked, in different capacities, with a slew of contemporary artists since – everybody from Julia Holter to the late, great Richard Swift, and the only characteristic that the long queue of would-be collaborators have in common is that they are deeply experimental in their own endeavours and would surely have been hit like a ton of bricks by Holley’s work, so utterly devoid is it of boundaries.
Now, after a drip-feed of sporadic releases, he’s putting out ‘MITH’, a third album that in many ways feels like a debut; an announcement of a genuinely singular talent to the world. He may have recorded in conventional studios with conventional instrumentation but that is where anything that might be by-thebook about ‘MITH’ ends, and just like his sculpture, he strives to put across his message by any means necessary. Genre divisions are made a mockery of as he floats amorphously between ambience, jazz, spacey electronica and funk, all of which – like his art – simmers with African-American tradition. At the centre of it all, his remarkable voice, howling impressionistic takes on everything from Black Lives Matter and the present state of America to nature and the human condition. The centrepiece is the operatically intense ‘I Snuck Off the Slave Ship’, seventeen minutes that chronicle African-American history in a manner that only somebody of Holley’s remarkable experience and wisdom could. Here, he discusses his journey in his own words. “I’ve been singing pretty well all my life.” It’s just that I haven’t been going into studios or performing. As I got older and was able to get hold of something to record myself with, that was when I was finally able to make a document of my musical expression. That was in the late eighties. A lot of those recordings were destroyed. The avenue, or highway, for my experience as a professional musician began right after my first album, in 2012. Matt took a couple of pieces of mine and said, “I’m going to try to get you into a studio.” We ended up in a place called Gee’s Bend, Alabama, where Matt was recording some of the older singers from that area – gospel singers, and the like. I think a lot of the time, their earlier work gets lost in the archives of the Library of Congress, and Matt was interested in replacing those lost recordings. I put down a song there called ‘Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants’. That’s where it all started. “I didn’t have any hopes or expectations for where those recordings would end up.” I think my reasons for making art and music are probably very different from a lot of other people’s reasons for doing so. That’s not me saying I’m better than anybody else; it’s just that I’m not trying to reach any one perceived audience. I don’t have any expectations for how the musical field should harvest what I put into it. I’d never played in a church before I made that recording; I’d never played in front of other people before, either. I was just a person out there who was making a noise. “I’ve toured with, and been sampled and championed by, a lot of different contemporary artists.” But the same force draws us all together. The garden is planted from many seeds, and what comes from those seeds is, a lot of the time, very different from each one. That’s a positive thing, because our earth – what we call and consider to be the mothership – needs many different methods of healing, and that’s what we’re all trying to figure out and channel through our art. Once
Tell Me About It we heal the earth, it’ll be a better place for all humans to live on, and create in. That’s why, maybe, my music has appealed to all of these different creators. I’m never thinking about just one individual. Plus, my music is only one strand of my art; I have to keep reminding people that my music and my art are like Siamese twins. They’re coming from the same brain! It’s all drawn from the same well of thought. It may seem as if I’m putting a different bucket in the way of the drip, but it’s the same water that I’m collecting every time. “I’ve always thought of each of my songs as being like a rough draft.” That way, I’m never done. It’s like I’m writing part of my own memoir, but then I’m folding up that part and throwing it into the trash can – not because it isn’t good, but because my life isn’t finished yet! I gravitate towards ideas, then move on when I’m done with them. I remember when I did a string of shows out west, right when I was first starting to tour, with Deerhunter, we were in Nevada, and we saw some tumbleweed blow by. I asked Matt to write it down in his notebook, which he brings everywhere to track my ideas. Every one of those shows, I played a song about how we’re all tumbleweeds; we drift from place to place, and we wind up being in people’s lives, and then the wind changes and all of a sudden, and we’re somewhere else. We played six shows, and the lyrics were different every night, but the theme was the same. Then, I went out to record a version of it in Oregon with Richard Swift. That version was different too! The next concert I played, a while later, we were making up the setlist, and Matt said, “tumbleweed?” and I just said, “nah. I’m done with that.” The idea had served its purpose for me. “My inspiration changes from day to day – it’s like the weather.” Literally, in some cases. So much of what I respond to in my writing simply comes from what I’m seeing each day in front of me, with my own eyes. We were just in Austin and it was so hot that you could fry eggs on the sidewalk. Now we’re in Denver, and all of a sudden, there’s flash floods. I woke up this morning thinking about everything I saw yesterday; puddles of water big enough to be considered lakes, and the South Platte River running so fast, like a burst of energy that you have to grasp once it comes through. All of this was happening in the shadows of the mountains, and the further you try to get up those mountains, the more dangerous it becomes, because of what we, as humans, have done to the quality of the air. It gave me the idea for a new song to sing tonight – ‘I Was So Close to the Mountains, But Never So High’. “I’ve seen a lot of death, and that’s informed my art from the beginning.” The first real artworks I made were tombstones for my young niece and nephew, who lost their lives in a house fire. I was honouring their death, and ever since I think I’ve always been honouring the death of something. What it’s taught me is that we need to grab something positive from every life, because
that’s where knowledge and wisdom come from. We should try to grab it before it turns into history. “I’ve lived a very eventful life, but at 68 I want to talk about the human condition.” The mothership is full of wonder. You know, I never had the opportunity to travel much as a young man. In fact, I never had the opportunity to travel much as a grown man. Now, as an artist in my sixties, I’m going through all of these different types of environment, and wherever I go, I’m spreading a message of why we must learn to be thankful. If we could all just wake up that way, instead of cussing and fussing and hollering, focusing on pain and stress and being distracted from appreciation, we’d be able to say “good morning” to people and really mean it. “I’m grateful for everything I’ve got, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reflect America as I see it in my music every night.” There’s a song about the state of the country on ‘MITH’. It’s called ‘I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America’. We just released the video for it last week, and Matt tells me it’s been getting a fair amount of attention – being written up, being shared, and I haven’t played it once since! I’m just not feeling that angle right now. Instead, the last few nights, I’ve been playing a song called ‘Send Help! (I’m in America)’. It’s changing every night, but it’s like a reporter’s account of everything that’s happening recently; families being separated at the border, the lack of health insurance, these natural disasters that keep springing up, and the government forgetting about the vulnerable. The refrain is me shouting out that SOS – send help, because it sounds as if I’m talking about some African nation rather than America. I mean, it’s things like, “send help! My baby’s dying because I can’t afford healthcare.” That kind of response seems more timely to me right now, because ‘I Woke Up…’ was more about realising how things have changed. Now, we’re all awake. And we’re shouting out for somebody to hear us. “I consider myself an American artist, but my album is a reflection on humanity as a whole.” But if America is supposed to be one of the great world leaders, if it’s supposed to be one of the great positive examples on the global stage, then the reality and the whole truth of the situation is that we need to get back to focusing on actually developing that greatness. It’s going to, I hope, take us way beyond where we are right now; it’s going to take us to the places that the space programs dreamed about. America needs to understand that it has to stay focused. Look at how many young minds are interested and engaged in digital platforms – that’s something that needs to be carried through to the truth of itself. Everything would turn out alright if we could do that. You’ve got to remember, when I’m voicing this opinion, that I’m just an old man who’s considered to be an outsider, to have no place in the world. This is something that’s supposed to be for the highly-paid humans to figure out, and I’m not on that scale. But I still care! I really, really care.
SOLD OUT SOLD OUT
My Place Drakeification. Ask Torontonians – it’s a real thing. A native of the city, Damian Abraham remembers a time when Canada’s main cultural exports were Bryan Adams and Avril Lavigne. These days, the city has caught up with the modern world’s other metropolises. “We have all the cool sneaker stores now,” says Abraham proudly. Of course, the repercussion of the likes of Drizzy bringing in the tourist dollar is that it’s growing, changing and gentrifying. Fucked Up’s frontman, who has spent almost two decades slicing his head open with a blade and generally orchestrating chaos, grew up heading to punk shows in downtown Toronto. These days he lives just north of the centre. It’s not suburbia. “Up the street from me we have a methadone clinic,” he says,
“a lot of people in the Canadian cannabis community live in this neighbourhood and there’s actually two great record stores.” That’s where he lives with his wife Lauren, their three children, a dog and a cat. But the family home is also a shrine to self-confessed nerd-dom. There’s an eye-popping amount of collectables here, from an estimated 10,000 vinyl records (including an entire section dedicated to Polish punk) to figurines still in their boxes. TV, film, music, art and, Damian’s great passion, wrestling – there’s memorabilia from all corners of pop culture. “In most normal, sane family homes this would be a dining room, but it’s our library,” he begins. “My number one passion is the intersectionality of all these cultural things. There’s a common thread that runs through everything I find cool.”
Damian Abraham Inside the home of the Fucked Up frontman, by Greg Cochrane Photography by Colin Medley
Podcast studio It’s a shared office with my long suffering wife, Lauren. Her area of this room has just retreated. It’s a podcast studio. The podcast [Damian does a few, including the excellent series Turned Out A Punk] has come together bit by bit over the years. I got into podcasts on the road. You get so tired of listening to music. You’re surrounded by it 24 hours a day. When I was sitting in the van I was just going crazy thinking of things to try to entertain myself. I discovered professional wrestling podcasts, particularly one called Live Audio Wrestling. Then, every time I did a festival, if I saw someone who was in a big band who I also knew had been in a punk band it was my mission to find them and punish them about their old punk band. I’ve been doing that for years. It’s amazing the people you meet who it turns out were in classic, obscure punk bands. Like Nate Mendel from Foo Fighters is one of the best examples. Before that he played in Sunny Dale Real Estate, a hugely influential emo band. Before that he also played in Brotherhood who’re the greatest straight edge band ever from the west coast, in my opinion. It was those twin influences of me wanting to punish people about their old punk bands and loving wrestling podcasts – I wanted to make something that I was passionate about.
Vinyl record collection It’s around 10,000. Maybe just less now. Just for space I’m trying to clear a few records. When we moved into the house, for example, I sold 500 and then bought one with all the money. It’s ordered alphabetically by country. A lot of punk collectors do it that way. It’s such an international thing. For example, I love that I can look through a brief snapshot of the history of polish punk when I go through that section.
Black Flag signed vinyl This was signed by Henry Rollins when we played MTV years ago, very early on in Fucked Up’s career. I now recognise that I was a bit of a punisher. Do you know what I mean by that term, ‘punisher’? It describes a person who will come up to you and they’re a fan of the band but they want to prove it to you by punishing you with facts about yourself and your own band. I have a touch of punisher in me. When I first met Henry Rollins years ago, I was very excited to punish him. So at MTV, we didn’t get to talk to him all day and then finally just before we were about to go on he came into our dressing room and was introduced to us by the producer. I’d brought a bunch of Black Flag records in punisher fashion to get signed. I just started hitting him with weird, obscure things I’d always wanted to know about. He was into it. Very receptive. It was something that was going pretty good. Then we had to go and play live on air. That show was a train-wreck of epic proportions. I was trashing the set, bleeding from the forehead. There’s blood everywhere. I think we did $8K worth of blood damage they said. Anyway, Henry Rollins was nowhere to be seen after I got off stage… I’ve bumped into him a few times since and I always get the vibe that he’s weirded out by me. I really fucked myself in my Henry Rollins friendship with my performance that day.
My Place Brian Walsby illustration of Damian To me, Brian is the most important drummer in modern rock history. He’s unheralded. He’s also an amazing illustrator. He did the illustrations on, I think, the third and fourth Melvins’ singles. He actually roadies now, sells merch and illustrations with The Melvins. In addition to his amazing art career he’s also a great drummer. The first band that he was in were from Oxnard, California, called Scared Straight. Scared Straight he would leave to become the roadie for COC and moved to North Carolina. Scared Straight would go on to become Ten Foot Pole and then go on to become Pulley. Two huge bands for the California Epitaph scene. He moves to North Carolina and meets Mac [McCaughan], before Mac does Superchunk and they form a band called Wwax. Then this kid comes up to him at a show. And he’s like, ‘I really want to form a band with you, if you want to form a band with me singing’. And he’s like, ‘bring me some demos kid, let me see what you’ve got’. The kid brings him demos and they form this band called Patty Duke Syndrome. They do one record then break up. That kid is Ryan Adams. Then he gets a call one day from Dale from The Melvins and he’s like, ‘dude, I can’t play in that band that I’ve been playing with anymore, do you want to play in it?’ He’s like ‘what band is it?’ He says ‘it’s that band Nirvana’. Then he says ‘no thank you, I don’t really like that ‘Bleach’ record.’ Then he’s like, ‘ok, I’m going to call someone else’. That’s when he called Dave Grohl. After all this he did an illustration of me to top it off.
Classic Toronto gig flyers I’ve got this blinder of them. This is a Ramones flyer from the first time they ever played Toronto, which was the first place they ever played outside of New York City. It was the first foreign place they ever went to. I got it from an amazing photographer, music producer and drummer – Don Pyle. I sang on a record that he did called ‘Filthy Gaze’. I think he went to his first punk show at the age of 11. He picked up one of those flyers way back when. After I sang vocals on that record he was like, ‘I’ve got a gift for you,’ and gave me that priceless artifact.
Fucked Up cassettes Like zines, tapes are another thing I’ve become obsessed with collecting. Maybe more than records. Especially the handcopied demo tapes – that is the truest artifact. There’s something so pure about a demo tape. I love amassing a little bit of an archive of Fucked Up taped stuff – it’s interesting to go back and look at where we were at different times. We still make tapes, we’re making a mixtape for the new record. We’re committed to the format. When tapes came out and you could make a tape at home and sell a cassette at a show it revolutionised music.
Zine collection I read an interview with Nardwuar once – they asked him, ‘how are you so good at researching’? And he said, ‘I have an incredible library’. And it’s true. The things you can pick up that will be awesome to bring up in another interview… I use it for my podcast, I use it for reference. I’m also just an incurable collector. I love zines and I love the idea of fanzines. How much work that goes into making them – it takes a lot of effort. It’s a way of touching hands with the creators – there’s a level of personal craft you can feel.
Photo of Iggy Pop, Damian and Damian’s son That was the third time I met Iggy. I met him the first time when I was 14. He did a signing at a Hard Rock Cafe here when he was on a radio show. My friends and I waited outside in like -100 degrees cold. I met him again when we opened for The Stooges. Both of these first two meetings went awesome. He was so cool. The second time, we opened for them at Massey Hall. He invited me on stage, we hung out afterwards and it was one of the best experiences of my life. This photo, however, is from the third time I met him. I was emceeing a Stooges show in downtown Toronto. I guess my son Holden was almost two by that point. I was like, ‘last time I met Iggy it went really well so it’s going to go well this time….’ and then he has no time for me and he was definitely not at all stoked about having to take that photo. As you can tell from the photo. Nor was Holden who was very pissed off and wanted to go home and go to bed. Iggy, I think, was in a similar boat to Holden. But look at me in the middle – shit-eating grin.
Barbed wire baseball bat Last year I got to make this TV show about pro wrestling. I went to Japan for a month and brought this back. It was in my checked luggage. I remember walking through Narita airport with that in my bag just thinking ‘what the fuck am I going to say if they call me on this thing?’. It’s an FMW barbed wire baseball bat that was actually used in a couple of matches. I got it signed by Antonio Inoki when we were filming with him – he’s like Japan’s Ric Flair. I got it at a store that is kind of like a wrestling museum but everything is for sale. Incredible relics. I spent a lot of money on it and smuggled it back to Canada. It’s covered in blood – not mine. And back here are CBGB’s figures. I think they’re meant to be Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. I love punk music with all its baggage. Part of that baggage is that it started as a commercial genre. This is an example of [CBGB’s founder] Hilly Kristal in the later stages of his life looking to cash in on the CBGBs name and logo. I have less of a problem with that than what recently happened with Target.
When do you think this Rod Stewart record came out? The hair datestamps it a little, doesn’t it – to some time between 1974 and yesterday. Seriously, though, what do you think? 1993? 2012? It’s only volume three of his Great American Songbook, remember. 1988? Ok – it came out in 2007, which would be completely inconsequential if it wasn’t such a fucking Rod Stewart album cover. Imagine, as I do, that all pieces of album art belong in a Louvre of their own. The Mona Lisa is obviously the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, and the Venus de Milo is ‘London Calling’, say. Then, down by the toilets you’ve got stuff that’s not so great (Meatloaf and Stereophonics). In the toilet there’s some art too, but it’s really not good – album covers from Bush records and the first Turin Breaks album (the brown one). Not contented that they’re in the Louvre surrounded by iconic art, some fucking idiot has gone into one of the cubicles and drawn their own piece for the collection on the back of the door. It’s sexist and smug and you can’t quite believe that people are pulling this kind of shit. They’ve not flushed. The cover of ‘The Great American Songbook Volume III’ is almost as good as everything
bad that’s happened in that cubicle. You know me – I can get hung up a little on the Moonpig fonts that musicians go nuts for. It took me a day of looking at this to realise there were any words involved at all. They’re not the bigger picture but as we’re here, yeah, they really are fucking awful. Very American Song Book-y. Of course they are – if this was ‘Rod Stewart Raps the Greats’ his imagination would stretch as far as bubble writing graffiti on a subway train. Anyway – the words and font, however good or bad, don’t detract from Rod Stewart himself. Here he does think he’s being subtle. He thinks that that “sexy” smirk as he re-ties his tie is simply suggestive. We get it, Rod – you’ve just had sex, haven’t you? With the poor person on the bar stool behind you, right? The one whose shoe you’re now aggressively holding. Or is he about to have sex? It’s confusing because Rod seems to be pushing the tie knot up, although has anyone fastened a tie after putting their jacket on? (Don’t get me started on the jacket itself.) Whatever. Rod Stewart has either just had sex or is about to have sex and is choosing that moment to turn to his audience with a look in his eye that says, ‘hey, sweetheart [Rod definitely calls women ‘sweetheart’], don’t be jealous – this is what I do,’ to promote songs like ‘Blue Moon’ this side of 1974. Seriously, Rod. Come on, mate.
Things that were too obnoxious even in the 90s
illustration by kate prior
Inside: interviews with Gazelle Twin / Fucked Up / Black Midi / Lonnie Holley / Ditz / Debby Friday / Haiku Salut / Kelly Moran / Movie Musi...
Published on Aug 17, 2018
Inside: interviews with Gazelle Twin / Fucked Up / Black Midi / Lonnie Holley / Ditz / Debby Friday / Haiku Salut / Kelly Moran / Movie Musi...