Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 88 / the alternative music tabloid
New York or bust + Viv Albertine / Biig Piig / Sorry Lower Slaughter / J Mascis Baxter Dury / Liars / Erased Tapes
lower slaughter – 12 biig piig – 14 sorry – 16 erased tapes – 18 wiki – 22 viv albertine – 28 baxter dury – 30
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 88 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
New York or bust + Viv Albertine / Biig Piig / Sorry Lower Slaughter / J Mascis Baxter Dury / Liars / Erased Tapes
c o v er p h o t o g raphy D u s t i n c o nd r en
On Monday 24 July, sometime in the early hours of the morning – we think – our small office in east London was burgled along with all the others on our floor. In our neighbourhood it was sadly kinda inevitable and I wasn’t going to mention it here because it’s so boring and done, but for three reasons I have. 1. Let’s face it, it’s been a quiet month. Even with our customary extended summer break between our last issue and this one we’ve been low on talking points.There was that moment when David Cameron went to a festival and tried smoking (inspiring Party Wolf’s fanfiction on page 52) but the music world has been slow and we’ve not done our bit to live very interesting lives. At one point I did a fucking puzzle. Then I did another one. 2. Our Midnight Chats interview podcast is the real victim here. Here’s the magazine, finished and on time, but as well as our computers being stolen we lost our microphones and recorders, and with them two episodes of our podcast that will now remain forever unheard. They were with Tom Morello andTheWar On Drugs, and they were good ones. Greg spoke to Morello the day after the election about Corbyn and new, legitimate hope for the Left and socialism; I spoke to Adam Granduciel about The Devil Wears Prada and crying on planes. Both had their merits but I can never prove that now. The podcast will be back soon. We’re replacing gear and lining up more late-night conversations. You can subscribe for updates. 3. A lot of friends and readers of Loud And Quiet got in touch and offered us desks, use of their computers, condolences and support. It really was overwhelming and we were unable to reply to every message we got and thank every concerned person. Thank you – it made it not so shit. And we did manage to get this issue together, thanks to our excellent writers and photographers. It’s been a quiet summer but it isn’t anymore – we’ve increased our albums section by a further 10 reviews. Those guys did us a favour. The fuckers. Stuart Stubbs
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J MASCIS owes a life of straight edge and being able to play anywhere to the Boston hardcore scene of 1982
Mascis: I breezed through school; it just wasn’t that hard for me I guess. I didn’t really do that much, but I still got pretty good grades. I only had a few friends and I didn’t really talk to many people. I was pretty good at math, though. This photo was taken in my school’s cafeteria at a recital I was doing as part of the jazz workshop. There wasn’t a rock or punk workshop, so I was trying to make the best of it. I’d been into music since I was nine and I’d always been into the idea of playing the drums, so the jazz group was a good way to practice. I was also in the regular school band, but it wasn’t really for me; it was just all big bass drums and snare drums. At least in the jazz group I could play a proper drum kit and I got to play three or four concerts a year. I remember Murph [from Dinosaur Jr.] being our biggest fan; he really liked my drum solos. As you can probably tell from the haircut, I was really into punk. This was taken around the time that I’d just joined Deep Wound, which was, like, my first hardcore band. I was instantly attracted to punk because it was aggressive and all the hippies in my town didn’t like it. Some of them liked the Sex Pistols a little bit, but I was more into bands like Discharge. That band really separated people out; only real punks were into Discharge. I grew up in a place called Amherst, which was a Grateful Dead kind of town. I’d seen what drugs were doing to all these kids, so I was totally there
A s told to do mi n ic h aley with the straight edge thing already. I’d already tried drinking and doing drugs and found them kind of boring, so when I first heard Minor Threat and DOA I could really relate to what they were saying. Back then (1982), a lot of punk seemed to have this whole heroin thing going on, but they were making these songs that were saying the same things that I was thinking at the time. I’ve mostly been straight edge ever since. I mean, I don’t care what anybody else does and I’ve had little periods where I’ve drunk for a bit, but for the most part, I’ve stuck with it and never done anything. I was lucky enough to find Lou Barlow through an ad at a local record store. Even though he and Murph were the closest like-minded people near me they still lived 45 minutes away in a town that I’d never been to before. It didn’t prove to be much of a problem. My dad would drive me out to their houses for practices and their mom or dad would drive them to my house so we could practice there. Our first show was at a local youth centre. It was like this place we’d go to meet girls and play ping pong and they’d let us play there. We had a good time, but we didn’t have any fans or anything. Since we were the only kids that were into hardcore in our area we were playing to ourselves. Luckily, Boston was only a few hours away, so we’d go over quite often to see shows. That often meant taking the bus, which could be scary, but it would drop you off by this art gallery that often had
all ages shows. It was good when we got driving licenses – those really helped a lot. Deep Wound’s first show in the city was with The FUs and DYS, but we also played with SSD and Jerry’s Kids a lot. It was really intimidating, but they kind of respected us. I remember this one time the biggest skinhead came up to me after we’d played and complimented me on my drumming. That was pretty cool. Boston’s scene was always tough, though, but it was also really exciting. It was pretty scary at first, especially for us; everyone was very much bigger and scarier than anyone else we’d ever met. I mean, it was violent, so I didn’t get right into the middle of it the first few times I went over, but I ended up really getting into it. I got quite a lot out of hardcore in the end. It made me realise that you can play under any conditions. I know there are a lot of bands who freak out if the monitors are set up wrong or something like that, but that whole scene teaches you to be able to play under any conditions. Even these days I’m not that put off if something is wrong; I can usually soldier through. As for the drums, I stuck with them all the way up to starting Dinosaur [in 1984]. I really wanted to see what it was like to write songs and I didn’t like many of the guitarists who were around at the time, so I figured that I could teach Murph the drums and I’d just handle the guitar. I do still kind of miss playing the drums, though.
BOOKS + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Michael Chiklis Reef Younis catalogues the curious music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / that Chiklis has made an award-winning career of portraying the kind of hard-nosed, gun-toting, and often corrupt, cop you see littering those same social media and local US news reports, but the positive intent is there. That intent on the unabashed Stars ‘n’ Stripes patriotism of ‘Til I Come Home’ – an ode to the US Armed Forces currently serving around the world – is no less subtle, nor is the album’s first single, ‘In Front of Your Eye’, where Chiklis’ briefly morphs into onetime Creed frontman Scott Stapp. Elsewhere, his enthusiasm is endearing with his liner notes speaking of stories about the time he was so enamoured with watching The Boss for the first time, he rushed home to write the Springsteen-inspired ‘Run To You’, or his burning desire to pay tribute to “the British rockers!” like Peter Gabriel, The Police and David Bowie with ‘The Show’. None of it makes ‘Influence’ memorable by any means but one look at Chiklis’ beaming face on his live rendition of ‘Til I Come Home’ also shows that it’s not a vanity project either – ultimately, Chiklis just wants you to give MCB a chance. “There’s been a number of actors, let’s face it, who have put out records that aren’t very good.” He’s right.
In true ACPG spirit, we turn to Hollywood (once again) for unlikely (or now likely) music inspiration. Compared to Gosling, Crowe, Reeves, Willis, Cera and Bacon, with just one album to his name, Michael Chiklis is a relative newcomer to the club of Hollywood-luminaries-turned-Almost Famous. His debut album, ‘Influence’, only dropped late in 2016. A “classic rock album” in the familiar way most white, male, 40+ actors seem to create music, MCB (the Michael Chiklis Band, obviously) expectedly tip a deferential cap to old-school icons like Queen, Zeppelin and Bowie. So far, so what, but ever the consummate actor, Chiklis marries those traditional influences with a bit of silver screen sparkle as he channels his inner William “D-Fens” Foster on ‘My Gun’ – a track that combines Chiklis portraying a character that’s about to embark on a shooting spree. Of course, this isn’t a concept track without a purpose – there’s an admirable aim of starting discourse around the connection between mental illness and gun violence in America – but it gets a little lost in the try-hard backdrop of shooting news reports and the tabbed guitar lines you’d expect to hear at any Thursday open mic night. There’s also no little sense of irony in the fact
BY JANI NE & LEE B ULLMAN
MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM BY LIZZY GOODMAN
SUBSTANCE: INSIDE NEW ORDER BY PETER HOOK
THE WHO: I WAS THERE BY RICHARD HOUGHTON
FABER AND FABER
SIMON AND SCHUSTER
At the turn of the millennium, against the backdrop of a New York still reeling from planes being flown into its buildings, rock ‘n’ roll remembered what it was about and got its skinny, dissolute, chainsmoking act together. From over 200 interviews, Meet Me in the Bathroom covers the clubs, bars and late-night shows that brought us bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and The Strokes who managed, for a while, to make it all seem exciting again. Told Please Kill Me style by offering intercut interview excerpts with bands, audience members, industry insiders and perennial outsiders, Lizzy Goodman’s latest book is the definitive account of the most recent chapter of New York’s rich and strange musical history.
Having revisited his time in Joy Division in his Unknown Pleasures memoir, Peter Hook now turns his attention to his second band, in Substance, leaving no stone unturned over seven hundred plus pages. The book picks up where his last left off, with Joy Division wondering what in the world they would do without Ian Curtis, and goes on to cover the financial chaos and inter-band tensions that led to Hooky’s eventual departure. Part genredefining musical experiment, part fractious Mancunian soap opera, the New Order story is filled with love, grief, bitterness and friendship, with relentless debauchery, Dionysian excess and the two-headed coin of success – all of which Hooky relates here with his trademark dry relish.
In I Was There, Richard Houghton collects together testimony from four hundred eyewitnesses made up of fans, friends, audience and colleagues in order to chart The Who’s journey from Shepherds Bush pubs to the world’s biggest band. The Who began life as iconic mod band The High Numbers before going on to become purveyors of rock operas and some of the loudest gigs ever recorded, and Houghton’s book traces their story with the help of never-before seen memorabilia and unheard anecdotes. Definitive, exhaustive and reliable, I Was There is aWho fans dream, capturing the world-changing excitement of Swinging London’s youthquake and the band it propelled onto the world stage.
getting to know you
Angus Andrew The new photographs that accompany Liars’ forthcoming album, ‘TFCF’, feature Angus Andrew in a wedding dress marrying himself. He’s now the sole member of the experimental trio he started in 2000, who’ve radically switched styles with every release. He made ‘TFCF’ alone in the bush of Australia. Check out what he says is the most overrated thing in the world. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given Never get comfortable. Your favourite word ‘Somnambulist’.
The characteristic you most like about yourself I like being tall, despite its drawbacks. Your hidden talent I’m good with kids and animals.
Your pet-hate Ska music. If you could only eat one food forever, it would be… Pasta. I like it a LOT. The worst job you’ve had Working in retail because I hate people The film you can quote the most of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original). Favourite place in the world Home, always home. It’s where my heart is. Your style icon Axl Rose of old. The one song you wished you’d written ‘Goodbye Horses’ by Q Lazzarus The most famous person you’ve met I met Kim Gordon when we opened for Sonic Youth. She was everything I’d hoped for. The thing you’d rescue from a burning building Hard drives with work on them.
Your favourite item of clothing My Natas Kaupas T-shirt Your biggest disappointment The LA Clippers. The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them Johnny Depp. Your biggest fear Getting stuck in an elevator with lots of people. The best book in the world American Psycho. What is success to you? Creative fulfilment. What talent do you wish you had? I wish I could speak several languages. How would you choose to die? Drug overdose. What is the most overrated thing in the world? Socialising.
The worst date you’ve been on I’ve never been on a date.
What would you change about your physical appearance? I’d like washboard abs.
Your guilty pleasure Reality TV.
What’s your biggest turn-off? Talking.
Your first big extravagance When I was a teenager I saved up for 3 years to buy a one-way ticket from Sydney to NYC.
What would you tell your 15-year-old self? Bury a box full of money.
The worst present you’ve received On my 30th birthday my parents sent me 30 euros.
Your best piece of advice for others Make what you’re passionate about your career not your hobby.
People’s biggest misconception about you That I’m scary. Who would play you in a film of your life? Paul Dano.
Lower Slaughter Hail the power of DIY culture and its ability to bridge cities at opposite ends of Britain Photogra phy: damon peirce / writer: hayley scott
op p o s i t e t o p : (L - r ) Jo n Wo o d , G r a h a m H eb s o n , S in ea d Y o u n g & B a r n ey Wa k ef i el d .
lasgow, Scotland: a city that’s synonymous with vibrant creativity like no other in the UK, particularly during the epoch of postpunk and indie pop in the early ’80s, many bands of which still continue to influence an innumerable amount of groups all over the world. Indeed, when you talk to anyone about Glasgow’s music scene there’s always an obvious affinity for the city. Lower Slaughter are based in both Brighton and Glasgow (vocalist Sinead lives and works in the latter), which is of particular interest to me having been born in Brighton – a place that has its respective merits as a flourishing musical hub – and now residing in Glasgow for no reason other than its music scene being one of my favourite in the world. In terms of DIY infrastructures that help to nurture and support new acts, you couldn’t get a better mix of two cities. I bring this up with Sinead to make sure that I don’t just have an idealised vision of Glasgow as a musical utopia, and I’m relieved to hear that she agrees wholeheartedly: “Yeah, I totally agree. It’s a really special community to be a part of. I can’t tell specifically what factors make it so special, as there’s an innumerable amount to draw into it. It has a strong sense of community and less pretension than some other places. It’s a supportive place to work on new ideas and it’s more about what you do and who you are than what you look like. It’s a very friendly city, with an abundance of good venues, and it’s also a very cheap place to live, which definitely supports the DIY lifestyle. The community is thriving and has been for decades, which feeds into the energy of newcomers to the scene.” “Sounds nice,” says bassist Barney Wakefield. “I want to live there.” Despite one third of Lower Slaughter living in Glasgow, the distance doesn’t get in the way of being a band as much as you would think. In fact, the band use it to their advantage. “We recorded our album just before Sinead moved so that wasn’t too much of an issue,” explains bassist Wakefield. “Sinead being so far from the rest of us does make practicing trickier, but it also makes everything much more special, because it just ends up being a bunch of pals catching
up and getting together after some time apart. The rest of us work on the music pretty much weekly, and the beauty of the Internet Age means that we can send over our new workings to Sinead for her to work on the songs in her own time. The distance makes us pickier on when and where we place, too, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” Lower Slaughter’s debut album, ‘What Big Eyes’ (released September 15th on Box Records), is testament to a welcomed theme that’s become endemic in recent times: eschewing the tamer aspects of indie and punk and dealing in something much angrier – no doubt thanks to the current political climate that has contributed to a new wave of bands being more lyrically political and musically noisier. I ask Barney whether this shift is simply a coincidence, and he’s quick to dismiss the idea of them being an angry band at all, even they do riff like Nirvana and Pissed Jeans. “We get called angry loads,” he says, “and I never understand it. We’re just loud – that’s as far as it goes. I see our music as party music, really.” “Like, fair enough, my voice has some grit in it,” says Sinead, “but at the same time it’s on the same trajectory as what many male singers have presented before. It doesn’t seem that people are as interested in commenting on their ‘inner rage’ of whatever. “With regards to politics, it’s a trip – for sure. There are a couple of tracks on the album about our current (nightmarish) political climate. Brexit broke my heart and influenced my move back to Scotland.” I refer back to what Sinead said about the glaring and unfair contrasts between the narrative on men and women involved in punk music. We talk about our mutual hatred of the way in which people in general like to emphasise and exaggerate the differences between men and women in bands, and agree that a lot of the time it’s done subconsciously. “I’m confused by people commenting on me being angry,” she says, “as if punk never existed and there are no men shouting at strangers in bands. Performing is just that – performing, and we all bring different things to the stage when we get there. The music is
big and riffy, and the delivery of my vocals are just part of that big sound. I find this subtle, pervasive, misogynistic bullshit frustrating, but I mostly ignore it all so I can keep going on with my day!” Sinead joined Lower Slaughter late last year and I ask the band if her contribution has had much impact on their music: “Definitely!” said Barney. “Both lyrically and musically. Sinead joining made us explore new musical avenues and up our game. We can be more diverse with Sinead’s vocals and lyrics.” I mention the darkness of Sinead’s lyrics – themes that are dealt with with literate proficiency and informed by ‘nerdy’ influences (Sinead’s words, not mine). “The lyrics are definitely darker since I joined,” she says. “I suppose that’s partly my response to the music, and what kind of imagery it conjures up for me. I’m a big fan of sci-fi and medieval fantasy, which informs some of the language I use. But overall the subjects are drawn from real life; my emotions and the world I live in”.
ur interview takes a darker turn as we discuss the grievances of mental illness and the impact it has on our own productiveness and creativity, specifically in relation to writing and being in bands. A track on the album called ‘Abyss’ – a favourite of the band’s because of its dynamic approach to conveying myriad styles that symbolise their collective influences – took Sinead considerably longer to write because she was in the midst of a deep depression, which naturally heightens the impact of the song. Having experienced depression myself and knowing first hand the difficulties of writing meaningful sentences when even the simplest tasks seem impossible, I was interested to find out more about Sinead’s approach to song writing during times of hardship. “It took about three months,” she says. “It was mad. It usually takes me a practice or two to finish a song. But I was glad to have persevered. I was so grateful when I had finished it. I can be quite a solitary person at times and particularly so when I feel down or depressed.Tour can be difficult because
it’s ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME, but I just love playing so much that it’s totally worth it. The guys are so incredibly supportive, too, which is more than I could ask for.” When we start talking about what ‘punk’ means to people these days, I suggest that there’s still this argument – made mostly by the kind of music fans of a certain age who refuse to seek out anything new – that punk/guitar music is in crisis. “I disagree, obviously,” says Barney. “There’s all sorts of music being made everywhere. I’m never short of gigs to go to, so I’m not sure where that argument comes from. I just think it’s a case of back-in-the-day syndrome.” Next for Lower Slaughter are a couple of launch shows for the album in September. “We picked some of our favourite bands to play like Public Transport,” says Barney, “which is a new band featuring members of Working Man Noise who we’ve toured with a couple of times. Luminous Bodies were confirmed today. Then we’re touring the North of England and Scotland in November, briefly. We’re also about halfway through writing the new album, so we’ve no desire to slow down any time soon.” Earlier on in the interview I realised that Sinead and I had chatted previously. She works at a venue in Glasgow called The Old Hairdressers and I had been in touch to enquire about promoting a gig there. I’m digressing, but this says a lot about the togetherness and sufficiently small world of the UK’s DIY music scenes. Lower Slaughter are a welcomed antidote to the bands that have nothing important to say, and the fans that thought British hardcore punk was on its knees. They shout, but they aren’t angry – they just want to be heard, like the rest of us still suffering from post-Brexit dejection. And as long as we have our local music scenes that thrive in the face of austerity, everything will seem OK.
Biig Piig Behind Jess Smythâ€™s minimal rapping and singing is an ex-poker dealer living a messy life Photogra phy: Matilda hill-jenkins / writer: greg cochrane
op p o s i t e: J es s S my t h a k a bii g p i i g i n s h ep h er d ’ s bus h , L o n d o n .
hen Jess Smyth was working as a poker dealer she met a lot of different people. She’d do five nights straight, clocking on at 10pm, clocking off at 7am. “Apocalypse hours,” she says, “you wouldn’t see anyone.” At one point, at the Leicester Square casino, she was spending intense 90-minute spells officiating tables, dealing cards and keeping order. While she maintained a professional appearance, internally it was often an emotional ride. There would be the drunk guys from Chelsea flashing their cash at the end of their night, career gamblers checking into games like it was a factory job, and chancers. Men – it’s always men, she says – who would turn up with their modest savings in the hope of leaving with a bulging wallet. Those were the tough ones. The people truly taking a gamble. “It was definitely the most emotional job I’ve had in my entire life. I must have cried so many times,” she recalls. “You’d get guys coming up to you saying, ‘you’ve just lost my month’s wages – thank you very much.’ Other guys would be like, ‘I can now take my child to Disneyland!’ It was a big ball of emotion. You have to be like the mum of the table – take everything on, take everyone else’s problems on and hold it together.” Even though the hours were unsociable, the clientele sometimes challenging and the constant exercising of her brain with the maths exhausting, the money was “grand”. She started playing poker for a short while, but stopped when she got cocky, lost £500 and decided she’d like to see some daylight. That nocturnal commute from Hammersmith to The Hippodrome was the 19-year-old’s favourite job to date. And even though she’s still young, she’s had a few. The first was probably waiting tables in her family’s restaurant in the old town square in Marbella, Spain. Much later on, once she turned 16, she took a job at Hollister at Westfield shopping centre, Shepherd’s Bush. She reckons she “stuck out like a sore thumb” and quit retail after a couple of months. In between that and the casino she’s worked as a fundraiser for British Red Cross (daytime) and a tequila bar waitress (night time). She also went to Beer School, worked in a
draft house and, at one point, was employed as a babysitter for a family in Switzerland for two months. “I feel like with every job it’s important to learn something new,” she reasons, thinking about her packed C.V. “If you’re not learning something new you’re never going to feel happy about what you’re doing.” Right now, her LinkedIn profile would read: bar worker (helping in her parents’ pub) and musician.
ess Smyth was born in Cork, Ireland in 1998. The eldest of four siblings, she has two younger brothers and a sister. When she was four the family moved to the Costa del Sol. As an infant her brother was struggling with asthma, and the GP recommended relocation to a warmer climate would help ease his symptoms. Her first memories were formed there in Spain, like on her first day at school, aged nine, when she turned up not knowing any Spanish, puzzled at a textbook and listened to the kids around her “speaking gibberish”. She learned the language quickly, and grew to appreciate the country, people and culture, until one day, around the age of 12, a change in local governmental property law meant that her family lost their house (years on, her father is still battling the case). It forced a move back to Ireland, to a cramped, shared family space in a village in county Waterford. Following that, there was a short stint in Kerry before the family bought a pub and resettled in west London. They all live above it, and Jess still sometimes helps behind the bar. None of this movement Smyth minded. Sure, it meant there was disruption – she’s been up and down school years like a ladder – and there have been tough, isolating, lonely periods, but it has, she reflects, made her “adaptable”. “It makes you more outgoing; more of a chameleon,” she says in a soft Irish accent. “But also brave because you know that no matter how much you move there’s always going to be people who don’t like you and people who do like you. It doesn’t matter. It’s just about knowing who you are and enjoying that.”
All of this has led to the creation of Biig Buddha from the stationary store, the Piig. Today, drinking water at a table in way Smyth lights a cigarette on the gas Bill’s restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush stove, the dinner plates that are strewn Westfield shopping centre, wearing a around the flat. pale orange zip-up with her hair split This is key to the appeal of the into bunches, Smyth is a long way limited amount of music Biig Piig has from where she first discovered, and shared so far – a knack of finding a way then started making, music. On the to talk about the everyday that’s family’s return to Ireland, initially she familiar but not dull. That can be heard found herself attracted to the lyricism on tracks like ‘24K’ and ‘crush’n’; of acoustic music – songwriters like songs that musically match dim-lit Ben Harper. But it wasn’t until later she electronic beats, mournful jazz picked up a guitar, in a four-month trumpet and glitchy piano chords. The period when the family first moved to same goes for ‘Vice City’, a heart-felt, London and she was waiting to be languid hip-hop tune and forthcoming enrolled at school. Songwriting came single, written while she was still quickly and her Dad took her to her working at the casino. first gig – a Sunday night open mic “I was working really hard and I night in Battersea. “I was like the most was thinking about how my parents teenagery teenager you could ever work really hard and about how they find,” she laughs. “I did it with a treated me. I understand that now, knitted jumper and a ukulele and now I appreciate it more and I want to say I’m like, ‘no, oh Lord!’. She met friends thank you. It’s also just about the life a through that. People she hung out lot of teenagers have anyway. Partying, with, played shows around town with. going out, having a good time. I was It wasn’t until Smyth left the catholic trying to balance the two. It was just a girls school she attended and went to bit of a collision.” college in Twickenham that she found As the autumn arrives Smyth is friends who’d go on to really open her concentrating on writing more music. mind, musically. Before the end of the year she plans to “College suited me down to the release her debut six-track EP. She’ll ground, it was completely different,” hold off playing any live shows until she says, drumming a set of purple 2018, until she can assemble a proper painted nails on the table. “People band and get it to sound the way my age who were doing creative she wants. things, they were individuals rather The name Biig Piig was the product than big cliques.” of an inebriated night with mates – a That’s where she met friends like name she read on a pizza menu. It Ava Laurel (artist and founder of arts started as a joke, until she uploaded collective Nine8) and Lloyd MacDonald her first track to Soundcloud with the (the artist and producer also known name. Now, it’s stuck. as Mac Wetha, also in Scoundrel and “I feel like the more I hang out with thrash metal band Death Pigs). Smyth myself, and the more I hangout with was invited to a Nine8 Christmas party my music, it’s becoming more and drunkenly ended up freestyling on apparent that’s what I am. I’m just the mic. That’s where her current style a big mess, in a nice way,” she says. of rapping and singing began. “Everything, my whole life, has A couple of years on and she’s a been a big scramble. The big pig... the core member of the 20-strong com- big mess... but in a way, that’s the munity, frequently collaborating on sweetest thing.” music, visuals and designs with the other members. For example, they helped translate the mundane beauty she celebrates in her recent track ‘24K’ (“I like it when we watch TV / I like it when there’s nothing on / I like it when when we talk about how shit TV can be and find how it inspires me to write a song”) into a video that’s equally as arresting as the details her lyrics cannily hit – the nodding
Sorry When grunge and hip-hop mixtapes collide Photogra phy: dan kendall / writer: ian roebuck
above : ( L- R ) As h a L or e nz , Lincoln B arr e tt, L o uis Oâ€™Brye n & Cam pbe ll B aum in w e st hamp ste ad , L ond o n.
he band FKA Fish are midway through a Fish related story, involving the guy Fish from neo-prog band Marillion. “So it turns out the photographer Dan’s uncle was in Marillion with Fish, which is just weird,” say the ex-Fishes. What a coincidence, I say, internally piecing this fishy jigsaw together. Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen have become proficient at telling the story of how their band went from being named you know what to Sorry but an afternoon with our photographer has them spinning. “We had to change our name because of him,” Louis explains. “Apparently he doesn’t really make music anymore but he’s got a really strong following.” It was Asha who was first targeted online. “One of Marillion’s fans messaged me saying how dare you call yourself Fish. They were like, ‘the real Fish has 35 years under his belt!’” Sorry have just two, and a long way to go before they reach Marillion’s freaky fan status, but the band’s two core members have known each other for most of their young lives. “Me and him have been friends for, like, 10 years,” smiles Asha, almost tripping over words as she speaks. “We were at secondary school together, so it’s been like a reaaaaallly long time,” says Louis, blocking a welltimed dig to his arm from Asha. “We used to be in a covers band at school for a bit as well.” Asha seems embarrassed the topic’s been raised. “I think we actually did ‘Cheating’ by John Newman,” she says with a wince. “We did Jimmy Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ as well. We were like 14 so this was straight as.” Since then the two of them have evolved into something entirely different. Non-linear bedroom grunge has replaced down-the-line covers and alongside new members (Lincoln Barrett on drums and Campbell Baum on bass) Sorry’s complex, layered songs now have a driving rhythm section and a life force of their own. Recent demos ‘Drag King’ and ‘Prickz’ provide a glimpse of what’s to come: Asha’s stuttering, spoken word vocal whirs to life over stop-start de-tuned guitar, everything in its right place… but not. The music pleasingly off centrein a very deliberate way. “If it doesn’t sound dis-coordinated or
slightly off then I don’t like it as a song,” says Asha. “Louis and I both have similar taste like that. To me, personally, it doesn’t make sense if it’s perfect.” On the surface what you have with Sorry is more crossover grunge, another band harking back to 1990 whatever, but it’s clearly much more. Really. “We love hip-hop,” Louis tells me. “I went through an angsty teenage phase where I just listened to hip-hop and that’s it.” “He found this mixtape by Pro-Era called ‘The aPROcalypse’ and we both listened to it religiously for, like, a year and a half,” says Asha. “Yeah it’s actually one of my favourite albums ever.They have a really cool rapper called Capital Steez – he is my favourite. I got really bored of music at one point and when we started making songs on the computer again it made it much more interesting. That’s what we are going to try and focus on for the future, getting the balance so it’s not so rocky. It’s not that we don’t like rock music at all, it’s just a mixture and another side to the sword… is that a saying? Another side to the dice… no, I don’t think that’s a phrase either.” Asha rolls her eyes. “That’s what we are trying to do with the band,” she agrees. “I don’t really like any of the studio recordings so far as I don’t think it captures any of the same stuff as our home recordings – the mistakes you make, it feels more cathartic at home than live or at the studio, so we are trying to work on that. We are just attempting to find the balance between all these things and influences as we are trying to infiltrate Sorry onto the radio, not that we care about that!” If they’re going to break the airwaves then Sorry need to look no further than their South London peers. Despite living in northwest London, they’ve been strangely grouped into the South’s burgeoning scene, counting the likes of Shame and HMLTD as touring partners and friends. “Yeah shout out to Shame, they’re our best mates,” Asha chuckles. “Duke from HMLTD told us off though. He told us our social media presence is terrible. They have got such a strong look and he said we don’t do enough with ours and what we do as an overall aesthetic needs to be better in my opinion.”
I try and put their mind at ease using their two recent videos as an example. “Well, we are making our own films with the music we do. Myself, Louis and our friend Flo have made the videos to ‘Prikz’ and ‘Drag King’ and I think we are going to try and do videos to all of our songs. We were just out shooting random stuff. I like how in video a small two-second clip can be so emotional. As long as it’s emotional it doesn’t have to have a massive budget. I think that’s so important and I want to keep that with the videos to come. I don’t want a massive budget as I don’t think that makes it very relatable. Our work is kind of like collage art, a mixture of things and you can take from it what you want.”
he look Sorry will continue to finetune, but I’m surprised that they’ve not released any physical music yet. “Well, yeah we are finally recording stuff in a studio now, although it’s very different from being at home,” says Asha as Louis joins in. “That’s why we’ve kind of put off releasing anything for ages,” he says. “I’m not sure if ‘patient’ is the right word, though. When you do loads of home recordings it’s so easy to produce exactly what you want from it – when you get into a studio it’s so different it throws you off a bit. “I think we have some recordings we are happy with now. I think it’s important to make sure, to come across how you want to come across. It has to represent you; to make sure people know who you are. Releasing a single quite randomly is wrong if you don’t have an identity and people can’t see your background. That’s why we like throwing out demos as it gives people an idea of what we are about. If we just released a single nobody would care. They would be like, ‘oh another rock band from Camden.’ It’s an awful place but that’s us and that’s where we are from. It’s kind of become a bit ironic to us as it’s become one of the worst places in world!” Sorry are clearly more meticulous than others in the way they work. ‘Patient’ might not be the right word for them, but perhaps it is for their new producer. “Well, we kind of do a thing in the studio where we sit around him
for ages and jump and shout,” says Louis. “It must be really annoying but it seems to work for everyone.” “Do it! Do it!” Asha mimics. “When we release our first single we hope to release a mixtape along with it with all the demos that we are working on, so we can keep our way of working in relation to the studio stuff – keep it mysterious and interesting, you know? You have to buy the 7” to get the mixtape. I feel like some bands don’t keep that special relationship to their work and to their fans – having limited edition things is important. I admire how Dean Blunt or someone releases their music and you have to go out of your way to get it. When you create a world of your own with the music then that’s great. Not on Spotify, just on CDs, you know? A hard copy that people can have.” Louis, who does most of the production work himself, with Asha on the lyrics, adds: “A lot of the stuff we record at home doesn’t sound like the band so I think it’s OK to chuck it out there. We really like Mica Levi’s work, I think her production is amazing. It’s because it’s so rough, but she also cares about what she does. She does it all herself as well. She is so sick and take Alex G, he had, like, 3 or 4 albums out on Bandcamp before anyone knew who he was. Now he has released two albums!” And will anyone know who Sorry are, y’know after the name change? Asha seems pretty sure. “No-one is called Sorry; the only thing is that Justin Bieber song ‘Sorry’ – that might get us. Could that actually happen?” I turn to Louis but he doesn’t seem too bothered. “Fish was pretty iffy to start with, anyway, wasn’t it?”
10 years of Erased Tapes A genre-defining label conceives a new headquarters and creative community space writer: dominic hayley
Robert Raths meets me at the front door of the Sound Gallery smiling like a proud homeowner. After a flurry of handshakes he shows me around Erased Tapes’ new East London home, eagerly pointing out where he’s moved a beam, remodelled a wall or altered a floor. An ex-children’s bookshop on Victoria Park Road, the gallery is yet another way his label is reshaping what it is to be a modern record company. A remote label until now (with something of a base in an industrial unit in Fulham), their new premises will provide valuable offices and a custom-made space for events, performances and workshops. “In a way, it’s an extension of the label’s principles,” Raths tells me as our tour reaches the newly renovated open-plan boardroom. “For the first time, we can show people what we’re about spiritually and politically as well as musically.” There aren’t many record labels that can claim to have defined a whole genre, but, founded by the German-born Raths in 2007, Erased Tapes has been nurturing and shaping avant-garde music for a decade now. Home to the likes of Douglas Dare, Nils Frahm and
Masayoshi Fujita, among others, the label’s artists might explore the worlds of post rock, ambient electronica and modern classical composition, but they all orbit around a shared love of hypnotic melodies and sonic innovation. It’s this, combined with the sheer level of care and attention that they pour into every release, that has won Erased Tapes a cult-like following among a certain section of music fans. From Berlin to Los Angeles, there’s an army of people readily hoovering up any LP, film or artwork that is stamped with the label’s understated mountain peak logo. 2017 marks Erased Tapes’ tenth anniversary, and, unsurprisingly, it’s shaping up to be a banner year. In addition to their new home, there are also two celebratory shows at the Royal Festival Hall and Village Underground this September. The largest shows the team have ever done, these will see almost all of the label’s current roster performing in one way or another. So, on the eve of this massive milestone, think of this oral history as a whistlestop tour of the last ten years, from ErasedTapes’ first EP with Rival Consoles, through the construction of a genre-
defining roster of ambient and avantgarde musicians, to their recent move to East London. Over the past month, I’ve spoken with Raths, and label artists Peter Broderick, Ólafur Arnalds and Ryan West aka Rival Consoles. Part 1. 2007; a beginning Robert Raths: You could say that
the roots of Erased Tapes lie in Myspace. As cheesy as it sounds, that website really brought a generation of people together. Peter Broderick: Erased Tapes started at a time when music was shifting a lot in the digital age. Rather than stick with the old model of how record labels should operate, Robert has been able to carve his own path. RR: I moved to London in 2004 from Germany to study architecture, particularly the design of acoustic spaces. I’m drawn to the idea of creating buildings that bring people together. Ólafur Arnalds: One thing that has always struck me about Erased Tapes is
that they don’t sign an artist unless they’re friends with them. They’ve always liked to keep things close to their hearts in that way. RR: I just love the idea of exploring sound. Before starting the label, I used to share my own music on Myspace but I was never really all that happy with the results. One day it just dawned on me that maybe I’m better at figuring out what people need to do and maybe I should help other artists to blossom. That’s how I sort of ended up working with Ryan. Ryan West aka Rival Consoles:
I’d been making music for a while and I was looking for a label to release it. God knows why; I wasn’t ready at all… RR: It was a little bit out of the blue. Ryan just sent me a message on Myspace. It said something like, “hey, I came across your page and it looks really interesting. Even though I have no idea what you are all about, here’s some of my stuff – it’ll sell like hotcakes.” The four tracks he sent me became the ‘Vermeer EP’, the first record we ever did. RW: I remember being drawn to the name and decided to message them,
asking them to check out my music. From that simple exchange, I very quickly became part of the label. RR: He sent me these two CDs in the post. One had this really sketchy writing on it – safety copy in case the other one fucks up. I downloaded it to my iPod and spent the next few weeks riding around on night buses thinking, ‘wow, this is amazing.’ RW: Those early days were very, very DIY. We were doing everything for the first time. PB: One of the best things Robert did in those early days was to set down a look for the label. It’s given this real sense of continuity to Erased Tapes. Even though the music on the label is quite diverse, there is still a really strong sense of style somehow. RR: I’ve always believed that the artwork is as important as the music. It’s like the starter to a meal; when it’s done well you can almost hear the music even before you put the record on. RW: Straight away I realised that Robert just has this eye for bringing everything together. When you make music on a daily basis you become obsessed with the functionality of this part or that part, so having someone who can see the big picture helps a lot when it comes to the decision-making. Part 2. Starting a family RR: I came across Ólafur a few months
after Ryan’s record came out. Justin from [Erased Tapes trio] The British Expeditionary Force introduced me to some tracks born out of instrumentals he’d done for the metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn. ÓA: It happened pretty fast. I remember Robert messaging me on Myspace back in 2007 and offered to do a UK release of the music I had on there. RR: The more I talked to him, the more I realised that he didn’t really have a team to help him reach other people. That’s how the release of his first album, ‘Eulogy for Evolution’, came about. ÓA: I’d been working on it for a few years before the release. I guess the oldest songs are from when I was 17 or 18 years old. I’d done some stuff with a small German label before, but Erased Tapes definitely pushed my music out to a larger audience. RR: It was the first time I’d worked on a full-length album and I really wanted everyone to hear it. I mean, I remember playing it to my parents and them not hating it. I realised that if I really wanted to do him justice, then I needed to take this record around the world. PB: I first met Robert in 2007 just after he’d signed Ólafur. I’d moved to Denmark to play with Efterklang and
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every time I’d come to London I’d see him outside our shows handing out promo CDs and flyers. I was like ‘who is this guy?’. RR: Peter came on board around 2009. I was starting to think that this digital thing wasn’t going to last forever, so I started to look for people who complimented each other – that’s how I came across people like Peter, Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory. PB: I ended up working with Erased Tapes in a very organic way. ‘Music for Falling From Trees’ was a collaboration I’d done with Adrienne Hart, a London-based choreographer who also became friends with the label at the time. So, when it came time to put out the score, it made sense to release it with Robert. RR: That’s turned out to be a crucial part in the label’s history. Through people working on each other’s tracks, I realised that we had artists that really complimented each other. Since then, I’ve encouraged everyone to collaborate and make records together as much as they can. PB: That’s one of the best things about Robert: he loves to get involved creatively. You hear these stories all the time about a band fighting with their label over who gets creative control, but with Erased Tapes it’s never been like that. We’ve worked together from the start. RW: When I was first on the label I was still developing my own processes and aesthetic. As I got to know my equipment and ways of working better, collaborations become a lot less stressful. PB: It’s also how the label has found some of their most successful artists. For example, Nils Frahm was a friend of mine and met Robert when he came on tour with me. Their relationship has really blossomed since and Nils has done some incredible things on Erased Tapes. It’s a bit of a family in that way.
Part 3. Escaping the ‘neoclassical’ pigeon hole RW: Having Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds kind of cemented a defining style, I guess. Towards the end of the first five years, the label had become known for being ‘neoclassical’ for the want of a better term. RR: It bugs me when people describe Erased Tapes as a ‘contemporary
classical’ or ‘neoclassical’ label. The whole phrase is a massive contradiction. RW: I get the term and I agree that it’s probably one of the better shorthand descriptions available, but I’ve never heard anyone at the label use it.The fact that I’m on the label negates the idea that Erased Tapes is only a classical label. PB: It’s one of those lazy, catch-all phrases. I mean, yeah, some of Erased Tapes’ most successful artists can be described as neoclassical, but if you
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listened to the whole catalogue you’d find loads of stuff that doesn’t fit that at all... ÓA: Who cares what people call it? It’s all just music to me… RR: It has been one of the reasons I started doing the free giveaway compilations; to allow people to see how it all works together. A piece of piano music from, say Nils, takes on a whole different character when you put it side by side with a glitch track from World’s End Girlfriend. Part 4. Ten years and counting… PB: It’s crazy to think how far Erased Tapes has come. If I could tell myself when I first signed about what the label would eventually evolve into, I’d be amazed. RR: It’s been a rocky path at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing as it was all meant to be. It’s good to be able to sit down for a moment, breathe in and realise what we’ve done together. After all, before this year the only physical thing we had in common was the records we put out. Now we have a space like the Sound Gallery and are about to take over the Southbank Centre. It’s crazy. RW: Having the Sound Gallery will be a massive change again. It’ll bring a brand-new dimension to the label. It’ll be a way of being spontaneous again. RR: Building the Sound Gallery was a natural reaction to what’s happening
in London right now. We were sick of hearing about venues dying out or artists struggling for a place to practise and to exhibit their work. So we thought why not open our own space and allow people to do just that. We wanted to create somewhere for everyone, not just for the label. PB: I think it’s going to bring a new openness to the way we do things. Record labels are mostly a ‘behind the scenes’ thing, so it’s cool to have a place where the listener can go down and meet the people who make it all happen. It’s a way for Erased Tapes to show people what they’re all about. RR: Then we’ve also got these big ten-year anniversary shows at the Southbank and at Colston Hall in Bristol coming up. Big shows like that are completing the cycle in a way. PB:The ten-year anniversary shows are particularly exciting. We haven’t done anything of this size before. We’ve had a few of us gather for things like Piano Day, but the two days at the Royal Festival Hall will be a big coming together of everyone who’s worked on the label. RR: It’s amazing that we’ve grown to the size to be able to take over such a historic venue. When you think of everyone who works on these things and all the time everyone’s put in, you realise that we’ve done something extraordinary. RW: I guess the secret to Erased Tapes’ success has been equal amounts of luck and good taste. Robert has signed acts that have become successful and
has exposed the label to more and more people. The whole thing is like a positive feedback loop. PB: For me, there’s no great mystery as to why Erased Tapes is such a well-loved label. It’s just a bunch of very dedicated people sharing what they love. RR: I think a lot of people tend to think that music is a gamble, but it’s not. There are no winners or losers, it’s more like an energy that you share with people. Right now, after ten years, it’s time to give even more back, and who knows? Perhaps we can inspire the next group of artists who are starting from zero, just like we did. Visit the Erased Tapes Sound Gallery at 174 Victoria Park Road, London E9
Photogra p hy: dustin condren / writer: katie beswick
The City Knows New York made Wiki – now the young rapper wants a street named after him Hip hop is written into the streets and subways of New York, if you know where to look – mostly, it’s there even when you aren’t looking for it. There’s the boom bap of old school bass drifting out of every other passing car and through the badly insulated headphones of passing strangers. The bloc parties and the summer street dance concerts at city parks. There’s the litefeet boys, still swinging from subway car poles as you make your way home, back-flipping to tinny beats played through iPhone speakers, despite the city’s clampdown on subway dancing meaning that, if caught, they face a Misdemeanour A charge (and the threat of up to a year in prison). There’s the Graffiti Hall of Fame at the Jackie Robinson Education
Complex on 106 Street and Park Avenue, where, back in 1986, the school principal told students they could use the playground walls as a canvas, so long as they stopped spraying outside.The Frank. E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on Madison Avenue at 81st Street, where Biggie, Aaliyah and Heavy D were laid to rest. Up in Harlem, tourists huddle in front of the Big L memorial mural on 104 W 140th St, snapping photos as locals walk past, unimpressed, pulling their baseball caps down low and shaking their heads at this intrusion on their neighbourhood. Hip hop is the way the city communicates with itself, as cultural critic Marshall Berman argued when he described how graffiti painted onto
subway trains in the 1970s and ’80s provided a way for those from impoverished neighbourhoods to speak to people in more affluent areas. I guess this is what rapper Wiki means when he tells me that when it comes to his music, “The city knows. New York knows it’s good.” “That’s the thing, you know what I’m saying?” he says. “You can go anywhere. Like, obviously, you don’t wanna go to Times Square.You gotta go to the Bronx, obviously, if you wanna understand where [hip hop] came from, you go to the South Bronx. But then hip hop spread to everywhere, and every neighbourhood had their own thing going on. You could go Uptown, to the Bronx, East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, 125th, walk down
125th. You wanna know my shit you go to China Town, you go Upper West Side, walk down 96th Street. Whatever. That’s what I’m saying.” Sipping on a can of beer as we chat, Wiki speaks with a broad New York accent, lacing the conversation with so much city slang that his PR emails me the next day to check I understand what he is saying. (“The gram?” I ask, at one point. “Yeah, yeah,” he laughs, raising his can, “The Instagram!”). “The whole hip hop scene – it’s about finding your culture.” He grins a gummy smile that reveals missing front teeth. “A certain group of kids, some of them skate, some of them do graffiti, some of them make music, some of them make art, some of them in a fucking band, you know what I
mean? Like that’s hip hop, you know what I’m saying? It really just depends what level you talking about. I got Tony Seltzer, who produced a lot of the [new] record, he makes a lot of beats, like a lot of litefeet beats for the litefeet cats, so in that sense there’s all these connections [in the city].” Our interview takes place the Friday before the release of Wiki’s album ‘No Mountains in Manhattan’. This is the first big solo release for Wiki – though the rapper has been making waves on the scene for some time. Signed to XL Recordings before he left high school, Patrick ‘Wiki’ Morales performed as part of the RATKING collective (with Sporting Life and Hakeem ‘Hak’ Lewis) touring the world on the back of their 2014 album ‘So It Goes’, until that fell apart when Hak announced his
departure under apparently acrimonious circumstances. Meanwhile, Wiki had been working on solo material. In 2011 he dropped his debut EP, ‘1993’, followed by the album ‘Lil Me’, released on RATKING’s own Letter Racer label in 2015. In February of this year he dropped a second EP, ‘What Happened to Fire?’, a collaboration with Your Old Droog. Now, after years of graft he is ready to blow up the international music scene, and I don’t doubt that ‘No Mountains in Manhattan’ is the record that will do it. It already sounds like a classic – with his mean, sexy flow painting an intimate cityscape, cameos from Ghostface Killah, Lakutis and Your Old Droog, and those off-key, bouncing beats that could be taken straight from old school, except for their freshness.
a b o v e: P a t r i c k Mo r a l es a k a w i k i i n l o w er m a n h a t t a n , n ew y o rk.
It’s not quite a concept album, but Wiki is insistent that it tells a story. “You couldn’t put any of those songs in any order,” he says, “there’s a little story going on in it. There’s peaks and then flows, and the end’s kinda comic – and some fans are gonna like that, and some are gonna be like, ‘oh that song’s tight’. I’m down with whatever.” Wiki’s ambition for this record is tempered with an endearing, tenacious realism – yeah, he’s worked hard, and he’s ready for it, but he is not taking instant success for granted. “I feel like I’m happy about how I came up. I feel like it’s good to just learn. You don’t wanna get thrown out there so quick. Like, I’m happy I had a group around me. I got to learn and tour around the world with them, you know what I’m saying? Now I’m ready where I’m at.
Like I got a fan base, I’m good, I know I can make rent money.” He shrugs. “It’s coming. I know it’s coming. I’ve taken time off to work on this project and now I’m ready to go get it. But we’ll see. If this one isn’t the one that hits, it’s onto the next. Coz ‘Lil Me’, we did that on our own. Me and Letter Racer and my team. And that shit did well. We toured in Europe and they knew the fucking words. That’s all I care about. This one we got XL behind us so I think we might do something.” He takes a sip of his beer. “We’ll see. We’ll see.” Still, there are points in the interview when he reveals the depth of his drive. I ask him whether he has long term plans and he smiles. I press him. Where do you want to be in five years? “Five years?” He looks up at the ceiling, flicking his fingers to calculate what that means in terms of time. “When I’m 28? Hopefully I’ll be more albums deep but with some classics; a couple classics deep. Try to lay my legacy down in New York, you know what I’m saying?” He hesitates. “I’m trying to get a street named after me. Not by 28. But I gotta make the steps by then. I gotta do a lotta shit even by 28 to do that.” He laughs and gives a selfdeprecating little eyebrow lift, as if to suggest he’s only half-serious. “I’m tryna be on my LaGuardia shit, you know what I’m saying?”
diverse early musical influences, including Michael Jackson, Broadway musicals and the Puerto Rican jazz musician Ray Barretto (“That fool Ray Barretto, when I got put on to him I was like, ‘this dude’s from New York, Puerto Rican G, doing the craziest rhythms’, like that shit influenced my rap, straight up.”). Still, part of the city culture involved rapping with friends, and he soon realised he was better than the average kid. “That’s where it comes from. That’s when you find out you can rap. Everyone freestyles and it doesn’t even matter, like if you’re growing up now, and one kid’s gonna have the illest flow, you know what I mean? So then it’s like from there where you go. I wasn’t battling, like maybe sometimes at a party I’d battle someone for some dumb shit, but I wasn’t going to these official battles. But definitely just going round the city to parties and just cyphing, just freestyling and cyphing and getting in the mix and shit. And getting my name known, at least among the youth. Because in the city it’s really interconnected with the kids – it’s not like you go to school and that’s it, it’s like everyone knows each other from the big ass parties. So it’s like I just made my name known amongst the youth.”
ven if he never gets a street named after him, it’s clear that Wiki is something special. It’s the combination of that old school classic sound and the contemporary crispness. This is someone with a prodigious aptitude for his chosen craft – though he is modest enough to attribute his success so far to a combination of skill, luck and youthful optimism. “I think I was lucky because I was young enough when I made it happen, or started to. Like, when you get older you have those thoughts [about the possibility of not making it]. When you’re in high school still you’re like, ‘hell yeah!’ And then when you get signed it’s like, ‘bet!’ It’s not like I was phased by like, ‘oh my God I’m 25 and I’m still trying to get somewhere,’ or whatever, you know what I mean? So I got lucky in that sense. I got lucky I think because I was good. And because I knew what the fuck to do and the people to work with and the right video to put out. And people saw something in me that they hadn’t seen in a long time, and also saw something new. I mean, it’s my skill that comes from all that, but I’m still lucky.” Wiki has been honing his flow since his early teens, when he’d freestyle with friends and at parties. He wasn’t exclusively into hip hop – he cites
Wiki is undeniably talented, but he has charisma too. He emanates a star quality that’s difficult to define: that thing some people call the ‘X factor’, which really just means he makes you think about having sex with him, even when he is the other side of a video connection, a few thousand miles away, looking at you like you might be insane when you ask whether he sampled a skit from Biggie’s ‘Life After Death’ in the break before the base drop on ‘Islander’ [the opening track on ‘No Mountains’]. Maybe that charisma is just city swagger, which he sees as part of his luck too. “I’m lucky I’m in the city because if I wasn’t in New York then what the fuck? But also I wouldn’t be anything if I wasn’t in New York because that makes me what I am, at the end of the day. And that makes you lucky, but that makes you dope too. Because the city is the culture. Like, if you’re in London you got all this culture to draw from. And I came up with the Internet but I don’t know how to use the Internet. I don’t know how to use computers – the city’s my biggest influence.” More than anything,‘No Mountains in Manhattan’ is a love letter to New York – after years of touring with
“New York makes you lucky, but that RATKING, Wiki was finally able to come home and settle back into city life, which had never really left him anyway. “I’m not ‘based’ in New York,” he tells me. “You know what I’m saying? You know how people be ‘based’ somewhere. Like, I grew up in New York. I dunno. I don’t wanna sound like a douche bag.” Hanging out at his place in China Town, collaborating with friends and soaking up the New York culture, he was inspired to reflect on his journey so far. “I just had to get this shit off my chest,” he tells me. “I feel like everything I’ve been through in the past – not been through like that, but just living my life. I had to get that off my chest. And just get to the point where I’m at now. Getting through the obstacles that stressed me out through the last year. And I’m feeling cool. I’m feeling good. For me that’s what it was. And that’s what I mean: I needed to get that off my chest. Start clean. Clean slate type shit. “The album we made, the whole thing we made in New York, pretty much everything. Whereas, like, my last album was a little bit more all over the place – ‘Lil Me’, I mean, I had shit and I was recording in London, recording in LA. It still sounds hella New York and there’s classic New York sounds on there, like ‘3 Stories’ and shit like that, because no matter what it’s always gonna be like that, but this one, really the whole story takes place in the city, you know what I’m saying? Pretty much. So it came from just working in New York: the people I ended up collaborating with were all New York artists and stuff. So I think that has a lot to do with it. You know, just being in the city – like the past four, five years I’ve been touring. So now, this is like the longest time I’ve been in New York for a long period of time, since I was kinda younger, just soaking all that up and that shit.”
here’s a surprising realness about Wiki. Most hip hop artists are at pains to emphasise their street credentials, and though Wiki is certain that he’s New York to the core, he is open about his affluent upbringing. He was raised on the Upper West Side, and educated at Brooklyn Friends, a fee paying Quaker school in Downtown Brooklyn. In previous interviews he has described himself as ‘upper middle class.’ “Y’all love the class.” He says when I ask about it, taking in my British accent. He shakes his head and leans forward, speaking frankly. “To me it’s just like, I came up on… it’s a mix. The city’s a mix. I came up with like kids
makes you dope too” who are really rich and kids from a lower income background.You meet… it’s like I said, you meet people from everywhere, just being in the city. And that exposes you to all kinds of shit. For me, even the spirit of my music. I come from like a Beastie Boys type background, just having fun. I was a punk when I was a kid, you know what I mean? I was like in a stupid ass punk band called the Homeboy Thugs. Shit like that. I just happened to be really good at spittin’ so that’s what helped me float to the top, if anything. Why I’m still doing it now, why I have success or whatever, you know what I mean? So that in itself, you have skill or whatever that’s gonna make people open to you. ‘Shit this dude can spit!’ – at the end of the day that’s what matters. I went to Brooklyn Friends, that’s where, I’m pretty sure, like, AdRock or some shit went there – one of the Beastie Boys went there, so it’s like that history, coming up from that scene. A bunch of my friends went to Bard, like those kids went to Bard too. I just see it as a resurgence of that. And even the team around me, how we do stuff. Like working with Ari Marcopoulos [the photographer who produced RATKING’S ‘Piece of Shit’ video], like, that fool was working with them back in the days, you know what I’m saying? So big up the Beastie Boys, you know what I’m saying. Respect due.” Not that Wiki’s realness is based on any kind of overt politics. When I ask whether the Ghostface lyric (‘Fox News got these wolves dressed as sheep’) on the track ‘Made for This’ is an attempt at a political statement he seems baffled. “For real?” he asks. “Political shit on the album?” He sighs heavily. “I feel I’m one of these people, I’m not the most read, or on this type of shit. So I don’t like to come out my face and say some dumb shit. But in general I feel like everything’s fucked up. Obviously. I’m not gonna try and talk to you about some specific shit, but just everything going on is kinda crazy. And it’s hard to cope, you know what I mean – accept it, almost. It’s like, ‘oh shit, this is fucked. What are we gonna do?’ I dunno?” He looks at me accusingly. “Y’all are in some shit too.” Another surprise is that, despite how wedded Wiki is to his hometown, he has ambitions to make his next album in London, now that he has got the New York record out of his system (and despite our political turmoil). “I’m tryna go back to London and tap into that a little bit more, make it a little bit more of a mixed record in that sense. And I’m also just tryna be on some real serious… not serious, but I
ain’t taking no names, you know. I’m going hard. I’m just gonna go hard. This [album], I just had to get this little story out the way. Like, it was important to get this one off, but the next one I just wanna start fresh and be like, I dunno. That’s what I mean; I have ideas.” He already has connections in the UK, having worked with established and up-and-coming grime and hip hop artists for the last few years, with RATKING and in his solo work. “I been around you know, all around,” he says when I ask how well he knows London. “I got homies out there, you know? I been going there for a long time and then a couple of years ago I spent a summer out there. Just recording and chilling and working and doing shows and that kinda shit. I just went out and did a show out there and we met them all – the first time we played a show out there, RATKING. And I knew King Krule fucked with our shit and we fucked with his shit, so his whole squad – he’s from out there, so his whole squad connected with our whole squad. “I worked with, uh, I got my man Suspect on the fucking bonus track on that record, called ‘Hey Now’. And I worked with Skepta, like a couple years ago I did the ‘That’s Not Me’ remix, and I got him on ‘Lil Me’, on this track called ‘God Bless Me’. I worked with Jesse James [Solomon] for a minute,
a b o v e: r a t k i n g i n n ew y o r k , 20 1 4. (l - R ) h a k , w i k i & s p o r t i n g l i fe.
that’s like the old homie. My man Jadasea. On the RATKING record we got a track with King Krule. I been working with those fools for a minute. My man Mack, I been working with him forever, that’s like my brother. I stayed at his mom’s crib, he’s stayed at my mom’s crib, you know what I’m saying? That type of shit.” For now though, it’s all about promoting and touring‘No Mountains’. “We’re gonna have crazy routines, next level visuals,” Wiki tells me. “We’re gonna have some patriotic type shit going on, you know what I mean? For the Wiki Nation. “I just want people to listen to the thing. Listen to the album.” He grins. “London will hold me down, you know what I’m saying? It’s all good. It’s all love. But yeah, just listen to it, because I feel like if you listen to it you’ll know I worked hard on it and whatever the fuck. And I think it not only means a lot to me, it might be relatable. You might be able to connect to it. I was saying this the other day – a lot of rap is like, people are like tryna get this fantasy off, you know what I’m saying? And it’s like the shit that would be my weakness I try to make my strength. It’s like when Kanye said, ‘everything I ain’t made me everything I am’, or something like that – when he was coming up and no one was liking him.” He shakes his head, looks down at his beer can. “I dunno. I’m talking shit now.”
Viv Albertine A life of nonconformity, and where our future rebels lie, if anywhere at all Photography: jonangelo molinari / writer: sam walton
Viv Albertine is not a musician. Briefly, in the late ’70s, when her band The Slits found themselves at the heart of punk, sharing bills with the Sex Pistols and The Clash and releasing ‘Cut’, the great art-rock record of its generation, she might’ve looked like one. She might’ve again in 2012, even more briefly, when she put out a low-key solo record about life as a middle-aged divorcee mother recovering from cervical cancer. Outside of those times, though, she never even listened to music, instead becoming a sculptor, a filmmaker, a keep-fit guru and most recently an author, finding a blunt, uncompromising but inclusive written voice with her memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys in 2014. But she’s not any of those things either. In fact, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what Viv Albertine is, except for someone who expresses herself, provokes, rebels and generally rejects any societal convention she deems pointless. We met at Primavera Sound, where Albertine was promoting the Spanish translation of her memoir with a Q&A session, but conversation soon turned towards her next book, an autobiographical piece of nonfiction called To Throw Away Unopened, which she says is a more reflective exploration of female expression than her memoir. That book featured in its first half gallons of blood, Sid Vicious teaching her how to fight and Johnny Rotten’s penis that smelt of stale urine, and, in its second, miscarriage, cancer and domestic abuse. It communicated something rather inspirational about the virtues of change, experience, maturity and bloody-mindedness. The new one, she says, is inspired by female writers who are “so far ahead of anything that white men are doing”, so in that sense, Albertine is carrying on what she began as part of The Slits: offering an honest, insurgent female voice for contemporary times. Just don’t ask her to pick up a guitar.
I don’t play any music anymore... I’m terrible. Either I’m 100% into it, or I’m not at all. Currently, I just feel that the whole genre of music for Western people doesn’t deliver what I’ve been brought up to expect, which is a sort of radicalness. I don’t think it’s an arena for that anymore – it’s not rebellious, it’s not radical. It’s a complete industry now, part of the entertainment industry, which is fine, but what slightly worries me is whether young people can discern what is manufactured and what is real rebellion. For instance, my daughter, when she was younger, would go and see [name redacted] – don’t mention his name! – a very upper-middle-class boy covered in tattoos singing in a mockney accent, and I wondered, could she tell the difference between someone who’s an entertainer taking on a persona and one who really lives it? I’m always quoting that Jack Black line from School of Rock, “you’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.” But we were hardcore – we lived that life. We were what we said we were. Now, you put on a leather jacket and you tear your jeans and you become a character, and people think you’re a rebel but you’re just donning a costume. I suppose some of the avant garde classical music is more interesting, and I do go to Cafe OTO from time to time and hear stuff there, but even there there’s something very precious about it all, and everyone’s white and middle class. You can’t divorce an art form from the people who watch it and arenas you see it in. There’s that saying about how something isn’t relevant unless it’s talking to the working classes, and I really feel that. It doesn’t matter how you dress, you won’t look alternative... Everything’s mainstream – you do something even vaguely transgressive and within six weeks it’s on a t-shirt in
TopShop. Business and commerce has realised that they can take dissent and turn it into money very quickly. And once that’s happened, society’s dead: everything a child tries to do to rebel is immediately turned into something you can sell, so that’s why I’m very wary of music now, and of art. Literature offers an avenue for subversion that pop music no longer can... It’s more authentic. I’m not wedded to music, I’m not wedded to filmmaking, I’m always just drawn to a medium that is the most interesting, so I shifted because I thought it was a more interesting medium to work with than three-minute songs. I love the long form – even though I used to love the constraints of a pop-song, I now feel I want to test myself and develop a thought or a theory over 400 pages. I love nonfiction particularly. I feel it’s really taken over from fiction. There’s too much stuff that has actually happened to read about stuff that hasn’t, and I like the resonance of things being true. The new book is autobiographical, and a little more reflective and unusual in its structure compared to the first book. I started off trying to write a fiction novel about a nasty middle-aged woman and then as I wrote, of course, I was like, ‘Viv, come on, it’s you!’ I’d been having these murderous thoughts, and I didn’t know if everyone had them so I thought I’d hide it all in fiction. But I decided against it and then the book became more about unveiling the horribleness in yourself, which I think the first book did to a certain extent, but this one does even more. I think women writing nonfiction is the most exciting thing that’s going on at the moment... and women of colour even more. I’m reading Rebecca Solnit, Maggie Nelson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –
all different kinds of writers. Some of them are quite academic and I find that quite hard, but I struggle through because I think it’s so exciting that a way of writing that’s billed as feminine or womanly is actually so far ahead of anything that white men are doing. I think it’s going to be so liberating for young white men just to take a step back, artistically, and stop putting out what they think is art and listen to other people in the world, because there’s just so much to learn. Even the structure of how these women are writing is new and different, and the way they use words is so different. Sometimes a whole book will almost feel like a musing, it’s so gentle. But I don’t mean “gentle” in a feminine way; it’s just so nuanced and different to a way that we expect art to be. The big question in the new book is what on earth made me that girl who picked up a guitar in 1976... I was working class and had no culture at home, so I have to trace it back to the way my mother brought me up. She was so determined, as I think a lot of women of that generation were, that her daughter wouldn’t live the constrained life that she did – so that generation of mothers after the war bore a generation of feminist, militant girls. She encouraged me to take risks all the time, which girls just didn’t do then, so she was always standing up for me and pushing me, and I failed and I failed and I failed and it’s not like I was a clever kid or a very artistic kid, but she never gave me the sense that I couldn’t reach for anything. She gave me this drive for things – that’s her drive. It’s her generation’s frustration. I’m trying to do the things that she was never able to do. There’s a Gloria Steinem quote, which is, “I’m living my mother’s unlived life,” and I think yeah, that’s me. Left to my own devices, I would be much more boring and lazy, but she pushed me to live the
tell me about it
life that she couldn’t, she stripped the fear out of me. And she rewarded me with love every time I took a risk, until in the end it felt normal, which was very unusual for girls at that time. She passed away in 2014, so I’m still processing it to a degree. When my daughter was 14... I thought back to Ari [Up] being 14, when she was in the band, and it was just so young. Looking back, I think almost everyone who was attracted to what is called ‘punk’ now had personality disorders, but we had no words for it then – no one bandied the word ‘autism’ around; there was no ADHD or Aspergers – so we just thought Ari was incredibly annoying, and the others in the band just thought I was anal. But we were all just on the spectrum in one way or another. Modern psychoanalysis and giving conditions names dilutes the intensity of that. It makes you less individual, in a way. In a way that’s a relief – for me it’s a relief to learn that I’m on the autistic spectrum, as it makes sense of my social difficulties in life – but at the same time it stops you being that strange peculiar person that you were. I mean, maybe if Ari knew that she was this or that, and was diagnosed and sent around to different doctors, things would’ve been different. But she wasn’t sent anywhere except the 100 Club, and expelled from school, as I was, which forced us into an alternative path. If we’d had a path that was medical, then that might’ve calmed us down. London felt utterly lawless in the ’70s... It was like the Wild West. It felt particularly terrifying for us girls to be dressed the way we were: police couldn’t care less about us – their take was that we had it coming and we looked like aliens – and the skinheads’ take was that if you’re not going to dress like ‘a woman’, we’re not going to treat you like a woman. The men in suits thought that if you want to look like that we can treat you like shit, and it was as if all the misogyny that was inside them could come out because we weren’t playing the game of looking like ‘a woman’ so now they could put all their hate onto us. The whole music business was run by men, whether it was DJs, A&R men, PR people, and the streets, the businesses, the schools, dentists, doctors, everything was run by men, and so we were hated. Hated. I never feel nostalgic for that time, because my daughter can walk down the street and be safer than I ever was. My mother used to have to come and meet me off the bus with a knife in her pocket, it was terrifying.
M et eu m qu i qu a m et q ui s qu o s s equ i c u m qu e c on s equ i s d i t o c c u s er r u m olu p i c i d qu a s r a e qu a m
abo v e: V i v a l b er t i n e in b et h n a l g r een , e as t l o n d o n .
I’m not a legend, but I do feel like a survivor... I mean, I’m exhausted, I’m absolutely shattered. It’s all very well saying live the dream, grab this and take risks, but there are consequences to living alternatively, or going against the grain. There is loneliness, there is illness, there are times when you’ve got no security. I mean, surviving cancer is one thing, but I’ve survived all the knocks too. Everyone has knocks in life, but I’ve put myself in the way of trouble non-stop. I still do it, I can’t help it. The new book looks at that, at how I’m still setting myself up for being knocked
down: I think I’m slightly addicted to it. It’s something that started quite young. In the sixties, everything was about rebelling – the counterculture was about rebelling against authority, about making unrest, and that’s sort of all I know, and I’m surprised by how much of a punk I still am – it just hasn’t gone away. I still adhere to the ethos of truth-telling, minimalism, using your own authentic voice, not becoming Americanised or whatever, questioning yourself, questioning everything around you, questioning authority, no heroes. My daughter finds it all very old-fashioned!
At home with Baxter Dury P hotography: timothy cochrane / writer: stuart stu bb s
Baxter Dury has lived around Ladbroke Grove all his life, except for when he briefly moved to the small market town of Tring, Hertfordshire, in 2015. “Around Brexit it all got a bit fucking weird and racist,” he says, so he moved back and started renting a small garden flat that he shares with his 14-year-old son, Cosmo. This is an area of town with a thousand pop culture watersheds; where Hendrix died; where indie labels began; where Carnival resets Kensington and Chelsea’s class divide once a year; where Mick Jagger looked so good in Performance; where punk was born; where Hugh Grant said “Whoops a daisy” as he vaulted a private garden in Notting Hill. “I am inherently part of this place,” Baxter tells me. “I’m jealous of the place where people who look like Kafka live, with their brown parcels and their rubbish bikes. I really am, and I can see that everyone in East London is in a
big, sexual, trendy omelette of fun… but I’m not in the omelette. But I have to, by tradition, stay here. I couldn’t leave. I’ve got a stupid name and I’m from this side. It’s buzzing over there, and it’s not here anymore – it’s just pastel jumper’d tourists.” There is no false pretence with Baxter Dury. He’s fully aware of who he is and his lineage – the son of Blockheads singer Ian Dury and artist Elizabeth “Betty” Rathmell, who met whilst studying at The Royal College of Art, with Peter Blake as their teacher. Blake remains a close family friend, which explains why various pieces of his work hang around Baxter’s flat, with more in storage. Baxter acknowledges his privilege and is funny with it. He’s funny with everything, including his forthcoming, fifth album, even if ‘Prince of Tears’ is a true heartbreak record. Not mooning, adolescent melancholia; grown up, adult despair and the horror of being
alone again. Baxter had a tough summer last year. “I almost flooded my flat with tears,” he says. “I got the Fire Brigade round to put out sandbanks around my emotions.” He came out the other side with his best collection of songs, where he sing-speaks not unlike his father over basslines made for midnight, traditional disco guitars and strings that placate the dread whilst simultaneously adding to it. Baxter embodies a twatty wideboy who thinks he’s a gangster on standout opener ‘Miami’ and explores depression on ‘Porcelain’ with Rose Elinor Dougall and love’s obsession on the too short ‘Almond Milk’ with Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson. There are smirking one-liners throughout, and the heaviness of love gone wrong. All written here in this modest flat in West London, although it could have easily come from your nearest big, sexual, trendy omelette of fun. 01. Plaster bust “This is my stepmother’s attempt at making an impression of me. I don’t really know what happened. I probably bailed out of it. I reckon I was around 14, because I’ve got this mad Chiswick afro – a post ecstasy haircut from the late ’80s. Even thought it’s incomplete I’ve kept it, because I’m sort of incomplete. It’s more representative that way. My stepmother, Sophie Dury, is from another big lineage of artists (her dad was the pop artist Joe Tilson). It goes on and on. We’re all a total conspiracy of cunts.”
opposite : Ba x te r d ur y in his we st lond o n f lat, w hich he de s c r ib e d as “ a t e r r orist ’s f r o nt r o o m . ”
02. Depressing radio “This is a fake radio, really. I love it. It’s total bullshit. It looks really old, but it’s not at all. It looks depressing and it only plays Radio 4, which is depressing. What I like about Radio 4 is that it’s a relief from everything. I find it celebrates the morose quite a lot, and that can be a bit oppressive, but it’s all I listen to. Radio 4 is fucking brilliant though, isn’t it? And fucking hilarious.”
03. Regina Greens painting “I used this as a record cover [2001’s debut ‘Oscar Brown’ EP] but it’s one of my old man’s paintings from the Royal College of Art, when he was being taught by Peter Blake. It sort of looks like a bloke, I think. I remember the NME called it ‘An unsavoury man in a pair of knickers.’ A lot of my dad’s paintings were really rude. This isn’t rude at all – they were usually really aggressive and they really swore. He was into naked black girls, basically. This is probably from the early ’60s so it would have been quite shocking. I mean, I think they all had a right laugh. You’re going to college next to the Albert Hall with Peter Blake as your teacher – you can have pretty much the best time you can imagine.” 04. ‘Handsome’ album cover painting “My mum was more of a traditional painter, and my dad really wanted to be more like her. He couldn’t compete, because she was really skilled. He was skilled, but more in design, and not on the same level as her. So this is dad’s first album cover, which my mum painted, when he was in Kilburn And The High-Roads. This is the original, painted from a medium format photo.”
05. Broken stage sign “This is a sign from when we supported Pulp at Brixton Academy when they reformed in 2012. It didn’t even survive the gig. The Baxter bit broke instantly but the Dury bit still works. I don’t think anything survived that gig – our drum kit fell apart. It was one of the worst gigs you’ve ever seen, and Pulp were so nervous about doing it, it wasn’t actually a very nice experience. I’ve become quite good mates with Jarvis and I went to see him do his show with Scott Walker the other day, and that was fucking amazing. He was with Scott Walker afterwards and I didn’t even know it was him. I thought it was just some homeless bloke. I thought, that was a weird dude, and then I saw a photo of him and was, like, ‘fuck!’ I’d been stood next to him all evening. I thought it was some annoying, moany bloke. I was like, ‘ok mate, can you go away. Jarv, Jarv, do you want a drink, Jarv?’ Being all obsequious.”
06. Hofner bass “Hofner gave me this. When you hear it, it all makes sense with the Paul McCartney thing. They’re really melodic things, and cheesy in a way. My son’s recently started picking it up, and he’s become completely obsessed. I’m shouting go to bed and you can hear all these Beatles basslines, and hearing them again, they are incredible. But what I’m trying to persuade my son to do is play all instruments. He’s way beyond where I was at his age. He’s in the game already, I think. It must be impossible to ignore, when you’re a kid and your dad plays music and your grandad did. How attractive that must be. It took me a long time to come around to it, but I had a totally different set of ego-centric circumstances around it. My old man was fucking crackers and he was allowed to be, and that was fine. I’m more a sympathetic, new generation dad. Dad was a thousand impulses and didn’t really know what the fuck he was doing; I’m more aware of it and trying to give Cosmo more choices. Around dad you didn’t have many choices. It was all about him.”
MY PLACE 07
07. Stiff Records Clock “This is the office clock from Stiff Records, which I nicked. Stiff was built around bands that couldn’t get signed anywhere else – people like dad and Elvis Costello. There’s a good documentary about the tours they did in the late ’70s – an ill-fated one on a coach, and then one on a train, where they chartered a train and went around the country. Imagine doing that now.”
10. Postcard of The Beatles “I’ve met Paul McCartney once, at Peter Blake’s 70th birthday, where he was given the Albert Hall for a party. It was incredible, with all these people from Peter’s life, from Twiggy to Paul McCartney. I said, ‘oh, hello Paul,’ and all he said to me was, ‘Ooooooh.’ But he went round to dad’s quite a lot when dad wasn’t well. He just suddenly turned up. ‘Hi, it’s Paul, do you mind if I come and visit you.’ My dad sat there all his life coating off The Beatles, but when he turned up he was like, ‘I love The Beatles.’ All our lives he’d criticised them, and then Paul comes round and makes a cup of tea, and suddenly it’s, ‘He’s a lovely geezer. British architect of modern music.’ Paul even came to my dad’s funeral.”
09. Miles Davis by Richard Dumas “Richard Dumas is a fucking incredible French photographer. He’s quite a strange cat. There’s something over sexualised about him. He might have an avocado in his pocket, if you know what I mean. He’s got a sexy vibe going on. He takes these amazing photos, and every now and then I’ll see him and he’ll give me one. Like, [adopts French accent] ‘I just found this. No one has it. Here, it’s for you.’ This is the last one he gave me. It says on the back it’s from 1989. Mile Davis was really angry when Richard took that, like, ‘What the fuck are you doing!?’ But how do you take that photo, that quickly? This guy is unbelievable.”
08. London Marathon Medals “I’ve done two marathons. The first one  I sort of enjoyed, and then the second one  I fucking hated it. I’ll never do it again. 40,000 of the most positive bunch of cunts you’ve ever met. I do weird things like that. On the last one, I stopped halfway through and went to the Red Cross to the medical tent. I thought, ‘fuck it, I’m going to feign an injury because I hate this so much.’ So I stopped at the medic and was doing all this shaking, and as I was sitting there some indie dude came up to me, all happy, and the only time it’s ever happened he said, ‘I love you so much, and it’s so amazing that you’re running for charity,’ and I was thinking, ‘fuck off mate, not now! I’m feigning an injury.’ But he carried on, so I jumped up, pushed the woman off me and carried on running, like, ‘you fucking bastard!’ And I finished it. What they don’t tell you about the Marathon is that at the end you go into this weird palace area, where people are all passed out and being treated with defibrillators, but by then you don’t give a fuck about anyone. It’s like surviving a ferry disaster.You’ve got no empathy anymore and you’re kicking defibrillators off people. There’s a chip in your shoe that triggers photos at different points, which you can buy at the end.The only one people bother with is the one crossing the finishing line, but on mine my face looked like a melted wheelie bin.”
11. Bobbie Rainbow “That’s a Peter Blake. The original in the 1960s was called ‘Babe Rainbow’ and he made some more prints on sheet metal in 2000. They’re female wrestlers. Peter was obsessed with wrestling, and he’s always giving stuff away. The positive thing about being related to artists is that you get a lot of amazing stuff.”
Reviews / Albums
0 7/ 1 0
LCD Soundsystem American Dream co lu mbi a By gr eg co ch ra ne . I n sto res se p t 1
LCD Soundsystem are one of the great stories of modern music. The Princeton muso DJ and record boss who formed a band, made three almost perfect albums, then orchestrated a departing global victory lap that concluded at his home city’s most iconic venue, surrounded by his peers, friends and 20,000 fans. No-one does that. Mostly because no-one gets the chance to do that. Poetic. Final. Except, it wasn’t, and some people got angry – people who’d paid a lot of money to see James Murphy shower the crowd with white balloons and dance with Win Butler at Madison Square Garden in 2011. You can’t have a “funeral”, then come back five years later and play Coachella yelled the Internet commentators in ANGRY CAPS. It turns out the urge to reinstate the project was greater than the
threat of smudging their legacy. Murphy posted about his reasons on Facebook, sure, and the reunion shows have been the best of their career but there’s the odd moment on ‘American Dream’ where it feels like he’s wrestling with his decision. Like, well, ‘Change yr Mind’: “I ain’t seen anyone for days / I still have yet to leave the bed / It’s impossible/ Feeling safe with it now / I’m impossible / Getting used to it now.” Later, adding: “I just got nothing left to say / I’m in no place to get it right / and I’m not dangerous now / The way I used to be once.” Murphy doesn’t spend the LP banging on about it, but if there’s one pervading feeling it’s that he needs LCD Soundsystem. The good news is that, after a short wait, ‘American Dream’ exists. The not-so-good news is that it’s LCD’s weakest album.That, however,
is like saying ‘Abbey Road’ is The Beatles’ fourth best album. It’s obviously still great, and not just because it’s just there. The basics: Most of the 10 songs here are around five minutes long or more. There’s little reminiscent of the tempo of ‘Daft Punk Is Playing In My House’, ‘Tribulations’ or ‘North American Scum’ ¬– most of it is driven by a middle-distance groove. It begins with the brooding ‘Oh Baby’, and slides into ‘Other Voices’. Both tracks feel like warm-ups for something deeper, darker. That comes in the form of ‘I Used To’ and ‘Change yr mind’ ¬– both borrowing from opposing chapters of his friend David Bowie’s canon. In fact, in a way, Bowie’s spirit can be felt throughout: in feel, music, delivery. In the centre there’s the 10-minutelong ‘How Do You Sleep’. It’s the classic LCD slow-build, sliced open
with that crisp, iconic drum sound. It’s the first real moment that that giant disco ball starts spinning, and an album highlight. Then ‘Tonite’, which superficially could be a smarter-than-thou dig at mainstream pop music (“everybody’s singing the same song”) that serves as a inroad to a song about mortality. ‘Call The Police’ and ‘American Dream’ you’ve heard.The former’s great, the latter’s alright. Things wrap with the ‘Drunk Girls’-esque ‘Emotional Haircut’, a track with a scuzzy outro which is like U2 at their wildest, and ‘Black Screen’, which Stranger Things would pinch were it not set in 1983. All told, if ‘American Dream’ is James Murphy’s Difficult Fourth Album, then it’s a pass. A victim of his own high standards? Maybe, a touch. But, just like their first send-off, who gets the privilege to say that?
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Hype Williams Rainbow Edition bi g d ada By st uar t S tubbs. In sto re s aug 25
It’s easy to get bogged down by the contrary story of Hype Williams because it’s still so much fun. It’s exactly what they want, or don’t want, or did want but don’t anymore, which is perhaps why ‘Rainbow Edition’ comes with a reminder that Hype Williams no longer consists of its only two members – trolls of Internet music in their own rights and through their own solo careers, Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. Via the project’s official spokesperson Denna Frances Glass, who still might be completely fictitious, it was announced last year with the self-released ‘10/10’ album that Hype Williams were back but that Blunt and Copeland were no
longer involved. “But the ting continues regardless with other cats,” they said. These cats might be the two guys in this new photo, but I wouldn’t count on it. ‘Rainbow Edition’ is sticking with that story. Kinda. It’s been delivered with a note stating that 2011’s ‘One Nation’ LP was the last time Blunt and Copeland were involved in Hype Williams recordings, but also goes on to say: “any Hype Williams releases you’ve heard are FAKE. Bare Paigons.” Presumably, that includes all previous albums made by the two members we definitely know of. Effectively, it seems like Hype Williams has been restored to factory settings. It’s a compelling
thought, especially for an electronic art project that’s always rejected identity and playfully exploited the clandestine nature of the Internet, disappearing online rather than plotting for fame and followers. The flaw in the plan isn’t that the runaround detracts from the music rather than untethering it from known cult characters like Blunt and Copeland (that might even be their real desired effect), it’s that ‘Rainbow Edition’ sounds so distinctly like a Hype Williams album. ‘10/10’ almost did, but, full of straighter instrumentals and platform-game loops, it was believable that “other cats” were now at the wheel. Maybe they’ve just got better at aping the
group’s founders, or maybe Blunt and Copeland never left Hype Williams at all. ‘Loud Challenge’ supports the former idea, building on the Prince of Persia video game feel, while the female vocal on ‘TheWhole Lay’ sounds a lot like Copeland. ‘Ask Yee’’s answer-phone message vocals are then reminiscent of those from Blunt’s LP ‘The Redeemer’, even if the trap beat isn’t. Although lighter in its detached emotional touch, whoever’s making this, the mystery of the music dovetails with the puzzle of Hype Williams as perfectly as it ever has – 20 weird ideas of hypnagogic pop at different stages of gestation. It’s not all about the music though, is it?
Reader, do you know what it is to be loveless? That drowning, yearning, precise hollow of loneliness; how you are swamped with romanticism despite yourself – the way memories from your childhood spatter up, between lovers, like hot oil (‘Is this why?’ you think to yourself. ‘Is this why I’m all alone?’), reminding you that maybe you are irrevocably damaged. That maybe you’ll never find love? No? As you were then. Perhaps ‘Aromantic’ is not for you.
For me though, Moses Sumney’s debut album for Jagjaguwar comes as close to capturing the transient, longing liminality that is the experience of looking for love in the twenty-first century as anything I’ve ever heard. The track titles (‘Don’t Bother Calling’, ‘Lonely World’, ‘Make Out in My Car’, ‘The Cocoon Eyed Baby’, ‘Doomed’) could caption almost anyTinder date you’re likely to experience, while the piercing, desperate melodies get right underneath that acute, most
essential human need for connection. Yes, sometimes Sumney – who’s risen on the LA scene since 2014 – has the propensity to go a little dramatic, like when he keens (“All my old lovers / have found others” on ‘Indulge Me’), and have you seen the video for ‘Doomed’, where he floats, lifelessly, in a tank for four minutes, longing for “inverted tongue”? But if overdramatic and self-indulgent are not the essence of the millennial dating experience, then I’ve been doing it wrong for years.
0 7/ 1 0
Moses Sumney Aromanticism Ja g ja guwar By k ati e be swi ck. In sto re s se p t 22
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
Deerhoof Mountains Move
Nadine Shah Holiday Destination
Kedr Livanskiy Ariadna
L u cky Me
Jo yfu l N o i s e
By J oe Goggi n s . In sto re se p t 8
B y R o s i e ram s d e n. In s to re s s e pt 8
By de re k ro b e rts o n. I n s t o r es a u g 2 5
B y gu ia c o r t a s s a . I n s t o r es s ep t 8
Canadian trap star Lunice (his real name) seems to have taken forever to put out his debut album and on finally listening to it, you wonder whether it’s because he was attempting to make it the most theatrical gesture possible. Played loud, as he’s clearly intended for it to be, it less immerses you and more pummels you into submission in kind of the same way that ‘Yeezus’ did – sparse, aggressive beats are the name of the game, and the clattering style of his TNGHT collaborator Hudson Mohawke is a clear influence. He worked on ‘CCCLX’ all over the world and it shows in terms of the diverse cast of supporting characters that pop up, with mixed results; fellow Montreal up-and-comer CJ Flemings is on incendiary form on ‘Freeman’, but the dancehall-flecked ‘Distrust’ wastes the considerable talents of Denzel Curry. ‘CCCLX’ is wildly ambitious and therefore there are misses to go with the hits, but Lunice’s vision is considerable and it could yet prove overwhelming in a live setting, with a dramatic stage show promised.
Unlike 2016’s ‘The Magic’, written and recorded in one single whirlwind week, a quick-time coagulation of the creativity that streams eternally through Deerhoof’s band members, ‘Mountain Moves’ is a collaborative effort. In an expectedly unexpected move, Deerhoof have succeeded in producing a masterwork of art rock bricolage with the help of strangers and pals alike, and even, at points, covering the likes of Bob Marley and Chilean folk hero Violeta Parra. The result? An unpredictable, winding exploration of the mainstream monoculture and innovative subculture symbiosis, which, as becomes clear, is not necessarily an advantageous one. Occupying both worlds simultaneously in order to wholeheartedly celebrate the latter, Deerhoof strive to broaden the reach of their music on ‘Mountain Moves’, which with its myriad voices, fast becomes an in road to, and embodiment of, communal conversation. Exploring fresh musical territories without leaving tradition behind following a twodecade career, ‘Mountain Moves’ is the LP of a band at their peek.
If you’re still trying to get over the annus horriblis that was 2016, then 2017 hasn’t provided much comfort thus far. But if last year was our collective nadir, then at least it spurred many artists, politicians and activists into action, to try and affect change. People like Nadine Shah. “Artists need to document the times they live in,” she recently stated in an interview, and ‘Holiday Destination’, her third album, is a bold, heartfelt beast that wears its politics and defiance firmly on its sleeve. The Calais refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war, the rise of nationalism, societal pressure and mental health (the driving theme of Shah’s ‘Love Your Dum and Mad’ debut) are just some of the global issues that inspired the record, but her songs are neither rage-fuelled nor preachy. Instead, she opts for brutal honesty, Shah pulling no punches; “The bad guys are winning,” she laments on the title track, a sharp, fizzing post-punk anthem. Such uptempo urgency is a recurring theme, and being fired-up and engaged suits the artist well; her voice has never sounded so vital, her compositions never hitting as hard.
“Synthesizers help me maximally feel the present moment.” It’s with this quote that Kedr Livanskiy explains her approach to music making. After her ‘January Sun’ debut, an EP entirely recorded and produced with Ableton, the Russian songwriter and producer has been working with “real” instruments (a Roland SH-101, a Roland Juno 106 and a Korg Minilogue) on this, her debut album, achieving a more elegant sound than she has before. Gaining in nuance hasn’t made the music lose its power, though: ‘Za Oknom Vesna’ has a hypnotic house beat, while ‘ACDC’, featuring Martin Newell reading William Blake, is reminiscent of Fatboy Slim’s big beat. It’s in tracks like ‘Sad One’, with its mellow psychedelic shades, or the elegant, dreamy synth-pop combination of the opening title track and ‘Sunrise Stop’, that the new sound shows its full potential. There’s still room to grow for the Moscow producer, but she’s already a big step forward: from the harsh Russian winter to the magic of Romanticism, smoothing the rough edges off her peculiar sonic adventure.
Repeating “I wanna destroy” with increasing levels of distortion is a painfully direct response to male violence, poverty and misplaced patriotism. It also offers a threeword summary of EMA’s third album, which is dense with the claustrophobia of alienation. Modular synth drones are layered with heavy guitar riffs, multi-tracked backing vocals and repetitive drum programming, until nearly all space is squeezed out of the album’s eleven tracks.
Unafraid to “run away to the darkest place,” Erika M. Anderson nonetheless turns this heaviness into an affirmation of life.The squalls of guitar and ’90s dance beats on ‘Fire Water Air LSD’, for instance, have the exhilaration of ‘Reverence’era Jesus And Mary Chain while the addictively droning synth that underpins ‘Breathalyzer’ is reminiscent of when Curve seemed destined for greatness. Dig under the gothic layers and the Nine Inch Nails-thrash that’s
epitomised by ‘33 Nihilistic and Female’ and there’s also plenty of prettiness here too. The clean, circular guitar line on ‘Always Bleeds’ and the plaintive ballad that’s hidden under the noise rock of ‘Blood And Chalk’ are cases in point. The album closes with the spoken word ‘WhereThe Darkness Began’, a track that captures Middle America with the minimal realism of Willy Vlautin. That it does so with a combination of humanity and rage is central to its success.
0 7/ 1 0
EMA Exile On The Outer Ring C i t y s lan g By s u s an dar li ngto n. In sto re s a ug 25
Chad VanGaalen Light Information
Jack Cooper Sandgrown
The National Sleep Well Beast
C as tl e F a ce
Su b Po p
t ro u bl e i n mi nd
By H arley cas s i d y. In sto re s a ug 25
B y R o s i e rams d e n. I n s t o re s S ept 8
By ch ri s wat k e ys . I n s t o r es a u g 2 5
B y r ee f y o u n is . I n s t o r es S e pt 8
‘Orc’ is Oh Sees’ (the chopped the Thee) 19th album in ten years and, for the most part, sees the band sticking to what they know best; eccentricity, face-melting riffs and adopting as many aliases as a Russian sleeper spy. Despite the prolific, winning formula, there’s still an element of a constantly evolving beast to the band that will keep you interested right through to the very end. The album has shaken off the excess of precious reverb and yielded to more rich and complex tracks: ‘Nite Expo’ is pure ADHD in form, Dan Rincon’s and Paul Quattrone’s dual, interlocking drums are best appreciated on the lysergic ‘Jettison’ and John Dwyer can flit from menacing roar on ‘Animated Violence’ to creepy cooing on ‘Drowned Beast’ in an instant. Generally, there’s something quite tainted about the sound of the album in its entirety, like an evil pleasure bubbling under the surface. Chances are, anyone who worships at the altar of stoner rock will just be happy that the band have provided another chaos-inflected album following last year’s confused ‘An Odd Entrances’.
This dark-wave album from Calgaryborn musician, visual artist and director Chad VanGaalen is, according to the man himself, one about “not feeling comfortable with really anything.” Despite that, however, his seventh album is saturated with the sentimental. A complex interplay of light and dark sits at the thematic heart of this record, with VanGaalen stepping away from his preoccupation with alienation and embracing emotions that span the spectrum; disembodiment, intimacy, paranoia, and playfulness, to name a few. VanGaalen further takes his musical direction into a fresh realm here with regards to its experimental nature and independent creation. Indeed, while in ‘Static Shape’ he recruits his young daughters Ezzy and Pip to sing vocals (too cute?), on other tracks he introduces a Korg 770 monosynth dug from the deepest depths of his hoarder’s garage studio. It’s all the culmination of six years work predating 2014’s ‘Shrink Dust’ LP; a warming and human collection of feelings and experiences from real relationships.
Some albums possess an incredibly strong sense of time and place, and this – Jack Cooper’s solo debut – is one of them, based as it is upon the Blackpool haunts and environs of his youth. Musically, opener ‘North Of Anywhere’ bears strong hallmarks of Cooper’s songwriting style when with his band Ultimate Painting; stylistically it’s something like a Richard Hawley song covered by Pavement, with a lazy tempo and a wandering solo. And Cooper’s talent really does bear comparison with heavyweights such as Hawley. This record is awash with that timeless brand of classic songwriting that runs through the ages, although ‘Sandgrown’ isn’t overly soaked in sepia tones, with songs like ‘On A Pier In The Wind’ feeling evocative yet immediate. A vaguely stoned quality creeps in at times, as on the immersive, repetitive riff on ‘A Net’, while ‘Memphis, Lancashire’ has a shimmering vocal melody and a verse which sounds like ‘Hotel California’ moving through syrup. ‘Sandgrown’ is a record that feels effortless, crafted, and at times quite sublime.
Seven albums in, The National were never going to throw up too many surprises, particularly after the ubiquitous success of previous album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, which all but confirmed their long-played status as the dapper kings of elegant insecurity. Where that album had hallmarks that made 2005’s ‘Alligator’ and 2007’s ‘Boxer’ staples of most 30-something’s record collections, ‘Sleep Well Beast’ sticks to the idea that if you sit with a National album long enough, it’ll always reel you in. Matt Berninger continues to stand tall as the charismatic conductor, his talk of love, loss, wine and weed making him the most interesting person at the dinner party. Still sounding like your best hangover, his baritone register rumbles low over the tumultuous guitar of ‘Turtleneck’, hangs heavier than the dead air of a phone break-up on ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ and towers high on the anthemic ‘Day I Die’. It leaves ‘Sleep Well Beast’ split somewhere between sadness and triumph, but an eloquent reminder that The National still do despondency more elegantly than anyone else.
“There’s acoustic guitar all over this record! How ridiculous is that?” exclaims Angus Andrew of the latest collection of Liars songs. And, considering he locked his six-strings away circa 2010, ‘TFCF’ (I don’t know either) does represent a certain return to more traditional sounds. But if any of youTurin Brakes fans out there are starting to salivate, don’t. Despite the fact that Liars is now essentially a solo project, ‘TFCF’ feels like a greatest hits of all the sounds the band had been honing
since the back-end of the ’90s. Closest in character to the restless post-rock of 2006’s ‘Drum’s Not Dead’, its spurts of pummelling percussion are underpinned by fragile, melancholy chords, giving ‘TFCF’ an eerie tension that is never quite resolved. And yet, while that tension is the thread that pulls the collection together, it covers a serious range of genre ground. Disco-house (‘Staring At Zero’) gives way to dance-punk (‘Cred Woes’), which gives way to
folk-cum-synthpop (‘No Help Pamphlet’). But it is ‘Ripe Ripe Rot’, a tender love letter to letting go underpinned by brittle synths – and perhaps the album’s simplest song which shines brightest. So this is yet another excellent Liars album in an unbroken line of excellent Liars albums stretching back almost 16 years. Treasure this band, because like countless other musicians who went unappreciated at the heights of their creative peaks, one day Liars will be gone.
Liars TFCF mu te By davi d Zammi tt. In st o re s a ug 25
Hundred Waters Communicating
Lower Slaughter What Big Eyes
Robert Sotelo Cusp
The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding
Up se t the rhythm
By Gemm a sa mways. I n sto re s se p t 15
B y ma x P i l l e y. I n s to re s s e pt 1 5
By Li a m Ko ne ma nn. In s to r es S ep t 1
B y dav id z a m m it t . I n s t o r e s aug 2 5
Hundred Waters have always been a singular proposition, putting out Pitchfork-approved electro-folk via Skrillex’s EDM imprint OWLSA. ‘Particle’, from May’s ‘Currency EP’, was the first sign the Florida group might be seeking to narrow the chasm between the two worlds, upping the BPM with a crepuscular take on a tropical bop. It isn’t the poppiest thing on this third LP, either. That distinction belongs to ‘Wave To Anchor’, which is powered by the sort of buoyant, ’90s house piano that wouldn’t seem amiss slotted onto Coldplay’s most recent album. As a two-pronged introduction to what is essentially a soul-bearing break-up record, both songs feel misjudged. ‘Communicating’ is far stronger when its creators play to their strengths, rather than focus their energies on widening their audience, and Nicole Miglis’ emotionally bruised half-whispers are infinitely more suited to intimate arrangements. The best of these are ‘Blanket Me’ and the title track, both of which are built around piano and embellished with haunting electronics and mantra-like pleas.
Brighton’s Lower Slaughter have never met a riff that they couldn’t riff on top of. The four-piece’s debut album is an almighty festival of sludgy, muscular guitars and screamo vocals that is fast and furious and for anyone too young to remember Nirvana the first time around. Aside from a brief guitar instrumental, the band only take interest in one gear, and that is full throttle and very loud. From the assertive, speed riffage of ‘Tied Down’ to the indefatigable howl of ‘Call From The Abyss’, ‘What Big Eyes’ gives the same thrill you might expect to get from clinging to the roof of a bullet train whilst listening to Pissed Jeans. Amidst the fun and games of this grungy hardcore punk, though, singer Sinead Young takes the chance to vent her real anger. “We’re trying to fix our lives, but we just don’t have the riches / We’ve been dying like this for years,” she screams on ‘Take It’. On standout track ‘Earth Seed’, over apocalyptic drums and scorched-earth guitar, she declares, “In order to rise from its own ashes, first a phoenix must burn.” This is catharsis in youthful noise.
Robert Sotelo makes no secret of his influences. His debut album draws heavily on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s years, with tracks like ‘Bring Back The Love’ and ‘Tenancy Is Up’ loaded with wonky psychedelia. Unfortunately, while Sgt Pepper’s was forward-facing, Robert Sotelo has left ‘Cusp’ bogged down in the past. The record is muted where it could shine, and at times seems to move at half speed. One exception to this is ‘Let’s Transcend’, which is livelier than the rest of the album and hints at Sotelo’s true ability. He has played every instrument on the record himself – no mean feat by anyone’s standards – but it is only on ‘Let’s Transcend’ and ‘Dance’ that his musicality is given room to breathe. Lyrically the record has a tendency towards navel-gazing, as Sotelo navigates a mid-30s crisis and explores the mundanities of everyday life. This is taken to excess on the stripped-back ‘Marinade’, but gentle album closer ‘Brother Yr Complicated’ is handled with a lighter touch. ‘Cusp’ could have benefitted from less of the former and more of the latter.
Right, hear me out.TheWar On Drugs are a decent band and Adam Granduciel and has put together some very good songs. But when you put ten of them side by side, I lose the will to live. And don’t get me wrong, right? I’m all for a bit of reverb. But when I’m exposed to it for over an hour I start to feel a little nauseous. As though every sound I might ever hear for the rest of my life will have just a wee bit of reverb on it. I imagine the final lines of conversations with checkout staff recurring for a few extra milliseconds; people’s sneezes reverberating like they’re headlining Wembley. But the biggest problem with ‘A Deeper Understanding’ isn’t how over-long it is – it’s the sheer inevitability of it all. ‘Strangest Thing’, for example, is a microcosm of Granduciel’s technique. It meanders along for three whole minutes and yet you just know it’s going to explode; an obelisk of guitar solos stretching valiantly towards the sky. It sounds emotional but on this fourth album it just feels hollow. This is exactly the kind of thing that led to punk. Can someone please provide the antidote?
Alex Cameron is a highly sexualised dude. You would be too if you looked and danced like him – a stringy guy from Sydney who’s all legs and is constantly pointing his toes and flexing his knees to pull his jeans tight across his thy. It still feels kinda incongruous when he sings about “pussy” on his second album, though, ultimately down to the style of music he makes (’80s AM, white road pop), rather than how much he’s getting. There’s maybe a double standard there, like how we wouldn’t have
stood for ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ if it had come from Noel Gallagher. Cameron doesn’t care because it allows him to fuck with us; something that he’s always done in an incredibly entertaining and dry way. ‘Forced Witness’ is full of “pussy” and what feels like a hundred double-take lyrics capable of ghosting past you whilst you’re distracted by the endless melodies. He really does sing ‘I got shat on by an eagle, baby,’ on ‘Stranger’s Kiss’; a duet with Angel Olsen where the pair mutually
celebrate baulking commitment. ‘I want you to say that my face has a Beckham-like quality,’ he insists on ‘Marlon Brando’, just before he holds his hands up to a homophobic slur from earlier. Sex is all over the place, even on the cheesy bossanova of ‘Hacienda’ and of course on breathy modern soul pastiche ‘Studmuffin96’. And somewhere between the stadium pop of Heart and the dive-bar dirt of Springsteen, Cameron is undeniable in craft, humour and sax solos.
Alex Cameron Forced Witness S e cr et l y ca n a dia n By rac h el r edfern. I n sto res se p t 8
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Carmen Villain Infinite Avenue
The OBGMs The OBGMs
Ghostpoet Dark Days and Canapes
Sma l l t o w n S upe rs o und
Bl a c k Bo x
B y s usa n d a rl i ngt o n. In s t o re s s e pt 2 2
By M ax P i l l e y. I n s t o re s S ep t 8
B y ch r is watk ey s . I n s t o r es n o w
Carmen Villain is being hard on herself when she confesses, “I’ve got potential but there’s demons in me.”The latter may be true but on her second album the Oslo-based musician shows more than promise. Where her 2013 debut ‘Sleeper’ was compared to Royal Trux and Sonic Youth, her follow up takes on a more reflective tone. At times this straddles the ground between psychedelic folk and ambient (the title track), while at others it recalls the dream-pop of Cigarettes After Sex (‘Red Desert’). In the cracks between these ethereal wafts, however, there lurks unease in the dense layers of sound she builds. This is where pianos echo desolately, instruments quietly distort with anxiety, and muffled drum patterns shuffle. It’s a millennial disquiet that’s heard to striking effect on ‘Borders’. A nightmare of half seen shadows that features Jenny Hval on co-vocals, it sits mid-way between Warpaint and Lykke Li. With its whispered lyrics and insistent, muted drums it’s as genuinely disturbing as the rest of the album is beautifully sad.
Precisely one nanosecond of The OBGMs’ debut album passes before the pummelling begins, and from there on out this 25-minute sprint rarely stops for breath. The Toronto quartet have been sharpening their tools for a decade, but their journey has been unconventional. Starting as a rap trio, frontman Densil McFarlane chose to learn guitar and dive headlong into the renowned Toronto punk scene. Finally, with veteran hand Dave Schiffman at the mixing desk, The OBGMs have made a captivating and subtly varied debut that can rub shoulders with any of their contemporaries. Templatesetting opener ‘Beat Up Kidz’, as well as ‘Crack Loop’ and ‘Pill’, are calling cards, capturing the band’s high-speed garage punk in a familiar, somewhat traditional form; McFarlane’s buzzsaw guitars in a duel to the death with drummer Colanthony Humphrey’s compact jabs.They are unafraid of flirting with a pop sensibility too: ‘Torpedo’ and ‘House’ marry that intensity with a desire to sink sharp melody hooks into the listener’s cranium, all while obeying a punk doctrine of economy.
Ghostpoet is one of those artists who always seems to carry with him an unwavering, and deserved, level of respect, both from peers and critics alike. This fourth album sees the Londoner develop his sound again to a more instrumental-based backdrop. ‘Many Moods At Midnight’ is darkly epic, with a foreboding musical bed of piano and dark guitar, and this closed-in feeling is reflected in songs like ‘Karoshi’. There are unexpected moments of simple beauty, too, as on the sad strings and quiet melancholy of ‘Blind As A Bat’. The lyrics are in keeping with their musical bedrock – ‘End Times’ sees Obaro Ejimiwe opine that “it won’t go away swallowing these pills”. The album has a nearly static pace. At times this slowly builds the atmosphere, at others it means it feels a touch flat. But you couldn’t describe this music as low key; rather, it’s consistently dark and claustrophobic. There are often glimpses of a waiting flood of climactic noise, but only a little seeps through; it’s a feeling of power, only just kept in check by a guy out there on his own.
Plenty of bands have standout records in their catalogues, but few more dramatically than The Horrors. How did the same outfit responsible for the spiky, primitive ‘Strange House’ follow it up so sumptuously with the sublime ‘Primary Colours’? And even more perplexingly, how did they go on to follow it with the meandering ‘Skying’, and then the listless ‘Luminous’, and now, at the third time of asking, with an album as milquetoast as ‘V’? ‘Primary Colours’ fizzed with
such intense urgency that the veritable parade of complacency since is quite incredible, even if it’s well in line with frontman Faris Badwan’s announcement in 2015 to NME that the politics of the day don’t affect him. It’s never a good sign when a group lazily title an album after how many they’ve released, with recent proof being Wavves’ own ‘V’ or Bloc Party’s ‘Four’, and that lack of ideas runs right through this record. Lumbering opener ‘Hologram’ sets the tone, and its
murky, repetitive beds of synth form the basis of much of the record. To Badwan’s credit, his vocals still soar, but there’s not much on ‘V’ that we haven’t heard before and the worst part is that when there is, it’s deeply ill-advised – see the disastrous stab at new wave that is ‘Press Enter to Exit’. You get the sense that The Horrors still have greatness in them (see Tom Furse’s experimental solo album and Badwan’s work in Cat’s Eye) but it’s not here.
Night Night At The First Landing c o mpa n y By al e x wi s gar d. In sto re s se pt 1
Many indie rock musicians claim to be multi-hyphenates: producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. Yet Madeline Kenney might be the genre’s only qualified neuroscientist and professional baker on top of her musical exploits. Her debut album shows a restlessly inquisitive mind at work, feeling out genres and sounds for its thirty-minute runtime. Although ‘Night Night at the First Landing’ is bookended by post‘Blonde’ interludes ‘Don’t Forget // There’s Room’ and ‘Give Up // On Anything’ – all spoken word samples, stacked vocal harmonies and atmospheric, barely-there drum patterns – everything in between is woozy, deconstructed fuzzy pop. The nonchalantly bratty lead single ‘Rita’ comes on like Beach House with a Big Muff pedal, while there are shades of Mitski in Kenney’s deadpan lyrical humour: “My other car is your face,” she demurs on Yo La Tengoesque highlight ‘Big One’, “It drives me wild.”Tracks like ‘Uncommon’ get a little too vague for their own good, but Kenney’s ‘First Landing’ is still a compelling, curious debut.
0 4/ 1 0
The Horrors V Xl By joe goggi n s . I n sto re s e pt 22
Albums 0 4/ 1 0
The Fresh & Onlys Wolf Lie Down
Hannah Peel Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
Widowspeak Expect The Best
Hercules & Love Affair Omnion
C a p ture d Tra c k s
By h arl e y c as s i d y. I n s to r es a u g 2 5
B y s t eph en b u tch a r d . I n s t o r es s ep t 1
Travelling to another dimension is something many musicians and composers try to achieve with their work, but few of them have gone as far as Hannah Peel has with and her third solo album – ‘Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia’ is one of the best spacecrafts ever built. Conceived as a seven movement odyssey that “explores one person’s journey to outer space, by recounting the story of an unknown, elderly, pioneering, electronic musical stargazer and her lifelong dream to leave her terraced home in the mining town of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, to see Cassiopeia for herself,” this album was composed for analog synthesizers and a full brass band, creating a cinematic scope of rare depth and intensity, reminiscent of both Goblin and Ennio Morricone, surrounding the listener with the infinite embrace of deep space. Moving and majestic, the orchestral score and the electronic parts complement each other, creating the most astonishing soundtrack for the ultimate trip outside the atmosphere.
I once read somewhere that Widowspeak sound “as if Stevie Nicks farted out Mazzy Star”, which is neither entirely true nor entirely false. The band, for all their woozy wistfulness, have always retained a strong heritage rather than being an overly-referential sum of their influences, especially in this new album. Their fourth release with Captured Tracks, the label responsible for all your dream-pop desires, is their most dynamic yet and a strong signifier of the band’s live shows. “I struggle with this compulsion to pull away from people,” says singer Molly Hamilton of the album, “to pull away from the things I enjoy doing,” and this hypothesis is stamped all over ‘Expect The Best’, especially the gauzy ‘Good Sport’ where she defies, “I’m not gonna sit this one out.” The best moments arise when their orbit expands: their lush melancholy is texturized on ‘The Dream’ and you feel a real, driving sense of purpose on ‘When I Tried’. It’s a bit of a surprise when each track ends because you expect that their velvety landscape could go on forever.
Every Hercules and Love Affair album is a celebration – of dance music, of queer experience, of pleasure. ‘Omnion’ is no different. Its eleven tracks move between vibrant house, disco and new wave, its rotating cast of guests offering their own distinct quality to these throwback tracks. It’s familiar territory, delivered with vision and charisma. ‘Omnion’’s first five songs are among the strongest the project has recorded. Sharon Van Etten’s melancholic performance on the title track is gorgeously paired with floating synths and a dramatic structure that builds with horns and warm bass. Faris Badwan of The Horrors takes the reigns on ‘Controller’, a slice of dance-pop indebted to Soft Cell. It’s as stark and carnal as it is catchy. It’s not the only time the project flaunts its influences, with New Order and Prince shining through the electrogospel jam ‘Rejoice’. The album loses some of its spark in its second half, when the formula is repeated too often. But even in these moments, it’s a classy, passionate homage to dance music history.
Los Angelino psychedelicists Wand released their first three records in just 13 months, but have taken almost double that time to produce album number four. However, what initially appears to be an uncharacteristic delay reveals itself as a satisfying emergence of patience and maturity, and an enjoyable move toward rather classic songwriting and album construction. Accordingly, where the band’s last album, ‘1,000 Days’, bounded
straight into barrelling riffage and only let up half an hour later, ‘Plum’ opens with a neatly palatecleansing drone, and also inserts both a mid-way interlude and a gently contemplative miniature before allowing the final pair of tracks, which take up more than a third of the LP, to spiral into the sunset. This sort of architecture not only makes ‘Plum’ pleasingly digestible, but also renders the intervening three sections more substantial, allowing the band’s
improved songwriting to stand out: in particular, the counterpoint of the Beatlesy title track becomes a gorgeous surprise, there are welcome energy boosts found in the intensity of both ‘Bee Karma’ and ‘White Cat’, and the sighing melancholia of ‘The Trap’ and ‘Driving’ is as wistful as it is warm. It all makes for an achievement that feels worth the wait: it may have had a long gestation by their standards, but in ‘Plum’ Wand have made their first true great.
Si n der l y n By al ex wi s gard. I n sto re s a ug 25
My Ow n Pl e as ure B y gui a c o rtas s a. In s to re s s e p t 8
The Fresh & Onlys’ back catalogue is a veritable who’s-who of indie rock chic when it comes to their record labels. Never staying in one place for too long, the Bay Area band have recorded for the likes of Sacred Bones, In The Red and Mexican Summer, but have settled on Captured Tracks offshoot Sinderlyn for their fifth album. ‘Wolf Lie Down’ puts its best foot forward with its opening title track, one of the band’s most rousing efforts yet, a three-minute Flying Nun thrash that masks its political apathy (“I never wanna risk my life for freedom”) in dense clouds of distortion. From here, though, the album frequently falters, descending into a molasses-thick trudge of ersatz country, and faceless surf rock. Only the closer ‘Black Widow’ claws something back, a complex, reverb-shrouded brood into Galaxie 500 territory, with yelled backing vocals straight from a padded cell. The album’s worst offender, ‘One of a Kind’, decorates its overlong gothic tendencies with that least gothic of instruments, the bongos.
Wand Plum Dr ag C i ty By s am wal ton . In sto re s sept 22
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Dälek Endangered Philosophies
Re-TROS Before The Applause
Zola Jesus Okovi
Ipe c ac
tra ngr e s s i ve
Mo dern s k y
s a c r ed b o n e s
By s tep h en But cha rd. In sto res Sept 1
B y H ayl ey s c o tt. I n s to r e s s ep t 8
By dere k ro be rts o n. I n s t o r e s s ep t 1 5
B y k a tie bes wi c k . In s t o re s s ep t 8
Experimental hip-hop trendsetters Dälek are in a creative rebirth. Just a year after their long-awaited return, ‘Asphalt for Eden’, another full length is here. ‘Endangered Philosophies’ is a heftier experience in every sense.The tracklist is longer, the beats are fuller, and the theme is focused. ‘Battlecries’ is a vivid, disintegrating elegy that encapsulates the experience. Blunt bars lay out the oppression faced by minorities, and the solace the band find through underground music: “We cite the battlecries of Leroy Jones / We agonise over the unknown / I need a microphone”. Barebones drum-breaks cut through the band’s thick shoegaze production. The formula has remained the same since the nineties, but the aged quality only adds eerie character to the album. The writing does falter occasionally; MC Dälek’s wordplay can feel overworked to the point of emotional disconnect, while the band’s style now seems tame in comparison to other wild experimenters like Death Grips. Mostly, though, the atmosphere and the energy is thrillingly apocalyptic.
Alvvays’ post-C86 girl-group revisionism suggests an affinity for a time when seeking out bands required trans-Atlantic correspondence via fanzines and mail-order forms. Their crestfallen debut album in particular denoted that feeling while dealing with the conflict between the sadness and liberation of your midtwenties. It was also very much a ‘pop’ record in structure and melody, but its low-key production gave it the traditional indie pop authenticity that it needed. ‘Antisocialites’ is inevitably slicker, and the pristine pop of earlier work is heightened for ultimate saccharine effect. While its thematic framework still relies on nostalgia and uncertainty, there’s a newfound optimism on the buoyant ‘Your Type’, despite its dealings with the injustices of unrequited love. Yet while the rugged primitivism of Alvvays’ debut is eschewed for something more polished – check out ‘Hey’ on your nearest mainstream FM playlists any day now – the band’s knack for a perfect pop melody can’t be argued with and neither can the emotive, longing strain in Molly Rankin’s voice.
It doesn’t take long for Re-TROS to blow away doubt you might have had on hearing the words “Chinese postpunk”. Second track ‘Hailing Drums’ – all nine minutes of it – is a rabid, pulsating beast that sounds like Factory Floor covering Neu! and pins you down and growls in your face. They follow that with the skittering, angular ‘Red Rum Aviv’, a hypnotic banger that locks into a groove and just hurtles forward, demolishing everything in its path. In the face of such an onslaught, resistance really is futile. Hailing from the burgeoning Beijing underground scene, this trio sound well versed in the music they’ve been inspired by; art school punk, pounding techno, Eno synths and crushing guitars all make an appearance, woven into a dark, mesmerizing tapestry. All this culminates in the pounding chug of ‘At Mosp Here’; twelve glorious minutes that swell and mutate, leaving you breathless in a heap. They could do with stamping a little more of their personality onto their songs, but the vigour and ambition on show can only bode well for the future of Re-TROS.
There’s a wet, miserable English summer unfolding over my way so I’ve exclusively been listening to upbeat summer tunes back to back. That is, until I had to listen to Zola Jesus’ sixth album in anticipation of this review. The haunting requiem ‘Okovi’ is an eleven-track album that documents Nicole Hummel’s experience with death and loss over a year-long period as she returned to write in the Wisconsin woods where she was raised. It is a beautiful record: soulful and deep. You feel as if you’re attending an atheist mass as Hummel mines the depths of her darkest experiences, turning her sorrow into catharsis. On the incredible, hymn-like ‘Witness’ she laments the pain of living that often brings people close to the edge, and indeed the album doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes death is an escape. ‘Okovi’ is the Slavic word for ‘shackles’, and it seems life, or maybe mortality, are the shackles that Hummel wants to throw off here. It’s not summer holiday music, unless you’re in pretty bad shape – but it’s well worth hearing anyway.
Mogwai’s ninth studio album is their first without founding guitarist John Cummings, and also the first since 2001’s ‘Rock Action’ to be produced by Dave Fridmann. Both personnel changes are felt for the better: the band luxuriate in the space provided by Cummings’ departure, creating songs that are markedly less claustrophobic, while Fridmann’s knack for exploiting that kind of atmosphere with shimmering texture and poised stillness is executed rather handsomely.
It all contributes to some of the best music Mogwai have made this century: the twin towers of ‘Coolverine’ and the title track both build majestically towards grand, heroic fuzz and bookend the album exultantly. Between them, ‘Crossing The Road Material’ and ‘Don’t BelieveThe Fife’ provide unexpected earworms while ‘Old Poisons’ suggests the band’s knack for exhilarating ferocity shows no sign of abating with age. Retaining a signature sound
without becoming repetitive is a challenge for any band entering their third decade together, but it’s one that Mogwai confront expertly here: the music within is still unmistakably Mogwai – soundscapes range from the insidious to the euphoric – but retooled with both more air and more purpose than the group have displayed for years. It makes ‘Every Country’s Sun’ feel quietly triumphant; the sound of a band renewed and a personality reasserted.
Mogwai Every Country’s Sun Roc k Ac t ion By Sam Wal ton . In sto res Sept 1
Mount Kimbie Love What Survives wa r p By r eef y oun is. I n sto re s se pt 8
Few acts have a back catalogue as controlled, considered and consistent as Mount Kimbie, and it owes a lot to the fact that they’ve never been a project to rush a release. Back in 2010, Kai Campos and Dom Maker were gently shifting South London’s post-dubstep mood with the hazy alchemy of their brilliant debut ‘Crooks and Lovers’. In 2013, they followed that up with the glazed melodies and vocal forays of ‘Cold Spring, Fault Less Youth’. Now three albums in with ‘Love What Survives’, they’re moving forward once again with a floating mix of motorik beats, woozy pop and some solid vocal collaborations. The steady, building insistence of
opener ‘Four Years and One Day’, the drifting pan pipes of ‘SP12 Beat’ and the beat-driven, wonky synth of ‘Delta’ give the album a familiar instrumental spine, but in between those rhythms Archy Marshall (King Krule), who guested twice on the last album, makes a familiar raw return on bug-eyed confessional ‘BlueTrain Lines’, Campos and Maker combine with Mica Levi (Micachu) on the soft lull of ‘Marilyn’, and then leave James Blake to add soulful theatrics to the organ-grind of ‘We Go Home Together’ and add a haunted presence to the stilted keys of album closer ‘How We Got By’. It’s a dynamic that proves Mount Kimbie aren’t solely about creating
soft-focus dance songs anymore, with both Maker and Campos stepping behind the mic at various points this time, after tentatively doing so on ‘Cold Spring, Fault Less Youth’. Even when they do, their unassuming vocals only serve to complement the blurry imperfections that have made Mount Kimbie so melodic, melancholic and cautiously soulful. After playing these tracks out on the road for the last few months, it’s also interesting to hear how ‘Delta’ ¬– the surging electronic anchor of the recent live shows – feels pointed and punchy on record, the way ‘Audition’ strikes a curious balance between New Order and Metronomy,
and how the live version of ‘Marilyn’ goes from sounding a little clouded to playing out here as a lovely, lo-fi pop ditty alongside the equally endearing ‘You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)’. The real appeal of ‘Love What Survives’, though, is the feeling that many of these tracks will still sound as fresh as ‘Carbonated’ (from that 2010 debut) does now, as painfully sentimental as ‘Before I Move Of’ (also 2010) and bang as hard as ‘Made to Stray’ (2013) by the time the next album comes around. Odds are, we’ll have to wait a little while for that one too but so far Mount Kimbie’s waiting game has proved to be the way to go.
Ariel Pink has no time for genre constraints. As has become customary with his manic brand of outsider pop, his new album (itself an to Bobby Jameson – a cult ’60s singer who fell through the cracks of the ’70s and was considered dead before he was) skips from ’80s 8-bit videogame soundscapes (‘Death Patrol’) through ghoulish David Bowie glam (‘Santa’s in the Closet’) and on into surf-pop reverie (‘Another Weekend’) with little time to spare. While there are moments
where the avant-garde house of cards collapses, such as album opener ‘Time To Meet Your God’ and the record’s title track, overall Ariel handles things with a deft hand. The second half of ‘Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’, though, is where Pink comes into his own. Here the record takes an avant-pop hatchet to the ’60s. ‘Bubblegum Dreams’ is a scuzzy, glitchy number, as though someone has gone at a Beach Boys record with a scouring pad. Meanwhile, ‘Dreamdate Narcissist’
could have been written by a less clean-cut, slightly evil version of The Monkees. On both tracks Ariel has kept the infectious energy of his bubblegum pop forefathers, splicing it with his own penchant for total weirdness. Still, he doesn’t stay focused here for long and ‘Do Yourself A Favour’ is more laid-back, a gentle moment before the twisted funk of Dâm-Funk collaboration ‘Acting’ closes another distracted, disjointed and sparkling Ariel Pink curio that’s better than the last one.
Ariel Pink Dedicated To Bobby Jameson Mex i c an S u mm er By l iam kon e ma nn. In sto res se pt 15
Photography by Elliot Kennedy
Reviews / Live
Visions Festival Various Venues Hackney, London 0 5/ 0 8/ 20 17 wr i ter : c hr i s wa tke ys Photogr a ph er : nick sa ye rs
Five years on from its debut, Visions Festival, spread out across five or six venues in Hackney, east London, continues to set the bar in terms of eclecticism of line-up. This is no meat-and-potatoes guitar band tread-through, but an excitingly diverse bunch of acts playing an equally diverse range of spaces. The bigger acts climb onto the stage at Oval Space, worthy of note for its never less-than-excellent sound as well as its position next to the canal, overlooking the area’s famous, dystopian-looking gas works. At the opposite end of the scale, at the festival’s southernmost point, there’s the classic indie pub vibe of The Sebright Arms. You get the feel that this is the artists’ festival – the programme notes on each act are even written by another on the bill.
Early on in the wooden-built Brewhouse, a small room attached to a former brewery with an oddly Scandinavian feel, Croydon rapper Denzel Himself introduces himself with a shield of blistering white noise. Eyes almost permanently closed, he brings a blind energy to his set, like an animated statue. There’s an uneasy backdrop to his vocals, often delivered over a load of guitar noise. Oval Space before the sun goes down is a beautiful, light place, where the daytime dry ice lends a slightly surreal atmosphere. It’s here that Noga Erez serves up her slick leftfield electro-pop, laced with sugary vocals and a vital energy. It’s a young, exciting, engaging performance, and something to genuinely dance to. The queue for Blanck Mass is
prohibitive, but once downstairs at Mangle, the dark walls and enclosed feel of this underground space struggle to contain Benjamin John Power’s viciously exciting maelstrom of noise. It’s punishingly loud, black and dark, and this tempest of sound assaults the senses. It’s here also that The Men produce a set that could have been lifted from the noisiest sub-punk fleapit of the mid seventies; they’re relentlessly earsplitting and dirtily brilliant. By contrast Frankie Cosmos’ indiepop is a gentle salve to the senses back at the Oval Space. Liars top out the day with a 16song set that often manages to make swathes of filthy noise feel like slices of pop music. Andrew Angus cuts a huge and imposing figure on stage in a wedding dress, his rabid energy little diminished from years of doing
this and the shedding of all other Liars members. It’s the stuff happening around the acts that helps to mark Visions as a little different, though. Aside from the rooftop bar at Netil House, where punters and artists mingle while gazing out across the city, there’s strange happenings all over, such as an actual dog show at a church, judged by members of Girl Ray, amongst others. Any multi-venue indoor festival runs the risk of queue panic, so the day does need to be planned out, but where Visions really scores is in its genre-less line up, born of expert curation by promoters who give a damn. A festival of this kind needs three things to be a true success on the day – great acts, of course, but also great venues and great weather.This edition of Visions had them all.
Sheer Mag Islington Assembley Hall, London
Feist Shepherd’s Bush Empire London
20 / 0 7/ 20 17 wr iter : thomas g ane
2 9/ 07 / 2 01 7
photogr aphy : ant ad ams
w r i t er : sam walt o n
Feist’s latest album may be tough meat, full of scabrous clanging and raw production obfuscating the detail, but in a live setting it comes to life rather magically. The first hour of tonight’s all-seater show is a performance of it, in order and in full, during which she and her wonderfully sensitive band inject a tenderness and warmth that not only allows the songs to breathe but also provides a welcome three-dimensionality. Even the album’s bizarre cameo by Jarvis Cocker, who makes a brief appearance tonight wiggling his arse and brandishing an hourglass, makes curious sense.The second half (Feist highlights), is just as revelatory: ‘My Moon My Man’ has newfound heft, and a reworking of ‘1234’ finds its familiar melody renewed with serpentine quirk. It’s a masterfully communicative performance.
Bonnie Prince Billy Union Chapel Islington 2 7 / 07 / 2 01 7 w r i t er : ch r is wa t k ey s
If you don’t enjoy rock’n’roll, Sheer Mag probably won’t suddenly change your mind. If you do however, they’ll win you over halfway through their first riff. You’ll forget why you quit smoking, think about cutting holes in your denim and wonder if a faux leather jacket and hybrid muscle car defeats the point. Sheer Mag exploded out of the Philly basement scene in 2014, building a buzz by playing any gig they were offered. They’ve released one EP every year since forming and won over fans with their combination of classic rock with a punk ethic and political, anti-capitalist lyrics. Sheer Mag’s long awaited debut album, ‘Need To Feel Your Love’, was released last month and developed the band’s sound further to critical acclaim. They’ve already played a few of the smaller venues in London and return tonight to play the grander Islington Assembly Hall, although the gig is still thrown by DIY
promoters Upset The Rhythm. Lead guitarist Kyle Seely opens the show with call and response licks that are gleefully obliged by the crowd. The rest of the band soon follow, with a particular cheer reserved for vocalist Tina Halladay, who walks on with a bottle of Buckfast in hand. The band launch straight into ‘Meet Me InThe Streets’, the opener and one of the standout tracks from ‘Need To Feel Your Love’. It’s exactly what Sheer Mag are all about, massive rock’n’roll with a modern, relevant and powerful message, with Halladay using her weapon of a voice to snarl, “Seven blocks north of the avenue / We’re throwing rocks at the boys in blue / Sliver spoon suckers headed for a fall / And justice for all.” There’s little talking between songs, with the band seemingly always desperate for more noise. ‘Can’t Stop Fighting’ from 2016 EP ‘III’ and ‘Hard Loving’ from 2014’s EP
‘I’ are striking, with the rhythm section playing like they’re in competition with a nuclear clock and Seely shredding like anything less than bleeding fingers is a cop out. Other highlights include the incredibly fierce ‘Nobody’s Baby’ (also from EP ‘III’) and ‘Need To Feel Your Love’ tracks ‘Suffer Me’, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘Expect The Bayonet’. Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and The Replacements are all incredible, but they aren’t our bands. We can’t see them in bars and clubs. Sheer Mag, along with the likes of Beach Slang and Titus Andronicus, take the influences of these classic groups and wear them openly, but also make rock feel current, inclusive and politically relevant again. They combine the sounds of the ’70s with feminist and anti-capitalist lyrics that make the genre sound vital and, most importantly, like it’s for us. Sheer Mag are our band.
It’s a pretty rare thing to see Will Oldham in the flesh on these shores, and an even rarer thing to see him in a venue as beautiful as the Union Chapel. Wearing a remarkable country singer’s outfit of white slacks and a pale blue shirt stitched with dark blue stars, this offbeat but worshipped musician cuts a strikingly unusual figure, standing alone with his acoustic guitar.This is a folk gig in the classic sense of the term; a preponderance of covers (Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen and especially Merle Haggard, subject of his recent tribute album, notable amongst them), and often long, spoken introductions to each song. In fact, Oldham seems particularly chatty this evening, his irreverence and acidic humour surfacing often. The handful of Oldham’s own songs that we hear – especially the iconic ‘I See A Darkness’ – are reinterpreted, yet as piercing and moving as ever.
Factory Floor XOYO, Shoreditch 11/ 0 8/ 20 17 wri ter: gemm a sam ways photog rapher: m ag g ie ko o
It’s 20 years since Erol Alkan started staging Trash at Plastic People’s original home in Soho, and 10 since the cult club-night finished its successful run at now-defunct West End venue The End. During their decade together, Alkan and fellow DJs James Dickie, Rory Philips, Mavs and The Lovely Jonjo became renowned for their discerning, erahopping sets, which showed the same reverence to electroclash, dance-punk and new rave as they did to glam, post-punk, industrial and techno. To borrow a reference from Trash-favourites LCD Soundsystem, Alkan succeeded in uniting the rocknerd narrator of ‘Losing My Edge’ with the “kids coming up from behind.” Alkan has applied the same eclectic approach to this summer’s To The Rhythm residency at XOYO, programming a schedule that extends from Detroit producer
Jimmy Edgar to reformed shoegazers Ride. Bridging the gap between the two extremes are Factory Floor. Certainly, had they existed prior to 2007, Trash would have been the spiritual home for their punk mix of minimal techno, acid house, and abrasive, no wave experimentalism. Though reduced to a duo following Dominic Butler’s departure, Nik Colk and Gabriel Gurnsey are no less ferocious live than they were before the release of 2013’s eponymous debut. In fact, they’re even more intense. Often obscured by billowing smoke, flashing lights and erratic lasers, the DFA-signed duo are positioned side-on to the audience, facing one another, Colk behind a bank of modular synthesizers and Gurnsey installed at the drum kit. The only communication between them is the eye-contact via which they take their cues. Gurnsey’s taut, live percussion – which was markedly less prominent on last year’s LP ‘25 25’ – provides a hypnotic vehicle for dead-eyed vocal intonations that are distorted to the point of being indecipherable and acid squiggles that singe your synapses. As it ends, Alkan stride past, grinning.
Regina Spektor Hammersmith Apollo 0 9/ 0 8/ 20 17 wri t er: S a m walto n phot ographer: Rache l lipsitz
A hallmark of recent Regina Spektor albums is that despite a continuing preponderance of elegantly idiosyncratic songcraft, you’re now never more than 10 minutes from a cutesy reggae pastiche or a Radio 2 piano ballad with all the characteristics of an overripe banana. Spektor appears to have extended that to her live incarnation: for every joyful demonstration of what a distinctive songwriter she is, there’s another of faux-naivité that feels less like the work of a brilliant auteur two decades into her career and more that of light opera. Tonight’s opening half-hour is the purest distillation of this approach: she follows the opening sing-song nursery rhyme of ‘Folding Chair’ with ‘Eet’, a tender ode to selfconsciousness, before diving straight into ‘Grand Hotel’, a song that, were it not for the tinkling xylophones and mushy synthetic strings that leave it resembling the
music in a Disney Christmas movie, would be as evocative as anything Spektor has written. While the set occasionally smoulders during this opening section, it’s only when her band depart that it truly catches fire. Her ‘Apres Moi’ is brimming with dynamism and just the right level of histrionics – the final Russian verse,
in particular, is not just an impressive party trick but also deliciously wrong-footing – and becomes perfect proof of how beautifully Spektor can bloom when the jaunty distractions surrounding her are removed. A touching speech about her US emigré status precedes a ‘Ballad Of A Politician’ made even more cutting by recent American sabre-rattling,
before two songs on solo guitar – ‘That Time’ and live favourite ‘Bobbing For Apples’ – come closest to resolving the discrepancy between the two sides of the Spektorian musical personality: bold, testy and arresting, but also delightfully eccentric, hearing Spektor repeatedly singing “someone next door is fucking to one of my songs” amplifies all the attendant humour, self-awareness and observational knack in her work. Unfortunately, the gig’s original holding pattern returns along with her band, and reaches its apotheosis with the juxtaposition of ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, all cod-reggae Casio keyboard twee, and ‘Us’, a song of towering, inescapable grandness almost beyond its means. “Guys, I wrote a setlist”, she pleads at one point to deflect another flurry of inter-song heckled requests. “I worked real hard on it too”, she adds, defiantly, although quite what she was so proud of is unclear: although there are many irresistibly heartrending, cool or just plain musically audacious moments tonight, there’s also little by way of momentum, leaving her 100-minute main set feeling even longer, and emphasising how needless tonight’s accoutrements are.
Singing Pictures andrew anderson unpicks the video evolution of guns N’ Roses
It’s thirty years since Guns N’ Roses released their first LP, ‘Appetite For Destruction’. Thirty years. That feels like both a really long time ago and yet also rather recent. Could the youthful band that blasted out ‘Paradise City’ really be middle-aged men now? Surely that’s not possible. On the other hand, is it really only thirty years ago that this kind of embarrassing machomisogynist-mediocrity was not only acceptable, but also hugely popular? That doesn’t feel right either. Regardless, GnR’s pearl anniversary is the perfect time to look back and try to understand the band. Were they actually any good, or a joke that went too far?The best way to answer this question, of course, is to watch their music videos.
means Axl doing his best Elton John impersonation at the piano, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by a Weird Al Jankovic lookalike. It means someone jumping through a wedding cake for no reason. November Rain is bad, but worse was still to come.
By 1994 the GnR of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ was well and truly dead, leaving only a bloated, stinking embarrassment of a corpse; a corpse that let out gaseous emissions such as ‘Estranged’. Not only is the song so monumentally boring it can induce the sonic equivalent of snow blindness, but the video is also incredibly confusing. First a swat team arrives at Axl’s house. Then he leaves his body. Then a dolphin flies – yes, flies – out of a jumbo jet. Then Axl dives off an oil tanker into the ocean… I’m not making this up. Whereas ‘November Rain’ had a certain charm to it – a so-bad-it’salmost-good vibe – the same cannot be said of ‘Estranged’. This is just bad-bad, like John Lydon’s butter advert or anything Ben Elton has done since 1989. Even Slash emerging from the ocean to perform a solo can’t save ‘Estranged’ – that’s how bad it is.
1. Welcome to the Jungle (1987) Few bands have shown up quite so fully formed as GnR. With this, their second single, they pretty much said everything they needed to say; in fact if they had stopped right here things might have been all right. The concept is a bit hard to follow (which, as we shall see, is a recurring theme with GnR videos), but essentially it acts as a dating video that introduces the band and their various personalities. You’ve got Slash, the personable charmer you’d like to get pissed with. Then there’s Axl, the pretty-boy womaniser who’s also a bit of a prima donna. And then there’s… well, actually, the rest don’t get much of a look in. To demonstrate these qualities we see Slash drinking from a brown paper bag outside an off license (because that’s cool), Axl ogling a woman wearing tights with a black seam down the back, and the rest of the band banging away on their instruments in front of a mildlyenthused crowd. What this video does convey though is an air of excitement. Yes, it’s self-absorbed; yes, it’s utterly and unashamedly idiotic; and yes, Axl does look like Avril Lavigne at the end of a three-week PCP bender. But for all that, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ is at least fun to watch.
2. november rain
Released in 1992, the video for ‘November Rain’ is ridiculous and it would take a book of Norman Mailerlength to unpeel all its ludicrous layers. For a start, it’s nine (NINE!) minutes long, so the following is only
a taster menu from its buffet of bullshit. First, the band and their entourage arrive at a church. Axl is getting married, looking like a pageboy whose skipped bath-time for 6 months. Slash is best man, of course, and does a massive solo instead of the traditional speech (the solo is pretty rad, actually). Then it starts raining.
Then Axl’s wife is dead, and it’s no longer a wedding – it’s a funeral. Basically, ‘November Rain’ is what happens when the worst clichés of ‘rock and roll’ behaviour are left unchecked. What does that mean in real terms? It means a statue of Jesus crying blood (presumably because he’s thinking ‘did I really die for the sins of these idiots?’). It
When I first decided to write about GnR’s videos I thought I’d have a good laugh at their expense. But now I just feel a bit sad. Seeing them in sequence, which compacts seven years into just over 20 minutes, shows a band on the way down; the songs get longer, the drum kits get bigger, but the quality is in terminal decline. What started out as radioactive material with ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ quickly decays into the leaden ‘Estranged’. Why? Three words: Axl Rose’s Ego. As soon as the band became more about Axl trying to make serious artistic statements than about having throwaway fun the whole thing turned into a toilet-clogging turd. I like to think of GnR as being the musical equivalent of Las Vegas; a fun place at first, but one that quickly becomes a cocaine-fuelled capitalist nightmare. You can visit Las Vegas for a day, much in the same way as you can listen to GnR’s first album, but don’t stay any longer – you’ll definitely regret it.
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FanFIction: Tory Fest 2017
Alex James was feeling nervous. He’d been to music festivals before, of course, but not one like this. At Glastonbury his padded Barbour tied around his waist had gotten him laughed out of the Stone Circle by a wicked Billy Bragg (although a lot of people joined in), but not here – here a jacket around the waist was as sensible as a cricket sweater around one’s shoulders. “My people,” he thought as he entered Tory Fest… “Boy, I’m going to sell some fucking cheese today!” For David, this wasn’t his first rodeo, but he was still trying to hold it down like a boy who knew he was 6 today. He was extra excited to be showing off his new pal and suspected that others would be impressed that he’d been in a Brit-
Rock band. Maybe he still was? In a small circle that included David’s wife Samantha and a few others old boys, David held court with one eye on the main gate. Once Jeremy was here they’d all make a beeline for Tony Hadley in the Land Rover new band’s tent. “So who are we all looking forward to seeing today, then?” struck up one ruddy-faced chum. David smiled a knowing smile. Typically, everyone wanted to know his tips, he thought – he was the group’s real music head. Everyone tried their best to chime in with bands on the bill until David loudly proclaimed, “It’s just a shame that London Grammar aren’t playing – they’re really chill.” He felt particularly proud that he’d
remembered to say “chill” in the present tense, even though it didn’t make sense. Samantha had noticed it too and was pleased for him, even if it had killed the conversation dead. “David tells us you used to be in a band, Alex,” said another friend. “Oh, yes, I did… Well, I still am… I think. I mainly make cheese now – that’s really my thing.” Fuelled by a mixture of nerves and business savvy in knowing that this was an ideal time to promote his cheeses, Alex launched into his cheese bit, and how he’d just invented a goat’s cheese that contained Smarties. David could see that his friends were smiling in a way that meant they’d stopped listening a long time ago and intervened. “Ah!” he yelled. “Text from Jeremy – ‘2 mins away.’” “The Jezster!” called Samantha. “Yeah, baby,” said another. “Now we’re getting started.” “Good bless Jeremy,” said another. “He’s bringing me 200 Superkings for the weekend.” “Jeremy?” said Alex. “Not Corbyn?” Everyone collectively spluttered on their juices. David’s smile was one of embarrassment and secret glee that someone had said something so stupid. “I’d like to hear you call him that,” someone said to House of Commons jeers loud enough for David to wish he’d thought of it. He took Alex to one side. “Hey, man,” he said. “Don’t feel bad about dropping the C bomb like that. I know you already know how daft it was. When we talk about Jez we mean Clarkson. It’s always Clarkson. He’ll be here any minute.
You’ll love him… Oh, and Al, maybe curb the cheese chat today, yeah? Just relax. It’s all about the choons today, yeah?” Alex nodded and nipped to the toilet to compose himself. Jeremy Clarkson. Mr Toad. Here! Fucking hell!!! Clarkson blustered through the gate in typical fashion. “Jez! Jez!” called David. “He hasn’t seen us…” Samantha calmed David with a hand on his arm. “I’d say sorry for being late, if I was,” shouted Clarkson into the beaming faces in front of him. “I was having a right old back and forth with John McCririck in the car park. He’s such a mad old prick, but you gotta love him.” Everyone howled. “Cracking new gilet, Davey!” (He’d noticed.) “And how’s the wife of this absolute legend doing?” “Hello Jeremy,” Samantha cooed as she hugged him a little too long. “Bloody hell,” he yelled, all of a sudden, “look at this little squirt. What the fuck’s he got on!?” He nodded at a tall man bounding along in tweed shorts and matching jacket. How could David have failed to notice that Alex was in a short suit again? He was coming straight for them, of course, with a light powder around his nose – parmesan, probably. “Jeremy, so nice to meet you,” he said, enthusiastically shaking Clarkson’s hand. Clarkson squeeze hard like a real man should. Alex almost instantly regretted his cool idea of covertly slipping him a Babybel in the shake. It was everywhere.
Uber for Ian?
UBER FOR IAN??!!!
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale