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Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 90 / the alternative music tabloid


That's entertainment

Plus: Carla dal Forno – IGLOOGHOST – Protection Spells – OCS – Conny Plank – Erol Alkan

Vi si t o ur w eb s i t e ! Interviews Reviews Shorts Podcasts Listening Post Magazines + More



iglooghost – 12 protection spells – 14 carla dal forno – 16 ocs – 20 shame – 24 erol alkan – 30 conny plank – 32

Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 90 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId


Co ntact

Contr ib u tor s

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i n fo@ loudandq u ie

ale x wisg ar d, Chr is Wa tke ys, dav id cor te s, d av id za m m itt, Danie l Dylan- Wr ay, dan ke n d a l l , De r e k Rob e r tson, dominic ha l e y , du stin condr e n, Gab r i e l G r e e n, Ge m har r is, Ge mma Samwa ys, G uia cor tassa, hayle y scott , he a the r mccu tche on, IAN ROEBUCK , J a nine Bu llman, j e nna f oxton , j o e go ggins, josie somme r , j ang e lo m o l ina r i, katie beswick, lee bullman, matilda hill- je nkins, Nathan W e stl e y , nathanie l wood, Phil S ha r p , r a che l r edf e r n, r osie r amsden, R e e f You nis, sonny mccar tne y , susa n dar ling ton, Sam Walto n.

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Lo u d And Qu ieT PO Box 67915 Lo ndon NW1W 8 TH Plus: Carla dal Forno – IGlOOGHOsT – Protection spells – OCs – Conny Plank – Erol Alkan

c o v er p h o t o g raphy D a n k en d a l l

At the very beginning of 2017, Shame played Eurosonic Festival in Groningen, a small town in the Netherlands. Anyone can go to Eurosonic but the people that mainly do are A&Rs and live bookers with European festival bills to fill. Shame had a good time like they always do, and played good shows like they always do, and came home to south London with the most bookings for the rest of the year, which has totalled 47 festivals since. Shame are a punk band in a similar vein to Fucked Up or Idles – a group whose live show precedes them, who sweat a lot, take off their tops, waste a beer on their chests, jump into the crowd and slip over as they usually crash to an end. They enjoyed doing that when it was for the benefit of two people on the weirdest date ever, so you can imagine how much fun they’re having now that hundreds are turning out to shout their disenfranchised messages back at them. “I think some people generally think we’re arseholes,” bassist Josh Finerty tells Daniel Dylan Wray in this month’s cover feature amidst the band’s recent tour of the UK. He can see why, but the truth is that the snotty oik imagery of this band, whose live power is in the confrontation of their performance, belies how approachable they are, and inclusive. If they believe in one thing more than using their moment to create a community through speaking about social and political issues, it’s that they’re here to entertain. The message is this: go and see Shame and enjoy being angry with them. Oh Sees usually tour as hard as Shame have this year but really out perform ALL other bands in the studio. It’s a neat coincidence that their 20th anniversary aligns with their 20th album release this month, and fortunate for us that this milestone has been enough to convince band leader John Dwyer to speak with us – a man who rarely does interviews, and someone we’ve wanted to speak with since the early days of Loud And Quiet. It’s Dwyer who inspires others in the simplicity of DIY and what’s possible when you refuse to stop. Stuart Stubbs

fo unde r & Editor - Stu ar t S tu b b s Art Dir e ction - B.A.M. D IGITAL DIRECTOR - GREG COCHRANE Sub Editor - A le xandr a Wilshir e fi lm e ditor - Andr e w ande r son Bo ok Editor s - L e e & Janine Bu llman


T his M o nth L &Q L o ve s K a thr yne C ha l ke r , m iche l l e ka m ba sha , S im o n ke e l e r , ste p ha n e m a nue l p l a nk to m a d co ck.

The views expresse d in Lou d And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari  ly reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserve d 2017 Loud A nd Quiet LT D. ISSN 2049-9892 Printe d by S harman & C ompany LTD. Distribute d by loud and quiet LTD. & forte

Sweet 16

the beginning

KELE OKEREKE founded Bloc Party on an obsession with Suede, frozen pizza and Super Smash Bros.


ele Okereke: Around 1997, me and my family took a trip to visit my parents’ friends in Liverpool. John and his wife were two of the first people that my parents met when they moved to England from Nigeria. I was born in Liverpool and this was the first time I’d been back since we moved to Manor Park in east London in the 1980s. Whenever I think about who I was as a teenager, the one abiding memory that I have is that I desperately wanted to be older. Everything seemed like a waste of time, like going to school. I was gifted, in that I did well at school without really trying, but it didn’t really speak to me. When I was 15/16 I discovered pop music and that was a very exciting, seductive world for me. I knew that it was giving me pleasure on some level, so thought this is what I have to move towards. I remember really falling in love with ‘Dog Man Star’ by Suede. I’d never had that kind of intense reaction to music before. I became obsessed – I would listen to that record every day and it just took me somewhere else. Britpop was a sexy moment for music, and I guess I was swept up in it. My sister had a copy of ‘Parklife’, and I’d listen to that when she wasn’t in. It definitely felt like this moment, seeing all these young bands coming through. Before that I was listening to my parents’ music and Michael Jackson. Britpop made me appreciate the power and lifestyle of being a musician.

A s t ol d t o s tu ar t s tu bbs The first show that I ever went to was The Cranberries at Wembley Arena with my best friends and our mums. Later in my teens I would go to a lot of smaller shows in Camden. It was a nice community because where I went to school, on the border of east London and Essex, kids weren’t into alternative music, and if they were it could be quite dangerous – lots of my friends had been attacked, and you were likely to get punched in the face just walking down the street. So there was a tribal thing about it. That was how I met Russell [Lissak – Bloc Party’s guitarist] because I’d always see him in our local pub. Russell was a friend of my best friend at sixth form college. He didn’t go to college because he’d dropped out to do nothing but play guitar – it was the only thing he was interested in, and to me that was the most romantic view. It was a godsend and it meant that we could start working really quickly. During my free periods at college I would get the 179 bus from Woodford to Chingford, to Russell’s house, and we’d set up in his living room, much to the annoyance of his mum, and we’d make sounds together. When we finished we’d eat a frozen pizza and play Super Smash Bros. on the Super Nintendo. We’d do that every week for a year and spent another year trying to find other musicians in the Essex area. I played one show before we did any with Bloc Party. It was with a make-shift band with a guitarist


at college – the guy who would introduce me to Russell. It was at The Standard in Blackhorse Road. We covered ‘Killing In The Name’ and it was where I saw Russell play guitar for the first time – he was playing in an Ash tribute band. The first time we played together was in Camden to twelve people. We were called The Angel Range and I remember being completely petrified – I didn’t look at anyone and felt like I just needed to get through it. Although I’d spent so much of my time dreaming about being a musician, I hadn’t actually considered what it would entail; the performance element of it. I didn’t enjoy performing for the first year, and it was only when we released our first album, and seeing how people were reacting to the music, that the whole process became more enjoyable. Now it’s completely second nature, but it’s something I had to work at. And yet, when we first burst onto the scene and I started having to do interviews for the first time, so much was made about me being shy, but I never felt like a shy person. I could be an extrovert when I needed to be, and I definitely wasn’t debilitatingly shy because I realised very early on that nothing comes to you in this world if you aren’t willing to go out and take it. I wasn’t a singer, and I had no plans to front a band, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to happen. That’s always been my attitude – that to get things done you have to bite the bullet.


Christopher Mintz-Plasse Reef Younis catalogues the curious music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / that have come under the ACPG microscope over the last 12 months – but then we hit his latest group, Mainman. After trawling throughYouTube to watch Young Rapscallions and Bear On Fire live sessions, and being pleasantly surprised by Mintz-Plasse’s solid sticksmanship, the expectations for a third instalment of acceptable, well-meaning music inspired by the likes of My Morning Jacket, The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton seemed set. Instead, Mainman shifted into sighing, Death Cab for Cutie-inspired pop (‘SSP’) and the anthemia of later years Biffy Clyro (‘Feeling’) on their oddly kaleidoscopic ‘Mistaker EP’ released earlier this year. With their second EP of the year released last month (it’s called ‘Social Security Party’), the band has improbably slid into the dexterous guitar lines of Dirty Projectors on ‘Grateful’ amidst the expected M.O.R. alternative rock dirge of the rest of the EP. Still, 10 years, three bands and a few different instruments, you have to respect MintzPlasse’s commitment to progress, however slow. And when you can create a pleasure as guilty as the slick, Chromeo-esque funk of ‘W.W.H.’, that one track alone is enough to ensure that it hasn’t all been in vain.

“McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?” Just as Jason Biggs will always be the guy who fucked a pie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse may never truly escape the nerdy shadow Superbad cast on his Hollywood career, although thankfully there’s been no sign of R(uari) Kelly. Instead, he’s spent the last decade or so switching between his love of music and acting. In 2007, around the release of Superbad and the advent of McLovin’, Mintz-Plasse bought a drumkit with some of his earnings from the film to push forward the riff-driven rock of his band The Young Rapscallions. After eight years and just one EP, the group came to an unceremonious end when the bassist quit. Via text. On Mintz-Plasse’s birthday. Not to be deterred, he moved from drumming for theYoung Raps to playing bass in his next band, Bear On Fire. Made up of former bandmates and friends, they released their debut album, ‘Velicata Black’, in 2015 after smoking weed, jamming and eventually arriving at an easy-going indie sound that proved to be so inoffensive that not a single review of it seems to exist anywhere on the Internet. So far, Mintz-Plasse’s story is as largely unremarkable as the majority of the celebrities

by jani ne & Lee bu ll man

Letters between Gentlemen by Professor Elemental and Nimue Brown

In the Eighties: Portraits from another Time By Derek Ridgers


Carpet Bombing Culture

Letters Between Gentlemen begins, as all the best novels do, with a beautiful woman walking into a private detective’s office. From that point on, Nimue Brown’s deft narrative winds itself around crackpot genius Professor Elemental, who appears on page much as we find him in his hip-hop/comic book/short movie incarnations – affable and slightly unhinged, no doubt, but a cold-blooded murderer? The greatest Victorian detective, Algernon Spoon, intends to find out. Nimue Brown weaves a fascinating web throughout, brought further to life by Tom Brown’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations. It’s a comic delight to brighten up these long winter nights.

Derek Ridgers has built a career earning the trust of the counter culture by being invited into the private corners of various small worlds and, once there, fulfilling his role as the outsiders’ photographer in residence. Ridgers’ 1980’s images, here impressively displayed in large format, capture the essence of the age. In the Eighties debunks the much-vaunted, mythical Spandau Ballet, shoulder pads and Cityboy wanker narrative. From punks to B-boys, to proto-goths, all of the tribes associated with the decade’s street culture are present and correct in this glorious tribute to the decade’s forgotten style heroes whose brazen self-expression caused tremors we still feel today.


These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers


When a small, artsy northern town is shaken by ugly violence, a local community is forced to look inwards as it finds itself open to the prurient interest of an outside world that cares little for truth, but is desperate for a story.The awful crimes committed in These Darkening Days inspire the welcome return of journalist Roddy Mace and disgraced ex-plod James Brindle who first appeared on page together in Benjamin Myers’ 2016 novel Turning Blue. As with all of Myers’ folkcrime, layers of landscape, myth and the hidden underbelly of everyday life outside of the metropolis are built up as the plot unfolds and the darkness grows. Everyone should already know how good a writer Myers is. It’s still the case here.

getting to know you

Stefflon Don Birmingham-born rapper Stefflon Don has looked and acted like a star before she was one, from her 2016 ‘Real Ting’ mixtape to her debut single featuring French Montana, which glided into the top 10 this month while everyone was looking the other way. “Don’t trust boys,” she says – some of them spit their gum out under the table. /

The best piece of advice you’ve been given Don’t care about what negative people say.

Your hidden talent I’m a really good cake-decorator.

Your favourite word Bitch(!).

Your favourite item of clothing A good crop-top is a must-have.

Your pet-hate Chewing loudly.

Your biggest disappointment I try and live my life without any regrets.

If you could only eat one food forever, The celebrity that pisses you off the most what would it be? even though you’ve never met them Melon. No one. The worst job you’ve had Your biggest fear I’ve been really lucky; I’ve always been selfI’m not scared of anything. employed so I’ve never really had a worst job. The best book in the world The film you can quote the most of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Friday. People’s biggest misconception Your favourite place in the world about yourself My bed because I can sleep. That I’m a hoe. Your style icon Rihanna.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Halle Berry.

The one song you wished you’d written ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna.

What is success to you? Happiness.

The most famous person you’ve met I met Drake for the first time in London at a Section Boyz show. He was very nice!

What talent do you wish you had? I wish I could sing like Fantasia.

The thing you’d rescue from a burning building My phone.

How would you choose to die? I’d love to die of old age at 129.

What is the most overrated thing in the world? The worst date you’ve been on Chocolate. I went on a first date with a guy who spat his What, if anything, would you change about chewing gum out under the table we were your physical appearance? sitting at. Nothing. Your guilty pleasure What’s your biggest turn-off? Eating ice. Insecurity. Your first big extravagance What would you tell your 15-year-old self? A pair of Louis Vuitton shoes. Don’t trust ‘boys’. The worst present you’ve received Your best piece of advice for others Bad clothes. Be a real ting. The characteristic you most like about yourself Being honest.


IGLOOGHOST A texted conversation with Seamus Malliagh about the electronic world he’s made for likeminded weirdo kids Photogra phy: matilda H ill-jenkins / writer: ste phen butchard



OP P O S I T E: S eamus Malliagh at V illage underground. S horeditch , L ondon .


t’s hard to think of IGLOOGHOST as anything other than a pair of floating cartoon eyeballs, but he’s a Real Life Human named Seamus Malliagh, from Belfast, Ireland. He’s studying Graphic Design at uni after a year at his family home, working on his dizzying debut ¯ Wax Bloom’. He’s become a ‘Ne o cult hero, one album in, and he gets nervous before interviews. He’s also a big lover of Lapsang Souchong, a tea he’s become the ambassador of on Twitter. IGLOOGHOST doesn’t really care if you know about his personal life. Personal lives are boring. That’s partly why he writes his music to soundtrack the adventures of a ragtag bunch of otherworldly creatures, from a gelatinous worm in a witch hat named Xiangjiao, who got frozen mid-transformation, to the Melon Lantern Girls’ choir, who sing a spell that’s spun into a glorious melodic hook throughout the album. This peculiar story is fleshed out in the physical edition, cheekily printed on instruction manual paper you might find at IKEA. Delving into character arcs is an enjoyable bonus, but it’s clear from our conversation that this world is meant to live on through chat rooms, intense conversations with friends and moments of escape within headphones. “Never feel like spoken interviews come across how I want em too,” Seamus writes. He’s clearly a perfectionist, even if his typing says otherwise. Not a single bar on his new album is copy-pasted. Even the glossy packaging feels thought through, which is to say nothing of the actual sounds – tactile production that blurs synthetic and organic, and beats that feel crisp and readable even at the ridiculous speed they go at. When he’s in “full all caps igloo” mode, as he calls it, his passion and playful bluster matches these candied sounds. Speaking might ruin the magic, and while we begin our interview on a Skype call, we soon switch to text mode. IGLOOGHOST’s immaculate approach could be that of a genius or an obsessive fanboy, but it’s probably both. He ended up on Brainfeeder by essentially stalking Flying Lotus, allegedly throwing tapes at him during live shows. “A LOT OF MY OLD MUSIC SORTA



That passion is still there. During our interview, he sneakily tweets out a picture of some of the albums that influenced his artwork and it becomes apparent that the nerves aren’t the only reason he’s on a keyboard. That ADHDfuelled frantic craving for art is a highly charming trait. It’s visible from a few caps-locked sentences. Meeting more superfans like him gets that passion going. “I’M TRYNA READ LEGIT EVERYTHING PPL WRITE ABOUT IT ONLINE. SOME PPL ARE RLLY RLLY RLLY SMART,” he types, in




Sometimes, that obsessive personality got the better of him. In writing the album, he challenged himself by refusing to copy-paste any bars, and to construct his world from scratch. “IT HONESTLY NEARLY DESTROYED ME & I’M STILL FEELING THE AFTERMATH A LIL. I MOVED BACK TO WHERE I GREW UP FOR A YEAR TO MAKE IT & I WAS PRETTY ISOLATED CUS ALL MY FRIENDS WERE AT COLLEGE LIKE 90% OF THE TIME… SO THE ALBUM WAS ALL I RLLY HAD TO



The world he’s building is a vast one, but his interest in Asian typography and language stands out. If you didn’t know he was a white dude from Belfast you might think he was Japanese. “I KINDA TRY & AVOID MAKING MY MUSIC FULL JAPANOPHILE JUST CUS I THINK THAT’S KINDA CORNY, BUT A LOT OF PPL MY AGE GREW UP ON HELLA JAPANESE MEDIA SO JUST THE WAY THEY PACE & TELL STORIES IS IMPORTANT TO A LOT OF US I GUESS.”

most we’ve been given visually are rough sketches and minimalist designs. We all have the capacity to dream up new places, but few can translate such intimate creative thoughts for other people. “U KNOW I THINK IT WOULD BE HARDER TO MAKE IF IT WAS LYRICALLY SPELT OUT. I RLLY WANTED PPL TO FILL IN THE GAPS WITH THEIR OWN IMAGINATION RATHER THAN DICTATE EXACTLY WHAT THEY HAD TO THINK ABOUT FOR EACH MOMENT.”

Still, important details such as character voices and themes are harder to describe in beat-form. Some early reviews expressed confusion about reused samples popping up throughout. At best, it was seen as a stroke of genius, and a new form of character creation. At worst, it was shrugged off as lazy, and one-note. “HAHA YEAH I THINK IT DID WEIRD A FEW PEOPLE OUT WHO WERE FIRST TIME LISTENERS BUT THAT’S ALL GOOD. I’M JUST TRYNA MAKE STUFF I THINK SOUNDS COOL TO ME. IF IT DOESN’T RESONATE WITH SOMEONE THEN THAT’S HOW IT IS. THE ONLY THING THAT’S KINDA ANNOYING IS IF I GOT A SHITTY REVIEW FROM A HUGE SITE & IT BECAME LIKE THE FIRST SEARCH RESULT. THAT JUST LOOKS LAME HAHA. THAT HASN’T HAPPENED YET THO SO IT’S ALL GUCCI.”

The truth is, IGLOOGHOST doesn’t ‘reuse’ samples. He recreates them. The Melon Girls’ chant is chopped in countless ways throughout the album. Each time a different emotion is pulled from it. They won’t be the same emotion for each listener – one person’s boss battle could be another person’s breakup. Some moments, such as the swirling saxophone solo that’s worked into the track ‘Super Ink Burst’, are placed so elegantly that you secondguess what’s sampled and what’s not. “MY BOY DOUG PLAYED THAT!



with anything that gives him an escape. Now, he’s doing the same thing for his listeners. The landscapes his characters inhabit feel so full, and the

The power of the listener’s imagination might be his trump card, but IGLOOGHOST’s music is the hallucinogenic that gets us there.

In many ways, this alien album reflects Seamus’s reality. It’s loaded with references to Grime, Drum’n’Bass, Jazz and even ambient. “I LOVE STEVE


Protection Spells Something strange and wonderful is happening in that mouldy house down the street Photogra phy: chiara gambuto / writer: greg cochrane


he third one? That’s kind of like a spooky bluegrass album,” says Gwen Austin, outlining her band’s planned trilogy of releases. “My brother died a couple of years ago. Right after he died, I wrote a lot of songs about it. For whatever reason – I have no idea why  – they all just came out as these weird bluegrass songs. I have a trunkload of those, and I really like them. I’d like to put them out.” I’m over an hour into a conversation with Protection Spells and it’s clear that they’re a band with a plan – a trio of

complete and dramatically contrasting albums ready to be recorded. There’s also a lot of history. Right now, they’re a four-piece. It centres around Gwendolen Austin (guitar and vocals) and Russell Marshall (guitar), but includes drummer Mat Riviere (the DIY solo songwriter) and a hometown friend of Russell’s, Jessie Widdowson, on keys. It’s a project, that over the years, has transformed a few times and covered a lot of miles. Gwen grew up on 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the street that

shares a name with the iconic nightclub associated with city’s most famous son  – Prince. After completing high school she moved two hours north to the picturesque snowy town of Duluth, Bob Dylan’s birthplace, on the shore of Lake Superior. “I just wanted to move away, and I’ve never stopped just wanting to move away,” she reasons. “That’s kind of why I’m here.” In 2013, Gwen packed her case for England in order to study a degree in women, gender and sexuality at the University of Worcester. Slightly


a b o v e: G wen d o l en A u st in & R ussel l M a rsha l l a t a l l yo u rea d is l o v e. Leyt o nst o n e, Lo n d o n .


random, she admits. “I was like, ‘Can I really do this? Tell people I’m going to the sauce town?’” She did, and she loved the quintessentially English elements of the West Midlands cathedral city. “Oh, there were swans everywhere and cobbled streets. Oh my god. It was fucking cute, I was into it,” she roars. It was there, in a bar, in Russell’s hometown, where the two met. Russell had his own solo work released under the name Goodnight Lamplight (that’s winding down now, but he did recently release a cassette album made up entirely of samples taken from the long running ’80s US TV art programme The Joy of Painting, fronted by a large-haired and frequently profound host called Bob Ross). Gwen, to this point, had been a traditional folk artist, and a prolific one, writing hundreds of acoustic songs as a teenager. Russell helped produce some of that material, but detected something in those songs that would thrive with a different formula and a darker sound. “It was a power struggle,” laughs Gwen. “Would I make you folkier? Or would you make me more electronic?” “I couldn’t go folkier,” counters Russell. “I haven’t really got it in me. I just did what I do to songs. Certain sounds that I like – somewhere between surf-guitar and shoegaze bands.” That’s where Protection Spells really began to take shape and move away from Gwen’s original vision for them as Shirley Collins and Davy Graham playing open mic nights. Next, was a move to Oxford, where Russell enrolled in art school and Gwen completed her dissertation. They recorded a video and submitted it to NPR’s Tiny Desk concert competition – it didn’t win, but gave them the confidence to forge ahead. Shortly after came what Gwen now describes as “a massive quarter life crisis.” “I’d just graduated and I was like, ‘I gotta shake up my life!’” So, unsure of whether to return to the States or make a home in England, they did neither. Attracted to Ireland but realising Dublin was extortionately expensive they opted for “the largest city we could afford to live in.” They took a bus and boat to Waterford, where their free-spirited optimism wasn’t rewarded. They could only afford a small apartment – the one they

got had a bedroom overrun with mould, so they dragged their mattress through the door and slept in the kitchen. Outside, with no garbage collection, rubbish piled up into a mountain. The neighbours, they say, had “given up.” The only benefit was that Russell could play his drums loudly indoors and nobody cared. In the midst of the deteriorating conditions they adopted a skinny cat, and named her Peggy Seeger after the American folk singer. A sort of mascot for their poverty. They both worked full-time in call centres. Even the odd glimmer of positivity got snuffed out. The band briefly signed a management deal, which came to nothing. Promised opportunities never arrived.They lasted seven months before it all just got too rough. “It was the most depressing, psychologically traumatic time of my life,” reflects Gwen, still finding the humour in it. “A dark time.”


t’s almost two years on from Waterford, and today the two fourths of Protection Spells are sat in a pub in Leyton, east London on a Tuesday afternoon, a short walk from where they now rent a room. Parts of their journey may have sounded grim, but much of it has been a deliberate move. As Russell explains: “we have an affection for shitty stuff.” That doesn’t just cover why he likes the “shitty” sound of The Velvet Underground but extends to most things. It’s a resourceful attitude; one that asks why spend money unnecessarily when something else, more economic and totally satisfactory, will do? That’s why we’re sat in a bar at a table where one of the seats has fallen through, surrounded by nightshifters and gamblers, drinking a round that comes in under a tenner and the band’s clothes are all from a charity shop £1 sale (for the record, these surroundings and their attire are perfectly nice). When they play live, Gwen performs with a guitar from the ’70s, which someone had chucked away. Russell repaired it. Though it only functions when a euro coin is wedged into the neck, it sounds great. “Our motto for living is basically to work as little as possible by spending almost nothing all of the time,” outlines Gwen. “Everything we have is

just garbage – we’re total slackers. Everything is just to feed the music,” she adds. The two of them moved to London in January 2016. They quickly realised the £1000 they had saved got them absolutely nothing in a city so expensive. Gwen laughs: “Starting out, we were like, ‘aw, that’ll be fine’. A month later we were like, ‘I think we’re going to die!’ It wasVictorian – we had hollow cheeks, living in an attic with mice.” These days, they’ve found a bit more balance, covering rent money by working 20 hours a week, Gwen in Whole Foods and Russell at a rehearsal studio. Mat has replaced Russell on drums, and Jessie travels down from Oxford for rehearsals and shows. They’re managing themselves and booking their own shows, including recent support slots with Carla dal Forno and Jane Weaver. “They make very feminine spooky music, and so do we,” reasons Gwen, who explains that their interest in eerie folklore extends into the band’s aesthetic – their logo, for example, is a medieval looking drawing of a battle axe and a broom. So far, there’s only a handful of tracks from Protection Spells online. There’s the noirish ‘Sister Harpy’ and ‘Daughter of Gold’, the witchy title track from an EP released last year, a lofi shadowy murder-ballad that could be ‘House of the Rising Sun’ were it recorded by Warpaint. But that’s barely the beginning of it. As they say, there’s three albums of material stacked up, and their “weird trajectory” is all mapped out. The first is a collection of songs that embody the Protection Spells sound – an introduction. “Pure Protection Spells,” Gwen states, “what we sound like at the moment.” Number two is a concept record. A feminist folk opera based on the nativity story. It’s the embodiment of the 25-year-old’s interest in theology, mythology and particularly the recurring depictions of women throughout religious history – it focuses primarily on Joseph, Mary’s mother Anne and Mary herself. “It doesn’t rewrite it in terms of what happened it just asks what did she [Mary] actually think about it? It looks at these women who were kind of the catalyst of history but also outside of history.” Album three is about something much more recent and personal – the death of Gwen’s brother a couple of


years ago. “I think of it as a celebration of his life,” she says. “It’s not a secret. I like to talk about him. “Basically, I had been in England and came back home to discover that that he had died the week previous. I didn’t know. No-one told me. They knew I was coming back.” “He took his own life,” she continues. “That’s what happened. He was lovely. He was a cool dude. He was very supportive and we really got on. That was a shock but I accept it. I was pretty immediate in accepting that that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he needed to do. It sounds very dark – like ohh melancholy – but [the album] it’s really not about that, it’s more about like… I accept what you wanted to do, and yeah, it’s good. It’s good stuff. He wanted to be a musician so badly and he wasn’t, he was an artist, and he was so smart, and he really wanted these sort of things, so in a weird way it’ll be me giving him the sort of artistic position that he wanted.” A couple of months ago, Protection Spells sat down to try and write the band’s biography. Shortly after, Gwen Tweeted about it saying it had been “the most emotionally draining experience of my life.” It’s no surprise, together they’ve been through a lot. Now, they just need a chance to execute their ambitions. “I’ve got big plans for it, but I can’t afford it. I don’t just want to knock it out at home and put it up,” nods Russell. “We could record all of them tomorrow. We’re ready.”


rig ht : Ca rla d a l fo rn o in st o ke n ewin g t o n , L o n d o n .

Carla dal Forno Mysterious sounds from the other side of a fog-soaked valley Photography: heather mccutcheon / writer: dafydd jenkins


hrough the customary wind and rain, devotees make their way to Glasgow’s hallowed ground. But this isn’t the Celtic stadium in Parkhead, and it isn’t the Barrowland Ballroom all up in lights; SWG3, the city’s premier alternative music venue, is hosting a celebration of Optimo – the city’s legendary DJ duo – on their twentieth birthday. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime line up; Nurse With Wound are on the bill, as are ADULT. and King Ayisoba. On the poster, sandwiched between house high priestess The Black Madonna and dancehall oddballs Equiknoxx, is the name of Carla dal Forno. This was the first time I saw Carla dal Forno live, even if ‘saw’ isn’t quite the right verb. A silhouette alongside her bandmate Mark Smith against Lynchian hues of blue and red, all was still but for her gentle bobbing, pinning down ambient hisses and unwieldy flourishes with a stern, subatomic bassline. Her vocal sauntered over the hum – quietly, but confidently – yet nobody in the room could be sure exactly what she was saying. Amid the abrasive noise and thumping 4/4s at SWG3 that day, the performance was a thing of mystery. I wasn’t sure what I’d just experienced: a singer-songwriter too shy to cast light over her own performance, or a stark show of ambient music, distributed in short intervals, like the most opaque pop music.

“Any labels are reductive, right?” dal Forno tells me almost three months later over Skype. The mysterious figure is before me – situated in a blank, domestic space – and I’m surprised to find her jovial, if not any less curious, rarely stating anything definitively. “I think I want to create a space in my music. If the environment isn’t right, what you’re trying to convey in the song isn’t going to be captured.” She scoffs at her own abstruse comment, but it must be irresistible not to appeal to some kind of vague mysticism, especially when your work seems caught between multiple places, with a slippery point of origin. Having started playing guitar “as something to do in my spare time” while studying at the University of Melbourne, dal Forno quickly fell into the city’s vibrant lo-fi “not quite pop” scene. “There’s always a lot of bands in Melbourne – it’s a massive music scene for the size of the city and the population,” she says, recalling a start in music that seems as amorphous as it was humble. “Friends in bands would show me their songs, which I found really inspiring – someone writing out their lyrics and saying ‘here are the three guitar chords.’ I knew two of them, so I would give it a go.” More by osmosis than bloody-mindedness, she played her first show shortly after joining her first band.

She’s more surprised than anyone that she got a taste for it. “When I started making music in Melbourne, I was making it for 50 people, and I was happy with that.” But, like many other Melburnian musicians (Nick Cave, Dead Can Dance, Dirty Three, King Gizzard), dal Forno was ready to find a bigger audience, and the move to Europe seemed like the logical next step. “It took a long time for me to think I should take this to a different place,” she says. “[The scene] was very nurturing, but also very insular – you don’t see many new faces.” Having collaborated with various musicians – the most oft-cited being fellow Melburnian Tarquin Manek – a cassette of noise folk by her group F INGERS eventually made its way to Kiran Sande at UK label Blackest Ever Black. Today, it’s safe to call dal Forno one of the label’s flagship artists. I say ‘flagship’, but dal Forno seems more content with squirreling herself away. “I’m not the person who’s talking the loudest, or the one with the most to say,” she says, wholly unsurprisingly. The title of her 2016 debut, ‘You Know What it’s Like’, proved to be antithetical to its hazy content – a record of more questions than answers, made more puzzling by its air of manacled necessity. Through the mist of tape noise, cobbled drum machines and screeching flutes come to life, while the varying sounds of


pouring water – rain, from a jug into a tall glass – ease in and out of earshot, as dal Forno’s obscured vocal calls out from an abyss. Her message? It seems like we don’t know the half of it.


atest EP ‘The Garden’ sees dal Forno lifting the veil – if only about an inch. Where the vocals of ‘You Know What It’s Like’ seem to have come from underneath a body of water, those of the ‘The Garden’ appear to have at least come from the other side of a fogsoaked valley. In other words, it’s just slightly… louder. “I had a sound card this time,” she says, “which can add higher fidelity.” But the EP is perhaps also the site of resurgent confidence: “it’s entirely self-produced, whereas my album had a co-producer. I probably spent as much time working on the EP  – I was doing it all myself and I had a lot to learn.” Luckily, the songs were already there–but not without the hard graft. “I find that making a song a day generally works,” she says. “It’s hard because you spend the whole day being like ‘this is shit – what am I doing? I suck.’ Sometimes you get to the end of the day and think that was a complete mess, but other times things come together.” She pauses, as if ready to drop a bombshell. “I feel like the difficulty and the insecurity is just part of the process.”



‘I feel like the diff iculty and the insecurity is just part of the process’ Much of her new EP was born out of need – built from material intended to meet the demands of an everlengthening live show. It’s odd to think of music so steeped in mood – worn, fatigued – as being able to fly in a live environment at all. “It can be [difficult],” she says. “I feel like I still play shows where I think ‘fuck that was shit’, but now I play shows I’m really happy with as well.” I ask if there are any plans to branch out further with a full band? “Maybe we’ll get more musicians, to try and make it… even more live. I’m not really at a level yet where I can think about doing that though.” The bold title track of ‘The Garden’ finds dal Forno pushing her minimal craft to its limits. Containing elements lifted from the track of the same name by German industrial pioneers

Einstürzende Neubauten (“I can’t say it either,” she laughs), a shoestring synthesizer wilts underneath an austerely functional bass part, as the audible clacking of the strings keeps time. “Initially, I didn’t plan it as a reinterpretation,” she admits. “I was just going to steal this idea of being in the garden and nobody would be any the wiser. If I’m being honest, every track that I’ve written has started with some sort of borrowing from other artists’ ideas. It’s probably a common thing… maybe.” Certainly there wouldn’t be a Pavement without The Fall, but it’s oddly pertinent to think of no Carla dal Forno without Blixa Bargeld and his band. With both acts, sibilant, lo-fi recording devices are as much an instrument as a bass guitar, and a full percussion set can consist of ghostly drum machines and indistinct

household objects (invariably struck by other indistinct household objects). But it’s clear that dal Forno and Bargeld come from different view-points lyrically. You won’t find Bargeld in the garden when it’s raining, but there you’ll find dal Forno – “day and night, I’m always outside / I’ll stay out here, through rain or shine.” She tentatively speculates this contrast: “maybe I wrote lyrics that would be a metaphor for some other personal experience of being in the world. I talk about the threat of being outside at night – the creepiness.” A phrase in the EP’s press release, which at first I dismissed, suddenly chimes at the back of my mind: “an acutely female perspective is brought to bear” in dal Forno’s version of the song.


ar from nicking anything outright, dal Forno sets up hitherto undiscovered and related constellations – of her own enshrouded sound and the realm of harsh industrialism. Better to think of dal Forno’s ‘The Garden’ as a tribute to the European avant-garde, right down to its referential music video, which features the artist kitted out in Bargeldstyle funereal black and a large-rimmed hat, her head bowed like a haunted scarecrow, lifted along with her palms every time she opens her mouth to sing. “When darkness falls, there’s so much more to it / the wild shapes are in my eyes.” Remarkably, despite its theatrical nature, the Carla dal Forno of this music video finds the artist at her most discernable – or perhaps it’s the first time she’s noticed us watching. The Carla dal Forno of previous music videos for ‘What You Gonna Do Now’ and ‘Fast Moving Cars’ was reserved, constantly seen from behind; followed on board the U-Bahn in Berlin, or to an outback lake in rural Australia. “They came out with this real stalker vibe – there’s a sense of the unknown or a sense of threat,” she smirks. We felt we shouldn’t be looking, and that was the point. But the Carla of ‘The Garden’ demands that we meet her gaze. If anything, it’s even creepier. “I’m more of an observer, naturally,” she reflects. “But [‘The Garden’ EP] felt more direct, and I felt the clips should be too. I couldn’t make another film clip where someone followed me around.” Moving beyond your instincts, she says, is all part of progressing as an artist: “if you want to keep creating new and interesting work, you have to change it up by


doing things that make you nervous – and making the film clip was my way of doing that.” It’s been a hugely busy year since the release of her debut LP – she’s hosted a regular show on NTS (“I don’t really consider it DJing; there’s enough DJing in the world at the moment”), and shared illustrious bills all over Europe. I get the impression that she’s finally drawing a line under everything in anticipation of the next bit – whatever it may entail. “I’ve got a clean slate at the moment,” she says, and the relief is palpable. After another goaround of Europe she’ll see the year out in relative quiet with Christmas back home in Australia.Yet, she doesn’t seem like someone who turns off very easily; in her immediate future, she’s off to pick up a synthesizer. Before I get my hopes up, she’s quick to dispel any speculation that we’ll hear any new music from her before 2018. “I find I get disheartened when I try and make something when I’ve got other stuff I need to do.” Fair enough. In contrast to the speculative person I spoke to minutes before – and to the ominous, silhouetted figure I saw at SWG3 nearly three months ago  – Carla dal Forno suddenly strikes me as someone who knows herself and her art. After a brief ‘are you winding things up yet?’ interruption from her flatmate, dal Forno adds conclusively, “I make DIY music. You may lose high fidelity richness by giving up higher production values – and in doing things differently, you turn your back towards that world – but if you’re doing things yourself, there’s an intimacy of direct, personal communications. Other people’s ideas or visions don’t get in the way of what you want people to see.” Here, she breaks her calm for a more spirited tone of voice. “That’s my philosophy on it.”


think I’m going to move on to a funk metal band next,” deadpans John Dwyer out of nowhere. “I mean, I have no problem with garage rock, but I think it’s time I distance myself with a funk metal opus.” And then, just like that, our fairly straightforward conversation careens off on a random tangent as we both start reminiscing about the ’90s and when it seemed like the whole world was hooked on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “We called ‘em the Chili Peps’ down here, bro,” he says, setting me straight. “I really liked them when I was young – those first two records, when they were super fucking grungy. Like, those guys and Faith No More, I was into all that shit. Even Guns n’

Roses for Christ’s sake, I was like, holy shit, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, that guy is a fucking animal. I can’t believe I once stared at Axl Rose and was like: ‘awesome…’” Spending 45 minutes talking with John Dwyer, it becomes immediately clear that the Oh Sees singer and driving force loves music to a level that is comparable to how most people feel about body parts. Growing up among the post-industrial sprawl of Providence, Rhode Island, Dwyer has lived by the Californian coast for a little over two decades. As such, he’s caught between two worlds. The 42-year-old has what I can only really describe as ‘laid-back intensity’, his clipped East Coast accent masking a

typical, easy-going West Coast attitude. As we talk, we roll through a kaleidoscope of different topics from Rolling Stone bootlegs to the joys of Los Angeles mini-malls and recording a record on the sly in a San Francisco guitar shop. In some ways, our wide-ranging conversation is a mirror to Dwyer’s magpie-like musical output. Starting off as one half of Pink and Brown, a chaotic, noise punk act that he worked on with fellow multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Rosenberg, Dwyer’s music has since exploded in every direction possible. He’s done stripped down, Stooges-like proto-punk with Coachwhips. He’s done Liars style jazz-punk with The Hospitals and,


more recently, Swords and Sandals. He’s even done weird, excessively macho fake-German industrial with the slightly controversial Zeigenbock Kopf. And that’s without counting his various solo projects and flights of fancy. To cut a long story short, let’s just say that it would take you a considerable amount of time, money and effort to track down every piece of music he’s appeared on. These days though, Dwyer mostly confines his efforts to two main projects: Damaged Bug, his arthouse solo project and the Oh Sees, the closest thing he has to a constant gig. Going by many names over the years, including Thee Oh Sees, OCS, Orinoka Crash Suite, Orange County Sound


On to the next one All hail the 20 years and 20 albums of John Dwyer’s Oh Sees / OCS / Thee Oh Sees Ph o to gra phy: J o hn dwyer / writer: d ominic haley

and any one of a number of other acronyms that John has decided seemingly on a whim, Oh Sees (sometimes with a ‘The’ or ‘Thee’) have gone from a side project to one of the cornerstone bands of the modern garage/psych rock resurgence. Although the music has morphed over the years from quietly strange freak folk on early albums like ‘1’,’ 2’, and ‘3 and 4’ to the primal, elemental psych rock the band are better known for today, the Oh Sees have informed and inspired a legion of followers with their love of obscure psychedelia and free-wheeling improvisations. 2017 is a landmark year for the project, as, for as far as anyone can tell, it marks both its twentieth anniversary

and the release of albums nineteen and twenty. Although, like everyone else, Dwyer isn’t all that sure on the exact numbers. “I’ve had to do my due diligence just to check, but it has actually been twenty years pretty much,” he tells me as we try to piece all the evidence together. “We’ve put out more than twenty releases, but this is definitely our twentieth combo LP, not counting the singles and what not. It has just been dumb luck, y’know. We’ve never tried to do, like, one a year or anything like that, I mean, I’d do five a year if I could.” I ask him how he thinks the Oh Sees have managed to survive where other projects have eventually fallen by the wayside. “Well, we’ve never given a fuck about what people want,” he says. “That’s why I put out, like, eleven records a year. I’m like, fuck the critics if they can’t deal with us. We don’t even pay that much attention to the fans, we just get up there and play what feels right to us. I’ve always kept the band changing by using innovation from other people. I think our writing style has grown and mutated over the years. Certain records, I’ve gone into it with an idea of how I wanted it to be written – like, shall I write it from improvisation? Shall I write it from the perspective of myself? But mostly I’ve just been changing when the wind strikes me. It’s not up to any rule or anything like that.” As you’re probably realising by now, Dwyer likes to move fast. He takes great pains to stack the band with musicians that can hack the pace and that he can bounce ideas off. Nevertheless, the Oh Sees have burned through quite a few members over the years. The sheer relentlessness can be punishing; for example, when he made the move from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2013, Dwyer decided to pause the band for a few months while his living situation was up in the air. When their then tour manager announced that the band was going on hiatus, it ignited fears that the Oh Sees was over. Dwyer is still bemused by the

incident. “Sometimes I feel like every blog post of me saying shit is always something I didn’t actually say,” he says as we talk about the move. “Like, when I said the band was going on hiatus; I never actually said that – those words never came out of my mouth. Basically, it was the fourth time I was going to be evicted from a house I really enjoyed, so I thought, ‘fuck it, time to go.’” The idea that anyone could think that Dwyer would stop seems strange looking back from the distance of five years.This is a guy who seems addicted to making music and he’s done all sorts of jobs from stacking groceries, working as a bike messenger, house painting and even a short stint as a handyman at a hip-hop club to feed his habit. “That sort of attitude comes from my hometown,” he explains when I ask him where this incredible work ethic comes from. “I’ve watched so many people where I grew up just do whatever the fuck they want in terms of art. There would be these kids who would work really hard to get onto an art course and they’d drop out right before they graduated being like, ‘I’m done.’ Like, they wouldn’t get their diploma, end up with all this debt and still manage to make it as an artist just by using their gut and inventiveness.” New album ‘Orc’ feels a lot like an exercise in said inventiveness. Released back in August, the record represents another evolution for the band. With two drummers now a permanent fixture of Oh Sees, the album advances into unknown territory. It keeps the white-hot garage rock of the previous records and adds in flourishes of early heavy metal, prog and even some of the creepy art rock of Dwyer’s solo output. The result is fierce, unpredictable and wildly inventive, and sees the group firmly on their way to rock’s further reaches. “With ‘Orc’ I just wanted it to be a heavy record,” Dwyer clarifies. “Not so much battleworthy, but I wanted it to have a heavy quality because that’s the


way we were naturally headed. If there’s any innovation I think it’s mainly been down to everyone getting better at playing. It really is the mechanical result of ‘practice, practice, practice’. This record came out of a lot of sweat and grind; lots of loose improvisations that we’ve slowly screwed down.” As well as throwing new influences into the fury, ‘Orc’ also sees the band stretching out their horizons in terms of pacing. One of the most interesting things about the record is that Oh Sees have even started to rip up their own rulebook, with songs like ‘Cooling Tower’ that veer into airy dream pop. “The original version was so very different to the one that ended up on the record,” Dwyer tells me. “It morphed a lot in the studio because I brought in a string player from El Paso. Once he started playing, it just really changed where the song was headed and I pulled out some other instruments I hadn’t used for a while. It ended up completely changing from start to finish, turning into that weird little ditty you have there. “I think it’s a nice breathe of air in the album,” he adds. “You have to sort of come up for breath on that one as it’s a lot of long pieces and a lot of wild pieces. To be able to pop up for air is never a bad idea.”


few nights later, Brigid Dawson is eager to find out if I’d been watching the football. Born in the UK, with family spread around the South West and Birmingham, she’s excited to tell me that her old man is a die-hard Tottenham fan. “He took me to a game at White Hart Lane the last time I was over,” she says from her home just outside of San Francisco. “I loved it – it had such a similar vibe to a live show.” Dawson and Dwyer’s relationship goes back to the earliest days of this project. They worked together on almost all of the band’s output up until 2013 (and again in 2015) and their

int e r v i e w s onstage chemistry arguably helped make the band such a spectacle live. It’s almost strange to find out that this meeting of minds has utterly mundane beginnings. “John was my customer at the coffee shop – I worked around the corner from where he lived,” she tells me, picking up the story. “We were all neighbours, the whole band pretty much lived within a block of each other. I’d walk over to John’s house from the cafe where I worked at and his friend Kyle Ranson was his roommate then; he was a painting hero. It was all just happening there, y’know, and the whole of San Francisco felt like that, not just my little group of friends.” One of the first things to grab you about Dawson and Dwyer is that they both seem to vibe off the energy of each other. Dawson puts it beautifully when she says “working with John means living your life at quite a fast pace. You’re informed by his really amazing East Coast, working class, work ethic. Everything John has, he’s earned and he works really hard at it. “You have to be part of a well-oiled machine,” she continues. “His work ethic spurs you to have a great work ethic if you hadn’t got one already. I’ve been making a record with somebody else and the pace of it has been really different – there have been times where I didn’t know what to do with myself. I feel like working with John has kind of turned me into a 15-yearold boy in a way. If it’s not done in a week I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to see it through, although I usually do.” The pair have reunited recently for the second of the Oh Sees 2017

releases, which also just so happens to be the band’s twentieth record ever. Due to hit the shelves in November, ‘Memory of a Cut Off Head’ sees the band returning both to its original OCS moniker and their quieter, more folkinformed roots. A co-production between Dawson and Dwyer, it’s a record that feels like a complete aboutturn when compared to ‘Orc’. Gone are the wild improvisations and duelling drum kits, replaced by lush, stripped back acoustic arrangements that are sumptuous in texture, yet satisfyingly retain the gentle grace of the band’s early work. It’s both a re-examination of old times, a solemn meditation on the hectic pace of the last twenty years and perhaps even a respite from it. “After all, I’m a man in his 40s,” remarks Dwyer when the subject of the new record crops up. “It makes sense not to get shitfaced all the time.” “This one has been a little bit different,” beams Dawson when I asked her about reconnecting with Dwyer. “For the first time, I’ve got my own songs on this album. So it’s a bit different from our old working relationship and it’s been really nice. It’s actually been really calm – the calmest experience I’ve had working with John. It’s been really easy – you fly down to LA, you play each other your songs and then work them out together. It has been way more relaxed actually than my previous ten years working with him. We all had jobs, we were all building this thing from scratch and touring as much as we could.This has been an utterly different experience. It’s been like hanging out as friends and making music together.

We took our time on this one.” “Yeah, it’s been cool,” agrees Dwyer. “It’s like a variation on the old setup, but it’s progressed. The older version of the OCS was extremely simple compared to the more recent stuff, but this time we’ve brought in more players, which adds a whole new dimension to the sound. So rather than having me butchering my way through a keyboard part, we’ve brought in some people who can actually play the harpsichord. I wanted it to sound good, but also pretty warm. I hate when things sound too perfect. I’m really, really about the little fuck ups that make a record sound human.” This all begs the obvious question though – is ‘Memory of a Cut off Head’ a conscious call back to the Oh Sees original set up; a love letter to the simplicity of earlier times, as it were? Well, if it is, the pair aren’t admitting it. “It wasn’t until much later on that I realised that this was the 20th anniversary of OCS,” explains Dawson. “I don’t think there was a plan, we were just doing what we do. You have to keep things fresh and keep inspired, but you also have to keep things moving forward. It’s just that with this one, that just so happened to reach back to something that was in the past as well.” Keeping things fresh is what the Oh Sees is all about. Both the band and Castle Face – the equally prolific label Dwyer runs with his partners Matt Jones and Brian Lee Hughes – are determined to keep their musical horizons as broad as possible. “We’ve been pigeonholed very hardcore into the garage rock scene here,” Dwyer tells me as we talk about his

future projects. “But, y’know, we always trying to branch out all the damn time – we have books coming out again next year. More electronic stuff and more, like, odd stuff.” Whatever happens next, Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees, OCS or whatever they feel like calling themselves will continue to simultaneously push the envelope while flummoxing and inspiring a generation of fans, musicians and critics along the way, ultimately by being so incredibly self-sufficient. I ask Dawson how it feels to be in a band that is considered the mothership of the post-millennial garage scene. “Are we even garage rock?” she shoots back almost instantly. “I suppose we do have that vibe, because we all love that kind of stuff collectively, but I think the influences come from a lot of other places too. When you say it to me now, I think of a bunch of bros. It doesn’t really grab me, y’know…” Yeah, but you can’t deny that a lot of garage bands have been inspired by your music though, I say. “That’s true,” she counters. “Sometimes I hear things when I’m out and about and I know it’s not us, but it sounds like us, which is so strange. But that’s the way music works, y’know, you fall in love with music and then you do your very best to write something on par with the thing you love. Of course, it often comes out completely different, but it will have shades of that old thing that you love. I suppose that’s what garage rock is now – it’s a conversation with all the other bands that are doing that kind of stuff.”

Entry Points 3 albums to start a new obsession with this enduring, evolving group

OCS Cool Death of Island Raiders

Thee Oh Sees Help

Oh Sees Orc

N ar nac k Reco rd s, 2006

I n The R e d , 2 0 0 9

C a s tle F a c e, 2 01 7

This might sound a little hard to believe, but for a band with such a hard-rocking reputation, Dwyer originally intended OCS to be a much softer and altogether stranger project than the one it became known as. Slightly misunderstood at the time, ‘Island Raiders’ is a surprisingly laid-back affair, with gentle freak-folk melodies and tenderhearted, almost cutesy vocals.

If there is such a thing as a quintessential Oh Sees record, then ‘Help’ is it. Although technically their eighth studio album, it was only the band’s second record under ‘Thee Oh Sees’ and it basically forms a blueprint for the Cramps-meets-Jefferson Airplane sound John Dwyer and company have perfected since. Dialling back the free improvisation of the earlier records, songs like ‘Rainbows’ and ‘Meat Step Lively’ are taut, riff-chugging freak-outs.

Since Dwyer dissolved the long-running version of the Oh Sees in 2013, the band has been slowly transcending into rock’s furthest reaches, reintroducing the experimentation and extended jam sessions that make their live shows so special. ‘Orc’ is the latest postcard from their travels and adds even more ingredients into the formula, from free-form Afro-jazz on ‘Raw Optics’ to the breezy, almost Ratatat-like dream-pop of ‘Cooling Tower’.



Photography: dan kendall / writer: daniel dylan wray

Over a table strewn with cans of Aldi own-brand lager in a Liverpool beer garden, Shame are recalling on-tour war stories. “Do you remember when I got on stage and was sick all over Charlie Boyer & the Voyeurs’ keyboard as they played?” says the group’s lead singer, Charlie Steen. “I was just hallucinating, seeing eyes everywhere,” he recalls. There’re more tales  – of being banned from a Dublin Wetherspoon’s because the staff mistook their tired, on-tour state as a sign that they were drug addicts, or “skags” as they were called before being asked to leave; of the 30p pints in a 24-hour bar in the Czech Republic that ended up in them encountering a homophobic club owner who extinguished lit cigarettes on his own hand because he was so angry with the band and their perceived gayness as they gyrated around the venue to the music of their friends band, HMLTD. There’s more hallucinating that involved almost eating a raw chicken believing it to be a freshly roasted one; Evangelical Christians trying to save and convert guitarist Eddie Green as he crashed into their tent in the black of night in the woods on an island while blind drunk and trying to make it back to the hotel; and there’s a heroic, convoluted, incredibly lengthy (and successful) plot of the band travelling to and breaking into Glastonbury Festival to play a gig there in 2016. All of Shame are barely out of their teens and have only existed as a group for a few years but they’ve made good, fun and mischievous use of their time so far.

Such tales paint a picture of a drugaddled, crazy and chaotic bunch who you’d cross the road to avoid making eye contact with – an image no doubt reinforced by their music: a snarling and seething blend of urgent postpunk, brooding atmospheres, guttural vocals and precision sharp melodies that feel born from 1970s Manchester but are funnelled through a contemporary sheen and political bite that feels unequivocally of the moment. However, in reality, Shame are an affable bunch and are nothing more than a group of very young men having a mountain of laughs in an industry they are already wise enough to know can be as fickle as it can treacherous. “I think a lot of people are sometimes pleasantly surprised by us,” says bassist Josh Finerty, “because they hear things like ‘furious young punk band from London, crazy young kids who are going to fight each other and piss on you’ and then you come see it and whilst Charlie is a visceral frontman the rest of us are just fresh-faced cherubic little kids really. It’s energetic but I always try and have fun with the audience, that’s always the main part.” This is something that Eddie Green echoes: “Yeah, it’s not like we’re going to come and make it really intense and nasty,” he says. “Some bands want to make you feel uncomfortable and we’re not one of them.” Perhaps Shame’s reputation as an unapproachable band of snotty, outspoken, angry kids comes from the origins of where the band was born and cultivated: The Queen’s Head, Brixton. The pub-come-doss house

Shouting at walls Before people started getting the wrong idea about Shame as a wild pack of snotty miscreants, they learnt everything they needed to know about the music industry from a crumbling pub in south London


was the place that The Fat White Family essentially lived and operated from and it was the pub that made national news when the band [Fat Whites] stood atop of its roof with a giant banner proclaiming ‘The Witch is Dead’ in relation to the death of Margaret Thatcher. Now a gastro pub, for a period the place had a reputation for its behind-the-scenes anything goes vibe, solidifying it as some sort of sordid den of inequity, a reputation that the Fat Whites themselves only strengthened. The band saw all of this up close because it became their second home and rehearsal space because drummer Charlie Forbes’ dad was friends with the pub’s landlord, Simon Tickner. In fact, Forbes had been thrust into this unusual world from an early age. “I had Christmas dinner in the Queen’s Head a few years before and I fell down the stairs carrying one of the Fat Whites’ dinner. I was only about 14.” It also transpires that what you may have heard or thought about the goings on in the place were almost certainly accurate. “Everything you’ve


read or any preconceptions you have about that pub, are 100% true,” Green says, with guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith adding: “If not, it was under exaggerated, some dark things happened there.” Still, it gave them an affordable space to rehearse, in a supportive and judgment-free environment filled with people from a vast range of ages and backgrounds that went far beyond that of their school classmates. This is something Shame feel has been crucial to their development, not just as a band, but people, too. “It was an eclectic environment,” Steen says, “Anyone could walk into that pub but at the same time it was like a massive community and if you accepted it, it became like a second home. You could walk in there, walk behind the bar, pour yourself a pint and go upstairs before the landlord had even woken up.” The band – five school friends who started making music together out of simple boredom – were there every single day for a year. “It was a very slow progression into doing anything

resembling a proper practice because the drums were pretty much made out of gaffer tape,” says Steen as he cracks open another St Etienne. “I didn’t have a microphone for two months, I just used to cup my hands and shout against a wall. Also, none of the equipment was ours, so it was like, will there be a bass amp in there?” “We got pretty creative because of it,” says Green. The space opened Shame’s eyes and minds to a lot of things they hadn’t been exposed to before. As Green puts it: “When people our age were just doing normal shit, we were getting fucked up with 45-year-olds.” They would be banned for overstepping the line one night but welcomed back the next; they would scrub the floors of the pub despite them feeling like they would never get clean; they would befriend people from bands such as Stiff Little Fingers and Alabama 3 and listen keenly to their tales of being churned through the soggy guts of the music industry. “They gave us advice that is still really fundamental to what we do today,” Steen says. It also gave them a stage and a place to harness themselves as a ferocious live band.The first show they ever played was under the insistence of the landlord, Tickner. They pulled in four whole mates and played before that evening’s reggae night started. From that night the group still have one song in their set that they play today called ‘One Rizla’, a selfdeprecating number that leans closer to the more straight-up, Cribs-like, indie side of the group that they occasionally veer into, rather than the Fall-like ‘The Lick’ or the frenzied jagged burst of ‘Concrete’. “We wrote that song [‘One Rizla’] at 16 when we were at the Queen’s so lyrically it’s not much – it’s quite immature – but it shows where we were at that time and when we started the band…” Steen is interrupted by a middle aged man in a Crass T-shirt who asks for his ticket for tonight’s show to be autographed by the band. He then continues: “I wasn’t a musician, we were trying to find ourselves and lyrically I thought songs had to be about being in love or being heartbroken but at that age I was just a chubby stoner who didn’t ever get any girls, so I could only write about something that related to me. All the music our friends were listening to, mainly rap, was much more narcissistic and bragging and I couldn’t really relate to it.”

me they ended up putting someone from Ministry of Sound on their guest list for a show at DIY venue and bar, The Windmill, in Brixton (as part of a regular series of shows they put on with other bands under the title Chimney Shitters). But they were keen to avoid falling into traps that they had heard fellow comrades back at the Queen’s stumble into. “Thankfully we were brought up in this pub that had a lot of people that had worked in the music industry. They’d all made some of the worst decisions that you could make in the industry, so we learnt a pretty basic knowledge of the do’s and don’ts,” says Coyle-Smith. Steen likewise knew that allowing the group to find themselves was the key element at this early stage when seeds were still being sown. “We found ourselves lucky enough to know all those people and hear all those stories, so we didn’t jump at the first bit of interest, we knew about the smoke and mirrors and just wanted to write more songs and play and see what happened.” Forbes and Green were adamant if and when the time came they would be avoiding major labels. Green remembers: “We had this one guy come down from a major and was giving us the whole routine, like, ‘guys, I literally have goosebumps right now,’ and my dad was there and just said, ‘you ought to put a cardigan on, mate.’ That was rule number one to me – don’t sign for a fucking major. I don’t want to tar every major label with the same brush but I’ve always had that mentality.” The band has indeed since signed with an independent label (Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans) and news about their forthcoming debut album will come later this month. With such a raging attitude towards major record labels, and with the band having previously made the odd jibe and prod at other guitar bands, I ask if they view themselves as something of an antidote to something they consider

b el o w a n d o v er : a t yp ica l s h a me s h o w . t h e l ouisia n a , b r i s t o l . 9 O c t 20 1 7.

is culturally stagnant in contemporary guitar music? “I think what’s an issue in contemporary guitar music is that a lot of it is completely innocuous and there’s nothing challenging about it,” Green fires back in an instant. “We’re not an antidote,” says Steen. “We’re a statement that can be interpreted as a joke.” “We’re the disease,” Finerty throws in with humour. However, another run-yourmouth-off-band Shame are not, with Forbes going so far as to say: “I don’t want to presume that we’re better than other bands.” “Obviously there are some vacuous industry machine bands like the Hunna,” adds Finerty, “who are just like this sponsored thing created for kids that have lapped it up. So we aren’t that but I don’t want to slag off a band that I think are shit just because I think they’re shit.” Forbes reinforces this point too: “We always vocalise when we love a band and I think going out of your way to slag someone off just because you don’t like them is pointless.” The real issue for Shame is not necessarily the quality of the music a group makes but their refusal to get behind the position they are in to speak up. This is something Green tells me when he says: “There’s nothing worse than seeing a band that go out of their way just to slag off people that are pretty much in the same boat as them, but, then again, if they are using their influence irresponsibly, that’s a different story. If they have a platform and they’re not doing anything [about social and political issues] then I find that shit, really.” Are bands duty-bound to use their platform in this way, I ask.


hame’s reputation as a live band caught on as they grew and developed, attracting the usual industry buzz that the group laugh about when they tell


“I think some people just generally think we’re arseholes. Which I can understand.”

“Bands have an obligation,” says Finerty. “There’s a key difference between taste in music and a political stance. If you’re promoting something that you believe is for the greater good and benefits the people of this country then that is a good thing to promote, whereas slagging bands is something else.” This is an area that audibly frustrates Green. “If you have an idea you want to promote and you think that is something that other people could benefit from then I think it’s irresponsible to not use it.” Likewise, Forbes comes alive on this subject too. “I don’t give a fuck about the sort of music a band plays if they are saying good stuff. I mean, Wolf Alice, for example, are not really my cup of tea but they are really vocal with their politics and it’s like fucking fair enough, man, you’re a massive band. We all have beliefs, we all feel something and we want change for this country – so why not use it?” Whilst Shame are keen not to get into unnecessary wars of words with other bands, the day before we meet they did share an amusing aside with our photographer Dan about their time playing with a major label band – their worst touring experience to date. Four dates in they were asked to tone down their performances and asked to sign a contract prohibiting Steen from crowd interaction and having water on stage (he has a tendency to swig beer or water and fire it back into the audience). Presumably this was a bid to restrict the energy of the band’s performance, for risk of them overshadowing the headline act. Shame were also billed for a microphone after it made its way down Steen’s trousers. For the band however, it’s not about upstaging or competing with other groups. They actually seem to live for the thrill of pure entertainment.

“When we started we were playing to a few people and there was just a real humour to taking your top off and covering yourself in beer to just, like, two people who were on a date,” Steen says. “So we just treat it in the same respect but now there’s more people there.” Finerty thrives from simply giving the audience a ride: he almost seems eager to please in that sense. “I always worry people presume we’re going to think we’re bigger or better than them – that we’re going to look down on them because of how we are on stage. But you’re just trying to entertain people and have fun.” That said, for Steen, he wants to see some action on that stage itself. “You go and watch bands who stare at their pedals and it’s like why would you ever do that? This is first and foremost entertainment, you’re here to entertain people, you don’t have to degrade yourself to do it but don’t fucking ponce yourself up and pretend to be a superstar, just be yourself. Do something that people are going to enjoy and don’t think that you’re ever above anyone else because that’s the worst possible way you could treat what we do.” Once again we’re back to the idea of preconceptions and the image people may have of Shame, which Finerty elaborates on. “I think some people just generally think we’re arseholes. Which I can understand. Maybe if you see Steen on stage you’re not thinking, ‘oh, I’ll go and say hello to him,’ you’re thinking, ‘oh he might glass me.’”


he group have taken the plunge, sidestepped university and thrown themselves into Shame. “We played 47 festivals this year – there’s no way any

boss is giving you that amount of time off,” Steen says. Ultimately though, the group feel incredibly lucky to have had a place where they could practice for free and that they have their parents houses to stay at in the capital when they return from the endless touring. They are all too aware that London is changing and becoming inhospitable to many people and contemporaries wishing to do similar things. “We were the most fortunate band because we had access to the Queen’s, whereas any other band in London, how can you do it?” says Steen. “We never had that experience and we wouldn’t have been able to do it based on rates at practice spaces.” “It’s absolutely unbelievable how expensive it is to live in London,” says Forbes. “The amount of money you have to be making even to get a foot up on the property ladder it is absolutely criminal. People are also now being ousted from communities that they’ve lived in for generations.” The group’s relationship with the city that so clearly makes up a huge part of their identity is a love/hate one. As Steen says: “We’re lucky – people coming into London aren’t having access to the same opportunities we’ve had. You’re supposed to be presented with all these opportunities moving to London as a musician but the reality is quite a bit different. We don’t have any fucking solutions though, do we?” “We do balance out the luck and the unfortunate quite well, though,” counters Coyle-Smith. “Today we smashed our van wing mirror,” he says, jokingly. Finerty chips in that this is not a unique occurrence: “We’ve had many van-based cock ups. I think someone in the sky traded us some luck for some van curses.” Yesterday, for example, the group had to spend an


hour with a wire coat hanger fishing for lost keys down the gap in the front seats. This was the result of an allnighter in which the group had a lockin at a pub in Bristol that kept them up until 10am. The table slowly turns into nothing but cans. Shame share a joint or two and leave to perform. As is now seemingly customary for their shows, it’s a lacerating, bracing and charging performance – one driven by the thrust of guitars that crunch against one another as distorted bass rattles the walls and drums crack like thunder, Steen pacing back and forth, slowly stripping from his fake red leather Firetrap jacket into a sweat-soaked naked body. Like a burst of bright white light, a combustion, a clattering of particles, the show feels over in an instant. Finerty hits the deck hard after slipping on the floor of beer and sweat but still beams from ear-to-ear in a clear instance of a group who look completely alive and full of purpose when on stage and having the force of their own creation bursting through the speakers. As the sweat dries, breaths are caught and clothes are put back on, and Steen reflects on the role and importance of a live show and how it’s really not even about the group themselves – for Shame, it’s something bigger and wider than that. “I think one of the main things we try and get out of our live gigs goes back to our time at the Queen’s,” he tells me, “where it was such a sense of community. Where everyone is involved in one moment together instead of all the attention being on a select group of people.” Creating a judgment-free environment for music that was born in a judgmentfree environment? “Yeah, exactly,” he enthusiastically concurs, “but just write that I said that.”


Reworks and Rewinds Erol Alkan on the remixes, re-rubs and re-edits that have kept kids dancing for almost 20 years Photogr ap hy: phil sh a r p / writ er: r ee f younis

If you spent any amount of time bouncing around London clubnights in the late nineties and early noughties, the hard truth is that you spent at least one Thursday, Saturday or Monday dancing, drinking and partying to Erol Alkan. From Afterskool to Candybox, Blow Up to the Barfly, the capital wasn’t short on nights mashing up artrock, post-punk and various other guitar-based sub-genres into indie discos: Erol (alongside 2ManyDJs et al.) changed that. Now, this isn’t another love letter to Erol’s lost nights at Trash or Durr (plenty of those knocking about) or a sentimental reflection on an electroclash scene that’s become equally loved and derided in hindsight

as the Hypem generation; it’s an ode to the bangers, the rollers and the constant surprises Alkan has been mashing, twisting and reimagining for over a decade. Now 43 years old, there’s a relentless longevity to both the man and the music. The majority of the nights and venues have faded out and fallen away to make room for the next wave, but Erol’s influence endures and his forthcoming ‘Reworks Volume 1’ release is testament to that. A compilation of remixes and reworks spanning 13 years, amongst the 20 tracks there’s the sawing brutality of his ‘Love From Above Re-edit’ of DFA 1979’s ‘Romantic Rights’, the beautiful Spektral Rework of Klaxons’ ‘Golden


Skans’ and his accelerated take on New Order’s ‘Singularity’. It’s a reminder of the variety, consistency and curation that’s always characterized him as more than a traditional DJ – and a point Erol’s keen to make in conversation. This isn’t a random selection from his substantial remix bank (there’s 40+), each one is there for a reason; each one has a story, from how it was created to how it lived out in his sets and beyond. For Erol, this release was never about any finger-in-the-air celebration of a loosely defined scene; it’s a collection of himself and a representation of his creativity outside of playing out, producing and making good on his promise: keep kids dancing.

tell me about it

Reworks Volume 1 “It’s not really anything to do with an anniversary, I just thought it would be nice to collect them together, remaster them, and get some of them sounding a little better than the first-time round. There are different approaches across the mixes and there’s another 20 that still aren’t on there. A lot of these mixes are still really, really important to me.” Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind Tame Impala “I wanted to start it with the Tame Impala mix because whenever I think about it, I’m really happy that I took back the original version I sent to Modular. It wasn’t good enough and if you’re not 100% happy with something, you can’t deliver it. I made five different versions and even ended up making a high energy version. I don’t know what was going through my head but sometimes you have to try things, fail and you never know what comes from that. It was definitely the trickiest one I’ve done.” Romantic RightS Death From Above 1979 “I was initially going to remix ‘Black History Month’ but after working on it for an hour I couldn’t find anything in there to expand on that I thought was worthwhile. I’d also been sent the parts to ‘Romantic Rights’ and when I opened it up, it just came to me. I made that crazy rising synth sound by just chopping up one of their keyboard parts and re-pitching it up and up and up; when I had that, it kind of created itself. Felix da Housecat told me that was one of his biggest dancefloor tracks of that year. When I got into Felix, he was playing Chicago house; five years later he’s playing Death From Above 1979 and telling me that’s one of his biggest. To me, that is quite beautiful.” Engine LA Priest “This was the first ever release on Phantasy [Alkan’s label]. I love the original but I thought I needed to make a version that could work in a club. It inevitably went down this slightly French house path, which the original has, but I just wanted to push that a bit further on. I remember Diplo was on my iChat list and he was like, ‘Hey, I made this,’ and sent me back a version of it. That one really connected with a lot of people, but I think it also has a lot to do with the original being fantastic.” Never Stop Chilly Gonzales “This was another one where I’d made quite a few different versions. The main version I was making at the time was built around that piano riff and it

was just a really slow, really drum-y track. I got really bored of it after a while, layered about five different drum patterns over the top and it was just getting worse and worse. In the end, I was just like, ‘Fuck it, just try something totally different,’ so I set up my synths and recorded a live jam with a drum machine and a couple of synths, and that’s what the record became. Sometimes, you’ve just got to know when to quit and my point of quitting on things is much faster than it used to be.” Gee Up Kindness “I’ve never asked to remix anything apart from this one track. It’s only about two-and-a-half minutes long so it was too short for me to play out. I had actually worked with Adam [Bainbridge] a little bit before so he sent me the parts, I made it in an afternoon and it got released.” Boy From School Hot Chip “This was completely out of step with what I was known for. I was trying to satisfy part of myself to produce mixes that were far more beautiful and evocative than maybe what people may have assumed I would do. It was the same for the Klaxons and the Scissor Sisters tracks.” Forever Dolphin Love Connan Mockasin “I was warned off doing this after a friend said that it was impossible to remix it.That challenge made me think what could make it possible. Where would it need to go that the original doesn’t? From that, it all started coming into my head; the balance of electronic to the original sound, the layers, the way the song would work inside of an electronic production.You start asking yourself questions and then you start answering them yourself, and all of a sudden, the song is playing in your head. I knew that the original melody was great, but it had to go somewhere else, so I wrote a whole new melody in.” Do You Want To Franz Ferdinand “The first time I ever played out this remix was at Wire in Leeds. I remember the place going absolutely insane and that was one where I was just like, ‘Okay, I wasn’t expecting that,’ especially with that over-long intro.” Zero Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Felix da Housecat rang me to say that he played it out and he had all the original Chicago house dudes in the booth with him. Apparently, they were all just like, ‘What the fuck is this,

man? This is incredible!’ He said: ‘Those cats, they dug it, you know? You can’t fool those guys. I just had to tell them that you’re this Turkish kid from North London with that Chicago blood running through your veins.’ This was also another one where I had connection with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as friends and ‘Zero’ was produced by Nick Launay, who had mixed half the Mystery Jets album [‘Twenty One’, produced by Alkan], so there were all these links where I thought, ‘Fuck, I hope I do something that doesn’t disappoint them!’.” RMI Is All I Want The Emperor Machine “It’s probably got the biggest kick drum I’ve ever put on anything. I just wanted to make something as ferocious as I could out of it, like a big room version, just to make it work in a completely different context. I think that’s a really important thing for me when doing that: just to change the context of the record, trying to make it as effective as I feel the original was. It’s relentless.” Brainwasher Daft Punk “The five minutes that track played out was one of the most important five minutes in my progress as a producer. I did two versions and I remember playing one version out and it just wasn’t right at all. The science of it was all wrong and I remember feeling I should have trusted my first version, but I didn’t, because I thought it was so out of step with what I’d usually play. It made me focus on a lot of aspects of what I was doing at that point and the changes it forced me to do were very, very important. I’m so grateful for that moment.” Singularity New Order “Making this work in a different way really pushed my button. I had a particular brief to work to where it had to be kept the same tempo and had to be quite faithful to the original. It’s a 140bpm track so to make it something that works in a club is difficult because 140bpm is drum and bass or dubstep; it’s not a house tempo and it’s not a techno tempo. There was also the slight self-imposed pressure of reworking New Order because there have been some amazing remixes of their music over the years. In the end, I made two versions and spliced them together because I didn’t know which one I liked more.” The Bay Metronomy “That’s just really super-fast. As soon as I’d heard the bassline on that track I just thought, ‘Well, that needs to be


right at the front and really loud.’ Once you make a decision like that, everything else falls into place around it, so I just focused on the element that I found really attractive and made everything else hang off it.” Congratulations MGMT “You know what? I’ll tell you something, and I’m going to sound like such an amateur with this, but I hadn’t even listened to the original when I agreed to do it. I just was like, ‘Yeah, send me the track.’ I like MGMT so I was confident that I could come up with something. Weirdly enough, ‘Congratulations’ was my favourite one on the record. It’s slow and acoustic, so deciding to keep something song-based is a big decision in itself. I just picked my bass up and played the bassline in; the guitar part came 15 minutes later; all the keyboard parts just fell out of my hands. It was a five-hour job and it wrote itself.” Long Forgotten Boy Night Works “This was another one where I heard the original and it had that keyboard line in it. It totally clicked as to where it could go because that keyboard sounds like it’s been lifted off a house record. Making it a house track would have been too obvious but I wanted to keep elements of the song in there. Gabriel’s got such an indie boy delivery that being surrounded by house stabs and basslines makes it interesting. I really like that one.” White Crow Beyond the Wizards Sleeve “This was pretty much me remixing me. ‘White Crow’ was an alternative version of ‘Black Crow’ but ‘White Crow’ is almost an original track in itself. I do that a lot, especially with my own solo stuff. I’ve made a lot of music that will come out in the future, but I don’t know how to release it, yet.” Runddans Todd Rundgren “This was really interesting because it’s almost like a mash-up of all the different parts of that album. The original was so complex that I just wanted to make something that could unfold in quite a straightforward way. I’ve played it out in clubs and it’s difficult to place it anywhere other than the end of a set, but Todd Rundgren really liked it, which I was really happy about.”


The Potential of Noise Rediscovering Conny Plank – the legendary producer who turned away David Bowie and Bono, and regretted neither wri ter: da niel dyla n wray

B el o w : C o nn y pl a n k i n h i s f a r mh o u s e s t u dio . C o l o gn e, G er ma n y . O v er : Wi t h s on s t e pha n.

If pressed, most people, when asked what their earliest memory of music is, will recall a nursery rhyme or an omnipotent pop hit of the day that clogged the radio of their parents’ stereos. For Stephan Plank, it was the endless floating, driving and looping sound of Neu!’s ‘Isi’ being played at volume over and over again as it was being recorded in his family home, in a converted farmhouse on the outskirts of Cologne, Germany. “I was about two years-old,” he recalls, “I remember it so well because when you record music you obviously play things back hundreds of times and this really gets into your brain. It glues itself to something.” Plank is the son of producer and engineer extraordinaire Conny Plank, and is also the co-director of a new documentary on his father, Conny Plank: The Potential of Noise. Whilst Plank’s work is now revered and celebrated in widening cult circles – with the help of releases like the 2013 4CD boxset of his production work – his early death at the age of 47 in 1987 has left a great deal of questions unanswered for many about who the man behind the music was, including his own son who was only 13 when he passed away. When his mother also died in 2006 Plank realised he wished to explore the life of his own father more thoroughly, to be able to understand both his parent and this celebrated producer. “After [my mother] died, I had to clear out the studio and it was a big farmhouse and there were a lot of things to take care of and I had to decide what was crap and what was art and so on. I came to realise that there were two Conny’s in my mind,” he says. “First of all there’s papa, my father who I grew up with and loved. And then there was Conny Plank, and

everyone kept asking me about him and I was not sure that I had the right answers, like when people asked me things like how did he work and did he really work with Stockhausen etc. So I decided I needed to do something about it, and by making the film, I kind of managed to fuse these two separate entities back together again into one person.” Plank’s work, on surface level, is synonymous with Krautrock. He produced Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster, La Dusseldorf, Guru Guru and Can. However, as both producer and engineer he would also go on to work with people and genres far beyond such German sounds that have come to be adored and emanated in equal measure today. Plank would work with Brian Eno, Devo, Ultravox, Killing Joke, Eurythmics and DAF, alongside a whole host of other names. As his career moved on, his work became less defined by a style or a genre but through a mark of quality and consistency, one that eschewed genre and stomped on predictability. This was an area of particular fascination for his son in making this film. “I was really interested in how he did his production and how he chose the artists he worked with. It was almost baffling to me how he made the distinction between who he could and couldn’t record,” Stephan tells me, referring to the eclecticism of his father’s work, such as weaving between gold disc productions (Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’) and obscure, largely forgotten British post-punk bands like Play Dead. The key to unlocking such questions perhaps lies more in Plank’s personality than his sound, because one distinctive production trademark essentially does not exist. His


production work was so unique because one of his biggest applications of identity was not just through sound or a recording method, or intuitive sampling, but through his ability to extract the potential out of the people he worked with (something that is the whole schtick of a guru producer like Rick Rubin, today). “He was ideal as a partner and creative mind and therefore became a third, silent, member of Cluster,” Remembers Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who would work with Plank repeatedly. As a result, Plank’s recordings feel utterly timeless because his recognisable sense of tone was as much down to his extraction method and desire to move forward as anything else, leaving the recordings free from date-stamped fashionable styles of the day.


lank was intuitive, pioneering and experimental in the studio. He built his own world: his mixing desk was custom built and he saw potential in the most primitive and innocuous of items that may be lying around. “In Conny’s hands, a simple tool always turned into a sophisticated instrument,” his studio assistant Petrus Wippel once said. Stephan Plank feels that his father first sought people and characters and ideas to work with and then brought the sound out based on them. “He only liked authentic music,” he notes. “He was not interested if something was Krautrock or New Wave – labels were not interesting to him. It was about the people who made the music and if they had the ability to be authentic in their art. One of the sentences that he used to say was, ‘make me feel’; it had to make him feel something inside. He had this ability in picking up on a hot moment and he could figure out that something was happening there within an artist and he would then involve himself in it by helping the artist go one step further.” In short, he removed ego – and often thus himself – from the process, which allowed the most distinct and memorable of personalities to shine through in his work. This meant that Plank couldn’t always work with people purely on the basis of money or reputation, he required something deeper, something personable, something he could forge a connection with. When David Bowie turned up at his farmhouse in 1976 to make plans to record ‘Low’ there, it was felt by Plank and his wife, Christa, that Bowie’s state of mind and level of drug consumption at the time was not one that could be worked with. “My

father was quite alright with quite a lot of drugs,” Stephan tells me, retelling the Bowie story, “but there was this rule that said no toilet drugs, so no drugs that you take on the toilet were allowed.” This clearly alludes to Bowie’s vast cocaine consumption around this period as well as “even harder stuff,” according to Stephan. Whilst Bowie would go on to make some of the world’s greatest ever music through what would become those sessions, it was clear to Plank that his studio environment and their pairing wouldn’t have been right at the time; that he needed to go and do something else. Given that Berlin has been credited as saving Bowie’s life, it would appear Plank’s instincts were correct. “One of the biggest laughs in the film for me is when he explains why he couldn’t work with Bono,” Stephan tells me, referring to his father blowing off working with U2 on their monster album ‘The Joshua Tree’. “He said that he works as a medium between the artist and the tape and he has to transfer a consciousness to the tape, and with Mr Bono he was not

able to understand that consciousness.” Which I think is Sephan’s polite way of saying that his father detected quite early on, and instinctively, that Bono was a bit of a dick. Another one of the film’s most memorable moments comes when Stephan travels to Atlanta to catch up with one of hip-hop’s early pioneers, Whodini, an outfit that Plank worked with on their debut album of 1983. Jalil Hutchins of the group actually becomes tearful when recalling the unique playback environment that Plank created for them to hear their music exactly as they needed to. He even has to leave the room for a moment. “It makes me get a little emotional because nobody had ever taken that time with me before,” Hutchins says as his voice cracks. Similarly, Roedelius speaks warmly about Plank’s endless “soul and intelligence” in the studio. However, another crucial reveal from Stephan and his film is the key role that his mother, Christa, had in making the studio such a welcoming and nurturing environment. Given the


studio and house were on the same compound, often the kitchen would be the breeding ground for ideas and discussions: the petri dish that would later lead to the creation. The person providing the food and keeping people in check was Christa, who it seems had a more formidable reputation amongst artists than she herself was even aware of. “When Killing Joke arrived at our studio they had just ransacked Hansa Studios [in Berlin] and my mother was really, really afraid of them,” Stephan tells me, “yet everyone I interviewed for the film, all separately from one another, told me that they were terrified of my mum. She would eat raw steak for breakfast and so I guess she found her ways of saying, ‘don’t mess with me.’” Plank’s quest for technological advances were on-going and his ability to manage new techniques and recording processes with a sound that never fell victim to the fickleness or limitations of those advances remains a remarkable achievement. His early adoption of using a computer even led to his son’s chosen profession today. “My father bought one of the first Macintosh computers because he wanted to record a band and transfer it over to New York, but this didn’t work and so he had no use for it and I inherited this computer and absolutely fell in love with it. He really pushed me in using it and finding out about it and how to work it. I then wrote my first computer game when I was 14 years old.” So loved and admired were Plank’s unique approaches to recording, and his custom hand-built desk that, later on after his death, famed British producer David M. Allen (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Human League, Wire) would later buy it and have it transported to his London studio, where it is still used today. For Stephan, who is of course proud of his father’s musical legacy – from the artists he recorded that we still listen to today to the imitation of Plank’s techniques and approaches – the journey of The Potential of Noise was as much a personal one as it was sonic. “It was really important for me to do this project because it has made me whole again and there is no longer these two different versions of my father, there’s just one person,” he says. “I understand him much more now; I understand what made Conny Plank Conny Plank.”

Reviews / Albums

0 7/ 1 0

Charlotte Gainsbourg Rest Be c au s e By Kati e Bes wick. In sto re s N o v 17

Charlotte Gainsbourg is back in music, if she ever really went away. In between an impressive film schedule (according to the Internet she has released two movies this year alone, with another in post-production), she has written and recorded an album, and created a series of videos for its tracks (‘Rest’ and ‘Deadly Valentine’ are currently available on iTunes) with the controversial director Lars VonTrier as her mentor. The video for ‘Rest’ – the wispy, whispery, wistful title track – montages new and archival footage, creating a whimsical nostalgic aesthetic that Gainsbourg describes as deeply personal. “Taking possession of the imagery, I was able to reflect my personality in the archive footage I selected or the new images I filmed,” she says. “With this first directorial step, I created a repetitive language via a musical

loop. I applied a similar approach to videos for other songs on the album.” Perhaps weirdly, for a woman who has built her career on eschewing the proper commercial mainstream, despite critical and commercial success, ‘Rest’ is almost deliciously pop-heavy. The synthy, string-laden tracks are reminiscent of Britney Spears’ ‘Blackout’ – a perhaps anomalous comparison that occurred to me more than once on repeat listens – only with a literary, stripped-back experimental tone that elevates them to something more like art than popular culture. I mean all this in a good way. The haunting, repetitive ‘Ring-ARing O’Roses’ opens the record with a gentle, childish quality that’s mirrored in its electro-influenced closing track (about which I am less enamoured). “Those two songs were always

the bookends of the album,” Charlotte explains. “I remember SebAstian [the ablum’s producer] asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to say against that rhythm?’ But that’s how this album made sense to me, in the contradiction between things, with the music taking you somewhere and the words going the opposite way.” Then there’s the moving ‘Kate’, in which she addresses the death of her sister, Kate Barry, and my favourite track, ‘Sylvia Says’, whose darkly melodic tones could score an art-house horror movie. Just a couple of bugbears: Can you think of a record featuring a cameo from a child that isn’t just na i l s-down-t he-bl a c kboa rd, someone-giving-you-a-blow-byblow-account-of-their-recurringdream irritating? I can think of one, and it is not the seven-minute closing


track of this album (‘Les Oxalis’) – it is, if you must know, Eminem’s ‘’97 Bonnie and Clyde’. I am assuming the child in question is related to Gainsbourg and that therefore none of her production team had the heart to point out this kind of saccharine interlude is going to alienate the demographic of your audience who aren’t still enamoured by Anne Geddes’ oeuvre. Also, the tracks are referred to as ‘essays’, as if to suggest they offer profound and insightful analysis that you simply do not find in run of the mill songs.They are wrong.These are just songs, albeit very good ones for the most part, albeit occasionally (as in once – ‘Songbird in a Cage’) written by Paul McCartney. It’s a confident and compositionally strong work, then, that is only slightly undermined by its inevitable pretensions.

Reviews 05/10

Xenoula Xenoula wei r d wor l d By r ee f y ou n i s . I n sto re s nov 24

Xenoula isn’t afraid of an out-there concept. Skim the Youtube description for her ‘Chief of Tin’ video and you’ll discover that in that guise, “Xenoula is a female, silverskinned, humanoid octuplet. 9,000 years ago, she was sent to Earth on a comet from the edge of the solar system, where beings like her have lived on the Oort cloud for millennia.” The words continue well beyond that, bordering on a “In a galaxy far, far away…” space-themed manifesto, but in the context of the video itself – an alien Mighty Boosh with more black goo and moss – it connects. But without that vivid imagery and odd narrative, the connection becomes more clouded and

complicated to capture on record. Xenoula’s transient background makes her commitment to the chameleonic sounds of her debut album understandable, and amidst the shape-shifting layers and occasionally shadowy electronica, there’re subtle shades of the elemental songs of her South African upbringing in the rhythms of nature on ‘Dawn Bunny’ and ‘Toraroi’ – and a futuristic, flower child spirit to ‘Leyline Ogres’. Signed to Domino imprint Weird World, Xenoula seems intent on creating exactly that. But where she finds some success reconciling all of her creative personas, as well as blurring styles and genres, for large

parts of the album she doesn’t so much as weave through the divide as fall through the cracks entirely. Take the skewed acoustic funk of ‘Luna Man’ sitting alongside the abstract electro of ‘Deer Ron’; the Xanax brain fog of ‘Honey Priest’ contrasting against the New Young Pony Club-esque sass of ‘Caramello’ and that collective non-committal ultimately becomes the most challenging part of the album. The desire to surprise with each track is a noble ideal but when Xenoula picks a lane she gets it right on ‘She Ghosts’’ Fever Ray ode before ‘Alauda’ half veers towards similarly haunting Zola Jesus and iamamiwhoami territory without ever

fully embracing that dark bloom. Unable to consistently find a balance between that off-beat pop sensibility and gloomy intensity means that while Xenoula seems happy weaving between the two, her high-concept creativity gets stretched thin across these 11 tracks. Still, when you announce your arrival in “a space capsule, then wander around a rain forest like some kind of alien litter picker”, working out how to top that ten more times is a tall order. And while Xenoula’s talent or ambition isn’t in doubt, her higher state of consciousness needs some equally high definition to become truly compelling.

Not unlike a ménage à trois, musical collaborations can be tricky. Big egos face off, disgruntled participants are left tending to their own devices, and a lapse in assertiveness can mean missing out on the action altogether. On top of that, XAM Duo and Virginia Wing have two members apiece. However, after Matthew Benn (of Hookworms) and Christopher Duffin met Sam Pillay and Alice Merida Richards for a two-day jam, the choice cuts on ‘Tomorrow’s Gift’

seem borne out of a serendipitous type of chaos; both parties relinquish control – and categorization – by ditching their respective electronic styles for freeform psychedelia. The monolithic ‘Birch Polygon’ is as good as a sonic template; Richards’ vocal skirts melody like it was something illicit, as glossy veneers are woven from Duffin’s whirlwind sax and droning electronics. Bar the catchy, bongoled ‘Person To Person’, the LP has the familiar restraint of Angelo

Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score, but criticizing this album for its tautologies would undermine its transportive joy, documenting as it does a weekend of throwing musical shapes together, being thrilled to find that some of them stick. While it isn’t quite the sound of two worlds colliding (call it an affable encounter between residents of the same complex), ‘Tomorrow’s Gift’ nonetheless is a mutually beneficial arrangement unlike anything either group has done before.


Virginia Wing / Xam Duo Tomorrow’s Gift Fire By da fy dd j en ki ns. I n sto re s de c 1


Albums 0 7/ 1 0

0 7/10


05/ 10

The World First World Record

Crepes Channel Four

Eera Reflections of Youth


ups e t t h e r h yt hm

Sp u nk

Bi g d ad a

D i rt y H i t

By ros i e rams den. In st ore s N o v 3

B y M ax P i l l e y. I n s t o r e s De c 1

By T r i s t an G atwa r d . I n s t o r es N o v 3

B y j o e g o g g in s . I n s t o r es n o v 3

Oakland five-piece The World’s debut album jolts and jumps along to off-kilter drum beats and saxophone hooks for the entirety of its play time. The band’s wedding of metallic postpunk with matter-offact vocal chit-chattery works to create the uniquely propulsive sound honed so tightly on ‘First World Record.’ The follow up to The World’s debut EP, ‘Managerial Material,’ ‘First World Record’ is in equal parts a darkly comical fulllength floor-filler and a revolt; a flick of two fingers to consumerism and the ‘culture muck’ that is the millennial preoccupation with all things meaninglessly faddish. These sentiments, best expressed in opener ‘Hot Shopper’ as it blisters for just under two minutes and sarcastically goads from its first line (‘You’re so hot / When you shop’), run throughout the LP’s 12 tracks seamlessly and ceaselessly. It’s an intense mix of lo-fi pop and DIY nearly jazz, full of anxiety and also anxiety-inducing – a cry for depth in a world that is fast becoming an echo-chamber for the self(ie)-obsessed.

Melbourne quintet Crepes have made acquaintances with some of Australia’s modern day psych heroes – King Gizzard’s Stu Mackenzie and Pond’s Nick Allbrook among them – but this band don’t go in for that fuzztone frazzle. Their output is softer and kinder, determined to make its impression via songcraft and sentiment rather than bluster and power. After a tumultuous couple of years, Crepes arrive at their debut album with uncommon maturity, and it shows on the album’s frontloaded run of tuneful gems. Opener ‘9-5 Summer Breakers’ features the twinkling melodies of lead guitarist Sam Cooper over Tim Karmouche’s gentle, breezy vocals, all of which more quickly calls to mind North American luminaries like Mac DeMarco and Real Estate than it does Australians who listen to a lot of Hendrix. ‘Mild Conversation’ and ‘Four Years Time’ continue the mood, the band’s organic harmony owing to George Harrison or Steely Dan’s 1970s nirvana in much the same way that The Lemon Twigs’ does, albeit with none of that band’s bombastic glitter glam.

Recorded in a working dairy farm in the backwoods of West Wales, ‘Reflection of Youth’ was written during a period of EERA’s life when, she says, Norwegian society expects everyone “to figure everything out.” It’s no surprise, then, that this record is investigative, as it thrives in its experimentation, moving seamlessly between styles from honey-sweet lofi to angry pulsating rock with soulsearching, introspective, electronic twists. Lead single ‘I Wanna Dance’ is a punchy introduction to the Norwegian’s debut – a fantastic cry for freedom of expression, liberty and autonomy, while itself restrained within the confines of a rigid time signature and ominous bassline. Douglas Dare’s drag alter ego provides a powerful visual for the track, dancing through empty London streets, early-risers and flocks of pigeons. There is exploration, frustration and uncomfortable pain in excess. But above all, ‘Reflection of Youth’ is impeccable because it holds nothing back. While it thematically seeks to wrestle life’s problems head first, it goes one further to knock them out cold.

As impressive a roster as London label Dirty Hit has already managed to assemble, it’d be pretty disingenuous to suggest that they had an ear for artists that are genuinely ready to break new ground; the indie rock heavyweight likes of The 1975 and Wolf Alice wear their influences firmly on their sleeve, whilst you can say the same about up-and-comers Pale Waves, The Japanese House and Superfood. They’ll probably all do very well. New York duo QTY do nothing to buck that particular trend, and are, yep, largely in thrall to influences from their hometown on this self-titled debut album – Lou Reed and The Strokes both hang heavy over it. When it takes off, it really soars with the ramshackle rock and roll energy of the latter (see fizzing opener ‘Rodeo’ and the irresistible strut of ‘Word for This’) but too often the record lapses into mid-tempo trudges like ‘Sad Poetic’. The pretty balladry of ‘New Beginnings’ suggests that QTY have the ability to tackle both sides of the volume dial, so perhaps we’ll get a more refined effort next time out.

Shopping have always proved that music doesn’t always have to be pushing new boundaries to be artistically valid, like on the London trio’s third album, which is firmly grounded in the post-punk energy of The Slits and The Raincoats. Yet, as an artist like LoneLady picks up on similar influences and modernises them with synths, Billy Easter’s propulsive bass lines sound strangely contemporary, here. Tightly compressed and structurally flab-free, these ten songs flirt with a

hip twitching form of primitive disco. This is overlaid with the sharp guitar lines of The Cure (‘Asking For A Friend’), ’80s dark wave synth (‘Wild Child’), and tantalising signposts to dub (‘New Values’). The lyrics are equally condensed, repeating or gently inverting phrases that are an ad-man’s dream of depersonalisation and isolation. ‘You’re lonely and desperate,’ accuses guitarist Rachel Aggs over a fat bass synth on ‘Discover’. ‘I’m not lonely. I’m fine,’ replies drummer

Andrew Milk, his voice muffled and distant to suggest just the contrary. The pair remain in constant conversation throughout, even finishing one another’s sentences on ‘Control Yourself’. Starting with a bass line that sounds like it fell out of Kim Deal’s Pixies outtakes, Aggs intones ‘we are’ while Milk iterates ‘disposable’. If they are disposable then they share X-Ray Spex’s view of consumerism, countering the artifice with songs that are defiantly alive.


Shopping The Official Body fa t c a t By s us an darl i ng to n. In sto re s no v 10


Reviews 06/10

0 5 /10


08/ 10


Spinning Coin Permo

Karl Blau Out Her Space

Escape-ism Introduction to Escapism

Tou gh L ove

ge o g r aphic

b e lla un io n

M er g e

By james au t on . In s to res no v 3

B y S usa n d a rli ng to n. I n s to re s no v 1 0

By sam walto n. I n s to re s N o v 1 7

B y dav i d z ammi t t . In s t o r es n o v 1 0

If the autobahn is part of the iconic imagery of Germany, the chimneys and rooftops of the Yorkshire skyline are elements of the north of England’s. ‘The Moral Crossing’ is an industrial landscape straight from the post-punk ’80s of Autobahn’s hometown (Leeds) in Thatcher’s Britain, seeping with Sisters of Mercy vocals and the Joy Division feel that was on the band’s debut album in 2015. White Lies were bringing a pop edge to their goth delivery a few years ago, while this has a driving, incessant rhythm straight from Krautrock. It moves like the German road. ‘Prologue’ introduces ‘Obituary’ with its spoken word verse leading into a shouted punk chorus. New Single ‘Future’ is a stark contrast with shoegaze vocals that are barely distinguishable under a rolling guitar hook and a stiff repetitive synth riff that precedes the title track, all twitching and paranoid. It begins to feel jaded and more than the ten tracks which becomes cyclical by ‘Creation’. ‘Fallen’ and ‘Vessel could be Ultravox without Midge Ure but it all just falls a little and fades away.

In the motor industry, a ‘cut and shut’ is a vehicle that’s been made by welding together two different bodies. Spinning Coin are the musical equivalent, being forged by two songwriters whose compositions are pulling in different directions. The Glaswegian quintet’s debut album was recorded with Edwyn Collins and the overall tone is steeped in early ’90s indie. But while Jack Mellin appears to have been influenced by The Wedding Present and The Delgados on the energetically bellowed ‘Tin’ and ‘Magdalene’, Sean Armstrong draws on the melancholy country of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub on ‘Floating With You’ and ‘Metronome River’. There’s a similar divide in the lyrics, with Mellin being more inclined to be politically engaged (the slacker-ish ‘Money Is A Drug’) while his band mate is largely content to address affairs of the heart. The closest the pair come to complementing one another’s style is ‘Be Free’, on which guitars crunch into Armstrong’s fragile delivery. Without more of this, ‘Permo’ is frustratingly incohesive.

Karl Blau’s 10th record is only his second to be released outside the US, and the first to contain original material after last year’s rather charmingly understated ‘Introducing Karl Blau’. Where that set of covers accentuated Blau’s poignant, chocolaty voice and his inviting way of negotiating a melancholy melody, though, ‘Out Her Space’ is far scrappier. Songs creep into existence and then change tack midway without warning, and Blau’s performance style frequently resembles someone awoken abruptly by having a microphone thrust into his face: slightly dazed and dozy, he makes a game attempt to join in, but his somnolent inability to engage is a drag – indeed, it’s not until the Arthur Lee-esque ‘Blue As My Name’, five tracks in, that Blau connects with any meaning. That’s a shame: when he does, as on the gentle boogie of ‘Where You Goin’ Papa’, Blau is an amiably jaunty singer with a knack for bluesy bonhomie. Most of ‘Out Her Space’, however, seems surprised by its own presence – the impression is that Blau should stick to other people’s songs.

Despite his status as somewhat of a post-punk grandee, the Escape-ism moniker marks Ian Svenonius’s first solo album proper. Since coming to low-key prominence with Nation of Ulysses, Svenonius has moved from band to band and channelled his creativity through the fictional character of David Candy.To say that it’s been worth the quarter-century wait might be a stretch, but this is a very, very good LP. Summoning the twin influences of Suicide and Jonathan Richman, a metronomic drum machine underpins Svenonius’s odd fusion of gothic, new wave and rock ‘n’ roll. Fans of LCD Soundsystem, in particular, should give this the time it deserves. With its industrial two-note synthlines, vocal squawks and masterfully built tensions, it isn’t hard to see where a large part of James Murphy’s blue print came from. Highlights include the superbly weird psych-blues workout ‘Rome Wasn’t Burnt In A Day’ and the ghostly cabaret of ‘The Stars Get In TheWay’. And it all comes in at under half an hour – a succinct statement that leaves you wanting more.

Separating Morrissey’s political dogma from his music has always been tricky, but even if you can put aside his dog-whistles, new album ‘Low In High School’ isn’t short on polarising ideas: for all that he and his band have taken to wearing Fuck Trump badges, several of its songs share the demagogue’s fondness for crying fake news. Over the stomping guitars of ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’, he harrumphs about the “propaganda” of the “mainstream media”, while the strange bleeps of

‘Spent The Day In Bed’ soundtrack his sniping about how “the news contrives to frighten you”. For someone who relishes being the sharpest fly in the ointment, such rhetoric feels disappointingly obvious (not to mention the album artwork of a boy holding an Axe The Monarchy placard, which you’d like to think is Morrissey snarking Morrissey, but probably isn’t). More daring is the epic ‘I Bury The Living’, on which he condemns the “honourmad cannon fodder” of the armed

forces and the way they’re deified by mindless tub-thumpers. But it’s when he leaves the polemic behind that ‘Low In High School’ feels more vibrant, whether it’s the swooning grandeur and longing of ‘Home Is A Question Mark’ or the sinister electronics of ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage’, the story of a figure who lives to grandstand in front of an audience. On an album often concerned with the obfuscation of truth, it feels like the most revealing statement of all.

The Moral Crossing


Morrissey Low In High School BMG By ben hewit t . In sto re s no v 17


Albums 0 7/ 1 0

0 6/10

08 /10

04/ 10

Shamir Revelations

J-Walk Limelight Nights

Cobra Man New Driveway Soundtrack

F a th er / Dau gh t er

Wo n d e r f ul S ound

John God Speed in The National Limit

By katie b eswi c k. In store s n ov 3

B y daf yd d j e nk i ns . I n sto re s d e c 1

g o n er B y j a m es a u ton . In sto r es n ow

pe ts c are By gre g co c hrane . I n sto r es n ow

You might remember Shamir from back in 2014 when his catchy, bubble-gum single ‘On the Regular’ made small but significant waves, with an online video release amassing more than 4.5 million views (it’s also recently resurfaced on a VO5 TV ad). It is far from clear that anything from his latest record will make a similar impact in terms of numbers. But that’s no bad thing. This album marks a reflective, introspective move into adulthood. Yes, Shamir risks losing that mass appeal, but the end result feels more genuine and confident than his previous work. ‘Revelations’ is not easy listening – the pitch of opening track ‘Games’ seems almost designed to jar the listener, with a desperate, whining tone that sets out his store for the rest of the record. Stand out tracks include the pensive, lugubrious ‘90s Kids’, and ‘Straight Boy’, which somehow manages to feel hopeful despite the bleak culture it narrates. Shamir has grown up and he has things to say. They aren’t always easy to hear, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening.

It’s been over a decade since we last heard from Manchester’s J-Walk. Having presently shed his coproducer, Martin Desai, this second full-length is ostensibly the work of Martin Brew alone, and it certainly shows. The duo’s 2002 debut album was a two-headed beast of funk – one stiff and robotic, one loose and… well, funky. ‘Limelight Nights’ veers toward the former, but the steadfast forward-motion – not entirely intentionally – conceals nostalgia. While the sultry en français of ‘Aimons Toujours’ and the title track’s compu-G-Funk get the blood pumping, ‘Steppin’ Out For Summer’ and ‘Find Another Breeze’ recall the metropolitan alienation of Pet Shop Boys’ introspective 1990 album ‘Behaviour’. Indeed, the notable lack of guest musicians makes ‘Limelight Nights’ seem like a lonesome affair for the last Martin. The LP is said to emulate the twilight hour before the big night out. But instead of the buzz of anticipatory pre-drinks, we get the soundtrack to a lonely satellite voyage – a CD of presetheavy tunes labelled ‘Good Old Days’ 1 through 8.

In this post-truth world where alternative facts get squeezed out via the distorted prism of social media, the simplicity of a band like JOHN makes for a refreshing tonic. It’s no-bullshit: two mates called John, one on guitar, one on drums, from Crystal Palace who write flaming punk songs in a band named after themselves. There’s no extraneous fat on the concept, and there’s definitely no frills on the album – seven scorching tracks in the vein of No Age, Fucked Up or Idles. It’s not purely about viscerality though. It is brutal, but melody clearly cuts through the distortion. The album scrutinises humanity’s mundane rituals that often go unflagged, from our unquenchable thirst for nostalgia on the wonderfully titled ‘Squad Vowels’ to the story of a guy haunted by his fixation with technology and a quest for selfimprovement on ‘Ghost Printer’. ‘Factory Settings’ might also be the most furious song ever written about a multifunctional mobile phone. If it is about a phone. Stupid fucking phones.

It’s difficult to tell sometimes if a band is being deliberately ironic; if they’re genuine pastiche, like The Baron Knights or The Wurzels, or are a mixture, like The Darkness. ‘New Driveway Soundtrack’ is from those ’80s films that were on after Match of the Day back in the ’90s or on Channel 5 on Sunday lunchtimes today. The title track’s spoken word intro is possibly an allegory about making changes in our lives, finding the new driveway, although its dripping in sarcasm. Musically, both that track and the following ‘Weekend Special’ are one part Tron and another part the first few minutes of ‘Maniac’ from Flashdance, while ‘Magic Hour’ has vocals courtesy of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.They say themselves that the couplet are a “.... pixelated Streets Of Rage style call to arms....” ‘Cookies Acrylics’ and ‘Masters of the Universe’ are then samples from a BBC sound effects tape and ‘Lazyman’ has elements of post-punk angst, but on the whole ‘New Driveway Soundtrack’ is someone playing with their carboot Casio keyboard that only has a few effects.

Omar Souleyman is reported to have released 500 live albums in Syria, recorded mainly at weddings before the country’s civil war forced him into exile in 2011. With that conflict only worsening six years in, and Souleyman dedicating his new record “with love” to his homeland, one could be forgiven for anticipating a somewhat melancholic tone here. The singer’s 503rd (ish) album, however, contains precious little bleakness. For the most part, its relentless thump and slithering,

urgent melodies are fluorescently bright, insistent and addictive, and Souleyman’s vocals, gruff and throaty, bubble with a bold joie de vivre. Only on ‘Mawal’ does the pace dip below “frenetic”, the throbbing techno kick replaced with a loping waltz-time rhythm, and the short blasts of instrumental jingles set aside for longer, more keening phrases. Elsewhere, though, spirits remain stoically high: ‘Ya Bnayya’’s lurching syncopation, recalling a

sort of 1,000-volt interpretation of ragga, is impossible not to wriggle to, the relentless ratatat of ‘Khayen’ is only augmented by Souleyman’s boisterous ad libs, and the closing ‘Tensana’, while superficially a touch corny, revels in its tangy mix of routeone techno with serpentine microtonal saz. It all adds up to a record that pulses with life and indomitable spirit – from one angle, surely the finest love letter Syria could currently wish to receive.


Omar Souleyman To Syria, With Love Mad D ec en t / Beca u se By sam Walton . In store s Nov 3


Reviews 0 7/ 1 0

0 4/10

06 /10

07/ 10

Proto Idiot Leisure Opportunity

Yung Lean Stranger

Edward Penfold Denny Isle Drive

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys Rot

Ba d Pai n t i n g

ye ar0 0 0 1

s to l e n b o d i e s

a g it a t e d

By h ay l ey s c ot t . I n sto re s no v 3

B y d avi d z ammi tt. I n s to re s no v 1 0

By l i am k o ne mann. In s to r es n o v 2 4

B y br ia n c o n ey . I n s t o r es n o v 1 0

Manchester’s Proto Idiot don’t play their instruments with knowing proficiency, acting as antidotes to their perfectly poised contemporaries: “I can’t even play guitar!” declares a self-depreciating Andrew Anderson on opener ‘Theme’, a track that embodies the band’s wry sense of humour and rejects musical earnestness. Anderson’s charisma is atypical of modern punk bands: live, especially, he’s an enigmatic, lively force, and anything but selfeffacing. Here, his presence shines. Vocals veer from abrupt to outright abrasive, a quality that’s comparable to Colin Newman’s voice. Indeed, most of ‘Leisure Opportunity’ sounds informed by early Wire. Despite the occasional existential themes and the obvious contempt on ‘Angry Vision’ and ‘You’re The Kind of Person’, any hint of outrage is depicted with light-hearted dejection and counteracted by a propensity for melody. There’s no pretence with Proto Idiot: ‘Leisure Opportunity’ is punk music as it should be, at it’s most primitive – pissed-off and puerile, messy and restless, but full of charm.

While doing my due diligence on Yung Lean (21, Swedish, has collaborated with Frank Ocean), I came across some interviews with the young/yung man himself. Now, in my quieter moments, I like to think of myself as an even-handed journalist forged in the great theoretical furnace of New Criticism. New Criticism states that the historical and cultural contexts of a given work are secondary, and that the biography of an artist is meaningless in the evaluation of his or her art. And yet, I cannot unsee what I have seen and I cannot unhear what I have heard. Middle fingers aloft, awkwardly blowing smoke into the camera, everything about Yung Lean comes across as not only gauche and inauthentic but decades out of date. And so it’s difficult for me to say for sure if I’m being unbiased when I criticise the production for being as tinny as a mid-90s laptop, or the references to Louis Vuitton and pet snakes for being as cack-handed as Alan Partridge talking football. And that’s before we even get into the ‘sadboy’ stuff, which weighs heavy on so much of ‘Stranger’.

Edward Penfold’s second album is both unusual and familiar. On the one hand, the hazy, psychedelic oddpop on ‘Denny Isle Drive’ isn’t the kind of thing that you hear every day in 2017, unless you work in a vintage shop. On the other hand, it is the kind of thing that Ringo Starr might have written for The Beatles after a session with the guru, including all the missteps that would entail. Musically, ‘Denny Isle Drive’ can be whimsical and dreamlike, with swooping strings and chiming piano riffs. Tracks like ‘Bullfrog’ and ‘Shallow Valley’ would be at home on a Willy Wonka soundtrack, and are the record’s highlights – sugary and sweetly imaginative. Elsewhere, though, the album disappears into itself and becomes more laboured. ‘Grasshopper’’s laidback loungestyle and drifting vocals are pleasant until the premise stretches too far and becomes forced, while instrumental tracks ‘Suntan’ and ‘Cactus Shadow’ jar the record out of its gentle groove. Avoiding that, ‘Denny Isle Drive’ would be a smoother listen, even though it will never be 1968 ever again.

Few questionably-named bands ever manage to fully overcome their selfinflicted nominal misfortune. In the case of Sydney DIY foursome Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – a band whose riotous craft has always vehemently rallied against suburban inertia and dejection – the final hurdle appears to be in sight. Four years on from their solid debut full-length, ‘Ready For Boredom’, ‘Rot’ is an eleventrack surge of condensed power-pop that fully benefits from the band’s strong knack for economy. From recent single ‘PlasticTears’ to ‘Away’ – a fist-clenched opening gambit summoning The Replacements at their most wanderlust-ridden – this is a record that bursts forth with rare, last-gasp heart. Lyrically tussling with some classic themes – namely work and what defines personal freedom – this is straight-up celebration rock in familiar territory. But while the jury might still be out on that name, BWBB manage to mercurially deflect from everything that’s come before via a breathless blitz whose refusal to give in is nothing if not thoroughly engaging from straight to finish.

Restraint and melodic vulnerability have been a fundamental part of Boony Doon’s work since the band’s emergence on the Detroit DIY scene. Collaborating since 2014 with drummer Jake Kmiecik and bassist Joshua Brooks, songwriters Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo began Bonny Doon with a somewhat unorthodox approach to the archetypal punk they had long been acquainted with. Indeed, a deconstruction of their sound and an attempt at playing their music as

quietly as possible made way for Lennox’s poignant lyricism and allowed the band to come into their own. Bonny Doon’s eponymous debut album is, at its core, one that manages to cloak crushingly maudlin sentiments with deceptively blasé guitar lines and sunny hooks. It takes its almost-sung vocal cues from Stephen Malkmus and its musical ones from his Silver Jews – the drum skins barely unsettled, the guitars on the opening ‘Relieved’ walking up

and down the instrument’s neck mildly sloshed, like automatic writing. When the band then pick up on ‘Lost My Way’ they’re more like Parquet Courts... just better. A record underpinned by gently stoned vocal narratives, ‘Bonny Doon’ presents a feeling over logical romanticism that perfectly offsets Detroit’s post-industrial aesthetic and punk grit in a way that is refreshing for the city, regardless of how pedestrian it would sound bumming around Big Sur.

0 7/ 1 0

Bonny Doon Bonny Doon mel o d i c By r os i e r amsde n. I n sto re s no v 3


Albums 0 7/ 1 0

0 7/10

06 /10

08/ 10

Liima Peter Oren 1982 Anthropocene

Danger Incorporated Birds Fly By Night

Nick Garrie The Moon & The Village

c i ty s l a n g

We s t e rn Vi nyl

Aw f ul

T ap e t e

By joe goggi n s . In st o re s nov 3

B y chri s wat k e ys . I n s t o re s N o v 1 0

By st e p he n b ut c h a rd . In s t o r es n o w

B y ma x p illey . I n s t o r es n o v 2 4

One of last year’s most underappreciated records came courtesy of Scandinavian outfit Liima, which might not necessarily have been all that surprising in and of itself if it weren’t for the fact that the band is effectively comprised of the most recent lineup of Efterklang, the beloved Danes who currently appear to be on hiatus. The three members of the Copenhagen group were joined by their Finnish touring drummer Tatu Rönkkö for the project and their debut full-length ‘ii’, which was originally meant to be a one-off aimed at fostering a more spontaneous approach to songwriting but that turned out well enough for them to want to follow it up in quickfire fashion with ‘1982’, regardless of ‘ii’’s relative obscurity. On this evidence, there is plenty left in the Liima tank, and nothing more appealing than the freeform, experimental edge to tracks like ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘Kirby’s Dream Land’, but never at the expense of groove or melody. It’s enough to suggest that Efterklang may remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.

There is a timeless feel to this second album from Indiana troubadour Peter Oren. From the first few plucked notes of ‘Burden Of Proof’, it’s one of those records that might have been released in 1967, 1987 or 2017, and you’d never be able to guess which. This is straight-up singer-songwriter fare with a richly melancholic tinge. Something like a more mature and more richly-voiced Willy Mason, Oren tackles similarly lofty political and personal themes, and lines like “the Bible Belt’s talking to itself all night on the FM waves” permeate these distinctly American songs. There are some real pearls here – ‘Pictures from Spaine’ is layered, evocative and bursting with a muted kind of emotion, while ‘Falling Water’ is the kind of purely sadtoned highway blues that you could listen to until sunrise. But a record like this engenders conflict in the mind of the listener. Every now and then the rich overlaying of songwriting and lyrical brilliance wears threadbare, and a patchy kind of pastiche shows through that is difficult to ignore.

Atlanta’s Danger Boys released their ‘WORLD WIDE WEB’ EP last Halloween, as if the soured, analogue beats didn’t already scream spooky mischief. It took the hedonistic rap of Yung Lean and the Weeknd and torched the ugliest parts.Their Awful Records debut hones these messy bangers into something more distinct, with churning choruses and fuller production. Louis Duffelbags sings in a twisted barbershop croon, every multi-tracked vocal screaming for your attention; Boothlord’s bars are gruff and decaying, more for jolts of energy than for lyrics, which are knowingly shallow, dealing in disconnection and intoxication. Some call them the sound of the future, but frankly, they’re the sound of the past five years. The darkest sides of trap and cloudrap are soaked into every beat, and at points it’s hard to draw feeling from these familiar sadboy mantras. ‘Birds Fly By Night’ crams a lot into 22 minutes though. It’s at its best when threatening to crumble, like on the vocal climax on ‘Downtown’, or Booths’ rabid verse on ‘Packed My Bag’.They’ll do well at house parties and graveyards.

Music obsessives, rejoice! One of the great names of long-forgotten, out-of-print psych folk is back with a new record. Nick Garrie, the Yorkshire troubadour whose uberrare 1969 debut ‘The Nightmare of JB Stanislas’ is one of the most sought-after original presses in British music, has been experiencing a gradual (re-) integration into the collective consciousness for some ten years. This thrid album is a wonderful evocation of both Garrie’s place in history and his current stage of life, beautifully rendered on tracks like ‘I’m On Your Side’, where the history and honesty in Garrie’s voice lifts a stately, heartfelt song to a more profound place. On ‘Lois’ Diary’, he tells a simple tale, but imbues it with the same emotional mass that has immortalised his contemporaries Rodriguez and Harry Nilsson. ‘Got You on My Mind’ features that voice alongside nothing but the gentle pluck of a harp; the album’s most moving moment. Garrie, now 68, deserves every bit of attention that this album brings and more – lord knows he’s waited long enough.

Paul Major’s fascination with garage, fuzz and psychedelic music stemmed from a record-collecting obsession that started in the mid ’60s. A regular raider of record store bargain bins and insatiable tracker of private pressings, his passion for the rare and offbeat ensures that ‘Feel the Music Vol. 1’ plays out in his image. In one respect, it’s a collection of genres that become united in their diversity as you bounce from brokendown blues rock to ethereal psychfolk and a host of unclassifiable

sounds in between; in another, it’s a curation that reads like a hardcore collector’s Discogs wishlist. Opener ‘The Travesty of My Life’ kicks in with a raw wail and ‘Immigrant Song’ riff, Justyn Rees’ ‘Behold’ plays out like Santana stuck in Twin Peaks and the Yays & Nays add a lip-curling, garage rock bounce with ‘Let it All Hang Out’. But it’s the avant-garde weirdness of Jerry Solomon’s ‘Denied’ that best captures the outsider sounds Major has spent a lifetime coveting and

collecting. It’s an unsettling and oddly compelling listen: two tremulous vocals weave around each other; skittish harp slashes in and out; and maracas fade in from nowhere to make it feel almost shamanic. It’s the equivalent of The Simpsons’ “a plum floating in perfume in a man’s hat” (Season 5, Episode 1 - “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”) and the strangest interloper in this bric-a-brac odyssey. They’re not all winners, but Major has done most of the digging for us.


Various Artists Paul Major: Feel The Music Vol. 1 a n t ho lo g y By r eef y oun i s . I n sto re s no w


Reviews 06/10

0 8/10

06 /10

08/ 10

Novo Amor & Ed Tullett Heiress

Warhaus Warhaus

Angel Olsen Phases

Baths Romaplasm

al l poi nt s


J a gja gu war

ant ic o n

By gu ia c or ta s sa. In sto re s No v 24

B y ch ri s wat ke ys . In s t o re s n o v 3

By l ia m k o nemann . In s t o r e s n o v 1 0

B y s te p hen b u tc ha r d. In s to r e s n o v 1 7

There is a ghost hovering all over ‘Heiress’, the new collaborative album by multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Ed Tullett and Novo Amor (aka Ali Lacey). It’s the phantom of what Bon Iver’s third album would have sounded like according to all of those who were disappointed by the twists and turns of ‘22, A Million’. Not surprising, as, after all, prominent in Tullett’s resumé is a remix of theWisconsinite electronic-folk master’s ‘Hinnom, TX’ crafted for the ‘Bon Iver, Bon Iver Stems Project’. But maybe, this time, this influence got the best of the British musicians’ efforts. From the soft falsetto that welcomes the listener in the opening ‘Silvery’, to the majestic crescendos of ‘Cavalry’ and ‘Anatome’, to the multilayered structure of both analog and synthesised sounds and voices that run all through the 11 tracks of the album, it’s impossible to take that American reminiscence out of one’s head. The result is enjoyable, but a bit lacking of personality, and it’s a pity, especially once ‘Dancer’ starts playing, showing the songwriters’ unexpressed potential.

The side project of Balthazar’s Maarten Devoldere continues to bear dark fruit, and when you build a song upwards from a voice like his, you’re almost bound to wind up with something rich-toned and discomfiting. Here’s a man whose vocal tone sounds something like Matt Berninger after drinking a week’s worth of bourbon with Mark Lanegan. The influence of Nick Cave on Warhaus is as unmistakable as ever and there is something of the menacing swagger of the antipodean master’s ‘Red Right Hand’ in ‘Love’s A Stranger’, only played in a subterranean jazz club, curled in smoke. There is anguished, dark sexuality here in ‘Kreusch’ (named for Devoldere’s girlfriend, whose vocals also appear on the record), while ‘Big Bang’ reaches for the starry blackness of the night with the flames of a brilliant, shimmering chorus. ‘Control’, meanwhile, sounds like a Bond theme played underwater. ‘Warhaus’ is a beautifully crafted album, brushed here and there with brass and sweeping strings, and while it’s sometimes one-paced, it’s really a marvellous kind of pace.

Angel Olsen has come a long way. Since the days of her debut EP ‘Strange Cacti’, she has moved away from her stripped-back folk origins, widening her scope until, finally, last year’s ‘My Woman’ blew the whole thing wide open. Her new record, ‘Phases’, is really a place-holder – a collection of rarities from her career, from off-cuts at the recording sessions of ‘Strange Cacti’ through to her contribution to the political compilation record ‘Our First 100 Days’. ‘Phases’, then, should encapsulate Angel Olsen in all her guises but there isn’t much hint of the stripped back rock of her first two records, and no trace of the ’80s pop glam that made ‘My Woman’ sparkle. Instead, the record is dominated by the muted folk that started her career. The best use of this is ‘How Many Disasters’, a tender track with bruising vocals and introspective lyrics. But it’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ that is the record’s standout, as it deviates from the theme with a harder rhythm and ’60s drenched guitar work. This is where Angel Olsen is at her most dynamic, and ‘Phases’ could have used more of it to break the mould.

Will Wiesenfeld’s been living in his passions – games, anime, and other quiet moments of fantasy. His recent project under the name Geotic acted as a soundtrack to these comfortable moments, with celestial, enveloping electronics. What began as music for him to sleep and live with became another passion to dive into. ‘Obsidian’, his last album as Baths, was an excavation of personal fears. On ‘Yeoman’, Geotic’s soft textures are worked into moving vocal-pop songs; the most instantly satisfying Wiesenfeld has written. ‘Yeoman’’s title track is childlike, but richly constructed with wisps of falsetto and tumbling synth lines spiralling everywhere. ‘Extrasolar’ is a stadium anthem, whittled into a buoyant space daydream; wrapped in headphones, it feels made for you. On ‘Human Bog’, Wiesenfeld’s identity is crumbling: “I’m queer in a way that’s failing me / everyone alive lives fuller lives than me.” Even in untainted fantasy, the dissonance of reality feels close behind. Wiesenfeld’s attractive solution is to run, and with songs like this, you want to go with him.

If you enter into ‘Change’, the longawaited solo debut album from B-52s’ Cindy Wilson, expecting anything vaguely resembling the likes of ‘Rock Lobster’ or ‘Love Shack’, let me tell you, you’re going to be fiercely disappointed. If you are, however, more expectant of music we’ve all heard seeping out of a portable radio dialled to BBC Radio 2 whilst strewn out on a dentist chair, this might be an album for you. Released (somewhat curiously,

although perhaps purely on the chops of the B-52s’ art-pop legacy) via Kill Rock Stars, ‘Change’ is, for all its safe and breezy uniformity, a record on the right side of MOR pop. Whether you look to ‘Stand Back Time’ or closer ‘Memory’ – easily two of the strongest efforts here – washes of synth and various shades of disco-tinged rhythms meld on a few tracks to good effect. Written whilst Wilson was listening to the likes of Tame Impala, there’s a delicate dash of psychedelic

influence woven through highlights including single ‘No Can Tell You’ that just about saves ‘Change’ from being a largely forgettable release with one too many moments of filler. At 60 years old, the mere act of Wilson releasing an album so markedly unalike what she’s best known for is an achievement in itself. Calmly cultivated, some people of a certain disposition will no doubt take to it. Others – people like you and I – will listen once and probably never again.


Cindy Wilson Change Ki l l Roc k s ta r s By br i an c o ne y . In sto res dec 1


Albums 09/10

James Holden & The Animal Spirits The Animal Spirits Bor der C ommu nit y By s am walto n. I n sto re s no v 3

The stylistic development that James Holden underwent from his debut album to his second, 2013’s ‘The Inheritors’, was marked: fairly standard trance had made way for gambolling, expressive improvisation and sprawl which, although performed largely on modular synths, had far closer relatives in post-rock and ecstatic jazz than it did in anything that one might term “electronic”.The difference between albums two and three is less dramatic but Holden’s latest expansion is no less impressive. Holden seems to practically have a new vocabulary, aided by his marshalling of a live band, whose collective symbiosis with the

producer teases the organic from the synthetic in often magical ways. RocketNumberNine’s Tom Page brings a restless, scurrying energy to his drum kit, augmenting the sealedoff bleeps of Holden’s synth parts with a three-dimensional tangibility, and his frequent blasts of rattling, rustling hand percussion weave into the backbone of several tracks like sinewy climbing plants around a garden trellis. Equally, saxophonist Etienne Jaumet’s alternations between jungle-animal squall and brief flourishes that leap majestically from their surroundings, and Marcus Hamblett’s melancholic cornet playing both provide a delicious push-pull to the album that leaves it

not only a technical masterclass but also something far more viscerally affecting. The latter is where ‘The Animal Spirits’ is so successful: while this is 50 minutes of undeniably chopsy playing, it’s the emotive range of Holden’s compositions that lend the album its lasting appeal beyond knockabout jam-band fun. Accordingly, there’s an intrinsic desperation to ‘The Neverending’, as its ripples of electronics stretch out across the track in a sort of codified wail; closing piece ‘Go Gladly Into The Earth’, meanwhile, offers up poignant harmonic progressions that leave it feeling rather sleepily resigned, its trailing-

off sax micro-melodies resembling a woodland animal bidding a yawning farewell before succumbing to hibernation; ‘Thunder Moon Gathering’, a militaristic samba behemoth, is also the finest single track Holden has ever made. It all combines to create something whose complexity only increases with closer scrutiny, evoking, like an Attenborough documentary, strange snapshots of stories and environments that remain a knight’s move from normality. Dramatic, colourful and Holden’s fullestsounding work yet, ‘The Animal Spirits’ is another positive mutation for a musician who, you sense, is only just getting going.

Ditching her former moniker of Throwing Shade, Nabihah Iqbal’s debut album doesn’t shy away from tackling some pretty huge themes. The title alludes to an ancient Egyptian ritual where one’s heart is weighed upon death against a feather to determine its right of passage to the afterlife. Introductory track ‘Eden Piece’ and following instrumentals tease through Iqbal’s strengths in finding textures that would play as well against old school house, tropical

and trance counterparts as they would find friends with electronica. ‘Slowly’ is then a particular standout with vocal meditations stretching across a transcendental soundscape, only to reel in its vacuities with a brilliant guitar line. Spoken word and vocal elements sometimes trip the record up, however, out of place against the plush instrumentation. ‘Zone 1 to 6000’, about monotonous daily routines, relies on clunkily abstract lyrics about “thoughts and hopes”

set against a motorik beat. Even the dreamy dirge of dissatisfaction in ‘Something More’ falls flat when you move past its rhythmic qualities with its overly self-indulgent rhymes: “You know it’s gone/ ‘Cos you can’t hold on.” But for all its faults, Iqbal’s reclamation of her birth name, standing proudly as a female British Asian artist, assumes a pivotal place at the turn of her second musical life. If this is anything to go by, there’s a lot more to come.


Nabihah Iqbal Weighing of The Heart nin j a tu ne By tr is tan ga twa rd . In sto re s d e c 1


Reviews / Live

Superorganism Village Underground Shoreditch, London 0 5/ 10 / 20 17 wr i ter : W oody Ce ci lia Ph otogr a ph er : Lind sa y M elb ourne

Home is where the fun is for Superorganism. Comprised of eight members from Australia, New Zealand, America, Japan and the UK, they’re an explosion; a piñata full of confetti, joy and ’90s nostalgia. They found their sound earlier this year while still living in different contours of the globe, communicating and making music together over the Internet. It’s when they traced ‘Something for your M.I.N.D’ that they knew they were onto something. They sent the track to 17-year-old Orono, who was studying in Maine at the time, and she added her vocals. From this point onwards, they knew what to do. Orono quit school and joined the

rest of the band in London, they signed to Domino and moved in together. Seven eighths of Superorganism now reside in Homerton in their own creative cocoon; a house-come-DIY studio. However, they’re soon to fly the nest once more. It’s a sign of the chatter around the group that their first UK show is here at the 700-capacity Village Underground, and not some stickyfloored pub. Despite being newcomers, the place is swamped with those keen to put faces to the mystery. From the front to the pie crust crowd flaking around the venue’s walls, there’s little space to move.

Bell sounds chime through the venue and out float the band, colourfully clad in fisherman jackets. The collective emerge in a conga line of smiles, breaking off one-by-one to take to their part of the stage. An alarm clock sirens, and their display projects VHS footage of a rocket ready for take off.’ ‘Buckle up,’ the projection fuzzily reads, and the music starts. Orono sings to the crowd like they’re in her living room. Despite her young age, she’s ready for this – determined to conquer all. She faces the audience throughout. Her voice is cool, lethargic, effortless. Her three back-up-singers mimic Motown moves with a modern twist, cradling


ribbon laced tambourines and crescent moon beams. Their sound is a mountainous range of sherbet-dusted peaks – each track as tall as the other, each decibel as fear-free and glee-ridden as the last. All three tracks they’ve shared to date get aired, along with six others. Like the single ‘Nobody Cares’, their sound is a shuffled deck of Moldy Peaches vocals, Gorillaz instrumentals and The Avalanches’ uncontainable glee. On the basis of tonight, Superorganism, it seems, are ready to go straight to the big stages. They’re a mosaic of fun, fuzz and courage. A case of everything in excess or nothing at all.


St Vincent Brixton Academy, London

Beck Electric Ballroom Camden, London

17/ 10 / 20 17 wr i ter : sa m walto n

1 2 / 05 / 2 01 7

ph otogr aph y : m ag g ie ko o

Annie Clark has reached a point in her career as St Vincent where she can do whatever she likes and interest will follow. What she’s done with that freedom, however, is unexpected: tonight, for 90 minutes, static and alone, she sings along to booming studio-prepared mp3s, each one stripped of its lead vocal and lead guitar part so that Clark can re-insert herself, live and noteperfect, at the appropriate moment. Backdrops and video screens flicker; lights flash; the costumes are unimaginably glamorous. The show, however, is barely alive: this is pop music as homeopathy, attempting to convince an audience that eversmaller doses of live performance deliver an ever-increasing punch. The first half is the more peculiar. Clark initially appears in the crack of a curtain and, over the next 30 minutes, an entirely empty stage is revealed little by little as more of the curtain is drawn back after each song. At first, the concealment suggests the existence of a band behind; by the time it’s fully drawn back, though, the backing track’s eerie precision simply reinforces the emptiness and isolated position of St Vincent, and serves as a reminder,

w r it er : g em ma sam wa y s

frustratingly, of what you aren’t seeing. The message is clear: Clark wants no company but her own – even the faces of the stagehands swapping her guitars are covered by balaclavas. The second half, a straight playback of ‘Masseduction’, heaps the predictability of song order upon the mechanisation of each song’s delivery, as if goading an audience already witnessing a show entirely on rails to react, one way or the other, to its deliberately phony status.They do, in both directions: as the audience thins out, rapt fans declare their love. There are moments of humour. “I can’t even express my joy at being here,” Clark deadpans at one point, like some darkly comic Chuck Palahniuk character; at another, the arse from the front cover of ‘Masseduction’ scrolls slowly past on the jumbotron behind her, giving a sort of pantomime “it’s behind you!” impression of the singer being mooned by her own visuals. The vast majority, however, is austere, severe and aloof: St Vincent as the self-appointed fulcrum to this damning deconstruction of a “gig”’s very essence.

Plenty before Clark have bemoaned the rockist “authenticity” cliché – no costumes, four-piece band – for masquerading as a euphemism for the absence of a performance concept. What Clark presents tonight, however, is just thinly conceived minimalism masquerading as exactly the same. Is this depthless karaoke session really the best way Clark can think to express the rich, gnawing and communicative songs on ‘Masseduction’ to 5,000 people in front of her? We must assume so – after all, the last ten years or so have proved her as a thoughtful and conscientious artist, regardless of the subjective value of the work. That doesn’t make her decisions any less baffling though: tonight, St Vincent is holographic to the point of redundancy, and while that ghostly presence is sporadically intriguing, there’s little artistic heft, conceptually or musically. This is the sort of show that will provoke as many proclamations of genius as it does pseud, and one can only imagine that sort of division is exactly as Clark intended. Either way, though, “mass seduction” has never appeared so repellent.


You’d imagine it takes some behindthe-scenes persuasion for established musicians to persevere playing fan favourites night after night when there’s fresher material to be explored. But if Beck does find wheeling out the classics a chore, he’s been hiding it brilliantly for years now. Tonight’s show was announced only three days ago – following Sunday’s surprise performance at London’s Omeara – and the sense of spontaneity heightens the excitement of an already extremely enthusiastic audience. Resplendent in a white dinner jacket and black Stetson, and surrounded by a fantastic, seven-piece band, Beck bills the show “a celebration” of his 13th studio album, ‘Colors’, as well as a wake for the Grammy-winning ‘Morning Phase’. “We’re opening for ourselves tonight,” he explains at the end of opener ‘Blackbird Chain’, “So we’re gonna play a couple of songs from the last record, say goodbye to that and go into new territory.” True to his word, the swooning, harmony-laden Americana of songs from ‘Morning Phase’ and ‘Sea Change’ is swiftly interrupted by a filthy, garage-rock rendition of ‘Devil’s Haircut’, drenched in red lighting. From there onwards, the energy levels scarcely dip. Though not summoning quite the same level of hysteria as room-shaking renditions of ‘Loser’, ‘E-pro’ and ‘The New Pollution’, ‘Nausea’ and ‘Think I’m In Love’ are particularly fine tonight, the latter segueing into ‘I Feel Love’. During the encore, Beck interrupts a jubilant rendition of ‘Where It’s At’ – replete with bodypopping – to allow his band to showcase their instruments with covers of songs by The Clash, Gary Numan and Talking Heads, plus a tribute to fellow Californian Tom Petty, whose music Beck credits as “capturing the place I came from.” It’s a joy, too, to hear recent singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Up All Night’ greeted as classics, and to see the entire room bounce during the live debut of ‘Colors” title track. And while it’s clear Beck needn’t rely on past glories, the fact he’s prepared to liberally dip into his back catalogue is emblematic of his generosity as a performer.


EMA Soup Kitchen, Manchester 0 4/ 10 / 20 17 wri ter: joe gogg in s ph otog raph er: C hr is Alme ida

On the kind of hideously rainy Manchester night that delivers thumping proof that summer is definitively over, Erika M. Anderson is playing to a half-full basement at Soup Kitchen; that is to say, about 150 people. You might be minded to blame the weather, but it’s a turnout entirely in line with the way in which the South Dakotan’s intense third album, August’s ‘Exile in the Outer Ring‘, has been received. Despite unanimous critical praise, it seems doomed to crop up not, as it should, on the best-of lists at the end of the year, but instead in those rundowns that flag up the records you may have missed. Those articles likely won’t do the album justice and, on early evidence, neither will tonight’s show. EMA – flanked by a drummer and a multiinstrumentalist flitting between guitar, synths and violin – gets off to

a decidedly shaky start with the focus on guitar, robbing early cuts ‘I Wanna Destroy’ and ‘The Grey Ship’ of the sort of electronic menace that made them so arresting on record. Unfortunate, too, is the almost total lack of material from ‘The Future’s Void’, her 2014 mission statement that shared a strength of feeling with ‘Exile…’, even if its themes were more abstract. By the halfway mark, though, Anderson begins to turn it around, and sharply. ‘33 Nihilistic and Female’ sounds like what we’d have gotten if Le Tigre had written lyrics that were scorched-earth in their outlook, and the still brilliant ‘California’, which encapsulates ‘Exile’s’ displacement and disarray in microcosm, fizzes with palpable anxiety. As she opens the encore, Anderson relates a similar discomfort at the amount of her songs that reference guns, especially given her homeland’s most recent atrocity – the mass shooting at Route 91 Harvest Festival. The music that best reflects our turbulent times, though, should always make its creators ill at ease; that might explain how uneven tonight’s show is.

Sons of Raphael Paper Dress Vinatage 12/ 10 / 20 17 wri t er: c h ri s wa tke ys ph ot ograph er: ma g g ie ko o

Let’s face it – visually, these Sons of Raphael look good. Imagine, say, your average slacker rock outfit who turn up onstage in T-shirts and Converse. Then imagine the exact opposite; a hyper-stylised (if purely retro) combination of pristine vintage shirts and the kind of haircuts you might have seen strutting around CBGBs in the early seventies. There’s a dash of eccentricity here too, and a remarkable force of personality, because one of the duo looks kinda like Deirdre Barlow. So upstairs at Paper Dress Vintage – a venue which by day is a vintage clothes shop and café – seems the perfect venue for these guys to stoke the buzz that’s building around them.The walls are hung with military jackets and fraternity hoodies, and the crowd here are almost as good looking as the band themselves. They’ve come to check out two brothers who have seemingly appeared out of nowhere. If this was

10 years ago, people would be talking them up like they did The Libertines or Arctic Monkeys, but it isn’t, and so the room is a little more tempered. Still, there’s no denying that people are excited to see what Sons of Raphael do, if not because of their nostalgic hype. So here’s how they sound:The gig opens with a squall of noise, like

lumps of krautrock clanging through a grinder. The tunes they play are essentially buzzy garage rock somewhere between The Ramones and Suicide (thanks to their drum backing track), and it’s difficult to get a handle on what Ronnel (the one with Deirdre Barlow’s glasses) actually sounds like under the layers of effects on his mic. (You can,


however, make out enough to hear him yell “C’mon, motherfuckers!” between songs). A reel-to-reel tape deck sits just behind the brothers onstage, presumably churning out the drumbeat, and because it looks good, spinning away there. Ronnel and brother Loral both play guitars. It’s a massive sound given the setup, and it really does feel like these guys are a fully-formed band. The pair cut a striking image onstage and there’s an awkward, jagged, pulsating energy twisting through Ronnel, as he jerks and bucks in a way that brings Ian Curtis to mind. But there’s extreme flamboyance here that’s very un-Joy Division. Wearing glasses and a huge thick mop of curly black, gravity-defying hair, Ronnel holds his guitar like it’s shocking him, backing and banging into his brother. After merely twenty minutes of this, the set is over and the brothers disappear off stage. It’s been short, sharp and a lot of fun – the only way this show could have gone. And while musically it’s hardly the thrill of the new, Sons of Raphael do feel like proof that given enough style, skill and hair, the long-dead horse of guitar-and-drums-and-vocals rock ‘n’ roll can be whipped back into life in a way that kids will go nuts for.


Who is Taylor Swift? Until now I’ve unintentionally avoided learning anything about her. Yes, I could recognise a number of her songs, but beyond that I knew very little. Well, it turns out she’s all sorts of things: a country music star at the age of 16, a master of messy relationships, a fighter of musical feuds. These facts alone had me intrigued. However, with Swift it feels like the more I read the less I know. While pop stars such as Madonna and Michael Jackson pioneered the art of reinvention, with Swift the whole thing has become a sort of black hole meta-experiment, where nothing is real and everything could be the opposite of what it seems. Does she start fights or is she being picked on? Are her songs literal or are they simply stories? Is she a nice lady from Pennsylvania or a Machiavellian bitch of Teresa May proportions? We just don’t know. To try and unwrap the mystery let’s turn to her music videos and see if they offer up any clues.

right old laugh. The message is this: no, she’s not as arty as Lady Gaga, as cool as Beyoncé or as ridiculous as Katy Perry – she is an everywoman; a pop star who you can just about imagine yourself being – except you’d never be able to write a song quite as insanely catchy. You know what? I’m starting to like Taylor Swift.


3. LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO (2017) Whereas ‘Shake It Off’ was self referential in a charming way, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ takes the idea to an unsatisfactory extreme; there are so many messages, symbols and meanings here that it feels more like you’re decoding a renaissance painting of Christ than enjoying a pop music video. Again, this is one about reputation, with Swift having fallen out with a whole new crowd since her last outing. We have zombie-Swift burying herself (a reference to a fall out with Calvin Harris), snake-Swift drinking tea (a reference to her bustup with Kanye West and Kim Kardashain) and Beyoncé-Swift (to be honest I have no idea what this one refers to). It feels a bit like Swift has forgotten that she’s a pop songwriter and instead focussed her energies on sending not-so-subtle messages to other famous people. That might be interesting to gossip geeks, but to us pure-hearted music lovers it is more than a bit off-putting.


1. LOVE STORY (2008) Swift might be just 27, but she’s already been around so long it was hard to know where to start with her video back catalogue. This, though, was her first huge hit and a good example of what I’d call Swift’s ‘nauseous Nashville’ phase – so it seems as good a place as any. To watch the video for ‘Love Story’ is to know what it is like to be force-fed semolina for all meals, everyday, forever – it is blandness personified. In it, Swift runs into a handsome male school friend (abbreviated here as HMSF) on her way to class. We then travel inside her imagination, where HMSF is dressed up as a budget version of Mr Darcy and everyone else looks like a prat. Swift pines for her HMSF ‘Romeo’ from a window, strokes a horse’s muzzle (not a euphemism) and eventually the two lovers come together (not in that way). No, it’s not ground breaking – your average worm disturbs the earth more than this ever could – but it does the job it is supposed to, i.e. you feel like you’re watching a shit wedding video for someone from school that you always thought was an idiot.The song and the video might be boring, but they’re harmless enough. Oh, and it was directed by a lady called Trey Fanjoy – a truly excellent name.





By the time of ‘Shake It Off’ Swift had shed her country crappola and become not only a processed pop star but a mega celebrity as well – the sort of person you can read about on the magazines they put by the checkout. In this, her biggest selling song to date, Swift discusses all of

that tabloid tosh and decides she’s going “shake it off!” Directed by Mark Romanek – the guy behind Robbie Williams’ cult film One Hour Photo – the video portrays multiple versions of Swift: we see her trying to twerk (she can’t) doing her best at ballet (she falls over), and generally making a fool of herself, on her terms, of course, to show she’s a


When I started researching this article my initial instinct was that I’d probably not like Taylor Swift, either as a musician or a person. After watching ‘Love Story’, that changed. She seemed harmless; bland, yes, but harmless. Then when I got to ‘Shake It Off’ I suddenly found myself liking her a whole lot. Yes, she’s a mega celebrity, I thought, but one with a keen sense of her own ridiculousness. Maybe I was becoming a ‘Swiftie’? Alas, it couldn’t last (and just as well, because a Swiftie sounds too much like an unpleasant mix between a cleaning product and a sex act for my liking). ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ sees a Swift so self-obsessed, and projecting so many identities, that it feels like she has none at all. I began this article by asking ‘who is Taylor Swift?’ and by the end of it I still have no idea.

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FanFIction: Life Out of The Carpool Lane

It had been two years since the doors of Hollywood had been slammed in James’ face. He looked out of the window of the number 27 bus and frowned at a poster for The Bad Education Movie 2: Badder Education. Despite being sent straight to Netflix, he knew damn well that it was going down a storm, currently with a three-star rating. The face of his old friend Jack Whitehall smiled back at him, but he knew that that was a bridge burned, too, after the time he and Freddie Flintoff has push over a portaloo that Jack was in at V-Festival. It was at moments like these when James almost questioned if the zingers he’d told at a charity event in Los Angeles had been such a great idea.

He stared out of the window a bit more, until he was interrupted by an old lady. “It’s green, dear,” she said. “Huh?” said James. “It’s green. The light. You can go.” “Oh. Right. Yes, of course. Sorry, ma’am.” James eased down on the accelerator and cruised through the lights. At the next stop a bunch of school kids got on. “What you listening to? Adele?” he said to one girl in headphones. “She’s got an amazing voice, hasn’t she?” “You what?” said the girl, pulling back her left earphone and cocking her head towards the Perspex window. “I was just saying, Adele – brilliant voice.” “Right. Ok. I’m not listening to

Adele, though.” “Ah. That’s cool. Stormzy, is it? You should check Adele, though. We’re actually mates. I haven’t seen her for a while, bu…” James stopped talking because he realised that the girl had walked on, sat down and had her headphones on again. Further down the road a married couple got on and James could tell that they were surprised to see who was behind the wheel. Most people pretended that they didn’t recognise him at all, and he was always impressed at the British public’s ability to act genuinely nonplussed when they saw him, but these two were having a job containing their excitement. “Is this a Comic Relief thing?” the woman asked quietly. “Errr, yeah,” James lied. “Oh fantastic. Good for you.” As the pair jostled down the aisle, James heard the man say, “We should have got a picture. It’s not every day your bus is driven by Peter Kaye.” The British public could be complete fucking idiots, James thought. It wasn’t until Mrs Mavis got on that James perked up, although he was never going to let her know just how much he thought of her. “Now, did you remember to pack your lunch today, James,” Mrs Mavis asked him. “Yesss,” sighed James like he did everyday. He hadn’t, of course. Ultimately because he knew exactly what was going to happen next. “Oh, right. Well, I’ve brought you some sandwiches in case. Cheese and pickle.” She rammed them through the gap between the Perspex glass and the coin tray, poking them

with a Trio biscuit when they got stuck. “And something for pudding,” she winked. The sandwiches now resembled as mix of Pedigree Chum and printer paper. James would eat those later. “Fine,” he said, waving Mrs Mavis away to her usual seat as close to the driver as possible. “Of course, I remember when you did Carpool Karaoke,” said Mrs Mavis as they pulled away from the bus stop, loud enough for the whole of the lower deck to hear, and half of the upper deck too. “The one you did with Adele was incredible,” she said. “You’re friends with her, aren’t you?” It kinda sounded like Mrs Mavis was reading from a script that had been prepared for her. “Oh, I don’t do that anymore,” bellowed James. “Happy to be rid of that life, actually.” “Oh, what a shame,” said Mrs Mavis. “I was going to suggest you give us all a song now. We’d like that, wouldn’t we?” She tried to make eye contact with the other passengers in that way that old people do when they’re stuck in traffic. Nobody said a word, except for one man sat at the back who shouted, “No we fucking wouldn’t.” It was Mat Horne who’d taken to riding James’ bus all day long to belittle him for the price of £1.50. “I mean, if that’s what my passengers want...” said James. “We don’t!” heckled Horne. Continuing to ignore him, James cleared his throat and started to bellow ‘Paradise’ by Coldplay. At the next stop the whole bus emptied, despite James’ insistence that it wasn’t terminating there. Time for that sandwich.

It’s his light saber


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Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale

Loud And Quiet 90 (Vol. 3)  
Loud And Quiet 90 (Vol. 3)  

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