Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 52 / the alternative music tabloid
Poliรงa shyness is nice
Cabaret Voltaire So ciety Mik al C ronin Jo h n Wizar ds Je ssy Lan za B il l Ca llahan
contents SE P T E M BER 2 0 1 3
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W ho’s Th e Daaad? When JaY-z name-checked Right said fred, maybe he misjudged their longevity
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ding Ding Pheromoans bandmates go head-to-head in new concept novella about boxers
cover photography Gem Harris
10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Songs & Books The latest singles, EP and page-turners from rainer, mr. hitch, bob stanley and more
1 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . g e tt i n g t o k n o w y o u We asked 8 artists who the most famous person they’ve met is
M i kal Cron i n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 We let Mikal cronin do the talking, about ty segall, honesty and staying in school
Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Editor - Stuart Stubbs Art Director - Lee Belcher Sub Editor - Alex Wilshire film editor - Ian roebuck Advertising firstname.lastname@example.org
C a b a r e t V o lt a i r e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 Richard H. Kirk explains what made his group true, unflinching pioneers of electronic music
Joh n W izards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Cape Town jingle composer John Wizards discusses his experimental African pop
Soci ety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 London duo society have been “dicking Around” for years to cross The avalanches with Scott Walker
J essy Lanza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 RnB needn’t be gratuitous to be truly alluring, as proved by the understated, sexy debut by jessy lanza
B i ll Callahan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 we finally met the illusive man once know as smog, thinking we wouldn’t get along
P oliça . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Channy Leaneagh discusses life as a reluctant star and why forthcoming LP ‘Shulamith’ is not a feminist statement
Contributors Bart Pettman, Carl Partridge, Chal Ravens, Chris Watkeys, Cochi Esse, Daniel Dylan Wray, Danny Canter, DAVID Sutheran, DK Goldstien, Elinor Jones, elliot kennedy, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Gareth Arrowsmith, Janine Bullman, LEE BULLMAN, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Gemma Harris, Leon Diaper, Luke Winkie, Mandy Drake, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Olly Parker, PAVLA KOPECNA, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp, Reef Younis, Samuel ballard, Sam Walton, Sonia Melot, sonny McCartney, Tim Cochrane, Tom Pinnock, TOM Warner This Month L&Q Loves beth brookfield, Beth Drake, marcus scott, nita keeler, sean newsham, Zoe miller The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2013 Loud And Quiet. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Sharman & Company LTD.
36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . albums films . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 San fermin, mgmt, glasser, mazzy star oneohtrix point never and more
ian roebuck’s top ten home invasion movies, plus you’re next, reviewed
44 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . li v e party w olf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Beacons festival, braids, la route du rock and david byrne & st vincent
Idiot Tennis, Thought sport, Crush hour, rumour pie and The unfortunate world of ian beale
welcome It was only when listening to Polica having already dismissed them that I got it. Their 2012 debut, ‘Give You The Ghost’, was an album best discovered from the room next door, and what I’d initially disregarded as just another Aaliyah-inspired, indie synth record ended up being my favourite album of the year, coming in fourth in our End of Year Contributor’s Poll. 2012 was a year for reinventing RnB, but nobody, perhaps not even Grimes, managed to progress the ’90s genre quite like singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson, who combined trip-hop multi-drums and dark dub synthesisers with diary confessionals almost indecipherable through the lashings of auto-tune. The latter was the job of Leaneagh who has become widely considered the whole of the four-piece band, fivepiece, if you include the irreplaceable Olson who shuns press and touring duties.
This sucks for Channy, who might be the most introverted musician I’ve ever met, although her shyness, as I found out this month, doesn’t cripple her into a mute interviewee. Quite the opposite, in fact - while Channy hates to talk, she does so at great length and with candid honesty. Sometimes she even answers questions I don’t ask her, rather than hurrying the end of our time together with monosyllabic quips and bewildered looks, still the most effective way to get rid of a music journalist. During our morning together, while hardly ever looking me in the eye, softly spoken and visible uncomfortable, Channy discussed her reluctance to be a pop star on any level, her dislike of festivals, her secretive childhood, Her first kiss on stage, loyalty to her band and why her new album, while named after a radical feminist, is no feminist statement itself.
Morrissey said shyness is nice, but he also said that it can stop you from doing all the things in life that you want to. I imagine Channy Leaneagh disagrees with him on both accounts as Polica tee up second album ‘Shulamith’, released next month. Happily it delivers on the stealth promise of ‘Give You The Ghost’; another bruised, personal, not shy future RnB winner that sounds a little like Portishead in places, but largely like nothing other than the band that made it. Put it on in a room near you.
Fri d ay 1 3t h S e p t em b er HOWL
Fri d ay 2 7t h S e p t em b er THE SMALL DISCO
DA R R EN ( W E H AV E B A ND) HOWL DJS
P E T E H AY W O O D E (R IP RECORDS)
Saturday 14th September ASBO
Saturday 28th September GNG BNG
JOEL MARTIN (QU I E T V I L L AGE)
Sunday 15th September REGGAE ROAST
SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 35 Ch alk Fa rm Ro a d L o n d o n NW 1 8 A J lock-tavern.com • fb: thelocktavern
A LWAY S F R E E E N T R Y
Thursdayday 3rd October YOUNG & LOST CLUB
DJS + MCS
N AT JENK I NS
Fri d ay 2 0 t h S e p t em b er CLOCKWORK
Fri d ay 11t h O c t o b er HOWL
LIFE FEVER DREAM
Saturday 21st September THE SMALL DISCO
XANDER MILNE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday 12th October ASBO
SEVERINO (HORSE ME AT DI S CO)
Friday 4-6 October
Monday 16 September
JOANNA GRUESOME -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tuesday 17 September
GHOST OUTFIT -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Friday 20 September
TRAAMS ALBUM LAUNCH -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tuesday 24 September
DEAD MEADOW -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Wednesday 25 September
LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE YETI LANE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Sunday 29 September
THE PAPERHEAD (TROUBLE IN MIND) MASTON -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thursday 3 October
NATURAL CHILD (BURGER RECORDS) THEO VERNEY --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THE REVERB CONSPIRACY: DAMO SUZUKI / THE COSMIC DEAD -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Wednesday 9 October
LEA LEA ALBUM LAUNCH -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Friday 1 November
NIGHT BEACH HALLOWEEN PARTY -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Saturday 2 November
HIPSTERS DON’T DANCE HALLOWEEN PARTY -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Saturday 9 November
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Shacklewell Arms 71 Shacklewell Lane Dalston E8 2EB shacklewellarms.com facebook.com/ShacklewellArms twitter.com/ShacklewellArms
Thursday 12 September Tak! Live :
Sunday 15 September Keysound Sessions DJ :
Wednesday 25 September EYOE Presents Live :
MAMMOTH SOUND SOUTHPAW GUEST / MAJOR LEAGUE
LOGOS LHF DUSK & BLACKDOWN / FACTA
PURE BATHING CULT + SUPPORT
Friday 13 September Liberation Technologies DJ :
Monday 16 September Keysound Sessions Live :
TOTAL FREEDOM ARCA ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday 14 September EARLY SHOW: Stop The Arms Fair Musical Benefit Live :
(Underneath The Three Crowns) 175 Stoke Newington High St London N16 0LH waitingroomn16.com fb: waitingroomn16 tw: waitingroomn16
THE SHOP FLOOR SESSIONS PROJECTED IMAGES THE KLEZBIANS CLUB SHOW: Playhouse Indie, Pop, R&B
Tuesday 17 September Mlk & Honey Live :
KEEBO ANNA LENA & THE ORCHIDS DANIEL LAND ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wednesday 18 September AEG Presents Live :
Thursday 26 September Ragpicker Presents Live :
THE BISHOPS THE CAVEMEN
Friday 27 September Klub Kosmische Live :
SINGAPORE SLING THEE PIATCIONS THE ALTERED HOURS
+ DJs : Cosmic pop, Psych-rock & Kraut beats ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday 28 September Midnight A Go-Go A night dedicated to the 1980’s ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Illustration by Jamie Mattocks - www.create-and-destroy.co.uk
SE PTE M B E R 2013
Who’s the da a ad?
When JaY-z name-checked Right said fred, maybe he misjudged their longevity
Pheromoans bandmates go head-to-head in new concept novella about boxers
Rock’n’roll is the sound of rebellion, but hip-hop is the sound of now. Not now as in September 2013; now as in always, resolutely in the present. We’re already taking bets on who’ll name-check Uniform Dating in a rap. Odds on it’s Kanye West. Rock’s problem is that it date-stamps itself with zeitgeist hair and thick or thin trousers, whereas hip-hop agreed on a timeless, oversized look decades ago and has more or less stuck to it. We all know that mop-tops were ’62 to ’66 and mullets ’71 to ’75, but Google an image of Jay-Z in the ’90s and another from yesterday and he just looks happier. Musically the two do a Freaky Friday, with rock treading carefully to make sure its songs about girls and boys are non-committal of time or place (you can always ‘Love Me Do’), and rap dropping references that could only come from today. Problem is that today is soon yesterday, and so hip-hop, if you’re listening closely enough, is littered with dated references that are either endearing or embarrassing, depending on whether you wrote them or not. Rather ironic, that – that the heart of hip-hop, the lyricism, should be rap’s golden goose of relevance and simultaneously its crow’s feet and saggy arse. Here’s our top 10 nowness namedrops that just wouldn’t fly if you heard them today... or, y’know, yesterday.
Russell Walker and Christian Butler-Zanetti met as “the two weirdest people on campus, both wearing flares and running around drunk on cider, trying to freak people out.” That’s how Walker remembers it, and at Coventry University in the early 2000s the two outcasts also wrote short stories, sometimes purely for the other’s amusement. Since then, Walker has gone on to form and front Sussex deadpan DIY band The Pheromoans, who Butler-Zanetti joined in between “doing a lot of weird performance type things, often unannounced: beat poetry, dancing, the whole lot.” The Pheromoans released new album ‘Does This Guy Stack Up?’ on London underdog label Upset The Rhythm earlier this year, following a slew of limited releases on Savoury Days, Walker’s and guitarist James Tranmer’s own imprint. Even if your life’s not half as mundane as theirs (and let’s face it, it probably is), it’s a dropout punk record you should hear, full of boredom and its great medicine – surreal reportage and odd humour. Walker and Butler-Zanetti have also collaborated on a new book (published by Savoury Days), with each author writing half from the perspective of two different boxers before they batter each other in the ring. Plenty of that Pheromoans humour is in there, and here’s a little taster from ButlerZanetti’s side – a magician goth kid turned punching comedian. Tepid Business Zulu/Bruises and Pixie Boot is available from www.savourydays.bigcartel.com now.
We’re already taking bets on who’ll name-check Uniform Dating in a rap
1. “I’m too sexy for jail like I’m Right Said Fred” – ‘The Ruler’s Back’, Jay-Z. 2. “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis / When I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this” – ‘Juicy’, Biggie Smalls. 3. “There’s a new Tower Records / I’m bout to stop and get a fill-up / Pick the new Cypress Hill up” – ‘American Psycho 2’, D-12. 4. “And I was almost famous / Now everybody love Kanye / I’m almost Raymond” – ‘Last Call’, Kanye West. 5. “They get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile phone” – ‘Changes’, TuPac. 6. “I lead a very very very wild lifestyle / Heidi and Audrina eat your heart out” – ‘Pass Out’, Tinie Tempah. 7. “MTV is runnin’ this rap shit / Viacom is runnin’ this rap shit / AOL and Time Warner runnin’ this rap shit” – ‘The Rape Over’, Mos Def. 8. “You won’t find us on Alta Vista / Cult classic, not bestseller” – ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’, The Streets. 9. “My wrist so bright, look like Sunny Delight” – ‘Do Ya Thing’, Cam’ron. 10. “I got a Jaguar, call it the shaguar / Austin Powers that bitch” – ‘Mr Downtown’, T-Pain.
I let my old man know before anybody else. I owed him that much. We had a gig at TGI Fridays and I chose my moment well. There was a trick that required me to shove these knives through a box he was in, and he’d lie there huffing and puffing, building the tension. Truth be told, it was my only chance to get a word in edgeways. “Son, thrust the blades through the entirety of my torso!” he declared in his crappy old light-entertainer way. “Father,” I replied, slipping the blades into their slots, “I’m leaving you to become a magician/alternative comedian, and a boxer.” In went the knives! As usual there were gasps and cries and all that crap, but I just yelled out that there was a flipping mirror in the box and stormed to the exit. I minced up the carpeted stairs and into the car park. This was it! The future was my own! I was free! Free! “Excuse me, officer.” I sang, passing a police car at the lights. “There’s a dickhead in TGI trapped in a box.” “Couldn’t you have helped him out?” “Officer, it was him or me.” I sighed, and skipped away.
b e gi n n i n g songs & books 01 by L ee & Ja nin e B u l l m a n
(One little Indian) Out Sept 23
r a ine r Gir l s / Mone y
MR . Mitc h S UAV E E P
(asl) Out Now
(Run music) Out Sept 16
A few years ago, Rebekah Raa and Nic Nell (who now goes by the producer name of Casually Here) were unfortunate to not break through in a world that saw Esser and Little Boots make debut albums. For Raa’s Bow Wow Wow-inspired band Stricken City and Nell’s glitch pop solo project it was the timing that stank rather than the tunes. Fryars MK1 and Late Of The Pier were in place for all our Atari rom-pop needs where Nell was concerned, and for the girlish coo of Raa, guitar groups were a Myth of the Near Future. Now working together as Rainer, the London duo are as en vogue as they are capable with debut AA single ‘Girls’/‘Money’. Raa still sings in a genuinely seductive manner, like Karen O in ballad mode on the bubbling ‘Girls’, while Nell’s production on the stronger ‘Money’ features Burial subbass and various post-two-step tricks and flicks. And let’s face it, everyone was disappointed by the Alunageorge LP.
It’s not as horrendous as the sound of foxes screwing, but anyone who’s been woken up by a particularly chatty cat honking up at their window will seize up at the sound of ‘Catford’, Mr. Mitch’s ode to his hometown that makes a trap track out of sampling mewing mogs. I’m sure the video will be hilarious. But hey, it’s nothing if not inventive, which is something of Mitch’s calling card. On this 6-track debut EP the South Londoner explores his love for instrumental hip-hop and electronics with varying degrees of success. It’s when words get in the way that ‘Suave’ feels stale, but fortunately the opening ‘Wipe’ (featuring the ratty refrain of “Bitch, wipe her ass” and little else) is a glitch that is soon out of the way. ‘Who Cares?’ takes TNGHT’s hip-hop mould and adds doomy synths; ‘Waiting By The Door’ works, just, as a muzak take on Timberlake and Timberland. Suave might be pushing it, but there’s something about Mr. Mitch.
Yeah Yeah Yeah: T he S t or y of Mode r n P op B Y Bob sta nl e y
( Faber & Faber )
Pop music used to be important. For many it was everything they cared and dreamt about wrapped up in a single song. It was how people made friends, why they joined tribes and dressed funny, and why, in many cases, they formed bands themselves. In Yeah Yeah Yeah Bob Stanley tells the story of modern pop music from the first British hit parade to the current downloaded soundtrack of commercial R’n’B. The result is a book every bit as well researched and infectiously enthusiastic as you would expect from a man whose twin careers revolved around making pop music with his band St. Etienne and writing about it pretty much everywhere. From A&M to ZTT, Stanley has missed nothing and Yeah Yeah Yeah excels at offering both a broad overview of the subject as well as a devilishly detailed account.
Nor t he r n S oul : A n Il l u st r at e d Hist or y B Y E l a ine C on sta n tine & G a r e t h S w e e ne y (Virgin Books)
If they were to give prizes for words that are so overused that they have become almost meaningless, then ‘passion’ would need more room in its trophy cabinet. When discussing Northern Soul though, there aren’t many others that fit the bill. Those who were there often speak of a scene so intense and all consuming that those nights changed their lives forever. Northern Soul: An Illustrated History began life as research for Elaine Constantine’s forthcoming film set in the thick of the dance-floor action. It contains some of the reference material used to get the look and feel right for the movie, as well as film stills that illustrate quite how well they did, accompanied by testimony from the scene’s movers, shakers and devotees. The result is a book full of vibrancy and life, full of obsession and pleasure, and full of passion.
Single reviews by Stuart Stubbs Blowback by Lee Bullman and Michael Forwell published by Pan Macmillan available now
Big h a r d e xc e l l e n t f is h a nd t he que stion r e m a ins
You might have heard ‘And The Question Remains’ before, in its original form as ‘Imperfect List’, composed at the arse end of the 1980s for dancer/choreographer and general alt. music nerd Michael Clark. It was released in 1990, with Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins reading Josie Jones and Pete Wylie’s words – a sobering, sometimes humorous list of austere Britain’s ills, from Poll Tax and Myra Hindley to Bonny Langford and Jimmy Tarbuck. It’s what Morrissey walks onstage to, and it’s a fittingly drab fanfare for him: Northern, pessimistic and unmistakably 80s. He usually then launches into ‘First of The Gang To Die’ before everyone tries to slit their own wrists with 5-pound Carling cups. This updated version of the spoken-word list is no less chilling, in its morose, matter-of-fact delivery (by Jones once more), its ominous, epiphany synth chords and its predominantly joyless talking points, like child poverty, homophobia and paedophilia in the church. Most saddening, though, is how many of these social and political diseases have been nonmovers or re-entries since 1989. At best ‘Margret Thatcher’ has been rebadged ‘Cameron’s killer cuts’. Time for ‘First of The Gang To Die’.
beginning G etti ng to kno w you
asked her if we could take a picture with her and Justin and she put her chewing gum in my French fries. We had a short verbal altercation where she let me know how ugly I was and I let her know what a shit actress she is. She walked back to her group and told Justin what had happened and he motioned for me to go over to him. He put his nose about an inch from mine and said “Why you being cute?” and sort of bumped me with his chest. At this point all I could think about was how rich I would be if Justin Timberlake beat me up. He and I also exchanged plenty of words; some choice selections were him calling me a “cunt” and me saying “fuck you, Mouseketeer” to him. By this point our respective crews were seconds away from a massive brawl so the staff at the restaurant called the police and we all went our separate ways to avoid arrest. One funny note: while Justin and I were having our altercation a fan walked up to him and asked him for a picture and he pushed him away and said “I’m doing something!” What a tit.”
Josh Kolenik of Small Black … met Kiefer Sutherland.
“Met a tipsy Kiefer Sutherland getting off the Eurostar in Paris one time. Inexplicably my bud John befriended him and we proceeded to a cafe for a few pints. This was during his 24-hour party era where Kief was on top of his game. I remember he kept repeating the phrase, ‘Bless your heart brothers’ to us, while we were working up the courage to ask him about Lost Boys.”
Jamie Lee of MONEY …met Mark E. Smith
“Last January I was lucky enough to go to a party at the Museum of Natural History, where I ‘met’ Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) of the Beastie Boys. I’m putting ‘met’ in quotes because I spent about an hour in a corner of the room gulping wine and nervously rehearsing what I would say. When finally the room cleared enough for me to stumble over, blurting out how very important the Beastie Boys had been in my life, what an honour it was to meet him, etc. etc., I started to cry. I am not a hysterical crier and I’ve met celebrities before, but there I was... blubbering. Then I began gesticulating wildly in an attempt to dissipate some of the emotion and I nearly knocked Kim Gordon’s drink out of her hands as she walked by. Not the most shining moment of cool, but a pretty good story.”
Eddy Frankel of Fair Ohs …met Miles Davis, not Ernest Hemingway “Well, there was the time that I thought I met Ernest Hemingway as a kid. I rushed to find a Hemingway novel for him to autograph only for him to go, “lol, not really, I just have a beard lol!”, so fuck that guy. I didn’t even know who Hemingway was, so the joke’s on him. But I did meet Miles Davis when I was about 5 and shook his leathery hand. Apparently he said I was a cute kid, so who knows, romance could’ve blossomed.”
Gus Unger-Hamilton of ∆ …met Ted Danson “It’s hard for me to choose just one of my amazing celebrity encounters to write about. At Coachella, Warren Ellis asked me where the taco stand was; Thom Yorke almost broke his stride to tell me he was going to watch Public Enemy at
Fame drop We asked 8 artists who the most famous person they’ve met is Glastonbury; and as I write this, only last night A$AP Rocky enquired of me if our bus was Diplo’s, only to turn on his heels and wander off when I said no. But earlier this year I actually made it past the gate of a celebrity’s house, when Johnny Flynn (who I’d met for lunch in Brooklyn) invited me back to Ted Danson’s. It’s safe to say that everyone in Alt-J is a borderline obsessive Curb Your Enthusiasm fan. There’s not much of a story to my encounter with Ted – we sat in his garden with his wife Mary and a couple of dogs for an hour or so, drinking prosecco, and I tried to control my the urge to ask him questions about Larry David. Ted was just as awesome and friendly as I knew he would be. Now I’m off to find Johnny Marr’s dressing room to see if he wants to hear how great I think The Smiths are.”
Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles …met Cameron Diaz & Justin Timberlake “Years before Crocodiles, Charles and I were touring in an old punk band of ours. We had played LA and after the gig went to get food at a hamburger place in Hollywood. The bars were letting out at the same time and a very drunk Cameron Diaz and a more sober Justin Timberlake came in with an entourage of bodyguards and hanger on dorks. Cameron walked by our table to go to the bathroom and I
Gang Colours …met David Gray “I was fortunate enough to be approached by David Gray last year. He sent me an email after a friend of his had introduced my music to him. We soon got together at his beautiful house in Hampstead Heath and then things progressed to his huge, awe inspiring studio in North London which has been converted from a church. He struck me as an extremely humble and enthusiastic guy, and was even kind enough to let me record some gospel singers in his incredible studio, which has been used for a track called ‘Why Didn’t You Call?’ from my new album.”
Frankie Rose …met everyone else “It is hard to say who the most famous person is that I have met... For a brief while, when I first moved to New York City, I did food delivery on a bicycle for a fancy French restaurant in Chelsea. I delivered a croque madame to Tim Robbins (he was very nice) and a cheeseburger to Steve Buscemi. -“7 dollars for French fries,” he exclaimed, then he gave me a giant tip. I once asked Sandra Bullock for directions on the street and Cheech Marin opened a door for me. The pay at that job was terrible, but something like that happening was always a perk!”
Illustration by Jamie Mattocks - www.create-and-destroy.co.uk
Olga Bell of Dirty Projectors & Nothankyou …‘met’ Ad-Rock
“I met Mark E. Smith when I was being interviewed for a magazine in Manchester. When I arrived to meet the man who was going to be doing the interview he told me that he had just seen Smith walking down the street, a rare sight in the centre of Manchester. We decided that we would go and seek him out. When we got to the Fringe bar at the bottom of Ancoats he was sat in a shadow with a towel on his head. I went over to him, he said, “I recognise you.” I asked for his phone number. He obliged. “079... 079...666...” I looked at him expectedly. I noticed he had missed a despicable tuft of hair at the bottom of his lip whilst shaving his beard. “That’s it.” “You’re missing a few digits there, Mark.” “It’s a landline,” he said. “You’re holding all the cards here, Mark.” He is afraid. I leave. He undoes his belt. The world turns.”
te l l m e a b o ut it
27-year-old Californian Mikal Cronin spent 2012 shredding with high school pal Ty Segall, as ‘Slaughterhouse’, the debut album from the collaborative Ty Segall Band, became widely considered the year’s best nasty psych punk record. Simultaneously, Cronin worked on something else, something more contemplative and melodic, something that was completely his own. ‘MCII’, released in May via Merge, is something like garage rock 2.0, incorporating string arrangements, piano lines, coming-of-age power pop choruses and anxiety attacks that you want to experience yourself. We photographed him at Green Man festival and let him do the talking two days later back in London. ph o t o g r a p h e r - o w e n r i ch a r d s
w r i t e r - i an roebuck
MIKAL CRONIN ON...
… F e sti v a l s
… h o n e st y
… being a one man band
“It’s like any show; it can be great or it can be awful. As a spectator they are really overwhelming to me, I’ve avoided them in the States. I have just been to one festival when I wasn’t playing and that was when I was like 12.We’ve just played Green Man and it was fun, we were one of the opening bands. I always heard that it was knee-deep mud but it didn’t rain or anything so it was beautiful out there.The great thing about festivals is that you get to see cool bands, like in the last week I’ve been to Pukkelpop and I saw Eminen and at Lowlands festival I saw Slayer and Nine Inch Nails.”
“It was kind of my mission statement from the beginning. The first instinct of songwriting for me is to find what I am going through and try to put it into words; it’s probably what everyone does though, really. I feel like the first and second records are definitely similar but maybe by the second one I am trying to expand and define the more universal aspect of the way I am personally feeling. So I am very honest but I try to take a step back for a second and see what my friends or what other people are going through and try to write about that. It’s therapeutic in a way – you’re not alone.”
“That’s what comes naturally to me. I am definitely not the best at every instrument though. I can think of, say, ten people in my close friends who are better at these instruments, but I just find it a little easier to quickly transfer my thoughts and that’s how I have always recorded. On the record I played most of the drums, most of all the guitars, the bass, the piano, the saxophone, other keyboard instruments. I pretty much played everything except for the strings. That’s something I wish I could do, I wish I could play the cello or any string instruments. I tried and it sounds awful.”
… San Francisco
… th e n e x t a l b u m
… g r a d u ati n g
“I do miss home a lot. Being on the road is really fun but it’s so exhausting. Not much sleep and travelling all the time is hard. I’ve been in San Francisco for two years now so it finally feels like home. As soon as I moved there I was still touring a lot so it’s taken me a while to discover the city. I live in the Mission and by this point I have a lot of friends around me there, which is cool. There is a lot of great Mexican food there; in fact there is a lot of good food in general. I have noticed just being around so many creative musicians and hardworking people has made a difference in me. There are a lot of great bands there who all work really, really hard, so in that sense it’s inspiring living there and it pushes me a little harder. We will see how it changes my music, the city feels busy and more constricted and everyone is living on top of each other so maybe that might have added to some of the anxiety in my music – I don’t know, there is plenty of anxiety in there already.”
“It’s definitely not a closed book. I’m still feeling my way through the emotions that made up both of my last records, there is a lot to figure out. I am not sure what the next record will be like. So far it’s been autobiographical in the sense that it feels like two chapters of the same book, so if I continue to write like that it’ll be a continuation of that book. I am trying to figure out if I can go with a different concept or a different approach to the record. I’d kick myself if I talked about all of my ideas too early and then couldn’t do it! All I know is that I want it to be way better than the last two records and I have thoughts of expanding the sound and direction. I’d be really excited to try a bigger project in that sense, something that’s very new.”
“I am proud that I stuck through school as I dropped out and went back and dropped out and went back so many times. I am sure my parents are happy that I finished it. I studied everything before figuring out that music was the thing that I am most passionate about. I realised if I could study music then I would have a much easier time at school as it’s something I can do. I was at the California Institute of the Arts near LA. They do a lot of experimental music and a lot of really talented people go there and they are always onto the next thing – new music, new composers. It’s basically like the John Cage School of music; all the professors collaborated with him. I wasn’t the best student, I was mostly just silent and listening, I didn’t show a lot of work. I was thinking about sending a record to one of the old professors... maybe someday.”
… Ty Segall
… s o n g w r iti n g
… s e l f- i m p r o v e m e nt
“Yeah, he played a couple of guitar songs on the new album. My first band was with him, so we’ve been playing music together forever with a handful of other people. We’re from the same hometown and we all actively play music. I still play in his band but they’re taking a little break and he’s working on other stuff.This year has been weird as he moved down to LA and I am in San Francisco so I haven’t seen him as much as I’d like to, so we are going to start playing a lot more together soon. We met in high school; I think we were 16 or 17. I knew him as a kid, he was hanging out with the punk kids and playing a little music and I was out with the dork or the nerd kids and our two groups started mingling a lot. He knew I played the saxophone so he asked me to play the saxophone in this dancey band he had. It’s not a really romantic story or anything, he just asked me to play and I said, ‘yeah, I’ll play with you dude.’”
“I need to spend time with it; I need to struggle and overcome my problems and I guess that’s part of my process, it would be a lot more pleasant if it was easy.The music comes so much easier for me for sure, the hardest part is the lyrics and that’s usually last, I come up with the basic chords and hum the melody and then the lyrics will come in pieces very slowly and that’s really hard for me. I need to lock myself somewhere and I can only really show someone at the very end, like, ‘I’ve worked on this so hard I have no idea if it’s terrible or great... you need to tell me.’ It’s a weird process but I love it and I can’t wait to start it again.”
“I am happy with how the new record sounds but I think I can do a lot better and that’s what I am going to try and do next. I always think I can do a lot better, which is a good attitude to have I think. I took more risks that paid off with the second record; it was hard and the whole thing was very frustrating as well as very fulfilling. Maybe the basis of songs are a little easier to come up with now but I really want to keep pushing myself to make it as difficult as possible in order to make it as satisfying for myself as possible. I am really interested in very heavily arranged orchestrated music, like pop songs but making it really heavy and intense at the same time. I want to make my music really thick, you know?”
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A life of Noise
Ahead of a new boxset released this November via Mute, Richard H. Kirk explains what made his group, Cabaret Voltaire, true, unflinching pioneers of electronic music
w r i t e r - D a n i e l D y l a n Wr a y
heffield.While it is a great city – and a place I am happy to call home – it has a tendency towards self-congratulatory behaviour that can often border on the bewildering. Drawings and paintings of ‘local heroes’ fill pubs, shops and art galleries, with the album artworks of resident bands for company – no strain of consistency to be found via genre, timeframe or even quality, the only link being their home of Sheffield. Jon ‘Reverend’ McClure (of the god-awful Reverend and the Makers) even has a beer made and named after him by a local, and very successful, brewery. Within part of the city’s culture a sort of hopeless veneration exists. An underlying mantra can be found ruminating through everything from on-the-street attitudes to gushing local magazine content – ‘if it’s from Sheffield, it’s great’, which, aside from being grossly false, is also misshapen and unrepresentative. And while there appears to be no limit to the appreciation a bottle of Henderson’s Relish can inspire amongst the city’s inhabitants and artists, the celebration of true innovation and culture shaping art, as crafted by the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, bafflingly pales in appreciative comparison. Like (nearly) all truly great acts and cultural movements to emerge from the city, Cabaret Voltaire succeeded by looking beyond their immediate environment and by creating something that would expand and soar, forcing people from outside the city to look in and take note, not by endlessly applauding what already exists in front of their eyes in some kind of bizarre ‘we’re geographically proximate’ celebration circle jerk. Cabaret Voltaire, or ‘The Cabs’ as they affectionately became known, were not only innovators in the city of Sheffield, however. Looking back almost forty years since they formed, it’s apparent how frighteningly ahead of their time they truly were – something Richard H. Kirk will soon tell me was almost to their detriment.The group worked in a startling array of genres, but even more startling was their consistent success in being pioneers within each genre, fusing them to create sounds that varied from charged terror to wonky grooves, taking in everything from post-punk, EBM, dub, funk, punk, house, techno, pop, industrial, synth-pop and acid house. When Djing recently, I played ‘Nag Nag Nag’ by Cabaret Voltaire, a song I had not heard in some time. I had only just started DJing that night; it was early in the evening and the place was quiet, nobody on the dance-floor. I pushed play and the record was so brutal it fizzed and sparked with menace. It had taken on a crude, sharp, malevolent life in the years since I had played it. A man, around 50 or so, appeared from nowhere and stood on the dance floor, positioning himself perfectly in between the speakers. I turned it up. He stood there silently, almost still. His eyes locked, almost glazed over with an eerie, icy glare. He rocked gently back and forth, nodding his head in a trance. He did this for the entire duration of the song until it sputtered out it in prolonged, drill-like intensity.The song stopped, he quietly turned to me, smiled and walked away, never to be seen again all night. While I had been reenergised and transformed by the static, hissing, monstrous power of a song I hadn’t heard in a couple of years, it was very possible that this man was hearing it for the first time in 30 years and it looked like it sent him to another planet.To many, ‘Nag Nag Nag’ will remain the song that the Cabs are best
known for, released on Rough Trade (RT018) in 1979. The song is a bag-over-your-head-and-thrown-in-theback-of-a-van journey, it seethes with tension and anger, a back and forth punching match with ensconced-rhythm and pop undertones in one corner and flat-out experimentation set out to destroy song structure and conventional texture in the other. ‘No sound shall go untreated’ was an early day motto of the group. But ‘Nag Nag Nag’ really was just the beginning of their journey, their head-butt opening to the world.
his early day period of Cabaret Voltaire consisted of Richard H. Kirk, Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder. Kirk tells me of the group’s early years, which often involved them walking into pubs with a tape machine blaring strange noises to bemused drinkers. “There was about five or six people involved before it became Cabaret Voltaire,” he says. “I knocked about with some older lads and that’s how I got to know Chris.We were all just fans of Roxy Music and Bowie and Brian Eno, we’d been into all the glam-rock stuff.We did do stupid, mad things.The first concert we ever played, in 1975, just kicked off; people were so disturbed by what we were doing, they attacked us and there was a big fight.We were just into provocation. “We were almost like punks before punks were doing it. It was partly as a result of a lot of things we were interested in such as the Dada movement, which was an artistic movement that was anti-war and its whole purpose was to destroy the art that had gone before it. Basically, to wind people up and I think we took that on board. And being 17, we were like ‘yeaaah’, wanting to make these really mad noises that had nothing to do with music really – I’d rather people do that than stand there gawping and be bored.That was part of it, it was part of the art as far as I’m concerned; confrontation.We always used to get really, really drunk before we played, so it didn’t matter if there was a free for all. That night it kicked off because – I don’t know why I did it, I was drunk – I threw my guitar at the audience and I think that’s when it went off. Someone said I was hitting people with my clarinet, I don’t remember that but it might well be true.” That night Mallinder ended up hospitalised and, depending on which source you read, this was either as a result of falling off the stage or by having something thrown at him so violently it chipped a bone in his back. Many comparisons have been drawn to early Cabaret Voltaire and the rich period of industry their home of Sheffield underwent during this time.The mechanical rhythms of factories, the earth-shattering clanks of the steel forges and the rattles and crunches
‘Th at w a s pa rt o f it, it w a s pa rt o f th e a rt a s fa r a s I ’m c o n c e r n e d; c o n f r o n tati o n’
of the coal mines finding their way onto, and into, the grooves of the bands’ records. “You could hear things in the night,” Kirk tells me. “If you couldn’t sleep, you could hear things coming up from the valley where all the industry was, but I don’t think for a minute anyone said, ‘let’s try and make some music that sounds like a factory’. I mean, Chris lived out in Totley, there’s no industry out there, you’re practically in the countryside, out in Derbyshire. Maybe subconsciously there’s something going on there – you do something and there might be the realisation afterwards that it sounds like industrial noise – but it was more after the fact. People took the industrial thing from Throbbing Gristle – their slogan was ‘Industrial music for industrial people’ – and I think people put two and two together and made five with us because Sheffield was known for industry at that time.” Aside from Dadaism and a love for the surgical experimentations of William Burroughs’ and Brion Gysin’s ‘cut up’ style, Kirk offers some more influences that cut a more accurate kerf. “A lot of people forget that Cabaret Voltaire was influenced by what a lot of people used to call ‘black music’,” he says, “dance music in those days – people like James Brown, Miles Davis and Fela Kuti. At the same time we were very influenced by the German’s, Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, but a lot of the influences were Afro-American. People forget, we used to go clubbing in the ’70s in Sheffield and you’d just be dancing to all this funk and stuff; to me that was as important as listening to Stockhausen or Brian Eno or European Avant-Garde music. Rhythms were always as important as repetition.” The Cabs stayed with Rough Trade until 1982 releasing four excellent, subversive and challenging LPs – ‘Mix Up’ (1979), ‘The Voice of America’ (1980), ‘Red Mecca’ (1981) and ‘2x45’ (1982). Chris Watson also departed that year, marking a new period of re-evaluation and experimentation for the band. “I think [Chris] just got a bit fed up playing keyboards,” says Kirk. “He was mainly interested in recording and sound and I think maybe we were getting a bit too musical anyway.With our last record with him, ‘2x45’, that was almost dance music in some form. He just turned up one day and said he’d been offered a job with Tyne Tees as a sound recordist and he was going to do that. Obviously we were fed up and pissed off because he was great. It was really sad to lose him.” The Cabs, wanting greater exposure and feeling they had hit a ceiling with Rough Trade, they sought greater distribution and commercial success by signing to Virgin. Kirk says: “We got really restless.We’d been with Rough Trade a few years and it was all starting to get a bit safe.We sold a reasonable amount of records, but it seemed that we could never get beyond that.We would never get any radio play apart from John Peel and a few other people – we just wanted to get through to some more people.We didn’t move to a big label because we wanted loads of cash – which we didn’t get anyway because most of it went on recording and equipment – that wasn’t the motivation. “A cynical person would say that we’d sold out but we’d done quite a lot of difficult music and we were just getting more and more into dance music.We thought we can move forward and maybe make it more accessible to people and maybe make it work in clubs – that’s what we thought would be the way forward and to a certain extent it worked.”
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his next chapter in Cabaret Voltaire’s career is being lovingly documented by Mute on an upcoming, rather stunning looking box-set, ‘#8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985)’, a six CD/four vinyl and two DVD set, out on 4 November. It takes in studio albums ‘The Crackdown’ (1983), ‘Micro-Phonies’ (1984), ‘Drinking Gasoline’ (1985) and ‘The Covenant,The Sword and the Arm of the Lord’ (1985) in what was to become a rich period for the band, flirting with mainstream success but moving forward with a surge of momentum and experimentation that in many senses eclipsed that of early Cabs. “We didn’t really know what the bloody hell we were going to do.We had one and a half ideas for tracks,” says Kirk, but that soon changed. “We booked into Trident Studios and loaded up a hire car of stuff from our studio and I think within four days we’d written the entire ‘Crackdown’ album.” During this period they worked with Flood, a then little known engineer who had worked on a handful of records (including New Order’s ‘Movement’). “He almost became a third member during that period,” Kirk recalls. While Cabaret Voltaire’s attempt to reach a wider audience worked (‘The Crackdown’ charted at a career high of 31) it did so with no compromise. For an album that represents their commercial peak, it’s still one coated in icy, bleak tonality and fractured by discordant cadences. Cabaret Voltaire always feel so coiled, like they are sitting on a volcanic pile of something. Even on the pop delights of ‘Animation’ or ‘Just Fascination’ from ‘The Crackdown’, something unnerving is always brooding underneath. But it’s also fucking irresistible; it has a glorious, seditious sleaze to it and it’s a credit to the ears stuck on the heads of the people of 1983 that such a genuinely experimental pop record broke through. But most of all, thirty years along the line – and the same goes for all of these reissues – it still feels so taut, punchy
and tense, refreshingly free from a date-stamp, production fads or time-specific technological affiliations. “I don’t think we even thought about what was going to be happening next week, let alone 30 years into the future,” says Kirk. “Perhaps it’s because we didn’t know anything about conventional recording; we had our own way of working so it’s bound to come out a bit wonky compared to what someone like Howard Jones might have been doing, and because we co-produced everything with Flood we didn’t have a producer – if we’d have had some high-profile producer we may have been more commercially successful, but we’d have had someone else’s vision stamped upon what we were trying to do.” While in 1983 Cabaret Voltaire may have been enjoying their relative success, the tone of optimism had shifted drastically in their hometown of Sheffield. “Sheffield was a vibrant place,” Kirk remembers. “I mean, it was always pretty grim because it got hammered in the war and in the ’70s when I was growing up there were still bomb damaged buildings that had just been left from the Second World War, but it was kind of prosperous and there wasn’t that much unemployment but that changed. “I remember the miners’ strikes in 1983 and I remember mass unemployment. There was something like 19% unemployment in Sheffield at that time, so we were getting a kicking from Thatcher. We’d be playing shows around this period in Sheffield and be getting stopped by the police because there were all these roadblocks and checkpoints. It was really almost like a civil war.” In six months Cabaret Voltaire went from ‘MicroPhonies’ to ‘Drinking Gasoline’, the former containing an almost hit single in ‘Sensoria’, a delectable creation of synth-pop splendour as alluring as it was inventive, while the latter experimented with the 12” single format and the album (or EP), containing four slabs of industrial techno funk that was as unrelentingly charged and focused as its predecessor is mind-blowingly crafted. By the time they reach ‘The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord’ only another six months after ‘Drinking Gasoline’ Cabaret Voltaire had put out all
three records in 13 months, a remarkable feat considering the achievements they laid down. “We spent a month in America in ’85,” Kirk tells me. “We did a tour but it was only something like 8 days. Because we would go for it when we played live – I’m not going to start naming the illegal substances that we took but you can use your imagination, it was the ’80s – we used to have to have a few days off to recover from partying and stuff and we got a week off at the end in New York and I think that tour shaped ‘The Covenant…’. While it’s undeniably a record that might twitch with the 4am paranoia and raging, restless adrenaline of someone pumping themselves full of marching powder in a hotel room flicking endlessly through U.S. cable stations, ‘The Covenant…’ is far from being a cokewashout record, rather it’s a glistening coke-high. It’s all fireworks, spasmodic ignitions of beats and pulses. But it’s not afraid to succumb to ambience field recordings and the austere, much of which is drenched in the guncrazy, god-fearing U.S.A of the 1980s. It was in many senses the living embodiment of the decade while also acting as its living converse. “I think musically we got overtaken at that period,” says Kirk of the band’s next move, 1987’s ‘Code’, recorded for the enormous EMI. “I think we were playing stuff that was quite kind of funk tempo, but everything from that period-on became 120bpm and that’s what they wanted in clubs. I think at that time when we signed with EMI I suggested going to Chicago and working with people there that were doing house music but I got vetoed. We did actually do that for the next album we made,‘The Groovy, Laid Back and Nasty’ , which I think by that time was too dated, things had moved on. “It was a great experience but I don’t think we made a great record. If we’d have made that record in ’87 it might have been quite a different matter, but I think people had just got fed up with us by that point, maybe thinking we’d sold out by going with EMI, but musically we hadn’t, it was still quite tough and challenging. The musical climate had changed a lot, people were loved up and didn’t want to hear about someone being shot with a gun or something.” While Cabaret Voltaire didn’t end there (they carried on until 1994) it seems fitting to end it here, and not just because it’s in line with November’s reissues. It’s the natural conclusion that Richard Kirk and I arrive at in our conversation and it brings closure to a decade that Cabaret Voltaire always seemed to be too far ahead of to be an inclusive part of. As Kirk concludes and reflects,“ I think we were more than one step ahead, without wanting to blow my own trumpet. We were ahead of our game and it always happens – people who are innovators or get there first never make the financial success out of it; it’s people who come along and take your ideas and adapt them and commercialise them. “We did okay with record sales, we had one top 40 album, but that was our first, we didn’t have one before that or one after it. The radio never played us and that was the key back then. If Radio 1 didn’t play your single, chances were you weren’t going to amount to much. Daytime radio was so important. The other thing that used to get on my nerves was when we were making videos and they always used to say ‘you can’t put that in there because it won’t get shown on Saturday mornings kid’s TV’ and I was like ‘that’s not the fucking market we’re aiming at’. But a lot of them were just blinkered, thinking they could fit a square peg into a round hole and it was never going to happen with Cabaret Voltaire.”
a kind of mag ic Cape Town jingle composer John Wizards discusses his experimental African pop debut that’s been inspired by Western appropriations rather than offended by them p h o t o g r a p h e r - N i co K r i j n o
Has the year’s most exciting record ever been from Cape Town before? I’d hazard a guess at no, but it’s certainly the case in 2013.The self-titled debut from John Wizards (out now on Planet Mu) is almost exclusively the solo work of South African musician John Withers, and has emerged entirely from leftfield to become one of the summer’s most talked-about releases. With a fairly basic palette of guitars and synthesisers running through his laptop, Withers has managed to produce a fascinating sonic tour of some of Southern, Eastern and Central Africa’s most intriguing musical propositions in impressively cohesive fashion. Lead single ’Lusaka by Night’ represents the record’s diverse approach in a microcosm; chirpy guitars, laid-back vocals and sparse, juddering percussion combine in a veritable carnival of tones that’s at once both disparate and engaging. Withers works a day job in his native Cape Town, composing jingles for advertisements, and speaks to me from the office; South Africa’s working day isn’t quite over. Given that both his professional life and his leisure time both seem to be largely given over to musical endeavours, you’d assume it possible that the lines can often be blurred between the two. ”I think the main thing is that it’s helped me settle into being comfortable writing in a whole bunch of different styles,” he says. ”I’ve always worked on my own music, but a lot of the time I wouldn’t end up finishing what I’d started. I think when you’re forced to take a more methodical approach to writing, because it’s your job and you therefore know that there has to be an end product, it kind of makes it easier to apply the same kind of work ethic to your own music.” Withers’ first real exposure to playing music came in a fairly straightforward fashion as a child, although he soon progressed towards experimentation. ”My parents took me to piano lessons when I was younger,” he tells me. “That was probably my first real exposure to music, at around age seven. As I got into my teens, I started playing the guitar, and that was probably my main focus through those years. It wasn’t until recently that I started progressing towards electronics and things like that.” Wither’s music also progressed with a helping hand from Emmanuel Nzaramba, the only other contributor to ‘John Wizards’. A Rwandan singer who performs in various languages on the record, Nzaramba only came to be involved with the finished product after a chance reunion with Withers. ”He was working at a coffee shop that I used to visit pretty regularly,”Withers recalls. ”He came to Cape Town in the first place because he wanted to try to make a career for himself in music. I walked in one day with my guitar on my back, and we got talking.
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We ended up playing together and we did a little bit of recording, but we lost touch after a while. About a year later, I moved house and he was living nearby, and we managed to finish some of the stuff we’d started.” The partnership between Withers and Nzaramba has connotations that stretch beyond just music; the process of moving towards racial harmony remains a slow one in post-apartheid South Africa, and particularly in Cape Town, where such a biracial duo is far from commonplace in the music scene. ”I guess it’s fairly rare,” says Withers. “It’s a little different to somewhere like Johannesburg, which is not that far away, but there’s definitely more racial integration there in general terms, and that’s spilled over into the music there. It’s definitely less common here in Cape Town, which, again, is probably just a reflection of the social situation, and the degree of integration here.” Withers has travelled extensively across southern Africa since graduating with a degree in art history, and whilst these trips clearly informed his approach on his first album, he insists that the record also incorporates influences from elsewhere in the continent, as well as overseas. He says that it’s definitely “a very African album”, rather than a South African one.“Then, beyond that, you’ve got some Jamaican influence, and obviously Western pop music is a big part of it too. I guess Southern and Central Africa is the foundation musically – that’s what it leans towards the most – but there’s so much else in there.” Much has already been made of the plethora of Western influences present on the album, and Withers confirms that they encompass both the obvious and the obscure. ”I was just thinking the other day that one of the records I was really obsessed with when I was writing a lot of this stuff was ‘Ambivalence Avenue’, by this guy called Bibio,” he says. “It was really inspiring to hear a guy so comfortable with bringing in all these different styles and making something that sounded really natural and seamless – nothing sounds forced. I
‘It w o u l d b e a s h a m e i f cyn i c i s m g ot i n th e w ay o f w e ste r n b a n d s b e i n g i n s p i r e d by a f r i c a n m u s i c’
was listening to that a lot right before I started seriously writing towards an album, and it had a big impact on me. It was nice to hear something that disparate. ”Obviously it’s almost impossible not to be shaped by a lot of British and American bands, too. The Velvet Underground were a pretty big deal for me growing up. I really loved James Blake’s record as well; that’s another one I was listening to when I was just getting going on this album.” Interestingly, Withers has also cited Vampire Weekend as a major influence on his music, the band that attracted both praise and derision when they incorporated African sounds on their self-titled debut in 2008. It’s fascinating to think that only five years down the line from being dismissed by some critics for their (admittedly self-satisfied) self-description as ’upper west side Soweto’, they’re actually rubbing off on African artists themselves. ”It doesn’t really surprise me that people react a little bit warily,” says Withers, “or a little bit cautiously when Western bands bring in these influences that are markedly foreign, especially if there’s maybe a bit of a
historical discrepancy in terms of where the band are coming from.There’s obviously certain power dynamics involved in coming from a rich Western country and appropriating foreign music for your own needs; I can see why people might think that amounts to fetishising it, or treating it flippantly. But I think people should be more open to that kind of thing – you can learn so much from it. If you can harness that kind of influence in a respectful manner, there’s a lot to be gained. It would be a shame if cynicism got in the way of that.” Many of the album’s song titles make explicit reference to the names of some of the places that Withers has visited across the south of Africa in recent years (‘Lusaka By Night’, ‘Muizenberg’, ‘Lushoto’), and you wonder whether that’s down to direct sonic correlation with the towns involved, or merely a less concrete connection between the trips Withers took and the memories that the songs bring to mind. ”It’s the latter,” he says. “I don’t think I really used instruments that were specific to certain regions – just because there’s a lot of different styles in there, it doesn’t
actually mean that it’s all that diverse instrumentally. It’s kind of the standard setup of synthesisers and guitars, really. Plus, it’s not as if the lyrical motifs were taken from those areas. It was far more abstract than that, and I kind of just based the titles on the way that the sounds would evoke the feeling of the place, and certain memories from my time there.” With tour dates across the West in the pipeline, including a slew of UK shows in October, the next challenge for Withers is to break down the record to make it suitable for live performance; he’s already put together a band of local musicians to accompany him on the road – that’s them in the photograph, with Withers and Nzaramba far right. ”It’s what I’ve mainly been focused on, since I finished the album,” he says.“It’s been a really interesting process. I think I went in with this really practical mindset, just thinking that we were going to be taking the songs and breaking them down and figuring out how best to arrange them, but it turned out that you can mix things up a lot more; at times I felt like I was rewriting this stuff
when I was figuring out the live setup. It’s been tricky, because you might get halfway through an arrangement and realise that it’s not going to work, and all the time you’ve spent teaching people the parts might have been wasted – you’re back to the drawing board. It’s definitely a rewarding process, though.” Withers is excited and mindful of the affects of touring, and the influence that this steep learning curve could have on his future music. ”We want to take things as far as possible,” he says. ”It’ll be interesting, because I’ve never toured before, and I guess I’m going to need to know what that experience is like and how I respond to it before I’ll know if I really want to do this on a regular basis. The main reason I really want to travel is because I feel like I’m craving some kind of external influence; I really want to collaborate, and I want to move out of the solitary practice that music represents for me. I think the fact that we’re coming to the UK in October and playing in the US, too, means there might be a more pronounced Western influence in future – but I’m certainly not leaving Africa behind.”
Social Networking London duo Society met doing something else, bonded over ’60s cinematic soul and trip-hop, and have been “dicking about” ever since photographer - phil sharp
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amie Girdler has never done an interview before, so why is it that I’m feeling self-conscious? A walk across any working office that’s not your own will do that, even when you’re not heading towards a glass-walled meeting room. Safely across the room and inside what is basically Phillip Schofield’s Cube, Girdler says it before I can – “This is a bit disconcerting, isn’t it?” On the wall behind him are other success stories from his PR company’s past – big successes: Dizzee Rascal, Lana Del Ray, Scarlett Johansson, Adele, Beyoncé. On our way out we’ll both resist the urge to climb inside Björk’s bulbous, fiberglass costume as seen on the cover of her 2007 album,‘Volta’; the one that looks like it came from a giant Kinder Egg. This is the world that Society has strolled into, and they’ve only got two songs. Girdler isn’t the only member of the project, but rather the one that lost the coin toss when it came to deciding who was going to be the face of the band. He’s the La Roux, if you like, but he’s better than La Roux, because he’s funny, happy to talk and naturally charming. He’s also better looking than most of the people that I like to associate myself with. The other member of Society is producer Brendan Lynch (a man previously in charge of recording Paul Weller, Primal Scream and The Rakes), and Girdler constantly makes sure he’s not forgotten in his absence. Lynch’s part, after all, is vital to the cinematic, future classic sound of Society, and Girdler, who sings in a sepia, ’60s Motown tone that suits neither his actual appearance nor even his gender, clearly holds him in high regard. Lynch and Girdler met when Girdler got as close to experiencing his own success as is possible, without anything happening at all. Now 24, he’s a child of the Libertines generation, or the ‘New Rock Revolution’, as the penned it, and a young man who grew up in Reading. “That was massive for me,” he says, “going to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol and The Libertines at Reading Festival. I loved Rival Schools. Franz Ferdinand. I saw all of those bands in the Carling tent, which forced me into thinking I could be in a band.” With his brother Justin and two friends, Girdler formed Beggars – an indie beat band that resembled Derby-based nearly somethings Komakino, crossed with the Liverpool revival scene of 2002 – who went on to sign with Heavenly Records at the worst time imaginable. It wasn’t Heavenly that was the problem, but the label’s affiliation with EMI, which imploded in 2009
as it was sold to venture capitalist company Terra Firma. “We never released anything, because everyone just got sacked in the office,” says Girdler cheerily enough. “No one really knew what was going on and we’d just turn up at the offices and each time there’d be less people there. It was a bad time, but we were just kids so we didn’t really understand it.” Although forever shelved, Beggars’ debut album was recorded, over ten weeks in a country house inYorkshire (evidently, it was a different time back then, even in 2009), with Brendan Lynch in the roll of producer. “[EMI] gave us our record back and then we were like, ‘well, we’ve kind of written another record anyway, and done loads of other stuff ’, but it lead me to Bren, which was great, so then me and Bren started working together, my brother left the band and that’s when we started Society. “Our goal was that we wanted to make a great, really mental classic album,” Girdler says. “That’s all we’ve been doing, and we don’t take it any more seriously than that.” Girdler is quick to play down the ambitions of the project, perhaps due to its embryonic stage, later insisting, as we talk about how the duo would like to release their music, “We don’t really give a shit. We genuinely don’t give a shit. If people don’t like it, we don’t want to work with them.” He describes what he and Lynch get up to at Lynchmob, Lynch’s own studio to the stars, as,“dicking around together. I mean, that’s still all we do: we just dick around with sounds and stuff, and we ended up with this song, which was ‘All That We’ve Become’. We just had that and one other song – we really weren’t taking it seriously at all.” ‘All That We’ve Become’ was released on a scarce, vinyl only run last year. Don’t feel bad for missing it,
everyone did, and Society refused to court the light buzz it did create in order to make their “really mental classic album” rather than feed any mystique. New single ‘14 Hours’ (out this month on Angular Recordings) is a progression of what has all of a sudden become Society’s sound – a mix of dusty sampled strings a la The Avalanches and J Dilla’s playful gospel soul beats over Girdler’s own genderless croon. There’s a lot of Scott Walker and Lee Hazelwood about it, in how the tracks are like self-contained feature films, and the favourable name-checks don’t end there. Since previewing online last month, ‘14 Hours’ has stirred up memories of Minnie Riperton’s eternally radical 1972 debut single ‘Les Fleurs’, Portishead, Richard Ashcroft and Marvin Gaye. Or, as The Guardian put it, “‘14 Hours’ is one answer to the question: what would have happened if the Beatles had made a record in 1967 for Motown?” “It’s amazing!” says Girdler, who it seems could only be happier with the list if it included Leonard Cohen, with whom he has long been obsessed. “Every time I’ve seen anything written it’s a really amazing reference, and that’s really cool because it means people get it. Like, J Dilla compared to Richard Ashcroft, compared to Marvin Gaye is amazing, because that’s exactly the kind of music I listen to, mixed together, and it’s how we want the record to sound.” There’s been some lies too, chief amongst them the report that Society tracks have appeared in two aeroplane Hollywood movies – 2009 bromantic comedy I Love You, Man and the following year’s Life As We Know It, or What Happens When Two Impossibly Beautiful Single Adults Are Thrown Together To Look After A Recently Orphaned Toddler?. Considering Society wrote their first song last year, the dates don’t quite stack up, never mind the fact that the given source of this information, Society’s website, doesn’t exist. Now, a couple of old Beggars tracks, yes, they do feature in I Love You, Man and What Happens When Two Impossibly Beautiful Single Adults Are Thrown Together To Look After A Recently Orphaned Toddler?, although Girdler insists he has neither seen nor owns them for posterity. Society’s cinematic references are a little more exaggerated than a man crush between Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (although I’ve actually seen I Love You, Man, and it is, at times, really rather touching).Along with Lee Hazelwood’s 1960s work with Nancy Sinatra, David Axelrod is a heavy influence, the late ’60s/early ’70s
orchestrator of jazz and RnB scores that were made for making all visuals a thousand times more glamorous. Serge Gainsbourg, too. “The cinematic thing is something that we set out to do,” say Girdler. “Because we’ve not been making a record for anyone, you get a bit lost and start imagining it on a film – you start to put an image to it, because there’s nothing tangible when you’re just dicking around with sounds.” Girdler tells me that, never mind that Society don’t have a record deal yet, “The album was done ages ago, but we so want it to be the perfect sounding record that
we still think we’re one or two tracks off.” By just getting on with it they’ve given themselves complete, dicking about freedom, allowing them to live out their motto of “the madder the better”. (“The more stuff on the track, the better,” says Girdler. “We want a big soundscape so every time you listen to it you hear something different.”). Whether they’ll find a label to release the thing is a matter for another day, although Dizzee Rascal, Lana Del Ray, Scarlett Johansson, Adele, Beyoncé and Björk’s Kinder surprise I’m sure will have something to say about that. Before leaving The Cube for photos in London’s
Piccadilly Circus, we speculate as to what’s going on with Jay Electronica’s endlessly delayed debut album, as Girdler mentioned that he is someone he’d like to collaborate with. “He has got it spot on,” he laughs, “because he knows that the best thing you can do is never put a record out because then you can’t get a bad review.We’re not trying to the do that – we’re trying to finish a record. But does it matter how long it takes? The bottom line is if the record is good. If it’s amazing it’ll be huge.” I’m not sure we’re talking about Jay Electronica anymore.
ince signing to UK label Hyperdub, there’s been quite a buzz building around Jessy Lanza. The Hamilton, Ontario native who has until now worked as a music teacher in order to pay the bills is on the cusp of something big, though you wouldn’t know it to talk to her. As she laughs her way through our call with a disarming coquettishness, it’s clear that she’s excited at the prospect of her new life. Though I’m speaking to someone who is going through her opening spars with the music industry, the future is blindingly bright as Lanza faces up to a life of performing and recording fulltime. And it seems that she couldn’t be happier. While she is quite clearly agog to get on the road and tour her work around the States and Europe, Jessy doesn’t feel a sense of relief at leaving her current life behind. Indeed, it’s telling how quick she is to point out the sense of duty she feels towards the children who attend her lessons.“It’s kind of a struggle this Fall because school is starting again and I have to leave to go do tour stuff in November, so I’m wondering if I should start with my kids again. I think that it will take over,” she ponders. “The recording and performing will be prioritised for a little while but I do love teaching, just because kids are hilarious, you know?” She giggles.“And although a lot of the music they listen to is really kind of terrible, I like knowing what 10-year-old girls are into. It’s an insight that you wouldn’t really get unless you had kids yourself, which I don’t. Doing piano lessons or singing lessons with kids is fun. I love doing it.” In case you aren’t familiar, Lanza’s music is a gorgeously ethereal brand of RnB-infused pop. Sexy and yet smart, its delight often comes in the gaps between the sounds; a confident minimalism that’s charged with electricity and void of the gratuitous close-ups that’s lead pop music to where we find it today – with Miley Cyrus licking the air and rampantly twerking for the pleasure of Robin Thicke, a man estranged with subtlety and class. It feels like the imprint from the night before, the spectre left behind at the scene, not the car crash as it happens. While it’s easy to describe music, especially that which is underpinned by predominantly electronic sounds, as nocturnal, Lanza’s debut LP,‘Pull My Hair Back’, seems to exist during that strange 5am twilight. It feels half-day, half-night. Wistfully ephemeral. Her breathy, delay pedal vocals are a key component of that sultry sound, but she’s coy on her abilities behind the microphone, saying, “I have always liked to sing but I always think of myself as being more of a piano player. I always admire people who have really strong voices, like soul singers like Evelyn King or Melba Moore, those crazy voices.” She pauses and opens up. “I don’t have a voice like that. But I think the vocals being treated and kind of washy is more a reflection of my anxiety of my own voice and my insecurity of it.” It’s an interesting insight into her approach. She is careful to make the best of what she has, acknowledging her shortcomings and emphasising her abilities. “I like to make it interesting and idiosyncratic rather than it being this – boom! – presence. I don’t have a voice like that so it’s seeing how I can make it interesting or engaging without trying to be something that I’m not. That sounds like a really clichéd way to end it but that’s what I’ve gone for.” A natural entry point for her sound is the album’s lead single, the infectious ‘Kathy Lee’. Its tinny snares skitter and stutter along, led by synth stabs which are wrapped around by Lanza’s lighter than air vocal lines. When its climax finally comes, it arrives with subtlety, its ghostly chords weaving around the beats to devastating effect. The accompanying video pans around her
What’s sexier than a million twerking Miley Cyruses? Well, yes, everything, but especially the understated, alluring debut album from Jessy Lanza p h o t o g r a p h e r - t i m s a cc enti
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hometown in the small hours, with the singer always just out of focus. I ask if mystique is something that is important to her, but my point is dispensed with straight away. “It’s not one of those things I want to maintain,” she says, “like a mystery about what I look like. I’ve got other promotional pictures where you can see my face fine. I thought for the video it would be more interesting to have me as a peripheral person and have this guy, Jed, who’s the dancing guy in the video. There are so many videos with female artists where it’s all just them and they’re really boring to me.” For anyone wondering about the enigmatic star of the video, he wasn’t pulled from a casting agency. Instead, he was found on the streets of Hamilton, another hint at Lanza’s DIY ethic and her ability to make something out of nothing. “He’s just some guy who dances around Hamilton. We literally call him Jed the dancing guy. He just dances around. He’s religious.You see from afar and you think that this guy is schizophrenic but he’s actually…” She’s careful to make sure she chooses the correct words. “Well, I’m not saying that he’s a normal guy. He’s definitely weird but he’s not crazy or anything. I think that something happened in his life. His mother was sick or something and then she got better and he
said that, if she got better, he would dance or sing for God every day. He’s very evangelical.That’s his schtick.” Taking the bleak landscape of the town as its setting, I am keen to find out if Hamilton has had an influence on a sound that, for all its breathiness, has some unashamedly cold, hard edges. She politely says that it hasn’t, though the two things work beautifully together. “I do all my listening in my house through the Internet,” she says, “but I grew up in Hamilton. Jer [Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, who’s responsible for a majority of the production on ‘Pull My Hair Back’] is from Hamilton as well.We both love the city for different reasons. I’m trying to think of some of the shots in the video. It’s one of those places that was a really great city but then in the 70s it totally went to shit. It has some hard-hit areas but it’s pretty amazing in some ways. Like, there are amazing buildings and neighbourhoods. It is pretty desolate in places but that makes it interesting.” An interesting arc to Lanza’s narrative is that quite a bit of the equipment she uses to make her music was inherited from her father, who passed away when she was in her mid teens. “It’s weird,” she says. “He bought this 909 that my cousin swooped in on and got a long time ago. It sucks. There’s nothing I can do, but it’s fair
and square. My dad passed away when I was 16, so I was just getting to the age where you start to get perspective on your parents as people. The Polymoog, I remember he used a bit. But my parents played in rock bands, so I’m not sure… I think that he’d heard the 909 and thought, ‘This is the best new drum machine.’ And he was a teacher as well so he had extra money to throw around. He had a studio in the basement and that was his place that was his get away from the family.” Sadly, there was no overt passing of the baton from Mr Lanza to his daughter, but it’s a nice legacy for her father to leave to Jessy and the family.“For sure,” she says. “It definitely makes my mom happy. And me.” Though Jessy’s music benefits from minimalist, butter-slick hip-hop percussion and textures lifted from modern electronica, her abilities are built upon a knowledge of the workings of jazz. She did her undergraduate degree in the art, and she believes this has allowed her to dismantle the songs she loves and work out how they’re put together before synthesising something entirely new. She says: “With studying jazz, a big thing is learning other people’s songs and having the ability to hear and lift chord progressions. I got really into learning other people’s stuff.” This led her to an understanding of RnB that permeates her recent work. “A lot of chords that are in RnB songs are jazz chords that are simplified and played on different instruments and synths,” she explains, naturally a teacher. “But it’s a lot of the same repertoire of chords. So it’s kind of easy for me to learn my favourite, I dunno, SWV song. So it was a natural progression.” Yet it wasn’t until a chance meeting between Jeremy Greenspan and Steve Goodman of Hyperdub that things began to get serious. “The album definitely came first,” she says, “except that we added a couple of tracks at the end. Jeremy and Steve are friends from a long time ago, so they go back a long way. And they saw each other last year at a gig somewhere and Steve was asking him what he was working on and could he hear some tracks and he played him some of the stuff that we were working on and he actually liked it, which I was really blown away by. We sent him everything we had done to that point and there were a couple of tracks that he was just like,‘I don’t want to use this so you guys need to come up with something else.’ So the majority of it was done and then we had to add a couple of tracks to fill out the album.” As well as the transatlantic recognition that’s been bestowed upon her, the realisation of her sounds in a live forum is also a relatively recent development. Jessy’s been playing live sets for a little over 12 months, gradually mastering her simple set-up of a couple of synths, a laptop and a delay pedal for her voice. “I’ve done shows here in Canada but it’s only been a year that I’ve been playing live really. It’s just been in Hamilton and Toronto so far.” The good news is that we’ll be able to see her enact her one woman show on British shores soon. “In late November I’m going to come to do a bunch of shows in Madrid, London, Amsterdam. We’re ironing things out but I’m definitely going to come over end of November, start of December.” Before we say our goodbye’s, as with any emerging artist, I’m keen to find out what Jessy would view as success for her debut work to which she errs on the side of caution, beginning each of her desires with the word ‘just’. “Just the ability to tour and keep on making tracks,” she says. “That’s all I want. Just that people are interested. I want to be able to play and for people to be interested in what I’m doing.” With the depth of positivity that her music has been garnering of late, that already looks like a very modest request indeed.
A Clear i n g
I n Th e Smog
Bill Callahan, the man who spent the ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s going by the name Smog, is one of underground rock’s most illusive cult figures. Daniel Dylan Wray met him presuming, as everyone given the pleasure does, that they wouldn’t get along
Searching through a trove of past Bill Callahan interviews, a constant reiteration on the awkwardness of the interaction appears again and again, the reasoning usually placed firmly on the apparently lugubrious, laconic reticence of Callahan to engage the interviewer the way they would like him to.The palpable discomfort and apparent frustration that exists in these encounters really seems to owe a debt to both camps, however, the interviewer believing Callahan to be playing up to the role of a mysterious, fog-screened artist who speaks in riddles, metaphors, or not really at all, and Callahan feeling exasperated that what he offers as insight isn’t considered enough. “I think of my lyrics and interviews as an attempt at precise clarity,” he once said, while in the same Tiny Mix Tapes interview also reaffirming his point with, “I don’t believe it necessarily takes a lot of words to explain something.” It’s true Callahan’s lyrics are precise, they are carved and constructed with a delicacy, craft and, no doubt, a shrewd fastidiousness. They are ships inside tiny bottles. However, rarely are they singular, and this is where the
problem often lies. “I think a lot of stuff I write has two or three meanings,” he later tells me, and with this in mind one might then begin to attach a pinch of irony to his claims of attempted precision and clarity in interviews, but then irony isn’t really a proclivity of Bill’s either. “Humour is sincerity and truth,” he says. “I don’t peddle in irony.” And so it goes, back and forth, back and forth, cutting between monolithic ratiocination and tiny sapid bursts of personal insight. It’s often difficult to work out if Callahan is the very allegory of his own work or the living antithesis, yet I suspect he knows perfectly well which one. Without meaning to be unctuous, Bill Callahan, even at his most phlegmatic and withholding, still usually eclipses any interpretation and analysis interviewers throw upon him. His original lyrics are always more interesting than listening to the futility of someone breaking them down. So, hoping to avoid being involved in yet another stalemate, I approach interviewing Bill not with a notebook bursting at the seams with lyrical dissections and bloviated thematic assertions, but rather
I remain quite content in not really knowing what he definitely means when he sings “you look like worldwide Armageddon” on his latest, wonderful LP, ‘Dream River’. Bill is doing an interview day as we speak on video call (he in his home of Austin, Texas); a painful day for him, I presume. “It’s actually been…” Bill stops talking for a moment and reaches both arms behind his back and starts wrestling with something that rustles and crackles, he then pulls out a big bag of ice from underneath the back of his T-shirt “…fine. It’s been surprisingly fine,” he says nonchalantly. Bad back, I enquire. “It just feels good to put ice on my neck,” he laughs with a quiet smirk. Laughing and smiling are perhaps not traits that Callahan is renowned for via his ‘interview persona’, but both are something I see fairly frequently during our eighty minutes together. Leading up to ‘Dream River’ – Bill’s fifteenth studio album, out September 16 via US indie Drag City – something rather unexpected happened: Callahan allowed a documentary team (led by first time director
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Hanley Banks) to make a concert (and a bit of behindthe-scenes) film ‘Apocalypse’, the title taking the same name as his superb previous album. “I get asked to do a lot of things like that and they are usually a bad idea,” Bill tells me. “They usually don’t work out. I could tell from the email she sent me that it was just going to be okay; she just had the right attitude. I really wanted that period documented because I thought those songs live with the trio (Bill, Matt Kinsey and Neal Morgan) were really great. It was finding someone who was agreeable and wasn’t like bringing any baggage or insecurity or weirdness when they’re holding the camera. She was very personable and didn’t ask us to do anything we didn’t want to.” “She was a first time director, so I wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do with the stuff – she did say it was just mostly going to be music, not a lot of stupid things of us hanging backstage or anything like that, so I didn’t have to think about the audience because I wasn’t sure what we would be giving them. I just put my faith in her… and…” Bill pauses for a moment, as he often does, letting silence hang in the air as he stares at the ceiling, thinking. “… I also… from the start, I said if I don’t like it, you can’t use it. So…” he laughs with a playful, slightly sardonic smile,“… so, that’s a good line.” Bill also says this with a quiet underlying authenticity that says,‘and this is how I always work’.“There’s been a couple of people that have tried to make a documentary and it hasn’t worked out,” he attests. The sounds on ‘Dream River’ are somewhat emblematic of the title. Bill’s voice seems to only grow richer as he get’s older; it courses like gushing water over a sun-weathered rock as flutes and fiddles skip, jump and flurry with a twitching grace and fluidity, like salmon swimming upstream. “If you asked me 10 years ago if I would have had flute on my record I would have just said ‘no way’,” he says, “because it always seems like… the impression is that it’s very weak and watered down. But I really started loving the sound and then I realised all my favourite records have flute on them all over the place, but you don’t always really notice it. So, I kind of fell in love with the flute and I think with this record in particular there’s some dreamy aspects that it fits in with that also fit in with the title of the album – flute is definitely one of the most dreamy instruments.” Bill offers a taste of his flute-filled record collection. “It’s kind of everything,” he says. “Stuff from the ’70s that has any kind of instrumentation on it at all. I really like ‘Blackboard Jungle’ by the Upsetters and Lee Perry, that’s got some amazing flute on it…” Bill chuckles to himself as he remembers just how much he loves the flute on that record. “... All those Marvin Gaye records, Van Morrison, I mean he uses it like a lead, but a lot of the time it’s just used as colouring. If you go back and listen to some of your favourite records you’d be surprised that there’s flute on them.” Callahan’s relationship to his own voice is apparently more stoic however. “My voice to me is just like a brick or a stone that is needed in the construction of a thing, you know? Listening to my voice isn’t like listening to someone play flute!” he laughs. “I really wanted congas, hand drums, I wanted light,”
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he tells me about the intense focus on percussion on the record (largely crafted from the hands of Thor Harris, previous Bill/Smog collaborator and also a Swans and Shearwater member). “I really didn’t want to make a rock record at all with crashing symbols – all that stuff can seem too easy sometimes, to have the drummer make a bunch of noise. I really was trying to stay away from that whole rock thing, like how rock builds up. I wanted a very even keel percussion and then to have the dynamics come from – partly from my voice – mostly the guitar and the fiddle and the flute. I wanted the guitar to be like a bolt of lightening, shooting out of it.” I mention a scene in Bill’s tour documentary in which drummer Neal Morgan brushes a potato for percussion, suggesting this concentration on percussion took hold and manifested prior to this album. “What’s the potato scene?” he bemuses, as I explain what I mean. “Oh, that’s not a potato, it’s some kind of Latin percussion,” he replies, leaving me looking very much the ignoramus I am, “like he’s brushing it with melted butter, to eat it?” he then follows up, wryly mocking me with a wicked simper.
uch like the artistic trajectory of Leonard Cohen, Bill Callahan’s records can often be intrinsically linked via a common vocal tonality and analogous song structure. Yet for all of Callahan’s momentum and the wriggling around he has done in his career, one unrelenting consistency has been the role of nature in his work. “The mountains don’t need my accolades” he sings on ‘Dream River’, of course by saying so giving them a form of accolade. “For me, it’s just like I can’t escape it,” he says. “It kind of encroaches on my existence. I’m looking out my window right now and there are these trees that…” He laughs heartily out of his window.“… they are reaching out towards me and in a second there’s probably gonna be a squirrel come on this fence and look at me through the window. I always feel like these things are… anything that’s alive I… I can’t ignore anything that’s alive. It’s like going to the dog pound, you’re gonna come home with a dog. “As human beings, our consciousness is everything. It’s just the way we see things – it’s all in our head, we don’t really know if these things are really there or if like, our brains are making these things to look like this but it’s actually some other dimension that we don’t even know about. So to me I feel like it’s an externalisation of – when I look at anything that’s outside – what’s in my head, and therefore everything I see is like imbued within my psyche. When I look at a tree, that’s a part of me. It can be a different thing every time I look at it, but I feel like I’m looking at the insides of me when I look at anything, trees and whatever is out there, I feel like I’m looking inside myself.” Bodies of water have surged through Callahan’s work also, and he offers an insight into its relationship to his musical output and why it plays such a vital role in his life that he’s named yet another album after water. “It’s about my favourite
thing,” he says.“I don’t know really…” A silence so long hangs that you can almost hear the crickets in his backyard. “… I think just when I’m around a body of water I feel like I’m in the presence of the eternal or something god-like. When I’m around water, I feel so positive and everything makes sense and the whole world seems united. The sheer beauty of it just flabbergasts me, a river or an ocean, it’s just like dumbfoundingly beautiful to me, so just experiencing something like that gives you the desire to make music and make life good for yourself. It’s just like going to church or something, it’s like that feeling of peace or understanding. Indirectly related to music, it’s just a nice thing that makes you feel good and makes you feel productive.” This productivity has led to Bill being very much a man of the moment. He kicked his much loved Smog moniker to the curb, even with his record label advising him not to, while rarely performing periods of his music other than the current one he exists in. Offering his thoughts on the occasionally retrogressive era we currently find ourselves in, he says: “When all these bands are getting back together and playing their best record from whenever that was, it’s kind of like saying goodbye to music, like it’s over or something. Which, maybe it is, we could be in the dying throes of music right now. I’m set in my ways, I got into the groove like 15-20 years ago of how I work and what I do and I might end up being a crazy old man who’s still pressing records when I’m 70 years old with them stacked up in my house or something but it’s just the way I know how to work and I’m not going to adjust. So, it is strange but there are more new bands than ever. So it’s kind of like this mix of old fogies resurrecting their old songs and then young kids just writing one song and throwing it on the Internet, it’s two extremes. So far I’ve just been able to keep trucking and just keep doing it and some people – like you – are willing to listen to it and write about it.” Finally, I put forward my pitch to Bill that some people might be getting too locked into extracting a finality from his work that maybe results in – inadvertently and detrimentally – excluding themselves from the natural core and flow of the sonic journey. “I gotcha,” he fires back. “I think that’s maybe a Catch 22. I feel like maybe people don’t even want to be asking those questions but the nature of an interview is to get, like what you said, some finality and closing the book on something. So, they probably just – I know what you mean – and I’m always hesitant to… like these interviews I’ve been doing, people might ask about a specific line and what it means or what I meant and I don’t want to be cagey about it but I do think it can ruin the song for somebody if the person who wrote it says something about it that isn’t what they got out of it and also it’s very hard to pick one – I think a lot of stuff I write has two or three meanings – so it’s kind of hard to pick one. I kind of hate myself afterwards for cementing it in the history of giving an answer that’s going to be ‘the answer’ and ‘the meaning’ of such a thing but you know, you also don’t want to be, ‘oooh, I like to let people decide for themselves’ because that sounds stupid.”
hould you be in any doubt about who’s running the great pop racket these days, take a look at the lineup for the iTunes Festival, currently mid-run at Camden venue The Roundhouse. It features Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys and Elton John – a 30-day siren that honks ‘WE’RE IN CHARGE!’. And in case you didn’t hear that, the tickets are all given away for nothing. Still, when you’re turning over 4.3 billion dollars per year, it’s kinda disappointing that they’ve not managed to reanimate Elvis for it. Maybe think of that number when you next hear about how Apple is on its arse since Steve Jobs died. Backstage at iTunes everyone seems pissed off, and it’s only the second day when we arrive. Tonight’s headliners are Sigur Ros, who, granted, are not Gaga, but their next London show is at Wembley Arena, and you have to buy tickets for that one. We’re more interested in the other half of this evening’s bill, anyhow, Poliça, although we can’t say that they’re all that interested in us. On account of her acute shyness, band singer, founder and lyricist Channy Leaneagh loathes interviews and press distractions. Today’s engagement has been on, then off, then on again, off again, 100% on, definitely delayed, and now, photos on but words off, probably. End of tour fatigue doesn’t help a situation like this, nor do the nerves of the festival, which although a cubbyhole show for Sigur Ros is a pretty big deal for their opening act. So we briefly liberate Channy from the iTunes ‘Artists’Village’ where no one talks to each other, share some muted conversation about sound-check, the 5:2 diet that we’ve both only just been told about and the weather (always the weather), photograph her in some selected local spots and agree that while there might well be enough time, it’s probably best if we meet the following day for the interview. We then return to the iTunes Festival to join our fellow nonpaying customers where we are reminded of why it is that we’ve spent the last year so enamoured by this future RnB group from Minneapolis. Poliça look odd on stage, like the irregular band they are, with too many drummers and not enough guitars. Rhythm is so central to their bruised dub-pop and triphop that it’s the only section they have, Chris Bierden on bass and Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson on duelling drum kits – a spectacle in themselves. Channy does the rest, her voice an auto-tuned robo flutter once she’s triggered each track’s pre-programmed electro elements (deep sounding synthesisers and more, processed beats), as provided by Poliça’s sleeping partner and producer Ryan Olson. It was Olson and Channy that started the project while on tour with Olson’s 24-strong soft rock collective Gayngs, and it’s the two of them that are largely considered Poliça’s whole. But considering Olson refuses to tour with the band, foregoing any press junkets or photo shoots also, it often boils down to Channy is Poliça and Poliça is Channy, which is how the group’s most introverted member has been lumbered with explaining herself to people like me.
And exorcism A year on from debut album ‘Give You The Ghost’, Channy Leaneagh, the face and voice of Poliça, discusses the demons of success, life as a reluctant star and why forthcoming LP ‘Shulamith’ is not a feminist statement p h o t o gr ap h e r - ge m h ar r i s
w r i t e r - s t u a rt stubbs
fter last night’s show, the band minus Channy celebrated the end of their tour at London’s Groucho Club, which explains why I find them the following morning watching a Sky channel called, simply, ‘Food’. “It was a late night,” says Christopherson. “Like, late.” Channy, who seems infinitely better off for having missed out on the Groucho, pulls up a chair at the dining table of Poliça’s rented apartment. Pleased is definitely too strong a word, but she does seem happier to see me than she did yesterday. She lines up a couple of paracetamol, a mug of green tea and a note pad of her own that dwarfs mine, which she’ll doodle on as we speak, especially when she finds herself struggling for the right words, like we’re chatting on the phone.That’s how we last spoke, ahead of Poliça’s debut album, ‘Give You The Ghost’, in April of last year. Since, Channy has toured the world and her first record has been solidly adored by fans of progressive RnB and electro pop for the broken hearted – people who already own ‘Dummy’ by Portishead. So when I ask her how it’s been, I mean it as little more than an icebreaker; an official hello. “Errm. I guess we’re doing fine,” she says, a little suspicious. Are you enjoying it, I ask. “Hmmm. I don’t know. Right now you’re catching me at the end of what seems like a very long tour. I don’t enjoy festivals and that’s what we’ve been doing. I think in general they are a really depressing situation, as far as the amount of waste that’s being created. When you
look out from the stage and I just see a field of plastic bottles, you feel like you’re a part of that. There’s so much waste that it’s gross.” “In terms of the band… for us, it’s… y’know… it’s like… you have to…” Channy begins to sketch a pair of glasses. My glasses, perhaps. “…I have to work hard to enjoy it most of the time. I love performing and I love making music with people; I don’t like not having any stability and not seeing my daughter. So…,” she says with a deep breath, “… that’s that.” However cult, the role of pop star is not one that sits comfortably with Channy, and yet while she never feels more awkward than when talking about herself, she never shuts down; she’s never rude. She always listen closely to the question and then, through prolonged pauses and splintered thoughts, sure, she gives it a go, almost as if she’s doing it for herself as much as you; to know the answer and have a better understanding of the way she is. Basically, she’s not David Longstreth, who hates interviewers the moment they enter a room and lets them know about it by making everyone look bad. Channy seems conflicted and cursed, in that she doesn’t like to talk but feels she has to say a lot to reach the point she’s making, and most of what she does say propels the conversation in a wicked vicious circle that keeps the questions coming. After all, shy people are usually far more interesting than the guy with his cock out shouting, “look at me!”. “I think as the more interviews I do I realise that what I really want people to do is listen to [our music],” she says. “I’ve already explained everything in the lyrics, and the music is pretty self explanatory. So I think the more I do it the more confused I get as to why we have to explain what we just did. It’s almost as if people don’t
believe that we wrote it, and that we’re on trial, like, ‘oh my gosh, how did the band form? Errm, I think on November 26th…’ and then you start to get hot sweats and are like, ‘oh my god, I don’t remember how anything happened!’ “As a child my mum and dad said that I worked for the FBI, because I would constantly avoid answering questions for no apparent reason,” she laughs.“Like,‘I’m going out with friends’, ‘who are you going out with?’, ‘oh, it’s nobody you know’. It wasn’t like I was ever doing anything horrible, I just didn’t want anybody to know anything about me – I just wanted to exist in my own little world. I’d just be going to the store, but I didn’t want anyone to know. So I think in interviews I have a lot of anxiety about over sharing for some reason.” It is not lost on Channy that over sharing is to a Poliça song what misogyny is to Robin Thicke. Telling all was ‘Give You The Ghost’’s raison d’être. A selfconfessed breakup record, it featured diary confessionals like “Falling in and out of love with me / Spare me the misery” (from ‘Form’) and “I need some time to think about my life without you” (‘Happy Be Fine’). “But it’s completely different to talk about it compared to singing,” says Channy. “It’s why I do a lot of interviews and I’m like, ‘well, I don’t really know how to explain any more about it, because it’s very clear in the lyrics.’ There’s way too much information in there. So I’m way too shy to sing or do karaoke in front of people, for example, or talk to people, but if I’m on stage it’s an appropriate place to do it.” New album ‘Shulamith’, she says, is equally as cathartic as ‘Give You The Ghost’, “but where the first one was me comforting myself and licking my wounds, the second record is more trying to make me strong. It’s
‘I want us to an amour record. There are songs like ‘Basketball’ and ‘Vegas’ – not ‘Basketball’, it’s called ‘Torre’,” she says, jotting down the names and circling them.“When I sing them they make me feel how I do when I listen to rap music. I feel like I’m being assertive and I’m telling somebody something that I needed to say for a long time, and I feel tough, and I feel not like a victim at all. It’s like I’m putting my foot down. The first record is like, ‘I’m a bad person’. I know, right?” she laughs. “It was a little more depressed, and this one is more like I’m putting my foot down. And then also topically I think the words I’m saying are a little stronger, not necessarily in quality but just I’m a little more confident, maybe.” She pauses. “But there, I’ve done it again, where I’ve over explained things and gotten lost…” She trails off and scribbles out the glasses. Channy beats herself up at moments like this, when she feels like she’s said too much where others would have simply given a non-committal fluff answer. She says she can be “obnoxiously moody and goth for no apparent reason,” while Ryan Olson she describes as having “a lot of quirkiness” and “being very joyous as well as being very dark, and I can hear that in our beats. I can also be really silly, but I’m like, ‘this is the worst thing ever,but we’re all going to get through it everybody’,” she says with faux Summer Camp Leader cheer. “But you could say that this is also a breakup record,” she continues, “and perhaps every record I write will, unfortunately, be a breakup record. I probably won’t be writing a love song any time soon. It’s not really my thing. So I guess it is dark, but this record is really a little more fucked off; instead of being ‘I’m heartbroken’ it’s like, ‘forget you’… I think that’s what’s going on.”
stay as outcast weirdos, and where we’re comfortable’
hanny attests her past life as a folk musician – playing fiddle and singing ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ rather than ‘I Got You Babe’ – to the personal, spurned songs that she writes today. “[Folk] was like going to school,” she told me in 2012, “but once I got to sing my own songs, RnB was the first thing I wanted to sing.” She grew up in Minneapolis listening to Common, Lauren Hill,The Roots and Aaliyah, all of whom can be heard in her heavily effected vocals, and in Ryan Olson’s electronics also, which, on ‘Give You The Ghost’, were nothing less than leftovers intended for two other synth pop groups that never were. A would-be Federal Agent, the shy and secretive Channy has always felt most at home on stage. It’s even there where she had her first kiss, in the roll of Emily in a community production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, as if the pressure isn’t enough without a live audience gawping at your dry lips and confused hands. She was 12 and says that she didn’t kiss anyone not onstage until she was 17 or 18.“Always more comfortable on stage,” she says quietly. To announce the forthcoming ‘Shulamith’, Channy acted once again, in the video for lead single ‘Tiff ’, featuring Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (and also Ganygs), who introduced the world to Poliça when he called them “The best band I’ve ever heard” at the 2012 Grammys. The video is NSFW, which means you’ll probably want to watch it now. It’s not the sexy kind of NSFW, though, if that’s what you’re thinking – it’s
brutally violent, featuring scenes of Channy torturing herself, not metaphorically or internally, but actually breaking her own fingers with a hammer. It’s horrible. “It actually scared me at first,” she says,“because I was in it but when I watched it I was like, ‘Urrgh! Nobody should probably watch this, definitely not my mum and my little brother.’ I was like, you’re not allowed to watch this one. “The Director [Nabil Elderkin] called me the week before and he was like,‘this is going to be a really difficult video’, because he wrote the treatment – it was really his vision – and he was like,‘are you going to be up for this’. I was like, ‘well, I did some acting classes as a kid…’ “It would be unfair to say that it was something that came from my sick mind; it came from someone else’s sick mind.” I tell Channy that I’ve always been most shocked by scenes of torture, avoiding films where I know they feature. “My most recent favourite movie is Irreversible and that’s got some very brutal stuff in it,” she says of the Gaspar Noé film centred around the pitiless and graphic rape and beating of a young woman in Paris. “I don’t watch those movies all the time, but I do watch those films and I’m interested in how people deal with suffering. I think what I enjoy most about music and performing is pushing yourself, and the ‘Tiff ’ video was a challenge for me. “It might not seem like it sometimes, because I don’t like interviews, but I do absolutely love this band and I’m proud of the music, and I just wanted to do a really good job, so I pushed myself really hard. I wanted it to be sincere and it was probably a little more up my alley than if I had to act as an Elizabethan; I’m super good at cutting myself down and not liking myself.”
hulamith Firestone became Channy’s muse the same year she died alone in her recluse’s New York apartment, in 2012. A radical feminist who became an outcast (even within the feminist community) due her extreme views, Firestone wrote The Dialectic of Sex in 1970, 42 years before Channy was passed a copy by her brother. “I just inhaled it,” she tells me. “I was so moved by it I’d tell everyone all about it. Similar to the song ‘You Don’t Know Me’ by Lesley Gore – I heard that song, and it was like 2-minutes and it had everything I was trying to say in all songs – and similarly that book was, like, ‘this is what I want to remember’.”Yet while an ode to a forgotten inspiration, Channy insists that ‘Shulamith’ is not a feminist statement. The Dialectic of Sex mapped out its author’s plight in equality for women, including an extremist stance against childbirth that saw her ousted from her traditional Jewish family, but it also features plenty on parenthood and relationships in general. “It’s not just a feminist book but one that comments on society,” says Channy. “And this is certainly not a feminist record. I have no problem with feminism, but I’m not making any statement.This record, now looking back on it, I feel like it’s almost selfish, because I do have these other three guys, and Ryan, but because they’re so gracious they just let me name the record whatever I wanted to. “I wrote it really for myself, in terms of the lyrics, and that name, ‘Shulamith’, fit. It has tons of significance to me – all those things that I read in there that were exactly what I needed to hear – so it’s not a statement for anyone else except for myself.” Channy writes down ‘Shulamith’ on her pad, followed by the word ‘myth’. She nags herself some more, about the inevitable question she’s going to be asked for the next 6 months – “why did you called the album ‘Shulamith’” – and while I assure her that it’s not something I’m interested in, over the next 20 minutes she keeps returning to the point, each time concluding that it just felt right. I do ask what it is about Shulamith Firestone that she
‘I probably won’t be writing a love song any time soon. It’s not really my thing’
relates to most, and there she returns to the activist’s existence as an outsider. “It’s so easy to get confused by what kind of artist you want to be,” she says. “Y’know, you can get really caught up in how you look. Are you going in the direction of Solange? Katy Kerry? Are you trying to sell out stadium shows? Are you just trying to maintain what you have? Yes, I’m a woman, but I’m really just a musician, and I want to keep it in our hands artistically and visually.We’re never going to be pop stars and I never want us to try to be. I want us to stay as outcast weirdos, and where we’re comfortable, and [Shulamith Firestone] reminds me of where we’re comfortable.” There’s little doubt Channy’s presumption that she’ll soon be repeatedly quizzed on “her role as a feminist” are accurate, and it recalls how Jenifer Lopez recently dealt with a particularly dated line of questioning. Asked if she was a feminist, she replied,“Isn’t everybody?”After all, if you’re not into equality for women, you’re a misogynist. It’s like asking someone if they’re pro black people. Channy agrees that the term ‘feminist’ continues to be vilified, although that’s not why she doesn’t want it following her name around since naming her new album ‘Shulamith’ (“feminist dub pop singer Channy Leaneagh”, etc.). It’s because she doesn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking she knows more than she does. “I’m pro women,” she says, “and I am a woman, I can’t be considered a feminist expert, but I’m certainly a feminist. I couldn’t tell you about the famous feminists, I couldn’t tell you about the 5 most important stands in the 1960s feminist movement. “In Poliça I have these four men who are a huge part of the music, but I’m the voice and it’s always been strongly the voice of a woman. It’s very feminine from its perceptive, dealing with a woman’s perspective of love and dealing with the world around her, but I don’t think many of my lyrics are very progressive. I’m not even setting a great example of a woman, in terms of being a strong woman – I make tons of mistakes; I’m not very assertive. Certainly to ask a woman if she’s a feminist is a strange question. Of course I’m pro-woman. I want the best for women and the best for my daughter, and I want this issue to be disposed with… So I think that’s the best answer to why I called the album ‘Shulamith’,” she says, returning to the point once again. “To tell you the truth, when you’re writing and you’re caught up in the world of creating, you don’t think about answering press questions and now I’m kicking myself and I’m really disappointed in myself, because I don’t want all of this to take away from what the guys are contributing with the music. “The music industry can be really upsetting because
I feel like you can’t make the right creative decision because it gets picked apart so much, and then you’re like, ‘oh, shoot, I just totally ruined the path of this record, and I didn’t mean for it to make a statement’. It’s like when people ask me why I named my daughter Pelagia. Well, I had tons of reasons, but if I explained them now they’d sound stupid. She was just Pelagia, that was her name.” During our morning together, Channy and I rarely speak about the music of Poliça. It’s her least favourite topic of conversation, and although she wouldn’t have Longstreth’d me had I’d wanted a blow-by-blow account of ‘Shulamith’’s themes, anyone can get those from the band’s website, where lyrics have their own page and where ‘Shulamith’’s have been posted months before the album’s release. For the flourishing twin drums, the dub bass and the electronics that can make you dance, cry and lick your wounds simultaneously, you need to talk to Ryan Olson, but he refuses press interviews. That, Channy says, is not an option for herself, however uncomfortable the situation makes her. “When I fantasise about that I think that I’ve chosen to work with other people to put this record out. We’re not putting this out ourselves, and a lot of other people have worked hard with us on this. I’m a team player to the fault. I don’t like to say no to people. I don’t want to be difficult. I don’t want to be disagreeable. If I was to say I’m not doing interviews anymore am I sacrificing the success of the band just because I don’t want to talk to people? These three guys, this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Ryan does not do interviews, but he can do that because he’s a producer. I don’t think it’s fair for me to do that to the other people I work with, I guess that’s what I’m saying. If I keep on talking like this in interviews maybe they’ll be like, ‘no, no, no more interviews for you’,” she laughs. “It’s good to remember that we’re all working together, and if I don’t want to work together and sell this record, I should just stay in Minneapolis and play small clubs and sell my records at shows and do it purely for the love of it. I don’t have to do this forever, I don’t have to always try to be a worldwide musician. I just don’t really know how to do interviews, because I am very much a daydreamer. I’m not angry at my label or anyone at all, I’m more angry at myself that I can’t articulate what we’ve done.” Channy, overly hard on herself to the end, lays her pencil on her pad and shows me out. “You’ll have to interview me at the beginning of the tour next time,” she says. “It’ll be like meeting an entirely different person.” I hope it isn’t.
Loud AND quiet ALBUMS LIVE FILM REviews
Al bums 07/10
MGMT MGMT (Columbia) By Josh Sunth. In stores Sept 16
San Fermin San Fermin (Downtown) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Sept 16
The debut album from San Fermin is a schizophrenic one, as you’d expect a dialogue between a depressed older man and cynical girl to be; written by one Yale graduate but performed by 22 musicians; inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises and named after the Running of The Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, but dreamt up and recorded in the rocky mountains of Alberta, Canada. ‘San Fermin’ is not without its bookish, grandiose concepts, nor is its creator, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, without the prodigal skills to pull off a project as ambitious as this. The son of visual artists, Ludwig-Leone studied music composition at the Ivy League Yale, where, on his graduating last year, he became assistant to contemporary classical music composer Nico Muhly, composed his first ballet for New York’s BalletCollective and co-arranged an opera inspired by Hurricane Sandy with Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. He’s 22. For this 17-track chamber pop saga, Ludwig-Leone has surrounded himself with a deft bunch of neo classical horn and string players who share his passion for creating “concert music that kids would actually want to come and see”, yet ‘San Fermin’ is too much of
a whole to be the work of a committee – rather, Ludwig-Leone is the Writer/Director heading a nimble crew and cast that understand and believe in his vision. Singers Allen Tate (a deep, burring kind of fellow who always sounds sullen) and Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of New York band Lucius give voice to the two sparing protagonists, initially in a tit-for-tat fashion,Tate’s despondent baritone reminiscent of Beirut’s rich, flesh-andblood croon on dejected ballads ‘Renaissance!’ and ‘Casanova’, interspersed with ‘Crueler Kind’ and ‘Sonsick’, which Laessig and Wolfe chirrup a la Dirty Projectors’ Olga Bell and Amber Coffman.Their harmonic voices entwine with the rising brass, but the drums are doing something else – they’re completely contemporary: the break beats of 2013 RnB. Ludwig-Leone does want the kids to come and see this, after all, and ‘Sonsick’ especially is worth the gate alone. If ‘San Fermin’ was to end there it wouldn’t be the year’s biggest crime, and there is certainly an argument to be heard for it being a production that has fallen pray to its director’s stubborn final cut. (55 minutes for a debut album that is at times so oppressively worldweary is a tall ask).Yet Tate’s sad man makes for compulsive, introspective listening, Laessig and Wolfe’s girl for playfully scornful resentment and Ludwig-Leone’s audacious vision something of a one off.
Since the flanged pop of ‘Oracular Spectacular’ blew up unexpectedly in 2007, MGMT, we can safely say, have turned into the confusing, wilfully obtuse band that, behind all the hooks and pop sensibilities of ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Time To Pretend’, they had quietly promised to be.‘Congratulations’ surprised many because of precisely this fact as it alienated an entire fanbase, but it also opened up a realm of totally unexplored creativity, based around a less repetitious, more cumulative, and arguably more ‘artistic’ form of music. Far more confused than their debut,‘Congratulations’ seemed to fold in and over itself in a tangle of bells and whistles, but it did also seem to retain some sort of genuine (admittedly lurking) potential. Even at its most poppy, this third LP from Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden is in no way a return to the ‘Oracular Spectacular’ MGMT that some will have been hoping for. Instead it forays into the same experimental depths that their second LP so aggressively plunged, though with less clutter, and at least a sly dab of what seems to be artistic direction. In a recent interview, the Brooklyn-based duo called ‘MGMT’“less paranoid” than ‘Congratulations’, and this seems about right – second single ‘Your Life is a Lie’ though still stubbornly kooky, is garnished with poppy repetition, and the same goes for the familiarly kaleidoscopic ‘Mysterious Disease’ and the playful lyricism of ‘Plenty of Girls in the Sea’.These songs fuse the two previous albums into some sort of workable chimera, but they still lack the confidence and self-assertion of the band’s debut album. Lead single ‘Alien Days’ is representative, and even as its spaced-out bop culminates in refrain, it seems to be another demonstration of the duo’s still lurking – yet undeniably exciting – potential.
Released By Movement
Clapper Is Still
(Shape) By Dan Carson. In stores Oct 7
(Monofonus Press) By Hayley Scott. In stores Sept 23
(Upset The Rhythm) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Oct 7
(Fat Cat) By Jack Doherty. In stores Oct 7
(Captured Tracks) By James West. In stores Sept 30
Islet might well baulk at the ‘cult band’ tag, but with their years of shunning social media, an unhurried approach to formal releases and a fervent, compact fanbase at their backs, that assumption isn’t too far from the truth. Second LP ‘Released By The Movement’ finds the Cardiff natives strengthening the bloodtied bonds which made debut ‘Illuminated People’ such an immersive listen, with Mark sharing squalling, hypnotic vocals with wife Emma on opener ‘Triangulation Station’, while bro JT teases out unruly undulating guitar progressions. Elsewhere bassist Alex Williams slaps a thick trip-hop lick across near-sevenminute marsh-stomp ‘Citrus Peel’, the extra-humid atmospherics a result of bedroom recordings with co-producer Sweet Baboo. An album of hugely compulsive depth and charm.
Love Inks’ minimal pop aesthetic purportedly alludes to Young Marble Giants’ sparse explorations of sound, but, like many of their contemporaries, ‘Generation Club’ feels more like a fictitious attempt to emulate YMG’s quiet radicalism. While there’s not a note wasted on the Giants’ seminal 1980 debut ‘Colossal Youth’, Love Ink’s second album has a superfluity that doesn’t create a cohesive whole, but rather an indistinctive collection of songs that similarly merge into one another with no real lasting effect, other than being perfectly ‘nice’. However, strengths are aplenty: Sherry LeBlanc’s saccharine vocal’s compliments each song beautifully and the clear reverence for New Order’s ‘Temptation’ on ‘Hearts Up’ prevails with its offbeat, protruding percussion and soothing electronic interjections.The results are sometimes fleetingly mesmerising, but more often forgettable.
Way Through is both the personal music project of Upset the Rhythm boss Christopher Tipton and his collaborator Claire Titley, and the conduit for their mutual fascination with indigenous punk, English folklore and meandering psychogeographies. If this is setting off ‘obscure vanity project’ alarm bells then fear not; their second proper album, ‘Clapper Is Still’, might be one of the most intelligent contemporary folk records you’ll hear all year. Each track is a site-specific treasure, composed of field recordings and gathered notes that bring the olfactory and atmospheric nature of a historysteeped wilderness into each swimming guitar riff. And there are serious tunes too, pastoral punk racket, whimsical rounds and the blinding ‘Henry’s Son’, which could be a lost Smiths classic. It’s a unique endeavour towards a new folk sound, full of ragged audioscapes.
Music rolls with the seasons. Winter is all about the cold beats and novelty parps. Spring gets all up in your grill with some hip young things. Summer, well, summer is all about the good times, isn’t it. But then it gets to autumn. Autumn doesn’t really have a sound.What autumn needs is something a bit sad, but also a little bit happy.What autumn needs is His Clancyness. ‘Vicious’, the first album by Bologna based plucker Jonathan Clancy, recreates that sad feeling of knowing you should be wearing a jumper but fighting the power by standing tall in your tee, because in your head, the sun will stay out longer if you’re not wearing knitwear.The record is all fuzzy and jangly and melancholic, just like autumn should be, and if it doesn’t persuade you to pack away your thermals, I really do not know what will.
Seemingly fixated with dying storage formats and A Flock Of Seagulls, Portland trio Blouse made a mysteriously nostalgic noise with icy synths and a VHS obsession on 2011’s self-titled debut.To its yaysayers, it was futuristic resurgence that made some deep observation about desiring something impermanent.To everybody else, it was more woozy dream pop to add to the revival, which didn’t wholly satisfy. Sadly, the latter is still true on sophomore ‘Imperium’.They may have ditched their electronic-heavy setup, making the record entirely with “instruments that don’t plug into the wall”, but this fact is more interesting than the results, which veer between vaguely promising and joy-less, from passable single ‘No Shelter’ (Cate Le Bon trapped down a well) to ‘1000 Years’ (Trailer Trash Tracys, unplugged and desperately out of hooks).
TRAAMS Grin (Fat Cat) By David Zammit. In stores Sept 16
Indebted to early 90s grunge and Millennial American indie, Chichester three-piece Traams are a wilful anachronism. As the band members get gunged, Dave Benson Phillips-style in the video for new single ‘Flowers’, it serves as a visual cue for a sound that’s deliberately messy, staggering delightfully in and out of focus and held together, barely, by a metronomic Krautrock rhythm section. Stu Hopkins’s squall as he describes a similarly disordered sexual liaison is the most downright guttural sound to emerge since Alec Ounsworth and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah surfaced a decade ago.There are tender moments too, and Traams, it should be said, are able to hold both rough and smooth simultaneously, with ‘Head Roll’ recalling the dream-distortion of ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’-era Cure. Elsewhere, ‘Hands’ recalls post-2000 Modest Mouse in the indie folk of its screeched tenderness. So while Traams are led by their gut, they’re far from lacking in guile, and ‘Grin’, therefore, is a success.
Al bums 08/10
Seasons of Your Day
(Wichita) By Joe Goggins. In stores Sept 16
(Sonic Cathedral) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Sept 16
(INgrooves) By Josh Sunth. In stores Sept 23
(Fortuna Pop) By Sam Cornforth. In stores Sept 16
By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Oct 7
Fans concerned that Katie Harkin’s time on the road as part of Wild Beasts’ live band last year would effectively amount to a Sky Larkin hiatus obviously had little faith in her ability to multi-task.The Leeds outfit’s third record,‘Motto’, was mostly written during Harkin’s time on tour, and it’s equal parts expansion and familiarity.The retention of U.S. veteran John Goodmanson behind the production desk is a shrewd move given the constant nods to American indie staples; the title track recalls Sleater-Kinney at their poppiest, and Harkin makes little attempt to shy away from providing her own Kim Deal-esque backing vocals, particularly on ‘Frozen Summer’. Comparisons to The Joy Formidable are inevitable but, on this evidence, should flatter the Welsh trio – ‘Motto’ is replete with razor-sharp songwriting and a thrilling immediacy.
A distinct nineties indie vibe pervades Younghusband’s debut LP, like the long-forgotten yet excitingly reminiscent odour of an old MBV T-shirt you’d find at the bottom of the cupboard. Early on, ‘Comets Crossed’ is like a straighter Beta Band;‘Running Water’ is vaguely spacey and slightly unsettling, while ‘Silver Sister’ is a kind of soft-touch krautrock, relentless yet oddly lacking in impact. Listening to ‘Dromes’ makes you feel like you’re sat in a tented stage at a festival in the mid-afternoon, while bright sunshine from outside permeates the gloom.The second of the album’s two instrumental tracks is like an indie lullaby, so melodically soothing as to be sleep-inducing. But there’s a fine line between spaced out and plain lethargic, and barring the title track, which builds up into something layered and epic, Younghusband drift guilelessly over that line a few too many times.
Seventeen years is long enough for rust to form on even the most carefully galvanized dream-pop, but, if anything, Mazzy Star’s 2011 single ‘Common Burn’/ ‘Lay Myself Down’ was a signifier of Hope Candevel and David Roback’s longevity. ‘Common Burn’ sits prettily in the centre of this new LP, Candevel crooning late-night into her oblivious lover’s ear with the sort of tenderness that could sell a track through all its flaws. However, as you progress through ‘Seasons of Your Day’ – whether it’s the soft, string-bending Americana of ‘Flying Low’, the simple vocal line of ‘California’ or the tussling guitars of Roback and the late Bert Jansch in ‘Spoon’ – you realise that tenderness and delicacy are not concealers for these folks; they are decorative and overlay the subtle relationships between vocals and guitar that underpin a beautiful and long-overdue return.
Joanna Gruesome have a fascination with comics; their artwork owes a lot to that aesthetic and countless songs reference them.The Cardiff five-piece’s story is worthy of a comic book, too. After meeting in anger management sessions, the members began to bond before plugging away with their noisy lo-fi pop that has eventually lead to the release of ‘Weird Sister’, and it is the sudden sparks of aggression that make this debut truly rewarding. Singer Alanna McArdle’s vocals shift quickly between sugary sweet and confrontational, while layers of sickly fuzzy melodies merge into sharp stabs of distorted noise. ‘Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers’ sets the tone as it lays down their manifesto with frantic dynamics, ‘Sugar Crush’ is as good a lo-fi pop song as any, and ‘Satin’ is a fragile and fitting ending.
‘Herein Wild’ is a record that fluctuates between icy, synth-locked grooves clearly in love with the usual Cure, Cocteau Twins aura and a kind of pop-smeared, washed out ’80s trip, but it sounds more like those who have been attempting to recreate that sound in recent years (Wild Nothing,Twin Shadow) than being imbued with any of the real textural explorations the original period bore.The strings present clearly scream an attempt at something ‘ethereal’, honing something richer than previous work but while undeniably plusher and sonically smoother, underneath all the layers it’s the formulaic song structures that stop this record from being something truly different. Tracks such as the excellent ‘Streets of Dreams’ are a much-welcomed departure from the norm yet feel like flimsy, passing fancies, a stab or two at something odd before it’s back to the safe and familiar.
PINS Girls Like Us
You’ve heard Manchester’s PINS even if you haven’t. They’re all about squalor, K-fuelled flat parties, fag-burnt tights and trashy guitars that buzz like electric fences.They’re modern advocates of “shambling” (John Peel’s term for the C86 generations’ primal approach to recorded sound) and strut in the way Savages might had they never discovered ‘The Scream’ by Siouxsie And The Banshees. Of course, despite landing on the map after some excitable blog prattle that compared them to Warpaint, such familiarity makes for a rather humdrum listen.That said, it’s not a totally thrill-less half an hour; ‘Waiting For The End’ could be ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ given a layer of gloss by Camera Obscura, while ‘Velvet Morning’’s spoken word and ‘Skying’-like fret play would serve as a suitable antidote to a dazed and narcotic-headed sunrise. As for the rest, it’s by no means terrible, but at the same time it’s hard to get in a tizzy over something that seems so inevitably destined for Rimmel London’s next ad campaign.
Photography by Cochi Esse / Guy Eppel
(Bella Union) By James West. In stores Sept 30
Oneohtrix Point Never R Plus Seven (Warp) By Sam Walton. In stores Sept 30 The first third of ‘R Plus Seven’ veers so wildly between utterly disparate fragments of minute speech clippings, church organs and Steve Reich style texture and rhythm experiments that it’s difficult to know even when one track ends and another begins. But the oddest thing about Daniel Lopatin’s fourth album as Oneohtrix Point Never is not the sound shrapnel that coats it – indeed, the shock of his choppy technique is somewhat subdued here – but that amidst this dense fog of enjoyably high-concept circuit bending is two of 2013’s most glorious, not to mention accessible, electronic pieces. After the bewildering introduction,‘Zebra’ establishes itself with an effortlessly melancholic three-chord pattern, and over seven minutes Lopatin proceeds to chop at it, tweak it, distress and decompose it, adding Balearic sax samples, floatation-tank chanting and wind chimes until it almost buckles under its own gorgeous artificial nostalgia. Perhaps wisely, Lopatin inserts a 20-second silence after this centrepiece triumph, and the second half of the album settles into a slightly calmer incarnation of its opening, only to be trumped by closer ‘Chrome County’, with piano tinkles and melodic simplicity ripe for an Ibizan sunrise set. It’s a contrary end to a contrary record – in hiding peaceful gems amid so much sonic crossfire, Lopatin has made perhaps his most curious move yet.
Invisible In Your City
(Matador) By Sophie Coletta. In stores Oct 7
(Browswood) By David Zammitt. In stores Sept 16
Sometimes the best advertising campaigns are the most understated. Such is the debut album from Darkside; the project of classically trained American-Chilean musician Nicholas Jaar and partner in crime multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington, which, as of writing this, has received next to no publicity other than a mysterious New York listening party in late August. ‘Psychic’ requires a lot of post-listening unravelling. It appears to take on a new identity with each and every track, from the swirling, twinkling narrative of the broody ‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’ that rolls into cavernous vocal echoes, to the catchy ‘Heart’ with its strident drums and half-sung/ half-whispered lyrics calling out between welcoming guitar riffs. It’s a bold transition from the atmospheric EP released two years ago, and although there’s still moments of bitter asceticism – see the static opening of ‘Golden Arrow’ and the intense, abrasive interlude on ‘Freak Go Home’ – there’s also something a little more tangible here, something a little more fervent.
Released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint, Will Ozanne’s second full-length is one for the wee small hours.Though it’s reflective, ‘Invisible In Your City’ channels its melancholy into hooks and grooves that ensure the collection comes off as uplifting rather than self-indulgent or morose. It’s a sumptuous concoction of chopped-up pianos, post-dubstep beats and haunting echo chamber vocals, making use of a pallet of sounds drawn on by the likes of James Blake and, more recently, Deptford Goth.The vocal delivery and melody on the lead single and title track recalls the delicate future pop of Twin Shadow, while other highlights include the sultrily spectral duet with Lulu James, ‘Why Didn’t You Call?’, and the heartbreaking ‘Up The Downs’. Softer than its predecessor but infinitely more focused, this LP propels Gang Colours up from the status of underground electronic curio and towards the realisation of a significant future soul talent.
Al bums 06/10
Glasser Interiors (True Panther Sounds) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Oct 7 Boston born electro-angel Cameron Miserow aka Glasser is an artist that deals in concepts and research, using her sound to channel moods, entities, places and moments in time.‘Interiors’, her second record, explores our relationship to the manmade environment, its superficial safety, and the impenetrable secrets of an urban skyline. Her approach to this Bauhaus inspired work is really intriguing; making it surprising that what hits your ear is actually a completely pleasant but ultimately middle of the road electro-pop album. It’s like late career Kylie but 50% less fun and daring.With the architectural concept in mind, perhaps that cold distance was exactly what she was going for, but it lacks momentum, or the screwball, idiosyncratic touches that made artists like Laurie Anderson or Björk, cited as influences, so enduring. None of the 12 tracks are bad; the opener ‘Shape’ is a moody, atmospheric scene setter that shows off her faultless voice and tells of the fragile boundaries that may or may not protect us from the world. It’s punctuated in the middle with the most memorable track,‘Keam Theme’, which is enjoyably fat, danceable and disjointed, while the rest is swirling electronica, soaring voice and crisp, mechanic orchestration. It just feels like too much, more interesting electronic music has gone before, for ‘Interiors’ to really deserve that experimental tag.
(Sacred Bones) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Sept 16
(Domino) By Sophie Coletta. In stores Oct 7
Every New York band dabbling in clanky, druggy DIY rock’n’roll since 1970 has to some extent or other impersonated The Velvet Underground. Some have done it better than others, and no one has done it better than Crystal Stilts do on this, their third album. It sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not. ‘Nature Noir’ features 10 wobbly psychedelic songs that are more hit than miss, all of them anti-produced to give them that too-high-to-try feel.The vocals are vaguely doomy, morose and deadpan and largely indecipherable, the drums sound like they’re made out of paper and tin, the guitars buckle under their own thin rattle, and yet it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Crystal Stilts are better than they can be bothered to be.That’s how they’re most like The Velvets (that and their new inclusion of pseudo decadent strings on songs like ‘Memory Room’). It’s never been enough to simply be lo-fi, and while louche beyond reason, don’t think that ‘Nature Noir’ puts atheistic before the songs themselves.
After the elegant confidence that oozed from Anna Calvi’s eponymous debut, there was always a slight worry that its successor may verge on the smug, perhaps even arrogant.Whilst ‘One Breath’ embraces the same velvety verve as its precursor, thankfully Calvi never quite comes across as haughty enough to irritate. As it is, much of her second album throws impassioned caution to the wind, racing through the bursts of tangled angry guitar in ‘Cry’ and the thundering drums on ‘Eliza’ before the delicate narrative of ‘Sing To Me’ appears, caught between two almighty crescendo tracks. It’s an unexpected lull, but it’s soon forgotten as Calvi barrages on, extending the tumultuous theatricality with each song.Whispery title track ‘One Breath’ saunters into an amazing classical outro instrumental, only to be broken by the raucous, loaded intro of ‘Love of My Life’. Calvi is defiant till the end, and her beautiful yet sinister cinematic landscapes won’t leave you until long after the curtain falls.
Au Revoir Simone
Move In Spectrums
(Moshi Moshi) By Sam Walton. In stores Sept 23
(Domino) By Joe Goggins. In stores Sept 16
(True Panther Sounds) By Hayley Scott. In stores now
(Fierce Panda) By Daisy Jones. In stores Sept 30
(The Numbers) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Sept 7
In the four years since Au Revoir Simone last put a record out, the all-conquering, 80s-obsessed soundtrack to Drive has assumed the role of indie’s tastemaker general, Kraftwerk have re-emerged from the shadows of record-shop cool to play festival headline slots and consequently the Brooklyn trio have had their own pristine synth retronica sympathetically framed without twiddling a single knob. All of which is rather convenient: in the current climate,Au Revoir Simone’s more emotionally wrought songwriting and furrowed vocal delivery is even more affecting. ‘Crazy’ and ‘Somebody Who’ both fizz along with the melodic punch of a high-school movie title theme and while sporadic nearinstrumental numbers feel a little loose amid the sophisticated and perfectly paced pop elsewhere, ‘Move In Spectrums’ remains a neat, satisfyingly cool return.
Sebadoh’s last UK dates, back in 2011, were so heavy on nostalgia that the sudden announcement last month of a new record – fourteen years since their last – was pretty disarming.They’ve slipped back into their trademark sound with remarkable ease; most of the sonic touchpoints of the halcyon days of ‘Bakesale’ and ‘Harmacy’ are present and correct, and ‘Oxygen’s fizzing rhythm section and the jagged guitar lines on ‘Once’ serve as evidence.Vocally, Lou Barlow taps into the same vein of stoner melancholy as before, but he makes no attempt to cheat his advancing years by returning to the lyrical angst of old. I wouldn’t say Sebadoh are more reserved on this album, merely more reflective, particularly on the gorgeous ‘Let It Out’. Few bands make indie rock records as refreshingly genuine as ‘Defend Yourself ’ these days – it’s a worthy addition to the Sebadoh canon.
Delorean’s claim of ‘Apar’ being a “big production album” is fully realised in opening track and lead single ‘Spirit’.The drums sound polished and synthesised and Lopetegi’s vocals aren’t lost within the same hazy reverb that defined 2010’s ‘Subiza’.They’ve also duly shifted away from the dance floor, while retaining the right amount of hedonism to prevent their sound straying too far away from their Balearic tendencies.The synths and drum machines they once only used to augment their live sound are still present, and the band still remain inherently optimistic sonically, but there’s sentiment in Lopetegi’s narrative that’s salient in his depiction of the impermanence of love that permeates throughout. Underneath the overt exuberance lies a philosophical disposition, but it’s a record for a particular place and time and with summer dead, it’s probably a little too late to the party.
Nouvelle Vague singer Melanie Pain’s second solo album sees her take a small but pronounced departure from the bossa nova-style English punk covers she is used to performing in favour of her own beautifully sung formations. Perhaps surprisingly for a Parisian, Pain had always dreamt of wandering the rainy streets of Manchester in a way she imagined her influences had done before her (The Smiths, New Order, Joy Division), and in her trademark melancholy, silky, sexy vocals, she manages to render the north western city as romantic as she had envisioned.The album, an intertwinement of English and French, feels sad yet uplifting, in a collision that mirrors what she describes as the “duality inherent in Manchester.” It remains her voice that makes the album so heartfelt, but the swooping piano, fluid injections of electronica and acoustic melodies keep it rich and textured.
New Young Pony Club have put themselves through some kind of ‘rationalisation’ in the last eighteen months or so, hacking their four-word moniker down to just NYPC, and shedding several band members to leave only the core duo of Tahita Bulmer and Andy Spence. ‘NYPC’ is the self-titled product of that contraction, and on first appearances not a great deal has changed in the music itself. Single and opening track ‘Hard Knocks’ is typically hook-laden, the shiny and pulsing ‘Sure As The Sun’ is like a twelve-inch dance remix of an early Madonna single,‘Things Like You’ hints at Hot Chip at their finest. Elsewhere, slick groove ‘Overtime’ is louche, laid back, and typifies the sound of a band who are now notably musically self-assured. Barring a couple of obvious fillers, ‘NYPC’ is a consistently hooky, assured, inventive, and at times thrilling record.
Melanie Pain Bye Bye Manchester
Seams Quarters (Full Time Hobby) By Reef Younis. In stores Sept 16
Back in 2010, Seams’‘Nightcycles’ had us purring in appreciation.Those light, languid rhythms and deft touch promised much and three years on ‘Quarters’ delivers. A beat-driven set of contrasts, it’s a debut that finds a misty balance between crisp beats and understated tempo. From the skittish urgency and grand build of ‘Hurry Guests’ to the persistently melodic techno opus of ‘Rilo’, the tracklist plays out effortlessly, regularly flickering into life as it does on the broken glitchmelodies of ‘Iceblerg’ or easing through the busy programming and delicious ‘Mandarin Girl’ breakdown on ‘Constants’. It’s a constant impetus that owes much to James Welch’s current home in Berlin where the city’s dancefloor insistence is felt in every subtle beat. And where he was once focused on squeezing concepts, here James deals in energy, crafting it around the measured space in which ‘Quarters’ really thrives. At just eight tracks, it might feel like a lightweight listen in terms of listings but this is a heavyweight debut where it counts.
Beacons Festival Skipton,Yorkshire 16.08.2013 - 18.08.2013 Words by Stuart Stubbs & Kate Parkin Photography by Roy Baron
“Tracey don’t fucking mix!”The theme tune to Fun House dips to dead air.We laugh away five seconds of nothing, then Garbage’s ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ starts up.The DJing skills of Tracey Emin Soundsystem leave little to be desired, but her on-mic chat is gold. “I fucking hate irony,” shrieks the dragged up Tracey, ironically, of course. She bashfully sings along to the forgotten Brit Pop hits she plays (‘Ready to Go’ by Republica and the like) as if she’s forgotten her microphone is on. She also counts down to the arrival of David Cameron, like Alan Partridge’s update that Roger Moore is at Chiswick roundabout. “Just 10 more minutes until David Cameron is going to be here!” she cheers. A montage of Noel’s House Party and Challenge Anneka flickers to her right while a friendly, frightening bald man hands out shit toys. (Between us we amass an Avengers Assemble kite, a Diablo and a miniature monster truck.) Last night in the Impossible Lecture tent (Beacon’s minute arts cafe for after hours, inclusive, anti-cool fun) was just as merrily daft, with the bald guy playing the part of compare and selector, whose best lines included “I’m lovely, you’re lovely” and “I’m going to play some more songs – if you don’t know them it’s not my fault”, and whose best songs included The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac
and Stevie Wonder. Halfway through his set we all helped inflate 200 balloons for a “sexy ass balloon party”, then we got shut down at 3am while the elephant man hovered the ceiling. The best festivals have these moments, when something that you’d probably hate back home becomes a weekend highlight, and Beacons impresses for its eccentric, village fete innocence as much as its brave new music lineup. It’s like Green Man meets Field Day. Also in the Arts field, for example, is an outrageously twee tea tent, where homemade cakes and scones and blends served in battered bone china cups are bought to a soundtrack of live ukulele and saccharine singsong. It feels like being in the perfect imagined world of a Match.com commercial, or T-Mobile or whatever, and yet even then it feels more real than that, because Beacons isn’t one for big companies and the forced authenticity they bring to ‘grass roots’ events. The tea costs a pound, which it definitely wouldn’t in the Right Guard Tea For Victory tent at V Festival (it would be called something like that), and you get the feeling that the team serving the refreshments are truly fans of the 1940s gear they’re selling on the side. Similarly, the Ale and Cider tent in the
main arena, which acts as a default hang out between bands, exclusively supports independent brewers of brown hooch (many of them local) and sells burgers and pizza you don’t begrudge paying a fiver for. Community and burgeoning enterprises seem to be at the heart of Beacons, which is probably why we were hosting the main stage over, say, Converse or Ray-Ban. Others involved on that front this year included new Vice project You Need To Hear This, online dance music prophets Resident Advisor, and a small startup called Red Bull whose open truck stage lures in a dedicated crowd all weekend who rave through the Saturday rain while the rest of us take shelter in the other covered stages. Dance music sits high across the site, in fact, everywhere except for at You Need To Hear This, which goes for a straight up punk/ DIY bill headlined by Fucked Up,Wire and psychedelic doom band Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Highlights there include Ty Segall collaborator Mikal Cronin and local post hardcore band Eagulls – two bands that experience rare technical setbacks at an otherwise problem-free weekend for fidelity fans who like to tweet things like “The sound on all the stages here at Beacons is brilliant.” Cronin gets through a muddy sounding, late-night half hour thanks to the strength of
Left: A giant Beacons logo made out of actual wood; Django Django close the Loud And Quiet stage; Ghostpoet between checking we’re all okay. Below top, L-R: Mikal Cronin; the Red Bull truck stage just keeps on going; it’s hip to be hip; the cheek, nose and hand of Gold Panda Below bottom, L-R: Spikey hat friends; Hookworms; Danny Brown rethinks the fish curry; Miley?
his recent second album, ‘MCII’, and particularly the sunny garage fuzz of tracks ‘Shout It Out’ and ‘Weight’, while Eagulls’ fight is with stage management as their feral return to Beacons is cut short and singer George storms off to a parting shot of “fuck the security”. Up until that point George’s eyes bulged towards a crowd that know and love them, who howl back the lyrics of ‘Possessed’ with rampant energy and tangle their limbs overhead to the ragged guitars of new single ‘Nerve Endings’. Over on the Loud And Quiet stage, Ghostpoet is far too humble a figure to tell anyone to fuck off. Rather he constantly checks on us between songs, like a guy who thinks his girlfriend is going to dump him because she’s stopped talking for 10 seconds. It’s rather endearing, and a reminder that Obaro Ejimiwe doesn’t do hip for hip’s sake. His band, as they always have been, are incredibly tight, allowing Ghostpoet to do what he does better than anyone else – mumble over distinctly homegrown beats and melancholic piano where his new material is concerned. A double dose of ‘Survive It’ and ‘Liiines’ is probably the musical highlight of the entire weekend. Oh, and Tracey’s mixing, of course. The unexpected muzak of Bonobo would have struggled to be more boring (I
seem to remember a flute turning up at one point), so via a raving John Talabot in the Resident Advisory tent, we head off to our sexy ass balloon party.
, as the rolling Yorkshire Dales get a good watering, Beacon’s decision to enclose all but one of their stages (they’re still out there at the Red Bull truck) is made clear and clever. Like everyone else, we spend most of our time buffering bands with visits to the ale tent like worker bees on pollen runs.This sense of blitz spirit is what you get when there is no VIP backstage bar, and hopefully it’s a rule of the festival that Beacons can keep as it indefinitely grows in size. Of note at You Need To Hear This are Manchester psych-gaze band Kult Country, who appear spirited from another dimension as the effortless groove of ‘Almost Dead Forever’ flows through them and a barrage of white noise knocks off the raindrops. Later on the party is in full swing for Galaxians – a duo from Leeds who sound like a band from the DFA label in 2003. Everybody bounces, mesmerized by each twist and turn of the twosome’s intricate drum beats and dexterous keys.With the catchiness of Hot Chip and a selection of electric funky hooks
all of their own, their disco funk is at once at odds with the rest of the Beacons bill and yet something we could dance to all night.We don’t because we want to go and see Gold Panda, and seeing Gold Panda really has become part of his show, no doubt unwillingly so on his part. Derwin rebuilds his ambient techno tracks in a ferocious way, much like Jon Hopkins, where you’re aware that everything you’re hearing is synthetic, yet being ‘played’ live, whatever that means. More than once, large chunks of the crowd are too perplexed by the sight of the frantically weaving Panda to move to the electronic thrum. People scowl to work out where all these sounds are coming from, some all the way up to ‘You’, which is otherwise surrounded by newer material from this year’s ‘Half Of Where You Live’ LP. He probably should have closed the tent, because he’s a hard act to follow, especially for Local Natives. It’s then that Tracey tells us she don’t mix, before the final day of the festival.
Beacons is – it features some of its best artists. Before we’re done here we see two more hometown heroes in the form of fuzzy surf pop band Best Friends and nu-drone saviours
Hookworms who we’ve been looking forward to most of all yet who feel a little too reverb-heavy on the Loud And Quiet stage. They remain the loudest and least contrived band around though, singer Matthew Johnson jolting, screaming off-mic and punching himself in the head involuntarily – the music made him do it.The endless groove of Moon Duo feels uncharacteristically mellow by comparison, and even Danny Brown’s incessant trap-rap struggles to keep up in realness, although, to his credit, he puts on a brave face while the sound levels dip criminally low for his set. At some point before we’re drawn to the closing, monochrome-flickering set of Django Django, which sees the Glaswegian smart pop band move as a unit from ‘Default’’s stuttering beats to the almost evangelical experience of ‘Waveforms’, we make it to the Arts Field one last time for the delightfully macabre musical science spectacle of Being 747. Condensing lessons on the Universe into bite-sized song form while wearing a variety of disguises, they have hints of Bill Bailey’s synth-tweaking madness about them that keeps us humming songs about electrons all the way home. Music and science without the perma grin of Professor Brian Cox – at Beacons, our new favourite boutique festival, anything can happen.
Braids Electrowerkz, Islington, London 03.09.2013 By Josh Sunth Photography by Kelda Hole
“I’m glad we learnt to play that song properly,” quips Braids vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston, after the girlish shrieks of second album closer ‘In Kind’ have subsided.“It’s been a bitch.” Broken momentarily from their stupor, the crowd wedged into the small room at Angel’s Electrowerkz barrage the stage with whoops and applause – as much a reaction to the vocal theatrics that Standell-Preston has become infamous for, as the feeling of genuine newness that the awkward Canadian trio seem to exude these days.The well-documented genesis of latest LP ‘Flourish//Perish’ may not have been smooth or simple (Katie Lee fell out with and left the band last year), to the point you can almost believe that the band have had to re-learn their trade, but the Braids live show is as engrossing as ever, especially when Austin Tufts’ brash percussion stomps through the room, extruding the group’s recorded soundscapes into a far more overbearing, all-consuming live mode and, importantly, leaving intact the odd bleeps and cerebral electronics that Taylor Smith is conjuring from the left of the stage. Hardship offstage, it seems, makes performance all the more exciting, and Braids are a band that sound excited not just with their own talent, but with their own existence. It might not be to everyone’s liking that their debut is neglected entirely, but the trio have always been the sorts you can really get behind, and the punters in Angel, separated from the band by the few steps up to the stage, appear to be more than happy witnessing these three Canadians throwing themselves so sincerely – and so compellingly – into their own resurrection.
David BYrne Electric Ballroom, Camden, London 27.08.2013 By Amy Pettifer Photography by Roy J Baron
The large circular structure of the aptly name Roundhouse proves to have the perfect circus quality to bring David Byrne and St Vincent’s music-comeart-come-theatre collaboration to life.The duo, that first toured their debut album ‘Love Rhis Giant’ just over a year ago, bring their brass pomp avant cacophony to an audience that delight in collective efforts, solos and, an obvious highlight,Talking Heads’ covers. Indeed, with Byrne’s history as one of the most creative frontmen of his generation, there is the feeling that regardless of the headline tonight, he is the first among equals.This is certainly not reflected in the fabric of the performance, as he bounces off the eight strong band and the immeasurably talented St Vincent (aka Annie Clark). Clark’s peroxide blonde hair, stunning vocals and furious guitar are hugely impressive and she casts the impression of Tinkerbell as her silhouette dances back and forth while the band and Byrne circle her solo numbers, and the joy expressed by her, Byrne and every band member is contagious.The choreography, which is executed to the step and includes Byrne who is not once tied to a static microphone, is very much reminiscent of The Talking Heads’ own performances (See ‘Stop Making Sense’), no more so than in ‘Wild Wild Life’, in which each band member sings a phrase as part of a conga in reference to the karaoke themed video for the same song with John Goodman.The final of the two encores is superbly capped with a raucous rendition of ‘Road to Nowhere’, which concludes with the band frogmarching off the stage after an energetic charge.
La Route Du Rock St. Malo, Brittany, France 14-17.08.2013 By Nathan Westley Photography by Nicolas Joubard
Summer: the time of year where bands take a break from conducting their own headline tours and instead embark on zigzagging from country to country, adopting a tiring day-here-day-there policy whilst festival season commences.The downside is that with a select number of acts to choose from and with most looking to plot similar routes, most festivals run the risk of looking a lot like another. Rather than welcoming the same carousel of festival headliners and supporting acts, the organisers of La Route Du Rock have taken a more selective approach to carving out their own identity. A festival that was started by a group of people who loved both British and American indie music in the early ’90s, and who were tired of seeing their favourite bands neglect the region, adopted the attitude that if others weren’t going to bring their favourite acts to Brittany, France, they would instead need to do it themselves. Taking place within the walls of Fort de Saint-Pere, an 18th Century Vauban castle on the outskirts of the picturesque city of SaintMalo, this three day, sponsorship free festival entices around ten thousand people per day to witness its musical offerings. And where some festivals feel the need to cram in as much as possible, the organisers of La Route Du Rock take the opposite approach – for them it’s about carefully selecting act that fits in with the festival’s musical ethos of bringing together some of alternative cultures most interesting and critically praised talents.They’re cherry-pickers that, in previous years, have welcomed Sonic
Youth,The Cure and My Bloody Valentine.This, the twenty third instalment of La Route Du Rock, sees them entice Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and just twenty-nine others. The Wednesday evening sees the festival swing into force with a Domino Records themed opening party with Julia Holter, Clinic and Austra all performing at a small show on the outskirts of the city.The festival itself kicks off properly some 22 hours later when the fast-rising Jacco Gardner takes to La Route’s second stage and runs through a solid set of baroque pop that fizzles with a nostalgic spirit. As soon as the last note of his set is dying out, it’s then possible to turn around and be in earshot of the main stage where Iceage would soon be appearing.This is a key to the festival’s appeal – nothing clashes.While one band is on, another is setting up and waiting their turn, meaning that while there’s only 30 artists on the bill, you can in fact see every single one of them if you wish. Now, Iceage. A band who are often spoken about more for their contempt then their music, they go on to rattle through a collection of fierce minded and aggressive snapshots of noise with a look of disdain in their eyes and the evening sun beating down upon them. So, yeah, they do what do Iceage do; they seethe with genuine hatred, but they remain a truly dangerous punk band for it. With bands starting in the early evening and running until 4am in the morning, this festival is a largely nocturnal affair. Unconventionally, and a lot like Primavera Sound, the headliners do not reside at the top of the schedule, instead sandwiched smack in the middle of the running
order, something Thursday night main act Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds might not have experienced for a long time.Their set is undoubtedly the most anticipated of the weekend and it is one that sees them devilishly roll out a brooding set that contains such classics as ‘Jubilee Street’ and their harrowingly hard hitting reincarnation of American folk staple ‘Stagger Lee’, with Cave in full on preacher mode. But where the night would normally end there, it’s not time to have a few cans around the camp fire just yet. Instead, a different type of party begins. Sets from psych embracing, critically adored rock revivalists Tame Impala, and the experimentally minded post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor are followed by post midnight sets for us to have a dance to… and Fuck Buttons who deliver hardhitting, synapse-melting, noise-coated electronica that aggressively throbs and thrums like no one else.They’re followed on other nights by TNGHT, the rhythm propelled trap collaboration between Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, and Hot Chip who lift spirits with a greatest hits based dose of jaunty pop perfection. Disclosure end the whole festival and everyone goes mad to their UKG revival pop. Early risers can also take advantage of a shuttle bus that runs to transport people downtown and towards the beachside La Plage stage; a useful thing for those who want to head out and see the handful of acts and DJs scheduled to perform on the sandy beach. La Route Du Rock is perhaps the most carefully curated and planned festival of all the weekend Euro getaways.
C I NE M A REVIEW
By IAN ROEBUCK
You’re Next Director: Adam Wingard Starring: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci,Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen
L o c k Th e D o o r s Adam W ingar d’s sweaty p a lm inducing Yo u ’re N ext is a timely reminder th a t w h en it comes to cripp ling f e ar, a h o me invasion movie is li k e no ot h er. Here are our top ten movies f rom t h is terrifying g enre
10. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Where better to start than ‘The Old Surprise Visit’ Alex and his droogs make on a cottage marked HOME at the heart of A Clockwork Orange. Alex wants to use the telephone as there has been an accident and he’s being ever so courteous about it. Once inside the resulting rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’ is enough to make you never open your front door again. 9. Panic Room (2002) David Fincher’s follow up to Fight Club kept everything low key. From David Koepp’s minimal screenplay to Fincher’s slow build tension, this is one home invasion movie whose very tone had our feet and fingers tapping throughout. Kristen Stewart as the diabetic daughter is worth a re-watch in itself. 8. Jumanji (1995) You might have noticed we’re stretching this genre out of the garden path and down the street but Jumanji is the ultimate home invasion film, it really is. Kirsten Dunst’s place is taken apart by rhino’s in this utterly ridiculous film that’s currently being re-imagined by Zach Helm, the writer of Will Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction. 7.Ils (2006) Isolation, peace, plenty of foliage in the area, these are all things that make for a frightening invasion of one’s home. In the Romanian countryside, when your car is stolen and strange lights start appearing it’s best to hide in the cellar...or is it?
6 . Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) As an abandoned police station gets descended on by a street gang out for blood, the remaining officers bond together in a fight for their lives and their precinct. For the few stray criminals who join the police to defend themselves, they’d probably call it jail. 5. Martyrs (2008) French writer-director Pascal Laugier’s wild revenge movie is a home invasion of sorts, well at least for half of its sickening running time. Not for the squeamish, this film is straight forward, non-ironic, good old fashioned terror that apparently was made in retaliation to our number 4. 4.Funny Games (1997) Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is far from straight forward. By controversially breaking down the fourth wall and having the torturers directly address the audience, we were somehow further embroiled in its brutal violence. 3.Wait Until Dark (1967) A classic of the genre that stars Audrey Hepburn as a recently blinded woman dealing with a trio of nasty thugs in her home. Clever use of dialogue, location and squeaking shoes keep you on edge throughout. 2. H o m e A l o n e ( 1 9 9 0 )
John Hughes, Pesci and Stern, the cat flap.This film has layers, set and shown at Christman, a time when everyone’s home is constantly invaded. 1.Straw Dogs (1971) Sam Peckinpah’s enthralling Straw Dogs sees Dustin Hoffman’s astrophysicist move to Britain to escape. When he finds himself hemmed in he lashes out in what must surely be the most morally intriguing tale we’ve listed. It just so happens it’s terrifying too.
This playful, knowing and lovingly crafted homage to the home invasion movie puts Director Adam Wingard in the revolutionary vanguard of alternative American horror. His contribution to cult success VHS (albeit one of the tamer guest Director spots) made him one to watch and You’re Next catapults him to the forefront of this ever-evolving species of cinema. Whilst there’s nothing dazzling in this tale of family reunion with uninvited guests, Wingard injects a lethal black wit reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Braindead or early John Carpenter that lifts this low budget effort beyond the drab. There are glaring flaws, particularly the early assault on the dinner table that hurtles gore and grief into proceedings far too soon. Just when the intriguing familial traits and complex relationships are unfolding our curiosity is shattered by a brutal crossbow attack, the suspense ruined but horror purists baying for blood will no doubt love it. By playing with who is praying on who, and dressing the aggressors in animal masks, Wingard captivates and maintains focus but his reveal and subsequent twists are borderline silly. The real scare and flair comes from the film’s warm nods to what’s gone before – the assailant under the bed or the atmospheric track on the stereo playing round and round on endless repeat bring the joy in You’re Next. There’s a competent and willing cast too, some of the Director’s friends and other film-makers reportedly on board, and it makes for a cohesive and believable family gathering despite some questionable lines. “I want you to fuck me in bed next to your dead mom,” is one clanger that springs to mind. It’s an old fashioned splatter-fest with a fresh, almost farcical edge and Wingard has the potential to do much better next time.
Impress your friends by listening to the Loud And Quiet issue 52 mixtape only at www.loudandquiet.com Featuring this monthâ€™s featured artists
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party wolf idiot tennis Game. Set. Twat.
thought sport In the heads of rugby fans 1
“Holy lyra, Batman, have you seen my legs in these tights?”
MOST LIKELY TO SAY
“Sure you can’t see my face through these tights?”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY
“I’ve crossed the line”
Still being mugged off by The Joker
IDIOT POWER PLAY
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
GAME, SET & MATCH
This guy, obviously
crush hour Finding love in a hopeless place To the sexy sausage with the sexy sasauge, McMuffins are, like, MY food too! Drink?
Girl with Paul’s Boutique bag To the the blonde girl I twerked on the bus, too much? I’m not good with fads. Game of Pogs sometime to make up for it?
Y’know, the guy who twerked To the girl at Old Street who heard me listening to Keane, damn iPod, think it’s got a virus or something.
Electro-loving creative in Supreme cap To the girl who smiled when I said ‘You mind the gap’ back to the tannoy, I’ve plenty more like that!
1.This isn’t racist, is it? 2. Oh shit, they’ve picked us up on the big screen.Yeah, the hat was too much. 3.Why are you so proud, Jack? Could be working on The X Factor with mum.
RumoUr pie Big mouthfuls of gossip Following Nsync’s reunion at the VMAs, One Direction have been feuding about which one of them is the Joey Fatone. William Hill are taking bets on it being “anyone but Barry Styles.” 98-year-old Strictly... presenter Bruce Forsyth has spent the first week of rehearsals thinking Christopher Biggins was on the show. Vanessa Feltz took the slip in good humour Never to be outdone by Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell has not tattooed his arse with roses, but his face with an arse.
Was Miley Cyrus tricked into sticking out her tongue at the VMAs? That’s what a source has told me, claiming that Cyrus’ pre-show glasses of water were switched with cups of sand. Before she realised how dry her mouth was, it was showtime, where her clothes also fell off. Nightmare! Has Joey Essex been putting it on? The TOWIE div that everyone loves to love was seen cutting up his own sausage, chips and beans in an Essex cafe.
] Don’t you dare cry, Beale! Looks like you’re someone else’s horny devil now... man, I’m horny
Photo casebook “The unfortunate world of Ian Beale”
Laugh it up, freckles! I’m gonna fucking walk this costume competition
I look the balls, plus I’m shagging the judge
And the winner is... THE GINGER KID!
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
Poliça / Jessy Lanza / John Wizards / Cabaret Voltaire / Society / Bill Callahan / Mikal Cronin