Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 75 / the alternative music tabloid
Let's Eat Grandma Not weird, just... different
Plus Bobby Gillespie Lionlimb Allan Kingdom Mothers The Range The Goon Sax J Dilla
Lionlimb – 12 allan kingdom – 14 Mothers – 16 the goon sax – 18 the range – 20 let’s eat grandma – 24 bobby gillespie – 30 j dilla – 34
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 75 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Let's Eat Grandma
Contr ib u tor s
A dve r tising
i n fo@lou dandq u ie t.com
ale x wisg ar d, Amb e r M a ho ne y, Amy Pe ttif e r , Chr is Wa tke ys, dav id zammitt, Danie l D y l a n- W r a y , De r e k Rob e r tson, Elino r J o ne s, Edg ar Smith, Gab r ie l G r e e n, ga r e th ar r owsmith, Ge m har r is, G e m m a Samways, Gu ia cor tass a , ha yl e y scott, he nr y wilkinson, IAN ROEBUCK, JAMES f . Thom p so n, Ja nine Bu llman, je nna f oxton , j e nnife r Jonson, joe g og g ins, jo sie so m m e r , jang e lo molinar i, kat ie be sw ick, le e b u llman, liam kone m a nn, M a ndy Dr ake , Nathan W e stle y , P hil S ha r p , Re e f You nis, Sam cor nfo r th, S a m Walton, tom f e nwick
a dve r tise @l o uda ndquie t.co m
Not weird, just... different
Plus Bobby Gillespie Lionlimb Allan Kingdom Mothers The Range The Goon Sax J Dilla
c o v er ph o t o g r aph y j en n a f o xt o n
I haven’t been 16 or 17 for more than 5 years now. But I haven’t wallowed, or really given that happy time in life too much of a second thought, until I spent a long afternoon in Norwich with Let’s Eat Grandma. Rosa and Jen both left school last year and are now enrolled in music college, where their band counts towards their final grade. They didn’t tell me in so many words, but I’m sure they’re keen for articles written about them (this is their first interview feature) not to hammer on about their age. I get that. But to disregard it completely would be to ignore the very core of themselves and their extraordinary relationship. Rosa and Jenny are unmistakably 16 and 17 – and I mean that as a compliment. That’s what spending time with them made me consider – not my own experience of being their age, or how I didn’t know that ‘gourmet’ now passes for props, but how that unique window of time positions you directly between childhood and adulthood, and how that basically means that you can do whatever the hell you like, in either of those worlds. If I was aware of this at the time I certainly didn’t use it to the best of my ability. A majority of young adults don’t, because they’re done with being kids, so are only looking one way. My friends and I were wearing suits to try to get into nightclubs. Rosa and Jenny are less hung up on a quick exit from their youths, which makes for excellent company. They’re all too happy to act out their silly private skits and excitedly laugh with one another, but they have the maturity to a.) fill in the room on the joke, and b.) hold down a serious conversation when the situation calls for it. Their balance between the two is pretty much perfect, preventing them from being dour-faced teens desperate to be 21, but not plainly annoying like children are. And better still is that it directly influences their strange experimental pop music. People are calling it weird, and maybe it is, but maybe it’s strange because it’s so aware of its endless opportunities. Stuart Stubbs
Lo ud And Qu ie T PO Box 67915 Lo ndon NW1 W 8TH Ed itor - Stu ar t S tu b b s Art Dir e ctor - Le e Be lche r DIGITAL DIRECTOR - GREG COCHRANE Sub Editor - Ale xandr a Wilshir e fi l m e ditor - Andr e w ande r son Bo ok Editor s - Le e & Janine Bu llman
T his M o nth L &Q L o ve s fr e d m e l l o r , J o die B a na szkie w icz, j o n l aw r e nce , L iv W il l a r s, M a r y be nso n, T ho m a sin Wa ite , w il l gr a nt, Wil l l a ur e nce .
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2016 Loud And Quiet LTD. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by S harman & Company LTD . Distributed by loud and quiet LTD. & forte
The National’s MATT BERNINGER recalls that magical teenage year. He spent it dancing, in a tux and in a trench coat on a riverboat.
att Berninger: I don’t even think this photo was taken on prom night. I got invited to dances a lot, and I was one of those nice guys who would go to a dance no matter what – not matter who asked. It’s not like I got asked by the cheerleading squad, but I’d say yes to everybody. I remember going to a lot of dances in high school – even friends of my sister, if they didn’t like any of the guys it would be, like, ‘Rachel’s brother, Matt, will go with you. And he’s a pretty good dancer.’ I’d do that head-downpivot/sway thing – that alternative dance; the trench coat, funky haircut thing.The way you would dance to Depeche Mode – I’d have to show it to you – that was my stock in trade. I’m still a good dancer. At weddings I’m a heck of a lot of fun, although the funny thing is that I never dance on stage with The National. The car I’m stood next to is my grandma’s, which she let me borrow for that dance. I wanted to make a splash with the Cadillac. And that’s the house directly across the street from my house, where my best friend John Capman lived. The nightmare part of the dance was always the party afterwards. In Cincinnati there was this thing where people would rent out rooms of hotels – some shitty motel, across the river in Kentucky – and they were these awful parties. I remember being stuck in a hotel room with a girl who’s the sweetest girl, and we’re good friends, but there are other people in the room making out, and I think
As t old t o St u art St ubb s there was actual intercourse going on in the room, and we’re just sitting on the floor chit-chatting, and trying to pretend that it wasn’t the most awful situation we’d ever been in. I was a pretty awkward teenager, and a very late bloomer. I went to a lot of dances but I didn’t get any further than a goodnight kiss until I was in college. And it doesn’t look like it from this picture, but I was always in combat boots and trench coats and thrift store clothes. I was listening to The Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode, Ministry... whenever I hear ‘Love Vigilante’ by New Order I’m totally right back there. There was a riverboat that this radio station 97X would rent out once a month and you could be underage to get on the boat, and once you were on the boat you could buy beer, and it was nothing but alternative music, and a lot of British bands. I was obsessed with all that. A boat full of teenagers in black makeup; goth kids drinking beer, dancing and smoking cigarettes. One night a month that side of me could come out. I’d kind of conceal that goth in me when I was in school and pretended I liked Rush and AC/DC. This was all in 1987 and it was a great time for that music. It was that one radio station for me, and if it hadn’t been for that station I would be a completely different person, and I definitely wouldn’t be making the kind of music I’m making now. I probably wouldn’t be in a band at all.
My school was an all-boys Jesuit high school, which meant that right when you’re supposed to be learning how to understand and respect each other and communicate with women on a real level, you’re not around any. It made me the romantic obsessive that I am, because I fantasised so much about love and romance because there was none around. I could never listen to Van Halen – I was pining for romance, so The Smiths spoke to my longing and feeling like a misfit. Everything Morrissey was singing about, that was me. I’d drive around in my car delivering pizzas (I had all these different jobs) and I was this misanthropic, bitter, hopelessly romantic, desperate guy. And I’d go to the door and it would be a house having a Super Bowl party, and I’d gotten to that bitterness of ‘I hate the world; I don’t belong here.’ But I had no plan or thought of being a musician at all, until I met Scott Devendorf in college when I was 21. Music was just something I absorbed, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do because I didn’t know how. And even when I did start with Scott, his band let me sing because I was maybe more full of myself in a funny way and I had the gall to stand up and pretend that I could sing – it takes a certain amount of delusion to think that people should watch you sing a love song, and the other guys were a bit more reserved. If I hadn’t met Scott Devendorf I’d still be a graphic designer, making websites, probably.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Russell Crowe Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / snappy. Just rolled off the tongue.” As the frontman of TOFOG, Crowe juggled the silver screen and a six-string for 13 years, finding time to release three albums in between the filming of Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. But with the straight, guitar-driven ‘Gaslight’ (1998), ‘Bastard Life or Clarity’ (2001) and ‘Other Ways of Speaking’ (2003) doing little to affect, impress or overly insult, and the band’s curiously watchable music videos being more of a legacy, TOFOG’s mid-tempo mediocrity eventually pushed Crowe to “evolve” into ‘The Ordinary Fear of God’ in 2005. Armed with a piano, choir and the status of an international superstar, The Ordinary Fear of God became – naturally – ‘Russell Crowe &The Ordinary Fear of God’ with the band’s first album, ‘My Hand, My Heart’, an Australian tour and two US tours squeezed in before 3:10 to Yuma and American Gangster came calling. Crowe wasn’t finished. A compilation release and a brief musical hiatus later, ‘The Crowe/Doyle Songbook Vol III’ emerged in 2011; complete with acoustic demos and, erm, the vocals of ex-wife, Danielle Spencer. Oh yeah, and there’s a reason you’ve never heard of any of these projects.
As one of Hollywood’s angriest antipodeans, we’ve become accustomed to Russell Crowe’s silver screen presence as he’s Romper Stompered his way from small-scale actor to box office toddler. From a neo-Nazi skinhead to revenge-driven Roman; troubled mathematical genius to commanding rear-Admiral, his characters have often put him front and centre. But before, during, and even after Maximus Decimus Meridius, John Nash, and Captain ‘Jack’ Aubrey, Crowe was playing a different kind of lead... badly. It started in the early ’80s when a teenage, popsinging Crowe arrived with ‘I Just Wanna Be Like Marlon Brando’ in 1982. In 1988, he was busking in the red-lit neon of Sydney’s Kings Cross before going on to form crap band Roman Antix. Fast forward to 1992, and that’s when things stepped up with 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. Or TOFOG, for short. According to Crowe: “‘30 Odd Foot of Grunts’ was actually an ADR, which is an Analog Dialogue Replacement line, for the movie Virtuosity. It was the fight sequence on the roof, right, and I go in to replace the dialogue because of aircraft or whatever, and it said between 558 and 588, because film was still measured in feet. ‘Please put in 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.’ I just thought it was kind of
by j anine & L ee b u ll man
What Happened, Miss Simone? by Alan Light canongate
Throughout her career, Nina Simone followed her own star and played by her own obscure rules. Alan Light’s book tells the story of a controversial, uncompromising, unbending visionary whose musical output seemed to flow straight from her difficult soul. Simone was able to express pure joy and complete despair, and as a Civil Rights icon she left a legacy that continues to inspire and engage activists to this day. What Happened, Miss Simone? accompanies the film of the same name and draws from decades’ worth of archived interviews and Simone’s own private diaries, offering unique and intimate insight into a massively misunderstood idiosyncratic artist whose reputation often obscures the woman – and the voice – behind it.
Teenage Kicks: My Life as an Undertone by Michael Bradley
Art of Smuggling by Francis Morland and Jo Boothby
In ’70s Northern Ireland, just before plugging into amps and defining the brash, arch sound of justpost-punk, The Undertones earliest rehearsals saw the teenage friends getting together around a set of bongos, a couple of acoustic guitars and a mandolin. In Teenage Kicks (which is warm, funny amd honest), Michael Bradley, the band’s bass player, tells the story of the band who, like every other group in every other garage in the country, sent a demo in to John Peel’s late night show. The difference in this case was that Peel fell in love with the song, and the band, and the event proved the jumping-off point for a career that produced some of the best singles of the era.
He lived the high-life as a well-respected British artist alongside New Generation contemporaries like David Hockney and Peter Blake; he skied for England and his father had hung out with George Orwell, but Francis Morland was living a profitable double life. By filling his sculptures with dope and shipping them home, Morland was a dope smuggler before there were dope smugglers. He belongs to the breed of amateur, grinning maverick criminal that includes Howard Marks and Michael Forwell, whose careers in law-breaking began life as an adrenalin-fuelled great adventure and built into something much bigger. The Art of Smuggling tells his wild, unique and exhilarating story with relish.
getting to know you
Cullen Omori Cullen Omori releases his first solo album this month, following the split of his glam pop trio The Smith Westerns. The man behind ‘New Misery’ likes drugs and Drake, and wishes he could sing better. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given Only take half, wait an hour and then take the rest if you’re not too wasted. Your favourite word Woman. Your pet-hate I have a pet hamster named Tomato. I had a family cat named Mittens and he was a total asshole but he’s dead now. If you could only eat one food forever... ... it would be assorted movie candy or Milk Duds.
The worst date you’ve been on The one that got me stuck in this 4-year relationship with my current girlfriend: I’m basically a stay at home hamster dad. Your first big extravagance I just bought a van to tour in from a semi reputable “dealership”. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall apart before I get to finish this US headline tour. Your biggest disappointment I felt that for the last Smith Westerns album (‘Soft Will’) I wasn’t as present in the recording process as I should have been.
The worst job you’ve had Working at a bible camp for 5 – 10-year-olds for a couple of summers when I was just in high school. The film you can quote the most of The Matrix. Morpheus: “What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
The one song you wished you’d written ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ by Drake. The thing you’d rescue from a burning building My laptops, all my notebooks and diaries, and the little piece of lucky rope I’ve kept on my guitar strap since I started playing live music 8 years ago. The worst present you’ve received A Cybiko.
Your guilty pleasure Drugs. And I don’t mean weed ;) Your biggest fear Becoming paralysed from the neck down. The best book in the world Junky by William S Burroughs. People’s biggest misconception about you That I’m a teenager. Or that I’m a brat. Who would play you in a film of your life? Willem Dafoe
Your hidden talent I’m really good at sex
Favourite place in the world My bedroom in Chicago. I love this city. When I was younger I just wanted to go out and see the world and I did, but there is no place like home or a city as unique as Chicago. Your style icon James Duval, Townes Van Zandt and Keanu Reeves.
The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them Zendaya and/or Rita Ora (yuck).
What is success to you? Surviving long enough that I can continue making music without restrictions and that I get to eat some good food. What talent do you wish you had? That I could sing really, really well. How would you like to die? I would be really full from a huge meal and then I would sit in a lazy boy and shoot up and OD. The most overrated thing in the world? Revivalist indie white boy music.
The characteristic you most like about yourself My self-pity and simultaneously my selfawareness. Your favourite item of clothing It’s a tie between my lime green Patagonia fleece and my leather trench coat. The most famous person you’ve met Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard were dating at the time and they came to our LA show and hung out back stage with us. The Arctic Monkeys were there too. There are other times and other people but I can’t remember. Time is a flat circle.
What, if anything, would you change about your physical appearance? I wish I could be basketball player tall: like 6’8. What’s your biggest turn-off? Sharp toe nails in the bed! What would you tell your 15-year-old self? Drugs aren’t that cool, and give up – no girls want to fuck you. Your best piece of advice for others Take only half and see how you feel, take the rest after the first hour.
Lionlimb Stewart Bronaugh and Joshua Jaeger went on the road with Angel Olsen and came home a fully formed band of their own Photogra p hy: guy e pp el / writer: p atrick glen
Le f t : J o s h u a Ja eg er a n d S te wa r t B r o n a u g h (r i g h t ), p h o t o g r a p h ed i n gr een p o i n t , b r o o k l y n
ionlimb matured before we had a chance to see their version of immature. Perhaps that is why they offer something different to many other new musicians who, contending with the opportunity and pitfalls of immediate recording and online broadcast to whoever will listen, leave less to the imagination. Lo-fi recordings have their own value and beauty, of course, and the chance for unmediated musical mutations and innovations instantly shared worldwide is exciting, but it leaves music fans without something that was taken for granted a generation or two ago. The generations before that had money, space and time. Lionlimb’s new album ‘Shoo’ is a throwback to what we might have missed. The album’s textures are filtered through warm tape and the songs are composed with care and attention to detail. It evokes an American tradition that encompasses The Band and Big Star amongst others. Both of those bands put in a sizable amount of practice and had the time to craft songs in a way that is no longer commonplace. Lionlimb have played together for years, honed their technique and developed something that draws ideas and sounds from that canon. Under questioning, Stewart Bronaugh and Joshua Jaeger resist the idea of imposing a narrative on their music-making. They tell a story though. They met at University, or to use the American vernacular, College. Jaeger saw Bronaugh returning to their dormitory building in Chicago from a trip home to Nashville. Bronaugh had made a wooden cabinet with wheels on it to transport a drum kit and assorted recording devices on his flight – which must have made for an interesting check-in. Jaeger saw Bronaugh wheeling his recording set up down the street and decided to get involved.Their first musical appearance was an improvised performance at an open mic night. After that they attempted a number of recording projects that did not reach a wide audience. They ascribe this prior lack of attention to their own inertia and working without the luxury of having someone to organise record releases and tours. They ‘matured’ or, to be precise, became aware of what it takes to be a band playing in a conventionally proficient, perhaps commercially
acceptable way, backing Angel Olsen. Lionlimb contributed to Olsen’s a 2015 album ‘Burn Your Fire’ and provided a washed-out overdriven chug that is pleasantly Breeders-ish. Then, while touring with Olsen, they wrote ‘Shoo’, which has just been released on Bayonet Records (run by Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils, and Katie Garcia, who managed Captured Tracks). Despite their wish not to have their history warped into a classic rock music narrative, their story is reminiscent of American musicians up to the 1980s who learnt their chops on the road with established artists and then broke away to do it on their own, from John Coltrane to Iggy Pop. This process was a hangover from American music before recorded sound and record labels, but it endured to cultivate jazz greats, garage rock and the sounds of the 1960s and 1970s before going further underground. Through ‘Shoo’, elements of this way of making music and the myths that surrounded it are reincarnated. ‘Shoo’ is not a testosterone-fuelled road trip album, though. It explores the way touring can leave you estranged from the normal rhythms and relationships of everyday life. Bronough says: “I wrote the album when I was touring with Angel and I’d never done that. The experience was kind of non-stop, pretty much. ‘Shoo’ is like two and a half years of touring. Doing that and then, I guess, just trying to function, figure out what you imagine is in and outside of life.” He quickly dismisses the idea that the album, which is introspective and sometimes downbeat, represents a spoilt musician reacting negatively about fulfilling their dreams. “I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining about having these opportunities and to travel across the country,” he says. That sentiment is sincere, and Jeager clarifies: “We’re just two guys with a good relationship who are just really excited by the opportunity to get our music out there.” The relationship between them is endearingly fraternal. As with many albums that deal with feelings and broken relationships it can be a slightly uncomfortable listen. It’s not without its imperfections, but few are. Embracing slight hiccups fits in with the notion of authenticity that informs Lionlimb’s music. Recording “pretty much the whole
thing” to a quarter-inch tape recorder, they decided to keep some slight errors and attempt to create something evocative rather than pristine. Jaeger explains: “I think tape’s cool because it brings a bit more uncertainty into recording.You have to be more decisive in a way that other recording programs don’t force you to be with infinite patches and infinite possibilities of the way that you can do things – rather than just recording one take, you’re recording a bunch of takes.” They are proud of the record because it is not mediated through recording software; they feel that this gives a more personal impression, unlike other albums where the music has been sampled and edited or, as they put it, “may or may not have actually happened.” This as an idea might be debatable – it is possible to make highly personal music using computers without playing a note ‘live’ – but the way Lionlimb approach making music fits into their broader aesthetic, songwriting and sound so neatly. Rather than rely on gimmicks or tricks, it is clear on listening that they have composed their music thoroughly. Their approach is nostalgic, but done well. They aren’t preachy or didactic when explaining their musical choices but they are invested in the method that they have used.
orking within these technical constraints might have contributed to how the album pulls off a clever trick. The first few tracks are traditional rock/pop songs that aren’t far removed from Elliot Smith, but then, like a cricket player with their eye in (that’s for you American readers), it becomes more expansive. ‘Wide Bed’, one of the later songs on the album, is a loose slow-burner bringing ‘Sister Lover’ Big Star to mind with a kind of synesthetic evening feeling. It fades in sax that feels like a subdued call from John Coltrane. Bronaugh and Jaeger tell me how, after recording multiple tracks on each song, they worked hard to strip-back anything that seemed unnecessary: that process adds a lot of subtlety to the songs. The space this makes, again notable in ‘Wide Bed,’ pulls you in as a listener, and it bodes well for the music that Lionlimb might go on to make. Lionlimb are notably enthusiastic
about their new collaborators and the situation that they find themselves in. Expanding their line-up to a five piece for an upcoming tour could contribute to revising their style, which is an exciting prospect. They have begun to alter their songs while playing live, Jaeger explains, as he tells me: “In some ways I think it’s boring for a band to play an album front to back, note-perfect, so what we’re excited about is putting together a really good team of musicians who are all more than capable of making the music their own and probably taking the music in a different direction.” The new members have obviously earned their respect. Jaeger rates their new sax player as “the most talented person that I’ve probably ever played with.” It’s something different to their formative experiences of touring. He’s keen to be exposed to this new environment, speaking after a show at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right, and before heading to the The Hideout in Chicago. “It’s cool to [tour] at this level too because obviously Angel, who we play with, has had a certain level of success and it’s nice to get out on the road again and have a different level of attention.” Maturity creates a type of possibility and poses a problem. Music is generally less mature because, in some respects, the twentieth century version of maturity was a stifling mix of wage drive and heterosexual nuclear families, gender roles and whiteness. This was hardwired into the music industry. There are people who are alienated from mature music: the proliferation of music that is not conventionally mature helped to destabilise these assumptions. The stability that maturing affords does, however, for those who can derive solace or meaning from it, provide a creative space. Lionlimb’s music is nurtured, worked over and they aspire to have it listened to by a larger audience. Rather than being music industry shills or hiding their aims, however, they are honest about wanting to connect with people in a down-to-earth and relaxed way. It goes back to a nostalgic type of ‘authenticity’ which, considering the better characteristics of the term as they understand it, proscribes an openness of expression and honesty.
Allan Kingdom A proud son who refused to get drunk on showbiz after collaborating with Kanye Photogra p hy: Ben Solomon / writer: david zammitt
LE F T : A L L A N K I N G D O M p h otog r a p h ed in up sate N e w Y o r k , at B ear Mo u ntain
llan Kingdom always has the look and sound of a man who’s enjoying himself. Whether it’s in the virtual tours of Minnesota the selfappointed guide takes us on in his videos, when he’s springing around on stage with Kanye West at the BRITS or as he talks proudly about how the son of a Tanzanian mother and a South African father found himself growing up in a northern corner of the US, a state full of prairies and forests, the boy born Allan Kyariga possesses a mind that always seems to bubble and fizz. As we talk, there is a fidgety energy to the point where our conversation is punctuated with a string of polite apologies as he censures himself for interrupting time and time again. Despite my reassurances that his effusiveness is a good thing, he seems to be constantly saying sorry and telling me, with noteworthy courtesy, to go ahead. And yet while he’s dreaming big, he is equally keen to keep his tan leather brogues as grounded as possible. For perspective is crucial to Kingdom’s approach, not only to music but his life in general. “When you grow up with a parent [from Africa],” he muses, grasping for the right words with which to describe the struggles and victories of the main woman in his life, “like, they’re new to this country. So you’re growing up here watching somebody adjust, throughout their own life. My mother is still adjusting to the US to this day. She’s a pharmacist,” he says, his admiration unmistakeable, “and she goes to work every single day but there are still things if you don’t have a childhood here that you still miss. You’re watching someone take a huge risk.” He smiles the first of many smiles and a string of ands illustrate the reverence he has for ‘mom’. “And be a pioneer and step out of their comfort zone; out of where they came from, out of what people expect from them and go even further. So that in itself shapes even how I feel about doing music or being in the game. It’s like, if my mother could make it out of the Serengeti – like, literally – where there’s no electricity, and be here today and own a house in Minnesota… Seeing that leap of faith, I have the same vision for my own career and my sound. Even what I want to do in life. My perspective is a blessing in itself.” It’s lead to a home culture wherein
failure isn’t an option, at least not until you’ve tried your very hardest. It’s informed by a list of lofty family achievements that make his own travails seem insignificant. “My grandfather was the first person in the village to send his daughters to school. Before that the attitude was, ‘Well, she’s going to get married to a man anyways. So she needs to stay home and learn to cook and raise a family, et cetera, so that when she does get married she’ll know how to do all of these things.’” He laughs a wry laugh as he reflects on the effect of his mother on his own work ethic. “So she doesn’t let me have any excuses. Just seeing my mom’s impact and my grandpa’s impact – the children in the village are named after him. That in itself motivates me.”
ingdom’s heritage has also informed the sound of his latest mixtape and breakout release, ‘Northern Lights.’ A hip-hop record with a remarkably polished pop sensibility, it seems to have somehow crowbarred more choruses than songs into its mere 45 minutes, Kingdom feels he is indebted to sounds that come from east of the Atlantic and south of the Equator. “My mom would play a whole bunch of world music, and I was exposed to a lot of East African music because she’s from Tanzania. I would also hear a lot of South African choirs because my father was from there. He left behind a lot of music that I listened to.” The first member of his family to be born outside of Africa, his hybrid identity has seen him fuse the melodies and rhythms of the continent to modern American music seamlessly. “Just being around that and not really coming from an American musical background, that shapes how I make music. And all of that plays into Kid Cudi, Pharrell, Andre 3000 – all of my pop influences.” The first big opportunity – and the first real test for a 21-year-old Kingdom – came when he shot to fame after appearing on Kanye West’s 2015 single ‘All Day.’ A Kanye collaboration had been on the list of goals for his nascent career and yet when he speaks about ticking it off within weeks of hitting the legal drinking age, he takes on a circumspect, matter-of-fact tone that
suggests there’s a wise head atop those youthful shoulders. It’s not that he isn’t grateful; rather that he realises, acutely, that there’s a lot more work to do. “I feel like it was positive for me,” he ponders, “but that it could’ve been negative. I got the right amount of attention; I got the right type of attention at the right time in my career. Things just happen at the right time when you work for them. I also feel like I didn’t get hype-beasted.” And it’s his self-possession and measured viewpoint that saw him roll his sleeves up and craft ‘Northern Lights’ with painstaking hard work over the course of the last 12 months. “I didn’t go ahead and drop a bunch of singles just ‘cos I did a Kanye song. I took my time and I did this project and it really paid off. I think as an artist people try to make it seem like the public takes you and turns you into something but you do have a say in what you become. I feel like I took the positives from the situation and made it work for me.” Since then the reaction has been overwhelming but having known Kingdom for all of 25 minutes, I’m already prepared for the considered answer when I ask if success has come as a shock or if he expected respect from the off. “Man, it’s a little bit of both. Because when you put something out you have faith in it. Nobody puts anything out – I feel like it’s kinda bullshit when an artist puts something out and they’re like, ‘I didn’t even know it was good. I just put it out and the world fell in love with it.’” He breaks down in convulsions of laughter before adopting a more sober tone for the wisdom bit. “I feel like that’s corny. When you’re an artist and you truly love what you do, you put your heart and soul into it and you hope that other people will feel the same way about it.” Kingdom’s contemplative, deliberate approach is evidenced in his lyrics. Colourful sketches of life in Minneapolis’s less fashionable little brother, St. Paul, are cut through with searing, brutal honesty. Whether it’s in admissions of infidelity or his own emotional insecurity, Kingdom seems to be in perpetual pursuit of the truth. “Long term I’ve found that it is easier in life to be honest. It could be easier to lie to you for a couple of months and get my numbers up or it could be easier to lie to this girl about my status and shit but at the end of the day I
want people to fuck with me because it’s me.” He reflects on what his words mean, not realising that they belie his 22 years. “The truth always comes to light so it might not be easy at first to just put yourself out like that or it might not be easy to say, you know, that I’m staying at my mom’s house or that I haven’t toured yet, but in the long run it’s very good. It’s less stress when you don’t gotta keep up with all of the lies.” Concocting his unique brand of urban Minnesotan poetry, he admits, doesn’t come easy. But some subjects come more naturally than others. “I feel like it’s harder to write about my own struggles,” he confesses. “Like sex and women is easier because it’s a natural, instinctual thing. Partying and all that, for me at least – it’s easier to write about things I like because everybody wants to hear it.” As he talks he is at pains to be candid, as though the act of speaking with honesty is cleansing his soul. “For me the hardest thing is to write about my struggles or how I feel left out or betrayed. I always think about the fact that there’re other people who have been through things that are worse and there’s people who have more than I do.” Acutely aware of his own relative privilege, Kingdom knows that his story might lack the poverty or plenty that so often dominates the rap narrative, but he’s determined not to get dragged off course. “Just talking about my life in general is tricky. Especially in hip-hop, there’s a huge appeal from the guy whose mom was a crackhead, who got shot 48 times,” he grins. “I don’t have a story like that, but at the same time I wasn’t in the street and I didn’t see all these bricks and $100k in front of my face. So just talking about my life, being a rapper and just being a black man in America in hip hop is interesting.”
Mothers Kristine Leschper is exploring the sacrifice of creation Photogra phy: jenna foxton / writer: katie beswick
Le f t : k r i s t i n e L es c h p er p h o t o g r a p h ed i n is l i n g t o n , L o n d o n
ristine Leschper tells me: “When a female rabbit gets pregnant, she starts pulling out all her fur with her teeth.” We’re talking about how she came up with the idea for Mothers, the music project she developed while studying printmaking at the Lamar Dodd School of Art in Athens, Georgia. “They do this to build nests for their young before they’re born. And I thought that was such an interesting concept – that absolute sacrifice.” Leschper began to write and compose the songs for Mothers’ epic, searching debut album, ‘When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired’, in 2013. The opening track, ‘Too Small For Eyes’ – a searing exploration of self-esteem that perfectly encapsulates the inherent discomfort of just being in your own skin – shares its title with her senior thesis. This interdisciplinary method, the blurring of visual art and music, drives Leschper’s approach and, I surmise in talking with her, is an expression of her frenetic personality. She has a frenzied, infectious intensity. She speaks with a wide-eyed, uncomplicated awe; fascinated and inspired by everything – childlike in her relentless positivity, despite the heartrending beauty and adult themes of her music. (“It’s almost too good to be true!” she enthuses when I ask her how she’s finding Shoreditch, which is where Mothers are based for this UK trip. “It was just an amazing opportunity, to come to London. And we went to Brighton too. Wow! I loved it, Brighton is so great.”) It was while exploring “vague” ideas about gender and masculinity for her thesis that Leschper stumbled across the theme of female sacrifice, which led her to more focused work on Mothers. “It came about because I was doing research into nesting habits. I had a pet rabbit at the time, and I was looking into how different animals behave when they have babies – that was the reason I really became interested in ideas of motherhood and childbirth.” The revelation that rabbits tear out their own fur in the name of creation resonated. “It made sense to me as the creator of songs: there is a lot of sacrifice involved in creation, and it can be tragic.” Sacrifice and absolute dedication have become integral to Leschper’s music making, applying the skills she honed at art school to create rich,
detailed, songs. “I was in college studying art and I became really interested in music as this other means of creation,” she tells me. “I fell in love with it and started making music myself. Art school helped me to understand how to formulate a concept and to execute a concept so that other people understand what I’m talking about. I used that learning a lot making this record.” She pauses, considering the crossovers between the different areas of her work. “Printmaking is very time consuming and process driven,” she says. “Something you have to commit to and see through from start to finish. That has informed my songwriting in so far as giving me a really diligent work ethic.” When she describes her transition from visual art to music, it is as if Leschper is recalling some divine intervention; being moved from beyond herself. “It was this frantic period for me,” she explains, “I was working on both my thesis and on my music. I was just manic, making as much as I could. The visual work I was doing informed what I was doing musically. Ideas carried over from my thesis into the record because I was making them both at the same time. I was exploring all these themes – of betrayal, ego, self-doubt, of selfdiscovery and acceptance – just, you know, just learning to deal with the person that you are. I was working with all these themes in my visual work and they kind of naturally connected to the songs at the same time.” What began as a solo exploration has led to an album and a tour of festivals across the US and UK with her band. And, yet, describing ‘When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired’ as an album and Mothers as a band feels, somehow, wrong. Partly because of the music, with its brooding, candid exploration of the human condition, and partly because Leschper herself frequently refers to the work as a ‘project’. “I get that,” she says, of my confusion, “I totally get it. I guess it’s because I didn’t want to write a couple of hit songs. I wanted to make a ‘piece’. It is intended to be listened to all at the same time.” That sense of the album as a ‘piece’ is certainly felt by me – it’s a painful, haunting journey; a kind of dark fairytale, expressing a complex web of feeling that hangs together like
something greater than a collection of songs. It is almost philosophical in its scope. So is Mothers a band? “Yeah, but we want to consider it something other than a rock band. It’s more than that. I don’t want it to be this singular thing because we’re making visual work and music. That’s why I refer to it as a project rather than a band. We’re doing more than one thing.” The term ‘project’ also points to Leschper’s desire to integrate still more art forms into her practice, her hunger for creation and creativity. “I am very interested in expanding Mothers’ range,” she says. “I am really interested in so many forms – especially in visual performance and performance art. I want our shows to be immersive. We’re working towards adding more visual elements to our live performance.”
he ‘we’ refers to the other members of Mothers, drummer Matthew Anderegg, guitarist Drew Kirby and bassist Patrick Morales. They started working together in November 2014, when, after writing alone for some months, Leschper began collaborating with a range of musicians she respected and admired. “We went on to make a record really quickly,” she says, “but we sat on it for a while, because we didn’t have the means to put it out.” Leschper is evasive when I ask how Mothers write songs now – is it still more or less a solo project? Or do the other members chip in these days? She erms. And then laughs. “I guess it was very much from my perspective, but, um, other members of Mothers are all songwriters, so it’s been great to have that perspective. It’s a lot of stabbing in the dark, trying to latch onto something. We play loose versions of songs over and over again.” And then Drew cuts in, for the first time. “I have something to say about this,” he tells me, firmly. “Sometimes it’s insular for Kristine. We add what we can but sometimes we just get out of the way. We are getting to a place where we write together more. Matt and Kristine have a really close writing relationship. For more of the technical stuff we feed in at critical stages. Sometimes it’s very raw ideas, we’ll be working through them over a course
of months waiting to make it happen. And then there are solo songs pretty much with arrangements. That’s why we call it a project rather than a band. Our presence is felt but sometimes more by sitting back. It’s about that balance.” Right now, the balance seems to lean towards Leschper as the author of the core creative content, but she and Drew suggest that as they grow together as a group, writing while they tour the album, a more collaborative sound will emerge. There are hints of what that sound might be like on the current record, in ‘Copper Mines’, the first song the band wrote together, and ‘It Hurts Until it Doesn’t,’ which Leschper describes as “looking at the dichotomy of an artist’s ego and sense of self-doubt.” It was the first track she wrote that made her think Mothers might work as something bigger than a solo project. They hope to record their next record at the end of the year. It’s a daunting prospect, making the most of early success on a creative venture that has been a long time in the making, but Leschper is facing it with her characteristic optimism, determination and faith. “I just hope that people approach the record with a sense of openness, honesty and creativity,” she says, when I ask what she is looking forward to the most. “I hope people can find something inside of it for themselves.”
The Goon Sax The Australian teen trio who have already grown out of the house party scene Photogra phy: Connor Beazley / writer: domini c haley
LE F T : T h e G o o n s a x i n br i s b a n e . f r o m l - r : J am e s H a r r i s o n , L o u i s F or s te r a n d R i le y Jo n e s
rom the perspective of pop music, at least, the phrase ‘youth culture’ has become almost meaningless these days. Reduced to a parade of empty clichés, most music aimed at teenagers either revolves around ideas of angry rebellion or the feelings that come from that first, heart-rending love, packaged like a Polaroid. These narratives can only ever tell half of the story. While it’s a given that such topics are a big part of a typical teenage experience, for most people they just punctuate their formative years. For me, it was also a period that included extended phases of weird social awkwardness, euphoria, heartache and the general anxiety that comes from not quite knowing where you fit in. The reason why The Goon Sax do such a good job of capturing this balance between self-doubt and wideeyed excitement is mainly because they are actual teenagers. Forming in 2013 when all the members were still in high school, I’m immediately struck at just how young they are. “We haven’t done enough to be comfortable,” answers drummer Riley Jones meekly when I ask the band if they’d done many interviews. For several seconds the group anxiously glances at each other, before singer Louis Forster finally admits the true reasons for their hesitation. “We’ve done some bad ones in the past,” he mutters sheepishly, “we’ve gotten nervous and said some silly things.” A trio made up of Jones, Forster and their friend James Harrison, The Goon Sax formed after Harrison and Forster decided that they wanted to take music a bit more seriously than most of their peers. “Our first bands were more social than hard-working or serious musically speaking,” explains Forster. “It was more like we’d practice for an hour and then just hangout for the rest of the day.” Workshopping songs in their bedrooms, the duo finally became a proper band after they added school mate Jones on drums. “I started playing drums and a month later, somehow I ended up in this band,” she tells me with a shrug. One month after that, they were playing their first show. When it comes to influences, The Goon Sax aren’t exactly your typical 17-18 year olds.They make pop music, but it’s pop music that has more in common with Orange Juice, XTC and
the mid-80s Postcard Records roster than, say, the pop made by Drake or Katy Perry. Their list of influences mostly come from a time before anyone in the band was born, with the band excitedly reeling off acts like the Pastels, Talking Heads, Galaxie 500, Bob Dylan and Arthur Russell when I ask them about their favourite bands. However, it’s fellow Brisbane natives The Go-Betweens that The Goon Sax get compared to the most. Louis’s father is Go-Betweens founder and respected music journalist Robert Forster, which invites many commentators to immediately draw connections between the two bands; even if it’s pretty lazy. Superficially, there are some similarities; both acts certainly make music that is bookish, literate and deeply self-aware, but while Forster senior’s band goes for lush, orchestral pop, his son’s band is extremely lo-fi in comparison. In fact, you’d be better off thinking of the Television Personalities, The Feelies or The Vaselines if you wanted an ’80s indie band as a point of reference. For the members of The Goon Sax, their sound stems more from their abilities as musicians as it does from any master plan to ape the styles of the past. “Originally, I never intended the music to be so ‘soft’,” explains Forster, who is quick to point out that the trio started out wanting to be a punk band. “Before Riley joined we didn’t have a drummer and we were practicing on nylon string guitars, so we kind of ended up sounding this way.” “Not having much drumming experience also helped,” adds Jones. “We ended up sounding like a lot of bands I like almost by accident. Even though I wasn’t able to do very complicated fills or anything like that, I think the simple patterns I could play really suited the music.”
s well as necessity, the band’s home city of Brisbane has also played a big role in shaping their sound. “It’s a really interesting place!” exclaims Jones. “It’s quite a small city and not very culturally diverse, so it’s kind of surprising that there is so much going on.” “There are some very good bands in Brisbane,” adds Forster. “Blank Realm are a really great band and we really like Per Purpose and Scraps –
there’s a lot of really good people doing stuff here”. Thanks to its remarkably diverse indie scene, Brisbane has been a great place for The Goon Sax to hone their chops as a live band. The ability to jump on any bill has helped get the band get a leg up, while the ad-hoc nature of the city’s indie scene has created an extremely accepting audience, willing to indulge acts with more art-house tendencies. However, like a lot of Aussie acts, it was the house party circuit where The Goon Sax really got their start. “In a lot of ways, house parties are some of the worst places to play,” explains Forster when I ask the trio about their first few shows. “I’m kind of glad we’ve stopped doing them – something always goes wrong and no one’s ever around to help you.” For Harrison, though, these shows were a good way to get used to playing live. “It’s a lot more relaxed than playing at a venue,” he muses. “You don’t feel as pressured.” Forster remains unconvinced. “We’ve spent a lot time standing around while the PA has blown out.” The Goon Sax are full of these wonderful contradictions. One minute you’re talking to a clear-headed, confident group who are comfortable with the music they make, the next you seem to be chatting to three kids who can’t quite believe what’s happening to them. In the case of the band’s lyrics, Forster, Harrison and Jones are remarkably candid about their feelings, thoughts and desires. Songs like ‘Sweaty Hands’ speaks of the point in a relationship where you’re finally seen at your worst, while ‘Telephone’ highlights the anguish of realising that some crushes can never be won over. When we begin to delve into the reasons behind this emotionally smart approach to song writing, the band seem genuinely nonplussed by the attention their lyrics are getting. “I think the songs are quite confessional,” says Harrison, carefully. “They might not be completely stream of consciousness, but they are honest. I’m not sure what it is – maybe they’re a little bit sad?” Forster couldn’t imagine doing it any different. “I think these subjects are the ones that come out the most naturally,” he says. “Most of our songs aren’t really about one thing or
another, but are more about a few things that could be on our minds at a certain point in time. I guess that’s why they can sometimes feel a bit stream-of-consciousness; it’s us trying to tackle a few things at the same time.” Being in a band can feel like a rollercoaster, especially when you’re just starting to find traction. All in their late teens, the members of The Goon Sax are going through a busy period of their lives, and I’m interested to find out how the members are juggling all the things that are going on. “I’m at school, James is at Uni and Riley is looking for a job,” says Forster, “but we’d definitely like to do the band as a full time thing if we can.” “Last year when the band was kicking off, I was in the middle of finals and stuff like that,” says Harrison. “It’s definitely a distraction, but it’s a good distraction.” They say that they aren’t looking too far into the future. They’re in the middle of their first Australian tour at the moment and enjoying playing outside of their home town for the first time. “At the moment, every time we play I’m left wishing we can do it all again,” says Forster grinning. “You start to feel like you could be on a roll.” They’ve pencilled in their first European tour for September. “It’s exciting that people have heard of us from so far away,” smiles Jones. “It’s not confirmed or anything but I really hope it can happen.” With that, the band falls silent as Forster looks conspiratorially off screen. “I’m working on my parents at the moment – actually I hope they can’t hear this, they’re in the next room.”
RIG HT : ja mes hi n to n a ka the ra n ge o n Sha ftesb ury Av e, so ho , l o n d o n
y day Damian Gordon was a corrections officer at Jamaica’s most dangerous prison where the security levels were always set to maximum. He led something of a dual life. At home, in Kingston, he kept a cardboard box stuffed with disorderly paper notes and pads – his work as his songwriter alias Naturaliss. Once a week, as part of his ‘Songbook’ series, he’d take the box out, sit in front of his girlfriend’s laptop, press record and post a new track toYouTube. For whose consumption he probably wasn’t too sure. He did it over and over, like some kind of therapy. Imagine then, that one day, from out there in the infinite digital abyss, a music producer from New York gets in touch. He explains that he’s found one of your recordings (88 views), sampled the vocal and put it on a warped electronic track that moulds footwork, dubstep and euphoric piano work, the kind of sound he’s probably never heard before. Unsurprisingly, it kind of blew Damian’s mind. Brooklyn producer The Range’s second album, ‘Potential’, is full of stories like this.Through the album the listener makes acquaintance with numerous characters based around the
world. There’s 18-year-old Canadian student Jordan Lardizabal singing pop covers in her bathroom and London MCs Ophqi and ST posting homemade freestyles filmed in Hyde Park. And London teenager Kruddy Zac – 13 and a schoolboy at the time – stood in front of a non-descript brick wall rapping, while his sheepish hype-man hangs in the background. It’s this approach to making music, this mining ofYouTube’s unfathomable depths for samples, that James Hinton (The Range) experimented with on his 2013 debut album ‘Nonfiction’. That’s blossomed into the full-blown conceptual foundation for his latest release. It all started a few years back. While touring ‘Nonfiction’ a lot of Hinton’s time was spent criss-crossing the States on wi-fi-less internal flights or killing evenings in rural dressing rooms. It was in those hours he revisited a group of clips he’d stashed away in an offline YouTube folder – the genesis material for ‘Potential’’s concept. By then he’d already decided he didn’t want to make his second album in the typical electronic producer’s way. You know, beats beamed around the world by email, artists record
topline vocals, they make it onto an album stuffed with guests. It’s a welltested formula. “Any time you’re making a decision based on someone being available or not feels like a weird album making process,” says Hinton. “I understand that’s the way of the world but this process was intentionally not done that way.” So he decided to take his chosen tactic further and deeper. A lot deeper. Back home at his studio in Brooklyn, based on four or five secret, specific search criteria, he began cycling through thousands of page of videos on YouTube. At Hinton’s estimation he went on to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours viewing videos – 35, if not more, nights where he’d continuously trawl from one clip to the next. Anything that caught his attention, struck a nerve, got put to one side. By the end – the literal end, he’d completely exhausted two of his search terms – he got to know the streaming site’s targeted adverts and sophisticated search algorithm in intimate detail. “It was a lot,” he smiles, looking back. “I was an addict”. “It wasn’t so much finding the people as finding the moments that would lead you to the people,” he says,
setting out the plan for the album. Those moments he’s compiled, he later realised, when sat next to one another as a playlist, told the story of Hinton’s own personal feelings through the period. That’s when what The Range describes as his “detective work” began. Roughly half of the songs that would go on to appear on ‘Potential’ were written and the vocal samples slotted in, the other’s were inspired by the clips and created from scratch. The 27-year-old painstakingly went about contacting the people who appeared in the videos to ask their permission and offer them royalties. No one checks their YouTube private messages so it was never as simple as that. Some displayed their contact details or their social handles, others were more like Frank Cole in Kentucky, who had no contact. He’d posted clips to a gospel channel in the noughties. Through a handful of Facebook investigations Hinton tracked down his cousin in New York, found their number and called them. They put them in touch with Cole’s wife 700 miles away. By his own admission, Hinton recognised that his communications needed to be sensitive and honest,
The Range James Hinton mined Youtube to give his new album a voice Photography: heather mccutcheon / writer: greg cochrane
aware that his approaches could come across as weird or a scam. After all, with some clips viewed fewer than 50 times, most of his future collaborators probably assumed no one was watching. “I tried to be as simple and plain as possible,” recalls Hinton. “I just said, ‘I’m a musician, I found this sample and use it in this song’. I presented them with the material at that level. I thought that’s best way to go. To say, ‘I made this thing, here it is’.” Somewhat astonishingly nearly all of them immediately made the leap of faith with him. Except teenage rapper Kruddy Zak from London. “Zak messaged me and was like, ‘Are you joking? How are you going to screw me? What is this?’ But from there I explained and it was ok.”
uch of the appeal of ‘Potential’ is encapsulated in what the album is not. It’s not, for example, about going out and searching for the next big thing. In other much more well lit corners of YouTube that’s a familiar narrative – the story of the “YouTube star” or the journey of the “online sensation who posted viral videos”. And it works. Newcomers record cover versions of famous songs, start recording them on a schedule, build a fanbase, the views increase, start recording their original material and sign, usually, to a major label. It’s the story of everyone from Justin Bieber to Shawn Mendes. A&R people in offices spend their days trawling through
these videos to find the next marketable pop star. The Range is eager to explain that his project is very much the antithesis of that. In fact, he says he finds that whole process “toxic”. “This has nothing to do with that,” he states. “It’s compelling that a lot of these people aren’t coming to YouTube for that main reason – to be a star or successful. There’s catharsis or compulsion to do it. That’s what I find interesting.” Hinton became fascinated with that world. There are 400 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. Those people who feature on ‘Potential’, they’re part of an overwhelming majority whose material barely gets viewed, let alone discovered. YouTube isn’t just a deep sea, it’s a vast ocean of undetected potential. “Before I started this process I wouldn’t have thought that at all,” he says. “I thought the interest was to record yourself to show the world, but I’m noticing that it’s a compulsion in the best possible way. Like they need this work to be out there.” It’s also not, he says, an exercise in sample-searching but with real people. “YouTube is a huge source – it’s the crate-digging of our generation,” he
explains. “But as soon as you’re interacting with the people that whole dichotomy becomes wildly inappropriate. You’re lucky they’ve let you pull their world into your world in a way that crate-digging does not.” As the album took shape Hinton’s bond with his collaborators grew. What started out as an album became a social experiment of sorts. Touching human stories started to emerge from the process. “It really started to come down to the lengths that people would go to in order to pursue music despite all the odds,” says Hinton. Like Damian, the prison officer from Jamaica, who appears on the album’s final track ‘1804’. “He describes himself as this sort of Clark Kent figure. He goes in and does his work at the jail and tries to psychologically separate himself from that at home.” Hinton recalls the dog-eared song box. “I had never seen anyone attempt to document their work in that way before – literally thousands of songs that he set out meticulously to record.” If this all sounds heart-warming on record then it becomes even more affecting in the documentary that US director Daniel Kaufman has made about these real-life stories – it is the story of ‘Potential’ on camera. Superimpose will have premiered at SXSW
“It’s compelling that a lot of these people aren’t coming to YouTube to be a star”
at the end of March, then, Hinton hopes, it’ll be screened around the world as he travels promoting the album. “I just watched another edit today,” he says. “I choked up. It’s pretty serious stuff.”
ll of this paints a picture of The Range as a curator or instigator behind the project rather than his personal new album. But that’s not the case. James Hinton grew up in Providence in a single-parent family. He started playing guitar and drums at the age of 13, before going on to play in various post-rock bands. In person he’s bright, talkative and articulate. He studied Physics at Brown University and released ‘Nonfiction’ when he was 24. In the past few years he’s gone through the ups and downs of losing his mother, signing to Domino and going through a relationship break up. The nights spent trawling videos, those “moments” he was capturing, were in essence the lyrics he was searching for and wanted to say on the album. Listen to ‘Potential’ closely and those strangers he found on page 24 or 47 of his online rifling are doing the talking for him – his interpreters, maybe saying it more honestly and articulately than he ever could. “‘09 was emotional / It’s the memory / I wish that everything was still the same,” raps Zak on the album’s second track ‘Copperwire’. “I was responding to these vocal samples at certain points in my life for a reason and I think that comes through,” he says, keeping the tone light. “Being more open about my own emotions through this material is a huge part of it. Or to put it this way, to be able to speak through those lyrics lets you be more open about how you’re feeling.” Hinton won’t reveal the search terms he used to find his kindred collaborators on ‘Potential’, only to say – not impolitely – that “it’s just important that I keep it secret to me.” Maybe it’s to protect them, or because they go right to the very heart of what the record is about. Either way, those filters, and his own fascinations, have given way to one of the most human electronic records in aeons. “I learnt to open up and be a little more trusting,” says Hinton, thinking about the process. “I’ve learnt a lot about being honest.”
Letâ€™s Eat Grandma have never needed anyone other than themselves Photogra phy: jenna foxton / writer: stuart stubbs
hen they were 10 years old, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were hanging out at the top of the stairs. Bored. Flopped over the banister. In unison, they began to sing: ‘When you don’t know what to do / And you’re feeling kinda blue…’ “And then my mum came along and said, ‘Get that leg off the banister!’” says Jenny. “And we went: ‘Get that leg off the banister! And you’ll know just what to do, d-d-doo, d-d-doo.’” Rosa and Jenny sing out the jazzy tune as they snap their fingers. They laugh hard, as they have done all day. If ‘Get That Leg Off The Banister’ wasn’t Let’s Eat Grandma’s very first song, it was ‘The Angry Chicken’, written with the aid of Rosa’s thirteenth birthday present – a guitar – and inspired by her chickenshaped alarm clock. Jenny played along on her out-of-tune ukulele. Bored kids, amusing themselves with literal ditties – it was all of us once; with a friend that we would have died without, if we were lucky.Yet Rosa and Jenny – now 16 and 17, respectively – seem even closer than that. They’re not the identical twins that they’re so often mistaken for, or even sisters, although they’re happy to propel the myth with matching clothes and all that hair that’s got people comparing them to the sinister apparitions from The Shining. It’s precisely because they’re so
inseparable… and because they want to fuck with people. They met in reception class, aged 4, and say they felt a special connection from the beginning. “Even when we’ve had other friends, we’ve always been separate from everyone else,” says Jenny. Rosa recalls play times at school spent “just the two of us, wandering around in our own world, playing games with stones and planning our escape from the playground – we used to think, ooh, we’re going to climb over the fence and then go to this place. I think the whole creation of our own world, which we use in our music, started from that young age.” Year on year, at Jenny’s birthday parties, the two of them would eat their food away from the other c hildren. Jenny’s sister might have been allowed to join them (Rosa is an only child), but everyone else sat on the other side of the table. Invited friends, but not Rosa. “We’ve got loads of photos and videos of Jenny’s birthdays over the years where we’re on our own, and every year it was like, ‘oh, this again…’” It’s to their credit that they’re even in touch now that they’re young women, especially since they’ve not schooled together since they were both 7. At that time they vowed to meet up every 2 weeks, which might
as well be a year when it’s your number 1 friend and you’re upgrading to middle school. I made similar arrangements with friends at the end of high school – I’ve not seen Keith Howgego since. Today, they’ve got plenty of other friends, but none that are mutual. They either hang out just them, or totally separately. “I feel like that would be a weird dynamic, if we hung out with other people,” says Jenny, who describes Rosa as a daredevil. “I think that’s what appealed to me about her. I’ve always been a bit more cautious and sensitive, and Rosa balances me out. But we have the same creative ideas and imaginations. It’s almost like, where all the games we used to play was just us and nobody was watching, now it’s exactly the same but the difference is that there are lots of people looking in.”
osa and Jenny bluster across Eaton Park towards our meeting point by the bandstand. It was snowing in Norwich before we arrived; now it’s slate grey with interchangeable spells of icy rain and sudden blue skies. They laugh off the cold as soon as they reach us and break into song while we’re still shaking hands. “I’m Jenny” prompts a
blast of ‘Jenny From The Block’ from Rosa and another song that I don’t know, but think has been spontaneously made up on the spot. It triggers more laughter, and so sets a happy pattern for the rest of the day – they burst into song and laugh a lot, and the rest of us (photographer, PR, stylist and hair and makeup artist) try to keep up. I can see how their other friends might not get a look in when Rosa and Jenny are together – they seem capable of speaking to one another with a glance, although that’s not to say that they’re not inclusive, and both are mindful to explain private jokes whenever it feels like they’re the only two giggling away. Like when they’re doing their surreal musical bit ‘Jenny Feat. The Dying Cat’, where Jenny strikes up a popular song and Rosa deliberately harmonises offkey. They demonstrate it to me with a rendition of James Blunt’s ‘Your Beautiful’. At the end they always sign off in a cod Chinese accent promoting whatever big has happened to them recently – today it’s “When you’re on the cover of Loud And Quiet.” They fall about. We walk to the model boating lake and Jenny makes chit-chat by telling me how Eaton Park reminds her of being sick, after Rosa once made her take part in the weekly 5k run that’s held here at weekends. “Sorry,” she says, in one of a number of self-aware moments, “I don’t know why I’m telling you about the time I ran around the park constantly throwing up.” She excitedly plays music on her phone while we photograph her and Rosa by the lake. She opts for a guy called Macintosh Plus and introduces me to an ambient micro genre called vaporwave. It reminds me that this is how teenagers listen to music, and that Let’s Eat Grandma are teenagers themselves. Rosa and Jenny aren’t ashamed of the fact, but they are aware of the risk of being treated as a novelty because of it. The truth is that they are all the best bits of being 16 and 17– quite mad, instantly confident and out to please themselves. And positioned here, squarely between adulthood and childhood, they’re awarded that unique free pass on dipping into either world whenever they like. So they sing James Blunt like dying cats, use the word ‘gourmet’ where we used to say ‘sick’ and repeat the saxophone hook from ‘Careless Whisper’ over and over, but they also eloquently voice their concerns about the British education system and the institutional sexism of the music industry that’s led them to
R o s a wa l t o n (l ef t ) an d J en n y H o l l i n g w o rt h o n t h e r o o f o f D o v e s t r eet s t u d i o s , n o rw i c h
“Even when we’ve had other friends we’ve always been separate from everyone else”
explain to Sound Engineers that yes, they are the drummers in the band, even though they are girls. At one point, halfway through our sit-down interview, Rosa suddenly asked me if she can give a shout out to someone called Arthur Dellow. Then we’re straight back to the importance of challenging pop music archetypes. It’s a happy, lawless, disparate existence that’s fun to be around, and it’s had a direct and positive affect on the music Let’s Eat Grandma make. Their debut single, ‘Deep Six Textbook’, has led most people to say the same thing – “At last, something a little bit different” – but they have no idea. ‘Deep Six Textbook’ is a down-tempo, slightly psychedelic alt. pop number full of wide open space and pinned on a drum track played somewhere in the middle distance. The girls’ vocals are just witchy enough for Kate Bush to be thrown in to most online summations and reposts, and this already beguiling single now comes with a video that piles on the weird as Rosa and Jenny tumble around a deserted beach in slow motion, dressed in the finest Victorian-ghost-children lace dresses. The stats on their Facebook page have a majority of their fans marked as 45- to 50-year-old men, but only half of LEG’s debut album (coming early summer via Transgressive Records) is in a remotely similar vein. Following tracks include a deep synth banger called ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’, featuring cute J-pop vocals and girlish rapping – the kind of song that PC Music have been trying to land on radio playlists for the last two years. There’s the distorted stromp of ‘Sax In The City’, too, ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’, which features a pagansounding school recorder and pat-acake singsong, and a beautifully harmonized folk song accompanied by a mandolin, entitled ‘Chimpanzees in Canopies’. It’s a record that features no sampled instruments or extra musicians – every keyboard, guitar, drum, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin, cello, recorder, glockenspiel and ukulele was played by Rosa and Jenny, practically in a different, strange style on each of the 10 experimental tracks. “Because we were listening to so much pop music we worked out the aspects we liked but also what we didn’t like from pop music,” says Rosa. “For example, if you listen to a whole album of pop, it gets really samey, and that was the point where we thought how about we make an album where
every song is in a different style. “We can’t wait for people to hear ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’, because they’ve got us pinned as these creepy girls, which is how we’ve been presenting ourselves. But another part of our whole creepy thing is partly about not conforming to stereotypes. A lot of people do expect females in the music industry to be docile and acoustic and we’re not either of those things.” “The aim is to create a really strong response from people,” adds Jenny, “and that’s why it’s really fun having really jumpy tracks, because people are like ‘What!?’, and we’re like, ‘Yeaaah!’ As female artists, and especially young ones, you get so many people who think you’re going to sit down and play some folk, and then we bring the big synths in… “When people talk about emotions they talk about them as if they’re really clear cut, and they’re really not like that,” she says. “From when we talk about how we feel about things, it’s really difficult to tell exactly how you feel. It’s conflicting and confusing, and I guess that’s how it comes across as scary sometimes. And that’s how the album’s ended up pretty dark.” Its payoff is a closing ukulele rendition of the opening ‘Deep Six Textbook’ – the darling version you’d hear on an advert of an online dating site. “That’s like, ‘we’re teenage girls,’” says Jenny. “‘You thought we’d be doing this throughout the whole album but here it is right at the end, just to make you feel more secure.’”
hen the rain really starts to come down in Eaton Park we jump in a taxi to an artists’ studio in the centre of town. It’s just gone 3pm and the school Rosa left last year has recently kicked out. A kid she knows called Kyle is walking home, which instigates more laughter as we zip by. Rosa and Jenny are themselves enrolled in music college, where Let’s Eat Grandma counts towards their final grade. It’s called Access To Music and it’s where they recorded their album while they were still finishing their GCSEs. The facilities are a major perk, while the curriculum is based around how genres develop and a more experimental approach to composition. Rosa says that it’s important for them to be in the company of other teenagers, too, “otherwise you feel really separated.”
L ET ’ S EA T G RA N D MA IN EA T O N PA RK, N O RWICH. ST yled b y mar y benson. hair and make up b y Thomasin Waite.
When I ask them how their music fits in with the other students’ they say that it doesn’t – there are a lot of traditional band setups. Once the A&R clamour was over (and LEG really did have their pick of the indies) and Rosa and Jenny had signed with Transgressive, they tried to keep their new deal to themselves. Their classmates found out online, and were unanimously supportive. Still, it must feel strange for Rosa and Jenny – young adults enrol in music college as a step towards life as a jobbing musician, in one form or other; they’d managed it within five months of their first year. So what of college now? Rosa is still hopeful that they’ll be able to complete their second year, but doesn’t appear too confident that their commitment to the band will allow it. “I think it’s weird,” explains Jenny, “because compared to other people at college our goal has been quite different because we never thought that we wanted to be musicians – we just want to learn more and improve. Even though we’re doing the musician job now, we’re still working towards our goal because there’s always more to learn. Other people are aiming for the job route, but we’re aiming for the learning process.” College is a good place to start, but Jenny says that she learns just as much online, “reading about different murder cases and stuff. That’s not doing anything for this creepy thing, is it?” she laughs. “Or reading posts about science, micro genres and
interior design.” “We’re really into education, we just hate school,” says Rosa. “The school system, they’ve just got it wrong, basically.” “I feel like a lot of young people don’t feel fulfilled doing what they’re doing, but they feel so much pressure to do that,” adds Jenny. “It’s so nice to create something so freeing. For example, in the album if you literally just pick up all the places that are mentioned, they’re not real places, and it’s freeing to not feel like you’re in real life anymore.” She continues: “Some of my friends are such amazing people, and it almost upsets me because I feel like things have made them feel like they’re not good at anything. I really don’t know how to apply that to culture these days, or anything, but I love learning, and the way [the education system] works, it really puts people down. I’ve nothing against learning, which is why we go to college, but it’s about the way you teach, to make sure people feel as though they can do things.” ‘Deep Six Textbook’, although cryptic in its title (“Deep Six” is an old nautical term for throwing something overboard, and has come to mean the disposing of something so that it’s impossible to recover), is these feelings of disenchantment set to beautiful, foreboding music. “We live our lives in the textbook / Letter by letter / I feel like standing on the desk and screaming ‘I don’t care’ / And I was such a quiet child.” “That track can be applied to
different things in society, but we were studying for our GCSEs at the time,” says Rosa. “For us, it was about the education system – the expectations of it and that there’s this certain path you have to follow.” Forums and reviewers will soon enough be able to pore over Let’s Eat Grandma’s other lyrics for meaning and secret messages, but it’s an impossible puzzle to solve. It’s a thin line between abstract words with poignant backstories and literal, weird imagery that’s been written by a band when they were 14, nonsensical and amusing only themselves. Sometimes a slug is a slug, as is the case on ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’, which is also literally about cakes and fridges. As Jenny describes it, “It’s the playful music people expect young people to make, because we were even younger when we wrote that, but it’s got this synth base that tricks people.” Rosa confirms that ‘Sleep’ – a truly creepy netherworld waltz with jabbering, hard-to-decipher words – is purposefully abstract, because it was written subconsciously halfway between being awake and asleep, but the pair stop themselves from talking about any other tracks. They want to experience the glee of seeing so many people get it wrong, and I can hardly blame them. This is Let’s Eat Grandma’s own world, where nothing has changed since ‘Get That Leg Off The Banister’, or perhaps even earlier, when Rosa and Jenny met in reception class. They refer
to LEG as “just another one of our projects”, like the spy movies they used to make and tree houses they used to build and the time they had a spa day in their swimming costumes in the bath. By performing only to one another, without the hang-ups that separate adults from teenagers, they’ve allowed themselves to indulge their frivolities as they explore the darker sounds of experimental pop music. Lot’s of people are now looking in, but it’s all the same to them. I’m not surprised that the only time they’re stumped all day is when I ask them what they’d like the band to achieve. It’s an alien question, as if being together with music isn’t achievement enough. “That’s what they asked us at the bank and we don’t know,” Rosa finally says. “If we go to a house party and someone plays ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’, that would be success to me.” On the roof of the artists’ studio, they dance and sing to Michael Jackson playing on Jenny’s phone.
Bobby Gillespie Primal Scream are still trying to write hit singles, as the worldâ€™s last rock and roll band loudandquiet.com
tell me about it
Photography: jangelo molinari / writer: alex wisgard
’m not fucking sitting down behind a table.” These are the first words I hear leaving Bobby Gillespie’s mouth as I walk into a Bethnal Green photographer’s studio. While he eventually agrees to the photographer’s set-up, it’s an auspicious introduction to the still-intimidating, rail-thin Gillespie. Three decades after leaving his post as The Jesus and Mary Chain’s drummer to go full-time with Primal Scream, the frontman still cuts a daunting figure. We’re here to discuss the eleventh Primal’s record, ‘Chaosmosis’. A band of many styles, sounds and haircuts, the Primal Scream of 2016 has mutated into something of an elegiac synthpop act. It’s arguably their most cohesive, consistent, engaging LP since ‘XTRMNTR’, switching that album’s bludgeoning electro-paranoia with more gently insidious. ‘Golden Rope’, with a menacingly anthemic chorus and what Gillespie calls an “ominous, dark, apocalyptic” finale, is a particular highlight. When I tell the frontman that he might have just written his ‘Gimme Shelter’, he breaks into a boyish Cheshire cat grin that threatens to swallow his entire face. “Oh really? I love you! Your cheque’s in the post.” More pressingly, though, the usually-wired Glaswegian is coming over a little drained when we start talking. Not a fan of doing press, then? “No, I like interviews. I just woke up really early – about half four. I don’t usually remember having nightmares, but I woke up after having a weird cinematic fucking visual dream and couldn’t get back to sleep.” “But my brain’s OK,” he assures me. “I’m super alert.”
“Our manager made a remark along the lines of ‘I think you guys should try and write some singles.’”
‘More Light’ was a 70-minute double album, with nine-minute songs – we definitely didn’t want to do that again. Sometimes you need a bit of direction. Like when Andy Warhol said to Lou Reed, ‘Why don’t you write a song with the title ‘Vicious’?’ And Lou Reed said, ‘‘Vicious’?’ And Andy Warhol said, ‘Yeah, ‘Vicious’. Hit me with a flower.’ We wrote and recorded the last album in parallel with rehearsing for the ‘Screamadelica’ anniversary tour, so we put a few years of solid work in.
We felt really up at the end of that tour, so the first week of January 2014, we went back into the studio and started writing ‘Chaosmosis’. Sometimes we can go weeks and weeks without a good idea. This time, the good ideas came in the first week. I think ‘Where The Light Gets In’ was written on the 8th of January, ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’ came pretty closely after that. So it was fruitful. It’s normally a little bit more drawn out. It was happening. “No one puts everything into just making a classic single. We still do.”
We’re kids of glam rock, we were teenagers during punk, so we grew up on hit singles. My favourite album by The Who is ‘Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy’. For us, it’s a very important thing to come back with a really great single – it means you’re still creatively or aesthetically relevant. Whether we’re commercially relevant, I don’t know, but I would love it if it was a hit, because you fuckin’ penetrate the culture. When we had a hit single with ‘Loaded’ we were in the charts for weeks, and we went from being unemployed to being on a wage as musicians and being able to build a studio. It gave us the confidence to write ‘Screamadelica’, but we had to follow it up – next song, next song! If you listen to the Terry Farley mix of ‘Come Together’, it’s got a gospel choir, strings – we were really trying to make this classic, epic, pop record. People put that much effort into an album, and we were putting it into a single. Everybody just makes cool interesting albums now, but there’s no big songs. We knew ‘Where The Light Gets In’ was a great, great song. I saw Noel Gallagher at the end of last year, and he said, ‘Best chorus you’ve written in years.’ I took that as a compliment, because he’s a guy that spends his days trying to write big choruses. So, good one. Thanks Noel. “That’s the idea of ‘Chaosmosis’ – to make something beautiful out of the chaos.”
I came across the word ‘chaosmosis’ while reading a book by a writer I really admire called Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi – an Italian post-Marxist, workerist anarchist academic writer. A lot of the time with cultural theory
books, they’re talking to other academics or kids who are at uni. I love Berardi because he’s actually a good writer, and he makes it easy for people like me and my friends to understand – he’s aware that he’s trying to widen peoples’ consciousness. The book’s called ‘Heroes’, and it’s about how we’re living in an age of mass suicide and depression, which he links directly to the effects of financial capitalism. Berardi was quoting Guattari, who said that in the future there’s going to be a ‘miasma of fog’, and it’s never going to go away. People are going to have to try and live through it otherwise they’re going to be suffocated. And one way of doing this is to make ‘chaoids’, which I guess would be works of art that would give you some kind of strength or affirmation. And Berardi said that when he was writing his book, he was trying to make a chaoid. I guess what he’s saying is you’ve got this overload of information which is impossible to decode. Apart from the existential fucking blues of everyday life, you get the confusion of the infosphere, and images and radio messages and voices – just a constant barrage of sound and information. And I guess as an artist you try and absorb it, but you don’t keep it in your system, because it will psychically poison you. But you can try and make an artwork out of it, which makes, maybe not sense, but something beautiful out of the chaotic information that you’re being assaulted with, and has entered your consciousness and your body. Because I think you take this stuff physically. If you’re a sensitive person, that stuff definitely lodges in your psyche, and it affects you. It affects me. And Berardi’s going to interview me tomorrow for an Italian arts magazine. It’s fucking beyond amazing. The way he described chaosmosis, I thought we could apply that to our music, and our album. I think we’ve made a chaoid. So that was that. That’s what I take it to mean, anyway. I might meet Berardi tomorrow and he’s like, ‘You’ve got it all wrong, baby.’ “It’s very rare to hear real rock and roll anymore.”
We’re one of the last bands who can actually do it, and it’s a fucking fact. And I know that when we play ‘Rocks’, people go fucking nuts, because people go nuts when they hear real
rock and roll. It really is the music of the people. It really does generate a strong, powerful emotion in people when it’s done right. Same with ‘Country Girl’ – another one people go fucking nuts for. But when we play ‘Rocks’…bang! “I’m not saying I know a lot about music. Everybody thinks I do, but I don’t.”
Have you heard ‘Jesamine’ by The Casuals? It’s a big sixties pop song, and if you hear that and forget about the words, the melody is pure Bowie. It’s like ‘Starman’. I think all the really good artists – like the Stones, Bowie – they synthesised their influences and made all the great records we love. I think when you’re younger, music touches you in a certain way – you never forget that, and you never let go of it, and you always try and – not so much replicate it, but get that feeling in your own music. It’s a language you try and learn and use. But we’ve been going for so long now that our records aren’t what we listen to anymore, they’re just what we make. It’s just pure Primal Scream music. The title ‘100% or Nothing’ came to me, and I just thought it was a great title for a soul song. “The antidepressants don’t antidepress” – that’s my favourite line; it’s mocking. That’s aimed at somebody. This record’s got a lot of soul on it – ‘100% or Nothing’, ‘I Can Change’ – all black American sixties/seventies soul, me singing in a falsetto voice trying to sound like a black guy. It’s a dream of mine, to be like one of those black harmony bands like the Stylistics or the Delfonics. To sing like those guys would be beautiful. Have you heard ‘Jesamine’ by The Casuals? It’s a big sixties pop song, and if you hear that and forget about the words, the melody is pure Bowie. It’s like ‘Starman’. I think all the really good artists – like the Stones, Bowie – they synthesised their influences and made all the great records we love. I think when you’re younger, music touches you in a certain way – you never forget that, and you never let go of it, and you always try and – not so much replicate it, but get that feeling in your own music. It’s a language you try and learn and use. But we’ve been going for so long now that our records aren’t what we listen to anymore, they’re just what we make. It’s just pure Primal Scream
tell me about it love that as well – sometimes I love the artifice. I think it’s all valuable, it’s all relevant. I mean, like Roxy Music – people would say it was all artifice, but Bryan Ferry is really fucking soulful. He managed to hide it with a kind of ironic distance – the way he dressed it up with his image and his humour, but there’s really moments of pain in there. I guess he did that to protect himself. “The best stuff that we ever do is always personal”
They’re all personal records, some more than others. A lot of ‘More Light’ is very personal – everybody always says it’s political because it’s very – not didactic, but… [opens and closes his hands, chatterbox style]. The two best songs on ‘More Light’ are pretty personal. I’m not gonna say what they are [laughs]. And ‘Walkin’ With The Beast’ – I forgot about that one. That’s a real song. That song was written after seeing someone that I really love in trouble, but there’s a lot of me in there as well. Lots of our songs are empathetic songs; they’re painful, sad songs – death, people suffering. Am I allowed to say that? One day, I’d love to do a real strungout, psychedelic country record.
“The first Stooges album basically is The Troggs”
music. The title ‘100% or Nothing’ came to me, and I just thought it was a great title for a soul song. “The antidepressants don’t antidepress” – that’s my favourite line; it’s mocking. That’s aimed at somebody. This record’s got a lot of soul on it – ‘100% or Nothing’, ‘I Can Change’ – all black American sixties/seventies soul, me singing in a falsetto voice trying to sound like a black guy. It’s a dream of mine, to be like one of those black harmony bands like the Stylistics or the Delfonics. To sing like those guys would be beautiful. “Sky Ferreira is a hard act to follow.”
‘Everything Is Embarrassing’ is just so soulful, and it sounded to me like she was wounded – there was a real hurt to her voice. So I thought she’d be perfect to represent and carry that lyric in ‘Where the Light Gets In’. We’re like movie directors, and we’re casting the right actors for the part – that’s all we’re doing here. Sky never had a hit in Britain, I don’t even think she had a big hit in America. She’s well known,
but it’s cult pop. We had a relationship with Sky because we were writing songs with her for her album – I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. The lady is unique. She’s a really amazing singer, and an amazing presence. I would love it if she came on tour with us [laughs] SKY! But we’re still trying to work that one out. “How many records do you hear where you really believe the singer?”
I don’t hear that many. Even the ones that I love – old seventies and sixties soul songs – you listen to them, and they sound like they’re really bleeding. But they just turned up at the studio with a sheet of lyrics, and they sang it, got $100 and split, and got fuckin’ fucked up, wasted somewhere with some chicks. It was just like another job to them – so they were good actors or actresses. But we don’t care, do we? As long as it turns us on. The other thing is that people want authenticity. It seems to be that they need to believe that someone is bleeding for them. But sometimes I
The ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ compilation is very personal too. The Evie Sands song on there [‘Anyway That You Want Me’], you know who wrote that? Chip Taylor, the same guy who wrote ‘Wild Thing’. If you listen to the chorus, [sings riff] he can only write one song! He wrote ‘I Want You’ by The Troggs, which The Stooges nicked for ‘Real Cool Time’. Listen to the Troggs, then go and listen to the Stooges – it’s a bubblegum pop album, not a punk album. Iggy was just too smart to stick with it. Yeah, the Troggs – I think they must have been big in Detroit. When they were really primitive, they were really great. Fucking cool band, man. “We had no connection to the other C86 bands – we just happened to be on the same compilation!”
I know a lot of people your age that still like it. Sky Ferreira texted me two years ago and she was like ‘I’m watching Slowdive, they’re amazing.’ It’s really interesting the way that stuff’s influential now. The way we looked back to the 13th Floor Elevators and The Chocolate Watch Band when we were 22, 23 – kids seem to be
doing the same with C86 or shoegaze. It’s quite mad. Everybody says this, but we never really felt part of a scene. The bands that we liked were Felt, and The Loft, and I was friends with Stephen from the Pastels. We never played with any of those other bands. I don’t even know who else was on that fucking compilation! I know that we were track one, because the NME got behind that, and they created a scene. But I love ‘Velocity Girl’. About a year and a half ago, I was sitting with my acoustic guitar, and I worked out ‘All Fall Down’, ‘Gentle Tuesday’, ‘Imperial’, ‘Velocity Girl’ and ‘May the Sun Shine Bright for You’ from the ‘Sonic Flower Groove’ album. Y’know, these are the first songs we wrote. ‘Gentle Tuesday’ is fucking beautiful, I love that song. Andrew wants us to play ‘Imperial’ on this tour. “We promoted Sonic Youth’s very first Scottish gig. We gave them £500.”
I was part of a collective who ran a club called Splash One in Glasgow. The bands that we promoted were Felt, Jasmine Minks, The Pastels and the Shop Assistants. The Mary Chain played – not at our club, but at the place where we had our club. Jim Reid’s friend basically nicked our idea and did a poster like ours, so I had to play the gig at the bootleg club. We did it every couple of months on a Sunday night, and we DJ’d using cassette tapes. We’d make a playlist and put that on, because everybody was, I don’t want to say anal, but nobody wanted to take their records out and get them fucked up. That’s real record collector stuff. “We had kinship with thE Mary Chain, obviously.”
Because I was a link between the two bands. And I would get Alan McGee’s record sleeves printed – they were like A3, you folded them yourself. I knew a guy who had a printing machine in his garage, so Alan would bring up the artwork. That’s how I met Stephen Pastel – he gave me his artwork for ‘Something Going On’. Then people would sit with McGee and fold sleeves in his back room in Tottenham. And then we’d sleep on the mattress on the floor, three to a bed – all of the Mary Chain. Glamorous. New Sex Pistols, eh?
Dear Diary A decade after his premature death, J Dilla’s long lost album is finally getting an official release Photography: Roger Erickson / writer: James F. Thompson
here’s a great video series on YouTube called What’s in My Bag, produced by legendary Los Angeles record store Amoeba. The premise is pretty straight-forward: each episode, a musician rifles through the racks and chooses some stuff, heads to the till then sits down to explain what they’ve bought – and why. One recent edition saw an appearance by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with writer AmyJo Albany. Halfway through, the famous bassist pulls out a clutch of J Dilla records. “I just love J Dilla. I think he’s an absolutely transcendent, phenomenal musician,” he says, shuffling through some vinyl. Eventually Flea picks out one record in particular. “I listened to this record – this ‘Ruff Draft’ record – when I was in Big Sur by myself. I had headphones on and I was walking around on this trip through the hills and the mountains. It just like…” Tears start welling up in Flea’s eyes as he continues, voice trembling. “It touched me so deeply, and I remember I couldn’t stop crying, it was so powerful and like…” He scrunches his eyes tight shut, bows his head and pats the record, hard. “I really love this a lot,” he eventually says, triumphantly, smiling through the tears. Finding any art that touches the soul so deeply is rare enough, but finding hip-hop music that does the same is rarer still. Today, ten years after dying of a blood disease, the emotional reverberations from the productions of James Dewitt Yancey are still being felt. Musicians often share a similarly powerful reaction with Flea: Jack Barnett of These New Puritans sometimes wears a “J Dilla Changed My Life” t-shirt on stage, which is also the name of an annual club night in London. Tributes over the past decade have come from hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and De La Soul
through to jazz pianist Robert Glasper and many, many more besides. Yet for all the adoration and respect from fellow artists, J Dilla has remained something of a cultish proposition, his influence primarily refracted through the music of others instead of directly felt. During his lifetime, Dilla – also known as Jay Dee – worked behind the scenes producing big hitters of the day: people like Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock. His own music, though, made as part of hiphop group Slum Village and later by himself, never made a serious commercial impact, although 2006 record ‘Donuts’ remains a cult classic for real hip-hop heads. Eothen Alapatt was the general manager of J Dilla’s record label, Stones Throw, from 2000 and 2011 – also home to people like MF DOOM. Now he’s the Creative Director of Dilla’s estate and determined to carve out a fresh audience for his deceased client and erstwhile friend. “There are some people who channel a deeper, spiritual element through pop music,” Alapatt says on the phone, his enthusiasm palpable from the other side of the Atlantic. He reels off a list ranging from Dylan to Coltrane. “We come across them once in a while and it just becomes this profound, moving experience once you’re indoctrinated into the way they channelled that energy. People like Dilla speak, not just to the educated but to the everyman.” To that end, Alapatt has revived Dilla’s own record label, Pay Jay Productions, and is gearing up for the long-delayed release of ‘The Diary’, the final LP recorded during Dilla’s lifetime. Originally supposed to drop in 2002 but shelved and embargoed under controversial circumstances, the LP is finally getting released on April 15 this year, painstakingly assembled from two-track mix-downs and multitrack masters found in Dilla’s archives
after his death in 2006. Getting the record released represents a triumph of dogged loyalty to Dilla’s legacy in the face of all-butinsurmountable challenges. Towards the end of his life and facing death, Dilla entrusted Alapatt with archival duties across his vast corpus of work. Over the years that followed the producer’s passing, he found himself smothered in red tape, paying tens of thousands of dollars to navigate law suits and sacrificing working relationships as he set about figuring out a way to get ‘The Diary’ into the hands of the public. Now finally facing release, with guest vocal appearances from the likes of Snoop Dogg and additional producer credits going to Madlib, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek and House Shoes, Alapatt hopes ‘The Diary’ is as close an approximation as possible to what Dilla himself would have put out 14 years ago. “When Dilla stopped working on the record he had done multiple revisions of the tracks,” Alapatt says. “I was able to go through and piece together what were the latest versions that he recorded. To me, that’s an obvious and telling answer to the question of what Dilla wanted to do. He was a meticulous revisionist.” Slotting into Dilla’s discography right between his earlier, smoothersounding productions and his harder latter-day material, ‘The Diary’ is the sound of an artist at a crossroads. Nowhere is this more apparent than the two consecutive versions of ‘The Shining’ early in the record; the former a club-ready, bright-lit banger, the latter a murky sampling showcase and the proverbial other side of the coin. Whatever phase of Dilla’s career resonates most with fans, there is much to be mined here. For Alapatt, it’s also as good an entry point as any for the uninitiated. “I really feel like this album is a chance
for us to point a focused beam of light on this man, his life’s work, his catalogue and his story,” he says. “Hopefully it’ll take off from there.”
y all accounts, James Dewitt Yancey was already a musical prodigy when he was born on the east side of Detroit in 1974. The eldest of four children with a sister (Martha) and two brothers (Earl and John), Yancey built a deep knowledge of music through his parents (his father a jazz bassist, his mother a former opera singer), absorbing everything from Slave to Jack McDuff. Able to match pitch-perfect harmony at two months old according to his mother, by the age of two years old he was already collecting and listening to vinyl at a voracious rate. During his teenage years he formed a rap group with friends – Slum Village – after they bonded over a mutual love of rap battles. At night, Yancey would sequester himself in the basement alone, endlessly perfecting beats with a basic cassette deck. In 1992, he managed to acquire an Akai MPC sampler through Detroit musical connection Amp Fiddler, a session keyboardist who had worked with Prince, Parliament, and Enchantment. Fiddler taught Dilla how to use the MPC and soon Yancey was off and running as Jay Dee, his first moniker. Word of his talents travelled fast and by the mid-nineties Dilla was fielding calls at home from household names like A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. In 1996 the former were nominated for a Grammy with ‘Beats, Rhymes and Life’, which Dilla had gone on to produce. The emerging beat-maker distrusted the media circus surrounding the whole thing; Tribe rapper Q-Tip would later recall the difficulty of persuading him to attend
delivered a record entirely on his own terms. Booming funk is melded with bossa nova, krautrock and whatever else the producer was into at the time, making for a collection of songs whose unifying characteristic is their individualism. It’s a record nobody else could have made, and also one of the core entry points to his catalogue.
the ceremony. In 1997, Slum Village released their debut EP, ‘Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1)’. Its mix of smoothed-edge keys and scratchy soul samples wasn’t without its familiar charm but the real attraction was the beats: an unhurried, shuffling mix of inventive sampling and Dilla’s skilful programming. The record resonated well with fans of Detroit hip-hop and also gained the attention of Q-Tip, who championed them as successors of the socially conscious A Tribe Called Quest. Unfortunately, it was a label that the producer himself absolutely
ABO V E: J D I L L A a t m adlib ’ s E c ho p a r k s t u dio , lo s a ng ele s . 20 0 5 .
detested – a total misrepresentation, he said, of what he and his group had intended. “I guess that’s how the beats came off on some smooth type of shit,” he later admitted. “And at that time, that’s when Ruff Ryders [were out] and there was a lot of hard shit on the radio so our thing was, we’re gonna do exactly what’s not on the radio.” Dilla later enjoyed commercial success with ‘Amplified’, the debut solo record from Q-Tip, but it wasn’t until his own album, ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’, in 2001 – the first to be credited to J Dilla – that he finally
nsurprisingly, Dilla’s invaluable combination of mainstream production prowess and legitimate underground credibility led to calls from major labels. After a second record with Slum Village, Dilla left the group to sign with MCA Records that same year. “When he got signed to MCA, he was a hit-maker,” Alapatt tells me. “When he signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing too, his catalogue was worth millions of dollars – because the records he produced were all platinum records.” Yet rather inauspiciously, the producer came into conflict with his new label almost immediately. After producing an entire record for Detroit hip-hop duo Frank-N-Dank, Dilla was asked to re-record the whole album with fewer samples, to make it more commercial-sounding. Dilla obliged but neither version of the record was released. Undeterred, Dilla set to work on his next, as-yet-untitled solo LP the following year, again keeping the sampling to a minimum in what was possibly a nod to commercialism. Dilla decided to perform MC duties on the record, doling out production to Madlib, Kanye West and others. “He was way ahead of the likes ofTimbaland and Pharrell in terms of bringing a real funk sound, synthesisers and programmed drums to his music,” Alapatt argues. “But this is a guy who straddled a fine line between the underground and the commercial. Dilla’s given a deal to do whatever he wants for MCA, so you can imagine that there’s going to be a meeting [of those different sides of himself]. That’s what happened with this record.” Once again, MCA weren’t impressed and shelved it, this time for a host of reasons ranging from
personnel changes through to alleged scheduling conflicts. Dilla spent the next year or so, on-and-off, tweaking the record and oscillating between a rougher, more underground edge and a more commercially-led sound. It didn’t matter – the record was held in seemingly perpetual abeyance and Dilla was eventually dropped by MCA. Alapatt started working with Dilla during the album’s ill-fated production and for the remainder of the producer’s career while at the helm of Stones Throw Records. “I couldn’t believe he was working with us,” he remembers. “From my perspective we were small potatoes and this guy was the real deal. I only imagine this now because I’ve had a long time to think about it, but it must have been a traumatic experience getting dropped from MCA after so much expectation had been levied on him.” Dilla poured his frustrations with the MCA experience into ‘Ruff Draft’, an EP put out quietly and exclusive to vinyl by German independent outfit Groove Attack in 2003. The release marked a major shift in focus and for some – like Flea – it’s the best thing he ever recorded. “It’s the biggest fuckyou he could have possibly given to the commercial music industry,” Alapatt laughs, approvingly. Eschewing commercial considerations entirely, ‘Ruff Draft’ is totally uncompromising. “This one is for the real niggas out on the roll,” he raps on ‘Reckless Driving’, its walloping beats-and-bass combination almost leaving you out of breath by the track’s sudden end. “We’re off the chain,” he shouts into the mic, like a man indeed finally unshackled. From this point onwards Dilla began to exhibit a totally different, much rougher-edged side to himself. Dilla’s chastening experience with MCA certainly presaged the producer’s sharp change in direction but another catalyst was his worsening health and perhaps growing sense of mortality. After moving out to Los Angeles and collaborating with fellow producer Madlib, his illness – a rare blood disease called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura – worsened considerably. Dramatic weight loss left no option but to go public about his condition in 2004, confirming months of speculation. By November 2005, Dilla was performing on his tour of Europe in a wheelchair and the severity of his illness became clear. Finally, on 10th February 2006, James Dewitt Yancey died of cardiac arrest at home with his mother by his side. He was just 32 years old. Three days before his passing, Dilla had managed to release one final recorded statement – ‘Donuts’. An instant classic and a fitting epitaph for a near-imperious production legacy,
the instrumental, beautifully strange LP was pieced together from samples while the producer was literally on his death bed. As one reviewer noted in a retrospective review, its skittish stopstart sequencing and time signatures, scattershot tension and patchwork of melancholic soundscapes, point to an artist who knew he was running out of time. In an entry for the respected 33 1/3 book series on the LP, author Jordan Ferguson suggests that ‘Donuts’ in fact isn’t a hip-hop record at all. “It’s hip-hop as musique concrete,” he says. “Even knowing all the sample sources doesn’t make the sounds any more discernible in one’s mind… No, ‘Donuts’ is a game of resonant emotion, a mind meld between its maker and the listener.” It is at its core, Ferguson says, a record about death and dying; an exercise in self-reflection on mortality. Knowing all of this makes hearing ‘Stop’ – with its sweeping strings and Dionne Warwick refrain: “You’re gonna need me, you’re gonna want me back in your arms” – all the more harrowing. It also makes listening to ‘Donuts’ and the rest of the Dilla cannon even more essential. Just ask Flea.
a rough guide to dilla Three key releases from a man who changed hip-hop –
Oft-bootlegged throughout the 14-year wait for its arrival, Alapatt’s meticulously-crafted release of ‘The Diary’ might not match some die-hard fans’ preconceptions but there’s no arguing that it’s the definitive version of Dilla’s long-lost LP. Its 14 tracks pinball between the bass-heavy funk and minimal rhythms that would inspire Pharrell Williams (‘Fight Club’, ‘So Far’), and the scratchy, uncompromising sample work for which Dilla would become a hip-hop icon (‘Fuck the Police’, ‘Drive Me Wild’). As a record that straddles two distinct phases of Dilla’s career, some songs will land better with fans than others but all make for essential listening.
Starting off as an obscure, vinylonly EP released exclusively in Germany in 2003, ‘Ruff Draft’ was posthumously expanded into an LP’s worth of material in 2007. Representing the apex of Dilla’s fearless repudiation of commerciality after he was dropped by MCA, the record makes no allowances and brooks no compromise but is all the more compelling for it. Most tracks clock in at no more than two minutes or so but it doesn’t matter: each one makes its mark like a drive-by shooting. ‘Reckless Driving’ is probably the hardest thing Dilla ever recorded – its sheer power remains unmatched even today.
Recorded on the producer’s deathbed and released three days before his passing in 2006, ‘Donuts’ is the point in Dilla’s oeuvre at which his music transcends hip-hop and becomes high art. Its 31 instrumental tracks abruptly start and stop, snipped seemingly at will by a man perhaps reflecting on the premature end to his own life. Some of the samples are obvious, others oblique but none have been so masterfully woven across a record before or since. It’s a truly sublime parting gift from one of the greatest producers to have ever lived and the bible for students of sampling.
Reviews / Albums
Tim Hecker Love Streams 4ad By r eef y oun is . In sto re s Ap ril 8
Experimental. Musically speaking, it’s a word earmarked for the dissidents who inhabit a studiobased left-field, hunched over mismatched hardware stacks and Matrix computer screens, snaking wires and LEDS facilitating the freefalling data crunch as binary curiosity converts into an exploration of sound. Often the reserve for the Richard Jameses, Daniel Lopatins, and Tim Heckers of this world, it’s electronic adventures like ‘Love Streams’ that earn that curiously exalted affectation. Hecker deserves that status. The one-time political analyst PHD explorer of urban noise has made a brilliant habit of creating music that’s spectral and understatedly spectacular – technological without ever being circuit board tiresome. Over the course of his previous seven albums, he’s inhabited a
similarly familiar headspace of ambient, drone and abstract electronica, but his art has always been in the discernible nuances more so than defiant differences. On album number eight, however, Hecker shifts into distinctly more human territory, deconstructing vocals in a way only he can. And armed with 15th century choral motifs, polyphonic scoring software and a determination to explore and deconstruct vocals, ‘Love Streams’ is a triumph of dark harmony. From the low-end thrums of ambient and drone to the eerie echoes of the Icelandic choir that gloriously become the album’s muse, Hecker’s abstract electronica floats and fluctuates; stretches and mutates, always disparate but constantly morphing into something that transcends the experimental sum of its parts.
After opener, ‘Obsidian Counterpoint’ creates a celestial, Zelda ‘Ocarina of Time’ vibe, ‘Music of the Air’ swims into focus with the first wave of ghostly vocals drifting through the walls, carrying some of the eeriness that made his 2013 album, ‘Virgins’, such a compelling listen. That ethereal tension blooms into full, horror-movie suspense on the unsettling ‘Violet Monumental I’ and ‘Violet Monumental II’. On the former, voices whisper and chatter with a Sixth Sense tension to the sound of an off-kilter carousel in an abandoned fairground; on the latter, it’s the heightened sensitivity of an old house, every scratch and creak adding to the density of unease. And where the delicate ambience of ‘Up Red Bull Creek’ and the heady spirituality of ‘Voice Crack’ continue to make the vocals a pillar of the album, it’s on ‘Black Phase’ that
Hecker’s vocal exploration brilliantly converges with his refracting electronics. Touching on bleak Witch House aesthetic, the power comes in low and guttural as the vocal contrasts the darkness with a harmonised sweetness. Minimal in comparison to the rest of the album, each aspect is left to echo and bloom into empty seconds, briefly lingering before bleeding into the grinding, static drone. It’s a finale that beautifully underscores Hecker’s ambition, intent and consistently low-key evolution. From the ephemeral to the discordant, it’s the imperceptible fragments and figments of sound that makes this record so compelling. After almost 20 years and eight albums of experimentation, Hecker’s long past reasonable doubt, and ‘Love Streams’ continues to prove his brilliantly complex theory.
Cate Le Bon Crab Day Tur n s t il e By j ames f. t h omp so n. In sto re s a p ril 15
Up until now, the 15th day of April has generally represented one of two things: Easter Sunday or, over in the United States, Tax Day. But wait! Instead of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ or heralding the personal tax return deadline for financially prudent Americans, 15th April 2016 is actually Crab Day – the release date for Cate Le Bon’s fourth LP. Hooray! It’s the sort of thing Bank Holidays were invented for. “We should definitely set up that conference call for tomorrow,” says the boss. “Ah,” you say. “Actually we can’t. It’s Crab Day – remember?” Le Bon herself jokes cryptically in the album’s press release: “Crab
Day is an old holiday. Crab Day is a new holiday. Crab Day isn’t a holiday at all.” After all, this is the same Welsh singer-songwriter who called her last record ‘Mug Museum’, had the promo video for this one shot by a guy called Phil Collins and chose her stage name on a whim after seeing Simon Le Bon on TV at the Brit Awards. Oh and she’s also helpfully posing as a crab on the cover of ‘Crab Day’ as well. On first listen, the LP is possessed of the very sense of fun and playfulness that might be expected. “Swim across to meet me on crab day,” Le Bon implores on the opening title track. “Who am I to judge you on crab day?” Three songs
in, new single ‘Wonderful’ finds the 33 year-old singing about wanting to be a “motion picture film” or perhaps a “ten-pin ball” instead. Back on ‘Mug Museum’, Le Bon found herself preoccupied with some pretty heavy stuff (the passing of her grandmother and its impact on everybody around her). By comparison, then, ‘Crab Day’ can sound like a proverbial day at the beach, or perhaps the rock pools. Even some of the instrumentation here seems more light-hearted; jaunty xylophone and saxophone melodies abound. Fortunately, any sense of cloying levity is invariably punctured by a jittery rhythm section that recalls the
nervousness of early Talking Heads – all staccato drum beats and tightlycoiled bass lines – overlaid with unpredictable, razor-sharp stabs of guitar. It’s quite a leap from the scuzzy garage of the superb ‘Hermits on Holiday’ – the LP Le Bon jointly released with Tim Presley last year – and even better for it, too. In fact, despite that recent collaboration with Presley, ‘Crab Day’ actually pivots Le Bon well away from the sound of the sixties – hitherto her broad frame of reference – towards exciting new territory, riffing on late-seventies post-punk and beyond. If that doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t have to. It’s Crab Day – remember?
Eddie Johnston is part of a new generation of young, internet-savvy musicians currently being feted for displaying a heartening lack of reverence for perceived genre boundaries. Though still only 19 years old, the Wellington-based Drake-devotee first came to prominence in 2013 – via a collection of Casiotone rap covers uploaded to Bandcamp – and his influences extend from hip hop and R&B to shoegaze and punk. Combine this with endorsements from Lorde and
Ryan Hemsworth, and studio time with Perfume Genius-producer Ali Chant, and Johnston suddenly seems ideally positioned to deliver one of the standout debuts of 2016. The reality is a little less straightforward. Under Chant’s guidance, Johnston succeeds in bringing greater depth to his lovelorn bedroom-pop, while still retaining the intimacy that made his early, lo-fi productions so affecting. Integral to this is a shift away from tinny synths
towards guitars, alongside the sensitive application of strings – see the plaintive violin that sporadically swoons across ‘Kick in the Head’ – muffled keys and electronic beats. Sadly, bar intermittent and subtle use of Autotune on his semi-drawled vocals, there’s remarkably little here to suggest that Johnston’s interests extend beyond emo and alt-pop. The result is a set that’s more indebted to The Postal Service than it is Drizzy: good in its field, but not quite the culture-clash we were promised.
Lontalius I’ll Forget 17 par t i s an By gemma s amwa ys. In sto re s Ma rch 25
Higher Authorities Neptune
The Goon Sax Up To Anything
Mike & The Melvins 3 Men & a Baby
Parquet Courts Human Performance
Domi n o
Cha pte r m u s i c
sub po p
R o ug h t r ad e
By joe goggins . In sto re s ap ril 22
B y a l e x wi s ga rd . In s to re s Apri l 8
By T o m fe n w ic k . In s to re s A p r il 1
B y g em ma s a m way s . In s t o r es a p r il 8
Like Mac DeMarco releasing ‘Salad Days’ on April Fool’s Day (when else?), this new Liverpudlian psych outfit are deliberately releasing ‘Neptune’ on April 20th – Christmas Day for stoners. You can understand why, too; it is a woozy trip of an album, eschewing typical electronic structures and instead weaving intricate synth lines in and out of each other to create a musical backdrop that oozes menace. Their online presence is vague, but the band apparently comprises Ade Blackburn and Hartley of cult art rockers Clinic, with dub icon Adrian Sherwood behind the mixing desk. His presence weighs heavily, especially on ‘Monocle Man’ with its squelching, off-kilter beat, and ‘The Clone’, which simmers with tension. In places, the duo lay things on a little too thick, like on lead ‘Colour’, which threatens to collapse under the weight of its own rapid move through the synth gears, or the messy closing one-two of ‘Decades’ and ‘Neptune’. Still, this is a genuinely adventurous electronic record in a world awash with groups who only think they’re experimental.
I was in a band when I was a teenager. We wrote terrible music with abstract lyrics about our profound thoughts on the world, which were nothing particularly interesting to begin with. We tried to be something we weren’t, and that’s why we sucked. Australian trio The Goon Sax sound like teenagers. Their songs are awkward, with lanky hair and terrible posture. ‘Up To Anything’ is an album with zits. The production is rough, and songs like ‘Sometimes Accidentally’ and ‘Telephone’ are riddled with insecurity – “I never feel very comfortable with my body,” singers frontman Louis Forster. Meanwhile, ‘Home Haircuts’ doesn’t just stand as a depressingly relatable parable for anyone of a certain age, but a manifesto for the kind of band The Goon Sax want to be: “I show them a picture of Roger McGuinn, Edwyn Collins, John Lennon, David Byrne – it seems I just can’t win.” How wrong they are. ‘Up To Anything’ is some of the most brilliantly, brutally adolescent pop music to emerge in a very long time. I hope they never grow up.
Sixteen years in the making, ‘Three Men And A Baby’ is the afterbirth of a collaboration between Mike Kuna (of godheadSilo fame) and The Melvins. It was conceived (and partially finished) in 1999, only to end up on the shelf when the alt. supergroup got halfway through recording and – by all accounts – gave up. If you’re a fan of the The Melvins grinding riff-led doom rock, then this will feel worth the wait, with more than enough gristle to satisfy diehard fans on tracks like ‘Chicken ‘n’ Dump’, ‘Pound The Giants’ and ‘Bummer Conversation’. Although the real highlights are the sludgey sea shanty of ‘A Dead Pile Of Worthless Junk’, the heavy blues of ‘Dead Canaries’ and the funereal fervour ‘Gravel’. Unfortunately it’s an uneven affair.Tracks like ‘A Friend In Need Is A Friend You Don’t Need’ edge into Spinal Tap territory, while their deeper forays into speed/death metal territory on ‘Art School Fight Song’ are frankly interminable. Ageing, raging fans of Washington punk will be thrilled to know the dream lives on; but for everyone else it might as well be dead.
Considering the shoeing that 2015’s ‘Monastic Living’ received, it’s unsurprising to find Andrew Savage and pals abandoning their instrumental, noise-rock experiments after one EP. Instead, ‘Human Performance’ is the sound of a band hurtling back in the opposite direction. As per last LP ‘Content Nausea’, Parquet Courts’ compositions remain rooted in ideas of anxiety and disorientation. Savage’s insouciant drawl seems custom-designed for sifting through the detritus of modern-day living, as evident on ‘Dust’ where he makes the most banal of subjects seem sinister. He continues to sound thoroughly beaten down on the regret-fuelled title-track, but its sentiments are balanced by a summery, ’60s-inspired melody. There’s a lot of brightness here, be it the sleepy, Pavement-esque ‘Steady On My Mind’ or the bongo-flecked swing of ‘One Man, No City’, and these sunny interludes accentuate the ferocity of ‘Human Performance’’s more garage-y moments. By stepping back, Parquet Courts have taken a leap forward.
Without the context or back story ‘Potential’ exists as an imaginative, frequently catchy electronic album that marries grime, Baltimore club and UK dubstep in a way that demands repeat listens. But layer on the concept and a different dimension is revealed. After playing with the idea on his 2013 debut ‘Nonfiction’, this time Brooklyn-based producer James Hinton went all out. Over hundreds of listening hours he plugged in a set of specific (secret) search criteria to dig down into
YouTube’s vast catalogue of amateur videos to discover a series of vocal samples. What he found were clips of unknowns like teenage MC Kruddy Zak freestyling in front of brick wall (88 views) in London and Jamaican prison-officer-cum-reggae-artist Naturaliss (100 views) who’d record songs he kept in a dusty cardboard box. As Hinton got in contact, often by extraordinary means, a 21st Century digital crate-digging exercise turned into a heart-warming
social experiment as he got to know this group of collaborators. It’s all captured in a documentary, Superimpose, which follows the release of the album. Interesting as that is, it wouldn’t have the impact it does without the music. It’sThe Range’s best work yet, dancing synths, spectacular drops and immaculately crisp loops. Without the story it’d stand up as a beautiful piece of work, but add that in and it’s the most human electronic record released for ages.
The Range Potential d omi n o By gr eg co chr ane . In sto re s ma rch 25
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
John Carpenter Lost Themes II
Laura Gibson Empire Builder
Explosions in the Sky The Wilderness
son i c cath e dr al
sa cre d b one s
c i ty s l a ng
B ella Un ion
By der ek r ober tson. In store s ma r ch 25
By d an i e l d yl an w ray. In s to re s apri l 1 5
B y k ati e be s w ic k . In s to res a p r il 1
B y r eef y ou n is . In s t o r es a p r il 1
A little over a year since this Devonborn, Bristol-based four-piece released the critically acclaimed ‘Dying’ comes the imaginatively titled ‘Dead’; thirteen “reimaginings” of the tracks from their debut by a selection of artists handpicked by the band themselves. “The only instruction was ‘kill our songs,’” they claim, and from the opening salvo of ‘Drag’, whose 90 seconds of unsettling industrial noise has been stretched and warped into a threeminute pulsating demon by experimental drone trio Vision Fortune, it’s clear that everyone involved has tried to drive these songs right over the edge. Some achieve this better than others (Factory Floor, Mogwai, and Andy Bell infuse theirs with the same qualities they bring to their day jobs, the latter in particular turning ‘Sea Of Trees’ into a trippy, euphoric odyssey) but recasting brutally uncompromising noise rock across a variety of genres was always likely to lead to such highs and lows. Spectres should be applauded for their daring, and for continuing to forage their own unique path through music.
There are very few artists whose music has been so firmly planted in the mind of the listener – without actually having made an album – as John Carpenter’s. So when the film director, writer and score composer released his debut record, ‘Lost Themes’, last year, it felt like a continuation; a prolonged sense of evolution rather than a new birth. His superlative music for his films live on way beyond their contextual narrative, just as his eerie, dystopian sci-fi explorations are as much defining pieces of music for the medium and operation of the synthesiser as they are the cinematic events they’re usually meant for. He continues his well-honed craft and tone on album number two – the instrumental, synth-washed soundscapes could easily be creating a cinematic world here, but they exist their own all the same. There are whiffs of doom and dread on ‘Lost Themes II’, a lingering, ominous sense of pathos, and yet there’s sparkling euphoria also; a rising, propulsive churn that feels more contemporary in its execution, not too dissimilar to Fuck Buttons.
Portland musician Laura Gibson’s new album revisits the ’90s heyday of tortured female singer-songwriters. Back then, we used to listen to Jewel and Alanis on repeat, rubbing vicariously against the edges of their heartbreak, mainly because we hadn’t yet experienced any of our own. But now all that painful introspection feels a bit laboured and, well, self-indulgent. ‘Empire Builder’ is Gibson’s first effort since her critically acclaimed 2012 album ‘La Grande’, and, as you might expect from a musician who took an extended break to study creative writing, this record has a searching, narrative thrust.The songs are pretty enough, and Gibson’s voice – clear and delicate with that sad, sexy crackle – is certainly lovely listening. But, aside from the fun, clever ‘No Kids’, the tracks are a little atmospherically repetetive. It’s the kind of music you might play at a lowkey dinner party to signal the evening is winding down. And, ultimately, those slow, melancholic melodies and the mournful string sections leave one longing for something more upbeat.
Some things in life are certainties: death, taxes, and Explosions in the Sky creating post-rock backdrops of chin-stroking introspection. After six albums of similarly patient score-driven bombast, the Texan quartet’s painstaking consistency is a lauded hallmark delivered with business-as-usual predictability. In that respect, ‘The Wilderness’ is reaffirmation of Explosions’ sureness of purpose: a record that breathes and sighs with typically plaintive prettiness. On ‘Tangle Formations’, Chris Hrasky’s pounding work on the drums cuts through single-note piano and lamenting guitar; off another relentless Hrasky’s pummel, ‘Infinite Orbit’ booms into brief, guitar-driven life; on ‘Logic of a Dream’, distant vocals and thumping toms add some …Trail of Dead-esque tumult. Cynically, it’s almost become a checklist; a prediction of where and when the requisite loud/quiet dynamics will truly kick in. After sixteen years of creating a beautiful kind of emotional ambiguity, this time there’s just indifference.
Halfway into ‘New Misery’, the first solo album from former Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori, and I have no idea what I’m listening to. Is this rock? Indie? Psychedelic pop? What’s that heart-breaking guitar chord at the opening of ‘Be a Man’ and why does it give way to a trippy hollow whine? Am I projecting here, or can he really have been influenced by the Beatles and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and, maybe, Sam Smith? How can it do all this and still sound so beautiful?
Omori’s new album doesn’t know what it is, but then again, if you believe the lyrics, neither does he. And ‘New Misery’ is very obviously a search for the ‘self’, prompted, perhaps, by the break-up of the successful band he had fronted since high school. The emotional turmoil of such a significant life change fuels the music (as well as drugs, no doubt), with opening track ‘No Big Deal’ setting up the richly chaotic convention as it ricochets between optimism and despair. Each
song bleeds in and out of genres, defying classification, as if the past and future of Omori’s musical experience is crystallising into some new, as yet unnamed category. Where Smith Westerns were inspired simply by Brit Pop, here an orchestra of influences bubbles, perceptibly, into a delicious mash-up that, like any great cocktail, is stronger than the sum of its parts. Exciting and original. And proof that not quite knowing who you are is just fine.
Cullen Omori New Misery s u b p op By kat i e bes wi ck. In store s no w
0 5 /10
Khun Narin Electric Phin Band II
Autolux Pussy’s Dead
Guerilla Toss Eraser Stargazer
Inno vati ve Le i sure
By D an i el Dy l an Wra y. I n sto res Ap ril 1
B y J am es F. T ho m ps o n. I n s to re s Marc h 2 5
By Davi d Z amm i tt. I n s to r es A p r il 1
B y D er e k r o b er t s o n . I n s t o r es M a r c h 2 5
Predicting GNOD’s trajectory has become as impossible as it has futile. The Salford-based band have torn their way through brainhaemorrhaging psychedelia, monster drones, minimal techno, avant-garde noise and just about everything in between that’s even loosely connected to those sounds. A ceaseless impulse to move forward charges their music into new territory and it has made them one of the most exhilarating alternative groups in the UK. On ‘Mirror’ they’ve landed in early ’80s Swans territory, as growling, clattering scrap metal guitars clang and batter the ears. The guttural vocals manage to sound as rasping and fierce as any of the screeching instruments. It’s a cold, brutal, merciless record that never relents in its attack but it’s an utterly joyous one too, if early Godflesh records being put through a car compactor sounds up your street. It’s only three tracks long but as the end outcome feels like you’ve witnessed a crime or suffered an ordeal of some sort, this is an intensely corporeal record and one you won’t forget listening to in a hurry.
The music press loves nothing more than for bands to have a good story behind them and psychedelic street performers Khun Narin certainly oblige. A few years back the septet were plucked from all-but-total obscurity in their native Thailand by Los Angeles producer Josh Marcy, who saw one of their videos online and decided to help the band record their super-trippy debut album ‘Electric Phin Band’ in a field outside Lom Sak in 2014. If the idea of a Thai neopsychedelia outfit sounds improbable, bear in mind that they openly sell magic mushroom milkshakes on islands like Koh Phangan (seriously, look it up). In any case, this second LP very much picks up where the last left off, again centring on the effectsmaimed sound of the phin, a threestringed lute. All eight tracks are instrumentals and none of them follow Western conceptions of conventional song structures, instead sounding like surrealistic, spliced-up improvisations of traditional Thai folk. Coupled with hard psychotropic drugs, ‘II’ is probably quite the listen but without them, it’s all rather tiresome.
The infrequency of Autolux’s releases (they put one out every 6 years) means they’ve moved from post-punk to jazz-infused electronic pop in the space of 3 LPs, and ‘Pussy’s Dead’ is a reminder that it’s been far too long since 2010 ‘Transit Transit’. A melee of textures, it layers distorted trip hop bass hooks and aggressive percussion on top of Boards of Canada-esque tender, synthesised chords. The crisp, cutup production, courtesy of Beyoncé and Run The Jewels desk-manner BOOTS, is also superb. The result is a tense and disorientating, absorbing experience that feels always on the cusp of exploding. The choruses are catchier than ever before. Think the Postal Service with balls. Crucially, Greg Edwards, Eugene Goreshter and Carla Azar have created a cohesive sound for the first time so that although the range of melodies is impressive, it feels like an album. Highlights: the ’90s, Eels-y sunshine of ‘Selectallcopy,’ ‘Change My Head,’ with its Beatles choruses, and ‘Becker,’ the bruising, kaleidoscopic closer of this bruising, kaleidoscopic album.
Cards on the table, if you’re a fan of Boston party band GuerillaToss and what they do, you’re probably going to dive right into this fizzing, unhinged pool of energy and chutzpah and never want to come out. But approach it as a neutral, and it’s far harder to love. Or even figure out what’s going on half the time. There are moments where they seem to have thrown every idea possible at a song, then added a few more for good measure; stabs of synths, funky slap bass, and shrieking shards of guitar all jostle for space. Because the group has been compared to Echoes-era The Ratpure before now (somewhat optimistically), ‘Eraser Stargazer Forever’ is out on DFA, and just occasionally they dial back the madness and let some melody and groove float out. Parts of the crazily epic ‘Grass Shack’ and the opening few bars of the title track even suggest this band really could command a dancefloor if they wished. As it is, they seem wedded to chaos, and the idea that more is definitely more. After spending some time in their company, I’m really not sure it is.
Kevin Morby’s first two records marked him out as a difficult fellow to read. Clearly still grasping for a firm hold on his strongest stylistic ground and lyrically fairly abstruse, you couldn’t easily accuse him of bringing the stories behind his songs to the surface. On ‘Singing Saw’ that’s changed – this record was essentially born out of his involvement with a recreation of The Band’s final gig and his move to Los Angeles, and boy, does it show. The sprawling title track is pure
panoramic Americana, but still feels tight despite Morby throwing in the instrumental kitchen sink. The shadowy blues of ‘Drunk and On a Star’, augmented gorgeously with sweeping strings, provides a highlight, but whilst the album feels at its most thrilling when Morby’s letting loose – the rollicking ‘I Have Been to the Mountain’ and the classic rock fizz of ‘Dorothy’ being cases in point – it’s the quieter and more languid moments that really flag up his progression as
a songwriter. Ghostly backing vocals and rich, clinically-positioned brass are omnipresent throughout ‘Singing Saw’, and on album standout ‘Destroyer’ (by turns pretty and haunting), the wandering saxophone and vocal back-and-forth between Morby and the three-part harmonies of his collaborators Lauren Balthrop, Hannah Cohen and Alecia Chakor linger long in the memory. This is a real gem from a man who’s long hinted he was capable of one.
Kevin Morby Singing Saw dead oc ean s By joe goggi n s. I n sto res a p ril 15
White Denim Stiff
The Body No one Deserves Happiness
Aries Adieu or Die
Teleman Brilliant Sanity
Red By sam wal ton . In store s ma rch 25
There’s plenty to potentially hate on White Denim’s seventh album, with its monocultural, retro stylings and straight-white-male dude-rock 40 years out of date at best. But for every anachronistic element of ‘Stiff’, there are at least five examples of joyful virtuosity and unapologetic fun that make it an irresistibly loveable record, despite itself. Make no mistake, ‘Stiff’ is deeply conservative, throwback blues rock, but criticising White Denim for not being Stormzy or Joanna Newsom seems akin to asking Usain Bolt why he can’t write poetry: like Tarantino’s unapologetic appropriation of old cinema, White Denim’s homage is presented here with enough zest and nonchalance that they can carry out the biggest stylistic heists with seemingly just a smile and a shake of the hips. ‘Stiff’ is the sound of being that little bit drunker than you anticipated. It’s proper beer music to play air guitar to. In 2016, the gap in most record collections for this sort of atavistic bravado is slender indeed – but personality, it appears, really does go a long way.
K Re c o rds
Mo s h i m o s h i
By c h ris Watk e ys . I n s tor e s a pri l 1
B y g ui a c o r t a ssa . In s t o r e s a p ri l 8
According to the band, ‘No One Deserves Happiness’ is a 50-minute long quest to make “the grossest pop album of all time.” This aspiration speaks more to The Body’s warped definition of what a pop album sounds like – with birdlike shrieks, industrial drum machines and doom metal guitars, it’s not exactly Taylor Swift. Still, if not exactly catchy, there’s something perversely fun about the fifth album from the Rhode Island duo.The kitchen sink approach to grim, grinding grotesquery calls to mind Swans in running clown makeup, particularly on ‘Adamah’, which forces Maralie Armstrong’s soulful vocal to writhe and twist over four minutes of pummelling noise. ‘Prescience’ and ‘The Myth Arc’, the album’s final two songs, throw the biggest curveballs of all. The guitars crawl through the same four chords, the drums trudge, and the wordless vocals ominously echo like a Catholic mass on Sunday. The previous eight tracks of relentless slow-motion misery are cast into sharp relief by something which, whether we deserve it or not, almost sounds like happiness. Touché, The Body.
‘Adieu or Die’’s opening track, ‘Lagrimas I’ (‘Teardrop I’), is a piece of saccharine electro-pop with that distinctive quality that makes it reminiscent of console game music from the ’90. This is the third album of bedroom pop from Spanish artist Isabel Fernández Reviriego, and the songwriting is by no means a weak affair; ‘Memorias’ is exquisitely constructed and hooky in a sunny kind of way. After nine very short vignettes, the closing title track is an elevenminute behemoth of ambience, culminating with the sound of waves crashing and birdcalls. At its best, the brightness of the music casts a sunny glow. It’s pleasant listening, but feels thin and insubstantial and isn’t likely to leave a lasting impression, either emotionally or viscerally. For the most part, ‘Adieu or Die’ is the soundtrack to an outdoor summer party at which everyone is too wrecked to care what’s on the speakers. Put this record up against the best electronic pop of recent years and its lightweight nature is all too obvious.
Picking ‘Brilliant Sanity’ as a title for their second album couldn’t have been more appropriate for Teleman. The former trio, now a four-piece with the addition of drummer Hiro Amamiya, with its mix of classy pop and ’80s bits, finally managed to leave behind the “ex-Pete-and-thePirates” tag and create an original style. Joining forces with producer Dan Carey and recording in his Streatham studio, the band definitely wiped off the last scraps of indierock from their songwriting, here shaping a neater and more structured sound. Tommy Sanders’ peculiar voice tone finds a perfect fit in this fresh synth pop informed by New Wave yet still reminiscent of Brit Pop.Thus, if the opening ‘Dusseldorf’ sounds like a mash up between the Buggles and Blur, hints of Talking Heads and Roxy music can be caught in tracks like ‘Drop Out’ (with its ‘Psycho Killer’-ish bassline) and ‘Glory Hallelujah’, while ‘Devil in My Shoes’ takes you back to the great ballads of Cool Britannia. It’s not too cool itself, but ‘Brilliant Sanity’ is that smart kind of indie pop, and Teleman’s finest work yet.
A lot has happened since we last heard from The Last Shadow Puppets. David Cameron somehow stumbled to power (twice), Will and Kate not only tied the knot but took the time to consummate it (at least twice), Kim Jong-il counted his last sheep and Edward Snowden moved to Russia. Alex Turner’s Arctic Monkeys also released a trio of LPs (and went into hiatus), while fellow puppet, Miles Kane, put together two (much less good) albums of his own. Fair play to all of them.
The conventional narrative will of course go thatTurner dropped off his starch-collared leather jacket in the cloakroom for safekeeping while he dons something a little lighter. In reality, however, ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ could quite easily be the follow-up to Arctic Monkey’s ‘AM’ from 2014 or Kane’s slightly older half-sibling ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’. The obsession with ’50s rock’n’roll and rockabilly continues, while the doo-wop and baroque pop of the group’s debut is dusted off
again so that it feels, ultimately, like much less than eight years have passed. It is, nonetheless, a solid collection of songs and should be judged as such. ‘Miracle Aligner’ and ‘The Element Of Surprise’ with their ’60s funk and soul cues, are standouts while ‘Sweet Dreams,TN’ could pass for Roy Orbison until Turner’s 21st century South Yorkshire take on romance wakes you up with a jolt: “Everyone seems like a dick without you, baby.” Awww.
Th ri l l j o c k e y B y a l e x wisga rd. I n sto r es mar c h 2 5
0 7/ 1 0
Last Shadow Puppets Everything You’ve Come to Expext do m i no By dav id zamm itt. In store s a pri l 1
Charles Bradley Changes du n h a m/ d apton es By Sa m Wa l t on . In sto re s A p ril 1
So much of Charles Bradley’s appeal is reliant on backstory and live performance in a sort of shot/ reverse-shot pivot that most studio albums can feel little more than a bystander. It’s telling, for example, that the only canonical album by James Brown (whom Bradley impersonated professionally for 40 years before making his breakthrough in 2011, aged 63) is his live LP from the Harlem Apollo. Shorn often of the grit, intensity and whites-of-theeyes communication off which the best soul music thrives, studio albums can often become an exercise in chops over expressivity, which renders judging someone like Bradley based on his discography a
bit like appraising Lionel Messi’s footballing skills by watching him play FIFA. That’s not to say ‘Changes’ is a bad album. Indeed, it’s a terrifically listenable, expertly performed set of songs full of groove, melody and likeable arrangements that, while not quite serving as a mirror for Bradley’s scorching live show, at least acts as a decent proxy, right down to Bradley introducing himself in the opening seconds of the first track, and parting with a soppy waltztime lullaby for the last. Taken on its own terms, though, ‘Changes’ is tonally curious. At times deeply patriotic, full of broadbrush sloganising (“America
represents love for all humanity in the world,” says Bradley on a track called ‘God Bless America’, which seems an unusual stance for a man who insists he has been wrongly jailed twice), elsewhere Bradley is strikingly personal, with the central trio of ‘Ain’t It A Sin’, ‘Crazy For Your Love’ and ‘You Think I Don’t Know’ all direct exercises in comeuppance for a specific, unnamed person who has clearly crossed the singer. For all the album’s enjoyably doting observance of soul’s musical tropes, too, it also walks the line between homage and straight-up theft precariously: while Bradley’s frequent James Brownisms are perhaps understandable, the
quotation of ‘Summer Breeze’ midway through ‘Nobody But You’ seems blatant to the point of provocation. Ultimately though, while it’s virtually impossible for music this life-affirming to ever appear stale, it’s also difficult for it to truly sing from within the confines of a disc, and that leaves ‘Changes’ feeling more like a lovingly crafted, elongated promo for Bradley’s tour than anything more freestanding. In that regard, it works – songs like ‘Ain’t It A Sin’ and the title track’s Black Sabbath cover simmer here with the threat of an eruption on stage – but otherwise ‘Changes’ is a holographic stand-in for the ravaged real McCoy.
Six years have passed sinceYeasayer made their mark on the wider world with second album ‘Odd Blood’, a record that hammered home the fact that in their hands electronic pop was a thing of real beauty. They’re a band who, at their best, can conjure a feeling of pure euphoria both live and on record, and whilst their last album, ‘Fragrant Worlds’, was short on these moments, it feels like ‘Amen & Goodbye’ is reaching for them once more. The New York trio have always
had their epic tendencies, but in opener ‘Daughters of Cain’ they appear to have gone full conceptalbum on us; a slow, sweeping, anticipation-building slice of music, which is straight out of the annals of prog rock and more inline with their debut album, ‘All Hour Cymbals’. Such semi-ironic posturing is now pierced immediately by a segue into the superb ‘I Am Chemistry’, which is, truly, pop music at its finest – slick, shiny, huge-sounding and laden with hooks. And there’s a
children’s choir to boot, while ‘Silly Me’ is reminiscent of early Madonna, and ‘Half Asleep’ is shot through with overt eastern influences and sitar. But it’s the lengthy mini-epics that are the album’s highlights, and ‘Gerson’s Whistle’ sees Chris Keating and Anand Wilder emote and vocally posture with unabashed earnestness. ‘Amen & Goodbye’ is a heavyweight album. For those who mourn the scarcity of ‘credible’ pop, give thanks for Yeasayer.
Yeasayer Amen & Goodbye mut e By c h r i s wat ke ys. I n sto re s ap ril 1
p h o t og r a p h y : GA B R IE L GR E EN
Reviews / Live
Grimes Brixton Academy 10 / 0 3 / 20 16 wr i ter : Gemm a sam ways Ph oto gr aph er : danie l q ue sada
In my cosy little corner of the Internet, everyone loves Clare Boucher. Everyone. I mean, obviously there’s a possibility that some people don’t – and daren’t admit it – but really she’s made it hard for anyone not to love her. We’re talking about the madcap genius who once sailed live chickens, 20 pounds of potatoes and a sewing machine down the Mississippi on a homemade houseboat. The sort of champ who had the front to rock up to Richie Hawtin’s Ibiza pool-party and drop ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ live on Boiler Room TV. The electronic-pop visionary who delivered one of the best albums of 2015, just as people were starting to doubt whether she had it in her to match 2012’s ‘Visions’. I say Boucher has more guts, talent, imagination and ambition than any of us, and I’m
citing ‘Art Angels’ as evidence. Swapping the online echo chamber for a real-life one, and tonight’s capacity-crowd loves Boucher too. When the audience goes berserk following ‘Flesh Without Blood’, she stands beaming, bashfully covering her face. “You must stop, it’s really stressful,” she chastises as the cheers continue to swell. “I appreciate you guys being vocal [and] clapping – I’m just shy.” The crowd is excitable for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’ve had to wait nearly four years to see Grimes live in London. Secondly, they’ve lived with ‘Kill V. Maim’, ‘Venus Fly’ and the rest since November, and are understandably hyped to hear them live. And they’re only reciprocating the energy and enthusiasm that Boucher and her team project onstage.
Assisted by opening-act Hana, two black-clad dancers and a brilliant lighting technician, Boucher powers through a near-flawless set of glittering alt-pop that’s driven by blistering electronics and infused with all the heaviness of hard-rock. She is never stationary for a second, bounding between her raised platform of synths, sequencers and samplers and the very front corners of the stage, variously kicking, pogoing and lunging. During the searing rendition of ‘Scream’, she falls to her knees, head-banging violently as she spits out a Russian translation of the words that Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes originally performed. BloodPop-collaboration ‘Go’ is particularly strong, and it’s also the first of at least three songs that Boucher introduces as “my favourite.”
The twinkling, jewellery box-melody of the verses showcases her pitchperfect vocals – which possess an almost choral sweetness – and accentuates the aggression of the bass-heavy, blitzkrieg chorus, during which her dancers twirl daggers. ‘Visions’ cuts ‘Be A Body’ and ‘Oblivion’ both receive rapturous receptions, but it’s the non-encore encore (she never leaves the stage) of ‘Kill V. Maim’ – complete with laser gloves – that blows the roof off Brixton. Hearing thousands of voices bellowing the barbed refrain, “I’m only a man, do what I can,” back at Boucher feels like a fitting conclusion to a night showcasing female strength. Sure, she fluffs a few lyrics, but tonight’s performance is a triumph, and every single one of us leaves wanting to join Grimes’ gang of freaks and geeks.
Tortoise Village Underground, Shoreditch
Eagulls Oslo, Hackney 02 / 03 / 2 01 6 w r it er : do m in i c h a ley
23 / 0 2/ 20 16
P h o to g r a ph er : da n iel q u es a da
wr iter : sam wal to n
With his battered army coat and curtains flopped into his eyes, George Mitchell looks more like one of the kids who used to smoke cigs at the far end of my school field than an aggressive punk singer. Expecting Eagulls to launch into a typical set of urgent, thundering punk, they immediately confound further as they start up new single ‘Lemon Trees’. The combination of the acid house visuals projected against Olso’s back wall and Mitchell’s rhythmic head swaying conjures up faint echoes of the Stone Roses. The run of older, snarling tracks does come, but for the new, practically pastoral songs (Eagulls as an “undersea version of REM or The Smiths”) we get a glimpse of where this band are right now – caught between swaggering post-hardcore and more sonically adventurous, braver pastures.
Most bands lack one decent drummer. The fact that Tortoise has three operating at genius level is their greatest weapon, and it’s deployed tonight with such brutal precision that at points – especially when Johns McEntire and Herndon are squaring off against each other on opposing kits at the front of the stage – the band start to resemble some behemothic, angular techno monster. Top this rock-solid foundation with endlessly knotty melodies and the result is a bravura performance that feels at times almost mysteriously tight. “It’s only bloody Tortoise!” exclaims one heckler during a lull between pieces, joyous incredulity running through his Lancastrian burr as if he can’t quite believe what he’s witnessing. The knowing laugh that greets his interjection suggests he may as well be speaking for the whole room.
Whitney MOTH Club, Hackney 18/ 0 2/ 20 16 wr iter : Gr eg cochra ne
Za! Picture House Social Sheffield 20/0 2 / 2 0 1 6
Anderson Paak XOYO, Old Street
Thomas Cohen MOTH Club, Hackney
07 / 03 / 2 01 6
w rit e r: s am wal t o n
w r it er : j a m es f . th o m pso n
“Damn there’s a lot of you motherfuckers here!” chirps Anderson Paak with a broad grin, bouncing on stage and surveying his already sweating audience who have been grinding to his DJ’s warm-up jams for the last half hour. And it’s true: XOYO is disconcertingly packed, and disconcertingly jumping, too, making for a febrile atmosphere off which Paak gorges. Whether doing the time-honoured hip-hop “hands-up” routine, or rapping from behind his drum kit playing Curtis Mayfield covers with instinctive, insistent propulsion, there’s an undeniable aura emanating from the front of the room, where Paak does a pretty passable dancing audition for the lead singer in Future Islands, all gangly slow-mo limbs in a sort of ketamine Riverdance, and stage dives for the encore. It’s a giddying, joyful, addictive spectacle.
Until now, Thomas Cohen has been known primarily for his marriage to the late Peaches Geldof and the remorseless paparazzi hounding he’s endured since her passing. This is a real shame. The truth is that Cohen’s nascent solo music career deserves proper attention on merit alone. Tonight he strides onto MOTH Club’s sparkly stage looking like he was born to be a rock star, resplendent in his snazzy suit and with a billowing mane of jet black hair atop his head. Perfunctory thank-yous aside, Cohen gets on with rocking his way through debut solo album ‘Bloom Forever’. It’s a rollicking, lively set; guitar theatrics, saxophone solos and furiously rolling drums making for a raw, livelier-than-expected reading of the new record and marking Cohen out as a young singer-songwriter with an edge.
writ e r: Dani e l D yl an wray
It’s 24 hours after the Brit Awards and large parts of the music industry, a lot of whom who’ve struggled here tonight, are still nursing hangovers. Chicago buzz band Whitney, featuring two former members of The Smith Westerns, are getting on their own mission. “I’m a bit drunk,” apologises drummer and vocalist Julien Ehrlich before taking a seat for the band’s first UK show. Cramped onto MOTH’s small platform he takes centre stage as six band mates form a crescent around his kit in front of a glittering backdrop. The Mariachi folk of single ‘No Woman’ and the bubbly indie of ‘No Matter Where You Go’ aren’t even the high points in a set that’s soulful, uplifting and exceptionally tight, boding well for their summer debut album. Music to sooth sore heads, then, and worth getting excited about.
The two-piece Za! begin their show by snaking through the audience with friends in tow, tooting horns, hitting snares and drumming the walls. It’s like a mini carnival procession and instantly becomes emblematic of the sort of spirited, frenzied and manic energy that they inject into the room for the rest of the evening.Tempos switch as frequently as the genres and they play an hour or so of music that moves with such pace from one thing to the next it almost displays a sense of restlessness. However, it also displays a rabid sense of unpredictability and this is where the excitement comes from. There are mini math-rock implosions, screeching blasts of hardcore, electronic tinkering’s and all under a sonic umbrella of something so esoteric and askew in tone and delivery it evades genre altogether.
Sonar Reykjavik, Iceland Harpa Concert Hall 19 - 20 / 0 2/ 20 16 writers : sam wa lto n Photograph er: Flo ria n Tryko wski
Compared with the standardised vision of a European electronic music festival that exists in the British collective imagination as beach bars, sunrise sets and Mediterranean decadence, the prospect of one taking place on a volcanic rock in the north Atlantic, with uncompromisingly brief daylight hours and an ocean view that comes with giant Viennetta mountains in the place of palm trees, is, to say the least, rather intense. And don’t Sonar know it. Perhaps aware that they’re incapable of offering the untrammelled house joy and scorchio vibes of their parent weekender in Barcelona, the website for the festival’s Reykjavik edition unapologetically offers a “stark contrast against the Icelandic winter and the arctic darkness outside.” In fact, Sonar Reykjavik turns out to be more of a compliment than a foil to Iceland’s extreme environment, and for the better: instead of a weekend meandering around various venues in a balmy European town, Sonar Reykjavik is three nine-hour blasts of, variously, experimental art music, gratifying hands-in-the-air jamboree and even the odd band, all concentrated into Harpa, a hulking multi-room concert hall complex that feels like the architectural realisation of Picasso doing set design on the Crystal Maze. Top that cake with the cherry of a largely local crowd eager, it appears, to reinforce their international reputation for being any iteration of burly and top-knotted, impishly beautiful or simply relentlessly chiselled and hardcore, either dressed to the nines or raving in hiking boots, and the stage is set for a gloriously overwhelming sensory blowout. Because Harpa’s five rooms are metres rather than miles apart, too, Sonar Reykjavik resembles not so much a boutique city festival as a sort of choose-your-own-adventure style superclub, offering hugely varying levels of brain-melt depending on what you’re into, and thankfully rendering an autistic schlep through each act on the bill in any given venue entirely avoidable. Instead, extreme picking and choosing was the watchword, and the careful programming meant that each time there was mind-fucking white noise in one room (in particular
Oneohtrix Point Never’s set, accompanied as it was by 20 minutes of strobes fired straight at the crowd), beatifically accessible minimal electro was the antidote next door (in this case courtesy of Kiasmos). Similarly, what appeared clashtastic on the programme (Holly Herndon vs Floating Points; Squarepusher vs Lone) simply encouraged a rather luxurious feeling of dilettantism as you dipped in and out of different rooms. By the same token, while each night the building’s basement car park offered the experience most analogous to a sweaty techno box, all low ceilings, low light and low end paired with a rolling array of DJs that ranged from enticingly inclusive (Black Madonna) to the unforgivingly pounding (local hero Bjarki) via seductively studied eclecticism (Ben UFO, with potentially the set of the weekend), the SonarPub area pitted DJs offering something a little lighter alongside, incongruously, table tennis and pinball tables. And splitting the difference between those extremes is an intimate 150-seater auditorium clearly designated for peak chin-scratchin’, head-bobbin’ think-piecin’ intellectual appreciation. Of course, the frequent complaint about prestigious electronic music festivals, and the wider genre too, is that it can have a tendency to take itself a touch too seriously: after all, an air of pseudiness can sometimes linger when furrow-browed men
(and, usually, it is men) start to deconstruct music that, at its origins, at least, was designed to facilitate total cerebral abandon. Although Sonar Reykjavik is by no means immune to this phenomenon – Squarepusher’s phantasmagoric display of addictive drill’n’bass drew gently appreciative yelps, yet it was the encore of ubernoodly live bass voluntary which garnered the earnest applause and, improbably, lighters held aloft; equally, Koreless’ magnificent chest-rattling techno was confined to the sit-down auditorium, inevitably trading most of its visceral punch for considered discourse – another of the festival’s programming virtues was in its continual lightness of touch via a seam of delightfully preposterous (and preposterously named) acts that ran through the schedule. President Bongo and the Emotional Carpenters offered dreamily drifting motorik psychedelia with a sense of the absurd, the nonemore-Nathan-Barley VaginaBoys – a local band of mask-clad pranksters playing PC Music versions of Bon Iver songs – presented ludicrous projections generated from emoji, and !!!’s barnstorming set was as much Gary Lineker at Italia ’90 as it was Nile Rodgers at Studio 54. (Also: is it against the spirit of Sonar’s crate-digging underground coolness if I nominate Hudson Mohawke dropping ‘Higher Ground’ at the end of an utterly rabble-rousing set being, if not one strictly for the heads,
probably the single best moment of the festival?). Elsewhere, too, there was plenty of entertainingly bizarre performances to counteract any dangers of it all getting a bit too heads-down, not least in the form of Zebra Katz’s pairing of a stab-proof vest with leather hot pants and a stage invasion, Angel Haze giving out red roses to the front row of her audience, or in Holly Herdon’s mesmerising interactive projections. But for all the praise of the festival’s eclecticism, genuinely something-for-everyone approach and skilful pricking of potential pomposity, perhaps Sonar Reykjavik’s organisers were right, and its crowning achievement does indeed lie in its intensity after all. And usefully so, too: as the first night wound up, revealing the sort of snowstorm that downs planes, with gales blowing multi-direction blizzards against the poor bastards at the taxi rank and other more gungho types attempting to walk home, leaning into the hoolie at 45 degrees to the ground, it becomes abundantly clear that a good festival isn’t made or broken on a series of performances, but by something more intangible to do with the people and the place. Where such extreme weather elsewhere in the world would’ve sodden any residual euphoria at the end of the night, in Reykjavik’s slightly extra-terrestrial setting with its colossal background geography, it appears only to further warm the soul.
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
Rock and Roll High School (1979)
Do you have a film you always insist on introducing people to? The one where you say “What – you’ve not seen xxxxxx!? We must watch it RIGHT NOW!” And you sit them down and make them watch the full film no matter whether you’re meant to be at work, nursing a sick relative or dunking a baby at a christening – all things can wait until they’ve seen this essential piece of movie history. And then, while you’re watching, you realise actually the film isn’t that good after all. How did you manage to get so excited over it? You have to start making excuses for it “don’t worry – it gets good soon,” or, “you’ve got to remember that at the time it was ground breaking,” or even, “it is good so SHUT UP.” For me that film is Rock and Roll High School, starring The Ramones. For some reason I always remember it to be this super kick ass bratty film, with The Ramones dishing out top tunes, smart moves and incredible acting performances that deliver on their full punk promise. Whereas, in actual fact,The Ramones barely even feature in Rock and Roll High School, and in all honesty the film is more Beano than Bill Hicks on the social insight scale. Rock and Roll High School plays up American high school tropes in much the same way as Happy Days, which was quite possibly the inspiration here (Ron Howard’s brother even appears in the film). Let me set the scene: the kids at Vince Lombardi High School are struggling
under the oppressive regime of Principal Togar. Togar does a good line in looking like a Nazi (she even has a master plan called ‘the final solution’), but in actual fact isn’t all that scary on the evil teacher index (she’s no Demon Headmaster, that’s for sure). Anyway, Togar’s research has told her that mice exposed to rock and roll music either explode or dress like the Fonz, so she’s keen to shut down the fun (boo!) and stop Vince Lombardi kids listening to The Ramones and generally being ‘up to no good.’ At this point, teenage troublemaker Riff Randall steps in. Riff thinks The Ramones are ace and causes mild levels of havoc across the school by repeatedly playing their records and harping on about how cool, catchy and downright sexy they are. She even buys everyone at the school tickets to see them play – at which point the band actually shows up for the first time (37 minutes in). However, when they do decide to arrive on the scene they are driving a Cadillac and singing ‘Tonight’, so they score points for style if not punctuality. Around the same time Riff has a weed-induced dream in which Joey Ramone appears in her bedroom and seductively sings ‘IWantYou Around’ while Johnny plays guitar and looks on in an unnecessarily threatening manner (it should come as no surprise to discover that Johnny Ramone is a total cock-blocker). Speaking of cock-blocking, a
second storyline follows hapless hunk Tom and his fix-it friend Eaglebauer (played by Ron Howard’s brother, who looks quite a lot like a weasel) as they try to get laid with Riff and her best friend Kate. Of course, as all high school males know, you can’t actually talk to women – it doesn’t work like that. Instead, you’ve got to conduct a campaign of subterfuge, manipulation… and if you can pimp out a van with a waterbed, then so much the better. Rock and Roll High School is crammed with crap visual puns and lame one-liners of the kind found in David Zucker films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun series. Personally I love jokes about masturbation, exploding mice and the idea of a ticket scalp actually carrying a tomahawk, so for me this works out very well. However, this sort of stuff doesn’t help with my whole “this is the greatest film ever” argument, and by this point whoever I am forcing to watch it is usually pretty pissed off with me. Principal Togar then tries to ban Riff from going to the concert, but Riff turns up anyway and manages to get backstage to meetThe Ramones. She gives them a song she’s written called ‘Rock and Roll High School’ and they become friends.This part of the film is notable for The Ramones actually having dialogue, which they deliver as though they are reading it from poorly written cue cards (they probably were).
Togar finally goes too far by burning The Ramones records (and some Bob Dylan ones too, just for good measure). This leaves the kids with little choice but to burn the school down with the help of The Ramones. “We’re not students – we’reThe Ramones,” says Johnny, as Togar confronts them. Take THAT, Principal Togar! My favourite thing about this film is, and has always been, the assumption that all school kids love The Ramones. What I wouldn’t have given at school for an alternate world where everyone thought The Ramones were the best band ever, rather than just me and a small collection of friends who were equally spotty and unpopular. Rock and Roll High School is stupid, full of terrible jokes and the main protagonists aren’t cool or tough. It has almost nothing to do with the powerful social forces sweeping the world in the late 70s. It isn’t a film that will change your life. So why does my memory always tell me this is a stone cold classic? Because I love crap jokes, lame characters and will take pop nonsense over political protest any day. I remember the film how I’d like to think of myself – cool, cutting edge, and clever. Then I watch it and remember the reality: I’m just another nerdy Ramones fan who prefers puns to punk attitude, silliness to social commentary and knows a catchy chorus can’t be beaten.
Party wolf Something borrowed: Know what type of wedding you’re attending, or ruin a PERFECT day!
The package deal
The mumford & sons
The paradise cost
general vibe: “Here’s 30 grand – text us the details and we’ll see you in June.”
general vibe: “Jenny and I really want to do something that reflects our personalities... and fits our budget of 160 pounds.”
general vibe: “The wedding is going to beThailand. Flights are about £700 each, but it’s sooo cheap once you’re out there!”
general vibe: [Whastapp’d message to you and 20 others] “Wedding Sat?”
invites: Silver card with a swirl on two oposing corners that are half leaf/half that henna tattoo you got in Spain. venue: We’re in ‘classic wedding’ teritory here, so a church for the service (let’s hope God doesn’t turn up), and a posh counrty club marquee for the do. DRess code: Double breasted Moss Bros suits and dresses from Designers at Debenhams. music/entertainment: The country club’s in-house DJ is going to play Journey and ‘Mr Bightside’. Drink up. DON’T Mention: How the vegetarian food option contained lamb. DON’T forget to say: We’ve been so lucky with the weather.
invites: It’s going to look like a 7” Record, because Paul loves his music and won’t let you forget it. venue: A converted barn with hay bales in the cider orchard for those classic Jenny and Paul Polaroid photos. DRess code: Tweed, of course! And braces. And bowties.
invites: It’s all online on a bespoke website, just like the one they made when they went travelling. I didn’t look at it either. venue: On the beach of Koh Phangan. The exact spot where you’re sitting now is where the happy couple had a 3-way at the Full Moon Party in 2011. #sosweet. DRess code: Flip-flops and a lot of linen.
music/entertainment: Paul’s band are going to play.They’re fucking terrible.
music/entertainment: The Jack Jonson impersonator’s got this.
DON’T Mention: How you can see the outline of Paul’s penis through his trousers. He totally knows already.
DON’T Mention: How you’ve had the shits since you arrived. Total mood-killer, bro.
DON’T forget to say: We’ve been so lucky with the weather.
DON’T forget to say: I mean, I like the heat, but this too hot, isn’t it.
invites: You got the Whatsapp, right? venue: 3pm - 3.05pm: The local registry office. 3.10pm til close, the pub. The cheek of it – a wedding that seems to be exclusively about two people being in love. Hmmm, she’s pregnant, right? DRess code: Smart casual... or casual casual‘s cool. We’re kind of on the clock here. music/entertainment: Tell the pub you’ve just got married and they might give you free tokens for the Deal or No Deal quiz machine. DON’T Mention: That you’re playing a drinking game based on the amount of times the Mother of the Bride says “shame.” DON’T forget to say: Shame it’s rained all afternoon.
Heeeey, I think I’m your date...?
Fucking hell, Tinder!
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale