Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 47 / the alternative music tabloid
The Child of Lov pi n eapple cam e l fu n k is h e re
The Flaming Lips G h o stpo et Kult Country Pure X K e at o n H e n s o n Kurt Vile
M att F l a g â€™ s new hardcore rundown
contents AP RI L 2013
0 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A T o a s t, t o t h e c d Forget vinyl for a minute, who’s standing up for the compact disc?
10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . songs & Books The month’s singles, EPs and page-turners from Sector Zero, Casual Sex, College and more
cover photography Phil Sharp
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LE FTO V E RS Fiction ask Suuns if the internet has killed the future, when when they last used a paper clip
Still V ital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 Fair Ohs bassist and suplex cassettes head matt flag runs through his top 10 new hardcore bands
K u rt V il e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 Happy Daze: Five albums in, Kurt Vile is feeling his most content as he returns to world of sprawling jams
Editor - Stuart Stubbs Art Director - Lee Belcher Sub Editor - Alex Wilshire film editor - Ian roebuck Advertising email@example.com
K u lt C o u n tr y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 Yousif Al-Karaghouli talks manifestos, changing himself rather than the world, and his spiritual home of Manchester
P U RE X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Pure X serenade Sophie Coletta from an Arizonian desert road
G h o s tp o e t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 Rejuvenated and in shape, Ghostpoet is feeling good ahead of second album ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’
t h e F la m i n g lip s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 Wayne Coyle and Steven Drozd discuss their anxiety and fear-ridden fifteenth album, as The Flaming lips get dark
K e at o n H e n s o n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 Sadly drawn boy: the ever-introspective Keaton henson answers our questions in the form of an illustration
T h e C h il d o f L o v . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 0 How cole williams has combined sly and the family stone and TVOTR on his debut album before playing a single show
Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH
Contributors amy pettifer, Anni Timms, Austin laike, Bart Pettman, Chal Ravens, Chris Watkeys, Daniel Dylan Wray, Dan kendall, Danny Canter, David Zammitt, Elinor Jones, elliot kennedy, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Gareth Arrowsmith, hayley scott, Janine Bullman, john ford, josh sunth, LEE BULLMAN, Kate Parkin, Gabriel Green, Gemma Harris, Guy Eppel, Hayley Scott, Leon Diaper, Mandy Drake, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Omar Tanti, Phil Sharp, Reef Younis, roy J Baron, Sam Walton, Sonia Melot, sonny McCartney, sophie coletta, Tim Cochrane This Month L&Q Loves Duncan Jordan, Jodie Banaszkiewicz, matt flag, richard onslow, Rob chute, sinead mills, stuart davies The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2013 Loud And Quiet. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Sharman & Company LTD.
3 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . alb u m s fil m s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 4 The knife, james blake, parquet courts, yeah yeah yeahs, vondel park, Wire and more
Ian Roebuck asks if hollywood’s enfant terribles have gone soft for 2013
4 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . liv e part y w o lf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 0 sigur ros, coves, the men, yo la tengo, egyptian hip hop, iceage and more
Keaton’s KEy, Thought sport, ...ON GANGS, My time and The sexy world of ian beale
welcome A P RI L 2 0 1 3
Sub sub-genres and anonymity – modern music just wouldn’t be complete without them, and The Child of Lov (Cole Williams to intimates) comes with his fair share. His debut album is an impressive mash of TV On The Radio, Gnarls Barkley and Sly And The Family Stone, conceived by this Dutch-born anti-musician who worships at the altar of D’Angelo. Williams and others have tagged it everything from ‘intergalactic R&B’ to ‘spaceship-hop’ to (an obvious favourite) ‘pineapple camel funk’. The terms seem to progressively wander off point, and you really are best off hearing the music for yourself. We were determined to speak with Williams, though, and not only due to the undeniable strength of his debut album, released May 3rd via Double Six. Until now he’s refused to show his face, it turns out because this music isn’t something he ever considered for the ears of anyone else. Of course everyone says that these days, but when Reef Younis met with Williams he found him to be decidedly un-hipster-ish and far from an animated cliché. But how, we wondered, has this unknown managed to land a deal with a Domino Records imprint and produce an album at Damon Albarn’s, which features Albarn, too, and another Child of Lov hero, Doom? The guy’s not even played a show yet, let alone climbed aboard the great press train. Williams isn’t the most enigmatic artist featured this month, though. For the past 30 years Steven Drozd has done a brilliant job of keeping himself out of the limelight as his creative partner, Wayne Coyne, has eagerly fronted The Flaming Lips right up to ‘The Terror’ (released this month via Bella Union), the band’s anxious, experimental, disturbing fifteenth album. But Drozd – and perhaps anyone else, ever – has nothing on 24-year-old Keaton Henson, who last month released his second album, the ever brittle, often crushingly sad ‘Birthday’. Based in London, Henson doesn’t tour, nor has he any plans to. He did perform his first two shows in February of this year, but neither were announced. He doesn’t do press either, to the point where he prefers to not even answer questions via email, which is fine by us as that’s never ideal, and this month made way for something far more interesting. Henson offered to answer our queries via an illustration, which you can see on page 26.
contri b utor
P hil S h a r p Photographer
Phil is one of our most long-standing photographers, having shot everyone from John Lydon to Bat For Lashes to Erol Alkan for past covers of Loud And Quiet. This month he added The Child of Lov to the list and we thought he should write his own contributor bio: “As a photographer, I’ve tried to train my brain to form zero expectations ahead of a shoot. I’ll be sent and album or a Soundcloud link but inevitably form, in my mind, a visual image of the person or people making the music. With The Child of Lov’s excellent brand of soulful pop-funk I was expecting a kind of LANashville-New Orleans born, Prince/James Brown/Beck hybrid to arrive at my studio in Finsbury Park, London. Instead, in walks a kind of mix between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Maggot from Goldie Looking Chain. Which southern-fried US state is he from? Um... Amsterdam. Expectations, as usual, confounded.”
Inside shoot: Ghostpoet by Timothy Cochrane Loud And Quiet Office, Hackney, London. 8 March 2013
beginning Ap ri l 2013
Not Music Page 9 and John Ford already has something else he’d like to talk about
A toast, to the CD
Illustration by Fraser Davidson – www.fraserdavidson.co.uk / Words by Reef Younis
Forget vinyl for a minute, who’s standing up for the Compact disc? In 2008, the CD single was officially dying. As downloads became legitimised, and record company investment rationalised, it was a horrible, inevitable decline in the digital circle of life. For the record companies, it was the simple reality of controlling costs, cutting corners and following consumer trends. It meant not wasting resources on printing unit after unsold unit destined to sit in deserted warehouses, populate 10p single boxes and become the easy refuge of last-minute Secret Santas. Creatively, the line between a bumper single, laden with B-side gold, and an album to obsess and pore over, has traditionally been a thick one, the single breezily knocked out in the cigarette break between the serious album sessions. In reality, the semantics make it a much finer art: at four tracks and 24.59 minutes you still had a CD single; five tracks and 25.00 minutes, you officially had an album. It’s not difficult to see why the physical singles were killed: they sold less and cost roughly the same as producing and distributing an LP. But the death of the CD single, and rise of the digital download, didn’t just transform the singles market and kill the B-side; it irreparably affected albums too. In the face of rampant digital growth, it was a milestone shift to satisfy the iPod shuffle generation, and the demand for instant access to the marketable, accessible, disposable pop nuggets most have come to expect for free. It set the benchmark for quick consumption, and has put the CD album on edge, if not directly at peril – its physical materials clunky and cumbersome compared
to the lightning-quick binary matter of its digital counterpart. According to recent figures from the BPI, UK digital album sales grew by 14.8% to 30.5m while UK CD album sales dropped 19.5% to 69.4m in 2012. It might not be the apocalyptic shift that sees digital downloads account for 99.6% of the singles market but it’s an ominous warning of an impending slow decline that seemed unthinkable as we hurtled into the noughties. Buying and listening to an album has always been an experience gilded by the humanity of the process; the sleeve notes, the extra pullouts, the way it fills your shelf. And while this isn’t solely a battle between the digital and physical, take away those elements and you start to unravel what made that collection of songs an album in the first place. As a new generation discover vinyl – the format synonymous with the golden age of the album – it’s easy to forget that all of this applies to CDs too, and although many early 30 year olds won’t like to admit it now, it’s the compact disc that’s the format of youths; our nostalgia for needles on wax is largely misplaced. When I say ‘new generation’, I mean anyone born post 1982. CDs are ugly ducklings though, cheap looking and throwaway unlike the romantic, substantial trophy of the LP. Maybe it’s because they’re not dead just yet, but it’s hard to see a time when this shiny format is hankered for enough for a revival like that of the far less practical but far more handsomely kitsch cassette tape. It marks another step away from the record shop experience, afternoon hours
spent gleefully sifting through boxes and racks of records, another departure from the hopeful crate digging that characterised the attachment you built with the audible gold you dug out. Reducing albums to an iTunes playlist and a high-res JPEG is another nail in the coffin of the album being enjoyed the way it should (as a collection of tracks, crafted, recorded and produced to say something more than the sum of their parts), but also as something you know back to front. I used to know the track-listing of practically every album I owned, in order, and every track name from the first bar – now that the titles are written in pixels and hidden in my pocket, rather than on the back of the Perspex box, I can’t say that that’s been true for some years. iMac’s don’t even come with CD drives anymore, and while that’s partly another great Apple scam to make you buy an add-on, the guy in the shop arrogantly assured me it wasn’t just that. “Nobody listens to CDs anymore,” he told me when I enquired if they had an older model out back I could buy, scrunching up his face like I’d asked if it came with a free joystick. He then proceeded to break the news that I was “very niche” if I did. Old women aren’t treated like this when enquiring about mobiles that don’t text. We’ve become obsessed with the no filler rule, the fat-free albums and tracks that can be canned and condensed. We look at the collector’s beauty of vinyl; admire the sound quality, the delicate balance between its care and decay. Perfect in its imperfection. CDs don’t have that dusty lustre but they somehow feel like the last modern bastion for the way albums were meant to be.
Yes, I’m writing about Justin Bieber in a column marked for things specifically not centred in the world of music. It’s not to profess that what Bieber does isn’t music, as easy as that would be, more that the 19-year-old bobble head has highlighted two ongoing megastar tropes throughout his March horriblus – that the circus of extreme celebrity is always far louder than the exploding clown car at the middle, and that we love to hate a villain until everyone else does. Bieber started the month by pissing off parents who aren’t strict enough to ban his precocious tat(s) from their kids’ lives; something that came back to bite them when he was two hours late at the O2. School Night Law had many leaving before the end. People couldn’t have been angrier if the confetti cannons has been loaded with human shit. Next he shoved a photographer, a type of pavementdweller that usually we’d all love to shove ourselves, but then we’re not that little prick Bieber, so Mr Camera was another victim of this ‘out of control’ singer. The pendulum of hate always (so hang in there, Bono) swings back to admiration, though, and Bieber is probably golden again by the time you’re reading this. His post UK visit statement of “Rehab? I’m just being a 19 –year-old” has already got the ball rolling; a wake up call of “oh yeah, I was a dick at 19 and I was ugly and skint,” even if you’d be hard pushed to find a late teen as deluded by misplaced grandeur as this one. Bieber makes my skin crawl; a picture of Hollywood showbiz who’s simply too immature to keep up the facade and obscure his malicious, brattish truth. He needs his factory settings restored. But even I have started to feel sorry for the guy and the sensational reaction awarded to his puberty swings. Could I say that if so many others hadn’t piled on, though? No, I couldn’t. We are nothing if not novel creatures, and while we take little joy in loving what everyone does, we take even less in kicking a dog that the world is lacing up for. When someone’s a total nob, it’s only a matter of time before someone says, “well, I like them”. It’s good to be different, even for the briefest of time, and with that in mind, can I be first to say Justin Bieber is a fucking idiot.
beginning singles / EPS / books
by L ee B u l l m a n
Guitar Attack by Sector Zero
(Goner) R e l e a s e d A p r i l 4
Conjure Man by Kid Congo & Pink Monkey Birds
( IN T H E RED ) R e l e a s e d APRIL 4
Watching The Wheels by Fainting By Numbers
( M o sh i M o sh i ) R e l e a s e d A p r i l 1 5
Cramps/Gun Club/Bad Seeds veteran Kid Congo Powers has spent the last eight years as a solo artist making road music for psychopaths and killers. It’s as if he’s been waiting for Quentin Tarantino to make a spaghetti western, and now that he has, it’s a bitch that fate had the director commission an original collection of songs for a movie for the first time. Otherwise ‘Conjure Man’ – a limping, pistols-at-dawn-on-dustyMain-Street shot of melodrama – would have been a sinister (if silly) highlight. Powers’ novel, devilish narrations are made for 7” format.
Cologne electrohead Justus Köhncke is no stranger to a cover version. His 1999 debut album was nothing but homage, while Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor trademark is that perma-sad vocal of his. This take on John Lennon’s ‘Watching The Wheels’, then, sounds a little more forlorn than the original but doesn’t wildly veer off track. If it had it might not be so blatant what’s missing here – Lennon’s own history. A note to those who were stunned by his 5-year retirement from 1975 onwards, ‘Watching The Wheels’’s power is only really in its author’s past.
Mad Love by Cut Your Hair
Stroh 80 by Casual Sex
( M u sh r o o m P i l l o w ) R e l e a s e d A p r i l 2 2
( M o sh i M o sh i ) R e l e a s e d A p r i l 1
(InvadA) R e l e a s e d M a y 6
It’s perhaps not the best time to be releasing your debut single when it apes David Bowie as notably as this. Then again, maybe it’s the best timing ever. ‘Stroh 80’ swings for an era that Bowie 2013 plainly avoids on new album ‘The Next Day’ – the accessible, glamish pop of ‘Hunky Dory’. You can hear it most in Sam Smith’s (he is the brainchild of this Glaswegian quartet) mimicking vocals and a phaser guitar that occasionally rings out with a spacey wobble. But so what? Bowie never goes backwards, so maybe some young band should in his honour. ‘Stroh 80’ is a fine tribute
NOD B Y A dr i a n Ba r ne s (bluemoose)
While everything about ‘Guitar Attack’ feels as one-take as it definitely is (the in-the-red vocal drawl, the clattering drums picked up on ill-placed microphones, the spontaneous feedback), this lost track featuring Jay Reatard on drums and Goner owners Zac Ives and Eric Friedl on guitars and screams is no piece of junk. Even if Reatard hadn’t have found cult status in death it would still be more than a fetishised collector’s item because it would still sound like a long lost Stooges demo. The real garage chug, the “sneak attack!” noise coda, the hell of it – there’s no faking a moment like this.
On their latest 3-track single, Catalan trio Cut Your Hair chronologically map the rise and full of Baggy, from its Acid House roots (‘Mad Love’ features a truly vintage rave piano riff), through proto-Brit Pop that sounds like ‘Leisure’-era Blur (‘Sweet Sensation’), to its final resting place – the faux spiritual, sorry state it found itself in on Kasabian’s debut (‘American Lullaby’). As such, it’s easy to consider any good done by track 1 to be completely shat on by the time we reach number 3, which is of the most accurate Baggy parallel here. There were some good times though... 7 minutes back.
Teenage Color EP by College
The electronic project of Frenchman David Grellier, College’s start was hardly stratospheric. Then ‘A Real Hero’ featured on the soundtrack to Drive where it graduated top of a class made up of very smart cinematic noir disco indeed. With the exception of the slower, closing ‘The Scarlett Express’, with its raining Casio keys for end credits, ‘Teenage Color’ (not new but only now upgraded from a digital only release) sounds less like the crushingly romantic ‘A Real Hero’ and more like Drive’s more cruising moments, tunnel lights steadily flickering overhead. Back to the car!
Published by Bluemoose books, the resolutely independent home to writers Michael Stewart and Benjamin Myers amongst others, Nod tells the startling story of what happens when the whole wide world goes to bed one night and realizes that it can’t get to sleep. Well, not quite the whole wide world. The children can still sleep, but they can no longer talk, and about one in ten thousand adults can still manage to drift off into a dreamless sleep when the coast is clear. Set against the glass sky-scraper backdrop of contemporary Vancouver, Adrian Barnes’ novel tracks the tale of Paul, one of the few people left on earth who can still sleep, as he attempts to navigate a fragile world falling apart before his very eyes. The Awakened, those members of the population not sleeping, begin to undergo a kind of collective psychosis and soon become unpredictable and violent while the city that Paul regarded as home quickly fills with wild new dangers and impossible odds. Native Canadian Barnes writes beautifully throughout this tale of potential horrors. Whether describing a cheap breakfast or the accelerated decline of civilization at the hands of the Awakened, the prose manages to challenge and surprise throughout. By taking a sideways run at the Zombie genre, he has also managed to come up with an original, cool and thought-provoking what-if? story that manages to dispense with the usual tired old clichés that accompany stories of the almost, but not quite, dead – the arms outstretched, pigeon-step stalk et al. In turns funny, sad, smart and sincere, Nod (named, Barnes says, not only after the child-like Land of Nod but also after the biblical hell which Cain is sent to having killed his sibling, Abel) is a stunning work of modern fiction from a consistently reliable indie publisher that will make the world seem just a tiny bit altered when you finally look up from the page. For once, feel free to believe the literary hype and buy this book as late night reading for the yawning insomniac in your life.
All single reviews by Austin Laike
beginning le fto v e rs
F: “We saw you at Les Nuits Botanique in Belgium a while back and it was astonishing. How much room in your live show do you leave for improvisation?” S: “Lots. We tend to view ourselves as a live band first and foremost, and improvising is a way for us to keep the songs fresh and ever changing. That said, there’s no stated mandate of improvisation in our band – it’s something that has always been happening with our songs and continues to happen. When, on one night, things are flowing well in your brain, you just pluck ideas out of the air and play the first thing that comes to mind.” F: “You use a lot of dissonance in your music, refraining from giving the listener an easy sense of ‘home’. I think this lack of resolution also stems from your tendency to linger on one note for extended periods of time. Has this always been your musical leaning and what made you this way?” S: “Yeah that’s always been a proclivity of ours. Our goal with a song usually involves keeping the music buoyant while using very few elements, which can be challenging, but definitely repetition and non-resolution are ways to keep the music afloat. Also, I think that’s there’s a correlation between the improvisatory nature of our music and the concepts you’re talking about here. Using few notes that have vague resolution points, or rather more transitional than definite resolution points are forms that provide a lot of fodder for improvisation, which is an important part of the way we rehearse, compose and perform.” F: “How conscious of an ‘unwritten manifesto’ are you with regard to each time you get in a room and create music? S: “In rehearsal we’re aware of actually a pretty definite unwritten manifesto (it’s becoming less and less ‘unwritten’ as I answer more interview questions like this one!) that shapes our sound, at least in the backs of our minds. When something has, say, “The Suuns Sound”, we know instantly and we follow our instincts, but there are lines. We toe the lines and try to expand on our sound, but when an idea crosses the line, it is booed mercilessly and quickly thrown out. It’s interesting that you should ask that, cos I like to think that the fact we’re a band that even has mandates is pretty evident upon hearing our music, eclectic though it is. Specific musical taboos? Only play what’s necessary; if you
don’t have anything nice to play, don’t play anything at all.” F: “I know you often get compared to Clinic and that you put them on when you curated Sonic City. What is it about them that so enamours you?” S: “They’re an endlessly creative and uncompromising band who do whatever the fuck they want and still manage to be nice chaps.” F: “How did you find the experience of curating a festival and would you do it again?” S: “Curating Sonic City was such a tremendous honour. We were so incredulous that at first we didn’t even know where to start, but after a few sessions in my kitchen, we started to put some things together. In keeping with our style, we shot for the stars, and put together a festival that even exceeded our expectations. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
“if you don’t have anything nice to play, don’t play anything at all”
F: “What is your favourite Sonic Youth album and why?” S: “My favourite Sonic Youth album is ‘A Thousand Leaves’. It is the more experimental side of Sonic Youth. It’s crazy poetry with freakout jams mixed in there. Not much different to most Sonic Youth albums, but this one is craftier. Plus it was in the Jim O’Rourke days, which saw the band get real experimental. Very nice. It wasn’t critically hailed, but that’s because sometimes critics don’t get it. ‘Wildflower Soul’ is the stick out jam on this one. Originally appearing as an instrumental on the ‘Tibetan Freedom Concert’ triple cd, the album version has lyrics that please the psych rockers.”
F: “Do reviews affect music?” S: “Do reviews affect music, like, gestalt? Or do reviews affect our music? For the former, sure, yes, I think they do insofar as they create trends, especially in the case of musiccritique-cum-pop-culture-gauge/advertising-front-stylemonoliths like Pitchfork. And as for the latter, no, thankfully not really. We’re pretty certain about what we do.” F: “Is love the King of the beasts?” S: “Yes. Always and forever.” F: “One could say that the narrative of music is predicated on advancement of technology and a notion of progress e.g. the pick-up, the synth. Where do you think the next technological advancement in music will come from?” S: “Probably from some sort of open-source Internet community where a musical idea is uploaded onto a server and then someone manipulates that idea and puts it back on and it keeps going around and around and so then there are no such things as bands anymore, but music becomes this really, really democratic repository of social notions all together at the same time. Fuck. That sounds awful.” F: “With the previous question in mind but on a wider scale, has the Internet broken the future?” S: “Sure, yeah, in a way. But that’s not to say that the zenith of musical expression exists in the most accessible, democratic platform possible. I think that in fifty years, we’ll have been to a point where music fans realise that the bursting of the content dam that the Internet has recently proliferated results in just too much choice and too much mediocrity, and we’ll return to being a more discerning, less content-hungry public. For all the talk of future this, open source that, everybody express him/herself, whatever, I like to think that the desire for music that aligns you with the cultural movement you feel most a part of, music that you listen to over and over and identify with, will overcome this new found omnivorous, almost gluttonous consumption of music that the Internet has endowed us with.” F: “And to end on an inane question so that we all go home feeling safe and comfortable: what was your last encounter with a paperclip?” S: “Used one to keep my taxes in order. Suuns do taxes too, you know.”
Photography by Phil Sharp
Last month We interviewed London band fiction they left these queries behind for Suuns
Impress your friends by listening to the Loud And Quiet issue 47 mixtape only at www.loudandquiet.com Featuring this monthâ€™s featured artists
S t i l l Vi t a l Fair Ohs bassist and founder of DIY tape label Suplex Cassettes, Matt Flag, shares his top ten hardcore and punk bands, not from 1980, from now Inservibles
Many magazines will write up long and lovingly prepared pieces on the essential Punk and Hardcore bands that shaped the genre, starting from the proto stylings of The Stooges, The MC5 and The New York Dolls, to the earliest hardcore recordings from The Middle Class, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Big Boys and The Teen Idles. It has transpired to now be one of the most important happenings in musical history, encompassing sound, art, politics, fashion, diet, ethics and lifestyle, which is hard to say about many other musical genres in the past 100 years, and the amount of books dedicated to the subject fill multiple bookshelves around the world. But do we need to add to this growing pile of repeated history? No. We want to show you who is still carrying the burning torch for modern Hardcore that excite hoards of kids and balding 30 somethings alike across the world, in warehouses and basements, back rooms of pubs and people’s front rooms.
There is a lot of talk about punk and hardcore being dangerous, but when you come from a country where drug cartels are not adverse to leaving a trail of decapitated heads and shallow graves in their wake the inherent danger of white middle class kids playing as fast as they can in their garages just pales in comparison to the reality of daily life. Inservibles bring this fear and aggression into a noise-drenched nightmare with gargled, delay-ridden vocals that sit below evil garagepunk influenced hardcore. This might sound like it would be a chaotic mess when thrown together but these are some catchy as hell trips into the negative world of the band, who follow in a long line of amazing Mexican bands (please check out awesome ’80s troupe Masacre 68, Atoxxico and Sedicion). After last year’s devastating self titled LP, they have just released the ‘Una Vida de Tristeza’ 7” on the consistently awesome La Vida Es Un Mus records from London, who have a great track record of releasing Spanish language punk and hardcore bands and stocking all the must have punk records missing from your collection.
Every few years there seems to be a band that blows away the cobwebs of mediocrity and injects some much needed excitement back into a music scene that historically rewards repetition and accepts bands treading well-worn paths. Last year, videos surfaced online of the types of hardcore shows that make you eager to be back at the front, with every chance you will have either a microphone thrust in your face or someone’s fist.Tightly packed basements, warehouse spaces and recycling plants have been filled with crowds crawling over each other, lurching from side to side on the brink of collapsing at any given moment, swarming a front man dripping in blood. ‘Fagget’ from the 1st EP became Hoax’s calling card with its slow creeping menace and brutally minimal lyrics that follow the negative side of life, which is the predominant theme of their records so far. Their four short EPs across 2011/2012 on labels such as Katorga, Youth Attack and Painkiller were a quick succession of tense, angry and dangerous bursts that left us wanting for more, with the most recent ‘Cage b/w Sick Punk’ 7” dropping this year on La Vida Es Un Mus.
When you Google search Perspex Flesh, the two words that get repeated are ‘ugly’ and ‘nihilistic’. From Leeds, the band show that a double dip recession and a coalition government does not lead to positive hardcore, and they stand up alongside a long history of UK bands stretching back to Voorhees and Doom to today’s offerings from No and Lowest Form that show the violent side of life in their music and imagery.After their demo tape (which can be downloaded for free at their bandcamp page), PF come at us with a 7” of unrelenting brutality on Video Disease Records.
No are a dark and heavy London based hardcore band that released an amazing 8 song LP on Static Shock records. Forget about finger pointing and posi-attitude, these guys are pissed and seem to be getting their negi vibes on. There have been comparisons to early Die Kreuzen and Septic Death, with their feedback-led riffs and brutal melodies. These guys have all come from other great London punk bands like The Shitty Limits and Satellites of Love, but leave behind the rock’n’roll riffing and revolution summer emotion for a more straight ahead beast. There is a new 7” in the works and 2 songs appeared on the London comp tape (mentioned twice now, so seriously worth buying) ‘Modern Babylon’.
Black Orphan is a one-man synth-punk band from former/current drummer Lance of legendary weirdo punks The Spits. Taking their brand of Ramones meets Devo punk rock, but distorting and bending it through ice-cold synths and drum machines, Black Orphan push the early sounds of Blank Dogs, but with a more aggressive attitude.The results are only four EPs over the past 4 years, but each release is a vital addition to a type of punk rock that gets little coverage beyond The Screamers and The Units. Last year’s 6-song tape EP ‘Moon Decay’ on Total Twitch and 2010’s ‘Metal Leg’ 7” on Volar Records are perfect entry points into his circuit-bleeding pop noise.
Not much is known about London’s favourite beersoaked punk band but this is what can be gathered so far: They enjoy playing topless, which insiders say extends to band practice and song writing sessions, taking skins over shirts every time. They have a 10-song cassette album on Cazenove tapes run by Sauna Youth guitar god LAC on a fancy gold coloured cassette. It is called ‘Time is Money, Waste Both’. There is a connection to Infinite Men and a million other bands.They are not the Australian post punk band from the late ’70s/early ’80s. They play the kind of punk that is more pig fuck than pop punk, but unlike Pissed Jeans, Flipper and Killdozer, this is obviously British made, in the way The Fall could never be from anywhere else in the world. They have just had 2 songs on the excellent ‘Modern Babylon’ compilation cassette alongside the best of London’s new punk scene (Satellites of Love, Good Throb,Warm Ways, No etc.).You will like these guys.
These guys are a downright and dirty mutant punk feast of fun.They channel the snotty vocals of The Germs and Bad Brains but track along at a mid paced stomp with super scrappy production that adds to the overall aesthetic. Sometimes the voice gets so sneered that you can barely make out his goblin voice at all, whilst the filthy minimal riffs are being carved out and covered in layers of scuzz and fuzz. They throw in the occasional offbeat track to give some dynamic to their album, which many hardcore bands often forget to do, letting LP after LP go by in an unmemorable flash. Crazy Spirit’s album and demo on Toxic State Records are a must.
Hank Wood & The Hammerheads
S h i r t l e ss T h u g s
Old school, fast hardcore from Youth Attack head honcho Mark McCoy who has been in countless hardcore bands (Das Oath/Failures/Veins/Charles Bronson) and Chris who used to be in blink-and-you’llmiss-it, bleak hardcore titans Aerosols. The seven songs on their debut 7” are over in 6 minutes, so do not expect any epic build ups, superfluous solos or wig outs, as Suburbanite kick in, rage through 45 seconds of anger and hatred, and then manage to put on the brakes at the same time. Suburbanites are made up of deep, barked vocals that take no prisoners in a Negative Approach style, guitar and bass lines that hint to Agnostic Front’s classic album ‘Victim in Pain’ without sound revisionist and rolling drums that blast through the record without relenting. Only one beautifully packaged EP has appeared so far on Youth Attack that sold out instantly. Fingers crossed more is in the works.
This is the most ferocious garage punk record that has crossed my record player in a long time, full of fuck you attitude and disgusting organ fuelled glory. Seeming to have courted controversy recently (something to do with chickens and angry vegans), they are a new breed of garage rock that is equal parts hardcore punk and ’60s rock’n’roll, and it’s not surprising that there has been member crossovers with Crazy Spirit. Hardcore past aside, the band’s album,‘Go Home’, is a shit-fi masterpiece akin to the hateful cousin to The Mummies or the Minor Threat-raised grand children of Peruvian’s Los Saicos. The song titles and lyrics show how much hatred they have for people and life (‘Don’t Look at Me’, ‘It’s Hard on the Street’, etc.), which makes for a nice bile-soaked record to get the blood pumping. Unfortunately for the garage punk scene, it attracts many who play it in its most generic form and pedal the same old shit, but Hank Wood & The Hammerheads have got some real musical talent, and especially a drummer who knows how to kick out the jams and ride a cowbell.
I have already mentioned Suburbanite from the Youth Attack roster, and could probably write an article this size just about the bands released on this amazing label, but I’ll limit it to just two for now with Shirtless Thugs being the snotty kid brother to the dark growl of Suburbanite. The Shirtless Thugs’ ‘Ripped You Off ’ cassette that dropped at the end of last year was 5 tracks that were over in 4 minutes and demanded repeated listens over and over again. Finding out that the genesis of this band stems back to Cult Ritual and Salvation makes total sense, but this time around it is less pulverising in style, but faster and thrashier, like some of the early to mid-2000s bands like Cut The Shit,Tear It Up and DS13. Short, Fast and Shirtless!
happy daze Five albums in, Kurt Vile is feeling his most content as he returns to a world of sprawling jams
It’s 10am on Saturday morning, Philadelphia time, when I call KurtVile. Our midweek slot had been rescheduled, so I’m aware that I’m eating into his weekend, and I’m at pains to make sure I’m as efficient as possible. I needn’t have worried.Vile is in decidedly relaxed form and eager to chat, opening up further with each question and bubbling with enthusiasm, not only for his own output but popular music at large. He lists his tastes like a rock role call, whizzing through the last 35 years’ touchstones with breathless fervour. “I just have a very specific personality that’s very obsessive,” he says, “and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consume, say, the Pavement discography.” His language suggests a ravenous passion for modern music as an art form. As Vile moves towards his mid-30s, it’s clear that he has found a certain degree of contentment. One of the reasons for my trepidation in disturbing his downtime is that his wife recently gave birth to a second child, and he describes his current situation as the best he’s been in, both musically and personally, in his entire life. His satisfaction, however, shouldn’t be mistaken for hubris, and it certainly hasn’t fostered any complacency in his artistic philosophy. Indeed, it’s clear that as he gears up for the release of his fifth solo album, ‘Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze’, he intends to grab his opportunity with both hands. His third effort on eminent NYC imprint Matador, it’s a collection that oozes sunshine and classic rock pomp, tethered by a roster of his house band, The Violators, that’s so tight it sounds telepathic. In my initial correspondence with Matador’s UK press officer I’m told of Vile’s industrious work ethic. It isn’t, of course, out of the ordinary to hear such praise
heaped upon an artist by his own label, but the sheer scale of his dedication, and the context for his drive, becomes patent early on. Kurt took manual jobs throughout his 20s, working as a forklift driver for a time before eventually signing with the label just over three years ago. Money certainly wasn’t plentiful up until that point, and it required sacrifices to pursue his vision. “It was definitely scary,” he says. “I grew up in a blue collar mindset and had blue collar jobs but right when I got signed to Matador was right when I got fired from my last job.” I ask if it was tough, then, before that breakthrough moment. “There was really a sort of struggle for a few years,” he says, “but combined with my wife, who’s a teacher, we always – maybe things got tight, but never too tight, if you know what I mean. And now things are actually pretty good. My wife’s not even working and I have two kids and stuff. Any major pressure, I’ve gone through it and lived through it. Now I’m in my career zone right now.” That’s all well and good but with a family at home and a plethora of festivals planned for the summer, you would be forgiven for thinking thatVile may be spinning one too many plates. He remains pragmatic, however, and approaches his duties in both spheres with a logical, open mind. “Well, the last record [2011’s ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’] was like the growing pains record. But there are so many festivals you have to take – like, important festivals. If you say no, then that’s fine but you have to strike while the iron’s hot.” It’s obvious that Vile feels blessed to be in a position where he can do both, family and music. “It was
definitely hard, but now I’ve been chilling out at home for a couple of months,” he says. “Moreso, I’ve been serious about music my whole life. I just look at it like I’m lucky – I got it all, you know what I mean?” Newcomers will be struck by the latest album’s sonic nostalgia, and the songs on ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ repeatedly hark back to ‘70s folk and classic rock. It yearns for the sprawling, structural excesses of the era in a way that seems to have been all but dispensed with in modern alternative music – a track like ‘KV Crimes’ sounds more like Steve Miller than Stephen Malkmus. “I was listening to a million things,” he says of making the record. “In my head [‘KV Crimes’] has a kind of loose Neil Young ‘Walk On’ thing and a Stones thing, but also, my multi-instrumentalist bandmate Rob Laakso, he plays the bass in the song. He started that one – he recorded it and put it through his rig. He gave it that sort of heavy sound. I have friends in bands who know exactly how to find their sound but I kind of just go with it.” In keeping with its stylistic bombast, 7 out of the album’s 11 tracks come in over 5 minutes, with its opener and closer clocking in at around 10 minutes each. “That wasn’t a conscious decision,” says Vile. “I guess I knew there’d be long songs. Certain ones, I knew would be long. But generally we just tended to jam them to keep the magic going and then we thought we’d edit them later but this wider span dial I was working with – it just felt right, and people might disagree.” Whatever critics eventually make of ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’, then, it sounds as though Kurt Vile and friends enjoyed making the album, and their joy is infectious. It’s a record that radiates pleasure, unapologetically brimming with riffs so carnal it’s hard to find antecedents in the last three decades.“You know what, it was fun,” he says. “I have my two bandmates, who are loyal and really good friends at this point, and I knew John [Agnello, producer] from the last record so there weren’t those nerves.” That’s not to say it wasn’t tough, however, and the pride bristles in Vile’s voice as he speaks about the fruits of a difficult labour. “The hours were insane but you would have to just do whatever you had to do to stay awake, and I guess the reward of hearing it back – cranking it through the headphones and getting to the umpteenth hour where you’re totally delirious. The musical returns were definitely rewarding right away.” As well as its aural aesthetic, I’m interested in the title of the album’s most out-and-out classic rock track, ‘KV Crimes’; what misdemeanours has Vile committed? It turns out that it’s a reference back to one of many heroes from the rock canon. “It’s actually a nod to Rowland S. Howard from the Birthday Party,” he says. “As a placeholder the song used to be called ‘Pop Crimes’, but there’s a Howard song with that name and I was never gonna keep it that way. It fit with the general theme, so
I thought ‘KV Crimes’ was a good nod to him.”The title also displays a playful sense of humour that listeners may not initially detect. “I tend to say it’s a nod to him, but it could also be its own thing. I find it amusing when people use their own name in a song.” Vile’s recorded sound has moved increasingly towards higher production values and increased fidelity, slowly getting away from the Drag City-inspired lo-fi of his earlier years. I ask if he has rejected the raw, cult qualities of the music he once aspired to emulate? He says: “Basically, that kind of music – not that I still don’t love some of those Drag City albums, and it also has that sort of nostalgic thing – I was at a certain age where this other kind of indie rock was coming out that was more accessible for me. I could never pull off some of that slick indie rock that was going about. I did like some of it, like Modest Mouse or something, or Pixies, but some of those Drag City bands, it was sort of like the punk rock thing for other people, where someone like the Germs – they couldn’t really play but it just gave you chills.” At this point his catalogue-like knowledge of and love for music once again shines through, as he paints the picture of his teenage self sifting through record crates in order to quench his thirst for new sounds. “At the same time I did like classic rock and stuff when I was a kid, but the more serious and more knowledgeable I
got about music, just studying the greats one at a time – after a while you consume all the staples, but nowadays I’m consuming stuff like Steely Dan – stuff that, when I was younger, I thought was the cheesiest stuff of all. Now I’m like, ‘This is fucking amazing!’” When I speak to artists I often ask what it’s like to be on a certain record label and the answer that I receive more often than not is that it doesn’t matter, that they’re concentrating on blazing their own trail, regardless of current label mates or the phantoms of artists who have been and gone. Matador’s back catalogue, however, is critical to Vile and it’s refreshing to hear. “Growing up being obsessed with Pavement, and then bands like Sonic Youth all of a sudden being on the label when I get signed, is incredibly important,” he says. “Obviously they have such history and credibility in that regard. They’ve put out records by Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Cat Power – so many records on there compared to records on other labels that I really liked as a kid. “I’m friends with Fucked Up and all those people, and now they’re on my label and it’s amazing. Now it’s my time.” Vile has a strong collaborative bent, too, and at Dinosaur Jr’s 25th anniversary celebrations of ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ he joined the band and the likes of Johnny Marr, Kim Gordon and Frank Blank in paying
his respects. Unsurprisingly, he’s positive about how it went, and his satisfaction at the show of recognition is evident. “It was awesome,” he enthuses, “and I was the band that was asked to open so that was an honour. I’ve got to know J and he’s super cool with me. Everyone was stoked to be there. It was even more exciting because I’ve done enough stuff with J to be invited to that, and I felt part of it in my own little way as opposed to being this hired opening act.” His summary of the night? “It was fucking amazing.” On his involvement with The War on Drugs, however, he’s a little more circumspect, keen to set the record straight on a role that’s a lot more minor than he’s been given credit for. “The War on Drugs is Adam’s [Granduciel] band. I was involved because we were best buddies but my solo stuff is always my focus. The web makes things really confusing because people write your Wikipedia for you and you don’t know who does it, and I don’t really sit around and change my Wikipedia too much. It’s been confusing that people think I have more to do with that than what I actually do.” I get the feeling that Vile is also careful to avoid taking any of his friend’s plaudits, and on that note I bid Vile adieu and wish him all the best for what will be a hectic few months, both at home and abroad. He doesn’t need it; he’s got 11 brand new, free-wheelin’ folk rock pearls.
Follow The Leader KULT COUNTRY’s Yousif Al-Karaghouli talks musical manifestos, changing himself rather than the world, and his spiritual home of Manchester
After the record light disappears, after the drinks have been drunk and the bared soul is barren, Yousif AlKaraghouli, the conceptual father figure in Kult Country, has one more thing to say. “You know, I’m doing this to understand myself. I don’t want to understand the music, the minute I do is the minute I die.” Drop it from the heavens, so the saying goes. A signature of belonging from an assemblage of young Manchester bands so piously entwined it’s like they’re brothers, first there was Money, and then came Great Waves and now we breathe in Yousif ’s Kult Country. “It really is us and them,” he says. “Someone coined the term ‘Spiritual Romantics’ for all three bands and I thought yeah, I can handle that.” A tight-knit brethren, these lost boys collided at Manchester University in a musical and mystical sense. “I met Dave from Great Waves in the queue,” says Yousif. “It was meant to be, as just 3 hours separated us at birth, everything just fell from there.” If Money are the modern day prophet poets and Great Waves peddle expressive tones and textures, Kult Country find a place called home somewhere inbetween.Their soaring spectral songs build and resonate and an air of mystery surrounds every trickle of emotion that Yousif pours forth, his towering vocals echoing through all blessed bones that hear them. And as an intoxicating blend of neo-psych clashes with the repetition of techno and the ambience of drone, you arise renewed in the most unexpected of places. It’s Yousif whose hands guide the band. On stage we might see 6, 7 sometimes 8, but Kult Country have a cult leader. “Ideology wise, if you like to see it that way, the band comes from me,” Yousif nods. “It’s a strange band in that it has had lots of incarnations, people come and go. It’s a long history and I’m the only survivor. I suppose I am the leader but other people write songs
too. Everybody has so many creative outputs before they come to Kult.” Although no David Icke,Yousif makes sure the band all live by one philosophy; one walk of life, which is happily put forward as Kult Country’s manifesto. “All Is As All Is In Our Time,” he announces in genuinely hushed undertones. Yousif really believes that his art carries meaning and it’s almost breath-taking to witness his dedication to his crusade. But what are the recordbuying public going to make of all this? “Nothing is set, nothing is certain and nothing is known,”Yousif tells me. “We can’t change anything. Some people in these great bands don’t seem to want anything; we will be making music anyway. I mean what are we doing here? It makes no sense to me as a civilisation; you can only change your own life; too many people think you can change the world, but shit, if John Lennon couldn’t do it you certainly can’t.” So is that all the manifesto is, Let It Be? “Yeah you can’t change the world but you can change yourself. I got it straight from Jon of the Dead Skeletons who has been such a big influence on me – he’s been my guru. He told me to reign in my passion and channel it to the right places and he gave me that manifesto.” An honest beauty pervades Kult Country’s body of work, much like the energy surrounding the new North, a Manchester reborn. “Yeah it’s the antithesis of the old scene, alright. After so many years in Manchester it definitely seems to make great music for some reason. It has a profound effect on people that live there. It is a tough, tough, bad place sometimes, but it’s made me a better person.” The story could have been so different. If it wasn’t for a Sways Records French soiree attended by Yousif, Money and of course Great Waves, Kult Country may never have flourished into what we see today. “Sways
saved me,” he says.“I was living in Dalston after university and we were in France partying, and they said I should move to Manchester right now. They told me an emerging artistic wave was happening and they needed me, they could feel the energy in the air so I packed my bags and moved.” It’s Sways who are central to this exhilarating influx of talent – sometimes a label, sometimes a movement, they call themselves ‘cultural regenerators’. “I used to live around here,”Yousif exclaims, arms aloft into the air of east London, “but it’s soulless! It feels so pointless spending a lot of time as humans going about our everyday life, yet it feels right in Manchester.You should have been there at the start, some of those wild nights at the Bunker (Sways home from home) where people got naked and everything just happened.” Much later, on a London stage, some of that wildness is realised. A feral performance full of vicious unpredictability, Kult Country come alive. “I like doing stuff with a rawness of expression,”Yousif had said earlier. “When it becomes tame I don’t like it. I get off on the fact a show might go wrong, whether the crowd descends into chaos or we go off course. Some of the best shows end in a bloodbath or madness on stage.You don’t have to abide by everyday rules and why should we?” Kult Country are still on a journey of discovery, and this conversation marks Yousif ’s/the band’s first ever interview. Already he doesn’t want to do anymore. “Some of the tracks are about too much,” he says. “If I start breaking songs down I get too emotional and I won’t talk about them like this. I just want to leave society but at the same time I want the band to work.We are back to civilisation again. If this is the pinnacle, if this is us high flying and doing well, to me it doesn’t feel like that. I wouldn’t be able to handle it psychologically if I was forced into a job; I see it that way too, being forced.”
omewhere on the southern outskirts of Austin, Texas, there is a concrete fortress that lies within a stone’s throw from the highway.Termed ‘The Ditch’, its sloping grey drop-ins provide a haven for skaters, not concerned with tricks or technique, but who instead prefer to surf its contours, gliding smooth lines across the hard grey surface. “It’s just a beautiful skate ditch that is like… it’s the perfect dream come to life in the form of concrete,” recalls Nate Grace, one third of Pure X, who responds with an enraptured “Ohhhh the Ditch!” when the topic is initially broached, his Texan accent languorously drawling out each and every syllable. Right now the band are hurtling across the Arizona desert, making their way to Tucson for the second in a series of trans-American tour dates. “We’re still skating on tour.We’ve got all of our boards with us, we’re gonna stop, everytime we see a ditch we stop,” bassist Jesse Jenkins calls out from somewhere in the depths of the speeding van. “We have our boards but I can’t really skate now I guess,” Nate adds. “I got hurt. I had surgery and all that shit, but I can still hang out and drink beer while they skate.” The injury, an ACL tear that tormented a sans medical insurance Grace throughout a large part of last year, would provide much inspiration for Pure X’s second album. After many sleepless nights fuelled by physical and emotional turmoil, the experience’s proverbial ashes would give rise to ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’, full of sticky bass, lethargic guitar riffs and anxiety-ridden lyrics that sprawl out languidly from your speakers. “We had a lot more time,” Grace says of the album’s recording process, which all in all took over a year. “I was laid up. I was on crutches for like six months and we were working on the record at the same time. Basically working on the
record was the only thing happening in life really.” The album captures the change in human state as the orange lines of morning bleed slowly into the everfading night sky. If 2011’s ‘Pleasure’, with its seductive red and black cover that featured a photo from an ’80s bondage catalogue was an homage to late night hook ups, ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’ depicts the ominous morning after, the splaying out in bed, the alcoholwrenched stomachs and post-coital tristesse, before the bleary eyed stumbling out into the blinding daylight. The same sludgy indication is there, but the output seems more defined; a little less fuzzy round the edges, something that perhaps stems from this album not being predominantly recorded live.“The last record was pretty much almost 100% live, and then this one was, shit, maybe like 20/30% live,” Grace explains. “We did way more improvising this time,” adds Jenkins. “At least 3-4 of the songs on this record were written in the studio. They sort of just came out of nowhere, whereas [with] ‘Pleasure’ we sort of wrote it and then recorded the songs we already had, we experimented a lot more this time.” “We would just jam until like whatever o’clock in the morning and come back next day and then just be like, ‘oh this is cool – take this little part and work that up into a song from that’,” says Grace. Despite the album being recorded over a long stretch of time, it still retains the same cohesiveness that ran throughout ‘Pleasure’; each track sliding into the other, building on a relentless syrupy sound that resonates throughout the record. Grace singles out ‘Something Else’ as a track that evolved continually throughout the recording process. “We started it at the very beginning of the project and then we didn’t finish the fucking song until like a year and a half later. It went through all these mutations.”
The band worked on the album in the studio with Larry Seyer, an Austin based producer who Jenkins refers to as “this old Nashville producer guy. He helped us do a lot of the mixing and stuff.We were trying to go for a glossy like George Strait production style, you know…” he trails off and Grace automatically picks up the threads of his spiel. “[He] used to work with like George Strait, Garth Brooks and he had all these Grammys. Now he’s into like all this New Age shit.” ‘Shit’ is an abundant word in the Pure X vernacular, and judging by their sigh-prefaced, fleeting answers it’s pretty clear that Grace et al. are more keen on absorbing the Arizona landscape whirling past their windows than answering questions about their music over a crackly transatlantic phone line. Like their music, this is a band that are concerned with living the now, not deliberating, not discussing, not looking back. “I wish you could see the fucking beautiful desert mountains that I see right now because it’s really awesome,” burrs Grace longingly. He breaks into song suddenly, impromptu lyrics that have a distinct country lilt to them. “Purple mountain majesty / babe it’s just you and me / you’re British that’s okay / cos I like you anyway / Baby Purple Mountain Majesty...” The improvisation falters and he breaks off. “That’s a song I just wrote for you. I hope you’re recording this, cos that was gold.” He sings some more and there’s giggling from the van, followed by rapturous applause. “Email that to me, I’ll make that into a song.” I promise him I will. It’s gone midnight so I decide to leave them to their afternoon Arizonian rapture. “Have a beautiful day, eat a Popsicle,” Grace cheerfully calls out as I sign off. Outside, the rain thunders down from an ever-bleak sky onto my grimy window. I might give the Popsicle a miss.
Known Pleasures Pure X serenade Sophie Coletta from an Arizonian desert road
Fix Up, Look Sharp Rejuvenated and in shape, Ghostpoet is feeling good ahead of second album ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’
When Obaro Ejimiwe knocks on our office door at 10am, he’s half the man he was. Literally. He wasn’t a real chubber when we last met at the end of 2011, but now he’s positively sleek beneath a black brolly and dressed in Reiss. His synonymous tweed porkpie hat has gone, perhaps forever, and he’s traded button ups for rollnecks – the final frontier in a slender fellow’s wardrobe. Ghostpoet looks as in shape as his twitter feed has lead us to believe – a stream largely reserved for seeking out running partners. Ejimiwe likes to run. It’s become an addiction. He often shouts out to the Run Dem Crew, a Nike-affiliated society of jogging nurses, teachers and other civvies that don’t want to lace-up alone.
“I just got tired of drinking a lot every day,” he says. “Run Dem Crew inspired me to keep running and inspired the new record to an extent. I love soaking up life and it was a snapshot of life, every Tuesday with the crew, seeing people from all walks of life.” In 2011, Ejimiwe and I made chitchat about our backpacks as he calculated whether he could fit his laptop into a bag as small as mine. Today, inside and out of the tired English downpour, he plays with his new iPad mini between photographs and tucks it into his inside pocket – more slimming down. Aside from these physicalities, Obaro Ejimiwe hasn’t changed much at all. He is still a straight-talker and a
realist; still a calming influence; still a softly spoken antirapper in suede shoes; still a man of simple means; still a guy who’s happy to stay a little longer. When our interview officially ends we continue to talk for the same amount of time again, covering the evils of Apple, the real value of a Facebook Like, how other bands are in interviews, Spritualized, Kanye West, Keaton Henson’s refusal to converse with the music industry and tattoos (another addiction that Ejimiwe is due to feed this afternoon). ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ is Ghostpoet’s second album, due for release 6 May 2013. The title, he says, came to him in a dream, “which is really cliché, but it
did.” He also likes the way it looks written down: a phrase that appears to rewrite itself until it doesn’t. “It was almost like an input/output thing,” he says, “where it goes in one way and comes out different. But also I like the idea of things or people going in one direction and me going in another. So the idea of where people are saying a particular thing, like ‘I’, I’m saying ‘light’. I want to be doing my own thing, y’know, not following a trend or style.That’s the thinking behind it.” ‘MSI Musmid’ – the first track to come from ‘Some Say I…’ – has a dream origin story, too. Proper recesses of the mind stuff, abstract and impossible to decode. Ghostpoet has tried, but there’s little making sense of a punch up between dim sum and noodles. Ejimiwe half winces when talking about it. Dreams seem so hoky. “Previously I’ve been shying away from using dreams in music,” he says, “because, I dunno, it’s kind of that thing – ‘I had a dream and wrote this song about it,’” he says in a dopy voice.“I’ll always be sceptical about things like that. But dream or reality, it is mine, and my music is about conscious thought but also subconscious thought, so I thought, yeah, let’s see what comes out of this.” ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ – Ghostpoet’s debut album of 2011, released via Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings – received no small amount of acclaim, most notably a nod from the Mercury Music Prize. It’s a record with enduring charm, and one that sounds better today than it ever did. Stylistically, ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ picks up where it left off, complete with mumbled verses, skittish percussion and glum piano chords. Recorded with Richard Formby rather than in complete bedroom isolation as before, the production value has clearly increased, although not to the extent that Ejimiwe thinks, who now says “production wise, I was shit on the first record”. It’s melancholy that most traverses the records, though, and there’s even less of a respite from it now. ‘Peanut Butter Blues…’ was downtrodden by opportunity and cash rather than matters of the heart. Tracks like ‘Us Against Whatever’ came with a message of ‘All you need is love’, in fact, while ‘Finished I Ain’t’ professed that “life’s too short just to give up now”. ‘Some Say I…’ is less upbeat, less optimistic and more heartbroken. It frequently feels like a breakup record.
“To an extent it is,” Ejimiwe says, “and it’s something that I don’t want to talk about, because it’s one of those things. But I went through some personal changes. Moving to Dalston [east London, from south of the city where Ghostpoet grew up and wrote his first record] was one of the results of my personal changes. Although I’ve been to east London a lot in the past, moving here was a new world to me, and when I moved here the room I moved into came with an upright piano, which was just there.At the time I didn’t know it wasn’t in tune, I just thought I could use it, so I just started making demos of stuff, and the whole of the album started from that piano. I don’t know what it is about that instrument but I seem to float towards the sadder notes and melancholic chords. Some of it was much sadder and I’ve scaled it back a bit, while other tracks stay true to the demos and how life was at that time.” “I don’t want to go down that road / It’s causing me too much pain”, goes ‘Them Waters’, a gloomy, whipcracking trance number at half speed, followed by unchallengeable highlight ‘Dial Tones’, which features a love-stung guest vocal from Lucy Rose and talk of olive branches and unreturned phone calls. References to running out of patience in a relationship are a recurring theme, too, not that Ghostpoet is wallowing here – it very much feels like the dumping was on his terms. Fela Kuti and pirate radio gave a young Ejimiwe his entrance points to music, before he made some songs of his own and decided to recite them to a small group of friends at college. “I had this radio and used a coat hanger to get the reception,” he says. “Kids nowadays won’t understand
“I know what a rapper is and I’m not that, so I don’t see why I’m called a rapper”
this, but I remember trying to find stations and the ones that interested me were the ones that had a bit of crackle in them. I didn’t know what pirate stations where then, but I knew it was interesting, and I’ve never liked anything that’s clean when it comes to music – it’s always got to be a little bit grotty.” Grot is something that Ghostpoet took with him to Richard Formby’s studio, and his new album feels slightly out of focus beneath a crackling layer of static. But pirate radio is largely home to UK grime and garage, and while the polymath of Ghostpoet paints in colours as varied as ambient electro, two-step, soul, R&B and strange metallic samples, he doesn’t touch hip-hop or consider himself an MC of any kind. It’s a term most frequently pinned on him, no doubt related to his skin colour, but also, I reason, due to his vocal delivery. Ghostpoet doesn’t rap, per se, not in the usual speedy grime vein, nor like an American patting the air and playing the gangsta, but he hardly sings either. He lethargically rolls out his prose in a deep, mellow tone. It’s not hip-hop, but it’s forgivable to consider him a rapper, isn’t it? “No,” he says.“I’m just an artist. I don’t get the rapper thing at all. I know what a rapper is and I’m not that. I don’t dress like a rapper, I don’t think like a rapper, I don’t produce music like a rapper, I don’t vocal like a rapper, so I don’t see why I’m called a rapper. It’s a big deal and at the same time it’s not a big deal. If you’re going to listen to it and enjoy it and in your head you’re thinking he’s a rapper, then cool. But I class myself as an artist, because I also create a lot of things that aren’t music now, and genres are just going to stifle my creativity. Art is art, y’know.” Ghostpoet doesn’t court glamour like a rapper either. “Having a packet of crisps on the rider, I find that glamorous,” he says, echoing the sentiment of his breakthrough single ‘Survive It’ (“No no no no n-n-no, ain’t got a licence to kill like a double 0 / I just wanna live life and survive it”). “I’m a simple guy,” he says. “I just like making music. If you like it, you like it, if you don’t, don’t.You can’t like everything. I’m not a salesman. I can’t do the hard sell. All I know is that I’ve made a record I wanted to make. I hope people like it and pass it on to their friends.”
Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd - the creative force of THE Flaming Lips discuss their fifteenth album; their first that puts away the glitter, balloons and euphoria in exchange for anxiety, fear and dark experimentation
Daniel Dylan Wray
2013 marks 30 years since a bunch of tripped-out kids from Norman, Oklahoma, got together and embarked on one of the most aberrant and exciting careers in modern music. It also sees them release their fifteenth studio album, ‘The Terror’. Speaking to Rolling Stone back in August 2012, Wayne Coyne proclaimed the upcoming album to be “possibly the best Flaming Lips record ever made.” Rumours then began to circulate that Steven Drozd, the band’s multi-instrumentalist and chief cohort, concurred, supposedly stating that it was his favourite album since 1999’s immortal ‘The Soft Bulletin’. All signs pointed to something special. The end results have the potential to split Lips fans with the brute force and precision of an industrial meat slicer. For those who view David Bowie to be at the height of his powers on B sides of ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ then ‘The Terror’ will likely submerge you within its hissing, experimental,
tar-filled, black hole. The ’Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ enthusiasts – much like the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ ones – could be left dizzy and reeling by the drones, churns and howls of ‘The Terror’. ‘Look… the Sun is Rising’ is a typically named Flaming Lips song and would therefore, you’d think as the album opener, rise gloriously and euphorically.Yet if ‘Race for the Prize’ is a confetti cannon shooting into the sky, exploding into a glorious, surging, flutter of energy and colour while balloons bounce endlessly in a kaleidoscopic flurry, then ‘Look… the Sun is Rising’ is the hacksaw that tears into and bursts those balloons, spilling a sea of blackened blood and guts, all coated with a sour taste of bile. The synths and guitars stab and puncture with Gang of Four-like intensity fed through a wood chipper backwards. If the exultant, flowery vibes of the recent ‘Sun Blows Up Today’ led you to believe
there might be an album of similar material to come, then think again. ‘The Terror’ is truly upon us… When trying to describe the end outcome, Drozd struggles to capture the tone of the record. “Bleak, lo-fi, synth kind of… dark sound of new wave, I’m not sure what you’d call it,” he says, while Coyne dives in to try and tackle it. “‘The Terror’ is a retreat,” he says. “A retreat from structure and from lyrics and from trying to make sense, and if you’re lucky that [approach] is like a gateway to your subconscious world that you don’t normally have access to.You just have to hope your mind is not worried about what happens. And sometimes that’s when your most expressive bullshit music and art happens.” Drozd tries to offer explanation via way of influence. “Anything that is based on repetition and drone, I mean Suicide, we were obviously listening to Suicide quite a
bit, Silver Apples, you know, anything that was repeating drones.” “It sounds like anxiety,” adds Coyne. “It sounds like religious music, it’s supposed to sound depressing and triumphant at the same time.” ‘The Terror’ began with Drozd working separately in a studio. “I was just messing with some sounds,” he says, “just kind of killing time. I didn’t have a musical agenda. Just doing stuff to see what happens and it ended up being this song called ‘You are Alone’.Wayne heard this thing I was working on and he really responded to it and he wanted to get involved immediately and whenever Wayne gets involved with his energy and his creativity, that just takes it to a whole other level.” Likewise, Coyne wasn’t even sure if what they were working on was even an album; they were “just dicking around.” But once the flow began, it was a quick and
of mind of a person, this is what they are thinking now, this is what they are living. I don’t think there is anyway you would want to make this kind of music, unless it’s therapeutic to you.The thing that is most bottled up, the fear that you have is something that you want to scream the most, and when you are free to do that, you might not think you’re doing that but you do, and that’s the terror that we sing about.”
easy process for the band. “It’s a little bit like breathing air,” says Coyne in a process analogy. “You don’t really realise how great it is until your almost suffocated. I think being in the Flaming Lips for the most part, I’ve become so used to it, and it’s so much a part of me that I’m almost unaware of it.” He explores the sub conscious relationship he has with the music on the new record as he tells me:“There is a really brutal line on ‘The Terror’ – ‘We don’t control the controls’. It just came out of me, but when I listened back and studied it, I thought that really is a truism of mine, my anxiety and my life, I don’t know.There is an illusion, even to myself that there is a control over what I do and the way I live. I do sometimes think that I am driven by an invisible force. I ask myself, why do I like what I like? Why do I lust after what I lust after? Why am I so driven to do this stuff, you know? Good for me, but also what is it? And how destructive is it? I don’t know. I don’t know if I follow things because of logic and because of experiences or am I just going after them because that’s just what I’m programmed to be. I don’t wake up to dread and fear but there is an underlying anxiety, I think that’s what this is, there is a sense of anxiety throughout all this music.” This anxiety was particularly true for Drozd, who – despite false reports of the true nature of his relapse – fell back into drink and drugs briefly when making the record, having kicked serious addiction some years prior. He offers me a more truthful account of events.“I really don’t want to go too much into it because it was kind of a private thing, and then Wayne blurted the stuff out to the press and it became this whole story where instead of people asking me about music it was just about my drug addiction. Besides that, they mostly got it wrong – I had heard that I was addicted to heroin, which was not true. I had started drinking again and taking some pills and stuff but it wasn’t as devastating as Wayne made it seem because he likes to exaggerate to the press, but there was something there. “It is frustrating because so much of it hasn’t been true,” he continues. “If it was the truth it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much as incorrect information, getting it wrong, everything from, ‘you know, he’s a heroin addict again’, to all kinds of stuff, ‘he tried to commit suicide’.That kind of stuff really get’s me down and I have a wife and two small children and that’s hard on them and it’s going to be hard on them when they get older, so it’s something I’m having to equip myself to deal with. But for the most part it doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s just when it’s not actually correct, that’s when it really bugs me. I’ve gotten used to it over
the years, I’ve been through this a couple of times and there is a sensationalistic aspect to it, people just love that story, ‘oh he relapsed’, you know, that’s more interesting to anyone than say, what keyboards we use and that’s just the way it goes. I’m okay with it.” Drozd has taken this relatively short period of relapse and turned the memory into a long-lasting positive, thinking back to first creating the track that lead to the album being made, ‘You are Alone’. “So I was in this state of working on stuff by myself,” he remembers, “kind of killing time but also I wasn’t consciously thinking about it. I think it did kind of represent where I was emotionally at that time, though. So, over a year has passed and the reason I like it so much is because if I hear that song I really feel a connection to how I felt at that time. It’s almost like I can appreciate now that I am doing better – and it’s just such a strong memory connected to it.Whenever I hear it I am taken straight back: it’s winter time, I’m in Western New York, it’s snowing outside, I’m really depressed, it’s a grim situation and I’m really worried about everything in life. I can get that memory from the music, so to me that’s a great thing, I love that. Anytime that music can get you out of what your reality is at that moment, that’s just like the best thing ever. It’s a good thing, it’s not like I’m filled with regret, I’m just filled with, like, ‘wow things are so much better now!’ But I’m glad I have that memory, to have that contrast drawn.” While Coyne told Rolling Stone back in August that, in regards to Drozd’s situation, “It was probably the worst time of his life”, he is a little more quiet on the subject today and turns my question into a long, freeflowing response that spirals gracefully out of responding to it at all and transmutes more into talk of the spirit and state of mind they were both in when making ‘The Terror’. He says: “You might make music like this by accident but the state of mind makes you say, ‘I’m going to make this song and we’re going to do a series of songs that sound like this’.You begin to see that this is the state
“I would say 2011 almost killed me... IT’s probably why I started using again.”
hose that have seen the excellent 2005 documentary The Fearless Freaks will no doubt have various favourite moments from the film: maybe the scene in which Wayne Coyne goes back to the old fastfood diner he used to work in and recreates a gun-point robbery he went through; maybe the exhilarating live footage or the sad but gripping tales of family members and old friends lost to jail, drink and drugs. But there is one scene that hits home a musical point more fiercely than any other, in a scene in which Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes is asked what is Wayne Coyne’s greatest asset? His response, with a mischievous, wild grin on his face is “Steven”. “I love that. He gives me mad props” Drozds tells me, before going on to discuss Haynes and the songwriting relationship between him and Wayne. “He [Gibby] knew us well and we had toured with him a lot, so I think he had gotten to see the inner dynamics of the band that most people don’t get to see or know about. I think the hardcore Flaming Lips fans know it [about my contribution] but the man on the street just knows about Wayne and that’s it, and that is fine with me because I would not want to be bothered as much as he is for autographs and pictures – that would drive me crazy. But that is something I wish people knew more about: that there is a dynamic between Wayne and I, we write most of the songs together and we come up with most of the sounds together and there is a whole band involved but the beginning process of the songs is just Wayne and I working together. So, when I saw that in the movie I was like, ‘well, thank you Gibby’. I think the next time I saw him I said. ‘how much do I have to pay you for that quote?’.” As Drozd mentions, the lifestyle and attention his frontman receives would drive him crazy, but simply trying to keep up with him and what being in the Flaming Lips entails nearly did just that. “Hell, it’s probably why I started using again,” he says. “There was a time in 2011…” He stops and pauses. “… Actually, I would say 2011 almost killed me – there was just too much going on.You know, we had ‘Heady Fwends’ (the group’s 2012 collaboration LP) and all these extra musical projects with bands and people, touring non-stop. We were always doing something. If we weren’t playing a show or flying from the U.S to Europe we were driving up to New York to record, or recording at my house in my bedroom upstairs or in Wayne’s house at his new studio. Just a constant barrage of stuff going on and for me 2011 was almost a breaking point.”Thankfully, Drozd made it through the year. “Then 2012 happened and we were able to take a deep breath,” he says. “And now that I’ve just gotten through the thing I’ve just gotten through, I think I’m in better physical shape now than I have been in my whole life and I’m serious when I say that. I do yoga everyday, I do cardiovascular exercise, I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs anymore.” So, 2013, 30 years into the career of Flaming Lips and the band’s creative force are in the shape of their lives, not only physically, but creatively also. There is no formula, no plan or secret to their tale.The path that has led them to where they are now has been paved with just as many uncertainties as the one that will no doubt lead them snakingly and wildly into the future, as Coyne himself points out. “We’re still learning as we go. Even though we’ve made fifteen, sixteen records I kind of feel like we still don’t know what the fuck we’re doing”
S a d l y D r a w n B oy Keaton Henson answers our questions via the medium of illustration
Keaton Henson is a 24-year-old, London-based singer songwriter who is happiest (perhaps only ever happy) when in his own company. He doesn’t tour or do photo shoots or give interviews or go outside much at all, for that matter. Last month he released his second album – the brittle, leave-no-demon-unchallenged ‘Birthdays’ – which led to his first two live performances, neither of which were announced yet both sold out. And while all of this is a PR dream, like Nick Drake before him, it’s Henson’s personal traumas that have dictated how he operates, not the usual post-Burial hoo-hah of cash-in anonymity. Henson – who’s an illustrator and poet as well as a musician – grew up on a diet of hardcore punk, although you’d never know that from ‘Birthdays’, which is largely made up of stripped-bare, acoustic numbers, plus ‘Kronos’, which erupts into unexpected, distorted grunge riffs and hard rock drums. Up until that point, Henson’s voice trembles beneath the most delicate of guitars and the occasional sombre string section, more akin to Elliot Smith or early Ryan Adams than the bands he used to listen to on the school bus. It was heartbreak that forced this already introspective man further into his shell, to the point where he couldn’t even bring himself to leave home for work. So he started selling his illustrations online, designing T-shirts and sleeve art for other musicians. Someone even tried to convert him to Christianity to perk him up – it didn’t work. For ‘Birthdays’, though, Henson had to leave the house and the country. He flew to Hollywood to record with White Stripes/Strokes producer Joe Chiccarelli, where he also met Tyler Ramsey of Band of Horses, Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, Sam Kearney of Alberta Cross and Matt Chamberlain, once a member of Pearl Jam. They all feature on the record, although it’s a little hard to see where. ‘Birthdays’ is a striking, personal, sad show of a man undistracted by anything other than his own thoughts, which is perhaps why Keaton Henson doesn’t feel the need to explain himself in interviews or even recreate his music for a live, paying audience. We asked him if he’d talk to us anyway. He said no, but offered to draw the answers to any questions we have. 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
What type of music can you identify with the least? Who is your musical hero? What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music or drawing? What’s your favourite word? What was the last hardcore band/record you really loved? How did you react when some people tried to ‘save you’ by converting you to Christianity? What are your lasting memories of California? What is success to Keaton Henson? What is the best birthday present you’ve received? There are countless terrible things about The Brit Awards, but one of them has to be that they keep getting some designer to ruin the statuette each year. Can you design us an alternative please? What’s your favourite film? Finally, can we get a self-portrait so our readers can get an idea of what you look like?
* Find the illustration key on page 50
THAT LOVING FEELING 28
Cole Williams aka The Child of Lov listens to D’Angelo every other day and studiously pores over James Brown, Otis Reading and Sly And The Family Stone. He’s never played a show, but that’s not stopped him creating a neo funk debut album with the help of Damon Albarn and Doom. If you don’t like it, you’re simply not a fan Secrets are the gold bullion of the digital age. They’re a precious, fiercely coveted currency, the Bit coins that drive the gossip, fuelling the rabid demand to uncover the identities and revelations we all frantically seek. But where access and discovery are typically just a few clicks away, it’s made those little denizens of protection all the more delicious and exalted, and us, all the more desperate to uncover them. These binary games of hide and seek don’t play out so nicely in terms of national security but they’ve always managed to thrive in culture and music. For some, it’s
become an essential part of the package: Slipknot’s masked metal played perfectly into their Satan-lite pantomime, Daft Punk’s initial shyness progressed into one of music’s most stylised, successful brands, and even MF Doom’s increasingly lax man-behind-the-mask persona will ride out the fake show hits he’s taken. For many, though, it remains a transparent, cynical schtick designed to generate a social buzz where the music can’t.There’s a fine line between the inspired and the derided but it’s one the enigmatic Child of Lov has been wilfully happy to tread. Buoyed by a trio of
interstellar singles, and armed with a debut album set for release on Domino imprint DoubleSix, Cole Williams has been happy to let everyone else do the talking. “The whole withholding a picture of myself was just to focus on the music for the first few months, but you get a little sort of itchy,” he smiles.“I was looking forward to not having to do that anymore because this way is easier. It feels liberating but I think the point was made.” In an age of dissemination and disinformation, mindless exclusives, mind-numbing tell-alls, and the “leaks” that incite supposed outrage at the column
inches they garner, the Child of Lov story should feel like another anonymity cliché. Instead, it’s the lead-in to the first of many contrasts that pit Cole’s personality and The Child of Lov dynamic against each other. In terms of the music, the colourful references and comparisons have long flowed – from Cole’s self-coined approximations of “intergalactic R&B” and “pineapple camel funk” (whatever that means) to the equally mindbending nu-soul, future funk, and spaceship-hop.What’s immediately apparent, though, is that his mish-mash of influences are worn on an equally colourful sleeve: there’s the power and vibrancy of iconic showmen like James Brown, the funk and soul of Sly and the Family Stone, the R&B vibes of D’Angelo, the skewed vocal melodies of TV On The Radio, and the contemporary gloss of Gnarls Barkley. Conversely, it’s distilled, condensed and delivered with the spiritual howl of a laid back, 25-year-old Dutchman who doesn’t even really consider himself a musician. Already, it sounds the stuff of retro hipster nightmares simply because none of it adds up. Play the album to a group of people off the street, ask them to sketch the person behind the sound searing from the speakers and it’s unlikely they’ll draw a Zlatan Ibrahimovic look-alike rocking gold weight medallions in Paisley-styled Versace. It’s at this point you realise this is the reason why Cole was so determined to keep his image concealed, and why the decision to let the music stand alone in the first place was undoubtedly the right one. “A lot of entertainment isn’t about the thing itself anymore, it’s more about image first,” Cole muses. “It has its place, but to start off I thought it would be refreshing to do the first two or three songs, throw them out there and see what people thought of the music without the whole circus. “You know, there’s Daft Punk, and we still don’t really know what they look like, and then you’ve got these other guys who exist in a bit of an anonymity realm, and then you have someone like Jimi Hendrix. His image was evidently important, even to this day, but you never get the feeling that the music’s not first, you know? You can really amplify things like James Brown did, as a big showman, but you just have to be conscious of it all.” It goes some way to explaining the disparity in Cole’s archetypally lethargic European personality, and the allaction pomp and vibrancy that radiates from the record. There’s a sense of wildness and release but there’s also a conscious control to everything Cole invests into The Child of Lov. For all of the blood red suits, acid-casual artwork and hipster zeal of the videos, there’s also healthy homage and respect for the music he’s drawing upon. There’s an awareness that he only needs to be a showman when the time demands it, and the bold, colourful snapshots currently doing the rounds only (brightly) paint half the picture. “I’m still waking up,” he grins in the photo studio at 11am. “I don’t usually record at this time so that’s the explanation. But you get into this place when you make music. There are different things in there… dark and angry stuff, and I like that a lot, and it’s in me as well, just not at times like these.” It brings us neatly to his self-titled debut, ‘The Child of Lov’. Expanding on the spaced out booty infatuation of ‘Rotisserie’, the pop funk of ‘Heal’ and the pineappletoting video of ‘Give Me’, it’s a firm reminder that for all
the intrigue around his clandestine identity, the image and the hook ups, the building interest is still something Cole is trying to take in his stride. He admits: “It’s still weird to me. I still can’t get my head around it because I wasn’t making these songs for anyone, to get a response or to get any sort of feedback. I wasn’t trying to do that in any way, it just got picked up and I made this product out of it. I’m proud of the album and there’s a lot of good music on there but I’m expecting nothing, basically.”
here The Child of Lov identity was a secret for so long, the involvement of Damon Albarn and MF Doom has not been so coyly protected. Recorded at Albarn’s studio, and boasting a long-awaited verse from Doom, it’s an album that can’t help but be built around expectation, and it’s a rare weight of line-up for any debut to bear. For Cole, they’re nothing more than positive factors; the outcome of a few network contacts as opposed to an albatross of expectancy around his neck.
“My manager managed Danger Mouse a long time ago, and he did some production on one of the Gorillaz albums, so that’s how he knows Damon,” explains Cole. “It’s not like he’s a friend of the family or anything but he got in touch and Damon was really into the music. That was really cool because a guy like that doesn’t need to do anything he doesn’t want to do, you know? “Then it was kind of the same with Doom. It was through the DangerDoom album he was able to get to him. It took a year for him to deliver the verse but it was great for me, because he’s one of the few people alive I’m really a fan of.” Cole is a lifelong hip-hop fan and needs little encouragement to talk about his influences.As he sips his coffee and gradually sinks into the sofa, it’s easy to hear how the fusion of soul, delta blues, funk and R&B blazed into the Child of Lov sound. A beat maker from his early teens, a combination of discipline and devotion underpinned the majority of his creative progression, and whilst his technical music education might have largely been one of self-taught discovery, his inspiration has always been consistent from the start. Most inspired by the Georgia sounds of Little Richard, Otis Redding and James Brown, the neo soul of D’Angelo, and a heavy dose of the delta blues, it’s little surprise that Cole’s listening habits verge more on the traditional than the contemporary. “I don’t listen to a lot of music,” he tells me, “not compared to other people, but I listen to the same sort of stuff over and over again. My favourite album is probably ‘Voodoo’ by D’Angelo because it’s the album I listen to most. I listen to it once every few days, just trying to find the hidden harmonies and the things I didn’t hear before. That way of listening to music becomes part of you after a while and it’s the same with singing; you subconsciously try to model yourself on these great singers like Otis Redding and James Brown, so it just comes naturally after a while.” It’s a simple, almost stubborn ideology, one that’s at odds with the modern desire to mindlessly download and acquire music instead of taking the time to appreciate it. It’s another in the Cole/Child of Lov contrasts; the bold bombast of the music masking the candid, almost analytical outlook beneath. “I’m weird,” he laughs. “Well, different, or something. It’s weird to say that about yourself but I’ve been quite a solitary person all my life, never had many friends. I’m a special kind of person according to a lot of people in that I’m not bothered much with what other people do. I didn’t ever think of myself as a musician. I didn’t hang out
“I’m weird. I’ve been quite a solitary person all my life, never had many friends. I’m not bothered much with what other people do”
with any musicians, didn’t really know any, I wasn’t bothered and I’m still not really.” It’s a thought process that also extends to the wider perception of the album. Apathetic, bullish, indifferent, however you want to interpret it, all of the interest and anticipation that’s been building, in terms of Cole’s attitude to the wider reception to ‘The Child of Lov’ is decidedly black and white. “I don’t give a shit about the fans, basically,” he deadpans. “It’s not intended badly, and I’m not trying to be blunt, but that’s the way I feel about it. I have the same feeling towards journalists and fans: if you don’t like it, you’re not really a fan anymore, are you? I’m pretty hardheaded.” It’s less of an admission than you might expect considering The Child of Lov has never played a live show, despite the imminent release of a debut album. In an age where touring is the lifeblood for bands to make
a living, it feels like even more of an anomaly considering the energy and spontaneity the album exudes. On first listen, the on-record flamboyance feels destined to inform a live set of show-stopping decadence; one of MCs whipping crowds into a neo funk frenzy of lights, camera, action, and wild party spirit. It’s a prospect Cole is remarkably unmoved by, preferring to focus on the long term perfection of the record instead of the disposable experience of the live show. “I’m probably not supposed to say this but it’s not one of the important things to the whole act. Playing live is basically just promotion and you can create this different atmosphere, but if I wanted to do that, I could just record it and put it out on an album. To me, engineering is listening to stuff over and over again and having it exactly as you want.That’s music to me, not singing in front of a crowd with a few girls or something. It’s nice,” he smiles, “but it’s not the most important thing.
“I don’t mind being on stage and the showmen knew the importance of a great show, but it’s not about that to me. It doesn’t have any gravitas – it just comes, you drink too much, and it disappears again into nothingness. Recording something, putting it on tape, and documenting it, that’s a whole different thing to me.” In our throwaway age, it’s a subversive attitude to eschew the idea of a live show for so long, but it’s an alternative view born from that hard-headed indifference. For Cole, it’s definitely not a case of being lazy, just one of being bold enough to buck the trend in both style and substance, despite the growing demand. “I’m going to do sessions quite soon,” he reveals. “NME wants me to play, Glastonbury want me to play, and my booking agent said he hadn’t experienced this much interest at this stage in his 30 year career. I don’t want it to come across as though I’m slagging off live shows because I’m looking forward to it, I just want my live show to be meaningful. “I got into D’Angelo when I was quite young so I was never able to see him perform live but I saw a show in Amsterdam last year and it was great. But it was great because the music was part of me already. Of itself, or in itself, a live show is cool and you can dance or whatever but that’s not what life’s about. It’s about these deeper realisations and emotions you can experience between you and an album, so in that sense, music is much more of a solitary thing to me.” Again, it feels like this is another battle between Cole’s individual outlook and the mood The Child of Lov inspires.The album is a spirited, vivacious party record in every sense of the word; an all in invitation to the cosmic bom-chicka-wow shudder of ‘Give Me’, the cranked anthemia of ‘Go with the Wind’, the TVOTR falsetto bump of ‘Warrior’. An album to soundtrack summer heatwaves, be shared and revelled in, and sang into the night with the top down. It’s unquestionably a glorious LP of unashamed single fodder but set against Cole’s own expectations for what a live show should achieve, creating one that matches the audacious attitude of the record, and also endures and represents a considerable challenge. “It was a lot easier than I thought, actually,” he says with a grin. “I think it’s got to do with where the music came from because it came from an ad hoc place, and a desire to create an analogue sound digitally with the crappy means I have. I didn’t have any money growing up, I didn’t have any instruments, and I even used to play the computer keyboard. Coming from that place, I think it translates really well, like it’s supposed to be like that. I’m not showing it too much to the band,” he smiles, “because they need to be on point. I think it’s going to be great.”
ith rehearsals underway and a few dates set for the next few months, Cole’s optimism is bold, if untested. It’s also forced him to find ways of approaching a live dynamic that was never on his radar, and appraise the styles and techniques that have taken him from a happy unknown to a prospect for the coming months. So for a man content to wake up, drink coffee, and make music as part of a natural everyday process, digging deeper into what makes The Child of Lov musically tick, has forced him to consider the rough edges beyond the comfort of the studio, and really embellish the details. “It’s nice conducting a band, it’s like producing in a different way,” he explains.“I find it creative and fulfilling asking for the snare to be tuned down a little or whether I want the cymbals in the last two choruses instead of three. I used to say that I wasn’t a perfectionist because I’ve never really liked styles. You have someone like Danger Mouse who is so neat and perfect, he’s a genius or something, but I’m not really into that. “Working with the band now, it makes me really think about what I want. I think it’s helped me realise I’m a perfectionist but only towards other people,” he laughs.“We were rehearsing ‘Give Me’ the other day and that’s quite a sparse song, so it’s really about getting the vibe right. One mistake, one missed beat, and it immediately sounds like shit. But for a song like ‘Fly’, it has that dreaminess and that rough low end.We get that right and we’re good to go.” So from the ad hoc indifference of the man making music for no-one, to the forward-thinking perfectionist ensuring his new band is on-point for the live shows he never intended to play, it’s easy to overlook that three singles and six months still represent an artist in his infancy. Faced with the fresh challenge of adapting and creating a live platform for the record should have been task enough but driven by the momentum of the first album, Cole’s wasted little time, or energy, mapping the journey of the next, confidently taking some of the inspiration behind ‘The Child of Lov’ and developing it for the future follow up. He says: “There are two or three songs on the first album that I think progress into the sound of the second record. It’s not a retro record, I’m just trying to honour the old and reach out for the new. It’s kind of like a Sly and the Family Stone record, sorta old soul, and I think the second album is more specific in a way. It’s probably a more conservative sophomore album in that sense.” At this stage, conservatism feels like the least likely outcome but where Cole looked to his influences once to guide and fire his debut, it seems they’re set to play an equally prominent, if more focused role on his second. It already feels ridiculous to be looking ahead to a second
“I don’t give a shit about the fans, basically. It’s not intended badly, and I’m not trying to be blunt, but that’s the way I feel”
instalment when the Child of Lov story has yet to really begin, but for Cole, that search is already underway. “I really like how D’Angelo’s first album was a general 90s R&B album,” he ponders as we gather our things. “It was new stuff but ‘Voodoo’ went back to the old stuff. It was the same with Sly and the Family Stone on ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’. It’s one of my favourite albums because it has this dark soulful energy to it but it also had a loneliness as well. I think I’m looking for that. I’ll just keep searching.”
LOUD AND QUIET ALBUMS LIVE FILM REVIEWS
Al bums 09/10
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito (Polydor) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Apr 15
The Knife Shaking The Habitual (Brille) By Reef Younis. In stores Apr 9
The seemingly endless wait for a follow up to the sinister, seminal brilliance of ‘Silent Shout’ was always going to make ‘Shaking the Habitual’ more than just another unit for The Knife back-catalogue, and that seven-year gap has only served to incubate the twisted dark matter that lurks in Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer’s brains. ‘Silent Shout’ turned up something macabre and menacing, an album of refined disconnection and pit-black isolation that slowed your heart to a murmur and sucked the breath right out of your lungs. It remains one of the most unlikely mainstream love affairs, but wracked with cloaked intangibles, hidden meanings and doom-laden theatre, it was the offering that’s enabled the duo to beguile and bewitch us ever since. Karin’s shamanic vocals remain crucial to the unnatural drama that unfolds, taking on Ouija board tones, living in the frequencies between the living and the dead, opening the little dark doors that entice you to lock yourself in. So if ‘Silent Shout’ was the confirmation of The Knife’s signature sound, it’s a spell that continues on the seeping malevolence of ‘Shaking the Habitual’. The eerie calypso vibes of opener ‘Tooth for An Eye’ emerge as the album’s most clean-cut, forgoing the ghostly ambience in favour of Karin’s drifting yelps and bone-shaking rhythms,
but the mist quickly settles on ‘Full of Fire’, with its off-kilter melodies and buzzing percussion – the stuff of B-movie nightmares. It quickly becomes apparent that this is the PG-rated stuff because by the time the creaking piano chords and groaning atmospherics of ‘A Cherry on Top’ stir into life, and the frenzied beats of ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’ and ‘Oryx’ garble and scuttle with resident evil, you’re already hoping you aren’t home alone. As ‘Old Dreams Waiting to be Realised’ rises into the white static hiss of its 19-minute lifespan, you’re firmly in the grips of an absorbing, terrifying journey that mordantly engulfs with every spine-chilling undulation; the background noise and hyper frequencies lurking, circling the room, choking the airwaves, crackling like a neon strip bulb; an atmosphere slowly cultivated by the dark arts of the album’s first half. Both challenging and beautiful in its dark ingenuity, ‘Old Dreams…’ is also the most ambitious of an incredible collection of calculating horror shows, designed to unsettle and unnerve. It’s a fresh reference point for The Knife’s creepy, dragging melodies and otherworldly drama, whether it’s disturbing in the dim-lit confines of bedroom walls or breathing its voodoo into the gloomy magic of the live show. It’s a delicious feeling to listen to an album so pointedly on edge, holding your breath, occasionally checking over your shoulder, sat frozen and tracking the shadows…wondering, hoping that all the doors are locked.Their darkest masterpiece.
It takes about 30 seconds of opener ‘Sacrilege’ for the electronic oscillations of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ last album – ‘It’s Blitz’ (2009) – to seem like a dream. ‘Mosquito’ – with Nick Zinner back on guitar rather than keyboards – initially feels like ‘Show Your Bones’ part II, and that impression doesn’t change right up until the closing ‘Wedding Song’ – a slow, beautiful ballad that has become so natural to a group that effortlessly jumps from the deranged to the poignant over any number of songs. Effortlessness is, perhaps as it always has been with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the fuel and power of this fourth album, which started life as a collection of lo-fi, reverbdrenched demos long before it was polished and glossed as it has been. There are some big name producers involved here (namely Dave Sitek, Nick Launay and James Murphy), but while its fidelity is quite astonishing, with some neat tricks like ‘Sacrilege’’s aggressive gospel choir and the percussive, slumping train track clack of ‘Subway’, it’s the band, and of course Karen O, who makes it all possible. O sounds no less a star now than she did a decade ago, sweet and impish on ‘Subway’ and ‘Despair’ (itself something like ‘Mosquito’’s own ‘Cheated Hearts’), and eye-popping and trampishly puckering up on the album’s title track. “He’ll suck your blood!” she yells and pants like she did on the band’s debut. Perhaps it’s due to the lifetimes between albums (especially as ‘Show Your Bones’ was released in 2006), but it never feels like Yeah Yeah Yeahs are flogging us old stock, more that they’ve stealthily become a band with their own classic sound. Just in case, though, the deep electro of ‘Buried Alive’ features Kool Keith for something completely different.
The Holydrug Couple
(City Slang) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Apr 5
(Yep Roc) By David Zammitt. In stores Apr 22
(Secretly Canadian) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Apr 29
Listening to this third album from South Africa’s Dear Reader is like being in the audience of a school play that you desperately need to take a work call in the middle of but feel like you shouldn’t.Vocalist Cheri MacNeil has assembled an enraptured musical narrative around the true story of an anti-apartheid community’s secretive existence, just miles from her native Johannesburg in the early ’60s.The stories weave tales of conflict, revelation, clandestine escape and eventual victory, with a totally unselfconscious sonic mirroring of this real life drama in the emotive group chorals and storybook lyrics, MacNeil’s own feral yelps and breaths acting as imagined first-person percussion for the whole production.There’s earnest beauty in spades but, like all albums driven by such a focused thematic concept, the individual songs might struggle to survive outside their context.
The third album from Toronto’s Born Ruffians kicks off with ‘Needle’, a gorgeously intricate piece of guitar pop that segues Fleet Foxes neo-folk into Tune-Yardsesque Afrobeat with remarkable ease. It showcases the group at their incendiary best, however its mercurial appeal also sets the tone for an album that’s filled to the brim with highs but is ultimately marred by its drawn-out lows. As a slick opening triptych comes to a close with ‘6-5000’ and the beautiful, aching ‘Ocean’s Deep’, it signals the album’s unfortunate descent. At its finest,‘Birthmarks’ twists and turns unexpectedly, weaving RnB, post-punk and doo-wop into its indie fabric, but it simply doesn’t live up to the sum of its constituent parts, nor the undisputed talent of its creators. Often self-indulgent, it seems outright flippant in parts, while at 43 minutes it can feel painfully bloated.
‘A Summer Thing’, track four on Cayucas’ debut album, another pre-corrupted 1960s calypso song heavily inspired by The Beach Boys, ends with the repeated refrain: “it’s just a summer thing”. Project mastermind (a kind title considering the record’s plug-in-and-play beach pop nature) Zach Yudin is referring to an all American relationship, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that he means ‘Bigfoot’ as a whole. Let’s just say you won’t be playing this kind of thing at your funeral, unless you’re Sponge Bob Square Balls and you plan to leap from your coffin and limbo with a cartoon crab as the credits role on Tropical Bay, or Hula Reef, or Sandy Cove, or somewhere. It sounds like The Drums, only better, and while nobody outside of coastal California can really relate to anything as Instagram’d as this, it is, for a time, a happy escape from whatever dank, non-seabed you live on.
By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Apr 8
(Palmist) By Nathan Westley. In stores now
While fellow Chilean psych rockers Follakzoid (also due out on Sacred Bones) cover the grittier, chunkier slabs of the guitar psych spectrum, The Holydrug Couple tackle the slightly more ambient side, sounding smooth, free-flowing and relentlessly hypnotic, like if Real Estate had been munching on a healthy dose of peyote in the studio. The group’s earlier, more rudimentary and acoustic-focused sound has largely been replaced here, and instead the two-piece craft a constantly shifting, greatly melodic and delightfully entrancing record. ‘Noctuary’ is something of a plunge; once you have dived in to its muddy waters you are immersed in the swirling bath of sounds and textures – it’s a hazy trip that evokes classic ’60s British psych via nods to ’70s Germany. It’s a wonderfully warbled record in its sound, yet clean and coherent in its finished state of execution.
After releasing a string of cassettes and 7-inches on a hip series of notable indie labels, Mississippi resident R. Cole Furlow has built a solid reputation amongst those at the heart of the lo-fi world.This self-titled introduction represents the best of these largely no longer available records, collected together with a flourish of new material attached and presented as the debut Dead Gaze album; one that stands as a delicately crafted collection of lo-fi guitar pop that often arrives swamped in a thick, reverb-heavy fuzz.Though songs such as ‘You’ll Carry on Real Nice’ will attract obvious comparisons to Wavves, delve deeper and you’ll also find traces of ‘The Soft Bulletin’ era Flaming Lips, other neo psychedelia and even the occasional Brit pop swagger. Or perhaps I’m being a little kind there, because ‘Dead Gaze’’s problem is it sounds so completely OK.
Noctuary (Sacred Bones)
Parquet Courts Light Up Gold (What’s Your Rupture?) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Apr 15
It seems strange that Parquet Courts are so readily being called an NYC punk band. A duo formed in the wake of Fergus & Geronimo and Teenage Cool Kids (both from Denton,Texas), they might whizz with the downward strums of early Strokes, but there’s far more of the band’s home state in this debut album than their newly adopted city. At times ‘Light Up Gold’ sounds like it belongs in the Big Apple’s cool urban sprawl, but it more readily reverts back to sounds more associated with Texan garage rock, especially the strained vocals of ‘Yonder Is Closer To The Heart’, which crack with a desperation completely alien to most New Yorkers.The band seem to be torn regarding their brains too, although unsurprisingly the more socially and politically aware songs (which are also the slowest, like ‘Careers In Combat’ and ‘N Dakota’) are far greater than ‘Stoned & Starving’ and other dude statements. Parquet Courts can of course have it both ways, but ‘Light Up Gold’ is weaker for its indecisions. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 06/10
The False Alarms
The Still Life
(Fat Cat) By Lucy Holt. In stores Apr 15
(Bella Union) By Josh Sunth. In stores Apr 1
(Jagjaguar) By Hayley Scott. In stores Apr 29
(Asthmatic Kitty) By Josh Sunth. In stores Apr 8
(Bella Union) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Apr 15
Adam Pierce might be on his seventh album as Mice Parade, but it doesn’t sound like he’s graduated beyond student sensibilities; he’s been on a career-long gap year to whichever corners of the globe have taken his fancy.‘Candela’ follows suit in a sponge-like manner, having absorbed the sounds of all the places you pretend to want to go; salsa rhythms dissolved in clever Scandinavian shoegaze, and the like, while ‘Warm Hand in Narnia’ comfortably takes the prize for farthest flung reference point. ‘Candela’ is not, however, burdened by student idleness, and it often offers frantically absorbing pop. ‘Currents’ is an example of such multifaceted exertion, anchored by a tolerably saccharine-free female vocal, which makes for a nice change, but for all the synthscattered world wisdom, some people like their holiday’s poolside and their albums less disorientating.
In an interview last year, Steven Drozd said of ‘The Terror’: “it’s the internal feeling you get that you and everyone you love is going to die.” Flaming Lips’ thirteenth album is ultimately founded in the weakness of mind and body – channelling the sort of empty soundscapes that made one of 2012’s standouts, Chromatics’ ‘Kill For Love’, so bleak but also so wholly and brutally compelling – and seems naturally inclined to fold in on itself, struggling to internalise this awareness of the human condition. In every respect, ‘The Terror’ is brooding – the vocal lines cry and lament, the instrumentation is propulsive but often callous and awkward, and each track is an exercise in the force of anti-climax. It is as desolate as it is honest, and flourishes because it taps into something so universal, so human and so beautiful, with such unusual relish.
The tempestuous cadences of ‘Fain’ mirror the weather-beaten, desolate setting of the beautiful, secluded house in the Yorkshire Dales in which it was recorded, and just like Wolf People’s previous output, this new album exhibits a nostalgic reverence for bluesy, progressive sounds of the past, where nods to bands like Cream and Traffic are manifested in swirling and distorted guitar lines.While they’ve not strayed from the dropout fuzz of 2010’s ‘Steeple’, ‘Fain’ employs more traditional English and Scottish folk melodies, and is also more lyrically centred: mythical discourse rules the cathartic ‘All Returns’, and despite the band’s progressive tendencies, this record is not abound in archetypal prog-rock sprawls. Instead these jams are more structured and swathed in melody, offering a singular vision renouncing the elaborate tedium that often comes with this genre.
When artists take it upon themselves to depict the future, it’s often a cold place, filled with clean surfaces, chilling white light and metallic sheen.The problem with this, though, is that these futures don’t take into account the fact that humans are naturally emotive. Two previous albums have shown us that avant-pop collective Fol Chen are fine composers, yet you can’t help but feel that on ‘The False Alarms’ they have sacrificed too much for their futurism.Yes, the layers of electronic clutter on, say, the title track are finely poised, Sinosa Loa’s vocal lines are crushed, isolated and almost aggressively compelling, and the percussion is refreshingly dominant on almost every piece here, but still you’re left dissatisfied. ‘The False Alarms’ is lacking serious weight behind its punches purely because the album feels far too preoccupied with its own sterility.
While most people’s early 20s are filled with directionless floundering, East Londoner Alessi LaurentMarke has entered her second decade with a fat CV of recordings and an eloquently whimsical backdrop for her brand of guitarbased folk. Her third album is an attempt to capture the period of existence when everything is finally calm and settled; whether turning your back on giddy turbulence aged 22 is a good idea or not is up for debate.While her voice is sublime, half of the 13 songs are not, meaning that high points like the twirling 6/8 of opener ‘Tin Smithing’, the noir-ish National cover ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and the whispered French croon of ‘Sans Balance’ are left splashing about in folky filler. Despite unquestionable talent, the perfectly smooth, untroubled beige of ‘The Still Life’ leaves you clawing for something tangible and troubling to grip on to.
Public Service Broadcasting Inform Educate Entertain
Public Service Broadcasting’s ‘The War Room’ EP showcased a truly original, exciting and innovative band; one that married samples from old government public information films to diverse musical backdrops built from electronics, folk and post-rock.This debut album is similarly constructed.The title track weaves its crackly spoken words in between layers of synth and house beats; it feels uneasy and foreboding, an emotion PSB appear to revel in creating.The fiery ‘Signal 30’ ends as brutally as the car crash it describes, while ‘ROYGBIV’ is a bright, bass-led groove. It would be very easy for this band to draw out their songs to eight and ten-minute mini-epics – it just feels like that kind of music – but even though they resist that temptation, in some cases to their detriment,‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ is an amorphous, constantly mutating beast. It doesn’t have the brutal impact of ‘The War Room’ – the ‘shock of the new’ has been lost – but this is an absorbing, and at times mesmerising, album.
Photography by Dan Kendall / Phil Sharp
(Test Card) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Apr 15
Vondelpark Seabed (R&S) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 1 Much is made of albums being “stolen” every day by Pirate Bay’s massed ranks, but regardless of your stance there, spare a thought for Vondelpark; victims of theft in a far more real sense.Two years ago, following a pair of promising EPs, a laptop containing the only existing files for what was to be their debut album was nicked during a gig. ‘Seabed’ is not that album rerecorded, but a new collection of songs, and, perhaps accordingly, a whiff of second-album syndrome – technical competence but stylistic uncertainty and mustiness – runs through the London trio’s debut. At its best, on the woozy hypnagogic pop of ‘Bananas’, that uncertainty is a virtue, as dismembered rave vocals singing “Maybe I’ve seen you before” soar above blissed-out Balearic instrumentation to create an oddly dislocating, beatific sense of nostalgia.The opening ‘Quest’, too, smoothes the remaining edges off James Blake’s blubstep template to leave a seductively warm slip of a song. Elsewhere though, ‘Seabed’ feels forced: the obsequiously named ‘Outro for Ariel’ is chillwave by numbers, and successive songs in the album’s middle drift by so horizontally they barely register. Under the circumstances, that staleness is a shame – were ‘Seabed’ to have arrived alongside its contemporaries like James Blake and Teengirl Fantasy, and not two years late, it might’ve sounded far fresher.
(Atlantic) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 22
(Warp) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Apr 29
It’s been four years since Phoenix made the leap from European indie curios to chart-topping conquerors of America, and this follow-up to their breakthrough ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ is careful not to fix anything that ain’t broke. Accordingly, ‘Bankrupt!’ sticks to its predecessor’s formula of modish new romanticism combined with the sunshine prog of ELO, delivering a set of punchy, compact pop songs almost custom designed to be blaring from a radio at some point this summer.That said, however,‘Bankrupt!’ is not a complete rewrite: the title track, twice as long as any other on the album, dabbles in Floydish symphonic flourishes, with mixed success, and elsewhere it’s clear that Phoenix are keen to borrow from more serious parts of pop’s past than before.That makes for a progression, of sorts, but while there’s nothing on ‘Bankrupt!’ that packs the same irresistible melodic punch of ‘1901’, its best moments, especially the closing ‘Oblique City’, come when the band are trying their least.
‘Thr!!!er’, in all its heart to drumbeat matching glory, is a dextrous, foot stomping meta-tussle with the notion of the career defining album.The bi-coastal six piece of !!! insert their interchangeable, tri-syllabic moniker into a title that will always be synonymous with Michael Jackson’s benchmark release – the point being that just as their leash of exclamation points can stand in for any set of sounds, so the notion of a career high can mean whatever it needs to for the band in question. If their idea of a critical apex was finally capturing the spontaneous adrenaline of their infamous live shows on record, then Spoon drummer Jim Eno has done a solid job of shaping a heady approximation of the perfect gig.They’ve loosened up by sharpening up and the groove is spandex tight. Moving through post-disco incantations, the ecstatic pop perfection of ‘One Boy/One Girl’, darker freak-outs and a heavy, cataclysmic climax, ‘Thr!!!er’ feels inclusive, escapist and celebratory.
Al bums 09/10
James Blake Overgrown (Polydor) By David Zammitt. In stores Apr 8 The pressure to follow a record as idiosyncratic and perfectly-formed as Blake’s 2011 debut has been sidstepped in ‘Overgrown’, another unqualified triumph for the Londoner. Compositionally, Blake bolsters his ranks considerably, stretching his already extensive spectrum at both ends with a collection of songs that embed his most sumptuous pop hooks within sounds that function as some of his most wilfully avant garde.The desolate, arpeggiated RnB of ‘Life Round Here’, for example, takes inspiration from the late ’90s mainstream before metamorphosing into something more disconcerting; contorting its melodies and dialling up its synthesised aggression, all the while remaining tethered to its pop core with a strong centripetal force.The strobing house of ‘Voyeur’ also sees Blake experiment with out-and-out dance, while RZA’s cameo on ‘Take A Fall For Me’ dips into leftfield hip hop.There are more overt love songs this time (‘Retrograde’, ‘To The Last’, ‘Our Love Comes Back’), as well as an overall warmth of sound – the off-kilter piano of ‘DLM’, for example, showcases an astonishing ability to tease out the organic sounds of a room with Cagean deftness. It’s tempting to say that this is a headphones album, but that would be reductive; regardless of context, Blake’s intricate, layered achievement is remarkable.
Praxis Makes Perfect
(Lex) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Apr 29
(Kompakt) By Reef Younis. In stores Apr 15
One thing you can never accuse the Neon Neon project of is conventionality, either in its music or its themes. Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip’s 2008 debut, ‘Stainless Style’, was based on the life of the creator of the DeLorean car, and this time it’s the life of the late Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (look him up) that gets the same treatment. ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’, though, is a record that stands firmly on its musical merits, however interesting its backstory. Listening to this album feels like walking around inside a glistening, neon pink kaleidoscope, or a musical sweet shop where there aren’t any flavours you don’t like.There’s the pure, cool synth-pop of ‘The Jaguar’, and ‘Dr. Zhivago’, which feels like a disco classic – a shimmering piece of melodic pop. Gruff Rhys’ voice is oddly and unexpectedly perfectly suited to this music, especially on the chilled-out album-closer ‘Ciao Feltrinelli’. ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’ is a half-hour slice of perfectly formed, instantly accessible, shiny melodic sonic joy
Rainbow Arabia’s debut,‘Boys and Diamonds’, had us rather smitten. Seduced by the tribal rhythms and lush Casio build ups, it was an album that surprised and intrigued at every ethnotronic turn. But what ‘FM Sushi’ loses in terms of eclecticism it reclaims in the golden beam harmonies and synthesized FM melodies that pour throughout. By contrast, it’s a fluid, crystalline listen, pushed towards the breathy, stylised pop-futurism of Chromatics, Air’s feather light touch, and the ethereal pop of Fever Ray. It feels like much less of a smash and grab affair, with the chunky sax line and ambient backdrops on ‘Thali Iced Tea’, and the Vangelis slow build of ‘Three Moons’ coming across as colder and more calculating than before. Even the busier rhythms of ‘FM Sushi’ and the danceable, chiming beats of ‘Precreation’ feel considered and restrained. It makes ‘FM Sushi’ a very different journey and creates the sense that Rainbow Arabia are striding down pavements where once they danced down the dirt roads.
Ride Your Heart
Change Becomes Us
(Boudoir Moderne) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
(Dead Oceans) By Hayley Scott. In stores Apr 1
(Pink Flag) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
As the early-to-mid 2000s post-punk revival died a death, hammered into expiry by the bourgeoning grunge resurgence, Neils Children appeared to be one of its casualties, deciding to call it a day in 2010 after over a decade together. Unable to stay apart it seems, they are back, but not as you know it. This isn’t a reformation, or even a re-birth, it’s an entirely new creature altogether: a creature that has spawned a genuinely wonderful record. Swathed in smoky atmosphere, it’s a record that feeds on the desire to create mood as much as it does impeccable song structure. Like Tame Impala at their strongest, it has that feeling of enormity combined with vast breadth and space, which, when paired with the intimate Broadcastlike warmth of the record, creates an engaging, whip-smart and beautifully textured production. Welcome back Neils Children.
From the frantic, visceral guitar hooks and piquant vocals that envelope bombastic opener ‘Looking For A Fight’ to the primitive and petulant ‘Next Stop’, it’s obvious that Bleached are by no means atypical of this Californian rooted phenomenon. On first inspection, ‘Ride Your Heart’ sounds like a cursory prelude to the likes of Best Coast et al, but instead, Bleached often sound more like misplaced incarnations of the riot grrrl movement, whilst recalling the freewheeling ’70s garage-rock aesthetic of punk’s past: tangled, three-chord guitar rumbles stir incessantly under Jennifer Clavin’s lyrical vehemence. ‘Ride Your Heart’ is as pedestrian as it is monotonous, but it doesn’t detract from its blithe likeability.With melody at the forefront of each song, it’s unabashedly basic; it’s punk at its most elemental and it’s not to be taken too seriously.
‘Change Becomes Us’ is not just a perfectly fitting title to encapsulate the essence of Wire; it’s something of a life-long mantra for the group. Just like in 1977, 2013 sees the band still moving forward, evolving, and changing, albeit somewhat differently this time.The songs here are based loosely on old, undeveloped ideas, snippets of tracks and principles from the group’s formidable 1979-80 period. Re-imagined, recontextualised and re-born, it’s an album that feels breathy and modern; twisted, manipulated vocals sometimes undergo the auto-tune experiment, but the Wire way, making the vocals reminiscent of their shiny, unexplainable guitar tones.There are explosive bursts of thunderous guitar punk and moments of pensive ambience. It’s an album that doesn’t sit still. Much like the group themselves
Little Copper Still
(Double Denim) By Samuel Cornforth. In stores now
(Clubhouse) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Apr 8
Formerly known as Primary 1, Joe Flory is now releasing his first album under new moniker Amateur Best, and contrary to the album’s title, Flory possesses the ability to conjure up thrilling moments with his funk and groove driven synth hooks.The sleek, electronic infused music sounds like a more upbeat version of Baxter Dury and amongst the bleeps and jitters of the synths there are some massive choruses such as that of ‘In Our Time’. At its best, ‘No Thrills’ is captivating and brimming with confidence; ‘No Waves’ is delivered effortlessly, whilst his arrangements weave their way into your brain. However, there is inconsistency with some moments standing out like red blotchy ink for the wrong reasons. ‘Get Down’ is a prime example; overcomplicated and far from the glossy heights that Flory if clearly capable of reaching.
The Cedars are a London-based quartet fronted by the beautifully voiced Chantal Hill, and this, their debut album, sees tales of murder, betrayal, love and pain set against a potent blend of Americana, country and folk. Much of ‘Little Copper Still’ is filled with a rough-edged, whisky-fuelled, foot-stomping majesty; you can almost feel the sultry heat and tension that suffuses ‘Ten Gallon Mile’, ‘Chokecherry Blues’ drips with brooding menace and dark intent, while ‘The Colour’ is a raucous, fierily tuneful blast of banjo-fired joy.This turbulence is interspersed with the softly melodic beauty of songs like ‘Phoenix’, and the heartbreaking lyrical purity of album-closing ballad ‘Johnny Davey’s Blues’, where Hill sings of “the sky’s dark blood, against the land’s bones”. There are simply no weak songs on this storytelling debut.
British Sea Power Machineries of Joy (Rough Trade) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Apr 1
British Sea Power’s longevity is heartwarming – purveyors of landscape indie to a fanbase who’ve never deserted them. But the title track of this, their fifth longplayer, sees BSP having a go at being Elbow – it’s big, melodic, unthreatening and unchallenging.Within a couple of songs there’s the blistering rock of ‘K Hole’, the delicately poised, beautifully orchestrated floatiness of ‘Hail Holy Queen’, and the standout track ‘When A Warm Wind Blows Through The Grass’, which has a filmic quality, like the soundtrack to some hazily defined drama. But barring those high points,‘Machineries of Joy’ is decidedly patchy, exemplified by the tepid, lukewarm dullness of songs like ‘Spring Has Sprung’. BSP’s USP has always been their well-documented eccentricity, their love of on-stage foliage and their unusual lyrical themes, and until now they’ve backed this up with albums as engaging and interesting as their persona.This record, by contrast, feels like the band are stepping into a comfy pair of slippers after a nice warm bath.
01 Yo La Tengo Photographer: Roy J Baron 02/03 Egyptian Hip Hop Photographer: Roy J Baron
03 The Men Photographer: Anni Timms
Yo La Tengo The Barbican Centre, London 20.03.2013 By Amy Pettifer
Creating a sense of atmosphere at a seated gig is no easy task.The Barbican’s vast hall threatens to dwarf anything that could be about to happen here, particularly as rather than going for any visual histrionics,Yo La Tengo’s stage set consist of three humble trees, painted on board like storybook illustrations. The first of tonight’s two sets is a canon of the bands softer songs and the performance is an assuredly modest response to the reverent hush created by 2000 transfixed people. But from the moment that the voices of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew form one luscious whole, the sophisticated mastery of this band is spellbinding. Feelings of still and quiet are not just referenced or arbitrarily created, they are implied in every thick, velvety, sonic layer and the atmosphere falls anything but flat. Songs from YLT’s thirteenth (an most recent) record ‘Fade’ form the backbone of the set, the insistent chug of opener ‘Ohm’ stripped back to whispered vocals and brushed percussion. ‘I’ll Be Around’ fills the air with the white noise of cicadas while ‘Cornelia and Jane’ is the first of
many heart-breaking Hubley-fronted moments. The band’s ability to operate on a micro/macro scale, sounding big while exuding intimacy, means that everyone forgets the daunting cavern of the hall they’re sitting in – that is until Kaplan gestures to the distant rafters with a casual quip of “nice place you have here.” Playing the louder set is perhaps the more anticipated challenge in such a rarefied setting, but hints of unchecked fuzz and drone in the first set via earlier tracks like ‘Saturday’ and ‘Big Day Coming’ hint that in fact this must be the place.Tonight figures the band alongside the kind of avant-garde artists that more regularly grace the Barbican stage – they are experimentalists and multi-instrumentalists whose identity is always moving, never settled – “resisting the flow…” as the repeated mantra of ‘Ohm’ confirms. Georgia Hubley shares more in common with Laurie Anderson than with a conventional alt. musician, and Kaplan is an insane musical polymath, switching from unabashed sweetness to guitar hero as he opens the second set like a possessed Jerry Lee Lewis or
Pete Townsend type, mashing keyboards and helicoptering his Fender perilously close to the stack of amps. The hall suddenly seems like a freeing playground for noise, punk, instrumental freakouts and limitless walls of sound, and this is what the second set is – a ferocity of perpetual motion that culminates where it quietly began, with ‘Ohm’ restored to a bristling, harmonic war cry. It takes two encores to satisfy the crowd and, McNew’s spirited cover of ‘Ant Music’ aside, this is done in the softest terms, with the epic embrace of ‘Our Way to Fall’ and the raw genius of Hubley’s rendition of ‘Take Care’ after which you could hear a pin drop. At one point Kaplan mentions the separate dressing rooms that the band are enjoying tonight, the subtext seeming to be how wholly unnatural it is for them to be even superficially separated. It feels like their collective creation and appreciation of music has persisted, without the slightest pause, over their 30 years together and the result is utter synchronicity, as supportive and sturdy in practice as the branches of a tree.
Egyptian Hip Hop XOYO, Old Street, London 04.03.2013 By Stuart Stubbs
It’s hard to tell if the mixed messages of Alex Hewett sink Egyptian Hip Hop, or are in fact instrumental in the band’s appeal.The same could have been said for another young, awkward front man with limited singing skills in 2007 – Faris Badwan was an odd mix of coyness and spite that made early Horrors shows a complete mess, but a magnetic one you wanted to see again. Hewett doesn’t chuck paint around like Badwan 1.0; he wears a silk smoking jacket, garish and impractical like it wants to be looked at.The man inside it, though, constantly tousles his overgrown hair, keeps his head down, turns his back and is reluctant to sing directly into the microphone as the band (who’ve clearly much improved as players since their early, Cure-ish pop days) lock in to one psychedelic groove after the next, all the while appearing no more comfortable in their surroundings than their leader. Eventually Hewett comes out of his shell and jumps into the crowd for the heavily drum slapping ‘Tobago’, but he loses his magic mic that’s drenched with a ridiculous amount of reverb and has to sing the next track clean, which has him fall off the confidence wagon and look more cripplingly shy than ever. He’s clearly a character, but a petrified one, all too aware of his vocal shortcomings.
The Men The Garage, Islington, London 19.03.2013 By Ian Roebuck
A cursory glance across the t-shirts on stage paints a pretty accurate picture of The Men. Neil Young, the Knicks and a canny tie dye job represents ‘New Moon’ (the scuzz rockers third album in as many years) in accurate fashion and tonight the band cement their fierce live reputation with a rip through new and old. Yes, they wear their brash Brooklyn heritage proudly on their sleeves, and yes, American ’80s indie proves to be a heady influence, but it’s their fresh take on Crazy Horse era country that shines tonight. ‘I Saw Her Face’, the emotional core of ‘New Moon’ and the eye of the storm at The Garage tonight, is a majestic ten-minute journey transforming a normally lifeless venue into sweet breeze Americana. Earlier two back-to-back moments from 2012’s ‘Open Your Heart’ (‘Turn it Around’ and the title track) had awakened the sold out crowd in bruising fashion and now they sway with every harmonic groove.Whether it’s a nerve jangling psychedelic smash from their primordial days or a honeyed song off their more recent material,The Men have everyone in their sweaty palms, which is an extra feat considering all the pre-gig chatter surrounded support band Parquet Courts and their debut UK show.
Live 01 Coves Photographer: Roy J Baron
02 Sigur Ros Photographer: Sonny McCartney
Esben & The Witch
Birthdays, Dalston, London 13.03.2013 By Austin Laike
Electrowerkz, Angel, London 25.02.2013 By Stuart Stubbs
Roadhouse, Manchester 07.03.2013 By Lucy Holt
Electrowerkz, Angel, London 28.02.2013 By Stuart Stubbs
The Scala, Kings Cross, London 25.02.2013 By Chris Watkeys
When talking about indie music we’re not meant to mention how female artists look when they look good. From men it’s crass and from women it’s bitchy, as appearance detracts from the seriousness of the music being played. It doesn’t apply to pop music of course, where looks are everything, but to ignore the physical allure of Coves singer Rebekah Wood – the semi opaque clothing, the dirty angel hair, the exaggerated movement – is to not be in the room.Wood isn’t perfume-ad sexy, like tonight’s cover of ‘Wicked Game’ – she’s simultaneously more awkward and confident than that, dancing like someone who genuinely doesn’t care and frequently bursting into laughter with fellow Coves founder John Ridgard. Ridgard – who’s no bag of spanners either – plays an oversized, hollowed guitar and sings largely in complete unison with Woods, with his eyes closed, the opposite to the band’s standing drummer, who beats a booming floor tom in time with a drum machine and stares ahead like a cold witness to the horrors of war. Other Jesus & Mary Chain-isms come in the form of dry ice, lava lamp projections, back-lit white spots, the tambourine and overall sound, but Coves, whose thin, airy intro soon makes way for a collection of ballsy, noir rock, also have something of early Raveonettes about them – the danger and the cool.They look good, but sound better, or will once they learn a second drumbeat.
The tale of London band Fiction – one in which a group of smart pop connoisseurs take three years to release a debut album – is not one for our time, if any time at all. It’s a slim window between a band’s initial wave of frenzied interest and them signing a deal and capitalising on that most fleeting of commodities – newness. Fiction’s refusal to quit has landed them here, at their own debut album release party, and the self-belief responsible seems as perfectly placed as this evening’s overwhelming joy.When it gets the better of them Fiction linger for one track too long, unable to even exit the stage before ‘returning’ for an encore that consists of one new demo that they’ve only played once before themselves. Bassist Dave Miller’s verbal diarrhoea of thanks mid-show is a more endearing sign of relief, and a reminder that Fiction have never bothered themselves with appearing cool, which has perhaps been key in the thankless pre-debut wilderness years.When they play almost every track from ‘The Big Other’, though, they do so with an effortless sense of confidence that’s a testament to the craft of the album’s parts – together a showboat in layered, rhythmic, 1980s indie pop that you can dance to or bookishly deconstruct. For three years Fiction have practiced for and worked toward this moment – of course it was going to be something close to perfection.
Wet Nuns are malcontents in the most grotesque sense. It seems apt, then, that as the worlds of church and sleaze collide with such fervour, they are dragging their live show across the country.They bow out of their tour in Manchester’s most esteemed subterranean sweatbox; an apathetic “Fuck You” to an institution that’s already fucked. They embrace the graceless and airless Roadhouse like the crudest of Irvine Welsh creations: shameless, intoxicated, dirty and foulmouthed. Loud and undignified is Wet Nun’s modus operandi, and this is particularly evident on the deliberately repulsive grit of ‘Throttle’ and the bar brawl of ‘Broken Teeth’. Any Viking connotations inferred from the duo’s fearsome bearded nature is offset by the frequent Patrick Swayze death chat. Insignificant perhaps, but it almost typifies the morbid curiosity that surrounds Wet Nun’s nearly-commercial-butessentially-doom-ridden existence. Their gore-driven, carnivorous rock has seen other musical realms reach across the aisle to embrace what would otherwise be a punk band for punk fans, yet what is usually a cleverly orchestrated, two-pronged attack of sound often descends into shapeless reverberations.There is one moment of clarity with ‘Why You So Cold?’ – a dystopian blues tale of menace and desperation – but the crowd are nonplussed.Wet Nuns aren’t for sophistication; the people apparently want more brute sleaze, please.
Tonight’s Iceage show – held in a painted black, UV-lit boiler room that looks and feels like it’s seen some atrocities in its day – bristles with very real agitation right up until the point where the band start to play. Anticipation is the true pleasure here, as some god-awful dustbin techno is dialled down for the band to tune up. A circle pit gets going before the Danish punks reach their A strings. But then something quite unexpected happens – for all the coiled, fraught tension, the opening ‘Ecstasy’ (which is not only quieter than expected but quite frankly a lacklustre mess, as if the band are too drunk or bored to hold down the chords properly) leaves it with nowhere to go.Things do improve, although not whilst singer Elias plays guitar himself, who displays the usual contempt we’ve come to expect from his band by only ever blurting the name of the next song, again in a fashion that just wishes we’d all fuck off and stop looking at him. He also manages “we’re not playing many songs off the last record,” to quash cries of “White Rune!” from the audience, a song they don’t play, of course. Sadistically speaking, the dank, nihilistic manner of Iceage is what makes them such a compelling and un-showbiz post-hardcore outfit, and so most of us will be back, for the pre-match tussle if nothing else. As the band leave, Elias shoots a glare of utter disgust our way. If only the songs had sounded so full of teenage venom.
During an intro, midway through tonight’s set, guitarist Daniel Copeman blows an amp, which the rest of the band mask with by playing a long, slow, repeating bass riff augmented by chiming percussion. Copeman frantically hauls gear around stage left. In the hands of a lot of bands this would sound like an ear-bleedingly boring jam, but not in the case of Esben And The Witch, who manage to make even the seemingly mundane sound haunting and atmospheric. Live, their magic is centred on singer Rachel Davies; the light shines on (and seems to emanate from) the diminutive frontwoman, while the other band members shrink into the background. Nowhere is this more stark than on ‘Shimmering’; Davies puts down her bass and, to a backdrop of a single, pounding bass drum and chiming guitar lets that glacial voice soar and dive, swell and fill the room.Then, as the song builds like a gathering storm, she sings as if she’s screaming for help. It’s this potent mix of urgency, chaos and drama, which makes the band such an intoxicating experience. ‘Smashed To Pieces In The Dead Of The Night’ closes out the set in a firestorm of post-rock guitar, the band lurching and rhythmically twisting onstage like the death throes of a mythical beast. It’s been intense.
Sigur Ros & Blanck Mass Brixton Academy, London 07.03.2013
Sigur Ros are a synonym wet dream. A band that inspires a vivid, adjective poetry some argue has no place in music journalism, their grand ambitions will always invite the kind of waxed-lyrical verbosity your three-chord pedlars can’t, simply because it’s never been enough for Sigur Ros to just turn up, plug in, and play out. Their live show has come to exist within the most exacting production standards – from the giant, illuminated balloons, to the dramatic, choreographed smoke and light contrasts, if last year’s daylight Bestival set apology was anything to go by, the seriousness with which Sigur Ros take their orchestral manoeuvres in the dark hasn’t diminished over the last 15 years. Tonight, though, they have the darkness they crave and, fittingly, the rapt attention of a London crowd. Behind a white gauze that creates a gossamer-thin barrier between stage and audience, a small army of silhouettes silently shift and take their place, preparing to envelop and engulf us all in the kind of performance the band have always promised. It’s a set of peerless aspiration and militant flawlessness, Jónsi Birgisson conducting
an11-strong orchestral ensemble of strings, brass and fellow band members with every cooed syllable and flourish of his guitar bow. Cast large in the stage background, lonely souls flicker lamps on deserted rocky outcrops as giant hearts beat and orbs glow, the joyful notes of ‘Hoppípolla’ and ‘Með Blóðnasir’ committed to montage memory, floating through the Academy, out over the arctic tundras, soundtracking the dance of the Northern Lights. The Academy’s mid-weight theatrics provide the perfect chamber for Birgisson’s lupine vocal to pierce through the cascade of piano and strings, or delicately drift over the low brass murmurs and tinkling glockenspiel.Where the majestic ‘Vaka (Untitled #1)’ hangs eerily heavy, ‘Sæglópur’ hits with all the weight of the world, and as the lightbulb warmth of ‘Fljótavík’ begins to seep you feel that these aren’t songs anymore; they’re stories, enshrined in the infinitely beautiful, eternally hopeful Sigur Ros narrative. And it’s a thematic combination that works to epic effect with the band’s Hopelandic language burrowing into the rolling visuals, saying nothing and everything, making this music to
block the world out to, staring dead-on and misty-eyed, your surroundings blinkered, your focus melting between the sonorous noise and low-lit theatre, searching for whatever you need to. In November, in support of a new record due in June, the band are to attempt this trick in Wembley’s inhumane Arena, and suddenly that seems no more implausible than how worthy of giant shows Sigur Ros have been for some time. They creates an atmosphere of near total stillness, held breath and hushed admiration, Birgisson typically the focus for any shifts in noise or movement, so that when he holds an impossibly long note during ‘Festival’, and furiously hurls his bow to one side during the encore, the response is both audible and tangible. In an otherwise hypnotic set there are the rare displays of unrestraint that pull you back into the room, inviting something more than just muted reverence. Iridescent; shimmering; ethereal: Sigur Ros are all of those things, and have been for the best part of two decades. But if we had to cut back on the wordplay, just once, and call out the show for what it was tonight, ‘masterclass’ still wouldn’t do it justice.
C I NE M A REVIEW
By IAN ROEBUCK
Side Effects Director: Steven Soderbergh Staring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta Jones
enfant terribleS Ian Roebuck previews three shocking Director who might just be going soft in 2013 Time was the ‘enfant terrible’ of cinema was just that, a young scandalous director hell bent on terrorising audiences with their warped vision. A John Waters or Werner Herzog picture screamed outsider-art; now of course Divine eating dog shit seems a little quaint and you can find it filed on Youtube next to Water’s political campaigning. So what names are rattling the crabby cage of Hollywood these days? A certain trio of Directors have been staking their claim for years, albeit irregularly, and they’re definitely no spring chickens. Harmony Korine, Gregg Akari and Gaspar Noe are the alternative vanguard; figureheads of film that love to alienate and revel in the obtuse. Or at least they were. Writer of Kids and Director of the wonderfully fragmented Gummo and the trashy Trash Humpers, Harmony Korine has skated erratically on thin ice for much of his career and now he’s giving us Spring Breakers. Korine’s body of work has always been lurid and experimental and this new film, at least on the surface, veers uncontrollably toward the main stream. James Franco stars alongside Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens (above) in what’s essentially an American college cinema gone wild. Its well publicised teen stars give the film an air of commercial whimsy but James Franco’s sordid drug dealer named Alien, and Korine’s eye for the absurd, push this voracious heist movie over the edge into hyper-reality. Korine is most definitely an enfant terrible, whilst for some his films are just terrible. Then we have Gregg Araki. His Nowhere felt earth shatteringly original at the time and his Mysterious Skin
was another startling step up, but then along came 2010’s Kaboom – a let-down for many. Schlocky and kitsch may have worked for Araki before, but not this time. Even so it’s with great anticipation we look towards his next film, White Bird in a Blizzard. Much like Mysterious Skin (his best work by far) this too is an adaptation of a novel.The book by Laura Kasischke is all angst ridden teens and coming of age innocence, again something Araki excels in, and Shailene Woodley, assured in The Descendants, plays a young lady whose life is thrown into disarray when her mother (the criminally underused Eva Green) disappears.This film has seemingly everything Araki needs to make the jump from enfant terrible to Hollywood Director for hire; surely it can’t shock can it? And finale we have Gaspar Noe who has every trait a good enfant terrible needs. Ability to astonish, Irreversible provided just that.Visionary for our times, look no further than Enter the Void. But what next? The Golden Suicides is a project that’s been pending for years – a Vanity Fair article depicting the final days and suicides of artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake with a screenplay by prolific Twitter pest Brett Easton Ellis. Gus Van Sant was attached to the project back in 2009 before subsequently stepping off the rumour mill and allowing Noe a glimpse of cult heaven. Now Ryan Gosling is on board, a vocal supporter of Noe’s talents who’s endorsement is sure to launch the Director into the stratosphere. So with Korine, Araki and Noe increasingly stepping out from the shadows where will we find our faeces eating thrills from in the future?
After a disparate directing career taking in a motley crew of films, Steven Soderbergh has arguably found his Shangri-La, just as he retires as a film maker. From Sex, Lies and Videotape to Solaris to Magic Mike, the seemingly workaholic Soderbergh has flitted from film to film in admirable fashion, and under the pseudonyms Mary Ann Bernard and Peter Andrews he’s excelled as both his films’ editor and cinematographer respectively. In Side Effects the clinical, controlling Soderbergh has chanced upon his perfect match. This psychological thriller is a chameleonic beast where noir, satire and crime drama combine effortlessly to induce a hypnotic state in the audience that’s in perfect tune with the med-fed plot. It’s a snappy swipe at big pharmaceuticals and the industry’s steady seep into everyday society, but it’s crafted in such clever fashion you’d think somebody slipped a little something in your drink before the lights went out. Soderbergh has a deft touch and we’re swiftly under, familiarity subtly twisting through skewed angles and extreme close ups as the story skips along at breakneck pace. Rooney Mara is astonishing as our patient, her striking features fascinating and her ability to strike fear from nowhere intoxicating, while Jude Law’s (the doctor) tells a different story – ultimately one not quite as captivating.Whilst Law’s English gent personified is a flawless piece of casting for act one, his doctor at ease with the world and its prescription (which we get in act two), and his subsequent meltdown, are less convincing. Just as we’re lulled into a comfortable narrative of pill popping paranoia Soderbergh disorientates in wonderful and quite scary style, whipping the rug from under our feet in one shocking scene. Our fried synapses from the dosed up opener are suddenly awakened and we’re ready for the rollercoaster to begin, yet to some extent the following ride disappoints.We are certainly treated to more skilful storytelling and there is still one last sting in the tail, but this is a film that feels like we are conditioned to enjoy, just like the medicine at the heart of it.
Read every past issue of Loud And Quiet at loudandquiet.com Loud And Quiet LOUD AND QUIET LOUD AND QUIET LOUD AND QUIET F OXYG E N
The Germans –
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Dan Deacon AMERICAN IDOL
fiCTion dePTford goTh fun AdulTs blAnk reAlm unknown morTAl orChesTrA nighT works yo lA Tengo
– are coming Interviewed :
Fidlar | Villagers | Apostille | Only Real | Mazes | Palma Violets | Seize The Chair
TRUST, COV ES, R ACH EL ZEFFIR A, PATRICK WOLF, INTER POL, GR ASS HOUSE, NZCA/LIN ES Plus INSIDE HOOKWOR MS’ SU BU R BA N HOM E STU DIO
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Plus DAUGHTER GROU P R HODA EGY PTIA N HIP HOP PU BLIC SERVICE BROA DCASTING A LU NAGEORGE
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PLUS DINOSAUR JR. FLYING LOTUS SAUNA YOUTH TY SEGALL HOW TO DRESS WELL BLACKLISTERS THE1234SHOREDITCH
BAT A AT
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GRIZZLY BEAR KEEL HER YEASAYER
TH E MOU NTAIN GOATS SH A R M EL SH A K ES ... A N D YOU WILL K NOW US BY TH E TR AIL OF DEA D
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PURITY RING TOTALLY ENORMOUS EXTINCT DINOSAURS DROP OUT VENUS
A MODEL R ACONTEUR
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
PINS THE MEMORIES JESSIE WARE DIRTY PROJECTORS BEAK> NICK GARRIE SEX IS DISGUSTING RIP
M I C AC H U OFF TO NEVER NEVER LAND
HOW TO GROW OLD DISGRACEFULLY
ALIVE AND DIRECT
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John Lydon on everything
AT THE ALTAR OF THE BASEDGOD
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– XIU XIU – SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO – VIRALS – 2:54 –
∆ GRAHAM COXON HOT CHIP MAC DEMARCO CHET FAKER LADYHAWKE JAPANDROIDS FEMALE BAND
ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 35 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID
World, you need a change of mind
Plus Willis Earl Beal Chairlift Weird Dreams Hatcham Social
Charlotte Gainsbourg --A life in art
Gang Colours Maria Minerva THEESatisfaction
Grimes The Proper Ornaments Lee Ranaldo Trailer Trash Tracys Psychic Dancehall Ceremony The Maccabees
AVAILABLE NOW DBR001 CLOUT! – CLOUT! E.P
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party wolf KEATON’S Key From page 26
thought sport In the heads of cricket fans 2
1. No way! I could have caught that! 2.Yay! He caught it, Pete! 3.Wahey! He caught it! 4. Cricket! 5.Target identified.
MY TIME Diary of a somebody
Whoomph! A chair flies past my head and smacks on the floor.Two skanks pull at one another’s hair. Arms flail and another chair whizzes across the room towards me. I duck just in time again and feel cool like Neo. “That be my man!” one shrieks at the other. “Oh yeah? Well why was ee wiv me last night den?” “Bitch!” “Slag!” I’ve heard it all before of course. Using my brilliant skills I manage to calm them both down for a second, turn the chairs back up the right way and sit them down next to each other. I ask Chantelle – now minus another tooth – if there’s anything she’d like to say to Leanne but it kicks off again. Nails, hair, shriek, shriek, shriek. I leave them to it. I’m going to be late for work.
‘The T-Birds’, as they’ve taken to calling themselves in the BBC canteen, are a nasty fucking bunch.Their whipping boy, ‘Hammy’, is light with his fingers, if you know what I mean, and is known to get to work while ‘Fonz’ and ‘The Organ Grinder’ distract onlookers by sitting the wrong way round on chairs and tossing banter around like, in their words, “a foreign person in a tumble dryer”.Together they are responsible for half the bootcut jeans sold in the UK.
Christ, Ian. How did you get in?!
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
Photo casebook “The sexy world of Ian Beale”