Jackie Cohen, boygenius, Suitman Jungle, Jlin, Viagra Boys, CHAI, Lala Lala
We can still change the world
Contents Contact firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Loud And Quiet Ltd PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Founding Editor: Stuart Stubbs Art Direction: B.A.M. Digital Director: Greg Cochrane Marketing & Sales Manager: Dominic Haley Sub Editor: Alexandra Wilshire Book Editor: Lee Bullman Contributing Editor: Dafydd Jenkins Contributing Editor: Stephen Butchard Contributing writers Abi Crawford, Aimee Armstrong, Andrew Anderson, Alex Weston-Noond, Brian Coney, Cal Cashin, Chris Watkeys, David Cortes, David Zammitt, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Derek Robertson, Gemma Samways, Guia Cortassa, Hayley Scott, Ian Roebuck, Joe Goggins, Katie Beswick, Liam Konemann, Luke Cartledge, Max Pilley, Patrick Glen, Rachel Redfern, Rosie Ramsden, Reef Younis, Sarah Lay, Susan Darlington, Sam Walton, Tristan Gatward.
Since last month’s edition of Loud And Quiet was published news broke of the death of music writer Pat Long – an old friend and colleague of both mine and Greg’s. Although I knew of Pat’s brain tumour, and although I hadn’t seen him for a number of years, it knocked me over, which is a testament to the man he was. As I posted on our Twitter feed on that day, everyone was made to feel welcome by Pat. I’d be tempted to say that every office has a guy like him, but that would be wishful thinking – Pat Long would invite the work experience students to pull up a chair at lunch; he was polite enough to smile and nod along when he could tell I was excited that I’d been invited to a Bravery gig for free; he’d be embarrassed that we are dedicating this issue to him. Stuart Stubbs
Contributing photographers Ant Adams, Brian Guido, Charlotte Patmore, Colin Medley, David Cortes, Dan Kendall, Dustin Condren, Gabriel Green, Gem Harris, Heather Mccutcheon, Jenna Foxton, Jonangelo Molinari, Matilda Hill-Jenkins, Nathanael Turner, Nathaniel Wood, Phil Sharp, Sonny McCartney, Timothy Cochrane. With special thanks to Anna Mears, Ellie Jones, Jamie Woolgar, Kate Price, Kathryne Chalker, Keong Woo, Marcus Scott, Sarina Clark.
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2018 Loud And Quiet Ltd.
ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Wyndeham Grange Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte
Jackie Cohen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Suitman Jungle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 CHAI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Viagra Boys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Lala Lala . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Yoko Ono . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 End of The Road . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 boygenius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Jlin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 03
NEW ALBUM OUT NOW “AN URGENT EXPLORATION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN”
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Lessons in signing a big fat record deal You should never let a lawyer loose in a recording studio – the results would be awful, boring, or awfully boring. If you want proof, listen to the work of Julio Iglesias, music’s most notable qualified lawyer. Nor should you ever let a musician work on an important contract. Many musicians think that just because they sing and play at the same time they must also be a legal genius, though. This is rather like thinking that because you’re good at rugby you must also be funny (Matt Dawson) or that because you have a large bottom you must also be interesting (Kim Kardashian). As a result, there are thousands of bad record deals in history. But what exactly is a record deal, and why is it so easy to fuck it up? Essentially, a record contract allows someone (the label) to sell music created by someone else (the artist or band). That sounds nice and simple – like letting an estate agent sell your house – but can end up with unexpected demands, like when an estate agent goes rouge and sells not only your house but also your children. For example, the label might ask you to hand over the copyright for your songs. That seems reasonable – they will, after all, be releasing your music – until you realise that they now have total control over what happens to your songs for the rest of your life; in fact, until 70 years after your death, which means they’ll be screwing you even when you’re dead. Worse, they may ask for a 360-degree deal. This means the label takes a cut of everything you do, from publishing (your song is played on the radio), to licensing (your song is used in a movie), to merchandising (your lyrics are printed on toilet paper). It’s worse than being screwed when you’re dead because a.) you’re not dead, and b.) it’s 360-degree, so… y’know… you’re screwed from all sides. There’s a good reason why labels do this. Most songs don’t make much money, so the one-sided nature of the deal reflects the risk the label is taking by investing in the artist. This feels wrong because the transaction involves art, but think of it like this: would a bank give you a big loan to build a house just because your design looks nice? Of course not. The same goes for a label – they’re not going to give you a great big loan (your advance) just because your music is amazing. Still, there’s protecting against risk and then there’s being a dick. Let’s take a look at some famous deals that fall into the latter category. We’ll start in the ’50s, a time when musicians and songwriters were treated with the same contempt as present day traffic wardens. Even by those shitty standards Little Richard got a bad deal, when he was asked to sign over the rights for his song ‘Tutti Frutti’ for $50. In return, he’d receive 0.5¢ per record sold (about a quarter of the usual rate back then). As a result, although the record sold over three million copies, Richard’s take was just $15,000. You’ve also got to watch out for unscrupulous managers
words by andrew anderson. illustration by kate prior
and their contracts. Badfinger signed with Stan Polley in 1970 and all was well at first (he got them a record deal with Warner Bros, although most of that money went to Polley). Eventually Warner dropped the band, citing Polley’s shady behaviour. Badfinger never recovered and frontman Pete Ham took his own life, leaving the message, “Stan Polley is a soulless bastard.” Move forward to the ’80s and the exploitation continued. Despite being the decade’s demigods, both Michael Jackson and Prince managed to sign things they shouldn’t have. As a result, Prince turned himself from a sex icon into an unpronounceable symbol, while Jackson later said: “The recording companies really conspire against the artists – they steal, they cheat, they do everything they can.” Rappers in particular have a penchant for signing bad deals, perhaps not surprising given the genre’s obsession with wealth. Take Dr Dre: no one is going to argue that a man who can successfully sell £10 headphones for £250 is bad at business. But even he got his pants pulled down as part of N.W.A., thanks a contract with the appropriately named Ruthless Records (co-owned by N.W.A.’s Eazy-E). Dre learnt from his mistake and went on to found Death Row Records, a label renowned for its ability to extract cash from wide-eyed artists. What’s the lesson from all this? Not ‘read the small print’, because that’s boring. No, the lesson is to accept your own limitations and ask other people for help. That’s not very rock’n’roll, but it will save you a 360-degree shafting. And, in 2018, that’s the best most of us can hope for.
The magic of sampling, from Lionel Ritchie to Kanye West There’s an old soul song from nearly forty years ago that’s having its cultural moment right now, thanks to some nifty sampling from Kanye West and Nicolas Jaar. Both men have built entire careers from flipping these kinds of vocals. Their skill for cratedigging is one thing, but it’s the way they can cast new light on a sample that’s earned them their name. Now, with the opening lines of Delfonic’s ‘I Gave to You’, they might have refined their craft to its purest form. Kanye’s artful appropriation of soul sampling sits in a magic space between homage and theft. He lets whole choruses speak for themselves, frequently ruffling the feathers of many a listener and label exec. The most egregious example might be ‘Father Stretch My Hands Part 2’, where he rapped over the entirety of Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ when the track had barely been released. The homage/remix/theft boundary threatens to give way completely there, but here, with ‘I Gave to You’ it’s clear to see the brilliance of his style. A minute and a half into Teyana Taylor’s breakthrough album ‘K.T.S.E’, he cuts off a song mid-thought and lets the opening seconds of ‘I Gave to You’ play. “Oh you’re gonna love me / You’re gonna wanna hold me / And squeeze me”. It bursts through like light through a cloud, and with little more than some pitch shifting and tempo adjusting to give the lines a giddier feel, he’s set the tone for the whole album. Pharrell struggled for years to find Teyana Taylor a sound before releasing her from his label; Kanye managed to do it with one sample. Nicolas Jaar turns the vocal inside out on his take for the All Against Logic project, backed by sour synths and clattering production. While not as minimal and West’s usage, the
raw nature of the clip adds a starkness not present elsewhere. And then there’s what he does to the lyrics. He retitles the song ‘You’re Gonna Love Me and Scream’, cleverly clipping the vocal on the last word to turn a cosy embrace into an obsessive howl. There’s a long lineage of artists finding new meaning in samples, all the way back to The Avalanches with ‘Since I left You’, where they effectively turned a love song into a breakup song. While West opts to use the meaning of the original as a core to riff off, Jaar shifts it completely. It’s rare to get such a great side-by-side comparison of how to reuse an old sample, to give new life to the art that inspired you. This isn’t the only way to twist a sample to your liking, though. Experimental electronic producer IGLOOGHOST contorts samples beyond recognition, piling vocals and effects on top of each other to create a complex web of references. His hyperactive tunes pivot so frequently that it’s hard to get a handle on any individual voice he’s using, but on the rare chance you do, it’s always a goldmine. On ‘Black Light Ultra’ from his new ‘Steel Mogu’ EP, he uses the yelped raps from Danny Brown’s ‘Ain’t It Funny’ as a percussive flourish, pitched so high the words are barely intelligible. Hunting for samples embedded deep in the music is a treat on its own. Recognising the original source feels like being in on a secret conversation with the producer. Samples can also find new power when disconnected from their original contexts. Jlin does this wonderfully on the opening track to her new score, ‘Autobiography’. She takes the panicked, cracked ramblings from Billie Whitelaw’s incredible 1973 performance of Not I by Samuel Beckett, carefully splicing phrases and shouts like a surgeon. Her footwork is so meticulous that these flashes of unkempt passion that flicker through are perhaps more unsettling than in their original form. “Contortions, without which, no speech possible,” Whitelaw whispers, her detached voice a vessel for Jlin to tell a new story. There’s something both scary and beautiful about Whitelaw’s work finding new life after her passing, without her knowledge. And then there’s the pure flex. Though he’s moved in to subtler, moodier material over the years, the Field’s debut album, ‘From Here We Go Sublime’, was full of these clever winks. He snuck Kate Bush, Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac into his hypnotic form of techno with a straight face throughout that album. But on ‘A Paw Hit My Face’, after letting an acoustic guitar phrase cycle on for five minutes while his relentless bass kick does its thing, he stops the breaks and lets the sample play out in full. It’s Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’. You sit wondering how the hell he managed to mine those crisp textures out of such a cheesy ballad, and how the hell you hadn’t noticed until now. Out of all the magic tricks you could attempt, the magic of sampling doesn’t dull when you’re shown how it’s pulled off.
words by stephen butchard. illustration by kate prior
Sweet 16: John Grant spent 1984 feeling trapped by his sexuality
We’re in the Rocky Mountains in this photo. It’s me and my older sister, Susan, whom I love very deeply. It would have been 1984 and we lived in Parker, Colorado. That’s a good picture because I’m smiling, but that wasn’t often the case. Susan went away to a Christian university like we were all expected to do – she’s always been one of my closest friends. Around then, we went to the cinema a lot and I was starting to drink with my friends from church. We’d go out and pretend that we were going to the same movie then just go and get beer. This dodgy American 3.2% beer that you could get at the grocery store that was absolutely horrible. We would sit in parking lots, drink beer and listen to the radio. Church was three times a week. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday. School wasn’t a priority because I just wanted to have fun and listen to music all the time. Except for drama. My parents were very sceptical about allowing any son of theirs to get into that field so that was discouraged, but I was good at it. The teacher was Sally Smith, a huge figure in my life. There were also these three girls from California – Ty, Holly and Rachel – they were new wave punks with crazy make-up and hair. I worshipped them. I got into a lot of music because of them. They were these strong, exotic creatures, not afraid to be themselves. Music was the most important thing. I’d have been listening to ‘1984’ (S/T) from Eurythmics – one of their best records. That’s one of my favourite movies, too. So amazing – John Hurt and Richard Burton. I was really into DEVO, Yazoo, Ultravox, Visage, Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Nina Hagen and Thomas Dolby. Missing Persons, Duran Duran – there was a lot of this new romantics stuff coming out of England. I was already
completely in love with that. As I got older I started getting into darker stuff. I can’t stress how important how music was; it made everything possible for me. If it didn’t have to do with New Wave music, as we called it then, I didn’t care. I had a job. I was working at a dry cleaners with two of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen in my life. I got fired for calling this woman a bitch, one of the rich customers that came in. I lied to my parents about that and said, ‘yeah, they just didn’t need me anymore.’ They didn’t question it. I always weighed a 165 pounds soaking wet. I was super skinny and was always wearing an extra layer to bulk myself up. I could eat whatever I wanted and it was that way for a long, long time. I was always very self conscious about being too skinny, and made fun of. I was very scared at that point, but I was still somewhat optimistic. I could see that I wasn’t becoming what I was supposed to become. I was in no way out to my family as gay yet and I was terrified because I realised it wasn’t going away. I didn’t think there was a place for me in the world. I probably thought that’d I’d be put to death for being what I was. I couldn’t really talk to anybody about what was going on. Nobody. There might have been someone I could have talked to, but I was too terrified. Then I got intimate with one of my church friends – one of my best friends. That changed everything. That was 1984. I couldn’t talk about it at all with him. Not a single word. And that broke his heart because he wanted to be with me, and I probably wanted to be with him too but I just shut him out of my life. It was simply not possible. I find that really sad that I pushed that person away.
as told to greg cochrane
10—18 MOTH Club
The Waiting Room
Valette St London E8
71 Shacklewell Lane London E8
175 Stoke Newington High St N16
Tuesday 25 September
AMYL & THE SNIFFERS Friday 28 September
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS Monday 1 October
KING DUDE Friday 12 October
NIGHT FLOWERS Friday 19 October
THE COATHANGERS Saturday 20 October
WILLIE J. HEALEY Monday 22 October
INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Tuesday 23 October
THE SPACE LADY Wednesday 24 October
CLUB KURU Thursday 25 October
PALM Friday 26 October
GO KART MOZART Monday 29 October
THE COURTNEYS Tuesday 30 October
Monday 24 September
DAZE Tuesday 25 September
ADULT MOM Wednesday 26 September
SUN JUNE Thursday 27 September
CREATURES Saturday 29 September
VIAGRA BOYS Tuesday 2 October
CLEMENTINE MARCH Friday 5 October
GOLD BABY Saturday 6 October
GO!ZILLA Monday 8 October
SPILL GOLD Wednesday 10 October
BLOODY KNIVES Thursday 11 October
THE BRITANYS Friday 12 October
NEGATIVE GEMINI Saturday 12 October
CASSETTE STORE DAY ALL-DAYER
Thursday 27 September
HONEY MOON Friday 28 September
WHO’S THE TECHNICIAN? Saturday 29 September
SALARY BOY Thursday 4 October
WASUREMONO Saturday 6 October
JUICEBOXXX Saturday 6 October
FRITS WENTINK Wednesday 10 October
BED RUGS Thursday 11 October
TERTIA MAY Saturday 13 October
LUC MAST Monday 15 October
FOXTROTT Tuesday 16 October
YOU TELL ME
Various venues Tottenham & Seven Sisters
Saturday 27 April 2019
TEST PRESSING FESTIVAL
Interview Surprising music from LA’s most surprised musician, by Katie Beswick Photography by Nathanael Turner
Jackie Cohen “I think I was just a little surprised. I was a legitimate step one, phase one beginner,” Jackie Cohen tells me when I ask her how she knew the songs she was writing for her first EP were any good. She’s sipping on an iced coffee, cross-legged on the floor of a rental apartment in Virginia. It’s early morning and Cohen is fighting off the last vestiges of a flu that won’t quite shift. Later, she’ll head to Montrose Studios, where she’s working with Spacebomb Records on her new material. This iteration of her life – a musician touring the country, recording tracks she has written herself – is something of an unexpected turn. She only began working on her own music as an experiment, seized by the need to make something in the midst of a creative and emotional lull after leaving college, where she minored in creative writing. Her college experience, she says, was “taxing”, and feeling reluctant to return to her job as a marketing consultant she decided to teach herself piano using laminated chord sheets, just to see if she could discover a new way to express herself. “And so when I started writing songs and I was, like, plucking away and coming up with a way to be creative again, it felt really good. I was definitely self-conscious about it. I still don’t think of myself that way – I’m not a musician because I can’t really play anything very well. I was surprised that I was writing songs at all. I didn’t know I could do that. It wasn’t like I wrote my first song and was like, ‘Wow! This is brilliant! I’m a genius!’ It was more, like, ‘I can do this. And I like it.’” Perhaps, though, this transformation into singer-songwriter isn’t quite as surprising as it seems. Cohen’s husband is Jonathan Rado, producer and one half of indie-rock duo Foxygen, and she has spent time touring with them, during and after college, working as a backing singer. In fact, she’s been singing with Rado since ninth grade, when he and Sam France, the other half of Foxygen, asked Cohen and her sister to join them at a set at Whisky a Go Go in their home city of LA. “We said yes, and at the last minute my sister bailed out, but I was
like, ‘I wanna go!’ I was already a big fan of their music. They circulated CDs at school, just like burn CDs, and my sister and her boyfriend had them and I was already listening to them and I just thought they were the coolest thing ever. And so I went. I didn’t really know them that well, so I showed up for our fiveminute rehearsal right before the show, and I’ve kind of been in the band since then.” Since she started making her own music, being Rado’s partner has become more difficult. Not only because of the obvious pressure of writing your first ever songs with one half of Foxygen in the other room, but because of other people’s assumptions. “A lot of people ask me when they hear I’m making music, ‘do you write your songs or does Rado write them?’ And I’m like, ‘No. I write my songs.’” Although, of course, it helps when your husband is making an album with the Lemon Twigs (2016’s ‘Do Hollywood’) and he can invite them over to the house to record the instrumentals for your EP. — Night and day terrors — Cohen’s first record, ‘Tacoma Night Terror’, has been released as two chapters. ‘Part 1: I’ve Got the Blues’ dropped in June this year, quickly picking up a celebrity follower in Russell Crowe, who tweets almost everything she releases. ‘Part 2: SelfFulfilling Energy’ comes out later this month. The subtitles were inspired by the title-cards on the French films Cohen watched while making the record. The second half is lyrically darker though instrumentally more lively than the first; a kind of wired, anxious, semi-lucid sound that, as Cohen explains, comes out of her difficult college period and seems very much like “it was written by someone who is not sleeping well.” “Things were really dark,” she says of her time at college. “I needed to get help and I didn’t want it. I was getting really, really physically sick which is something that happens when
I get stressed, and I would go into the health centre and they would send me straight to see the counsellor. They would say, ‘you don’t have a throat infection you need to go see the counsellor right now.’ And so I got red flagged a bunch of times in school. So I didn’t want help, I didn’t want to think I was failing, I didn’t want to be weak in any way, I didn’t want my parents to worry. I didn’t want to talk to them about it so I just spiralled out of control.” The work that resulted from the emotional turmoil of this period is a strange and original creation, cartoonish and layered with Cohen’s Valley-girl country-music voice, a style that was another surprise she says, emerging after she allowed her vocals to find what they wanted to do naturally. “Because I’d taken voice lessons and stuff when I was kid, I really had it pounded into me about what quality tone is, and what musical theatre projecting sounds like. And I was never the last five in the recital. I was never the finale. So I was really self-conscious about my voice and when I started playing guitar a little bit and playing piano a little bit I got really interested in female voices that aren’t Broadway voices.” — The Stevie Nicks muscle — Cohen discovered Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks and Joan Baez, and while touring with Foygen, found Jessica Pratt (Foxygen released a cover of Pratt’s ‘On Your Own Love Again’ in 2017), who she says has one of her favourite voices of all time.
It was at this point that Cohen really began to experiment with how a woman’s voice might sound. “I don’t think I was really tuned into what was going on before that. It was a good time for me to start thinking about what I could do and what I wanted to do. And a lot of the stuff I was listening to was country- and folkinspired and I think I had latched onto that pretty hard. I was trying to teach myself how to play songs on guitar or on piano and I would look up a Fleetwood Mac song and I would be like, ‘Oh I can play this, it’s mostly G-C-D,’ and so at the same time that I was playing piano and trying to learn songs I was probably doing a Stevie Nicks impression on my downtime. I think those were the muscles that I was exercising.” There was also a certain amount of letting other people lead the direction of the music in its incipient stages. A lack of confidence in the early material, coupled with an obvious respect for the talents of her husband and his friends, meant that Cohen had less say in the arrangement than she might allow now. She tells me that, since signing with Spacebomb and working on new songs for a forthcoming record, she feels much more able to take the reigns. Partly because the team she refers to as “the Spacebomb guys” show so much respect for her own talents. “This time around I also feel more confident about my ideas and have had a much bigger hand in the creative direction of the instrumentals. And then I’m also working with these guys who are like the best musicians and arrangers working. And I come in and they’re just really cool, because I come in and I’m a really bad guitar player, but they’ve been so respectful to me. Like, nobody in this group has treated my work as if… no one has talked to me as if I don’t know what I’m doing. Which is something I have to deal with a lot. They sit and they think and there’s a lot of care and love and respect that goes into everything they do, which is just amazing.” Cohen’s calm, happy demeanour and the opportunities she’s made for herself are a far cry from the dark nights alone in her college dorm she describes, not so many years ago. There’s another EP in the pipeline (due out sometime next year), she’s just returned from a tour, supporting Alex Cameron, and she’ll open for Mac DeMarco in Europe in October. A testament to the healing power of art, and friendships. “I’m just still working with my friends, and I just feel like there’s this really amazing community around me. Yeah. I dunno,” she shrugs. “I’m really proud of the work we’re doing.”
JOSE GONZALEZ THURS 20 OSEPT OUT S LD HALL ROYAL ALBERT ODETTA HARTMAN MON 24 SEPT THE ISLINGTON HALF WAIF MON 24 SEPT SEBRIGHT ARMS GENTLY TENDER WED 26 SEPT THE LEXINGTON MITSKI WED 26 SEPT O2 SHEPHERDâ€™S BUSH EMPIRE
NEGATIVE GEMINI FRI 12 OCT THE SHACKLEWELL ARMS 77:78 MON 15 OCT OSLO HACKNEY GWENNO THURS 18 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL STEADY HOLIDAY THURS 18 OCT THE ISLINGTON RINA SAWAYAMA FRI 19 OCT HEAVEN
JIM GHEDI THURS 27 SEPT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
LEYYA TUES 23 OCT SEBRIGHT ARMS
SKINNY PELEMBE THURS 27 SEPT CORSICA STUDIOS
OKAY KAYA TUES 23 OCT CHATS PALACE
IDER TUES 2 OCT VILLAGE UNDERGROUND
SAM EVIAN TUES 23 OCT HOXTON HALL
WASUREMONO THURS 4 OCT THE WAITING ROOM
GIANT PARTY WED 24 OCT THE LEXINGTON
ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND FRI 5 OCT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
SOLOMON GREY THURS 25 OCT UNION CHAPEL
JOHN MOODS FRI 5 OCT SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS
BC CAMPLIGHT THURS 25 OCT OMEARA
MARTIN KOHLSTEDT MON 8 OCT ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH
PALM THURS 25 OCT MOTH CLUB
DILLY DALLY UT TUES 9 OCT OLD O SEBRIGHTS ARMS
LORD HURON FRI 26 OCT ROUNDHOUSE GOLD STAR MON 29 OCT THE WAITING ROOM
SERPENTWITHFEET THURS 30 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL LUCY DACUS WED 31 OCT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL THE KVB WED 31 OCT CORSICA STUDIOS THE GARDEN WED 31 OCT & THURS 1 NOV THE GARAGE SNEAKS THURS 1 NOV THE ISLINGTON GOAT GIRL FRI 2 NOV KOKO INSECURE MEN TUES 6 NOV QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL ANDY SHAUF OUT TUES 6 NOV SOLDCHURCH ST. MATTHIAS CURTIS HARDING THURS 8 NOV KOKO CAR SEAT HEADREST THURS 8 NOV O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON OLDEN YOLK SAT 10 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS PARQUET COURTS MON 12 NOV ROUNDHOUSE LAURA JEAN TUES 13 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS FLASHER TUES 13 NOV THE LEXINGTON
KELLY LEE OWENS THURS 15 NOV VILLAGE UNDERGROUND MADELINE KENNEY THURS 15 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS W. H. LUNG THURS 15 NOV CORSICA STUDIOS TIRZAH OUT MON 19 NOV SOLD VILLAGE UNDERGROUND LUKE HOWARD TUES 20 NOV BUSH HALL GLORIA WED 21 NOV THE LEXINGTON JUNIORE THURS 22 NOV DALSTON VICTORIA THE WAVE PICTURES THURS 22 NOV KOKO SUBURBAN LIVING FRI 23 NOV SEBRIGHT ARMS HOOKWORMS SAT 24 NOV O2 FORUM KENTISH TOWN MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND TUES 27 NOV OSLO HACKNEY HUGAR WED 28 NOV ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH JUNGLE THURS 21 FEB ALEXANDRA PALACE
Interview Spoken word live drum and bass about that day job you’ve got, by Stuart Stubbs. Photography by Jonangelo Molinari
Suitman Jungle We are predisposed to hate our jobs because they are so inherently unfair. It doesn’t even matter what you do; it’s the fact that you have to do it. Sadder still is that mankind has made this rod for its own back. We’ve imprisoned ourselves in busying ourselves. So yes, I too have walked passed a dog on my way to work and thought ‘I wish I was you’. Some people are better than others at dealing with the reality of working for a living, but we’d all rather not ask someone else if we can please come in half an hour early tomorrow in order to leave half an hour early, to ensure that the company doesn’t pay us for an extra 30 minutes of work that we definitely haven’t carried out. And then there are the people who insist that they wouldn’t give up work even if they won the Lottery. They are a sinister and unimaginative lot who you should distance yourself from. Suitman Jungle doesn’t have a solution to our employment problems, but in his music, at least, he feels our pain. He is, by day, Marc Pell – the talented drummer in Micachu and the Shapes, and, more recently, a member of Mount Kimbie’s touring live band. Two days a week he’s an office clerk in central London – a job he started as a temp, and one that has informed this solo project of his, although not quite how I’d presumed. — Coffee break — I meet Marc at the crack of dawn at Canary Wharf, where office workers arrive from hour-long train journeys. Although his own office job isn’t based here he knows the business complex well – the new places to eat; the best place for coffee. He grew up in the neighbouring borough of Newham where he still lives today. His dad was a drummer and he followed suit in his mid teens, playing orchestral, rock and then jazz drums before discovering electronics at college and going on to study at London Guildhall University. It was there that he met coursemate Raisa Khan and her flatmate Mica Levi – the three of them would form Micachu and The Shapes. He had drum lessons from
17 until he left uni, “but since then is where I’ve learnt the most about myself as a musician,” he says. “I really don’t think that that training was necessary.” Sat in a subterranean mall branch of Paul, I ask Marc where Suitman Jungle originated from – a solo project that combines spoken word with drum and bass and jungle, played live on a stand-up drum kit. “I had two days off in LA when Raisa, Mica and I were touring our last album,” he begins. “We were in Portland the day before and I went round some charity shops and saw a nice suit for 90 bucks and bought it. Then when I was in LA I went to this drum store and I walked in there and said can I have a little cocktail standing kit, please? Came back 45 minutes later, 120 bucks, they’d sculpted this thing from loose ends. Why did I do both of those things?” he questions. “Why did I buy a suit and a cocktail kit? Well, I’d always known that Hollywood was a very free place, and I think a few months prior to that I’d began to think about busking or doing something other than music, and just doing music as a side thing. So that would generally involve wearing a suit. And then in my lunch break I could go out and do what I want to do, and go back to work and earn loads of money. “I wanted to take the money burden off,” he says. “I was a bit younger then and I was worried about what I was going to do after the tour. So I thought, y’know what, I’m going to get a job.” Marc, I instantly realise, is a far more optimistic person than I am. He didn’t see a 9-5 job as something to run away from at all costs, he saw it as a liberation; a way to peruse his love of music without the pressure of it having to support him financially. When I ask him how he felt about the situation as he realised it in Los Angeles, he says: “I was very excited about it. And I’m still doing that normal job alongside everything else, even though I’ve got a lot of music going on. The job has become a side thing to the music. “I just love working, in whatever form that is. So I’ll do a couple of days a week in Tottenham Court Road, which is just a desk job, and I’ll enjoy that as much as any other aspect of
Interview my life. People are fascinating and I just love people, whether they’re in an office or outside. It’s just making the most of whatever situations you’re in at that time.” That guy that says he wouldn’t give up work even if he won the Lottery – that’s kind of Marc. But let him put it this way: “When you meet someone you always ask them what they do, and I feel like everyone should be comfortable saying that what it is that they do is the thing that’s really at the bottom of their soul. ‘What do you do?’ ‘I’m a poet.’ If you’re a poet you’re a poet. It doesn’t matter how you pay you bills, it’s where your mind is at.” When The Shapes flew home from L.A. Marc did two things – started temping in an office and began busking as Suitman Jungle. He loved both and still does, considering the joys of busking its welcoming community (“within an hour I knew the queuing system and I felt like I was already part of it – I’d recommend it to anyone”) and the opportunity to play in a public forum with zero expectation of any response of engagement. “I felt like I made it quite big with the project a few months ago,” he says. “I made it onto the Shit London Facebook page. Someone had filmed me while I was busking and the feedback was wicked. A lot of people hated on it. I just loved it. Y’know, I was in this public place, and you don’t get feedback from people whether they’re enjoying it or not, and then two weeks later I saw what people thought of it. “I love feedback. The more negative feedback the better for everyone. The standout comment was, ‘this guy needs to learn that to be a drummer takes rhythm, coordination and timing.’ And, like, yeah! I played really badly, and if this guy thinks that, I’ve got work to do.”
What the most you’ve made busking, I ask. “It was on Hollywood Blvd opposite Captain American and all those dudes. Some film crew started filming for some special event and they needed me to shut up, basically, so a cameraman came over and gave me 30 bucks. That’s the single biggest hit I’ve made busking.” So they paid you to stop. “Yes, they paid me to stop.” — Liquid lunch — Marc has been playing Suitman Jungle shows for the last couple of years. I went to see one a week before we met at Canary Warf, at Brixton DIY venue The Windmill, where a dedicated crowd gave in to the old school jungle breaks and danced as if the room was twice as full. A couple of weeks before that I was sent his debut album, ‘Liquid Lunch’ (out in the new year on Tape Club Records), and was instantly sold. It was too relatable to not love – especially the title track, in which Marc goes to the pub at lunch for five pints. “I’ll return / To my desk / And I’ll make / Loads of great decisions / I’ve no regrets / Because I know I’ve earned it / My liquid lunch / My liquid lunch.” The bass drop winds up again and the drums skitter back in, from a man who listened to Hospital Records as a kid, and artists Landslide and London Electricity. The next song on ‘Liquid Lunch’ is about a lift going up and down, while ‘Nil Cash Option’ is an interlude consisting of office chatter and what sounds like one plummy guy saying, “I’m fine being an accountant.” Talking to Marc and hearing how much he enjoys his office job, clearly I’ve been projecting in presuming that Suitman Jungle’s debut is a record about hating your day job. “It’s not a record about someone who hates his job,” he says. “Where it came from is… like I said, I love working. I’m reading Marcus Aurelius at the moment and he touches on it – to do just for the sake of doing is a bit of an illness and I think I’ve got that illness. This album is a release from that. ‘Amen Break / Commercial Break’ on the album is a track about wanting a break but also filling every single minute with something to do. “Especially in London or any big city, you’re rushing to eat, you’re rushing get to work on time, you’re rushing to go to bed. That song is, ‘I want a break, I want a break, I want a break, but there’s nothing I can do about all this doing that has been ingrained in my brain from I can’t even remember when.’” Marc’s album delivers this modern terror with more than a little good humour. It’s key to ‘Liquid Lunch’’s relatability and takes the edge off the music’s early ’90s nostalgia. (“I don’t think I’ve intended it to be a joke,” he says, “but it probably is a joke. I would just invite people to come down and find it a joke or not find it a joke.”) I thought it was a record about release, born from bitterness, and it can still be that. But it can also be a record about making the best of the situation you’re in. Rather than wishing you were a dog.
NEW RELEASES OUT NOW
WARM DRAG ‘Warm Drag’
SARAH DAVACHI ‘Gave In Rest’
THE AINTS! ‘The Church of Simultaneous Existence’
GØGGS ‘Pre Strike Sweep’
Los Angeles samplers-and-switchblade post-noir disco two piece are members of Oh Sees, !!!, Modey Lemon, K-Holes, and Golden Triangle Imagine Blondie’s Parallel Lines meets The Bomb Squad’s production style.
Gave In Rest represents her highest artistic achievement. By infusing her compositional style within a predilection for medieval and Renaissance music, Davachi unearths a new realm of musical reverence, creating works both contemplative and beatific, eerie yet essentially human
“Rock music in the seventies was changed by three bands —the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Saints.” - (Bob Geldof) On the 40th anniversary of The Saints seminal debut Ed Kuepper was persuaded it was time to revisit and celebrate the music of his youth and bring to light what is in essence, the long lost fourth album by The (original) Saints.
With their second album Pre Strike Sweep, GØGGS add a new level of primordial anxiety to their already catastrophic symphony. Ty Segall side project featuring Chris Shaw (Ex-Cult) on vocal duty andCharles Moothart (Fuzz) on drums.
In The Red CD/LP
Ba Da Bing! CD/LP
In The Red CD/LP
LES BIG BYRD ‘Iran Iraq IKEA’
KIKAGAKU MOYO ‘Masana Temples’
ELECTRIC CITIZEN ‘Helltown’
ANNA ST. LOUIS ‘If Only There Was A River’
Long awaited second album from this stargazing psychedelic pop collective, with a slick production that ensures the trip is an aural joy. Fans of Follakzoid / Hookworms will find much to lose themselves in on this album!
With Masana Temples, Japanese band Kikagaku Moyo wanted to challenge their own concepts of what psychedelic music could be. Elements of both the attentive folk and wild -eyed rocking sides of the band are still intact throughout, but they’re sharper and more defined.
What sets Electric Citizen apart from contemporary heavy counterparts is their songwriting. The band writes concise, three-minute, heavy rock songs. None can deliver quite like Electric Citizen: Laura Dolan’s captivating star-power, Ross Dolan’s perfect tone and riffs, Wagner’s pugilistic and swinging beats, glued together by Vogelpohl’s gliding bass lines.
Produced by Kevin Morby and Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) Woodsist present the first full-length studio album from Anna St. Louis. While hints of influences like Loretta Lynn, John Fahey and Townes Van Zandt peek out of the corners of the songs, this album is not a nostalgic affair. Rather it marks the emergence of an artist fully coming into their own.
PNK SLM LP/Ltd LP/ CD
GuruGuru Brain LP/CD
Riding Easy LP/CD
LP / Indies Ltd LP / CD out 2nd Nov ON TOUR Oct 23rd w. Melvins – BIRMINGHAM Oct 24th w. Melvins – NORWICH Oct 25th w. Melvins – CARDIFF Oct 26th w. Melvins – LEEDS Oct 27th – GLASGOW Oct 28th w.Melvins – MANCHESTER Oct 29th w. Melvins – BRIGHTON Oct 30th w. Melvins – LONDON Nov 1st – BRISTOL Nov 3rd – NEWCASTLE Nov 4th – NOTTINGHAM
Woodsist/Mare LP / CD
4th Nov – 5th Nov – 8th Nov – 6th Nov – 9th Nov – 10th Nov 11th Nov
Birmingham Newcastle London Glasgow Liverpool – Cardiff – Sheffield
Subverting the Japanese culture of Kawaii, by Ian Roebuck Photography by Yoshio Nakaiso
I try to focus on the sentence in front of me. “Gyoza is so warm right? We want to be able to wrap around people like a Gyoza!” The further I read down the page the more confused and delighted I get. A flurry of correspondence with four women from Nagoya, Japan, unravels into love stories about dumplings, the meaning of ‘Kawaii’ and dancing on the furniture. Not quite what I expected when I first emailed CHAI in their studio on the other side of the world but this is a band that defy explanation. “We are CHAI! Everything is different about us compared with other Japanese girl groups! We want to do everything that no one else has ever done!” Listening to their music its evident CHAI have made a decent head start on this mission. Their debut UK release, ‘PINK’, a mini-album with maxi-impact on Heavenly Recordings, should come accompanied with as many exclamation marks as their emails. That’s because ‘PINK’ is a musical yelp, an explosion of expression where colour is a language and iridescent barriers of sound are purpose-built for cliché to bounce off. CHAI’s record shreds Krautrock, punk and bizarre pop elements to make you sit up, stand up and jump up onto what you were sitting on in the first place. It’s a nerve-jangling ride that I happily admitted to them, left me exhausted. “That’s such a NICEEE reaction! We’re happy to hear that ‘PINK’ made you want to dance on the furniture and then take a long lie down! While listening to ‘PINK’ we recommend you have fun and enjoy yourself to the max! Even to the point where you get exhausted!” Identical twins Mana and Kana combine with childhood classmates Yuuki and Yuna on rhythm section to create something quite unique. Sure, they’re a Japanese girl group, so nothing out of the ordinary, right? Although the ideology they preach is a real punch to the patriarchy in their home country. “You’ve got to be included in what is defined as ‘Kawaii’; everything outside of that is considered unattractive or ugly. Particularly in Japan.” I discover Kawaii is a construct centuries in the making – Japanese aesthetics used to be refined and elegant, now they’re cute and neat. The cult of Kawaii’s origin lies as far back as the 17th century; well-proportioned miniature sculptures called Netsuke were built to serve practical functions. Cast forward 300 years to the 1970s and the cute is now permeating society. Teenage girls begin accessorising their handwriting with lyrical touches, so just as utilitarian objects were built to be pleasing to the eye, sentences are decorated and language built upon. In the 1980s, pop culture became cute with idols such as Seiko Matsuda, whose mannerisms emphasised the helplessness and innocence of young girls, and of course everyone is familiar with Hello Kitty, an 80s invention from Japanese company Sanrio that’s become a global Kawaii brand. CHAI want to flip this rhetoric upside down. “That’s right,” they tell me, “the word ‘cute’, or ‘Kawaii’, has a set standard… it’s decided based on the good and bad of your appearance. In reality, it shouldn’t be that… the differences in everyone’s characteristics are OK! That’s the kind of message we want to put out.”
This desire to subvert expectations – to reinvent the concept of Kawaii – is the root of CHAI’s artistry, and judging by their emails, they’re pretty passionate about it: “The Kawaii we have and consider now has a very narrow definition. Everything other than what’s within that narrow range of Kawaii is considered ugly. For example, ‘you can’t have small eyes’, ‘your legs have to be skinny’, ‘your skin should be of a fairer or a whiter tone’… this image or standard of Kawaii is pretty clear. None of us CHAI members are in these categories to begin with but we really want to get out the message that everyone has their own characteristics and that is what makes you attractive! ‘That’s what makes you Kawaii,’ is what we want to say!” — Isn’t being boring weird — It’s a powerful message that resonates worldwide, even if you’ve never grappled with the meaning of Kawaii. “Of course!” they say. “We base our lyrics on what we would like people to potentially say to us!” Whatever your age, gender or nationality, these empowering hyper animated lyrics reject the mundane and have an uncanny way of making you feel good about yourself. ‘Isn’t being boring weird,’ they repeat in ‘N.E.O’, their anthem to the extraordinary, with a tempo more techno than a regular pop song. This foursome feel permanently plugged-in, with routers for stomachs. They’re a symptom of the Internet inside us and when they talk about the changing tide of modernity, you believe them. “In the future, we see Kawaii developing into something that there are no standards to, where we can express however we want to more freely.” It’s a mature outlook and rather poignant when you realise that CHAI are four girls who met in school, a location where Kawaii is king and everything is scrutinised. They’re about as close as you get for a band – two of them are twins after all. “We don’t really put too much thought into being twins per say,” says Kana. “Our faces are exactly the same but our personalities are TOTALLY different! Mana is CHAI’s engine, considered the innocent one and point of energy! I am more of CHAI’s warrior, the calm one and cool. Part of CHAI’s making is the balance between us twins. Not only that, the coming together of four totally different people is what really made CHAI. That’s why it’s balanced! Even our strengths and weaknesses are different but we all get along well! You know twins fight all the time but we always become cool again. We get along.” — The song about dumplings — Not every song on ‘PINK’ is politically charged or challenges Japanese conformity; some are just plain old love songs about dumplings. “‘Horechatta’ is based on our love for gyoza [dumplings],” the tell me. “There’s a lot of love packed inside of a gyoza. We thought they originated from Hong Kong so we
“We’re happy to hear that ‘PINK’ made you want to dance on the furniture and then take a long lie down! We recommend you have fun and enjoy yourself to the max!”
shot the video over there, but turns out it didn’t come from Hong Kong. I love Japanese dumplings!” “All of us CHAI members love to eat!” they write to me in one email. “Eating and gaining weight is what makes us super happy! We all want to get bigger together, more powerful and healthy at the same time, while continuing to make more music!” I wonder if this is why there was a limited release on Burger Records in America earlier this year. “We didn’t decide on that! But! We all really love burgers! Even hot dogs and pizza!” Now ‘PINK’ has a home on Heavenly Recordings, something these four friends can’t contain their excitement about. “We are SO stoked that ‘PINK’ will be released on Heavenly in the UK! So happy! We want to expand more and perform more live shows overseas! We want to win a Grammy! We are so happy that people in the UK will be able to listen to our music!” The record release sits alongside a UK tour with Superorganism, another band with a strong sense of self. “To be able to perform in the UK for the first time makes us super happy,” they say. “Soooo excited! We really love Superorganism, so being
able to perform with artist’s like them, is super exciting. Superorganism is doing something that’s one of a kind. It’ll make you jealous, that’s how amazing their music is! Their music is one of a kind and yet still has that lived-in reliability and warm feel. You can tell from their music how well they get along right? It’s really pop-like and kind of Kawaii. So much respect for them! We’re excited! We want to go perform with them RIGHT NOW!” I remind them that they’ll get to sample British cuisine too. “Of course we want to eat fish and chips!” they say. “Good food is one thing that the world shares in common, right? We can’t wait to go to the UK since we’ve never been there before! Oh! And we really want to ride that red double-decker bus they have in England! We are so happy that people in the UK will be able to listen to our music.” Word is spreading; CHAI’s particular, progressive brand of Kawaii will soon be everywhere. “Yes, its message is ‘everyone’s complexes are their individuality.’ Show it! Love your complexes! Make whatever it is your trademark and make sure to SHOW IT OFF!”
OUT 14TH SEPTEMBER 2 L P/C D/ D L OUT NOW - LP / CD / DL
Out Now - LP/CD/DL OUT NOW - LP/CD/DL
Interview Punk songs about flaws and failings, by Liam Konemann Photography by Dan Kendall
Viagra Boys Swedish outfit Viagra Boys are hardly the poster boys for wholesomeness and good health. In the video for recent single ‘Sports’, taken from their upcoming debut album ‘Street Worms’, singer Sebastian Murphy slouches around a tennis court while a game is being played over the top of him. ‘Baseball. Basketball. Weiner dog. Short shorts. Cigarette,’ he drones. The players are clean cut, athletic, with perfect aim and neat activewear as they serve tennis balls directly into the side of his head. Sebastian is shirtless, tattooed, in sunglasses, track pants and trainers; the strung out, hungover antithesis to the people around him. It’s pretty clearly a piss-take, but who the joke is on depends entirely on which way you look at things. Sure, the song lampoons a particular kind of lifestyle, playing off the uber strong, uber healthy preening of sports culture. Look at it from a different angle, though, and the joke is on the band. “There’s probably a bit of self-hatred in that song also,” Sebastian notes. He is holed up in a bar somewhere in Stockholm, bartender patter and the solid clunk of full glasses seeping down the phone line. “I’ve got a lot of friends that take care of themselves and do a lot of sports and have fun with each other and it’s like, ‘fuck, why can’t I do this?’” he says, “and then I kind of make fun of it instead. I have a problem with sports culture, mostly because I’ve never had the self-esteem to do sports, or to take myself seriously, or take my body seriously, or my mental health or whatever.” It’s a ‘screw you’ to a part of society that won’t let him in, the musical equivalent of a sniffed ‘well, I didn’t want to be part of your stupid club anyway.’ But there are no hard feelings. He laughs. “It’s just kind of making fun of masculinity in general but at the same I don’t have any grounds to make fun of it.” It’s safe to say, then, that Viagra Boys’ breed of punk doesn’t take itself too seriously. At least, Sebastian’s doesn’t. “I can’t speak for the whole band, because a lot of the shit
that I originally wrote for the album, the guys were worried about [turning into] slapstick comedy,” he says. “But I like it when it comes from Butthole Surfers or bands like that, because you can see the bleakness and the irony in the shit that they write. It’s funny, but it’s not funny at all. It’s serious shit. But that’s the only way I can look at my life, I can’t sit and talk about my life in a way that’s depressing because then I’ll get depressed. It’s kind of like a coping mechanism, to laugh at it and just move forward.” This whole ‘personal growth’ thing doesn’t necessarily mean that Sebastian is pleading for forgiveness for past excesses and indiscretions though. It’s done, it happened, and he’s not ashamed of it. It’s just that things are different now, and so he’s turning it into art. “I was having this conversation with a friend a few days ago, about how him and I did an art show together and spent a week in a basement putting my shit up on the walls and stuff. He got to see the worst sides of me and I got to see the worst sides of him, because we were living really closely together and I was really fucked up on speed all the time, and I was just an asshole, you know? I’ve quit all that stuff and I’m trying to get my shit together, but when we talk about it now we’re like, ‘fuck man, we did a lot of cool shit also.’ I did a lot of artwork that I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t felt like shit.” — The dream is a nightmare — One of the works that exists (at least in part) thanks to that period of turmoil is Viagra Boys’ latest single, ‘Just Like You’. Part industrial, part new wave, the song imagines an alternate reality in which the narrator’s life went very smoothly; wife, dog, house, job. At first it seems like longing for a missed opportunity. Then Sebastian subverts it. The dream is a nightmare,
Interview and that life is a kind of emotional death. “That’s kind of the essence of that feeling,” Sebastian says. “In the last verse I say something like, ‘thank god I didn’t go to school and thank god I didn’t end up just like you,’ and that’s because I’m kind of proud of things I’ve created out of depression and anxiety and social unrest. There’s a certain pride in that. Because society wants you to feel like shit about making these choices, but I couldn’t have known better until now,” he laughs. The outcomes of those choices, and the depression and paranoia that informed them, come through in waves on ‘Street Worms’. The record is permeated with a ‘been up all night’ sort of haze, like the soundtrack to waking up on a bus at eight in the morning surround by City workers in suits. A musical hangover. “I mean, I was in a massive hangover for two and a half years, pretty much. Or, I was addicted to speed for a long time. Shit’s leaving your body all the time, so it’s like a constant state of being irritated and fucked up all the time. That’s kind of how it was for two and a half years – I was depressed and paranoid and thought that people were out to get me and stuff. I think that shows on the album.” It’s also one of the reasons that the record has been in the pipeline for going on two years now. It can be kind of difficult to get things done when your bloodstream is crammed with more chemicals than a research lab. Strange things tend to get in your way, and ideas take hold and then take flight again without any time in between to process. “It’s been a long time, but really not a lot of work,” says Sebastian. “Just a lot of bullshit, you know? Like me flipping out about different things, but mostly due to stupid reasons like drug use and stuff, and getting hooked on one idea that was stupid and realising it was stupid and taking it back. That’s why it’s taken such a long time, just due to stupid shenanigans from being in a haze.” Still, the obstacles don’t always come from a lifestyle issue. Most of the songs on ‘Street Worms’ were written at the eleventh hour, while the band were already ensconced in the studio, because, Sebastian says, “I procrastinate a lot. The others would ask, you know, ‘do you have the shit ready?’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I think I have some ideas…’ and then I get to the studio and I have no ideas at all, and I’ve said that I’ve written something and I haven’t written any lyrics. So while they’re recording, I write the lyrics and then go record some of them and realise that it’s missing some parts and go and add them.” This stream-of-consciousness, backed-into-a-corner way of writing doesn’t give Sebastian the most time to interrogate the themes that he’s putting out. “I realise what I’m writing about probably six months after I’ve written it. But everything that comes from the subconscious is from somewhere, you know. “The first EP was much easier because I just took four or five very solid things that were happening in my life. Like, you know, I couldn’t get a boner, I was taking a lot of research chemicals and then I didn’t remember anything because I was addicted to benzo for a long time, then ‘Liquids’ was about my sexual
desire. But after I wrote the EP I didn’t have anything left to write about so I just winged it, and then I realised months afterwards that it had a deeper meaning.” There are some songs still left to figure out. ‘Down in the Basement’, for example, seems to take another shot at masculinity and manhood, as the singer impotently insists that he’s ‘not like those other guys.’ In the narrative of the song he is, of course, exactly like all the other guys. An absolute carbon copy. “That song, I kind of listened to after we had it recorded like, ‘Jesus Christ what the fuck did I write here?’ It kind of sounds like I’m a closeted homosexual. Or that’s my interpretation in a way,” he laughs. “It’s like, okay, everyone’s going to misinterpret this song. “I guess I’m just talking about relationships in general, and how men deal with relationships. I’ve seen a lot of guys acting like total assholes, and they don’t really know why they’re acting like assholes. They go out and make the same stupid choices every night, whether it’s doing cocaine when you’re with a woman that doesn’t like cocaine, or whether you’re gay and you’re with a woman. I like it and it definitely comes from something, but it might have been from shame.” He considers this for a moment longer. “I think it’s about shame. Yeah, there you go, it’s about shame.” — Trump is worm food — Other tracks are more straightforward. The second-tolast song on the record, ‘Worms’, is clear cut grunge. It’s also the wildcard on the album; less tangled, more intimate, with a streak of nihilism that borders on tenderness. “I kind of wanted to have a song on the album that had this ’90s riff, kind of like Breeders or Pixies or Nirvana, all that kind of shit. I hated that music when I was younger and I really like it now, and I just wanted to do a song like that. The lyrics, I just kind of got stuck on the word ‘worms’. There was a girl working at my job, she came in one day and she was like, ‘urgh, I don’t want to have kids anymore cause I’ve heard they have worms!’” He cackles. The chorus, though, sprang from something more serious. “I heard something else the same week, this guy from El Salvador I think, he was talking about Donald Trump and said, ‘the same worms that eat you are gonna eat me too.’ Like, ‘what the fuck is wrong with you, why can’t you just realise we’re people too?’” The man was furious about Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ remark, and his phrasing stuck in Sebastian’s head. It’s easy to understand why. ‘Street Worms’ is an album about flaws and failings, and the ways in which the two interact to make us all just people. Ridiculous, deeply fallible people who are all going to end up as wormfood or topsoil someday. The record is the existential breakdown after a particularly big night, and Viagra Boys make it seem like an essential part of the ecosystem. One more story to tell. They’ve made it a good one, at least.
FRI.28.SEP.18 SAT.10.NOV.18 THU.11.OCT.18
THU.22.NOV.18 FRI.12.OCT.18 SAT.20.OCT.18
MARIBOU ST ATE “KINGDOM S IN CO L O UR ”
MARIE DA VI D S O N “WORKIN G C LA SS W OMA N ” RELEAS E D 5T H O CT O B E R
HELENA HAUFF “QU ALM ”
GEORG I A A NNE MUL D R O W “OVERLOA D” RELEAS E D 26T H O CT O B E R
BRANDON COLEMAN “RESIST ANCE”
DORIAN CONCEPT “T HE NAT U RE OF IMITATIO N”
(B R A I N F E E D E R )
(B R A I N F E E D E R )
( BRA I N F EED ER )
(C O U N T E R R E C O R D S)
Christine and the Queens — Chris (because) Am I spending too much time on Twitter, or is everything about gender at the moment? In much the same way that #metoo coincided with a spate of record releases documenting abuse and harassment, the escalating trans-rights debate (which, incidentally, much like all debates taking place online, has got way out of hand on all sides) seems to have heralded a zeitgeist in which everybody is playing with gender and making art about it. Not least Héloïse Letissier, of Christine and the Queens, who’s back with her second album, as Chris, a rebirth in which she appears – androgynous and strong – shrugging off the stereotypes that one might expect a female pop-star dropping a funk-inflected ’80s record to play up to. “I’m not going to be exactly the queer you want me to be,” is her ambiguously unambiguous message. “I became obsessed with this idea of the macho man, and still being a woman.” She says, “What does it mean if I’m this Slim Shady figure, and I’m a woman? Does it make me an aberration? Is it joyful?” In the promotional images for the album, Letissier looks like a new-romantic era James Dean with cleavage: all dark greasy hair, sunken eyes, perfect angular face and smouldering bad-boy stares straight into the camera lens. It’s a look that feels both vital and necessary in an era where, despite everything, we are still saturated with poisonous, passive, postoperative, heavily-made up, unattainable versions of female sexuality. As Letissier explained in a recent interview on Beats 1, she has crafted this new look and sound as a statement about who she is, having shorn off her hair and worked on her physical and emotional strength. “It had to be Chris at some point because I was bolder and stronger and had more muscle,” she said. This transforma-
tion continues her playful performance style – before embarking on her career as a musician Letissier trained as a director, and there is definitely a sense of knowing performativity to this new incarnation, hinting at that theatrical past. The result is ‘Chris’ – a body of work that explores female sexuality and desire in all its shades of complexity, light and darkness. “There’s a pride in my singing,” she begins on the opening track, ‘Comme Si’, “The thickness of a new skin, I am done with belonging.” Much like the ’80s sounds it calls upon (there’s definitely an inkling of David Bowie mixed in with a timeless disco-pop that’s mostly Michael Jackson inspired) this is music from an artist that refuses to do what you expect. She’s living up to her promise, made back in 2016, to “redefine sexy” so that it becomes “creepy as hell”. And ‘Girlfriend’, the lead single and the album’s second track, sets that sexy-creepy tone that envelops the record. A breathy, glittery, R&Binflected funk tune that makes no bones about Chris’s needs, she’s refusing to be your girlfriend, but might consent to being your lover nonetheless. On ‘5 Dollars’ Chris is horny for money, channelling all the stars of those capitalist ’80s movie-classics – think Working Girl or Wall Street, which despite being very different films might both have had ‘5 Dollars’ in the soundtrack, had Chris released then instead of now (“Pocket’s full and bright eyes,” she sings. “It turns me on because it’s time / Five dollars, baby blues, five dollars baby”). Then there’s ‘Damn (What Must A Woman Do)’, the most Michael Jackson sounding track (a repeat theme). That’s followed by the syrupy ‘Whats-herface’, another ’80s movie soundtrack contender. And my favourite, ‘The Stranger’, a weirdly upbeat finale with a candyfloss instrumental; it might be about a disappointing lover, or a lover waiting off in the future, or something else entirely, depending on how you interpret the lyrics. There’s a French language version of the album as well, although my French
isn’t good enough to deduce any subtle differences in the two works. All I can say with certainty is that the English version at least is a refreshing and urgent exploration of what it means to be a woman in a cultural moment when women’s experiences definitely need to be heard. Oh, and if you miss the distinctive sound of Michael Jackson’s production, it sounds great too. 8/10 Katie Beswick
Amber Arcades — European Heartbreak (heavenly) It’s very possible that ‘European Heartbreak’ might be a title with intentional political overtones, seen from the perspective of the Dutchborn, New York-based Anotelle De Graaf – the lyrics to ‘Goodnight Europe’ certainly bear that out (“It’s hard to feel that we’re alive / Baby we might as well be blind”). But this really is the only politically tinged moment on what feels like a straightforward collection of lightly constructed indie-pop. ‘Simple Song’ is a lounge-room number with a verse reminiscent of Blur’s ‘Coffee And TV’, and a brass section that layers on a smooth swing feel. The record is wrapped in a distinct style – a lazy, hazy set of songs, with a lightly jazzy touch here and there. The girl-or-boy-with-guitar format has, of course, long been taken as far as it can be, both stylistically and musically, so an album like this, more than most, really stands or falls on the strength of its songwriting. And at times, like on the delicate ‘Hardly Knew’, you can hear through the light-touch production and really feel the origin of these songs, the sofa strumming and the notepad. When De Graaf expands her scope and ambition, as on the punchy, powerful swell of ‘Something’s Gonna Take Your Love Away’, the record starts to get
Albums its hooks in, but elsewhere songs like the four-four plod-along of ‘I’ve Done The Best’ and the pedestrian ‘Oh My Love’ mean that overall, ‘European Hearbreak’ feels flimsy, insubstantial and unengaging. 5/10 Chris Watkeys
Adrianne Lenker — Abysskiss (saddle creek) Adrianne Lenker spent most of 2014 sleeping in a warehouse. She had just turned 21, was working in a restaurant and photographed pigeons in her spare time. Her debut album, ‘Hours Were the Birds’, was a subtle but vivid collection of discovering New York as the world flew by. There was hope, excitement and earnestness, a combination which curdled into a prolificacy of her own alongside a friendship with Buck Meek. The two would record and release a further two full-length LPs that year before becoming the heart of Big Thief. The codependency and support network of a band allowed Lenker’s songwriting to access points of vulnerability that she hadn’t before in her solo work. 2016’s ‘Masterpiece’ and 2017’s ‘Capacity’ possessed the same humanity as ‘Hours...’ but this time was crammed with songs at their breaking point. Tableaus on record became nine-minute one-note excursions performed live, their emotional weight on Lenker disguised only by Max Oleartchik’s delicately jazzinfluenced bassline, or the fact that James Krivchenia had traded his drum kit for percussive varieties of plastic fruit. Necessary context provided, Lenker’s sophomore solo record, ‘Abysskiss’, is a triumphant return to her own name. The sonic paucity of ‘Hours...’ remains, yet in half an hour, strippedback to herself and an acoustic guitar, she addresses the human intricacies of isolation with the confidence of a full band.
The writing is paramount. Opener ‘Terminal Paradise’ is death-of-theauthor and converse salvation by the song: “See my death become a trail / And this trail leads to a flower / I will blossom in your sail.” ‘Blue and Red Horses’ then subverts the intro to Big Thief-favourite ‘Mythological Beauty’ into a Toy Story sequel, while ‘From’ plays like a lullaby through Lenker’s vocal lethargies. The same weary-sounding vocal soars on standout track ‘Cradle’ with intricate narrations of fables and relationships burning underneath. You can even hear a wry smile on hushed lines such as “Baby you’re still too proud to come down / Baby I’m still too loud to hear.” There’s no beatific romancing of the troubadour writer. Where ‘Steamboat’ on her debut had her crooning “I wish I was better at being alone”, ‘Abysskiss’ sounds like the solitude now doesn’t phase her at all. It lacks the knockout blow of Big Thief, but affirms Lenker’s status as a vital songwriter. It’s a more complex development of the codependency that’s riddled and enriched her career. If her first release was spent photographing pigeons, perhaps this is one’s mid-realisation that pigeons are a type of dove – a universal signifier of peace, sure, but something that’s also trying to steal your lunch. 8/10 Tristan Gatward
Ana da Silva & Phew — Island (shouting out loud!) ‘Island’ is the sound of two worlds colliding. Of communication breakdown and newly forged acquaintances. It’s the sound of Suicide’s pulsing, minimalist electronica being stripped of its confrontation and being replaced by intuitive textures. A collaboration between Ana da Silva, a founding member of The Raincoats, and Phew, an analogue elec-
tronic improviser, it was compiled via the exchange of music files over email. Spoken word phrases in their native Portuguese and Japanese were added at a later stage, being manipulated to suggest a new language emerging from the Tower of Babel. It’s a journey of isolation and friendship that’s mapped across nine tracks, which use hypnotic drones to signal stasis and slowly evolving change. A kettle seems to whistle on the hob. A toy keyboard surfaces from an industrial rumble. A primitive beat grows in urgency. Frequently subterranean in mood, ‘Conversation’ and ‘Dark But Bright’ conjure semi-derelict tube stations that are dank with dripping water. Yet there’s always a sense of possibility, with a simple keyboard melody offering brief uplift. These qualities can be traced right back to their punk roots, but while their sound has transformed over the years, their sense of curious adventure remains the same. 6/10 Susan Darlington
Black Belt Eagle Scout — Mother of my Children (saddle creek) ‘Mother of My Children’, the debut album from Katherine Paul, packs personal desires, anger and identity into a collection of patient, deceptively simple indie rock songs. Intimacy might not be the first feeling you get from a rumbling, grungy guitar chord, but that’s what she conjures on the opening ‘Soft Stud’. She strums, painting a mood for over six minutes in a clever show of restraint. You pull in closer to hear her lyrics, which are fittingly about caution and urges in loving someone that’s already taken. She calls the song her “queer anthem”, about the hardships of queer desire within an open relationship, but the feeling of quiet longing she
Albums captures in those whispered lines could be felt by anyone. The title track is just as skeletal, built on a slow wash of cymbals and fingerpicked guitars that swallow up her breathy singing. She instead opts for placing her voice front and centre on ‘Yard’. Its amateurish quality is going to put off some, but it’s exciting to hear an artist being so vulnerable, especially on an album that’s this informed by personal – albeit obscured – experiences. Paul is a Native woman, and a large part of the album acts as a meditation on her life and identity at this point in her life, especially on ‘Indians Never Die’, a song about the destruction of her ancestral land. Occasionally her melodic phrasing can come across as clumsy. She relies on a lot of the same tricks to build a hook – the chord moves while the melody repeats. It’s what makes ‘Soft Stud’ captivating, but the magic wears off when the same trick is pulled on a handful of tracks. Still, Black Belt Eagle Scout have already carved a songwriting style uniquely theirs one album in, and their voice deserves attention for it. 6/10 Stephen Butchard
Beak> — >>> (invada) With the release of Beak>’s third album, Geoff Barrow has now made as many records with his so-called side-project as he has with Portishead, thus potentially demanding a reappraisal of how to view his musical priorities. Further supporting that demand is ‘>>>’ itself, in which Beak> have shrugged off the slight whiff of three blokes messing about in a recording studio largely for their own amusement, and quietly written a modern classic: in its attitude, delivery, and feel, ‘>>>’ has nothing of the side-project to it. Instead, it’s brimming with urgency and snarl,
paranoia and exhaustion, and a delicious sense of modern-day relevance. That’s not to say, however, that Beak> have changed. Indeed, the band’s ingredients of fuzz guitar and pared-back drums oozing between grids of analogue electronica, like sludge-metal playing along to age-warped Tangerine Dream LPs, remain intact throughout: ‘The Brazilian’ finds sci-fi-noir synths and ominous clouds of electronic fog engulfing the album’s opening minutes in much the same way that ‘Abbots Leigh’, all cacophonous, sour and metallic menace, characterises its closing ones. ‘King of the Castle’, too, with its no-frills monster riff and slogan chorus, is a delightfully hissy and vituperative slab of uber-lean punk rock. What has changed, however, is how the band deploy its ingredients, with previous jam-band laziness now replaced with laser-guided intent. The first half ’s run of ‘Brean Down’, ‘Birthday Suit’ and ‘Harvester’ is the sort of brilliantly executed series of proudly subverted pop music that Radiohead only flirt with these days, simultaneously tuneful and deeply weird, as inviting as it is discombobulating. Woozy keyboard lines lie just out of sync with the rhythm section, teasing the songs’ senses of centre and pulse, while strained, distant but yearning vocals and scabrous strings beg you to listen ever more intensely. Album closer ‘When We Fall’, too, with its eerie bucolic near-future-dystopia aesthetic, imagines Nick Drake fronting Boards of Canada and appears finetuned to achieve maximum emotional devastation. As the building, bewildering synths are finally propped up by a motorik rhythm section for the album’s grand finale, the sense of satisfaction is as spine-tingling as it is pure. None of this is easy music to play or – normally – to listen to. That Beak> have rendered a record this turbulent and frequently dour as such a captivating and emotionally resonant experience is a feat in itself. That its songs linger well after its 45 minutes are up, too, makes it a rare, resilient triumph. 10/10 Sam Walton
Calvin Johnson — Wonderful Beast (k records) The idea that rock and roll being dead means nothing to Calvin Johnson – ‘A Wonderful Beast’ is an exploration of sound that brazenly fuses myriad facets of rock’s history. Working closely with producer Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) and chief engineer Marc Whitmore, their aim was to test the resilience of such time-honoured materials as the electric guitar, modular synthesizer and trap drum kit, combining them in various arrangements with musical elements such as chords A, C and Dm. The results are as much a shattering of the formula as a timely reminder of modern rock music’s potential. By allowing contemporary music and songwriting to influence the team, ‘A Wonderful Beast’ sounds exactly what you’d expect rock and roll to sound like in 2018 if we were still living in the genre’s supposed heyday. It retrofits classic elements of rock music and abuses them by way of bold experimentation. The outcome is that there are moments here that could easily be some of Calvin Johnson’s best work since the days of Beat Happening: for instance, the gentle romance of (‘I’ve Still Got) Sand in my Shoes’ – one of three tracks buoyed by the talents of chanteuse Michelle Branch – features vocal harmonies that recall the soft/sonorous juxtaposition of Johnson and Heather Lewis. Conversely, the album occasionally lets itself down. ‘When The Weekend Comes Around’ elicits Johnson’s predilection for gimmicky dance music – as evidenced in his other project, Selector Dub Narcotic – but you could argue that it’s symptomatic of Johnson’s playfulness that would be left wanting if it didn’t appear here. As visionary as it is mischievous, this is a fun and ambitious album that’s as pop as it is at times wonderfully peculiar. 7/10 Hayley Scott
Cat Power — Wanderer (domino) On 2012’s ‘Sun’, Cat Power stepped outside of what seemed like her comfort zone and produced a record that placed synthesisers in predominant positions and sometimes embraced auto-tune. Six years on, Chan Marshall finds herself returning to a more familiar sphere. ‘Wanderer’ is built almost entirely on a foundation of guitar and piano, occasionally accompanied by light percussion. The simplicity moves between intermittent playfulness and sombre; ‘Horizon’ temporarily re-embraces autotune for textured harmonies, while ‘Me Voy’ combines classical guitar and a haunting piano climax with spine-tingling results. Harking back to ‘The Covers Record’ and ‘Jukebox’, she takes on Rihanna’s ‘Stay’; keeping just a piano line as the base further exposes the inherent vulnerability of the track. However, occasionally – particularly in the album’s latter half – the melodies can feel just a little bit too sparse. The advantage of this, though, is that it places Marshall’s vocals and her tales at the very forefront of the record. She draws on the spirit of folk and blues predecessors and presents what Marshall calls “my journey so far.” ‘Horizon’ touches on the tension between maintaining familial bonds and living a nomadic lifestyle, Marshall singing, “You’re on the horizon / I’m headed the other way.” Lana Del Rey provides backing vocals on ‘Woman’, a move that demonstrates how much she and Marshall are kindred spirits. On it, they point towards gender oppression but subvert it before reaching a stirring, defiant denouement: “I’m a woman.” ‘Wanderer’ may occasionally feel a little too thin, melodically, but it continues to reaffirm that no one quite writes songs of experience like Chan Marshall. 6/10 Eugenie Johnson
Dammit I’m Mad — Atomic Spectroscropy (ace tunes) During its heyday, math rock’s major saving grace from patricianly classicism was its overarching sense of humour. It goes something like this: our name may be something daft like, say, You Slut! or This Town Needs Guns, but aren’t these tunes jolly clever?! It’s enough to make you pine for American Football’s overshared heartbreak, but is there still something stimulating about a group doing their best to surprise with left-field chord changes and deconstructed time signatures in 2018? Dammit I’m Mad think so, managing to thrill with their debut like it’s 2007. Unlike the slew of copycat acts after the genre’s height, the Scandi duo are no bullshit technicians. While tunes veer from shimmering arpeggios to gross dissonance, there’s enough textural variety in the production of ‘Atomic Spectroscropy’ to sustain interest beyond their agile skill. Most of all, they recall the wild art rock of Deerhoof, only Dammit I’m Mad let the instruments do all the talking. Even when the gimmick wears thin the playful to-and-fro is still infectious nonetheless. Also, an uncredited spoken audio sample on ‘Space Machine (or whatever)’ sounds like Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon, and you know that can’t be a bad thing. 7/10 Dafydd Jenkins
Exploded View — Obey (sacred bones) Exploded View’s 2016 selftitled album was a delight – a wibbling,
wobbling, dubby take on electronic postpunk. The cold vocal delivery of Anika Henderson nestled beautifully among bleeps and bloops that fizzed atop waves and pulsars. ‘Obey’ is one of those rare cases of a sequel that’s better than the original. It remains a heavily psychedelic experience, the clarity of the band’s sound increasing tenfold. No longer an unintelligible, alien outfit, Exploded View and Henderson in particular sound more human, with a variety of textures ensuring the band’s sound is rich and vibrant throughout the album. Here, each track is a garden, blooming with a collection of mystic flora. The luscious ‘Open Road’ combines an exploratory synth sound with a 13th Floor Elevators jug band holler as it ventures into extraterrestrial territory. Twinkling lead single ‘Raven Raven’ thuds and saunters like the Flaming Lips have got their hands on a jar of Quaaludes, whilst ‘Dark Stains’ is a bass-heavy post-punk banger that could hold its own at a rave. While the group’s debut was bogged down a bit by a feeling of anonymity, contrastingly, ‘Obey’ bustles with character. ‘Come On Honey’, the penultimate track, is the best summation of the group to date. Beginning like a tilted pop song – all underlying sweetness – it digresses into heady, lysergic territory with a surging bassline and vocals that seem to float off the recording and into the ether. Totally immersive. 8/10 Cal Cashin
Fucked Up — Dose Your Dreams (merge) More than 17 years, and now five albums deep, Fucked Up’s enigmatic presence shouldn’t surprise anymore but here they are again as a punk band playing rock. Or is it a hardcore band playing krautrock? Or a rock band locking into a psychedelic groove?
Albums Born from Toronto’s hardcore battlegrounds but fueled by a fierce punk determinism, they’ve survived, and thrived, all these years by being willfully ductile. From operas to Polaris Music Prizes and arena tours, Fucked Up have been a paradox, and while they become a little more removed from those heavy hardcore origins with every passing year, you get the sense that they never want to truly escape them. It feels true here on the hefty 18 tracks of album number five, ‘Dose Your Dreams’. With a comparable run time to that of their 2011 rock opera ‘David Comes to Life’ there’s, similarly, a lot to work through. Anchored by Damian Abraham’s vocal barrage, Fucked Up crank through a wide-ranging repertoire of hardcore, punk, psych, krautrock and funk. Where ‘Raise Your Voice Joyce’ comes straight for you with freewheeling energy, ‘Torch to Light’ blends the blissful with the brutal; where ‘How to Die Happy’ blooms into an M83-esque odyssey, the title track veers towards a breathless kind of psychedelic funk before Abraham comes crashing through the walls. Drummer Jonah Falco once said that the driving force behind the band was to “take inspiration from a place that doesn’t really make sense and smash it into the existing structure.” In that respect, ‘Dose Your Dreams’ is unmistakably Fucked Up. 7/10 Reef Younis
Gazelle Twin — Pastoral (anti-ghost moon ray) From the opening moments of ‘Folly’ right through to the final bars of ‘Over The Hills’, ‘Pastoral’, the new album from Elizabeth Bernholz’ monstrous alter-ego Gazelle Twin, is an abrasive and deeply unsettling listen. The album was conceived as a reckoning on England’s “gentile” nationalism of village fetes and
private schools, employing harsh electronics and bristling vocals to expose the hellish danger she sees lurking beneath it all. On its cover and throughout its promotional materials Bernholz appears in a new guise as a Morris dancer come football hooligan, a manic grin serving as a stand in for the traditional stiff upper lip. Sampling football chants and featuring Bernholz’s own twisted rendition of ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Pastoral’ sounds like the last three hundred years of English history shoved into a broken sampler and kicked down the stairs of St Paul’s. ‘Better In My Day’ and ‘Little Lamb’ are the record’s clearest statement. A pair of relentless rave-ready tracks, the former balances elderly bitching and manic recorder playing in a way that has probably never been done before and certainly never as well. The darkness of the album is inescapable and in places oppressive, such as on the howling breakdown of ‘Glory’. However, for every burst of noise or gothic wail there’s a hook of equal potency. Lead single ‘Hobby Horse’ is sung through gnashing teeth and features Bernholz telling the listener to “get out of here” over a beat like pounding hooves. Somehow you still come away with the chorus stuck in your head. 9/10 Mike Vinti
Jaakko Eino Kalevi — Out of Touch (weird world) For too many people, the concept of living off the tech grid now induces a maddening lattice of anxiety, loss and fear. Not so for Jaakko Eino Kalevi; the Finnish songwriter has used the words “blissed out”, “essential” and “ideal” to describe the sensation, and that halcyon ambience infuses every moment of this, his fifth solo album. Nearly all of ‘Out of Touch’ is wrapped up in its own fireside glow,
imbuing its tracks with memories of comfort and warmth that invite the listener to return to its embrace. Drumbeats are couched, basslines muffled, whilst Kalevi’s writing reminds us that personal human warmth is still an important currency, no matter how far apart we have begun to feel, no matter how tightly the constancy of life squeezes our skulls. ‘People in the Centre of the City’ more than any other sears to the heart of the matter, a tale of regular folks lost in the hyper-speed maelstrom of life. More casual is ‘Conceptual Mediterranean (Part 1)’, its lazy Balearic energy presumably inspired by Kalevi’s recent time spent writing in Greece. ‘Night Chef ’ is the most playful number, with its dancing keys, popping synths and everyday tales of chance encounters. Staying in touch is a grim necessity, but choosing to fall out of touch every now and then is paradise itself. 8/10 Max Pilley
Jerry Paper — Like A Baby (stones throw) “Dystopian shopping centre” might seem like a weird concept for an album at first, but consider this: have you ever tried to go for groceries at six o’clock on a weekday and wanted to scream? If you haven’t, try nipping into St Albans Morrisons for a pint of milk at that time. Hell on earth. Suddenly some of the imagery on Jerry Paper’s – the alter-ego LA multiinstrumentalist Lucas Nathan – new record doesn’t seem quite so bizarre. Still strange, yeah, but it’s within the realm of understanding, which encapsulates the album at large, really. Fans of Matt Maltese, Mac DeMarco and Alex Turner’s lounge suits will probably appreciate the wonky, cocktail bar stylings of tracks like ‘Something’s Not Right’, even as Jerry Paper messes with the form.
Albums Then there are songs like ‘Grey Area’, which are reminiscent of a sequence from The Wizard of Oz, if the film was also partially a comment on late Capitalism and desire. On ‘Like A Baby’, he filters a sometimes distressing reality through oddball synthpop, giving everything a slightly dissociative quality. That’s particularly clear on album closer ‘More Bad News’, which hazily captures the relentless horror of the 24-hour news cycle. Like the rest of the album, it’s simultaneously of this reality and not, seeming to capture an alternate universe in which we’re just as screwed as we are now but are also possibly living in space, or underwater, or in a simulation... It’s dead weird, but then so are the times we’re living in. 8/10 Liam Konemann
Jlin — Autobiography (planet-mu) Experimental footwork master Jlin teams up with experimental dance master Wayne McGregor on ‘Autobiography’, a stark, explorative ballet that’s just as meticulous as anything the pair have done on their own. McGregor structures his dance in 23 randomised sections, each representing a human chromosome. To choose the order for each night, he sampled his own genome and sequenced it through a computer algorithm, which will then lock these sections into place. The order is both frenetic and controlled at once, reflected in Jlin’s confounding score, which holds up well outside of the theatre. All footwork artists attempt to connect with a primal part of the listener though rhythm; Jlin does so by combining a tactile industrial palate with overwhelming patterns and an uncanny-valley approach to sampling. Opener ‘The Abyss of Doubt’ is a clattering banger that samples both Samuel Beckett’s Not I and the Carrie’s “They’re
all gonna laugh at you!”. These clips are unsettling on their own, and that’s before Jlin splices, contorts and duplicates them like a twisted surgeon. The Samuel Beckett sample sticks out especially. Like Beckett, Jlin makes art that strips humanity down to its most desolate features. Her works are repetitive and impenetrable at first, before their warmth and meaning washes over you. With this project, she jumps further outside categorisation. Tracks like ‘Mutation’ could have slotted neatly onto her breakout album ‘Black Origami’ with its growling bass, stabbing futuristic synths and sputtering percussion, but the great majority of her score lives at a slower pace, providing a gloomy, enveloping and ambiguous ambience. These quieter moments often slip into the background, as they were likely intended, making them less essential than her usual work. Throughout it all, the music remains rich while living at a cold distance. Different as it is, those who’ve fallen for Jlin’s challenging outsider approach will find a lot to love on ‘Autobiography’. 7/10 Stephen Butchard
John Grant — Love Is Magic (bella union) John Grant’s own theory is that with each record that he releases, he closes the gap further between how it sounds in his head and what he ends up with in the studio. If his 2010 solo debut ‘Queen of Denmark’ saw him truly finding his voice not just as an artist but as a gay man finally emerging out the other side of a lifelong battle with drugs and alcohol, then subsequent releases, you would reason, should provide an increasingly honest portrait of his personal life and be more and more faithful to the sounds that excite him.
On the latter front, the trend has been clear. Fuelled in part by his ongoing collaborations with Icelandic artists in his adopted hometown of Reykjavik, Grant has continued to embrace electronica; 2013’s ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ was a darkly comic synth pop affair wracked with nervous energy, and his last fulllength, ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’, sounded somewhere closer to space rock, with dashes of ’80s weirdness throughout. That it charted in the top five in the UK suggests that his embrace of electro has not adversely affected his commercial appeal. It’s a good job as well, because ‘Love Is Magic’ is comfortably his most pointedly computerised full-length yet, and probably his most experimental, too. Opener ‘Metamorphosis’ sets the tone and serves as a sharp rebuke to anybody who harboured suspicions that Grant’s tour with Elbow earlier this year might have encouraged him to return to ‘Queen of Denmark’’s soft rock stylings; over a thumping beat and a backdrop of scattered video game sound effects, he delivers lyrics that are absurdist even by his standards, with an equally eccentric intonation. It’s a challenging opening, and it isn’t the only moment on the album that reminds you how thin the line can be between Grant’s unquestionably unique voice as a songwriter and his penchant for being strange for strangeness’ sake. ‘Smug Cunt’ bears a striking sonic resemblance to LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Black Screen’, but lacks that track’s emotional heft. A similar comparison surfaces on ‘Diet Gum’, on which Grant co-opts James Murphy’s conversational style; it’s indulgent, but the track itself at least is irresistibly groovy. It’s those moments that hit hardest on ‘Love Is Magic’; ‘Preppy Boy’ is all polished funk, whilst ‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’ is an exercise in studied disco cool. Those tracks help break up the glacial pace of the album’s spacier songs, of which the title track, a gentle salute to unconditional love, is the highlight; they’re all handsomely produced, but by the record’s close, the phrase ‘much of a muchness’ is springing to mind. The
Albums affecting final song, ‘Touch and Go’, is the nearest thing ‘Love Is Magic’ has to a piano ballad and reminds you how startlingly effective a songwriter Grant is when he pares things back slightly; it’s an album littered with both moments of brilliance and points at which he would have been well-served to rein himself in a little bit. 6/10 Joe Goggins
Julia Holter — Aviary (domino) Somewhere there must exist a collection of music fans for whom the phrase “eight-minute improvised bagpipe interlude” prompts a Pavlovian response of eager salivation. Mouths must water at the very suggestion of sheets of nasal skronk being heaped upon each other in delicious dissonance for maximum sonic sourness, the aural equivalent of sucking on a lemon dipped in curdled milk dipped in nuclear waste. For this group of aficionados, isolated by their involuntarily unconventional tastes, ‘Everyday Is An Emergency’, the fifth track on ‘Aviary’, must represent a lifeline: seldom can an eight-minute improvised bagpipe interlude have been quite so purely delivered, wilfully obstreperous and unapologetically acrid. Somewhere, this band of drone devotees will be hitting rewind on what much of the mainstream world may wish it could unhear. Meanwhile, somewhere in Los Angeles, Holter should smile with satisfaction at a mission accomplished, because ‘Aviary’ is, above all else, an album for specialists: along with the bagpiping, there are individual songs dedicated to thunderous noise improv (‘Turn The Light On’), abstract baroque arrangements topped with ASMR-inducing whisper (‘Chaitius’), and electronic meditations about 14th-century mortality (‘Voice Simul’) – and that’s just the
first half. None of it really coalesces, but it soon becomes obvious that cohesion on an album this frantic and drawn out isn’t really the goal; instead, Holter is happy to leap around for 90 minutes letting her first instincts rule, wallowing in the attendant musical concept-splat. ‘Aviary’’s second side is a little calmer: the warm orchestrations of ‘Colligere’ and ‘I Would Rather See’ are perfect settings for the serpentine melodies, there’s sumptuous melancholy on ‘Words I Heard’, and the ‘I Shall Love’ diptych is life-affirmingly bombastic, all suggesting the potential for a separate album of a more digestible length and scope. However, Holter seems clear that ‘Aviary’ should be the monolith it is: she’s described it as reflecting “that feeling of cacophony from the internal and external babble we experience daily”, and that its starting point was a line from a 2009 short story that read, “I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds.” With that brief, one must concede that it is a job well done, and in the present era of buttoned-up no-risk pop, too, it’s encouraging to encounter an album as sprawling and idiosyncratic as this. Whether its very existence is enough to justify its virtues beyond the bagpipe enthusiasts is harder to discern. 6/10 Sam Walton
Lala Lala — The Lamb (hardly art) Violence and self-doubt permeate the second album Lillie West has released as Lala Lala. The themes reflect a particularly traumatic period in the Chicagobased musician’s life, experiencing a break-in, the death of loved ones and recovery from addiction during the writing of ‘The Lamb’. As if weighed down by the experiences, she shares them with a dead-eyed
delivery that sounds like it’s just below her natural range. This repeatedly rises during the 12 songs’ choruses to denote hope, while backing vocals are used on occasion with delicious irony. “I’d give it all away to be alone” she sighs on ‘Dropout’, while bassist Emily Kempf offers a companionable harmony line. There’s a similar light and shade in the music. Opening with the chugging grunge of ‘Destroyer’, elements of dream-pop, new wave and tinny DIY synths are later introduced to moderate the mood. While the whole thing falls short of out-right redemption and self-forgiveness, there are flashes of a pop heart. This peaks on closing number ‘See You At Home’, which adds a sax to girl group resignation to create a forward-facing kiss-off. “I release you,” she sings, as a chorus line sweetly repeats her nom de plume over and over again. 7/10 Susan Darlington
Lonnie Holley — MITH ( jagjaguwar) Born in Birmingham, Alabama, and residing for many years in Atlanta, ‘remarkable’ doesn’t quite do Lonnie Holley’s life story justice. Growing up in an America still in thrall to Jim Crow laws, the first thirty years of his life were marked by constant struggle, from abject poverty to jail time, to barely surviving a serious car accident. When he started to make visual art at the age of 29, working mainly in sculpture, his pieces were consistently influenced by the turbulence he’d endured up to that point; he often says that the first pieces of art he remembers working on were gravestones that he carved for his sister’s two children, who died in a house fire. Now, after a whirlwind few years that have seen the 68-year-old tour with
Albums the likes of Animal Collective and Deerhunter after Atlanta art collector Matt Arnett helped him to record his musical ideas, he releases ‘MITH’, a staggering work of unbridled ambition, intelligent improvisation and, above all, profound soul. Holley crafts the tracks more like sound collages than traditional songs, and his lyrical style is thoroughly in the vein of stream-of-consciousness – accordingly, don’t go expecting to hear ‘MITH’ relayed faithfully if you’re able to catch him on the road. The lyrics are a snapshot of the time they were written in; ‘I’m a Suspect’ laments police killings of black men, and ‘I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America’ might be the most incisive musical encapsulation of the country post-Trump since he was elected. The former unfolds over tender synth lines, whilst the latter’s backdrop involves discordant brass and electronics as well as chaotic percussion; Holley is speaking musically to the lyrical content every time. On that front, the record has an undoubted centrepiece. ’I Snuck Off the Slave Ship’ has Holley howling out a lifetime’s experience as a black man in America over nearly 18 epic minutes, with a dramatically freeform instrumental that incorporates piano, drums and the sound of crashing rain over an ominous bass rumble. Extraordinary. 9/10 Joe Goggins
Matthew Dear — Bunny (ghostly) It’s been six years since we last heard from Matthew Dear in a full album capacity, and he has a lot to share with us. ‘Bunny’ goes just about everywhere in its hourlong runtime, from ’80s Bowie camp to shimmering alt-pop, to ’90s guitar rave. He’s been tinkering with club music and alt-rock his whole career, but this is by far his most bubbly outing. Despite that, his
oddball baritone stays intact, which sadly makes for a mixed bag of experiments. ‘Bunny’s Dream’ is a guitar-accompanied throwback to the rare time in British music where Britpop and dance music fans were seeing eye-to-eye. His lethargic, theatrical delivery works well over the slow burning cut. On the very next track, his warbling tone is downright unlistenable over twee toy piano. The album frequently reminds of another recent album by a dance music titan, DJ Koze. His sprawling ‘knock knock’ also refused to settle on a sound, throwing disparate genres together and upping the most grating elements of the production with a cheeky grin. In that instance, it was glorious. Here, it occasionally feels like self-sabotage. There are great moments here, like a hazy house party of ‘Duke of Dens’, where Dear properly flexes his production ability. Every few seconds there’s a new layer of interesting sound to chew on while the groove keeps rolling. Then comes ‘Electricity’, a monotonous trudge of a song that sounds like Elvis Costello trying to karaoke ‘Let’s Dance’ after accidently hitting ‘Sing it Back’ by Moloko on the machine. He sounds like he’s having fun, I guess. 5/10 Stephen Butchard
It’s not that this is any less personal than that first outing, but more that Burch has embraced the parts of her craft that set her apart, most obviously her unmistakable voice. Trained in Jazz Vocal Performance, Burch is able to conjure strange and powerful pronunciations and inflections like few of her peers. Comparable in equal measure to Angel Olsen and Nico, her voice is bassy, oddly punctuated and entirely captivating. On opening tracks ‘Candy’ and ‘Wild’ she turns simple refrains like “I’m outrageous / Don’t come near me / I’m so contagious” and “There goes my baby / There she goes” into moments of wonder. As ‘First Flower’ progresses, Burch plays with Americana, jazz, Motown and old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, borrowing from each cannon with wit. On ‘To the Boys’ she deploys surf-ready guitars lines and the backing vocals to take down loud-mouthed male critics who presumably took umbrage with the more sombre moments of her debut. However, it’s closing track ‘Every Little Thing’ that will really silence them as Burch calls out in simultaneous desperation and defiance “I’ve worn my body down / I’m done”, her voice in full, jaw-dropping, force. 8/10 Mike Vinti
Molly Burch - First Flower (captured tracks) It’s only been a year and a half since Austin-based singer-songwriter Molly Burch released her debut album, ‘Please Be Mine’, but on her new record, ‘First Flower’, she sounds like a singer reborn. Where ‘Please Be Mine’ found Burch dealing with the aftermath of a breakup and leaning on the more melancholic end of her talents, for the most part, this is packed with rolling, sunny riffs and playful pastiches of American songwriting.
Molly Nilsson — 2020 (nightschool) Cancelled flights are the worst, just ask Swedish synth-pop artist Molly Nilsson. Trapped in the airport confines between starting point and final destination, Nilsson’s restless night spent beneath a large billboard boasting Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics sent her mind to wander. Right from the beginning of her 10-year career, it feels like Nilsson has been in a constant state of re-evaluation. Since her and John Maus’ reimagination of ‘Hey Moon’ – a track originally from
Albums Nilsson’s 2008 debut, ‘These Things Take Time’ – Nilsson’s been forever developing her music’s innate properties. The call for a drastic reassessment of human behaviour is embedded deep within her eighth album, ‘2020’, and feels like a wake up call carried by a slightly less weighty intention. Sitting regimented in the future, yet already almost completely tangible, the year 2020 and the construct of time itself looms in Nilsson’s mind. She tackles each gloomy forecast of our collective future with vigour and optimism. Time and time again she dances over pressing matters threatening our continual existence and uses her sharp and sparkling synth-pop working tirelessly to reassure us. “Every night is new,” she sings on the opening track; we may be in a hopeless spiral of climate change (‘A Slice Of Lemon’) and trapped in a worsening political depression (‘Gun Control’), but let’s not go out feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s a message of conflicted interests but still resonates powerfully in each calculated track. Whether she’s warning or comforting us, the future still appears bleak, but Nilsson doesn’t want us crying about it. 7/10 Ollie Rankine
Mountain Man — Magic Ship (bella union) Sometimes less is more. The bareness of Mountain Man’s three voices – Molly Sarlé, Amelia Meath and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig – was precisely what made their debut record, 2010’s ‘Made The Harbor’, such a captivating, intimate listen. You could hear fingers scrape acoustic guitar strings, individual breaths, and their gorgeous harmonies reverberating around the walls of the abandoned ice cream parlour they recorded it in. More than anything, they captured a mood; a sparse, hymnal beauty that stood as
a paean to nature, to Appalachian folk music, and a long lost simplicity. Life got in the way of a quick follow up – the trio have spent the last eight years pursuing various careers and projects – yet life is exactly what they’ve poured into ‘Magic Shape’, making it a richer, more textured listen. Conceived during a long road trip from California to North Carolina, when they camped under desert skies and marveled at the wilderness, the songs convey the tenderness of old friendships and time spent simply hanging out. You can here such affection on ‘Rang Tang Ring Toon’, a rumination on the joys of eating beans underneath the stars and late-night skinny dipping, or ‘Boat’, where delightful harmonies recall gazing upon river traffic on a sundappled day; simple pleasures, and tales starkly narrated. At times the magic they conjure is electrifying, the songs soaked in a natural elegance that’s as rare as it is special. These three were born to make music together. 9/10 Derek Robertson
Novo Amor — Birthplace (allpoints) Inside the mysterious world of Novo Amor, only the immediate present remains intact. The concept of “emigrating” from oneself feels otherworldly and existential, but for Welsh folk singer Ali Lacy it’s just a natural evolutionary process. His alias, Novo Amor, has been the product of a transition; a sudden point of change where all before him has been left and untraced. His long anticipated debut manifests this notion of change by looking deeply into his past and present. By using the ambience of night time sessions in his studio living space, the humbling, rustic grace of Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens echo through stories of drug addiction (‘Repeat Until Death’)
and even the implosion of a Nebraska town who couldn’t agree over some horses (‘Seneca’). It doesn’t matter where Amor looks, change is what he finds. Most poignantly is ‘Birthplace’’s visually accompanied title track where Amor takes the opportunity to lay down the true visceral fear surrounding our plastic-infested oceans. Somehow radiating warmth but also relaying a sense of ice-cold reality, it’s a beautiful wake up call to an ugly and potentially cataclysmic truth. Perhaps that’s the idea in a nutshell, because ‘Birthplace’ excavates mystifying wonder from Amor’s own polluted depths. 7/10 Ollie Rankine
Richard Reed Parry — Quiet River Of Dust Vol. 1 (anti) Here’s an announcement to set the alarm bells ringing – “multi-instrumentalist from world famous indie rock band releases volume one of double album.” But wait, come back! The multi-instrumentalist in question is none other than Richard Reed Parry from Arcade Fire, so he’s owed a fair crack of the whip. It’s unsurprising that Parry would want to explore a completely different direction to that of his main band – after all, what else is a solo album for? When ‘Quiet River of Dust’ opens with a passage of birdsong and some kind of tribal whistle, that direction becomes immediately apparent. ‘Gentle Pulsing Dust’ is an odd mixture of delicate folk and the grandiose, slightly absurd gesturing of mid-70s rock; towards the end of this epic eight-minute stall-setter, pan pipes can be heard. This is about as extreme an example of a concept album as you’re likely to hear. The intriguing experimental noise of ‘Sai No Kawara’ segues into
Albums the echoing vocals and vaguely oriental atmosphere of ‘On The Ground’ (the album’s origins and inspirations originate in a trip Parry took in a Japanese forest a decade ago). Here we find the high point of the record – it’s absorbing and immersive, and filled with epic peaks. Sadly, however, more typical is the delicately constructed but inexpressibly dull trudge of ‘Song Of Wood’. The most straightforward track here is the soft-edged, faintly psychedelic ‘Finally Home’. But there are endless passages amongst these songs of aimless meandering, irritating warbling, washing waves and birdsong, set against overbearingly earnest lyrics. Example: “I was in the wind with the wind in me”. The music almost reaches the point of unconscious self-parody, and no amount of suspension of cynicism in the listener can overcome the fact that ‘Quiet River Of Dust’ is a thoroughly tedious record. 3/10 Chris Watkeys
Sealionwoman — Siren (antigen) The surrealism of Sealionwoman’s debut album makes a whole lot more sense once you realise the context: inspired by the Selkies of Scottish folklore (water-dwelling beasts who morph from seal to human upon landing ashore), ‘Siren’ comprises a blend of vocals, double bass and electronics. The results, though innovative and interesting, are at times a little trying. Indeed, there’s a time and place for this kind of music: ‘Siren’ is best suited to late-night introspection and quiet contemplation. In any other setting, its myriad layers would be tricky to take in. Formed by way of a fortuitous chance meeting of Scottish-born jazz vocalist Kitty Whitelaw and bass player Tye McGivern, the duo experiment with a sound that’s challenging to catego-
rise, and for that reason, Sealionwoman should be commended. There are moments here that shine: the sporadic melancholy of the strings that flitter throughout add depth and clarity, and there’s obvious skill at play in McGivern’s instrumental prowess. For something so informed by jazz and ambient music, though, it’s rarely easy listening, and difficult to imagine it truly working outside of a performance/ artistic context. 5/10 Hayley Scott
throughout. The video for the epic lead single ‘Life Is Golden’ journeys round the abandoned town of Pripyat after the Chernobyl disaster, lending it a postapocalyptic, haunted atmosphere as Anderson’s vocals channel David Bowie. The theme is of childhood terrors and is described by themselves as, “unpleasant, Suede should be unpleasant”. And yet, they still can’t help but somehow sound uplifting, which is probably a good thing. 7/10 James Auton
Suede — The Blue Hour (rhino) It’s nearly three decades since the embryonic version of Suede included Justine Frischmann and Bernard Butler. This isn’t that Suede. This is a different band. The singer sounds the same, the guitarist, who was basically copying Butler before he joined at 17, is the same. Except they’re 40 plus and the eroticism and drugs have been replaced. What with isn’t completely clear. This is the third in the triptych of Suede records since 2013. It’s the last light of day before the blackness of night. ‘The Blue Hour’. ‘As One’ is operatic; Brett Anderson is Jean Valjean in Revolutionary Paris. ‘Wastelands’ is more classic Suede, Richard Oakes’ distinctive guitar style at the forefront. There’s a narrative, which is never quite fully laid bare or completed. Nevertheless there is a concept to the whole record. Songs are linked together with spoken word elements, “dead bird” and “Sonny” are frequently referenced. Anderson has stated that he writes as though looking through his son’s eyes and he appears to be taking the role of the protagonist on this story. A Marc Almond-esque theatrical sound effects Anderson’s vocals
Tommy Genesis — Tommy Genesis (downtown) When Tommy Genesis burst into the collective consciousness for the first time a couple of years ago, she quickly garnered substantial underground press acclaim. In the time since, she has bagged a major label deal and toured as the opening act for Dua Lipa. It is the second sentence that more accurately predicts this debut album, which sticks firmly within the lines and misses the chance to challenge or surprise the listener. The Canadian MC is still young, but her subject matter shows relatively little by way of a burgeoning maturity. At times she has an admirable insistence on your attention, especially on the fiery ‘Geisha’, which also boasts the record’s most arresting production, with its sub-woofer bass and stuck, stuttering synth rhythm, whilst her breakout single ‘Tommy’ is still her calling card, defiant and joyously conceited. Otherwise, the record is dominated by unobtrusive, danger-free arrangements and throwaway lyrics. ‘Bad Boy’ has a trace of ethnic swag buried somewhere in there, but it’s all too mild, and when she draws M.I.A. comparisons in one vocal choice, the juxtaposition is somewhat damning.
Albums The album’s second half is dominated by a string of tracks fulsomely committed to love, in that way that so many emerging writers have been compelled. Unfortunately, like so many youthful dreamers before her, she embarks without a hard enough sense of a destination and consequently her songs are honest but unremarkable. 4/10 Max Pilley
Tim Hecker — Konoyo (kranky) In a crowded field, few more than Tim Hecker typifies the spirit of innovation in neoclassical music right now, regularly taking on new ideas and resisting the incremental safety of some of his contemporaries. The Canadian electronic auteur spent time in Japan for his ninth record, ‘Konoyo’ (translated ‘the world over here’), and the effect is as challenging and transcendent as anything in his back catalogue. Primarily, the album is influenced by gagaku, a form of traditional Japanese classical music performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for over a millennium. Figures like the drone pioneer La Monte Young have taken heavy influence from gagaku previously, but Hecker seems impatient to shine a light on the most radical elements of this music. Some of ‘Konoyo’ was recorded in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo, and opener ‘This Life’ introduces Hecker’s marriage of traditional Japanese music with electronica, beginning with the most straightforward employment of gagaku chimes and cymbals on the record. Though the album is a departure from its predecessor, ‘Love Streams’, which used the Icelandic Choir Ensemble, choral music remains a touchstone for Hecker. The spectral choir that begins ‘A Sodium Codec Haze’ may be only a red herring (the track graduates into
woozy, strained noise) but it helps draw a thread through Hecker’s disparate works. The anxious, throbbing drone of ‘In Mother Earth Phase’ is simultaneously tortured and blissful – Hecker’s sweet spot – and the sonic associations with ceremony and ritual lend a gravity to the record. 7/10 Fergal Kinney
biggest banger, ‘Porsche Majeure’, is almost deliberately corny. Despite the complex idea of nostalgia woven throughout the album, the listening experience isn’t distractingly deep. At most times, for all it’s cynicism, it’s just roaring, great fun. 8/10 Cal Cashin
TVAM — Psychic Data (self released) TVAM, aka Joe Oxley, is one of those post-Internet ‘bedroom producers’ that we’ve heard all about for the last five year. He may be mysterious. He may only exist through blurry photos attached to press packs. But ‘Psychic Data’, his debut record, is a proper, rabid statement. The anonymity that proliferates so-called ‘bedroom projects’ – particularly the post-Ariel Pink dream-pop that flooded the Internet in the early 2010s – is wholly absent from ‘Psychic Data’. It’s a cold-blooded flank of digital brutalism, an industrialised pop record that throbs and pulses with an infectious, entrancing haze that’s instantly addictive. Not just a fantastic record, but a cutting, selfaware exploration into guitar music’s toxic obsession with the past. “I’m sick of nostalgia. There’s a real sadness at the heart of it. We’re obsessed with our pop culture past,” Oxley garbles in the press release: “... and I’m guiltier than most other people.” It’s easy to trace the influences of TVAM. Suicide, NEU!, Big Black, Sonic Youth… all the good stuff. But Oxley isn’t content to sit back and make a faithful reinterpretation of these; ‘Psychic Data’ is no exercise in warm and comforting record collector pop. TVAM is characterised by a certain kind of discontent, a venomous version of nostalgia – the sheets of MBV noise are not euphoric but chilling, and the popping funk bass on the album’s
Value Void — Sentimental (tough love) It may not be the most conventional word to describe a post-punk record, but ‘Sentimental’ is a pretty apt title for Value Void’s debut. Not because the album is cheesy or mawkish – it’s quite the opposite – but rather owing to its affecting and unadorned nostalgia. Embodying the DIY spirit of punk, the London three-piece forgo theatrics and arm themselves with only a guitar, bass and drums. The uncluttered arrangements work heavily in the album’s favour and, coupled with lo-fi production, allow the band to bare their insecurities raw across the album’s short half-hour runtime. Building and releasing tension with the fickle volatility of young love, Value Void’s music shifts on a whim from agonising to upbeat, dissonant to hypnotic. On ‘Back In The Day’ an ominous riff tethers tense verses, as vocalist Paz Maddio tries to recall fuzzy memories of a past lover before resolving on an infectiously catchy chorus. Album closer ‘Dead Ladies Lament’, meanwhile, is a cathartic dénouement. “She was already dead when she came in,” Maddio continuously repeats over the back half of the track, her words riding soporific guitar chords and hissing cymbals down into dour languor. Tossing the rose-tinted glasses to the floor, Value Void’s idea of sentimentality is vulnerable, emotive, and unremittingly honest. 7/10 Alexander Smail
Villagers — The Art of Pretending to Swim (domino) It seems like everybody is having an existential crisis these days. And yes, in ‘this current climate’ it would be difficult not to question the ways that we live, and the reasons why. The upside is that we have records dealing with crises of faith and conscience, as on Conor O’Brien’s fifth album. The indiefolk musician’s latest is a lyrical mesh of fears and hopes, all held together by an abiding faith. Songs like ‘Sweet Saviour’ and ‘Fool’ give some insight into where, exactly, that faith is directed. Truthfully, ‘The Art of Pretending to Swim’ seems to address O’Brien’s rediscovered religion more than anything else. That said, it is also an exploration of how he sees his faith manifesting, namely in the form of creative drive. His reawakened faith has led to a renewed musical vigour, with his project striding far away from the blank space and intimacy of 2015’s ‘Darling Arithmetic’. While there are certainly moments when O’Brien has stripped things way back, as on penultimate track ‘Hold Me Down’, overall he has leaned into a more layered approach. ‘A Trick of the Light’ finds the groove that O’Brien has been working towards, with infinitely more potential for dancing than his more sparsely sculpted work. ‘Long Time Waiting’, with its themes of depression and self-reliance, also hits the mark, with a rich horn section and soaring samples. These are the album’s greatest successes. Still, at times the layered effect is too much; as ‘Love Came With All That It Brings’ progresses, the conflicting elements tangle together into something too confused to work. Similarly, ‘Real Go-Getter’ seems to be neither going in one direction nor the other, and brings the house of cards down.
Overall, ‘The Art of Pretending to Swim’ is an interesting representation of renewed belief and cycles of faith – even if at times it pushes things a little too far. 6/10 Liam Konemann
a glimpse of what it might sound like when Viagra Boys start really transcending their influences. Until then, ‘Street Worms’ is a spirited and potent start. 8/10 Fergal Kinney
Viagra Boys — Street Worms (year0001) Following two EPs of promising if not revelatory garage-punk, Viagra Boys’ ‘Street Worms’ offers few surprises but comes armed with lashings of charisma and character. What progresses ‘Street Worms’ from those EPs is the increased confidence of vocalist Sebastian Murphy, coupling a louche baritone with a rich sense of the absurd – it’s a juxtaposition that will sound familiar to fans of Nick Cave’s work on the two Grinderman records. “I’m not like those other boys!” wails Murphy on opener ‘Down in the Basement’, his hysteria increasing in tandem with the group grinding into a thrilling mess of distortion. It’s on ‘Sports’ that Viagra Boys are at their most singular and engaging. Introduced by a tribal, mid-tempo drumbeat, Murphy sounds at his most Iggy Pop as he laconically deadpans a surrealist list of “baseball, basketball, weiner dog, short shorts, cigarette.” The cumulative effect is the Stockholm group conjuring a kind of American horror – more than this, though, it’s also pleasingly selfreferential in its critique of the machismo and cliché inherent within garage rock. And though the record does feature a spoken word monologue about an intergalactic dog competition (‘Best in Show’), Viagra Boys avoid the knowingly wacky pastiche that marks their fellow retro revivalists The Lemon Twigs. Indeed, with its slow, throbbing disco and spacier, more contemporary production, ‘Just Like You’ offers
Yves Tumor — Safe In The Hands Of Love (warp) It isn’t unique to the current time, but the age of social media has amplified the influx of possible avenues to self-identification. When the whole world is able to watch, what’s the best way to make yourself known? We often wonder whether we should define ourselves by political literacy, video games, or our proclivity for consuming music. Some may feel comfortable on Twitter, others only feel like miscast performers in some great stage show. Yves Tumor revels in flexibility. Having created under countless monikers in Berlin and Los Angeles as Bekelé Berhanu, Shanti, and TEAMS among others, the work of Sean Lee Bowie (even his birth name seems dubious) is a manyheaded beast. On ‘Safe In The Hands of Love’, ‘beast’ is more accurate than ever. From the cursory introduction, we’re introduced to so many styles it’s hard to keep up: funk, soul, ambient, wonky electronica. Just when ‘Economy of Freedom’ gives some idea of this dislocated audio space, Yves Tumor’s vocal swagger recalls Damon Albarn on lead single ‘Noid’. But ‘Hope in Suffering’ near the album’s end returns us to scorched earth, accompanied by pained fire and brimstone sermonising – “fucked into incompletion.” The album feels uneven, the result of too many sonic ideas with none taking precedence. But arguably, one idea remains – the feeling of constant becoming… becoming what, exactly? “Inside my own living Hell / I can’t recognise myself”, so says the singer. 7/10 Dafydd Jenkins
Live moment of the weekend, though, when ‘A Private Understanding’ inspired a circle a pit that stuck around for the rest of their set. A circle pit. At End of The Road. 2. Vampire Weekend also played
End of The Road festival Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury 30 August – 2 September 2018
For the past three years, Loud And Quiet has been a partner of End of The Road, having never been to the festival before then. We got involved in 2016 because of what we’d heard about it, and signed up for the following two years because what we’d heard turned out to be true. The festival grounds really are beautiful and wooded, the lineup does exceed the festival’s stubborn independence, the food is good (if expensive), Danny’s stag do still doesn’t seem to know it exists and that they’re serving drinks inside. There are still elements that we’ll continue to politely pass on (we will not be going to the morning yoga class, or carving a spoon for a day) but we like EOTR a lot, precisely because it doesn’t feel like being at war. Year three, though – it positions us somewhere new; in a place where we can make a definite call on how End of The Road 2018 stood up against previous years. It’s the year we’ve enjoyed the most out of our three, and while plenty of that can be attributed to something as boring and British as good weather, here are the next top reasons why. There are three of them, naturally.
1. There were a lot of punk bands knocking about this year ‘End of The Road – that’s that wooly folk festival, isn’t it?’ We thought the same, and while that’s not strictly untrue today (thankfully, in fact), in recent years the lineup has become growingly abrasive (Blanck Mass played last year, along with experimentalists Klein and Laraaji, courtsey of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction’s new involvement). In 2018, punk was represented more heavily than ever before, with Manchester collective DUDS returning for a second straight year of shronky noise, joined in the Big Top by Iceage, whose current incarnation takes on the Bad Seeds and Primal Scream with more polished but less urgent results. Australians Amyl & the Sniffers played the same stage (a loud, fun, silly display of Iggy-ish garage rock mixed with ’80s hair metal posturing), as did IDLES late on the festival’s final day, meaning that the site that’s usually half full on Sunday evening due to early escapees was still teeming with people crushing to see the obvious buzz of the weekend. Typically, the band were off the leash, propelled by a new album that had been released two days earlier. It was Protomartyr on the opening day that delivered the most un-EOTR
There are bands that you might only listen to at a festival – bands like Vampire Weekend. As was the case with St Vincent the previous night (albeit that her show was made of a pristine brand of unquestionable excellence, which included a faceless band in Andy Warhol wigs), Vampire Weekend’s headline booking was touch of stealth genius from the festival, who, in recent years, have gone for a more contemplative big three (Bat For Lashes, Joanna Newsom, Father John Misty, The Jesus and Mary Chain et al). You can actually dance to St Vincent, and especially to Vampire Weekend. Sure, that singular guitar sound grew a little tired towards the end. And yeah, who are Vampire Weekend these days (there seemed to be 7 people up there)? But there was something pure and ‘Saturday Night’ about jigging (and the crowd really were jigging) around to them for a good hour. 3. David Thomas Broughton tried to sell the crowd handbags after his set The folk game remained as strong as ever this year, with particular simple beauty coming from Portland’s Haley Heynderickx’s solo performance, and from Stella Donnelly on a stage that’s already too small for her (at least 50 people choose to sit outside the full tent and just listen). The two great avant-garde moments came from Richard Dawson’s bellowed hour and David Thomas Broughton, who continues to fuck with fans of his self-sampling anti-folk. At one point he forgets the words to his song and starts to cry (or mock cry, like a child having a weak tantrum). He starts making up words by listing the things he can see on stage. At the end he announces he has some handbags for sale. He leaves the stage and returns with them. We don’t think he sold any. Stuart Stubbs
photography by rachel juarez-carr
Live Brockhampton Koko, London 21 August 2018
Boyband: it’s a loaded term. Brings to mind perfect teeth, cheesy key changes and Ronan Keating gently standing up from his sitting position on a barstool. Then there’s the background songwriting teams, brand extension marketing plans for things like bubble bath, and someone like Simon Cowell doing celebratory spins on his office chair as the cheques cascade from the ceiling. It means (most of the time) manufactured. Brockhampton are a boyband. In fact, they’re the “best motherfucking boyband in the world,” as they and their DJ remind us on a number of occasions this evening. They fuck with almost all of the tropes associated with that name tag, the foremost being that the collective – rappers, beat-makers, designers, led by 22-year-old Kevin Abstract – do pretty much everything themselves. It’s hot in KOKO. Maybe because a decent proportion of the 1400 people packed in (all under 25) have been waiting in a line stretching up Camden High Street in the sun all afternoon. Once inside, they excitedly volley an inflated condom around the crowd between themselves and boo heartily when the PA
system goes quiet, not to reveal the band, but to play another Cure track. The six (performing) members of Brockhampton run out individually as if sprinting down a football stadium tunnel. They wear black pants, white sneakers and white T-shirts. The reaction is frenzied. The crowd swells forward. A guy climbs a pillar. A girl, pressed against the barrier, waves her shoes in the air. My glasses immediately steam up. Hot air – damp, like that from a tropical plant hot house – rises from the dancefloor. Sweat rolls down my arm. It’s not mine. The stage is slanted and inexplicably covered in AstroTurf. At the first of these two intimate shows (these are their first in the UK and tickets went in seconds) they had a set of swings on stage. They thrash around the place. The energy levels are relentlessly high, much more Odd Future than 1D. And put it this way, Westlife never asked the crowd to “open up the motherfucking pit.” There are choreographed moments – a single spotlight, guitar and mic stand for one song; a bit where Dom McLennon pops up on the balcony to rap a verse and flash a video camera at the audience. But there are no Louis Tomlinson’s here – they can all rap. All dance and they can all hold the crowd. Brockhampton’s biggest strength right now is their discography. They
released three mixtapes last year. They already have a stronger setlist than One Direction managed in six years. Standouts are the Outkast-aping single ‘1999 Wildfire’ and ‘Boogie’ – a song so rousing they play it in the set and then again to finish the encore and no-one finds it weird. No wonder they recently described the show as “like going to Disneyland with Wu-Tang Clan.” Greg Cochrane
Janelle Monáe Roundhouse, London 12 September 2018
“Free Ass Motha Fucka,” reads the T-shirt at the merch stand, but it may as well be the emblem for the night. The arena-sized pop show Janelle Monáe squeezes into the Roundhouse is a celebration of vibrant in-dividuality. If the budget surrounding this year’s ‘Dirty Computer’ album leapt up a notch, so too has her live show. On stage there’s a pyramid of white steps, a throne, multiple costume changes, backing dancers and three video screens so large you could watch the gig from the other end of Camden High Street. No-one’s shortchanged either, the show lasts two hours, even if Monáe doesn’t have two hours of great songs. That doesn’t matter. It’s a show that’s knowingly surreal – it begins with two guys in boiler suits push-ing a mortuary trolley (no idea) – and ridiculous. A long-haired guitarist wearing sunglasses frequently plays solos on his knees. When it’s not shooting for Prince levels of entertainment, it’s heartwarming, impassioned and inclu-sive. Pulling audience members out of the crowd to dance is an eye-roll cliché but when Monáe invites up a girl in a wheelchair and actress Michaela Coel to shout “I got the juice” the place erupts. “Tonight we’re celebrating what makes us unique even if it makes others uncomfortable,” she says, before playing a version of ‘Tightrope’ that’s extended to a full ten minutes. Greg Cochrane
Film and Books
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (cinereach) Music documentaries about working artists aren’t only predictable in their feel-good propaganda but in their cast-iron structure also. They are centred around a triumphant live show unless they’re being really real, in which case they’ll include some on-theroad footage where the artist is filmed crying (although not too much), before we’re asked to sit through another 90 seconds of a song played live in a football stadium. It’s
boring but it makes sense: the brand is still alive and needs selling, in this case under the guise of ‘showing the fans the real me’. Of course, the most interesting parts of these films are far away from the music, even when they’re constructed and signed off by 5 business managers, and providing you agree with that, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is the music doc for you. Although the propaganda machine has no off switch, it’s fair to say that it’s on a low setting here, not least because M.I.A. didn’t make this movie herself – Steve Loveridge did. He’s an old friend from Maya’s days at Central St Martin’s College but it’s complicated and she’s not completely happy with the end result. As a perpetual victim, that’s hardly surprising, although on that point, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A serves to defend what some consider M.I.A.’s unfounded paranoia (a case in point: her misrepresentation in the New York Times Magazine by writer Lynn Hirschberg;
another: footage of Bill Maher dismissing her on his CBS show as she attempts to discuss the Sri Lankan Civil war and the genocide of the Tamil people – “Why do you sound like Mick Jagger,” he interrupts). It’s Sri Lanka and M.I.A.’s Tamil heritage that’s at the centre of the film rather than her music and career – that and her experiences as a British immigrant, and in turn her position as a famous brown woman in a white, male world and industry. At Loveridge’s disposal is years of camcorder footage shot by Maya as a fledgling documentarian herself. Later, we see the dressing room aftermath of her Super Bowl performance but more interesting than that is the material she shot aged 25 in Sri Lanka. “I need to keep the immigrant story in my music,” she says at one point. The film about her holds true to that only thanks to her own life’s footage, and also allows us to understand M.I.A. more than ever before. Stuart Stubbs
Messing Up The Paintwork: The Wit and Wisdom of Mark E. Smith — Tom Clayton (ebury) Described during his singular career as everything from untouchably cool to a man shouting from a prison window, Mark E. Smith was the acerbic, unpredictable, belligerent power that kept The Fall rumbling for thirty plus years, who formed the backbone of a band unlike any other. Messing Up the Paintwork collects together quotes from the man himself along with gig reviews, anecdotes and bar-room stories from those he came into contact with to paint a picture of an artist who went from wanting to assassinate the Pope to wishing he was a bus conductor. Lee Bullman
Swans: Sacrifice and Transcendence, The Oral History — Nick Soulsby (jawbone) In equal parts overlooked and revered, Michael Gira’s Swans is a band whose story needed to be told. In order to tell it, Nick Soulsby has drawn from 125 interviews with band members, industry insiders, family, friends and associates to create a fascinating and in-depth chronological history of one of the most influential bands of the American postpunk scene. Sacrifice and Transcendence covers the ups and downs of the band’s thirty-five-year career and traces their journey from the scuzzy tail end of New York No-Wave to well-respected, intense survivors. Lee Bullman
That Old Black Magic — Cathi Unsworth (serpent’s tail) In the spring of 1943 as war rages through Europe, four young boys stumble upon the corpse of a woman, her mouth filled with cloth, while playing in their local woods. The discovery, based on a real event, is the jumping off point for Cathi Unsworth’s latest novel, one which combines black magic, spiritualism and espionage as detective Ross Spooner endeavours to discover who put Bella in the Wych Elm. Genuinely deep, dark and spooky, That Old Black Magic is a multilayered thriller, blurring the line between fact and fiction and keeping the reader guessing throughout. Lee Bullman
SOLD OUT SOLD OUT
Sobering up the other side of grunge, by Susan Darlington Photography by Alexa Viscius
Interview ‘The Lamb’ initially seems to be a misplaced title for Lala Lala’s second album. Lillie West, the London born musician behind the nom de plume, is fraught with insecurity and a fierce drive for self-improvement. Her churning lo-fi guitar, searing lyrics and deadpan vocals nonetheless prove that she’s no one’s victim or Christian stereotype of the sacrificial ruminant. “The album was me writing about and thinking about how to be a person again,” she clarifies down the line from her home in Chicago, where she’s holed up during a break from her current tour with Wolf Parade. “It was like I was a baby sheep learning how to walk, figuring out what my life was going to be like after being sober. Because it felt like so much of my identity was drinking and I really had to readjust and change everything.” It’s a period of recovery that’s knitted into the fabric of the 12 tracks that comprise the album. Her new-found sobriety was severely tested when she suffered bereavement and a break-in that left her with “periods of utter paranoia.” As a result of this she was “afraid to leave my house” and spent the hours trapped inside writing. These experiences are ever-present in the recurring images of violence and self-doubt but ‘The Lamb’ also strives for a better version of West. As she sings on the new wave DIY of ‘Water Over Sex’, a song that was inspired by her love of St. Vincent: ‘You think I’m good / I want to be gooder.’ “I guess it’s a thing that everyone feels,” she notes of the sentiment, pausing to cough and sniff with the cold she picked up on a plane home from Malaysia. “I would like to feel like I belong where I am.” It’s a sense of belonging that she still doesn’t feel in the music industry despite enrolling at the School Of The Art Institute of Chicago, self-releasing her debut album, ‘Sleepyhead’, in 2016, and booking her own tours across the States having been inspired by the local DIY music community. “I always feel like I’m not good enough in music, particularly at performing,” she demurs. “I really like writing and recording music – I like it so much – and I feel that to a certain extent I’m able to do what I want with it. But performing I often feel insufficient and that it’s not quite right or something. I also feel that I haven’t locked in exactly what I want to write or what I should be.” There’s a fine line between this critical self-abasement and a healthy drive to improve. On the basis of ‘The Lamb’, Lala Lala has certainly made great progress. Where her debut was firmly rooted in grunge, its follow up finds the metaphorical lamb trying on wolves’ clothing styled in new wave, dream-pop and tinny synths. “I was really into the local garage scene in Chicago when I made ‘Sleepyhead’,” she says, “but also I think it was also just about what I could do. I didn’t really know how to do anything, I just wanted to be on stage.” Armed with greater musical know-how, her widened palate of influences help to deliver sonic and emotional waves of light and shade. “I really like dynamics and so I try and write them into songs,” she explains. “I also tried to write them into
the record so it isn’t like one feeling, one volume the whole time. I don’t want all of the instruments to be playing at the same time throughout the whole record. That would just be a wash.” This increased use of dynamics is a major step-change from her debut. “I was barely present, barely conscious for ‘Sleepyhead’, and I didn’t think about it in terms of a record at all, it was more just ‘well we should record something.’ “Now I think about songs for a lot longer to decide if I want to keep playing them or if they make the cut. There are a couple of songs on ‘Sleepyhead’ that I didn’t think about at all, that were just written, and that wouldn’t necessarily have made it onto the album if I did it again. And ‘The Lamb’, I just thought about what I was writing about and what I wanted it to sound like and that kind of thing.” She attributes this greater awareness and the change in mindset to getting sober. One of her initial motivations for starting the band was the desire to “say something or work through something” that she was unable to verbalise in person. After she quit drinking and drugging, however, she found “there isn’t that much that I feel I can’t say.” This has enabled “music [to] became the full thing, the incentive and the focus for everything else.” The confessional nature of ‘Sleepyhead’ resulted in acerbic lyrics aimed at both herself and the people around her. As she sings on the melodic scuzz of ‘Fuck With Your Friends’, ‘I drink more than I want to / Cos it makes you easier to talk to / And what you’re saying is boring.’ Despite this she initially denies that there’s been any fallout from people recognising themselves or certain situations in her lyrics. “I usually try, especially now, to disguise what I’m saying a little bit,” she says. After a brief pause, however, she admits that, “it has happened once where I hurt someone through a song,” although she won’t be drawn on the details. “I actually can’t say because then they will also see this!” she laughs. The lyrics on this album remain personal, despite her best efforts to “try and disguise stuff.” This balance between individual and universal is evident on ‘Dove’, one of the standout tracks. More spacious than other songs, it sounds like the postscript to Waxahatchee’s ‘Ivy Tripp’ and addresses the accidental overdose of her friend Trey Gruber, frontman of Chicago band Parent. “For me it’s about Trey but I guess it’s about the times that you question what you could have done or how you could have helped someone or how you could have known that something was going to happen,” she ponders. “Which I spend a lot of time doing and that really feeds into my hyper-vigilance and paranoia now, sometimes in bad ways.” The track itself was arranged with bassist Emily Kempf and drummer Ben Leach – who complete the current live incarnation of her band – but the final version is the result of gradual subtraction. “We took a lot away. It sounded better with less,” she admits. “I don’t want to become trapped by a genre or something. As much as I write like myself I don’t want people to expect the record that comes after ‘The Lamb’ to sound like ‘The Lamb 2.0’ or something.” This album is good; its follow up will be gooder.
Activism, As troubled as Yoko Ono’s ‘Warzone’ sounds, we shouldn’t be surprised to find hope at the centre of it, by Brian Coney. Photography by Tom Haller
To say Yoko Ono has spent her life flipping the script would
be a big understatement. Her art and activism have, since her first gallery show in New York City in 1961, run at a parallel, in a constantly unapologetic fashion. In the middle of being blamed for the disintegration of The Beatles, she formed a new band with John Lennon, played a show and released The Plastic Ono Band’s first album – ‘Live Peace In Toronto 1969’. If the act itself sent the message that Yoko Ono wasn’t going to do what we wanted her to, the recording almost gleefully played out the fears of Lennon fans unhappy with this new bad influence: following a side one of rock ‘n’ roll standards that included The Beatles’ ‘Yer Blues’, side two consisted of two long tracks of feedback and Ono screaming. Before that, she defied her parents when they emigrated from Tokyo to the affluent town of Scarsdale, New York, where Ono would go to college and fall in with the art crowd that her parents disapproved of. She’d follow that lifestyle all the way to Downtown Manhattan, and into a lifetime of non-conformity that, in 2018, brings us ‘Warzone’ – Ono’s fourteenth solo album: not an easy listen for Sunday driving, but arguable the less muddled Yoko Ono has ever sounded. At 85 years old, it feels like a vital chapter for her – one she was compelled to write. Titled after her 1995 song of the same name, ‘Warzone’ is both a statement of intent and a feature-length red flag. Comprising 13 interpretations of her own songs, originally released between 1970 and 2009, it veers between mournful monitions about the state of the world and rallying cries to rise against. For someone who has always put lessening the chasm between people and peace at the heart of her art, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ono has opted for a direct title for the album. “It’s called ‘Warzone’ because that’s where we are living now,” she tells me, her answers to my questions considered and always short. “Some people are not even aware of it.” The album is released via Sean Ono Lennon’s co-run Chimera Music imprint this month, and highlights abound. A slow-burning, desperate plea, its title track plainly relays the agony and reality of war across the world, beginning with the not-so-subtle sound of machine guns – “Warzone / We’re living in a Warzone / Men flashing their guns and their balls / Woman looking like Barbie dolls / Wake up.” In 1996, on her album ‘Rising’, ‘Warzone’ was a head-down heavy metal track –
Interview now, as is the case with all these adaptations, it’s a starker beast altogether, and more affecting for Ono’s vocal clarity and the tortured soundscape underneath. A primal take on ‘Why’ (from her 1970 debut album – her personal favourite on the new record) also drags the original into manic new territory, where it’s no longer a funk track with a semblance of joy, but rather an increasingly disturbing rumination on modern life in one howled word. And there’s ‘Now Or Never’, with a woozy backing that marries ambience and lounge MOR, which asks of the United States: “Are we going to keep digging oil wells and gold? Are we going to keep thinking it won’t happen to us?” Each song is as spare and skeletal as the next. Centre-stage is Ono, speaking as directly as she has her entire career. Her words double up as an open letter pleading with the world to take a step back and recognise that, actually, yes, it almost certainly will happen to us. — Pick up a pencil — In the half-century since spending her honeymoon in bed with John Lennon, all in the name of something as idealistic but simple as World Peace, activism has been at the forefront of how we see Yoko Ono, partly due to the iconic power of seemingly everything that ever happened in the 1960s, but also because it’s how Ono still sees herself. Of course, you could reasonably argue that wealth affords oneself to remain a hippy well into old age, but still, it was a lot easier to believe in giving peace a chance in 1969 than it is in 2018. Ono has never waivered on that front. For her, lighting a flare via song is, today as much as it was during the Vietnam War, its own kind of revolution. “The current state of the world made me pick up my pencil,” she says. “The reason is, I thought maybe I’d wait until 2020, but everyday I’d read the newspaper and more and more [war and bad news] was coming to us and it seems like plain hypocrisy that I’m alive, surviving, and not speaking out.” Last year Ono won a hard-fought battle. After 45 years, the National Music Publishers Association finally awarded her a co-writing credit for one of the most recognisable songs ever recorded – ‘Imagine’. It’s fitting that ‘Warzone’ closes with Ono’s own take on the single. Considering its clout, though, one can’t help but assume she was apprehensive about covering it? “Yes, I was totally frightened to do it,” she says. “But also I thought I must do it and I’m happy that I did do it. The reason I was totally scared, I’m sure you understand, is because millions of people love the song and they could trash it.” I do understand, even if I’m a little surprised to hear that the opinions of others is something that concerns her. Having spent five decades sidestepping derision dictated by either lazy sensationalism or pure ignorance, Ono has never been one to be deterred. In the 1960s she pioneered conceptual and performance art via seminal works including Cut Piece, first performed in 1964, in which Ono, dressed in her best suit, knelt on the ground and invited audience members to cut away as much or as little of her clothing as they wished with tailor’s scissors. The
“The current state of the world made me pick up my pencil. It seems like plain hypocrisy that I’m alive, surviving, and not speaking out.”
performance was largely met with total bemusement. Between 1964 and 1972, she emerged as an experimental filmmaker, with a pigheaded flair of the times that she filtered through albums as genre-mangling and subversive as her 19711973 home run flurry: ‘Fly’, ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’ and ‘Feeling the Space’. She has built her creative career since before meeting John Lennon, and has continued to do so long past his premature death. Perhaps her reservations in covering ‘Imagine’ lie in what that song has come to represent, and in her respect for her late husband. Her love for him does, after all, endure. And for all the boring bashing around the subject of The Beatles, Ono appears to strike a pretty good balance between the artist and activist she’s always been, and the widow of one of the most famous musicians of all time. More than that, she revels in both – making new music because she’s unable to be passive, and keeping the memory of Lennon alive, launching funds, charities and memorials in him name. For a record that is her and her alone, across 40 minutes, ‘Warzone’ is a release reconfigured for, and framed by, the uniquely worrying state of the world in 2018. But befitting Ono’s nature, it’s a triumph of pragmatism, bursting with plain and powerful words that drive home an immutable truth about politics, human rights, corruption, the environment and beyond: change is ours, if we want it. “When I created those songs, I was thinking about politicians and how lost they became,” she says today. “They say that the fight at dawn is the severest and I think this is the time of dawn. In other words, I think it’s going to be better very soon.” — Woman power — Ono has been preparing for the “fight at dawn” her entire career. But for her, the duel is as much a matter of personal politics and one’s fundamental human rights as it is the world at large. Having emerged as one of the strongest feminist voices in the art world of the ’60s, she has, likewise, wielded words of empowerment via music across the decades. On her new album, a new take on ‘Woman Power’ makes for one of her most emphatic solo efforts yet. Though each track here serves its own purpose (“There were many more I could have added, but these thirteen felt right,” she tells me) it’s a scathing riposte that reimag-
ines the 1973 original for the modern age: “Do you know that someday you’ll have to pay, man? / In the coming age of feminist society we’ll regain our human dignity / We’ll lay some truth and clarity and bring back nature’s beauty.” The bluesy guitar riff is rusty and almost out-of-time, but it remains the album’s most instantly digestible track. As she emerged as the ‘High Priestess of the Happening’ in the late ’60s, Ono’s original artistic intention was to harness Buddhist mentality with a strong feminist subtext. Aside from the conceptual and performance art she was making, both solo and with the New York group Fluxus, nowhere was that more on display than her essay, The Feminization of Society. Featured in the liner notes of her 1971 LP ‘Infinite Universe’, its thrust bounds from the past as pure wisdom: “I am proposing the feminization of society; the use of feminine nature as a positive force to change the world. We can change ourselves with feminine intelligence and awareness, into a basically organic, noncompetitive society that is based on love, rather than reasoning. The result will be a society of balance, peace and contentment. We can evolve rather than revolt, come together, rather than claim independence, and feel rather than think. These are characteristics that are considered feminine; characteristics that men despise in women. But have men really done so well by avoiding the development of these characteristics within themselves?” On ‘Warzone’, Ono looks back in order to gain a new vantage point. Telling me that she has always chosen to look in both directions – into the past and towards a brighter future – one of her turns of phrase carries a certain weight: “Looking back, I remember how human I was.” Sure enough, it’s that simple yet profound sense of humanity – and what humanity ultimately deserves – that defines Ono’s new album. From the ebullient ‘Children Power’ (in which she proclaims, “Caring people / Loving people / Growing people / We’re all one”) to the piano-led ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ Ono offers up a potent reminder that the more human we are, the better. It wasn’t how she and John Lennon were treated in1972 when they were faced with the very real prospect of being deported from the US by Richard Nixon. Displeased with the pair’s anti-war efforts, Tricky Dicky’s machination was overthrown by a legal ruling that has helped form the basis of immigration reform in America ever since, in case you were convinced
Interview that hippy ideals were well-intended but ultimately didn’t am busy thinking about it,” she says. Then: “I think it has to be harvest any results. At the time, Ono said, “If immigration people, not professional politicians.” decides to deny our extension, they might use my appearance as — We can still change the world — a pretext. I’m a conceptual artist, you know, and I perform my art in a somewhat unconventional manner.” Just as ‘Warzone’ recontextualises older material for a Forty-eight years on, and eight sitting U.S. presidents later, Ono is very much the woman she was in 1972: a concep- whole new generation, Ono continues to revisit the past in the tual artist performing her art in a somewhat unconventional spirit of positive action. Most recently, she recreated the original manner, and a U.S. citizen that refuses to kowtow to the coun- Bed In for Peace with Ringo Starr in New York, in aid of supporting the city’s schools and making available to students the John try’s less statesmanlike side. In November 11, 2016 – three days after Donald Trump Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a non-profit mobile production became President-Elect – Ono tweeted, “Dear Friends, I would facility. As she told the crowd “I think that maybe John is hearing like to share this message with you as my response to @realDon- us, yeah. John, are you listening to us? Give peace a chance” the aldTrump. Love, Yoko.” Embedded was a 19 second clip featur- lines between the distant past and the present day – between the ing the octogenarian expending a trademark anguished cry. mythos of the late 1960s and the realities of 2018 – were once Though incalculable brain cells and column inches were dedi- again blurred for the common good. When asked which worldly developments are commandcated to trying to comprehend why Trump was elected, Ono’s ing her attention most these pained reaction remains, in its days, she says, “The world.” own way, beyond comparison. “I Ninety nine times of a hundred think John would feel the same as an answer this brief would denote all of us,” she says. “Terrible.” a certain degree of disinterIn early 1968, as the est or impatience. For Ono, it’s Vietnam War raged on and The an example of how, not least in Beatles put the finishing touches “They say that the fight public discourse, she has spent to ‘The White Album’, Ono took to at dawn is the severest a lifetime using simple words in the stage of the Royal Albert Hall order to convey much less simple with free jazz trailblazer Ornette and I think this is the time truths. In other words, big quesColeman. Largely improvised, of dawn. In other words, tions deserve short answers and based on a set of instructions direct action. “The situation is from Ono, it was a convulsive I think it’s going every country is trying to accuunion between two luminaries of to be better very soon.” mulate weapons,” she says when outlier art, and an early public I ask about what is preventing a airing of Ono’s instantly recognimore peaceful world from being sable (and notoriously divisive) a reality today. “It’s getting to the vocal style. Recorded during its point that no country can do it rehearsal, and later appearing anymore because they don’t have on Ono’s debut ‘Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band’ in 1970, ‘AOS’ is a song defined by Ono’s trademark the cash to compete with the others.” With another new album reportedly in the pipeline, you stream of unguarded screams, guttural bursts and wails. Here, on the 19-second clip she tweeted in 2016, and right through- get a strong sense that Yoko Ono isn’t winding down as a recordout her career, Ono’s ‘scream’ continues to strike a midpoint ing artist just yet. The time, it seems, continues to be now. between helplessness and an act of defiance in relation to any But what compels her to keep making statements as defiant as ‘Warzone’? Aren’t 85-year-old supposed to be flag-wavers number of modern socio-political issues. Though perhaps not as incendiary, vocal blitzes like ‘AOS’ against change? At the very least, haven’t they earned the right crop up throughout ‘Warzone’. But it’s on the album’s more to keep themselves to themselves? “My emotion is wanting to do understated moments where you get a full sense of Ono’s intent. it,” she says. “So I’m letting it do it. If I don’t I would have a bad As she delivers the “You may say I’m a dreamer” line on her headache or something.” And what about the rest of us, I ask, namely because I minimalist take on ‘Imagine’, she is the sound of pure conviction. Spoken, not sung, through Ono, those famous words seep hope it’s a question that Yoko Ono will answer with a sense of with new purpose and clarity. Lennon – who would no doubt positive conviction that belies our cynical times – together, can approve – lingers in the background. In the foreground is Yoko, we really still change the world? “Yes, of course,” she says. “We and only Yoko, quietly raising a fist, as the borders close and are changing it. We are rapidly changing it. You must be feeling the waters continue to rise. I ask her, considering her distrust the fear of it changing so fast. But it must. Then again, you and I of those in power, who must join the “dreamers” of the song? “I have the choice of changing or not changing.”
“Ceaselessly exciting... You’ve never heard anything quite like her before” 4/5 Q “Gorgeous second album from gifted New Yorker” 9/10 UNCUT “A marvel, a constellation of sounds shining bright and mysterious.” 8.0 PITCHFORK
After the show Five artists photographed fresh from the stage at End of The Road festival, by Jonangelo Molinari
Moor Mother Tipi stage, Friday 31 August
Shame Woods stage, Saturday 1 September
Portraits Stella Donnelly Tipi stage, Friday 31 August
Portraits NilĂźfer Yanya Big Top stage, Friday 31 August
Josh T Pearson Woods stage, Friday 31 August
boygenius A Mrs and Mrs interview with Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, by Tristan Gatward Photography by Kristy Benjamin 58
Interview Midway through a conversation with Julien Baker, she pauses to qualify what she means when she says that she and her bandmates want to be in control of their current project. A small part of that pause comes from us being sat on a gate at End of the Road Festival in Dorset – we have just been interrupted by a van wanting to leave the site. Without thought, she jumps on the gate and swings it open to see the van through. “It’s a bad kid skill,” she says. “Obviously I’m the most vanilla adult now, but I used to be a hoodlum.” The initial part of Julien’s pause, however, is a little more conscious of the issue that her new band seeks to unravel. “I felt the need then to qualify that we didn’t want to be in control in a mean or exclusionary way. But the thing about being a woman in the music industry is that you constantly feel the need to qualify yourself. We produced this record and all the players are female. It was important for us to show that there doesn’t have to be a man behind the scenes pulling the strings who is later accredited with the genius.” A day earlier, after her Woods Stage set at the same festival, Lucy Dacus shared a similar sentiment. “In ways a boygenius can be annoying, but in other ways it’s really great that they can have the confidence to take risks. We just tried to employ that energy for each other, and whenever we doubted a line or an idea we just had to be like, ‘no, speak it! Even if you think it’s stupid, just harness some of that cocky attitude.’” Phoebe Bridgers then explained how, in the initial phases of recording, she was apologising for her ideas fifteen times per day before Lucy and Julien helped her overcome the impulse. The phrase boygenius resonated: “Nobody had to explain what a boygenius was. Julien said it as a joke at first, but we immediately knew what it meant.” “It’s cool because we all met at times where we weren’t over-exposed,” Baker says. “We had the benefit of following the same trajectory at the same time, which endeared us to each other. I think at that point I was still freaking out about the riders. If there was just a veggie tray and some almonds, I’d be like, ‘what is this?! This isn’t a dive bar! Look at these almonds!’” And so boygenius came to be, Matador’s new supergroup comprising three of the most poignant and acclaimed songwriters of the last few years. Coming off the back of tours supporting respective solo releases, the boygenius EP (out 9 November) is a beautiful anecdote to touring, loneliness and friendship. Importantly, it offers a chance for three artists who traditionally write very vulnerable material to feel comfortable appreciating and enjoying the quality of their own work. On ‘Salt in the Wounds,’ Baker even gets a chance to “shred” with an intricate guitar solo (“I never get to ‘shred’ that much, ever!”) Anyway, to the interview. We weren’t going to pretend that the three of them were in the same room – they weren’t and rarely are. Our idea was to pose them, individually, the same set of questions. Here’s how we go on, entering several conversations about the wonders of Google Drive and a personality test called the Enneagram. Imagine something in-between an interview and the once-popular game show Mr & Mrs.
Julien Baker: Oh my god! I think they call it the Newly-Weds game. We were actually talking about when we have to do interviews separately because we all live in different towns. It’s going to be like when you’re kids and you all rehearse the same story for your parents. We’re getting in before the rehearsals! JB: I’m gonna sweat. I’m not into Horoscopes but people tell me all the time that I act like a Libra. I’m really interested in the Enneagram – it’s a personality test but I talk about it like a Horoscope. I’m a four. The characteristics of how I deal with things in a band context are very four-ish. I try to mediate anytime I perceive the potential for a conflict, you know. The band started with a secret handshake between Lucy and Julien. Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, their secret handshake involved spinning around a load of times. How did the handshake go? Lucy Dacus: Well it’s a secret, isn’t it? I will say that it’s called the double eagle. That’s all I’ve got. Maybe Julien will tell you more. JB: The double-eagle? Oh my god. So, imagine if you linked your hands almost to do the dove symbol. But then it’s a full body thing. It’s almost like it’s a dance. And then you both become – oh gosh, what are they called – Maple leaves, that helicopter down? Sycamore seeds? JB: Yeah, sycamore! But if two of them were linked, circling each other at the same time. I’m so glad you read about that. Whose idea was starting the band? PB: It’s hard to say. Julien and I toured together, so many people were saying we should do something. And when we booked the tour it was obvious who we wanted to open because we love Lucy so much, and love her music. But it’s kind of hard to place it. We all said we should record a tour single, then Lucy and I ran into each other at a festival in Philly and Julien started a Google Drive and it got out of hand. JB: In my memory, there’s no one person I can stake or attribute the idea to. More just, when we continued to talk the ideas snowballed and grew into this thing. LD: A lot of people think that it’s their idea. I think that it was Julien’s idea because she told me years ago that she’d love to be in a band where she wasn’t the front person. That kind of planted the seed and it just grew out of fertile ground. How’s the dynamic of being in a band as three solo musicians? LD: In a way I prefer it. I mean, we haven’t played shows as the three of us yet, but writing and recording wise, I liked having the responsibility divided. I love writing and making music, but being the center of attention is not my favourite part. I like being a third of something; dispelling that attention between all of us
makes the project feel lighter, like we’re each carrying a load of whatever’s coming with this release. PB: It’s really easy. Like, insanely fucking easy. There’s mutual respect but we don’t even have to think about it. JB: Being able to feed off another person’s energy and having a musical exchange on stage – I’ve missed that a lot. I think that’s where I feel most fulfilled. It’s weird, for a solo musician to say ‘collaboration fulfils me more than being a megalomaniacal control freak,’ but maybe that’s good. To be able to relinquish that control is really exciting. What do you admire most about the other two? LD: I love that they’re so fearless in what they talk about. I’ve learnt a lot from that. I feel like they’re willing to look at darkness from different angles. Like, Julien goes straight into it by using pain and personal doubt in a way that is really strong – there’s so much to gain from her vulnerability and I come out of her songs feeling better and understood. Phoebe looks at it through storytelling and humour and again, it’s so comforting to hear it. JB: Ah dude, so much. I love them. I’m a sap. They’re this balance of humble, disarming and self-aware. I don’t even know if they even realize this as people, but they have a lot of wisdom. They pair this kindness and down-to-earth humility with a self-assurance. As musicians, poets and people, they seem to do enough self-analysis to know what it is that they want to achieve and create the best art. PB: Communally we have this crazy respect for each other and the ability to hear each other out. I think that’s the trait of this project that I’m proudest of. It’s really rewarding to be in a room with them. Julien is one of the best people managers of all time, she’s really good with people’s feelings, checking in and making sure everyone’s on the same page. Lucy’s insanely passionate. One of my favourite things she’d do throughout the project was she’d get excited about something and immediately get up and start pacing. It’s an addictive thing, to be around two people who are so stoked about the thing you’re all working on. What do you think they think you bring to boygenius? LD: What do I bring? I mean, I brought two songs, I bring the low harmony. The words matter the most to me, that’s what I’m thinking about first and foremost. JB: Maybe my diplomacy, that’s what I’ll say. Diplomacy and retentiveness. I was just texting them today with diagrams and paragraphs of what the stage plots will look like. I can feel myself doing it. Like, I know they’re busy. I know that they’re both doing things. But I just want to get this right! Yeah… how extra I am. PB: If I were to guess what they’d say, Lucy might have some kind of astrology answer and Julien might have some sort of – oh, what’s that personality test, where you’re numbered one through nine? The Enneagram. She’s currently obsessed with it so would probably have some answer that relates to that. I’m a two.
If you could add a fourth member to boygenius? LD: There are so many people. I recently saw Meg Duffy (Waxahatchee) play with Kevin Morby. Her playing is beautiful; her songs are great. There’s also Adrienne Lenker, I think she’s the greatest living songwriter, and she’s a friend too. But whenever I talk about collaborating with anyone from Big Thief, I’m like, I don’t really need anything more from them than what they’re doing. PB: Fuck that’s hard. Maybe Courtney Barnett, because both Lucy and Julien played a festival and got to hang out with her and I fucking didn’t and I’m so jealous. In a hypothetical world, boygenius has a hit record and is headlining next year’s festival. With the world’s production budget, what would be the visualisation of boygenius on a live stage? LD: I want to know what Phoebe and Julien say! I saw Yo La Tengo headlined this festival last night with nothing on stage and I thought that was amazing. That’s kind of my style. I have no lifestyle and no aesthetic to offer personally, I hope people just listen to the music. I don’t have any brand to pedal other than that. PB: Man, maybe like flames, pyrotechnics and shit. Some boygenius ’80s hair-metal kind of pyrotechnics. I’d make Julien play a B.C. Rich guitar. JB: I wish I’d known about this question! This is my personality. I need to know the single right answer. I might have to text the other two and warn them. Lucy had this yesterday and she didn’t prepare you. JB: What? How dare she! How could she hang me out to dry like this? Maybe… you know how people have light-up words? We have a joke about the phrase ‘seen and heard.’ It’s a sensitive communication phrase that we say all the time. “Oh, I feel so seen and heard right now”. That sums up what I hope we accomplish for each other on this project… what I hope it models for girls and women, and how they view themselves in the world. I think that’s the coolest part.
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Includes the singles ‘Yo Mae Leh’, ‘The Cut Girls’ and ‘Take Them All’
AUNTIE FLO MIKE SIMONETTI SOLIPSISM (COLLECTED RADIO HIGHLIFE Brownswood WORKS 2006-2013) 2MR
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EXPLODED VIEW OBEY
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Matthew Dear returns to his critically acclaimed solo project with ‘Bunny’ –– the producer’s first album in 6 years. Collaborations include Tegan and Sara, Simian Mobile Disco & Greg Ahee from Protomartyr.
Our Girl release their debut album ‘Stranger Today’ via Cannibal Hymns on CD and deluxe 2LP, including a bonus ‘Bedroom Recordings’ vinyl. Featuring the singles Our Girl, I Really Like It and In My Head.
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JOHN CARPENTER, CODY CARPENTER, AND DANIEL DAVIES HALLOWEEN: ORIGINAL 2018 MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
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support Your Local independent Retailer check www.republicofmusic.com
Halloween creator and original composer John Carpenter’s triumphant return. Appearing live in the UK: 16 Oct: London @ Eventim Apollo 18 Oct: Newcastle @ Tyne Theatre 19 Oct: Glasgow @ Barrowland 21 Oct: Manchester @ Albert Hall
Tell Me About It Footwork producer Jerrilynn Patton on art and scoring her first ballet, by Dominic Haley Photography by Madhumita Nandi
Tell Me About It It’s actually quite hard to tell you what Jlin sounds like. The alias of producer Jerrilynn Patton, her music isn’t something that you can easily label. Originally grounded in footwork, the combative dance scene that swept through Chicago in the late ’90s, Jlin’s sound has quickly transcended anything you could care to call a genre. Since arriving on the scene in 2008, Patton has become one of the most intriguing artists working in electronica, building a name for herself via her own remarkably prolific output as well as remixes and collaborations with the likes of Max Richter, Bjork and Factory Floor. Even though she hails from Gary, Indiana – a city that was once known for producing the Jackson Five but is now often held up as a poster-child for white flight and the midwestern Rust Belt – Patton staunchly refuses to be defined by any sense of place or belonging. With her albums ‘Dark Energy’ and ‘Black Origami’ enjoying widespread critical acclaim, Jlin has cemented her place as one of dance music’s most forward-thinking and exciting artists. Musically, Patton takes an almost Nietzschean approach to techno. Her compositions strip dance music almost back to its component parts revealing the darkness underneath. Songs like ‘Nyakinyua Rise’ and ‘Enigma’ turn the tense, aggressiveness of juke and footwork in on itself. As we speak over the phone on a dreary Monday afternoon, the idea of ‘collision’ is a concept that seems to keep cropping up, and thinking back, it’s actually a pretty apt description of Jlin’s whole sonic philosophy. Like a nuclear reactor, she takes minimalised drums, paper-thin synth lines and warped vocals and pressurises them into something that is deeply introspective. So much so, that an hour spent with the producer’s back catalogue often feels more like a vision quest or a fever dream than listening to a dance record. Look underneath the soundclash and dissonance, though, and you’ll find a clear love of dance, not only as an aesthetic art form but as a way of spiritual and emotional expression. Jlin may not want to want to make dance music in a traditional sense, but her sound has nevertheless retained a clear, propulsive energy. ‘Black Origami’ might have seen her work drift toward ever more unconventional places, but there remains this strong, undeniable motive force underpinning everything. Her latest work, ‘Autobiography’, delves into this aspect of her music in a way that no one has ever seen before, Jlin included. A collaboration between Patton and Stockport-born choreographer Wayne McGregor, her remorseless, pulsating soundtrack is a meditation on the very idea of human movement. Designed to accompany McGregor’s frenetic dance-style, it is wild, frantic, deeply personal and oftentimes weirdly spiritual. All of which kind of sums up what Jlin is about these days.
“I’ve only just experienced downtown Chicago” Everybody always says I’m from Chicago, probably because people tend to associate me with footwork and they just assume that I live there. Actually, I still live in Indiana and I had never actually experienced Chicago properly until a few months ago when my girlfriend came to visit. She’d never been in the States before, so I went and never told a soul; I didn’t want people to know I was there. It was OK, although I think I was enjoying the fact that my girlfriend was in the US and was getting to meet my family. I don’t think it would have mattered where we were. “I don’t think where you’re from affects your music” It’s actually funny when people try to size you up before they even meet you. People are always like, ‘Jlin has a hard sound – that must be because she worked in a steel mill.’ I’m like, ‘no, I had this sound before I worked in a steel mill.’ I’ve always thought that music comes from the core of yourself, not from where you are. I reject the idea that being in a certain space means that you create in a certain way because I’m bigger than any place that I’m in. My mind can be anywhere, right? I get that people need to reference things, but that way of thinking is just about boxing people in. I refuse to be boxed in by anyone. “I didn’t know I was going to compose music for a ballet” Working on ‘Autobiography’ has been a life-changing experience. I’d always wanted to go to a ballet, but it was never something my friends were ever into. After all, it’s not like you can walk down the street and happen across it. I had no idea that the first one I’d go to would be the one I composed the music for. It has just been a totally different experience to what I’ve been doing up to now. There are so many aspects that collide together, like space, movement and sound. I would say it’s a rare art, a beautiful art, but yeah, not one that you can find easily. Seriously though, if you’re blessed to ever get the chance to see one, you should definitely take it. “Even though Autobiography is Wayne’s ballet, it’s still very personal to me” I first met Wayne back in 2016. He was in the process of prepping for Autobiography and Unsound Productions pitched my work to him. He realised that my music worked well with it so we met up face-to-face and as soon as we saw each other, I knew that our energies just matched. We both had these huge grins on our faces. I knew what he was about and he instantly knew what I was about. Working with him has been a real learning experience for me. Wayne gave me the freedom to go as far and wide as I wanted to. I think the reason he did that is that he knows that if you trust someone and let them go, then you usually get the best results. Even though it’s his performance, it was more personal to me than my first two albums put together. It has allowed me
Tell Me About It
to find out things about myself that I didn’t know before, both musically, creatively and personally. “Ballet and footwork are totally different things” Although they’re both based in dance, footwork and ballet come at it from completely different directions, so they don’t really have all that much in common. I definitely wasn’t thinking about my footwork days when I was writing for ‘Autobiography’ – I can tell you that! I love movement. Not just ballet per say, but all dance. I’ve always been attracted to contemporary dance – I like the way that someone can nod their head, blink their eyes or hold their hands and it can tell a story. I like the way it can be as soft as it is harsh and as harsh as it is soft. “But all the arts are in the same family” The media likes to categorise things so that they can have some control over things, but art doesn’t come from different places. Everybody is creative in some way, whether they realise and tap into it or they don’t. Me and Wayne are from the same world in so far that we both create, and I think it’s the same with all artists. One always influences the next so that it creates this constant interweaving of influences that all talk to each other. You’ve gotta be willing to open up and be open, and not just come at it from one point of view and nothing else. I like the way Jay-Z said it – “the arts are cousins and they should never have been separated.”
“It should never be easy to create something, and I hate people who make out that it is” I really hate that bullshit thing that producers do on YouTube where they make out that they created this track in, like, two minutes. It’s like, stop telling artists that there’s something wrong with you if you can’t make a symphony in four and half minutes. Cut the shit – no one can lay something down in that time. If you can, that probably explains why four out of five songs on the radio that sound exactly the same are written by the same producer. I’m like, if this took you only two minutes to lay down, then where’s the quality? Creating something shouldn’t ever be easy. I mean, the other day I heard this statement that has kind of stuck with me – ‘it’s easy to die, but hard as hell to live.’ I think music is the same – copying and being trendy is easy, but being authentic and original is hard as hell. “You’ve got to embrace your failures” Your failures are often more important than your successes. I’m still learning this myself, but I think the way we look at failure is all wrong. The only time you’re messing up is when you’re stagnating – like you’ve made a conscious decision to stop. If you want to make anything, you’ve got to be unafraid of fucking up from time to time.
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We’ve all been in love by now. If not with a person then at least with a Mars Bar or a boxset or a dog. When you know, you know. Love is magic, and John Grant is heaping that fuzzy, vomiting feeling upon his new album sleeve. Think of love, look at this sleeve – that’s totally it! Let’s go straight for the fonts on this because they’re special. The John Grant logo is basically a dream. Remember Rod Stewart’s font choice last month? What a joke. Grant’s curly, three dimensional lettering inspired by Hubba Bubba Roll does not come installed in your Dell laptop, and he should be applauded for taking this seriously. The same goes for his ‘Love Is Magic’ sticker. (I’m actually clapping now.) It’s perfect. A simple condensed sans serif (that your Dell probably does have) in red, on – and this is really good – a glitter background. Grant’s got the expensive logo but he’s still demonstrating how to be effective on a budget with a little imagination. I almost don’t care about what else is on this cover, but, yeah, that is John Grant with his head in a birdcage, singing into a condenser microphone, wearing a jumper from Primark’s ‘cosy and cute’ range and just his grundies downstairs. His face is painted white, but I’m
pretty sure that that is a red herring and has nothing to do with love being magic. How do I know that the jumper is ‘cosy and cute’ by Primark? Look – some of the feathers are already coming off. Here’s how this shoot probably played out: John Grant turns up at a studio with a curtain for a backdrop. The album is called ‘Love Is Magic’ and he asks for a condenser microphone to be hung from the ceiling. His label people instantly get it – John is going to pay wry homage to Rat Pack crooners, and troll Michael Bublé and his old fashion, phony take on love by dressing up like him. He’ll put on his tux soon. He wants a birdcage too. Ok, that makes sense – a kind of deliberately sickly tableau of love, which is so clearly not what his music is. Oh, this is good. Everyone sniggers. “Nice one, John, we’ll leave you to it and check back in after a long lunch.” When they do return they’re faced with this image. Grant has forced his head through the bottom of the birdcage and has painted his face white on a dare. There is no tux. There isn’t even the pair of trousers that he did have on earlier. But how do you ask an artist like John Grant what happened to the Bublé idea? How do you suggest he pops his joggers back on? How do you question his interpretation of this faceless thing called love? How do you check the ‘cosy and cute’ label now that his head is in a birdcage?
It’s official – the ground will never open up and swallow a person whole
illustration by kate prior
Yoko Ono / Jackie Cohen / CHAI / Viagra Boys / Jlin / Suitman Jungle / John Grant / Lala Lala / boygenius