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Tirzah, Steve Albini, audiobooks, Crack Cloud, Ross From Friends, Gabe Gurnsey, Sparks, A guide to End of The Road

issue 126


Love yourself

Electronic artists explore natural sounds ... Tue 25 Sep


Transforma & Sascha Ring (Apparat) recreate the sounds of a factory floor Sun 30 Sep

Ryoji Ikeda: music for percussion + datamatics [ver. 2.0] A show in two parts, minimalist acoustic rhythms and a digital spectacle Sat 6 Oct

Tim Hecker + Kara Lis Coverdale The electronic producer performs with a traditional Japanese Gagaku ensemble Sun 7 Oct

New Rituals: AĂŻsha Devi + Pan Daijing

Audio-visual performance pieces exploring spirituality and identity

Contents Contact 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 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.

Issue 126

We do try to plan our cover features these days but it never seems to happen. Next month, for example – it’s wide open, and that makes me more anxious than it ever used to. We did know that we wanted to do one with IDLES this year, though. We knew we wanted to do it before singer Joe Talbot was one of four musicians who indulged us at a live podcast series we tried out in April based on our Sweet 16 column. We knew it before we saw how forthcoming he is. We knew it before he played us So Solid Crew. Before hearing IDLES’ second album. Before seeing the band at Primavera Sound and watching him scream “I LOVE IMMIGRANTS” from the stage. Joe’s our kind of guy. It feels good to plan. But seriously, any ideas for next month? 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 Ellie Ball, James Parrish, Jamie Woolgar, Kathryne Chalker, Kenny Eshinlokun, Marta Pallares, Sam Williams, Sue Harris, Tom Adcock.

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 Push Distributed by Loud And Quiet Ltd. & Forte

A guide to End of The Road  . . . . . . . . 12 Tirzah  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 audiobooks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Ross From Friends  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Reviews  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Gabe Gurnsey  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Crack Cloud  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 IDLES  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Steve Albini  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Sparks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 05


LL Cool John Barnes

John Barnes is easily one of the best players England has ever produced. There’s no point in arguing it. Blessed with physical strength and an artist’s touch, over a twenty-year career he devastated defences up and down the country and alongside Cyril Regis, Chris Houghton and Viv Anderson blazed a path for Black British players on both the national and international stages. I mean, he deserves his place in the pantheon of true greats for his incredible goal against Brazil alone. While his influence on the pitch is unimpeachable, in some ways Barnes’ influence on popular music is equally as profound. Some people will scoff at this, and with his awkward attempts to rhyme “hard as hell’ with “Arse-en-al” it’s easy to dismiss him as another footballer messing around where he shouldn’t belong. But although Barnes only appeared on two songs (‘The Anfield Rap’ and ‘World in Motion’), his brief yet spectacular musical career just so happened to straddle a remarkable, foundational period in British cultural history. It’s all about context. The late ’80s was perhaps the bleakest period British football has ever endured. English teams had been banned from European competition in the aftermath of the Heysel disaster, the National Front recruited directly from the terraces and most Saturday afternoons saw street battles raging across the country. Football’s image was in the gutter, gates were shrivelling up and it was clear to everyone that something had to change. Like so many other times in the past, innovation came via Liverpool. Released ahead of the 1987 FA Cup, ‘The Anfield Rap’ certainly sounds problematic to modern ears but it was revolutionary at the time. Yes, it’s ham-fisted, and yes, at best, it’s culturally appropriative, but it showed how English football could start to reinvent itself. Reaching number 3 in the charts, its celebration of togetherness and the diversity of the team stood in stark contrast to the visible sections of British football fans who openly celebrated racism and xenophobia. It wouldn’t have been possible without Barnes. The sheer fact that he can do a passable LL Cool J impression meant that the team’s eccen-

words by dominic haley. illustration by kate prior

tric midfielder Craig Johnson could write a song that embraced the charts rather than the team bus. Not that it did much good mind; Liverpool famously lost the final to a Lawrie Sanchez inspired Wimbledon. ‘The Anfield Rap’ also laid the foundation for ‘World in Motion’, a song that managed to transcend the label of mere sporting anthem and become a true cultural phenomenon. Plenty has already been written about New Order’s real magnum opus, so I won’t go into it here, but like ‘The Anfield Rap’, ‘World in Motion’ worked because it managed to grasp disparate strands of British subculture and weld them together into something greater. The song’s positive message and close embrace of a dance aesthetic gave English football a new, friendlier face; reaching audiences that the game had never reached before. Spurned by the BBC, the song achieved traction in the nation’s gay and straight club scenes before going on to become New Order’s first number one and staying there for nearly a month. It coaxed a generation of football-hating hipsters to follow England’s rollercoaster-like progression through Italia ’90 and showed how football needn’t be the preserve of chest-thumping lads drunk on cheap lager and old school tribalism. Looking back from the vantage point of 2018 you can easily say that Barnes’ music affected British popular culture in a way that most artists can only dream of. It was definitely more luck than judgement, but both songs were kind of an early triumph for hope not hate –showing how a positive message could eclipse a negative image. “Football did get kind of cool after our intervention,” New Order’s Stephen Morris reflected in a BBC article years later. “It certainly seemed like there was more love to go ‘round and you could think about going to a game with your family and friends again.” But, as always, there’s a bittersweet sting in the tail when it comes to Barnes’ flirtation with the pop charts. ‘World in Motion’ may have nobly attempted to wrestle the English game from the grip of hooliganism, but in the background, it unintentionally mirrored the Thatcher Government’s scheme to clean up the sport through a programme of rampant commercialisation. What began as a marginalisation of some bad apples has led to football’s working class soul being cut out, and with its sharp pop edges, maybe Barnes’ pop career played its part. It showed the new, market-focused football executive how they could win and then exploit a broader, less working class fan base. However, even in the long shadow of the Premier League era, there’s a hopeful innocence on each of these songs that still shines out. That image of Barnes bobbing away, ball tucked under arm, pointing towards a horizon full of possibilities and telling us that ‘we can’t go wrong’ still gets me from time to time. How was he supposed to know that rather than showing us the future, he was actually articulating the last gasps of a world that was fading away?



Is a woman without a watch really to blame for Oasis? Judging by everything I’ve read and know about Alan McGee – a man who only lets legacy get in the way of talking about how many drugs he’s taken (almost every page of his autobiography practically ends “needless to say, I had the last line”) – I’m sure there’s a short answer to this question, and that answer is most probably no. Still, if you’re going to allow any of McGee’s grand myths, you should probably make it the one about him discovering and signing Oasis. It’s a good story – the start of a very British carry-on that ends with one brother throwing a plum at the other. The story, in case you don’t know it, goes like this: Alan McGee is the happy hell-raiser of Creation Records who are doing some pretty dreamy things from a shithole office in pre-yoga Hackney. On 31 May 1993, one of his bands, 18 Wheeler (a group you probably won’t remember considering Tony Blair introduced them as Wheeler 18 at a 1996 Labour Party conference even though their name was written down for him), are playing King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, so McGee heads home to Scotland to see them. For extra fate points, the opening band on a bill of three aren’t even Oasis – they’re friends of Oasis who tell the Gallaghers to come up to Glasgow anyway, precisely because McGee will be there. They’ll deal with the issue of getting the promoter to allow them to play once they’re there, which they do by threatening to smash the place up. This much of the story is wholly believable. You get the sense that Noel Gallagher has never taken no for an answer, and a fight could have provided him with an early opportunity to accidently punch Tony McCarroll amidst the confusion. Oasis, then, are in character here, enough perhaps to detract for McGee’s explanation for arriving at a small music venue not just in time to see the opening act of three, but to even see the bonus band the promoter didn’t even book. As McGee told NME: “Now, I wouldn’t have got to see them [Oasis] normally, because when a band of mine’s playing I usually get in five minutes before they come on stage. However, because I’d gone with my sister Susan, who doesn’t happen to own a watch, I got there two hours early.” Hmmm. The two hours doesn’t quite stack up, but we all condense time when looking back and McGee was doing a lot of drugs back then. Still, I’m sure you’ve turned up to a gig to see a headliner just before they’re on at half 9,


say. Or done anything at half 9. It feels distinctly different to half 7, doesn’t it? I mean, even without looking at your watch, you can pretty accurately sense when it’s half 7 at night compared to half 9. Try it tonight. I’m not sure that anyone has ever arrived at any place they’re planning on going to 2 hours early and not seen it coming before getting there. Being 2 hours early doesn’t sneak up on you, does it? I can’t be the only person who’s never turned up somewhere and only realised ‘shit, I’m 2 hours early’ the moment I’ve arrived and it’s too late to kill time hovering around Boots. So there’s that. But there’s also the fact that Susan has been thrown under the bus here. Susan doesn’t have a watch – and good for her – but presumably neither does Alan. That’s the only point I need to make on that. It can’t all be Susan’s fault, can it? “The first song was really good,” McGee remembers of that show. “Then the second was incredible. By the time they did this fantastic version of ‘I Am The Walrus’, I’d decided I’ve got to sign this group, now.” It’s a powerful embodiment of how much Oasis owe their career to The Beatles that it was a Beatles song that got them their deal, although, to be fair, The Beatles pulled that one covering their hero, Chuck Berry. But it’s a good story, isn’t it? Two Glaswegian siblings, neither with a watch or the forward planning skills to arrive at a destination remotely close to their desired time, discover a phenomenon who shouldn’t even be there and are particularly blown away by their cover of ‘I Am The Walrus’. Of course, is doesn’t matter how much of it is true, or if it all ended when one of them threw a plum at the other. A comic-book band like Oasis deserve these myths of struggle and chance, and Alan McGee has always written the tales so well. I purposefully used the word ‘blame’ (for Oasis) because it’s juicier and more fashionably cynical than ‘thank’, which is how I really feel about Susan, if indeed she’s ever existed. However it happened, McGee did find Oasis at King Tut’s, which made ’90s music what it was, culturally more than anything else. If Labour had gotten in in an Oasis-less world, who would have been there to shake Tony Blair’s hand if not Noel Gallagher? Who would have performed at the 1996 Labour Party conference? Probably not even Wheeler 18.

words by abi crawford. illustration by kate prior


HOWLIN RAIN ‘Alligator Bride’

KELLEY STOLTZ ‘Natural Causes’

JENN CHAMPION ‘Single Rider’

LAVENDER FLU ‘Mow The Glass’

Fourth album of swampy, ragged, unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll. Led by Ethan Miller (co-founder of psych rockers Comets On Fire and Heron Oblivion) "Californian hairies strike gold on their 5th LP” - **** MOJO

Latest offering of pure unfiltered skewed pop genius from Kelley Stoltz.. the perfect melding of Bunnymen / Cope / The Kinks with some true West Coast sass… "Kelley Stoltz is one of the millenium's great unsung auteurs" - UNCUT

Single Rider, is the first full-length release since abandoning the "S" moniker and radically re-imagining her sound into a fusion of electric neon grooves and unblushing vulnerability.

Latest psych / pop derangement from Chris Gunn (The Hunches). This time, the Flu comes out of the water and spends a little more time on land: pop kicks, psychedelic derangement, beauty, spells cast via hate raga and rocker .


KOOLAID ‘(Holy Sunshine!)’

POWER ‘Road Dog’


A timely reissue of the first three releases The Heads put out on the Rocket label. From Rocket’s first split 7-inch release (with Lilydamwhite) in 1998 to their much lauded Sessions 2 freakout 12-inch from 2002—all compiled here in unedited and remastered glory. Sike on!

A whirlwind double-tryptamine blast thru Acid Rock, West Coast Tech, Surf Sitars, Post Punk Junk, 808 FolkBuzz, 303 PulseBeat, Backwoods Reverb, Unplugged No-Wave, Twin Jag Attack & Secret Agent Men and A Sample Storm of unwitting guests such as Allen Ginsberg, Ralph Malph, The Ambrosia Singers, Art Linkletter, Herbert Marshall McLuhan, and Doctor Leary hisself.

Another slab of Aussie rock n roll from Melbourne's Power. More of a heavy as XXXX bluesy take on this one (although still 100% R'n'R), with a far ballsier production than the previous LP. This is like Lobby Loyde at the production helm of Motorhead, Raven or Tank,.. riffs, power, riffs, power. Throbbing rock and roll fury that rages outta the speakers.. you will not be getting off the floor too quick!

From the arctic circle comes the freshest and least revivalist take on stratospherically exhilarating psychedelic rock since “Spine Of God” was released in 1991, or “Relaxing With” in 1995… turned up, turned on and blasting out of your speakers, this throbbing over-blown riff monster could be the blast of guitar spuzz we need… a furious slab of unrelenting and unforgiving psychedelia.

Silver Current CD/LP

Banana & Louie CD/LP

Hardly Art CD/LP

K.Ultrax CD/LP

Rooster CD / 3LP

In The Red CD/LP

In The Red CD/LP

Creepy Crawl CD/LP

Forthcoming Aug 17th…

’Smote Reverser’ 2LP / CD


It turns out that people are still shagging to Marvin Gaye You come to terms with the whole subjectivity of art thing quite quickly as a music writer. When the world is freaking out over a squeaky-clean Kacey Musgraves album, the sanest thing to do is appreciate that some things aren’t meant for everyone. That’s okay. But there are occasions when issues of taste feel like personal attacks. I’ve been having a recurring bout of those lately, all stemming from a bad sex playlist – my flatmate’s bad sex playlist. I stumbled upon it one night after he had come home from a date. His Spotify activity showed him playing ‘Let’s Get It On’. He couldn’t be, could he? Surely it was a joke. Can you have sex ironically? Clicking on the full forty-five-minute collection was even worse. He moved from the ultimate meme ballad to Morrissey’s camp yelps on ‘What Difference Does It Make’, which apart from its jarring mood shift, is a song that’s dropped in sex appeal ever since its singer decided to become a massive racist. Mmm, sensual Brexit discourse really spices things up. Surely the girl had left by now. To my surprise, she was still there the next morning, listening to his after-sex playlist of Arctic Monkeys and Gorillaz tunes over a bowl of All-Bran. Some things aren’t meant for everyone. And that’s okay. But how could this work for anyone? Maybe the ads on his free account had provided some respite from ‘Intro’ by The xx? Later in the day, he revealed his playlist had a 100% success rate so far, and I felt physically ill. Sex music, for lack of a better term, is the most subjective type of music there is. What were once staples of the ‘genre’, like most of Marvin Gaye’s discography, for example, will have completely lost their, um, potency for those who’ve witnessed Jack Black’s gyrating in High Fidelity. In that way, it might be the art form that ages the quickest. Even a 20-year-old classic like Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ could be a mood killer if it’s gotten entangled with the messy emotions of a relationship gone sour. All of this is to say that we shouldn’t judge others for their taste in sex music, even if it’s hard to. This naturally feels like an important statement to make when I’m about to share my picks for good sex music… Like sex itself, the music that soundtracks it can range from deep vanilla to much freakier flavours, and as our cultural conversations about sex become franker, so do the tunes. This makes for music that can hit with such specificity of emotion that it feels as if it was intended to colour the moments between you and your partner(s) only. Sex music is powerful and disarming, and artists have been using this for decades to resonate with their listeners. Beach House’s new album, for example, is a masterful mood setter. The duo conjures the classic sensuality of dreampop. ‘Lemon Glow’ especially is warm and hypnotic with its


ticking drum machines and searing guitars, but there’s a new directness to Victoria Legrand’s vocal that makes the song blossom. “You feel it coming right through you,” she whispers. It’s a badass line when you’re listening on the bus to work; when you’re making out with someone, it’s transportative. Syd’s ‘Body’ works on the same formula: set the mood and direct your audience. “The bed is your stage / Take it away / Put on a show / Put on a play,” she asks, gently pulling the strings. As sex songs go, this is the traditional way to do it, but there are a whole collection of artists subverting sex music to find new powers within it. The brashest example is Fever Ray’s political pop opus ‘Plunge’, which flies its freak flag at the highest height it can. There’s a bounty of outsider anthems to choose from. “This Country makes it hard to fuck!” is Karin Dreijer’s queer rallying cry on ‘This Country’, if you like things head on. Or you could opt for ‘IDK about you’, a primal dance cut that uses a literal moan as part of the beat. Throughout ‘Plunge’, Fever Ray shoots sex as a form of celebratory protest, and that kind of catharsis is what good sex is all about. Then there’s SOPHIE, who’s been writing jams that are as goofy as they are kinky since ‘Bipp’ back in 2013. The uncompromising stomp of her new single, ‘Ponyboy’, could turn any listening session into a dungeon party. She straddles the line between sex satire so well that you can’t help but stare. But maybe I’m getting too niche. Perhaps the most ubiquitous artist crafting perfect political sex songs is Janelle Monae, who’s new album ‘Dirty Computer’ acts as a single sleek statement – “everything is sex, except sex, which is power,” she coolly says on ‘Screwed’. The R&B artist moves from steamy funk to electro to pop without killing the vibe, thanks to watertight transitions. Each instrumental is packed with Prince-emulating sensuality and knotty bass grooves. Then there are her vocals and song subjects, which largely invite the listener to go down on her, as a metaphor for freedom, gender or purity. It’s not an album to study, but to feel and explore. It might bring new life to your sex playlist if Marvin makes you feel queasy.

words by stephen butchard. illustration by kate prior


SOUNDS OF THE SUMMER The Go! Team Semicircle “A psychedelic tonic… they’re coming back around hard”

★★★★ The Observer

Field Music Open Here “No other existing British group gets near their level of creativity”


Mojo / Album Of The Month

Nadine Oh My “An enchanting debut… reveals itself slowly with each listen”

★★★★ Uncut

Odetta Hartman Old Rockhounds Never Die “Mixes folk, bluegrass, and Americana with experimental or warped psychedelia” Stereogum

Menace Beach Black Rainbow Sound “An intoxicating ride, with the band pushing the limits of their last LP to its extremes with stunning results” DIY

Head to and use the code “loudandquiet” to get 25% off these great releases and many more, until the summer ends


Sweet 16: In 1989 Roisin Murphy saw people hugging to ‘I Am The Resurrection’ before it was cliché

Roisin Murphy: I got my own flat on my 16th birthday. This photo was taken there, in Stockport. We moved to Manchester from Ireland when I was 12 but my mother and father broke up when I was 15 and I didn’t want to go back to Ireland. My mother went back, my father stayed in England, but I didn’t want to go off with him and I didn’t want to go back to Ireland, mainly because they were all into heavy metal there and I just couldn’t take it – I couldn’t go back to that. I was doing my A levels then – in Theatre Studies and Media Studies (the blags) – I didn’t do very well in them. I was very artistic but never academic, and dyslexic to hell. I always thought that I’d do visual art and I had a place at Manchester polytechnic, but I’d gone to Sheffield and then I got a record deal, and so I never went. In a way I didn’t need to because we [Moloko] stayed in Sheffield all those years, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure from ‘the music biz’, so I got a chance to do a lot of visual art through the music. But in Manchester I didn’t want to leave because I was obsessed with music, as you can see from the picture. There’s the Velvet Underground up there, and The Young Gods, and Sonic Youth. The P was my first boyfriend, who had a hip-hop single – P Love and something – and he brought me into the first studio that I ever saw – Strawberry Studios. This was before I had any notion of doing any music, but I went in and met Martin Hannett in there. He was very sweaty from what I remember. I also met Lisa Stansfield’s A&R guy in there. It was the first time I knew anything about the music industry. We went to the chip shop and by the time we came back he was telling me


I should get into the music business. I must have had something at that age because that’s how I became a singer – from people telling me that I should be one; that I was going to be something. I’d always be like, ‘what?!’. Even when I met Mark [Brydon] I didn’t start singing at first – I was just talking and pretending to be an L.A. Valley Girl. And we got a deal, without me really singing. In 1989 though, Manchester was brilliant. You could go from amazing little clubs playing acid house to the Hacienda, to Precinct 13 that was all RnB and hip-hop, to PSV in Moss Side, which was a full-on hardcore hip-hop club, to an illegal blues and reggae place called The Kitchen inside four flats. And I was there! I saw the transition of club music coming in, and the transition of E coming in without even knowing it. I remember being in a club called Isadora’s, which was a ’60s psychedelic club that played MC5 and the Stooges, but also Sonic Youth and Butthole Surfers (Sonic Youth was the deal-breaker for me – I was 14 when I saw them play and the next day I went down to the record exchange and I put down all of my U2 records and bought ‘Daydream Nation’). But I was in Isadora’s for a few weeks in a row – all solid weirdos – and then all of sudden it’s full of football guys – casuals – the sort of guys we’d usually be running away from. They were hugging us. It sounds like a massive cliché but ‘I Am The Resurrection’ was playing and it’s all sweaty hugs. Gradually it dawned on us that it was ecstasy. And there was this lovely meeting – not only of the weirdos and casuals but of guitar music and dance music, of black and white music... It was palpable – this sense that these things aren’t as separate as you once thought.

as told to stuart stubbs


07—18 MOTH Club Valette St London E8


Thursday 19 July



Friday 27 July

BRUCE Friday 20 July Friday 6 July


Tuesday 31 July


HEY COLOSSUS Friday 27 July Saturday 7 July


PARTICLE KID Friday 3 August

Tuesday 10 July



Thursday 9 August


The Lock Tavern 35 Chalk Farm Rd London NW1

Thursday 16 August Friday 13 July

SHXCXCHCXSH Sunday 29 July

ALEX ZHANG HUNGTAI Thursday 16 August

KING TUFF Wednesday 29 August


Shacklewell Arms 71 Shacklewell Lane London E8

Tuesday 3 July

MELLOW GANG Friday 6 July

STONEFIELD Saturday 7 July

DORCHA Saturday 14 July

PORRIDGE RADIO Tuesday 17 July



The Waiting Room 175 Stoke Newington High St N16

Wednesday 4 July



MARK KNEKELHUIS Wednesday 11 July

LYLE Friday 13 July

JOB SIFRE Saturday 14 July

BEZIER Wednesday 18 July

TALLULAH Saturday 21 July


Monday 9 July

ZOOFAN Tuesday 10 July

CAGEWORK Thursday 12 July

LA LEIF Wednesday 18 July

CUT Saturday 21 July

LA BETE BLOOMS Friday 27 July

LYLO Saturday 4 August

BABA NAGA Sunday 5 August

GHOST CAR Friday 10 August

RICK C QUARTET Friday 24 August



A Loud And Quiet guide to End of The Road The Music Come to EOTR festival on Aug 30 – Sept 2 and make sure you see these 7 artists in a field in Wiltshire Richard Dawson Let’s start by going hard on the folk – a genre that the festival was built on. As EOTR diversifies for the better, there’ll still be plenty of acoustic music drifting around Larmer Tree Gardens this year with Richard Dawson supplying the most visceral of the art form. Last year’s ‘Peasant’ LP – a pre-Medieval avant-garde album that conjures pigs in dirt streets rather than modern US journeymen skinning up in Laurel Canyon – is going to fit real nice on the final day of a festival when the salad truck has run out of feta cheese and all hell breaks loose. Gwenno Gwenno, too, offers a transportative experience, to the cosmic corners of Wales and Cornwall via her motorik space pop that’s performed entirely in those two languages. It’s music where the magical mood overrides any of the words that you can’t understand, with the track ‘Eus Keus?’ (and we’re not making this up) translating to ‘Is There Cheese?’. Gwenno plays in the Tipi tent a whole day before Dawson – there should still be cheese. Moor Mother For the second year running BBC Radio 3’s experimental program Late Junction will take over the Tipi tent on Friday evening, recording live sets for broadcast at a later date. It’s the protest music of industrial hardcore poet Moor Mother that stands out as unmissable in the festival’s unapologetically avant-garde far-flung corner. The complete opposite to Yo La Tengo in every way imaginable, come and see the Philadelphia rapper articulate fury at an uncomfortable volume. Jeff Tweedy is on at the Garden Stage. Tirzah It was four years ago that Tirzah first collaborated with Micachu on a couple of Greco-Roman EP releases. The DIY twostep of a track like ‘I’m Not Dancing’ made her sound unlike any other RnB singer around, but then she seemed to vanish. Still working with Micachu and also Kwes, the songs on her forthcoming debut album have become melancholic and hopelessly romantic, surrounded by field recording samples and odd beats. She’s the final artist to be added to our Loud And Quiet Stage on the festival’s opening day. It probably makes sense if you bed down from Nilüfer Yanya beforehand.


IDLES IDLES are on the cover of this magazine. We will be seeing them at End of The Road, along with everyone else on the site. Stealing Sheep’s Suffragette Tribute In celebration of the 100th anniversary of woman’s suffrage, Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep – who know this festival well – have put together a new performance in partnership with Brighter Sound and Edge Hill University. It’s not going to be on any one stage or in any one area – it’s a marching band of 15 female drummers and percussionists that will snake around the site, starting at the Garden Stage on Saturday afternoon. These kind of things only go on at festivals, and particularly festivals like EOTR – and all inspired by women, equality and empowerment. Protomartyr In 2017, it was Protomartyr’s ‘Relatives In Descent’ that became our Album of The Year. Now the band will be closing our stage at End of The Road in a year where punk and post-punk are well represented (DUDS, Iceage and Shame could easily all the be on this list). No one does resignation quite like Protomartyr though. Behold the louche, contorting anger of Joe Casey as he ambles around the stage with a tall can on the brink of being crushed in his right hand.

Outdoors Not the Music Sometimes at a festival there’s just nobody on that you want to see for the next hour Art Art hangs from the trees at EOTR – literally, in the wooded walkways where installations have previously included a live, drawn photo booth and a creepy fortune teller cat in a glass case that we hope is back again this year. In the more formal setting of the New Pavilion are some big exhibitions in 2018, including a series of Billy Childish’s woodcuts, a collection from dry London cartoonist Babak Ganjei and Dan Jamieson, who will be providing an interactive service where you can commission him to draw your favourite icon. Dan hasn’t technically put a veto on Mick Hucknall but, y’know, don’t ask him to draw Mick Hucknall. Wallace & Gromit We know what you’re thinking right now – Wallace & Gromit? Fuck. Off. I’m not going to a music festival to hang out with those guys. We hear you, but the Aardman Animations Worshop (they don’t only do Wallace & Gromit, by the way – they also do Chicken Run and Shaun The Sheep) will actually be a fun way of reconnecting with that Christmas Day morning on Gold feeling and also keep the children sedated as they learn to make clay models with Aardman senior maker Jim Parkyn. Did we not mention that there will be children at EOTR? Errr... The Planetarium Don’t pretend that some of your best festival moments haven’t come when looking at the night sky, stoned or drunk, and saying totally profound things like, “But seriously, what is there after all the… black… y’know?” Save those big questions for one of the inflatable planetarium’s four 30-minutes shows (two on Friday night and two on Saturday night) in the Old Pavilion.

L&Q x EOTR What the hell are we bringing to this? Thursday 30th – Midnight at the Tipi Stage: Time-hop Silent Disco Opening Party What this festival needs to get going is a Silent Disco where channel 1 exclusively plays music released in 1998 and channel 2 only plays music from January 2018 onwards. There is no reason for this concept, but we’re doing it.

photography: david cortes / timothy cochrane

Friday 1st – Loud And Quiet presents the Big Top stage

The Bugle Podcast Almost as good as Loud And Quiet’s Midnight Chats podcast is The Bugle – the satirical show created by John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman. Along with Alice Fraser, Zaltzman himself will be on site for a late night recording of The Bugle – Friday 23:45pm to 1:00am. It does partly clash with the Loud And Quiet opening party. Tough one, isn’t it? Movies Watching movies at a festival – it’s not really why we’re here, is it? Let’s face it though, Netflix is actually pretty shit so no one can really play the “but you can watch Netflix anytime” card, especially this year when EOTR’s movie programme is being curated by the Prince Charles Cinema with a helping hand from Gruff Rhys on the opening Thursday night. Likely films from the Prince Charles team include Lady Bird, Boy, Hellraiser, Donnie Darko and Cinema Paradiso. 100% nailed on are Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers and Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave. Oh come on – the bit where the penguin is caught in the milk bottle! … No?

Protomartyr Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Lost Horizons The Orielles Tirzah Nilüfer Yanya Creatures Penelope Isles Saturday 2nd – 12pm at the Piano Stage: Live recording of our Midnight Chats podcast, with Josh T. Pearson in conversation Each year at the Piano Stage we record a special episode of our interview podcast in front of an audience who then spend the rest of the weekend chasing the high of our awkward onstage manner.


Outdoors “The lead character is an independent witch” Gruff Rhys explains his film choices for the cinema’s opening Thursday night The Keep (horror – 1983 – rated 18 – dir. michael mann) This is not Michael Mann’s greatest film, but I have a real personal connection to it, so I try and hype it at any opportunity. I chose it for End of the Road because it has a really good soundtrack from Tangerine Dream. It’s actually one of their best film scores but is sort of overlooked these days, so it seems like a good chance to rediscover it. The film’s set in Transylvania and is sort of this paranormal horror set during the Nazi occupation, but it was actually filmed in an old slate quarry in Wales. My sister’s mates were extras in it and I remember as a kid going to the set to watch it being shot, so it’s a film that’s very close to my heart. I can remember being 13 when the film took over the whole town of Llanberis and you had everyone walking around in 1940s military gear – it was really weird. Kiki’s Delivery Service (animation, 1989, rated u, dir. Hayao miyazaki for studio ghibli) I chose this one because I thought it would be a good afternoon film for any kids at the festival. It’s a film I’ve watched a lot with my kids and the lead character is an independent witch who gets to leave home. I think at a festival it’s good to have that sense of freedom. It’s quite a sweet film, really. My kids found it quite empowering – it planted the idea in their heads that they could leave home one day. It’s going to be on on the Thursday night and I think the film’s spirit of exploration is what you need at the start of a festival. The main character spends most of the film looking for a place to set up as a newly independent person and it’s a great way to set you up for a weekend wandering around discovering new bands. La Chinoise (french political, 1967, rated pg, dir. John-luc godard) Music festivals have this radical past and it’s nice to connect with that on the first night. La Chinoise is about these young radicals who attempt to live via these revolutionary ideas but find it difficult. If people are walking in and out drunk, I’m hoping they’ll get bombarded by a few Maoist political slogans for a couple of minutes. It’s one of Jean-Luc Goddard’s first films and I love all its sloganeering. It came out the year before the big 1968 revolt in France and it really manages to capture the energy around that time. It’s got a really graphic style, with a great use of text and it’s able to discuss really heavy and profound politics using pop art boldness. It also features a cool French communist pop song called ‘Mao Mao’, which sounds like quite a contradiction in terms, but then, I suppose the whole idea of the film is sort of contradiction in terms.


Suspiria (horror, 1977, rated 18, dir. dario argento) This is a film that is a bit like a rock concert. The colours are so vibrant that even if you’re out of your mind you can appreciate the incredible colours and the soaring quality of the music. It’s a bit like going to a My Bloody Valentine concert when it’s played at a good volume. It pushes the idea of what film music can be. I really like the imagery of it as well. It really recalls early 1970s Germany and records by people like Dusseldorf. The film starts with this mid-century Germanic airport, which really manages to capture the excitement of the future. It kind of starts with this really hopeful modernism and then descends into occult horror, all with this incredible soundtrack from Goblin. The Belladonna of Sadness (animation, 1973, rated 15dir. eiichi yamamoto) This is an incredible animated film from Japan from the early ’70s, which Channel 4 used to show after the watershed. It’s got an incredible soundtrack that I’m hoping they’ll play really loud. Masahiko Sato wanted it to sound like French pop and the film itself is this Japanese-take on French style cinema. It’s all psychedelic guitars and funky drums. In fact, the soundtrack was reissued by Finders Keepers records and is well worth picking up if you can get it. It’s definitely a midnight movie as it’s quite explicit, sexually. The animation is beautiful, though, even though some of the themes are really disturbing. Sometimes, the film just breaks down into pure illustration and other times it’s all this really psychedelic Japanese animation, so it’s a stunning film, visually, even if it can be quite perverted in places. I hope they put it on really late, because it’s definitely one that you need a couple of ciders for.

The BesT New Music


Gulp, formed by Super Furry Animals’ Guto Pryce, and Lindsey Leven, are set to release their new album ‘All Good Wishes’ on 3rd August. Gulp are on a journey, a state of perpetual transition. The band make mini Kraut-pop epics, informed equally by the sun flares of the Californian desert and the drizzle of pure, sweet Scottish rain and northern light.



The Spitfires announce the release of their third album ‘Year Zero’ on 27th July 2018. The Spitfires are a Watfordbased 4-piece, who take in a wide range of influences from Soul, Reggae and Ska. This melting pot has helped infuse the band’s own sound and style. The Spitfires’ work ethic and acute social commentary has made this fiercely independent band one of the most popular underground success stories in the UK today.



The Vryll Society’s debut LP ‘Course of the Satellite’ for Deltasonic Records is hotly anticipated, thanks to the promise the band have shown through their blistering live sets and recent single releases. This is an effortlessly cool album, the sort of record that makes friends easily. The world is ready, willing, and more than able to take The Vryll Society even deeper to their heart. It’s a path that leads to greatness.

The spontaneous, recorded in one-day, minor-key, epic masterpiece that is ‘Brushes with Happiness’ sees a band at the top of their game. No other band could just improvise an album out of thin air and have it sound THIS good. Recorded live in one room in a single January day, from the languid guitar licks to faltering vocals, every note oozes emotional truth.

Anna Meredith announces the release of ‘Anno’, on 17th August. A boundarypushing collaboration with the Scottish Ensemble, in which experimental, utterly fresh partner pieces of work by the classical-electronic composer are intertwined with Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. The result is a continuous musical experience, blending old and new, ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ without distinction, and Anna’s fascinating new pieces binding seamlessly with the original work.



City Slang

‘Themes for Television’ is in keeping with the unpredictable twilit splendour one expects of Johnny Jewel. Working entirely without images, drawing from his own imagined version of what Twin Peaks: The Return might be, the 21 tracks that comprise this album have been taken from this prolific streak of inspiration, sequenced and edited last winter in Tokyo.

‘Alien Human Emotions’, out on the much respected indie label (owned and run by Asylums) Cool Thing Records, tackles themes of bitter sex and soured relationships which swirl over bleak analyses of a disintegrating social and political landscape. The music seeping through owes as much to the brooding darkness of The Cure as it does to the disjointed mind of Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne, both of which only add to the dark danceability of the album.

THEY’RE BACK! ‘Performance’ collects nine expertly crafted songs that twist and turn, bending genres in the way only White Denim can. The Texans’ blues and soul fuelled garage jams contort beautifully through psych-pop and progressive art rock, incorporating elements of post punk and touches of glam, to form a unique record of intricate, kaleidoscopic rock’n’roll.


Our Girl release their debut album ‘Stranger Today’ on 17th August via Cannibal Hymns on CD and deluxe 2LP vinyl. Includes the singles Our Girl, I Really Like It and In My Head. “…one of the most exciting new bands around.” – The Line of Best Fit

Each Gulp track on ‘All Good Wishes’ is like a world in miniature, ideas borrowed from Krautrock and electronic culture slimmed down into these infinitely enjoyable pop songs.




Italians Do It Better

An immersive and experimental record from the Tindersticks’ frontman, his first solo album in 13 years. It’s a provocative album where electronic experimentations and rare multiinstrumentations interweave, wrapping themselves around unconventional but utterly spellbinding song structures.

Moshi Moshi

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Moshi Moshi

Includes the singles Magazin and It Might Get Dark.



Melancholy love songs from South London, by Katie Beswick Photography by Charlotte Patmore



The first line of the bio sent over by her record label reads, ‘Tirzah the artist is an idea that’s hard to hold on to.’ It’s a sentence that comes back to me as I listen to her debut album, ‘Devotion’ – a moody, melancholy collection of love songs with a distinctly British RnB flavour. There’s an ethereal, other-worldly energy to it; the musical equivalent of smoke. Thick and dreamy, a beautiful texture that’s not quite solid, drifting into nothing once it’s done. ‘I’ll be thinking of you when you’re gone,’ she sings over a soft electronic instrumental. ‘But what’s keeping me from holding on…’ Tirzah the human is hard to hold on to too. She speaks quietly, in drifting, smoky sentences. It’s difficult to tell whether she’s unassuming or distracted, or maybe just tired. Her daughter was born in November (“I’m knee deep in nappies!”) and Tirzah’s juggling the first months of motherhood with the release of this record, which follows in the wake of gradual recognition due to the success of 2013’s ‘No Dancing’, her 2014 EP ‘No Romance’, and sporadic Internet releases over the past few years. She hasn’t made any music since the baby was born, and she’s not quite sure how she’s going to adjust her working pattern to this seismic life change. “It’s going to challenge me to be more organised,” she laughs, “which is not something I’m really good at.” Tirzah doesn’t laugh that often over the course of our conversation, which isn’t to say she’s rude. But there’s a hesitancy there. “I’m not the most social person,” she tells me. She’s speaking about her song writing process, really, which mostly takes place over regular catch-ups with her collaborator and childhood friend, the producer Micachu. They meet at one another’s houses and communicate mostly through music. It’s with Mica, Tirzah says, where she feels most able to express herself. “I sort of feel like it’s more of a band or duo than a collaboration in a way. As in we hang out together as friends, and making music together – it was all one thing. So that became our relationship. So it’s kind of… It feels like a dual project in that sense as well. I’ve done the odd collaboration with other people but hardly any, and it’s a nice thing to do, but I feel most comfortable when I’m working with Mica. And I think that’s what I’m in it for – that’s what I find most enjoyable about it.” The pair met at The Purcell, a school for young musicians near Watford on the outskirts of London, at the start of the Millennium. It was an environment seeped in music. “Everyone was playing music all around you,” remembers Tirzah. “Very much, that’s what’s going on. It was a very small school. Like, you’re in a class with, probably, 12 kids. And obviously everyone’s got that interest.” Tirzah joined Purcell at thirteen, after a music teacher suggested to her mother that it might be a good idea. Although

she originally began her musical career as a harpist, the friendship with Mica, which started as “messing about on guitar” in class, writing “goofy songs”, developed when the school built a music tech room. “So she started working in there and we did songs over the music we’d made.” And now, sixteen years later, they’re releasing an album. — A new old-fashioned romance record — It’s almost a retro-move, to go from dropping experimental pop and stripped-back music videos online to creating an old-fashioned romance record. Eleven love songs. “I think it was just, we toyed with the idea of doing EPs, and it felt like something more creatively challenging to do an album and exciting therefore,” she shrugs. “And I always listen to music in albums. I don’t really flick through singles, so it didn’t feel like… it felt natural. Like I would want to do that, I would want to sit and be in someone else’s head for a while. So the process then was not



really too dissimilar from the EPs but way harder to pick tracks, because we had so many singles over the years.” So how do you select eleven songs from a sixteen-year collaboration? “Well, the tracks on this span the years, but most were written in the last four years – but there’s like billions of versions. So it felt more, kind of like, difficult from that sense but not too dissimilar from the EPs, although when we’re doing the EPs it got easier to pick the songs – four songs that have a similar flavour to them – but when you’re doing an album and you’re choosing songs that stretch over a longer period of time, it’s harder to get that. And so we kind of gave up trying to get that. We just tried to get them so we could stand by each one rather than try and have a cohesive body of work.” Despite this approach, the album is cohesive. There’s a sense of journey, and of place too – a defiant, street-inflected sound that comes from the South East London scene that she and Mica are fledging products of. Although she seems embarrassed when I say so. “It’s not on a conscious level. Maybe just by being around people that we all know well who create music has had an impact like that.” Perhaps it’s a fear of appropriating a place that doesn’t feel quite hers yet. “I feel like a bit of an intruder because I’ve only lived in South London for about four years or something.


I lived in South Norwood and then I lived in Lewisham, and now Catford. It’s something that’s just come about, lots of our friends who are also musicians also live in South East and yeah, it’s like a, quite a… it feels more by chance. My partner’s sort of born and bred South East so in that sense it feels quite family oriented in a way. But a lot of our friends are living and working in the same spot so you do get a sense of a lot of stuff coming out of there, you know? But I can’t speak to people who have been there for a long, long time.” Living in South London, in these times – what with the house prices, and the historic racial tensions, and the looming Brexit – it strikes me as odd that Tirzah’s not been drawn to a more explicitly political mode of expression. Not least because that’s what it seems every artist, of every genre, is doing as we try to make sense of the madness. “I guess I think because it’s been a kind of a habitual way of making music. It’s always something that I’ve sort of fallen into doing, writing and talking through emotional things. And I would only feel ready to come to writing with a more social political angle if I felt really ready to do that. I don’t want to just come to it and feel like there’s not a cause, I want to really go ham at it. “I am aware that we have made an album all about love and there is no other interpretation of it than that. Love in a way can be political, but it’s not my intention to bring that into it, I can’t pretend that it was. It’s definitely something on my mind but I wouldn’t want to do anything that is forced in a way. I mean, I am aware of the stuff going on around me but I’m just writing a bunch of love songs.” And they are love songs. The sad, meandering tracks, introspective and sweet, are the kind you want to listen to right at the beginning of a love affair, or at the end, when everything feels raw and impossible. “I guess love is multifaceted. I guess, in a way. It’s forever changing. It can be applied to lots of different things so it’s a fascinating thing to me. It’s something that might be of some interest to one person and of no interest to someone else. But at the same time it’s everything to that person and nothing to another or… it’s something that’s so simple but extremely important. Not even on a romantic level. From woman to woman, man to man, man to woman, everyone has that in common I think. It can always be applied to everything. It is so forever changing. That’s all that I can deliver, that’s the only way I can deliver it. The way I know how.”





Writing improvised synth-pop songs never came so easily, by Ian Roebuck. Photography by Gabriel Green 20






Evangeline Ling and David Wrench sip cautiously from their beakers and stare. “You know, I have never had anything this fizzy,” Evangeline says to David, as she takes another speculative gulp of orange wine, “it tastes like a bacteria drink, like Berocca or something!” Now they’ve got the giggles and there’s no turning back. The rest of our meeting moves from hushed contemplation to frenzied gesticulation as the orange wine flows. We’re hunkered underground in Welsh sound engineer David’s East London studio, Evangeline slouched on a particularly low slung sofa as David fidgets on drinks duty. This is a pattern they’ve got used to in the short shelf-life of audiobooks – having met and hit it off at a mutual friend’s party, this small but beautifully constructed space has become home. “I was still wiring the place when Evangeline invited herself round,” says David. “I had sort of set up the speakers and built the modular synth so Evangeline started playing on that whilst I was patching. We were having a good time and she seemed keen to fiddle with it so I thought, yeah I’ll let her experiment, why not!” Prone to making each other laugh, David’s story is already tickling Fine Art student Evangeline but he continues in his hushed Welsh tone. “I came back and she had this amazing look of concentration on her face. Total focus. I see that face all the time now. Especially when you are learning a new skill. You can be like that for hours.” Evangeline’s now nodding furiously. “I am one of those people who once switched on, can’t switch off. I can’t do something half involved, it’s the same with eating or running for a bus, I have to put my whole life into it otherwise I am just gooning out.” It turns out David was impressed with the synth work he saw. “Pretty much straight away and when we started rehears-

ing something clicked,” he says. “We found we can write something, press record and 3 minutes later we’ve written a song.” And what astonishing songs. audiobooks twisted synth-pop combines a little Bjork and a lot of Mark E Smith to become both otherworldly and edgy. It’s a disarming experience to hear them in full flow. A remarkable creative spark drives the band but it’s not always apparent. “We have a weird workflow that suits us, sometimes I need to carry on working so I just get on with mixing,” says David. “And I pretty much stare at the ceiling, I have got to be honest with you,” smiles Evangeline. “We sometimes just listen to records and I will talk about music a lot. There are thousands of records around you everywhere down here. So we listen to weird records and there will be a point where we are like, OK let’s do something. A moment comes along where we are in the mood for creating. It’ll just happen really quickly; we will get going and zone out, then say, OK let’s listen back, and most of the time it’s good.” — Something to dance to — This is how Audiobooks made ‘Hot Salt’, the breathtaking first single from an album due later this year. “We wrote it on the Summer Solstice in 2017,” David tells me. “There are bits of that on the album that are like magic and definitely a few pop songs. It happened by accident, we just said, oh we’ve written a pop song. Again, it was stupidly quick, it came together like that.” He clicks his fingers and takes another chug of orange wine. “We just wanted something we could dance to on summer solstice!” Evangeline isn’t quite so blasé about the process.



“It happened by accident, we just said, oh we’ve written a pop song. We just wanted something we could dance to on summer solstice!”

“I secretly wanted to write a pop song for all of them.” She suddenly sings: “that much is true…” It’s both a bridge in Hot Salt and clearly a nod to The Human League (whom audiobook have a habit of resembling), which has them in stitches. “For me, that part makes it a pop song,” she says. “It’s always those weird bits – ‘and this could be real lifeeee…’” she sings again, moving onto ‘Hot Salt’’s very own chorus. “The album is about being creative and exploring it,” David tells me, after a hysterical meltdown from them both about scheduled Instagram Stories (nothing about audiobooks is scheduled). “I believe it to be completely free in its spirit,” continues Evangeline, genuinely thrilled with the record, “it doesn’t go to any uniform sound, genre or trope. We are proud of it.” Having improvised much of the album, there is a strange musical chemistry between David and Evangeline, but does that translate to other forms of art? “Well, we sort of agree on aesthetics, don’t we?” says David. “We are quite unified in that respect – we both like the same bits and dislike the same bits.” “This is a weird question, actually – you can’t see sound, can you?” says Evangeline. “I do,” says David. “I have Synesthesia full on. Half of my mixing is done by seeing it and sorting it out into a nice pattern.” “I can definitely believe that,” Evangeline says to me. “He is most certainly doing something weird at his mixing desk.” “It is massively useful,” says David. “If Glass Animals send me a track and it’s got 150 parts to it, and it’s a cluttered mess, then in the mix I clear it all up until it feels nice on a visual level. I can see it – those are competing there, those are muddy there – and I can move it. Like a 3D colour thing, it’s lots of beautiful blobs across each other. I had this as a child; I think everyone has it in some form. When you think of a time or a year you probably have a picture in your head, everyone has some kind of way of mapping stuff out to a more relatable fashion, it’s just how we operate.” I get a sense they’re blowing each other’s minds here, as David and Evangeline creep towards the edge of the sofa. “Sometimes when I think of Thursday I think of it in blue,” says Evangeline to David. “Perhaps that was from school, my brain thinking that from someone that I remember.” “The way I remember creating ‘Pebbles’, an improvised track on our recent EP, was through this colour chart that I


worked my way through,” says David. Evangeline’s jaw drops open. “You should totally make paintings, David!” — The inexplicable Pink Panther — Art is Evangeline’s field and the Goldsmiths student explores her world in the room next door and applies it to their work at hand. “It helps with my creativity,” she says. “I have been drawing forever; I just draw in that room and then come and sit in here and look at the ceiling or whatever before asking if David has stopped mixing. Stuff goes on in my head and it comes out with a crayon and a pencil.” David is very supportive of his friend and the hub of activity they harbour in his studio. “You curated an exhibition, didn’t you,” he prompts. “Yeah, my friends from Goldsmiths and Slade helped me do a show about the Pink Panther. I asked everyone I chose to be in the show to produce artwork around the Pink Panther. There is something about the Pink Panther being really cool. When I was in my studio I started doing stories of the Pink Panther as a birthday card for David for around the time I met him, as I thought David was the Pink Panther.” It’s a perfectly reasonable comparison to me, as David clambers over the table to find more orange alcohol. “She thought I moved like the Pink Panther!” David shouts. “He does… you will see it more and more as you spend time around him – he doesn’t even try and do it, he cant help it.” “You didn’t realise that when I was a kid my Dad called me the Pink Panther,” David confides, pretty matter of fact. “You told me I was only the second person after your Dad to call you that. That is actually quite a big connection when you stop to think about it.” It’s that connection – some unexplainable alchemy – that fires audiobooks’ unpredictability. “We have these weird cues, we sort of know,” says David. “We just keep going until one of us does something, or we just feel it…or shout at each other. Sometimes we will make a piece of music by doing a couple of warm ups and then bang we do a take. So for ‘Hot Salt’, we sort of made a backing track and we cut the bit out we wanted and after that we sang over it and that was it, it was pretty much there. You never know how it’s going to come out. We never struggle, it’s been remarkable.” David turns to Evangeline. “Everything is a first take in all of the lyrics… everything. We have been winging it, actually winging it.”




Interview Scaring dance fans with a live saxophone, by Mike Vinti Photography by Fabrice Bourgelle

Ross From Friends

Ross from Friends has found himself as the breakout star in a generation of ironically-named house producers. Alongside the likes of DJ Boring, DJ Seinfeld and, to a lesser extent, DJ Bus Replacement Service, he’s brought a nostalgic, light-hearted approach to the fore of the genre. Taking his cues from classic house music, Ross From Friends – real name Felix Clary Weatherall – has found a warmth and depth of emotion that’s often lacking from contemporary club music. Inspired as much by his dad’s time in clubs as his own, Felix’s music harks back to an imagined golden era, paying tribute to the genre’s roots but playing around with them at the same time. Made either in his bedroom or his box studio in Bermondsey, which he shares with his live saxophonist and keyboard player, Felix’s music has led him on a journey few could have imagined when his understated anthem ‘Talk to Me (You’ll Understand)’ blew up in 2015. Both praised as an emotional triumph over an increasingly glossy world of dance music and derided as an unserious, not-for-the-club slice of revisionism (a feeling that photos like this one are so clearly designed to exacerbate), the track split opinions on forums and among friends. Depending on which side of the argument you came down on, Ross From Friends was either the hero of a new online underground or an imposter, milking club aesthetics without having paid his dues, an endless stream of canned laughter following him wherever he went. Three years, two EPs and no shortage of transcendent, low-key bangers later, Felix is sat in the headquarters of Ninja Tune, the parent label to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder Records, which will release his debut album, ‘Family Portrait’, at the end of July. It’s an ambitious record – one shaped as much by his dad and their shared love of Hi-NRG and Italo disco as his live shows, which feature live guitar and saxophone.


Interview In that time the debate around his position as the harbinger of the house music apocalypse or the second coming of lo-fi Christ has settled down – in recent months he’s played everywhere from Primavera to Berghain’s Panorama Bar. Looking back, the humour and lo-fi sensibility that split opinion at the time seem ahead of their time: a pre-cursor to the bedroom aesthetics that dominate in 2018. Settled into his role as just-a-normal-guy-in-his-twenties-trying-to-make-offthe-wall-house-music-under-the-name-of-one-of-the-mostpopular-sit-com-characters-of-all-time, Ross From Friends is starting to be heard on his own terms. Your new album is called ‘Family Portrait’ – who are your musical family? I reckon my actual dad is part of my musical family. He’s massively influential for the whole record and everything I do. He’s a musician as well – well, I say musician, he used to DJ back in the day. He made all of this Hi-NRG dance music, did all sorts, squat parties, that kind of thing, so he’s my music dad. My music mum, in terms of the record, is maybe Kate Bush. Her attitude towards everything is amazing and listening to her music covers so many things for me. ‘Hounds of Love’ – that album is outrageously inspiring to me. It’s so, so funny and profound and ticks all the right boxes. Has your dad heard the album? He hasn’t heard it all; I just haven’t got around to sending it to him. It’s always like an awkward thing to show him my records; he’s a big part of it, so it’s hard to tell him that sometimes. It’s like, ‘go on, react like I want you to react’. When I’ve shown him my music before you can just read him straight away, he’s so transparent. If he genuinely likes it he’ll be grooving down to it, and if he doesn’t he just disengages, and you just see him drifting away or something. Something that’s talked about a lot in your music is emotion – the main feeling I got from the new record is a kind of nostalgia. I was going to ask where that comes from but it sounds like it’s from that time with your dad, right? Yeah, it’s definitely nostalgic, and I definitely have the emotional connection to the past, to being a kid. It’s reinvented it for me, listening to it all again. It’s that feeling, ‘have I heard it before, or haven’t I?’ – that feeling of my past, of my childhood – that I wanted to get across in some way with the album.

That’s a weird thing with this album. Because it’s all over the place, because a lot of isn’t club music, a lot of it is difficult to play in the club, but I’m playing in a band with a guitar and a saxophonist in a nightclub. I think as long as it references dance music then it makes sense in a club. One of your shows that stood out to me was Panorama Bar because it’s a place associated with a particular kind of dance music – what was that gig like for you? That was a pretty striking thing. You could see the crowd splitting the moment we got on stage; there was a significant shift. They saw the saxophone and ran. We opened with some slow number and people who weren’t there to see us left pretty quickly, and just fans stayed, maybe other people stayed and enjoyed it, but you could physically see the crowd spreading, it was amazing. Did the people that stayed dance? Do you even want people to dance at your shows? People can do what they want. I never expect people to dance, to be honest. Sometimes nobody dances and that’s cool, that makes sense to me, and sometimes everybody is going crazy, and that makes no sense to me. Your new album in on Brainfeeder – have you met Flying Lotus? Yeah, once. It was in the green room at Phonox. He was DJing at an afterparty, and he turned up in the green room, which is a tiny little white box. He had a full crew in there – like Thundercat was there – and it was just me and my girlfriend. It was terrifying. FlyLo was really bigging me up in front of everyone. It was mad. One final thing I need to know – how did ‘Thank God I’m a Lizard’ end up with that title? This is me just obsessing over tracks, but there was a tambourine line looping, and I was changing the EQ on it for hours. It sounds like I’m losing my mind at this point; I probably was. It was looping for hours, and this tambourine started to sound like it was saying “thank god I’m a lizard”, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, I recorded myself saying it in the same rhythm as I could hear it and I layered it all over the track, so I decided to call it that as well. I’m worried there’s going to be Illuminati connotations, especially as we’ve designed this new logo that looks a bit like a pyramid with an eye, but maybe I should push that whole thing.

What do you think of British club culture at the moment? I don’t know, to be honest. It doesn’t feel like an underground subculture really; even small artists are commercialised in a way. From my experience with a lot of underground clubbing it doesn’t feel like there’s a scene. I’m probably just not a part of it, but I haven’t experienced that. So now you’re playing music that’s born from the Internet in clubs, how do you translate your music into that space?














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FRI.07.DEC.18 WED.14.NOV.18

SAT.22.SEP.18 SAT.20.OCT.18 THU.20.SEP.18


THU.25.OCT.18 WED.10.OCT.18 THU.20.SEP.18 FRI.21.SEP.18 FRI.10.AUG.18





THU.13.DEC.18 THU.22.NOV.18



SAT.03.NOV.18 FRI.07.SEP.18







Dirty Projectors — Lamp Lit Prose (domino) Alice Deejay once posited ‘Who Needs Guitars Anyway?’ as the title of her one and only album. No doubt preoccupied with the giddy trance pop days of the early 2000s, she probably didn’t give the question as much thought as David Longstreth has over the last few years. Plagued by doubts as to whether Dirty Projectors had a future after the departures of long-time collaborators Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman (and the grimacing end of his relationship with the latter) Longstreth wasn’t sure the band had a future in the aftermath of that turmoil. But after finding a sense of clarity in some words of wisdom from heavyweight rap producer Rick Rubin, instead of ending the Dirty Projectors name, Longstreth deviated from the multi-layer harmonies and twisting guitar lines in favour of the electro-funk and futuristic RnB that surfaced on the convincingly self-titled ‘Dirty Projectors’. Essentially Longstreth’s breakup album, it was a reaffirmation of the name he’d come to doubt, even if it also constituted an unlikely switch in style. A world away from the experimental indie-rock that had defined both him and Dirty Projectors for the last decade, it was a sound more in-line with his work away from the band as a writer, producer and composer for Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Solange, Joanna Newsom and Kanye West. Inspired by that mental break and armed with a fresh sense of perspective and conviction, Dirty Projectors’ revolving door troupe of creators and collaborators rolls on – with a refreshed Longstreth, as always, the chameleonic epicenter. There’s no doubt that the creative control he exerts make him difficult to work with – both Coffman and Deradoorian alluded


to as much in interviews – but with Dirty Projectors members reaching a long-list of 30-plus, past and present, Longstreth’s vision remains a pretty compelling one to be part of. So, if ‘Dirty Projectors’ was both Longstreth’s personal catharsis positive statement on Dirty Projectors’ longerterm future, ‘Lamp Lit Prose’ is the recommitment to more familiar sounds and structures. Without Coffman and Deradoorian, the reality is that there will never be another ‘Bitte Orca’, and the dynamics that arguably made that album the band’s defining work are beyond the point of repair, but Longstreth’s opaque creative vision has always ensured that the band can evolve. And even where ‘Dirty Projectors’ reached an almost grisly honesty as Longstreth put his broken relationship with Coffman under an often brutally granular microscope, these new songs are, for the most part, a much happier, less hostile expression. The guitars are back and Longstreth’s influence feels more ubiquitous than usual; his darting vocals, his writing guitar lines, his place as the de-facto ringleader reasserted and assured without distraction. This is postbreakup beard Dave, out of the darkness and into the California sunshine Dave, clean-shaven and in his new suit. At face value, many of these track names (‘Right Now’, ‘Break-Thru’, ‘I Feel Energy’) convey that optimism, but knowing Longstreth’s proclivity for the oblique, as ever, there are still a few contrasts and trapdoors to fall through. On opener ‘Right Now’ there’s a sense of reflection but it’s less rooted in accusatory questioning and more lingering thoughts. He’s admitting that “I might sing the melody, but I don’t set the tempo” and “I don’t know how I’m gonna be the better man / I don’t know how I’m going to reach the promised land.” That could have been a klaxon call for another hefty bout of over-analysis but before anything gets too heavy or introspective, the unyielding positivity of ‘Break-Thru’ – and its music video of a smitten Longstreth sat there in a David Byrne suit inside an IKEA-inspired

menagerie, cheerily holding poses, singing about a beautiful girl to a slapping beat and an earworm of a guitar line that’s going to jump straight from the radio airwaves into your brain – blows all of those assumptions away. ‘I Feel Energy’ is equally upbeat, bursting into life on a carnival of cowbell and duelling falsettos, but lurking just behind the unabashed feel-good a line like “Sometimes I got so depressed, I can’t move” contradicts the bright bustle. ‘That’s a Lifestyle’ then has everything to be peak Dirty Projectors – Longstreth’s cart-wheeling vocal, dense yet intricate melodies spinning, contorted guitar carving through it all – but you can also pinpoint the moments Coffman and Deradoorian’s vocals would have elevated it even further. It’s a similar story on the crashing energy of ‘I Found It In U’ as a double-speed Longstreth competes with breakneck drum fills and little blasts of highly-wound melodies. Again, you find yourself waiting for a wave of mellifluous sweetness that never comes. What’s interesting, though, is that although ‘Lamp Lit Prose’ weighs in guest-vocal heavy (five tracks of the ten), they barely register amidst Longstreth’s vocal omnipresence. Here, he is more pronounced than ever. Rarely relinquishing the spotlight, his voice comes at you from all angles. On ‘What is the Time’, he’s slow, soulful and centre stage, imploring “What is the time when I can call you by your name?”, on ‘You’re the One’, Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold and former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij play their supporting roles subtly, and on both ‘I Feel Energy’ and ‘Zombie Conqueror’ Amber Mark and Empress Of at least manage to get the odd chorus in. It’s left to ‘I Wanna Feel It All’ to slow everything down to a crawl in a softly sung Film Noir number that delivers a twist on lounge jazz falling somewhere between Jessica Rabbit and Flying Lotus. It’s a curiously low-key combination, even without what’s presumably a symphony of recorders fading the album to a close. It’s a finale that nods towards an artist only at his most content when

Albums confounding and creating questions; where the logic isn’t always apparent to anyone but Longstreth himself. His disdain for interviews is well known but you also feel there’s an off-hand delight in throwing random musical curveballs, and in Dirty Projectors’ long, fluid history, change is always good, as long as Longstreth is the one orchestrating it. It’s that single-mindedness that has always made this project, for better or worse, Dave Longstreth’s band, and while the relationship between the man and the name has become much less co-dependent over the years, you can’t really imagine one truly existing without the other. Sure, relationships have broken down and Longstreth’s public catharsis wasn’t always pretty, but his strength has always been grounded in the special kind of stubbornness that’s enabled Dirty Projectors to stay interesting and endure. ‘Lamp Lit Prose’ isn’t the return to happier, halcyon days, and nor could it ever be, but after what preceded, it’s a reminder of what’s made the band such a magnetic listen over the years. It’s still music with brains, angles and layers Longstreth dares us to try and unravel, and while it shows he’s not totally over everything that’s happened, there’s enough to suggest that he’s at least in a better place. And when it comes to Dirty Projectors, you get the sense that’s all that’s ever really mattered. 7/10 Reef Younis

Body/Head — The Switch (matador) In 1968, when pop was opening the doors of perception, Pink Floyd released ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’. A sprawling exercise in avant-garde space-rock, it used a conventional song to bookend a section that slowly disintegrated into free-form experimentation.

Fifty years later and Body/Head, the noise rock duo formed by Kim Gordon and Bill Nace, have taken the post-rock approach of dispensing with the song entirely and going straight for the breakdown. Their 2013 debut, which could be spiritually traced back to those ’60s acidtrip happenings, was the first thing that Gordon released in the aftermath of her marriage dissolution and the end of Sonic Youth. Heavy with emotional catharsis, at the time she described it as being ‘not happy music’. If anything, its follow up, ‘The Switch’, drifts even further from traditional rock conventions. Clocking in at just 40-minutes, it’s concise when compared to its predecessor, with its five tracks being variously sketched out live and improvised in the studio. It’s also more tonally ambiguous, the oppressive weight of the five tracks not being fully felt until the closing notes of ‘Reverse Hard’. To a large extent this oppression derives from the quality of recording, which makes it sound like the duo are playing through blown out amps from the far side of an empty warehouse. This immediately places a barrier between the players and the listeners, which Gordon’s indecipherable and manipulated vocals only serves to increase when repeated over the course of the release. The heavy monotones of their debut, however, have often been replaced by textures that allow for moments of space and fleeting shades of colour. The two guitars continue to duel, with waves of a low detuned instrument frequently being off-set by a drone that variously sounds like a swarm of bees, the industrial clamour of a factory, and a garden strimmer. Yet at other times – as on sections of opening track ‘You Don’t Need’ and the shimmering insert that’s introduced half-way through the Yo La Tengo indulgence of ‘Change My Brain’ – there’s a merging between experimental noise and ambient. There’s likewise a merging between tracks that are less like discrete parts than a suite that builds tonally and thematically. A sense of emotional weight

is nonetheless lifted when the album crunches to a close, providing the ‘head’ to the physicality of the duo’s ‘body’ of work. 5/10 Susan Darlington

Gabe Gurnsey — Physical (phantasy sound) After 13 years of waging an all-out post-industrial techno assault on unsuspecting sub-woofers as a founding member of Factory Floor, Gabe Gurnsey’s solo debut rewires that voracious energy into a sound less about punching you in the head and more about getting inside it. Less cold and hostile but just as capable of creating unease with every twisted synth and detached vocal, tracks like ‘Temazzy’ take that Factory Floor relentlessness and contort it into something dark and delicious, the airy dynamics on ‘Harder Rhythm’ sweep into a steadily progressive monster with its mantra of “harder love creates a harder rhythm” and ‘Sweet Heat’ is a mix of saxophone, paranoia and percussion. Inspired by the idea of creating a “record about clubbing even more than it’s a record to be played in clubs” Gurnsey’s focus on capturing the moments of a night out gives ‘Physical’ a sense of menace and excitement, and his softer touch diminishes nothing, with the bass licks and robo-funk of ‘You Can’ and ‘New Kind’ demonstrating his ear for slick hooks before the throbbing, unsettling disco of ‘Eyes Over’ pushes towards the album’s climax. The outstanding ‘Night Track’ shows a tempered flicker of ‘Two Different Ways’ as the album’s ‘part of the weekend never dies’ anthem before the momentum shifts to the equally impressive ‘The Last Channel’ as it brings the lights up to scenes of blinking, bleary-eyes, sweaty smiles and happy staggers into the night and the taxi drive home. 8/10 Reef Younis



The Internet — Hive Mind (columbia) In the three years since The Internet released ‘Ego Death’ much has happened to accelerate their metamorphosis from Odd Future spin-off neo-soul curio to bona fide pop-RnB personalities. Following a Grammy nomination, four of the quintet have released well-received solo albums, collaborations have bloomed beyond the standard Odd Future family to include the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Sampha and Lana Del Rey, and the band’s line-up has solidified for the first time, each member with a distinct role and identity. Meanwhile, shifts in both the socio-political state of the US and its musical appetites mean there has never been a better moment for a socially engaged black band led by a lesbian woman to get their voice heard. Accordingly, there’s a keen sense that The Internet’s time is now, and that extends across ‘Hive Mind’: the band’s fourth album is unapologetically ambitious both musically and commercially, resulting in a collection of songs that are leaner, sleeker and more direct than ever. Thankfully, though, despite the streamlining, the band’s trademarks are largely preserved, if slightly modified: Syd’s breathy delivery of brilliantly assertive lust songs continues on ‘Mood’, ‘Bravo’ and ‘Next Time’, although hitherto absent tinges of frustrated yearning are audible in the twin heartaches of ‘Stay The Night’ and ‘It Gets Better’. Equally, the Princely funk workouts return, albeit this time around tempered by softening sultry horn arrangements and, in the cases of ‘Look What You Started’ and ‘Wanna Be’, codas that ascend into the sort of ubersatisfying hooks last heard on Neptunesproduced pop tracks, making for a record of irresistible listenability on top of wellestablished swagger. Last month, Matt Martians told Loud And Quiet that, after the success of


‘Ego Death’, his aim was to write another “undeniable” album to make it two back to back, and with ‘Hive Mind’ his wish is fulfilled: the band he started with Syd ten years ago can now boast a clutch of some of the most morish and gnawing RnB songs to be released this decade, and while that brazenly populist landgrab has perhaps come at the expense of the band’s more idiosyncratic ideas, it’s simultaneously difficult to begrudge The Internet their hard-earned spoils when the results are as addictive as this. With mission accomplished, though, ‘Hive Mind’ could end up being a comma or even a full stop to the band’s current ascent. Whichever it turns out to be, the album is also, unequivocally, a celebration. 8/10 Sam Walton

Ross From Friends — Family Portrait (brainfeeder) Felix Clary Weatherall has been slowly growing out of his nostalgic and admittedly faceless lo-fi production over recent years. While his live show still makes the most of gooey, intangible synths and dusty drum machines, the vibrant instrumentation brought by pals John Dunk on sax and keys, and Jed Hampson on electric guitar, hinted the next phase of this project. This twelvetrack sprawling debut still operates well within what fans are used to, with its chilled-out house grooves and melancholic, faded vocal samples, but there’s added detail, and subtle changes between tracks that come together to paint a story. Ross from Friends has always been a floor-ready artist, and that remains the case. Stick this on at the tail-end of a house party and the room will quietly buzz around to its pleasant but unobtrusive beats. Where the album really shines is on a solitary headphone listen, surprisingly, where the craft can be fully appreciated and the more personal corners

of the album reveal themselves. The fidgety percussion on ‘Parallel Sequence’ is expertly constructed, each woosh of sound surprising and impactful. The analog/digital shifts on ‘Don’t Wake Dad’ feel like they could suck all the air out of the room. The proper opener, ‘Thank God I’m a Lizard’, first seems like a simple floor stomper, until your ears adjust and hear how layered the track is beneath the heavy bass wubs. Ross from Friends has made a cohesive, lovely little album that’s easy to fall into, and when you do, its grasp gets tighter and tighter. 7/10 Stephen Butchard

Tirzah — Devotion (domino) If it feels surprising that only now is Tirzah releasing her debut album, that’s understandable – it seems like she’s been around forever, putting out material sparingly but being responsible for some of the finest lo-fi dance tracks of the past few years. ‘Devotion’ arrives as her first release since signing to Domino and follows on from a pair of EPs all the way back in 2013 and 2014 (‘I’m Not Dancing’ and ‘No Romance’). It’s ultimately born of the same kind of creative process, not least in terms of Tirzah’s ongoing musical partnership with Mica Levi. Levi is becoming better known these days for her film work (her score for Pablo Larrain’s Jackie earned her an Oscar nomination last year) but on the basis of ‘Devotion’ she clearly remains a formidable producer, too. Tirzah herself, meanwhile, provides the lyrics, melodies and vocals, and ‘Devotion’ is the sound of her coming into her own after years of honing her craft and recently becoming a mother. There’s an intriguing instrumental fluidity to the album, with entire tracks, like ‘Guilty’ and the piano-centred ‘Affection’, that lack any percussion whatsoever, and yet they

Albums still feel like fully-formed compositions. Elsewhere, single ‘Gladly’ is a gorgeous standout, with laidback vocals that sound like The xx covering Aaliyah, while ‘Basic Need’ and ‘Go Now’ both use fluttery synths to sparing and powerful effect. When there are beats, meanwhile, there’s a running theme of them being weirdly choppy, almost glitchy, especially on early highlight ‘Do You Know’ and the title track. The latter has that D’Angelo-style languidness to the drums. Not everything that Tirzah tries comes off (‘Say When’ disrupts the pace of the record a little late on) but in the main ‘Devotion’ is a bold statement of intent from a young artist who already sounds as if she’s carved out her own niche. 7/10 Joe Goggins

Tanukichan — Sundays (company) If there was any doubt about Hannah Van Loon’s musical change of direction since leaving indie poppers Trails And Waves, it’s washed away with the first thirty seconds of her debut album as Tanukichan. The overload of fuzzedout guitar coupled with the power riffs that crop up throughout ‘Lazy Love’ sets ‘Sundays’ down a path that it rarely veers from; heavy on the reverb, treacle-thick rhythms – songs that have the weight of a humid, late-summer afternoon. “I settled on the name because it encapsulates how the record felt to me,” she’s said, and it’s true; a relaxed, reflective vibe runs through all ten tracks. But the multi-instrumentalist doesn’t simply plug in a Big Muff and turn the gain all the way up; there’s restraint here too, perfectly framing her angelic voice and bittersweet lyrics about dealing with reality and growing as a person. ‘The Blue Sky’ is a hauntingly delicate slow jam, while ‘Perfect’ sounds like

a C86 deep cut updated for Millennials. They showcase Van Loon’s neat way with elegant melodies, but she’s most at home when her guitar buzzes around like a tropical breeze. Of course, hazy tones are back in fashion now, but Van Loon employs them in a way that suggests she’s looking to the future, not stuck in the past. 7/10 Derek Robertson

Kevin Krauter — Toss Up (bayonet) Often spending hours alone in his basement, Kevin Krauter of Indiana’s Hoops likes to refer to his down time as “useful solitude”. Maybe it was these reclusive months pouring over his collection of guitars and vintage keyboards, but Krauter’s debut album moves beyond his strictly acoustic roots and into realms of far greater complexity and sonic depth. The decision to sign with Dustin Payseur’s Bayonet Records is hardly surprising because so much of ‘Toss Up’ carries the sort of dreamscape guitar pop that Beach Fossils have been crafting for years. Unlike 2015’s ‘Magnolia’  EP and 2016’s  ‘Changes’  EP, Krauter reinforces his trademark pondering of the eternal melancholy by adding delicate piano arrangements and drowsy synth texture. Everything feels characteristically awkward on tracks like ‘Lonely Boogie’ where, surrounded by ethereal cascading melodies, Krauter sings, “I’m all alone and I’m having a good time.” He manages to showcase his ear for infectious pop tunes on ‘Rollerskate’ and then later on the mellowed emotional magnitude of the title track’s final hushed crescendo. Having built upon his foundations, Krauter’s debut points to a bubbling potential that is, once more, likely to outdo itself in the not so distant future. 7/10 Ollie Rankine

Ty Segall & White Fence — Joy (drag city) The secret to perfecting garage rock these days is to not be too informed by the past. Ty Segall and White Fence manage to create something that sounds undeniably indebted to the genre’s mid-1960s roots while simultaneously shattering the formula, here. While other garage bands seem contented with mere imitation, Segall and Tim Presley’s erratic, genre-bending interpretation of the sound is brazenly singular and strangely absorbing. While traditional garage rock was defined by amateurism – basic chord structures distorted through fuzzboxes and unsophisticated lyrics – Segall and Presley take the sound somewhere completely new. This is garage rock entering 2018 – abstract, playful, smart and downright odd at times. There’s a method to sounding so familiar yet so confoundingly different and the varying temperaments of the two give the record nuance and a restlessness that feels intriguingly unstable. Respectively, Presley’s direction is sleepier and abstract, while Segall’s music is wilder and unrestrained. This unison works wonderfully on ‘Joy’, particularly on ‘She Is Gold’ where leisurely introspection turns into outright chaos. The deceptive brevity works in the album’s favour, too. The 15 tracks – some no longer than 30 seconds – are over before you know it, giving you incentive to play it again and again, until every twist and turn begins to make sense. “Rock is dead,” they sing on ‘Hey Joel, Where You Going With That?’ – a tongue-in-cheek homage to Jimi Hendrix. Indeed, Ty Segall and Tim Presley sure know how to challenge that perception on ‘Joy’. For all its picking apart of rock’s history, there’s a peculiar newness to their music, and that’s a very rare thing when rock really is kind of dead. 8/10 Hayley Scott



RVG — The Quality of Mercy (fat possum) RVG have good vintage. This, their debut album, was recorded live off the floor at Melbourne institution The Tote, and wears its heritage on its sleeve. It’s that coupled with singer Romy Vager’s flair for narrative that drives the record, when the title track records the musings of an inmate on death row, for example, like the darker cousin of the Paul Kelly classic ‘How to Make Gravy’. It’s not the only point of reference that sticks out – RVG’s influences are clear at every turn, from Smiths riffs to Go-Betweens shimmer. The downside here is that there isn’t a lot scope for variation, and some tracks don’t land quite so well as others. Still, there are definite moments of invention, as on the human/machine lovesong ‘IBM’, which comes to a rapid halt part way through to let an Internet dial-up tone screech its way out of the speakers. But it’s recent single ‘Vincent Van Gogh’ that’s the real stand out. Here, Romy toys with the myth of the tortured artist, exploring how pushing the self-destruct button turns everybody into walking wounded. Overall, ‘A Quality of Mercy’ is a cohesive snapshot of Aussie rock and roll. It may not exactly be all killer no filler, but the gems that are there do sparkle. 7/10 Liam Konemann

Elephant Micah — Genericana (western vinyl) Opening with the hiss of static, the call of gulls and the wash of digital surf, ‘Genericana’, the thirteenth


album from songwriter and folklorist Joseph O’Connell under his Elephant Micah name – further explores how we come from influences and what we sound like. Created from ‘devalued or discarded’ gear, the record twists the sound of Americana as it finds new ways of interacting with instruments. From a homemade synth to a three-headed tape deck standing in as a ‘poor man’s space echo’, ‘Genericana’ filters an avantgarde art rock vibe through strata of folk, country, experimental songwriting, dub and ambient trances. Across the six tracks here (all called ‘Surf ’, ‘Fire’ or ‘Life’), shades of dark and light are cast as recurring melodic and lyrical motifs draw you further in. Arthur Russell to Joni Mitchell are pegged as the folk and production influences but in the vocals and rhythm the more recent sound of Simone Felice echoes, as does the expansive and atmospheric ambience of Skee Mask in the sparse beats washed in synths. This is an album that imagines where the dust may settle when the current cultural turmoil passes. Soothing but unsettling, atmospheric but stark, drawn from digital but with a very human beat – ‘Genericana’ is a deeply evocative album. In looking at where we come from Elephant Micah has also set a course for where they are going. 7/10 Sarah Lay

the innocence mission — Sun On The Square (bella union) Records like ‘Sun On The Square’ don’t come around often. Really, this is the innocence mission’s first album in four years, and their first UK release in over a decade. Alongside their self-removal from most touring circuits, they have become to many indie spheres what Simon Joyner is to folk music: a

well-kept but influential secret. Once again, Karen Peris’s voice is shortbread at the heart of the collection that crumbles over intricate guitar patterns and gently fingerpicked nylon strings. Where the title track is layered with bossa nova chords, the second half takes from traditional folk and contemporary classical, blending everything into a beautiful and timeless album. ‘Records From Your Room’ is a gorgeous opener, adventuring to define nostalgia – “is there a word for these things?” – while ‘Green Bus’ plays as the flaneur’s lullaby. ‘Look Out From Your Window’ builds with a desperate operatic romance before the climactic string section recalls Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Faith’ nearly chord for chord – “and love, aren’t you tired yet?”. Where the innocence mission has previously been a poster-band for the slow burning record, ‘Sun On The Square’ wills you to cling on and not let go from the very beginning. It hunts out the curious minutiae of being alive, saves them and makes them spectacular. In an already strong back catalogue, this album feels like the crown jewel. 9/10 Tristan Gatward

Michael Rault — A New Day Tonight (daptone) A bright and jangly opening riff introduces Michael Rault’s second album – and it really is a riff, in the old-school sense of the word, nestling in similarly old-school production. ‘I’ll Be There’ is the kind of song evocative of college kids on a cross-state road trip in the early ’70s. There’s a brightness, a tangible exuberance about it; meanwhile the title track is soaked in lazy, sundrenched optimism. Rault is an adept constructor of melody, using big friendly building blocks,

Albums simple musical chunks laid down one on top of the other. He plays by the rules, with often pleasantly engaging results, but he never steps outside of them. This is fine as long as the songs are chiming happily in your brain – a jangly chord here, a catchy hook there – but when the quality of the songwriting dips, your engagement with Rault’s music slides towards mere ambivalence. The lengthy, meandering ‘Where The Sun Shines’ brings the album to an ironically dreary close. Rault’s openly backwards-looking approach is somewhat mystifying. If someone told you this was a digitally remastered version of some unearthed, dusty reel-to-reel recordings from half a century ago you’d have no problem accepting that. As an artist, if you’re going to embrace and replicate an era already rich with its own original exponents, you’d better make sure that what you’re producing fifty years later is a very fine example of the style – otherwise all you got is an album that’s as passable as ‘A New Day Tonight’. 4/10 Chris Watkeys

Pram — ‘Across the Meridian’ (domino) When R.E.M. parted ways with drummer Bill Berry in 1997, the subsequent album, ‘Up’, their first as a three-piece, was a patchy, insecure statement of intent. Now, Pram are far from being R.E.M. in their middle-period high, and the world is hardly waiting on their every move – their general obfuscation and definitive lack of online presence sees to that. What’s surprising is that, despite losing their longstanding frontwoman Rosie Cuckston to academia, there seems to be less at stake than expected for Pram on their eight album. Like their contemporaries Stereolab, there’s much of an ‘always the same,

always different’, conceptual weight behind each Pram release. If you’re already down with their established dark cabaret vibe – the masks! – you’ll be fine with the present release. This psychedelia is less acid and more opium, of the unseen quarters of Victorian England, faintly orientalist in its exoticism. It feels as unfashionable as prog rock in the ’80s, but its confidence befits a group of Pram’s established cult status. The horns and clipped samples of ‘Shimmer and Disappear’ and ‘Doll’s Eyes’ are breezily-handled, and ’Footprints Towards Zero’ harks back to the group’s 1993 fulllength debut ‘The Stars Are So Big…’ just enough without taking too much comfort in their past. Yet a gaping hole lies in Cuckston vocal absence – although a similar voice appears infrequently throughout, like parts recorded before her departure. Full of ultimately tiring instrumentals, ‘Across The Meridian’ seems of zero consequence, something to tide over the fans until the next tour. (What’s more, I wonder whether Pram’s newest converts after the success of 2007’s ‘The Moving Frontier’ will have been partially undone by their near-decade hiatus). Multimedia shows with projection artists and designers are in the works, which ought to satisfy those disappointed by the relative lack of showiness on record. 5/10 Dafydd Jenkins

Astronauts etc. — Living In Symbol (company) Astronauts etc. is the project of one Anthony Ferraro, one-time keyboardist with Toro y Moi, and ‘Living In Symbol’ follows his low-key debut album ‘Mind Out Wandering’ from three years back. It’s an intriguing record from the outset. Opener ‘Symbol Land’ carries

strong echoes of Great Escape-era Blur, down to the Albarn-esque vocals, but it’s not long before a more distinct style makes itself known. There’s the smooth, vaguely jazzy stylings of ‘The Border’, with a lazy bassline carrying with it floaty, interweaving melodies and an almost-spoken vocal line which recalls Leonard Cohen, while ‘Who I Talk To’ is another bass-led, lazy groove of a song with a wandering, spidery guitar line. Ferraro’s vocal talents really shine through here, falsetto treading delicately over smooth melody. These songs have a richness, a lounge-room feel, the music draped in velvet and ensconced in an easy listening atmosphere that stands in total contrast to lyrics that are sometimes starkly distressed (“Now I’m panicking / They’re hounding me to death” isn’t a line you’d expect to hear over music as beguiling as this). Ferraro is clearly a talented songwriter with a distinct and stylised vision for the Astronauts etc. project. ‘The Room’ is highly textured, rich and smooth, a swirl of sonic velvet oozing from the speakers like gloop from a lava lamp. It’s a record that could fairly be described as one-paced, but that pace never becomes dull; rather it carries you with it. On its simplest level this is Sunday morning music, easy and unchallenging, coolly delivered and subtly engaging. But sometimes ‘Living In Symbol’ reveals a far more uncomfortable nature. It’s an album of poise and coherence, to be enjoyed or examined at the listener’s whim. 7/10 Chris Watkeys

Helena Hauff — Qualm (ninja tune) The last year and a half has seen the rise in popularity of proto-techno mainstay and all-round cult genre electro. This


Albums paradigm shift is in part due to the rise in popularity of DJs like DJ Stingray and, of course, Helena Hauff. While electro has never exactly been “underground” it certainly has been pushed aside in favour of the at times oversaturated, personality-void genre of industrial techno. However, much like DJ Stingray, Hauff is not solely a DJ – she has also been releasing music of her own since 2013. ‘Qualm’, Hauff ’s second LP, is a record of dualities, from the title down. ‘Qualm’ in German (‘kvalm’) translates as ‘smoke’, while the English meaning of course refers to the feeling of unease, especially about oneself. True to form, the record is unapologetically raw, even brutal at times, and finds the German musician returning to a kind of  modus operandi, jamming on her machines, “trying to create something powerful without using too many instruments and layers”. Gear can make a project but also break it, so Hauff stripped back her hardware in an effort to go back to basics – a technique that Regis used when creating the now legendary ‘Gymnastics’ in 1996. This calling back to the past is present throughout the whole of ‘Qualm’. ‘Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cybrorg’ has a notably Drexciyan quality to it, its aquatic bassline warbling along. Elsewhere, ‘Barrow Boot Boys’ has a Surgeon-like intensity in the drums, on a record that’s refreshingly inspired by past techniques rather than the end results of creativity produced by others. 7/10 Alex Weston-Noond

Johnny Jewel — Themes for Television (italians do it better) Over the past ten years, Johnny Jewel has established himself as the master of a very particular corner of contemporary electronic music in the United States. From his leadership


of taste-making acts like Chromatics, Glass Candy and Desire to the curation of his own label Italians Do It Better, there is a soft-focused, hazy, indiscriminately nostalgic tone to his Italo Disco. Whether by design or not, it happens to tessellate perfectly with current trends in American independent cinema, to such an extent that it has become nigh-on impossible to listen to Jewel and not start syncing the music to an imagined movie scene in one’s mind. How confusing, then, that his new record should be titled ‘Themes for Television’ but actually feature no music that was created specifically to score any visual medium. To explain, the record is comprised of outtakes from the sessions for Jewel’s 2017 album ‘Windswept’. Eager readers will be aware that tracks from the latter were selected for use in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return, ultimately leading to Jewel and Chromatics appearing at the climax of the premiere of the show, but even then Jewel was never enlisted to write specifically for it. This title is therefore a tacit nod and a wink to his music’s widespread reputation, an entreaty for listeners to let their imaginations run wild, permission from the man himself to perceive this music in the way that most of us already do. What we have here is 21 tracks that run just shy of an hour, snatches of ideas that do not necessarily have the temporal space to fully stretch their limbs, their respective scenes often ending prematurely, the narrative drive meaning the album has no choice but to move on. If the aim is to play on his stereotype as a dream soundtrack composer, then this is a disjointed show he’s been lumbered with. Moments of serenity and quiet majesty are there, in the minimal reworking of ‘Windswept’ or the suspended animation of ‘Déjà Vu’, but they are agonising glimpses of what Jewel excels at, rather than the full cinematographic image. The two tracks that Chromatics performed on Twin Peaks, ‘Shadow’ and ‘Saturday’, are included, relative high spots of glistening reflection and speckled memories that recall Jewel’s most celebrated work on the much-loved

Drive soundtrack. It amounts to a strong opening third – or first act, if you will – but the attention-worthiness sags just when the stakes should be pulling us into the drama. ‘Embers’ and ‘Sleepless’ are symptomatic of the drifting later stages of Themes for Television: gone are any legitimate comparisons to John Carpenter or Angelo Badalamenti, replaced with a sense that we are in the outer reaches of what was an outtakes album to begin with. Jewel deserves still to be considered in high regard for his continuing reign as the commander-in-chief of wistful, reminiscent electronic music, and one suspects he will continue to be approached by producers looking for that magic spell he can cast over a moving image. But ‘Themes for Television’ is a release for the die-hards, its moments of wonder fighting for attention against a wave of sadly forgettable tracks. Perhaps an imaginary short film would have been the perfect concept for this set of session leftovers. 5/10 Max Pilley

Tomberlin — At Weddings (saddle creek) You’ll have heard a coming-ofage record before, whether mourning your wrinkles to the grizzly orbit of Bob Dylan’s ‘Planet Waves’, or buying your third tub of anti-ageing cream in as many weeks as Frank Ocean’s latest lament plays through your battered Walkman… “We’ll never be those kids again.” Tomberlin’s debut record is also a coming-of-age record. But, born in Jacksonville, Florida, to a Baptist pastor, coming-of-age in Tomberlin’s book isn’t just the teenage odyssey of lost loves and new-fangled surroundings, but unlearning the systems of faith and identity that grounded her childhood, forcing her to face a complete deconstruction of her life as she knew it.

Albums ‘Any Other Way’ is the perfect opening to such confusion, weaving the vocal fragility of label-mates Big Thief and the worldly sincerity of someone double her age. As you hear every guitar string strung, the refrain of “I didn’t know any other way” takes on a candor that guides Tomberlin through the introspective vulnerabilities that follow. ‘Tornado’ is a beautiful hunt for self-definition (“I am a tornado with big green eyes and a heartbeat”) while ‘You Are Here’ offers that self-definition back into someone else’s hands (“I’m trying to give you everything you want and I’m trying to be everything you want.”). Written as a means of getting through one stage of life to the next, for all the maturity ‘At Weddings’ offers lyrically there’s little change of instrumental pace on the record. Growing up is tumultuous, but each track here exists within the same reserved dimension. But, as Tomberlin fights the fondness of nostalgia, treating the album with the patience it requires might leave you realising just what an impressive introduction it is. 7/10 Tristan Gatward

WEN — EPHEM:ERA (big dada) One suspects that leaps in technology have been causing the old guard to accuse the young of weakening attention spans since at least the time of Gutenberg’s early printing press demos, but Ramsgate producer Owen Darby, aka WEN, is not so quick to pass judgement. His second album is a study in whether our flitting, scattershot modern habits may themselves in fact hold an elemental beauty. This 12-track, 38-minute record, as its title suggests, is designed to say something about our pace of life. A pick’n’mix of assorted, attention-proof instrumental grime nuggets that Darby

himself describes as “temporal pauses”, it is both a mutated musical incarnation of our eternal restlessness and a cry to resist the self-refilling intravenous drip of twitter feeds and targeted ads that keeps us treadmilling along. Darby has invoked another great diver into the psychology of time, the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, as an influence here, but ‘EPHEM:ERA’ is more inclined towards the darkness. The tracks are brief samples of moods rather than full explorations: the zipping, spectral house of mirrors of ‘Curve:Relay’, the grime-house template of ‘Time II Think’ and the Hyperdub-esque urban milieu of ‘Rain’ are so different in mood that they could all spawn wildly different offspring albums of their own. As an exercise in concision, then, ‘EPHEM:ERA’ is an enticing if occasionally frustrating listen. As a reflection of our changing listening habits, it hits scarily close to home. 6/10 Max Pilley

Gaika — Basic Volume (warp) Gaika’s full-length Warp debut opens with a minute of sour and amorphous electronics. It’s a confidently patient beginning for an artist who knows how to write an instant hook. But Gaika would rather set the mood, emphasise the scale. ‘Basic Volume’ is near an hour long, every moment soaked in this tension and ghostly ambience. His futuristic dancehall has always kept the melodies simple and sharp, and the production icy and epic. The swirling darkness is so consistent that an hour of material could turn into a pile of gloomy sludge in the hands of a lesser artist, but Gaika flourishes when fleshing out his ideas. Vocally, he constantly shifts his energy, from mournful vocoder-backed crooning to barked staccato raps and

eerie spoken word. On ‘Grip’ he digs deep into his lower register for commanding deadpan verses. Two songs later, he’s clear and sweet over a rubbery SOPHIE co-produced instrumental. ‘Ruby’ is perhaps his most powerful vocal performance, a fractured and layered piece built on elegant vocal runs that flow over each other, like an even bleaker, bolder take on the experiments James Blake crafted on his debut. The production is just as nimble, despite its overarching cohesiveness. You could play ‘Crown and Key’ just listening to the kick drums and have an exciting time, and that’s before talking about the incredible build and snarling delivery. All of this meticulousness isn’t without purpose. ‘Basic Volume’ is a haunting picture of rebellion and black existence. Gaika circles around images of violence, spiritualism and black bodies. “Naked and black in a white man’s world,” he says at the end of the opening track, after describing the chaos of inner city life. His lyrics sound even starker under his gothic, weighty production. There’s a host of artists from Travis Scott to Young Fathers who wish to depict the pain, beauty and heft of these topics, and Gaika’s attempts at points may feel eerily like how these topics have already been explored, but it’s in the constant production twists and cracked melodies that Gaika begins to stand out. They’re the features that make ‘Black Empire (Killmonger Anthem)’ so exhilarating, and ‘Born Thieves’ so achingly sad. Over the next few months the scope of Gaika’s debut will only expand, as listeners dive into its rich pool of sounds. 8/10 Stephen Butchard

Cullen Omori — The Diet (sub pop) It’s been a tumultuous time for Cullen Omori between the release of his debut solo album


Albums (‘New Misery’ in 2016) and ‘The Diet’. Buffeted by life’s storms – from car crashes to relationship lows – Omori felt bloated on negativity. He set about writing and recording, cutting back on pretense and ignoring expectations on him. What he produced is a modern indie album seeped in the classic sounds of ’70s rock. Again. From the soft sunshine of opener ‘Four Years’ to the pastoral harmonies of the closing ‘A Real You’, the album drips with psychedelic rock reminiscent of George Harrison, Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison – something that Omori has done well since the Smith Westerns. Love and life bubble through the warped tones and reverb vocals, and while the sound has been revisited many times by many artists over the years, Omori does add another pleasant, if not groundbreaking record, to the canon. Welcoming a cast of contributing musicians and working closely with producer Taylor Locke, Omori is getting closer to what he wants to hear, as well as how he wants to sound as a musician. Hi-fi production meets lo-fi methods to give a clean edge to reflective yet simplistic songwriting, while thematically love inspires many of the tracks. Uplifting and full of hope, ‘The Diet’ has Cullen Omori dusting himself down and looking toward brighter days while honouring the classic psych rock sound and creating another solid indierock album, even if it does land short of ‘New Misery’. 6/10 Sarah Lay

Deaf Wish — ‘Lithium Zion’ (sub pop) Few groups have successfully pulled off a convincing Sonic Youth impression. But Melbourne’s Deaf Wish have a decent go at channelling their alt-rock-radio middle period on their fifth release – and not merely by aping the guitar style.


Jensen Tjhung recalls Thurston Moore’s vocal quality on ‘The Rat is Back’ – ‘rat’, ‘back’ and ‘cat’ – sounding like Moore reading a children’s book. It might sound crass to claim ‘FFS’ as worthy of Kim Gordon, but Sarah Hardiman’s selfreflexive commentary, fed through a narrative not unlike Gordon’s on ‘Swimsuit Issue’, spill out like phlegm from the back of her throat. Thankfully it’s less original-and-copy and more cut form the same cloth. Much of the similarity dissipates by the album’s end though. ‘Afraid For You’ and ‘Through Smoke’ harbour weirdly pretty vocal double acts from Hardiman and Tjhung, feeling like full maturity in under 40 minutes, from snot-nosed smart-arses to world-weary divorcees. Deaf Wish’s apparent allegiance to the book of Moore and Gordon goes a long way to undercut the faintly rockist undertones of its press release – playing guitars loudly through amplifiers as sacred right, rockin’ out as a fundamental good. (Lithium is used as psychiatric medicine – who can deny the Cobain link? – while Zion invokes Promised Lands.) As hip-hop and RnB dominate the charts and impress the critics, the championing of rock music in 2018 remains the fevered bleating of dads, which makes it hard to feel a band like Deaf Wish could change anyone’s life anymore. 6/10 Dafydd Jenkins

Lavender Flu — Mow the Glass (in the read) Starting out as the bedroom project of Chris Gunn, formerly of Portland scuzz-lords The Hunches, Lavender Flu’s second album sees Gunn’s vision expanded and more fully realised than ever before. ‘Mow the Glass’ showcases Gunn’s exceptional melodic sensibilities, as his new-formed quartet create a sound

that combines the hypnagogic vibe of Ariel Pink with an ear for beautiful guitar melodies that very few people can boast. Every track comes in at under 3 minutes (bar closer ‘Ignorance Restored’), and adheres strictly to pop conventions, but this does not restrict Lavender Flu – it simply creates order and reason in the otherwise hazy, crazy world that this record inhabits. ‘You Are Prey’ is perhaps the most interesting track on the record; through Gunn’s foggy, lethargic textures, punk tropes chisel at the weighty psychedelic swelling before the song gives way to an exhaustive waltz. Meanwhile, ‘Just Like Anything’ has all the marks of a Nuggetsstyle garage-pop classic, the desert winds of the 13th Floor Elevators and the ornamental twang of The Seeds particular reference points for the group. Lethargic, lysergic guitar pop from the very depths of skaters’ bedrooms seems to be one of the most commonly practiced genres these days, and many records of this ilk are simply too washed out and tonally similar to really engage with. ‘Mow the Glass’, however, sticks out like a sore thumb. Fantastic songwriting, gorgeous textures and occasionally guitar wizardry, Chris Gunn and Lavender Flu have created a truly enthralling album. 8/10 Cal Cashin

Phantastic Ferniture — Phantastic Ferniture (transgressive) “I’d gone straight into folk music, so every experience I’d had on stage was playing sad music with a guitar in my hand. I thought, I would love to know what it’s like to make people feel good and dance,” explains Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin of her new musical project, Phantastic Ferniture. “It feels really good,” she says with satisfaction. “It’s like having an alter ego.”

Albums Indeed, Phantastic Ferniture (made up of Jacklin and pals Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan Brennan) here present a self-titled debut album that comes close to garage-rock perfection. Born one late night in the in the basement of Frankie’s Pizza, a fairy-lit Sydney dive bar, Phantastic Ferniture are a far cry from Jacklin’s solo creative output, known for its melancholic alt-country musicality. Instead, songs like ‘Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin’, the album’s lead track, combine towering and silky vocals with hard-to-shake bass lines and twinkling and summery guitar hooks. Of course, the album isn’t without moments of darkness. The entirety of ‘Phantastic Ferniture’, in equal measures brooding and care-free, wouldn’t be out of place sound-tracking some quirky Ellen Page movie brimming with gloom and witty one-liners. As likely to make you dance as shed a tear while you do so, this debut is full of Jacklin’s pain-pricked cutto-the-quick flair, here somewhat intoxicated by the upbeat instrumentalism of bandmates Hughes and Brennan. “You said I gotta go, my love / I will never know who I am if I stay here laying beside you / Even if that is what I wanna do / I gotta get on, yeah,” sings Jacklin infectiously on ‘Gap Year’, straying, thankfully, never far from her existential crisis happy place. 9/10 Rosie Ramsden

SOPHIE — Oil of Every Pearls Un-Insides (transgressive) Since the release of ‘Bipp’ in 2013, we’ve seen SOPHIE transform from an anonymous beatmaker to PC Music figurehead, to cult hero, to in-demand mainstream producer. Her brash approach to pop has made her a go-to collaborator for artists like CharliXCX, Vince Staples and Madonna, but the emotional power of her work – in its exploration of identity, Internet existence and

gender – has always gone understated. With her debut album, she transforms again, into a tangible human being. Previous SOPHIE tracks playfully masked the artist’s true emotions with cold, metallic beatwork, and an even colder approach to irony. The sleek, hyperreal pop bangers that she became known for are certainly present here, but clever sequencing and memorable lyrical mantras form together to create something utterly cathartic. She opens with ‘It’s Okay to Cry’, a disarming piece of balladry that twists her typical uncanny-valley emulation of emotions into something with genuine warmth. When the plastic synths and gunshot toms enter at the climax, the album’s themes of acceptance, connection and transformation come into place. And then she pivots into some of the most gloriously silly tracks in her repertoire. Early single ‘Ponyboy’ is a snarling BDSM anthem that reduces sex music to its darkest edges. It’s weighty and exciting, despite being made of little but a chugging rhythm and warped vocals. SOPHIE has always incorporated sinister interpretations of sex into her music, but going from such a gentle opener to this only emphasises the forcefulness. ‘Faceshopping’ is even stronger. Its dissection of body image and virtual identities is downright poetic, without sucking any of the fun out of its ridiculous beat. From here, SOPHIE moves us into unknown territory. It was a clever move to open with singles her eager fans will have already fallen for; now, she experiments with weightless ambient-inspired pieces. ‘It’s Cold in the Water’ is a stunning synth overture, carried by a wilted falsetto. ‘Infatuation’ is an eerie RnB song with its heart ripped out. ‘Not Okay’ continues with a caustic, disintegrated house cut that feels more fit for a breakdown than a dancefloor. And ‘Pretending’, the most depressive of this section, wanders through bleak, blossoming textures that are ambiguous and alien. These pieces combine to form a personal journey that once again uses that clever distancing to an artistic advantage, culminating in ‘Immaterial’, as bubblegum as anything SOPHIE has produced. The nine-minute

closer ‘Whole New World/Pretend World’ is where SOPHIE underlines her intention to dominate, with production flex after production flex. 8/10 Stephen Butchard

Kacey Johansing — The Hiding (night bloom) Kacey Johansing’s third album is the first to be released on her own label and, more tellingly, also the first since her abrupt falling-out with long-standing musical soulmate Emily Ritz, with whom she founded cult two-piece folk act Yesway. Given her recent musical conflict, then, it’s perhaps appropriate that so much of ‘The Hiding’ channels those model exponents of interband strife, Fleetwood Mac: ‘Hold Steady’ is the sort of dreamy, melancholic and wonderfully concise song full of glistening guitars and haunting refrains that should soundtrack Big Sur sunsets, ‘In Too Deep’ carries itself with the poise and bruised dignity of Stevie Nicks’ at her most wronged, shimmering washes of synth gliding over Johansing’s sweet, songbird delivery, and regretful opener ‘Bow And Arrow’’s brooding cello line and serpentine melodies create something rich, round and rueful. The album’s second half veers slightly from the ’70s West Coast heartache blueprint – the rhythmic push and pull of ‘Power Of Love’ adds a little jazz quiver, and ‘Old Feeling, Old Foe’, with tangy vocal harmonies and pedal steel guitar, goes full-on country, which, while pleasant enough, is a little stylistically jarring within the established context. This dabble is by no means fatal though: the lush, synth-flecked and depthless ‘Evergreen’ returns to home soil and brings down the curtain pleasingly ambiguously, imbuing the record with the heady scent of wistful, dusky yearning that almost dares the listener to long for heartbreak themselves. 8/10 Sam Walton



Primavera Sound Parc del Fòrum, Barcelona 30 May – 3 June 2018

Primavera Sound is all about the hard choices and the tough calls. Each year, as the festival takes over the Parc del Fòrum, there’s one thing guaranteed: you’re not going to see everything. It’s a big site these days – 30 minutes between the big stages on the west side and the beach bars playing dance music on the east. Instead of catching five minutes of this, two songs of that, we picked four lanes to try and convey the sheer diversity and magnitude of a festival that packs 250-odd performances into three nights on the coast. That may not cover all of it. But, then, there’s always next year. Live dance music At its heart, the main draw of Primavera Sound remains the global megastars that top its promo poster, wedged into the twin-staged jumbo car park at the end of the Parc del Fòrum each day. But with every passing year, the organisers seem intent on broadening the electronic offering, meaning that, particularly with the extension of the site into the beachside ‘Bits’ area, it’s now perfectly possible to spend the entire festival watching back-


to-back performances by slightly nerdy types hunched over either a laptop or something resembling a 1950s telephone exchange, with nary an Arctic Monkey within earshot. The first opportunity arrives at dusk on Thursday evening. As Björk is pushing boundaries on the main stage, James Holden & The Animal Spirits bring their pagan-jazz/post-techno sprawl to a fittingly bucolic beachside clearing for an hour of smouldering, fluttering and occasionally erupting workouts that fit the combination of sea breeze and Mediterranean twilight. Later in the evening, Floating Points’ solo show draws an enormous crowd but only occasionally dazzles: his glitchy reimaginings of ’90s garage are perfectly serviceable midnight-dancing fare, but stripped of the usual expanded universe of his live band – all proggy synth swooshes, cosmic choir and melancholic sax – his keyboard noodlings feel a little thin. Thankfully, Four Tet fares much better: his set on the site’s central amphitheatre stage at 3am, illuminated only by a full moon and that guy who comes to every festival with his glowstick jumpsuit, opens with ambient washes and builds through minimal techno into hardcore rave samples. A 90-minute masterclass in build and release. Then it’s Ross From Friends who ushers in sunrise with an insistent

cosmic disco thud but not that much more: valiant stabs at ‘Discovery’-era Daft Punk, all vocoders and yacht-rock samples, briefly lift a crowd appreciative for any pulse-based nourishment at this hour, but they’re looking to save themselves for the heavy nights to come. On Friday night, Arca’s attentiondeficit performance art, although nominally live electronica, resembles a bratty 5-year-old performing a “show” in his bedroom as his parents and their friends nervously applaud: bizarre snatches of ’90s pop nestle alongside strip-show costume changes and blasts of inchoate noise, and the result is surely the most alienating thing Primavera will witness all weekend. The festival’s final evening improves considerably: Oneohtrix Point Never’s latest incarnation hits a midpoint between live band and electronica, offering something soothing for weary punters to lie on the grass to. Melding romantically fractured synth burbles redolent of Bon Iver with swells of drone that are equal parts emo and Eno, with projections that draw from cult kids show Knightmare, the effect is entrancing, original and genuinely strange. After him, Jon Hopkins presents his ever-expanding divebomb big-beat techno workouts to a crowd eager to wring one more drop out of the weekend’s electronic offering. He obliges with a set that’s as predictable as it is utterly enjoyable, and one that’s difficult to begrudge given the amount of glee induced. Sam Walton Music by older people Primavera festival has now been going since 2001, which means that over the course of nearly two decades some artists have played the festival multiple times and, naturally, gotten a little older along the way. This year there was a healthy number of returning – or aging – groups – let’s call them The Old Guard. Nick Cave may be 60 now but he prowls, stalks and terrorises the stage with a menacing and youthful pace. His group, the Bad Seeds, provide the accompanying thunder – or gentle wind when needed – for an ostenphotography by santiago felipe

Live sible greatest hits set. There’s no Kylie Minogue, sadly (who turned up a few days later at their London show for a duet on ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’), but punishing takes of ‘Loverman’ (played for the first time in decades) and ‘From Her to Eternity’, along with the stark beauty of ‘Girl in Amber’ and ‘Distant Sky’, are enough for them to secure a truly triumphant return. Their recent arena run has given them a potent and ferocious presence on such huge stages and they continue to end the shows by inviting masses of the audience up there, including an elderly Spanish lady that is so overcome with emotion that Cave takes her into his arms for a truly touching closing moment to the set. Mogwai are a staple fixture at the festival (they played a secret set here in 2017) but their new stand-in drummer, Cat Myers, has given the band something of a lift and they feel re-energised in their output off the back of ‘Every Country’s Sun’. They are ribcage-shakingly loud and the whole festival site jumps like they’ve just stuck a wet finger inside a plug socket when the mighty crunch of ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ breaks in again. The Breeders play a set that is as breezily and seamlessly melodic as it is skewwhiff and noisy. There are bum notes galore and screeching guitars that thrash against the warm glow of the sun but it’s all part

photography by eric pamies

of the charm. Kim Deal’s beaming smile throughout is joyous to behold and their take on Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’, and their own ‘Cannonball’, are rousing moments. Peter Perret plays a woozy earlyevening set in the sun, his gruff, slightly monotone voice providing a steady, chugging rhythm through new tracks such as ‘How The West Was Won’ before ending on a nostalgia rush by playing The Only Ones’ ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. For a guy that barely left the house for a decade it’s just nice that he’s here. Deerhunter, meanwhile, have never hidden how much they love Primavera, not only by playing almost every year but also because frontman Bradford Cox constantly sings its praises from the stage. Their early morning set is a solid but not spectacular one – with little new material on offer it feels a bit like the same set they’ve been knocking out for a few years now. That said, when they catch the groove on songs such as ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ and ride it out, being in their company feels like a locked-in pleasure loop. Pass by the merch stand and there’s a festival tee printed with the message: “Shellac and 249 other bands”. On the final evening Steve Albini and co. set up their gear 10 metres into the site, literally as punters pass through the gates. The loudest and most appropriate welcome party Primavera has ever witnessed. Daniel Dylan Wray

The big shows Remember when Noel Gallagher aged himself by about four centuries when he begrudged the booking of Jay-Z at Glastonbury in 2008? Honestly, there are some people who feel that way about Primavera when they see Lorde or Chvrches appear on the bill. Same goes for Arctic Monkeys. Like booking those kind of artists is somehow offending the purity of the thing. Can’t all be Catalan math-rock though, can it? With the big names, people expect big pizzazz. On the opening night that’s Björk, whose stage looks like it’s been visited by the Ground Force crew and comes off like an eyebrow-raising lunchtime spent at the Rainforest Cafe. It features giant fairy-lit lotus flowers surrounding a six-foot high revolving vagina and some 3D rendering of the singer as a hybrid biosynthetic android queen. Unbelievably, The National brought the same gear the following night. No really – just a few standard horizontal video screens. Ordinarily they’re a band that rely heavily on Matt Berninger’s desire to ratchet up the intensity (when he slams his mic stand into the stage the crowd roars) but he’s simply not on his usual smouldering form tonight with prize-winning patter like: “This is a great festival, they’re not all this great”. Arctic Monkeys, playing their first festival headline show since releasing that album that you either can’t stand or love, then bring a big light-up sign with them that says ‘Monkeys’, which automatically says, well, their name, and that they’ve got cash to spunk. At least these days they make an effort. Alex Turner wears a safari suit and even Matt Helders has a collar on. And since we’re all staying at the very classy ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino’ now the show is more about mood lighting than something more ordinary like bombastic entertainment. Still, it’s different to how you’ve seen Arctic Monkeys before and leaves people deconstructing the set like it was an eight part convoluted opera, so that’s got to be a good thing. By the final night there still hasn’t been any fireworks, glitter cannons or


Live flamethrowers. Lorde will surely fix this as the ‘pop star’ of the lineup. There are some dancers, which is encouraging, but no transparent box like there was at Glastonbury 2017 (boo). The stage dressing floundering, Lorde does at least bring a lot of the tropes of a big ‘pop show’, although not all of it welcome, like the scripted in between song encouragements where you substitute the <place> into the “you look so beautiful tonight”. It’s a performance that falls somewhere between the gaps. It’s neither far reaching in its scope (Bjork) nor totally stripped down. There’s backing tracks and overdubs and slightly awkward dance routines and video screens that don’t really get maximised. Until halfway, that is, when Lorde grabs it by the neck and wrestles the final 30 minutes into a party. It ends with ‘Green Light’ and finally some fucking glitter gets shot into the air. You don’t get that at a 2am Dead Cross set, do you? Greg Cochrane Rap Right now, it’s a pretty interesting time for hip-hop. The genre has always held up a mirror to society and has often given a voice to people who would otherwise go unheard. But it all seems to be in a state of transition at the moment, with

artists exploring areas and themes that rap hasn’t necessarily touched on before, while some of the old tropes and traditions are starting to come under scrutiny. Lyrics aside, even the music itself seems to be pulling in different directions, with offshoots like grime continuing to glean inspiration from the club while American derivatives like trap seem to have moved more towards the bedroom. If you focussed purely the rap that was on offer at this year’s Primavera then you’d see all these contradictions laid bare. There were acts who covered new ground, acts that clearly dug in on the old ground and a few acts who clearly didn’t know where they were. And Migos, who missed their plane and just didn’t turn up. For the pure curveball factor alone, the highlight of the weekend was Tyler, The Creator who played the vast SEAT stage on the Friday night. Rather than a headline set, though, his performance felt more like peeking through the curtains into his bedroom. Tyler paced the stage like a frustrated teenager while the words ‘FUCKING LONELY’ flashed behind him like a cry of frustration. It was a show that masterfully replaced ‘Goblin’’s reputation for arrogance and homophobia with the warmer, more vulnerable sounding tones of his ‘Flower Boy’ universe. Similar to how Nirvana took rock into more insular and personal spaces, Tyler appears to be

taking rap to more meditative places. The fact he’s still barred from the UK meant it was a particularly special show for the British contingent in Barcelona. The rest of the line up mostly delivered what hip hop is best at – excellent party tunes. The Thursday night saw Vince Staples deliver a set of boundless energy (until it ended prematurely in a bit of a paddy due to a sound problem), while the Friday night was Mike D’s, who ran through some of the choicest cuts from his Beastie Boys back-catalogue. He mixed things up by also performing every other old-school banger, which managed to transport the Bacardi stage back through time to a 1980’s NYC block party. The festival closed with ASAP Rocky turning in a muddled and deeply problematic set to an admittedly buzzed crowd. There was bombast and charisma, but it was also maddeningly self-indulgent and full of corny gunshots for no apparent reason – a proving ground for his latest album ‘Testing’ rather than a fully-formed show. Luckily, Primavera had secretly shipped over Skepta to round off the festival in the style it deserved. Dropping banger after banger from ‘It’s Not Me’ to ‘Konnichiwa’’s big album tracks, you’ve seen it all before but late on at a festival like this, it’s what you need before your 7am flight home. Dominic Haley

A bit on bits A couple of years ago Primavera pushed its site out to the neighbouring beach and plopped a lot of its dance music there. It really worked. Rechristened ‘Bits’ for 2018, this lush corner of the festival (there’s grass over there) now opens from midday and this year featured 6-hour day sets from Four Tet and Floating Points on a new stage on the sand. It turns out that the best way to warm up for 6pm Pitchfork indie bands is by dipping into a Club Med that includes old school jungle on the soundsystem.


photography by sergio albert

Live The The The Troxy, London 7 June 2018

Matt Johnson dedicates the evening, like the five before it, to his father, who died as The The were on their way to the Stockholm leg of this ‘Comeback Special’. Grief has stalked Johnson’s movements in and out of prominence (his two lost brothers also get tributes later in the set and the band are in their first fit of real activity for the best part of twenty years), so the night begins with everyone’s hearts in their mouths, a heavy sense of fate and collective goodwill inking the ambience.   In his homely, off-peak-Radio-2 burr, he slips in that they’re “an old school band”, with no in-ear monitors, samplers or sequencers. This lends their grainytextured piano funk,  oddball theatrics and stretched-out rhythmic adventures an immediate, real-time body heat, as ‘Global Eyes’, ‘Sweet Bird of Truth’ and ‘Heartland’ – Death-to-America pop tunes from the halcyon ’80s and ’90s – come early and set the mood. By an obscure musician-logic, it also means shut up at the bar during the songs, please. Grinning and rubbing their noses with glee, the crowd of mainly 45-to-60year-olds will do their best.    This third London date was added after the band had filled Brixton Academy and the Royal Albert Hall, and it starts to feel predestined ( Johnson grew up near this East End landmark, his uncle owned a pub opposite) and the set crescendos through Record Store Day offering ‘We Can’t Stop What’s Coming’, material from ‘Infected’ and ‘Soul Mining’, and his solo debut, ‘Burning Blue Soul’.  Those early records, on which neurotic post-punk turns to jubilant art funk, still sound the strongest. The supremely off-kilter mix of industrial sounds, ‘world music’ drum patterns, harmonica lines and forthright politics, all brought under the rubric of a big, accessible pop song, has extended their lifespan. And, as the beautiful, ludicrous cocktail bar piano solo (originally played by Jools Holland) drops in ‘Uncertain photography by lewis evans

Smile’, the round, greying, stubbled crowd explode into aorta-defying spasms of joy, three decades temporarily evaporated. Edgar Smith Thom Yorke Palace Theatre, Manchester 10 June 2018

“I’m going to do this song by the band that I’m in, Radiohead.” Thom Yorke returns to the stage of Manchester’s Palace Theatre. This is his second of two encores and the first point at which he’s nodded towards his day job. He plays ‘Spectre’, the Bond theme that he and his bandmates were asked to compose for the film of the same name a few years ago; it was inexplicably passed over in favour of that baffling Sam Smith track that didn’t appear to have anything to do with international espionage. It sounds facetious, the way he talks about the group he fronts as if nobody knows who he is, but in fairness, nobody here has turned up expecting ‘Thom Yorke plays the hits of Radiohead’. They all know full well that there’s no such thing as ‘Radiohead play the hits of Radiohead’. What tonight’s show does is put to rest the idea that Yorke’s solo career is some awkward distraction from his band. It is another thing entirely and an entity

in its own right. The closest the two got to overlapping was ‘The King of Limbs’ back in 2011, but there’s no acknowledgment of that tonight either; instead, we get choice cuts from both ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ and his debut under his own name, ‘The Eraser’. He’s backed by a bass player and a jack-of-all-trades Nigel Godrich who flits between two formidable-looking synth rigs. Yorke gets involved himself intermittently, but for the most part is front-and-centre, instrumentless, less singing than yowling as he jerks back and forth, the ‘Lotus Flower’ video come to life. He litters the set with unreleased material too, and you wonder whether it’s better that way; is he going to be able to make the likes of ‘Not the News’ and ‘I Am a Very Rude Person’ sound as enormous as this on record? The set waxes and wanes with the same sort of seamlessness as a DJ set might, with swirling visuals on LED screens providing the visual backdrop, and songs like ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Clock’ sound as if they were conceived alongside his more recent work, rather than years before. You leave convinced that Yorke could have reinvented a few older Radiohead tracks the same way; he has a weird mastery of his own work that makes it pliable, and allows him to bend it to his will. Few musicians could sell out a theatre to play a show that feels like live impressionism in action. Joe Goggins


Film and Books

The Happy Prince (maze pictures) Rupert Everett has obsessed over his directorial debut for more than a decade. It’s a project that’s loaded for him: a biopic of a man he shares a certain affinity with (Oscar Wilde), in which he – a gay man whose sexuality has stalled his movie career as it’s surpassed him as an actor – plays the lead role. Everett also wrote The Happy Prince, sourced its funding and doggedly held Colin Firth to his word in

playing the small role of friend Reggie Turner. This is resolutely Everett’s project – a miracle that it even exists and even more surprising that it’s this good. Needless to say, it’s not without its potholes, at the hand of Everett, of course, as are its triumphs. The direction, for example, features all the good/bad charm of a rookie feeling it out. Sometimes it works and sometimes you notice another reverse shot through an opening door or a dodgy transition, like Wilde’s reaching arm fading into the silhouette of a statue. Everett as Wilde also takes a little getting used to. In part due to the great wit’s gregarious arrogance, no doubt, learning to ignore Everett’s ‘performance’ as Wilde is made more difficult by the prosthetics, which, for a time, add an air of Mrs Doubtfire to the tortured preceding. Once you shake that feeling, though, Everett conveys the sympathy and desperation of Wilde without completely losing

sight of his selfishness. Much of that is down to his writing (the role he excels in) and Everett has clearly studied Wilde extensively in order to match his tone. In some ways you imagine that writing in the voice of Oscar Wilde is both the easiest and hardest thing in the world. But what The Happy Prince does best lies in Everett’s simplest decision – to not make another rise-and-fall of Oscar Wilde, but to make a post-fall movie; one that guns for Wilde in exile, having been sentenced to two year’s hard labour for homosexuality. We think of Wilde the flaneur in the France where he died, not of the man who’d lost everything; penniless, conflicted, still tormented by his villainous lover Bosie (fittingly played like a snake by Colin Morgan) and harangued by people who recognised him. Maybe now Hollywood will stop seeing Everett simply as Julia Roberts’ gay mate in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Stuart Stubbs

Pessimism is for Lightweights — Salena Godden (rough trade) These days, Salena Godden’s poems are mounted within stone arches outside of world-renowned art galleries. Given the strength of Pessimism is for Lightweights, a wonderful collection of thirteen recent pieces of poetry and prose engaging with themes of courage, resistance and, ultimately, hope, you can see why. Godden’s politics are far more overt within the book than they have ever been before and the pieces contained are rooted in a far more viscerally recognisable world, with very real problems. The result is a collection that is confident, poised and occasionally fucking furious. Lee Bullman

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up — Claire Wilcox & Circe Henestrosa (V&A) Frida Kahlo is justifiably celebrated for her bravery and the unflinching nature of the art she produced during her short life, where beauty met pain and made it impossible to look away. Making Her Self Up, published to coincide with the Victoria and Albert’s current Kahlo exhibition, looks beyond the canvas to investigate more than 200 personal items owned and used by the artist, from lipstick and nail varnish to ancient pre-Columbian jewellery and medical corsetry. As a book, it sheds welcome light onto this beguiling, remarkable and hugely influential artist. Lee Bullman

Bob Dylan: The Day I Was There — Author (the day in music) Very few artists inspire the kind of devotion that comes naturally to Bob Dylan’s more dedicated fans and followers. In The Day I Was There, Neil Cossar has collected together stories from more than 300 fans, musicians, friends and colleagues who witnessed Dylan’s career from the days when he was plain old Robert Zimmerman to the end of the ’70s, when everybody knew who he was. Illustrated by a series of ticket stubs, photos, set lists and newspaper articles, The Day I Was There offers fascinating insight not only into the young Dylan, but also the music industry he came up in. Lee Bullman




Midnight chats Available via all podcast apps and at

Interview Driving around town talking about clubbing and VR, by Stuart Stubbs Photography by Phil Sharp

Gabe Gurnsey 46

Interview Gabe Gurnsey is a night time guy. He has been since before he formed Factory Floor in 2005 and started playing post-industrial techno at 3am. Gabe grew up in West Yorkshire and Wales, where his older brother introduced him not just to club music but – importantly – to driving to the club. Whether it’s going to Fabric to see Four Tet or driving to your local Liquid to hear chart hits on shuffle, the journey to a club is a unique and unmistakable part of a night out. Sometimes it’s the best part. It’s not just clubbing, of course – driving through dark, deserted streets with music on is a sensory experience whatever you’re listening to and wherever you’re going. It’s what made the Drive soundtrack such a hit, and how everything on Magic FM can suddenly seem so wise and beautiful. It’s probably something to do with the solitude and blackness and freedom of an empty street. We’d all like to live in a film sometimes, and listening to music as you drive around at night is a pretty good shortcut to that feeling. It sounds corny but it’s true. For Gabe and his brother it was always a club, and when he talks about feeling “untouchable” in the passenger seat of a car on his way to a night out, it’s a feeling that many of us can relate to. When you’re driving to a club, it’s not solitary and contemplative – it’s communal and exciting and dangerous. It’s this feeling that Gabe explores on his debut solo album, ‘Physical’, released this month via Erol Alkan’s Phantasy Sound label. ‘Physical’ is decidedly warmer sounding than Factory Floor, exploring the celebratory corners of dance music, from Chicago house to Balearic pop. It’s fitting that parts of it sound like music from the Hacienda, considering Gabe now lives in Manchester following time spent in Los Angeles. He’s reluctant to call ‘Physical’ a concept record but in a way it is, sequenced to recreate a night out, from getting ready to arriving at the club, getting on it, finding your way home and navigating the early morning the following day. There’s even one track (‘Version’) that simulates the moment you pause for a fag on the smoker’s terrace. Key to this “record about clubbing, even more than it is a record to be played in clubs,” is the driving. And so I thought it would make the most sense to talk to Gabe about ‘Physical’ as we drove around town at midnight. Serendipitously, our photoshoot took place next to where Factory Floor’s studio once was, before the building was marked for demolition in 2014. It was finally pulled down just a couple of weeks ago, and is where our drive began, in Seven Sisters, North London, heading south through the centre of town. Gabe: So our studio was right here. There used to be an arch just there. That’s where we did the first Factory Floor record. I managed to get hold of Dave Stewart’s original mixing desk on eBay from this guy in Portsmouth. I remember hiking it up the stairs in that studio. It was insane – it took us half a day. I sold it back on eBay. I think Stewart has actually done ‘Sweet Dreams’ on it… Now I’m talking about it I’m really regretting selling it. I miss this area though – it’s got an edge to it. Stuart: When was it that you moved to Manchester?

G: I moved up there two years ago, via L.A. I went to Manchester first, then to L.A. for a bit and I quickly came back to Manchester. It was quite a contrast. I love both places, but I really missed the drive and music of here. S: Are they low on drive in L.A., then? G: I think it’s because it’s so… wide. You can’t just jump on a tube and be at your mate’s studio or rehearsal room. Everything’s so far away. I was living in Long Beach, which is a good 45 minutes out of Hollywood. I was there for half a year. Does that even count as living there, or is that a long holiday? Let’s say it was an extended holiday. Factory Floor had been playing shows out there, so I met some people then and stayed with them. But I just wanted that drive of the UK. L.A. wasn’t pushing me enough in terms of ideas and inspiration. S: Because it’s too nice? G: Yeah, it was, definitely. I totally fucking love it there, but it was too nice to be working. I missed the grittiness of here, and I miss London when I’m back here. But I was thinking if I want to leave Manchester, because I seem to be moving further and further out into the countryside, but I’d miss the sound of cars. I need that white noise of the motorway. S: Do you think that affects your music? Because when people talk about Factory Floor they always talk about the industrial. G: Yeah, I think it’s just in me. I like the uncertainty of cities. You can be quite allusive in a city. Even now, we haven’t got a fucking clue where we’re going – we’re just driving around, and I like that. You can always discover new things… Maybe I’m just scared of silence. S: Do you drive, yourself? G: I don’t, no. I’ve always had my brother for that. He’s a big influence on the record, especially the later tracks – ‘Night Track’ and ‘The Last Channel’; I wanted to write tracks that remind me of those times of him driving me around at night. Wherever we were living at the time, he’d always decide to go to some club at one in the morning. There’s never been anything pre-planned about it. I always liked that impulsive thing about him. He still does it now – driving about with tunes on the stereo. It was always such an exciting feeling – that anticipation of heading out. S: Do you remember the first time you went into a club and what that club was? G: It was probably a really shit club in Wales. There were some in France that we went to when we were on holiday, as well. The


Interview Purple Parakeet. And there was one called La Dolce Vita – it was big hut where everyone in that rural town went on a Friday and Saturday, where they wanted to punch you in the face. S: For me, it was a club called Adlib, in Southend. G: Is it still there?

S: I’ve still got a massive problem with Alexa and the Amazon Echo. It’s the fact that you have to call it ‘Alexa’ and that we’re being encouraged to become friends with our speakers that I can’t stand. I can’t fucking stand it. But I think the key to the record is that it’s relatable and that it’s not VR or futuristic. G: Yeah, I do. Which is in something like the new single ‘Eyes Over’, which is the idea of going to a club to pull.

S: It’s changed its name to Chameleon now. S: How have you found working alone? G: That’s fitting. S: It was shit, but I’ll never forget that feeling of getting in for the first time. At that point, it really is irrelevant what’s being played. G: I’d quite happily try any club. Obviously it’s good to have a really good DJ, but I like those regional club vibes. They’re really quite odd, but everyone is there for complete escapism. Or a fight… I’ve been to a couple in Macclesfield recently. There’s one called Fever Boutique – it’s fucking insane. But I love it. If you want a sense of a town, in some way, you go to their club on a Saturday. S: It all ties into that thing you’ve said about feeling untouchable in the passenger seat of a car as you drive to a club. G: And I still get that feeling. There’s that anticipation and a bit of anxiety about not quite knowing what’s going to happen. It’s really exciting.

We drive down Regent’s Street to Piccadilly Circus, around Trafalgar Square and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace. S: When you sat down to make ‘Physical’ was it driving that you put at the heart of the record? G: There were two paths of it going on. It’s the arc of a night out, from start to finish. The intensity builds around that, and there are some interim tracks where I was imagining stepping out of the club for a cigarette. That cemented later on, but originally I wanted this idea of a drug state and a virtual reality state running side by side. I’ve tried to explain this to somebody before and they’ve been like… ‘Yeah, alright.’ But what I mean is this escapism. I was imagining the tracks being different rooms within a virtual reality building. So it’s almost a virtual reality club with different room that you’d step through… this could go off on a really fucking ridiculous tangent. Weirdly, I think the album ended up sounding like reality. It’s ended up sounding like a night out to a regional club.

G: I’ve really enjoyed it. There were a lot of ideas I had floating around at the beginning of development, and it was nice being able to try whatever the fuck I want. It might end up shit, and you delete it, but at least you’re trying it. In Factory Floor there is an element of freedom, of course, but to have it my vision and progression, I had a lot of fun with it. S: And you were comfortable with your own judgment of your work? G: For me, that was Erol’s role. Towards the end of writing 30 tracks, or whatever, I had Erol around to help me develop them. He was that person and I completely trusted him because he totally got what I was trying to do with it. S: Did you know him before? G: I didn’t know him then, but I went to Trash quite a bit. My brother was around quite a lot then. We used to come up into the West End every single night and go to whatever club was on. Trash was obviously the best one, because Erol was pushing something different. But we used to get the bus from Fulham, where I was living above a butcher’s shop. I had a single room and my brother came to stay and he ended up staying for years. We’d get on this old Routemaster bus and come up to town with a bottle of vodka. It was great – such a buzz. But I first properly met Erol when I was doing a remix for Dan [Avery]. He invited me down to his studio and we got chatting, and I began thinking that I’d really like to do a record with Phantasy. It made a lot of sense to me. S: Did you try to explain the VR thing to him? G: [Laughs] I did, yeah. S: I imagine if there’s one guy who’s ok on VR metaphors it’s Erol Alkan.

S: Are you interested in VR, generally?

G: Yeah, I think you’re right. But his mixing is what took the record to another level.

G: I am, yeah. I need to properly look into it but I am interested in what it can be used for. Are you?

We work our way out of Chelsea, hit the river and cross Albert Bridge to loop back north via Battersea, Vauxhall and



Waterloo. Even at 1am we see a black cab driver shouting at a cyclist and then chasing them down, pulling over and running after them on foot.

S: “Alexa, play ‘Physical’ by Gabe Gurnsey.” “Did you say, ‘Play ‘Let’s Get Physical’ by Olivia Newton-John’?” “Fuck you, Alexa!” Have you thought about playing it out yet and how you might do that?

S: Have you ever been a South London guy? G: No, I haven’t. It’s definitely a different vibe down here. The really nice thing about this side of the river is the architecture – Battersea Power Station and the Tate Modern. But for me that’s the edge of going out of town – that’s as far as I go.

G: Definitely. I’m going to get someone else in to do the electronic and I think I’m going to get back onto the drums. I think I better start fucking working out because I haven’t drummed for ages. S: Nice. Is it live drums on the album, then?

S: Do you envisage that people will listen to ‘Physical’ in their cars? G: Yeah, I think I do. They are tunes that suit being in a car. But I’m also working on extended version of the tracks, which are more club orientated, because for the record I wanted them to be shorter and more instantaneous. In many ways I wanted to condense it down because I wouldn’t have done that in the past. So I think it works on headphones at home as well. Or on a train journey. I mean, I don’t know – how the fuck do people listen to music nowadays? Alexa! It’s a good record for Alexa.

G: Yeah, there’s a lot of live drums on there. There’s a lot of electronics too, because that’s what I love doing. Talking of AI, actually, and Alexa, all the female vocals on there, I had this way of presenting it via another person on stage, but there isn’t another person on stage. So basically, if you imagine Alexa with a face… S: Are you winding me up? G: No. I’m working on it now.



Crack Cloud

A Canadian collective find recovery in dancing post-punk, by Liam Konemann Photography by Matilda Hill-Jenkins 50

Interview Calgary collective Crack Cloud are a many-headed beast. In their present incarnation there are seven of them, playing various strains of guitars, percussion and synths, but you get the feeling that could change with the wind. They could just as soon be a three piece, or a full art-rock orchestra, or just one person on their own with a sample pad. “It’s very fluid, people come in and out,” notes singer and drummer Zach Choy. “These last few months have really been a means of finding where the collective stands, philosophically, and how to stabilise as a more permanent group of individuals who all resonate with what Crack Cloud is. But the seven of us have all been playing live together for a year now more or less. In and out.” The ‘in’ today consists of Zach, slight and shorn, in black sequined sliders, sample pad player and vocalist Mohammed Sharar, whose silver nail varnish glints as he talks with his hands, guitarist Jon and bass player Daniel, both of whom seem to have just come along to kill some time. Tonight is the band’s first ever show in London, so we’ve wandered away from the venue to give them a chance to look around and find something to eat. That also means the quietest place for our chat is a typically piss-stained alleyway tucked behind Islington Police Station – hardly an auspicious start, maybe, but they don’t mind settling down in the gutter. Crack Cloud’s self-titled debut LP is a reissue of their two bedroom EPs, ‘Crack Cloud’ and ‘Anchoring Point’, but it carries the self-assuredness of a band much further down the line. True to its name, ‘Anchoring Point’ in particular is the band finding their centre; a many layered art project that sees Zach hit his mark in danceable post-punk akin to Gang of Four and early Talking Heads. The two EPs were never meant to be a package deal but they were both born out of an emotionally tumultuous time for the band, and together they close the door on an era that Zach and the others are happy to have relegated to the past. “They definitely represent a chapter in our life that now we can all let go of,” says Zach. Guitarist Jon Varley, who up until this point has been quietly rolling a cigarette and nodding along, leans around him into the conversation. “It’s definitely a jumping off point stylistically too,” he points out. Then he ducks back again. Mohammed nods. “Yeah, and I feel like we never pictured the idea that the second release would fit in to this LP as a whole with the first EP, but it does have a connection and I think it flows well enough.” The chapter that the LP encompasses also includes a visual trilogy, made up of dark, surreal music videos for singles ‘Swish Swash’, ‘Image Craft’ and ‘Uncanny Valley’. Watching the black and white clips, it’s easy to get a sense of a mind – or minds – in turmoil, and a feeling of impending doom. The trilogy, Zach says, “was a document of our past five to ten years of struggling with our own mental health and our own addiction, and I feel like after we finished ‘Uncanny Valley’ it felt like the end of an era. We’ve been sober for a few years now so to push that out it felt kind of like cutting the umbilical cord, starting a

new chapter and moving forward. Thematically, now I feel like there’s so much more to tackle that’s outside of that realm of addiction and darkness.” Obviously, the visual trilogy and its themes come from a place of extreme vulnerability – something that Zach struggled with on the early Crack Cloud output. Now, having opened the floodgates, he doesn’t expect to go back into less emotionally raw writing any time soon. “When we wrote the first EP I was a lot more timid about being vulnerable and I would focus on macroscopic issues that you’ll find in a lot of post-punk,” he says. “‘Anchoring Point’ was definitely a more personal exploration into identity and I think in retrospect that’s where we wanted to be thematically from the very beginning, but it took that first EP to get to ‘Anchoring Point’, to get to that means of expression.” He pauses. “And the next one I think is just going to be deeper into that introspective state of what identity is and what history is and what kind of trajectory people are on and where you can go.” Crack Cloud seem to run up against questions of identity a lot these days. As they gain momentum and get a wider following, they’re finding out that parts of their story so easily get defined by other people. Take the suggestion that they draw their political ethos from the likes of Malcolm X and Lydia Lunch, for example. “The interview that we did that now exists in biography form was a very casual interview that we didn’t think would become the definitive biography,” says Zach. “It was a conversation that we had with someone in passing and it’s now archived all over the Internet. Malcolm X fascinates us because of his extremity and his conviction, and Lydia Lunch we’re attracted to for her obscurity and for her audacity. But there are so many thinkers, so many people, so many sights and smells and whatever that we are influenced by.” He shrugs. “I think, too, that why names like Malcolm X get brought up is because of the type of life and story arc that he has and in essence a life of retribution and giving back to people when he had a really difficult upbringing as well. Just the tragedy of it all, and knowing that everyone is capable of having a larger duty in life,” says Mohammed. “And I think we always felt like this project came out of the means of having nothing and trying to create life.” For certain members of the band, Crack Cloud functions as a vehicle for recovery. It has to be changeable and immersive, as the focus of the band shifts and expands with their new lives. The work (the recovery) is all consuming. “We’re building a universe where Crack Cloud exists as one of many entities,” Zach tells me. “I think it’s just going to become more and more uninhibited and ambitious. It’s going to be many mediums, and I think it’s going to be challenging for a lot of people to digest. Because some of the ideas are challenging even for us to get out.” “I think, though, that making this art is very healing,” adds Mohammed. Zach nods. “It’s our rehabilitation outlet. At the end of the day that’s what it is. It’s for us.”



Now that IDLES have your attention theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to tell you everything, by Greg Cochrane

Thank you for sharing Photography by Dan Kendall 52




Talk to anyone from this part of north Bristol and before

long they’ll tell you that Gloucester Road is – or used to be – the longest continuous row of independent shops in Europe. It’s a recycled point of local pride and certainly fits the bill; a seemingly endless parade of vegan eateries, craft beer bottle stores and hipster barbers. For all the turmeric lattes and Lebanese wraps on offer it still feels very genuine, very Bristolian. Some students are having a BBQ on a roof above a betting shop while drum ‘n’ bass bleeds out from a bedroom window. This neighbourhood isn’t where the members of IDLES are from, but it is where they first congregated and still consider “the heart of our group”. It’s a Wednesday lunchtime in early June, and the road it bustling – workers on their lunch breaks and pram-pushing young families blinking in the sunlight. Joe Talbot takes a seat at the back of a stylish cafe and orders a cortado. It takes a few minutes for him to settle, as he, I and our photographer Dan wait for his guitarist bandmate Mark Bowen to arrive from London where he still works as a dentist – sometimes in a practice, other times in prisons. IDLES’ frontman speaks with a husky voice in assertive bursts skipping between subjects. He tells me about his father (a sculptor artist), Love Island (he hates it) and how his sense of taste and smell has returned after he recently gave up alcohol. He’s pleased to receive a phone message inviting him onto a future edition of Steve Lamacq’s Radio 6 Music Roundtable. All this while he restlessly cleans his phone and his sunglasses with a napkin. “My OCD,” he says, as Bowen walks through the door. The band don’t live in this postcode anymore, but they still know a lot of people. The two friends haven’t left the cafe before they stop and talk to Geoff Barrow (BEAK>, Portishead, Invada Records). Out on the street it’s the same; old mates stop for a chat and to shake their hands. Walking away from the centre of town, our first stop, The Golden Lion, is a yellow-painted boozer with a few benches scattered out the front facing the busy main road. “Dev (Adam Devonshire, bassist) and I used to live down there,” says Joe, pointing down a street beside the building. “He used to work in the pub, and I used to drink in the pub. Every day for five years.” Go back almost a decade and that flat acted as a kind of preschool for IDLES. Originally, the two university pals, Dev and Joe, would set up a drum machine and a bass guitar amp. They’d get a bit pissed and Joe would bark into a light shade covering songs by TV On The Radio. A little later, says Joe, waving a finger at an upstairs window, they’d practice in one of the rooms above the pub. “This place is important,” he remarks, nodding towards a Sainsbury’s Local three doors up before gesturing down the hill. “We’d get two trolleys, stick a pound in each and take our gear down there.” By this time, they’d been joined by Bowen and drummer Jon Beavis (guitarist Lee Kiernan would come on board later). “Monday, Thursday, Sunday rehearsals. We did that for four or five years,” says Joe pausing outside the next landmark. Through a set of locked gates, down a garden path, a couple of

white “huts” are visible – inside these IDLES used to set up their gear. “It’d be baking in there on a day like this,” says Bowen. Eventually they left when the guy who rented the space lost it one day and inexplicably started calling them names like “Irish” and “Billy Bunting”. We walk on, to The Grace – a gastropub Joe worked in as a kitchen porter until a couple of years ago. “I’ve got OCD,” he says, “so washing up is a dream. I fucking loved it. I soaked up loads of info about how to make good food.” Not much further is the slightly grimier looking pub the Cat and Wheel. “It’s what Bristol culture is all about,” Joe smiles. “90-year-old alcoholics at the bar, and everyone in between. On Sunday they have karaoke. Vodka Redbull is a pound, I got a standing ovation for my version of ‘My Way’ once.” Soon we’re passing the scene of the 2011 Stokes Croft riot – a night of violence that followed a police raid on a squat housing opponents to the opening of a new Tesco Express. The authority’s actions were seen, by some, as overly heavy-handed, and resulted in bloody clashes with protesters. We stop in a cafe close to Fatty and Gareth’s studios, the final place IDLES would rehearse in this area alongside bands like Spectres and Giant Swan before exploring other rooms around the city. All this stuff goes back a while, as things have been a slowburn for IDLES. They released their ‘Welcome’ EP in 2012, which sounds very little like they do now – it sounds kind of like The National. Then they had a realisation, embraced their abrasive intuition, stopped imitating the bands they liked and channeled their own frustrations. The result was a second EP called ‘Meat’, followed by their debut album, ‘Brutalism’, which no label wanted. Eventually, tired of rejection, they put it out themselves at the beginning of 2017 – it went on to sell more than 10,000 copies. ‘Brutalism’ couldn’t have been more timely. On the surface it was a politicised punk record – 42 minutes of communal catharsis railing at classist snobbery (‘Well Done’), flimsy high culture (‘Stendhal Syndrome’) and the privatisation of public services (‘Divide & Conquer’) delivered via urgent licks and sarcastic one-liners. Beneath the irritable topsoil it was also a window into the band’s past – matters of family (‘Mother’), pain-numbing pharmaceuticals (‘Benzocaine’), mental health struggles (‘1049 Gotho’), hometown drudgery (‘Exeter’) and damaging addition (‘Slow Savage’). “No one believed in us,” says Joe, thinking back, sitting on a wall alongside Bowen. “But now it feels good. We know we’ve built this.” — Surviving Exeter — To understand where IDLES are going is to know where they’ve come from. The first time I met Joe Talbot was in April of this year. He was a guest on Sweet 16, a live podcast series Loud And Quiet was recording. It involved musicians revisiting their teenage memories, talking about their experiences and sharing some of the sounds they were into at the time – all conducted in



“I think that macismo-driven concept of rock ‘n’ roll will die, and I’ll gladly be part of that.”

front of a hundred or so audience members in east London. Within the first minutes of the interview Joe spoke about how at the age of 16 his mother had suffered a stroke. “I felt like I’d lost my mum at that point,” he began. “She didn’t die, but a major stroke can sometimes take a lot away from someone. She was, without sounding crude, a vegetable after her stroke. She didn’t recognise me, she lost her speech, she was paralysed down the right side. To a 16-year-old you’ve just lost your mum, and she was my best mate. It was very tough.” It set a tone for the evening – but not a morbid one. As heartbreaking as that event was, that night’s conversation unveiled into something that was unapologetically honest, startlingly confessional and ultimately – as unlikely as it sounds – joyous. It also helps that Joe has a sardonic wit, and great comic timing. Most of his childhood was spent in Exeter, Devon – the family had moved there after his mother took a job in the tax office. Born with a clubfoot, he had 11 operations at an early age. He was a “very fat kid” (which he loved) and went to school locally (which he also loved) and described himself as “romantic and optimistic”. Art and English were his favourite subjects, because of the enthusiasm of the teachers. At 12 he discovered cigarettes and fighting, and alcohol at 13, not in a dangerous way, just because that’s what you did in a city like that in the late nineties. “It was a safe place,” he said, even if “Exeter was a fishbowl full of torrid little bellends.” After studies he’d smoke three cigs on the bus, go home and watch movies. On his 16th birthday his mum took him for a drive in the car, where she told him for the first time that she’d been married before his father and that her first husband has been physically abusive. A couple of years after his mother’s stroke his step-father passed away. That left Joe, an only child, as her primary carer; a situation that continued up until a couple of years ago. In the mid-00s, university took Joe to Bristol where he “discovered all the naughty stuff ” and “nearly lost my mind”. Mixed with his bitterness, sadness, confusion, resentment and grief – a lot of it silently internalised – life understandably took him off the rails for much of his twenties. “I didn’t cope very well. I was a mess, and I was a bastard. A real bastard. But I had very


loyal friends… a few years later I came through it,” he admitted. The songs he brought to illustrate his 16th year for our Sweet 16 recording included So Solid Crew (‘21 Seconds’), The Strokes (‘Hard To Explain’) and, most poignantly, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding, a track that reminded him of his family, and one that he couldn’t listen to until recently without crying. We know all this because he shared it. He wanted to share it. Needed to share it. “As soon as you bottle things up it doesn’t go anywhere, it just goes on your back,” he said then. “The more you put on your back, the more there is to drop. When it does drop, it’s a big fucking weight.” After the recording, many of those in the room patiently queued up to speak with Joe. Some fans just wanted a selfie but most wanted to thank him for his openness and divulge their own difficult times. It has the feel of a group therapy session. “Our fans, I think they feel like they own us as a band, which is exactly what we want,” he says. “There’s a sense of responsibility that goes with that.” For an evening filled with traumatic detail, everyone left with a smile on their face. “This was why I was so keen to do it really, just to explore it,” Joe had said midway through. “I’ve been in counseling recently and I realised that from the age of 16 to 32 I felt very lonely but surrounded by very lovely human beings. I didn’t know why. It turns out, it’s because I wasn’t sharing.” — Joy as an act of resistance — It’s five days on from what the members of IDLES unanimously agree was their favourite gig they’ve ever played. They say they weren’t expecting many people to turn up when they stepped onstage at Primavera Sound, Barcelona, in the early hours of the previous Saturday morning because Tyler, The Creator and Ty Segall were clashing close by. But people did. A lot of people did. It was packed – from the lip of the stage right out to where the concrete turned to ocean. Frequent visitors to the festival in the past (“it’s like a badge of honour to be asked,” says Dev), they delivered the most urgent set of the weekend, somehow supercharged by the atmospheric backdrop of the Parc del Fòrum’s monolithic concrete architecture. Like all IDLES live



Interview shows it was wild – Bowen in hawaiian swim shorts galloping circuits of the stage, Lee crowd surfing to the sound desk and Joe summoning so much intensity veins sprang from his forehead. Today Joe and Bowen, sat in a cafe, recall it with a grin. “Best feeling in the world that gig,” Joe says. All of this goes a long way to explaining why ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ is such a resonant title for IDLES’ forthcoming second album. It’s not just six words that bind the 12 new songs on it together, but exists as an everyday maxim for the group. In their work, in their lives, at their shows. IDLES, as they reiterate at numerous points during the day, hold some fundamental governing principles close: they are human, they are vulnerable, they are open minded and hearted and their band is a platform to host uninhibited conversation and affect change. They don’t mythologise or glamourise the reality of being in a rock band. In fact, Joe Talbot says: “I think that macismo-driven concept of rock ‘n’ roll will die, and I’ll gladly be part of that.” But as it approaches anyone expecting ‘Brutalism Part II’ may be surprised. Joe says he’s already bracing himself for fewer positive reviews “because it’s not as cool, but it’s more honest. It’s better.” Work on the new material started also immediately after their debut was complete. At first the warm reception that LP received had them second-guessing their next move. “It went from, ‘why don’t people get it?’ to ‘oh, people get it, let’s ingratiate ourselves to sustain that,’” says Bowen, “but the songwriting suffered because there wasn’t belief or honesty”. Fortunately, they recognised it, rediscovered their naivety and found themselves unthinking what is was to be a band making a second album. Instead, they had fun. A bit like they did when they used to wheel their drum kit down the Gloucester Road in a shopping trolley. “This album is a great example of allowing vulnerability to take control,” notes Bowen. If ‘Brutalism’ was a tight knot of pent-up history unfurling in one fireball release, then ‘Joy…’ very much lives in the present. Musically, compared to their debut, there’s variation – the slower bits are slower, the faster bits are faster, everything is better placed but never overthought. There’s opening track ‘Colossus’ a gradual-build drone-rock number that disappears altogether for a few seconds before returning like a West Country slant on Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’. Lead single ‘Danny Nedelko’ is a catchy punk-rock celebration of immigration. Lyrically, the rest of the album travels into the places that have been on IDLES’ minds the past 18 months: that means the damage caused by traditional constructs of masculinity, the confused aftermath of Brexit and, of course, there’s a few jabs at the Tories (‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ features the hum-dinging line “A heathen / From Eton / On a bag of Michael Keaton”). But there’s also one human experience channeled into two tracks – ‘June’ and ‘Television’ – that appropriately sit in the heart of the album, and truly underline Joe’s commitment to openness. In June 2017 Joe and his partner’s daughter Agatha died – she was still-born. Understandably, they both continue to grieve and compute a tragedy that obliterated their world.

“That came as a real fucking barrage of pain,” Joe begins, when he brings up the subject. “With my mum, it was bearable no matter what because I knew she was dying and I had a long time to prepare for it. Obviously with my daughter dying in labour I had no time to prepare for it and my partner went through a lot more pain than I did. So I had to really step up and help her out.” I ask if there was any reluctance to include that pain publically in his work. “No,” he says without hesitation. “The whole reason I’m still here is because I was able to share my emotions. I want to use my situation to educate and help, because I was helped and educated by counselling. Sharing and offloading. It’s a really dangerous thing to feel like you’re a burden if you share your emotions. What our platform does is give people an example of ‘fuck, if I can talk about my daughter dying’ to hundreds of thousands of people then it’s ok to talk about dead children.’” He takes a sip of water. “It’s not embarrassing. It’s not a burden. It happens a lot. A lot of people miscarry without talking about it, and it’s shit. It’s not healthy. My daughter wasn’t a miscarriage, she died in labour. She was a baby that was alive and kicking and she died. But I’m saying beyond that… [this kind of thing] needs to be undirtied, unsullied, this is a regular occurrence.” ‘Television’ is written as a message to his daughter. The sentiment of the track is a simple life strategy: “Fuck perfect. Love yourself.” “If you don’t love yourself, you won’t give yourself the time to improve,” he explains. “You’ll go and get shitfaced or do drugs or turn to people that treat you like shit because that’s what you think you deserve. But if you give yourself the time to enjoy yourself you learn to love yourself – you look inward and you improve.” ‘June’, slower in pace and more harrowing in tone, features the repeated line: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s borrowed from a phrase often credited to Ernest Hemingway. Legend has it he was challenged in a bet to see if he could make a man cry in six words. The effect in the song is crushingly sad. Joe explains that he wrote the lyrics while he was in the shower two days after his daughter passed. “I was embarrassed because I felt that it was so naive and so indulgent, but that’s the whole point with the pressures of being a man – you feel like you’re being indulgent when actually you’re just expressing your feelings. I spoke to Bowen about it, he was like, ‘it’s important we put it on, that’s the whole point of this record.’” The cruel paradox was that this agonising human event occurred at a time when the band were achieving success like they’d never tasted before – a summer filled with festival bookings, an unlikely slot supporting Foo Fighters and an autumn tour. “I didn’t really keep it together,” says Joe. “I thought I was keeping it together. I had three weeks before we went on tour. Me and my partner just stayed at home and cried and talked and cried and talked. Our friends were amazing and helped us. Brought us food to the house. I went on tour, me and my partner had spoke about it, and we thought it would be alright – but then I turned to alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t alright. I thought I was ready, but now looking back I was nowhere near ready.



I shouldn’t have gone on that tour, because something much worse could have happened. I should have stayed at home and fixed with my girlfriend.” — Never fight a man with a perm — Later, Lee, Dev and Jon are sat on a grassy bank before having to go to work that evening (Lee works at a music college, Dev at a venue). I ask how they first reacted when Joe brought in such sensitive lyrics to the rehearsal space for the first time. “I laughed,” says Lee, although clearly not in a harsh way, but in reaction to the astonishing rawness of it. “It was just like ‘fucking hell mate!’ It’s a simple fact that we’re just all really good friends. No matter what happens we’re there for each other.” That loss doesn’t define the album, but it is one of the subjects that revolve around the master theme of vulnerability. Knowing their past and present experiences it makes sense that all the strands of IDLES feed into that. When Joe shouts from the stage, like he often does, about how he loves the NHS it’s because he and his family have benefited from its care. He’s compelled to write songs that skewer “bullshit” macismo behaviour (‘Colossos’, ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, ‘Samaritans’, ‘Cry To Me’) because without embracing his emotions he might not be here right now. “What it is to be a man needs to be crushed. A new way of being needs to come out of it,” he says. “There’s probably a horrendous amount of men who’ve killed themselves because of the phrase ‘man up’ or because of the phrase ‘don’t cry.’” He also just “fucking loves” immigrants (‘Danny Nedelko’), is just as exhausted by Brexit as everyone else but wants to move forward (‘Great’) and hates The Sun (‘Rottweiler’). On this new album he’s also written his first love song, called ‘Love Song’. “I’d never written a love song, which I thought was a bit of a shame. I love her so much. She’s hard work and I am hard work. Staying together through our illnesses, I think that’s something to celebrate.” So, there’s a lot of hurt in ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’. The type of strife that can destroy people. But ruling over that


is defiance. It’s an album that rejects a stiff upper lip attitude; an album that says weep if you need to weep, laugh when you want to laugh. Together IDLES are still working through some dark times, but their sustained promise is to be truthful with each other. And if they look like they’re having a ball on stage, or when they’re messing about in their tour van in their Instagram videos, or kissing each other in photos, it’s because they are. There’s a lot of joy. During a day where we talk about some weighty subjects there’s a lot of laughs. Lee tells a story about their show at the O2 Arena with Foo Fighters where he met drummer Taylor Hawkins. “Somehow we talked about how important a morning poo is – it was talking about poo for five minutes then he was off. That was my only interaction with him. I’ll remember it forever.” At one point, during a particularly serious section of our conversation, I leave the table to pay for some drinks. A week later I discover a secret message on my recorder: Bowen makes spooky ghost noises, before Joe puts on a menacing voice: “This is a secret message to you. If you write a bad word about us, we’re going to kill ya. We’ll come round your house and break your legs. Oops…. you’re coming back!” After our conversation in the cafe the band walk up a steep road nearby and pose for photos with the early evening Bristol skyline in the background. Joe’s partner arrives having finished work for the day at the local hospital where she’s a nurse and he puts a tender arm around her shoulders before everyone goes their separate ways. “What we didn’t want to do is be a happy-go-lucky band that doesn’t have any content,” he says before he leaves. “We want it to be a real force of change and violence but with joy as the engine instead of negative energy. We’re trying to change a narrative, to help people out with our art – ourselves included. This band is a selfish act as well as a selfless act. The whole point of this is that when you have a platform for art you can make a change. That’s what all good artists do, that’s how it works. It’ll be a lot more rewarding in the end, but we’ll probably look like Chris Martin while we’re doing it. But, you know what? Fuck ‘em.”










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Tell Me About It

Steve Albini

Seriously, he’s actually a really nice guy, by Dominic Haley Photography by Natasha Bright Clambering over the sea wall, suddenly the sound of barking breaks over the rhythmic crash of lapping waves. Turning to watch a lady chase her two dogs into the surf, Steve Albini breaks out into a broad grin. “I love dogs,” he sighs wistfully, “I don’t think any other animal would be up for just heading into the woods and getting lost. Dogs are basically up for everything a human is but can just get there that little bit quicker.” For a guy who’s notorious for being a hard case, this


morning Albini is on charming form. Then again, I suppose Barcelona beach is a bit of a home from home for the Chicago native these days. Having played every edition of Primavera Sound since 2008, the festival just wouldn’t feel the same without his band cropping up somewhere (this year Primavera’s merch stall are selling T-shirts with the design ‘Shellac and 249 more’ on them). As we navigate the boulders, our conversation flips to Bjork who played the main stage the night before.

Tell Me About It “If anything, she made me more of a fan,” he says as we dissect her headlining slot. “She doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks, and I really respect that.” Spend just ten minutes in his company and you’ll quickly see that the mythical version of Steve Albini and the real-life version of Steve Albini are about as far apart as you can get. As with all legends there’s a kernel of truth in there – he can be impressively outspoken and harshly blunt when he wants to be, but it comes more from the fact that the 55-year old cares passionately about music than him wanting to piss people off. In spite of his work with Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac, Albini is arguably most famous for being the guy in the control room for ‘In Utero’, ‘Surfer Rosa’, ‘Spiderland’ and countless other alt. rock classics. For the past 40 years he’s been a staunch advocate and moral defender of DIY music and he’s happy to turn his fire on anything he perceives as bullshit, from Sonic Youth selling out to bands glad-handing suits at SXSW, and even joining Evelyn Morris of Listen to give a feminist critique of his own work. Put simply, Albini doesn’t respect images, artifice or anything that feels like music industry crap, and while he’s usually super polite, he’s never been afraid to call it as he sees it. “I highly recommend having a garden” I’m pretty fond of the fact that I can make a meal for myself and my wife every night. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I love the fact that I can come home from the studio, walk through my garden and decide what I’m going to cook for the evening. At first, having a garden seemed like a daunting thing to do in an urban environment, but as soon as you have space for a little patch of land it’s well worth it. Any plain ordinary tomato you can grow in your garden is infinitely better than one you bought in a store. The best tomatoes I’ve ever had have been ones that have been grown in someone’s garden. Just don’t

fucking bother with beans. You need acres to grow a decent amount of beans. “Having a routine has made a huge difference to my quality of life” Trust me, it’s made a massive difference. When I lived and worked at the studio weeks would go by without me ever leaving, but now I have some semblance of a daily schedule and it’s done wonders for my state of mind. I tend to get there when I get there and leave when the work is done – but now, at least, there’s a cyclic aspect to my life that wasn’t there previously. “The culture of festivals was an ugly shit show…” When Shellac started in the early ’90s, it was also the peak frenzy of the exploitation of the underground music scene. Festivals just seemed tailor-made to exploit bands and fans. The prevailing attitude seemed to be ‘let’s get as many fucking idiots into a field, treat them like shit and best of all, they’ll see anything so we can put on any old bullshit and even do payola for the early spots.’ Consequently, we swore off festivals until we were asked to play All Tomorrow’s Parties by Mogwai. It was a completely different experience. Gone was the sheep-herding mentality – instead people enjoyed themselves in a normal way. It was orders of magnitude better than conventional festivals and pretty soon everyone else got the picture. Festivals like Primavera Sound treat people decently these days and have realised that if you care about the experience then people will keep coming back. You have to thank ATP for that. “ATP made festivals human again” A book could be written about how ATP set itself on fire, rebuilt itself and then set itself on fire again. I have no agenda towards them, but the way the company behaved in the last few years of its existence was inexcusable. All the good things the festi-


Tell Me About It val did in no way justifies the way it left a lot of people holding the bag, but for me, the negative effects of the fallout is slightly offset by the way that changed festival culture and created these amazing, unique experiences. I had the time of my life at some of those festivals, so it was a shame how it ended, but bravo for some pretty incredible experiences along the way. “Poker is probably the only the thing I do for money” It’s a necessary part of my income at this stage. It’s a game that exercises all parts of my brain and it’s one of the few things that I was doing years ago that I’m still doing and can imagine myself doing for the foreseeable future. The key to poker is managing risk. It’s one of the very few games where the pieces on the board are money. There’s a misconception that poker is a card game that involves money – it’s actually a betting game that involves cards. The cards matter, but the betting is the most important aspect of the game. The funny thing is, it’s probably the only thing I do purely for money. Every other thing in my life I’m doing because I’ve chosen to spend my time doing it, but in Poker the reason you play is to win money.

“There’s a perception about music that it’s only really valid when it’s an occupation” I’m pleased that it’s never even occurred to me to make a living out of playing in a band. In virtually all the bands I admire, that attitude is non-existent. It’s antithetical to the creative to worry about the bottom line. That’s why I admire people like Bjork and Nick Cave who do these things that are unwieldy and can be, in some cases, abhorrent and insulting. It’s the purity of their instinct that people react to, not the product. It feels genuine and that’s why people value it. I’ve always seen being in a band as a fantastic experience that I get to have rather than about making money. If I’d had to rely on just the band to live, I’d either have to live a very meagre life or do a bunch of stupid things in an effort to increase the profitability of the band. I have some small regrets about the way I’ve conducted myself as a musician, but it’s always felt that at least in the moment all my decisions have been pure. I’m proud of every stick of music that I’ve done.

“I’m a competitive person by nature” I don’t think being ‘top dog’ is any kind of achievement; it’s a statistical quirk. Someone has to be the best at something and if it happens to this person or that person, that’s not significant. If you and I are doing something and you do it better than me, then I’m ecstatic for you. I don’t feel like you ‘owned’ me. Poker is the only thing I compete in and I try not to personalise it. It’s not about beating the other person, it’s more about me making the right decisions and doing things with my hands that are profitable rather than punish my opponents. Music is a purely creative enterprise. It’s an expression of the creative impulse for everyone that’s doing it and it’s a means of communication with people who are listening to it and it’s very personal. The music that I admire the most is the music that gives me a moment of insight into someone else. That kind of music is valuable to me as it helps me to understand more about the world.

“The best artists don’t give a shit about their audience” I’m strongly of the opinion that every work of art has been made with near-complete disinterest in the audience. If you’re making something and you consider the audience even for a moment, then you’ve cheapened it. Look at Nick Cave, for example. What people are responding too isn’t the tunes, it’s Nick Cave, the person. The more he’s willing to present himself in a genuine fashion, even if it’s just a character he’s playing, then the more the audience will have a genuine reaction. It’s an odd thing that a lot of bands who are trying to ‘make it’ listen too much to the industry. The music business is reactionary and its always going to push artists towards whatever’s hot at the moment and make them incorporate these sounds into their sounds. They reduce it to these action memos, but no one buys records for this reason. When has one musician said to another, ‘did you know who the business manager was on this record?’ They don’t care. Even if you think of it from a purely business perspective, it makes sense to always be honest. It always works out better in the long run.

“Really good musicians are all a little bit irrational and obsessed” A friend of mine called Martin Bradstreet, who’s a terrific poker player and a terrific natural musician, once wrote an essay about how people who have balance in their lives aren’t good poker players because they aren’t driven. You need to be slightly obsessed because if you’re not willing to keep up and study you’ll always lose to the people who are. All my own work has been made to satisfy a mania. It hasn’t been made to suit a market or fit an idiom. The audience wants to see you spilling your guts about something that makes you uniquely you, so if what you’re doing is nonsense or some bullshit that you think people will buy, then sooner or later, that will register with them as hollow. As soon as you’re labelled as a phoney, then your shot is gone, you’d better pray that you can make a living on cruise ships and bingo halls.

“The whole ‘extra band strata’ of the music industry is alien to me” Y’know, like managers, agents, lawyers, record producers, pluggers, promoters, publicity – those kinds of people. Basically, if you are in a band or a musician, then you and I will get on; if you’re one of these people who is living this parasitic existence outside that, but within the administration of music, whatever you’re thinking, I won’t get it and probably will never get it. There’s a very small number of independent record labels that are run by enthusiasts and work on a similar level to me, for example, Corey Rusk of Touch and Go or Ian MacKaye of Dischord – they’re very respectful to the bands and operate very efficiently. I understand those people very well, but people in the mainstream music business? I don’t get those people at all. They’re like fucking space aliens to me.


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Retold How Sparks have spent a half-century doing what the hell they like, by Daniel Dylan-Wray Photography by Elaine Stocki

50 years of freedom

“There’s a lot of love in the air,” says Sparks’ Russell Mael, referring to the band’s recent run of emphatically received shows. In fact, their early evening day one Primavera set was an enduring highlight of the festival; one that was loaded with idiosyncratic charm, oddball theatrics, pink suits, soaring vocals, glistening pop and euphoric disco. Watching Mael and his brother Ron on stage – Russell shooting up and down the stage manically and Ron sitting generally motionless looking like a disgruntled accountant behind his keyboard – it’s hard to believe they have been doing this for fifty years. And they’ve crammed 23 albums into that half-century period. “The Primavera show was really exceptional,” Russell adds, looking back. For Ron, playing festivals has factored into Sparks’ on-going modus operandi: constant evolution. “We’re really happy that it’s working in festivals because the people that come to our shows are pretty die hard, by and large, but with festivals you’re playing to the unconverted a lot of the time, or a younger audience. That is something that matters strongly to us – we want to go beyond people that are just the usual fanatics.” The brothers began performing together under Halfnelson in 1968. One of their first recordings was a song called ‘Computer Girl’ that the pair remembers being recorded in one of those pay-by-the-hour places where you get a finished vinyl copy


of the song at the end. Growing up in L.A., they were exposed to the late 1960s boom of music that played out on Sunset Strip, with groups like The Doors and Love becoming local staples. However, it was the British invasion that caught the band’s ear and they became self-described Anglophiles. Their 1971 debut, produced by Todd Rundgren, touched upon the stomp of T-Rex and the strut and melody of many of the groups from that era such as The Kinks. However, what followed soon became the defining sonic characteristic of Sparks: reinvention. By 1974 they’d released their third record, ‘Kimono My House’, which contained the hit single ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’; a bonkers piece of pop music so unique in structure, layering and ambition that it was arguably something of a precursor to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. There’s even a longstanding rumour (some suggest that was perpetuated by the band itself) that Elton John placed a bet with producer Muff Winwood that the track couldn’t break the top 5, given its oddness. It charted at number 2 in the UK. By 1979 the British fascination had melted away and Sparks collaborated with electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder for a truly staggering record in ‘No.1 In Heaven’, one that vibrates with pulsating synthesizers, disco rhythms and Russell’s typical falsetto vocals to create a landmark record of the disco era and



Interview one that sounds like another band from the one that existed only five years prior. Vastly different records followed, some more successful than others. Their self-described “career-defining opus” ‘Lil Beethoven’ arrived in 2002, and in 2015 they collaborated with Franz Ferdinand on the project FFS. — From zero every time — Perhaps most against the grain of all, though, is how in 2017 Sparks managed to release one of their finest works to date. The ‘Hippopotamus’ LP is a beautifully unique, unpredictable, yet succulent and intoxicating pop record. Reflecting on fifty years of doing this, the pair remain vehemently anti-nostalgia. “Obviously we don’t reject what we’ve done in the past,” begins Ron. “We embrace all that, but as far as what we’re doing, we are constantly trying to start from zero every time. As far as we can, we reinvent ourselves every time. We’re always trying to excite ourselves with what we’re doing in the hope that whatever is interesting to us will also translate to other people. We’re lucky that a lot of fans of Sparks don’t want re-hashes of what’s gone on in the past from us, they want something that is going to surprise them.” By ingraining constant stylistic overhauls into their core philosophy, the brothers have created a loyal and cult fan base that doesn’t just hope for huge change from record to record, they demand it. This can become challenging so many years in, admit the pair. “It gets harder and harder,” Russell says. “You’ve been down so many different routes and avenues over the years that finding a new one becomes harder. We try and find new ways to write along the way. You have to avoid falling into old habits.” However, releasing an album for them isn’t just a Rolling Stones job of dumping out any old shit once every few years just to keep things ticking along. They have to be defining pieces of work over and over again. Sparks have high standards and demands of themselves, as Ron Explains when he says, “A lot of bands that have been around as long as us often release obligatory albums just as an excuse to tour, and for us it’s the opposite. We want to do something strong enough, musically, so that we’re able to present a lot of new material live within the context of older material. We like to feature a lot of the new stuff. So the record to us is the basis of what we’re doing – the touring is an extra affair.” Russell even tells me that fifty years in, two thirds of their own lifetimes on this planet, they are still crippled with fear and insecurity when they approach new work. “I think it’s good to be insecure about what you’re doing,” he says, “because that means you’re then trying to do something way beyond what you think is necessary. We’re always trying to prove ourselves every single time in an artistic and commercial sense. People can take us for granted because we have been around for so long, like, ‘oh it’s Sparks again’ and we have to prove ourselves every time.” But whilst Sparks are not nostalgic, they are from a time and place in the music industry in which battling it out with fellow


“People can take us for granted because we have been around for so long, like, ‘oh it’s Sparks again’ and we have to prove ourselves every time”

Interview major pop stars was part of the game and as we talk about their slightly ambivalent feelings towards a lot of contemporary pop I suggest they appear to be missing the competitive element from the old days. “Oh yeah,” says Ron without hesitation. “I hate to hark back but when we were on Island Records in the ’70s and you had groups like Roxy Music, you would hear them and you would feel kind of threatened but it would be a good type of threatened. You’d realise it was good stuff, so you’d have that feeling of wanting to surpass somebody else. We find less of that now.” As a result, the band feel like they have to push themselves forward through inner pressure now rather than exterior pressure from other pop groups. “I don’t get the same kick out of other bands as much as I used to,” Ron says. “I can’t determine whether that’s the fault of other bands or whether it’s me getting bored of things but it was more fun for us when we felt pushed by what other bands were doing. So the motivation comes more from ourselves. We need to make music for ourselves that we feel nobody else is making now. That’s what pushes us, it’s more an internal thing rather than being pushed by inspiration from other sources.” — The cult of Sparks — The group have remained an undeniable cult phenomenon, minus the odd commercial and mainstream crossover single, but as a group who have continually been releasing records since 1971, moving their deeply unique take on theatrical pop through huge cultural and taste shifts, there must have been some moments when they felt so out of step with what was going on? “There was a time when punk stuff was coming in,” Russell says. “Like the Sex Pistols and stuff, and we loved them but we did wonder about feeling relevant at that time. When we did the ‘No. 1 In Heaven’ album, that was really not fitting in in any kind of way. You didn’t really know how to fit into that kind of world. Although strangely we became friends with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and was surprised to learn he loved things like ‘Beat the Clock’ from that album. It was flattering to know they were listening to it. So I guess sometimes when you do feel out of place, maybe what you’re doing actually isn’t as out of place as you may think.” Speaking of feeling flattered, you don’t have to look far to see Sparks’ influence on a great deal of contemporary music over the years. They’ve had an obvious impact on the electronic pop of the 1980s, with fans such as New Order, Depeche Mode, The Human League and Erasure all making their love for the band known. However, they’ve also spread into stranger corners, with the likes of Bjork, Kurt Cobain and Thurston Moore expressing a deep love for them. When asked about this influence, Ron and Russell seem to be humbled by the love but mildly frustrated when it turns to emulation. “There’s an ambivalence to how we deal with that,” Ron says. “Obviously you’re happy that something you’re doing is something somebody else thinks is special enough to grab a hold of in a small way for them. But when those bands become commercially successful and you hear

large elements of what you’ve done in that, to be honest there is a certain amount of jealousy about that. We try and shove that aside. You just move on, you don’t fixate on that too much and become bitter and paralysed.” Across fifty years, the shifts that have taken place in the music industry are so vast that it is an unrecognisable landscape to when Sparks started. When I talk to Ron and Russell about this they seem indifferent to it, perhaps due to their rejection of nostalgia. Russell says: “One of the reasons we remain being vital, in our minds, is that we really don’t care all that much about those industry shifts. In the end you have to do something really strong, musically. Those other things have an importance but at the end of the day you’re an artist who is doing music and the distribution and digital versus whatever... it’s kind of not that important for us as musicians. I think it’s a distraction for people to be all up in arms about. There’s downsides to the system now in terms of people not buying as much and people using Spotify, but in the end that stuff is less important than what you’re doing creatively. It’s a lot harder to do good music than it is to moan about how inequitable the system is.” “But we’re really fortunate,” admits Ron, “because if we were coming up now there’s no way we’d have more than one album. It didn’t matter for us on the first couple of albums if they only sold five thousand copies – [the label etc.] would stick with us and we are appreciative of those people. Now everybody has to do very well very quickly or your opportunity is gone and the next person is moving in.” Russell chips in, offering a thought that he wishes their music could be judged and consumed without their own history, imagining how Sparks truly would be received in this era. “There are a lot of times that I think if we were judged solely on the music and not also on the fact that we do have a history, that we might be embraced more strongly in a commercial sense,” he says. “I don’t think our music sounds like it comes from somebody who has a long history, necessarily. In a larger and more commercial sense it makes it more difficult for us, so in a way we wish we could see what would happen if we were a new band presenting the ‘Hippopotamus’ album for the first time.” The future, as you may well expect, is completely wideopen for Sparks. There’s even talk of a movie musical with French director Leos Carax. “What we do is expansive enough in its scope to be used in ways that aren’t just necessarily three or four minute pop songs,” Ron says. “We’re going to continue to see how far we can push Sparks.”


Let it be said that Wilko Johnson can do whatever the fuck he wants. This is a man that was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in 2013, who then turned down chemo and instead spent his “final 10 months” on a (very) farewell tour that was filmed by Julien Temple for a genuinely uplifting endof-life documentary called The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson. You probably know that Johnson didn’t die, which was thanks to a fateful meeting with a surgeon. So yeah, Wilko Johnson gets a free pass for the rest of his life on account of the fact that he really should be dead. Having said that, the cover of his new album, ‘Blow Your Mind’ – it’s got its ups and downs. The font, I’m loving. White and red sans-serif on a monochrome image – yes please! Very Maximo Park – I’m into it. Making the photography greyscale is a smart move for an older band, too. Imagine this shot in full colour for a second and I bet you suddenly feel sad. It’s because you can clearly see that it’s three old men stood behind a snooker hall. Wilko’s hat is also key because it adheres to the onebald-head-maximum rule of good album art. Imagine him without the hat and I think you’ll agree that it’s just too

much skin. And hey, Wilko looks good in a hat. Wilko looks good, full stop. So look, I’ll cut to the chase. I think we know what I’m getting here – where the problematic element(s) of this cover lie. They’re big eyes, aren’t they – the ones on the ghost of Mick Jones/ Jimmy Page without the hair, or, to pay proper respect to him, on Norman Watt-Roy of The Blockheads. I can see exactly what’s happened here, though – led by Wilko, he’s told the rest of the band that trick about making sure you’re not blinking in photographs; the one where you look down until the last second and then look up. Wilko’s led by example and Watt-Roy is trying his best. This is the 68th attempt at this shot, but they all look like this – Wilko is crushing it everytime and Watt-Roy looks like that. Stare into Wilko’s eyes and you can practically hear him thinking, ‘is he doing it right this time?’. At least Watt-Roy is giving it a go, though. Just think how bad Agent Smith must have been at it. “I’m telling you, it’s no use, Wilko,” pleads Watt-Roy, but Wilko believes in his mate. “I reckon I could give it another go,” insists Smith, but Wilko’s having none of it. He’s been in this game long enough to know when to play the odds. Evenually he makes a joke about how he’s beaten cancer and that he won’t let a photo shoot kill him. Fair play, Wilko. It looks fantastic to me.

Which member of The Verve are you?


illustration by kate prior































Loud And Quiet 126 – IDLES