Search Results for:

BELLA UNION

Lost Horizons

In Quiet Moments

    In 2017, Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas had both abstained from making music for 20 years until they united as Lost Horizons and released a stunning debut album, Ojalá - the Spanish word for “hopefully” or “God willing.”

    “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world.” Thomas said at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music.... And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”

    Thomas’ hopes had a mixed response. On the plus side, the new Lost Horizons album In Quiet Moments is an even stronger successor to Ojalá with another distinguished cast of guest singers and a handful of supporting instrumentalists embellishing the core duo’s gorgeously free-flowing and loose-limbed blueprint that one writer astutely labelled, “melancholy-delia.”

    On the minus side, any hope for a better world, as Earth continues to freefall toward political and social meltdown. Then, to make matters worse, as Raymonde and Thomas buckled down to create the improvised bedrock that Lost Horizons is built on, the former’s mother died. At least Raymonde had a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.”

    Raymonde (bass, guitar, keyboards, production) and Thomas (drums, occasional keys and guitar) forged ahead, creating 16 instrumental tracks to send to prospective guests. When he did, Raymonde suggested a guiding theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.”

    And then Covid-19 hit. Half of In Quiet Moments’ lyrics were written after lockdown, but Raymonde saw a silver lining: people were slowing down and taking stock of their lives. Hearing a lyric written by veteran singer Ural Thomas, known as “Portland's Pillar of Soul", who fronts the title track, Raymonde singled out the phrase “in quiet moments” and made it the album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful. The title also went with the album cover, a photograph by Jacques-Henri Lartigue from the 1940s of a woman and dog on a beach, captured as if in flight.” 


    FORMAT INFORMATION

    2xColoured LP Info: 2x Colour Vinyl – DISC ONE Green DISC TWO Blue

    Tim Burgess

    Ascent Of The Ascended EP

      The 6-track EP contains two superb new tracks, “Yours. To Be”, and “The Ascent Of The Ascended”, recorded soon after the album was finished, as well as four tracks recorded in New York City back in March as a live session for Paste magazine. Three of the tracks are from I Love The New Sky alongside a new version of The Charlatan’s classic ‘The Only One I Know’.

      Of the lead track, “Yours. To Be”, Burgess says: “At the tail end of the glory of the night before - with all the hope and beauty that the following morning brings. Away from the glare of the party - like the calm after the storm has left town. It’s a feeling that’s so pure and uncluttered. It’s around a while, then real life starts to creep back in. It’s all about making the most of moments as they are happening .”  

      Burgess goes on to say: “There was an energy that came from recording the album with such a brilliant band - I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to record a bit of a magnum opus, which is where Ascent of the Ascended came in. I’d always wanted to work with Charles Hayward from This Heat, so we have him a ring and he said yeah. With “Yours. To Be” being almost like an instant feeling you get in a moment, very rarely in your life - the two songs are so different but they somehow complement each other. So an EP was the perfect idea.”

      “We had so many plans for playing live this year - from South by Southwest to Glastonbury and everything in between. But that wasn’t to be. We played four shows in New York before lockdown happened - so our session for Paste Magazine was such a rare event, we’ve included the songs to complete the EP.”

      Landshapes

      Contact

        Loneliness, isolation, alienation, the need for connection and community. The salient themes of our times resonate with a haunting, predictive and vital power on the third album from London four-piece Landshapes. Released through Bella Union this November, Contact is an album that digs deep into the past, looks ahead to the future and burns with vivid life in the present, where its mind-expanding soundscapes, beguiling melodies and resonating emotions exude a tremendous in-the-moment vibrancy.

        The title speaks clearly to the album’s themes, as intended. As Luisa Gerstein (vocals, synths) explains, “The working title for a long time was ‘Collapse’, but when we came around to naming it, and having the conversation from our respective isolation, we wanted to give it a name that was more hopeful, and about connectivity. Dan suggested ‘Contact’ and it clicked - Contact with each other; contact with the wider world amidst its unravelling; music feels like a really essential part of that right now.”

        After the voyages of self-discovery on their 2013 debut, “Rambutan”, and the wide-open reach of “Heyoon”, Contact pays testimony to Landshapes’ questing spirit. Recorded live at Soup Studios when it was in Limehouse, the album’s freshness reflects a strict resistance to, says Luisa, “over-cooking in the studio”. New tools helped flesh out the soundscapes, Jemma notes: “actual synths”, a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine, and fresh guitar pedals enrich the sonic palette without gratuitous studio interference. Meanwhile, storied sound wizard and producer Kwes became, says Heloise, “sort of a fifth member”, helping to take the songs “to a new realm”.

        As Jemma says, “We had a strong idea of wanting to keep a raw feel to the work, and that we wanted external ears to play a guiding influence and add a new voice once we had built the foundations. The sense of previous preciousness was something we could dispose of, as we had more confidence in our ability to play and write. I think it made us bold.”

        Landshapes, then: reach out, make contact.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: 180g mint green vinyl

        Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        Laura Veirs

        My Echo

          Laura Veirs has announced news of her eleventh solo album My Echo released 23rd October via Bella Union. The album features guest appearances from Jim James, Bill Frisell, Karl Blau, Matt Ward and others.

          “My Echo is my 11th solo album. It’s my ‘my songs knew I was getting divorced before I did’ album. My conscious mind was trying as hard as I could to keep my family together but my subconscious mind was working on the difficult struggles in my marital life. I was part of a “Secret Poetry Group” that met and wrote poems monthly for a year during the writing of this record. Many of my poems turned into songs for this album. By the time the album was being mixed last fall, my ex-husband/producer Tucker Martine and I had decided to go our separate ways. We were a great musical team for many years but we struggled to be compatible in our marriage and family life and that struggle is reflected in this album.

          In this new batch of songs I imagine escaping from some sort of prison or cage. Advancing age, the confines of domesticity, our oppressive government and the threat of the apocalypse permeate these songs. In these songs my heart craves certainty and permanence but none is to be found. It’s an album about disintegration. It reveals my artist’s intuition at work.

          Although these songs were written before quarantine they are strangely relevant to times in which we find ourselves currently. You will find me staring at the walls (Turquoise Walls). You will find me feeling grateful to be alive (Memaloose Island). You will find me accepting the ephemeral nature of life (Vapor Trails and All the Things). You will find me searching for personal freedom while feeling trapped (Freedom Feeling). You will find me trying to accept that sometimes the best thing to do is to sit still and do nothing at all (Another Space and Time).

          Produced by Tucker Martine in the summer and fall of 2019 in Portland, OR. Includes appearances from Jim James, Bill Frisell, Karl Blau, Matt Ward.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Transparent pink vinyl.

          Emmy The Great

          April / Ɯ

            “My story begins with the moon. In September 2017, I travelled to Hong Kong from New York, where I’d lived for three years, for the Mid-Autumn festival. I was planning to visit my parents and take some time off to write my fourth album. I arrived in time for the full moon - Chang-E’s moon - at a time of year when the heat breaks and the city seems alive with possibility.


            That Spring, I’d visited China and accidentally become somewhat fluent in Cantonese again, though the goal had been to speak Mandarin. I was there for a music residency, and had expected to feel an instant click. Instead, I realised that Hong Kong had an identity quite separate from the Mainland, and with my mother tongue reinstated, I was beginning to come to terms with that identity being a part of mine. This was tough - I was born in Hong Kong but I’ve always felt complicated about it.


            Still, that Mid-Autumn, everything felt simple. Under the guidance of the moon, I walked the city - its neon-lit alleyways, its escalators and mountain paths. For a brief, precious moment, I fell into synch with Hong Kong. I felt its complex legacy and its tangled future. I felt the sorrow, alive in the buzz of neon and the drips of air-conditioner units, of a city caught between two destinies. It was twenty years since the Handover and the beginning of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Everywhere I went, I saw people seeking to define their shared identity before it was too late. I hope some of that spirit has found its way into the songs, which were mostly written during that time.

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            LP Info: 180g black LP w/DL + Lyric Poster

            The Flaming Lips

            American Head

              American Legends The Flaming Lips announce the release of their 21st studio album, American Head via Bella Union. The album is comprised of thirteen new cinematic tracks, produced by longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann and The Lips. Among them, “God and the Policeman” featuring backing vocals from country superstar Kasey Musgraves. American Head takes on a welcome temporal shift that occupies a similar space to that of The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and just may be their most beautiful and consistent work to date

              American Head finds The Flaming Lips basking in more reflective lyrical places as Wayne Coyne explains in a longer form story titled “We’re An American Band.”

              Excerpt below:
              “The Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma. We never thought of ourselves as an AMERICAN band. I know growing up (when I was like 6 or 7 years old) in Oklahoma I was never influenced by, or was very aware of any musicians from Oklahoma. We mostly listened to the Beatles and my mother loved Tom Jones (this is in the 60’s)... it wasn’t till I was about 10 or 11 that my older brothers would know a few of the local musician dudes.

              So... for most of our musical life (as The Flaming Lips starting in 1983) we’ve kind of thought of ourselves as coming from ‘Earth’... not really caring WHERE we were actually from. So for the first time in our musical life we began to think of ourselves as ‘AN AMERICAN BAND’… telling ourselves that it would be our identity for our next creative adventure. We had become a 7-piece ensemble and were beginning to feel more and more of a kinship with groups that have a lot of members in them. We started to think of classic American bands like The Grateful Dead and Parliament-Funkadelic and how maybe we could embrace this new vibe.

              The music and songs that make up the AMERICAN HEAD album are based in a feeling. A feeling that, I think, can only be expressed through music and songs. We were, while creating it, trying to NOT hear it as sounds... but to feel it. Mother’s sacrifice, Father’s intensity, Brother’s insanity, Sister’s rebellion...I can’t quite put it into words.

              Something switches and others (your brothers and sisters and mother and father...your pets) start to become more important to you…in the beginning there is only you... and your desires are all that you can care about...but... something switches.. I think all of these songs are about this little switch.”




              STAFF COMMENTS

              says: Well, well well.. a new Flaming Lips album. If things were getting on top of you a little bit, what better way to ease the ills than by going down the rabbit hole with Coyne & crew. Perfectly times swathes of guitar and smooth-as-silk melodies, reminding us exactly why the 'Lips have a place so deep in our hearts.

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              2xColoured LP Info: 2 x 180g heavyweight tri-colour vinyl.

              2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith

              Peradam

                The sounds of bird song, singing bowls and water rippling invite us to Peradam, the transcendent new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, released via Bella Union.

                Peradam takes as its entry point René Daumal’s early 1930s novel Mount Analogue: a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, in which the French writer, critic and poet mapped a metaphysical journey to “the ultimate symbolic mountain” in search of meaning. In it, Daumal introduced the idea of the “peradam”, a rare, crystalline stone – harbouring profound truths – that is only visible to seekers on a true spiritual path.

                Peradam arrives as “the final stone”, says Soundwalk Collective’s Stephan Crasneanscki, in The Perfect Vision, a triptych of albums that evoke and explore the sainted spaces of thought and creativity opened by three French writers. After albums devoted to Antonin Artaud (The Peyote Dance) and Arthur Rimbaud (Mummer Love), Peradam expands on “the living space”, says Smith, that Daumal left for future seekers to enter and create out of.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                2xColoured LP Info: Double blue coloured vinyl.

                2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                Leila Moss

                Who The Power

                  "If you’re going to deconstruct the modern psyche," says Liela Moss, "you might as well dance to it." On her second solo album, ‘Who The Power’, Moss fulfils that remit with all the power its title calls for. After 2018’s deeply personal ‘My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth’ - a debut solo album at times serene, at others stormy, on every front sumptuous - Moss entered a period of profound creative and personal self-reflection. When she emerged, she forged an album of questioning intensity and synth-loaded drama, with the expressive force in her voice refuelled by the urgent desire to interrogate the role of selfhood in fraught times. And, crucially, backed by the urgent grooves needed for the job.

                  As Moss says of her feelings during the build-up to the album: “To make music for the sake can sometimes feel like a narcissistic thing to do, and very reflective of our times. So much of being a musician and live performer is about projecting energy outward, which can be a beautiful and powerful thing. I experienced a good round of that over previous years, and now wanted to explore my fears of tipping the scales the other way: why should I continue to reenact the narcissistic habits of our generation, desperate for validation, desperate for space, for ‘a platform’?”

                  Album opener ‘Turn Your Back Around’ is a yearning eco-lament set to banked synths over a propulsive beat. Or, as Moss puts it: “One filthy, upbeat, downhearted, close-your-eyes-and-dance-by-yourself pop song, offered as a parting gift to Mother Earth.” ‘Watching The Wolf’ is another forthright song for today, its brooding, near-gothic swagger framing a righteous modern-day folk tale about wolves converging to unseat a toxic political pundit. A controlled rage shows in Moss’s voice, which grows more liberated still amid the simmering darkwave throb of ‘Atoms At Me’, where Moss issues a call to free the senses from the call to consume.

                  That sense of freedom further shows in the album’s dynamic focus and passion. The nearceremonial ‘Always Sliding’ draws power from the idea of impermanence, from the call to “keep searching.” ‘The Individual’ sets a Paradise Lost-ish narrative to a sulphurous bassline and lunging synths, while the graceful synths and infectious melody of ‘White Feather’ frame lyrics with teeth. “‘White Feather’ is a lament for the earth, sung with fingers crossed behind my back,” explains Moss. “Humanity is losing connection with something vital, and willingly letting itself slip into an abyss. This isn’t as simple as my reaction to the distressing reality of environmental damage; it is my thoughts on our lousy behaviour to one another.”

                  Elsewhere, the moody elegance of ‘Battlefield’ and bruised plea of ‘Nummah’ rank among Moss’s finest vocal performances. ‘Suako’ offers pulsing synth-rock impetus to risk starting anew, while the blissful ‘Stolen Careful’ ends the album on a palpable note of revitalisation, all risks rewarded as Moss emerges refreshed in her hunger to explore new, meaningful ways to engage with the world.

                  As with the widely acclaimed ‘My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth’, that engagement took place close to home. Working again with partner / producer Toby Butler, Moss wrote and recorded the album in their studio in Somerset, where they live with their child. The difference this time, she explains, was a desire “to create something more urgent,” which captured a sense of renewal while conveying a strong sense of despair at modern culture. “Perhaps that oscillating energy is best expressed musically via machines. We spent much of our time playing with vintage synths and drum machines, building a more visceral palette. I wanted the album to convey a depth of field, to be multi-layered yet feel simple, and to groove.”

                  Widescreen ambitions fulfilled, the result is another bold leap forward for one of alt-rock’s most magnetic, exploratory voices. Over 14 years, Moss’s work with the Duke Spirit (on pause) ranged from brawling riff-rock to more cinematic ventures. Other gigs have included synth-rock recordings with Butler under the name Roman Remains and various collaborative ventures – with UNKLE, Nick Cave, Giorgio Moroder and Lost Horizons, as well as serving as muse for fashion icons Alexander McQueen and Phillip Lim, among others.

                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                  Coloured LP Info: LP pressed on yellow 180g vinyl with digital download code.

                  Mr Ben And The Bens

                  Life Drawing

                    After the celestial adventures of Mr Ben and the Bens’ previous issue, band-leader Ben Hall finds all the magic he needs on earth with his new album, Life Drawing. On 2019’s Who Knows Jenny Jones?, Hall plotted the story of a young, shy Pitsmoor woman who returned from an alien encounter newly armed with serious disco-dancing know-how. Life Drawing, meanwhile, looks closer to home for its inspiration – Sheffield and thereabouts – for twelve brightly plaintive, character-driven vignettes, set to warm, acoustic, indie-folk-pop backdrops after its predecessor’s close encounters of the synth-driven kind.

                    A “cloudy thread of narrative” is present, Hall explains, but this time it’s left open for listeners to map routes through it. “The idea with the title is that the songs are character sketches, and their stories coalesce in a place that has a bit of all the towns in the North of England I’ve lived in. Bits of myself in the stories came out unintentionally, so I’d like it if the listener could find those semi-truths from the songs and place them into their own experiences.”


                    STAFF COMMENTS

                    says: Mr Ben moves himself and all of his Bens to Bella Union! It's a fitting home really, as they are well heeled with this sort of jangling, melodic optimism and off-kilter classic psychedelia. It's lovely stuff, and a superb whimsical counterfoil to the drags of day-to-day life.

                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                    Coloured LP Info: White vinyl.

                    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                    A. A. Williams

                    Forever Blue

                      Making her stage debut in April 2019 and selling out her first headline show at London’s prestigious Southbank Centre less than a year later, A.A. Williams has hit the ground running. Similarly, the acclaim for her performances and her music has been unanimous from the start. After one self-titled EP and the 10” vinyl collaboration Exit in Darkness with Japanese post-rockers MONO, the London-based singer-songwriter has signed to Bella Union and made a stunning debut album, Forever Blue.

                      A rapturous blend of post-rock and post-classical, Forever Blue smoulders with uncoiling melodies and haunted atmospheres, shifting from serenity to explosive drama, often within the same song. Williams is a fantastic musician as well as songwriter, playing the guitar, cello and piano, and her voice has the controlled delivery of a seasoned chanteuse whilst still channelling the rawest of emotions.

                      Forever Blue is named after a song that didn’t make the album’s final cut, “but it still encapsulated these songs,” Williams explains. “It sounded timeless and in the right place.” The album’s threads encapsulate the anxieties and addiction of love and loss with haunting detail, for example ‘Glimmer’(“I wasn’t meant to see the sun washed out and pale / I wait undone / I wasn’t meant to be the one hollow and hurt and meant for none”), though Williams admits the theme was shaped more by her subconscious than any grand plan.

                      “The lyrics come at the end, they fall into place, rhythmically, and link together,” she explains. “And then it’s my job to decipher what I’ve written! I want the words to get my point across but still let the listener map on their own experiences. I find it really therapeutic.”

                      Therapy is intrinsic to Williams’ approach: to not just express and unpick her feelings of longing and loss but to work through them. “Verbalising something, you feel a weight has been lifted,” she says. The transition can be mirrored in the dynamic shift from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’, as on ‘Glimmer’ and arguably at its most euphoric on ‘Melt’. “There’s something very satisfying and elating about songs that have that drop in them, to stomp on the guitar pedal on and let it all out.”

                      It’s testament to Williams’ skills, and those of husband and bassist Thomas Williams, that Forever Blue’s commanding sound was largely captured at the couple’s two-bedroom flat in North London. Drums by Geoff Holroyde were added at engineer Adrian

                      Hall’s studio in South London, with guest vocals from Johannes Persson (Cult Of Luna), who adds his deep-trawling growl to ‘Fearless’ (“he sounds like Tectonic plates moving” Williams feels), Fredrik Kihlberg (Cult Of Luna) on ‘Glimmer’ and Tom Fleming (ex-Wild Beasts) on ‘Dirt’.

                      Williams can scarcely believe she’s in such exalted company, or that her band has toured with Cult Of Luna, Russian Circles, Explosions In The Sky, Nordic Giants and Sisters Of Mercy, whilst performing with MONO at their 10th anniversary show. It’s not because she doesn’t trust her own worth but that Williams only became a singer-songwriter by chance.

                      Having taken music lessons from the age of six and been immersed in classical music, Williams’ life was forever changed when she discovered Deftones in her mid-teens, “and after them, all things heavy,” she recalls. “It was music that made me feel included, that tapped into me.”

                      Yet it was only years later, when she found a guitar in the street with a note attached, “please take me, just needs work,” that Williams started playing guitar, and only started writing songs as a way of learning how to play. “I wrote in different styles to find a sound I was comfortable with,” she says. “Likewise, with singing. I’d never before thought of singing with a microphone in front of other people. It’s been quite a journey.”

                      That journey was thrown off course by the Coronavirus lockdown, but Williams’ response has been the ‘Songs From Isolation’ video project, solo renditions of songs suggested by her fans. At the time of writing, she has performed Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ (“to take on a song like that, you either have to be brave or dumb, and I thought, let’s be brave!”), Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and Nick Cave’s ‘Into Your Arms’.

                      As ‘Songs From Isolation’ keeps posting intimate messages from a place of solitude, Forever Blue will spread the news of A.A. Williams’ extraordinary talent far and wide - and once lockdown is over, she and her band will be taking the next steps on her journey by touring the record. She’s already come so far but this story is only just beginning. 


                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: Silver vinyl.

                      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                      Drab City

                      Good Songs For Bad People

                        A heady air of dislocation envelops Drab City’s debut album, where songs of innocence and experience merge with dub, hip-hop, dream-pop and jazzy soundtrack vibes to intoxicating effect. Drab City are fixated on social alienation, violent revenge, and (perhaps) romantic love as salvation; topics not new in music, but listening to Drab City in 2020, one is struck by how uncommon they’ve become.

                        Lyrically, these songs often project punkish angst and resentment. “Working For the Men” is a degraded service worker’s revenge ballad, imagining male tormenters brought to a violent end. “Hand On My Pocket” tells of a destitute, wandering youth. One night she meets a stranger on a desert road, and is told of a nearby city where a soft, rich citizenry make easy targets. Class war is palpable. Other songs are more opaque, but seem to speak of being the black sheep of the family, or being weighed down by the dullness of hometown life. Yet the casual listener might not notice the violence as the music itself is far from abrasive.

                        Dreamy and ethereal, a foundation of flute, vibraphone, and jazzy guitar chord melody can switch to drum machines or funk-inflected girl-group pop at a moment’s notice. It’s a flurry of 20th century references, combining and recombining at such a schizophrenic pace, the overall effect is something that could only be conjured in our frenzied present. At once catchy and unfamiliar, the melodic, welcoming soundscapes are a Trojan horse for the band’s antisocial outlook.

                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                        LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                        Psychic Markers

                        Psychic Markers

                          “Silence is a complex subject and completely affects you depending on context,” the band say of the track, which is accompanied by a self-directed video. “Silence can be deafening in people when they struggle to communicate. Other times silence is awkward. Silence can also be golden, to have built a relationship with someone and just to be with them is enough, finding somebody to share this with is rare and should be appreciated.”

                          A near death experience being sucked into an active sandstorm during a US road trip is enough to make you think about life. Being immersed in a swirling vortex of sand, dust, tumbleweed and detritus whilst trying to keep control of a speeding car might have only been a brief flash moment in Steven Dove’s life but it was enough for the Psychic Markers man to question life. “These things impact you,” he says. “I got thinking about human nature, our proneness to mistakes, imperfection and the implications of reactionary decision making.”

                          The results of such lyrical reflection, and broad spectrum of thought, can be heard throughout the latest Psychic Markers album, one that Dove describes as, “Imagine a David Cronenberg-style movie in which each morning you awake to find your brain merged inside someone else’s head - you see life from a totally different angle.”

                          Approaching things from a different angle was also the objective sonically. “We wanted to make an album that was 100% us,” says Leon Dufficy, who heads up the band with Dove. “With zero dilution from other influences.” This natural, intuition-led, direction is something immediately apparent on the album, one that weaves seamlessly between pulsing groove-locked electronica and psychedelic pop as frequently as it glides from sparkling melody to rich cinematic ambience.

                          “Cohesive yet diverse,” is what the band have said of their music and it fits their personalities too, with members coming from as far afield as Australia and Yorkshire. Dufficy and Dove wrote and produced the record together, the sultry yet subtle bass comes from Luke Jarvis, who also did the band’s artwork, whilst the glowing backing vocals of Alannah Ashworth feature alongside the shared percussion duties of Lewis Baker and Jim Wallis.

                          The opening track ‘Where Is the Prize?’ is a perfect opener that encapsulates Dove’s introspective yet existential lyricism, as well as the band’s expanded sonic terrain. It’s written from the perspective of an old person who sees friends die off until only they remain. “We strive for old age but what’s even there if you make it?” asks Dove. Musically, it opens with gently lapping waves of electronics that sets the tone for a more electronically-leaning record.

                          A total electronic overhaul this is not, however. Instead, their third album sits in a sweet spot between evolutionary and revolutionary step; retaining the core essence and personality of the band but also moving into new territory. It embellishes and emboldens the band’s pre-existing palate, one that still nods to 1970s Germany on the careering ‘Clouds’ (a song that, antithetical to the opener, looks at life from the perspective of a child) and one that still exhibits their seamless knack for immersive melody via the gorgeous Yo La Tengo-like closer ‘Baby It’s Time.’

                          Amidst the engulfing soundscapes of ‘Juno Dreams’ is a sample of an old Texan psychic that cannot foresee a future for its subject, whilst the serene-to-nightmare psychedelic noise trip that is ‘Sacred Geometry’ is a direct exploration of the moment Dove was caught in the sandstorm. “The track is that nanosecond you have to make an important decision – the second part of it being the knock-on effect of making the wrong one.”

                          Playing with structure and form, and the overlapping role between lyrics and music, is rooted in the album. “I was tired of writing within the constraints of a verse/chorus structure and wanted to be expressive in alternative ways,” says Dove. “It’s like walking the same route to get from a to b - eventually it becomes mundane and for this record I wanted to try walking a different way.”

                          Dufficy also found himself going down a rabbit hole of old gear for the album, exploring four tracks, micro cassettes and drum machines. “I wanted to see how it would impact our writing and recording process,” he says. “By taking away the endless options you have in the digital world.” The result is one that adds to the already deeply textural world of the band - an approach that has previously reared its head via doo-wop-esque harmony vocals, thoughtfully layered immersive guitars or enveloping atmospheres - as well as adding a further sense of diving into the unknown.

                          The dodgy motors of the four-track led to drums and keys being all over the place on the track ‘Enveloping Cycles’, creating its own woozy, distinct rhythm of gently fizzing beats. That is before the machine gave up completely. “The four-track died right at the end of making the album, so its quirks will only ever exist on this album,” Dufficy says. “I like that, it's kind of romantic to me.”

                          Much like being caught in the middle of a sandstorm, or a piece of equipment holding out until the final sputtering moments of musical completion, there’s something unique, engulfing and encompassing about the latest Psychic Markers album. A beautiful bottling of time and place that magically ends up somewhere completely new


                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                          Coloured LP Info: Yellow/gold vinyl.

                          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                          Tim Burgess

                          I Love The New Sky

                            How inspiring it is to hear Tim Burgess conjuring up exciting and life-affirming sounds as he, almost inconceivably, enters his fifth decade on public duty. Frontman, singer, label boss, DJ and author, he’s been instrumental in so many great records over the years, always bringing enthusiasm, positivity and diversity of influence, which altogether light the way for those who hold him dear.

                            While in The Charlatans, Tim’s indefatigable energy has been a consistent fuel for the band across thirteen high-charting albums, his solo adventure has been no less extraordinary, scaling new heights in 2020 with his fifth solo release to date: ‘I Love The New Sky’. Released on Bella Union, it features wonderfully connective songs of everyday minutiae and universal experience, of love and anger, of loss and belonging, all united by elaborate yet natural arrangements and an effortless but deceptively expert way with melody.

                            ‘I Love The New Sky’ differs from its predecessors in that all twelve tracks were self-penned. “In the past, I've written collaboratively,” says a characteristically, but rightfully excited Burgess. “(2012's) ‘Oh No I Love You’ was written with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner in Nashville, and then ‘Same Language, Different Worlds’ was a collaboration with Peter Gordon who had worked extensively with Arthur Russell.”

                            The spark for ‘I Love The New Sky’ came after a year of touring another album, ‘As I Was Now’, which he’d made in 2008 but had a belated release ten years later. “That one was made in three days, just friends getting together”, he says – the amigos included Josh Hayward from The Horrors, Primal Scream Keyboard player Martin Duffy, Ladyhawke and My Bloody Valentine's Debbie Googe.

                            “I didn’t realise the album hadn't actually come out as I had a copy of it on my ipod so I figured that maybe everybody did. So, all those years later I thought it would make an interesting release for Record Store Day. It did really well, so I was approached to tour it for Independent Venue Week and after that a load of festivals asked us to play too. Average Sex were the support band that then became my band so it was a brilliant little tour. After that, I was really energized, and I thought, Right, I'm going to do another album, but really concentrate on making it a solo record, where I write everything on my own and all the songs are the very best I can make them.”

                            “I’d been listening to a lot of Isaac Hayes, Olivia Tremor Control, Carole King, Todd Rundgren, John Maus, Weyes Blood and Kevin Ayres - I’m not sure how much they have influenced the album but they were the impetus and inspiration.”

                            The twelve tunes of ‘I Love The New Sky’ were authored, he says, “in Norfolk, in the middle of the countryside, with the nearest shop eight miles away. There are no distractions, and I guess that way things happen. I wrote everything on acoustic guitar, and the chords were really considered. The guitar lines would lead the melody, and the melody would inform the lyrics – just dreaming away with music.”

                            So far, so Laurel Canyon, though ‘I Love The New Sky’ would end up sounding anything but hippie/folkie, thanks to a connection Tim made while living in a warehouse space in gritty Seven Sisters in North London, before heading to Norfolk.

                            “The Quietus had their office there,” he recalls. “I used to know pretty much all the stuff they were writing about, but then their album of the year for 2013 was ‘Glynnaestra’ by Grumbling Fur, and I really fell in love with it. I started talking to the band about working together. To cut a long story short I recorded a song with Grumbling Fur, they remixed two Charlatans tracks and a couple of Daniel O'Sullivan's solo albums came out on my label.”

                            As well as bass and drum duties on I Love The New Sky, O’Sullivan plays piano on much of the album, from the bouncing chamber-pop chords of ‘Sweetheart Mercury’ and the punchy chorus of ‘Empathy For The Devil’, through to ‘Comme D’Habitude’’s juxtaposition of blissfully rolling West Coast singer-songwriting and a complex Sparks-y Broadway-esque bridge, to the Velvets-y ramalama moves on ‘Warhol Me’ and ‘Undertow’’s sombre balladry.

                            The album was arranged and recorded quickly but not rushed: “Ideas happen fast, don’t they?” Tim reasons. The first sessions at Eve Studios in Stockport were with long-serving Charlatans engineer Jim Spencer. Tim, Daniel and Nik Void cut three tracks in two days, with Nik layering up modular synths in line with her previous day job in Factory Floor.

                            A third keyboard maestro entered the picture when Thighpaulsandra, a maverick musician and producer, came into the frame, best known for his work for Julian Cope, Coil Spiritualized and Elizabeth Fraser. I found out that he was based at ‘Rockfield’ [legendary residential facility near Monmouth, South Wales]. So I said, ‘Okay, that’s where we’re going to record the rest of it’.” As well as enlisting his know-how as an engineer, the cosmically-inclined Welshman also applied vintage synths and what Tim hazily calls “wizardry”.

                            For Burgess himself, the return to Rockfield was meaningful: “I hadn’t been there since we recorded ‘Tellin' Stories’” he says. “It was a matter of ending this long period of not going there, because after Rob died we couldn’t face it again. So nearly 25 years later, we returned and the positive feelings came back. Mark Collins [Charlatans guitarist] came down to play on ‘Empathy For The Devil’ and ‘Sweetheart Mercury’, and he actually had the same room as he had in 1996. It was like no time had passed at all.”

                            “I was in search of a certain sound there,” Tim adds, of his overriding motivation for returning. “I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what it was I was searching for, but I knew if it was there that I’d be able to find it”.

                            The results are nothing short of astounding. ‘I Love The New Sky’ has landed somewhere between Paul McCartney's ‘RAM’ and Brian Eno's ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)' and certainly that recipe covers both the all-pervasive tunefulness and high quality. Stylistically, though, it runs the widest gamut, from 'Empathy For The Devil's gospel style rockabilly skip, through to the sophisticated song-craft of ‘Sweetheart Mercury’ and the Nilsson-esque ‘Sweet Old Sorry Me’, with the angst-y gravitas of ‘Undertow’, which Tim describes as “a mood-changer, influenced by 10cc.”

                            Lyrically, this might almost be a defining collection from Burgess after thirty years honing his craft. There’s plenty of typical lightness of touch of ‘Only Took A Year’s joking reference to the album’s twelve-month gestation period, and the quip, “what’s your favourite Cure LP? I like ‘Pornography! But it could be any one of three.”

                            Equally amusing in its self-referencing is ‘Warhol Me’ set to a soundtrack of New York bubblegum pop. ‘Sweet Old Sorry Me’ finds Burgess reminiscing on his former life in Los Angeles, but drolly updating the Steely Dan vernacular for the social-media era with the line, “I had to unsubscribe from that particular tribe”. ‘Lucky Creatures’, meanwhile, follows Tim on his day back in LA on tour, as he enjoys “tacos on the underground”, revisiting his old everyday haunts in Hollywood.

                            ‘The Mall’, too, revels in its everyday setting: “it’s an ordinary feature of everyday life. I’m pretty sure that the ‘escalating drama on a moving staircase’ bit happened at Boots in Piccadilly Circus. Maybe they'll put a blue plaque there one day. I love it round there, it’s like the whole world is happening – but it’s taking a small idea and trying to make it into something more universal.”

                            ‘I Got This’ has the line “the future is friendly”. Says Tim: “Everyone’s been going through a lot of tough times. And the future is uncertain. But you have to have that optimistic outlook – like, waking up in the morning and feeling that it’s gonna be a good day.”

                            There is a sense of community within this solo venture, which is emphasised when Tim and Nik’s six year old son joins in on ‘Comme D’Habitude’, and with the assembly of what Tim calls a “gang chorus”, in the spirit of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Plan B’, for the closing chant of the album title on ‘Laurie’. This song is particularly heartfelt, as Tim mistily reveals, written for “someone I love who I never met”. The end section happened spontaneously at Rockfield: “Everybody that came into the studio, I asked them to sing, so there are about 20 people doing that vocal – Mark Collins, Daniel, our friend Ally, Nik, Thighpaulsandra – everybody singing it, and for this spirit that is loved.”

                            The final stages of the album’s year-long narrative arc were enacted at Jet Studio in Brussels, with the Echo Collective string section. Burgess looked on “mesmerised at what was happening to the songs, taking an even more magical turn.”

                            With that icing on the cake, Tim is in no doubt that he has his finest solo record under his belt. On this occasion, it’s coming out on time, and he’ll be touring it with a live ensemble featuring Daniel O’Sullivan, Thighpaulsandra, another O Genesis artiste called Keel Her, and renowned avant-jazz violinist Peter Broderick, who plays on ‘’Empathy…’ and will recreate the Echo Collective parts, too. So, the community will grow. Just like Tim says, “the future is friendly.”


                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                            Coloured LP Info: 180 gram LP.
                            Transparent splatter vinyl with download code.

                            I Break Horses

                            Warnings

                              If I Break Horses’s third album holds you in its grip like a great film, it’s no coincidence. Faced with making the follow-up to 2014’s plush Chiaroscuro, Horses’s Maria Lindén decided to take the time to make something different, with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of favourite films on her computer (sound muted) and made her own soundtrack sketches, these sonic workouts gradually evolved into something more: “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

                              That album is Warnings, an intimate and sublimely expansive return that, as its recording suggests, sets its own pace with the intuitive power of a much-loved movie. And, as its title suggests, its sumptuous sound worlds – dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analogue synths – and layered lyrics crackle with immersive dramatic tensions on many levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”

                              As Lindén notes, the process of making Warnings involved different kinds of dramas. “It has been some time in the making. About five years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…”

                              Yet the pay-off for her long-haul immersion is clear from statement-of-intent album opener ‘Turn’, a waltzing kiss-off to an ex swathed in swirling synths over nine emotive minutes. On ‘Silence’, Lindén suggests deeper sorrows in the interplay of serene surface synths, hypnotic loops and elemental images: when she sings “I feel a shiver,” you feel it, too.

                              Elsewhere, on three instrumental interludes, Lindén’s intent to experiment with sound and structure is clear. Meanwhile, there are art-pop songs here more lush than any she has made. ‘I’ll Be the Death of You’ occupies a middle ground between Screamedlica and early OMD, while ‘Neon Lights’ brings to mind Kraftwerk on Tron’s light grid. ‘I Live At Night’ slow-burns like a song made for night-time LA drives; ‘Baby You Have Travelled for Miles without Love in Your Eyes’ is an electronic lullaby spiked with troubling needle imagery. ‘Death Engine’’s dark-wave dream-pop provides an epic centrepiece, of sorts, before the vocoder hymnal of closer ‘Depression Tourist’ arrives like an epiphany, the clouds parting after a long, absorbing journey.

                              For Lindén, Warnings is a remarkable re-routing of a journey begun when I Break Horses’s debut album, Hearts (2011), drew praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for its luxurious grandeur and pulsing sense of art-pop life. With the electro-tangents of 2014’s Chiaroscuro, Lindén forged a new, more ambitious voice with total confidence. Along the way, I Break Horses toured with M83 and SigurRós; latterly, U2 played Hearts’ ecstatic ‘Winter Beats’ through the PA before their stage entrance on 2018’s ‘Experience + Innocence’ tour. Good choice.

                              A new friend on Warnings is US producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady, whose graceful way with dense sound (credits include Beach House, TV on the Radio) was not the sole reason Lindén invited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

                              If making Warnings was a slow process, so be it: that steady gestation was a price worth paying for its lavish accretions of detail and meaning, where secrets aplenty await listeners eager to immerse themselves. “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!” Happily, Warnings provides all the incentives required.


                              FORMAT INFORMATION

                              2xColoured LP Info: Clear vinyl

                              2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                              BC Camplight

                              Shortly After Takeoff

                                “This is an examination of madness and loss,” says Brian Christinzio, the inimitable force behind BC Camplight. “I hope it starts a long overdue conversation.”

                                Fired by his ongoing battle with mental illness, Shortly After Takeoff is the final, and finest, chapter of what Christinzio calls his “Manchester Trilogy”, following 2015’s “How To Die In The North” and 2018’s “Deportation Blues”. All three albums were created after the native Philadelphian had moved to Manchester. Like Deportation Blues, Shortly After Takeoff spans singer-songwriter classicism, gnarly synth-pop and ‘50s rock’n’roll, with Christinzio’s similarly distinctive, flexible vocal carrying a fearless approach to lyrical introspection, but the new album is a major leap forward in songwriting sophistication and lyrical communication.

                                “It’s important to stress that this isn’t a redemption story,” he says. “I'm a guy who maybe lives a little hard and I’m in the thick of some heavy stuff. But as a result, I think I've made my best record.”

                                The “heavy stuff” has come thick and fast for Christinzio. Just days before How To Die In The North was released, he was deported and banned from the UK because of visa issues. Estranged from his new home, his girlfriend and his dog, unable to promote his album and back home with his parents, Christinzio sunk deep into the dark. An Italian passport, care of his grandparents, eventually allowed him to re-settle in Manchester, but then just days before Deportation Blues was released, his father Angelo unexpectedly died.

                                “I went into a spiral that was worse than any time since my twenties,” he recalls. Hence the title Shortly After Takeoff: the feeling of being suddenly thwarted by what life throws at you. Making matters worse was a neurological disorder that returned after years in remission: “I see TV static, and it messes with how my brain interprets everything from sound to my own feelings.”

                                One way to process tragedy is comedy, which elevates Shortly After Takeoff to a heightened plateau, from grief-stricken vulnerability to armoured bravado, from the black dog of depression to gallows humour. None more so than ‘Ghosthunting’, which opens with an extraordinary (fabricated) passage of Christinzio doing a stand-up routine, centring on the memory of hallucinating his father’s ghost. “I want to drag the listener into this world and hopefully they question why they feel uneasy,” he explains.

                                “I also wanted to make a record totally free of whimsy and irony, that was just clear and open and honest. I don’t think you really heard the chaos in Deportation Blues, but in Shortly After Takeoff, I can hear I’m finding undiscovered places to go, only because I was so lost. Lyrically, I wanted people to hear and understand me this time. Before, if I would have written about my father dying, I would have made up some weird bullshit, like an analogy about a tree shedding leaves or something. That Brian is gone. I have a direct line to the listener now. I have a direct line to myself too. It’s a benchmark moment for me.”

                                Shortly After Takeoff ends with the gorgeously tender 93-second ‘Angelo’, “a little fleeting moment for my dad. I wanted his name on the album, and something that sounded like a goodbye. It ends with the drums, like a heartbeat stopping…”

                                That’s Christinzio and Shortly After Takeoff: his best, most honest, open and frequently heartbreaking record.

                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                says: Surely this must finally be the record which brings Brian Christinzio the attention he deserves. He is simply an incredible melodicist and creates tracks full of surprising twists and unusual turns. Dark, crazy but funnily inspirational lyrics are offset against the sweetest voice and catchiest songs you’ll hear all year. Just brilliant.

                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                Coloured LP Info: Clear vinyl.

                                Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                Ezra Furman

                                Sex Education OST

                                  Following the success of last year’s “Twelve Nudes”, Ezra Furman returns with Sex Education OST, songs from season 1 and 2 of the hit Netflix TV show. The 19-track LP will be released via Bella Union and is available to download and on DSPs from Friday, 24th January, with a physical release on CD and vinyl to follow on 10th April.

                                  When the makers of the hit Netflix series Sex Education told Ezra Furman, “We want you to be the Simon & Garfunkel to our The Graduate", they clearly recognised a kindred spirit. Who better to articulate all that awkwardness and alienation than Furman?

                                  Sex Education is about Otis Milburn, a socially awkward high school student who lives with his sex therapist mother, Jean. In season 1 Otis and his friend Maeve Wiley set-up a sex clinic at school to capitalise on his intuitive talent for sex advice. In season 2, as a late bloomer Otis must master his newly discovered sexual urges in order to progress with his girlfriend Ola whilst also dealing with his now strained relationship with Maeve. Meanwhile, Moordale Secondary is in the throes of a Chlamydia outbreak, highlighting the need for better sex education at the school and new kids come to town who will challenge the status quo.

                                  The Sex Education soundtrack gathers the original songs that Furman composed for the first series and the brand new second series, whilst adding tracks featured on the show that can be found on prior Furman albums such as “Perpetual Motion People” and “Transangelic Exodus”. Lining up alongside older cover versions of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘ I Can Change’ and Melanie’s ‘The Good Book’ is a new rendition of ‘Devil Or Angel’, The Clovers’ doo-wop jewel from 1956. It all adds up to a bumper 19-track set of Furman’s trademark enthusiastic emotional catharsis.

                                  “Making music for a TV show was a new experience for me,” she says. “As a fan of many a high school comedy, for example The Breakfast Club and 10 Things I Hate About You, I knew how fun the music can be, and also how emotional. I wanted to rise to the challenge.”

                                  Furman and her band recorded the new songs in between sessions for a “loud punk record,” namely the exhilarating “Twelve Nudes”, released by Bella Union in 2019. “I decided I’d use the Sex Education project as a place to put my tenderness, my sadness and longing,” she says. “The soft teenage feelings that every adult knows continue long after high school ends.”



                                  For the first series, Furman was supplied with an extensive description of the show and the episode scripts. For the second series, she says, “They trusted us completely. They were like, ‘you know what to do’. I try to imagine what’s going to be on screen as a jumping-off point, but they don’t need songs that fit, they need songs of a high quality, that come from a real place. That’s why they wanted me, I guess. Also, I guess they noticed an exuberant vulnerability. I lay all my feelings out there.”

                                  Given Furman’s personal experience at high school, having been closeted with regard to gender and sexuality, she wasn’t method-acting for a second. The new songs allowed her to reconnect to that past, but also the present, as teenager and adult. ‘Amateur’, for example. “I’m an amateur in my heart, and the show is about amateurs,” she says. “About bodies not yet fully formed, and hearts not yet hardened to the world.”

                                  ‘Every Feeling’ was inspired by a bad bout of depression: “I was so bored of having these feelings year after year, I just wanted to feel them all and get them over with.” ‘Care’ is afflicted by, “the noise of celebrity culture and politics.” Why can’t we just have, as Furman sings, “a world of love and care”? “That’s the dream I hang on to,” she says.

                                  Songwriting, Furman concludes, “is a way of keeping tabs on what I care most about, the purest stuff, the matters of the heart that don’t expire. It’s what matters to teenagers, and revisiting the teenage perspective has been oddly centering for me. It’s a reminder of what’s important, and the emotional dramas that persist through life.”

                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                  LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                  Sonikku

                                  Joyful Death

                                    “I love songs that make you want to cry and dance at the same time,” says Tony Donson, the London-based musician who records as SONIKKU. That sense of unfettered release and liberation drives his new album, Joyful Death. A fluent, fertile and full-colour hybrid of vibrant Italo-house, liquid synth-pop, righteous disco and French philosophical asides, it’s an album that signals the emergence proper of SONIKKU – a fully formed dancefloor artist. It’s also a farewell of sorts, perhaps, but with an emphatic rebirth at its heart. “This album feels like a transformation in the sense that I’m creating the music I’ve always wanted to make. A fully realised, coherent pop record that showcases my craft as a song-writer and producer.”

                                    Total control of his craft is swiftly asserted on ‘Let the Light In’, where the influences of lost-in-music disco and the Pet Shop Boys merge under vocals from immersive, exploratory British singer-songwriter Douglas Dare. The pace accelerates as ‘WKND’ gets into a groove pitched somewhere between Madonna, Daft Punk and Indeep, with LA future-pop singer LIZ primed for dancefloor abandon on vocals. Meanwhile, SONIKKU’s independent intent is firmly asserted on the freestyle-inspired ‘Don’t Wanna Dance with You’, where singer Aisha Zoe coolly brushes off unwanted advances in favour of dancefloor pleasures.

                                    LIZ assumes vocal duties again for ‘Sweat’, a song fully equipped to make dancefloor devotees do as its title suggests. Dreamily melodic evidence of SONIKKU’s dynamism (and love of melancholy Swedish electro-pop queen Robyn) beckons on ‘X Hopeless Romantic’, where Little Boots contributes a sweetly loved-up vocal over a sublimely infectious chorus.

                                    Pummelling synths signal a dramatic shift of pace on the almost electro-darkwave dash of ‘Remember to Forget Me’, where actor/singer Chester Lockhart presides over a summit meeting between Depeche Mode and New Order. Performance artist Tyler Matthew Oyer takes the vocals for the Italo-disco-inspired title-track, a vividly imagined album manifesto – of sorts – inspired to varying degrees by an 1892 poem, French thinker Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the “body without organs” and a 1997 anime called The End of Evangelion. Finally, that grand piano takes over as Dare returns, presiding over an achingly stripped-back version of ‘Remember to Forget Me’.

                                    With help from friends and artists he admires on vocals, Joyful Death is a hugely confident and self-contained leap forward for SONIKKU after his time as a feted DJ. Having moved from Derby to London at the age of 18, Donson worked as an intern (at MTV, Dazed & Confused, SHOWstudio and elsewhere) then turned to DJing (from London to Tokyo, Paris and Berlin) after he was signed to London label Lobster Theremin. Though he continues to DJ regularly at Tottenham’s LGBTQ rave-up Adonis, he has extra ambitions in mind: “I love DJing but I’m more looking forward to developing a live show.”

                                    Ren Harvieu

                                    Revel In The Drama

                                      Harvieu’s defiance against the odds and her willingness to lay herself open to make what she believed was within her is baked into every groove of the record, across every stylistic turn: the giddy pop of ‘Strange Thing’, the gothic swoon of ‘Cruel Disguise’, the smokey seductiveness of ‘Yes Please’ through to the stirring torchsong finale ‘My Body She Is Alive’.

                                      Harvieu has come a long way from the 17-year-old who was signed to Island Records and who had no intention of becoming a singer-songwriter. Even when she made her debut album “Through The Night”, her confidence was low. “I did help write a few of the songs on that record, which I’m still very fond of, but I felt more of a mouthpiece for someone else’s talent, which eats away at you especially because I had so much to say lyrically I just hadn’t learnt how to as yet.”

                                      Her injury - a broken spine following “a freak accident” between recording and releasing her debut album - undermined Harvieu even further. Likewise, Island parted ways with her six months after it’s release, despite a Top 5 chart entry, making the BBC’s Sound Of 2012, a 5-star live review from The Guardian and TV exposure. What followed was what Harvieu describes as “some very dark years” which she addresses in songs like ‘Spirit Me Away’ and the 50’s ballad-evoking ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ A split with her long term partner, her manager and then her beloved Salford. “In one fell swoop everything was gone. I knew I had to get away, start again, rebuild myself.”

                                      It wasn’t until 2015 to be exact, when she met Romeo Stodart, the Magic Numbers frontman and songwriter who had emailed after seeing her perform on Later… With Jools Holland, to ask if she’d consider writing together. “When we started, the energy was immediately different to anyone I’d worked with before, there was this insane instant musical connection” she says. “I loved that Romeo really embraced who I was and encouraged it, I was starting to realise that I didn’t have to be anything other than myself.”

                                      The pair spent the next two years co-writing: “I wasn’t in a massive hurry, because at last I was having fun” Harvieu says. ‘We’d stay up all night drinking, dancing and playing music, I felt like I was re-discovering a girl who had been hidden, quietened. I’d tell Romeo, I don’t just want to paint pretty pictures I want to revel in the drama of my life, the good and the bad, before I was afraid to say something in my lyrics, but no longer. I felt free.”

                                      The album was co-produced by Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi Lynch, owner of Echo Zoo studio in Eastbourne where recording took place. “It was a truly magical experience working with Dave & Romeo, they are two absolute nurturing musical wizards.” says Harvieu.

                                      Harvieu’s lyrical confidence is evident throughout the album and has you leaning in to absorb line after line. Her voice, soaring and caressing in equal measure, is matched in force by her flirtatious personality. From the album’s opening lyric “Let me put my paws on you, strange thing’through to the feminine bite of ‘Curves And Swerves’ “I’ve got some curves and some swerves, what you gonna do about it?” which crackles with sexual tension and an aching vulnerability.

                                      Among Harvieu’s new songs are messages of hope to her younger, anxious self. To the teenage goth Ren in ‘Little Raven’, she says: “I want you to know, that I’m starting to feel, but its gonna take time, but I’m ready to heal”. ‘Tomorrow Girl Today’ is to the Ren “who would make bad decisions… we can all be very self-destructive, but will we make it this time?”

                                      So what now, Ren Harvieu? “I’ve created a second chance for myself“ she says. “And I will keep creating second chances for myself, because this is my life and I’m not afraid to revel in it anymore.” Revel In the Drama of Ren Harvieu - finally we all can too.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive clear vinyl.

                                      Jonathan Wilson

                                      Dixie Blur

                                        Where do you go after making an album that the Guardian hailed as “a rich, ambitious triumph”, American Songwriter called “a strikingly original, complex and inspired work”, MOJO described as “a record you could lose yourself in for months”, and Billboard as a “most magnificent recording, one that is mandatory listening if you are in search of an immersive album rock experience in the 21st century”? It's a question Jonathan Wilson asked himself after his “maximalist” album Rare Birds was released in 2018 to glowing reviews. Not only did it earn him Album of the Year awards in Rolling Stone, France and Blitz in Portugal, it brought him his first national television appearances in the US, on Conan and CBS Saturday Morning.

                                        Rare Birds had been the culmination of three solo albums in seven years that the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer released to widespread acclaim. His first, 2011's Gentle Spirit, a beautiful California dream of an album, is a classic by now and won him the admiration and friendship of Graham Nash, David Crosby, Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne. His follow-up, Fanfare, was also well-received with Uncut calling it “a lavish musical epic, the work of a dedicated and stone cold studioholic.” But now Wilson was looking for something completely new.

                                        In 2019 he appeared on the celebratednationally-syndicated live music radio show eTown. “It was sort of bluegrass-based”, Wilson says, “and on this particular show I was playing with Steve Earle. Next thing you know, I'm talking with Steve about recording.” Earle advised Wilson that, if he had a bunch of songs written, he ought to take them to Nashville and make the record blind, since Nashville's crawling with studios and top-notch session players. “And that's how I got into the idea of going to Nashville and tapping into that sound,” says Wilson. “The sound of my home.”

                                        Wilson was born in a small town in North Carolina. As a child he was raised on a mix of Beatles, 60’s and 70’s rock, country, and bluegrass.His uncle played in bluegrass legend Bill Monroe's band. His father had a rock band, but he would often jam with local friends who could “moonlight on banjo and mandolin and do gospel harmonies that would knock you out. I would sit there and strum along,” says Wilson, “There’s this astute southern rhythm and musicality in western NC… Then there’s this crazy three finger banjo style that you have to be really good at it because you’re from the place where Earl Scruggs is from. One of my father’s best pals was the music director at the Caroleean gospel church where my grandfather was a preacher and on the side he could pick the shit out of a mandolin. So, I was exposed to something super-authentic that I was soaking up. In hindsight, it doesn’t get more authentic than that.”

                                        A musical prodigy himself, Wilson wrote his first song at three. He was also a musical polymath, playing drums, horns, woodwind, piano and guitar. He joined an R&B band at 14; left high school to study jazz with some old masters, and joined a rock band, Muscadine. He also became a noted luthier and a record producer. Among the artists he has produced albums for are Father John Misty, American band Dawes, British folk legend Roy Harper and Conor Oberst. In 2017-18 Rogers Waters asked Wilson to join him on his US+THEM tour on guitar and as musical director. Wilson also sang all the David Gilmour vocal parts. On that two-year tour, Wilson would sometimes find himself thinking about his Southern home. “Stuck out there in a hotel in Latvia, it's a long way from anything that feels like home or family. I felt I was subconsciously being led back to my roots.” In the new song '69 Corvette' he sings, I still think of Carolina sometimes. I miss the family. I miss that feeling. I miss home.

                                        Those feelings were still fresh in his mind during that conversation with Steve Earle. Making his next album live in the studio with a Nashville band, instead of building them alone, piece by piece in his L.A studio, seemed like a good way to go back while simultaneously moving forward. An example of that is Wilson's new take on “Korean Tea”, an old song he had done with his ‘90’s band Muscadine. “That is a song about having a shining musical gift to share with the world. My brother says that’s one of the prettiest melodies I’ve written, so I decided to bring it back into the world”. “Heaven Making Love” is a song Wilson wrote for Rare Birds but abandoned; “I tried but I could never really get it, it had that locomotive polka thing sorta so I guess it was waiting for an album like this to join!”

                                        With Wilson's longtime friend Pat Sansone of Wilco producing, Wilson and the band recorded in Studio A at the Sound Emporium, the late country maverick Cowboy Jack Clement's studio. The musicians included Nashville’s premier session players including bass player Dennis Crouch, Russ Pahl on pedal steel, multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke, and world renowned Fiddle master Mark O’Connor. “I was thinking about fiddle as being an integral part of the record, and I needed to find the best. In my mind the best of the best was Mark O'Connor. So I decided to reach out to him. I said, ‘Hey man, I'm doing a session, would you like to come down and play fiddle?’ and he's like, ‘Thank you, but I haven't done a session since 1990.’ So, he didn't say no and he didn't say yes! Over time, he eventually said, ‘Maybe, but my only stipulation is it's got to be with the band, no overdubs. That's what drove me out of the session business.’ That was a big deal to all of us. Mark truly elevates the record and he shines as the most brilliant fiddler on Earth, I thank him for his beautiful melodies on this album.”

                                        Working with this Nashville band gave Wilson the same kind of feeling he had as a kid, strumming along with those bluegrass bands. “There's something about this level of musicianship, they've been in so many sessions. It was fun to play some of the more stoner Canyon-ey tunes for this crack session band and watch them write up their special Nashville charts with their numbers, symbols and diamonds… they call it ‘hillbilly arithmetic’ over there…. The album was cut in only six days. “It was so fast it was a blur.” Hence the title, Dixie Blur. “And there really is a magic that occurs when musicians play together in a room and create that one consistent thing in time, something is created by the collective energy that is impossible to recreate otherwise,” says Wilson.

                                        “It feels like another side, you know? Sort of like a personal, unplugged, just got off the road feeling. I think it's the most down to earth and emotional both musically and lyrically that I've ever been.”


                                        STAFF COMMENTS

                                        says: Jonathan Wilson has had a stellar career as a songwriter and musician, following on from his equally stellar career as a producer and session muso, and 'Dixie Blur' just goes to show exactly why he's so in demand. Gorgeous melodies, flawless songwriting and a good dose of classic rock whimsy and downbeat ballad bliss.

                                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                                        Coloured LP Info: Mint Green Vinyl

                                        Wrangler

                                        A Situation

                                          When Wrangler first formed like Voltron a decade ago, they had a very simple modus operandi. The clue was in their name. Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards (The Maths), Stephen ‘Mal’ Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil ‘Phil’ Winter (Tuung) would get together with a very select kit list of careworn analog synthesizers and vintage digital sequencers. Their task? To wrangle new music from the ancient equipment. These self-imposed restrictions helped produced two classic long players: LA Spark (2014) and White Glue (2016).

                                          However the times have changed and so have Wrangler. The coming decade, which looks set to be dubbed the Terrible Twenties, may be the last time that bands actually get to release albums. Ecological collapse, climate crisis, food shortages and the disintegration of the fabric of society will mean that the slow devolution of the music industry isn’t even one of the main things that musicians (or anyone else) should be worrying about. So the trio have thrown everything into their third (but hopefully not their last) album. The result - A Situation out this month on Bella Union - is simultaneously their bleakest and funkiest release to date.

                                          This collection of warm, reverberant, amped up tracks, that land somewhere between future music, synth pop, industrial dance, classic techno and rigid electro, captures the ambiguities of the group perfectly. Just as they use the ageing outmoded equipment that other people once chose to throw away in order to make tomorrow’s music, they are the paranoid group who (just about) dare to hope that things still might turn out OK. They cast a doleful eye across the hellscape of 2019 and state, if the end is truly nigh, then it’s never been more important to celebrate the little time we have left. And if a revolution to save ourselves is possible then we’re all in need of a revolutionary party, with a revolutionary soundtrack to match.

                                          Even though their first two albums were released on Benge’s own MemeTune label he was unsure that he had the time and energy to release A Situation. The solution was staring them in the face however. In 2018 the members of Wrangler along with revered American musician, John Grant released Mr Dynamite on Bella Union, their debut as Creep Show. Label boss Simon Raymonde heard the tracks and loved them: Wrangler now had a new home.

                                          For Mal it almost feels like a family affair: “I was best friends with Robin [Guthrie] and Liz [Fraser] of Cocteau Twins and when Simon joined the group I got to know him really well. I was more from a club music background but I loved what the Cocteaus did.” Phil adds that there’s no real need for them to define the difference between Wrangler and Creep Show, as the chemistry is completely different: “It’s not just John’s vocals but the way he plays synths and programmes rhythms is unique, so that music can’t help but have its own character. It’s the result of a four way democracy instead of a three way democracy.”

                                          The album title A Situation is purposefully ambiguous perhaps referring to a job that needs doing or a nettle that needs to be grasped; perhaps referring to an unspecified event that is potentially either an opportunity or a threat. The mood is set by ‘Anthropocene’ which concerns the collapse and fall of human civilisation. As Mal points out: “If a future archaeologist digs down into the rocks they probably won’t find any human fossils, just a very thin layer of plastic and some rust patches. There’s an inevitability because the wheels have already been set in motion but that doesn’t mean we should ignore what’s going on, we should be taking care of things regardless. So this is about reaching out to other people before it’s too late rather than building walls.They’re the first fucking things that are going to fall down in the Anthropocene!”

                                          ‘How To Start A Revolution’ contains a different kind of warning. Mal says: “There was originally a little bit of irony in this track but if anything the world has become even scarier in the last two years. If you keep on pushing people there will come a tipping point and it will come back to bite you. There’s no irony left any more.” ‘Machines Designed (To Eat You Up)’ is about the fully-automated AI state surveillance that threatens us all. It looks like the future that Cabaret Voltaire warned us about over four decades ago is now finally here. Mal says: “It’s not my fault! I take no satisfaction at all in this stuff coming true. If it felt dystopian then, it feels more dystopian now. Wrangler are still questioning power but some of the tools of power have changed. I’m now fearful of Google in the same way I was fearful of Thatcher in the 80s.” Phill adds: “In the 70s and 80s if you wanted to have a go you could any weekend of the year but nowadays it’s harder to see who the enemy is and where they are. Come on out and have a go. Where are you hiding?” Benge concludes: “People are aware of the problems with Google, Facebook, 5g, social media, etc. but they’re woven into everything we do, so impossible to deal with.” Addressing the multiple failures of the internet ‘Mess’ originally had the more prosaic title ‘It’s A Fucking Mess’ which just about says it all. ‘White Noise’ is perhaps the bleakest track of all, based round a spoken word piece by Mal, inspired by a reflection on JG Ballard’s notorious and transgressive experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition.

                                          But Wrangler refuse to ignore the possibility of hope. The mirror image of ‘Mess’ comes in the shape of the copper-bottomed Kraftwerkian techno pop banger, ‘Rhizomatic’. In 1980, French philosophers Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze came up with the idea of complex connectivity between “nodes” which eerily predicted the way the internet would work. As Mal says: “It’s an uplifting song, simply because the decentralisation of technology is the one aspect of the internet that might save us.” On the track ‘Anarchy Of Sound’ the group call up perhaps their most unlikely influence to date: the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid Of Athens. Benge explains: “We’ve built weird things into this track called Euclid patterns.” Mal, who studied the history of rhythm for his PhD concludes: “They’ve been part of culture for millennia and explain African drumming as much as Elvis Presley.” But perhaps the most positive aspect of the album is hardwired into the DNA of the track ‘Slide’ simply because it stands on a continuum with the most uplifting of jacking Chicago house and the most utopian of New York garage.

                                          Both sides of the coin - the dystopian and the utopian - are necessary for Wrangler to work. Phil sums it up the most succinctly when he says: “The heavier things get, the more I just want to jump around and have some fun.”


                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                          says: It's almost like Wrangler were my answer to 'Who Would Your Supergroup Dream Team Be?', with some of the greatest musicians from 3 of the most diverse acts around electronic music today. 'A Situation' is yet more evidence of their right to inclusion, a thumping, synthy fever dream.

                                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                                          2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                          Lanterns On The Lake

                                          Spook The Herd

                                            It’s strange – not to mention fundamentally disconcerting - to live through turbulent times. Yet as many feel like the world is slipping out of control, artists are enlivened as they seek to make sense of the shifting sands. Hazel Wilde of Lanterns on the Lake is now a songwriter necessarily emboldened. On Spook the Herd, the band’s fourth record, her voice and preoccupations rise to the fore like never before. In tandem, the band break new ground on a set of songs that are direct and crucial.

                                            Wilde does nothing less than dive headlong into the existential crises of our times. Beginning with the record’s title - a pointed comment at the dangerously manipulative tactics of ideologues - its nine songs turn the microscope to issues including our hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief and the climate crisis.

                                            The world is brought into focus, but Wilde’s style is not declarative. She also proves herself a songwriter possessed of a rare talent for finding the personal contours to contemporary issues, fully inhabiting them to make them real. Recorded as live where possible, the band’s natural touchstones of gauzy dream-pop and monumental post rock still float in the air, but listening to Lanterns on the Lake now feels like actually sitting in the corner of the room as they play. As guitarist and producer Paul Gregory says of approaching their fourth album, “There was a sense of release in terms of what kind of music we felt we could make. The idea of what kind of band you’re supposed to be really disappeared. It was great; you felt you could do whatever you like.”

                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                            LP Info: 180g black vinyl housed in a gatefold sleeve.

                                            LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                            The sleeve tells you so much about the process. It’s a picture of a lone figure. Suited up and immersed in interplanetary protective gear, he walks out across unmapped terrain. In the distance, a mountain range towers over the roughly gridded sand he’s striding. This is very much a solo mission – giant steps into the unknown. Inside the helmet, there’s all the uncertainty and madness that such a pursuit brings.

                                            That sleeve (designed, as ever, with Mark Farrow), comes wrapped around And Nothing Hurt - Spiritualized’s eighth album, the follow up to 2012’s Sweet Heart, Sweet Light. From the opening lullaby of A Perfect Miracle through to the fading Morse Code at the close of Sail on Through, it painstakingly wraps layer upon layer of gloriously transcendent sound together to create a mesmerizing and cinematic collection of songs.

                                            There are points – the thunderous climax of On the Sunshine; the spectral waltz of The Prize; the towering guitar solo on I’m Your Man – where the waves of blissful noise are almost overwhelming, where one can imagine the studio’s speakers vibrating themselves off of the walls. Which is an incredible feat when you discover that the album was conceived and recorded almost entirely by one man – Jason Pierce, AKA J.Spaceman - in an upstairs room in his east London home. Sat in an edit suite in Whitechapel a month or so after finishing recording, Jason talks honestly about the painstaking, frustrating process of creating And Nothing Hurt.

                                            “Making this record on my own sent me more mad than anything I’ve done before. We’d been playing these big shows and I really wanted to capture that sound we were making but, without the funds to do, I had to find a way to work within the constraints of what money I had. So I bought a laptop and made it all in a little room in my house.”

                                            Whereas bedroom recording is commonplace for a generation of musicians who’ve grown up with horizon-expanding tech, Spiritualized have long used the studio as they would an extra member of the band – as a vital building block in the construction of some of the most cherished records of the modern era. This time would be very different. With no grounding in digital recording, Jason had to learn everything from scratch.

                                            “The biggest thing for me was to try to make it sound like a studio session. There are bits that I went to a studio to record – mainly drums and percussion. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to get timpani up my stairs. When I came to terms with how I was going to make the record, I assumed it was going to sound like Lee Perry - all flying in from different angles; all extraordinary and not hi-tech in construction. But I was new to it all, I didn’t have all the short cuts people use when they’re making records – I just sat there for weeks… for months… moving every level up bit by bit just to try to get the sounds right.”

                                            For the listener, the nine tracks on And Nothing Hurt effortlessly replicate the scale and power of Spiritualized’s previous releases, whether it’s the sonic blowback of On the Sunshine, the last dime in the jukebox love letter of Let’s Dance or the swell of an imaginary orchestra that seems to lift Damaged towards the heavens as it plays out.

                                            “With a bit of trial and lot of error, I found ways of doing something that’s quite simple, if you’ve got the resources. I spent two weeks listening to classical records and strumming the chord that I wanted on my guitar. When I found something to match what I wanted, I’d sample that bit and go for the next chord and try to match that. It took weeks, trying to put together and layer convincing string sounds. But, if I’m honest, all I wanted was for someone to come and play the part and bring their own thing to the record.”

                                            One of the biggest influences on the final sound of the record was a series of shows played in 2016 celebrating the (near) 20th anniversary of the band’s peerless 1997 release Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Those shows, played with a fifteen-piece orchestra and a gospel choir, forced Jason to revisit songs that he’d already been working on for years.

                                            “Part of the reason for doing those gigs was to inform the songs I’d been working on. Trying to sing convincingly in a little room at home was really difficult. The big shows helped remind myself what it’s like to sing with that kind of backing. I can’t really describe it… when you’re singing with a choir behind you and there’s all this noise coming off the stage, you sing things very differently to how you would A) in a studio or B) sitting on your bed at home recording into a laptop.”

                                            Lyrically, And Nothing Hurt touches on thoughts of passing time and acceptance of one’s age – never more beautifully than on Let’s Dance (‘The hour is getting late, they’re putting all the chairs away / they’ve got Big Star on the radio, they’ll let us stay’).

                                            “I didn’t want to be fighting against my age; it’s very much about acceptance. And not with any dissatisfaction either – I’m not raging against the inevitable. I spent a lot of time thinking about the way that the songs should hold together, trying to make the narratives make sense rather than just throwing together a couple of lines that rhymed. Let’s Dance was very much a ‘last orders’ kind of song, about grasping at the finality of that moment.”

                                            During the making of And Nothing Hurt, Jason kept returning to the thought that this would be the last Spiritualized record – interviews over the last couple of years made it clear that the frustration of trying to replicate the sounds in his head whilst sat on his bed were proving too much. With the record finally finished and a new UK label (Bella Union – Fat Possum continue to release Spiritualized records in the States), does he feel the same way now?

                                            “I was quite sincere about that and I still feel like it might be the case. It was such hard work. I found myself going crazy for so long. It’s not like there’s no coming back, I’m fine now… it’s just such a hard thing to do, to make a record like this on your own. It’s almost as if, if I’m not pushing myself to point of madness, it’s not going to be right. And I know it’s going to be like that every time. What’s the definition of madness? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I kind of do that. I think the biggest goal is to make something that’s worthy of all that time and effort. And the more time and effort, the bigger the goal. I knew I had to make something that was good enough that it should be made. And a massive positive about making the record is that we get to play it live. That’s always the most joyous thing; everyone gets to contribute to the sound, this amazing thing that seems to come right through the roof.”

                                            If the last set of Spiritualized gigs helped set the course for how And Nothing Hurt now sounds – alternately intimate, hypnotic, cyclonic and downright spiritual - maybe… just maybe… this next set will encourage Jason to flip open the laptop to press record again. Here’s hoping.

                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                            Coloured LP 2 Info: Indies exclusive silver vinyl.

                                            The Innocence Mission

                                            See You Tomorrow

                                              Love. Connection. Community. Understanding. Most of us experience these aspects through the prism of family and friends. But not everybody can turn those feelings into song, especially not with the beauty and sensitivity of Pennsylvania trio the innocence mission, fronted by Karen Peris and husband Don. Following their Bella Union album debut Sun On The Square, which won the band some of their best-ever reviews, they have made another exquisite and touching album, See You Tomorrow. A record steeped in awe and wonder, intense longing, sadness and joy; a rich sequence of songs that attempt to describe the essence of what makes us human.

                                              Sufjan Stevens, who has covered the innocence mission’s classic ‘Lakes Of Canada’, once called their music “moving and profound. What is so remarkable about Karen Peris' lyrics is the economy of words, concrete nouns which come to life with melodies that dance around the scale like sea creatures.”

                                              The band recorded See You Tomorrow in the Peris’ basement (and the dining room where the piano sits). Karen wrote and sang ten of the album’s eleven songs, and plays guitars, piano, pump organ, accordion, electric bass, melodica, mellotron, and an old prototype strings sampler keyboard. Don contributes guitars, drums, vocal harmonies, and one lead vocal on his song ‘Mary Margaret In Mid-Air’. Fellow founder member Mike Bitts adds upright bass to four songs including ‘On Your Side’, the album’s first single.

                                              The Flaming Lips

                                              The Soft Bulletin - Live At Red Rocks

                                                On 26th May 2016, The Flaming Lips performed their universally acclaimed 1999 album The Soft Bulletin in its entirety with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. This particular event has been regarded by those in attendance as one of the most awe-inspiring, moving and magical moments of a lifetime. For the Lips and their fans, perhaps the apex of a magnificent interpretation that will remain as rewarding and emotionally-charged as it was that night in 2016. The Flaming Lips performed the 12-track album in its original sequence with new arrangements accompanied by a 69-piece orchestra and 56-strong chorus. The performance was conducted by the internationally celebrated conductor Andre De Ridder.

                                                Now, the resulting live recording is being released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Soft Bulletin. The album was the band’s breakthrough moment and featured the hit singles “Race for the Prize” and “Waitin’ for a Superman.”

                                                Various Artists

                                                Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II

                                                  ‘Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II’ is Bella Union’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed ‘Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde’.

                                                  This new compilation is a further celebration of the great British arranger, musical director, producer and songwriter Ivor Raymonde, who died at age 63 in 1990. Bella Union, the label behind both releases, is run by Ivor’s son Simon Raymonde.

                                                  Like ‘Paradise’, ‘Odyssey’ has been compiled by Simon with author, journalist and music historian Kieron Tyler. Simon explains that: “The research Kieron and I did for Paradise showed us that there was still an extremely rich seam of his music to be uncovered. A follow-up volume was increasingly inevitable.”

                                                  ‘Paradise’ told the story of a British musical great for the first time. Classic Sixties hits like Billy Fury’s ‘Halfway To Paradise’, Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ (co-written by Ivor) and The Walker Brothers’ ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ were collected. All were arranged or produced by Ivor and heard alongside just-asfantastic tracks by David Bowie, Sonny Childe, Cindy Cole, Tom Jones, Los Bravos and Helen Shapiro. ‘Odyssey’ is additional confirmation of the seemingly limitless scope of Ivor’s talents. More hits are featured: the Alan Price Set’s irresistible Top Five interpretation of Randy Newman’s ‘Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear’, Dusty Springfield’s kinetic ‘Little By Little’, Frankie Vaughan’s epic chart topper ‘Tower Of Strength’ and the aural drama of Marty Wilde And His Wildcats’ ‘Endless Sleep’.

                                                  There are also lesser-known tracks by best-sellers: Los Bravos’ Raymonde-composed soul stomper ‘Brand New Baby’, Cat Stevens’ moody ‘Blackness Of The Night’ and the extraordinary 1966 Walker Brothers’ album track ‘Where’s The Girl’, which pointed to where the solo Scott Walker would soon be heading.

                                                  Although Ivor Raymonde was a back-room figure, he made the Top 30 in early 1963 as the clandestine vocalist with The Chucks – a studio demo had been made with no intention of it ending up in record shops. Then, it was issued and a band name needed. Ivor plumped for The Chucks and ‘Loo-Be-Loo’ began rising up the charts. On Odyssey, it is at last given its context.

                                                  Going into the reasons for a follow-up to ‘Paradise’, Simon adds “I knew there was more but even a serial curator, late-night trawler like me, at some point thinks ‘the best stuff must now surely be all discovered.’ But finding tracks like Christopher Colt’s ‘Girl In The Mirror’ is like unearthing a rare Donovan track produced by Ray Davies. Probably my favourite discovery was The Martells’ ‘Time To Say Goodnight’ which Ivor produced when he worked at Decca Records. They only released one seven-inch single which sells for over £200, so it’s quite a rarity and more importantly a banger of a track.”

                                                  Instead of Ivor, the cover image of ‘Odyssey’ is of Ivor’s wife Nita.

                                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                  2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                  Dog In The Snow

                                                  Vanishing Lands

                                                    Bella Union introduce Dog In The Snow, the moniker of Brighton-based artist Helen Ganya Brown. Dog In The Snow’s Bella Union debut is ‘Vanishing Lands’; an imposing, haunting and luminous collection of songs in the darker spaces between dream-pop, art-rock and electronica, lifted by euphoric melodies, ravishing vocals and absorbing lyrics.

                                                    ‘Vanishing Lands’ was initially created at Brown’s home in Brighton before co-producer Rob Flynn helped her add shifting, impressionistic swathes of colour, from the ominous chords that open ‘Light’ to the vocal eddies that close ‘Dark’.

                                                    Brown wrote 8 of the 10 songs in a 3-week spell after a period of “strange dreams.” She recalls: “Dreams in black and white. I found myself in a dreamland and discovered it was being destroyed. I chose ‘Vanishing Lands’ as an album title because it sounded suitably desolate, and lent the songs a feeling of cohesion.”

                                                    Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith

                                                    Mummer Love

                                                    A sonic cross-continental experience, ‘Mummer Love’ is the second album in the ‘Perfect Vision’ triptych collaboration between Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith.

                                                    For this body of work, Soundwalk Collective journeyed to Africa to explore the intricacies of Arthur Rimbaud’s most obscure period. After leaving France and what he deemed the ‘Western stagnation’, Rimbaud found himself in Harar, Ethiopia - an epicentre of Sufism in Africa. Sufi practise focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, the purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. A strand within the wider Islam religion, it focuses on spirituality, meditation and chanting sessions.

                                                    As with the other albums in the triptych, the Collective searched for hidden, earthy sounds that hold memories and embed existence. For ‘Mummer Love’ they also found themselves recording under the tree where Rimbaud photographed the shrine of Sheik Abadir Umar ar- Rida al Harari, the founder of the holy city Harar. “As the rain fell, I wondered if I was hearing the drops hitting the leaves the same way Rimbaud did 140 years ago,” Stephan Crasneanscki from Soundwalk Collective says. These sounds and Sufi chants are juxtaposed with Patti Smith’s poems, like the title track ‘Mummer Love’. Written to Rimbaud, Smith’s words are rooted in multiple aspects of the self: from the passion of a lover to the care of a mother and everything in between.

                                                    Further contributions to the album come from Mulatu Astatke (widely considered the father of Ethio-jazz) and Phillip Glass, who has long felt a connection to Sufi music, coming together and evoking a call and response between piano and vocals of the Sufi masters. It is simultaneously the first time Glass collaborates with Smith and so Harar becomes an extraordinary meeting place for all to celebrate the beauty of Rimbaud’s work.

                                                    ‘Mummer Love’ is released around the anniversary of the death of Arthur Rimbaud (10th November 1891).

                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                    says: The collaboration of dreams – Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith. Compelling instrumentals and sound recordings joined with Patti Smith’s poetic spoken word makes it work so well. Taking inspiration from Ethiopia, using Sufi music takes it to a whole new level.

                                                    Broen return with eyes open to new vistas on their second album, ‘Do You See The Falling Leaves?’. Back in 2017, Norway’s experi-pop quintet brought exuberant reserves of intelligence, positivity and warm-spirited commonality to the world-building bustles of jazz, funk, psychedelia, electronics and hip hop on their international debut, ‘I Love Art’.

                                                    ‘Do You See The Falling Leaves?’ extends its predecessor’s vision and expands its brightly generous worldview, opening the door to mindful, invigorating and mind-bogglingly inventive ways of composing, engaging and connecting: with nature, with each other, with their own potential.

                                                    As Anja Lauvdal (synths, piano) explains, finding ways to connect is a core theme. Even if EE Cummings’ classic minimalist poem ‘l(a’ was not an influence on the album, its use of a falling leaf to symbolise loneliness clicked with Anja. “I thought that was a nice comment to the title/theme of the record. People can use each other and nature around us to feel connected instead of lonely. The opposite of loneliness is maybe to be connected - as an individual - but also connected to the world. In a way, ‘do you see the falling leaves’ then also means ‘do you see the lonely people’, and that you can open your eyes or reach out a hand.”

                                                    The city and the country both have distinct, vibrant energies - but there’s something happening in between, too. As factories give way to fields, and highways drift into gravelly roads, the friction can be palpable, the aura electric. The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper’s mind when he named his new band Modern Nature. He took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a “weird mix of urban and rural” - such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.

                                                    On Modern Nature’s debut album, ‘How To Live’, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle between the expansive motorik of Can, the Canterbury progressiveness of Caravan and the burgeoning experimentalism of Talk Talk’s ‘Colour Of Spring’.

                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                    says: Having penned a succession of hazy, indie-rock affairs, Jack Cooper (formerly of Manchester's own Trof fame) breaks out a beautiful folky wanderer, heavy on reverb and drifting guitar ambience, but maintaining the melodic leaning that has earned him so many delighted fans. This is beautiful work, and possibly my favourite of his considerable output.

                                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                    Coloured LP Info: Green vinyl LP with digital download code.

                                                    The Flaming Lips

                                                    King's Mouth

                                                      ‘King’s Mouth’ sees the iconoclastic outfit once again tread uncharted territory. These 12 new originals are threaded together by cinematic narration courtesy of The Clash’s Mick Jones. Additionally, the music parallels front man Wayne Coyne’s immersive art installation of the same name. Introduced in 2015, the installation has showcased its psychedelic visuals and soundscapes through North America in museums such as Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, the Pacific Northwest College of Art Portland, OR and Wayne’s own creative space, The Womb, in Oklahoma City, OK. A true handcrafted marvel, it consists of a giant metallic head that welcomes spectators inside. Once inside of the foam mouth, an LED lightshow begins in tandem with music from the album. Now, the record doubles as the sonic companion to the exhibit and allows fans to experience the aural side at any time.

                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                      says: The Flaming Lips are always riding the peripheries of the psychedelic indie wave, and here is no different. Beautifully psychedelic moments mix with weirdo off-piste melodies and woozy saturated pads, before culminating into huge, stadium choruses. It's a heady mixture, and one that continues to make The Flaming Lips one of the most thrilling bands around. Another classic Lips outing.

                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                      Daughter Of Swords

                                                      Dawnbreaker

                                                        In 2017, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig began recording a set of songs about a breakup that had yet to happen. Her partnership had drifted into a comfortable state of indecision, stalling when it came time to make big life moves or chase new horizons. She had the sense that she needed to slip the relationship in order to pursue everything else life might have in store—more music, more adventures, a general sense of the unknown. Those feelings drifted steadily into a set of songs that lamented the inevitable loss but, more important, outlined the promise of the future. Recording the ten tracks that became her stunning solo debut, Dawnbreaker, under the new name Daughter of Swords gave Sauser-Monnig permission to go.

                                                        Dawnbreaker began as the first phase of Sauser-Monnig’s return to music after stepping to the sidelines for the better part of a decade. Her college trio, Mountain Man, rose to quick acclaim for their peerless harmonies around 2010, but the friends slowly drifted apart, following their own interests to different coasts and concerns. While working on a flower farm as a farmhand, though, Sauser-Monnig realized that she missed the emotional articulation she found in writing songs and singing them and resolved to start again. She pieced together an album just as Mountain Man—now newly gathered in the fertile Piedmont of North Carolina—began to regroup for its second LP, 2018’s aptly named Magic Ship. Working with Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn, Sauser-Monnig shaped what began as quiet reflections into confident compositions, crackling with country swagger and a sparkling pop warmth. They were, after all, preemptive odes to the next phase of life.

                                                        Calling the ten tunes of Dawnbreaker breakup songs is to hamstring them with elegiac expectations, to paint them as sad-eyed surrenders to loss and grief. Sure, there is the gentle opener “Fellows,” a hushed number that explores the turmoil of being unable to reciprocate the feelings of a wild and shy, tall and fine man. And there’s the blossoming country shuffle of “Easy Is Hard,” where Sauser-Monnig stands in the yard and sees her lover leave, his taillights fading into the night sky; she can’t sleep, so she gets up to turn the lights and stereo on, to “feel my soul coming down.”  Even there, amid the throes of a life convulsion, there is a wisp of hope and possibility, framed by the way “the dim light change[s] into dawn, rosy blue, pink  fawn.” The very heart of Dawnbreaker is not the impending breakup that inspired many of its songs but the sense of liberation and breaking out that the breakup inspired.

                                                        Buoyed by the insistent patter of a drum machine and rich acoustic guitars,
                                                        Sauser-Monnig finds herself in search of new thrills during “Gem,” whether pondering the fleeting nature of existence at a waterfall’s edge or watching the shapes of mountains seemingly dance beneath her headlights. The muted, harmonica-lined boogie of “Sun” begins with a vulnerable confession, a revelation of loneliness; it is, however, a low-key anthem for the open road, about giving oneself over to the infinity of solitude and an endless strip of asphalt. Sauser-Monnig captures these scenes with a painter’s eye and delivers them with a novelist’s heart.

                                                        There’s no better testament than “Shining Woman,” where Sauser-Monnig portrays a ropy woman navigating her “steel steed” up and down the bends and passes of California’s fabled Highway 1. She openly marvels at that spirit and strength, wishing that for her own life. With Dawnbreaker, she has found it in some measure—the joy of something new, the excitement of risk. Though Sauser-Monnig nearly recorded these songs as barebones folk ballads, she reimagined them with Sanborn and a top-tier crew of North Carolina friends, like fellow Mountain Man singers Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé, bandleader Phil Cook, and guitarist Ryan Gustafson. These vivid settings highlight the emotional contours of these songs, revealing the complexity that comes with knowing that, in order to live, you sometimes have to let something as strong as love go.

                                                        At the start of “Human,” the undeniable climax of Dawnbreaker, Sauser-Monnig wakes up early and finds her lover in bed. She slips out of the room, watches the sun rise alone, and has herself a long think amid nature’s frozen splendor. What does it mean to leave? What does it mean to stay? Is she wrong, and is he right? As the piano rises and her voice multiplies, coming in now from all sides, she admits something crucial to herself: “You can’t will a love to life/But you can do the loving thing: Make like a bird and fly.” It is a moment of reckoning with one’s own liberation, of realizing that sometimes a profound loss is the only way to gain something else. That is the lesson of Dawnbreaker, an intimate document of what it means to set oneself free.


                                                        STAFF COMMENTS

                                                        says: Gorgeous, softly-sung vocals, tenderly plucked guitar and understated percussive drive (is that a CR-78 I hear?), all working together to make Sauser-Monnig's gorgeous artistic vision a reality. Perfect hazy summer songs.

                                                        Jambinai

                                                        Onda

                                                          When the three founders of Jambinai decided to, “communicate with the ordinary person who doesn't listen to Korean traditional music,” few outsiders anticipated an extra-ordinary fusion with metal, post-rock and noise. “Most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation,” says band spokesman Lee Il-woo. “We wanted to break all of that.” Even fewer would have predicted that the likes of Jambinai would play the 2018 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony in their home city of Seoul, accompanied by a troupe of geomungo (Korean zither) players - an audio-visual spectacle that such an occasion demanded. Now comes ONDA, their spectacular new album on Bella Union.

                                                          Says Lee, “Onda means ‘come’ in Korean. The title track has the lyric, ‘At the end of your darkness, pain will turn into the shining stars and it’s going to come to you.’ I want to cheer people up when they hear that track. Onda also means ‘wave’ in Spanish, and I also want to say the third big wave of Jambinai is coming!” The first big wave arrived in 2010 after traditional music students Lee (guitar and piri, a bamboo oboe), Kim Bo-mi (the bow-stringed haegum) and Sim Eun-young (geomungo) joined forces and released the Jambinai EP. The trio’s debut album Différance won Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, triggering several overseas tours and the second wave of Jambinai - an international deal with Bella Union and a second album, A Hermitage. At the time, Lee cited the influence of bands like Metallica, Mogwai and Sigur Rös, but such was the trio’s energy levels, they seemed to draw more on thunderstorms, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, blizzards and desert winds – a force of nature more than a band.

                                                          It’s hard to believe but ONDA is even more dynamic and rhythmic, with the permanent addition of Jaehyuk Choi (drums) and B.K Yu (bass), fixtures of Jambinai’s live band since 2017. The way the quintet “sticks together like gears of a clock or machine,” says Lee, is celebrated on ‘Square Wave’, a breathtaking example of Jambinai’s ability to alternate between ambient serenity and molten ferocity.  ‘Square Wave’ is also one of several ONDA cuts to feature vocals. “Voice and lyrics have strong energy, they can touch someone's heart directly more than instruments,” Lee explains. “Also, most people don’t know Korean, so they hear our voices as sound rather than meaning. We needed more sounds on this album.”

                                                          Not that the instrumental tracks are any less momentous. Take the opening ‘Sawtooth’ (featuring Hwiseon Choi on yanggeum, a hammered dulcimer), because Lee thinks the band’s constantly shifting dynamic, “resembles the sawtooth waveform of electronic sound.” Other ONDA song titles are similarly revealing. ‘Event Horizon’ was suggested by a Jambinai fan to represent the music’s, “strength and chaos”, though the haunting folk instrumentation is never swept aside by the energy on display. ‘Sun. Tears. Red’ is one way to describe Jambinai’s emotional as well as visceral impact, punctuated here by hollering, anguished voices. Says Lee, “I saw a documentary about Korean independence against Japanese imperialism. I wanted to express the soldiers’ fear when they greet the rising sun, preparing to battle for freedom even though they knew they were going to die that day.”

                                                          13 minutes long, ‘In The Woods’ is the album’s lengthiest epic, originally recorded for Jambiani’s 2010 EP and now rearranged for the expanded quintet, plus guest traditional singer Bora Kim. The inspiration here is environmental pollution, soundtracked by eight minutes of mournful ambience that slowly builds to a shattering climax. “The earth is in serious pain,” Lee concludes. ONDA ends on a thematic note of drama and redemption. In ‘Small Consolation’, says Lee, “a person leads their weary body to a distant glow, which is small consolation. But when they get there, it turns into a big light, big consolation and happiness.” The closing title track comes in two parts: a calm prelude (featuring Lee on saenghwang, a tall reed mouth organ) before the euphoric main course, graced by choral grandeur. Once the music dies away, the feeling is one of blissful exhaustion.

                                                          Says Lee: “After Jambinai’s US tour of 2017, I travelled the country for a month. I was worried about my future and the music because I had quit my job for the band but we didn’t have much money and the tour was tough and tiring for everyone. But when I visited the Grand Canyon, Mother Nature cheered me up and it was felt like she was telling me, “you are doing really well. Back in Korea, I wrote more songs with confidence and happiness.”

                                                          The third wave of Jambinai is here. Come (Onda) join them for the ride of your life…


                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                          says: Since their 2016 outing, 'A Hermitage' Jambinai have woven the traditional sounds of South Korea through their music, combining the haunting sounds of the traditional instruments with crushing post-metal dynamics and tender instrumental delicacy. Finely treading the line between simmering, gloomy unease and euphoric spine-tingling highs, Jambinai continue their legacy with yet another killer LP.

                                                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                          2xColoured LP Info: White vinyl.

                                                          2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                          Soundwalk Collective Feat. Patti Smith

                                                          The Peyote Dance

                                                            The Peyote Dance’ is the first in a triptych of albums to be released by Bella Union over the next year titled ‘The Perfect Vision’, which take their inspiration from the writings of three emblematic French poets: Antonin Artaud, Arthur Rimbaud and René Daumal and their necessity to travel to different lands to acquire a new vision and perspective on themselves and artworks. Perhaps a perfect vision, it is one that allowed them to transcend forms and borders, both physical and mental. 

                                                            Recorded in the Sierra Tarahumara of Mexico, Abyssinian valley of Ethiopia and Himalayan Summit of India respectively, the central idea is that each landscape holds sleeping memories that are the witness of human passage. Each album retraces the poets’ footsteps, channelled through on-location recorded soundscapes and musicalities, with Patti Smith revisiting the words that have been inspired by the landscapes.

                                                            The triptych marks a new chapter in the collaboration between Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith, who first worked together on ‘Killer Road’ in 2016.

                                                            ‘The Peyote Dance’ focuses on a brief part of Artaud’s life, when he travelled to Mexico City in early 1936 to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Mexico on topics including Surrealism, Marxism and theatre. In the summer, he travelled by train towards the Chihuahua region and by horse to the Tarahumara mountains with the help of a mestizo guide, which the album’s opening track, recited by Gael Garcia Bernal, evokes. Artaud was drawn to the story of the Rarámuri: Native Indian people who live in the Norogachi region of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, the Sierra Tarahumara. One of Artaud’s goals was to find a peyote shaman who could heal him; allowing him to recover from an opioid addiction.

                                                            During his stay, encountering the Rarámuri Indians and peyote shamans of Tarahumara and engaging in ceremonies, Artaud had a transcendental experience which resulted in the book ‘The Peyote Dance’. For the eponymous album, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith revisited writings from the book and other texts written after Artaud’s return to France, where he remained in a mental asylum in Rodez undergoing electric shock therapy. During this dark period, the encounter with the Rarámuri stayed with him as his last significant, happy experience. The final track on the album is a poem written by Patti Smith in homage to Artaud’s last hours in Ivry.

                                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                            2xLP Info: Double LP includes booklet with photos / interview.

                                                            2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                            Doomsquad

                                                            Let Yourself Be Seen

                                                              Even this far into the 21st century, the recent social media furore surrounding US congresswoman and free-style dancer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez illustrated that the spectacle of someone dancing without compunction can still ruffle the right (and alt-right) feathers. In which case, all hail the third album from Toronto’s ardent, art-dance sibling trio Doomsquad. Let Yourself Be Seen is the most assertive, ambitious, groove-sodden declaration of intent yet from Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas: the sound of dancefloor believers and thinkers firing on all personal and political fronts, at a time when we need it most.

                                                              Even if Doomsquad never lacked the courage of their convictions, Let Yourself Be Seen ups the stakes. On 2016’s Total Time, the trio issued invitations to free your mind, body and spirit over dirty bass-lines and hypnotic disco jams. And yet, their reliance on unspoken sibling intuition left them fearing that much of its “message and meaning” had gone unheard. Thus, the trio took a more forthright approach for their third album, aiming to “crystallise what Doomsquad is and what it means to us. What we always knew but put at the forefront of this record is that Doomsquad is a project of protest, catharsis and emotional and spiritual reconnection through music and, especially, through dance-music culture. It’s about activating the body on the most fundamental level, into states of change, release and reunion.”

                                                              Richly steeped in the influences of acid house, West African disco, spiritual jazz, NYC no-wave and new-age ambient music, Let Yourself Be Seen hums with a sense of vigorous, invigorating purpose. After the overture of ‘Spandrel’, ‘The General Hum’ sends out a buoyant new-wave rallying cry for maximised engagement just when the world seems intent on stifling it. “Is there a place for spirit anymore?” it asks. Kicking in with a percussive bustle that all but defies you to try and stand still, ‘Aimless’ answers in the affirmative.

                                                              Elsewhere on the album, Doomsquad’s own dynamic thematic engagement alights on subjects ranging from formative influences to modern societal struggles and eco-crises. ‘Let It Go’ grapples with the challenges of social change at 140BPM, climaxing with a scalding guitar solo to match the heat of its questioning thrust. The mellifluous ‘Emma’ reflects on early-20th-century anarchist and activist Emma Goldman; ‘Dorian’s Closet’, meanwhile, honours New York drag queen Dorian Corey. “Let Yourself Be Seen was fuelled by the inspiration of outsider artists and thinkers before us,” say the band. “Through these songs, we get to glorify some of our heroes.”

                                                              Doomsquad's intent to carry their heroes’ “messages of empowerment, release and spiritual self-determination” to new audiences peaks on the title-track, where the album’s disparate parts build to a disco inferno with a call to “Let yourself be seen!” ‘The Last Two Palm Trees in LA’ offers an empathetic take on a similar theme, based on the acceptance of ageing, before ‘Weather Patterns’ steers a reflection on unity in the face of global crisis to a buffeting crescendo with a thrilling urgency.

                                                              The result is an album for fraught political times, charged by the impetus to bring “music back to the body”. Close-to-home influences on that score include Tanya Tagaq and Peaches, both of whom Doomsquad have toured with; further afield, Peter Gabriel, Diamanda Galás, Genesis P-Orridge and Underworld numbered among inspirations. Meanwhile, as the trio’s creative process took them from a lakeside cabin to a studio in Toronto, they benefited from the input of kindred spirits such as Ejji Smith, whose virtuoso guitar-shredding propels ‘Let It Go’. Israeli jazz composer Itamar Erez adds watery synths to ‘Emma’, while a key studio collaborator was producer/artist Sandro Perri, whose credits include Barzin.


                                                              FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                              Coloured LP Info: Clear vinyl.

                                                              Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                              “If you stick to just what you know, your music, your art or whatever your situation is becomes stagnant,” say Denmark’s Lowly. “And we wouldn’t like to miss out on anything, just because we felt too comfortable.”

                                                              A band unafraid to reach beyond their comfort zone, Lowly thrive on the embrace of doubt and curiosity. An inquisitive spirit drives the quintet’s second album, which evolved from an open-ended process in large spaces, from lost factory halls to water towers. Released via Bella Union, ‘Hifalutin’ brims with suggestive discoveries from its title onwards. The result is the work of five people expressing themselves freely as a tight collective: focused, yet fertile with possibility.

                                                              Warmly received in Pitchfork, Uncut and elsewhere, Lowly’s debut album, Heba, was a feast of dramatic dream-pop. Yet ‘Hifalutin’ is more ambitious still. The album was primarily recorded in a 150 square meter warehouse, just outside the city of Aarhus. Band members recorded their parts as individuals and as a group; meanwhile, the producer, Anders Boll, placed microphones in nooks and crannies of the enormous space, all the better to highlight the dynamics between the band members.

                                                              “We dared to be even more curious,” explains guitarist and singer Nanna Schannong, “and started recording without knowing where we would end up. This curiosity released a huge amount of trust and confidence between us: we became much more tolerant of each other's diversity, and dared to give each other space. It also meant that some sketches suddenly became two pieces… or, that eight to nine different pieces suddenly found themselves in one song.”

                                                              A willingness to turn their backs on accepted frames of practise, for both recordings and performances, has characterized Lowly since their formation in 2014 at the music academy in Aarhus, Denmark, where they studied different subjects but forged a unique chemistry out of contrast.

                                                              As synthesizer player Kasper Staub reflects, “We want to give doubt, and curiosity, a voice. It is needed in a world characterized by obsession and goal-orientated living. You don’t need to know the answer in advance to express yourself. If we don’t allow ourselves to forget the goal, we risk missing all that we did not already know.”

                                                              An invitation sent from and to curious minds, ‘Hifalutin’ is luminous modern pop at its most delicate and robust, assertive and open-ended.

                                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                                              says: Lowly skilfully craft a rising cacophony of echoed dream-pop, hazy electronics and smooth synth swells. Carefully layering together elements into a poppy but satisfyingly weird whole. Think of Efterklang in their more introspective moments mixed with the modern nu-dance stacked synth throbs and Bjork's off-piste vocal style and you're at least part of the way there. Really beautiful, immersive stuff.

                                                              “What came before you is why you’re here now,” declares the man born Eric Brandon Pulido. “So embrace both the past and the present.”

                                                              The current frontman of Texan legends Midlake embraces both past and present times for his glorious debut solo album, To Each His Own, under his new enigmatic alias E.B. The Younger. It’s a deeply personal record, rooted in Pulido’s love of warm, glowing rock, folk and country hues that came of age in the 1970s woven with contemporary recalibrations: guitars ripple, sigh and sizzle alongside gliding keyboards over crisp, choppy and becalmed rhythms. Pulido’s lyrics equally look back and forth, philosophising about his place in the world, the choices he’s made, and where they have taken him.

                                                              Or, as he describes To Each His Own, “an eleven-song journey through the life and times of a wayward Midlaker seeking to find purpose in an uncharted land. Will he find his way? Listen, and ye shall find.”

                                                              Pulido’s “wayward” phase began in 2014 with a break from Midlake, “to invest time in kids and musical projects less physically demanding”, he says. His first project was the transatlantic collective BNQT, a self-described ‘poor man’s Travelling Wilburys’ featuring Pulido, Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Fran Healy (Travis), Jason Lytle (Granddaddy) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) who recorded the 2017 album BNQT – Volume 1. But To Each His Own is all Pulido – or rather, E.B. The Younger.

                                                              “It’s an antiquated way of naming a younger member of a family,” he explains. “I’m expressing, simply, that something greater came before me. It’s countering the idea in today’s culture that everything revolves around ourselves, that we’re the most important thing in the world. I feel that humility is a lost virtue – you only have to look at America’s current leader - which I want this record to represent. Honesty, empathy, love.”

                                                              In this case, honesty begins at home. Solo debutantes typically distance themselves from their musical past, but Pulido freely acknowledges Midlake’s presence on To Each His Own, from the three Midlakers in his backing band to an album title that stems from his memories of band discussions.

                                                              Says Pulido: “It’s very common in bands to have artistic differences, and we were no exception. Saying ‘To each his own’ was almost a way to collectively acquiesce and move forward when differences would arise. It’s OK that we feel differently, because both opinions are valid. The phrase is also about me doing something on my own, a statement that it’s OK to define who you are outside of what has defined you before.”

                                                              With Pulido on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, he drafted in Midlakers (and BNQT contributors) Joey McClellan (electric guitar), McKenzie Smith (drums) and Jesse Chandler (flute), who dovetail with Scott Lee (bass), Daniel Creamer (keyboards) and Beau Bedford (keyboards) from local country-funksters The Texas Gentlemen to form an empathic ‘alt.Wrecking Crew’ of session

                                                              players. Bedford is also the album’s principal producer, while studio engineer and Centromatic drummer Matt Pence acted as the overarching producer, alongside Pulido, as well as adding percussion and occasional drums.

                                                              As Pulido explains, “Midlake self-produced and recorded everything, but as with BNQT, I wanted to embrace collaboration. I’d present songs with just voice and acoustic guitar and ask the musicians where they heard things going, and so we built the songs up organically.”

                                                              Within that organic build, Pulido still had specific ideas in mind. He singles out the late, great Harry Nilsson as a key influence. “Midlake songs were often cerebral and minor-key and I wanted some of mine to be more playful and buoyant and major key, which Harry did so well, while still making deep, thoughtful music.”

                                                              Pulido also hears traces of The Eagles, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Wings and CS&N in To Each His Own, plus an “eighties vibe” to the record’s freewheeling lead single ‘Used To Be’, inspired by The Last Waltz, the film documentary about Pulido’s all-time favourites, The Band. As he recalls, “The guys are sitting backstage playing ‘Old Time Religion’, and Robbie Robertson says, ‘It’s not like it used to be!’, which has always stuck with me. But it’s OK by me that it’s not like it used to be. Embrace where you’re at, and look forward. Be both the old and the young.”

                                                              The Old and The Young is a familiar concept to Midlake fans, as a songtitle from the band’s last album Antiphon. In one sense, ‘The Young’ are also represented here by Conrad Lee Pulido, Eric’s three-year-old son, whose uninhibited dancing to calypso rhythms (from Harry Belafonte and Nilsson tracks) inspires the carefree Tropicália of ‘CLP’. A similarly summery vibe energises ‘On An Island’, inspired by an artist retreat (on the island of Nantucket) where Pulido, “focused on, and finished, several of the songs for the album.” But again Pulido finds a double meaning: “To be an island means you don’t live or march to the beat of anyone else’s drum.”

                                                              Self-determination also defines the sumptuous, soft-rocking “When The Time Comes” where Pulido gently mocks himself as the so-called ‘artist’ who chose to “follow the dream” but without any guarantee of job security or a pension. Moreover, the exquisite ‘Hope Arrives’ recognises that making art typically involves self-doubt, as Midlake experienced. As Pulido recalls, “I felt that fear controlled the obstacles that existed for the band. But when hope arrives, fear will disappear, and peace will come.”

                                                              Midlake also figure in the acoustic, sparse ‘Monterey’, named after the Californian idyll where the band played their last show to date, after which Pulido suggested a break would benefit all: to step off the merry-go-round for a while after riding it together for 15 years. “I said, we’ll pick things back up if and when it makes sense to everyone, trust me,” he recalls. “And I was at peace with our decision.”

                                                              The closing title track emanates a palpable sense of peace while crystalising Pulido’s past-present/old-young mindset: “I’ve been about all alone / I’ve never felt so good before… And what we did before / No I do not ignore”. With a new BNQT album in the works and, if all goes to plan, a Midlake album to follow, Pulido is already looking forward. But his present is E.B The Younger, and his effortlessly melodic, gorgeous songs invested with honesty, empathy and love. Listen, and ye shall find.


                                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                                              says: Half way between poppy Americana and folky Indie, Pulido is more than capable of penning an effective tune, with richly textured acoustic instrumental backdrops forming the perfect base layer for his unmistakeable vocal talents. Warm, rich and beautifully immersive.

                                                              Pom Poko

                                                              Birthday

                                                                Pom Poko are Ragnhild (lead vocals), Ola (Drums), Jonas (Bass) and Martin (Guitar). The 4 met whilst all studying at the Trondheim Music Conservatory in Norway and quickly garnered interest from a wider audience as they began playing and writing together. The group cite a range of influences for their unique sound, including “(West)-African music like Oumou Sangaré and Ali Farka Touré; indie bands like Vulfpeck, Palm and KNOWER; noisy high-energy bands such as Hella and Death Grips; and music with interesting lyrics such as Jenny Hval and Nick Drake.” But you’d struggle to pin them down to one or two forebears, given their resistance to anything resembling a prescriptive approach.

                                                                Speaking about the origin of their name, which taken from one of the more vigorously outré films by Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli, the band explain, “The Pom Poko film captures a lot of what we'd like our concerts to be: high energy, fast pace, lots of stimulus for eyes and ears – and most importantly, really crazy and fun. The movie is basically the time of your life for two hours, and afterwards you're in some state of exhausted ecstasy. Plus the raccoons in the movie, and raccoons in general, are really badass.”

                                                                The band’s own bad-ass-ery is writ large on album opener ‘Theme1’, which locates a sweet spot between Deerhoof and Battles as singer Ragnhild issues loud, clear rebel yells over Martin’s math-rock guitar. Singles ‘My Blood’ and ‘Follow The Lights’ layer seductively sweet melodies over squalls of sound, while the funk-fired ‘My Work Is Full of Art’ offers a kind of mission statement: “I’ll just let freaky surround me,” sings Fangel.

                                                                Elsewhere, Pom Poko’s instinctive dynamism teases uplifting thrills from boundary-melting experiments. Glacial shards of guitar bounce off steel-drum flurries on the rapid-fire serotonin fix of ‘Blue’, before the sweetly infatuated ‘Honey’ comes sequenced next to the thrashing tonal lurches of ‘Crazy Energy Night’. The sing-song title-track spikes the ranks of sweetly sad birthday songs with a rebellious sting (“I’m not your bitch!”), while ‘Daytripper’ is a commanding come-on from a band who are no more likely to mince their words than limit their range. ‘If U Want Me 2 Stay' resembles ‘The Tra La La Song’ retooled as a sci-fi cyber-pop anthem of carefree defiance, while ‘Peachy’ closes the album with an exultant melody and one last declaration of transformative independence: “Watch me as I shape shift.”


                                                                “From the crushed and pulverised skulls of our conquered enemies rises the promise of a new dawn,” Miki Berenyi grins. “OK, no, maybe keep it simple. Clean slate, fresh start - it's all about the music."

                                                                From four individual parts, with distinct musical pasts but also overlapping histories, a new unified chapter begins with Piroshka and the quartet’s thrilling debut album Brickbat.

                                                                The album is named after the word for a missile, which nails the record’s heavyweight lyrics if not the music’s gorgeous, bittersweet and euphoric pop. Think of Brickbat as a wolf in sheep’s clothing – which suits the name Piroshka, the Hungarian take on the wolf-terrorised fairytale hero Little Red Riding Hood - a subtle nod, too, to a certain red hairdo that stood out in the 1990s Brit-guitar-pop scene….

                                                                The four band members are former Lush vocalist/guitarist (and former redhead) Miki Berenyi, former Moose guitarist KJ "Moose" McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch. The connections between them are a veritably tangled family tree. Before they lived together and raised a family, Miki and Moose were notable figures on the so-called shoegaze scene, while Elastica were Britpop peers. After post-punk pioneers Modern English split for a second time, Mick became a latterday member of Moose, while Justin joined the reformed Lush in 2015. And when Lush required a bassist for what proved to be their final show (in Manchester) in November 2016, Mick stepped in.

                                                                It was the rehearsals for that Manchester show that laid the foundations for Piroshka. “We sounded great!” says Justin. “Like a proper punk band. Mick brings a huge amount of enthusiasm and livens up the room, and I thought, this is the kind of band I want to be in again.” Mick agreed. “I’d seen Lush so many times, it was like playing with old friends. Miki agreed it was good fun too. And with Moose available, we thought, let’s all have a bash, see what happens.”

                                                                Though Brickbat kicks off with a squeal of feedback, the album is far from a proper punk record, with as much sublime delicacy as physical force, with guitars to the fore but also electronic flourishes in all manner of spaces. Combined, they drive the nuggety melodic bombs long associated with Miki’s songwriting. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that she would want to join a new band. In the wake of Lush drummer Chris Acland’s unexpected suicide in 1997, his shocked and grieving bandmates felt unable to continue. Miki, in particular, “had to get completely away from music. The gate just shut for me.”

                                                                As a parent with a full-time job, it took Miki until 2015 to agree to reunite Lush, with Chris’ good friend Justin on drums. But it wasn’t to be a permanent arrangement. “After the Manchester show, Justin asked if I’d be up for something else,” Miki recalls. “But I’d never made music outside of Lush, and I’ve never wanted to do anything solo. I have trouble with self-belief, I need someone else to motivate me, and in this case, it was Justin. He sent drum tracks with guitar parts and odd words, so I wrote some vocals and lyrics, which became ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ and ‘Never Enough’. When Mick added bass, it sounded great. When Moose added guitar and keyboards – I’d never written like that before, it was such good fun. I’d always written on my own in Lush.”

                                                                Justin: “The first piece of music I sent Miki sounded like Can, with the odd word, like ‘protest’ and ‘bedlam’. It was a time in the world when everything felt wrong to me.”

                                                                Mick: “We didn’t want Piroshka to sound anything like any of our old bands. When Miki sings, you can’t get away from Lush, but for me, we sound like four people exploring and having fun, knuckling ideas into shape, trying to make them sound new and different.”

                                                                In any case, the blunt, forceful lyrics are many miles from Lush, tapping the current fear and loathing at the heart of society and politics, sometimes viewed through the heightened, anxious prism of parenthood, brutally honest at every turn. Take ‘Village Of The Damned’, the words penned by Moose (alongside ‘Hated By The Powers…’ and ‘Everlastingly Yours’). “It’s about school shootings,” he frowns, “and our reaction to almost being unable to take our eyes off twenty-four-hour news and internet feeds. You’re depressed and appalled by what you see.”

                                                                ‘Heartbeats’ is Miki’s parent-related lyric, “the idea of closeness with your baby, and then as they grow, you have to let them go off into the world.” And what a world awaits them. Both ‘What’s Next’ and ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ were inspired by the mess of Brexit (“the idea of unity versus disunity” says Miki), ‘Never Enough’ rails against greed and inequality and ‘Hated By The Powers That Be’ was inspired by a button badge that Moose found with the slogan Hated By The Daily Mail. “It feels good to be that kind of person,” he declares. “To know we are not alone in being appalled with what’s going on.”

                                                                Miki: “Given what’s happening, it feels weird at this time to not write about how scary things are, and self-indulgent to have come out with anything else. It’s tricky, though, because any kind of protest lyric can easily be preachy and clichéd, while writing about parenthood can sound smug or mawkish. There’s a lot of complexity in each subject. The context is more personal than just ‘The world is shit and you have to do something about it’.”

                                                                Bella Union skipper Simon Raymonde had been one of the first to hear the demos; he instantly signed the band, further entangling the Piroshka family tree - his former bandmate Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins) produced Lush’s debut album, while Raymonde’s current bandmate Richie Thomas (in Lost Horizons) was also a former member of Moose. Raymonde subsequently introduced Piroshka to Paul Gregory of Bella Union labelmates Lanterns On The Lake, who mixed Brickbat (except ‘What’s Next’, mixed by Alan Moulder) and to Fiona Brice (another Bella Union alumni), who wrote Brickbat’s strings arrangements, with Terry Edwards (ex-Higsons, current Blockhead), who played on Lush’s debut album, on brass.

                                                                Together, from feedbacking intro to the beautifully fuggy dream that is the album finale ‘She’s Unreal’, Piroshka and Brickbat are a wonderful and, frankly, unexpected union of proven talent.


                                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                says: There was no way this wasn't going to be good, with such legendary musicians on board, but it really is a perfectly balanced meeting of minds. The shoegaze hypnosis of Lush shines through, along with the spacey 90's throb of Justin Welch's drums keeping things going. It's a brilliantly dynamic mix, and one that is more than the sum of it's considerable elements. A hugely enjoyable and brilliantly written collection.

                                                                Mercury Rev

                                                                Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited

                                                                Mercury Rev reimagine the Bobbie Gentry album from 1968 with guest vocals from Norah Jones, Hope Sandoval, Rachel Goswell, Vashti Bunyan, Beth Orton, Marissa Nadler, Lucinda Williams, Margo Price, Susanne Sundfør, Phoebe Bridgers, Kaela Sinclair, Carice Van Houten and Laetitia Sadier.

                                                                It slipped out of a Mississippi of hot biscuits, genteel table manners and working-class sense, suddenly overturned by a grave sinning and suicide. Carried on an evening breeze of strings and a supple, foreboding voice like sensually charged breath, “Ode to Billie Joe”—Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 debut as a singer-songwriter and a Number One single for three weeks in the late Summer of Love—was the most psychedelic record of that year not from San Francisco or London, as if Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Brian Wilson had conspired to make a country-rock Pet Sounds. Except Gentry, just 23 when she wrote the song, got there first, in miniature.

                                                                Gentry’s hit was a revolutionary act, a quietly thorough feminism in vision, deed and success amid the strict, paternal order of the country-music industry. And it was her license to thrill again. In October, 1967, while “Billie Joe” was still in the Top Five, Gentry began recording The Delta Sweete, a connected set of a dozen songs that extended the narrative dynamics of that single with personal reflection and set her folk-siren charisma in a richer frame of dream-state orchestration, swamp-rock guitars and big-city-R&B horns.

                                                                In her eight original songs for the album, Gentry drew from her childhood and church life on her grandparents’ farm in Chickasaw County, Mississippi: the girl-ish craving for a beautiful dress in “Reunion”; the rise-and-shine of “Mornin’ Glory”; the stern Sunday lessons in “Sermon,” based on a traditional hymn also known as “Run On.” The covers were boldly chosen: Mose Allison’s chain-gang blues “Parchman Farm”; “Tobacco Road”’s litany of trial; the Cajun pride in Doug Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man”. Gentry also turned them to new purpose and even gender. “Gonna get myself a man, one gonna treat me right,” she sang in Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man” with heated assurance.

                                                                But The Delta Sweete—released in March, 1968, only three months after Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and right as the Byrds came to Nashville to cut Sweetheart of the Rodeo—was too soon in its precedence. Gentry’s LP, the first country-rock opera, was ignored on arrival, not even cracking Billboard’s Top 100. It was as if Billie Joe had risen out of the Tallahatchie River and thrown that record off the bridge instead.

                                                                This Delta Sweete is her long-delayed justice—Mercury Rev's committed and affectionate resurrection of an album that anticipated by three decades their own pivotal expedition through transcendental America, 1998's Deserter's Songs. From their recording lair in New York's Catskill Mountains, the founding core of Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper with Jesse Chandler (previously in the Texas group Midlake) honor Gentry's foresight and creative triumph with spacious invention and hallucinatory flair. And they are not alone. Gentry's stories and original resolve are brought to new vocal life and empowerment by a vocal cast of women from across modern rock and its alternative paths: among them, Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval; Laetitia Sadier, formerly of Stereolab; Marissa Nadler; Margo Price, the fiery new country star with a punk-rock heart; and Norway's Susanne Sundfør, who cuts through "Tobacco Road" with arctic-Nico poise. Phoebe Bridgers, whose first record was a softly stunning 2015 single for Ryan Adams' PAX AM label, hovers through the acid-western suspense of Gentry's "Jessye' Lisabeth" with floating calm, like a comforting angel.

                                                                On the 1968 LP, Gentry opened with a call to jubilant order, “Okolona River Bottom Band,” like she was leading a barn-dance union of the early Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. Norah Jones takes that entrance here with her own sultry command, like Sarah Vaughan at the head of a slow-blooming choir. In “Sermon,” Price—who has known real struggle up close—sings like a survivor through Mercury Rev’s explosion of color and groove: a specialty throughout the band’s history as recently as 2015’s The Light in You, going back through All Is Dream in 2001, the whirling iridescent soul of 1995’s See You on the Other Side and the sumptuous turbulence of the 1992 single “Car Wash Hair.”

                                                                Gentry is still very present in the changes. Her seesaw of pride and hurt in the melancholy blur of “Penduli Pendulum” (“When goodbye serves as/My one amusement”) is even more explicit with the seasoned intimacy of Vashti Bunyan—a once-elusive voice from Britain’s psychedelic-folk boom—set against the younger, brighter arc of Kaela Sinclair, now in the electronic project M83. And in “Courtyard,” a despairing finale of strings and guitar arpeggios on Gentry’s LP, Mercury Rev build a striking Delta Krautrock in which the English singer Beth Orton wanders, like Gentry, through a ruin of profound loss and treasured memory.

                                                                “Ode to Billie Joe” was not on the ‘68 Delta Sweete. But Mercury Rev go back to that dinner table with Lucinda Williams of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and it is an inspired bond, calling up the ghosts and questions of a South still very much with us. Indeed, Gentry—who retired from recording and performing in the Seventies—reportedly lives only a couple hours’ drive from the bridge that made her famous, while the spirits she set loose in The Delta Sweete are as restless and compelling as they were 50 years ago. This album is a loving tribute to that achievement, one of the greatest albums you have never heard. It is also a dozen new ways to walk that land.

                                                                —David Fricke

                                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                says: A mindblowing lineup of guest vocalists further enhance this stunningly presented and perfectly performed collection from the inimitable Mercury Rev. Though Bobbie Gentry has left a legacy that certainly won't be forgotten, this superb tribute is both fittingly respectful of the originals, and satisfyingly 'Rev at the same time. Brilliant.

                                                                “The act of making this record has felt truly exotic for me by way of its minimalism,” says Liela Moss of her debut solo album. Released via Bella Union, ‘My Name Is Safe In Your Mouth’ more than lives up to Moss’s promise of fresh, bold adventure.

                                                                Sonically spare yet sumptuous in its emotions, elemental power and expansive melodies, the record is a richly felt, vividly-realised trip into the interior from the Duke Spirit singer.

                                                                A serene-to-stormy series of deep dream-pop meditations on devotion and selfhood, creativity and parenthood, it treats unknown territory not as something to fear but as a seed-bed of possibility.

                                                                Two Medicine

                                                                Astropsychosis

                                                                  “I’d always wanted Midlake to experiment more with the arrangements, or to get more into psychedelic textures,” says Paul Alexander, the bassist from Denton’s prog-folk voyagers. Those ambitions are fulfilled on Astropsychosis, Alexander’s debut album as Two Medicine, released via Bella Union in November. Richly ambitious in its sonic colour and conceptual reach, Astropsychosis is an album of luminous space and mindful grace, its depths and details coaxed into orbit with the lightness of an artist in his element.

                                                                  Alexander began facing his future in January 2016, after a year-long break from music following Midlake’s tour for 2013’s Antiphon. “I wanted to find out if I could write songs and if I could sing them – basically, whether or not I could make an album on my own,” he asks. Over 15 months of writing, arranging and recording (in Midlake’s old studio in Denton), he got his answer. From the early reference points of Pet Sounds, dream-pop and pre–Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd, Astropsychosis blossomed into a very modern exploration of sound and psychedelia, bright on top and burning with purpose below.


                                                                  It's been a hell of a recent past for John Grant, who, aside from getting the unquestionable delight of getting to see our faces every time he comes to Manchester (and us, his), has produced a superb album with Stephen Mallinder of Cab Voltaire and Wrangler fame under their collaborative moniker, 'Creep Show', and a string of live dates in the diary. All of this while recording his oft-teased new LP, 'Love Is Magic'. 

                                                                  'Metamorphosis' kicks things off, bringing together stabbing saw-waves and Grant's unmistakeable vocal acrobatics, tumbling atop off-piste melodic turns and new-beat percussives, setting a brilliantly warped precident before what may well be Grant's finest work to date in the stunning titular piece, 'Love Is Magic'. Treading familiar minor-key ground, we get a solemn but hopeful progression played out by stabbing synth lines and huge gated snare hits, covering all the sonic space necessary while keeping the mess down to a minimum and allowing John's voice to really shine before launching into the mindblowingly beautiful chorus (the vocal harmonies, attributed to Paul Denton of Midlake have an ethereal and dynamic momentum that is unmistakeable) and staggered but determined forward-thrust. 

                                                                  I could keep running through the tracks, but some of our readership would doubtless give up or expire before i'd finished blathering on, so i'll keep it to a few key points. 'Smug Cunt' while clearly filled with the wry venom we've come to know and love from Grant is an unimaginably deep cascade of dytopian synth pulses and resonant bass,  launching into a spine-tinglingly effective culmination of gloom and euphoria. 'He's Got His Mothers Hips' brings the camp disco vibes spectacularly, with a truncated snappy analogue bassline swirling around beneath the syncopated vox before exploding into a major key serotonin release in the hand-waving chorus. 

                                                                  Move on a little and the spoken-word commentary of 'Diet Gum' takes an admittedly hilarious step into the leftfield, perfectly illustrating JG's clever tongue-in-cheek sense of humour 'Did you really think you could seduce me in a leisure suit?... well.... fair enough' and captivating presence before bringing it back to the sublime with the tear-inducing majesty of 'Is He Strange'. Stunning piano and vocal harmonies meet together into the perfect storm of majesty and misery. The closing duo of 'The Common Snipe' and 'Touch And Go' are once again perfectly matched, with the minimalistic backline and flickering sample and hold synth lines peaking lightly behind the former, and the anthemic, rolling stagger of the latter closing off a stunning and career-defining collection. It's a testament to Grant's sphere of influence and ability as a songwriter and producer that so many influences can be absorbed into his sound without sounding forced or disjointed. A brilliantly melodic, heart-warmingly anomalous wonder.  

                                                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                  says: Once again, John Grant pulls out a diverse range of influences (we've seen what records he buys!) into a cohesive and superb combination of off-piste vocal timbres, mind-melting synths and spine-tingling melodies. Punctuated with moments of introspective melancholy but quickly resolved into a warm bath of huge rock progressions and gritty synth swirls. Absolutely brilliant, and undoubtedly the best work of his career.

                                                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                  2xColoured LP Info: This deluxe version is 140g clear vinyl. Includes 16 page 'Hymn Booklet' containing lyrics along with a 24 page photo booklet which includes photos taken by John Grant.

                                                                  2xLP Info: 140g black vinyl. Includes 16 page 'Hymn Booklet' containing lyrics.

                                                                  The eighth album from Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes, is the sound of turmoil giving way to truth. The songs stare down the dark realization that love may not be enough to keep two people together through distance and differing needs. By asking these difficult questions about her relationships, Nadler has found a stronger sense of self and a sharper voice as both a songwriter and a vocalist, culminating in her most evocative entry in an already impressive discography. 

                                                                  Following the release of 2016’s acclaimed Strangers, Nadler’s relationships were put to the test as she left the Boston area on tour. She wrote throughout 2017 about this tension, and ended up with three times as many songs as she needed. But after reviewing the demos with her co-producers Justin Raisen and Lawrence Rothman, Nadler wrote a flurry of tight but no less intense new songs in the week before arriving at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux, in early January. She considered it a challenge to herself, applying new strategies and structures to the craft of “slow music” she’s honed over the last 15 years. From that group of songs came nearly all of the singles on For My Crimes, some of the most indelible of Nadler’s career.

                                                                  The opening title track is classic Nadler: a sweeping, vaguely Southern drama of voices, strings, and acoustic guitar, that walks the fine line between character song and personal indictment by metaphor. “For My Crimes” spawned out of a songwriting exercise in which Nadler wrote from the perspective of someone on death row, but the song casts a dark shadow over an album that turns marital conflict into inner reflection. Helping Nadler dig down into the song’s remorseful soul is her old friend Angel Olsen, who serves as a distraught echo from beyond in the chorus.

                                                                  “Blue Vapor” has an intoxicating raw energy luring you in, somewhere between Springsteen and a grunge band playing MTV Unplugged back in the day. It feels at once tight and improvisational, balancing on little more than Nadler’s steady strumming and vulnerable harmonies with Kristin Kontrol (of Dum Dum Girls), until the heavy, purposeful style of Hole drummer Patty Schemel conjures chaos in the second half. This slow burn feeling is all too appropriate for a song centred around repeating patterns and creeping numbness in a relationship. “Blue Vapor” names that strange ambivalence and turns it into a chant that hangs in the air long after the song ends.

                                                                  Dreaminess and eeriness have often been two sides of the same coin in Marissa Nadler songs. Where “For My Crimes” and “Blue Vapor” come from her dark side, the album has plenty of moments that twinkle in their sadness and sentimentality. “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” is one of those highly specific songs you’ll get if you’ve ever lost a favourite band to your own broken heart. It sways perfectly in its bittersweet-ness, like a slow dance you never want to end. After the strings swell and the bass pedals kick in, Nadler coos, “Cause I remember/The songs you sang/To me when it was you/I was falling for.” Later, closing track “Said Goodbye To That Car” turns a final odometer reading into a rhythm for a catchy, wistful hook: “1-1-9-6-5-7, and the engine blew/“1-1-9-6-5-7, and I thought of you,” Nadler lulls, harmonizing with herself. It’s an ingenious way to capture the end of an era in one small moment, and she moves as delicately as you would handling an old photo with her sweet oohs.

                                                                  Bolstering the intimacy of these songs is the strong feminine energy that defined their recording. Between Rothman’s fluidity with both gender and genre (as heard on his 2017 album The Book of Law), and Raisen’s track record of successful collaborations with strong women (Olsen, Kim Gordon, Charli XCX), Nadler felt empowered to explore without judgement in the studio. With the exception of a single saxophonist, every player on the album is a woman of notable pedigree and distinct style, many of whom have played with Nadler over the years. In addition to the cameos by Angel Olsen and Kristin Kontrol, Sharon Van Etten sings backup on “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” and “Lover Release Me.” Mary Lattimore joins on harp for “Are You Really Gonna Move to the South,” while the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin plays strings throughout the record.

                                                                  These women and others helped make For My Crimes as dynamic as it is intimate, but Nadler’s mesmerizing voice—stripped of nearly all reverb—is what sits at the center of these songs. You can hear the emotional range of her performances more than ever before, from the spectral harmonizing of “Are You Really Gonna Move To The South” to the cheeky boredom of “All Out Of Catastrophes,” two other highlights. As a singer, she has never sounded more confident than she does here.

                                                                  Adding to the album’s deeply personal feeling is its abstracted artwork, featuring Nadler’s original oil paintings. Though Nadler is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a semi-retired art teacher (she has one student left—a 95-year-old named Doris), For My Crimes marks the first album cover bearing one of her paintings. 

                                                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                  says: Nadler has never failed to tickle the feels with her own brand of gothic acousticry, slowly morphing from quiet folk ballads into grand, echoic anthems. Layering Nadler's haunting vocals on top of each-other to great effect and underpinned with a spine-tinglingly haunting instrumental sensibility, this is without a doubt, her greatest work. Beautiful.

                                                                  “You shouldn't have a tough time finding the angle to Deportation Blues,” claims Brian ‘BC Camplight’ Christinzio. “The past few years have been a fucking nightmare.”

                                                                  But what a fucking great record he’s made off the back of his nightmare. His second album for Bella Union, Deportation Blues is an exhilarating, dynamic document of calamity and stress, relayed through richly melodic and bold arrangements spanning singer-songwriter classicism, gnarly synth-pop, ‘50s rock’n’roll and various junctures between, mirroring their maverick creator’s jarred emotions and fractured mindset.

                                                                  For the full story, you have to head back to before Christinzio’s Bella Union debut, 2015’s How To Die In The North. Born in New Jersey, but living in Philadelphia, Christinzio had released two albums while battling addiction and mental illness. Both albums won rave reviews and earned Christinzio a reputation as one of independent music’s most forward-thinking artists. Soon after, however, as illness rendered him unable to function as a working songwriter, Christinzio retreated to a life squatting in an abandoned church. Despite some notable appearances as a session pianist (Sharon Van Etten) and occasional live work for Philly faves The War On Drugs (Robbie Bennett and David Hartley were in the original BC live band) he knew a sea change was needed in order to regain his career and sanity.

                                                                  Feeling he’d be “dead or in jail if I stayed”, he acted on a friend’s suggestion to cross the ocean to Manchester. There, Christinzio found new inspiration, new friends, a girlfriend, a dog, and finally a new album (his first in eight years).

                                                                  So, imagine his mood when he fell foul of UK immigration. “I’d had such high hopes for How To Die In The North, and I was told I was being deported two days after it came out, and banned from the UK. The next thing I know, I’m playing Pac Man in my parents’ basement, thinking, this is my life now.”

                                                                  Occasional gigs in Europe, where his Manchester-based band could meet him, and extended sojourns in Dublin and Paris, broke up the monotony, but it was still like “living in a constant panic attack.”

                                                                  But then the cavalry arrived! Courtesy of his grandparents, Christinzio secured Italian citizenship. It cost time, money and a portion of his sanity, “but after a year and a half I could finally shove my Italian papers in their faces at the airport and return to sunny Manchester. The thing is, despite being American, I feel Mancunian, and I couldn’t think about making another record, until I got back.”

                                                                  To add insult to injury, “Brexit happened, like a day after I got back. Can I get a fucking break here, please?”

                                                                  Once the dust had settled, Christinzio realised, “I didn’t feel any better, I had so much anger, I felt destroyed. The demons were back and had lost me friends, I’d drunk too much, and I felt nothing but dread and disease. I thought, I can’t wait to hear what this next album is going to sound like.”

                                                                  Recording in Liverpool’s Whitewood studios, Christinzio locked himself in the windowless studio and recorded almost exclusively in the dark. “The thoughts and sounds that began to flow out of me were pretty scary. I’m pretty sure the engineer started carrying a shiv in his pocket after about the second day. Nothing playful sounding came out. If the last album had elements of whimsy, the thought of any on this album made me want to vomit.” “A couple of months later we had finished Deportation Blues and emerged from the studio like mole people”. Christinzio recorded the album mostly on his own, plus drummer Adam Dawson, occasional guitar by Robbie Rush, and a couple of session horn players. The lead track is ‘I’m Desperate’, “an ominous synth burner,” says Christinzio, with a Suicide-style throb and a haunting female vocal counterpoint that underlines the album’s manic, careering edge, fantastic hooks and instrumental verve. It’s an uncompromising way to introduce Deportation Blues, likewise the album’s title-track opener. Bookended by metallic power chords, cascading synths and a gorgeous downbeat mood lead into slower doo-wop complete with howling falsetto. “It’s instantly a different, darker record than How To Die In The North,” Christinzio notes. Deportation Blues is also noticeably more electronic than its predecessor. “I was feeling cold so every time something sounded pretty, I replaced it with something that sounded like an ice pick. The apocalyptic nuclear feel really appealed.” Throughout, Christinzio sounds as if he’s walking a knife-edge. Take second track ‘I’m In A Weird Place Now’, a heady conflagration of Spector and Springsteen, with Christinzio confessing “And there’s something about Manchester town / And the silly little things she makes me do.” “I like the oppressiveness of the weather in Manchester, it brings everyone down to my level” he explains. The fried mood continues on ‘Hell Or Pennsylvania’, splicing woozy noir jazz lounge-drunk cabaret by way of ‘50s legend Jerry Lee Lewis - Christinzio’s entry point to music through his mother’s record collection. “It’s the first time I’ve reflected that on a record,” he says. “Jerry Lee was this guy bashing at a piano who didn’t give a shit, and I didn’t give a shit.” The lyrical reference to “lemon twirls” meanwhile, represents Brian’s struggle with substance abuse: “The big choruses are a celebration of cocaine whilst the jazz sections represent the lament, the familiar loathsome aftermath.” The sudden changes of mood and style are also metaphorical. For example, ‘Am I Dead’ embraces cinematic horns, broody pop and synth-bass afro-funk. “I go through highs and lows and have trouble staying entertained,” he admits. “A musical part can state its purpose in fifteen seconds, sometimes it doesn’t need repeating. The trick is tying everything together without it sounding confusing.” ‘Am I Dead’ is segued between ‘When I Think Of My Dog’ and ‘Midnight Ease’, two plush, heart-aching piano ballads with rippling saxophone. After ‘Fire In England’, a greasy, nervy rocker, is a bitter ode to British PM – and former immigration controller (as Home Secretary) Theresa May (“dresses like a bus seat, doesn’t she?”). It’s a complex, bleak record I guess” Christinzio concludes. “As dramatic as it may sound, this album was made by a dude who wasn’t sure he’d be alive the next day. Nothing is there for any other reason than it’s the truth. It’s not trying to sound cool or get on the radio.” Though Christinzio points out “this is no redemption I-saw-the-light story,” he is allowing himself a little bit of hope for once: “I’ve never been as pleased with where I am artistically as I am right now.” On top, his new band, “is phenomenal.” Alongside trusted drummer Dawson is Luke Barton (guitars, synths), guitarist Tom Rothery and multi-instrumentalist/ backing singer Ali Bell. Leading them is a man that a bartender in Manchester recently described as “like Mozart and Tony Soprano had a kid." Brian Christinzio, and BC Camplight, genius and pain, may be here to stay at last.

                                                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                  Coloured LP Info: Limited edition silver vinyl.

                                                                  Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                  Hilang Child

                                                                  Years

                                                                    The special thrill of hearing an artist grow into their voice is emphatically served by the debut album from Ed Riman, the half-Welsh, half- Indonesian, London-based singer-songwriter and soundscapist who records as Hilang Child. ‘Years’ radiates a rich sense of self-discovery in its lush, textured layers of sound and feeling. Between its blossoming choruses, multi-tracked harmonies and loose theme of embracing adulthood, it’s an epiphanic debut from an artist not just fulfilling his early promise but reaching far beyond it. Collaborators on ‘Years’ include Kwes, who helped on the mix and added “little touches here and there,” says Riman, “which really made it feel complete.” Sam Delves played guitar and Yazzmin Newell played trumpet; the remainder was largely self-written and self-produced, reflecting a distinct vision at work.

                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                    says: Atmospheric shoegazing melodies, huge percussion and anthemic chord changes make this debut album one to remember, with the clattering post-rock percussion and soaring instrumentation sitting beautifully beside Riman's euphoric vox.

                                                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                    Coloured LP Info: Silver vinyl.

                                                                    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                    The Innocence Mission

                                                                    Sun On The Square

                                                                      For listeners of the innocence mission, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania trio are beyond a favorite band, more like a beloved companion, such is their intensity and fragility of their sound and vision, spearheaded by Karen Peris’ heartbreaking, breathtaking voice. Those fans include Sufjan Stevens and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), who have both covered innocence mission songs, and in whose company the trio deserve to be bracketed.

                                                                      Now, with “Sun On The Square”, their first album in four years and first UK/European release in over a decade, the trio have joined the Bella Union family, following Karen’s guest appearance on “Ojalá” by Lost Horizons, the band collective co-created by label skipper Simon Raymonde.

                                                                      “There’s less than a handful of artists on my Bella Union dream list,” he explains. “The Innocence Mission are on there but they’ve remained an elusive mystery, and believe me, I’ve tried! I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. From the second I heard Karen’s voice, I’ve been smitten. Birds Of My Neighborhood is in my Top Three albums of all time. It’s a heartbreaker though. Guarantees tears. But the more the tears fall, the deeper I go!”

                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                      says: Beautiful tender fingerpicked guitars, brittle ballads and more than a hint of that childlike Newsom vocal peeking through. Sun On The Square is a beautifully realised and enchantingly airy work, an essential for any folk fans.

                                                                      The Drowning Craze

                                                                      Singles '81/'82

                                                                        Both formats include a free cassette whilst stocks last.

                                                                        The history of post punk is full of curious footnotes and sudden dead ends. Fascinating bands that flared up, intoxicated with the rush of ideas and sense of creative freedom in that fertile period where there were no rules and boundaries to creativity for groups, leaving a vapour trail of a handful of singles and inevitable John Peel sessions before disappearing back into the ether.

                                                                        The Drowning Craze are typical of those bands. Their legacy is three singles and a John Peel session, a glimmer of possibility and a hint of something quite wonderful and then gone. Fortunately for them their constituent members re-emerged years later in other projects leaving them flagged up on the history train with the band’s bassist Simon Raymonde going on to play in the Cocteau Twins before setting up his own label, Bella Union and original vocalist, Angela Jaeger, joining Pigbag whilst their next singer, Frankie ‘Fun’ Nardiello, joined the esoteric Chicago industrial disco band Thrill Kill Kult.

                                                                        The Drowning Craze had formed in early eighties London with Simon Raymonde - the son of Ivor Raymonde who wrote hits for Dusty Springfield, such as ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ and ‘Stay Awhile’ and then string arranging for all the Walker Brothers hits. Simon played piano and violin at school but took his own tangent when punk rock arrived and bought his first bass in 1977 aged 15 and learnt the whole of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, the Sex Pistols’ first album, in one afternoon.

                                                                        Inspired by punk rock / post punk and John Peel he was very much a child of those times. Glued to Peel’s lugubrious tones on the radio that were signposting a way out of the crashed car of punk rock and into new musical soundscapes he would also help to carve as a foot soldier with The Drowning Craze.

                                                                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                        Coloured LP Info: Limited edition white vinyl with a 16 page booklet.

                                                                        Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                        Written largely in New York between Summer 2016 and Winter 2017, Josh Tillman’s fourth Father John Misty LP, ‘God’s Favorite Customer’, reflects on the experience of being caught between the vertigo of heartbreak and the manic throes of freedom.

                                                                        God’s Favorite Customer reveals a bittersweetness and directness in Tillman’s songwriting, without sacrificing any of his wit or taste for the absurd. From “Mr. Tillman,” where he trains his lens on his own misadventure, to the cavernous pain of estrangement in “Please Don’t Die,” Tillman plays with perspective throughout to alternatingly hilarious and devastating effect. “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)” is a meditation on our inner lives and the limitations we experience in our attempts to give and receive love. It stands in solidarity with the title track, which examines the ironic relationship between forgiveness and sin. Together, these are songs that demand to know either real love or what comes after, and as the album progresses, that entreaty leads to discovering the latter’s true stakes.

                                                                        God's Favorite Customer was produced by Tillman and recorded with Jonathan Rado, Dave Cerminara, and Trevor Spencer. The album features contributions from Haxan Cloak, Natalie Merring of Weyes Blood, longtime collaborator Jonathan Wilson, and members of Misty’s touring band.

                                                                        STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                        says: Tillman segues into Beck territory a little here, with falsetto harmonies and jagged college-rock melodies, tastefully accentuated with staggered percussion and swooning loungey piano. As ever, FJM smashes out another killer album, conceptually clever and brilliantly accomplished, exactly as you'd expect.

                                                                        Ari Roar

                                                                        Calm Down

                                                                          Ari Roar - moniker of Texan singer songwriter Caleb Campbell - releases his debut album ‘Calm Down’ via Bella Union

                                                                          With intuitive powers of clarity and concision to the fore, ‘Calm Down’ is an album that draws on 1960s pop and modern DIY heroes for a set of lovingly languid, lo-fi miniatures. Depths of detail and lived experience bustle beneath effortlessly melodic surfaces - sure signs of a writer in confident command of his pitch.

                                                                          With a tight run time of 28 minutes and few of its 15 songs breaching the two-minute mark, ‘Calm Down’ is not an album that overstates its case. ‘Called In’ merges the influences of garage pop and Grandaddy in its plaintive plea to “stay alert,” while the brightly summery ‘Windowsill’ and literal shaggy-dog tale ‘Lost And Found’ show an easy lightness of narrative touch and mood control.

                                                                          Elsewhere, Ari makes weightless work of variously playful, psychedelic material, navigating his songs with expressive ease even when he’s documenting difficulties navigating high school hallways on ‘Don’t Have A Fit’. ‘Off And On’ is luminous, ‘Implode’ sweetly chugging. ‘Sock Drawer’ recounts an inner voyage with a gently psychedelic touch before the playful strut of ‘Choke’ and buoyant release of ‘Lucky One’ offer precision-judged notes of climactic uplift.

                                                                          For Ari, ‘Calm Down’ is a milestone in a journey that began in Dallas, Texas, where he started songwriting on his family’s “super-old, outof- tune piano” as a child. Early inspirations included Grandaddy’s ‘Under The Western Freeway’ and Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’; his first concert experience was The Doobie Brothers, with his parents. But it was a gorgeous solo performance by Jason Schwartzman in the teen comedy ‘Slackers’ that inspired Ari to start writing songs with lyrics at 14: “I remember being mesmerized by it… and I went into my room and started trying to write something similar. After that I just never stopped.”

                                                                          "7 is our 7th full-length record. At its release, we will have been a band for over 13 years. We have now written and released a total of 77 songs together.

                                                                          Last year, we released an album of b-sides and rarities. It felt like a good step for us. It helped us clean the creative closet, put the past to bed, and start anew.

                                                                          Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.

                                                                          In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a "home" studio, and began all of the songs there. Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a “proper” recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short (of the album’s 11 songs, 8 were finished at Carriage House in Stamford, CT and 2 at Palmetto Studio in Los Angeles).

                                                                          7 didn’t have a producer in the traditional sense. We much preferred this, as it felt like the ideas drove the creativity, not any one person’s process. James Barone, who became our live drummer in 2016, played on the entire record. His tastes and the trust we have in him really helped us keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs. We also worked with Sonic Boom (Peter Kember). Peter became a great force on this record, in the shedding of conventions and in helping to keep the songs alive, fresh and protected from the destructive forces of recording studio over-production/over-perfection.

                                                                          The societal insanity of 2016-17 was also deeply influential, as it must be for most artists these days. Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present. The twisted double edge of glamour, with its perils and perfect moments, was an endless source (see “L’Inconnue,” “Drunk in LA,” “Woo,” “Girl of the Year,” “Last Ride”).

                                                                          In a more general sense, we are interested by the human mind's (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny (see “Dark Spring,” “Pay No Mind,” “Lemon Glow,” “Dive,” “Black Car,” “Lose Your Smile”).

                                                                          The title, 7, itself is simply a number that represents our seventh record. We hoped its simplicity would encourage people to look inside. No title using words that we could find felt like an appropriate summation of the album.

                                                                          The number 7 does represent some interesting connections in numerology. 1 and 7 have always shared a common look, so 7 feels like the perfect step in the sequence to act as a restart or “semi-first.” Most early religions also had a fascination with 7 as being the highest level of spirituality, as in "Seventh Heaven.” At our best creative moments, we felt we were channeling some kind of heavy truth, and we sincerely hope the listeners will feel that." 

                                                                          Much Love,
                                                                          Beach House


                                                                          Our Broken Garden

                                                                          When Your Blackening Shows

                                                                            Celebrating 10th anniversary with first ever release on vinyl. White vinyl. Download code included. “It’s 10 years since the debut album from Danish dream pop band Our Broken Garden and therefore high time we figured that it had its first vinyl pressing. There’s a darkness and a vulnerability at the core of singer Anna Bronsted’s vocals on this album and in our shop in Brighton we’ve been asked about this record so many times “Is it ever going to get a vinyl release?” and now we can reply “Yes!” - Bella Union.

                                                                            The Beat Escape

                                                                            Life Is Short The Answer's Long

                                                                              Long before they were a band, Montreal duo The Beat Escape took a small first step towards a longer journey at a university video class. “We made a short oddball work; a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream,” say Beat Escapists Addy Weitzman and Patrick A Boivin of their founding collaboration. Many other projects and outside collaborations later, the duo have crafted a debut album their younger selves would be proud of: Released through Bella Union, the sublimely immersive ‘Life Is Short The Answer’s Long’ plays like a waking dream of near-psychedelic electronic pop, moving to its own beat in the push-pull of forward motion and submerged reflection.

                                                                              That sense of propulsion ushers opener ‘Sign Of Age’ into rising view, its sparse drums, hypnotic sequence and melancholic chords resembling house music as reimagined by Angelo Badalamenti. The enveloping mood holds as ‘Moon In Aquarius’ unfurls like a nighttime road ahead, ghosted by narcotic harmonies. ‘Limestone Alps’ lingers meditatively, hymnal vocals reverberating. ‘Where Water Ends’ and ‘More Dreams’, meanwhile, navigate the porous boundary lines between Krautrock, Factory Records and obscure minimal wave records of the 80s.

                                                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                              says: Superb throbbing pseudo-synthery from The Beat Escape, Bella Union's answer to Pye corner Audio mix swooning pads and soaring vocal abstractions around a dynamic core of weighted percussion, flickering arpeggios and spine-tingling euphoric leads.

                                                                              FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                              LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                              Creep Show (John Grant & Wrangler)

                                                                              Mr. Dynamite

                                                                              Creep Show brings together John Grant with the dark funk of analogue electronic band Wrangler (Stephen Mallinder/Phil Winter/Benge) to create Mr Dynamite - a debut album packed with experimental pop and surreal funk. Recorded in Cornwall with a lifetime’s collection of drum machines and synthesisers assembled by Benge and explored by every member of Creep Show, there’s a real sense of freedom in the shackles-off grooves, channelling the early pioneering spirit of the Sugarhill Gang through wires and random electric noise. This sense of adventure is also part of the interplay between the two vocalists, John Grant and former Cabaret Voltaire frontman Stephen Mallinder, who switch between oblique wordplay to sinister humour as Phil Winter and Benge continue to man-handle the machines. The creepy ‘alter-ego’ title track, ‘Pink Squirrel’’s vocoder kaleidoscope and Grant’s exhilarating croon on the nine minute ‘Safe And Sound’ are just some of the twists and hooks to be explored on this consistently inventive record.

                                                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                              says: So, imagine John Grant's unmistakeable vocal serenades over the top of some rhythmic Bureau B synth pulses, swirling synth patterns and sickly-sweet Linn stabs. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing is what, it's superb, like we'd expect any different from our John.

                                                                              Xylouris White

                                                                              Mother

                                                                                A passion for exploration comes naturally to Xylouris White, the ruggedly visionary duo formed of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and revered Australian drummer Jim White. For their debut album, 2014’s Goats, Xylouris White compared themselves to the titular animals, wandering fearlessly through rough-hewn terrain. Two years later, they showed how far their horizons could reach on 2016’s majestically expansive Black Peak, named after a mountain top in Crete.

                                                                                Just 15 well-toured months later, the duo’s exploratory instincts drive them further onwards still on their third album, Mother, named to denote “new life”. As Xylouris puts it, “Mother is the extension of Goats and Black Peak. Three things, all part of a whole. Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia’s milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth… Mother Earth is the mother of everything.”

                                                                                Across Mother’s nine tracks, Xylouris White nurture fecund growths from the spaces between their instruments. Sometimes the songs drive with an invigorating urgency; sometimes they brood, plead, yearn and lull. The duo seem to discover each other anew at every turn, teasing the songs out from their fluid chemistry with the kind of virtuosity that knows when to listen, accommodate and learn afresh. “A theme of the album is the significance of simplicity and a child-like approach,” Xylouris explains. “So, we connect mother and child and play instruments as toys. Xylouris White is still gestating.”

                                                                                That ongoing gestation is a remarkable extension of already remarkable back-stories. Xylouris is a scion of one of Greece’s most revered musical families. His father is legendary singer / lyra player Psarantonis. A child when he began playing the lute, Xylouris would accompany his father in a backing role. Yet just as Psarantonis stretched the lyra’s range, so Xylouris elevated his eight-string laouto to the lead role in his Xylouris Ensemble.

                                                                                Jim White has commanded international attention for more than two decades as part of Australia’s Dirty Three, storm’s-eye instrumental diviners whose emotionally choppy soundscapes brim with elemental force. Now New York-based, White has often been called on to collaborate with numerous alt-A-listers (including: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, PJ Harvey, Cat Power and Smog), where he redeploys the rolling momentum of free-jazz to variously supple, sensitive and seismic ends. Most recently he can be collaborated with Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett on their acclaimed album “Lotta Sea Lice”.

                                                                                PJ Harvey likened White’s playing to dancing. Yet if dancers need partners, Mother also pays testimony to a friendship forged over almost three decades. Xylouris was performing with his Ensemble when he met White in Melbourne in the early 1990s; back then, the drummer was in his pre-Dirty Three avant-rock outfit Venom P Stinger. In retrospect, a cycle of influence emerges: Xylouris’s 1990s live contributions to the Dirty Three set a blueprint for Xylouris White, yet the Dirty Three were themselves inspired by Xylouris and Psarantonis.

                                                                                That mutual exchange resonates throughout Mother. Album opener “In Medias Res” finds the duo already in motion, feeling their way around one another, seeking out ways to bring a song to full bloom. Proving they can also be thrillingly direct when the mood takes them, “Only Love” follows with a brilliantly barrelling sense of momentum, White’s powerhouse percussion urging Xylouris’s liquid-fingered lute-playing and impassioned baritone on to increasing heights of urgency.

                                                                                From here, Xylouris White proceed as if by intuition, feeling their way around new terrain. “Motorcycle Kondilies” is muscular and epic, White’s rimshots providing on-alert accompaniment as Xylouris’s reaching vocal and dancing lute lines build in intensity. If the marching rhythm and pretty lute melody of “Spud’s Garden” highlights the duo’s occasional elegant side, “Daphne” and “Achilles Heel” showcase Xylouris White’s at their most hypnotic and brooding. “Woman from Anogeia” hosts a particularly emotive vocal from Xylouris; “Call and Response” is the duo at their freeform finest, circling each other querulously, again teasing at possibility. Finally, resolution is embraced openly on the tactile and reverberant “Lullaby”, as lovely a track as any Xylouris White have birthed.

                                                                                As on Black Peak, Mother’s labours benefited from the midwifery of choice collaborators. Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto produced again. Also on hand this time was Anna Roberts-Gevalt of old-time folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, whose earthy violin/viola lines and exquisitely sighing vocals can be heard on the track “Lullaby”.

                                                                                The result is an album of extraordinary accomplishment from two supremely seasoned players who’ve kept a close kinship with the richly, rewardingly inquisitive instincts of their youth. In Xylouris’s words, “It's the natural maturity of fruits as they ripen. As fruit matures by the rhythm of nature, so the music grows at its own pace. So, here are two maturing fruits giving the taste of their present maturity – and they’re still children.”

                                                                                Lanterns On The Lake With Royal Northern Sinfonia

                                                                                Live In Concert

                                                                                  Early 2017 Newcastle quintet Lanterns On The Lake played a very special homecoming show with the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

                                                                                  The 40 piece ensemble, guided by the arrangements of composer Fiona Brice, add a wealth of texture to a band already very familiar with expansive and beautiful sounds. The outcome is a sublime 10

                                                                                  Karl Blau

                                                                                  Out Her Space

                                                                                    Sequestered away in rural bliss, 90 minutes north of Seattle on the Washington state coast, Karl Blau has been making records for 20 years but never with European distribution. So, when Bella Union released ‘Introducing Karl Blau’ in 2015, it shone a belated and deserved light on “one of the great hidden treasures of music,” claimed album producer Tucker Martine.

                                                                                    However, given ‘Introducing’s specific agenda - a set of gorgeous, lush cover versions drawing mostly on vintage Nashville’s country-soul with Blau concentrating on his rich, reverberating voice - his latest album ‘Out Her Space’ is so different that it could be titled ‘Reintroducing Karl Blau’.

                                                                                    ‘Out Her Space’ features Blau’s own material, production and multi-instrumental skills and forges a gorgeous, languid and hook-infested gumbo of soul, funk, some jazzy blowing and Afro-pop, to arrive somewhere else entirely. Or as the Secretly Important blog says of Blau: “He manages to find what’s unique about a genre and throws it against the wall like a fist full of wet noodles; over and over, until what’s stuck is a unique genre amalgam.”

                                                                                    The album also testifies to Blau’s studio skills, as he captures the glimmering, humid depths of those sweltering southern influences, despite his north-western heritage. But then Blau has engineered and produced a heap of records for himself and others, often at his home in Anacortes, releasing records on Washington’s favourite indies K and Knw-Yr-Own, as well as through his own Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society subscription service.

                                                                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                    Coloured LP Info: Limited edition red vinyl.

                                                                                    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                                    Sumie

                                                                                    Lost In Light

                                                                                      For a singer songwriter, the benefit of starting from a point of quiet is the room it allows for manoeuvre afterwards. Such is the case with the subtly cinematic second album from Sandra Sumie Nagano, ‘Lost In Light’, through Bella Union.

                                                                                      On 2013’s eponymous debut, Sumie tapped into the mid-point between Scandinavian and Japanese folk music to deliver an album of blissful restraint, its quietude shaped by a combination of parenthood and natural inclination.

                                                                                      The follow-up is an album of stealthy dynamism, drama and mystery, its impact made all the greater because it skirts obvious routes to dance just out of hand’s reach, always seeming to be on the verge of departure.

                                                                                      Those who helped Sumie climb that poised peak included producer Filip Leyman, in whose Gothenburg studio the album was recorded. Fellow contributors numbered Karl Vento and Albert af Ekenstam on electric guitars, Emma Strååt and Kajsa Persson on strings and Max Lindahl on trumpet.

                                                                                      Sumie has also surfaced on others’ work. She sings on ‘Cover Hearts’, a track from sometime soundtrack composer David Wenngren’s Library Tapes project and on Gothenburg electro-collective Tegami’s pulsing ‘Screen Dream’. Meanwhile, back at base camp, ‘Lost In Light’ is a screen-style dream of an album itself: immersive while it lasts, haunting after it flickers out of view.

                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                      says: Beautiful brittle acoustic guitar, slowly pulling strings and the haunting addition of Nagano's beautiful vocals make this an essential addition to any collection.

                                                                                      Philip Selway

                                                                                      Let Me Go

                                                                                        Radiohead drummer Philip Selway’s new record is a departure from its two preceding albums (‘Familial’ and ‘Weatherhouse’). It is the soundtrack to the film drama ‘Let Me Go’, a story about mothers and daughters; about loss and mistrust; about the ramifications of a World War II crime; about secrets, trauma and lingering ghosts.

                                                                                        Mirroring the film’s haunted and intimate nature, Selway’s score is grounded in strings and piano, plus guitar, electronics, musical saw, glockenspiel and bowed vibraphone and the occasional use of bass and drums, creating a paradoxical sense of beauty and unease.

                                                                                        ‘Let Me Go’ is based on Austrian-born Helga Schneider’s memoir of the same name. She was just four years old when her mother Traudi walked out, never to return, in order to train as a guard in Germany’s concentration camps. Helga never knew the truth until, as an adult, she decided to track her mother down in Vienna, to discover not only the horror of the past but also of Traudi’s unashamedly proud memories of the most notorious camp of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Helga wouldn’t return to Vienna until thirty years later, when news arrived: Traudi was dying. Helga returned, for the sake of closure and hoping her mother had finally repented.

                                                                                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                        LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                                        Broen

                                                                                        I <3 Art

                                                                                          They may share a name and home country with one of Nordic TV’s darkest detective dramas, but you won’t find any dismembered bodies or nihilistic feelings on Broen’s ‘I <3 Art’, released through Bella Union.

                                                                                          Bursting with experi-pop exuberance and driven by a spirit of warm commonality, the five-piece’s debut album exults in the pleasures of intelligent music; its deep rhythms, dreamy melodies and dazzling sounds building bridges between bustles of jazzy percussion, psychedelic flourishes, funk grooves, mellifluous electronics and hip-hop beats. And if Norwegian-noir clichés and all other generic conventions are playfully bucked on its brightly exploratory way, such is Broen’s mission.

                                                                                          Recorded in Oslo’s Studio Paradiso, engineered by Jaga Jazzist’s Marcus Forsgren, and mixed by the band with Nick Terry, ‘I <3 Art’ bursts with invigorating life.

                                                                                          As Hans Hulbækmo (drums) puts it, “It’s both soft and hard. Beautiful and ugly or corny. Adventurous and experimental but still groovy. It’s honest and ironic. It has a lot of good energy. It was recorded live in the studio and it was a very joyful and positive experience. I think that shines through in the music, at least for us”.

                                                                                          Mammút

                                                                                          Kinder Versions

                                                                                            Icelandic bands often resemble a force of nature and Mammút are no exception. What’s more, the quintet’s spectacular new album ‘Kinder Versions’ is exactly the kind of volcanic presence that is sorely lacking in 21st Century rock, likewise their unpredictable and uncategorizable shape-shifting sound, like a very modern twist on psychedelia.

                                                                                            Mammút is Icelandic for ‘mammoth’ - the name that singer Kata Mogensen “plucked out of the air,” when she joined guitarists Alexandra Baldursdóttir and Arnar Pétursson, bassist Ása Dýradóttir and drummer Andri Bjartur Jakobsson for their stage debut, aged just 14. Kata is the daughter of bassist Birgir Mogensen, a former bandmate of Björk back when they were young post-punk adventurers, a questing spirit that Mammút have also unconsciously adopted, though without ever discussing what kind of music they’d play. “We’re so close as a band, we have no limits for each other, no boundaries, we just follow our gut instincts,” says Kata.

                                                                                            It’s worked from the off: they quickly won the Músiktilraunir Battle Of The Bands and thereafter nominations and awards at different Icelandic Music Awards: their third album ‘Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir’ won three of its eight nominations in 2014, including Album (Pop & Rock) and Song (Pop & Rock) for their epically slowburning single ‘Salt’. And with vocalist Kata Mogensen now singing in English, there’s a chance much more of the planet will discover what their homeland has known for a while.

                                                                                            Having worked with various Icelandic labels, Mammút’s signing to Bella Union is part of their plan to expand horizons. “It was never a decision to sing in Icelandic, it came out naturally when I wrote,” Kata explains. “But there are so few venues in Iceland, and we crave to move further. Singing in an international language opens the door - it means that people can understand not just the feeling in the vocals, but the words too, when I’m singing my heart out.”

                                                                                            A 14-track compilation of songs from throughout their career so far. The album features two previously unreleased tracks “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond”, which were recorded during the Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions, both albums of which were released two months apart in 2015.

                                                                                            "When we announced that we were releasing a B-sides and rarities album, someone on Twitter asked, “B-sides record? Why would Beach House put out a B-sides record? Their A-sides are like B-sides.” This random person has a point. Our goal has never been to make music that is explicitly commercial. Over the years, as we have worked on our 6 LPs, it wasn’t the “best" or most catchy songs that made the records, just the ones that fit together to make a cohesive work. Accordingly, our B-sides are not songs that we didn’t like as much, just ones that didn’t have a place on the records we were making.

                                                                                            The idea for a B-sides record came when we realized just how many non-album songs had been made over the years, and how hard it was to find and hear many of them. This compilation contains every song we have ever made that does not exist on one of our records. There are 14 songs in total.

                                                                                            The oldest song is “Rain in Numbers” and was recorded in 2005, during the summer when we formed the band. We didn’t have a piano, so we asked our friend if we could use his, which was pretty out of tune. We used the mic that was on the four-track machine to record the piano and vocals. It was originally the secret song on our self-titled debut.

                                                                                            Sequentially, the next couple of songs are from late 2008. We were so excited about “Used to Be,” that we recorded it right after writing it so that we could have it as a 7” single for our fall tour with the Baltimore Round Robin. We recorded our cover of Queen’s “Play the Game” in the same session. It was for a charity compilation benefiting AIDS research and we will continue to donate all profits from the song to that charity. As fans of Queen, we thought it would be fun and ridiculous to try to adapt their high-powered pop song into our realm. These songs were recorded at the same studio where we made Devotion.

                                                                                            There are a bunch of songs written and recorded in the 2009-2010 window. This period of time, as well as 2014, was our most prolific to date. “Baby” was written and recorded in October 2009 with our friend Jason Quever. “10 Mile Stereo” was recorded during the Teen Dream session in July 2009. Since we used tape, we often slowed the tape way down to create effects while recording. When we were doing that for “10 Mile Stereo” we decided we wanted to make an alternate version where the whole song was slowed down, hence the “10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix).”

                                                                                            “White Moon” and “The Arrangement” were both songs that we didn’t believe fit on Teen Dream. “White Moon” originally appeared on our iTunes live session. Since that was recorded and mixed very hastily, we have remixed it to better match our current aesthetics. We have also remixed and included the version of “Norway" we did at that same session. The main reason we wanted to include “Norway” is that it features a very different bridge from the original version.

                                                                                            After the insane year of touring we had in 2010, we felt incredibly grateful to our fans for all that had happened. We wrote and recorded “I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun” during a break between tours and released it on the internet for free, unmastered. Well, it’s finally been mastered…

                                                                                            “Wherever You Go” Is another song from that era. We always loved this song but thought it sounded too much like our old music. We paused writing it and didn’t finish it until 2011 during the Bloom recording session. It appeared originally as a secret song on Bloom.

                                                                                            “Equal Mind” was also recorded during the Bloom session. We really like this song, but pulled it from the record when we realized it had the exact same tempo as “Other People.” They are like twins.

                                                                                            The Bloom sessions led to “Saturn Song” as well. This song is built on a piano loop we wrote while recording Bloom. It also contains sounds recorded in deep space. It originally appeared on a compilation of songs incorporating space sounds that was released in 2014.

                                                                                            Finally, there are two previously unreleased songs from the Depression Cherry/Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. They are called “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond.” "


                                                                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                            Coloured LP Info: Limited indies only clear vinyl.

                                                                                            Celebration

                                                                                            Wounded Healer

                                                                                              “It seems like the last three years have been filled with contrasts,” says Katrina Ford, force-of-nature singer in Baltimore’s Celebration. “Fantastical musical adventures against the backdrop of adult crisis.” From this collision of opposites comes the kaleidoscopic ‘Wounded Healer’, released via Bella Union. Drawing its galvanic thrust from contrasting elements, the band’s fifth album is their purest and most richly realised statement yet: intimate and expansive, cohesive and wide-ranging, bruised and restorative.

                                                                                              Since the release of Albumin in 2014, the core trio of Ford, husband (multi-instrumentalist and organ player/rebuilder) Sean Antanaitis and drummer David Bergander have battled in times of struggle to uphold their founding strengths. “Midlife, we find ourselves dealing with bathroom renovations, death and elder care for parents, raising kids, careers, multiple surgeries, and totally fucked scheduling,” says Ford. “But despite it and yet inspired by it all, we have a place to come together and do this thing we love.”

                                                                                              FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                              Coloured LP Info: Clear vinyl LP includes digital download code.

                                                                                              Charlie Coxedge

                                                                                              Cloisters

                                                                                                Charlie Coxedge is a musician and writer from Manchester, best known as a member of MONEY.

                                                                                                As a solo musician, his compositions weave layers and loops of guitars, synth textures and soft pianos, building from melodic, ambient noises to multi-faceted soundscapes.

                                                                                                 Cloisters, as the title suggests, is about finding those secluded spaces, those empty archways where we hear the echoes of ourselves, and finding some peace within the solitude.  As so often happens in these empty spaces, thoughts enter and start to repeat themselves in our minds, bouncing off the walls until a new thought joins in, until all these different ideas are intertwined with each other, playing out in an almost endless cycle.

                                                                                                The music of Cloisters comes from these spaces, from moments of solitude found in childhood homes, walks through the city or even in memories - remembered spaces that invoke a certain feeling or atmosphere.

                                                                                                Recorded mostly in two different studios in Liverpool, with some bedroom recordings thrown in for good measure, everything on Cloisters was performed by Coxedge, simply using the studios to effectively capture the many layers and textures.  The sounds of the record, and the layers that build them, are as much about the spaces they create as the spaces they fill.  

                                                                                                'I’ve always been a bit of a collector of effects pedals, and have used them subtly within MONEY to enhance our sound, both on record and live – making loops, drones etc – but with this solo work I really get to expand on that, and a lot of the music comes from playing around with different sounds.'

                                                                                                Bella Union release Will Stratton’s album ‘Rosewood Almanac’, the American’s debut for the label.

                                                                                                ‘Rosewood Almanac’ is a work of fragile magic, a hypnotic combination of beautifully breathy voice and exquisite lyrical imagery, gorgeous melodies and similarly soft-spun instrumentation, centred on Will Stratton’s thrumming acoustic guitar and the verdant presence of velvet strings.

                                                                                                Born in California, mostly raised in New Jersey and currently an upstate New Yorker, this great-grandson of a travelling preacher started songwriting and recording while at high school, before going on to study philosophy and music composition. He has released work by himself and via a couple of tiny indies (one being Talitres in France) but extended medical treatment put everything on hold. After his successful recovery, Stratton decided to leave New York City for the Hudson Valley. Teaching (music, art, video) at a local boarding school while living on campus as a dorm ‘parent’ left little time for musical ambition, though he had never stopped making music. However, having left teaching, everything has come together for the finest record of his life. Bella Union’s timing was impeccable.

                                                                                                Debut release from BNQT, a new indie super-group conceived and led by Eric Pulido of Midlake.The introductory set includes ten new, original songs and features five vocalists – Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Fran Healy of Travis, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, and Pulido – who wrote and sing two tracks each, with backing from other Midlake members McKenzie Smith (drums), Joey McClellan (guitar) and Jesse Chandler (keys). ‘Volume 1’ was recorded and produced mostly at their studio in Denton, Texas. 

                                                                                                The concept of BNQT (pronounced “Banquet”) came to Pulido while touring Midlake's 2013 release, “Antiphon”. Gathering a number of contrasting yet complementary artists he’d befriended or shared the stage with, Pulido set out to establish an environment in which they could collaborate: “That's what art is about for me,” Pulido says, “creating with other people that you love and appreciate.”

                                                                                                The idea for BNQT was enthusiastically embraced by all involved, but with the artists stretched across the globe, recordings were split both with travel to Denton and remotely over the net. Over a year and some change, songs grew from demos to fully realized recordings, with Pulido guiding the way, and encouraging the artists to stretch out into new, uncharted territory. The resulting work is full of surprises, a collection that feels oddly familiar and attractively alien.

                                                                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                says: If you look at the list of artists on this unique album you'll know that the melodies are well and truly catered for, but sound-wise you might not expect this glorious celebration of all things early 70's. A bit like Midlake's work behind John Grant but with room for some rock'n'roll riffage, swoonsome Floyd-style synths and even a glam stomper. Ace!

                                                                                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                LP Info: Orange vinyl LP with digital download code.

                                                                                                LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                                                                Since 2012, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, has unexpectedly emerged as a singular (if not undeniably, um, idiosyncratic) voice. Whether by virtue of his lyrics, which routinely defy the presumed polarities of wit and empathy; his live performances which may perhaps be described best as “intimately berzerk”, or the infuriating line he seems to occupy between canny and total fraud online or in interviews, Father John Misty has cultivated a rare space for himself in the musical landscape - that of a real enigma. Pure Comedy sees Tillman at the height of these powers: as a lyricist, and equally so a cultural observer - at times bordering on freakishly prescient. Tillman’s bent critiques, bared humanity and gently warped classic songwriting are all here in equal measure and - at 75 minutes - there’s a veritable fuck ton of it. The album navigates themes of progress, technology, fame, the environment, politics, aging, social media, human nature, human connection and his own role in it all with his usual candour, and in terms as timely as they are timeless.

                                                                                                Tillman wrote the majority of Pure Comedy throughout 2015 and recorded all the basic tracking and vocals live to tape (in no more than two takes each) at United Studios (fka the legendary Ocean Way Studios, favored by Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys) in Los Angeles March 2016.

                                                                                                Pure Comedy was co-produced once again by Josh Tillman and long-time producer Jonathan Wilson; mixed by Tillman, Wilson and Trevor Spencer, and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios. The album features string, horn and choral arrangements from classical iconoclast Gavin Bryars (Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Sinking Of The Titanic), with additional contributions from Nico Muhly and Thomas Bartlett.

                                                                                                Lydia Ainsworth

                                                                                                Darling Of The Afterglow

                                                                                                ‘Darling Of The Afterglow’ is Lydia Ainsworth’s sophomore record and follow up to the Juno-nominated and critically acclaimed ‘Right From Real’ (2014).

                                                                                                The album features a team of local Toronto musicians, woven into Ainsworth’s programming, samples and string arrangements. “I usually have to be out of my element to get that spark of inspiration,” she says of songwriting. The songs on ‘Darling Of The Afterglow’ were all begun away from home, before being brought to fruition in her hometown.

                                                                                                Mixing yearning pop with other-worldly synthetic sounds, plush classical settings and weird-gothic R&B influences, Lydia Ainsworth’s new album is a richly imagined, richly felt work of future-pop classicism: an album of intimate emotions projected in heightened widescreen. The stunning, 11-track ‘Darling Of The Afterglow’ - from the lush lullaby of ‘Afterglow’, to the immersive ‘Into The Blue’, to the masterful cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ - showcases a great leap forward from Right from Real’s already prodigious experi-pop riches.

                                                                                                A heavenly voice couched in spellbinding Country & Western ballads, with a devastating emotional delivery: Holly Macve is a fantastic addition to the Bella Union family and her album ‘Golden Eagle’ is one of the most remarkably assured debuts of this or any other year, especially given that she’s only 21 years old.

                                                                                                “Words are my main love,” she declares. “I love songs that tell stories and take you somewhere else. I’ve always been drawn to that old country sound with its simple and memorable melodies. I enjoy music that feels timeless, that you don’t know quite when it was recorded.”

                                                                                                The bulk of ‘Golden Eagle’ was recorded in Newcastle at the home studio of producer Paul Gregory (of Bella Union labelmates Lanterns On The Lake), with extra recording in Brighton and London. Throughout, ‘Golden Eagle’ remains beautifully spare and delicate, putting Holly’s goosebumpraising voice centre stage, beautifully controlled yet riven with feeling.

                                                                                                On stage she’s a magnetic presence; it’s not just voice and songs. Audiences who caught her supporting the likes of John Grant, Villagers and Benjamin Clementine - incredible company to keep at this early stage - were doubtless stopped in their tracks. ‘Golden Eagle’ is surely going to have the same effect.

                                                                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                says: This album would sit comfortably alongside the traditional honky-tonk / country of Patsy Cline as easily as it would more contemporary artists such as Gillian Welch and Laura Marling. The song structures follow a 'classic' country format, but the simplicity and stripped back nature of the recording (often just guitar or piano and vocals) allows for Holly's incredible, vocals to weave their magic and create a really wonderful, timeless album.

                                                                                                Jambinai

                                                                                                Differance

                                                                                                  Following much acclaim for their sophomore album ‘A Hermitage’, which was released in June 2016 via Bella Union, South Korean trio Jambinai announce that their debut album ‘Differance’ will be released on vinyl for the first time outside of South Korea. The debut full-length from Jambinai, originally released in February 2012, is a challenging and compelling affair that won them the prize for Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards. A heady mixture of traditional instrumentation, crashing percussion and classic crescentic post-rock, Jambinai manage to maintain the brooding atmospherics and driven aesthetic through rapid-fire stylistic changes and skillful segues. Part metal, part instrumental and cinematic rock, and entirely fascinating, this is an excellent standalone outing, and a brilliant insight into the formation of the sound heard on their latest epic 'A Hermitage'.

                                                                                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                  says: Gloomy, brooding instrumental rock meets crashing metallic bursts, all interspersed with forlorn strings, floating ambience and triumphant crescendos. A superb outing, and a vastly underappreciated gem now available on vinyl!

                                                                                                  Horse Thief

                                                                                                  Trials & Truths

                                                                                                    Two years after their widely feted Bella Union debut ‘Fear In Bliss’, Oklahoma quintet Horse Thief have created another surging, crafted beauty in ‘Trials & Truths’.

                                                                                                    The record’s unified feel still contains many contrasting elements, sounding both panoramic and nuanced, intimate and anthemic and vibrant and contemplative, while frontman Cameron Neal’s lyrics range from the confessional to the metaphorical as he surveys the passing of time.

                                                                                                    Neal concludes, “All the songs have guided me through the writing process, and comforted me, which is part of what the whole record is contemplating - making something to comfort someone, to write songs they can relate to. And with this record, the band is in a great place.”

                                                                                                    THE FLAMING LIPS are pleased to announce the release of their long-awaited new studio album, entitled OCZY MLODY via Bella Union. Produced by the band and their long-time producer Dave Fridmann, the highly-anticipated LP is the follow-up to their globally acclaimed 2013 album, “The Terror”.

                                                                                                    Three-time Grammy-Award winners, THE FLAMING LIPS are one of the most enduring, influential, unpredictable, and universally respected bands of their generation or any other. Led by Wayne Coyne, they have been cited as the ultimate live attraction and life-affirming festival band who continue to dazzle audiences with their over-the-top, maximalist, high-energy onslaught on the senses. On OCZY MLODY, The Lips return to form with an album no less experimental in nature, but perhaps more melodically song-oriented, recalling the best parts of their most critically applauded albums THE SOFT BULLETIN and the gold-certified YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS.

                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                    says: Like a more drawn out and melancholic "Yoshimi", this record sees the good ship Lips return to more considered , calmer waters. Good tunes too!

                                                                                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                    2xColoured LP Info: Limited edition 2LP version – one purple / one orange plus bonus 7” with the 2LP is red vinyl.

                                                                                                    The Trouble With Templeton

                                                                                                    Someday, Buddy

                                                                                                    In the two and a half years since the release of their last album ‘Rookie’, Brisbane’s The Trouble With Templeton have, says frontman Thomas Calder, been busy “breaking down and re-assembling what it means to make music for us.” On the evidence of the richly confident and clear-sighted ‘Someday, Buddy’, released through Bella Union, that time was well spent.

                                                                                                    The full-bodied songs here can take the emphasis, no trouble. The Trouble With Templeton weren’t slouching on ‘Rookie’, where Calder and company wedded vibrant melodies and multifarious alt-rock flavours - epic, jangly, glam - to a core of emotive cogency. On ‘Someday, Buddy’, however, their personality emerges sharper and clearer. “Our goal was to make a record that is raw, bare and honest,” says Calder, a claim borne out by the incisive lyrics of the swelling ‘Sailor’ and lilting ‘Heavy Trouble’, where Calder’s falsetto dances over a tender indie folk backdrop.

                                                                                                    Sometimes fragile, sometimes forceful, Calder’s voice remains a marvel on ‘Bad Mistake’, a combination of intricate verses and a huge chorus pitched somewhere between Pavement and Elliott Smith.  ‘Someday, Buddy’s recipe is one of slow burn songs harbouring great reserves of potency: the discreet neo glam swagger of ‘Complex Lips’, the sunburst chorus of ‘Vernon’, the gorgeous ripples of album highlight ‘1832’.

                                                                                                    For The Trouble With Templeton, the album is the culmination of time spent refining the band’s qualities following extensive touring for ‘Rookie’. After taking time out to recharge their batteries, Calder, Ritchie Daniell (drums) and Sam Pankhurst (bass) recorded as a trio with help from their friend Matt Redlich; later, they were joined by another buddy, guitarist Jack Richardson. As a result, says Calder, the band’s bonds are “stronger than ever.” By the time ‘Someday, Buddy’ fades out with the understated confidence and poised beauty of ‘Sturdy Boy’ no one could doubt it.

                                                                                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                    Coloured LP Info: LP pressed on white vinyl with digital download code.

                                                                                                    Xylouris White are George Xylouris - a Cretan lute player who is part of a famous Greek musical family and one of Crete’s best-loved artists - and Jim White, drummer in legendary Australian instrumental band Dirty Three.

                                                                                                    ‘Black Peak’ pays testimony to both men’s remarkable histories. One of Crete’s best-loved artists, Xylouris is a scion of Greek musical royalty, a family from a mountain village near the Cave of Zeus, while Jim White has commanded international attention for more than two decades as part of Australia’s Dirty Three. Now New Yorkbased, White is often found collaborating with alt- A-listers such as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Cat Power and Smog.

                                                                                                    Soundwalk Collective And Jesse Paris Smith Featuring Patti Smith

                                                                                                    Killer Road

                                                                                                    Bella Union announce ‘Killer Road’, a collaborative project between Soundwalk Collective, Patti Smith and Jesse Paris Smith.

                                                                                                    A shimmering ambient tone, an electronic underlay to the lulling chatter of crickets, makes way for the unmistakeable voice of Patti Smith, quietly intoning, ominously, “The killer road is waiting for you / like a finger, pointing in the night.” ‘Killer Road’ is a deep, dark, illuminating and meditative journey into mortality and motion, into fear and doubt and, eventually, death.

                                                                                                    Behind the music and concept of ‘Killer Road’ is international trio Soundwalk Collective - Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli and Kamran Sadeghi - plus Patti Smith’s daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, who conceived an immersive exploration of the tragic death of Christa Päffgen. Better known as Nico, the Velvet Underground chanteuse and solo pioneer, Päffgen died while riding her bike on the island of Ibiza in the summer of 1988.

                                                                                                    In the years before she died, Nico had not neglected her creative muse, writing poetry that would never be published, or heard, until now, in the form of the opening title track, ‘Killer Road’. The tracks that follow are eight interpretations of Nico lyrics, predominantly taken from classic albums such as ‘Desertshore’ and ‘Drama Of Exile’, arranged by fellow poet and kindred spirit Patti Smith.

                                                                                                    The roots of ‘Killer Road’ lie in a fortuitous meeting on an airplane bound for New York. One passenger was Patti Smith; the other was Soundwalk Collective founder Crasneanscki. Soundwalk had previously been a collaborative series of walking guides to cities that created an idiosyncratic and evocative understanding for the listener, before evolving into musical frameworks for field recordings and sight specific sound installations and performances using a variety of texts and themes.

                                                                                                    ‘Killer Road’ was initially a live audio visual experience in New York as part of 2014’s Crossing The Line festival, with subsequent performances taking place in London and Berlin. This is the recorded version, a poignant, profound, imaginative exploration and tribute nearly 30 years after that fateful summer’s day.

                                                                                                    Having announced themselves to the world with their acclaimed self-titled debut in 2014, Arc Iris return with their second album, ‘Moon Saloon’, released on Bella Union.

                                                                                                    ‘Moon Saloon’ constitutes a natural progression from the first album’s whimsical explorations. Produced by the group and mixed by electronic producer David Wrench of FKA Twigs and Caribou fame, the album showcases beat-heavy melodies and textural, grooveriding rhythms. It developed from the band’s distillations of musical influences, combining traditional elements with percussive structures and dense, beguiling harmonies.

                                                                                                    In many ways this second album captures Arc Iris’ musical odyssey as a band. “It has a heavier sound, more intense,” says Arc Iris keyboardist Zach Tenorio- Miller, who makes liberal use of sampling in many of the songs. The group matches an unusual array of organic acoustic instruments with layered electronic sounds.

                                                                                                    “Though they are only a three-piece, they have a large arsenal of sounds and sensibilities to work with, and they use every bit of it to make beautifully textured soundscapes difficult to box into any genre.” - Stereogum

                                                                                                    The Wilderness is the band’s sixth album, and first non-soundtrack effort since 2011’s ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’. Arguably the most progressive instrumental rock album since EITS’ 2003 breakthrough ‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’, The Wilderness is a bold, experimental work combining the singular song craft that has sold hundreds of thousands of albums and tickets with the cinematic sensibility that has elevated the band to the level of regard and demand its members enjoy as film composers (Lone Survivor, Manglehorn, Prince Avalanche, Friday Night Lights).

                                                                                                    The first Explosions In The Sky album not produced entirely by the band, The Wilderness features long time collaborator (and Grammy-winning producer) John Congleton in a co-producer role for the first time. The band's most ambitious songs to date branch into unexpected new dimensions accordingly - Exhibit A being “Disintegration Anxiety,” currently streaming on all platforms and available as an instant grat download with all pre-orders. With its cacophonous opening washes that ultimately resolve into a locked groove, “Disintegration Anxiety” marks the rock solid midpoint of an aggressively modern and forward-thinking work. 

                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                    says: Expanding upon their trademark sound, much like fellow Texans This Will Destroy You ; Explosions In The Sky have encompassed, to great effect, elements of drone and electronica into their (still unmistakeable) post-rock sound. Distorted beats, crunchy snares, and dusty arpeggios atop soaring guitars and crackly synths. A vast departure for the band, but without endangering what makes them tick, The Wilderness is bold, brave, and brilliant.

                                                                                                    M. Ward returns with a stunning new album, ‘More Rain’, released on Bella Union. Ward has released a string of acclaimed solo albums over the past several years, along with five albums with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and a 2009 collaborative album with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis under the moniker Monsters Of Folk.

                                                                                                    In addition to his celebrated work as a musician, Ward is an accomplished producer, handling those duties for such luminaries as Mavis Staples, Jenny Lewis and Carlos Forster as well as his own projects.

                                                                                                    M. Ward knows how to live with rain. Having spent the last decadeand- a-half based in the perennially damp Portland, Oregon, the singer-songwriter and producer has learned how to shine through the soggy gloom by simply embracing its inevitability. For Ward, there is inspiration in a dark sky and harmony in foreboding winds. With his new album ‘More Rain’ he has made a true gotta-stay-indoors, rainyseason record that looks upwards through the weather while reflecting on his past.

                                                                                                    “I think one of the biggest mysteries of America right now is this: How are we able to process unending bad news on Page One and then go about our lives the way the style section portrays us?” says Ward. “There must be a place in our brains that allows us to take a bird’s-eye view of humanity, and I think music is good at helping people - myself included - go to that place.”

                                                                                                    This album, Ward’s eighth solo affair, finds the artist picking up the tempo and volume a bit from his previous release, 2012’s ‘A Wasteland Companion’. Where that record introspectively looked in from the outside, ‘More Rain’ finds Ward on the inside, gazing out. Begun four years ago and imagined initially as a DIY doo-wop album that would feature Ward experimenting with layering his own voice, it soon branched out in different directions, a move that he credits largely to his collaborators here who include REM.’s Peter Buck, Neko Case, kd lang, The Secret Sisters and Joey Spampinato of NRBQ.

                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                    says: More warm 50's/60's vibes from the golden voiced maestro. Another enveloping record where everything feels just right. Great songs, obviously.

                                                                                                    Wild Nothing, aka Brooklyn-based musician Jake Tatum, released his debut album ‘Gemini’ in 2010 to critical acclaim. Five years on, with an equally impressive sophomore release and a series of EPs under his belt, Tatum is pleased to announce his third-studio album and self-proclaimed most “mature and honest” work to date, ‘Life Of Pause’.

                                                                                                    When Jack Tatum began work on ‘Life Of Pause’ he had fascinating ambitions. “I desperately wanted for this to be the kind of record that would displace me,” he says. “I’m terrified by the idea of being any one thing, or being of any one genre. And whether or not I accomplish that, I know that my only hope of getting there is to constantly reinvent. That reinvention doesn’t need to be drastic, but every new record has to have its own identity, and it has to have a separate set of goals from what came before.”

                                                                                                    ‘Life Of Pause’ is an exquisitely arranged and beautifully recorded collection of songs that marry the immediate with the indefinable. “I allowed myself to go down every route I could imagine even if it ended up not working for me,” he says. “I owe it to myself to take as many risks as possible. Songs are songs you have to allow yourself to be open to everything.”

                                                                                                    After a prolonged period of writing and experimentation recording took place over several weeks in both Los Angeles and Stockholm, with producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Beachwood Sparks) helping Tatum in his search for a more natural and organically textured sound. In Sweden, in a studio once owned by ABBA, they enlisted Peter, Bjorn & John drummer John Ericsson and fellow Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra veteran TK to contribute drums and marimba. In California, at Monahan’s home, Tatum collaborated with Medicine guitarist Brad Laner and a crew of saxophonists.

                                                                                                    From the hypnotic polyrhythms of ‘Reichpop’ to the sugary howl of ‘Japanese Alice’ to the hallucinogenic R&B of ‘A Woman’s Wisdom’, the result is a complete, fully immersive listening environment. “I just kept things really simple, writing as ideas came to me,” he says. “There’s definitely a different kind of ‘self’ in the picture this time around. There’s no real love lost, it’s much more a record of coming to terms and defining what it is that you have - your place, your relationships. I view every record as an opportunity to write better songs. At the end of the day it still sounds like me, just new.”

                                                                                                    In 2013 MONEY released their debut album ‘The Shadow Of Heaven’, following a handful of concerts that felt more like communions in out-of-the-way venues, advertised by word-of-mouth only.

                                                                                                    Two years on, the new MONEY album, ‘Suicide Songs’, takes you deeper into their sound and vision. It feels more advanced and yet simpler, more perfected and yet more open. It is, by turns, a tender, barren, cavernous, smouldering, despairing and inspirational piece of work.

                                                                                                    Out of a renewed, richer palate of sound, a sense of greater self-belief has emerged. However, as its title suggests, ‘Suicide Songs’ doesn’t shirk from the emotional truths that birthed it. “I wanted the album to sound like it was ‘coming from death’ which is where these songs emerged,” Jamie explains. “Above all else, I’m just trying to project and portray a poetic truth. Suicide is about anonymity, to the point where you don’t exist, which I definitely feel in my songwriting and as a person. But rather than writing myself out of anonymity, I want to remain there, in this record at least.”

                                                                                                    Billie Lindahl, the woman behind the name Promise & The Monster, brings a vivid landscape to life on ‘Feed The Fire’, her first album for Bella Union.

                                                                                                    ‘Feed The Fire’ was recorded in Stockholm, where Lindahl lives, at Labyrint, a small basement studio run by her friend Love Martinsen who produced the ‘Feed The Fire’ album and shares most of the instrumentation with Lindahl. “We aimed at combining the elegance of old Sixties recordings with something darker and more mechanical,” she recalls. “Like you would play a Lee Hazlewood song on top of Nico’s late Eighties records.”

                                                                                                    Duality sits at the core of ‘Feed The Fire’, likewise the name Promise & The Monster. “To feed the fire can be seen as both constructive and destructive,” Lindahl concludes. “You keep the fire burning, the spark alive. But fire can kill you. To see, listen and feel is quite a violent and confusing experience, and I think my lyrics often evolve around that, blurring boundaries between dream and reality, and between sanity and insanity.”

                                                                                                    Beach House

                                                                                                    Thank Your Lucky Stars

                                                                                                      Less than 2 months after the release of 2015′s much celebrated 'Depression Cherry', Beach House will grace us all with their sixth full length LP titled 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'. 


                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                      says: Beach House wowed us this year with their gorgeous comeback LP "Depression Cherry" and now, only 2 months later, they do something fairly unique in pop by releasing a second, brand new collection. This is not an odds'n'sods out-takes jobby. This is a just as brilliant sister record, totally beautiful in it's own right, but with an even better sleeve! Swoon again.

                                                                                                      It’s been the most spectacular of journeys, from a place in time when John Grant feared he’d never make music again, to winning awards, accolades and Top 20 chart positions, collaborating with the likes of Sinead O’Connor, Goldfrapp and Elton John, as well as a Best International Male Solo Artist nomination at the 2014 BRITS Awards.

                                                                                                      Now comes Grant’s third album, the invitingly titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, a veritable tour-de-force that further refines and entwines his two principal strands of musical DNA, the sumptuous tempered ballad and the taut, fizzing electronic pop song. There are newer musical accomplishments across its panoply of towering sound, like the title track’s new steely demeanour, while the ominous drama of “Black Blizzard” echoes both John Carpenter and Bernard ‘Black Devil Disco Club’ Fevre’s beautiful and icy synthscapes. The contagious, gleeful “You And Him” marries buzzing rock with a squelchy electronic undertow, while orchestral drama swathes the bad-dreamy “Global Warming” and the album’s gorgeously aching widescreen finale “Geraldine”.

                                                                                                      Grey Tickles, Black Pressure was recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St Vincent, Franz Ferdinand, Swans) - coincidentally the same state of Texas where Grant nailed his 2010 solo debut Queen Of Denmark in the company of Denton’s wondrous Midlake. After that landmark return, which MOJO made its album of 2010, 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts was made in Icelandic capital Reykjavik (where Grant has lived ever since), which entered the UK Top 20 in its first week and ended up as Rough Trade Shop’s Album of the Year 2013, The Guardian’s No.2 and in MOJO and Uncut’s Top Five). Such recognition, iced by years of sell-out shows across Europe and a recent US tour as special invited guest of the Pixies, should allow the notoriously self-critical and insecure Grant the passing thought that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure will deservedly cement his reputation as the most disarmingly honest, caustic, profound and funny diarist of the human condition in the persistently testing, even tragic, era that is the 21st century.

                                                                                                      “I do think the album’s great, and I’m really proud of it,” he says. “I wanted to get moodier and angrier on this record, but I probably had a lot more fun making it.” He cites “amazing” session keyboardist Bobby Sparks, “who really funked things up,” as part of that fun; likewise a month of Dallas sunshine “after a brutal dark winter in Iceland. And there was a lot of laughter.”

                                                                                                      That said, fun isn’t the first ingredient you’d expect when you know the roots of the album title. “‘Grey tickles’ is the literal translation from Icelandic for ‘mid-life crisis’, while ‘black pressure’ is the direct translation from Turkish for ‘nightmare’,” Grant explains, an unusually gifted linguist (he’s fluent in German, Russian and now tackling Icelandic).

                                                                                                      Nevertheless, there are plenty of positive streaks in Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Grant, for one, is in fabulous voice throughout and has moved on from the specific subject matter that shaped both previous albums (though the concept of love always figures into the mix). “Disappointing” – featuring vocal guest Tracey Thorne – is an exuberant tribute to new love, against which Grant’s favourite Saturday Night Live comediennes, Russian artists and “ballet dancers with or without tights” pale in comparison. The album’s other two guests are vocalist Amanda Palmer and former Banshees drummer Budgie.

                                                                                                      But the end result is indeed a moody, angry record, laced with levering humour and wounded pathos, yet as dark as Reykjavik in February. It starts and ends with spoken word snippets called, simply, “Intro” and “Outro”, both taken from the same Biblical quote (from 1 Corinthians 13) regarding the divinity of love that young John was taught in church. In between are 12 songs that document the reality of love on planet Earth, corrupted by “pain, misunderstandings, jealousy, objectification and expectations,” as Grant puts it.

                                                                                                      The album’s last two songs are among its finest. “No More Tangles” fights against co-dependency “with narcissistic queers,” he sings, through the metaphor of hair care products. “It’s about not apologizing for who you are and not putting up with unnecessary bullshit from people who do not care about you”. But in “Geraldine” (as in the late Geraldine Paige, “one of freakiest, strongest, coolest actresses I’ve come across”), Grant’s latest actor-inspired song is Grant’s chance to ask her if she too had to “put up with this shit” that life dishes out.

                                                                                                      So Grant still manages to keep fighting the good fight, and writing his way out of trouble with another fantastic record. “I want to continue to challenge myself,” he says. “To keep collaborating, to get the sound or the direction that will take me where I need to go. To keep taking the bull by the horns.” 

                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                      says: Lush, deep production bringing throbbing electronics further to the fore, which when married to Grant's enormo ballads and hilarious lyrics, make this John's most complete album yet.

                                                                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                      LP Info: Limited edition white vinyl!

                                                                                                      As Mercury Rev began recording their eighth studio album in autumn 2013, when asked what people could expect, co-pilot Grasshopper responded, “Steel Resonator Mandolin. Timpani. Sleigh Bells. All sorts of electric guitars…..” He subsequently added, “It is the best stuff we have done in a long, long time. Gonna be big sounding!”

                                                                                                      Two years on, The Light In You more than lives up to its billing. The record is filled with wondrous and voluminous kaleidoscopic detail, but also intimate moments of calm, and altogether stands up to the very best that this notable band of maverick explorers has ever created. Its ecstatic highs and shivery comedowns also reflect a particularly turbulent era in the lives of Grasshopper and fellow co-founder Jonathan Donahue, of calamities both personal and physical, but also rebirths and real births (Grasshopper became a father for the first time in 2014). There's a reason for the seven-year gap since the band's last album, Snowflake Midnight.

                                                                                                      “It was one of those otherworldly life sequences, when everything you think is solid turns molten,” explains Jonathan. “But also, when something is worth saying, it can take a long time to say it, rather than just blurt it out.”

                                                                                                      As well as The Light In You being the first Mercury Rev album with Bella Union, it’s also the first with only Jonathan and Grasshopper at the controls, as scheduling conflicts and travel between the Catskills and Dave Fridmann's Tarbox studio became too great to overcome. On The Light In You, Jonathan and Grasshopper decided they were best served being based at home in the Catskills for once. Surrounded by longtime friends such as engineer Scott Petito and bassist Anthony Molina, Jonathan and Grasshopper quickly found their stride recording themselves in their own basement studio as well as venturing out into the daylight to record tracks at some of their old haunts like NRS and White Light Studios. The two even found time to arrange backing vocal harmonies and record with Ken Stringfellow at his studio Son du Blé studios in Paris.

                                                                                                      Yet from its title down, the album clearly reflects the core relationship between Jonathan and Grasshopper, best friends since they were teenagers, who accompanied each other through the musical changes, band fractures and exulted breakthroughs that has marked Mercury Rev’s career since they emerged with the extraordinary Yerself Is Steam in 1991.

                                                                                                      “You can go as deep as you want with the title, on a metaphorical, spiritual level, or just poetic license,” Jonathan suggests. “It’s the beacon that shines and allows us to see ourselves – and then there’s the music between Grasshopper and I, which is how we reflect each other. The arc of the album, lyrically, is someone who’s gone through an incredible period of turbulence, sadness and uncertainty, and as the album progresses, a light appears on the water.”

                                                                                                      The album’s track-listing follows a similar trajectory, from the opening slow-build cascade of ‘The Queen Of Swans’, through the epic lonely beauty of ‘Central Park East’ and the album’s half-way peak between ‘Emotional Freefall’ and ‘Are You Ready’ before the closing sequence, with the exhilarating pop beacons of ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Rainy Day Record’ sandwiching the more tranquil ‘Moth Light’. The light is reflected both by the album’s brilliantine colours and imagery drawn largely from the elements and the seasons, creating a world as only Mercury Rev know how. “It’s like taking a drug, but not actually taking a drug,” Grasshopper reckons. “Just sit back and enter and immerse yourself.”

                                                                                                      Since Snowflake Midnight, Jonathan and Grasshopper have stayed productive, for example with their improvised collective, Mercury Rev's Cinematic Sound Tettix BrainWave Concerto Experiment at John Zorn's club in NYC, creating live soundtracks to favourite films at various junctures across Europe (most recently in London as part of Swans’ Mouth To Mouth festival in 2014). There were also occasional festival shows such as headlining 2014’s Green Man festival to celebrate the deluxe version of 1998 opus Deserter’s Songs.

                                                                                                      “Playing tracks again from Deserter’s Songs helped us look at where we’ve been, and where we were going,” says Grasshopper. “Though by no means did we want to make Deserter’s Songs Two, we did feel we had some loose ends to tie up.”As Grasshopper once commented about Deserter’s Songs, “It’s special because that was the one that brought us back from the brink.” The Light In You is special for that very same reason.

                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                      says: Mercury Rev bin the glacial electronics and return to splendor with the sweeping, multi-layered, enchanted sounds of their classic Deserter Songs period.

                                                                                                      Beach House

                                                                                                      Depression Cherry

                                                                                                      Beach House is Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. We have been a band for over a decade living and working in Baltimore, MD. Depression Cherry is our 5th full-length record. This record follows the release of our self-titled album in 2006, Devotion in 2008, Teen Dream in 2010 and Bloom in 2012. Depression Cherry was recorded at Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana from November ’14 through January ’15. This time period crossed the anniversaries of both John Lennon’s and Roy Orbison’s death.

                                                                                                      In general, this record shows a return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far lesser role. With the growing success of Teen Dream and Bloom, the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove us towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from our natural tendencies. Here, we continue to let ourselves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which we exist.

                                                                                                      Here are a few quotes that we feel relate to the feeling and themes of this record:

                                                                                                      — “I’ll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven’t a choice. I go. One caravan has stopped, another starts up. There are people I have yet to meet, others I’ll never see again. People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through. Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent. I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes.” - from Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
                                                                                                      — “We inhabit a world in which the future promises endless possibilities and the past lies irretrievably behind us. The arrow of time… is the medium of creativity in terms of which life can be understood.” - from The Arrow of Time by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield
                                                                                                      — “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” - from Parerga and Paralipomena by Arthur Schopenhauer
                                                                                                      — “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, feel the air and see the sky, let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic……
                                                                                                      ….when the fog horn blows, i want to hear it, i don’t have to fear it” - from “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison.

                                                                                                      Depression Cherry was produced and recorded by the band and Chris Coady at Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana.




                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                      says: Beach House's 5th album sees Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally distill things right down to their essence and create their best record so far. This is dream-pop in excelsis. Using the most minimal ingredients of organ, guitar, drum-machine and voice, but creating a spangly, fuzzy, graceful sound, the duo have made an album that totally envelops the listener. Mesmerising stuff.

                                                                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                      CD Info: The CD comes packaged in a red velvet sleeve.

                                                                                                      Pins grabbed everyones attention with the raw energy of their debut album "Girls Like Us", which they self recorded live in the studio in Liverpool. 

                                                                                                      On their second album they've stepped things up a little, heading off to Joshua Tree and Rancho De La Luna with Dave Catching (QOTSA, Eagles of Death Metal). And boy can you tell the difference! There's still plenty of Manchester grime in there as you'd hope: the guitars buzz and the drums pound but the sound is somehow crisper and the melodies more succinct.

                                                                                                      A real leap forward for Manchester's favourite girl gang.



                                                                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                      LP Info: Limited clear vinyl pressing.

                                                                                                      Hannah Cohen

                                                                                                      Pleasure Boy

                                                                                                      Music often comes from a deep place, and in the case of Hannah Cohen’s stunning and heartrending second album, it’s very deep indeed. Mainly inspired by a painful break-up and the anxieties that loss can trigger, Pleasure Boy cushions its sadness in an exquisitely nuanced soundscape of aching melancholy and lush melody where Hannah’s vocal conveys all the different shades of heartbreak. Following the album’s completion, she’s survived the calamity and found a new level of happiness, but to paraphrase the classic Sixties hit, there will always be something there to remind her with Pleasure Boy.

                                                                                                      ‘Pleasure Boy’, like her debut ‘Child Bride’, was produced by Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, whose work with artists such as The National, Antony Hegarty and David Byrne singles him out as one of America’s current finest producers and collaborators, though he’s also a talented pianist. The dynamics of ‘Pleasure Boy’ was the result of Hannah and Bartlett, “bunkering down with my songs, experimenting with different tones and sounds, and layering them. My first record was so airy and roomy, I didn’t have patience for that again, I wanted more movement, something more mysterious and witchier, so we created this sound wall together.”

                                                                                                      “I wanted the music to hurt, to have a visceral effect,” Hannah says. Her voice sometimes sounds delirious or icy; other times she recalls the vulnerable, piercing beauty of Harriet Wheeler (The Sundays) and Karen Peris (The Innocence Mission). But Pleasure Boy‘s sound wouldn’t exist without the vision that launched it. The album title arrived as the record took shape. “Pleasure Boy is a character of who it’s about, someone who represents gluttony and decadence and richness,” Hannah explains. She admits it was a tough record to make, given she was aiming to heal emotionally while feeling “devastated and hurt. But it wouldn’t be the record it is if I hadn’t done that.”

                                                                                                      STANDARD VINYL EDITION, with a gatefold jacket with black vinyl and fold-out poster, featuring a collage of Emma Tillman’s intimate photos, designed by Alia Penner and an extensive “Exercises for Listening” written by Josh Tillman

                                                                                                      CD EDITION, which includes fold-out poster, featuring a collage of Emma Tillman’s intimate photos, designed by Alia Penner and an extensive “Exercises for Listening” written by Josh Tillman

                                                                                                      'I Love You, Honeybear' is the highly-anticipated follow up to his acclaimed debut, Fear Fun. The album, featuring “Bored In The USA,” “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” “True Affection,” and the title track, was produced by Josh Tillman and Jonathan Wilson, mixed by Phil Ek, and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. 

                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                      says: Americana's answer to Jarvis Cocker, Josh Tillman uses his FJM persona to tease and torment (and behave like the coolest, sexiest, superstar ever!) whilst behind the guise casually writing some of this year's greatest songs! It's a superb record and a huge hit.

                                                                                                      John Grant And The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

                                                                                                      Live In Concert

                                                                                                      Early October saw John Grant turn in a truly fabulous performance as part of the BBC Philharmonic Presents Series which was broadcast across 6Music and other BBC networks. This one-off live recording saw John performing much of his celebrated catalogue with the 60-piece BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, with arrangements by his long-time collaborator Fiona Brice.

                                                                                                      So good was the performance, and also in response to public demand, Bella Union are delighted to announce that the recording will be released in a few weeks time on 1st December. The recording should also serve as a memento (of sorts) for John's upcoming sold-out orchestral tour with the Royal Northern Sinfonia which will see him performing in some of the UK's most prestigious venues.

                                                                                                      Ballet School

                                                                                                      The Dew Lasts An Hour

                                                                                                      A fresh, vibrant take on the lush, emoting tropes of Eighties pop and rock but sounding resolutely 21st Century.

                                                                                                      ‘The Dew Lasts An Hour’s diverse influences place Ballet School at the forefront of pop’s new alternative.

                                                                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                      2xLtd CD Info: Strictly limited edition 2CD version (bonus CD shrinkwrapped with standard album) featuring unreleased content, available exclusively to independent retailers (200 copies for the UK & Eire).

                                                                                                      Electric Wurms is the new side-project from Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips.

                                                                                                      This is the first of what could be endless communicated sound stories. It is titled Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk, which predicted this modern day dance move by almost forty years ago. Some of it is indeed hard to twerk to but some of it, is not. There is a particular track called Transform!!! that closely resembles a drug fuelled boogie freak rock track by Miles Davis. Another verse Heart Of The Sunrise sounds vaguely like a song by the prog folk group Yes. Of course Yes also turned themselves into space ships so it's no wonder these songs share a similar vibe.

                                                                                                      The ensemble leans toward a hypnotic mood for most of the space bible readings. It is a scary truth that we are hearing and then forced to ponder. The pulsating poem Living states… "live as if you were living already for the second time. And that you had acted wrong the first time". So they call themselves Electric Würms after the greatest of the super freaks. But they are not a super-group. They are like Sherpas climbing with you. To help you. To love you. All the secrets that they know they tell you. That's what love is.

                                                                                                      Already a huge success in Australia, The Trouble With Templeton is the creation of singer / songwriter Thomas Calder, a 23-year-old wunderkind who formed the band in 2011. The following year saw TTWT expand to a 5-piece, the new members complimenting Calder’s emotive vocals and songwriting with a collaborative, selfassured sound.

                                                                                                      Adventurous, eccentric and stunningly melodic, ‘Rookie’ is an album that leaves a distinct musical impression. With their debut release The Trouble With Templeton have crafted a record full of warmth and heart, whilst displaying a willingness to make music that’s not afraid to affect or surprise.

                                                                                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                      Vinyl comes with CD version of the album enclosed.

                                                                                                      The Flaming Lips

                                                                                                      7 Skies H3

                                                                                                        THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2014 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

                                                                                                        In 2011 The Flaming Lips released a 24-hour song called “7 Skies H3” which came inside a real human skull for $5,000 and was only made available to stream on a dedicated website.

                                                                                                        Now available for the first time on vinyl is a 50 minute distillation of this epic song, condensed and remastered.

                                                                                                        Limited to 500 copies for UK and Ireland.
                                                                                                        Produced by The Flaming Lips, Dave Fridmann and Scott Booker.

                                                                                                        140g clear vinyl, printed inner sleeve, 3mm spined outer sleeve 350 gsm silver mirri board.

                                                                                                        Includes free download.

                                                                                                        Horse Thief are purveyors of a panoramic yet nuanced sound, flowing from intimate to anthemic, the mood from vibrant to contemplative, with frontman Cameron Neal’s lyrics ranging from confessional to metaphorical. The result evokes the wide-open spaces of America’s Midwest but infuses the sense of grit and wonderment with edgier emotions.

                                                                                                        The impulse that drove artists such as Suicide, Einstürzende Neubauten and Scott Walker to embark on extraordinary and uncompromising journeys, refusing to flinch in the face of humanity’s ugly truths and terrible beauty, also underpins the sound and vision of Xiu Xiu, aka LAbased duo Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo.

                                                                                                        ‘Angel Guts: Red Classroom’ is the sound of Xiu Xiu’s descent into the deepest blackness endurable.

                                                                                                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                        Vinyl comes with CD version of the album enclosed.

                                                                                                        The Flaming Lips

                                                                                                        Peace Sword

                                                                                                          The title track ‘Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)’ was written exclusively for Orson Scott Card’s new movie adaptation of ‘Enders Game’, and features Thomas Fec of Black Moth Super Rainbow. The Flaming Lips then went on to make five new tracks all inspired by the book upon which the film is based.




                                                                                                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                                                                          LP Info: 1 copy found.

                                                                                                          To say there’s excitement for Girls Like Us, the storming debut album by fiery Manchester four-piece PINS, would be an understatement. Even before the rousing reception to their oscillating, reverb-drenched EP LuvU4Lyfon Bella Union last autumn, first shows in disused office blocks and hotel basements left barely an inch of elbow room whilst an uber-limited gold cassette single released on their own Haus of Pins label flew off the shelves quicker than a hipster uploading an Instagram snap.

                                                                                                          Thankfully, for PINS complacency is not an option. Thick as thieves, this is a girl gang who’ve since battled line up changes, taken on European terrain, and scoffed in the face of supposed Armageddon by hosting their own swansong gig in a warehouse. Akin to cult 60s novel/70s film The Warriors, PINS are true fighters; a taut rebel unit living out their own manifesto and defending their turf as purveyors of brooding guitar pop.

                                                                                                          Take album opener ‘It’s On’, a song resurrected by bassist Anna from singer and guitarist Faith’s back catalogue of home-recordings. “It’s strong and we wanted to kick off the album by letting listeners know that we are ready for a fight if they want to take us on,” says Faith. She’s not kidding. From start to finish powerful bass lines blow up like smoke bombs whilst woozy, echoing guitars and tribal Banshee style 4-piece backing vocals strike in unison with the numbing blunt force of a nunchuck. Creating an air of noirish suspense, ‘Get With Me’ is decadent like blood red velour, freewheeling with the drive and menace of a Tarantino surf style soundtrack whilst ‘Lost Lost Lost’s echoing monotones induce chills like a PJ Harvey mantra. Completing the line-up, new recruit Sophie’s military drumbeats thunder through the unnerving ‘I Want It All’ and ‘Mad For You’s sprawling duel toms give the record its urgency. It’s seductive and switched on; never giving into what outsiders would expect it to be.

                                                                                                          Purists at heart, PINS recorded the album as live at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios for its vast selection of analogue gear; it was self-produced and nailed within a week. Such is the understanding of and dedication to their girl gang feel, PINS even learned guitar parts backwards and brought in found sounds to give Girls Like Us its desired effect. The pitch and tempo of ‘Play With Fire’ was manipulated to make it sound like warped vinyl whilst Sophie covered her floor toms with tea towels to give the relentless beatific rhythms a distinctive boxy sound. The footsteps at the beginning of ‘Howlin’’ is the sound of Faith walking from the control room to the vocal booth.

                                                                                                          “Girls Like Us isn't about being like us, it's about being yourself,” clarifies Faith. “I always wanted to be in a band, ever since I can remember, it's all I’ve ever wanted to do to... our album may have been recorded and mixed in a week but it’s been dreamed about for years! We had to be ruthless but we've got each other’s backs, we don't let each other make bad decisions.”

                                                                                                          Comparisons to other gangs (of New York) Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts will be inevitable, yet PINS’ femme fatale extends far beyond that of C86 tribute. Here seemingly straightforward guitar pop is choked with atmosphere created by group chants a la The Shop Assistants and the abrasive sonic experimentation of Jesus and Mary Chain. Take ‘Velvet Morning’ - a moment of calm midst the storm with Anna’s alluring vocals telling a story written by ex-drummer Lara before her premature departure. “Having Lara with us from the start was integral to us finding our sound and our confidence as musicians” they explain. “We’ll love her forever.”

                                                                                                          Energetic, focused, and ruthless, Girls Like Us is the album PINS wanted to make and for us to hear. "For you all i give my time/for you all i give my mind/ for you all i give my life/oh my heart aches," calls Faith on ‘To You’. We’re grateful. This is an exclusive invitation to PINS’ very own midnight summit.


                                                                                                          “Manc post-punk monochromatic minimalism, Adam Ant drums, Siouxsie declamation, banshees guitar – this is sublime.” The Sunday Times

                                                                                                          MONEY release their debut album The Shadow of Heaven on 26th August via Bella Union Records. Recorded in London through the deep, dark winter of 2012/13, it’s an ethereal, transcendent record that’s notable for its musical and intellectual ambition. Though ambition is perhaps not quite the right word. Because MONEY would never talk about ambition. Such things don’t sit well with them. They’d talk about anti-ambition and the revision of existing values — the kind of bold gesture already signalled by their unabashedly iconic name. It’s an album that defies convention and cliché, asking us instead to be courageous enough to see the world in different ways. As lead singer and ideologue Jamie Lee says, ‘Our aim with this band — in all things we do — is to create the world afresh on our own terms.’

                                                                                                          MONEY are Jamie Lee, Charlie Cocksedge, Billy Byron and Scott Beaman. Having formed in Manchester amidst a prolific underground milieu, they soon came to embody the passion, creativity and optimism of a new generation of artists and musicians who found themselves presented with what Jamie describes as ‘an extraordinary, poetic city’. MONEY played shows in esoteric venues such as Salford's Sacred Trinity Church and ‘the Bunker', a former factory near Strangeways Prison and home to the cult independent label SWAYS, who released the band’s debut 7” single, ‘Who’s Going to Love You Now’ / ‘Goodnight London’ to wide acclaim. Having been tracked down by Simon Raymonde, the band subsequently signed to Bella Union, headlining the label's Christmas party at the Union Chapel before taking to the studio to record 'The Shadow of Heaven'.

                                                                                                          The album consists of ten songs that range from stripped-back piano ballads such as ‘Goodnight London’ and ‘The Cruelty of Godliness’ to the more epic ‘Hold Me Forever’ and ‘Bluebell Fields’. Rooted in universal themes of the spirit, love and loss, the album also addresses man’s condition in the modern world, issues ‘such as isolation and mental health as logical reactions to it', says Jamie. It’s an album full of yearning and soul-searching, a voyage of (non-) discovery that only ends up finding itself and the sheer, aching beauty of questions asked in full knowledge of their own answerlessness. It’s metaphysics for the modern age, which might not be quite as spiritually bankrupt and bereft of meaning as we once believed.

                                                                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                          says: There's always been a buzz around this band. This passionate debut album totally justifies it. Today: Piccadilly Records, tomorrow The World?!

                                                                                                          After a breakthrough year that saw his exceptional solo debut "Queen Of Denmark" win MOJO’s album of 2010 and countless other accolades John Grant hasn’t rested on his laurels but created a follow-up that underlines his uncanny and charismatic talents. Recorded in Iceland and featuring Sinead O’Connor on guest vocals, the brilliant "Pale Green Ghosts" adds sublime notes of dark, gleaming electronica to the anticipated velveteen ballads, calling on all of Grant’s influences and tastes, presenting an artist at the peak of his powers.

                                                                                                          It’s been an extraordinary journey for John Grant, from a point where he thought he would never make music again or escape a life of substance abuse to winning awards and accolades, collaborating with Sinead O’Connor, Rumer and Hercules & Love Affair and having his music featured in the award-winning film Weekend.

                                                                                                          It’s a journey that’s taken him from his birthplace in Buchanan, Michigan to be raised in Parker, Colorado, studying languages in Germany and, after his band The Czars split up, basing himself in New York, London, Berlin and, most recently, Iceland, where the bulk of Pale Green Ghosts was recorded. It’s also been a journey from The Czars’ folk/country noir to the lush ‘70s FM alchemy of Queen Of Denmark to the astonishing fusion of sounds that lifts Pale Green Ghosts to even giddier heights.

                                                                                                          As if to acknowledge his journey, Grant has named the album after the opening title track, which documents the drives that he’d regularly take through the ‘80s, from Parker to the nearby metropolis of Denver, to the new wave dance clubs that have inspired the electronic elements of Pale Green Ghosts, and later on to visit the boyfriend - the ‘TC’ of Queen Of Denmark’s ‘TC & Honeybear’ - that inspired many of that album’s heartbreaking scenarios.

                                                                                                          “I’d take the I-25, between Denver and Boulder, which was lined with all these Russian olive trees, which are the pale green ghosts of the title: they have this tiny leaves with silver on the back, which glow in the moonlight,” Grant explains. “The song is about wanting to get out of a small town, to go out into the world and become someone and made my mark.”

                                                                                                          That Grant has made his mark is blatantly clear from how Queen Of Denmark was rapturously received. “Like a couple of similarly intense classics before it – Antony & The Johnsons’ I Am A Bird Now and Bon Iver’s For Emma… Queen Of Denmark sounds like a record its creator has been waiting his whole life to make,” MOJO concluded. Another measure of achievement, and the journey, is that one classic that Grant first heard in those new wave clubs was Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Mandinka’. Two decades later, O’Connor has not only covered the title track of ‘Queen Of Denmark’ on her latest album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, but supplies goose-bumping backing vocals on Pale Green Ghosts.

                                                                                                          Sinead’s presence is a surprise, but not compared to the album’s portion of synthesisers and beats – unless you already know Grant’s enduring love of vintage synth-pop and industrial dance, and more current electronic acts such as Trentemøller and Mock & Toof. “Electronica is a huge part of my personality and my influences, though I don’t think many people see that fitting in to the John Grant image, whatever that is,” he says. There were occasional electronic undertows to Czars songs and two tracks (‘That’s the Good News’ and ‘Supernatural Defibrillator"’) on the deluxe edition of Queen Of Denmark were dance tracks.

                                                                                                          One of those prime influences has even produced Pale Green Ghosts with Grant: Birgir Þórarinsson, a.k.a. Biggi Veira, of Iceland’s electronic pioneers Gus Gus. Queen of Denmark had been recorded in Texas with fellow Bella Union mates Midlake as his backing band, and Grant intended to return there to record again with the band’s rhythm section of McKenzie Smith and Paul Alexander. But a trip beforehand to see more of Iceland, after he’d first played the Iceland Airwaves festival in 2011, led to meeting Biggi, who invited Grant to his studio in Reykjavik. The two tracks the pair recorded – ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ and ‘Black Belt’ – convinced Grant he had to make the entire record there.

                                                                                                          If Queen Of Denmark is Grant’s ‘70s album, channeling the spirits of Karen Carpenter and Bread, then Pale Green Ghosts is his ’80s album. Of the electronic tracks, the title track is a panoramic, brooding classic, while ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’ and ‘Black Belt’ are the tracks that you might dance to in new wave clubs. ‘You Don’t Have To’ is a classic example of Grant’s influences blending together, in a reworked arrangement of a track unveiled during concert tours in 2011. It also features the distinct spacey Moog sounds that are familiar to lovers of Queen Of Denmark, while McKenzie and Alexander play on ‘Vietnam’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’. Grant’s touring partner, keyboardist Chris Pemberton, plays the gorgeous piano coda on the album’s tumultuous finale ‘Glacier’.

                                                                                                          Fusing youthful exuberance with an artistic prowess far beyond their years, Concrete Knives are a band who have illuminated stages around Europe with their unique blend of resonating guitars, elaborate melodies, charging, pounding rhythms and euphoric collective vocals - an enticing and exciting mixture which unfailingly attracts the undivided attention of all who fall into their path. Now, this lauded Normandy outfit are set to unleash their highly anticipated debut album upon the world. Be Your Own King is a collection of tracks harnessing the inspired spirit, the mindset and the powerful energy of this group of Caen natives, which comprises the talents of Nicolas Delahaye, Morgane Colas, Adrien Lepretre, Augustin Hauville and Guillaume Aubertin.

                                                                                                          Be Your Own King is much more than just an album title, it’s a philosophy. It’s an attitude, a call to arms, an instruction to confront the world in your own way, to realise your ambitions, and to have the time of your life while doing so. It’s an album whose songs fly the flag of all that Concrete Knives stand for, and a record which brandishes explosive dynamics, playful hooks, powerful, pulsating bass lines as well as an all important angular pop pinch.

                                                                                                          "Our songs are pretty independent from each other, and from the moment they're born - generally from the mind of Nicolas - they hold a mystery that we need to take the time to solve,” explains vocalist Morgane Colas. “I really believe that the songs are born as mysterious and inaccessible, and that our job is to give them a sense that's faithful to their essence."

                                                                                                          Working alongside Parisian production and writing stalwart Dan Levy of The Dø on "Bornholmer", "Greyhound Racing & Wild Gun man", on Be Your Own King, Concrete Knives have harnessed the unadulterated passion that floods their touted live show, and shaped and moulded it into this perfect collection of catchy, heart-filled, compelling tracks. From the inciting, driving guitar chords and echoing chants of opener ‘Greyhound Racing’, the sublime vocals and anthemic quality of ‘Happy Mondays’ through to the understated rhythmic sway of ‘Africanize’, the band remain resolute in their intention, to create bright and honest music the Concrete Knives way.

                                                                                                          "We write as soon as the moment strikes us, no matter where, no matter when,” Morgane states, hinting at the impulsive, spontaneous energy that flows through the tracks, before going on to describe the band’s intentions for the future as "to let ourselves be amazed by music, our own and that of others. To travel the world, creating special relationships along the way. And to keep hoping."

                                                                                                          Be Your Own King is a true and irresistible reflection of all that this Caen collective stand for, an intelligent, creative and rousing musical proposition offered up by the minds of a group of deeply inspired individuals. It’s the band’s philosophy captured in a series of peerless, distinctive indie motions, and it’s a record which proves that Concrete Knives have the boundless energy, the fire and the natural, deep rooted talent to tempt and sway each listener of their unique fusions into total submission.

                                                                                                          Poor Moon is a band comprised of longtime friends Christian Wargo, Casey Wescott, and brothers Ian and Peter Murray. And Poor Moon is the title of their full-length debut. But before there was a band or a record, there was the music, a series of songs forged by Christian Wargo over a period of several years. That's one of the things that makes Poor Moon sound so special: this band grew out of the songs, not vice-versa.

                                                                                                          "I've known Christian for so long, and have loved his songwriting as long as I've known him," says Wescott. The two men previously played together in Pedro the Lion and Crystal Skulls; both are members of Fleet Foxes. For the past few years, he and the Murray brothers had been transfixed by the solo recordings Wargo periodically shared with them.

                                                                                                          Thanks to their affinity for warm, earthy tones the music of Poor Moon can sound deceptively simple. Assorted timbres decorate these tenoriginals—marimba, harpsichord, fretless zither—but this isn't everything-but-the-kitchen-sink arranging. Whatever the instrumentation, the sense of choosing the right tool for the job always prevails. Thoughtful, impassioned vocal harmonies further reinforce the myriad musical bonds at play.

                                                                                                          Likewise, the considered manner in which the words and music coexist, often despite seeming incongruities of mood, accounts for the distinctive character of the songs. The stretch between 2008 and the present when they were composed includes some of the most tumultuous episodes in Wargo's life. Yet Poor Moon handles even the heaviest topics, including death, addiction, and spirituality, with a certain lightness. "The way I deal with those is by drawing attention to the mystery and enjoying the whimsical aspects, but without being cute or precious about it," Wargo explains.


                                                                                                          next 100

                                                                                                          Latest Pre-Sales

                                                                                                          206 NEW ITEMS

                                                                                                          The @acrmcr street poster celebrating their new album ‘Loco’ which is out today isn’t far from the shop. Go and che… https://t.co/FtjJNE9yV5
                                                                                                          Fri 25th - 4:05
                                                                                                          Yes, we all wish she was here too. The vinyl has sold out and we’re expecting it to be delivered next week. The CD… https://t.co/vXTxBycQHn
                                                                                                          Fri 25th - 1:49
                                                                                                          Last copies of this monstrous new dub LP, a genre-spanning masterpiece encompassing traditional and modern producti… https://t.co/2ovhNUn0pD
                                                                                                          Fri 25th - 10:29
                                                                                                          E-newsletter —
                                                                                                          Sign up
                                                                                                          Back to top