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BELLA UNION

A.A. Williams

As The Moon Rests

    A.A. Williams returns with new album 'As The Moon Rests', her second album with Bella Union. It's the follow up to 2020's Forever Blue, the London-based singer-songwriter’s album debut, a brilliantly dramatic, unique and intimate walk on the dark side that fused bold and smouldering hues of post-rock and post-classical. By turns, it was glacial and volcanic, blissful and violent, through moments of disarming quiet and explosive volume, equally appealing to alt-rock and metal camps.

    “Traditionally, your second album is the worry: you don’t want to create something that people don’t like as much,” A.A. Williams contends. “But I must create music I like myself, and I’ve had more time on this record; I’ve felt more confidence and conviction. As The Moon Rests is heavier and softer, there’s more texture and weight, and a string ensemble. It’s Forever Blue times ten!”

    TRACK LISTING

    1 Hollow Heart
    2 Evaporate
    3 Murmurs
    4 Pristine
    5 Shallow Water
    6 For Nothing
    7 Golden
    8 The Echo
    9 Alone In The Deep
    10 Ruin
    11 As The Moon Rests

    Tim Burgess

    Typical Music

      Has there been a busier musician over the last two years? A more prolific artist? More creative? More heroic?

      Tim Burgess – as self-effacing a band leader, solo star, label runner, repeat memoirist and all-round caffeinated can-do kid as you’ll find – would certainly shrink from the latter accolade. “A hero??” he’d likely mutter with a shake of his boyish mop. “For playing some records?”

      Yes, Tim, we would say that. And not just because with the May 2020, mid-lockdown appearance of I Love The New Sky, his fifth solo album, he undauntedly pushed on with releasing an album that brought much-needed sunshine to a world enveloped in gloom.

      Over the course of the first year of the pandemic, Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties were a lifeline to many. At a time when the world shut down, we all retreated indoors, alone, and cancelled gigs were the least of our worries, the North Country Boy’s idea of utilising social media to unite us round a digital turntable was inspired.

      Meanwhile, Burgess was writing. And writing. And writing. From September 2020 to summer 2021, ideas poured out of Burgess. He’d been encouraged by Simon Raymonde, boss of his record label Bella Union ¬– and, of course, a former Cocteau Twin. He applied a musician’s logic: if you can’t tour your last album, write a new one. Then, when you can tour again, you’ll have two albums’ worth of songs to play.

      Well, now, arguably, Burgess has three albums’ worth of songs to perform live. Typical Music is a 22-track double, a blockbuster set of songs that are as expansive and diverse as they are rich. As fun as they are funky. That embrace heartache and love. That run the gamut, from ABBA (in the shape of guest vocalist Pearl Charles, whose own brilliant Magic Mirror album is the sound of the magic Swedes doin' disco) to Zappa (free-form studio experimentation is go!)


      TRACK LISTING

      Side A
      1 Here Comes The Weekend
      2 Curiosity
      3 Time That We Call Time
      4 Flamingo
      5 Revenge Through Art
      6 Kinectic Connection
      Side B
      1 Typical Music
      2 Take Me With You
      3 After This
      4 The Centre Of Me (Is A Symphony Of You)
      5 When I See You
      Side C
      1 Magic Rising
      2 Tender Hooks
      3 L.O.S.T Lost / Will You Take A Look At My Hand Please
      4 A Bloody Nose
      5 In May
      Side D
      1 Slacker (Than I've Ever Been)
      2 View From Above
      3 A Quarter To Eight
      4 Sooner Than Yesterday
      5 Sure Enough
      6 What's Meant For You Won't Pass By You

      Ezra Furman

      All Of Us Flames

        A singer, songwriter, and author whose incendiary music has soundtracked all three seasons of the Netflix show Sex Education, Ezra Furman has for years woven together stories of queer discontent and unlikely, fragile intimacies. Her new album ‘All of Us Flames’ widens that focus to a communal scope, painting transformative connections among people who unsettle the stories power tells to sustain itself.

        Produced by John Congleton in L.A., ‘All of Us Flames’ unleashes Furman's songwriting in an open, vivid sound world whose boldness heightens the music's urgency. The record arrives as the third instalment in a trilogy of albums, beginning with 2018's Springsteen-inflected road saga Transangelic Exodus and continuing with the punk rock fury of 2019's Twelve Nudes.

        "This is a first person plural album," Furman says. "It's a queer album for the stage of life when you start to understand that you are not a lone wolf, but depend on finding your family, your people, how you work as part of a larger whole. I wanted to make songs for use by threatened communities, and particularly the ones I belong to: trans people and Jews."

        TRACK LISTING

        Train Comes Through
        Throne
        Dressed In Black
        Forever In Sunset
        Book Of Our Names
        Point Me Toward The Real
        Lilac And Black
        Ally Sheedy In The Breakfast Club
        Poor Girl A Long Way From Heaven
        Temple Of Broken Dreams
        I Saw The Truth Undressing
        Come Close

        C Duncan

        Alluvium

          ‘Alluvium’ is the fourth album from C Duncan, Glasgow’s classically trained multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, released through Bella Union. After the haunting raptures of Architect (2015), the Twilight Zone-inspired reveries of The Midnight Sun (2016) and the richly melodic Health (2019), Alluvium is a sublime palate-refresher for Duncan (C for Christopher), brimming with revitalised fluency: a warming dispatch from the daylight zone, if you like.

          TRACK LISTING

          Air
          Heaven
          We Have A Lifetime
          Bell Toll
          Lullaby
          Torso
          Pretending
          You Don’t Come Around
          I Tried
          Sad Dreams
          Alluvium
          Earth
          The Wedding Song
          Upon The Table

          Ural Thomas & The Pain

          Dancing Dimensions

            Though Ural Thomas is universally recognized as one of the most exciting singers remaining from the original soul era, and an active musical institution for over sixty years, his band, all decades younger, are treated as equals. The Pain are no backing band - but rather a well-oiled tightly knit musical aggregation that have spent the last eight years with Thomas developing a unique sound of their own. 

            The relationship extends beyond the stage and the studio and the practice room. On a given night you may witness the octogenarian soul journeyman turning up at the club with a crew one-third his age at midnight. If you don't recognize him, he's the sharp-dressed man with the charismatic grin out on the floor cutting a rug long after the young folks went home. This love of life and crossgenerational relationship is the essence of Ural Thomas & The Pain. 

            Despite the usual COVID-19 obstacles, Ural Thomas and The Pain finally completed their much-anticipated third album, ‘Dancing Dimensions’. While exploring everything from sweet Chicago soul to airy West Coast psychedelia to Sly funk, their latest collection retains the distinctive sound the band organically developed over years of relentless work.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Dancing Dimensions
            2. Heaven
            3. Do You Remember The
            4. Times We Had?
            5. First Dimension
            6. Apple Pie (Oh Me Oh My)
            7. Ol Safiya
            8. El Eey Em Eh
            9. Gimme Some Ice Cream
            10. Second Dimension
            11. My Favourite Song
            12. Third Dimension
            13. Hung Up On My Dream
            14. Promises
            15. If It Wasn't For Love

            Tallies

            Patina

              With their brand-new sophomore album, Patina, Toronto-based indie pop band Tallies have found a way to expertly walk that razor-thin tightrope between nostalgia and the present, nodding to their favorite bands of the past while transforming their sound into something tight, bright, and undeniably fresh.

              The band’s 2019, debut self-titled album solidified the their stature as Canada’s leading dreampop scholars as its mix of upbeat pop hooks and heady, larger-than-life production won the band critical acclaim from the indie underground to the mainstream alike. They began work straight away on a second record, which would prove to be an even more life-affirming endeavour than their debut.

              It was during this process that Tallies began a working friendship with one of their musical heroes—Simon Raymonde, ex-Cocteau Twins bassist and founder of Bella Union, caught wind of Tallies and made it his mission to sign the band. Through transatlantic phone calls, Tallies were able to deeply connect with a member of one of their favourite bands.

              TRACK LISTING

              1. No Dreams Of Fayres
              2. Hearts Underground
              3. Wound Up Tight
              4. Catapult
              5. Heavens Touch
              6. Special
              7. Memento
              8. Am I The Man
              9. When Your Life Is Not Over

              Laura Veirs

              Found Light

                Found Light may be Laura Veirs’ 12th studio LP, but it also, in many ways, feels like her debut. If 2020’s My Echo—written and mixed just prior to her 2019 split from her longtime husband, her longtime producer, and the father of her two sons—was her divorce album, Found Light is about what comes after.

                Found Light is a liberating collection of inquisitive and surprisingly assured snapshots of healing and personal growth, and her very first release with co-production credits. Despite the sadness and suffering that prompted these 14 graceful wonders, the result is a testament to the inspiration of independence, to shaping new possibilities for yourself even after great loss. It is a reminder that we are always capable of something more.

                TRACK LISTING

                Autumn Song
                Ring Song
                Seaside Haiku
                Naked Hymn
                My Lantern
                Signal
                Can't Help But Sing
                Eucalyptus
                New Arms
                Sword Song
                Time Will Show You
                T & O
                Komorebi
                Winter Windows

                Warmduscher

                At The Hotspot

                  Warmduscher have never taken to the term “supergroup”, but it’s safe to say that their unique, potent blend of raw musicianship, down ‘n’ dirty rock riffs and devil-may-care party attitude was birth from the union of Clams Baker and The Witherer of Paranoid London; Lightnin’ Jack Everett and Quicksand, formerly of Fat White Family; and Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft, haiking from Insecure Men. After a tumultuous writing and recording process during the height of COVID lockdowns and a triumphant return to the stage at this year’s End of the Road festival, Warmduscher are on the brink of releasing the salaciously groovy and expertly grimey At the Hotspot. Produced by Joe Goddard and Al Doyle of Hot Chip, At the Hotspot takes the raucous energy Warmduscher solidified on their critically acclaimed 2019 release Tainted Lunch, and injects it with a slightly more polished, ‘80s funk sound, kind of like stumbling home to your squatted loft after a drunken night at the local disco. It’s crunchy on the outside, smooth on the inside, and might be the most immediately enjoyable music Warmduscher have ever graced us with.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1 Live At The Hotspot
                  2 Hot Shot
                  3 Eight Minute Machine
                  4 Wild Flowers
                  5 Fatso
                  6 Twitchin' In The Kitchen
                  7 Five Star Rated
                  8 Baby Toe Joe
                  9 Double Vision
                  10 Super Cool
                  11 Greasin' Up Jesus

                  Destroyer’s latest album, Labyrinthitis, brims with mystic and intoxicating terrain, the threads of Dan Bejar’s notes woven through by a trove of allusions at once eerily familiar and intimately perplexing. The record circuitously draws ever inward, each turn offering giddy surprise, anxious esoterica, and thumping emotionality at equal odds.

                  STAFF COMMENTS

                  Barry says: It's always been difficult to pigeonhole Destroyer, with a wealth of influence seeping into his sound from classic rock to soul and folk, as well as the core of classic indie anthems, so it's no surprise that this is a many-faceted treat. What is surprising is how far Bejar has come, and how each iteration of his sound is more profound than the last. Lovely.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1 It's In Your Heart Now
                  2 Suffer
                  3 June
                  4 All My Pretty Dresses
                  5 Tintoretto, It's For You
                  6 Labyrinthitis
                  7 Eat The Wine, Drink The Bread
                  8 It Takes A Thief
                  9 The States
                  10 The Last Song

                  'Once Twice Melody', the first album produced entirely by Beach House, was recorded at Pachyderm studio in Cannon Falls, MN, United Studio in Los Angeles, CA, and Apple Orchard Studios in Baltimore, MD.

                  For the first time, a live string ensemble was used, with arrangements by David Campbell. Once Twice Melody was mostly mixed by Alan Moulder but a few tracks were also mixed by Caesar Edmunds, Trevor Spencer, and Dave Fridmann.

                  STAFF COMMENTS

                  Barry says: It's heartening to see every development of Beach House add to their already significant musical foundations, this time sees a significant orchestral presence come to the fore, ofsetting their usual hazy swagger but perfectly fitting in with their already wildly cinematic inclinations. It's a beautiful and perfect meeting of melody and ambience, while retaining their airy, otherworldly sound.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Once Twice Melody
                  2. Superstar
                  3. Pink Funeral
                  4. Through Me
                  5. Runaway
                  6. ESP
                  7. New Romance
                  8. Over And Over
                  9. Sunset
                  10. Only You Know
                  11. Another Go Around
                  12. Masquerade
                  13. Illusion Of Forever
                  14. Finale
                  15. The Bells
                  16. Hurts To Love
                  17. Many Nights
                  18. Modern Love Stories

                  The Walkmen

                  Lisbon - 10th Anniversary Edition (RSD22 EDITION)

                    THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2022 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

                    To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of The Walkmen's critcally acclaimed album 'Lisbon' Bella Union will be releasing a very special double LP version of the album with 5 additional bonus songs. Remastered for vinyl and pressed on 140g silver LP. It also features new artwork - gatefold sleeve with inner sleeves. Bonus tracks : Orange Sunday Good Day Carry On All Black and White Grateful Weight on My Shoulders Paper House

                    Spiritualized

                    Everything Was Beautiful

                      During lockdown last year, J Spaceman would walk through an empty “Roman London” where the world was “full of birdsong and strangeness”, trying to make sense of all the music playing in his head at the time. The mixers and mixes of his new record weren’t working out yet. Spaceman plays 16 different instruments on Everything Was Beautiful which was put down at 11 different studios, as well as at his home.

                      He also employed more than 30 musicians and singers including his daughter Poppy, long-time collaborator and friend John Coxon, string and brass sections, choirs and finger bells and chimes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Eventually the mixes got there and Everything Was Beautiful was achieved.

                      The result is some of the most “live” sounding recordings that Spiritualized have released since the Live At The Albert Hall record of 1998, around the time of Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space.


                      STAFF COMMENTS

                      Barry says: Mr. Spaceman returns for a new album, hot on the heels of those fervently snatched and much-requested reissues of the first four LP's. This time sees more orchestral beauty, both swooning and romantic but imbued with a melancholic edge, it's classic Spiritualized with a few hints of soulful Americana and brittle folk woven through the fabric. 'Crazy' is a particularly evocative highlight.

                      TRACK LISTING

                      1. Always Together With You
                      2. Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)
                      3. Let It Bleed (For Iggy)
                      4. Crazy
                      5. The Mainline Song/The Lockdown Song
                      6. The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)
                      7. I’m Coming Home Again

                      Father John Misty

                      Chloë And The Next 20th Century

                        Father John Misty returns with 'Chloë and The Next 20th Century', his fifth album and first new material since the release of God’s Favorite Customer in 2018.

                        'Chloë and the Next 20th Century' was written and recorded August through December 2020 and features arrangements by Drew Erickson. The album sees Tillman and producer/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson resume their longtime collaboration, as well as Dave Cerminara, returning as engineer and mixer. Basic tracks were recorded at Wilson’s Five Star Studios with strings, brass and woodwinds recorded at United Recordings in a session featuring Dan Higgins and Wayne Bergeron, among others.


                        STAFF COMMENTS

                        Barry says: Father John Misty has always been one of the most distinctive voices working in the middle ground between modern indie and country music, and his latest is the perfect illustration as to why he's so revered in the field. Beautifully produced and gorgeously evocative throughout, this is classic Misty.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1 Chloë
                        2 Goodbye, Mr. Blue
                        3 Kiss Me (I Loved You)
                        4 (Everything But) Her Love
                        5 Buddy's Rendevous
                        6 Q4
                        7 Olvidado (Otro Momento)
                        8 Funny Girl
                        9 Only A Fool
                        10 We Could Be Strangers
                        11 The Next 20th Century

                        Midlake

                        For The Sake Of Bethel Woods

                          Loss and hope, isolation and communion, the cessation and renewal of purpose. Timeless and salient, these themes echo throughout the fifth album from Midlake, their first since Antiphon in 2013. Produced to layered, loving perfection by John Congleton, For the Sake of Bethel Woods is an album of immersive warmth and mystery from a band of ardent seekers, one of our generation’s finest: a band once feared lost themselves by fans, perhaps, but here revivified with freshness and constancy of intent.

                          From the cover to the title and beyond, a longing to reconnect with that which seems lost and seek purpose in its passing sits at the record’s core. The cover star is keyboardist/flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, who, tragically, passed away in 2018. As singer Eric Pulido explains, “He was a lovely human, and it was really heavy and sad, and he came to Jesse in a dream. I reference it in a song. He said, ‘Hey, Jesse, you need to get the band back together.’ I didn’t take that lightly. We had already had these feelings with everyone in the band of, oh, this could be a cool thing to do. But the dream was a kind of beautiful depiction of a purpose to reconvene and make music together as friends.”

                          Featuring Chandler’s father during John Sebastian’s set, the cover image was taken from the 1970 documentary Woodstock. In 1969, Jesse’s then-16-year-old dad had joined a friend and hitchhiked from Ridgewood, New Jersey, to the legendary festival. Raised in Woodstock after his father moved there in 1981, Jesse later paid pilgrimage to Bethel Woods with his father; there, the elder Chandler recorded an audio account of his festival experience in the museum’s public database. “So for me, the picture of that kid, my dad, forever frozen in time,” says Chandler, “encapsulates what it means to be in the throes of impressionable and fleeting youth, and all that the magic of music, peace, love and communion bring to it, whether one knows it at the time or not. (I think he knew it).”

                          A desire to commune with the past and connect with present, lived experience asserts itself from the opening of the album. A song that resonates with Midlake’s return and, perhaps, our lockdown era, ‘Commune’ can also be read in terms of a deeper urge to re-engage with sometimes neglected ideals and beliefs. ‘Bethel Woods’ sustains and develops that reconnection, evoking the steadfast and contemplative urgency of The Trials of Van Occupanther to back a lyric steeped in yearning for a paradisal time and place of hope and optimism. Soaring guitars and atmospheric noise effects extend a sonic scope further developed by ‘Glistening,’ where arpeggios dance like light glancing off a lake. In just three songs, Midlake reintroduce themselves and reach out into fresh territory with a richly intuitive dynamism, honouring their past as a seedbed of possibility.

                          The psychedelic space-rock and sticky guitars of ‘Exile’ shift the album to another plane, promising rich returns live, before ‘Feast of Carrion’ splices apocalyptic imagery with lustrous harmonies: darkness and light, held in rarefied balance. A deeply personal turn follows on ‘Noble,’ a song of tender innocence named after drummer McKenzie Smith’s infant son, born with a rare brain disorder called Semi-Lobar Holoprosencephaly. Pulido, who has been friends with McKenzie since they were 16 years old, kept McKenzie in mind for the lyrics. “I wrote the song from his perspective in a way, his expression to me of how he had been feeling towards his son. And then among the lament of his condition, it’s also embracing this child who has only joy. Noble doesn’t know that he has a condition, he just loves life. And smiles, and is so innocent, and perfect in so many ways.”

                          Elsewhere, the prog-enhanced funk-rock of ‘Gone’ seeks to find hope in relationships that seem fragile. The ELO-esque ‘Meanwhile…’ draws inspiration from what happened when Midlake paused after Antiphon, developing universal resonance as a song about the beautiful growths that can emerge from the cracks and gaps between things. ‘Dawning’ draws on 1970s soft-rock stylings for another song searching for hope, its keyboard line reaching out towards an uncertain future while everything seems to collapse around it; ‘The End’ reflects on the difficulties of partings. Finally, ‘Of Desire’ meditates on letting go of what you can’t control and attending to what you can during uncertain times. “It’s about finding peace in that humbling,” says Pulido. “Sometimes it’s hard to have a large effect, so it’s just about shrinking that and saying, these are the things I can do and the rest is to be seen, to be known.”

                          Midlake began re-attending to their patch in 2019, with the bulk of the album’s work undertaken when the world shut down in 2020. The lockdown turned out to be helpful, in terms of offering an escape from grim reality and focusing the band’s energies – essential for an outfit whose members (Pulido, Chandler, Smith, Eric Nichelson and Joey McClellan) had all pursued alternative ventures following Antiphon. Also on-hand was new collaborator John Congleton, who produced, engineered and mixed the album, marking Midlake’s first record with an outside producer. “I can’t say enough just how much his influence brought our music to another sonic place than we would have,” says Pulido. “I don’t want to record without a producer again. Part of that is the health of the band, because as you get older you get more opinionated and you kind of need that person who says, ‘No, it’s going to be this way!’ It’s hard to do that with your friends.”

                          The result is a powerful, warming expression of resolve and renewal for Midlake, opening up new futures for the band and honouring their storied history. Formed in the small town of Denton, with roots in the University of North Texas College of Music, Midlake delivered an auspicious debut with 2004’s Bamnan and Slivercork. For the follow-up, they looked further afield and deeper within to deliver 2006’s wondrous The Trials of Van Occupanther, a modern classic pitched between 1871, 1971 and somewhere out of time: between Henry David Thoreau and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, between 1970s Laurel Canyon thinking and a longing for something more mysterious.

                          Confidence bolstered by a growing fanbase and a developed sense of their own far-reaching abilities, Midlake – a band acutely attuned to seasonal shifts – then embraced change. In 2010, they visited darker psych-folk thickets for The Courage of Others and backed John Grant on his lustrously spiky breakthrough album, Queen of Denmark. When singer Tim Smith departed Midlake in 2012, Pulido stepped up to the lead vocal role for 2013’s freshly exploratory Antiphon, teasing out singular routes through vintage electric-folk pastures.

                          Since then, domestic projects have beckoned as children entered various band-members’ lives. Pulido joined Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday celebrations at Nashville’s prestigious Ryman Auditorium and launched the project BNQT with a cast of all-star guests, backed by Chandler, McClellan and Smith; Pulido and Chandler also recorded solo albums.

                          In reuniting, the bandmates were adamant that Midlake needed their absolute focus. The result is an album of tremendously engaged thematic and sonic reach with a warm, wise sense of intimacy at its heart: an album to break bread and commune with, honour the past and travel onwards with. In ‘Bethel Woods’, Pulido sings of gathering seeds. On For the Sake of Bethel Woods, those seeds are lovingly nurtured, taking rich and spectacular bloom.

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Barry says: Midlake's new LP is a beautiful, rich tapestry of driven guitars and soaring orchestration, full of their trademark melodic turns. Chantler has had a very prolific patch of late, and though the subject matter here is somewhat mournful, out of it has sprung a no doubt cathartic and swimmingly beautiful tribute.

                          TRACK LISTING

                          1 Commune
                          2 Bethel Woods
                          3 Glistening
                          4 Exile
                          5 Feast Of Carrion
                          6 Noble
                          7 Gone
                          8 Meanwhile…
                          9 Dawning
                          10 The End
                          11 Of Desire

                          Modern Nature

                          Island Of Noise

                            Since the demise of his previous band Ultimate Painting, Jack Cooper – under his Modern Nature guise – has never stopped looking ahead, exploring, and reaching for something further. Since 2019, he’s released an EP, mini album Annual, one full length LP, one 7” and three live cassettes – in the process mapping out astonishing new terrain. Island Of Noise presents an obvious new peak in his discography.

                            “Mesmerising... A treasure trove of interesting musical ideas, as well as a source of restorative solace.” The Guardian – 4 stars ****

                            “On Island Of Noise Modern Nature’s Jack Cooper folds together much of what he’s already done – illuminated pop, exploratory improvisations, post-Canterbury prog – and locates a common thread, expanding outwards with the help of free-music pioneers saxophonist Evan Parker and bassist John Edwards.” Uncut – 9/10

                            “Jack Cooper captures a sense of mystery and magic on his second album as Modern Nature, using gentle folk rock as the base for a subtle evocation of peacefulness.” The Times – 4 stars ****

                            TRACK LISTING

                            1 Tempest
                            2 Dunes
                            3 Performance
                            4 Ariel
                            5 Bluster
                            6 Symmetry
                            7 Masque
                            8 Brigade
                            9 Spell
                            10 Build

                            Penelope Isles

                            Which Way To Happy

                              When you’re trying to make it through tough times, you need a little light to find your way. That light blazes brightly on the alchemical second album from Penelope Isles, an album forged amid emotional upheaval and band changes. Setting the uncertainties of twentysomething life to alt-rock and psychedelic songs brimming with life, colour and feeling, Which Way to Happy emerges as a luminous victory for Jack and Lily Wolter, the siblings whose bond holds the band tight at its core.

                              Produced by Jack and mixed by US alt-rock legend Dave Fridmann, the result is an intoxicating leap forward for the Brighton-based band, following the calling-card DIY smarts of their 2019 debut, Until the Tide Creeps In. Sometimes it swoons, sometimes it soars. Sometimes it says it’s OK to not be OK. And sometimes it says it’s OK to look for the way to happy, too. Pitched between fertile coastal metaphors and winged melodies, intimate confessionals and expansive cosmic pop, deep sorrows and serene soul-pop pick-you-ups, it transforms “difficult second album” clichés into a thing of glorious contrasts: a second-album surge of up-close, heartfelt intimacies and expansive, experimental vision.

                              These extremes come into sharp focus on ‘Terrified,’ a reflection on anxiety set to a dreamy sunburst of psychedelic jangle-pop. As Jack explains, “I love that juxtaposition. It reminds me of when you’re feeling a bit delicate or not ready to socialise but you have to go out because you need milk for tea. Then you go to the supermarket and you bump into someone you kind of know and you have to pretend that everything’s OK when, really, you’re dying inside.”

                              With the album’s almost prog-psych ambitions on fulsome display, ‘Rocking at the Bottom’ taps coastal motifs for a call to embrace open possibility, twinkling with hope over a deep space-rock bass line and a phased Hammond. In an album of fluent dynamism, ‘Play It Cool’ offers a swift tonal about-turn, emerging from Lily’s gloriously in-character vocal as a sweet soul-pop message to the troubled self amid rousing drums, lush glockenspiels, creamy harmonies and wonky guitars. Warm and rippling, ‘Iced Gems’ is a sorrowed lament, played out over the gentlest of fluttery keyboards and experimental electronic sounds – plus, samples of carrot crunches. Written over a couple of years, Lily’s ‘Sailing Still’ charts the life of a relationship to a slow-burn and sorrowed soundscape of dulcitones, cello, violin and more: building in increments to a climax of measured grandeur, it sustains a sense of intimacy in a framework of great scope.

                              The album swerves into Mercury Rev and MGMT’s cosmic slipstream with ‘Miss Moon,’ a galloping centrepiece with an irresistible call to dream: “Hey, kids – look up!” As Jack says, “We wanted it to seem like lift-off.” After its exclamatory explosion, the psychedelic dream-pop of ‘Sudoku’ offers a mellowed invitation to turn off your mind, relax, float downstream. Steering the album through further contrasts, ‘Have You Heard’ is a feelgood flurry of insistent, pulsing space-rock; ‘Pink Lemonade,’ meanwhile, is a song of sweet, sharp beauty, touching on fading childhood memories and lifted by Fiona Brice’s strings. ‘11 11’ hosts Lily’s most tender vocal yet: recorded in one take through tears, it finds Penelope Isles at their most exposed, with Brice’s strings weeping in sympathy. Finally, ‘In a Cage’ cogitates on confinement yet finds solace in field recordings of happy, high times – a judicious note of meditative reflection after a giddy ride.


                              More field recordings were made during a stay at a small cottage in Cornwall, where Penelope Isles began work on the album. With romantic heartache already in the air, things swiftly got worse: lockdown began, claustrophobia kicked in and emotions ran high. As Jack puts it, “We were there for about two or three months. It was a tiny cottage with four of us in and we all went a bit bonkers, and we drank far too much, and it spiralled a bit out of control. There were a lot of emotional evenings and realisations, which I think reflects in the songs.”

                              At different point along the way, Jack Sowton and Becky Redford left the Isles. An old friend, multi-instrumentalist Henry Nicholson, stepped in swiftly – “A godsend after a low time,” says Lily. Another friend, Hannah Feenstra, contributed drum parts; now, Joe Taylor is the band’s drummer. After Cornwall, the band redid many of the rhythm tracks, recorded a little in Brighton, then recorded more in Cornwall at their parents’ house. “It was,” says Jack, “a proper rollercoaster ride.”

                              The ride continued with Fridmann, whose recent credits include Isles’ favourites Mogwai’s No 1 album, As the Love Continues. As Lily puts it, the process of sending Fridmann a mix, receiving it back in the morning and then having five hours to make decisions on it resulted first in stress, then in something sublime. “I love everything he’s touched – MGMT, Mogwai, Mercury Rev. He would turn our mix into this electric, fiery thing. There were some moments that were initially hard, like on ‘Miss Moon,’ where he took out the bass when it gets to the chorus. But now it’s my favourite bit on the record. He made everything so colourful. It’s an intense-sounding record – a hot record. It was so refreshing to have that blast of energy from Dave – it’s like he framed our pictures.”

                              Away from the confines of the cottage, the Wolters also opened the door to a collaboration with storied composer Fiona Brice, whose credits include John Grant, Lost Horizons and Placebo. A “big bucket-list tick” for Jack and Lily, the team-up results in glorious arrangements across the album: for Lily, ‘11 11’ stood out. “I was in absolute tears when she sent back the strings for ‘11 11’. It was like, oh my goodness, she’s nailed it.”

                              Flushed with resourceful detail, Which Way to Happy adds extra strands to the Isles’ ever-tightening core DNA. Born in Devon and raised on the Isle of Man, the Wolters’ bonds were already strengthened by separation when Jack (six years Lily’s senior) moved away to university at 19. As Lily grew older, they rediscovered their connection and formed a band called Your Gold Teeth. When both moved to Brighton, Penelope Isles came to being, fuelled by a passion for DIY alt-rock and all who sail its seas.

                              On its release, Until the Tide Creeps In received rave reviews from Q, DIY, The Line of Best Fit and many others, while finding champions in Steve Lamacq and Shaun Keaveny. It also become part of a lifeline for music fans during the 2020 lockdown when the band participated in Tim Burgess’s Twitter Listening Party. Meanwhile, extensive touring saw the Isles develop into a formidable live force, with ‘Gnarbone’ emerging as a sure-fire show-stopper.

                              Now, the Isles have 11 more show-stoppers to add to the mix. At the album’s heart, the band’s core traits have never been stronger: the bond between the Wolters, a sensitivity towards complex feelings, a desire to celebrate life in all its facets and an ambitious reach combine to create an album that feels utterly, emphatically present on every front, rich in depth and uplift.

                              “There’s so much love between me and Jack, we couldn’t do it without each other,” says Lily. “And even in that chaotic, tiny bubble of a cottage that sent us all mad, we had some really funny, stupid, lovely times together. There’s a lot of emotion in the album.” Wherever Penelope Isles go from here, that guiding emotional compass couldn’t be more finely attuned.


                              TRACK LISTING

                              1. Terrified
                              2. Rocking At The Bottom
                              3. Play It Cool
                              4. Iced Gems
                              5. Sailing Still
                              6. Miss Moon
                              7. Sudoku
                              8. Have You Heard
                              9. Pink Lemonade
                              10. 11 11
                              11. In A Cage

                              Midlake

                              The Trials Of Van Occupanther - 2022 Vinyl Reissue

                                Midlake are a relatively small indie band, so the level of ambition they display on ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ is to be commended. From the opening track, ‘Roscoe’, with its laconic lyrics and slowly building chorus, they manage to recreate perfectly the sound of 1980s Fleetwood Mac, a band not known for thinking small.

                                And though the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of this opener, it’s not for a lack of trying (particularly on ‘Head Home’). The remainder of ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ is considerably more downbeat, with distant flutes complementing the vocal harmonies of songs like ‘Bandits’ and ‘Branches’.

                                Where Midlake particularly excel, though, is when, like Grandaddy before them, they draw their inspiration from the classic rock that they seem to love so much, adapting and modernising it. So in addition to the anthemic ‘Roscoe’, they evoke the Gram Parsons-era Byrds or even The Band on ‘Van Occupanther’ and the road-ready ‘It Covers the Hillsides’.

                                ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ is an album that's steeped in musical history yet possessing an identity all its own.

                                Released on 180g gold vinyl to celebrate a new Midlake album for 2022 and also the 15th anniversary of ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ last year.

                                TRACK LISTING

                                Roscoe
                                Bandits
                                Head Home
                                Van Occupanther
                                Young Bride
                                Branches
                                In This Camp
                                We Gathered In Spring
                                It Covers The Hillsides
                                Chasing After Deer
                                You Never Arrived

                                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

                                Andy 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.

                                TRACK LISTING

                                Here Is The Track Listing With Selected Lyrics.

                                1. Levitation - “The Branches Of The Trees, They Will Hang Lower Now, You Will Grow Too Quick, Then You Will Get Over It”
                                2. Sparks - “It’s A Gift, Taken From The Lips, You Live Again”
                                3. Space Song - “What Makes This Fragile World Go ‘round, Were You Ever Lost, Was She Ever Found?”
                                4. Beyond Love - “They Take The Simple Things Inside You And Put Nightmares In Your Hands”
                                5. 10:37 - “ Here She Comes, All Parts Of Everything, Stars In The Motherhand”
                                6. PPP - “Did You See It Coming, It Happened So Fast, The Timing Was Perfect, Water On Glass…”
                                7. Wildflower - “What’s Left You Make Something Of It”
                                8. Bluebird - “I Would Not Ever Try To Capture You”
                                9. Days Of Candy - “I Know It Comes Too Soon, The Universe Is Riding Off With You…... I Want To Know You There, The Universe Is Riding Off With You.”


                                Deep Throat Choir

                                In Order To Know You

                                  “I’m reeling, I’m restless,” sing Deep Throat Choir from the heart of their second album. That restlessness manifests in a set of tremendously abundant, original songs from the east London female and non-binary vocal collective, founded by Landshapes member Luisa Gerstein. Released via Bella Union in December, In Order to Know You is a multi-layered assertion of freshly expansive range, driven by two core virtues: a sense of strength in unity and an open embrace of its singers’ personal experiences, shared through collective, supportive vocal expression.

                                  After 2017’s largely covers-based debut album, Be OK, the choir recognised the call to evolve. “Having been singing together for five-plus years, and having released an album of mostly covers, it felt like the logical next step to make our own music together,” says Gerstein. “This album is the alchemy of all the specific voices and players that make up the choir, and a collaborative process of writing and sharing music and ideas. Sonically, I wanted to move beyond just voices and percussion, to see what richness could be brought with acoustic instruments and electronics, and to transition from a choir that does covers to a band with loads of vocalists.”

                                  The rewards of that leap are immediately evident on ‘Alchemilla’, named after the herbaceous perennial. A testimony to the strength in vulnerability, it celebrates an openness to emotion across buoyant harmonies that “ebb and flow” like cool waves; with words by Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Alice Freedman and Holly Turnbull, the song emerged from a jamming session in Margate and a conversation about masculinity. On the jazzy ‘Firefly’, Sarah Parkes’ saxophone adds flavour to a song of palpable feeling. ‘Picturing’ is a spun-silk reflection on shared tenacity before tough circumstance, while the forceful voices and folksy guitars of ‘Uvas’ frame a lyric that testifies to the choir’s depths of personal experience.

                                  “This song is about my mum,” says Gerstein. “In Colombia (or maybe it’s a Catholic thing?) you eat 12 grapes (uvas) at New Year’s to make 12 resolutions with. I was thinking about her resolve to move and travel to a faraway place, and a resolve and hunger that I feel she’s passed down to me. It’s about looking back at the generations before you, finding common threads that run through those histories, and all the bigger histories that are part of that tapestry, like ships on the sea and emeralds in the dirt (early conquistadors traded glass for emeralds with indigenous people).”

                                  A rolling piano buoys up ‘Lighter’, which channels Sun Ra’s influence into a song that upholds the support found in mutual connectivity. Meanwhile, the gorgeous swoon of ‘Patience’ again illuminates how individual singers’ experiences can take shape within the choir, to become something held by all. “I wrote ‘Patience’ as a kind of eulogy for my mum’s funeral,” says soloist Rosa Slade. “Music for me was the easier way to express a combined and confusing feeling of grief and celebration of life. I joined Deep Throat a few months later and found the choir space brought such deep holding through song and collectivity. When Luisa began to compose and gather for the second album, it felt natural somehow for the song to be held by those voices too; so it could live by transforming into something new and shared; becoming multiple stories existing in unison.”

                                  Elsewhere, the restless, reeling surfaces of ‘Camille’ foreground the shape-shifting potential in Deep Throat Choir: between its effusive voices and bubbling arrangements, the song blurs the lines between boundaries and singers, leaping off from Björk’s influence to mount a declaration of band intent. “It felt like a real line in the sand for encapsulating a new sound for us,” says Gerstein, who co-wrote the words to the song with Tanya Auclair while listening to lectures by science and feminism professor Donna Haraway.

                                  From there, In Order to Know You heads towards its climax without seeming to touch the ground, from the title-track’s devotional exhalation to the stealthy, smoky shimmer of ‘Unstitching’. Its lyrics drawn from a poem by Emma Cleave, the sublime ‘Field of Not Knowing’ closes the album in a vivid tapestry of folk-gothic images (moon beams and pipistrelles) and serene-to-soaring arrangements, revelling in possibility: “It’s the place where I begin,” sing the choir.

                                  For Deep Throat Choir, the result is both an exquisite culmination of journeys taken so far and a lustrous, exquisite springboard for further adventures. Their travels began in 2013, when the collective took shape from a desire to strip music back to the basic elements of raw female voices and drums, united in a fashion that both honours and transmogrifies personal expression.

                                  A small group of four or five singers steadily expanded, with Zara Toppin’s drums providing a propulsive energy. Cathartic live shows and collaborations followed, ranging from team-ups with Peggy Sue, Stealing Sheep, Horse Meat Disco and Matthew E White to performances at Green Man, Wilderness, the Southbank Centre’s WOW festival, London’s Scala and beyond. Be OK provided a gutsy showcase for the band’s close, collective strengths, bolstered by weekly gatherings at a church in east London to blow the roof off. A fruitful collaboration with techno-pop duo Simian Mobile Disco on the 2018 album Murmurations followed: a testament to the choir’s alchemical abilities.

                                  At a residency at the Prah Foundation, Margate, seeds were sown for the new songs. An increased confidence bloomed as the band pushed at its boundaries, an evolution aided by engineer Andy Ramsey, the vast range of contributors’ musical talents and the innate strength of their shared foundations. Removing the first album’s boundaries of voices and drums, the choir freed themselves up to explore musically, with the emphasis on voices remaining a central constant.

                                  Emerging organically, the songs reflect the experiences and worlds of the singers who contributed to the writing process. Alongside soloists Tanya Auclair, Liv Stones, Holly Holden, Elly Condron, Miryam Solomon, Fikir Assefa, Maddie Rix, Rosa Slade, Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Fran Lobo and Gerstein, new contributors included brass players Marcus Hamblett and Emma Gatrill, plus pianist Sam Beste. From within the choir, Kate Burn played cello, Sarah Anderson played violin/viola, Tunstall-Behrens played bass and Auclair contributed synth parts. Recording took place before lockdown; Gerstein produced, while Jimmy Robertson (Anna Calvi, Peggy Sue) mixed the record.

                                  From these deep roots, fresh growths blossomed. The album is instrumental in the formation of the multi-disciplinary Amorphous Sounds collective, named after the lyrics to ‘Camille’ and launched by Gerstein with long-time friend and collaborator Anika Mottershaw. As Gerstein puts it, “Amorphous Sounds is a continuation of the collaborative processes that started on this album. It’s inspiring to have so many artists within the group, and the idea of the label is to have a space where people can collaborate on songs or more extended projects, both within and outside the choir. It’s giving a name to something that already exists, and a structure for it to grow. As things start to open up we’re plotting some Amorphous shows, and I hope we’ll be able to jam and make tunes together again soon!”

                                  The album title reflects that drive towards a kind of questing togetherness. “We made this music in order to know and understand each other more fully,” says Gerstein, “and that’s what music is in general. We’re saying it to each other, and to the listener.” Getting to know this most deep, rich and mutable of records is, we’d wager, a journey well worth the taking. 


                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  1 Alchemilla
                                  2 Firefly
                                  3 Picturing
                                  4 Uvas
                                  5 Lighter
                                  6 Tremelo Train
                                  7 Patience
                                  8 Camille
                                  9 In Order To Know You
                                  10 Unstitching
                                  11 Field Of Not Knowing

                                  Marissa Nadler

                                  The Path Of The Clouds

                                    ‘The Path Of The Clouds’, Marissa Nadler’s ninth solo album, is the most stylistically adventurous, lyrically transfixing, and melodically sophisticated collection of songs in her already rich discography. Gripped by wanderlust while suddenly housebound at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Nadler escaped into writing and came back with a stunning set of songs about metamorphosis, love, mysticism and murder. Blurring the line between reality and fantasy and moving freely between past and present, these 11 deeply personal, self-produced songs find Nadler exploring new landscapes, both sonic and emotional.

                                    While she’s always been a brilliant guitarist, Nadler challenged herself to expand her palette for ‘The Path Of The Clouds’, experimenting with synthetic textures that make the album feel untethered from time and space. A majestic grandeur sweeps through songs such as ‘Elegy’, shooting the listener into the stratosphere as synths swirl and entwine with Nadler’s celestial mezzo-soprano. Nadler also learned to play piano during the pandemic’s isolation and she composed many of the songs on the album on keys rather than guitar, which further contributed to their exploratory feel. These songs are unmistakably Marissa Nadler’s, but they sound free to go places she’s never gone before.

                                    Nadler tracked the skeletons of the songs at home and then sent them to some choice collaborators, including experimental harpist Mary Lattimore and Simon Raymonde, the Cocteau Twins bassist and her Lost Horizons collaborator. Multiinstrumentalist Milky Burgess, having recently worked on the soundtrack to the film ‘Mandy’, adds intricate melodic power throughout the album. Jesse Chandler, Nadler’s piano teacher (as well as a member of Mercury Rev and Midlake), plays winding woodwinds and plaintive piano to luminous effect. Fellow singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle contributes a slinky guitar solo on ‘Turned Into Air’, while Black Mountain’s Amber Webber steps in as a vocal foil to Nadler, a ghostly apparition in the distance of ‘Elegy’.

                                    Seth Manchester, known for his work with Lingua Ignota, Battles and Lightning Bolt, mixed the album at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Manchester added dimension to the songs’ atmospheric beauty with screeching feedback and distorted guitars. Stripped of the ethereal reverb that often swaddles her resonant vocals, Nadler’s delivery now stings and pierces with newfound immediacy and confidence.

                                    As a songwriter, Nadler is as direct and urgent as she has ever been. There’s no coded language amid the bleak lows and exalted highs of songs like ‘Elegy’, ‘Lemon Queen’ and ‘Storm’. Memories are painted with highly detailed imagery and Nadler, also a visual artist, uses that eye not only to tell a story but to transport the listener there.

                                    ‘The Path Of The Clouds’ showcases the power of an artist at the peak of her powers nearly 20 years into an acclaimed career as a songwriter and singer. Coming a long way from the spare dream folk of her earlier work, she has remained inspired and continues to evolve, open to new ideas and directions.

                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    Bessie Did You Make It
                                    The Path Of The Clouds
                                    Couldn’t Have Done The Killing
                                    If I Could Breathe Underwater
                                    Elegy
                                    Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay
                                    From Vaport To Stardust
                                    Storm
                                    Turned Into Air
                                    And I Dream Of Running
                                    Lemon Queen

                                    Modern Nature

                                    Island Of Noise

                                      Since the demise of his previous band Ultimate Painting, Jack Cooper – under his Modern Nature guise – has never stopped looking ahead, exploring and reaching for something further. Since 2019, he’s released an EP, last year’s mini album Annual, one full length LP, one 7” and three live cassettes – in the process mapping out astonishing new terrain. Island Of Noise presents an obvious new peak in his discography.

                                      Over the last 12 months, Cooper has constructed a beautiful, free-flowing box set’s worth of material featuring a new album, a separate and equally engaging instrumental interpretation of the album and an accompanying book featuring the work of wide-ranging, non-musical artists (including Booker-nominated poet Robin Robertson, mycologist Merlin Sheldrake, illustrator Sophy Hollington, and writer Richard King) that reinterpret, deconstruct or take inspiration from the 10 tracks on the record.

                                      Island Of Noise represents an absolute career highlight, combining Cooper’s celebrated songwriting and compositional skills with a free flowing expansiveness coloured by British free music luminaries such as saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and violinist Alison Cotton, as well as long term collaborators Jeff Tobias and Jim Wallis.

                                      “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises”

                                      On re-reading The Tempest in 2019, Cooper was moved to write this quote on the wall of his workshop and doing so sparked the initial ideas and activity that culminated in this record. The short quote, part of a longer passage spoken by Caliban, “summed up what I was thinking about at the time, from the nature of music, noise and silence, to the chaos and confusion that seemed impossible to navigate.” says Cooper.

                                      The rich imagery and themes of The Tempest have long been a springboard for artists, from Derek Jarman's unnerving adaptation and Sibelius’ Stormen to Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five, but it was the setting of an island and the insular framework it represented that appealed as a way of elaborating on the musical and lyrical themes Modern Nature has been exploring since their first record in 2019.

                                      “I imagined the island's landscape and how it would change and shift through the record. My guitar, Jim Wallis’ drums and John Edwards’ bass would represent a slowly evolving landscape that would provide the bedrock for the other instruments to colour. The forests, the valleys and the life would be represented by an orchestra of improvisers and classical musicians, working around certain modes and composed melodies.”

                                      Standing in the edgelands, where the concrete meets the forest; the island's story is told through the eyes of an outsider, arriving and trying to make sense of the mystery and chaos. What do they make of the island’s systems, its customs, the inhabitants and their beliefs. How would an outsider interpret the inequality and divide? Where would they find solace, compassion and friendship?

                                      The album was completed during a relaxation of the pandemic restrictions and for Cooper and his fellow musicians, its recording came to represent a sanctuary in itself. The feeling of freedom with which they made the record allowed for hours of improvisation and experimentation, resulting in a companion record called Island Of Silence; a more impressionistic instrumental picture of the island and its music.

                                      Elaborating one step further, Cooper approached ten artists he felt an affinity towards (including Booker-nominated poet Robin Robertson, mycologist Merlin Sheldrake, illustrator Sophy Hollington, polymath Eugene Chadbourne and The Lark Ascending author Richard King) and asked them to reinterpret, deconstruct or take inspiration from one of the ten pieces of music for an accompanying book. Island Of Noise and Island Of Silence were both recorded on 2” tape with long-term collaborator and co-producer Ed Deegan and then cut directly to vinyl. Similar attention has been paid to the production of the book and box-set, with all of the material, including the vinyl, sourced from recycled and sustainable materials.

                                      Cooper once said: “With every song we record or musician we gain, another door seems to open on a route that’s worth pursuing.” More than ever, this rings true on Island Of Noise and Island Of Silence, with the musicians sharing a collective vision that builds the most cohesive and exploratory version of Modern Nature yet. Island Of Noise fits beautifully between genres sitting alongside (modern) classics like Mark Hollis’ Mark Hollis, David Sylvian’s Blemish, Bert Jansch’s Birthday Blues and Scritti Politti’s Songs To Remember.

                                      Like those, this is an album that may confound or challenge some, but will stand the test of time to those that open themselves up to Modern Nature.

                                      Do you see it?


                                      A.A. Williams

                                      Arco EP

                                        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 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 a collaboration with Japanese post-rockers MONO, the London-based singer-songwriter signed to Bella Union and released her stunning debut album, Forever Blue, in July 2020. That Southbank show would prove to be the last time she would take to the stage for a long while as the world struggled to cope with unforeseen and extreme challenges. Never a musician to sit still, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist focused her creativity on arranging - firstly, by stripping back to the most delicate bones on her Songs from Isolation covers record, and now with a complete reimagining of her own material as the four songs from her debut EP become Arco.

                                        Not many musicians have the ability - or indeed bravery - to rework a collection of their own full band 'rock' songs into a string-and-voice arrangement. A.A. Williams, however, is not like many musicians and the minimalism of Arvo Pärt and Gorecki has long since sat beside Vaughan Williams' folk-inspired classical work as important influences on her music. Indeed, the intention with the EP was for Williams to challenge herself by not retaining guitars and drums, meaning arco had to be truly reimagined with a full string ensemble. As Williams describes it: "The main focus of the arrangements is trying to maintain the authenticity of the original songs that, whilst embodying some of the more familiar elements of the full-band settings, draws focus on the voice." Conducting the ensemble of string musicians in the studio, A.A. Williams has evolved her own compositions with new instrumentation and arrangements, encapsulating the singular vision of a unique artist.

                                        TRACK LISTING

                                        1 Control
                                        2 Cold
                                        3 Terrible Friends
                                        4 Belong

                                        Karen Peris

                                        A Song Is Way Above The Lawn

                                          “I like that it’s possible to re-travel some of the wide open expanse of childhood imagination and wonder. The thing is, I don’t really feel that far away from those places even now, and I’m sure that’s a universal thought. The moments I’m telling about in the songs, and the wonder and the curiosity - I still feel so much of it, just as anyone does. I didn’t want to be an adult saying to a child, This is how you feel. It’s more like saying, just as a person talking with another person, Isn’t this how we all feel, and isn’t that a mystery of life, too, that we are all so connected? So, most of the songs are written in the first person.”

                                          Singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter Karen Peris is talking about the ten compositions on her new album, A Song Is Way Above the Lawn. Written over a period of seven years, these songs make an especially melodic collection of beautifully rendered moments that will resonate with both children and adults. They offer a joy that is often poignant, thanks in part to Peris’ voice and poetry, and to the emotional, sometimes cinematic nature of the piano, central to the album’s sound. Her other instrumentation, chamber-like, with pump organ, accordion, and melodica, along with occasional nylon string and electric guitars, is spacious, allowing room for the listener’s own imagination. With the help of her husband Don Peris, who plays drum kit and upright bass, and their son and daughter, who contribute violin and viola to three songs, she has made a timeless album that has a rare and particular atmosphere of its own.

                                          Journalists and fellow musicians have long written warmly about the singing and songwriting of Karen Peris with her band The Innocence Mission, which she started in high school with Don Peris. Her lyrics have been called ‘profound’ by Sufjan Stevens, and ‘engaging’ by Natalie Merchant; NPR music critic Lars Gotrich has spoken of the ‘supreme detail’ of her poetry. With A Song Is Way Above the Lawn, she has combined music and words with her own illustration, to make a sort of picture book in record album form. Throughout, there is an enormous tenderness expressed, for children and families, for the natural world, and for the miraculousness of everyday life. “You know how, if we take a tiny moment of a day and really look into it, it can sort of widen out and we can see how much it holds - I like thinking about that,” she explains, “and of how it can even be a moment when we’re waiting for something else to happen, that can end up being the most memorable.” The entirety of “This Is a Song in Wintertime” is devoted to a single moment when the narrator is waiting in line, outside with her family, and it begins to snow. “And all the people in line start remarking about the snow and we realize a connectedness,” Karen relates, “and strangers talk to us and there’s this feeling, like we all arrived there together, in a sense.”

                                          A Song Is Way Above the Lawn also reflects a love of reading and public libraries, of walking in the companionship of trees, and of the sense of possibility felt in listening to the first sounds of the day. The latter is the subject of the album’s title song. Animals - elephants, giraffes, lions, birds, and dogs - walk in and out of the album, occasionally appearing as imaginary friends in times of solitude. About “I Would Sing Along”, Karen relates, “I heard a biologist talking this year about elephants. And she said that elephants do a kind of singing, almost subsonically, but if she listened very closely she could hear it”. Much of the album celebrates an attentiveness to the world and to the lives around us, from the luminous opening track, “Superhero”, in praise of the kindness and open-heartedness of kids and of all the people she most admires, to the closing lullaby, “Flowers”.


                                          TRACK LISTING

                                          1. Superhero
                                          2. To The Library
                                          3. I Would Sing Along
                                          4. For A Giraffe
                                          5. This Is A Song In Wintertime
                                          6. Map For The Orange Daylight
                                          7. Sister Birds
                                          8. George In The Car
                                          9. A Song Is Way Above The Lawn
                                          10. Flowers

                                          Piroshka

                                          Love Drips & Gathers

                                            Bella Union are thrilled to announce the release of Piroshka’s stunning second album, Love Drips And Gathers. The album builds on the acclaim of the band’s 2018 debut LP “Brickbat” and the reputations of former members of Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English.

                                            Piroshka emerged in 2018, four individuals with distinct musical identities but also overlapping histories - a combination that might have unsettled, or even overwhelmed, some bands. But in their case, the bond only got stronger. After “Brickbat” explored social and political divisions by way of what MOJO described as “Forceful, driving garage songs and dream-pop epics”, Love Drips And Gathers follows a more introspective line - the ties that bind us, as lovers, parents, children, friends – to a suitably subtler, more ethereal sound, whilst still revelling in energy and drama.

                                            “If Brickbat was our Britpop album, then Love Drips And Gathers is shoegaze!” reckons vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi, formerly of Lush, a band that effortlessly bridged the two genres like no other. “It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.”

                                            Bassist Mick Conroy (Modern English) agrees. “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On Love Drips And Gathers, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”

                                            To recap; before Miki and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop were a couple (and parents), they were pivotal figures on the London-centric 90s indie scene. Likewise, Elastica, whose drummer Justin Welch was part of Lush’s 2017 reunion, whilst Mick had played for both Moose and – on their last ever gig - Lush.

                                            As Lush Mark II came to an end, Justin persuaded Miki (who’d abandoned music when Lush first split in 1997) to start another band, Piroshka, which in turn reignited Moose’s own long-dormant ambitions. Whilst Justin and Miki were the dominant influence on Brickbat, this time Moose and Mick were given greater control over the production, with invaluable assistance from Bella Union’s in-house engineer Iggy.

                                            The way Love Drips And Gathers changes shape and dynamic is less a reprise of nineties Brit indie than a transformation into a more shivery, Euro-mantic version with glistening electronic filigrees. The opening ‘Hastings’ sets the tone. Luminous drops of guitar underpin Miki’s becalmed vocal before drums, bass and a Mellotron add pace while the decorative coda features their old pal Terry Edwards on flugelhorn.

                                            Framed by Mellotron, cello and piano. ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ emphatically proves Piroshka can be restrained without losing any essence of drama: the calm before the euphoria pure-pop storm of ‘Scratching At The Lid’. The words ‘ethereal’ and ‘shimmering’ were surely invented for the likes of ‘Loveable’, but the uncanny DNA of ‘V.O.’ is less categorisable – a Bond theme in the making with electro-gliding beats, perhaps? ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Echoloco’ might be described as Francophile cousins of Lush before the haunting lullaby of ‘Familiar’ segues into the pulsing, rippling instrumental finale ‘We Told You’ - more eighties synth drama than nineties indie, with vocal samples played on what Moose calls, “the Miki-tron.”

                                            Love Drips And Gathers - named after a line in a Dylan Thomas poem - was inspired by love, family, belonging, memory. Miki and Moose split the eight lyrics, with some poignant overlaps here too. Miki’s ‘Loveable’ looks to Moose; Moose’s ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ looks to Miki, but also their daughter Stella and his sister Anna; an empathic, touching embrace of the women in his life.

                                            Staying within the family, Moose eulogises his late mother (the idyllic childhood seaside trip of ‘Hastings 1973’) and father (the more conflicted ‘Scratching At The Lid’). On ‘V.O.’, Miki pays fond tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s legendary in-house art director who died suddenly in December 2019, and who had a particularly close relationship with Lush during their time on the label (like Brickbat, Love Drips And Gathers’ beautiful and enigmatic artwork is by Vaughan’s former design partner Chris Bigg).

                                            Love Drips And Gathers’ nine tracks will each have its own video (all to be made by Connor Kingsley), with a continuing thread that will eventually create one story. Piroshka’s own story is rooted in family – both those you’re born with, and those (friends) you choose.

                                            TRACK LISTING

                                            1 Hastings 1973
                                            2 The Knife Thrower's Daughter
                                            3 Scratching At The Lid
                                            4 Loveable
                                            5 V.O.
                                            6 Wanderlust
                                            7 Echo Loco
                                            8 Familiar
                                            9 We Told You

                                            John Grant

                                            Boy From Michigan

                                              Produced by longtime friend Cate Le Bon, ‘Boy from Michigan’ is Grant’s most autobiographical and melodic work to date. Grant stopped being a boy in Michigan aged twelve, when his family moved to Denver, Colorado, shifting rust to bible belt, a further vantage point to watch collective dreams unravel. Across 12 tracks, Grant lays out his past for careful cross-examination. In a decade of making records by himself, he has playfully experimented with mood, texture and sound, all the better for actualizing the seriousness of his thoughts. At one end of his musical rainbow, he is the battle-scarred piano-man, at the other, a robust electronic auteur. ‘Boy from Michigan’ seamlessly marries both.

                                              With Le Bon at the helm, Grant pared back his zingers, maximizing the emotional impact of the melodies. A clarinet forms the bedrock of a song. One pre-chorus feels lifted from vintage Human League. There is a saxophone solo. ‘Boy from Michigan’ ultimately swings between ambient and progressive, calm and livid. The album’s narrative journey opens with Grant at his artistic prettiest, three songs drawn from his pre-Denver life (the Michigan Trilogy, as Grant calls them): the title track, “The Rusty Bull,” and “County Fair.” Each draws the listener in to a specific sense of place, before untangling its significance with a rich cast-list of local characters, often symbolizing the uncultivated faith of childhood.

                                              Elsewhere, tracks like “Mike and Julie” and “The Cruise Room” offer an affecting plunge deep into Grant’s late teenage years in Denver, while the midpoint of the album is highlighted by “Best in Me” and “Rhetorical Figure,” a pair of skittish, scholarly dance tunes that build on the lineage of Grant’s electropop heroes, Devo. Childhood as a horror narrative is the theme of “Dandy Star,” which observes a tiny Grant watching the Mia Farrow horror movie ‘See No Evil’ on an old family TV set, and finally on “The Only Baby” (released this January) Grant removes his razor blade from a pocket to cleanly slit the throat of Trump’s America, authoring a scathing epitaph to an era of acute national exposition.

                                              Though he has lived in Iceland since 2011 – the same year he was also diagnosed HIV-positive – Grant spent his childhood and formative years in the US and maintains US citizenship. Growing up, Grant was subjected to a deeply ingrained hatred of anyone perceived as homosexual at school. Following the demise of his first band The Czars, Grant left music entirely for over five years, only to achieve greater success as a solo artist (his acclaimed 2015 solo LP ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ went Top Five in the UK). Grant has sold out Royal Albert Hall, performed at Glastonbury, Latitude + more, and his song “Snug Snacks” was featured on Pitchfork's 'Songs That Define LGBTQ Pride'. BBC Radio 6 host Mary Anne Hobbs described Grant’s music: "Most songwriting, even if it's based on a true story ... is embellished in some way. But John's lyrics — they're so true they might as well be written in blood."

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                                              *** NPN - email mail@piccadillyrecords.com before 25 June 21 to be entered in the draw 

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                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                              Barry says: Absolutely classic modern day John Grant this, filled with the wry self-deprecation and endlessly witty lyricism of Queen Of Denmark / Pale Green Ghosts era but swimming with the shimmering disco synths and snapping electronic groove of the more recent LP's. It's a PERFECT mix and is quite possibly his strongest outing to date. Another outstanding LP from this Piccadilly favourite.

                                              TRACK LISTING

                                              1. Boy From Michigan
                                              2. County Fair
                                              3. The Rusty Bull
                                              4. The Cruise Room
                                              5. Mike And Julie
                                              6. Best In Me
                                              7. Rhetorical Figure
                                              8. Just So You Know
                                              9. Dandy Star
                                              10. Your Portfolio
                                              11. The Only Baby
                                              12. Billy

                                              Lanterns On The Lake

                                              Gracious Tide, Take Me Home - 10th Anniversary Edition

                                                The band’s much-loved debut has been meticulously remastered at Abbey Road studios and will be released on double vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with gold foil print. Additionally, the album comes with five previously unreleased tracks recorded during the original sessions, details of which can be found in the track-list below.

                                                Fusing the most fragile and graceful end of the folk music spectrum to the most luminous properties of cinemascope rock, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home used a smorgasbord of instruments (guitars, violin, mandolin, piano, synths, glockenspiels, even a kalimba) to paint a variety of beautiful vistas, from the ambient ‘Ships In The Rain’ to the galloping ‘A Kingdom’, from the six-minute layers of ‘The Places We Call Home’ to the skeletal 73-second finale ‘Not Going Back To The Harbour’. There’s always been a compelling drama to Lanterns On The Lake; the way the opening track ‘Lungs Quicken’ shifts from dreamy restraint to a full-blown crescendo indicated the true power at their fingertips.

                                                Lanterns On The Lake formed in 2008 combining a group of friends who had all played in various bands on the local music scene. Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar), Paul Gregory (guitars, electronics) and Ol Ketteringham (drums, piano) still comprise the core of the band whilst previous members Adam Sykes (vocals, guitar) and Brendan Sykes (bass) departed prior to the second album.

                                                Hazel commented at the time that. “A lot of lyrics were inspired by me and Paul moving back to the coast [between Tynemouth and North Shields], where I grew up, after we’d been living near the city centre. They’re also memories of growing up here, the feeling of homesickness, and stories of people around us and of the sea. The title Gracious Tide, Take Me Home seemed to sum up all the themes.”

                                                There might be a vein of sadness through this music - ‘Ships In The Rain’ was inspired by a local fisherman who went missing at sea, and ‘A Kingdom’ was inspired by the book letters sent home by WW2 soldiers – but there is just as much hope in ‘Keep on Trying’ and ‘You’re Almost There’, where fear and insecurities are banished by self-belief; “the feeling that you’re going places,” as Hazel says. Mirroring the sentiment of the album title, ‘I Love You, Sleepyhead’ and ‘Places We Call Home’ draw on the comfort and security of home, friendship and memory.

                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                1. Lungs Quicken
                                                2. If I've Been Unkind
                                                3. Keep On Trying
                                                4. Ships In The Rain
                                                5. A Kingdom
                                                6. The Places We Call Home
                                                7. Blanket Of Leaves
                                                8. Tricks
                                                9. You're Almost There
                                                10. I Love You, Sleepyhead
                                                11. Not Going Back To The Harbour
                                                12. The Watchhouse And The Daughter
                                                13. Sapsorrow
                                                14. You Need Better
                                                15. My Shield
                                                16. Not Going Back To The Harbour (High Tide Version)

                                                Will Stratton

                                                The Changing Wilderness

                                                  Will Stratton’s rich catalogue is proof that the Hudson Valley folk musician thrives on exploration and reflection. Chart his trajectory over his previous six albums and you’ll find a songwriter not content to stay comfortable or do the same thing twice. From his 2007 debut What the Night Said, which he released aged 20, to 2014’s Gray Lodge Wisdom, a resilient and gorgeous LP which documented his bout with cancer, as well as 2017’s Rosewood Almanac, a de facto love-letter to song-writing, his guitar, and his favourite records, the subtle but sizable tweaks to his process, arranging, and writing have been revelations. “I’ve always tried to make the process of making music as much of a source of pleasure and exploration as possible,” says Stratton. So it’s no surprise that The Changing Wilderness, his resonant and clear-eyed seventh album, pushes him to expansive new heights again.

                                                  The 10 tracks on the LP came about from an intense four-year period of soul-searching and change for Stratton, where he knew he needed to change the way he wrote songs. “I was just really sick of introspection,” he says. “I had to write music that felt like it was engaging with the outside world, rather than focusing on what was going on in my own life like on my earlier records.” With the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s Presidency, and rising right-wing extremism on his mind, Stratton set out to interrogate his country’s present crises. Like the best protest music, these songs aren’t didactic or preachy. Instead, they ask more questions than claim to have answers with Stratton’s lyrics taking a scalpel-like approach to the very worst of human nature. 

                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                  1. Tokens
                                                  2. Black Hole
                                                  3. Infertile Air
                                                  4. The Rain
                                                  5. Finally Free
                                                  6. Fate's Ghost
                                                  7. When I've Been Born (I'll Love You)
                                                  8. River Of Silver
                                                  9. Venus
                                                  10. Stillness

                                                  A.A. Williams

                                                  Songs From Isolation

                                                    Following excellent reviews for her debut album Forever Blue, A.A. Williams announces news of Songs From Isolation, a 9-track LP of cover versions. The Songs From Isolation project began at the beginning of the UK’s nationwide lockdown in March. A.A. Williams took songs suggested by fans and created a series of videos presenting the tracks with stripped-down instrumentation, recorded and filmed from her home in North London. The album represents a continuation of the project into a full collection of recordings and features cover versions of The Cure, Pixies, Deftones, Nick Cave, Gordon Lightfoot, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and more.

                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                    1 Lovesong
                                                    2 Where Is My Mind?
                                                    3 If You Could Read My Mind
                                                    4 Creep
                                                    5 Nights In White Satin
                                                    6 Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)
                                                    7 Every Day Is Exactly The Same
                                                    8 Into My Arms
                                                    9 Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans

                                                    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.” 


                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                      Barry says: There are a frankly dazzling array of guests on this beautiful collection of slow-motion psychedelic drifts from Raymonde & Thomas, and each one seem to effortlessly glide into the instrumental core of ambient swells and subtle strings. A perfect tonic to the strains of a day.

                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                      1. Halcyon - Lost Horizons Feat. Jack Wolter
                                                      2. I Woke Up With An Open Heart - Lost Horizons. Feat. The Hempolics
                                                      3. Grey Tower - Lost Horizons Feat. Tim Smith
                                                      4. Linger - Lost Horizons Feat. Gemma Dunleavy
                                                      5. One For Regret - Lost Horizons Feat. Porridge Radio
                                                      6. Every Beat That Passed - Lost Horizons Feat. Kavi Kwai
                                                      7. Nobody Knows My Name - Lost Horizons Feat. Cameron Neal
                                                      8. Cordelia - Lost Horizons Feat. John Grant
                                                      9. In Quiet Moments - Lost Horizons Feat. Ural Thomas
                                                      10. Circle - Lost Horizons Feat. C Duncan
                                                      11. Unravelling In Slow Motion - Lost Horizons Feat. Ren Harvieu
                                                      12. Blue Soul - Lost Horizons Feat. Laura Groves
                                                      13. Flutter - Lost Horizons Feat. Rosie Blair
                                                      14. Marie - Lost Horizons Feat. Marissa Nadler
                                                      15. Heart Of A Hummingbird - Lost Horizons Feat. Lily Wolter
                                                      16. This Is The Weather - Lost Horizons Feat. Karen Peris

                                                      I Break Horses

                                                      Death Engine Remix

                                                        Following the release of her album ‘Warnings’ in May 2020 via Bella Union, I Break Horses announces details of a remix 12” featuring The Field and Mythologen.

                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                        Death Engine (The Field Remix)
                                                        Turn (Mythologen Remix)

                                                        Modern Nature

                                                        Annual

                                                          Released in August 2019, Modern Nature’s debut album - How to Live - crossed the urban and rural into each other. Plaintive cello strains melted into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drifted through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shone with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmospheric waves of Harmonia. The album was met with universal acclaim and featured in a number of publication’s ‘Best Of 2019’ lists. As the group took the album out on the road, Modern Nature became something even more expansive. “It feels like there's scope and room to grow. I want the group to feel fluid and that whoever's playing with us can express themselves and interpret what they think this music is” says bandleader Jack Cooper.

                                                          Their new mini-album Annual, recorded in December 2019 at Gizzard Studio in London, is another step towards something more liberated and a world away from the sound of Jack Cooper's previous bands. Will Young sits this one out, concentrating on his work with Beak, but How To Live collaborator Jeff Tobias takes a more central role, alongside percussionist Jim Wallis.

                                                          Jack explains how 'Annual' came about:
                                                          “Towards the end of 2018, I began filling a new diary with words, observations from walks, descriptions of events, thoughts...free associative streams of just... stuff. Reading back, as the year progressed from winter to spring, the tone of the diary seemed to change as well... optimism crept in, brightness and then things began to dip as autumn approached... warmth, isolation again and into winter. I split the diary into four seasons and used them as the template for the four main songs. The shorter instrumental songs on the record are meant to signify specific events and transitions from one season to the next. I figured it wouldn't be a very long record, but to me it stands up next to 'How To Live' in every way.”

                                                          ‘Annual’ opens with ‘Dawn’ which brings to mind the peace and space of Miles Davis' ‘In A Silent Way’; it rises from nothing like shoots reaching for the light. “I wanted Dawn to feel like the moment you realise spring is coming, when you notice blossom on the trees or nights getting lighter. On lead track ‘Flourish’, it's clear Modern Nature have moved on from the first album; as muted percussion and double-bass stirs behind Cooper's Slint-like ambling guitar; the chorus soars into a collaged crescendo. “Flourish is like when my part of the world coming to life. I live on the edge of London between Leytonstone and Epping Forest, so the signs of spring are very apparent round here - flowers, light, people talking in their gardens. Mayday started as an outro to Flourish or ‘Spring’ as it was titled originally. The idea was a segueway into the summer section to represent the sort of collective excitement a city gets once it realises summer is here."

                                                          The summer of Jack's diary inspired 'Halo'. “Wanstead Flats where I live, change a lot in the summer; a haze descends on them instead of the spring mist and the city's proximity is more apparent. Blue bags of empty cans and scorched grass from out of control barbeques.” Arnulf Lindner on double-bass recalls the playing of Danny Thompson with Jeff Tobias' wonderfully lyrical saxophone referencing Pharoah Sanders. On ‘Harvest’ Jack takes a backseat with Kayla Cohen of Itasca singing. “All these songs are in the same key but the melody was above my range. I'd been playing the new Itasca record all the time and just reached out. The economy with which she sings is perfect.”

                                                          “The intention with the record was for it to feel like a circle, so Wynter reflects the opening. I guess having to get up and flip the record destroys the illusion so it's a rare occasion where listening with the ability to just loop the album into another year is closer to our intention.”

                                                          ‘Annual’ then acts both like a companion piece to the band’s ‘How To Live’ debut but also a pointer to the paths ahead. Cooper has already started work on the next album, his speed of output an indication of the excitement and creativity that surrounds the project. Who will be involved and what the touchstones might be are yet to be firmly established but then who would have it any other way with this most fascinatingly free-flowing and mutable of groups? 


                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                          1 Dawn
                                                          2 Flourish
                                                          3 Mayday
                                                          4 Halo
                                                          5 Harvest
                                                          6 Ritual
                                                          7 Wynter

                                                          Hilang Child

                                                          Every Mover

                                                            “The greatest thing about being a musician is experiencing it with other people,” says Ed Riman, the Brighton-based Eurasian singer, songwriter and sound-scapist who records as Hilang Child. “Whether that’s playing with others, creating together, sharing a vision, whatever, I just think in all aspects it’s a totally elevated experience when you’re not alone.” Proof rings out with force and feeling on Hilang Child’s superlative second album, "Every Mover".

                                                            In 2018, Riman delivered a serene, textured debut album in Years, rich in sound and feeling. Lauren Laverne, Q, MOJO and others lavished praise, but the “isolating process” of making the album left Riman hungry to find alternative ways of working. Meanwhile, the “lonely, pressured” aftermath of Years found Riman grappling with “rough self-esteem and anxiety issues”, amplified in part by social media’s ‘fulfilment narratives’. Duly, he set out to navigate and overcome these mindsets, drawing deeply on his own insecurities and those he recognised in others. These themes converge emphatically on Every Mover, an album steeped in everyday emotional states and crafted for cathartic, communal performance. Drawing on a rich spread of collaborators, sounds and themes, Riman uses his frustrations as the impetus to transform the brimming promise of Years into upfront and expansive new shapes.

                                                            “I wanted it to sound abit gutsier than the first album,” he says, succinctly, “heavier and closer to the kind of stuff that hits me when I go to shows or blast music in the car. I started out in music as a drummer playing for pop or beat-driven artists and grew up listening to louder stuff, but a lot of the music I’ve made as Hilang Child has been more ethereal. I wanted to bring it back to a place that feels more ‘me’ and make more of a thing of having big hypnotic drums, aggressive bass, ripping distorted instruments and a general energy to it.” “Good to be Young” serves swift notice of this leap, its banked synths and twinkling sound clusters leading to an assertion of fresh force when the main beat lands and a congregation of friends – AK Patterson, Paul Thomas Saunders, Dog in the Snow, Ellen Murphy, members of Penelope Isles – unite for the gang-vocal refrains. “It’s all iridescent colour I’m on,” Riman exults, a claim lived up to on the full-flush folktronica of “Shenley”. A reflection on spiralling insecurity, “Seen the Boreal” ups the ante again with its monk-ish chorales, looping samples, spectral woodwinds (from multi-instrumentalist John ‘Rittipo’ Moore, of Public Service Broadcasting and Bastille previous) and ecstatic chorus, Riman transforming a meditation on hindsight’s limiting effects into a spur to look forwards.

                                                            And surge forwards he does with the glittering synths, spacey guitars, and Krautrock propulsion of “King Quail”, developed in jam sessions with dream-pop wonder Zoe Mead (Wyldest) in her basement studio. Riman’s sounds are enriched wherever you turn, from the epic prog-tronica of “The Next Hold” to the vocal release and layered arrangement of “Play ’Til Evening”; a kind of summit meeting between Surrender-era Chemical Brothers and Fleet Foxes in the high church of ecstatic sound. The treated chorales of “Magical Fingertip” and naked lyrics of the festival-sized “Anthropic (Cold Times)” showcase a fertile push-pull of lush arrangements and wide-open emotions in Riman’s sound; on the latter, Rittipo’s horns brim with expressive power. That confidence also extends to the opposite extreme on a stripped-back love song with an illustrative back-story. “I was helping some friends build a music studio in early 2019,” says Riman, “and the days were a long, manual-labour slog on a dimly lit building site in winter.

                                                            One dark evening we were fitting insulation and choking on rockwool dust in the freezing cold, when Carole King’s ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ came on the radio and pierced through the gloom, bringing this calm over everyone. It was like this weird epiphany moment.” Written in tribute, “Earthborne” channels King’s influence into an ode to the support of loved ones. Brought to a sublime close with “Steppe”, the resulting album projects its own epiphanic force. The birth was not always smooth: due to Covid-19, tours were cancelled and studios closed. Thankfully, most of the main parts were recorded pre-lockdown between East London, Gateshead, Brighton, Wandsworth and elsewhere, before mixing proceeded remotely. Meanwhile, alongside indie-pop trio OUTLYA’s Will Bloomfield (percussion/co-production on ‘Play ’Til Evening’), visual design collective Tough Honey (accompanying videos) and other collaborators, Riman’s bond with co-producer JMAC (Troye Sivan, Haux, Lucy Rose) proved crucial. “It felt freeing to work collaboratively and have that push-and-pull of ideas,” says Riman.

                                                            “Even the moments where we didn’t see eye-to-eye made it feel like I wasn’t alone, with someone else working just as passionately on the project.” That sense of passion lights up Every Mover, an album that hymns the redemptive qualities of richly expressive music crafted in simpatico unison with friends. “I get told I’m quite an openly emotional person,” says Riman, “and I suppose the extremes in this album reflect that! But I also wanted the album to roughly follow the mental flow of feeling worthless, then recognising it, then accepting your shortcomings and trying to work on it, then coming out unscathed on the other side. I’m still not fully out of the spiral. The Covid apocalypse, alongside some personal life changes, have definitely caused it to resurface. But I’m glad I made this album as a kind of cathartic primer on trying to deal with it.” Now, time for other people to experience it too.

                                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                                            Martin says: At the forefront of emotional synthpop and pristine melodic direction, Hilang Child's newest offering perfectly marries huge anthemic hand-wavers with more introspective, experimental moments.

                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                            1. Good To Be Young
                                                            2. Shenley
                                                            3. Seen The Boreal
                                                            4. King Quail
                                                            5. Pesawat Aeroplane
                                                            6. The Next Hold
                                                            7. Play 'Til Evening
                                                            8. Magical Fingertip
                                                            9. Anthropic (Cold Times)
                                                            10. Earthborne
                                                            11. Steppe

                                                            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.

                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                              1 Rosemary
                                                              2 Siberia
                                                              3 Drama
                                                              4 The Ring
                                                              5 Real Love Is Dead
                                                              6 I'm Mortal
                                                              7 Dizzee
                                                              8 Let Me Be
                                                              9 Just A Plug
                                                              10 Conductor

                                                              Laura Groves

                                                              A Private Road

                                                                Of the 6-track EP Groves says: “This record, made mostly on my own, became both a channel for the expression of an inner world and an imagined soundtrack to my physical journeys through the city. It is rooted in the stories, atmospheres, mistakes and wrong turns, desires and layers of meaning that run through and play out in the landscapes we inhabit. The songs are snapshots of late night journeys across the river, the sparks of love that transform us and keep us going, the dead ends that the mind can lead us down, the erotic; the visible and invisible places we pass through as they merge and are erased and overwritten. The ability and opportunity to create and connect through music is a gift and I’m so happy to be able to share these new explorations with you.”

                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                1. Infinite Wisdom
                                                                2. Foolish Game
                                                                3. Faking It
                                                                4. Red
                                                                5. Sunset
                                                                6. Searching For The Stars

                                                                Tim Burgess

                                                                Ascent Of The Ascended EP

                                                                  This 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.”

                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                  1. The Ascent Of The Ascended
                                                                  2. Yours. To Be
                                                                  3. Laurie (Paste Session)
                                                                  4. The Mall (Paste Session)
                                                                  5. The Only One I Know (Paste Session)
                                                                  6. Undertow (Paste Session)

                                                                  Laura Veirs

                                                                  My Echo

                                                                    “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.

                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                    Barry says: Laura Veirs proves an essential voice in these times, mixing the brittle folky guitars and soft vocals of her earlier work with a more recent downtempo plaintiveness. It's a heady combination, and one that continues the legacy she's built up so far, but taking the sound into new realms.

                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                    1 Freedom Feeling
                                                                    2 Another Space And Time
                                                                    3 Turquoise Walls
                                                                    4 Memaloose Island
                                                                    5 End Times
                                                                    6 Burn Too Bright
                                                                    7 Brick Layer
                                                                    8 All The Things
                                                                    9 I Sing To The Tall Man
                                                                    10 Vapor Trails

                                                                    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.

                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                      1 Mid-Autumn/ Ɯ�音
                                                                      2 Writer
                                                                      3 Dandelions/Liminal
                                                                      4 Chang-E
                                                                      5 A Window/O'Keeffe
                                                                      6 Okinawa/Ubud
                                                                      7 Your Hallucinations
                                                                      8 Mary
                                                                      9 Hollywood Road/April
                                                                      10 Heart Sutra

                                                                      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.”




                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                        1 Will You Return/When You Come Down
                                                                        2 Watching The Lightbugs Glow
                                                                        3 Flowers Of Neptune 6
                                                                        4 Dinosaurs On The Mountain
                                                                        5 At The Movies On Quaaludes
                                                                        6 Mother I've Taken LSD
                                                                        7 Brother Eye
                                                                        8 You N Me Sellin' Weed
                                                                        9 Mother Please Don't Be Sad
                                                                        10 When We Die When We're High
                                                                        11 Assassins Of Youth
                                                                        12 God And The Policeman
                                                                        13 My Religion Is You

                                                                        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.

                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                          1. Turn Your Back Around
                                                                          2. Watching The Wolf
                                                                          3. Atoms At Me
                                                                          4. Always Sliding
                                                                          5. The Individual
                                                                          6. White Feather
                                                                          7. Battlefield
                                                                          8. Nummah
                                                                          9. Suako
                                                                          10. Stolen Careful

                                                                          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

                                                                            Barry 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.

                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                            1 On The Beach
                                                                            2 How Do You Do?
                                                                            3 Danny
                                                                            4 Faithful Hound
                                                                            5 Astral Plane
                                                                            6 Minor Keys
                                                                            7 Beast In The House
                                                                            8 Walking To An Open Sky
                                                                            9 The Wind On Spittlehill
                                                                            10 Irish Rain
                                                                            11 Closing Time
                                                                            12 Watering Can

                                                                            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. 


                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                              1. All I Asked For (Was To End It All)
                                                                              2. Melt
                                                                              3. Dirt
                                                                              4. Fearless
                                                                              5. Glimmer
                                                                              6. Love And Pain
                                                                              7. Wait
                                                                              8. I’m Fine

                                                                              Beach House

                                                                              Teen Dream (Love Record Stores Edition)

                                                                                Love Record Stores Edition available from 9am on Saturday June 20th.
                                                                                Limited to one per person.


                                                                                Clear vinyl edition.

                                                                                Midlake

                                                                                The Courage Of Others (Love Record Stores Edition)

                                                                                  Love Record Stores Edition available from 9am on Saturday June 20th.
                                                                                  Limited to one per person.


                                                                                  Green vinyl.

                                                                                  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.

                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                    1 Entering Drab City
                                                                                    2 Working For The Men
                                                                                    3 Hand On My Pocket
                                                                                    4 Another Time
                                                                                    5 Devil Doll
                                                                                    6 Troubled Girl
                                                                                    7 Just Me & You
                                                                                    8 Problem
                                                                                    9 Live Free & Die When It's Cool
                                                                                    10 Standing Where You Left Me

                                                                                    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


                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                      01. Where Is The Prize?
                                                                                      02. Silence In The Room
                                                                                      03. Pulse
                                                                                      04. Enveloping Cycles
                                                                                      05. Sacred Geometry
                                                                                      06. A Mind Full And Smiling
                                                                                      07. Irrational Idol Thinking
                                                                                      08. Juno Dreams
                                                                                      09. Clouds
                                                                                      10. Baby It's Time

                                                                                      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.


                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                        1. Turn
                                                                                        2. Silence
                                                                                        3. L A R M
                                                                                        4. I'll Be The Death Of You
                                                                                        5. D E N L I L L A P å S E A V L Y C K A
                                                                                        6. The Prophet
                                                                                        7. Neon Lights
                                                                                        8. I Live At Night
                                                                                        9. Baby You Have Travelled For Miles Without Love In Your Eyes
                                                                                        10. Death Engine
                                                                                        11. A B S O L U T A M O L L P U N K T E N
                                                                                        12. Depression Tourist

                                                                                        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.”


                                                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                          Andy says: Tim’s fifth solo album is his best by a mile and what’s even sweeter is that he wrote every song totally by himself. It’s the quintessential Tim experience; warm, open-hearted, playful and experimental, but absolutely always with a catchy pop hook at the centre of everything. There’s a sense of wonder and a carefree spirit at play, but don’t be fooled; these twelve ditties have sophisticated arrangements and are expertly embellished with sax, strings and piano, the latter provided by Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan. You could call this soft psyche or indie easy listening except Tim always throws a spanner in the works, a mad detour or delightful quirk. It’s a record full of surprises. Having warmed the hearts of a nation with his wonderful listening parties this summer, Tim has made the kind of album we’ll all be pouring over ourselves for many years to come.

                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                          1. Empathy For The Devil
                                                                                          2. Sweetheart Mercury
                                                                                          3. Comme D'Habitude
                                                                                          4. Sweet Old Sorry Me
                                                                                          5. The Warhol Me
                                                                                          6. Lucky Creatures
                                                                                          7. The Mall
                                                                                          8. Timothy
                                                                                          9. Only Took A Year
                                                                                          10. I Got This
                                                                                          11. Undertow
                                                                                          12. Laurie

                                                                                          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

                                                                                            Andy 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.

                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                            1 I Only Drink When I'm Drunk
                                                                                            2 Ghosthunting
                                                                                            3 Back To Work
                                                                                            4 Cemetery Lifestyle
                                                                                            5 I Want To Be In The Mafia
                                                                                            6 Shortly After Takeoff
                                                                                            7 Arm Around Your Sadness
                                                                                            8 Born To Cruise
                                                                                            9 Angelo

                                                                                            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.”

                                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                                              1. I’m Coming Clean
                                                                                              2. Love You So Bad
                                                                                              3. Every Feeling
                                                                                              4. Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde
                                                                                              5. Care
                                                                                              6. Restless Year
                                                                                              7. Early Rain
                                                                                              8. La Madrugada
                                                                                              9. I Can Change
                                                                                              10. Amateur
                                                                                              11. My Zero
                                                                                              12. The Good Book
                                                                                              13. Body Was Made
                                                                                              14. If Only The Wind
                                                                                              15. Can I Sleep In Your Brain
                                                                                              16. Devil Or Angel
                                                                                              17. At The Bottom Of The Ocean
                                                                                              18. Splash Of Light
                                                                                              19. The Queen Of Hearts

                                                                                              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.

                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                  1. Strange Thing
                                                                                                  2. Teenage Mascara
                                                                                                  3. This Is How You Make Me Feel
                                                                                                  4. Curves And Swerves
                                                                                                  5. Cruel Disguise
                                                                                                  6. Yes Please
                                                                                                  7. Spirit Me Away
                                                                                                  8. This Is Our Love
                                                                                                  9. You Don’t Need Me
                                                                                                  10. Tomorrow’s Girl Today
                                                                                                  11. Little Raven
                                                                                                  12. My Body She Is Alive

                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                    Barry 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.

                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                    1.  Just For Love
                                                                                                    2.  69 Corvette
                                                                                                    3.  New Home
                                                                                                    4.  So Alive
                                                                                                    5.  Heaven Making Love
                                                                                                    6.  O' Girl
                                                                                                    7.  Pirate
                                                                                                    8.  Enemies
                                                                                                    9.  Fun For The Masses
                                                                                                    10.  Platform
                                                                                                    11.  Riding The Blinds
                                                                                                    12.  El Camino Real
                                                                                                    13.  Golden Apples
                                                                                                    14.  Korean Tea

                                                                                                    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

                                                                                                      Barry 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.

                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                      1 Anthropocene
                                                                                                      2 How To Start A Revolution
                                                                                                      3 Machines Designed (To Eat You Up)
                                                                                                      4 Mess
                                                                                                      5 Knowledge Deficit
                                                                                                      6 Rhizomatic
                                                                                                      7 Anarchy Of Sound
                                                                                                      8 Slide
                                                                                                      9 A Situation
                                                                                                      10 White Noise

                                                                                                      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.”

                                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                        1. When It All Comes True
                                                                                                        2. Baddies
                                                                                                        3. Every Atom
                                                                                                        4. Blue Screen Beams
                                                                                                        5. Before They Excavate
                                                                                                        6. Swimming Lessons
                                                                                                        7. Secrets & Medicine
                                                                                                        8. This Is Not A Drill
                                                                                                        9. A Fitting End

                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                          1. The Brothers Williams Said
                                                                                                          2. On Your Side
                                                                                                          3. Movie
                                                                                                          4. We Don’t Know How To Say Why
                                                                                                          5. St. Francis And The Future
                                                                                                          6. At Lake Maureen
                                                                                                          7. John As Well
                                                                                                          8. This Boat
                                                                                                          9. Mary Margaret In Mid-Air
                                                                                                          10. Stars That Fall Away From Us
                                                                                                          11. I Would Be There

                                                                                                          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.”

                                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                            1. Race For The Prize
                                                                                                            2. A Spoonful Weighs A Ton
                                                                                                            3. The Spark That Bled
                                                                                                            4. The Spiderbite Song
                                                                                                            5. Buggin’
                                                                                                            6. What Is The Light?
                                                                                                            7. The Observer
                                                                                                            8. Waitin’ For A Superman
                                                                                                            9. Suddenly Everything Has Changed
                                                                                                            10. The Gash
                                                                                                            11. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
                                                                                                            12. Sleeping On The Roof

                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                              Dusty Springfield: Little By Little
                                                                                                              Alan Price Set Simon: Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
                                                                                                              Los Bravos: Brand New Baby
                                                                                                              The Eyes Of Blue: Don’t Ask Me To Mend Your Broken Heart
                                                                                                              The Chants: Wearing A Smile
                                                                                                              Susan Maughan: That Other Place
                                                                                                              Kathy Kirby: The Way Of Love
                                                                                                              Cat Stevens: Blackness Of The Night
                                                                                                              Paul Slade: Odyssey
                                                                                                              Frankie Vaughan: Tower Of Strength
                                                                                                              The Martells: Time To Say Goodnight
                                                                                                              The Cryin’ Shames: Please Stay
                                                                                                              Roy Orbison: Pretty Paper
                                                                                                              The Outlaws: Swingin’ Low
                                                                                                              Ronnie Carroll Chain Gang 
                                                                                                              Del Shannon: From Me To You
                                                                                                              The Chucks: Loo-Be-Loo
                                                                                                              Olé Jose & The Golden Leaves: Tequila 68
                                                                                                              The Rogues: Memories Of Missy
                                                                                                              Marty Wilde And His Wildcats: Endless Sleep
                                                                                                              Giles, Giles & Fripp: Thursday Morning
                                                                                                              Twinkle: Michael Hannah
                                                                                                              Christopher Colt: Girl In The Mirror
                                                                                                              The Stylistics: I Feel Lucky Tonight
                                                                                                              The Walker Brothers: Where's The Girl

                                                                                                              Low Anthem

                                                                                                              Oh My God, Charlie Darwin - 10th Anniversary Edition

                                                                                                                It’s been a decade since Rhode Island’s The Low Anthem released their breakout second LP 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin'. The album trawled a sombre and indelible beauty from America’s troubled waters, and struck a deep chord with listeners. The band’s 2008 self-released version of the disc spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth audience response, eventually attracting the attention of Bella Union and Nonesuch Records. Oh My God, Charlie Darwin was licensed, remastered, reissued and traveled the globe, sweeping the DIY minded Low Anthem along with it. From the ragtag house show hopping, MySpace friending, bar gigging circuits to the venerated stages of Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Festival, and the BBC.

                                                                                                                “At first we were pushing the album out into the world, but then at some point we passed a threshold where the album took over, and started pulling us along on its ride,” the group’s co-founder Ben Knox Miller said. “Suddenly we were trying to keep up with it.”

                                                                                                                A brief survey of late-2000s American popular culture offers no immediate clue as to why an earnest, and largely acoustic folk-rock album would so dramatically rise up from America’s underground - and perhaps no-one was more surprised by this than the band itself. “We definitely worked hard, and we had a lot of luck, but the response was overwhelming,” Miller observed.


                                                                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                1. Charlie Darwin
                                                                                                                2.To Ohio
                                                                                                                3. Ticket Taker
                                                                                                                4. The Horizon Is A Beltway
                                                                                                                5. Home I’ll Never Be
                                                                                                                6. Cage The Songbird
                                                                                                                7. (Don’t) Tremble
                                                                                                                8. Music Box
                                                                                                                9. Champion Angel
                                                                                                                10. To The Ghosts Who Write History Books
                                                                                                                11. OMGCD
                                                                                                                12. To Ohio (Reprise)

                                                                                                                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.”

                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                  Light
                                                                                                                  Bloom
                                                                                                                  Dual Terror
                                                                                                                  Monochrome
                                                                                                                  This Only City
                                                                                                                  Icaria
                                                                                                                  Gold
                                                                                                                  Roses
                                                                                                                  Fall Empire
                                                                                                                  Dark

                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                  Millie 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.

                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                  Aw Abadir
                                                                                                                  La Maison De Rimbaud
                                                                                                                  Eternity
                                                                                                                  Song Of The Highest Tower
                                                                                                                  Mummer Love
                                                                                                                  Farewell
                                                                                                                  Bad Blood
                                                                                                                  Sensation

                                                                                                                  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.”

                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                  Where Is Passion?
                                                                                                                  Do You See The Falling Leaves?
                                                                                                                  Dorian Grays
                                                                                                                  Never Was
                                                                                                                  Lines
                                                                                                                  Bring It Closer
                                                                                                                  Free World
                                                                                                                  Shut Down
                                                                                                                  Bubbles
                                                                                                                  Strings

                                                                                                                  Kefaya + Elaha Soroor

                                                                                                                  Songs Of Our Mothers

                                                                                                                    Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music / producer duo Kefaya (Al MacSween and Giuliano Modarelli) join forces for a mighty and mesmerizing new album, "Songs Of Our Mothers"; a fresh, vibrant take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica.

                                                                                                                    The album is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women, drawing on Elaha's own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists. The US and Western-backed regimes that came to dominate Afghanistan in the latter part of the 20th century created a climate of heightened patriarchal oppression and persecution of women.

                                                                                                                    These songs tell stories of joy, pain and resilience, passed from mother to daughter in times of hardship and oppression, whilst also celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance. As Elaha says, this album is for 'those women around the world whose image has been erased, and whose voice has been forbidden.'

                                                                                                                    Born in Iran into a family of Afghan-Hazara refugees, Elaha Soroor first rose to fame through the reality TV show Afghan Star. Her rising popularity in a society known for its persecution of female performers combined with her outspoken views on women’s rights led to an environment of serious personal danger and Elaha was eventually forced to flee Afghanistan.

                                                                                                                    As Elaha says: 'In the eyes of the world, Afghan identity is defined by terrorism, war, the Taliban and uneducated, domesticated women who need help. I have tried to show other associations with Afghanistan such as the beauty of my mother language (Farsi) and the diversity of our music. Although women are currently facing extreme violence in Afghanistan, I see a lot of similar problems encountered in different ways in Western countries and across the world. This is part of a universal struggle.'


                                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                    Matt says: So evocative, beguiling and intriging is Soroor's voice is that it had me checking the feasability and safety of flying to Afghanistan! Perfectly matched with a wide variety of instrumentals, this is my surprise hit of the week!

                                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                    1 Jama Narenji
                                                                                                                    2 Gole Be Khar
                                                                                                                    3 Arose Jane Madar
                                                                                                                    4 Bolbi
                                                                                                                    5 Gole Sadbarg
                                                                                                                    6 Charsi
                                                                                                                    7 Khina Beyarin
                                                                                                                    8 Do Chasmane (Intro)
                                                                                                                    9 Do Chasmane Siyah
                                                                                                                    10 Lalay Lalay

                                                                                                                    Ezra Furman

                                                                                                                    Twelve Nudes

                                                                                                                      “This is our punk record,” says Ezra Furman, introducing his new album Twelve Nudes, yet another incendiary and inspiring classic from the singer/ songwriter/ guitarist/bandleader. “We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

                                                                                                                      Immediate proof is offered by ‘Calm Down’ (aka ‘I Should Not Be Alone’), the album’s insanely catchy opening track and lead single, bound up in a compact two minutes and 22 seconds. “’Calm Down’ is so desperate, and not what I want to say about the world,” says Furman. “I think we curate our reactions to current news because we’re overwhelmed by how bad it is, and I noticed I was suppressing how bad I truly felt. I wanted music that gave me permission to feel how it felt to live in a broken world, which punk rock does.”

                                                                                                                      Furman’s preceding album, 2018’s Transangelic Exodus, was “an angry and fearful and pent-up reaction to events too,” he recalls. “But it was a carefully written and recorded version; we took a lot of time with edits and overdubs. I knew I wanted I make this album quickly and not spend time thinking how to play the songs. Twelve Nudes is a ‘body’ more than a ‘mind’ record - more animal than intellectual., And by affirming negativity, it gives you energy, to reject stuff. There’s more space for positivity.”

                                                                                                                      Far from being defeated by a world in turmoil, Furman’s productivity has only increased the worse things have got - and he’s taken up different disciplines to boot. Between Transangelic Exodus and Twelve Nudes, the 33⅓ imprint published his deeply personal, thoughtful and incisive book on Lou Reed’s legendary 1972 album Transformer, before Furman scored the soundtrack to Netflix’s acclaimed comedy Sex Education (it aired in January 2019), which showcased the tender side of his songwriting.

                                                                                                                      But all his pent-up energy had to be channelled somewhere: hence Twelve Nudes, which Furman and band recorded in October and November 2019 before the album was mixed by the venerated producer John Congleton (Sharon van Etten, St Vincent, John Grant). Furman says the album has two spiritual heroes – the late great punk rock rocker Jay Reatard, and Canadian poet, philosopher and essayist Anne Carson. “She’s one of my top three living writers,” he says. “Anne had these visions, or meditations, to deal with the intense pain in her life, which she calls ‘nudes’, and similarly these songs are meditations on pain and recognising what’s there if you go digging around in your anger and fear and anxiety. So, my album is called Twelve Nudes.”

                                                                                                                      The positivity of negativity flows throughout the album, distinguished by sharp, lacerating observations, confessions and proclamations, with Furman the indefatigable cheerleader. “And if you’re really at the end of your rope / No you don’t take the night off/ Too many demons to fight off” he wails in ‘Transition From Nowhere To Nowhere’. The song’s slower pace and becalmed verses underlines Twelve Nudes’ musical remit - less stereotypical punk than raw, raucous rock’n’roll (as Furman points out, The Ramones’ punk classicism included songs influenced by Phil Spector ballads). Check also ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ and ‘In America’, shaped respectively by Furman’s love of ‘50s doo-wop and Springsteen, while ‘Trauma’ is molten and leaden like Black Sabbath.

                                                                                                                      But in ‘Rated R Crusaders’, ‘Thermometer’, My Teeth Hurt’ (surely the first lyrical reference to “dental insurance”) and the 58-second ‘Blown’, punk rock’s flailing energy is alive and kicking. As the pell-mell finale memorably puts it, given our increasingly moribund and morally bankrupt society, ‘What Can You Do But Rock N Roll’?

                                                                                                                      Furman has long sought out rock’n’roll as a panacea for his ills (from ‘Thermometer’: “I got the fever at a tender young age / I joined society and drank the Kool-Aid”). He now lives in Oakland but he grew up in Evanston, a northern suburb of Chicago: at school, “I’d beat myself up for not being a successful, popular kid. I’d lose my homework, get bad grades: they’d call me a space cadet.” But Green Day’s Dookie album woke him up (“the songs were all about being maladjusted, which I began wearing as a badge of honour”), and Green Day led to The Sex Pistols, “and I was never the same again.”

                                                                                                                      Fearing for her son’s well-being, his mother bought Furman a book of Dylan songs: “I then thought, I’m going to be a good songwriter.” Lou Reed was another, “devastating” discovery, and from all these influences, Furman’s frayed, emotional brew of garage-rock took shape, backed by bands variously known as the Harpoons, the Boy-Friends and, most recently, the Visions - though for Twelve Nudes, there is no band name. “Right now, I just don’t care,” he declares. “The same as I feel about what gender pronouns people use for me.”

                                                                                                                      The issue of gender arose after Furman made a splash with his 2013 album Day Of The Dog (the last album he made this quickly, he says). Finally vindicated and verified, he started to publicly dress on the outside what he had been increasing feeling on the inside, with more frankness in his lyrics about sexuality and gender (he calls Twelve Nudes, like Transangelic Exodus, “a spiritually queer record”).

                                                                                                                      The teen angst he’d experienced, from identity crisis to buried feelings, made Furman the ideal candidate to soundtrack Sex Education, mixing older tracks with new (‘Coming Clean’, ‘Every Feeling’ and a cover of ‘Origin Of Love’ from the musical Hedwig & The Angry Inch. Ezra and band also appeared in one episode, at a school dance).

                                                                                                                      “This record is political,” says Furman, “but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” Furman’s Jewish identity shapes ‘Rated R Crusaders,’ triggered by the Israel/Palestine conflict and its complex web of refugee trauma. ‘Trauma’, meanwhile, seethes with the spiritual malaise brought on by watching wealthy bullies accused of sexual assault rise to power. America, Furman well knows, is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity; hence the references to Mexico, slave-owners and US ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin in ‘In America’. As Furman sings, reiterating the spirit of punk rock, and positivity, “Put it all in a two-minute pop song / A really-mean-it-a-lot song for America.”

                                                                                                                      “One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” he concludes. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

                                                                                                                      Or, in the words of the fantastic, rousing ‘Evening Prayer’ (aka ‘Justice’): “If you’ve got the taste for transcendence / Then translate your love into action / And participate in the fight now / For a creed you can truly believe.”


                                                                                                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                      Barry says: He's proper on one here is Ezra, smashing through this snarling, fuzzed out swathe of punky thrashers like he's never done anything else. Thoroughly unexpected, but accomplished with the sort of expertise we've seen from him in a variety of musical subjects. Another instant classic.

                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                      1 Calm Down Aka I Should Not Be Alone
                                                                                                                      2 Evening Prayer Aka Justice
                                                                                                                      3 Transition From Nowhere To Nowhere
                                                                                                                      4 Rated R Crusaders
                                                                                                                      5 Trauma
                                                                                                                      6 Thermometer
                                                                                                                      7 I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend
                                                                                                                      8 Blown
                                                                                                                      9 My Teeth Hurt
                                                                                                                      10 In America
                                                                                                                      11 What Can You Do But Rock 'n' Roll

                                                                                                                      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

                                                                                                                      Barry 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.

                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                      Bloom
                                                                                                                      Footsteps
                                                                                                                      Turbulence
                                                                                                                      Criminals
                                                                                                                      Séance
                                                                                                                      Nightmares
                                                                                                                      Peradam
                                                                                                                      Oracle
                                                                                                                      Nature
                                                                                                                      Devotee

                                                                                                                      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

                                                                                                                        Barry 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.

                                                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                        We Don’t Know How And We Don’t Know Why
                                                                                                                        The Sparrow
                                                                                                                        Giant Baby
                                                                                                                        Mother Universe
                                                                                                                        How Many Times
                                                                                                                        Electric Fire
                                                                                                                        All For The Life Of The
                                                                                                                        City
                                                                                                                        Feedaloodum Beetle Dot
                                                                                                                        Funeral Parade
                                                                                                                        Dipped In Steel
                                                                                                                        Mouth Of The King
                                                                                                                        How Can A Head

                                                                                                                        Penelope Isles

                                                                                                                        Until The Tide Creeps In

                                                                                                                          For every sibling band forged in rivalry, many others mount an unassailable genetic argument for keeping the music in the family. The latter is assuredly the case with Penelope Isles, a brother- sister-centred alt-rock quartet from Brighton (via Isle of Man/Devon) whose debut album, ‘Until The Tide Creeps In’, is released through Bella Union.

                                                                                                                          Formed around the chemistry between dual songwriters Jack and Lily Wolter, the quartet’s expansive DIY mix of translucent dream-pop, fuzzrock guitars and indie-psych flushes comes lovingly dipped in exquisite harmonies and lustrous melodies: a combination so intuitive, you’d think it was in their blood.

                                                                                                                          Crisp and woozy, blissful and biting, it’s an album deepened by shared experience: experiences of, in Jack’s words, “leaving home, moving away, dealing with transitions in life and growing up. We are six years apart, so we had a different experience of some of this, but we share a similar inspiration when writing music. Family, leaving home, disconnection and connection all ring bells!".

                                                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                          Chlorine
                                                                                                                          Round
                                                                                                                          Not Talking
                                                                                                                          Underwater Record Store
                                                                                                                          Three
                                                                                                                          Gnarbone
                                                                                                                          Leipzig
                                                                                                                          Looking For Me Eyes First
                                                                                                                          Cut Your Hair
                                                                                                                          Through The Garden

                                                                                                                          The Soft Cavalry

                                                                                                                          The Soft Cavalry

                                                                                                                            So... The Soft Cavalry. What is it? A happy accident? A lovers’ story? A crisis of faith? In reality, it’s all of these.

                                                                                                                            For Steve Clarke, The Soft Cavalry’s self-titled debut album is equally a labour of love, and the first record he’s masterminded from start to finish, with invaluable contributions from his wife, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, on co-vocals and spiritual/practical guidance, and Steve’s brother Michael, who produced the record.

                                                                                                                            The band’s music is a particularly British brand of intense cinematic drama. Melodic and timeless, the album lands in the atmospheric dimensions between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and Mansun. A record radiating midlife crisis but equally enormous elation; a helix of fear and hope, aching for resolution. A record Steve emphasises that he “needed” to make.

                                                                                                                            The Soft Cavalry is also that rarity: a musical project that began life on an industrial site in Reading.

                                                                                                                            Additionally, the album is a way of rewriting a man’s narrative, and proof that relative late bloomers (Steve was in his late thirties when he made the album) can make the record of their dreams.

                                                                                                                            In 2014, Steve was stuck. Divorced since 2011, the intervening three years had been, “a haze,” he admits. Since the late nineties he’d played bass and sung backing vocals in bands (both studio and live) and sessions, while also working as a tour-manager. His new assignees were reformed Home Counties faves Slowdive.

                                                                                                                            “I was hungover in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band’s gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I’d played in London the night before,” he recalls. “The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!”

                                                                                                                            On that industrial site in Reading, Steve was introduced to Rachel. A year later, they were living together in Devon, before marrying in 2018. Rachel not only, “turned my world upside-down,” but unwittingly provided, “the catalyst,” for The Soft Cavalry. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this fifteen years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”

                                                                                                                            The Soft Cavalry is equally an exercise in creative and personal therapy. The first songs Steve wrote for the album were less about confusion than Rachel-inspired paeans to fate, love, new beginnings: ‘Passerby’ (“Waters break and we are born restlessly into the arms of this unknown”), with Rachel’s gorgeous lead vocal underlining the arrangement’s Slowdive-adjacent ethereality, and ‘Spiders’ (“strand of woven thread / Could be the start of something beautiful?”), a starker, shivery ballad with a feeling of suspended animation. But as Steve opened up, the past began to seep in; years of frustration, anxiety and confusion.

                                                                                                                            “I was wide eyed and unrealistic,” he remembers. “Never expecting my many flaws and doubts would ever catch up with me. Inevitably they did.” He cites his upbringing, in the Midlands with church-going parents. His father’s law work encompassed, “handling the aftermath of death and marriage breakdowns. When I was nine, we moved to Amsterdam where they ran a rehab centre - as you do! We lived on the top floor of an old Dutch building with recovering heroin addicts living below us. From a young age, I saw what life was like for others.”

                                                                                                                            When Steve next wrote about Rachel, the title ‘Never Be Without You’ - the album’s one clear moment of AOR pop levity – sounded lovey-dovey but the song evoked, “the bumpy start to our relationship. While other relationships were falling apart.”

                                                                                                                            Rachel: “Steve was like a tornado when we first met. And I already had a son. Things were complicated.”

                                                                                                                            The Soft Cavalry is something of a life’s work – a chance for redemption, a heart-to-heart with the self. ‘Bulletproof’ addresses, “struggle and fear, and making sense of it in your head.” ‘Only In Dreams’ admits, “accepting you’re not the finished article that you’d like to be.” Two brooding epics were fired by his Christian upbringing: ‘The Velvet Fog’ - “my doubts with faith, but not being able to shake off my past, even today” - and ‘The Ever-Turning Wheel’: “always trying to thumb my way back to something I had when I was younger, something simpler.”

                                                                                                                            If the album has a theme, reckons Steve, “it’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience’. With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope.”

                                                                                                                            Even what Steve calls the “post-apocalyptic” scenario of ‘Careless Sun’ (“all we can do is wait for the banks to burst and baptise our abandoned fear”) finds room for optimism. “It’s like, how the hell is this all going to pan out?” he says, meaning our current political and social malaise. “But you have to muddle your way through, and find peace at another level.”

                                                                                                                            The Soft Cavalry became something of a conversation, even couple’s therapy. Steve, says Rachel, “is always writing, his head always full of lyrics.” Rachel, says Steve, “reins me in when I get obsessed. She’s a good editor. She says my songs can still work without sections of words, that leaving spaces is OK.”

                                                                                                                            As Steve assembled songs, his invited friends - keyboardist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, formerly Midlake), guitarist Tom Livermore, drummer Stuart Wilkinson and multi-instrumentalist/album producer Michael helped mould the record’s breathtaking sonics. Says Steve, “I’d grown up with guitar bands and I didn’t want it to be overly guitar-y. We evolved things by trying out ideas. We’d build things up, and then strip them back, and build them again.”

                                                                                                                            As the album progressed, Rachel formed Minor Victories in 2016 while Slowdive had a gap in the schedule, alongside similarly holidaying members of Mogwai and Editors, for a self-titled album that she and Steve contributed vocal melodies and lyrics to: “it got the cogs turning on a writing and lyrical level, and gave me a certain amount of self-belief,” he says.

                                                                                                                            After he and Rachel finished their album, Steve found a name for it, out of thin air: The Soft Cavalry. “I can’t explain its literal meaning,” he says. “It just made sense.” Might Rachel be the cavalry? "Maybe! It would be subconscious, but that makes sense too, strangely.”

                                                                                                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                            Barry says: While the interplay between Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell's vocals are indeed a stunning addition to the overall vibe, it is the songwriting and progressive culmination that really shine through. Think the space-rock atmospheres and chord changes of Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson mixed with the hazy saturated aesthetic of shoegaze. Properly lovely.

                                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                                              Barry 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.

                                                                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                              1 Fellows
                                                                                                                              2 Gem
                                                                                                                              3 Fields
                                                                                                                              4 Shining Woman
                                                                                                                              5 Grasses
                                                                                                                              6 Easy
                                                                                                                              7 Rising Sun
                                                                                                                              8 Long Leaf Pine
                                                                                                                              9 Human
                                                                                                                              10 Dawnbreaker

                                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                                                Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                1 Sawtooth
                                                                                                                                2 Square Wave
                                                                                                                                3 Event Horizon
                                                                                                                                4 Sun. Tears. Red
                                                                                                                                5 In The Woods
                                                                                                                                6 Small Consolation
                                                                                                                                7 ONDA Prelude
                                                                                                                                8 ONDA

                                                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                  1. Una Nota Sobre El Peyote
                                                                                                                                  2. Indian Culture
                                                                                                                                  3. Tutuguri: The Rite Of The Black Sun
                                                                                                                                  4. Tutuguri: The Rite Of Black Night
                                                                                                                                  5. The New Revelations Of Being
                                                                                                                                  6. Alienation And Black Magic
                                                                                                                                  7. Ivry
                                                                                                                                  8. Basalówala Aminá Ralámuli Paísila

                                                                                                                                  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.


                                                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                    1 Spandrel
                                                                                                                                    2 General Hum
                                                                                                                                    3 Aimless
                                                                                                                                    4 Let It Go
                                                                                                                                    5 Emma
                                                                                                                                    6 Spandrel II
                                                                                                                                    7 Dorian's Closet
                                                                                                                                    8 Let Yourself Be Seen
                                                                                                                                    9 The Last Two Palm Trees In L.A.
                                                                                                                                    10 Weather Patterns

                                                                                                                                    Hannah Cohen

                                                                                                                                    Welcome Home

                                                                                                                                      Hannah Cohen has arrived home. From the title of Hannah Cohen’s new album to the depth and beauty of the music, the Woodstock, NY-based singer-songwriter’s third album ‘Welcome Home’ displays a new level of confidence and comfort with the many creative tools at her disposal. Cohen’s remarkably evocative voice is surrounded by dreamy, swooning incantations, from the rippling ‘This Is Your Life’ and the slowburning, forthright statement of ‘All I Want,’ to the soul swagger of ‘Get In Line’ and dramatic vocal leaps of ‘Wasting My Time’.

                                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                      This Is Your Life
                                                                                                                                      All I Wanted
                                                                                                                                      Dissolving
                                                                                                                                      Holding On
                                                                                                                                      What's This All About
                                                                                                                                      Old Bruiser
                                                                                                                                      Get In Line
                                                                                                                                      Wasting My Time
                                                                                                                                      Return Room
                                                                                                                                      Build Me Up

                                                                                                                                      “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

                                                                                                                                      Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                      Go For A Walk
                                                                                                                                      Stephen
                                                                                                                                      Baglaens
                                                                                                                                      Staples
                                                                                                                                      I
                                                                                                                                      In The Hearts
                                                                                                                                      Out Beyond
                                                                                                                                      Children
                                                                                                                                      Ii
                                                                                                                                      Delicate Delegates
                                                                                                                                      Selver
                                                                                                                                      12:36
                                                                                                                                      Iii
                                                                                                                                      Wonder

                                                                                                                                      Liela Moss

                                                                                                                                      A Little Bit Of Rain (Covers EP)

                                                                                                                                        Fresh off the back of her critically-acclaimed album ‘My Name Is Safe In Your Mouth’, Liela Moss presents a beautiful collection of rain-themed cover versions.
                                                                                                                                        In her own words: “Maybe because I’m a bit neurotic about tidying, sorting and indexing things in my life, I thought that creating sets of cover versions would be a good thing to record this year. I began making lists and categorising things that are related in my mind but nobody else’s! I might do a collection about Weather, Elements, Utensils (watch out for that one)... Stuff that is so everyday that we forget to stop and give it a kiss. I wanted a plaything, for new ways of production. Making these covers has been a learning exercise and a way to pay homage to songs that have haunted my childhood, including the title which waves a little hello to luscious Karen Dalton.”

                                                                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                        Here Comes The Rain Again (Eurythmics)
                                                                                                                                        I Can’t Stand The Rain (Ann Peebles)
                                                                                                                                        It’s Raining Today (Scott Walker)
                                                                                                                                        Prayers For Rain (The Cure)

                                                                                                                                        “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

                                                                                                                                        Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                        1. Used To Be
                                                                                                                                        2. When The Time Comes
                                                                                                                                        3. CLP
                                                                                                                                        4. Down And Out
                                                                                                                                        5. Don't Forget Me
                                                                                                                                        6. Out Of The Woods
                                                                                                                                        7. Monterey
                                                                                                                                        8. Hope Arrives
                                                                                                                                        9. On An Island
                                                                                                                                        10. A Matter Of Time
                                                                                                                                        11. To Each His Own

                                                                                                                                        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.”


                                                                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                          1 Theme #1
                                                                                                                                          2 My Blood
                                                                                                                                          3 Follow The Lights
                                                                                                                                          4 My Work Is Full Of Art
                                                                                                                                          5 Blue
                                                                                                                                          6 Honey
                                                                                                                                          7 Crazy Energy Night
                                                                                                                                          8 Birthday
                                                                                                                                          9 Milk Trust
                                                                                                                                          10 Day Tripper
                                                                                                                                          11 If U Want Me 2 Stay
                                                                                                                                          12 Peachy

                                                                                                                                          Piroshka

                                                                                                                                          Brickbat

                                                                                                                                            “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

                                                                                                                                            Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                            This Must Be Bedlam
                                                                                                                                            Village Of The Damned
                                                                                                                                            Never Enough
                                                                                                                                            Blameless
                                                                                                                                            What's Next?
                                                                                                                                            Hated By The Powers That Be
                                                                                                                                            Run For Your Life
                                                                                                                                            Heartbeats
                                                                                                                                            Everlastingly Yours
                                                                                                                                            She's Unreal

                                                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                                                            Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                            1. Okolona River Bottom Band Ft. Norah Jones
                                                                                                                                            2. Big Boss Man Ft. Hope Sandoval
                                                                                                                                            3. Reunion Ft. Rachel Goswell
                                                                                                                                            4. Parchman Farm Ft. Carice Van Houten
                                                                                                                                            5. Mornin’ Glory Ft. Laetitia Sadier
                                                                                                                                            6. Sermon Ft. Margo Price
                                                                                                                                            7. Tobacco Road Ft. Susanne Sundfør
                                                                                                                                            8. Penduli Pendulum Ft. Vashti Bunyan With Kaela Sinclair
                                                                                                                                            9. Jessye Lisabeth Ft. Phoebe Bridgers
                                                                                                                                            10. Refractions Ft. Marissa Nadler
                                                                                                                                            11. Courtyard Ft. Beth Orton
                                                                                                                                            12. Ode To Billie Joe Ft. Lucinda Williams

                                                                                                                                            Pavo Pavo

                                                                                                                                            Mystery Hour

                                                                                                                                              Pavo Pavo is the recording project of Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg. On their acclaimed 2016 debut, Young Narrator in the Breakers, Eliza’s effervescent soprano was compared to “a lovelorn alien reaching out from the farthest reaches of the galaxy” (Pitchfork), and the elegant, symphonic arrangements were described as “weightless pop that sounds like it was beamed down from a glimmering utopian future.” (Stereogum).

                                                                                                                                              The album began as a means to process the breakup and became a feedback loop, influencing the alchemy of their separation process and informing their new roles in each other’s lives. Recurring sounds and instruments act out the shifting storylines of these characters across the album: Oliver’s pitch-shifted vocals and high melodic synths are a distorted, imperfect replacement for Eliza’s floating soprano voice, and cascading strings are an intentional soundtrack for romantic melodrama.

                                                                                                                                              The tone is set by the album’s title track and lead single, a tightly built pop song driven by orchestra and choir into a celestial fadeout: I realize love is to see every side of you / but mon cheri I'm designed to be unsatisfied.

                                                                                                                                              At the heart of the music is the openness with which the duo continues to sing together, revealing their unshakeable friendship. The record is a meditation on relationships from different angles: “Goldenrod” ends the album with a duet about loss, the expressiveness of the two voices garbled to make them sound uncanny, almost inhuman. “Close to Your Ego,” (Hold me close to your ego / and I’ll hold you close to mine) is more oblique, about the difficulty of reconciling intimacy with sense of self.

                                                                                                                                              Their journey began at Yale University, where the duo both studied music – they met playing in the same string quartet. Since that time, Eliza and Oliver have become prolific and vital collaborators at the intersection of classical, experimental and pop music. As a soprano, Eliza has worked closely on new music with Meredith Monk, Julianna Barwick, John Zorn, Caroline Shaw, and Ben Frost. Oliver has arranged strings for tracks by the Dirty Projectors, Helado Negro and Wet, and is a member of Kevin Morby and Vagabon’s touring bands.

                                                                                                                                              The album draws thematic inspiration from a wide range of media: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona to choreographer Pina Bausch, painter David Hockney, and multi-media artist Alex da Corte. Photographer Natalie O’Moore’s album cover depicts Eliza and Oliver in turbulent conversation at the beach, resembling a film still to mirror the album’s narrative drama.

                                                                                                                                              “The beach is an image that keeps coming back to us – the edge of the world, with the possibility of exiting it,” Oliver says. “The idea for this cover is that it builds on the Young Narrator cover, with two figures casting long shadows on the beach. That cover was a collage and this is a photograph, the hi-res, come-to-life version.” 


                                                                                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                              1. Mystery Hour
                                                                                                                                              2. Mon Cheri
                                                                                                                                              3. Easy
                                                                                                                                              4. 100 Years
                                                                                                                                              5. Check The Weather
                                                                                                                                              6. Close To Your Ego
                                                                                                                                              7. The Other Half
                                                                                                                                              8. Around Part 1
                                                                                                                                              9. Around Part 2
                                                                                                                                              10. Statue Is A Man Inside
                                                                                                                                              11. Goldenrod

                                                                                                                                              Go Dark

                                                                                                                                              Neon Young

                                                                                                                                                Go Dark are out there on the fringes, two lone figures working in the twilight to illuminate the world. 21st Century cyberpunk that touches on the sickness of modern life, Ashley ‘Crash’ Gallegos and Adam ‘Doseone’ Drucker are bound by an incommunicable sense of purpose, the two merging completely on scorched debut album ‘Neon Young’.

                                                                                                                                                “Go Dark is music for women of my kind, the striving maniac animal,” says Crash. “bitches that wear skirts and knives who can go into the woods and track things.”

                                                                                                                                                Dose adds: “A lot of music is meant to take you to a place you’d rather be, but this is meant to be a score for the way it is.”

                                                                                                                                                Go Dark emerge from digital ghettos, torn up synths and blunt, punk-edged Brutalism that conjures John Carpenter-style visions of futuristic dystopia - except it’s happening right here, right now.

                                                                                                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                The Blade
                                                                                                                                                Day Moon
                                                                                                                                                Get Out
                                                                                                                                                Violetest Red
                                                                                                                                                Big Rot
                                                                                                                                                Numb
                                                                                                                                                Murderous
                                                                                                                                                Beautiful Bitch
                                                                                                                                                El Barrio
                                                                                                                                                The Brand
                                                                                                                                                On Gone

                                                                                                                                                “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.

                                                                                                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                Memories And Faces
                                                                                                                                                Subequal
                                                                                                                                                Into The Flesh
                                                                                                                                                Above You, Around You
                                                                                                                                                Wild As Fire
                                                                                                                                                Manipura
                                                                                                                                                New Leaves
                                                                                                                                                Salutation
                                                                                                                                                Moon
                                                                                                                                                Hidden Sea

                                                                                                                                                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.


                                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                  1 SF
                                                                                                                                                  2 Oblivion
                                                                                                                                                  3 Will Not
                                                                                                                                                  4 Voice
                                                                                                                                                  5 Gold
                                                                                                                                                  6 An Eye For An I
                                                                                                                                                  7 Astropsychosis
                                                                                                                                                  8 Kuopio
                                                                                                                                                  9 tmrw

                                                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                                                  Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                  1 Metamorphosis
                                                                                                                                                  2 Love Is Magic
                                                                                                                                                  3 Tempest
                                                                                                                                                  4 Preppy Boy
                                                                                                                                                  5 Smug Cunt
                                                                                                                                                  6 He's Got His Mother's Hips
                                                                                                                                                  7 Diet Gum
                                                                                                                                                  8 Is He Strange
                                                                                                                                                  9 The Common Snipe
                                                                                                                                                  10 Touch And Go

                                                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                                                  Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                  1 For My Crimes
                                                                                                                                                  2 I Can't Listen To Gene Clark Anymore
                                                                                                                                                  3 Are You Really Going To Move To The South?
                                                                                                                                                  4 Lover Release Me
                                                                                                                                                  5 Blue Vapor
                                                                                                                                                  6 Interlocking
                                                                                                                                                  7 All Out Of Catastrophes
                                                                                                                                                  8 Dream Dream Big In The Sky
                                                                                                                                                  9 You're Only Harmless When You Sleep
                                                                                                                                                  10 Flame Thrower
                                                                                                                                                  11 Said Goodbye To That Car

                                                                                                                                                  Mountain Man

                                                                                                                                                  Magic Ship

                                                                                                                                                    Mountain Man did not intend to disappear for the better part of a decade, or to take eight years to release its second album, Magic Ship. But for a trio of devoted friends for whom music has always seemed so effortless and graceful, that’s simply how life went. The wondrous Magic Ship—a magnetic fourteen-song reflection on the joys, follies, and oddities of existence—was well worth the wait.

                                                                                                                                                    In 2009, when she was a student at a small liberal arts college in New England, Amelia Meath heard a gorgeous sound coming from the living room of her dormitory. She raced downstairs to find Molly Erin Sarlé singing “Dog Song,” a tender tune about lust, longing, and responsibility. Meath demanded that Sarlé, nearly a stranger, teach her the tune, which she, in turn, taught to a friend, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. The next time the pair saw Sarlé, they sang “Dog Song” to, and then with, her. And so, Mountain Man was born.

                                                                                                                                                    The three weren’t quite yet friends when they performed, recorded, and even toured for the first time, but they each felt the chemistry within their combined voices, a sense of artistic kismet and kinship that some spend lifetimes seeking. Acclaim came quickly, with their debut—2010’s Made the Harbor, humbly recorded on rickety equipment in an abandoned factory—earning praise from the New York Times and the Guardian and prompting big tours.

                                                                                                                                                    But before they could return to the studio, post-collegiate life intervened: Meath moved to Durham, North Carolina and eventually started Sylvan Esso. Sarlé headed for a Zen center along the California coast. Sauser-Monnig returned to Minnesota, then decamped to a farm in the North Carolina mountains. They kept in touch with near-weekly conference calls, growing as friends while taking a break from making music together. When Sarlé was ready to leave California, though, Meath and Sauser-Monnig implored her to return east, saying they would even fly to her and drive with her across the country, so long as she settled in North Carolina.

                                                                                                                                                    Together as friends, not as a band, the three made an all-American road trip. They camped beneath endless desert skies and partied with true New Orleans abandon. Finally home, they focused first on their relationship, singing together only as an extension of this personal reunion.

                                                                                                                                                    At last, they tested their again-blossoming friendship onstage in the summer of 2017 at the Eaux Claires music festival. On a tiny, cabin-like stage tucked into a forest, where audiences of a few hundred are considered big, Mountain Man captivated several thousand, with people climbing trees and fighting through stinging nettles to catch a glimpse or whisper. Hanging on every note and between-song quip, the crowd stood transfixed and silent—a festival miracle, there in the woods. And so, Mountain Man was reborn.

                                                                                                                                                    Months later, the trio reconvened at Meath’s home studio in Durham for two recording sessions, each bringing songs destined to be sung with old friends. The result, Magic Ship, is every bit as captivating as that day onstage: The stunning “Boat,” where cooing harmonies frame Sauser-Monnig like drapes around a sunny window, sees a world of possibility in a little vessel along the riverbanks. The dashing “AGT” finds inspiration in flower blooms and bumble bees, discovering in the sights of nature a pure self-reliance. The magnetic “Rang Tang Ring Toon” celebrates a night spent hosting friends, sharing beans and music, and a skinny dip under the stars. There is sincerity and humour, depth and mirth, all rendered with three voices that have never been more connected.

                                                                                                                                                    These songs distill eight years of experience between Made the Harbor and now—of sights seen, pleasures had, feelings hurt, forgiveness extended. These tunes are wise and tender, open and honest. Magic Ship conveys absolute warmth—like a snowbound afternoon spent indoors, passing a bottle of brown liquor between friends while putting old favorites on the turntable, or a long summer evening spent lounging beneath a shade tree, swapping stories and sharing laughs until the sun has vanished.

                                                                                                                                                    At a moment when the way forward for the world seems uncertain to the point of unravelling, when it feels that decades of impetuous decisions are catching up to the society we’ve created, Magic Ship offers a necessary sort of return and reassurance, a promise that goodness and truth remain available in our least-mitigated forms of expression. A weekend morning spent with a lover in bed, an innocent memory of pure childhood delight, a threadbare shirt from your parents: These are the experiences that Magic Ship so candidly shares, the moments of splendour that make the struggles worth it.

                                                                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                                                    Barry says: Stunning harmonies form the basis to this newest LP on the ever-reliable Bella Union. Mountain Man mix rhythmic harmonised vocals with lo-fi bluegrass leanings and tender, melancholic sparse instrumentation.

                                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                    1 A Perfect Miracle
                                                                                                                                                    2 I'm Your Man
                                                                                                                                                    3 Here It Comes (The Road) Let's Go
                                                                                                                                                    4 Let's Dance
                                                                                                                                                    5 On The Sunshine
                                                                                                                                                    6 Damaged
                                                                                                                                                    7 The Morning After
                                                                                                                                                    8 The Prize
                                                                                                                                                    9 Sail On Through

                                                                                                                                                    “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.

                                                                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                    1 Deportation Blues
                                                                                                                                                    2 I'm In A Weird Place Now
                                                                                                                                                    3 Hell Or Pennsylvania
                                                                                                                                                    4 I'm Desperate
                                                                                                                                                    5 When I Think Of My Dog
                                                                                                                                                    6 Am I Dead Yet?
                                                                                                                                                    7 Midnight Ease
                                                                                                                                                    8 Fire In England
                                                                                                                                                    9 Until You Kiss Me

                                                                                                                                                    Various Artists

                                                                                                                                                    Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde

                                                                                                                                                      Classic singles like Billy Fury’s ‘Halfway To Paradise’, Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ and The Walker Brothers’ ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ would not have been hits without Ivor Raymonde. As their arranger, and in the case of ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ songwriter too, he shaped the final recordings. He decided on the orchestration and backing vocals, chose the instruments and determined what was heard on the radio - and what record buyers bought.

                                                                                                                                                      ‘Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde’ is a long-overdue celebration of Ivor Raymonde, collecting his work as an arranger, musical director, producer, singer and songwriter. The story of a British musical great is told for the first time.

                                                                                                                                                      Billy Fury, Dusty Springfield and The Walker Brothers are heard. So is the only vocal performance for which Ivor Raymonde received a credit on a record label. He worked with the pre-fame David Bowie and Tom Jones. He spotted the potential of Los Bravos, steering them into the charts with ‘Black Is Black’. Near-misses and obscurities made with Brit-girls Cindy Cole and Helen Shapiro, the soulful Sonny Childe and confrontational protopsychedelic London band The Flies are as fantastic as the hits. With these and more, ‘Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde’ distils the essence of the magic of Ivor Raymonde.

                                                                                                                                                      ‘Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde’ is released by Bella Union, the label run by Ivor’s son, former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde. Compiled by Simon and Kieron Tyler, it is a very personal tribute to a sadly missed father. Born in 1926, Ivor Raymonde passed away in 1990.

                                                                                                                                                      The previously untold story is revealed through a moving reminiscence written by Simon and in-depth liner notes and a track-by-track commentary by Kieron. Ivor Raymonde played on the ocean liner The Queen Mary in 1949. In the Fifties, British television viewers saw him in legendary comedian Tony Hancock’s ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ but music was always going to be most important - the hits with Billy Fury and Dusty Springfield in 1961 and 1963 meant he was in demand. The 26 selections balance the wellknown with collectable rarities and tracks drawn from - until now - barely heard-of singles. Each is a gem and each shows the magic of an Ivor Raymonde recording.

                                                                                                                                                      ‘Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde’ is issued on CD and 180g heavyweight double vinyl album with digital download code. The vinyl version is sequenced slightly differently for listening flow. Every track was originally issued as a single issued in mono for the pop market until 1968 / 1969. Keeping the integrity of the compilation in mind, all but four tracks appear in mono as they did originally. The masters used are those of the original singles.

                                                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                      Halfway To Paradise - Bill Fury
                                                                                                                                                      I Only Want To Be With You - Dusty Springfield
                                                                                                                                                      He Doesn't Love Me - The Breakaways
                                                                                                                                                      He Knows How To Love Me - Helen Shapiro
                                                                                                                                                      Giving Up On Love - Sonny Childe
                                                                                                                                                      Black Is Black - Los Bravos
                                                                                                                                                      Love You Till Tuesday - David Bowie
                                                                                                                                                      Make It Easy On Yourself - The Walker Brothers
                                                                                                                                                      Mylene - Ivor Raymonde
                                                                                                                                                      Chahawki - Burr Bailey
                                                                                                                                                      Little Lonely One - Tom Jones
                                                                                                                                                      He's Sure The Boy I Love - Cindy Cole
                                                                                                                                                      Jealous Heart - Ottilie Patterson With The Ivor Raymonde Group
                                                                                                                                                      Your Hurtin' Kinda Love - Dusty Springfield
                                                                                                                                                      I Got The Feeling - Dave Berry
                                                                                                                                                      Now It's My Turn - Jon Gunn
                                                                                                                                                      I Love Her - Paul & Barry Ryan
                                                                                                                                                      Grotty - Ivor Raymonde And His Orchestra
                                                                                                                                                      Beautiful Friendship - Barbara Ruskin
                                                                                                                                                      Sueperman's Big Sister - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
                                                                                                                                                      (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone - The Flies
                                                                                                                                                      It's The Real Thing - The Ivor Raymonde Orchestra
                                                                                                                                                      Wait By The Fire - The Majority
                                                                                                                                                      She Sold Blackpool Rock - The Honeybus
                                                                                                                                                      I Found Out Too Late - Alan David
                                                                                                                                                      My Ship Is Coming In - The Walker Brothers

                                                                                                                                                      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

                                                                                                                                                        Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                        1 Records From Your Room
                                                                                                                                                        2 Green Bus
                                                                                                                                                        3 Look Out From Your Window
                                                                                                                                                        4 Shadow Of The Pines
                                                                                                                                                        5 Buildings In Flower
                                                                                                                                                        6 Sun On The Square
                                                                                                                                                        7 Light Of Winter
                                                                                                                                                        8 Star Of Land And Sea
                                                                                                                                                        9 An Idea Of Canoeing
                                                                                                                                                        10 Galvanic

                                                                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                          Storage Case
                                                                                                                                                          Damp Bones
                                                                                                                                                          Trance
                                                                                                                                                          I Love The Fjords
                                                                                                                                                          Heat
                                                                                                                                                          Replay

                                                                                                                                                          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

                                                                                                                                                          Andy 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.

                                                                                                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                          1 Hangout At The Gallows
                                                                                                                                                          2 Mr. Tillman
                                                                                                                                                          3 Just Dumb Enough To Try
                                                                                                                                                          4 Date Night
                                                                                                                                                          5 Please Don't Die
                                                                                                                                                          6 The Palace
                                                                                                                                                          7 Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest Of Them All
                                                                                                                                                          8 God's Favorite Customer
                                                                                                                                                          9 The Songwriter
                                                                                                                                                          10 We're Only People (And There's Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)

                                                                                                                                                          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.”

                                                                                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                            Calm Down
                                                                                                                                                            Called In
                                                                                                                                                            Windowsill
                                                                                                                                                            Lost And Found
                                                                                                                                                            Picked The Lock
                                                                                                                                                            Hidden Playground
                                                                                                                                                            Don't Have It
                                                                                                                                                            Off And On
                                                                                                                                                            Implode
                                                                                                                                                            Feeding Out The Slack
                                                                                                                                                            Blow Dry
                                                                                                                                                            In My Day
                                                                                                                                                            Sock Drawer
                                                                                                                                                            Choke
                                                                                                                                                            Lucky One

                                                                                                                                                            "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


                                                                                                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                            1. Dark Spring
                                                                                                                                                            2. Pay No Mind
                                                                                                                                                            3. Lemon Glow
                                                                                                                                                            4. L'Inconnue
                                                                                                                                                            5. Drunk In L.A.
                                                                                                                                                            6. Dive
                                                                                                                                                            7. Black Car
                                                                                                                                                            8. Lose Your Smile
                                                                                                                                                            9. Woo
                                                                                                                                                            10. Girl Of The Year
                                                                                                                                                            11. Last Ride

                                                                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                                                                                Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                                Sign Of Age
                                                                                                                                                                Moon In Aquarius
                                                                                                                                                                Limestone Alps
                                                                                                                                                                Where Water Ends
                                                                                                                                                                More Dreams
                                                                                                                                                                Then I Drift Away
                                                                                                                                                                Seeing Is Forgetting
                                                                                                                                                                Thousand Pound Shoes
                                                                                                                                                                Nemo Propheta

                                                                                                                                                                Baloji

                                                                                                                                                                137 Avenue Kaniama

                                                                                                                                                                  Bella Union warmly introduce us to their latest star signing, Belgian MC, producer and musician Baloji. His music stands at the crossroads of African music, traditional and afro-american music (soul, funk, jazz) discovered through the culture of sampling and electronic music (trance, deep house) which has its roots in part in the region of Belgium where Baloji grew up. Baloji means “man of science” in Swahili, but during the colonial period, that meaning shifted to “man of the occult sciences and sorcery”. By placing his resilience at the centre of his work, Baloji reconciles all these influences to enrich his projects. Baloji is a poet, composer-lyricist, scriptwriter, actor and performer, video artist and stylist, and '137 Avenue Kaniama' is his most complete release to date.

                                                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Glossine (Zombie)
                                                                                                                                                                  2 L'hiver Indien - Ghetto Mirador
                                                                                                                                                                  3 Bipolaire - Les Noir
                                                                                                                                                                  4 Ensemble (Wesh)
                                                                                                                                                                  5 Spotlight
                                                                                                                                                                  6 Soleil De Volt
                                                                                                                                                                  7 Ciel D'encre
                                                                                                                                                                  8 Peau De Chagrin - Bleu De Nuit
                                                                                                                                                                  9 L'art De La Fugue - Le Vide
                                                                                                                                                                  10 Passat & Bovary
                                                                                                                                                                  11 La Derrière Pluie - Inconnu à Cette Adresse
                                                                                                                                                                  12 Kongaulois
                                                                                                                                                                  13 Tropisme - Start-up
                                                                                                                                                                  14 Tanganyika

                                                                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                                                                  Barry 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.

                                                                                                                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Mr. Dynamite
                                                                                                                                                                  2 Modern Parenting
                                                                                                                                                                  3 Tokyo Metro
                                                                                                                                                                  4 Endangered Species
                                                                                                                                                                  5 K Mart Johnny
                                                                                                                                                                  6 Pink Squirrel
                                                                                                                                                                  7 Lime Ricky
                                                                                                                                                                  8 Fall
                                                                                                                                                                  9 Safe And Sound

                                                                                                                                                                  Jonathan Wilson had a busy 2017, producing Father John Misty's grammy nominated Pure Comedy and touring arenas around the globe as a guitarist and vocalist for Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters (for whom he also contributed to the lauded Is This The Life We Really Want? album.) Wilson also saw widespread acclaim heaped on Karen Elson’s sophomore LP Double Roses, which he recorded with her in Los Angeles in 2016.

                                                                                                                                                                  But it's not looking like Wilson is going to get much of a rest in 2018 either, as he'll be continuing on with the worldwide Waters tour and is set to release his own new solo album Rare Birds in the spring. The highly anticipated long player - which features backing vocals from Lana Del Rey, Josh Tillman, fellow Roger Waters bandmates Lucius and an extraordinary musical gift from otherworldly Brian Eno collaborator Laraaji - will be released through Bella Union worldwide.

                                                                                                                                                                  Although much of the album is comprised lyrically of meditations on a failed relationship and its aftermath, Wilson insists that Rare Birds is not really a concept album. "It's meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music that includes elements consciously and purposefully to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It's all in there."

                                                                                                                                                                  And, for this one, music critics will need to retire the comparisons to heritage rockers and Laurel Canyon troubadours as they’re hardly useful anymore. Wilson's new sound takes a synthetic/acoustic, best-of-both-worlds analog/digital hybrid approach to achieve the complexity, sonic density and glossy hi-fi coating of Rare Birds. Heard for the first time on a Jonathan Wilson album are the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines.


                                                                                                                                                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                                                                  Andy says: Jonathan has eschewed the obvious Laurel Canyon trappings this time out, and the result is his best record yet. Still blissed-out, otherworldly, multi-layered and lonnnnng, but the sound is beautifully streamlined with even synths and drum machines gliding by. A headphone masterpiece.

                                                                                                                                                                  Ezra Furman

                                                                                                                                                                  Transangelic Exodus

                                                                                                                                                                    Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman’s second album for Bella Union, is a new landmark for the American singer-songwriter: “not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on a theme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir,” according to its author. “A personal companion for a paranoid road trip. A queer outlaw saga.”

                                                                                                                                                                    The music is as much of an intense, dramatic event, full of brilliant hooks, with an equally evolved approach to recorded sound to match Furman’s narrative vision. In honour of this shift, his backing band has been newly christened: The Boy-Friends are dead, long live The Visions. In other words, the man who embodies the title of his last album Perpetual Motion People is still on the move... Or in the vernacular of the new album, on the run.

                                                                                                                                                                    “The narrative thread,” Furman declares, “is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels. The term ‘transangelic’ refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. They have an operation, and they’re transformed. And it causes panic because some people think it’s contagious, or it should just be outlawed.

                                                                                                                                                                    “The album still works without the back story, though,” he vouches. “What’s essential is the mood - paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.”

                                                                                                                                                                    After “Perpetual Motion People” was released in July 2015, Furman had moved back from California (Oakland) to his home town of Chicago. But after a year, he returned to the west coast (Berkeley this time). “I just seem to keep moving,” he sighs. Still, Transangelic Exodus was mostly recorded – as all Furman's records have been since 2011 - at his bandmate (saxophonist/producer) Tim Sandusky’s Ballistico Studios in Chicago, and with the other Visions - Jorgen Jorgensen (bass, and on this album, cello), Ben Joseph (keyboards, guitar) and Sam Durkes (drums/percussion).

                                                                                                                                                                    Just as Furman’s band hasn’t really changed, so his musical DNA remains intact – a thrilling, literate form of garage-punk rooted in The Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and ‘50s rock’n’roll. But Transangelic Exodus is noticeably different to its predecessors. “2016 was a hard year,” Furman recalls. “While the political and cultural conversation devolved in a very threatening way, we travelled and toured a lot. We saw ourselves coming to the end of what we were, and we wanted to become something new.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Furman cites Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires Of The City”, Beck’s “Odelay”, Sparklehorse’s “It’s A Wonderful Life”, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, Kayne West’s “Yeezus”, Angel Olsen’s “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” and Tune-Yards’ “Who Kill” – “artists making the most interesting music with the available resources” – as influences on Transangelic Exodus, plus Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen and James Baldwin’s ground-breaking, gay-themed 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room.

                                                                                                                                                                    “My previous records were original in their own way, but got classified as an off-kilter version of a retro band, and I wanted something that sounded more original,” he explains. “So we took time off touring, and made sure we took time with every song. I demoed with different band members, and then combined different demos – some parts even made the final album. So, the sound is more chopped up, edited, affected, rearranged.”

                                                                                                                                                                    One prime example is the album’s lead single ‘Driving Down To LA’, a sparse, but explosive, mix of doo-wop and digital crunch. Another is the haunting ‘Compulsive Liar’. “I wrote it as a ballad on a classical acoustic guitar, but we made it stranger, which brought out the emotion of the lyric more than it would have in its original form,” Furman says. “It’s less predictable; you don’t know where the song might go, and that makes me happy.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Furman once said, “The opening lines of my records tend to be summary statements.” So, what does, “I woke up bleeding in the crotch of a tree / TV blaring on the wall above the coffee machine” (from ‘Suck The Blood From My Wounds’) say about Transangelic Exodus? “I like the opening lines so much, I had to keep them even though they don’t make a lot of sense! You’re dropped into this story or situation, unsure where you are or what’s going on, and suddenly you’re moving. That’s what being alive feels like to me. Unknown and intense. It’s a big part of the record’s mood.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Checking Furman’s successive album covers will show his personal journey, coming out as queer and gender-fluid, which the jagged, agitated ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’ meets head on, namely “the painful experience of being a closeted gender-non-conforming person. Having ‘trans’ in the album title has a lot to do with being queer, like [album finale] ‘I Lost My Innocence’ [“…to a boy named Vincent”). That early experience marks the narrator for life. From a young age, because of issues surrounding gender and sexuality, I felt fated to have an outsider perspective. It radicalises you.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Transangelic Exodus addresses another kind of coming out, as Furman addresses his Jewish faith on record much more openly than before, from the shivery ballad ‘God Lifts Up the Lowly’ (which includes a verse in Hebrew) to the exquisite ‘Psalm 151’ and the line “I believe in God but I don't believe we're getting out of this one” in ‘Come Here Get Away From Me’, a heady blend of rock’n’roll rumble and ghostly clarinet.

                                                                                                                                                                    “There is a lot of longing and anger in those songs,” Furman reckons. “A longing for God, and God’s help, wondering how long this can go on. It feels like we’re in exile – the innocent, persecuted, oppressed and threatened. But it’s hard in pop culture to make explicitly religious statements, as many people – including myself - have been hurt by religion.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Part of Furman’s motivation is the, “fear of fascist takeover,” expressed in the video to ‘Driving Down To L.A’ (filmed in Virginia, and uncannily storyboarded before the state’s infamous Charlottesville “Unite The Right” rally), as Ezra and his angel are pursued by modern-day Nazis. “At school, we learned all about the Holocaust, and were invited to imagine what would happen if the Nazis invaded again. As white supremacy has become more explicitly institutionalised in the US, my childhood nightmares have started to show up in songs.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Crossing between love, gender, sexuality and religion, and singing in solidarity with the innocent, persecuted, oppressed and threatened, Ezra Furman has soundtracked the current fear and loathing across America like no other, while pushing ahead with his own agenda, always on the move.

                                                                                                                                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                                                                                                                    Barry says: Furman's most fiery and conceptual piece yet, dealing with modern political and identity issues in a sensitive and clever way. Littered with moments of jaw-dropping songwriting and perfectly measured switches, Transangelic Exodus is another outstanding album from the ever-talented Furman.

                                                                                                                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                                    Suck The Blood From My Wound
                                                                                                                                                                    Driving Down To L.A
                                                                                                                                                                    God Lifts Up The Lowly
                                                                                                                                                                    No Place
                                                                                                                                                                    The Great Unknown
                                                                                                                                                                    Compulsive Liar
                                                                                                                                                                    Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill
                                                                                                                                                                    From A Beach House
                                                                                                                                                                    Love You So Bad
                                                                                                                                                                    Come Here Get Away From Me
                                                                                                                                                                    Peel My Orange Every Morning
                                                                                                                                                                    Psalm 151
                                                                                                                                                                    I Lost My Innocence

                                                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                                                                                                                      Slow Children
                                                                                                                                                                      Poor The War Away
                                                                                                                                                                      Beckon
                                                                                                                                                                      Valley Of Sadness
                                                                                                                                                                      Blue As My Name
                                                                                                                                                                      I’ve Got The Sounds (Like You’ve Got The Blues)
                                                                                                                                                                      Where Ya Goin’ Papa
                                                                                                                                                                      Dub The War Away


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