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Album Release

ALBUM RELEASE: DRS – ‘From the Deep’

WORDS BY DALE BURGESS

Anyone who is worth their musical salt and knows of DRS will vouch for him as nothing short of an iconic veteran of the Manchester urban music scene – an MC and vocalist who stood the test of time through the evolution of drum and bass, whilst keeping a warm seat reserved in his heart for all things hip-hop.

From his features on LTJ Bukem’s ‘Progression Sessions’ in the late ’90s to his seemingly endless wave of collaborations with liquid D&B heavyweight Calibre; DRS has been and continues to be at the forefront of cutting-edge drum and bass since the genre’s birth.

Like many great urban wordsmiths of his era, hip-hop is where it all began for DRS, sparking the creation of rap group Broke ‘n’ £nglish in the mid ’00s alongside local figureheads Konny Kon and Strategy. The turn of the decade witnessed his first solo album Grown Man Biznizz – a 12-track extension of the gritty yet playful hip-hop-esque sound that Broke ‘n’ £nglish championed.

Two drum and bass albums later – with countless singles and EPs in-between – DRS returns to his roots with fourth studio album ‘From the Deep’ – accompanied by his brand new label ‘Space Cadet’ to unleash it on. The whimsical nature therein Grown Man Biznizz remains evident in this new project, with references to getting loose on the weekend amongst other things – but a lot has happened in nine years and DRS will be the first to tell you that.

 

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Just saw LSB & DRS in a room full of 50 people. Vancouver you just welcomed me back with arms wide open 😍

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From the Deep is exactly what it says on the tin – delving down into real word themes and occurrences from the past few years of the MC’s life – particularly revolving around society, bereavement, love, and everything in-between. Consistent in all his outputs, his soul is laid bare for all to see, with the track-list resembling a contents page to his heart and mind. Manifested throughout is a brutally majestic delivery of emotion and lyricism, presenting an opportunity to hear his passionate depictions delivered at a different BPM to what much of the new age drum and bass community will be used to.

None can argue that sublime craftsmanship in beat-making is the buttery biscuit base beneath all great hip-hop albums. DRS didn’t have to look much further than his own doorstep to find the right man for the job. All hail Pitch 92 – potentially the hottest hip-hop producer in the UK right now, never mind Manchester. His natural ability to fuse boom bap with jazz, funk, and soul proves that age is just a number, with the origins of his sound existing long before he did. Performing and producing with The Mouse Outfit since the turn of the decade, followed by two solid High Focus releases in less than as many years – Pitch plays a blinder in yielding the soundtrack to DRS’ masterstroke.

Each track within From the Deep holds its own identity and will connect with each listener in a different way on a different day – picking favourites is out of the question. Instead, here’s the three that grabbed me the most today in track-list order:

‘Northern galactic outlaw, mixed race pirate the Caribbean southpaw’ – round of applause for the sickest opening line to a track I’ve heard in a long time. Serial Escapist explicitly depicts over-indulgence and dependency on liquor and substances – with the video capturing a night in the life of a blurry bender, complete with face tattoos. Pitch’s trap beat fits the mood of floating in the twilight zone at 5am, as the final thirty seconds transition into slow motion, symbolising the inevitable wall that is hit when it’s all over. The words ‘Is this hip-hop? This is hip-hop’ flash up – a likely reference to the state of today’s hip-hop culture.

The production goes back to basics on Irreplaceable, using a simple drum beat under lo-fi piano keys – making room for an honest confession about the struggle to deal with the loss of loved ones. With direct references to DRS’ bereaved companion, the track feels like as much of a glowing tribute to the individual as it is about DRS’ path to coping with it. A sombre but elegant track that many will relate to.

A fine example of the emotional spectrum within this project. How Sweet It Is pays homage to the simple things in our ‘every day’ that keep us ticking over – the appreciation of the journey of life rather than the destination. Pitch’s production is sprinkled with the old-school, creating a chilled out beat that wouldn’t sound out of place in your bedroom as you draw the curtains on a brand-new day. A stunning piece of work from Manchester’s very own DRS and Pitch 92 – eyes peeled in the coming weeks for yet more new music from these two grafters. From the Deep is available to stream and download now on all major platforms.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: whenyoung @ The Deaf Institute

WORDS BY MATTHEW PYWELL

Irish trio whenyoung have come a long way since their debut single back in 2017. Just over a year later, the band have released their first EP – Given Up – and 2019 will see the release of their debut album. I recently caught up with the band ahead of their show at The Deaf Institute, to feed my curiosity about the intriguing indie pop/rock group.

Initially hailing from Limerick, the band members Aoife Power (vocals/bass), Niall Burns (guitar) and Andrew Flood (drums) bonded over their mutual passion for music and art. However, the formation of the band didn’t start until they moved over to London. I wondered whether the contrast between Limerick and London was a culture shock for the band, “It was in the sense that the city we’re from is really small and coming to London, you forget that you don’t have to say ‘hi’ to everyone on the street, and actually you probably shouldn’t because they’ll think you’re really weird” Aoife replied. “Where we’re from, if you’re walking down the road and there aren’t many people on it, you’d probably salute the person”. Moving to London gave the group a chance for a fresh start, “it felt like a holiday for a long time”, Niall revealed.

When asked about the benefits of immersing yourself in different cultures, the band are all in agreement about its importance and see London as a hub for multiculturalism, “It’s amazing to experience different cultures within one place, you can go to an area of London, walk down to an area with Turkish shops, there’ll be Ethiopian restaurants, and you can just soak that up” said Niall.

 

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❤️💙💛 pretty pure 💛💙❤️

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One of the most famous people to come out of Limerick was Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, who tragically passed away last year, whenyoung were performing at Shane McGowan’s birthday on the day she passed, “it was such a weird night, all these Irish artists were brought together and we got the news just before we were going on stage”. This was part of the reason why whenyoung released their own cover of The Cranberries song Dreams, a poignant rendition with an obvious sense of respect and gratitude towards the original.

A marker of just how far the band have come since moving over to London, is the fact that they were asked to perform at the Barbican recently, to celebrate Irish artists making a name for themselves in the UK. “we were quite surprised when we were asked to do that, because a lot of the musicians were of high esteem, in the Irish traditional scene, which we wouldn’t necessarily feel that close to, the talent on the stage was amazing”, Niall told me. A huge passion of the band is their interest in fashion, not high-street fashion but finding outfits that make them stand out in the crowd, usually sourced from charity shops. As they took to the stage at The Deaf Institute, they certainly look the part, Aoife illuminated under a spotlight, contrasting her black blazer and trouser combination. Niall has chosen the same blazer/trouser combination but in a startling bright yellow, while Andrew heads towards the drums in a bright orange boiler suit.

One of the first songs played is Pretty Pure, a track which encapsulates the nature of a lot of whenyoung‘s discography, in that there’s a veiled disguise of joy over melancholy lyrics. “Don’t think I’m human anymore”, reverberates around The Deaf Institute on the track’s chorus. One of the night’s highlights is Heaven On Earth, a track which is pessimistic in nature but through its soaring hooks, manages to add dynamism to the live set.

Their latest single release, Never Let Go is all about remembering that there’s hope, even within the most trying of times. “I think with a lot of our songs, they’re about quite sad things but we always try to bring hope to the subject and in a way they’re all personal affirmations and we want them to connect with other people. The best books and songs are the ones that stick with you, the ones that have moved you and made you feel inspired” Aoife told me.

In addition to the release of Never Let Go, the band also released a run of t-shirts to help raise money for Mind charity. “We contacted them because we wanted to support a mental health charity because we’d lost a best friend to suicide”. The song has whenyoung‘s most uplifting hook, it achieves the desired effect of bringing hope, the kind of track I’d want to hear just as I was finishing a marathon. The set is slowed down for Sleeper, the backing track is simplified and this gives a sense of introversion to Aoife’s vocals, adding an extra air of vulnerability to her performance.

They then go on to play The Others, a song which was written about the Grenfell Tower fire and probably the band’s most far-reaching and socially conscious track to date, it pays a closer homage to one of their biggest influences, The Clash. I’d be interested to see whenyoung write more politically engaged songs. The set finishes with Given Up and the difference it holds to the recorded material is that the verses feel darker, and moodier than ever, while the chorus is more euphoric a suitable ending. I asked the band how they wanted people to feel after their live show and Andrew replied with, “we want people to feel a sense of euphoria or to be crying while laughing”. That bittersweet sensation is definitely felt and their fans definitely feel a connection to the themes of the various tracks.

A couple of new songs were debuted as well including Future and In My Dreams, the former seemingly encapsulating that overlapping sense of optimism that whenyoung seem to be imprinting within their brand of indie-pop. The band are all set to release their debut album this year and I recommend you keep your eyes peeled for its release!

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ALBUM RELEASE: Sharon Van Etten – ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’

WORDS BY MARIA PASSINGHAM

Sharon Van Etten’s new album ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ makes me wish I were going through a breakup. The soul-baring, straightforward lyrics paired with the brooding bass drone that forms the first 90 seconds of album opener ‘I Told You Everything’ give you the perfect excuse to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over your head; block out the world and dwell on heartache.

The following sparse bendy guitars and the unpredictable trio of notes (what is that, is it a guitar? a piano? an electronic, engineered noise?) scattered throughout provide those moments of wonky beauty that most of us first learned with ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ (off 2014’s ‘Are We There’). With this latest album Van Etten will take your happy memories and twist them up with sadness, and you’ll gladly let her.

Like a perfect prose poem, Van Etten makes sure every sound is absolutely necessary, leaving plenty of ethereal space, so that when the propelling drums and screeching guitars of single ‘Comeback Kid’ launch you feel the full weight of their impact. The intro to that track by the way, still reminding me of the opening to ‘Something About You’ by Lucius, anyone else?

My personal favourite is the glorious ‘Seventeen’. First, it’s not often these days you hear a fade-in on a record. It’s the equivalent of a long zoom in from a far-out establishing shot at the start of a film: it takes you right to the center of the action without you realising how you got there. The action in this case? The driving drums that relentlessly underpin this anthem.

Second, those drums. Particularly paired with the echoing, wailing guitars, my mind immediately leaped to the best of The War on Drugs, which isn’t really surprising given Van Etten’s friendship and past work with Adam Granduciel. Providing a perfect base for layers to build and fall over the course of the song, the constantly-moving-forward drums provide the perfect contrast to the backward-facing nostalgia of the lyrics.

Third, I feel as though we haven’t often heard Van Etten break. Her signature vocal style is low-key – a beautiful elastic drawl – but here she allows herself a moment of unrestrained punk, full throttle, too-much-sincerity-for-karaoke singing, taking us all by surprise and amping up the earnest impact of the song. Other highlights include the drone-filled, ghostly, Suuns-esque ‘Memorial Day’, and ‘You Shadow’, which harks back to the simple and beautiful tracks from ‘Are We There’.

I’ll be honest with you, the first two times I listened to ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ I wasn’t enthralled. It was a background to working, cooking, cleaning music. But the third time I took an old-fashioned leaf out of Van Etten’s book. I sat down, headphones on, no distractions, and listened. This is an album to listen to, pay attention to the careful layering of sounds, lose yourself in her nostalgic narratives, and, if you need to have a good cry over your ex, it wouldn’t be bad for that either.

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ALBUM RELEASE: James Blake – ‘Assume Form’

WORDS BY TOM BRANFOOT

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer James Blake’s 4th LP seems to provide a numbing acceptance to the plaguing and instinctual longing located within his unique brand of somber and reflective music. ‘Assume Form’ is a contented softening of the answerless intensity of his previous works and, as a result of being less emotionally devastating, allows both us to appreciate in a different manner and for Blake to explore foreign subjects and styles.

Although Blake has never shied away from rap music, (he even co-inhabited a mansion in L.A with Chance The Rapper in 2016) this album leaves a definitive sneaker-clad footprint in the aural realm, with features from Travis Scott, Metro Boomin and the legendary André 3000. The eponymous title track is a display of Blake’s poetic sensibilities, drifting atop piano motif’s and bit-crushed percussion. A classic James Blake blueprint song, with lyrics seemingly about re-materialising after a dark period of mental health and connecting with humans again. ‘Mile High’ sees Metro Boomin sharing production duties whilst Travis Scott soars above the liquid smooth beat with his melodically confident flow, albeit subdued in accordance with Blake’s signature vocal accompaniment.

A self-assured, late-night R&B track which feels as fresh as the rest of the album, even though it’s in keeping with a popular formula. ‘Tell Them’ features upcoming American soul singer Moses Sumney as well as co-producer Metro Boomin. With cues to earlier feature tracks such as ‘Life Round Here’ (featuring Chance The Rapper) however without the hard-hitting songwriting, including trademark synths and heavy beats with airy and glossy instrumentation, a vaguely forgettable track.

‘Into The Red’ feels like the McCartney/Lennon technique of incorporating two songs in one, however, if McCartney sounded like Bon Iver and Lennon sounded like Future. As Blake states on iTunes, this number is about a woman in his life “who put me before themselves and spent the last of their money on something for me. It was just a really beautiful sentiment”, the swelling crescendo in this song reflecting such a sentiment. Spanish, saintly-namesaked singer ROSALÍA adds a bilingual breeziness to this upbeat pop song, their vocals work wonderfully together over the mellifluously rolling beat.

 

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Manchester, Bristol, London. Tickets for April shows are on sale now at www.jamesblakemusic.com

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Opening with some sample splicing akin to Kanye, ‘Can’t Believe the Way We Flow’ surges into a gospel-style movement, cut off to allow room for Blake’s silver-smooth vocals to lay themselves down over, Blake taking hints from hip-hop production all throughout this number. ‘Are You in Love’ adapts the traditional James Blake formula, moving through jazz chords on a Prophet 8 synthesiser, billowing into a vocal layered, screaming soundscape, however quite lyrically simple – questioning the elephant in the room of a blossoming dalliance.

Three Stacks’ cameo on ‘Where’s The Catch?’ caught the eye of many hip-hop heads, a fitting beat, and dark piano motif, makes up the introduction with Blake, once again, talking about his new lover “we delayed the show we kissed so long”. The titular vocal riff sits over a searing guitar lick as André 3000 introduces his ‘heady verse’ which tackles paranoia and anxiety, (as does previous single ‘Don’t Miss It’) Three Stacks’ verse showcases his legendary flow with impressive an array of assonance and consonance. The track rolls out with the comforting notion that “everything is rosy”, a noticeable departure from the emotional dirge’s on his previous records.

Personal highlight ‘I’ll Come Too’ is a touching straight forward song, musing on wanting to follow your lover everywhere they go “I don’t want to go home/should we drive from zone to zone”, tackling the obsessive power of love through the language of men opposed to the poeticisms of ‘Assume Form’. ‘Don’t Miss It’ surfaced a few months ago but, here, Blake gives a rundown through what this egomaniacal and anxiety-ridden track is about: “moments I (sic) didn’t enjoy when I should have/Love’s I wasn’t a part of/Heroes I met that I can’t remember the feeling of meeting/Because I was so wrapped up in myself” using his trademark pitched up and spliced vocals. Album finishing ‘Lullaby for My Insomniac’ brings an oceanic blanketing to the record with a choir of vocals and falling pads.

‘Assume Form’ is a grounded and assured body of work, considerably less left-field and refines the ‘James Blake’ formula with a stronger magnetic leaning to rap music. However, these songs lack the emotional intensity of Blake’s previous records, and songs such as ‘Radio Silence’ or ‘Retrograde’, ditching the spaciously monstrous instrumentation for more subdued R&B beats. With some forgettable songs, such as ‘Power On’, ‘Tell Them’ and ‘Are You In Love?’, this album feels lackluster at times, however, it serves as an important record in the progression of James Blake’s music.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Red Rum Club – ‘Matador’

WORDS BY MAURINA ANGIONI

Red Rum Club‘s first album ‘Matador’ is exactly what we were expecting to hear from the Liverpool sextet. The first thought when listening to it is that the name ‘Matador’ summarise perfectly the whole experience and we don’t even need to listen to the eponymous track to understand it. The trumpet comes out as compelling and assertive straight in the first seconds of the opening track ‘Angeline’, immediately defining the unique sound of the band together with a precise rhythmic session and powerful guitar chords.

‘Angeline’ sets the bar high for all the other tunes in the album, which are generally catchy and uptight, like some renegades fleeing the desert while dancing. The song is imbued with love words and a sense of loneliness cried out loud with power and emotional energy. But Red Rum Club are not only this.

If you watched one of their videos or live performances you should know that they are capable of fitting in different dresses. When a song like ‘Hung Up’ or ‘TV Said So’ plays we can understand how much different they can be, with the second track just a stone away from a certain late 80s/early 90s vibe.

The new single ‘Would You Rather Be Lonely?’, of which the sweet video was filmed in the iconic Matthew Street in Liverpool, gives a sense of peace and love and has a strong indie influence, definitely making difficult to write this review while sitting when I would gladly dance the track.  After the little detour into indie, closing with the well-known ‘Honey’, we go back to the main sound of the album: listening to ‘Nobody Gets Out Alive’ with its dramatic lyrics, you can see profiling on the horizon a young lovestruck Clint Eastwood.

‘Calexico’, also an old acquaintance, brings us again to a Latin country, with the passionate vibrato of the trumpet, the rich sound of the bass and the warm voice of singer Fran Doran bejewelling the composition and turning it into a sexy dance. When we hear the last songs, ‘Remedy’, and ‘Matador’, we feel that we have reached the end of a journey somewhere far away and want to do it all over again. The general sound is a well self-defined spaghetti western feeling with just a bit of Zorro, and I say this in the most positive way.

The lyrics of the whole album try to explore the ranges of solitude and loneliness with emotional, perfect for the sound and the cinematic images that it creates. It feels like a knight is coming to my rescue with sweet and witty words but wearing a suit like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. I didn’t know that was possible.

The Red Rum Club kept the promise of a strong burning debuting album and we can assume without doubt that they’ll do the same with their lives when the tour kicks in. They are definitely a band to follow in 2019. I made them one of my resolutions for the new year and so should you.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Deerhunter – ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?’

WORDS BY KANE MARTIN      PHOTO BY LIA SUED

Polymorphic self-proclaimed “ambient-punks” Deerhunter return with their eighth studio album ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, their first release since 2015’s ‘Fading Frontier’. Although not a drastic departure from their previous efforts, sonically there’s a melancholic sincerity which haunts the album. Upon listening, it feels as though you’re hearing a band quietly appalled with its national identity and the baggage that comes along with the task of writing about American topics. Despite its concerns, they don’t weigh the album down too much as the fizzing pop sensibilities Deerhunter are renowned for carrying the weight of their mournful lyrical content.  

 

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4AD presents Revue🎠🌟🙌🏻 #greatshow #4ad #deerhunter #deerhunterband #ganggangdance #exre #osaka #japan

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That being said this album is more than just Bradford Cox having a big bloody cry and holding a sign in the desert saying “I’m a sad boy – Trump is a muppet and I don’t like him that much” whilst a reverb-drenched drum-machine sound-tracks this terrible scene. It was recorded in the desert – Marfa, Texas to be exact – and co-produced by the ever-brilliant Cate Le Bon. The combination of these two aspects really lends themselves to the album’s attempt at defining a space. As no place lends itself as much to the mythology of America as the desert. Also, having Cate involved as an artist who is very aware of her cultural heritage and transferring that sonically without it being too “on the nose” is a transference Deerhunter attempt with this release and the results are spectacular.

With its album artwork which resembles the front cover of an out of print Frank Waters novel it opens with the harpsichord ridden lament ‘Death in Midsummer’, presumably a nod to the Yukio Mishima short story of the same name in which a decision to go on a family holiday results in the death of two children (cheery stuff). The twanging of harpsichords is achingly reminiscent of something that could be found in John Cale’s 1973 masterpiece ‘1919’. This borrowing from instrumentation similar to other classic ‘baroque rock’ concept albums from the ’60s and ’70s is prevalent on the album. For example, ‘No One’s Sleeping’ which deals with the sensitive subject matter of the murder of MP Jo Cox, yet conversely to its subject sounds like it could be off The Kinks’ ‘The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society’. The track even makes reference to this lyrically “the village green is now nocturnal”.

This borrowing from imagined pasts compliments certain instrumentation on the album which is influenced by borrowing from the other direction; the future. With the synthesizer sounds on ‘Greenpoint Gothic’ sounding like it’s from a Vangelis soundtrack to an abandoned existential late 80’s Sci-Fi movie. Whilst Cox’ and Lockett Pundt’s spaced out guitar-interplay dances a drunken, cosmic tango through all the albums tracks – a great sense of other-worldliness is created. The guitars themselves sound subliminally inspired by the great German Kosmiche bands of the ’70s, in particular, the work of guitarist Manuel Göttsching which creates great depth and a slight cosmological horror: like looking into a great unknown void.

What is achieved by mixing the sounds from fictionalised futures and pasts – blending imagined outer-space with a non-existent nostalgic rural-ism – is Deerhunter create a new way of discussing the present through song. This cutting and pasting of cultures could be described as détournement a phrase coined by the French Situationists of the 1950s. The phrase is also the title of the 6th track on the album making their cultural hijacking of using both fictional futures and pasts, central to the albums’ themes. This hijacking, as it were, allows a discussion of the present in which there’s an implication of what we’re currently experiencing is fiction which somewhat terrifyingly rings true if we linger on the thought of our post-truth digital age a little too long, which the album forces us to do.

‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, offers more questions then it does answers to where we are at the moment which is where I feel the album’s strength lies. It invites ruminations on some unsettling themes which quietly invite themselves in the form of brilliantly written pop songs. Like much of Deerhunter’s previous output it doesn’t expect you to say it’s a masterpiece on first listen. Rather, to fully “get it” one must live with it for a while until it reveals itself to you. I won’t tell you it’s an immediate masterpiece either, although I would highly recommend you get lost in the album for a while.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Ex:Re – ‘Ex:Re’

WORDS BY CIERA LITTLEFORD

Elena Tonra, of Daughter fame, has a knack for devastating her listeners. Her solo venture, Ex:Re, is a break-up album guaranteed to make you weepy this winter. At first listen, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is as another Daughter LP, but pay attention and you’ll discover a new, deeply personal perspective from Tonra.

The name of the project is pronounced ‘x-ray’, as it’s a profoundly introspective exploration into the self, following a break-up. Tonra explores the concept of an old relationship being some sort of ghost or specter; the wistful lyrics and somber guitar bring this conception into being.

‘Where the Time Went’ is an apt – and beautiful – opening track, covering a myriad of emotions: the despair-tinged line ‘I will leave this empty-handed’ to the quiet anger of ‘I will ruin you in a second’ sets the tumultuous tone for the rest of the album. ‘Romance’ is an almost seven-minute long hard-hitter, its synths and perkier beats not quite masking the melancholy of Tonra’s husky pleas: “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know who you were”. The lo-fi sounding instrumentation which slowly builds in urgency towards the end, coupled with Tonra’s mournful voice and lyrics, is a combination that secures its listeners; we’ll be staying until the end.

Tonra’s vocals are more prominent on Ex:Re than on her previous studio releases, which is clear on ‘The Dazzler’ and ‘Liar’, which both feature gorgeous vocal melodies; crisp, clear, and contemplative, much like the entire album itself. ‘5AM’, accompanied by piano, and final track ‘My Heart’, characterised by brief silences and the slow repetition of its riff ensure that we’re not coming away from this album on a happy note, which is expected.

Ex:Re offers its listeners a raw and honest depiction of heartache, accompanied by sometimes tender, sometimes intense arrangements. Guitar so delicate it is as if it’s careful not to tread on your already (by the end of the record) fragile state, soft drums, and infrequent but sorrowful strings pepper Ex:Re, creating one forlorn and dreamy affair that you’ll find yourself coming back to.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Parcels – ‘Parcels’

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE     PHOTO BY JEAN F R RACLET

Let me introduce you to my new favourite band. You may have heard of them, they’re called Parcels. No ‘the’, plural and they’re electro epic! hey come from Australia, now live in Berlin and boast a collaboration with Daft Punk in 2017 with the beautiful, ‘Outside’. Now if Daft Punk endorsing you isn’t enough, to get you noticed, they’ve only gone and smashed out a minter of an album in Parcels (self-titled), the cover is fresh out of personified pop-art take on mile high club, complete with pristine pastel colours, perfect fringes and a secured case of the good stuff.

No holding back and right from the start ‘Comedown’ brings heavy kick beats and guitar that must’ve been noticed by our French Electro, heroes as it’s right up their rue de gare! ‘Everyroad’ has a narrative bringing the electro-funk on repeat and a curious description of surroundings and tranquil depth of what it is soundtracking and builds to a full on banger, oozing heavy synths and bass which would have any huge PA wanting more everytime. MCR Live popped along to their recent Manchester gig and I’ll be keeping my eyes to the ground and my ears peeled to sniff their next tour out, and they must be dropping some sets over summer festival season next year (Bluedot if you haven’t approached them yet, they’ll be just right where Crazy P was last year!)

When the funk, kick and electro cruises to halfway through the 12 track album ‘Yourfault’ gives a relaxed, waves lapping the shore, beach groove, with a Xylo-snare-janglechord-break portmanteaux of ‘Xychordbeach’. It’s more than just kick, xylophone, and Nile Rodgers-esque guitar, the vocals are enchanting and ‘closetowhy’ brings that in with some dreamy Hammond/synth halfway through too, close to why? Close to LCD Soundsystem more like! Along with LCD and Daft Punk obvious references, there are vocal smatterings of the Wilsons in there and I’m sure Parcels would have the Beach Boys as one of their influencers, after all, ‘Bemyself’ is fresh out of the ‘Pet Sounds’ outtakes.

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LIVE: TVAM @ Soup Kitchen

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY

Wigan’s prodigal son TVAM, or Joe Oxley to his friends, sold out Soup Kitchen, gazed at his shoes, and with one swift movement sent the place skywards. Touring off the back of his really rather fantastic debut album ‘Psychic Data’ the bedroom produced maestro came down to everyone’s favourite Northern Quarter basement.

So much BBC Radio 6 play can garner one a rather sophisticated audience and TVAM is no exception, with large sections appearing clad in great winter coats, armed with great music taste and in some cases you would wager a few tales from the evergreen land of ‘Back in The Day’. In fitting fashion, before Soup Kitchen was treated to a set by a peerless TradTronica potion master Dennis Jones. Jones has been based in Manchester for some time now, but for those not in the know, his sound is a rather unique concoction of analogue atmospheric loops and noise boxes, with acoustic guitar and vocals. The outcome of this is really one of those ‘that shouldn’t work but it does’ innovations and Dennis’ ambient free-noise threnodies are a wonderful experience. This night was no exception and he is very well received by the growing numbers in Soup Kitchen.

The place is completely shoulder to shoulder by the time the TVAM set gets underway. Centre stage is a grand old cathode-ray tube telly atop a trolley stand like your teacher used to wheel out to hysterical anticipation back in those school days. No dodgy documentary film for this night though as TVAM’s box telly is an image within an image, a jewel in the visual crown. For your viewing pleasure, a postmodern high-speed montage of broken images. Old Granada television news footage, B movies, landscape shots. Even RoboCop makes a fleeting cameo. This is all interspersed with a helpful display of lyrical content, kind of like a karaoke machine designed by the MK Ultra Project. A rather captivating display, allowing Oxley to focus on the tunes with just a bit of metronomic swaying to the music.

 

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TVAM played all the full songs from Psychic Data’ on the night, and it’s a wonderful album. Tracks like the anti placid ‘Narcissus’ are absolute giants reminiscent of The Horror’s best work to date ‘Skying’ (yes that is the best Horrors album please @ me). The album was mixed in part by David Honer of Eccentronic Research Council and the Moonlandingz fame and glory. You can certainly see a bit of the research council in tracks like ‘Porsche Majeure’. Where I think Oxley is carving out his own thing is in times like these are not your memories that whilst cacophonous at first, slides through the euphoric mist and lands somewhere of the coast of California.

Towards the end of the set two songs at a different pace. ‘Gas and Air’ is probably the closest thing to an orthodox rock song and gets soup kitchen moving. The set really reaches its pinnacle with the ridiculously excellent ‘Total Immersion’. This tune does what it says on the tin, and could slip onto the far side of Autobahn or Trans-Europe Express without breaking stride. TVAM whipped up a cracking evening in Soup Kitchen, and if you haven’t already listened to the album then you should do so immediately. ‘Psychic Data’ is one of the years best debuts of our dear and aging 2018.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Neneh Cherry – ‘Broken Politics’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Neneh Cherry, the ‘7 Seconds’ superstar, is back once again with ‘Broken Politics’, the new jazz/pop-infused album to come from the world famous, Swedish born singer. Before the album begins, it’s hard not to notice how eye-catching and transfixing the artwork is, it really portrays Neneh Cherry’s artistry. From the off, it’s easy to determine that ‘Broken Politics’ is going to be a very expressive experience and so I don the hat of creative thought once more, strap myself in for an abstract journey, and await the luscious tones of the lovely Neneh, mixed with some very funky Jazz.

The first track ‘Fallen Leaves’ is actually quite tame on the Jazz-meter. A simple, drill styled, up-tempo drum beat sits quietly below a simple piano melody.  The focus is clearly on Neneh’s voice and the lyrical content and in fact, there aren’t very many layers of vocals recorded at all. It’s extremely minimalist, simple and very sweet.  Like the art is speaking for itself and was given room to breathe. Neneh Cherry also has such a lovely voice and so the song holds together perfectly. A great introduction to the album.

Skipping forward a few tracks to the seventh song of the album, ‘Natural Skin Deep’, and Neneh has cranked it way up all the way to Miles Davis on the Jazz dial. This is such a brilliantly hectic song and a great aperitif for any listeners that are a tad unfamiliar with the weird and wonderful ways of modern Jazz, and other Jazz influenced genres. ‘Natural Skin Deep’ sounds like New York. With the sound of NYPD sirens whizzing by, a lull of voices at a breakfast diner, I can almost smell the coffee. A relatively standard hip-hop beat brings in Neneh’s funky style of double time singing, a kind of singing and rapping with added melody. Then, at around halfway through the song, Neneh switches to a full Jazz ensemble and completely mixes up the whole track.  Every digital layer is dropped, the drums fade out abruptly and from there on in the song sounds like it was jammed out in Greenwich Village in 1972, in some smokey ‘blues party’. Getting lost while flowing away to these subtle melodies, horns and string sections became suddenly all too easy. It was such a refreshing change in the song and transported me to this groovy world of Soul and Jazz that Neneh obviously inhabits.

Produced by Neneh Cherry and English musician, Four Tet, ‘Broken Politics’ is said to be a “quieter and more reflective” album than its predecessors. I’m not sure that I completely agree with “quieter”. It’s quite a stanch Jazz album for any uninitiated Jazz newbies out there. It is, however, very reflective. The lyrical content of the whole album brings a plethora of political undertones, social commentaries, and satires and there is definitely a tonne of self-reflection. With song lyrics inspired by the passing of Neneh Cherry’s biological father, musician Ahmadu Jah, the album is honest and emotional. Interestingly, the Woodstock Studio in New York, where ‘Broken Politics’ was recorded, was the same studio which Neneh Cherry’s stepfather, American Jazz musician Don Cherry, had previously used to record his own work in the 1970s. In fact, Neneh Cherry uses samples from the recordings of Ornette Coleman, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jazz saxophonist, which her stepfather had recorded.

‘Broken Politics’ has a real sense of homage to it. Not only to Jazz but to the musical influencers and parental figures in Neneh Cherry’s life that gave her music. The political commentary amidst a great use of rhyme scheme and a very cute, toned singing style is also really entertaining to listen to. The production, on the whole, does seem sparse but perhaps the intention was to focus on the lyrical content and instrumentation, especially with the Jazz sections. It also lacked a touch of mastering that I would have expected a globally recognized singer would pertain to. However, I actually quite like that it sounds raw and unpolished. It almost has a struggling artist vibe to it all, a musical hunger I wouldn’t expect from an artist with over twenty-five years, mainstream musical experience.

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