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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.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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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.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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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.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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ALBUM: Bruce – ‘Sonder Somatic’

WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER

In electronic music, the most resonant albums and tracks are those that strike at the heart of the community, conveying memories while aiming to create new ones. Bristol-based techno producer Larry McCarthy, AKA Bruce, is devoted to the most personal aspects of the diagram. His music has always torn away any veils of conventionalism to underpin a playfully outlandish hand, taking core elements and twisting them out of time and place. Making the obscure accessible is hard to perfect, but in the case of Bruce’s back catalogue he’s often managed it with a thrilling smoothness.

In many ways, the release of his debut full-length album ‘Sonder Somatic’ on Hessle Audio feels like a homecoming. His previous releases on the label (2016’s ‘Steals’ and 2014’s ‘Not Stochastic’ – EPs respectively) have occupied the same innovative world-scape, playing sumptuous floor-filling kicks and alien atmospherics off against each other, with a mischievous sonic smile overhanging it all. But it’s the exploratory nature of Hessle Audio’s output that suits Bruce‘s placement here so brilliantly. He’s talked openly about the label’s influence on him over the years, so the synergy that winds up here seems only right and proper.

The LP was written ‘partly as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space’, and on ‘Sonder Somatic’ Bruce wastes no time in going for the jugular. The whole thing sounds absolutely huge, for starters. Whereas before the late-night rawness of his music could occasionally feel opaque, on the LP a crystal-clear sheen sets its primal nuances and physicality against a gorgeous big room backdrop.

Crucially though, he focuses on inviting and then reducing ambiences, atmospheres and myriad percussive senses. It allows for a constant sense of idiosyncratic motion that rises and falls and creates new imperatives whenever they are most necessary. This is executed most effervescently at the mid-way point and the trajectory between the shuddering tension of ‘Meek’ and ambient of ‘Torn’, which is spotted with ghosts of breakbeat-y decadence, into previously released single ‘What’. The latter re-engages his most banging sensibilities with an intense sense of joy – caterwauling vocals, a deliriously catchy lead loop and the same unpredictable drum sequencing brought to a mighty zenith.

The notion that ‘Sonder Somatic’ reflects both Bruce’s professional and recreational relationship with club culture is purveyed inimitably too. Whether it’s through swaggering heaters built upon historic UK bass mechanisms (as on the opening salvo of ‘Elo’ and ‘Cacao’) or the freezing, small-hours surging lope of ‘Baychimo’ and lullaby-esque grind of ‘Patience St Pim’, a see-saw of hedonism and an absorbing approach is delivered near-perfectly.

 

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Back in manc next month! Chuffed as it’s quickly becoming my home in the north 🐝 Grab ya tickets whilst they’re only £8 (ikr)

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While the LP will do plenty for chin-stroking types and those always seeking to be challenged on dancefloors, at the core of ‘Sonder Somatic’ is the most communal aspect of club culture; personality. Bruce is one of the most singular techno artists operating right now, and the music here continues to define him as one of the most innovative and sensitive.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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ALBUM REVIEW: HONNE – ‘Love Me/Love Me Not’

WORDS BY JODIE BRYANT

Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher are the electro-pop duo that makes HONNE. The pair have unleashed their skills and sound with the new album ‘Love Me/Love Me Not, released on the 24th August 2018.

The album itself is easy listening at it’s smoothest – soulful and poppy but not life changing. The noteworthy, most popular track is ‘Day 1’ which encloses a catchy hook with funky beats and gentle piano. On that same first side of the album ‘Me & You,’ features Tom Misch, who compliments HONNE‘s style perfectly by way of raw harmonies. The song has a disco / funk element with a bright, reassuring and optimistic undertone. All songs on the first side of the album are accompanied by the image of a circle half coloured in ◑, perhaps showing the ‘yin and yang’ of HONNE.

Side two, with the circle the other way round ◐, is less loved up – it’s called ‘Love Me Not’ after all. The opener, ‘Shrink’ is a lighthearted take on the future and implies that the shrinks are going to be packed and rammed to the rafters:

“YOU BETTER BOOK ME A SHRINK FOR 2020
COS BY THAT TIME I’M GOING TO BE CRAZY”

This ‘yin’ side of tracks is overall less funky than the opposing ‘yang’ and oozes calmness in a more negative and emotional manner. ‘Crying over You’ features BEKA and is an interesting take on a breakup. It addresses the difficulty of knowing that the time has come and it’s right to end a relationship and the heartache that comes along with that. BEKA plays the female counterpart of the relationship, equally anguished by the situation.

Later on the track list is ‘Forget Me Not’ which maintains a strong beat and ends the album with a sense of loss and apology. Both sides of the album are enjoyable to listen to and the second half in particular is lyrically impressive.

As a whole, HONNE had already established their sound back in 2016. ‘Love Me/Love Me Not’ fulfils the expectations now set for HONNE, picking you up in that aforementioned ‘yin’◑ method with glaringly positive tracks, then releasing you with that alternate ‘yang’ ◐ side.

A fan of Honne‘s work? The duo will soon be touring, tickets can be found HERE.

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