Back to the top
zooming-background

alternative

COMMENT: M.I.A. and the Sound of Identity

Words by Alice Salmon

It’s widely agreed that art is the sum of its influences. Pick any great beatmaker, composer or lyricist, and you can hear their identity. For starters, there’s an endless array of artists that cite J Dilla as their biggest influence – his iconic sound is heard today hip hop, jazz and classical genres alike. Hear how Peggy Gou opts to sing in her native Korean throughout It Makes You Forget (Itgehane). And of course, witness Amy Winehouse’s famously mercurial back catalogue – her enduring love of hip hop and trad jazz reframed by a later exploration of Motown.

Arguably top of this list is the Sri-Lankan (via South London) rapper, M.I.A, whose newly released documentary Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. unfolds as an impassioned, intricate tapestry of the two cultures that shaped her and her art. Cut from over 700 hours of archive footage shot by M.I.A. and her family as well as long-time friend Stephen Loveridge, Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. unflinchingly contextualises one of the most politically-charged artists of our time.

Set in the family home in London and the Arulpragasams’ dwellings in Jaffna, Sri Lanka (via Coachella, the Grammys and the 2012 Super Bowl), the film’s relentless cross-continent leaps seem a deliberate reflection of Maya’s steadfast grip on her cultural identity amidst unpredictable surroundings.

“Wanna hear my story? I’m gonna show you my story”

M.I.A talks candidly throughout the film, recounting her (at times chaotic) formative years. She recalls coming home from school one day to see the neighbours lined up, removing her family’s possessions from their Hounslow home. She told them that they could take what they wanted as long as she could keep her radio. Spoiler alert: they took the radio. As a result, she was forced to hear the unfamiliar sounds of hip hop blaring from the adjoining flat as she lay in bed that night. And from this, she says, her sound was born.

She doggedly pushes her reality into the Western consciousness throughout the film, with staggering reactions from the mainstream media. It’s in the face of such opposition that her music takes on a renewed relevance and meaning: we had no idea we were cookin’ for commandos / everybody came in four-wheeler truckloads (Macho, unreleased, 2004).

 

The documentary is a perfect illustration of how every morsel of art you ever consume is born from something else: music exists on one level to be enjoyed for what it is, but when you delve a little deeper and explore lyrics, artwork, beats and samples, there’s a wealth of riches to be devoured.

This film is a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in M.I.A’s music. If it doesn’t make you want to revisit a track that has become an internet meme or re-evaluate M.I.A as a feminist icon – or just acknowledge her as a straight-up badass (search “M.I.A, NFL”) – then it will give you a poignant insight into what it really means to march to your own beat.

 

 

Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. is now showing at HOME. Book your tickets here.

83

COMMENT: The New Wave Of Psychedelia

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER       PHOTOS BY THROUGH THE EYES OF RUBY

The first album to define its own contents as psychedelic was the debut album by Texas garage rockers The 13th Floor Elevators, in October 1966 (The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators). Within a year, psychedelia had exploded across the music scene like a giant paint bomb, turning everything from monochrome to technicolour almost overnight and inspiring 1967’s epochal Summer of Love. The reverberations of the scene staked out in the Summer Of Love, are continually making waves in the pool of new musicians.

Four years since the first one, Manchester Psych Festival is now a fully fledged institution. With a selection of gigs promoted across the city each month under their moniker, it’s surpassed itself as a festival. Going beyond the boundaries of art and music the festival brings a like-minded community together in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Psychedelia is making a re-imergence into the scene, leaking through the dusky cracks of post-punk and indie-rock and oozing into the forefront of the music scene.

Slow Knife at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

As one of the most prominent festivals in Manchester with a massive influence on the music scene, Manchester Psych Fest is a clearly dedicated to the cause. Taking over 4 dedicated venues, the festival embraces the new and unique. Recently, the festival saw it’s 6th edition and of course, we couldn’t miss it. Starting early, Slow Knife scoop up the crowd and place them on a level playing field: knowing exactly where the day is headed. Saxophone, keys and strings at the ready, their post-punk sound makes for an entertaining first viewing for the day. Spoken word at it’s greatest in ‘Nuke The Moon’ echoes through the Soup Kitchen basement and out through the door. All hail the knife. This is what psychedelia is about.

A quick switch over to Night & Day Cafe and we’re with MOLD for their well-anticipated afternoon slot. The five piece bring a theatrical onslaught to the stage, equipped with face paint and satirical smiles. The psych genre is set to take hold of the scene and is breathing deeply through bands like MOLD that set the stage alight and stand for something new.

MOLD at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

But what exactly is psychedelia? The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “music, culture or art based on the experiences produced by psychedelic drugs” which is a little reductive for such a grand institution. LSD might have been the original inspiration, but it doesn’t explain why psychedelic music is still being produced and enjoyed by people who’ve never dropped acid in their lives. Psychedelia is appealingly vague and open-ended – a merger of philosophies, colours and styles all happening at once. It’s about opening your mind to the myriad possibilities that we’re met with each and everyday. It’s about reconnecting branching out, seeing clearly and letting go. It’s exciting, but also a little bit scary. Psychedelia isn’t a destination; it’s all about the journey.

The type of bands that are connected with this new unearthly scene of new age psychedelics are the type that set apart from the ordinary and bring a whole new offering to the table – whilst simultaneously not giving a shit about what the rabble think. With this year’s Psych Fest as an example, it’s not just a simple one-trick-pony movement. The festival comprises one day of such musicians – with artwork featured by local artists who are set to break the mould – and sounds from guitar-bass-drums outfits stretching the possibilities of the standard rock band set-up to electronic artists. There are so many acts that it raises the question: is all music, if it’s doing its job right (experimenting, blowing minds), psychedelic?

Madonnatron at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

The classic music of the psychedelic heyday was rooted in social opposition, a countercultural vibe that resonated with baby boomers, students and protesters. The music was not exclusively political or related to your everyday stoner, but in a climate of diverging identity, these new sounds flourished hand-in-hand with the changing landscape. Evolving through the present day, psychedelic music and social commentary are mutually exclusive. With politics a common topic, the psych collective consciousness seem to weigh on the side of identity and social preservation.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the genre that came to fruition through various different routes, starting with the whir and buzz of the 60s and 70s and not showing any sign of stopping, having become embodied by a myriad of current acts like Madonnatron, Yassassin and Meatraffle. For the remainder of Psych Fest, we caught the likes of the Wytches, Baba Naga, The Cosmics, Holy and Josefin Öhrn, each with their own unique take on the psychedelic movement but with a refreshingly new twist. Psychedelia is moving but at it’s own pace, in a strong, independent movement that’s reaching the nook and cranny of each and every musical alliance – whether you like it or not.

Meatraffle at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

Already keen to go to the festival next year? Keep up to date with the latest news about Manchester Psych Festival 2019 over on their Facebook page 🌀

171
Arctic Lake

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Arctic Lake

With a new album out it is no surprise to anyone that the indie genre continues to saturate music in 2018, especially in the UK, with new wannabe Arctic Monkeys popping up left right and centre. However, delve a bit deeper and 2018 poses as an incredibly exciting time for music – with the recent soaring rise of modern-punk, jazz-hip-hop sampling a la Tom Misch there are plenty of fresh new micro-genres surfacing through the music scene. Amongst this, Arctic Lake are the alt-pop newcomers building on the hefty foundations laid by the likes of Bat for Lashes and London Grammar. The London-based, Lancaster-bred, three-piece broke through the BBC Radio 1 playlist-barrier back in 2015 with their down-tempo indie track Limits and have shown no sign of stopping there. Graceful vocals overlay echoes of dreamy synths and delicate percussion to establish an illustration of pure serenity.

But don’t be fooled – Arctic Lake don’t want to be flat-packed into a box and shipped off on the genre-obsessed music chain, they’re keen to stand by themselves and not mould to conformity. Lead singer Emma Foster explained to us that “people then expect a certain sound from you and you end up taming your creativity by adhering to rules that you’ve subconsciously created.”

The trio – completed by Paul Holliman and Andy Richmond – met at University in Lancaster where they were all studying Music, and (after sporadic periods of playing in different bands), joined together to create their lovechild Arctic Lake “after a period of playing really bad rock music that we won’t mention.” Their sound has certainly changed since those early days of ‘dodgy rock’, with the group now finding inspiration through their common ground of music, films and experiences: “We started by having lots of different influences, from Emma’s taste in Jazz records, [Andy’s] love of books and Paul’s interest in film scores. But after working together over the past few years, we’re finding common inspirations and a shared appreciation for things.”

Now, their sound is icy and emphatic – it’s a quintessential sound, and one which will ultimately become synonymous with the band as their career progresses forward, with the likes of milestones such as their recent UK tour which saw the band play their first headline set in Manchester. The night in question was at Gullivers NQ and ended up as a hive of activity, equipped with fans who’d only ever seen the group in support slots with hopes of seeing them take the coveted lead. At last, this happened.

A post shared by Hannah Stephens (@hansy_step) on

In terms of inspiration; modern-day pop artists that are currently stealing the scene are aspirational and favourable components of  Arctic Lake’s daily encouragement. Musicians like Sigrid and SG Lewis plus – of course – the current “Queen of pop”, Florence Welch’s (Florence + The Machine) latest astounding album which has been on loop on through the bands collective airwaves. It comes as no surprise as, similar to Florence’s hedonistic anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of life, Arctic Lake centre their music on a theme based on human experiences, utilising them to portray and reflect such a mixed bag of emotions.

Arctic Lake have an immense about of gratitude for those who have brought the band to the place they currently find themselves, finding themelves extremely in touch with their supportive fanbase, mentioning that “talking to people after shows, and reading their messages is something that’s really special for us”. With more than 10,000 likes on Facebook whilst quickly gaining followers on both Twitter and Instagram and beautiful music videos to-boot, Arctic Lake are more than just a whisper on the grapevine.

 

Next up for the group are a number of festivals throughout the summer months, but the main focus comes beaming on Arctic Lake’s upcoming EP of which they’re so effervescently proud to be sharing in the upcoming months. In sooner news though, their new single Sight Of You – which has just been released – promises of “a lot of energy” and has proven to be the bands “favourite to play live” during this UK tour.

There is anything but dullness to the trio and, notably, nothing that can particularly halt them – just take one listen to their tempting, empathetic, lyrics.

266
dj lakritze

DJ Lakritze W/ Mike Smaczylo | 14/ 05/ 18

DJ Lakritze aka Seb Theodossiadis hosts a show once every four weeks on MCR Live, usually with a guest mix.

Expect obscure and well-known music from across the board; house, techno, electro, drum & bass, jungle, dub techno, experimental, ambient, garage, reggae, dancehall, dub, dubstep, balearic, rock, jazz, folk.. you know the score.


 

67
henrietta

Henrietta moonlights on BBC 6 Music as a producer. Usually you can’t hear her voice, but now with the miracle of technology… you can!

Expect to hear Henrietta interspersed between anything from warping techno, to 1970s Arabic funk. There’ll also be fragments of chip-tune, field recordings and a smattering of random wonderfulness found on the web. Henrietta goes to a lot of gigs and club nights around Manchester, so you might also see her with your eyes, head-banging front left.

Listen back to all of Henrietta’s shows here.

50