Tori Amos‘s 1992 debut was the stark ‘Me & A Gun’. A gut-wrenching, raw dolorifuge sung a cappella, it was the sonic autobiography of her rape aged 21.
Now some 25 years later Amos returns with her 15th studio album, Native Invader. What’s clear from the off is that the American is still battling emotional, physical and personal pain, but in a world now rife with political turmoil. The album’s triumvirate of thematic touchstones are environmental destruction, US political upheaval and most significantly, the calamitous stroke that left the artist’s mother unable to speak.
While comparisons with Kate Bush are now just yesterday’s news, they cannot be completely side-stepped, and are at their strongest on piano ballads such as opener Reindeer King. The album’s other singles Cloud Riders and Up The Creek couldn’t be more polarised. The former is a dreamy, country-bluesy slow-tempo track on which Amos’ vocal floats over a metaphorical storm and some seriously slick gospel organ. The latter is a finger picking funk-out that tackles Trumpton and all its vainglorious but reckless gibberish.
Native Invader dips in and out of the pockets of several genres and styles – Dooby-esque American rock (Broken Arrows), emotional electro-pop (Wings), inter-galactic sample-fused balladry replete with lush guitar rondos (Chocolate Song) and compelling, heartfelt piano mini-dramas (Bang). It’s possibly in the this last style of earnest balladry that Amos’ star still shines brightest.
Stand out is album closer Mary’s Eyes, an exquisitely choreographed waltz of piano and strings on which Amos questions the unquantifiable extent of her mother’s debilitation – “What’s behind Mary’s Eyes?” – in the most touching and serenest of vocals.
Like forerunner Bush, Tori Amos falls into the marmite category. She is an artist music fans will either adore or deplore. What cannot be disputed is her exceptional talent and enviable gift for innovation and re-imagining. The American’s legion of super-fans will wax lyrical about Native Invader, and so they should. Hopefully, others will opens their eyes, ears and hearts long enough to experience the wonder of Ms. Amos’ idiosyncratic virtuosity. 7/10
Native Invader is on release now via Decca Records. There is also a 15-track Deluxe edition available including two extra tracks Upside Down 2 and Russia.
The danger with indie is that if there isn’t sufficient diversity of theme, tempo, and instrumental style, it can quickly segue into one continuous jangle cum drone, depending on which line the artist is peddling.
In this regard, Norwegian newcomers Ludvig Moon, appear to have done their utmost to unfurl their creative tendrils in several directions to try to ensure that debut album ‘Kin’, stretches across a broader than generic indie spectrum. For the best part, they have succeeded.
Ludvig Moon have been steadily honing their clearly identifiable sound since the 2014 release of their self-titled debut EP. It is a testament to their synchronicity as a unit that this multi-member outfit has developed such a tightly woven sound – no mean feat in a group where seven musicians are competing to be heard. Or maybe that is the secret, that together they recognise the Ludvig Moon whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
This septet (see below for the roll call) is a talented cohort with a lot of genuine promise, who produce highly evocative and at times magical material. As a group, they often seem to be reaching for a sound bigger than the confines of their immediate Oslo environs. One whose sound almost over-reaches; almost. It certainly spills over beyond the brim of indie, flowing through the outer reaches of American rock, alt-rock and pop punk – think Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Ash.
Whether by accident or design, the sound at which they have arrived, pulls from the vestiges of the glory days of ’80s pop-punk and the classic ’90s indie-rock sounds both defined and dominated by the big American ‘supers’. Eleven track ‘Kin’ spreads its wings across this cross-generational spectrum, dipping and diving into styles coloured by the past blended with that freshness and effervescent urgency that is the trademark of youth.
After a string addled mini-melodrama of an intro, a mere whisper bookended by some windswept cymbals crashing off the shore, the album cracks open with the propulsive ‘When the Storm Breaks’, a song full of vim and vigour, thrashing percussion, great striking guitars, stonking keys and a killer chorus. A track to leave you wanting more.
I dare you to listen to the track ‘Sparks’ and not hear The Cure, albeit the post-punk goths back-dropped by a glorious if frenzied instrumental ascent/descent of musical scales fashioned by what is quite possibly the closest guitars have ever come to sounding like change-ringing.
‘Are We Still’ takes it down a few notches, showing a more restrained and subtle but no less experimental musicianship with its ‘eerie’ touches (redolent of the saw), golden melodies and heartwarming chorus, which by itself is a fine example of the perfect chemistry between fronters Anders Magnor Killerud and Lydia Popkema.
Indeed it is the pairing of Killerud and Popkema, whose vocal contrasts are like fire and ice, that gives so much depth and texture to the band’s songs. The fluidity and balance of their duets heighten the evocative essence of the songs’ lyrical themes. Speaking of which, here’s what frontman and lyricist Killerud had to say about the albums thematic inspos …
“The lyrics are based on stories from my life the past few years. People around lost control over their lives and I lost toucb with many of them during those times. For me this album mirrors the winter of 2015. It’s my soundtrack to life as a young, broke and confused twentysomething in Oslo – not knowing who I was, not knowing what I wanted to become. Filling the album with grandiose sounds felt like my cure against the grey fabric of life at the time. Making the album really helped my through the winter though, especially mentally.”
As expected, singles ‘Houses At Night’ and ‘Cult Baby’ take centre stage, but while the latter is the diamond at the heart of this long playing jewel, something in me remains unconvinced by the former.
For originality and instrumental flair, I find myself veering towards ‘Moth’, a song which more than piqued my interest with its perky finger picking guitar sequences, lively percussion and billowing, swirling synth background.
There’s a filmic vibe to this ever growing spiral, with it’s somewhat subtle shades of country come Americana, as it twists and ascends to a curious finale of alien noises and instrumental riddles. For ingenuity and musicianship, I’d score this a 9/10. For me, this is a song that walks a different path and the standout track on the album.
There are a few less noteworthy inclusions but overall the memorable outweighs the forgettable. The album has some really standout moments, not least the afore-mentioned ‘Cult Baby’, a track which has proved to be a firm radio playlist favourite across the broader reaches of the EU, particularly in the land that shall now always be known as Brexit. A track that could easily take Ludvig Moon into the US Billboard charts should they ever venture to stray that far, it is a benchmark against which future singles will be measured.
For a debut album, Ludvig Moon have played a strong hand with ‘Kin’, and while there is still room for improvement, they are young, ambitious talented enough to make the upward transition to a more mature and experimental level, with relative ease. They say the second album is always the most difficult. For Ludvig Moon it should be plain sailing. They’ve set the bar. It’s now up to them how far they wish to raise it.
Ludvig Moon is : Anders Magnor Killerud ( lead vocals, guitar), Ole Torstein Hovig (synths), Herman K. Hulleberg (guitar), Kristofer Staxrud (Drums), Andreas Andre Myrvold (bass, vocals), Lydia Popkema (vocals, guitar, tambourine), and Simen Sandbæk Skari (French Connection, vocals, tambourine)
You can follow Ludwig Moon on Facebook and keep up with all my reviews on DervswerveTwitter and Facebook. ‘Kin’ is out now via Riot Factory. You can buy or stream it via the following links:
“We’re gonna take it around the world Ride these wild horses”
Just when you think the week can’t get any more chaotic, up pops master of the unorthodox Beck, with a new off the rails video for his not so cut and dried single, ‘Wow‘.
A follow up to 2015’s ‘Dreams‘, it will feature on his upcoming still to be named album which should see the light of day later in the Autumn.
Where ‘Dreams’, which was as close to mainstream as I’ve ever heard Beck get give or take the odd moment, swung on the side of indie pop, ‘Wow’ sees this unique talent return to his maverick best.
“It’s my life, your life Live it once, can’t live it twice So nice, so nice Song’s like a tidal wave, take you on a getaway”
The song pulls between hip hop and dark electronic pop with shades of Ennio Morricone thrown in for good measure. Spoken word verses recall the poetic rap of ‘Loser’ while the uplifting chorus strains are falsetto in gloria.
‘Wow’s visual accompaniment is a frenzied melange … a series of kooky vignettes spanning spaghetti westerns to the sheer multi-coloured mania of Monsters inc. Mini-me ‘The King & I’ choreography is juxtaposed with some middle aged mindful meditation zebra crossing stylee, while a dude with the biggest orange backside you’ve ever seen this side of the ‘Nutty Professor’ gets down to the groove.
And then there’s Beck, resplendent in his all-black cowboy finery, replete with silver plate and suede fringing. An intermittent vision a bit like a flashing torch, he jumps and side-steps to the beat with the all the jittery nrg of someone on a diet of sucrose, in a scene set against an unchoreographed backdrop of continuous highway traffic.
“It’s your life Falling like a hot knife Call your wife; secular times, these times My demon’s on the cell phone To your demons, nothing’s even right or wrong It’s irrelevant, elephant in the room goes boom Standing on the lawn doin’ jiu jitsu Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu”
Look beyond the zany top notes, and smell the sense underneath … this is Beck, having whetted his lyrical nib, inking incisive life observations through abstract imagery.
Two stellar single samples, two polar opposites. What lies between on the album is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure. If these two tracks are anything to go by, this is going to be one #WOW LP.
Beck’s as-yet-untitled album will be released on October 21 via Capital Records. His single, ‘Wow’ is out now, available via the usual channels (links below), and you can watch its zany visual here – #rideemcowboy #giddyup
Fledgling electro R n’ B cum blues pop artist Caitlyn Scarletthas a voice like the burning embers of a mid-winter fire. So, when she sings the ‘giving love daggers’ lyrics of her latest single, ‘Rust’, her deep, penetrative voice is a lot more smouldering fire than bright spark as it bores and burns into the flesh of the betrayal and disillusion at its thematic core.
Recently featured in interview with BBC Introducing, through whom I came across her music, Caitlyn’s music has had exposure to the UK masses getting airplay on the hit radio shows of BBC spinners, Dermot O’Leary & Huw Stephens. As if all of that wasn’t high profile enough, her new song ‘Rust’ has just had a pretty mega watt premiere courtesy of Roisin O’Connor, over at The Independent.
Caitlyn’s life-to-date has been pretty bohemian notwithstanding her tender age: gigging at 15, she moved from the sticks to London at 17, and was releasing music shortly afterwards. Her style mixes vintage with current, blending a confident jazz-soul vocal with electronic and R n’ B beats.
Yet even though her music has a fresh, of the now feel, its roots seem to be firmly planted in the sophisticated jazz-blues style of the 60s and American experi-pop of the mid-90s. Indeed, a retro vocal with a flash of modern tech, seems to be the favoured groove of many of the current crop of female artists including Astrid SandLianne La Havas.
With its ‘je t’accuse’ content and stark, untinted view of the world of love and romance, ‘Rust’ is the lyrical equivalent of finger nails ripping down a blackboard.
An honest reflection on the bittersweet fallout from the breakup of a serious relationship, the song strips away love’s airy fairy gloss with incisor-sharp, withering put downs, to reveal the disenchantment that stems from broken promises and hearts.
Sung with a vocal confidence that belies Caitlyn’s twenty years, this is a song that despite its lyrical acerbity, is as moreish as a Bailey’s liqueur and twice as potent. Sharp, witty, intelligent lyrics, intuitively sung with a strong vocal offset by a spaciously arranged, and well orchestrated instrumental soundscape, ‘Rust’ is a very worthy and classy production that should set this young artist on the road to well, wherever it is she wants to go.
Looks like the broken heart neither lasted too long nor did too much damage to Ms Scarlett’s prodigious musical talents. Good on ya girl!
To keep up to speed with releases, live dates and other musical antics, you can follow Caitlyn on various social platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Her single ‘Rust’ is available through the usual digital channels including iTunes. Listen to it here,
The genesis of The Hallway is a rather interesting one. A confluence of musical strands from various latter and present day bands, this (member squared)*2 formation has quite the pedigree with Andreas*2 and Simen*2 coming from the good stock of Team Me, BLØSH, Carnival Kids & Co.
First formed in 2015, The Hallway had the domestic release of their debut mini-album ‘Vestad’ earlier this year. It has now seen the light of Norwegian day in vinyl format, whilst simultaneously being unleashed onto the international market in digital form, all making for an incredibly busy promotional period for this talented quartet.
The band played Øya’s Klubbdagen earlier this month, which by all accounts was amazeballs; alas I did not get the full The Hallway experience due to my having a prior engagement with one Hanne Kolstø. Judging by the hyperbolic reviews however, I wasn’t missed!
While it would be a natural reaction to compare and contrast the outputs of The Hallway with their various antecedents and/or alter-egos, I’ll leave that to others to verbalise. Instead, I’ll move straight to ‘Vestad‘.
This hexagon opens with a forty second instrumental amuse bouche. A slightly jarring salutation, ‘Hello’ is a brief scoop of dry acoustic guitar shot with a dash of drone. Next up ‘Used to Know‘, and from the off you’re up to your neck in Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and Ash.
Clean guitar lines are petulant in the face of the driving force of the bass, constantly pushing it back under the covers of classic rock drumming. This is so multi layered that the guitars sound like an angry mob whose insistent metronomic rhythm drives straight through its heart via some pretty delightful xylophone twinkles.
Whether by default or too many years spent digesting American TV shows, more than many male Norwegian singers have a soft American inflection to their icy falsetto, the combination of which should land them somewhere in central Canada, but instead tends to put them in Billy Corgan territory.
The Hallway front-man Simen Schikulski’s vocal falls into that bracket, his voice having similar control, tension and attitude to the Smashing Pumpkin lead. Schikulski, a master of nuance in a manner similar to Tim Wheeler, also has the same warm melodic undertones to his voice as the Downpatrick rocker.
Where ‘Used to Know’ is in rousing Pumpkins’ terroir, nostalgic ‘Stay and Grow Old‘ is definitely in the anthemic rock-god mould of Green Day.
Here The Hallway have taken a tried and tested ‘All American’ alt-rock formula and converted it into an adrenalin pumper of a track with an huge sound to which they’ve added sprinkles of effulgent synth.
Yet, despite the fact that all the key ingredients are here – soaring melodies, thrum and pump, thrashing drums, fierce guitar sequences and wistful, wishful vocals, it somehow lacks bang for its buck. Notwithstanding that, it’s a quality, old school, classic indie rock anthem that is no doubt an huge crowd-rouser at the band’s live shows.
Next up is the track ‘Best Regards’ bringing with it a radical change in both tempo and direction. Shifting down gears to a rock-ballad that echoes mid-80s U2, ‘Best Regards’ catches the attention from the outset, holding it, very firmly in the grip of its vast yet pared back sound.
It kicks off with a melodramatic medley of noises similar to an orchestral warm up, before sliding into an acoustic guitar Cobain like rant that lasts for little over a minute. A vehicle for Schikulski to vent his frustration, it’s a contradiction in terms, with it’s laid back slacker instrumental at odds with the trenchant vocal. Despite its brevity and irascible timbre, ‘Best Regards’ lures and fixes you like velcro into its micro-web.
One of my favourite tracks from ‘Vestad’.
Penultimate track ‘Million Ways’ is a bit more of the same (‘S&GO’) quintessential American College cum alt-rock. Less tightly compacted, there’s a bit more space to the sound, and notwithstanding the addition of drum rolls, handclaps and more obvious synth lines, this is already charted territory.
With all the hyperventilating rise and fall of a heart monitor, the track rushes along like an unstoppable train: it’s a short, sharp rock shock, sure to liven things up and get the kids pogoing in any mosh-pit.
The EP or mini-album wraps with what is possibly its best track, ‘Air/Closer’. Definitely in the Green Day space, this is a darkly, intense thrum backlit by an incandescent chorus. A finger-pointing, garrulous swipe at humanity viz our destruction of the environment, it’s a perfect manifestation of The Hallway’s keen vocal and instrumental talents, and as close to elegant as a rock track comes: there is something sublime about synth sampling strings that bring a discerning pathos to rock tracks.
Sometimes less is more and the restraint on this track allows the bands well honed musicianship to shine through. A chord change build, a ruffle of portentous guitar licks and a drum solo with intent bring everything neatly to a close.
Something tells me the best is yet to come from The Hallway. The quality song writing and talented musicianship are most definitely there, but their sound needs a little more exploration and evolution to bring it to the point where it will be both readily identifiable, and define them as a band.
To use a ragged cliché, The Hallway are definitely ‘ones to watch’. Hopefully they will give themselves the time and creative space to realise their true potential on their next recorded endeavours. 7/10.
You can follow The Hallway on Facebookand Twitter. Their mini album, ‘Vestad’, is out now via Furuberget Records and available through all digital channels.
If you pulled a galaxy of stars down from the night sky and, cast them, as an elfin net shot through with beads of shimmering energy, across a studio of piano keys and samplers, the result would be on a par with the resplendent iridescence that is ‘Appeals’, the latest offering from Austin (Tx) based electro-whizzkid producer Bayonne.
Waltzing droplets of twinkling starry energia spin and soar, burst and explode in this new fantasia from the Texan electro-oracle, a stellar sonic web spun with a rapidity and pinpoint accuracy akin to that of the mesmeric ‘speed of sound’ musicianship of Philip Glass.
As a frenzy of piano loops is infused with electronic rotations and even more layers of cyclical sequences, an assortment of spectacular images is conjured up, from running through the snow-kissed vast lands of the Nordics, to the animated flow of bubbling brooks bouncing downhill over shiny coloured stones, feeding their hinterlands with life and vitality.
But the picture that most springs to mind when listening to ‘Appeals’ is that of purity and transparency, of healing and invigoration, all the things one thinks of when the word ‘crystals’ is mentioned. And, it is indeed crystals that form the centrepoint of the new Zach Stone directed visual for this Bayonne composition.
Speaking of the visual Stone explained, “The visuals for ‘Appeals’ were an experiment in creating the illusion of growing crystals using household objects like ziploc bags, cellophane, and plastic trinkets. We shot a lot of real crystals as well, attempting to blur the line between the organic and artificial materials.”
‘Appeals’ isn’t just electronic pop. It is wildly beauteous, electronic pop-fantasy that dances and pirouettes with vital and enigmatic charm. A magical iridescence of sound, this song is a perfect combination of jewellery box fascinator, modern day experimentation and best of breed pop, stamped with all the hallmarks of virtuoso musicianship and technique, finished off with high-end, precision production.
Speaking about the germination of the idea for ‘Appeals’, Bayonne explained: “‘Appeals‘ was one of the first songs I ever composed using a sample cut completely from an older song. The piano loop at the beginning was cut from a song that I recorded when I was about 17. I liked the way the piano sounded, so I wrote a whole new song around that loop.”
Watch the wondrous visual to ‘Appeals’ and lose yourself in the scintillating energy of the musical stars with which Bayonne has lit up our nocturnal world.
Bayonne will play a series of live dates in October including London’s Shacklewell Arms on 20th and Bristol’s Simple Things on 22nd. You can keep in check with more gig, music release and other news via his socials, details here:
Where the author recommends their top 5 tips from the #Øya2016 International line up.
There is no mean array of ‘international jetsetters’ flying into Oslo from today for their annual musicfest with an environmentally friendly twist,Øyafestivalen. With revered acts from across the spectrum taking part, it’s a hard task to choose the creme from the creme de la creme, but hey, someone’s got to do the heavy work!
CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS
First up we have on-trend Queen of the Now, Christine aka Héloïse Letissier. A multi-media artists hailing from Nantes, France, her name comes out of her long term association with drag queen musicians. Signed to Because Music since 2012, she has released multiple recordings, but it was latest album, ‘Chaleur Humaine‘ that sent her spinning like a #tilted top into the arms of the international musicverse. Christine and the Queens will play the Sirkus stage at 3.55pm Wednesday and her performance should prove to be one of the most unique of the festival.
LAST SHADOW PUPPETS
One time poster boy for northern kick-ass, Alex Turner has recently become something of the “guy the media love to hate”. Where once the Arctic Monkeys’ frontman was seen as a leading light of the new wave of Brit indie rockers with his Sheffield scowl and swagger, it would now seem that he has swaggered one step too far for some, and has become something of a piñata for a horde of meowling music media. Personally, I think they’re missing the point of the Last Shadow Puppets and their hammed up, camped up, OTT on stage personae. Call Kane and Turner defectors all you want, LSP make great guitar driven baroque pop with well crafted, entertaining lyrics accompanied by inspired videos. I for one shall enjoy watching the northern swagger abound on the Amfiet stage, Wednesday 4.50pm. Expect to be entertained!
Is there anyone on this planet who has remained unmoved by ‘Teardrop’, or, whose heart of stone hasn’t caved on viewing the video … that beautifully, wonderfully conceived of visual (I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of it). Masters of invention, world-class collaborators and perennial chameleons of reinvention, Massive Attackswing from trip hop to delicate, soothing electro-pop ballads to rousing pop anthems brimful with unforgettable hooks. Around for the guts of 30 years, there is a reason why Massive Attack have established a worldwide following, and those lucky enough to be in Toyenparken at the Amfiest main stage at 9.30pm Wednesday will bear witness to it!
Daughter oh Daughter, how you delight me with your delicious indie-folkie delicacies. This trio is an international mix of Swiss born Igor Haefeli, Frenchman Remi Aguilella and North Londoner, Elena Tonra. With a vocal that flows like quicksilver and a subtle intensity that catches you right off guard, Daughter produce spectacularly good music without fuss or fanfare. They released their critically acclaimed top 20 album, ‘Not To Disappear’ earlier this year, so you can expect snippets from that as well as the ‘known’ songs from their back catalogue. Masters in the art of understated, their performance at Øya will probably elicit adjectives like bewitching and spinetingling! Daughter play the Vindfruen stage, Friday 5.50pm. Will play on your emotions, but hey, isn’t that what festivals are about?
TOP TIP… hands down, JULIA HOLTER.
When it comes to American uncategorisable singer songwriter performer musical magician I have one shit-serious blind-side – Julia Holter. I cannot be wavered in my magnetic attraction to Holter’s unique and utterly enchanting talent. So much more than a singer/songwriter, this multi talented, multi-instrumentalist creator of magical charms is to 21st century experimental art-pop what Tori Amos was to the 20th. Left-field abstract sometimes indie, sometimes ambient, Holter is in the mould of those other undefinable artists of her age – Newsom, Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson. Her talent is a gift, and she will bestow this gift on those lucky enough to be in front of the Vindfruen stage at 3.55pm Thursday!
The main Øyafestivalen is located in the Toyenparken area of central Oslo. It runs from Wednesday 10th through Saturday 13th and promises to be a hell of a lot better than the current meteorological situation in the Norwegian capital!!
Made up of American, Anna Marcella (vox/piano/keys), and Brits, Curtis ElVidge (drums) and Joe Cross (bass/synth/vox), threepiece Sykoya, have just dropped a stunning visual for their spine-tingling single, ‘Closer‘.
Despite already having had UK airplay as well as having been featured by the likes of the BBC6 Music supported artist hub, Fresh on the Net, which is managed by the ubiquitous Tom Robinson, Sykoya, like the canniest of hibernators, decided to pull down the shutters and squirrel themselves away over the long, dark winter months, experimenting with, tweaking and refining songs that they knew had a special something, but with which they weren’t yet fully satisfied.
After endless hours and long nights of intense practising and recording, and having evolved a unique sound which they could identify with as the Sykoya USP or musical identifier, the trio were finally ready to debut their EP ‘Strange Night’, which I’m pleased to announce will be released this weekend. Sat 21st to be exact!
Haunting, slightly menacing ‘Closer, is a melody driven track as dark and lonely as its shadowy night-time landscape. Set in the twilit world of unrequited love and grasping desperation, this obsession fuelled nightmare is tinged with lonely regret and edged with a trace of eroticism. Marcella’s intensely nuanced vocal, perfectly captures the brooding neediness and bleak torment of the song’s protagonist. Evoking emotional turmoil with a blend of sensuous ferocity and disturbing plaintiveness, Marcella’s voice elicits the sense of needy urgency and veiled menace around which the instrumental accompaniment builds a perfect soundscape. ElVidge’s equable electronic drums and Cross’s doomsday bass fuse around otheworldly synth sequences to produce a portentous score to this soporific inky-hued reverie.
The accompanying video, which was shot in the beautiful snow draped mountains of Poland, is the handiwork of the exceptionally talented RO/SAvideo production company, run by Katarzyna Sawicka (direction/editing) and Adam Romanowski (photography/colour grading) who also came up with the storyline. Such is the magnificent photographic splendour of this visual, it recently received a nomination for the Berlin Music Video Awards (would you believe the award ceremony is tonight – fingers crossed you guys!).
‘Closer’ is pretty heady stuff and as debut singles go, this is a strong card with which to lead. If the rest of the EP measures up to the high standard set by this confidently delivered benchmark, Sykoya will be able to look back on those long, dark, wintry nights, and take comfort in the knowledge that all the hard work that went into revisiting, reworking and refining their music, was most definitely worth it.
‘Closer‘ is the lead track from Sykoya’s upcoming 5-track EP ‘Strange Night‘ due out 21st May! The band are holding a release party at 7.30pm Sat 21st The Finsbury Pub, Green Lanes, London – full details here https://www.facebook.com/events/1039339372798551/
Earlier in April, my exclusive pre-album interview with Danish two-piece, Palace Winter, was published by The 405. Here is the unedited transcript of that same interview with the addition of some personal favourites from the bands catalogue to-date.
Enjoy, Derv x
Palace Winter Oslo 5th March 2016 : Carl Coleman, Caspar Hesselager
“It’s been less than a year since Palace Winter, the Danish duo of Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager, made their public music debut when they uploaded first single ‘Menton’ onto Soundcloud. Since then, their career has roller-coastered, hurtling along at such breakneck speed and with such continuous musical momentum, that one could almost be forgiven for thinking that this band had been around for years.
Half a dozen singles, and one EP later, the BBC 6 Music playlisted band is now on the cusp of releasing debut album, ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’, due out on 3rd June, which, by all accounts, has become one of the most eagerly anticipated of 2016. As an exercise in honing their live sound and doubtless to ratchet up even more momentum, Palace Winter spent the first months of this year criss-crossing the Euro festival circuit, and it was in Oslo, where they were one of the headline acts at the by:Larm Festival, that I caught up with them for their only pre-album media interview.
In this exclusive, the talented, chilled and wry humoured pair, discuss the surprising inspiration in insomnia, those loonnnginstrumentals and what they really think of all those R.E.M. comparisons.
Let’s start by talking about the songs on the album ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’ and how you approached making the record. Were the songs written at the same time as those on the ‘Medication‘ EP or later?
CC : Later. Basically when we signed with Tambo (their record label Tambourhinoceros), we started writing the album so it was March last year when we started writing the songs. Then we spent the first three to four months just writing and choosing these new songs.
CH : Yeah, Just demoing. Doing really rough demos.
CC : I guess it had a similar process or approach because we knew that what we were doing worked in some form because this cool record label had come along and we’d had a nice reaction to the first songs. Our method seemed to work so we thought, “Let’s just do what we do in the studio.”
We often start with a tempo or a drum rhythm as a proper foundation for a tune and that kinda sets the mood. Sometimes I’ve got some guitar chords lying around, like a melody, or sometimes Hessie has some piano hook going on and then we just build. We don’t start properly building and recording on the song until we’re totally sure 100% that there’s a whole song there.
On some of the songs it’s almost as if you took a series of sounds or sketches and threw them all in together, say for example on the last two tracks ‘Dependence/Independence’, especially on the latter with its big blizzards of sounds.
CH : Those two in particular, are special constructions in a way. The first part of ‘Independence’ was actually originally a whole song that Carl had lying around, which we actually considered for a while, as the demo was so good.
CC: Yeah it was like a garage band, a really lo:fi recording.
CH : And then going into this all out hi-fi ending. But we changed the chords and did that whole thing to it. It was a bit of an exercise for us to have only synth and Carl’s voice for the first time.
CC : That was completely new territory for me personally. I knew I wanted to do a song like that, super minimal.
CH : Originally that first song existed on its own. We wanted to do an epic end to the album and came up with that second half and threw them together.
CC : We actually had the melody for ‘Independence’ in another key and changed it to link with the first song, ‘Dependence’.
CH : But it’s funny now that we talk about it ‘cos in a way you sort of forget how you go about everything. I think in general we try to make the whole thing fill the screen, even though it’s just a synth and voice, I want it to feel big still somehow. Big and small. It’s hard to explain.
CH : Hessie’s always attracted to the weird (laughs). So it’s gotta have that sound.
“I love that tune actually but I have a funny relationship with all the songs after they’re done for some reason. I don’t know why!”
– Carl Coleman
Well yeah, that same ghostly sound that featured on ‘New Ghost’ is here on this album again. Are you a bit obsessed with it Caspar? Do you just have to have it in your music?
CH : (Laughs) We had this demo for a while with Carl’s voice really processed and really weird and I think that actually at some point, Chris (Christian who plays the drums) said “This is like your biggest hit, you cannot f**k this up, you cannot go this weird”.
At which point the two burst out laughing. What’s always been apparent with these two guys is how much at ease they are with each other, how, like a married couple they, without even realising it, talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences. There is clearly a very deep respect and understanding, in fact, I’d go so far as to say, there is a rather affectionate bond between these Palace boys.
“’Soft Machine’ is the best song on the album” I announce, which comes as no surprise to either of them. (*BBC6 Music obviously agree with me as they playlisted the song – http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/playlists/zzzz8q)
CH : He (Chris) thought so too.
“Obviously you don’t” I say mockingly.
CH : No, (he laughs) I love it.
CC : I think it’s really cool. I noticed you pointed it out in your review. I love that tune actually but I have a funny relationship with all the songs after they’re done for some reason. I don’t know why!
CH : Just coming back to that thing you asked us, that one song has a special vocal production which was even more extreme to begin with but we sort of pulled it back a little bit, but there’s still some reminiscence of that ghostly sound there definitely. We did some weird effects where we spread the vocals out so technically the voice sort of evaporates into thin air.
Yeah, it fades into a dream doesn’t it! Speaking of dreams, when we discussed the EP before you said that a lot of themes were inter-related – dreams, the past etc. I suspect some of those themes have continued on here. Am I correct?
CC : Yeah. I think just because it’s me and Hessie those feelings or themes are often recurring but there’s also for some reason that physical idea of sleep, like laying there, I sort of wanted to explore that a bit. It’s like the most vulnerable you can be in a way, and I think also I was really restless while making the album, had a lot insomnia so there was all this lone time in the middle of the night, and that kind of jet lag feeling where the world is stopped and you’re awake. It’s just weird and I thought that was really interesting.
Is that where the whole ‘Positron’ thing is coming from?
CC : Some of it yeah, and especially like the ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’ title.
Carl has completely second guessed my next question.
“I actually wanted to ask you where you got the title from,” I say.
CC : Well that really relates to what I was just talking about. That kind of insomnia/jetlag thing where you’re the only one present, and the world’s stopped, so you sort of wait for everyone to wake up and just for things to go back to normal. But it also slightly kind of derives from the ‘Hearts to Kill’ song.
CH : And also we had the cover art before we had the title.
I’ve seen the cover art. It’s really different to the EP cover. Where did you get it from, how did you find it, and does it refer or relate to something?
CH : Well it was something I found. It was me on the internet for 90 hours or something like that. For some reason I felt it would be fun. You know we had sort of set the scene with the EP, of this very American suburban vibe and put that title ‘Medication’ on it and it sort of felt like we just needed to shake it up a bit. Something that was obviously from Asia was actually pretty important to me. We wanted something different, where you sort of zoom out, you’re looking at something bigger, like a person turning their back on something.
“That was a very deliberate thing to lure people in; we wanted to provoke a little bit, by having people wait such a long time for any vocals.”
– Caspar Hesselager
Getting back to the songs, the intro to ‘Positron’ sounds totally like the intro to ‘Time Machine’. Was that completely accidental, or did you like the sound and decide to reuse it?
CC : Yeah. The rhythm has a very similar strumming pattern.
CH : I never thought about it before, but it’s probably not deliberate as with many other things that aren’t deliberate, it’s just going with something you like.
Where did the name ‘Positron’ come from? On google it says, positively charged electron!
CH : That’s a Carl thing actually.
CC : My definition is “someone that is overly positive – this can be both a good and a bad thing.
Are you talking about yourself?
CC : (Laughs) – Yeah. It’s definitely self-reflective but it’s also about characters, random people.
At which point the conversation lapses into a mini closed dialogue, to which I am a mere observer!
CH : But actually we haven’t been able to trace that definition to anyone other than you (Carl).
CC : Yeah but then I looked on Spotify and there were other songs called it.
CH : Yeah but they were probably talking about the electron definition.
CC : It’s really funny because Kris from the label was like “Did you invent this?” and I was like “I dunno”. He wrote to Urban Dictionary but they said you can only claim a new word if you’re famous, a celebrity.
And you said “I’ll be back to you on that one then”.
CC : “Yeah, in six months we’ll be back”, he laughs.
There’s a big long instrumental intro on ‘Dune Wind’. Why did you let the intro go on for so long?
CH : That was a very deliberate thing to lure people in. We also wanted to provoke a little bit, by having people wait such a long time for any vocals. It’s not a song that has a normal song structure, there’s no chorus per se, it just goes back and forth between two states.
We knew pretty much, very early on, that this was going to be the first song, and we knew very quickly that ‘Hearts to Kill’ was going to be the second song, cos it’s sort of the antithesis of the other song, it just hits you right on.
Also, the piano driving it, was another exercise for us somehow in sound. You know this song would have been so obvious to chuck on an acoustic guitar to make it drive but we wanted to make it drive for a long time without resorting to that and that was actually very challenging.
I turn the conversation towards production and sound by asking Carl if he was more involved in that side of things this time around..
CC : Hessie definitely has more hours in the studio, quite simply because he’s the producer, engineer, master and mixer, but I guess so. I think there was a lot more input on my part.
CH : I wouldn’t be able to do the production of a Palace album myself. Your input and our input together is such that it’s the whole thing, even if I’m the one that technically records and mixes everything. Sometime I’ll experiment on my own, like say on ‘HW Running’, which has a pretty hefty synth solo on it, in the bridge. That’s an example of Carl not being in the studio and me just messing around.
‘HWR’ is very like ‘Menton’
CC : Yeah, it’s one of mine. We turned everything up to eleven on that one, we were just like let’s just go all out. There’s a lot of our trademarks in there like the Kraut kind of bass and drums.
CH : We wanted to do something fun and fast, and something that again really fills the screen and you really enjoy playing, so yeah, they’re quite similar.
You have gentle dreamy ballad ‘Soft Machine’ and then you have ‘HWR’ which is this pacey, frenetic, crazy song. Which defines Palace Winter?
CC : They sort of like show both of our sides. The sort of almost epic ballad cos I think the outro or the theme in ‘Softie’ is almost like a signature Palace sound, that descending kind of soaring, but then the tempo used in HWR is very us as well, so I think they both kind of represent us.
Reviewers seem to continuously compare Palace Winter with R.E.M, a subject we first touched on last September. It’s come up again in the most recent reviews of their music …
I hate to bring this up again, but people keep comparing your sound to R.E.M. Do you actually think you sound like R.E.M.?
They both burst out laughing, shake their heads and in unison, whilst still laughing say, ‘Nah’.
CC : I think it’s just the fact that there’s acoustic guitars present. I can’t really think of another reason for it (the comparison).
CH : The comparisons are triggered by so many little things sometimes and it’s sometimes inexplicable even for the people themselves to say what in a song reminds me of that.
CC : I like ‘Losing my Religion’ a lot but we don’t sound like it. It’s so funny cos there’s all this 80’s stuff as well.
CH : I think we both don’t mind it.
“I think I’ve been listening to your music for so long now, that you just sound like you.” I tell them. “You’ve a very definite sound.”
CC : Yeah, we just sound like Palace.
CH : I feel like that whatever you feed people they’ll eat. Early on we had The War on Drugs and Empire of the Sun, and we don’t really sound like them but if you feed that to people they’ll say that’s what you sound like. Comparisons are an easy way to talk about musicians. (*Interestingly I’ve just read a review that compares to The War on Drugs; it brought a wry smile to my face!)
I mean we definitely sound more like R.E.M. than Black Sabbath. Although, you never know! (laughs)
CC : Yeah what’s next?
Maybe a bit more like Abba?
CC : We DO like Abba. *Cue more laughing*
Cover of Abba maybe?
CC : Owh, Anytime.
Winner Takes It All Carl?
CC : ‘Mamma Mia’
He shoots back at me with a big wide grin plastered across his mischievous face (he must have been some handful in school!)
How will you interpret your songs for your promotional tour? Any variations on the theme?
CC : There’s a couple of tunes in there that are more challenging than others, but I think we’ll try and play ‘em as we made ‘em. My favourite is ‘Proclamation Day’ and we haven’t even tried that yet. It’s my favourite.
CH : We haven’t even rehearsed it.
CC : Every time I mention it he goes ‘Really’ (in a really high squeaky voice) Really is that your favourite?
CH : Is that how I sound?
CC : Yeah, ‘Really’ says Carl as the two of them collapse into a fit of laughter.
Are you going to start dropping the songs from the EP live now that you’re coming closer to the release of the album?
CH : Yeah but only when we have a short set like tonight. 30 minutes isn’t a very long time.
CC : Especially for our songs. Last night we went over by about 5 minutes and people started flipping’ out.
Does it matter?
CC : Yeah –we got kicked off. I started ‘Pozzie’ and they were like (making the throat cutting sign) …. We totally lost track of time. (Laughs).
CH : Let’s play with the idea that we’re playing five songs including ‘Soft machine’.
CC : H-Dub and then Pozzie – if we get to that. There’s no mystery now Derv. Now you know the bloody set love. We’ll change it though, it’s all lies.
And with that Carl pulls up his hoodie and laughs. Our time together is up, but I’ll see them later on that night, when they will shake the walls of the Rockefeller venue with a blistering performance of the new tracks from their album, without going a minute over time! Onya Carl!
Having just killed it at SPOT Fetival (Aarhus), Palace Winter will play The Green Man Festival Boat Party, London, Saturday 7th May and The Shacklewell Arms on Wednesday 25th, followed by the Dot-To-Dot Festival (Manchester/Bristol/Notts) 27th – 29th May, and Roskilde DK 25th June/2nd July. (NOTE TO BAND – I LIVE IN DUBLIN!!)
Their debut album, ‘Waiting For The World To Turn’ is due out on 3rd June via Tambourhinoceros but is available to pre-order here. For more info check out their website – http://www.palacewinter.com/
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Based in the Oslo ‘burb of Sandvika, scenic magnet for so many emerging Norwegian artists, including the lovely ARY, sextet Lovespeake have been expeditiously chipping away at the domestic music scene since their New Year debut with single, ‘DNA‘. A new iteration of the now defunct Eye Emme Jedi project, it would seem that these guys cast aside their rockier studs’n’strides for a more technicolour dreamcoat of infectious post-disco pop blends.
Boasting 70s funk, fused with 80s synth, and 90’s American rock-pop, Lovespeake’s sound is a musical flotsam and jetsam, scooped together and packaged up with 21st century attitude. Neither one thing nor the other, but a whole lot of everything, their borderless, multi-sound music with its imaginative construction and vibrant arrangements, is fresh, colourful and magnetically catchy.
Their latest release, ‘Dreamer‘, is the third single to be lifted from their debut album, which like its lead track, is entitled ‘DNA‘. If the musical equivalent of the Olympics existed, this track could feature under the ‘electronic gymnastic’ category, and would, most likely win.
Comprising beats that have a tantalising touch of the Tropics, Mediterranean-warmed synth sequences that shine brighter than a sunlit sea, and a confection of infectious guitar melodies and sweet swirling electro-sounds, this is catchy, funked up disco pop in its ultimate form. Passing overhead like billowing clouds are dreamy, breathy vocals, whilst wisps of harmonies float wistfully alongside.
There’s so much going on in this track you could play musical join-the-dots with it and never reach an end. The most delightful mille feuille of scrumptiousness, ‘Dreamer’ is a mouthwatering deliciousness that will leave you licking your lips in anticipation of more, which luckily, will come at the end of this week, in the form of the group’s ‘DNA’ album.
Lovespeake have found the formula for the perfect 2016 Summer-filled sound, and now, with three gilt-edged singles in the bag, are looking good for a place in the end of year Best Ofs, especially if their much anticipated debut album is of an equally high standard. I haven’t heard it yet, BUT BOY DO I WANT TO.
Lovespeake is : Alexander Pavelich, Andrew Murray, Andreas Westhagen, Christian Balvig, Elisabeth Nesset and Martin Kaasa.
You can follow Lovespeake on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Their debut album, ‘DNA’, will be released on 22nd April, via Toothfairy.