BASCA Opens Call for Entries for 63rd Ivor Novello Awards

Photo by Mark Allan

BASCA has opened the call for entries for the Ivor Novello Awards 2018. BASCA, in association with PRS for Music, will celebrate the 63rd Ivors at a ceremony in the Grosvenor Hotel, London, on Thursday 31stMay 2018.

The call is now open for entries to the Ivors, the annual awards celebrating excellence in British and Irish songwriting and composing. This year’s awards sees the revival of the award for Best Original Video Game Score. Further, this year will see entries being submitted via BASCA’s Award Entry Site for the first time.

Entries are invited in the following six categories:

Best Song Musically and Lyrically
Best Contemporary Song
Album Award
Best Original Film Score
Best Television Soundtrack
Best Original Video Game Score

Any music artist can enter an eligible work; previous winners include Bat for Lashes, Jonny Greenwood, Alison Goldfrapp, Ed O’Brien, Phil Coulter and Radiohead. 2017 winners of the accolade included Michael Kiwanuka, Skepta, Coldplay and Anne Dudley.

The deadline for this year’s open call is Friday 9th February 2018.

Check out for more information, including BASCA’s Rules and Guidelines for the 63rd Ivor Novello Awards.

Crispin Hunt, BASCA Chair, said “The last year has seen myriad ground-breaking musical releases from across myriad ground-breaking musical genres and each and every one deserves a shot at winning an Ivor. I strongly encourage the Industry and beyond to enter the works they love. The Ivors is, as ever, about Music judged by its fellow creators —if a work deserves to win, it can. Whether it was released from a global powerhouse or a bedroom matters not, whether it nourishes and moves the listener matters a lot. BASCA looks forward to a rich and diverse array of works from across the musical curve to help make 2018 another legendary Ivor Novello Awards.”


Radiohead Announce Career-Spanning ‘Complete Songbook’

Radiohead have announced a 400-page career-spanning songbook. Featuring lyrics and chords to over 160 songs the collection is expected to ship c. 27th November.

Radiohead have announced a new 400 page songbook featuring the lyrics and chords to songs spanning their entire career to-date including rarities and B-sides. The artist-approved collection also contains 48 pages of artwork from long-term band collaborator artist Stanley Donwood who designed the exclusive cover art.

The new complete songbook follows the 2016 accompanying songbook to A Moon Shaped Pool and two collections of electric and acoustic guitar sheet music published earlier this year.

The Radiohead Complete Songbook which costs £40 Sterling can be pre-ordered here, with the first copies being expected to ship by late November, in plenty of time for  Christmas.

Elsewhere in Radiohead-land, the vinyl edition of drummer Philip Selway’s soundtrack to the film Let Me Go has just gone on release (you can shop it here at Bella Union). That comes ahead of his colleague and band mood-guitarist Ed O’Brien’s signature Fender EOB Sustainer Stratocaster making its way into music stores later in November.

Finally, before you go, if you haven’t already seen it, take a peek at the Jonny Greenwood approved Spongebob ‘describing’ each Radiohead album montage.

Is Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon The New Rocky Horror?

Not since the walls of every venue in the land echoed with the rousing chorus of ‘Time Warp’ have we witnessed such a frenzied response to an on-stage production, one which many music snobs would deem more ‘70s kitsch than ‘George & Mildred’, the Cinzano ad series and Sweet put together!

Viewed from a distance Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon is like Multi-Coloured Swap Shop meets Rainbow for drag queens, but on closer inspection this is an altogether cleverer concept than one might at first realise.  Set against a backdrop of the glam era that manifested itself throughout British popular culture in the ’70s, Church allows her concept to come into being. The catalyst for this ‘kitschella’ seems to have been the singer’s desire to steer her career in the direction of a “be true to thine own (unconventional) self” approach, one which sees the ‘fun-factor’ dial up turned up to the max.

Recently, that close-up pleasure was all mine, when the former ‘Voice of an Angel’ now trading as the Dominatrix of the Dungeon Dimensions (my term, not hers) brought her rainbow hued sparklefest to Dublin.

A sparse and pretty diverse early crowd soon blossomed into a heaving swarm of Church acolytes for what was to become an extravaganza of the weird and wonderful delivered “in the best possible taste” as Cupid Stunt, creation of the late Kenny Everett would say.  In fact, if Everett were still alive I have no doubt he’d be up front centre, if not on-stage, lapping up every delicious second of this glam rock meets vaudeville spectacular.

Pop Dungeon is a vibrant, melting pot of cover songs morphed, reshaped, and segued in the most breathtakingly innovative ways; perfectly synced mash-ups, of disparate songs, which only the keenest of creative minds and sharpest of musical ears could re-imagine. Its set-list is a colourful riot, a neon-bright, eclectic pick ‘n mix of indie, 80s, disco, rap, rock anthems and off the wall oddities, which on paper, does not and should not work. But it does, and bloody wonderfully at that!

On the night, Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House comes hot on the heels of Nelly’s Hot in Herre, while Trousersnake parleys with Thom during a Cry Me/ParAndroid muddle.  The Edwin Starr classic soul banger War is given full turbo treatment while Missy Elliot is treated with all the funked up respect she deserves.  “We’re a democracy here in Pop Dungeon” coos the singer as she passes the baton to her choir of ‘Charlie’s Angel’s who in turn perform lush covers of everything from M.I.A to Rage Against The Machine.

Set highlights include two Beyoncé numbers, an En Vogue cover and two Prince homages, the latter of which is a stunning rendition of Diamonds & Pearls, which Church morphs into a magnificent operatic scale-sweeper as she effortlessly traces the theme tune to E.T. . A performance so magical it renders speechless, an otherwise rambunctious crowd.

The handful of times when Church lets her former opera-star self come to the fore are without doubt some of the most spectacular elements of this multi-dimensional megamix.  At her subtlest, on 10CC’s I’m Not In Love and encore opener Hide & Seek, she is possibly at her most quietly triumphant.

Going to see Pop Dungeon isn’t just like attending any other gig.  This is an high quality, off the radar innovative and beyond-Bolt dynamic carnivale of entertainment, performed by a ten-strong troupe of extremely colourful, enthusiastic and talented artists who by all accounts, have a wonderful chemistry and marvellous rapport.

And, might I also point out, that Pop Dungeon are possibly the friendliest on-stage artists I have ever come across – their constantly smiling, happy interaction with the crowd was something I have never previously witnessed! Kudos!

Pop Dungeon is leading the ‘karaoke’ zeitgeist with Church turning the crime f.k.a ‘cover versions’ into a professional ‘coverfest’ that has the potential to become the next big thing. An unorthodox creation that Charlotte Church has taken and made her own, it is a project with which she has undeniably proven herself as innovator, arranger and producer.  It is not beyond this audacious Welsh woman to up the ante, and upscale to a full bells and whistles ‘grand production’, a Cirque du Soleil of the music world, brimful of fascinating wonders and wildly creative goings on.

In many ways, with its kitsch glamour and innovative wackiness, Pop Dungeon is the Rocky Horror Show of the 21st century. Like its cult musical predecessor, it has all the outré sensibilities, off-the-wall ingenuity and addictive magnetism required to gain a global cult following.

An all-out camp creative triumph, a critical and one would hope commercial success, Pop Dungeon has put Charlotte Church back to the fore of modern pop-culture where she belongs. All hail Queen “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, fucking Church”.

Pop Dungeon tours until 12 May – check here for details.


Elk’s Specimen EP Is A Journey Beyond Post Rock

There is music which by default tumbles into that categorical looseness known as post-rock, a term so vague that even the most knowing of oracles would be hard pressed to define it.

I like to think of it as a musical free spirit; music without a map or specific direction, meandering aimlessly through a myriad uncharted territories.  Chameleon like changes of sound and texture, vacillating between tempos, swimming seas of varying emotions.  I cannot define post-rock in the same way that I cannot confine the music of Elk to one single genre. The Shropshire four-piece are about so much more than a single-instance of style.  

Elk are Dom Main (vox/electronics), Jamie Wesley (guitar), Will Soutter (drums/electronics) and James Kerr (bass).  They met whilst at Durham Uni where they allegedly studied things medical and scientific, and having a formed a bond over tea, music and er, Elks obviously, they turned friendship into a band and are playing together even since. 

Today marks the release of their debut EP ‘Specimen‘, three tracks of truly phenomenal musicianship and exceptional vocals that radiate transcendence and epitomise originality and diversity.  Despite being recorded in the hermetic confines of an attic the resultant three songs are anything but dark or claustrophobic.  

That Elk take their influences from a wealth of artists – Japan, Radiohead, ’80s electronica – is reflected in the eclectic nature of their music, something which is very evident when you listen to their new EP.  Opener ‘Continuously’ like the ebb and flow of a tide, veers in the direction of Kid A and then away again, falling on your ears like a shower of otherworldly dreams.  Experimental ambient in nature, it comes replete with stick click percussion and slickly executed tempo changes.  After a careful build, the song rises to a deftly woven compelling climax that features a rather adeptly performed insistent guitar solo.

Possibly the most captivating and definitely the most poignant song on the EP is the title track.  I was lucky enough to be on Fresh on the Net reviewing duty when it featured in their Fresh Faves back in February – click here to read the review. ‘Specimen’s gentle rise and fall leads us through a pastoral landscape on its journey to some faraway, meditative nirvana.  Lead singer Dom Main’s angelic falsetto is set in a transcendental ambience the peace of which is broken only by intermittent shards of sonorous guitar.  If you could only use one word, it would be ‘bliss’.

Final track (and best of the three) ‘Iceberg’ makes yet another stylistic volte-face, one which elevates Elk’s post-rock sound to Radiohead levels (lying somewhere between Kid A and Hail to the Thief).  A fusion of electronic wizardry and earthy jazz-pop it is a vivid exploration of texture, a confluence of wildly disparate yet complementary styles.  Its brilliance is in its idiosyncratic weirdness; its divergent elements, perfectly teased and executed, are brought together in a carefully conceived of arrangement and precision production.

‘Specimen’ doesn’t define Elk but rather sets out their stall in terms of skilful musicianship and unbounded innovation.  By taking this unorthodox adventure into unmapped soundscapes, Elk have shown they are willing risk-takers and fearless experimentalists who put originality ahead of populism.

The ‘Specimen’ EP was mastered by Cem Oral (Gwen Stefani, NIN) at Jammin Masters studios, Berlin,  and comes complete with contemporary artwork by the award winning Matthieu Leger.  To celebrate its launch, Elk will join FOTN alumni Sykoya amongst others in the line up for HOTVOX, Camden Assembly, 29th April, details here.  Other gigs to follow, details will be posted on their Facebook page. ‘Specimen’ is out now and available for download from Amazon.

Blood or Love? Heavy Heart’s Cochineal Keepsake

ingAt the beginning of 2016, London based Heavy Heart set out on a mission to release a song a month for the year; you can read my review of their socio-political statement, ‘The Way Home’ here.
Mission accomplished and to kick off 2017, the English alt-indie five-piece are releasing a limited-edition red vinyl 12-track LP comprising their 2016 musical diary as it were.  The album aptly entitled ‘Keepsake‘ will be limited to 300 pieces, each of which will be hand-numbered, and for clever collectors out there, the first 100 eds will also include a set of custom designed postcards featuring lyrics and artwork from each of the dozen songs. The album will be released on 31st March via indie label, I Can & I Will.
To add a frisson of temptation to your tastebuds the band have just released an audio video replete with quirky cut-out nostalgic ’60s photographic images for one of the 2016 ‘monthlies’, ‘High Dive‘, itself released as a single in June of last year.
‘High Dive’ is like staring into a funhouse mirror whilst riding an undulating slow-mo roller-coaster.  While the song somnambulates through a rise and fall of haze, drone and morphia, one can’t shake off the feeling of ‘drunken’ unsteadiness, as if one were standing on their own personal earth tremor.
The atmosphere laden with a feeling of edgy uncertainty is lifted somewhat by the beguiling, illusory vocal of Anna Vincent. Although the song falls loosely into the alt-indie bracket, it reflects Heavy Heart’s ability to explore that genre’s many and varied dimensions.
Heavy Heart have some upcoming London gigs to tempt you away from mid-week footie & Gogglebox:
  • Tuesday 14th March @ Old Blue Last w/ Average Sex + Missing Mäce
  • Tuesday 11th April @ The Victoria
The limited vinyl ed of their album ‘Keepsake‘ can be pre-ordered here or, if you’re not one of the lucky 300, you can download it here.  Social links to Heavy Heart are beneath their new ‘audio-visual’ which you can peruse here,

                                                      Website:      Facebook:      Twitter:      Bandcamp:

A Dozen Diamonds That Gave A Shine To An Otherwise Murky 2016

Julia Holter

Julia Holter

Well here we are, on the cusp of yet another new year.  Who’d have guessed that as we stumbled unsteadily in a post-Christmas toxic daze towards 2016 that it would prove to be one of the murkiest, most unsettling and quite frankly disturbing of years.  One can only hope, and there is always hope, that this coming year will bring gladder tidings and a lot more joy than its predecessor.

Musically, 2016 had many, many highs.  It also shared several heartbreaking lows not least amongst which were the untimely deaths of Prince, George Michael and David Bowie – three of the rather large cohort of celebrities and legends who passed away in this year of darkness.  While those legends who died were predominantly male, much of this year’s sparkle mainly came from the female stars of the music world.  Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Marissa Nadler, Taylor Swift, Julia Holter … just some of the big female names that featured in the 2016 musical calendar.

Not surprisingly, some of them feature in my Dozen Diamonds of 2016 – a playlist of songs by international artists, with a select contribution from our part-time contributor, Eddie Sweetman.  Interestingly, the two artists selected for inclusion by Sweets are both male, while mine are predominantly female. Those choices themselves would probably make for an interesting case-study!

So which songs, by which artists made it into our top twelve, and why?

12. Margaret Glaspy – Pins and Needles (USA)

Strong, feisty country tinged indie with an edge.  There’s a waft of punk attitude blowing through the gritty melody, and more than a hint of steely determination in the ballsy lyrics.  The right side of rock for my tastes; tastes which I seem to share with most of BBC Introducing, BBC6 Music and BBC 1 … not a bad benchmark. Classy, savvy, strong, energised sounds from a lady who’s going places.

11. Birdy – Wild Horses (UK)

Twilit voiced, inspired poet and musical prodigy, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde aka Birdy, has seen her star rise, and rise, and explode.  World class productions are now the order of the day but Birdy still holds on to the spiritual and emotional qualities so inherent in her earlier more gauche works.  With a vocal range that can scale mountainous heights and scrummage fireplace ashes, this super-talented musician could craft a song from the nothingness of a silken spiderweb and make it a masterclass in songwriting and performance.

Her 2016 album, ‘Beautiful Lies’ was a gift to the world – a finer, more emotive, and splendid talent you will struggle to find, and with even greater things sure to come, the future is “global” for this little songbird.

10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Les Cactus (UK)

Like them or loathe them TLSP are nothing if not entertaining. Seeing them live in Oslo was akin to watching a human firework display crossed with the energiser bunny thrice spliced with Poitin.  A pair of musicians who have most certainly put the roll back into rock, Turner & Kane may take the music seriously, but the live performances are treated more like a fun ride on the amusements. Never ones to shy away from taking the piss out of themselves, the video for their cover of ‘Les Cactus’, is a classic example of TLSP ‘on form’. As a cover, it pales in comparison to the Jacques Dutronc original, but as a piece of entertainment, it doesn’t fall short.

9.  Ed Harcourt – Occupational Hazard (UK)

Intense, moody, brooding, cavernous, blazing, ferocious – just some of the words I would use to describe Ed Harcout’s 2016 scorcher of an album, ‘Furnaces’, every pun intended.  One of the standouts LP releases of the year, ‘Furnaces’ reached out to and drew into its fold, a broader, more diverse audience than any of the Englishman’s albums had hitherto succeeded in doing.  I was drawn hook, line and sinker to this track because of the wolverine intensity of the guitar sequences and brutal rawness of the lyrics, the combination of which is addictive.  Brutal ingenuity at its bloody finest.

8. Radiohead – Burn the Witch (UK)

The first of two entries from the worlds greatest band EVER, ‘Burn the Witch’ was one of a pair of picks by sometime contributor Eddie Sweetman.  In his words, “incisive, relevant an astonishing comeback and the highlight in my opinion of the album.”  Need we say more?

7.  Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (NL)

What can I say.  I fell in love with this song on first play.  Like a 21st century incarnation of The Cardigans,  Annelotte de Graaf has all the dreamy deliciousness of that Nina Persson vocal, along with plenty of her antecedents uber Nordic cool!  Sexy, edgy, inviting indie-pop with a swirl of darkness running across its shiny exterior.

6. David Bowie – I Can’t Give Everything Away (UK)

The second of Mr Sweets’ picks, and a poignant one at that.  ‘Blackstar’ was a huge favourite amongst the bloggerati and a fitting finale from a gifted man, musician, artist, performer & more, who was truly one of a kind.  On his selection of this particular track Eddie explains: “This was the last track Bowie ever released. Poignant and delicate. Even more so now that we know he was aware he was dying.”  A fitting tribute I think you’ll agree.

5. Marissa Nadler – The Best You Ever Had (USA)

Sadly sickness struck (again) when Marissa Nadler came to town … “out damn ‘germ’ out I say” said I, alas to no avail.  Laid low, my chance to see this bewitching enchantress weave her goth clothed spells was gone in the blink of 24 hours (the length of time it takes me to go from apparently healthy to woefully ill).  I had sped towards Nadler like a bee to honey on the recommendation of my ‘pen as sword’ icon, tQ scrivener John Doran, who had bade me not to miss her more than magical live performance.  Instead, I’ve had to make do with looping replays of her album, ‘Bury Your Name’ from which this is my stand out track. Delish!

4. Julia Jacklin – Coming of Age (Aus)

The new age Little Miss Firecracker of country-grunge hits Dublin at the end of February 2017 and nothing, I mean NOTHING will stop, hinder or hamper my path to Whelans! Elbows at the ready, that space up the front is mine. Part of that new wave of punky twang that includes fellow upcoming songstrel Margaret Glaspy, Julia Jacklin takes smartly honed real-life lyrics and sandwiches them between slices of heaving melodies chock full of punchy guitars layered over a tightly woven R/S.  The result is impossible to resist infectious country stained down and dirty pop. Only a fool would miss the chance to see this raw and rousing talent shine live!

3. Radiohead – Identikit (UK)

2016 saw the arrival of what was possibly the most awaited album for years.  ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ didn’t disappoint.  This piece of classic Radiohead was sheer musical perfection packed with all the innovative ingredients that have made this quintet the consummate musical giants that they are.  And while most blogs will have opted for either of the two singles, this off-kilter piece of jazz infused experimental alt transports me back to the halcyon days of ‘Kid A’.  With its lyrical nods to Murakami’s 1Q84 (there was a similar intertwine between ‘Kid A’ and Kafka on the Shore), haunting interludes from vocal ghosts, and natty, spacious percussion Identikit is the understated star in this a stellar compilation.

2. Julia Holter – Lucette Stranded on the Island (USA)

Yeah, yeah I know.  The album was released in 2015.  But for me 2016 was all about Julia Holter.  Having failed to make her Dublin concert earlier in the year, one of the main catalysts for my travelling to Oya in Oslo, was the chance to make up for that lost experience.  While thirty minutes was far too short to soak up the musical enchantment magicked by an artist of Holter’s calibre, as luck would have it, Julia returned to Dublin in November and gave, what was for me and the several hundred other spellbound concert-goers in Vicar Street, the live performance of the year.  Compelling, captivating, magical, powerful, innovative – Julia Holter ranks as one of the most outstanding of contemporary female artists. This ingenious track just goes to prove it.

1. Weyes Blood – Generation Why (USA)

Not since hearing Dusty Springfield sing ‘The Look of Love’ have I come across another female vocal that radiates such warmth and richness, with a darkness edged with light. A voice with a true and unfaltering power cloaked in a sheath of softness like an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Not until that is, I heard the voice of Natalie Mering, the enigmatic talent behind music project, Weyes Blood. ‘Generation Why’, from the album ‘Front Row Seat To Earth’, is lyrically inspired and musically fresh, and while it contains many of the default elements of a classic pop song, it is the shades of daring alien electronica and the edgy undertones to words sung with angelic clarity that take this song to altogether another level.

The inclusion of so many American artists reflects the shifting sands of my musical tastes during 2016.  For me personally, this has been quite a remarkable year in terms of the quality and diversity of the music that’s been released.  And while the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and A-Z of Hip Hop may dominate the charts, the greater wealth lies in those treasures which remain beloved of those worthier barometers of musical greatness – The Guardian Culture, DiS and my personal fave, The Quietus.

I’ll leave you with a Spotify list of the 12 tracks featured in this sparkling retrospective … and hope you enjoy them as much as both Eddie and I have done.  May 2017 bring more shimmering gems to brighten up our sometimes more than mundane lives!

Introducing Swanlike : ‘Years’ EP


It’s been over a year since I first stumbled upon the impossibly talented Norwegian music artist Line Kasa.  After a long silence on her part, and much “patience” on mine, sorry couldn’t resist, Line is making a much welcome return in the company of her long-term collaborator and cousin Halvor Nordal Strand, with their Swanlike music project.  It’s quite the pleasure to bring you their new EP, ‘Years‘, a veritable sparkling treasure chest containing four diverse, thought-provoking and moving compositions.

Swanlike is the moniker for a project of moving parts, headed up by Halvor and Line.  Like shifting sands, the line up is made up of whoever is involved with the latest collaborative work; its current make up is Trym Gjermundbo, Øyvind Mathisen, and Sarah Nordal Strand.  Hailing from Notodden, in the southern Norwegian municipality of Telemark, this group of young, upcoming musicians have known each other for most of their lives.


While Halvor does most of the composing, lyrics and vocal arrangements are down to Line, with the remaining instrumental duties being picked up by the other three members.  The current line up has been playing and recording together for some time now and the ‘Years’ EP is a testament not just to their tightness as a unit, but to their relative ease with each other as a musical partnership.

While project founders Halvor and Line have long been admirers of each other’s music, their first love was for English supers, Radiohead.  Speaking about key musical influences Haldor explains: “Everyone in the band loves Radiohead. Line and I are both massive fans. Also, James Blake’s debut album was a turning point for me. I was, and am, so drawn to his approach to electronic music – with negative space, minimalistic instrumentation and gospel and r&b-influences in the London electronic sound. There are too many to mention but some of my other inspirations are, Frank Ocean, Burial, Jon Hopkins, Røyksopp, Arca, Bon Iver, and Cashmere Cat.

Drawn away from the strum of guitars to the pulsing world of electronica on first hearing Radiohead’s experimental opus Kid A, Halvor developed a fascination for “the sound shaping possibilities in working with synths and computers” and says moving to electronic music was a natural progression.

Inspiration for the the EP came out of a night of spinning Sia and Røyksopp tunes.  Their positive, party vibe triggered the opening note-sequence around which the song ‘June‘ was written. Swanlike craft their songs by using the well-worn ‘forwards-backwards’ system, as geographic location and availability aren’t always in sync and once the music to the single was laid down and Line had added the vocals, the song was finished off with Øyvind Mathisen on the mixing desk of his Oslo studio.


The opening track and possibly the strongest song on the EP ‘June‘, is a heart-melting, stirring track about holding onto a good but passionless relationship for all the wrong reasons.  With comfort and security comes guilt and frustration, feelings which Line Kasa’s exquisite vocal tenderly conveys with just the right amount of raw emotion.  While there may be few sparks in this impassive relationship, the instrumental is practically iridescent.  Windswept, radiant synths lines wrap around Line’s vocal in a landscape populated by the shadowy, dark spaces of disappointment and self-entrapment.

While most Norwegian electronica falls foul to the “icy”, “cold” and “frosted” labels, there is such a glow of warmth from Line Kasa’s clear vocal that when blended with such petillant synths, it melts whatever icy edges there are to be had on the instrumental accompaniment.

Delight follows delight as the EP moves onto the bewitching ‘Stones’, which has a slightly more rugged, edgy electronic vibe.  A slow electro-ballad it comes with the twist of a mad scientist instrumental.  A surprising side-order to its otherwise dreamy, hypnotic feel.  At 5.22 it comes in on the ‘extended side’ but it’s a well arranged, imaginative journey through a diverse electronic landscape that should be to the taste of most hard-core electro-fans. Unlike the more contemporary ‘June’, ‘Stones’ was recorded a while backin Trondheim, with the help of Erlend Elveseen.

Similarly, next up ‘New Years’, is an antecedent to the newer compositions on the EP being recorded some years back with Sjur Lyseid.  Speaking about ‘New Years’ Line explains:  “(It’s) a song about feeling empty and having a hard time coping with the stuff in life that is supposed to feel good.”  Spacious, stark, melancholic, there is an almost funereal quality to this track. An organ-like quality to the keys to which sombre bass-clarinet conjures a somewhat pious or reverent atmosphere while angelic harmonies counter the solemnity of the track’s musical foundation.

Book-ending the EP is a small slice of Norwegian delicacy, entitled ‘4’.  With existential themes at its heart and mourning in its soul, it ponders why, years after losing someone who was an integral part of our lives, certain inescapable questions still involuntarily float to the surface of the mind.  Of the song’s brevity Line comments: “I think one of the reasons why this song is so short is that the message is clear and there’s nothing more to say; these questions will never get an answer.”

Notwithstanding its doleful lyrical theme, the song’s pulsing instrumental and energetic percussive beat have a rather catchy rhythm that belie its inner melancholia.

The overriding sense of disappointment, despondency, and confusion that stems from the EPs lyrical content, is perfectly counter-balanced not just by the delightful tenderness and emotional honesty of Line Kasa’s poised vocal, but also by the imaginatively choreographed electronica that underpins it.  Kudos to Strand for pulling off a flawless blend of gloaming and dawn with his ingenious line in synth composition and arrangement.  The addition of drums and in particular the bass-clarinet, give texture and personality to what could so easily have been “ice-capped” electro-sounds, albeit sounds spun with some golden wizardry.

‘Years’ is a rather beautiful and stirring EP, skillfully orchestrated, and arranged with precision symmetry. A journey of dark and light, it is a confident, meticulous, intense and fascinating production that should provide Swanlike with a solid foundation from which to move forward and forge a full album.

You can follow Swanlike on Facebook.  They play Skien 20.11 and Notodden 22.11 and Oslo in early 2017 tbc.  A video for June is on the way, so keep your eyes peeled.  Stream ‘Years’ here – links for downloads below.

De Vries Rework of Fufanu’s ‘Plastic People’ Is A Soundtrack To ’60s Sci-Fi

Image Brynjar Sigurðarson & Maxime Smári
Image Brynjar Sigurðarson & Maxime Smári

There’s something quite magnetically compelling about lopsided clamour laced with jet-tinged malevolence, which is exactly what you get on the upcoming single from Icelandic outfit, Fufanu.

Opening with a menacing bassline and unadorned percussion through which sinister synth sequences tiptoe sneakily, the Marius De Vries (Madonna, David Bowie) rework of Plastic People a track from the bands debut album, ‘Few More Days to Go‘ , is a darkly lit St. Elmo’s Fire, brimful of moody atmospherics and glowering wonk.

Skewed keys chords and disturbing vocals drowning in an ocean of reverb, transform this track into a twisted, blurred mess of epic post-punk proportions, but, it’s when the off-balance, slightly deranged guitar riffs and creepy sci-fi sounds kick in that you feel this track has missed its true vocation.  In an ideal ‘otherworld’, ‘Plastic People’ would be ‘teleported’ back to the early ’60s, wherein it would have made the perfect soundtrack for one of those more than a little bizarre B&W science fiction TV-shows, like ‘The Twilight Zone’, or ‘One Step Beyond’.

Fufanu seem to have mastered the art of creating hypnotically addictive if deeply unsettling goth-punk, the wooze generating headiness and dark toxicity of which, despite its disconcerting nature, prove compellingly fascinating.

Based around a core duo of Kaktus Einarsson (vox) and Gulli Einarsson (guitar), the Icelanders are fast gaining a reputation for being one of the most interesting and innovative experimental bands emerging out of the Nordic music scene.  They are currently in studio with Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) who already has Fufanu form, through his grungey rework of their single, ‘Ballerina in the Rain.  The Icelandic air must be a-spark with electrified expectation!

Fufanu ‘Plastic People’ (Mumu Radio Mix) [+ ‘Now’ (A&E Sounds Edit) & ‘Plastic People’ (BdVMdV Remix] will be released through One Little Indian on 17th June. One week later on 24th, they will issue a 16-track repackaged version of ‘Few More Days to Go‘.

Fufanu play the Artrocker Stage of The Latest Music Bar during Brighton’s ‘Great Escape‘ Festival Sat 21st May.  They will also play Iceland’s ‘Secret Solsticeon Fri 17th June (the same day as Radiohead).

‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ – Radiohead Review by Steve Harris

Still from Daydreaming Video - Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Still from Daydreaming Video –
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

To much social media fanfare (from everyone except the band themselves), and scrabbling through up again, down again, web pages, Radiohead dropped their ninth studio album, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ on Sunday night.  Since then, neither fans nor media alike have stopped bubbling about it.

Seeing as our BBC6 Music King Pin and FOTN Head Honcho Tom Robinson streamed the album live (click here) on his Sunday evening radio show, it made sense for me to look in that direction when seeking out a ‘wordy’ guester.  Knowing that my fellow Fresh on the Net mod Steve Harris is not only a de facto ‘encyclopaedia musica’ but also one of the best music reviewers around, I asked him if he’d step up to the Radiohead plate, and pen a review of ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. Thankfully, he agreed, and here it is!

Steve Harris is an indie app developer living in South Wales, he also works as a writer and moderator mining the coalface of new music at Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net (where he is Chief Mod and Bottlewasher!!). His late night drunken food of choice is curry and chips.”

Radiohead – “A Moon Shaped Pool”

When Radiohead first hinted a new album was on the way last week, you could sense the collective excitement and, let’s be honest, underlying anguish. Will it be renaissance style, oils on canvas, or some indecipherably modern objet d’art, all acrylic and twisted metal? You never know what to expect.

The lead track, Burn The Witch, soothed the nerves, delighting with strings that sawed and jabbed, accompanied by Thom Yorke’s familiar anguished wail. The video is a real treat, a combination of Trumpton, with its old fashioned small town thinking and The Wicker Man. While the band have (wisely, no doubt) refused to confirm there is any social commentary in the track, it’s hard not to spot obvious parallels with world events concerning great movements of people across the globe, although it’s probably looking closer to home.

Daydreaming was the second track to emerge last week with another video directed by American filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, showing Thom Yorke walking through a series of doors into various scenes: a laundromat, a beach, kitchens, corridors and car parks. Watching that I began to put 2 + 2 together and come up not with 5, but the American DREAM Act. It may have nothing to do with that, or is perhaps an idea projected onto the music by the director, but would be fitting. As plaintive piano ballads go, this one ends with Lynchian slowed down vocals buzzing back and forth in a way that is genuinely unsettling.

With the already heard material out of the way, we can settle into new album proper, and by the third track, Decks Dark, it’s already clear your Radiohead album bingo card will end up a full house. Now we have guitars, drums, lashings of reverb and an ethereal soprano building and swelling. This is reasserted when Desert Island Disk brings classical guitar and shimmering otherworldly noises, ringing through your head like concussion.

It’s with relief that Ful Stop appears through the heat-distorted haze, like a train racing down the tracks. Driving beats, the low hum of bass, horns, more swirly madness, layered arpeggio guitars and Thom’s vocals dancing on top. “You really messed up everything.” Glass Eyes follows with piano and strings in bokeh. “Hey it’s me, I just got off the train, frightening place, with faces of concrete grey.” Identikit grabs that baton and runs with it, opening with the words from the album’s title, and “sweet-faced ones with nothing left inside, that we all can love…”

Things don’t shift very far with The Numbers either — cascading pianos, strummed guitars, nodding bass and the now inevitable strings. It starts out like a box of assorted noises that pull themselves together to conjure sweeping panoramic visions. In Present Tense, there are choral harmonies too. “Don’t want to get heavy,” Thom insists. Bit late for that.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief is the last new track on this album, and would not seem out of place closing a Bond film, although it ends almost as eerily as Daydreaming. I suspect Spectre, the Bond theme that got turned down, influenced swaths of this album, and whether or not that is the case, reminds us that Pinewood missed out on something truly special there.

Interestingly, the actual final track, True Love Waits, has existed for over 20 years, but only appeared as an acoustic recording on the 2001 live album, I Might Be Wrong. Here it gets the studio treatment, although retains a sense of minimalism. It is heart-wrenching, Thom’s voice cracking, backed by the glistening, layered pianos that appear throughout the whole album. It fits well here, demonstrating that no matter how far the band has come since those days of The Bends, they’ve not really changed.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs at the Barclays Center in New York, the US. File photograph Chad Batka for The New York Times
Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs at the Barclays Center in New York, the US. File photograph Chad Batka for The New York Times

This is a widescreen Radiohead album, sumptuous, ambitious, terrifying and touching. We will never know whether the things we’ve been shown, the album title, and the threads woven through it really mean as much as it’s tempting to imagine, but no artist can shut themselves off from the world, particularly when they’re already the masters of alienation. Even so, songs like this can work on many levels, and apply in all sorts of ways at different times, and as with so much art, the prism through which we view things matters almost as much.

Strikingly, A Moon Shaped Pool feels like a single body of work far more than many of their albums, suggesting that (with the exception of True Love Waits), it all came together quickly and naturally. It’s a journey, one seen through the eye of a lens, and almost ends up back where we started. In here we find not only the Radiohead of old, but various incarnations that have followed rolled into a new sound all of its own. There will be as many views about this album as there are notes on the record, but I already think it’s a masterpiece, uncompromising in its vision, but with broad appeal, and will undoubtedly come to be regarded as one of the finest albums of our time.

‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is now available here http://www.amoonshapedpool.comand here

A Sinister Symphonia : Radiohead – ‘Burn The Witch’

Burn the Witch JPEG

Here we go folks … the moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived, with the video drop for Radiohead’s new single, ‘Burn the Witch’.

Recalling scenes from Trumpton and Camberwick Green, the Chris Hopewell directed puppetfest is an eery walk around the ‘Model Village’ in which everything is perfect, including the gallows with it’s maypole-esque floral detail.   Don’t you just know that when the oversized Burning Man comes into shot that Mr Clipboard is for it.

Video Still
Video Still

With it’s haunting vocal (Yorke’s voice is seemingly ageless) and semi-classical instrumental accompaniment, ‘Burn the Witch‘ gently floats on a warm breeze, then soars magnificently into a fraught tension of frantic otherwordly strings.  Wonderfully atmospheric and embellished with layer upon layer of sinister symphonia, the track builds to a deathly crescendo yielding itself to a deliciously fraught stranglehold as it expires at the end.  Classic Radiohead … 10/10.

‘Burn The Witch’ is available on all digital services now.   Expect the internet to crash!

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