Tuesday, 24 February 2009

NYC Skeletons rise again

MP3: The Things

Titularly schizophrenic NYC oddcore collective Skeletons aka Skeletons And The Kings Of All Cities aka Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys are back in the UK this March for tour to "support" / express their new album, "Money". It's on Tomlab, which may well be the most interesting and exciting label in the world. Exciting, huh?

UK Dates
10th March - London, Lexington
11th March - Kingston Upon Hull, Adelphi
12th March - Dublin, Whelans
13th March - Barrow-In-Furness, The Canteen
14th March - Coventry, Taylor Johns House
15th March - Brighton, Freebutt

Listen: www.myspace.com/skeletonsandthegirlfacedboys
Watch: www.skeletons.tv

Friday, 20 February 2009

Micachu bends music into exciting new Shapes

MP3: Curly Teeth

Micachu & The Shapes, fronted by 21 year old Mica Levi, arrive on the 2009 DIY music scene with all the force of an asteroid dropping through the ceiling of your front room.

Mica's music is a patchwork collage, stiched and nailed and taped together from sonic flotsam and jetsam into a startling DIY construction. Pots and pans ring and rattle alongside pinging plucked strings, distorto basslines and squeaking keyboards, with her trademark hoover revving away merrily in the background. Her voice is rough and ragged, honest and fresh, whether mumbling away through a cheap mic or looped into a rhythmic backdrop, spitting out proto-rap lines or pitch shifted into alien melodies.

The debut album, 'Jewellery', is the sound of London life breaching the dam of pop, and washing away any recognisable genre boundaries with it. The only reference points that seem to be of any use are other musicians with a similarly creative approach, putting Mica Levi in the ring with heavyweights like Tom Waits and Bjórk.

It's not often that a new artist arrives with such a fully-formed, recognisable, singular sound. Micachu is a total one off, a defining presence that soaks up influences from left, right and centre and spits them back out in a thrilling new form. With her new label Rough Trade behind her, and with a bit of luck, 2009 will be hers.

Listen: www.myspace.com/micayomusic

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Another Amazing Fever Ray Video Win....

Read my Fever Ray interview for Drowned In Sound here.

Wonder what the inspiration for this one was? I remember some crazy alien-in-swimming-pool scenes from some science fiction movie...

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Virgins - Teen Lovers

Yay, a mainstream indie band that I like. Maybe all the Drowned In Sound kids will stop mistaking me for an entrenched anti-pop misanthrope now.

This is harmless, smart, disco-inflected main-stage indie-funk that's gonna be everywhere this summer, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than most of the turd that gets popular at the minute. Yayz all round, I can stop being sad about the fall of Franz Ferdinand now.



Sunday, 8 February 2009

You Give Me Fever (Ray)

Written for Drowned In Sound

Karin Dreijer Andersson is fond of masks. As one half of brother/sister duo The Knife, she has famously carried out entire interviews with her face hidden, and in the video for her new solo project Fever Ray Andersson's face is barely visible beneath a painted UV skull. So who is it we hear singing on her spine-tingling and macabre new single 'If I Had A Heart'? Is it Karin, or is Fever Ray a character with a life of it's own?
"Fever Ray is under construction." explains Andersson. "I'm still finding out what kind of character it is... the initial part of it is still in the process. I don't know if you ever come to a conclusion. Like The Knife, that's been changing, our masks and disguises change. I'm still working on Fever Ray as well."

But there are also autobiographical elements to Fever Ray.
"It's fun to put everyday subjects into the lyrics," she continues. "The music and my performances often go very far in various directions, so I think it's fun to insert phrases like 'dishwasher tablets', it's a good way to stay in reality and not lose yourself totally. I don't think I should - I try to keep my everyday self in there too."

But references to domesticity aside, Fever Ray continues the themes of isolation and loneliness that were central to The Knife's Silent Shout.
"It's an amusing way to work when you have a contrast between the sound, which can be very cold and dark, to put stuff in the lyrics that collides with that. I worked this way on Silent Shout, but Fever Ray is of course more personal - I didn't have to discuss lyrics or talk about them to anybody else."

Another part of Fever Ray's construction is the visual world that surrounds the music. The video is a cinematic mini-epic, featuring torch-bearing boats gliding through fog over black mirrors of water. But no matter how accomplished, the visuals are always secondary to writing process.
"I try to keep the visuals out of the musical process for as long as possible," says Andersson. "I think music is very abstract in comparison to images. I like music to have it's own life first and then later on when I'm done I start to work with people on the visual part of it. The artwork, the videos, that all comes later."

Karin and the video's director, Andreas Nilsson, used the film Dead Man, a beautiful and powerful existential western by US director Jim Jarmusch, as one of their key reference points.
"Dead Man was important - both the physical and mental environment," she explains. "It was very inspiring. Andreas wanted to include these kinds of primitive and primal characters in the video. He is also working on the appearance of the live show. We still have a lot of work to do. It won't be as high tech, everything had to happen in the right second with The Knife show. This is will be more of a collision of analogue and digital technologies than The Knife."

As a reaction to online piracy, the self-titled Fever Ray album is already available to buy digitally at Kliktrak despite a March street date.
"We released it digitally at the same time as we sent it out for review. Everything happens very fast now. In the US there are hardly any physical sales now, and it will probably happen here too."

Making a living from music is becoming more problematic even for established artists, giving rise to compromises that worry Andersson.
"Many artists are starting to work within the commercial industry. It's sad. I think as an artist, when you realise you won't make money from record sales, you need to find other ways to get paid, and many artists sell their music to adverts and commercials. But I think music is an art form that you should not interfere with in this way. You should let it be what it is, free from those concerns."

Fever Ray is available to buy digitally now at Kliktrak, and on CD from March 23rd. Listen to "If I Had A Heart", along with remixes by Familjen and Fuck Buttons, on MySpace.

Hercules & Love Affair - Blind

A great song from last year, and a stunning video...

Monday, 2 February 2009

Dälek talk Barack Obama, American patriotism, Jay-Z and Gutter Tactics

This is an extended version of a piece written for Stool Pigeon

“The idea that everything is great now because we have a black president is a little naive, you know?”
It’s the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration, and MC Dälek is happily injecting a bolt of realism into the media’s unchecked optimism from his studio, Deadverse, in New Jersey.
“I mean, I voted for him, it's actually the first time I voted for a guy who won, so I'm excited about the change and i think it's definitely something the world needs, even if it's only symbolic. Unfortunately I think one of the problems is that people tendency to overlook and rewrite history when it's not convenient for them."

This is apparent from the off on Dälek’s forthcoming seventh album “Gutter Tactics”, which opens with a fierce invective against American domestic and foreign policy sampled from a speech by Barack Obama’s reverend, Jeremiah Wright.
"The speech just wasn’t played in the media, they would only use snippets. Obama distanced himself from it, which I found kind of funny. I don't hear anything untruthful in that speech, or anything unpatriotic. Just because we now have a black president you can't sweep everything under the rug as if it never happened. That's one of humanity's fatal flaws, to not learn from history. I‘m just doing my small part to remind people.”

Anything other than an all out condemnation of 9/11 didn’t play well within the American media, leading to Obama’s controversial dismissal of the speech, and to a tunnel-vision inflicted brand of US patriotism that Dälek do not share.
“If you’re a student of history, of American foreign policy and domestic policy, it’s very easy to see why people get desperate and do desperate things. Imagine if you were living in some of these areas where you don’t have a military to defend you… these things don’t happen for no reason. An understanding of American people about that would help everyone.”

Dälek, a duo completed by producuer Oktopus, inhabit a space of their own making between noise and hip-hop. The different elements of their sound have allowed them to connect to different audiences and music communities, such as Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. The last time they were in the UK was to deliver a blistering set at the Mike Patton curated ATP festival.
“ATP blew me away, man. I got a picture backstage of myself, Brett from Mastodon and Kool Keith. I don’t know if you could get that picture anywhere else, it’s pretty remarkable.”
But there are difficulties associated with crossover music in today’s genre-marketing dominated world.
“It’s a blessing and a curse. If you name a genre it’s allowed us to play with a band in that genre. Which is great, but that same flexibility scares a lot of people. If you can’t put music in safe box people tend to run away from it. Like, if we play with The Melvins, half the crowd will love us and half will hate us, but nine times out of ten it’ll be one or the other. And I like to be that kind of band.”

Dälek’s heavily politicised approach sets them apart from much commercial hip hop just as much as their heavy sound.
“Hip-hop is the pop music of our generation and within that realm, like Phil Spector says, there’s good music and there’s bad music, the only two genres. The lyrics might not always be great in commercial hip hop, but there’s a time and place for it, you know? If I’m out at a strip club I sure don’t wanna hear my music. But I honestly believe there are more interesting things going on sonically in mainstream hip hop than any other kind of mainstream music. If you listen to mainstream rock or emo or whatever the fuck you wanna call it, that shit is even more cookie cutter and formulaic. I’m a fan of Timbaland’s production, I like Ludakris and when Jay-Z puts his mind to it he can make great music, although it might be hard to concentrate when there are that many bills to count."

But the domination of commercial hip hop does create problems for the more progressive underground scene.
"That commercial sound does overshadow all the other sounds that are out there. It’s fine for there to be big mainstream acts, but you should still be able to hear like today’s equivalent of A Tribe Called Quest, PDP or Rakim or EPMD. It’s better for each of us to find our own voice than for all of us to sound the same.”

The relentless intensity and darkness of Gutter Tactics stands starkly against the new background of positivity and change in America. But for Dälek there’s as much need for their voice to be heard as ever before.
“This stuff was written in the midst of the campaign with the understanding that this could definitely happen. The idea that this is Martin Luther King’s dream fulfilled is really naïve. This happening is a great step along the journey and we can’t forget that, but there always needs to be the voice of dissent, and I’ll happily play that role.”

LISTEN: www.myspace.com/dalek