Saturday, 31 December 2011

BRNLV11: A List of Beautiful Music From the Year 2011

Hello! 7:56pm, December 31st, 2011. In a few hours, it's the end of the year. What better time to post an end-of-year list?

So: here are BRNLV's ten favourite albums of the last twelve months. From icy, weirdly spiritual techno to acoustic punk, from Scandinavian alt-pop to homegrown ambient soundscapes, each of these contains something very special.

Each comes with a standout track to listen to, and you can listen to them sequentially here on Spotify if you prefer not to watch video or get mouse-click related RSI. (Note: Gus Gus has been taken down from Spotify - maybe Kompakt were part of that dance music distro who pulled their catalogue. So no Gus Gus on playlist).

(nb. You may notice both albums released by Brainlove are present. That's because they are two of my favourite albums that came out this year. For a lot of record labels, signing and releasing is as much an extended form of fandom as a business arrangement. And if we hadn't released them, I'd still have given them both 10/10. So, I included them here, as seems fair and just.)

1. = Gus Gus - Arabian Horse Spotify
Dark, sensual, perfect Icelandic techno. Sung from the heart. A rare thing: an emotional, moving 'dance' album.

1. = Dad Rocks! - Mount Modern Spotify
Eleven beautifully humane and melodic songs about real life; family, domesticity and the modern world.

3. Austra - Feel It Break Spotify
Ostensibly a dark, danceable pop album, Austra's record reveals lyrical depth and hidden resonance on repeated listening.

4. Sacred Harp - Window's A Fall Spotify
An album quite unlike anything else, Window's A Fall is an elegant tumble of ideas.

5. Blanck Mass Spotify
Benjamin Power's solo album is rich with warmth, emotion and a sense of enveloping kindness.

6. David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding Spotify
DTB plays the poet and the clown in a brave and rewarding collection, his best since the seminal "Complete Guide to Insufficiency".

7. When Saints Go Machine - Konkylie Spotify
Several striking high points make this sophisticated alt-pop debut something special. Arthur Russell influenced finale "Add Ends" is one of the songs of the year.

8. Planningtorock - W Spotify
A direct, complete, stylish art-pop album with a pleasingly limited palette revealing a clear vision.

9. John Maus - We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves Spotify
More unhinged, washed out, impassioned earworms from a man who's allegedly a professor of philosophy. In Hawaii.

10. Active Child - You Are All I See Spotify
Pat Grossi's debut is a grower that sneaks in above Future Islands due it's consistency, glossy texture and open-heart lyrics.

JHNBRNLV's gigs of the year:

15/02 - Zebra and Snake - Fisk og Vilt, by:Larm Festival, Oslo
25/03 - Kreatiivmootor - Tallinn Music Week
31/03 - When Saints Go Machine - Ja Ja Ja @ The Lexington, London
20/05 - David Thomas Broughton - Kings Place, London
09/06 - Future Islands - Upset The Rhythm @ Plan B, London
14/06 - Deerhunter - Slottsfjell Festival, Tønsberg
24/06 - Gus Gus - Kompakt Party @ ℅ Pop, Bootshaus, Cologne
24/07 - Portishead - I'll Be Your Mirror, Alexandria Palace, London
14/09 - Battles - Berlin Music Week @ Tempelhof Airport, Berlin
12/10 - Björk - Harpa, Reykjavík

And finally, a double-sided mixtape of BRNLV artists' songs and selections. See the tracklist (and who picked what) here.

Enjoy the music. See you in 2012.

John // BRNLV

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

David Thomas Broughton Announces UK Dates

VIDEO FOR "ELECTRICITY": (Directed by Claire McArdle)

David Thomas Broughton has announced two rare UK live shows in London and his hometown of Leeds, on the 12th and 13th of January.

His mesmerising live show has become the stuff of legend: from his hypnotically strange, mannerism-packed stage presence, to his use of rape alarms, improvised props and unpredictable tactics, always to enthralling effect. His songs appear and retreat through a bed of looped sound both beautiful and jarring. Broughton is an engaging and startling performer truly like no other.

Broughton will play songs from his seminal debut, "The Complete Guide To Insufficiency", and the well-received 2011 follow up "Outbreeding", out now on CD and digital formats via UK indie label Brainlove Records. More information can be found here and here

FREE MP3 - Ain't Got No Sole:

Thu 12 Jan Brudenell Leeds

Fri 13 Jan Lexington London

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Björk at Iceland Airwaves

I reviewed some of Iceland Airwaves Festival 2011 for the Reykjavík Grapevine, one of my favourite music and culture publications in the whole world. It was a privilege to write for them, and my allotment of shows happily included Björk's Biophilia set at Harpa. CLick below to read the piece, and you can read my other two reports via the little author box at the bottom if you'd like to.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday, 12 September 2011

Brainlove Release Debut Album by SACRED HARP

"Window's A Fall"
released 05/12/11 on Brainlove Records

"Sacred Harp is an imaginary movie directed by David Lynch, where Billie Holiday, Deerhoof, Earth and Low are picking mushrooms with John Cage."

It's almost hard to believe "Window's A Fall" is the debut album by Norwegian four-piece Sacred Harp, such is the assuredness displayed throughout it's eight kaleidoscopic tracks.

From atonal blues to teutonic prog; from jazz tinged freakouts to delicate lullabies to arena-sized climaxes, the album writhes, seduces and entices, all the time refusing to be pinned down to a signature sound. A surprise hides around every corner, and the imagination and variety of "Window's A Fall" fills the imagination of the listener with colour.

In the past two years, Sacred Harp has inadvertently grown into one of Oslo’s favourite new bands. Their self titled EP, released in 2009, startled reviewers into bewildered praise and set off word of mouth that created widespread anticipation for what was to come next. After developing and polishing their extraordinary sound in the studio, they now present their debut album “Window’s a Fall”. Recorded and mixed by Bjarne Stensli (of Harrys Gym) and by Sacred Harp´s own Juhani Silvola, the record has one foot in the Norwegian rock aesthetic, but that narrow categorization doesn’t begin to cover their sonic breadth.

Sacred Harp is a four-piece band, comprising Jessica Sligter (vocals, guitar, keys), Juhani Silvola (guitar, bass, keys), Øystein Skar (keys) and Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød (drums). All come from the tight-knit community of Oslo musicians embracing experimental, free improvised music, as well as rock and alternative popular music, and they shamelessly blend and combine elements of their collective musical fancy into their endeavours. In fact, Sacred Harp, started out as an improv-trio, without drums, but soon they realized that their strength as a group lay in another direction. With Jessica´s expressive vocals and ability to create unique, strong melodies and lyrics, Juhani´s wide-ranging experience working in genres like noise, rock and folk music, and Øystein´s colorful pallet and versatility on keyboards, the trio found that in bringing together their strongest qualities they could construct powerful compositions and intricate arrangements. Sacred Harp found it’s fourth member in Andreas, the two-metre-tall anchor that creates a rhythmic foundation to their recordings and performances.

The music of Sacred Harp clearly reflects the eclectic mindset of the environment they sprouted from. As the title conveys, “Window´s a Fall” is an ominous record, inspired by the work of greats like David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, and also by regular TV, for example the TV series True Blood. Danger is always present, evidently or subtly insinuated, but it’s the uncertainty that it is exciting and enchanting. Their influences also lead to a combination of polished and freakish elements, tied in a highly cinematic and dynamic aesthetic. Needless to say, Sacred Harp´s music has great theatrical potential that makes their live show the ultimate Sacred Harp experience.

"Window's A Fall" comes out via Brainlove on December 5th 2011, in partnership with Trust Me Records of Oslo.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

New BRNLV Band: Bleeding Heart Narrative

"Vintage tones and instrumentation - a truly enticing sound" - Clash
"Musically sumptuous and highly arresting... pulled off with an enviable sense of beauty and inspired musicality" - The Quietus
"Filled with lush instrumentation" - The Line Of Best Fit
"Satisfying and dramatic" - Breaking More Waves

Bleeding Heart Narrative are a London sextet who weave together beautiful sounds with a haunting intensity. As interested in textures and orchestration as they are with rhythm and melody, theirs is a distinctive and captivating style that never settles on a single genre or approach. In creating their own music, Bleeding Heart Narrative incorporate their more abstract influences into traditional song structures, applying pop sensibilities to them as they go. You might hear the shimmer of Tortoise or Steve Reich built into a song that could be played on an Arcade Fire-sized stage, or pick out a Battle-esque repetition in a Mogwai-sized crescendo - but it'll always be Bleeding Heart Narrative you're listening to.

Live, Bleeding Heart Narrative are inspired. Having been the loudest band at the Shhh! All-dayer (Cecil Sharp House), they attracted the biggest attendance of 2010 at the Daylight Music Sessions (Union Chapel); they've also soundtracked films & readings for the British Film Instute and Whitechapel Art Gallery, and performed at arts spaces like Cafe Oto, The Shunt Vaults and Bristol's Cube cinema, and at festivals such as Truck, Green Man and the Huw-Stephens-curated SWN.

"Bison" is their first release on Brainlove Records, and follows their acclaimed 2010 album "Tongue Tangled Hair". But there are long-standing links twixt band and label: BHN ringleader Oliver Barrett (also of Petrels) is currently working on new material with emergent BRNLV artist Mat Riviere, having played cello with him at Brainlove Festival 2011 and turned in an orchestral reworking of "The Give In".

Aug 7th Fat Out Till You Pass Out @ Islington Mill, Manchester
Aug 11th HOWL presents @ The Others, London
Aug 21st Green Man Festival, Wales
Sept 17th Southsea Festival
Oct 20th SWN Festival, Cardiff, Wales


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Brainlove: Label News / New Releases / BRNLVFSTVL Film

Recent Label News:
Three new CDs on Sale:
A film of Brainlove Festival 2011:
A new mixtape:
An interview in Bearded:
John starts an artist management company:
Follow us on Facebook to get news like this:


Hello Readers!

I'm not going to do small talk, for once. Big talk only.

Brainlove tends to make only 5 or 6 physical releases a year, at most. I kind of think of them as special little artefacts, not just CDs like any other. Each one is brimming with magic, in it's own way, and each one means something. The manifesto of the label has long been "to support musicians exhibiting creativity, spirit, intelligence and imagination, regardless of genre, commercial potential, or technical ability. As such, Brainlove is a record label with artistic values at it's core".

I am certain that all of these releases fulfil these criteria, and I'm very, very proud to be releasing each of them.

Three new ones are now out to buy, here -


1) David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding. A stunning proto-folk collection, with a 12 page lyrics & illustrations booklet by DTB himself.

2) We Aeronauts - Chalon Valley EP. Four ambitious constructions, bright-eyed and bristling with youthful optimism, earthy folk and grand post-rock. This one is a short run of card wallets with very pretty artwork.

3) Bastardgiest. A very very limited run of his album, on CD in hand-stamped card cases with lace and string decorations. Beautiful drones, a spine-tingling one-off voice, and bass-heavy melodies... gorgeous stuff.


Please do buy them. Postage is free in the UK and it's a huge help for our continued activities.


John / Brainlove

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Monday, 13 June 2011

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding

New Album Released May 23rd 2011 via Brainlove Records
May 20th London Show at King's Place Announced

"Dazzling" - Pitchfork
"Layer upon layer of musical quality" - The Guardian
"Haunting, fragile, full of tension" - Drowned In Sound
"Enthralling" - CokeMachineGlow

Experimental folk artist David Thomas Broughton will release a long-awaited new album, entitled "Outbreeding", via independent London record label Brainlove Records on May 23rd 2011. Featuring eleven songs that will be familiar to his loyal and ever-growing live audiences, "Outbreeding" brings together compositions written over the last couple of years into a compelling new collection.

As seen at festivals such as Primavera, End Of The Road and Green Man, and at his sold out 2010 ICA show, Broughton's famous semi-improvised live show baffles and beguiles; starting songs with beautiful refrains, he then engulfs them in feedback and noise, removing the layers one by one to reveal once again the beauty beneath. Elements of physical comedy and surreal interludes complicate things further. He will headline a special album release show at King's Place in London on May 20th, with further UK dates to be announced soon.

"Outbreeding" is at once raw, honest, playful and poignant, leaving the listener unsure of whether to laugh or weep - the exact kind of divergent response that has made David Thomas Broughton inspire such devotion in his fans and followers. For converts, "Outbreeding" is essential listening; for the uninitiated it's a perfect entry point yet into this magical body of work.

Album page:
DTB site:
Wiki Biog:

Hi-res Cover:
Hi-res Portrait:

Press Contact:

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Five show-stopping moments I'll never forget

From an unexpected ass-wiggle in a London Student Union, to a dazzling multimedia stadium pop show at a castle in rural France, to a band breaking bits of furniture over each other in Dudley, these are five performances that have stuck with me over the last decade.

1. David Thomas Broughton, Bandstand Busking, Arnold Circus, 02/08/09

David Thomas Broughton is a startlingly unpredictable performer. He's come up with a unique kind of performative improvisation, in which he impishly, self-destructively misbehaves throughout his set - starting out on Buster Keaton style skits such as walking over the back of a normal dining-room chair as a it falls to the floor, or undermining the seriousness of his songs with bouts of beat boxing and rapping, or throwing dramatic Elvis-style shapes at the front of the stage while his loops slowly deteriorate in the background.

At a Bandstand Busking session a couple of years ago, Broughton was on brilliant form. He chased the cameraman around the bandstand mid-song in a game of cat of mouse, coiling his guitar wire around the mic in doing so; stopped mid-song to self-consciously rub imagined dust off his clothes; started a dictaphone running, but had nowhere to put it down, and so grasped it between his chin and shoulder as he played. It was never going to work, and he knew it - the tape machine clattered to the floor and smashed into pieces. It was a moment of intentional self-sabotage that snapped the crowd out of the soporific trance that acoustic music can create. With the crowd's full and focussed attention, it's even easier for DTB to break hearts with the imperfection and poignancy of his songs.

2. Michael Gira / Angels Of Light, ULU, 26/05/05

I'd never heard Angels Of Light before, and was in fact at this show to see the first UK performance by the support. Michael Gira, the band leader and frontman, sat in a chair front and centre playing acoustic guitar and giving a gravitas-laden, growling performance. At the peak of one song, he started gurning and grinning and stood up from the chair. In a manoeuvre that was surreal and discomfiting, he stumbled to forwards a step or two, turned his back to the crowd and started shaking his ass from side to side, like some drunken uncle at a family event that clambers onto the table, three sheets to the wind. For all of the seriousness and weight of the music, it was this simple act of inappropriate mischief that brought the performance into the moment, punched through into my memory, and illuminated Gira's attitude towards being on the stage, somehow.

3. Kevin Blechdom, OUR AURA HOUR, Berlin, 12/07/05

A truly strange and brilliant show in Berlin. Kevin Blechdom put together a night of all-stars from the Berlin art-music community in a lean-to DIY space to celebrate the release of her weird but wonderful album "Eat My Heart Out". It was the first time I saw Planningtorock, who would later release a 7" on Brainlove, towering over the crowd like an operatic mannequin come to life. Max Tundra played a set of breakneck speed pointillist pop. Kevin Blechdom came on last, and played a set of bizarre, hysterical songs about breaking up and breaking down, desperation and obsession. At the finale, she stripped off from the waist up and produced from a huge animal heart, proceeding to caress it, hug it, hold it up and ultimately cast it into the crowd. In turns horrific, surreal, funny and gauchely confrontational, it was an unforgettable moment that successfully communicated the insane emotional turmoil the show and the album were based around.

4. The Flaming Lips, La Route Du Rock, France, 15/08/10

The Flaming Lips have built their career around providing a huge live spectacle. At La Route Du Rock, their incredible show clicked somehow - the right time of the night, the right mood in the crowd and maybe the alignment of some faraway suns; from Wayne's entrance in an inflatable bubble to the eye-shattering digital show, jets of smoke, giant balloons and plume of streamers and confetti throughout, this was, put simply, the gig of a lifetime. The best film I found of it is shaky, distorted and shot through the crowd, but it fully captures the full noise and thunder - The Flaming Lips is about being there and surrendering yourself to what's happening, and this is as close as you can get on YouTube.

5. Queen Adreena, Dudley JBs 15/11/02

Katie Jane Garside of Queen Adreena became quickly infamous for her strange performances. Set against buzz-saw guitar lines and heavy bass, she writhed onstage, tearing at her clothes, smudging her makeup into a rictus clown face, thrusting the microphone between her thighs, teetering on chair and barging into her bandmates and audience members, dripping with wine and sweat. At one point she seemed to lose it completely, breaking a chair over the back of her guitarist, who tried to hide his shock. It was hard to tell if this was over-the-top theatre or genuine cathartic emotional trauma, and the combination of overt sexuality, vulnerability and unhinged ferocity was strange and unforgettable.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

We Aeronauts Take Flight

"Larger than life orchestral, hymnal masterpieces." - The Fly
"Dazzling" - Clickmusic
"Joyful" - Drowned In Sound
"A genuinely exciting find" - CMU Music Daily
"Fun, positive, uplifting... they leave the audience with smiles outside and inside." - Simon Raymonde, Bella Union

Oxford 8-piece folk arkestra We Aeronauts are pleased to announce their debut release on Brainlove, "The Chalon Valley EP", to come out on a beautifully artworked ltd. edition gatefold CD this April 4th.

The story of this EP began when the eight old friends piled all their instruments into a car and took off into the French countryside for a holiday together. Inspired by their blissful surroundings and the once-in-a-lifetime moment they found themselves in, they started writing songs about the area - from the endless bike-rides they took around the Chalon Valley, to the days spent in the sun down at the nearby lake, to the foothills of the Alps on the horizon.

The EP came together slowly over the two years since then, as the band's endlessly itchy feet dispersed them as far afield as Serbia, Spain, India, Mongolia and Canada; but recording sessions and rehearsals happened when the Aeronauts landed in the same place. The final piece of the puzzle was the addition of a choir to "Alpe d'Huez", recorded in Oxford's spectacular Christchurch Cathedral.

There have been other victories along the way: the band won the Green Man Poll in 2009 with over 90,000 votes cast, and a panel stage judged by industry luminaries including Simon Raymonde of Bella Union. As their prize, the band opened the festival's main stage, introduced by Huw Stephens of BBC Radio 1. The band played three times at the Iceland Airwaves festival in 2010, and brought down the roof with a headline performance at London's legendary Shunt Vaults. We Aeronauts are also the first band ever to be asked back to Oxford's BBC Introducing for a second live session after winning the "Best Track of the Year by a Local Artist" award.

This EP is where the story is up to just now: but as everyone who's engaged with this most special of bands knows, the past is prologue, and their story is just beginning.

15 The Social, London, Huw Stephens Introducing w/ Young Buffalo
24 Cellar, Oxford w/ Cat Matador

01 Purple Turtle, Reading w/ Cat Matador
04 Labour Club, Northampton w/ Cat Matador
19 Mr Wolf's, Bristol w/ Cat Matador
22 Dublin Castle, London w/ Cat Matador
25 Cellar, Oxford *EP Release Party*
26 Central, Nottingham w/ Cat Matador

22 Bullingdon Arms, Oxford w/ A Hawk and a Hacksaw

Monday, 7 February 2011

Bastardgeist - Cabbageheads

Iceland Airwaves Festival, October 2010. We set out towards the lava plains from central Reykjavik to film a session, in the soaking rain. A friend had emailed us the bus route to take. There was an old American couple at the bus stop, going the other way. They seemed so relaxed and happy, absorbing everything around them - that unique, inexplicable feeling of peace that falls over you in Iceland. We were on the bus for an hour, watching the buildings come and go and the landscape distorting through the watery windows. Ours was the final stop, just past a row of low bungalows at a half-finished commercial park, piles of bricks and lean-to sheds sticking out of the mossy black lava. A small child on a bike weaved in and out of the spots of colour - this was his back yard. We walked for a couple of minutes, into the part of the map that is blank, and set up the camera. Joel and Ruth's voices sounded beautiful and vivid, with the rain getting heavier and crackling onto the ground around us. Afterwards, we saw the hourly return bus pull up on the gravel road, and ran towards it, waving wildly, like three soaked mad people running out of the wilderness towards civilisation.