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Updated: 2017-05-24T14:02:18+01:00


Dot To Dot 2017: The DiS Preview + 50 Song Playlist

2017-05-24T14:02:18+01:002017-05-24 14:02:18 +0100

This weekend sees the return of Dot To Dot festival. Here are the 10 acts we're most looking forward to This weekend (May 26-28) sees the return of Dot To Dot festival. Now in its 12th year occupying the traditional Spring Bank Holiday slot, the 2017 edition once again sees more than 200 artists perform across over 75 venues in Manchester (Friday 26th), Bristol (Saturday 27th) and Nottingham (Sunday 28th). Once again, DiS will be in attendance and here's the 10 acts we're most looking forward to seeing. --- Cherry Hex & The Dream Church (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rough Trade @ 17:00) This Nottingham-based duo have been making a name for themselves over the past year mainly due to their hauntingly intense live performances. Comparisons with The xx, Cocteau Twins, and Chvrches aren't wide of the mark, and their late afternoon slot in Rough Trade promises to be one of the weekend's finest. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Confidence Man (Friday 26th. Manchester. Mint Lounge @ 20:15) (Saturday 27th. Bristol. The Louisiana @ 21:30) (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Stealth @ 21:45) Heavenly Recordings boast arguably the finest roster anywhere in the world at this moment in time and their most recent addition, Brisbane four-piece Confidence Man, are another gem in waiting. Think Dee Lite, the B52s, and LCD Soundsystem produced by Weatherall or Oakenfold and you won't go far wrong. Get Down! width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Eyre Llew (Friday 26th. Manchester. Aatma @ 22:30) (Saturday 27th. Bristol. The Island @ 20:30) (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Spanky Van Dykes @ 22:30) Having already wowed festival goers at 2Q, Handmade, and Focus Wales in recent weeks, the Nottingham based trio get their first taste of bill topping status on home soil. Headlining the Spanky Van Dykes stage, expect to hear a selection of melodic and occasionally brutal cuts of ambient from their forthcoming debut album. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Heaters (Friday 26th. Manchester. Night And Day @ 23:00) (Saturday 27th. Bristol. Thekla @ 00:00) (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Bodega @ 00:00) Despite only forming three years, this Michigan-based quartet have already gained a glowing reputation both on record and as live performers. Last August saw the release of second long player Baptistina heralded their finest collection of songs to date and their incendiary take on psychedelic surf and garage rock is sure to be a winner this weekend. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Jimi Mack (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rough Trade @ 13:30) Originally from Belfast, this Nottingham-based singer/songwriter has been making waves in recent months both as a solo artist and founder member of psych rockers The Hijinks, also playing this weekend. With comparisons to the likes of John Martyn and Tim Buckley, his left field take on jazz-inspired folk is a joy to behold, as 'Salao', the lead track off forthcoming debut EP Familiar Horizons ably demonstrates. Come see what all the fuss is about. We guarantee you won't be disappointed. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation (Friday 26th. Manchester. Band On The Wall @ 17:15) (Saturday 27th. Bristol. Thekla @ 23:00) (Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rescue Rooms @ 23:15) Anyone that's already witnessed Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation in the flesh will know they're a captivating, if not mindblowing experience. Taking their name from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and with a musical palette that draws inspiration from Broadcast, Jefferson Airplane, Spacemen 3, and Serge Gainsbourg among a host of others, their darkly orchestrated, errant take on psychedelia is set to prove a surefire winner here. width=[...]

Echobelly - Anarchy and Alchemy

2017-05-24T09:23:34+01:002017-05-24 09:01:00 +0100

An album from a band that have been there and done it a few times, got bored, changed it up, run away, come back, swapped it up then become sophisticated and accomplished on their own terms with flair

Over ten years have lapsed since Echobelly's last release, so it would be far too easy for a lot of people to have forgotten or written the band off. But let it be known that the flame was always burning. Some indications as to the goings on during the hiatus can be located on two low key mini albums by spin-off band Calm of Zero that surfaced as a result. Illustrative of this is the seventh track ‘Faces In The Mirror’ tucked away on this latest crowdfunded album.

Having established their elemental essence during Calm of Zero, singer Sonya Aurora Madan and guitarist Glenn Johansson litmus tested an appetite for the Echobelly comeback. The results? A sold out gig at London’s Scala in 2015. In parallel to this a whiff of a Britpop reanimation has stirred and gained momentum around the country with festivals like the Shine weekender, Indie Daze and the Star Shaped festival ringing in Echobelly and previous contemporaries like Sleeper, Salad, My Life Story and The Bluetones.

Guarding the entrance to Echobelly’s new collection of tracks is a fearsome opener and stomping single ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’. This song clearly marks their return with Johansson's hypnotic blues rock riffs and Madan’s distinctive sultry vocals (with an added primal edge). On this track, this band is at times reminiscent of early PJ Harvey whilst capturing the glimmering light display of Echobelly’s core. The new drummer for this album is Ash Hall accompanied by bassist Oliver Kiernan. Both of them appear to be ‘nice enough’ session musician types with the latter touting Paul McCartney, Mel B and someone from The Kooks called Pete Denton on his credits.

‘Firefly’ continues the album at a similar pace, with a crunchy chugging bass riff that gives way to a more contrasting ethereal section that nudges previous Echobelly song structures like ‘Kali Yuga’ and ‘A Map Is Not The Territory’ found on 2001's People Are Expensive. What starts to become clear from the second track onwards is this album showcases Madan's vocal skills, which have developed one stage further, displaying more variation and showing off finesse like on ‘Firefly’ with its Arabian flirtations and ‘If The Dogs Don’t Get You’ with its rocketing "oohs" and somersaulting vocal attacks. Johansson’s guitar repertoire on the other hand has crystallised and continues to diversify with new tunings found on ‘Dead Again’ and ‘Faces In the Mirror’.

A lot of effort and final thought has gone into this album. Production surprises continue throughout like the springy vocal effect on ‘Molotov’ and variation in structure with ‘Autumn Angel’ being purely instrumental for the first segment, with delicate guitar rising from a hypnotic drone that turns into a distantly dulcet song. This paves the way for the concluding reflective post death track ‘Dead Again’. This is an album from a band that have been there and done it a few times, got bored, changed it up, run away, come back, swapped it up then become sophisticated and accomplished on their own terms with flair.


!!! - Shake the Shudder

2017-05-23T09:18:06+01:002017-05-23 09:13:39 +0100

The album is filled with a spirit of personal survival

If you spend more than an hour a day online, you are met with an onslaught of stressful stimuli. It’s not surprising that this stress has seeped into what’s meant to help us escape it — media, television, dance music. And that a band like !!!, known for their political bent, would work with this stress is less surprising still.

Their seventh album, Shake the Shudder, has taken this modern day stress and turned the focus onto self-preservation. Whether that self-preservation is from the 'Five Companies' running everything I see around me, the ex who never really appreciated you, or the toxic relationship from the person expecting you to solve all of their problems, the album is filled with a spirit of personal survival.

width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

But if the message is solid, production decisions are what make the album good rather than inspiring. After the heady pop punch of singles 'The One 2' and 'Dancing is the Best Revenge', things start to bleed into each other as neither post-punk or disco. Several tracks have questionable vocal dubbing — most notably on 'Throttle Service', which simultaneously has too many voices for an easy singalong and too few voices for a powerful chant (but with a few adjustments, it would be fantastic for the currently touring En Vogue).

While !!! might still bill themselves as post-punk, the retro vibes they’re presenting on Shake the Shudder mostly recall the Nineties, and Madchester at that. 'NRGQ' and “Our Love (U Can Get)” are direct lines from the Happy Mondays’ songbook with their funk guitar riffs and soul-style backing vocals. The assortment of guest vocalists — from powerhouse divas to a childlike soprano — are a welcome and animated counterpoint to Nic Offer’s anchor.

Maybe !!!’s latest effort isn’t revolutionary, but it is rebellious. In this time and place, caring for yourself is rebellious, and dancing can be the best revenge, whether on a personal level or, as Werk for Peace have shown, a political level. Shake the Shudder is a friendly reminder of that. And any lacklustre production will surely get ironed out in the inevitable remix collection.


Wavves - You're Welcome

2017-05-22T20:24:24+01:002017-05-22 20:23:04 +0100

The spirit of Brian Wilson’s harmonic compositions with the experimental flourish of Brian Eno No one really talks about it anymore, but it still seems like only yesterday when a drunk Nathan Williams stood on stage at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona and had an epic public breakdown, causing not only the concert goers to pummel him with bottles but media outlets to do the same with metaphorical daggers, declaring that we had seen the end of Wavves before they had a chance to properly ascend. At the time it appeared that Williams and his band had flamed out after only a year of stardom and critical blogosphere praise. But the reason hardly anyone talks about the little Barcelona incident anymore is a testament to what Williams has managed to accomplish in the ensuing years. Wavves rattled off a string of sensational music that forced previous detractors to take him seriously: King of the Beach, the Life Sux EP, Afraid of Heights, and V, the latter of which was an unsuccessful plug by Warners to introduce Williams and his bandmates to the mainstream. Wavves has come a long way from being derided as neo-Blink 182 rip-offs and carved out a lane of their own, one that has continued to widen with their latest release, You’re Welcome. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> You’re Welcome is the first album released under Williams’ new self-owned blueprint, Ghost Ramp, a label and merchandise store that Williams established with a little help from his friends after his rift with Warners. Williams’ newfound entrepreneurial spirit has not dampened his artistic fervor however, and his latest release shows signs of growth while not sacrificing the roots of what made the band indie godsends in the first place. The first track, 'Daisy', has tinges of The Beach Boys’ circa their Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile period, with a hint of psychedelic tones and punk rock to exacerbate the effect. But arguably Williams’ most precious gift is how he coos and hums at precisely the right moments, recalling the past angelic-like crooners of the late Fifties and early Sixties, like during the bridge of the intensive “'You’re Welcome'. A novice musician would be content with a palpably catchy song, but Williams works through every crevice in meticulous detail to exhume the most out of every chord. Williams’ growing confidence is glaring throughout the record. He is far from the wily kid making lo-fi records in his mother’s basement, but still retaining the untamed angst of what made 'So Bored' and 'No Hope Kids' perennial indie gems. The gut-punching essence of 'Million Enemies' sounds like a mixture of Richard Hell and The New York Dolls, with a touch of hip-hop flavour laced by the smooth drum-kicks of Brian Hill. But Williams’ maturation is not just manifest on a sonic level but a conscientious one as well. On a breakneck instrumental, Williams touches on fake news and the subsequent issues individuals are facing under the Trump administration. The political version of Williams is new territory as the bulk of his catalogue, whether dealing with hangovers, depression, or good vibes has dealt with matters revolving around his own personal purview. Although not concerning political matters, 'I Love You' is another departure, a raw confession of real, unfettered love, a topic Williams has only spotlighted at the surface level in the form of slight romantic dalliances, like on King of the Beach’s 'Baby Say Goodbye'. Accompanied by guitarist Alex Gates, bassist Stephen Pope, and drummer Hill, Williams invokes the spirit of Brian Wilson’s harmonic compositions with the experimental flourish of Brian Eno to imbue the songs on You’re Welcome with a myriad sound. The melting pot of influences is felt on such songs as 'Come to the Valley', where a carnival-like procession meshes well with the melodic vocals. But 'Under' might be the real crux of the albu[...]

Four Simple Nights: Frank Turner's Lost Evenings

2017-05-22T08:48:00+01:002017-05-22 08:48:00 +0100

We get lost in a mini-festival dedicated to all things Frank Anyone walking through Camden on Monday evening and poking their head into the Monarch pub would be well within their rights to be a bit baffled. Some sort of human choir on the stage singing through a Frank Turner classic while girls scattered in the crowd give them stern looks and tell them to get off stage if they miss a lyric. It’s a wonder they didn’t have buzzers. Elsewhere Beans On Toast is behind the bar singing along, people of all ages are scattered around tables and there’s a bloke sat in a pair of orange boxers. So for them, and for you, let’s begin at the beginning. A festival dedicated to Frank Turner, but not just Frank Turner. You’ve also got Skinny Lister, Will Varley, Seth Lakeman, talks on mental health, quizzes dedicated to Frank Turner (which is what the opening paragraph is about), film screenings, after-party DJ sets (that you can’t get into because of the queue) and that’s really just the tip of everything experienced over a weekend. Yeah, you might’ve gathered right now, it’s the dream for a Frank Turner fan. People travelled from all over the world. I just came from Preston and stayed in a hostel, Palmer’s Lodge in Swiss Cottage, that reminded me of Hogwarts. There was a suit of armour and everything. It didn’t move though. Needless to say, the main event over the four days was four headline sets at Camden Roundhouse. Turner did two greatest hits, one acoustic set called Sensible Sundays, and a performance celebrating the tenth anniversary of debut album Sleep Is For The Week. And it’s that night, Saturday, that produces the best night of the fantastic run. Many of these tracks haven’t seen the light of day for years. The moment ‘Vital Signs’ starts and the curtain drops to reveal the artwork, there’s a real feeling in the room that you’re experiencing something special that never really dissipates. The version of ‘Worse Things Happen At Sea’ will stay with me, if not forever, then at least for a few weeks. ‘Father’s Day’ is incredible and then the first performance of ‘Thatcher Fucked The Kids’ in nearly a decade has the room spitting venom towards the stage. That’s not to say there aren’t moments across the other nights that resonate. ‘Redemption’ on the first night stands out, along with the huge performance of ‘Fisher King Blues’. It was also on that night that I found out the Camden Roundhouse exclusive lager tastes like feet, despite me being pretty impressed that they had one at all. Sunday sees my gig buddy leave early so a couple of fans called Hannah and Andy take me under their wing and they’re great. They’re not the only people I get to know from that day onwards but they’re the ones I remember most. We drink, watch football, watch Beans On Toast and drink some more. The solo set is a completely different vibe to the previous nights. ‘Song for Josh’ is the sort of song that reduces you to a husk of your former self, and so it proved. Performances of new tracks ‘Sand In The Gears’ and ‘1933’ show that, going forward, his stuff is going to be a lot more politically engaging. Then comes the last day, and that pub quiz. Some strangers give us a £40 voucher for the bar in the Monarch that we see off in about half an hour. We head in for Will Varley, who I firmly believe to be the most talented songwriter about right now (sorry Frank). ‘King For A King’ closes the set and is as memorable as anything else from the weekend. After that, it’s my first time with Skinny Lister, but you’ll not find a more fun support act anywhere and the moonshine they passed around during their set was enjoyed far too much. Frank’s final set of the weekend is emotional, passionate, and exhausting. Four days of gigs will do that to you. It’s also here that a few repeat tracks drop in (they did the previous night, but in acoustic f[...]

Secret Genius: DiS Meets (Sandy) Alex G

2017-05-22T08:48:51+01:002017-05-22 08:48:00 +0100

“It gets harder to be excited about something I’m making because I’m more self-critical.” Recently, DiS published a Q&A with filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, which ended with him saying: “Film should be like music – uncontrollable.” I'm not sure if Refn has every heard of (Sandy) Alex G, but ‘uncontrollable’ is one way to describe the Philly recording artist's latest LP Rocket. With the same foible as genre-bending artists like Ween and Beck, Alex Giannascoli displays a myriad of baffling sonic collages in the span of fourteen tracks. Bucolic country-folk (‘Bobby’, ‘Poison Root’), honeyed Cole Porter jazz (‘County’, ‘Guilty’), noise-laden “hardcore shit shows” (‘Brick’), pixelated Reich-abstractions (‘Horse’), kaleidoscopic avantpop reminiscent of labelmates Animal Collective (‘Witch’)... well, (Sandy) Alex G can simply do it all and do it well. If the sheer musical range on display tells us one thing, Rocket, like previous Alex G releases, doesn’t intend to follow a certain narrative, stylistic or overarching concept. Giannascoli is the first to attest to that assumption. “There isn’t a narrative to the album, but yeah, within each song there is hopefully something tangible”, he says, fumbling between frequent ‘erms’, awkward pauses, and unfinished sentences over Skype. “The goal is to make people nostalgic. I want people to relate to it. Even though it’s impossible, that’s my goal. If I apply a certain sound, maybe that will be evocative to people in the same way it’s evocative to me.” There’s an interesting contradiction in (Sandy) Alex G’s already immense catalogue; the free-wheeling nature of his output, plus the contrary idea of that being his way to actually maintain control as opposed to be out of control – to riposte Refn's remark again. Giannascoli wants to make his songs palpable for his audience, but he doesn’t feel too comfortable enunciating his music explicitly, at least not beyond just general aesthetic or mood. As effortless as writing songs appears to come to him, it’s still difficult to articulate for him why during interviews. Though affable and relaxed in his disposition, doing them isn’t really his forte. He’s keen to call his own bullshit often mid-answer, going out of his own way to debunk any sort of romanticism in what he does. Even when talking about his collaboration with Frank Ocean on Blonde – something most artists would put in capitals on their resume – he’s been (refreshingly) ho-hum and pragmatic. For this article, his publicist politely requested DiS to not ask Giannascoli about Frank Ocean. Because, really, what more is there to say? Focussing on (Sandy) Alex G's own work is interesting in its own merit. When addressing ‘Witch’, Giannascoli meekly dismisses the song’s amorphous nature as something haphazard. “A lot of people have been relating that song to Animal Collective, but I haven’t listened to them in years. I came up with the guitar parts first. I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish music on the radio during tours. There was a lot of latin music on the radio all the time, and I’ve been listening to a lot of radio. I wanted it to be this dark latin sounding song. It’s funny, I think I try so hard to make shit perfectly formed, and it ends up accidentally amorphous sounding. Because I’m not that technically good, I’m haphazard in my methods. So it ends up sounding experimental by default. In reality, I was trying to make it sound very tight. Which again, is kind of funny.” src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> --- Are there any new tricks you picked up when you were recording Rocket? To be honest, I still do things the same way as usual, the way I’ve always done it. This album was mixed ag[...]

Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions

2017-05-19T21:43:42+01:002017-05-19 21:43:28 +0100

It really is a rarity to find artists this far into their career, and after such a sustained break, sound so fresh and positive It’s been eight long years since Do Make Say Think’s last record. Whilst 2009’s Other Truths hinted at a bit more crash bang wallop in addition to the blissful noodling brain balm of tracks like, well, 'Classic Noodlanding', it still adhered to the relaxed character of their back catalogue. Not so much here. Stubborn Persistent Illusions finds the band positively excitable. And it bucks the trend of bands reforming after a lengthy hiatus to find the world changed and not really in need of retreads and rehashes. Opener ‘War On Torpor’ sounds like the gang have been on charge for eight years and are chomping at the bit to burn up stores of energy. It rolls in on a rising cymbal, followed swiftly by James Payment’s drumming, which has never been so frenzied and animated. All the other players match him at a similarly frantic pace that makes for smile-inducing ‘we’re back!’ moment. Unlike many of their more contemplative works, this record’s strength lies in its more bombastic moments. Their tendency to blend loud and quiet moments with rises and falls is wielded even more effectively than in the past. Subtlety plays no part in the bash, bash, bash of drums on ‘Bound,’ and yet it remains a great deal more satisfying than it has any right to be. Similarly, ‘And Boundless’ is lent a sense of emergency by sounding like an evacuation alarm. There’s never been so much drama on a DMST album, and this latest evolution is a thrill. style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="" seamless>Stubborn Persistent Illusions by Do Make Say Think The ten-minute-plus ‘Horripilation’ neatly summarises the album’s potency and should go down as one of their finest. Within its running time, there is a wealth of detail and narrative flow to enjoy. It contains moments of shimmering quiet amongst the compelling perpetual motion mustered through swaths of electronics, the glimmer of guitar and nuanced percussion. And with it, they’ve created their most immersive and convincing piece yet. Much like that track embraces instances of beauty and peace there are further songs that allow for space amidst fevered elation. ‘A Murder Of Thoughts’ evokes a more meditative pace via steel guitar and languid, gentle percussion, and ‘As Far As The Eye Can See’ has a zephyr-like breeziness courtesy of its dancing guitar lines. They chose to end the record with the hopefully titled and resolutely upbeat ‘Return And Return Again,’ and its unadulterated joy. It feels like the musical equivalent of grinning, and that of a band really relishing their pursuit. It really is a rarity to find artists this far into their career, and after such a sustained break, sound so fresh and positive. Clearly, rather than lying dormant these individuals kept spinning along with the rest of the world, and their return is a great deal richer for it. As a genre post-rock is certainly stubborn and persistent in the face of rocky times for guitar music, but its value is no illusion if Do Make Say Think’s latest is anything to go by. ![104769]( [...]

Valerian Swing - Nights

2017-05-19T21:38:13+01:002017-05-19 21:37:23 +0100

Valerian Swing are a novel, ever-evolving treat waiting to be unwrapped If we’re talking about ways to guarantee a divisive approach to winning over new fans, describing yourselves as 'three Italian lunatics playing mathy, violent, anthemic, and largely-instrumental songs' has got to be up there. For those willing to burrow past the blurb, however, Valerian Swing are a novel, ever-evolving treat waiting to be unwrapped. Now on their fourth full-length album and firmly entrenched in Italy’s heavy music scene, 2017 saw the exit of bassist Alan Ferioli in favour of baritone guitarist Francesco Giovanetti, a line-up switcheroo which seems to have brought fresh courage to the outfit and heralded in a broader wind of change that’s seen a real stylistic shift. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and Nights certainly eats very well indeed. Shedding the shackles of the ‘heavy’ bracket has proven a wise choice – as a band they sound leaner, the music more textured, the soundscapes more expansive and emotive than before. Unlike many of their contemporaries they never fall into the trap of utilising their impressive instrumentation incorrectly. Everything here is measured, sensible, tasteful – just the right amounts of grit, pathos and cold modernity rub shoulders with equal measures of lightness, malleability and analogue warmth. style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="" seamless>Nights by Valerian Swing The tumbling lead guitar line of ‘Four Horses’ is a fine example – a snippet of shred which accentuates a delicious, rolling, bluesy opening before spreading like a disease throughout the rest of the song into a sprawling, cosmic prog-a-thon. With that being said, Valerian Swing manage to do that rarest of things, treading a fine line between accessibility and improvisational playing with skill and grace. The array of 'bleeps', 'sloops', 'wheeps', 'raooowwws' and 'blaows' on offer here is quite the smorgasbord of noise for a three piece, even for those beloved of pedal board set ups more complicated than local bus route timetables. ‘Five Walls’ is a masterclass in texture and depth, no doubt aided by producer Raffaele Marchetti, and mixed expertly by Matt Bayles. I don’t dare to imagine how many restless hours Bayles spent tearing his hair out listening to the mind-bending loops and layers that are threaded through the record. Across the eight tracks, Nights is something of a musical journey, with the album’s mid-point really hotting up around ‘Six Feet’, a gypsy-jazz stomper that twirls and shifts through pitches and tempos. Somehow, it manages to be utterly charming and melodic to the point of what used to be referred to as toe-tapping, but might now be best described as a fucking belter. Experimentation with computers, electronics and processed vocals have added several other strings to the band’s already complex bow and make for a compelling, intelligent and intriguing listen. David Ferretti’s drumming deserves special credit throughout – a master of the machine gun snare, adept at stumbling jazz breaks, and capable of battering seven shades of hell out of the kit when necessary. In the immortal words of The Fast Show’s Jazz Club host, Louis Balfour, “mmmm…nice”. The album’s compositional highlight is hands-down the joyous, swollen, spiralling madness of the latter half of ‘Seven Cliffs’. Snippets of influence from Blondie and Arcade Fire build into a rampaging crescendo powered by one of the most elated sections of finger-tapped guitar in recent memory. If you’ve not got a dumb grin plastered across your face whilst manically thrashing various limbs around by this point in the record, then I would postula[...]

Kweku Collins - grey

2017-05-19T21:27:52+01:002017-05-19 21:26:57 +0100

Testament to the power of a gifted vocalist eschewing convention While Chicago is packed with quality rappers who can cater to every niche of the hip-hop community, one of the rising artists with the best chance of becoming a Chance the Rapper-level superstar is an introspective outsider from one of the city’s neighbouring suburbs. Kweku Collins, barely into his twenties, is a true original, and his latest EP, grey, is a testament to the power of a gifted vocalist eschewing convention and instead going out and creating the musical palette that best suits his skills and message. Though other Chicago rappers have been experimenting recently with a more punk rock sensibility and raw vocal delivery (MeloMakesMusic and Ju being two other noteworthy examples), Collins is probably the most compelling artist on the forefront of this new mini-movement that is inspired both by the metallic, industrial tones of drill and the melodic flow of the city’s jazz rap scene. Kweku’s tracks are ethereal and honest. At their best they feel like private confessions that are only being relayed to you individually. Collins is young, but he’s already capable of forming a bond between himself and the listener that few seasoned rappers ever establish. Perhaps it’s his willingness to rap on instrumentals like the dusky guitar-and-string rainfall of ‘Youaintshit (Shine On),’ a track that is both gorgeously cinematic and painfully raw which few MCs would even attempt to use. Collins’ vocals pair hauntingly with Sylvia Grace’s elegiac cello, as he explores the fissures that form as people grow apart (“The gaps between my texts get longer everyday / And absence leaves effects that linger on your face”). While artists like Chance have brought gospel into rap in exciting ways, Collins’ ability to blend hip-hop and lo-fi indie rock is arguably trickier and riper for exploration in the future. With its ethereal synths and grainy texture, grey feels inspired by some of the mid-Noughties' best heart-on-the-sleeve indie bands like The Shins or The Postal Service. Collins’ cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ iconic ‘ Maps’ (retitled ‘Oasis2: Maps’) is powerful, perhaps even besting Anderson .Paak’s woozy take from 2013. Collins is still raw as a singer, with plenty of room to make the same improvements Chance did in terms of range and strength, but he’s already excellent at conveying emotion and balancing different note lengths to create compelling melodies. Ever since his official debut, 2015’s Say It Here, While It’s Safe, Collins has had designs on being a well-rounded vocalist, and it is growing more evident over time that as he improves as a singer he’ll be able to strategically deploy his gifts as a rapper instead of relying too heavily on them. grey isn’t overtly political, but in such a turbulent era its soul-and-place-seeking language (“The sun came up in my absence / It is understood that it will again, ” he says on ‘Jump.I,’ while on ‘International Business Trip’ he claims, “Feel more to all this earth than the dirt to me) feels especially cathartic and necessary. What’s most impressive is that despite being so young, it feels like Kweku’s ideas reach your ears fully realized and intact; nothing is lost from inception through the processes of writing, production, mixing, and mastering. He could work to hone his skills as a narrative MC and storyteller, but it’s unclear if Kweku committing his considerable gifts to rapping more like a Nas or Common would necessarily make his music more powerful, given that he’s capable of capturing so many different headspaces so vividly already. Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal wrote that the nostalgic ballad, 'Dec. 25th' “is a song that works like our memories work”, and the same is certainly true of the bleary-eyed, [...]

The Friday Fangasm: Superunknown by Soundgarden

2017-05-19T14:46:49+01:002017-05-19 14:46:49 +0100

RIP Chris Cornell I write this on the day that Chris Cornell died at the age of 52. This is a homage to one of the most pivotal albums of our generation. "Times are gone for honest men" ‘Black Hole Sun’ Released in March 1994, Superunknown went on to sell over five million copies. It defined a new period of post-grunge, and caught the band at their very best. With the hype surrounding the Seattle scene in overdrive, the group began to redefine our expectations for rock music, by making music that worked on multiple levels, incorporating, different tempos, styles, and with Cornell, a variety of octave ranges with his beastly howling. For those growing up with Superunknown, it also acted as a transition record, from the manic and wild antics of grunge music, into mature and darker pallets. src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> At first Superunknown comes across as a desperate, bleak record with what sounds like a very troubled Cornell. Throughout the LP’s tracks there are two versions of the singer; a somber, stoic singer-songwriter, and the harking screaming Cornell that appears to counterbalance normality. It’s as if the demonic version of Chris Cornell is trying to break out from the inside. As the songs crescendo with wailing guitar solos, then rip apart the dead, grunge-sounding riffs, it signals the moment for the inner Cornell to let rip. And without this duality, Superunknown would be nothing. Light and darkness, living together within an unknown template. The LP plays on heavy riffs, tight rhythms, and melancholy. Like a Led Zeppelin fallen on hard times. Tracks that stick in your psyche, like a troubled memory. On reflection, acknowledging Cornell’s troubled youth, drug abuse issues - and suicide - Superunknown can start to feel like tortured, haunting, journey. Its somberness takes you back the first time you first heard that record (that is if you fall into the Generation X category.) Whereas the likes of Nirvana and Mudhoney appealed to the angst-ridden teenage youth, Soundgarden came across more earnest and mature. Nirvana were great – but there was no deeper narrative within the scattergun style of songwriting. The perils of teenage youth were subtly addressed in the emotionally charged music and pain-stricken lyrics of the Superunknown. Throughout the record, Soundgarden’s riffs crash over into each other, as Chris Cornell paints a narrative that was indicative of the 90s, in which, as teenagers, we asked ourselves where our place was in the world. MTV depicted this chic world of glamour and depravity, but like most of us, Cornell didn’t see that. For those without direction, it was a desolate world. And this is why Superunknown spoke to so many teenagers at the time. As Pitchfork described it, Superunknown was that “rare arena-rock album that makes just as much sense in blacked-out bedroom.” One of the common misperceptions is that Superknown is an album about drugs. It isn’t. It’s actually about hope. “I don't have any heroin songs,” Cornell stated in a Rolling Stone interview. It’s still hard to take in. There is a Superknown that steals your mind and your soul; a Black Hole Sun that comes to wash away the rain; and ‘Let Me Drown’, in which Cornell beckons you “Let it go / And drown me in you”. In reality, a lot of these reflections are dealing with the self. It’s about a place and time. And where the album points towards places of dark imagery and misanthropy, there lies, in between the lines, places of hope and beauty. ‘The Day I Tried to Live’, a dark, anthemic teenage roll call - which finds Cornell at his best - is actually a song about trying to turn things around; ‘Spoonman’[...]