2017-03-24T09:09:32+00:002017-03-24 09:09:32 +0000What a stunning, inventive debut album this is The Independent’s Emily Mackay called Anna Calvi a “scary, scary lady.” Brian Eno called her “the biggest thing since Patti Smith.” What makes Calvi great is, no doubt, what also makes her scary to some. The bottomless warmth of her voice, her vein-tapping lyrics, her eclectic guitar techniques, and her flamenco costuming comprise the perfect storm. Above all, the staggering intensity of her music sets her apart from many of her peers. src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:album:1VSNOi4dAvNc5sT9R0U6ZQ" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> When I first heard Anna Calvi, I was living off E Washington Ave in Madison, WI. I lived in a barely converted attic that sweltered and invited endless bats. I was mostly sleepless, often drunk, always writing. One night, I’d hoped internet radio would bring fresh inspiration for my fiction. I leaned back against the midnight windowpanes, the halogen whoosh of traffic outside, and there it was. A flurry of drums and then the strong treble of a Telecaster tuned low. The guitarist went through a few riffs, bending the neck like in surf rock, but instead using that twist to signal her story would not be what it seemed. And then there was her voice. The song was ‘Suzanne and I’, and I still don't know what the song is about. It could be violence or homoeroticism (“But we hold / hold it down”) or neither. The song comes on and in my mind I'm running through an endless field of dark, wet grass, exhilarated, having gotten away with something big and about to be kissed so hard I lose my breath as I stumble, my coat falling off my arms. ‘Suzanne and I’ is from Calvi’s debut album Anna Calvi, which came out in 2011 to great acclaim. “As Ms. Calvi sings about the overpowering forces of heavenly love and demonic passion, she can go from whisper to cataclysm in four minutes, and she regularly does,” wrote the New York Times. “It's obvious Calvi has a gift. Her commanding voice calls to mind some of the most powerful female performers in rock history” wrote Under the Radar in their February 2011 issue. Calvi’s debut was nominated for the Mercury prize where ironically, she lost to PJ Harvey, the artist to whom she is frequently compared. (The comparisons were further bolstered by the album being co-produced by Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis. Brian Eno had told Calvi he’d produce it but he didn’t think she needed the help.) Calvi, the daughter of two psychotherapists, is half Italian and was born and raised in England. She recalls her parents frequently hypnotizing her to relieve stress. Their openness about emotion helped her to become comfortable with a range of feelings, Calvi says, though she’s always been quite shy. At age six, she took up the violin, adding the guitar at age eight. She steeped herself in diverse influences from Hendrix to the gypsy stylings of Django Reinhardt to the film scores of Ennio Morricone. She says that as a teenager she was obsessed with the sitar and spent a year only listening to Indian music. Later, she studied guitar and composition at university. As proficient as she is with the guitar, though, her voice is what sinks its teeth in. Calvi is naturally a soprano but sings as an alto because she prefers the deeper warmth of that range. But it’s surprising that Calvi is singing at all, considering how long it took her to find her voice. She’d always wanted to sing, but something—perhaps her profound shyness—held her back. It wasn’t until one day in 2006, when she found herself alone in her parents’ house, that her voice came. They were redecorating and had moved out all the furniture, and something about the emptiness inspired her. Not even in the shower had she sung like that before. After that, she’d wait until she was home alone, draw all the curtains, lock herself in the kitchen, and practice singing along with artists like Edith Piaf and Nina Simone. It wasn’t long until she found herself coop[...]
2017-03-24T09:10:10+00:002017-03-24 08:51:00 +0000We chat to the jazz pianist about his upcoming collaboration with grime artist Trim Next up in our series of interviews for FLOAT presents Piano Day is left-stepping Jazz pianist Matthew Bourne. As his varied discography can attest, Matthew’s approach to music and the piano is far from conventional, yet still rooted in a sound understanding and practice of harmony and composition. Ahead of a very special one-off collaboration with grime MC Trim, Matthew chats to us about transcribing grime music, genre labels, and the art of reduction. --- How did you feel when you were asked to play for Piano Day this year? Very pleased, it was nice to be asked. And obviously playing in Union Chapel is an amazing thing to do, it’s such a great venue. I’ve played there a few times for the daylight sessions that Ben Eshmade runs on a Saturday morning. I’ve never played there in the evening though, so really looking forward to it. How did you feel about being asked to collaborate with Trim? Sofia (FLOAT) said that it was something that other people had expressed some ambivalence, or doubt, about whether it was a viable thing to do, but I said yes without really thinking about it, I just don’t see why not. It’s an omnipresent discussion around genre – what genre’s this, where does it fit, etc. There’s a lot of lazy labels out there. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, other than a lack of writers that can articulately describe the different music that comes out, and I think pigeonholing things by these labels sometimes isn’t helpful to people. It does provoke discussions about the music – what is it, what are you doing, what does it sound like. I think genre descriptors can be useful up to a certain point, but looking at it purely from a musical point of view, the gig is about putting two musicians together from two very different backgrounds, end of story! [Laughs] What’s the process been like in terms of preparing a set? I sat down with Trim’s music and worked out the tunes and figured out a piano part that will fit into that sound-world. It’s something I’ve quite enjoyed doing actually. Even before thinking about a setlist I proposed to transcribe his album anyway, as a starting point. After transcribing the music I can have full knowledge of all the harmonic and melodic parts of the music, and I preliminary fashioned those into something that works on the piano. And now we’re working through these ideas and fine tuning everything. Did you know much about grime music before encountering Trim or is this all quite new territory? I’ve friends who kind of play in grime bands or have been into it, so I’ve known about it but it’s not something I’m particularly familiar with. That’s one of the great things about music, there’s so much of it out there that sometimes it does take someone to propose it to you, which then makes you check it out. But I’ve been listening to Trim’s album a lot, obviously for this collaboration, but it’s great, I love his particular sound-world, it’s very interesting. Interestingly I was thinking that a lot of material on your Minimoog album isn’t so far really from that kind of space... Yeah, in Trim’s music there is a lot of economy, you can sense that there’s been some really good choices made in the production. I did the Minimoog record using only one synthesizer and I would sit with the tracks contemplating for a long time whether to add more but in the end decided that if there’s space why not just let there be space… It’s really easy to cram a tune full of sounds and parts, and layer things up, with all the technology and software that’s available to us now, but then it’s about choice and reduction, and imposing limitation. I think I always work best when I’m limited to technology, if I got into the whole software and digital world I’d be paralysed by choice. With Trim’s music there’s this sense of choice being made and it’s not cluttered at all, and even though the mu[...]
2017-03-23T12:06:08+00:002017-03-23 12:06:02 +0000Merritt has lifted the curtain JUST enough to draw us that bit more into his world Stephin Merritt, in the liner notes to this, his eleventh Magnetic Fields album, says: 'I am the least autobiographical person you are likely to meet.' And thinking about it, that’s true. His best-known work to date - feted 1999 album 69 Love Songs – was as much an exercise in explication of the art of the ‘love song’ as anything more intimate. And, in a sense, the series of concepts that Merritt uses to theme and group his releases (song-titles-beginning-with-the-letter-i, (i), noise music (Distortion), synth trilogies, non-synth trilogies etc) have always served as a means of distancing the musician from the music, an intellectual exercise rather than the kind of tortured confessional that other singer-songwriters might favour. But now we come to the matter in hand: 50 Song Memoir. On one hand, it’s quite a typical Stephin Merritt concept: an album with one track representing each year of his life to date, to mark his fiftieth birthday. On the other hand, though, it’s a clear departure. A chance to get inside the head and history of the purveyor of some of the smartest, drollest, most poignant-slash-cynical lyrics of the last 20 years, to get a sense of his background, his formative moments, his influences and more – an irresistible prospect. Of course, what you get, in fact, is nothing quite so straightforward as a narrative history of the artist. While some tracks are reasonably directly autobiographical – ‘68 A Cat Called Dionysis’, a cute tale about an unfriendly family pet, ’03 The Ex and I’ in which he revives an old romance – others are much more oblique, sometimes tantalisingly so. He approaches the story of his mother from several angles, which combine to give a clearer picture than perhaps just one obvious song might do. In ’67 Come Back As A Cockroach’ we get a list of the kind of parental admonishments that were levelled at the one-year-old; by 1974, on ’74 No’ we get a funny/sarky catalogue of all her kooky beliefs (each one explained then followed with a dry “no”. “She says she ain’t no hippy / I guess beatnik’s the word”, he explains elsewhere (’75 My Mama Ain’t’). By his teens we get hints of the absent father, with a scene from 1979 that sees Ma Merritt taking her son backstage at a show in an attempt to show him that “Rock and roll will ruin your life / Like your old no-good-nik dad”. In the particularly bile-filled ’77 Life Ain’t All Bad’ it sounds like Merritt is singing directly to this absent father (or possibly an unloved step-father?) as he deadpans “I hope I never run into / Another piece of shit like you”, going on to gleefully (or with relief?) sing “Na na-na na, you dead now”. Dark stuff. From around 1985, of course, both love and sex begin to move up the agenda. In ’85 Why I Am Not A Teenager’ he bemoans the usual teen woes – “When you never get paid and you never get laid / And you’re full of these stupid hormones” but suddenly, abruptly, reminds us of the new peril that gay men began to face at this point: “And just then they come out with AIDS”. Oof. We get snapshots from what sounds like a ‘first love’, described in the odd, disjointed ’87 At The Pyramid’ as dancing “into my dream world / Bleach blond with caterpillar eyes” and a fun, chaotic-sounding menàge-à-quatre in ’93 Me and Fred and Dave and Ted’ – “All in two rooms with one bed”. “Ah, we were young and vaguely in love” he continues, sweetly, perfectly capturing the insouciance and anything-goes days of life and love in your twenties. It’s tempting to try and forensically track the course of Merritt’s romantic life, in fact, as we get closer to the present day and a preponderance of break-up / get-back-together / heartbreak / fresh love songs come to the fore. Is this one major on-off love, or several different relationship being documented on tracks lik[...]
2017-03-23T10:02:36+00:002017-03-23 10:02:36 +0000Say hi to Joel Wästburg, the multi-instrumentalist with an extraordinary backstory and a genre-bending debut “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt,” or so says Lucio in William Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure. The fear of failure (or atychiphobia) can weigh heavy on a person’s shoulders, and while Swedish multi-instrumentalist Joel Wästburg wasn’t completely crippled by a fear of releasing his own music, he does admit that “it’s been such a struggle for me to come past my own fears.” Now though, he’s released his debut album under the name sir Was, Digging A Tunnel, a record that consolidates all of Wästburg’s musical taste and talent into a singular ten-track collection. “The feeling of joy is much stronger than the fear. It feels liberating,” he enthuses. “It feels the opposite of frustrating! It’s like: ‘Ahh, yeah!’ Whereas before it was like: ‘Ooh, it’s a bit scary, what am I doing?’” src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:album:6N5BwZhy6q4d4NbX6M6A35" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> Digging A Tunnel has been a long time coming. Wästburg’s journey has been a winding road filled with twists and turns, his story bursting at the seams with a multitude of extraordinary experiences. It’s a tale that often sounds like an epic bildungsroman (and indeed his significant life events could probably fill out a fairly hefty tome in themselves). But his past isn’t just intriguing as a narrative; it’s also key to understanding the processes and sounds behind Wästburg’s much more recent solo output. As such, even before getting into the intricacies of Digging A Tunnel, it’s well worth diving into something of a potted history of Joel Wästburg. As with any aspiring musician, he first had to adopt an instrument. Growing up, he was lucky enough to have a piano at home, but he particularly recalls how he began to play the saxophone. One day at school, Wästburg and his classmates were visited by a group of music teachers who presented their instruments as trials for the children to try out. Wästburg discovered that he had a natural talent for playing the saxophone. “Immediately I got a sound out of it like ‘BOOP’!” he recounts. “The teacher, who was my first teacher, he said something like: ‘Whoa, you got a thing, I think you’re a saxophone player.’ So I started with saxophone and ten years after that I was still playing it, and ten years after that too.” Before long Wästburg was drawn to even more instruments. Even though he was experiencing an “intense obsession” with the sax, he started experimenting with playing drums too. “I have three younger brothers and one of them played drums for a bit, so we had drums at home growing up too. So I was on there playing, and I did play along to records and things,” he explains. According to him, it was only natural to be drawn to percussive instruments like the drums: “It’s a classic thing among a lot of musicians. It was the same for me! Just like; ‘Boom!’ ‘Bash!’ ‘Tish!’ How can you not like that?” src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aoXnOq6_zQw?ecver=2" width="540" height="304" frameborder="0" style="position:absolute;width:100%;height:100%;left:0" allowfullscreen> Wästburg’s enthusiasm for percussion, just like the saxophone, became unbridled. This feeling was only enhanced by an increasing taste for hip hop, and when he heard a seminal album for the first time he became even more mesmerised. “When I was 17, I heard D’Angelo’s Voodoo and that was a massive thing for me. I was totally blown away,” he says. From there, he started digging deeper, perhaps, he explains, because he wanted to trace these rhythms to their roots. There were numerous trips to libraries and record stores just to discover what else was out there. Then, while he was at the University of Gothenburg studying mu[...]
2017-03-23T10:01:53+00:002017-03-23 10:01:53 +0000Senseless Things play their first gig for 22 years and it's sensational! Hull, 2017's European City of Culture and somewhat unlikely setting for the return of one of the biggest cult bands of the 1990s. West London outfit the Senseless Things first emerged in 1987 at a time when word of mouth was the only way new bands would make any kind of headway outside of their own backyards, and in order to attain such traction had to play as many shows as possible. While there are some parallels with today - certainly in terms of instilling a live presence - it was an altogether different ball game back then, and bands like the Senseless Things alongside other tireless stalwarts such as Mega City Four, Kingmaker, and Thousand Yard Stare would literally spend the best part of every year travelling up and down the land in transit vans hoping to play to as many people as possible and maybe even put out a record or two in the process. Which for Senseless Things paid dividends as not only did they release four critically acclaimed albums alongside a batch of well-received 45s, but also managed to gatecrash the top 20 national singles chart culminating in a Top Of The Pops appearance with 'Easy To Smile', their highest ever chart placing in January 1992. width="540" height="304" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q38F7_HSmss" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The four-piece - Mark Keds (vocals/guitar), Ben Harding (guitar/backing vocals), Morgan Nicholls (bass) and Cass Browne (drums) - built up quite a loyal following during their existence before calling it a day in 1995 after the release of fourth and final long player Taking Care Of Business. Disillusioned with the music industry having been jettisoned to the sidelines (along with many other infinitely better bands from back in the day) by Britpop, their back catalogue littered with a host of gems. The ensuing years saw all four members continue to make music in one form or another, Nicholls most prominently with Muse, Gorillaz, and The Streets, Harding in Three Colours Red, Browne also in Gorillaz as well as Delakota and Penguin Cafe, and Keds briefly with The Wildhearts along with Jolt, The Lams and current band Deadcuts, who also recently recruited Cass Browne on drums. There was almost a Senseless Things reunion in 2007 at a benefit gig for Mega City Four frontman Wiz Brown, who passed away in December of the previous year, but unfortunately, other commitments meant Nicholls couldn't join his three former bandmates and Hitechjet bass player Micky Wyle stood in instead for the short, four-song set in Islington that evening. So having finally bitten the bullet and joined the ever growing list of reformations last December in announcing a one-off reunion show at Shepherd's Bush Empire 0n 25th March - their first show for 22 years - the four Senseless Things went one further by arranging a secret warm-up gig at Hull's Adelphi six days beforehand (Sunday 19th March). Chosen because of its prominence in the band's tour schedule while at their most active, the Adelphi is one of the last remaining old-school venues from the widely denounced but sorely missed "toilet circuit." Tucked away in between rows of terraced houses in Hull's Kingston area, its played host to anyone and everyone from the Manic Street Preachers and The Stone Roses to Pulp and Oasis plus many more before, in between and after. Indeed its status as one of the warmest and most welcoming settings of its kind makes it a hotbed for gig-goers from all over the British Isles, and tonight's first opportunity to witness the Senseless Things in the flesh for over two decades proves no exception. With many having travelled from various corners of the UK to be among the 200 tightly squeezed into the Adelphi's intimate confines. Beforehand, its the turn of Midway Still - another band renowned for their past glories on the independent rock circuit, most notably 1992's debut long player Dial Squa[...]
2017-03-22T14:41:11+00:002017-03-22 14:40:04 +0000
Not, of course, that everything in a discography as massive as Wolf Eyes’ will be to everyone’s taste. Whilst some thought 2015’s certifiably unhinged I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces was something of a masterstroke, others bemoaned what they interpreted as a decrease in viscerality from the band. Anyone who’s seen Wolf Eyes live in the last few years will know that any such accusation is misleading. Wolf Eyes are no longer as jaggedly vicious on record as they were in their earlier days, but only because they have found more subtle ways to unnerve listeners. Undertow, the debut release on the band’s own new label Lower Floor, is a case in point.
There’s very little in the way of bowel-shredding sonic harshness here, but there is less of the restraint found on its predecessor. The titular opening track is thoroughly menacing, and the mood doesn’t let up throughout the following four tracks. To say Undertow is disturbing would be to misrepresent what’s going on here. This is Wolf Eyes turning a mirror on the grimy world around them rather than trying to goad their audience with unnecessary displays of nightmare trip psychedelia. The one short, sharp shock that this record provides – the exhausting, but sub-two minute, ‘Laughing Tides’ – is an outlier, but one that seems to reflect the sudden outbursts of chaos that afflict contemporary politics.
This is, after all, a band that offered their entire discography for 'Pay-what-you-want' download the day after Donald Trump was elected last November, encouraging donations for appropriate charities instead. Undertow recognises that the familiar can be the most threatening. The cult of misplaced celebrity and of misinformation that dominates America in 2017 is aptly subverted in the 13-minute-closer, ‘Thirteen’, which sounds like a crawl-pace Stooges jam gone badly, badly wrong. “I count every deceit, as they repeat”, Young spits at one juncture. The track as a whole is a deeply unsettling ride, building on the claustrophobic electronics presented in the earlier stages of the record by threatening to deconstruct them altogether.
If there’s one criticism that very much springs to mind this time around it’s that Undertow feels a little slight. Nobody expects a Wolf Eyes record to stick around too long, but aside from ‘Thirteen’ it does feel a little like this album could do with a tad more heft. Certainly, on early listens, it appears to lack some of the strange staying power of the band’s very best releases, as if there’s an indefinable something missing. As a result, this is unlikely to jar experienced Wolf Eyes listeners as much as it is newcomers. One can only hope plenty of new ears are drawn into the band’s orbit through this release.
2017-03-22T14:05:41+00:002017-03-22 14:05:41 +0000DiS is delighted to announce we'll be curating our own stage at Handmade Festival on Friday 28 April in a church! One of our most enjoyable weekends of last summer's festival season took place in Leicester over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. Handmade Festival, called as such because it's one of the few predominantly DIY events still functioning featured some memorable performances from the likes of Los Campesinos!, Big Deal, and Colour Me Wednesday at 2016's event. So this year, Drowned In Sound is delighted to announce we'll be curating our own stage on Friday 28th April in a church! That's right, our show will be taking place in the ornate setting of Bishop Street Methodist Church which was built over 200 years ago. The line up for the DiS stage is as follows... Haiku Salut No strangers to readers of the site or indeed DiS curated events gone by, having played for us at last year's Great Escape in Brighton. Both 2013's debut Tricolore and its follow-up two years later Etch And Etch Deep amassed a wealth of critical acclaim, and we're literally thrilled to bits that the trio of Sophie, Gemma, and Louise have taken time out from recording their forthcoming third record to headline what promises to be an incredible night of music. width="540" height="304" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nwAwkI1RzQg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Her Name Is Calla This Leicester-based outfit have also been long standing favourites here at DiS, having played various club nights and festival stages for us over the years. First album The Heritage still remains one of the finest debuts of the decade while the band's subsequent two long players The Quiet Lamb and Navigator further illustrate their propensity to confound expectations and beguile in equal measures. width="540" height="304" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Zmk4y3hED40" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Eyre Llew Another band heavily championed on DiS pretty much from the moment their first demo landed on our desk. This experimental trio fuse the lavish orchestration of bands like Sigur Ros and Wild Beasts with the brutal intensity of Godspeed! You Black Emperor or 65daysofstatic. Their as-yet untitled debut album is out later this year and they've given us something of an exclusive in the shape of forthcoming single 'Havoc', which gets its very first public airing here. width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/309988778&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true"> Cold Water Souls This Derby based five-piece have only been together just over a year with their current line-up, but already their anthemic, shoegaze-tinged atmospheric rock has created waves around the East Midlands thanks to their mesmeric and utterly spellbinding live performances. width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/308210179&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true"> Also newly announced are a host of other acts including Goat Girl, Baba Naga, HMLTD, Peaness, Easy Life, Dead Pretties and Neon Waltz which completes the line up for 2017. It’s very cool. So I was kind of interested to see if other artists were referencing radio in particular or using radio technology to produce sound. BO: Μost artists are just using whatever they have, and reel to reel tape splicing kind thing, is obviously a bit of an obsolete technology. But I’d love to have some artists come in and play reel to reel machines. It’d be so good. You know the tagline of the show is Unexplored Territories In Sound, can you ever imagine the format kind of evolving to ta[...]