Melin Melyn’s ‘Rebecca’ Is A Curious Off Piste Guitar Jam

Psychedelia meets raucous post-punk…

Welsh group Melin Melyn have shared their new single ‘Rebecca’.

The band seem to walk their own path, blending giddy psychedelic elements with a raucous sense of post-punk.

Difficult to pin down, an obvious counterpoint would be Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci but there’s also a dose of Squid’s awkwardness in there, too.

New single ‘Rebecca’ is an off piste guitar jammer, one that moves from lysergic dreaming through to a crunching breakdown via some 19th century political riots.

Rich in lyrical depth with retaining a stark immediacy, it’s a very intriguing thing indeed.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the tales of the Rebecca Riots,” says lead singer Gruff. “It was when local Welsh farmers in the 1800s took to smashing up the toll gates put up by rich landowners, whilst being dressed in women’s clothes screaming the name Rebecca. That incredulity and rage still exists today, rising day by day due to the rich feeding off the poor… perhaps I should get my skirt…”

Tune in now.

Melin Melyn · Rebecca

 

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“They’re Really Off The Cuff!” Sophie Ellis-Bextor On Her Disco Havens

The pop queen is searching for light amid the gloom…

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has been an unrelenting blast of positivity amid the clouds of 2020.

The pop heroine’s kitchen discos have become the stuff of social media legend, belting out classics while her kids race around her feet.

The sight of someone living their best life in spite of it all seemed to chime a chord a fans during lockdown, with a huge digital community clustering around the broadcasts.

New album ‘Songs From The Kitchen Disco’ is a neat document of this time, with Sophie recording some studio versions of those karaoke staples.

Taken as a whole, though, it’s also a neat catch-up on her stellar catalogue, one that has peppered the charts with golden pop moments for 20 years now.

Clash caught up with Sophie on the album’s release…

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For a lot of people you’ve been a shard of light this year, Sophie!

Aww! (laughs) Thank you! I know that for us, I don’t know what I would have done if we didn’t have the discos happening… because they really kept us all focussed and distracted. They were such a good tonic.

It always looks as though you’re living your best life…

It’s funny you say that as I don’t really feel that’s what we’re exhibiting! I think it’s more like a cartoon version of what everyone was feeling on the inside. I just wanted to feel like me, and I wanted to have some fun. But I’m suddenly stuck at home, I can’t go anywhere, the kids are everywhere… this is kinda chaos, but let’s see if we can shimmy our way through it!

Some artists have relished time at home. What’s your experience been like? I suppose for me the kitchen discos aren’t a replacement for my work. It felt more like what my family do when we need to relieve tension in our house. I had my first baby 16 years ago, and since then we’ve always had music in our lives. There’s been a constant soundtrack. If we’re feeling anxious about things or commiserating or if there’s something exciting happening then music is played. We have different songs for different moods.

When the lockdown started, I found that firstly I had this overwhelming of wanting to connect with people. I thought, oh my goodness, I want to phone everyone I’ve ever known to check if they’re OK! I’m glad it didn’t act on that impulse… but that’s what I felt! And then the second thing was, I felt quite useless, I felt discombobulated, I couldn’t reach out in the way I normally could have done, and I can’t accompany myself on piano, I can’t play guitar very well… so I thought, these are not talents I have, where I can record a song and be like – there you go, here’s a song!

So when Richard said about doing a disco, it’s like: that makes sense! Because that’s what our kitchen looks like anyway, that’s what the playroom looks like. Even this morning when I got the kids ready for school, we put some music on and had a little bop around. It just relieves tension! It puts people in better spirits. So, I wasn’t thinking about myself as a performer or a singer, it’s more that this is what we do when we need a bit of recalibrating, really.

So it would have been happening regardless?

Exactly. But also, for me, I feel the way I do whenever anything effects me in my life – good, bad or ugly – I’m glad that I have a creative job where I’m allowed to absorb and interpret what’s going on around me and put it down into my work. I’ve used that since I was a teenager.

Heartache, falling in love… anything that’s affected me, I’ve put it into music and I’ve written songs about it. Being able to put it into music is a lovely way to bring something good out of something wobbly. But y’know – it’s tough out there. I’m not looking forward to this winter, I think it’ll feel quite long and quite gloomy. So yeah, like everybody, just looking to remain as optimistic as possible but also being realistic about where we’re at.

How far out do you plan these things?

Oh God they’re really off the cuff! But I’m quite like that with my gigs, too. Not so much with set lists normally, but I’m not someone that likes to prepare everything to the Nth degree… that’s probably a good thing! The thing is, over the years I’ve learned that a lot of things can go wrong at the last minute, if you’re someone who is really obsessive over planning then something going wrong or changing can really throw you. So for me, I’d rather keep quite loose around the edges, just so you can adapt to whatever actually happens.

With the discos… they were fun! So planning the songs and choosing the covers… that’s meant to be fun! It’s not like homework. It’s a lovely thing, to sit and think: what song would I love to sing, or what song would put us all in the right place to tell the story? And that can be literally decided on the day.

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Your Kate Bush cover recently felt very brave – that’s such an idiosyncratic vocal to attempt!

It’s funny… if I was singing it onstage I’d be worried about it, but when you’re doing karaoke in the sitting room while your kids run around it’s a lot more chilled. And also, the thing I love about songs like that is that they’re fantastic records, and they tell really good stories. So for me, I’m more thinking, well it’s a lovely opportunity to get lost in that story. I’ve always loved that song. So I don’t really think about hard it is, I just chuck myself in! It’s supposed to be fun – it’s not supposed to be reverential.

The new video is filmed in empty London venues, which was really moving. Has it been challenging to see what side of the industry struggle in 2020?

Oh yeah. Really challenging. I mean, most of my friends are people who are crew, or musicians, or work in the arts… and it’s a really uncertain time. I think earlier in the year everyone felt quite discombobulated, but they also felt like: OK, this is what’s happening, so we’d better get on with that empty diary! But now we’re on Autumn, and there’s still lots of question marks, people’s tone has changed to one of being frightened and being angry. I’m really, really aware of it. Up until now I sort of didn’t think too much about the industry and the economy of what it is I do. I think about when I’m working.

I did a gig about a month ago at G.A.Y. and it was the first gig my soundman had done in six months. And you almost forget about that – you don’t think about the concentric circles. And also, just the fact that all these beautiful venues that are filled with so many memories, and usually so full of life, are just lying dormant. And a lot of people feel like they haven’t really been addressed or spoken to, to make them feel re-assured that someone is thinking of them.

The nightclub industry – all of it – has just fallen off the radar… no one is even thinking about it! And there’s all these holes that have opened up, and it’s been left to individuals to close it all up again. And that’s actually really scary and daunting. Some of these people have trained for decades to have employable skills, and now they’re just sitting, waiting, and wondering what’s going to happen. It’s frightening.

You mention G.A.Y. – the role of physical spaces is particularly key in the LGBTQ+ community, isn’t it?

Yeah, it is. I think G.A.Y. in particular has been a touchstone for me at different parts of my career, and has meant an awful lot to me. I played there after my first baby – oh… about 14 years ago now! – and I’d been away for a little while, it was my first gig back, and I was quite nervous. I remember walking out at G.A.Y. and the warmth and support from the crowd made me think: what am I scared of…? It was the moment where I lost my inhibitions a bit, really, and it changed me as a performer.

Those physical spaces, having people together… it’s good for the soul! – It’s such a weird time, and there’s so much that will come out of this. It’s not all doom and gloom, but there’s a lot that’s part of our casual lives that actually forms the glue of what keeps you on the right side of being OK with things… and having those things taken away – it starts to chip away, doesn’t it?

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The album is a neat encapsulation of your catalogue – were you overdue a look back, do you think?

Ordinarily, no! I don’t normally do that! But specifically this year I found myself looking back a lot, and feeling quite nostalgic. And because we were doing the home discos, and I found myself running through different singles, and an album track or two, it was really nice to rediscover things I hadn’t sung in ages. I really enjoyed it! So I thought, yeah, let’s put it all together, put some cover versions on there. Just a little nod to what’s gone on this year.

Just for me, it’s a nice thing to do to put something together and celebrates it. For our family the kitchen disco has really changed the course of what I was going to do next… and I am in the middle of making a new album but I probably won’t get a chance to finish it as quickly as I wanted, so it’s been really lovely to pay tribute to it in another way.

Does your relationship with certain songs change over time?

It’s really hard to say! It’s like any long-term relationship. There’s an evolution… but in other ways music has always been something that is a little bit of a time portal. I’m sure it’s the same for you, but if I hear a song that I loved as a teenager then part of me is a teenager again when I sing along.

I think sometimes the songs I sing – like ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ or ‘Groovejet’ – they kind of feel like a little bit of time travel, it connects me to this journey that we’ve done together. I think of all the places I’ve sung it, all the people who’ve sung it back to me. I feel really lucky, though, because not everyone has a good relationship with their back catalogue… and I actually do! I’m happy to sing any of the songs that I’ve put out into the world.

One of the things that comes across when taken as a whole is how often your songs will play with that sweet / sour, light / shade dynamic – a melancholic vocal in a disco setting…

I love that. I’m a bit obsessed with that in music! It’s one of my favourite emotions… when it tugs at your heart. The bittersweet melancholy that’s underneath it all. If people don’t listen to lyrics of songs they probably don’t respond to it in as deep a way as they could do. Some songs are massive hits, and they don’t realise that they’re actually a bit dark or a bit sadder.

‘Crying At The Discotheque’ feels very prescient, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s a cover, one that samples Chic. It was released in the Noughties, and then I started doing it as a cover live – particularly in gay clubs, actually, we had a backing track made. I incorporated it into my set, but this is the first properly recorded version. It’s just a really, really clever song – it’s got this disco element, this Noughties element, and it tells a little story. And yes, ‘Crying At The Discotheque’ felt like a nice song to sing at the moment! It just felt right.

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‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ was back in the headlines last year with that Skepta sample, did it take you by surprise?

I have to approve it before it’s released, so I heard it when he finished it. I thought it was brilliant! I love having things sampled and reincorporated and reinvented… it’s really exciting. And he did something cool with it. I ended up singing it with him on Live Lounge, so we got to do it together. Really fun!

Are you anticipating this new album to channel 2020, then?

Whenever I write songs it’s not quite as conscious as that, anyway. It’s more that I’ll be in some sort of mood, and it’ll tumble out, and then I’ll look back and think: oh blimey, that was what it was about! I won’t necessarily know what it’s about when I’m writing. This is the third album that I’ve been doing with Ed Harcourt. We started it at the end of last year, and we picked it up again recently.

I’ve got things that I want to put into it – my step-dad sadly died at the end of July, so for my family that’s been a really big thing in our lives. I want to incorporate that, but I also want it to be a positive album – I want it to be optimistic. I’m writing stuff that is quite quirky and has different corners to it, but ultimately I want it to be something that is about looking for the light.

My instinct whenever things are quite heavy is to try and look for the light – I don’t like to wallow in stuff. There has to be a good message at the end of it.

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‘Songs From The Kitchen Disco’ is out now.

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Sophie Muller

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Daniel Knox Shares Deeply Affecting New Song ‘Fall Apart’

His new album is out in January…

Daniel Knox has shared his powerful new single ‘Fall Apart’.

The songwriter’s new album ‘Won’t You Take Me With You’ is out on January 15th, a record replete with stark lyrical flourishes.

New single ‘Fall Apart’ is online now, and it finds Daniel Knox illuminated by the cracks in our lives, the spaces that allow light to shine through.

He comments…

“I wouldn’t mind anyone mistaking this for a love song but I really meant it for everyone. Sometimes I look at the cracks in things in a sentimental way, but other times I look around and think ‘what happened to this place’? That goes for my home, the city where I live, my body, and the entire world. Any place you reside you end up damaging somehow. There’s that part you’ve been meaning to fix for ages but it just gets away from you.”

“I’m an optimistic person but I think that true optimism comes with acceptance. You have to be able to set the table in the middle of a cyclone sometimes if you want to get on with things.”

Mofoland have worked on the animated video, which you can find below.

‘Won’t You Take Me With You’ is out on January 15th.

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bladee, Mechatok Launch Joint Album

New single 'God' is out now…

Multi-disciplinary artist bladee links with Mechatok on new album project ‘Good Luck’.

The record was constructed last winter, and presciently picks up on an atmosphere of “impending doom”.

A full collaboration, ‘Good Luck’ lands on December 10th through YEAR0001 and it’s led by new single ‘God’.

A crunching piece of electronics that blends future pop instincts, club tropes, and deft ambient digitalism, into something truly otherworldly.

Tune in now.

‘Good Luck’ tracklisting:

Intro
Rainbow
Sun
God
Drama
You
Into
One
Grace

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Cordae’s ‘The Parables’ Is A Demonstration Of Depth

Watch the video now…

Cordae has shared his new single ‘The Parables’.

Out now, the track underlines his tremendous depth, with Cordae plugging into to conduits of societal change.

The track appears in Beats’ new Flex That campaign, and marks a turn towards the sombre for the young rapper.

The visuals reflect this, too, presenting a studious lyricist, someone who wants to express himself.

Directed by Sergio, you can check out ‘The Parables’ below.

Tune in now.

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The National To Re-Issue Early Project

Two albums and one EP are hitting vinyl…

The National will re-issue a number of early projects next year.

It’s been something of a quiet year for the group, who have spent time raising funds for their road crew, many of whom lost significant work due to the pandemic.

Matt Berninger released a strong solo album, but The National intend to roll the clock back on their next endeavour.

The band’s 2001 debut album will gain a full vinyl pressing, alongside 2003 follow up ‘Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers’ and 2004’s ‘Cherry Tree’ EP.

Out on February 26th, all three records were remastered at Abbey Road Records.

Pre-order your copy HERE.

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It’s A Mood: The Rise Of 24kGoldn

Straight from the Bay, this viral rapper is conquering the globe…

To put it simply, It’s been an interesting year so far for 24kGoldn. The San Francisco born artist has enjoyed worldwide success in 2020 and is sure on the way to becoming the next superstar. Goldn is able to blend genres that appeal to a wide audience; his single ‘Mood’ went number one in the global charts, as well as in the UK. Along with this, he featured on a song with Mabel and Clean Bandit which reached Top 10 in the UK during the same period.

Goldn was in good spirits even only after waking up for the talk with Clash moments before. We caught up with the artist a few days after Biden was named the next President of the United States: “Everyone’s in good spirits, there was a lot of impending doom on the horizon but yeah we’re good over here now”.

His track ‘Mood’ became a huge hit, as Goldn recalls: “It was just so surreal because I feel normally when you have a song blow up, you get to see how it looks in real life. Like getting recognised on the street more, getting booked for shows and travelling everywhere. For me, I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing the past six months but my song is going up. It was a very limited perspective of what that’s like. I love it, but can’t wait to really get out in the world, tour, and meet the people who made this possible”.

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To have a song go so big across the globe and not be able to play it live must be a strange feeling, both frustrating but also exciting for when it can happen. Goldn can’t wait to play his music out live: “Nothing compares to the feeling of being onstage, singing your heart out with lyrics you wrote that express how you really feel, and having hundreds to thousands of people singing it back to you. It’s like the closest thing I’ve seen to magic”. He carried on “In the past I was opening up for someone else. This will be the first time I meet people who are here just for me”.

The artist has had more reason to celebrate recently – two of the biggest stars in the world, Justin Bieber and J Balvin jumped on a remix of his hit track. Golden explains: “That’s a sign that i’m doing the right thing, because those are two artists that I admire a lot”. The tables are now turning for Golden as he’s now the one attracting the attention. “When I first started making music, no major artists wanted to get on my songs, I was practically out here trying to get any feature I could. But now that they want to get on my song, both Justin and Balvin fucking with the song and asking to jump onto it. It’s a good feeling”.

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We then talk about any future collaborations that are in mind. “Young Thug and Drake. Me and Thug have been talking a bit and I think he’s supposed to come out to L.A soon”. Goldn is also a huge fan of the abstract Atlanta artist Young Thug, adding: “That’s the artist like literally from his first song, I was on Genius looking up all the lyrics”.

Throughout Goldn’s recent singles, features and previous EP’s, his music has spanned multiple genres. He says his varying ability is down to his parents, “My parents liked everything. They both travelled the world before they had me, so they formed a very diverse and cultural perspective in terms of food, music and movies. Everything I did from a young age exposed me to different aspects of the world”.

A broader perspective of music has helped Goldn with the current success, enabling him to a wider audience. We compared this to other local artists from his area, he said, “I think in the Bay (region of San Francisco), people are happy to make music that’s popping in the Bay. But I think that music is one of the most powerful tools in the world. This is a big world and you gotta make big songs if you want to bring the world together”.

Looking ahead, Goldn is now working on his next project, explaining: “throughout the quarantine period I got to work on my debut album”. He isn’t rushing the process for this though, and now expectations will be higher after recent success, with the rapper adding: “They say for your first album, you’ve got your whole life to make it, so I’m taking all my time that I can to really make this into something special and unique”.

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Following on from this, we discuss his first EP. “If ‘Dropped Out Of College’ was done to see if I could make a pop song, a rap song or a rock song. My next album ‘El Dorado’ is going to be me combining all those best elements, styles and sounds to create a genre that’s really just me”. Goldn is now finding his style, after looking in so many directions for inspiration.

TikTok has played a huge role in the music industry itself over the past couple of years, and for 24kGoldn himself. He thinks it will be the platform to dominate the industry for a while, “Until somebody makes something that will be more captivating. Instagram was the biggest platform before I feel, but it changed so much that it became less of something you can enjoy and more of something you have to do”.

The amount of users on the app is continuously growing, with 3.7 million active users in the UK currently. He finishes: “TikTok is made purely for entertainment purposes. You’re not comparing yourself to friends, you’re not feeling bad because you’ve seen someone with all this stuff. It’s more about the funny side of things with some dance or whatever, there’s weird shit out there”.

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Words: Joe Hale / @jalewrites

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So The Four Tet x Madlib Collaboration Is Really Happening

The first track lands before the end of 2020…

Four Tet has confirmed that a full length collaboration with Madlib is on the way.

The project has been mooted for some time, with Kieran Hebden having previously confirmed its existence in a YouTube live stream.

The confirmation sent fans into spasms, with Four Tet lining up against the fabled Beat Konducta.

In a further live stream last night – November 23rd – Four Tet then added a secondary detail: “yes the album with Madlib is done. The first single is cominng before the end of the year.”

Kieran Hebden has a rich history of collaborations, having worked with everyone from free jazz titan Steve Reid through to grime and UK funky guru Champion.

For his part, Madlib is currently focussed on new album ‘Pardon My French’ with Jahari Massamba Unit, out on Friday (November 27th).

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Listen: Gotts Street Park – ‘Change My Ways’ ft. Pip Millet

Ultra downbeat sub-zero soul…

Gotts Street Park return with new Pip Millet collaboration ‘Change My Ways’.

The Leeds based instrumental crew have cut their teeth with some phenomenal partnerships, balancing this with an ear for fresh talent.

The group’s new EP lands on Friday – November 27th – and it’s led by an exemplary new single.

Out now, ‘Change My Ways’ is the perfect encapsulation of the group’s minimal, sub-zero sense of soul.

A lot key, ultra downbeat jam, Pip Millet’s superb vocal shows enormous restraint to fuel its emotional impact.

Tune in now.

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Berry Galazka Debuts With ‘Man Can’t Hang’

It's a fascinating piece of alt-pop colour…

Berry Galazka has shared her new single ‘Man Can’t Hang’.

The alt-pop riser grew up in Florida, brought up around the sounds of her Polish heritage.

Alongside this, though, she was drawn to Caribbean culture, soaking up some of the more soulful end of reggae.

‘Man Can’t Hang’ is her debut single, and it fuses together these contrary aspects, with Berry commenting:

“While I do love polka and am still trying to find a way to work it into my music. Growing up in Florida definitely influenced my love for what I call, `’White Man Reggae” i.e.: SOJA, Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Iration… that shit makes me sooo happy. Obvi love Bob Marley, Eek-A-Mouse, Yellowman, Peter Tosh and the reggae Gods.”

Lyrically, it’s a hymn in praise of femininity, while noting “how easily men’s egos are triggered by women who do better, make more, talk smarter than them and are not afraid to call them out.”

Rap meets pop, reggae meets polka, ‘Man Can’t Hang’ is a real sense of originality about it. Says Berry…

“I want people to be stoked when they listen to my music and not feel like they have to follow any kind of path someone else set for them, because at the end of the day everyone you know dies and won’t give a fuck about the decisions you made, you’re the only one who needs to be satisfied with how you lived your life. So that’s a message that people forget a lot and I’d like to remind them of.”

Tune in now.

Berry Galazka · Man Can’t Hang

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Bruce Springsteen Shares ‘The Power Of Prayer’ Video

Watch it now…

Bruce Springsteen has shared the full video for ‘The Power Of Prayer’.

The iconic songwriter’s new album ‘Letter To You’ is out now, having received across-the-board plaudits.

Clash lauded the record, commenting:

“As a whole, ‘Letter To You’ is a wonderfully warm experience, perhaps Springsteen’s most human for some time. An attempt to deal with the realities of ageing, and the processes of growing older, it’s also a vivid depiction of friendship, one enacted with figures who – in their own unique way – have helped to sculpt his own mythology.” 

Album cut ‘The Power Of Prayer’ is a potent performance from The Boss, and it’s now received the full video treatment.

The lyric video is online now, watch it below.

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

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King Princess Races Back With ‘PAIN’

It's a delicious new single…

Alt-pop savant King Princess has shared her new single ‘PAIN’.

The songwriter’s debut album ‘Cheap Queen’ lit up 2019, and followed an exclusive Clash cover story.

Recent single ‘Only Time Makes It Human’ saw King Princess open a fresh chapter, a potency that runs through her new single.

‘PAIN’ is out now, and it finds King Princess working alongside Mark Ronson, Shawn Everett and Mike Malchicoff.

A delicious pop bumper that matches neat guitar elements to snappy electronics, it’s become an immediate smash with fans.

Tune in now.

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Celeste Shares ‘A Little Love’ Video

It's the soundtrack to the John Lewis, Waitrose advert…

Celeste has shared the full video for her take on ‘A Little Love’.

The song was recorded for the new John Lewis and Waitrose advert, one of the festive season’s most high profile slots.

Celeste’s voice will soundtrack the holidays, and it’s a special charity endeavour, with the joint ads helping raise £4 million for Home-Start and FareShare.

Out now, ‘A Little Love’ has gained a full video of its own, with Celeste commenting:

“I felt honoured to be asked to take part. I wanted to create something that felt classic but still true to who I am as a writer and performer.”

Tune in now.

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Phoebe Bridgers Covers Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’

All proceeds go to Downtown Women's Center…

Phoebe Bridgers has shared a beautiful take on Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’.

The songwriter’s second album ‘Punisher’ received overwhelming praise on its release this summer, seeming to tap into universal lockdown ennui.

A potent project, ‘Punisher’ was then followed by her ‘Copycat Killer’ EP, a collaboration alongside Grammy-winning arranger and string player Rob Moose.

The creativity continues on mid-winter single ‘If We Make It Through December’, a timely cover of the Merle Haggard classic.

Out now, it was produced by Tony Berg, Ethan Gruska and Phoebe, a fragile, piano-accompanied feast of melancholy.

All proceeds benefit Downtown Women’s Center, too, meaning you’ve not excuse not to stream it wildly.

Tune in now.

Photo Credit: Nona Limmen

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

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Radiohead Auction Off Thom Yorke’s ‘Lotus Flower’ Bowler Hat

All proceeds go towards a testicular cancer charity…

Radiohead are auctioning off Thom Yorke’s bowler hat from the ‘Lotus Flower’ video.

The hat features prominently in the ‘Lotus Flower’ video, in which Thom Yorke shows off his dance moves.

A real fan favourite, the clip is a perennial touchstone for the group, while ‘Lotus Flower’ remains a key point in their live sets.

Now fans have the chance to own the bowler hat, with Radiohead placing it on eBay.

On sale now, all proceeds from the auction will benefit testicular cancer charity Cahonas Scotland.

Get involved below.

For Sale: one bowler hat. https://t.co/ltxuoC8Nf2
Proceeds from this auction support @CahonasScotland and Testicular Cancer Education and Awareness. pic.twitter.com/P5fIhRMxul

— Radiohead (@radiohead) November 23, 2020

One more time – here’s the ‘Lotus Flower’ video…

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“I Just Let My Intuition Lead Me” Meg Myers Interviewed

A spiritual awakening has led to her colossal creativity…

“It’s okay to feel. Whatever it is you’re feeling at this moment, know that it’s safe to allow yourself to feel it,” says acclaimed singer-songwriter Meg Myers. Known for vulnerable and cathartic musicianship, this potent force hopes that her music becomes a safe space for her listeners, something she wants to pursue on her soon-to-be-completed third album.

Recently dropping two new EPs ‘Thank U 4 Taking Me To 2 The Disco’ and ‘I’d Like 2 Go Home Now’ – both of which follow her sophomore album ‘Take Me To The Disco’ – Meg is clearly on something of a creative roll. Speaking of the inspiration and process behind the EPs, she says: “Almost all of those songs on these EPs I wrote at the same time that I wrote ‘Take Me To The Disco’. I had to pick the songs that I went to be on the album and a lot of them didn’t go on it but I always felt like I wanted them to be released because they were all really important songs to me.”

“So basically, I already had this body of work with songs that are almost five years old and I added a couple new songs which I wrote over the last year. I’m working on my third album right now but I thought these EPs would be something to tide my fans over,” she says, adding: “I also thought like if I’m not going to release them now that I may never release them, and it’s funny that although I was in a completely different headspace when I wrote most of these songs, a lot of the feelings I’m going through now are the same”.

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Meg found herself disassociated and depressed after the release of ‘Take Me To The Disco’, but she explains that she is in a much better headspace now, channelling her painful past experiences into inspiring music filled with a bold creativity and lucid musical vision. Delving into her evolution as an artist, she says: “I would say from the ‘Take Me To The Disco’ era to where I’m at now, the writing has changed for sure. Earlier, I’d go to the studio meet the writer and spend a few days writing with them, then I’d find a producer and have the album produced. Now I write in the house alone. I don’t put any time constraints or pressure on myself.”

“I really opened up a space for me to be like a ‘crazy professor’, experimenting with my music freely and taking the time to understand my music. There’s no pressure, nobody telling me to make a hit. I’m just feeling my emotions without having anybody in the room with me and tapping into new places within myself. Writing has always been therapeutic for me but now I take the time to draw inspiration from around me, from nature – it’s become a very healing process.”

Aided by a much-needed spiritual breakthrough, the Tennessee-born, LA-based artist has found herself not only understanding herself, but the world at larger better through her renewed vigour for song writing. Meg comments: “I never really understood why I was a certain way or why I acted or felt a certain way, but I was able to like really take the time to look at some of the darker experiences of my early life and turn it into a thing of beauty through my music.”

“As I’ve healed myself I’ve opened up to see more of myself, I’ve simultaneously become more aware of the world and that’s also found its way into my music. I have started being more interested in finding out about what’s going on in the world writing more about what I see happening. So it started up on the inside and then it expanded to become more all-encompassing.”

She adds: “A lot of my tracks were drawn from early childhood trauma, my general life growing up, my ancestral past life and all of these different things that I wasn’t aware. But I’d say nature is my number one inspiration. When I hike or when I just go into nature and I just put my feet in the ground or put my hands on a tree, I really empty the thoughts and receive the information that Mother Earth wants to pass to me. Something else I get inspiration from is the ocean. Since my spiritual awakening I’ve realised that there’s so much inspiration to be drawn from these sources if you’d just allow yourself to.”

This connection with nature and her love for music is what remains her priority for the future. Touching on the most important bit of her bucket list, she reveals: “I’d would love to get like house and have a studio in it. To have a place to just like live and be in nature and create all the time that’s really what I see for myself.”

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With creation unburdened by pressure at the forefront of her current existence as an artist, Meg is not without frustrations. Talking about the best and hardest parts of the music-making process, she says: “Personally, writing is simultaneously the most fun and most frustrating part of the music making process. Sometimes I’m drawn by this intuition, this voice telling me ‘go to your piano and make music’ and I do it. This can be annoying because I’ll be doing something else, and it can be distracting. But then I start writing, and what I write all of a sudden shows me how I’m feeling or what I’m going through, what I’ve been feeling or what I’ve been like avoiding. So writing is the best because it’s beyond writing music for me – it’s so meaningful yet liberating. But it can be frustrating because sometimes I’m like: I don’t want to do this right now. I don’t want to look at my life right now!”

Despite the frustrations, Meg insists on never forcing her hand when it comes to creative motivation, allowing intuition to lead her by its steady hand. She says: “I don’t try to motivate myself if I’m not up for it, I feel things will unfold as it’s meant to and I can’t force it so I just trust in the universe. As I said, I just let my intuition lead me and I try to be present in the moment. I try to meditate at least once at least until morning and discipline myself to get present. Just taking a breath centres me and makes my day a lot better, but sometimes I also allow myself to feel the distractions.”

As someone who effortlessly creativity and self-salvation through a conscious spiritual awakening, the most surreal moment in Meg’s career is one connected to the higher perspective she hopes more people will embrace. She says: “I think the most surreal moment was when I got my first number one was definitely that was cool. I knew that it was going to do that and I was like talking about it and I think everybody thought I was kind of crazy but I knew what was in my heart and stuck with it, so it happening was really great”.

“It would be cool to get to a place where writing about things such as a higher perspective is fully embraced. As the world continues to evolve we’re going to all be become more psychic and more aware, so if some of the stuff that maybe sounds a bit ‘crazy’ is embraced everyone will be able to share so much more with each other.”

As intriguing as she is intelligent and as mysterious as she is transparent, Meg Myers is a lesson in how self-love and self-acceptance can allow you to see the world in better light. Whether in her poignant lyricism, her deeply purposely soundscapes or simple yet powerful conversation, she is the epitome of moving forward through transcending the pain of the past to accept the strength of the present, while building a vehicle to the future.

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Words: Malvika Padin

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

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“We Were Very Self-Indulgent!” How Robyn Re-Shaped Modern Pop With ‘Body Talk’

A fresh take on the Swedish star's incredible album…

Ten years on from the release of Swedish pop star Robyn’s seminal album ‘Body Talk’, Clash talks to her producer Klas Ahlund about the record’s legacy…

In the summer of 2009, when Robyn returned to the studio to work on the album that would become ‘Body Talk’, she didn’t do so with the intention of remaking pop music in her image. The aim was simply to write something, anything, again.

Her 2005 self-titled, the first album to be released on her own record label, marked a rebirth which turned her from a mid-level major label pop star into the genre’s critical darling. However, the two-year promotional campaign for that record, which grew through word-of-mouth acclaim, was also draining – such that Robyn entered 2009 wondering when she would be able to work again.

The resulting record, which turned 10 on Sunday, proved those fears wrong. ‘Body Talk’ was the product of an ecstatic burst of creativity which went on to provide a road map for pop stars that followed her in the 2010s.

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Robyn had already seen the future of pop music before the rest of the industry, understanding that downloads and streaming meant the old single-album model of releasing music was no longer necessary. She reunited with producer/writer Klas Ahlund, who worked on the majority of Robyn, with the intention of writing without constraints or adherence to release schedules. When ‘Body Talk’ was finally released in 2010, it came in the form of three records released over the course of the year and collected together into a final 15-track compilation.

Ahlund admits that the strategy was not necessarily the most sensible way to work. “I think starting out there wasn’t much of a plan and it was just more a sort of exuberant inspiration,” he tells Clash now, reflecting on the album’s creation. “It’s often the case that you have more music that you want to release and if you have a gatekeeper – like a label or a record company – they’re going to be like ‘we can’t treat this amount of content, we need to spread it out’. We didn’t have that restraint.”

Robyn and Ahlund worked on songs with an experimental spirit, finding sounds which intrigued them on analogue synths and building melodies around them. The process produced shimmering dance-pop tracks like ‘Dancing On My Own’ and ‘Hang With Me’, which distilled Robyn’s appeal to its core elements, but it also led to odd stylistic digressions.

On the final album, a rap duet with Snoop Dogg (‘U Should Know Better’) is followed by a charmingly Euro-tinged take on dancehall (‘Dancehall Queen’), while the first mini-album ends with a recording of a traditional Swedish folk song (‘Jag vet en dejlig Rosa’).

Ahlund says such moments came from “a reluctance or refusal to edit” during the writing process. “Someone else would say ‘this is not very coherent – you need to be more clear about who you are stylistically’ while this case was like ‘we could do whatever we like’ because this is our own label and no-one gets to tell us what to do.”

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Ahlund adds that at the time, he had taken to watching documentaries on the makings of classic albums, such as Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ or The Beatles’ ‘White Album’. “[The documentaries] would be like ‘we worked on this song for three whole weeks in the studio’ or ‘we just did backing vocals for four days’ and nothing they would throw at me sounded weird compared to what we were doing,” he says. “We were very self-indulgent and almost like progressive rock of the early 70s minded.” It is in this sense that ‘Body Talk’ may be the definitive work of poptimism, written as it was with the belief that pop music could be as grand and meticulous as the classic rock albums of the past.

It would take time though for the album to cement itself as a classic record of its era. Although ‘Body Talk’ was well-received in 2010, its standing grew over the following 10 years to the point that Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and NME all named it as one of the best albums of the decade. That shift was in part due to pop music’s improved critical standing at the end of the 2010s but it was also due to how influential the album turned out to be.

For pop artists who did not choose to embrace R&B and hip-hop, Robyn’s brand of vulnerable club-adjacent pop set the blueprint. You can hear ‘Body Talk’ in glittering synths of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, the open-hearted romance of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Emotion’, and the soaring choruses of Lorde’s ‘Green Light’ and ‘Supercut’. The Guardian’s Laura Snapes noted in 2018: “Entire cottage industries have formed to produce the next great star in her image”. And Max Martin, arguably modern pop’s greatest songwriter, reportedly confessed that he frequently had female artists come to him asking for help on how to make an album like Robyn.

Even ‘Body Talk’s three-part release strategy, viewed at the time as an eccentricity, increasingly feels like a standard model for releases going forward. In 2020, Hayley Williams and Moses Sumney both earned acclaim with albums released in separate chunks, while a number of rising artists have taken to releasing six or seven track mini-albums to build their following. Superstars like Swift and Justin Bieber have also got in on the act by breaking up their albums into easy-to-digest playlists post-release.  

Ahlund has his own thoughts as well about why the album’s reputation has grown over time. “I think it’s very specific to itself. It didn’t sound like stuff around it at the time so it’s aged with dignity,” he says, adding that this specificity is something he doesn’t always see from other artists. “I think sometimes with Robyn she agrees to go deeper, she’ll be like ‘yeah let’s actually put that in the lyric’ – let’s not just have that be the conversation about what’s going to be in the lyrics. Let’s actually write that.”

Pop’s biggest stars in 2010, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, traded in fantasy and artifice, teenage dreams and commentary on our perverse fascination with icons. Ten years on, it is Robyn’s music, rooted in intensely personal experiences, that feels timeless.

The acclaim around ‘Body Talk’ was helped too by the near-silence which followed its release. Although there were suggestions that Robyn would go on to regularly release new music in the following years, it wasn’t until 2018 that she returned with a new album. That record, Honey, pushed even deeper into the emotional intensity which has defined her music, with sparser arrangements and an unusually brooding atmosphere.

Looking back now, Ahlund thinks that the idea that the album’s pace of work could continue was a fantasy, describing it as sounding like “the rants of a raving madman high on life”.

“That’s how you talk before you set yourself up for a mental breakdown,” he says, adding later: “You can have those spurts, explosions [of creativity], but then you need to refill or you’re going to die.”

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Words: Conrad Duncan / @theconradduncan

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Next Wave #993: Devon

In Association With Vero True Social

Why is it that when we’re having one of those really good dreams – say, we’re queuing outside a gig to see our favourite bands – we seem to wake up just as we are at the entrance to the venue? It’s a frustration Devon understands all too well with his new guitar pop banger ‘Why Do We Wake Up? (Before The Good Bit)’. Part autobiographical, the track is about his time in a job he hated a few years ago. “It’s about when you’re in an awesome dream, that feeling of being lost in a different world and then your work alarm going off and you always wake up just as it’s getting good.”

In terms of his lockdown experience, Devon says, “It’s not too different from what I’m used to, actually. I’m from the Forest of Dean so I’m quite far out from any cities. I’m used to the isolation in a way.” He describes his sound as being “quite eclectic” and takes inspiration from the music he produces. “If I find a sound I like, I’m like, ‘Oh cool, let’s go with that’”.

‘Why Do We Wake Up? (Before The Good Bit)’ was co-produced by Bad Sounds. “They’re really good friends of mine now. We’re both in the south west of England. We live in close proximity. We’ve written songs together before, songs that aren’t out yet, that might come out. The relationship was already there so when I knew that I needed someone to look over my production, tie it up, make it tighter, I just wanted to go to them…I felt like we had a really good relationship. We were close and I felt like I really needed that when we were making sure that the single was ready to go. I trusted them because they’re so good at what they do.”

Devon talks of ambitions of a “dream” collaborations with Jack Antonoff and also about being influenced by Phoebe Bridgers’ songwriting. Devon says “(Where I’m from) often bleeds into my songs. The isolation, being out in the middle of nowhere.” From feeling, at times, isolated to reaching fans as far as the US on Tik Tok, Devon says the platform has been “incredibly important”. “It’s been the thing that’s boosted me. It’s given smaller artists…it’s levelled out the playing field with them and massive major label artists. At this current moment in time, there’s nothing better than Tik Tok”. He goes on to describe it as “the future”.

Jack Saunder’s (BBC Radio 1) is among Devon’s many fans and his support “means a lot” to Devon. “Abbie McCarthy (BBC Radio 1) played my song before my local BBC Introducing even played it so that whole team, and especially Jack, have been so, so supportive”.

Fans will be pleased to know that there is new music on the horizon. “I’ve got a load of songs ready to go so I’m ready to start building that universe and (seeing) where we’ll go from there”.

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Words: Narzra Ahmed

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Liturgy – Origin Of The Alimonies

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and crew get metaphysical, redrawing the boundaries of heavy music in the process…

Let’s take a moment to talk about opera.

If you believe what liner notes and press releases tell you, opera has been integral to popular music since the late 60s. Over the past half a century there have been countless rock operas and hip-hoperas. Hell, this year irreverent punks The Hell even released a hardcore opera about the plight of a disgruntled hardware store employee.

But are ‘Tommy’ and ‘The Wall’ really operas? Does Queensrÿche’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ share DNA with Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’? Does Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ evoke the majesty of Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’? Do R Kelly’s ‘Trapped In A Closet’ and Wagner’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ hold anything in common besides the problematic nature of their creators? Sure, these albums may have concepts or plots or reoccurring characters, but they are only ‘operas’ in the sense that space operas are operas (a.k.a. not really).

So when I say ‘Origin Of The Alimonies’, the latest creation from Brooklyn experimentalists Liturgy, is a black metal opera, I don’t mean it tells a story through song. I don’t mean it features a charming assortment of characters who each have their own theme. I mean it’s a goddamn black metal opera. It starts with an overture that sounds like the birth of the universe and only gets bigger from there. Honestly, if someone resurrected Richard Strauss and commissioned him to write a piece for Darkthrone, it would probably sound like this.

Composing an opera requires a very different skillset to writing your average rock (or even metal) album. Thankfully Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy’s creative lynchpin, is anything but average. Hailed as a genius by some, reviled as a pretentious poser by others, Hunt-Hendrix has been a divisive figure in the mistrustful BM community since Liturgy’s debut album was accompanied by a pretty wild essay she wrote on the need for the genre to evolve away from its ‘Hyborian’ (that’s ‘Scandinavian’ to you and me) roots.

Over the intervening years she has used Liturgy as an outlet for some fairly high-brow musings on philosophy, metaphysics and the nature of god, writing concept albums based wholly on her own philosophical theory of transcendental qabala (which she explains in some depth on her Youtube channel). Some might call it pretentious, yes, but Liturgy operate in a genre that thrives off pretention. Black metallers are always going off and writing albums with names like ‘IX Equilibrium’ that are set to the poetry of William Blake or some shit. It’s great, and Liturgy are great at doing it.

On this album Hunt-Hendrix has set out to create nothing less than “an opera that addresses the origin of all things”. It’s a creation myth of sorts, built around the birth and deaths of ideological concepts that manifest as divine beings. The huge Wagnerian crescendos of ‘Lonely OIOION’ and ‘Apparition of the Eternal Church’ genuinely sound like a war in heaven, with Hunt-Hendrix and longtime bandmember Bernard Gann’s ever-ascending tremolo guitars channelling the same grandness as Holst’s ‘The Planets’.

But, for all the bombast, there is tenderness here too. ‘Origin’ isn’t just a bunch of heady metaethical concepts wrapped up in blast beats and strings, it’s also heavily based on Hunt-Hendrix’s experience transitioning gender over the past year. The theme of metamorphosis is evident in the way songs writhe and evolve, how quiet woodwind passages work their way up into apocalyptic sonic assaults, how gentle piano chords give way to unexpected trap beats and electronic stutters. Honestly, the dynamics at play here make PIXIES sound like The Ramones.

There’s a jaw-jutted courage to this album’s release, from Hunt-Hendrix’s decision to bare her recently formed breasts on the cover (twice!) to her decision to self-direct and star in it’s accompanying feature length film. Many creators are described as being ‘fearless’ in their non- conformity, but more often than not they just don’t care. Hunt-Hendrix cares about everything – the state of black metal, the nature of the universe, the meaning of life… the whole shebang. You can hear the size of her thoughts and desires on this truly stunning record, this genuine opera. They are as big as the universe and everything in it.

9/10

Words: Josh Gray

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Culture Clash: Babeheaven

Cultural obsessions explored…

West London’s Babeheaven is a project driven by friendship.

Jamie Travis helms the production, while Nancy Andersen’s vocals sweep the music up towards another dimension. It’s the implicit trust between them, though, that sense of connection, which allows Babeheaven to succeed. 

Reincorporating club tropes within that soulful pop framework, their textured, nuanced work is packed with detail.

New album ‘Home For Now’ is out now, and it’s the broadest, deepest assessment yet of Babeheaven’s artistry.

Clash caught up with Nancy Andersen to uncover her extra-curricular activities…

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TV

So I can watch the worst TV and also swing over to the chicer side of stuff. Over lockdown I started watching the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills from season one so I have been battling my way through that, with the excitement of knowing there are other destinations to move to.

I also have a serious addiction to watching cookery shows, I love cooking so much so I really enjoying learning new things or hearing about something I should try out. Anthony Bourdain is great because it’s half cooking and kind of half anthropology.

What other trash do I watch… The Undoing – The Queens Gambit – I actually love a period drama haha!

BOOKS

Reading is an escape for me so I find that generally I read fiction, I have a good collection of graphic novels which are great if you’re not in the mood for really reading but want to take something in other than a screen.

I read the new Phillip Pullman books over lockdown. I loved His Dark Materials, so I was really happy to be back in that world again. I find that I also read autobiographies of musicians I like so stuff like Just Kids by Patti Smith or Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon (typing this and realising I only read about women in music!)

MUSIC

The most un-answerable question ever. I listen to different things every day, and I love different things every day. It can depend on the weather, my mood, the journey my bus is on. At home I put an album on and potter around, but I find that I make three big playlists a year jammed with different genres which somehow all make sense to me.

At the moment I’ve been listening to BEA1991’s album ‘Brand New Adult’, I have been a big fan of Bea for years. Also still listening to the Baby Rose album, her voice is so incredible.

FILM

I could easily watch only romcoms but luckily I live with people who make me watch intellectual things which I would never choose but end up loving.

During lockdown I watched a film a day spanning from Gone With The Wind (which took three days to watch) to Andrei Rubliv (which I fell asleep in). The ones I really liked were things like La Belle Verte (it’s soo good go and watch it), Happy as Lazarro and Adaptation, but there’s nothing like watching When Harry Met Sally on a Sunday evening with a cup of tea!

GADGET

iPhone (surely that’s everyone’s first answer) can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Also my AIAIAI headphones. The speakers and amp in my living room. My laptop. I don’t have anything very exciting to say about them but all the gadgets have a place and a reason and serve a purpose. The ones that play music are the most important ones though…

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Babeheaven’s new album ‘Home For Now’ is out now.

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

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Radiohead Comment On “Negligence” That Led To Scott Johnson’s Death

The drum technician was killed in a 2012 stage collapse…

Radiohead have commented on the “negligence” that led to the death of drum technician Scott Johnson.

The technician was killed in a stage collapse at Toronto’s Downsview Park in June 2012, and the incident has remained the subject of debate ever since.

Domenic Cugliari, the engineer who was responsible for the design of the stage that collapsed, was levied with charges by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour in 2013.

An Ontario court judge stayed the charges in 2017, which had also implicated Live Nation, and scaffolding services Optex.

The Discipline Committee of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) held a hearing with Cugliari recently, in which he admitted the “errors” and “negligence” that led to the incident.

Scott Johnson’s father, Ken Johnson, attended the hearing – he is an expert in the scaffolding industry himself, and supplied a statement to Pitchfork.

He commented: “No one wanted this to happen, but it could have been avoided. It is very difficult to control feelings after eight years of misery, and, trust me, time is not a healer. I look professionally and hope that this will not happen again, but no one has yet come forward with new procedures to my knowledge.”

Ken Johnson added that Scott was their “only child, and such a great man.”

Radiohead have issued a full statement, once more saluting Scott Johnson as “our tour technician and our friend”.

Referring to Cugliari’s testimony, the band write: “These admissions are 8 years too late. If the evidence now accepted by Mr Cugliari had been agreed at the original court case brought against him, LiveNation and the contractor Optex Staging, it would have been complete in one day, with a very different outcome and some justice…”

Find the statement below.

would have been delivered. As it is, Mr Cugliari has now retired and, is seemingly beyond any legal recrimination.
This is a sad day. Our thoughts and love are, as ever, with Scott’s parents, Ken and Sue Johnson, his family and friends, and our crew.

— Radiohead (@radiohead) November 20, 2020

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UK Vinyl Sales Highest In Three Decades

Lockdown is pushing online sales…

UK vinyl sales are on course to reach their highest levels in three decades, according to a new study.

What did you do during lockdown? Well, if you’re anything like Clash, you supported record shops online, and fired up Discogs for rarities.

It seems there’s a lot of us out there, with vinyl sales in this country set to reach fresh new levels in 2020.

Combined vinyl sales in the UK could break £100 million this year, the highest since 1990 – when big sellers included New Kids On The Block.

Drew Hill, managing director of Proper Music, the UK’s biggest independent distributor of vinyl and CDs, comments:

“We have seen 250% growth from the bottom of lockdown to where we are now. I thought it could be catastrophic for the industry but during lockdown the kind of people buying records also probably went to a lot of gigs. They can’t do that so it seems fans are spending the money they used to on going to gigs each month on records.”

Sales by volume are also set to increase in 2020, and it’s interesting to note which formats are surging.

The vinyl resurgence is continuing, while sales of cassettes have rocketed – the tape now contributes £1 million to overall figures.

Sadly, sales of the compact disc are crashing, with year on year sales plunging 30% – no doubt due to the high street being shuttered for prolonged periods.

The top sellers on the vinyl charts include a hefty dose of classics. Currently out in front are Oasis, with the latest re-issue of their seismic second album ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’.

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

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Renaissance Man: Action Bronson Interviewed

"You have to change the way you think…"

“A person with many talents or areas of knowledge”

The dictionary definition of a “renaissance man” is a fitting portrayal of New York rapper and serial experimentalist, Action Bronson.

Having cut his teeth in a range of exploits alongside his rap career – hit cooking shows, recipe books, craft beer, scented fragrances, olive oil, canvas paintings and now Hollywood movies – Bronson, real name Ariyan Arslani, has developed a Diddy-esque, multi-faceted backdrop to his grandiose rap style, that exhibits his passion for life and new experience.

His latest album, ‘Only For Dolphins’ pulls you into his world of jovial hyperbole. Laced with extravagant, witty imagery (“Twenty Kawasaki’s looking like wild horses on stampede / I look like a character that was drawn by Stan Lee”) and stripped back, worldly production, Bronson takes you on a mystical journey of aquatic delights.

Alongside the album, the half Albanian has released a bespoke olive oil and is set to release a fragrance, ‘Splash’, as premiered in the album – for “man, woman, whatever”. If this wasn’t enough, the Queens rapper is on a fitness rampage, having lost seven stone and counting.

Our conversation over Zoom reflected his wide range of interests – flitting from strongman boxing and vintage fitness DVDs, to Tom Hardy as James Bond, being starstruck in the presence of Joe Pesci and the meaning of his Albanian heritage. What was immediately clear was his infectious love of life and eager eye for the subtleties of the world around him. A modern-day renaissance man at peace with himself in the midst of chaotic times.

We pick up the chat following an in depth, niche martial arts discussion…

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On the topic of athleticism, you’ve been on a pretty crazy fitness mission yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey?

Yeah, man. You know, it’s just health. Just fitness. Life fitness is pretty much what it is. That’s it. One day snap out of being a little baby bitch and immature and figure out what you really need to do for yourself and make yourself better. And I fucking took course.

I’ve been loving the Instagram clips of you smashing medicine balls, are we gonna get a fitness DVD from you next?

You never know, man. The funny thing is, I make it fun to work out. Like anybody I work out with, it’s a fun time, even though it’s serious, it’s a good time. Back in the day, there was a show called Body by Gilad. It was on ESPN. It was some like Israeli guy with a fucking jheri curl, with two women behind him doing aerobics moves for 30 minutes, like on ESPN, like seven.

On ESPN!?

Yeah, seven thirty in the morning, which was phenomenal. I used to catch it before I went to school. Check it out, Body by Gilad, he’s a legend.

Body by Gilad?

Body By Gilad. Exactly. Body by Gilad. It’s next level. So maybe some ‘Body by Baklava’ type of inspiration, you know?

I’m definitely watching that. And there’s serious strongman energy going on in the ‘Latin Grammys’ video. There’s this Eddie Hall vs. Thor strongman boxing match coming up. Have you seen much about this?

Of course! I follow Eddie Hall religiously. I love The Beast. He’s one of my favourite people.

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Who have you got in that fight?

I fuck with Thor. I didn’t know him as an actor as I’ve never seen Game of Thrones. I only know him as a strongman. I don’t like his acting. I think he’s a good strongman, but he was a little bit of a bitch. He tried to lessen Eddie’s win with some sort of controversy on him. I don’t like shit like that, because Eddie Hall worked his whole life for that. And Thor went on to be champion many times over also. I love and respect all these men. And I love Magnus Magnusson. But boxing, these guys, they both look unbelievable, they look like big galoots.

They could gas out pretty quick.

I mean, someone’s going to get knocked the fuck out. That’s what’s going to happen. Someone’s going to get hurt. If Eddie Hall lands a punch to the rib, to the head…it should be actually illegal for him to hit somebody.

But it’s the same for Thor though. And he’s got the reach too.

Thor has height on him too. He has reach. So he might just jab him away. You never know.

Eddie’s gotta use the Mike Tyson technique for this fight, get close.

We can talk about Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones too. It seems like everyone’s having some good matchups around right now. I love it.

Yeah. People are getting crazy with the obscure boxing fights.

Next is going to be Tyson Fury vs. Shaq.

Yes! Anyway, back to the album, for people that haven’t checked it out. How would you describe the project?

Think about the universe and how vast it is. It’s the universe, underwater. That’s how I describe it.

Aquatic.

From deep down below, from the core, from the core of the planet.

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And I want to talk a little bit about the beats and samples that you used on the album. What are you looking for when you when you listen to a sample or an instrumental?

I love music, I love weird music, I love music that’s recently been uncovered, and no one knows about it. I’ve learnt about digging and finding different crazy shit from Alchemist. And I’ve always been like that, from the beginning. Like when I first did my first album (‘Dr Lecter’), our mind was definitely on sampling all kinds of crazy shit from around the world. And we sampled a lot of Turkish shit on there and a lot of Arab stuff. So that was something that always interested me.

I’m a worldly person and like I said, the strongman shit, watching that back in the day that gave me an interest. I’m from a certain part of the world, my family’s Albanian. So we’re from the Balkans and knowing about Europe, it gave me some wordly vibes. I’ve been downloaded with worldly vibes. I love music from all around the world and all different types of tempos and all different types of rhythmic numbers, you know, four, three, four, four, four, five, six, eight. That stupid shit that musicians talk about that I don’t understand. But I feel it and I hear it and I understand it. So it’s really about the vibe and the feel.

You get it all from just listening. You pick an area, you pick Nigeria, you pick Ghana, then you pick Greece, you pick Turkey, just go through the music from there. Shit that you can’t find on YouTube. And you could find a lot on YouTube also.

YouTube is great for discovering music I find.

I’m talking about YouTube maybe six years ago. The way it works now is weird but unveiling certain shit feels good no matter how you do it.

The producers you’ve worked with on this album are guys you’ve worked with a lot of times before, like Harry Fraud, Alchemist, Tommy Mas, as well as the features like Mayhem Lauren. Did you try to keep this album as more of a family affair?

You know, I don’t really think about it. I just do the music. I do what feels good and then it comes out. I’m never worried about features. I’m not trying to make, like, the big collaboration song just to get the kids and views and shit like that. I like doing what comes from my heart and my soul. And Mayhem is the person who started me in this shit. My brother, it’s not Mayhem, it’s Jamie. He’s my brother’s, like, holidays and family ties. These are the type of people that have a feature on the projects, like Rob Marciano, we’ve known each other for ten years. These are the type of people that I love having on my shoulders who are just, in my opinion, high level fucking speakers.

That’s for sure. And alongside the album, you’ve released an olive oil. It looks like it sold out in a flash. What’s the story behind this?

This is our first one from this year, my friend Nick Coleman is the number one mind and palate in olive oil tasting in the entire universe as we speak. He happens to be someone who chases the harvest, which means he goes and he finds the freshest olive oil for the time, and then me and him release special versions of this with me doing the artwork, tasting and bottling exactly what I want from my mind and my soul, with his help. And I also released an ice cream for the album. I’m also about to release a fragrance for the album. I also did the artwork, I try to hit all the different senses, every single sense that’s humanly possible.

So what sort of things should we be eating with the olive oil?

I mean, with this olive oil, it’s anything, literally. Name me something.

Focaccia, salads.

Focaccia? It’s literally made for that. Focaccia, salads, anything.

Where were the olives sourced from?

This olive is sourced from Chile, And the olive oil is hand harvested. It’s never been brought to America before. We’re the first ones bringing this cultivar into America, which is pretty beautiful.

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And with Splash, the fragrance, what does this smell like?

Oh, it’s gorgeous. It smells like you just came out of the water in St. Lucia or in the Mediterranean. You’re coming out of fresh water and just shining from all that olive oil that’s been doused on your body, you know what I’m saying?

It’s like James Bond coming out the water.

Right, exactly. But beefier, like 100 pounds more. Is Tom Hardy James Bond now?

It’s Daniel Craig still, I don’t think they’ve sorted a new one yet.

They should make Tom Hardy James Bond.

It’s a good shout but he might be a bit similar to Daniel Craig.

Nah, he’s much better looking. I’m like a chubby Tom Hardy, so I take quite offence to anybody that doesn’t like Tom Hardy.

Look, I love Tom Hardy.

 Good. So we can continue the talk.

On the subject of actors, I wanted to ask you about your own exploits in this field. What was it like working with Scorsese in The Irishman?

It was mind boggling. It was beautiful. It was it was calming. It was unbelievable. And it was easy. That’s really what it was, the most important thing out of all those things, it was easy. It felt so good.

Was it a nerve-wracking situation for you?

No, not at all. I was off an edible, I was edibled out. I was smoking hash in my trailer. And then I did the scene. And when I got on set, De Niro wasn’t sitting in the chair, it some guy that kind of looked like him. And I was like, what the fuck? And then about a minute before we were about to do the scene, the guy gets up and its De Niro. I was relieved. I thought they had given me the dummy De Niro.

And what was it like working with De Niro as well? That’s pretty crazy.

Yeah, it was beautiful. He was fucking with me. He pulled me over to the side after I fucked up. He’s like “Yo kid, you’re fucking up the scene. Come on. What is going on here?” And I was like, “oh no, I’m sorry. I’m new at this”. He’s like, “I’m fucking with you”. It was dope, it was fun.

And did you get to meet the whole crew, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci?

Scorsese invited me to Lincoln Centre to this red-carpet premiere and I met Pacino in the back room. I met Pesci at the end when I was leaving, and I was just dumbfounded. I didn’t even know what to say because I mean, he’s one of the best ever to live. I couldn’t even look at him. I just said, “Yo, I love you. I got to get out of here.” But his handler came up to me telling me how much he loved ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious’.

And if someone wants to play Action Bronson in a movie about your life, who would be the starring role?

There’s only one man, Delroy Lindo.

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So I want to talk a little bit about ‘Fuck That’s Delicious’. I was really happy to see you at Mangal II in Dalston on your trip to the UK in the series. What do you make of the food in the UK?

Phenomenal. I don’t understand how it got such a bad rap for so long. I mean, there is some shit, obviously there’s some shit, but there’s shit everywhere. But there’s so much more good than shit in my opinion.

It was cool to see you in Liverpool as well.

I love Liverpool. Liverpool was a vibe. That show was fun, I had some good times there for sure.

There’s good people in Liverpool. Any port city in the UK is the same, like Glasgow. Good, hearty people.

I’ve had some good times in Glasgow too. But I also had a breakdown in Glasgow because the hotel that we stayed in was like a converted nursing home. It was my first trip in Europe. It was the worst fucking shit ever. Then I had the Burger King, it was nasty.

The Burger King in the UK is not good man.

But I fuck with Scotland.

So obviously you’ve had the chance to travel to many places. Do you have a favourite, culinary wise that stands out?

New York City would probably be the best bet or the UK because you have your hand at anything at any time. You’re able to get any type of cuisine at any time of the day. And that’s what I love. I love variety and availability. But I would have to say New York City.

And in terms of other cooking shows, there’s obviously been some amazing ones throughout the years. A favourite of mine is Antony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’. Were there any cooking shows that inspired you?

Yeah, of course. I used to watch PBS a lot back in the day, guys like Ming Tsai, ‘Yan Can Cook’, Jacques Pepin. My favourite show was ‘Molto Mario’, Mario Batali. I used to love ‘Iron Chefs’. Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain. All that stuff makes me very happy.

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And on the subject of travel, I wanted to speak to you about Albania. I was lucky enough to travel there last year and was blown away by the scenery, the people.

It’s untapped, gorgeous. It’s an unbelievable place that people don’t even know about.

I feel sometimes in the UK, Albanians potentially get misunderstood or not understood at all. People don’t really know what an Albanian is.

They’re misunderstood around the world. Usually when someone says, we know an Albanian guy, they say “he broke my cousin’s head open or he fucking robbed my father”, some shit like that. It’s never, “I know this great lawyer, he’s this Albanian guy or I know this doctor, he’s a phenomenal brain surgeon, this Albanian dude”. It’s never that, it’s “I got hit with a rock. I got hit with a bottle by an Albanian guy.”

Yeah. I mean, from my experience it was very peaceful.

Of course, they always want you to feel comfortable. They always want you to eat. They always want you to drink, and they always want you to be enjoying life.

Do you think your Albanian heritage has helped shaped you as a person?

Yeah, of course, it’s connecting to roots that are deep. You’re connected to ancient people and original people. So it feels amazing. It feels amazing to be part of that.

That’s pretty much everything, man. Just to wrap things up. You’ve got your finger in a lot of pies. What would you say has been your greatest achievement?

Hmm, my greatest achievement. I don’t know, man, these little babies that I have, these children that I’ve made, those are some pretty amazing achievements. But you know, I have to have the book done before I can answer that, but the book ain’t done. So we’ll look back on it. We’ll have another conversation ten years from now for me to really be able to give you an answer.

Finally, you’re a guy that has a clear love and passion for life. People are obviously stuck inside at the moment, maybe feeling a little bit negative, a bit down. What advice would you give to people who are feeling this way?

I’m not one that really gives advice. I’m more of the lead by example type of thing.

You have to change the way you think. You know, you’re not the only person going through shit, so stop wallowing in your bullshit. Everyone is going to have very similar situations, if not even more dire. So just get it together, because people around you, I’m sure need you. Life goes on and there’s a fucking beautiful life out there. 

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‘Only For Dolphins’ is out now.

Words: Angus McKeon

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Latrell James Exposes Reality With New Single ‘No Law’

It's a new release from the Boston artist…

Boston force Latrell James has shared his new single ‘No Law’.

The rapper tells it like he sees it, stripping back the veneer of the everyday to expose the gritty reality underneath.

Out now, new single ‘No Law’ is a stark vision of America today, a reflection of the environment he has grown up in.

The crunching beat offsets the directness of his lyrical approach, with Latrell James aiming to speak his truth.

He comments: “It is a reflection of what the world is today to me. Wanted to question what’s low if it’s not applicable to all. There are no limitations on what is right or wrong currently. This is my way of shedding some light on things I see as lawless.”

Tune in now.

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Emma Miller’s ‘Set Me Down’ Is A Song Of Return

It's about finding belonging at home…

Emma Miller grew up in the North East of Scotland, before descending upon London to follow her dreams.

A songwriter of astute emotional resonance, her folk-hewn work has blossomed into something remarkable.

But the pace of London took her by surprise. Balancing real life with everything the music industry can throw at her, she became burnt out.

Escaping from the city, Emma found that her path lay in a journey home, a return to rural Scotland, and a softer style of life.

‘Set Me Down’ focusses on this, a spartan return with an affecting vocal that longs for some kind of inner peace.

“I wrote this song nearly two years ago when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the music industry and all that that entails. ‘Set Me Down’ has quite a literal meaning really, I wanted to be wrapped up in cotton wool and gently set down, away from the franticness of London,” she explains.

“Funnily enough, a year later that’s just what happened. I left London, dropped the pretence of my music having to pay the bills and came back home to the north east of Scotland. Listening to the song now, it’s like hearing a small piece of my life being played out, things have come full circle in a way and I get a strong sense of peace from that.”

Out now, we’re able to share the full visualiser – check out ‘Set Me Down’ below.

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Crep Protect Launch Mini-Cure Kit To Cure Your Winter Footwear Woes

Available now via their website…

The weekend has landed, for the more footloose and fancy free amongst us that means some time to fix the scuffs and scrapes of the previous week on their favourite trainers.

Keep your sneakers dirt free on the go with the new Crep Protect Mini Cure Kit: it’s a small cleaning kit with big cleaning power.

The ultimate sneaker cleaning kit has had a mini-makeover, making it easier than ever to keep your footwear fresh wherever you go. 

The Mini Cure Kit delivers the same solution seen in the iconic Crep Protect Cure Kit, but with a new space saving 50ml bottle; perfect for keeping in your backpack, car or gym bag.

Natural ingredients including coconut extract, jojoba (that’s right jojoba – goes to google) and water make up 98% of the ultimate sneaker cleaner solution delivering a gentle but robust remedy for removing dirt, scuffs and stubborn marks in just one use. 

The mini cure kit also includes a premium cleaning brush which helps to remove stains, marks and dirt with the durable bristles that clean your sneakers without causing damage.

The Mini Cure Kit can be used across a range of materials including leather, canvas nylon and more. 

The Crep Protect Mini Cure Kit is the solution to resolving stains on the go but also makes the perfect gift this holiday season.

You can pick up your kit exclusively from Finish Line for from December 1st.

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GoldLink’s ‘Best Rapper In The Fuckin World’ Is An Emphatic Return

Kaytranada supplies the beat…

GoldLink has shared his new single ‘Best Rapper In The Fucking World’.

It’s a surprise drop from the rapper, who doesn’t hold back in his appraisal of his own work.

Last year’s ‘Diaspora’ was accompanied by some huge live shows, and he’s taken this energy into the studio for a fresh single.

Kaytranada supplies the beat, with ‘Best Rapper In The Fucking World’ hurling expectations out of the window.

Online now, the dynamic visuals play with distorted digital effects to match the hallucinatory nature of the track.

Tune in now.

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Scribz Riley – Wish Me Luck

A superb project that places the MC at the top of his game…

Although ‘Wish Me Luck’ serves as his debut solo project, it is not Scribz Riley’s first foray into the world of music. The East London-born singer-songwriter, rapper and producer has previously worked with some of the biggest artists in the world including J Hus, Khalid, H.E.R and Cardi B – winning two Grammy Awards for his work on the latters iconic ‘Invasion of Privacy’ album. Now ready to step into the spotlight as an artist in his own right, the 26-year-old has finally delivered his highly-anticipated debut project: ‘Wish Me Luck’.

As good as the singles ‘East Side’, ‘Mandy’ and ‘Impress Me (feat Headie One)’ sounded upon release, they sound even better within the context of the project with ‘Outta Your Way’ standing out as a highlight in the feature-heavy first half. Boasting names such as 6lack, Kaash Paige and chart-topper Headie One, Scribz demonstrates his versatility across a host of tempos and flows, over seamlessly rich and layered production, weaving together sounds and styles like a needle and thread making a scarf to keep you warm for the winter.

That could also encapsulate the feeling of the album, as its stellar song-writing explores themes of love, heartbreak, trust and acceptance that hit so raw it may touch a nerve and put you in your feelings. But even if it does, Scribz makes it feel like he’s on the journey with you, endearing his sound to your ears through every drum, snare, melody and lyric. Each song is written purposefully, including either moments of introspection or sincerity and often both.

Every artist is at the top of their game and Scribz Riley holds his own with each of them, blending their respective styles into something so smooth and soulful, it lessens some of the sharpness in the profoundness expressed in their words, giving you the same warm sensation as a hot soup after being out in the cold. 

It is a testament to Scribz Riley and the quality of the music, that it feels as though this EP could perhaps have been considered as a debut album. In the same breath it is exciting to know that when the album does come, it will have to be something truly special to stand shoulder to shoulder, and even surpass, the standard he’s set for himself on ‘Wish Me Luck’.

It is a project that is sure to be remembered as one of the standout projects of the year in and amongst a host of other quality releases. By the time you get to the closing track there is one thing that is abundantly clear. With talent like this, luck is one thing Scribz Riley is almost certainly not in need of.

9/10

Words: Aaron Bishop

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Novo Amor – Cannot Be, Whatsoever

A beautiful experience that dwells on possibility…

With an unparalleled grace, Ali John Meredith-Lacey presents us with a unequivocal compilation of tender tracks in his new album, ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ under Novo Amor. Although he is no stranger to the indie folk rock genre, this album speaks to the trajectory of the evolution of his sound since the release of his first EP in 2014, ‘Woodgate, NY’.

The shallows and bellows of Lacey’s vocals eradicate any wavering residue of fear, it lives in this way of refusal and prayer all at once. There is a perfect duality in the construction of the energetic running guitar sequences into a very methodical lyrical framing that builds and tumbles back over itself in an assortment of classical rock structures.

Especially on the track, ‘No Plans’ we are seized and plummeted into deeper vocals, harboring drumming with the constant elegant guitar melody that stands strong throughout. This album really provides an incredible space for the listen to fall over and over the liminal portions of rising and falling. You cannot avoid the seismic passion and power of Lacey’s attunement in this album. The rhythms and lyrics oscillate, but by the end of the album we are left with an undulating sense of wholeness, peace and captivated wonder.

‘Keep Me’ quietens the quaking of this time. It sits us down, watches us breathe and for a moment everything is still. Perhaps one of the more simplistic musical arrangements of the album; however, it stands for me as the strongest. It is unapologetically true, he sings out in earnest hope and does not waver in his love as he is carried with the beautiful violin strings and guitar strumming.

‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ is a needed change of pace. It is a rewarding album that begs to be listened to over and over. There is a lot to discover in between the moments of honey vocals, vibrant guitars and gestural synths. This album is as much experimental as it is folk, the track, ‘Statue Of A Woman’ is an utterly ephemeral and grounding experience with echoing synths reverabating and building throughout.

Although at times, the album strays from a complete cohesiveness as far as sound, I do not mind. For I am beyond ecstatic to continue to see Lacey move in this manner. Last year he toured with Gia Margaret, perhaps he will take a lead from her and also create an entirely ambient album in the near future.

Whether it’s the reminder that aloneness isn’t singular or a simplistic jolt of motivation that is far from cheesy, Novo Amor delivers an album with complexity and subtlety all at once. At a time when chaos and pain seem next to impossible to look away from, Novo Amor gently reminds us of all the possibilities and ways of being true.

8/10

Words: Rae Niwa

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Grand Pax Shares Gentle New Song ‘Trip’

Her new EP 'Wavey' is out now…

North London vocalist Grand Pax returns with new song ‘Trip’.

Aligned to cult tastemaker imprint Blue Flowers, the songwriter’s ‘PWR’ EP was a fine introduction.

Follow up ‘Wavey’ is out now, and it’s accompanied by murky, nocturnal salute ‘Trip’.

Constructed alongside Gotts Street Park’s Josh Crocker, its somnambulist narrative has a kind of twilight melancholy running through it.

“I imagined moving in a kind of slow motion, sitting back in a space,” Pax says. “Feeling everything in a way that was being narrated.”

Tune in now.

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