A City Is An Island – Interview with Timothy George Kelly

10 Jun 2015 — Editor

In anticipation of the German premiere of Montréal music documentary A City Is An Island we have talked to the director Timothy George Kelly. The film will be shown at Kino Babylon Mitte on tomorrow, June 11 at 8pm followed by a Q&A with the director, musician Sean Nicholas Savage and artist Jason Harvey.

This interview was first posted on the website of Torstraßen Festival. Read it below the break.

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Win: Paula Temple Presents “Decon/Recon” Live in Berlin

10 Jun 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Noise Manifesto's series "Decon/Recon" will be deconstructing and reconstructing live June 19th, at Arena Club Berlin. The project involves rRoxymore, Aquarian Jugs aka Planningtorock, Jaguar Woman aka Paula Temple, and Oni Ayhun. The showcase will involve cooperative visuals from queer-feminist porn director Marit Östberg and video artist Tania Gualeni. Apart from the project saying hoards about the aesthetic significance of collaboration, it moreover offers a kind of game where you might try to pick up on whose distinct styles appear during varying parts of each segment or track. Much to our surprise, styles prove superfluous, as these artists mimic each other and end up producing sounds that are utterly unique to the circumstance. It is true human synthesis performed within the aural dimension.

We are giving away two sets of a pair of tickets for the event. In order to win, write to submissions@nofearofpop.net and let us know that you know the true identity of Oni Ayhun. Deadline is next Wednesday, June 17th. 

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The NFOP Guide to Torstraßen Festival 2015

09 Jun 2015 — Henning Lahmann

First things first: For those of you who are experiencing a feeling of confusion and disorientation right now, silently wondering in mild despair, "How did this year pass by so quickly?" – fear not! Your memory and sense of time are totally fine. Due to a couple of more or less interesting, somewhat disruptive circumstances (in case you're actually wondering: the end of Berlin Music Week, its replacement Popkultur, and in some way probably even this superfluous oddity named Lollapalooza® Berlin), NFOP's favourite local music event Torstraßen Festival has been moved to early June instead of the last weekend of August. From now on marking the beginning of the summer festival season rather than its end, the shift entails the additional benefit of further underlining the humble festival's forward-looking, adventurous stance that keeps focusing on both Berlin talents and artists positioned subtly yet firmly left of the field.

Unlike the last years, the fifth edition of TSF not only occupies the better part of this weekend's Saturday but will have a bonus night on Sunday, with an official closing concert at the mighty Volksbühne. No Fear Of Pop is once again proud to be official media partner of the Mitte brouhaha – and as things are already so close, please allow us to make some recommendations for the festival below. Be sure to check the complete schedule in a neat map over here.

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Star Horse “Slower Now” (exclusive)

05 Jun 2015 — Johanne Swanson

It is a generalization to say that there is a fundamental difference between being a musician in Europe and being a musician in North America; one depends on an economic infrastructure while the other on a web of interconnected communities. It’s a generalization, but it is an essentialism that keeps resurfacing. There’s more public funding for the arts in Europe, being a musician is legitimized. With greater clout comes money, and the industry doesn’t seem to be collapsing like it is in America. There are more promoters, bookers and labels. And, for the musicians themselves, practice follows suit: Artists seem to turn more inwards on this little continent. Maybe it’s America’s longstanding rhetoric of DIY ethics that has kept that tradition alive, but these days, with their industry crashing and burning, it seems deeply practical to play in your neighbor’s basement instead of the club down the street. Being in a band with your friends is how to survive.

So when Stockholm’s Star Horse sell friendship bracelets as merchandise and organize the grassroots Fuzztival music festival intended to nurture a community, it comes as a pleasant surprise. The band, led by Maja Thunberg and Andreas Ryberg both on guitar and vocals, have been honing their shoegaze sensibility since 2011. What gives Star Horse their emotional resonance is the conversational dynamic between the two singers-- none better exemplified by their new single “Slower Now.” Thunberg’s melody soars while Ryberg interjects each chorus, “Come to me,” and she answers back carrying some obscured narrative along. Beckoning a lover or friend, this is a song that belongs to everyone.

Stream “Slower Now” exclusively below. The 7” single along with its B-side “Wherever You” comes out June 9 on Star Horse’s label Häxrummet Records and is available for preorder now.

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Stream: Tasseomancy “Palm Wine Revisited” (exclusive)

02 Jun 2015 — Henry Schiller

Palm Wine Revisited is the second full-length album from Tasseomancy, the Toronto-based experimental folk project of twin sisters (and former Austra members) Romy and Sari Lightman. The Lightmans, along with percussionist Evan Cartwright and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Spence, have delivered an album of haunting pop tracks on which nuanced vocal melodies soar over cleverly minimalist production.

Early Kate Bush should jump out as an immediate point of comparison for Tasseomancy’s particularly theatrical brand of off-kilter folk. And just as Bush’s music is evocative of a pre-Roman notion of British mysticism, Tasseomancy seem similarly indebted to the eerie splendor of cold North American woodland. “The Grass Harp” has the rickety, Elfman-esque theatrics of a chase through some sinister forest, but then surprises with a squeal of overdriven guitar that snaps you back to a land where music is recorded onto digital interfaces, and does not just emanate naturally from trees.

The production on Palm Wine Revisited places a unique focus on timbre, with sections on each song highlighting the interplay between the Lightmans’ powerful vocals and one distinct instrument. Though melodically rich, the tracks have been mixed in a way that is pleasantly minimal; this allows for a more confident display of subtle melodic hooks that might otherwise be lost behind overbearing instrumentation. The second half of the title track, for example, is full of small vocal twists that could easily have been buried behind less experienced production.

Palm Wine Revisited is a haunting album; one that sounds distinctly capable of filling out the space of a large theater. Tracks like the hauntingly sparse “What Life Must I Lead” request to be inhabited: rather than automatically move from track to track, Palm Wine Revisited walks you from room to room in a large, abandoned warehouse, converted piece by piece into a recreation of some ancient forest.

Palm Wine Revisited is out today on Healing Power Records.

The sisters are about to embark on a brief tour that includes an appearance at cherished Fusion Festival halfway between Hamburg and Berlin, and a show at Berghain Kantine at the end of June. Find all dates below:

June 17 // Toronto ON // NXNE @ Mod Club
June 18 // Montreal QC // Bar Le "Ritz" P.D.B
June 23 // Amsterdam NL // Paradiso
June 24 // Paris FR // Pop up Du Label
June 25 // Toulouse FR // Siestes Electroniques
June 27/28 // Lärz DE // Fusion Festival
June 29 // Berlin DE // Berghain Kantine

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Clade “Vietnamese Piano”

28 May 2015 — Richard Greenan

An intriguing solo piano tape here from the previously unbeknownst to me Scottish musician (or group?) Clade, which came carefully sheathed in one Vietnamese Dong note. Recorded on nothing more than a happened-upon upright across a single evening in Hanoi, Vietnamese Piano sounds as if it was recovered following a devastating nuclear blast.

An obvious reference point is the aquatic, shimmery daydreams of Harold Budd, but this is even more decayed. The piano in question appears to be sitting in a derelict building surrounded by rice paddies, with missing teeth and vines sprouting from the lid. There is complexity here though, not just in the chords that pleasantly cluster and orbit like moths around a lantern, but also in the range of frequencies and timbres eked out of this old box. What's left is a meditation on something man-made being gently reclaimed by the earth around it; denatured by nature.

A few cassettes of Vietnamese Piano are still available, grab one while you can here.

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Grounders “Drawing Space”

27 May 2015 — Dalton Vogler

Much like the explosion of chillwave artists that emerged from the wake of acts like Washed Out and Neon Indian circa-2009, we’re beginning to see a handful of bands that will undoubtedly garner comparisons to Tame Impala for daring to dip back into the sun bleached coffers of 70’s nostalgia. But chasing the sound of psychedelia comes with some caveats. It’s difficult for a band to harness the potential that comes from this pursuit, as the line between controlled chaos and an unstructured mess runs thin.

Fortunately, Toronto-based Grounders isn’t one of those bands. The quartet is set to release their debut LP this summer, Grounders, and have a new single dropping this week, “Drawing Space.” The jangled guitars and upbeat tempo contrast with the lo-fi vocals to create a disorienting sense of melancholy. The result is a surprisingly refined track that challenges what a traditional psych-pop song should be. What separates Grounders—and elevates the genre itself—comes from the intricacy of their lyrics, and how what’s being said is enhanced by the instrumentation, not buried by it. 

Grounders is out on Nevado Music.

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Review: Róisín Murphy “Hairless Toys”

27 May 2015 — Andrew Darley

After an eight-year intermission since her Overpowered record, Róisín Murphy unassumingly ushers her new album in. Channeling New York Ball Culture and its seminal Paris Is Burning documentary, one may have anticipated album opener "Gone Fishing" to be a ballsy dance romp. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. With an off-kilter arrangement, she invokes both the liberating movement in gay history and her own path as an artist (“Found a place to express my soul, Won’t go on in the shadow’s hold”). Its obscure strut makes abundantly clear that she’s traveling a new path compared to her previous disco-driven dance album.

Written, recorded and produced with her longtime collaborator and friend, Eddie Stevens, Hairless Toys is an experiment in meeting of minds. With almost twenty years work together, as Moloko’s and own touring musical director, this is the first time the two have written. Fascinatingly, the album’s energy is similar to her former band’s best work in how they delivered perplexing concoctions of genres that blend effortlessly together. The record is driven predominately by minimal house, funk and country influences, yet rises above all of them too. The way in which they are filtered through their collaboration resulted in strange and music with a further emphasis on the lyrics and their potential meanings.

Her physical image (referencing an imagined woman of the 70s with a penchant for stylish nylon) further punctuates a new expression. Her career is dotted by an interest in pushing the boundaries both musically and visually. The cover art echoes her departure and artistic transformation. Her debut solo record, Ruby Blue, found her ground as an artist in her own terms under the experimental, home-spun productions of Matthew Herbert, while Overpowered was its pumped-up clubkid sister. In this light, Hairless Toys, for want of a better term, is a ‘grown-up record’ about growing up. Its eight songs are nostalgic of time past amidst finding comfort in the present.

The record’s production and arrangements are ambiguous - several appear to be designed as subtle, quiet and often challenging. An unquantifiable tension and unrest underscores Hairless Toys. Her songwriting has shifted from pop hooks to focusing on melodies that ride over the music and the story they carry. As the majority of collection span six to nine minutes, a wandering quality emerges in how noises and instruments drop out as quickly as they arrive. Thundering percussion sanctions "Exploitation", lasting 30 seconds, before withdrawing to give way into its nine-minute meandering, woozy bass line. A jarring diversity of styles demand repeated listens to grasp its remit, like the blinkering funk of "Evil Eyes" or how "Exile" takes the album by its legs and throws it headfirst into country music. "Unputdownable" closes the album out with an ode to falling passionately in love and being consumed by a life-defining relationship (“You were my favourite book and I love reading between the lines”). It brilliantly balances the acoustic and electronic worlds with an uplifting, soulful chorus.

Róisín Murphy is an artist at the helm of her career, in love with the process of creating music and the riches she can unearth while doing it. Alongside Eddie Stevens, the pair have created a work unconcerned with instant gratification of its listeners, preferring to discover unknown territory instead. Characteristically driven by performance, these songs are a platform which blend wisdom, sadness and humour – all delivered with Róisín’s inimitable personality. Their collaboration has birthed a collection subdued in nature which leave a feeling of something unrequited. It paces itself in a slow reveal and its refined energy maintains an uncertainty of how it should be understood or experienced – once you think you’ve grasped it, it changes into something completely different. An intrinsic authenticity runs through Murphy’s work to date and this album is no exception in how she boldly executes her artistic vision.

Hairless Toys is a pop oddity. It is out now on Play It Again Sam

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