Stefan Olsdal, co-founder of the band Placebo, has joined creative forces with fellow multi-instrumentalist, Miguel López Mora, better known as Digital 21. As Placebo celebrate their debut record's 20th anniversary this year, Olsdal seems to be nowhere near content in terms of what he wants to achieve. His passion for composition, particularly piano and classical music, can be heard throughout Placebo's discography on songs such as "Centrefolds" and "Black Market Blood". Whilst his earlier side-project, Hotel Persona, explored his love of electronica and synthpop. It seems a perfect match that he has teamed up with Digital 21 who in his 25 year career has crafted electronic music using live instruments such as guitar and ukulele over digital sounds. "War" is the first fruit of their work together – a swift six minute arrangement that combines lush strings and glitchy electronics over an unrelenting beat. It's a brooding and intense work, with a promising start of a union of two artists who share a fascination for sound and production. The pair are currently working on a full-length record together which is due out later this year.
Considering how prolific the Russian post-punk outfit Motorama is, it’s slightly surprising they haven’t garnered more attention from major music outlets. Even so, over the course of three full-length LPs and several EPs and singles scattered in-between, Motorama’s discography boasts impressive consistency and palpable sentiment. On their newest release Poverty for Talitres Records, the shadowy Rostov-On-Donians aren’t concerned with delivering something new as much as they are with polishing their distinctive post-punk appeal. On the album’s opener "Corona", we get a comprehensive preview of what the rest of the record sounds like—twinkling guitar picking that keeps up with driving, propulsive bass lines, modest electronic contributions, and, perhaps the group’s most distinguishing quality, the lead singer’s pained vocals which round out the gray atmosphere that envelops Motorama. Bearing in mind the band’s unwavering pursuit of a specific post-punk aesthetic, Motorama could best be personified by a cold, steely robot—a robot that can feel deeply.
For the Boston/LA-based fuzz rock trio IAN, this past year has been nothing short of action-packed. They went on three tours, played SXSW, released a self-titled cassette on Boston’s Bufu Records, and relocated to LA. To commemorate their journey to where they are now, they released a video for “If You’re Cryin”, a mixture of intimate footage from their live shows and beguiling scenes of being goofy over the last year. The track, a heart-felt upbeat pop gem about the inevitability of taking on the pain of the person you love, is a perfect showcase of IAN’s ability to craft impassioned and sincere pop music that still maintains a certain lightness. Even though the video celebrates the full year the band has been together, IAN’s future is more promising than their past is charming: they’ll be doing a few more shows in LA before they return to Boston to record an album and tour some more. If the year ahead turns out to be anything like the last one, you’ll definitely be hearing more about them soon.
IAN’s self-titled EP is available for streaming on bandcamp.
Retro Promenade has really carved out a special name for itself. As a compilation label fixated on late 80s pop archetypes and the synthiest of synths, it does indeed seem promenade and parade around unabashedly, trumpeting this love.
We've covered them here before because of their affiliation with The Boy & Sister Alma; this series, however, is very special for probably all of us. Introducing the Next Peak series, a multivolume compilation of retro pop bands both covering and reinventing Badalamenti's original and captivating score for Twin Peaks – and it's just in time for the 25th anniversary! I remember several years ago when I listened to the soundtrack over and over: I was in love or something spooky like that, where it felt really good to soak in a foggy bath of evocative tunes like that. Take a listen to volume three below, and be sure to especially enjoy The Boy & Sister Alma's slightly comical "One Eye, One Arm, One Man." Also check out the totally awesome posters and t-shirts for purchase.
Our favourite alt-pop lady returns, with the first glimpse of her very exciting new record. Ela Orleans doesn't seem to be constrained by the same ideas of pop music or what's 'cool' that most of us labour under. Her vision is widescreen, and style elastic, encapsulating noirish piano solos, lo-fi keyboard malfunctions and opera. But "The Sky and the Ghost" is perhaps her best produced, most positive music so far. Like all her output, there is a bewitching torsion here: a ghostly choir pepped up by rambunctious breaks, maudlin lyrics skewered by spritely synths. All underpinned by deceptively expert songwriting and that captivating, unplaceable voice, of course. It is, in her own words, a movie for the ears.
Ela's Upper Hell LP is out soon on Howie B Recordings.
It may seem somewhat bizarre that the academic International Conference on Cartography and GIS Mapping resulted in the formation of musical act. Luca Lorenzi and Massimiano Santoni met at the academic conference in Italy and found themselves bonding over their love of electronic music. Under the name To You Mom, the pair create a brand of pop built on digital productions, propulsive percussion and Lorenzi’s gentle vocals. We Are Lions, as the title suggests, is a proud declaration of their arrival and sound. To accompany their new single, "Charming Karma", the duo have made a visual focusing on a couple’s communication through sign language, as they try to solve their differences. The dramatic chorus of the song and the monochrome palette are absorbing and draws the viewer into its interpretation.
Writing a song is making a pattern and fitting it together in a greater pattern. Making an album is piecing those songs together, pattern by pattern, until circular consonance. The releases that resonate with us the greatest are those that skillfully echo this human experience of pattern-making: revisiting trauma and creating symbols that return to reveal some sort of hope or despair. The Offer by Yowler, the solo project of All Dogs frontwoman and Saintseneca member Maryn Jones, is one of these records. It is dizzying misery with ‘water’, a motif echoed in each track, overflowing. How is it still that we aim for linear growth when it’s so obviously circular? Put this on repeat.
The Offer by Yowler is out now. Order it here from Double Double Whammy.
Broshuda straddles the worlds of electronic music and illustration, casting a beguiling emoji-web of broken rave doodles from his base in Kassel, Germany (or, as Bro affectionately refers to it, Dorkville).
His latest record is maybe my favourite yet – murky but, unlike some of the other stuff on Seagrave, never heavy enough to drag you down. Rather, Broshuda's unfettered curiosity takes centre stage, as we dip in and out of conversations, undergo soft-focus techno flashbacks, and sometimes swear we can hear the scratch of sharpie across rough card.
One thread is a series of stone circle jams – primitive, Satie-esque piano meditations, tempered with subtle electronics and other intimate, unrecognisable sounds. The question is, how does he make it all?