Watch: Dmitry Evgrafov “Like Foam” (exclusive)

18 Nov 2015 — Henning Lahmann

During these days of tension and anxiety, reminding ourselves of the beauty that surrounds us is soothing. More than that, it may be necessary to stay sane in the midst of a neverending flow of news and pictures and grieving and fear. Moscow composer Dmitry Evgrafov didn't write the music on his recently released album Collage, so I assume, specifically for situations like the one we all, collectively, find ourselves in since past Friday. Once again. Instead, in his own words, Evgrafov's delicate arrangements merely vent his penchant to be "always restless, always searching" – a deeply romanticist inclination, to be sure, that is all too often prone to clichéed notions of sappy sensations and faux tragedies yet that the young musician consistently manages to absent himself from. Nor was the video for LP centrepiece "Like Foam", with its images of peaceful autumn landscapes and solemnly grazing cows shot in mind with the very human atrocities that we have been confronted with. Yet somehow, and perhaps that's just me, there is a new connotation to the music now, whether intended or not. "Like Foam" is, in its very own, uncommitted way, healing music.

Collage is out on 130701. Get it over here.

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Watch: Erasers “Returning Home” (exclusive)

03 Nov 2015 — Preston Ossman

Perth’s Erasers (not to be confused with similarly named 80s English New Wave duo Erasure) allow their dreamlike ambiance to invite a listener’s interest. Their recent full-length Stem Together is a brisk swim in a briny bath of lo-fi percussive loops and melancholic organ hymnals. Rebecca Orchad’s ghostly incantations build and swell, reverberant crooning resonate on another ethereal plane. At times, the record feels best suited for the pitch-black solitude of an insolation chamber, while at other times opening up to nothing short of a psychedelic sermon, a lulling drone underscoring songs like an understated sonic scripture.

In the group's latest video for the song "Returning Home," the viewer is brought into the congregation on a beam of light. Solar glare glistens on the waves as the group’s atmospheric organ rumble fades into audibility.  ‘On a silver sea / returning you home,’ Orchad repeats. The lyric implies patience in movement, the idling that accompanies any expedition, laying in wait. To travel is merely to pass time between destination and origin, and Erasers emphasise this lacuna. The accompanying visuals to "Returning Home" tell this story of stasis in travel: a single swimmer, in a silver sea no less, paddling in place as the water splits around her; stagnant sediment washed over repeatedly by rolling water; the relentless ripple of one’s own wake. The constant motion that the ocean insists upon is often overlooked by its perennial nature, as if to say, “the ocean isn’t going anywhere,” despite that it is always going, pushing, pulling, occillating like that familiar drone.

Stem Together is out on Fire Talk. Get it over here.

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Watch: Paco Sala “Square Jaw / LGO” (exclusive)

29 Oct 2015 — Henning Lahmann

It's been a while since we last heard from London project Paco Sala aka Anthony Harrison and Leyli. The vocalist having recently relocated to Berlin, the first result since crossing the Channel is a full-length with the fitting name Der Gast, "the guest" – a multi-faceted notion that avoids deliberations about more loaded concepts of existence in contemporary Berlin, such as "tourist", "immigrant", or "expat". To be a guest implies both a limited timeframe and the expectation to be welcome. The two aspects, of course, are intertwined, scantily concealing the word's more twisted connotations (the first generations of immigrants from Turkey and other southern European countries in Germany were labelled Gastarbeiter, "guest workers", in the public discourse, which rather openly hinted at the fact that the German society expected them to leave again and not to settle). 

Musically, "Square Jaw" and "LGO", the first tracks from Der Gast, continue Paco Sala's distinct blend of kosmische-informed synth arrangements and crystalline vocals, though the rhythmic patterns are a little more prominent and dynamic this time around. Watch the video for the single exclusively below.

Der Gast is out on cassette November 6 via Night School Records. Pre-order the tape now over here.

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Watch: Cherushii “Indigo Wave (feat. Golden Donna)”

26 Oct 2015 — Max B.K.

A Vimeo staff pick, Cherushii and Golden Donna's music video has turned Keith Apicary on his head. Outside of her more straight-faced and ambient 2015 LP Memory of Water, Chelsea Faith's tracks tend towards a quirky fun that never indulges itself. Her richly layered, persistent, and loopy grooves provoke smiles not laughter. "Indigo Wave"'s curve ball synth – a Golden Donna addition to the track – may be as close as her work gets to inducing one. The person who's definitely not laughing is the star of video, Anthony Abbadessa. Abbadessa paid director Ezra Ewen to make the video after becoming obsessed with the track. Dancing his way across hipster icons of New York, one imagines a world where the cool kids never toyed with irony. Perhaps it's not a matter of self-indulgence, but abandoning oneself to dance. Everyone is left better off for it.

"Indigo Wave" is taken from the Starlight Express EP, which is available via bandcamp.

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Arca “Soichiro” / “EN”

26 Oct 2015 — Andi Wilson

Arca (aka Alejandro Ghersi) is someone we all can’t stop watching. An ever-evolving transformation since the &&&&& mixtape, several EPs, 2014’s release of debut album XEN, not to mention collaborating on production with FKA Twigs, then Björk’s ninth record Vulnicura; it’s difficult not to be addicted to the aura that is Arca. The Venezuela-born, now London-based producer has shared two new tracks from the forthcoming, sophomore studio album, Mutant.

“Soichiro” is extremely emotive and sensual while recently released video for “EN” only showcases the abnormalcy that Ghersi strives for. In white thigh-platforms, it shows Arca, dancing in slow-mo to match the track’s dark, experimentally-pioneering manner. Both tracks are freeing and continue the project’s radical spirit. Nothing seems too ambiguous for Ghersi at this moment. In regards to the release, they reveal “softness as a weapon when the mind attacks itself”.

Mutant is out November 20 via Mute digitally, on CD, and 2xLP. Also peep the artwork from long-time collaborator Jesse Kanda.

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Watch: Kepla “Ordinant 6”

12 Aug 2015 — Henning Lahmann

What has made London blog/label No Pain In Pop so important in the past years is not so much the fact that mastermind Tom King has impeccable taste and the right ear to predict what the world the Internet wants to listen to tomorrow; others surely have that ability, too. No, it's rather that King somehow knows how to look at places no one else seems to even have access to. In this sense, the title of NPIP's ongoing series of compilations – The Bedroom Club – is anything but arbitrary. The new talent showcased here is almost exclusively composed of artists who indeed seem most comfortable in the reclusive semi-anonymity of their bedrooms; the music produced is not exactly depressed, but there's a certain noirish feel to almost all of it. A sentiment that of course has quite a tradition at NPIP, with a past roster including A Grave With No Name, Echo Lake, and of course Forest Swords. The compilation series' third edition is by no means an exception to this rule. The six tracks are slow, careful and intimate, exuding a gloomy atmosphere. This is music that not only seems to be made in isolation, but just as much made for it. For rainy Sundays after long club nights perhaps, when there's really nowhere else to go. The press release tells us accordingly:

Liverpool producer Jon Davies aka Kepla is one of those highly talented bedroom producers that I would likely never have got to know were it not for NPIP; and his track "Ordinant 6" is the prototypical Bedroom Club contribution. Informed by both noise and fading rave memories, the track only reluctantly unfolds over the course of five minutes. Largely rejecting discernible structure, it implies distant troubles, an effect that is beautifully augmented by the accompanying video with its abstract frames and occasional, disconcerting interruptions hinting at other things that might be going on here. We're premiering the video below.

The Bedroom Club III is out August 21. Pre-order the compilation on vinyl now over here.

Kepla will support William Basinski on his UK tour in September:

Tues 15 Sept - Cafe Oto, London
Weds 16 Sept - Islington Mill, Salford
Thurs 17 Sept - The Kazimier, Liverpool

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Watch: Kvien & Sommer “Kwan” (exclusive)

24 Jun 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Kvien & Sommer is the collaborative project of two highly acclaimed Norwegian musicians, vocalist and improviser Mari Kvien Brunvoll and composer/multi-instrumentalist Espen Sommer Eide. We're not sure if Weathering, the duo's four-track mini album, is a one-off affair or even the result of a set of spontaneous creative impulses. But it certainly reaffirms Karelia-based imprint Full of Nothing's position as one of the most adventurous and forward-minded cassette labels out there. Described as containing "four broken suites for voice, modular synthesizers, bagpipe and various sound objects", Weathing is an unassuming yet subtly bold collection of contemporary exerimental music. Of all tracks, "Kwan" is the easiest to access upon first listen, a quiet, pensive movement focused on a fractured rhythm pattern, with melodic fragments merely insinuated at most. The piece only reveals its hidden marvels when taken together with the accompanying video by Piotr Pajchel, an equally abstract series of circles and grainy waveforms in black and white. Watch it below.

Weathering is out now on Full of Nothing. Get the cassette over here.

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Interview: LYKANTHEA

23 Jun 2015 — Henry Schiller

In her video for "Parturition" ambient artist Lykanthea walks slowly from an ancient Etruscan burial ground before settling in the sea. The mythic, almost otherworldy video is fitting: The Rome-based Chicagoan, whose real name is Lakshmi Ramgopal, wrote much of the EP Migration while studying ancient ruins on the remote Greek island of Delos.

Last week I spoke with Lykanthea over email about her time spent on Delos, the Sumerian mythology that inspired her EP, and the difficulties of pursuing a music career and a PhD at the same time. Check out the video for "Parturtion" below, and read my interview with Lykanthea after the jump.


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To start things off, I’d be interested in learning a little more about how Migration came together in Delos. Was there some point in your time there when you decided to record the EP, or was it something you had been thinking about beforehand?

When I went to Delos, I was in the early stages of researching my dissertation and needed to visit the island to study and photograph some of its archaeological ruins. I had decided even before I left the States that I wanted to start writing my record while I was traveling, so I brought a tiny Akai midi controller with me to Greece. I would get up at 3am in the morning, thanks to jetlag, and fiddle with the controller while I sang into my laptop until the sun came up.

How much of the EP would you say was recorded on Delos? How much of it was put together when you got back to Chicago?

The record was written and recorded all over the place - on Delos, in Athens, in Chicago. "Telos," which I wrote almost in its entirety on Delos, remained the least changed throughout the writing, recording and mixing process. I spent a lot more time agonizing over "Aphonia" and "Hand and Eye," since I spent months rearranging and rerecording them in Chicago. In the end, everything came together at different times and places. For instance, I didn't touch many of the low-fi vocal takes I recorded with my laptop mic for the demo of "Telos," since they included quirky little ambient sounds that the mic picked up from the chair I was sitting in while recording. But I replaced the original vocal parts in other songs with studio retakes in Chicago. That's also where I added guitar and live drums.

How did the experience of being in such an isolated place influence the songwriting? Did it push the record in a direction that your music may not have been going in before?

I'm sure it did. I didn't consciously set out to write a dreamy, inward looking album, especially since my old band wrote electronic dancepop. Initiating my first solo record while living alone on this rocky, raw, mostly uninhabited island put me in a mindset that helped me go deeply inward in a way I hadn't experienced in songwriting before. That mindset stayed with me for a long time after I left. I think it's what made the album's world feel so complete in the end, at least to me. And maybe even a little solipsistic. I'm speaking to myself in it because I'm alone.

In addition to being almost uninhabited, Delos is pretty famous is Greek mythology as the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo - I was also curious as to what kind of influence mythology might have had on the record.

The Sumerian story of the goddess Inanna is the original inspiration for a lot of the ideas contained in Migration. Inanna is described as a terrifying force of creation and destruction who voluntarily makes her way to the underworld and is then involuntarily held there against her will. The process of entering and finally leaving the underworld changes her, since it forces her to confront her weaknesses, her dark sides. I was immediately drawn to the Sumerian myths that frame these ideas of birth and death, of claiming yourself despite yourself. I wanted to build on their narrative structures and symbolic language to make myths of my own.

Is an interest in mythology what lead you to graduate work in Classics?

Actually, no. I've never been that interested in Greek and Roman gods. I headed to a grad program in Classics because I'm a historian at heart. I want to know what people did and why, I want to know how they come to understand themselves. Mythology definitely plays a part in self understanding. But for me, it's the people, not the gods, who pull me in.

There have been a couple of other artists who have balanced very interesting recording projects with academic commitments. Do you think there’s anything about the academic lifestyle that contributes – positively or negatively – to your work as a recording artist?

I'd say there's plenty of good and bad. Being a grad student has given me lots of freedom to decide when and where I do my work. I've been able to spend a lot of time on writing music and touring in addition to being a researcher and teacher. It's amazing to be able to do that. Plus, my academic field allows me to travel, and that travel changes me and gives my music a lot of texture.

But it's also hard being an academic and a musician. Plenty of academics think that peers who use their time for serious, non-academic work are unserious about their academic work. I've received comments about this throughout graduate school. That's really hard, to feel like you can't be yourself in a community you're part of, to feel like you have to hide an essential part of yourself.

Do you have a community of artists – removed from the graduate community that you’re a part of -  that you work with frequently?

I do! Musicians and designers and artists, many in Chicago and the rest scattered around the world. I know a lot of them through social media networks, and those relationships have yielded a lot of amazing collaborations, like the capsule collection with Hvnter Gvtherer and the video with Krist Mort. These relationships have been so creatively nourishing. They've pushed me to keep raising my standards and also defy any instinct to fit into any particular genre, musical or otherwise. It's important to work with other people, otherwise you get stuck in your head and develop an ossified way of thinking about things.

Speaking of your work with Krist Mort: the video for “Parturition” was shot in an Etruscan burial site at Orvieto – how did the two of you decide on that particular location?

I've been drawn to the textures and gloomy interiors of Etruscan tombs since I first visited them in college. They have a weird, alien quality, maybe because they're architecturally less familiar to people than, say, Roman ruins. They immediately came to mind when Kristina and I decided to shoot the video. Since Migration deals partly with the idea that we emerge from phases in life as new people, I wanted to shoot at a necropolis, which literally means "city of the dead." Our original plan to apply for a permit to shoot at a site at a town called Cerveteri. The permit was rejected by the division of the Italian archaeological commission that runs that site, probably because the video has nothing to do with Etruscan archaeology. So then we applied to shoot at Orvieto. Amazingly, the request went through.

You just played a spate of shows around Europe – what kinds of recording software and audio devices are part of your live repertoire?

My live shows are mostly improvised versions of songs from my album. I do a lot of singing, which I loop heavily and run through a mix of EHX and other pedals. I also play synth parts with a midi controller hooked up to my laptop, use backing tracks and play a guitar with a cello bow. In the past I've performed with choruses, clarinetists and violinists onstage, and I'm hoping to make that a more permanent thing. Having more people onstage makes the music bigger, more texture, more energized.