The thing I love about someone like Scott Walker is how apparent his jarring experimentation is made by the fact that it's set against such a traditionally appealing voice. Walker is probably capable of making the most vile screed sound like a Gregorian lullabye, but he slaps it on top of some of the most uncomfortable music imaginable. Chicago's Rob Jacobs - who this post is actually about - works a similar angle from its opposite end. Jacobs' instrumentation has a lot in common with that of someone like Vashti Bunyan: it's soothing, intellectual folk music based around chord changes that skew slightly more towards awe-inspiring than obvious.
Jacobs' voice, on the other hand, is rather weird.
The result is a wonderful asymmetry between the celestial forest folk unwinding across the instruments and Jacobs' alien - though clearly practiced - ululations. Jacobs’ music has the feeling of a wonderfully ornate, brass-wrought antique which still serves some function in a contemporary setting (imagine, for example, if Leonardo DaVinci had invented a seven foot tall machine that performed all the same tasks as a MacBook Pro). Nowhere is the appeal of Jacobs' lilting, contemporary folk more apparent than on the beautiful “Golden Flower”, which you can listen to below.
Cascine's most singular release of 2014 for me was the first EP by the worldly Yumi Zouma. I ended up seeing them three times live last year and each time, they proved to be an act who were just as good or even better onstage as on record. And now in March, Cascine will put out the sequel of sorts, EP II, and going by the freshly arrived "Catastrophe," it sounds like this second EP will be just as magnetic. That same warmth that emanated from all the songs on their first EP is immediately present as soon as "Catastrophe" starts with lilting guitars that are the epitomy of gentle (sounding almost ukelele-like) and a fluctuating synth that sounds like the beginning of The Who's "Baby O'Riley." Following in the tradition of off-kilter Yumi Zouma videos (see those for "The Brae" and "A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers"), the video for "Catastrophe" (done with BANGS) features an array of people in various settings seemingly passing out or falling asleep and it all seems to be masterminded by a girl typing intently on a computer. March 10th can't come soon enough!
On "Demon's Hand" Hannes Ferm updates the Cambridgeshire via faierie's dust charm of Syd Barrett for the Pitchfork set. Ferm - who records music as HOLY - betrays more than a bit of Real Estate's city-weariness, albeit skewing slightly closer to haunted forests than suburban swimming pools.
Ferm, who resides in Umea, Sweden, sings with the kind of British folk music innocence that masks satanic horrors in films like The Wicker Man and The Omen. The inmovability of the drums is offset nicely by the sparse, effects-free guitar and subtle whirl of a keyboard drone, which almost resembles a tin whistle. The highlight of the track is the squealing backing vocal.
It's great to hear guitar music that doesn't evaporate in the midst of aggressive reverb – where everything is laid bare. It's a brave way of presenting music, as it requires the artist to have full confidence in all of the parts they've laid down.
HOLY's debut album Stabs is out March 11 via PNKSLM Recordings and Ny Vag Records.
Lotic, who dwells in Berlin and is a recent subject of Bjørk's admiration, has put out "Heterocetera", the first track from his Tri Angle Records EP of the same name. It starts off with what sounds like violins being played at the speed of light, careening, peeling, and veering. Some glugging, rebounding, and clomping drums come into play to give "Heterocetera" a skip in its step, yet the unstoppable intital backdrop still lingers and prevails. At the end, all the components sag and wind down to a close as if they can't exert anymore.
The first time I consciously encountered the work of Montréalais Jesse Osborne-Lanthier was in the summer of 2013 when he curated a couple of nights of the Foreign Affairs festival at Haus der Festspiele in the pretty, curiously bourgois western side of town (where no one from the Kreuzberg/Neukölln expat bubble ever seems to go), together with his friends and NFOP regulars Alex Zhang Hungtai aka Dirty Beaches and Bernardino Femminielli. The same year, a new project popped up, immediately grabbing our attention: Femminielli Noir, Osborne-Lanthier's stupendous proto-techno collaboration with his fellow Montreal mate. By now, the artist has settled in Berlin's not-Neukölln-but-close-enough formerly eastern neighbourhood of Alt-Treptow, where I visited him the other night to talk about his new and old hometowns, upcoming projects, and his involvement in the NFOP-presented Berlin Current, CTM Festival's platform for emerging experimental music by artists living within the city limits. Read the interview below.
Jesse Osborne-Lanthier will perform alongside Wilhelm Bras, Ketev, RSS B0ys, Kucharczyk, and Olle Holmberg at CTM Festival's Beta II night at Yaam III on Saturday, January 31. For more infos go here.
Sandra Kolstad rides in on a great big horse for her new single "My Yellow Heart". It is her latest offering from her third album, Zero Gravity State Of Mind, which she is set to release on March 3rd. The song is a plea to not become “a hard-hearted woman” in the midst of struggle. The video locates the singer-songwriter in a barren landscape, as we witness her transform and mutate into a number of entities amongst the crumbling landscape. With an ardent focus to colour, the clothing, make-up and surrounding nature burst in vitality. The song contrasts the sweetness of previous single "Rooms", as she bounds in with a rickety piano line and soaring melody. "My Yellow Heart" encapsulates her talent in electronic pop and her theatricality to front it. She takes us into her stimulating world, as we witness her blossom into something ‘other’ in front of our eyes.
Lund, Sweden native Johan Agebjörn, who frequently collaborates with the great Sally Shapiro, makes pop music that's almost archetypically Swedish: technically beyond perfection, slick yet never bland, dreamy, beautiful. Of all the compelling arrangements compiled on his forthcoming LP Notes, new single "You Passed Through" must be the most spellbinding. Featuring Montreal outfit Young Galaxy, it's innocently tinkling along on an ethereal, melancholic melody, finally giving way to the gentle singing of birds in springtime. For the single release, Memoryhouse, another Canadian project that sadly has been silent for quite a while now, has taken the song and turned it into some sort of mellow dance tune, much to my surprise. Take a listen to remix and original below.
As Glass House, Ian Collier and Eric Brannon create what they describe as “dynamic chunks of space and melody.” The notion of music coming in “chunks” really speaks to the heft of the Chicago-based duo’s latest cassette, "Headlands", which is 40 minutes of post-apocalyptic ambience.
On "Headlands", Glass House pull at the tendons of washed out ambience with enough melodic intent to make the cassette sound less like a soundscape and more like a cinematic score. Whether meant to accompany such images or evoke them, "Headlands" seems suited to a wide expanse of desert with a possibly illusory city perpetually on the horizon.
Side A thumps out slowly with a loop of a sound like a ghost knocking on a window in the rain. Side B of "Headlands" is a bit louder, a bit more front-facing, and incorporates some excellent sonic peppering around the 13 minute mark by way of church bells and a string instrument that sounds like a coyote howling. The naturalness of this turn almost had me convinced there was some sort of rich narrative to the whole thing; as if, with the track, I had wandered into some abandoned town and we were about to investigate.
Tim Hecker’s Virgins seems like a probable influence, but so do the kinds of wandering, ponderous scores usually associated with open world video games. Indeed, the experience of "Headlands" is almost like that of playing an RPG. There’s supposed to be a strict narrative – a compelling and wrought out one at that – but you very often delay or dance around it because you’re too busy trying to jump over an invisible wall or talk to an NPC that you’re convinced can trigger the continuation of the plot. Is it a little frustrating? Sure – but it’s where all of the fun is, it’s where the point is. If you wanted everything handed to you you’d have read a book or, similarly, listened to a pop record. This kind of music requires a little more effort on your part.