At the first listen of FEWS’ single ‘The Zoo’ on a late BBC 6Music show, I knew that these guys were an act we must take note of and consequently saw them perform an exhilarating set at this year’s The Great Escape Festival. Produced by master musician Dan Carey (Kate Tempest, Bat For Lashes, Toy), their debut album Means is a visceral fusion of post-punk and rock-pop that matches the intensity of their enthralling live shows which they have become known for. We put some questions to Fredda from the band to find out more.
After an astounding first year, Wild Life Festival came back for round two at Shoreham (now the Brighton City) Airport. Last year saw the co-creators and headliners, Disclosure and Rudimental, bring in the likes of Nas, George Ezra, Mark Ronson, Wu-Tang Clan, Jamie XX, Nicholas Jaar, Gorgon City, Soul II Soul, Years & Years, Lapsley, MJ Cole, Kiko Bun, and so many more impressive acts for more than 70,000 festival goers to dance, sing and party to. With near-to-no hiccups compromising the event on its debut, Wild Life unsurprisingly won the UK Festival Award for Best New Festival – so the Wild Life weekend now has a lot to live up to.
With six stages to experience a wide range of different music, Disclosure and Rudimental created a wish list of acts that range from friends to people they are fans of and want to see on their festival stage. In our recent interview with Disclosure, Guy Lawrence from the band admits, “We just call people up and ask, I think that personal touch helps … make it more personal”. The two bands followed the same formula that worked so well last year, with the addition of a few more bands, gifting us with a bill that was sure to make people move for two days straight. The Avalanches, DJ EZ, Julio Bashmore, Flume, Andy C, Medlar, Dixon, Carl Cox, Todd Terje and Kaytranada repped the electronic side of things – James Bay, Bastille, Jack Garratt and Ratboy holding a strong front for the bands – as well as Ice Cube, Skepta, Busta Rhymes, Lady Leshurr, Stormzy, Kano and De La Soul representing the best in hip-hop and grime. You can probably see a problem here – how does one see all those acts in just two days?
Beverley Knight has been a staple of the British Soul scene since her first album, ‘B Funk’, was released back in 1995. Her most critically acclaimed album, Who I am from 2002, put her firmly in the spotlight and she has released several albums and toured since then taking influence from many, but especially Prince who she supported on his residency at the O2 in 2007. Since 2013 she has starred in the musicals The Bodyguard, Memphis and Cats, and will back in The Bodyguard in July now that this tour is over. Her talent is undoubted and she has seen success in everything she has touched. Her new album Soulsville came out of a visit to Memphis when she was preparing for her role in Memphis, visiting the Royal Studios where some of the best Stax songs were recorded. The album, which was recorded in just one week, is a mix of classic covers and her original compositions and, in her own words, was the best recording experience she has ever had. You get the feeling from listening to it that she would not have been out of place recording on the great Stax label back in the 60s.
Beautiful sounds from Brighton’ very own shores. Fear Of Men release their second LP, Fall Forever, this year after what has already been a fantastic beginning of the year, having done a string of shows in America including the renown SXSW festival. Their new album carries on in the same vain as their gorgeous debut, and having heard tasters of new tracks at their recent Brighton show, it has made us mighty excited for the latest album from one of Brighton’s biggest musical exports. We put some questions to lead singer Jessica to find out more about Fear Of Men.
What a treat the Brighton Festival has given us as a closer to the annual festival. I personally couldn’t have wished for a more innovative and forward-thinking act to see other than Sam Shepherd’s Floating Points. Taking a short step away from making some of the most interesting and best electronic music, Sam created an incredibly well-received debut album, Elaenia, which took in influences from his past releases (including classical, jazz, electronic, soul and Brazilian popular music) and put them into an ambitious and exquisite 43-minute LP. For many years now, Floating Points has been one of the most highly regarded song selectors in the world, creating DJ sets that feel like a journey though music’s possibilities. Now he brings a live band (including a trumpet, saxophone, flute, three violins, cello, synths, two guitars, bass, drums, as well as keyboards and synthesizers played by Sam) to the Dome to perform a show which I tout to be one of the best.
Having heard about but missed The Invisible incredible set at this year’s Great Escape Festival, I was overly excited to see them play as “support” only a week later. And so I should be; I saw them tour their first album (which was Mercury Prize nominated) and they were one of the highlights of the festival, they then signed to Ninja Tune and released an even better album in my eyes, plus the man behind the trio, Dave Okumu, has had his name in a huge amount of brilliant and interesting projects over the past few years. The band started with a bang, literally scaring the living daylights out of the audience with thick heavy bass notes that punched straight into your core, and going on to play crowd favourites as well as songs from their upcoming album Patience which sounded just as great. My only gripe with the performance has to be that the atmosphere lacked as the audience were all sitting. However, it did give you the chance to properly take in their songs, which including a fantastic Prince-inspired electro funk track that was made in mourning of his death.
With anticipation for this show already at its limit, the twelve-person band took to the stage as Floating Points. The performance started with Sam building slow wondering synth patterns that built in tension and drama with the introduction of strings and drums, only to then all erupt together for a monumental climax – the show had started and the whole room was locked in for the fixating duration. With Elaenia being a relatively gentle listen, the performance went through surprisingly aggressive rhythms to the most welcoming and softest minimalism, all working collectively to make one of the upmost impressive and remarkable audio experiences I have ever encountered. Syncopated synth melodies would dance with the elegant sounds of the string section, saxophone and keyboard solos worked as a commanding spotlight to bring you back into the room away from the entrancing laser visuals that had you in their musical reverie – Floating Point’s sound came across complete and perfect.
The recently released 18-minute epic, ‘Kuiper’, was a certain highlight. Building from relatively nothing, Sam’s synthesizer took you on an ever intensifying intergalactic journey of bleeps, pops and whines. Five minutes in and you realise the whole band has joined in on this seamless voyage, together creating layers of extraordinary ambient atmospherics around the monotonous beat, which then rocketed into an immense explosion of sound that could have killed stars. After hitting these magnificent heights, the sound fell back to earth, did it all over again, before evolving into a super-cool James Bond-esque melody (the part in the film where you think everything has gone wrong for Bond) lead by keyboard playing and electric guitar.
With the esteem the Floating Points name now holds and my high expectations for this show, this night sure had a lot to live up to. Sam and his band delivered and more, putting on a spectacle that was as astounding as it was ambitious. The end was greeted by a rapturous ovation from a crowd still trying to work out the remarkable brilliance they had just witnessed. My next thought goes straight to ‘where does he go next with this project?’ Obviously releases will keep coming from Floating Points, but will there be an album which will be played live similar to Elaenia or will there be a new direction?
On the back of winning a Songlines Music Award, Dr Blighty and the Brighton Festival brings in one of the world’s great musicians to play the Brighton Dome – Debashish Bhattacharya. Born into a family of musicians in Kolkata, it was very clear from a young age that Debashish was extremely talented, making his debut playing a full-sized Hawaiian lap steel guitar at the age of four on All India Radio. At 15-years-old he created his first Chaturangui, a slide guitar which has 24 strings and combines resonances from many different Indian instruments, as well as a defining new musical genre called Hindustani Slide Guitar.
Another three years, another Gold Panda album – always something to look forward to. After releasing a string of singles and EPs before 2010, Gold Panda (unostentatiously known as Derwin Panda) matched the hype he amounted to with an intimate yet expansive first record Lucky Shiner. Three years later and Gold Panda released a difficult second album (Half Of Where You Live) which had a couple of gems but never quite lived up the début that still sits securely in my top ten records ever. However, having lived with his third album for some time now, I would even go as far as saying Good Luck And Do Your Best is his best album yet.
Immediately in any Gold Panda song, you instantly take in Gold Panda’s perpetual inspiration from Japan, where he once lived. Prior to recording Good Luck And Do Your Best, Derwin and photographer Laura Lewis took a trip across the country gathering field records and taking pictures to accompany them. This is where the album’s artwork has come from as well as the album’s title, a positive send off from a Hiroshima taxi driver.
This is as far as the album’s positivity goes, as straight from the first track you can feel an air of melancholy surrounding Gold Panda’s sound. This isn’t necessarily a shock as Derwin’s music has always held a feeling of loneliness and isolation, yet all the way through Good Luck And Do Your Best there is a constant sense of self-doubt. This is by no means a bad thing, as each track runs even deeper with emotion – something that was definitely amiss on Half Of Where You Live. This may have come from his thirst to pursue new projects and concepts away from the Gold Panda sound, which Derwin recently revealed in an interview with Ransom Note.
The mellow album opener ‘Metal Birds’ highlights perfectly the incredible mind Derwin has when using samples – in this case, it is chopped up field recordings off a headphone socket from a plane’s entertainment system. As much as field recordings are a big part of Gold Panda music, Derwin gets most of his sounds by sampling old vinyl like a Hip-Hop producer would. The following track, ‘In My Car’, is a great example of this, sounding like a Gold Panda take on the late Japanese Hip-Hop producer Nujabes. Born out of the idea of having a track to listen to whilst driving, Derwin has superbly captured what it is to be riding around on a hot day with the windows down and the music up.
Although Gold Panda’s oriental-influenced sound pallet is very recognisable throughout all three albums, having made sounds from samples of Japanese instruments, there is great variation between tracks. A track like ‘Pink And Green’, inspired by the colours that fill the country at certain times of year, sublimely hits that euphoric cerebral note that is so welcoming after you get home from a big night out, whilst ‘Song For A Dead Friend’ shows a disjointed experimental side and ‘I Am Real Punk’ has much more of an atmospheric feel.
Despite being a sound that is typically far away from popular music, Good Luck And Do Your Best is still strangely compatible with most – rich sounds, warm rhythms and inviting beats continuously draw you into his blissful vibrant world for the album’s duration. His music’s contemplative, calming and extremely beautiful – it’s hard to fault it really.
May is undoubtedly the greatest month of the year in Brighton – The Warren makes its home outside St Peter’s Church, The Great Escape Festival comes through town and the Brighton Festival takes residency across the city. Established in 1967, the Brighton Festival is an annual celebration of arts that consistently throws up extra-special events which are unique for the festival. Guest director Laurie Anderson has put together an incredible list of amazing shows for fans of music, theatre, dance, art and literature to get involved in, including a memorable showcase event for post-classical record label 130701.
I first came across Pantha Du Prince after being shown a recorded phone video for a concert he did with The Bell Laboratory performing Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ at London’s Barbican Theatre. Phenomenal – I don’t think I had ever been so jealous at missing out on a gig. I immediately brought Elements Of Light, a beautiful album he consequently made with The Bell Laboratory, which now finds itself housed away from the CD stand with the other CDs and right next to my Hi-Fi because of the amount of times it is played. Now, three years later, I find myself reviewing The Triad.
Making a name for himself on the influential Berlin dance label Dial Records, Pantha Du Prince (aka Hendrik Weber) had his breakthrough moment three albums in with the release of Black Noise once he signed to Rough Trade. Using field recordings from church bell’s in the mountains of Switzerland and a feature from Panda Bear (Animal Collective), Hendrik announced himself to the music world by carving out his own ideals within the electric genre. Starting in a more beat driven place, Hendrik, who is now releasing his fifth LP, continues his ever more symphonic exploration by bringing in Scott Mou (Mr. Queens) and Bendik Kjeldsberg (The Bell Laboratory) to form minimal techno bliss as “the triad”.
The album starts in a familiar place with a track that could have been unused from Elements Of Light. Bendik’s influence is felt in the twinkling bell’s chiming and glittering instrumentation which creates the wispy ambiance in ‘The Winter Hymn’, however, the complimentary vocals by Queens are on the wrong side of cheese and go some way to limiting the song’s potential. Next track ‘You What Euphoria?’ hits the heights I envisioned for this album – shimmering rhythms and flickering ethereal dissonances create a soul-filled feeling that is so unique to Pantha Du Prince’s music. Having admitted that he never set out to be a musician and that it was more that he was really interested in creating a parallel universe with sound, Pantha du Prince’s music has an air of freedom surrounding it. The absence of obligatory sounds, trends or rules makes Hendrik’s music extremely organic and human.
The track ‘Frau im Mond Sterne Iaufen’, named after the Fritz Lang movie, is the calming cinematic soundtrack to a future utopia buried in a concert dystopia – played out in a hidden nightclub where the encircling melancholy cannot reach. Throughout much of The Triad, an opaque beauty masks the underlining vibe of bleak vistas. For instance, the cascading rings in ‘In An Open Space’ cover up the continuous uncertainty surrounding the subdued melodies.
As the album goes on, you find yourself delving deeper with fascination into the meticulously crafted ideas being portrayed in each song. ‘Chasing Vapour Trails’ signifies a progression in the album. Starting off at a somnambulant pace, the track evolves into deep house realms. A dreamy fusion of pulsing basslines, glitch beats and atmospheric dronescapes continue in ‘Lichterschmaus’ and the far darker ‘Dream Yourself Awake’ (my favourite off the album).
Pantha Du Price seems to create songs that sit weightless, away from any time – they build unknowingly and elegantly in its own vacuum of evolving mood and atmospherics. Hendrik comes across as an intellectual, a scientist of the techno-sphere of knowledge, creating a music that is unobtrusive yet utterly mesmerising. I do hope he tours near our shores soon.
With The Great Escape Festival coming through town once a year, it gives you the great excuse (if you needed one) to delve through the eclectic mix of incredible new emerging talent on the festival bill. With over 500 acts to go through, you are bound to find at least a handful of gems – one of those gems is Oliver Coates.
This being his second mini (?) album to be released on Moshi Moshi's PRAH Recordings, Coates is still relatively anonymous across the musical board. However, he is predominately known as a cellist; being the lead in orchestras, performing with Actress or MF DOOM, collaborating with Massive Attack and Jonny Greenwood, playing classical with Okkyung Lee and Peter Zummo, ect. Coates’ accolades started when he attained the highest degree result in the Royal Academy of Music’s history before going on to New College at Oxford University where he completed his masters with distinction. Impressive to say the absolute least.
Being born into a modern generation of music history where one can scour the vast networks and readily available information on the internet, Coates is able to take in a wide range of different influences, ideas, and styles into his sound. The albums press release states, “Upstepping – … – is, like its creator, defined by its contrasts”, with the only thing that is constant on the LP is that the majority of sound comes from the cello which is then processed digitally. In Upstepping, he continues his venture into the synthesis between the sounds he can pull from his cello and the wide horizons of electronic music. The record’s title comes from one of Coates’ creative inspirations in seeing an interview with Genesis P-Orride, where she used the word “upstepping” in reference to the human race and how it’s able to transition – for Coates, it is the parallels of producing dance music alongside playing the cello. The first track ‘Innocent Love’ has a garage beat and yet it has an obvious cello sub-bass and instrumentation, showcasing that the two can evolve to work together.
The enticing ‘Timelapse (Walrus)’ nod more towards Coates’ love for dance music, featuring near to no recognisable cello. The brilliantly constructed track is percussive, melodic and a bit of a hypnotic banger. An Orbital-esque euphoria ripples through the ambient rave inspired track like it is 5am forever at an Ibiza house party. ‘Perfect Love’ is another perfect example of the musical wizardry Coates is capable of – not only does this incredible track hark of early 90s French techno, it is also 100% made by different types of cello attack. After the atmospheric and minimal ‘Memorial To Hitchens’ which clearly showcases a cello, we are again shown another facet to the possibilities with the instrument in ‘The Irish Book Of Death & Flying Ships’. The latter is a spacey futuristic odd-ball of a track which features abrupt futuristic rhythms over nonsensical speak that periodically makes way for ominous drones.
There is no doubt that Coates is a musical virtuoso – perhaps under-appreciated, perhaps the best is to come. With a wide-range of styles and ideas running through the album, it doesn’t necessarily make Upstepping an album to sit down and take in, however, there are some truly astounding tracks that are perfect for certain moments. When you take into consideration that this album was recorded in ever-changing temporary accommodation – Hong Kong whilst the students’ universal suffrage protests were going on, Cairo in the shadow of Egypt’s bombing campaign against Islamic State targets, countless soulless B&B’s and hotels – all whilst he and his wife’s new home was being gutted after flooding, the disjointed nature to the tracks are justified. Oliver Coates is a starling talent that is defining avant-classical music, but how will his show at St Georges Church be over The Great Escape Festival?