Star of David

At the time of writing, over Forty-eight hours have passed since the news. The essays and tributes are still flooding in and here I am, still reading them. The reason why is that so many of these eulogies feel so personal and subjective; I’m not reading the same biographical details over and over. By and large, people are using Bowie to talk about themselves.

We’re both asked to sit down and write what images, sounds and memories come to mind when we think of David Bowie. The chances are we’ll both end up with a very different list. Here are some of things that might be on mine:

For me its buying a CD of Low when I was fourteen for £5 from Resident, hearing ‘Sound and Vision’ for the first time and feeling as electric as the blue coloured room he’s singing about. Years later, I’m watching the scene from The Man who Fell to Earth that the album cover is a still from. He’s standing at the end of a dock looking out onto the water, like Gatsby pining for Daisy’s green light.

It’s finding a list of his favourite books online whilst an English literature student, and being thrilled we both shared a penchant for Japanese author Yukio Mishima. A web of possibilities between different art forms is opening up, all pulling from and influencing each other.

It’s the howl of despair on ‘Word on a Wing’. He sounds like he’s been carved out, totally hollow and desperate for something to ignite feeling within him. He sings about “this age of grand illusion” and it sounds so baroque compared to any conception I have of the world. I’m beginning to realise music can just as strongly produce the sensation of absence as it can emotion. I’m beginning to finally articulate depression.

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Review Of The Year 2015

2015 was an outstanding year for music. Looking back I am amazed by the depth and breadth of quality releases. In no particular order, some of my favourites were Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, Half Moon Run’s The Sun Leads Me On, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats self-title debut, Ezra Furman’s Perpetual Motion People, Everything Everything’s Get To Heaven, Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool. Sun Kil Moon’s Universal Themes, Sam Lee’s The Fade In Time, Nadine Shah’s Fast Food… the list is endless. What is striking is how many interesting characters there are making great music at the moment. I think we are in a golden era, thanks to these perosnalities who are combining a heightened individuality with a respect for music and its history. Unlimited access to the internet, and its bottomless pit of musical treasure has made this possible, and will only continue to do so. Not only that but as it becomes increasingly tough to make a living out of music, generally only those with a true musical beating heart and required grit will win out, like the above.

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Daughter – Interview – 2016

A 21st century European band, Daughter have become one of the great success stories of the 'twenty-tens'. Made up of a modest trio of musicians who came together at a music college, and hinging on the inspired and forthright lyricism of Elena Tonra, they have – like most great bands do – conjured up an original sound that oozes a passionate melancholy, a profound sadness that has the effect of uplifting the emotions, striking many-a-listener right in the heart. It's seductive heartbreak music, and modern in tone, structure and atmosphere. A little like Beth Gibbons and Portishead without the trip hop, and a bit like more contemporaneous acts such as London Grammar, Lanterns on the Lake and xx. But, like all the aforementioned, Daughter are strikingly original. It's why, for many, it was love at first hearing.

Fronted by the native Londoner of Irish-Italian descent Elena Tonra, Daughter formed in 2010 when Swiss-born guitarist Igor Haefeli became her musical and romantic partner, to be followed by drummer Remi Aguilella from France. With just two official EPs and one album under their belt, the three-piece have become somewhat of a cult phenomenon in a short space of time. And with the eagerly anticipated release of album number two, Not To Disappear, it looks like things can only get even better for a band that initially met while at a music college in London, with no real expectations beyond "making music together." It all really started with Elena dipping her toes in the open mic, singer-songwriter circuit, as a solo artist around 2009/10, singing her soulful, almost r'n'b inflected songs. "It didn’t suit me at all," she says. "As a musician, I’m self-taught and felt I was restricted by my abilities. I'm a pretty poor guitarist. If anyone saw me, technically…

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Villagers – Interview – 2016

Mercury Music Prize nominated for their debut album Becoming A Jackal in 2010, Conor O'Brien and his band Villagers have proved to be one of the most literate and melodious bands to have emerged in recent years, the follow up albums {Awayland} and Darling Arithmetic both also receiving extensive acclaim and popular support. O'Brien is somewhat a bit of a star in his native Ireland, all three of Villagers albums have made number one, and {Awayland} was the Choice Music Prize Album of the Year in 2013, Ireland's equivalent of the Mercury's.

 
Previous to forming Villagers, O'Brien was a member of the fondly regarded The Immediate, who released just the one album, and who were tipped to break through until their sudden split in 2007. After a spell with Cathy Davey's band as guitarist, O'Brien set about forming Villagers, only his second ever 'band', making their debut at the tail-end of 2008, and enjoying early comparisons to Bright Eyes and Sparklehorse, his music often being described as sparse and eerie, while lyrically his dark thoughts were yet deeply humanistic, and universal, communing the autobiographical with story telling narrative.
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BrightonsFinest: Best Electronic Tracks 2015 (Page 2)

Sonzeira – ‘America Latina’ (Falty DL Remix) 
Released as part of Gilles Peterson’s Brasil Bam Bam Bass project which saw the legendary tastemaker move to Brazil to pay homage to Latin/ South American music, Falty DL’s Remix of Sonzeira’s ‘America Latina’ is a spicy, percussive yet eternally laidback track that can’t help but make you want to move. Containing warm marimba chords and a persistent uplifting vocal sample, the track contains multiple unexpected elements including what sounds like a howler monkey in the background to create a beautifully authentic, groovy piece of music.

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Benjamin Clementine – Interview – 2015

A most extraordinary story reached the end of it's riveting first chapter when Benjamin Clementine was announced as the winner of this year's Mercury Music Prize, for his debut album, the aptly entitled, At Least For Now. Although he had quickly crept up as one of the bookies' favourites it still seemed unlikely until his name was announced by Lauren Laverne live on television, beating off competition in the form of SOAK, Florence & The Machine, Gaz Coombes, Jamie XX, Aphex Twin, Eska, Wolf Alice, C Duncan, Roisin Murphy, Slaves and Ghostpoet.

 
A notoriously reticent and uncomfortable speaker, the spotlight inevitably shifted to this tall, rangy and young musician of Ghanaian heritage… "I don't know what to say… I'd like to thank music," he said, confirming his desire to focus on his passion, rather than his heritage or troubled background. But, the moment called for more: "I can't believe I have actually won this…" he hesitated. "If there is anyone watching, any child, youngster, student – I never thought I would say this – the world is your oyster. Just go out there and get whatever you want to get."
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Fragile Creatures

Band names can sometimes mean nothing, or come across as very silly. Or be so all-embracing that they too lose all meaning. Everything Everything? TV On The Radio? Vampire Weekend, anyone? Then you get something like Fragile Creatures which is a neat encapsulation of humans. Well, as neat as you can get within the limitations of a bands name. But it nearly didn’t happen for this Brighton -based five piece: “There was a guy called Dave, who was investing in us and he said you should call yourselves Fragile Creatures, right from the off,” remembers Adam Kidd, lead singer and guitarist. “We all said ‘no’,” Adam laughs at the memory of it, “Then a couple of months later I said halfway through a rehearsal: ‘Guys! Got a great idea for the band name! Why don’t we call ourselves Fragile Creatures?!”

Indeed, such is the human way with appropriation and rights… But, whoever deserves the credit, there is no denying it is a great name for a band, surely that all but the most egotistical of us can relate to. We are all fragile creatures after all… They even have a song called Fragile Creatures. “Human beings are fragile creatures, and that is the subject of the song. I was reading the New Scientist, and maybe using that as a shield, against the emotional stuff in the lyrics underneath,” says Adam. “There was this article, which says when crocodiles come out of the egg, they are ready to kill, they scurry off on their own. But being human beings, our heads are too big for the birth canal, so you need to have a family unit to look after the child when it comes out. The head isn’t fully hardened; there are lots of physiological reasons… We are pretty pathetic without each other, and that is true of the band, we make up for each other’s weaknesses.”

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Killing Joke – Interview

Anyone who has seen the exhaustive, 150 minute The Death and Resurrection Show (and there aren’t many of you, the film has only been witnessed at a small number of film festivals, and is out of circulation for the time being) might remember the beginning montage of news reports and talking heads, all depicting war, tragedy and possible apocalyptic scenarios, both man made and natural. ‘Do we care. Do we have a moral compass anymore,” says one talking head before the film cuts to a film of a nuclear explosion, a scenario that has profoundly figured in the life of Jaz (Jeremy) Coleman: “I wanted to define the exquisite beauty of the atomic age in terms of style, sound and form… I visualised Killing Joke before Killing Joke really happened,” says Jaz. There was a stage, an anonymous band emitting sounds of a primeval worth…”

Extraordinarily, the band are back in their original state, with the original 1979 line up of Coleman, Martin Glover (Youth), ‘Big’ Paul Ferguson and Kevin Walker (Geordie), who apparently had said on the phone in answering the ad in the Melody Maker that Big Paul and Jaz had placed in looking for musicians: “I’ve never played in a band, but I am the best in the world.” Roll on 2015, and they have a new album out and have just set out on a marathon world tour. It’s been a most extraordinary journey, centred around the larger-than-life personality of Jaz Coleman, who inevitably dominates the film. “Oh my God, there are parts of it I cannot watch. I suppose that’s the good thing about a documentary; there are parts of it I find very difficult to watch, but I think it’s sincere. I gave Shaun Pettigrew (the director) free rein to include the sentient opinions of the I Hate Jaz Coleman Fanclub, and say what they want. I’m not sure it’s the same with Youth’s film (called ‘Youth’), because everyone in the rehearsal room was saying it kisses Youth’s arse, except me. They were laughing about it yesterday. I haven’t seen it… I’ll make judgement then. But I was told that Sir Paul McCartney says ‘Youth could even be a musician if he wanted to'”, followed by another one of those big cackling laughs.
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The Ordinary Boys – Interview – 2015

"My computer, my iPad and somehow my TV were all screaming at me, that I had a phone call… I've got a bit too much technology, I think I need to get rid of a bit of it." So says Samuel Preston, one time constant tabloid presence and celeb; not so much for his music, but for the fact that once upon a time (2006) he was in the Big Brother house, and in front of millions of viewers, struck up an intimate relationship with fellow inmate Chantelle Houghton (who was the unexpected winner), to be followed by marriage, and not long afterwards, divorce… "You forget how to write," say Preston. "I noticed that the other day; my phone ran out of battery in a session and I had to write stuff down with paper and pen. I realised how terrible my handwriting was, I'd forgotten how to do it." It's one of several amiable diversions during our conversation with this talkative and friendly interviewee, a songwriter and musician who has enjoyed both success in and out of the spotlight; with his band The Ordinary Boys, and as a songwriter for other artists.

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