Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

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AU66: Devo feature

September 15, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post this up for a while – a feature that appeared in AU during the summer to coincide with Something For Everybody, Devo’s first album since 1990. It’s one of my favourite interviews, first of all because the idea of me speaking to someone of the status of Devo’s Jerry Casale still seems pretty bloody unlikely, but also because it was such a fun conversation.

It was a bit of a saga getting the interview organised – as is so often the case with big major label artists – so that was cause for apprehension in itself. Then there are the natural nerves of speaking to someone not far off ‘hero’ status in my book. And what would be be like? He is a man in his 60s after all – would be be a curmudgeon? Go through the motions? Deem my questions below him? Maybe he would be as completely nutso as his band’s persona. Or such an intellectual that I would struggle to converse on a similar level.

You see where I’m going with this. In fact, he was charming, self-deprecating and extremely affable. Most interesting, though, was the extent to which Devo’s off-the-wall schemes are the product of carefully planned marketing campaigns. I had supposed – naively, perhaps – that their ‘Devo Song Study’ was the band’s idea, perhaps a wry parody of audience-inclusive TV like American Idol and X Factor, where everyone who wants a say gets one. Casale was quite happy to set the record straight on that one…

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AU61: Why? interview

January 4, 2010

This one’s tinged with sadness, because Why?’s latest album was my single biggest disappointment of 2009 (review here). Maybe in time I will come to embrace it, but after the glorious Alopecia, Eskimo Snow was an almighty let-down. Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to speak to Yoni Wolf myself and ask him about it. Of course, i didn’t tell him how gutted I was about his new album, but it was interesting to get his perspective on how different it is from Alopecia, and why that is. Incidentally, the interview was conducted over two days – he had to break off first time round because he was about to have a big slap-up lunch with his brother’s family. And the next day, he seemed to be eating while talking to me. Sound enough to chat to though, despite that.

COUNTRY SAD BALLAD MAN

YONI WOLF ON THE WHY? RECORD NOBODY SAW COMING

Little more than a year after releasing one of last year’s summer-defining – and best – records in Alopecia, indie-rock wordsmiths Why? are back with a radically different follow-up. Eskimo Snow and its predecessor were written and recorded in the same sessions in early 2007, but sonically they are poles apart. Where Apolecia was a wry, witty concoction of indie-pop and languid hip-hop, Eskimo Snow is as dark and – at times – bleak as its title, an album that sees mainman Yoni Wolf recast as a country troubadour, obsessed with sex and death.

“It is different,” he affirms from his brother (and drummer) Josiah’s house in rural Ohio. “It’s kind of a small, consistent, melancholy type of record. If Alopecia is kind of large in scope and out in the world and erratic, I would say that Eskimo Snow is a bit more consistent and internal.”

That manifests itself in a brief and sombre set of songs – “pretty mortality-based” as Wolf admits. The gorgeous, fragile title track closes the album with a lyric that is typically opaque but full of arresting imagery. According to Yoni, it made sense as the album title – the song that “really represents the album”.

“Eskimos have a million words for snow,” he explains. “They live so close to it, it’s so much a part of their lives that they see it as if through a microscope – very clearly and in all its intricacies. So [the line] “all my words for sadness, like Eskimo snow”. I just feel like that word ‘sad’ is such a vague, basic word. Any of the words for emotion, like happy or sad. I feel like what I do is take those kinds of words and figure out the long answers – the things that can’t be explained in one word.”

The songwriter’s background is in underground hip-hop act cLOUDDEAD and as part of the Anticon. collective, but rather than the dextrous rapping that has marked out so much of his previous work – including Alopecia Eskimo Snow often sees his voice reduced to a resigned croak, albeit one that has a lot of startingly vivid things to say. But then lyrical ingenuity is nothing new on Why? records. The lack of any remnants of hip-hop is. Not that Wolf wants to engage with that.

“Throughout my career, I’ve run into people always wanting to categorise me,” he says a touch frustratedly, “and I just don’t think in those terms too much. I listen to a lot of quote-unquote rap music, yeah. I say rap more than hip-hop. When I grew up, hip-hop was the culture and rap music is just that someone is rapping. Whatever, I don’t have a problem with all that stuff.”

It’s something that has and will continue to come up a lot when this album gets discussed, because it sounds so very different. Is that something Yoni is conscious of or worried about? “I’m not worried about it,” he says bluntly. “I’m conscious of the fact it doesn’t sound like rap at all. Alopecia sounds like rap music, or half of it, and this doesn’t. Who cares, you know? It’s a record – listen to it for its own sake.”

Remember, though, that this is just one record pulled from those bewilderingly diverse sessions in 2007. Next time round, Yoni hints, things could be very different again. “I’ve been writing some rap-type stuff, I would say – rhythmic and hyper-rhyming, and I imagine the next record will be kind of like that.”

ESKIMO SNOW IS OUT NOW ON TOMLAB

WWW.MYSPACE.COM/WHYANTICON

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AU61: Floating Points breaking through piece

January 4, 2010

FLOATING POINTS

REAL NAME: Sam Shepherd
BASED: London
FOR FANS OF: Boxcutter, Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie.
CHECK OUT: Vacuum EP, out now on Eglo.
WEBSITE: www.myspace.com/floatingpoints

Sam Shepherd is a restless soul. Originally from Manchester, the young producer has put out a series of platters this year on various labels, but we are still no nearer to discovering what Floating Points is really all about. His contribution to Mary Anne Hobbs’ recent Wild Angels compilation, ‘Esthian III’, was glitchy and fidgety, while a swinging 12” single on Planet Mu, ‘J&W Beat/K&G Beat’, placed him neatly among that label’s roster of dubstep and garage icons. However, his latest EP, Vacuum, is another matter entirely. Here, Shepherd tries his hand at deep house and disco, and comes up trumps. The lead track ‘Vacuum Boogie’ rides on a 4/4 rhythm and a deep, rolling bassline, but the genius is at the top of the mix, where fluttering synth lines swoop in and out of each other, under an all-enveloping haze.

All of this oscillating between styles is a perfectly natural consequence of Shepherd’s background and stupendously catholic tastes. He studied jazz piano and composition at music school, then almost ended up at the Royal College of Music before thinking better of it and doing a degree in pharmacology instead. Now, he’s working on a PhD and sees the music as “just a bit of fun”. Serious enough for him to perform live with a 12-piece ensemble, though. His Dublin appearance at the Twisted Pepper on December 5 is down as a DJ set, and if we know Sam Shepherd at all, you can be sure that it will be no hostage to genre.

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AU61: Let Our Enemies Beware breaking through piece

January 4, 2010

I love being able to shout about new bands that I love. That’s all this is – do yourself a favour and give them a listen. I can’t wait to get the opportunity to see them live.

LET OUR ENEMIES BEWARE

MEMBERS: Shareef Dahroug (vocals, guitar), James Boast (guitar, artwork), Adam Elwin (guitar, vocals), Christopher Boast (drums).
FORMATION: Chatham, Kent, 2005.
FOR FANS OF: And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Fugazi, Slint.
CHECK OUT: Against Karate, out now on Smalltown America.
WEBSITE: www.myspace.com/letourenemiesbeware

It’s not overstating things in the slightest to say that Let Our Enemies Beware are one of the most exciting rock bands in Britain. For the time being, the Kent quartet fly under the radar, but surely not for long, because once word spreads about their utterly inspired debut album Against Karate, there will be no stopping them. “The band is a cathartic thing, I suppose,” says the band’s brilliantly unhinged frontman Shareef Dahroug. “It’s shaking off the usual boredom and drudgery of everyday life by shouting at a lot of people in the dark and them, for the most part, thanking us for it.”

The band came to our attention via the good people at Smalltown America records, who got involved after spotting them playing live in London. From there, a spot on one of the label’s Public Service Announcement compilations (#9 if you’re interested) and a tour with our very own And So I Watch You From Afar and LaFaro followed, and now LOEB have a rabid, slavering beast of a full-length to show for it all. This is 20 years of noisy bastard guitar music neatly distilled into 45 minutes – the mean ferocity of Shellac, the heart-bursting conviction of At The Drive-In, the creepy atmosphere of Slint and the utter fucking mayhem of …Trail Of Dead when Conrad’s in one of his moods. “Live, we are the aural equivalent of a nervous breakdown,” says Dahroug. “You can decide whether it’s any good for yourself if you don’t mind losing your hearing to find out.” Believe us, sir, we’ll take that risk.

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AU60: Fuck Buttons feature

November 17, 2009

This was for a double-page feature in the mag. Andrew Hung was pleasant enough to talk to, but not the most garrulous of interviewees. I think it shows to an extent in the piece, but I hope it was successful anyway.

Back for another assault on our ears with a towering second album, erstwhile noise duo Fuck Buttons tell AU about working with Andrew Weatherall, ignoring the hate and the love, and why making music is nothing more than child’s play. Read the rest of this entry ?

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AU59: Liquid Vega breaking act piece

October 12, 2009

As with so many of my recent favourites, I found out about Liquid Vega thanks to the ever-fantastic FACT Magazine. The band were available for an email interview, so that’s where the quotes come from. Looking forward to some proper releases from these guys. (PS: now you see where my header image comes from. :-))

Liquid Vega 1

LIQUID VEGA

MEMBERS: Vincent Gomes (music/vocals), Genevieve Duprie (vocals/music)
FORMATION: Paris, 2008.
FOR FANS OF: Glass Candy, The xx, The Cure.
CHECK OUT: Tracks streaming at the band’s Myspace page.
WEBSITE: www.myspace.com/liquidvega

Liquid Vega are the very definition of enigmatic. An unsigned duo who claim to be “from London via various other places” and who met at a party in Paris, they are still to release a note of music through official channels and yet they are already the subject of a raft of glowing articles in some well-respected organs, online and in print. And here we are, joining in. But believe us when we say that we would leave well alone if we weren’t completely smitten with their delicate yet darkly erotic sound, a blend of Disintegration-era Cure’s dramatic sweep and the sinister glamour of the excellent Italians Do It Better label – Chromatics, Glass Candy, Desire. Vincent and Genevieve call it “ghost disco”, and we honestly couldn’t put it better ourselves.

“We mean a certain kind of music that is of the night, that’s almost translucent, where you’re not sure what exists through what you’ve heard,” they explain. It’s hard to pin down what exactly is so intoxicating about this band, but more than the songwriting, the atmosphere is key – teardrops on the dancefloor, a slow dance in the moonlight, the sweet ache of longing. “To have that elusive something is crucial, we think. But there is a longing in the music that results from our relationship. We’d be lost without it.” The precise nature of that relationship is ambiguous – they say that they initially “got talking over spilt wine, records and kisses in the night,” and they claim that they are mainly inspired by “each other,” but this isn’t the kind of band where you need or want all the biographical details. Maybe it’s best if they remain unknowable, floating in the ether, haunting our dreams.

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AU59: Gold Panda breaking act piece

October 12, 2009

Gold Panda 500

GOLD PANDA

REAL NAME: Unknown.
FROM: East London.
FOR FANS OF: Boards Of Canada, Mount Kimbie, Four Tet.
CHECK OUT: The single ‘Quitter’s Raga’, out now on Make Mine.
WEBSITE: www.iamgoldpanda.com

Dontcha just love backstories? At least, you do when they are an entertaining as this guy’s. Mr Panda (his real name is a well-kept secret) is from Essex but lives in East London. So far, so mundane. More interesting, however, is the fact that he used to work in a sex shop, and is obsessed with Japan to the point that he used to infuriate his art teacher by drawing manga in class, then went on to study the language, spend a year there and make plans to go back. At this point, it would lovely and neat to talk about how Panda’s Japanese fixation and experiences of the brown paper bag business have influenced his work so far, but it doesn’t really work like that. At least, not overtly.

In fact, pinning down his sound to any kind of neat soundbite is nigh-on impossible, so varied are the morsels we’ve heard so far. Aside from a raft of high-profile remixes for the likes of Bloc Party, Simian Mobile Disco, Little Boots and Telepathe, his own material is an eclectic stew of dream-like electronica, dusted with hip-hop, techno and pop. It often sounds organic and welcoming like Boards of Canada or Mount Kimbie, but there’s an energy and a sense of exuberance there as well, especially on the new three-track single ‘Quitter’s Raga’. The title track is, as the name suggests, a joyous but tantalisingly brief foray into Bollywood, while ‘Fifth Ave’ is a slow, glitchy head-nodder and ‘Police’ is positively frantic, a nagging synth line going round and round in your head like a siren. Pigeonholes be damned, celebrate the individualism.

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