The tracks on Sympathy, Gabrielle Herbst’s official debut as GABI, are not songs but full fledged compositions. Herbst’s crystalline vocals are at the epicenter of every piece’s distinct atmosphere – other interwoven echoes and instrumentation ripple outward into oblivion. Every detail is calculated and adds texture, and every track is consuming. The spacious quality in GABI’s music demands to be bolstered by visuals that explain more of the story. In her video for "Falling", her aesthetic proclivities give us a clearer picture of the mastermind behind this music. GABI and a few other beautiful people, who appear to have survived the apocalypse, traverse a blank landscape, intermittently breaking out into interpretive dance. The energy that flows throughout "Falling" encounters chirpy highs and distilled, empty lows, and the dance routines gain fire and crumble away as the song's drama continuously climbs and falls. The last line of the song is 'Love as debris', which echoes three times as the sky lights up pink above GABI and her surviving clan. The various working parts of the track gradually dismantle until all that’s left is the debris of the place GABI created.
For the Boston/LA-based fuzz rock trio IAN, this past year has been nothing short of action-packed. They went on three tours, played SXSW, released a self-titled cassette on Boston’s Bufu Records, and relocated to LA. To commemorate their journey to where they are now, they released a video for “If You’re Cryin”, a mixture of intimate footage from their live shows and beguiling scenes of being goofy over the last year. The track, a heart-felt upbeat pop gem about the inevitability of taking on the pain of the person you love, is a perfect showcase of IAN’s ability to craft impassioned and sincere pop music that still maintains a certain lightness. Even though the video celebrates the full year the band has been together, IAN’s future is more promising than their past is charming: they’ll be doing a few more shows in LA before they return to Boston to record an album and tour some more. If the year ahead turns out to be anything like the last one, you’ll definitely be hearing more about them soon.
IAN’s self-titled EP is available for streaming on bandcamp.
It may seem somewhat bizarre that the academic International Conference on Cartography and GIS Mapping resulted in the formation of musical act. Luca Lorenzi and Massimiano Santoni met at the academic conference in Italy and found themselves bonding over their love of electronic music. Under the name To You Mom, the pair create a brand of pop built on digital productions, propulsive percussion and Lorenzi’s gentle vocals. We Are Lions, as the title suggests, is a proud declaration of their arrival and sound. To accompany their new single, "Charming Karma", the duo have made a visual focusing on a couple’s communication through sign language, as they try to solve their differences. The dramatic chorus of the song and the monochrome palette are absorbing and draws the viewer into its interpretation.
Danish-Canadian polymath Sally Dige makes dark, minimal synthpop that might draw comparison to the likes of Depeche Mode - Dige's vocal affect is remarkably similar to thant of Dave Gahan - if she didn't already seem to be ushering in an italo-disco revival. "Hard to Please", the title track from Dige's debut album, fuses the ghostly humanism of Dige's new wave forebears with the pointed, synthetic narrative of contemporary electronica.
Ditching the glam and gloss typically associated with synthpop, the choppy black & white video for "Hard to Please", which was directed by Laslo Antal, has the almost vandalized, hyper-candid feel of something that might appear in the corner of an art gallery. The video then cuts between shots of an outdoor birth and ambiguously gruesome scenes of Dige mauling (what looks like) hamburger meat with fork and spatula until it bleeds. The video bears some aesthetic semblance to Eraserhead (which also has bleeding food) but has the loose, zoom-crazed cinematography of later lo-fi masterpieces like Slacker.
The slightly NSFW video (mostly for blood) is worth repeated viewings (is Dige giving birth to prepackaged hamburger? is that a slice of watermelon?), which is just as well: the song will be more or less inextractable from your head once you hear it.
Swahili are a Portland based five-piece whose debut LP was by and large a fusion of industrial drone and distorted, naturalistic beats. Inspired by the paranoid futurism of Philip K. Dick's Valis, Swahili are now shifting more towards the bright, synthetic pummeling associated with Vangelis and the silver age of science fiction soundtracks that he helped kick off. The results have been something akin to a nerve-damaged Tom Tom Club: exquisite, funk-inflicted pop music fused onto boundless, synthesized landscapes.
“Vestal” is a single from Swahili’s upcoming album Amovreux, and the track proves that the group has the energy to show off discotheque charisma over the course of an unflagging, six minute rhythmic loop. Frontwoman Van Pham's voice has the force to keep up with the throbbing rhythm behind it, while remaining maneuverable enough to evoke an almost elegiac sense of spirited wonder.
In her video for "Vestal", Portland-based artist Vivian Hua has mapped Swahili’s rhythmic psych-pop to a swirl of psychedelic imagery, comparable to early videos produced for the Pink Floyd, and mildly evocative of the drugged-out paranoia associated with Dick's novel.
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.
This Berlin pop duo have their archetypes down. As member Laslo Antal approached me with the observation that their aesthetic fits the NFOP one, he was absolutely right; however, theirs is an appreciation for the 80s not unfamiliar to NFOP, but still a somewhat aloof visitor, wholeheartedly welcomed. Singer Sally Jørgensen's vocal range rings perfectly true to that of Siouxsie Sioux, and Laslo Antal bestows a Duran Duran album cover sleekness. Well, they both do. "All The People" has a cool and calm fretless bass line, a David Sylvian-esque, dreamlike delectability and art pop collectedness. There is furthermore mastery over subtle accents and nostalgic melody of a superiorly agreeable sort. The video is simple and intellectually affordable, yet still something you may enjoy viewing several times. Antal's visual assemblage of the two members posing and playing with the stop motion process comes across a bit as a fashion show, yet demonstrates the artists' refined style applied to their music. Isn't that how pop works?
Cult Club will release their debut EP in the new year. Expect to see more words lauding this music in the coming months.
Winter is coming, they say, though we want to stress that we're not quoting some overhyped fantasy television drama here. Cause it really is – just step out into the crisp mid-November air today and you'll realise that once again, a year is coming to its end, leaving us with nothing but shattered hopes and unfulfilled dreams; which naturally draws us to music like that of Brooklyn duo Odd Rumblings, otherwise known as Audrea Lim and Gabriel Sedgwick, whose marvellous glacial synth pop sets the mood for the coming season. Take "Ice Floe", the opening track of the project's six-track debut EP Thieves. Rather literally, Lim is singing of dreams of ice and snow, natural conditions that weaken the human spirit and undermine confidence and trust. There is some warmth in the wobbling pads and enclosing progressions, but when the beat has faded away, we're alone again, awaiting the oncoming night.
Now, "Ice Floe" has received a pretty perfect visualisation by Chinese native Jun Cen, who's currently based in New York City. The animated short film, so much more than a mere accompaniment to the song but really a piece of art in its own right, uses stark, icy images for a captivating narration about a young child who is haunted by deep, subconscious troubles from the past. Watch the work's premiere below.