Grounders “Drawing Space”

27 May 2015 — Dalton Vogler

Much like the explosion of chillwave artists that emerged from the wake of acts like Washed Out and Neon Indian circa-2009, we’re beginning to see a handful of bands that will undoubtedly garner comparisons to Tame Impala for daring to dip back into the sun bleached coffers of 70’s nostalgia. But chasing the sound of psychedelia comes with some caveats. It’s difficult for a band to harness the potential that comes from this pursuit, as the line between controlled chaos and an unstructured mess runs thin.

Fortunately, Toronto-based Grounders isn’t one of those bands. The quartet is set to release their debut LP this summer, Grounders, and have a new single dropping this week, “Drawing Space.” The jangled guitars and upbeat tempo contrast with the lo-fi vocals to create a disorienting sense of melancholy. The result is a surprisingly refined track that challenges what a traditional psych-pop song should be. What separates Grounders—and elevates the genre itself—comes from the intricacy of their lyrics, and how what’s being said is enhanced by the instrumentation, not buried by it. 

Grounders is out on Nevado Music.

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Review: Róisín Murphy “Hairless Toys”

27 May 2015 — Andrew Darley

After an eight-year intermission since her Overpowered record, Róisín Murphy unassumingly ushers her new album in. Channeling New York Ball Culture and its seminal Paris Is Burning documentary, one may have anticipated album opener "Gone Fishing" to be a ballsy dance romp. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. With an off-kilter arrangement, she invokes both the liberating movement in gay history and her own path as an artist (“Found a place to express my soul, Won’t go on in the shadow’s hold”). Its obscure strut makes abundantly clear that she’s traveling a new path compared to her previous disco-driven dance album.

Written, recorded and produced with her longtime collaborator and friend, Eddie Stevens, Hairless Toys is an experiment in meeting of minds. With almost twenty years work together, as Moloko’s and own touring musical director, this is the first time the two have written. Fascinatingly, the album’s energy is similar to her former band’s best work in how they delivered perplexing concoctions of genres that blend effortlessly together. The record is driven predominately by minimal house, funk and country influences, yet rises above all of them too. The way in which they are filtered through their collaboration resulted in strange and music with a further emphasis on the lyrics and their potential meanings.

Her physical image (referencing an imagined woman of the 70s with a penchant for stylish nylon) further punctuates a new expression. Her career is dotted by an interest in pushing the boundaries both musically and visually. The cover art echoes her departure and artistic transformation. Her debut solo record, Ruby Blue, found her ground as an artist in her own terms under the experimental, home-spun productions of Matthew Herbert, while Overpowered was its pumped-up clubkid sister. In this light, Hairless Toys, for want of a better term, is a ‘grown-up record’ about growing up. Its eight songs are nostalgic of time past amidst finding comfort in the present.

The record’s production and arrangements are ambiguous - several appear to be designed as subtle, quiet and often challenging. An unquantifiable tension and unrest underscores Hairless Toys. Her songwriting has shifted from pop hooks to focusing on melodies that ride over the music and the story they carry. As the majority of collection span six to nine minutes, a wandering quality emerges in how noises and instruments drop out as quickly as they arrive. Thundering percussion sanctions "Exploitation", lasting 30 seconds, before withdrawing to give way into its nine-minute meandering, woozy bass line. A jarring diversity of styles demand repeated listens to grasp its remit, like the blinkering funk of "Evil Eyes" or how "Exile" takes the album by its legs and throws it headfirst into country music. "Unputdownable" closes the album out with an ode to falling passionately in love and being consumed by a life-defining relationship (“You were my favourite book and I love reading between the lines”). It brilliantly balances the acoustic and electronic worlds with an uplifting, soulful chorus.

Róisín Murphy is an artist at the helm of her career, in love with the process of creating music and the riches she can unearth while doing it. Alongside Eddie Stevens, the pair have created a work unconcerned with instant gratification of its listeners, preferring to discover unknown territory instead. Characteristically driven by performance, these songs are a platform which blend wisdom, sadness and humour – all delivered with Róisín’s inimitable personality. Their collaboration has birthed a collection subdued in nature which leave a feeling of something unrequited. It paces itself in a slow reveal and its refined energy maintains an uncertainty of how it should be understood or experienced – once you think you’ve grasped it, it changes into something completely different. An intrinsic authenticity runs through Murphy’s work to date and this album is no exception in how she boldly executes her artistic vision.

Hairless Toys is a pop oddity. It is out now on Play It Again Sam

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Christian Kroupa “A Dangerous Game (909 Version)” (exclusive)

25 May 2015 — Henning Lahmann

More and more becoming the central hub for adventurous new sounds from the still largely unexplored Central European scene, Budapest-based Farbwechsel Records has unearthed young Slovenian producer Christian Kroupa, whose first 12" for the label is a strong and confident statement. While the title track of A Dangerous Game stays in rather calmer waters, carried by warm synth string pads, a syncopated bassline and a repetitive, almost hypnotic sample, the "909 Version" is aptly pounding, built around a straight 4/4 kickdrum for your 5am 'floor desires. The original's gloomy mystery is still there but pushed to the background, leaving room for the rhythm to unfold. Stream the track exclusively below.

A Dangerous Game is out June 15 on Farwechsel. Pre-order here.

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This Sunday: 5 Years of NFOP at Urban Spree

22 May 2015 — Henning Lahmann

If you follow this humble website, you've probably already seen it all around the web, but if not, here's what you should not miss this weekend: No Fear Of Pop turned five years in February, and now that the sun is out and the Berlin summer is finally near, we want to celebrate our birthday with you. The magic is happening at Urban Spree in Friedrichshain on Sunday, May 24, starting from 4pm. There's really not much else to say other than that it's surely gonna be a wonderful day and night, so head over here for more info and to RSVP, and find the timetable below. If you're reading this it means we love you, so we'd be more than happy to see you on Sunday.

Timetable

Urban Spree:
5pm Kohwi
6pm Small Wonder
8pm Fiordmoss
9pm UMA
11pm Lucrecia Dalt
12am Godmother

Back garden:
4pm Jason Grier
6:30pm Holly & Wade // This Thing
8pm Michael Aniser // Noisekölln
10pm Perera Elsewhere
1am Heatsick (inside Urban Spree if too cold)

Poster design: Alexander Palmestål

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Boycrush feat. Madeira “Flirt”

21 May 2015 — Parker Bruce

I have a new musical crush and rather conveniently his name is Boycrush (well Alistair Deverick actually, from New Zealand). And he's gone and done a song with a former member of Yumi Zouma, Kim Pflaum, whose new project is called Madeira. The song in question is "Flirt" and as you would expect, it's riveting. Full of a bounding bounce as well as ballooning, volumnious squats of brass, and Pflaum's now instantly recognizable singing style, "Flirt" is a hop, skip, and a jump into the summer of our discontent. I can't help but agree with Pflaum when she sings "Just a fleeting touch/That's all I want." Truly a bittersweet symphony here.

"Flirt" will be on Boycrush's EP Girls On Top, which comes out May 27. Check out the whole EP when it arrives. It will bowl you over with just how stunning and charming it is.

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The Sandwitches “Wickerman Mambo” (exclusive)

19 May 2015 — Henning Lahmann

There's this one thing GvB's Chris Cantalini and I could always agree on: San Francisco outfit The Sandwitches are criminally overlooked, and for inexplicable reasons. Joke's on you though, as the band's forthcoming third-full-length Our Toast will be their final offering. While The Sandwitches' distinctive melancholy permeates the LP, however, it's not all sadness and gloom. Take second single "Wickerman Mambo", premiered below: The jangly guitar chords may not be steeped in happiness either, but there's a certain, almost defiant (or sarcastic) optimism coming through, a joyful carelessness that can only be expressed by someone who's experienced pain and sorrow but still refuses to give in. It's a last flicker though, in a way, as the album's penultimate track before "Nothing But Love" shifts the tone again, slowly and sadly waving goodbye in style. I have no clue what's next for the band's members – one may hope that at least Grace Cooper will release more gorgeously haunting material as Grace Sings Sludge – but The Sandwitches and their damaged yet beautiful and always sincere take on classic garage and americana will truly be missed.

Our Toast is out June 9 on Empty Cellar Records.

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S Olbricht “Trancess” (exclusive)

14 May 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

There is something unsettling about the work of Budapest-based producer S Olbricht. In his musical world, whether it be for Lobster Theremin or Opal Tapes, he seems to always have the option of going toward the light, but, for whatever reason, he stays put, basking in just enough darkness, able to still see the brighter and lighter side which he is resisting. His brand new release for Bratislava-based Proto Sites, an imprint that has thus far done nothing but allow space for blissful augmentation of ambient abilities from acts like Casi Cada Minuto and Imre Kiss, interestingly has a moment of uplifting relief. "Onhom" is a trance-infested, emotive and sloping track, one that speaks to elation over and submission to change and redux. This is the one track on the EP that fills the shoes of what a "trancess" may be, either a trance princess or some kind of ticket for gaining access to trance. As usual for S Olbricht, most of the songs, their titles, and anti-directional soundscapes are otherworldly, sprinkled with a little spookiness; however, when "Onhom" hits, we gain some fresh perspective about not only the artist's faculties, but perhaps also about our own.

Trancess is out soon on Proto Sites. You can hear more of said "blissful augmentation" here, and pre-order the vinyl here.

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Watch: Asa 808 “Ignorance” (exclusive)

07 May 2015 — Henning Lahmann

As is often the case with words derived from Latin and employed in different European languages, the connotations of ‘ignorance’ in modern English and ‘Ignoranz’ in German are not exactly congruent. The difference is subtle: While ‘ignorance’ denotes the lack of knowledge in a principally neutral manner, ‘Ignoranz’ is decidedly derogatory, a reprehensible quality most commonly understood primarily as a lack of the will to know. When thinking about the accustomed perception of post-reunification Germany especially among my non-German peers, my native tongue’s meaning seems  more appropriate.

In recent years, marked by important publications such as Denk and von Thülen’s brilliant “The Sound of Family – Berlin, Techno and the Reunification”, it has become habitual to take Berlin, that “big playground filled with infinite possibilities”, as the focal point for narratives about the country prior to and following the fall of the wall in 1989. In the deserted wastelands of Mitte, techno culture was able to bloom mainly due to a historically unique lack of authoritative structures, leaving big parts of the city unregulated and free to be occupied by counter-cultural currents. For contemporary witnesses, the anarchic conditions promised an underground paradise, and the appeal of that time still resonates not least as a cliché reference point for every club night in town. It still is one of the main reason why so many young people want to move to Berlin today.

“Ignorance”, the lead track on local producer ASA 808’s new 12” on London/Berlin imprint ManMakeMusic, in a way echoes this legendary era of classic Berlin techno. It is raw, straightforward, and dark, evoking images of unrestrained nights in abandoned warehouses. It’s not a joyful track but one made for ecstatic oblivion, to relive the feeling of freedom the city once embodied some 25 years ago.

The thing is, if you let Germans play anarchy, the most likely outcome is not techno but a pogrom.

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Just in time for the 70th anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, the video for “Ignorance”, premiered above, is a necessary reminder of this. Depicting the events in Rostock Lichtenhagen in the summer of 1992, it shows the other side of the breakdown of public structures. Over the course of three days, a vitriolic mob was able to express the people’s hate and frustration by attacking the shelter of the most vulnerable members of society, refugees and so-called ‘guest workers’ (it would take Germans another 15 years to slowly become comfortable using the word ‘immigrant’). The reaction of the authorities was reluctant and insufficient at first, and catastrophic in the aftermath. The incidents in Rostock represent the shameful counter-narrative of the reunification years. As it happens, it’s also the one that we forget to tell often enough.

When people want to show how admirable the New Germany really is, they like to point out that as opposed to so many other European countries, right-wing populist parties like those haunting France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, and others usually don’t stand a chance in federal elections. Sure enough. The reason for that, however, is not so much that we’re all such reasonable people. There’s simply no real need to vote for upstart populists if their positions are already comfortably covered by the main parties in the parliament, usually by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But make no mistake, the Social Democrats won’t hesitate a second if morally outrageous standpoints benefit their electoral campaigns, in particular if the victims of ensuing parliamentary decisions are not considered part of the body politic. What happened in 1992 is a case in point: the political reaction to the Rostock pogroms (and other violent xenophobic incidents in the early 90s) was not to strengthen the protection of refugees but to effectively abolish the constitutional right to asylum, all in order to appease the incensed electorate. The two-thirds majority necessary for the change of the constitution was eagerly provided by the oppositional Social Democrats under Oskar Lafontaine (who of course remains highly esteemed among the pseudo-communists at Jacobin), a decision he should be reminded of every morning at breakfast until the end of his days.

30 years ago on May 8th, 1985, the late former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker managed to reinterpret history by postulating that just like Auschwitz or Buchenwald, just like Denmark or Poland, the Germans were ‘liberated’ by the Allied Forces in 1945, as if the Nazis had been something alien, an irresistible force that had somehow overpowered the poor, ignorant German populace in 1933. Similar words will be spoken tomorrow, generic drivel about the hardships of war, and about how we have ‘learned’ our lesson so that we’re now entitled to tell other nations in Europe and beyond when and where they err, and how they should behave in order to become as wise and dignified as we ourselves are today, all because of what ‘happened to us’ during National Socialist rule. Dialectic can be so ironic.

It’s lovely, this benign new Germany, isn’t it. Most of my expat friends in our Kreuzberg/Neukölln bubble sure think so. Why should we, they ask, not have the ‘right’ to mourn those civilians who died in Dresden and all the other bombed-out cities, why shouldn’t we have the ‘right’ to point out the ‘injustices’ of the post-war expulsions of Germans from Eastern and Central Europe?

Yes, why shouldn’t we. Perhaps because it was us who started it. Or perhaps because there is an uninterrupted, coherent narrative line running from November 9th, 1938, to the events in Rostock in the summer of 1992 and all the way to Tröglitz in April of 2015. That’s why. For those who don’t want to see, ignorance becomes an excuse.

After all, 70 years is a fucking short amount of time.

Those who agree that Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, is an unconditional reason to be cheerful should celebrate at SchwuZ tomorrow night together with our friends at Jungle World. More info on the event over here.

The Ignorance 12" is out on ManMakeMusic.