Clade “Vietnamese Piano”

28 May 2015 — Richard Greenan

An intriguing solo piano tape here from the previously unbeknownst to me Scottish musician (or group?) Clade, which came carefully sheathed in one Vietnamese Dong note. Recorded on nothing more than a happened-upon upright across a single evening in Hanoi, Vietnamese Piano sounds as if it was recovered following a devastating nuclear blast.

An obvious reference point is the aquatic, shimmery daydreams of Harold Budd, but this is even more decayed. The piano in question appears to be sitting in a derelict building surrounded by rice paddies, with missing teeth and vines sprouting from the lid. There is complexity here though, not just in the chords that pleasantly cluster and orbit like moths around a lantern, but also in the range of frequencies and timbres eked out of this old box. What's left is a meditation on something man-made being gently reclaimed by the earth around it; denatured by nature.

A few cassettes of Vietnamese Piano are still available, grab one while you can here.

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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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