New Chance on her ethereal new album, the natural world and DIY communities

Victoria Cheong aka New Chance is the latest signing to We Are Time records, a label that seems intent on releasing only the most captivating independent music. Emerging out of the Toronto DIY scene, Cheong has spent the last decade or so creating a name for herself, thanks to her enigmatic live performances that both seek to challenge and encapsulate the audience. Outside of New Chance Cheong provides backing vocals for folk artist Jennifer Castle and New York post-punk outfit Chandra.

Cheong’s debut album Real Time is an exploration of just that, the flows and ebbs of the one thing we all wish we had more of. Soundtracked by a collection of songs that both exist in their own worlds whilst drawing aspects of the real world in to amalgamate into something that at its core will leave you entranced. Through elements of retro-rave beats, ambient synths and club-worthy samples Cheong has created an album that is ultimately fascinating, you never know which turn it will take next. We caught up with Victoria to learn all about its creation and her time as an artist up to this point.

Over what time and whereabouts was the album written and recorded?

About half of it was written before the pandemic and partly when I was performing and about half of it was written during the pandemic. I did all of the recording on my own at home during lockdown. So over a period of 9 months in 2020.

Did the lockdown give you a chance to work on ideas that you wouldn’t of had time to do otherwise?

I would have been on tour with other projects for most of 2020, but then obviously they all got cancelled and there was nothing left to do but to work on my own stuff. Which turned out to be a blessing in the sense that I’d been struggling to find the time for a number of years.

When writing songs you like to play them live to adapt them and change them based on that moment, did the last year without shows change the way you wrote the songs for the album?

Yeah totally, I ended up writing in the studio and I haven’t yet even figured out how to play those songs live. I also added so many vocal layers that I need to now figure out how to bring them into a live environment because it’s always just been me solo before. So it was a bit different and I learned a lot about recording because I’ve been a bit more of a performing artist than a recording artist in the past.

What was the biggest thing you learnt?

I think you can get away with a lot in a performance setting. In a way you just have to be very present which is its own thing and being with an audience which is its own challenge. On recordings songs are so different because you’re trying to achieve this idealised version of the song that represents it forever more. I just learned to get into all the details and to really flesh out parts and be a bit more dynamic with the instrumentation.

Do you think once you get back to a live setting they’ll evolve further than what they are at the moment?

I haven’t really imagined that but probably! They’ll have to be adapted and I would like to perform with singers so I would be open to changing arrangements and things like that to keep it interesting. I’m always open to re-interpreting the songs.

What do you think it is about that live space that allows that different kind of creativity to flow?

It’s the presence. You’re forced to present with whatever’s happening and when it’s over it’s over and never to be seen again. You’re just working with the energy of the moment and not trying to archive something.

You’re feeding off everything that’s going on.

It’s interesting too, having been not in those settings. Most of us haven’t been in those settings of being in a space with other people with loud music. Even just those simple elements are actually so complex. It’ll be interesting to try and step back into that, there’ll probably be a renewed sense of what all those elements contribute to. Especially after being on zoom or online and having that stand in for these real world experiences with audiences.

Are you excited or nervous to get back playing?

I think nervous because it’s been a long time actually. The last show I played was in December of 2019, so it’s been kind of a long time. I’ll have to rehearse and figure it out! Ultimately i’m excited and i’m sure it will give me something.

What was the main theme that you were trying to explore on the album?

The over-arching theme of the album is the title (Real Time) and as well as the artwork lends itself to this exploration of time. The cycles of time and our different kinds of relationships to it. It’s a pretty broad idea but I think it’s something that’s come up a lot, especially during the pandemic where our perception of time has changed. And that has something to do with our daily activities, it’s slowing down in some ways but then you go “Wow it’s been over a year since I played a show!” that doesn’t feel real. It’s this idea of “Real Time” and it’s not like I have the answer, it’s just a questioning around it.

The cover photo was a photo taken by your grandfather, does your family influence your art in any other ways?

It’s not typical for me to use my family in my artwork but it ended up being influential in this project. I had these bonsai scrapbooks of my grandfathers where he kept photos his plants and cutouts of magazines. I was fascinated by and felt connected to these scrapbooks because it’s such an interesting way to see through someone else eyes in a way. The photos that are on the cover are this night-blooming cactus that only blooms one night a year, so my grandfather would stay up to photograph it. I ended up reinterpreting these photos by turning them into cyanotype blueprints and using for the cover that show the bloom and the aftermath of the bloom, which is the wilting.

Is it the change within such a short time that captured what you wanted the album to represent?

On the whole it just represents a cycle. It’s just a very clean metaphor for the cycles of life and death. But its also something that’s relatable as a performer, the amount of energy that goes into a show that’s unseen not that glorified. The show, the big event, the production and then there’s the aftermath of that and to me all the parts of that cycle are interesting. And I think on the record the sound world is really just reflective of my personality, it’s very interested in a lot different kinds of moods and textures. Not just the kind of exclusive good looking ones.

How would you describe your sound? It incorporates elements of electronic music and ambient sounds but what do you look for when creating these songs?

That’s tough to say in a way. But any given song to me is its own world and I’m feeling my way through how to best represent that world in the greatest amount of transportive detail. So I do tend towards a lot of atmosphere and texture. I also just listen to a lot of different kinds of music and am interested in all kinds of different music, so I think as a listener of course I pick up influences from all kinds of different places. Which end up unintentionally being referenced in my music.

It’s a melting pot of influences for you.

I think so yeah. For example there’s a track where the beat is almost footwork inspired but then there’s another song that’s all vocals Bobby McFerrin style. Totally different but still a part of the magical world that I’m creating.

Is getting lost in those worlds something you try to achieve with each song?

I don’t think I try to achieve that but I’ve had people respond that way and say that it’s almost a world that you can step into and be in. And I like the idea that people are able to have that experience, that if you choose to get into it there’s a lot to discover. It’s almost like a multi-dimensional world. I really appreciate that but I’ve never thought about it consciously.

It’s more finding interesting sounds for you?

Yeah definitely and saying that “this is the feeling” so how can I flesh that out and what different sounds are going to help bring that to life.

For me personally the album has quite a meditative quality to it. Is that something you considered when writing it?

Loop based music lends itself to creating a hypnotic or meditative feeling. I’m sure that’s an influence in a way in terms of composition. But I’ve never set out to make something that’s specifically meditative. I don’t have much experience with meditation but I am drawn to the aesthetic of it and the idea of surrendering a certain part of the mind and allowing yourself to journey. I get the sense that meditation offers that but I don’t really practice! I would like to and I think it’s really called for in these intense times. To be able to use whatever tools are available to us in order to heal or find an inner strength, to cultivate a resilience both mentally and emotionally.

“Fallen” song has a lot of bird sounds and natural sounds playing throughout. How much does the natural world inspire your music?

The natural world in that sense is everything. I have such reverence for it, anything you need to know about music you can find in nature. Anything that you want to be interested in, wether it’s the voice and singing or just different rhythms. Just the sonic scape of the outside world is endlessly interesting, it’s more just a question of what your attention is on and what you’re listening to and if you’re listening. Which i’m not always but it does give me a lot when I put my attention to it. It’s so available to us but we tune it out a lot. “Fallen” has a field recording from Tobago first thing in the morning and it’s so rich with life and there’s so much happening that it’s such a busy living world even though it’s just a small island. It’s almost a representation of vitality and the interconnectedness of living things.

Did you go out and look for those field recordings or did you just hear it?

I wasn’t looking for it but I had my little zoom recorder with me on my one vacation of life haha! It’s just something you notice when you’re travelling, your senses are more heightened anyway and you notice all the differences that you would take for granted in your normal day. In Tobago in the morning which is the crack of dawn everything starts making noise and it’s echoing over the water, you can’t not notice it.

That was a world that you didn’t have to create, it was already there.

Yeah that was a world that I just put my voice in and I wanted it to feel like I was there.

Do you think over the last year everyone’s had time to reconnect with the natural world?

In Toronto now the hot ticket on a Friday night is now going to the hill and watching the sunset which I’m not sure as many people were doing before when there were more options and that’s a really beautiful thing to see. It definitely feels like a positive change in the sense that people are appreciating the world that we live in. It’s very grounding and we’ve needed to feel okay because the future feels so uncertain.

Does your work with other projects as part of the Toronto DIY scene influence your sound at all?

Yeah usually in other bands i’m a backup singer so writing different vocal parts, and all that stuff was very influential to the vocals on this record. Just learning how to put backing vocals into songs and also wanting that vibe, wanting the voice to be very present and take up space and have personality. Definitely from back up singing i’ve realised that audience really respond so immediately to singing and the voice. Backup singers are usually considered the least important members of the band in a way but I know from my experience at least that audiences really connect with harmonies, singing and just the voice in general.

What do you think it is about the human voice that’s so captivating?

It’s such a fundamental way of connecting with people. I tend to think of it as heart centered communication, it’s emotional. You can communicate so much through the instrument of the voice and it’s immediately received and understood as a human emotional experience.

It’s also a lot more adaptable than say a guitar.

There’s so much you can do to the voice in the studio now, just editing and treating it with autotune and that kind of thing. I’ve heard people that can just sing like that or imitate it, the human voice can just imitate anything. It’s just interesting how the voice can adapt and evolve to whatever the influential sounds may be that people hear. Like not knowing that it wasn’t autotune or some kind of effect but it was their voice working really hard to produce some kind of effect.

How long have you been a part of the DIY scene in Toronto and what is it about those communities that’s so important?

I’ve been a part of them for around 15-20 years and they’re so important as they’re place for nurturing and a place to grow. There’s also a lot of cross pollination and inter-connected collaboration available. I think it fosters community which is important otherwise you’re just like I was this past year, alone at home producing. I think the main thing is fostering artistic growth and experimentation in ways that can be surprising when you’re in it. It’s like a garden where different things are in bloom at different times and things pop up that you weren’t expecting and things influence each other. It’s alive like an eco-system.

There’s a lot of aspects of the music industry that aren’t like that all where it’s very compartmentalised and transactional and that’s just not a good feeling to be working in. The creative process is a whole other thing that requires certain conditions that the DIY scene provides. There are other entities that are just about making money off of artists that don’t know anything about that, or care! They don’t care how things become amazing or how someone writes a hit song. There’s some magic that you need to tend to and respect that takes more time than the system at large.

How much did they evolve you as an artist?

They definitely provided me with the space to try a lot of new things and experiment. I’ve been encouraged locally and that’s how I am where I am.

Do you think people have come to appreciate the spaces and communities more seeing as they’ve had to stop for that last year?

I’m not sure. In Toronto and a lot of major cities we’re under a lot of pressure to just make money and be able to survive so I’m not sure what people have been up to necessarily and I think people are making a lot of big changes in their lives. It still remains to be seen how everything will pan out so to speak. I don’t really know. I think people have fantasised about going to a club or be on a dance-floor and felt that loss. But you can’t even let yourself go their mentally at the moment because it’s so painful to think of just how much we’ve lost. As a performing artist where that’s my job I haven’t been able to do anything apart from small things online.

I can imagine small shows happening from now but it’s very hard to imagine these big shows happening but there’s so much beyond our control.

If anything what would be something you’d change about the music industry?

If it could be concrete and straight away then it would be how artists are compensated for streaming. It’s basically stealing. I don’t know the ins and outs of how to change that, it’s obviously legislation is the only way that companies are going to pay out more. The streaming situation for artists is just unsustainable for lots of artists, even ones who have lots of fans and streams. So that would be a clear thing I would change.

Real Time is released July 16th via We Are Time, pre-order here.

heka exists between worlds

Francesca Brierley aka heka exists in a world of her own. A place that borders between gently plucked guitars one moment, gliding synthetic harmonies the next and then landing back down on a subtly immersive bed of beats. There’s not a moment that you’re listening and you don’t feel lost in the soundscapes and rich sonic palettes that seem to dance and twirl around the melodic mountains she creates. She’s now returning with her latest project since 2019’s Other Drugs EP, in the form of (a) EP, released today via Ballon Machine Records. We caught up with heka to learn where she draws sonic influence from, the story behind the EP and her parallel growth with Bon Iver.

Over what time and whereabouts was the EP recorded?

Mostly in my bedroom over there! (Points to desk) I had some demos of the songs that were from different times but I started recording the new versions in October. I was doing uni stuff as well so I was pretty much just in front of my laptop all the time haha. It was during the lockdown, so pretty boring just me and the old laptop.

So the songs on the EP are older songs that you re-recorded?

“(a) dab” is probably the oldest one at 4 or years old and “(a) mask” and “(a) wall” are about two years old. So they weren’t the newest things that I’d written but they were songs that I’d been wanting to record as a bunch for a while and finally it happened! I always feel like with everything I do I plan something and then two years later it finally gets done.

Going back over them after so long did you change anything drastically? Or are they fairly true to their original form?

I think the one that changed the most was “(a) wall”. Mostly because it wasn’t just me working on it, I collaborated with Ed Tullet on the arrangement. So the way he interpreted it was different and I thought “Oh that’s really cool, let’s take it into this direction”. I was a bit scared at the beginning about going back into having to figure out these songs again, as I had them in my head as what i’d recorded in the demos. You have to deconstruct that a bit to think “What is good to keep and what is just my lazy brain thinking that this is the only way this can be done”. So I was a bit scared that I wouldn’t understand them anymore and I wouldn’t understand the version of me that had written those at the time. I think the fact that I was recording alone in the dark like a vampire probably helped recreate that connection of intimacy with the songs even though it felt distant at the beginning.

With the main theme of the songs being about relationships, was it weird looking back and seeing how you viewed those situations then?

It’s definitely always that sense of “Oh god” haha. A lot of the stuff I write is personal and it’s a snapshot of a very specific time that I write in. It’s like looking back at old pictures and thinking “Oh god what are you wearing!”. It’s a very funny thing, but I didn’t feel too far away from them that I couldn’t relate to them anymore. That was a worry a little bit.

Is your songwriting more diaristic or therapeutic?

Definitely therapeutic for me to write in general. I think it’s probably a survival situation where I would be insane if I didn’t write haha. But it is also diaristic in the sense that it’s conversations that I’ve had in my head or things that I want to say and I can’t. It just comes from my everyday life I guess.

What was the story behind “(a) dab”?

It’s mostly about when you’re in love with someone and it’s unrequited, so you fall into this pattern of addiction to that person and addiction to the situation and it’s this whole toxic thing going on. I had this very visual idea of the lyrics. I had this scene in my head and I wrote it down which is not something I do very often so I don’t know where it came from. But it was just trying to express that feeling of helplessness and also wanting to be helpless which is what’s the most fucked up about those situations haha.

The song structures for the EP begin with electronic samples and field recordings and then transition into the ‘folky’ ballads. What’s it about those combination of sounds that draws you to them?

I think that’s partly the fact that I went and revisited the songs that were initially very folky and I wanted to create this tapestry of sound that’s a bit more current for me in what I like to listen to and what I like to make. So it was me trying to make those songs more contemporary to how I felt and what I liked. I don’t know if it’s something I accomplished but I really love when there’s a collection of songs, whether it’s an EP or an album and you feel like you’re on this journey where all of the tracks are connected. It’s like a mini symphony. I remember when 22, A Million by Bon Iver came out, that completely changed my life. I remember thinking “Oh my god, this is exactly what I want!”. I want the tracks to feel cohesive and part of something organic and fall into one another. Which is probably the conscious part of why there’s an ambient connection between the songs.

Did Bon Iver influence the folk side of your sound as well?

I have this really funny relationship with Bon Iver where I feel like we’ve grown up together. We haven’t though haha! But I feel like the stages that I found myself at within songwriting were the same as his. When he was doing the more folky side of things I was definitely doing more folky sounding things. And then I gradually evolved into something a bit more hybrid, which was the same with him. He definitely influenced me, but I feel like I was ready to be influenced by him in that specific time. I was like “Yeah you get it! This is what I’ve been trying to say”. So that’s why I love him so much as I have this ‘in my mind’ connection to him in a way.

Are there any other artists who also inspire, even just for the sound?

I’m always really bad at this question. I really like Feist, James Blake and Alt-J. I was really obsessed with Laura Marling at a certain point. But at the same time I don’t say “Oh I’m really inspired by this person I’m gonna do the same thing that they’re doing”. I just really appreciate what they’re doing. It almost feels like we’re contemporaries and we like the same things and I think “Oh you get it”. I don’t know to what extent they influence me, I think I’m influenced by all sorts of stuff. I listen to a lot of different genres and my discover weekly on Spotify tries to keep up but I can tell that they’re struggling haha. There’s house music and then classical, hip-hop or folk or rock. I really like a lot of different things so I can never say for certain what exactly goes into what I make.

It’s interesting you said Laura Marling because especially with her latest album the key part I took away from it was there’s a lot of harmonies. With quite a few of your tracks harmonies play a key part, is that something you try to build in or just the way you write?

So I feel that doing harmonies is probably the most natural thing that I think of when i record. I think it comes from early days of trying to figure out Logic for the first time and what can actually make a song sound better. Just having more voices because it’s the only thing I know how to do haha! At the beginning you play with your voice as a singer and think “Okay this is how I can enrich this sound and this is what I can do”. It’s just kind of stayed I guess. I like to use the voice not just as a vocal. It’s corrupting it haha. So the sound of the voice and making into something that isn’t the voice. In “(a) wall” there’s a line of a really high pitched sound. I don’t know that it’s immediately obvious that it’s a voice, I mean I know. But I thought “How can I make this sound like some weird synth that you don’t know what it is?” but it’s actually a vocal. I think that’s really interesting to play around with the vocals and sound because they just make everything better.

Is that manipulation of sound something you try to achieve in each song? Are there any more easter eggs hidden throughout?

I like to manipulate the sound into something a bit weird. Sometimes when I’ve recorded with other people I’ll be like “Make it darker!” and they’ll say “You can’t hear this now!”. So I have a bit of a weird idea of how things sound and I’ve certainly learnt how not to make everything dark and weird, but I do enjoy it.

There’s a moment in “(a) mask” with this eerie synthesiser that takes a turn from the rest of the song, do you try and hide those eerie moments in there?

I feel like the eeriness comes naturally to me. I don’t necessarily try and be eerie but it just happens. I don’t know that I always love it but I definitely recognise that it happens. It wasn’t on purpose, I think I found these sounds that are cool then afterwards looked at it and thought “Oh that’s really eerie”.

Is there a reason you chose to use the simplistic title of (a)? Or is it from the songs?

It’s from the songs. I like patterns where “Oh these three things are the same and that’s not” so let’s just call it that. So it’s really just a joke.

Your music has been described as entering VR. Do you agree with that? And does virtual reality influence your music at all?

I don’t necessarily write with VR in mind. I’m just about to finish my degree which is in computational art so I do think about that stuff a bit as I do it at uni and enjoy that aesthetic of it a bit. But I definitely think my songwriting is personal intimate stuff rather than technology. I think it comes from trying to explain the idea behind why I don’t necessarily love being pigeonholed in one genre. I like the hybridity of producing music that sounds a bit in-between things. So I guess the relationship between VR and reality being in-between worlds maybe has something to do with that.

With shows hopefully on the horizon, what’s it been like releasing this music without shows to back it up?

It’s been a bit strange. I’ve been quite lucky that a few people have asked me to play in June out of the blue but I don’t have a release gig booked which is usually what I’ll do so that’s strange. I don’t mind having gigs that aren’t necessarily release gigs and just playing the stuff. Hopefully it happens now, I’m itching to play now!

What’s your usual live set up?

It’s usually just me and my loop pedal. I had really wanted to put together a small band for this project and in general I feel like it’s a lot more fun and you’re not alone. You get to share music ideas for arrangement and I think it would sound really cool so I’ve been wanting to do that. It hasn’t been the ideal time though yet, but it will be. I decided to release an EP on the last year of uni and this is my last month of uni so up until now I haven’t even been able to think about what I want to do in a live setting. But I would definitely like to have at least another one or two people to just balance it out.

Thinking back to Bon Iver’s live set up, is that electronic set up of thousands of pedals something you’d want to have?

Yeah! I went to see him in Edinburgh on the tour of 22, A Million and it was so cool. He had this tiny stage above the main stage where he had all his equipment. And all the other musicians were surrounded by equipment and they all work like cyborgs where they’ve got one instrument with 200 keys. So that’s definitely the 10 year plan. For now I quite like simple set ups. I get a bit apprehensive with having too many things to move around. I like to have that connection with the audience which isn’t just me frantically trying to figure out what button to press. I want to look at people and sing with them so that’s my priority, to have the time to connect. And have the mental capacity to focus on that. I like that loop pedal because of that because it’s really intuitive and adds that bit of atmosphere and that minimal arrangement lets me be in the room. And that’s why it would also be amazing to have other people play as it would mean then I can delegate some stuff, the sound would be rich but I wouldn’t have to think about all of it.

If anything, what would be something you’d like to change about the music industry?

There’s so many things. I was just talking to someone about this the other day and I was saying “How is it even legal to not pay musicians when you have live gigs”. Maybe their could be someone who says that’s actually illegal. I’ve been feeling this a lot recently, that we’re such a huge industry but there isn’t that class consciousness of musicians in the same way there is for other employments. Where you have rights and you fight for the rights of that specific job for example. It feels very disconnected. It’s a network but it’s hard to unionise and mobilise in the same way that other industries do.

So for example the whole thing with Spotify is absolutely insane if you think about it. It’s this illusion that we’ve all bought into. Don’t get me wrong I actually really love Spotify and it lets me find loads of music and it’s an easy to use app etc. But they have the money to pay everyone better, and they don’t. And we haven’t been able to do anything about it. It’s insane if you think about it. I would hope for a stronger class consciousness, for a stronger union of people that say “We’re not going to have this anymore”. And big acts saying “I’m gonna take all my music off my service if you don’t make changes”. If hundreds of big acts do that then it’s gonna get to the point where Spotify’s gonna say “Okay, you called my bluff!”. So why isn’t that happening? There’s really rich musicians that can afford to not be on Spotify and help make the change for the little guy. It’s not going to make a difference to them if i’m not on it. But for me it would mean less people get to listen to the music.

(a) EP is available now, purchase here.

Karima Walker – Waking The Dreaming Body Album Review

Keeled Scales/ Ordinal Records – 2021

Arizona based Folk, drone and experimental artist Karima Walker returns after 4 years with the follow up to 2017’s magical Hands In Our Names. Walker originally began constructing this album in 2019 when she flew to New York to work with The Blow’s Melissa Dyne, however illness forced Walker back home and the pandemic ensured that travel wasn’t possible. Walker then began to finish the album in her makeshift home studio through various “messy Ableton sessions”. The result is an album that shifts and twirls through swaying ambient landscapes, intertwined with folk ballads that allow Walker’s poetry to blossom in the openness and freedom of this album. “Every morning feels like, waking the dreaming body” she sings on title track “Waking The Dreaming Body ” and this feeling of half consciousness is one that can be felt throughout this album.

The sound manipulation and design is perhaps the most revered aspect of this album, pulling together real world sounds and hazy synthesiser sounds to consistently create truly enticing, warming and sometimes uneasy soundscapes that you truly lose yourself in, fading between two worlds. The start of “Window I” opens with some hauntingly beautiful lo-fi piano, that would be a hip-hop artists dream to sample, the crusty layers and grained sound is so comforting and yet longingly distant. Then the latter half of the track perfectly blends the rolling of ambient sounds and wave noises, fused to create a hazy dreamlike surrounding that slowly fades in and out, just when you think the sound is gone it creeps back in for another roll. And on “Horizon, Harbor Resonance” the track diverts through so many layers and levels of different ambient sounds throughout its 13 minute run time that you’re not quite sure where you came from or where you’re going next, but in this fantasy world that Walker creates it somehow makes sense.

The composition of these tracks are created in two worlds, one where everything flows smoothly and the other where the disjointed is the flowing force that shifts these sounds from movement to movement. On “Window II” the harp plucks may not be as flowing or elegant as fellow contemporary ambient artist Mary Lattimore, but they serve as more of an erratic and glitchy surrounding that amplifies the dream like feeling that Walker sings of. Fluttering about the soundscape, being reversed and played forward in ever changing motion. Whereas closer “For Heddi” feels like the breath of fresh air in the early morning, as the dancing synth melody guides the song along, the deep bass swells take you into the real world with their almost meditative feel.

After being forced to stay at home whilst writing this album the real world of Walker’s surroundings began to play their part in the formation of these songs. She intertwines these within the poetry elements of songs like on opener “Reconstellated” she sings “Sonoran sky plays a movie, Draw a line to the stars inside of me, Write it down, tell your friends, I know where I am but I can’t tell where I started” referencing the desert in Arizona. Even through the poetry of these songs Walker is still as mystifying as ever; never giving clear ground to what’s real and what’s figment.

“Sitting still in the movement of not knowing, where you are, where you were and where you’re going” she sings on “Softer” over the gently plucked guitar movements and this statement perhaps sums up the journey this album takes you on. One things for certain however, this blissful journey that Walker sails you through is one of mystique and wonder and once it’s over, like a dream, you try to recall the details but all you can remember is the wonder you felt along the way.

Clifford announces debut EP ‘New Turf’

Upcoming electronic artist Clifford aka David Tucker has announced his debut EP set to be released on February 12th via Relic Records. This is the second release from the Midlands based record label, following on from Soba’s And Then They Run. Available to pre-order here now.

Speaking on the EP Clifford said: “On this four track piece, New Turf, I seek to establish the variety of soundscapes that coexist within my artistry. From the get go, Pastures is a sun-blazed song propelled by syncopated hi-hats and a rolling bass-line. It is hard to listen to the track without thinking of blue skies. On the B-Side, Sunken Souls continues to extend these vivid soundscapes. Sandpaper Dub and No Contact are both experiments that seemed to develop further than their simple origins. They represent a desire for difference, inspired by the contemporary.

Enjoy the New Turf.”

Artwork by Stephen Deehan (@stephndn)

Four Tet announces two new albums to be released on Christmas Day

Photo by Burak Cingi/Redferns

Kieran Hebden aka For Tet has announced two new albums set to be released tonight at midnight on Christmas Day. The albums are titled Parallels and 871. Earlier in the month Four Tet announced that his long anticipated collaboration album with Madlib is set to be released in January.

So far only the artworks by Jason Evans has been shared.

In March Four Tet released Sixteen Oceans, his seventh studio album. Read our review here.

GIVEUP discusses their new EP, Shoegaze and why Oasis will never be good

GIVEUP is the solo project of Ashwin Bhandari, a prominent figure in most modern indie/ alternative/ punk/ emo/ metal/ any other genre, you’ve more than likely seen them crowd surfing at a hardcore show at some point in the last 10 years or so, or calling out some narrow minded commentator in the NME comments section. Based up and down the country, London, Brighton, Oxford, depending on where they happen to be that day. If you know Ashwin you may consider them outspoken, but dive into their music and the intimate stories strung in between chugging chords tell a different story. Speaking on many issues of mental health, self acceptance and trying to find a place in this world, their music is raw, and yet full of vibrancy. They’ve returned now with the latest project under the GIVEUP name, moving into the realms of noise rock and experimental electronic music. It’s an EP full of candid recordings that allows the music within to shift and change, leading you into new and ever expanding sonic landscapes with each turn. We sat down with Ashwin to learn about how their new sound came to life, what this means for the future of GIVEUP and why Oasis aren’t Shoegaze and will always be shit.

So this EP was created over the last 8 months or so over various lockdowns, has this time allowed you to get back into writing music?

So with both my bands, Night Swimming and Red Terror, we were supposed to be doing stuff this year and they both subsequently got cancelled because of Covid. One of which we were supposed to play a show with our friends in NEWMOON, who are a Belgian shoegaze band and then the first lockdown got announced about 2 days before then and there was just no way of fitting it in before lockdown came into effect. So I went back to my parents for a bit with my brother, and he has a Fender Jazzmaster that he just straight up doesn’t really use, and an amplifier with loads of effects pedals. And in April people were doing more improvised livestreams than they perhaps are now. So I just did this noise rock set in a balaclava for about 25 – 30 minutes and uploaded it Youtube and then took the best parts of that improved set and turned it into separate tracks. I then moved back to London with my partner and I was struggling to write music on my own because of trying to keep within the noise restrictions around here, it’s a bit harder to record stuff. But basically Ruminations is just that noise rock set cut into different tracks. And then a Slowdive cover that I did ages ago, which I decided to just whack on there for the sake of keeping it a bit longer. I’ve always been quite influence by Jesu, Have A Nice Life, Planning For Burial and Sunn O))), all those kind of drone goth type of bands. And I always imagined if I was going to do noise rock sets then i’d rather use the balaclava with that over my sad acoustic songs because theres something about wearing that, that has empowered me in a weird way. I know that people don’t really take me seriously and I do a lot of stupid shit. But having that and amplifying having that presence of feeling cooler than I actually am is nice. I am really self conscious about self promoting, but this time I decided that because it’s a noise rock EP and does go into bits of different genres i’ve just been spamming various different subreddits and it’s actually worked! Everyday i’ve been checking the Bandcamp stats and they’ve very slowly gone up, which has never really happened before because usually i’d slap music on there, maybe some friends might listen to it and then that’s it. But this i’ve tried to make a conscious effort to be like “No, you’re in lockdown, you’re not going anywhere, you can listen to my EP whether you like it or not” haha.

I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming with my bands, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year. And with Night Swimming we have a full song recorded but it’s a case of when we should put it out. Because it’s a really good song, but we worried that if it’s released now then no-one will give a shit and it’ll just get lost because we don’t have anything to follow it up with.

So doing stuff with this project is a nice way of keeping myself actively doing stuff. And seeing friends do it is really nice as well. It’s also a case of trying to keep your work consistent. In January of this year Night Swimming got offered to play a set with this fairly big American post-hardcore band, but the other band members couldn’t do it. So I decided to do a GIVEUP solo set and it was really odd because it was a free show but it was a packed out room. And with almost putting no effort in i’d played to the biggest crowd i had so far. Which was frustrating to realise how easy this is if you stop worrying about it. But it did also give me false hope for the rest of the year, being like “Oh if i can just play to complete strangers and then people come up afterwards and say that was good” then maybe I can give this more of an effort. I just assume no one gives a shit about the solo stuff, no matter how many times I try to push it. But I’ve been doing that for 4 or 5 years now and I just wanna make sure that i’m not just playing the same three or four chords over and over again. There’s a lot of songs on there that I wrote when I was nineteen or twenty which I cringe back on now, but I still play them live because I don’t have a massive repertoire of stuff.

As you said the EP has a more noise rock feel to it, moving away from the more acoustic side of your previous work. The element that keeps them consistent though is the lo-fi recording quality of them, why do you gravitate towards that style of recording?

It’s just more interesting. Not to sound like a complete pretentious asshole, but I am really into noise music, field recordings and ambient music, there’s something almost charming with lo-fi and I don’t feel with the sort of music I want to do i’d ever want something to be overly produced. At least with this project, with Night Swimming we’ve actively gone out of our way to up the production values and make everything more pristine. When the first Night Swimming EP came out people where calling it lo-fi and I was a bit upset by that because I was like “No, we’ve paid for recording studio time, this isn’t demo quality”. It was recorded originally with this producer who mainly does math-rock and post-rock recording, so doing a shoegaze band was already a bit of a weird thing for him. We’d paid about £150 for it and to also do mastering as well, but he came back to us saying “I’m going to be honest with you guys, this is demo quality, can you not put my name on the credits?”. So we had to pay someone else to mix and master it, which when we released sounded really good, but unfortunately it got tarnished with the lo-fi tag and I really didn’t want that haha.

In my other projects I actively go out of my way to not have the lo-fi sound, but I like the accessibility of just being able to record stuff on you iPhone and then bang it into Gargeband and just mess around with the EQ settings. I would like to learn how to use Ableton one day, I’d like to not just use a Focusrite, i’m aware i’m every single cliché when it comes to lo-fi recordings. I’ve recorded in bathrooms or under bridges in public, all sorts of different places to capture the atmosphere that I want for whatever I’m doing. I like doing that because there’s only so many presets, there’s only so many times you can use the telephone voice. But i’ve never tried to do the same thing over and over again, i’ve like having concistency in some ways, but i’ll always try and add something new. Ruminations was basically a bunch of songs that had been sitting on my laptop for a while that I didn’t really know how to put down in a cohesive way. I was originally thinking that I could just put the entire noise rock set as one really long track but then suddenly realised that no-one is going to listen to that. So i might as well keep it as individual tracks, which means even if people just click on the Slowdive cover that’s fine by me. One day I would like to be able to record with an actual tape recorder or an 8 track. So essentially I want to get even more lo-fi if I can but I need to get the right equipment for it, there’s only so many times you can record on your iPhone and make it sound lo-fi. If you get a newer model, the microphone will be slightly higher quality each time, so you’re actually losing that lo-fi level. Which is why I used to intentionally do it on an iPhone 4, the shittier the mircophone the better the lo-fi for me anyway.

There was an interview I watched with King Gizzard where they said that on their newest album they still record some elements with an iPhone to get that signature distortion.

Oh shit no way! Yea getting the peaks in there.

So after splitting the set up into the different tracks, did you then find songs that fit a specific meaning that you were trying to put behind them? Or was it just more of a — approach?

I gave the illusion that it was more technical than it actually was. The first two tracks are the same riff slowed down and then sped up, and then messing around with whatever was in tune with each sound. But that riff is something I wrote about three or four years ago and I could never make it work into anything for the other projects, mainly because I don’t write guitar parts for those bands which is fair enough really. Then I thought it would make a good set opener, which is where I used it. Then “Ruminations” and “La Petit Mois” were just a case of moving the capo slightly further up the guitar and hoping that I didn’t play a bum note when I was doing the finger picking. Funnily enough I had someone say to me the other day that those actually sound like they have structure, but in reality I had no clue what I was doing. Hopefully it sounded consistent enough to boil down into two tracks. The idea was to have really slow atmospheric pads that would build up into this giant wall of noise. The use of the whammy bar came into it as much as possible because I don’t get to use that very much in Night Swimming as, understandably, our guitarist isn’t really a fan of it. Essentially just detuning your guitar when you could get that effect from various pedals. But because it’s the sound I was going for I tried to incorporate it as much as I could whilst keeping in time.

So after extracting the sound into Garageband I just split it all into different projects. The full track idea was there for while but it does change a fair bit so unless I had some cool interlude parts to fit in between, which as it stood was just me changing the position of the capo. Being a noise rock set on a livestream I just assumed people would duck in and out for 10 seconds and just be like “Ah, Ashwin’s got a balaclava on their head, cool”. So it’s a weird experiment and i’m really happy with how it turned out. As you will probably notice there’s only drums on two of the tracks because I just couldn’t get it to work for other tracks. For “…” I didn’t feel it was heavy enough without drums so I just used the keyboard tapping for that one, which can be a bit of a pain because you only have so many drums sounds to work with. I have a mate who helps with the production of this project sometimes and I spoke to him asking if he thought that the guitars worked well enough on their own and he was quite adamant that they worked like that. A lot of drone music is just guitar anyway so I thought it would be a bit more interesting than just playing the same two notes for a few minutes. I feel those two songs, “…” and “Fucking Knackered” almost take you on a journey of some sort because you’re following along with it.

Yeah I definitely got that when listening as those two go into a bit more electronic sounds

I would one day like to just do a straight up power electronics project, which is where the balaclava comes from. I’ve seen a lot of noise artists who use something like that to create that sense of anonymity on stage, even if you know who they are. I have two Korg Micro devices, a duel and a reverb, small almost Fisher Price level instruments. And they’re cool but i’m not sure how i’d do an entire set with those if it wasn’t just completely improvised. But i’d like to be able to have it one day where I can have parts programmed so that there are consistent songs compared to “lets watch the little freak in a balaclava play around with a stylus for half an hour whilst vaguely shouting things”.

So going from this EP do you think you’d want to move into more “sonically diverse” territory”?

I’m quite happy with the sound I have now, with it only just coming out and being quite fresh, I haven’t really thought too much ahead about what i’m now in the future. There was a band I went to go see at the Windmill in Brixton and unannounced was this guy who had a candelabra at the back and his back to the audience whilst playing guitar. And I was just like “that is exactly what I want to do with GIVEUP” but I want people to actually come to see me. However I felt that was a really effective way of showcasing the music to an audience that wouldn’t have usually listened. To have a consistent live show and create an atmosphere that isn’t just sat in your room listening to this outsider depressing music would be nice. I think i’d just like to expand on what I’m already doing with that and maybe add in some harsh noise, some programmed drums. I haven’t really thought that far ahead though to be honest.

So far this is the most amount of reception i’ve had from people. I find it incredibly hard self promoting and I need to get over that hurdle. With a band all your members are doing it so it’s a shared effort of embarrassment. There was a meme that came out a few days after I posted my EP that described my situation almost word for word and I really don’t know if someone made this about me or not. But then I realised that this is pretty common for lockdown music. I know other people self promote but they seem to naturally get other people to listen to whatever they and I get that sense of jealousy. I will say this though for people self promoting, the least likely way for someone to listen to your music is if you add someone on Facebook for the sole purpose of sending them a link or the worst one i’ve seen was this band who once made this group chat on Instagram of about 80 people to get people to listen to them and watch their video which immediately turned me away from them. I don’t want to say however that sponsored posts are the devil, because I have actually gotten into some good music through that whether or not that’s intentional. But there is definitely a trend of 4 white guys saying “Hey we’re a pop-punk band and this our new single about quarantine!”. Then again it’s almost a new way of advertising music because you have bands like Cigarettes After Sex that almost accidentally got big because of Youtube algorithms. So there’s a certain mystique behind wondering if you did sponsored music and it did somehow go viral. It’s that what if that makes you feel a bit less embarrassed about self promoting. I think if I knew that everyone felt the same way about it then I would feel less conscious about it, but what I struggle with is seeing other people naturally getting people to listen to their music or sharing. But from that I don’t know whether they are plugging people left right and centre with a link. There’s also no guarantee with that either that they will actually listen to your track, so you just have to take their word for it. This Arthur meme comes to mind. I’m completely guilty of doing the same though, and it’s not that I don’t want to support my friends but it’s usually just at a bad time that somebody’s sent me something.

Nowadays i’m trying to go out of my way and give feedback. Then it’s a back and forth of you’re promoting your art to me so you can listen to mine and give each other feedback. What was the original question haha? But yeah that sound I do want to expand on, I might even get my friend Matt to do some drumming for me because he’s done a lot of programming and production, helping a lot with that side of things.

Would you ever turn the project into more than just you then? Or do you like the idea that it’s just your music?

I like the idea that I can just turn up anywhere and just annoy the fuck out of people for 20 minutes with a guitar. I think it would take a lot more planning, but also I would not want to become a band dictator in some way. If I was to incorporate more people then i’d let them take their own takes on things as long as it was in time or in tune. I don’t know how i’d feel about a full band as I wouldn’t want to turn into Car Seat Headrest where it’s technically a band but it’s Will Toledo that kinda thing, where the front-person is the centre of that. I feel a bit odd about those kinds of things as other people are contributing just as hard, with going on tour and sacrificing as much so they should get as much credit as they’re due. But I think I need to write a lot more material to warrant having a full band. I’m quite good friends with James Clayton who’s in Crywank and they had a period 4 or 5 years ago where they tried turn their 2 piece into a full sounding, plugged in electric band. Some people really liked it but they said they hated it which is understandable as their music is purely based around trying to push the limits of an acoustic guitar. So just because you have a full band doesn’t necessarily mean you create a fuller sound. I missed the tour but some friends told me that when Elvis Depressedly played the UK about 3 or 4 years ago they had a full band and the songs didn’t sound anywhere near as decent quality as the recordings which was almost hampered by having a full band. Which is a shame because those songs feel they should be great with a full band, but maybe I shouldn’t judge everything off of that.

So being on your own gives you more freedom to just be like “I’m doing this style now and that’s it”

Yeah I like just going places and being like “I’ve got a bag of tricks up my sleeve” haha.

With you adding the Slowdive cover to the end of the EP I wanted to ask, what does Slowdive mean to you?

Big big humongous question. So I got into Slowdive kind of late, but my friendship with the bassist in Night Swimming, Aiden started at uni and mainly revolved around us getting really high and listening to Slowdive. I had an introduction to shoegaze around 2013 from the emo and punk bands that all crossed over into that a bit, and then I got into the “real” shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver. I do think though that now there are more shoegaze bands doing more interesting stuff and I tend to veer towards punk bands doing shoegaze because I feel there’s a level of intensity you get rather than just being a MBV ripoff. Before I even saw Slowdive live I saw Minor Victories which is the Supergroup of Rachel Goswell, one of the members of Editors, somebody from Mogwai which was incredible. Then I saw Slowdive play this really really small venue in Glasgow called The Art School, which has burnt down like twice now unfortunately. And then in Oxford and Field Day basically the day after, and then in Brighton and they are always incredible live. They bring quite a mixed generation of people to their shows which is really cool as people who saw them in the 90’s can still appreciate their music. That self-titled album they did three years ago is incredible. And I think now they’re weirdly getting the recognition they should have had in the 90’s, because they got completely overshadowed and shafted by Brit-pop. If you haven’t seen it already there’s a Souvlaki documentary that Pitchfork did on Youtube.

Yeah i’ve been meaning to watch that!

Really really good. I’m not sure about whats going on with them lately. I think as well they’re really in touch with modern shoegaze and who they get as support. Some older bands you see are almost just living off their legacy and any reunion albums they do are just bonus. I don’t wanna say too much and i’m sure they’re sweethearts but MBV and Jesus and The Mary Chain seem like they’re making the main amount of their income being able to do live shows off of the legacy they had 20 – 30 years ago, but I don’t feel like Slowdive are doing that at all. It seems like they’re evolving, even if it’s not the biggest shift ever, it’s more expansive and i’m genuinely really interested to see what they do next. Whereas other bands in that scene I might go see live, but i’m not hankering for a new record.

I saw on Instagram they’re supposed to be recording a new album.

Yeah they’re demoing stuff out which is cool. Another thing I will say about Slowdive is that there’s a level of innocence and angst to their music because they were teenagers when they wrote their first two records. And now as parents and people in their 40’s/ 50’s they still retain this sense of melancholy and despair but it’s done from the perspective of age, they’re not still pretending to be teenagers. Even the music they wrote as young adults, it never comes across as cringy, it’s very timeless and still translates very well. With Souvlaki being written about Neil and Rachel breaking up, it’s amazing how they were able to still be in a band and 30 years later they’re still able to sing those songs and there’s no awkwardness, which I think is really charming in a way.

To put it as the kids say, they’ve “kept it real” as such. And it’s probably helped that there’s this huge nostalgia trip that everybody’s on at the moment to get back into the 90’s culture.

Yeah definitely and they have that level of accessibility as well. I bought my dad a copy of Loveless by MBV for Christmas one year and I think he listened to it once and never played it again. And I was like “But you like U2 and the edge was inspired by them?” but he just said “Nah, it’s too heavy”. Definitely should have just gone with a Slowdive record instead. There’s also a nice thing about having their music as background music, or for intense long journeys. If you’re looking to introduce someone to shoegaze but don’t really know where to start then Slowdive is a nice as it almost transcends different genres. Some people try and call them Dream-pop but I think there’s a very clear difference between the two, Beach House do not sound the same as Nothing.

Hahaha absolutely

You can’t really compare the two, like dream-pop is more in the mainstream with people like Lana Del Rey and M83 and there’s a lot of crossover stuff with that. Whereas I feel with shoegaze there’s still a level of undergroundness with it, even if bands like The 1975 or Pale Waves have shoegaze songs it doesn’t mean that they’re a shoegaze band. But it’s still cool as it brings people into that atmosphere as it’s the scene that celebrates itself.

What’s interesting to me is that the name ‘shoegaze’ was meant to be an insult, when someone was reviewing Slowdive they said “they were just looking at their shoes and pedals the whole time”. But they accidentally made a whole genre. I think that type of music will live on as it’s still being churned out in a way that’s interesting and people take influence from that. Whereas Oasis, Blur and Pulp and all the Britpop era are all nostalgia in a way, but there aren’t really bands now doing that sound. And I think it should be left, from the people that have this fixation with the 90’s and not being able to move past it is just mutually unhelpful and the people from that era are getting older now, there’s only so much of a time capsule that you can have from that. Weirdly enough I don’t have a problem enough with people doing that from the 80’s as that’s aged enough to the point that things that sounded new then now do sound vintage. Whereas stuff from the 90’s still sounds shit and it sounded shit then. I don’t have a problem with 90’s nostalgia as long as people who review aren’t basing their whole opinion on whether it sounds like those bands from the 90’s. It’s like when every guitar rock band gets compared to Nirvana, it’s just quite lazy. So many press releases will say “90’s revival or takes cues from the 90’s” which is almost feeling like if you say 90’s enough it will stick and people won’t listen to the music at all. Just going off the nostalgia and trying to recreate that feeling you had of “oh when I listened to this life was good” but you have to address things critically, rather than just pigeon holing stuff because it sounds similar to whatever your dad listened to when he grew up.

Yeah the amount of people that are trying to live off of Liam Gallagher’s continuing legacy is crazy

I will say this though, I watched that Supersonic Highway documentary as it was on last Christmas and it is a really well made documentary if you want to understand how big of a cultural phenomenon Oasis were. Purely based on that fact I would recommend people watch that, anything else with Oasis can get in the bin. No matter how many times people force it on me or tell me “But their early stuff sounds a bit shoegazy”.

I’ve seen that and as well with Nirvana, I’ve heard people reference them as Shoegaze but with it’s just like, well where do you draw the line?

It seems to be if vaguely someone uses a reverb or a flanger or anything with layers to it then it gets put under the label. But there’s more to it than that. I’m one of these people whose says that Shoegaze is a very specific thing and you can’t just liberally slap it on there, because it’s not consistent otherwise. You can’t just have one or two tracks, you need to go the whole mile with it.

Have you thought about any more livestreams or when shows eventually return, what are your plans for that sort of thing?

Right now I haven’t got any plans for livestreams but that could change depending on what I feel like at the time. What I’m trying to focus on is getting that Red Terror and Night Swimming music out in some capacity and then try and figure out what we do next, if and when shows go back. By which we mean when there’s a vaccine, rather than the socially distant shows. I understand why venues and bands are doing it, but especially as I’m shielding it’s just not something I can do. And it’s not viable for some people, I think it would be just better to wait. You know we’ve come a long way with the vaccine and it does feel like things might go back to a semblance of normality in a few months time, I can’t tell really. I’m doing a few social media and planning bits for Washed Out Festival in Brighton for next year and we don’t even know whether that’s going to happen or not. It’s in September so fingers crossed. I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year.

We want also to expand both bands audiences, mostly so far it’s been just in the south so i’m hoping we’ll get some decent turnouts once we can get back. I’m not pretending that we’re not going to have shows where we have 5 – 10 people attending again. But i’m fine with that and for me it’s just as long as you’re doing something creative then it doesn’t really matter how many people listen or if you can make money from it. It’s the fact that you’re putting something out there. I still have to keep telling myself that though and I still check the views and streams on my music each day and if they haven’t gone up I overthink it a lot. And I need to stop asking for validation from people for that, I need to find it in myself to be like “I’ve recorded this, it sounds cool, if people like it or not then that’s up to them”.

Livestreams could be cool as I could always do the same as the new EP again and chop it up again, but that mainly worked by chance. But if there is another then i’d put a lot more thought into it and have a proper set up. Having more vocal samples in it or something like that. My favourite part about that is trying to find something from the most obscure bits of media and then get people to go out of their way to try and find that, that journey of discovery is really interesting to me. I saw this harsh noise project in Brighton and I took loads of drugs before and the guy had all these visuals from various different horror films. But because I was fucked I couldn’t tell whether they were snuff films he’d got from the internet or real films, and the fact it was that convincing made me go out of my way to try and find it. Which I eventually did and it turns out they’re from Martyrs and Irréversible which got me into all the pretentious horrible French cinema films, which then lead me down a rabbit hole that you can’t escape because if you’ve watched one you want to watch them all. Because of those samples and the visuals it made me go and find that art which i’m really grateful for now because i’m really into it now. So i’d like to have something like that in my set, which is a cool way of expanding your art into more avenues.

Ruminations is out now and available to stream and purchase here.

Ana Roxanne – Because Of A Flower Album Review

Kranky – 2020

LA based ambient artist Ana Roxanne returns with the follow up to 2015’s ‘~~~‘. An album that was originally released by Roxanne on her own and largely kept to herself out of fear of reaction. Later being re-released last year by Leaving Records after founder Matthew David was sent the album by one of Roxanne’s friends. This re-release saw Roxanne reach new levels of fandom, especially on Bandcamp as it was named their 11th best album of the year. 2019 also saw Roxanne tour as support for Weyes Blood on her winter European tour, allowing her to demonstrate her intricate live capability. Crafted over the course of 5 years, Because Of A Flower sees Roxanne seek to understand identity, after coming out as an intersex person last year and try to put to capture the spirit and dexterity of humanity through vibrant sonic movements.

The album opens with Roxanne reading samples of a passage by composer W.A. Mathieu about the multiplication of life. As the samples are slowly read out, they layer begin to layer on top of each other, literally multiplying, mimicking the words Roxanne is reading. “The spirit of harmony, as it condenses, produces all beings”. Roxanne’s use of samples allows this album to become connected with nature, intertwined within the sounds until both wouldn’t feel whole without the other. The opening of “Venus” sees Roxanne read an ode to water as samples of flowing water wash around the background. Transitioning into deep meditational swells and harmonies as Roxanne sings of being adrift personally “I lost my way, where do i stand”. Whilst it is the longest track on the album, it certainly never feels like it. Constantly shifting and swaying through different vocal melodies or adding glittering samples of electronic notes it stays in constant flux; mirroring a line at the opening of the song, “Forever changing form, but not essence”.

One of the greatest aspects of this album is Roxanne’s ability to evoke deep memories through her sound design. As the arpeggiated melodies and deep swells of sound on “- – -” dance and glide around each other, vivid memories or images come into your head. With the sound traveling about in an almost cyclical fashion it reminds of being on a long journey, watching the world pass by, continuing to come close and then fall past you as you move through it. And the enticing electronic groove and downbeat synth chords of “Camille” motion you into the feeling of walking along a lamp lit street late at night, the buildings passing by as you a deep emotion of regret washes over you. This emotion also comes out within the samples of an argument Roxanne chooses to use. The vintage sound of them feels as though you are replaying the memory over in your head as you walk away from it. All whilst Roxanne sings “I want to feel your warm embrace”, the regret flowing over and overpowering the memories you have. Roxanne uses her own experiences and emotions to delicately induce these feelings within the listener through her simple yet brilliantly woven sonic patterns.

The main sound of ‘~~~’ was deep ambient swells and chants that focused on Roxanne’s heavenly harmonies and vocal stacks. This sound makes a return in the form of “A Study In Vastness” as Roxanne’s voice is used in both a bouncing melody and in the deep ambient, almost medieval chanting vocal layers. Every sound ebbs and flows through the vast, hauntingly beautiful soundscape being carried always by Roxanne’s voice. And on “Suite Pour L’invisible” the steady mellotron and climbing guitar line feels inspired by the iconic sound of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack, having previously covered Julie Cruise’s “The World Spins” from the show, with Roxanne adding layers glistening vocals to carry the sound into new dimensions. These deep, swirling hauntingly beautiful vocal layers are the binding force of this album. No matter where the sonic movements are going, or whatever mood they are trying to convey, Roxanne’s vocals are there to guide them along with an almost unchallenged ease.

Control over the simplest sounds and bringing them centre stage is what Roxanne excels in, and time and time again on this album do they come into the spotlight with full conviction. Like a painter adding strokes to a canvas, Roxanne allows each colour, or sound, to breath and become within itself bold. Finding beauty in the minimal.

Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders Album Review

Ghostly International – 2020

Los Angeles based harpist Mary Lattimore returns with her seventh album of delicately plucked emotions and sonically vibrant patterns and movements. Lattimore is one of indie musics quiet powerhouses, having previously worked with the likes of Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore and Steve Gunn. Now on Silver Ladders she’s returned Slowdive’s Neal Halstead at the helms of production, with his signature cascading guitar sounds only amplifying the dreamy and emotive sonic landscapes Lattimore has become known.

One of Lattimore’s greatest talents is being able to tell a story without using words. Rather allowing the movements in her music to speak for themselves. She paints images in your head of scenes and emotions within them, constantly shifting and changing as the plucks of her harp move in varying directions. The 10 minute atmospheric “Til A Mermaid Drags You Under” transitions from folky swaying plucks, as if you’re out on the moving sea. To tense, impending drone sounds as if a terror is creeping up open you, and finally to a feeling of elation and peace. As her delay filled harps wash over you and the bouncing guitars fly through the air you can feel the acceptance that Lattimore is trying to convey in her sound. Closing track “Thirty Tulips” shifts from a sense of longing and loss of hope through the spluttered plucks and climbing drone to one of rejoice and accomplishment. Capturing the emotion of payoff, the hard work that was put in, feeling like you’ll never get anywhere to eventually full out elation.

Lattimore also succeeds in expanding her sonic palette further with this album. The impressiveness of her playing has always come from the level of detail and complexity she’s able to craft into various moments, with each song sounding familiar yet unique in groove or melody. But on this album she allows her playing to often become a building block for other sounds to enter. With elements of shoegaze, especially with “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams”. The influence of Halstead can be felt in full force through its dancing guitar lines. If you were to claim it as an unreleased Slowdive instrumental, it may fool many fans. There’s also an expanse into more ambient sounds, especially on “”. Where the soft drones and bright synthesiers remind of some of Brian Eno’s early work, think Ambient 1: Music For Airports era. But Lattimore isn’t afraid to change these sounds from soft and comforting to dark and boding on “” where the drones become heavily distorted, sweeping back and forth sounding almost as if the wind is crashing overhead. Which is one of Lattimore’s best talents, recreating the sounds of nature and the world through rich instrumentation.

The greatest aspect of this album is its frequency in letting sounds breath, creating space between movements. This allows the impact of Lattimore’s harp plucks to linger on, each melody floating around in your head before it carries you on further. It’s a perfect backdrop for a peaceful isolation evening, or a late night walk through a lamplight lit street.

Ana Roxanne announces new album

LA based New Age and ambient artist Ana Roxanne has announced a new album Because of a Flower set to be released on November 13th via Kranky. This is the follow up to last years debut album ‘~​~​~’. They also released new single ‘Suite pour l’invisible’ which you can listen to below.

The Bandcamp page states “The sublime songs comprising Los Angeles-based musician Ana Roxanne’s second record, Because Of A Flower, germinated gradually across five years, inspired by interwoven notions of gender identity, beauty, and cruelty. She describes her process as beginning with “a drone element and a mood,” then intuiting melody, syllables, and lyrics incrementally, like sacred shapes materializing from mist.

The experience of identifying as intersex informs the album on levels both sonic and thematic, from spoken word texts borrowed from tonal harmony textbooks to cinematic dialogue samples and castrati aria allusions. It’s an appropriately interstitial vision of ambient songcraft, a chemistry of wisps and whispers, sanctuary and sorrow, conjured through a fragile balance of voice, bass, space, and texture.

Despite a background studying at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland, Roxanne’s music rarely feels conceptual, instead radiating an immediate and emotive aura, rooted in the present tense of her personal journey. She speaks of the flower in the title as a body, singular and sunlit, as many petals as thorns, an enigma beholden only to itself. But whether taken as surface or subtext, Because is a transfixing document of a rare artist in the spring of their ascension.”

The album is available to pre-order here.

Friends Of The Monday Table release debut single ‘Emily’s Imaginary Scales’

Electronic duo Friends Of The Monday Table have dropped their debut single ‘Emily’s Imaginary Scales’ on Kitchen Practice Records. The duo, made up of Lloyd Bolton and Alex Clarke, have previously released a re-working of John Phillips ‘Let It Bleed, Genevieve’ and now are back with their first piece of original material.

In a statement the duo said this about the single

“‘Emily’s Imaginary Scales’ is the first thing we demoed. Alex put on a drum part he had kicking about, I (Lloyd) came in with the lead melody and the track grew from there. We then streamlined and developed it and have now recorded it in lockdown, sending our parts to each other via email. The finished piece is a serene, nautical journey, underpinned with samples of Jacques Cousteau quotes (re-recorded for copyright reasons). The simple lead synth part running throughout gives it the feel of the more sedate, melodic songs of people like Harmonia and Kraftwerk and its saxophone part draws on Eno’s Discreet Music and more recent, organic ambient work by acts like one-four and Primitive Motion. The production renders the whole thing with a beautifully fragile balance, suggesting the nature of the coral reef ecosystems referenced in the samples throughout.”

Along with the 10 minute version the duo have also released a remix by Vimmspace and a condensed 4 and half minute edit.

For fans of Harmonia, Seefeel, one-four, Burial, Cluster, Susumu Yokota, Eno, Kraftwerk, Jon Hopkins, Primitive Motion, Alessandro Cortini, William Basinski, Glows, Circa 2000, Rabbit Island, Circular Keys.

Listen to the single below.