Centered around the collaboration between singer/songwriter Gina Leonard and producer and guitarist Tom Freyer, the acclaimed Bristol, UK-based electro pop/trip hop act The Desert can trace their origins to when Freyer had produced some of Leonard’s solo work. And as the story goes, the duo quickly hit upon a formula of Freyer taking the songs that Leonard had initially written with an acoustic guitar and adding layers of electronics and lush, detailed production.

With the release of “Just Get High,” the first single off last year’s debut EP Playing Dead, the act received airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6 and Radio X. And with the release of further tracks off the EP, the British electro pop/trip hop, the act received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound that some have described as being a mix between Little Dragon and Portishead. Building upon a growing profile, the act’s sophomore EP was released last week, and from the EP’s first single “Gone,” the act has revealed a decided evolution of their sound and approach while retaining the cinematic quality that first won them attention; however, the song possessed a desperate, urgent air with a hint of uneasy hope.  The EP’s latest single “Distract Me” is a much more intimate, sensual track centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, plinking, jazz-like piano, Leonard’s achingly plaintive vocals — with synths and electronics added towards the last third. In some way, the EP’s latest track manages to remind me of the film noir-ish tone of Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us.

Lately, the act has been busy working on new material and playing their first batch of live shows across the UK — and for their live shows, Leonard and Freyer have recruited Ryan Rogers (bass) and Jonny Parry (drums, electronics).

 

 

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Live Session: Bells Atlas on Audiotree Live

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act Bells Atlas. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys)  have received attention for a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and lush sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the members of the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Released earlier this year, the acclaimed futuristic soul act’s latest EP SALT AND SOAP is inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for their latest EP, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison drumming as the bedrock of each song of the EP — and in turn, their full-length album The Mystic, which is slated for a March 2019 release. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole.

A few weeks ago the members of Bells Atlas were invited to Audiotree Live to do a live session centered around the material of the SALT AND SOAP EP including “Downpour,” a paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lush and lysergic groove-driven track that recalled Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu; “Be Brave,” a sinuous and fluidic track centered around an incredibly dexterous and percolating bass line, driving percussion and rapidly morphing tone and time changes; the incredibly sultry “NCAT,” centered around shimmering and bubbling arpeggiated synths, stuttering drumming and a rolling bass, as well as two other tracks I haven’t written about — “Overshare” and “Find Where You Rise.” Throughout the live session, the material proves to be a perfect foil for Lawson-Ndu’s vocals, which manage to express a visceral vulnerability and human need, awe, strength and resiliency within a turn of a phrase.

Interestingly, during the session the band’s Lawson-Ndu speaks about her own deep, personal experience and love of sci-fi and fantasy and how they’ve influenced her to consider those genres through the experiences of being a woman of color.

New Video: Chicago’s Lightfoils Release a Lyrical and Meditative Video for “Summer Nights”

Over the past few weeks I’ve written quite a bit about the Chicago, IL-based shoegazer act Lightfoils. And as you may recall, the band, which is comprised of Jane Zabeth Nicholson (vocals), Neil Yodname (guitar), Zeeshan Abbasi (guitar), Cory Osborne (bass) and John Rungger (drums) has developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries of shoegaze with a unique and sophisticated take on the genre, as heard of 2014’s critically applauded Hierarchy.

The band’s long-awaited, forthcoming album Chambers will be self-released by the band, both for the autonomy and the ability to be intimately involved in all aspects of the album’s production and promotion — and with the album’s first single “Summer Nights, ” the first bit of new material since the release of Hierarchy finds the Chicago-based shoegazers fully commanded the sound they’ve developed with a swaggering self-assuredness, as the band pairs layers of lushly shimmering and chiming guitars with a propulsive, hip-hop like rhythm section and soaring hooks while Zabeth Nicholson’s ethereal vocals float over the mix, expressing deep longing. And while anthemic, the gorgeous track manages to possess the wistful feel of a summer night, complete with the knowledge that a bitterly cold winter is coming.

Co-directed by the members of the band and Brian Cook, the recently released video for “Summer Nights” meant to evoke the nostalgia for summer, the longing many of us feel once it passes — and in a subtle way, the recognition that the years and the time are flying by. Featuring footage shot by each member of the band, the video is partially an exploration of Chicago and the surrounding wilderness. As the band explains in press notes, the juxtaposition between the urban and wilderness scenes are meant to capture the paradoxical nature of city life — and the desire to both embrace and escape. Jane Zabeth Nicholson’s superimposed and spectral figure gives it all a film noir-ish like vibe. 

New Video: Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter Gerald Toto Releases a Cinematic and Symbolic Visual for “Away Alive”

Last year, I wrote about the acclaimed trio of Toto Bona Lokua, comprised of French-Antillean singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona and Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza, and as you might recall, with the release of  2004’s, critically applauded sophomore effort Totobonalokua, the pan-African act received attention across world music circles for a sound and aesthetic that effortlessly blended several different traditions, cultures and languages; in fact, the album was a commercial success in France, despite very little promotion and no touring.

Since the release of Totobonalokua, the members of the trio have pursued a series of diverse solo projects, which kept them incredibly busy. Of course, because of the success of their sophomore album, the individual members of the trio would frequently be asked by fans and the press if they would be reuniting to write and record new material — or if they had any plans to tentatively do so. Although the individual member of the trio’s paths seldom crossed, they managed to stay in touch, and as the story goes Gerald Toto suggested that it might be time to reconvene the trio and try to write new material. Bona and Kanza quickly agreed and while it took some time to synchronize the schedules of three extremely prolific and busy artists, they found time to write and record their third full-length album Bondeko, which was released earlier this year through French record label Nø Førmat. (By the way, the album’s title is derived from the Lingala word for  “friendship” or “fraternity.”)

This year has been a very busy one for Gerald Toto, as he followed the release of Toto Bona Lokua’s third album with his latest solo album Sway, and from the album’s first single “Away Alive,” Toto will further cement his reputation for crafting infectious and breezy pop that’s mischievously difficult to categorize. In fact, “Away Alive” is centered around a languid and tropical groove, featuring gently strummed guitar, brief bursts of arpeggiated synths and an infectious hook paired with Toto’s yearning falsetto. Sonically the song hints at Tropicalia, Bossa nova, 70s soul, Afro pop, French pop and folk while not being one thing in particular; but perhaps more important, the song encouragers the listener to slow down and pay close attention to gentle sway of life’s rhythms every now and then. 

Produced by Paris-baed company La Sucrerie and directed by R&D, the recently released — and incredibly cinematic — video follows Toto as he wanders about the desert. Speaking about the video, Toto says “The desert is an allegorical dream. An inner space where one seems initially lost, without reference or bearings, before finding, within, an anchor point from which to walk. With a heart open to all encounters.”

New Video: Perth Australia’s The Money War Release an Intimate, Behind the Scenes, Life on the Road-like Video for “Hey Now”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Perth, Australia-based dream pop/indie pop/indie rock duo The Money War, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Rainy Day Women’s Dylan Ollivierre and  Warning Birds’ Carmen Pepper can trace its origins to a road trip that the pair took across the US in late 2015. Inspired by the trip, they recorded a ton of iPhone demos. And as the story goes, after a chance meeting with producers Thom Monahan and Arne Frager in a San Francisco dive bar, the duo were convinced of the value of their demos together, and began working on an album.

Last year saw the release of their debut EP and to support the effort, they spent the better part of that year touring with Holy Holy and Meg Mac, and then went on a headlining national tour during December. EP single “Recall,” was the fifth most played song on Triple J Radio, and as result they had received a growing national profile in their homeland; but interestingly enough, they also received attention Stateside with airplay on SiriusXM, KEXP, CJAM FM, KXRN, WLKK and college radio. The duo’s highly-anticipated full-length debut is slated for release early next year, and the album’s first single was the Still Corners-like “Hollywood,” was a moody and cinematic track inspired by a difficult year the duo had in which someone close to each individual had died. “There’s a hospital in Perth called Hollywood, and I was pondered its ironic name,” Olliviere says in press notes. “We were in LA when I got the news that a family member was passing away, and the lyrics started forming from there. We wanted the song to sound like a moving and we took production cues from that idea.”

“Hey Now,” the second and latest single off the up-and-coming Australian duo’s debut album is a breezy and cinematic track that recalls 120 Minutes-era MTV alt rock — but with an infectiously anthemic hook that makes the song sound as though it would be the perfect addition to anyone’s road trip playlist. And while further cementing their reputation for crafting breezy, hook driven indie rock, the song has an underlying bittersweet quality.  As the band’s Dylan Olliviere explains “is about making a commitment to someone and being ecstatic about it but also realising that you’re in a very different position to where you thought you’d be when you reached that milestone. Life usually takes a different course than you anticipated and doesn’t always match the set of ideals you once held. I like how the line ‘time is coming for us baby’ can be interpreted in different ways depending on how you look at it. It’s kind of a romantic yet bittersweet sentiment.” 

Shot and edited by the members of The Money War, the recently released video for “Hey Now” is an an intimate “life on the road of a touring band” styled video that’s split between the band playing in front of audiences in Los Angeles, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, goofing off and traveling around the world with stops that include a bridge crossing at Tasmania’s Cataract Gorge, beach huts in Fremantle, Australian Rules Football on a Perth beach, and riding in a van, crossing the American West. 

Comprised of founding duo Maja (guitar, vocals) and Andreas (guitar, vocals) along with Samuel (drums), the Stockholm, Sweden-based shoegazers Star Horse can trace their origins back to 2011 when the band’s founding duo met while in Toyko. And as the story goes, Maja and Andreas bonded over a mutual desire to create a sound based around their love of 90s shoegaze. When they returned to Stockolm, they recruited Andreas and Samuel — and while each member individually has dissimilar tastes and preferences, they used the Twin Peaks soundtrack as a common musical thread to create their sound and aesthetic.

Interestingly, since their formation, the Stockholm-based quartet has been considered at the forefront of their homeland’s shoegaze/dream pop scene, developing a developing a devoted international fanbase — and for most of their history, they’ve done it all in a completely DIY fashion, releasing three EPs and a handful of singles through their own label Haxrummet Records. Additionally, along with Follow the Sea, they created the local DIY noise rock/shoegazer festival Fuzztival.

Since, the release of the highly praised single “Slower Now,” the band has been holed up in the studio, finishing up their highly-anticipated full-length debut You Said Forever, which is slated for a February 15, 2019 release through Startracks Records. The album’s latest single is the slow-burning epic track “Albatross” which clocks in at a little under 9 minutes and is centered around shimmering guitar chords and ethereal vocals. And while recalling A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve, the track manages to be melancholic but yearning.

 

 

 

 

Now, over the course of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based dance music collective ESCORT. And as you may recall, the act which features founding duo and production team Eugene Cho and Dan Balls and Adeline Michele as members of a core group of anywhere from five to 17 has received attention for a sound that’s indebted to disco, house music and soul — and for a live show that has made them a must-see act; in fact, the members of ESCORT have played some of North America’s biggest festivals, including Sasquatch Festival, Okeechobee Festival Montreal Jazz Festival, Full Moon Festival and others — and have shared stages with The Internet, Charles Bradley, Digable Planets, De La Soul and Cody ChesnuTT.

Now, as you may recall, things have been busy in the ESCORT universe: Adeline recently released her self-titled, full-length debut while her primary gig has released singles — and their last single “Slide,” which was co-written by denitia and sene‘s Denitia was centered around a buoyant bass line, shimmering synths, some Nile Rodgers-like guitar and Adeline Michele’s sultry vocals manages to recall Chaka Khan and Rufus“Ain’t Nobody,” making it a sort of 80s synth funk-inspired skating rink banger. The acclaimed act’s latest single “Josephine” finds them returning to their roots — a subtly modern take on classic 70s disco centered around an incredible vocalist; but in this case, the song is an anthemic, club-banging biography of the legendary Josephine Baker that manages to recalls Giorgio Moroder‘s legendary work with Donna Summer.

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this year, you’d probably recall that earlier this year, I caught the Montreal-indie pop/dream pop act Anemone open for the acclaimed indie pop act HAERTS at Baby’s All Right. Led by Chloe Soldevila (keys, vocals) and featuring Miles Dupire-Gagnon (drums), Gabriel Lambert (guitar), Samuel Gemme (bass) and Zachary Irving (guitar), the Canadian quartet specializes in a breezy take on dream pop that hints at both psych pop and to In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy and Painted Palms.

The Canadian act released their attention-grabbing debut EP earlier this year, which they’ve supported with a series of critically applauded SXSW shows, and some relentless touring across North America. And although they’ve been rather busy, over the past couple of months, they also announced that their highly-anticipated full-length debut Beat My Distance will be released early next year through Luminelle Records. Album single “Sunshine (Back To The Start)” is a breezy and sunny track built around jangling and chiming guitar lines, a propulsive, disco-influenced bass line, a steady backbeat and Soldevilla’s plaintive, ethereal vocals — and while sunny, the song is centered on the hope of a brighter day after experiencing something shitty and painful. “She’s The One” continues in a similar vein as the track is a shimmering and ethereal track centered around Sodevilla’s ethereal crooning and an upbeat, almost Afro pop-like sense of percussion — and much like its predecessor, it possesses a subtly bittersweet undertone. As Soldevilla explains in press notes, “She’s The One’ is about two paradoxical tendencies/patterns in relationships and how they work against each other. The first one is where you become infatuated and idealize someone, thinking they are ”the one” until you really get to know them; the other tendency is to protect yourself and stay independent. Closing yourself off from getting to know someone and potentially missing out on a great connection. ‘She’s The One’ is the prequel to ‘Bout de toi’ although it’s being released after. The mood of it, the percussions; ‘She’s The One’ came together very quickly in the studio, as we had a strong desire for an upbeat, dancy [sic] song. It brought a new energy to our set which has really shaped our live show.”

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Oh Sees Release Nightmarish and Hallucinogenic Visuals for “Enrique El Cobrador” off “Smote Reverser”

Throughout this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Bay Area-based  Oh Sees (a.k.a. Thee Oh Sees, OCS, The Oh Sees, The Orange County Sound, Orinoka Crash Suite and other variations) — and as you may recall, the band which is led by its ridiculously prolific creative mastermind John Dwyer has long-held reputation for a wide-ranging experimentalism that has seen the band dabble and bounce between lysergic-tinged folk, furious and sweaty garage rippers, sci-fi driven krautrock and more. And with each successive album generally being completely different from its predecessors, it makes the band difficult to pigeonhole.

Last year’s Orc was a muscular and darkly inventive turn for the current lineup which features Tim Hellman (bass), Dan Rincon (drums) and Paul Quattrone (drums), as the material balanced a trippy, cosmic vibe with some of their most hard-hitting and punishing tendencies. Reaffirming their reputation for being unpredictable, the members of the band quickly followed that up with Memory of a Cut Off Head, an album that found the band revisiting the sound and approach of their early years, best known as their “quiet” period; in fact, returning to one of the band’s earlier names — OCS — was meant to herald a return to –the lower end of the decibel meter. 

Last year, Dwyer and company did two shows with their quieter and lush incarnation at The Chapel in San Francisco and those live shows eventually produced a handmade, mail-order only live album OCS Live in San Francisco that was released through Rock Is Hell Records. Interestingly, the album will be re-issued and made available in a condensed 2 LP set and to support that effort, the OCS will play a limited performance run of mellow OCS tunes at The Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn, as an octet featuring members of the early lineup, including Brigid Dawson (vocals), Tim Hellman (bass), Paul Quattrone (drums), Tom Dolas (keys), Eric Clark (violin), Heather Lockie (viola) and Emily Elkin (cello). (You can check those dates below.)

Also, Castle Face Records will be re-issuing a string of Oh Sees out-of-print Oh Sees albums from the quiet era beginning with The Cool Death of Island Raiders in February 2019. In the meantime, the band has released live footage of them performing the trippy and epic burner “Block of Ice,” that features some wild and unhinged guitar playing centered around a propulsive and steady groove. Quieter? I’m not so sure, as this one as a buzzing, garage psych quality; but either way I’m looking forward to catching Dwyer and company live. 

But before that, the ridiculously prolific Dwyer and his Oh Sees/OCS released Smote Reverser earlier this year, and album single “Enrique El Cobrador” finds the band meshing classic psych rock and prog rock in a way that brings JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard but with a muscular and frightening sense of menace at its core, as the song is centered by a motorik-like groove, explosive blasts of guitar, arpeggiated keys and Dwyer delivering his vocals with a guttural snarl. Directed by Alexis Giroux and featuring animation from Giroux and Massimo Colarusso is a hallucinogenic nightmare of murder, bloodshed and bright colors and other wild imagery. 

TOUR DATES
12/15/2018 Murmrr Theatre – Brooklyn, New York
12/16/2018 Murmrr Theatre – Brooklyn, New York

New Video: Gothic Tropic Releases Sci Fi Inspired Visuals for Swooning “Your Soul”

Los Angeles, CA-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cecila Della Peruti is the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed indie rock project Gothic Tropic, and as you may recall, Peruti has also spent stints as member of the touring bands for Beck, Charli XCX, Børns, Poppy and others. With the release of last year’s full-length debut Fast or Feast, Peruti received attention for crafting hook-driven, New Wave-inspired tracks like  “Stronger,” and the lush and atmospheric “How Life Goes” which explored themes of empowerment, strength in vulnerability, moving forward from the breakup of romantic relationships and the difficulties of getting older and growing up. 

Interestingly, “Your Soul,” Fast or Feast’s fourth single manages to further cement Peruti’s growing reputation for crafting a hook driven songs, centered by punchy guitar chords, swirling synths and a propulsive rhythm section within an urgent and swooning song detailing a relationship that’s inching towards an awkward yet inevitable end that the song’s narrator doesn’t want to see happen. 

Directed and written by Peruti, the gorgeously cinematic and trippy visuals for “Your Soul” is set set during the impending death of the sun, just as it’s about to envelope the entire planet — and it follows a young boy, who discovers that his purpose is to be one of the “Children of the Sun,” the last of a supernatural lineage of gifted children, whose presence sedates morals for a more blissful end. As Peruti explains in press notes, “I’m a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, so as I was putting this elaborate idea together knowing full well my budget and logistics, it was challenging to rely completely on Matisse and practical effects and circumstances to get the concept across. Everyone who worked on the video are my friends and collaborators, and I’m so lucky to have found young Matisse and his family. This VIP alien-angel character needed to be reverent without pride or ego, which I think Matisse completely owned. This was my first set, and I’m excited to keep going writing and directing, it’s been a fixation for a while.”
After working in the studio with Daniele Luppi, who has worked with Danger Mouse, Parquet Courts and Red Hot Chili Peppers; Alex Goose, who has worked with Weezer; and Carlos de la Garza, who has worked with Cherry Glazerr, Paramore and The Naked and the Famous, Peruti is expecting to release new material sometime next year. We’ll be on the lookout for it.