Author: William Ruben Helms

I’m a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in The New York Press, New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

New Audio: Aussie Sibling Quartet Stonefield End 2017 with a Prog Rock-like New Single

Over the past few months, I’ve written about the Darraweit Guim, Australia-based sibling psych rock quartet Stonefield, comprised of Amy (drums, lead vocals), Hannah (guitar), Sarah (keys) and Holly Findlay (bass). And as you may recall, the siblings began playing together when they were all at a rather young age — with the youngest being seven and the oldest being 15. The band’s eldest member Amy recorded their first song “Foreign Lover” for a school project, and then reportedly she entered the song into Triple J’s national, unsigned band competition for youngsters Unearthed High as an afterthought; however, much to her and her sisters’ surprise, Stonefield wound up winning the contest. Within an incredibly short period of time, the Findlay sisters had two singles receiving regular airplay on Australian radio and an invitation to play at the Glastonbury Festival.

Since then, the members of the sibling quartet have released two EPs, their self-titled full-length debut and their sophomore effort As Above So Below, which was released earlier this year through Rebel Union Recordings/Mushroom Records. And adding to a growing profile, the Aussie, sibling quartet have opened for a variety of internationally renowned touring acts including Fleetwood Mac, Meat Puppets and a Stateside tour with countrymen and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard earlier this year. Interestingly, the Findlay sisters end 2017 by signing to Flightless Records, the label home of the aforementioned King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and The Babe Rainbow, and to celebrate that announcement, the band’s first release on their new label is “Delusion,” the follow-up to their sophomore effort. 
“Delusion” finds the Findlay sisters moving away from the heavy psych rock and psych pop of their earlier releases towards a dirge-like, 70s prog rock and metal sound as the song finds features some down-tuned power chords, dramatic, twisting and turning synths, tubular bells, some sinister mellotron and an enormous, arena rock-friendly hook within a sprawling and hypnotic song structure that features changes in key and mood. As the band explains in press notes, the song is inspired by the “overwhelming feeling of knowing you are a speck in the universe, getting lost in your mind.” 

New Video: The Presets Return with an Anthemic Festival Banger Paired with Wild, Psychedelic Imagery

Comprised of Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes, the Sydney, Australia-based electronic music production and artist duo The Presets can trace their origins to when the duo met while studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Hamilton and Moyes quickly became recognized for crating a sound that electronic dance music with an arena rock energy and vibe — and as a result, the duo signed with renowned Australian dance music label Modular Recordings, who released their first two EPs and their 2005 debut, Beams.

2008 saw the release of the duo’s critically and commercially applauded sophomore effort Apocalypso, an effort that went Triple Platinum in their native Australia and featured four smash hits, including “My People,” one of their biggest songs. And adding to a breakthrough year, Hamilton and Moyes won 5 ARIA Awards — including Album of the Year, 2 ARIA Artisan Awards, the J Award, the FBI SMAC Award for Album of the Year, and they shared the Songwriter of the Year at 2009’s APRA Awards. 

The duo’s third, full-length effort, 2012’s award-nominated Pacifica featured Rolling Stone Australia’s Song of the Year, “Ghosts,” and was nominated for an ARIA Award, shortlisted for the AMP Award, the J Award and was named the Herald Sun’s Album of the Year, the Daily Telegraph’s Album of the Year and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Electronic Album of the Year. And although, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the acclaimed, Aussie electro pop duo, the duo have been busy collaborating with a variety of artists —Hamilton cowrote Flume’s “Say It” and contributed tracks to albums by Flight Facilities, Steve Angello and Meek Mill, while Moyes produced the DMA’s latest album, remixed tracks by The Drones and The Jezabels and started an underground techno label Here To Hell.

“Do What You Want” is the first single from the duo in over four years, and it’s also the first single off the duo’s highly-anticipated fourth, full-length album slated for release sometime in 2018  — and unsurprisingly, the new single will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting festival bangers with enormous, crowd rousing hooks and thumping beats; but interestingly enough, the new single features a looped, glitchy sample reminiscent of Boys Noize’s “ICH R U,” while also nodding at Tweekend-era The Crystal Method and Come With Us-era The Chemical Brothers. 

Directed by Kris Moyes, the recently released video is a wild, psychedelic homage to doing whatever the fuck you want, as long as it floats your boat, doesn’t harm anyone and is relentless and ridiculous fun. 

New Audio: Up-and-Coming British Duo Gold Fir Releases Vibrant and Surrealistic Visuals for New Single “Sirens”

Gold Fir is a London-based electro pop act comprised of a rather mysterious duo known only as James and Mabel, and if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that that the duo have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that draws from 80s synth pop, classic electronic dance music and classic course music; in fact, “Night Walk”, which was released earlier this year, reminded me quite a bit of a dance floor friendly meshing of George Michael‘s “I Want Your Sex,” Chaka Khan’s and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,” Chaka Khan‘s “I Feel For You,” and Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait.”

The mysterious British duo end 2017 with their latest single “Sirens,” a track that the duo says is”about welcoming different aspects of yourself to the dance floor,” sounds as though the duo was drawing from the likes of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” and “Get A Life,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and others as Mabel’s effortlessly soulful vocals are paired with a slick, house music-influenced production featuring layers of arpeggiated synths and twinkling keys, boom bap-like beats and an infectious hook. And while warmly nodding back at the sounds of the 80s and early 90s, much like contemporaries GL and others, they do so with a subtly modern take.

Directed by Tegen Williams, the recently released video continues the duo’s reputation for pairing their slick and soulful productions with strikingly surrealistic imagery — in this case, the viewer enters the mind of a music listener, and once instead we’re introduced to a pink-haired dancer, who first dances in an empty and darkened space before meeting some humanoid creatures. But much like its predecessor, there’s live action and hand drawn animation to evoke a dream-like state. As the duo says of the video treatment, “in life you’ve got to be whoever you want to be and the video was an ode to that sentiment; life is a dance like that.”

Live Footage: Royal Blood Performing “I Only Lie When I Love You” on “Conan”

Comprised of Worthing, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Mike Kerr (vocals, bass) and Rustington, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Ben Thatcher (drums), the British rock duo Royal Blood first met when the duo were briefly members of a local rock band, Flavour Country, in which Keer played keys and keytar; however, their collaboration together can officially traced back to a sabbatical Kerr spent in Australia, where he had started Royal Blood with Matt Swan on drums. And as the story goes, when Kerr eventually returned to his native England, his former bandmate Thatcher had picked up from the airport, and they immediately decided that they should start a band together. According to Kerr, the British iteration of Royal blood initially had a difficult time landing gigs and they wound up playing a lot of open-mic nights with acoustic singer/songwriters. 

After further developing their sound at Brighton Electric Studios, the band was signed to Warner/Chappell Music and the same management company that managed blogosphere darlings Arctic Monkeys, the duo began to receive a steady amount of buzz before the release of their first official single. Now, as you may recall, the duo released their sophomore effort How Did We Get So Dark? earlier this year to critical praise from USA Today, Rolling Stone, NME, Entertainment Weekly, and Forbes. Unsurprisingly, the album has also been a commercial success — it debuted at #1 on the UK Charts, as well as garnered over 30 million streams across Spotify and Apple Music and has sold over 250,000 copies. Adding to a breakthrough year for the British duo, they played at this year’s Outside Lands Festival and are finishing up a string of opening dates for Queens of the Stone Age throughout 2017 and 2018. (You can check out those remaining dates below.)
You may also recall that the swaggering, power chord-based arena rock friendly, album single “Lights Out”  reached #1 on the Rock Radio Charts as the #1 Gainer, marking the second time the band has reached #1 in their relatively young careers together. The duo were recently on Conan where they played the bluesy and scuzzy, power chord-based, ZZ Top-like “I Only Lie When I Love You,” which will further cement their reputation for crafting bombastic arena rock. 

New Video: The Sensual Visuals for Bryde’s “Desire”

With the release of “Help Yourself” and several other singles the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarah Howells, best known as Bryde quickly exploded into both the British and international scene as she received praise from Nylon, The Line of Best Fit and Earmilk and airplay from BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Wales, Radio X and Huw Stephens’ BBC Radio 1 show for a sound that’s been compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard and London Grammar while thematically focusing on complex, ambivalent, and hopelessly entangled relationships.

Now, as you may recall Howell’s “Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good” was a boozy and woozy dirge in which the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s aching vocals are paired with bluesy yet shoegazer-leaning power chords reminiscent of  PJ Harvey. Howell promptly followed that up with “Less,” a single that not only continued her ongoing collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Bill Ryder-Jones but was rooted around a forceful 90s alt rock-leaning song structure, while further cementing her growing reputation for writing unflinchingly honest and vulnerable lyrics.

Howell’s latest single “Desire” was produced by Chris Sorem and mixed by CJ Marks, both of whom have worked with Wolf Alice, PJ Harvey and St. Vincent — and while continuing along a similar vein sonically, as it nods at the blues and 90s alt rock, complete with an anthemic hook, the song manages to possess an urgent yearning, punctuated with the use of a baritone electric guitar.  As Howell explains in press notes, “‘Desire’ is about lust, our need for instant gratification, about desire’s addictive qualities and how they can make us behave.  I was inspired both by the way people have treated me and how I’ve treated others and how I’ve become unrecognisable to myself in the past just to appeal to this side of someone else’s personality.”

Directed by Furball Films’ Rhys Davies and starring Jade Perraton and Kyle Telford, the video features its two actors covered in syrup in a slow dance that vacillates between lustful desire and physical need — but while having a weird push and pull between regret and uncertainty. As the Howell explains in press notes, the video’s concept was inspired “by the symbolism of certain scenes in the movie Under the Skin, where the alien’s victims walk of their own free will into a thick, dark oil and to their demise. When writing the line ‘smother everything,’ I was actually imagining these temptations as a kind of veil that can leave us blind to what’s right and stuck in a cycle,” the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist continues. “We’re drawn to sugar coated things that are underneath bad for us. It’s about desires as things or people we want and can’t often resist, despite knowing that they will bring us nothing but regret.” 

Deeply influenced by The Breeders, T-Rex, punk rock, psych rock and New Wave, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Grace Vonderkuhn has received attention for a sound that meshes elements of psych rock, garage rock and guitar pop; in fact, back in 2015, I wrote about Vonderkuhn’s slow-burning, brooding, and lysergic cover of The Psychedelic Furs‘ “Love My Way.” Adding to a growing profile, over the past year, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and her backing band, which features Brian Bartling (bass) and Dave Mcgrory (drums) has opened for the likes of Titus Andronicus, Lower Dens and blogosphere darlings Sheer Mag among others.

“Worry,” the first single off Vonderkuhn’s forthcoming full-length album, slated for a February release through Egghunt Records features some muscular and self-assured power chords paired with angular and driving bass chords, forceful drumming within a 90s alt rock song structure —  alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, arena rock friendly hooks, an explosive and cathartic bridge and a fade out into the song’s coda.  Though it clearly owes debts to the aforementioned Breeders, Veruca Salt and others in the 120 Minutes-era MTV universe, the song, as Vonderkuhn explained to the folks at GoldFlakePaint is an “anthem for over-thinkers” with the song’s narrator attempting to  act as a calming counterweight, as she constantly reminds herself that maybe she shouldn’t be worrying as much as she does about everything, that some things are just beyond your control. And as a result, Vonderkuhn’s latest is a deceptive and mischievously modern take on a beloved and familiar song and aesthetic.

 

 

 

Xavier Bacash is a Copenhagen, Denmark-based producer and electronic music artist, who writes and records with the moniker Sonny — and with “Some Velvet Morning,” the latest single off his recently released C.E. EP, Bacash’s sound features elements of retro-futuristic jazz fusion and slick electronica in a way that will likely remind some listeners of Floating Points, Bonobo and others, as the composition is a cinematic and elegantly lush soundscape featuring live, drumming from frequent collaborator Jim Rindfleish, a soaring string sample and subtly arpeggiated synths.

Unsurprisingly, the song is reportedly inspired by and evokes a breathtaking sunrise, just before a long trip out of the city and into the country.

 

 

 

 

The up-and-coming Seattle, WA-based quartet Thunderpussy, comprised of Molly Sides (vocals), Whitney Petty (guitar), Leah Julius (bass) and Ruby Dunphy (drums), quickly exploded into the national scene with co-signs from Rolling Stone and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and for a string of attention-grabbing, critically applauded live shows. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you’d recall that I wrote about their incredibly assured, ass-kicking and name-taking, power-chord Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Joan Jett anthem “Speed Queen.”

“Velvet Noose,” is the much-anticipated, bluesy follow up to “Speed Queen,” that features a blistering “Evenflow“-like guitar solo from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, twinkling keys, thundering drumming and arena rock friendly hooks — and while further cementing the quartet’s reputation for straightforward yet incredibly assured power chord-based rock, the song manages to be roomy enough to prominently display Sides’ Janis Joplin meets Wilson sisters-like vocals.

The band is currently in the studio with Sylvia Massy, who’s worked with Johnny Cash and Tool, working on new material that will be released in 2018 — and based on “Speed Queen,” and their latest single, I suspect that you’ll be hearing quite a bit about these ladies over the course of the following year.

 

New Video: The Psychedelic and Lynchian-like Visuals for Norma’s “S.A.D.”

Largely inspired by NEU! and Faust, as well as Spiritualized and Spacemen 3, the Stockholm, Sweden-based trio Norma, comprised Erik Vallin, Love Martinsen, and Petter Bendelin formed in a living room in 2007, watching David Lynch movies while experimenting with pedal steel guitars, vintage organs and synthesizers. As the story goes, after a while, the trio started rehearsing in a bomb shelter and eventually developed a bigger, heavier sound, which wound up on their debut effort Book of Norma. Several years later, the band followed that up with their 2013 sophomore effort, The Invisible Mother. Over the past few years, they’ve developed a reputation for being deliberate — and over a decade since their formation, the band will be releasing their third, full-length album sometime in 2018. 

“S.A.D,” the yet-untitled album’s first single features a prerequisite, chugging motorik groove paired with shimmering, pedal effected guitars and a soaring hook to create a song that reminds me quite a bit of Join the Dots-era TOY — but interestingly enough, the song is both about seasonal affective disorder and a character that the band has dubbed Neil, a figure that appears during the darkest season, and attempts to thwart you as you go about your daily life. As the band explains, “. . . We probably all have our personal devils, wherever we want them or not, it’s just about learning how to live with them. It may be quite difficult to get a daily life working as it is and it will not be easier to discuss economics, logistics or food when Neil creeps along your spine and says he’s going to shoot you in your leg.”

Edited by Frederick Stewart Holm and featuring photography by the band and Najda von Bahr with scenography, costumes and makeup by Emila Esping, the recently recently video for “S.A.D.” follows Neil, a vagabond-like character as he travels the countryside in a custom built jalopy to the kindergarten where he entertains kids as a clown/entertainer. Eventually, he disappears into a dream where he floats among planets, fishes and laser lights in a Lynchian and psychedelic nightmare. 

New Audio: The Gorgeous and Soaring Sounds of Dublin’s Cloud Castle Lake

Currently comprised of Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass) and Brendan Doherty (drums), along with a rotating cast of collaborators and friends, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake derive their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a voyager, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spend the rest of his life there, but is cruelly dragged back to reality. And with their 2014 self-released debut EP, Dandelion, the Irish act received attention for a sound that routinely juxtaposes dark and despairing lyrics with a euphoric catharsis that increasingly draws from the work of Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders while being equal parts pastoral folk and soaring post-rock crescendos. And adding to a growing profile, the band has opened for touring acts such as Glasser, Lisa Hanningan and Ultraisa. 

Cloud Castle Lake had recently re-surfaced with the release of “Twins,” their first single in quite some time and building upon the buzz of that single, the Irish quartet released the stunning and breathtakingly gorgeous, Amnesiac-era Radiohead-like single “Bonfire,” which features twinkling, arpeggiated keys, and jazz-infected drumming and a tender yet soaring melody. As the band’s Daniel McAuley explained in press notes, “Bonfire is based around a pretty simple melody I came up with a few years ago. I kept being drawn back to it periodically and steadily adding and expanding it until it grew out into a full song. Writing it felt like a meditative task – what I’d imagine knitting a scarf is like. The choir parts were performed by our pals Tonnta, a contemporary choral group from Dublin. The giddiest day of recording for me was probably the first day they came in and sang through their parts. Getting to hear such talented musicians turn all that midi data and notation into music feels like magic. The lyrics have to do with doubt and denial and keeping secrets. They’re very loosely based on an old Irish/Welsh myth about rival tribes trying to find out the secret name of the other’s god in order to defeat them.”

Next month, the members of the Irish quartet will be embarking on a 5 date North American tour with stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and a February 6, 2018 stop at Rockwood Music Hall. These tour dates will serve as a bold re-introduction to the band, as well as building up buzz for the band’s Rob Kirwan-produced debut, slated for a Spring 2018 release.