Category: experimental pop

New Video: Emerging French Act Adrienne Releases a Brooding and Cinematic Visual for “Sentinelle”

Founded by producer Franck Lobielti, Adrienne is an emerging French collective that boldly eschews genre conventions, crafting a sound that meshes elements of chanson, psych pop and psych rock, sixties pop and hip-hop. Shortly after their formation, the collective went to Coxinhell Recording Studio in Southern France to write and record their debut EP,  Killer De Routine which was released last fall.

The EP’s latest single, the sultry and brooding “Sentinelle” is centered around twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line and dramatic drumming, atmospheric synths, an infectious and melodic hook, and a psych rock-like bridge. And while subtly recalling JOVM mainstays Warhaus and Balthazar to mind, the song evokes a sense of overwhelming regret and heartache. 

Directed by Quentin Perrault, the recently released video for “Sentinelle” the video follows a middle-aged couple at a crossroads throughout the run of the visual: we see the couple’s relationship through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards in which we see the couple in better days and at their worst. It’s an eerie look through a couple’s history and the lingering ghosts that often result. 

New Audio: Toronto’s Pantayo Releases a Cinematic and Modern Take on an Ancient Folk Sound

Pantayo is a rising, Toronto-based Filipino-Canadian quintet that aims to explore and expand upon what’s possible for contemporary kulintang music, a traditional and ancient folk music, centered around arrangements of percussive instruments, including gong, sarunay, gandingan, bendir, dabak and others by blending the atonal sounds of the instruments with electronic production in a way that nods at punk and R&B. 

The Filipino-Canadian quintet’s self-titled, full-length debut is slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Telephone Explosion Records was produced by Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s Alaska B. Written and recorded between 2016-2019, the material is centered around discussions diasporic Filipino and queer identity. Each of the act’s five members have different experiences of settling in Canada — and naturally, that has filtered into their songwriting and art. “One way that we can make this world feel like home for folks like us is to mix the kulintang music that we learned with different sounds and song structures that feel familiar to us,” Pantayo’s co-founder Kat Estacio says in press notes. 

The album’s material is a sort of audio diary, revealing how the act has grown together as songwriters and performers during the period of time it was written. Much of their self-titled album can trace its origins to when the members began workshopping and performing traditional kulintang pieces while adapting kick drums and synths to the modal tuning of the gongs — and as a result, allowing the band to incorporate modern sounds and techniques. “If you listen to the recordings of our rehearsals and songwriting sessions, you can hear us deconstructing the kulintang parts section-by-section and practicing our songs in different styles,”the band’s Eirene Cloma (keys, vocals) explains. 

The self-titled album’s latest single is the atmospheric and cinematic “V V V (They Lie).” Centered around syrupy slow and droning synths, complex polyrhythm and plaintive vocals and harmonizing, the track — to my ears — reminds me quite a bit of early 80s Peter Gabriel and fellow Canadian electronic act Doomsquad while being an inventive way to bring the ancient into a modern day context. 

Interestingly, the track was written and put together one the course of a single day with the group finding inspiration, to an extent, in bubble tea. “The composition of the song was as a lot like a cup of bubble tea,” says the band. “We added 2 cups of blended percussion as the base, then some analog synth tapioca pearls to keep the texture interesting and fun, and finally topped it off with a few tablespoons of fresh tropical vocal fruits for some added sweetness.”

Beginning his professional life with working in finance and as a co-owner of London‘s The Society Club, the Norwegian-born, London-based singer/songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Erik Brudvik left both to pursue a career with his solo recording project Brudini. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release, Brudvik’s forthcoming self-recorded and self-produced Brudini debut From Darkness, Light is a conceptual album that draws from his own personal experience traversing between two seemingly contradictory worlds before finding his creative voice — and of a life spent as a sort of itinerant traveler.

From Darkness, Light is reportedly a soul searching effort that thematically and narratively weaves an abstract, wandering tale through feelings of loss and longing, anger, lust and despair, towards cosmic consolation as the album features Brudvik’s lyrics and the poems of California-based poet Chip Martin paired with old-timey and atmospheric arrangements featuring creaky pianos, analog synths, syncopated jazz-inspired lyrics and occasional blasts of distorted guitar. The end result is a contemplation of the various transitions, compromises and dashed dreams of adulthood.

The album’s first three singles — “Reflections,” ‘Emotional Outlaw” and “Pale Gold” — were released to widespread critical praise in the UK with Louder Than War referring to the rising singer/songwriter as “an indescribable talent,” as well as praise from NYC music legend Danny Fields. Each of the album’s first singles have received airplay on Radio X, BBC Radio 6 and BBC Radio 2 personality Frank Skinner‘s program. Building upon a growing profile, Brudvik has developed a reputation as a must-see live act, collaborating with Lulu Gainsbourg, Lanah P, and Erasure‘s Andy Bell.

“Radiant Man,” From Darkness, Light‘s fourth and latest single finds the rising Norwegian-born, British-based singer/songwriting crafting a song that balances a thoughtful and earnest intimacy with a widescreen, cinematic quality that subtly recalls Harvest-era Neil YoungOK Computer-era Radiohead and The Invisible Band-era Travis — thanks, in part to an arrangement centered around strummed guitar, atmospheric synths, twinkling piano, shuffling jazz-like rhythms and Brudvik’s plaintive vocals.

Thematically, the song is centered around a narrative that’s older than time, and yet strangely relevant and contemporary: it follows a well-meaning protagonist, full of good intentions who fights onward despite being slowly crushed by a tidal wave of enormous forces beyond his control.  The human spirit can be indefatigable — and in these very dark and uncertain times, we’ll need to dig deep, perhaps deeper than ever before to make it to whatever awaits us on the other side.

“‘Radiant Man’ is the story of a person fighting against a tidal wave. In the midst of a crisis, I find there is something about the enduring human spirit that emerges and brings us closer. ‘Radiant Man’ is an homage to this human radiance, echoed today in streets everywhere from Wuhan and New York to Sao Paolo and Milan.” 

New Video: Caroline Mason’s Surreal and Minimalist Visual for Brooding “If You Want Me To”

Caroline Mason is an emerging, Portland, OR-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and experimental electronic music artist, who from an early age has been drawn to find a connection between the depths of human emotion and how must has the ability to take us to those places within ourselves. 

Mason’s latest single “If You Want Me To” is a brooding yet atmospheric song centered around a sinuous bass line, reverb and delay pedaled guitar, gently accumulating layers of wobbling, arpeggiated synths, Mason’s plaintive vocals and an infectious, ear worm of a hook. Sonically recalling Us-era Peter Gabriel, the song thematically touches upon honestly facing oneself and pushing away old habits, old fears and old selves for a bold new future. 

Directed by filmmaker and stylist Christal Angelique, the recently released video was inspired by English fashion designer Gareth Pugh and finds Mason dressed up in a custom, futuristic piece made by Portland-based designer Kate Towers. And in the video we see Mason in the desert, accompanied by a marching army of her doppelgängers. Angelique wanted the piece to be relatable for anyone facing fears and parts of themselves that needed to go. “It is about overcoming the battles within so one can move into their stronger, future self,” Mason says of the song.  

Founded by Crammed Discs label head Marc Hollander, the Belgian experimental act Akask Maboul can trace its origins to when Hollander was commissioned by producer Marc Moulin to write and and record an album for Moulin’s short-lived label Kamikaze Records. Hollander (keys. reeds, percussion) recruited his friend Vincent Kenis (guitar. bass, keys) to join the project, and the duo went on to write and record their full-length debut, 1977’s Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, which featured guest spots by Chris Joris (percussion, keys) Catherine Jauniaux (vocals) and a list of others. The band’s sophomore album Un peu de l’âme des bandits was released in 1980. Both albums firmly established the act’s sound — a genre-defying primarily instrumental-based sound that playfully shuffled between experimental jazz, pop, electronic music, and contemporary classical music.

Shortly after the release of 1980’s Un peu de l’âme des bandits, Hollander devoted himself to his label Crammed Discs. And since the label’s formation, the label has released over 350 albums from an eclectic array of forward-thinking artists including TuxedomoonAcid Arab, Konono Nº1, Carl Craig, Yasmine Hamdan and JOVM mainstay Juana Molina among others. Interestingly, in 2014 Hollander returned to writing and performing when his label released the lost, third Akask Maboul album Ex-Futur Album, which was written and recorded with Véronique Vincent between 1980-1983 and left unfinished.

Encouraged by the response to Ex-Futur Album, Hollander revived the band with a new lineup that featured Véronique Vincent (vocals), Faustine Hollander (guitar, bass, vocals), and Amatorski’s Sebastiaan Van den Branden (guitar, bass, synth) and Christophe Claeys (drums percussion) — and in early 2015, the band began playing their first live shows in over 30 years. Adding to the growing interest in the band, an album full of re-interpretations, covers and reworks of the Ex-Futur Album16 Visions of Ex-Futur was released the following year with contributions by Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Aquaserge, Laetitia Sadier, Forever Pavot, Flavien Berger, Nite Jewel, Bullion, Burnt Friedman, Hello Skinny, Marc Collin, Bérangère Maximin, Lena Willikens and others, as well as two “self-covers” recorded by that year’s Akask Maboul lineup. They also created a live up show, Akask Maboul Revue in which they were joined by Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Laetitia Sadier and members of Aquaserge. Additionally, vinyl re-issues of the band’s first two albums helped to confirm that they were avant-garde classics.

At the end of 2018, the Belgian avant-garde act announced that they were working on a new album. Late last year, they announced that the new album, Figures would be a double album. Slated for a May 22, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the album will feature the band’s current lineup — Hollander (keys), Vincent (vocals), Faustine Hollander (bass, production), Lucien Fraipont (guitar) and Erik Heestermans (drums) and guest spots by Fred Frith and Aquaserge’s Julien Gascon, Audrey Ginestet and Benjamin Gilbert, former Akask Maboul members Michel Berckmans and Sebastiaan Van den Branden, and a list of others.

Written by the band’s writing duo of Hollander and Vincent, the album consists of 22 tracks and interludes, which results from the flow of creative ideas after a lengthy hiatus, and the material sees the band drawing from the same influences that inspired their earliest releases — electronic music, pop, experimental jazz, minimalism and contemporary classical among others — while continuing their long-held reputation for an indefinable, genre-mashing sound. As a whole, the album’s material finds the band seamlessly weaving electronic and acoustic instrumentation, programming, beats, found sounds and sound collages to create a labyrinthine sound, full of twists, turns, secret passages and interconnections that requires deep and attentive listening.

Figures‘ second and latest single “Silent Silhouettes” is a mostly-instrumental track with a tango-like tempo, centered around shimmering keys, atmospheric electronics, a sinuous and strutting bass line and brief vocal passages spoken in a sultry and smoky French before a wobbling fade out. The end result is a track that’s mischievously anachronistic yet cinematic.

 

Tracing their origins to a chance meeting at DIY show in 2015, the Brooklyn-based post rock electronic band and experimental performance art Reliant Tom is centered around its core creative duo, Western Massachusetts-born, Brooklyn-based composer Monte Weber and Dallas, TX-born, Brooklyn-based choreographer and vocalist Claire Cuny. The duo’s collaboration is a seamless synthesis of their individual talents and interests – sound design, wearable technology, modern dance and hook-driven, yet genre-defying songwriting.

“Reliant Tom gives me the outlet to explore both pulse driven works while maintaining the other musical elements which I find fascinating — timbre, aleatoric processes, and interactive technologies,” Weber explains. Adds Cuny, “Our ultimate goal with Reliant Tom is to be a multi-media performance experience that straddles the line between pop and experimental music — and philosophizing about what that even means, and is that even possible as ‘experimental pop’?”

Thematically, the duo’s two previous releases, 2016’s self-released, self-titled EP and 2018’s critically applauded, full-length debut effort Bad Orange, touch upon the pitfalls of digital communication and the generally blasé nature of modern social interaction – through the guise of avant-pop and avant-punk influenced musical devices and arrangements featuring electric guitar, vocals, a hybrid electro-acoustic drum kit, synthesizers and Weber’s Kontrol Instrument, which he developed while studying at the Paris-based Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music as a way to make electronic music more tactile and immersive in its performance.

Slated for a Spring 2020 release through Chicago-based Diversion Records, Reliant Tom’s sophomore effort Rewind & Play is a decidedly bold and self-assured step forward: Cuny’s sultry and expressive vocals while being prominently placed front and center, effortlessly glide over lush yet spacious arrangements of shimmering acoustic guitars, atmospheric electronics and twinkling keys with the material possessing a cinematic air that recalls Dummy-era Portishead, Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp, Radiohead circa OK Computer and others. And while continuing to be tech heavy in their means of sonic production, their thematic exploration of communication and interaction in the digital age takes a back seat. This time taking a more human approach, the material may arguably be the most mature yet accessible, most emotionally honest and vulnerable of their growing catalog, as the album’s central theme is a documentation of Cuny’s descent into grief and depression after her father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in front of her — on the release of day of Reliant Tom’s debut album.

“Nevermind the Garbage,” Rewind & Play‘s aching and brooding first single is centered around a cyclical arrangement of shimmering and wobbly guitars, twinkling piano and atmospheric synths that makes the song swoon from the dark and overwhelming weight  of loss and grief — and the knowledge that while you will find some way to push forward, that deep down you’ll recognize that your life will never quite be the same. “The song is about trying to return to a semi-normal routine by learning to manage the grief and anxiety that overcame me after the sudden loss of my father,” the band’s Claire Cuny explains. “My state was complex and somewhat guilt ridden because all I could feel was sadness. Even though I was at a good point in my life, with a loving partner, and reminded daily how fortunate I was when seeing the more severe hardships of other people such as chronic health issues and homelessness… all I could feel was despair, not the love or gratitude – but when you’re in the depth of your darkness it’s hard to feel much else.”

As a recently published Harvard Business Review article has suggested, we’re collectively experiencing a universal sense of overwhelming grief and uncertainty. Let’s be honest here, things are pretty bleak: on a daily basis, we’re hearing about hundreds upon hundreds of people dying from a communicable disease that any one of us could catch — and could possibly be carrying unknowingly. In New York, my home borough of Queens has been hit the hardest with the most cases and most deaths. Most of those poor souls have been heading to Elmhurst Hospital, and it means that the victims of COVID-19 live and/or work in (all or parts of) the neighborhoods of Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, Woodhaven, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona, Rego Park and Forest Hills. We’re talking about neighbors, coworkers, associates, the grocer, your bodega guy, your FedEx guy and so on. And there’s this sense among us that things will never quite be the same once this is over. How will we move forward? I don’t know. But what I can say is that the song’s creators never would have thought that such an achingly personal song would have such a deeper, universal meaning.

New Video: Austra Releases a Surreal and Dream-like Visual for Cinematic Album Single “Anywayz”

Katie Austra Stelmanis is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, composer and producer, and the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded electronic music act that takes her middle name, Austra. Over the past decade, Stelmanis has released three full-length albums 2011’s Feel It Break, 2013’s Olympia and 2017’s Future Politics, which she has written, performed and produced — and  has maintained a busy touring schedule both as s solo performer and with a backing band of rotating collaborators. All of this led to a devoted fanbase and countless sold-out shows across the globe; however, despite her growing success, Stelmanis had began to feel stagnant and uninspired. “I was losing faith in my own ideas,” the acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter, composer and producer explains in press notes. During that period. Stelmanis unwittingly got into a toxic relationship that was tearing her apart. 

It wasn’t until Stelmanis was ready to face her insecurities, that was she was able to see a path forward. “My creative and personal relationships were heavily intertwined, and i knew the only answer was to part ways with all of the people and comforts that I’d known for the better part of a decade and start again,” Stelmanis says. Along with making much-needed changes in her personal life, her fourth album HiRUDiN, which is slated for a May 1, 2020 release through Domino Recording Co. reportedly finds Stelmanis taking an entirely different and free-spirited approach to her songwriting and production: she took up a collage approach to sampling, arranging, writing and producing the album’s material. She also sought new collaborators, at one point booking three days of sessions in Toronto with improv musicians she hadn’t met: these musicians included two-thirds of contemporary classical improv group c_RL; Kamancello, a cellist and kamanche duo; Pantayoa, a kulitang ensemble; and a children’s choir. Additionally,  Rodaidh McDonald and Joseph Shabason were brought in to co-produce the album’s material with Stelmanis. 

Deriving its title from the peptide that leeches releases that’s the most potent anticoagulant in the world, HiRUDiN points inward, following a deeply personal and intimate journey towards regeneration and salvation, while touching upon the fallout of toxic relationships, queer shame and insecurity, letting go of harmful and hurtful influences, breaking harmful behavioral problems and cycles,  and finding the power and wherewithal to rebuild from scratch. Rooted in hard-fought and even harder-won personal experience, Stelmanis’ fourth album may arguably be the most introspective and forward-thinking of her growing catalog to date. 

“Anywayz,” HiRUDiN’s second and latest single is an expansive and cinematic track centered around twinkling keys, oscillating synths, four-on-the-floor-like beats, a rousingly anthemic hook and Stelmanis’ and achingly plaintive vocals, and sonically, the slickly produced  song — to my ears — seems to draw from Kate Bush, classical music, experimental pop and synth pop. The song “explores the fear associated with leaving someone, and the terrifying realization that without them in your life, the rest of the world will continue unscathed as if nothing has changed.” 

Directed by Jasmin Mozaffari, the recently released video for “Anywayz” continues an ongoing collaboration between the director and the Canadian artist — and the video employs a surreal and dream-like quality while being uneasy and chaotic, as we follow a protagonist, who’s pushed onward — even if she doesn’t initially want to.  “I wanted the video to feel as dramatic and chaotic as heartbreak can be, bringing this fear into fruition. The concept focuses on Katie as a heightened version of herself, sequestered inside a barren mansion that resembles a cage of her own spiralling thoughts,” Mozzaffari explains in press notes. “She resists moving on, yet as time persists and the outside world thrives, it eventually forces itself upon her.”

Charlotte Cegarra is a French experimental dark pop singer/songwriter and artist, best known for hir work with The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and Charlotte and Magon.  VoxAxoV, Cegarra’s latest solo project meshes shamanic-like improvisations with elements of ambient electronica, experimental pop and pop centered around the French expressive vocals.

VoxAxoV’s debut single “You’ll Find Yourself/Te Tu Trouveras” is a hauntingly gorgeous and mesmerizing track centered around atmospheric and gently droning electronics and Cegarra’s gorgeous vocals, which express intimate contemplation and aching yearning within the turn of a phrase. Seemingly recalling — to my ears, at least — the likes of Majical Cloudz, Brian Eno and Kate Bush, “You’ll Find Yourself” as Cegarra explains is a quest for balance in a sinking world.