Category: experimental pop

Throwback: Happy 57th Birthday, Bjork!

JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Bjork’s 57th birthday.

RichesYoung Galaxy‘s Catherine McCandless and choreographer Wynn Holmes — is a multidisciplinary, intercontinental collaboration and ongoing dialogue between its two collaborators that combines music, dance and performance. Songs are the first iteration of the project, and they take a narrative approach to themes concerning the performance of creative rituals, identity, transgression and devotion.

The duo’s latest single, the slow-burning and woozy “Shadow of You” pairs syrupy, reverb-drenched beats and guitar and glistening synths with McCandless’ delicate upper register, which expresses aching, soul-deep longing.

The duo explain that the song “celebrates the entity and demon of Creation, serenading just how gorgeous, intoxicating, and potentially self destructive the compulsion of making art can be.”

New Video: Tess Roby Returns with Ambient and Nostalgia-inducing “Path”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby. Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blurs the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with a decided emphasis on voice as its own instrument.

The Montreal-based artist’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through her own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director throughout the entire creative process.

Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello respectively, adding intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material. 

So far I’ve written about two album singles:

  • The mesmerizing,  Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS-like album title track “Ideas of Space,” which featured glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming and Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.” 
  • The mediative “Up 2 Me,” which featured skittering beats programmed by BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts paired with glistening synth arpeggios and Roby’s plaintive vocals. “The making of this song was very meditative. It was the first song I wrote following a situation that had taken a toll on my mental health, and had kept me out of the studio for a long time,” Roby explains in press notes. “The first iteration came in the summer of 2020, and it rested as an instrumental demo for a while. When I was close to finishing the album, I searched through all my recordings to find a final track – this one stood out to me. I wrote the vocal melody and arranged the song, then brought the instrumental to Austin Tufts along with a beat and asked him to program and expand on the idea. At this point we had been working together for a while and he was totally immersed in my sonic universe and knew the mood I was after.”

“Path,” Ideas of Space‘s third and latest single features an atmospheric production centered around gentle layers of ambient and glistening synth arpeggios, skittering tribal house-like beats paired with layers of Roby’s plaintive vocals. Thematically, the song focuses on time — but through the prism of an older, wizened version of yourself speaking to a younger, more innocent version of yourself.

The accompanying visual features 16mm footage shot back in 2019 by Hugo Bernier before the song was even conceived. We see a slightly younger Roby dancing and swaying and running during golden hour — and during what now seems like a simpler, more carefree time.

“The 16mm footage in this video was shot in 2019 before ‘Path’ was written. Hugo & I sat with that footage for a while, at times forgetting about it completely, but always coming back to its beauty and simplicity,” Roby says in press notes. “I had the footage in the studio with me while I was writing and it ended up inspiring parts of the song. I had never worked in that way before; video footage influencing songwriting – it was an interesting process, reversing the way in which I usually work with video. So much has changed since that footage was shot. It was only natural to pair it with footage of me now, in this very moment, speaking to myself then: ‘you’re looking down, I’m reaching out, if only I could see it like you do.’”

New Video: Bohemian Cristal Instrument Teams Up with Drum & Lace on Atmospheric “Evapora”

Splitting her time between Los Angeles and the Czech Republic, the Czech-born singer/songwriter, producer and musician Lenka Moravkoa is the creative mastermind behind the indie electro pop project My Name Is Ann. Moravkova is also the creative mastermind behind the rising, solo, experimental pop project Bohemian Cristal Instrument.

The Czech-born artist hails from the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, a region famed for its glass industry. Inspired by the region’s history, Moráková created several striking multimedia installations based on the sound of local glass factories during their decline. Those installations also helped inspire and inform the Czech-born artist’s Bohemian Cristal Instrument project — and the unique instrument at the center of the project.

In the early 1950s, siblings Bernard and François Baschet developed a new instrument, the Cristal Baschet. With a Cristal Bachet, metal rods are embedded into a heavy plate to form the elements. Each metal rod is accompanied by an attached glass rod. The metal rod’s length, weight and position at the equilibrium point help to determine the sound’s pitch. The player gently strokes and/or rubs the glass rods with wet fingertips.

Moravkova’s Bohemian Cristal Instrument is a unique version of the Baschet’s Cristal Baschet that follows the Czech-born artist’s original design. With her unique instrument, the Czech-born artist creates immersive and hypnotic soundscapes that pair the otherworldly acoustics of the Bohemian Cristal Instrument with ambient and pulsating electronics and her vocals.

2017-2019 was a busy, breakthrough period for the Czech-born artist: In 2017 she went on her first European tour, which included a one-off collaboration with William Close and The Earth Harp Collective as a headliner at that year’s Colours of Ostrava. She performed at a TEDx Talk and with Grammy-nominated artist Bora Yoon at Los Angeles’ The Broad Museum. Live footage of Moráková in the California desert went viral, amassing over two million views.

UNICODE EP, Maravkova’s Bohemian Cristal Instrument debut was released in 2018. The following year, she performed at Eurosonic Nooderslag. She was shortlisted for SXSW in 2020 and this year. And adding to a growing profile, she has performed at Summit LA.

Maravkova’s latest Bohemian Cristal Instrument single “Evapora” is a cinematic collaboration with Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist, an Italian-born composer, sound artist and performer, who writes compositions for film and media, best known as Drum & Lace. Centered around glistening and ambient synth pulses, the theremin-like Bohemian Cristal Instrument and Maravkova’s processed yet ethereal vocals, “Evapora” is a slow-burning fever dream that feels as though it evokes water slowly evaporating away.

Accompanying the song is a gorgeous and cinematically shot live footage of Maravkova performing the song in the snow covered mountains of her native Czech Republic.

Moravkova and her Bohemian Cristal Instrument will be playing at this year’s Lighting in a Bottle Festival. The lineup is actually pretty bonkers — and her set will be on May 26, 2022.

New Video: Montreal’s Tess Roby Shares an Intimate Visual for Dreamy and Meditative “Up 2 Me”

This week will be very busy: I’ll be attending and covering this year’s New Colossus Festival. So while they’ll be posts, I probably won’t be posting with the same regularity this week — but it’ll be worth it. But in the meantime, let’s get back to business around here:

Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blur the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with an emphasis on voice as an instrument. 

Roby’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through the Montreal-based artist’s own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director. 

Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello respectively, adding intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material. 

Last month, I wrote about the mesmerizing album title track, the Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS-like “Ideas of Space,” which featured glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming and Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.” 

Ideas of Space‘s second and latest single “Up 2 Me” continues a run of mesmerizing and dreamy material, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, propulsive and skittering beats programmed by BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts paired with Roby’s plaintive vocals.

The accompanying visual for “Up 2 Me” was shot on grainy VHS and is an interview look into Roby’s creative process (to some degree) as we see a black-clad Roby in the studio playing the song, thinking and dancing along to music, as well as the Canadian artist in a snow covered field gently swaying.

“The making of this song was very meditative. It was the first song I wrote following a situation that had taken a toll on my mental health, and had kept me out of the studio for a long time,” Roby explains in press notes. “The first iteration came in the summer of 2020, and it rested as an instrumental demo for a while. When I was close to finishing the album, I searched through all my recordings to find a final track – this one stood out to me. I wrote the vocal melody and arranged the song, then brought the instrumental to Austin Tufts along with a beat and asked him to program and expand on the idea. At this point we had been working together for a while and he was totally immersed in my sonic universe and knew the mood I was after. When I first heard the track with the drums, it was early Spring in April 2021. Montreal had this ridiculous 8pm curfew– it was 7:30pm or so and I left my apartment so I could listen outside. The sun was setting, the streets were empty, and I listened to the track on repeat until I had to run home.” 

New Video: Montreal’s Tess Roby Shares a Symbolic Visual for CInematic “Ideas of Space”

Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blur the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with an emphasis on voice as an instrument.

Roby’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through the Montreal-based artist’s own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director.

Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello to add intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material.

The album’s first single, album title track, the mesmerizing “Ideas of Space” is centered around glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming paired with Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. Sonically, “Ideas of Space” manages to recall to Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.” 

Directed by Roby, the fittingly cinematic visual that features Roby lost and wandering the forest near the Quebec coast in a white frock. Her journey is arduous and in the video’s narrative, seems to take days — with a night sleeping in the elements. Eventually she comes to a clearing. And in the clearing, she comes across a Stonehedge-like structure where she encounters herself — and is greeted with a warm and loving hug.

“The video was made with a small and incredible team composed of DOPs and editors Patrick Boivin and George Allister (VideoCompany), and producer Sarah Mackenzie,” says Tess Roby. “It was an ambitious undertaking and I’m very proud of what we have made together.”

New Video: Collapsing Scenery Shares Woozy and Uneasy “You Already Know”

Collapsing Scenery — long-time friends, New York-based artist and musician Don De Vore (Ink & Dagger, Sick Feeling, Lilys, The Icarus Line and Amazing Baby) and Los Angeles-based artist and musician Reggie Debris — can trace their origins back several years back: De Vore and Debris initially began collaborating in programming events with the Lower East Side-base D’agostino and Fiore Gallery.

Their first collaboration was a video installation, which led to a month of music and visual programming called “Rebuild Babylon.” That turned into a traveling residency series, which led to the duo’s musical project Collapsing Scenery.

Through their multimedia-based work, De Vore and Debris have been passionate about challenging and subverting perceptions in both the worlds of outsider art and political protest — and embracing the joyous, carnivalesque aspects of both. A 2016 artistic residency in New York saw Collapsing Scenery create a psychedelic immersive art installation that incorporated projections, layers of colorful plexi-glass, a reading from Genesis P-Orridge and performances from De Vore and Debris. Meanwhile in a clash of the old and the new, the gallery upstairs hosted a Picasso exhibition.

As a musical outfit, the duo started back in 2013 “in a pall of paranoia and disgust.” De Vore and Debris put their guitars away and began acquiring and assembling as much analog electronic equipment as possible, including samplers, step sequencers, synths and drums machines, and plugged them into a variety of effects pedals.

Their initial writing and recording sessions were largely improvised and were accompanied by Ryan Raspys (drums). The material they wrote managed to express their rage and frustration at the stage of the world, while drawing from punk rock, industrial electronica and techno, hip-hop, free jazz, disco, folk and more. Since they started the music project, De Vore and Debris have been restlessly prolific while also collaborating with Ninjaman, Money Mark, and James Chance among others.

The duo’s recently released Acid Casual EP is the first batch of material released from many hours of recordings they made during the pandemic. And with Acid Casual, the members of Collapsing Scenery sees the pair pushing deeper into sonic and genre experiments while finding beauty — and even joy — hiding within the cracks of the existential dread we’ve all felt in the past couple of years.

You Already Know,” Acid Casual‘s latest single is a woozy and uneasy song centered around glistening and blown out electronic percussion, a mournful horn sample, live drumming wobbling synth arpeggios, Debris’ dreamily plaintive vocals, a chanted hook and bursts of scorching guitar before gently fading out. Sonically, “You Already Know” seems to nod at Tour de France era Kraftwerk, psych pop, trip hop and psych rock in a seamless and mind-bending fashion.

Directed, shot and edited by Kansas Bowling, the video stars Floyd Cashio, Park Love Bowling, Lo Espinosa and Kathy Corpus in a surreal fever dream fueled by obsession, slow-burning dread, violence. The video features a cameo from the members of Collapsing Scenery as inept and goofy hotel bellboys.

New Video: Kinlaw Shares Mind-bending Visual for “The Mechanic”

New York-based composer, choreographer, multi-disciplinary artist, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Sarah Kinlaw may be best known for their multimedia-based productions and collaborations with the likes of Devonte Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange), Caroline Polacheck, SOPHIE, Dan Deacon and others that feature as many as 200 performers. She was aslo the co-founder of acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Softspot

Kinlaw stepped out into the limelight as a solo artist with her solo recording project Kinlaw. Last year, saw the release of the New York-based artist’s full-length debut, The Tipping Scale, which found Kinlaw showcasing their work in a new light.

Initially writing material with a goal of finding entry points that felt honest and authentic to their work, Kinlaw frequently saw their music directly relating to motion: “I would start with a gesture and let it build into something until a memory attached itself to it,” the New York-based artist explained in press notes. “The memory would become a story and the story would reveal itself as something important that needed to be expressed in this album.” 

Lyrically, the album’s material bridges the universal with the deeply personal as Kinlaw explores loss, empathy, regret, confusion, strength, identity, hope, power, and change among other things. Sonically, the album’s songs are centered around slick electronic production and a refined compositional sensibility with ornate flourishes paired with the New York based artist’s expressive and gorgeous vocals.

In the lead-up to The Tipping Point‘s release, I managed to write about three of the album’s singles:

  • Blindspot,” a slow-burning and dramatic track featuring Kinalw’s yearning and ethereal crooning paired with shimmering synth arpeggios and stuttering beats.
  • Permissions” a track inspired by physical movement that evokes a rapidly vacillating array of emotional states including confusion, heartache, self-flagellation and despair as its narrator seemingly is in the middle of a difficult conversation with themselves. 
  • Haircut,” a deeply intimate monologue of a song that reveals its narrator’s inner world with an uncomfortable and unvarnished honesty that was centered around reverb-drenched, ethereal production featuring glistening synth apreggios and bells.

Kinlaw begins 2022 with the release of a remix EP titled TTS Extended — and The Tipping Point‘s fourth single, album opening track, the Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel-like “The Mechanic,” a single, which features an expansive, cinematic production and arrangement of glistening and twinkling synth arpeggios, skittering castanet-like percussion, angular guitar and bass paired with a soaring hook and Kinlaw’s achingly expressive vocals. The song’s narrator discusses their feelings about a relationship that’s rooted in a weird and uneven power dynamic; but the song also touches upon regret, self-doubt and confusion simultaneously.

Created by with New York-based artist and creator Dance Lawyer over the course of several months, the recently released video for “The Mechanic” sees Kinlaw attempting to bridge the gap between video recording and live performance, while pushing the idea of movement being deeply musical — and sound is an intricate dance.

Kinlaw’s interest in psychoacoustics and cinematic sound design led her to recruit sound designer Colin Alexander, who weaves in sound effects with Kinlaw’s choreography, giving the video’s dance sequence and added musical quality.

“The remixes are playful. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still exploratory,” Kinlaw says. “Video brought new life into these recordings initially, so I worked with Colin Alexander to weave SFX with the choreography, turning the dance into this added musical element within the track.”