New Video: The Church Shares Haunting and Dream-like Visual for “Realm of Minor Angels”

Founded back in 1980, the Sydney-based ARIA Hall of Fame inductees The Church — currently founding member Steve Kilbey (vocals, bass, guitar); longtime collaborator and producer Tim Powles (drums), who joined the band in 1994 and has contributed to 17 albums; Ian Haug (guitar), a former member of Aussie rock outfit Powderfinger, who joined the band in 2013; multi-instrumentalist Jeffery Cain, a former member of Remy Zero and touring member of the band, who joined the band full-time after Peter Koppes left the band in early 2020; and their newest member, Ashley Naylor (guitar), a long-time member of Paul Kelly’s touring band and one of Australia’s most respected guitarists — was initially associated with their hometown’s New Wave, neo-psychedelic and indie rock scenes. 

Over the course of the next couple of decades, they became increasingly associated with dream pop and post-rock: Featuring shimmering soundscapes, their material took on slower tempos while built around their now, long-held reputation for an uncompromising approach to both their songwriting and sound. 

Their 25th album, 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity was released to critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, who called the album “a 21st-century masterpiece, a bright beam of light amid a generic musical landscape, and truly one of the Church’s greatest releases.” 

The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity — and their 26th album! —  The Hypnogogue was released earlier this year release through Communicating Vessels/Unorthodox. 

The Hypnogogue is the band’s first full-length concept album: Set in 2054, the album follows its protagonist Eros Zeta, the biggest rock star of his era, who travels from his home in Antarctica to use the titular Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging and moribund fortunes. “The Hypnogogue is set in 2054… a dystopian and broken down future,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. “Invented by Sun Kim Jong, a North Korean scientist and occult dabbler, it is a machine and a process that pulls music straight of dreams.”

The Hypnogogue is the most prog rock thing we have ever done,” Kilbey says. “We’ve also never had a concept album before. It is the most ‘teamwork record’ we have ever had. Everyone in the band is so justifiably proud of this record and everyone helped to make sure it was as good as it could be. Personally, I think it’s in our top three records.”

In the lead to the album’s release, I wrote about three of its singles:

  • The album’s expansive and brooding title track and first single, “The Hypnogogue.” Featuring the band’s swirling and textured guitar-driven sound paired with Kilbey’s imitable delivery, the song introduces listeners to the album’s characters — Eros Zeta and Sum Kim. The song follows Zeta, as they’re traveling to meet Kim, to go through the titular hypnogogue. But during the toxic and weird process, Zeta winds up falling in love with Kim. As Kilbey says, “. . . it all ends tragically (of course . .. as these things often do). 
  • The jangling and deceptively upbeat “C’est La Vie,” which continues the album’s narrative. Zeta’s agent warms him not to mess with the hypnogogue. “His manager has heard some bad rumors about it, and he doesn’t want his boy all strung out on this unknown thing,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. The song ends with a gorgeous, shimmering fade out. “Musically, the song is a fast-paced rocker very much initiated by our guitarist Ian Haug. But it has plenty of twists and turns and ends up fading away in a delicate and winsome way.” 
  • No Other You,” a glittering glam rock-like ballad with some Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie guitar work and a cinematic quality paired with Kilbey expressing an aching, almost desperate longing. “No Other You” may arguably be the most straightforward and earnest song of the band’s extensive catalog. The song continues the album’s narrative — but on a more personal level: The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains that the song is an “ultra-romantic song that Zeta writes for Sun Kim Jong, who is the inventor of The Hypnogogue. It’s a heartfelt song about an irreplaceable woman. And the Church gets to explore a slightly glam rock feel to boot.”

The band will be embarking on a second leg of their North American tour to support their 26th album during the fall. The tour will see them playing dates across the West Coast, Southwest, Southeast and Illinois. The band will be offering a limited number of VIP packs on the tour’s second leg, which will include the show ticket, early venue access, an invitation to the band’s soundcheck, a special meet and greet with the band, exclusive merch and the ability to watch a portion of the show from the side of the stage, where available. Tour dates are below. 

Coinciding with the fall tour, the acclaimed Aussie outfit recently released a digital deluxe edition of The Hypnogogue that will include material originally cut from the 13-song album.  

The deluxe edition will include “Realm of Minor Angels,” a slow-burning and gorgeous, torch song-inspired ballad featuring shimmering mandolin from Ian Haug and slide guitar from Ashley Naylor paired with Kilbey’s crooned delivery. Sonically, “Realm of Minor Angels” wouldn’t sound out of place on Starfish or Gold Afternoon Fix

“‘Realm of Minor Angels’ is without doubt one of my favorite singles The Church has ever released,” The Church’s Steve Bilberry says. “From the moment [guitarist] Jeffrey Cain started playing the opening riff, I was hooked. The singing and lyrics are my own subtle homage to the torch songs of the ‘60s and check out Ian Haug’s mandolin lines and Ashley Naylor’s slide work!”

Directed by Clint Lewis and featuring additional footage shot by Danial Willis and Randall Turner, the accompanying video for “Realm of Minor Angels” stars Carol Larsen as Sun Kim Jong and Selma Soul as Eros Zeta. We see Laren’s Sun Kim Jong discovering Soul’s Eros Zeta strung out and nearly comatose. Through what seems to be flashbacks or perhaps a vivid hallucination, we see Kim Jong and Zeta slow dancing together and other tender moments. Televisions flash all around them in the room, and we see the members of The Church performing the song from the studio. Much like the preceding videos, this one has a haunting, dream-like quality.

Going beyond the initial storyline told in The Hypnogogue, The Church will be releasing Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars, a companion CD that will serve as a continuation of the storyline. The limited-edition CD will only be available at merch tables on the tour.

The original dream-pulling storyline,” as Kilbey explains, “follows Eros Zeta, the biggest rock star of 2054, who has traveled from his home in Antarctica (against his manager’s advice) to use the Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging fortunes. In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of course, as these things often do).”

Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars expands and builds upon the mythology of The Hypnogogue. As the band’s Kilbey explains: “Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars were formed in 2048 in Antarctic City in Antarctica. They had many hits including ‘Realm of Minor Angels’ and ‘Sublimated in Song’ and in all released six collections of music. They toured the postwar world incessantly during the early 2050s and were capable on a good night of selling out concerts in most countries that still had gigs. The band were troubled with personnel and substance problems culminating in Eros Zeta’s addiction to Sky and his subsequent inability to write new songs.

“In 2054, he journeyed to Korea where he used the Hypnogogue to create new music. After the disastrous effects these songs created, he died in a traffic accident whilst on his way to the airport to return home. The songs were thereafter prohibited in most places. In recognition of his services to Antarctican music, a statue was built to honor him in the Australian Quarter of Antarctic city. The band continued on without him but to little success which led to them disbanding in 2057.”

With the release of their debut single, 2021’s “Colder,” Los Angeles-based synth duo Sacred Skin — Brian DaMert and Brian Tarney — quickly stole the hearts of coldwavers and goths globally with melancholic undertones and pitch perfect songwriting.

A subsequent series of singles starting with “Eyes Closed” and “Far Away” earned them live shows at Substance Festival, the Hollywood Palladium and elsewhere. Building upon a growing profile, last year’s full-length debut The Decline of Pleasure saw the rising synth duo quickly establishing their sound and approach: dreamy New Wave-inspired arrangements made from the use of early digital outboard gear and samplers paired with DaMert’s vocal delivery, expressing lust and longing throughout.

The rising Los Angeles-based synth duo recently signed to Artifact Records. And to celebrate the occasion, Sacred Skin share a cover of Seona Dancing‘s “Bitter Heart.”

Seona Dancing was a short lived synth duo featuring Ricky Gervais (yes, that Ricky Gervais) and Bill Macrae. They released a two Phil Thornalley-produced singles back in 1983, which were released through London Records before they were dropped and never heard from again. Sacred Skin’s Brain Tarney has had a copy of the “Bitter Heart” 12-inch single in his DJ bag for about a decade. And when reflecting upon covering the song, he said that people always ask him about it, without fail, and that they’ve never been able to track down a single cover of the song — until now!

While the original was an icy, New Order-like take on post punk and synth pop, Sacred Skin manages to craft a fairly straightforward cover that subtly soften the song’s edges and gently pushes the tempo up a bit while retaining the brooding nature of the original.

“We are thrilled to announce that we have signed with Artoffact Records amongst so many of our peers and heroes. Our second LP (and first for Artoffact) will be released in Spring of 2024,” the band excitedly says. “In the meantime we are dropping a cover of a little known new wave anthem from Ricky Gervais and his short lived career as a recording artist before finding his second calling as one the world’s biggest comedians.”

Sat, Oct. 14 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah w/ Forever Grey
Sun, Oct. 22 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project w/ Fearing
Mon, Oct. 23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Liquid Joe’s w/ Fearing
Tue, Oct. 24 – Denver, CO @ The Crypt Bar w/ Fearing
Thu, Oct. 26 – Austin, TX @ LEVITATION – Elysium 
Fri, Oct. 27 – San Antonio, TX @ Vice Versa 
Sun, Oct. 29 – El Paso, TX @ Modern Art Bar w/ Fearing
Tue, Oct. 31 – Mesa, AZ @ Nile Underground w/ Fearing
Wed, Nov. 1 – Las Vegas, NV @ Backstage Bar w/ Fearing
Fri, Nov. 10 – Los Angeles @ Substance Festival

New Audio: Melody Fields Share Rousingly Anthemic “In Love”

Influenced by SpiritualizedMoon Duo, and La DüsseldorfGothenburg-based psych outfit Melody Fields have quickly established and cemented a sound that seamlessly meshes elements of psych pop, indie rock and shoegaze with enchanting melodies.

The Swedish psych outfit will be closing out the year with the release of two albums: 1901, which is slated for an October 13, 2023 release and 1991, which is slated for an November 10, 2023. Both will be released through Coop Records in the European Union and Nudie Records here in the States. The band explains that 1901 can be best described as a rock album with psychedelic influences. “It showcases repetitive guitar riffs, distorted soundscapes, and mesmerizing three-part harmony vocals. Throughout these musical landscapes, we were fortunate to collaborate with guest musicians from esteemed bands such as Goat and Holy Wave, who added an extra layer of sonic brilliance to the album,” the members of the band explain.

“On the other hand, 1991 takes a different approach as a concept album that evolved from late-night jam sessions, experimental sounds, and danceable music,” the band continues. “It presents four remixes, including contributions from Goat and Al Lover, which inject new life into the original composition ‘Jesus’ from our previous album. The remixes offer fresh perspectives and invigorating interpretations, breathing new energy into the music and allowing it to evolve further.”

Last month, Melody Fields shared 1901 single “Hallelujah,” a Happy Mondays-meets-Primal Scream-like song that saw the band pairing propulsive bongo drum beats, glistening synths, bouyant Larry Levan-era house piano and thumping bass lines with hazy and dreamily delivered vocals. The result is a trance-inducing and trippy dance floor friendly bop that recalls the Madchester sound — but with a sleek, modern feel. “Drawing inspiration from iconic bands like Primal Scream and Happy Mondays, the track transports you to the glory days of early 90s dance-oriented rock,” the members of Melody Fields explain.

1901‘s latest single “In Love” is a fairly straightforward psych rock anthem built around buzzing power guitars, arena rock bombast and rousingly anthemic hooks and choruses that sounds inspired by Give Out But Don’t Give Up-era Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain and others, fueled by an infectious rambunctiousness.

“This track features infectious rhythms and catchy melodies that capture the raw power and rebellious spirit of Rock’n’Roll, inviting you to unleash your inner passion and let the music ignite your soul,” the Gothenburg-based outfit explains.

Lyric Video: Norway’s Beharie Shares Bouyant and Flirty “Desire”

Rising Norwegian singer/songwriter and pop artist Beharie has been busy over the past handful of years. Since 2019, he has released three EPs:

Each of those efforts have seen the rising Norwegian artist constantly expanding upon his sound, artistry and message, while refining his focus towards what’s to come.

Beharie’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, the 12-song Are You There Boy? is slated for an October 20, 2023 release. The album reportedly meets the artist where he is right now and invites listeners into a carefully curated sonic world that features vibrant melodies and delicate, smooth vocals. Thematically, the album sees the rising Norwegian exploring theme so love, self-doubt, desire, longing and pain with his heart worn proudly on his sleeve — and with a remarkable sense of nuance. The album follows a multi-faceted, fully-fleshed out character, who seeks meaningful connections, follows his curiosity where it takes him and ultimately discovers himself. As a result, the album sees its creator and its main narrator exploring the ever-changing, versatile aspects of his own humanity and identity, showcasing his growth, insecurities, passions and complexities.

“This album has given me the opportunity to delve into various aspects of my own identity, and in the process, I have explored the complexity inherent in my personality and expression,” Beharie explains. “We have nurtured different characters and played with their distinct expressions. These characters have been assigned unique names: Washed-out jeans boy, float in space boy, constant fear boy, make believe boy, and lost in thought boy.” Fittingly, each of those characters represents fragments of Beharie’s soul, personality and essence — all in search of a sense of belonging.

The album also features collaborations with two rising singer/songwriters — Dublin‘s Uly and The Netherlands’ Judy Blank.

Are You There Boy?‘s latest single, the flirty and playful “Desire” is built around a buoyant melodic groove, skittering boom bap serving as an ethereal and silky bed for Beharie’s tender and yearning delivery. The song’s narrator sweetly wants to prove to a prospective love interest, that he’s the right one for them — and for the rest of their lives. Behave explains that “Desire” is a confident love song about “insisting on being the right one for someone you like and telling them without any doubt, and being willing to do anything to make it happen.” 

Ultimately, “Desire” to me reveals a songwriter, who is able to effortlessly craft a catchy pop tune rooted in earnest, heartfelt lyricism while eschewing cliches and formulas.

Over the course of 2016-2016, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering acclaimed Bay Area-based indie electro pop outfit The Seshen. Led by founding members Lalin St. Juste (vocals) and Akiyoshi Ehara (bass, production), the acclaimed sextet have released three albums of material that draws from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Erykah Badu, Jai PaulJames BlakeRadioheadBroadcast, hip-hop, indie rock and electronica, among others. 

Last month, the members of The Seshen made two announcements:

  • Their return in the wake of the recent separation and divorce of its founding members
  • Their long-awaited fourth album Nowhere, which is slated for an October 6, 2023 release

Nowhere reportedly not only showcases the sextet’s remarkable musical prowess, but also offers a window into the changing nature of love, the fragility of human connections, and the different ways to embrace impermanence. It also marks the closing of one important chapter and the beginning of a new one for the band, capturing their evolution as individuals and their resilience as a band. The album’s material is shaped and rooted in the experiences of its members, including the impact of St. Juste’s and Ehara’s marriage and divorce. 

While St. Juste’s beautiful vocals anchor much of the album’s material, the band’s intricate production work helps to create a sonic landscape that’s simultaneously ethereal and grounded, capturing and evoking the essence of emotional turbulence and self-discovery, while complimenting lyrics based on St. Juste’s journey through the complexities of love and loss. 

Last month, I wrote about album single, the trippy and expansive “Hold Me,” which pairs St. Juste’s ethereal and yearning vocal with a sleek and hyper-modern production featuring dub-like glistening and wobbling synth oscillations, a sinuous bass line and skittering beats with the band’s unerring knack for catchy hooks. The song is that desperate clinging to the hope that the relationship won’t end, that your lover won’t leave. But there’s the realization that maybe it’s inevitable, and that there’s nothing you can do to stop it or change it.

“‘Hold Me’ is about that moment before loss – the hope, the longing, the desire for love to stay,” The Seshen’s St. Juste told AFROPUNK. “During the separation between Aki and I, we held onto each other to navigate the darkness …a darkness that was dizzying, disorienting, and unfamiliar. We held on to each other and found our way out. This song is about connection even in the face of change.” 

“Waiting for Dawn,” Nowhere‘s latest single is built around a balafon rhythm, pitched percussion, glistening synths, wobbling bass synths and warped and pitched background vocals. St. Juste’s achingly plaintive vocal ethereally floats over the production. The result is to evoke the feeling of being untethered and fraying at the edges from anticipatory grief, knowing that the relationship will end — but you don’t quite know when, where or how.

“‘Waiting for Dawn’ is an expression of anticipatory grief – saying goodbye to something you thought you couldn’t live without,” The Seshen’s Akiyoshi Ehara shared regarding the track, which contends with his separation with St. Juste. “Lalin and I were both beginning to feel untethered and struggling with our mental health. The lyric ‘I’ve been fraying at the edges, coming undone from another lost night, waiting for dawn’ really captures what those days were like – both of us sleepless, trying to hold it together while individually falling apart.”

“I had a period of being really into pitched percussive sounds and balafon music and some of that definitely made its way into this tune,” Ehara says of the song’s production. “Throughout the song, I relate the warped/pitched vocals to those disturbing voices/narratives that can circle around in your head. When engaged in catastrophic thinking and grappling with anxiety it can be hard to discern what your voice is vs. what anxiety and depression are telling you. The way that the vocals start as a natural, unaffected voice and warp into something that becomes less of a voice and more part of the tapestry of the song reflects the difficulty of parsing out what is real and what isn’t when we’re struggling to keep things together.”

New Audio: Glassio and Beauty Queen Team Up on Dreamy and Bittersweet “A Friend Like You”

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-born, New York-based Irish-Persian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam R. spent the bulk of his formative years split between the third largest Emirati city and Monterey, CA. He fell in love with music listening to Pet Sounds and Graceland on his way to school in the mornings. “It was that  juxtaposition of hearing Brian Wilson’s harmonies in a very barren, desert/Arabian landscape that I think planted the seeds for my love for making music that mixes different influences and challenges associations you might have with certain instruments,” Sam explains.

Started over seven years ago, Sam R.’s solo recording project Glassio has seen him amass millions of streams across digital streaming platforms and a loyal fanbase globally as a result of a sound that has seen apply a melodic sweetness to brooding dance beats — and often bridges influences from Big Beat to Chamber Pop to New Wave.

His debut EP 2016’s Poptimism was released to critical acclaim and featured viral single “Try Much Harder,” which peaked at #9 on the Global Viral Charts on Spotify. A series of singles and 2018’s Experience EP saw the New York-based artist quickly establishing an approach that paired electronic music with insightful storytelling.

2020’s full-length debut For The Very Last Time amassed over 7 million streams through digital streaming platforms and was named one of the best electronic records of the year by Bandcamp. Last year’s See You Shine charted at #1 on multiple iTunes Charts globally and made ways in Europe — perhaps as a result of “Breakaway” being featured in Amazon Studio’s Don’t Make Me Go and Netflix’s Locke and Key.

The next year or so will see the acclaimed New York-based electro pop artist release a string of singles collaborating with a number of artists — and the first single “A Friend Like You,” features Los Angeles-based dream pop artist Beauty Queen.

Hawaiian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Katie Iannitello is the creative mastermind behind rising dream pop project Beauty Queen. Iannitello crafts sun-bleached, washed out music that has been described as the perfect soundtrack to crying in the bathroom during a high school dance.

Her Henry Nowhere-produced EP Out of Touch was released to critical praise across the blogosphere for material that drew from her laid-back Hawaiian upbringing paired with 1950s and 1960s songwriting influences and her lilting croon.

Their collaboration together “A Friend Like You” is a dreamy lullaby built around twinkling keys, thumping toms, bursts of angular post-punk like guitars and an anthemic hook paired with Iannitello’s plaintive crooning and the duo’s soaring harmony for the song’s hook and chorus. But despite the song’s anthemic nature, the song is actually a bittersweet and heartbreaking farewell to the “friend that sends you down bad choice road” that recognizes that this is indeed, a farewell forever.

New Video: Miranda Joan Teams Up with CARRTOONS on Soulful and Flirty “Bada Bing!”

Miranda Joan is a rising, Montréal-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and musician, who spent her formative years in Vancouver, where she filled up diaries with emotions, thoughts and experiences that would eventually go on to form the basis of her songwriting.

The Canadian-born artist’s first experiences of music and performing came from high school drama and musical theater. Leaning into soul, R&B and jazz, she found a natural and fitting home for her voice. She began to shape her own sound rooted in intricate songwriting and playful production informed by her journals and diaries, as well as influences like Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, and Robyn among a lengthy list of others.

Miranda Joan relocated to New York to study jazz. And upon her arrival, she opened her inquisitive sound and aesthetic to a host of artists and producers. And fittingly, the grittiness and intensity of the city filtered into her work and approach.

Eventually establishing herself in Brooklyn’s soul and jazz scenes, the Canadian-born artist is the co-host and co-founder of Brooklyn’s Femme Jam, the city’s first all-female led jam session, community initiative to create a womxn-led space with an emphasis on female musicians and artists that specifically fosters inclusivity. For the past eight years, she has been a music mentor with the non-profit SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, where she works with youth 8-18, who stutter.

As an artist and performer, she has provided backing vocals for The Killers, Shawn Mendes, Lorde, Kylie Minogue, Andy Grammer and Sly5thAve and the Orchestre National de Jazz de Montréal for a tribute to Dr. Dre. And through those experiences, she has been on national tours and played sold-out, headlining shows across the country, including her adopted hometown. Her full-length debut, 2021’s Windborne, the follow-up to 2019’s Still EP led to her selection as one of First Up with RBCxMusic Emerging Artists.

Both releases received radio airplay in Vancouver and Los Angeles — and that led to sync placement on Canadian TV show Strays. Adding to a growing profile, “Overstimulated,” and “I Love You, Dwayne” have received praise from NPR, Consequence, EARMILK, Exclaim! — and airplay from CBC and MountainFM in her native Canada, and Jazz FM’s Tony Minvielle in the UK.

Blossoming out of what was originally intended as a one-song collaboration, Miranda Joan has spent the past few years collaborating with acclaimed and rising New York-based musician and producer Ben Carr, a.k.a CARRTOONS on her forthcoming sophomore album Overstimulated. Simultaneously leaning into and letting go of the excessive and the overstimulating, the album sees the Brooklyn-based artist move towards a contemporary soul and jazz sound that meshes the electronic and organic. The album also features contributions from Sly5thAve, Jake Sherman, Ben WIlliams, Huntertones and Kristine Kruta. “It is an album book-ended by songs of affirmation, of rooting, of returning to and loving oneself, intertwined with the messy, chaotic and interconnected web of my hopes, dreams, imagination, love, and heartache”,  Miranda Joan says.

Overstimulated‘s latest single “Bada Bing!” is built around a lush, Quiet Storm-like soul pop production and arrangement featuring an elastic, two-step-inducing groove while Miranda Joan’s sultry and soulful delivery coquettishly dances within the song’s groove.

Directed by Gigi Nettles, the accompanying video for “Bada Bing!” fittingly is a loving and playful homage to The Sopranos and features some of the familiar sights from the show’s introductory sequences with the Montréal-born, Brooklyn-based artist playing the role of Tony Soprano.