Tag: Amsterdam The Netherlands

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Cinematic and Symbolic Visual for Shimmering “No Room”

I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumetnalist  Nana Adjoa over the past few years. And with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter received attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s singer/songwriter soul sound and approach that brought Bill Withers and others.

The Dutch-born JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to when she joined her first band as a teenager. At the time, she chose to play bass because “every other instrument had been claimed,” she recalls with a laugh. Unbeknownst to Adjoa, her mother had once played bass in a Ghanian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar.

Adjoa went on to the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material.

Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and its follow-up, Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who has crafted material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. Adjoa set out to write her full-length debut at the beginning of last year. Working in her own studio, she not only had the freedom to write and record songs nearly simultaneously, she had a wide palette of instruments at her disposal. The end result is her forthcoming full-length debut, the Wannes Salomé-produced Big Dreaming Ants, slated for a September 24, 2020 release. 

Reportedly lush yet delicate, intimate yet expansive and moody yet hopeful, the album’s material is features a diverse array of multi-layered tonal textures — including thumb piano, vibraphone and a vintage harmonium along with guitar, bass, vocals, etc. Although Adjoa — who, typically plays guitar on stage — handled, the majority of the album’s instrumentation herself, the album features a collection of Amsterdam’s finest players collaborating with her, including the members of her live band: Mats Voshol (drums), Daniel van Loenen (trombone), Tim Schakel (guitar), Jonas Pap (strings) and Eelco Topper (vibraphone). Thematically,  the album reveals a young artist poised to make a clear and concise artistic statement, in which she continues an ongoing search for identity while pondering life’s great philosophical questions. “For me,” she says, “music is a way to believe in something deeper.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single, the shimmering “Throw Stones.” Centered around a radio friendly hook, fluttering flutes, fuzzy synths, and a looping guitar line, the song features a narrator, desperately trying to calm themselves and their emotions in the face of internet trolls, digital clashes and overall uncertainty. Big Dreaming Ants’ third and latest single “No Room” is a decidedly trippy affair featuring  shimmering guitars, a strutting and sinuous  bass line, atmospheric electronics, twinkling blasts of keys, an expansive song structure, and Adjoa’s gorgeous vocals, the song may be the most expansive song of her career, as it has elements of shoegaze, indie rock and Afro pop. 

Directed by Rudy Aisbey, the recently released video for “No Room” is a cinematic and highly symbolic visual that make connections between Adjoa’s Ghanian roots and her Dutch upbringing, the passion for music that she can trace back to being small, the cultural misunderstandings between child and parent — especially when the child does something unusual. 

“The vision was to bring Nana’s duality in culture and music together,” Rudy Aisbey says in press notes. “Her name stands for so much more in Ghanaian culture. Nana means king/queen and Adjoa is her day name (Monday) which stands for peacemaker. For me, Nana’s music is a journey to finding the answers to life. Nana guides us with music to help us find those answers. I wanted to bring that journey to life in the visuals. In this video we see more of her Ghanaian culture and a journey to finding self— even though people want to put you in a box or want you to become someone else. In the end, she chooses herself. As Nana’s name represents, I hope her music guides people to choose for themselves, to learn more about their heritage in order to gain learnings from heritage and grow. Especially in these times, it is important to know where you’re from, in order to know where you’re going. We could all use a peacemaker.”

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Forward-Thinking Yet Accessible New Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  Nana Adjoa — and as you may recall, with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter began to receive attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s singer/songwriter soul sound reminiscent of Bill Withers and others. 

Adjoa can trace the origins of her professional career back to when she was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material. 

Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who crafts material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. The JOVM mainstay’s highly-anticipated full-length debut is slated for release this fall. The forthcoming album’s second and latest single “Throw Stones” features shimmering and looping guitar figure, metronomic-like drumming, brief blasts of handclaps and fluttering flute  and fuzzy synth arpeggios and a brooding string arrangement paired with Adjoa’s plaintive vocals — and it’s all held together with an infectious hook. And while the song manages to be radio friendly, the song is much murkier under its surface, as its narrator is trying to calm a rumbling anxiousness. 

“This song is about me calming myself down in difficult times. To feel, regroup, and reflect,” Adjoa says in press notes. “If you need that right now, to feel it to embrace it and slowly heal, you can listen to this song and count to 10. You don’t always have to be ‘on’, you are allowed to take time, to rest and come back feeling refreshed, better and stronger. I hope this song gives you pause, time to breathe.”

New Video: Amsterdam’s Cubicolor Releases a Mediative Visual for “Rituals”

Amsterdam-based act Cubicolor is an internationally acclaimed electronic trio that features a lineup of accomplished musicians and producers:

Ariann Olierook, a member of production duo 16BL and Cubicolor, who acts as the public face of both acts. Olierook has been writing and recording music professional over the past 20 years — and has toured globally for the past 15 years. Described as a “student of music” by his Cubicolor bandmate Tim Digby-Bell, Olierook has developed reputation both within the project and without as constantly learning, honing techniques, restlessly experimenting and trying new ideas and building his own instruments. including custom modular synths, mixing decks and speakers that trio uses for their recording sessions.
Tim Digby-Bell, a London-born singer/songwriter, poet and playwright, who began to learn the guitar when he turned seven.  Growing up, he was heavily influenced by Nick Drake and others. Before he joined the Amsterdam-based electronic act, the British singer/songwriter was best known for being in London-based indie quintet Duologue. 
Through their earliest releases, Duologue quickly became a buzzworthy act, and they wound up signing to a major label. Sadly, while on their first Stateside tour – a momentum and career building tour, at that – one of Digby-Bell’s bandmates was diagnosed with leukemia. With an uncertain future looming in front of them, the band spilt up. Since the band’s breakup, that now-former bandmate has recovered from his illness.

Roughly two years after Duologue split up, Digby-Bell was introduced to Olierook and Peter Kriek — and after collaborating with the duo on “Falling,” became a permanent member of Cubicolor in 2016.
Kriek is the most mysterious and enigmatic member of the act. He grew up outside of Amsterdam, attended university and started a successful IT company while co-founding 16BL and Cubicolor with Olierook. Roughly 15 years ago, Kriek decided to withdraw from much of normal life, leaving his company and living a monastic-like and solitary life on a houseboat, which doubled as recording studio.
Reportedly, Kriek doesn’t listen to much modern music and is generally unreceptive to new ideas – and although his living situation and habits are challenging to deal with, his 16BL and Cubicolor bandmates will openly admit that he has an non-Western ear for melody and is one of the most talented musicians and producers they’ve ever met or worked with.
Since Cubicolor’s formation in 2014, the act has released three EPs and a handful of singles through Anjunadeep Records that found the act’s sound moving from progressive house to experimental electronica. The act’s breakthrough,  full-length debut Brainsugar was heavily supported by Spotify‘s Austin Kramer, Pete Tong, Joris Voorn and Kölsch, received airplay throughout the UK and KCRW and received critical praise from Mixmag, RA, Thump, Consequence of Sound and DJ Mag, which gave the album a 9/10 review. Brainsugar album tracks were remixed by Patrice Baumel, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas— and those tracks received support and play in clubs throughout the world. And adding to a growing profile, the album has amassed over 40 million streams globally.

Back in 2018, the band had written, recorded, and finished what was supposed to be their sophomore full-length album Trick of Light. The album was delivered to their label and to the digital streaming platforms. A full press campaign for the album was planned and then shortly before the official announcement of the album, the band decided to cancel the release and scrap the album. Three album singles were released off the canceled album — “No Dancers,” “Counterpart,” and “Boxed Out.” “Counterpart” received airplay on the BBC Radio 1 programs of Annie Mac, Pete Tong, Phil Taggart and Kölsh. Adam Port’s remix of “No Dancers” was a club hit. “We got home and listened to it, then got on the phone with each other and decided to drop the whole thing,” the band’s Tim Digby-Bell recalls in press notes. “The next week, we went back into the studio and started again. We didn’t keep anything, we shut ourselves on the boat in Amsterdam where we work and didn’t stop until we made the record we wanted to make.

“There were a lot of moments when we weren’t sure we’d ever find what it was we were looking for,” Digby-Bell continues. “On the way, we lost friends, lost loves, battled health issues, lost an album, lost each other and came back together again. Looking back now, it was pretty crazy, but the world keeps spinning and I guess we just don’t want to put out anything that wasn’t true to ourselves as a band, and the very best we can do as musicians, no matter how long it took.”

The trio’s latest album, the long-awaited, Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night is partially inspired by the seemingly endless cycles of space and time and is centered around an unwavering dedication to earnestness of emotion and purpose. Thematically, the album at points touches on much more personal topics than others: the Digby-Bell penned single “Points Beyond” is a loving tribute to a dear friend of his, who died last year. Other album tracks are meant to evoke the uncertainty and fear that the band felt during the writing and recording process. Overall, the album’s material paints an intimate and provocative picture of the trio’s evolution as artists and as people.

“Rituals,” Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night‘s latest single is centered around looping and twinkling piano, thumping beats, Digby-Bell’s plaintive vocals, shimmering synth arpeggios blasts and a soaring hook. And while sonically bearing a resemblance to Floating Points and Bonobo, the track manages to be cinematic and remarkably intimate, delving deep into the psyche and souls of its creators. 

Directed by Callum Bain, the recently released, intimately shot video for “Rituals” stars Misfits and Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy actor Robert Sheehan, who gives a raw and primal performance, as we see him moving through both time and space. “We all have rituals, from habitual daily activities, to practices in meditation, worship, dance,” the video’s director says in press notes. “Movements based on fortune and luck, or just superstition. Do they hinder or help our daily needs? Does it matter? Is the act of doing them reward enough?

“This video explores ritualistic movements, both extreme and delicate. It visualizes the micro-movements and slight variations found in repeated rituals, it observes the forward and backward motion of time.

“At its heart is Robert Sheehan’s performance, primal, instinctive, totally captivating and depicting a state of pure consciousness.

Is he anguished by carrying out these rituals or are the rituals providing an element of comfort or nourishment to an anguished soul? Must we break the cycle of bad habits that have become ritualistic . . . ”

Snowapple is an Amsterdam-based, multi-national, multi-ethnic and multidisciplinary ensemble that specializes in a unique sound that frequently combines diverse and eclectic musical influences, including pop, folk, opera and experimental cumbia among others. Visually, the ensemble uses theatrical elements, extravagant costumes paired with provocative thematic concerns to create epic live sets and videos.

The members of the Dutch ensemble have brought their unique and epic live show to the international festival circuit with sets at Eurosonic Nooderlsag, Cervantino, Ollin Kan, Oerol and Larmer Tree — and they’ve made appearances on a number of TV stations around the world, including Canal11, TV Azteca, and Canal22. Adding to a growing international profile, the act has also received airplay on BBC Radio multiple times.

Snowapple is currently working on their new festival set 4 Lunes, the follow-up to the act’s 2019 theater shows Mr. Moon and Project Lucy and to their political program La Llorona — Ser Mujer (The Weeping One — Being a Woman), which raises awareness of femicides in Mexico. But in the meantime, the act’s latest single, the David Ott-produced “Simple Things” is an adaptation of Armando Tejada Gomez‘s and Cesar Isella’s “Las Simples Coasas,” which has been performed by Chavela Vargas, Mercedes Sosa and countless others. Centered around a cinematic, genre-mashing arrangement that’s one part tango, one part chanson and one part Tropicalia, the Dutch act’s rendition evokes smoky cafes, narrow and foggy European streets and the work of David Lynch but imbued with an aching nostalgia. And as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the song takes on a heightened and deeper meaning: there’s a longing for the things, places and experiences we may never get back — with the acknowledgment that there are things we often say goodbye to way too quickly, not noticing how much they meant to us until they’re gone.

 

 

 

New Video: Amsterdam’s Someone Releases a Low-Budget Horror Film Inspired Commentary on Social Media

Over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink writing about the Amsterdam-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and multidisciplinary artist Tessa Rose Jackson, the creative mastermind behind the rising indie recording project Someone. With the release of her debut EP Chain Reaction, Jackson quickly received attention for pairing her music with an accompanying short film.

The Dutch singer/songwriter, producer and multidisciplinary artist’s sophomore EP Orbit found Jackson exploring the intensity with which art and music can be fused and how they can be more fully enhanced. Thematically the material was an incisive commentary on our overstimulated digital age that suggests that we spend so much time staring into our phones and on social media, endlessly exposing ourselves to external distractions to the point that we’re essentially orbiting each other. And as a result, we rarely touch, rest or even focus long enough to connect to anyone or any particular thing. Orbit received praise from The Line of Best Fit, DIY Magazine, The 405 and NME — with NME picking her set as a highlight of last year’s Eurosonic.  

2020 looks to be a breakthrough year for the Dutch-based Jackson: her highly-anticipated Someone full-length debut, Orbit II is slated for a June 20, 2020 release through [PIAS] Recordings. And already, the album’s first single “Forget Forgive” was recently featured in a pivotal scene of the acclaimed Netflix series Dear White People. Building upon the momentum of the past year or so, Orbit II’s latest single “You Live In My Phone” is a sultry and decided change in sonic direction for the Amsterdam-based artist. Centered around a shimmering synth and key arpeggios, stuttering beats, Jackson’s breathy vocal delivery the song sonically sounds like a slick synthesis of neo soul and Daft Punk. Thematically, the song continues the Dutch artist’s focus on technology and social media on us and our relationships. 

“It isn’t meant as a personal diary log for me to vent my feelings and that’s that. I’d like it to be more of a bolstering experience, a conversation starter for people that recognise themselves in these songs,” Jackson says of Orbit II’s material. “The music is optimistic, even if the lyrics sometimes wade into some pretty harsh waters and this balance -to me -helps to bring perspective, positivity and a little humour into the mix.”

Created by Someone’s Tessa Rose Jackson and directed by David Spearing, the recently released video for “You Live In My Phone” is indebted to 50s and 80s low-budget sci-fi and horror films. We follow the life story of its protagonist, Joe who has spent his entire childhood immersed with his smartphone, to the exclusion of life around him. One night, the grown Joe falls asleep with his trust phony during a thunderstorm, and when he wakes up he finds his phone gone — and his head replaced by a giant emoji. It’s a decidedly absurd tragicomedy that finds our now emoji-headed protagonist desperately alone and misunderstood. Every time that he tries to reach out to another, he’s completely ignored by people on their phones. The only time anyone does connect with him, they spend time taking picture of him for their social media feeds. And in anger, he turns those who have tormented him into emoji-heads. 

Orbit II will be releasing alongside an app that allows listeners to experience the record’s artwork in augmented reality. ” “To me, playfulness is a big part of what I do. I hope to invite people to explore and experience new music (and art) actively, instead of passively. Hands on,” Jackson explains. “This is why the visually interactive element of ORBIT II is so essential.”
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A Q&A with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen

Donna Blue is a rising Amsterdam-based indie act centered around its core duo, romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. Creatively, they’re each other’s muse. And with the release of their debut 7 inch EP, which was released in 2017, the Dutch indie act quickly established a unique and dream-like sound seemingly influenced by Phil Spector, Wall of Sound-like pop, Pasty Cline, yè yè and the work of David Lynch – in particular, Twin Peaks. “Sunset Blvd,” which appeared on that 7 inch was played on Elton John’s Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour.

Building upon a growing profile, the Dutch duo released the yé yé inspired single “1 2 3.” Sung in French, the song describes the lack of a passion within a romantic relationship. And instead of making a standard music video for the song, the duo chose to create an audiovisual monologue conveying the narrator’s longing that’s visually inspired by the nouvelle vague movement.

Released last month through Dutch indie label, Snowstar Records, the self-recorded and self-produced 5 song EP Inbetween finds the act continuing to draw from and seamlessly mesh Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise, Nancy Sinatra, Patsy Cline and yé yé into a unique sound that evokes late nights wandering around narrow European streets, smokey cafes and swooning Romanticism. Personally, listening to the EP reminds me of late nights walking through Amsterdam’s Centrum and the Red Light District and of walking down Frankfurt-am-Main’s Haupwatche and Romer Districts with the aching loneliness of being a foreigner, of being a Black man in Northern Europe. And although that’s a deeply personal lens, the material overall is smoky, cinematic and absolutely gorgeous.

Persfoto 2019-1 (Satellite June)

Persfoto 2019-5 (OAK & FIR)

Inbetween

I recently exchanged emails with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. Current world events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found ways to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the rising Dutch act was here in New York, playing the second annual New Colossus Festival. Shortly after their New Colossus Festival sets, the world as we know it has been at an uncomfortable and indefinite pause. While we do chat about their excellent new EP, we do talk seriously about the impact of the pandemic on their careers, how much Twin Peaks has influenced their work and we reminisce about beautiful Amsterdam. Check it out below.

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WRH: Donna Blue is centered around core duo and romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. How is it like to collaborate and tour with your partner?

 

Danique van Kesteren: Thatʼs a big question to start with. Itʼs hard to explain well, but itʼs very special. I believe thereʼs a certain energy and creativity that only sparks when youʼre completely on the same wavelength as the person you are collaborating with. We work together so intimately that our ideas can flow without speaking.

Bart van Dalen: That being said, working closely together on a project blurs the lines between work and personal life. Itʼs all about keeping a good balance and that takes work. But most of the time itʼs very good. And touring together is super nice. Sharing experiences, traveling to all those places with her, performing and seeing Danique next to me on stage. I like how we can always feel what the other person is feeling on stage and feed off each otherʼs energy during a show.

WRH: Most of the known world has been in quarantine in some fashion since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic last month. How have you been holding up? What have you been spending your time doing? Binge watching anything interesting?


DVK: We mainly have been resting a lot, staying at home reading and cooking healthy food. We did set up a studio at home, so we can record ideas for new songs whenever we want.

BVD: Itʼs a weird time. We wouldʼve been in the US right now taking some time off after a tour. So weʼve been adjusting and taking time to think about where we are going from here. And weʼre binge watching a lot of Mad Men.

WRH: Donna Blue played this yearʼs New Colossus Festival. How did it go? Did you get a chance to take in any local food or bars or anything? Did you have a chance to see anyone play while you were in town? If so, who?

BVD: We had such a good time performing at the New Colossus; itʼs a really good memory. We played 4 shows and met some amazing people. We saw a couple of other artists perform at the festival, like Luke De-Sciscio, Kirsten Knick and Ghost World, which was very fun. And we got to play a Paste Magazine session while we were in town. But every day felt more uncertain as COVID-19 was really hitting Europe hard. So, it was a strange time.

DVK: We were in New York for 5 days, so we tried to explore some of the city, even though it felt like we shouldnʼt. In the mornings we got bagels and we walked around the neighbourhood a little. Some of our band went to MOMA the last day before it closed. But mostly we stayed indoors until it was time to head off to our show. We all shared a big loft, so we just chilled in the living [room] and tried to stay calm and positive.

WRH: You were supposed to head down to Austin for SXSW after New Colossus Festival and unfortunately while you were in town COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Shortly after that festivals were postponing and canceling left and right, including SXSW. How has COVID-19 currently impacted you and your career?

BVD: Yes, that was a hard pill to swallow for everyone. Of course, weʼve worked very hard to get to SXSW and set up a tour around it. And thereʼs a huge financial investment that comes with touring the US. So not being able to play an important festival like SXSW and cancel all upcoming shows does impact our career. But weʼll carry on and keep making music, weʼll just have to wait and see what the scene is going to be like when we can go back out.

DVK: I think it will impact our career the same way it does any artist at the moment. Itʼs all very uncertain when we are going to be able to bring people together for live performances again, and if they even want to come out again when itʼs allowed. Small venues will collapse, international touring will be impossible for a while and it might be a lot harder to get our music in front of interesting parties.

WRH: Youʼre from one of my favorite cities in the entire world –- Amsterdam. I was in the Netherlands three years ago and I miss Amsterdam and the country. So say, Iʼm a tourist and itʼs my first time in Amsterdam, where would I go to get a taste of local life?

DVK: Amsterdam is a really special place. I still canʼt decide whether I love it more when the city wakes up in spring or when itʼs quiet in winter, the narrow streets and bridges covered in snow. It just feels so old and magical. I would recommend just walking past the canals just outside the busy city center. Have a little picnic on the waterfront, maybe smoke a funny cigarette and donʼt forget to look up to stare at the beautiful facades. Go through the ‘9 straatjesʼ or down Haarlemmerstraat for some nice local shops and vintage stores.

BVD: If you like movies, visit LAB-111 (best programming), beautiful art deco cinemas The Movies or Tsuchinsky, or the EYE film museum.

WRH: Whatʼs your favorite spot in Amsterdam to catch live music? Why?

BVD: We have a beautiful venue called Paradiso, itʼs in an old church and saw some real underground action in the 60s. Now itʼs one of the most important concert venues in our country, and still a magical place.

DVK: Bitterzoet is also a venue I really like, itʼs smaller but very cool, and it has a little red light district vibe going on.

WRH: Are there any Dutch acts that should be blowing up that havenʼt yet?

BVD: Definitely. Look up a band called Lewsberg, and Eerie Wanda.
DVK: And a band we love that make[s] awesome music to dance to is called Yin Yin.

WRH: I understand that Elton John played “Sunset Blvd” during his Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour. How did it feel to receive a co-sign from someone as legendary as him?

DVK: So unreal. I never thought in a million years I would hear Elton John say my full name.
BVD: Weʼve also been getting a lot of attention and radio play through it, so itʼs been very helpful.

WRH: I was first introduced to you and your sound through the Paste Session you did last month. So how much has David Lynch and Twin Peaks influenced the band and its aesthetic?

DVK: A lot, especially at the start. The way David Lynch plays with mystery and beauty is something we find really inspiring and try to incorporate in our own music. And visually too, we get inspired by his films for our music videos.

BVD: And of course, the soundtrack and music of Twin Peaks are so good. Being one of the bands playing at the Roadhouse is one of our musical dreams. We try to capture some of that Roadhouse-feeling in our own live performances.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those who would be initially unfamiliar with you and your sound?

BVD: We usually describe it as sultry indie pop under the influence of 60s yé yé, Lynch movies and old Hollywood romance.

WRH: Who (and what) are your influences?

BVD: Musically our influences are mainly artists from the 50s/60s. Think of Serge Gainsbourg, Roy Orbison, Nancy Sinatra, Link Wray. And as mentioned before, so is the mystery from the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

DVK: Next to that we get inspired lyrically and visually by things like our own relationship and stuff we go through, cult movies from the 70s, Jean-Luc Godard, old Hollywood glamour, books and big questions like is there a heaven and would it be fun to go there for all eternity?

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

DVK: For Donna Blue, we try to listen mostly to ‘oldʼ music, but of course so much modern music is great too. Weʼve been listening to Alexandra Savior, Hayley Hendrickx, Babe Rainbow, Kevin Morby, Jess Williamson, Yo La Tengo, SadGirl.
BVD: And I just got a Velvet Underground vinyl for my birthday that weʼve been spinning on repeat.

WRH: Your latest effort Inbetween EP was released last month. Itʼs a gorgeous and cinematic effort that evokes film noir, smoky cafes and bars, strolling down narrow European streets, swooning love – and to my ears, I hear quite bit of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Phil Spectorʼs girl groups in the overall production. Iʼve managed to play the EP quite a bit late at night and for some reason, it reminds me so much of wandering around Amsterdam Centrum and the Red Light District. Is there a unifying theme that holds the EPʼs five songs together?

DVK: Itʼs not so much a theme as it is a feeling. Weʼve tried to translate that place between waking and sleeping into songs. Strange things happen there. Sometimes literally, like in title track Inbetween. But sometimes itʼs more figuratively, like waking up to what love really is.

WRH: “Desert Lake,” “Billy” and “Fool” are among my personal favourites on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about what that songs are about?


DVK: Yes of course, “Desert Lake” is about the badlands every artist needs to cross while they do their work. Right between dreaming up a song and finishing it, a fear always creeps in: is it good enough? No matter how beautiful it is to create things, it will forever come with doubt. For the song we made up a cinematic story about someone getting lost in that madness of art. “Billy” is a song about l’amour fou gone wrong. We wanted it to sound like a sweet little 50’s heartbreak song at the start, but it ends like an eerie nightmare. It leaves you wondering what happened to the person not picking up the phone. And “Fool” is a song about the moment in a relationship you realise there is no such thing as perfect love, even though you thought you had it figured out. Itʼs a personal testament to losing some of that beautiful, open innocence of childhood love when transitioning into an adult relationship. Like an awakening.

WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?

DVK: I think for a big part itʼs a feeling, you just know when thereʼs something still missing from the song.
BVD: Usually when we think a song is complete, we let it sit for a while. Then we listen to it again after a week or two, if it still feels good, itʼs finished.

WRH: Whatʼs next for you?

DVK: Weʼll be working on new music, maybe even a full-length album . .  .
BVD: And of course making plans to set up another tour as soon as we can.

New Video: Introducing the Global Spanning Hip Hop of Persian-born, Kiwi-based CHAII

CHAII is a rising Persian-born, New Zealand emcee and producer. When she was eight, her family migrated to New Zealand — and as it turns out, she was first introduced to hip-hop through Eminem, who at the time had just released The Marshall Mathers LP. Fueled by a growing interest in his music, the rising Persian-Kiwi emcee and producer was rhyming along to his work before she really learned how to speak English. “Mr. Eminem was my English teacher, CHAII recalls in press notes. 

When she was 11, she stated to write her own rhymes to express everything she was feeling at the time — from being a confused third culture kid to her troubles adapting toa new way of life. As a high schooler, the rising Persian-born, Kiwi-based emcee started to make beats to accompany her rhymes. At that point, she realized a deep love for all aspects of creating and writing music from writing, producing, recording and mixing,  And after several years of experimenting, CHAII developed her own sound, which feature elements of traditional Persian music, extra pop and hip-hip, eventually releasing material material that she says is “the closest music to me and who I am.” 

As an adult, she developed an interest in film, and that has created a synergistic approach to her creative efforts, centered around a decidedly DIY ethos. With the release of her debut single “South” earlier this year, which was featured by FENDI, the Persian-born, Kiwi-based emcee exploded into the international scene. Building upon a growing profile, CHAII recently released her latest single, the urgent and defiant “Digebasse,” the second single off her debut effort Safar (Journey). Interestingly, the track features tweeter and woofer rocking beats inspired by a Southern Iranian drum patterns, skittering hi-hats, buzzing synths and a rousing hook — and while being a propulsive club friendly banger, the track which features a guest spot from Australian emcee B Wise sees CHAII delivering an uplifting and defiant commentary on millennial social pressures in English and Farsi that CHAII says “is a positive and uplifting song to say ‘enough’ and to stand up for your rights.” 

B Wise’s guest verse highlights the need to be unified for a single purpose and the desire to be free, adding that “The song hit me from the first listen. It had an anti-establishment vibe to it, yet uplifting and uniting with a great message. The song is a major culture clash, so i had to jump on it!” 

The recently released video was directed by the rising Persian-Kiwi artist and was shot guerrilla-style in Oman with a cast of close friends and locals as extras. Featuring a vibrant and explosive color palette within a slick and modern production, the video reveals an ambitious and talented young artist ready to take over the world — and an intimate view into the world and culture that influenced the rising artist so deeply. In a larger sense, the song and the video are a larger reminder of the fact that hip-hop is the linga franca of the contemporary world. In Frankfurt-am-Main I’ve heard vendors playing Biggie’s “One More Chance” In Amsterdam I went to the Sugar Factory and heard young Dutch DJs spinning NWA and A Tribe Called Quest. And in Montreal, I heard local rappers spitting fire in French. If that doesn’t convince you, this will. Hip hop ain’t dead y’all. It’s as vital as ever. 

New Video: Yip Roc Returns with a Drug Addled and Frenetic Single and Visuals

Earlier this year, I wrote about the rapidly rising Amsterdam-based indie rock act Yip Roc —  Jorn ten Ham (guitar, vocals), Chrissie Quast (keys), Milan Hartsuiker (bass) and Kasper de Boer (drums) — and as you may recall, the quartet over the past couple of years have cut their teeth and honed their sound by playing over 100 shows in and around The Netherlands. They’ve released a string of singles that have been critically applauded by Dutch media outlets for their explosive energy and unique use of organ within their material. Building upon a growing profile in their homeland, the rapidly rising Dutch band are ambitiously setting their sights on a larger profile outside of their homeland with the release of their highly-anticipated debut EP 15 slated for release later this year.

“Zubra,” 15 EP’s first single was a furious and breakneck, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around angular power chords, arpeggiated organs and howled vocals that managed to be a tale of a frustrated, desperate lonely and sexually unfulfilled narrator, full of self-doubt, self-loathing and confusion. “K-Hole,” the EP’s second and latest single begins with a syrupy and sedated intro before quickly turning into a frenetic and tense track centered around angular guitars, punchily delivered vocals and wild organ arpeggios. And while continuing a run of mosh pit friendly rippers, the track finds the single finds the band comparing the effects of taking horse tranquilizers to the effects of a terrible and dysfunctional relationship — in other words, a surreal, mind-fuck in which you’re not quite sure if you’re recover. 

The recently released video continues an ongoing collaboration with production unit HACHE — and it’s a frenetic, quick cut, VHS-filmed, drug-addled mayhem that ends like all drug and boozed-fueled nights do: eating greasy and fatty food. 

 

 

Internationally acclaimed, Amsterdam-based electronic trio Cubicolor, founding members and 16BL production duo Ariann Olierook and Peter Kriek and London-born singer/songwriter Tim Digby-Bell, features a lineup of accomplished musicians and producers:

  • Olierook, who acts as the public face of the Cubicolor and 16BL has been writing and recording music professional over the past 20 years — and has toured globally for the past 15 years. Described as a “student of music” by his Cubicolor bandmate Tim Digby-Bell, Olierook has developed reputation both within the project and without as constantly learning, honing techniques, restlessly experimenting and trying new ideas and building his own instruments. including custom modular synths, mixing decks and speakers that trio uses for their recording sessions.
  • Digby-Bell is a London-born singer/songwriter, poet and playwright, who began to learn the guitar when he turned seven — and when he was growing up, he was heavily influenced by Nick Drake and others. Before he joined the Amsterdam-based electronic act, the British singer/songwriter was best known for being in London-based indie quintet Duologue.

    Duologue quickly became a buzzworthy act with their earliest releases, and as a result, they wound up signing to a major label. Sadly, while on their first Stateside tour – a momentum and career building tour, at that – one of Digby-Bell’s bandmates was diagnosed with leukemia. With an uncertain future looming in front of them, the band spilt up. Since the band’s breakup, that now-former bandmate has recovered from his illness.

    Roughly two years after Duologue split up, Digby-Bell was introduced to Olierook and Kriek and after collaborating with the duo on “Falling,” became a permanent member of Cubicolor in 2016.

  • Kriek is the most mysterious and enigmatic member of the act. He grew up outside of Amsterdam, attended university and started a successful IT company while co-founding 16BL and Cubicolor with Olierook. Roughly 15 years ago, Kriek decided to withdraw from much of normal life, leaving his company and living a monastic-like and solitary life on a houseboat, which doubled as recording studio.

    Reportedly, Kriek doesn’t listen to much modern music and is generally unreceptive to new ideas – and although his living situation and habits are challenging to deal with, his 16BL and Cubicolor bandmates will openly admit that he has an non-Western ear for melody and is one of the most talented musicians and producers they’ve ever met or worked with.

Since Cubicolor’s formation in 2014, the act has released three EPs and a handful of singles through Anjunadeep Records that found the act’s sound moving from progressive house to experimental electronica. The acts breakthrough,  full-length debut Brainsugar was heavily supported by Spotify‘s Austin Kramer, Pete Tong, Joris Voorn and Kölsch, received airplay throughout the UK and KCRW and received critical praise from Mixmag, RA, Thump, Consequence of Sound and DJ Mag, which gave the album a 9/10 review. Brainsugar album tracks were remixed by Patrice Baumel, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas— and those tracks received support and play in clubs. And adding to a growing profile, the album has amassed over 40 million streams globally.

In 2018, the band had written, recorded and finished what was supposed to be their sophomore full-length album Trick of Light. The album was delivered to their label and to the digital streaming platforms. A full press campaign for the album was planned and then shortly before the official announcement of the album, the band decided to cancel release and scrap the album. Three album singles were released off the canceled album — “No Dancers,” “Counterpart,” and “Boxed Out.” “Counterpart” received airplay on the BBC Radio 1 programs of Annie Mac, Pete Tong, Phil Taggart and Kölsh. Adam Port’s remix of “No Dancers” was a club hit. “We got home and listened to it, then got on the phone with each other and decided to drop the whole thing,” the band’s Tim Digby-Bell recalls in press notes. “The next week, we went back into the studio and started again. We didn’t keep anything, we shut ourselves on the boat in Amsterdam where we work and didn’t stop until we made the record we wanted to make.

“There were a lot of moments when we weren’t sure we’d ever find what it was we were looking for,” Digby-Bell continues. “On the way, we lost friends, lost loves, battled health issues, lost an album, lost each other and came back together again Looking back now, it was pretty crazy but the world keeps spinning and I guess we just don’t want to put out anything that wasn’t true to ourselves as a band, and the very best we can do as musicians, no matter how long it took.”

The trio’s latest album, the long-awaited, Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night is partially inspired by the seemingly endless cycles of space and time and is centered around an unwavering dedication to earnestness of emotion and purpose. Thematically, the album themes at points are more personal than others — in fact, Digby-Bell written single “Points Beyond” is a loving tribute to a dear friend of his, who died last year. Other album tracks are meant to evoke the uncertainty and fear that the band felt during the writing and recording process. Overall, the album’s material paints an intimate and provocative picture of the trio’s evolution as artists and as people.

“Rituals,” Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night‘s latest single is centered around looping and twinkling piano, thumping beats, Digby-Bell’s plaintive vocals, shimmering synth arpeggios blasts and a soaring hook. And while sonically bearing a resemblance to Floating Points and Bonobo, the track manages to be cinematic and remarkably intimate.

 

New Video: Amsterdam’s Yip Roc Releases an Explosive, Mosh Pit Friendly Ripper

Amsterdam-based Yip Roc —  Jorn ten Ham (guitar, vocals), Chrissie Quast (keys), Milan Hartsuiker (bass) and Kasper de Boer (drums) — are a rapidly rising indie rock act: over the past couple of years, the quartet have cut their teeth and horned their sound over the past couple of years, playing over 100 shows in and around The Netherlands and releasing a string of critically applauded by a number of Dutch media outlets for their explosive energy and their use of organs within their material. Building upon a growing profile in their homeland, the rapidly rising Dutch band are ambitiously setting their sights on a larger profile outside of their homeland with the release of their highly-anticipated debut EP 15 slated for release later this year. 

Clocking in at a little over two minutes, “Zubra,” the second and latest single off their forthcoming EP is a furious, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around angular power chords, arpeggiated organs and howled vocals — and at its core, is a tale of frustration from a desperately lonely and sexually unfulfilled narrator, full of self-doubt, self-loathing and confusion. “‘Zubra’ is not only a tale of loneliness, but also of frustration. We can all relate to not being desired enough, leading to feelings of self-doubt,” the band says in press notes. “‘Zubra’ encapsulates the need to release and voice these concerns in a midnight howl. Sometimes you just need to break shit — whether it’s something else or even in yourself.” 

Directed by Hache.MOV, the recently released video for “Zubra” is a glitchy, VHS filmed. fever dream of booze and drug-fueled violence, depravity and self-destruction as we follow a series of desperate, dysfunctional characters.