Tag: Cocteau Twins

New Audio: Lost Horizons Teams Up with John Grant on a Slow-Burning and Brooding Meditation of Time and Loss

With the release of their full-length debut 2017’s Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise, the members of Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins’ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music. “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”

The world has gotten even worse. And the possibility of a better world seems — at this moment, at least — increasingly dim. Our political, economic and social systems are in the middle of a slow-burning collapse while entire sections of the world have burned down However, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album, In Quiet Moments. Adding to overall sense of doom, fear, heartache and tragedy, as Raymonde and Thomas were about to buckle down and craft the largely improvised instrumental bedrock of the new album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.

Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they eventually sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural Thomas, Penelope Isles’ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim Smith, Gemma Dunleavy, the innocence mission’s Karen Petts, Horse Thief’s Cameron Neal, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin, John Grant, Ballet School’s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others. When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guiding theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.”

During the writing and recording process, COVID-19 paralyzed and frightened the entire world. And while about half of the album’s lyrics were written in the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns, Raymonde in particular, saw a silver lining: people were slowing down and taking stock of their lives. Having heard a lyric written by the aforementioned Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out one phrase “in quiet moments” and thought it would be the perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”

While generally centered around loss, the album’s material is more specifically tied to hope — and as a result, the album is more about rebirth than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators undulating across a dizzying array of moods and voices. In Quiet Moments’ latest single, the lush “Cordelia.” Centered around atmospheric synths, some gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, paired with John Grant’s layered and brooding vocals, the song is a painterly (and brooding) meditation on the passing of time, the changing of seasons and of loss — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance of the fact that all things are transient.

“This was one of the last tracks recorded for the album, though it came from the ashes of one the first improv sessions Richie (Thomas) and I had,” Raymonde explains in press notes. “Listening back to what we started with, I jettisoned the drums and most of the guitars but salvaged a small part of it and turned it into something brand new. Then I had the amazing David Rothon, who I had seen play live with Marissa Nadler a few nights before — and long-time collaborator Fiona Brice add pedal steel and strings respectively. Sitting quietly in the studio with our spacey slice of instrumental swirl, I closed my eyes to imagine a voice. While much of his recent work involves synths and crunchy beats, how he magnificently handles cinematic melancholy in his own work, and specifically in the Scott Walker Prom for the BBC, I knew my dear friend John Grant would nail this. I hoped he might enjoy the freedom of creating some melodic magic alongside elegant emotional lyrics. I sent him the piece, aware that he is always so incredibly busy, and tried to keep my expectations low, in case he had to turn it down, but to my utter and continuing delight he said yes and I’ll have to admit to shedding a tear or two when he sent me back the completed vocal a few weeks later.”

John Grant adds, “I really loved doing this track with Simon. I’d had the idea for this song for a long time and when he sent me the instrumental, I immediately thought: ‘CORDELIA’ – so happy to have found such a beautiful home for this track!”

In Quiet Moments is slated for for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part will be released on December 4, 2020. The second part will be released on February 26, 2021 with the physical release of the entire album.

New Audio: Los Angeles’ Peel Release a Brooding and Atmospheric New Single

Los Angeles-based duo Peel is a new collaboration between multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Sean Cimino and multi-instrumentalist and producer Isom Innis. The project can trace its origins to a month-long recording session the duo held at Innis’ concrete loft above the The Orpheum Theatre. The loft’s cavernous space, which once held fleets of sewing machines thrumming and humming served as the perfect setting for musical experimentation through drums, amps and modular synthesizers.

Last month, I wrote about Peel’s debut single “Rom-Com,” which interestingly enough, was the first song that Innis and Cimino wrote together. Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a woozy guitar solo and a hypnotic, motorik groove, the track may remind some listeners of Gary Numan and Antics-era Interpol to mind while thematically focusing on the difficulty of finding one’s existential footing in the cyclical information spiral. Building upon the attention they’ve received for “Rom-Com” and “Catch and Release,” Innis’ and Cimino’s third and latest single “Citizen X” is an atmospheric and meditative track, featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, a slow-burning groove, stuttering beats, shoegazer-like guitar lines played through delay and reverb pedals paired with a soaring hook and plaintive vocals that reminds me of The Veldt and Cocteau Twins but with a subtle hip-hop nod. “Citizen X” may arguably be the most cinematic leaning track off the duo’s soon-to-be released self-titled, full-length debut, which is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Innovative Leisure. And interestingly enough, the track appears on EA Sports’ FIFA 2K21 Soundtrack.

“’Citizen X’ was an outlier to our usual stream of conscious lyric writing process— the framework began more conceptually,” Peel’s Isom Innis explain in press notes. “It has a tongue in cheek tone and is coming from a disillusioned place. Originally, it was a slower shoe-gaze inspired track, but Sean had the idea to re-imagine it, speed it up and really emphasize the groove and treat the guitar more like Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins].”

Adrian Recordings · Spunsugar – Run

With the release of last year’s attention-grabbing debut EP Mouth Full of You. the rising Swedish act Spunsugar firmly established a unique, genre-blurring sound and approach. which features elements of industrial electronica, post-punk, noise rock, shoegaze and dream pop. And as as a result, the band earned airplay from BBC 6 Music‘s Steve Lamacq.

Building upon their growing profile, the Swedish indie rock act’s highly-anticipated, Joakim Lindberg-produced,  full-length debut Drive-Through Chapel is slated for an October 2, 2020 release through Adrian Recordings.  The album reportedly finds the rising Swedish act seeking to emulate the sounds of beloved acts like Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and others — but while simultaneously crafting some of their hardest hitting material to date. Earlier this year, I wrote about the brooding single Happier Happyless,” a track that sonically recalled 4AD Records while also nodding at contemporary acts like Lightfoils, BLACKSTONE RNGRS and countless others, who have actively pushed the sonic boundaries of shoegaze and dream pop. 

“Run,” Drive-Through Chapel‘s latest single is centered around layers of blazing. pedal effected guitars, a forcefully insistent, industrial thump, rousingly anthemic hooks and earnest songwriting. The end result is a breakneck banger that recalls Lightfoils, The Sisters of Mercy, Chain of Flowers and others — but while possessing the swooning urgency of youth.

 

New Video: Rising Swedish Act Spunsugar Releases a Mischievous Visual for Brooding “Happier Happyless”

Last year, Spunsugar, a rising Swedish indie act, led by Elin Ramstead released their attention grabbing, genre-bending debut EP Mouth Full Of You, an effort that firmly established their unique genre-bending sound and approach, which features elements of industrial electronica,  post-punk, noise rock, shoegaze and dream pop — while also earning airplay from BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq. 

Slated for for a fall release through Adrian Recordings, the band’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Drive-Through Chapel reportedly finds the band seeking to emulate the sounds of Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and others — but while simultaneously crafting some of their hardest hitting material to date. “Happier Happyless,” Drive-Through Chapel’s brooding latest single is a perfect taste of what listeners should expect: shimmering synth arpeggios, propulsive industrial beats, swirling guitars, and a soaring and rousingly anthemic hook paired with Ramstead’s ethereal vocals evoking an aching yearning.  While clearly indebted to 4AD Records, goth and shoegaze, the industrial element to their sound finds the rising Swedish act adding themselves to a growing crop of contemporary shoegazers, who are actively pushing the genre’s sonic boundaries — including acts like Lightfoils, BLACKSTONE RNGRS and countless others. 

“’Happier Happyless’ is a sour and sweet song, tackling subjects of pining, happiness and revenge,” the band explains in press notes. “Having a fittingly slower pace than former Spunsugar singles, this song is also an homage to the shunned 2001 slasher movie Valentine, released a little too late in the post-Scream era. Written with the aim to have’ ‘a memorable hook, a thumping synth bass line and a gazey chorus,’ this is a good introduction to the bands debut album, because of the constant switching of emotional tonality.”

The recently released video employs a relatively simple concept — perhaps inspired by our current period of quarantines: the visual primarily features the band’s Ramstead dancing and singing the song in front of white screen or white wall. A  series of colors — red, blue, yellow and green are projected. At various points, we see her bandmates, who throw balled up pieces  of paper at Ramstead, or they just show up to goof off.  So while the song may be brooding, the video reveals a bit of playfulness. 

New Video: Introducing the Shimmering and Infectious Retro-futuristic Pop of London’s Planet 1999

Planet 1999 is a rapid rising London-based trio that specializes in melancholic yet dance floor friendly songs that mesh elements of 90s shoegaze with bubble gum pop, at points referencing Cocteau Twins, labelmate Hannah Diamond and others. Since their debut last year, the members of Planet 1999 have been busy: the trio co-wrote and co-produced Charli XCX’s “February 2017” off her most recent album Charli; played their live debut with Hannah Diamond; and they’ve been busy putting the finishing touches upon their forthcoming — and highly-anticipated — debut EP Devotion which is slated for release on March 6, 2020.

Their debut single “Spell” was a more of a slow-burning ballad; however, the London-based trio’s latest single “Party” is a decidedly upbeat track, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping boom-bap beats, plaintive and ethereal vocals and an infectious hook. Simultaneously recalling Stereo MCs and JOVM mainstays Yumi Zouma, the track is a dance floor friendly, sugary pop confection that the band says is an ode to “taking a break from a party to go outside and look at the stars.”  

The recently released video by Aidan Zamiri and Eamonn Freel, features the members of the rapidly rising London-based act and cameos from PC Music label head A.G. Cook and Zippy, the band’s mascot designed by visual artist Leon Sandler. The video finds the members of the band performing in and exploring surreal yet evolving 3D landscapes created by Eammon Freel. Much like its accompanying song, the video is mischievously anachronistic, bringing to mind synth pop and dance music videos from the late 80s and early 90s. “We wanted to make a video that felt as cool and surreal as the song,” explains director Aidan Zamiri. “I think it’s the perfect starting point to enter the world of Planet 1999”. 

Led by songwriter/producer and founder of Ice Queen Records and founding member Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins back
to when Lekkas lived in Philadelphia. After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. When he started Palm Ghosts, the project initially began as a solo recording project and creative way for Lekkas to deal with a rather incapacitating blunt of depression and anxiety. Lekkas then spend a long Philadelphia/Northeastern winter recording a batch of introspective songs that he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the Palm Ghost debut album.
After a short tour in 2013 to support the Palm Ghost debut album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. Once he settled in to his new hometown, Lekkas set up a small home studio in the guest bedroom of a rental house on Greenland Avenue in East Nashville, where he eventually wrote and recorded the sophomore Palm Ghosts album, 2017’s Greenland, an album that
featured elements of electro pop, folk and indie rock, influenced by his adopted hometown’s long-held “song-is-king” culture. 2018’s Architecture found Lekkas further influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Dead Can Dance, New Order and The Cure among others — although the album’s first single “Turn the Knife” to my ears, managed to bring New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen to mind but with male/female harmonies.
Palm Ghosts’ latest single “Wide Awake and Waiting” continues a run of material that’s deeply inspired by and indebted to 80s post-punk: this time, the new single brings Joy Division and New Order’s “Ceremony” to mind. And at its core, the song is centered around a similar aching longing, shimmering synth arpeggios and an angular and propulsive bass line.

 

 

Johanna Cranitch is an Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer and the creative mastermind behind the electro pop project White Prism. Cranitch grew up in a deeply musical home, where she was immersed in music for most, if not all of her life. Her father was a priest-in-training, who used to sing Gregorian chants around the house — and as the story goes, when Cranitch was a small child, her Hungarian-born father, a jazz pianist. gave her his blessing by openly declaring that “this one will be musical.”

Her parents encouraged her to go to the Kodaly School of Music, where she was classically trained as a vocalist and as a musician. When she was nine, Cranitch performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Opera Australia Children’s Chorus. But like most young people, she had a love of pop music – especially Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, New Order, and others.  After graduating from high school, Cranitch went on to attend the Australian Institute of Music, where she studied jazz vocals and graduating with honors.

After a stint performing in her native Australia, Cranitch relocated to New York, where she cut her teeth as an assistant recording engineer, writing and recording several hundred demos before joining The Cranberries and The CardigansNina Persson as a touring background vocalist and keyboardist. Many of those demos that she wrote and recorded during her stint as a recording engineer, wound up appearing the debut effort of her first solo recording project, Johanna and the Dusty Floor. While as a member of The Cranberries’ touring band, Cranitch spent a lot of her off-time in Iceland, which helped influenced her latest project White Prism, a project that she saw as much-needed reboot.

Several years have passed since I’ve personally written about Cranitch and as it turns out, the Aussie-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer relocated to Los Angeles. where she’s been primarily been working as a producer. Recently, she finally has had the time to release the music she has been working on over the past couple of years — material that continues to be heavily influenced by the aforementioned Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Cocteau Twins and Joni Mitchell among others. And while being e decidedly synth-based, her work is centered around lyrics that frequently tell stories of love and loss, triumph and failure. 

“Good Man,” is the first new batch of White Prism material in several years. Centered around a sleek and modern production featuring shimmering and arpeggiated bursts of synth, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, martial-styled drumming, Cranitch’s plaintive vocals and an infectious hook, the song manages to be carefully crafted yet rooted in the sort of vulnerability and earnestness  that comes from lived-in experience. Interestingly, “Good Man” is the first single Cranitch every really produced — and came about as a necessity: she didn’t have the budget to hire a producer, so she set about learning how to record and make sounds on her own computer. She then enlisted the assistance of producer and composer Matt Wigton to bring the material home.

“’Good Man’is about fighting for love, for what you believe in and ultimately being on the right side of history,” the Aussie-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer explains in press notes. “I wrote ‘Good Man’ after a difficult period with my then-husband. I was reflecting on our differences and right when I was writing the lyrics, the news came on that Trump had started to attack the health care bill in the courts effectively taking away transgender rights to the health care act. It felt like a very ominous sign of things to come. We were all recovering from the election still and this felt like such an assault on freedom in America.” 

Largely inspired by the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Cocteau Twins, Stereolab and a collection of contemporary shoe gazers, the Brooklyn-based shoegazer act 4Vesta have committed themselves to developing a swirling, mind-bending wall of sound — with a modern touch.

Interestingly,  the slow-burning”Evening Star,” the latest single off the band’s debut EP Light & Chemicals. which was recorded, mixed and mastered at the band’s own studio finds the up-and-coming Brooklyn-based act striving to capture and modernize the one of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless by adding layers upon layers of heavily pedal effected, pitch bending guitars with a subtly motorik-like groove, a soaring hook and ethereal vocals submerged into the trippy yet gorgeous mix.

 

 

The up-and-coming, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK-based psych pop act Moreish Idols — comprised of Caspar Swindells (bass), Jude Lilley (vocals, guitar), Dylan Humphreys (sax), Sol Lamey (drums) and Tom Wilson Kellett (keys, guitar, percussion) quickly emerged into both the local and national scenes with the release of their debut EP, a genre-defying affair influenced by early Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, Tame Impala, and Atlas Sound among others, and an extensive series of high energy gigs across Southeast London’s DIY and grassroots venues. Since the release of their debut EP, the members of Moreish Idols have been busy working on various creative projects, as well as new material — including their latest single “Mobile Phone.”

Clocking in at a little under five minutes, the Falmouth-based act’s latest single is one part atmospheric and breezy Steely Dan-like yacht rock featuring shimmering guitars, whispered vocals and mournful horn lines that turns into a dance punk, disco-tinged, four-on-the-floor, driven freakout reminiscent of Echoes-era The Rapture. And while meshing two distinct moods — a meditative pensiveness with restless anxiousness — the track thematically focuses on escaping from technology to take time out from emotionally draining relationships. “We like to think of the song as a transition for us and a cathartic representation of the big life change we’ve just made,” the band says in press notes. “We move from the slower dream-pop sound of Falmouth in the first half of the track and accelerate into the hectic aesthetic of south London for the second half.”

As the band’s Jude Lilley says of the song in press notes ,“I was reflecting on a time in which I felt suffocated in my relationships with people and my family, and having a phone didn’t help that. It wasn’t until I was living the slacker dream in Cornwall that I realised that this was such a problem. Anytime I’d want to escape and get away from it all I’d never be able to fully isolate myself with my bent iPhone 7 still in my pocket.”