Since appearing on DJ Shadow‘s 2006 album The Outsider, the critically applauded, mostly instrumental London, UK-based act The Heliocentrics, comprised of Malcolm Catto (drums, production), Jake Ferguson (bass), Adrian Owusu (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Jack Yglesias, have cemented a reputation for a compositional approach based on the band’s four musicians’ live improvisation in the studio as a way to avoid typical songwriting and compositional processes and generic song structures, and for a boldly genre-defying aesthetic as their sound possesses elements of jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, psych rock, acid jazz, krautrock and musique concrete. Unsurprisingly, as a result of being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole, the members of The Heliocenters have collaborated with an impressive array of artists including Muluta Astake, The Gaslamp Killer, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius, the legendary and iconoclastic Melvin Van Peebles and others.
Spending well over a decade together, the members of the band refer to their songwriting and recording process as “almost a form of telepathy” with “musical changes that otherwise would be near impossible to write .. . ” Interestingly, the band’s fourth full-length effort, A World of Masks, which is slated for a June 9, 2017 release through will further cement their reputation for being difficult to pigeonhole; but it also marks several new directions for a band that constantly pushes themselves in new directions sonically and thematically. First, the London-based band’s fourth album is the first official release through their new label home Soundway Records after several years on Los Angeles-based Now Again Records — and secondly, the album finds the band collaborating with Barbora Patkova, a young Slovakian vocalist, who the members of the band discovered through a mutual friend. According to the band, Patkova’s sound and vocal stylings “instantly worked with us,” and they quickly discovered an artist, who like them was intimately familiar with an improvisational approach and had lyrics at the ready to sing, frequently in her native Slovakian over any music thrown at her. Lastly, A World of Masks is the first release of rather prolific year or so period for the band: they recently wrote the score to the critically acclaimed documentary about LCD, The Sunshine Makers and have plans to collaborate with the legendary Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arekstra, and to continue their collaboration with Gaslamp Killer with a new album as well, ensuring that The Heliocentrics will be a go-to band to collaborate with on genre-stretching and genre-defying works.
The London-based act’s latest single “Oh Brother” is the second official single off A World of Masks and the single is an awe-inspiring, heady and cinematic mix of psych rock, acid jazz, jazz fusion, 60s blue eyed soul and a subtle hint of psychedelic Bollywood in a song that possesses an explosive and feral immediacy paired with Patkova’s sultry and soulful Nancy Sinatra-like vocals.
Now if you had been frequenting this site towards the end of last year, you might remember that I wrote about the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter BETS, who quickly came to attention with the release of her critically applauded debut effort Days Hours Night. In the blogosphere age, artists have to strike quickly and while the iron is hot — and building upon the buzz she had received, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and producer initially planned to write and record new, original material when the two collaborators discovered that they shared a mutual fondness of Violent Femmes‘ 1983 self-titled, breakthrough debut. And reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS along with her producer decided that the album of original material should be put on hold for a bit, to allow them some time to write and record an her soon-to-be released Violent Femmes tribute album, in which she re-imagined and reworked the original material into haunting and dreamy shoegaze.
BETS’ Violent Femmes album’s first single was a slow-burning rework of “Blister in the Sun“in which guitars were fed through layers of distortion, fuzz and feedback paired with gently padded drumming and BETS’ dreamily distracted vocals to craft a version of the song that slowly pulls apart the song’s familiar melody and chorus in a way that’s both ethereal and moody. The album’s latest single is a radically different rendition of “Gone Daddy Gone”/”I Just Want to Make Love to You” that nods at David Lynch and 60s bubblegum pop as twinkling percussion, shuffling drumming and dramatic bursts of guitar are paired with BETS’ coquettish and bratty vocals. Whereas the original possessed a neurotic and urgent need, BETS’ rendition sounds how I would imagine someone like Nancy Sinatra doing it — swinging and sensual as hell.
Arguably best known for fronting Portuguese breakbeat outfit The Bombazines with whom she recorded and released two full-length albums, Porto, Portugal-born and based vocalist Marta Ren has been a vital part of the Portuguese music scene since the mid-1990s as she’s also lent her vocals to a number of nationally known acts in her homeland and played at some of the country’s most renowned clubs and festivals. However, Ren has a long passion for the deep funk and soul of the 60s and she decided that it was time for her to go solo and front her own project under her own name, eventually hooking up with backing band The Groovelets.
Marta Ren and The Groovelets’ debut effort Stop Look Listen was released to critical praise earlier this year and has received airplay from BBC Radio 6’s Craig Charles, Radio France’s Francis Viel. Adding to a growing international profile Acid Jazz Records’ Eddie Piller has also championed Ren and her Groovelets.
Stop Look Listen’s third single “So Long” is a viscerally emotional, furious, sensual, barn-burning track in which Ren’s soulful and aching wailing with the tight and soulful Groovelets who emphasize the ache and fury in Ren’s vocals with warm, explosive blasts of horns, shimmering bluesy, guitar chords and a propulsive backbeat with a decided psychedelic-leaning. And much like fellow Record Kicks Records labelmates Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, Ren and her Groovelets are set to take over the world, as they pair a powerhouse vocalist with a backing band that can seriously compete with the world famous Dap Kings — while in the case of Marta Ren and the Groovelets’ “So Long” thematically and sonically nods at Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and James Bond soundtracks.
Filmed and directed by Marco Olivera, the recently released music video manages heavily nod at Quentin Tarantino films as Ren is superimposed over black and white stock footage of cities and city traffic at night, 40s big bands and other footage, which further emphasizes the retro feel and sound.
Influenced by Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Janis Joplin, The Pretenders, Crosby Stills and Nash, Carly Simon, The Mamas and the Papas and First Aid Kit, Georgie is a 21 year-old, up-and-coming, Nottingham, UK-based singer/songwriter, who caught the attention of the folks at Spacebomb Records — the label home of Natalie Prass and Julien Baker — for a vocal style that sounds straight out of the mid 1960s and for a lyrical bent that belies her years. Her debut single “Company of Thieves” pairs her husky and soulful vocals with a wah-wah pedaled guitar, a strutting horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, a steady backbeat and an infectious hook in a carefully crafted song that will remind most listeners of Amy Winehouse, Nancy Sinatra and others.
Comprised of founding members Bonnie Bloomgarden (lead vocals) and Larry Schemel (guitar), along with Nicole Smith (bass) and Laura Kelsey (drums), Los Angeles, CA-based quartet of Death Valley Girls have deliberately shrouded themselves in mystery. Besides the fact that they’re incredibly photogenic, very little is known about them, except that their aesthetic is deeply influenced by old-school B movies and biker movies — in fact, at one point, the members of the band had developed a reputation for appearing at gigs wearing all leather and parking their beaten up bikes in old-school biker club formations. Now, over the years I’ve written about the band on a number of occasions — including “Gettin’ Hard,” a single that sonically owes a debt to The Stooges, The Troggs, The Ramones and contemporary acts including Lantern, while “Summertime” had the band taking up shimmering reverb-filled garage psych rock.
“I’m A Man, Too” off the Southern California-based quartet’s soon-to-be-released effort Glow In The Dark will further cement their reputation for crafting old-school-leaning rock — but in this case, in a bratty song that indirectly channels Cyndi Lauper‘s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” The Go-Gos,The B52s, Nancy Sinatra and others after a night of vodka, gin and cigarettes as a bratty and infectious hook and chorus are paired with simple and propulsive percussion and loose and bluesy guitar chords while revealing an in your face self-assuredness.
If you had stumbled onto this site at the end of last year, you would have likely come across a couple of a posts about Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms. Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter […]
Last night, I learned that JOVM has had readers and viewers from over 117 countries across the world — this year. 117! I’m honored, flattered and incredibly humbled that my childhood obsession with music and my labor of love have become a part of so many people’s lives. With 2015 coming to a close, I want to thank you, dear friends for letting me come into your screen and hopefully bring a little bit of joy, wonder and meaning into your lives. And if I’ve done that, I’ve been wildly successful in ways that I never would have dreamt.
Psychic Love is the (mostly) solo recording project of Los Angeles-based Laura Peters, who occasionally collaborates with Erick Jordan. Reportedly inspired by the true crime series that constantly air on Investigation Discovery and other […]
Guaranteed that if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past month or so, that you would have come across a couple of posts on the Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms. Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is probably best known for his work with Awolnation, Liz Phair, Kelly Clarkson, and Macy Gray, the duo have been thrust into the national spotlight for a sound that owes a debt from classic garage rock and pop such as Connie Francis, Pasty Cline, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, the girl groups of the early 60s and others — but with a subtly modern (and anachronistic) twist that makes the sound seem as though it could have been part of a a Quentin Tarantino film.
The duo’s debut single “Betty” first gained the attention across the blogosphere for a subtly scuzzy, lo-fi-like garage-based guitar rock sound that would make you think of the aforementioned Roy Robison and Buddy Holly the song possesses a similar urgent and swooning Romanticism. The heartache expressed by Marlene’s aching vocals is a heartache that we all have known at some point — being desperately in love with a fickle and thoughtless lover, who you know will inevitably break your heart. Following up on the buzz from “Betty,” the duo released a hushed and spectral alternate version of Betty that featured Marlene’s vocals paired with a sparse arrangement that includes a subtly Bossa Nova guitar line. Sonically, the alternate version channels Patsy Cline — in par — in particular, “Crazy” and “Walkin After Midnight.” And as a result, the alternate version aches with a similar desperate loneliness and longing.
Pom Poms latest single “123,” is a swinging and swaggering 60s-inspired soul song in which the song’s narrator describes playing a cat-and-mouse game with a potential suitor, who the song’s narrator sets upon having as hers and hers only. And as a result, Marlene’s sultry and soulful vocals possesses a come hither and stop wasting my damn time quality. Sonically, the song pairs Marlene’s vocals with period specific staccato bursts of organ, propulsive rhythms and some funky guitar chords; thematically (and to my ears), I’m reminded of several songs including Amy Winehouse‘s “Rehab,” and Nancy Sinatra‘s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” as the song possesses a similar brassy confidence.
Over the past year Moonbabies, a Malmö, Sweden-based indie electro pop act comprised of husband and wife duo Ola Frick and Carina Johansson Frick have become something of a mainstay act on JOVM, as I’ve written about several singles off their impressive Wizards on The Beach, which was released earlier this year and have interviewed Ola Frick as part of the site’s ongoing Q&A series.
Although the Fricks have known each other since they were both high schoolers, they started writing and recording together in 1997. And with the release of their debut effort, the Malmo, Sweden-based duo had quickly developed a reputation for crafting an intricate shoegazer rock-based sound. However, by the time the duo had written, recorded and released their critically and commercially successful sophomore effort, The Orange Billboard the duo’s sound expanded and had become refined; in fact, many critics across Europe had compared the album’s sound favorably to Wilco‘s critically acclaimed effort, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. And as a result of the critical attention the album received, the duo embarked on an extensive European tour to support it. War on Sound, The Orange Billboard‘s follow-up effort was a critical and commercial success in Sweden and the album’s title track “War on Sound” won them greater international attention as the song was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
As the story goes, the Fricks were busily working on what would be their highly-awaited, third full-length effort, the couple had begun to feel an increasing pressure to create and deliver songs that were commercially viable — to the point that that they had begun to feel as though they were drifting away from their initial creative vision and spirit. Recognizing that they were in a creative rut, the duo forced themselves out of the their comfort zone, relocating to Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin, they quickly felt in love with the city’s globally renowned EDM and house music scenes; in fact, as a result, the material they had begun writing began to lean heavily towards a more electronic-based sound. However, the duo did feel an entirely different pressure — the pressure of having to prove themselves in a much bigger, much more competitive scene, and after two years in Germany, the Fricks returned to their native country and started the recording progress again.
Upon their return to Sweden, the duo found the recording process to be both unsuccessful and frustrating, as they spent time forcing themselves to be push the process forward, scrapping it when the material didn’t feel exactly how they wanted it and then starting over, which according to the Fricks, they did more than 30 times. Interestingly, as the band has publicly noted, the birth of their son seemed to be the catalyst that breathed new life into their entire creative process and forced a change in approach. Their approach became much simpler – move past bad memories and associations, and focus on the songs that evoked a visceral sensation. As they were going through old material, they began to see things that they didn’t originally see within the material, and they found that ideas started to flow about naturally around it — and in a way that they hadn’t had in a while. And the end result was the duo’s aforementioned Wizards on the Beach.
Album single “24” pairs layers of shimmering synths, boom bap-like drums, acoustic guitar and industrial clang and clatter with Frick’s ethereal vocals to create a song that evokes the sensation of waking from a pleasant and yet half-remembered dream while subtly channeling the work of Jose Gonzalez and Junip. Recently, the London-based duo Glass Children remixed Moonbabies “24” as part of a unique remix exchange between both bands (you’ll hear about the band shortly), and their remix pairs Ola Frick’s vocals while an upbeat production consisting of layers of gently undulating synths, propulsive, tribal drumming that makes the song much more club-ready and yet trippy while retaining the dreamy feel of its original.
Comprised of David Fairweather and Daniella Kleovoulou, the London-based electronic duo The Glass Children craft dark, 80s inspired, upbeat electro pop consisting of lush production and ethereal vocals. Their uptempo single “Undone” pairs layers of undulating synths, swirling electronics and Kleovoulou’s ethereal vocals in a song that sways and swoons with a plaintive Romanticism. Moonbabies’ remix pairs Kleovoulou’s ethereal vocals with swirling electronics and tribal-like percussion that actually makes the remix sound as though it could have been on Wizards on the Beach whileretaining the original’s plaintive Romanticism — and of course, adding a dreamy fade out to the conclusion reminiscent of the ending of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”
I recently spoke to Moonbabies’ Ola Frick and The Glass Children’s David Fairweather and Daniella Kleovoulou via email about their unique remix exchange, their inspiration behind each band’s take on the other’s material and what’s next for both bands. Check it out below.
WRH: Moonbabies and The Glass Children recently remixed a single from their most recent full-length efforts — and both acts are releasing them on the same day as part of a “remix exchange” for lack of a better phrase. With Moobabies being based in Malmo, Sweden and The Glass Children being based in London, I wanted to know how did this collaboration come about?
Daniella Kleovoulou: It was through Twitter actually. When “Undone” was released Moonbabies discovered the track through a blog review and tweeted about it. A bit later Ola [Frick] contacted us about remixing the song which we were really up for. I told him that David [Fairweather] played me “24” a while back from a BIRP playlist and we both loved the song so Ola asked if we’d like to remix it in exchange . . . and that’s how it all started.
Ola Frick: Both of us loved “Undone” when we first heard it, I guess it was back in January-February maybe. And since their other tracks also showed that they’re pretty extraordinary we wanted to get in touch and see if we could do a collaboration or remix exchange, and that was just what happened. Nice peeps as it seems!
WRH: The Moonbabies’ remix of The Glass Children’s “Undone” retains Daniella Kleovoulou’s husky vocals but pairs them with a percussive yet very dreamy production consisting of undulating and swirling electronics before ending with chiming keys and a distorted vocal sample that evoke the sensation of waking from a dream. That remix sounds as though it could have been a B-side to Wizards on the Beach. Ola, why did you choose “Undone”? The remix manages to retain the original’s spirit while giving the song a different interpretation. What inspired your remix?
Ola Frick: I’d say all my good studio work starts with a being filled up to the limit with a great feel/inspiration to begin with. Confidence, as well. And if you have it, it all goes smooth, happens fast and is driven by pure instinct. With this track I needed to have a complete blank canvas and just let it out. It happened very fast, 3-4 hours with some extra tweaks a day or two later, including mix/mastering. I just felt the song, and let it go in any way. And the first path it took (the big rhythm and thick vocals in focus) was the right. I’m very happy with it.
WRH: The Glass Children’s remix of Moonbabies “24”retains the Fricks’ vocals put pairs them with an uptempo, dance pop production — shimmering synths, skittering drum programming, swirling electronics, and the like. It sounds as though it’s both headphone-ready and club-friendly. And much like the Moonbabies’ remix, your remix retains the original’s spirit while giving the song a different interpretation. Why did you choose “24”?What inspired your remix?
David Fairweather: It’s partly inspired by the same production ideas we had for our song “Undone”: a big bass and lots of 80’s analogue synths. We went for a melancholic feel but with some euphoric strings poking their heads in. We wanted to keep the beautiful central riff the Moonbabies wrote on the guitar, but instead translate it to the piano.
Ola Frick: We have a few dancy Remixes we’ve done of tracks by the bands Blind Lake, Cantaloupe and The Land Below, that I guess and hope will be out before the end of 2015. And as you know we just released the Deluxe Edition Version of Wizards on the Beach with 12 bonus tracks. It sort of marks an end to a very long cycle for us. It feel great to get back into making something brand new, a complete fresh start, as were on a blank paper. Don’t know when something new will be out. One thing [that] stands out of the experience of working within the music industry 2015, is that we’re doing it straight out of pure joy, nothing else. We have set up our own imprint label Culture Hero, and no real pressure. My guess is a spring-time Moonbabies single or EP release. When something great pops up, we’ll capture it and release it. And I’m not lying when I say that I feel more confident and inspired than ever.