Tag: Portishead

Live Footage: Nick Hakim Performs “QADIR” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2. Armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn.

As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it, making the album feel like a series of different self-portraits. Much like Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad strokes, with subtle gradations in mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press notes at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare.

The JOVM mainstay released his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album’s material manages to be distinctly Hakim while being a tonal shift from its predecessor: his sophomore album reflects the ideas with which he grappled with while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shared the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

“QADIR” is a slow-burning and atmospheric single, centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals — and as a result, the track is a fever dream full of ache and longing, partially written as an ode to a late friend and an urgent reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. ”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Recently Hakim and his backing band performed a socially distant rendition of “QADIR” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which features Hakim singing the song on a cartoon-background that’s one part hood, one part Sesame Street. 

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New Video: LOO & MONETTI Release a Trippy Visual for Brooding “Talk to me”

Initially starting his music career in the 1990s as the frontman and drummer of French alt rock act STICKBUZZ, French-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, drummer and vocalist Christophe Menassier has composed scores for TV, commercials, movies and online features since 2001. And as a result of his work, he has worked with some of the world’s most prestigious and well-regarded brands, including Louis Vuitton, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Bulgari, Yves Saint Laurent and others. 

Over the past two decades, Menassier has been prolific: In 2003, he founded COLLECTIF K, a ten member band, which released one album, Resurrection. The following year, he released his solo debut, Marseille Marseille, a ten song album featuring compositions that were written to evoke life in the French Mediterranean city. 2008’s Picture Shop, a collaboration with Quentin Leroux that was inspired by American movies and it further established Menassier’s sound and aesthetic.

Back in 2011, Menassier and his spouse Ann Wisely founded LOO & MONETTI, an electro pop act that has released two albums:  2012’s Marla’s song and last year’s Broken Inside, as well as a handful of EPs and one-off singles. As a band, Menassier writes the music, using synths, keyboards and drums while Wisley writes lyrics and vocal melodies and contributes vocals — and although they have wildly varying tastes, their collaboration finds the duo effortlessly meshing their various tastes and interests. The French duo’s latest single “Talk to me” is centered around twinkling and arpeggiated keys, atmospheric electronics, thumping beats and Wisley’s plaintive vocals — and while being a brooding track, it may arguably be the most trip-hop like track in their catalog, with the track bringing Portishead to mind. 

The recently released video features old home movies and footage of people dancing and rocking out at shows. In many ways, the video is an eerie of the small joys we can’t have at the moment. 

New Audio: Hungarian JOVM Mainstays Belau Team Up with Sophie Barker on a Sultry and Brooding New Single

Over the past two years or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the the Budapest, Hungary-based electronic music production and artist duo Belau — Peter Kedves and Buzas Krisztian — and as you may recall, with the release of their debut single “Island of Promise,” the Hungarian duo quickly exploded into the national scene for a buoyant, summery and dance floor friendly sound meant to evoke “cheerful places, filled with sunshine, where one can relax, unwind and find peace and harmony,” as the duo explain in press notes. “Island of Promise” eventually landed #1 on Deezer Hungary, one of the country’s biggest streaming services, and since its release, the track has amassed over 500,000 streams, and was featured in HBO Hungary series Aranyélet, as well as in an international Pepsi ad campaign shown in 33 countries.

The Budapest-based duo’s 2016 full-length debut The Odyssey won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album — and they supported the album with an intense period of touring that saw them playing 120 shows in 19 countries with stops across the international festival circuit. including Eurosonic, Sziget, Reeperbahn, Untold, and SXSW. Since the release of The Odyssey, the JOVM mainstays released a series of remixes of The Odyssey tracks, and a handful of singles that included “Breath,” a sultry, dance floor friendly collaboration with Sophie Lindinger centered around glitchy beats and a sinuous yet anthemic hook and the Massive Attack-like “Natural Pool.” 

The duo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Colourwave was released late last month and the album finds the duo furthering and expanding upon the sound that has won them attention internationally: downtempo electronica with moody atmospheric, shimmering synths and thumping 808s.  Last month, I wrote about “Rapture,” a collaboration with Blue Foundation‘s Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg centered around a trip hop-inspired production featuring shimming synth arpeggios, wobbling low end and Stubbe Teglbjærg’s sultry vocals. The album’s second single “Essence” continues the duo’s collaboration with female vocalists — this time, Sophie Barker. Much like its immediate predecessor, Barker’s sultry vocals glide over a shimmering production centered around a looped and reverb-drenched guitar, shimmering synths, skittering beats and an enormous hook. Sonically, the song brings Third-era Portishead and Octo Octa to mind  –but a with a brooding and seductive air. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

 

Late last month, I wrote about Los Angeles-based composer and electronic music producer Will Thomas. Thomas is best known as the creature mastermind behind the collaborative recording project Dive Index and the minimalist, solo recording project Plumbline, with which he has released several albums, including two collaborative albums with ambient music composer Roger Eno. The Los Angeles-based composer has also written scores for film, modern dance pieces and has developed sound installations.

Now, as you may recall, Thomas’ fifth Dive Index album Waiting at Airplanes is slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Neutral Music. Deriving its title from the overly optimistic and childlike act of seeking the fleeting attention of passing strangers for the sake of sheer connection, the album will reportedly continue Thomas’ long-held thematic interest in exploring both the human condition and the condition of humanity. But while also touching upon missed connections, artificial intelligence, contentment, the beauty of the desert and our dire and uncertain political and social climate. The album finds Thomas continuing his ongoing collaboration with with Daughter Darling‘s Natalie Walker and critically acclaimed English multi-instrumentalist Merz.

Thomas reportedly set specific parameters to the material’s overall sound and construction, sourcing almost every sound heard on the album, including percussion from modular synthesizer with the exception of some piano, acoustic guitar and the occasional extraneous sounds — a nail gun and jackhammer, in particular — that managed to leak into the studios and recordings, and were embraced on as part of the album’s material.

The visceral and intimate album single “Window to Window” was centered around Natalie Walker’s gorgeous and achingly expressive vocals, twinkling keys, shimmering synths and thumping low-end was full of regret over lost moments, blown opportunities, the passage of time and the inevitability of mortality while nodding at Portishead and Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp. The album’s latest single “Near Enough” continues Thomas’ long-held reputation for crafting minimalist soundscapes — this time centered around shimmering and gently undulating synths, stuttering beats, hospital like blips and bloops, and Merz’s plaintive vocals. Revealing a deliberate and almost painterly approach and quality reminiscent of Radiohead‘s Amnesiac, “Near Enough” is a mediative song that evokes the longing for connection and meaning that we all struggle with at some point or another.

Jacque Ryal is an an emerging singer/songwriter, keyboardist and pop artist, who first emerged into the local scene as a vocalist and keyboardist in pop act Strip Darling before boldly going forward as a solo artist. Ryal began her solo career crafting Portishead-inspired trip-hop. Interestingly, her latest project RYAL which finds her collaborating with producer and songwriter Aaron Nevezie has received attention from The Best Line of Best FitTime Out New YorkLadyGunn, Popdust and elsewhere for work that has been compared favorably to Little Dragon and Portishead.

Anna Azarov Photography

 

RYAL’s latest single is the atmospheric and slow-burning “Where Did All The Love Go.” Centered around Jacque Ryal’s heavily vocoder’ed and auto-tuned vocals, stuttered beats,  shimmering synth arpeggios and an infectious hook, the song is an achingly bittersweet lament that focuses on a relationship with hot and heavy beginnings that has slowly and inexplicably cooled off. Throughout the song, its heartbroken narrator is fighting to find answers and keep the relationship intact — but on a certain level, there’s tacit understanding that this valued relationship is bound to end. Certainly, we’ve all been there and it’s an embittering and wrenching experience.

 

 

 

New Video: Charlotte’s The Mystery Plan’s Hallucinogenic and Shoegazer-like Tribute to Actor JC Quinn

In the decade since their formation, the Charlotte, NC-based indie act The Mystery Plan — Jason Herring, Amy Herring, Jeff Chester, Otis Hughes and Patty McLaughlin — have managed to be incredibly productive, releasing 10 EPs and full-length albums, including their John Fryer co-proded fourth album, 2017’s Queensland Ballroom, which featured “Electric Love.” 

The Charlotte-based quintet’s  recently released fifth album, the John Fryer and Jason Herring co-produced Zsa Zsa continues a remarkable and enviable run of prolificacy — and finds the band renewing their successive collaboration with Fryer. Recorded at Catalyst Recording and various local studios over a two-plus year stretch following a number of Southeastern US torus to promote Queensland Ballroom. Featuring guest spots from The Veldt’s and Apollo Heights’ Micah Guagh, Ian Masters, That Guy Smitty and Snap Nation, Zsa Zsa finds the band expanding upon the psych folk-leaning sound that has won them fans across the Southeast, with the material touching upon several different styles, including shoegaze, ambient, trip hop and electronica — sometimes simultaneously in a way that sounds as though the band were drawing influence from Portishead,Zero 7, and early 4AD Records. 

Zsa Zsa’s latest single “JC Quinn” is an shoegazer-like fever dream of song, centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, propulsive drumming, twinkling synth arpeggios, ethereal vocals and an infectious hook — and while this particular single sounds as though it could have been released during 4AD Records’ golden era. 

The band’s Jason Herring explains in press notes, JC Quinn was a New York-based actor with a tons of film and television credits including Barfly, The Abyss, Visionquest and a lengthy list of others. In the late ’90s, Quinn moved to the Charlotte area to be closer to his grandchildren. And as the story goes, Herring met Quinn at a local bar Cafe 521, which was owned by Quinn’s longtime friend Peter Herrero, who like the actor had relocated to Charlotte. Interestingly, the bar became the go-to spot for actors whenever they were in town including Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernadette Peters and a list of others. 

“JC and I struck up a nice friendship. He was a fan of ours and would come to hosts and stand right up front so we could see him,” Herring fondly recalls. “A very lovely man, indeed. Sadly, JC died in Mexico while shooting a film a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to pay tribute to him, and we have finally done so with his song. The lyrics are a blend of what we would do with him now if he were still here and iconic lines from some of his films.” 

Shot by the band’s Jason Herring and edited by Jay Thomas, the recently released video for “JC Quinn” follows the members of the Charlotte-based indie act on a hallucinogenic night out in Charlotte that includes hanging out at a local bar, catching live music, listening to albums and all the things that the band wishes they could do with their dear friend. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

Lyric Video: Dive Index Teams Up with Daughter Darling’s Natalie Walker on a Minimalist and Meditative Song

Will Thomas is a Los Angeles-based composer and electronic music producer best known as the creative mastermind behind the collaborative recording project Dive Index, the minimalist solo recording project Plumbline with which he has released several albums, including two collaborations with ambient music composer Roger Eno. Thomas has also composed scores for film, modern dance pieces and has developed sound installations. 

Thomas’ fifth Dive Index album Waving at Airplanes is slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Neutral Music. Deriving its title from the overly optimistic and childlike act of seeking the fleeting attention of passing strangers for the sake of sheer connection, the forthcoming album will continue Thomas’ long-held thematic interest in exploring both the human condition and the condition of humanity — while also touching upon missed connections, artificial intelligence, contentment, the beauty of the desert and our uncertain political climate. Interestingly, the album continues his ongoing collaboration with Daughter Darling’s Natalie Walker and critically acclaimed English multi-instrumentalist Merz.

The album’s material reportedly finds Thomas setting specific parameters to the material’s overall sound and construction, souring almost everything, including percussion from modular synthesizer with the exception of some piano, acoustic guitar and occasional extraneous sounds — a nail gun and jackhammer — that leaked into the studio and were embraced into the songs. 

Waving at Airplanes’ latest single is the atmospheric and cinematic “Window to Window.” Centered around Natalie Walker’s gorgeous and achingly expressive vocals, twinkling keys, shimmering synths and thumping low-end, is visceral and intimate, and full of regret over lost moments, missed and blown opportunities, passing time and getting older  — and manages to recall Portishead and Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp. 

Tracing their origins to a chance meeting at DIY show in 2015, the Brooklyn-based post rock electronic band and experimental performance art Reliant Tom is centered around its core creative duo, Western Massachusetts-born, Brooklyn-based composer Monte Weber and Dallas, TX-born, Brooklyn-based choreographer and vocalist Claire Cuny. The duo’s collaboration is a seamless synthesis of their individual talents and interests – sound design, wearable technology, modern dance and hook-driven, yet genre-defying songwriting.

“Reliant Tom gives me the outlet to explore both pulse driven works while maintaining the other musical elements which I find fascinating — timbre, aleatoric processes, and interactive technologies,” Weber explains. Adds Cuny, “Our ultimate goal with Reliant Tom is to be a multi-media performance experience that straddles the line between pop and experimental music — and philosophizing about what that even means, and is that even possible as ‘experimental pop’?”

Thematically, the duo’s two previous releases, 2016’s self-released, self-titled EP and 2018’s critically applauded, full-length debut effort Bad Orange, touch upon the pitfalls of digital communication and the generally blasé nature of modern social interaction – through the guise of avant-pop and avant-punk influenced musical devices and arrangements featuring electric guitar, vocals, a hybrid electro-acoustic drum kit, synthesizers and Weber’s Kontrol Instrument, which he developed while studying at the Paris-based Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music as a way to make electronic music more tactile and immersive in its performance.

Slated for a Spring 2020 release through Chicago-based Diversion Records, Reliant Tom’s sophomore effort Rewind & Play is a decidedly bold and self-assured step forward: Cuny’s sultry and expressive vocals while being prominently placed front and center, effortlessly glide over lush yet spacious arrangements of shimmering acoustic guitars, atmospheric electronics and twinkling keys with the material possessing a cinematic air that recalls Dummy-era Portishead, Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp, Radiohead circa OK Computer and others. And while continuing to be tech heavy in their means of sonic production, their thematic exploration of communication and interaction in the digital age takes a back seat. This time taking a more human approach, the material may arguably be the most mature yet accessible, most emotionally honest and vulnerable of their growing catalog, as the album’s central theme is a documentation of Cuny’s descent into grief and depression after her father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in front of her — on the release of day of Reliant Tom’s debut album.

“Nevermind the Garbage,” Rewind & Play‘s aching and brooding first single is centered around a cyclical arrangement of shimmering and wobbly guitars, twinkling piano and atmospheric synths that makes the song swoon from the dark and overwhelming weight  of loss and grief — and the knowledge that while you will find some way to push forward, that deep down you’ll recognize that your life will never quite be the same. “The song is about trying to return to a semi-normal routine by learning to manage the grief and anxiety that overcame me after the sudden loss of my father,” the band’s Claire Cuny explains. “My state was complex and somewhat guilt ridden because all I could feel was sadness. Even though I was at a good point in my life, with a loving partner, and reminded daily how fortunate I was when seeing the more severe hardships of other people such as chronic health issues and homelessness… all I could feel was despair, not the love or gratitude – but when you’re in the depth of your darkness it’s hard to feel much else.”

As a recently published Harvard Business Review article has suggested, we’re collectively experiencing a universal sense of overwhelming grief and uncertainty. Let’s be honest here, things are pretty bleak: on a daily basis, we’re hearing about hundreds upon hundreds of people dying from a communicable disease that any one of us could catch — and could possibly be carrying unknowingly. In New York, my home borough of Queens has been hit the hardest with the most cases and most deaths. Most of those poor souls have been heading to Elmhurst Hospital, and it means that the victims of COVID-19 live and/or work in (all or parts of) the neighborhoods of Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, Woodhaven, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona, Rego Park and Forest Hills. We’re talking about neighbors, coworkers, associates, the grocer, your bodega guy, your FedEx guy and so on. And there’s this sense among us that things will never quite be the same once this is over. How will we move forward? I don’t know. But what I can say is that the song’s creators never would have thought that such an achingly personal song would have such a deeper, universal meaning.