Xiu Xiu return with ‘Angel Guts: Red Classroom’

The impulse that drove artists such as Suicide, Einstürzende Neubauten and Scott Walker to embark on extraordinary and uncompromising journeys, and who refuse to flinch in the face of humanity’s ugly truths and terrible beauty, also underpins the sound and vision of Xiu Xiu, aka LA-based duo Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo. Angel Guts: Red Classroom is the sound of Xiu Xiu’s descent into the deepest blackness endurable. Currently premiering on Pitchfork, listen to the track ‘Stupid In The Dark’.

Having spent the previous four years living in North Carolina, primary songwriter Jamie Stewart relocated to Los Angeles, moving blindly into a neighborhood whose notoriously dangerous reputation was unknown to him. A park divided among four gangs, a lake routinely dragged for bodies, a building wherein two infant skeletons were recently uncovered – the aura of his new home bleeds into every pore of the album, each lyric and note bearing traces of its essence: the terrible beauty, the despair, the violence, the humanity.

“I know to a degree I must have romanticized it,” Stewart admits, “But when it’s not safe to go out at night, what else can one do?” Romanticized is hardly the word anyone other than Stewart would use. Like its namesake, a Japanese erotic noir film, ‘Angel Guts: Red Classroom’ is not easy to digest.

The subject matter – racialized sex, double suicide, double penetration, criminality, fear of physical harm – is unsuitable for the faint of heart. In the wrong hands, such topics could be rendered as far-fetched fantasies. But Stewart’s evocative vocals lend his provocative lyrics the balance they need, grounding them in a stark realism that forces us to acknowledge their existence, even confront them (as discomforting as that is).

Unsettling, too, is the music. Recorded at Nurse (Stewart’s home studio) and producer John Congleton’s Elmwood studio in Dallas, Texas, and working with only analog synths, drum set and 1970’s analog drum machines, Xiu Xiu has never before sounded so focused, so captivating, so intent on delivering a kick to the throat. Take ‘Stupid in the Dark’ – its tone ominous and pulsing, its harmonies simple and direct, its grip unrelenting. Or ‘Botanica de Los Angeles’, a sparse yet anthemic merging of bruising drums and bone-rattling bass synths. Undeniably dark, yet incredibly illuminating.

So the fearlessness continues. An album such as Angel Guts: Red Classroom demands an equal fearlessness from the listener; to surrender to this magnificent maelstrom. By facing the worst of mankind, at least we know we’re very much alive.

Angel Guts: Red Classroom will be released 3rd February on Bella Union (Polyvinyl in the US).

Angel Guts: Red Classroom tracklisting:

Angel Guts
Archie’s Fades
Stupid In The Dark
Lawrence Liquors
Black Dick
New Life Immigration
El Naco
Adult Friends
The Silver Platter
Bitter Melon
A Knife In The Sun
Cinthya’s Unisex
Botanica De Los Angeles
Red Classroom

ANTWON shares new Hot Sugar produced single ‘Laugh Now’

Last week San Jose-based rapper ANTWON released his new single ‘Helicopter’ via Bella Union.

This cut from his very popular Fantasy Beds mixtape is available physically for the first time on a very limited purple splattered 7″ vinyl and comes with new bass-heavy track ‘LAUGH NOW’ – which features production by wonder-kid Hot Sugar – check it out below…

Listen to ‘Laugh Now’ by ANTWON

More info… http://antwonhyv.tumblr.com

Laura Veirs | UK tour | Warp & Weft out now!

Laura Veirs is off around the UK in support of her new record, and you can catch her at the following points in time and space…

Thursday 14 November – YORK – Fibbers (£15)
Friday 15 November – MANCHESTER – Academy 3 (£16.50)
Saturday 16 November – GLASGOW – ABC2 (£15)
Sunday 17 November – NEWCASTLE – Cluny (£16.50)
Tuesday 19 November – NOTTINGHAM – Rescue Rooms (£15)
Wednesday 20 November – BRISTOL – Thekla (£15)
Thursday 21 November – LONDON – Islington Assembly Hall (£19.50)

Warp & Weft is out now! Buy from the Bella Union store.

Welcome, Marissa Nadler! New album ‘July’ released in February on Bella Union

Bella Union are thrilled to announce the signing of Marissa Nadler, and the release of her new album July in February 2014.

In the US the album will released via Sacred Bones.

Nadler lays the listener – and herself – on the line with ‘July’, her sixth full-length album in nearly a decade. Set for release on February 10th, it floats freely in the pop cosmos somewhere between gauzy shoegaze, unvarnished folk, and perhaps even a hint of metal’s doom-and-gloom spirit.

Recorded at Seattle’s Avast Studio, the album pairs Nadler for the first time with producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves in the Throne Room). Dunn matches Nadler’s darkness by creating a multi-coloured sonic palette that infuses new dimensions into her songs. Eyvand Kang’s strings, Steve Moore’s synths and Phil Wandscher’s guitar lines escalate the whole affair to a panoramic level of beautiful, eerie wonder. The results are astonishing and occasionally reminiscent of David Lynch (who is, appropriately enough, among her label mates on Sacred Bones). As Pitchfork once wrote, her songs are “as gorgeous as they are elliptical and intriguing.”

Her voice, too, is something to behold here, at once clarion but heavy with the kind of tear-stained emotion you hear on scratchy old country records by the likes of Tammy Wynette and Sammi Smith. Long gone are the days when Nadler summoned images of 1960s folk singers who got lost in the woods. She is a cosmic force on “July,” shooting these songs to euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows. Have a listen to the track ‘Dead City Emily’ on Soundcloud:

July will be released 10th February on Bella Union. New Marissa Nadler photo below:

SNOWBIRD (Stephanie Dosen and Simon Raymonde) announce ‘moon’

Born from love, musical empathy, a baby grand piano discovered on Gumtree and an expired visa, Snowbird duo Stephanie Dosen and Simon Raymonde have crafted an album of exquisite melody and mood that radiates the uncanny mystery of the object it’s named after: moon.

Released early next year on Bella Union, the label that Raymonde has curated and run since his former band Cocteau Twins went their individual ways in 1997, moon comprises 11 songs composed between two continents; Raymonde was in London while Dosen was in North Carolina after being based in the capital following her 2007 debut A Lily For The Spectre. Snowbird’s album was subsequently crafted via the wonder of technology, and yet moon has one unifying and intimate sound and vision, from gently pulsating, pop-centric trails to lingering, luminous ballads.

Hear ‘Porcelain’ from the album:

moon album features a stellar castlist of guests lending their talents to proceedings: Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and guitarist Ed O’Brien, Midlake guitarist Eric Pulido and drummer McKenzie Smith and two more gifted guitarists in Paul Gregory (Lanterns On The Lake) and Jonathan Wilson all contribute.

“Having them add their magic to the record was a thrill, but really, I think this is very much Stephanie’s record,” Raymonde points out. “She’s a really special singer and I feel the simplicity of my music was the perfect backdrop for her stories and her incredible vocal arrangements.”

The pair’s first connection was Raymonde’s discovery of Dosen’s music and subsequently producing her debut album and releasing it on Bella Union. ‘Stephanie was the first singer I had worked with since Elizabeth [Fraser of Cocteau Twins] that I had a real musical empathy with,” he admits. “She could do anything. No one had ever sung with Midlake on record before Stephanie, while Massive Attack asked her to be their lead singer on tour – ironic really given that Elizabeth had too! She also sang with the Chemical Brothers. But we’d never written music together at home.”

Raymonde no longer had instruments or microphones in his flat until he saw an offer of a baby grand piano that was free apart from transportation costs. Once it was installed, he slowly began to play again. “I never intended Cocteau Twins to be my last band,” he says, “but frankly I wasn’t just going to jump back on any old nag just for the sake of it.”

It was fortuitous that he had the baby grand for company when Dosen had to return to the US to reapply for a visa. Once there, she started receiving emails, “short piano pieces, every night for 12 days,” Raymonde recalls. “And each morning, I’d wake up to an email of my piano piece with these amazing vocals that she’d recorded in North Carolina. After two weeks, we had the basis for what now makes up moon.”

“I wrote every piece of music at night, in semi-darkness so that the space didn’t feel like my living room,” says Raymonde. “The moon was very important for the light it reflected.”

“All the stories on the record are night-time stories, forest-y and moonlit,” Dosen adds. “The moon only shines because it is being seen by the sun – I like the idea of that sort of illumination of an object or a person. It’s almost like being seen makes us shine.”

moon will be released in double-disc format complete with a bonus album. The second is called luna, an album of remixes (one for each 11 tracks) by Michigan’s electronic luminary RxGibbs, who expands, annotates and shines a whole new light on the wonder of Snowbird, adding and subtracting beats, creating otherworldly ambient passages, and building the other half of a distinctly beautiful, passionate whole that gives a whole new meaning to the term “moonstruck”.

moon will be released early 2014 on Bella Union.