Penelope Isles announce debut album ‘Until The Tide Creeps In’

For every sibling band forged in rivalry, many others mount an unassailable genetic argument for keeping the music in the family. The latter is assuredly the case with Penelope Isles, whose debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, is released 12th July via Bella Union and available to preorder here. Formed around the chemistry between dual brother-sister songwriters Jack and Lily Wolter, the quartet’s expansive DIY mix of translucent dream-pop, fuzz-rock guitars and indie-psych flushes comes lovingly dipped in exquisite harmonies and lustrous melodies: a combination so intuitive, you’d think it was in their blood. To celebrate the announcement, Penelope Isles have shared a captivating mixed media video for current single “Chlorine”, incorporating old b/w footage and puppet animation. The band have also announced a slew of UK and European live dates for the Spring and Autumn, along with summer festival appearances, kicking off with a headline show at London’s Moth Club next week on 17th April.

Crisp and woozy, blissful and biting, Until the Tide Creeps In is an album deepened by shared experience: experiences of, in Jack’s words, “leaving home, moving away, dealing with transitions in life and growing up. We are six years apart, so we had a different experience of some of this, but we share a similar inspiration when writing music.”

Such themes run deep on album opener ‘Chlorine’. Between its beatific surface calm and emotional rip-tides, choppy guitars and sailing harmonies, it’s an immersive invitation to the Isles’ pool party: the first of several on an album that creates its own world and navigates it fluently, tugging you in further with every current.

That fluency takes the form of a wicked way with melody on ‘Round’, a snappy riff on romantic compulsion with an undertow of whammy-bar cool. ‘Not Talking’ resembles the result of a dip in Perth’s indie-psych waters, there to bond with early Tame Impala; meanwhile, coastal metaphors and indie-rock romanticism merge to lush, lilting effect on the Lily-penned ‘Underwater Record Store’.

As Jack puts it, nice and succinctly, “It’s cool to have two songwriters in the band because I love her songs so much!” Born in Devon and raised on the Isle of Man, the Wolters’ bonds were strengthened by separation when Jack moved away to study art at university at 19. As he puts it, wryly, “By the time I moved home Lily was not so much of an annoying younger sister anymore and had grown up and started playing in bands and writing songs. We soon became very close. I had written some songs, so we started a band called Your Gold Teeth. We toured a bit and then Lily left for Brighton to study songwriting. A couple of years later I moved down and we started Penelope Isles together.”

The quartet is completed by Jack Sowton and Becky Redford, who studied music and played in a three-piece with Lily in Brighton. When Lily came home for holidays, the idea of forming a new band rapidly developed. Though Jack and Lily write separately, their disparate songs were chucked into a shared pot and Penelope Isles surfaced, fuelled by a passion for DIY alt-rock and all those who sail its seas: Pavement, Deerhunter, Pixies and Tame Impala number among notable influences, alongside Radiohead and The Thrills.

Produced by Jack, the album was co-mixed by Iggy B (whose credits include The Duke Spirit, John Grant, Spiritualized and Lost Horizons) in London’s Bella Studios with a homegrown aesthetic and live clarity as guiding principles. The Line of Best Fit, DIY and Steve Lamacq (who hosted a recent Isles’ gig at SXSW for BBC6 Music) have all championed Isles’ bracing live form, where ‘Gnarbone’ has emerged as a show-stopper. “I wrote that song in a tiny cupboard room when I lived in Cornwall,” says Jack, “and it’s funny to think how it’s grown into such a beast.” From close-knit family ties to world stages, Penelope Isles’ growth curve is fast becoming a surge.

Until the Tide Creeps In is released 12th July via Bella Union. Album artwork below + upcoming UK live performances can be found here.

Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith

With their new album The Peyote Dance due for release 31st May via Bella Union, Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith have shared a second track from the album entitled “Ivry”. Listen below and follow here to read Pitchfork’s news post on the track. Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith have also shared the below statements:

Patti Smith: The force of Artaud, you couldn’t kill him!

Soundwalk Collective: Antonin Artaud used to say that he had burned up one hundred thousand human lives already, from the strength of his pain.

Patti Smith: The will of that man, the energy. If we, the living, send out radio and energy waves, the energy of those last poems is still reverberating.

The Peyote Dance is the first in a triptych of albums to be released by Bella Union over the next year titled The Perfect Vision, which take their inspiration from the writings of three emblematic French poets: Antonin Artaud, Arthur Rimbaud and René Daumal,and their necessity to travel to different lands to acquire a new vision and perspective on themselves and artworks. Perhaps a perfect vision, it is one that allowed them to transcend forms and borders, both physical and mental. Recorded in the Sierra Tarahumara of Mexico, Abyssinian valley of Ethiopia, and Himalayan Summit of India respectively, the central idea is that each landscape holds sleeping memories that are the witness of human passage. Each album retraces the poets’ footsteps, channelled through on-location recorded soundscapes and musicalities, with Patti Smith revisiting the words that have been inspired by the landscapes. The triptych marks a new chapter in the collaboration between Soundwalk Collective (Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli) and Patti Smith, who first worked together on the album Killer Road in 2016.

The Peyote Dance focuses on a brief part of Artaud’slife, when he travelled to Mexico City in early 1936 to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Mexico on topics including Surrealism, Marxism and theatre. In the summer, he travelled by train towards the Chihuahua region, and saddled by horse to the Tarahumara mountains with the help of a mestizo guide, which the album’s opening track, recited by Gael Garcia Bernal, evokes. Artaudwas drawn to the story of the Rarámuri: Native Indian people who live in the Norogachi region of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, the Sierra Tarahumara. One of Artaud’sgoals was to find a peyote shaman who could heal him; allowing him to recover from an opioid addiction. During his stay, encountering the Rarámuri Indians and peyote shamans of Tarahumara, and engaging in ceremonies, Artaud had a transcendental experience which resulted in the book The Peyote Dance. For the eponymous album, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith revisited writings from the book, and others texts written after Artaud’s return to France, where he remained in a mental asylum in Rodez undergoing electric shock therapy. During this dark period, the encounter with the Rarámuri stayed with him as his last significant, happy experience. The penultimate track on the album is a poem written by Patti Smith in homage to Artaud’s last hours in Ivry.

The album’s sonic method originates in the idea of retracing Artaud’s steps and returning to the village and cave where he lived. Gathering stones, sand, leaves, and many instruments such as violins and drums that the Rarámuri made themselves, the artists were able to awaken the landscape’s sleeping memories and uncover the space’s sonic grammar. Hearing the wind blowing through the valley, or entering a cave, one will find a specific silence or resonance. “Taking peyote in those regions, you have the feeling that everything is communicating with you as it was for Artaud – nothing has changed,” says Stéphan Crasneanscki, the founder of Soundwalk Collective who travelled to the Sierra Tarahumara to record on-site. “On an atomic level, there is no separation between you and any other organism: trees, leaves, flowers, but also stones and sand. There is no duality. Everything is embedded, everything has a soul, and the soul is timeless. We are not alone. These sonic spaces are pre-existing to us and will exist after us, to be able to listen to them is an act of presence.”

Listening, reading and improvising to the tracks in the New York studio allowed Smith to channel Artaud’s spirit. “The poets enter the bloodstream, they enter the cells. For a moment, one is Artaud,” Smith says of becoming a conduit for the poet to speak through her, echoing the raw energy of the early punk scene. “You can’t ask for it, you can’t buy it, you can’t take drugs for it to be authentic. It just has to happen, you have to be chosen as well as choose.” The energy of his last poems reverberates and cannot be silenced, Smith says of The Peyote Dance. “We understand that this work and the artist are not dead, they find life in recording them.” The enduring power of Artaud’s text lies in its uncomfortable nature: 80 years after it has been written, it remains a disturbing, raw, explosive and trance-like chronicle of what it is to be alive. 

The Peyote Dance will be released 31st May via Bella Union.

Lowly share “In The Hearts”

With their much–anticipated second album Hifalutin due for release next Friday, 12th April, via Bella Union, Lowly have shared a new track from the LP entitled “In The Hearts”. Of the track the band say: “‘In The Hearts has become such an important song for us. In many ways it’s the essence of the approach in songwriting and production on Hifalutin; to let each song create its own life and trust its coherence with the other songs on the album. During the process of recording, it’s travelled from being a very low key sketch to a full–bodied epic song with complex rhythms before it took the form of a slow-moving, auto–tuned heartache-thriller. The autotune is much more a feeling than an effect and emphasises the emotional core of the song as the title “in the hearts” repeats over and over again, stuck between a cliché and something that connects us on a much deeper level. And asking if those exact two things are really much closer related than we would like to think? We brought the song on our US tour back in March and we gotta say: it’s become a real banger and one of our favourite live songs! The way it connected us with the audience was just overwhelming and we can’t wait to bring it on tour again this spring.”

Lowly recently announced news of a number of European tour dates to follow the release of Hifalutin, including a headline show at the Moth Club in London.

“If you stick to just what you know, your music, your art or whatever your situation is becomes stagnant”, say Denmark’s Lowly. “And we wouldn’t like to miss out on anything, just because we felt too comfortable.”

A band unafraid to reach beyond their comfort zone, Lowly thrive on the embrace of doubt and curiosity. An inquisitive spirit drives the quintet’s second album, which evolved from an open-ended process in large spaces, from lost factory halls to water towers. Released via Bella Union in April, Hifalutin brims with suggestive discoveries from its title onwards. Dictionary definitions include “pompous” and “larger than life”; the word is also antonymic with the word Lowly. However you take it, the result is the work of five people expressing themselves freely as a tight collective: focused, yet fertile with possibility.

Warmly received in Pitchfork, Uncut and elsewhere, Lowly’s debut album, Heba, was a feast of dramatic dream-pop. Yet Hifalutin is more ambitious still. The album was primarily recorded in a 150 square meter warehouse, just outside the city of Aarhus. Band members recorded their parts as individuals and as a group; meanwhile, the producer, Anders Boll, placed microphones in nooks and crannies of the enormous space, all the better to highlight the dynamics between the band members.

A willingness to turn their backs on accepted frames of practise, for both recordings and performances, has characterized Lowly since their formation in 2014 at the music academy in Aarhus, Denmark, where they studied different subjects but forged a unique chemistry out of contrast. Last autumn, they played a concert in Brønshøj Water Tower, in the suburbs of Copenhagen, where the reverb was long and pronounced. The band had to carefully reconsider which notes and chords they could play; too many tones would muddy the sound. Pieces from this concert would find their way to Hifalutin.

As synthesizer player Kasper Staub reflects, “We want to give doubt, and curiosity, a voice. It is needed in a world characterized by obsession and goal-orientated living. You don’t need to know the answer in advance to express yourself. If we don’t allow ourselves to forget the goal, we risk missing all that we did not already know.”

Lowly, Aarhus. Foto: Asbj¿rn Sand

Fittingly, Hifalutin is an album of many entrance points. After the glistening come-hither to wandering minds of ‘Go for a Walk’, ‘Stephen’ reflects on death, inspired by the loss of Professor Stephen Hawking. The warm currents of ‘Baglaens’ (or “backwards”) contrast sharply with the buoyant beats cluster of ‘Staples’. ‘i’ resembles a hymnal Stina Nordenstam, constantly seeking new ways into a song, while the alt-R&B-ish ‘In the Hearts’ offers an unguarded paean to connectivity: as Lowly put it: “It’s about the magnificent power of love that transcends everything and connects us all.”

These diverse songs find hidden connections to each other through the chemistry between the sounds and Boll’s productions. And, of course, through the literate, abstract lyrics, which include references to works by experimental poet Inger Christensen and Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi. “Our lyrics consist of images and scenes that briefly glide into one’s field of view, and then disappear again,” co-lead singer Soffie Viemose explains. “We’d rather show something than say something quite literally.” An invitation sent from and to curious minds, Hifalutin is luminous modern pop at its most delicate and robust, assertive and open-ended.

Happy Release Day Liela Moss

Today at Bella Union we celebrate the release of Liela Moss’s covers EP ‘A Little Bit Of Rain’. The EP features cover versions of a number of rain–themed songs by the likes of Eurythmics, Ann Peebles, Scott Walker and The Cure.

Of the EP Liela says: “Maybe because I’m a bit neurotic about tidying, sorting and indexing things in my life, I thought that creating sets of cover versions would be a good thing to record this year. I began making lists and categorising things that are related in my mind but nobody else’s! I might do a collection about Weather, Elements, Utensils (watch out for that one) … stuff that is so everyday that we forget to stop and give it a kiss. Essentially I wanted a plaything for new ways of production. Making these covers has been a learning exercise and a way to pay homage to songs that haunted my childhood, including the title which waves a little hello to luscious Karen Dalton.”

Liela will be performing at The Great Escape inBrighton on Saturday 11th May at a night hosted by Bella Union with label mates Jambinai, Piroshka and Pom Poko amongst others. Further details will be announced soon.

Lielareleased her debut solo album My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth on Bella Union in November. Press quotes below:

“The Duke Spirit frontwoman swaps alt–rock for lush stateliness, with echoes of Kate Bush and Burt Bacharach, and lyrics to adore.” The Guardian – 4 Stars ****

“Evoking Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at their most avidly orchestral, Moss delivers a sumptuous set of glorious ballads that emphasise her expressiveness as a vocalist.” Uncut – 8/10

“Sumptuous… Steeped in piano, strings, bass and reverb, it’s intimacy on a grand scale… Moss has dug very deep to make the best record of her life.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“There’s a lushness to the arrangements that help showcase her strong voice, and an abundance of winning choruses… A solidly impressive album.” Q

“Her vocal unfurls mesmerically across the ten tracks… An expansive and elemental reawakening.” Long Live Vinyl – 8/10

“A vibrant, urgent, biting return, one that confounds expectations while feeling utterly true to Liela Moss’  blueprint.” CLASH

“One of rock’s great (if under appreciated) voices.” Rolling Stone Magazine

“Grandly orchestrated a la Massive Attack, with Moss’ voice simultaneously shuddering and sultry.” Classic Pop

“An arresting album… Musical drama spills from the speakers.” The Arts Desk – 4 stars ****

A Little Bit Of Rain is out now on Bella Union.