Daughter Of Swords shares ‘Fields Of Gold’

Daughter of Swords, aka Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, has shared an animated video for “Fields Of Gold” the latest from her upcoming album, Dawnbreaker. Stereogum premiered the song and video today, which features drawings by Sauser-Monnig and animation by Robert Edridge-Waks.

Of the song Sauser-Monnig says “‘Fields of Gold’ is a car song. It’s about that beautiful sense of possibility you get when you’re driving long distances and the facts of your life lift away enough to let you imagine parallel versions of your life playing out in all the unknown places you’re moving through.

In 2017, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig began recording a set of songs about a breakup that had yet to happen. Her partnership had drifted into a comfortable state of indecision, stalling when it came time to make big life moves or chase new horizons. She had the sense that she needed to slip the relationship in order to pursue everything else life might have in store -more music, more adventures, a general sense of the unknown. Those feelings drifted steadily into a set of songs that lamented the inevitable loss but, more important, outlined the promise of the future. Recording the ten tracks that became her stunning solo debut, Dawnbreaker, under the new name Daughter of Swords gave Sauser-Monnig permission to go.

Dawnbreaker began as the first phase of Sauser-Monnig’s return to music after stepping to the sidelines for the better part of a decade. Her college trio, Mountain Man, rose to quick acclaim for their peerless harmonies around 2010, but the friends slowly drifted apart, following their own interests to different coasts and concerns. While working on a flower farm as a farmhand, though, Sauser-Monnig realized that she missed the emotional articulation she found in writing songs and singing them and resolved to start again. She pieced together an album just as Mountain Man-now newly gathered in the fertile Piedmont of North Carolina-began to regroup for its second LP, 2018’s aptly named Magic Ship. Working with Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn, Sauser-Monnig shaped what began as quiet reflections into confident compositions, crackling with country swagger and a sparkling pop warmth. They were, after all, preemptive odes to the next phase of life.

Calling the ten tunes of Dawnbreaker breakup songs is to hamstring them with elegiac expectations, to paint them as sad-eyed surrenders to loss and grief. Sure, there is the gentle opener “Fellows,” a hushed number that explores the turmoil of being unable to reciprocate the feelings of a wild and shy, tall and fine man. And there’s the blossoming country shuffle of “Easy Is Hard,” where Sauser-Monnig stands in the yard and sees her lover leave, his taillights fading into the night sky; she can’t sleep, so she gets up to turn the lights and stereo on, to “feel my soul coming down.” 

Even there, amid the throes of a life convulsion, there is a wisp of hope and possibility, framed by the way “the dim light change[s] into dawn, rosy blue, pink fawn.” The very heart of Dawnbreaker is not the impending breakup that inspired many of its songs but the sense of liberation and breaking out that the breakup inspired. Buoyed by the insistent patter of a drum machine and rich acoustic guitars, Sauser-Monnig finds herself in search of new thrills during “Gem,” whether pondering the fleeting nature of existence at a waterfall’s edge or watching the shapes of mountains seemingly dance beneath her headlights. The muted, harmonica-lined boogie of “Sun” begins with a vulnerable confession, a revelation of loneliness; it is, however, a low-key anthem for the open road, about giving oneself over to the infinity of solitude and an endless strip of asphalt. Sauser-Monnig captures these scenes with a painter’s eye and delivers them with a novelist’s heart.

There’s no better testament than “Shining Woman,” where Sauser-Monnig portrays a ropy woman navigating her “steel steed” up and down the bends and passes of California’s fabled Highway 1. She openly marvels at that spirit and strength, wishing that for her own life. With Dawnbreaker, she has found it in some measure-the joy of something new, the excitement of risk. Though Sauser-Monnig nearly recorded these songs as barebones folk ballads, she reimagined them with Sanborn and a top-tier crew of North Carolina friends, like fellow Mountain Man singers Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé, bandleader Phil Cook, and guitarist Ryan Gustafson. These vivid settings highlight the emotional contours of these songs, revealing the complexity that comes with knowing that, in order to live, you sometimes have to let something as strong as love go.

At the start of “Human,” the undeniable climax of Dawnbreaker, Sauser-Monnig wakes up early and finds her lover in bed. She slips out of the room, watches the sun rise alone, and has herself a long think amid nature’s frozen splendor. What does it mean to leave? What does it mean to stay? Is she wrong, and is he right? As the piano rises and her voice multiplies, coming in now from all sides, she admits something crucial to herself: “You can’t will a love to life/But you can do the loving thing: Make like a bird and fly.” It is a moment of reckoning with one’s own liberation, of realizing that sometimes a profound loss is the only way to gain something else. That is the lesson of Dawnbreaker, an intimate document of what it means to set oneself free.

Hilang Child shares ‘Chaturanga Rebuilt’ video

Taken from his 2019 Stripped.Rebuilt EP release, Hilang Child today shares the striking new video for ‘Chaturanga Rebuilt’. With ‘Chaturanga Rebuilt’ being a new version of the first song Ed Riman (Hialng Child) ever wrote and in keeping with the idea of freshening it up he handed it to director Jonjo Lowe to interpret the song visually, delivering a new take on the piece. Lowe had the following to say on his work: “The song offers passage from despair to nascent optimism. I wanted the video to explore the togetherness that binds communities as they push forwards through catastrophic events; rituals that reinforce our sense of being, bodies running parallel to one another, occasionally colliding, and the silent ecstasy of intimacy which illuminates hope in new beginnings.”

Hilang Child will perform a co-headline show at London’s St. Pancras Old Church tonight alongside Paul Thomas Saunders. Following that you can catch Hilang Child in Glasgow and Leeds this summer. Full details below…

20th June – London – St. Pancras Old Church (Stripped.Rebuilt EP launch show)

7th July – Glasgow – Hug & Pint 

8th July – LEEDS – Hyde Park Book Club

Hannah Cohen announces UK tour

Today New York singer-songwriter Hannah Cohen announced tour dates in the UK and Europe to present the captivating songs from her third album Welcome Home. The dates include headline shows in London, Paris and Amsterdam, as well as appearances in support of Sam Evian. Hannah’s tour with Andy Shauf’s Foxwarren continues in the eastern US and Canada after a successful run in the western states.

Hannah Cohen has arrived home. From the title of her new album to the depth and beauty of the music, the Woodstock, NY-based singer-songwriter’s third album, Welcome Home, displays a new level of confidence and comfort with the many creative tools at her disposal. Cohen’s remarkably evocative voice is surrounded by dreamy, swooning incantations, from the rippling ‘This Is Your Life’ and the slow-burning, forthright statement of ‘All I Want,’ to the soul swagger of ‘Get in Line’ and dramatic vocal leaps of ‘Wasting My Time.’

Produced by Cohen’s partner Sam Owens, the producer/writer who performs as Sam Evian, the artist began developing the material that became Welcome Home in 2017. Taking her time with the songs, she wrapped herself in the fulfilling quiet of a new home, and a new creative partnership that supported finding a clarity in her writing and vocals. Many of the songs were written on an old, nylon-string guitar painted with Hawaiian scenes of beaches and palm trees (which can be heard on ‘This Is Your Life’), that, no matter the final arrangement, gives the songs a lighter touch, a warming glow that suffuses the whole album. Listeners may find echoes of folk and R&B, radiating with vocal-powered pop production, electronic accents, and bursts of pulsing guitar/bass/drums energy. Irresistible echoes of soul enchanters such as Carrie Cleveland (an early touchstone for Cohen and Evian), Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and their friend and sometime collaborator Nick Hakim blend with the reflective shadings of singer/writer forebears such as Carole King and Harry Nilsson.

Today New York singer-songwriter Hannah Cohen announced tour dates in the UK and Europe to present the captivating songs from her third album Welcome Home. Listen to the album HERE. The dates include headline shows in London, Paris and Amsterdam, as well as appearances in support of Sam Evian. Hannah’s tour with Andy Shauf’s Foxwarren continues in the eastern US and Canada after a successful run in the western states.

Hannah Cohen has arrived home. From the title of her new album to the depth and beauty of the music, the Woodstock, NY-based singer-songwriter’s third album, Welcome Home, displays a new level of confidence and comfort with the many creative tools at her disposal. Cohen’s remarkably evocative voice is surrounded by dreamy, swooning incantations, from the rippling ‘This Is Your Life’ and the slow-burning, forthright statement of ‘All I Want,’ to the soul swagger of ‘Get in Line’ and dramatic vocal leaps of ‘Wasting My Time.’

Produced by Cohen’s partner Sam Owens, the producer/writer who performs as Sam Evian, the artist began developing the material that became Welcome Home in 2017. Taking her time with the songs, she wrapped herself in the fulfilling quiet of a new home, and a new creative partnership that supported finding a clarity in her writing and vocals. Many of the songs were written on an old, nylon-string guitar painted with Hawaiian scenes of beaches and palm trees (which can be heard on ‘This Is Your Life’), that, no matter the final arrangement, gives the songs a lighter touch, a warming glow that suffuses the whole album. Listeners may find echoes of folk and R&B, radiating with vocal-powered pop production, electronic accents, and bursts of pulsing guitar/bass/drums energy. Irresistible echoes of soul enchanters such as Carrie Cleveland (an early touchstone for Cohen and Evian), Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and their friend and sometime collaborator Nick Hakim blend with the reflective shadings of singer/writer forebears such as Carole King and Harry Nilsson.

Hannah Cohen’s third album “Welcome Home” is out now via Bella Union.

Hannah Cohen will tour the UK and Europe this summer, including dates at the Lexington supporting Sam Evian on 27 August and a headline slot at SET in London on 2 September. Tickets are available HERE.

Modern Nature announce UK tour

Having recently announced the release of their debut album How To Live, available 23rd August via Bella Union, and shared a video to lead track “Peradam”, Modern Nature have today announced news of a UK headline tour in September. The band will also be performing at festivals including Port Eliot, Green Man and Freakender over the next few months.

The city and the country both have distinct, vibrant energies – but there’s something happening in between, too. As factories give way to fields, and highways drift into gravelly roads, the friction can be palpable, the aura electric.

The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper and Will Young’s minds when they named their new band Modern Nature. They took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a “weird mix of urban and rural” – such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.

On Modern Nature’s debut album, How to Live, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmoshperic waves of Harmonia.

Throughout this continuous work, where no song ever really seems to end, there’s an indelible feeling of constant forward motion. It’s as if the band is laying down a railway and riding it simultaneously, and you can hear all kinds of landscapes passing by.

The endless feel of How to Live was inspired by Cooper’s experience making his 2017 solo album Sandgrown. It was the first time he made a record with a defined theme – a suite of songs about his hometown of Blackpool – and imposing a narrative framework turned out to be refreshingly liberating. “When I started thinking about a new project,” he recalls, “going back to making an album of unconnected songs seemed as strange as making a movie with completely unconnected scenes.”

As he began writing songs, Cooper was also tuning to the vibes of Earth Loop, an instrumental solo album by BEAK>’s Will Young (under the name Moon Gangs). For a long time, Cooper had hoped to work more with Young, who almost joined his first band, Mazes, and was in the touring version of his next group, Ultimate Painting. So he decided now was finally the time, as he puts it, “to make good on hundreds of late night ‘we should really do music together’ conversations.”

“Over the next few weeks I started sending Will songs, and we began meeting up, working on ideas and formulating the bigger picture as it were,” Cooper recalls. “Approaching the album as a film or play made complete sense, and from that came the idea to have a very defined narrative, reoccurring themes and chord progressions, field recordings and a set palette of instruments and sounds. Each song came with pages and pages of notes, musical references, films, books, places, words and feelings.”

The richness of the ideas in these songs is matched by the resonance of the music. Cooper and Young’s organic compositions gain muscle through the thoughtful cello of Rupert Gillett, the insistent drumming of Aaron Neveu (of compatriot outfit Woods), and the expressive saxophone of Jeff Tobias, from Brooklyn jazz/rock juggernaut Sunwatchers. Each track on How to Live evolved as these creative forces joined the group, and it shows. The entire album courses with both precision and vitality, and is a work of surprising layers and limitless depths. Modern Nature may have been inspired by the line between urban and rural, but with How To Live they’ve gone a step further, and created their own complete world.

How To Live will bereleased 23rd August via Bella Union.

Happy Release Day Jambinai

Today, South Korean experimental band Jambinai release their epic new album ONDA, an album which showcases their extra-ordinary fusion of metal, post-rock and noise.

When the three founders of Jambinai decided to, “communicate with the ordinary person who doesn’t listen to Korean traditional music,” few outsiders anticipated an extra-ordinary fusion with metal, post-rock and noise.  “Most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation,” says band spokesman Lee Il-woo. “We wanted to break all of that.”

Even fewer would have predicted that the likes of Jambinai would play the 2018 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony in the city of Pyeongchang, accompanied by a troupe of geomungo (Korean zither) players – an audio-visual spectacle that such an occasion demanded. 

Says Lee, “Onda means ‘come’ in Korean. The title track has the lyric, ‘At the end of your darkness, pain will turn into the shining stars and it’s going to come to you.’ I want to cheer people up when they hear that track. Onda also means ‘wave’ in Spanish, and I also want to say the third big wave of Jambinai is coming!”

The first big wave arrived in 2010 after traditional music students Lee (guitar and piri, a bamboo oboe), Kim Bo-mi (the bow-stringed haegum) and Sim Eun-young (geomungo) joined forces and released the Jambinai EP. The trio’s debut album Différance won Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, triggering several overseas tours and the second wave of Jambinai – an international deal with Bella Union and a second album, A Hermitage. At the time, Lee cited the influence of bands like Metallica, Mogwai and Sigur Rös, but such was the trio’s energy levels, they seemed to draw more on thunderstorms, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, blizzards and desert winds – a force of nature more than a band.

It’s hard to believe but ONDA is even more dynamic and rhythmic, with the permanent addition of Jaehyuk Choi (drums) and B.K Yu (bass), fixtures of Jambinai’s live band since 2017. The way the quintet “sticks together like gears of a clock or machine,” says Lee, is celebrated on ‘Square Wave’, a breathtaking example of Jambinai’s ability to alternate between ambient serenity and molten ferocity. 

‘Square Wave’ is also one of several ONDA cuts to feature vocals. “Voice and lyrics have strong energy, they can touch someone’s heart directly more than instruments,” Lee explains. “Also, most people don’t know Korean, so they hear our voices as sound rather than meaning. We needed more sounds on this album.”

Not that the instrumental tracks are any less momentous. Take the opening ‘Sawtooth’ (featuring Hwiseon Choi on yanggeum, a hammered dulcimer), because Lee thinks the band’s constantly shifting dynamic, “resembles the sawtooth waveform of electronic sound.”  

13 minutes long, ‘In The Woods’ is the album’s lengthiest epic, originally recorded for Jambiani’s 2010 EP and now rearranged for the expanded quintet, plus guest traditional singer Bora Kim.  The inspiration here is environmental pollution, soundtracked by eight minutes of mournful ambience that slowly builds to a shattering climax. “The earth is in serious pain,” Lee concludes.

ONDA ends on a thematic note of drama and redemption. In ‘Small Consolation’, says Lee, “a person leads their weary body to a distant glow, which is small consolation. But when they get there, it turns into a big light, big consolation and happiness.” The closing title track comes in two parts: a calm prelude (featuring Lee on saenghwang, a tall reed mouth organ) before the euphoric main course, graced by choral grandeur. Once the music dies away, the feeling is one of blissful exhaustion. 

Says Lee: “After Jambinai’s US tour of 2017, I travelled the country for a month. I was worried about my future and the music because I had quit my job for the band but we didn’t have much money and the tour was tough and tiring for everyone. But when I visited the Grand Canyon, Mother Nature cheered me up and it was felt like she was telling me, “you are doing really well. Back in Korea, I wrote more songs with confidence and happiness.” The third wave of Jambinai is here…

Ezra Furman announces UK tour in November

Just a year and a half since the release of his critically acclaimed LP Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman returns with Twelve Nudes, yet another incendiary and inspiring classic from the singer/songwriter. The album will be released worldwide on 30th August via Bella Union and is available to pre-order here.

Today, Furman also announces a UK tour in November, including London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town on 14th. The new dates go on-sale this Friday 7th June at 9am GMT. All dates listed HERE.

“This is our punk record,” says Ezra Furman. “We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

Immediate proof is offered by ‘Calm Down’ (aka ‘I Should Not Be Alone’), the album’s insanely catchy opening track and lead single, bound up in a compact two minutes and 22 seconds.

“Desperate times make for desperate songs” says Furman. “I wrote this in the summer of 2018, a terrible time. It’s the sound of me struggling to admit that I’m not okay with the current state of human civilization, in which bad men crush us into submission. Once you admit how bad it feels to live in a broken society, you can start to resist it, and imagine a better one.” 

Furman’s preceding album, 2018’s Transangelic Exodus, was “an angry and fearful and pent-up reaction to events too,” he recalls. “But it was a carefully written and recorded version; we took a lot of time with edits and overdubs. I knew I wanted I make this album quickly and not spend time thinking how to play the songs. Twelve Nudes is a ‘body’ more than a ‘mind’ record – more animal than intellectual, And by affirming negativity, it gives you energy, to reject stuff. There’s more space for positivity.”

Far from being defeated by a world in turmoil, Furman’s productivity has only increased the worse things have got – and he’s taken up different disciplines to boot. Between Transangelic Exodus and Twelve Nudes, the 33⅓ imprint published his deeply personal, thoughtful and incisive book on Lou Reed’s legendary 1972 album “Transformer”, before Furman scored the soundtrack to Netflix’s acclaimed comedy Sex Education (it aired in January), which showcased the tender side of his songwriting.

But all his pent-up energy had to be channelled somewhere: hence Twelve Nudes, which Furman and band recorded in October and November 2018 before the album was mixed by the venerated producer John Congleton (Sharon van Etten, St Vincent, John Grant). Furman says the album has two spiritual heroes – the late great punk rock rocker Jay Reatard, and Canadian poet, philosopher and essayist Anne Carson. “She’s one of my top three living writers,” he says. “Anne had these visions, or meditations, to deal with the intense pain in her life, which she calls ‘nudes’, and similarly these songs are meditations on pain and recognising what’s there if you go digging around in your anger and fear and anxiety. So, my album is called Twelve Nudes.”

“The record is political,” says Furman, “but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” Furman’s Jewish identity shapes ‘Rated R Crusaders,’ triggered by the Israel/Palestine conflict and its complex web of refugee trauma. ‘Trauma’, meanwhile, seethes with the spiritual malaise brought on by watching wealthy bullies accused of sexual assault rise to power. America, Furman well knows, is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity; hence the references to Mexico, slaveowners and US ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin in ‘In America’. As Furman sings, reiterating the spirit of punk rock, and positivity, “Put it all in a two-minute pop song / A really-mean-it-a-lot song for America.

“One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” he concludes. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

Twelve Nudes will be released 30th August via Bella Union.