Ezra Furman releases a video for “Thermometer,” a track from her “potent, impatient record” (Bandcamp) Twelve Nudes, released last month via Bella Union, ahead of her UK tour in November. Throughout “Thermometer”, Furman’s vocals are defiant and ragged, matched by loud, lively instrumentation. The accompanying video shows Furman in various settings – shaving her legs, riding her bike across town, reading a book – with a hazy, old-school filter.
“‘Thermometer’ was inspired by touring with the inimitable So So Glos back in 2014, wondering if I could write anthems like theirs,” says Furman. “It’s called ‘Thermometer’ because as artists it’s our job to check the temperature of the surrounding culture and try to respond with the appropriate musical medicine. Right now we’re all running so hot the mercury is breaking the glass.”
Ezra Furman continues to tour through 2019, see HERE for details.
Anyone who believes there are no second chances needs to be re-introduced to Ren Harvieu. Seven years after her Top 5 debut album, having overcome a life-threatening injury, the Salford-born singer-songwriter returns with “Teenage Mascara”, the first track from a new album due for release Spring 2020 via Bella Union. The album is a brilliant, bolder and broader take on her timeless pop classicism, a compelling diary of a struggle with self-belief and a celebration of liberation and survival. “Teenage Mascara” is accompanied by a colourful and exuberant video directed by celebrated photographer Rankin. Of the track Harvieu says: “I see Teenage Mascara as a dance between the many versions of ourselves. The woozy, dreamlike intoxication of the music helps swirl those emotions we sometimes have where we can go from feeling like sultry sex kittens to being bedridden with despair and greasy hair. I think it’s important to celebrate it all, the sass through the tears, the vulnerability behind the make up.” Additionally, Harvieu recently announced news of two UK live shows, in London and Manchester next month, which follow her upcoming performance at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg this weekend. Full list of dates can be found HERE.
Harvieu has come a long way from the 17-year-old who was signed to Island Records and who had no intention of becoming a singer-songwriter. Even when she made her debut album “Through The Night”, her confidence was low. “I did help write a few of the songs on that record, which I’m still very fond of, but I felt more of a mouthpiece for someone else’s talent, which eats away at you especially because I had so much to say lyrically I just hadn’t learnt how to as yet. I couldn’t fathom that people were responding to the emotion in my voice. Maybe I was scared of harnessing it’s real power.”
Her injury – a broken spine following “a freak accident” between recording and releasing her debut album – undermined Harvieu even further. Likewise, Island parted ways with her six months after it’s release, despite a Top 5 chart entry, making the BBC’s Sound Of 2012, a 5-star live review from The Guardian and TV exposure (2012’s BBC Proms, singing two James Bond film themes backed by the BBC Philharmonic, was a particular highlight). But she remains sanguine about that part of her life. “I wasn’t surprised, or angry, or devastated when my relationship with Island ended. I didn’t really know them and they most certainly didn’t know me. And I was still dealing with extensive injuries. I had to work out how to re-emerge into the world and ask myself did I even want to.”
What followed was as Harvieu describes as “some very dark years”.A split with her long–term partner, her manager and then her beloved Salford. “In one fell swoop everything was gone. I knew I had to get away, start again, rebuild myself”
It wasn’t until 2015 to be exact, when she met Romeo Stodart, the Magic Numbers frontman and songwriter who had emailed after seeing her perform on Later… With Jools Holland, to ask if she’d consider writing together. “When we started, the energy was immediately different to anyone I’d worked with before, there was this insane instant musical connection” she says. “I loved that Romeo really embraced who I was and encouraged it. I was starting to realise that I didn’t have to be anything other than myself.”
The pair spent the next two years co-writing: “I wasn’t in a massive hurry, because at last I was having fun” Harvieu says. ‘We’d stay up all night drinking, dancing and playing music, I felt like I was re-discovering a girl who had been hidden, quietened. I’d tell Romeo, I don’t just want to paint pretty pictures I want to revel in the drama of my life, the good and the bad, before I was afraid to say something in my lyrics, but no longer. I felt free.”
The album was co-produced by Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi Lynch, owner of Echo Zoo studio in Eastbourne where recording took place.
The final piece of the jigsaw was a new record label that she could call her home – Bella Union. “Ren’s name kept cropping up from friends in bands and other folk whose taste I appreciated,” recalls label boss Simon Raymonde. “I was struck by her incredible voice, the classic arrangements and the quality of the songs. She’s got this seemingly effortless cool style countered by a very deep emotional connection.”
Having released her sophomore album back in late 2017, Sumie today releases a follow up EP, titled Mirou featuring four new tracks. Watch the video for ‘Moon’ below, which was filmed at the beautiful Gothenburg Botanical Gardens…
Sumie will play two intimate shows to celebrate the EP release in the Autumn of this year, including a performance at London’s Southbank Center. Dates + details below…
4th October – London – Future Tense (Southbank Center)
With their first ever UK tour just a few weeks away in early October, Creep Show today share a new single, “Uneffable”. The original track was made in Cornwall at Memetune studios by Stephen Mallinder, Phil Winter and Benge using ancient drum machines and modular synths (Casio DDD1 and ARP2500). However, it was finished in Iceland: “I wanted a trip to Iceland to see John’s studio full of brand-new-vintage synths”, says Benge and he actually means it! So 12 hours later, without a lagoon, fjord or waterfall in sight, he found himself sitting down at the new ARP Odyssey clone made by Korg, and a vintage Roland Juno 106 with John Grant in Reykjavík. “We spent a few days working on the track,” he adds. “John did the vocals in a monotone voice and I played with an MXR pitch shifter to put the weird robot-like intonation back into his voice.” Job done, he jetted straight back to the UK.
Stephen Mallinder sums up Uneffable’s birth as “a track built from bits of electricity and static, shaped in Icelandic lava and Cornish granite. Sprinkled with love and irony from the honey tones of John Grant. Creep Show are a group made of impeccable taste and technology who live far clung corners of the world, seriously challenging the capabilities of sat nav, and mysteriously come together by casting spells…”
Creep Show brings together John Grant with the dark analogue electro of Wrangler (Stephen Mallinder / Phil Winter / Benge). Recorded in Cornwall with a lifetime’s collection of drum machines and synthesisers assembled by Benge and explored by every member of Creep Show, the band’s acclaimed debut album Mr Dynamite conveys real sense of freedom in the shackles-off grooves, channelling the early pioneering spirit of the Sugarhill Gang through wires and random electric noise.
Earlier this year, Mercury Rev released the much adored track-by-track resurrection of Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 overlooked masterwork ‘The Delta Sweete’. The album featured an unmatched roster of female vocals from Susanne Sundfør, Norah Jones, Margo Price, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucinda Williams, Vashti Bunyan, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Susanne Sundfør, Lætitia Sadier (Stereolab), Marissa Nadler, Kaela Sinclair (M83) and more.
Today, Mercury Rev are pleased to announce a limited 7” vinyl featuring a brand new cover of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Louisiana Man’ with vocals from Erika Wennerstrom, which is available to stream now. Of the collaboration, Wennerstrom says, “I grew up listening to Bobbie Gentry. I realized while working on this project just how much she has influenced the way I developed my voice and song writing over the years. Whenever Ode to Billie Joe came on the radio my mom and I would sing every word. I’ve been a big fan of Mercury Rev for a long time as well. I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of this project.”
Pre-order your copy of the limited edition 7” vinyl HERE, due for release 8th November exclusively via the Bella Union store .
Critical acclaim for The Delta Sweete Revisited, out now on Bella Union…
“A stunning collection, resting on a sumptuous cushion of hazy, echoing sounds… A treasure.” Evening Standard – 5 stars *****
“An audacious remake of Bobbie Gentry’s masterpiece, here rebooted with tender opulence, affectionate awe, and full commitment to a widescreen, almost transcendental experience… All the women here rise to the occasion, audibly honoured to salute Gentry.” MOJO– 4 Stars ****
“Laetitia Sadier’s delicate reading of Mornin Glory and Hope Sandoval’s reimagining of Big Boss Man are highlights, but there isn’t really a wrong turn anywhere… A gem of an album.” Sunday Times (Album of the Week)
“A beautiful suite of music that guides a new generation to one of the great lost albums of the 1960s.” The Times – 4 stars ****
“Mercury Rev, antennae always twitching to big–sky Americana, redirect attention to the record’s soulful crosscurrents with this celebration… A grand tribute.” Q
“The stately arrangements subtly embellish the sultry originals… A classic.” The Observer – 4 stars ****
“Gentry’s country–soul masterpiece has been remoulded with orchestral nuance and a healthy dose of the Rev’s innate dreaminess.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****
“Full marks to Mercury Rev for corralling an impressive array of female vocalists to revive the daring and dreamy swamp masterpiece… A quality, deeply–felt labour of love.” The Mirror – 4 stars ****
“Sumptuous arrangements and fabulous performances from Margo Price, Susanne Sundfør and Beth Orton.” The Guardian
“They handle this suite of vignettes with care, kicking off with the soothing tones of Norah Jones followed by the sultry sound of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval.” The i Paper – 4 stars ****
“Mercury Rev bring woozy psychedelia covering her second and finest album, employing fine female singers to achieve their vision.” The Sun – 4 stars ****
“Mercury Rev have reimagined Gentry’s country–soul classic beautifully… Gorgeous and intuitive singing by Norah Jones, Hope Sandoval and Margo Price make their respective tracks the record’s highlights, each bringing a distinct point of view and vivid energy to the new arrangements.” Uncut
“Mercury Rev lend the songs a fresh vitality, replacing the swamp–blues and country–soul of the originals by framing Gentry’s vivid storytelling with haunting atmospherics and melodic strings.” Daily Mail – 4 stars ****
Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music/producer duo Kefaya (Al MacSween & Giuliano Modarelli) have joined forces for a mighty and mesmerising new album, Songs Of Our Mothers; a fresh, vibrant take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica. The album will be released 27th September via Bella Union and is available to preorder here. Today, they announce news of their UK tour, which includes two album release shows at Rough Trade, as well as a headline show at London’s Rich Mix. To celebrate this they have shared a video for the previously released single ‘Charsi’ that premiered today on The Playground.
Songs Of Our Mothers is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women, drawing on Elaha’s own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists. The US and Western-backed regimes that came to dominate Afghanistan in the latter part of the 20th century created a climate of heightened patriarchal oppression and persecution of women.
These songs tell stories of joy, pain and resilience, passed from mother to daughter in times of hardship and oppression whilst also celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance. As Elaha says, this album is for “those women around the world whose image has been erased, and whose voice has been forbidden.”
Born in Iran into a family of Afghan-Hazara refugees, and returning to Afghanistan in 2004, Elaha Soroor first rose to fame through the reality TV show Afghan Star. Her rising popularity in a society known for its persecution of female performers combined with her outspoken views on women’s rights led to an environment of serious personal danger and Elaha was eventually forced to flee Afghanistan.
After arriving in London as a refugee, Elaha was introduced to guitarist Giuliano Modarelli and pianist Al MacSween, founders of award-winning international collective Kefaya. Driven by a shared desire to use music as a tool for political dialogue and action, together they forged the themes, concept and sound of Songs Of Our Mothers.
“Our first album was very eclectic with multiple different styles and languages. Although there are still many different musical influences on this album, we liked the idea of collaborating with a specific artist and concept and felt Elaha had something very special to offer both artistically and politically” says Al and Giuliano.
The bulk of the album was arranged and recorded in just a few days in Oxford with long-time Kefaya drummer Joost Hendrickx. Al and Giuliano produced and further developed the album, with contributions from a host of world renowned musicians, including Mohsen Namjoo (voice), Manos Achalinotopolous (clarinet), Yazz Ahmed (flugelhorn), Sarathy Korwar (tabla/dolak),Tamar Osborn (baritone sax), Sardor Mirzakhojaev (dambura), Gurdain Singh Rayatt (tabla), Jyotsna Srikanth (violin), Camilo Tirado (live electronics) and Sam Vickary (double bass).
The international line-up, spanning homelands such as UK, Italy, India, Iran & Greece, reflects the album’s global perspective and the way that Kefaya work in collaboration, drawing on multiple sounds and outlooks to present a united front of spirited musical and political expression.
As Elaha says: “In the eyes of the world, Afghan identity is defined by terrorism, war, the Taliban and uneducated, domesticated women who need help. I have tried to show other associations with Afghanistan such as the beauty of my mother language (Farsi) and the diversity of our music. Although women are currently facing extreme violence in Afghanistan, I see a lot of similar problems encountered in different ways in Western countries and across the world. This is part of a universal struggle.”
Early praise for Kefaya + Elaha Soroor…
“A thoroughly modern, multicultural masterpiece… In an era of increasing isolationism, misogyny and religious fundamentalism, this album becomes a defiant celebration of freedom and internationalism.” Uncut –9/10
“Takes traditional Afghan folk songs and give them thoroughly modern settings… Soroor sounds as at home singing Farsi–language reggae, Indian jazz, Maghrebi pop or post–punk… Kefaya delight in tracing Elaha’s journey, crossing sonic borders into Iran, Armenia, Turkey and North Africa.” MOJO – 4 stars ****
“Embraces freedom and charges down boundaries.” Clash
Songs Of Our Mothers by Kefaya + Elaha Soroor will be released 27th September via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.