SONIKKU’s ‘Sweat’ remixed by SOPHIE

SONIKKU today reveals SOPHIE’s remix of their latest single ‘Sweat’ featuring underground popstar LIZ. The remix is taken from a forthcoming EP of ‘Sweat’ remixes, which also includes a BALTRA re-work, and is due for release 13 December via Bella Union.

SOPHIE distorts SONIKKU’s latest single ‘Sweat’ into an alien euro-dance affair inspired by sweaty escapades at the infamous Berlin club, Berghain. “When SOPHIE and I met, we played each other our favourite disco music, and I think we view pop music in a very similar way,” SONIKKU, aka London-based producer Tony Donson, explains. “A mutual friend played ‘Sweat’ to her, and she connected with it instantly. To collaborate with an artist whose music I admire feels unreal, I could listen to ‘Nothing More To Say’ (by SOPHIE) on repeat endlessly. I feel the same hypersonic energy of that track was brought to the ‘Sweat’ remix.”

Having moved from Derby to London at the age of 18, Donson worked as an intern (at MTV, Dazed & Confused, SHOWstudio) then turned to DJing (from London to Tokyo, Paris and Berlin) after he was signed to London label Lobster Theremin. Though he continues to DJ regularly at Tottenham’s LGBTQ rave-up Adonis, he has extra ambitions in mind: “I love DJing but I’m more looking forward to developing a live show.”

A recent signee to Cocteau-Twins-founded label Bella Union, SONIKKU is set to release several more singles (featuring guest vocals from Chester Lockhart, Little Boots, Douglas Dare and more) alongside a full-length LP slated for spring 2020.

SOPHIE is an English electronic producer, songwriter, and DJ based in Los Angeles. Traversing disparate musical spheres from underground dance music to major label pop by, taking the helm for the likes of Madonna, Nicki Minaj, and Charli XCX, SOPHIE’s singular sound shirks convention and pushes familiar musical styles to their furthest extremes. At once uncannily familiar and boldly experimental, and across solo releases and production work for other artists, her music has developed a devoted following and made her in demand in recording studios and on dance floors alike.

SOPHIE’s remix of ‘Sweat’ featuring LIZ is available now via Bella Union. “Sweat Remixes” EP is due for release 13 December via Bella Union.

Jonathan Wilson announces Dixie Blur

Today, Jonathan Wilson announces his new album Dixie Blur, released 6th march via Bella Union in the UK / Europe (BMG in North America) and available to preorder here. The critically-acclaimed artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer (Father John Misty, Laura Marling, Dawes) spent most of 2017-18 on Roger Waters’ epic US+THEM tour as musical director, guitarist and vocalist, singing the David Gilmour leads. Following the tour, Wilson chose to temporarily leave his Los Angeles-based home and studio and head to Nashville to work with a revered group of musicians and co-producer Pat Sansone of Wilco, to create Dixie Blur, his most personal, accessible and fully-realised work to date.

Listen to the tracks “So Alive” and “Korean Tea” to appreciate Wilson’s sonic vision for Dixie Blur. The video for the recently released “69 Corvette” features in-studio footage of the recording, but more importantly includes personal home movies from his upbringing that help illustrate the narrative of Dixie Blur.  The North Carolina native moved to LA 15 years ago where he became an integral part of the music community as a respected artist and producer. It was there he recorded and played most of the instruments on his celebrated albums Gentle Spirit (2011), Fanfare (2013) and Rare Birds (2018), building each project over time, piece by piece.

Wilson chose a completely different path for Dixie Blur in both writing and recording. The songs hark back to his Southern roots, both musically and personally. The multi-talented artist went to Nashville to record at Cowboy Jack Clement’s legendary Sound Emporium Studio and worked with a core group of exceptional players that included Mark O’Connor (fiddle), Kenny Vaughan (guitar) Dennis Crouch (bass), Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Jim Hoke (harmonica, woodwinds), Jon Radford (drums), and Drew Erickson (keyboards). Wilson and company recorded everything together live with very few overdubs, a full 360 from his past methods. Jonathan then mixed the record at Jackson Browne’s Groovemasters Studio. The result is a stunning album filled with warm, thoughtful, melody-rich songs that have an immediate impact upon first hearing and continueto grow with further listening.

Jonathan Wilson masterfully strikes a balance as he reaches back to the musical foundation of his upbringing while simultaneously moving forward by infusing the music with modern textures and aesthetic soundscapes, thus producing in the aptly titled, Dixie Blur. 

Wilson has announced a 10–date full band European tour in late March / early April which includes a headline performance at London’s new Lafayette venue. Full tour dates can be found here.

Fans can order limited edition bundle versions of Dixie Blur, which include an engraved zippo lighter and hemp rolling papers. In addition to this, there is also limited edition Dixie Blur guitar pick packs available to order.

Happy Release Day to Ivor Raymonde

Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde. The new compilation, released today via Bella Union, is a further celebration of the great British arranger, musical director, producer and songwriter Ivor Raymonde, who died at age 63 in 1990.

Like Paradise, Odyssey has been compiled by Ivor’s son Simon Raymonde with author, journalist and music historian Kieron Tyler. Simon explains that: “The research Kieron and I did for Paradise showed us that there was still an extremely rich seam of his music to be uncovered. A follow-up volume was increasingly inevitable.”

Paradise told the story of a British musical great for the first time. Classic Sixties hits like Billy Fury’s “Halfway To Paradise”, Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want To Be With You” (co-written by Ivor) and The Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself” were collected. All were arranged or produced by Ivor and heard alongside just-as-fantastic tracks by David Bowie, Sonny Childe, Cindy Cole, Tom Jones, Los Bravos and Helen Shapiro. 

Odyssey is additional confirmation of the seemingly limitless scope of Ivor’s talents. More hits are featured: the Alan Price Set’s irresistible Top Five interpretation of Randy Newman’s “Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear”, Dusty Springfield’s kinetic “Little By Little”, Frankie Vaughan’s epic chart topper “Tower Of Strength” and the aural drama of Marty Wilde And His Wildcats’ “Endless Sleep”. There are also lesser-known tracks by best-sellers: Los Bravos’ Raymonde-composed soul stomper “Brand New Baby”, Cat Stevens’ moody “Blackness Of The Night” and the extraordinary 1966 Walker Brothers’ album track “Where’s The Girl”, which pointed to where the solo Scott Walker would soon be heading.

Although Ivor Raymonde was a back-room figure, he made the Top 30 in early 1963 as the clandestine vocalist with The Chucks – a studio demo had been made with no intention of it ending up in record shops. Then, it was issued and a band name needed. Ivor plumped for The Chucks and “Loo-Be-Loo” began rising up the charts. On Odyssey, it is at last given its context.

Not everything was a hit. Paul Slade’s epic “Odyssey” missed out on the charts. So did Giles, Giles and Fripp’s baroque psych-pop gem “Thursday Morning”: three-quarters of the band, which featured Robert Fripp, became the first version of King Crimson. One track could never have been a hit: “Twinkle’s “Michael Hannah” was recorded with Ivor in 1971 as a potential single but never released. Now, it is united with 24 other examples of Ivor Raymonde at his best.

Instead of Ivor, the cover image of Odyssey is of Ivor’s wife Nita. As Simon explains: “Since the release of Paradise the love of Dad’s life and my dear mum Nita passed away. I thought it fitting that the cover reflects the huge influence this woman had on him. So often, as was society’s norm in the ’50s and ’60s, the woman behind the scenes rarely got a mention. She raised four children while he made his way in the rapidly changing music business, and definitely helped keep his feet on the ground. Using this beautiful photo of Mum as a cover for Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II redresses the balance a little. He kept it perched on top of his upright walnut Kemble piano in his study and while Mum took it down when he died, thankfully she put it away somewhere safe. It’s certainly a peculiar and unsettling feeling to be left with no parents to turn to, to call, to rely on, and perhaps this emptiness lead me into such a deep period of soul mining.”

Further going into the reasons for a follow-up to Paradise, Simon adds: “I knew there was more but even a serial curator, late-night trawler like me, at some point thinks ‘the best stuff must now surely be all discovered.’ But finding tracks like Christopher Colt’s ‘Girl In The Mirror’ is like unearthing a rare Donovan track produced by Ray Davies. Probably my favourite discovery was The Martells’ ‘Time To Say Goodnight’ which Ivor produced when he worked at Decca Records. They only released one seven-inch single which sells for over £200, so it’s quite a rarity and more importantly a banger of a track.”

Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II is issued on CD, double album and as a download. Every track but one was originally issued or recorded in mono: stereo became standard in the pop market in 1968/1969. Keeping the integrity of the compilation in mind, all but one track appears in mono. With tracks issued as singles, the masters used are those of the singles themselves. 

John Grant announces 2020 tour dates

Following a successful year touring Love Is Magic, his critically-acclaimed fourth solo album, John Grant has today announced news of a May UK tour performing as a duo with his long-time piano player Chris Pemberton. For these dates Grant will be taking a stripped-back approach, performing classics from across his career on just piano and keys. The tour also marks the ten year anniversary of his celebrated debut solo LP Queen Of Denmark. Ahead of the ten dates in May Grant also has two recently announced London and Brighton shows performing in the same format, both of which have long since sold out. 

Ren Harvieu announces new album ‘Revel In The Drama’

Having earlier signalled her return via the track “Teenage Mascara”, which was both Lauren Laverne’s Track of the Day and Jo Whiley’s Single Of The Week, Ren Harvieu has today announced news of her long-awaited new album Revel In The Drama, due for release 3rd April via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The album is a brilliant and bolder take on her timeless pop classicism, a compelling diary of a struggle with self-belief and a celebration of liberation and survival, seven years after her Top 5 debut album and having overcome a life-threatening injury. Think of Revel In The Drama as Harvieu’s second debut album; a new beginning. To celebrate the news Harvieu has shared a new track titled “Yes Please” which she describes as “A slow sensual dance of desire. I wanted to write about the art of seduction and the teasing power of being an unapologetic sexual being.”

Harvieu’s defiance against the odds and her willingness to lay herself open to make what she believed was within her is baked into every groove of the record, across every stylistic turn: the giddy pop of ‘Strange Thing’, the gothic swoon of ‘Cruel Disguise’, the smokey seductiveness of ‘Yes Please’ through to the stirring torchsong finale ‘My Body She Is Alive’.

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.”

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. What followed was what Harvieu describes as “some very dark years” which she addresses in songs like ‘Spirit Me Away’ and the 50’s ballad-evoking ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ 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. “It was a truly magical experience working with Dave & Romeo, they are two absolute nurturing musical wizards.” says Harvieu. 

Harvieu’s lyrical confidence is evident throughout the album and has you leaning in to absorb line after line. Her voice, soaring and caressing in equal measure, is matched in force by her flirtatious personality. From the album’s opening lyric “Let me put my paws on you, strange thing” through to the feminine bite of ‘Curves And Swerves’ “I’ve got some curves and some swerves, what you gonna do about it?” which crackles with sexual tension and an aching vulnerability.

Among Harvieu’s new songs are messages of hope to her younger, anxious self. To the teenage goth Ren in ‘Little Raven’, she says: “I want you to know, that I’m starting to feel, but its gonna take time, but I’m ready to heal”. ‘Tomorrow’s Girl Today’ is to the Ren “who would make bad decisions… we can all be very self-destructive, but will we make it this time?” 

So what now, Ren Harvieu? “I’ve created a second chance for myself“ she says. “And I will keep creating second chances for myself, because this is my life and I’m not afraid to revel in it anymore.” Revel In the Drama of Ren Harvieu – finally we all can too…