Ren Harvieu debuts ‘Yes Please’ visuals

With her new album Revel In The Drama due for release 3rd April via Bella Union, Ren Harvieu has today shared a sultry video for current single “Yes Please”.

Of the video, director Scott Jones says: “Visually, Ren had a vision of what she was looking for. The red light mic hanging in space with a simple performance, mixing with a very sensual close up of full frame lips. It was my job to develop these ideas to hold the viewers interest for the length of the song. I thought a Lynchian, dreamlike approach to the imagery would increase that slow burn intensity of the song, increasing suspense and building tension.”

Harvieu adds: “With the video for Yes Please I wanted to convey the sensuality of the song simply through a vocal performance, using the microphone as the object of desire that I tease.”

Additionally, Harvieu has announced news of an extensive UK tour, beginning late April in Sheffield and culminating in a performance at London’s Moth Club. Dates/info HERE.

Revel In The Drama is a brilliant and bolder take on Harvieu’s 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.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…

Kefaya + Elaha Soroor share ‘Gole Be Khar’ live video

Following excellent reviews for their album Songs Of Our Mothers, released last Autumn via Bella Union, Kefaya + Elaha Soroor have shared a live video of the track ”Gole Be Khar”, recorded at their sold-out Rich Mix show in October. Next month the band set out on a European tour which includes their biggest London headline show to date, performing at the Jazz Cafe in Camden.

Critical acclaim for Songs Of Our Mothers, out now via Bella Union.

Songs Of Our Mothers gives traditional Afghan folk songs the full Kefaya treatment, taking them on a journey from east to west that mirrors Soroor’s own, with elements of jazz, electronica and dub… Soroor is exquisite throughout.” Financial Times – 5 stars ****

“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 ****

“Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, telling stories of joy, pain and resilience… The beauty of Soroor’s mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout.” Songlines  – 4 stars ****

“An exotic genre-blend of jazz, dub and electronica… Soroor’s voice is beautifully expressive. The showstopper comes with the Radiohead-ish piano ballad, Khina Beyarin, where Soroor fully reveals her dazzling talent.” Q

“Afghanistan-born Elaha Soroor collaborates with international outfit Kefaya to produce an album that adds a modern, electronic touch to traditional Afghan folk music.” Electronic Sound

“Telling tales of the suffering and hardship endured by women but also celebrating their endurance and femininity, these songs are reworked by Soroor and Kefaya to create powerful, thought–provoking music.” Rock’n”Reel – 4 stars ****

“Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, telling stories of joy, pain and resilience… The beauty of Soroor’s mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout.” Jazzwise  – 4 stars ****

Susanne Sundfør composes ‘Self Portrait’ soundtrack

‘My photographs are not about anorexia. They are about human suffering.’ Lene Marie Fossen

Lene Marie Fossen wanted to stop time 23 years ago. She was only 10 years old when she decided to stop eating and struggled with anorexia the rest of her life. She chose to be open about her disease and is best known for her beautiful and revealing self-portraits. Her soulful portraits of victims of the refugee crisis on the island of Chios in Greece also bear witness of a unique photographer and artist. Lene Marie’s last wish was that her work should be shared with as many people as possible.

Lene’s work and ambition inspired Susanne Sundfør to collaborate with her when Lene asked, composing the original soundtrack to the film ‘Self Portrait’. It became the last piece of art she created as she passed just after the finalisation of the movie.

‘Self Portrait’ is a Norwegian feature length documentary that tells the story of Lene Marie Fossen, directed by Margreth Olin, Katja Høgset and Espen Wallin, and released in Norway on 17th January 2020 with international distribution to follow.

Susanne Sundfør’s original soundtrack to ‘Self Portrait’ will be released on 10th January 2020 through Bella Union.

‘When The Lord’ is the lead track from the ‘Self Portrait’ score, released today, and is the only vocal track from the record.

Wrangler share ‘How To Start A Revolution’

With their new album A Situation due for release 28th February via Bella Union, and having previously shared a video for lead track “Anthropocene”, today Wrangler unveil the addictive electro-funk that is their single, “How To Start A Revolution”. Of the track Wrangler say: “The world is shaping up to a head on collision, so don’t let them trap you in a corner. Don’t get faked, duped, deceived or pulled by the nose by the dissembling powers that be. Stand your ground, look them in the eye and call out their mendacity. Change the world before it’s too late. A call to arms: How to Start a Revolution”.

To celebrate the release of A Situation Wrangler will perform 2 x headline shows, in London and Manchester, in late February… Dates/info HERE.

When Wrangler first formed they had a very simple modus operandi. The clue was in their name. Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards (The Maths), Stephen ‘Mal’ Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil Winter (Tuung) would get together with a very select kit list of careworn analogue synthesisers and vintage digital sequencers. Their task? To wrangle new music from the ancient equipment. These self-imposed restrictions helped produced two classic long players: LA Spark (2014) and White Glue (2016).

However, the times have changed and so have Wrangler. The coming decade, which looks set to be dubbed the Terrible Twenties, may be the last time that bands actually get to release albums. Ecological collapse, climate crisis, food shortages and the disintegration of the fabric of society will mean that the slow devolution of the music industry isn’t even one of the main things that musicians (or anyone else) should be worrying about. So the trio have thrown everything into their third (but hopefully not their last) album. The result –A Situation – is simultaneously their bleakest and funkiest release to date.

This collection of warm, reverberant, amped up tracks, that land somewhere between future music, synth pop, industrial dance, classic techno and rigid electro, captures the ambiguities of the group perfectly. Just as they use the ageing outmoded equipment that other people once chose to throw away in order to make tomorrow’s music, they are the paranoid group who (just about) dare to hope that things still might turn out OK. They cast a doleful eye across the hellscape of 2019 and state, if the end is truly nigh, then it’s never been more important to celebrate the little time we have left. And if a revolution to save ourselves is possible then we’re all in need of a revolutionary party, with a revolutionary soundtrack to match.   

The album title A Situation is purposefully ambiguous, perhaps referring to a job that needs doing or a nettle that needs to be grasped; perhaps referring to an unspecified event that is potentially either an opportunity or a threat. 

‘How To Start A Revolution’contains a different kind of warning. Mal says: “There was originally a little bit of irony in this track but if anything the world has become even scarier in the last two years. If you keep on pushing people there will come a tipping point and it will come back to bite you. There’s no irony left any more.” ‘Machines Designed (To Eat You Up)’ is about the fully-automated AI state surveillance that threatens us all. It looks like the future that Cabaret Voltaire warned us about over four decades ago is now finally here. Mal says: “It’s not my fault! I take no satisfaction at all in this stuff coming true. If it felt dystopian then, it feels more dystopian now. Wrangler are still questioning power but some of the tools of power have changed. I’m now fearful of Google in the same way I was fearful of Thatcher in the 80s.” Phill adds: “In the 70s and 80s if you wanted to have a go you could any weekend of the year but nowadays it’s harder to see who the enemy is and where they are. Come on out and have a go. Where are you hiding?” Benge concludes: “People are aware of the problems with Google, Facebook, 5g, social media, etc. but they’re woven into everything we do, so impossible to deal with.” Addressing the multiple failures of the internet ‘Mess’originally had the more direct title ‘It’s A Fucking Mess’ which just about says it all. ‘White Noise’ is perhaps the bleakest track of all, based round a spoken word piece by Mal, inspired by a reflection on JG Ballard’s notorious and transgressive experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition. 

But Wrangler refuse to ignore the possibility of hope. The mirror image of ‘Mess’ comes in the shape of the copper-bottomed Kraftwerkian techno pop banger, ‘Rhizomatic’. As Mal says: “It’s an uplifting song, simply because the decentralisation of technology is the one aspect of the internet that might save us.” But perhaps the most positive aspect of the album is hardwired into the DNA of the track ‘Slide’simply because it stands on a continuum with the most uplifting of jacking Chicago house and the most utopian of New York garage.  

 Both sides of the coin – the dystopian and the utopian – are necessary for Wrangler to work. Phil sums it up the most succinctly when he says: “The heavier things get, the more I just want to jump around and have some fun.” A Situation will be released 28th February via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.

Listen to Jonathan Wilson’s “In Heaven Making Love”

Last month Jonathan Wilson announced news of his upcoming album Dixie Blur, to be 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.

Today, Jonathan Wilson has shared a new single titled “In Heaven Making Love”. Wilson says of the song, “That was one written from the road and driving down some highway in Spain. It was written in a totally different way for my last album, Rare Birds.” He adds, “I tried but I could never really get it, but then we did it this new way and it was like, Oh, that makes total sense now.”

Listen to the previously released 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.

the innocence mission share “The Brothers Williams Said”

With their new album See You Tomorrow due for release 17th January via Bella Union, and having previously shared the tracks “On Your Side” and “This Boat”, the innocence mission have today shared “Brother Williams Said”, the LP’s gorgeous opening number. Of the track vocalist Karen Peris says: “The Brothers Williams Said is about a sense of misunderstanding or labelling that can happen to people who have a quiet nature. The refrain ‘see you tomorrow’, which is also the name of the album, is the phrase that turns the song around to possibility and hopefulness.”

Love. Connection. Community. Understanding. Most of us experience these aspects through the prism of family and friends. But not everybody can turn those feelings into song, especially not with the beauty and sensitivity of Pennsylvania trio the innocence mission, fronted by Karen Peris and husband Don. Following their Bella Union album debut Sun On The Square, which won the band some of their best-ever reviews, they have made another exquisite and touching album, See You Tomorrow. A record steeped in awe and wonder, intense longing, sadness and joy; a rich sequence of songs that attempt to describe the essence of what makes us human.

The band recorded See You Tomorrow in the Peris’ basement (and the dining room where the piano sits). Karen wrote and sang ten of the album’s eleven songs, and plays guitars, piano, pump organ, accordion, electric bass, melodica, mellotron, and an old prototype strings sampler keyboard. Don contributes guitars, drums, vocal harmonies, and one lead vocal on his song ‘Mary Margaret In Mid-Air’. Fellow founder member Mike Bitts adds upright bass to four songs including ‘On Your Side’, the album’s first single.

Thematically, See You Tomorrow evolves from ‘Sun On The Square’, touching on the major changes that happen in the life of a family. Karen says, “Great love of course contains great anxiety, for the safety and health of the loved ones, for one’s own ability to be a good enough helper and companion, for the future. And the intense desire to hold the present moment of togetherness, at the very least to store it up in vivid detail, so that it can be not lost at all.” This desire can be felt in the song ‘Movie’, whose piano accompaniment echoes both the flickering of film and the unstoppable rush of time, and in ‘St. Francis and the Future’, which relates the tiny, perfect detail of a Jan Van Eyke painting to the human longing to hold off change, to keep it in the unflawed distance. Karen relates, “We were thrilled to come upon the painting ‘St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata’ long ago on a family day trip, and a kind attendant at the art museum gave our children a little magnifying glass to view it, and in the distance was a tiny city, birds in the sky, just barely visible. I’ve found in recent years that I was writing poems about that moment, but that the background of the painting had taken on a relation to the inevitable changes that I, as a mom, was mentally trying to hold off.”

Each successive innocence mission record marks the passing of time, and how we handle, and learn from, our experiences. “As time goes on I suppose we keep looking more toward connectedness, and feeling more gratitude though also more challenge about life, and wanting to find a language to define it somehow and wondering how others experience it,” says Karen. “The thought that these are universal concerns makes me feel more drawn to write songs, to join in a conversation, even though the conversation itself is sometimes about being at a loss for words.”

Two examples are ‘John As Well’ – “to crave knowing other people deeply, and being more truly known by someone” – and ‘At Lake Maureen’: wondering aloud about what the other person feels, for example the specific colours that they encounter in the natural world at a given moment, and how that combines with their emotions at the same moment.” The song contains one of Don’s favourite lyrics: “Make my soul come clean, a sail above Lake Maureen, sing into storms, sing into storms. This day is going.”

“There is a longing there to be transformed and a hopeful expectation that it is possible,” he explains. “I find joy, or a similar type of joy, in all of the songs,” he concludes. “A humble recognition of challenges and hardships, the acknowledgment and comfort in knowing that they are both personal and universal, and the expression of light and hope” – which is one way of summing up the perfect marriage of melody and words that is See You Tomorrow