BC Camplight debuts ‘Shortly After Takeoff’

With his much-anticipated new album Shortly After Takeoff due for release 24th April via Bella Union, and already the subject of rave reviews in MOJO and Uncut, BC Camplight has today shared the title track from the album. Of the track BC Camplight comments: “I feel at home being down. I spend a lot of time there. Your toast can only land butter-side to the floor so many times before one questions if there is anything other than down. Well, right before I recorded Shortly After Takeoff I discovered that up exists. It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. This song is about my all too predictable free-fall back down. Back to where one can enjoy all the home-cooked comforts of their own fears. The familiar tightening grip. I write in this song regarding the fall “Shortly After Takeoff you’ll find me crashing out. Don’t pick up the pieces”.  This is where I live. I do my best work here. Maybe one day I will move up. I’m not ruling it out.”

“Heroic… A record of infinite twists… Bible-black humour and brilliantly fractured songs ensure Shortly After Takeoff is a joy.” Uncut – 9/10

“BC Camplight exceeds emotional baggage allowance in style… He’s often very funny, yet the music’s stylistic pitch underlines how destabilised his world has become, I Only Drink When I’m Drunk buffeted by vocoders and Flaming Lips drums, Back To Work plunging from pastoral pop to early techno chill.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“This is an examination of madness and loss,” says Brian Christinzio, the inimitable force behind BC Camplight. “I hope it starts a long overdue conversation.”

Fired by his ongoing battle with mental illness, Shortly After Takeoff is the final, and finest, chapter of what Christinzio calls his “Manchester Trilogy”, following 2015’s “How To Die In The North” and 2018’s “Deportation Blues”. All three albums were created after the native Philadelphian had moved to Manchester. Like Deportation Blues, Shortly After Takeoff spans singer-songwriter classicism, gnarly synth-pop and ‘50s rock’n’roll, with Christinzio’s similarly distinctive, flexible vocal carrying a fearless approach to lyrical introspection, but the new album is a major leap forward in songwriting sophistication and lyricalcommunication.

“It’s important to stress that this isn’t a redemption story,” he says. “I’m a guy who maybe lives a little hard and I’m in the thick of some heavy stuff. But as a result, I think I’ve made my best record.”

The “heavy stuff” has come thick and fast for Christinzio. Just days before How To Die In The North was released, he was deported and banned from the UK because of visa issues. Estranged from his new home, his girlfriend and his dog, unable to promote his album and back home with his parents, Christinzio sunk deep into the dark. An Italian passport, care of his grandparents, eventually allowed him to re-settle in Manchester, but then just days before Deportation Blues was released, his father Angelo unexpectedly died.

“I went into a spiral that was worse than any time since my twenties,” he recalls. Hence the title Shortly After Takeoff: the feeling of being suddenly thwarted by what life throws at you. Making matters worse was a neurological disorder that returned after years in remission: “I see TV static, and it messes with how my brain interprets everything from sound to my own feelings.” 

One way to process tragedy is comedy, which elevates Shortly After Takeoff to a heightened plateau, from grief-stricken vulnerability to armoured bravado, from the black dog of depression to gallows humour. 

Bleak comedy is evident from the album’s first song. ‘I Only Drink When I’m Drunk’ features Christinzio’s trademark ‘keep you on your toes’ style. ‘Ghosthunting’ similarly changes tack, between serene melody, classical harps, and pounding passages. Though the Nilsson-esque ‘I Want To Be In the Mafia’ (Christinzio’s favourite lyric on the album) and the elegantly sombre ‘Arm Around Your Sadness’ are less changeable, the way ‘Back To Work’ trades dreamy AOR and robotic funk, “sums up this record perfectly,” Christinzio feels. “The verse seems to make sense, then out of nowhere, boom boom…just when you think you have it figured out… It’s the never-ending cycle of mental illness.”

Christinzio says his love of stylistic shifts is also linked to a, “pretty low attention span. I’m always stirring the pot, I never let it settle.” His personal life is similarly restless. Few might risk everything and abscond from the safety of home in Philadelphia, where he had released two albums, occasionally played live with local faves The War On Drugs – whose current members Dave Hartley and Robbie Bennett were part of the original BC Camplight live band – and guested on Sharon van Etten’s Epic album. “If I’d stayed, I’d be dead. Period,” he once mused, and what was Philly’s loss became Manchester’s gain. 

Shortly After Takeoff ends with the gorgeously tender 93-second ‘Angelo’, “a little fleeting moment for my dad. I wanted his name on the album, and something that sounded like a goodbye. It ends with the drums, like a heartbeat stopping…” That’s Christinzio and Shortly After Takeoff: his best, most honest, open and frequently heartbreaking record.

BC Camplight shares ‘Cemetery Lifestyle’

With his new album Shortly After Takeoff due for release 24th April via Bella Union, and having previously shared the tracks ‘Back To Work’  and ‘I Only Drink When I’m Drunk’, BC Camplight has today shared an amusing yet ominous video for new single “Cemetery Lifestyle”. The track’s lyrics are strangely prophetic, chiming with these anxious times we’re currently experiencing. As Brian Christinzio says: “By allowing me to process some pretty bizarre feelings I was having, the writing of this song allowed me to look at my fears and eventually look past them. As reflected in the lyrics, I had been having feelings that I was up against an invisible force. Something inevitable that I couldn’t ignore or outrun. This had led to my living in long periods of solitude and worry. I couldn’t have known that months later these sentiments would be eerily echoed by so many. My hope is that the song brings comfort and levity to whoever it touches.”

Like all musicians at this difficult time, BC Camplight has had no choice but to postpone his upcoming Spring headline tour dates. These shows have been moved to September and October. Full live info HERE.

“This is an examination of madness and loss,” says Brian Christinzio, the inimitable force behind BC Camplight. “I hope it starts a long overdue conversation.”

Fired by his ongoing battle with mental illness, Shortly After Takeoff is the final, and finest, chapter of what Christinzio calls his “Manchester Trilogy”, following 2015’s “How To Die In The North” and 2018’s “Deportation Blues”. All three albums were created after the native Philadelphian had moved to Manchester. Like Deportation Blues, Shortly After Takeoff spans singer-songwriter classicism, gnarly synth-pop and ‘50s rock’n’roll, with Christinzio’s similarly distinctive, flexible vocal carrying a fearless approach to lyrical introspection, but the new album is a major leap forward in songwriting sophistication and lyrical communication.

“It’s important to stress that this isn’t a redemption story,” he says. “I’m a guy who maybe lives a little hard and I’m in the thick of some heavy stuff. But as a result, I think I’ve made my best record.”

The “heavy stuff” has come thick and fast for Christinzio. Just days before How To Die In The North was released, he was deported and banned from the UK because of visa issues. Estranged from his new home, his girlfriend and his dog, unable to promote his album and back home with his parents, Christinzio sunk deep into the dark. An Italian passport, care of his grandparents, eventually allowed him to re-settle in Manchester, but then just days before Deportation Blues was released, his father Angelo unexpectedly died.

“I went into a spiral that was worse than any time since my twenties,” he recalls. Hence the title Shortly After Takeoff: the feeling of being suddenly thwarted by what life throws at you. Making matters worse was a neurological disorder that returned after years in remission: “I see TV static, and it messes with how my brain interprets everything from sound to my own feelings.”

One way to process tragedy is comedy, which elevates Shortly After Takeoff to a heightened plateau, from grief-stricken vulnerability to armoured bravado, from the black dog of depression to gallows humour.

Bleak comedy is evident from the album’s first song. ‘I Only Drink When I’m Drunk’ features Christinzio’s trademark ‘keep you on your toes’ style. ‘Ghosthunting’ similarly changes tack, between serene melody, classical harps, and pounding passages. Though the Nilsson-esque ‘I Want To Be In the Mafia’ (Christinzio’s favourite lyric on the album) and the elegantly sombre ‘Arm Around Your Sadness’ are less changeable, the way ‘Back To Work’ trades dreamy AOR and robotic funk, “sums up this record perfectly,” Christinzio feels. “The verse seems to make sense, then out of nowhere, boom boom…just when you think you have it figured out… It’s the never-ending cycle of mental illness.”

Christinzio says his love of stylistic shifts is also linked to a, “pretty low attention span. I’m always stirring the pot, I never let it settle.” His personal life is similarly restless. Few might risk everything and abscond from the safety of home in Philadelphia, where he had released two albums, occasionally played live with local faves The War On Drugs – whose current members Dave Hartley and Robbie Bennett were part of the original BC Camplight live band – and guested on Sharon van Etten’s Epic album. “If I’d stayed, I’d be dead. Period,” he once mused, and what was Philly’s loss became Manchester’s gain.

There, Christinzio has his friends, and his band. On record, Shortly After Takeoff is “95 percent” Christinzio, plus Adam Dawson (drums) and Francesca Pidgeon (backing vocals, sax, clarinet) and guests on cello and violin. Dawson and Pidgeon are also members of the current live BC Camplight, alongside Thom Bellini (guitar), Stephen Mutch (bass) and Luke Barton (synths, acoustic guitar).

Christinzio couldn’t tour How To Die In The North because of his deportation, but the shows following Deportation Blues played to increasingly larger audiences. Christinzio’s bombastic and intense live performances have earned him an ever-growing legion of devotees (and a recent nomination for Best Live Act by the Independent Music Awards) that see Brian as an “anti-rockstar”, an unfiltered talent.  

“I’m pretty sure the BC Camplight live experience isn’t something you can find elsewhere,” he declares. “It is a journey every night. One moment, I’m basically doing a stand-up routine and the next, the band and I are playing like we plan on dying that evening, giving our everything. One regret is that his father never saw Christinzio experience any level of success. “I wish he could have seen what I’ve started to do here,” he says. “I certainly gave that guy more grey hairs than he deserved. He would have liked to see this.”

Shortly After Takeoff ends with the gorgeously tender 93-second ‘Angelo’, “a little fleeting moment for my dad. I wanted his name on the album, and something that sounded like a goodbye. It ends with the drums, like a heartbeat stopping…” That’s Christinzio and Shortly After Takeoff: his best, most honest, open and frequently heartbreaking record.

Jonathan Wilson shares dog friendly video for ‘In Heaven Making Love’

Following the March 6th release of his critically acclaimed new album Dixie Blur, Jonathan Wilson releases the light-hearted video for the joyful single “In Heaven Making Love”.

For all the dog lovers, hopeless romantics and hopeless dog loving romantics out there, this heart-warming clip is sure to make you smile at a time when everyone could use it. The video features a canine cast, with the lead finding a new love interest, only to lose her without warning. Our hero frantically searches high and low and will stop at nothing until they are reunited. When it comes to affairs of the heart, love leads all, even with our furry friends.

Like so many artists, Wilson postponed his tour due to COVID-19. The dates will be rescheduled, but later this year fans can catch Wilson as guitarist and vocalist on Roger Waters’ upcoming worldwide “This Is Not A Drill” Tour.

I Break Horses debuts ‘Neon Lights’

With their new album Warnings due for release 8th May via Bella Union, and having previously shared videos for ‘Death Engine’ and ‘I’ll Be The Death Of You’, I Break Horses today shares a technicolour lyric video for new single “Neon Lights”. Of the track Maria Lindén says: “An anthem for all of us who have ever felt like we didn’t fit in. It is trying to give a glimpse of hope to all outsiders who feel like they can’t find their way and to show the world that being a ‘misfit’ is a beautiful thing, not something to be pushed aside.”

If I Break Horses’ third album holds you in its grip like a great film, it’s no coincidence. Faced with making the follow-up to 2014’s plush Chiaroscuro, Horses’s Maria Lindén decided to take the time to make something different, with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of favourite films on her computer (sound muted) and made her own soundtrack sketches, these sonic workouts gradually evolved into something more: “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

That album is Warnings, an intimate and sublimely expansive return that, as its recording suggests, sets its own pace with the intuitive power of a much-loved movie. And, as the title suggests, the sumptuous sound worlds – dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analogue synths – and layered lyrics crackle with immersive dramatic tensions on many levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”  

As Lindén notes, the process of making Warnings involved different kinds of dramas. “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…”

Yet the pay-off for her long-haul immersion is clear from statement-of-intent album opener ‘Turn’, a waltzing kiss-off to an ex swathed in swirling synths over nine emotive minutes. On ‘Silence’, Lindén suggests deeper sorrows in the interplay of serene surface synths, hypnotic loops and elemental images: when she sings “I feel a shiver,” you feel it, too.

Elsewhere, on three instrumental interludes, Lindén’s intent to experiment with sound and structure is clear. Meanwhile, there are art-pop songs here more lush than any she has made. ‘I’ll Be the Death of You’ occupies a middle ground between Screamedelica and early OMD, while ‘Neon Lights’ brings to mind Kraftwerk on Tron’s light grid. ‘I Live At Night’ slow-burns like a song made for night-time LA drives; ‘Baby You Have Travelled for Miles without Love in Your Eyes’ is an electronic lullaby spiked with troubling needle imagery. ‘Death Engine’’s dark-wave dream-pop provides an epic centrepiece, of sorts, before the vocoder hymnal of closer ‘Depression Tourist’ arrives like an epiphany, the clouds parting after a long, absorbing journey.

For Lindén, Warnings is a remarkable re-routing of a journey begun when I Break Horses’s debut album, Hearts (2011), drew praise from PitchforkThe GuardianNMEThe Independent and others for its luxurious grandeur and pulsing sense of art-pop life. With the electro-tangents of 2014’s  Chiaroscuro, Lindén forged a new, more ambitious voice with total confidence. Along the way, I Break Horses toured with M83 and Sigur Rós; latterly, U2 played Hearts’ ecstatic ‘Winter Beats’ through the PA before their stage entrance on 2018’s ‘Experience + Innocence’ tour. Good choice.

A new friend on Warnings is US producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady, whose graceful way with dense sound (credits include Beach House, TV on the Radio) was not the sole reason Lindén invited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

If making Warnings was a slow process, so be it: that steady gestation was a price worth paying for its lavish accretions of detail and meaning, where secrets aplenty await listeners eager to immerse themselves. “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!” Happily, Warnings provides all the incentives required.

Drab City share ‘Devil Doll’

Having last month announced their debut album Good Songs For Bad People, released 12th June via Bella Union, and shared a video for ‘Working For The Men’, today Drab City share a new track, ‘Devil Doll’, from the album. ‘Devil Doll’ is a slow-burning tune of smooth melancholy. A beautiful, airy vocal melody is supported by descending vibraphone chords and a solid bass line, ornamented with strings and flutes. Though a conventionally catchy and pretty song, everything feels slightly off-kilter, giving it a mildly uneasy quality. The gentle, melodic vocal is actually not, one realises, delivering a tale of love or romance, but a tale a disappointment, betrayal, and small town hopelessness.

A heady air of dislocation envelops Drab City’s debut album, where songs of innocence and experience merge with dub, hip-hop, dream-pop and jazzy soundtrack vibes to intoxicating effect. Drab City are fixated on social alienation, violent revenge, and (perhaps) romantic love as salvation; topics not new in music, but listening to Drab City in 2020, one is struck by how uncommon they’ve become. Lyrically, these songs often project punkish angst and resentment. “Working For the Men” is a degraded service worker’s revenge ballad, imagining male tormenters brought to a violent end. “Hand On My Pocket” tells of a destitute, wandering youth. One night she meets a stranger on a desert road, and is told of a nearby city where a soft, rich citizenry make easy targets. Class war is palpable. Other songs are more opaque, but seem to speak of being the black sheep of the family, or being weighed down by the dullness of hometown life. Yet the casual listener might not notice the violence as the music itself is far from abrasive. Dreamy and ethereal, a foundation of flute, vibraphone, and jazzy guitar chord melody can switch to drum machines or funk-inflected girl-group pop at a moment’s notice. It’s a flurry of 20th century references, combining and recombining at such a schizophrenic pace, the overall effect is something that could only be conjured in our frenzied present. At once catchy and unfamiliar, the melodic, welcoming soundscapes are a Trojan horse for the band’s antisocial outlook.

Modern Nature announce mini album

Following their recent sold-out show at London’s Omeara, Modern Nature have announced news of a new 7-track mini-album titled Annual, released 5th June via Bella Union, and available to preorder here. The band have shared a video for lead track “Flourish”, created by visual artist Cody Ledvina.

Released in August 2019, Modern Nature’s debut album – How to Live – crossed the urban and rural into each other. Plaintive cello strains melted into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drifted through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shone with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmospheric waves of Harmonia.

The album was met with universal acclaim and featured in a number of publication’s ‘Best Of 2019’ lists. As the group took the album out on the road, Modern Nature became something even more expansive. “It feels like there’s scope and room to grow. I want the group to feel fluid and that whoever’s playing with us can express themselves and interpret what they think this music is” says bandleader Jack Cooper.

Their new mini-album Annual, recorded in December 2019 at Gizzard Studio in London, is another step towards something more liberated and a world away from the sound of Jack Cooper’s previous bands. Will Young sits this one out, concentrating on his work with Beak, but How To Live collaborator Jeff Tobias takes a more central role, alongside percussionist Jim Wallis.

Jack explains how ‘Annual’ came about: “Towards the end of 2018, I began filling a new diary with words, observations from walks, descriptions of events, thoughts…free associative streams of just… stuff. Reading back, as the year progressed from winter to spring, the tone of the diary seemed to change as well… optimism crept in, brightness and then things began to dip as autumn approached… warmth, isolation again and into winter.”

“I split the diary into four seasons and used them as the template for the four main songs. The shorter instrumental songs on the record are meant to signify specific events and transitions from one season to the next. I figured it wouldn’t be a very long record, but to me it stands up next to ‘How To Live’ in every way.”

‘Annual’ opens with ‘Dawn’ which brings to mind the peace and space of Miles Davis’ ‘In A Silent Way’; it rises from nothing like shoots reaching for the light. “I wanted Dawn to feel like the moment you realise spring is coming, when you notice blossom on the trees or nights getting lighter.”

On lead track ‘Flourish’, it’s clear Modern Nature have moved on from the first album; as muted percussion and double-bass stirs behind Cooper’s Slint-like ambling guitar; the chorus soars into a collaged crescendo. “Flourish is like when my part of the world coming to life. I live on the edge of London between Leytonstone and Epping Forest, so the signs of spring are very apparent round here – flowers, light, people talking in their gardens.” 

“Mayday started as an outro to Flourish or ‘Spring’ as it was titled originally. The idea was a segueway into the summer section to represent the sort of collective excitement a city gets once it realises summer is here.” 

The summer of Jack’s diary inspired ‘Halo’. “Wanstead Flats where I live, change a lot in the summer; a haze descends on them instead of the spring mist and the city’s proximity is more apparent. Blue bags of empty cans and scorched grass from out of control barbeques.” Arnulf Lindner on double-bass recalls the playing of Danny Thompson with Jeff Tobias’ wonderfully lyrical saxophone referencing Pharoah Sanders. 

On ‘Harvest’ Jack takes a backseat with Kayla Cohen of Itasca singing. “All these songs are in the same key but the melody was above my range. I’d been playing the new Itasca record all the time and just reached out. The economy with which she sings is perfect.”

“The intention with the record was for it to feel like a circle, so Wynter reflects the opening. I guess having to get up and flip the record destroys the illusion so it’s a rare occasion where listening with the ability to just loop the album into another year is closer to our intention.”

‘Annual’ then acts both like a companion piece to the band’s ‘How To Live’ debut but also a pointer to the paths ahead. Cooper has already started work on the next album, his speed of output an indication of the excitement and creativity that surrounds the project. Who will be involved and what the touchstones might be are yet to be firmly established but then who would have it any other way with this most fascinatingly free-flowing and mutable of groups?