Tim Burgess shares ‘The Mall’

Having last month announced his new album I Love The New Sky, released 22nd May via Bella Union,and shared a brilliant video for “Empathy For The Devil”, Tim Burgess today shares another little charmer of a video, this time for new single “The Mall”. Of the track Burgess says: The mall is like a state of mind – everything and nothing is there. It induces a kind of torpor. Even the process of going between floors is assisted by moving staircases. Shop windows are hypnotic but you don’t have to take part in anything. Malls are a great leveller – class and status disappear. They are like a waking dream, an altered state. A kind of limbo. Plus they are handy if you need new shoes or a doughnut.”

How inspiring it is to hear Tim Burgess conjuring up exciting and life-affirming sounds as he, almost inconceivably, enters his fifth decade on public duty. Frontman, singer, label boss, DJ and author, he’s been instrumental in so many great records over the years, always bringing enthusiasm, positivity and diversity of influence, which altogether light the way for those who hold him dear.

While in The Charlatans, Tim’s indefatigable energy has been a consistent fuel for the band across thirteen high-charting albums, his solo adventure has been no less extraordinary, scaling new heights in 2020 with his fifth solo release to date: ‘I Love The New Sky’. Released via Bella Union, it features wonderfully connective songs of everyday minutiae and universal experience, of love and anger, of loss and belonging, all united by elaborate yet natural arrangements and an effortlessway with melody.

The twelve tunes of ‘I Love The New Sky’ were authored, he says, “in Norfolk, in the middle of the countryside, with the nearest shop eight miles away. There are no distractions, and I guess that way things happen. I wrote everything on acoustic guitar, and the chords were really considered. The guitar lines would lead the melody, and the melody would inform the lyrics – just dreaming away with music.”

So far, so Laurel Canyon, though ‘I Love The New Sky’ would end up sounding anything but hippie/folkie, thanks to a connection Tim made while living in a warehouse space in gritty Seven Sisters in North London, before heading to Norfolk. “The Quietus had their office there,” he recalls. “I used to know pretty much all the stuff they were writing about, but then their album of the year for 2013 was ‘Glynnaestra’ by Grumbling Fur, and I really fell in love with it. I started talking to the band about working together. To cut a long story short I recorded a song with Grumbling Fur, they remixed two Charlatans tracks and a couple of Daniel O’Sullivan’s solo albums came out on my label.”

As well as arranging and production duties on I Love The New Sky, O’Sullivan plays bass, drums and piano, from the bouncing chamber-pop chords of ‘Sweetheart Mercury’ and the punchy chorus of ‘Empathy For The Devil’, through to ‘Comme D’Habitude’’s juxtaposition of blissfully rolling West Coast singer-songwriting and a complex Sparks-y Broadway-esque bridge, to the Velvets-y ramalama moves on ‘Warhol Me’ and ‘Undertow’’s sombre balladry.

The album was arranged and recorded quickly but not rushed: “Ideas happen fast, don’t they?” Tim reasons. The first sessions at Eve Studios in Stockport were with long-serving Charlatans engineer Jim Spencer. Tim, Daniel and Nik Void cut three tracks in two days, with Nik layering up modular synths in line with her previous day job in Factory Floor.

The results are nothing short of astounding. ‘I Love The New Sky’ has landed somewhere between Paul McCartney’s ‘RAM’ and Brian Eno’s ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)’ and certainly that recipe covers both the all-pervasive tunefulness and high quality. Stylistically, though, it runs the widest gamut, from ‘Empathy For The Devil’s gospel style rockabilly skip, through to the sophisticated song-craft of ‘Sweetheart Mercury’ and the Nilsson-esque ‘Sweet Old Sorry Me’, with the angst-y gravitas of ‘Undertow’, which Tim describes as “a mood-changer, influenced by 10cc.”

The final stages of the album’s year-long narrative arc were enacted at Jet Studio in Brussels, with the Echo Collective string section. Burgess looked on “mesmerised at what was happening to the songs, taking an even more magical turn.”

With that icing on the cake, Tim is in no doubt that he has his finest solo record under his belt. He’ll be touring the album with a live ensemble featuring Daniel O’Sullivan, Thighpaulsandra, another O Genesis artiste called Keel Her, and renowned avant-jazz violinist Peter Broderick, who plays on ‘’Empathy…’ and will recreate the Echo Collective parts, too. So, the community will grow. Just like Tim says, “the future is friendly.

Psychic Markers return with self titled album

Psychic Markers will release their self-titled, third full length album on 29 May via Bella Union. Today they reveal the album’s first single ‘Silence in The Room’, which comes with a self-directed video. The band will perform live at London’s Set on 11 June.

“Silence is a complex subject and completely affects you depending on context,” the band say of the track, which is accompanied by a self-directed video. “Silence can be deafening in people when they struggle to communicate. Other times silence is awkward. Silence can also be golden, to have built a relationship with someone and just to be with them is enough, finding somebody to share this with is rare and should be appreciated.”

A near death experience being sucked into an active sandstorm during a US road trip is enough to make you think about life. Being immersed in a swirling vortex of sand, dust, tumbleweed and detritus whilst trying to keep control of a speeding car might have only been a brief flash moment in Steven Dove’s life but it was enough for the Psychic Markers man to question life. “These things impact you,” he says. “I got thinking about human nature, our proneness to mistakes, imperfection and the implications of reactionary decision making.”

The results of such lyrical reflection, and broad spectrum of thought, can be heard throughout the latest Psychic Markers album, one that Dove describes as, “Imagine a David Cronenberg-style movie in which each morning you awake to find your brain merged inside someone else’s head – you see life from a totally different angle.”

Approaching things from a different angle was also the objective sonically. “We wanted to make an album that was 100% us,” says Leon Dufficy, who heads up the band with Dove. “With zero dilution from other influences.” This natural, intuition-led, direction is something immediately apparent on the album, one that weaves seamlessly between pulsing groove-locked electronica and psychedelic pop as frequently as it glides from sparkling melody to rich cinematic ambience.

“Cohesive yet diverse,” is what the band have said of their music and it fits their personalities too, with members coming from as far afield as Australia and Yorkshire. Dufficy and Dove wrote and produced the record together, the sultry yet subtle bass comes from Luke Jarvis, who also did the band’s artwork, whilst the glowing backing vocals of Alannah Ashworth feature alongside the shared percussion duties of Lewis Baker and Jim Wallis.

The opening track ‘Where Is the Prize?’ is a perfect opener that encapsulates Dove’s introspective yet existential lyricism, as well as the band’s expanded sonic terrain. It’s written from the perspective of an old person who sees friends die off until only they remain. “We strive for old age but what’s even there if you make it?” asks Dove. Musically, it opens with gently lapping waves of electronics that sets the tone for a more electronically-leaning record.

A total electronic overhaul this is not, however. Instead, their third album sits in a sweet spot between evolutionary and revolutionary step; retaining the core essence and personality of the band but also moving into new territory. It embellishes and emboldens the band’s pre-existing palate, one that still nods to 1970s Germany on the careering ‘Clouds’ (a song that, antithetical to the opener, looks at life from the perspective of a child) and one that still exhibits their seamless knack for immersive melody via the gorgeous Yo La Tengo-like closer ‘Baby It’s Time.’

Amidst the engulfing soundscapes of ‘Juno Dreams’ is a sample of an old Texan psychic that cannot foresee a future for its subject, whilst the serene-to-nightmare psychedelic noise trip that is ‘Sacred Geometry’ is a direct exploration of the moment Dove was caught in the sandstorm. “The track is that nanosecond you have to make an important decision – the second part of it being the knock-on effect of making the wrong one.”

Playing with structure and form, and the overlapping role between lyrics and music, is rooted in the album. “I was tired of writing within the constraints of a verse/chorus structure and wanted to be expressive in alternative ways,” says Dove. “It’s like walking the same route to get from a to b – eventually it becomes mundane and for this record I wanted to try walking a different way.”

Dufficy also found himself going down a rabbit hole of old gear for the album, exploring four tracks, micro cassettes and drum machines. “I wanted to see how it would impact our writing and recording process,” he says. “By taking away the endless options you have in the digital world.” The result is one that adds to the already deeply textural world of the band – an approach that has previously reared its head via doo-wop-esque harmony vocals, thoughtfully layered immersive guitars or enveloping atmospheres – as well as adding a further sense of diving into the unknown.

The dodgy motors of the four-track led to drums and keys being all over the place on the track ‘Enveloping Cycles’, creating its own woozy, distinct rhythm of gently fizzing beats. That is before the machine gave up completely. “The four-track died right at the end of making the album, so its quirks will only ever exist on this album,” Dufficy says. “I like that, it’s kind of romantic to me.”

Ren Harvieu shares ‘Strange Thing’ video

With her new album Revel In The Drama due for release 3rd April via Bella Union Ren Harvieu today shares a video for current single “Strange Thing”. Of the track Harvieu says: “Strange Thing is a serenade to the outsiders of this world. The ignored, misunderstood, awkward self-conscious sparkling diamonds.. Don’t think you’re not being seen because I see you. I am you.” 

Of the video director Jamie Thraves adds: “I heard ‘Teenage Mascara’ on the radio and was an instant fan. She has the vocals and songs to rival KD Lang and Joan As Policewoman. Ren’s music is catchy, strange, hypnotic and beautiful. I reached out to her on Instagram, said if she liked my videos I’d love to work with her. Ren messaged me the next day and said she loved my work. This was a passion project for me. She broke her spine in a freak accident just when her career was about to take off 8 years ago, and I was deeply impressed and touched by her tenacity and talent. Ren’s a genuine star.”

Harvieu and her band, which includes Romeo Stodart from The Magic Numbers, who also co-wrote the record, will be soon heading out on a UK tour – Full dates 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…

Happy Release Day Jonathan Wilson

Today, Jonathan Wilson releases his new album Dixie Blur via Bella Union. 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.

Introducing… A.A. Williams

Bella Union are thrilled to announce the signing of A.A. Williams whose much-anticipated debut album will be released this summer via the label. For those new to the name check out “Exit In Darkness”, a track she recorded in collaboration with Japanese post-rock icons MONO in Autumn last year.

A.A. Williams came out of nowhere. An EP arrived on Holy Roar in January 2019, then a debut live show at the prestigious Roadburn Festival three months later confirmed what this first taste of music had suggested: this is a special artist. The woman in black: one arm aloft after the delicate yet decisive strum of a chord, a stillness in the room focused on the graceful soaring of a unique voice. To arrive so fully formed is a feat in itself; to take the audience’s breath away with such immediacy is something else entirely. 

A year that saw appearances with the likes of Amenra could have happily peaked with the packed tent that looked upon A.A. Williams when opening up the main stage at Arctangent Festival. This, however, was swiftly followed by tours with Russian Circles, The Sisters of Mercy and Cult of Luna. An artist who has been aligned with the likes of Chelsea Wolfe is also moulded by the experimentation of Radiohead and PJ Harvey. An invitation to appear at MONO’s 20th anniversary event in London last year is testament to the esteem in which this artist is held.

Of signing to Bella Union A.A. Williams says: “I’m extremely excited to announce that I’ve signed with Bella Union – it’s a dream come true to become a part of their roster, and I’m really looking forward to forging a path alongside such inspiring and critically acclaimed artists. Since my debut performance in 2019 so much has happened, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

A.A. Williams has a busy live schedule lined up over the next few months including support shows with The Sister Of Mercy and Nordic Giants. She will also be performing a special headline show at the Purcell Rooms in the Southbank Centre next Thursday 12th March accompanied by a string quartet. The fact that the show has already sold-out is testament to the word-of-mouth rise of this unique artist.

Pom Poko debut new song ‘Praise’

There’s just so much fun to be had with the Norwegian’s art-rock band’s gloriously unhinged debut, an eccentric work that’s no slave to algorithm.” NME

“Pom Poko go for broke on their debut album, throwing everything they have against the wall with” TLOBF

“..a debut full of fired-up, spiky pop hits” DIY

Last year Norwegian quartet Pom Poko released their debut album Birthday on Bella Union to much critical acclaim and continued to gain adoration from their raucous live shows. With their upcoming headline performances in New York and Chicago + performances at New York’s New Colossus Festival and Austin’s SXSW Festival, Pom Poko have today shared a brand new single titled ‘Praise’.

Of the song, the band express that… “the idea for Praise was made in a tiny cabin in the woods, with no electricity and a lot of smoke from the fireplace clouding our the songwriting. The idea was to have a fast paced tune that was a bit wonky rhythmically, and it kept evolving during our touring in 2019 until it became a regular part of our setlist as Praise. Lyrically it’s about how you can “achieve anything you want” as long as you have a clear goal, and that you’re expected to always try to be the best version of yourself.”

Pom Poko’s full list of worldwide tour dates below, including New Colossus Festival in New York and SXSW Festival in Austin… 

11th March – Brooklyn – Elsewhere

12th March – New York – New Colossus Festival

13th March – New York – New Colossus Festival

14th March – Chicago – Empty Bottle

16th March – Austin –  Barracuda (Roskilde Festival SXSW Showcase)

17th March – Austin – House Of Scandinavia (SXSW Showcase)

17th March – Austin – British Embassy (ATC Live Showcase)

18th March – Austin – San Jose Hotel (South by San Jose Showcase)

19th March – Austin – Palm Door (Bella Union SXSW Showcase)

20th March – Austin – Music For Listener Showcase

21st March – Austin – White Denim Showcase

1st May – Fener – Reset Festival

2nd May – Leeds – Live At Leeds

3rd May – Glasgow – Stag & Dagger

14th – 15th August – Nitra – Flaam Festival

8th – 10th January 2020 – Bognor Regis – Rockaway Beach Festival