Happy release day to the one and only Flaming Lips who release their technicolour wonder of an album AMERICAN HEAD today. The album is comprised of thirteen vivid tracks produced by Dave Fridmann and The Lips and is perhaps their most beautiful work to date.
AMERICAN HEAD finds The Flaming Lips basking in more reflective lyrical places as Wayne Coyne explains in a long form story about the album.
“Even though The Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma we never thought of ourselves as an AMERICAN band. I know growing up (when I was like 6 or 7 years old) in Oklahoma I was never influenced by, or was very aware of any musicians from Oklahoma. We mostly listened to the Beatles and my mother loved Tom Jones (this is in the 60’s)… it wasn’t till I was about 10 or 11 that my older brothers would know a few of the local musician dudes.
So… for most of our musical life we’ve kind of thought of ourselves as coming from ‘Earth’… not really caring WHERE we were actually from. So for the first time in our musical life we began to think of ourselves as ‘AN AMERICAN BAND’… telling ourselves that it would be our identity for our next creative adventure. We had become a 7-piece ensemble and were beginning to feel more and more of a kinship with groups that have a lot of members in them. We started to think of classic American bands like The Grateful Dead and Parliament-Funkadelic and how maybe we could embrace this new vibe.
The music and songs that make up the AMERICAN HEAD album are based in a feeling. A feeling that, I think, can only be expressed through music and songs. We were, while creating it, trying to NOT hear it as sounds… but to feel it. Mother’s sacrifice, Father’s intensity, Brother’s insanity, Sister’s rebellion…I can’t quite put it into words.
Something switches and others (your brothers and sisters and mother and father…your pets) start to become more important to you…in the beginning there is only you… and your desires are all that you can care about…but… something switches.. I think all of these songs are about this little switch.”
Lost Horizons today announce news of their new album In Quiet Moments released via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The album features a stellar array of musical guests including John Grant, C Duncan, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio, Penelope Isles, Karen Peris (the innocence mission), Tim Smith (Midlake), Ren Harvieu and many more. The 16-track album will be released in two sections. The first half (8 tracks) will be released digitally 4th December with the second half and full physical release following on 26th February 2021. Lost Horizons have shared a video for first single “I Woke Up With An Open Heart”, directed by Blue Laybourne, which features The Hempolics.
In 2017, Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas had both abstained from making music for 20 years until they united as Lost Horizons and released a stunning debut album, Ojalá – the Spanish word for “hopefully” or “God willing.”
“These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world.” Thomas said at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music…. And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”
Thomas’ hopes had a mixed response. On the plus side, the new Lost Horizons album In Quiet Moments is an even stronger successor to Ojalá with another distinguished cast of guest singers and a handful of supporting instrumentalists embellishing the core duo’s gorgeously free-flowing and loose-limbed blueprint that one writer astutely labelled, “melancholy-delia.”
On the minus side, any hope for a better world, as Earth continues to freefall toward political and social meltdown. Then, to make matters worse, as Raymonde and Thomas buckled down to create the improvised bedrock that Lost Horizons is built on, the former’s mother died. At least Raymonde had a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.”
Raymonde (bass, guitar, keyboards, production) and Thomas (drums, occasional keys and guitar) forged ahead, creating 16 instrumental tracks to send to prospective guests. When he did, Raymonde suggested a guiding theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.”
And then Covid-19 hit. Half of In Quiet Moments’ lyrics were written after lockdown, but Raymonde saw a silver lining: people were slowing down and taking stock of their lives. Hearing a lyric written by veteran singer Ural Thomas, known as “Portland’s Pillar of Soul”, who fronts the title track, Raymonde singled out the phrase “in quiet moments” and made it the album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful. The title also went with the album cover, a photograph by Jacques-Henri Lartigue from the 1940s of a woman and dog on a beach, captured as if in flight.”
Lost Horizons’ melancholy-delia also feels buoyed aloft by airy currents, informed in part by Raymonde and Thomas’ former respective bands: the legendary Cocteau Twins and Dif Juz. Their former bands were labelmates on 4AD in the mid-80s, which is how they first met.
In Quiet Moments has its pockets of loss but – aligned to the concept of ‘hope’ – the album is more about rebirth than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” says Thomas. “But both albums have a great energy about them.”
Those energy levels undulate across a dazzling array of moods and voices; as broad as the name Lost Horizons sounds. Take the first three tracks: the melting rapture of ‘Halcyon’ featuring Jack Wolter of Bella Union signings Penelope Isles, the simmering urban-soulful ‘I Woke Up With An Open Heart’ featuring Nubiya Brandon of The Hempolics and the quintessentially melancholy-delic ‘Grey Tower’ featuring a returning Tim Smith .
Also returning from Ojalá are Gemma Dunleavy, Karen Peris (the innocence mission), Cameron Neal (Horse Thief) and Marissa Nadler. The last three are all Bella Union family members; likewise, John Grant (the lush, choral ‘Cordelia’, etched by David Rothon’s pedal steel and Fiona Brice’s elegant strings) and Ren Harvieu (a sultry ‘Unravelling In Slow Motion’), and new signing Laura Groves (the jazz-tinged ‘Blue Soul’), all making their Lost Horizons debuts.
Dana Margolin of the hugely acclaimed Porridge Radio lends the rampant ‘One For Regret’’ her trademark bristling energy; at the other end of the spectrum, ‘Flutter’ features Rosie Blair (of former Bella Union signing Ballet School) adding exquisite blue notes to a stark palate of Thomas’ piano and Fiona Brice’s strings. Deploying his A&R acumen, Raymonde called on new Swedish discovery Kavi Kwai for the Cocteaus-evoking ‘Every Beat That Passed’ (“You can’t make music for as long as I have and drop all your influences and habits overnight,” says Raymonde). Also present are Lily Wolter (of Penelope Isles) under her solo pseudonym KookieLou, and C Duncan. A richer and more varied cast list would be very hard to find.
“I think In Quiet Moments is more in the direction of where we’re going,” Thomas concludes. “People have retreated into their lives and, in those quiet moments, reflected on the world, how we fit in and who we trust. Maybe the next album will be about rebellion! But the road is long and winding. We just need to express ourselves in how we feel at the time.”
In Quiet Moments will be released 26th February via Bella Union and is available to order HERE.
The sounds of Himalayan winds, sacred mantras and water rippling in the holy river Ganges, invite us to Peradam, the transcendent new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith. Peradam takes as its entry point René Daumal’s early 1940s novel Mount Analogue: a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, in which the French writer, critic and poet mapped a metaphysical journey to “the ultimate symbolic mountain” in search of meaning. In it, Daumal introduced the idea of the “peradam”, a rare, crystalline stone – harbouring profound truths – that is only visible to seekers on a true spiritual path.
Peradam arrives as “the final stone”, says Soundwalk Collective’s Stephan Crasneanscki, in The Perfect Vision, a triptych of albums that evoke and explore the sainted spaces of thought and creativity opened by the three French writers and poets. After albums devoted to Antonin Artaud (The Peyote Dance) and Arthur Rimbaud (Mummer Love), Peradam expands on “the living space”, says Smith, that Daumal left for future seekers to enter and create out of.
Daumal’s spiritual quests ranged wide and deep. Part-influenced by
Rimbaud, he also identified with the Pataphysicians, followers of the
avant-garde absurdist Alfred Jarry. Daumal experimented with hallucinogens to
the detriment of his health, though he would later transfer his passions to the
purity of work as he nurtured a fascination with Hindu philosophies and taught
himself Sanskrit; Peradam features some of his translations.
While Daumal embraced the idea of self-abnegation as the key to internal
awakening, he was also drawn to the syntheses of Eastern/Western thought in
Greek-Armenian philosopher GI Gurdjieff’s teachings. Daumal’s greatest works
include the novels A Night of
Serious Drinking and Mount Analogue, which – though
unfinished at the time of his death from TB at 36 in 1944 – inspired
psychedelic magus Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain as well as the creative journeys
undertaken by Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith.
Following recordings in the Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico and Harar,
Ethiopia for their albums devoted to Artaud and Rimbaud, Soundwalk Collective
(Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli) travelled to Nanda Devi in the Himalayas,
Rishikesh, Varanasi and Kingdom of Lo (Upper Mustang) to channel Daumal’s
metaphysical quest in physical sound. “And through our physical travels,” says
Crasneanscki, “we discovered the most humble objects of meaning that carry the
spirit of what he searched for and found. It can be as simple as a stone, which
can inhabit a power almost like a talisman.”
Soundwalk Collective’s musical and field-recording based compositions help to flesh out the enfolding soundscapes of Peradam, alongside contributions from simpatico collaborators. Tenzin Choegyal brought his voice, Tibetan drums, singing bowls, dranyen and damru to the title-track, “Spiritual Death” and closer “The Rat”, a poem by Smith that journeys across a fecund metaphorical landscape of life, death and cyclical nature. “Knowledge of the Self” features the sitar of Anoushka Shankar, who brings with her a family connection to the album’s subject: Daumal toured America as an impassioned spokesman for Uday Shankar, the Indian dancer whose siblings included the great musician Ravi Shankar, Anoushka’s late father.
The actor and singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg contributes to “The Four Cardinal Times”, while “Nanda Devi” features Dhan Singh Rana, a Sherpa in his 70s who gently encouraged Crasneanscki up the mountain. “And meter after meter, hour after hour, slowly but surely I got there,” says Crasneanscki. The experience proved enlightening, he adds: “The mountain teaches us the slowness and calmness that Daumal wrote of. When you finally arrive and look up at the magistral Nanda Devi summit, Daumal’s words resonate: ‘The Mountain is the connection between Earth and Sky. Its highest summit touches the sphere of eternity, and its base branches out in manifold foothills into the world of mortals. It is the path by which humanity can raise itself to the divine and the divine reveal itself to humanity.’”
The sounds captured and
composed by Soundwalk Collective
helped Smith in her tough, tender and tactile voicework: readings that dive so
much deeper than mere readings. “It’s just attempting to create a breathing
body of work that keeps growing as you do it; it’s alive,” she says. “You can’t
just do it because you say you’re going to. People can go out to Central Park
and record the wind, but we have wind from the top of sacred mountains, we have
the sound of stones from the most dangerous parts of the Copper Canyon in
The result is a perfect conclusion to The Perfect Vision, a triptych
that reaches beyond the physical, across time and space, to channel the
spiritual and philosophical energies and work of earlier seekers. “We are not
trying to make a living, we are not trying to have physical gold in our hands –
it’s a different type of gold, it’s metaphysical gold,” says Smith. “It’s like
a peradam in Daumal’s world. The only time we’re able to hold onto it is during
the process. We don’t even get to hold it through our life; only the process.”
Out of that process emerges new spaces: living landscapes in which willing explorers
may find treasures. The project is complete but the spiritual quest it honours
remains open, a process ready for continuation. “In the end,” Smith says, “it
goes out into the world and becomes whatever it becomes – perhaps one person in
the year 2070 uses it as a springboard for another work.”
With her new album April /月音 due for release 9th October via Bella Union, and having previously shared the tracks ‘Dandelions / Liminal’ and ‘Mary’, today Emmy The Great shares another standout track, “A Window / O’Keeffe”, from the LP. Of the track Emmy says: “A Window/ O’Keeffe was written about my last summer living in Brooklyn. I’d just travelled to China for the first time and had a moment in a temple, and the entire summer I would only wear ‘lucky’ colours – royal yellow, dusty orange, or the red that scares away ghosts. It was a summer of bright sun and dizzying freedom, the kind that only happens when your life is about to change. The city was a film set of burst fire hydrants and music playing constantly from open windows. On the grass outside my apartment, people documented their lives on their phones, and I walked through their videos on my way to meet friends. The world was shifting, and maybe we didn’t always like where it was going, but it was summer now, and we were together. When I finished the song in Hong Kong that October, the colours of an O’Keeffe exhibit I’d been to see at the Brooklyn museum had seeped into my memories of that time. In many ways, this song is about colour, though it’s also about the friendship between women, something I leaned on as I moved into the next phase of my life.”
“My story begins with the moon. In September 2017, I travelled to Hong Kong from New York, where I’d lived for three years, for the Mid-Autumn festival. I was planning to visit my parents and take some time off to write my fourth album. I arrived in time for the full moon – Chang-E’s moon – at a time of year when the heat breaks and the city seems alive with possibility.
That Spring, I’d visited China and accidentally become somewhat fluent in Cantonese again, though the goal had been to speak Mandarin. I was there for a music residency, and had expected to feel an instant click. Instead, I realised that Hong Kong had an identity quite separate from the Mainland, and with my mother tongue reinstated, I was beginning to come to terms with that identity being a part of mine. This was tough – I was born in Hong Kong but I’ve always felt complicated about it.
Still, that Mid-Autumn, everything felt simple. Under the guidance of the moon, I walked the city – its neon-lit alleyways, its escalators and mountain paths. For a brief, precious moment, I fell into synch with Hong Kong. I felt its complex legacy and its tangled future. I felt the sorrow, alive in the buzz of neon and the drips of air-conditioner units, of a city caught between two destinies. It was twenty years since the Handover and the beginning of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Everywhere I went, I saw people seeking to define their shared identity before it was too late. I hope some of that spirit has found its way into the songs, which were mostly written during that time.
The album was recorded over two weeks in February 2018 in the Creamery in Greenpoint. It’s the fastest record I’ve ever made, which is ironic because its release was later delayed to accommodate a year’s maternity leave. I produced it with Bea Artola and Dani Markham, who was in my US band and also played drums. Jeffrey Fettig, our guitarist, also engineered, and the rest of the players were mostly friends as well as musical collaborators. These sessions became a kind of goodbye, and I left New York for Hong Kong permanently a few weeks after they finished.
I’ll never know why the city called me back, but I know what it gave me. In return, I want to give it this album. That Mid-Autumn, nobody could have predicted what was to come, neither the atomisation that began with the anti-Extradition Law protests in June 2019, nor the struggle for democracy that continues now, through the Covid-19 pandemic. To witness your birth city in its greatest moment of need is a powerful, humbling event, and I know I watched Hong Kong’s destiny shift into something turbulent and uncertain. I’m glad I recorded what I felt there, during a precious, peaceful time, when life was so good that all I had to do was trust the moon. May it be just one small piece of witness among many, and may the voices of Hong Kong never stop speaking, and asking to be heard.”
– Emma-Lee Moss, London, July 2020
Since her third album was released in 2016, Emma-Lee Moss has worked as a critically-acclaimed composer for radio, TV, film and stage. Her credits include original songs for Starlee Kine’s groundbreaking US podcast ‘Mystery Show’; Sara Pascoe’s ‘Out of Her Mind’ for BBC2; Mia Lidofsky’s ‘Strangers’, which featured Girls’ Jemima Kirke as a singer-songwriter called ‘Emmy’. She also wrote music and libretto for Sara Pascoe’s stage adaptation of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ at the Nottingham Playhouse, and is working on HEEL, a new musical about female wrestling with the playwright Isley Lynn.
As a journalist, she contributes writing to the Guardian, Vice, British GQ, Wired and others, and presented and composed music for ‘A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea’ for BBC Radio 4, nominated for the Prix Europa in 2019.