Piroshka announce “Love Drips & Gathers”

Bella Union are thrilled to announce the release of Piroshka’s stunning second album, Love Drips And Gathers, out 23rd July and available to pre-order here. The album builds on the acclaim of the band’s 2018 debut LP “Brickbat” and the reputations of the former members of Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English. To celebrate the release Piroshka have shared a video for lead track “Scratching At The Lid” directed by Connor Kinsey / Home Picture Films and announced a number of Autumn UK live dates.

Piroshka emerged in 2018, four individuals with distinct musical identities but also overlapping histories – a combination that might have unsettled, or even overwhelmed, some bands. But in their case, the bond only got stronger. After “Brickbat” explored social and political divisions by way of what MOJO described as “Forceful, driving garage songs and dream-pop epics”, Love Drips And Gathersfollows a more introspective line – the ties that bind us, as lovers, parents, children, friends – to a suitably subtler, more ethereal sound, whilst still revelling in energy and drama.

“If Brickbat was our Britpop album, then Love Drips And Gathers is shoegaze!” reckons vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi, formerly of Lush, a band that effortlessly bridged the two genres like no other. “It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.” 

Bassist Mick Conroy (Modern English) agrees. “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On Love Drips And Gathers, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”

To recap; before Miki and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop were a couple (and parents), they were pivotal figures on the London-centric 90s indie scene. Likewise, Elastica, whose drummer Justin Welch was part of Lush’s 2017 reunion, whilst Mick had played for both Moose and – on their last ever gig – Lush. 

As Lush Mark II came to an end, Justin persuaded Miki (who’d abandoned music when Lush first split in 1997) to start another band, Piroshka, which in turn reignited Moose’s own long-dormant ambitions. Whilst Justin and Miki were the dominant influence on Brickbat, this time Moose and Mick were given greater control over the production, with invaluable assistance from Bella Union’s in-house engineer Iggy. 

The way Love Drips And Gathers changes shape and dynamic is less a reprise of nineties Brit indie than a transformation into a more shivery, Euro-mantic version with glistening electronic filigrees. The opening ‘Hastings’ sets the tone. Luminous drops of guitar underpin Miki’s becalmed vocal before drums, bass and a Mellotron add pace while the decorative coda features their old pal Terry Edwards on flugelhorn. 

Framed by Mellotron, cello and piano. ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ emphatically proves Piroshka can be restrained without losing any essence of drama: the calm before the euphoria pure-pop storm of ‘Scratching At The Lid’. The words ‘ethereal’ and ‘shimmering’ were surely invented for the likes of ‘Loveable’, but the uncanny DNA of ‘V.O.’ is less categorisable – a Bond theme in the making with electro-gliding beats, perhaps? ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Echoloco’ might be described as Francophile cousins of Lush before the haunting lullaby of ‘Familiar’ segues into the pulsing, rippling instrumental finale ‘We Told You’ – more eighties synth drama than nineties indie, with vocal samples played on what Moose calls, “the Miki-tron.” 

Love Drips And Gathers – named after a line in a Dylan Thomas poem – was inspired by love, family, belonging, memory. Miki and Moose split the eight lyrics, with some poignant overlaps here too. Miki’s ‘Loveable’ looks to Moose; Moose’s ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ looks to Miki, but also their daughter Stella and his sister Anna; an empathic, touching embrace of the women in his life. 

Staying within the family, Moose eulogises his late mother (the idyllic childhood seaside trip of ‘Hastings 1973’) and father (the more conflicted ‘Scratching At The Lid’). On ‘V.O.’, Miki pays fond tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s legendary in-house art director who died suddenly in December 2019, and who had a particularly close relationship with Lush during their time on the label (like Brickbat, Love Drips And Gathers’ beautiful and enigmatic artwork is by Vaughan’s former design partner Chris Bigg). 

Love Drips And Gathers’ nine tracks will each have its own video (all to be made by Connor Kingsley), with a continuing thread that will eventually create one story. Piroshka’s own story is rooted in family – both those you’re born with, and those (friends) you choose.

John Grant shares “Rhetorical Figure”

With his new album Boy From Michigan due for release 25th June via Bella Union, John Granthas today shared a new track, “Rhetorical Figure”, from the LP. Built in the lineage of Grant’s nascent electropop darlings, Devo, the song suggests a formative world in which brains are regarded as horny as bodies. According to Grant, “This is a song about my love of language and rhetorical figures and what a turn-on it is when someone wields language in a very capable manner.”

Grant has previously shared videos for ‘Boy From Michigan’ and ‘The Only Baby’ from the Cate Le Bon-produced LP and recently announced a UK tour, the dates of which can be found below.

Somewhere in the last decade, John Grant established himself as one of the great musical chroniclers of the American Dream, angled mostly from its flipside. What if everything you were promised, if you worked hard, loved hard, played and prayed hard, all turned to ash? Grant lays it all out for careful cross-examination in his most autobiographical work to date. In a decade of making records by himself, he has playfully experimented with mood, texture and sound. At one end of his musical rainbow, he is the battle-scarred piano-man, at the other, a robust electronic auteur. Boy from Michigan seamlessly marries both.

Boy from Michigan sets out its stall early in order to fan his lyrical deck wider. Grant knows America well enough to document it in microscopic, painterly detail. The brittle intensity of the early life experiences of a middle-aged man twist stealthily into a broad metaphor for the state of the nation. “I guess I’m just thinking about where I came from,” he notes, “and what I went into.”

With longtime friend Cate Le Bon in the production chair, Grant has maximized the emotional impact of the melodies, stripping the noise of vaudeville and mood-enhancing a fruitful, spare, strangely orchestrated new world for him to live in. A clarinet forms the bedrock of a song. There is a saxophone solo. The record swings between ambient and progressive, calm and livid. “Cate and I are both very strong-willed people”, says Grant.  “Making a record is hard on a good day. The mounting stress of the US election and the pandemic really started to get to us by late July and August last year. It was at times a very stressful process under the circumstances, but one which was also full of many incredible and joyful moments.” 

With the frenetic backdrop to its incubation playing out in the distance, the narrative journey of Boy from Michigan opens with Grant returning to his artistic prettiest. It begins with three songs drawn from his pre-Denver life: the title song, The Rusty Bull and County Fair. “It’s my Michigan Trilogy,” he says. Each draws the listener in to a specific sense of place, before untangling its significance with a rich cast-list of local characters, often symbolizing the uncultivated faith of childhood. 

Tracks four and five, Mike and Julie and The Cruise Room, are perhaps the most affecting of the record, plunging deep into Grant’s late teenage years in Denver. In the former, Grant is confronted by a friend who wants to be with him, a man he brick-walls by purposefully positioning a mutual female friend in between as he cannot yet face his own sexuality. In the latter, he revisits the untouched, faded grandeur of the Art Deco bar at Denver’s Oxford Hotel for one last night as a young man before trying his luck in Germany, to see if Europe is a better fit.

Cementing the mid-point of the record are a pair of skittish, scholarly dance tunes, Best in Me and Rhetorical Figure. The latter is built in the lineage of his nascent electropop darlings, Devo, suggesting a formative world in which brains are regarded as horny as bodies. Dropping the pace, Just So You Know is the most familiar, John Grant-ian of his songs on the record. It is meant as a song to comfort his nearest and dearest after he’s gone. 

Childhood as a horror narrative returns on Dandy Star, observing the tiny Grant watching the Mia Farrow horror movie See No Evil on the old family TV set in which a blind girl arrives back at her Aunt and Uncle’s home after a date and, after sleeping through the night, awakens in the morning only to discover gradually that everyone has been murdered. 

These nine songs are the tumescent prologue to his grand climax. The pure smut of Your Portfolio imagines the US economy rewritten as a throbbing libidinous cock. “It’s where we are now in The States,” he says. “We worship money and any pretence that there’s any worship of anything else going on – like a loving God, for example – is just pathetic. Character doesn’t matter. Intimacy doesn’t matter. Nothing else matters. Wealth is sexualised. It’s a poem in honor of money. The song sounds funny, but I think it’s probably one of the darkest and most serious on the record.” 

In ‘The Only Baby’ he finally removes his razor blade from a pocket to cleanly slit the throat of Trump’s America, authoring a scathing epitaph to an era of acute national exposition. He positions the former president as the bastard child of the nation’s virgin mother: “Don’t look so glum/There’s no reason to be sad/Because that’s the only baby that bitch could ever have.” As a final coda, on Billy, he gets to the causation of all this, a prevalent culture of hyper-machismo, one which fashioned us all for failure.

In his own accidental, skewed manner, John Grant may just have nailed, if not the, then at least an American Dream. Bruised and scarred he may be, but the boy from Michigan is no weak-hearted fool.

Will stratton reveals “Black Hole” video

With his new album The Changing Wilderness due for release 7th May via Bella Union, and having previously shared the tracks ‘Tokens’ and ‘When I’ve Been Born (I’ll Love You)’, today Will Stratton reveals an intriguing video for his new single “Black Hole”.

Of the track Stratton says: “I wrote Black Hole shortly after our last president took office. I had spent the morning of the inauguration staring at a sculpture, a neon wall by Dan Flavin in the basement of a local museum. I tried to capture the energy that I felt staring at the green light in the dark. The song is about fascists and authoritarians of all kinds, how hard they are to completely shake once they take hold in the public consciousness, and how they tend to warp the minds of everyone in their proximity, even their opposition.”

Of the video he adds: “Donald Borenstein asked me if he could direct a video for one of the songs on this record almost a year and a half ago, and we became good friends. After some deliberations, we filmed the video over a chilly weekend last October, on the outskirts of the Iron Mountain data facility in Rosendale, New York, an underground complex full of meticulously stored corporate secrets and a whole wing of unused, cold war era hotel rooms built for use by executives in the event of a nuclear war. My partner Blair very generously agreed to act in this video, playing the role of a hiker who gets taken in by a mysterious force in the woods. The concrete mines of this area supplied much of the material for the Brooklyn Bridge and the base of the Statue of Liberty, and the visual phenomena left in the concrete’s absence makes for lovely late afternoon light. Thanks to Donald for working so hard on this over many months, and to Zappa Johns for putting many hours in on the visual effects, which were generated using textures made by the painter Bee Ebben.”

Early praise for upcoming album The Changing Wilderness:

“Having over the past 13 years sought to locate a stylistic mid-point somewhere between Jackson Browne and Nick Drake, Will Stratton has developed a musical character pretty much all his own… An album that sustains a beautiful atmosphere throughout.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“Haunting and evocative… There’s an aching beauty to the major-to-minor chord changes on ‘Infertile Air’ while ‘The Rain’ is simply breathtaking.” Uncut – 8/10

“A singer-songwriter of pure class and quality… If deft fingerstyle guitar with warm vocals and thought-provoking lyrics are your thing then you are in for a real treat with The Changing Wilderness… The songs deal with current world issues, invoking the spirit of greats such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake… Wonderful.” Guitarist – 8/10

Lost Horizons announce special guests for London Scala show

Following excellent reviews for new album In Quiet Moments, and with current single ‘Halcyon’ selected as Shaun Keaveny’s Record of the Week on 6Music, Lost Horizons have announced news of their first set of guest vocalists for their one-off London Scala show on 19th October. The band will be joined by label-mates John Grant, Laura Groves and Jack & Lily Wolter from Penelope Isles, all of whom will sing their respective tracks from the LP, while Scott Matthews will perform the track “Grey Tower”, originally written with Tim Smith from Midlake. Many more guest vocalists will be announced over the coming months.

Additionally, Lost Horizons today share a video for the track “Blue Soul” which features guest vocalist Laura Groves. Of the track and video Groves says: I filmed the performance myself at home using the very basic tools I have – very much the same way as my music video for “Infinite Wisdom”. These restrictions were imposed by the lockdown we were under at the time, but were also reflective of the words that I wrote for ‘Blue Soul’; themes of solitude, inner worlds and landscapes, connection with nature and a very personal creative process that permeates and is often interchangeable with everyday life, and maintaining those connections on a planet that is endangered.”

Acclaim for In Quiet Moments:

“Second album from super-duo contains multitudes… With the knowing retro-etherealism of Every Beat That Passed (featuring Swedish vocalist Kavi Kwai) or Cordelia’s new age tides controlled by John Grant, In Quiet Moments opens out its own space to wander, a many-moods piece for complicated times.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“The array of moods and a distinguished cast of guest singers on this album dazzles and delights.” The i – 4 stars ****

“Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde’s search for a vocalist as distinctive as Liz Frazer continues on Lost Horizons’ second album. He and partner Richie Thomas strike gold with Swedish newcomer Kavi Kwai on the ethereal ‘Every Beat That Passed’ while Gemma Dunleavy comes close on the mysterious ‘Linger’, as does a sumptuously serene Ren Harvieu on ‘Unravelling In Slow Motion’.” Classic Pop – 4 stars ****

“Lost Horizons return with a 16-song set that expands their palette considerably, including jazzier ventures with Ren Harvieu and soul singer Ural Thomas. Lest anyone forget about Raymonde’s past life as a Cocteau Twin, reverb-soaked collaborations with Kavi Kwai and KookiLou ensure there’s plenty of the old shimmer and spangle to savour, too.” Uncut – 7/10

“Lost Horizons triumph on second album In Quiet Moments… There’s some textbook ethereal elegance but also much restless energy and joy.” PROG

“Melodic, heartfelt and healing… John Grant’s vocal on ‘Cordelia’ will lift you out of this world and into the cosmos… A warm blanket of an album in every way.” HiFi Choice – 5 stars *****

“Lost Horizons involves the former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde and multi-instrumentalist Richie Thomas constructing tracks out of loose jams. Collaborators include John Grant on the choral ‘Cordelia’ and the soul singer Ural Thomas on the jazzy title track.” Sunday Times

“Absolutely breathtaking… A masterpiece of concept, design and execution.” NARC – 5 Stars *****

“With experienced mood masters Raymonde and Thomas at the tiller In Quiet Moments is holistic audio balm to soothe, hug and give hope in these ‘unprecedented times’ and beyond.” Music OMH – 4 Stars ****

“Impressive and captivating… Penelope Isles shine with a statement piece of charming dream-pop while John Grant provides the records most impressive and emotive moment.” The Line Of Best Fit – 7/10

“An epic 16 track record of quite stunning beauty… A masterful sonic journey of discovery.” Contact Music – 5 Stars ***** 

Lost Horizons is the project of Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas of Dif JuzThe band’s new album, In Quiet Moments, was released in February via Bella Union. 

Lost Horizons have previously shared videos for ‘I Woke Up With An Open Heart’ featuring The Hempolics, ‘Grey Tower’ featuring Tim Smith, ‘Cordelia’ featuring John Grant, ‘One For Regret’ featuring Porridge Radio, ‘Every Beat That Passed’ featuring Kavi Kwai, ‘In Quiet Moments’ featuring Ural Thomas, ‘Marie’ featuring Marissa Nadler, ‘Heart Of A Hummingbird’  featuring KookieLou,‘Halcyon’ featuring Penelope Isles and ‘This Is The Weather’ featuring Karen Peris from the LP.

Lanterns On The Lake announce “Gracious Tide, Take Me Home” anniversary edition

Lanterns On The Lake have announced news of a deluxe 10th Anniversary vinyl reissue of their acclaimed debut album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, out 11th June via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The band’s much-loved debut has been meticulously remastered at Abbey Road studios and will be released on double vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with gold foil print. Additionally, the album comes with five previously unreleased tracks recorded during the original sessions.

Fusing the most fragile and graceful end of the folk music spectrum to the most luminous properties of cinemascope rock, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home used a smorgasbord of instruments to paint a variety of beautiful vistas, from the ambient ‘Ships In The Rain’ to the galloping ‘A Kingdom’, from the six-minute layers of ‘The Places We Call Home’ to the skeletal 73-second finale ‘Not Going Back To The Harbour’. There’s always been a compelling drama to Lanterns On The Lake; the way the opening track ‘Lungs Quicken’ shifts from dreamy restraint to a full-blown crescendo indicated the true power at their fingertips.

Lanterns On The Lake formed in 2008 combining a group of friends who had all played in various bands on the local music scene. Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar), Paul Gregory (guitars, backing vocals, electronics) and Ol Ketteringham (drums, piano) still comprise the core of the band whilst previous members Adam Sykes (vocals, guitar), Brendan Sykes (bass) and Sarah Kemp (violin) departed prior to the second album.

Hazel commented at the time that: “A lot of lyrics were inspired by my moving back to the coast (North Shields), where I grew up, after I’d been living near the city centre. They’re also memories of growing up here, the feeling of homesickness, and stories of people around us and of the sea. The title Gracious Tide, Take Me Home seemed to sum up all the themes.”

There might be a vein of sadness through this music – ‘Ships In The Rain’ was inspired by a local fisherman who went missing at sea, and ‘A Kingdom’ was inspired by the book letters sent home by WW2 soldiers – but there is just as much hope in ‘Keep on Trying’  and ‘You’re Almost There’, where fear and insecurities are banished by self-belief; “the feeling that you’re going places,” as Hazel says. Mirroring the sentiment of the album title, ‘I Love You, Sleepyhead’ and ‘Places We Call Home’ draw on the comfort and security of home, friendship and memory.

Having been forced to postpone their touring plans for last year’s Mercury nominated Spook The Herd album, Lanterns On The Lake should finally have the chance to perform the songs live for their fans this Autumn when they take to the road for the below UK live dates…

Mr Ben & The Bens announce “Melody Shed”

Following last year’s “Life Drawing” album, cult British DIY outfit Mr Ben & The Bens today announce news of Melody Shed, a 6-track EP released 21st May via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The EP is a set of songs written shortly after the album release as the world entered lockdown. Speaking of the record band leader Ben Hall says: “This group of songs is definitely the little brother to the larger set of songs on the album, with an emphasis on stripped back lyrical folk writing, and acoustic instruments.” Thematically the songs range from introspective musings on the start of a day of work (Ben makes pottery full time as day job) to mushroom picking, even a lament to the stripping of local bus services. “I went into the studio intending to record the songs with just my voice and guitar so they have been tracked live in single takes,” adds Hall. This approach has given the EP a charming, affable quality, with slip-ups and slight time shifts adding to the character of the recordings. The EP precedes a set of socially distanced acoustic gigs alongside a full UK headline tour in August/September, the dates of which can be found below.

The band have a shared a first track titled “How Do I Get To You?”. Speaking about the track Hall says: “This is the song that completely changed the course of the entire EP. The songs were originally written to be played totally acoustic, and when I got to the studio I laid all the songs down live with just a nylon guitar and a couple of mics. Listening back they were just begging for more melodies so bit by bit more instruments were added until this song became this kind of warped folk power-pop stomper. Lyrically it is written from the perspective of someone on a bad trip trying to find their way home. The Crux of the narrative is that point that occurs when you are tripping sometimes that your brain just snaps back to engaging with reality and you solve those non-existent problems that were troubling you the whole time.”