Lost Horizons announce more guests for London show

To accompany the announcement of more special guests for their London Scala show on 19th October, Lost Horizons are thrilled to debut the video for “Unravelling In Slow Motion” featuring Ren Harvieu. Made by Ren and Romeo Stodart, who also co-wrote the song, the track features on the band’s acclaimed In Quiet Moments LP that came out in February this year. 

Of the video Ren says: Sometimes you find yourself playing catch up with yourself, that emotional rollercoaster within slowly finding it’s sense of calm. I wanted to weave the two together, there was something very sensual about the music Lost Horizons had created and I wanted to add to that my own innate sense of feminine intuition that guides me through life. The video is meant to reflect those inner bursts of colour that explode within you when you are at your most free.” 

Joining the previously announced John Grant, C Duncan, Penelope Isles, Laura Groves and Scott Matthews for the Lost Horizons Scala show will be four extraordinary female artists: Ren Harvieu, who will be performing “Unravelling In Slow Motion”, Gemma Dunleavy (“Linger”), Emma Tricca (“Marie”) and Lily Fontaine of English Teacher singing “I Woke Up With An Open Heart”.

If that isn’t enticing enough, Bella Union’s A.A. Williams will be the main and only support for the show, giving a stripped-back performance of tracks from her acclaimed Forever Blue.

BC Camplight returns with “I’m Alright In The World”

Following huge acclaim for last year’s Shortly After Takeoff album, which was hailed by The Guardian as a 5-star “masterpiece” and featured in a number of Best of 2020 lists, BC Camplight returns with a brilliant new single, “I’m Alright In The World”. Of the track Brian Christinzio aka BC Camplight says: “This song title is taken from a mantra I’ve used for years to bring myself down from my emotional boiling point. I turned the mantra into a song and for the first time in my career I’ve created something that speaks to me, reminding me to breathe and be alright in the world… even if that world is on fire”.

Additionally, BC Camplight has announced extensive live plans for Summer and Autumn of this year and early 2022. These include festival appearances at the likes of Green Man and Standon Calling as well as numerous headline shows including a Manchester Ritz performance in December and a London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in April next year. Dates/info HERE.

BC Camplight’s Brian Christinzio was already considered one of independent music’s most distinctively gifted minds when he released 2020’s Shortly After Takeoff, a masterful exhibition of darkly humorous storytelling and uniquely twisted musicality. The album, hailed by The Guardian as a five-star “masterpiece”, capped off a what Christinzio called his “Manchester Trilogy”. This was a trio of albums released after his emigration to the UK from Philadelphia where the songwriter had endured a decade-long stretch of homelessness and bouts of severe mental illness. “I needed to change my life so I packed my bags and essentially threw a dart at a map” said Christinzio.

His arrival in Manchester prompted an eruption of creativity which resulted in his first album for the label Bella Union, How To Die In The North. However, two days after its release Christinzio’s story turned even more cinematic when an immigration issue resulted in his deportation and ban from the UK. After attaining Italian citizenship he defiantly returned to Manchester and released Deportation Blues, an icy take on the political landscape. Word-of-mouth about BC Camplight’s immense live shows had been building and resulted in a considerable increase in the artist’s audience. The final record of the trilogy, Shortly After Takeoff, written after his father’s sudden death, had all the markings of an album that would be Christinzio’s breakthrough. Obviously 2020 had other plans.

“I think I relied on the wisdom I gained from all of the brutally dark periods of my life. I found myself repeating this mantra over and over… “I’m Alright In The World”. Every time the demons came close to the surface I’d say it again. Eventually I figured out that the mantra’s power was magnified tenfold as a piece of music”. The song was originally intended as a guided meditation (if you listen closely you can hear Christinzio saying “Breathe In And Out” in the choruses) but morphed into a call and response between dark and light, defeat and victory. Ultimately the light wins and leaves us awash in melancholic contentment, a place we all need to visit right now.

Happy Release Day to Mr Ben & The Bens

Following last year’s “Life Drawing” album, cult British DIY outfit Mr Ben & The Bens today release their new EP Melody Shed, available 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.

A.A. Williams announces 2021 Autumn tour

Following the release of her Songs From Isolation covers album earlier this year, A.A. Williams has announced news of her first-ever headline UK tour, taking her band on the road in September and October of this year to perform songs from her acclaimed debut album, Forever Blue. The tour also includes a London Bush Hall show performing the Songs From Isolation album in its entirety, while later in October Williams will give a stripped-back performance at London’s Scala supporting Bella Union labelmates Lost Horizons. 

Making her stage debut in April 2019 and selling out her first headline show at London’s prestigious Southbank Centre less than a year later, A.A. Williams has hit the ground running. Similarly, the acclaim for her performances and her music has been unanimous from the start. After one self-titled EP and the 10” vinyl collaboration Exit in Darkness with Japanese post-rockers MONO, the London-based singer-songwriter signed to Bella Union and made a stunning debut album, Forever Blue, released in July 2020.

A rapturous blend of post-rock and post-classical, Forever Blue smoulders with uncoiling melodies and haunted atmospheres, shifting from serenity to explosive drama, often within the same song. Williams is a fantastic musician as well as songwriter, playing the guitar, cello and piano, and her voice has the controlled delivery of a seasoned chanteuse whilst still channelling the rawest of emotions.

Having taken music lessons from the age of six and been immersed in classical music, Williams’ life was forever changed when she discovered Deftones in her mid-teens, “and after them, all things heavy,” she recalls. “It was music that made me feel included, that tapped into me.” Yet it was only years later, when she found a guitar in the street with a note attached, “please take me, just needs work,” that Williams started playing guitar, and only started writing songs as a way of learning how to play. “I wrote in different styles to find a sound I was comfortable with,” she says. “Likewise, with singing. I’d never before thought of singing with a microphone in front of other people. It’s been quite a journey.”

Penelope Isles announce Winter tour

Currently in the studio working on their much-anticipated second album, Bella Union’s Penelope Isles have announced news of an extensive UK tour for November and December 2021 and shared a video to share the good news. Tickets are available at https://www.penelopeisles.com

Penelope Isles are centred around siblings Jack and Lily Wolter, originally from the Isle of Man, and for several years now based in Brighton. Their debut album Until the Tide Creeps In was produced by the band at the Bella Union studios in London and Brighton. They create dynamic blissed-out moments soaked in fuzz-noise waves – their songs fragile yet ferocious. Indie-psych currents and lustrous melodies blend with the siblings’ voices. To support the release they played over 150 shows all over the world, including 100 shows in 2019 alone and three tours in the USA. They’ve hit the road with The Flaming Lips and The Magic Numbers. Loved by fans, DJs, tour-mates and writers, their debut marks them out as one of the most exciting UK bands of the last few years. The band have recently been working on new music – more news on that very soon.

“There’s a kind of surf’s up fuzz over this quartet’s debut, a hazy harmonised beachiness that nods to Pavement, Girls and Tame Impala while suggesting something pleasingly singular. It’s the sound of a band enjoying the discovery of their sound.” Q ­- 4 Stars ****

“An undeniably lovely melange of dreampop and gentle psychedelia.” Sunday Times

“Timeless and special. Unashamedly bight melodies that throw you into the sunlight and make the darker moments even more striking” DIY ­- 4 Stars ****

“This self­-produced debut is sublime from top to toe, blissful boy ­girl harmonies wrapping their way around layered fuzz-­rock guitars and trippy tales.” Shindig ­- 4 Stars ****

“A knockout album with instant charm. When Penelope Isles hit the spot they hit it with a dazzled burst of refracted light.” Metro

“Whatever the framing, each track on their debut is about the song; it’s melody. Recent single Chlorine steps into early Tame Impala terrain, but its the moody, woozy tune which hits home. The siblings take turns singing lead, each as assured as the other.” MOJO

“An impressive debut. The band’s primary line is in stately, swirling slow-­burners while a handful of intense lo-­fi pop nuggets keeps things moving.” Uncut

“A swimmingly ­fine debut, whose mixture of indie -kid smarts and hazy psyche­-pop feels like a homegrown companion to Beach House.” PROG

“A lush and dreamy debut. Each visit uncovers something new.” DORK ­- 4 Stars ****

“Gloriously fuzzed up. An accomplished debut with moments of real beauty.” The Sun ­- 4 Stars ****

Until The Tide Creeps In is a generous, lively dream­pop offering. They soar like Spiritualized; they shimmer like Mazzy Star. On seven ­minute epic Gnarbone they go motorik, using found sound like Public Service Broadcasting.” London In Stereo

“A heady wonder of dream pop. Timeless, shimmering guitars and lush, sun­-drenched harmonies. An accomplished and self-­assured collection of songs.” Long Live Vinyl ­ – 8/10

John Grant debuts “Billy”

With his new album Boy From Michigan due for release 25th June via Bella Union,and having previously shared the tracks ‘The Only Baby’‘Boy From Michigan’ and ‘Rhetorical Figure’, John Grant today shares a video for “Billy”, the closing track on the LP. On the song, Grant decries the all too prevalent culture of hyper-machismo, one which fashions us all for failure. He explains: “Billy is a song about how many men destroy themselves trying to live up to stereotypes of masculinity and how this manifests in countless ways.” The part-animated video, directed by regular collaborators Casey and Ewan, features the eponymous Billy of the title and was shot in both Reykjavik (John) and Denver (Billy). 

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, it 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.