Today, Nell & The Flaming Lips share a video for “Red Right Hand” from their album of Nick Cave covers, Where the Viaduct Looms, out now via Bella Union. The video features a live performance from Nell and the Lips of which Nell says: “I really loved working on these live videos, shooting this was the first time I had the opportunity to actually play music with the Lips as we recorded the whole album remotely. Performing live gives the whole thing more energy and I can’t wait to do more.”
Where the Viaduct Looms comprises nine Nick Cave cover versions with vocals and instrumentation by 14-year-old Nell Smith and instrumentation and production by The Flaming Lips. The album was mastered by Dave Fridmann at Tarbox Road Studios. Nell and the Lips have previously shared videos for ‘Girl In Amber’, ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘No More Shall We Part’.
Acclaim for Where the Viaduct Looms:
“US teen Nell Smith’s glassy sweetness is a great fit for the Lips on a Nick Cave covers LP. The more gothic the song (Girl In Amber, Red Right Hand) the better the interpretation.” MOJO
“This sweetly bizarre experiment pays off… Drenched in electronic buzz and psychedelic fuzz, these shimmery reworkings of Cave classics are pleasingly free of both solemn reverence and ironic kitsch.” Uncut
“Cave’s glowering menace acquires a new, lighter prettiness when his apocalyptic words are delivered in Nell’s high, youthful voice, drenched in echo and backed by the Lips’ familiar woozy electronic rock.” Evening Standard – 4 stars ****
“Nell’s guileless vocals are the bridge between his dark and deeply felt lyrics and the band’s ornate sounds. Where The Viaduct Looms shares some of Oczy Mlody desolate sweetness, particularly on “The Ship Song”‘s blissful electronic haze. The Lips seize every opportunity to re-create Cave’s songs with adventurous production, transforming the hymn-like “Into My Arms” into a lush track worthy of a futuristic Phil Spector.” All Music – 4 Stars****
Having previously shared first single “Meanwhile…” from their long-awaited new album For the Sake of Bethel Woods, out 18th March via Bella Union, Midlake today share a live performance video of the track. Filmed at Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, Texas, the video is the first in a number of live performances the band will share ahead of the album’s release. Directed by Rett Rogers, the performance can be viewed below…
Loss and hope, isolation and communion, the cessation and renewal of purpose. Timeless and salient, these themes echo throughout the fifth album from Midlake, their first since Antiphon in 2013. Produced to layered, loving perfection by John Congleton, For the Sake of Bethel Woods is an album of immersive warmth and mystery from a band of ardent seekers, one of our generation’s finest: a band once feared lost themselves by fans, perhaps, but here revivified with freshness of intent.
From the cover to the title and beyond, a longing to reconnect with that which seems lost sits at the record’s core. The cover star is keyboardist/flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, who, tragically, passed away in 2018. As singer Eric Pulido explains, “He was a lovely human, and it was really heavy and sad, and he came to Jesse in a dream. I reference it in a song. He said, ‘Hey, Jesse, you need to get the band back together.’ I didn’t take that lightly. We had already had these feelings with everyone in the band of, oh, this could be a cool thing to do. But the dream was a kind of beautiful depiction of a purpose to reconvene and make music together as friends.”
Featuring Chandler’s father during John Sebastian’s set, the cover image was taken from the 1970 documentary Woodstock. In 1969, Jesse’s then-16-year-old dad had joined a friend and hitchhiked from Ridgewood, New Jersey, to the legendary festival. Raised in Woodstock after his father moved there in 1981, Jesse later paid pilgrimage to Bethel Woods with his father; there, the elder Chandler recorded an audio account of his festival experience in the museum’s public database. “So for me, the picture of that kid, my dad, forever frozen in time,” says Chandler, “encapsulates what it means to be in the throes of impressionable and fleeting youth, and all that the magic of music, peace, love and communion bring to it, whether one knows it at the time or not.”
A desire to commune with the past and connect with present, lived experience asserts itself from the opening of the album. A song that resonates with Midlake’s return and, perhaps, our lockdown era, ‘Commune’ can also be read in terms of a deeper urge to re-engage with sometimes neglected ideals and beliefs. ‘Bethel Woods’ sustains and develops that reconnection, evoking the steadfast and contemplative urgency of The Trials of Van Occupanther to back a lyric steeped in yearning for a paradisal time and place of hope and optimism. Soaring guitars and atmospheric noise effects extend a sonic scope further developed by ‘Glistening,’ where arpeggios dance like light glancing off a lake. In just three songs, Midlake reintroduce themselves and reach out into fresh territory with a richly intuitive dynamism, honouring their past as a seedbed of possibility.
The psychedelic space-rock and sticky guitars of ‘Exile’ shift the album to another plane, promising rich returns live, before ‘Feast of Carrion’ splices apocalyptic imagery with lustrous harmonies: darkness and light, held in rarefied balance. A deeply personal turn follows on ‘Noble,’ a song of tender innocence named after drummer McKenzie Smith’s infant son, born with a rare brain disorder called Semi-Lobar Holoprosencephaly. Pulido, who has been friends with McKenzie since they were 16 years old, kept McKenzie in mind for the lyrics. “I wrote the song from his perspective in a way, his expression to me of how he had been feeling towards his son. And then among the lament of his condition, it’s also embracing this child who has only joy. Noble doesn’t know that he has a condition, he just loves life. And smiles, and is so innocent, and perfect in so many ways.”
Elsewhere, the prog-enhanced funk-rock of ‘Gone’ seeks to find hope in relationships that seem fragile. The ELO-esque ‘Meanwhile…’ draws inspiration from what happened when Midlake paused after Antiphon, developing universal resonance as a song about the beautiful growths that can emerge from the cracks and gaps between things. ‘Finally, ‘Of Desire’ meditates on letting go of what you can’t control and attending to what you can during uncertain times.
Midlake began re-attending to their patch in 2019, with the bulk of the album’s work undertaken when the world shut down in 2020. The lockdown turned out to be helpful, in terms of offering an escape from grim reality and focusing the band’s energies – essential for an outfit whose members (Pulido, Chandler, Smith, Eric Nichelson and Joey McClellan) had all pursued alternative ventures following Antiphon. Also on-hand was new collaborator John Congleton, who produced, engineered and mixed the album, marking Midlake’s first record with an outside producer. “I can’t say enough just how much his influence brought our music to another sonic place than we would have,” says Pulido. “I don’t want to record without a producer again. Part of that is the health of the band, because as you get older you get more opinionated and you kind of need that person who says, ‘No, it’s going to be this way!’ It’s hard to do that with your friends.”
The result is a powerful, warming expression of resolve and renewal for Midlake, opening up new futures for the band and honouring their storied history. An album of thematic and sonic reach with a warm, wise sense of intimacy at its heart, an album to break bread and commune with, honour the past and travel onwards with. In ‘Bethel Woods’, Pulido sings of gathering seeds. On For the Sake of Bethel Woods, those seeds are lovingly nurtured, taking rich and spectacular bloom.
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is available to preorder here. The album will be released in various formats including standard black vinyl and 180g white vinyl with an accompanying signed print.
Following excellent reviews for their new album Which Way To Happy, released digitally last month via Bella Union and out physically on 21st January, Penelope Isles today share a brilliant video for LP highlight “Have You Heard” to coincide with their announcement of a month of US tour dates running throughout March 2022. “Have You Heard” receives a gripping narrative-meets-live-performance video shot in black and white, helmed by renowned director Jamie Thraves (Radiohead’s “Just” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist”).
Commenting on the video Jamie Thraves says: “I heard Penelope Isles on 6 Music and was blown away. They seemed to channel all my favourite bands in one. I’ve been into this idea of reaching out to new bands via Instagram to see if they’d be into my music video work and Jack and Lily were open from the get go. They gave me an absolute gem of a track in ‘Have You Heard’ and they were totally open to what I wanted to do visually. This video is a nod and reference to a number of videos and short films I’ve made in the past, themes I’m interested in, and they gave me total freedom to do what I wanted. They are total stars and very down to earth and lovely people. They were so much fun to work with and we had a blast.”
Additionally, Penelope Isles have been added to the line-up of Bella Union’s Winter Wonderland concert at the Union Chapel this Saturday alongside Laura Groves, C Duncan and Deep Throat Choir. Tickets HERE.
Acclaim for Which Way To Happy:
“Jack and Lily Wolter balance the bitter and the sweet with real delicacy on the follow-up to their 2019 debut… An endearing mixture of emotional wobble and creative confidence,
Which Way To Happy is on exactly the right track.” MOJO
“Widescreen, expansive stuff… ‘Rocking At The Bottom’ mixes jangle and shoegaze with a dose of the Bunnymen at their most grandiose, while ‘Play It Cool’ is irresistible retro-pop.
The stately psych stroll of ‘Sailing Still’ and woozy glide of ‘Pink Lemonade’ are both dreamy high points.” Shindig– 4 stars ****
“Festooned with macroscopic, reverb-smitten production and sumptuous orchestral arrangements… A genuinely healing listen;
an album to get cosy with while its music lovingly soaks your wounds.” DIY– 4 stars ****
“Which Way to Happy expands and improves on the musical palette laid down by their debut with the record hitting its stride on the jittery single ‘Iced Gems’ followed by the absorbing
and ambitious ballad ‘Sailing Still’. Songs come bathed in sparkling synths and warming strings, but melodies are unpredictable, bearing repeat listens.” Uncut – 7/10
“Their sound hasn’t changed but the recordings are richer, basslines heavier, and the songwriting is more confident.” Clash – 8/10
“This sibling duo’s forthcoming album Which Way to Happy builds further upon their explorations of sound, unbound to the constraints of style.
The result is a cohesive grab bag of influences ranging from The Smiths to Tame Impala.” Paste
Once Twice Melody, the first album produced entirely by Beach House, was recorded at Pachyderm studio in Cannon Falls, MN, United Studio in Los Angeles, CA, and Apple Orchard Studios in Baltimore, MD. For the first time, a live string ensemble was used, with arrangements by David Campbell. Once Twice Melody was mostly mixed by Alan Moulder but a few tracks were also mixed by Caesar Edmunds, Trevor Spencer, and Dave Fridmann.
Once Twice Melody features 18 tracks, and in the lead up to the physical release, will be presented in four chapters with lyric animations for each song.
Chapter 1 (10th November 2021)
1. Once Twice Melody
3. Pink Funeral
4. Through Me
Chapter 2 (8th December 2021)
7. New Romance
8. Over and Over
Chapter 3 (19th January 2022)
10. Only You Know
11. Another Go Around
13. Illusion of Forever
Chapter 4 (full album release, 18th February 2022)
Beach House have also announced headlining tour dates in support of Once Twice Melody, which begin on 18th February 2022.
New international festival appearances include Best Kept Secret Festival in Hilvarenbeek, NL (10th-12th June), Portugal’s Paredes de Coura (16th-20th August), and This Ain’t No Picnic in Pasadena, CA (27th-28th August). For more information on tickets, please visit oncetwicemelodytour.com.
What people are saying about Once Twice Melody:
“Chapter One captured that storybook quality with sweeping ballads fit for a baroque fairytale, each guided by Victoria Legrand’s typically enchanting vocals.” – The AV Club
“…Their most cinematic record yet. Working with a live string ensemble for the first time, they summon a sound more surrealistic than anything on 2018’s 7, bringing to mind 1960s psychedelia, Stereolab, and Broadcast’s ‘Come On Let’s Go’.” – Pitchfork
“Beach House’s music contains many gifts, but it’s the group’s ability to magnify life’s small dramas into sky-sized emotions that glitters (“Superstar”).” – New York Times
“‘Like walking into a fairytale — it’s reminiscent of psychedelic ’60s folk and other kinds of evocative vintage pop.” – PAPER
“All of them are amazing. All of them have their proponents. But “Superstar,” while perhaps not the most novel of the bunch, is the one that gave me the spine-chilling sensation of listening to a bona fide Beach House classic for the first time.” (“Song of the Week”) – Stereogum
“Things begin with the stunning title track that mixes low-fi electronics with baroque touches and a stirring string section. You can hear echoes of Broadcast, Stereolab and Spacemen 3 (whose Sonic Boom produced their last album, 7). The hand-drawn animated lyric video, directed by Annapurna Kumar, is great too. From there, it’s the pulsing, kaleidoscopic ‘Superstar’ (video by Nicholas Law), the neon dread of ‘Pink Funeral’ (full of strings right out of a horror film and a video by Scott Kiernan), and the melting arpeggiations of ‘Through Me’ (with a video by San Charoenchai). The visuals for all four songs are fantastic, very different, but majorly psychedelic.” – Brooklyn Vegan
Beach House return to the UK and Europe in Spring 2022 as part of a full tour, including a night at London’s Brixton Academy on 26th May. Tickets are on sale via www.oncetwicemelodytour.com
Having last month shared the track ‘Alluvium’, and ahead of a London live performance this weekend, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter C Duncan today shares more music from his much-anticipated next studio album due for release in 2022 via Bella Union. “The Wedding Song” is perhaps Duncan’s most romantic composition to date, an affecting and wistful Sufjan Stevens-ish hymnal which also features his musician parents on strings. The track comes with a similarly beautiful lyric video which features Duncan’s distinctive animation.
Commenting on the track Duncan says: “The Wedding Song is a love song. It’s about contentment and being grateful for what we have, and what we share with one another. Unity is greater than any grand gesture.”
C Duncan will be performing in London this weekend as one of the artists at Bella Union’s Winter Wonderland concert at the Union Chapel alongside label mates Deep Throat Choir and Laura Groves. Tickets are available HERE.
Born in Glasgow to two classical musicians, Duncan played in school bands before studying music composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Swift attention followed when his debut album, Architect, banked a Mercury Music Prize nomination; its follow-up, The Midnight Sun, reached the shortlist for the Scottish Album of the Year. A support slot on tour with Elbow then beckoned, after which Duncan recorded his third album, Health, at Elbow’s Salford studio with Craig Potter. Another entry on the shortlist for Scottish Album of the Year, Health came accompanied by duly effusive reviews. Throughout his career, Duncan has banked raves from The Guardian, MOJO, NME, Uncut and others, alongside much love from BBC Radio 6 Music.
Besides support slots with Belle & Sebastian and Elbow, Duncan has gone on to fill ever-bigger venues in his own name, including London’s Union Chapel and Scala. 2020 brought another career development in the shape of a collaboration with Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde for the Lost Horizons project. Their track ‘Circle’ is one of In Quiet Moment’s many highlights.
Behind the scenes changes have influenced his new recordings with a move to a home near the water in Helensburgh a couple of years ago proving instrumental. Here, Duncan worked on the album in his home studio, writing, recording and producing himself. “It’s a very inspiring place to work,” he says, “and I wanted to return to recording from home as it gives me time and space to develop songs without any outside pressure. I feel very comfortable working alone.”
“I’m reeling, I’m restless,” sing Deep Throat Choir from the heart of their second album. That restlessness manifests in a set of tremendously abundant, original songs from the east London female and non-binary vocal collective, founded by Landshapes member Luisa Gerstein. Released today via Bella Union, In Order to Know You is a multi-layered assertion of freshly expansive range, driven by two core virtues: a sense of strength in unity and an open embrace of its singers’ personal experiences, shared through collective, supportive vocal expression.
After 2017’s largely covers-based debut album, Be OK, the choir recognised the call to evolve. “Having been singing together for five-plus years, and having released an album of mostly covers, it felt like the logical next step to make our own music together,” says Gerstein. “This album is the alchemy of all the specific voices and players that make up the choir, and a collaborative process of writing and sharing music and ideas. Sonically, I wanted to move beyond just voices and percussion, to see what richness could be brought with instruments and electronics, and to transition from a choir that does covers to a band with loads of vocalists.”
The rewards of that leap are immediately evident on first single ‘Alchemilla’, named after the herbaceous perennial. A testimony to the strength in vulnerability, it celebrates an openness to emotion across buoyant harmonies that “ebb and flow” like cool waves. With words byHeloise Tunstall-Behrens, Alice Freedman and Holly Turnbull, the song emerged from a jamming session in Margate and a conversation about masculinity. ‘Picturing’ is a spun-silk reflection on shared tenacity before tough circumstance, while the forceful voices and folksy guitars of ‘Uvas’ frame a lyric that testifies to the choir’s depths of personal experience.
“This song is about my mum,” says Gerstein. “In Colombia you eat 12 grapes (uvas) at New Year’s to make 12 resolutions with. I was thinking about her resolve to move and travel to a faraway place, and a resolve and hunger that I feel she’s passed down to me. It’s about looking back at the generations before you, finding common threads that run through those histories, and all the bigger histories that are part of that tapestry, like ships on the sea and emeralds in the dirt (early conquistadors traded glass for emeralds with indigenous people).” https://www.youtube.com/embed/vZpx392BZxE?feature=oembed
A rolling piano buoys up ‘Lighter’, which channels Sun Ra’s influence into a song that upholds the support found in mutual connectivity. Meanwhile, the gorgeous swoon of ‘Patience’ again illuminates how individual singers’ experiences can take shape within the choir, to become something held by all. “I wrote ‘Patience’ as a kind of eulogy for my mum’s funeral,” says Rosa Slade. “Music for me was the easier way to express a combined and confusing feeling of grief and celebration of life. I joined Deep Throat a few months later and found the choir space brought such deep holding through song and collectivity. When Luisa began to compose and gather for the second album, it felt natural somehow for the song to be held by those voices too; so it could live by transforming into something new and shared; becoming multiple stories existing in unison.”
From there, In Order to Know You heads towards its climax without seeming to touch the ground, from the title-track’s devotional exhalation to the stealthy, smoky shimmer of ‘Unstitching’. Its lyrics drawn from a poem by Emma Cleave, the sublime ‘Field of Not Knowing’ closes the album in a vivid tapestry of folk-gothic images and serene-to-soaring arrangements.
For Deep Throat Choir, the result is both a culmination of journeys taken so far and a lustrous springboard for further adventures. Their travels began in 2013, when the collective took shape from a desire to strip music back to the basic elements of raw voices and drums, united in a fashion that both honours and transmogrifies personal expression. A small group of four or five singers steadily expanded, with Zara Toppin’s drums providing a propulsive energy. Cathartic live shows and collaborations followed, ranging from team-ups with Peggy Sue, Stealing Sheep, Horse Meat Disco and Matthew E White to performances at Green Man, Wilderness, the Southbank Centre’s WOW festival, London’s Scala and beyond. A fruitful collaboration with techno-pop duo Simian Mobile Disco on the 2018 album Murmurations followed: a testament to the choir’s alchemical abilities.
At a residency at the Prah Foundation, Margate, seeds were sown for the new songs. An increased confidence bloomed as the band pushed at its boundaries, an evolution aided by engineer Andy Ramsey and the vast range of the contributors’ musical talents. Emerging organically, the songs reflect the experiences and worlds of the singers who contributed to the writing process. Alongside soloists Tanya Auclair, Liv Stones, Holly Holden, Elly Condron, Miryam Solomon, Fikir Assefa, Maddie Rix, Rosa Slade, Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Fran Lobo and Gerstein, new contributors included brass players Marcus Hamblett and Emma Gatrill, plus pianist Sam Beste. From within the choir, Kate Burn played cello, Sarah Anderson played violin/viola, Tunstall-Behrens played bass and Auclair contributed synth parts. Recording took place before lockdown; Gerstein produced, while Jimmy Robertson (Anna Calvi, Peggy Sue) mixed the record.
The album title reflects that drive towards a kind of questing togetherness. “We made this music in order to know and understand each other more fully,” says Gerstein, “and that’s what music is in general. We’re saying it to each other, and to the listener.”