Introducing… The Natural Lines

Bella Union are thrilled to introduce The Natural Lines whose debut First Five EP will be released 14th October ahead of a new album due out in early 2023. To coincide with the announcement the band have shared a video for infectious lead track “The Problem Is Me” shot around Manhattan and Coney Island.

“Maybe the problem is me,” the artist formerly known as Matt Pond PA sings on the inviting opening track from First Five. At once clearly Pond’s work, yet a huge leap forward in its measured songcraft, melodic immediacy, collaborative detail and wryly questioning lyrics, the result is a gorgeous collection of intimate reflections and personal accountability from a relocated, renamed, revivified talent. Here, The Natural Lines paint a picture of the internal conflict, comedy and ultimate acceptance inside all of us.

Pond-watchers might wonder why the name change. Recorded with close collaborators and friends over a period that saw Pond make vital adjustments to his life, The Natural Lines’ stealth emergence reflects his desire to set a fresh pace for himself and come from somewhere new, somewhere more open. “I quit lying,” he adds. “I checked my harsher tones. I cut my drinking down. I went to therapy and stopped shouting at cars.”

Now, the name change honours his collaborators. Among a revolving cast, one constant presence in his work has been Chris Hansen, who plays guitar, bass, keys, saxophone and sings. Singer-songwriter Anya Marina, shines on “In The Dark” and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins / Bella Union) lays down a lush bass on this tale of hide and seek with true connection. Other band members number Hilary James (cello/vocals), Kyle Kelly-Yahner (drums), Louie Lino (keys), Sarah Hansen (horns), Sean Hansen (drums/bass), Andy Dixon (drums), Kat Murphy (vocals) and, also on vocals, 17-year-old MJ Murphy, for whom Matt brims with praise: “She can do anything she wants to musically.”

A genuine rebirth for Pond and his friends, the result also pays warming and witty testimony to the value of reconfiguring one’s outlook. “I thought I might lose the realness in songwriting,” says Matt of his decision to steady his pitch. “I thought I’d have to surrender my edge and my shield. But if your best enemy is yourself, it’s hard to be in a band with the same name.

Matt has been anything but quiet since Still Summer (2017). A re-sequenced reissue of 2015’s The State Of Gold emerged in 2021, an EP of Covid-era originals and covers including The Thermals’ ‘Pillar of Salt’ appeared on the Songs of Disquiet EP in 2020, and soundtracks kept Pond busy. But The Natural Lines was not a project to be rushed, and First Five gives a window into what is surely Pond’s best work yet.

A further departure from the past for Matt is ‘It’s a Trap’, where he sets out to surpass his own sarcasm, hunting and holding onto hope within his hands. “Morning comes an hour late” gently opens ‘Spontaneous Skylights 2’ and before we know it the roof blows off the building. When ‘The End of the World’ arrives, The Natural Lines appear to have survived and surrendered to love.

“Once I took control of my mind, I could see what I wanted to say more clearly. Instead of random floods of mania and panic, I felt like I was composed and composing. It has become as simple as reading the words of a sentence in the right order. As small as the pause before I hit ‘send’.” A development, you might say, conducted along the most natural of lines.

Pre-order “First Five EP” HERE.

Marissa Nadler Announces Fall 2022 Tour

Marissa Nadler has announced news of an extensive European tour running throughout November. These are Nadler’s first European shows since the release of her acclaimed album, The Path Of The Clouds, which was released in October 2021 via Bella Union and Sacred Bones. The tour begins in London and closes in Helsinki.

Acclaim for The Path Of The Clouds:

“Virtuoso songs… Exquisitely wrought tales of mystery and imagination.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“A lyrical treasure trove… Nadler’s usually sparse, gothic folk style is emboldened by well-chosen collaborators from Simon Raymonde to Emma Ruth Rundle.” Uncut – 8/10

“The sense of an artist rising to her sky-scraping potential rings out clearly.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

“Evocative and atmospheric… This lush self-produced record uses the murder ballad form to tell real and imagined tales of lust, death and revenge.” WIRE

“A fascinating album… as strong a set of songs as Nadler has confected.” Metro – 4 stars ****

“Singular and haunting… An album to lose yourself in, and Nadler’s finest so far.” Rock’n’Reel – 4 stars ****

“Highly atmospheric and conceptually intelligent, The Path of the Clouds is a worthy addition to Nadler’s impressively consistent catalogue.” Loud & Quiet

“The best album of her career… An artist at the peak of her powers.” Louder Than War

Over the course of nearly 20 tireless years of writing, recording, and touring, Marissa Nadler has amassed one of the most singular catalogues in contemporary music. Her work glides between delicate folk, windswept Americana, doom metal-adjacent darkness, meditative ambient music, and fearlessly experimental sounds, all anchored in her unmistakable singing voice and finger-style guitar.

Shortly after finishing her Master’s degree at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Nadler released her first proper full-length album, the ethereal Ballads of Living and Dying, in2004. Though she was initially associated with the indie-folk movement, Nadler soon distinguished herself with her willingness to go darker and more personal, writing songs that felt deeply intimate with solitude and heartbreak while still retaining an otherworldly sheen. If she was born a century earlier, it’s not a stretch to imagine that her vast talents would be mistaken for conjured magic.

After a decade of releasing records with various labels and on her own, Nadler joined forces with Sacred Bones Records and Bella Union for 2014’s seismic July. That record marked a kind of reset in Nadler’s career, and the sounds she explored there served as a jumping off point for subsequent modern classics like For My Crimes and her collaboration with Stephen Brodsky, Droneflower — both of which she created the cover art for.

The Path of the Clouds is Nadler’s ninth solo album, and it feels like yet another significant evolution. Two decades into a storied career, there’s still an untapped reservoir of thrilling musical ideas and stirring emotions lurking in her endlessly creative mind.

Fiona Brice Debuts “Through Her Eyes”

With her new album And You Know I Care due out 21st October via Bella Union, and having previously shared a Rankin-directed video for the title track, Fiona Brice today shares a mesmerising video for album highlight “Through Her Eyes.” Commenting on the track and video Brice says: “I wanted to write about seeing the world from someone else’s perspective. It’s about trying to build empathy, removing yourself from the centre. I have sponsored several women through the charity Women to Women International, and the initial idea for the song came from the brief connection I had with them. For the video, I decided to ask many of the wonderful creative women I have working relationships with to contribute a short video of themselves in a place where they felt content, and then combined everything with images of myself as a very young child and then again in my early 20s, remembering how I felt back then, who I was, and linking it with where I am today.”

“I wanted to make a record that was meditative, compassionate, calm and reflective, as a reaction to the increasingly noisy, opinionated, aggressive and polemic tone of our daily environment,” says Brice. The British multi-instrumentalist, orchestral arranger and composer has drawn on her abundant talents to forge an exceptional record that fulfils the brief. Brice’s second solo album for Bella Union, And You Know I Care, is a deep listening experience that raises the post-classical bar, eschewing the genre’s default melancholia for wider and richer dimensions of uplifting and exultant bliss.

Brice has drawn on all her experience gained working with the likes of John Grant, Anna Calvi, Jarvis Cocker, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Katherine Jenkins, Elbow, the BBC Concert and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestras, Royal Northern Sinfonia and the London Mozart Players. She toured with Placebo for ten years, and more recently Elbow, so to say Brice is in-demand is an understatement. But she still has time for her own work. Her debut album Postcards From, a more minimalist, filmic set of instrumentals, was released in 2016. After two purer classical projects (String Quartet No.1 in 2018 and the lockdown-inspired Piano Preludes in 2022) And You Know I Care is a more wide-ranging, ruminating work, and showcases Brice’s voice, lyrics and choral arrangements – and what a gorgeous voice she has, strong and supple, able to hit the heights of a soprano.

To help her create this refuge from modern life, Brice (violin, piano) called on Vicky Matthews (cello), Benjamin Till (vocal on ‘Whose God Are You’) and co-producers Julian Simmons and Dimitri Tikovoï. “Every collaborator on this album is someone I’ve had a long-standing friendship and professional relationship with – including Simon Raymonde and Bella Union,” she says. “This is important to me because it gives the record a personal ‘retrospective’ quality.”

Renowned photographer Rankin is another friend (Brice initially featured in his famous Raw Nudes exhibition) who Brice asked to direct a video for the lead single – and title track after seeing his powerful portrait series Flora, juxtaposing flowers and flame. Says Brice, “I found Rankin’s series resonated with the music, though he’d only done stills: a video was my suggestion.” The visuals’ distilled, flickering beauty combines with the music’s ebb and flow, recalling video artist Bill Viola’s stunning slow-motion work. “I wanted something that could be shown in an art gallery,” says Brice. “It’s an installation as much as a video.”

Brice chose one of Rankin’s Flora images for the album cover. On the rear, she wears a formal black classical concert dress, lying in the (according to Alexander Technique and yoga practice) position known as ‘constructive rest’. “It promotes calming, tension release and relaxing the sympathetic nervous system,” says Brice, who trained as a yoga teacher in 2017 (how did she  find time?). “I hope the imagery shows the seriousness of the statement I’m making on this record.”

The album is bookended by instrumentals, “to link back to Postcards From,” but each tells its own story. In the opening ‘Ascending’, a gentle piano prelude is slowly invaded by electronic sound, as if the world is intruding on Brice’s state of calm. The sombre strings of the closing ‘Retreat’ is, “a retreat back into instrumental music,” she feels, but it’s also a retreat into that state of calm.

That leaves six sets of lyrics. Seeking community and empathy in a world spinning out of control, Brice reaches out to a friend in hospital (the title track), understands another’s perspective (‘Through Her Eyes’) and encourages a troubled friend that life can improve (‘Today It Will Be Different’). ‘Nocturnal’ acknowledges emotional pain, “and how long it can take to heal.” ‘We Rise We Fall’ telescopes outward, to lament, “how the world is in perpetual flux. We progress and then regress, and never get to where we could be.” ‘Whose God Are You’ is the album’s darker, cynical chapter, addressing “those people who’ll have you believe they walk on water. It could be politicians, religious leaders, or someone I know being precocious… it’s me saying, I don’t believe you.”

In all cases, the lyrics are written as mantras. As Brice explains, “A lot of songs out there have an enormous number of words – just like people are talking all the time on social media. So, I wanted to break things down to the emotional core. Historically too, mantras in the yogi tradition of repetition soothe the mind and body.”

Music that has inspired Brice along this illuminating journey include Alice Coltrane’s Universal Consciousness (“the sheer ‘otherness’, the way she claims her own soundworld”), Steve Reich’s Different Trains (“repetition, variation and lyrical minimalism creating a strong emotional impact”), Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister’s Planetarium (”the combination of song form and orchestral textures”) and Henry Purcell (“especially Dido And Aeneas and baroque compositional use of ground bass”).

With a similarly questing spirit, rich composition and a commanding vision, Brice has created her own soundworld, and a place for everyone to find a shelter from the storm.

Happy Release Day To Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman today releases her new record, All Of Us Flames via Bella Union and Anti Records. Inside the world of All of Us Flames, the end of the patriarchal capitalist empire seems both imminent and inevitable, a turn down a path we can’t see yet but can’t avoid, either. Produced by John Congleton, All of Us Flames unleashes Furman’s songwriting in an open, vivid sound whose boldness heightens the music’s urgency. 

A singer, songwriter, and author whose incendiary music has soundtracked the Netflix show Sex Education, Furman has for years woven together stories of queer discontent and unlikely, fragile intimacies. She has a knack for zeroing in on the light that sparks when struggling people find each other and ease each other’s course. All of Us Flames widens that focus to a communal scope, painting transformative connections among people who unsettle the stories power tells to sustain itself. 

“Ezra Furman is on a roll… All Of Us Flames sparkles… Her observations are succinct, original and fearless.” 
Mail On Sunday

“All Of Us Flames reveals a more humble and equanimous Furman, an empathetic artist still committed to truth-telling, still railing against the injustices of the world.” 
The Line of Best Fit
“Her most ambitious collection of pop brilliance.” 
Loud & Quiet

All Of Us Flames roars with emotional truth and transformative power… A revitalised rock’n’roll soundtrack for a push towards the brightening of the light.” 

“Bold, profoundly honest, and deeply insightful, this is an inspired return, one that might rank as her finest.” 

“One of the best, most important albums of the year… All Of Us Flames has the potential to go down in history”

“Diverse, tuneful and vibrant, it’s often euphoric.” 
Record Collector

Helen Ganya Announces New Album “polish the machine”

Helen Ganya today announces her new album polish the machine released 18th November via Bella Union and available to preorder here. To celebrate the announcement Ganya has shared a striking video for first single “afterparty” which features professional dancers Gemma Shrub and Natasha Margerison. The video was choreographed by Ceyda Tanc who mixes contemporary dance works with influences from Turkish folk culture. Ceyda was given free rein to interpret the music, resulting in a mix of graceful and jarring movements which complement the moods of the song.

Approaching a new decade in age can bring with it a sort of existential search for meaning. As we grasp at reflections and try to draw a line into a new phase, expectations can be amplified, leaving us reeling in the wake of some unobtainable self. For Helen Ganya, entering her thirties made her question and pull away from the heteronormative social constructs that surround us. On her new album polish the machine, the Brighton-based songwriter stretches away from the suburban nightmare, seeking a cathartic reprieve that looks beyond the ordinary. “I was looking to the truth of removing any expectations that we’ve acquired along the way,” she says.

Previously performing under the moniker Dog in the Snow, Ganya’s 2017 album Consume Me (Battle Worldwide) introduced a meticulous and elegant voice, while 2019 album Vanishing Lands (Bella Union) – inspired by the striking imagery in a period of vivid dreams – utilised swirling dream-pop and haunting post-punk to present an eerie, unflinching look at the often nightmarish reality of the present world.polish the machine leans further into Ganya’s interiority, but refuses to succumb to despondency, instead pursuing a platform for community and tentative optimism. Here, the constraints of societal roles are loosened to encourage a different route: a wandering, ever-evolving path. “I’ve always slightly feared the ordinary,” Ganya explains. “It never really represented how I feel and how many people feel.”

This sentiment introduces the album, as Ganya utters “I had a fear of the ordinary” on the glistening electro-pop opener “I will hold that hand for you.” Inspired by sculptor Harriet Hosmer and her pieceClasped Hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ganya strives for community in an ever-isolated existence. “What we aspire to is to have human connection,” she explains. “I was drawn to this idea of setting the truth of something before it collapses. Setting this connection in stone.” Through staccato percussion and fluttering electronica, “I will hold that hand for you” pierces through the veil of societal stagnation. Elsewhere, “afterparty” further advocates vulnerability, while brooding horns and a climactic sonic crescendo imitate the overwhelming feelings that often overtake us during those moments of in-between, of unknowing. “I envisioned this actual space of disappointment,” she adds. “But I’m here, still hoping for something better.”

On the propulsive “young girls never die” hammering synths and haunting electronic strums create a canvas for an aggrieved Ganya who delivers a biting declaration towards the patriarchal norms of today: “Young girls never die, we just rot inside.” “The individual girl is often not allowed to grow,” she explains. “Instead there’s this sort of festering.” Later, the album’s title track delves deeper into the idea of lost autonomy, as all-encompassing, repetitive melodies mimic the hands of a puppeteer. The track features a looping bass line, fed through a Roland MC-202, that was created after the bass became stuck. Rather than trying to fix it, Ganya and her co-producer Rob Flynn decided to lean into the mistake. “It’s this idea of not being precious and counteracting the puppetry of what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives” she says.

This open-minded approach offers much of the foundation for polish the machine. By loosening the grip of perfection, Helen Ganya makes room for the unexpected, where our different selves can be explored. Here, she surrenders to all there is to feel, crafting a window into a world where the universal existential pull is acknowledged but not permitted to overwhelm. polish the machine creates connection by offering an evocative, electronically-charged deliverance, where we can aim to liberate ourselves from the fear, anger and anxiety that so often isolates us through a kind of cathartic communion.

Modern Nature To Release Limited Edition Live Album

Following the success of last year’s acclaimed Island Of Noise album, Modern Nature today announce news of a limited edition live album to accompany an end-of-year show at London’s Kings Place on Friday 2nd December as part of Bella Union’s 25th anniversary celebrations. Live At Cafe Oto will be limited to 200 copies, 150 of which will be available at the show while the remaining 50 will be go online the following week. The mark the announcement the band have shared a visualiser for “Spell (Live at Cafe Oto)”.

Commenting on the album, which was recorded at Cafe Oto in May, Modern Nature frontman Jack Cooper says: “I’ve never really understood the point of view that certain records cannot be performed live or rather why simply replicating an album would be anyone’s intention. Island Of Noise was recorded by a cast of ten musicians, but the most exciting aspect of performing the songs on tour was how four people would interpret the music. To me, the most successful element of the studio album is the space and economy, so the four of us decided to focus on that aspect and to leave large sections of the songs open and free. These recordings are taken from the second night of our residency at Cafe Oto and brought the Island Of Noise album full circle. It was here a few years before that I’d seen an Evan Parker and John Edwards performance that sent me down a rabbit hole.”

Tickets available here.