Promise & The Monster

Billie Lindahl, the woman behind the name Promise & The Monster, brings a vivid landscape to life on Feed The Fire, her first album for Bella Union, due for release 22nd January and available to order now from itunes. It’s a wondrous and haunting world, mixing light and dark, birth and death, mystery and imagination, awesome vistas and intimate detail. Lindahl builds an analogue and digital soundscape around her enchanting voice, luring you deeper into her wild world than ever before. The first taste of the album can be heard with the track ‘Time Of The Season’ which is streaming below.

Feed The Fire was recorded in Stockholm, where Lindahl lives, at Labyrint, a small basement studio run by her friend Love Martinsen who produced the album and shares most of the instrumentation with Lindahl. “We aimed at combining the elegance of old Sixties recordings with something darker and more mechanical,” she recalls. “Like you would play a Lee Hazlewood song on top of Nico’s late Eighties records.”

The opening / title track sets the scene with the immediate confession “I’m already too involved / I’m forced into the core.” ‘Hunter’ expands the dreamy yet eerie mood with an echo of girl-group drama filtered through a remote Swedish forest, featuring the Erhu, a Chinese violin. “It’s a great instrument,” Lindahl says. “It sounds a bit like somebody is weeping, and I think we managed to make it weep.”

The view keeps changing: ‘Time Of The Season’ is a more urgent rush of blood, with chiming guitar, ‘Hammering the Nails’ is gentler despite the image, “this taste of blood in metal”, and the tremelo guitar twang and an exquisite coda of Mariachi horns in ‘Machines’ resemble a slice of vintage Americana. Images of skin, flesh, bone and rust create a clash between humanity and the natural world, while the album finale, a cover of the traditional British folk song ‘Fine Horseman’, taps the same motherlode.

Duality sits at the core of Feed The Fire, likewise the name Promise & The Monster. “To feed the fire can be seen as both constructive and destructive,” Lindahl concludes. “You keep the fire burning, the spark alive. But fire can kill you. Like life and death, it’s not really a contradiction. I think it’s necessary to be open to destructive forces if you want to live a life where strong emotions are present. To see, listen and feel is quite a violent and confusing experience, and I think my lyrics often evolve around that, blurring boundaries between dream and reality, and between sanity and insanity. To me, Feed The Fire is a concept album that explores those kinds of themes, from certain places and real happenings.”

Feed The Fire will be released 22nd January on Bella Union.

Bernard + Edith

Fellow Manchester-based artist Jamie Lee of the band MONEY has penned the below idiosyncratic bio-cum-tribute to Bernard + Edith:

“Perhaps Bernard and Edith would think that what I’m about to say is going too far. But I remember drinking with vocalist Edith in a bar in Manchester and talking about how her and Bernard come to creating their songs. Edith observed: “Rather than say ‘let’s go out’ or ‘let’s watch TV’ I say, ‘should we make a cheeky song?’ And he says ‘Alright then’.” And that laughter I’ve come to know so well erupts from her maniacally, childishly, freely.

Edith’s singing style reminds me of the kind of emancipatory freedom of the modern American school of writing. Her melodies are uninhibited by traditional rules of structure – she moves where and when she feels the impulse to; and knowing the woman behind the voice I see that the impulse in her can be as chaotic as it is beguiling. She is like a bouquet balanced precariously on the edge of a table unsure of whether it will fall and break – hinged between extreme goodness and feeling on the one hand and on the other, chaos and perhaps even madness. Lyrically, again, the comparison is relevant: “cos poppy says she loves me and I’m feeling right” is as naked, unpretentious and brave as the revolutionary poet Robert Lowell’s assertion; “why not say what happened?” that triggered his confessional movement producing and influencing writers from Sylvia Plath to Anne Sexton – a place where the uncompromisingly personal and high-art met in the middle. This applies to Bernard and Edith too. A place explored by Daniel Johnston and Arthur Russell – it is the artful balance between a highly private expression and having the skill and intelligence to communicate that to the world. It is testing the limits of what a person can say within their art but  also lends a universality to their language and style. Having mentioned these artists, there is clearly a strongly cathartic drive to why Bernard and Edith even exist at all – it is art being made for the right reasons – for the love of it! It is esoteric but never indulgent, original but not reactionary or avant-garde, otherworldly but unpretentious.

It is my belief that whatever art is, it is the direct opposite of whatever money is. It is made by the maker to save oneself briefly from the inevitable and in doing so (where the craft comes in) may end up saving other people briefly too. Bernard + Edith make their music from home and (I cannot help but feel) predominantly for each other – a kind of covenant to their particular and special bond.”

2:54

The Other I, the second album from 2:54, was released 10th November 2014 on Bella Union.

Even before Colette and Hannah Thurlow wrote their new album, the London-based sisters’ atmospheric, imaginative and thrilling vein of rock music under the name 2:54 was already a force to be reckoned with. But the events that tested their commitment and resilience have upped the ante, to produce the magnificent drama and beauty of The Other I. From the expansive, tempo-shifting opener ‘Orion’, and the pining roots of ‘The Monaco’ to the ambient haunts of ‘Tender Shoots’ and the shape-shifting tour de force of ‘Raptor’, the album significantly widens the net beyond the achievements of 2:54’s self-titled debut. The Other I is all the stronger for Hannah and Colette’s hands-on approach to production while Colette’s lead vocals show a striking versatility. The album’s emotional terrain has been carved from circumstances out of their control but equally their sisterly bond.

As Colette explains, the album’s title was inspired by a favourite poet, Percy Shelley, “a rousing romantic, politically charged, a proto-punk of sorts. He called his friend and muse Elizabeth Hitchener the ‘sister of my soul, my second self.’ These lines kept returning to me last year and from there I arrived at ‘The Other I’. The Other I is an enquiry into the duality of the human experience – the division between the self that pounds on like a juggernaut in your head, and the self you present to the world. The idea extends to Hannah and I, to our sisterhood. We know intrinsically what the other thinks and feels, music is just another language we use to communicate.”

Written in Paris and London, the album was recorded at Bella Union’s East London studio before the Thurlows and Alex Robins decamped to North London’s Fish Factory to complete it alongside co-producer and mixer James Rutledge, who’s worked with the likes of Radiohead and Fever Ray. ‘In The Mirror’ and ‘Sleepwalker’ are cited as key entry points to the album’s core values, while lyrically ‘Orion’ sets the scene for the album’s adventures. ‘Raptor’ is the album’s brilliant finale, with its simmering intro, hypnotic flow, thrilling coda and rallying mantra: “Calling, I’m calling, I’m calling, I can hear it / You don’t know us / One more turn and then I’ll go / The end, the end, the end is close.” 

The Trouble With Templeton

Already a huge success in Australia, The Trouble With Templeton is the creation of singer/songwriter Thomas Calder, a 23-year-old wunderkind who formed the band in 2011. The following year saw TTWT expand to a 5-piece, the new members complimenting Calder’s emotive vocals and songwriting with a collaborative, self-assured sound.

Adventurous, eccentric and stunningly melodic, Rookie is an album that leaves a distinct musical impression. With their debut release The Trouble With Templeton have crafted a record full of warmth and heart, whilst displaying a willingness to make music that’s not afraid to affect or surprise. “The only prerequisite we had going in was that if we loved the song and we believe in it, then we were going to record it,” says Thomas. “The element of surprise is something we really enjoy in music, something we’re always shooting for. You don’t want to know where a song is going from the first two lines.”As a result, the album is a whirling dervish of moods and colours, of tempos and genres, melodies and layers, tackling concepts behind relationships and the way unique human narratives emerge from different viewpoints.

Musically, defining Rookie beyond a happily all-encapsulating idea like ‘intelligent melodic alt-pop’ isn’t worth the hassle. It’s an album that demands listening to in order to be understood. “It’s held together by something undefinable,” reckons Thomas. “For me it’s a whole kaleidoscope of sounds and genres, but there’s something holding it together, and that’s us as a band.”

Rookie was released 12th May 2014 on Bella Union.

“Rookie” Track Listing:

1. Whimpering Child
2. You are New
3. Heavy Lifting
4. Like A Kid
5. Six Months In A Cast
6. Climate
7. I Recorded You
8. Flowers In Bloom
9. Secret Pastures
10. Soldiers
11. Glue
12. Lint