Happy Release Day Ari Roar

Ari Roar’s gorgeous debut album ‘Calm Down’ was a beautiful blast of DIY guitar pop by a songwriter rooted in – but never confined by – an innate sense of classicism. But while his debut was built during spells in both Seattle and New York, sophomore LP ‘Best Behavior’ is marked by a return home, to the landscapes of Texas and the familiar streets of Dallas.

“I felt like I was in a totally different headspace and environment,” says songwriter Caleb Campbell. “Texas is definitely not like anywhere else that I’ve lived before. It’s always going to be home to me so it’s got that nostalgic feeling to it.”

Working from a converted shed in his parent’s garden, Caleb Campbell began constructing the second Ari Roar album on his trusty Tascam 388 tape recorder. Working quickly, feverishly, he used two six month spells to get his ideas down on tape – spartan but endlessly beautiful pieces of melody, exquisite in their bittersweet execution.

“Everybody likes time to themselves, something that’s meditative or a place where you can really just shut everything out,” he explains. “It’s an ongoing process that will never quite be complete. I’ve been doing it so long now it feels part of my personality.”

Sonically beautiful, ‘Best Behavior’ is unafraid to deal with remarkably personal topics – love, loss, self doubt, the panacea music can offer. “I guess it’s where I was at the time. My relationships. Things I was feeling or reflecting on,” he recalls. “A lot of the songs are brief so it’s only a few lines here and there. If you got down to it, it’s more personal, like a journal or a diary.”

Curious vignettes that layer simple sounds to conjure complex emotions, Ari Roar is dedicated to the craft of the classic pop song, a skewed take on 60s bubblegum reconstituted by an awareness of the modern US underground, like a lost Guided By Voices compilation left to take root in the Texan soil.

“My parents used to play me The Beatles, The Monkees… it’s how I started to begin a relationship with music,” he recalls. “Then I thought, I should start writing my own songs… and I felt the most at home doing that kind of stuff. It’s one of my strengths, I guess.”

Released by Bella Union in 2018, debut album ‘Calm Down’ won fulsome praise on both sides of the Atlantic, including key support from 6Music and lavish reviews from tastemaker sites such as Paste Magazine, Best Fit, and Clash. 

‘Best Behavior’ fits into this universe, but charts out its own distinct space. Opening song ‘My Luck Is Up’ was a “breakthrough moment”, with Caleb taking greater risks in the writing process. ‘Learn The Trick’ is a simple, affecting acoustic moment, while title song ‘Best Behavior’ was so daring, and so complete, that it felt “like somebody else wrote it”.

Immersing himself in music, Ari Roar is careful to leaves spaces for the listener to follow, unfinished elements that invite you to chart your own path in the record. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, so I guess it’s more a reflection of me personally – because I’m not perfect at all!” he laughs. “I start to get a little bit depressed if I don’t have any means of being creative. It definitely makes me feel more normal.” 

Ari Roar’s perfectly imperfect guitar pop creations contain all the dirt of everyday life; for every joyous, soaring chorus, there’ll be a middle eight that can pull your heartstrings into wonderful origami shapes. “I find songs that are just the same emotion all the way through don’t have any kind of context. It’s just like life. It’s not all one emotion. It’s constantly changing.”

With its colour, melody, and unfiltered emotion ‘Best Behavior’ is the finest vista yet on the journey of a committed, feverish songwriter, a lone, bold voice from the plains Texas.

Baloji debuts ‘Spotlight’ Remix

“Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium…he taps powerful music from both worlds to create a landscape of his own.” – NPR

“The rapper and singer Baloji makes chameleonic African music.” – The New York Times

“Baloji showcases roughly 500 times more energy and charisma than your average Jimmy Fallon-style late night appearance.” – The FADER

“Super fly Renaissance man who melds Congolese Rumba, hip-hop, and pop.” – Noisey

“Baloji’s directorial zeal is just as compelling as his limber flow.” – Dazed

“Baloji’s music blends traditional African music, hip-hop, French folk, soul, funk, jazz and electronic to create his distinct, compelling sound.” – Afropunk

“African diaspora music never felt so far ahead and yet so close. Modern, self-sufficient with a middle finger attitude!” – M.I.A.

“scathing, poetic critiques” – Stereogum

Congolese-born, Belgium-based artist Baloji today released a new afro-electro single, “Spotlight & Miroir” (ft. Marshall Dixon & Poison Mobutu) from his upcoming album Kaniama: The Yellow Version, out May 3 via Bella Union. CLASH premiered the remixed track about our digital obsession and phone screen spotlights, which mirrors themes in Baloji’s previous short film “Zombies” that premiered via NOWNESS.

The original “Spotlight” comes from Baloji’s previous album 137 Avenue Kaniama, which was released last year on Bella Union (Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Father John Misty). The label is re-releasing the album as the artist originally intended it, as a one-track mixtape on May 3. In a world of fleeting singles, Kaniama: The Yellow Version brings back the full album listening experience.

Baloji is an artist in motion, a musician, poet, film director and man of many images and ideas. Baloji means “man of science” in Swahili, but shifted during the colonial period to “man of the occult sciences and sorcery.” With influences from Outkast and LCD Soundsystem to African rumba king Tabu Ley Rochereau and salsa music legends Fania Records, he mixes hip hop culture with Congolese guitars and a melodic approach with some French chanson structure. His perpetual motion is showcased in music videos like “Soleil De Volt,” where he fronts a satirical variety show band with flamboyant flare, also apparent in his sharp curation of Komono eyewear collections.

As a teenager, Baloji started his first rap collective, Starflam, and released his first solo album in 2008, Hotel Impala, conceived as a reply to a letter he received from his mother after a 25-year absence. 137 Kaniama Avenue is an extension of a story set in motion on that album. Baloji explains, “It’s the anchoring point of a trajectory marked by my intrinsic attachment to the country as much as by my remoteness from it. A geographic and symbolic distance, which gives me perspective, and inspiration.”

Award-winning novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou (Prix Renaudot, Man Booker International finalist) described the album as “a patchwork universe, rich in words, parables, a universe of stories, poetry in motion, which points a finger at the failings of our societies, now ravaged by collateral damage from globalisation. Baloji, with his legendary flamboyance, offers an artist-witness’s response to his era. Now it’s up to us to inhabit this space where freedom takes the form of art!”
Baloji will soon embark on an international tour, as well – dates here.

The Flaming Lips announce Kings Mouth release

Following its limited–edition vinyl–only release for Record Store Day, The Flaming Lips have today announced the worldwide release of King’s Mouth, their fifteenth studio album, on 19th July via Bella Union in the UK/Europe and Warner Bros in the US. The band have shared a first track entitled “All For The Life Of The City”.

King’s Mouth sees the iconoclastic outfit once again tread uncharted territory. These 12 new originals are threaded together by cinematic narration courtesy of The Clash’s Mick Jones. Additionally, the music parallels front man Wayne Coyne’s immersive art installation of the same name. 

Introduced in 2015, the installation has showcased its psychedelic visuals and soundscapes through North America in museums such as Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, the Pacific Northwest College of Art Portland, OR and Wayne’s own creative space, The Womb, in Oklahoma City, OK. A true handcrafted marvel, it consists of a giant metallic head that welcomes spectators inside. Once inside of the foam month, an LED lightshow begins in tandem with music from the album. Now, the record doubles as the sonic companion to the exhibit and allows fans to experience the aural side at any time.

Further expanding this multi-faceted world and detailing a fascinating creation myth, the accompanying literary tome, King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience tells the story of the King’s Mouth through words and visuals by Coyne,adds yet another dimension to the project, which ranks among the band’s most ambitious thus far.

About the vision, Coyne wrote: “The King’s Mouth immersive/child-like qualities are born from the same spark and womb as The Flaming Lips live performances. The King’s Mouth adventure was made for humans of all sizes, ages, cultures, and religions.”

The Lips recently teamed up with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra for an encore performance of their seminal and celebrated 1999 offering, The Soft Bulletin, from top-to-bottom at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall. This follows up their original 2016 performance of The Soft Bulletin together at Red Rocks Amphitheatre—noted by critics as one of the most important events ever held at Red Rocks in their 75-year history.

Introducing… The Soft Cavalry

Bella Union are thrilled to introduce The Soft Cavalry, a new project formed by the husband/wife duo of Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, whose self–titled debut album is due for release 5th July and is available to preorder here. The band have shared the first track “Dive”and have announced two UK headline shows just ahead of release…

So… The Soft Cavalry. What is it? A happy accident? A lovers’ story? A crisis of faith? In reality, it’s all of these. 

For Steve Clarke, The Soft Cavalry’s self-titled debut album is equally a labour of love, and the first record he’s masterminded from start to finish, with invaluable contributions from his wife, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, on co-vocals and spiritual/practical guidance, and Steve’s brother Michael, who produced the record.

The band’s music is a particularly British brand of intense cinematic drama. Melodic and timeless, the album lands in the atmospheric dimensions between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and R.E.M. A record radiating midlife crisis but equally enormous elation; a helix of fear and hope, aching for resolution. A record Steve emphasises that he “needed” to make.

The album is also a way of rewriting a man’s narrative, and proof that relative late bloomers (Steve was in his late 30s when he made the album) can make the record of their dreams.

In 2014, Steve was stuck. Divorced since 2011, the intervening three years had been, “a haze,” he admits. Since the late nineties he’d played bass and sung backing vocals in bands (both studio and live) and sessions, while also working as a tour-manager. His new assignees were reformed Home Counties faves Slowdive.

“I was hungover in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band’s gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I’d played in London the night before,” he recalls. “The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!”

That was the day Steve was introduced to Rachel… A year later, they were living together in Devon, before marrying in 2018. Rachel not only, “turned my world upside-down,” but unwittingly provided, “the catalyst,” for The Soft Cavalry. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this fifteen years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”

The Soft Cavalry is equally an exercise in creative and personal therapy. The first songs Steve wrote for the album were less about confusion than Rachel-inspired paeans to fate, love, new beginnings: ‘Passerby’ (“Waters break and we are born restlessly into the arms of this unknown”), with Rachel’s gorgeous lead vocal underlining the arrangement’s Slowdive-adjacent ethereality, and ‘Spiders’ (“strand of woven thread / Could be the start of something beautiful?”), a starker, shivery ballad with a feeling of suspended animation. But as Steve opened up, the past began to seep in; years of frustration, anxiety and confusion.

If the album has a theme, reckons Steve, “it’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience’. With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope.”

The Soft Cavalry became something of a conversation, even couple’s therapy. Steve, says Rachel, “is always writing, his head always full of lyrics.” Rachel, says Steve, “reins me in when I get obsessed. She’s a good editor. She says my songs can still work without sections of words, that leaving spaces is OK.”

As Steve assembled songs, his invited friends – keyboardist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake), guitarist Tom Livermore, drummer Stuart Wilkinson and multi-instrumentalist/album producer Michael – helped mould the record’s breathtaking sonics. Says Steve, “I’d grown up with guitar bands and I didn’t want it to be overly guitar-y. We evolved things by trying out ideas. We’d build things up, and then strip them back, and build them again.”

As the album progressed, Rachel formed Minor Victories in 2016 while Slowdive had a gap in the schedule, alongside similarly holidaying members of Mogwai and Editors, for a self-titled album that she and Steve contributed vocal melodies and lyrics to:it got the cogs turning on a writing and lyrical level, and gave me a certain amount of self-belief,” he says.

After he and Rachel finished their album, Steve found a name for it, out of thin air: The Soft Cavalry. “I can’t explain its literal meaning,” he says. “It just made sense.” Might Rachel be the cavalry? “Maybe! It would be subconscious, but that makes sense too, strangely.”

So, this happy accident, lovers’ story, crisis of faith, labour of love and therapy session is set to continue – Steve’s already got the next installment written, titled The Lost Decade. Lost versus found. Recovery versus self-doubt. The Soft Cavalry has arrived. 

Hilang Child announces Stripped.Rebuilt EP

Having released his debut album in the summer of 2018, Hilang Child, the pseudonym of London-based singer-songwriter and soundscape-ist Ed Riman, has today announced a follow up EP titled Stripped.Rebuilt which will be released digitally on May 3rd via Bella Union. The EP features stripped back and reworked versions of songs previously released on Riman’s debut Years as well as an updated version of his first single ‘Chaturanga’ which we are pleased to share with you today. Read below for some words from Hilang Child on how the EP came to fruition…

‘Chaturanga Rebuilt’ is a new version of the first song I ever wrote. In the years after writing it I initially pushed it aside as I grew into my craft a little more; I had never really been satisfied with the original and felt it didn’t represent what my music had gone on to become. But last year I finally made the decision to revisit it, re-learn it and in the summer of 2018 my band and I played it live for the first time in years. Suddenly I finally ‘got’ it and decided I had to re-record it the way it should have sounded in the first place, now that I have the voice, ability and ear to be able to do it the justice it didn’t get back in 2012/13.

As for the ‘stripped’ songs on the EP; at the end of 2018, during Iceland Airwaves I reworked my single ‘Crow’ for just piano and voice for a live broadcast, straight-to-vinyl show at Studio Hljódriti hosted by Ásgeir. The general realisation from doing so was that getting away from all the ambience, electronics, drums and atmospheres was just as exciting for me, allowing my songwriting to breathe a little more. So we recorded these live intimate, stripped down versions of 3 songs from my debut album, hopefully putting fresh life into them and showing them in a new light.”

Jambinai share two new tracks from ONDA

Having recently announced news of their upcoming album ONDA and fresh off the back of their weekend performance at Coachella music festival, Jambinai have debuted two new singles titled ‘작은 위로가 있는 곳에(Small Consolation)’ + the album’s title track ‘온다(ONDA)’. The South Korean band have also shared a breathtaking performance video of ‘작은 위로가 있는 곳에(Small Consolation)’ which gives fans a taste of what is to be expected from their 2019 tour. 

When the three founders of Jambinai decided to, “communicate with the ordinary person who doesn’t listen to Korean traditional music,” few outsiders anticipated an extra-ordinary fusion with metal, post-rock and noise.  “Most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation,” says band spokesman Lee Il-woo. “We wanted to break all of that.”

Even fewer would have predicted that the likes of Jambinai would play the 2018 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony in the city of Pyeongchang, accompanied by a troupe of geomungo (Korean zither) players – an audio-visual spectacle that such an occasion demanded. Click HERE to watch. 

Says Lee, “Onda means ‘come’ in Korean. The title track has the lyric, ‘At the end of your darkness, pain will turn into the shining stars and it’s going to come to you.’ I want to cheer people up when they hear that track. Onda also means ‘wave’ in Spanish, and I also want to say the third big wave of Jambinai is coming!”

The first big wave arrived in 2010 after traditional music students Lee (guitar and piri, a bamboo oboe), Kim Bo-mi (the bow-stringed haegum) and Sim Eun-young (geomungo) joined forces and released the Jambinai EP. The trio’s debut album Différance won Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, triggering several overseas tours and the second wave of Jambinai – an international deal with Bella Union and a second album, A Hermitage. At the time, Lee cited the influence of bands like Metallica, Mogwai and Sigur Rös, but such was the trio’s energy levels, they seemed to draw more on thunderstorms, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, blizzards and desert winds – a force of nature more than a band.

It’s hard to believe but ONDA is even more dynamic and rhythmic, with the permanent addition of Jaehyuk Choi (drums) and B.K Yu (bass), fixtures of Jambinai’s live band since 2017. The way the quintet “sticks together like gears of a clock or machine,” says Lee, is celebrated on ‘Square Wave’, a breathtaking example of Jambinai’s ability to alternate between ambient serenity and molten ferocity. 

‘Square Wave’ is also one of several ONDA cuts to feature vocals. “Voice and lyrics have strong energy, they can touch someone’s heart directly more than instruments,” Lee explains. “Also, most people don’t know Korean, so they hear our voices as sound rather than meaning. We needed more sounds on this album.”

Not that the instrumental tracks are any less momentous. Take the opening ‘Sawtooth’ (featuring Hwiseon Choi on yanggeum, a hammered dulcimer), because Lee thinks the band’s constantly shifting dynamic, “resembles the sawtooth waveform of electronic sound.”  

13 minutes long, ‘In The Woods’ is the album’s lengthiest epic, originally recorded for Jambiani’s 2010 EP and now rearranged for the expanded quintet, plus guest traditional singer Bora Kim.  The inspiration here is environmental pollution, soundtracked by eight minutes of mournful ambience that slowly builds to a shattering climax. “The earth is in serious pain,” Lee concludes.

ONDA ends on a thematic note of drama and redemption. In ‘Small Consolation’, says Lee, “a person leads their weary body to a distant glow, which is small consolation. But when they get there, it turns into a big light, big consolation and happiness.” The closing title track comes in two parts: a calm prelude (featuring Lee on saenghwang, a tall reed mouth organ) before the euphoric main course, graced by choral grandeur. Once the music dies away, the feeling is one of blissful exhaustion. 

Says Lee: “After Jambinai’s US tour of 2017, I travelled the country for a month. I was worried about my future and the music because I had quit my job for the band but we didn’t have much money and the tour was tough and tiring for everyone. But when I visited the Grand Canyon, Mother Nature cheered me up and it was felt like she was telling me, “you are doing really well. Back in Korea, I wrote more songs with confidence and happiness.” The third wave of Jambinai is here….

Jambinai have announced a number of international festival appearances and headline shows, with more dates to be added soon.