Modern Nature share How To Live? short film

Along with an announcement of new live dates in December and March, including a performance at London’s Omeara, Modern Nature today present How To Live?, a short film conceptualized by Jack Cooper. It follows their debut album, How To Live, which is out now on Bella Union. Cooper describes the film below:

“We recorded How To Live in July 2018. I’d spent the previous few months fleshing out my idea for the record, writing the songs and then Will and I built it all up in the spring. When we started tracking, we asked our friend James Sharp to come along and film us recording. I suppose there were some delusions of grandeur and a vague intention to make some kind of documentary that might help explain to people what we were aiming at. When we finished and time passed, the footage went on the back burner because we thought the album really spoke for itself. This short film and the music that accompanies it is meant to be something of a companion piece to the record… it’s nice to look back and see a snapshot of a band that had only really existed for two weeks in July 2018, before it evolved into something else.”

The richness of the ideas in the songs on How To Live is matched by the resonance of the music. The compositions of Cooper and Will Young (Beak>) gain skin and muscle through the thoughtful cello of Rupert Gillett, the insistent drumming of Aaron Neveu (Woods), and the expressive saxophone ofJeff Tobias (Sunwatchers). 

Catch Modern Nature live this year and next in Europe and North America.

“Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II” announced for December

Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde. The new compilation, released 6th December via Bella Union, is a further celebration of the great British arranger, musical director, producer and songwriter Ivor Raymonde, who died at age 63 in 1990. A picture-sleeve seven-inch of Twinkle’s previously unreleased single “Michael Hannah”/ “Take The Trouble”, made with Ivor Raymonde in 1971, will be released in a limited edition of 300 copies on 25th October via Bella Union. Twinkle later re-recorded “Michael Hannah”, but this is her original version, while “Take The Trouble” is not included on the album.

Like Paradise, Odyssey has been compiled by Ivor’s son Simon Raymonde with author, journalist and music historian Kieron Tyler. Simon explains that: “The research Kieron and I did for Paradise showed us that there was still an extremely rich seam of his music to be uncovered. A follow-up volume was increasingly inevitable.”

Paradise told the story of a British musical great for the first time. Classic Sixties hits like Billy Fury’s “Halfway To Paradise”, Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want To Be With You” (co-written by Ivor) and The Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself” were collected. All were arranged or produced by Ivor and heard alongside just-as-fantastic tracks by David Bowie, Sonny Childe, Cindy Cole, Tom Jones, Los Bravos and Helen Shapiro. 

Odyssey is additional confirmation of the seemingly limitless scope of Ivor’s talents. More hits are featured: the Alan Price Set’s irresistible Top Five interpretation of Randy Newman’s “Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear”, Dusty Springfield’s kinetic “Little By Little”, Frankie Vaughan’s epic chart topper “Tower Of Strength” and the aural drama of Marty Wilde And His Wildcats’ “Endless Sleep”. There are also lesser-known tracks by best-sellers: Los Bravos’ Raymonde-composed soul stomper “Brand New Baby”, Cat Stevens’ moody “Blackness Of The Night” and the extraordinary 1966 Walker Brothers’ album track “Where’s The Girl”, which pointed to where the solo Scott Walker would soon be heading.

Although Ivor Raymonde was a back-room figure, he made the Top 30 in early 1963 as the clandestine vocalist with The Chucks – a studio demo had been made with no intention of it ending up in record shops. Then, it was issued and a band name needed. Ivor plumped for The Chucks and “Loo-Be-Loo” began rising up the charts. On Odyssey, it is at last given its context.

Not everything was a hit. Paul Slade’s epic “Odyssey” missed out on the charts. So did Giles, Giles and Fripp’s baroque psych-pop gem “Thursday Morning”: three-quarters of the band, which featured Robert Fripp, became the first version of King Crimson. One track could never have been a hit: “Twinkle’s “Michael Hannah” was recorded with Ivor in 1971 as a potential single but never released. Now, it is united with 24 other examples of Ivor Raymonde at his best.

Instead of Ivor, the cover image of Odyssey is of Ivor’s wife Nita. As Simon explains: “Since the release of Paradise the love of Dad’s life and my dear mum Nita passed away. I thought it fitting that the cover reflects the huge influence this woman had on him. So often, as was society’s norm in the ’50s and ’60s, the woman behind the scenes rarely got a mention. She raised four children while he made his way in the rapidly changing music business, and definitely helped keep his feet on the ground. Using this beautiful photo of Mum as a cover for Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II redresses the balance a little. He kept it perched on top of his upright walnut Kemble piano in his study and while Mum took it down when he died, thankfully she put it away somewhere safe. It’s certainly a peculiar and unsettling feeling to be left with no parents to turn to, to call, to rely on, and perhaps this emptiness lead me into such a deep period of soul mining.”

Further going into the reasons for a follow-up to Paradise, Simon adds: “I knew there was more but even a serial curator, late-night trawler like me, at some point thinks ‘the best stuff must now surely be all discovered.’ But finding tracks like Christopher Colt’s ‘Girl In The Mirror’ is like unearthing a rare Donovan track produced by Ray Davies. Probably my favourite discovery was The Martells’ ‘Time To Say Goodnight’ which Ivor produced when he worked at Decca Records. They only released one seven-inch single which sells for over £200, so it’s quite a rarity and more importantly a banger of a track.”

Introducing… SONIKKU

‘Sweat’ is the new single from London-based DJ and producer SONIKKU. Featuring underground popstar LIZ and co-written by Little Boots, ‘Sweat’ is a Minogue-inspired banger drenched in 80’s synths and pulsating bass-lines. Set in a dystopian bathhouse, the accompanying music video see’s SONIKKU and LIZ mutate and transform into abstract liquid shapes as the bathhouse slowly consumes them.

“After producing the instrumental for ‘Sweat,’ I knew I had to enlist the help of Victoria (aka Little Boots) to help me pen the lyrics,” says Tony Donson, the London-based musician who records as SONIKKU. “With our shared love of Kylie and unapologetic pop, we wrote it after just one session. Then LIZ fell in love with the track after I played it her whilst I was on a writing trip in LA. Her Britney-esque ’tongue-in-cheek’ vocals on this track were a match made in heaven for me.

Having moved from Derby to London at the age of 18, Donson worked as an intern (at MTV, Dazed & Confused, SHOWstudio) then turned to DJing (from London to Tokyo, Paris and Berlin) after he was signed to London label Lobster Theremin. Though he continues to DJ regularly at Tottenham’s LGBTQ rave-up Adonis, he has extra ambitions in mind: “I love DJing but I’m more looking forward to developing a live show.”

A recent signee to Cocteau-Twins-founded label Bella Union, SONIKKU is set to release several more singles (featuring guest vocals from Chester Lockhart, Little Boots, Douglas Dare and more) alongside a full length LP slated for spring 2020.

Happy Release Day to Kefaya + Elaha Soroor

Today at Bella Union we are pleased to share this collaborative record from Kefaya + Elaha Soroor. Celebrate with the collective this weekend at their two Rough Trade shows + catch them later in the year at their London Rich Mix release show.

Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music/producer duo Kefaya have joined forces for a mighty and mesmerising new album, Songs Of Our Mothers; a fresh, vibrant take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica. Early acclaim for Songs Of Our Mothers:

“A thoroughly modern, multicultural masterpiece… In an era of increasing isolationism, misogyny and religious fundamentalism, this album becomes a defiant celebration of freedom and internationalism.” Uncut – 9/10

“takes traditional Afghan folk songs and give them thoroughly modern settings… Soroor sounds as at home singing Farsi–language reggae, Indian jazz, Maghrebi pop or post–punk… Kefaya delight in tracing Elaha’s journey, crossing sonic borders into Iran, Armenia, Turkey and North Africa.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“An exotic genre-blend of jazz, dub and electronica… Soroor’s voice is beautifully expressive. The showstopper comes with the Radiohead-ish piano ballad, Khina Beyarin, where Soroor fully reveals her dazzling talent.” Q

“Telling tales of the suffering and hardship endured by women but also celebrating their endurance and femininity, these songs are reworked by Soroor and Kefaya to create powerful, thought–provoking music.” Rock’n”Reel – 4 stars ****

“Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, telling stories of joy, pain and resilience… The beauty of Soroor’s mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout.” Jazzwise  – 4 stars ****

Songs Of Our Mothers is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women, drawing on Elaha’s own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists. The US and Western-backed regimes that came to dominate Afghanistan in the latter part of the 20th century created a climate of heightened patriarchal oppression and persecution of women.

These songs tell stories of joy, pain and resilience, passed from mother to daughter in times of hardship and oppression whilst also celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance. As Elaha says, this album is for “those women around the world whose image has been erased, and whose voice has been forbidden.”

Born in Iran into a family of Afghan-Hazara refugees, and returning to Afghanistan in 2004, Elaha Soroor first rose to fame through the reality TV show Afghan Star. Her rising popularity in a society known for its persecution of female performers combined with her outspoken views on women’s rights led to an environment of serious personal danger and Elaha was eventually forced to flee Afghanistan. 

After arriving in London as a refugee, Elaha was introduced to guitarist Giuliano Modarelli and pianist Al MacSween, founders of award-winning international collective Kefaya. Driven by a shared desire to use music as a tool for political dialogue and action, together they forged the themes, concept and sound of Songs Of Our Mothers

The bulk of the album was arranged and recorded in just a few days in Oxford with long-time Kefaya drummer Joost Hendricks. Kefaya produced and further developed the album, with contributions from a host of world renowned musicians. The international line-up, spanning homelands such as UK, Italy, India, Iran & Greece, reflects the album’s global perspective and the way that Kefaya work in collaboration, drawing on multiple sounds and outlooks to present a united front of spirited musical and political expression.

As Elaha says: “In the eyes of the world, Afghan identity is defined by terrorism, war, the Taliban and uneducated, domesticated women who need help. I have tried to show other associations with Afghanistan such as the beauty of my mother language (Farsi) and the diversity of our music. Although women are currently facing extreme violence in Afghanistan, I see a lot of similar problems encountered in different ways in Western countries and across the world. This is part of a universal struggle.”

Penelope Isles share ‘Round’ video

Brighton based brother/sister led quartet Penelope Isles released their incredible debut album Until the Tide Creeps In this Summer via Bella Union, and are about to embark on their first-ever North American tour. Today the band are pleased to announce that TOLEDO will be joining them on their upcoming tour dates, and release a music video for “Round” to celebrate. Watch the video now and get your tickets to an upcoming show near you HERE.

The band’s  Jack Wolter, who directed the music video as well as wrote and produced the track, says: 

“‘Round’ was the first song I wrote when I moved to Brighton a few years ago. I wrote it on a dan electro 12 string, which I had to sell to pay the rent. We played the song constantly when we first started gigging and ended up leaving it out of the set for a while. We revisited it, as it felt weird to not include it on this record. We made the video in Brighton on one of the hottest days of the year. It consists of footage of Lily, dressed in a large round blow-up suit that pulsates with bright psychedelic colours and floating images of the band. We had a laugh making this one!” 

Penelope Isles are also pleased to share Penny Isles TV, a new way for fans to keep up to date with the band while they are on the road. Watch episode 2, which features outtakes from the bands first trip to SXSW earlier this year!

Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith share ‘La Maison de Rimbaud’

A sonic cross-continental experience, Mummer Love is the second album in the Perfect Vision triptych collaboration between Soundwalk Collectiveand Patti Smith. The album, which features guest contributions fromPhillip Glass and Mulatu Astatke, will be released 8th November via Bella Union. Having previous shared the track “Eternity”, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith today unveil “Le Maison de Rimbaud” which features Philip Glass on piano.

For this body of work, Soundwalk Collective journeyed to Africa to explore the intricacies of Arthur Rimbaud’s most obscure period. After leaving France and what he deemed the ‘western stagnation’, Rimbaud found himself in Harar, Ethiopia – an epicenter of Sufism in Africa. Sufi practise focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, the purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, and its music is about reaching a communal ecstatic state, and once you find yourself there, you are granted access to the unknown. The Soundwalk Collectivespent time with the Sufi group of Sheikh Ibrahim to record their music and chants in the shrine with the use of Audio-Technica microphones. “You obtain connections to other levels of yourself and consciousness,” Stephan Crasneanscki mentions of the musical process. “This connection, like poetry, is a universal language. A language of the soul, for the soul.”

As with the other albums in the triptych, the Collective searched for hidden, earthy sounds that hold memories and embed existence. For Mummer Love, they also found themselves recording under the tree where Rimbaud photographed the shrine of Sheik Abadir Umar ar-Rida al Harari, the founder of the holy city Harar. “As the rain fell, I wondered if I was hearing the drops hitting the leaves the same way Rimbaud did 140 years ago,” Crasneanscki says. These sounds and Sufi chants coexist with Patti Smith’s interpretation of Rimbaud’s poems, as she recites and sings among them in a call and response, sharing the same musical and spiritual space.

Smith’s only poem is the title track “Mummer Love”, written to Rimbaud; her words are rooted in multiple aspects of the self: from the passion of a lover to the care of a mother, and everything in between. Further contributions to this album come from Mulatu Astatke, widely considered the father of Ethio-jazz, and Phillip Glass, who’s long felt a connection to Sufi music – here coming together and evoking a call and response between piano and vocals of the Sufi masters. It is simultaneously the first time Glass collaborates with Smith, and so Harar becomes an extraordinary meeting place for all to celebrate the beauty of Rimbaud’s work.

Referring to the overall work, Smith likens the project to a fourth mind equation. “Because we are working with other people’s work, and not just reading it but channelling these people, they become a fourth mind. We are Rimbaud, you, I, and the work,” Smith says in conversation with Crasneanscki. The unification of all minds together magnifies its power and potential. “It makes me think of Rimbaud’s energy, his strong will,” Smith says. “If we, the living, send out radio and energy waves, the energy of those last poems is still reverberating. It can’t be silenced, because we understand that this work and the artists are not dead, they find life when we are recording them.”

Entitled The Perfect Vision, this musical triptych, which has been co-produced with Leonardo Heiblum and supported by the Analogue Foundation, aims to go beyond 20/20 vision and explore a dimension that exists on a non-physical plane. What one can physically see is only the beginning – this project transcends what we think we see, by multiplying experiences, languages and energies. “We went through places like Mexico, Ethiopia and India to search for a perfect vision, in spaces where you can still feel a sacred presence – where the Gods are still among you,” says Crasneanscki. “In this idea of perfect vision, there is the idea of oneness, and with that comes a sense of supreme love.”

Mummer Love will be released 8th November, to mark the anniversary of the death of Arthur Rimbaud, on 10th November (1891).