Introducing… Dog In The Snow

Bella Union are thrilled to introduce Dog In The Snow, the moniker of Brighton–based artist Helen Ganya Brown. Dog In The Snow’s Bella Union debut is Vanishing Lands, released 15th November via the label and available to preorder here. An imposing, haunting and luminous collection of songs in the darker spaces between dream-pop, art-rock and electronica, lifted by euphoric melodies, ravishing vocals and absorbing lyrics. Dog In The Snow has shared a striking b/w video for lead track “Dark”, directed by Jay Bartlett, of which he says: “On the surface Dark sounds ominous, but within the context of the album it was clear that it was a jubilant release. A celebration of accepting nature’s rule and rolling with what life throws at you. With this video we wanted to be around as much nature as possible. Hiding the beauty of England in seemingly macabre shots, and from that, create compositions that could could hold their own as a photo in their own right.”

Vanishing Lands was initially created at Brown’s home in Brighton before co-producer Rob Flynn helped her add shifting, impressionistic swathes of colour, from the ominous chords that open ‘Light’ to the vocal eddies that close ‘Dark’. Brown wrote 8 of the 10 songs in a 3-week spell after a period of “strange dreams”. She recalls: “Dreams in black and white. I found myself in a dreamland and discovered it was being destroyed. I chose Vanishing Lands as an album title because it sounded suitably desolate, and lent the songs a feeling of cohesion.”

The themes of the two oldest tracks suit the ‘ruined world’ scenario. ‘Icaria’ is named after a utopian society established in the 1840s by a French socialist which only survived for 50 years. ‘Gold’ refers to America’s gold rush bonanza of the same era, when people searched for a better life, but instead created and faced catastrophe.

Born to a Thai mother and Scottish father, Brown was raised in Singapore from the age of five to eighteen, when she returned to the UK, making her home in Brighton. Learning guitar and subsequently Garageband software to construct broader sounds and styles of songwriting, she absorbed influences such as Sufjan Stevens, Scott Walker, David Lynch, Clint Mansell and Brian Eno: brooding, immersive, filmic universes through which Brown could escape her shy nature. But she has since stepped out, both as a commanding solo performer and one of the singers and musicians in the touring version of Lost Horizons, the collective co-founded by Simon Raymonde, Bella Union’s label boss.

Brown also cites key literary and visual influences. Film director Ingmar Bergman’s B&W masterpiece The Seventh Seal and David Lynch’s B&W lithographs impacted on Vanishing Lands’ desolate aesthetic and album artwork. Less overt this time are Singapore and Brown’s “fragmented sense of identity, being mixed race,” that underpinned her debut album ‘Consume Me’. The name Dog In The Snow comes from Frank Kafka’s iconic and prescient novel The Trial: “It seemed to represent finding liberation in an oppressed situation,” she explains. “I was trying to think of something with limitless creative space that doesn’t feel hindered in any way.”

The plight of the individual battered by the political system is echoed by the hooded black figures that appear in the album imagery, including the video that Brown has made for the fragile album highlight ‘Roses’. Her inspiration was a photo of refugees at sea, their faces hidden, desperate to escape their ruined homeland. But would their destination, if reached, provide comfort or more ruin? “It doesn’t help when people aren’t welcoming,” Brown says. “That was my mother’s experience when she arrived from Thailand.”

The album’s core theme also covers environmental ruination. ‘Fall Empire’ opens and closes with a warning: “If we did dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster”, which Brown heard on the groundbreaking 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi. Given the path that humanity is currently taking, no wonder Brown’s dreams seem to prophesise the end of times.

Still, she feels Vanishing Lands’ finale ‘Dark’ is “the most optimistic song on the album. Like I’m waking up from this dreamland and finding freedom rather than it being a negative feeling. Because things do change. We have to hope things will get better.” 

Upcoming Dog In The Snow UK live shows below:

Sunday 17th November – Nottingham – Rough Trade

Tuesday 19th November – London – SET

Wednesday 20th November – Bristol – Rough Trade

Vanishing Lands will be released 15th November via Bella Union

Sumie announces Mirou EP

Having released her sophomore album back in late 2017, Sumie has today announced the release of her upcoming EP titled ‘Mirou’ which features five brand new tracks. The first track to be shared from the EP is ‘Moon’, described by Sumie as “a song about the dreams you have when you sleep. Where you can be anyone, anything and anywhere with someone you love.” She went on to say  that… “Moon was the first song I composed from the EP and it is a conversation I wish I had done while I had the opportunity. It did set the tone for the other songs that followed it.” Watch the accompanying video for ‘Moon’, beautifully shot at Gothenburg’s Botanical Garden below…

Critical acclaim for Sumie…

“Direct, simple yet unpredictable vocal melodies are delivered in a pure voice… Leonard Cohen and Roy Orbison would recognise a kindred spirit on Lost In Light… Affecting and shot through with tension.” MOJO

Lost In Light is a beautiful album and is a quiet triumph of wistful restraint.” Monocle

“Beautifully disarming.” Loud & Quiet

“The songs on Sumie’s beautiful debut are contemplative, rueful and desolate… Small chamber works they may be, but these songs achieve a huge impact.” Sunday Times

“With a voice pitched between the icy clarity of Nico, the controlled sultriness of Julie London and the stark melancholy of sibylle Baier, Sumie blends Japanese and Scandanaivian folk.” Uncut

Mirou EP will be released digitally via Bella Union on 13th September 2019. 

Pom Poko debut new track ‘Leg Day’

Renowned for their raucous live shows, Norwegian quartet Pom Poko today share the video for  brand new track Leg Day. Having released their debut album Birthday earlier this year through Bella Union this new track heralds news of further UK shows  – including a run of dates as guests of label-mate Ezra Furman  and follows previously sold-out shows at The Shacklewell Arms and The Lexington in London.

Presenting some context, the band explain; “Leg Day is one of our personal live favourites, because it’s so dancey and usually gets our pulse up quite a bit. The song was written over the course of a year, while we figured out how it should be played, before we found its final form as a Frankenstein distorted disco song about superheros and appreciating one’s legs, and recorded it as the sole inhabitants of a small northern Italian village.”

Pom Poko’s sweetly pop-punk melodies and disco-fried art-rock eruptions together with a sense of free-firing spirit, balls-out individuality is highlighted on Birthday and mirrored no less so in an exhilarating live set. A busy summer in attendance at numerous European festivals is followed by a welcome return to these shores including their biggest UK show to date at London’s Scala. The band then return for a run of shows as guests of label-mate Ezra Furman in November – the full live itinerary is:

August

30 Parkfest, Berlin (RadioEins) DE

September

01 End Of The Road Festival, Dorset UK

October

12 Twisterella, Middlesbrough UK

13 Sneaky Pete´s, Edinburgh UK

14 Phase One, Liverpool UK

15 Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds UK

16 BBC6 live session, Manchester UK

17 Deaf Institute, Manchester UK

18 Wild Paths, Norwich UK

19 Simple Things, Bristol UK

21 The Hope & Ruin, Brighton UK

22 The Joiners, Southampton UK

23 Scala, London UK

24 The Hope & Ruin, Brighton UK

25 Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff UK

26 Hare & Hounds, Birmingham UK

November

11 QMU, Glasgow UK **

12 Albert Hall, Manchester UK* *

13 O2 Academy, Bristol UK **

14 O2 Forum Kentish Town, London UK **

24 Vega Small Hall, København DK **

26 Debaser Strand, Stockholm SE **

** supporting Ezra Furman

NME 

There’s just so much fun to be had with the Norwegian’s art-rock band’s gloriously unhinged debut, an eccentric work that’s no slave to algorithm.”

TLOBF  

“Pom Poko go for broke on their debut album, throwing everything they have against the wall with 

DIY

“..a debut full of fired-up, spiky pop hits”

Kefaya + Elaha Soroor share ‘Charsi’

Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music/producer duo Kefaya (Al MacSween & Giuliano Modarelli) 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. The album will be released 27th September via Bella Union and is available to preorder here. Today, they share the second single to be taken from the album, titled ‘Charsi’. According to the collective “Charsi is typical of northern Afghan music, a style made famous by folk musician Mir Maftoon. A charsi is a weed smoker or ‘pot-head’. Women across the world are shamed or prevented from being able to drink, smoke and party. In this song, the woman invites the macho guy to calm down, have fun and have come together as equals.”

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

“Our first album was very eclectic with multiple different styles and languages. Although there are still many different musical influences on this album, we liked the idea of collaborating with a specific artist and concept and felt Elaha had something very special to offer both artistically and politically” says Al and Giuliano.

The bulk of the album was arranged and recorded in just a few days in Oxford with long-time Kefaya drummer Joost Hendrickx. Al and Giuliano produced and further developed the album, with contributions from a host of world renowned musicians, including Mohsen Namjoo (voice), Manos Achalinotopolous (clarinet), Yazz Ahmed (flugelhorn), Sarathy Korwar (tabla/dolak),Tamar Osborn (baritone sax), Sardor Mirzakhojaev (dambura), Gurdain Singh Rayatt (tabla), Jyotsna Srikanth (violin), Camilo Tirado (live electronics) and Sam Vickary (double bass).

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.”

Songs Of Our Mothers by Kefaya + Elaha Soroor will be released 27th September via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.

Broen announce new album ‘Do You See The Falling Leaves?’

Broen are pleased to announced the release of their new LP, Do You See the Falling Leaves?, due for release on 18 October via Bella Union. Today they reveal the album’s first single ‘Lines’.

Broen return with eyes open to new vistas on their second album, Do You See The Falling Leaves?. Back in 2017, Norway’s experi-pop quintet brought exuberant reserves of intelligence, positivity and warm-spirited commonality to the world-building bustles of jazz, funk, psychedelia, electronics and hip-hop on their international debut, I Love Art. Due for release via Bella Union on 18 October, 2019, Do You See the Falling Leaves? extends its predecessor’s vision and expands its brightly generous worldview, opening the door to mindful, invigorating and mind-bogglingly inventive ways of composing, engaging and connecting: with nature, with each other, with their own potential.

As Anja Lauvdal (synths, piano) explains, finding ways to connect is a core theme. Even if EE Cummings’ classic minimalist poem ‘l(a’ was not an influence on the album, its use of a falling leaf to symbolise loneliness clicked with Anja. “I thought that was a nice comment to the title/theme of the record. People can use each other and nature around us to feel connected instead of lonely. The opposite of loneliness is maybe to be connected – as an individual – but also connected to the world. In a way, ‘do you see the falling leaves’ then also means ‘do you see the lonely people’, and that you can open your eyes or reach out a hand.”

Broen’s eyes are sharp from opener ‘Where Is Passion’, where singer Marianna Røe asks “Where is history… peace… love hiding?” over amniotic ripples of effects and piano. When she breaks surface to seek out “passion, complexity, duality, singularity” and more, the song leaps to funky, playful, searching life with her. Like sunshine prog-pop on a mindful mission, the radiant title-track seeks to define true engagement – rather than mere distraction – over fluent backdrops of synths, ever-shifting in tune with its lyrical explorations.

Elsewhere, Broen match meaning to method with fresh punch and focused purpose. The funk-pop urgency of ‘Dorian Grays’ mirrors its encouragement to live in the now. While ‘Never Was’ lives in its delicately introspective moment, the knottily explosive ‘Lines’ frames an urgent call to embrace possibility.

Certainly, Broen are open to curveballs. “A couple of the songs are pure love songs, which is nice because we didn’t have a big repertoire of those,” Marianna deadpans. Dreamy and dappled, ‘Bring It Closer’ and ‘Shut Down’ harbour beautiful twists on romantic sentiments. Around them, contrasts mount. ‘Free World’ issues stingingly satirical critiques of divisiveness; ‘Bubbles’ mounts an effervescent take on cultural polarisation. Finally, ‘Strings’ mirrors its invitation to loosen our tethers in an unmoored saxophone break, floating into space in preparation for – presumably – more new perspectives to come.

To prepare for Do You See…, Broen brainstormed themes. “We wanted it to have a positive message,” Marianna explains, “but some songs ended up more aggressive than positive. That’s because we wanted to explore what it means to be human in this world and in a capitalistic society, and also the historical aspect of it. Why do we keep making the same mistakes? We also wanted to talk about nature. Some songs use images from nature as metaphors but we also wanted to get into our relationship with nature.”

Meanwhile, Røe (vocals), Lauvdal (synths, piano), Heida Karine Johannesdottir (tuba), Hans Hulbækmo (drums) and Lars Ove Stene Fossheim (guitars) dug deep into their collaborative relationships. Although intra-band bonds stretch back to Broen’s time as music students, they stretch themselves anew on Do You See…. The instrumentation is “more naked”, says Lars Ove, than usual. Heida’s tuba is played untreated; Anja plays more piano. Fresh noises include Lars Ove’s synth guitar and guest Signe Emmeluth’s sax. The songs were developed in the studio, flipping Broen’s tendency to explore them live before recording. “Because we have so many great possibilities inside this wonderful band, we try to challenge each other to find other ways of thinking all the time,” Anja explains.

This can sometimes take the form of navigating a “big bowl of influence soup”, says Lars Ove, who namechecks Laurie Anderson, Portishead, Mahmoud Ahmed, Neil Young, Mariah Carey, TLC and more. Marianna adds Destiny’s Child and Joy Division to the broth. Mostly, though, Broen deal in distinction. Anja references a Village Voice essay in which US writer Jessica Hopper praises the – predominantly – female-driven best albums of 2018 for transporting listeners to “discrete new worlds”. These albums, Hopper argues, recognise raw realities but also imagine a life “beyond chaos, strife, and dysfunction”. Likewise, Do You See… rises above mere genre-juggling in its self-contained, forward-thinking intent. “I never think of our music as a ‘mix of things’,” says Anja. “It’s more its own world.”

Certain constants supported Broen’s commitment to the new. Like their debut, Do You See… was recorded in Oslo’s Studio Paradiso. Noel Summerville (mastering) and Jaga Jazzist’s Marcus Forsgren (mixing, co-voice on ‘Lines’) returned to assist.

Broen’s new LP “Do You See the Falling Leaves?” is due for release 18 October via Bella Union.