Kefaya + Elaha Soroor share ‘Gole Be Khar’ live video

Following excellent reviews for their album Songs Of Our Mothers, released last Autumn via Bella Union, Kefaya + Elaha Soroor have shared a live video of the track ”Gole Be Khar”, recorded at their sold-out Rich Mix show in October. Next month the band set out on a European tour which includes their biggest London headline show to date, performing at the Jazz Cafe in Camden.

Critical acclaim for Songs Of Our Mothers, out now via Bella Union.

Songs Of Our Mothers gives traditional Afghan folk songs the full Kefaya treatment, taking them on a journey from east to west that mirrors Soroor’s own, with elements of jazz, electronica and dub… Soroor is exquisite throughout.” Financial Times – 5 stars ****

“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 ****

“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.” Songlines  – 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

“Afghanistan-born Elaha Soroor collaborates with international outfit Kefaya to produce an album that adds a modern, electronic touch to traditional Afghan folk music.” Electronic Sound

“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 ****

Susanne Sundfør composes ‘Self Portrait’ soundtrack

‘My photographs are not about anorexia. They are about human suffering.’ Lene Marie Fossen

Lene Marie Fossen wanted to stop time 23 years ago. She was only 10 years old when she decided to stop eating and struggled with anorexia the rest of her life. She chose to be open about her disease and is best known for her beautiful and revealing self-portraits. Her soulful portraits of victims of the refugee crisis on the island of Chios in Greece also bear witness of a unique photographer and artist. Lene Marie’s last wish was that her work should be shared with as many people as possible.

Lene’s work and ambition inspired Susanne Sundfør to collaborate with her when Lene asked, composing the original soundtrack to the film ‘Self Portrait’. It became the last piece of art she created as she passed just after the finalisation of the movie.

‘Self Portrait’ is a Norwegian feature length documentary that tells the story of Lene Marie Fossen, directed by Margreth Olin, Katja Høgset and Espen Wallin, and released in Norway on 17th January 2020 with international distribution to follow.

Susanne Sundfør’s original soundtrack to ‘Self Portrait’ will be released on 10th January 2020 through Bella Union.

‘When The Lord’ is the lead track from the ‘Self Portrait’ score, released today, and is the only vocal track from the record.

Wrangler share ‘How To Start A Revolution’

With their new album A Situation due for release 28th February via Bella Union, and having previously shared a video for lead track “Anthropocene”, today Wrangler unveil the addictive electro-funk that is their single, “How To Start A Revolution”. Of the track Wrangler say: “The world is shaping up to a head on collision, so don’t let them trap you in a corner. Don’t get faked, duped, deceived or pulled by the nose by the dissembling powers that be. Stand your ground, look them in the eye and call out their mendacity. Change the world before it’s too late. A call to arms: How to Start a Revolution”.

To celebrate the release of A Situation Wrangler will perform 2 x headline shows, in London and Manchester, in late February… Dates/info HERE.

When Wrangler first formed they had a very simple modus operandi. The clue was in their name. Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards (The Maths), Stephen ‘Mal’ Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil Winter (Tuung) would get together with a very select kit list of careworn analogue synthesisers and vintage digital sequencers. Their task? To wrangle new music from the ancient equipment. These self-imposed restrictions helped produced two classic long players: LA Spark (2014) and White Glue (2016).

However, the times have changed and so have Wrangler. The coming decade, which looks set to be dubbed the Terrible Twenties, may be the last time that bands actually get to release albums. Ecological collapse, climate crisis, food shortages and the disintegration of the fabric of society will mean that the slow devolution of the music industry isn’t even one of the main things that musicians (or anyone else) should be worrying about. So the trio have thrown everything into their third (but hopefully not their last) album. The result –A Situation – is simultaneously their bleakest and funkiest release to date.

This collection of warm, reverberant, amped up tracks, that land somewhere between future music, synth pop, industrial dance, classic techno and rigid electro, captures the ambiguities of the group perfectly. Just as they use the ageing outmoded equipment that other people once chose to throw away in order to make tomorrow’s music, they are the paranoid group who (just about) dare to hope that things still might turn out OK. They cast a doleful eye across the hellscape of 2019 and state, if the end is truly nigh, then it’s never been more important to celebrate the little time we have left. And if a revolution to save ourselves is possible then we’re all in need of a revolutionary party, with a revolutionary soundtrack to match.   

The album title A Situation is purposefully ambiguous, perhaps referring to a job that needs doing or a nettle that needs to be grasped; perhaps referring to an unspecified event that is potentially either an opportunity or a threat. 

‘How To Start A Revolution’contains a different kind of warning. Mal says: “There was originally a little bit of irony in this track but if anything the world has become even scarier in the last two years. If you keep on pushing people there will come a tipping point and it will come back to bite you. There’s no irony left any more.” ‘Machines Designed (To Eat You Up)’ is about the fully-automated AI state surveillance that threatens us all. It looks like the future that Cabaret Voltaire warned us about over four decades ago is now finally here. Mal says: “It’s not my fault! I take no satisfaction at all in this stuff coming true. If it felt dystopian then, it feels more dystopian now. Wrangler are still questioning power but some of the tools of power have changed. I’m now fearful of Google in the same way I was fearful of Thatcher in the 80s.” Phill adds: “In the 70s and 80s if you wanted to have a go you could any weekend of the year but nowadays it’s harder to see who the enemy is and where they are. Come on out and have a go. Where are you hiding?” Benge concludes: “People are aware of the problems with Google, Facebook, 5g, social media, etc. but they’re woven into everything we do, so impossible to deal with.” Addressing the multiple failures of the internet ‘Mess’originally had the more direct title ‘It’s A Fucking Mess’ which just about says it all. ‘White Noise’ is perhaps the bleakest track of all, based round a spoken word piece by Mal, inspired by a reflection on JG Ballard’s notorious and transgressive experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition. 

But Wrangler refuse to ignore the possibility of hope. The mirror image of ‘Mess’ comes in the shape of the copper-bottomed Kraftwerkian techno pop banger, ‘Rhizomatic’. As Mal says: “It’s an uplifting song, simply because the decentralisation of technology is the one aspect of the internet that might save us.” But perhaps the most positive aspect of the album is hardwired into the DNA of the track ‘Slide’simply because it stands on a continuum with the most uplifting of jacking Chicago house and the most utopian of New York garage.  

 Both sides of the coin – the dystopian and the utopian – are necessary for Wrangler to work. Phil sums it up the most succinctly when he says: “The heavier things get, the more I just want to jump around and have some fun.” A Situation will be released 28th February via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.

Listen to Jonathan Wilson’s “In Heaven Making Love”

Last month Jonathan Wilson announced news of his upcoming album Dixie Blur, to be released 6th march via Bella Union in the UK / Europe (BMG in North America) and available to preorder here. The critically-acclaimed artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer (Father John Misty, Laura Marling, Dawes) spent most of 2017-18 on Roger Waters’ epic US+THEM tour as musical director, guitarist and vocalist, singing the David Gilmour leads. Following the tour, Wilson chose to temporarily leave his Los Angeles-based home and studio and head to Nashville to work with a revered group of musicians and co-producer Pat Sansone of Wilco, to create Dixie Blur, his most personal, accessible and fully-realised work to date.

Today, Jonathan Wilson has shared a new single titled “In Heaven Making Love”. Wilson says of the song, “That was one written from the road and driving down some highway in Spain. It was written in a totally different way for my last album, Rare Birds.” He adds, “I tried but I could never really get it, but then we did it this new way and it was like, Oh, that makes total sense now.”

Listen to the previously released tracks “So Alive” and “Korean Tea” to appreciate Wilson’s sonic vision for Dixie Blur. The video for the recently released “69 Corvette” features in-studio footage of the recording, but more importantly includes personal home movies from his upbringing that help illustrate the narrative of Dixie Blur.  The North Carolina native moved to LA 15 years ago where he became an integral part of the music community as a respected artist and producer. It was there he recorded and played most of the instruments on his celebrated albums Gentle Spirit (2011), Fanfare (2013) and Rare Birds (2018), building each project over time, piece by piece.

Wilson chose a completely different path for Dixie Blur in both writing and recording. The songs hark back to his Southern roots, both musically and personally. The multi-talented artist went to Nashville to record at Cowboy Jack Clement’s legendary Sound Emporium Studio and worked with a core group of exceptional players that included Mark O’Connor (fiddle), Kenny Vaughan (guitar) Dennis Crouch (bass), Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Jim Hoke (harmonica, woodwinds), Jon Radford (drums), and Drew Erickson (keyboards). Wilson and company recorded everything together live with very few overdubs, a full 360 from his past methods. Jonathan then mixed the record at Jackson Browne’s Groovemasters Studio. The result is a stunning album filled with warm, thoughtful, melody-rich songs that have an immediate impact upon first hearing and continueto grow with further listening.

Jonathan Wilson masterfully strikes a balance as he reaches back to the musical foundation of his upbringing while simultaneously moving forward by infusing the music with modern textures and aesthetic soundscapes, thus producing in the aptly titled, Dixie Blur. 

Wilson has announced a 10–date full band European tour in late March / early April which includes a headline performance at London’s new Lafayette venue.

the innocence mission share “The Brothers Williams Said”

With their new album See You Tomorrow due for release 17th January via Bella Union, and having previously shared the tracks “On Your Side” and “This Boat”, the innocence mission have today shared “Brother Williams Said”, the LP’s gorgeous opening number. Of the track vocalist Karen Peris says: “The Brothers Williams Said is about a sense of misunderstanding or labelling that can happen to people who have a quiet nature. The refrain ‘see you tomorrow’, which is also the name of the album, is the phrase that turns the song around to possibility and hopefulness.”

Love. Connection. Community. Understanding. Most of us experience these aspects through the prism of family and friends. But not everybody can turn those feelings into song, especially not with the beauty and sensitivity of Pennsylvania trio the innocence mission, fronted by Karen Peris and husband Don. Following their Bella Union album debut Sun On The Square, which won the band some of their best-ever reviews, they have made another exquisite and touching album, See You Tomorrow. A record steeped in awe and wonder, intense longing, sadness and joy; a rich sequence of songs that attempt to describe the essence of what makes us human.

The band recorded See You Tomorrow in the Peris’ basement (and the dining room where the piano sits). Karen wrote and sang ten of the album’s eleven songs, and plays guitars, piano, pump organ, accordion, electric bass, melodica, mellotron, and an old prototype strings sampler keyboard. Don contributes guitars, drums, vocal harmonies, and one lead vocal on his song ‘Mary Margaret In Mid-Air’. Fellow founder member Mike Bitts adds upright bass to four songs including ‘On Your Side’, the album’s first single.

Thematically, See You Tomorrow evolves from ‘Sun On The Square’, touching on the major changes that happen in the life of a family. Karen says, “Great love of course contains great anxiety, for the safety and health of the loved ones, for one’s own ability to be a good enough helper and companion, for the future. And the intense desire to hold the present moment of togetherness, at the very least to store it up in vivid detail, so that it can be not lost at all.” This desire can be felt in the song ‘Movie’, whose piano accompaniment echoes both the flickering of film and the unstoppable rush of time, and in ‘St. Francis and the Future’, which relates the tiny, perfect detail of a Jan Van Eyke painting to the human longing to hold off change, to keep it in the unflawed distance. Karen relates, “We were thrilled to come upon the painting ‘St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata’ long ago on a family day trip, and a kind attendant at the art museum gave our children a little magnifying glass to view it, and in the distance was a tiny city, birds in the sky, just barely visible. I’ve found in recent years that I was writing poems about that moment, but that the background of the painting had taken on a relation to the inevitable changes that I, as a mom, was mentally trying to hold off.”

Each successive innocence mission record marks the passing of time, and how we handle, and learn from, our experiences. “As time goes on I suppose we keep looking more toward connectedness, and feeling more gratitude though also more challenge about life, and wanting to find a language to define it somehow and wondering how others experience it,” says Karen. “The thought that these are universal concerns makes me feel more drawn to write songs, to join in a conversation, even though the conversation itself is sometimes about being at a loss for words.”

Two examples are ‘John As Well’ – “to crave knowing other people deeply, and being more truly known by someone” – and ‘At Lake Maureen’: wondering aloud about what the other person feels, for example the specific colours that they encounter in the natural world at a given moment, and how that combines with their emotions at the same moment.” The song contains one of Don’s favourite lyrics: “Make my soul come clean, a sail above Lake Maureen, sing into storms, sing into storms. This day is going.”

“There is a longing there to be transformed and a hopeful expectation that it is possible,” he explains. “I find joy, or a similar type of joy, in all of the songs,” he concludes. “A humble recognition of challenges and hardships, the acknowledgment and comfort in knowing that they are both personal and universal, and the expression of light and hope” – which is one way of summing up the perfect marriage of melody and words that is See You Tomorrow

Lanterns On The Lake share ‘Baddies’

With their much-anticipated new album Spook The Herd due for release 21st February via Bella Union, and having previously shared a video for lead track “Every Atom”  Lanterns On The Lake today unveil a new track titled “Baddies”. Of the track Lanterns On The Lake vocalist Hazel Wilde says: “Baddies is a song about the rising tide of anger and hate in the world that seems to have been unleashed over the last few years, with those in positions of power and influence actively encouraging it for their own ends, and the polarisation of society as a result. It is about the need for the individual, the underdog, to stand up to it, but the fact that in doing so we become part of it. We become someone else’s baddie.”

It’s strange – not to mention fundamentally disconcerting – to live through turbulent times. Yet as many feel like the world is slipping out of control, artists are enlivened as they seek to make sense of the shifting sands. Hazel Wilde of Lanterns on the Lake is now a songwriter necessarily emboldened. On Spook the Herd, the band’s fourth record, her voice and preoccupations rise to the fore like never before. In tandem, the band break new ground on a set of songs that are direct and crucial.

Wilde does nothing less than dive headlong into the existential crises of our times. Beginning with the record’s title – a pointed comment at the dangerously manipulative tactics of ideologues – its nine songs turn the microscope to issues including our hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief and the climate crisis.

The world is brought into focus, but Wilde’s style is not declarative. She also proves herself a songwriter possessed of a rare talent for finding the personal contours to contemporary issues, fully inhabiting them to make them real. Recorded as live where possible, the band’s natural touchstones of gauzy dream-pop and monumental post rock still float in the air, but listening to Lanterns on the Lake now feels like actually sitting in the corner of the room as they play. As guitarist and producer Paul Gregory says of approaching their fourth album, “There was a sense of release in terms of what kind of music we felt we could make. The idea of what kind of band you’re supposed to be really disappeared. It was great; you felt you could do whatever you like.”

Musically, this is a leaner Lanterns on the Lake – at times unusually stark. Their sound has been beautifully winnowed into something more pared back, urgent and direct – in keeping with Wilde’s messages – on an album loaded with songs marked by an arresting intimacy. “Swimming Lessons”, first teased as an in-progress idea on Instagram, is writhing and supple as Gregory’s arpeggiated guitar dovetails with Ol Ketteringham’s pulsating drumming and Wilde’s keening vocal. “Every Atom” rides on insistent beats which lay a bed for a warped and playfully robotic guitar line, while “Secrets and Medicine” weaves and lopes achingly, weaving its atmosphere from Spartan means: piano, celestial guitars and diminished brass.  

While Wilde pored over the bulk of the songs in isolation before the band developed and finessed them, Spook the Herd marks the first time the band has left their native Newcastle to record in a studio. Moving to Distant City studios in Yorkshire, where Joss Worthington engineered the album, shook up comfortable mindsets. Wilde admits: “We are a pretty insular band in how we work, and trusting other people enough to allow them to get involved is not always easy for us.” Yet once recording began, any trepidation was swept away. The band barrelled through sessions, finishing the record in just three weeks.

This uncovers the threads of a long-term musical understanding that Wilde, Gregory and Ketteringham share, and it’s invigorating to hear them regathered. Lanterns on the Lake, completed by bassist Bob Allan and viola player Angela Chan, have always known how to cannily manipulate texture and space. But rarely before have they captured such sheer presence. Stripping layers away, unearthing their essence, proves to be a new alchemy as their sound is writ large at its boldest.

Yet Wilde’s romantic streak is still the record’s beating heart. It can be a characteristically dark one, as in the obsessed narrator of “When it All Comes True”, or its counterpoint in the last-night-on-earth abandon of “Before They Excavate”. Mining emotion in our fractured times unearths an inescapable truth: despite our seemingly myriad differences, all we have is each other. It’s a hopeful beam of light shone into the darkness, and balances the cynicism and dread elsewhere. As stately drums thud and guitar feedback wails and roils and rises around her on closing track “A Fitting End”, Wilde sings – almost presciently – “What a die-for moment this turned out to be.” Spook the Herd contains many such moments to discover and savour. 

Lanterns On The Lake have announced an extensive UK tour for April next year. Dates can be found here.