Penelope Isles announce “Which Way To Happy”

Following their recent single ‘Sailing Still’, today Penelope Isles announce news of their much-anticipated second album, Which Way To Happy, out 5th November via Bella Union and available to pre-order here. To celebrate the occasion the band have shared a colourful and psychedelic video for blissful new single “Iced Gems”.

When you’re trying to make it through tough times, you need a little light to find your way. That light blazes brightly on the alchemical second album from Penelope Isles, an album forged amid emotional upheaval and band changes. Setting the uncertainties of twentysomething life to alt-rock and psychedelic songs brimming with life, colour and feeling, Which Way to Happy emerges as a luminous victory for Jack and Lily Wolter, the siblings whose bond holds the band tight at its core.  

Produced by Jack and mixed by US alt-rock legend Dave Fridmann, the result is an intoxicating leap forward for the Brighton-based band, following the calling-card DIY smarts of their 2019 debut, Until the Tide Creeps In. Sometimes it swoons, sometimes it soars. Sometimes it says it’s OK to not be OK. Pitched between fertile coastal metaphors and winged melodies, intimate confessionals and expansive cosmic pop, it transforms “difficult second album” clichés into a thing of glorious contrasts: a second-album surge of up-close, heartfelt intimacies and expansive, experimental vision.  

Warm and rippling new single ‘Iced Gems’ is a sorrowed lament, played out over the gentlest of fluttery keyboards and experimental electronic sounds, while Lily’s ‘Sailing Still’ charts the life of a relationship to a slow-burn and sorrowed soundscape of dulcitones, cello, violin and more: building in increments to a climax of measured grandeur.

The album swerves into Mercury Rev and MGMT’s cosmic slipstream with ‘Miss Moon,’ a galloping centrepiece with an irresistible call to dream: “Hey, kids – look up!” Steering the album through further contrasts, ‘Have You Heard’ is a feelgood flurry of insistent, pulsing space-rock; ‘Pink Lemonade,’ meanwhile, is a song of sweet, sharp beauty, touching on fading childhood memories and lifted by Fiona Brice’s strings. ‘11 11’ hosts Lily’s most tender vocal yet: recorded in one take through tears, it finds Penelope Isles at their most exposed, with Brice’s strings weeping in sympathy. Finally, ‘In a Cage’ cogitates on confinement yet finds solace in field recordings of happy, high times – a judicious note of meditative reflection after a giddy ride. 

More field recordings were made during a stay at a small cottage in Cornwall, where Penelope Isles began work on the album. With romantic heartache already in the air, things swiftly got worse: lockdown began, claustrophobia kicked in and emotions ran high. As Jack puts it, “We were there for about two or three months. It was a tiny cottage with four of us in and we all went a bit bonkers, and we drank far too much, and it spiralled a bit out of control. There were a lot of emotional evenings and realisations, which I think reflects in the songs.” 

After Cornwall, the band redid many of the rhythm tracks, recorded a little in Brighton, then recorded more in Cornwall at their parents’ house. “It was,” says Jack, “a proper rollercoaster ride.” 

The ride continued with Fridmann, whose recent credits include Isles’ favourites Mogwai’s No 1 album, As the Love Continues. As Lily puts it, the process of sending Fridmann a mix, receiving it back in the morning and then having five hours to make decisions on it resulted first in stress, then in something sublime. “He made everything so colourful. It’s an intense-sounding record – a hot record. It was so refreshing to have that blast of energy from Dave – it’s like he framed our pictures.” 

Away from the confines of the cottage, the Wolters also opened the door to a collaboration with storied composer Fiona Brice, whose credits include John Grant, Lost Horizons and Placebo. A “big bucket-list tick” for Jack and Lily, the team-up results in glorious arrangements across the album.

On its release, Until the Tide Creeps In received rave reviews from Q, DIY, The Line of Best Fit and many others, while finding champions in Steve Lamacq and Shaun Keaveny. Meanwhile, extensive touring saw the Isles develop into a formidable live force, with ‘Gnarbone’ emerging as a sure-fire show-stopper. 

Now, the Isles have 11 more show-stoppers to add to the mix. At the album’s heart, the band’s core traits have never been stronger: the bond between the Wolters, a sensitivity towards complex feelings, a desire to celebrate life in all its facets and an ambitious reach combine to create an album that feels utterly, emphatically present on every front.

Penelope Isles recently announced news of an extensive UK tour for November and December 2021. Tickets are available at https://www.penelopeisles.com.

Deep Throat Choir announce “In Order To Know You”

Deep Throat Choir have announced news of their new album, In Order to Know You, out 3rd December via Bella Union and available to pre-order here. In conjunction with the announcement the band have shared a brilliant video to first single ‘Alchemilla’. Directed by Nina Ryner, with an aesthetic inspired by 90’s tarot and psychic call-in shows, the choir are reimagined as arcana from the deck, offering gentle guidance via “The Tarot Priestess”, Suhaiyla Shakuwwra. 

“I’m reeling, I’m restless,” sing Deep Throat Choir from the heart of their second album. That restlessness manifests in a set of tremendously abundant, original songs from the east London female and non-binary vocal collective, founded by Landshapes member Luisa Gerstein. Released via Bella Union in December, In Order to Know You is a multi-layered assertion of freshly expansive range, driven by two core virtues: a sense of strength in unity and an open embrace of its singers’ personal experiences, shared through collective, supportive vocal expression. 

After 2017’s largely covers-based debut album, Be OK, the choir recognised the call to evolve. “Having been singing together for five-plus years, and having released an album of mostly covers, it felt like the logical next step to make our own music together,” says Gerstein. “This album is the alchemy of all the specific voices and players that make up the choir, and a collaborative process of writing and sharing music and ideas. Sonically, I wanted to move beyond just voices and percussion, to see what richness could be brought with instruments and electronics, and to transition from a choir that does covers to a band with loads of vocalists.” 

The rewards of that leap are immediately evident on first single ‘Alchemilla’, named after the herbaceous perennial. A testimony to the strength in vulnerability, it celebrates an openness to emotion across buoyant harmonies that “ebb and flow” like cool waves. With words by Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Alice Freedman and Holly Turnbull, the song emerged from a jamming session in Margate and a conversation about masculinity. ‘Picturing’ is a spun-silk reflection on shared tenacity before tough circumstance, while the forceful voices and folksy guitars of ‘Uvas’ frame a lyric that testifies to the choir’s depths of personal experience.  

“This song is about my mum,” says Gerstein. “In Colombia you eat 12 grapes (uvas) at New Year’s to make 12 resolutions with. I was thinking about her resolve to move and travel to a faraway place, and a resolve and hunger that I feel she’s passed down to me. It’s about looking back at the generations before you, finding common threads that run through those histories, and all the bigger histories that are part of that tapestry, like ships on the sea and emeralds in the dirt (early conquistadors traded glass for emeralds with indigenous people).” 

(Album artwork by Henry Stringer)

A rolling piano buoys up ‘Lighter’, which channels Sun Ra’s influence into a song that upholds the support found in mutual connectivity. Meanwhile, the gorgeous swoon of ‘Patience’ again illuminates how individual singers’ experiences can take shape within the choir, to become something held by all. “I wrote ‘Patience’ as a kind of eulogy for my mum’s funeral,” says Rosa Slade. “Music for me was the easier way to express a combined and confusing feeling of grief and celebration of life. I joined Deep Throat a few months later and found the choir space brought such deep holding through song and collectivity. When Luisa began to compose and gather for the second album, it felt natural somehow for the song to be held by those voices too; so it could live by transforming into something new and shared; becoming multiple stories existing in unison.” 

From there, In Order to Know You heads towards its climax without seeming to touch the ground, from the title-track’s devotional exhalation to the stealthy, smoky shimmer of ‘Unstitching’. Its lyrics drawn from a poem by Emma Cleave, the sublime ‘Field of Not Knowing’ closes the album in a vivid tapestry of folk-gothic images and serene-to-soaring arrangements.

For Deep Throat Choir, the result is both a culmination of journeys taken so far and a lustrous springboard for further adventures. Their travels began in 2013, when the collective took shape from a desire to strip music back to the basic elements of raw voices and drums, united in a fashion that both honours and transmogrifies personal expression. A small group of four or five singers steadily expanded, with Zara Toppin’s drums providing a propulsive energy. Cathartic live shows and collaborations followed, ranging from team-ups with Peggy Sue, Stealing Sheep, Horse Meat Disco and Matthew E White to performances at Green Man, Wilderness, the Southbank Centre’s WOW festival, London’s Scala and beyond. A fruitful collaboration with techno-pop duo Simian Mobile Disco on the 2018 album Murmurations followed: a testament to the choir’s alchemical abilities. 

At a residency at the Prah Foundation, Margate, seeds were sown for the new songs. An increased confidence bloomed as the band pushed at its boundaries, an evolution aided by engineer Andy Ramsey and the vast range of the contributors’ musical talents. Emerging organically, the songs reflect the experiences and worlds of the singers who contributed to the writing process. Alongside soloists Tanya Auclair, Liv Stones, Holly Holden, Elly Condron, Miryam Solomon, Fikir Assefa, Maddie Rix, Rosa Slade, Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Fran Lobo and Gerstein, new contributors included brass players Marcus Hamblett and Emma Gatrill, plus pianist Sam Beste. From within the choir, Kate Burn played cello, Sarah Anderson played violin/viola, Tunstall-Behrens played bass and Auclair contributed synth parts. Recording took place before lockdown; Gerstein produced, while Jimmy Robertson (Anna Calvi, Peggy Sue) mixed the record. 

The album title reflects that drive towards a kind of questing togetherness. “We made this music in order to know and understand each other more fully,” says Gerstein, “and that’s what music is in general. We’re saying it to each other, and to the listener.”

Happy Release Day Piroshka

Today Piroshka release their new album Love Drips And Gathers via Bella Union. To mark the occasion, and having previously shared videos for ‘Scratching At The Lid’ and ‘V.O.’, the band have shared a video for the track “Loveable”. Commenting on the track Piroshka vocalist Miki Berenyi says: “I thought it was finally time to write an out and out love song! It was written very simply – led by the vocals and then finding the chords to meander around the melody. Justin’s percussion, Moose’s accent notes… there’s a lovely delicacy to the embellishments. I am getting very sentimental in my old age because when I first heard Mick’s bass (one of the last things to be added) my eyes started welling up.” 

“Reflective yet spirited… Their second album is more cohesive than 2018’s ‘Brickbat’. More trenchant too. ‘V.O’ is Berenyi’s shimmering tribute to 4AD designer Vaughn Oliver, who died in 2019. ‘Scratching At The Lid’ is a shoegazing / powerpop stormer from McKillop contemplating the loss of his father… In all, a bracing experience.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“Band of shoegaze all-stars return to dreamy form… One of the great pleasures of Piroshka is the chance to hear Miki Berenyi find her flow as a songwriter again… There’s plenty of vintage shimmer and shine on ‘V.O’, a tribute to the late 4AD designer Vaughn Oliver, and ‘Familiar’, six pearly-dewdrop-filled minutes of Cocteaus-worthy loveliness.” Uncut – 7/10

Piroshka emerged in 2018, four individuals with distinct musical identities but also overlapping histories – a combination that might have unsettled, or even overwhelmed, some bands. But in their case, the bond only got stronger. After “Brickbat” explored social and political divisions by way of what MOJO described as “Forceful, driving garage songs and dream-pop epics”, Love Drips And Gathersfollows a more introspective line – the ties that bind us, as lovers, parents, children, friends – to a suitably subtler, more ethereal sound, whilst still revelling in energy and drama.

“If Brickbat was our Britpop album, then Love Drips And Gathers is shoegaze!” reckons vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi, formerly of Lush, a band that effortlessly bridged the two genres like no other. “It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.” 

Bassist Mick Conroy (Modern English) agrees. “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On Love Drips And Gathers, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”

To recap; before Miki and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop were a couple (and parents), they were pivotal figures on the London-centric 90s indie scene. Likewise, Elastica, whose drummer Justin Welch was part of Lush’s 2017 reunion, whilst Mick had played for both Moose and – on their last ever gig – Lush. 

As Lush Mark II came to an end, Justin persuaded Miki (who’d abandoned music when Lush first split in 1997) to start another band, Piroshka, which in turn reignited Moose’s own long-dormant ambitions. Whilst Justin and Miki were the dominant influence on Brickbat, this time Moose and Mick were given greater control over the production, with invaluable assistance from Bella Union’s in-house engineer Iggy. 

The way Love Drips And Gathers changes shape and dynamic is less a reprise of nineties Brit indie than a transformation into a more shivery, Euro-mantic version with glistening electronic filigrees. The opening ‘Hastings’ sets the tone. Luminous drops of guitar underpin Miki’s becalmed vocal before drums, bass and a Mellotron add pace while the decorative coda features their old pal Terry Edwards on flugelhorn. 

Framed by Mellotron, cello and piano. ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ emphatically proves Piroshka can be restrained without losing any essence of drama: the calm before the euphoria pure-pop storm of ‘Scratching At The Lid’. The words ‘ethereal’ and ‘shimmering’ were surely invented for the likes of ‘Loveable’, but the uncanny DNA of ‘V.O.’ is less categorisable – a Bond theme in the making with electro-gliding beats, perhaps? ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Echoloco’ might be described as Francophile cousins of Lush before the haunting lullaby of ‘Familiar’ segues into the pulsing, rippling instrumental finale ‘We Told You’ – more eighties synth drama than nineties indie, with vocal samples played on what Moose calls, “the Miki-tron.” 

Love Drips And Gathers – named after a line in a Dylan Thomas poem – was inspired by love, family, belonging, memory. Miki and Moose split the eight lyrics, with some poignant overlaps here too. Miki’s ‘Loveable’ looks to Moose; Moose’s ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ looks to Miki, but also their daughter Stella and his sister Anna; an empathic, touching embrace of the women in his life. 

Staying within the family, Moose eulogises his late mother (the idyllic childhood seaside trip of ‘Hastings 1973’) and father (the more conflicted ‘Scratching At The Lid’). On ‘V.O.’, Miki pays fond tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s legendary in-house art director who died suddenly in December 2019, and who had a particularly close relationship with Lush during their time on the label (like Brickbat, Love Drips And Gathers’ beautiful and enigmatic artwork is by Vaughan’s former design partner Chris Bigg). 

Love Drips And Gathers’ nine tracks will each have its own video (all to be made by Connor Kingsley), with a continuing thread that will eventually create one story. Piroshka’s own story is rooted in family – both those you’re born with, and those (friends) you choose.

Penelope Isles debut “Sailing Still”

Having recently announced news of an extensive UK tour this Autumn, Penelope Isles today share a captivating video for a brilliant new single, “Sailing Still”. The track is a first taste of the band’s much-anticipated second album due for release on Bella Union later this year.

Of the track Lily Wolter says: “I wrote the music for this song at my brother’s flat, on a really crappy electric piano, but always envisioned the whole thing as something widescreen, with a big sound to match. The lyrics took me a few months to finish, by which point the song had taken on many different meanings. Then I took it to band practice, where Jack and I wrote the end section together. It’s one of our favourite sounding songs on the record. We played around with pitch-shifting instruments to get it sonically sweet. Plus, it was the first time we ever heard strings with our music. That’s one tick off the bucket list.”

Of the video Jack Wolter adds: “Before the enforced break due to covid we spent pretty much all of 2019 driving ourselves around Europe and America having some incredible adventures as a band and it seems that everything since then has been falling apart. Writing and recording the new album was a huge part of the recovery process and making this film for Sailing Still I wanted Lily and I to get back on the road somehow, as travelling has been such a massive part of our band ever since we began. So I had this idea of filming Lily in a myriad of places and scenarios, both urban and rural, coastal and inland. Mountains and rivers, council flats and tunnels, cafes and bridges. We drove up and down the country for a week, sleeping in the van, and waking up at the crack of dawn to start filming again. Reconnecting as a ‘band’ again but also spending time together as brother and sister was special for filming this real heartbreaker of a song.”

Additionally, the band have compiled an interactive Google Earth map that shows the various filming locations across the UK. Click HERE to view the map.

Penelope Isles are centred around siblings Jack and Lily Wolter, originally from the Isle of Man, and for several years now based in Brighton. Their debut album Until the Tide Creeps In was produced by the band at the Bella Union studios in London and Brighton. They create dynamic, blissed-out moments soaked in fuzz-noise waves – their songs fragile yet ferocious. Indie-psych currents and lustrous melodies blend with the siblings’ voices. To support the release they played over 150 shows all over the world, including 100 shows in 2019 alone and three tours in the USA. They’ve hit the road with The Flaming Lips and The Magic Numbers. Loved by fans, DJs, tour-mates and writers, their debut marked them out as one of the most exciting UK bands of the last few years. The band recently completed work on their second album – more news on that very soon.

Penelope Isles recently announced news of an extensive UK tour for November and December 2021. Tickets are available HERE.

Karen Peris announces new album “A Song Is Way Above The Lawn”

Bella Union are thrilled to announce the release of A Song Is Way Above The Lawn, the new solo album from Karen Peris, out 8th October and available to pre-order here. To mark the occasion Peris has shared a spellbinding video for “I Will Sing Along”, the album’s beguiling first single. A daydream prompted by hearing an interview on NPR about The Elephant Listening Project, where acoustic biologists study the low, almost subsonic singing of elephants, the video features her beautiful hand-drawn animation.

“I like that it’s possible to re-travel some of the wide open expanse of childhood imagination and wonder. The thing is, I don’t really feel that far away from those places even now, and I’m sure that’s a universal thought. The moments I’m telling about in the songs, and the wonder and the curiosity – I still feel so much of it, just as anyone does. I didn’t want to be an adult saying to a child, This is how you feel. It’s more like saying, just as a person talking with another person, Isn’t this how we all feel, and isn’t that a mystery of life, too, that we are all so connected? So, most of the songs are written in the first person.”

Singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter Karen Peris is talking about the ten compositions on her new album, A Song Is Way Above the Lawn. Written over a period of seven years, these songs make an especially melodic collection of beautifully rendered moments that will resonate with both children and adults. They offer a joy that is often poignant, thanks in part to Peris’ voice and poetry, and to the emotional, sometimes cinematic nature of the piano, central to the album’s sound. Her other instrumentation, chamber-like, with pump organ, accordion, and melodica, along with occasional nylon string and electric guitars, is spacious, allowing room for the listener’s own imagination. With the help of her husband Don Peris, who plays drum kit and upright bass, and their son and daughter, who contribute violin and viola to three songs, she has made a timeless album that has a rare and particular atmosphere of its own.

Journalists and fellow musicians have long written warmly about the singing and songwriting of Karen Peris with her band the innocence mission, which she started in high school with Don Peris. Her lyrics have been called ‘profound’ by Sufjan Stevens, and ‘engaging’ by Natalie Merchant; NPR music critic Lars Gotrich has spoken of the ‘supreme detail’ of her poetry. With A Song Is Way Above the Lawn, she has combined music and words with her own illustration, to make a sort of picture book in record album form. Throughout, there is an enormous tenderness expressed, for children and families, for the natural world, and for the miraculousness of everyday life. “You know how, if we take a tiny moment of a day and really look into it, it can sort of widen out and we can see how much it holds – I like thinking about that,” she explains, “and of how it can even be a moment when we’re waiting for something else to happen, that can end up being the most memorable.” The entirety of “This Is a Song in Wintertime” is devoted to a single moment when the narrator is waiting in line, outside with her family, and it begins to snow. “And all the people in line start remarking about the snow and we realize a connectedness,” Karen relates, “and strangers talk to us and there’s this feeling, like we all arrived there together, in a sense.” 

A Song Is Way Above the Lawn also reflects a love of reading and public libraries, of walking in the companionship of trees, and of the sense of possibility felt in listening to the first sounds of the day. The latter is the subject of the album’s title song. Animals – elephants, giraffes, lions, birds, and dogs – walk in and out of the album, occasionally appearing as imaginary friends in times of solitude. About “I Would Sing Along”, Karen relates, “I heard a biologist talking this year about elephants. And she said that elephants do a kind of singing, almost subsonically, but if she listened very closely she could hear it”. Much of the album celebrates an attentiveness to the world and to the lives around us, from the luminous opening track, “Superhero”, in praise of the kindness and open-heartedness of kids and of all the people she most admires, to the closing lullaby, “Flowers”.

John Grant shares mesmerising “County Fair” visuals

Currently in the Top 10 with his new album Boy From Michigan, released last month via Bella Union, John Grant today shares a mesmerising montage video for new single “County Fair” created by visionary filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. Commenting on the track and video Caouette says: “When I was 12, growing up in Texas, I briefly worked at a kid’s theme park that had been around since the 1940s. I would also go to rodeo carnivals and various county fairs, along with Astroworld, an amusement park that you could almost see from my house. There was great joy in those places, but also a darkness. ‘County Fair’ is enigmatic and shimmering. It’s all of these places for me. It’s a song that knows where I live. Thank you to filmmaker Teddy Smith for allowing me to use moments from his film, ‘Abandoned Six Flags Tour’, for this mashup.”

Boy From Michigan affirms John Grant as one of the great singer-songwriters of our time. If there’s a centre ground between the songcraft of Elton John and the sonic experimentalism of Kraftwerk then Grant claims it for his own. His fifth solo album is a work of great power and beauty.” Daily Telegraph – 4 stars **** (Album Of The Week)

Boy From Michigan is Grant’s futuristic vision of his past, filtered through his bleak, witty, lacerating worldview. And it is a delight.” The Times – 4 stars **** (Album Of The Week)

Boy From Michigan has the American fusing the piano-led chamber pop of his early releases with the jagged electronica of his more recent work. Produced by Cate Le Bon, it is dependably doleful and caustic as the singer shines unforgiving light on his troubled upbringing and the cruel joke that is the American dream. On ‘Mike and Julie’, clarinet and synth decorate a lyric about Grant’s first lover, with tenderness and regret coming together in one of his most beautiful melodies.” Sunday Times – Album Of The Week

Boy From Michigan is Grant in panoramic mode, looking back and looking forward to create his biggest picture yet.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“Vangelis meets Harry Nilsson” Uncut – 8/10

“An expansive and frequently exquisite summation of Grant’s storytelling powers… Boy From Michigan develops as a multi-layered and resonant coming-of-age story-in-songs… These songs cut to the quick with character and feeling, wit and precision.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

“He takes the idea of pop-as-autobiography to new heights on his remarkable new record” The i News – 4 stars ****

“Formative memories weigh heavy on the dreamy, clarinet-haunted textures of Mike and Julie; the lush, impressionistic amble through the stalls on County Fair, couched in Cocteau Twins guitar glimmer and Beach Boys harmonies, and the Scott Walker-esque piano melancholy of The Cruise Room.” The Observer

“Wildly ambitious and emphatically realised, the new songs represent an ideal marriage of Grant’s strengths – soaring piano-led balladry and angular, rhythmic synth workouts.” The Sun – 4 stars ****

“A brooding reflection on childhood, the auteur expertly taps into Eno and Moroder for sonic inspiration.” Sunday Express – 4 stars ****

“John Grant excels at looking backwards in his songs. His voice is warm and resonant, rising and falling in time to the music like the tidal pull of memories. Luxuriant melodies cast a golden glow over these songs while analogue synthesisers pulse and swoosh like vintage time-travelling contraptions.” Financial Times

“A gorgeously observed working through of personal and national demons.” Loud & Quiet

“A record filled with retro synths and Grant’s lush vocals… Engrossing and bewitching.” Classic Pop

“A beauty… this meditation on an American life holds nothing back” HiFi Choice – 4 stars ****