Hannah Cohen announces “Welcome Home”

Hannah Cohen will release her third album “Welcome Home” on 26 April via Bella Union and today she reveals the album’s first single ‘This Is Your Life’ with an accompanying video.

It was the beginning of September and NYC was in the midst of a big heat wave.” Cohen says of the track. “I was staying with my partner at the time and had locked myself in the bathroom to work on this song.It was very early in the morning, the air conditioner was buzzing away. At the time we were searching for our first apartment together, and had seen about 27 apartments in person. All were gross or out of our price range. It was definitely a catalyst for wanting to move out of the city – and it all came rushing at me. I really needed a change. Locked in a boiling hot bathroom,playing my nylon-string guitar, I realized that this is it… my life is crazy,it’s time to make a big move.”

Hannah Cohen has arrived home. From the title of her new album to the depth and beauty of the music, the Woodstock, NY-based singer-songwriter’s third album, Welcome Home, displays a new level of confidence and comfort with the many creative tools at her disposal. Cohen’s remarkably evocative voice is surrounded by dreamy, swooning incantations, from the rippling ‘This Is Your Life’ and the slow-burning, forthright statement of ‘AllI Want,’ to the soul swagger of ‘Get in Line’ and dramatic vocal leaps of ‘WastingMy Time.’

With Welcome Home, “I don’t feel I have to coverup anything, or not be able to share,” Cohen says. “There’s less to interpret, I’m more visible. And as to reflecting on the past when things didn’t go well, I’ve left that behind. It was all worth it, to make my way to this point.”

Produced by Cohen’s partner Sam Owens, the producer/writer who performs as Sam Evian, the artist began developing the material that became Welcome Home in 2017. Taking her time with the songs, she wrapped herself in the fulfilling quiet of a new home, and a new creative partnership that supported finding a clarity in her writing and vocals. Many of the songs were written on an old, nylon-string guitar painted with Hawaiian scenes of beaches and palm trees (which can be heard on ‘This Is Your Life’), that, no matter the final arrangement, gives the songs a lighter touch, a warming glow that suffuses the whole album. Listeners may find echoes of folk and R&B,radiating with vocal-powered pop production, electronic accents, and bursts of pulsing guitar/bass/drums energy. Irresistible echoes of soul enchanters such as Carrie Cleveland (an early touchstone for Cohen and Evian), Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and their friend and sometime collaborator Nick Hakim blend with the reflective shadings of singer/writer forebears such as Carole King and Harry Nilsson.

Welcome Home is almost brutally honest in its self-examination,as Cohen couches home truths in velvet-lush settings. As she explains, “A lot of the album is about checking in with reality and taking the wheel, being honest with myself and my intentions. Being transparent as much as possible. They’re about exploring why I’m here. And the songs question love – if it’s real or something else, finding love that’s healthy, mature and supportive.”

All of Cohen’s new material was crafted in Brooklyn except ‘Big House,’ which was written in an isolated stone farmhouse in upstate New York where they sometimes recorded, preserving the intimacy at the core of Welcome Home. The album was mostly tracked with a live rhythm section: bassist Brian Betancourt (from Evian’s live band) and drummer Vishal Nayak (Nick Hakim). Says Cohen, “We wanted to capture the essence of the song, quickly, and not toil over details for two years.”

That straightforward immediacy marked an important change in Cohen’s relationship with her music and the recording process. After growing up around professional musicians, she moved to New York from the BayArea at 17, an intrepid adventurer who was drawn to New York’s singer-songwriter world. “New York became my world and my community, and formed me as a person, though I have never felt settled here until the last two years.” Her first two albums, Child Bride and Pleasure Boy, document the sound of a young artist finding her feet on a stage populated by established performers, a very public evolution toward the lived-in experience and command of Welcome Home. The desire to live on her own terms has recently led her to the less-crowded vistas of Woodstock, NY, a no-less iconic musical destination.

‘Old Bruiser’ documents that feeling of escape, specifically a west coast road trip (“Made it back to the city by daylight and we turned to each other as if to ask why /did we make something special just to go and leave it all behind?”).‘Build Me Up’ also reflects Cohen’s desire to move: “Living in the city has such extreme effects on your body, your nervous system, the constant grind,living on top of people and never really having any true personal space. I am naturally a very sensitive person, I feel a lot of energy and people are really intense in NYC. I have been inspired by that energy but after fifteen years it became exhausting trying to keep up with the grind and hustle. I wanted a change of scenery and a new pace. It was hard to let go after putting so much time and work into building my life and community, and in a way I went from one extreme to another. But I felt I needed to make a big move to break free from all the noise. Welcome Home chronicles my last year in New York City before moving on. Onward and upwards.”

Happy Release Day Piroshka

Today, alongside the exciting release of their excellent debut album Brickbat (via Bella Union), Piroshka (comprised of former Lush vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi, former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch) are pleased to share the compelling video for their track “What’s Next?”.

The timely clip was designed and directed by Bunny Schendler, animated by Bunny Schendler, Sofja Umarik and Jonathan Hodgson and also edited by Jonathan Hodgson.

Speaking on “What’s Next?”, Berenyi comments: “‘What’s Next’ started life as a guitar-and-drums demo from Justin that he’d called ‘Protest’ – the drums being inspired by the idea of a protest march. It’s one of the very first songs Piroshka worked on together. The lyrics are inspired by the shock and fallout regarding current political upheavals – how this finger-pointing and rage and blame are so damaging, how we need to get back some kind of solidarity if we possibly can because the divisions between us are playing into certain people’s hands. Funnily enough, the song was called Time’s Up when it was first recorded, but that title then got taken so we thought we’d better change it! It’s the only track on the album mixed by Alan Moulder – before we got picked up by Bella Union, we had an album’s worth of demos but we only had enough money to get one of them mixed!”

The album is named after the word for a missile, which nails the record’s heavyweight lyrics if not the music’s gorgeous, bittersweet and euphoric pop. Think of Brickbat as a wolf in sheep’s clothing – which suits the name Piroshka, the Hungarian take on the wolf-terrorised fairytale hero Little Red Riding Hood.
 
The connections between the members are a veritably tangled family tree. Before they lived together and raised a family, Miki and Moose were notable figures on the so-called shoegaze scene, while Elastica were Britpop peers. After post-punk pioneers Modern English split for a second time, Mick became a latterday member of Moose, while Justin joined the reformed Lush in 2015. And when Lush required a bassist for what proved to be their final show (in Manchester) in November 2016, Mick stepped in. 
 
It was the rehearsals for that Manchester show that laid the foundations for Piroshka. “We sounded great!” says Justin. “Like a proper punk band. Mick brings a huge amount of enthusiasm and livens up the room, and I thought, this is the kind of band I want to be in again.” Mick agreed. “I’d seen Lush so many times, it was like playing with old friends. Miki agreed it was good fun too. And with Moose available we thought, let’s all have a bash, see what happens.”

Though Brickbat kicks off with a squeal of feedback, the album is far from a proper punk record, with as much sublime delicacy as physical force, with guitars to the fore but also electronic flourishes in all manner of spaces. Combined, they drive the nuggety melodic bombs long associated with Miki’s songwriting. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that she would want to join a new band. In the wake of Lush drummer Chris Acland’s unexpected suicide in 1997, his shocked and grieving bandmates felt unable to continue. Miki, in particular, “had to get completely away from music. The gate just shut for me.” 

As a parent with a full-time job, it took Miki until 2015 to agree to reunite Lush, with Chris’ good friend Justin on drums. But it wasn’t to be a permanent arrangement. “After the Manchester show, Justin asked if I’d be up for something else,” Miki recalls. “But I’d never made music outside of Lush, and I’ve never wanted to do anything solo. I need someone else to motivate me, and in this case it was Justin. He sent drum tracks with guitar parts and odd words, so I wrote some vocals and lyrics, which became ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ and ‘Never Enough’. When Mick added bass, it sounded great. When Moose added guitar and keyboards – I’d never written like that before, it was such good fun.”

The blunt, forceful lyrics are many miles from Lush, tapping the current fear and loathing at the heart of society and politics, sometimes viewed through the heightened, anxious prism of parenthood, brutally honest at every turn. Take “Village Of The Damned”, the words penned by Moose (alongside ‘Hated By The Powers…’ and ‘Everlastingly Yours’). “It’s about school shootings,” he frowns, “and our reaction to almost being unable to take our eyes off twenty-four-hour news and internet feeds. You’re depressed and appalled by what you see.” 

DOOMSQUAD announce “Let Yourself Be Seen”

Today Toronto electro-psych group DOOMSQUAD are pleased to return with new track “General Hum” alongside its enthralling Zak Tatham-directed video. The track comes in conjunction with the announcement of their new forthcoming album Let Yourself Be Seen that is due for release on May 5th 2019 through Bella Union.

Commenting on the video, the band offer: “We wanted to expand further on the idea of a post-identity hybrid-corporeality sense of oneness which we allude to in the album cover photo, and is mutually experienced by many in the nocturnal hours on a dance floor. Riffing on the source of much of our creative power: our siblinghood, and seeing how we could push that creative power further, we envisioned a state where we could go beyond the liminalities imposed by our bodies, genders, and senses of self. This state, or future form, (actually its quite archaic) is a merging of our beings into an all-powerful super body. It’s bare and vulnerable, with its mechanisms exposed for all to see, yet is perfectly suited for the world today; in its multi-faceted communal nature, it’s strong enough to take on all forces. Let Yourself Be Seen! “

Even this far into the 21st century, the recent social media furore surrounding US congresswoman and free-style dancer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez illustrated that the spectacle of someone dancing without compunction can still ruffle the right (and alt-right) feathers. In which case, all hail the third album from Toronto’s ardent, art-dance sibling trio DOOMSQUAD. Due for release on Bella Union on May 10th, Let Yourself Be Seen is the most assertive, ambitious, groove-sodden declaration of intent yet from Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas: the sound of dance floor believers and thinkers firing on all personal and political fronts, at a time when we need it most.

Even if DOOMSQUAD never lacked the courage of their convictions, Let Yourself Be Seen ups the stakes. On 2016’s Total Time, the trio issued invitations to free your mind, body and spirit over dirty bass-lines and hypnotic disco jams. And yet, their reliance on unspoken sibling intuition left them fearing that much of its “message and meaning” had gone unheard. Thus, the trio took a more forthright approach for their third album, aiming to “crystallise what DOOMSQUAD is and what it means to us. What we always knew but put at the forefront of this record is that DOOMSQUAD is a project of protest, catharsis and emotional and spiritual reconnection through music and, especially, through dance-music culture. It’s about activating the body on the most fundamental level, into states of change, release and reunion.”

Richly steeped in the influences of acid house, West African disco, spiritual jazz, NYC no-wave and new-age ambient music, Let Yourself Be Seen hums with a sense of vigorous, invigorating purpose. After the overture of ‘Spandrel’, ‘The General Hum’ sends out a buoyant new-wave rallying cry for maximised engagement just when the world seems intent on stifling it. “Is there a place for spirit anymore?” it asks. Kicking in with a percussive bustle that all but defies you to try and stand still, ‘Aimless’ answers in the affirmative.

Elsewhere on the album, DOOMSQUAD’s own dynamic thematic engagement alights on subjects ranging from formative influences to modern societal struggles and eco-crises. ‘Let It Go’ grapples with the challenges of social change at 140BPM, climaxing with a scalding guitar solo to match the heat of its questioning thrust. The mellifluous ‘Emma’ reflects on early-20th-century anarchist and activist Emma Goldman; ‘Dorian’s Closet’, meanwhile, honours New York drag queen Dorian Corey. “Let Yourself Be Seen was fuelled by the inspiration of outsider artists and thinkers before us,” say the band. “Through these songs, we get to glorify some of our heroes.”

DOOMSQUAD’S intent to carry their heroes’ “messages of empowerment, release and spiritual self-determination” to new audiences peaks on the title-track, where the album’s disparate parts build to a disco inferno with a call to “Let yourself be seen!” “The Last Two Palm Trees in LA” offers an empathetic take on a similar theme, based on the acceptance of ageing, before “Weather Patterns” steers a reflection on unity in the face of global crisis to a buffeting crescendo with a thrilling urgency.

The result is an album for fraught political times, charged by the impetus to bring “music back to the body”. Close-to-home influences on that score include Tanya Tagaq and Peaches, both of whom DOOMSQUAD have toured with; further afield, Peter Gabriel, Diamanda Galás, Genesis P-Orridge and Underworld numbered among inspirations. Meanwhile, as the trio’s creative process took them from a lakeside cabin to a studio in Toronto, they benefited from the input of kindred spirits such as Ejji Smith, whose virtuoso guitar-shredding propels ‘Let It Go’. Israeli jazz composer Itamar Erez adds watery synths to ‘Emma’, while a key studio collaborator was producer/artist Sandro Perri, whose credits include Barzin.

As for the future, DOOMSQUAD will soon take Let Yourself Be Seen to the live stage, an environment in which their convictions blaze with exhilarating life. “The dancefloor is our temple – the idea of the dancefloor as a utopian/protest space is the exact belief we carry with us. As much as we love making records, we love performing. The music we make is meant to be heard on a large sound-system. As performers, we are fuelled by the need to be in a live atmosphere.” And thrive in the live atmosphere they will, dates slated both in the US for SXSW and also a run of dates in Europe in May.

And if that need inspires others to voice their shared beliefs, such is DOOMSQUAD’s hope. “People change, ideas grow,” the band say. “And entropy is all around us. The fear that lies in the hearts of the elite patriarchy will soon die off, and the rest of us will be working together to repair what’s broken. And that is worth every bit of positive energy.” An album that honours its forebears by reaching towards a future worth fighting for, worth dancing for, Let Yourself Be Seen has positive energy in bright, sparking, forward-thinking abundance.

Introducing… Modern Nature

Modern Nature – the name taken from the title of Derek Jarman’s garden diaries – is the new project of Jack Cooper, ex of Ultimate Painting / Mazes and Will Young of Beak featuring Aaron Neveu of Woods and Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias on saxophone. 

Today they announce the release of their debut Nature EP, released 22nd March via Bella Union and available to preorder here, and unveil the first track from it. ‘Supernature’ is an intimately atmospheric, wildly expansive 12-minute statement of intent a world away from anything any of the members have made before. It melds the relentless rhythms of Alice Coltrane’s devotional music with the pastoral haze of Fairport Convention.

As Jack Cooper explains: “The EP is based around a song called ‘Nature’ so ‘Supernature’ is a different perspective on the EP’s title track, but taken to another conclusion. It’s our most recent recording and there seems to be some sense in people hearing that first. ‘Nature’ is our take on that propulsive rhythm of A Sailor’s Life-era Fairport Convention but ‘Supernature’ is something else entirely. The band is so new, it’s hard to say who’s in and who isn’t. At the moment it’s myself and Will Young (Beak) with Aaron Neveu on drums (Woods/Herbcraft) Rupert Gillett on cello and then Jeff Tobias on saxophone (Sunwatchers). The band started as a vehicle for a wider project that Will and I spent the year putting together so it feels very exciting to be an actual band now. Every song we record or musician we gain, another door seems to open on a route that’s worth pursuing.”

Modern Nature’s first live date will be at London’s St Pancras Old Church on Monday 8th April. Tickets available here.

Happy Release Day Mercury Rev

Happy release day to Mercury Rev and the brilliant cast of vocalists who reimagined Bobbie Gentry’s unsung classic “The Delta Sweete”. Titled, “The Delta Sweete Revisited”, Mercury Rev are joined by Susanne Sundfør, Vashti Bunyan, Lucinda WilliamsMargo Price, Rachel Goswell, Marissa NadlerPhoebe Bridgers, Hope Sandoval, Norah JonesBeth OrtonCarice van Houten, Laetitia Sadier and Kaela Sinclair!

Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited is Mercury Rev’s committed and affectionate resurrection of an album that anticipated by three decades their own pivotal expedition through transcendental America, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs. From their recording lair in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the founding core of Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper with Jesse Chandler (previously in the Texas group Midlake) honour Gentry’s creative triumph with spacious invention and hallucinatory flair. And they are not alone. Gentry’s stories and original resolve are brought to new vocal life and empowerment by a vocal cast of women from across modern rock and its alternative paths: among them, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval; Laetitia Sadier, formerly of Stereolab; Marissa Nadler; Margo Price, the fiery new country star with a punk-rock heart; and Norway’s Susanne Sundfør, who cuts through “Tobacco Road” with arctic-Nico poise as the Rev’s trademark technicolor orchestration sweeps us towards the penultimate poignant love lorn wash of Beth Orton’s “Courtyard” and into the melancholy mystery of “Ode to Billie Joe” from America’s other grand southern belle Lucinda Williams.

On the 1968 LP, Gentry opened with a call to jubilant order, “Okolona River Bottom Band,” like she was leading a barn-dance union of the Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. Norah Jones takes that entrance here with her own sultry command, like Sarah Vaughan at the head of a slow-blooming choir. In “Sermon,” Margo Price sings like a survivor through Mercury Rev’s explosion of colour and groove: a specialty throughout the band’s history as recently as 2015’s The Light in You going back through 1995’s See You on the Other Side.

Gentry is still very present in the changes. Her seesaw of pride and hurt in the melancholy blur of “Penduli Pendulum” (“When goodbye serves as/My one amusement”) is even more explicit with the sophisticated intimacy of Vashti Bunyan—a once-elusive voice from Britain’s psychedelic-folk boom—set against the effervescent arc of Kaela Sinclair, now in the electronic project M83. And in “Courtyard,” a despairing finale of strings and guitar arpeggios on Gentry’s LP, Mercury Rev build a striking Delta Krautrock in which the English singer Beth Orton wanders, like Gentry, through a ruin of profound loss and treasured memory.

“Ode to Billie Joe” was not on the ‘68 Delta Sweete. But Mercury Rev go back to that dinner table with Lucinda Williams, and it is an inspired bond, calling up the ghosts and questions of a South still very much with us. Indeed, Gentry—who retired from recording and performing in the Seventies—reportedly lives only a couple hours’ drive from the bridge that made her famous, while the spirits she set loose in The Delta Sweete are as restless and compelling as they were 50 years ago.

E.B. The Younger shares two new songs

With his debut solo album To Each His Own due for release8th March, and about to head off on a UK tour with John Grant, E.B. The Younger (aka Eric Pulido from Midake) has shared two new tracks from the LP: “When The Times Comes” and “Down & Out”.

Of ‘When The Times Comes’ Pulido says: “This was one of the first tunes we recorded on the album before we knew exactly how the sound and vibe would round out. I had the reference of a Desperado-era Eagles vibe and I was really pleased with how it came out. A little bit country, a little bit (folk) rock n roll, and the lyrics took on some fun personal digs at myself… my favourite pastime.” About the track ‘Down And Out’ he adds: “My Midlake bandmate Joey McClellan was recording with Elle King here in town at a great studio called The Echo Lab and she asked him if anyone had a spare acoustic guitar to try. I of course offered mine up to use. When returned I pulled out the guitar to work on some writing, gave it a strum, and found it was in an open G tuning. I’d never written in that tuning but decided to give it a whirl. I wrote the bones of the tune right there and finished out the lyrics the day we tracked with producers Jonathan Tyler and Matt Pence. I wanted it to have a little dose of the country western music I grew up on.”

E.B. The Younger will be heading off on tour with Bella Union label mate John Grant for the next two weeks before returning for 3 headline shows in April. Upcoming live info can be found here