Baloji debuts ‘Spotlight’ Remix

“Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium…he taps powerful music from both worlds to create a landscape of his own.” – NPR

“The rapper and singer Baloji makes chameleonic African music.” – The New York Times

“Baloji showcases roughly 500 times more energy and charisma than your average Jimmy Fallon-style late night appearance.” – The FADER

“Super fly Renaissance man who melds Congolese Rumba, hip-hop, and pop.” – Noisey

“Baloji’s directorial zeal is just as compelling as his limber flow.” – Dazed

“Baloji’s music blends traditional African music, hip-hop, French folk, soul, funk, jazz and electronic to create his distinct, compelling sound.” – Afropunk

“African diaspora music never felt so far ahead and yet so close. Modern, self-sufficient with a middle finger attitude!” – M.I.A.

“scathing, poetic critiques” – Stereogum

Congolese-born, Belgium-based artist Baloji today released a new afro-electro single, “Spotlight & Miroir” (ft. Marshall Dixon & Poison Mobutu) from his upcoming album Kaniama: The Yellow Version, out May 3 via Bella Union. CLASH premiered the remixed track about our digital obsession and phone screen spotlights, which mirrors themes in Baloji’s previous short film “Zombies” that premiered via NOWNESS.

The original “Spotlight” comes from Baloji’s previous album 137 Avenue Kaniama, which was released last year on Bella Union (Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Father John Misty). The label is re-releasing the album as the artist originally intended it, as a one-track mixtape on May 3. In a world of fleeting singles, Kaniama: The Yellow Version brings back the full album listening experience.

Baloji is an artist in motion, a musician, poet, film director and man of many images and ideas. Baloji means “man of science” in Swahili, but shifted during the colonial period to “man of the occult sciences and sorcery.” With influences from Outkast and LCD Soundsystem to African rumba king Tabu Ley Rochereau and salsa music legends Fania Records, he mixes hip hop culture with Congolese guitars and a melodic approach with some French chanson structure. His perpetual motion is showcased in music videos like “Soleil De Volt,” where he fronts a satirical variety show band with flamboyant flare, also apparent in his sharp curation of Komono eyewear collections.

As a teenager, Baloji started his first rap collective, Starflam, and released his first solo album in 2008, Hotel Impala, conceived as a reply to a letter he received from his mother after a 25-year absence. 137 Kaniama Avenue is an extension of a story set in motion on that album. Baloji explains, “It’s the anchoring point of a trajectory marked by my intrinsic attachment to the country as much as by my remoteness from it. A geographic and symbolic distance, which gives me perspective, and inspiration.”

Award-winning novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou (Prix Renaudot, Man Booker International finalist) described the album as “a patchwork universe, rich in words, parables, a universe of stories, poetry in motion, which points a finger at the failings of our societies, now ravaged by collateral damage from globalisation. Baloji, with his legendary flamboyance, offers an artist-witness’s response to his era. Now it’s up to us to inhabit this space where freedom takes the form of art!”
Baloji will soon embark on an international tour, as well – dates here.

The Flaming Lips announce Kings Mouth release

Following its limited–edition vinyl–only release for Record Store Day, The Flaming Lips have today announced the worldwide release of King’s Mouth, their fifteenth studio album, on 19th July via Bella Union in the UK/Europe and Warner Bros in the US. The band have shared a first track entitled “All For The Life Of The City”.

King’s Mouth sees the iconoclastic outfit once again tread uncharted territory. These 12 new originals are threaded together by cinematic narration courtesy of The Clash’s Mick Jones. Additionally, the music parallels front man Wayne Coyne’s immersive art installation of the same name. 

Introduced in 2015, the installation has showcased its psychedelic visuals and soundscapes through North America in museums such as Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, the Pacific Northwest College of Art Portland, OR and Wayne’s own creative space, The Womb, in Oklahoma City, OK. A true handcrafted marvel, it consists of a giant metallic head that welcomes spectators inside. Once inside of the foam month, an LED lightshow begins in tandem with music from the album. Now, the record doubles as the sonic companion to the exhibit and allows fans to experience the aural side at any time.

Further expanding this multi-faceted world and detailing a fascinating creation myth, the accompanying literary tome, King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience tells the story of the King’s Mouth through words and visuals by Coyne,adds yet another dimension to the project, which ranks among the band’s most ambitious thus far.

About the vision, Coyne wrote: “The King’s Mouth immersive/child-like qualities are born from the same spark and womb as The Flaming Lips live performances. The King’s Mouth adventure was made for humans of all sizes, ages, cultures, and religions.”

The Lips recently teamed up with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra for an encore performance of their seminal and celebrated 1999 offering, The Soft Bulletin, from top-to-bottom at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall. This follows up their original 2016 performance of The Soft Bulletin together at Red Rocks Amphitheatre—noted by critics as one of the most important events ever held at Red Rocks in their 75-year history.

Introducing… The Soft Cavalry

Bella Union are thrilled to introduce The Soft Cavalry, a new project formed by the husband/wife duo of Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, whose self–titled debut album is due for release 5th July and is available to preorder here. The band have shared the first track “Dive”and have announced two UK headline shows just ahead of release…

So… The Soft Cavalry. What is it? A happy accident? A lovers’ story? A crisis of faith? In reality, it’s all of these. 

For Steve Clarke, The Soft Cavalry’s self-titled debut album is equally a labour of love, and the first record he’s masterminded from start to finish, with invaluable contributions from his wife, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, on co-vocals and spiritual/practical guidance, and Steve’s brother Michael, who produced the record.

The band’s music is a particularly British brand of intense cinematic drama. Melodic and timeless, the album lands in the atmospheric dimensions between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and R.E.M. A record radiating midlife crisis but equally enormous elation; a helix of fear and hope, aching for resolution. A record Steve emphasises that he “needed” to make.

The album is also a way of rewriting a man’s narrative, and proof that relative late bloomers (Steve was in his late 30s when he made the album) can make the record of their dreams.

In 2014, Steve was stuck. Divorced since 2011, the intervening three years had been, “a haze,” he admits. Since the late nineties he’d played bass and sung backing vocals in bands (both studio and live) and sessions, while also working as a tour-manager. His new assignees were reformed Home Counties faves Slowdive.

“I was hungover in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band’s gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I’d played in London the night before,” he recalls. “The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!”

That was the day Steve was introduced to Rachel… A year later, they were living together in Devon, before marrying in 2018. Rachel not only, “turned my world upside-down,” but unwittingly provided, “the catalyst,” for The Soft Cavalry. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this fifteen years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”

The Soft Cavalry is equally an exercise in creative and personal therapy. The first songs Steve wrote for the album were less about confusion than Rachel-inspired paeans to fate, love, new beginnings: ‘Passerby’ (“Waters break and we are born restlessly into the arms of this unknown”), with Rachel’s gorgeous lead vocal underlining the arrangement’s Slowdive-adjacent ethereality, and ‘Spiders’ (“strand of woven thread / Could be the start of something beautiful?”), a starker, shivery ballad with a feeling of suspended animation. But as Steve opened up, the past began to seep in; years of frustration, anxiety and confusion.

If the album has a theme, reckons Steve, “it’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience’. With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope.”

The Soft Cavalry became something of a conversation, even couple’s therapy. Steve, says Rachel, “is always writing, his head always full of lyrics.” Rachel, says Steve, “reins me in when I get obsessed. She’s a good editor. She says my songs can still work without sections of words, that leaving spaces is OK.”

As Steve assembled songs, his invited friends – keyboardist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake), guitarist Tom Livermore, drummer Stuart Wilkinson and multi-instrumentalist/album producer Michael – helped mould the record’s breathtaking sonics. Says Steve, “I’d grown up with guitar bands and I didn’t want it to be overly guitar-y. We evolved things by trying out ideas. We’d build things up, and then strip them back, and build them again.”

As the album progressed, Rachel formed Minor Victories in 2016 while Slowdive had a gap in the schedule, alongside similarly holidaying members of Mogwai and Editors, for a self-titled album that she and Steve contributed vocal melodies and lyrics to:it got the cogs turning on a writing and lyrical level, and gave me a certain amount of self-belief,” he says.

After he and Rachel finished their album, Steve found a name for it, out of thin air: The Soft Cavalry. “I can’t explain its literal meaning,” he says. “It just made sense.” Might Rachel be the cavalry? “Maybe! It would be subconscious, but that makes sense too, strangely.”

So, this happy accident, lovers’ story, crisis of faith, labour of love and therapy session is set to continue – Steve’s already got the next installment written, titled The Lost Decade. Lost versus found. Recovery versus self-doubt. The Soft Cavalry has arrived. 

Hilang Child announces Stripped.Rebuilt EP

Having released his debut album in the summer of 2018, Hilang Child, the pseudonym of London-based singer-songwriter and soundscape-ist Ed Riman, has today announced a follow up EP titled Stripped.Rebuilt which will be released digitally on May 3rd via Bella Union. The EP features stripped back and reworked versions of songs previously released on Riman’s debut Years as well as an updated version of his first single ‘Chaturanga’ which we are pleased to share with you today. Read below for some words from Hilang Child on how the EP came to fruition…

‘Chaturanga Rebuilt’ is a new version of the first song I ever wrote. In the years after writing it I initially pushed it aside as I grew into my craft a little more; I had never really been satisfied with the original and felt it didn’t represent what my music had gone on to become. But last year I finally made the decision to revisit it, re-learn it and in the summer of 2018 my band and I played it live for the first time in years. Suddenly I finally ‘got’ it and decided I had to re-record it the way it should have sounded in the first place, now that I have the voice, ability and ear to be able to do it the justice it didn’t get back in 2012/13.

As for the ‘stripped’ songs on the EP; at the end of 2018, during Iceland Airwaves I reworked my single ‘Crow’ for just piano and voice for a live broadcast, straight-to-vinyl show at Studio Hljódriti hosted by Ásgeir. The general realisation from doing so was that getting away from all the ambience, electronics, drums and atmospheres was just as exciting for me, allowing my songwriting to breathe a little more. So we recorded these live intimate, stripped down versions of 3 songs from my debut album, hopefully putting fresh life into them and showing them in a new light.”

Jambinai share two new tracks from ONDA

Having recently announced news of their upcoming album ONDA and fresh off the back of their weekend performance at Coachella music festival, Jambinai have debuted two new singles titled ‘작은 위로가 있는 곳에(Small Consolation)’ + the album’s title track ‘온다(ONDA)’. The South Korean band have also shared a breathtaking performance video of ‘작은 위로가 있는 곳에(Small Consolation)’ which gives fans a taste of what is to be expected from their 2019 tour. 

When the three founders of Jambinai decided to, “communicate with the ordinary person who doesn’t listen to Korean traditional music,” few outsiders anticipated an extra-ordinary fusion with metal, post-rock and noise.  “Most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation,” says band spokesman Lee Il-woo. “We wanted to break all of that.”

Even fewer would have predicted that the likes of Jambinai would play the 2018 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony in the city of Pyeongchang, accompanied by a troupe of geomungo (Korean zither) players – an audio-visual spectacle that such an occasion demanded. Click HERE to watch. 

Says Lee, “Onda means ‘come’ in Korean. The title track has the lyric, ‘At the end of your darkness, pain will turn into the shining stars and it’s going to come to you.’ I want to cheer people up when they hear that track. Onda also means ‘wave’ in Spanish, and I also want to say the third big wave of Jambinai is coming!”

The first big wave arrived in 2010 after traditional music students Lee (guitar and piri, a bamboo oboe), Kim Bo-mi (the bow-stringed haegum) and Sim Eun-young (geomungo) joined forces and released the Jambinai EP. The trio’s debut album Différance won Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, triggering several overseas tours and the second wave of Jambinai – an international deal with Bella Union and a second album, A Hermitage. At the time, Lee cited the influence of bands like Metallica, Mogwai and Sigur Rös, but such was the trio’s energy levels, they seemed to draw more on thunderstorms, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, blizzards and desert winds – a force of nature more than a band.

It’s hard to believe but ONDA is even more dynamic and rhythmic, with the permanent addition of Jaehyuk Choi (drums) and B.K Yu (bass), fixtures of Jambinai’s live band since 2017. The way the quintet “sticks together like gears of a clock or machine,” says Lee, is celebrated on ‘Square Wave’, a breathtaking example of Jambinai’s ability to alternate between ambient serenity and molten ferocity. 

‘Square Wave’ is also one of several ONDA cuts to feature vocals. “Voice and lyrics have strong energy, they can touch someone’s heart directly more than instruments,” Lee explains. “Also, most people don’t know Korean, so they hear our voices as sound rather than meaning. We needed more sounds on this album.”

Not that the instrumental tracks are any less momentous. Take the opening ‘Sawtooth’ (featuring Hwiseon Choi on yanggeum, a hammered dulcimer), because Lee thinks the band’s constantly shifting dynamic, “resembles the sawtooth waveform of electronic sound.”  

13 minutes long, ‘In The Woods’ is the album’s lengthiest epic, originally recorded for Jambiani’s 2010 EP and now rearranged for the expanded quintet, plus guest traditional singer Bora Kim.  The inspiration here is environmental pollution, soundtracked by eight minutes of mournful ambience that slowly builds to a shattering climax. “The earth is in serious pain,” Lee concludes.

ONDA ends on a thematic note of drama and redemption. In ‘Small Consolation’, says Lee, “a person leads their weary body to a distant glow, which is small consolation. But when they get there, it turns into a big light, big consolation and happiness.” The closing title track comes in two parts: a calm prelude (featuring Lee on saenghwang, a tall reed mouth organ) before the euphoric main course, graced by choral grandeur. Once the music dies away, the feeling is one of blissful exhaustion. 

Says Lee: “After Jambinai’s US tour of 2017, I travelled the country for a month. I was worried about my future and the music because I had quit my job for the band but we didn’t have much money and the tour was tough and tiring for everyone. But when I visited the Grand Canyon, Mother Nature cheered me up and it was felt like she was telling me, “you are doing really well. Back in Korea, I wrote more songs with confidence and happiness.” The third wave of Jambinai is here….

Jambinai have announced a number of international festival appearances and headline shows, with more dates to be added soon.

Hannah Cohen debuts ‘All I Wanted’

Today New York singer-songwriter Hannah Cohen is pleased to share another captivating new track from her forthcoming third album Welcome Home (due out April 26th on Bella Union) titled “All I Wanted”.

Hannah comments of the track: “The song is really something everyone has felt… that anticipation of being with your lover. Sometimes you play those moments in your head.”

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 “All I Wanted,”to the soul swagger of “Get in Line” and dramatic vocal leaps of “Wasting My Time.”

With Welcome Home“I don’t feel I have to cover up 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 Homein 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 Bay Area 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. Starting in May, Hannah Cohen will embark on an extensive North American tour supporting Foxwarren followed by some UK dates in August supporting Sam Evian.