Ren Harvieu announces new album ‘Revel In The Drama’

Having earlier signalled her return via the track “Teenage Mascara”, which was both Lauren Laverne’s Track of the Day and Jo Whiley’s Single Of The Week, Ren Harvieu has today announced news of her long-awaited new album Revel In The Drama, due for release 3rd April via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The album is a brilliant and bolder take on her timeless pop classicism, a compelling diary of a struggle with self-belief and a celebration of liberation and survival, seven years after her Top 5 debut album and having overcome a life-threatening injury. Think of Revel In The Drama as Harvieu’s second debut album; a new beginning. To celebrate the news Harvieu has shared a new track titled “Yes Please” which she describes as “A slow sensual dance of desire. I wanted to write about the art of seduction and the teasing power of being an unapologetic sexual being.”

Harvieu’s defiance against the odds and her willingness to lay herself open to make what she believed was within her is baked into every groove of the record, across every stylistic turn: the giddy pop of ‘Strange Thing’, the gothic swoon of ‘Cruel Disguise’, the smokey seductiveness of ‘Yes Please’ through to the stirring torchsong finale ‘My Body She Is Alive’.

Harvieu has come a long way from the 17-year-old who was signed to Island Records and who had no intention of becoming a singer-songwriter. Even when she made her debut album “Through The Night”, her confidence was low. “I did help write a few of the songs on that record, which I’m still very fond of, but I felt more of a mouthpiece for someone else’s talent, which eats away at you especially because I had so much to say lyrically I just hadn’t learnt how to as yet.”

Her injury – a broken spine following “a freak accident” between recording and releasing her debut album – undermined Harvieu even further. Likewise, Island parted ways with her six months after it’s release, despite a Top 5 chart entry, making the BBC’s Sound Of 2012, a 5-star live review from The Guardian and TV exposure. What followed was what Harvieu describes as “some very dark years” which she addresses in songs like ‘Spirit Me Away’ and the 50’s ballad-evoking ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ A split with her long term partner, her manager and then her beloved Salford. “In one fell swoop everything was gone. I knew I had to get away, start again, rebuild myself.” 

It wasn’t until 2015 to be exact, when she met Romeo Stodart, the Magic Numbers frontman and songwriter who had emailed after seeing her perform on Later… With Jools Holland, to ask if she’d consider writing together. “When we started, the energy was immediately different to anyone I’d worked with before, there was this insane instant musical connection” she says. “I loved that Romeo really embraced who I was and encouraged it, I was starting to realise that I didn’t have to be anything other than myself.”

The pair spent the next two years co-writing: “I wasn’t in a massive hurry, because at last I was having fun” Harvieu says. ‘We’d stay up all night drinking, dancing and playing music, I felt like I was re-discovering a girl who had been hidden, quietened. I’d tell Romeo, I don’t just want to paint pretty pictures I want to revel in the drama of my life, the good and the bad, before I was afraid to say something in my lyrics, but no longer. I felt free.” 

The album was co-produced by Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi Lynch, owner of Echo Zoo studio in Eastbourne where recording took place. “It was a truly magical experience working with Dave & Romeo, they are two absolute nurturing musical wizards.” says Harvieu. 

Harvieu’s lyrical confidence is evident throughout the album and has you leaning in to absorb line after line. Her voice, soaring and caressing in equal measure, is matched in force by her flirtatious personality. From the album’s opening lyric “Let me put my paws on you, strange thing” through to the feminine bite of ‘Curves And Swerves’ “I’ve got some curves and some swerves, what you gonna do about it?” which crackles with sexual tension and an aching vulnerability.

Among Harvieu’s new songs are messages of hope to her younger, anxious self. To the teenage goth Ren in ‘Little Raven’, she says: “I want you to know, that I’m starting to feel, but its gonna take time, but I’m ready to heal”. ‘Tomorrow’s Girl Today’ is to the Ren “who would make bad decisions… we can all be very self-destructive, but will we make it this time?” 

So what now, Ren Harvieu? “I’ve created a second chance for myself“ she says. “And I will keep creating second chances for myself, because this is my life and I’m not afraid to revel in it anymore.” Revel In the Drama of Ren Harvieu – finally we all can too…

the innocence mission announce ‘See You Tomorrow…’

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, due for release 17th January. 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 have shared a moving video for lead track “On Your Side”, created by Karen Peris, which beautifully weaves together her distinctive hand-drawn animation with striking black & white photography.

Sufjan Stevens, who has covered the innocence mission’s classic ‘Lakes Of Canada’, once called their music “moving and profound. What is so remarkable about Karen Peris’ lyrics is the economy of words, concrete nouns which come to life with melodies that dance around the scale like sea creatures.”

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

Dog In The Snow shares ‘Roses’

With the release of Bella Union debut LP Vanishing Lands less than a month away on 15th November, Dog In The Snow today share a video for the track “Roses”. The video is again directed by Jay Bartlett with whom Helen Ganya Brown, aka Dog In The Snow, collaborated on the videos for both “Dark” and “Dual Terror”. Of the video Bartlett says: “Keeping with the themes running through the triptych of music videos for Dog In The Snow we decided to shoot a one take video for Roses. Starting close and claustrophobic, the frame would open out slowly to reveal a harsh landscape that the artist is now a part of. Some sort of closure for the visuals. Shooting this was quite hellish. We were exposed to all the elements that day, but mainly wind and rain, and I think we only managed to a few takes before we were happy to wrap. Blue hands and numbness was the order of the day, however looking back over the footage, the weather totally aided the video’s look.” Of the track Helen Ganya Brown adds: “Roses is the first song I wrote with all the themes of Vanishing Lands in mind. ‘Some Survive, Thousands Die’ is a photograph by Alva White which spurred on the narrative of the song – a journey into an unknown land. It’s a song for those who take the risk every day in search of something better.”

UK Live info for Dog In The Snow listed below…

Friday 15th November – Brighton – Resident Records

Saturday 16th November – London – Rough Trade East

Sunday 17th November – Nottingham – Rough Trade

Tuesday 19th November – London – SET Dalston

Wednesday 20th November – Bristol – Rough Trade

Dog In The Snow’s album debut for Bella Union is Vanishing Lands, as imposing, haunting and luminous collection of songs in the darker spaces between dream-pop, art-rock and electronica, lifted by euphoric melodies, ravishing vocals and absorbing lyrics. The album was initially created at Brown’s home in Brighton before co-producer Rob Flynn helped her add shifting, impressionistic swathes of colour, from the ominous chords that open ‘Light’ to the vocal eddies that close ‘Dark’. Brown wrote 8 of the 10 songs in a 3-week spell after a period of “strange dreams”. She recalls: “Dreams in black and white. I found myself in a dreamland and discovered it was being destroyed. I chose Vanishing Lands as an album title because it sounded suitably desolate, and lent the songs a feeling of cohesion.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flaming Lips announce ‘The Soft Bulletin Recorded Live At Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’

On 26th May 2016, The Flaming Lips performed their universally acclaimed 1999 album The Soft Bulletin in its entirety with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. This particular event has been regarded by those in attendance as one of the most awe-inspiring, moving and magical moments of a lifetime. For the Lips and their fans, perhaps the apex of a magnificent interpretation that will remain as rewarding and emotionally-charged as it was that night in 2016. The Flaming Lips performed the 12-track album in its original sequence with new arrangements accompanied by a 69-piece orchestra and 56-strong chorus. The performance was conducted by the internationally celebrated conductor Andre De Ridder.

Now, the resulting live recording is being released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Soft Bulletin. The album was the band’s breakthrough moment and featured the hit singles “Race for the Prize” and “Waitin’ for a Superman.” The album will be released digitally and on CD on 29th November via Bella Union in the UK/Europe and Warner Bros in the rest of the world. A vinyl release will follow a few weeks later. Album pre-orders begin today and will include an instant download of “Race For The Prize” from the album. Click here to pre-order.

Response from the media for The Soft Bulletin was overwhelming in its praise:

“This is one of those albums people are going to obsess over for many years to come.” Pitchfork

“A joyous, celestial celebration of sound.” NME

“The eccentric Oklahoma outfit The Flaming Lips serenely release another winning neo-psychedelic recording. Densely textured but melodic… No one else has posited a parallel universe in which the Sixties and the Nineties exist simultaneously.” Rolling Stone

“The Soft Bulletin echoes the oft-mimicked Smiley Smile by The Beach Boys, with its psychedelic wobbliness, songs-within-songs and airy temperament.” Q Magazine

“Not just the best album of 1999, The Soft Bulletin might be the best record of the entire decade.”All Music

Introducing… SONIKKU

‘Sweat’ is the new single from London-based DJ and producer SONIKKU. Featuring underground popstar LIZ and co-written by Little Boots, ‘Sweat’ is a Minogue-inspired banger drenched in 80’s synths and pulsating bass-lines. Set in a dystopian bathhouse, the accompanying music video see’s SONIKKU and LIZ mutate and transform into abstract liquid shapes as the bathhouse slowly consumes them.

“After producing the instrumental for ‘Sweat,’ I knew I had to enlist the help of Victoria (aka Little Boots) to help me pen the lyrics,” says Tony Donson, the London-based musician who records as SONIKKU. “With our shared love of Kylie and unapologetic pop, we wrote it after just one session. Then LIZ fell in love with the track after I played it her whilst I was on a writing trip in LA. Her Britney-esque ’tongue-in-cheek’ vocals on this track were a match made in heaven for me.

Having moved from Derby to London at the age of 18, Donson worked as an intern (at MTV, Dazed & Confused, SHOWstudio) then turned to DJing (from London to Tokyo, Paris and Berlin) after he was signed to London label Lobster Theremin. Though he continues to DJ regularly at Tottenham’s LGBTQ rave-up Adonis, he has extra ambitions in mind: “I love DJing but I’m more looking forward to developing a live show.”

A recent signee to Cocteau-Twins-founded label Bella Union, SONIKKU is set to release several more singles (featuring guest vocals from Chester Lockhart, Little Boots, Douglas Dare and more) alongside a full length LP slated for spring 2020.

Penelope Isles share ‘Round’ video

Brighton based brother/sister led quartet Penelope Isles released their incredible debut album Until the Tide Creeps In this Summer via Bella Union, and are about to embark on their first-ever North American tour. Today the band are pleased to announce that TOLEDO will be joining them on their upcoming tour dates, and release a music video for “Round” to celebrate. Watch the video now and get your tickets to an upcoming show near you HERE.

The band’s  Jack Wolter, who directed the music video as well as wrote and produced the track, says: 

“‘Round’ was the first song I wrote when I moved to Brighton a few years ago. I wrote it on a dan electro 12 string, which I had to sell to pay the rent. We played the song constantly when we first started gigging and ended up leaving it out of the set for a while. We revisited it, as it felt weird to not include it on this record. We made the video in Brighton on one of the hottest days of the year. It consists of footage of Lily, dressed in a large round blow-up suit that pulsates with bright psychedelic colours and floating images of the band. We had a laugh making this one!” 

Penelope Isles are also pleased to share Penny Isles TV, a new way for fans to keep up to date with the band while they are on the road. Watch episode 2, which features outtakes from the bands first trip to SXSW earlier this year!