Introducing… Dog In The Snow

Bella Union are thrilled to introduce Dog In The Snow, the moniker of Brighton–based artist Helen Ganya Brown. Dog In The Snow’s Bella Union debut is Vanishing Lands, released 15th November via the label and available to preorder here. An 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. Dog In The Snow has shared a striking b/w video for lead track “Dark”, directed by Jay Bartlett, of which he says: “On the surface Dark sounds ominous, but within the context of the album it was clear that it was a jubilant release. A celebration of accepting nature’s rule and rolling with what life throws at you. With this video we wanted to be around as much nature as possible. Hiding the beauty of England in seemingly macabre shots, and from that, create compositions that could could hold their own as a photo in their own right.”

Vanishing Lands 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 Frank 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.” 

Upcoming Dog In The Snow UK live shows below:

Sunday 17th November – Nottingham – Rough Trade

Tuesday 19th November – London – SET

Wednesday 20th November – Bristol – Rough Trade

Vanishing Lands will be released 15th November via Bella Union

Sumie announces Mirou EP

Having released her sophomore album back in late 2017, Sumie has today announced the release of her upcoming EP titled ‘Mirou’ which features five brand new tracks. The first track to be shared from the EP is ‘Moon’, described by Sumie as “a song about the dreams you have when you sleep. Where you can be anyone, anything and anywhere with someone you love.” She went on to say  that… “Moon was the first song I composed from the EP and it is a conversation I wish I had done while I had the opportunity. It did set the tone for the other songs that followed it.” Watch the accompanying video for ‘Moon’, beautifully shot at Gothenburg’s Botanical Garden below…

Critical acclaim for Sumie…

“Direct, simple yet unpredictable vocal melodies are delivered in a pure voice… Leonard Cohen and Roy Orbison would recognise a kindred spirit on Lost In Light… Affecting and shot through with tension.” MOJO

Lost In Light is a beautiful album and is a quiet triumph of wistful restraint.” Monocle

“Beautifully disarming.” Loud & Quiet

“The songs on Sumie’s beautiful debut are contemplative, rueful and desolate… Small chamber works they may be, but these songs achieve a huge impact.” Sunday Times

“With a voice pitched between the icy clarity of Nico, the controlled sultriness of Julie London and the stark melancholy of sibylle Baier, Sumie blends Japanese and Scandanaivian folk.” Uncut

Mirou EP will be released digitally via Bella Union on 13th September 2019. 

Pom Poko debut new track ‘Leg Day’

Renowned for their raucous live shows, Norwegian quartet Pom Poko today share the video for  brand new track Leg Day. Having released their debut album Birthday earlier this year through Bella Union this new track heralds news of further UK shows  – including a run of dates as guests of label-mate Ezra Furman  and follows previously sold-out shows at The Shacklewell Arms and The Lexington in London.

Presenting some context, the band explain; “Leg Day is one of our personal live favourites, because it’s so dancey and usually gets our pulse up quite a bit. The song was written over the course of a year, while we figured out how it should be played, before we found its final form as a Frankenstein distorted disco song about superheros and appreciating one’s legs, and recorded it as the sole inhabitants of a small northern Italian village.”

Pom Poko’s sweetly pop-punk melodies and disco-fried art-rock eruptions together with a sense of free-firing spirit, balls-out individuality is highlighted on Birthday and mirrored no less so in an exhilarating live set. A busy summer in attendance at numerous European festivals is followed by a welcome return to these shores including their biggest UK show to date at London’s Scala. The band then return for a run of shows as guests of label-mate Ezra Furman in November – the full live itinerary is:

August

30 Parkfest, Berlin (RadioEins) DE

September

01 End Of The Road Festival, Dorset UK

October

12 Twisterella, Middlesbrough UK

13 Sneaky Pete´s, Edinburgh UK

14 Phase One, Liverpool UK

15 Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds UK

16 BBC6 live session, Manchester UK

17 Deaf Institute, Manchester UK

18 Wild Paths, Norwich UK

19 Simple Things, Bristol UK

21 The Hope & Ruin, Brighton UK

22 The Joiners, Southampton UK

23 Scala, London UK

24 The Hope & Ruin, Brighton UK

25 Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff UK

26 Hare & Hounds, Birmingham UK

November

11 QMU, Glasgow UK **

12 Albert Hall, Manchester UK* *

13 O2 Academy, Bristol UK **

14 O2 Forum Kentish Town, London UK **

24 Vega Small Hall, København DK **

26 Debaser Strand, Stockholm SE **

** supporting Ezra Furman

NME 

There’s just so much fun to be had with the Norwegian’s art-rock band’s gloriously unhinged debut, an eccentric work that’s no slave to algorithm.”

TLOBF  

“Pom Poko go for broke on their debut album, throwing everything they have against the wall with 

DIY

“..a debut full of fired-up, spiky pop hits”

Modern Nature share ‘Séance’

With their much–anticipated debut album How To Live due for release 23rd August via Bella Union, and already the subject of excellent reviews in the likes of Q, MOJO and Uncut, Modern Nature have today shared a new track entitled “Séance” from the LP. Of the track Modern Nature frontman Jack Cooper says: “Séance closes out the first half of the album and the intention was for it to represent an anxiety episode that descends into a breakdown, hence the cut up tape edits and collapse. The themes in the words hopefully come across in the way we played the song… It’s taught and stuttering, Will’s organ melody moving against the rhythm is my favourite part of the album. The ‘take shelter’ line is lifted from the Jeff Nichols film of the same name… the perfect study of existential dread and impending doom. I think it’s a pretty topical song…”

“A creative evolution from Cooper’s previous music, with a quiet new clarity and purpose at play.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“An open and expansive project, manifested in a sound that lashes woody, folky textures to an insistent motorik pulse.” Uncut ­– 8/10

“There’s a real ambition to Modern Nature’s debut album… Pastoral prog and horizon–chasing Krautrock push onwards, while organ drone and saxophone add to the exploratory mood.” Q – 4 stars ****

“Taking their cues from the tender falsetto of English folkman Nick Drake, the free-form rhythms of Alice Coltrane and the rattling guitars of Radiohead, Modern Nature’s debut EP is a sprawling journey through an imagined natural landscape.” The Observer (Ones to Watch)

You can catch Modern Nature live in the UK this summer and fall, including at the newly announced in-store appearances the weekend of release. Full dates can be found here.

Penelope Isles share ‘Cut Your Hair’

Today the Brighton based quartet Penelope Isles, led by brother and sister Jack and Lily Wolter, have released “Cut Your Hair” from their forthcoming debut album Until the Tide Creeps In, due out this Friday on Bella Union.

Flood premiered the song, saying: “…the five-minute slow-burner is its own unique brand of noisy pop, lurching along before opening up into a heavy, guitar driven downpour.” You can listen to the beautiful and spacious, slow burning jam below, and pre-order the album HERE. Additionally, the band is happy to reveal details for their first ever North American tour, taking place this fall. Full list of the band’s dates below. Tickets will be available for purchase HERE starting Friday.

Jack Wolter had this to say about the song: “One of my favourite songs to play live. The slow sludgy groove always feels like a refreshing moment in the set. I wrote it in our old garage on the Isle Of Man whilst in uncertainty of whether or not to move away to pursue a career in music or not. I had a small studio set up and it started with the drum groove and the rest happened really quickly. I guess it’s a fictional tale and concept of what could have been me if I didn’t have a go at doing ‘the band thing’. A don’t give up on your dreams kinda thing.

Early praise for Penelope Isles…

“Timeless and special… Unashamedly bight melodies that throw you into the sunlight and make the darker moments even more striking.” DIY

“A knockout album with instant charm… When Penelope Isles hit the spot they hit it with a dazzled burst of refracted light.” Metro

Until The Tide… is a generous, lively dream–pop offering. They soar like Spiritualized; they shimmer like Mazzy Star. On seven–minute epic ‘Gnarbone’ they go motorik, using found sound like Public Service Broadcasting.” London In Stereo

“Sweltering guitars scorch the earth [on ‘Chlorine’]… While summery synths and keys frolic in spaces left between the drum line and spiraling vocals, the riff phrases communicate nearly as much warmth and meaning as the lyrics do.” – Stereogum

“There is a grandeur to their songs, big and swelling, ebbs and flows…The whole band is seriously talented, and…seriously rock, too.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“Choppy guitar and thumping percussion combine to create a markedly DIY aesthetic throughout the video’s three minutes and five seconds of scrapbooked collage visuals. Said DIY aesthetic, both sonically as well as visually, operates as a self-aware style, one that brings an element of dirty garage rock to the haze of dream-pop flushes.” – Paste

“…a dreamy but biting piece of guitar pop…soaring, pastoral, highly intelligent songwriting.” – Clash Music

Formed around the chemistry between siblings and dual songwriters Jack and Lily Wolter, Until the Tide Creeps In is an album deepened by shared experience. Born in Devon and raised on the Isle of Man, the Wolters’ bonds were strengthened by separation when Jack moved away to study art at university at 19, when Lily was 13. As he puts it, wryly, “By the time I moved home Lily was not so much of an annoying younger sister anymore and had grown up and started playing in bands and writing songs. We soon became very close. I had written some songs, so we started a band called Your Gold Teeth. We toured a bit and then Lily left for Brighton to study songwriting. A couple of years later I moved down and we started Penelope Isles together.” For every sibling band forged in rivalry, many others mount an unassailable genetic argument for keeping the music in the family. The latter is assuredly the case with Penelope Isles, a quartet completed by Jack Sowton and Becky Redford.

Crisp and woozy, blissful and biting, Until the Tide Creeps In is an album deepened by shared experience: experiences of, in Jack’s words, “leaving home, moving away, dealing with transitions in life and growing up. We are six years apart, so we had a different experience of some of this, but we share a similar inspiration when writing music.”

Until the Tide Creeps In is released tomorrow via Bella Union.

The Soft Cavalry share ‘Never Be Without You’ video

With the release of their self-titled debut album just over a week away (via Bella Union), The Soft Cavalry (the husband/wife duo of Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell of Slowdive) have today shared a video for new single “Never Be Without You”, animated by James Bates.

Of the video Clarke comments: “I can’t quite remember how the idea for this one started but as it developed I could sense it was going to turn into something of a love song. I don’t really like writing love songs. I’ll leave that to the masters and the true romantics. All relationships are different and I therefore certainly don’t feel qualified to make blanket statements on the subject.The lyric had to be honest. About the importance of relationships as well as the struggles and responsibilities that are often created by other things in your lives. Rachel’s son Jesse downloaded an app (as he often does) on my phone. A game called Limbo. It’s pretty dark and depicts a little character making his way through a forest, coming up against all kinds of traps and weird creatures. This kind of kick started the idea for the video that James Bates has so brilliantly executed. We didn’t want the creatures to be too scary – hint at the idea of them as something to be concerned about… but equally playful in design.James drew every one of these characters by hand before animating them. A true labour of love.”

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 labor 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, labor 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. 

Just ahead of the album’s release on July 5th, The Soft Cavalry will also make their live debut, with headline shows in London and Manchester.