Happy Release Day Penelope Isles

Today at Bella Union we celebrate the debut album release from Brighton based band Penelope Isles. Until The Tide Creeps In is available now and you can catch this fantastic live band across Europe and America.

Praise for Penelope Isles’ Until The Tide Creeps In…

“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.”

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.

Modern Nature share ‘Footsteps’

Having recently announced the release of their debut album How To Live, available 23rd August via Bella Union, along with news of a headline UK tour in September, Modern Nature have today shared a video for new single “Footsteps”. Of the video director Jake McGowan says: “The film takes place in a day, or is it a week or year or… the cyclical monotony of life and the strides we take to better our selves, our living conditions. Simultaneously seeking isolation and stimulation. Often out of body sometimes punctuated by your own internal film sequences and flashbacks. Sometimes we need a refresh, a cleanse, to bring us back to some kind of reality.” 

Modern Nature frontman Jack Cooper adds: “One of the threads through the album is a journey from the chaos of the city to the sanctuary of the country, so we wanted to condense that idea down over the course of Footsteps with the final scene being a baptism… washing everything away. There were a few films that felt very present when writing the album, so there’s some references to Mike Leigh’s Naked, Withnail and I, Tales From A Hard City, Emily Lloyd in Wish You Were Here and The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Perrin.”

Modern Nature’s music has been described as “compelling” by MOJO, “auspicious” by Uncut and “magical” by Shindig magazine, while in a recent One To Watch feature the Observer said: “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.” 

Modern Nature will be performing at festivals including Port Eliot and Green Man over the summer, and recently announced news of a headline UK tour in September. Full dates here.

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.

Creep Show share ‘Safe and Sound’ video + Kincaid remix

Having recently announced news of their first ever UK tour (dates here) in October 2019, Creep Show have today shared a video and remix for “Safe and Sound”, the standout closing track from their debut LP, Mr Dynamite, released last year on Bella Union. Creep Show brings together John Grant with the dark analogue electro of Wrangler (Stephen Mallinder / Phil Winter / Benge). Recorded in Cornwall with a lifetime’s collection of drum machines and synthesisers assembled by Benge and explored by every member of Creep Show, Mr Dynamite conveys real sense of freedom in the shackles-off grooves, channelling the early pioneering spirit of the Sugarhill Gang through wires and random electric noise. 

Of the “Safe and Sound” video, director Dan Conway says: “’Darling, look up to the sky…’ was my initial inspiration, imagining this fella having to venture off into the unknown, separated from his partner, facing the future, come what may. Why not endure this journey in a spinning disco craft, projecting love and positivity out to the universe. Stephen Mallinder had the idea of actually populating the disco ship with four space men to represent the band… Et voila!”

Of the “Safe and Sound” remix Kincaid says: “The original track had this gated rhythmic feel to it that I immediately was drawn to, so when it came to writing the remix I tried to play on the slightly unsettling feeling that gave and make the remix into something a little more sinister.”

Bella Union sign up to Keychange 50/50 Pledge

Bella Union are pleased to be the first independent label to be signed up to the Keychange initiative, as announced yesterday by the PRS Foundation in the press ( The Guardian, Music Week, etc), a pledge to strive for 50-50 gender parity in our industry.

The international initiative – led by PRS Foundation and supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union – was launched in 2018 to empower women to transform the future of the music industry.

The Keychange pledge has since seen more than 180 festivals sign up and commit to programming gender balanced line-ups by 2022. Today’s announcement sees the pledge expand to include conservatoires, orchestras, broadcasters, concert halls, agents, labels and any music organisations seeking to achieve a better gender balance in the industry.

Below are some words from Bella Union label boss Simon Raymonde with regards to the partnership…

“A few years ago when the Keychange initiative took shape, even though it was focused on festivals, I thought it would be interesting to check myself and my own company. Anyone aware of my own personal music career which to date spans a ridiculous 44 years, can see at a glance the major influence a huge number of great women have had on me. I was thinking of where it started and of course Mum may seem an obvious place but bringing up 4 children with a musician-husband working weeks at a time away from home is a remarkable achievement that I am still in awe of. After that I’d say in my impressionable teens The Slits, Siouxsie, Patti Smith, Tina Weymouth, all blew my mind in various ways, up to the point i joined Cocteau Twins with Elizabeth Fraser and life would never be the same again. Looking at our roster in 2017 as Keychange was launched, more out of curiosity than anything we were pleased to see that without realising it, we already had a clear 50-50 gender split among the artists. A couple of years later and a recent check last week showed a further rise in our artist roster numbers but still a total 50-50 mix. It’s beautiful happy accident of course that we appear to have arrived at this point with such a balance, with no prior thought processes, but this natural blend feels to be the point most note-worthy. If we are to encourage other businesses within our sector to embrace a gender balance, what better way than to show by example that it should be entirely natural and comfortable. In our office we have 2 women and 2 men, our management side is split 50-50 and our vinyl shop staff in Brighton is split 4 women and 4 men. We are proud of our team, and we celebrate our attributes and our differences as things of beauty and positivity. It seems from the inside looking out that while a lot of women enter the label business, not enough are being offered the senior positions and we are still being dominated by a surplus of white middle-aged males. Now I am indeed a white middle -aged male myself but I wholly rely on my wife and management partner Abbey to help US make the right decisions in business, and I fully rely on Anika and Danielle from our UK label office to effectively run over half of the artists’ campaigns. 

Some people will fight any external pressure to re-evaluate their long-established structures because let’s face it, change is slow in this business. Many will do anything to avoid looking at ways of doing things differently. 

Signing up to a commitment to become gender balanced can only be a positive step forward. We have to move past these prejudices about women. I heard one label boss a few years ago say at a conference about a female colleague “She’s great but she’s bound to get pregnant soon and leave us in the lurch”. This attitude needs to be challenged, and if this initiative brings more talented women into our companies then i have no doubt that those companies will be all the richer for it, and ultimately stronger the next challenges have to be to promote more women to management and leadership positions within our companies. For sure, men do have an important role to play in providing the right support in this, but thankfully in the independent sector that i traverse, i can see a younger generation of men understanding these issues and helping in advancing the arguments.”