Happy Release Day E.B. The Younger

Today at Bella Union we are celebrating the release of To Each His Own, the debut album by E.B. The Younger, the solo project from long standing Bella Union family member and Midlake frontman Eric Pulido. 

To Each His Own is a deeply personal record rooted in Pulido’s love of warm, glowing rock, folk and country hues that came of age in the 1970s woven with contemporary recalibrations: guitars ripple, sigh and sizzle alongside gliding keyboards over crisp, choppy and becalmed rhythms. Pulido’s lyrics equally look back and forth, philosophising about his place in the world, the choices he’s made, and where they have taken him.

Or, as he describes To Each His Own, “an eleven-song journey through the life and times of a wayward Midlaker seeking to find purpose in an uncharted land. Will he find his way? Listen, and ye shall find.”

Pulido’s “wayward” phase began in 2014 with a break from Midlake, “to invest time in kids and musical projects less physically demanding”, he says. His first project was the transatlantic collective BNQT, a self-described ‘poor man’s Travelling Wilburys’ featuring Pulido, Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Fran Healy (Travis), Jason Lytle (Granddaddy) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) who recorded the 2017 album BNQT – Volume 1. But To Each His Own is all Pulido – or rather, E.B. The Younger.

“It’s an antiquated way of naming a younger member of a family,” he explains. “I’m expressing, simply, that something greater came before me. It’s countering the idea in today’s culture that everything revolves around ourselves, that we’re the most important thing in the world. I feel that humility is a lost virtue – you only have to look at America’s current leader to see just how lost – which I want this record to represent. Honesty, empathy, love.”

In this case, honesty begins at home. Solo debutantes typically distance themselves from their musical past, but Pulido freely acknowledges Midlake’s presence on To Each His Own, from the three Midlakers in his backing band to an album title that stems from his memories of band discussions. Says Pulido: “It’s very common in bands to have artistic differences, and we were no exception. Saying ‘To each his own’ was almost a way to collectively acquiesce and move forward when differences would arise. It’s OK that we feel differently, because both opinions are valid. The phrase is also about me doing something on my own, a statement that it’s OK to define who you are outside of what has defined you before.”

With Pulido on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, he drafted in Midlakers (and BNQT contributors) Joey McClellan (electric guitar), McKenzie Smith (drums) and Jesse Chandler (flute), who dovetail with Scott Lee (bass), Daniel Creamer (keyboards) and Beau Bedford (keyboards) from local country-funksters The Texas Gentlemen to form an empathic ‘alt.Wrecking Crew’ of session players. Bedford is also the album’s principal producer, while studio engineer and Centromatic drummer Matt Pence acted as the overarching producer, alongside Pulido, as well as adding percussion and occasional drums.

As Pulido explains, “Midlake self-produced and recorded everything, but as with BNQT, I wanted to embrace collaboration. I’d present songs with just voice and acoustic guitar and ask the musicians where they heard things going, and so we built the songs up organically.”

Within that organic build, Pulido still had specific ideas in mind. He singles out the late, great Harry Nilsson as a key influence. “Midlake songs were often cerebral and minor-key and I wanted some of mine to be more playful and buoyant and major key, which Harry did so well, while still making deep, thoughtful music.”

Pulido also hears traces of The Eagles, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Wings and CS&N in To Each His Own, plus an “eighties vibe” to the record’s freewheeling lead single ‘Used To Be’, inspired by The Last Waltz, the film documentary about Pulido’s all-time favourites, The Band. As he recalls, “The guys are sitting backstage playing ‘Old Time Religion’, and Robbie Robertson says, ‘It’s not like it used to be!’, which has always stuck with me. But it’s OK by me that it’s not like it used to be. Embrace where you’re at, and look forward. Be both the old and the young.”

The closing title track emanates a palpable sense of peace while crystalising Pulido’s past-present/old-young mindset: “I’ve been about all alone / I’ve never felt so good before… And what we did before / No I do not ignore”. With a new BNQT album in the works Pulido is already looking forward. But his present is E.B The Younger, and his effortlessly melodic, gorgeous songs invested with honesty, empathy and love. Listen, and ye shall find.

Pom Poko announce headline Scala show

Fresh from playing a raucous and sold out album launch party at London’s Shacklewell Arms, Norwegian noise-makers Pom Poko have sold out their headline show at The Lexington in April and have now added a Scala headline show to their UK tour in October.

The band will play Scala on Weds 23rd October and tickets for the new show are now on sale here. Today’s tour news coincides with an Album of theDay feature on BBC 6 Music for the band’s debut album, ‘Birthday’, which is out now on Bella Union. Between the Norwegian quartet’s sweetly punky melodies and disco-fried art-rock eruptions, a spirit of free-firing, balls-out individuality courses through their exhilarating debut.

Penelope Isles share official “Chlorine” audio

Having recently announced their signing to Bella Union, and about to head off to the US to play a bunch of shows at SXSW, Penelope Isles have today shared the track ‘Chlorine’ from their upcoming debut album, due for release later this year. Bright and brisk, wide-eyed and wistful, ‘Chlorine’ is a dreamy introduction to the instinctive charms and alt-rock chops of the Isle of Man-via-Brighton quartet, forged around siblings Jack and Lily Wolter.

Penelope Isles are about to head off to the US for three shows in New York this weekend followed by SXSW in Austin, Texas next week, the dates and info of which can be found here.

Last week also saw Penelope Isles reveal another new track from the album, as Stereogum premiered a live recording of LP standout “Gnarbone”. 

Liela Moss announces “A Little Bit Of Rain” EP

Having recently supported Villagers on their UK tour, Liela Moss has today announced news of a new 4–track EP of cover versions titled A Little Bit Of Rain due for release 29th March via Bella Union. The EP features cover versions of a number of rain–themed songs by the likes of Eurythmics, Ann Peebles, Scott Walker and The Cure. Liela has shared the track “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles which you can listen to below…

Of the EP Liela says: “Maybe because I’m a bit neurotic about tidying, sorting and indexing things in my life, I thought that creating sets of cover versions would be a good thing to record this year. I began making lists and categorising things that are related in my mind but nobody else’s! I might do a collection about Weather, Elements, Utensils (watch out for that one) … stuff that is so everyday that we forget to stop and give it a kiss. Essentially I wanted a plaything for new ways of production. Making these covers has been a learning exercise and a way to pay homage to songs that haunted my childhood, including the title which waves a little hello to luscious Karen Dalton.”

Liela will be performing at The Great Escape inBrighton on Saturday 11th May at a night hosted by Bella Union with label mates Jambinai, Piroshka and Pom Poko amongst others. Further details will be announced soon.

Lielareleased her debut solo album My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth on Bella Union in November. Press quotes below:

“The Duke Spirit frontwoman swaps alt–rock for lush stateliness, with echoes of Kate Bush and Burt Bacharach, and lyrics to adore.” The Guardian – 4 Stars ****

“Evoking Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at their most avidly orchestral, Moss delivers a sumptuous set of glorious ballads that emphasise her expressiveness as a vocalist.” Uncut – 8/10

“Sumptuous… Steeped in piano, strings, bass and reverb, it’s intimacy on a grand scale… Moss has dug very deep to make the best record of her life.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“There’s a lushness to the arrangements that help showcase her strong voice, and an abundance of winning choruses… A solidly impressive album.” Q

“Her vocal unfurls mesmerically across the ten tracks… An expansive and elemental reawakening.” Long Live Vinyl – 8/10

“A vibrant, urgent, biting return, one that confounds expectations while feeling utterly true to Liela Moss’  blueprint.” CLASH

“One of rock’s great (if under appreciated) voices.” Rolling Stone Magazine

“Grandly orchestrated a la Massive Attack, with Moss’ voice simultaneously shuddering and sultry.” Classic Pop

“An arresting album… Musical drama spills from the speakers.” The Arts Desk – 4 stars ****

A Little Bit Of Rain will be released 29th March via Bella Union.

Soundwalk Collective announce “The Peyote Dance” with Patti Smith

The sound of walking in a Mexican canyon transforms into the distinct beat of the heart, distant chants, sticks, stones, and the whistle of blowing wind: The Peyote Dance, a new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, produced in collaboration with Leonardo Heiblum and Nicolas Becker, out 31st May via Bella Union, is a soundtrack of elements that invites us to explore a sacred space. The album takes as its starting point Antonin Artaud’s book “The Peyote Dance”, a work inspired by his revelatory experiences with the Rarámuri in 1936, and is being announced today, 4th March, to mark the anniversary of Artaud’s death. A first track has been shared, “The New Revelations Of Being”, and the album is available to preorder here.

The Peyote Dance is the first in a triptych of albums to be released by Bella Union over the next year titled The Perfect Vision, which take their inspiration from the writings of three emblematic French poets: Antonin Artaud, Arthur Rimbaud and René Daumal,and their necessity to travel to different lands to acquire a new vision and perspective on themselves and artworks. Perhaps a perfect vision, it is one that allowed them to transcend forms and borders, both physical and mental. Recorded in the Sierra Tarahumara of Mexico, Abyssinian valley of Ethiopia, and Himalayan Summit of India respectively, the central idea is that each landscape holds sleeping memories that are the witness of human passage. Each album retraces the poets’ footsteps, channelled through on-location recorded soundscapes and musicalities, with Patti Smith revisiting the words that have been inspired by the landscapes. The triptych marks a new chapter in the collaboration between Soundwalk Collective (Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli) and Patti Smith, who first worked together on the album Killer Road in 2016.

The Peyote Dance focuses on a brief part of Artaud’s life, when he travelled to Mexico City in early 1936 to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Mexico on topics including Surrealism, Marxism and theatre. In the summer, he travelled by train towards the Chihuahua region, and saddled by horse to the Tarahumara mountains with the help of a mestizo guide, which the album’s opening track, recited by Gael Garcia Bernal, evokes. Artaud was drawn to the story of the Rarámuri: Native Indian people who live in the Norogachi region of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, the Sierra Tarahumara. One of Artaud’s goals was to find a peyote shaman who could heal him; allowing him to recover from an opioid addiction. During his stay, encountering the Rarámuri Indians and peyote shamans of Tarahumara, and engaging in ceremonies, Artaud had a transcendental experience which resulted in the book The Peyote Dance. For the eponymous album, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith revisited writings from the book, and others texts written after Artaud’s return to France, where he remained in a mental asylum in Rodez undergoing electric shock therapy. During this dark period, the encounter with the Rarámuri stayed with him as his last significant, happy experience. The penultimate track on the album is a poem written by Patti Smith in homage to Artaud’s last hours in Ivry.

The album’s sonic method originates in the idea of retracing Artaud’s steps and returning to the village and cave where he lived. Gathering stones, sand, leaves, and many instruments such as violins and drums that the Rarámuri made themselves, the artists were able to awaken the landscape’s sleeping memories and uncover the space’s sonic grammar. Hearing the wind blowing through the valley, or entering a cave, one will find a specific silence or resonance. “Taking peyote in those regions, you have the feeling that everything is communicating with you as it was for Artaud – nothing has changed,” says Stéphan Crasneanscki, the founder of Soundwalk Collective who travelled to the Sierra Tarahumara to record on-site. “On an atomic level, there is no separation between you and any other organism: trees, leaves, flowers, but also stones and sand. There is no duality. Everything is embedded, everything has a soul, and the soul is timeless. We are not alone. These sonic spaces are pre-existing to us and will exist after us, to be able to listen to them is an act of presence.”

Listening, reading and improvising to the tracks in the New York studio allowed Smith to channel Artaud’s spirit. “The poets enter the bloodstream, they enter the cells. For a moment, one is Artaud,” Smith says of becoming a conduit for the poet to speak through her, echoing the raw energy of the early punk scene. “You can’t ask for it, you can’t buy it, you can’t take drugs for it to be authentic. It just has to happen, you have to be chosen as well as choose.” The energy of his last poems reverberates and cannot be silenced, Smith says of The Peyote Dance. “We understand that this work and the artist are not dead, they find life in recording them.” The enduring power of Artaud’s text lies in its uncomfortable nature: 80 years after it has been written, it remains a disturbing, raw, explosive and trance-like chronicle of what it is to be alive. 

The Peyote Dance will be released 31st May via Bella Union.

Happy Release Day Pom Poko

We’re delighted to share with you all today the debut album from Norwegian quartet Pom Poko. To celebrate they will perform a free show tonight at The Shacklewell Arms in London. Get ready for a Crazy Energy Night!

Pom Poko are Ragnhild (lead vocals), Ola (Drums), Jonas (Bass) and Martin (Guitar). The 4 met whilst all studying at the Trondheim Music Conservatory in Norway and quickly garnered interest from a wider audience as they began playing and writing together. The group cite a range of influences for their unique sound, including “(West)-African music like Oumou Sangaré and Ali Farka Touré; indie bands like Vulfpeck, Palm and KNOWER; noisy high-energy bands such as Hella and Death Grips; and music with interesting lyrics such as Jenny Hval and Nick Drake.” But you’d struggle to pin them down to one or two forebears, given their resistance to anything resembling a prescriptive approach.

Speaking about the origin of their name, which taken from one of the more vigorously outré films by Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli, the band explain, “The Pom Poko film captures a lot of what we’d like our concerts to be: high energy, fast pace, lots of stimulus for eyes and ears – and most importantly, really crazy and fun. The movie is basically the time of your life for two hours, and afterwards you’re in some state of ex-hausted ecstasy. Plus the raccoons in the movie, and raccoons in general, are really ba-dass.”

The band’s own bad-ass-ery is writ large on album opener ‘Theme1’, which locates a sweet spot between Deerhoof and Battles as singer Ragnhild issues loud, clear rebel yells over Martin’s math-rock guitar. Singles ‘My Blood’ and ‘Follow The Lights’ layer seduc-tively sweet melodies over squalls of sound, while the funk-fired ‘My Work Is Full of Art’ offers a kind of mission statement: “I’ll just let freaky surround me,” sings Fangel.

Elsewhere, Pom Poko’s instinctive dynamism teases uplifting thrills from boundary-melt-ing experiments. Glacial shards of guitar bounce off steel-drum flurries on the rapid-fire serotonin fix of ‘Blue’, before the sweetly infatuated ‘Honey’ comes sequenced next to the thrashing tonal lurches of ‘Crazy Energy Night’. The sing-song title-track spikes the ranks of sweetly sad birthday songs with a rebellious sting (“I’m not your bitch!”), while ‘Daytrip-per’ is a commanding come-on from a band who are no more likely to mince their words than limit their range. ‘If U Want Me 2 Stay’ resembles ‘The Tra La La Song’ retooled as a sci-fi cyber-pop anthem of carefree defiance, while ‘Peachy’ closes the album with an exultant melody and one last declaration of transformative independence: “Watch me as I shape shift.”