Happy Release Day Ezra Furman

Out today on Bella Union is ‘Twelve Nudes’, the electrifying new album from the one and only Ezra Furman.

Twelve Nudes is our punk record,” says Ezra Furman. “We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

Immediate proof is offered by ‘Calm Down’ (aka ‘I Should Not Be Alone’), the album’s insanely catchy opening track and lead single, bound up in a compact two minutes and 22 seconds.

“Desperate times make for desperate songs” says Furman. “I wrote this in the summer of 2018, a terrible time. It’s the sound of me struggling to admit that I’m not okay with the current state of human civilization, in which bad men crush us into submission. Once you admit how bad it feels to live in a broken society, you can start to resist it, and imagine a better one.” 

Furman’s preceding album, 2018’s Transangelic Exodus, was “an angry and fearful and pent-up reaction to events too,” he recalls. “But it was a carefully written and recorded version; we took a lot of time with edits and overdubs. I knew I wanted I make this album quickly and not spend time thinking how to play the songs. Twelve Nudes is a ‘body’ more than a ‘mind’ record – more animal than intellectual, And by affirming negativity, it gives you energy, to reject stuff. There’s more space for positivity.”

Far from being defeated by a world in turmoil, Furman’s productivity has only increased the worse things have got – and he’s taken up different disciplines to boot. Between Transangelic Exodus and Twelve Nudes, the 33⅓ imprint published his deeply personal, thoughtful and incisive book on Lou Reed’s legendary 1972 album “Transformer”, before Furman scored the soundtrack to Netflix’s acclaimed comedy Sex Education (it aired in January), which showcased the tender side of his songwriting.

But all his pent-up energy had to be channelled somewhere: hence Twelve Nudes, which Furman and band recorded in October and November 2018 before the album was mixed by the venerated producer John Congleton (Sharon van Etten, St Vincent, John Grant). Furman says the album has two spiritual heroes – the late great punk rock rocker Jay Reatard, and Canadian poet, philosopher and essayist Anne Carson. “She’s one of my top three living writers,” he says. “Anne had these visions, or meditations, to deal with the intense pain in her life, which she calls ‘nudes’, and similarly these songs are meditations on pain and recognising what’s there if you go digging around in your anger and fear and anxiety. So, my album is called Twelve Nudes.”

“The record is political,” says Furman, “but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” Furman’s Jewish identity shapes ‘Rated R Crusaders,’ triggered by the Israel/Palestine conflict and its complex web of refugee trauma. ‘Trauma’, meanwhile, seethes with the spiritual malaise brought on by watching wealthy bullies accused of sexual assault rise to power. America, Furman well knows, is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity; hence the references to Mexico, slaveowners and US ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin in ‘In America’. As Furman sings, reiterating the spirit of punk rock, and positivity, “Put it all in a two-minute pop song / A really-mean-it-a-lot song for America.

“One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” he concludes. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

“A raging hopelessness permeates Twelve Nudes, but the melodies are still indelible, the hooks still exhilarating… It’s the sound of someone exploding.” The Guardian – 4 stars ****

“America’s most refreshing indie artist… A short, sharp album, the eleven intense tracks spanning 28 minutes leave you yearning for more.” The Sun – 4 stars ****

“A remarkable talent.” The i (Album of the Week)

Twelve Nudes is visceral… An extraordinary record… This re–queering of pop hasn’t come a minute too soon.” Metro – 4 stars ****

“A howl as savage and desperate as the age… Religion, gender identity, abusive politicians and existential angst entwined into a primal gutter punk roar.” Classic Rock – 8/10

“Furman has come into his own with this… A rambunctious, exciting album about modern life and it’s unavoidable tensions.” The Times – 4 stars ****

Twelve Nudes is a call to arms built on John Lydon’s ‘Anger is an Energy’ mantra, awash with swagger and smart soundbites.” Sunday Times (Album of the Week)

“Righteous but abundantly melodious punk… He channels the wild, life–affirming energy of the Ramones and New York Dolls into something cathartic and rapturous… Twelve Nudes is a deliriously fun, seriously thought–provoking record that manages to gratify on every level.” Q – 4 stars ****

“Given that matters in America (and beyond) have only worsened since his last broadside, Furman has chosen to surrender to negativity and pain to deliver some kind of catharsis… Twelve Nudes’ unbridled howl, mania and joy is on the nose.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“In unleashing an indictment of the ills afflicting society, Furman not only creates a stunning protest record, he also stands as an example for action, channeling his power as a musician to illuminate systematic abuse and the lives it plagues.” Uncut – 8/10

“One of the best blatantly queer rock albums in years.” DORK – 5 stars *****

“At 11 songs and just over 25 minutes, it all makes for a short, sharp, exhilarating blast.” The Observer 

“Furman turns anger into a howl of resistance… His most urgent and cathartic record to date.” The Independent – 4 stars ****

“Thrilling… Anyone who says rock music has stopped making protest songs is talking balls. Play them Twelve Nudes. Long Live Vinyl – 9/10

“Anger is an energy on Ezra Furman’s new album… Blazing with explosive tunes and throat–shredding fervour, Twelve Nudes leads by example.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

Twelve Nudes bleeds the hot, red blood of a man frustrated, confused and intensely pained by the state of our political and emotional dissonance. This is an album for losing your shit to.”  London In Stereo

“A furious stroll through rock’n’roll’s park.” Loud & Quiet  – 8/10

Twelve Nudes is out now on Bella Union.

Modern Nature share Nature video

Following rave reviews for their debut album, How To Live, out this week via Bella Union, and soon to head out on a headline UK tour, Modern Nature have shared a video for the track “Nature”. Of the video director Conan Robert says: “I’d been out filming Brighton Day of Dance earlier in the year, where Morris teams from all over the country come and spend the day dancing and drinking outside various pubs. It was more out of curiosity of this slightly bizarre British tradition than anything else. Jack Cooper saw some of the footage and thought it could be a great accompaniment to one of the tracks from the album. I cut the Morris footage and then independently cut the landscape footage before compositing the two. It was more an experiment in how the two images may or may not work together, exploring the synergy of the dancers movements alongside the shapes of nature.” 

Critical acclaim for How To Live, out now on Bella Union:

“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 ****

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

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

“Jack Cooper has struck gold with his latest band, finding the missing link between Fairport Convention and Kraftwerk… A quietly atmospheric, transporting collection.” The Times – 4 stars ****

“Combining pulsing motorik beats with textured, pastoral folk, Modern Nature weave their compelling magic… This is a debut to savour.” The Sun – 4 stars ****

“An album that takes the listener from a tense urban first half to a more restful rural ending… They are at their best on ‘Footsteps’, a fabulous blend of vocals, motorik drums and sax.” Sunday Times

“Lovely tunes… Krautrock–ishly propulsive with the bucolic qualities of The Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son and elsewhere recalling the otherworldly pop of Talk Talk.” Mail On Sunday – 4 stars ****

“On their smart, subdued debut, Jack Cooper and Will Young prize delicacy over punchy pop melodies, offsetting soft vocals with dissonant brass and background buzz.” The Guardian

“Blending pastoral psyche–folk with urban drones, burbling motorik melodies, and some mellow jazz skronk, the resulting late–night mix is laser–targeted for those who have Talk Talk, the Notwist and Yo La Tengo forever playlisted in their hearts… A confident, considered but above all gorgeous debut.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

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

“An endearing debut… Modern Nature feel like a long–lost cousin of Talk Talk or Wooden Shjips, as they combine simple guitars with motorik beats, soft synth pads and saxophone improvisations… Jack Cooper’s understated vocals only add to the album’s blissful allure… A compelling listen.” DIY – 4 stars ****

“Planted somewhere between Talk Talk and Tuung, the spacious arrangements, hushed vocals and dashes of saxophone and cello make their debut feel like a breath of fresh air.” Electronic Sound

“Jack Cooper and Will Young’s compositions don’t kick out the jams, they hypnotically stir them as a fortune teller would a cup of tea.” Shindig – 4 stars ****

“Takes the listener from an urban environment to rural escapism, the ten tracks here weave together pastoral ballads with gently looped guitars, Krautrock and atmospheric electronica.” Loud & Quiet

Happy Release Day Modern Nature

Out today on Bella Union is the outstanding debut album from Modern Nature, featuring members of Ultimate Painting, Woods, Beak> and Sunwatchers.

The city and the country both have distinct, vibrant energies – but there’s something happening in between, too. As factories give way to fields, and highways drift into gravelly roads, the friction can be palpable, the aura electric.

The lines between city and country were on Jack Cooper and Will Young’s minds when they named their new band Modern Nature. They took the phrase from the diaries of filmmaker Derek Jarman, written on the coast of Kent in his Dungeness cottage. Visiting Jarman’s home, Cooper was struck by what he calls a “weird mix of urban and rural” – such as the way a nuclear power station sits next to open grasslands.

On Modern Nature’s debut album, How to Live, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmoshperic waves of Harmonia.

Throughout this continuous work, where no song ever really seems to end, there’s an indelible feeling of constant forward motion. It’s as if the band is laying down a railway and riding it simultaneously, and you can hear all kinds of landscapes passing by.

The richness of the ideas in these songs is matched by the resonance of the music. Cooper and Young’s organic compositions gain muscle through the thoughtful cello of Rupert Gillett, the insistent drumming of Aaron Neveu (of compatriot outfit Woods), and the expressive saxophone of Jeff Tobias, from Brooklyn jazz/rock juggernaut Sunwatchers. Each track on How to Live evolved as these creative forces joined the group, and it shows. The entire album courses with both precision and vitality, and is a work of surprising layers and limitless depths. Modern Nature may have been inspired by the line between urban and rural, but with How To Live they’ve gone a step further, and created their own complete world.

Critical acclaim for How To Live, out now on Bella Union:

“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 ****

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

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

“Jack Cooper has struck gold with his latest band, finding the missing link between Fairport Convention and Kraftwerk… A quietly atmospheric, transporting collection.” 

The Times – 4 stars ****

“Combining pulsing motorik beats with textured, pastoral folk, Modern Nature weave their compelling magic… This is a debut to savour.” The Sun – 4 stars ****

“An album that takes the listener from a tense urban first half to a more restful rural ending… They are at their best on ‘Footsteps’, a fabulous blend of vocals, motorik drums and sax.” Sunday Times

“Lovely tunes… Krautrock–ishly propulsive with the bucolic qualities of The Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son and elsewhere recalling the otherworldly pop of Talk Talk.” Mail On Sunday – 4 stars ****

“On their smart, subdued debut, Jack Cooper and Will Young prize delicacy over punchy pop melodies, offsetting soft vocals with dissonant brass and background buzz.” The Guardian

“Blending pastoral psyche–folk with urban drones, burbling motorik melodies, and some mellow jazz skronk, the resulting late–night mix is laser–targeted for those who have Talk Talk, the Notwist and Yo La Tengo forever playlisted in their hearts… A confident, considered but above all gorgeous debut.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

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

“An endearing debut… Modern Nature feel like a long–lost cousin of Talk Talk or Wooden Shjips, as they combine simple guitars with motorik beats, soft synth pads and saxophone improvisations… Jack Cooper’s understated vocals only add to the album’s blissful allure… A compelling listen.” DIY – 4 stars ****

“Planted somewhere between Talk Talk and Tuung, the spacious arrangements, hushed vocals and dashes of saxophone and cello make their debut feel like a breath of fresh air.” Electronic Sound

“Jack Cooper and Will Young’s compositions don’t kick out the jams, they hypnotically stir them as a fortune teller would a cup of tea.” Shindig – 4 stars ****

“Takes the listener from an urban environment to rural escapism, the ten tracks here weave together pastoral ballads with gently looped guitars, Krautrock and atmospheric electronica.” Loud & Quiet

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”