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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Laura Snapes

Philippe Zdar: a studio master who gave pop a peerless joie de vivre

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 20 Jun 2019 2:00 pm

The French producer has died after a freak accident – but leaves a legacy as a bon viveur who sprinkled everyone from Phoenix to Kanye West with his magic

Philippe Zdar knew about the beauty of chance moments. On his first day as a tea boy at Studio Marcadet on the outskirts of Paris in the late 1980s, he earned respect when it turned out that, improbably, he was the only person present who knew how to roll a spliff. On his third day, Jane Birkin came to record, before a performance that night. She was suffering from chronic back pain and required a cortisone shot that nobody knew how to administer. The show would be cancelled if she didn’t get it. Zdar, fresh from his national service stint as an army nurse, volunteered to inject her. You can picture the scene: French music veterans holding their breath as a young scrapper performs DIY medicine on a national icon. It worked: the show went on, and studio owner Dominique Blanc-Francard hired the young Zdar.

After providing nascent productions for French rapper MC Solaar alongside Hubert Blanc-Francard (AKA Boom Bass), Zdar had a revelation on a dancefloor: in December 1992, he took ecstasy at a rave and realised he had to pursue his love of Detroit techno and Chicago house. He was encouraged by an offer from James Lavelle of Mo’ Wax to release his and Blanc-Francard’s Solaar productions as instrumental tracks. In 1994, the pair released two influential EPs of house, techno, hip-hop and breakbeat as La Funk Mob, before forming Cassius. Zdar also formed Motorbass with Étienne de Crécy, and helped define the sample-heavy, filtered take on house that would become known as French touch. But he turned down label deals, and remained sceptical of the scene and the speed with which this new sound coalesced into cliche.

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Cassius’s Philippe Zdar dies in fall from Paris building

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 20 Jun 2019 7:26 am

French producer worked for acts including Phoenix, Kanye West and the Beastie Boys

The French DJ and producer Philippe Zdar has died after accidentally falling from a building in Paris, his agent has said. He was 52 years old.

Zdar, born Philippe Cerboneschi, and Hubert Blanc-Francard had produced tracks for the French rapper MC Solaar before founding the dance music duo Cassius in 1989.

Related: Sign up for the Sleeve Notes email: music news, bold reviews and unexpected extras

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Avicii’s family announce posthumous album by Swedish DJ

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 5 Apr 2019 4:28 pm

The EDM star’s final album will feature artists including Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Aloe Blacc

The family of Avicii have announced a posthumous album from the late Swedish DJ. At the time of his death from suicide in April 2018, at the age of 28, Tim Bergling was close to completing his third album. His family report he left behind “a collection of nearly finished songs, along with notes, email conversations and text messages about the music”.

Executives from Bergling’s label, Universal Music, asked his regular collaborators rather than invite superstar names to be part of the project, according to the New York Times. The highest-profile musician on the album, Chris Martin of Coldplay, had worked with Bergling and was invited to sing on a song named Heaven.

Related: 'It will kill me' – behind the devastating Avicii documentary

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Grammy nominations 2019: Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Drake lead the pack

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 7 Dec 2018 5:31 pm

Strong showing for female and hip-hop artists suggest renewed focus on diversity – but it’s a mediocre year for British acts

After controversy about the Grammys’ failure to recognise women’s achievements at the 2018 ceremony, female artists dominate key categories in the nominations for the 2019 awards. Country stars Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves, rapper Cardi B, pop futurist Janelle Monáe and Lady Gaga could all take home major awards at the 61st Grammy award ceremony in Los Angeles next February.

Elsewhere, Kendrick Lamar and Drake dominate proceedings, with eight and seven nominations respectively. Along with Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, they could rectify the other dispute that emerged from this year’s awards – namely the Recording Academy nominating but not awarding major hip-hop artists.

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Marie Davidson: Working Class Woman review – tormented techno subverted by humour

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 5 Oct 2018 9:00 am

(Ninja Tune)

As anyone who sat through The Handmaid’s Tale knows, dystopian art can become self-inflicted punishment. There has been plenty of grindingly bleak music released recently, much of it impressively hostile if not exactly the stuff of repeat listens. Two recent albums have demonstrated how to reflect contemporary horror more effectively: Low’s Double Negative tempers terror with empathy, while Québécois producer Marie Davidson’s fourth solo album uses the blackest humour to subvert her nasty, tormented techno with its pointed clubbing critique.

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Gary Numan ‘utterly devastated’ as tour bus kills elderly pedestrian in Ohio

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Tue 25 Sep 2018 1:37 pm

Singer cancelled Cleveland concert after his bus hit a 91-year-old man at a pedestrian crossing

British musician Gary Numan has said he is “utterly devastated” after his tour bus struck and killed a 91-year-old man in Cleveland, Ohio, according to reports.

Police said the bus was making a right turn when it hit the pedestrian, who was pushing a cart and died at the scene on Monday. Numan cancelled his performance at the House of Blues venue that evening.

Related: Gary Numan: ‘Eye contact is something I find incredibly difficult’ | This much I know

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Gazelle Twin: Pastoral review – techno tormentor tramples tedium

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 21 Sep 2018 10:30 am

Anti-Ghost Moon Ray

In 2000, the UK garage duo Oxide and Neutrino released Bound 4 Da Reload, a single that sampled the Casualty TV show theme. There are moments on the third album by Brighton’s Gazelle Twin that sound unflatteringly like Fever Ray remixing the “Is that your final answer?” music from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, adding leering melodrama to conventional ticking signifiers of peril. Often on Pastoral, Elizabeth Bernholz’s attempts to defamiliarise the horrors of contemporary British society – Brexit, poverty, xenophobia – through absurdity land squarely on the nose.

The poor are “kicked into the curb like empty Coke cans”; shrill and fractured voices hector that it was “much better in my day”. The admirably nasty production – turning the thumbscrews on Chicago footwork, battering-ram techno, operatic vocals and sylvan folk – means that not only is Bernholz preaching to the converted, she’s also preaching to an audience who pride themselves on their tolerance for enduring hostility.

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Tirzah: Devotion review – quiet love stories from DIY R&B enigma

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 9 Aug 2018 12:00 pm

Making magic out of minimal patterns – with the help of old friend and producer Mica Levi – the singer spins alluring stories of intimacy and love

It has not been a vintage year for albums about love. Strenuous efforts by Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Dirty Projectors both had a whiff of protesting too much. With lyrics about his “purple” rubbing against his wife’s “pink”, Justin Timberlake’s lumberjack turn on Man of the Woods functioned like an artisanal, hand-whittled chastity belt. Rapturous declarations of romance feel gauche in calamitous times, and so the few smitten records to stick out in 2018 have had a smaller outlook. If there was anything to unite Kacey Musgraves’ cosmic country opus Golden Hour and the scruffy soul of Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor’s Beautiful Thing, it was their shared sense of grateful relief: thank God I don’t have to endure this hellscape alone.

Related: One to watch: Tirzah

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Scottish Album of the Year: Mogwai and Young Fathers among nominees

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Wed 1 Aug 2018 9:40 pm

The Scottish music industry’s long list recognises 20 contemporary albums

Mogwai, Young Fathers and Franz Ferdinand are among the 20 acts long-listed for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) prize. Now in its sixth year, the Scottish alternative to the Mercury prize awards £20,000 to the winning artist, with nine runners-up each receiving £1000.

Related: Safe Mercury shortlist once again raises questions about prize's purpose

Related: 'We like a party!' – why is Scottish pop so potent?

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Mystery images at tube station hint at new Aphex Twin album

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Mon 30 Jul 2018 12:01 pm

Logos appear on the walls of Elephant and Castle station near where British producer was rumoured to have lived in the 1990s

The logo associated with Aphex Twin has appeared on the walls of Elephant and Castle tube station in south London.

The appearance of the imagery has led to speculation that Aphex, AKA Richard D James, is preparing to release his seventh album as Aphex Twin. The pioneering British producer’s record label, Warp, confirmed to the Guardian that the campaign is official. The album would would follow the release of Syro in 2014, the Cornish producer’s first full-length release in 13 years. In 2017 he released a standalone single, 3 Gerald Remix /24 TSIM 2, and launched a bespoke listening platform containing unreleased material.

Aphex Twin is up to something. A cryptic 3D logo has cropped up in Elephant & Castle underground tube station. @NicoDeCeglia pic.twitter.com/xfUaeMo4uK

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Safe Mercury shortlist once again raises questions about prize’s purpose

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 26 Jul 2018 11:14 am

After grime was properly recognised at last year’s Mercury, the album prize is back to playing it safe, rewarding commercial success rather than creative innovation

The “token jazz album” has been part of the Mercury’s DNA since the prize’s inception in 1992. These brassy outliers – from that year’s Bheki Mseleku to Dinosaur in 2017 – never win, making their nominations seem like that Christmas card to a long-estranged acquaintance that you can’t quite bring yourself to stop sending. Once again, there is a jazz album on this year’s list – Sons of Kemet’s excellent Your Queen Is a Reptile – but for the first time in years, British jazz feels central to culture: vivid, youthful and relevant, intertwined with sweaty dancefloors rather than confined to rarefied enclaves.

Just as the Mercury gave grime its dues in 2016 and 2017 (this year limited to Novelist, for Novelist Guy), in 2018 we might have seen the token choice taken seriously, with – humour the thought – more than one jazz contender. Kamaal Williams’ The Return is oddly absent, and albums by Tenderlonious (The Shakedown featuring the 22archestra), Zara McFarlane (Arise) and Joe Armon-Jones (Starting Today) were similarly worthy of recognition.

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James Blake speaks out about struggle with depression

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Tue 3 Jul 2018 11:03 am

Musician says he has sought treatment for ‘suicidal thoughts’, and urges public figures to help remove stigma about mental illness

James Blake has discussed how the pressures of his early career led to him developing “suicidal thoughts”. “I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” said the 29-year-old British songwriter. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”

Speaking on a panel about the “suicide crisis in the arts population” at the annual symposium of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) in California on 1 July, Blake discussed how the superficial interactions of touring life left him feeling alienated, Billboard reports. “I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed,” he said. “Your connection to other people becomes surface-level. So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff, which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”

Please read. I've wanted to say this for a long time, and now seemed as good a time as any. pic.twitter.com/1fSPt7SJnx

Related: 'It's nothing like a broken leg': why I'm done with the mental health conversation

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Virginia Wing: the Manchester pop duo fighting the ‘indie edgelord’ sexists

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 14 Jun 2018 11:52 am

Faced with ranks of leering male fans on tour with Hookworms, Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay – creators of one of the albums of the year – played in front of an ‘end rape culture’ sign

Virginia Wing have developed a high tolerance for sexism since forming in 2012. Over doughnuts in a punky Manchester bakery, Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay laugh off the time one journalist temporarily shut down when Pillay went to the loo mid-interview. They’re used to the “unspoken mythos that he’s the puppet master and I’m the singer,” says Richards. The troglodytic sound guys aren’t even worth mentioning. “They’ll burn in hell!” Pillay decides.

But the synth-pop duo did reach breaking point on a recent “emotionally draining” tour with Leeds psych band Hookworms. They’re quick to affirm their love for the group and their mutual leftwing politics; the problem was the dissonance between Hookworms’ progressive worldview and their blokey fans. “Good old-fashioned rock music!” Richards imitates. “The good old days of Hawkwind and being openly sexist.”

Thanks very much to anyone who watched us at the @HOOKWORMS show in Brixton last night. We're in Sheffield tonight and it's the last show of the tour. Last call for any blokes looking to get very defensive after seeing the word 'rape' pic.twitter.com/n6UAoAksGD

Related: Virginia Wing: Ecstatic Arrow review – rhythmic dream pop with a bite

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Elysia Crampton: Elysia Crampton review – Aymara polymath invents dancefloor mythology

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 27 Apr 2018 9:30 am

(Break World Records)

The fourth release by Bolivian American producer Elysia Crampton contains just six songs and is 19 minutes long, but, as with all her work, it contains a universe of history and philosophical thought. In February, Crampton opened a performance with a lecture about an Andean god, and her self-titled album brings with it similar extra-textual depths. It’s dedicated to Ofelia, a woman credited with removing the mask from the female devil costumes worn by queer and trans people in Aymaran street festivities in the 1960s, and it is steeped in Andean and indigenous rhythms and ideas: taypi, the concept of space/time that Crampton describes as “radical asymmetry”, and pachakuti, the potential destruction of a power structure or hierarchy.

You can go as deep into the wormhole as you want with this stuff, and, if you can wrap your head around it, it may illuminate a deep listen. But no good record ever required footnotes – and nor, fortunately, do the immediate pleasures of Elysia Crampton. At that February show, Crampton heralded the musical portion of the evening by sampling the Universal Pictures theme tune, in a wink to her music’s maximalist, physical qualities, which recall the sounds of war. The sharp glints that slice through Pachuyma evoke sword-fighting, the gothic chunter beneath the jaws of some marauding beast, and rave horns pierce the melee like a fanfare across the dancefloor battleground. There are few hooks in Crampton’s work; instead, sounds and textures recur, giving the impression of some narrative tapestry: the gunshots of Nativity later return to pummel Pachuyma, while the chomping jaws of Pachuyma take on a crushing ferocity in Moscow (Mariposa Voladora).

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Fever Ray review – cartoonish camp and eco-rave vibes

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Wed 21 Mar 2018 1:57 pm

Troxy, London
Swedish art rocker Karin Dreijer is best when she translates experimental music to the stage with a bang

As six cartoonishly styled women stride on stage, each taking a moment to flex in the neon strobing like a pro-wrestling heel, it’s hard to square the camp spectacle with Fever Ray’s last appearance in the UK. In 2010, the woman then known as Karin Dreijer Andersson performed her self-titled debut in darkness, engulfed by dry ice and wearing heavy robes that obscured her face. It made a feverish album about the claustrophobic loneliness of motherhood even more harrowing. In the intervening years, much has changed for Stockholm’s Dreijer – divorcing and reclaiming her name, and embarking on a Tinder-abetted quest into her queerness as documented on a second Fever Ray album.

Never mind nuclear family; last year’s Plunge is about chosen family uniting to celebrate freedom and pleasure: “Still, we’re pushing what’s possible / A queer healing / Mom just tired of feeling,” as Dreijer sings on Falling. Hence the homemade costumes – bug-eyed anarchist scientists, cat burglar, dumpster diver, fashion victim, preening bodybuilder with bulbous foam pecs – which together resemble a shambolic Avengers primed to topple the patriarchy. The Hulk and a blue-haired succubus flank Dreijer, shaven-headed and with zombie-pink eyes, who often cedes the floor and microphone to them in a characteristic refusal of ego that also distinguished her performances with duo the Knife (and almost started riots on their aggressively loose Shaking the Habitual tour). The trio play jester and corrupter, mugging gleefully and grinding in slow-motion against each other as if enacting a set piece from an aerobics-themed porno.

Related: Fever Ray: on pleasure, patriarchy and political revolution

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