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

Contemporary album of the month – Jon Hassell: Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume I)

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 25 May 2018 8:30 am

Hassell’s ‘fourth world’ fusion of hi-tech minimalism with world rhythms proves the 81-year-old is still experimental after all these years

In the late 70s, long before terms such as “world music” or “cultural appropriation” were in common usage, the trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell devised the term “Fourth World” to describe his music. It explored what he called “primitive futurism”, where shantytown squalor coexisted with hi-tech western studio technology, fusing Hassell’s early minimalist work with Terry Riley and La Monte Young with his studies of Indian, African and Indonesian music.

Brian Eno was an early adopter of Hassell’s aesthetic and, before long, other champions of pan-cultural fusion – David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Ry Cooder – were collaborating with Hassell and employing his methodology. As dozens more musicians started plundering exotic global sounds and placing them through electronic filters, Hassell was off exploring other worlds – adding his distinctive trumpet sound for artists as diverse as Björk, Tears for Fears, kd lang and 808 State; flirting with hip-hop and electro; creating “coffee-coloured” classical music with the Senegalese drummer Abdou Mboup; exploring ambient jazz with the likes of Naná Vasconcelos, Jacky Terrasson and Anouar Brahem.

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Chvrches: Love Is Dead review – pop rabble-rousers pull their political punches

Delivered... Alexis Petridis | Scene | Thu 24 May 2018 12:00 pm

Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are strident and there are some brilliantly desolate ballads on the synthpop band’s third album – but a big single still eludes them

As a recent Observer profile noted, Chvrches’ career has a “strange trajectory”. The Scottish trio are a pop band who have achieved fame on both sides of the Atlantic through relentless touring, but who have never had a hit single. No shame in that, but it’s something their third album clearly seeks to rectify. The band themselves have shushed such an idea – “we aren’t really playing that game” – but frankly, you don’t call on producers Greg Kurstin and Steve Mac, the people behind Adele’s Hello and Clean Bandit’s Rockabye respectively, if you’re planning on making a 21st-century cross between the Faust Tapes and Diamanda Galás’s The Litanies of Satan.

Related: Chvrches: ‘It only takes two seconds to say: I don’t agree with white supremacy’

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The big bangers: grime smashes into the Hadron Collider

Delivered... Tara Joshi | Scene | Tue 22 May 2018 5:44 pm

They rapped in its tunnels and played instruments made out of old science equipment. Could this be Cern’s most amazing experiment yet?

‘Anyone attending the performances,” says Jack Jelfs, “will find themselves in a 12-dimensional quantum superposition.” This superposition, adds the artist, will contain three overlaid elements: our mythic past, our scientific present and our unknown future. “So,” concludes Jelfs, “you may wish to prepare appropriately.”

Jelfs is talking about The Wave Epoch, a high-concept performance piece that is the result of four British artists spending time at Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), where particles are accelerated and bashed into each other to reveal the secrets of the universe. When it’s described as “something between an installation, a music performance and a rave”, The Wave Epoch might not sound like anything particularly new, but it all becomes a lot more original when you realise it was conceived 175 metres underneath the Franco-Swiss border in the presence of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest single piece of machinery in existence.

Scientists were asking me questions like: ‘Do you understand what we’re made of as humans?'

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Chvrches: ‘It only takes two seconds to say: I don’t agree with white supremacy’

Delivered... Kate Mossman | Scene | Sun 20 May 2018 9:00 am

The Glaswegian synth-pop trio rose to fame on the back of relentless touring, even as frontwoman Lauren Mayberry fended off online abuse. Their new album finds them aiming for the top

Lauren Mayberry has two boiled eggs waiting for her at home. Chvrches are about to go on tour for a year and a half, and she wants the protein. When I first met the band, in a Thistle hotel in east London in 2012, Mayberry was strengthening her diaphragm for the demands of singing live. On the back of their debut album, they played 365 dates in two years and the diaphragm worked out fine.

Chvrches could not have known, sitting in that unremarkable hotel, what direction their rise to fame would take. Mayberry is a frontwoman developing in plain sight, through a well-publicised struggle with particularly vicious internet trolls to where she is now: living in New York and making records with wizard producer Greg Kurstin. There have been some impressive associations along the way: being interviewed by Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney; campaigning for girls’ empowerment with Amy Poehler; support slots for Depeche Mode. She is coming to terms with the fact that if you are famous, you will always be someone’s projection. “I definitely fall into one of two categories,” she says brightly, sucking an ice tea. “Diminutive, wet-blanket snowflake or angry feminist bitch.”

I don’t want to sound negative here but I don’t know any lady that was surprised by #MeToo

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Move over Sia: how young Australian songwriters are making it big in LA

Delivered... Jenny Valentish | Scene | Tue 15 May 2018 2:56 am

They’re the brains behind the catchiest songs on Spotify but they’re rapidly becoming celebrities in their own right

You’ll be aware of the “Spotify mafia” even if you don’t know their names. The songs that dominate the streaming service bear the hallmarks of a select group of young international songwriters who have gravitated to LA. And they seem to be cleaning up.

Nat Dunn is one of them, part of a wave of Australian songwriters following in the wake of Adelaide’s Sia Furler. One of Dunn’s songs, Friends, was recorded by London singer Anne-Marie and DJ/producer Marshmello (who keeps his identity under wraps by never being seen without his marshmallow head). It reached number 21 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, clocking up nearly 300m plays on Spotify. With its no-nonsense chorus – “Haven’t I made it obvious? Haven’t I made it clear?” – it’s been dubbed “the official friend-zone anthem”.

Related: Eurovision: Jessica Mauboy sings up a storm to put Australia into grand final

Related: The Sia conundrum: if fame is so damaging, why pass it on to a child? | Bonnie Malkin

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50 great tracks for May from Florence + the Machine, Christina Aguilera, Deafheaven and more

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes | Scene | Thu 10 May 2018 9:00 am

From Róisín Murphy’s erotic disco to Onyx Collective’s post-bop jazz and Deafheaven’s soulful metal, here’s our roundup of the best new music. Subscribe to the playlist of all 50 tracks and read about our 10 favourites

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

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Positiva energy: 25 years of the legendary dance label – in pictures

Delivered... Electronic music | The Guardian | Scene | Tue 8 May 2018 7:00 am

The Positiva dance label dominated the 90s with their pumped-up trance and house tracks – and the iconic logo showcased on these flyers

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How we made Talvin Singh’s Mercury-winning album OK

Delivered... Interviews by Dave Simpson | Scene | Tue 8 May 2018 6:00 am

‘We were just sitting there with Björk when she got a call from Bono. Next thing I knew, we were supporting U2 at Wembley!’

I was raised in Leytonstone, in east London, by Sikh parents. My uncles would have Indian classical music soirees. There were always tabla around, but I also grew up with Top of the Pops. To me, it was all just music, but the Indian classical musicians back then were very judgmental – about everything from how I played tabla to how I looked.

I’d heard that when second world war pilots came back from missions alive, they were listed as 'OK'

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Blossoms review – homecoming is the stuff of dreams

Delivered... Dave Simpson | Scene | Sun 6 May 2018 12:43 pm

The Plaza, Stockport
There’s much to celebrate as the band return to their home town as local heroes for a euphoric opener to their UK tour

When Blossoms spoke to the Guardian in 2016, they revealed that their wildest fantasy would be to have a set of road signs in their home town, reading: “Welcome to Stockport: home of Blossoms.” Just two years later, the signs are in place, courtesy of the council. The band’s name is also emblazoned on the back of struggling Stockport County FC’s Edgeley Park stadium and in front of the vintage Wurlitzer organ in this beautiful art deco cinema.

In between, there have been two top five albums (including a No 1 with their eponymous debut) and gigs at Wembley Stadium with the Stone Roses, which would have been the stuff of dreams when they were rehearsing in a scaffolding yard and making videos for £60.

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Jon Hopkins: Singularity review – not enough fuel for the feet

Delivered... Damien Morris | Scene | Sun 6 May 2018 8:00 am

Hopkins’s last album was an intriguing meld of expansive and introspective compositions, hitting a sweet spot between Nils Frahm and Four Tet. Where Immunity was the soundtrack to an imaginary big night out, Hopkins delineates a natural psychedelic experience on Singularity. To get you to share his trip, he weaves wordless vocals around warped found sounds in his pointillist, semi-improvised productions.

Strangely, this creates an album pretty similar to its predecessor. Intricate floorfillers dissolve into austere piano pieces and recombine, with lots of longueurs. Even weirder, Hopkins deliberately starts and ends Singularity on the same note. Being brought back to where you began is what you want from a hire van, not a psych trip – it’s why the Merry Pranksters didn’t get the Circle Line.

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Shaggy and Sting, Janet and Cliff: the eight weirdest collaborations in pop

Delivered... Michael Cragg | Scene | Sat 5 May 2018 10:00 am

From Janet Jackson and Cliff Richard’s Two to the Power of Love, to Shaggy and Sting’s new record, here’s a rundown of the oddest musical melanges

Have you ever wondered, perhaps in a darker moment, what an album featuring noted lutenist Sting crooning alongside sporadic novelty hitmaker Shaggy might sound like? Well, wonder no more, because last month they unleashed 44/876, an “island-influenced” collaborative album that honours “the duo’s mutual love of Jamaica”. If you’re now thinking: “OK, but why?” then Sting has the answer. “The most important thing to me in any kind of music is surprise,” he told Rolling Stone. “And everybody is surprised by this collaboration – by what they’re hearing. We’re surprising.” Indeed.

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Jon Hopkins: Singularity review – well-crafted techno is oh so shallow

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 10:30 am


Written amid calculated mind expansion, via transcendental meditation and naturally occurring psychedelics, Jon Hopkins, the Mercury-nominated producer who has credits with Brian Eno and Coldplay, hones his exploratory take on HD electronics on this smoothly sequenced trip. The level of craft is extremely high. The way the beats on the two big techno numbers, Everything Connected and Emerald Rush, crunch and splinter to blur the quantization requires expert sound design, and the latter swings with an almost reggaeton groove – it is exceptionally good. But what use is craft if you have nothing to say? Just as what seems universe-sharpeningly significant on drugs is revealed to be laughably obvious the morning after, the tracks in the album’s more ambient second half appear deep while being nothing of the sort. Luminous Beings pulses prettily for 12 minutes like a light-up mobile you let your baby stare at while you neck some wine, and C O S M nicks the reversed-strings effect Four Tet came up with 15 years ago – compare its blinkered emotional range with the brilliant peak of Emerald Rush, where anxiety and dread muscle in to push the chords downwards. The title track works as an overture but not in isolation, and Neon Pattern Drum’s mood doesn’t deviate from mild peril (though it may bang in his live set). The nadir is the three tracks – inevitable among him and his posh-trance peers – of maddeningly basic and unimaginative piano minimalism, like Ryuichi Sakamoto robbed of his spatial awareness. Too much of this album is the sort of thing people stick on to make their drug comedowns feel meaningful.

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Eleanor Friedberger: Rebound review – deliciously droll electro pop

Delivered... Dave Simpson | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 9:00 am


In 2016, Eleanor Friedberger spent a month in Athens, Greece, ending up in what the half-Greek American describes as an “80s goth disco” – called Rebound – where everyone did a solitary dance routine called the chicken dance. “I copied the slouchy strut,” she remembers, “swinging my arms in time to music that sounded like Joy Division but was probably a knock-off by an unknown Baltic band. It was alienating and exhilarating.”

Two years later, this same sense of giddy disconnection fires her fourth and best solo album, but although Rebound resurfaces as the location for It’s Hard (“where time stands still”), it’s otherwise a long way from crimped hair and eyeliner. Instead, vaguely gothic themes of loneliness, miscommunication and isolation are channeled into warm, quirky electronic pop that’s more gently uplifting than melancholy. It’s a radically different musical landscape to that which Friedberger occupied in her indie rock Fiery Furnaces days (with brother Matthew), or on previous solo albums. Guitars are used sparingly but effectively. Mostly, synthesisers and drum machines produce beatific electronic pop with traces of Laurie Anderson or Yellow Magic Orchestra, while Friedberger’s soaring singing recalls Russell Mael of Sparks.

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Trans producer Elysia Crampton: ‘In Bolivia, my body was a beacon, a good omen’

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 9:00 am

The experimental Bolivian American on finding strength and creative inspiration in her Aymaran heritage – a culture that has been a champion of trans identity for centuries

In Elysia Crampton’s Bristol hotel room, we stare at the furniture on offer: a neat armchair and a chaise longue. “I’ll be the analyst,” she decides. It’s no wonder: the experimental Californian producer has had a tougher life than most. Her music often feels like a lifetime of violence and confusion being worked through in Afro-Latin rhythms and frictious digital overload.

Crampton identifies as Aymara, a native American tribe from Bolivia who were suppressed by the Inca and then the Spanish in the middle of the last millennium, but who survived to the present day. Her parents moved from La Paz, the Bolivian capital, to Barstow, California, in the 1960s, where she was later born into relative poverty; her education ended, she said, because of “disability” (she won’t elaborate on this or her age) and a lack of funds.

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

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Readers recommend playlist: songs about pragmatism

Delivered... Samantha Birchard | Scene | Thu 3 May 2018 12:00 pm

Among artists picked for seeing things as they are come Run DMC, Van Morrison, Nina Simone and Beyoncé

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of your suggestions last week. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

War, infidelity, flat tyres – the musicians in this week’s playlist will put up with a lot to keep life running smoothly. Pragmatism can be painful, or it can be an effective strategy, depending on your perspective.

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