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

No shape: how tech helped musicians melt the gender binary

Delivered... Sasha Geffen | Scene | Tue 7 Apr 2020 12:57 pm

In new book Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary, Sasha Geffen explores music’s new gender nonconformists - here’s an extract

In the 21st century, the proliferation of internet-equipped consumer electronics enabled a new generation of gender nonconformists to communicate across any distance. Trans kids no longer had to move to New York or San Francisco to speak with others like them; they could use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube to find community. Communication didn’t depend on the presence of the physical body, and even the voice was no longer necessary to speak instantaneously to another person in a different town or a different continent, which was useful if you were trans and still literally finding a voice that felt right in your throat.

Against this cultural backdrop, an increasing number of musicians have begun to make work that unstitches the gendered body from its usual schematic of meaning. In 2010, the Seattle songwriter Mike Hadreas released his debut LP under the name Perfume Genius. He wrote Learning, a raw collection written on piano, while living with his parents and in recovery from drug addiction. The album was quietly popular and Hadreas soon had to figure out how to tour his new songs. He enlisted help from Alan Wyffels, a friend who had taken Hadreas to AA meetings in the early days of his recovery. They proved an excellent musical match, and while playing Hadreas’s songs together, they also fell in love.

Related: Pop star, producer or pariah? The conflicted brilliance of Grimes

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Minor Science: Second Language review – expectation-defying beats

Delivered... Tayyab Amin | Scene | Fri 3 Apr 2020 10:30 am

Debut album cleverly morphs and melds its 90s palette without sliding into nostalgia, but there are occasional longueurs

The inspiration behind Minor Science’s debut album is one that’s sure to resonate with many of his fellow English-speaking electronic music artists and peers who have relocated to Berlin over the years. Second Language is the result of the producer and DJ’s fascination with language and translation, a byproduct of picking up German (and perhaps his own extensive work with words – many in the scene may first have known Minor Science as dance music journalist Angus Finlayson). He’s been communicating his ideas through sound for some eight years or so, breaking through with off-techno 12-inches for quirky, peripherally club-oriented labels the Trilogy Tapes and Whities. With writing on the backburner and DJing paying the bills, he has one of electronica’s more peculiar and curious albums to show for his transition to the studio.

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Yaeji: What We Drew 우리가 그려왔던 review – dance music for an existential crisis

Delivered... Aimee Cliff | Scene | Fri 3 Apr 2020 9:00 am

(XL Recordings)
Straddling the blurry line between dream pop and DIY house, the Korean-American’s first full-length effort is a diaristic work of startling emotional clarity

Korean-American DJ and producer Yaeji – full name Kathy Yaeji Lee – is the queen of introverted club music. She broke through with her squelchy house track Raingurl in 2017, contrasting a bold bassline with deadpan vocals about her glasses fogging up in the club. On her new mixtape, her first release for XL Recordings, Lee digs even further into her interior landscape, with diaristic, spacious house music on which she sings about subjects like the difficulty of getting out of bed (on the glimmering lead single Waking Up Down). As we enter a nightclub-less era of isolation, she’s timed it eerily well: this is dance music to soundtrack – and soothe – an existential crisis.

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The month’s best mixes: industrial dancehall, digital anxiety and ‘the Techno Columbo’

Delivered... Tayyab Amin | Scene | Tue 31 Mar 2020 1:52 pm

In the final instalment of our monthly mix column, Tayyab Amin listens to Brazil’s Badsista, Ireland’s Sunil Sharpe and texture obsessive Beta Librae

Related: The month's best mixes: romantic grime, reverberant birdsong and more

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Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia review – a true pop visionary

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 27 Mar 2020 10:00 am

(Warner Music)
Britain’s biggest female star tightens her grip on the crown with a viscerally brilliant second album

Dua Lipa could have taken an easy path to sustaining her status as Britain’s most successful female pop star on album number two. A few Ed Sheeran co-writes, some savvy collaborations, 17 tracks (one for every Spotify genre playlist), a few on-trend lyrics about anxiety and skipping a party: deal sealed. But she’s done the complete opposite. The 11-track Future Nostalgia offers neither features nor filler, and makes a strident case for Lipa as a pop visionary, not a vessel.

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Kraftwerk: where to start in their back catalogue

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Mon 23 Mar 2020 11:58 am

In Listener’s Digest, a new series to help you through self-isolation, our writers will help you explore the work of great pop musicians. We start with the German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk

While many of us worldwide are unable to experience live music during the coronavirus crisis, or even socialise as normal, we can still use streaming services. Now is the time to delve into that artist you’ve always wanted to check out more deeply – but where to start?

This week we’re starting a new series to run during the outbreak (and potentially beyond it) called Listener’s Digest, in which our writers guide you through the back catalogues of various musicians. These aren’t designed to be exhaustive or definitive, but helpful signposts to get you started in some of the world’s most exhilarating bodies of popular music. We kick off with Kraftwerk, and coming up in week one we will have Rihanna, the Fall, Alice Coltrane and Sleater-Kinney. We’ll include a 10-song primer playlist with each, in Spotify and Apple Music.

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Roger and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours review – an intimate conversation

Delivered... Kitty Empire | Scene | Sun 22 Mar 2020 10:00 am

(Deutsche Grammophon)

The Eno brothers have collaborated before, most recently on 2019’s revamp of the celebrated 1983 Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks documentary score (credited to Brian). Mixing Colours, the Enos’ duo debut, is a double sound-painting made up of natural phenomena (in tracks such as Snow, Desert Sand) and colours (Ultramarine, Burnt Umber) that plays out as an intimate conversation. Fifteen years in the on-off making, its slowly unspooling, generative beauty feels like a balm for these anxious times.

Most of these bejewelled instrumental tracks began with multi-instrumentalist Roger – the younger, less well-known brother, an experimental musician in his own right – on piano. His slow key strikes are bell-like. These compositional sketches would then make their way to Brian, who would work on them on the train, adding resonance.

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Låpsley: Through Water review – intensely poetic and powerful

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Fri 20 Mar 2020 10:30 am

(XL Recordings)
Låpsley’s second album is stripped of collaborators, but its clean aesthetic highlights the scars of real experience

On her 2016 debut, Liverpudlian electronic pop singer Låpsley worked with a brains trust of songwriters and producers to try her hand at chart anthems, trip-hop and – in the joyful Operator – a disco track that ruled festival season. For her second album, she seems to have brushed away the lint left by an excess of collaborators, instead writing and producing everything herself with input from a sole engineer, and honing in on a singular, clean aesthetic.

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Forty Australian bands couldn’t play South by South West. Listen to their music here

Delivered... Steph Harmon | Scene | Thu 19 Mar 2020 12:28 am

The conference in Austin, Texas, was cancelled – so they organised a showcase livestream. Then that was cancelled too. Here’s a playlist instead

  • Read more in The good place series here

This week, in an alternative universe devoid of coronavirus, more than 40 emerging Australian acts would have been in Austin, Texas, knee-deep in the now-cancelled South by South West, showcasing their work to the international industry in hopes of taking their careers to the next level.

“It is a huge achievement to have been selected from the 7,000-plus artists that apply each year,” said Millie Milgate, executive producer of the industry body Sounds Australia, after the conference was cancelled. “To have lost this opportunity after spending several months and thousands of dollars preparing and planning is devastating.”

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Jon Hopkins review – recital turns rave as fans embrace one last gig

Delivered... Alexis Petridis | Scene | Mon 16 Mar 2020 2:51 pm

Brighton Dome
While his music has been criticised as being too cerebral to connect with on a visceral level, try telling that to this crowd

Sunday evening and the atmosphere in Brighton Dome feels curiously subdued. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you can’t escape current events. Jon Hopkins’ most recent album, 2018’s Singularity, unexpectedly made the Top 10. This sold-out gig is nevertheless pockmarked with empty seats. There seems every chance that this is the last concert anyone here will be going to for the foreseeable future, but some ticket holders have clearly decided that even that isn’t incentive enough to leave home.

Or perhaps a muted atmosphere generally prevails at gigs by Hopkins, a sometime Coldplay and Brian Eno collaborator whose music exists at a distinctly cerebral nexus where contemporary classical meets soundtrack-y ambience and egghead techno that would once have earned the frightful generic label intelligent dance music. It’s where profile-boosting appearances on Spotify curated playlists called things such as 4am Chillout and Atmospheric Calm meet generative sound installations.

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

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The Rise of the Synths review – the world’s most nostalgic music scene

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Fri 13 Mar 2020 2:52 pm

This documentary exploring the 80s-obsessed synthwave sound has admirable production values, but trades deep analysis for platitudes and boring asides

If you have ever strutted around in sunglasses and a silken bomber jacket, and didn’t even have to try to keep a straight face, chances are you’re into synthwave. This subcultural genre of music, characterised by anthemic analogue synth lines, is explored in this stylish but shallow documentary.

The partly crowdfunded film makes a reverse historical sweep of the genre, ending where the music started with the sober, even ascetic work of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. This was gloriously cheapened by Giorgio Moroder, who made the sound aspirational and decadent, inspiring not only pop but also film soundtracks, where synth sounds were easy signifiers for the future. The style fell out of favour as the 90s embraced guitars again, but Daft Punk became the key act to bring it back – their light-up pyramid stage set is the defining icon of the synthwave aesthetic – and influenced a host of new producers.

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From bombs to beats: how Nazar summed up the sound of Angola

Delivered... Chal Ravens | Scene | Fri 13 Mar 2020 8:00 am

Growing up in the aftermath of civil war, his father a controversial former general, the producer has channelled his shocking experiences into a vital electronic album

The perkiest song on Guerrilla, the debut album by the Angolan artist Nazar, is an ode to deadly military technology. “This is a restricted weapon,” we hear on FIM-92 Stinger, a shaky kuduro rhythm brightened by synth marimba. In the murky world of Guerrilla – part war diary, part family memoir – acquiring an anti-aircraft missile is cause for celebration. “That thing symbolised a good time for people in the rebellion,” Nazar explains. “They didn’t have to be so scared of airstrikes because they had an umbrella over them.”

The son of a general in Jonas Savimbi’s Unita rebel group, Nazar was born in Belgium in 1993. He grew up in the relative safety of suburban Brussels – barring a foiled kidnap attempt on his sister and the spectre of street gangs – as the Angolan civil war raged. After the nation became independent from Portugal in 1975, it was engulfed in a war between the communist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), backed by Reagan and the CIA. Nazar’s mother worked two jobs to keep the family in a middle-class neighbourhood. When peace came to Angola in 2002 after nearly three decades of fighting and the loss of an estimated 500,000 lives, the family moved back and Nazar encountered his homeland for the first time.

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Jax Jones review – gym-playlist workouts from potent hitmaker

Delivered... Huw Baines | Scene | Mon 9 Mar 2020 1:30 pm

SWX, Bristol
The London chart fixture needs to add some danger and mayhem to his efficiently delivered series of set pieces

The stage is heaving with bodies, including a lion, a medical school skeleton, and some stragglers from a Día de los Muertos parade. They’re orbiting a pogoing Jax Jones, and in its dying moments, the producer’s set has finally tumbled into the sort of mayhem it has only previously hinted at.

In response, the crowd throws itself into hokey choreography as Instruction, his exuberant combination with Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don, reverberates around the room. Jones’s pop-house workouts are perfect for moments like this, joining the dots between gym playlist and boozy blowout, and live it would be wise to facilitate a few more of them in future.

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The month’s best mixes: romantic grime, reverberant birdsong and more

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Tue 3 Mar 2020 10:17 am

Amid the bushfires, Ciel highlights Australian sounds, while Carista, Galcher Lustwerk and Anunaku are among the other selectors in our underground dance roundup

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Down the Cosmic Hole: are Berlin’s 56-hour party people facing their last dance?

Delivered... Alexis Petridis in Berlin | Scene | Tue 3 Mar 2020 7:00 am

Nowhere beats the German capital for hedonism – which is one reason the price of real estate is rocketing. Can the club scene survive? As its home venue is closed down, we hit legendary party Cocktail d’Amore

It is 1am on a Saturday and the crowd outside Berlin LGBTQ+ club night Cocktail d’Amore stretches from the door of its venue, Griessmuehle, along the side of the Neukölln Ship Canal and out on to the road. It takes the best part of five minutes to walk from one end of the queue to the other, and these are just the early birds: Cocktail d’Amore opened its doors an hour ago, and will go on continuously for the next 56 hours, ending at 8am on Monday.

You can see why Cocktail d’Amore is such a draw. From a distance, Griessmuehle looks more like a wonderland than you might expect a converted grain mill to look: a haze of multicoloured lights glowing on the canal. Inside, Cocktail d’Amore feels like a Platonic ideal of what a club night should be. The sound system is immaculate, the music fantastic. While I’m there, at least, it leans towards the kind of sinuous mid-tempo sound that Andy Weatherall jokingly described as “drug-chug”; the late DJ was so enamoured of playing the room at Cocktail d’Amore dubbed the Cosmic Hole that he wrote a track inspired by the experience, Into the Cosmic Hole.

It gives you surreal moments. You lose your sense of the world in these industrial spaces

The city invested €1m in soundproofing clubs to avoid neighbour complaints about noise

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