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

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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Essaie Pas: New Path review – techno dystopias with witty flashes of funk

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Fri 16 Mar 2018 11:30 am


From Run the Jewels to Gary Numan, musicians technophobically fretting over the future of humanity have long used Philip K Dick as a touchstone – and that’s not counting the endless riffs on Vangelis’s synthscapes from the Dick-derived Blade Runner. Essaie Pas, married producers Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau, have used Dick’s druggily dsytopian novel A Scanner Darkly as inspiration for their fifth album, and tap into his dread much better than most. Their aesthetic is mostly cyberpunk coldwave, with techno kick drums pounding uncaringly in 4/4 motion; on Futur Parlé, they are cut through by neon scythes of metallic sound, before being joined by a three-note Chicago house bassline and Davidson’s signature monotone vocals (also brilliant on solo releases and her collaborations with Not Waving and Solitary Dancer). Les Agents des Stups switches up to relentless electro, before Substance M dives back to deep, stern techno. These expansive dancefloor moments are strong, but you long for a couple more of their left turns. Complet Brouillé is apparently inspired by dissociative drug experiences, though this particular K -hole is brightly decorated: another addictive Chicago bassline is placed against a stuttering beat to create infectious, witty funk. The chilling title track meanwhile features a robotic voice spewing shards of A Scanner Darkly dialogue into a void of sustained synth chords, a little like the dying protagonist Hal 9000 in another sci-fi classic, 2001A Space Odyssey. Essaie Pas have gone beyond cliche and fandom to make something that truly speaks to the dynamic thought and droll humour at the heart of Dick’s writing.

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Readers recommend playlist: songs with sudden changes

Delivered... Pairubu | Scene | Thu 15 Mar 2018 1:00 pm

Artists such as Lorde, Sparks, the Moody Blues and Metallica bring changes of pace to a prog-heavy playlist with twists and turns

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

Related: Go back to go forward: the resurgence of prog rock

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Sophie review – hideous and heart-rending BDSM-friendly pop

Delivered... Rachel Aroesti | Scene | Wed 14 Mar 2018 3:35 pm

Heaven, London
The once-shy producer has now, after a gender transition, arrived front and centre to deliver nightmarish, bracingly contemporary electro

As reinventions go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as dramatic as Sophie’s. While shaking up electronic music in the early 2010s with her arrestingly saccharine sound, the LA-based producer remained carefully concealed from view: publicity pictures were nonexistent, while YouTube videos consisted solely of cutesy CGI objects and live shows in which she was silently sequestered behind the decks. This evening, however, she is pretending to wrestle a giant white inflatable, clad head to toe in skin-tight PVC. Later, she will ride sidesaddle on one of her dancers before performing her own stilted routine. Camp doesn’t begin to cover it.

Sophie’s new hyper-flamboyant stage presence is more than a pose. Having spent the last few years in the studio with artists including Madonna and Charli XCX, in October she stepped out of the shadows with material that seemed more personal than her previous work. First came It’s Okay to Cry, a misty-eyed power ballad about an identity-based struggle for which she performed her own vocals for the first time. Then Faceshopping, whose lyrics read: “Artificial bloom / hydroponic skin / chemical release / synthesise the real.” Until recently, Sophie’s collaborators have referred to her as male – now, the PR literature uses “she”. Although the producer has declined to explain her gender identity in interviews, this new phase feels connected to some kind of transformation.

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One to watch: George FitzGerald

Delivered... Killian Fox | Scene | Sat 10 Mar 2018 7:00 pm
Fatherhood has brought a more mature edge to the electronic maestro’s signature sound

A gradual progression from night to day, from the dancefloor to the domestic, is one way of looking at George FitzGerald’s musical trajectory to date. His forthcoming second album All That Must Be, which comes loaded with crossover potential, is informed by the 33-year-old moving back home to London and embracing fatherhood after years of service at the more thoughtful end of the international club scene.

Raised in north-west London on a diet of garage and dubstep, FitzGerald cut his teeth as a DJ before moving to Berlin in 2010 and becoming a producer. Berlin nurtured a growing interest in techno, and FitzGerald’s early releases on Hotflush were fit-for-purpose club tracks, though euphoric moments were counterbalanced by a healthy dose of melancholia.

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Peaches: ‘We smoked a joint, started screaming and suddenly had some songs’

Delivered... Peaches | Scene | Thu 8 Mar 2018 7:00 am

In 2000, recovering from cancer and heartbreak, Merrill Nisker bought a synth, renamed herself Peaches and made a scorching album that became a feminist classic. In this extract from our Start podcast, she relives the sex, pain and pillow talk that fuelled The Teaches of Peaches

I had no idea I would become a musician; I fell into it. First, I had a band called Fancypants Hoodlum. It was quite expressive in terms of how I performed. I had good musicians with me and was learning to play electric guitar – to nobody other than myself.

Related: Peaches on the song that defined her new sound – The Start podcast

Related: Peaches webchat – your questions answered on Trump, feminism and being yourself

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50 great tracks for March from Chvrches, Riko Dan, Machine Head and more

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Wed 7 Mar 2018 11:00 am

Check out Angolan kuduro, fluffy disco-funk and whimsical fingerpicking in this month’s roundup of the best new music. Subscribe to the playlist of all 50 tracks and read about our 10 favourites

Related: The month's best music: Jonghyun, Marmozets, Peggy Gou and more

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Elvis Presley’s power, Tina Turner’s legs: musicians pick their biggest influences

Delivered... Interviews by Rachel Aroesti | Scene | Thu 1 Mar 2018 7:18 pm

Sade taught Jessie Ware quiet confidence, while Sly Stone helped Baxter Dury ‘make the unlikely into something rational’: some of our contemporary favourites salute the stars who had the most impact on them

● Guardian writers on the most influential artists in music today

My greatest influence probably isn’t very evident in my music. Sly and the Family Stone, or more Sly, captured my imagination from the moment it was forced out of a giant pair of Tannoy speakers placed in our front living room. He was a handsome opportunist hippy who manipulated the times, but definitely changed the course of them. The music is soulful, subversive and sleazy, but beautifully arranged and played. It’s a theme park of unrelated ideas made logical by Sly’s magnificence. I learned so much about making the unlikely into something rational.

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Madonna and Grimes lay bare cost of creative freedom for female artists

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Tue 27 Feb 2018 1:03 pm

Laments from the two stars show that an industry quick to sell the idea of female independence is far less keen to support it

The buried Instagram comment and hastily deleted tweet have become a kind of desperate cri de career for female artists who have founded professional lives on on bold statements. This weekend, both Madonna and Grimes used Instagram’s comments section to express their frustration with how their respective teams were handling their new material.

On Saturday Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, posted a glowing tribute to Madonna’s album Ray of Light on its 20th anniversary: “Love this woman. Love this album,” he wrote. Deep down the comments thread were two contributions from the artist herself. “Can you help me now please!! ” read the first, followed by a pointed addendum that referenced her work with William Orbit on the album. “Remember when I made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not have to go to song writing camps where no one can sit still for more than 15 minutes … coming soon”

‼️ pic.twitter.com/dSO14vElnW

Related: Grimes: 'In my life, I'm a lot more weird than this'

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Nils Frahm review – neoclassicism with knobs on

Delivered... Kitty Empire | Scene | Sun 25 Feb 2018 10:00 am

Barbican, London
Germany’s cult king of ambient piano charmed London with his uplifting arpeggios, artful dial-twiddling and… toilet brushes

When he was a boy, Nils Frahm was taught to play the piano by a stern Russian, Nahum Brodsky, who himself had been taught by a pupil of Tchaikovsky’s. When Frahm’s hands fly across a grand piano tonight – the lid removed, so that its innards are exposed, the better to be hit by toilet brushes – you can be in no doubt of this 35-year-old’s pedigree and his incandescent classical chops. Frahm’s left hand will build an insistent rhythm, and his right will run up and the down the keys, arpeggiating wildly.

Sometimes, Frahm will kick off a black-and-white Adidas trainer with the intensity of it all; afterwards, he will towel himself off like a rock star. And Frahm is something of a rock star, albeit one without a leather boot on the monitor. This German pianist is also an analogue keyboard ninja, an acoustics nerd, and the poster boy for a classical crossover genre (neoclassical, post-classical, the unwieldy labels go on and on) indebted to jazz, ambient electronic music and much time spent clubbing.

You spend much time bobbing violently in your seat to the ghost of a snare drum, to an implied beat

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Young Fathers: ‘Everybody has a dark side. We’re all complicit…’

Delivered... Kathryn Bromwich | Scene | Sun 25 Feb 2018 8:00 am
Award-winning Edinburgh hip-hop trio Young Fathers on ‘bad men’, shadow-boxing with portraits, and their new album, Cocoa Sugar

On a cold Sunday night at the end of January, a rapt audience at London’s Barbican Centre is watching a new film called Fetish, showing a naked black man walking through the streets of New York. It is an evening of audio-visual art marking the end of Boom for Real, last year’s monumental exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Directed by Topher Campbell, the film is a commentary on the black male body, vulnerability and “othering”, and it is scored live by the Scottish band Young Fathers, powerfully matching the video’s growing sense of dread leading up to a euphoric release.

It’s hard to imagine many other bands in the country who could pull this off, or even attempt to. Back in 2014, as relative unknowns, Young Fathers beat favourite FKA twigs to win the Mercury prize with their debut album Dead, a mesmerising mix of genres that sounded like nothing else around. They quickly followed it up with White Men Are Black Men Too, a disconcerting, occasionally abrasive but captivating second album. They have toured the world, collaborated with Massive Attack, and Danny Boyle liked them so much he included six of their songs in last year’s T2: Trainspotting. They are, it is generally accepted, a critical success if not a mainstream one.

A lot of bands are coming out of the woodwork and being overtly political because of the current climate we’re in

Related: Best albums of 2015: No 9 – White Men Are Black Men Too by Young Fathers

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Nils Frahm review – short on harmony but texture and tone in spades

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 23 Feb 2018 12:16 am

Barbican, London
Frahm jokes about his musical limitations, but his piano solos are quiet riots that transport you to a higher plane

He might be the most popular solo pianist on earth at the moment but the Berlin-based “neo-classical” star Nils Frahm will be the first to admit that he’s not a classical pianist of any description. In this two-hour show there is little harmony or chordal development, scarcely any improvisation, and – with the exception of the jagged, nerve-wracking, Michael Nyman-ish piano solo Hammers – little virtuosity. What you get in spades, however, is texture – something that the classical conservatoires and jazz modules have always ignored.

You can buy the sheet music for Frahm’s piano solos, but the notes that he rattles out on his panoply of keyboards are almost incidental. What’s important is the tone; the grain; the satisfying way in which each studio-crafted voicing plonks and zings and bounces around the auditorium.

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Principal Sound review – Luigi Nono’s fragile postcards from Venice

Delivered... Andrew Clements | Scene | Mon 19 Feb 2018 5:56 pm

St John’s Smith Square, London
Alongside works by Morton Feldman, the experimental music festival centred on the Italian composer’s enigmatic pieces that blur instrumentation into electronics

Principal Sound is three days of concerts devoted to the music of the last half century. It takes its title from the only organ work composed by Morton Feldman, who was the featured composer at the first event two years ago. There was Feldman in this latest weekend of concerts too, but this time the focus of attention was the late music of Luigi Nono, the fragile, fragmented pieces he composed in the years up to his death in 1990.

Performances of those works, often involving electronics and exploring extended instrumental techniques, are still rare in the UK, but four of them were included during the weekend. There was … Sofferte onde Serene..., for piano and prerecorded sounds, with its remembrances of Venice’s bells of and the echoing emptiness of its lagoon, played with wonderful authority and assurance by Siwan Rhys, and A Pierre, Dell’azzurro Silenzio, Inquietum from members of the Explore Ensemble, a tribute to Boulez from 1985, in which electronics blur the edges of the sonorities of bass flute and contrabass clarinet. Most enigmatic of all was the last piece that Nono composed, “Hay Que Caminar” Soñando, for two violins (Clemens Merkel and Alissa Cheung from the Bozzini Quartet) dispersed around the auditorium and responding to each other in halting phrases or assertive outbursts.

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Everything Is Recorded: Everything Is Recorded By Richard Russell review – mogul music with a stellar cast

Delivered... Kitty Empire | Scene | Sun 18 Feb 2018 10:00 am

As head of XL, Richard Russell shaped UK music for three decades. His own debut release finds its voice in many singers

Imagine, for a moment, being the man who signed Adele. You run a label – XL – home to mavericks as diverse as Dizzee Rascal, Radiohead and Arca, and you produce records by your heroes – Gil Scott-Heron, Bobby Womack – in what one might laughably call your spare time. By many people’s definitions, you’d be about as fulfilled, three-dimensional and jammy a human as there is. In 2015, your net worth was guessed at £75m, but your impact on British music is harder to calculate.

Then imagine being paralysed. One minute, you’re putting out Gil Scott-Heron’s final album. And then – insert an obscure sound effect here, the kind that you collect – you’re laid low by Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system. It’s 2013, you’re in hospital, and you can just about twiddle your fingers. Geoff Barrow, on behalf of Portishead, sends you a dinky synth – a pocket piano by Critter & Guitari to be precise – to retrain your synapses and stop you going mad. You can’t help but read Russell’s paralysis as one of those defining moments that would map the road ahead, if he could ever get his motor skills back.

Related: Everything Is Recorded review – Richard Russell's XL supergroup shines

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Fischerspoon: Sir review – not worth the nine-year wait

Delivered... Damien Morris | Scene | Sun 18 Feb 2018 8:00 am


Fischerspooner were key to the electroclash movement that briefly twinned Europe’s gay capitals and New York almost 20 years ago. The American duo have finally resurfaced with their first album in nine years, produced by REM’s Michael Stipe. In an unfortunate choice of phrase for British readers, W magazine described frontman Casey Spooner’s voyage of discovery after ending a long relationship as “bumming around Europe”. Sadly, the album doesn’t sound half as much fun as the journey.

Yes, Stipe’s work is often impressively feral, pitting harsh junkyard-dog synths against mountains of reverb. Yet the songs are largely weak, paralysed by unresolved tension. They lack the explosive catharsis that made Fischerspooner’s very first single Emerge an underground classic, or the radio-friendly arrangements of their best album Odyssey.

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