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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Pop and rock

Aphex Twin review – wild lights, jungle buzzsaw and a boo for Boris

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Sun 15 Sep 2019 1:45 pm

Printworks, London
The electronic music legend melted genres at breakneck speed in this peerless ambient-to-hardcore festival outing – to the delight of a young crowd

When Printworks opened to much hurrah two years ago, it did so during a run of venue closures in London. It’s aesthetically impressive and has quickly become one of the best venues for large-scale electronic events, and so is ripe for an Aphex Twin brain-tickle – even if free earplugs, sadly, aren’t on offer tonight. Although the musician has never relied on album cycles to draw in new audiences, it is striking how young the audience winding through Printworks is.

As well as releasing around a dozen EPs in the past decade on his own label, Rephlex, and Warp, there was mass excitement about Richard David James’s “return” as an album artist in 2014, with the Grammy award-winning Syro – and the memorable flight of a neon-green blimp bearing the Aphex Twin logo over London. Along with the weight of his back catalogue and mythical status, what makes shows such as these sell out in minutes is Aphex Twin’s love of spectacle and keen support for new electronic artists. The former is a perfect fit for this, the Red Bull music festival’s high concept (and budget). In terms of the latter, he’s viewed as a switched-on father figure to younger artists and fans, his hybrid set blending new club tracks with live modular jams, his own music, and ripe selections of 90s UK hardcore.

The lasers are, bluntly, crazy, an impressive sensory assault. It’s unabashedly fun, strangers craning their necks and grinning at each other

Related: Aphex Twin's best songs – ranked!

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Charli XCX: Charli review – a raw, rousing step towards superstardom

Delivered... Laura Snapes | Scene | Fri 13 Sep 2019 9:00 am

The embattled singer reveals her anxieties and coaxes brilliance from various guests in a candid, confident third album

In the five years since Charli XCX released her last album, she’s sworn that industry interference meant she would never make another. But here we are: after an overwhelmingly productive half-decade of unofficial releases and collaborations, Charli is an album proper, a diminishingly important semantic distinction but one that puts the 27-year-old firmly at its heart.

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Stereolab: ‘There was craziness in getting lost and dizzy’

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Wed 4 Sep 2019 10:37 am

Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier pick their favourite tracks and reflect on two decades of pioneering electropop

Stereolab aren’t on the same page about why they’re touring again after a nine-year hiatus. “We’ve got seven albums coming back out...” says Tim Gane. “For the money,” Lætitia Sadier says simultaneously. They are the core duo of one of the best bands of the turn of the century: blending lounge-pop, punk, tropicalía and political poetry, they stuck out like a sore thumb during the Britpop era.

As Gane says, most of their albums are being reissued. But the pair were in a relationship for 16 years, separating in 2004; they weathered the sudden death of their bandmate Mary Hansen, and years of touring that Sadier describes as “crushing and exhausting”. So perhaps her deadpan cynicism has a grain of truth.

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One to watch: Velvet Negroni

Delivered... Tara Joshi | Scene | Sat 24 Aug 2019 2:00 pm

The US singer-songwriter’s free-ranging debut is informed by the constraints of a strict evangelical upbringing

Artists such as Velvet Negroni are emblematic of the disintegration of distinct genres in the streaming age. Real name Jeremy Nutzman, under his current moniker he makes gorgeously expansive sounds that meld and melt the lines between everything from lush synthpop, experimental electronic and choppy rap to reggae and dub.

Born in Minneapolis, Nutzman was adopted by a white evangelical Christian family and boxed in by stringent rules. From the age of five he would play classical piano for at least an hour a day; secular music was forbidden. In an interview with the Fader, he described discovering a pile of abandoned CDs on his neighbour’s lawn, though all his attempts to hoard such treasures – even hiding them in air vents – were found out.

Velvet Negroni’s Neon Brown is released on 4AD on 30 August

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Blanck Mass: Animated Violence Mild review – grief, rage and transcendent electronica

Delivered... Aimee Cliff | Scene | Fri 16 Aug 2019 10:30 am

(Sacred Bones)
Mourning the death of the planet and a parent, Ben Power has made an album that fuses existential fear with sheer beauty

Back in 2012, Blanck Mass sounded optimistic. Ben Power’s one-man electro-noise project (distinct from his work as part of the duo Fuck Buttons) was best known for his ambient headrush of a composition, Sundowner, which was used as part of the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s buoyant Olympics opening ceremony. But, as the political mood of the country continued to sour, Power’s work darkened in response, leading up to 2017’s snarling World Eater, and now Animated Violence Mild: an album where blind rage and beauty commingle. In the accompanying press release, Power describes how the record was born of grief – he wrote it while musing on how consumerism is destroying our planet. In the final stages of recording, his father died, and so he also began processing this deeply personal loss alongside his global mourning.

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How we made Good Life: Paris Grey and Kevin Saunderson of Inner City

Delivered... Interviews by Dave Simpson | Scene | Tue 6 Aug 2019 6:00 am

‘When the song was a global hit, I flew to London every week, while working at a department store in Chicago. My bosses said: “Take another day off! This is great!”’

I was in Chicago and a DJ friend told me about Kevin Saunderson, who needed a singer. Back then there was no internet or email, so Kevin sent me a tape in the post. I put it on my little cassette recorder and out came Big Fun. The version was very basic, just a keyboard line I think, but I listened to the melody and sang whatever came into my head.

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‘So flawed and problematic’: why the term ‘world music’ is dead

Delivered... Ammar Kalia | Scene | Wed 24 Jul 2019 10:00 am

Artists, record labels and even this month’s Womad festival agree that the term is outdated. Is there a better way to market music from across the globe?

Ask most musicians what genre they play and you’ll likely get a prickly response. As one well-known, and slightly tipsy, jazz musician once told me: “If you all stopped obsessing about me playing ‘jazz’, maybe I would be playing festival stages rather than tiny clubs by now.” But while there have been meandering debates about jazz during its long history, another genre has become far more contentious in recent years: world music.

Dreamed up in a London pub in 1987 by DJs, record producers and music writers, it was conceived as a marketing term for the greater visibility of newly popularised African bands, following the success of Paul Simon’s Johannesburg-recorded Graceland the year before. “It was all geared to record shops. That was the only thing we were thinking about,” DJ Charlie Gillett, one of the pub-goers, told the Guardian in 2004. The group raised £3,500 from 11 independent labels to begin marketing “world music”to record stores. “It was the most cost-effective thing you could imagine,” said record producer Joe Boyd. “£3,500 and you get a whole genre – and a whole section of record stores today.”

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Supersonic review – giant monsters and ghoul-sponge at UK’s best small festival

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Tue 23 Jul 2019 2:00 pm

Various venues, Birmingham
By embracing the heaviness in Birmingham’s heritage, and adding a strong dose of eccentricity, Supersonic is world-class

A city built on guns, iron and chemicals, often under drizzly skies and with no horizon, Birmingham has always been heavy. As the summer’s Home of Metal arts programme across the city suggests – including a Black Sabbath retrospective at the Museum and Art Gallery – that mood influenced its music, but Supersonic festival shows that while Brummies still adore heaviness, it comes in all kinds of pressures and weights. Celebrating its 15th year and set across three modestly sized stages, the world-beating lineup massages, prods and kicks at music’s edges.

Opening the weekend, Neurosis induce the weekend’s most soulful headbanging, and it’s evident why: with their slow guitar lines, bending like the Doppler effect of a passing 18-wheeler, the Californians are a bright blast of spiritual sludge-metal. Supporting them are local veterans Godflesh, whose tinny drum machine acts like a wretched treadmill, locking them into industrial nightmares of ratcheting intensity.

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Banks: III review – a break from dark R&B doesn’t quite pay off

Delivered... Aimee Cliff | Scene | Fri 12 Jul 2019 10:00 am

(Harvest Records)
Her third album is a less-than-convincing attempt to lighten the old experimentalism in favour of chart-friendly ballads

LA singer Banks was heralded as part of a wave of “alternative R&B” when she emerged in 2014. Her distorted vocals and experimental beats were categorised alongside Tinashe and FKA twigs – though the latter refuted the label, saying that her music was “punk”, and only tangentially related to R&B. Twigs was right, and with the benefit of hindsight, Banks’s murky trap-pop offerings sound little like the other artists she was grouped together with when she released her debut album, Goddess. After another album and a two-year break, Banks is back with III, an LP that kicks against this pigeonhole with streaming-friendly electronic soul ballads and post-Kanye West maximalist pop (colourful Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke had a large hand in the record).

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K Flay: Solutions review – reasons to be cheerful

Delivered... Emily Mackay | Scene | Sun 7 Jul 2019 8:01 am

(Night Street/Interscope)

Joining the many trying to find hard-won notes of positivity amid climate catastrophe and political car crashes, Illinois native Kristine Flaherty has dedicated her third album to mustering “green lights, brighter views… to pull me through”, as she puts it on Good News, which rubs dirty analogue synths up against a pure pop chorus.

There are both stronger songs and a wider range of styles here than on her previous records: Not in California brings a grungy, fuzzy languor to its environmental end-times singalong chorus, while the irresistible I Like Myself sits somewhere between the lo-fi pop of Cults and the rhythmic attack and playful cheerleading choruses of Sleigh Bells. The latter spring to mind again on the hard-faced and heavy Bad Vibes, in which she dismisses lazy doom-lovers: “You think it’s cooler to have dark thoughts, never eat ice-cream.” Sister is equally adorable, with a jubilant yell of a chorus over a barrage of those synths, while DNA closes with a widescreen hip-hop epic that sends you off heartened.

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Hidden gems on the 2019 Glastonbury lineup

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes | Scene | Wed 26 Jun 2019 2:47 pm

Bewildered by the hundreds of acts at Glastonbury? The Guardian’s music editors pick the best names from lower down the bill

The must-see musical experience of the weekend is this brand-new stage from the Block9 crew, whose club spaces routinely provide the festival’s best after-hours moments. IICON will have artists playing from a giant sculpture of a head, and they’re a who’s who of cutting-edge electronics: galaxy-cartographer Larry Heard, dub geniuses Raime, thunderously angry poet Moor Mother, junglist poet Lee Gamble, South African pairing Okzharp and Manthe Ribane, and tons of forward-thinking techno: Bruce, Zenker Brothers, Karenn and more. Sleep all day, bring a carrier bag of falafels, and you could happily spend your entire weekend here.

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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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Sounds like summer: the ten best niche music festivals

Delivered... Kate Hutchinson, Ammar Kalia, Tara Joshi, Jude Rogers | Scene | Sat 15 Jun 2019 3:00 pm

Festival Fomo? Fear not. The big ones are sold out, but here’s our pick of the smaller gatherings that still have tickets

Eridge Park, Kent, 21-23 June

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Mary Anne Hobbs: ‘I’ve been given licence to dream’

Delivered... John Still | Scene | Sat 15 Jun 2019 6:00 am

Queens of the Electronic Underground finds the DJ curating a line-up featuring Holly Herndon, Jlin and Aïsha Devi

Curating a cohesive line-up with international artists can be a challenge. Sometimes, things fall into place so quickly it seems that serendipity had a hidden hand in proceedings. “These things are often very complex and require a lot of dialogue, because of the way the world works. It’s a remarkable moment when something like this coalesces so quickly,” says Mary Anne Hobbs of her Queens of the Electronic Underground show at the 02 Ritz. “All of the artists involved immediately wanted to do it. It was beautiful for me, with everyone so excited to play alongside the others. We all wondered: ‘Why hasn’t this happened before?’”

Related: On my radar: Mary Anne Hobbs’s cultural highlights

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