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

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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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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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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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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The Chainsmokers review – pyrotechnic rallying slogans and theatrical self-loathing

Delivered... Jazz Monroe | Scene | Thu 15 Feb 2018 2:05 pm

Alexandra Palace, London
Gimmicks, grand entrances and pop-cultural gags inhabit the DJ duo’s universe, where vague grievances attain epic proportions

Each pop era needs a critical piñata to embody all its horrifying afflictions, but few offer quite so large a target as the Chainsmokers. Derided first for their sexist videos, then their preposterous interviews, the duo have nonetheless insinuated themselves into the culture’s fabric. To their credit, the New Yorkers’ breakthrough in 2014 had substance, ushering a pensive sensibility into the rapidly expiring EDM movement. Their palette soon broadened – they’ve now settled into a sort of pop-house for soulful bros – but not as quickly as their audience, which has generated more song streams than the planet has inhabitants.

Related: The Chainsmokers on feuding with Mark Ronson and writing 2016’s biggest hit

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James Blake review – cyborg pop warmed by human touch

Delivered... Chal Ravens | Scene | Tue 6 Feb 2018 12:06 pm

Roundhouse, London
Blake tests new material for his forthcoming album with each freshly unveiled song sounding totally different from the last

A radical spectacle is taking place at this James Blake gig. Abandoning his piano and unfolding his long limbs, he’s finishing his first UK show in over a year by standing at the front of the Roundhouse stage. His cracked falsetto sounds relaxed enough, but the physical requirements of being a frontman seem new; his only concession to them is a geriatric shuffle.

Tonight is a chance for Blake to test material expected to appear on his fourth album, some of which he has to restart as he falters with his loop pedal. Recalling his dubstep-influenced early EPs, Blake’s voice on new single If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead stutters like a malfunctioning droid – apparently the result of hours of studio manipulation – yet he recreates the effect live, leaving the audience perceptibly wowed. It’s uncanny and impressive; a cyborg pop concept warmed by human touch.

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Hookworms: are they the most cursed band in pop?

Delivered... Dave Simpson | Scene | Mon 5 Feb 2018 4:55 pm

Fraud, flood, the loss of their back catalogue and all their new songs … the Leeds band reveal how they bounced back from all this and more to make knockout new album Microshift

‘It was like being in a disaster movie.” That’s how Hookworms singer Matthew “MJ” Johnson remembers Boxing Day in 2015, when the river Aire burst its banks, engulfing the band’s studio and rehearsal space. He was having lunch at his parents’ house several miles away at the time. The moment he heard the emergency flood alert, Johnson abandoned the meal and drove through rising water to the studio, which was soon five feet under. “The electricity was off and there was an eerie calm,” he says. “It was genuinely scary. I’ve got strong legs through cycling but I kept getting knocked over.”

Because the building, in the Kirkstall area of Leeds, was on a flood plain, he’d been unable to get insurance (even though the last flood had occurred in 1866). By the time he went back two days later to assess the damage, the waters had taken his car, much of the band’s back catalogue, their new recordings and – since he ran the place as a commercial studio – his livelihood. “I looked around,” he says, “and there was nothing left.”

Related: Hookworms: Microshift review – vast leap forward into a psychedelic future

We were being ripped off. It's a steep learning curve

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

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Mon 5 Feb 2018 11:00 am

Our monthly playlist has camp country by Kylie, freaky funk by George Clinton, a dub odyssey by Leslie Winer & Jay Glass Dubs and more. Subscribe to the playlist of all 50 and read about our 10 favourites below

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Jab Jab, Chakk and Fun-Da-Mental: the great Yorkshire bands you’ve probably never heard of

Delivered... Alexis Petridis | Scene | Fri 2 Feb 2018 7:00 am

From psychedelia and early reggae to nascent electronica and dance music, the region has been home to fine musicians – including some who may have passed you by …

● How South Yorkshire became the British indie heartland

● Bingley rockers Marmozets: ‘I learned to walk again’

There was a lot of ersatz psychedelia about in 1967 and 68, but York’s premier – possibly only – exponents of tough, R&B-based psych sounded like they knew what they were singing about. Predating the summer of love by several months, their fantastic debut single, My Friend Jack, approvingly depicted a Timothy Leary-like LSD proselyte, while the ferocious guitar noise that spiked the track hinted at the dark, overwhelming side of the acid experience. The BBC banned it, which didn’t seem to dampen the Smoke’s enthusiasm for similar topics, as evidenced by the subsequent, self-explanatorily titled High in a Room and Have Some More Tea. Big in Germany, they finally achieved a British hit in 1981, when Boney M, of all people, covered My Friend Jack.

Related: 'There are a lot of weird people around here': how the north stayed underground

Related: Bleep of faith: 20 years of Warp records

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Porches: The House review – jaded, romantic, intricate synthpop

Delivered... Tara Joshi | Scene | Sun 21 Jan 2018 9:00 am

Porches started out making bedroom-rock in 2010, but frontman Aaron Maine has since steered his project into sheeny synth territory. Their third album, The House, retains the polished introspection and cleansing water imagery of previous record Pool, but goes deeper into Maine’s exploration of tender emotions. This is while getting more stripped back and minimalist than ever, with an aimless, delicate immersiveness.

There’s a vulnerable lightness that pervades the record, in spite of fleeting moments of jarring dissonance and numerous spiky dance tracks. Simple lyrics such as “I have no idea who I see in the mirror” (on By My Side) sound isolated in the mix, displaying a rawness perhaps explained by Maine writing lyrics from his journal entries, and recording most songs the day they were conceived. The result is an immediacy that revels in its shortcomings and errors.

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Readers recommend playlist: songs about industry and manufacturing

Delivered... Pairubu | Scene | Thu 18 Jan 2018 1:00 pm

Iggy Pop, OMD, Spandau Ballet and the Commodores have their say on a hard working and eclectic reader-curated list

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

The rhythmic sound of machinery and the subject of work and industry seem to lend themselves to musical expression almost as a matter of course. Before we begin, an observation: for some reason, this week’s list is heavy on the 1980s – perhaps that decade, when industry was rapidly declining in many Western countries, was one where such topics were in the forefront of musical minds?

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‘A relic of long-gone possibility’: how Gotye fell in love with a rare, forgotten synth

Delivered... Brigid Delaney | Scene | Tue 16 Jan 2018 6:00 pm

When Wally de Backer first heard the ondioline, an obsession began that took over years of his life

In 1941, a curious electronic instrument was invented that combined the possibility for depth of a horn section and the silliness of a children’s novelty toy. The key was how it was played and cared for – and what you composed for it.

The ondioline was invented by the French poet and musician Georges Jenny. Broadly speaking it’s a synthesiser built on a circuit board that looks like a child’s keyboard. It produces a sort of a blurry, vibrating sound, like music playing in another room.

Related: Onesies for everyone: Mona's summer festival makes Launceston debut

I just want to share this thing as widely as possible.

Related: Jean-Jacques Perrey, electronic musical pioneer, dies at 87

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