Gearing up for their third album for FatCat, Tal National look back on a fertile period spent further honing their sound and touring the US several times - leaving audiences sweaty and stunned time after time. They've laid down incredible sets at WOMAD and Roskilde, bringing the same intensity and jubilance to the festival set as they would a crammed club, converting the staunchest wallflower into a dancer for the night. At their core, that’s Tal National's intent, to make the people dance. Performances at their Niamey nightclub (yes they operate their own nightclub) are regularly raucous 5-hour non-stop dance parties for 300 people a night. With Tantabara the band continues their ongoing quest to translate that energy to tape, bottling the party for personal use.
The grooves are the backbone of the album, and the intent is to create a trance-state that overwhelms conscious thought and lets the listener be surrounded by the energy and emotion of Tal National. Brimming with the band’s complex, intense spirit, the album is a continuation of the balance of tradition and innovation that have driven their previous albums. It’s a joyous celebration and euphoric epiphany all in one complex package. We'd expect nothing less at this point from Tal National.
Following on the success of their two previous albums for FatCat, which were praised on both sides of the pond as "breakneck, open-eared, positivist post-punk canter" (NME) and "direct, smart, catchy, and extremely punk" (Pitchfork) - the band returns to shake some asses with an agenda yet again. The album was produced by Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) at his studio in Helmsdale, Scotland, who brought his taut post-punk ear to the Shopping’s acclaimed evolution of brittle '70s polti-punk.
If the band's approach was prescient in the past, our current political landscape renders them ever more indicative of the restlessness of youth's current dilemma. The band manages to walk the razor thin line between inspiring euphoric dance and shouldering societal anxiety. They face down gender politics and environmental peril ("Suddenly Gone"), breakdown social media as both a vital emotional mask and conduit of spirit ("Wild Child"). The Official Body stays true to the minimal dance-punk ethos of Shopping’s previous releases, fans of which will undoubtedly find this logical unfolding of their musical approach thoroughly satisfying.
A must-hear for fans of fellow 130701 alumni Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka, Comprehension... marks Dmitry's first ever vinyl release and offers a genuinely rich, deep and rewarding listening experience. A wonderfully conceived and realized work, its narrative conceptually clear and moving with the emotional power and precise logic of a great film score. Forged in a very focused period of composition through late 2016 until early 2017, the writing process of 'Comprehension of Light' differed markedly from Dmitry's previous releases.
Comprehension... acts as a predominantly bleak sound-world. Eschewing the lyrical, piano-based impressionism that was becoming his hallmark, it instead unveils a constellation of heavy drones; low register brass and string swells; percussive rumbling / clacking; and sparse string composition. A stunningly conceived and executed album, Comprehension Of Light traces a redemptive narrative arc and bears witness to a rising young talent in the field of modern composition. It feels like a major step forward.
Following the widespread critical acclaim of his recent 'Centres' album (July 2016), Vancouver-based vocalist / composer Ian William Craig returns with 'Slow Vessels', an album-length EP which both extends and radically re-imagines 'Centres', rendering six of its tracks in a stunning new light. While not quite an "unplugged" version, it is fundamentally stripped back, raw and predominantly acoustic, the songs included have been returned to their point of origin.
'Slow Vessels' sees Ian paring back the dense, billowing layers and heavily distressed textures that dominated the album and re-playing these tracks on a borrowed acoustic guitar and piano. While four of the tracks also feature some minimal tape manipulation, it's a move that foregrounds the strength of the songs, imbuing them with a heightened sense of nearness and intimacy and briefly reframing their author in the more traditional mantle of singer-songwriter. Deeply affecting and almost devotional in character, this utterly gorgeous re-setting of the songs sees them bathed in a warm, golden glow and throws a brilliant new slant on Ian's prodigious creativity.
Montreal-based Frenchman Olivier Alary is a highly talented composer, who has previously collaborated with Bjork and released albums on FatCat and Aphex Twin's Rephlex label under the name Ensemble, Over the past five or six years Olivier has moved away from that song-based project to focus on composing material for a stream of films and artistic collaborations. In 2007, Olivier's director friend Yung Chang asked him to score his feature-length debut, 'Up the Yangtze' which premiered at Sundance. The film was critically acclaimed and became a reference in the field, opening up a natural transition into film music for Olivier.
Since then he has soundtracked more than twenty feature-length fiction films and documentaries, several of which have received prestigious awards and screenings worldwide (Cannes, Berlinale, Sundance, TIFF, Locarno). As the album title alludes, 'Fiction / Non-Fiction' is a compilation of this film music, dating from from the past five years, none of which has been previously released. Olivier's material here might sit somewhere among the likes of Johann Johannsson, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Stars Of The Lid, and Set Fire To Flames, while having the same masterly ear for sonic detail as Oneohtrix Point Never or Tim Hecker, but throughout the tracks are imprinted with Olivier's own, signature sound.
Following the release of their acclaimed 2012 debut, Everything Touching, Tall Ships were championed by both the BBC and NME, selling out shows across the UK and headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds Festival. Their debut earned a wealth of critical praise, with Pitchfork citing its penchant for "the more swashbuckling strains of Okkervil River and Modest Mouse, M83's downcast glimmer, and Sigur Ros' misty yawn," and BBC Music claiming, "the trio's debut displays dizzying craftsmanship."
After a patch of personal turmoil and a falling out with their record label, the band found themselves at a crossroads. Where lesser band's might have crumbled under the weight of expectation and adversity, Tall Ships regrouped and retreated to keyboardist Jamie Field's country home to re-adopt a similarly DIY recording process to that which birthed Everything Touching years earlier. As such Impressions bristles with a fresh intensity: it's a set that feels constantly on a knife edge of unpredictability, capable within a single song of being both disconcertingly tender and universal - easily the most ambitious and anthemic music the band has ever written, marking them out as one of the UK's most promising rock bands but one worn with the battle scars of doubt, fragility and lessons learned the hard way.
Recorded during several candle-burning stints at London's Fish Factory studios in the winter of 2016, Stina and Cat were joined by acclaimed producer James Dring, whose work with the likes of Jamie T and Gorillaz made him an intriguing choice for the Scottish duo. Make no mistake though, 'Babes...' doesn't sound like anyone else but Honeyblood. The urgent lo-fi charm that defined their debut still pulses from its core. The band that burst forth from Glasgow's DIY underground scene just a few years ago, recording cassette tape releases in their bathrooms and hosting ad-hoc parties in disused hairdressers is still in tact; however, the evolution that's taken place is undeniable. An epically road-tested band and a dose of production finesse create a formidable combination.
Stina's songwriting truly has found a bright new spotlight on her band's second outing. 'Babes...' is resplendent in the kind of effortless chant-a-long hooks that one by one will all soon become their own mantras. For a while now Honeyblood have been talked about as one of the most exciting new UK bands, but with 'Babes...' you just get the feeling that before long they'll be simply be known as one of the most important bands around, period.
Glasgow's prodigious talent C Duncan released his critically acclaimed and Mercury Prize nominated debut album Architect earlier this year (last summer in the UK.) Now, his follow-up The Midnight Sun sees the bedroom producer return with a more expansive and experimental second offering, blending electronic elements and sweeping synth sounds with his signature layered vocals and dreamy instrumentation.
The album borrows its name from a Twilight Zone episode aired in 1961 Duncan muses, "it embodies the style of Twilight Zone perfectly, which is often claustrophobic, mysterious and unnerving. Like Architect, The Midnight Sun was recorded and produced entirely by C Duncan in his Glasgow flat, using his bedroom studio set-up and gradually adding each layer and each instrument one at a time. Though time-consuming, the process allowed him to lovingly assemble an intricate and subtle collection of songs that pick up where Duncan began with Architect and move toward a cleaner and more precise vision of the Scottish songwriter's vision. Duncan has heralded the new album as his "most coherent and concise work, sonically."
Resina is the alias of Karolina Rec, a cellist/ composer based in Warsaw, who signed to 130701 having sent in this album as a hugely impressive demo late last year. A very accomplished performer with a background in Polish underground music, this eponymous album is her solo debut and sees a rich, atmospheric re-imagining of Polish music rooted in a feeling for indigenous nature / landscape and realized via an intuitive, experimental approach to playing.
Her playing appears to mimic or suggest certain natural processes / locations / elements - the flocking of birds; the movement of water, clouds, light, wind; the gradual stirring of life in the forest. Track titles reiterate these themes, as does the very name 'Resina': the Latin form of resin, "the blood of the tree". At times recalling the landscape-rooted drone of English composer Richard Skelton, Resina's pieces feel similarly organic and evocative of nature. Their sprawling growth is awash with tonal / timbral intricacies. Her tracks shimmer and hang around the listener; slowly shift, unfurl and awaken; become increasingly active. Another reference point might be found in Werner Herzog's musician of choice, Ernst Reijseger, whose powerful cello playing is grounded in a jazz-wise investigation of non-traditional/ non-academic techniques.
FatCat Records' 130701 imprint has played a pioneering role in the development of today's vibrant post-classical scene. It has introduced the likes of Max Richter, Hauschka, and Set Fire To Flames, and has been home to Sylvain Chauveau, Johann Johannsson, and Dustin O'Halloran. With its fifteenth anniversary approaching on 13th July 2016, 130701 is celebrating with the release of a compilation featuring eleven exclusive tracks - one from each of the artists to have graced the roster over the past fifteen years, plus three new signings - Ian William Craig, Olivier Alary and Resina - whose first 130701 albums are each set to appear this year. Curated and compiled by 130701's David Howell, none of these tracks has previously seen a physical release.
'Centres' is the stunning new album from Vancouver-based vocalist / composer Ian William Craig, and his first release for FatCat (Max Richter, Hauschka, Dustin O'Halloran, Johann Johannsson, etc) following two critically lauded back to back albums for Recital Program. Ian William Craig is a trained operatic vocalist who combines his voice with analogue synthesizers, reel-to-reel machines, and faulty tape decks to create sublime cascades of unpredictable decay and beauty.
The songs were created manipulating tape loops through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colors. Craig would then circuit-bend the bias to create odd kinds of distortion, or bend the sound back into itself so it feeds back in unpredictable ways. 'Centeres' is a stunning album that stands with a similarly unique sense of vision and integrity as the likes of William Basinski or Colin Stetson.
Say Yes, the long-awaited follow-up to 2013's acclaimed June Gloom arrives on June 10th via the band's new home, FatCat Records. The record is a meteoric, towering return perfectly indicative of how Say Yes ups the band's stakes in every way.
Typically confessional, it's hard not to connect with the raw honesty of the lyrics on Say Yes. Sonically the record still sounds very much like Big Deal, but it evidences a certain newfound confidence. "We've done everything backwards," the pair explains. "Most bands spend a few years figuring themselves out before releasing a record. We released a record and then have spent a few years finding ourselves."
Say Yes is arguably the most open and emotionally provocative of all their works. "We've always been pretty private about our relationship within the band, but feel more comfortable talking about it for this record, as it's pivotal in the placement of our career." they explain. "It's about taking all kinds of heartbreak and defeat, and just looking at it dead in the eye and going for it."
As well as being a statement of intent, No Grace was that opportunity to go big or go home. So PAWS went big. After discovering a mutual appreciation between themselves and bassist/producer Mark Hoppus (Blink 182/+44), PAWS enlisted his support to help push these new songs to their wildest heights and pack the heftiest punch they could muster. And from the eponymous opener and first single, 'No Grace', it's clear the two are a perfect fit. Recorded last summer between Chem 19 in Glasgow and a private studio in Somerset, it's a partnership that strikes hard through the core of the record, from the anthemic gut-punch of 'N/A' to the thrashed out madness of 'Salt Lake' and 'Complete Contempt', PAWS' third album distills the best of what came before it and builds on it with strength and confidence.
Opening with a lone guitar line that itself has all the momentum of entire genres crammed into a single set of chords, We Were Promised Jetpacks' These Four Walls signifies a debut album that has the sort of peerlessness and potential to stand as a mainstay and luminary of indie music in the 21st century.
The band's youthful energy (their average age at the time was 21) explodes thunderously as colossal choruses fall unfailingly into place. Every space is filled, tension bristling achingly in Thompson's vocal delivery as the rest of the band crashes around him with a perfect balance of force and harmony. The romanticism and accessibility of a pure pop sensibility is never hidden too deep. Both "Roll Up Your Sleeves" and "Quiet Little Voices" capture this beautifully and immediately. The product of Ken Thomas' (Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins, David Bowie etc.) studio mastery and Peter Katis' (Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, The National etc.) mixing, the recording of These Four Walls was almost entirely live, with only minimal overdubs, and the band members' collected passion and intuition is translated into a pure, precise form, at once powerful and delicate.
The son of two classical musicians, Christopher was drawn so persuasively to indie and alternative music and playing in school bands as a teen that he added guitar, bass guitar and drums to his existing repertoire of viola and piano, studying all five instruments at the same time. His debut LP for FatCat is full of achingly personal songcraft that's been recognized by NME, BBC Music, The Gurardian, Stereogum and most recently nominated for the UK's Mercury Prize.
Architect showcases a huge breadth in Christopher Duncan's songwriting abilities. Lead singles 'Say' and 'For' are characterized by their gentleness and warmth, while 'Garden' is bright, sunny and irrepressible, while 'By' and 'Novices' draw more overtly from Christopher's interest in electronic music and modern composition. He references The Knife and Arvo Part as willingly as Burt Bacharach and The Carpenters. Add to that shades of Talk Talk, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, The Ink Spots and the classical and choral compositions of Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Faure, and a picture of the record collection that informs Christopher's music starts to become clear.
Emerging from a damp, airless basement, rife with decay and broken equipment, Best Friends set about inflicting their warped idea of garage pop onto the public back in 2011, hell-bent on taking music back to a time when three minute pop songs transported you from your miserable maggot existence to a blissful state of nirvana, guitar tones fried your brain and hygiene was a dirty word.
'Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane' was birthed from early Best Friends recordings that produced tangible swathes of fuzz pierced with melody as the band sought to aurally emulate the workings of the Navajo rug makers, known for purposely weaving mistakes into their unique and complex patterns to remind us all that only the divine can achieve perfection. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of WWF, a full set of achievements on Mario Kart and several crates of beer, the band have been delving deep to reach your most primal instincts ever since. The album was recorded at Unwound Recordings (London) and mixed and produced by Adam Jaffrey. Early singles, "Fake Spit" and "Shred Til You're Dead" have been garnering shouts in NME Magazine and DIY Magazine, amongst a host of others.
Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch is an award-winning French pianist / composer currently living in London. Spanning film score, bespoke composition and sound design, her work is connected by both its high quality and evocative, meticulous craft - a common sensibility of elegant, instinctual composition.
Shifting fluidly from solo piano pieces (the churning 'The Sum Of Our Flaws' and 'Six Of Swords'; the poignant delicacy of 'Hands Closed Together' or 'Strelka') to stirring chamber pieces (the formal elegance of Cotidal Lines; the expansive 'Minnesang'; the stirring sweep of 'Sublimation') and foregrounding explorative electronic enhancements (the delay-aggregation of 'Tulsi', the pulse-driven 'Persephone' and 'Scale Of Volatility'), the album is broad-ranged and playful yet cohesive and fully formed.
A gorgeously detailed and hugely impressive debut, 'Like Water Through The Sand' manages to sound at once fresh and familiar. It nestles comfortably within the contemporary cannon of post-classical producers / composers which 130701 played a formative part in helping establish (the adventurous modern landscape of Max Richter, Johann Johansson, Dustin O'Halloran, Hauschka, Nils Frahm, et al), and reveals a brilliant new voice to add to the firmament.
Following nearly three years of silence, FatCat's 130701 imprint is reactivated, with several new signings lined up ahead of next year's fifteenth anniversary of the label that played a pioneering role in the development of today's vibrant post-classical scene. The first of these signings, Dmitry Evgrafov is a hugely talented young Moscow based pianist/ composer/ multiinstrumentalist.
Collage' sees a clear shift from Dmitry's previous releases, each of which was marked by self-imposed restrictions. His first EP, 'Lying On Your Shoulder', adhered to an extremely minimalistic approach, using just string trio and piano; while on 'Pereehali', Dmitry confined himself to a single instrument, a Petrof upright piano, and a specific recording location. Feeling somewhat unsatisfied, Dmitry decided to take a break in order to rethink his approach to composing. He began a job as a sound designer, writing bespoke music for videos, commercials, audiovisual installations and scores. Working to set briefs under stricter conditions and with less time for introspection, the experience turned out to be liberating.
Shopping's debut album Consumer Complaints drew a flurry of press for their spot on divining of post-punk's driving force, dubbing them as a "band you need to hear" by NME and "Artist To Watch" by SPIN. The band evokes revered touchstones The Slits, Delta 5, Gang of Four and ESG, though as Pitchfork reminds, "they never sound particularly dated or like a carbon-copy, a testament to the group's songwriting abilities." Rather, they embody the spirit of experimentation, social upheaval, (without becoming didactic) clashing gender politics and ethical change that defined their 70's counterparts and still ring true today.
The band teams up again with Jamie Grier, who mixed and mastered their first LP, this time placing Grier in the recording chair at Glasgow's Green Door Studios, while mastering duties fall to Alan Douches. The album is full of the same timeless spark that drove the debut, propelled by Billy Easter's toothsome bass lines and Rachel Aggs' jagged yet rubbery guitar. All three band members lend their voices to Why Choose, pushing and pulling between Aggs' knife hilt yelps and drummer Andrew Milk's steadied responses, giving heft to the anxious energy of tracks like "Straight Lines" and brevity to the detached cool of "Passing Through" and "Private Party."
Last Fall The Twilight Sad released their much-lauded return to form Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. The album was a bracing, widescreen encapsulation of everything that fans have come to love and expect from the band. And while the album was a dense and dark aural journey, the songs at the heart of the album were as raw and honest as ever, buoyed by James Graham's audacious burr and his equally brittle and cutting lyrics.
It's those lyrics and songwriting that come to the forefront on The Oran Mor Sessions. Captured live at Glasgow's infamous Oran Mor, a converted 19th century church, by the band's longtime live engineer Andrew Bush, these versions strip away the sonic fury to leave the songs vulnerable in acoustic arrangements that highlight the quiet beauty that lies beneath Twilight Sad records. The result is a new look at the songs that made up Nobody Wants To Be Here... paired with an emotional cover of Arthur Russell's classic "I Couldn't Say It To Your Face". The session becomes an invaluable companion piece to their latest album and an essential entry to the catalog in its own right.
Animal Collective's 'Prospect Hummer' EP, previously only available on CD and digitally, is making its way to vinyl almost exactly ten years since its original release on FatCat. 'Prospect Hummer' was the last release to see Animal Collective operating in a largely acoustic singer-songwriter / freak-folk mode, and three of the EP's four tracks feature the sweet, distinctive vocals of cult singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan.
The idea for this EP germinated during a 2003 tour, which saw Animal Collective (playing as an Avey Tare / Panda Bear duo) supporting Four Tet across the UK. Having long been huge fans of her sole album at that time (the rediscovered 1970 gem, 'Just Another Diamond Day'), Animal Collective happened to meet Vashti when the tour passed through Edinburgh. Following this meeting, ideas were hatched and conversations began, culminating in the group selecting these three beautiful songs for Vashti to make a home in.
Shopping are propulsive basslines, primitive disco-not-disco drums and guitar lines sharp as broken glass. The band was formed in 2012 by members Rachel Aggs (guitar), Billy Easter (bass) and Andrew Milk (drums), who've all done time in a plethora of notable UK DIY bands including Trash Kit and Wet Dog. They pull from a well of 70's post-punk with a voraciousness seldom seen these days, bringing to mind the jagged aggression of Gang of Four, the voracious yelp of The Slits and the dance inducing thrust of Delta 5 and ESG.
The band released a 7-inch single shortly after forming, which sold out within a week. The band's self-released debut LP, put out via their own MILK records in the UK has received whole-hearted acclaim, selling out their 1000 piece run in just a few months by hand delivering them to top-tier UK shops, who couldn't seem to get enough of their groove riding, tough talking, life-loving post-punk funk. Now the band have signed on to FatCat, with a new LP on the way later in 2015 and to introduce the band stateside we're making their self-released album available here for the first time.
Following a triumphant 2014 and ahead of a month of US touring, fast¬≠rising Scottish duo Honeyblood have premiered an all¬≠new recording with, 'No Big Deal'. "We had a couple of songs that I really loved, but I didn't think were quite right for the next album," explains frontwoman Stina Tweeddale. "A double¬≠A side single felt the perfect way to get them out there." The first recordings with new drummer Cat Myers, the special standalone single release comes ahead of a packed touring schedule for 2015, which sees the band spending over a month in the US, taking in co¬≠headline stints with 2:54, as well as SXSW and a support tour with legendary fellow Scots Belle And Sebastian. With details of the physical release and 'No Big Deal' to arrive soon and an epic live schedule taking them into the autumn, 2015 looks to be another action¬≠packed year for one of the most talked-about new bands around.
When the NY Times placed Tal National's Kaani on their year-end Top 10 list, the Culture Minister of Niger organized a televised ceremony to honor the band. But it didn't stop there. The Guardian, The Independent, Mojo, Vice, The Wire, The Financial Times, Chicago Reader and others all sang exuberant praises. NPR, KEXP and WBEZ hosted live sessions. What they all recognized was the band's entirely new approach to West African music - that Tal National is a rock band.
Well, sort of.
The songs on Zoy Zoy are a mix of traditionals and originals, and they are intense. They are extraordinarily sophisticated. The band speak French, but use the expression "very rock and roll" quite seriously, implying their awareness that the loud guitars and bewildering rhythmic complexity separates them from their peers. They are proud that their members represent the different cultural groups of Niger, some of which haven't always been on the best of terms (the group includes Tuareg, Hausa, Fulani, and Zarma). Still, they are aware that Western ears may not fully grasp their self-proclaimed "rock" label, and we sure don't know many rock bands that keep folks dancing in a trance-like state for 5 hours at a time.