This is moving us all right now -
Ibeyi = Twins from France and Cuba, who sing in English and the ancient Yoruba language.
And judging by this they’re great live too -
More soon please.
This is moving us all right now -
Ibeyi = Twins from France and Cuba, who sing in English and the ancient Yoruba language.
And judging by this they’re great live too -
More soon please.
So, other than my job of helping bring music to the masses, I have a hobby of bringing music to the masses. Part of that sacred yet somewhat bent chalice is time spent managing (kind of) metal band Karnivool, who have a small but dedicated fan base around the world. Playing the sort of technical rifferama that the band deals out means that they do quite well in some unusual parts of the world, and I was just lucky enough to tag along for part of a tour where they played festivals and gigs in Germany, Finland, Austria, the UK, Romania, Bratislava, Turkey and amongst other places…. Russia. That’s right, Russia.
Now when we got the Russian offer we were pretty stoked and it actually made logistical sense – the band were playing in Finland beforehand, so it was a drive over the top of Finland and down through St Petersburg to Moscow. We even picked up offers of some small Arena shows in southern Russia on the way into their next play in Hungary, so it was all looking good. Then shit got real, Putin got possessive and our bus company decided that driving through Crimea or eastern Ukraine was a bad idea, particularly when rebels were taking over airports and blockading roads. A quick lesson on geography and Google maps confirmed that totally screwed our routing (Ukraine is a big place, who knew!) so we lost some shows and booked some flights to make it happen.
I’m going to skim over the ins and outs of our travels, other than saying that my personal journey involved being held aside in a room by Russian customs for some time (along with a Russian woman with 2 children and 3 gold teeth who wanted to use my phone!) due to a visa typo, as well as being hassled by the most aggressive touts I’ve ever seen while waiting an hour and a half in order to share a cab with a Russian family. Lots more to add to that – but let’s keep to the gig.
It was a 3 day festival held in a park built by Stalin to celebrate all things that are good and Russian and revolutionary, so the site was a trip. More on that later. The festival also starred such artists as Marilyn Manson, The Prodigy, Die Antwoord and on the day my kids were playing Mastodon and The Deftones. So you know, pretty easy listening. It would take me a very long time to tell the story of the whole trip – but I’m going to dwell on lets say, 3 things that happened at this festival that I have never experienced anywhere in the world, and believe me I’ve seen some festivals!
Lets get the first and most noticeable one out of the way. It had a frickin rocket. With a bar under it. Most festivals have some sort of dodgem cars or shitty fairground ride. Not this. The park had a life sized, take me to the moon, Soyuz number whatever rocket, out just to the left of front of house, complete with launching platform. Hard to miss when you walk out onto the stage, and somewhat disconcerting when nobody has mentioned it. It really dwarfed the passenger jet in full revolutionary regalia that was next to it, some of the band didn’t even notice that! Not to leave the rocket underutilised the promoters had built a grandstand under it with the VIP bar and viewing area – so we went there, had shots of Vodka (believe it or not, Russian Standard Vodka does indeed seem to be the Russian standard…) under the stage 1 engines and watched Mastodon and all was well with the world.
Second – also a first for myself and the band– it had bomb threats. Yes, real ones, well real enough for the police to roll in on Friday, close down the show and search the site – causing not a little carnage and from photos I saw a near riot. Why the bomb threats you ask? Well the answer of course is that Marilyn Manson was playing on Friday, and as much as the rest of the world stop caring about the “shocking” antics of Brian a long time ago the Russian religious extremists viewed him as a threat to public well being. Of course the way I found out about this was waking up hungover in a Moscow hotel room and jumping online and seeing the story linked by a bunch of Australian websites. Took me a minute to work out the festival talked about in the story was actually the one my lads were playing. Oh well, off to see Red Square then….
Bomb threats have cancelled our show in Moscow, just as we were about to perform. pic.twitter.com/qPBNJh3bUW— Marilyn Manson (@marilynmanson)June 27, 2014
note the missed opportunity for a rocket in shot!
The thing that really confused me about this whole exercise was – had none of the aforementioned extremists bothered Googling Die Antwoord? Cause if they found our mate Brian upsetting then trawling through some of our South Africans friends content on YouTube would have made them shit the bed.
Following on from that – lets talk about security. Not just avoiding bombs, but crowd control, and the task of keeping those nasty Manson fans under control. We are all used to fluro shirted burly blokes controlling the pit, and occasionally delivering a clip under the ear to those that need a little more convincing. Well, in Moscow, there seemed to be three levels of security. Firstly, dudes in full uniform and massive peaked caps that looked incredibly formal and seemed to have no idea about anything they were asked, in Russian, English or anything else. Then – there were the footsoldiers, who manned the pit and every entrance as well as backstage security. Refreshingly, all of the regular security were dressed in what seemed to be standard issue drab brown suits complete with earpiece. They were also all about 7 foot tall with piercing blue eyes and lets be honest – they scared the shit out of me. They all looked like they could snap me in two and they have killed before and they will again, but damn they looked good dealing with crowdsurfers in those suits haha.
The last line of defense seemed to be – and I am drawing a long bow here – special forces troops. All through the crowd and backstage were large gentleman in blue camouflage outfits who looked like they could perhaps sort out our brown suited friends, no problem.
They were a bit disconcerting to be honest, I’m not used to a military presence at festivals (and I’m from Perth haha!) but perhaps given the bomb threats and the general feeling that if shit goes wrong in Russia – it really goes fucking wrong, it wasn’t bad to have them there. Plus the band attempted to ply them with beer post show and said they seemed to be good blokes, although thankfully I had left by then as I am sure the site of some good meaning Aussie dudes trying to get Spetnaz troops drunk on free Heineken would have given me a coronary. Anyway – there’s a small taste of our Russian adventure. Actually there was one more thing that a Russian Festival had that we haven’t seen at a festival here in a long time. Wolfmother.
A footnote as well if I may. We met so many people in Moscow who were so awesome, and we were so excited to be there, and the crowd was amazing and sang along in their thousands and waited for hours to get things signed and it was a truly amazing experience. Then we got up the next morning hungover as all hell (or still drunk for some!) and got on a budget airline and flew to Hungary. Over the Ukraine. Which looks like a bit of a silly decision now. But be that as it may – people all over the world are good people, and music brings them together, and can we please all stop doing horrible shit to each other? It’s a total bummer – no matter where and how it happens in the world.
We’ve made no secret around these parts about our love for Danny Harley aka The Kite String Tangle. And his tunes, although few and far between at this early stage of his career have been constant staples in every playlist we’ve put together since hearing Given The Chance last year.
But what does the man himself put in his playlists? We saw he’d compiled a list of his favourites recently, so we hit him up to give us the skinny on the selection -
"This playlist contains songs that are good. Simple. The inspiration behind the playlist was songs that had affected me enough to re-visit them regularly which is the case with all of these songs. Whether it be the lyrics or the production or the time that I first heard it…they are all awesome to me in some way. I hope that their greatness transcends my own experiences and will bring a roller coaster of feels (let’s call it the feel-train) to the listener.
WARNING: life may appear to be in slow motion while listening to this playlist.”
Stream it via the player below or click HERE to open it through Spotify on your desktop.
Whilst we’re on the topic of good songs it would be remiss of us not to plug The Kite String Tangle’s own Vessel EP which is loaded with 6 of its own.
It drops in Australia & NZ on August 8 and the rest of the world will get it on August 12 so mark the date on your calendars or better yet lock in a pre-order and be rewarded with Arcadia (a tune that’s worth the price of admission alone) instantly.
Lykke Li x Guns n Roses
Winona Ryder x Tom Waits
Alex Murphy x Jimi Hendrix
Miley Cyrus x The Beatles
Morrissey x The Smiths
Debbie Harry x The Ramones
Devendra Banhart x MC Hammer
Grimes x Depeche Mode
Kele Okereke x Nirvana
'George Harrison Memorial Tree Killed By Beetles'
Has there ever been a better case of irony?
via LA Times
When the FUNK
The mind boggles at what the crowd would have been like, but would be a good reason to time travel.
Diplo has gone and given Lorde’s ‘Tennis Court’ the Andre Agassi remix treatment.
Don’t worry, It sounds a lot better than it looks.
DOES JIMMY PAGE HAVE AN INSTAGRAM?
”Why’s that interesting?” Acton Bell demands, leaning away from his long black, looking just past me. George Sand, the second member of Hopium, is smiling across the narrow wooden table at Bell, a hand planted under his cheek and a grin splashed broadly between both ears. Hopium are an electronic two-piece wreathed in mystery, unwilling to give up their identities and unrolling their wounded, undulating pop just one song at a time. The second song, ‘Dreamers’ (featuring Phoebe Lou), has just dropped. It already looks poised for explosion, with 20,000 plays on its first day and climbing the Hype Machine charts with meteoric speed.
The question Acton Bell has swung towards me at head height is in response to their public invisibility…and my enthusiasm towards it.
So why do I find an intentionally low profile so interesting? Is it because of the dramatic tension the preservation of the secret bestows upon its keepers? Because I can mould the shadowy forms in an image of my choosing? Is it because a riddle is like an extended hand, further inviting me to engage more deeply with something I don’t fully understand?
I don’t think/say any of these things. Instead I mutter something along the lines of identity subsuming musical quality, of personalities being more prominent than the music they’re supposedly recognised for.
Oh you mean the managing of celebrity?
That’s always been rock and roll…
Uh yeah… but maybe in increasing volume these days…
Would Jimmy Page have an Instagram? People over-share so bad these days. Like everything. I guess I’ve read some books on Led Zeppelin…I probably did want to know.
The anonymity of Hopium is less about the cult of personality culture in the music industry and more because the music is their only real interest, their only true focus.
"We almost couldn’t be bothered thinking of a name. Everything seems trivial apart from the music" Bell remarks flatly. But where sought-after music is concerned, the planless has a way of becoming the plan itself.
"We haven’t really thought about the long term at all" Sand admits. "The ‘anonymous’ thing was [because] we don’t have a plan and then someone was like: ‘that’s a really good idea, you should make a thing out of that’…"
HAVE YOU EVER CHEATED?
Have you ever cheated?
[Long break, like a pause riding atop a small silence]
On someone? Yes.
[Internal Monologue, WV]
Okay, this was a very long time ago. I’m a scumbag for completely different reasons now. I’m trying to be way better. I’m polite to baristas, I let people pull in front of me in traffic, I give up my seat on the tram. I have perfect feedback on ebay. Gimme a break.
We’ve got you on record.
[More double-stacked pause, mingled with uneasy smiles from WV]
We’re talking about the band’s first single ‘Cut’, a frigid, desolate and utterly benighted electronic gem, dripping in an almost masochistic loyalty. Lines like: “I’ll cut off my legs so I can never leave you/I’ll cut out my tongue so I’ll never deceive you” betray an oceanic sense of guilt, a dark tone garnished perfectly with a video completely comprised of steam and human form in monochrome silhouette. George Sand admits that the ‘conundrum of commitment’ in the song is “a combination of both of our experiences”.
Hopium’s newest single, ‘Dreamers’ is quite different, thematically and sonically. It’s brightened with pop flourishes, high, euphoric synths and vocal lines/loops that tattoo themselves instantly onto the listening brain. There’s also a lot more hands in the mix, with M-Phazes thickening the track with additional beats and the glassy voice of Phoebe Lou (from beloved Melbourne band Snakadaktal who suffered an early extinction this year) shimmering over the top. The duelling vocals ghost each other, chime in almost to the point of interruption, and it works. Perfectly. I”m going to use the words ‘pop gem’, the phrase ‘catchier than bird flu’.
Both members of Hopium have spent years in bands, playing music utterly unlike what they are making together under their shadowy new moniker. But Hopium wasn’t simply a reaction against the band scene they’d spent so much time in, it was more of an expedition, something to refresh their sense of discovery.
“We just thought it was interesting I think” George Sand yawns. “Because we hadn’t really done it before so we have been learning the whole time…I think [‘Cut’] was one of the first beats we put together…”
And it’s clear, even after only two songs, that Hopium are evolving. ‘Cut’, despite being a brooding, sparse electronic jam, had exactly zero synths on it, (besides a Moog Minotaur which acted as a bass).
“All the chords were made up of samples and vocals” nods George Sand. But even ‘Dreamers’, despite being notably more synth-friendly, still is peppered with strange treatments and interesting arrangements. Again, the chords that fill the bulk of the songs verses are vocals, cut and filtered. And despite the sonic breadth and emotional magnitude of ‘Dreamers’, we’re still spared huge synth builds. There are none of what Acton Bell refers to as “overdone filtering whoosh whoosh synths”, the song’s epic quality distilled in just four or five colourful, reverb-drenched stabs (of what sounds like a Korg Monopoly).
But despite the colour that is steadily leaking into their sound, all of the music Hopium has made so far, has been made without the same historical conventions surrounding electronic music. And whether it was because, as they admit, they “didn’t know what [they] were doing”, or because they deliberately wanted to defy genre conventions, they avoided some of the platitudes that stagnate so much modern electronic music.
“Every genre has its rules” Acton Bell enthuses, “but also every instrument has the Trap…but then I started to realize that computer music meant that you could do absolutely everything…”
SO YOU HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING? THERE HAVEN’T BEEN ANY LEAKS? HAS ANYONE HEARD ANYTHING?
I’ve played in a few bands. I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne with a band, with my high school buddies…Adelaide is a bit of a backwater place so it’s kind of the suburban thing, you just listen to pop punk and emo and shit, then that’s the world…I feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to make good music. Because I made a lot of bad music.
I actually met George when he was in a band and I was supposed to record them, remember? But then it just never happened
As people who have both spent much of their previous musical careers on stage, it’s mildly surprising that when asked about if they’d thought about playing live, George Sand’s response is a lethargic: “Not really…” But conceptually they’re full of ideas, and all ideas very in-step with the Hopium way. Their ideas favour “heaps of visuals, projections and lights”, keeping their music disembodied, faceless.
“We want to develop a way of making music live in the same way that you make it in a studio, which is more of an experience. We don’t just want to play a CD” Acton Bell states coolly.
But these ideas are, of course, all conjecture. Who truly knows how Hopium will continue to evolve. This is part of the joy, part of the magnetism of Hopium as a project. The mystery isn’t purely manufactured. These guys actually seem to be making it up as they go along.
“There is a lot of unanswered questions” Bell admits. “Every time we have gone to answer these questions we realise we don’t have the music yet, so we just go back to the music.” And their focus is gratifying. That fact that Bell emphatically feels like Hopium “can’t be too easy…can’t just be one sound that anyone else could have done” means that progress is slow. But it’s also deliberate. Bell’s own band motto of “the strangest way you can get to a sound, the better” is part of the reason that ‘Dreamers’ has wrapped the blogosphere in a sudden fever. Bell’s half-mocking plea of “So you haven’t heard anything? There haven’t been any leaks? Has anyone heard anything?” It’s more than a little fitting that Hopium’s own name means, basically, a vested interested capitalising on illusion or rhetoric. But Hopium the band, thankfully, aren’t sophistry without substance. Their mystery and slow careful output are very real, even to Bell and Sand. And more important than their anonymity, than their planlessness and sideways-approach to electronic music, is their material. Whatever may happen in the smoky fringes of Hopium, the songs, few as they are, speak for themselves.
For Cool Accidents
There is nothing not to love or even adore about Viv Albertine’s book Clothes Music Boys. Nothing from its oh-so-perfect title (more of a life manifesto for a generation) to its perfectly formed little vignettes of 1970s pre-punk life. I love how she divides life and years into the key elements – what she was wearing, who she was seeing, and what she was listening to. It’s a brilliantly natural filing system for music fans.
Albertine (for those of you who don’t know the self-taught guitarist with seminal all girl punk group The Slits – one of the earliest of all Punk Groups in the wake of the Pistols, and a very important moment in women in rock. Check their seminal Peel session of 1977 for a flavour of recording as perfectly formed chaos ) tells the story of how cutting edge punk rock was through tales of everyday life for two thirds of the book, and humanises people who have become so iconic as to be almost caricatures. So we meet Rotten (crap blow job), Johnny Thunders (heroin sleazebag), Sid Vicious (just nice actually and sad for it), Nancy (tried to shag the singer first), Adam Ant, Siouxsie, Vivienne (Westwood) & Malcolm (McLaren), Mick Jones (wore girls clothes), Keith Levene (taught her to play like herself), Don & Neneh Cherry as they were – not as history has cast them.
[above is a bunch of them together in the shortlived and un-recorded band The Flowers Of Romance: Marco (later Adam & the Ants), Viv, Sid V, Siouxsie, Severin]
She is always humble and self-effacing – never more so than telling how The Slits supported The Clash on the White Riot tour and started with a 1,2,3,4 in pure tribute to The Ramones without realising that was the time signature … until Mick Jones said they were all supposed to stop in time too!
But best of all she talks about the role music and musicians played in her life and growing up, and it’s incredibly powerful:
“Musicians are our real teachers. They are opening us up politically with their lyrics and creatively with experimental, psychedelic music. They share their discoveries and journeys with us. We can’t travel far, no one I know has ever been on an aeroplane. We can’t meet the Maharishi, but we learn about him through music. We can hear Indian influences by listening to George’s Harrison’s sitars, discover Timothy Leary, R.D.Laing, Arthur Janov and “the Primal Scream”, acid, California, Woodstock, riots .. whatever they experience , we experience through their songs. It’s true folk music – not played on acoustic guitar by a bearded bloke – but about true life experiences”.
I don’t know if it will work this way now, or ever again, in the age of streaming, instant access to media, and so many other sources of inspiration. It is hard to imagine it in a chart full of Pitbull, Flo Rida and Redfoo. But you can see why it mattered to her and her generation so easily, and where the rebel yell came from.
And if you cross your fingers and wish hard maybe it could just happen again??
[Further reading - When you’ve finished with Viv try bandmate Tessa’s version which is very inspiring too]
When was the last time you bought an actual record from an actual record store?
We highly recommend giving it a go if it’s been a while…
It really is good for the soul… or rock… or pop… or alternative… or electronica… or hip hop… or classical… or country… or dance… or folk… or heavy metal… or jazz… or (insert weird sub-genre here) or world.