“I’m not afraid to be vulnerable”: DiS Meets Half Waif

 

Sifting through the embers of a year, extinguished across all but a few scattered patches of colour or warmth, we find ourselves longing for either the fire or the ash. To remember the vibrancy of our hurts as brightly as the healing pleasures that allayed them, however briefly; or else to stub it out, to usher in the comfort of a charcoal totality that doesn’t hurt this much. Listening to ‘Lavender Burning’, the heartbreaking introduction to what might be Half Waif’s first masterpiece, neither suffices. It is a record that lives and breathes the ‘strange kind of loving’ that occupies the embers, the infinite split between love and loss.

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“I’m always a little surprised when we make a new record”: DiS Meets Yo La Tengo

 

Drums are fading in. In film soundtracks, the immediate crash of cymbals is never cause for concern, but an arrival of known quantities; the singularity has passed, the explosions are here, chaos reigns. It’s the fade that unsettles, that sweeping sense that war is on the horizon. Yo La Tengo have just made a record called There’s A Riot Going On, and by the time opening number ‘You Are Here’ has swung into full view – by the time the record begins to show its hand – you realise this is, in fact, the most relentlessly serene the band have sounded since Summer Sun. The riot is elsewhere.

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Into The Shadows: DiS Meets Fabrizio Cammarata

 

The first thing you notice are the houses floating in the sky. Flashes of light rise up from the water, one after another, each one an impossible feat of geometry and space that rents the physical world asunder, unclear whether it should belong to the ocean or the stars. As the bus moves further into the city and your eyesight adjusts to unseen horizons, realisation dawns: the creases above the light do not cleave the sky from the clouds, but the mountains from the sky. In England, certainly, seaside towns are not usually distracted by mountains. If this sounds familiar, perhaps you have also seen Palermo for the first time on a late evening bus journey.

As I depart the bus and find my suitcase, a man is already stood waiting for me. Even by Sicilian standards, Fabrizio Cammarata is absurdly handsome, and although he confesses to several stories of having his heart broken across the weekend to follow, one suspects it has worked both ways. In Palermo, the eyes begin to adjust to beauty as they would to the dark; by the time we’ve reached the renovated 19th Century palace that I’d be calling home for the next two days, I fear that the slightly fancier Wetherspoons pubs of Exeter and Sheffield may no longer hold the same majesty.

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N.E.R.D – NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES

Regardless of whether anyone needed to hear this record, certainly no one needed to make it. It was famously documented in 2003 that, at one point, 43 percent of songs on U.S. radio (and 20 percent in the UK) were Neptunes-produced; the team of Pharrell Williams and Hugo Chavez were having to stagger releases, essentially to stop all their own songs competing against each other in the charts. With a hit-making machine already in place, the addition of Shae Haley to establish N.E.R.D. allowed Pharrell a playground for his more audacious off-cuts. On NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES, their first output since 2010’s wildly inessential Nothing, the trio’s meandering avant-rap is somehow more encumbered by its lack of ideas than its lack of editorial savvy.

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Ghosts of Urban Decay: DiS Meets Andrew Wasylyk

 

I think it’s a cloudy day in Hawkhill, though it’s hard to tell. A slow, hazy brightness envelops the landscape. In the middle distance there stands a grey stone building, roof long since gutted, an old tree looming over its derelict frame in defiance. Everything here is charcoal-grey and silent. I’ve never been to this place. But I’m staring at Joseph McKenzie’s black and white photograph of the area, taken from his 1966 collection Dundee – A City In Transition, and I can hear a piano arpeggio charting its course around the edges of the frame.

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Gregg Kowalsky – L’Orange, L’Orange

Like magical realism, the key signifiers of ambience are invariably opaque: as a genre, it thrives on ambiguity, haze, distortion, the ‘undecidable’, the inversion of assumed values. Light, where permitted, may only be dusky or twilit, carved out in anaemic shards of an otherwise pitch-black or cobalt totality. It may not be bright or, heaven forbid, sunny. It should not conjure Miami or California. Beyond all else, the ambient record denotes the absence of certainty, a precious world outside our own built from spiderwebs and choral loops. With L’Orange, L’OrangeGregg Kowalsky compromises all our prose about misty forests and abandoned skyscrapers. It is incandescent.

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Cults – Offering

By the time the Manhattan duo had released their debut album, the continued existence of Cults already felt like a survival fight. While breakout hit and 2011 ubiquity “Go Outside” gambolled through its four minutes with the insouciant, no-fucks breeziness of its contemporaries (Sleigh Bells‘ “Rill Rill”, Chairlift‘s “Bruises”), it also revealed glimpses of a heaviness that no glockenspiel could carry. Above all, they faced the dread fate of creating a cute hit: moving on from it. Now on their third album, Offering finds the band exploring the scope of their natural ballast with some of their darkest songs to date, while simultaneously sounding freer than ever; no longer one-hit wonders, theirs proves to be a robust kind of levity.

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This Will Be The Last Time: DiS Meets Chuck

 

Each generation is obsessed with the idea of legacy, the cultural artefacts it will box up and leave pristine in memoriam, but few have failed quite so abjectly to achieve it as ours. Following a correlative spike in nostalgia, we’ve been forced to watch a succession of rose-tinted discographies – including both Pavement and Smashing Pumpkins, though no word on a ‘Range Life’ duet yet – jacked open and stripped for parts, cobbled together in a grotesque, wrinkled parody of the nineties. Charles Griffin Gibson, AKA New York-based DIY indie rocker CHUCK, hasn’t settled any expensive lawsuits with his work, but he still knows when to call it a day.

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Anna of the North – Lovers

Reminiscing on the countless albums that have been signposted as eighties nostalgia, it’s striking how few of them actually sound like anything from that decade. Sure, the drums are loaded with gated reverb, the synth modules are preset to soft tones that were disowned in the nineties, fade-outs are a thing again, and the saxophone is suddenly an acceptable replacement for the electric guitar.

What’s perhaps unsurprising is that all these records represent exactly what they are: a loving pastiche recreated from memories, a tribute rather than a precise facsimile. Anna Lotterud – AKA the vocal half of pop duo Anna of the North – was born in the summer of 1989, a few months before Taylor Swift. On debut album Lovers, she calls back to an era she couldn’t possibly remember, but her nostalgia forms part of a cultural renaissance that now merits its own chapter in pop history.

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Kesha – Rainbow

As our march toward the world’s end builds to a canter, the narratives we wrap around human tragedies both great and small remain the same: resurrection, hope not hate, the phoenix rising from the ashes. After Eagles of Death Metal survived the terrorist attack that interrupted their 2015 Bataclan show in Paris, the appropriate responses began flooding in, spearheaded by (a) a collection of largely ersatz covers of ‘I Love You All The Time’, and (b) the usual well-meaning platitudes about hope and fear. Frontman Jesse Hughes didn’t get the memo. ‘I know people will disagree with me,’ he told The Guardian a few months later, ‘but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal.’ Suddenly, it appeared the protagonists had their own complex moral code, one that didn’t necessarily fit with the scripted liberal response. The phoenix proved as unmanageable as the ashes.

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