Hold On Tight, Darling: Amanda Palmer Interviewed

Photo credit: Khan & Selesnick

“I’m not gonna match you,” Amanda Palmer once sang on ‘Ampersand’, a paean to the importance of retaining your own identity, “’cause I’ll lose my voice completely.” On the 16th June 2015, the day that Donald Trump announced to the world that he would be running for US president, Palmer was already anticipating a new voice shaping the next chapter of her life. Her son would be born exactly three months later.

It wouldn’t be the last time that a major political event juxtaposed with personal events in the artist’s life; more recently, her new album ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ was recorded as the Kavanaugh trial was playing out across the world. “We were literally glued to our phones in between takes, watching this cosmic battle of the sexes play out in Washington DC,” she tells me over the phone from upstate New York. “I’ll never be able to separate those events, the way I’ll never be able to separate the arrival of my child and the arrival of Donald Trump in my life; they showed up in my life at the same time.”

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Freaky Dancing: The Fanzine That Documented The Haçienda’s Heyday

 

 

 

 

 

The glory of it all, of course, was that none of this needed to happen. “The hacienda must be built” was the mantra, a Situationist quote from Ivan Chtcheglov refashioned by Tony Wilson to lend the project an additional veneer of counter-culture chic. But the Haçienda didn’t need building. Peter Hook supposedly once ventured that New Order would have been better off if they’d given ten quid to everyone who ever came to the club and sent them on their way; by all accounts, it was a financial disaster, tentatively propped up for most of its lifespan by the band’s record sales. Not that it matters now. “Some people make money,” Wilson observed at the time. “Others make history.”

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Eurosonic Noorderslag 2019’s success stories came from unexpected sources

Photo credit: Bart Heemskerk

“Bloody foreigners,” the shopkeeper gestures towards me, before adding a wink to convey levity. As a progressive student city that prizes itself on inclusivity, it’s fair to say that Groningen’s warm hospitality is matched only by its puzzlement at the events unravelling in the UK, a series of spread-legged power stances that appear both hostile and ludicrous to the rest of the world.

Later that evening I’m sharing a cigarette with another local outside a bar, who visibly rallies himself to present the question in the way that one might ask out their high school crush: “Do you like Brexit?” I do not. I like watching European bands and drinking cheap gin at equally unsustainable rates. Thankfully I’m at Eurosonic Noorderslag, the finest new music showcase in Europe, where my remit extends to both.

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In Conversation: Calpurnia

 

“That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one…”

As the black matriarch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Calpurnia seems light years away from the four teenage kids from Vancouver who carry her name. They’re young in a modern way, as one would hope: still goofy and wild, still piecing the world together between gym class and Fortnite. Nonetheless, just as Scout becomes fascinated with the scenes beyond her housekeeper’s gaze, the band have had to negotiate the world’s obsession with their own second lives.

After bringing their first singles together with two new tracks for a debut collection titled – what else? – ‘Scout EP’, the quartet are starting to get attention for all the right reasons. They’ve been picked up by Canadian indie label Royal Mountain, with Transgressive covering distribution across the UK and Europe. Their live shows are getting hot reviews across the board. Weezer even tweeted to say how much they loved the band’s cover of ‘Say It Ain’t So’. In other words, they’re proving to be a whole lot more than a casual side-project for their lead singer, Hollywood actor and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard.

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Nine Songs: An Interview with Sophie Ellis-Bextor

 

If recent single “Love is You” sounds familiar, you might just recall the sample it’s built on. The last time that beat was riding high in the charts was August 2000, when Spiller’s “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” became the soundtrack to every WKD-soaked dancefloor from Ipswich to Ibiza, promptly ushering a 21-year-old Sophie Ellis-Bextor into pop stardom.

What’s perhaps more remarkable is the constant evolution she’s worked hard to maintain ever since. Never interested in playing it safe, Ellis-Bextor made a conscious decision that 2014’s Wanderlust would be created independently and without any disco or dance tracks, a philosophy that largely carried over into 2016’s Familia. Both were written with Ed Harcourt, both carried a sophisticated blend of hooks and heart that made them two of her finest records, despite being largely overlooked in various corners of the press. Not that she cares too much about that sort of thing.

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Dummy’s 25 Best Albums of 2018 (Janelle Monáe, Rosalía)

If anyone required a reminder of music criticism’s intensely performative role in global culture, look no further than its reaction to ‘El Mal Querer’ within the US and UK. Much has been made of its reconstructive qualities, imagining that the threads of R&B, electronic voice treatment and Justin Timberlake samples weave through flamenco’s superannuated frame like so much scaffolding. In truth, mainstream pop has been swiping bits from Catalan and Latin quarters for decades, and this is perhaps why Rosalía’s breakthrough LP feels so natural: for many listeners, that sonic palette came closer to distillation than adulteration.

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We Love EU: The Past and Future of Polish Mythology

 

If siren mythology scatters the earth like dandelion seed, settling in different forms each time it lands, it is perhaps because it tells us the three stories we long to hear: enchantment, danger, and sacrifice. The deities of ancient Slavic folklore are no different, though their sense of loss is heavily pronounced. The alkonost flies around projecting a sound that is both exquisite and hypnotising, immobilising all who hear her until they can focus on nothing else. The gamayun sings to herself, undecipherable and permanently alone in knowing the secret fate of the world. The rusalka is a water spirit who sings a song to lure men to her in the forest; in a story that would essentially become repackaged as The Little Mermaid, she then sells her voice to a witch after falling in love with a human, her language the price of popular acceptance.

Upon exploring modern Katowice, I am pleased to report that there are very, very few demonic bird-maidens at large, though reflections on the value and utility of language remain. For Panieneczki, who I meet prior to their set at 2018’s OFF Festival, the past and present are united by language and music. “Our music combines Polish traditional folk songs with electronic music, something that begins in the past but is also very modern,” Anita Sobiechowska tells me backstage. “All the lyrics are from traditional Polish songs, and we’ve mixed it up with something new.”

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We Love EU: Any Other

 

The lover’s body is a constant source of fascination, but most of all when it is beyond touch, almost beyond memory. What is it about the physical terrain of the body that demands geographical expression? “I have flown the distance of your body from side to side of your ivory coast,” Jeanette Winterson wrote. “I know the forests where I can rest and feed. I have mapped you with my naked eye and stored you out of sight.” At the end of a relationship, as borderlines smudge and X-marked treasures are erased from sight altogether, we long for the stability of those lines. On Two, Geography, the second album from Italian artist Any Other, they remain painfully unfixed.

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Julia Holter – Aviary

Upon hearing 2015’s critically adored ‘Have You in My Wilderness’, it felt as though some of Julia Holter’s sharp edges had been smoothed down. It felt strange in places, still identifiably Holter, but stranger still was the impression that something like ‘Feel You’ could sit happily on a Radio 2 playlist. Three years on, the artist returns with ‘Aviary’, an album grander in scope, bolder in execution, and replete with jagged edges.

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Robyn – Honey

“Can’t take all these memories,” Robyn sings one hundred seconds into her sixth album, “don’t know how to use ‘em.” It transpires that the swirling synth arpeggios of ‘Missing U’ are something of a musical outlier, but the sentiment is one that permeates every strand of Robyn’s artistic DNA: the ability to use those bittersweet memories more effectively than any other musician working today.

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