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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Live Report: Ypsigrock Festival 2018

Credit: Elisabetta Brian Photography

It’s late morning on the outskirts of Castelbuono, and the old ladies have started dancing in the water. At the edge of the pool the instructor has turned on a stereo, sending a stream of radio-friendly reggaeton and Latin pop bangers across the hotel courtyard and out into the mountains, a collection that does not feature ‘Despacito’ but which could feasibly arrive at ‘Despacito’ at any moment.

Towards the end of the class, something strange happens: the music moves into an ambient mix of what sounds like both Enya and Italy’s answer to Perfume Genius, and le danzatrici begin holding hands and floating in concentric circles, a death ritual played out in a sun-kissed leisure complex in the Sicilian mountains.

Imagine my disappointment when I was informed, tears still wet on my cheeks, that this was not the opening ceremony of Ypsigrock Festival 2018, but a weekly hotel aerobics class, and that I would have to travel further up into the mountains to watch the actual, scheduled selection of live performances. Reader, I was incensed and embarrassed in equal measure.

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In The Dark: The Solitary Craft of Hilary Woods

 

“In the dark,” Hilary Woods sings, “our stars shine.” For an artist thrust into the spotlight at an early age – it’s easy to forget that Woods was still a teenager at the time she was touring the world with JJ72 – her spirit comes through most vividly in the dimly lit scenes that make up ‘Colt’, the immersive debut album she’s releasing on Sacred Bones. Following a couple of similarly stark EPs released over the years, it feels like an honest document for a musician more at home with the piano, more at home with something still and contemplative than indie-rock bravado.

Not that she couldn’t do both if she chose to; at this point, it seems the artist is capable of just about anything she puts her hand to. Between raising a daughter, studying for a degree, and occasionally performing in bands, Woods also spent a great deal of time painting, and one imagines her working from the same palette that her music draws from: pitch black, pallor white, bruise violet. Perhaps. Perhaps she just paints sunflowers.

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International Brighton Thing: Europe Dazzles At The Great Escape 2018

Credit: @SamNahirny

Something incredible is happening in Brighton. I know this, because people keep coming up to me and saying things like “this hasn’t happened for years” and “you don’t realise how luck you are” and “I might take my pint outside”. Has the rapture arrived? Lord, have The Rapture arrived? No. It’s The Great Escape 2018, and the sun is beating down on Brighton like it owes him money. Welcome to festival season.

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The Silence Is So Loud: Are Music Festivals Finally Committing to Equality?

I’m sure there are worse offenders. Somewhere, across the unfathomable spread of corporate shindigs and boutique getaways that make up the modern festival scene, there has to be at least one line-up that reeks of IPA and second-hand Bill Hicks biographies more than this one; a metal weekender somewhere in Coventry, perhaps, or Kendal Calling.

But then, Lollapalooza is a particularly massive event to be working this hard to avoid booking women. “Literally the first four lines of the poster are all male artists or bands,” Nandi Rose Plunkett – AKA Half Waif – told me recently, recounting the moment she saw the legendary Chicago festival’s 2018 line-up for the first time. “That’s really not acceptable. These bigger festivals have a responsibility to be representative.”

Even where relatively major female acts are booked, such as St. Vincent or Camila Cabello – appearing 16th and 24th respectively on the Lollapalooza poster – they end up with the kind of billing that, in a just world, Catfish & The Bottlemen would be occupying. Clearly, there’s work to be done.

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Tom Misch – Geography

Perhaps you blinked and missed it, but Tom Misch is kind of a big deal these days, already scheduled into festival slots above the likes of Flying Lotus and Mavis Staples this summer. For his debut album ‘Geography’, the 22-year-old has roped in several guest appearances, and across the duration of an LP, it becomes abundantly clear why: like fellow producer-turned- guitarist Mark Ronson, no-one’s really paying to hear him jam out Stevie Wonder covers.

Published in Clash Magazine (and online)

Storming, Thundering, Lightning: The Elemental Properties of Zola Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the year, Nika Roza Danilova was working on a new piece of music while a thunderstorm raged outside. The artist, who has just released her fifth album as Zola Jesus, has often been described in terms more befitting a mage or sorcerer: critics talk of her exorcising demons, casting spells, illuminating the nighttime that her songs invariably arrive cloaked in. On that night, it appears she channelled the elements in a more literal fashion.

“I don’t know, maybe you know more about physics and electricity than me,” she offers, incorrectly. “But I was in my house, and it was storming, thundering, lightning outside, and I was working on this piece. So I leaned over and I touched my desk, and all of a sudden my whole body got this jolt of electricity. It didn’t even just course through me, it was like my brain got shocked.” After the year she’s had, and the fulminating qualities of new record ‘Okovi’, it feels like a prescient moment.

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Kedr Livanskiy – Ariadna

Mistress of the labyrinth, bride of Dionysus, goddess of mazes, paths, snakes, fertility, passion and wine, the legend of Ariadne is built on the twin pillars of ecstasy and uncertainty. Kedr Livanskiy, the musical alias of Moscow-based singer and producer Yana Kedrina, treads a similar path: her debut ‘Ariadna’ carries a thread that runs from the Romantic poets of the 1790s to the nascent electronic scene of 1990s Russia. Much like the Greek heroine, Kedrina’s ability to incorporate these strands into her music doesn’t prevent her from occasionally losing the way.

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Say No To The Yes Men: Nadine Shah Interviewed

Nadine Shah is texting me from a Wetherspoons. ‘I’m gonna duck out of this shithole and call you in 6mins. That ok?’ Half an hour later, we’re wrapping up with a discussion of their gin palace. (She’s got a double waiting inside.) Somewhere in between, we cover the Syrian refugee crisis, British nationalism, the current Tory government, immigration, gender, and revolution.

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