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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 26th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
Despite our reputation for being idealists and our ability to be hedonists in the California sunshine, Americans seem unable to do the electronic dance sound anywhere near as well as the Europeans. Case in point: Lust for Youth‘s 2014 album ‘International’, out now on Brooklyn vinyl-directed indie label Sacred Bones Records, shows off the Scandinavian ease in taking the humble yet versatile synthesiser to create an irresistable pop beat. The name was originally used for Swede Hannes Norrvide’s solo project, conceived when he realised that as a poor yet ambitious musician with only a toy keyboard to play on, it was better to make music alone.
While his earlier, dronier, rough around the edges sound was a product of his own artistic limitations or not is a matter of debate, but what cannot be disputed is the new sound of Lust for Youth – with Norrvide now joined by longtime live collaborator Loke Rahbek and new band member Malthe Fischer – as an electro powerhouse just waiting for their moment in the sun. Or maybe under the glint of the mirrorball on the dance floor. The promo video for ‘New Boys’, shot by the group’s friend Frederik Valentin and starring Frederik’s younger brother and Lust for Youth fan Oliver, has already met controversy for its potentially erotic interpretation / misinterpretation.
This all seems quite apt, considering the actual sound of the song recalls ’80s New Wave icons such as New Order and Depeche Mode, both of whom faced controversy themselves with their own sexually ambiguous monster hits. No matter how you feel about the video, this tune also has epic synth lines guaranteed to get your toes a-tapping. Another track from ‘International’, ‘Armida’, was unashamedly inspired by a Pet Shop Boys track “where they had sampled a woman’s voice on every snare drum, so we did the same and then the song just came by itself”. An beat ever so insistent urges you on to “shake your feet” and really, who could say no? I’m really hoping the now Copenhagen-based trio will be given the perfect atmosphere to lay down their synth lines in Austin when they showcase at SXSW 2015 in Austin in March.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
Just last week, it was revealed Scarlett Johansson has launched a supergroup. Oh, the horror. Here at TGTF, we’re more interested in supergroups that have actual musical merit. The Dead Weather, Divine Fits, bands of that ilk. The latest supergroup to appear on our radar this time is from Sweden. No-one is quite sure how Miike Snow alum Pontus Winnberg came up with the name one day – Amason happens to also be the name of a highly popular ‘60s-era make of Volvo – but it’s now the name of one of the most promising music collectives to come out of Scandinivia in recent memory.
The band comprises Winnberg (piano), his brother Petter (bass / vocals), Petter’s childhood friend and frequent collaborator Nils Tornqvist (drums), Gustav Ejstes of rock band Dungen (organ / guitar / vocals) and Idiot Wind singer/songwriter Amanda Bergman (synths / vocals). As one would expect with musicians who love their craft, the sum of the five musicians’ disparate influences and experiences is greater than its parts, strongly indicative of the strength of the Scandinavian music community, happy to share their talents and souls in the pursuit of creating amazing music.
Not only did the quintet gel the first time they booked time together in the studio, live they also made a massive impression on industry bods at CMJ 2014, with NPR’s Bob Boilen noting them one of his top 10 discoveries from the annual emerging music event last year in New York City. Unsurprisingly, the band’s debut album ‘Sky City’ released at the end of January was granted a First Listen feature on NPR. Translation: they have a good chance of making it very big here in the States, and they will no doubt have good, if not claustrophobic crowds going to see them at SXSW 2015 next month.
The first two singles Amason released, in 2014, both appear at the beginning of ‘Sky City’. Opening track ‘Älgen’ has an irresistible driving rhythm that should be amazing to watch performed live with its layered synths and effects; they’re situated well during the current era of the anthemic synth-driven band as it shows no sign of waning. This is swiftly followed by ‘Duvan’ (“The Dove”), with arresting vocals from Bergman compared favourably by some reviewers to the smokiest from early Stevie Nicks, while the backing instrumentation envelopes you with its smooth, lounge-y feel perfect for the nighttime. Which is when I imagine Amason will shine the brightest in Austin: under the cover of darkness, where they can surprise and wow punters looking for something different to hit the spot.
The name Gengar for anyone between the ages of 10 and 25 will probably only conjure up one image: a giant purple ghost whose unevolved form would not stop giving you grief as you went through Lavender Tower, and had that kind of mischievous, possibly paedophilic grin painted on its face. After sufficient airplay on the BBC’s specialist music outlets – BBC 6 Music and Huw Stephens’ programme on Radio 1 – Gengahr (see the difference) may bring an altered image into your consciousness.
The North London four-piece are fronted by Felix Bushe, a man who’s not afraid to take on the sublimely creepy in his lyrics (and videos for that matter): take ‘Powder’ for example, it’s a chilling almost Addams’ Family Values take on your classic ’80s flick. They’re supported by BBC Introducing in London on their wee jaunt to Austin, Texas and that automatically will hand them some clout in the hazy heat of the desert. They’ve already impressed at festivals in the UK with their morose take on indie-psych pop, with audiences at Worthy Farm, Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park all seeing the allure of this indie band.
They’ve got the backing of some serious names as well, after sharing the bill with both Dry the River and alt-j and opening for the latter at none other than the O2, they’ll not be daunted by much that is thrown their way. They’re also releasing their debut record this year, so with a trip to SXSW on the cards, it’s undeniably a crucial year for the band if they really do want to evolve from a BBC Intro buzz band to an act with some real hype and credibility. They’re also going to be showing their faces at The Great Escape in Brighton and at a few festivals across Europe like the Best Kept Secret festival in Holland, so it’s likely that their name is going to be out there during 2015.
What are they about? Well, it’s indie noir, if you can conjure up that. The kind of music that you’d expect to see underpinned by a video of a man in a purple smoking jacket, with a twirly little moustache, puffing on a strong mahogany pipe. Are you there yet? No! Well how about this – a morose mix of electronic guitar phase mixes, which are reminiscent of ’70s pop combined with layered vocals and dark sultry undertones.
They’ve caused a stir in the UK and around Europe and now it’s time to see whether audiences in America are going to be captivated by Genghar. Catch them next month at the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music night Wednesday, the 18th of March, at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas.
Grace Ackerman, Phil Plested, Phil Leigh and Matt Holmes make up Chasing Grace – an indie-pop group who formed at Rickmansworth School in Hertfordshire. The four friends got their big break after performing at a “Battle of the Bands”-style competition at the school, where they impressed none other than Shahid Khan, better known as Naughty Boy.
With Naughty Boy’s guidance, Chasing Grace released the ‘Dinner Will Be Served’ EP in 2013, with tracks from the record receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1Xtra. On the back of the EP, the band had writing/mixing sessions with Emeli Sandé and supported the likes of Sam Smith, John Newman and Ellie Goulding, who said that the group had “guts and soul”. It was only a matter of time before Chasing Grace signed to Naughty Boy’s label Island Universal, a deal which was completed in 2012.
The newly-signed Chasing Grace joined Devlin on his UK tour and also provided some of the vocals on ‘A Gift & A Curse’, one of the tracks off the London-born rapper’s second studio album, ‘A Moving Picture’. The group have also collaborated with the likes of X Factor winner James Arthur (on ‘Certain Things’), singer/songwriter Angel (on ‘Sober’) and Naughty Boy himself (on ‘So Strong’).
Last month, Chasing Grace released their debut album ‘Nowhere Near Old Enough’. The album, which was produced by Naughty Boy and his associates, includes five tracks co-written with Emeli Sandé and one with Jimmy Napes, who recently won four Grammy awards for his contribution to Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’. Despite being an upbeat album, ‘Nowhere Near Old Enough’ explores themes of childhood, nostalgia, loathing and regret. With an ever-growing fanbase that includes strong backing from some of pop’s biggest names and a solid debut album under their belt, the future is certainly looking bright for Chasing Grace.
It shouldn’t have come as a complete shock that Rosie Lowe has pursued a career in music. The Devon-born singer/songwriter comes from a family of musicians who brought her up on a rich musical diet, which saw her through to learning how to play the violin and the piano, all by the age of 5. Heavily inspired by jazz and soul, not to mention strong female musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and Billie Holiday, Lowe has been compared to the likes of Laura Mvula, Solange Knowles and Jessie Ware, and it’s clear to see why from the experience already under her belt.
Rosie Lowe first rose to fame in 2013 as the vocalist on Lil Silva’s ‘No Doubt’. This was closely followed by the release of her ‘The Right Thing’, her debut EP. Produced by Kwes and Dave Okumu (of The Invisible), the EP received unanimous acclaim from critics and fans alike. Tracks from the EP were added to both the Radio 1 and 1Xtra Introducing playlists – the only artist to ever achieve this feat.
In 2014, Rosie Lowe became Paul Epworth’s latest signing on his Wolf Tone label, whose other signings include Glass Animals. During the summer, Lowe appeared at a string of festival showcases, including Bestival, Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds and The Great Escape. She also performed at a sold-out headline show at London’s XOYO in May.
Almost a year on from the release of her debut EP, Rosie Lowe launched ‘Water Came Down’ in September 2014, which premiered on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 programme. This was closely followed by ‘How’d You Like It?’, a fine example of Rosie Lowe’s sophisticated songwriting talent. The two singles are taken from her upcoming debut album, expected for release early this year.
Rosie Lowe will be showcasing at SXSW 2015 in Austin next month.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 5th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
Barcelona is the home of the annual music event Primavera Sound, one of the European festivals I’ve long lusted after to attend. And it is the city that Spanish producer beGun calls home. Perhaps you have already heard of him: he remixed Bastille single ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’, and the effort was included on the autumn 2013 Bastille album ‘Remixed’. While his work has already been featured on Radio 1 and he’s received plaudits from Vice, NPR, and DJ Mag, this March will see beGun showcase in front of entirely new audiences at SXSW 2015.
Thanks to the internet, music has become this amazingly globalised product that can spread easily far and wide. A single can now easily flit across thousands upon thousands of miles to become popular with fans from Denmark to Dubai, from Seattle to Shanghai. And what kind of music does the mysterious Mr beGun make, you ask? After spending 15 years studying classical music, he’s hit on a sound that takes electronic music into a more experimental yet contemporary arena, appealing to more than the just stereotypical nightclub punter. Self-described on his Facebook as “landscape electronica” and quite possibly the only electronic artist I know to have commandeered the #landscape hashtag on Soundcloud, beGun intricately weaves together a combination of soulful vocals, icy electronic notes and effects and catchy, hip hop-style backbeats. The sounds are, in a word, brilliant.
beGun has clearly taken inspiration from the far-flung places where his music has an opportunity to land and can gain him new fans. With its compressed synths and infectious beats, ‘San Francisco’ won Best National Electronic Track of the year by Spanish culture magazine Playground in 2012. His track ‘Shanghai’, which was released in 2013 on Subterfuge Records, was critically acclaimed by the Spanish Independent Label Association and mixes crunchy percussive electronic beats and handclaps with a dream pop theme.
Seeing that beGun is in the business of transporting you somewhere else with his carefully crafted sounds, it’s no wonder so many Europeans have already been enchanted by the beauty of his sonic landscapes or, alternatively, desirous of grabbing their guy or girl and cutting a rug to the more beat-forward of his tracks. Already a DJ mainstay of Sonar and Mutek in his hometown of Barcelona, while already gone further afield to perform at Ceremonia (Mexico), 981 Heritage (London), and Plissken (Greece) and many others, his talent has been honed is exactly the kind of music I expect SXSW revelers to be moving and grooving to in the wee hours in Austin. See you there!
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