Wednesday, 23 September 2020

WATCH: Christof van der Ven - 'You Left It Too Long (Rework)'

Having just celebrated the first birthday of his second album You Were The Place (they grow up SO FAST), the all round lovely (and almost frustratingly talented) human being Christof van der Ven is back with new music - sort of. The Reworks EP is due on 30th October, featuring piano versions of four tracks from his catalogue made with friends, including Jed Parsons and Camilla Staveley-Taylor of The Staves, earlier in the year. The first to be released is You Left It Too Long, one of the first Christof tunes that I discovered (and loved) a few years back, and probably still one of my favourites. On this one, Christof's pal and Bear's Den bandmate Marcus Hamblett is working some sweet sweet magic on the modular synths. The video, below, is a rework of the original video for the track, with 8mm film footage shot on a holiday in Ireland and Scotland played in reverse. Clever, I like it.

On the origins of the EP, Christof says... "like many others, I soon realised that I had much more free time than usual and I started to look back at songs that I had written at different points in my life and tried to rework them to make them sound more like where I'm at now. I wrote the parts for these tracks on MIDI, but since I can't really play the piano and wasn't able to get someone to record them properly at the time, I decided to use a good piano plugin instead. It's cheating but piano plugins these days just sound good and it was a great alternative when people were limited in their movements! When some of the restrictions were lifted my good friend and sound engineer Scott Humphries came over to my flat where we finished recorded and mixing the EP." 

Follow Christof van der Ven - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

WATCH: Ferris & Sylvester - 'Knock You Down' (Iive)

Loving this. There's nothing quite like live music, right? Finding myself missing gigs on a daily basis currently. It's been SO long. A live video capturing that live energy is a treat at the moment, that's for sure. Taken from their upcoming I Should Be On A Train EP, the ever-wonderful duo Ferris & Sylvester released single Knock You Down recently. They've just shared a live video for it, the second in a series recorded during lockdown at Streatham Space Project in London. They're due to headline at the venue as part of the Streatham Festival - just as soon as it can be rescheduled. Despite filming in an empty venue, the video captures the energy of a F&S live show perfectly. For now, this will just about quench that thirst for a live show. 

Pre-order the I Should Be On A Train EP here.

Ferris & Sylvester Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday, 21 September 2020

EP NEWS: Patricia Lalor - 'Covers EP1'

It's a very good week for covers fans... Marika Hackman just announced her Covers album (due 13th Nov) and the ever glorious Patricia Lalor has announced Covers EP1. At 14, Patricia has been releasing music via Youtube since she was just 11, with over 150k subscribers there. Due on 2nd October, the EP features covers of tracks by Radiohead, Alex G and Mac DeMarco, as well as I Don't Know You by The MarĂ­as, which you can listen to below. This cover in particular was released to Patricia's channel back in March, and has racked up the small total of over 680K views...! If you enjoy this, there are two EPs from this year - I loved Do It Again - listen here.

Follow Patricia Lalor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

LISTEN: Cosmo Sheldrake - 'Wake Up Calls'

How about something a little different? It's no secret here that I'm an enormous fan of Cosmo Sheldrake and his music. Since my first real introduction to his work when he opened for Johnny Flynn at the Roundhouse in 2017 - consider me blown away and the Pelicans We EP hastily bought at the merch stand - I've been pretty much constantly mesmerised by all that he has released into the world. 

A London-based multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and producer, Cosmo is also, put simply, a musical wizard and genius. His music is unique, pulling together sounds from the world around us, twisting them into magically quirky tracks. His work sits beyond the realms of genre. 

It probably isn't for everyone (but what music is?) - in fact, one of my favourite Cosmo related stories is about a time that I played his debut album The Much Much How How & I at the HMV store that I worked in. It sounded frankly glorious across the speaker system, but a customer sought out a colleague and asked who had chosen to play it - you could say that they weren't a fan. Fear not though... my love for the record more than made up for it. 

I still listen to that record frequently, most recently on a commute to work, while reading a chapter from Cosmo's brother Merlin Sheldrake's new book Entangled Life (like the Sheldrake family fangirl that I am rapidly, and unashamedly, becoming.) The book is about the genuinely fascinating hidden world of fungi. In a crazy and genuinely quite mind-boggling turn of events - the pair released a piece of music to coincide with the book's publication, on which you can hear mushrooms devouring a copy of the book. 

That is a slight indication of just what you're getting yourself into when you choose to listen to Cosmo's music. It's nothing if not educational - just wait until you hear about tardigrades. His latest album, Wake Up Calls, is set to be released tomorrow. The record's thirteen tracks feature a gloriously rich ensemble of birds and their songs. The record is intended both to celebrate the sounds of those birds around us, and to simultaneously highlight the peril that they face. About the record, Cosmo says: "I hope that this music may serve as a wake up call: to help us become more aware of the glorious polyphonic soundworlds that surround us before many of these voices become extinct in Britain, and to remind us not to take any of these creatures and the music that they make for granted."

Created across a nine-year period, the record has evolved through many different stages. Some pieces started life as presents for Cosmo's friends and family, intended as a peaceful alternative to traditionally jarring alarm clock sounds. A couple of the tracks were written for the People's March for Wildlife in September 2019, with the title of the album coming as a suggestion from acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane in a conversation in the run up to the march. Nightjar, similarly, was written for an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. 

Across the record, we hear the song of birds found on the red and amber lists of endangered British birds (with the exception of the Robin and Blackbird, which aren't endangered... yet.) The full cast is (deep breath): Robin, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush, Nightingale, Dunnock, Sheldrake (Cosmo remarks "I couldn't help but include a recording of a Sheldrake, the bird that my family is named after, which is also on the amber list"), Nightjar, Short Eared Owl, Long Eared Owl, Little Owl, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Skylark, Teal & Bittern. The album sees us travel through a day in the life of these wonderful creatures - from night with the Nightjar and Nightingale as the record opens, through dawn and day time, round to evening chorus, and drawing to a close with night again. 

It's difficult to pull a record like this apart, to highlight a favourite song or two. The project is best listened to in its entirety, given your full attention. I adore it from start to finish, and I'm frankly over the moon to have been allowed to listen to it early. I love Cosmo's work but there is something particularly important and pressing about this. I'm desperate for the first listen on my record player, to take some time out of my day to let the sounds of these birds fill my room and my ears. 

Finally - a couple more things to love about this record. The vinyl is made from recycled materials at one of the most environmentally friendly pressing plants in Europe, Deepgrooves. You can grab a copy from Bandcamp or Music Glue and pre-save the album digitally here. Some of the proceeds from the record will go to a number of of conservation charities which work with endangered birds, including Wild Justice, Birdlife International and The British Trust for Ornithology. 

Follow Cosmo Sheldrake online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

EP NEWS: Fickle Friends - ‘Weird Years (Season 1)’

Fickle Friends are back... their new EP Weird Years (Season 1) is set for release on 15th January via Cooking Vinyl, and lead single What A Time is below. With two singles - Eats Me Up and Pretty Great - already under their belts earlier in the year, the band had been working towards a 2020 release for their second album. Then... lockdown. Very much a band who thrive from the buzz of live shows, it didn't feel right to release a full record at the moment, so they're releasing this EP, with more instalments following next year too. 

Frontwoman Natti Shiner says of the EP that it is "the weird story of the last three years of our lives. It covers everything from waking up and feeling horrendous, to being stuck in lockdown and feeling anxious, to being heartbroken. There's a lot in there that I think people will relate to." 

Talking about the new track, she goes on to explain that it is "an anthem for escapism. With everything that has happened over the last six months, everyone has needed a little time away from the outside world. It's felt like the world is going to shit, but you need to take some time out for yourself. Shut your bedroom door, turn your music up and dance around the room." 

Following on from their last self-produced music video, the video (above) is filmed and edited by the band themselves - skills nurtured during lockdown. They headed into Brighton after dark, capturing the feeling of heading into the outdoors for the first time in months. 

Pre-save/add the EP here - white vinyl available on their store here.

Follow Fickle Friends - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

WATCH: Novo Amor - 'If We're Being Honest'

I was reminded yesterday (by the trusty Instagram archive) that it was two years since I first posted about Novo Amor, with a slightly gushy love letter to the tunes Utican and Birthplace, and a bit of marvelling at Ali's sustainable practices as an artist. With his debut album on the way, I was pretty sure that I was on the way to falling for his music. You could say that was an accurate prediction. 

I'm over the moon about the upcoming release of his second record Cannot Be, Whatsoever on 5th November (pre-order it here.) Recent single If We're Being Honest is the fourth track to be lifted from the album and as ever, it's stunning. My words from that first post continue to ring true about this latest offering - "his falsetto vocals are striking, accompanied by music that is vast, atmospheric and often cinematic in its nature, making use of some really exciting instrumentation." 

As an aside: two years on, and the vast majority of artists are yet to catch up with Ali and his team when it comes to sustainability. Excited to receive the new Cosmo Sheldrake LP some time this week - made from recycled materials as Ali's are. There's still so much that the music industry - particularly in touring, when that happens again, can do. Ditching single use plastic bottles, leaving behind excessive riders, sustainable merch, recycled packaging for CDs and vinyl - the opportunities are somewhat endless!

Grab tickets for the upcoming Novo Amor tour here.

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday, 14 September 2020

LISTEN: The Staves - 'Trying'

Something rather lovely to start the week off... The Staves are back, following up recently single Nazareth with Trying. Self-produced by the trio of sisters - Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor - it's a complete treat. They're the absolute queens of three-part vocal harmonies. Sublime as ever. It's five years since their last studio record (If I Was, which you should certainly check out if you haven't yet) and I am so very ready for the imminent (I hope) announcement of their third studio album. I love these ladies. 

Camilla Staveley-Taylor says about the track "I wanted to write a song about the state of things in the world and how broken our ability to communicate with each other had become as a society, but it became impossible as I was writing to separate my personal life from the broader message. I was living in America away from my family in a relationship that was failing. The state of America (and in Britain for that matter) and the state of my relationship seemed to become one and the same. The song became far more about my own situation. 

I feel like trying is what we spend most of our lives doing really. Just trying our best. Trying to be better, to make things work. This was definitely a time where I was nearly tried out."

Follow The Staves - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday, 11 September 2020

LISTEN: Me, Charles - 'Like and Share'

"all the world becomes too much and I dip my head under..."  

The reality of running this little blog is using my one day off in a stretch of eight days to listen to a bunch of submissions and write posts. Days off... what are those? So it's almost 11pm and I'm trying to write a post which has been circling the top of my to-do list for a couple of weeks. I hope that Me, Charles won't mind me saying that I was entirely flattered upon finding his email in my inbox. 

Within it, he said some of the kindest things that anybody ever has about the blog. Talking about how he had first been introduced to the blog and how it influenced him...  I was kind of blown away, to the extent that I thought it might somehow be spam. Turns out that he is in fact a genuine human being and is just really lovely (and loves the blog...!) 

Me, Charles is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer from South East London, and he's just released his debut LP Like and Share. Eight years in the making, the record reflects his interests in genres such as alt-rock, bossa nova, jazz and experimental electronica, as well as influences like James Blake and Jeff Buckley. This record, however, isn't easily categorised. It's an exploration, musically and personally. An album which is incredibly intricate. At times delivering a huge soundscape, and then piercingly intricate. This record demands your attention for 36 minutes, if you want to get the most out of it. 

The record is made all the more sweet when you read Me, Charles story. Some of the songs started to spring into being when he was just 17. The year prior, he lost his mother to breast cancer. As it does to so many people, music became an invaluable outlet for him. The tracks, in their depth, carry an emotional weight, and allow for reflection. Having just emerged from seven years of addiction, we find Me, Charles really beginning to realise his potential with this release. 

Take a listen to Like and Share on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Follow Me, Charles - Facebook | Instagram.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

LISTEN: MF Tomlinson - 'Everything is Cancelled'

It was a delight to find this in my inbox last week - MF Tomlinson is back with the soundtrack for our times - Everything is Cancelled. The lyrically clever and amusing track pokes some much needed fun at the situation, and is *very* relatable. The first track from the (equally-poignantly-named) EP Strange Time, due on 2nd October, this is the first of a string of releases that he is sharing on Bandcamp Fridays, from which the proceeds will be donated to people and industries affected by the virus. For now, funds are going to London's superb independent music venue The Lexington - download the track here.

Over to MF Tomlinson... "I was unable to let go of the pace of life before the lockdown and threw myself into frantically documenting the situation [...] Writing songs gives me purpose - my other therapy at that point was learning the saxophone. I did manage to do a bit of saxophone practice but that was quickly (and justifiably) veto’d. I decided I was going to go folk - that just made sense. [...] This song is full of jokes, trying to put on a brave face in a time where things seemed scary. [...] It’s also touching on the hope that as a society we might learn from the mistakes that contributed to this crisis and try do things differently, which at this stage isn’t looking likely."

On the process behind the track, he explains that "I reached out to all of my collaborators, we would normally work on stuff together in the studio. Instead I sent the skeleton of a song out and a rough demo of the part, they as usual sent back pure gold. Alistair Welsh did the amazing horn arrangement you hear on this song - he’s on the trombone, and that’s Ben Manning on the double bass. I love that this is a big band in isolation - the tuba, clarinet etc all in separate people's bedrooms! Arie van der Poel took these bedroom recordings and mixed and moulded them into something amazing. He flew out to New Zealand just before the lockdown so we’d talk nights and early mornings. He’s amazing and his contribution here can’t be understated. I’m especially grateful to artist Chiara Baima Poma who sent this beautiful painting from her home in the Canary Islands. I strongly feel that music is better when it’s made together. One of the best things about the project was making contact with all the contributors, catching up on how they were. When I was stuck at home and after returning to work, it got me through the stress and made me feel connected."

Follow MF Tomlinson - Facebook | Instagram.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

WATCH: Matilda Mann - 'Happy Anniversary, Stranger'

Time for some new Matilda Mann, and by far the cutest thing that I found in my submissions inbox last week. Happy Anniversary, Stranger is the third track to be taken from Matilda's upcoming Because I Wanted You To Know EP, due for release later in the year. Co-written by Matt Maltese, it's a really sweet track about fancying for a stranger who you see regularly, but never talk to - in this case, on a bus. While you're here - there's a new video of Matilda performing Robbed by the Thames here. Lovely!

About the track, Matilda said "I used to get the bus to school every day and there would always be this guy who I'd see every morning. We never spoke but I always thought it such a cute love story - to have a crush on someone from a distance and eventually getting the courage to say hello. The 266 to Hammersmith was the bus I got to school every day, so I've always wanted to work it into a song."

Follow Matilda Mann - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.