Vision Fortune to release "Country Music" LP in February 2015

Vision Fortune

Album release: "Country Music" by Vision Fortune
Release date: 9 February 2015 
Label: ATP
More information / listen: on Soundcloud

Vision Fortune formed in 2011 primarily around Alex and Austin Peru. In the following years the band have rotated through a cast of drummers and had material released by the likes of Italian Beach Babes(Dirty Beaches, Eagulls, Male Bonding), Rocket Recordings(Goat, Teeth of the Sea) and Gringo(Hookworms, That Fucking Tank), playing with a diverse range of artists such as Sun Araw, Oneida, The Men, Disappears, Damo Suzuki, Hookworms and an invite to play Primavera Sound. 

The band’s second LP ‘Country Music’ sees release on February 9th 2015 via ATP Recordings. Recorded during an intense two-month research residency, generously funded by the Cuatroquesos Foundation, in the idyllic yet remote region of Tuscany, Italy, Country Music is both a significant development and audible departure from the sound of the band's debut Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune. It sees the band return to their origins as a 2 piece, whilst continuing to develop their sound taking an audible departure from the droney psych built around repetition that their early output was built around. ‘Country Music’ sees Vision Fortune completely strip back their aesthetic , dropping the layers of distorted guitars and whilst still employing repetition as a key theme it instead focuses on minimal song structures built around dark electronics, precise percussion, layered vocals and haunting samples.

Confined in an expansive country villa for the duration of the project, the group soon found the breathtaking beauty of the area little compensation for the almost complete lack of wheat-and/or gluten-free products, a severely limited selection of DVDs, and minimal recording equipment. Only able to record in scant free hours, and forced to make the most of their immediate sonic environment, the group often had no choice but to forgo their simple daily routines of sampling local gastronomic delicacies and honing their horse-riding skills in order to complete the album.

In spite of these obstacles, the ever-adventurous Vision Fortune have created their most sonically inventive work to date - sparse, yet incredibly detailed and precise.

Reaction

  • “I love Vision Fortune. One listen to their debut album, Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune, in a rare shaft of sunlight while waiting for a train back in March triggered a minor spiritual epiphany.” The Quietus
  • “Vision Fortune’s debut is tantalisingly restrained and thought out; paced, spaced and atmospherically imbibed within a carved-out world of ambience that they have created for themselves to exist in. Utterly Enthralling.” 9/10 - #13 Best Album of the Year - Loud & Quiet 
  • “Vision Fortune’s music harnesses with an ability not born of practice or premeditation a set of behaviours and body rhythms hardwired into our nervous system and simian-derived psyche. Theirs is the beat with which the old tribes scared their prey out of gnarly woods, and the beat with which these tribes beat on their wooden shields before heading into battle with their neighbours, theirs is the light of a storm experienced in a barren peak, illuminating what could well be the face of the God in the clouds, frowning like the knots in the bark of a tree, before she speaks with the voice of thunder. Every time Vision Fortune do their unleashing they create a demonstration pure like mathematical proof but written with sledgehammers” – 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

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Dengue Fever to release new album, "The Deepest Lake", in February

The Dengue Fever - The Deepest Lake

Album release: "The Deepest Lake" by Dengue Fever
Release date: 2 February 2015
Label: Tuk Tuk / Proper
More information / listen on: Dengue Fever website

“Not content to merely providing glorious pop-tunes in easily digested song-wrapped packets, Dengue Fever choose the high road of cultural exposure, forcing the hand of the listener in a bid to fully comprehend their art.” – Pitchfork

It’s been close to four years since Cambodian rock band Dengue Fever released a full-album of new material, but that all changes on 2nd February 2014 as ‘The Deepest Lake’ is finally ready to announce.

For long-time fans, Dengue Fever’s sound remains in-tact but ‘The Deepest Lake’ finds Dengue Fever expanding their trademark psych/surf Cambodian pop sound with African percussion, vocals that would make Exene and John Doe proud, sweeping melodies and extended psychedelic jams of songs that often time out after five or six minutes. The band made a conscious decision to head into their home studio looking to expand their sound by following their instincts to explore jams that came out of demos. The result showcases Dengue Fever’s musically adventurous side while still remaining faithful to their otherworldly sound.

“The Deepest Lake is probably our most challenging record to date”, said Dengue Fever Bassist Senon Williams. “We are entering our second decade together as a band and wanted to explore some ideas we’d experimented with in the past to try and capture a more expressive sound. Musically we went with a more raw approach while vocally Chhom Nimol came through with her signature power, intimacy and passion”

Dengue Fever’s last full-length release was 2011’s Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy Records). Since that time, the band has been busy forging headfirst both creative outlets and business opportunities. In 2012, the band formed their own label, Tuk Tuk Records, struck distribution agreements with MRI/RED for North America and Proper Records for the rest of the world. In the past two years they have reissued four of their albums with bonus tracks, released a tour-only E.P., launched a wildly successful Pledge Music campaign and toured extensively in Mexico, Brazil, Asia, Europe and the United States.

In the last four years, members of Dengue Fever also joined Toms footwear and eyewear on a Giving Trip to help Cambodians in need, co-headlined a tour with Syrian musician Omar Souleyman and found their music licensed by Vice News, CSI: Las Vegas, The Hangover 2, Matador, True Blood, Broken Flowers and numerous documentaries.

An extensive tour in support of ‘The Deepest Lake’ will be announced later this month. 

Previous praise

  • “…one of the hottest bands around” – NPR
  • “Enormous fun” – The Guardian
  • “Breathing new life into a forgotten era of psych-pop” – Dazed & Confused
  • “…the world's premier Cambodian psychedelic rock band” – MOJO
  • “Not content to merely providing glorious pop-tunes in easily digested song-wrapped packets, Dengue Fever choose the high road of cultural exposure, forcing the hand of the listener in a bid to fully comprehend their art.” – Pitchfork

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Blänk: Only Built For Northern Lights

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Album release: "Only Built for Northern Lights" by Blänk
Release date: 9 March 2015
Label: Grind Records
More information: on Blänk website

Combining lyrics about self-discovery and life’s complexities with their unique mashing of genres from Indie Pop to Hip Hop, Swedish trio Blänk already has a track record of independent success. Now they are back with a series of releases, including their first single in almost three years, ”Tears Run Dry,” and the forthcoming album ”Only Built For Northern Lights.”

In 2012, the trio of Klas, Lina and Simon released the more Dance-oriented follow up EP ”Áurinko Rising Again,” which was praised in UK and US media outlets such as Hypetrak, FAME Mag, The 405 and Clash Magazine. Since then, the band has spent the last three years traveling between studios in Atlanta, US, and Ryssbält, Sápmi, to craft ”Only Built For Northern Lights.”

Just as the title suggests, the band’s heritage from the northern parts of Sweden - commonly known as Sápmi - is still present in their music; from uptempo Rap to Indie Pop, old Sápmi folk songs, and the melancholy Swedish sound that has permeated Pop culture in recent years.

This time around, Blänk invited some of their best friends to their ranch in Ryssbält to bring yet another level of depth to their already distinct sound. Stockholm’s Noonie Bao, songwriter behind Aviici’s #1 UK record “You Could Be The One,” as well as several other acoustic and electronic musicians, also joined Blänk in Sápmi for late night studio sessions, camp fires, Sauna, and whiskey by the Baltic Sea. The result is a blissfully original and sonically diverse take on what pop music can sound like when restrictions, formulas, and self-consciousness are thrown out of the window. 

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Nick Harris releases his second album, "The Tall Trees"

Nick Harris

Album release: "The Tall Trees" by Nick Harris
Release date: 23 February 2015
Label: Shifted Fiction Records
More information: on Nick Harris website
 

Having left his job and moved to New Zealand to live a frugal and solitary life, Nick Harris began dedicating almost every waking hour to homing his craft; and refining his guitar and songwriting technique, all whilst busking to pay the bills. When he emerged again and returned to London, it was evident that this had paid off when Harris released his debut album ‘Chimera’, which saw him collaborate with the likes of Emma Gatrill (Moulettes, The Mariner’s Children/Sons of Noel and Adrian) and Ted Dwane (Mumford and Sons).

Now the progressive acoustic singer-songwriter is back to release his second album ‘The Tall Trees’. His sophomore album sees a significant development of both technique and style combing beguiling and welcoming vocals with a percussive and progressive guitar style that at times nods to the likes Andy McKee, Thomas Leeb, and John Smith. The result is an album that sits somewhere between John Martyn and Iron and Wine.

The new album was recorded with London producer Nick Trepka (Speech Debelle, Kieran Leonard, Emmy the Great), and features an orchestra of instruments including accordions, horns, flute, strings and some odd percussion.

Harris says “"This album quickly became a very different animal to the first. We became obsessed with capturing the right atmosphere and finding the boundry between rich accompaniment and a sparse, intimate feel. We made a decision early on to record this entirely at night, often in long sessions lasting 14 hours or more, ending in a wonderful madness and exhaustion. I couldn't be happier with what we came out with”.

The lead track ‘Calm Your Demons’ is evidence of Harris’ progression, and captivates the sound of Harris’ transformation in the wilds of nature and his new direction by uniting charming and rustic guitar with an almost mystical wind and string accompaniment. The song builds until it coalesces in a cacophony of madness, until the guitar emerges triumphant and the song breaks back in to its percussive stride, whilst the vocals develop almost to the chant of a well versed psalm, giving them an alluring and hypnotic feel.

Recently Harris has played shows with the likes of Moulettes, Rozi Plain, Dan Croll and Courtney Barnett and touring with acts including Maia and Patch and the Giant. With each show and each release Nick Harris’ fan-base continues to grow, which has become even more evident since he became long listed for next year’s Glastonbury.

Harris dropped out of modern day living and immersed himself into the wilderness, and emerged more focused and more powerful than ever before. ‘The Tall Trees’ is a personal triumph, it’s warm and gentle yet emotionally visceral, it’s familiar yet individual and most importantly it’s not to be missed.

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What the World Needs Now is The Grubby Mitts

The Grubby Mitts

Album release: "What The World Needs Now Is" by The Grubby Mitts
Release date: 9 March 2015
Label: Lost Toys Records
More information: on The Grubby Mitts website

The Grubby Mitts are a band from Bedford, UK lead by acclaimed artist Andy Holden alongside long-term collaborators and friends Johnny Parry, Roger Illingworth, James MacDowell and John Blamey.  Now in their early thirties, they have been playing together in various line-ups since the age of twelve. This album has taken 8 years to complete.

"What the World Needs Now Is", is positioned as part-anthology, part debut album; a cornucopia of sounds from the willfully eclectic output of the Grubby Mitts past and present.  The record is deliberately incongruous, with ambient electronic pieces juxtaposed with pop songs, string quartets, spoken word and a children’s choir and school orchestra.  Often one line refrains are repeated and layered in an attempt to grapple with vast sentiments; such as the single “To a Friend’s House the Way is Never Long” and the Gavin Bryars’ esq “We sat together the mountain and I until only the mountain remained”.  Other tracks include a triumphant, joyous anthem (“Standard”), a curious re-working of an old English poem ("The Unquiet Grave"), a song that changes genre part way through ("Bubbleblower"), lounge jazz ("Lenny"), English pop ("Home at Last") and songs that seem to built as much around lists as lyrics ("Pessimism of the Intellect", "Worm of Eternal Return"). 

The bands sound is constantly changing, trying to reflect an experience of pop music after dance music and after ‘iTunes’.  Unusual sound-sources abound; the sound of a marble dropping down a child’s toy ("Last Stop for the Good Old Times"), bicycle wheels, coffee pots bubbling, snippets from cartoons, detuned radios, and jazz records all compete with live drums, drum machines, an array of woodwind, guitars, piano, synths and home-recorded string quartets.  The band have even published a manifesto calling for Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity, and this record perhaps reflects this sensibility. 

The band all share the vocals, taking turns to avoid the hierarchy of a lead singer; with Holden taking the spoken monologues and Illingworth the pop numbers, and often the whole band singling in unison. However, despite all the constant morphing and contradictory approaches there are moments where the record attempts to just be straight forwardly moving. The school choir sing “Goodbye if you call that gone”, a track written after the death of the band's close friend and collaborator, Dan Cox, in 2011, and Illingworth’s refrain of “Whatever else I am, I am not in your arms”, sees the band conceal some very bleak moments amongst the numerous playful and joyous rallying-cries. 

The debut single, "To a Friend’s House the Way is Never Long", found its way on to BBC 6Music and was described by Drowned in Sound as “a thoughtscursion… oddly moving and hypnotic… only a churl could object”, The Devil Has the Best Tuna describing it as “quirky, affectionate, affecting and sounds like The Polyphonic Spree if they'd been brought up in a council house in Croydon.” The follow-up single, "Standard", was championed by Steve Lamacq and Tom Ravenscroft on BBC6 Music.  The Guardian described the band’s music as “…Wonderfully sad, with huge conviction and emotion”, and chose Andy Holden and the Grubby Mitts as one of ten ‘Rising Stars of 2014’.  Last Summer the band collaborated with Damo Suzuki formerly of Can, and this Summer they toured the UK performing ten shows at artist-run spaces, choosing community run non-profit spaces from Plymouth to Edinburgh in which to stage their multi-projection live show.  Members Johnny Parry and Roger Illingworth (Buzzard Lope) have released seven solo albums between them, guitarist James MacDowell has recently published his first book (The Happy Ending in Hollywood Cinema) and Andy Holden has had exhibitions of his artwork all over the world, including a solo exhibition at Tate Britain, London, in 2010.

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NRVS LVRS: debut album "The Golden West" out 16 March

NRVS LVRS

Album release: The Golden West
Release date: 16 March 2015
Label: Hz Castle Records
Listen / more information: on Tumblr

San Francisco 6-piece NRVS LVRS began their journey at the beginning of 2014 when a collection of songs, written initially for the purpose of musical experimentation, found themselves at the centre of a newly forming band. The resulting group was driven by the desire of Andrew Gomez and girlfriend Bevin Lee to link their creative muses and express their thoughts and feelings on their rapidly-changing city. Circuit bent bleeps, grimy drum loops, buzzy toys, humming synths, processed handclaps, and failing 80's keyboards are all creatively edited together with the flesh and blood sounds of guitar, bass, & drums in this album – an album that presents a band ready to explore the fading art of political music.

‘’Each song examines a different point of view on the latest tech disruption and its leaders” says Gomez. New album The Golden West explores the many problems the current technology boom in their native San Francisco is causing. In a city with a disappearing arts & culture scene, where work and free time have become indistinguishable, and locals are being priced out of their own homes, NRVS LVRS find themselves at the forefront of the conversation.

Take the album’s title track ‘’Golden West’’, for example. Addressing the city’s increasingly profit-driven housing market, this song centers on a tenant being unfairly evicted via the Ellis Act, a controversial California law. In its introduction, a lonesome and tremolo-buoyed synth sits on top of the mix with hints of a Tears For Fears era apparent. The gentle and distant strumming of an acoustic guitar titters on the horizon, creating a despondent unease. The vocal line is then introduced alongside the full weight of a growling synth bass and the hard-hitting opening phrase ‘’I had a place to live but robots came and kicked down the doors’. The strong hook in the chorus makes for a powerful messenger, and a crashing wave of guitars & drums in the closing stages of the song leaves a lasting impression –rather reminiscent of a Broken Social Scene record. Upbeat and fast-paced ‘’Black Diamonds’’ explores these themes further and sees the band tackling the problem of an overworked tech industry and its strange corporate leaders. A song brimming with optimistic chords but sarcastic sentiments, the track features a driving back beat and the dense guitar play of an 80’s jangle-pop heyday.

Listening to this album gives one a front row seat to San Francisco’s ever-changing and fast-developing technological environment, but this album is by no means just about that. ‘’What is happening in SF is happening in NYC, Detroit, and to my knowledge, just about every major city in the US & Europe, so the album's themes of dread, uncertainty, and displacement feel pretty timely, if not universal,’’ Gomez explains. “We know we’re not the only ones experiencing an inordinate amount of disillusionment and disaffection.”

A collection of talented friends and adept musicians bolster the album with their contributions. Bassist Wendy Brents contributes to the album by writing and singing the opener “City Lights”, a moody slow-burner that simultaneously foreshadows & summarizes the emotional heart of the record. As drummer Aaron Hazen adds humanity & weight to the loops, guitarists Charles Belvedere & Rye In The Sky cleverly play off each other with their separate dalliances in shoegazy haze and layered, articulate counter-melodies. A large majority of the album’s production took place on cold, late nights in their apartment in San Francisco but some was also captured with co-producer Patrick Brown at his historic Different Fur Studios in the Mission District of San Francisco.

From such disruption and discontent comes a truly stimulating collection of ‘sonic collages’. Gomez sums up his thoughts on the album by concluding ‘’There is a dark side to SF's latest economic boom, and this is our snapshot of it.’’

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New album from Hayseed Dixie: "Hair Down To My Grass"

Album release: "Hair Down To My Grass" by Hayseed Dixie
Release date: 12 January 2015
Listen / more information: on official Hayseed Dixie website

“I enjoyed this and...on further investigation...it’s not good...it’s fabulous!” - Brian May, Queen

“This is great! I can’t wait to get the royalty check!” - Gene Simmons, KISS

Hayseed Dixie began in the summer of 2000 in the fertile valley of Deer Lick Holler, deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee USA. In this area which was completely isolated from outside cultural and musical influence, the boys grew up playing the traditional music of their forefathers on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and acoustic bass.

All of this changed abruptly one afternoon when a stranger crashed his car into a stately old oak tree on a particularly dangerous curve, which the locals refer to as the “Devil’s Elbow.” Sadly, the stranger expired, but his legacy lives on! As the boys searched through the wreckage looking for identification, they discovered several vinyl AC/DC albums. After playing these back on an old Edison 78rpm Victrola, everyone agreed that the songs were rather fine country music . . . and that the Lost Highway of Brother Hank Williams and this Highway To Hell of AC/DC were indeed the exact same road!  And the rest is now enshrined in musical history.

Hayseed Dixie are now the acknowledged creators of the musical genre, Rockgrass. They have released 15 albums since 2001, consisting of both original material and reinterpretations of previously rendered songs, selling a combined total of over 500,000 copies. They have also performed over 1,000 live shows in 31 different countries.

More recently, Hayseed Dixie have been exploring the inspired catalogue of the stadium rock of the 1970’s and 1980’s. This interest began during a 2014 Spring tour of Germany, in which the band heard the song “Eye of the Tiger” 6 different times on 6 different German radio stations in a single day while driving between Dortmund and Frankfurt. “As the seed is planted, so the tree shall grow” - this very quote appears on the inner sleeve of the 1980 album “Escape” by Journey. How true indeed.

“Hair Down To My Grass” is the newest release from Hayseed Dixie and was recorded in the Mountains of Cumbria in a converted barn. 

Hayseed Dixie are:

  • John Wheeler aka Barley Scotch - guitar, fiddle and singing
  • Jake Bakesnake Byers - bass and harmonizing
  • Hippy Joe Hymas - mandolin and harmonizing
  • Johnny Butten - banjo and harmonising

Tracklisting

  1. Don’t Stop Believing
  2. Eye Of The Tiger
  3. The Final Countdown
  4. We’re Not Gonna Take It
  5. Summer Of 69
  6. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  7. Dude Looks Like A Lady
  8. Livin’ On A Prayer
  9. Wind De Veränderung
  10. We Are The Road Crew
  11. Comfortably Numb
  12. Don’t Fear The Reaper

Press quotes

“The Hayseed’s berserk hedonism is indeed refreshing! ***** (5 Stars)” - The Guardian

“Hayseed Dixie highlights the worth of mountain music to all things rock: energy, dirt-punk rhythm, careening harmonies and the fundamental right of all no-good fuck-ups to raise hell come Saturday night.” - Uncut

“Superlative musicians with a deep love and understanding of the dynamics of both modern rock and ancient hillbilly music” - The Times

Tour dates

For the most up to date information on tour dates, please visit the Hayseed Dixie website.

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Alex Highton: "Nobody Knows Anything"

Alex Highton album art

Album release: "Nobody Knows Anything" by Alex Highton
Release date: 8 December 2015
Label: Gare du Nord
Listen / more information: on Alex Highton website

It’s not the second album that’s difficult. Melodies, harmonies and words all come embarrassingly easy to a born songwriter like Alex Highton. It’s the life that happens in-between the songwriting and the recording that’s the hard bit. Don’t get this wrong, Alex knows he deserves little pity for leading a wonderful life with his family out there in the “wilds” of Cambridgeshire, it’s just that it’s taken a rather circuitous route to get him there.

As a kid his time was split between his native Liverpool and Florence, Italy. It was there that his musical education began, as he took in everything from Talking Heads & Penguin Cafe Orchestra to The Band & David Ackles. He lost his twenties to bad decisions and train-wreck relationships and it was only after meeting his future wife that he started to take songwriting seriously.  The songs he wrote (part therapy / part love letter his new life)  formed the basis of his debut album Woodditton Wives Club, a record replete with tales of rural S&M, mental, emotional and economic collapse, and ultimately salvation through love and family. 

The debut received extensive support from BBC6 Music & BBC Introducing (amongst others) and a US tour followed, taking in New York, Austin (SXSW) and LA, with more dates in Germany, Holland & Belgium, as well as slots at Camp Bestival, Wilderness Festival, No Direction Home, Summer Sundae and more.  

Having got the observational stuff off his chest, he now turns on himself. These days his ever-evolving craft as a writer approaches Steely Dan levels of effortless complexity and Paddy McAloon-like supersmart nonchalance (witness ‘It Falls Together’, the bonkers ‘Panic’, the epic ‘Mephisto’ or ‘Sunlight Burns Your Skin’ for sheer unhinged musicality) as well as a newfound taste for sharp-edged lyrical brutality.  Highton himself cites Sufjan Steven, Here We Go Magic & Joni Mitchell as big influences on this record.

“This is me trying to work out the point of it all really, to which the answer is I haven’t got a clue and nobody has.” he says, “That Richard Dawkins advert that they had on the side on the London buses ‘There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ is probably were it’s at. I get pissed off with the certainties presented to me by religions and politicians. In fact I did record it with the loose idea that these songs were the thoughts running through someone’s head just before they die. It’s certainly structured in that way.”

What sets Nobody Knows Anything apart from its folky predecessor at the very first listen is the extended cast of players joining Highton in his sometimes almost jazzy, avant-whatever, then sometimes stripped-back arrangements. Next to his long-time cohorts double-bass-player Jonny Bridgwood (Morrissey, Kathryn Williams, The Leisure Society etc.) and drummer Howard Monk (Billy Mahonie, The Clientele etc.), producer David “Bear” Dobson, Laura J Martin, Bonnie Dobson, Jonathan “Tall Tree Six Foot Man” Czerwik, Nancy Wallace (of The Memory Band and The Owl Service), John Howard and Robert Rotifer (of Rotifer) all make appearances, next to “my wife, my kids, the dentist who lives next door and loads of others”. “It’s still the village life, then, but equipped with a magical wardrobe that opens to a wondrous world of sounds and dreams.

Reaction

  • “World Class” – The Guardian
  • “Resotres your faith in the genre” - BBC 6 Music
  • “Fantastic record” – Steve Lamacq, BBC Radio 2

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David Bronson to release new album, 'Questions', on 19 January

Album release: "Questions" by David Bronson
Release date: 19 January 2015
Label: Big Arc
Listen / more information: on official David Bronson website

David Bronson’s new album Questions plays like a soul-drenched paean to the uncertainties of burgeoning adulthood. While the artist’s twenties, as documented on his first two records, were anything but a light-hearted emotional romp, the new album shows that his thirties are proving to be just as uncertain, though in quite different ways. Much like on his prior albums, Bronson makes no attempt to avoid the heavy things.

Subtle echoes of Graceland/Rhythm of the Saints era Paul Simon and John Lennon's solo work run through the songs’ instrumentation, melodies and arrangements. And shades of So/Us era Peter Gabriel are felt through the emotional and psychological imagery, and lyrical evocations of partnership and familial archetypes.

Bronson’s 2013 decade-in-the-making, 22-song autobiographical double album debut, The Long Lost Story, bore naked the inner torments of post adolescent, coming-of-age crises of love and identity. Questions feels not only like a much wiser affair, but a wholly more life-affirming one as well. This stems as much from the music as the lyrics, which sees Bronson moving from the deeply textured, almost psychedelic indie folk rock of The Long Lost Story to Questions’ deceptively fluid amalgam of soul, gospel, folk, and dance-funk grafted on to the classic 70’s-infused singer-songwriting he’s become known for.

According to Bronson, there was something very unusual about the album right from the start. "Each major stage of this record was pure magic. You just know it when you're in the middle of something very special taking place. Everyone present feels it.’’ When questioned about this latest musical endeavour Bronson adds ‘’It was crucially important to me to produce something that was infinitely more current to my life, and to the much newer place my songwriting had been moving toward.’’

Bronson is joined on the record by the likes of vocalist Robin Clark (Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Al Green, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, David Bowie) guitarist Carlos Alomar (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Paul McCartney, John Lennon) and his daughter Lea-Lórien Alomar, guitarist Robbie "Seahag" Mangano, drummer Lautaro Burgos, not forgetting the vocal contribution made by Gordon Grody and the production prowess of studio legend Godfrey Diamond (Lou Reed).

In the 2 years since anyone first heard anything of David Bronson, he's established a national touring regimen and growing fan base in the U.S, UK and further afield, performed at some of the most highly regarded indie venues, music programs and festivals in North America, released an abnormally large catalogue of artistically-driven and critically lauded music videos, and been hailed by hundreds of music writers and publications as one of the most heartfelt and emotionally raw new artists in music.

Reaction

  • “Carefully etched songwriting" - Clash
  • ‘’It would seem David Bronson has soaked up all the best parts of ‘70s rock and created his own vibe, which feels surprisingly new.’’ Magnet
  • “Fans of Neil Young, George Harrison, and the like...give a listen to David Bronson.” - Daytrotter

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James Robinson: 'Start a Fire' EP out now

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EP release: "Start a Fire" by James Robinson
Release date: 1 December 2015
More information / listen: on official James Robinson website

"Assured, enticing and all the more powerful live" Music Week

For Devonian songwriter James Robinson, the decision to leave behind the comfort of his touring band and friends was a tough one to make. Fronting Brighton-based, alt-pop band Two Spot Gobi, Robinson found success touring the UK, USA and Europe in support of household names such as Jason Mraz and Bruno Mars. Something wasn’t clicking for him though, and his focus slowly shifted toward other was to express himself through music. He was growing up.

Deciding to look at the positives, and see it as a chance to raid his own personal treasure trove of lyrics scribbled on napkins while on tour, ideas saved into smartphones and forgotten melodies locked away in old Garage Band files, he set about following up 2012’s ‘Ropes’ EP, bringing these pieces up to date with fresh inspiration and new production direction. Holing up in the studio with Fink and Lily Allen producer Max Gilkes, new life was breathed into the first songs to emerge, eventually culminating in what would become ‘Start a Fire’. Robinson’ offers his own thoughts on the result: “At times it’s energetic and hopeful, other times it’s a little more pragmatic and cynical but creatively speaking it’s where I find myself currently – somewhere in between. It’s real, and I hope people will grasp that”.    

The title track’s bustling percussion offers a brisk glimpse into Robinson’s thoughtful world but the centrepiece here is the understatedly epic Holes In The Sky. What begins playful, strides assuredly on with the introduction of electric guitar and further percussion, ensuring an expansive atmosphere. EP closer "Smoke & Ashes", contrastingly, feels totally personal. We’re let into something that was perhaps meant for one person to hear - something for a troubled soul. It’s this that Robinson excels at. He sets the scene wonderfully and, under Gilkes' skilful production, brings images to life and creates a mood to get lost in, with one eye firmly focussed on melody. 

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New single from Meltybrains? coming in February

Meltybrains

Single release: Donegal / IV (double A side) from Meltybrains? 
Release date: February 2015
Label: Meltylabs?
Listen / more information: on Bandcamp

“Confounding categorization, loaded with an almost intimidating energy, loads of humour, and some awesome wig out moments, these boys have some serious talent and entertainment chops.” - The Irish Times

Meltybrains? is an exercise in electronic creativity doused with charm. Completing the full line up of bass, drums, electric violin, synthesisers and effected vocals, are five individuals, each more curiously charismatic than the last, with a sound progressing far beyond their already striking influences.

After playfully throwing out various tracks over the years (inspired by hip-hop, IDM, rock and contemporary classical music among other things), the band’s first full EP ‘Free Kyle’ recognized their own brand of stringed electronica and a distorted vocal technique which could rightfully be claimed as their signature. This first EP was the real beginning of their industrious endeavours, but a second closely followed, ‘Attention! Now That We Have Your Attention’, prophetically establishing the band as an act to be taken seriously. 

With a strong interest in working with visual arts and by ingratiating their live audience with everything from choreographed dance moves to freely distributed painted masks (an institution for the band now, after having created a fearsome force of splattered Meltyclones), the quintet’s live performances are a major part of their appeal. An early achievement for the band was the ambitiously crafted show at The Unitarian Church in Dublin, featuring live visuals. Ever the proactive types, Meltybrains? later put on a co-headline BYOB gig, with Alarmist and visual artists Slipdraft, turning out to be their biggest show to date with 400+ packing into the warehouse. Word quickly spread throughout Ireland and they were subsequently booked for the main summer festivals: Knockanstockan, Castlepalooza and Electric Picnic.

Far from being limited to the shores of Ireland, the Melties have already succeeded in a self organised, self promoted American tour. A FundIt campaign laid the groundwork for this, with rewards adhering to the general Meltybrains? aesthetic; including “we will have tea with your granny”, “you get to appear on a Meltybrains? song”, “join the band for 3 months” and “Brian will get a piercing of your choice”. The campaign, understandably a raucous success, led to a wealth of US gigs being solidified. The tour was made up of shows in San Diego, LA, Austin, Nashville and Cincinnati, through a mixture of support slots, and headline shows. A largely ambitious venture on the bands part, with no outside backing, proved to pay off. Without fail, in each venue, the band was invited back, with the offer to help organize and promote more gigs the next time.

New single ‘Donegal’ features an exemplary occasion for their remarkably celestial dance grooves, and extra opportunity to gather the pack with its primordial howls. Not forgetting the elegantly undulating soundscapes of adjoining A-Side ‘IV’, the strength of these tracks alone will surely allow Meltybrains? to embark upon a prosperous 2015.  

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Diagrams: new album Chromatics set for January release on Full Time Hobby

Diagrams

Album release: Chromatics by Diagrams
Release date: 15 January 2015
Label: Full Time Hobby
Listen / more information on: Diagrams website

When songwriter and producer Sam Genders last donned his Diagrams hat, captive listeners found themselves truly stunned by the Streatham Hill artist’s imaginative and inventive arrangements that made up 2012's debut album "Black Light". Having now upped sticks from his London lodgings and settled in Sheffield with a new lease of life and wife, fresh pastures and friendships are what form the heart of Diagrams’ brand new album Chromatics.

“Relationships are a constant thread. In all their frustrating, exciting, mundane, beautiful, wonderful, sexy, scary glory,” reveals Genders of the album’s themes. “And there's lots of hope in the songs. They shouldn't be taken too literally mind you... in my head Chromatics is life in Technicolor; with all its ups and downs.”

Equally drawing inspiration from the writing on relationships by David Schnarch, Ester Perel and the book Division Street by Sheffield poet Helen Mort, whilst spending time in his own home studio for the first time, it’s without doubt that the Steel city provided the ideal backdrop for Genders to write whenever the inspiration came and, essentially, whittle down the fifty or so tracks he had recorded as part of the album’s creation. “There are woods over the road and a little garden out the back with a greenhouse, shed, and flower beds. Being in a new place has brought something special to the process. Sheffield is a very open and direct place and I'd say the songs are more that way too.”

Whilst "Black Light" fizzed with electronic effects, synth-bass, programmed beats and low-key funk grooves that brought about comparisons to the leftfield pop of Arthur Russell, Metronomy, Steve Mason and Hot Chip, it’s without doubt that Genders’ next offering falls closer to home comforts and marks the next step in Genders’ renaissance. Take lead track ‘Phantom Power’; it’s the track which truly sums up what it’s like to find yourself forever reassessing. “It's about feeling like you're losing a grip on your sanity at one moment, then feeling inspired and up for anything the next. Or frustration with yourself yet believing that it's possible to sort yourself out,” explains Genders. Elsewhere ‘You Can Talk To Me’s delicate rolling melody and ‘Serpent’ once again showcase the playful, eclectic slant to Genders’ songwriting prowess alongside an innate sense of crisp production and programming techniques.

Never one to shirk away from those around him, Genders would be the first to call Diagrams, and particularly Chromatics, a collaborative process. Once again featuring a rolling cast of inspirational musicians the album includes vocals from, amongst friends and family members, The Smoke Fairies whilst the skilled brass and string arrangements come courtesy of Danyal Dhondy and Sam Ewens. ‘London’s greatest’ drummers Karl Penney, and Cacophony drummer Fletcher Adams provide the beats whilst live band members Emma Black and Ben Malitskie lend their expertise of Baritone Saxophone and Viola. ‘Brain’ meanwhile, was co-written with long-time friend and collaborator Matt McKenzie and features an in utero recording of his son James' heartbeat.

Yet it’s the partnership with producer Leo Abrahams (Wild Beasts, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, Ed Harcourt, Marianne Faithful et al) that has truly brought Diagrams to life. After a long search, Abrahams was picked to piece all parts together and as a result Genders found himself writing songs that worked across a variety of production styles. “Leo’s incredibly good at what he does and virtually all the impressive production and soundscaping is down to him. He’s also an amazing guitarist and played some of my favourite guitar moments on the album.”

Who knows exactly what kind of relationships will inspire Genders next? Currently finding himself midst China’s south central city of Changsha in Hunan as a Musician in Residence on behalf of the British Council and PRS foundation, life for Genders right now is all about new experiences, meeting new faces and learning from new friendships. “It feels like anything could happen from one day to the next. I'd like to record a Chinese version of ‘Phantom Power’ so that once I'm back in the UK I can reconnect with the music lovers I've met. I've heard lots of very poppy pop songs that incorporate both Chinese and English lyrics so I'd like to try my own twist on that.” 

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"Settled" - the new EP from NJ indie rock band Prawn

Prawn.jpg

EP release: "Settled" by Prawn
Release date: 27 November 2014
Label: Topshelf Records
More information: on band's Facebook page

On 27th November 2014, NJ indie rock outfit Prawn will digitally release a new EP titled 'Settled', featuring two b-sides from their 'Kingfisher' recording session. Additionally, the EP will be available on vinyl, as a limited edition 7" for Record Store Day on Black Friday, 27th November 2014.

The two tracks ("Settled" and ""Built For") were originally slated to appear on the 'Kingfisher' LP, so Topshelf Records will also digitally release a deluxe version of the LP on 25th November 2014, which includes both songs in the original sequence that the band intended.

Guitarist/vocalist Tony Clark explains, "Last year we set out to write a full length record, which eventually became Kingfisher. We wrote and recorded a total of 12 songs, of which only 10 made the final cut. We had to cut two songs and shuffle the order to make it onto a 12" vinyl. The two songs we left off our personally some of our favorites and we thought they deserved a proper release. The good folks at Topshelf agreed and hence the Settled 7".

Last seen on the road as part of the first ever Topshelf Records Tour, with label mates A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Diamond Youth and Field Mouse, Prawn will kick off their UK tour with Gnarwolves on November 10th.

Previous praise

Previous praise for Prawn:

  • "I still wish all albums sounded like this..." - Big Cheese (9/10)
  • "Yep, it’s awesome" - Rock Sound (8/10)
  • "The production is superb, the content is crisp, and the record is focused in a way that feels as sharp as a switchblade." - Property Of Zack
  • "So much more than 'just another emo album’" - Punktastic
  • "This thing just rips" - Absolute Punk

UK tour dates

  • 30th November 2014 – CARDIFF, UK – Clwb Ifor Bach
  • 1st December 2014 – EXETER, UK – Cavern
  • 2nd December 2014 – BRISTOL, UK – Fleece
  • 3rd December 2014 – BIRMINGHAM, UK – Talk
  • 4th December 2014 – KINGSTON, UK – College
  • 5th December 2014 – LONDON, UK – Underworld*
  • 6th December 2014 – MILTON KEYNES, UK – Crauford Arms*
  • 7th December 2014 – NOTTINGHAM, UK – Nottingham Rescue Rooms*
  • 8th December 2014 – GLASGOW, UK – Audio*
  • 9th December 2014 – LEEDS, UK – Brudenell Social Club*
  • 10th December 2014 – MANCHESTER, UK – Soundcontrol*
  • 11th December 2014 – NORWICH, UK – Epic Studios*
  • 12th December 2014 – BRIGHTON, UK – The Haunt*

 

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The City on Film - solo project from Braid's Bob Nanna

The City on Film

Album release: "La Vella" by The City On Film (Bob Nanna)
Release date: 16 January 2015
Label: Topshelf
More information: on Topshelf website

Topshelf Records and Braid's Bob Nanna are proud to announce the new album from The City On Film, Nanna’s solo side project, titled "La Vella". Set for a 16 January 2015 release date, La Vella was produced by Nanna and Jeff Dean at Million Yen in Chicago, IL, and follows the release of Braid’s critically acclaimed return, No Coast, that was released in July of 2014. The album’s first track, “You Wild Thing (An Illuminous Life),” can now be streamed via Brooklyn Vegan HERE and the album can be pre-ordered through the Topshelf Records website HERE.

In January 2014, Bob Nanna was laid off from what he described as the “perfect day job.” Undeterred, he began to create a new perfect day job, playing music (with seminal emo band, Braid, a young frenetic upstart, Lifted Bells, and the downtempo electronic band with his wife named Jack & Ace). He also focused attention on his custom songwriting website, Downwrite.com, which fueled the inspiration for this newest album from his solo project The City On Film, entitled La Vella.

On Downwrite, Nanna sourced stories from nine fans and turned them into tracks on this new album, the second full-length solo record after 2007’s In Formal Introduction. Lead off track “You Wild Thing (An Illuminous Life)” tells of a chance meeting and a bonding over The Pogues, Ted Leo, and gym shoes. “Take The Ghosts” addresses personal conflict after a tragedy while “Stray” takes on wanderlust in the Big Apple. Nanna used a request for a soundtrack to a charity bike trek to create “Kill It!,” a song about a close-to-home battle with lymphoma. The album concludes with “Andorra La Vella,” the most personal song on the record, written independently of Downwrite, recalling a big red dictionary in the Nanna household, highlighting countries and capitals, and a few poignant songs he cannot listen to anymore.

The City on Film, as solo vehicle, debuted in 1999 during a Braid hiatus and has been active, albeit in the background, since. Given the success of his various musical projects and Downwrite, Nanna hopes to keep The City On Film forever alive to tell his stories and the stories of his friends and fans.

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The Tragically Hip's third full-length album to see deluxe reissue

Tragically Hip album artwork

Album reissue: "Fully Completely" by The Tragically Hip
Label: UMC
Release date: 1 December 2014

We are pleased to announce the reissue of "Fully Completely", the third full-length album by The Tragically Hip.  Originally issued on October 6th, 1992, It reached #1 in Canada. The album is listed at #5 on The Top Canadian albums of all time by Bob Merserau.  It was certified Diamond in Canada in January 2007 for sales of 1,000,000 copies and produced the singles Locked in the Trunk of a Car, Courage and At the Hundredth Meridian. 

The album was recorded in London at Battery Studios and was produced  by Chris Tsangarides (Black Sabbath, Concrete Blonde, Depeche Mode, Ian Gillan, Judas Priest, Killing Joke, Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Sisters of Mercy). The cover art was designed by Dutch artist Lieve Prins.

Often referred to simply as The Hip, the band are from Kingston, Ontario and consist of lead singer Gordon Downie, guitarist Paul Langlois, guitarist Rob Baker (known as Bobby Baker until 1994), bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay. Since their formation in 1983 they have released 12 studio albums, two live albums, 1 EP, and 54 singles. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 in Canada. They have received numerous Canadian Music awards, including 14 Juno Awards.

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Debut album from experimental metal duo Veilburner out on 19 December

Veilburner

Album release: "The Three Lightbearers"
Release date: 19 December 2014
Listen / more information: on Bandcamp

US experimental metal duo Veilburner have created an album, which through its combinations of styles and influences, has seamlessly combined modern death/black metal with hints of industrial, classical and at times even world music. ‘The Three Lightbearers’ is an unyielding foray of styles and influences which unite technical and visceral instrumentation with moments of ominous serenity. Veilburner walk a fine line between offering sonic variety whilst maintaining a cohesive identity.

The band hail from south-eastern Pennsylvania, consisting of Mephisto Deleterio (instrumentation, backing vocals and production) and Chrisom Infernium (lyrics, main vocals and artwork). Forged from each of their other projects, Chrisom's lyrical themes and artistic style seemed a perfect complement to a collection of unfinished instrumental pieces that Mephisto had been working on, so a collaboration began which resulted in their debut album, ‘The Three Lightbearers’

‘The Three Lightbearers’ is an album that is as intriguing as it is chaotic and bleak. By exploring a variety of moods, tempos, and soundscapes, Veilburner are able to traverse a number of musical territories. The lead track from the album ‘Nil Absolute’ demonstrates the best of the bands caustic tech guitar, whilst also creating an esoteric and dissonant setting, which comes as a result of the bands “mad scientist” approach to compiling vocal and instrumental textures and effects.

The album calls to mind the sounds of bands such as Nile, but it is evident that the bands influences don’t end here as Chirisom clearly takes vocal inspiration from the likes of Marduk, Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth, by crafting beguiling lyrics that are eloquently haunting and memorable.

Veilburner’s individual and evocative lyrical approach was inspired in part by Chrisoms interest and research into the occult, theosis, and the idea of manufactured messiahs. He says, “the lyrics deal with the idea that we were gods struck down, to be plagued inside the realm of flesh, and they try to relay the true disgust of humanity and the ideologies in which the masses prefer to follow, rather than what their hearts tell them to follow”.

As a debut album, ‘The Three Lightbearers’ is incredibly accomplished. Veilburner have produced an album that stands out from the crowd, by creating something familiar yet individual in its approach.

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Your Favourite Enemies: Between Illness and Migration

Your Favourite Enemies

Album release: "Between Illness and Migration" by Your Favourite Enemeies
Release date: 24 November 2014
Label: Graphite Records
Listen / more information: on official Your Favourite Enemies sit

Your Favorite Enemies are six chaotic individuals who collectively let go of their own self-depraved illusionary make-believes to surrender to the inner noises of moments they communally turned into songs, thus giving birth to a musical journey which has led them to their new album ‘Between Illness and Migration’. From reflections about the nature of letting go, redemption and mercifulness to rumination about faith, forgiveness, grace and absolution, the new album displays the bands most personal, honest and emotionally visceral work yet.

The band take influence from artists such as Sonic Youth, Fugazi, My Bloody Valentine and Mars Volta, and their unique and eclectic sound brings together fanatics from various musical backgrounds into a defining communion of high level noise, post-punk, psych, shoegaze and prog rock.  

The new album has been mixed by the estimable John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Kills), and was recorded and produced in the band’s own studio (a former catholic church). It’s clear that working with such an influential figure has allowed the band to find the perfect balance between the stormy dynamic intensity to its furious tones and the fragile crisp of vulnerable sparks to the whispering density of its innermost form of musing confessions. 

The 6 minute epic, ‘Empire Of Sorrows’, the lead track from ‘Between Illness and Migration’, combines brooding and dissonant spoken lyrics, (which are evocative of bands such as Listener,  and mewithoutYou), with jarring low-fi instrumentation and refined post-rock vocals.

‘Empire Of Sorrows’ is a narrative storm, which Alex Foster (vocals) says, “could be seen as a spiritual epiphanic awakening or as an uplifting moment of consciousness, it could be the anthemic heartfelt scream of every underground megalopolitan outcast, the sincere whisper of anonymous passersby secretly longing to emancipate their spirit from the faceless waving crowd they've always been in."

The band’s last Canadian release rose to #2 on iTunes on the day of its release, and was also #6 top-selling artists in Canadian charts. This comes as no surprise when the band's previous releases have sold as many as 60,000 physical copies.

Kerrang! have previously called the band “Canada’s best kept secret”, and this album is evidence that you should be playing close attention to Your Favorite Enemies, as this won’t be the case for long.

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New album from The Unthanks, "Mount The Air", set for February release

The Unthanks

Album release: Mount The Air by The Unthanks
Release date: 9 February 2015 (pre-orders from 11 November 2014)
Label: Rabble Rouser Music / Cadiz
Listen / more information: on official The Unthanks website

The Unthanks invite you to Mount the Air. An invitation to be free, weightless, airborne, to transcend reality, to enter your imagination, to raise the possibilities above the ordinary, to become one with nature, to give yourself up to nature !and let the wind carry you to new places. To fly.

Or, perhaps you prefer a more objective, bullet-point summary!

  • "Mount The Air" is the first studio album by The Unthanks since Last was released four years ago.
  • "Mount The Air"has been two years in the making and the first to be made in their own makeshift studio in Northumberland, set up in an old granary building, 200 yards from where Rachel Unthank and Adrian McNally live with their 2 sons, 1 and 3 years old.
  • "Mount The Air" is released on their own label, RabbleRouser, despite offers of continuation with major labels.
  • It is the first Unthanks record to feature writing from all 5 core members, including debut contributions from both Rachel and Becky Unthank, as well as continued and more extensive writing from pianist and producer Adrian McNally, including the opening 10 minute title track.
  • Musically more ambitious than ever, the Mercury nominated Geordies are still a combination of grounded tradition and filmic orchestration, but with Mount The Air, they take on flavours from traditions as diverse as Spain, India, Blue Note and er, Trip Hop.
  • While "Mount The Air" has all the hallmarks of a band working in heightened isolation, since releasing Last in 2011, The Unthanks have collaborated with Orbital, Adrian Utley (Portishead), Martin Green (Lau), Martin Hayes, The Voice Squad, Sting, Charles Hazlewood, The Moulettes and German composer Werner Cee, while also producing a film soundtrack,a orchestral scale commission for a brass band collaboration with the National Champions of Great Britain, a WW1 project with Sam Lee, explorations of the work of both Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons, and a children’s song commission. And Rachel Unthank and Adrian McNally had two children and Becky Unthank got married!

When The Unthanks released Last in 2011, Uncut wrote that “The Unthanks seem to regard folk music the same way Miles Davis regarded jazz: as a launch pad for exploring the wider possibilities”. The Unthanks have taken that analogy a step further on Mount The Air, with a beautiful 10 minute opening title track that has echoes of Miles Davis and Gill Evans in their Sketches of Spain period. Written by Rachel Unthank’s husband and pianist/producer/arranger Adrian McNally (based on the themes of a one-verse traditional ditty from a book of Dorset songs in Cecil Sharp House by Becky Unthank), the piece features the trumpet playing of the world-class Tom Arthurs; a former BBC New Generation Artist and Elysian Quartet collaborator, now immersed in the Berlin improv scene.

With a classic transformation folk tale at it’s heart, "Mount The Air" introduces the album with one seductive layer of texture after another, giving way eventually to driving Blue Note stylings and finally a climax reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s euphoria or Elbow’s anthemic power, but here the power is spectacular, not created conventionally with guitars, but with breathtaking musical colour and beauty.

You can download a more extensive press release here, which features a track-by-track summary of the album.

Tour dates

The album will be accompanied by a UK and Ireland tour - full details are on the tour section of The Unthanks website.

 

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R.E.M. to release new vinyl 7-inch collection

REM

Box set release: '7IN – 83-88' by R.E.M.
Release date: 8 December 2014

Label: UMC / Capitol
More information: on R.E.M. website

REM 7IN-83-88

Eleven singles that R.E.M. released between 1983 and 1988 with I.R.S. Records have been gathered for 7IN – 83-88, a new boxed collection of vinyl seven-inch singles to be released December 8 by UMC/Capitol. The singles feature replicated original picture sleeve art and the set includes two U.K. releases making their U.S. vinyl seven-inch debuts: “Finest Worksong” / “Time After Time” (live) and the double-pack single for “Wendell Gee” with “Crazy,” “Ages of You,” and “Burning Down.” 

R.E.M.’s early storytelling was both epic and familiar, with themes of loss and alienation expressed in several songs, including “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” and in their 1987 Top 10, “The One I Love.” This new, transformative music emitted from the sleepy/sharp college town of Athens, Georgia, where R.E.M. and other bands forged a scene, which spawned a movement and ultimately led to a cultural sea change in music. 

1987’s “Its The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” was a tongue-twisting pop culture rally cry, beckoning to the tuned-out masses, listless casualties of 1980s economics, politics, and general ‘Me Generation’ malaise.  In December 1987, Rolling Stone’s year-end issue celebrated R.E.M. on its cover as "America's Best Rock & Roll Band." By the end of R.E.M.’s run with I.R.S. Records, the band’s success had paved the way for a new generation of alt-rock and grunge acts, as Athens’ finest continued to lead the charge.  

Popular music’s modern-day evolution can be traced in step with R.E.M.’s ascent and reign as one of music’s most creative and influential bands.  Explore the history that leads back to Athens.  These are the documents.

R.E.M. ‘7IN – 83-88’ 

  • “Radio Free Europe” / “There She Goes Again”
  • “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” / “King of the Road”
  • “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” / “Catapult” (Live)
  • “Can’t Get There From Here” / “Bandwagon”
  • “Driver 8” / “Crazy”
  • “Wendell G” / “Crazy” + “Ages of You” / “Burning Down” [U.K. double-pack, previously unreleased in U.S.]
  • “Fall On Me” / “Rotary Ten”
  • “Superman” / “White Tornado”
  • “The One I Love” / “Maps and Legends” (Live)
  • “Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” / “Last Date”
  • “Finest Worksong” / “Time After Time” (Live) (U.K. single, previously unreleased in U.S.)
REM singles

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Hall of Famer Gretchen Peters to release 'Blackbirds' on 9 February 2015

Gretchen Peters 'Blackbirds' cover

Album release: 'Blackbirds' by Gretchen Peters
Release date: 9 February 2015
Label: Proper
Listen / more information: on official website

Fresh off her induction into the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Gretchen Peters has confirmed the 9th February release of her new album 'Blackbirds.' Co-produced with Doug Lancio and Barry Walsh and recorded in Nashville, the album features a who's who of modern American roots music: Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Suzy Bogguss and more. But it's not the guests that make 'Blackbirds' the most poignant and moving album of the GRAMMY-nominee's storied career; it’s the impeccable craftsmanship, her ability to capture the kind of complex, conflicting, and overwhelming emotional moments we might otherwise try to hide and instead shine a light of truth and understanding onto them.

The eleven tracks on 'Blackbirds' face down death with a dark grit and delicate beauty. "During the summer of 2013 when I began writing songs for 'Blackbirds,' there was one week when I went to three memorial services and a wedding," remembers Peters. "It dawned on me that this is the way it goes as you get older - the memorial services start coming with alarming frequency and the weddings are infrequent and thus somehow more moving."

She found herself drawn to artists courageous enough to face their own aging and mortality in their work (Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Lowe), but noticed all the material was coming from a male perspective. "As brave an artistic risk as it may be for a man, it’s much riskier for a woman to speak about it," says Peters, whose incredible catalogue of songs—including "Independence Day" and "On A Bus To St. Cloud"—have been recorded by everyone from Martina McBride and Neil Diamond to Etta James and Trisha Yearwood. "Aging seems to be a taboo subject for female singer-songwriters, in part because our value has depended so much on our youth and sexuality. I want to write about that stuff because it’s real, it’s there, and so few women seem to be talking about it."

In an atypical and unexpectedly rewarding move, Peters teamed with frequent tour-mate Ben Glover to co-write several tunes on the new album, which evokes the kind of 1970's folk rock of Neil Young, David Crosby, and Joni Mitchell that Peters grew up on, albeit with a more haunted, country-noir vibe simmering just below the surface.

Geographically, the album leaps around the country, with particularly heartrending stops in southern Louisiana at the scene of a crime ("Blackbirds"), Pelham, New York, where Peters probes the hidden darkness of the leafy suburbia in which she grew up ("The House On Auburn Street"), and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where a fisherman lays his wife to rest after losing everything in the BP oil spill ("Black Ribbons"). "When All You Got Is A Hammer" is the story of a veteran struggling to adjust to life at home after fighting overseas, while "The Cure For The Pain" takes place in the waning days of illness in a hospital, and "Nashville" brings us back to Peters' adopted hometown.

Despite the varied locations, the songs on 'Blackbirds' are all inextricably tied together through their characters, whom Peters paints with extraordinary empathy and vivid detail.

'Blackbirds' follows Peters' 2012 album 'Hello Cruel World,' which NPR called "the album of her career" and Uncut said "establishes her as the natural successor to Lucinda Williams." If anything, though, 'Blackbirds' truly establishes Peters as a one-of-a-kind singer and songwriter, one in possession of a fearless and endlessly creative voice.

'Blackbirds' Tracklisting

1. Blackbirds
2. Pretty Things
3. When All You Got Is A Hammer
4. Everything Falls Away
5. The House on Auburn Street
6. When You Comin’ Home
7. Jubilee
8. Black Ribbons 
9. Nashville
10. The Cure For The Pain
11. Blackbirds (reprise)

Tour dates

For latest dates, please visit the Gretchen Peters website.

More information

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