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Friday
Oct032014

Alex Highton: ‘Nobody Knows Anything’

Album release: Nobody Knows Anything by Alex Highton
Release date: 8 December 2014
Label: Gare du Nord 
Listen on: official 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. 

Alex Highton will be playing the following upcoming live dates:

Oct 10th @ John Peel Centre, Suffolk - For BBC Introducing to mark 10 years since JP died. With Port Isla
Nov 25th @ Servants Jazz Quarters, Dalston - A Gare Du Nord night with Papernut Cambridge & Ralegh Long

Praise for debut Woodditton Wives Club

 

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

 

 

Friday
Sep262014

Owlle to release debut album, 'France' on November 17

Album release: ‘France’ by Owlle
Label: Jive / Epic
Release date: 17 November 2014
Listen on: official Owlle website   

“Her breakout single, the sparkly synth-laden “Ticky Ticky,” tiptoes across your eardrums and practically forces you out onto the dance floor.” – Nylon

“Darkly danceable electro-pop… all tinged with sadness. You can hear the subtle influences of Bronksi Beat Madonna and the subtle hints of Frank Ocean.”  – Notion

“French electro-pop chanteuse Owlle is set to take the world by storm with her unique fusing of 80s era melody, super danceable beats and a pop-art aesthetic.” – Amelia’s

For French 20-something, Owlle, music is a way to tell stories, a way to embrace freedom and other worlds, and very much expose two sides of the same coin. In Owlle’s world, the things that initially seem quite different from one another can often reveal themselves to be quite closely interlinked. As an arts graduate, on her debut album France, she continually demonstrates that visual art can be as much an influence over recorded output as other sounds themselves can. Having experienced her own light bulb moment at one of Brian Eno’s audio-visual installations, the effects were apparently long lasting; “I’m not sure if I’d ever have dared to start a musical career if it wasn’t for the rush I got when I discovered one of Eno’s audio-visual installations at an art fair. It was called Quiet Club and the way sound and visuals interacted truly fascinated me.”

An atmosphere of contradiction within music is never far from Owlle’s mindset either (“I like mixing different or even antagonistic atmospheres”) and it’s these more mercurial traits that have earned her comparisons to others such as, Chairlift, Lykki Li, Bat For Lashes and Grimes. The signposts can be followed on tracks like Ticky Ticky, with its toe-tapping melancholia and fizzing electronics. or on forthcoming single, and album opener Fog, which somehow manages to feel both claustrophobic and free at the same time. Of the record, Owlle has said that often “there’s the notion of someone running incessantly after something”, and it’s perhaps the pace of Fog that sets this tone for the rest of the album. Whatever her motives, France bursts with ideas, leads the listener through darkened corridors, and manages to capture that most illusive of pop virtues; Style and Substance. Owlle has both to spare. 

Leading into the UK release of France, Owlle has bothered the top of Hype Machine with remixed versions of her own tracks (most notably cuts by St Pepsi and Maelstrom), while Owlle herself has remixed the likes of Sia and Depeche Mode.  Further tracks have featured on mixtapes for i-D, Under Your Sun was featured as one of Daytrotter’s Best Songs of 2013 and she has gone on to support artists like Sebastian Tellier and Phoenix on tour. 2013 saw her play at Lovebox and feature at various discovery festivals in Europe, including The Great Escape, Eurosonic, Reeperbahn and China’s own Strawberry Festival.

Friday
Sep122014

Prawn to join Gnarwolves and Public Domain on winter EU/UK tour

Tour announcement: Prawn
Countries: EU and UK
Dates: 30 November - 12 December 2014
More information and dates: on Topshelf website 

Following on from the release of their acclaimed new album ‘Kingfisher’, Prawn are now set to storm the EU/UK, supporting Gnarwolves on their biggest tour to date! The winter tour is set to start on 10 November 2014 in Belgium, with Prawn and Gnarwolves hitting the UK from 30 November – 12 December 2014 (with Public Domain joining them from the London show onwards). 

Following on from their second full-length album ‘Kingfisher’ (released 12th August 2014 via Topshelf Records), this tour marks the New Jersey quintet’s highly anticipated third visit to the EU/UK. Prawn consistently make a huge impact on audiences wherever they play and are constantly gaining new fans by exhibiting their unique flavour of post-rock infused emo. This combined with the recent praise for ‘Kingfisher’ guarantees that this will be the bands most exiting overseas tour to date!

This tour will follow on from the forthcoming US Topshelf Records Tour (feat. A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Diamond Youth, Prawn & Field Mouse). The band have also recently finished touring the US this summer with Into It. Over It., the Hotelier, and Foxing.

Having recently opened the main stage at both Reading and Leeds, winter tour headliners Gnarwolves consistently impress crowds with their incendiary performances of their own raucous blend of punk-rock. This tour will be the longest set of dates that Gnarwolves have embarked on so far, and will follow on from their forthcoming self-titled debut, set for release on 15th September 2014 on Tangled Talk Records/Big Scary Monsters.

Austrian skater punks Public Domain will also be joining them on the tour, having recently impressed UK crowds with their explosive set at TDON Fest 2014.

This is a serious line-up consisting of bands that are currently impressing fans at every step of the way! Make sure you catch them at one of their dates - these are all available from the Topshelf website.