Rare and unreleased material from Bob Marley coming in February

Bob Marley

CD / DVD / Blu-ray release: "Easy Shanking in Boston '78" by Bob Marley and The Wailers
Release date: 17 February 2015
Label: Universal

Bob Marley’s 70th birthday year (2015) will include a variety of releases and events to commemorate the legend, his work and iconic impact.  Over the course of the year, his legacy will be remembered by new releases of rare and unreleased material as well as fan favorite deluxe editions of his most memorable work.  The first release will be available on February 17.   BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS – EASY SKANKING IN BOSTON ’78, features two historic live shows from Boston’s Music Hall, June 8, 1978.  This new and unreleased performance  is from the Marley family giving unprecedented access for the first time to their  personal material from their private collections and their vaults. The album will be available on blu-ray/cd combo pack as well as dvd/cd and standalone cd versions.  Additional newly created animated material will also be a part of this release, marking the first time the family has incorporated this technology into any official Marley releases.  

The video footage was shot with a hand-held camera by a fan that Marley allowed to sit right in front of the stage. The result is remarkable imagery that captures Marley from just a few feet away, allowing one to experience the intimacy of his set.  While the cinematographer was shooting with film and forced to change rolls of tape, the gaps in the live footage have been augmented with specially created animation over the existing audio. The animation video elements were produced and created by the animation team of S77 whose credits include recent projects for Bruno Mars, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Disney, ESPN and many others. The 46-minute video includes seven of the 13 songs in the full set.

Highlights of the performance include a lively “Jammin’” and “The Heathen,” a song Marley and the band didn’t perform during the second set. The show features them at their most comfortable, truly enjoying themselves in the spotlight, basking in the appreciation of the audience.

Marley, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is notable not only as the man who put reggae on the global map, but, as a statesman in his native Jamaica, he famously brought together the country’s warring factions — symbolized by rival politicians Michael Manley and Edward Siega joining hands on-stage -- during his legendary “One Love Peace Concert” in Kingston, which took place on April 22, 1978, less than six weeks before this Music Hall performance in Boston. It was five years since Marley and the band arrived from Jamaica, with the 1977 release of EXODUS, recorded in London just after an assassination attempt on his life, turned into not just a socio-political statement, but one which included such hits as the title track, “Waiting In Vain” and “One Love,” paving the way for their next release Kaya and a world tour in ’78.  Together with his music’s theme of liberation, Marley’s own rags-to-riches story brought inspiration to subjugated people around the world, where he was revered as a larger-than-life leader. 

Today, Bob Marley remains one of the 20th century’s most important and influential entertainment icons. Marley’s lifestyle and music continue to inspire new generations as his legacy lives on through his music. In the digital era, he has the second-highest social media following of any posthumous celebrity, with the official Bob Marley Facebook page drawing more than 74 million fans, ranking it among the Top 20 of all Facebook pages and Top 10 among celebrity pages. Marley’s music catalog has sold millions of albums worldwide

Thirty years after its original release, Bob Marley & The Wailers’, LEGEND, shared the top of the charts, holding the No. 5 spot on Billboard’s 200 Album Chart among Maroon 5 (#1), Jeezy (#2), Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack (#3), and Ariana Grande (#4). LEGEND also holds the distinction of being the longest-charting album in the history of Billboard magazine’s Catalog Albums chart and remains the world’s best-selling reggae album. Marley’s accolades include inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1994) and ASCAP Songwriters Hall of Fame (2010), a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award (2001), multiple entries in the GRAMMY® Hall Of Fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2001).  For more information visit: bobmarley.com and facebook.com/bobmarley. 

The set listing for the BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS – EASY SKANKING IN BOSTON ’78 CD:

  • Slave Driver
  • Burnin' and Lootin
  • Them Belly Full
  • The Heathen
  • Rebel Music
  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • Easy Skanking
  • No Woman, No Cry
  • Lively Up Yourself
  • Jammin'
  • War/No More Trouble
  • Get Up Stand Up
  • Exodus

The set listing for the BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS – EASY SKANKING IN BOSTON ’78 Blu-Ray/DVD:

  • Rebel Music
  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • No Woman, No Cry
  • Lively Up Yourself
  • Jamming
  • War/No More Trouble
  • Exodus

The complete list of the performers on BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS – EASY SKANKING IN BOSTON ‘78 :

  • Bob Marley - vocals, guitar
  • Carlton Barrett – drums
  • Aston Barrett – bass
  • Marcia Griffiths - backup vocals
  • Rita Marley - backup vocals
  • Judy Mowatt - backup vocals
  • Tyrone Downie – keyboards
  • Alvin Patterson – percussion
  • Julian Marvin - lead guitar

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Inti Rowland's debut LP ‘17th Century Japanese Aviary’ out on 13 April 2015

Inti Rowland

Album release: '17 Century Japanese Aviary' by Inti Rowland
Release date: 13 April 2015
Pre-orders: via Bandcamp
Listen on: Inti Rowland website

‘Inti’s voice has a kind of choir-boy purity to it, yet isn’t lacking in emotional texture, his guitar-playing is bright and subtle, and his song writing is sophisticated, particularly in terms of structure’ – The Blue Walrus

‘When FFS first heard Inti’s delicate voice, we knew instantly he had captured something unusual and very compelling. His lofty voice floats above gentle melodies … it really is splendid stuff.’ – For Folk’s Sake

Recorded in six days in a converted chapel in the Scottish highlands, '17th Century Japanese Aviary' is the first full length release from London-based singer-songwriter Inti Rowland. Rowland’s fingerpicked guitar sits in the fore but the album soars way beyond the foundations of traditional singer songwriters with brass, a string quartet and light percussion adding to the mix.

Born in Chile in the early 90’s to a travelling art student mother and a garlic selling, alcoholic father, Inti Rowland’s upbringing was certainly interesting. Having lived in a garden shed in his childhood, Rowland was keen to escape from the spider refuge and let free his musical musings. London shows and independently released EP’s in the following years were no doubt paramount in shaping Rowland as an artist and debut album ‘17th Century Japanese Aviary’ has a lot to owe to his early endeavours.

The album was recorded in a secluded and peaceful setting just thirty miles from the heritage-rich Perth, Scotland. The bare surroundings and expansive country side are enough to inspire the least creative of minds and thus Rowland, of course, was able to flourish in the environment. The album was recorded in the summer and Rowland poetically recreates the motivating effect the surroundings had on the recording sessions: ‘The Scottish summer had a hint of warmth and the days were long and bright. Light would stream into our recording studio through the long church windows and daylight would persist until gone eleven at night, helping with the long hours.

Rowland’s thought provoking and inspiring attitude to his writing allows the listener to engage with the music more so than usual. The emerging artist encourages interpretation and notes the universal nature of the human existence. ‘the way I like to approach song writing is to acknowledge that most human experiences and emotions are universal… songs are loose things, and while for the artist they might come from a place of hurt or wonderment, primarily a song is one persons take on an experience and if done well, then they can mean anything to anyone.’

Track 4, the record’s title track, is certainly a highlight of the album. The exposed and bare exhibition of Rowland’s soft vocals and nylon string guitar needs no instrumental backing. The notes from the opening jazz-inspired chords resonate and high notes stand out for effect offering a melodic quality to the introduction. The track has gifted its subject matter from a book. It is based around the idea of an ancient Japanese courting tradition where when a man loves a women he would give her an aviary full of tropical birds as gesture of his affection. When something amazing happens in their lives, they'd then open the gates to the aviary and watch all the birds fly away. Rowland notes in his lyrics the beautiful trust and hope laced within this gift of love.

A diverse album, ‘17th Century Japanese Aviary’ is at times reminiscent of a 70’s  Nick Drake record. A string quartet adds to this and the addition of brass hints at a John Martyn hayday. The church setting gives Rowland’s soft vocals reverberation that gives way to a Benjamin Francis Leftwich-style track. In fact, the intimate yet full bodied experimentation is on par with other modern folk greats such as Laura Marling, Ben Howard, Grizzly Bear or The Low Anthem. For a debut album there really is not much else you can ask of this emerging singer and songwriting talent.

Inti will be announcing a number of tour dates soon including a special album launch showcase in London. For the mean time, experience his live opulence by watching his St Mary’s & St Pancras Old Church sessions at www.youtube.com/intirowland

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New EP coming from ticktock

Ticktock

EP release: 'TCOLT EP' by ticktock
Relase date: 16 March 2015
Label: The Big Oil Recording Company
Listen / more information: on Facebook / label website

Part-Danish, and nominal part-English citizen, Sebastian Zieler (ticktock) is ready to release his latest EP. Cryptically entitled ‘TCOLT EP’, this is the product of long sessions spent drawing sound with MS Paint-looking audio-imaging software, live recording and technical playfulness. The result is immediate, but otherworldly - like pop conceived of elsewhere.

Eager listening, from obscure DIY-punk to minimal techno to Destiny's Child (just listen to ‘Would You Look At God Go!’) the influences are many and varied, but no matter the technical approach, and no matter what genres and specific artists may be referenced sonically, the red thread in ticktock's music is an interest in the world: a profoundly enamoured and confused longing that permeates the EP from start to finish.

As an example, standout track ‘A- A- A’ started off as what Zieler describes as a “botched attempt at making two-step” and immediately morphed into some sort of very slow, fragmented and morose afro-beat, with the syncopated beats and languid basslines serving as a skeleton for an intensely direct and beautiful song, far from the dark, skittish ambience of its original point of reference.

‘TCOLT EP’ is strewn with charming synth based melodies drenched in melancholy, and compelling vocals which are both exciting and enthralling. From the lethargic and dreamy ‘A-A-A’, to the minimal yet prominent synth driven self-built canticle ‘I W R D T S Y O’, both the EP and Zieler experiment with a number of different soundscapes each more captivating than the last. Zieler says that, “The EP is about endings and what comes after - both privately, about love, and a more general sense; an apocalyptic idea, but not in a particularly dark way. More in a liberating sense.”

Zieler took up the moniker ‘ticktock’ because of a “life-long fascination and frustration with time”, and with the ‘TCOLT EP’ clocking in at just over 14 minutes you’ll find yourself frustrated that it was all over so soon, and wondering what’s coming next.

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"Wissenschaftslehre IV or Opinion Crisis" by Sharks' Teeth out in March

Sharks' Teeth album artwork

Album release: "Wissenschaftslehre IV or Opinion Crisis" by Sharks' Teeth
Release date: 17 March 2015
Label: Paco Tapes
Listen on: Sharks' Teeth website

Sharks’ Teeth began in 2009 as an outlet for the solo recordings of Tyler Scurlock, songwriter and guitarist of New Orleans indie band, Sun Hotel. Six years and six synthesizers later, and Sharks’ Teeth are ready to release their 17th album ‘Wissenschaftslehre IV or Opinion Crisis’. The new album will be the fourth instalment in a sequence of ambient collections known as ‘Wissenschaftslehres’.

Borrowing its name from the German Philosopher, Johann Fichte, who used the term to mean something along the lines of “this is the way I think”, ‘Opinion Crisis’ comes to us in 22 tracks of pleasing yet dark, and dejected synth waves, maintaining a sense of otherworldly beauty across the board, with gorgeous pads and arpeggiators making their way across the stereo field in a hazy, oxymoronically lo-fi, cassette-recorded fashion.

True to its heritage ‘Opinion Crisis’ is philosophical in its execution. There is something almost cinematic in its design. Scurlock says “I think about how when the score enters a film, it can make a scene of an everyday task such as grocery shopping, folding your laundry, or just staring out the window appear to be an emotional and deeply meaningful experience, depending on the musical tones”.

Lead track, ‘Jade Oscilloscope Screen’ exemplifies this perfectly by blending dark, melancholic and swelling drones, with beguiling piano and subtle sweeps, which seduces the listener into forgoing any distractions and gives them a bespoke feeling of significance. It’s soothing, accommodating, and at times it is evocative of an outer body experience allowing the listener to inspect every element of their own mise en scène. This is more than just an album of pleasing synth driven tracks, it’s a collection of emotions and moods bestowed on to the listener for his/her own subjective delineation.

‘Wissenschaftslehre IV or ‘Opinion Crisis’ will also be the first release to feature the use of Scurlock’s very own design for a light operated delay device, the ‘Alter-Echo’. This unit, designed and distributed by Scurlock’s small time circuit bending operation kindinstruments.com, gives the tracks on ‘Opinion Crisis’ a new quality, made possible through a new way of controlling the expression of tone. These unfamiliar textures reveal themselves in the warped strings of opening track ‘Reader’s Digest Go Unread’ and in the bending and bouncing melody of ‘Gray Court’.

‘Opinion Crisis’ is a lush experience, with flittering electronic haze and minimal vocal work, seeming to allude to leisure and faith. It’s when explicit structure reveals itself from this record’s reverb-y fog that makes this the kind of record worth paying attention to the little sonic details.

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Dan Walsh to release "Incidents and Accidents" on March 16

Dan Walsh: Incidents & Accidents

Album release: "Incidents and Accidents" by Dan Walsh
Release date: 16 March 2015
Label: Rooksmere Records
Listen: on Dan Walsh website

'The real deal, a demon picker' - Uncut
'Incredibly gifted, you must see him' - BBC Radio 2
'Eclectically inspired and consistently brilliant' – fRoots

INCIDENTS & ACCIDENTS is the highly anticipated follow up to Dan Walsh’s critically acclaimed SAME BUT DIFFERENT album release. On the new album we get to hear Dan in a more stripped back format with just a few guest appearances from Patsy Reid (fiddle), Nic Zuppardi (mandolin), Mark Hutchinson (percussion/vocals) and Canadian singer Meaghan Blanchard. The album was also produced by Mark Hutchinson at his Rooksmere Studios, known for producing albums by Blair Dunlop, Fabian Holland and of course Walsh & Pound. There are seven songs and four instrumentals. The song lyrics are a major focus on this album but there is still plenty of Dan’s signature fast and furious banjo playing to keep the fans happy. Of the livelier songs Time To Stay tells of Dan’s mixed emotions of moving back to his home town of Stafford after six years living in Newcastle upon Tyne along with the bluegrass inspired Lost Rambler, showing his love of the mountain music minor tunings. Of the slower songs, the contemplative Dancing In The Wind and The Song Always Stays are perfect examples, the former telling of a moving moment on a family holiday in Ireland and the latter relates to Dan and Nic Zuppardi’s experience of playing a gig to Scottish singer Glen Mason in a Surrey care home and rekindling his love of singing and performing in his twilight years. Dan originally started playing banjo due to his love of Scottish and Irish jigs and reels and the aptly named The Tune Set contains four tunes from a slow air building right up to a fast and furious reel with names inspired from touring from the Isle of Barra to New Zealand. To complete the musical world tour, Whiplash Reel displays Dan’s new found passion for Indian classical music.

Touted as one of the finest banjo players in the UK as well as being a superb singer, songwriter and guitarist, Dan Walsh is described as 'The real deal' in UNCUT magazine. To date he has released two critically acclaimed solo albums and has toured the world including visits to Canada, Norway, Germany, India and New Zealand and of course has played solo at venues and festivals across the UK. Having made his name with the duo Walsh and Pound and now a member of the award winning Urban Folk Quartet, as well as guest appearances on stage and on record with the Levellers and Seth Lakeman, this unique and eclectic musician continues to stun audiences across the world.

His eclectic and innovative approach has led to many exciting collaborations alongside his solo work and the UFQ, including tours with Northeast concertina legend Alistair Anderson and with sensational Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan as well as Canadian country singer Meaghan Blanchard.

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More acts, including Iggy Pop, added to ATP Iceland line-up

atp.jpg

All Tomorrow's Parties are thrilled to announce the new line-up additions for the third edition of ATP Iceland festival in 2015, held at the former US Air Force base Ásbrú in Keflavík near the nation's capital.

Joining confirmed acts like Run The Jewels, Deafheaven, Vision Fortune, headliners Belle & Sebastian as well as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who play Iceland for the first time since 2002, are Iggy Pop, Drive Like Jehu, The Bug, Ought and Clipping.

The inimitable Iggy Pop will play his first solo shows in a decade, performing classic hits from Lust for Life and The Idiot. Drive Like Jehu, who last year played their first show in almost 20 years, can claim to be one of the most seminal and influential artists of recent time and of course famously feature members of Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes and Obits. Their ATP Iceland 2015 appearance will be the only place you can see them live at a European festival this summer. Elsewhere, Ólafur Arnalds’ much lauded home grown techno project Kiasmos will grace the main stage.

ATP Iceland 2015 line-up (so far)

Iggy Pop, Drive Like Jehu, Belle and Sebastian, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Run The Jewels, Mudhoney, Deafheaven, Iceage, Loop, Chelsea Wolfe, The Field, White Hills, Ghostigital, Vision Fortune, Younghusband, Tall Firs, Kiasmos, Ham, Clipping, Ought, Xylouris White, The Bug, Grimm Grimm. Further announcements to be made early 2015 

ATP founder Barry Hogan: ''The legendary Iggy Pop, coupled with the return of ATP favourites Drive Like Jehu and all the amazing stuff already announced surely makes the pilgrimage to Iceland a no brainer.''  

ATP Iceland will be held at Ásbrú, the former NATO base in Keflavík, Iceland. The former NATO base dates back to 1941 and the last US military personnel left in 2006. The site is located only 5 minutes away from Iceland's main international airport, 15 minutes from the famous Blue Lagoon and 30 minutes from Reykjavík. The festival site will host two indoor stages and a cinema with films picked by ATP and the bands, as well as the usual ATP extracurricular activities like DJs, Pop Quiz and much more.

Details of the curator(s) of the ever-popular cinema schedule will be announced soon, as well as info of the food and drink element of the festival that brings so much happiness to attendees each year, as they devour some Icelandic food between bands.

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Wolf Colony: Debut Album 'Unmasked'

Wolf Colony

Album release: "Unmasked" by Wolf Colony
Release date: 03/03/15
Listen on: Wolf Colony website

“It’s always been a special treat when an act whom we had been previously unaware of completely sweeps us off of our feet.” - The Music Ninja 

“Wolf Colony is the kind of music for dancing alone. Maybe with a lover. Maybe with the fresh laundry you need to fold. Maybe just a little car dancing. It’s dark but far from depressing.” - The Burning Ear 

“Gosh, “Youth is another jam. It is the perfect example of music and lyrics complementing each other so well.” - Sunset in the Rearview 

“Percussive pop and sultry electronics forge a sound and a song in “Beauty” that is so enticing, it is impossible to not be charmed.” - Mostly Junkfood 

Based out of New York City, Wolf Colony is an anonymous singer-songwriter who began collaborating with music producer Neal Sarin in 2012 with no initial intention of pursuing a career as a recording artist.

Wolf Colony delivers a new blend of electronic-pop, drawing influences from 80s synth-pop to indie rock, while slipping in subtle stylistic nuances inspired by various contemporary electronic artists. Rather than indulging in over-production, Wolf Colony adorns his songs with relatively bare arrangements, leaving ample room for his unique vocal presence and deeply personal lyricism.  

Since the release of his debut EP, Welcome to the Wild Side, Wolf Colony has organically grown a global following and has performed at various music venues including Bowery Ballroom, House of Blues and Brooklyn Bowl.

In 2015, Wolf Colony plans to debut his full-length album entitled, “Unmasked”, which is exclusively produced by Sarin. The LP will feature previously released favorites, “Beauty”, “Youth” and “Holy” in addition to an array of unreleased material.

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The Lucid Dream release their self-titled sophomore album on 30 March

Album release: "The Lucid Dream" (self-titled)
Release date: 30 March 2015
Label: Holy are You? Recordings (CD/digital) and The Great Pop Supplement (coloured vinyl)
Listen: on Bandcamp

The Lucid Dream’s 2nd album follows on from 2 hugely successful singles taken from the long player, ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Unchained’, both released in 2014. Between them the singles gained support from BBC Radio 1, 2 plus major support from BBC 6 Music (Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley (including 2 sessions), Steve Lamacq, 6 Music Recommends, Tom Robinson and Gideon Coe). ‘Moonstruck’ earned the accolade of the fastest sell-out in Too Pure Singles Club history, selling out a month in advance of release, with both singles coinciding with sold-out UK dates.

Formed in Carlisle, Cumbria, in 2008, throughout 2010-2013 followed a string of sold-out 7”s, an EP and the debut album, ‘Songs Of Lies and Deceit’. These releases coincided with support slots/tours with Death In Vegas, Clinic, Spectrum, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Magic Band, The Aliens and Dead Skeletons, to name a few. Always a band with the ability to combine melody with experimentation and noise, it came as no surprise that earlier releases gained plaudits across the board.

From a live perspective, The Lucid Dream have completed 4 European tours, and appeared at festivals such as The Big Chill, Kendal Calling, and notably being the only act to be asked to perform at all 3 events held for the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia. They were also asked to perform at Jodrell Bank Live, to an audience of 5,000.

The debut long player ‘Songs Of Lies and Deceit’ was released in August 2013 to critical acclaim from Uncut, Clash, Q, Rocksound, Classic Rock Magazine, and leading French print mag Les Inrocks. Reviews heaped praise on the bands ability to make a sonically challenging album, whilst maintaining an ear for a tune throughout.

New album ‘The Lucid Dream’ demonstrates the band covering new areas, as always is the ethos of band. ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Cold Killer’ channel the influence of German geniuses Can and Neu!, through to the free-form jazz/noise freak-out that is ‘Darkest Day’/’Head Musik’. The success of ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Unchained’ has already shown the ability to have appeal across the board, whilst ‘Unchained Dub’ (already a live favourite) expresses the love of King Tubby/Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, already noted by fans and critics alike that The Lucid Dream are the only band of their ilk touching across so many areas. ‘Morning Breeze’, throughout its 7 minutes displays feedback experiments in the vein of Sonic Youth, through to the spaced-out bliss demonstrated by Verve. The album closes with ‘You + I’, a nod to early 60s pop, meets Mazzy Star, meets Spiritualized circa ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’.

Reaction

  • ‘A tremolo powered, Sonic Youth submarine voyage to Joe Meeks fabulous undersea kingdom’ - The Quietus
  • 'Stirring, epic material designed to expand minds and shatter the consciousness' - Clash
  • 'One beautiful, half-remembered hallucination' - Q
  • ‘A sea of Mary Chain distortion’ - Uncut 
  • “They revel in extracting every last tone from their combined wall of sound” - Classic Rock
  • “Tinnitus-tempting jangling guitars smothered in delicious reverb… it’s amongst the best psychedelic rock trips of 2013.” - The Line of Best Fit
  • “Skittish drums and gently psychedelic keys” - Rock Sound
  • “The guitars buzz, swirl and shimmer amidst expansive soundscapes” - Shindig!
  • Radio support from Huw Stephens, Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley, Steve Lamacq, Gideon Coe and more

Tour dates

To coincide with the album release The Lucid Dream will play the following UK headline shows, followed immediately by a European headline tour:

  • Saturday 7th February: Wrexham Un Deg Un
  • Thursday 12th February: Bristol The Mothers Ruin
  • Friday 13th February: Liverpool The Magnet
  • Saturday 14th February: Manchester The Roadhouse
  • Friday 20th February: Newcastle The Cluny 2
  • Saturday 21st February: Carlisle The Brickyard
  • Tuesday 24th February: London Birthdays

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Bella Hardy to release 'With The Dawn' on 30 March

Bella Hardy

Album: "With The Dawn" by Bella Hardy
Release date: 30 March 2015
Label: Noe Records
Listen / more information: on Bella Hardy website

Bella Hardy’s seventh solo album With The Dawn – her first since being named BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer Of The Year in 2014– isn’t just the latest collection of songs from this prolific and ingenious artist. The album is an account of one year of her life. Where previously Bella has adapted and explored traditional ballads and fables to tell her contemporary folk tales, the stories that inspired these songs are her own experiences: good and bad, happy or sad.

With The Dawn is a more intimate and reflective album than before. Working with producer Ben Seal, the arrangements are more instinctive, more reactive, as befits the mind-set that informed the lyrics. Vivid brass gives way to lonesome piano; choral voices peal; banjos emerge out of beats and blips. Elements of the initial demos, sometimes recorded into a phone as the thoughts occurred, have been kept. Whatever instrument was nearest to hand was grabbed and deployed whenever and wherever (even on one occasion in the bath) giving With The Dawn its striking immediacy.

These are songs written on the road, full of that sense of displacement, longing and contemplation that all itinerant musicians know. This was a time for a turning-30 Bella where nothing was stable. Documenting that flux as an album was a way to make sense of it all. On With The Dawn, Bella’s soaring kite-like voice is married to lyrics that poetically question everything she’s seen and done up till now; letting go of expectations, both other people’s and her own. But with closing lullaby And We Begin there’s a light at the end... or rather the beginning.

Only one song didn’t spring directly from Bella’s year of touring and tumult. Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves A Soldier was commissioned by Songs For The Voiceless, a project which gathered the country’s best folk artists to sing some of the lesser known stories of World War I. The resulting album was one of many bold paths Bella Hardy’s career has taken in recent years. From collaborating with Martin Simpson, John Smith and others on the hugely acclaimed Elizabethan Sessions, to a joint tour with Edinburgh miserablist Blue Rose Code, and an international songwriter exchange with Canada’s Cara Luft who also guests on this album.

Bella grew up in Edale in the Peak District but now lives in Edinburgh. Although the Hardy family sang in the local choir, it was a combination of her childhood love for ballad books and visits to local folk festivals that decided her future. At 13 she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals and in 2004 reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award, having taught herself to fiddle sing. Following a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Music, Bella released her debut album Night Visiting in 2007. One of its songs, Three Black Feathers was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. It was her first original composition.

Since then Bella has continued to record and perform at a tremendous rate; appearing on numerous BBC radio and TV programmes, singing solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms, composing the music for a Radio 4 documentary on the Post Office, writing with former Beautiful South founder David Rotheray, forming an all-female fiddle group with folk royalty Eliza Carthy, and winning yet another Radio 2 Folk Award for her original song The Herring Girl. Her 2013 album battleplan, a collection of reimagined traditional songs, received the best reviews of her career, with multiple stars showered on it from the broadsheets and folk press alike.

Reaction

  • “Rare class and exceptional emotional depth” - Mojo
  • “An aura of sophistication that will win over listeners who never set foot in a folk club” - The Sunday Times
  • “A fine, no-nonsense interpreter of traditional music and an excellent songwriter” - The Guardian
  • “One of the best songwriters of her generation” - fRoots
  • “A natural ability to fashion catchy pop hooks in the forge of big, doom-laden folk songs” - Songlines

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New album from of Montreal out on 2 March

of Montreal - Aureate Gloom art

Album release: "Aureate Gloom" by of Montreal
Release date: 2 March 2015
Label: Polylvinyl
Listen: on official of Montreal website

"A golden despondency" is how Kevin Barnes translates the meaning behind Aureate Gloom, the title he gave of Montreal's thirteenth full-length album. 

The oxymoron is one Barnes says best describes the overall state of his life and mental outlook while working on the record: first on a writing retreat in New York City, then while demoing tracks in Athens, before finally recording at Sonic Ranch, just across the border from Juarez, Mexico in the Texan desert.

If you're wondering what exactly would lead Barnes to use this epithet to describe his reality at the time, look no further than the songs themselves.

While many bands rely on vague platitudes as an attempt to make their songs universally applicable, Barnes chooses to take the opposite tact - penning lyrics so personal they sound like entries ripped from a journal that should be permanently kept under lock and key.

"I was going through a very stormy period in my life and felt like I was just completely trashed," reveals Barnes. "I might be guilty of sharing or exposing too much of my private life, but to me the best albums are those that help people connect with an artist on a deep, human level and that do so without too much artifice or evasiveness."

For inspiration - and to put a bit of distance between himself and the events and people he writes so unequivocally about - Barnes spent two weeks in New York City this past spring. While there, he wandered around Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Chinatown, imagining what it was like 40 years ago, picturing himself as Tom Verlaine or Patti Smith, or James Chance. 

Lead single "Bassem Sabry" (named for the Egyptian journalist who tragically died in the spring of 2014), is perhaps of Montreal's most political song to date, with Barnes proclaiming "Every leader is a cellophane punk," while handclaps and danceable drums incite the listener to follow his command: "If you hear me, say 'Yeah!' 'Yeah!' 'Yeah!'" 

The energy remains high for "Last Rites At The Jane Hotel," which channels Barnes innermost T. Rex while staying true to of Montreal's signature kaleidoscopic song structure.

"Empyrean Abattoir" begins dark and brooding before unfurling into a revved up Television-inspired outro, as all the while Barnes lays bare his most gut-wrenching lyrics.

Closing track "Like Ashoka's Inferno Of Memory" ends the record on an appropriately epic note, reveling in its seemingly effortless shifting of tempos and tones - a microcosm, really, of the overall album's auditory audaciousness. 

Like 2013's Lousy with Sylvianbriar, Aureate Gloom was recorded directly to tape with musicians Kevin Barnes (guitar, vocals), Clayton Rychlik (drums), Bob Parins (bass), Bennett Lewis (guitar), and JoJo Glidewell (keys), plus the help of engineer Drew Vandenberg.

Having already spent many of the previous months touring together, the strength of the members' musical rapport was instantly apparent. The group completed nearly a song a day during their stay in the desert and even wrote a brand new track on the spot, "Apollyon Of Blue Room," whose title references a supposedly haunted bedroom in a hacienda on the studio grounds. 

Working at such a breakneck pace, there was no time to nitpick, to dissect, to overanalyze. Only later, upon arriving back home, was Barnes able to take a step back and fully appreciate what he and his band had accomplished. 

With Aureate Gloom, of Montreal have created one of the most unflinching, confessional and starkly emotional albums in their oeuvre. 

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Universal announce Lynyrd Skynyrd vinyl box set

Lynyrd Skynyrd box set

Box set: Lynyrd Skynyrd's studio and live LPs (vinyl)
Release date: January 26 2015
Label: Universal


Universal are proud to present Lynyrd Skynyrd’s incredible studio and live LPs originally released between 1973 and 1977 brought together in a beautiful box set for the very first time. Each LP will have exact reproductions of original artwork to retain authenticity, and will be pressed to 180 gram heavyweight audiophile vinyl and contained in a rigid slipcase box.

The box set contains

  • Second Helping (1974)
  • Nuthin' Fancy (1975)
  • Gimme Back My Bullets (1976)
  • One More From The Road (1976)
  • Street Survivors (1977) 

Lynyrd Skynyrd is best known for popularizing the southern hard-rock genre during the 1970s. The band rose to worldwide recognition on the basis of its driving live performances and signature tunes Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird. At the peak of their success, three members died in an airplane crash in 1977, putting an abrupt end to the band's most popular incarnation.

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Allison Moorer: Down to Believing

Allison Test_1121.jpg

Album release: "Down to Believing" by Allison Moorer
Release date: 16 March 2015
Label: Proper Records
Listen: on official Allison Moorer website

“In February 2010, when sultry Alabama-born singer Allison Moorer released her last album, Crows, she was married (to fellow musician Steve Earle) and was just two months away from the birth of the couple's son, John Henry. Now, nearly five years later, as she prepares for the release of her next LP, the brilliant — and extraordinarily candid — Down to Believing, she is separated from Earle and navigating the bewildering diagnosis of John Henry's autism.” Stephen L Betts, Rolling Stone.

The Academy and Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter Allison Moorer is set to release her Proper Records debut, Down To Believing, on March 16.   Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Kenny Greenberg, the album was recorded over two years in Nashville while Moorer commuted back and forth from her home in New York City.  Her eighth studio recording since her 1998 debut Alabama Song, Down To Believing is her most personal collection of songs to date; one in which Rolling Stone has already called “brilliant and extraordinarily candid.”   

The 13-song set is in many ways a sequel to Moorer and Greenberg’s second collaboration, the acclaimed 2000 album The Hardest Part.   At the time of its release, Moorer often acknowledged the inspiration her parents’ relationship had on that album.  Fifteen years later, she’s sifting eloquently through her modern day life as the inspiration for Down To Believing’s intensely personal song cycle.

The recording of Down To Believing began in January of 2012, the same month her son John Henry received a formal diagnosis of autism.  The song “Mama Let The Wolf In,” is her response to that diagnosis.   Speaking to Rolling Stone, Moorer said of the song, “As a parent, whatever your children go through I think there’s a certain amount of it that you feel responsible for, even if you know that it has nothing to do with you…When you can’t protect them from going through something that’s hard, you feel responsible for it…Basically the song is channeling that energy and expressing that extreme frustration at not being able to protect him.  It makes me feel very powerless.” 

Of the title track, one about the dissolution of her marriage to singer songwriter Steve Earle, Moorer says, ‘“Down To Believing’ is quite possibly one of my best songs, one of the most honest songs about marriage.”  She continues, “Obviously, this is a record about family and relationships.  ‘Blood’ is about my sister (singer songwriter Shelby Lynne).  It’s about loving someone unconditionally and always having your arms open to them no matter what.   Being able to reflect on your own experience and put it in a common language so that people can commune is what the job of a songwriter is.  I’m prouder of these songs than any I’ve ever written.”

Moorer’s 1998 song, “A Soft Place To Fall,” was included on the soundtrack to the feature film The Horse Whisperer, which led to an appearance in the film itself, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.  The opportunity gained her worldwide attention and set the stage for her career.  She has been featured on releases by Joan Baez, Kid Rock, The Chieftains, while her songs have appeared on records by Miranda Lambert, Steve Earle and more. 

She starred in the 2008 play Rebel Voices, based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s best-selling book Voices of a People’s History of The United States and also appeared in the 2009 film The People Speak.  The film was presented by the History Channel and was inspired by Zinn’s A People’s History of The Unites States.   It also featured Bob Dylan, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Springsteen, Danny Glover, Matt Damon, and more.

Allison will perform with producer/guitarist Kenny Greenberg at Glasgow Celtic Connections on Friday January 30, Glasgow St Andrew’s In The Square.

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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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