Friday 30 March 2012, 17:30 | By Andy Malt
Editor’s Letter: On the CMU stereo
Hello. Right now you’re probably expecting me to reel off 300 words about something that’s happened in the music industry this week. Or moan about something that was on TV perhaps. But no! There will be none of that, because I’m on holiday and I have absolutely no idea what’s happened in the last seven days. I definitely haven’t been frantically checking emails, RSS feeds and tweets on the hotel wi-fi at every opportunity. I’m relaxing and shit.
Anyway, this space still needs filling, so inspired by Eddy TM’s recent CMU column running down some of his favourite new music in celebration of the Vernal Equinox and the beginning of spring, I thought I’d just copy him and do exactly the same thing.
So here are ten new(ish) artists who have new(ish) music out that I love. I hope you like them too.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you completely fall for a song on the first listen, and ‘White Foxes’ was one of those moments. There are few songs I’ve listened to as much this year and it runs excited chills through me every time I hear it still. The album it is taken from is available on iTunes now, and while you’re frantically downloading that, her previous album ‘The Brothel’ is also very much worth checking out.
Released through Permanent Vacation last month, John Talabot’s debut album, ‘Fin’, has been getting some heavy play in the CMU office of late. Taking his strong songwriting skills and drawing heavily on house, bringing to mind acts like Pantha Du Prince and fellow Spaniards Delorean, the record is filled with standout moments. Here’s one, ‘Destiny’, the first of two collaborations with Pional on the album.
Sleep Party People
The solo project of Scarlet Chives member Brian Batz, Sleep Party People’s music is slow, twisted pop that sits somewhere between dreamlike and nightmarish – mainly due to the heavily-effected vocals that are melted almost beyond recognition. This feeling often comes through in SPP videos too, particularly the one for the track below, ‘A Dark God Heart’, which slowly morphs from innocent to morbid. New album ‘We Are Drifting On A Sad Song’ is due out via Blood And Biscuits next month.
There’s no denying that THEEsatisfaction’s music is ambitious, but its success is in sounding effortless. Allowing hip hop, jazz, funk, Afro-Futurism and psychedlia to run together is not something that has never been attempted before, but to balance it so perfectly is no mean feat. ‘QueenS’ is taken from the duo’s debut album proper ‘awE naturalE’ which is out this week via Sub Pop.
Clean George IV
Clean George IV, aka George McFall, first emerged in 2007, releasing the brilliant ‘First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women’. But the project went on hold for a few years, in which time he began a classical music degree and got sued by Kraftwerk (I’m not sure if these two things are related). He returned last year with debut album ‘God Save The Clean’, sounding like Andrew WK on a bad comedown.
Last year Julia Holter found herself with an underground hit on her hands with debut album proper ‘Tragedy’. Quickly snapped up by RVNG Intl, she released the follow-up, ‘Ekstasis’, earlier this month. Her sound is unusual and experimental but also warm and welcoming, never attempting to block the listener out with its weirdness. Even her FACT mix, which was largely made up of field recordings with the occasional track dropped in amongst them, manages to pull this off. Here’s the opening track from ‘Ekstasis’, ‘Marienard’:
It’s occurred to me now that I’ve started writing these blurbs, how much of the music here is experimental but with leanings towards pop. Bernholz is no different, although he stands out because while his early releases were completely abstract, latest single ‘Austerity Boy’ sees him attempt to step almost completely over into pop by creating a three minute update of Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ for modern Britain.
I first discovered Asbjørn at last year’s SPOT Festival in Denmark. Wandering into his show for no clear reason, he turned out to be very popular amongst his home audience already, performing to a capacity crowd of around 1500 people in the middle of the afternoon. It was clear to see why too. Still in his teens he makes highly polished, infectious pop and knows full well how to perform it.
I bang on about Team Me quite a lot, so forgive me if I’m covering old ground here. They are my favourite indie-pop sextet of the moment though. Their debut album, ‘To The Treetops!’ was released earlier this month and features ten unashamedly poppy songs, including the wonderful ‘Dear Sister’, which first appeared on their eponymous 2010 debut EP.
‘There He Go’ by ScHoolboy Q has spent extended periods of time jammed in my brain since I first heard it on Jon Hillcock’s New Noise podcast back in January. His second album, ‘Habits & Contradictions’, was released the same month and, while maybe not treading much new ground in hip hop terms, it nonetheless does it well. It also features a roll call of other up and coming rappers, including that A$AP Rocky fella.
BONUS TRACK: 99% Invisible
This isn’t a band, it’s a podcast. Still, it’ll only take up a few minutes of your time and I promise you it’ll be worth it. Coming in at about five minutes per episode, I think it’s the only podcast I’ve ever downloaded the entire back catalogue of based purely on one episode. Each week, presenter Roman Mars looks at elements of design that usually go unnoticed, answering questions like ‘Why do space shuttles have dining tables?’ and ‘Why do cul de sacs exist?’ This episode, which was that first one I downloaded, looks at the sounds made by the aging escalators of Washington DC’s Metro.
So there you go – I hope you enjoy that little lot. Next week there won’t be an Editors’ Letter because – while I will be in the office doing what we CMU editors do from Monday through Thursday, I won’t be around on Friday, and neither will you. It’s that most Good of Fridays see. But Chris will do a Week In Five on theCMUwebsite.com, to rap up the week in the music business, so that should keep you going amidst the Easter madness. Then I’ll see you back here with another of these letters the following week. Hurrah.
There’s no podcast this week, partly because I’m on holiday (as you know – you did read the first paragraph, right?), but also because we figure the Easter school holidays begin around about now, and that’s sort of when proper serious programmes go off the air and you end up watching Timmy Mallett and ‘Flipper’ re-runs (that still happens, right?). The podcast will return on 20 Apr – but you can still tune into last week’s on the website right now.
Actually, I hear there have been problems with our iTunes feed this week, so those of you who subscribe might only be receiving it around about now anyway – so just imagine the last week didn’t happen and that I’m not on holiday, and listen in to last week’s edition. I seem to remember that we discussed at least three rapper’s penises, which was pretty good going for one edition. Stream or download that, or any of the fifty editions of the podcast so far, or sign up for future editions, at www.thecmuwebsite.com/podcast
IN THE NEWS
Some of the long running stories continued to develop this week. In the EMI sale, Universal’s bid to buy the EMI record labels entered a three month second phase competition investigation at the European Commission (as we all expected it to), while the New Zealand competition regulator also started an investigation, and rumours circulated the mega-major was hoping to sell off three of its publishing catalogues, not to placate those who oppose Universal’s further expansion through the EMI purchase, but to help raise some money to pay for it.
On the Sony side of the EMI saga, the Sony/ATV publishing company offered some concessions to the EC regulator, in a bid to get approval for its bid to buy EMI Music Publishing without having to go into a second phase inquiry. It remains to be seen if that works – the EC will tell us on 19 Apr. Elsewhere in Sony Corp, the entertainment giant confirmed some rejigs at the top of it’s American division – into which both Sony Music and Sony/ATV report – all of which had been rumoured last week.
The MegaUpload story also rumbled on once again this week, with the news that two US rights owners were about to launch civil proceedings against the shut down file-transfer service for the copyright infringement it allegedly enabled – criminal proceedings against the Mega companies and bosses are ongoing of course. And in related legal news, MegaUpload competitor RapidShare, which has faced various infringement lawsuits in recent years, announced it would take its ongoing legal battles to Germany’s Supreme Court, which it hopes will confirm it is doing all it has to do to combat piracy in the eyes of European law.
Another ongoing story is the digital royalties lawsuits in the US. This week Sony requested one case being pursued against it in this domain, by Toto, be dismissed, while 1970s R&B outfit Tower Of Pop launched a new digital royalty lawsuit against Warner Music. Elsewhere in the courts, EMI settled a royalties dispute with Universal Music affiliated Cash Money Records, but began legal proceedings against the two gaming companies behind the rap-along game that was created in partnership with Universal Music’s Def Jam. Universal really ought to get on with taking over EMI, just to stop all these lawsuits.
Fans of stats got a whole load of figures from the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry to play with this week (record sales were down in 2011, but the decline is slowing), while Time Out published the top ten venues in London. Spotify announced it was offering its freemium users more stuff (except in the UK, for now), Richard Hooper published his first report on the Digital Copyright Exchange the government wants to set up, and HMV announced it was shutting down its mail-order facility on the Channel Islands, now being based there doesn’t mean you can get away without charging VAT on CDs.
On the live side, LIVE UK magazine provided some extra nuggets of information about the recently revived secondary ticketing debate, though the big news story in live circles was the cancellation of the UK edition of Sonisphere, initially announced by headliners Queen. There’s been lots of speculation as to what all that might tell us about the fortunes of co-promoters Kilimanjaro, the state of the wider festival market, and why booking Queen and Adam Lambert as headliners for a metal festival might not be a great idea.
FEATURES AND NEW MUSIC
This week Laura-Mary Carter from the brilliant Blood Red Shoes gave us some great answers in our weekly Q&A interview, Karima Francis provided a particularly fine playlist, and Madonna and Paul Van Dyk fought things out in the Beef Of The Week slot. There was another flood of festival line up announcements, but obviously we want you to pay particular attention to the exciting additions made to the line ups of The Great Escape festival and CMU-programmed convention.
The CMU Approved column this week featured a mix by Ukkonen, new music from Haim and Fanzine, and the rather good split-screen video from Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls’ solo project La Sera. At the release end of things, there was a Weird Dreams album stream and previews of new LPs from Sigur Rós, Peaking Lights and Maximo Park. Ah, and how we’ve missed them all. Birmingham grunge youths Swim Deep debuted their ‘King City’ video, while Brooklyn troupe The Men announced eight minutes’ worth of Record Store Day compilation perfection in sort-of-new track ‘A Minor’. Oh, and that Jack White gave away the universe’s first ever 3rpm record. Well, of course he did.