ALBUM: Mentrix – ‘My Enemy, My Love’

A commanding, altruistic collection of dynamic sounds; vocalist & composer Mentrix has shared her debut album, My Enemy, My Love, via her own label, House of Strength today (April 3rd). It’s a powerful exploration of resilience, independence, and what happens when women are caught between two cultures; each filled with their own flaws and freedoms.

Born in Iran but now based in Berlin, Mentrix (aka Samar Rad) blends her experiences of eastern and western culture, along with traditional Sufi instrumentation to create her beguiling, bold soundscapes. Her extensive travels and multiple influences – from Latin and French Literature, to The Qu’ran and traditional Persian poetry – give her music a diverse and fascinating edge.

One of the most striking elements on My Enemy, My Love, is the sound of the hand-played daf drum; an ancient, traditional frame drum native to Iran. In Sufism, Mentrix explains the instrument is both “a call for the soul to awaken”, and a sound that can communicate “emptiness” and desolation. As she poetically words it, “it’s the dark side and the bright side of the moon in one instrument.” This is personified on cinematic opening track ‘Nature’, and re-enforced with the lyric “We all have a nature that harms us / if we let it”. This duality – the battle between acceptance and choice – is seminal to Mentrix’s music, and it’s what makes her art so compelling.

‘Dreams’ is a beguiling lullaby, showcasing Mentrix’s agile vocal range and more of her instinct for altruistic percussion. The slow-burning, seven minute epic ‘Loyalty’ blazes with ominous electronics, before the intense ‘Longing’ breaks through like a powerful ray of light; inspired by a traditional Mooyeh mourning chant from Lorestan in Iran. Eerie synth textures, assertive lyrics, and marching percussion collide on ‘Walk’. “Trees give fruit / men seek truths / don’t you wonder why nothing changes?” Mentrix extrapolates, before commanding listeners with the instruction: “you need to walk / now, get up”. It’s stands out as one of the most rousing, powerful tracks on the record.

On the eponymous ‘My Enemy, My Love’, layered vocals and pummeling beats flood the track. The title is a reference to Mentrix’s contrasting feelings of being seen as an immigrant and a deserter, but also her love for the country she was born in, and its rich musical heritage. “I am forever attached to my birth place, and my identity and aspirations are very rooted in Iranian culture” Mentrix explains. “Since the West so often portrays Iran in a questionable way, I feel obliged to share its diverse and positive faces to the world.”

This diversity and positivity is felt during the gentle opening of penultimate track ‘Igneous Sun’, which then flows into the searching ‘If’. “If you were not standing in my way / where would I be standing right now?” muses Mentrix over atmospheric beats, and entrancing electronics. With such direct, and intense song-writing talent, it’s hard to imagine anyone blocking Mentrix’s path; but it’s reassuring to hear she challenges those who attempt it.

Multiple aspects of Mentrix’s My Enemy, My Love are rooted in self-autonomy, and the empowerment of women. Session musician Claire Bay plays the ney, while multi-award winning New-York-based mastering engineer Emily Lazar helped to create her vivid recordings. Even the name of Mentrix’s  label – House Of Strength –  is a reference to the “pits” where Iranian men would train to defend themselves against the Mongols. There was no equivalent place for women, and Mentrix is still struck by the need to “fight” this patriarchal structure. She does so by seeking out those who are also self-autonomous, and who are prepared to work alongside her to create her sound; and what a fluid, energetic, refreshing sound it is.

Listen to Mentrix’s debut album My Enemy, My Love on Spotify. Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Naz & Ella – ‘Freedom’

Inspired by the experience of Rahaf Mohammed – a young Saudi Arabian woman who fled an abusive family and oppressive regime with the hope of making it to Australia – Naz & Ella have shared their latest single. ‘Freedom’. Through tentative guitar picking and a clear lyrical narrative, the duo have created an understated, empowering tune.

“Freedom is a luxury” sing Naz & Ella, something that Rahaf Mohammed must know only too well. After fleeing her Saudi home, she was stopped in Thailand and almost deported back (where she would likely be incarcerated), before she was eventually granted asylum in Canada. Naz & Ella use their music to tell Rahaf’s inspirational story, communicating her feelings of desperation and relief along the way.

Listen to ‘Freedom’ below, and follow Naz & Ella on bandcamp and visit their website for more updates.

The duo have also recorded a podcast to accompany the single, which you can listen to here:

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: BLÓM – ‘Meat’

A cathartic, riotous exploration of objectification and self autonomy; BLÓM‘s latest track ‘Meat’ is a raging cacophony of distorted guitars, vicious vocals and relentless percussion. Lifted from their album Flower Violence, which is set for release on 1st May via Box Records, the track is accompanied by a striking set of visuals, directed by Stuart Walkinshaw.

Self-described as “three qt punks playing pure radge shit; with female, trans and non binary members”, BLÓM are known for their blistering tunes that tackle inequality, and explore issues surrounding mental health and gender identity. On ‘Meat’, the band – along with Walkinshaw’s guidance – have taken live recordings of the song and mixed and mastered it to full fury levels for their upcoming album.

Watch the video for ‘Meat’ below, and follow BLÓM on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: ZAMILSKA – ‘Prologue (Live)’

After the release of her third album Uncovered in 2019, Polish producer & electronic musician ZAMILSKA toured across Europe and the UK, bringing her dense industrial-techno beats to live audiences. After these shows, one thing became clear to her; her fans were desperate to know the name of the “intro” track she opened her set with. Now, ZAMILSKA has kindly shared a live recording of the track, titled ‘Prologue Live’, and it’s brimming with her usual pounding beats, sporadic synths, and jagged electronics.

ZAMILSKA explains in detail why she chose to share this new offering: “They say that “it’s not how you start that’s important but how you finish”. However, this does not apply to live shows, in that instance the entire setlist is important. During the Uncovered live shows, I’ve opened with an intro, especially created to open each gig with a bang. Many of you asked “Which track was that? Where can I find it?”. Until now, it was only something I’ve played live. To show gratitude to all who came to see these shows, I’ve decided to release and share with you a version of ‘Prologue’, recorded live. Let this be a memento. Something to start your day, open a new chapter, accompany during new undertakings. If you want to make an impact you don’t tap dance beforehand.”

ZAMILSKA’s stomping beats have certainly made an impact on us. Listen to ‘Prologue Live’ below, and follow ZAMILSKA on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Suzie Stapleton – ‘Blood On The Windscreen’

The city of Brighton has played host to a number of DIY creatives over the years with Australian artist Suzie Stapleton being no exception to this tradition, as she returns with self-produced single ‘Blood On The Windscreen’.

Razor sharp riffs plunge us head-first into the track as Stapleton’s husky vocals demand our fullest attention. It seems dramatically prophetic that the single is lifted from her upcoming album We Are the Plague which is due for release this June. Stapleton confesses:

I had a meeting with a photographer early January to discuss the artwork for We Are the Plague. I joked ‘I hope a pandemic doesn’t sweep across the world before the album release… About a week later Coronavirus started to hit the headlines.

Whether it’s due to self-isolation or the single’s own darker undertones of the blues, ‘Blood On The Windscreen’ succeeds in fully immersing us into our own headspace while simultaneously serving a stark reminder of the wider world. Although currently it is difficult to predict our lives from one day to the next, one saving grace is that Suzie Stapleton has promised us that, as long as she has WiFi, we will have an album.

Watch the video for ‘Blood On The Windscreen’ here:

‘Blood On The Windscreen’ is out now. Listen on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Nicky Lee-Delisle
@Nicky___Lee

EP: Yakima – ‘Go Virtually’

Sharpening their steadily developing woozy, lo-fi sound, Glasgow quartet Yakima are set to bring their debut EP Go Virtually into the world on 3rd April. Drawing influence from their love for melodic expression and frenzied sonics, the record flits across boundaries of reality and imagination with its hazy, warm presentation.

Written and recorded in the unusual setting of a drafty gatehouse next to a nearby castle – with a ceiling made entirely of spider webs – the EP lends its echoey feel across six tracks. With production coming from Benji Compston and Jon EE Allan of acclaimed band, Happyness, the quartet’s debut record showcases an array of sounds that vary from upbeat and rock-tinged, to fragile and quiet.

Groovy, upbeat opener ‘It Helped’ establishes the observational lyricism that the band lean towards; looking the uncomfortable reality and battle of quitting smoking right in the eye. Following track ‘Judy’s Lament’ is rooted in the experience of reading about Judy Garland’s insomnia. Eventually turned in to a song about Garland’s imagined feelings about the lack of sleep, it’s a soothing lullaby that stands out as an early highlight for its smooth, quiet vocals.

‘Thanks’ makes way for a sudden spike in energy with it’s guitar-led sonics and melodic vocals, with the wild cut of ‘I’m Happy (In No Way)’ making room for the second high point on the EP, before IT loses itself in the chaotic, improvised outro of ‘Real Time’. Closing track ‘Sheep Boy, Cry Man’ (the title of which draws inspiration from “Cry Rooms” in Japan, where occupants go to relieve stress) is the most somber offering on Go Virtually.

Toying with vocal harmonies and earworm melodies, Yakima’s debut EP is an analytical creation that looks into the complex relationship between what’s right in front of you and what’s in your mind. Influenced by the likes of The Byrds, Elliott Smith, The Beach Boys, Sparklehorse, Low and Duster among so many others, the band still manage to shine with an authentic exuberance that can only be their own.

Yakima’s EP Go Virtually is released on 3rd April. Follow the band on Facebook and Spotify for more updates.

Malvika Padin
@malvika_padin26

Track Of The Day: Francis Of Delirium – ‘Circles’

A swirling guitar tune exploring the ever-evolving nature of human emotion; Luxembourg-based duo Francis Of Delirium have shared their latest single, ‘Circles’. Lifted from their debut EP All Change, which is set for release on 22nd May via Dalliance Recordings, the track is a lo-fi, grungy earworm.

“It’s all a circle to me now”, sings Jana Bahrich, as she navigates her way through feelings left behind by the breakdown of a relationship. “On a personal level it felt like every aspect of my life was giving into this circle”, Bahrich explains about the track. “It’s about the first time you really like someone and then it ends, and you don’t know if that sadness will ever go away because you’ve never experienced it before. By the end of the song there’s this light, and desperate claw at trying to pull yourself back and out of the circle.”

It’s this emotional resilience and determined spirit that makes ‘Circles’ such a relatable listen. Together, Bahrich and collaborator Chris Hewett have a knack for crafting atmospheric tunes, and we’re excited to hear more of them on their debut EP. Listen to ‘Circles’ below, and follow Francis Of Delirium on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Patricia Marets

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut