Track Of The Day: Turkish Delight – ‘Spin’

“What would you like best to eat?”
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty” said Edmund.

If, like me, you grew up in the era of the Sunday teatime adaptation of the Narnia saga, then the words Turkish Delight always have a certain power, bringing to mind scenes of intoxication, mental confusion and seduction. Whether the band of the same name caught the BBC’s version whilst hanging around early ’90s Boston, they’ve admitted in interviews that the CS Lewis novel was the original inspiration for the name. And like the White Witch, the gift that the band bring is simultaneously familiar and threatening, warmly rocking but with an artsy cool.

Now, over twenty years since the band split, DIY label Reckless Yes are reanimating their back-catalogue with a re-release of debut Tommy Bell (1996) and second album (1998), on one double CD: bringing the band back – Aslan-style – all in one package. It’s the label’s assertion that the band are as relevant and fresh as they were in the ’90s and, as someone who’d never heard of them until very recently, it’s hard to disagree.

Taken from Tommy Bell, ‘Spin’ is a perfect introduction to Turkish Delight’s welding of art-rock and now-wave DIY sensibilities. That monotone bass-y rhythm you hear throughout? That’s ‘the can’, a “a home-made, electric bass-like instrument made from a bucket, a pole, and strings” which sounds somewhere between the skiffle broom and something from a bad (ie. good) sci-fi movie. Leah’s vocals switch in and out of English with the lilting “I’d rather be a spinster / I’d rather spin” – a defiant, subtly feminist, statement, whilst still also being punningly wry. Drums rattle around while spectral sharp and piercingly howling guitar lines rotate throughout, with verse and chorus largely being dictated by a shift in power rather than an expected telegraphed shift in chords.

‘Spin’ is sinister, daft, experimental and ultimately, pretty fun. And the same is true of the video: typical of its time as a piece of ’90s video art, showing individuals spinning in stop-motion black and white, intercut with footage of the band both playing the song and playing the fool. Not only is this an insight into the Dada world of the group, and lead singer Leah Callahan in particular, but according to interviews it’s evocative of the experience of seeing them play live, with costumes and silly antics a prominent feature.

Tommy Bell is a mishmash of agit art and indie rock with aspects of found sound and the experimentation of jazz and noise – with all that’s promised by ‘Spin’ on there, and more. At fifteen tracks it’s also a mammoth of a debut and shows a band in full fettle, right from the off. Howcha Magowcha is a more streamlined sophomore effort, which Leah has said “shows off the band’s maturity”. Taken together, they demonstrate the brave new frontiers of post-grunge indie, a world where art and music could be treated as synonymous and simultaneous activities. Often described as Thurston Moore’s favourite band of the time, Turkish Delight stand out as uncompromising and truly independent pioneers who left two lightning rods of LPs. Listening to them back-to-back is like poking around an old wardrobe, before stumbling, confused and maybe a little frightened, into a fascinating new world.

Tommy Bell and Howcha Magowcha are both out now, via Reckless Yes, and available both digitally and on CD.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

WATCH: The Gravity Drive – ‘Hits Like A Fix’

The Gravity Drive are a harmony driven, alternative pop band led by Elijah and Ava Wolf. Having received support and frequent radio plays from Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing, they independently release records on their own label from their house near Bridport in Dorset. 

The new single and ’60s inspired video, ‘Hits like a Fix’ is a piano-led pop ballad with Ava taking the lead vocals. Opening with slow, wistful keys, Ava’s seductive voice comes in with a sense of underlying drama: “I made the call, you called the sting”.

With a sense of something magnetic happening between the song’s characters, the chorus is more uptempo, with light percussion and delicate mixing adding to the emotional elements. The second verse intensifies, however, oozing a fervent passion: “we lost our freedom to the fever again… You’re the remedy that helps me forget.”

Both the song and video are beautifully cinematic, suggesting the chemistry of fated love. Like a pull of gravity, it will draw you in, giving you much to anticipate from the band’s upcoming second album, The Wildlight, due for release in 2020.

‘Hits Like A Fix’ is out now on all digital platforms.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

Track Of The Day: Tiberius B – ‘No Smoke’

Building upon the dream-pop melodies of the Vancouver duo known as Mu, that have taken us on various adventures in the tragedies of youth, Canadian singer-songwriter Francesca Belcourt’s renewed focus under a new musical moniker – Tiberius b – has resulted in a critically reflective debut single, ‘No Smoke’.

“After a long period of patient solitude,” Belcourt’s honest conversation to themselves is channelled into a beautifully heartfelt guitar ballad for those that struggle, through doubt and mistrust, to accept love. “Why do I find love like this disarming?” “There’s no smoke, no fire  / Cut it out, I’m tired.”

Through deep self-contemplation, Belcourt’s intimate, optimistic, and often cynical lyricism is complemented by nostalgia-laden guitar hooks and stripped-back percussion. Mixed with enthusiasm by Cecile Believe, an atmospheric soundscape is created that is as delightful to listen to as it is harrowing.

As Tiberius b, Francesca Belcourt is building a musical foundation for more ideas, experiences and observations. It is with Belcourt’s captivating storytelling, evident as both one half of Mu and as a solo artist, that ‘No Smoke’ sets the groundwork for future introspection and an ever-evolving sound.

‘No Smoke’ is out now.

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

LIVE: Gazelle Twin & NYX present ‘Deep England’ – Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre 20.11.19

A deeply engrossing, ghastly, yet intensely beautiful carousel of sound: Gazelle Twin‘s (Elizabeth Bernholz) ‘Deep England’ collaboration with the NYX Drone Choir is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, or heard before. Inspired by the tracks that form Bernholz’s 2018 album, Pastoral, this performance continues her harrowing up of England’s “rotten past” and exploration of its uncertain future.

Through the power of combined operatic voices, St. George-Meets-The-Handmaid’s-Tale costumes, and creative staging; Bernholz and her team have created a claustrophobic, charged gallop of anarchy with this latest endeavour. “What species is this?” questions Bernholz & the NYX choir through their overlapping vocals on ‘Folly’, an apt observation from a group of women who have powerful, beguiling voices. They are all used to full effect during a riveting, acapella rendition of following track ‘Glory’.

Informed by British paganism and ritualistic activity, ‘Deep England’ feels almost supernatural at points, and this is especially noticeable during ‘Fire Leap, lifted from the cult 1973 film The Wicker Man. Multiple recorders and kazoos are played – instruments of nostalgic folly turned in to present, frightening farce – as the women slowly move around the stage, chanting the lyrical motif “Take the flame inside you / Burn and burn below”, like a warped spell.

‘Better In My Day’ abruptly breaks this spell, with its nervous, persistent percussion. It stands out in terms of volume and energy, with Bernholz and her chorus performing frenzied, yet stunted movements whilst they spit and snarl their way through the lyrics. A spotlight on a tree at the back of the stage (which has been present throughout the performance) commands Bernholz to sit under it. The intro synth sequence to ‘Sunny Stories’ begins to play, and she delivers her dark fable under the fake foliage, gently lulling her choir in to following track ‘Golden Dawn’.

‘Throne’ brings Bernholz back to centre stage and down to her knees, as she sings of “insolvency” and eating your debts. Eponymous track ‘Deep England’ closes the performance in the same un-nerving way it began; dimly lit, with the women’s voices seething in unison. Whilst Bernholz’s unique vision was brought vividly to life on her original record Pastoral, it’s with the aid of the NYX drone choir during ‘Deep England’ that her vitriol takes its fullest form. ‘Deep England’ is a phenomenal accomplishment, and a jarring reminder that our past is never too far behind us.

‘Deep England’ Credits:
Gazelle Twin: Elizabeth Bernholz
NYX vocalists: Adelaide Pratoussy, Cecilia Forssberg, Natalie Sharp, Ruth Corey, Shireen Querishi, Sian O’Gorman
Compositions and Music Direction: Elizabeth Bernholz and Sian O’Gorman
Movement Director: Imogen Knight
Sound Associate: Peter Rice
Production and Costume Design: Chloe Lamford
Stylist: Anna Josephs

‘Deep England’ was performed as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2019.

Photo Credit: Jamie Cameron

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LIVE: Björk’s Cornucopia Tour – The O2 Arena, London 19.11.19

An opulent, self aware, stunning two hour performance: Icelandic icon Björk was able to “weave a matriarchal dome” over the heads of her transfixed crowd during her Cornucopia live show at London’s O2 Arena. The music pioneer brought her Utopian vision to life through pitch perfect vocals, beautifully orchestrated collaborative sounds, and breath-taking visuals.

Before the show began, a polite audio recording requested that fans refrain from filming or photographing the show, as this would be distracting to Björk. Surprisingly, the majority of fans respected her wishes, and immersed themselves in listening to the aural grandeur of the Icelandic choir who opened the Cornucopia show against a curtain backdrop laced with tropical flowers.

When Björk’s altruistic vocals broke through the airwaves and the stage curtain parted; it felt like straying into a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dressed in a unique ensemble and accompanied by performers who were both decorated like, and sounded like birds of paradise; Björk delivered a passionate rendition of ‘The Gate’. A flute ensemble led her in to ‘Utopia’, followed by the divine sounds of ‘Arisen My Senses’ with live harp accompaniment and more stunning visuals.

With a clear focus on her two most recent studio albums – 2017’s Utopia, and 2019’s Virtual Reality record Vulnicura – Björk’s set list, shape-shifting animations and optics truly transcended the fourth wall between fans and performer. The set’s sensuality was heightened by so many elements – the incredible stage design, the affluent costumes – as well as Björk’s willingness to experiment with new forms of sound during live shows. At one point in the set, she sings next to a percussionist who is pouring water over pebbles, with the crowd so entranced that it almost feels like every water drop is audible.

With only a handful of older songs making the cut for this performance (most notably ‘Venus As A Boy’ and a partial rendition of ‘Pagan Poetry’), whether this was your first time seeing Björk, or your fiftieth time; Cornucopia is an audio & visual force unlike any other. Björk’s artistic vision is uncompromising in so many ways, which is made especially clear towards the latter part of the show.

Her elaborate spectacle is underscored by a sincere desire to highlight the current climate crisis we are all witnessing. A series of words were projected on to the veil-like stage curtain, urging all to imagine a brighter future under that “matriarchal dome”, with the final statement – “Imagine a future. Be in it” – prompting applause from the crowd. There was a video message from climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg during the finale too, further encouraging fans to practice what Thunberg passionately, and necessarily preaches.

A performance that – despite this review – transcends the barriers of language; Björk’s Cornucopia show deserves to be seen in all its live glory. Its potent message about protecting the earth, and each other, still rings true long after the spotlight fades out. Björk’s vision serves as a reminder to all that altruism and ingenuity mean nothing if there’s not a planet for us all to share, and experience them on.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Sea Change – ‘Inside’

Peel away your inhibitions and join Norwegian electronic artist Sea Change (aka Ellen Sunde) as she navigates a personal metamorphosis via club inspired beats on her new album, Inside. Alongside co-producer and mixer Andrew Murray, Sunde has crafted seven ethereal, supremely catchy tracks that make her sound like she could be the introverted distant relation of Fever Ray.

Eponymous track ‘Inside’ has a brief duration, but in the space of two minutes Sunde outlines the direction of her album. Sparse synth sounds and hyper-conscious, introverted lyrics – “Come with me inside / my skin feels too tight” – alert listeners to the beginning of her journey towards breaking out of her shell. This idea is taken to a different level on following track, ‘Stepping Out’. Through a fusion of disjointed beats and atmospheric synth textures, Sunde navigates the idea of transforming into an animal.

“Let me possess you / Let me destroy you” she delicately threatens on ‘Something Else’, a captivating four minute soundscape full of altruistic synth patterns and a blend of soft, then reverb-strewn vocals. This quiet anger permeates following track ‘Scratch That Itch’. The percussive click that fills the opening feels like a subtle nod to the itch in the song’s title. Sunde softly sings “I have a white hot anger / I’m slowly setting it free” over mellow synth textures and looping beats that sit in contrast to to emotion she’s expressing. This contradiction in sound and lyricism is what makes Sunde’s music so compelling.

The intimate ‘What Makes’ is truly intoxicating. “I wear my body inside out for you” she muses, over drifting beats and ambient synths. ‘The Bed’ is an equally emotive lament about the “skin and dirt” that sullies the sheets and the memories of stale love. Closing track ‘Flown’ is a breath of fresh air, a four minute rumination on freedom and letting go.

“When I made this record I tried to channel the same state of mind I have when I go clubbing” Sunde explains. “Not overthinking everything, like I usually do, but instead embracing my impulses; working intuitively, almost anti-intellectual.” Her decision to work this way has resulted in a genuinely impressive collection of instinctive, immensely enjoyable soundscapes that can fill busy dancefloors, or private moments of introspection in dimly lit bedrooms. Listen below…

Photo credit: Fotini Chora

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Pet Crow – ‘What We Doin’

This Pet Crow is wearing its dancing shoes, and maybe even a tiny leather jacket! The latest single from the Derby band is a proper anthem in the making. An ode to hopelessness and feeling a little lost without feeling sorry for itself, ‘What We Doin” is poppy, rock ‘n’ roll perfection.

Big, bouncy guitars lift the melancholic vocal, which ask, “who knows what they’re doing?” while the spiky, post-punk riffs make you want to move rather than mope. It’s fun and energetic.

From the opening bars, you can hear nods to a huge range of influences; think Sonic Youth, Gang of Four and Vivian Girls. But ‘What We Doin'” feels as fresh as it is familiar.

Taken from Pet Crow’s forthcoming album, Take The Edge Off, ‘What We Doin” is an exciting taster of what’s to come. I’m looking forward to hearing what more the band can do.

‘What We Doin” is out now. Pet Crow’s new album, Take The Edge Off, is out in February 2020 on vinyl and digital download. 

Vic Conway