EP: Sandunes – ‘Spare Some Time’

A calming, electronic mediation on the necessity of expressing emotion; Sandunes has shared her new EP, Spare Some Time. Released today (May 22nd) via !K7, the four track creation is an aural salve for overwhelmed ears, flowing with shimmering synth textures and soothing beats that remind listeners to take stock of the love in their lives.

Based in Mumbai, Sandunes (aka Sanaya Aredeshir) has focused less on musical technicality, and more on emotional catharsis on this collaborative offering. While for some this decision might compromise high production standards, that’s not the case here. Spare Some Time is equally as polished as Sandunes’ previous releases, which are predominantly created from her home studio in Bombay.

Ambient electronics and stretched out beats permeate opening track ‘Love It Less’. Featuring the smooth vocals of Jbabe, the track was crafted from an intimate jam session between the two producers. It blends seamlessly into the atmospheric ‘Burn Every Bridge’. “The only way out is through / Burn every bridge to you”, muses vocalist Landslands, cautiously urging listeners to let go of the past. Sandunes’ tentative beats and fluid synths help to relay this gentle message too.

“Bittersweet acceptance” sounds intoxicating on ‘Fifty Percent’, thanks to the soulful vocals of Mumbai songwriter Ramya Pothuri. The vulnerabilities expresses in the lyrics are softened by Sandunes’ use of bright electronics. Closing track ‘Simple Thing’ sees the producer subtly celebrating the restorative nature of love in all its forms, through uplifting synths and IAMI’s buoyant vocals.

“I feel like it’s very important for me to be prudent, but also celebratory about feminine freedom, as a working, performing, producing, musician from India”, Sandunes explains. Her ability to be clear about her her status, and the emotional response that sparks is what makes Spare Some Time such a cathartic, reassuring listen. “We’re deprived in our isolation of the tremendous benefit that togetherness and connection brings” she continues, but with records like this; that connection is ultimately strengthened.

Listen to Sandunes new EP on Spotify. Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Photo credit: Viktor Sloth

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

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

Track Of The Day: Sharon Van Etten – ‘Beaten Down’

Dark synths, atmospheric keys, and sparse echoing beats permeate ‘Beaten Down’, the latest single from Sharon Van Etten. A poignant reflection on “love, patience and empathy”, Etten’s voice smolders throughout the track, which is accompanied by a beautifully shot black & white video, directed by Nicky and Juliana Giraffe (Giraffe Studios).

“‘Beaten Down’ is about making life-changing choices and remaining strong enough to see them through”, Etten explains. This subtle strength permeates the song, in which she transforms vulnerability into sounds that help to strengthen a backbone in the face of adversity.

“Upon hearing the song, our minds automatically drifted into stark black and white, fever dreams, dark silhouettes contrasted against a barren desert landscape”, explain directors Nicky and Juliana. The visuals feature both Etten, and twin dancing duo Allison and Veronica Huber. “Our intention was to give Sharon’s song and performance space to breathe and echo” they explain further. “It was important to us that the dancers were strongly connected.”

This connection between the sounds and visuals makes Etten’s latest single a compelling, intensely repeatable listen. Watch the video for ‘Beaten Down’ below, and follow Sharon Van Etten on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: SHHE

Sparse, searching, and sincere; Scottish-Portuguese artist and producer Su Shaw – aka SHHE – creates captivating electronic sounds based around the concepts of identity, empathy, and intense personal change. She recently released her debut self-titled album via One Little Indian Records, and it’s an understated, yet dramatic gem that lingers in the memory long after the first listen.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Su to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five tracks that have influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to listen to her debut album at the end of this post.

1. Jenny Hval – ‘Conceptual Romance’
Jenny Hval is not just one thing, she is many things. If you are not already familiar with some of those things, take a five minute intermission and read her recent ‘Hi I’m Jenny Hval and you can ask me anything’ interview on Reddit. ‘Conceptual Romance’ from Blood Bitch was the first track I heard, but all of her projects are worthy of your eyes/ears/time. My girlfriend and I went to see her a few years ago, and it was one of my favourite gigs. Half-way through she admitted that most of the set had been improvised because the airline had lost their instruments the day before.

When I listened to ‘Lions’ for the first time [from her recent album The Practice Of Love] it made me want to cry and go for a very fast run. Those are strange things to feel simultaneously. She is open and honest and writes about the things that other people don’t write about, and I have a dream that one day we will be great friends.

2. Land of Talk – ‘Some Are Lakes’
I was 20 when I heard Land of Talk for the first time. I can’t tell you where or how I made the discovery, but I listened to this album [of the same name] on repeat that whole year. I was in a bunch of bands at school, I was always the only girl. At a school with more than 100 other people in my year, that always made me kind of sad. I didn’t pick up an electric guitar until I was 17, even then I never had confidence to play it on stage. I was the singer. Liz Powell did both. I wish we’d gone to school together.

3. Boards of Canada – ‘Music is Math’
‘Music is Math’ is taken from the Boards of Canada album, Geogaddi. It was released in 2002. I did not find Boards of Canada until they released Tomorrow’s Harvest in 2013. No one has found them since. In fact, no one knows much about them. It’s a useful reminder, at a time when everyone is obsessed with knowing everything, that the music is the only thing we need. If you’re not satisfied by that, there’s patterns and messages and codes that they’ve hidden throughout their albums to keep you busy. I like listening to Boards of Canada when I’m feeling confused and I need a break.

4. Jon Hopkins – ‘Luminous Beings’
The first time I saw Jon perform was in a village hall at a festival called Homegame in Fife. It was the most relaxed I’ve ever felt in a room packed full of people. There’s a great Song Exploder interview with Jon where he talks about some of the influences behind ‘Luminous Beings’ – meditation and altered states and psychedelics and ice baths. His Asleep Versions album is also a special record and has been the soundtrack to many late night/early morning drives.

5. Caterina Barbieri – ‘SOTRS’
Patterns of Consciousness is one of my favourite albums from the last few years. ‘SOTRS’ is perfect for riding a bike with no hands, if you’re able to do that somewhere safely.

Thank you to Su for sharing her favourites with us. Follow SHHE on Facebook for more updates.