FIVE FAVOURITES: Song Sung

Formed of twin sisters Georgina and Una McGeough, Song Sung grew up in Ireland, before moving over to New York a decade ago. Since then, the pair have been dabbling in music software, creating their own atmospheric electronics, and are set to release their debut album later this year. The duo recently worked with David Holmes (Unloved), who co-wrote and produced their EP, I Surrender, along with his bandmate Keefus Ciancia. The pair have previously worked on scores with Holmes too, including The Fall and Killing Eve (for which they won a BAFTA).

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 Song Sung to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced their song writing techniques. Check out Sng Sung’s choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for their single ‘Come To The Water’ at the end of this post.

1. Plaid – Reachy Prints
I was at friends exhibition opening one night in Berlin, and Barry Burns from Mogwai was DJing at the after party. He played a mixture of electronic beats, with some IDM. I remember he played ‘Hawkmoth’ and all of a sudden I could no longer hear the person I was talking to. I proceeded to dance my way over to Barry to ask “who is that?”. The entire album is incredible. We had a chance to see Plaid in December at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, which was fantastic.

2. Casino Versus Japan – Whole Numbers Play the Basics
This album was introduced to us a few years ago. It was on heavy rotation during the writing and recording of our album. The dronescapes and lush melodies are exquisite. It’s one of our favourite records.

3. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Our album was made between NYC, Berlin and Belfast and in each of those cities, Jon Hopkins walked with us. It’s a miraculous listen. There is so much emotion and space in this album and there is a real feeling of warmth to it.

4. Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
It’s difficult to choose which BoC album to feature, because we listen to them non-stop. I think The Campfire Headphase album was the one that got the most spins during the making of our album. It was an escape from our dream into another dream. Trans Canada Highway is another escape. The albums are quite different, but there is something unique about siblings making music together.

5. Aphex Twin – I Care Because You Do
I feel like this album was always playing somewhere when we were at art school in Belfast, quite possibly ingrained in the walls of every art school on the planet. It’s haunting, meditative and really emotional. The opening track, ‘Acrid Avid Jam Shred’ gently transports you and captures your attention right until the end of the record. It’s mesmerizing, melancholic and masterful from beginning to end. An absolute favourite.

Listen to Song Song’s EP, I Surrender, here. Follow the band on Spotify & Facebook for more updates.

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

#ThrowbackThursday: GIHE w/ Indian Queens 16.11.17

Due to the current lockdown/coronavirus situation, we’re unable to make it in to the Hoxton Radio studio to broadcast our live new music show from 7-9pm for the foreseeable future.

We have plenty of past shows to share with you though! We’re going to start sharing some #ThrowbackThursday sessions, so you can still enjoy 2 hours of new music, and chats with some of our favourite artists each week.

Today, we’ve picked our November 2017 show with Jennifer O’Neill from Indian Queens. The band are set to release their debut album God Is A Woman tomorrow (3rd April) via Cool Thing Records, so we thought now would be a great time to re-visit our chat with Jen.

Music highlights from Bikini Kill, Average Sex, Gold Baby, MALKAEdits and…Jennifer Paige #crush

Listen back to the show here:

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

FIVE FAVOURITES: Mentrix

Born in Iran but now based in Berlin, Mentrix 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. She’s set to release her debut album – My Enemy, My Love – on 3rd April via her own (female-led) record label, House of Strength.

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 Mentrix to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for ‘Nature’ at the end of this post.

Mentrix: “It’s hard to narrow things down to five favourite records. I love soul, funk, blues, rock, punk, hip hop. I have adored James Brown, Mick Jagger, Erykah Badu, Candi Staton, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Patti Smith and Mariah Carey (yes yes, l love Mariah). Who can deny the global phenomenon that was Michael Jackson’s History? And no matter what genre of music you are into, Bob Marley will always have a place of its own in your music-consciousness. As of pop and electronic music; MIA, Santigold and The Knife are among artists I consider pioneers. But when it comes to albums, strangely enough I surprise myself with what popped up. Suddenly, some albums that I had not thought of for a long time came back to mind. I know every note of Smoker’s Delight (Nightmares on Wax) and Fink’s first album Biscuit for Breakfast is a significant one for me. But, as I began to ask myself which were the 5 albums that stood out the most; some forgotten memories returned with their very own soundtrack. Here are my top 5 albums as I remember them today…”

1. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
The first record that comes to mind is the one that blew my mind – although 10 years had passed since its original release, it was a discovery for me and probably my introduction to songwriting. I would teach English lessons to an older lady in Tehran using the lyrics of this album. I miss that woman and hope to find her some day…

2. The Police – Greatest Hits
Another album that had a huge impact on me was The Police Greatest hits released in 1992. Every track an undeniable hit. Probably my introduction to what a hit is.

3. Radiohead – In Rainbows 
I discovered them much later in life and they won my utter most reverence with the album In Rainbows. Radiohead know how to make that kind of record.

4. Bjork – Vulnicura
Bjork has been a constant inspiration and Vulnicura is my favorite album of the artist. Although I m a huge Biophilia and Medulla fan, I relate much more to the love and pain topic of the artist’s most bold album in my opinion.

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
I discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a bit too late to be honest… When I did, I listened to this record over and over again. It gave me the confidence to make music and inspired me at so many levels. I consider Karen O a bit of a guru… And this record remains sacred to me.

Thanks to Mentrix for sharing her favourites with us. Follow her on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Gilles Estève

#ThrowbackThursday: GIHE w/ Amaroun 18.01.18

Due to the current lockdown/coronavirus situation, we’re unable to make it in to the Hoxton Radio studio to broadcast our live new music show from 7-9pm for the foreseeable future.

We have plenty of past shows to share with you though! We’re going to start sharing some #ThrowbackThursday sessions, so you can still enjoy 2 hours of new music, and chats with some of our favourite artists each week.

Today, we’ve picked our January 2018 show with Amaroun (who was due to visit us in the studio this week). She joined Kate & Tash to play two live tracks, and spoke about the inspirations behind her music. Music highlights came from ARXX, Black Gold Buffalo, Vivienne Chi and Sudan Archives.

Listen back to the show here:

INTERVIEW: Hilary Woods

A creator of fleshy, poignant, industrial-orchestral sounds; Irish artist Hilary Woods has been a firm favourite at GIHE since the release of her debut album Colt in 2018. Her most recent album Birthmarks is equally as captivating, and we wanted to find out more about what inspired Woods to create it. Read below to discover her processes, her vision, and her favourite track from the record…

Congratulations on releasing your second album Birthmarks earlier this month. What are you most proud of about this record? Do you have a favourite track?

Ah, thank you. I’m most proud of the process from which this record was made. I think ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ is my favourite track. I love the drum processing and the presence and character of Okkyung’s cello playing, and I enjoyed exploring, layering and recording a lot of bass analogue synths for this one. It was a sensorial process. I recorded this song many times since its inception many moons ago, and I like where it has journeyed to in sound and feel.

You collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug when you were recording the album. Talk us through how you worked together to create Birthmarks‘ dark, shadowy sounds.

Myself and Lasse spoke of the colour palette, atmospherics and the nervous system of the record from the outset. We were both interested in creating textures and what ways we could record and use different instrumentation to achieve such sounds. Saxophone plays an important role on the record, not so much because of what saxophone lines I wrote, but more to do with how Dag plays those parts and how we wanted his breath work through saxophone to be woven into the mix. Field recording, drone and noise all helped create the sound world of the record too. I recorded a lot of the synths, piano, electronics at home in my lil studio, and whilst I was with Lasse working at his studio in Oslo, we recorded guitar parts and some vocals together. Lasse would process a lot of what I had already recorded at home, he recorded cello with contact mics, Kyrre Laastad recorded imaginative textural percussion, and we went from there.

You wrote the album over the course of two years, and whilst heavily pregnant, which is impressive in itself. On your record, there are themes of growth, germination, and feeling either detached or attached to one’s body. Without sounding too invasive, do you think you were more aware of these feelings during your pregnancy? Did it influence your writing in any unexpected way?

I actually wrote this record before I got pregnant. I also had the title Birthmarks decided upon from the get go, which is a little uncanny but true. However, I recorded the album whilst heavily pregnant in the Autumn of 2019. So the writing of this record really was never consciously in a direct way influenced by physical pregnancy, although it was certainly very much focused on themes of self-hood, gestational growth, the birthing of one’s self and processes of becoming. I wanted to write a record that was of the body, one that registered in and with the body, a more physical record than my previous work.

Your visuals and artwork beautifully accompany the music you’ve created. Talk us through how you put these together – from your photographs and videos with Josh Wright, to the album’s artwork…

I feel as both a music and visual artist, my work in both disciplines is very intertwined. I think visually, and when it comes to making videos and artwork there is an ease there, I enjoy that side of things, it comes naturally. The visual ideas arise from within, almost simultaneously sometimes to the writing of the songs themselves. The artwork and videos are for me an innate and important part of the album; although the LP stands alone and is separate in form, I feel the visuals come from the same place. In terms of making videos, I always make and direct my own as opposed to outsourcing them to another filmmaker as an extra thing to do to tailgate the main thrust of the project, if you know what I mean! Josh and I have been working together for a long time, and there is a beautiful communicative short hand there with Josh working the camera, which is cool. He’s also a dab hand at software that I find frustrating and we are friends – which always helps particularly when a video requires us to spend so much time together editing and grading etc. Re the album artwork; the front cover photo of me was taken by friend Emma Martin. It seemed apt to have a picture of my pregnancy on the cover. It’s a strong image and embodies metaphorically what the album addresses; birth, rebirth, hidden growth, unknowing, making redundant the old and a dawning of the new. It is also an image that communicates that this record is heavier and more physical than its predecessor.

Birthmarks is noticeably heavier in sound compared to Colt, but are there elements you feel are similar to your first record?

Yes. At the end of the day I initiate writing melody on the piano or guitar. I also work within my own limitations vocally, as a musician and work with whatever resources I have around me. So there are those similarities. Also, lyrically I have my own patterns with which I lean in to, and I think there are similarities in that regard between Colt and Birthmarks for sure. Overall however, I feel the big difference between the two albums besides the latter being far more sonic and a lot heavier, is that Colt is more a collection of songs, whereas Birthmarks was intended as a piece to be received as a whole, a journey to be listened to from beginning to end in one sitting.

You’re signed to Sacred Bones, along with some of our favourite artists (Zola Jesus, Blanck Mass). They released a compilation album on Bandcamp – I Fall In Love With The Light – to help their artists make a profit during this uncertain time. Your track ‘Mouth To Mouth’ features on it. Talk us through why you chose to include this track.

The label suggested that ‘Mouth to Mouth’ go on the compilation. I’m a fan of the distortion and the mix that Lasse did with it, so on it went!

Thanks to Hilary for answering our questions. You can buy her latest album Birthmarks here. Follow her on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Joshua Wright