ALBUM: Naoko Sakata – ‘Dancing Spirits’

Sweden is better known to most for being home to the beating heart of quality pop music than for its long legacy of experimental and improvisational composers. But what a legacy it is! Women have been at the forefront of this extraordinary scene for decades and in recent years have become increasingly visible. It’s possible, for example, to draw a direct line from artists like 1970s drone pioneer Catherine Christer Hennix through to current critical favourites Ellen Arkbro, Maria w Horn and Anna von Hausswolff.

Since moving to Sweden in 2008, Japanese-born Naoko Sakata has established herself as a major talent. First with her eponymous jazz trio and lately as a soloist of fierce intuition. Dancing Spirits is her second album of solo piano improvs, following last year’s impressive Inner Planets, and the first to be released through von Hausswolff’s own label, Pomperipossa Records.

Recorded in a Gothenburg church over two evenings in August 2020, these seven highly expressive improvisations are the sound of an artist pulling threads of composition not out of thin air – there is no such thing in a church – but from some other unknowable source of energy and emotions. Sometimes those threads unravel wildly, yanking something portentous into focus before resolving into musical dust motes that settle on the floor. At other times, the drama is more gently prescribed and the directionless journeying feels in thrall to something distant and tidal.

Sakata believes in the hidden influence of planetary alignment and in creating sacred spaces where peace and chaos are allowed to coexist and to channel ideas and emotions. As with astrology, part of the enjoyment of Sakata’s music comes from the ability to project one’s own imaginations and stories onto each composition. Anna von Hausswolff’s striking photography suggests a strong folkloric element at play. Dancing spirits, often women, have been referenced in popular stories dating as far back as Neolithic times. These spirits go by many names, from the tragic rusalka of central Europe to the dawn goddess Ame-no-Uzume and other dancing kami of Japanese mythology, and their stories are often linked with fertility, of the earth and of the people.

Whatever their rhyme or reason, Sakata does not discriminate in opening herself up to these dynamic energies and others. Her unobstructed playing gives body to whomever or whatever is drawn into the music, at the mic’d place at the mic’d time. Dancing Spirits, then, functions as a non-canonical window into a cosmic choreography of player, piano and what lies beyond the limits of scientific detection. It’s a challenging listen in that it makes a ritual of fearlessness, but admirable, too, for the very same reason.

Follow Naoko Sakata on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Artwork: Gianluca Grasselli

Alan Pedder
@_neverdoneing

ALBUM: Gazelle Twin & NYX – ‘Deep England’

A new species of performer who offers listeners an unflinching, but intensely thrilling perspective on the past, present and future; electronic artist Gazelle Twin has collaborated with NYX drone choir to create Deep England, a shadowy, graceful collection of sounds that radiate with unease.

Inspired by the tracks that formed Gazelle Twin aka Elizabeth Bernholz’s 2018 album Pastoral, and informed by British paganism and ritualistic paraphernalia, Deep England is a dark fable that serves as a warning to listeners not to get swept up in national apathy. Radically reworked and presented alongside original compositions by NYX, Paul Giovanni and William Blake, Bernholz and NYX present their vision of Britain in its “post-truth” sphere, embroidering a new tapestry of sound for these jarring and uncertain times.

The chiming bells on opening track ‘Glory’ begin the warped aural ceremony, underscored by NYX’s sublime meditative drones. The crystalline notes of the recorder break through, before Bernholz questions “Will you become the saint you want to be?” in her magnificent operatic voice, with the choir echoing her ghastly sentiments. This is dialled up to blood curdling effect on ‘Folly’, with the lyric “What species is this?” being delivered in a multitude of ways. The power of the singular and the collective voice is the lifeblood of Deep England. The fascinating ways in which they are distorted, rippled, extended or layered will keep listeners gripped throughout.

Lifted from the cult 1973 film The Wicker Man, a goose-bump inducing interpretation of ‘Fire Leap’ continues the aural séance. Overlapping recorders – instruments of nostalgic folly turned into frightening farce – are made all the more sinister by the chanted motif “Take the flame inside you / Burn and burn below”. This warped incantation bleeds into the abrupt, skittish ‘Better In My Day’. It buzzes with a nervous energy, with Bernholz and NYX snarling their way through the lyrics in frenzied, breathy fashion. They continue to “pick the wound” of tradition with morbid fascination on ‘Throne’, singing and hissing of “insolvency” and racking up debts.

The stunning vocal harmonies on ‘Jerusalem’ and the eponymous ‘Deep England’ set the cells alight. Underscored by the now familiar hypnotic drone loops, these intense hymn-like offerings cast shadows and shed light simultaneously, with the latter dissolving the ears over eight and a half minutes. Composed by Sian O’Gorman, the ominous ‘Golden Dawn’ closes the album on a heavy, but hopeful note. The title refers to The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society devoted to the practice of the occult and paranormal activities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a cinematic, aural exorcism delivered with spellbinding flair.

Whilst Bernholz’s unique vision of Britain’s past was brought vividly to life on her original record Pastoral, with the support of the NYX drone choir her vitriol is able to take its fullest, most nerve-shredding form on Deep England. It’s a phenomenal artistic accomplishment, a jarring reminder that our dark past is never too far behind us and it’s truly unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Listen to Deep England on bandcamp or Spotify

Follow Gazelle Twin on bandcampSpotifyInstagramTwitter & Facebook

Follow NYX Drone Choir on bandcampSpotifyInstagramTwitter & Facebook

Album Credits
Performers: Adélaïde Pratoussy, Cecilia Forssberg, Elizabeth Bernholz, Natalie Sharp, Ruth Corey, Shireen Qureshi and Sian O’Gorman.

Co-produced by Marta Salogni, Sian O’Gorman (NYX) and Elizabeth Bernholz (Gazelle Twin). Mixing & additional programming by Marta Salogni and mastering by Heba Kadry.

Photo Credit: Jamie Cameron

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

PREMIERE: Hockeysmith – ‘Down Love’ (remix)

Ricocheting between a piano ballad, a dancefloor anthem and an industrial pop track, producer and songwriter Hockeysmith has shared a new remix of her single ‘Down Love’. Taken from new compilation men an toll, released today (12th March) via Cornish indie label EEL Collective, the remix is one of fourteen new tracks that showcases the eclectic talent of the local underground electronic music scene in the county.

“The remix is actually the original demo of ‘Down love’,” Hockeysmith explains. “Produced by me and my live bandmate Martin Pease, AKA seamouse within the eel community. I originally wanted the song to sound like bubble-gum black metal, starting off on the piano, how it was written, and ending up in gabba territory after jamming at Martin’s with all his elektrons!” Fusing these unusual musical elements together with her sugar-sweet vocals, Hockeysmith’s remix has become an intoxicatingly fun floor-filler, making listeners yearn to get back on the dancefloor again.

Run by Łukasz & Annabel (aka Hockeysmith), EEL collective describe their new compilation album as “a musical postcard from us to the world.” The record is named after the ancient Cornish standing stones of men-an-tol, which were once believed to cure ailments, ward off witchcraft and see into the future. Shrouded in this beguiling folklore, each artist on the album has contributed an original piece of music, spanning the experimental, ambient, techno, IDM and UK Garage genres.

Listen to the remix of ‘Down Love’ below.

 

Listen to new compilation album men an toll on bandcamp

Follow EEL Collective on bandcamp, Instagram & Facebook

Follow Hockeysmith on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Get In Her Ears w/ Jessica Winter 27.08.20

Tash & Kate were back in the Hoxton Radio studio this week with plenty of new music tunes to fill your ears. They caught up with South London based songwriter (and queen of sad bangers) Jessica Winter to talk about her recent EP Sad Music, and what life in lockdown was like for her.

Listen back:

Tracklist
Balraj Singh Samrai, Pandit G Gavsborg, Farah Amad Khan, Shanique Marie, Tunde Adekoya, Vikaash – I Should Have Hugged You Tighter When We Last Met (Oh What a Joy)
Fran Minney – Sirens
Seraphina Simone – Hollywood $$$
Noga Erez – You So Done
Asche-Rose – Daisy
Emma Kupa – ‘Nawlins’
P-rallel x Greentea Peng – Soulboy
Arlo Parks – Hurt
CHINWE – Intoxicated
Lemon Drink – Manic
Couch Prints – Tell U
Masma Dream World – Theta
SpaceAcre – Way Over
Death Valley Girls – Hold My Hand
Living Body – I Do
Jessica Winter – Sad Music
**Jessica Winter Interview**
Dream Nails – This Is The Summer
Komang – DEWI
MOURN – This Feeling Is Disgusting
LibraLibra – Listerine
Mango – Mistakes
Portishead – Glory Box (Live)
Garbage – Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)
Shania Twain – Man I Feel Like A Woman