Five Favourites: Tyler Holmes

I’ve only recently become acquainted with innovative artist Tyler Holmes, but I have fast fallen in love with their poignant, affecting and utterly unique sweeping electronic soundscapes. Holmes (They/Them) is a singer-songwriter, visual and performance artist who uses music as a therapeutic device. Coming from a turbulent and traumatic ‘cult-like’ early life, they have spent a lifetime crafting their own Black, Queer narrative by pushing the limits of their imagination, Holmes envisions themselves as the imaginary child of Björk and Tricky, using a surrealist lens on a wide variety of genres, often blending diaristic narratives with dark, dream-like whimsy. Autobiographical and absurd, their writing is alluring and uncomfortable. Both brutal and beautiful, bringing the audience into a shared space of healing and catharsis. They perform with a constantly changing electro-acoustic arrangement, always finding new ways to showcase an intimate horror.

Ahead of the release of their upcoming new album ‘Nightmare In Paradise’ via Ratskin Records next month, we spoke to Tyler about the five albums that mean the most to them. Check out their choices below, and watch their latest video for single ‘Nothing’ at the end of this article. You can also listen to their recent rendition of SOPHIE’s ‘BIPP’ over on bandcamp now.

Mariah Carey – Butterfly
Butterfly was a departure for Mariah. A record that embraced Hip Hop and Mariah as a sexual and sorrowful entity, which I have always related to. I have always been obsessed with Mariah and I’ve been singing her songs for as long as I can remember. This was the first album that I would listen to all the way through, over and over and over. There is a real variety to the record and I can now see this as the first in a series of emotional breakdown albums (this one even has a song called ‘Breakdown’ which is unbelievably beautiful and rich and has the amazing Bone Thugs N Harmony guesting). The through-line through this quite varied record is sadness, longing and identity struggle; all running themes in my life and music as well. My favourite track is ‘Outside’ – about being a weirdo, just singing the melody makes me cry.

The Knife – Silent Shout: An Audiovisual Experience – Live In Gothenburg
Reinvention is something that always turns me on. This album was the electronic equivalent to dying your hair black and doing acoustic renditions of your record. The Knife was this mysterious band back in the early internet days and Gothenburg showcased them reborn in a syrupy goth trance inducing void that was even more mysterious than they had been. It was as if they had this colourful image and they thought “let’s give them even less information and appear in a black abyss as ghostly floating lights…” The songs are darker, gothic, stark and beautiful. Dance music made for crying and being a freak to maybe more so than dancing. I love a singer who can be different characters and Karin plays a whole cast on this record and a cast of ghouls, sea monsters, aliens and demons. She is so otherworldly, possessed and perfect. My favourite track is ‘Kino’, which I covered a long time ago. They took an old track and brought it back through the Pet Cemetery. The mourning in that song will haunt me forever.

Tricky – Pre Millenium Tension
A theme of coming back darker, and more vulnerable emerges. While Tricky’s first record was murky and muddy,Pre Millennium is obsidian. A dark smoke filled room. I love how Tricky always has two singers of varying genders singing the same lyrics at the same time creating one genderless or many gendered being. The opening song ‘Vent’ talking about someone hiding their lover’s medicine to watch them suffer and need them speaks volumes about the album in front of the listener. Very much about codependency, dark urges, self destruction. The gnarling, repeating loops grind nightmares into your head like noogies. The reimagining of ‘Bad Dreams’ by Chill Rob G gives the song a chilling, fever dream realness that is necessary and sadly timeless.

Astrud Gilberto & Walter Wanderley –  A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness
I listened to this album on repeat while writing my new record. It’s vintage goth. Astrud Gilberto, best known for the timeless hit ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, is practically motionless. Her stoic and serious performance even over more dance oriented tracks like ‘Nega do Cabelo Duro’ really sets the tone without beating the listener over the head. There is a bittersweet breeze blowing through every song on an album that has some rather peppy tempos and almost chipper organ lines. The theme of the album is dark, not quite hopeless but almost. The opener ‘A Certain Smile’ sets the tone that, like love, peace of mind and temperament are cyclical. “That certain smile to haunt your heart again.” OUCH. ‘Smile’ is followed by ‘A Certain Sadness’ (JOKES!!!) that lays the cards on the table and directly discusses unrequited love, longing and depression. To me it is so interesting and inspiring to hear these jazz chords that have over time become associated with elevator music here set to such depressive and moody themes. Even the fast songs contain some really ‘ugly’ chords and organ solos that hint at a jazzy, almost punk antagonism that alongside the subject matter and vocal delivery make me really see Bossa Nova as a precursor to New Wave music (Bossa Nova means ‘New Trend’ or ‘New Wave’ after all.) ‘Tristeza’ and ‘So Nice’ are absolutely brilliant, tongue in cheek songs that in a heavy-lidded tone hint at a sunny life in a bitchy way that seem to me as sarcastic as they are dreamy.

Björk – Post
Choosing a Björk album to discuss is really difficult but this is probably the singular record that has influenced me the most. Eleven songs that are all different genres and on different planets. This record has such anger, such venom, such sadness and such spacious, calm, quietness. It is truly a rollercoaster masterpiece. It calls to mind Goldie Hawn’s famous line (from First Wives Club) about emotions “I’m an actress! I have all of them!” That’s what Björk showcases here; every emotion, texture, and sound in her body at the time and it is resplendent. ‘I Miss You’ is one of the best and most original takes on the standard longing pop song, with horn freak-outs, screaming, and a panic attack about “cuddles” for a bridge. The song sounds like a cartoon zoo where the animals train the humans just like the surrealist nightmare of a music video that is as amazing as the song. The album features one of my favourite songs ever; ‘Enjoy’, where mother weaves a bizarre love triangle over a beat made by one of her boyfriends at the time and one of my biggest inspirations: Tricky. The intimate tabloid lyrics are leaked over a beat that sounds like a jungle full of haunted wildlife that know your secrets and want to punish you with electrical torture. It’s one of the most titillating experiences you can have as a listener. An album that is full of so much motion and noise ends with the purely ambient ‘Headphones’. It’s built on barely there electronic bass notes and Miss Björk whispering about falling asleep to a transformative tape! I had this on cassette as a kid and it was a meta experience, this is one goal I have definitely taken from Mother. Her goal was to give others the same transcendental experience that music gave her, passing on the gift. Post is one of her greatest gifts.

Massive thanks to Tyler for sharing such beautiful words about their favourite albums!

Nightmare In Paradise, the upcoming album from Tyler Holmes, is set for release 26th March via Ratskin Records. Pre-order here. And watch the poignant video for ‘Nothing’ below:

LISTEN: Hilary Woods – ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’

A shadowy, captivating exploration of intense discomfort; Sacred Bones signee Hilary Woods has shared ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’, the first single lifted from her upcoming album Birthmarks, which is set for release on 13th March.

Though quiet in terms of volume, Woods’ new single is a fleshy, charged offering that allows her the space to navigate “emotionally charged states” at a pace suited to her. “It is a song deeply lodged in the body, that yearns to surface for air and escape its own shadow.” Woods explains, and the accompanying visuals she collaborated on with Joshua Wright beautifully reflect this.

Written over the course of two years, and recorded whilst heavily pregnant between Galway and Oslo in the winter of 2019, Birthmarks looks set to be Woods’ most personal and powerful record to date. Inspired by the works of Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug, the images from post-war Japanese and wet-plate photography, to the secret life of trees; Woods’ far-reaching influences are what make her art so beguiling and transcendent.

From its scratchy, dense opening, to its gentle blend of orchestral and electronic elements; ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ is a primal, intuitive track that scars and soothes in equal measure. Watch the video below, and follow Hilary Woods on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order Hilary Woods new album Birthmarks here.

Hilary Woods Live Dates 2020
19th April – Roadburn Festival, TILBERG NL
18th May – Cafe Oto, LONDON UK

Photo credit: Joshua Wright

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

WATCH: SKYND – ‘Tyler Hadley’

Not for the faint hearted, industrial/electronic duo SKYND have shared their latest track ‘Tyler Hadley’, taken from their second EP Chapter II released earlier this year. Continuing in the tradition of most of their previous releases, the song is named after a psychopath, exploring their historic brutality through startling visuals and thumping beats.

Formed of SKYND (vocals) and “Father” (producer/multi-instrumentalist), the duo explain the premise of their new track further: “‘Tyler Hadley’ follows the story of a boy who killed both of his parents because he wanted to throw a party at his house. He developed the idea to kill his parents so he didn’t have to ask for permission anymore. He ended up having a party in the house that dead bodies were in, so it’s really creepy.”

Creepy is certainly an apt word for the context of SKYND’s songs, but the duo state they are here to serve as a reminder that “All human beings are capable of cruelty”. Their intense live performances aim to provide listeners with a different perspective, and to question what lies beneath the facade of normality.

Watch the video for ‘Tyler Hadley’ below and follow SKYND on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LIVE: Zola Jesus – Omeara, London 05.11.18

Zola Jesus stunned her sold out crowd at Omeara on Tuesday night as she appeared shrouded in red, delivering her flawless operatic vocals. Her performance embodied the promise she made during second song ‘Soak’ – “You should know I would never let you down” – and her rendition of the track made our gothic hearts bleed.

She took to the stage after Ah! Kosmos, who performed a stunning one-woman-show in an equally stunning sequin blazer. The Istanbul-born artist gave a masterclass in how to perform electronic music solo, and was the perfect warm up for Zola Jesus’ eager crowd.

Whilst on stage, the Sacred Bones signee said she was “chuffed” to be in “Blighty” and was happy to talk between songs about TV show Nathan Barley and the shortcomings of British Airways (who had lost her guitarist’s luggage earlier that day). Her set was laced with penetrating vocals that rang out across her hypnotised audience, and included an emotive dedication to her Uncle who recently survived a suicide attempt.

The blend of industrial and classical elements in Zola Jesus’ music translated well live, and she was accompanied by a violinist and guitarist for the duration of her set. Her tortured but tentative lyrics on ‘Skin’ and ‘Exhumed’ as well as the hypnotic, off-kilter, bouncing synths on ‘Bound’ provided fans with an eclectic mix of old and new material, and an opportunity for the performer to remove her red cloak, and break the fourth wall towards the close of her set.

Her lyrical lamentations about disconnection are made all the more powerful by her altruistic voice. Recorded, her vocals are striking enough – but to hear them live is confirmation that Zola Jesus truly has a divine set of lungs. If you weren’t there to hear her at Omeara, you missed out on a mesmerising performance from this warped and wonderful artist. A definite live highlight of 2018.

Follow Zola Jesus on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut