INTERVIEW: Divide & Dissolve

Fuelled by Takiaya Reed’s doom-ridden saxophone sounds and Sylvie Nehill’s phenomenal percussion, Divide & Dissolve create idiosyncratic instrumentals designed to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for indigenous communities. Flowing with a unique gargantuan grace, their second album Gas Lit has been haunting our ears since it was released in January of this year.

We caught up with Takiaya to talk about the record, the reception that it’s had, the new Remix EP that it’s inspired, and a shared love for Radio 6 presenter Mary Anne Hobbs…

Hello Takiaya, how are you doing today?

I’m good, I’m in finals right now, so I’m studying a lot and trying to drink enough water to feed my brain. I’m studying psychology. It’s intense, but I feel super chill about it, because it’s all just a pseudo science. It’s kind of comical trying to find ways to talk about things that are extremely inaccessible and continuing to perpetuate all these things that are sometimes helpful, and sometimes not. The mind is so mysterious and vast, and we’ll never really know what it’s capable of…

I think you should put that in your final essay. You should just end it with that sentiment.

Yeah, they’ll be like “50 Points off for not using enough empirical evidence…”

That’s true, maybe don’t listen to me! In terms of music, let’s start from the beginning. Can you remember who, or what first inspired you to start making music? And how Divide & Dissolve first came together too?

It was my dad who first inspired me. I started out playing piano but then he was like, “hey, you look like a saxophone player,” and I was like, “what? A sax player, really? I thought I should play trombone or something?” but he said “I know you’re a sax player. I play trumpet, so we could play duets” So he got me started on playing saxophone and I felt this intuitive almost spiritual connection with the instrument. I still roll my eyes at my dad for what he said about looking like a sax player, but I think there’s something to him having had that knowledge.

Then later on, I was inspired to play guitar because I met my friend Osa Atoe, who does Shotgun Seamstress and was in a band called New Bloods. She showed me how to put on shows, how to set up a PA and she told me to play guitar. Osa was super inspirational in terms of me not playing classical music, which is what my first passion was.

With Divide & Dissolve, I just had a good friend say to me “Hey, you should meet Sylvie, you two are going to love each other” and we instantly just got along. It’s not a very eventful story, it’s just more like, “hey, you’re cool. Okay, cool. Let’s play music. Sweet!” We’re both super chill people, so it just works. I’m trying to trust in that. When making decisions about life, sometimes it just feels super right, like you’re just supposed to be there. Those are probably very good guiding principles.

From what you’ve told me so far, it sounds like you rely a lot on your intuition, which surely can only lead you to the right kind of people and the right kind of things.

The music you make as Divide & Dissolve, aside from being amazing, is fuelled by a powerful anti-racist, anti-white supremacy, anti-colonialist message. Do you feel like your music is uniting and educating people about these issues?

I can only hope that it is. It feels amazing to be able to talk about the things that we want to talk about, and be able to experience relationality with our ancestors, our relatives and our kin, and to be able to talk about the Earth in this way and just feel all the resonance. That’s just what we’re about in general. So I feel super grateful and I don’t want to take any of that for granted. I want to be able to continue to connect with people in these really positive and meaningful ways. That’s just how Sylvie and I are. We’re pretty focused and we want to directly communicate our message. We would like the systems that continue to perpetuate genocide to end. If you can imagine something ending, then it can end. Instead of living in the world where you feel like, “oh well, that’s not possible” – you should try to believe that anything’s possible. That’s where I’m at.

That’s a really refreshing and hopeful sentiment. You do a magnificent job of making listeners feel this way on your most recent album, Gas Lit. What would you say you were most proud of about this record?

I remember having a conversation with Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) who produced the record, and I just told him, “I hope people can understand exactly what this album is about.” We put a lot of intention into the album when we were writing it. We put a lot of effort and love in, and we consulted with our ancestors. So when it was released, the way people were writing about it and talking about it felt so attuned. They knew what the album was about without me even specifically telling them what it was about. It was abundantly clear and that still feels incredibly special. It’s so amazing to want to communicate something, and then to have it actually happen. It makes me feel super inspired to continue playing music. I love that Sylvie and I get to do that with one another. It feels like such a blessing.

Do you have a favourite track on the album? Is there one that you enjoyed recording the most or one that you enjoy playing live the most?

Do you know what, I don’t feel properly equipped to answer that question yet, because we have been in a pandemic and this music hasn’t been played live. But, I feel like I’ll know the answer once we go on tour. I’ll be like, “Oh my God, it’s this song!”

The creation of all of the songs was so unique, so it will feel awesome to learn more about the album in terms of performance when we play it live. It feels so wild to be able to do such a thing, because we haven’t had the opportunity to. I’m very excited to play live. I feel optimistic and hopeful that live music will return in a way that feels meaningful and good.

I can’t wait to catch you live when you’re here in the UK. You’ve recently released a Gas Lit Remix EP, featuring tracks by Moor Mother (‘Mental Gymnastics’) and Chelsea Wolfe (‘Far From Ideal’). Talk to me about how this EP came to life…

Our label, Invada, thought it would be cool to do some remixes and I just knew who I should hit up. I feel so connected to both of Camae (Moor Mother) and Chelsea. I think they are both amazing people who do amazing things. It feels so special that they would want to work with us. It just makes me smile a lot.

I’ve just seen that BEARCAT has also remixed a track for you, which is cool!

The visuals that you’ve shared to accompany the Chelsea Wolfe remix and the Moor Mother remix – shot by artist, writer, and filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria who currently has a sculpture at the Serpentine in Hyde Park – compliment the songs so well. 

I love music videos. I don’t know how to make them myself, but the visual world is so interesting. I love it when people who have an understanding of it decide to connect with us and tell another story. Maybe they make it deeper, maybe they don’t. It feels special to try and achieve deeper communication. I think it enhances the music and I love that. Anything that helps us to be able to feel this feeling deeper is awesome. But also, maybe the videos help you not feel things as deeply, and that’s awesome as well, because maybe that’s what someone needs.

I agree, I think there’s a nice balance between the visuals and the sounds.

We’re big fans of Divide & Dissolve her at GIHE, and someone else who also is also a big fan of yours is Radio 6 presenter Mary Anne Hobbs. How do you feel about that?

I really want to meet her, she seems so cool. Sylvie and I want to hang out and eat food with her. She’s across so much cool music, she has really great energy and it feels like such a huge blessing to have her understanding of what we’re doing. I admire her, I think she’s awesome.

We think she’s amazing too. Maybe this will be the interview that she reads and then she invites you to dinner?

Finally, what else is on the horizon for Divide and Dissolve? 

We’re going on tour soon and we’re playing Roadburn in 2022, so that will be fun!

Thanks to Takiaya for the chat!

Order your copy of the Gas Lit Remix EP here

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Photo Credit: Jaimie Wdziekonski

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Anika – ‘Change’

Moving beyond the punishing sounds and default to doom-saying that’s often defined her previous work, Berlin-based musician Anika‘s new album Change is a more positive cut, possessing some of her most accessible work yet. Set for release via Sacred Bones & Invada Records on 23rd July, the album is not without its jagged, angsty moments, but on the whole it’s certainly a cleaner offering.

Fans of the musician’s existing output – a 2010 solo debut performed alongside Beak> and a string of releases with Exploded View – will recognise the blueprint of locked drum & bass grooves, noisy synths and Anika’s haunting voice floating above it with a cracked serenity that feels as though it could collapse into tears or hysterical laughter at any moment. The key sonic difference with Change is its polished quality, which lends a new refinement and approachability to Anika’s work. At times it feels a little too neat, lacking that terrifying, paint-stripping howl that makes for the best Exploded View tracks. Having said that, it opens up a new side to Anika, one that many will want to hear more from.

Anika reports that the words on Change were written largely “on the spot”, going some way to explaining the recourse to simple yet enigmatic refrains, felt most urgently on tracks like the thunderous opener ‘Finger Pies’ and the disquieting ‘Rights’. Her willingness to employ a smoother set of sounds allows for some unexpectedly great pop moments. ‘Critical’ is lead by a neat synth line that could have come straight from Jane Weaver’s Modern Cosmology, wonderfully plucking the song from the murk of a driving rhythm section.

‘Change’ is an excellent track, epitomising the huge shift Anika makes as an artist on this record. It offers a guarded optimism in its hedged refrain “I think we can change” and tempers the album’s concerns about the destructive nature of man, articulated on tracks like ‘Never Coming Back’ (inspired by Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring and our destruction of the natural world), enabling us to find consolation in our agency as individuals to avert future consequences of human activity. It is telling that ‘Change’ is the eponymous track and that its central idea was chosen to be the defining theme of the album, creating room for a more sanguine outlook.

The album closes with ‘Wait for Something’, which, like ‘Change’, plays a crucial role in forging the overall mood of the piece. Emerging out of the claustrophobic terror of ‘Freedom’, we are encouraged to find solace in its vagueness, in the belief that some salvation will come, even if we cannot conceptualise the form it might take. People often draw the obvious and not entirely helpful comparison between Anika and Nico, but as the drums kick in here it feels more like we’re listening to the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, pushing us into the realm of unadulterated pop rock. Sitting on those flying keys and cymbal crashes, listeners can really feel the joyous optimism Anika seeks to leave them with.

Sonically drifting away from brutal electro-terror and thematically more positive than earlier efforts, Anika’s Change is an interesting transitional album in sound and spirit, not entirely comfortable in its optimism, but telling for its willingness to seek it out.

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

Photo Credit: Sven Gutjahr

Lloyd Bolton
@lloyd_bolton

LISTEN: Gazelle Twin – ‘The Well’

A sinister, cinematic offering that chimes with a bleak beauty, Gazelle Twin aka Elizabeth Bernholz has shared her latest single ‘The Well’. Lifted from the official soundtrack for upcoming east-end based supernatural thriller The Power, the track is a spine-tingling offering from this multi-talented electronic music pioneer. The score will be released digitally on 8th April via Invada Records, with a vinyl release to follow.

Working alongside composer Max de Wardener to curate the score for the the film, which was written and directed by BAFTA nominated screenwriter Corinna Faith, ‘The Well’ is a piece of Bernholz’s solo vision that fitted the tone of The Power so well, it was added to the track-list without hesitation. “Working with Corinna and Max didn’t feel much like work,” Bernholz explains. “It was a long haul thrill, from our field trip to the derelict wing of Goodmayes Hospital to record squeaky trolleys and smashed pill bottles, to making countless experiments with samples, voice, and electronics, pushing them in every extreme direction we could think of. The results bring me a lot of joy. I hope the collaboration continues.”

Contrasting these samples with her sublime vocals and un-nerving electronics, Bernholz has enhanced the tension and claustrophobia that permeates Faith’s Victorian-set thriller, which follows nurse Val on her first round of night-shifts in an eerie London hospital ward. The Power will be available exclusively to stream on Shudder from 8th April.

Listen to ‘The Well’ below.

 

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Photo Credit: Victor Frankowski

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Divide and Dissolve – ‘Gas Lit’

An exhilarating, powerful assembly of sounds designed to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for indigenous communities, instrumental activists Divide and Dissolve‘s second album Gas Lit smoulders with a righteous fury. Produced by Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the record is an aural purging of injustice, fuelled by the diversity of Takiaya Reed’s doom-ridden saxophone sounds and Sylvie Nehill’s phenomenal percussion. It’s the band’s first full length release since their 2018 album Abomination, and much like its predecessor it flows with a unique gargantuan grace.

Released via Invada Records, Gas Lit sees Divide and Dissolve continue their sonic mission to disrupt toxic white supremacy. Reed & Nehill’s sublime instinct for colossal drop-ins permeates their music and acts as a powerful weapon in the fight against inequality. These cathartic shifts in sound saturate Gas Lit, and opening track ‘Oblique’ is the first of many aural shockwaves to hit listeners. Silence in a world of inequality is damaging and Divide and Dissolve seek to shatter the illusions surrounding this. The intense grit of ‘Prove It’ continues to hammer this message home, with its pulverizing beats and caustic riffs.

The pensive spoken words of poet Minori Sanchiz-Fung on ‘Did You Have Something To Do With It’ bring to life a poignant question that underscores the record: “are [we] a part of this world / or its affliction?” It bleeds into the epic seven and a half minute ‘Denial’, which is a disorientating sonic whirlwind of thunderous riffs, ear-shattering percussion and uncanny saxophone notes. The visceral sounds on ‘Far From Ideal’ and ‘It’s Really Complicated’ beautifully embellish the band’s narrative charge against oppression and provide more riotous cacophonies to escape into.

On ‘Mental Gymnastics’ and ‘We Are Really Worried About You’ Reed flexes more of her extraordinary sax-playing muscles and her ear for intense riff distortion. On the latter, they’re combined with Nehill’s crashing cymbals to form a swirling vortex of cathartic dissonance, reiterating the band’s message that the sufferings of indigenous communities have evolved beyond what’s “recorded in stone / and in bone.” The resentment and need to overcome this is now so strong that – in the words of Minori Sanchiz-Fung – “language can’t console it.” Divide and Dissolve are here to give weight and validation to these voices, and Gas Lit is a majestic and moving effort to do so.

Pre-order your copy of Divide and Dissolve’s new album Gas Lit here.

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Photo Credit: Billy Eyers

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut