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:

FIVE FAVOURITES: Delhia de France

Crafting a solo career between Berlin and L.A over the past two years, Producer and songwriter Delhia de France has been busy re-working a track from German producer Robot Koch’s latest album, The Next Billion Years. She takes Koch’s concept of sound-tracking the far distant future of earth on ‘All Forms Are Unstable’ and gives it an alt-pop twist, breathing new life in to the instrumental piece with her soft vocals and shimmering electronics.

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 Delhia to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to listen to her cover of ‘All Forms Are Unstable’ at the end of this post.

1. Massive Attack – ‘Paradise Circus’
‘Paradise Circus’ has a certain melancholic lightness to it that I really like. Massive Attack have been consistently bending genres and been a huge influence of mine since forever. Their latest project Eutopia with Young Fathers is as brilliant as it is important. The tracks are layered over with speeches and lectures by prominent educational figures demanding justice, equality, sustainability. Goosebumps education.

2. Fever Ray – ‘I’m Not Done’
This whole album is one of my all time fives. I will never get tired diving into these eerie synth baths that have a very artificial sound yet and incredibly warm vibe. It really is an album of light and dark and to create opposites so each side can shine is something that I picked up from Karin Dreijer’s productions.

3. Rosalia – ‘A Palé’
I love how the track begins with this soothing melody and then takes a totally different turn. It’s incredible how she fuses traditional flamenco with modern sounds. I love all the space in between and her voice effortlessly pouring over it like a waterfall.

4. Thom Yorke – ‘Skip Divided’
Radiohead had always been a massive influence to me and Thom Yorke with his extraordinary fragile voice throwing words at you like daggers. He has a special way of writing melodies that uniquely beautiful. How he marries the piano with these textured organic sounds has been, I’ve always been fascinated.

5. The Knife – ‘Silent Shout’
Again Karin Dreijer, this time with her brother Olof. The whole Silent Shout album has been an eye-opener to me, these simple melodies and her bone-shaking voice combined with glowing and sawing synths are so far opposite of my usual sound yet so captivating and just plain beautiful in this genius simplicity.

Thanks to Delhia de France for sharing her favourites with us.
Listen to her cover of ‘All Forms Are Unstable’ below.

Photo Credit: Alix Spence

FIVE FAVOURITES: Stainwasher

Swedish artist Stainwasher is not one to shy away from darker states of emotion. Her 2018 debut EP What Did I See, was a sonic journey through personal fears and unsettled thoughts, and her new single ‘Drying’ flows in a similar vein. She explores both the good and the bad in the world through soaring synths and tentative vocals, believing that it’s “easier seeing life as an experiment, rather than something absolute.”

We think one of the best ways to get to know a new artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Stainwasher to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to her new track ‘Drying’ at the end of this post.

1. Mazzy star – Among My Swan
Hope Sandoval is for sure my favourite singer, and it seems that every track she sings on instantly becomes magic. This album is amazing. It’s mysterious, beautiful and very inspiring to me. This album is actually the biggest reason I use tambourines, sliding guitars and organ in my music, which says a lot about my feelings for the album. The track ‘Umbilical’ is so stunning it makes my thoughts blurry, which is very nice sometimes, and the track ‘Happy’ is just perfect with its perfect chords mixed with perfect vocals. I love CDs and have most of my favourites on CD, including this. The best way I enjoy this album is to listen to it on speakers while lying on the sofa, smiling and thinking that if we lost everything, we would still have Hope Sandoval!

2. Portishead – Third
The biggest reason for mentioning this album is the track ‘The Rip’, which I usually call my all-time favourite song. I’ve got a thing for songs that build up and slowly explode, and this song does it so well! The first times I heard Portishead I had a difficult time listening to them because I genuinely got scared by the creepy music and spooky voice, but when I heard Third, I was hooked and got used to the weird but pleasant feeling they left me with. I think the most inspiring thing about this album – and their music in general – is the structure of their songs, and how making surprising changes seem so natural.

3. The Knife – The Knife
I’ve loved this duo since I was like 13, and it is impossible to get tired of their music. This was the first full album from them that I heard, by borrowing the CD from my dad. I remember being so fascinated by their music, even though it was catchy, it still was super special. I can’t say exactly how this album inspired my own music, I think The Knife always have been in the back of my mind when making music, perhaps I wanted that uniqueness they have. The anonymous part of Stainwasher is most likely influenced by The Knife. If I wasn’t so scared of playing live, I bet my shows would be very inspired by their live performances as well, except that tour where they do aerobics since I hate sports.

4. Nordpolen – På Nordpolen
Where do I begin. This guy saved my teenage years and still saves me from time to time. I didn’t like going to concerts when I was younger due to panic attacks, but I knew I HAD to see Nordpolen live, so he became the reason I faced those fears. However the most special memory I have with his music is when he played at Emmaboda (a Swedish festival), and I was not there. I was in bed crying and listened to his album from start to end pretending I was there. Nordpolen is also the biggest reason I started making music. It sounds a bit cliché, but he had helped me so much with his music and I thought if I could help or induce some kind of emotion for someone with music, I would be so grateful. In this album, he uses a lot of synth-choirs, which inspired me to try that as well. His lyrics are very straight-forward, something I love and also try to achieve. Even though the lyrics are sad, this album leaves me with a streak of hope.

5. Hazelnut ice-cream
I have a hard time making my last choice, no album feels right. That’s why I’ll tell you about my favourite ice-cream flavour, hazelnut. I was seven years old the first time I tried hazelnut ice-cream which was in Italy on a vacation with my family. I was immediately stuck and that was pretty much my diet for the rest of the vacation. The flavour is an amazing mix of salty, fat and sweet, and I can eat a lot without getting tired of the taste. Whenever I eat something really nice I become quiet, I want to absorb what I’m eating and it bothers me when people distract me, or even worse, want to taste from my plate, so I prefer eating ice-cream alone. To me, eating hazelnut ice-cream on a warm day is like hearing Hope Sandoval’s voice; soothing, pleasurable and makes me believe that there are still good stuff in the world worth fighting for.

Thanks to Stainwasher for sharing her favourites with us. Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Ebba G Agren

WATCH: Jenny Wilson – ‘Rapin*’

**TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF RAPE & SEXUAL ASSAULT**

Swedish electronic artist Jenny Wilson​ has managed to create something poignant and powerful out of her own harrowing experience of sexual assault on her latest single, ‘Rapin*’. The track is taken from her​ forthcoming album Exorcism, due on April 20th​​, and it’s an intensely personal, unflinching look at life after trauma.

Having previously collaborated with contemporaries including Robyn and The Knife (to whose Rabid Records she was previously signed), Exorcism will be Wilson’s fifth studio album, and her first since 2013’s Demand The Impossible!

​The animated video for ​Exorcism‘s lead single ​’Rapin*’, directed by Gustaf Holtenäs, debuted​ at the Gothenburg Film Festival​, and it’s a stunning but painful set of visuals. Speaking about the film, Jenny explains: “I wanted to make something awfully direct. Something you just can’t hide from or misunderstand. This song demanded a brutal video, and it had to be done in a beautiful animated style to reach the full power of the story.”

We’re moved by Jenny’s strength and bravery in the face of adversity and admire her ability to create positive, thought-provoking art.

Watch the video for ‘Rapin*’ below and follow Jenny Wilson on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order your copy of Exorcism here.

Photo Credit: Oskar Omne

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut