Poppy Ackroyd - Escapement

Poppy Ackroyd - 'Escapement' Album Review

The ethereal and contemplative debut from the Edinburgh based Poppy Ackroyd is now available from the ever reliable Denovali records.

Poppy Ackroyd has just released Escapement through Denovali Records, her debut album in which she examines the potential that lies beyond traditional structure and composition. Originating from London, Ackroyd is a classically trained musician who has worked extensively with the likes of Hidden Orchestra.

Her musical roots are evident on Escapement, which bears all the hallmarks of a wonderfully composed classical piece, however, what it manages to do is create an extension upon the grounds which a traditional composition is based. Approaching the instruments in novel and unique manners to achieve unrecognisable sounds, both intriguing and captivating, Ackroyd adds great depth and mystery to a solid and enticing framework.

Due to the experimental nature of the music contained on Escapement, Ackroyd felt that it was essential to the process to record and perform the music herself. From her home studio, she painstakingly constructed the album, using not only the instruments, but also sampling elements of nature through field recordings. Birdsong and rainfall are just two examples of the natural world samples which can be heard throughout.

‘Aliquot’ and ‘Seven’ are standout tracks which lie somewhere in the worlds between film score and contemporary instrumental, whereas ‘Grounds’ goes beyond that and escorts us to somewhere else altogether, somewhere unknown and magical. It comes as no surprise to learn that the performer has also had a great deal of experience in theatre and interpretative dance, as well as performance art, as fractions of these can all be felt on Escapement.

There is a joy and delicacy which permeate this release, one which commands not only initial attention, but which lingers and ferments long after its final chord, enticing and calling for a repeated listen. Escapement changes into many things as it shyly becomes more familiar; joyfully melancholic and fragile, yet with a strength that lifts it far beyond the watery inconsequentiality which can damage such light compositions.

A wonderful record to discover just as we prepare to wrap up 2012, it is great to hear that Poppy Ackroyd will be touring early in the New Year.

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more from Colin on Louder Than War here. Colin also writes extensively about movies over at his website zombiehamster.com & you can follow him on Twitter.

Poppy Ackroyd can be found on Facebook HERE and on Twitter HERE


Wu-Block

I ALMOST DIED OF NERVES INTERVIEWING WU-BLOCK

I almost shit my pants when it was confirmed I'd be interviewing both Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch, ahead of the release of the most overdue collab project in hip-hop, Wu-Block. Albeit a fuzzy fifteen minute conference call of an interview, but a chance to chat to rap's New York royalty all the same. And with the Wu-Block LP dropping imminently, I kinda feel like it's testament to both crews that fans, young and old, are still hyperventilating with anticipation at the union. I mean, we're living in a time where hip-hop's snuck up on the music world to become the monopoly and we're spoilt for choice of furiously talented MCs.

So, are they fazed by today's dizzying amount of competition? I asked them to find out* (*I asked and then giggled to the point of nervous hysteria.)

Noisey: Heya! So, how did Wu-Block come about? I know for a lot of people it felt like it was a long time coming?

Sheek Louch: I’d been a fan of Wu forever and always wanted us all on one project and D-Block always had the same love back from them. The chemistry has always been there so I feel like it was meant to be, however long it took to get to this point. When I got signed to Def Jam we started touring together a lot and ended up having all these songs, enough to do a project like this. So, I really believe it was by the grace of God it happened.

Me too. How comes you didn't call yourselves “D-Tang”...or “DANG”?

Sheek: HAHAHA, ain’t it obvious?!
Ghostface Killah: Actually, “Dang” sounds fly, “Wu-Dang”?
Sheek: Girl, you’re crazy…Daaaaaaang.

I like portmanteaus. Anyway, I was watching an interview with you guys, where you said you had no intentions to cater to the “skinny jeans" rap crowd. What did you mean exactly?

Ghost: At the end of the day, we just don't make music specifically for them, their ear is plugged into a certain type of music, this new new shit. But if the skinny jeans crowd recognized and came to see Wu-Block, then they're more than welcome. Nobody is left out with us.
Sheek: For real. This ain't no soft shit, we out here making that monster music. Like, don't be at my show with spandex and skinny jeans on if you a man! But if a skinny jeans nigga wanna fuck around and genuinely listen to our stuff it's all love.

 

noisey. Music by vice.
Read the full interview by Jo Fuertes-Knight over at Noisey. Music by Vice.

 


The Asphodells – Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust

Reviewed by Echoes and Dust

There is no denying Andrew Weatherall's influence on British music over the last two decades, and if you're unfamiliar let's take a slight detour for a brief history lesson of some of my personal favourites: Finding his feet in the then-blooming Acid House scene, a young Andrew found himself literally churning out face-melting remixes, original mixes and founding labels such as Boys Own Fanzine, famous for bringing the world The Chemical Brothers. Later Weatherall formed the Warp-signed group Sabres of Paradise and, [my personal favourite] Two Lone Swordsman. Still not enough for you? As well as working on remixes for the likes of Paul Oakenfold, The Happy Mondays and The Horrors, Weatherall has produced some particularly noteworthy records, such as Primal Scream's Screamadelica. Too young for Primal Scream? Perhaps you're familiar with fuzz-trance prodigies Fuck Buttons? Their groundbreaking second LP Tarot Sport was also produced by Weatherall, as was Scotland's grey cloud The Twilight Sad's most recent record, No One Can Ever Know.

So there's a bit of context for who we're dealing with, and that's not to say he’s alone this time. The Asphodells is a new two-piece group featuring both Andrew Weatherall and Timothy Fairplay; another experienced producer and DJ running in the same circuits with, as this record proves, an equal strength in the creation of pedigree music. But, of course, the true test is how the pair play together, right?

Kicking off with a distinctly housey beat it's clear that unlike some of Weatherall's more recent production work, the dancefloor is definitely the intended listening place for this record as ‘Beglammered’ ripples along with guitars and sitar synths. It's almost as if we're dropped in the middle of the crystalline desert and there's belly-dancing babes everywhere [every cloud has a silver lining].

Keeping tempo, ‘Never There’is a lyrically intriguing piece illustrating the form and behaviour of some strange poltergeist: "A gas with a shell / a ghost with skin / ether with scales and mercury fins." The track has a distinct Madchester feel to it, taking The Stone Roses' baggy sound of acid house and guitar wobbles.

‘Never There’ isn't alone in the northern acid flashback as frequent references to the likes of Happy Mondays seem to pop up here, there and well pretty much everywhere throughout the record. We're not left full in the heat of the summer though, oh no! Every sun must go down and every night must draw in, which The Asphodells bring about in ‘Another Lonely City’an 80's nighttime-drive.

This turning point in the record begins to see a deeper feeling of space with an increase in vocal mangling and, well, reverb. See also: ‘Late Flowering Lust’and the neighbouring dub version that kicks straight in at the end of the song. It almost feels at this point that the producers have begun DJing and remixing their own material on the fly, and as a possibility it's not that absurd in the context of who we're dealing with.

 

The Asphodells

 

Moving on from ‘Late Flowering Dub’ the record moves into its pinnacle with tracks like ‘We Are The Axis’and ‘One Minute's Silence’, two numbers expanding on the same format as before but both displaying an excellent step above the rest. The first is a synthy, spacey freak disco that's too cheesy to be true in only good ways. Modulated analogue synths burst and sweep like dry ice across a basement club and the reverberant, robotic vocals drive a-la Pet Shop Boys. Fantastic.

The second of the two, ‘One Minutes Silence’, is the sort of music you'd expect at the countdown before a space-shuttle's launch. A steady pulsing beat and looping synth cycles rotate endlessly as a woody, determined bass begins climbing a ladder; the entire song is essentially a crescendo (think ‘Atlas’ by Battles, if it was less or more of a dance-floor mutant. It's hard to tell which). Laying atop the repetition are steady variations of "Bring me a minute's silence, it's all I want to hear" until glittery, shimmering guitar arpeggios break into the forefront for, well a minute or so until, yes, the requests return once more.

The final noteworthy song in the collection is ‘A Love From Outer Space (Version 2)’,which must be better than the original since it's nowhere to be found. The song is the perfect closer for the record as it continues and develops on everything until that point: uplifting, energetic, exciting and fun: without a doubt a definitive moment… plus it's really really fun to sing along. Here's the lyrics so you can try it at home: "I know where she's coming from / space is where we both belong / want to tell her in the sun / this time nothing can go wrong."

Ruled by Passion, Destroyed by Lust is nothing short of an immense success for a pair of producers who've already celebrated much and have nothing to prove, except in their partnership. For a duo to appear from nothing but their individual reputations to form such a strong combined force is an incredible thing to witness (think Fripp and Eno, except groovier). The record at times feels reminiscent of (an admittedly unusual reference) many hours spent driving around Rockstar's opus Grand Theft Auto: Vice City… which, let's face it, for a Playstation 2 game has a better soundtrack than most movies. The entire record has the same retro party collection feel that comes out at every summer day-long party. There's diversity, variation and above all else a good constant groove and a solid driving force from beginning to end which belongs in two places: [1] the long sunny car drive and [2] the party at the end of the journey.

At many instances the record seems to echo the explosion of Caribou a few summers ago, or MGMT, or even when Animal Collective turned up again with Merriweather Post Pavilion even though musically there's not that many similarities. What Weatherall and Fairplay have done is very simple: they've stepped in a couple of months early to remind everyone that winter is finally over and that soon the long summer days will be here and you can bet who it'll be playing in everyone's stereos, record players, iTunes, iPods, web-blogs, cars, bars, clubs and festivals: The Asphodells.

 


Andrew Weatherall

Andrew Weatherall: 'Never take the Guardian on to a building site' (Guardian Review)

The dance producer is grilled about wedding DJ sets, how to lift a heavy sofa up the stairs and the secret to a fine moustache

 

Hi Andrew. Are you sitting comfortably for a 30-minute interview?

Yes, I am. I'm sitting very comfortably actually, I'm on a nice recliner!

You've said that you always assumed music would be a six-month thing … yet now you're releasing your 19th album. What happened?

Having that short-term attitude tends to extend your career by default. You attract certain people around you and you get a weird kind of underground kudos. You're seen as keeping it real, but it was never really about a political agenda for me. I just wanted to have fun and not fall out of love with music.

19 albums suggests you're still quite in love with music …

Well, part of me wishes I had the output of Billy Childish and you were saying, "So, this is your 105th album ..." But I'm happy with the body of work. Some of it I'm not so into, but I think it's a reasonable legacy.

The new Asphodells record (1) is called Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust. What does that mean?

I was going to say the title was a snappy six-word summation of the tragedy of the human condition. But if I did that, I'd just start laughing so I might as well come clean. It was taken from a 1970s Gladiator-based gay porn film. A lot of trashy pop culture aphorisms say more about the human condition than the latest thinker is saying in three volumes of their work.

Will you be getting it tattooed on yourself as you did the song title, Fail We May, Sail We Must?

No, no, no! I am getting the urge for more ink but I think one crass aphorism tattooed up the inside of your arm is enough! Actually, I'm doing that phrase a huge disservice. It was an Irish fisherman who told me it. He had to skipper a boat in a force 10 gale at the age of 18, which blew me away, and that was how he justified doing it. I thought, if he can do that then surely I can at least get up and make some music each day.

What bad jobs have you done?

Not bad jobs but hard jobs. I got thrown out of home when I was 18 so I had to get a job quickly and I ended up becoming a furniture porter. It was at this old company in Windsor, where I was brought up. Once a week, three articulated lorries full of four-seater leather Chesterfields and 6ft mattresses would arrive. Three of us would unload these vans and you had to learn quickly how to carry a heavy leather Chesterfield on your head up three flights of stairs because they had no lift! That was quite testing ...

What was the secret?

It's all in the balance. Get the balance right and you could turn right around and speak to the person behind you but the sofa would stay still. After that, I did a lot of manual labour on building sites and stuff. Here's a little tip for anyone who's thinking of taking up a job as a labourer – don't take a copy of the fucking Guardian into the tea room! Seriously.Wolfie Smith they were calling me! But I stood my ground.

You also worked in fashion, right?

I used to come to London and buy clothes from Leigh Bowery and his sidekick Trojan(2) off their stall in Kensington market and then try and sell them to people in Windsor, which was a fucking hard task, believe me! Those clothes were outlandish even for London so for the home counties it was a fucking no no, my friend. But we did alright … it was mainly our friends buying them. And our parents – I think my Mum's got a Leigh Bowery vest!

So there was a pocket of people in Windsor pushing the boundaries of fashion?

Yeah! Berkshire's Leigh Bowery phase! But I wanted to live in the moment. I wanted to work for six months then spend the next six buying records, fancy trousers and going to nightclubs. You could do things like that back then, in the early 80s … you could get a job then jack it in. Also there was a more slapdash approach to the benefits system. You'd go and sign on and in the queue would be chaps head to toe in brick dust. Or someone with a tool bag and spirit level slung over his shoulder. You could spot a blagger a lot easier back then, which was pretty much what I was.

I heard that, even after Primal Scream's Loaded came out(3) you were still applying for jobs …

I went to a job interview at London Records with the test pressings under my arm! This guy Eugene Manzi, who was head of A&R at the time, asked what they were. When I told him, he said: "Well, what the fuck are you doing here then?"

Let's talk about the new record – there's a cover of John Betjeman's Late Flowering Lust on there …

Have you heard the original that we right royally ripped our version off from? It sounds like the Bad Seeds! There's another track on that album [Sir John Betjeman's Late Flowering Love] called The Licorice Fields At Pontefract that sounds like the Velvet Underground! That record and Banana Blush are the Betjeman albums to get, the music on the rest is a bit sub-Elgar ... pastoral cod-classics. But yeah, Late Flowering Lust is quite a sleazy poem and maybe we upped the sleaze content a bit. A lot of people equate Betjeman with cosy suburbia – yes he does that, but he's picking at the spot on the skin of cosy suburbia. People forget the fruitier side of John …

What would he have made of your version?

Part of me wishes he'd have gone, "what is this frightful noise?" But another part hopes we would bond over it and he would tell me anecdotes in front of a roaring fire.

During the early days of acid house, how aware were you of the moral panic happening in the mainstream media?

I was when I had the Sun phoning me up constantly because we'd apparently held a party on what turned out to be land owned by Her Maj(4) . But usually we were lucky, our 300-people parties were always close to massive raves that drew the attention of the constabulary away from what we were up to. I don't know if we were ever under surveillance, because they did set up a special thing to investigate the whole phenomenon. They were convinced there was a political element to it – how could there not be when you can get 20,000 18-25-year-olds into a field? So they drove themselves mad trying to find the political overtones. And by doing that, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy because they made it political.

The irony being that one criticism of that whole movement was its lack of a political edge ...

Yeah, well mods didn't have a particularly political edge either but the mere fact that dressing in a certain way will get you attention from the authorities automatically makes it political. I think youth cults become political by default.

When was the best period of dance music?

Last week. I'm not a golden age kind of person. If I were I'd probably be doing acid house revival nights now. There were gigs I did in the early 90s that were mindblowing and other ones that I've expunged from my memory like hidden child abuse ….

What sort of thing?

No don't start, don't bring it back … I might be in a reclining chair but I'm not on a fucking couch!

Talking about the psychologist's couch, how did you feel when you'd finished working on the Fuck Buttons album Tarot Sport(5)

[Laughs] Oh fucking hell! Yeah, can you imagine? I played it to people and they were like "fucking hell, that's great but it's quite intense", so I said: "Imagine listening to that every day for a month for eight hours!" I mean, I loved it but it was the same physical and mental feeling as being on the building site! You felt like you'd done a proper day's work.

I bet you could at least bring the Guardian into the tea room, right?

I'll be honest with you, I do take the Guardian, but I'll put my hands up and say I balance it with the Telegraph. I enjoy the cryptic crossword. Some rabid rightwing views and a good crossword for £1.20 … what's not to like?

America has been responsible for so much innovative dance music, yet it's only really taken off in a mainstream way recently with EDM

If I may make a slightly tortuous analogy, take yourself back to the early 60s and the indigenous black music of America being blues. Nobody in America was interested, then English kids get into it, do their take on it and a couple of years later the Rolling Stones are the biggest band on the planet. It's just what happens. It took them 20-odd years to get punk rock – they kinda invented it and then Green Day took up the mantle 20 years later. For many years, the east and west coasts got disco and house music but for the masses that was just music for black people and homosexuals.

Do you think the likes of Spotify and YouTube have been a good thing for music?

It would be churlish of me to say no. I recently read Electric Eden by Rob Young(6) and never in the history of music books have I sat there, on literally every page, thinking: "Fuck, I want to hear that now." I was even watching arcane films of folk traditions in Northumberland and stuff like that. But I do think you can shine too much light on the magic. There's this Dada-ist performance artist called Arthur Cravan(7) who sailed out to sea in Mexico and was never seen again. He was a boxer and performance artist before it was known as that … he was such a mysterious figure but my devilish fingers got the better of me and I typed his name into Google and there's fucking four minutes of him boxing and I thought: "Oh fuck, I wish I hadn't done that." Because it broke the magic spell.

OK, now much like you, Andrew, I myself am something of a DJ …

[Laughs politely] Right …

My DJing normally involves playing CDs, sometimes at people's weddings ...

I've done that, my friend. I have dipped my toe into the wedding DJ arena and enjoyed every minute of it. I have in my studio The Wedding Set, a neat row up against the wall. 30 or 40 records, from Sister Sledge to Ian Dury. Good records, but party records … it's ready to go should anybody call.

Is it difficult to play a wedding set when you've built up all that knowledge of how to work a crowd or drop obscure records at the right time?

Oh, I still employ the working-the-crowd techniques! Even at a wedding you have to work the crowd.

You must be excited about the return of Kraftwerk …

One of my earliest memories of electronic music is being in the car with my dad and Autobahn coming on the radio as we're going down the motorway on holiday. Now that's got to have left an indelible scars on a young mind. But my best Kraftwerk story is when I did a gig with them in Japan. I was with Tom Squarepusher and as we came out of our dressing rooms, Kraftwerk got the call to go onstage. They were lined up side by side, looking all iconic, and I looked at Tom and I thought "fuck, you've just had a really shit idea that you think's really funny." Suddenly, he ran up behind Kraftwerk and grabbed one member by the ears and shouted "Wahey!" while jiggling his ears. There was a moment of surprise. Then I think it dawned on them that it was quite funny.

You made Kraftwerk laugh?

There you go … Tom from Squarepusher actually made Kraftwerk laugh.

You boast a fine moustache … what is the secret?

Erm, you can either grow one or you can't. It's got to be luxuriant – wispy don't cut it. Regular slight trimming as well, you don't want it straying up to your nasal passages or caught in your teeth.

Would you describe the Edwardian era as your favourite period for style?

I like that era. Probably because I'm 50 and if I wore sporting equipment I would look foolish. Then again, I never really wore sports gear when I was young. I did wear boxing boots, but that was just me emulatingDexys Midnight Runners. I still don the donkey jacket and the black woolen hat now and again.

I bet you never went for the full dungarees, though …

Oh, I did the dungarees my friend! It was a look I was thinking of resurrecting, actually. There's this American photographer called Disfarmer (8) , who took these great dustbowl photographs … these guys with a distressed leather jacket, dungarees underneath, a trilby at a jaunty angle and a pair of two-tone brogues. It's quite a look. When the beard comes off, I might well go 1930s dustbowl.

 

Footnotes

(1)
Back to article The Asphodells are Andrew J Weatherall and Timothy J Fairplay

(2)
Back to article London club scene fixture who was, at various times, Bowery's housemate, drug buddy and lover

(3)
Back to article For the two people who didn't already know this, Weatherall produced Primal Scream's classic Screamadelica album

(4)
Back to article A Boys' Own party attended by Boy George and Paul Rutherford among others

(5)
Back to article Weatherall produced Tarot Sport, which can be described as a "challenging" listen (good, though ...)

(6)
Back to article A definitive history of British folk traditions

(7)
Back to article Bonus fact: Cravan's aunt married Oscar Wilde

(8)
Back to article Mike Disfarmer, who documented the lives of rural people in Arkansas

 

Review source: Guardian Music


Ulrich Schnauss

Ulrich Schnauss - A Long Way To Fall (Echoes Blog Review)

Ulrich Schnauss: Electronic Memories

Ulrich Schnauss’ A Long Way to Fall is the Echoes February CD of the Month.

Five years after his stormy, end-of-the-world electro-shoegaze treatise called Goodbye, German downtempo synth scientist Ulrich Schnauss returns with a new CD. Gone are the layers of distorted sound, aggressive grooves and over-driven guitar timbres that marked Goodbye. A Long Way to Fall has a cleaner sound, letting Schnauss’ electronic melodies breathe in clear air instead of an electric haze. But run through the titles and it seems like the memories of a tormented life: “Borrowed Time” “A Forgotten Birthday” “A Long Way To Fall” “I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance” “Like A Ghost In Your Own Life” “A Ritual in Time and Death” “Broken Homes.”

Yet, with a few exceptions, the sound of A Long Way to Fall loops back to Schnauss’ uplifting breakthrough albums, Faraway Trains Passing By and A Strangely Isolated Place; a sound Brian Eno might describe as “brave and resigned” and which I’d call melancholy and heroic. Think Spartacus on the cross. Even with a title that suggests darkness and foreboding, like “The Weight of Darkening Skies,” the song itself sounds like the happier child of “Medusa,” the electro-distortion, 8-bit blowout from Goodbye. (Continued after image...)

 

 

Schnauss is an artist who loves the mystery of sound, creating alien worlds on “Broken Homes,” which mixes 8-bit video game Pong bleeps with thudding electronic drums churning over each other in a slurry of distended groove. The backwards incantations of German priests lends an aura of mystery and a little dread. Schnauss often gently entices you before sending you spinning. “Her and the Sea” opens the album pensively, before launching into a percussive track with churning synthesizer grooves bisected by glitch effects and the kind of euphoric melody that Ulrich Schnauss has perfected.

Ulrich Schnauss is one of the most widely influential electronic artists, but he nods to his own roots on A Long Way to Fall . “A Forgotten Birthday” is a headlong cinematic plunge with a galloping electro-samba groove, pinging space harpsichords and swooping synth pads that updates the 70′s electronic sound. He loves Tangerine Dream so much that in an Echoes blindfold test he identified the Dream’s “Ricochet” just from the opening applause. So in an album that looks back to his early days, it ends with a track that goes even further back with a Berlin School sequencer pattern driving the space journey of “A Ritual in Time and Death.”
Although the themes, like that title, are dark and the music wouldn’t be called happy by most standards, on A Long Way to Fall , Ulrich Schnauss once again orchestrates a deliriously kinetic electronic opus that pushes toward ecstasy.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzlZRM9n9XI&width=650

 

 

~John Diliberto ( echoes  )


Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys, Memory of the Future (Ulrich Schnauss remix)

British synth-poppers team with experimental German DJ for lush reworking

Pet Shop Boys' Elysium single "Memory of the Future" rode blissfully arpeggiated keys that twinkled and glistened, but on this remix from experimental German DJ Ulrich Schnauss, the British synth-poppers enter a deeper, lower groove that hypnotizes with lush textures and pulsating layers of blips. "We've always liked Ulrich Schnauss's visionary albums and are thrilled that he has created a beautiful mix which sounds both like him and us," Neil Tennant tells Rolling Stone. Pet Shop Boys are releasing "Memory of the Future" as a single with B-sides and remixes on January 1st.

 

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