'3rd album from Manc indie-rockers is a twin-guitared lockdown diary tunefest'
Produced by Simon ‘Ding’ Archer (PJ Harvey, The Pixies, The Fall) at 6db studios in Salford, the album title seems to refer to the lockdown period in one sense, a document of that time, but as frontman Tom Long elaborates: “It also harks back to pre-lockdown, when there was actually a possibility of some change on offer. Unfortunatelywe’re forbidden from talking about that. There were solutions to many of the problems we face now, but that dream was crushed, never to be spoken of again”. Manchester indie-rockers Easter have built a reputation as one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Spurred along by singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Long with a rotating cast of Manc-underground shredders, they’re a formidable live act who’ve toured the UK repeatedly and provided support for post-rock behemoths Mono, avant-rockers Ranga and Mugstar but also poppier acts such as Canadian shoe-gazers Tallies.
However, for all of Manchester’s illustrious musical history, it’s hard to bring to mind a local act that they compare or aspire to. Instead Easter’s binoculars are fixed on the fuzzy indie-rock of Dinosaur Jr , Guided By Voices and Teenage Fanclub with added twin-guitar weaving recalling the articulate jams of Television, Chris Forsyth and even Wishbone Ash. Only in Tom’s vocals are there occasional hints of their surroundings with echoes of the Mozza and a few junctions away across the M62, Dave Gedge.
They’ve found admirers in Huw Stephens and Tom Ravenscroft at 6Music and garnered praise from Uncut, Record Collector and NYC’s The Big Takeover while building a loyal fanbase across the UK.
“A welcome throwback to the wry, self-lacerating alt.rock of the early 90s” Uncut
“Astonishing” Record Collector
“Lovely bit of noise” Tom Ravenscroft BBC 6 Music
“It devilishly combines a banged acoustic with spiky electric, like Bevis Frond covering A Catholic Education by Teenage Fanclub. If this is “Hell,” give us more!” Big Takeover
Easter are - Tom Long - Vocals/Guitar Gavin Clarke – Guitar Paul Flieshman - Drums/Backing Vocals Graham Blyth – Bass live
In addition to Hanoi Rocks, Finnish rock legend Sami Yaffa, is known from his work with Michael Monroe’s band, Demolition 23, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts and New York Dolls. Sami released his first solo album, The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind, in autumn 2021. Praised by the music press worldwide, the album also won the Emma ( Finland’s version of Grammys) nomination for the rock album of the year. Yaffa's second solo album, the mysteriously named Satan's Helpers War Lazer Eyes and The Money Pig Circus, will be released on Friday, March 8 by Livewire/Cargo.
"My first solo album, The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind, was so well received that I simply decided to make another one. The recordings have taken a couple of years and took place in Finland, Sweden and Spain. In addition to myself, I have my touring band playing on this one, which includes guitarist Linde Lindström and keyboardist Burton of the band HIM, and my childhood friend, drum and percussion maestro Janne Haavisto, who also played drums on the previous album as well. Those guys became my permanent band, and with this line-up we got down to business. The songs on the album reflect the chaotic world we live in, my own personal strange experiences, and the sordid true stories of the past," says Yaffa.
The producer of the album is Yaffa himself, together with Erno Laitinen, who was also was the engineer on the debut record. Yaffa also got several familiar guests to join the recordings.
"I got some of my good old pals with me again, whose musical talents I admire enormously. I got Michael Monroe, Nasty Suicide, Dregen, Steve Conte, and Rich Jones to kick arse on the album. Rich Jones is also responsible for the album's wonderful cover art. Making this album was just as great a joy to make, as the previous one. I hope it will carry on to the listeners as well," Yaffa continues.
Tracklisting: 1. Satan’s Helpers War Lazer Eyes & The Money Pig Circus 2. Silver Or Lead 3. Hurricane Hank 4. Death Squad 5. Down Home 6. Shitshow 7. Crashing Down 8. Chemical Life 9. Far Star 10. Faster Than Time
Heavee is a Queer Chicagoan DJ & producer with a long history in footwork. His 2022 'Audio Assault' EP on Hyperdub showcased synth-driven, melodic footwork, but ‘Unleash’ goes much further into audio world-building, with a fresh, spongy and citrus-y sound palette and rich, bright chord sequences.
It's minimal, airy, balancing light and dark, sometimes breezy and sometimes clinical. Heavee works simultaneously outside and inside the box, rebuilding footwork's framework and vibe to his own unique specification. Rhythmically, it's dance floor ready, using footwork's 160 template as a springboard for building new drum sounds to express these rhythms, and draws from R&B, rap, jazz and grime, with a sprinkling of bitter-sweet vintage Detroit techno.
‘Unleash’ takes footwork’s “eats all” approach to music and leads it in a fresh direction with a freedom of spirit. It's a strong addition to the footwork cannon and shows that experiments in dance music can be fun.
Tracklisting: Side A 1. StarSeeker 2. Unlock 3. SearchN 4 ft Babii 4. Bang Bang 5. Can U Feel It 6. Bounce Dat ft PayPal & DanTOG
Side B 7. Unleash 8. See the Sun 9. Whiplash 10. Sumthin Different 11. Heart Fragments 12. Work Me 13. Make it Work 14. Smoke Break ft Homesiick & Takuya Nakamura
“But into my miserable brain, always concerned with looking for noon at two o’clock" - Charles Baudelaire (1869)
The Foreign Department is the second album by Astrel K, the solo project helmed by Stockholm-based British ex-pat, Rhys Edwards. Those already familiar with Edwards’ work will likely know him for fronting the cultishly great Ulrika Spacek, and given he operates as the principal songwriter in both projects, much of the same hallmarks of his cathartic, elliptical songwriting are present in Astrel K. Nonetheless, The Foreign Department feels like a rubicon moment of sorts, and the album that Edwards has unconsciously been working towards his entire creative life.
As a title, The Foreign Department offers an instructive guide for the listener, framing a life-in-transition/artist-in-exile document that maps two impromptu moves in twelve months for its songwriter: the first from London in pursuit of a relationship, the second between homes in Stockholm as that decade long relationship then suddenly dissolved.
Indeed, diffusion, dissolution and reconstitution feel like appropriate touchstones for its recurring themes. Written amidst the flux of two states, at once isolated from home and then any established emotional anchor, the resulting eleven tracks came to represent a precognitive search for shifting identity and with it forming an unwittingly biographical record. It's commendable and somewhat telling that during this shake up, Edwards somehow landed upon his most realised and original work.
With a former life stripped away, there emerged an opportunity to reinvent a sense of self through art, now not just as a writer, but a composer also. Developing the confidence to arrange songs in ways he'd previously considered off-limits, while also taking cues from the opulent string and brass arrangements of records like Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs and Death of A Ladies Man by Leonard Cohen, Edwards enlisted a range of performers to bring to life the mini-symphonies forming in his head. Perhaps it's inevitable that an album written while facing the consequences of being alone would eventually ossify around the process of bringing people together.
For all its troubled origins, The Foreign Department is a remarkably warm sounding collection. Edwards' lyrics are typically knotty and neurotic, dancing around the poetry of quarter-life anxiety, but the music itself is often joyous and even uplifting, the combination expressing that neat duality of melancholic euphoria.
Edwards sings variously of crises, "torrid pieces of art", of "houses on fire" and not "having the guts for it", yet these troubling sentiments are framed by seemingly incongruous swelling strings, chirping horns or motorik percussion, creating that sense of pushing forward or floating above, of wrapping your troubles in dreams, a salve for the moments when you get a bit too much for yourself.
Lead single, 'Darkness At Noon', likely captures this all best. Named for the French idiom "midi a quatorze heures", the maddening idea of attempting the impossible for the sake of some greater possibly pointless cause, it directly grapples with the opposing notions of wanting and not wanting, of being here and being there at the same time. The conflicting and impossible self. It’s something Edwards addresses in the song at perhaps his most open, opining, “I know I want to be seen, but I hate most of what comes out of me”. And yet here is, putting it all out in the open and on the line, the dialectics of his enlightenment up on show.
Tracklisting: 1. Heavy Is the Head 2. Darkness At Noon 3. By Depol 4. Brighter Spells 5. Firma 6. Birds In Vacant Lots 7. The Foreign Department 8. C Ya! 9. A Rudderless Ship 10. Daffodil 11. R U A Literal Child?
Jlin’s detailed and meticulous exploration of rhythm’s inner and outer reaches has made her one of the most distinctive and recognisable voices within both the electronic and classical music worlds. Her compositions are consistently appealing and have an accessibility to them, yet often defy expectations. She exists within her own locus solus - no matter the collaborator, no matter where sounds ultimately lead her.
Whatever the situation – from composing the Pulitzer Prize shortlisted ‘Perspective’ for Third Coast Percussion, to ‘Godmother’ her AI-powered collaboration with Holly Herndon, Jlin always expresses her outlook to the fullest.
Her new album ‘Akoma’ sets a new benchmark in her personal road map, not only since the album features guest appearances from Björk, Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet but for her continued sonic persistence and resistance.
Jlin does what Jlin does and it’s beloved across genres, across scenes and across generations. ‘Akoma’ is a new entry point into her sound and a new approach for both those who have been following diligently and those who are just now entering her world.
So how did she get here? Here’s a rundown for those looking for the facts.
She was both a math nerd and a steel factory worker. She got inspired by Footwork and started making tracks with mentorship assistance from RP Boo and DJ Rashad, but her music was far from typical for footwork from the get-go. In 2011, she released her first track ‘Erotic Heat’ on the Planet Mu anthology ‘Bangs & Works Vol.2.’
Fashion designer Rick Owens heard it and invited her to soundtrack his Paris Fashion Week show. Already before an EP or an album Jlin was in new cutting-edge territory. And it hasn’t stopped since. Everyday Jlin wakes up early and clocks into her home studio working hard on new music. Her discipline and craft-like approach means that those who would try to copy her sound simply can’t get to the level she is at.
Since ‘Erotic Heat’ she has released two bold albums, 2015’s ‘Dark Energy’ and 2017’s ‘Black Origami.’ She has also released her soundtrack to Company Wayne McGregor’s dance piece ‘Autobiography’ (2018) and most recently (2023) the mini-album ‘Perspective.’
She’s remixed µ-Ziq, Factory Floor, Ben Frost, Max Richter, Björk, Martin Gore and others. She’s collaborated with Holly Herndon and the late SOPHIE. She’s worked with visual artists Kevin Beasley and Nick Cave. She composed a string quartet for Kronos Quartet and performed with them live in a tribute to Philip Glass. She also recently completed a tribute to Sun Ra with Kronos. ‘Perspective’, her very well received percussion work for Third Coast Percussion has further opened doors for her in classical music. She’s even thinking of one day writing an opera. She had a residency at MassMoca Museum earlier this year (2023).
She’s performed live at Pitchfork Festival, Unsound Festival and too many others to mention. She’s also worked with Indian dancers, Company Wayne McGregor and renowned choreographer/MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham. There’s more but you get the picture - she’s working in contexts and in ways that few of her peers are able to. ‘Akoma’ is the next step - all these paths have led to this. We encourage you to tune in.
Tracklisting: Side A 1. Borealis (ft. Björk) 2. Speed Of Darkness
Side B 4. Summon 5. Iris 6. Open Canvas
Side C 7. Challenge (To Be Continued II) 8. Eye Am 9. Auset
Side D 10. Sodalite (ft. Kronos Quartet) 11. Grannie's Cherry Pie 12. The Precision Of Infinity (ft. Philip Glass)