Deerhoof is here to stay: An interview with Greg Sauniers

Labelled under the list of most progressive and influential bands of the 1990’s and you’ll find Deerhoof among there. With propulsions of guitar riffs, electronics, spectred by innovative drum patterns, the San-Francisco based band has been the front-runner for influencing profound bands such as TV on the Radio and the Dirty Projectors.

We speak to head honcho and drum wizard Greg Sauniers on how it feels to be on the road, innovative drumming and their previous tour in Singapore.

Hey Greg! You guys have just finished touring Bangkok and Japan as part of your Asian tour. How’s it been so far?
The Bangkok part isn’t finished yet, unless we played it last night and I have forgotten but actually I doubt it. Usually I am very good at remembering a show we just played. I can even remember very old shows, like when we played Singapore 2 1/2 years ago. The fried rice backstage. The craft fair. The red t-shirts of the student security. The frowning Australian couple who said our soundcheck was disturbing their sleep. The soft rock band playing covers in the restaurant right next to the stage. The offers of marriage from beautiful audience members. In other words, the tour is going great.

Deerhoof has an impressive record, having released 11 studio albums throughout your career. How important do you think it is to stay relevant to the original direction you started out from?
For Deerhoof it’s more important to try to be irrelevant. Our fans like to be surprised, which is why we love them. Every new thing tells another part of the story, so it’s relevant automatically.

It’s been two years since the release of Breakup Song. Any plans on releasing new material soon?
We have finished a new album, last night at 2am, which is why I am a little bit tired and maybe my answers are a little funny. It is about the death of financialization and it will be coming out November 4th.

Thats quite a piece of news! You’ve been labeled as quite a sizeable influence on artists such as TV On The Radio and Dirty Projectors. How does it feel to be cited as an influence to these bands?
It is not our main goal to influence other musicians, but I do remember how important some music has been to me in my life, ever since I was a kid, and still today. I remember the first time I heard the Rolling Stones, the first time I heard Stravinsky. Everything changed for me at huge moments like that. I’m so happy if there are musicians who have moments like that with Deerhoof.

Let’s talk a bit about drumming. Your drumming is an off-kilted, off timing sense of rhythm – it’s almost like a lead instrument in its own sort. What are the limitations and advantages of playing in an “unorthodox” way?
The advantage is I love playing the drums. To me it’s not so unorthodox. Sometimes when I play drums for other people, like in an orchestra for example, it’s so much weirder having to play without ever changing the rhythm, to play like a machine. It’s like I have to keep reminding myself not to be musical.

So I think you’re right that in Deerhoof we all play like we are the lead instrument, or at least we want each other to be free and wild and squeeze the most out of the song and have a musical conversation. We have been playing for years and it is more exciting than it has ever been. We feel like we’re just starting to understand how to play together.

Any heads up for the gig happening in Singapore? We’re excited to have you back!
I am always telling people back home how much I loved Singapore, the music fans, the incredible mix of people, the palm trees, how easy it was to chat to people and make jokes and laugh. It’s going to be a great concert.

By Evan Woon

Deerhoof will perform at *SCAPE The Ground Theatre with The Trees And The Wild on 19 June.

Tickets can be purchased here.

JamIt!: Giving Myanmar musicians a stage

It’s 7pm on a hot, humid summer night in Yangon at a faded bowling alley on the outskirts of town. Out in the parking lot (a loose term as it’s overgrown with grass and weeds) gather forty Burmese youth dressed in everything from short skirts and heels to tight black ripped jeans with punk-inspired t-shirts. Inside, the tireless owner is scrambling to get some air-conditioning units kickstarted and bands are milling about with lukewarm beers. The doors open, the fans pay USD3 to enter, and the music kicks off. Eight bands play sets of 20-45 minutes each and the styles
could not be more varied, from a Portishead-inspired duo to a three-piece hip hop act with plenty of rock in between.

Welcome to JamIt!, a year-old project started by musicians Eaiddhi and Ye Ngwe Soe to provide opportunities for local unsigned, underground bands to play live. The concept was inspired by days when the two friends, in their younger days, would sit out on the street at night and strum their guitars with friends — but this time one notch up by choosing a more public location and inviting friends.

As Eaiddhi tells us, “We got this idea just to perform in public places like Kan Daw Gyi park with our acoustic guitars and invite some friends. It’s more like a party. Just like the old times when we were young playing guitars in the streets and that’s what all the young Myanmar people do.”

Since that first gathering a year ago, JamIt! has quickly grown from its humble roots. The first show drew just twenty fans but recently shows are drawing a crowd of around 300. The frequency of the shows has increased and the variety of acts is growing. Myanmar fans are taking note and grateful for the opportunities that JamIt! is creating.

One fan, Py Soe, stated that, “There are many underground bands in Myanmar… and I think they should get the chance to play to an audience. JamIt! can give them what they want.”

The challenges of organising concerts are immense: there are few venues in Yangon willing to host live bands, power supplies are irregular, sound equipment is expensive, sponsorship is virtually impossible to come by and getting the word out to new potential fans is tough. Yet Eaiddhi and Ye Ngwe Soe power on and the hard work is certainly paying off. One cannot help but be impressed with the quality of what they are putting together.

When asked about what it takes to stay motivated, Eaiddhi replies: “Despite the frustrations, I love doing it and I really enjoy it. Me and Ye Ngwe Soe always talk about this: when we’re growing old, we still don’t want to go and hear this same old shit. There’s gotta be places and bands we can go and see for real, good music. This is part of our dream too. One band can’t create scene, if we are together this is something.”

JamIt! is just one example of the growing push by the younger generation to promote creativity and free expression. The arts scene has taken off and the entertainment sector is liberalising and expanding — compared to three years ago, Yangon’s events calendar has exploded. New multi-purpose spaces such as Pansodan SceneDeitta Gallery and TS-1 are hosting theatre, music and exhibits while organisations such as ‘FAB’, an LGBT events group, and Myanmore, an online portal, are driving the social scene.

Whilst some of the ‘new’ Myanmar projects aim for financial benefits, JamIt! simply wants to promote talented musicians to more fans. They sum it up by saying, “None of these underground bands become rich from playing music. We are not trying to make money but we need money to make music. We hope that if can make more gigs happen, the bands could get more and more fans and it would also be a place to get more albums out.”

By Anne Cruickshanks

Tully On Tully: To Asia and beyond

Tully On Tully are making waves wherever they go, and they’re not afraid to get out and try their brand of indie-pop on new audiences. This has taken them from Australia to the Philippines, to Canada, New York, and back to Singapore, and all in a twelve-month window.

Hitting Singapore at the end of May for Music Matters, Tully On Tully treated audiences to shows at both Crazy Elephant and on the Fountain Stage at Clarke Quay. Apparently, opening for K-Pop Night Out (the festival’s Korean showcase) brought back memories from their 2013 visit to Singapore.

“We played a show at Home Club (last year) but we got to come see some K-Pop. I remember walking down a street and all of a sudden there was a huge crowd of people like just in front of me, and I realized that we were walking behind this huge K-Pop star,” says vocalist Natalie Foster, “We were just there being like, ‘What? What’s happening?’”.

“You hear about that kind of stuff happening to other people… but we never thought it’d happen to us”

The Internet has played a pretty significant role in the band’s story of going international, with their first foray into the wide world being their 2013 trip to Manila for Wanderland Festival almost exactly one year ago. There, they played alongside established acts including The Temper Trap and Nada Surf.

The story goes that the band received an email from Stephanie Uy [the 23-year-old President of Karpos Multimedia and brains behind the festival] who had heard of the band from her sister. Finding their videos online, she got in contact, and the rest, they say, is history. “It’s sick,” says sometime piano teacher and Tully On Tully keys player Pete Corrigan. “You hear about that kind of stuff happening to other people — being discovered on YouTube or something — but we never thought it’d happen to us”.

Turns out that the Wanderland opportunity was the beginning of an exciting journey for the band. “It was a huge stepping stone for us, to be able to play internationally,” Corrigan continues, telling us that “it was a huge learning curve as well, in terms of organisation and getting ourselves ready”. Before this opportunity, though Tully on Tully was well educated on hitting the Australian road, only guitarist Greg Rietwyk had travelled internationally for gigs.

“…when they go out, they don’t wanna go clubbing; they want to go and watch a band”

And it certainly wasn’t overnight success for the band. Formed in 2011, they’d spent two years playing in and around their hometown of Melbourne (Australia), independently releasing their debut EP ‘Weightless’ and supporting the likes of local artists Tigertown and Whitley.

They attribute their success, and the success of other Melbourne bands, to the vibrancy of the independent music scene in the city. “Honestly in Melbourne, I think it’s a lot to do with all the venues around town. Also, I suppose, just Melbournites in general – they just accept Melbourne as a place of supporting the independent music scene,” says Corrigan.

“There’s a whole subculture of people who really thrive on that; who, when they go out, they don’t wanna go clubbing; they want to go and watch a band”. Both Corrigan and Foster believe that the x-factor that other cities lack is the supportive community of artists, who are both the producers of, and the supporters of, the arts there.

“It’s good having another voice in there to kind of balance us out and also throw in ideas that we never would’ve considered by ourselves”

But that’s not to say that there aren’t positive factors to getting out of Australia; the enthusiasm of crowds in South East Asia is one of the draw cards for Tully On Tully. “It’s great, we love it,” Foster says. “It’s almost like everyone is so much more receptive here. Like they’re so open and wanting to hear new music and stuff, whereas in Australia they’re a little more reserved.”

Recently, Tully On Tully have been making the most of being in demand overseas. In the last month alone, they’ve played shows in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, New York and Singapore. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind month for us!” Corrigan says.

And there’s more to come. With a new EP on the way, things are only heating up for the band. Whilst ‘Weightless’ was engineered by Rietwyk, the band are now looking for a change. For the first time, they’ve worked with a producer, and with positive results.

“Sometimes I think when it was just us working together it was easier to get on each other’s nerves and disagree,” says Foster. “It’s good having another voice in there to kind of balance us out and also throw in ideas that we never would’ve considered by ourselves”.

Embracing the new seems to be working in Tully On Tully’s favour.

By Eleanor Turnbull

Sidney York: Keeping unconventional cool

Last Saturday at Music Matters Live with HP 2014, Canadian act Sidney York gave a blistering performance at the Fountain Stage, armed with unconventional instruments (a bassoon, anyone?) sliced over catchy tunes and pop sensibilities.

These girls, with a killer and refreshing attitude to boot, just might be the next big thing in Canada — but don’t be too quick to compare them to their more famous Canadian counterparts Tegan and Sara, or even an Emily Haines-fronted Metric.

We sat down with Brandi Sidoryk and Krista Wodelet of Sidney York before their set, and talked about famous Canadian people, their insanely fun music videos, and their latest record, <3s (Hearts).

Hey Sidney York! You’re from Canada, the home to all things musical and great. Any famous friends to date?
Famous friends [laughs]? I guess it depends, because the acts that we think are big, aren’t that big internationally. You could be really good in Canada, but not so big in the rest of the world, or you could be really good internationally and no one’s heard of you in Canada. We’re friends with these bands, Mother Mother and The Odds, who are huge in Canada.

“We didn’t mean to write a breakup record, but as we were writing for the album, both of us were going through really tough breakups unexpectedly”

Let’s talk about your newest album, <3s (Hearts). What is the inspiration and meaning behind the album?
It was a breakup record. We didn’t mean to write a breakup record, but as we were writing for the album, both of us were going through really tough breakups unexpectedly. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t help but write that shitty break up song [laughs].

We like to have a lot of fun on stage and we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously, so even if the lyrics are dark on this album, it’s not often found in the music. It’s quite a big contrast between the dark lyrics and the upbeat, pop-y music — we like that contrast because it leaves a inner meaning for people to listen a little deeper. It’s really fun to listen to at first, but once you get into the record and  listen to the songs a couple of times, you’ll realise that Krista and I were kind of messed up [laughs]!

Your music is really interesting, something under the umbrella of indie… and pop, but then there’s also this certain edgy vibe to it. What genre would you classify your music as?
I would call ourselves indie pop. We’re the indie pop musicians that listen to those indie pop acts, but we love St. Vincent and we want a little bit of that dirt in there too. I would say we’re schizophrenic indie pop [laughs].

With two females fronting the band, do you get compared to any other artists?
I think we’ve gotten compared to Tegan and Sara, just because we’re both Canadian and duo-female fronted acts. We’re big Tegan and Sara fans, and we’re happy for the comparison, but we definitely have some differences musically. We’ve been told that we’ve been quite similar to Metric as well, or a happy Fiona Apple; Katy Perry meets PJ Harvey, or a new-age The Go Gos. Krista and I are the dorkiest popstars you’ll ever meet.

“…we’re schizophrenic indie pop”

Your music videos are amazingly fun! Who comes up with the concept for the videos and do you think they convey the actual spirit of the band?
We have hired a number of specific directors, mostly from the same production company in Vancouver that we work with. We are really involved in concepting [the ideas] and we love it.

More times than not, we come to the table with an idea that we’ve already gotten attached to and we say, “Can you direct this music video with this idea?” and usually they say, “You’re crazy, absolutely not!” and then a week later, they’ll say, “Okay, yeah we can do this.”

Oh, and for this new record, we’ll be doing a music video for every song on the album.

Oh right, so you guys are pulling a Beyoncé?
Exactly! Except that we’re less of a surprise, we let everybody know what we’re doing.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suT_q_kVuCI[/youtube]
By Evan Woon

Check out Sidney York’s crowdfunding campaign for new album <3s here.

The Horrors: Moving further ahead

Emerging from the Southend scene in early 2007 with their critically acclaimed debut album Strange House, The Horrors have since relocated to London and, in recent years, settled into their own studio, recording their last two albums independently. Two days shy of their first performance at Austin Psych Fest, I spoke with the brooding frontman, Faris Badwan, digging deep into the creative process of their latest release (which took a full fifteen months to make).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN0jkdTvl9s[/youtube]

 

Luminous, the band’s fourth full-length album, is a collection of glittery synth motifs along with elevated upbeat tempos. It is in stark contrast to the gothic, organ heavy, shouty tunes coupled with those aggressive stage antics the band was notorious for at the beginning. They’ve definitely matured drastically.

The band recently performed their first single ‘I See You’ at The Fly Awards in February with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Of the collaboration, Badwan says, “instantly, his guitar-playing style… fit in with us and it was cool how quickly he adapted to playing.”

Having wowed critics and music lovers with their Krautrock-inspired improvisations and unique sounds, The Horrors are known for being extremely experimental. With the infinite number possibilities using electronics in this age, it left me wondering; What was the Genesis of this record? “Now we’ve done four albums, you start to realise the patterns that you have to go through, and you know the difficult things you have to go through in the beginning and it kind of always falls in the same way. It takes you a while of constant recording to figure what the album will sound like,” Badwan explains.

“When you’re making anything, whether its art or music or writing, whatever, the hardest thing is knowing when to stop.”

With five multi-talented individuals writing alongside one another, there’s always a high tendency that it would be hard to come together and agree on everything. However in the case for The Horrors, “its more the songs, that kind of decide”, and “not letting ourselves repeat things too much”. Besides allowing the music to fuel the direction, Badwan also notes “I think it is a case about having to trust each others’ taste and sort of let it be a democratic thing. I think between us we can figure it out.” Also “depending on the song, different ones of us take more control.”

Their forward thinking methods have established The Horrors as completely one-of-a-kind. One could easily get blissfully lost in their explorative process of creating new music. When prompted about the band’s aim to create original material for the album, Badwan explained; “Well, I think we do want to create things that are original for us; we want to create things that we feel that we haven’t touched on. It doesn’t mean sort of completely changing genre every record, it just means more about pushing ourselves each time.”

“You want the songs to be the best, it’s not letting ourselves repeat things too much, I figure you have to keep moving forward.”

Having their own studio proved to be greatly beneficial to the process, as they had fewer restraints. “[We were] able to stay however many hours, to be able to make music at all times,” says Badwan. “Its not that we’re deliberately trying to shut the outside world out, the world that we are creating is kind of more exciting for us, and I think that we find it a lot easier to escape in our world than we do in the other one. I think its just more rewarding to be in there.”

Since the beginning, guitarist Joshua Hayward’s physics background has sparked an interest in taking apart guitar pedals, making different modifications to create specific sonic concoctions that has helped push the boundaries of their sound. “He’s always building stuff,” remarks Badwan, “The main thing I think was we had used some (Josh’s probably) pedals, to change the way the sounds fades away and I think its pretty unique for the guitar sounds.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlFZYk0xgn8[/youtube]

 

Another interesting addition to their plethora of devices used to make Luminous were the Pyramid synths from the ‘Changing The Rain’ music video that their label had made for them. “I suppose that was the most unusual instrument that we had… but it wasn’t the thing that we used the most because it broke really quickly; now its in the workshop,” Badwan explains.

In terms of the future, Badwan has one thing on his mind; “I think the main thing is we really wanna build this band; I don’t know what the band will be doing in 2 years. We’re very bad with conscious planning…” he says. “I guess that’s exciting for us because, especially when we demo songs, we don’t really know how they’re gonna end up turning out. I think that’s one of those things about being in a band.”

Luminous is out on 5 May.

By Maria Clare Khoo

Home Club: This is the end, beautiful friend

Jim Morrison sings, “this is the end, beautiful friend” on the classic track ‘The End’, and these are the words that Home Club owner Roy Ng has left us with, following the announcement that after nearly 10 years, the venue will  be closing its Doors (ha).

The song pretty much encapsulates the whole situation perfectly, as the venue has been a labour of love right from the start, “our elaborate plans, the end“.

Arguably standing ground as one of the few and longest-standing venues in Singapore to bring live music to  us, the venue has played host to a number of our most memorable shows over the years, including controversial Canadian electronic musician Peaches, Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, experimental glitch artist Baths, and all-round weirdo Mac DeMarco to name a few, and more recently, the Blue Hour Sessions in collaboration with longstanding local music programme Identite.

The announcement of the club’s closure however, doesn’t come as a total surprise, given that Home Club’s in-house programming has been relatively sparse in recent months (and some may even say “uninspired” for years). It’s hard to tell whether this stems from punters’ lack of interest in supporting live music, or the fact that it may just be easier to simply settle for the catering of external events — a catch-22 either way you look at it, really. External factors have surely not made it easy either, considering the difficulties we face in the current state of our music scene.

Home Club will now be transformed into yet another ’boutique’ dance spot, resulting in the blaring of overplayed drivel, muffled beats, and D-grade cover bands that can be heard on an evening stroll along Clarke Quay. Shame.

The sad reality is that we have almost come to expect these closures. The Pigeonhole on Duxton Road, despite persistent crowd-funding efforts, was forced to shut down in December 2012; just last July, probably the city’s only truly underground (i.e. perfectly scungy) bar and sometimes-venue, Night & Day, also closed its doors for good.

Most recently, Broadcast HQ in Little India was another piece to fall in this looming domino effect. Although short-lived, the venue showed great potential, however, they were never even given a chance to find their feet due to preposterous licensing restrictions — a massive hinderance to the progression of our music scene.

The closure of Home Club may leave many misty-eyed, but even more so, we are curious to see how things pan out without it: what does this loss mean in the grand scheme of things? Where do promoters put on shows? How about local bands, where do they perform?

Having said that, not all is lost.  With the opening of Pink Noize on North Bridge Road in March, and with recent renovations at BluJaz’s third floor, we see that there are still people dedicated to fighting it out.

RIP Home Club.

by Ale Launech

These Brittle Bones: “I don’t want to impress people”

Chris Jones, of These Brittle Bones, often has people tell him that he has an ‘old soul’. “I find it extremely annoying,” sighs the Singapore-based Welsh singer-songwriter, who began putting out records from his bedroom when he was twelve. It does seem that young musicians are frequently subject to this sort of trite remark when they display talent or depth ‘beyond their years’ – it’s practically inescapable.

It’s impressive, no doubt, that at fifteen Chris has risen to some fame within the local scene. “But I don’t want to impress people,” Chris counters, “I want people to be able to connect to my music.” The irony here is that Chris’ age helps to draw attention to his music, yet at the same time has an effect on the way his music is perceived. But he doesn’t want to be patted on the head and praised: he wants a real emotional response.

People might do better to stop reacting so effusively to Chris’ ‘precociousness’, and react instead to the actual music. Take These Brittle Bones’ latest single, ‘Hollow’, which was reworked from an earlier and less polished version. When asked what it’s about, he replies obliquely: “it’s about being in this place, and you can see something but you’re not quite able to get it, something intangible.” What Chris is hinting at is that there’s something deeper, and perhaps symbolic that lies in between the lines – it can’t quite be grasped or verbalised easily, it’s more internally felt, more visceral. “I don’t usually like to give specific meanings, I like to be quite implicit,” he adds. His lyrics are certainly ambiguous, but they are also inexplicably evocative.

For Chris, it’s important for his songs to be affective, to stir up depths, to strike a chord. “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,” he states firmly. An avid reader, Chris also has a particular liking for the works of Edgar Allan Poe; whether coincidentally or not, the celebrated Romantic poet was part of a movement which emphasised the value of emotion and intuition in art.

“Sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.”

Three years have gone by since the release of These Brittle Bones’ debut, self-produced EP ‘Leaving the Woods’, and a lot has changed since then: the bedroom recording has been upgraded to studio production, and These Brittle Bones now play live as a band. “I’ve grown up a lot,” Chris muses, “I’ve had a lot of experiences musically, and even socially – to become a better person.” And now that Chris has ‘grown up’, he has developed a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve as a songwriter, how he wants his music to sound, rather than leave it to his producers.

“I want to have full control,” he confesses. “It’s quite selfish… But sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.” Chris is quick to add that “it’s not all the time I’m sure of the meaning myself – it just happens”. The idea is that in order for it to be able to ‘happen’, he needs the creative freedom to be able to explore what he wants on his own, not to always have to be accountable to his collaborators.

It’s because of this that Chris is contemplating going back to what this project originally was, going back to where it all started: self-produced, home recording. “I find that I’m a lot more creative when I’m recording in the bedroom,” he explains, “Rather than in the clinical space of the studio where there’s no windows, no daylight or anything.” But the difference is that Chris is no longer an amateur newly inducted into the world of Garageband; he’s bringing the experiences that he’s accrued in the studio and on stage back to his bedroom. Going further, he’s also planning to draw on the unique advantages of home recording, to “experiment with how you can use background noise and atmospherics to build on to the music, rather than have absolute silence”.

 “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,”

It’s an exciting time for These Brittle Bones, with a new approach to production, a new release in the works – he’s even got a new piano in his bedroom. He’s come a long way since he first started out, and now is the time to take things to the next level, to push the envelope and break new ground, to “do something that I’ve never done before”. Chris’ age may disadvantage him in some ways, but ultimately, it’s because he started young that he’s been able to learn more and develop himself more fully as a musician, taking the time to figure out what he wants, and where he wants to go from here.

By Li Shuen Lam

Passport #1: Amadou and Mariam – Dimanche à Bamako

Passport is a new series on Other Sounds that scours far-away places for records of note. We start off with Amadou and Mariam’s Dimanche à Bamako from landlocked Mali, a former French colony in West Africa that since 2012 has once more been embroiled in conflict.

Malian music, like many of its African counterparts, is deeply political. Given the country’s long tradition of oral history passed down through griots, it is not hard to see why music is both a source of aesthetic pleasure and a tool of mass communication for Malians. Nowhere is this more evident than in the nationalistic desert blues of the Tuareg group Tinariwen and the charged lyrics of Mali’s hip hop scene.

Where do the soulful husband-and-wife duo of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia fit in this milieu, then? Many of the tracks they have recorded on earlier albums have often explored the love that they share (‘Je Pense à Toi’ and ‘Mon Amour, Ma Chérie’ are classic examples) and they have only occasionally delved into commentary on socio-economic issues (‘Pauvre Type’). The territory that this blind couple from Mali seems to be most comfortable in is mostly defined by the light-hearted and danceable.

On Dimanche à Bamako, however, Amadou and Mariam’s honest blues-inspired tunes meet the activist fusions of Franco-Iberian singer Manu Chao. Chao, who produced and performed on the album, has lent much to the energetic vibe it possesses in comparison to Amadou and Mariam’s older work. You will hear lyrics about immigration and identity, African street soundscapes and a whole variety of synth touches from sirens to simulated audience roars – these are elements Chao is well-known for.

Chao’s fingerprints thankfully complement rather than drown out Amadou and Mariam’s soul on this record. The opener ‘M’bifé’ recaps the duo’s established form with delicate strumming backed by male harmonies, while its instrumental counterpart ‘M’bifé (Balafon)’ is a frenetic track by Chao that lays the groundwork for the jumpier ‘La Réalité’ and ‘Sénégal Fast Food’. This memorable pair of tracks is steeped in a sense of duality that spans both time and place, bridging Amadou and Mariam’s music directly to the francophone African diaspora.

Dimanche does not deliver body-blows with the politics it deals with, but ‘La Paix’ and ‘Politic Amagni’ are much more direct in their messages than past attempts. Where the album really shines in making a statement comes directly from its title, translated as Sunday in Bamako, which makes for the most satisfying reading of the entire record – a cross-section of urban life in Mali’s capital, a city torn between the modern and traditional. Bamako has much to be proud of in this portrayal, and in the starkness of its present troubles, Dimanche would undoubtedly serve as a comfort.

9/10

Listen to: ‘M’bifé’, ‘La Réalité’, ‘Sénégal Fast Food’

M’bifé:
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw3cy0C4NnM[/youtube]

By Manoj Harjani

Muthafucka I’m Ill: Hip-hop as a medium for mental disorders

You all know how it’s been; Ever since Kanye “…so the world could feel his pain!” West blew up the rap scene in 2004 with his debut record The College Dropout, the conscious rap that the likes of Aceyalone, Common and Talib Kweli have been rapping over the last decade took on a whole new look, feel and level: now, not just conscious but self-conscious, much of popular rap has flipped its script and went introspective and retrospective. It’s gone from self-appraisal to self-abasement, from Diddy “Bad Boy for Life” to Drake “What Am I Doing?”.

Bar a few exceptions (e.g. Lil Wayne), even the most pompous of rappers now remember to keep their self-awareness in view – who would imagine Black Album-era Jay-Z, notwithstanding the Nirvana reference, calling himself “stupid and contagious”?

But where Kanye West has dealt with the god complex, newer off-radar rappers have taken the self-conscious rap ideology to a whole new different level, not just identifying but even embodying mental issues and disorders within their sound and image.

Driven by the near-inevitable rapper’s drug addiction, Danny Brown personifies his ailments into his music, flipping his voice from the deliriously high-pitched peak-outs to the painfully sober down-lows, as he raps between (in the former voice) literally shitting all over recording booths and (in the latter) trying to smoke his depression away. And as much as Childish Gambino may deny it, his Instagram letter antics, coupled with his Because the Internet album cover .gif, paint a picture of a comedian’s tragically ironic depression.

And they’re not even the best examples. The still-marginally-controversial Odd Future ring leader Tyler, the Creator, despite all his current wild successes and fame, started off as a spitefully maniacal teenager murderously angry at the world for… what, exactly? The answer is explicit in Tyler’s Wolf cut ‘Answer’ – his dad “not being there fire-started [Tyler’s] damn career”. Like Eminem before him, Tyler’s depression and frustration was cultivated by a troubled childhood. But much unlike Eminem, Tyler’s rage-fuelled stories delved into rape and (right after that) cannibalism.

Despite all the grotesque imagery (or because of it), misunderstood, antisocial teenagers from around the world found, perhaps, or hopefully, not relation, but understand where he’s coming from, and understand they could very well, harbouring at the deepest recesses of their fucked up minds, have such dark thoughts themselves.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW2lDWAIcwc[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]Actually, psychologically, depression tends to lead to extreme tiredness, or not wanting do anything at all just about forever. Modern hipster-hop has got that covered too, in the 16-year-old white Swedish rapper Yung Lean, who, with producers Yung Sherman and Yung Gud, form Sad Boys. They try to pit a Main Attrakionz-esque flow with cloud / trill / trap beats and end up sounding like a not-so-wild-for-the-night A$AP Rocky.

In fact, even though they usually rap about getting bitches / doing drugs, Yung Lean’s not-even-trying delivery and the accompanying clouded beats come across as more passive-aggressively… sad. Yung Lean even says it himself on ‘Lightsaber // Saviour’: “I’m on the floor crying, crying / Why do I gotta be alive / I ain’t about that life / I ain’t about that life”.

That’s not to say they’re all lame – along with their vaporwave-influenced image, Sad Boys are at the forefront of what’s cool in the post-swag landscape, the next big are-you-serious thing in rap after Das Racist’s ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’, where the medium is the message and not much else at all. And what’s the message? Beats me, but they’re definitely reflecting a group of fashionably depressed Tumblr-core hipsters who constantly nod back to their childhood with 90’s cartoon .gif’s and Windows 98 screen-savers.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stgrSjynPKs[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]The most extreme and prominent example however, would be the Sacramento hip-hop (?) act Death Grips. While some claim that their brand of industrial-influenced rap has already been done by experimental hip-hoppers dälek, they miss the vital difference that really defines Death Grips, which is their schizophrenia-induced (or -inducing!) sound, cultivated mainly through, among the dissonant production, MC Ride’s mad pseudo-rap screams, which at times recall an unkempt homeless man’s incessant word salads.

In Death Grips’ lyrics (made accessible through the band’s uploading of accompanying lyrics in their YouTube video descriptions), we see lines like “Cobra spit over apocalyptic cult killer cauldron smoke”, or “World of dogs gone mad / Above the law in your ass / Fire trash meltdown I’m not here / I’m world of dogs infrared”.

Of course it could all be an act, and of course all those word mishmashes could provide some insight, but that doesn’t discount the image that Death Grips give off. It’s clearly disturbed music and a clear-cut case of mental disorders being channelled through the highly-malleable, highly-personalised medium of hip-hop.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2cQvZPX3OY[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]Rap has always been the message of the masses, reflecting the social attitudes of the people themselves. So when personal issues become bigger, more worldly relatable problems than the political conflicts of Public Enemy or the oppressed rage of N.W.A., what more mental issues and debilitating sensations could we see becoming more prominent in the field? ADHD? Nausea? Insomnia? Or even, allegedly, Asperger’s syndrome?

Whatever way it is, these examples are evidence that hip-hop continues to evolve, even more so than other genres, into not just different sounds, but different psychological states of mind. That’s probably what makes hip-hop what it is today – relatable on all fronts, or, in Yung Lean’s words: “so real you can call me reality” – or perhaps, has it always been that way and not just today? Check out this list of rappers with mental disorders. Or this Wikipedia article on how mental disorders can lead to creativity. Even Lil Wayne insists, “Muthafucka I’m ill”. And in spite of the connotations of their lingo, maybe they all are indeed.

By BJ Lim

Saskwatch rise up with new album ‘Nose Dive’

On the eve of dropping their new album Nose Dive, Saskwatch member Liam McGorry caught up with Other Sounds to chat about how nine kids went from busking on city corners to sharing an arena with the Rolling Stones.

The past two years since releasing their debut Leave It All Behind have been fuelled by ambition and filled with endless nights of writing and performing. After scorching stages across Australia, the UK and Europe — Nose Dive has proven that the hard work has paid off.

OS: There are nine of you – so the obvious place to start is: how did you all find each other and get together?
L: Most of us met studying music at uni. We used to busk for change outside Flinders St Station in the city once a week on a Friday.

The soul attitude of your music seems to pay homage to the swing and RnB originals. You have managed to give the spirit of the greats an upgrade into the 21st century. How do you manage to entangle these worlds?
I think personally just growing up Melbourne in the mid 2000s and going to see gigs, there were a lot of great ‘soul’-inspired bands. Seeing bands like The Bamboos, The Cat Empire and Dynamo were great because they fused soul with rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk and many other types of music.

“… There’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.”

There seems to be a soul revival in the works on an international scale. Who inspires you?
Daptone Records, Lee Fields, Primal Scream. These days, hearing bands like Alabama Shakes, Dr Dog, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys all play soul in their own way is really great. I guess we just listen to lots of music.

The new album is launching today. You have given us a taste by releasing the new single, ‘Born To Break Your Heart.’ The single seems a bit more reserved compared to the previous collection of songs on ‘Leave it All Behind’ which you released in 2012. What can we expect from the album?
I think the album is a bit more well-rounded this time. There’s a bit more light and shade, and a bit more range in terms of emotion, dynamics and sound. I think it takes on some new influences from the bands above, and there’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSGlfcP6A2Y[/youtube]

As a collective, you have brought together an eclectic style. Since you have been working together for four years now, have each of you acquired a role in the group?
I think over time, just working together, everyone really has acquired their own role. One person looks after the merchandise, writes songs, organises everyone, brings up a idea about live set… It’s just happened pretty organically, really!

Do you think that Nose Dive reflects the always-evolving maturity of the group?
I think it is something we’re all really proud of, to be honest. I think our main goal really was to just try and make a better album than the last.

Your live shows have been described as “electrifying.” The energy and vibe of the show is always high – how does this translate from the writing and recording process you go through? Are your live shows a reflection of the creative process?
I guess it is pretty similar to shows because most of the time we record live. There will always be little issues that we’ll go back and work on pretty thoroughly, in the rehearsal room and the studio. But I guess the only time it’s different is just the writing itself.

You have quickly become an international name and have graced stages from Meredith and Falls Festival in Australia to BlackisBack in Europe — not to mention Glastonbury, arguably the most recognised festival in the world. What was the highlight of these amazing globe-trotting tours?
There have been many; personally, Meredith for sure. BlackisBack was definitely one as well. To be honest, it’s probably Glastonbury. Its scale is just ridiculous and it was just an incredible experience.

One of our shows there, we started playing on a very small stage halfway through the [Rolling] Stones’ set. We would finish a song and hear the intro to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in the distance. It was surreal… and when they finished, we had about 5,000 walk past and stop and watch us. It was amazing.

“… It is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6.00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.”

With such a massive year behind you and the ‘Nose Dive’ tour approaching, how do you all keep your cool during down-time?
I just think we’re all very lucky to have done half of this stuff. But it is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6:00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.

You had your breakout residency at the iconic Cherry Bar in Melbourne. With great venues like The Empress and The Great Britain closing down – and organisations like SLAM (Save Live Music Australia) trying to save them, what do you think the future holds for indie bands in Melbourne?
Obviously more has to be done to save these great venues. At the same time, the future is still bright with new ones like Boney and Shebeen opening up as well. I think Melbourne has such a great musical culture it will be fine. The people can’t do without music.

Looking toward the rest of the year – what does 2014 have in store for Saskwatch?
We’ll be touring Nose Dive a little later in the year around Australia and hopefully getting back overseas as well. And working on the next album too.

By Lucy McPherson

Order ‘Nose Dive’, the new album from Saskwatch, here.