Posts Tagged ‘Jim Sclavunos’

“Welcome Back To Milk” is the studio album by Beth Jeans Houghton and the first for her under the project  Du Blonde, released in the United Kingdom on 18th May 2015 by Mute Records. The album was written, composed, and performed by Du Blonde and produced by Bad Seed and Grinderman member Jim Sclavunos.

Du Blonde is not a persona or a character, it’s then 25 year old Beth Jeans Houghton ripping it up and starting again. Welcome Back To Milk is the Newcastle-born and sometimes Californian based singer’s second album, but her debut as Du Blonde, and it’s a complete reinvention: new name, new sound, new band, new attitude. Where 2012’s debut Yours Truly Cellophane Nose threw everything at a song, Welcome Back To Milk strips everything back and is one massive release of pent up aggression, captured perfectly by Jim Sclavunos. Heavy riffs, loud drums, vocal snarls contrast beautifully with more poignant balladry and tenderness that fans of Houghton’s previous work will recognise. Future Islands frontman Samuel T Herring also provides guest vocals on My Mind Is On My Mind. Our first taste of Houghton’s latest project is a confident and brilliantly delivered collection of songs. What she does next really is anyone’s guess – perhaps she doesn’t even know herself. Ultimately, though, I guess this complete lack of predictability is a big part of what makes Beth Jeans Houghton such a great artist.

This would appear to be Beth Jeans Houghton’s vision, from start to finish. She’s credited with song writing and vocals (obviously) but also with playing many of the instruments too. No small undertaking then. What you get is intelligent and cutting songcraft. The words (and the way they’re presented) have been honed and re- honed to perfection. There’s a fine intellect at work here. For me (and these things are always personal taste), the simpler arrangements worked best, just piano and voice. There’s a real intimacy and baring of the soul in this album, and it’s done with total honesty and conviction. After Beth Jeans Houghton’s debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’s release in 2012, she and the band toured extensively, performed at high-profile musical events, including Glastonbury, The Great Escape, Latitude and Bestival.

In November 2012, midway through recording the follow-up in Los Angeles with The Hooves of Destiny, the crisis broke out.  “When I listened back to what we’d recorded, I didn’t see any of myself in it… None of it was angry, none of it was sad. I wasn’t being true to myself,” the singer said, speaking to The Observer. She broke up the band and ditched her name, opting for a different sound, described as “spiky, propulsive” and “exhilarating.” This drastic move had been preceded by a breakdown she had in the summer of 2012 in a Zurich hotel room, during a European tour. “I felt my head go. It was the scariest thing. It felt like my brain was melting,” Houghton remembered. After several months of dieting and meditating she completely recovered.

“This is a new sound, a new project. Du Blonde is a new incarnation and one step closer to assuming my ultimate form. Having freed myself from the rusty and bloody shackles of Beth Jeans Houghton – both musically and spiritually – I felt it only right to step forth under a new name and let the rituals commence,” Houghton stated, explaining the moniker conversion. Asked what has prevented her from playing louder on Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, Du Blonde said: “I think a lot of it had to do with the way I learnt how to write and play guitar. I taught myself, and therefore had no concept of time signatures and keys, so often my songs would turn out pretty experimental because, well, they were experiments… Due to the complex or odd nature of the songs I was writing, putting distortion on things just didn’t work. To make the best of a raw, overdriven sound, I needed to keep it simple, which is only something I learned once I had a better grasp on chord progressions and rhythms.

There aren’t many musicians in the country as creative and as interesting as her at this point in time, and “Welcome Back To Milk” represents another triumph in her weird and wonderful saga.“ So BJH ditched the hooves, went blonde and hitched her wagon to a brand new edgier sound. Good for her, so it seems. Sold to the fish in the corner on the chorus alone, with it’s epic drum/guitar mash-up, she’s got one hell of a vocal range that wallops a whole range of emotions into orbit.

Would recommend her new album Lung Bread for Daddy as well.