Posts Tagged ‘John Grant’

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The big records releases from Kurt Vile, John Grant, St Vincent and at last The Lucid Dream plus loads of fantastic reissues from Mute and Dark Entries (that Eric Random is amazing) and the next David Bowie box set. Among new artists with records you should be listening too goes to Anna St. Louis, I have to say that I hadn’t heard her before but when I saw the press release compare her to Loretta Lynn, Townes Van Zandt and John Fahey I had to give it a spin. It is sooooooo good. Easily eyeing up a top spot in our albums of the year list. Its one of those records that everyone asks who it is when you hear a song, each track gets better as it goes along until when the album finishes you have just got to stick it straight back on.
I love records that are a surprise and I think you will love it too.

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St. Vincent – Masseducation

A year on (to the week) from the release of the critically acclaimed Masseduction album, St. Vincent releases re-imagined piano versions of the album. Performed with Thomas Bartlett over two days in a studio in Midtown Manhattan, August 2017.

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Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

Kurt Vile is back with his first record in three years, the eclectic and electrifying Bottle It In, which he recorded at various studios around America over two very busy years, during sessions that usually punctuated the ends of long tours or family road trips.

Every song, whether it’s a concise and catchy pop composition or a sprawling guitar epic, becomes a journey unto itself, taking unexpected detours, circuitous melodic avenues, or open-highway solos. If Vile has become something of a rock guitar god—a mantle he would dismiss out of humility but also out of a desire to keep getting better, to continue absorbing new music, new sounds, new ideas—it’s due to his precise, witty playing style, which turns every riff and rhythm into points on a map and takes the scenic route from one to the next.

Using past albums as points of departure, Bottle It In heads off in new directions, pushing at the edges of the map into unexplored territory: Here be monster jams. These songs show an artist who is still evolving and growing: a songwriter who, like his hero John Prine, can make you laugh and break your heart, often in the same line, as well as a vocalist who essentially rewrites those songs whenever he sings them in his wise, laconic jive-talkin’ drawl. He revels in the minutiae of the music— not simply incorporating new instruments but emphasizing how they interact with his guitar and voice, how the glockenspiel evokes cirrocumulus clouds on Hysteria, how Kim Gordon’s “acoustic guitar distortion” (her term) engulfs everything at the end of Mutinies, how the banjo curls around his guitar lines and backing vocals from Lucius to lend a high-lonesome aura to Come Again.

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John Grant  –  Love Is Magic

With his fourth solo album, Love Is Magic, Grant has continued evolving, creating his most electronic record yet.

In collaboration with Benge (Ben Edwards), analogue synth expert / collector and a member of electronic trio Wrangler, Grant’s collaborators earlier this year under the collective name of Creep Show on the album Mr Dynamite. Anyone familiar with Grant’s story will recognise his battles – with addiction and health, with trusting love and relationships. From this turbulence he’s forged another riveting collection of often brutal diatribes and confessionals, where humour, fear, anxiety and anger overlap as Grant, with trademark candour, figuratively exposes the machinations of his saturated brain. It’s epitomised by the album’s brilliant opener Metamorphosis, almost as if his warring psyches are facing up to one another, as impervious synth-pop and brain-on-fire imagery (“Tiki bar, rat soufflé, Buik regal, Marvin Gaye”) melts into dream-ballad introspection (“Questions left unanswered, spiritual extortion”) and back to synth-backed mania. The magic of love pervades in two gorgeous, magisterial ballads toward the end of the album,Is He Strange and The Common Snipe – referring to the wader bird that makes a unique ‘bleating’ sound by rubbing its tailfeathers together.

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David Bowie  –  Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988)

The box contains newly remastered versions of David’s most commercially successful period Let’s Dance, Tonight, Never Let Me Down (Original and 2018 Versions), the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87)’, the previously unreleasedSerious Moonlight live album, a collection of original remixes entitled Dance and the non-album / alternate version / b-sides and soundtrack music compilation Re:Call 4. The highlight of this latest box is the brand new production of the 1987 album Never Let Me Down by Bowie producer / engineer Mario McNulty with new instrumentation by Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels (guitar), David Torn (guitar), Sterling Campbell (drums), Tim Lefebvre (bass) as well as string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly and a guest cameo by Laurie Anderson on Shining Star (Makin’ My Love). The seeds of this new reimagining of the albums were first sown in 2008 when David asked Mario McNulty to remix the track Time Will Crawl and record new drums by longtime Bowie drummer, Sterling Campbell along with strings. The track was issued on the iSelect compilation to much acclaim, and in the notes, for that record, David remarked ‘Oh, to redo the rest of that album’. The new re-workings have revealed Never Let Me Down as a very strong collection of songs with a dark thematic thread running through them. Fans listening to Never Let Me Down (2018)would be forgiven for thinking that they were listening to a brand new ‘lost’ Bowie record. Also in each box is the never before released Serious Moonlight live album recorded in Montreal in 1983. Originally mixed at the time by Bob Clearmountain, the double album captures Bowie on what at that time was his most successful tour. The artwork features shots taken by photographer Denis O’Regan. Exclusive to each box is Re:Call 4 and Dance. The former a new compilation featuring remastered contemporary single versions, non-album singles, album edits, b-sides and songs featured on soundtracks such as Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners and When The Wind Blows. Dance features 12 contemporaneous remixes some of which are appearing on CD and vinyl for the first time and is named after an unreleased Bowie remix album that was originally slated for release in November 1985. The box set’s accompanying 128 page book features rarely seen and previously unpublished photos by photographers including Denis O’Regan, Greg Gorman, Herb Ritts and many others as well as historical press reviews and technical notes about the albums from producers / engineers Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham, Mario McNulty and Justin Shirley-Smith.

11CD – The CD box set includes faithfully reproduced mini-vinyl versions of the original albums, and the CDs are gold coloured rather than the usual silver. Includes 128 Page hardback book. Let’s Dance (remastered) (1CD) Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2CD) Tonight (remastered) (1CD) Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1CD) Never Let Me Down 2018(previously unreleased) (1CD)* Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (2CD) Dance (1CD)* Re:Call 4(non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (2CD)*

* Exclusive to Loving The Alien (1983-1988)

15LP – LP Box Set includes a 88 Page hardback book. Let’s Dance (remastered) (1LP) Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2LP)* Tonight(remastered) (1LP) Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1LP) Never Let Me Down (2018) (previously unreleased) (2LP – side 4 is etched)* Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (previously unreleased on vinyl) (3LP)* Dance(2LP)* Re:Call 4 (non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (3LP)*

* Exclusive to Loving The Alien (1983-1988) LP box.

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Primal Scream  –  Give Out But Don’t Give Up – The Original Memphis Recordings

In 1993 Primal Scream went to Memphis to make an album with Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, that album never saw the light of day, until now. Following the recent discovery of these tracks in a box lurking in Andrew Innes’ basement, Primal Scream release the original studio recordings from Memphis of the tracks that eventually became their 1994 album Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Teaming up with legendary producer Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section of David Hood (bass) and Roger Hawkins (drums) at Ardent Studios in Memphis, the resulting recordings from those classic sessions showcase the more country soul, rock’n’roll side to a band who continue to surprise. It’s Primal Scream as you’ve never heard them before. Dowd’s deft production, coupled with the merging of this sublime rhythm section and one of the UK’s best ever bands, led to the creation of nine glorious tracks that run the gamut between blues, gospel and brilliant songwriting, available for the first time.

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Elvis Costello and The Imposters  –  Look Now

Costello returns with his first new collection of songs since his Wise Up Ghost collaboration with The Roots in 2013. It features The Imposters (bassist Davey Faragher along with original Attractions members, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve). The album was co produced by Costello with Latin Grammys winner Sebastian Krys. Two standout tracks are Under Lime and Unwanted Number. The former is a spry, heavily textured pop rocker with Beatles-esque harmonies and horn arrangements on which Costello sings, “It’s a long way down from that high horse you’re on.” The latter is more low-key and boasts a soul groove and lush backup vocals, which allows Costello to belt lyrics about enduring a sour relationship. “I knew if we could make an album with the scope of Imperial Bedroom and some of the beauty and emotion of Painted From Memory, we would really have something,” Costello said in a statement, referring to the 1982 album he recently revisited on the road and his collaboration with songwriter Burt Bacharach. Bacharach co-wrote a few songs on Look Now, and sat in on piano with the Imposters on two of them, Don’t Look Now and Photographs Can Lie. Costello wrote another Look Now song, Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter, with Carole King.

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Arc Iris – Icon of Ego

Arc Iris releases Icon Of Ego, its third groundbreaking album, as a trio that packs the heft of a far bigger band with fully realized sonic and visual intensity. On this latest album, vocalist / guitarist Jocie Adams, keyboardist / sample artist Zach Tenorio-Miller and drummer Ray Belli have crafted a vividly expressionistic new album that reflects both the group’s protean talents as well as its journey of survival. After its self-named 2014 debut on the nti- label, Arc Iris achieved critical acclaim, along with tours with St. Vincent and Jeff Tweedy and festivals like Bonnaroo followed. Within two years, the band self-released Moon Saloon in the US while Bella Union released the album in Europe. Tours supporting Kimbra, Gene Ween, and a complete re-imagination of Joni
Mitchell’s Blue performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center followed, which added to a growing, international fan base that has remained dedicated throughout.Icon of Ego finds a stronger, more experienced band. Recording at Providence’s Columbus Theater, home to silent movies and vaudeville during the ’20s, the band has evolved into a concentrated pop-prog explosion, mixing styles with disparate elements that captivate and surprise. With heavy synthesizer work by Tenorio and Adams, and seemingly impossible transitions executed effortlessly by Belli, the songs here carry a thick, analog electronic sound that harks back to the ’70s. Presiding over these are Adams’ powerful vocals that house the energy under pop forms.

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The Lucid Dream – Actualisation

The Lucid Dream return with the release of their 4th album, Actualisation. Driven by fans raising £10,000 to help replace all equipment robbed after a Paris show in early 2017, a new album became the instant focus in the summer of 2017 for a rejuvenated The Lucid Dream. Actualisation is soaked in the influence of acid house, amalgamated with dub and kosmische. The album was penned over the summer of 2017 by Mark Emmerson (vocals/guitar/synths), using only the classic Roland 303/808 synths, bass and vocals as tools for writing. Inspiration for the writing was formed via continuous listening to the Chicago to UK acid house works of 1986-1992, the focus predominantly on the groove. Several months on from those writing sessions and The Lucid Dream have completed their 4th album in 5 years. A record made for the dancefloor. Recorded at Whitewood Studios, Liverpool, with Rob Whiteley, the album is produced alongside long-time collaborator Ross Halden (Ghost Town Studios, Leeds), with mastering via Dean Honer (All Seeing I/I Monster/The Moonlandingz). The confrontational techno-punk of Alone In Fear opens the album, a 9-minute attack fuelled by the frustration and anger spawned by Brexit, government and a realisation of what 2018 Britain currently is. Recent single SX1000 (the first work from the album, unveiled via 12′ vinyl in April this year) is the band’s first move into pure acid house. The acid house fusion runs throughout the record, represented furthermore by Ardency, a track already praised by live critics when aired live for the first time earlier this year as ‘even on first hearing, would’ve raised the roof of The Hacienda’. The 2-part opus of Zenith follows, commencing with a space-dub / house instrumental groove before building into a track that will go for your head as much as your hips. Only Breakdown harks back to sounds of old for the band, a little reminder of the skull-crushing impact they can make when stripped to the bare bones. No Sunlight Dub closes the album, a dark-dub that invites the classic acid-house tool (Roland 808) into the dub. The track makes a stop-off into drum ‘n’ bass / jungle along the way before rounding up in a manner suited to Lee Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo and other Jamaican greats.

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Anna St Louis  –  If Only There Was a River

If Only There Was A River is the first full-length studio album from Anna St. Louis. The songwriter, who originally hails from Kansas City, began writing songs after moving to Los Angeles five years ago and has previously released a cassette of recordings on Woodsist / Mare Records, appropriately titled First Songs. On her proper debut, St. Louis spreads her wings and expands on the promise hinted at on First Songs. To achieve that end, she enlisted Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) and Kevin Morby to produce the album, which was engineered by Thomas in his home in Mount Washington, LA. The collection of eleven songs also features Justin Sullivan (Night Shop) on drums and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo). While hints of influences like Loretta Lynn, John Fahey and Townes Van Zandt peek out of the corners of the songs, this album is not a nostalgic affair. Rather it marks the emergence of an artist fully coming into their own.

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The KVB  –  Only Now Forever

The KVB release their sixth album, entitled Only Now Forever via Invada Records. Whilst holding evident inspiration from previous times, the sound this London-founded duo present is progressive and distinctly new in every sense. Idyllic at times; gritty in others, each bar is as enchanting as the last, leaving you in a melancholic trance. Offering poignant lyricism that explores modern anxieties that plague many, the duo manage to imbue feelings of empowerment, fighting such struggles with a deceivingly sanguine sound. This seamless juxtaposition is perhaps their best trait. Will appeal to fans of Depeche Mode, The Soft Moon, New Order, Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine.

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The KVB  –  Of Desire

The fifth album from UK darkwave duo The KVB is released on Invada Records. Of Desire is Kat Day and Nicholas Wood’s second release on Portishead member Geoff Barrow’s Bristol-based label. It follows a string of releases for operations like Downwards, Minimal Wave sublabel Cititrax and Ukraine’s ~taqueOT, most of which explored a moody shoegaze aesthetic. The recording of In Deep saw the The KVB raid Portishead and BEAK> man Geoff Barrow’s synth collection, as well as roping in Sonic Boom to master it. Their most fully formed record and considered in terms of dynamics, arrangements and instrumentation, taking in influences such as Death In Vegas, Scott Walker and Roxy Music, The KVB have managed to create something that is at once familiar and yet inventive and original.

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Cocteau Twins – Treasure Hiding: The Fontana Years

There was perhaps a sense, after a while, that the world was taking The Cocteau Twins for granted. Late Eighties reviews had routinely described them as The Voice of God, yet 4AD, concerned that we’d get tired of appreciating the rarefied genius which shimmered in front of our noses, would keep reminding us that they were truly special. The irony was that The Cocteaus were themselves evolving, morphing, reconstituting and taking on new shapes. This wasn’t widely registered at the time. It can be now, as The Fontana Years demonstrates a musical marvel which still makes your ears feel like they’re sucking citrus fruits after years of licking ashtrays, while the rings of Saturn crash-land in your front room. This 4-CD set brings together the two albums the band recorded for Fontana along with B-Sides, EP’s, Radio One sessions and the odd rarity. The set was mastered at Abbey Road from the original tapes and approved by Robin Guthrie. Housed in a study box designed by James Issacs – the booklet contains photos a discography from the era as well as a sleeve note by noted author Chris Roberts.

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Beta Band  –  The Three Eps (20th Anniversary Remaster)

Arguably one of the most acclaimed and loved bands of the past 20 years, by both fans and their musical peers alike, The Beta Band formed in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1996. Innovative and singular, their unique musical and aesthetic approach to everything they did set them far apart from their musical contemporaries. Together for a relatively short period of time, the three albums and three EPs they released between 1996 and 2004 would nonetheless help define them as one of the most exciting and cherished bands of their generation. After acquiring the Beta Band’s catalogue last year, Because Music reissue their releases, with a double vinyl edition featuring the EPs Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Soundand Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos with remastered tracks and coloured vinyls, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 compilation.

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Tokyo Police Club  – TPC

If the universe had tilted the tiniest bit, there would be no TPC – the not-quite self-titled fourth (and best) Tokyo Police Club album. By 2016, singer-bassist and chief songwriter Dave Monks had settled into life in New York City; he made a solo record and did some co-writing. Drummer Greg Alsop was living and working in L.A. Keyboard player Graham Wright and guitarist Josh Hook remained in the band’s native Canada. Tokyo Police Club created songs via e-mail, thinking they had enough natural chemistry and experience to make that setup work. But eventually, the lack of friction meant there was less musical spark, and it dawned on everybody that the end was near. There was resignation, not anger, when Wright, Alsop, and Hook told Monks they were done with the band. After putting aside the idea of splitting up and back-burnering their commercial expectations, there was just one thing left to do: go to church. Specifically a church in rural Ontario, where the foursome could recapture the energy of their early years by playing in a room together. Songs that Monks had written were abandoned when they didn’t feel right for this new energy, and TPC started to take shape, built on camaraderie and esprit de corps.

Monks’ friends could once again help shape his songs into TPC songs, and the batch that ended up on the record aren’t quite like anything they’d done before. Album opener New Blues signals that Tokyo Police Club doesn’t need a racing tempo to introduce themselves; Pigs takes a sneering look at record-business politics; Simple Dude is unabashedly horny. Not giving a fuck—or, more accurately, only giving a fuck about those things closest to your heart—paid off. It’s the channeling of energy, which flows into every song on TPC, that makes the record their best. They’re through being cool, through doubting themselves, and through wasting time on ancillary things. TPC is self-titled, almost, because it’s Tokyo Police Club circa 2018—scarred but smarter, fully re-energized.

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Peter Holsapple vs Alex Chilton – The Death Of Rock

Newly discovered recordings of early solo Peter Holsapple and Like Flies On Sherbert–era Alex Chilton. Liner notes by Peter Holsapple and author / filmmaker, Robert Gordon. Previously unseen photos from the collections of Peter Holsapple and Pat Rainer. It’s 1978 at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, TN. Peter Holsapple had rolled into town chasing the essence of Big Star. He hooked up with musician / engineer / friend-of-Big-Star, Richard Rosebrough after approaching, and being turned down by, Chris Bell who Holsapple had hoped might be interested in producing him. Together Richard and Peter started laying down tracks during the off hours at the studio. Chilton meanwhile, was knee deep in the making ofLike Flies On Sherbert, also being tracked at Phillips. He told Peter, “I heard some of that stuff you’re working on with Richard . . . and it really sucks.” Alex promised to come by and show Peter “how it’s done.” The results? Alex’s tracks definitely line up with the chaos found on Flies, while several of Peter’s songs found homes on The dB’s albums (Bad Reputationand We Were Happy There) and on an album by The Troggs (The Death Of Rock retooled as I’m In Control), so not a loss at all. What we have in these newly discovered tapes, is a fascinating pivot point with both artists moving past each other headed in distinctly different directions. Chilton moved toward punk/psychobilly as he began playing with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns and produced The Cramps debut, Songs The Lord Taught Us, within a few months of these recordings. Holsapple was off to New York to audition for The dB’s and enter the world of “sweet pop.” Liner notes by Peter Holsapple tell the story of these recordings firsthand and author / filmmaker / Memphian, Robert Gordon, helps pull the time and place into focus. Previously unseen photos included in the package are drawn from the collections of Peter Holsapple and Pat Rainer. Produced by Cheryl Pawelski with mastering by Mike Graves at Osiris Studio and Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl / Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, who brings it all right back to where it started.

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John Hiatt  –  The Eclipse Sessions

The Eclipse Sessions, John Hiatt’s newest album, offers up his strongest set of songs in years. Long celebrated as a skilled storyteller and keen observer of life’s twists and turns, Hiatt can get at the heart of a knotty emotion or a moment in time with just a sharp, incisive lyric or witty turn of phrase. The 11 tracks presented in The Eclipse Sessions, from the breezy opener Cry To Meto the stark Nothing In My Heart, the lost-love lamentation Aces Up Your Sleeve to the rollicking Poor Imitation Of God, demonstrate that the singer-songwriter, now 66, is only getting better with age, his guitar playing more rugged and rootsy, his words wiser and more wry. Hiatt goes all in with The Eclipse Sessions. There’s a grit to these songs – a craggy, perfectly-imperfect quality that colours every aspect of the performances, right down to Hiatt’s vocals, which are quite possibly his most raw and expressive to date. “They ain’t pretty, that’s for sure,” he says about the creaks and cracks that punctuate his phrases in songs like Poor Imitation Of God and One Stiff Breeze. “But I don’t mind a bit. All the catches and the glitches and the gruffness, that sounds right to me. That sounds like who I am.” The Eclipse Sessions is the sound of an artist not only living in but also capturing the moment.

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Spacemen 3 – Forged Prescriptions

Forged Prescriptions is a double album by Spacemen 3, containing alternative takes and demo versions of songs from their album The Perfect Prescription, plus some previously unreleased tracks. In his liner notes

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Jeff Buckley –  Live In Pilton UK, June 24, 1995

Recorded in Pilton, Somerset, England at the legendary Glastonbury Festival – running nearly 50 years now, since 1970 – on June 24, 1995, this is one of Jeff Buckley’s most famous live recordings. Raw, heavy, heartfelt, and deeply emotional, the set is comprised almost entirely of Buckley originals, mostly off of 1994’s Grace as well as one unreleased track and an unexpected cover of the MC5. Required live listening for any fan of this great 90s artist gone way too soon, who left only a small but nearly perfect legacy of recorded music.

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The Rolling Stones – The BBC Sessions 1963-1965

Amazing early live BBC recordings from The Rolling Stones, even including recordings made before the release of their first record. Essential stuff for any fan of the greatest rock and roll group of all-time, including a ton of their great early R&B and blues cover versions! Including early Stones classic covers like Memphis, TN, It’s All Over Now, and Hi-Heel Sneakers, this is a party on wax. Nothing beats early Stones with Mick and Keith wailing and the band as amped up as they ever were! Classic.

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Small Faces – The BBC Sessions 1965-1966

Collecting some of their earliest BBC sessions onto one disc this is Steve Marriott and his Small Faces at their absolute rocking R&B rave up best. Featuring classic originals like Watcha Gonna Do About It, E Too D, and Understanding, as well as killer covers of Motown and Otis Redding, this set is guaranteed to get you go-go’ing on the dancefloor. The greatest UK blue eyed R&B group of all-time at their live best.

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The Kinks – The BBC Sessions 1964-1967

Spanning tracks from the classic 1964 self-titled debut to their 1967 masterpiece Something Else by the Kinks, this collection features nearly two dozen Kinks klassics, recorded live on the BBC. With stunning sound quality and a near perfect group of songs, hear the Davies Bros and Co. at their live, raw best. From the psych-pop brilliance of David Watts to the foot-pounding R&B of All Day And All Of The Night this collection runs the full spectrum of The Kinks’ sound. Essential live cuts from one of the top British Invasion and psychedelic era groups!

This Weeks Releases —-
Anna St. Louis – If Only There Was A River – Woodist
Daniel Brandt – Channels – Erased Tapes (Indie Exclusive)
John Grant – Love Is Magic – Bella Union (Deluxe)
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In – Matador (Indie Exclusive)
Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love – Warp
Factory Floor – A Soundtrack For A Film – Heart Of Data (Indie Exclusive)
A Certain Ratio – The Graveyard & The Ballroom – Muts (Indie Exclusive)
Silicon Teens – Music For Parties – Mute
William Basinski & Lawrence English – Selva Oscura – Temporary Residence (Indie Exclusive)
Goatman – Rhythms – Rocket Recordings (Indie Exclusive)
Groundhogs – Blues Obituary – Fire Records (Indie Exclusive)
The Fall – I Am Kurious Orange – Beggars Banquet
Eric Random – A Boy Alone – Dark Entries
Talking Drums – Courage – Dark Entries
Cyrnai – To Subtle Drive – Dark Entries
Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe – Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe – A Recordings
Holger Czukay – Rome Remains Rome – Gronland
Holger Czukay – Der Osten Ist Rot – Gronland
Haley – Pleasureland – Memphis Industries (Indie Exclusive)
Exek – A Casual Assembly – Superior Viaduct

 

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John Grant announces UK and European headline shows for Autumn

After putting the finishing touches to his long–awaited fourth solo LP, John Grant has a run of UK and European live dates throughout October and November, including his first ever Brixton Academy performance in London. Ahead of this Grant performed at this year’s Green Man and Edinburgh festivals in August.

Its been a busy two and a half years for Grant since the release of 2015’s all–conquering Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Last year saw him program his first ever music festival with the North Atlantic Flux in Hull, followed by a much celebrated appearance alongside Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and Susanne Sundfor at the Royal Albert Hall performing the songs of Scott Walker. More recently he released the critically acclaimed album Mr Dynamiteas part of Creep Show, a new collaborative project involving himself and the band.

With his fourth solo album, “Love Is Magic”, Grant has continued evolving, creating his most electronic record yet.

In collaboration with Benge (Ben Edwards), analogue synth expert / collector and a member of electronic trio Wrangler, Grant’s collaborators earlier this year under the collective name of Creep Show on the album Mr Dynamite. Anyone familiar with John Grant’s story will recognise his battles – with addiction and health, with trusting love and relationships. From this turbulence he’s forged another riveting collection of often brutal diatribes and confessionals, where humour, fear, anxiety and anger overlap as Grant, with trademark candour, figuratively exposes the machinations of his saturated brain. It’s epitomised by the album’s brilliant opener Metamorphosis, almost as if his warring psyches are facing up to one another, as impervious synth-pop and brain-on-fire imagery (“Tiki bar, rat soufflé, Buik regal, Marvin Gaye”) melts into dream-ballad introspection (“Questions left unanswered, spiritual extortion”) and back to synth-backed mania. The magic of love pervades in two gorgeous, magisterial ballads toward the end of the album,Is He Strange and The Common Snipe – referring to the wader bird that makes a unique ‘bleating’ sound by rubbing its tailfeathers together.

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John Grant has announced his new album ‘Love Is Magic’ and unveiled its title track – check it out below.

The US singer-songwriter’s last album, ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’, was released in 2015. described as “moving, funny, unnerving and angry; one of the albums of the year.” His debut ‘Queen of Denmark’ came in 2010, followed by ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ in 2013.

Now, Grant has shared news of his fourth studio effort, which he co-produced alongside Midlake’s Paul Alexander.

Describing the upcoming release, Grant says: “Love’s a shitshow that requires work. It’s not all lollipops and rainbows and ’67 Dodge Dart Hemis and STD’s and macaroni and cheese and John Carpenter. But nothing can distract from the fact that, in spite of it all, love is still magic.”

The six-and-a-half-minute title track opens with pulsing synth brass and crashing drums. The colourful lyric video features the lines “Have you got depression? / Passive aggression? /Did they stop loving you / And you’re the only one who doesn’t know?”

‘Love Is Magic’ is released October 12th on Partisan Records and Bella Union. It features track titles such as ‘Metamorphosis’, ‘Smug Cunt’ and ‘Diet Gum’. John Grant will tour the UK in support of ‘Love Is Magic’ in October and November see the full schedule below.

Oct 30 – O2 Academy Brixton, London
Oct 31 – Bath Forum, Bath
Nov 2 – Octagon, Sheffield
Nov 3 – Albert Hall, Manchester 

Creep Show

Creep Show brings together John Grant with the dark analogue electro of Wrangler (Stephen Mallinder / Phil Winter / Benge) to create the debut album Mr Dynamite packed with experimental pop and surreal funk.

John Grant hooks up with a few friends on new project titled Creep Show.

The four piece features two producers and two singers, with John Grant and former Cabaret Voltaire frontman Stephen Mallinder sharing the microphone. other members Phil Winter and Benge battle the machines, with Creep Show releasing their debut album ‘Mr Dynamite’ on March 16th through Bella Union Records.

John Grant comments: “I do like theatre of the absurd and some of it is that, but most of it is just having fun. We did a lot of laughing and just had a blast doing it.”

debut track ‘Pink Squirrel’ is available now, with the woozy analogue synths sitting against an incredibly infectious melody.

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‘Kindling (Fickle Flame)’, a special re-recorded version of the ‘Little Fictions’ album track, has been transformed into a duet between Guy and John Grant

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Susanne Sundfør – Mountaineers (featuring John Grant) is another beautiful track from her upcoming album. The song features vocals from Bella Union label mate John Grant and comes a day before the Scott Walker tribute show for the BBC Proms. Susanne said, I’ve been a great admirer of John Grant and his work, and meeting him for the first time at the Bella Union Studios in London was an experience I’ll never forget. What a talent, what a charisma! I’m so happy he’s on the album. Mountaineers

Taken from the forthcoming album Music For People In Trouble , Susanne will performing across Europe & North America this Autumn

Bella booklet

Simon Raymonde never really meant for Bella Union to become a music industry success story.

When he started the label back in 1997, it was nothing more than a vehicle for his artistic endeavours with Cocteau Twins. Bruised by dismaying music business experiences, Raymonde and bandmate Robin Guthrie made a brave, autonomous move – starting a label with which to put out their own records.

Then, in a classic indie-label-starts-with-laughable-disaster moment, Cocteau Twins split up. Six months after we started the label, Liz called up and said she didn’t want to do the band anymore. The intention of the label was to put out our own music – it was never to sign other bands, to be an actual record label; we hated record labels! We had such a terrible experience with 4AD, and then another terrible experience with a major.

Raymonde knew if his fledgling record label wasn’t going to be dissolved before it had got going, he needed to become an A&R, and sign some bands. The band [Cocteau Twins] had an undeniably difficult relationship with 4AD. Then we made a huge mistake and signed with Universal – with Mercury – in 1994.

We started the label, got the logo done, letterheads, an office, staff… and then we had no band.

Nineteen years later, we have his willingness to do so to thank for standout records from the likes of John Grant, Explosions In The Sky, Laura Veirs, Midlake, Beach House, Father John Misty, Ezra Furman, The Walkmen, The Flaming Lips, PINS, Money and Lanterns On The Lake.

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Of course, you can also add to that list Fleet Foxes – whose self-titled 2008 debut and 2011 follow-up, “Helplessness Blues”,have reached a level of commercial success all-too-rarely enjoyed in the independent label sector.

Getting a BRIT Award nomination for John [Grant, 2014] and Father John Misty [2016] – that’s huge when you think how this label started.

It’s a real challenge to break a new band – much more than it was five years ago. Yeah, we’ve got John Grant, Beach House, Father John Misty, Explosions in the Sky and several artists like these who sell 20,000 to 50,000 records. And that’s decent. I’m very happy. But those are all bands who are now in their 30s.

The challenge is, how do we break a band in their 20s who haven’t put three albums out back in the age when CDs were still selling and you could get blanket press? I fear it’s not easy.

There’s brilliant bands everywhere. Especially Fleet Foxes, That band has been massive for Bella Union. I probably wouldn’t be here without them, and the signing, to keep the whole thing going, was pivotal. I was about to give up the label before I heard that song, “White Winter Hymnal”.

I’d gone to Oya Festval in 2007. We’d had Midlake’s record [The Trials Of Van Occupanther], which came out in 2006. I was so upset this record hadn’t sold a million copies. I still think it’s a classic album.

We’d sold 30,000 copies in the UK, which was good, but it wasn’t what it deserved. I was thinking, if only I had some money in the bank, even something small – £10,000 extra to do some posters or some more marketing.

In those days our marketing was literally: put the record out. There was no money for anything beyond a press and radio campaign that we did in-house with Duncan and Cool Badge.

It was the same with Fionn Regan [who released Mercury-nominated album The End Of History on Bella Union in 2006]; we got to that 30,000 level but we didn’t have the cash injection to get it above 50,000. It was so frustrating.

So I was at Oya Festival, miserable, thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do this any more.’ My first marriage had gone all wrong and I’d just gotten divorced. I was at a low ebb.

Claus who runs Oya had invited some people including me to his house for a get-together but I was really not feeling sociable at all, quite out of sorts, sat overlooking the fjord – I thought, okay, I’m going to go home, tell everyone at the label, that’s it.

I got back to my hotel room and got an email from this friend called Trey, who booked Midlake and Beach House in the US. He said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this MySpace link. I just saw this band’s third ever gig – I think you might like it.’

I pressed play and within ten seconds, I was like, ‘I HAVE to sign this band. This is the one.’ I wrote to the band on Myspace, from my hotel room and it turned out that Robin the band’s singer/writer was in Norway with his brother and sister – despite living in Seattle. His ancestors are Norwegian. A really weird coincidence.

I explained what Bella Union was and that I used to be in [Cocteau Twins], and I was encouraged that he knew who I was. He was flying to London the next day, and that’s where we met the next week. We got on really great.

I offered him a worldwide deal, even though we didn’t really have anything going on in the US at the time. I also offered to manage him! Whatever I could do, you know. Then it went a bit quiet – a month went by after I’d made him an offer, and I’d heard a whisper that he was talking to Sub-Pop. He lives in Seattle, so it made sense he would be speaking to them.

I put 2 and 2 together and realised something was going wrong, and that I needed to do something about it. Eventually, he wrote me and said: ‘Listen, we’ve had a worldwide offer from Sub-Pop and I think we’re going to do it. I wanted to let you know about it first.’

I immediately wrote back, without self-editing, with what I felt. I said: ‘I get it. I’d probably do the same thing in your shoes. Why wouldn’t you? It’s an iconic label, one of the best, round the corner from your flat. But just think about it for a second. Over here, Sub-Pop don’t quite have the setup. Who’s going to meet you at the airport in London or Paris? If you sign to Bella Union, or any label with a similar setup around Europe, you’ll have a home here.’

It was true. The next day, I got the contract back from the band, signed, for Europe. It was musician to musician, not as a guy cynically trying to get him to sign. That’s where sometimes, I win, and sometimes I lose.

 


Bella Union also signed The Czars, 

Yeah. I’ve worked with John Grant since 1998; the year after the label started. In the days when people used to use DATs, he sent me one of a Czars demo and it was… awful.

I remember writing back – he seemed really nice in the letter – saying, ‘Your voice is good, really interesting. But the music’s not. Maybe send me some stuff another time.’ A few months later, another DAT, and some of it was pretty good, but the band still sounded pretty rubbish. I told him. He was like: ‘Yeah, I know. I’m trying to do something about it.’

Then I saw them play in Denver. The band were good, not great, but he had something about him. He was this big guy with this fragility and an amazingly powerful voice.

In those days, we had a beautiful recording studio which Cocteau Twins had on the river in Richmond. It was Pete Townshend’s studio and, well, ‘cos it was in Richmond, the rent was fucking ridiculous – like £60,000 a year.

The band had broken up by then, so there was no income to pay for the studio. Pete was a very generous guy [and let the band owe him rent]. It was the last days before we were kicked out, really.

I offered to bring The Czars over and to produce their album in that studio. That’s what I did; I played a lot of the instruments, got very hands on with it. I really enjoyed the process. I think John did too, in his own way.

Then we made another album, and I went to Denver to produce that one. I always knew that it was all about John. The Czars made a third album, then John was starting to have some problems with the band – they weren’t improving at the rate we needed them to improve, but his songwriting was getting better and better.

I should say, we were selling no records at all at this point. The Czars first three albums probably sold 5,000 copies each. But I just knew that John would make an amazing record at some point.

Then he got into trouble – he had big problems with drink and drugs and stopped making music. He was translating Russian medical text books into German and living in New York, I think; he’s an incredible linguist. He speaks about 10 languages fluently.

He was miserable as sin. Then the Midlake guys, God bless them, heard he wasn’t well – rumours were that he was on suicide watch in a hospital, I think – and they said: ‘You need to get back to Texas. We’ll look after you. We’ll get you well. Come and stay with us and make a record.’

They literally put him up in their houses for six months to a year. Going in the studio in the evening after they’d finished their own record during the day time. My part in this is very minimal, really. I believed in him and thought he’d make a great record, but I wasn’t the one looking after him. Midlake did it all off their own back. And then John delivered this amazing record, “Queen Of Denmark”.

The catalyst to the whole John Grant success story is Phil Alexander, the editor of Mojo, who had come to my office in Hackney. I was playing him the latest Midlake album and talking to him about getting on board with it – he’s a massive fan. And as he was about to leave, I said come back and let me play you this thing by John Grant from The Czars. I played him two unmixed tracks and he was completely blown away.

A month later, I was speaking to Phil about something else and I said, By the way, how did that interview with John go? And he was like, ‘It was unbelievable – it was a four hour phone call. I couldn’t ever transcribe it. It was like a therapy session. It was too intense, too personal.’

But two months later, Phil made Queen Of Denmark Album Of The Month in Mojo. That support was huge – for John Grant to get a five-star, two-page review with a hand-painted illustration on the second page… when no-one knew who he was. .

We are lucky enough to have two limited and exclusive coloured vinyl pressings of the long out of print Jonathan Wilson albums Gentle Spirit and Fanfare. If you purchase any of the Bella Union titles you’ll also get a free sampler CD and booklet, once again exclusive to Rough Trade

Jonathan wilson

20 years doing ANYTHING in music seems faintly absurd, let alone running a record label, something my previous 20 years making music mostly with my band Cocteau Twins certainly did not prepare me for. What I do know is that i have always wanted to run this label from the perspective of an artist and was always advised that this wasn’t possible to make work over a long and sustained period. So, even if this all goes pear shaped tomorrow, I think we have done a great job to still be in business after 20 of the most tumultuous years in the music industry’s history, and this I am sure is in great part down to the team I’ve been lucky enough to work with at the label throughout these dark times. Simon Raymonde – Bella Union.

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He’s survived addiction, depression, heartbreak, homophobic abuse, and a HIV-positive diagnosis. With a typically candid third album , things are finally looking up for John Grant?

How is John Grant? “Well, you know, I’m not sure how I am.” It is perhaps a fair response to the standard how-are-you conversation opener. Grant’s thoroughly eventful life – one of addiction, depression and disease – is a matter of record. But when you ask the singer how he is, there’s something more immediate on his mind – or rather, his stomach. “I’ve just had some horse. For lunch.”

It is apparently a delicacy in Iceland, his home of four years, from where he speaks. “Horse. They just put it in front of me. It tasted fine, but I didn’t feel very comfortable.” Then, he deadpans: “Oh God, you’re not friends with Morrissey, are you?”

Approaching 50, sober for over a decade, safely ensconced in Iceland, he seems to be acquiring a somewhat calmer existence. His third solo album, is “a very positive record,” Grant insists, though it might occasionally suggest otherwise. The title, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, comprises the rough English translations for ‘midlife crisis’ and ‘nightmare’ in Icelandic and Turkish, respectively.

“When people are weird and messed up, I’m just fine with that” – John Grant

For someone with such an unusually turbulent life, is significant. It might almost seem trite to recapitulate his past troubles, had he not himself offered them up so candidly through his music. They’re there in the brutally autobiographical 2010 song Jesus Hates Faggots, a devastating account of his homophobic father; and in 2013’s Ernest Borgnine, in which he sings of finally kicking his alcohol and drug addictions, only to learn he is HIV-positive.

It’s there throughout his first two albums, which both had a defining theme of heartbreak, two highly cathartic records about coping with the exit of a man he thought was The One. “There are one or two songs left over from that period. There’s one on this record called Guess How I Know, which I tried to do for the last one. It’s always going to be a part of me, but I don’t feel any of the pain any more. And that’s nice.”

Which is not to say that Grey Tickles, Black Pressures is without its darker moments or provocative edges. Grant’s shrewd lyricism immediately comes to the fore in track two, the title song, which offers this startling chorus: “There are children who have cancer, so all bets are off… I can’t compete with that.”

After baring his soul for two albums, is it a song about gaining perspective? “Every album that I do is about letting go and getting perspective. It’s about the need to stop trying to control the things that you can’t control and let go of them, and get perspective. Because somebody like me tends to think along the lines of: my problems don’t matter and I don’t matter. That’s not true.”

 

 

 

By any standard, Grant’s influences are multifarious. But broadly, you could say he follows a fairly unique dichotomy: between the slower, 1970s-influenced guitar-driven ballads that characterised his debut solo LP Queen of Denmark, and the poppier, 1980s-influenced electro-disco of follow-up Pale Green Ghosts. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure feels like a wondrous blend of them both.

 

Taken from the new album ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ due out on Friday 2nd October 2015 via Bella Union (ROW) & Partisan (US).  John Grant tried out disco-house for the first time in 2013 with his album Pale Green Ghosts, because his new album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, comes out this autumn. Love songs are often cheesy, but in the former Czars frontman’s new love song “Disappointing,” he hits on points about being in love that aren’t as overdone. “There’s nothing more comforting than knowing you exist in this time and this place,” he muses before listing off a series of writers, philosophers, places, and experiences that are “disappointing” compared to the one he loves. Something about the word disappointing sticks with me. It’s not that the world’s greatest things aren’t fantastic or worthwhile next to your lover, they’re just… disappointing. “Disappointing” also features vocals from Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn.

“Disappointing” is pretty straightforward. I list a bunch of my favorite things in the world, like Earl Grey Malts from Paris on the Platte café in Denver, which, unfortunately, just shut its doors after 28 years. We used to go there in the 80s to get those malts which I’ve never had anywhere else. Guess I’ll have to make my own now. Anyway, the song is about how everything in the world is disappointing compared to seeing a smile spread across the face of the one you love.

Just over a year since the release of his critically-lauded second album Pale Green Ghosts, and with numerous Best Album of 2013 accolades and a Brit Award nomination to his name, JOHN GRANT has announced news of one of his most exciting ventures yet. This November will see the former Czars frontman embark upon a seven-date tour accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinfonia in which John’s celebrated catalogue will be reworked and reimagined with a sumptuous orchestral setting, alongside the world premiere of some especially written new songs. John Grant’s creativity, unique songwriting and wonderful vocals combined with thirty four musicians promises a one-off musical experience. The tour will be orchestrated by Fiona Brice who has provided arrangements for the the likes of Roy Harper, Vashti Bunyan, Anna Calvi, Midlake, Placebo, as well as John himself. As the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia has built a reputation as both fresh-thinking and versatile and has in recent years collaborated with artists as diverse as Pet Shop Boys, Joanna Newsom, Efterklang and Spiritualized. The tour will visit some of the UK’s most prestigious venues such as Royal Festival Hall, Usher Hall, Bridgewater Hall and Sage Gateshead, and is produced and presented by Music Beyond Mainstream (MBM), the UK’s national network of large scale music venues working together to bring audiences something a little bit special.