Date: 28th & 30th March 2017.
Venue: Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London.
Genre: Dark Pop/Electro-pop.
Words & Photography: Victoria Ling.
The last week of March was dubbed as MUNA week, as the American trio came to London on a highly anticipated whistle stop trip to play the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in East London. After having sold out the first date in less than 5 minutes, a second date was added which also quickly sold out – not to anyone’s surprise. It was definitely a hot ticket and I was lucky enough to be at BOTH dates.
Admittedly I am a bit late to the MUNA party, only having discovered them three weeks before the release of their debut album ‘About U’. As soon as I heard ‘I Know A Place’ I found myself playing the album non-stopped and was hooked, thinking to myself, ‘am I getting too hyped too quickly?’ and ‘what if it is an anti-climax and I’ve got two shows to go to!’ Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Tuesday 28th of March was the first night. It was a calm London day. I had stepped off a coach after an 8-hour journey and I could not contain the excitement in my bones. We approached the venue and Hoxton Square was plastered with A2 posters of the debut album. We passed the members of the band in the bar. It was a case of do we/don’t we talk to them. As we plucked up the courage they parted. No worries we will catch them after the show. The queue escalated quickly. My friend who was gigged at HSB&K many times (this was my second and soon to be third) said this rarely happens. Doors delayed opening but we ran in as soon as they did. It was that kind of gig.
There has been a lot of talk about the support act of the opening night. I think a lot of the audience got word of this as it was pretty much packed as Lo Moon took the stage. We were crammed in tightly for their indie-electro sounds and unfortunately for me there were a few talk-active people near to allow me to not enjoy it properly when Lo Moon were definitely giving it their all. For those that took and were allowed to take note, I can see why their live shows have been hyped and there was definitely something endearing about keys/guitarist Crisanta Baker.
With not that much more room, people still squeezed in. Even the tall people were reluctant letting their smaller counterparts in front of them. If it wasn’t hot enough already, we were ready to become a sweatbox. With a slight movement of the side curtain in the darkened room you could hear and feel hearts pounding then a tinkle of the synths and Katie Gavin’s opening lines of I Know A Place, the whole place is electrified and the band is jumping with every person in the place singing out every word, even the new lyrics, “I throw my arms open wide in resistance. He’s not my leader even if he’s my president,” a testament to Trump’s presidency.
A little place swap between Gavin and Naomi McPherson as McPherson takes lead on Promise. The intensity of this is enormous especially when Josette Maskin’s solo kicks in. Even the backing band of Scott Heiner (drums) and Brian Robert Jones (bass) are just as involved that they really are not a backing band, with Gaskin, McPherson and Maskin every single soul on that stage oozed charisma.
Turning the tempo back up End Of Desire has the crowd jumping again and with the mention of new songs (Loser and In My Way) we get excited. In fact there is not one moment that MUNA or the crowd slows down. Well, until they have to wipe the sweat from themselves. It was actually a nice little moment between Gaskin and Maskin and the banter between the whole band is very inclusive of every soul inside of the venue. Speaking of inclusivity, the band requested that the toilets were ‘gender inclusive,’ and inclusive they were. If you are unaware of MUNA, they are a political group. It is in their lyrics and it is apparent in a lot of their visual work. Their shows are inclusive of everybody. You could see it every which way you turned. A beautiful feeling.
Maskin then tells us it’s ‘covers’ time. She is very excited by this. The other band members question this but as Gaskin leads Paramore’s Bring Me To Life the crowd go crazy. Yes, Josette! Thank You! Then they ‘go all LA,’ as Gaskin tells the crowd that we have been amazing singing along to every single word but if there was a time to really make our voices heard that time was now, as Loudspeaker literally booms into an explosive performance that at the end make all those at the front, reach and grab the stage décor of roses.
Thursday 30th March was the second night of this whistle stop trip. The crowd gathered early again and the queue seemed to have grown quicker than Tuesday and with the heat wave outside, it seems no one was taking chances inside as the aircon was full blast as we entered.
Electro dance rockers, Otzeki opened with a promising set but then technical hitches came and cousins Mike and Joel laughed it off between them and the show went on…with more technical hitches and dancing in the middle of the crowd, which was very entertaining. In parts it seemed a bit long but in all it was a fine performance to most of the crowd.
It seemed to be a more relaxed crowd, in that people were not pushing against each other but as lights went down and the music started the jumping started within the first second. Noticeably Gavin even dressed ready to sweat and gone was her oversized T-shirt and in place was a bikini top.
All members took notice again of the sell out crowd and asked if they were any returners – only a few hands went up – everybody in the know wanted to be there and some wanted to be there again and it seemed like Gavin, McPherson and Maskin could not quite believe it. The energy that was there on the first night was here but with just that bit more intensity and that little bit more loudly but both were just as energetic. There did seem to be less banter on stage though but by watching each member you could still feel the chemistry between them, even with McPherson hidden from me behind the synths this time. The new songs went down just as well as the first night and the crowd and the vocals to Bring Me To Life seemed to go up a notch. All words for every song from the album were sung back with passion. What was not noticeable though was that every member on that stage was sick. Many knew this was the case for Gavin but even with this and all the smiles back and forth it seemed they were on top form, even when they all come to the front of the stage for the second verse of Loudspeaker. How anyone was left standing after that performance with all the energy given is beyond me and with two shows in such a sweaty environment – let’s just say, and I quote, “something massive happened here” and all those posters that were plastered over Hoxton Square were gone BOTH nights.
Release Date: 24 March 2017
Words by: Martina Di Gregorio
Ariana Di Lorenzo, or as she is most known as Ariana & The Rose, has finally released her first EP ‘Retrograde’, after teasing fans with the singles ‘Love You Lately’ and ‘Supercool’. Retrograde is coming out as the perfect embodiment of a young woman coming to terms with who she is. Originally from New York, Ariana is based in London and has been working to create a sound that truly represents herself; this album is full of powerful electro-pop anthems that would work to get anyone dancing while fully grasping the depth of both the highs and the lows of love through her vocals and powerful use of synths.
‘How Does That Make You Feel’ is the first single off this EP. Starting with a falsetto, Ariana’s voice engages the listener even before the percussions and synths jump in. The use of percussions intertwined with harmonies bring a whole new level of depth to the song. The song tells the relatable tale of a passionate love, and it is a good start to the EP, as Ariana’s voice and her ability to use her voice and as a diverse instrument instantly charms the listener.
‘Love You Lately’ released earlier this year has the power to make you emotional thinking about a lost love. The song played with the duo RKCB is an electro-R&B song that talks about a relationship ending. Ariana’s voice completely embodies the feelings of someone that is in a relationship but doesn’t love her partner anymore. This song shows a more serious side of Ariana, as well as her flexibility to go from a dance song to an R&B songs. The background beat gives a great rhythm to the song while Ariana and RKCB since “I don’t understand why you push away” and “I guess I don’t love you lately”.
‘These Ruins’ has a slow beginning, with Ariana’s deeper voice accompanied by a low keyboard that is emphasized through different electronic instrumentation. The song describes a love that cannot be repaired, emphasized by a slow, melancholic, dark, creating a new universe where the melody gets more dramatic with every verse. Her voice has the capacity of perfectly encompasses the emotions of a tragic love, with her voice breaking at the end of the bridge. The roughness of the melody and the darker synths, as well her echoed voice that gets overpowered by the background vocals and drums gives a new dimension to the song, which ends with her tired voice and the keyboard again. This track takes you through all the emotions felt after the end of a love.
‘Supercool’ is the last song of the EP, and it goes on a different path by describing the partying in New York, with the use of electro beats. The song describes the reality behind the glamour of New York by describing a woman that is so beautiful and charming at a party, but looks like their lives could be falling apart any second.The falsetto voice, backing vocals and electro beats come back once again to show a whole new side of New York.
Ariana & The Rose’s EP embodies the journey of love and loss through the use of synths and a sound that is heavily inspired by Robyn and Goldfrapp, but still keeping a sense of originality. ‘Retrograde’ proves Ariana’s flexibility and ability to use her lyrics and melody to create a journey of emotions that can completely engross the listener and spark past memories and a world of feelings.
Ariana is renowned for her live shows, especially the immersive Light and Space, which was first done in London in 2016 based on 80s disco scene. She has created another world and this EP is the first step to gaining more visibility and showing a new side of the synth-pop world.
Release date: 13 January 2017
Words by: Martina Di Gregorio
The xx have been making headlines the last couple of months by releasing singles from this album, announcing world tours and breaking records for the most dates at a London venue showing how the influence of The xx has not diminished since their last album and the silence that followed.
I See You really hits the right spot with indie guitar pop, R&B, stripped down music with electro-pop influence of Jamie xx that really gives that extra kick to the sound that we all used to love from The xx. There are heavy guitar or bass drops, but the music gets stripped down to the core by making the real protagonists of the albums the vocal chemistry between Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, as well as adding that extra dance vibe that makes Jamie xx’s solo work a blessing for The xx as he found that magic sound to really give the band a sense of purpose.
The lyrics all revolve around all those dark emotions and heartbreak that people go through during their life, making this album a very powerful weapon for The xx to really make an impact in a world where poetic and powerful lyrics are very much outshone by catchy beats and a repetitive clichè choruses that make people feel safe.
The album kick-starts with ‘Dangerous’,which tricks the listener into thinking it might be a happy song as the melody starts with trumpets but slowly fades into darkness as Oliver and Romy haunting voices sing about an unsteady relationship that could break apart at any time but their refusal to let go, and their need to fight for something that maybe shouldn’t stay together. Other songs such as the ballad ‘Performance’ really showcase the hard work and thought the band has put into their sounds, with violins being used to give that sense of melancholy as well as absolute silence to really make a statement and show that sometimes less is more: there isn’t always a need for energetic beats to make a song great, sometimes just vocals are enough to show off talent.
Yet, although The xx discovered and played with many styles in this album, they seem to always focus on their rough vocals, like with ‘Test Me’, which has scattered vocal samples and cryptic, gloomy noises that make it the darkest song of the album.
Overall, I See You really is about The xx growing and working with their sounds, as the vocals sometimes get lost in a sea of electronic noises and beats that take away from their poetic lyrics, which were what really made this band stand up. Although they do tend to go for a minimalistic sound in certain songs, it seems that Jamie xx’s solo work has made a huge impact on their sound and it is not clear whether it was really necessary. It gave the band a sense of purpose and, something that was lacking in their previous work. It was unclear what they wanted their sound to be like, but this change seems to have taken away a bit of the magic that we all loved from The xx. Nonetheless, the album is still able to strike a chord and show off the huge talents of the two vocalists, and although this is not a five star album, it will still live in the hearts of many fans for years to come.
Release Date: Out now!
Genre: Electro-indie pop
It begins with the graceful, familiar voice of Romy Madley Croft, as it’s been so long since we have been graced with fresh material, her voice instantly brings any fan a feeling of satisfaction. This track is about grasping at the tail end of a failing love, in a desperate attempt of regaining momentum and making it work, “it could be love I think you’re too soon to call us old“. With some almost psych-pop sounds woven in, the song has very romanticized undertones while still keeping to the signature xx chilled-out sound.
In many ways, the xx have not changed, to the relief of many. With the same warm charm brought by the voices of Romy and Oliver Sim, as well as the distinct, simplistic guitar melodies and electro-ambient vibes that can only be constructed with just the right mix of elements. However, after the lyrics “when and where did we go cold, I thought I had you on hold“, there is a drop that reveals a whole new lease of life for the xx. During this energetic segment of the track, inspirations uncovered by Jamie xx during his solo projects of the past year materialise themselves, and the result is a refreshing mix of the chilled out, low-fi vibes expected from the xx, and the electro beats of the house scene Jamie often frequents. It sounds remarkable, and has also worked well live on the few recent performances of the trio on radio and US talk shows.
This long awaited new track from the London group has been met with warm welcome, and rumour has it we can expect more surprises such as this in their upcoming album ‘I See You’.
Book tickets to the 2017 headline tour
Release date: Out now!
Siboney + Andy recently joined forces, along with their influences and styles to create this debut EP, encompassing a variety of pop/folk/electro vibes. This title track of the EP certainly makes a statement and ensures their names will not be easily forgotten.
With a delicate opening, Siboney tells a painful tail, supposedly from personal experience. The opening verse could be claimed to be predictable, but as the bridge builds up, Siboney’s voice steps up before delivering a powerful blow with the lyrics “I will keep this secret ’till I die” during the chorus. With a blaring electric riff accompanying the voice, a new level of passion is brought to this track. The second verse is more playful as the due get settled into what they’re doing, with electro-pop synths coupled with folk-y vocals
and guitar, this is a creative song showcasing what it is Siboney + Andy are capable of. As Andy emerges into the track not only as a producer but a vocalist, the track gets that bit warmer. It is at this moment you can see why the due work so well together, as their voices intertwine to create a pop/electro-pop juxtaposition.
The music video for this track brings a visual element to better explain the journey this track takes. The pair describe the following: “The lyrics in Secret are quite literal, and pull from rather painful self-experience, so we wanted to hint at that feeling within the video, but let people come to their own conclusions within the narrative.”
Check out the music video for Sectret and follow Siboney and Andy’s journey:
Check out the debut EP ‘Secret’ here.
Date: 23rd November 2016
Venue: The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington, London
The Waiting Room is tucked within the basement of a pub in North London, like a secret hideout. Seeming slightly ominous at first when walking down the steep stairs to a wood-walled room, this venue actually turned out to be perfect to host Tusks’s headline London debut, as the space filled up, the atmosphere was totally comfortable and intimate.
Main support – Oh Sister
The evening was kicked off by the soulful melodic tunes of Oh Sister. A solo artist with a DIY sound and electric drums system. This artist brought the warmth that the room needed, with her raw but genuine tales of love and adventure. The opening track ‘Isn’t Love Used To It Yet‘ brought on nostalgia with a sort of new-wave jazz, full of romanticized heartbreak. A sort of ambient Winehouse vibe, but with more electric guitar and less drama. With her tantalizing, stripped back voice, Oh Sister managed to encompass the whole room, however at times lacked the control over her guitar necessary for such delicate set. With her voice alone, Oh Sister could bring any crowd to their knees with a full band behind her, allowing her to concentrate on what she does best, and experiment more with ambient, atmospheric sounds.
Headliner – Tusks
An instant connection was made between Tusks and the audience and she stepped onto The Waiting Room stage tonight, and apprehension within her and her band was evident.
The first track of the set was a fan favorite ‘For You‘, however Tusks put her own twist on it. Now equipped with a full band of talented musicians, Tusks was able to break the popular hit down to its core elements and build it up into an accumulation of ambient sounds and thudding drums – it was at this point, it was clear to the crowd Tusks has more to offer in her performance tonight than ever before.
‘Poison Ivy‘ was the second song of the evening, and her voice sailed through it with grace, but we already expected this; what took us aback was the amount of power behind her voice. Tonight Tusks paired her soul-baring vocals with eerie guitar and dark bass lines, the result was all-encompassing and hugely graceful. It was touching to see Tusks explore the deeper possibilities within ambient and electro-pop music and the experimentation was made by her band. The thunderous drums and strong bass-lines brought a new level of power to the music, that just seemed to work.
Tonight Tusks took her time, putting in every delicate detail to every song. At times it seemed as though everything was in slow motion, until all musical elements were brought together at the point just before a satisfying drop.The crowd were gifted with a sneak preview of the new album with never-before-played-live tracks such as’Toronto‘ and ‘Bleach‘. An early solo track she wrote many moons ago was also showcased, which allowed Tusks to perform as she once did, with her voice pure and unaltered, and also showed how far she has developed since her first appearance. There is an air of true authenticity around Tusks as she performs, a connection is instantly made along with an atmosphere that is unbreakable.
All images: @charlie__mac_
Release date: 11th November 2016
Stevie Parker comprises of a young artist from the West of England with a raw voice oozing wisdom and heartbreak. After building a substantial platform from her debut release ‘Never Be‘ on Soundcloud in 2015 and later performing alongside noteworthy British artists, especially in the Bristol Summer Series, Stevie Parker’s debut EP, ‘Blue‘ has been released highly anticipated and is seeming to gain success within the electro-pop world.
The EP begins with ‘Better Off‘, a sinister-toned tune with delicate vocals and an empowering message of realisation of worth in the face of sorrow. Stevie’s vocals are reminiscent of a more energetic Lana Del Rey against the musical resonate notes of groups such as London Grammar. This is the perfect opener to set Stevie Parker aside from other up-and-coming alternative-pop artists, especially the young ones – who can often blend into one homogenous group. The title track of this EP takes a more heavy-beated, electro-pop turn. This foundation is well-suited to this artist’s hypnotic high-notes that are showcased during the outcry “I’ve been blue over you”. Despite being at risk of being slightly repetitive at times, this track demonstrates the versatility of Stevie Parker well, and is catchy enough to make you keep her music in your head all day.
‘Siren‘ is possibly the highlight of the EP, as it is the most distinct and complex track. With raw lyrics, telling a tale of desperate love and lust, Stevie Parker shows her human side for all to relate and sing along to. The graceful combination of thudding beats with warm piano melodies creates a sound that belongs to only her. We are shown a contrasting aspect of Stevie with the final track ‘Different For Girls‘. Whether this track is making a political statement, or simply expressing the emotions often experienced within a troublesome partner, this acoustic number shows a totally different song-writing style, one of simplistic and honest statements. This is an artist is wise and elegant, with the ability to get you both dancing and crying out in sorrow.
Where did you start out and how has your experience of coming from Denmark to the American and British music industry been?
I actually started Fjer in New York. This is where I came up with the name, released my first EP, found the people to work with and really started to believe in my self. It was so inspiring being here, around people speaking English, because I quickly learned the language fluently and began to get accepted in a different way. The UK audience came more recently and I’m so happy about that. England reminds me more of home – things like the weather and culture are way more similar to Denmark. I miss those things.
I’m inspired with Danish music in the sense that SO many great artists come out of there and it’s where I grew up. You can hear the cold, nordic sound in my music, I feel. The American/British music scene inspires me a lot too, because everybody does everything ALL the way, 100%. Nobody’s afraid to be an artist, and that’s something we struggle with in Denmark, where it’s kind of frowned upon to be super ambitious.
When I got into the Royal Academy, it was one of the best days of my life. It was so unexpected, because I was only 19 years old, there were hundreds of applicants and it’s just so hard to get in. Going there for the years I did, was a great experience and I learned music theory, producing and just being a better singer. But it was a very elitist school and the constant competition (especially between the guys there – it was a total ‘boys club’!) eventually broke me down. So I took a year out to go to New York and I haven’t looked back or regretted that decision for a moment. School will teach you so many valuable things, but there’s nothing like going out and trying on your own. You’ll learn everything faster.
It was lucky that I met producer and indie label-owner of Quintic, Peter Anthony Red, who believed in me from the very start. Fjer, has been us building together from day one and he released my two first EP’s with me. It can be super scary but also very freeing not being on a major label, fitting into budgets and ads. It’s like.. I have the freedom to do whatever I want. Nobody’s trying to change me or put me in a box.
Watch here and listen here:
Label: Yellow Brick Music
Genre: 80s electro-pop
Lads from Hull have been anything but complacent in their efforts to bring back the 80s and take over with their authentic electo-pop. Since meeting at university and moving their base to Manchester, they have shared the stage with the likes of Alt-J and Circa Waves in support, and produced a debut EP oozing with charm and self-assurance in their niche sound.
‘Runaway‘ is the lead single from AFFAIRS’ debut EP, ‘Stained Gold‘ (Out now, link below), this is a risky debut to release due to the seemingly uncompromising 80s-esk style and obscure synth-heavy foundations. However, it seems as though it might just pay off, especially when looking to this track. It’s no wonder AFFAIRS are gaining a respectable reputation for delivering considered lyrics and theatrical live performances harrowing the kind of fringe/indie-pop curated by The Smiths. The dreamy guitar melodies, and obscure use of synths demonstrated in ‘Runaway‘ creates an ageless 80s-esk vibes with an authenticity that is rare to find as they tell melancholy tales of the rises and falls experienced within youthful nightlife. This is then brought not to the present but to the future with electro-pop type drums and the harrowing, intriguing vocals. Although the vocal range sounds at times slightly strained, it is balanced out by the intrusive, pounding chorus vocals that would probably do very well live.
This band could be summed up as the love-child of Depeche Mode and Morrissey, born today. Is the world ready for that child to develop and grow adventurous in its endevours? Only time will tell, but AFFAIRS will likely be doing their thing either way.
Check out ‘Runaway‘ here:
Listen to the full ‘Stained Gold‘ EP here:
(Image: Clash Magazine)