danielle fricke – body

– featured images courtesy of sophie harris-taylor –

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: the new extended play from danielle fricke.

Danielle fricke has been hibernating for the better part of three years.  the london, ontario, musician released her hypnotic full-length, moon, at the tail-end of 2015, its dozen tracks blurring the lines between glacial ambience and plaintive singer-songwriter stylings while precluding the lengthy silence that would follow.

last week, fricke quietly released BODY, a six-song collection of new material that functions as a cursory addendum to its predecessor with plenty of wonderful nuances to unpack.  the extended play’s front half is a familiar palette, its slowly-evolving soundscapes providing the foundation for fricke’s haunting vocal exercises.  “intro” is a sustained prelude, its twilight field recordings melding into intimate, ambient chamber music.  the strings’ hesitation becomes more pronounced as the track reaches its conclusion, anticipating the blizzard of white noise that blankets “everything,” fricke’s voice finally emerging from the fray and embarking on a tenuous expedition with a small group of synthesizers in tow.

danielle fricke.jpg

at the approximate center of BODY lies “enough,” a quintessential danielle fricke offering that is also the extended play’s lone moment of sustained clarity.  nearly seven minutes long, “enough” finds fricke’s voice unobstructed as she makes her plea against a backdrop of guitar arpeggios, a pairing that was her hallmark across moon.  squalls of distortion percolate to the surface in the song’s final minutes, aiding fricke in her farewell as she journeys on to the collection’s last three tracks.

“cold, blue, even” and “SRGNG” are such marked sonic departures for fricke, each in their own singular way.  the former is through-composed, picking up on the vestiges of “enough” and enduring two minutes of subterranean synth quakes before discovering a piano chord progression replete with wordless vocal motifs; the latter is a glitchy choral exercise, pitch-shifted vocal loops stuttering and restarting while low reeds pulse in the background.  taken together with the extended play’s brief coda, the final ten minutes of BODY go a long way to cement fricke’s experimental bona fides and to reward active listeners with layer upon layer of nuance.

just six songs in length, devotees of fricke’s signature brand of hushed, exploratory world-building would be remiss to hope that BODY is anything but a stop-gap, and that more music is on the way.  in the meantime, stream the extended play in its entirety – preferably with headphones – below.

kelly lee owens – “spaces”

– featured image courtesy of kim hiorthøy – 

the london producer and singer kelly lee owens released an outstanding self-titled album earlier this year, a pulsating collage of electronica replete with an homage to arthur russell and a collaboration with jenny hval.  as if that album’s ten songs weren’t enough of a gift, owens today released an extended version, with three additional tracks in tow.

“spaces” is part of that addendum.  armed with a descending motif that meanders towards its destination and owens’ exacting lead vocal, “spaces” is a chilly slow-jam, content with pausing at sparse plateaus before continuing its plunge to cavernous depths.  listen below.

plastic flowers – “half life”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

george samaras sits at the helm of plastic flowers, a project that has swayed between a solo production outlet and a full-band experience throughout its transcontinental voyage from greece to london.  armed with a hazy catalogue of material that has existed in some form since 2013, samaras will return with his third full-length, absent forever, on november 10th via the native sound.

a recurring theme threaded through absent forever is samaras’ preference towards recording directly to tape; the ensuing analogue warmth certainly permeates throughout “half life,” the album’s latest preview.  a woozy, angular buzz-saw of a guitar riff chugs resolutely in front of a syncopated drum beat, the resulting mid-tempo foundation providing perfect fodder for samaras’ cavernous lead vocal.  “half life” feels appropriately haunting, tinted with the warble of an aged reel-to-reel.  listen in below.

interview – see you at home

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

The prescient arrival of the future’s here & it’s terrible was hard to ignore.  2016 had already registered as an extraordinarily bleak year, but the ep – the second from dream-pop duo see you at home – came on the cusp of a defeating and volatile summer, one that’s still in full-swing.  see you at home confronts that bleakness head-on titularly and attempts to reconcile with it sonically, crafting intimate sketches that pulse slowly, allowing for ample introspection amidst sparse guitar soundscapes.  we recently caught up with the duo to talk about their nascent project and longstanding friendship.  check out the transcript below.

see you at home is a relatively new project, at least from a consumer’s perspective.  could you detail a bit of history behind the band?  how long have you two been making music together?

we’ve been playing music for quite a long while now; both of us have known each other since we were four years old, and we’ve been making music together since we were fourteen.  we had another band before this, but eventually that broke apart when some of us went to uni and got jobs.  see you at home kind of spawned when my (josh’s) uni timetable gave me a day off in the week and i decided to try and make some lo fi songs in a bathroom.  it was literally just a guitar and an 808 drum for the beat, and we liked the sound of it so we decided to expand on the idea.

your songs are incredibly intimate and feel effortless in their execution, the byproduct of what must be a very fruitful collaboration.  can you speak a bit on your songwriting process, and if you notice any clear benefits to working as a duo?

thank you so much!  the effortlessness is a product of layers and layers of obsessive production on my (josh’s) end, haha, and then the cool, calm-headed musical ear of arthur.  i would spend hours trying to get certain sounds to come through in the mix properly (to the point of insanity) and then arthur comes in to fix any doubts.  that’s definitely the main benefit for me for working in a duo; it’s hard to tell if a song is good or terrible having worked on it for so long, like when you hear a word too much and it doesn’t sound like a real word anymore. 

a lot of the collaboration and musicality comes from us knowing each other for basically our whole lives, i think.  when we jam out our songs we can usually get into a pretty cool flow quite easily because we share a similar mindset musically.  in terms of our songwriting process, i think it’s quite muddled.  we’ll usually stitch together thoughts and lyrics we’ve had at various points in our life that have a similar theme to try and create coherent songs from honest, sometimes scattered emotions.

titularly, the tone of your two eps couldn’t be more different.  was your collective headspace noticeably different while writing the material for the future’s here & it’s terrible than it was for everything is okay?

definitely.  there was a big shift in our collective emotions going through both eps.  i guess for the first ep we had just left uni and the world felt free and open and we were, to an extent, positive.  the second ep, a few months later, was a shift in tone when we realized the stark reality of real life, haha.  that said, a lot of the underlying themes in everything is okay were still quite sorrowful, but i feel like the way we handled those feelings was with a more optimistic outlook than the second ep.

what five songs would constitute the perfect see you at home mixtape?

ooh, that is a tough question.  there are so many songs that we’d love to put on the mixtape, haha.  i’d say that we’d go for the following eclectic mix, some of which we’ve drawn on for inspiration, and others which have resonated with us at various times in the last couple of years.

deptford goth – “feel real”
la dispute – “nine”
bon iver – “holocene”
brand new – “jesus christ”
julien baker – “sprained ankle”

at the rate you’ve been releasing music, a new ep could potentially surface before the year’s end, but that expectation is admittedly presumptuous.  are there any concrete plans for more see you at home material at this time?

at the moment we’re trying to sort out our live set, as we’d love to do some gigs, but we absolutely want to put out as much music as possible.  while there’s no definitive timeline, we are busy trying to make some skeleton tracks and demos.

both everything is okay and the future’s here & it’s terrible are available to stream and purchase from see you at home’s bandcamp page.  both actions are highly recommended; the duo’s compact catalogue serves as a much-needed refuge from life’s unsavory portions.  indulge.

a grave with no name – “wedding dress”

a grave with no name
photo courtesy of the artist

alexander shields makes incredibly pensive and methodical music as a grave with no name, the kind of output that would feel right at home on a label like forged artifacts.  appropriately, the minneapolis imprint will be releasing shields’ newest album, wooden mask, on august 12th.  tethered to today’s announcement is the unveiling of “wedding dress,” a slow-burning lead single hinging on an eerie yet positively bucolic aesthetic that, at times, tempts shields’ lead vocal back into the forest’s underbrush, to be forever consumed by an expanse of ominous guitar motifs.  take a listen to the track below.

loyal – “blue & the green”

LOYAL Image
photo courtesy of the artist

london three-piece loyal are the newest signees to good years; their debut single, “blue & the green,” harbors all the hallmarks of yesteryear, with cinematic nostalgia roaming through vast soundscapes populated by elegantly-textured guitar motifs and soothing vocal melodies.  take a listen to “blue & the green” below.

listen to a new song from liu bei

liu beiafter a promising debut, london-based liu bei will return with their debut ep, goodness, out february 2nd via museumgoer records.  to prep its release, liu bei has released the title track off of goodness, a decidedly more organic and driving song in comparison to their eerie, murky earlier material.  take a listen to “goodness” below.

interview – mannequins on 7th street

armed with just a handful of songs and providing only the scarcest bit of biography, mannequins on 7th street have nevertheless made a lasting impression in the online music community over the past few months.  their tracks are pristine and polished; each subsequent offering has been a subtle refinement of their melancholy sound, which feels right at home with british heavyweights the xx and darker, brooding electronic music.  i caught up with alexandre lambrecht and tim de fontaine, the forces behind the band, to learn more about the origins of mannequins on 7th street, the history of the band’s name, and their plans for the near future.  check out the transcript below.

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aside from the fact that you have a trio of really well-crafted songs, i realize that i don’t know too much about the history of your band. can you give me some background on mannequins on 7th street?

we met each other in the fall of 2012 at the jazz studio in antwerp, belgium.  we lived in the countryside right at the outskirts of brussels.  whilst at school, we quickly realized we had a lot in common as to our musical influences as well as to our ambitions.  we started playing together and found out we also wanted to create the same atmosphere; that there was a whole universe of music we shared.  we wrote “wailing of hesione” the first time we played together and moved to london at the end of the school year.

 

your project’s name comes from a poem by tamar yoseloff of the same title. what drew the two of you to her work, and why is it fitting for your band?

i found her collection of poetry, the city with horns, quite randomly.  i bought it without looking much into it but rather because i liked the title.  when came the time to find a band name, i looked through all my books to find something interesting that would depict the essence of our music.  “mannequins on 7th street” seemed to do it.  the meaning is not to be taken literally, but rather as an ambience.  we are very much inspired by the chaos in cities; the way people race by without giving much thought to what surrounds them; people’s looks lingering in the void, avoiding each other’s eyes; people being alone among an immensity; personalities blurred by consumerism and advertising; to a stereotype of the body and way of life imposed by society; how meaningless and powerless we feel; “all dressed up, and nowhere to go.”  mannequins are a kind of metaphor for this life that we look up to in the western world, but perhaps there isn’t much to look up to after all.

you’ve developed a dark, minimalist pop sound over your first three songs, but one aspect of your music i admire is the melodic interplay you achieve, such as the guitar and keyboard lines on “out of sight.”  who and/or what have been some of your influences while writing music for mannequins on 7th street?

we’ve only known each other since last year.  we’ve had quite a different childhood and therefore grew up with a very different sensibility for songs.  what we have in common is definitely our love for jazz and melancholy.

alex – chet baker, the do, velvet underground, pulp, and sky ferreira
tim – polka, bonobo, four tet, chet faker, shohmo, and russel malone


how has relocating from belgium to london been beneficial for your band?

we came to london to get more opportunities, get into the hype, be aware of all the new stuff coming out since we are both very passionate about the london music scene.  we are also studying music here, taking songwriting (alex) and production (tim) classes, courses that are very hard to find in belgium.

you released “wailing of hesione” and “sofia” within weeks of each other, and then were quiet for a few months before “out of sight” dropped.  should we be expecting more new music from mannequins on 7th street soon, perhaps in the form of an album?

yes, we’re actually working on releasing an ep at the moment, which will probably be ready by april.  we’re finally starting to gig around a bit as well, which we’re quite excited about.  we have a gig in cambridge on friday; come and see us!

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if you’re an avid reader who happens to live across the pond, attending tomorrow night’s show in cambridge might be a pretty good idea.  each song mannequins on 7th street delivers leaves an audience yearning for more, a situation that should be rectified with april’s ep released.  keep your eyes and ears peeled.

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daughter – if you leave

i’m happy that this album is finally available in north america.  i’ve been following daughter since early last year, when the london trio began picking up steam and recognition on this side of the atlantic.  still, the band’s media presence is just about as low-key as the music they create, and those are the two aspects i enjoy the most.  led by elena tonra, daughter craft morose and hauntingly ethereal songs that provide the perfect backdrop to sleepy wisconsin winters and long walks in the snow.  with a collection of demos and two superb eps under their belt, daughter was poised to take the next step and procure a more cohesive offering of their capabilities.

rumblings about if you leave began surfacing as early as last fall, when the band released a new song entitled “smother” backed with a reworked version of an early demo, “run.”  after disappearing for another short stretch, daughter confirmed that they were putting the finishing touches on their debut album and that if you leave would be available in mid-march.  this was followed by the release of another single, “still,” along with an accompanying music video.

 

armed with two very strong lead-in singles, daughter confirmed my suspicions; they were only going to get better.  if you leave contains ten one-name tracks, including fully realized versions of early demos like “tomorrow” and “shallows,” as well as a reworked version of “youth,” my favorite song off of their stellar the wild youth ep.  upon simply gazing at the tracklist, cause for concern due to repetition was initially felt, but these songs feel fresh, with new arrangements and more confident vocals and ensemble presence felt throughout.  the flow and contrast of if you leave is greatly aided by “human,” a standout track that feels positively upbeat in comparison with the rest of the band’s repertoire.

the absence of love is not absent from the core of if you leave, as reflected in the album’s title itself.  tonra still masterfully sings about solitude and bleak outlooks on life; “touch” finds her almost begging for physical contact, confessing “i’m dreaming of strangers/kissing me in the night/ just so i can feel something.”  the album title sneaks into its finale track, a reworked and substantially longer version of “shallows,” originally the opening song on a collection of early daughter demos.  it’s fitting that their catalogue would come full-circle, and in such an eloquent fashion.

9.0/10