Amelia’s Magazine | Au Revoir Simone at the Garage: Live Review

Au Revoir Simone by Rhi Pardoe

Au Revoir Simone by Rhi Pardoe

It’s that time of year when the NME Awards once again roll into town – a series of gigs showcasing the great and the good of the current and up-and-coming music scene at assorted venues around the capital. Tonight was the turn of Williamsburg’s finest, Au Revoir Simone, currently mid-tour promoting their new album, at the Garage on Highbury Corner.

The Garage was already pretty busy when I got there, darkened and swirling with enough dry ice to prompt flashbacks to student disco nights, but I was just in time to catch some of the opening set, from the intriguing Mariam The Believer.

Au Revoir Simone by Ruth Joyce

Au Revoir Simone by Ruth Joyce

In the decade since they first got together, the trio of Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo have produced some shimmering sounds with their keyboards, drum machines and vocal harmonies, picking up a lot of fans along the way including, somewhat improbably, cult film director David Lynch. Au Revoir Simone’s fourth album, Move In Spectrums, has given the band’s already lush synth pop sound an extra sheen, as witnessed on the LP’s lead single, the double A side of Crazy and Somebody Who.

Au Revoir Simone by Sylwia Szyszka

Au Revoir Simone by Sylwia Szyszka

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Tonight was the first time I’d seen Au Revoir Simone in a couple of years (I’d caught them play Union Chapel and the Scala a while ago, but missed the sold out show at XOYO last September). Backlit on a darkened stage, the band kicked off with the cascading keyboard riffs of Just Like A Tree, which was followed by another track from the new album, the eerily 80s sounding Gravitron. There were actually quite a few songs from Move In Spectrums dotted throughout the set, but also a number from 2009’s Still Night, Still Light as well – Only You Can Make You Happy made an appearance, as did Knight Of Wands and, amongst others, the insistent Anywhere You Looked. Still Night, Still Light is probably the album that sits best with the band’s new long player, and I’m pretty sure none of their earlier tracks got a look in tonight.

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Au Revoir Simone by Calamus YY Chan

Au Revoir Simone by Calamus YY Chan

With their keyboards arranged side by side, and assorted drum pads dotted around, there wasn’t too much room to move on the Garage’s reasonably small stage. Vocal duties were mainly lead by Erika Forster, though Annie Hart took over for a few songs. There was also a bit of bass guitar swapping between the two as well, and Hart also persuaded the lighting guy to brighten the room so she could get a photo of the crowd on her phone! The band finished off with another song from Still Night, Still Light, the crowd pleaser Shadows, before an inevitable encore to the cheers of the throng.

Au Revoir Simone now head off for the final leg of the tour with some North American shows, and we just hope it’s not too long before we see them over here again.

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Categories ,Annie Hart, ,Au Revoir Simone, ,Calamus YY Chan, ,David Lynch, ,Erika Forster, ,Heather D’Angelo, ,Mariam The Believer, ,NME Awards, ,Rhi Pardoe, ,Ruth Joyce, ,Sylwia Szyszka, ,The Garage, ,the Scala, ,union chapel, ,XOYO

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Amelia’s Magazine | I Was A Cub Scout

One thing is certain on listening to Swollen and Small; Viking Moses is utterly in love with Neutral Milk Hotel. He knows the songs inside out, for sale information pills upside down, and has grown up learning to play along with Jeff Mangum’s melancholic ponderings on life, the universe and everything.

This EP is a collection of four NMH covers, all played uniquely but strangely similar to the original tracks, with the emotion and devotion of a true disciple of the band he obviously so loves.

Having played with the rock stars of the alt-folk movement over the last five years (Devendra Banhart, Will Oldham, Cat Power), Moses has finally decided to do the self indulgent thing of strumming away his favourite songs for all to hear… And I’m damn happy that he did. It’s an interesting selection of songs he has decided to cover, three from the lesser known On Avery Island, and the dance floor filler Holland 1945 (from In the Aeroplane over the Sea), all of which are done justice.

Viking Moses has the same sort of off -beat, powerful and delicate voice as his idol and pulls off the long high drawn out notes in a wonderful, same-but-different manner from the originals. His rendition of Holland 1945 is truly spectacular, edging away from the rollicking, percussion driven original and opting for a quieter and all together gentler rendition which allows for the heartbreak of the lyrics to really come through.

It’s basically a one man and his guitar affair with occasional slide guitar and harmonica, percussion coming from the pounding of palm on guitar, working particularly well on Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone; a brilliant original and a worthy cover. As goes for the rest of the record.

This debut single from hotly-tipped Cardiff students Los Campesinos! suffers from the same problem as past efforts from the very similar Leeds band The Research and Bristol-based Kid Carpet. Namely, more about the whole thing reeks of a kind of contrived wackiness. I’m all for simple pop – The Ramones, shop for instance – but there’s simple pop and then there’s children’s music, and this – so sugary and kooky, veers towards the latter. And yes, the Americans say “math” – how amusing.

The press release for this EP not only offers the terrifying prospect of a “jazz flute” but also the use of something called a “shlang dan”. Thankfully, purchase the prospect of a muso jamming session – high on fannying about, viagra sale low on actual tunes – fails to materialise. That’s not to say, however, that Born Ruffians are particularly tuneful – they’re not. They play an ultimately frustrating kind of country rock reminiscent of Neil Young at his most MOR. What’s more, Luke LaLonde’s singing voice is so whiny it makes the vocals of infinitely annoying Clap Your Hands Say Yeah front man Alec Ounsworth sound like Johnny Cash.

If you weren’t sure with the term ‘neon done well’, pill this could have been your crash course. If you mix ‘indie’ and ‘rave’ apparently this is the uniform! Brilliant, price I got given three glow bracelets from an almost-nuclear guy at the bar. That’ll do nicely.

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with DJ/disco-dance/electro-pop musician Ali Love

Big Chill Festival 2010

I am standing on a sweaty tube to Ladbroke Grove and boy do I want to bust a move. I want to glide across the carriage, this wind it up, look shake my bootie (even though I don’t have much of one), viagra do the robot, shimmy back and forth and clap – but I don’t. Instead I repress all of my disco dancing energy into a few gentle taps with my fingers on the pole I’m meant to be holding onto; my inner Tony Manero bound and gagged.

Summer has arrived in full bloom as I listen to Ali Love’s latest single ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ on my hot pink ipod; I am on my way to meet the man himself. If truth be told, the first time I heard of Ali was only a few weeks ago when I was invited to a one-off exclusive show at East London art venue, CAMP. Although initially weary of all the hype, on seeing him perform and hearing his latest material, I couldn’t figure out why it had taken me so long to ‘discover’ him.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Storming onto the stage dressed head-to-toe in black with a cloak, studded vest and what oddly enough appeared to resemble a tassled curtain tie-back around his neck, Ali worked the stage with his two slinky backing singers dressed in rubber black cat suits, stitched with fluorescent electric blue tubing, like a veteran pop-maestro. As the girls writhed behind him in synchrony with lashings of mascara and kohled eyes, Ali delivered his anabolic steroid pumped disco tunes, filled with dirty bass lines, swirling-synths and throbbing melodies, laced with Prince-esque vocals, to an enthusiastic party audience who seemed to know every word.

Ali’s sound may not be groundbreaking in its 1980s electro-inspired genre nor particularly durable, but it is fun, upbeat, catchy and infectious, and his new album, Love Harder, features plenty of floor-fillers, such as ‘Done the Dirty’ featuring Lou Hayter from New Young Pony Club, reminiscent of Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, and ‘Show Me’, sampling Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, which deserve to be hit singles.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Today, there is no cloak and I arrive at Ali’s early to find myself loitering outside his flat, waiting for him to return from picking up his DMX drum machine. I spot him approaching me in distinctively 80s attire; a bright green t-shirt, blue skinny jeans, white Nike high tops with a fluorescent orange tick and a gold vintage bling watch. Ali towers over me, greeting me with a hug and a Sarf London accented: “Hey babe”.

On stage, Ali appeared extroverted, flamboyant and massively confident. On a one-to-one, however, he is more reserved than I had imagined, making little eye contact and often flits between intense and evasive, lucid and incoherent. As the evening progresses, a cheekier and more spiritual side of Ali emerges, as we talk about his cosmic stage sets, his preference for recording in the studio over performing live and potential collaborations, over a nice strong brew in his cosy flat in Notting Hill…

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

I loved the cosmic theme of your stage set at CAMP. How did the idea come about?
In colour, the music I’ve created is black and electric blue. When I visualise the sound, I can picture things like arpeggiators and my DMX drum machine (Ali points to the electric blue lines on his Oberheim DMX drum machine). On the cosmic theme, well I like cosmic music coz I’m a cosmic guy.

How do you go about composing your records? Do lyrics or a tune come to you first?
Most of the time, it’s the melody that comes to you first. Then I’ll just pick up my guitar and try to re-create it. Other times, it’s being struck by a word that someone says; something that you instantly pick up on and connect with. A good word can just spark off an idea. Songs write themselves most of the time. It’s like a flame; you have to keep feeding it with your creative energy.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

How would you describe your new album, Love Harder, in three words?
Electric love music.

What has been the general response from the audience who you have played to so far?
What I’ve done has been well-received by the gay community and all over Europe. They’re mainly my kind of people; slightly left of centre, so not mainstream. I don’t really make music for closed-minded people; I make music for open-minded people and cosmic party people. I don’t know if that sounds snobby but those are the kind of people I want to impress. When musicians like Aeroplane say they love my music, it’s a really great feeling because that’s the kind of audience I’m trying to reach out to. It means a lot to gain respect from the people that I respect.

There’s a track on the album where you collaborate with Teenagers in Tokyo. How do you think they complement your sound?
Well the opportunity arose to work with Sam (Lim) who has a lovely voice so I just grabbed it. I told her to sing like a space siren and she nailed it. She really went for it on the record and to me, she sounds like an angel singing. I think it’s a great track to end the album on.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Your sound is distinctively 80s – is this an era that you look to for inspiration?
I don’t see myself as a retro artist. The palette was slightly electro and analogue so that lends itself to sounding 80s. The machines that I used are all 30 years old. I don’t care whether something is retro or not, it’s about whether you can hold a tune or whether it’s good to listen to. We live in a post-modern world and it’s hard to create new ground.

What has your career highlight been so far?
I’ve been to lots of different places in the world and have experienced a lot of stuff and that’s all because of the music – that aspect has been good. I’m pretty even minded about most things in a Buddhist middle way; I try to stay emotionally consistent, whether things are good or bad. My most blissful musical times aren’t when I’m doing gigs – they’re when I’m in the studio, recording material. That’s what I love doing the most.

It’s interesting you should say that as most musicians tend to enjoy the gigging aspect the most…
The last gig was really good and I felt really confident and happy that people were there, which felt like a breakthrough. I’d like to be like Harry Nilsson, he never played live, he just made beautiful amazing songs in the studio. Same with Georgio Moroder – he gave up playing live. I’m more interested in being a recording artist.

What do you gain from making music from a spiritual point of view?
If I didn’t do music I’d have to do meditation or something to stop me from going mad. Music for me is meditative. I need to concentrate on something and it’s been the one thing I can concentrate on. I was terrible at school. My dad died when I was 13 and it stopped me from caring too much about things. I became quite spiritual as I was suddenly hit by the question of death. My whole mind started to move in a different direction. It has given me a place to escape to and a lot more empathy for feeling things in the world. It has enhanced my musical palette which happens to a lot of musicians. You need to find a place to visit to write songs. If everything in your life was normal, it would be quite difficult to find inspiration to write. Having said that I do still really like boner jams about sex; they’re all fine.

How have you changed as a person since you started out in the music industry?
When I started out I was living above a club on Kingsland Road in East London and high all the time. I was living on the dole but passionate about my music; just the classic clichéd punk rock vibe. But somehow I managed to get a big record deal. So because I’d been on the dole for six years beforehand, it all went to my head a bit. I went a bit crazy and the partying outweighed the music-making even before it all started. But luckily I had the hit with the Chemical Brothers which kept me financially afloat for a while. I wouldn’t change anything; it was a good journey. Now I’d love to have a guru or teacher and learn kung-fu in the hills; get more in touch with my spiritual side.

Who interests you most on the music scene at the moment and why?
I’m mostly drawn to disco people like Aeroplane and the guy who did my remix, Bottin. I really like the work that Prins Thomas does and the Lindstrom stuff. Pop wise, I like Empire of the Sun.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’d like to collaborate with rappers, some kind of US stuff. I think it’s because I’ve just moved to West London and there’s a bit more rap around where I live and that’s starting to soak into me.

So do you find that where you live influences your sound?
Well I was living in East London before which is why I made a totally gay disco record!

And finally – what random piece of advice can you offer readers of Amelia’s Magazine?
Be nice to each other and always look right twice when you cross the road.

Ali Love’s new album Love Harder is out on 9th August on Back Yard Recordings.

Categories ,Aeroplane, ,Ali Love, ,Bottin, ,Chemical Brothers, ,DMX drum machine, ,Georgio Moroder, ,Harry Nilsson, ,Kat Phan, ,Lindstrom, ,New Young Pony Club, ,prince, ,Prins Thomas, ,teenagers in tokyo, ,Tony Manero

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Amelia’s Magazine | Mirage: Cloud Seeding with Alexa Wilding

alexa wilding by Simon McLaren
Alexa Wilding by Simon McLaren.

New York based singer songwriter Alexa Wilding introduces her beautiful collaboration with Cloud Seeding, an ode to a lost pregnancy. I was extremely touched when Alexa reached out to me when the same thing happened to me. Like me she has used the experience to make art that heals, in her case music.

Mirage was a lifeline for me, as I worked on it, very slowly, while pregnant with my twins. I was unsure what being a mother would mean for my music, and it gave me a sense of artistic security to know that I would have a song to release after the boys were born.

Alexa Wilding
Kevin Serra (of Cloud Seeding) had contacted me out of the blue, and I was delighted to collaborate, even though I had never written with anyone before. The skeletal arrangements he sent me reminded me of Hal Hartey‘s soundtracks. They filled me with a deep and gnawing nostalgia, especially Mirage, which at the time was only guitars and organs. It felt like a road song, and I had always wanted to write one, even though they’re usually sung by men.

The melody and line “By the time we got to Texas, it was gone, gone, gone,” came to me immediately. I remember so clearly sitting in my red chair by the window, with my notebook propped against my belly, writing that line over and over again for weeks. You daydream a lot when you’re pregnant, or at least I did. It’s a passing from one chapter into the next, and with Mirage I said goodbye to a time in my life that I would surely never experience again, the freewheeling times of a musician on the road, and the question, “will I return home?

Alexa Wilding mirage_videostill
But songwriting works in funny ways. Songs are like prisms, they can hold a few stories, they can surprise you. My boys were born and we recorded Mirage months after with my longtime team in Brooklyn. While Mirage is indeed about traveling and disillusionment, as I sang, “it all fell to pieces, because…” I realized it was also a eulogy to a pregnancy I had lost a year earlier. So my road song turned out to be a very feminine tale of lust and loss. I wonder if I would have been brave enough to write it had I not had someone else’s musical shoulder to lean on?

For the video we turned to Paola Suhonen, of the Finnish fashion and art label, Ivana Helsinki, with whom I have made all my music videos. It seemed fitting to give the song to Paola since she documented all of my maidenhood so to speak! And in the spirit of Cloud Seeding‘s collaborative trust, we told Paola to interpret the song for herself. Per usual, her poetic imagery matched much of my daydreaming.

And that’s the story! Kevin and I are continuing to collaborate. He makes me brave and I can’t wait to have him play on my new album, too. I know my new songs are different because of Mirage. They pick up where we left off.

Mirage by Cloud Seeding with Alexa Wilding is out now.

Categories ,Alexa Wilding, ,brooklyn, ,Cloud Seeding, ,Hal Hartey, ,Kevin Serra, ,Mirage, ,Miscarriage, ,Motherhood, ,new york, ,Pregnancy, ,Simon Mclaren, ,texas

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