Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Canadian twins Tasseomancy before the release of new album Ulalume

Tasseomancy by Casey Otremba
Tasseomancy by Casey Otremba.

The debut album from Canadian twins Tasseomancy (meaning divination of the future in tea leaves, adiposity coffee grounds or wine sediments) is out on Turf Records at the end of August. Ulalume features the same beautiful vocals as Sari and Romy Lightman‘s former outfit Ghost Bees, try but for their Tasseomancy incarnation they have embraced a new gothic intensity. Sari answered my questions.

Tasseomancy by Rachel Fujii
Tasseomancy by Rachel Fujii.

Why did Ghost Bees become Tasseomancy? What’s changed and why did that need to happen?
We felt like we had outgrown Ghost Bees. Our band was changing from a folk duo to a fuller, more ambient sound, experimenting with pedals and noise. That’s the direction we’re still going in.

Tasseomancy press shot

How would you describe your music? Who writes the lyrics and what inspires those?
We both write the lyrics, but separately. Half the record are Romy’s songs, and the other half are mine. We’re inspired by Japanese folk music, by eastern percussion and melody, and also by contemporary artists – like Timber Timbre, who are utilising technology with older, more traditional forms. It creates a timelessness in their music that both of us are into. My lyrics are often inspired by writers. A lot of my inspiration for this record came from a book of poetry called Poland/1931, by Jerome Rothenberg.

Tasseomancy by Casey Otremba
Tasseomancy by Casey Otremba
Tasseomancy by Casey Otremba.

How has being twins affected your creativity? Do you have any of that mythical twin 6th sense?
Being twins has definitely affected our dynamic as a band. There’s a lot of intuition that exists between us. Working with someone you knows you in such an inexplicable way has it’s strengths and also it’s weaknesses.

Tasseomancy by Melissa Kime.

Was there ever any question that you would make music together? Any other possible careers that have fallen by the wayside?
We’re very different people, and I’m sure we’ll both pursue other creative pursuits in our lives. I really like to write, and Romy is very visually inclined.

Ulalume by Scott Waldron.

You also tour as part of Austra – how does this partnership work? Are you all friends and do you work together on other projects as well?
We’ve been friends with Katie Stelmanis and Maya Postepski for a long time now. We actually met them on a dock by in the ocean in Nova Scotia, where I organized a show for us to play together in our separate projects at the time at an all girls surf school. We get along really well, and both Katie and Maya have performed in Tasseomancy for a few performances. Currently, we’re collaborating with Maya for a string of shows we’ll be doing under as Tasseomancy featuring Princess Century (Maya’s solo project). She also made a remix for one of our songs, Heavy Sleep.

YouTube Preview ImageHeavy Sleep

You will be releasing the album on a specially commissioned candlestick and matchbook set – how does this work and what inspired the idea?
Our UK label, Turf Records, asked us to release our music with any medium we could think of. We both thought of the candle, as it enhances the experience of listening to music when you create an atmosphere to go along with it. Candlelight is a good lighting.

Tasseomancy girls

When and where will you be playing next in the UK?
We’re playing our release show on Tuesday 30th August at the Camp Basement. It will be our first time in the UK playing with a band. Maya will be joining us on drums and synth, plus, expect special guests!

YouTube Preview ImageSoft Feet

If you like Tasseomancy don’t forget to read my interview with Kate Stelmanis of Austra.

Tasseomancy by Kinska
Tasseomancy by Kinska.

Categories ,album, ,Austra, ,Camp Basement, ,Canadian, ,Casey Otremba, ,Ghost Bees, ,Heavy Sleep, ,Jerome Rothenberg, ,Kate Stelmanis, ,Kinska, ,Maya Postepski, ,Melissa Kime, ,Poland/1931, ,Princess Century, ,Rachel Fujii, ,Sari and Romy Lightman, ,Scott Waldron, ,Soft Feet, ,Tasseomancy, ,Timber Timbre, ,Turf Records, ,Twins, ,Ulalume

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Amelia’s Magazine | Austra, Viv Albertine & Daughter at the Windmill: music review

Sarah Baardarani, search illustrated by Naomi Law

With Fashion Scout releasing their Ones to Watch for the coming season last week, it was only going to be a matter of fashion minutes before the British Fashion Council announced who was going to feature on the stands this A/W 2011 fashion week. And here they are!

I like the exhibitions a lot. You get to really get a feel for the collections – you can see them up close and touch them – hell, you can even smell them if that’s your bag. While a big-budget catwalk show has the atmosphere to accompany the clothes, I often miss many of the design quirks and fabric features because I’m just too damn busy photographing, tweeting and scribbling what will later become illegible notes. With the stands, you can see the colossal effort that a designer has put into their collection and often they’re hanging around, so you can EVEN chat to them too.

It’s also a great place to find up-an-coming design talent: fresh ideas and new ways of doing things. Sod the oldies on the catwalks. This year looks like it won’t disappoint. Here’s a round of the ‘Emerging Designers’ that the BFC has added to its roster:
austra by anko
Austra by Anko

It may have been a typically miserable Monday night in January, thumb but we were safe from the elements within the hallowed hall that is the Windmill in Brixton. This unassuming little pub just off the busy thoroughfare of Brixton Hill (and in the shadow of a real windmill, the only one remaining in London), has seen many upcoming bands and surprise appearances from old faces grace its stage over the years. My favourite music venue in London (and my second gig there in 48 hours), I’ve had a lot of nights at the Windmill that have been great (including my second New Year’s Eve in London), hazy (ditto) and just plain bizarre.

elena tonra by ellie sutton
Elena Tonra by Ellie Sutton.

The evening began with some haunting acoustica from Daughter, aka Elena Tonra. Plucking at an acoustic guitar, and backed by some subtle electric guitar washes, Tonra’s hushed vocals delivered some daintily dark lyrics that drew the onlookers in. As the Windmill began to fill up, Viv Albertine took to the stage with her new band, Limerence. Once the guitarist and co-songwriter with iconic punk band The Slits, Albertine had been off the music scene for over 20 years after pursuing a career in TV and film directing, but she recently made a return to the stage (indeed, her debut was here at the Windmill) and has gone on to release an EP on the label of Sonic Youth’s very own Thurston Moore.

Viv Albertine by Karina Yarv
Viv Albertine by Karina Yarv.

“Limerence” was a term coined to describe a near-obsessive form of romantic love, though Albertine joked that her songs were generally about pretty much the opposite. Limerence the band is a loose collective of musicians – I’d seen them play at the George Tavern in Stepney last year with pretty much a full compliment, but tonight it was just a pairing of violin and a combo of keyboard, guitar and ukulele. Musically, Albertine has moved on from the reggae infused sound of her old band, though her guitar is still as distinctive as it was on songs like Typical Girls. If anything, there’s a hint of Syd Barrett about songs like Fairytale and the twisted pop of Never Come, and the lyrics are as witty and spiky as you’d expect. Void references a darker part of her punk past, and was introduced with a few reminiscences of 1976. The paired down line-up actually gave an extra edge to Albertine’s songs, highlighted on the unsettling set closer, Confessions Of A Milf, which descended into a one-chord riff on suburban paranoia.

Canadian headliners Austra have been causing a bit of a buzz of late. Hailing from Toronto, and centred on vocalist Katie Stelmanis, with Maya Postepski on programming and Dorian Wolf on bass, they recently renamed themselves (having previously been going under Stelmanis’ moniker), signed to Domino and currently have a 12” single out, with an album in the pipeline for later this year.

Austra gig at The Windmill by Laura Godfrey
Austra gig at The Windmill by Laura Godfrey.

For the UK leg of a whistle-stop European tour, starting tonight, Stelmanis and co were joined by a drummer, keyboard player and two extra vocalists. There was a bit of a shaky start with a technical hitch before things got into their stride. It would be easy to make comparisons with Fever Ray and Glasser (especially as I’d seen both live fairly recently), and Austra do fall into that category of brooding female vocals over dark electronic beats. However, they’re not as dense as Fever Ray or as spectral as Glasser, especially live. I’d read somewhere that Austra were like “Fever Ray gone disco”, which actually isn’t a million miles off the mark. The single, Beat & the Pulse, is distinctly dance-friendly, and while Stelmanis’ vocal delivery may be reminiscent of Karin Dreijer Andersson, the general vibe is more akin to the early to mid 80’s indie-dance crossover. In the confined space of the Windmill, Austra’s songs become much more organic, with the live drums and bass giving an added kick. There was also plenty of theatricality, with Stelmanis and her sidekicks whirling and dipping during each song.

It was a typically great and varied mix of bands and styles tonight, another in a long line of great nights that I’ve experienced at the Windmill, and another one I’m sure that the venue’s legendary Roof Dog would approve of.

Categories ,acoustic, ,Anko, ,Austra, ,Brixton, ,dance, ,Daughter, ,domino, ,electronic, ,Elena Tonra, ,Ellie Sutton, ,Fever Ray, ,George Tavern, ,Glasser, ,Karin Dreijer Andersson, ,Karina Yarv, ,Laura Godfrey, ,Limerence, ,LJG Art, ,punk, ,reggae, ,Roof Dog, ,Sonic Youth, ,Stepney, ,Syd Barrett, ,the slits, ,Thurston Moore, ,Toronto, ,Typical Girls, ,viv albertine, ,Windmill

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Amelia’s Magazine | Kate Stelmanis of Austra talks about touring Europe with her debut album Feel It Break

Austra by Karolina Burdon
Austra by Karolina Burdon.

Truth be said, pills I have been thoroughly wowed by the debut album from Austra. Maybe it’s the strong influence of The Knife, medicine a band I absolutely adore, malady or the sweetest of vocals from the classically trained Canadian lead singer Katie Stelmanis. Either way Feel It Break has been on repeat for many weeks or more. From the throbbing beats of Beat and the Pulse, with its 80s-esque gymnastic dance video, to the lush loops and yearning wails in Lose It, Austra has me hooked.

Austra Sleeve
I spoke with Kate Stelmanis, the Toronto-based brains behind Austra. A very independent lady: we like.

What was the best part about being a singer in the prestigious Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus and then the Canadian Opera Company?
Being in a choir was a very social thing for me. I loved my friends. But most importantly, it is such a powerful experience performing in a huge group like that. Standing in a choir and being surrounded by voices, each person singing their specific harmonies that all come together so unexpectedly was the most amazing thing for me.

Austra by Clive McFarland
Austra by Clive McFarland.

How has your voice changed, now that you sing dark electronica?
My voice has changed a lot since my training. I’ve basically abandoned all of it and over the years, being in lots of different types of bands, developed my own sound.

How have your inspirations shaped the way you sing and make music?
My greatest inspiration is classical music and opera. That is what I grew up on, and so that is what I am most familiar with. My music is very influenced by these genres.

Austra Kate Stelmanis

What has been the best and worst parts of managing your whole career independently?
I have had help from lots of people, the Blocks Recording Club provided me with the resources to learn how to be a band. And Mike from Fucked Up acted as my manager for years. He is more of a mentor really, I respect his opinion and his ideas immensely. Nowadays it’s becoming more difficult to stay on top of things, but I don’t want to chose a manager until I’m sure it’s the right fit. Essentially a manager is almost like another band member, so I will chose carefully.

YouTube Preview Image
Beat and the Pulse.

How does being based in Toronto affect your life and creation of music? Why are Canadians not as receptive to your music as Europeans?
I don’t think it’s that Canadians are not receptive to my music, I think its more so that because we are so sparsely populated and such a large country that it’s difficult to promote smaller sub-genres. Canada is known for its folk and rock music, not for its electronic scene. Though people here are ready for it it’s just difficult to grow in a country that isn’t set up to support that particular genre. Things will evolve though I’m sure. Toronto has been a great place to make music, mostly because of the huge amount of people making music successfully in the city – which is great inspiration and motivation to continue with my own project.

Capture Something Rare by Abi Heyneke.

What do you most recommend a new visitor to do in Toronto?
You should visit Trinity Bellwoods Park, the Ossington restaurants, Kensington Market vintage shopping and make sure you check out the cheap eats.

YouTube Preview Image
Lose It.

What can an audience expect from your live performance?
I am currently performing as a six piece with two back up singers and an extra keyboard player. We play a mixture of analog and electronic instruments.

Kate Stelmanis of Austra

What have you learnt about Europe that has been most surprising, whilst on tour?
It’s terribly hard to find hummus in many parts of Europe, and far too easy to find cheese.

Feel It Break is out now on Domino Records. I strongly urge you to check it out! Kate Stelmanis and co will be on tour in the UK during July.

Categories ,80s, ,Abi Heyneke, ,album, ,Austra, ,Beat and the Pulse, ,Blocks Recording Club, ,canada, ,Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, ,Canadian Opera Company, ,Clive McFarland, ,Domino Records, ,electronica, ,Feel It Break, ,Fucked Up, ,Karolina Burdon, ,Kate Stelmanis, ,Kensington Market, ,Lose It, ,opera, ,Ossington restaurants, ,The Knife, ,Toronto, ,Trinity Bellwoods Park

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Amelia’s Magazine | Live Review: Tasseomancy at CAMP Basement

Tasseomancy by Claire Kearns
Tasseomancy by Claire Kearns.

Thanks to a combination of insouciance and lost leads Tasseomancy opened the launch show for new album Ulalume nearly 45 minutes late. Keeping true to their psychedelic gothic imaginings the twins sat inside a blood red projection looped with dancing white satyrs. Behind them on keys stood their friend and sometime band member, approved Princess Century.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at CAMP Basement. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

The show began with a guttural growl that echoed ominously around CAMP Basement, and then the first lilting notes kicked in, angelic voices rising alternately, aided by mandolin and guitar.

Tasseomancy by Sarah-Jayne
Tasseomancy by Sarah-Jayne.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
There were home made cakes on the door on arrival, a lovely touch.

Tasseomancy have just been on tour with Arcade Fire as part of Austra and after a few woozy songs they paused for a moment to regale us with tales of life with a band at the peak of the game: a private ping pong table and basketball court provided for their relaxation.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory

I am afraid that due to the late start I didn’t stay for the whole set, but I urge you to check out Tasseomancy‘s new album, which has been released (a world first!) on a specially designed candle with the digital download by Turf Records. Naturally, they hope that it will provide an appropriate ambiance when listening to the music. You can also read my interview with Tasseomancy right here.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
The Ulalume candle.

Categories ,Arcade Fire, ,Austra, ,Camp Basement, ,candle, ,Claire Kearns, ,Digital Download, ,gothic, ,Princess Century, ,psychedelic, ,Sarah-Jayne, ,Tasseomancy, ,Toronto, ,Turf Records, ,Ulalume

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