Monday, 29 November 2010

Niki & The Dove – DJ, Ease My Mind/Under The Bridges

An absolute favourite for me at the moment and blowing off the radar any recent release are the discovery of this new Nordic  pop trio. Catchy and experimental with some strangely and beautifully choreographed videos, this is enlightened pop for those that like some serious knob twiddling and avant-garde loveliness.

Niki & The Dove’s current and second release ‘Mother Protect’ is just gorgeous, rewinding back a few months to highlight their debut 12” back in August seemed a must as it may have passed a few by. This would be such a pity if you’re a fan of The Knife’s brand of electro as they certainly seem to be in the league if marginally more accessible.

 It might seem too easy as they are Swedish and Malin Dahlstrom ‘s vocals sound so like Karin Dreijer Andersson’s to compare them with the genius of her tech pop; I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Fever Ray but I think Niki & The Dove have cleverly tapped this audience and hallmark electronica without sounding like a rip off.

If ‘Mother Protect’ made you spine tingly, ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ will no doubt do the same, enchantingly beatific without being sentimental, coupled with pulsating beats and layers of synth gorgeousness marrying a naive simplicity in the track as a whole. The acrobatic flare in the video cannot be watched without being wowed. You will be left looking for the invisible string they must have used to dalliance in mid air with such perfection in footage that looks like it was made around 30 years ago.

 For the b-side of this debut, Under The Bridges, you get around seven minutes of electro bonkersness drawing you in to the video with some some heavily choreographed footage from a Swedish dance company. Again this reminded me of The Knife and their marriage of performance art and music with the genius of their Darwinist electro opera and The Colouring of Pigeons.

Niki & The Dove do it in a mildly more mainstream way unlike the fearless peculiarity of  The Knife’s projects which you just can’t ignore and I  lovelovelove...

The debut 12” was out on Moshi Moshi August 30th and  the current gem ‘Mother Protect’ is out now…if you like some innovative pop and want to avoid the vacuous festive rubbish in the charts we are about to be subjected to ( naughty boys HURTS and COLDPLAY) , you need to keep an eye out for Niki & The Dove

 Related links

Jump here for Mother Protect if you missed this one! 

The Crying Tree - Naseem Rakha

'The Crying Tree' is Naseem Rakha's first novel and follows the story of one family over three decades.  It deals with hidden secrets, guilt, sibling rivalry, favouritism and ultimately with the murder of a young boy and the grief and ways different members of the family deal with it.

The main theme in this novel is 'forgiveness', I could relate to the mother's grief, thankfully only to a certain point, and the blind love for her child.  The twist of the novel, however, blurred Irene Stanley's connection to her son Shep for me, as I'm sure a tuned in mother would have 'known'.

Back to forgiveness though, Irene is the focus of this as she battles to come to terms with the loss of her son but each character has to forgive on some level, the subplots here being Tab Mason, the Penitentiary 'keeper' of Daniel Robbin, the accused; Nate Stanley, the father and Shep's little sister 'Bliss'. It is interesting how they all develop and change over the course of the novel within their own stories and how it all comes together for all of them in quite a spiritual way for me, although reading it, I did think maybe some would interpret it as sentimental.

Call me morbid but I was quite fascinated by the life of  Daniel Robbin before and after his incarceration in the Oregon State Penitentiary and quite so by the procedure involved in the execution of someone by lethal injection. The guilt that Tab Mason feels about the final act after all those years is interesting alongside the need for a gallery of witnesses, the anonymity of the person who actually feeds the lethal drip and astonishingly, the presence of medical staff in case things go wrong and they need to resuscitate? By no means was the moral dilemma a main focus but it does throw up serious questions about the death penalty and did reinforce my opposement to it.

It is in no way a religious novel, however, spiritual themes, talk of God and church do come up in the course of the stories highlighting the hypocrisy and lack of 'forgiveness' in those who are supposed to be selling it to us all. Without giving too much away, the ending is a peaceful release for all of the characters and ties it all up with the words of 'Silent Night', call me sentimental but I liked that.

The novel is good but it didn't blow me away like some have; the twist in the tale as I touched on before undermined the mother's role and it could be argued undermined her forgiveness. Again though, with a spiritual spin, maybe she was tuned in and compelled to do what she did for Shep.

All in all, The Crying Tree is a fast paced novel, not perfect but I would recommend it.

Naseem Rakha: I did not write The Crying Tree to make a statement about the Death Penalty. Instead, I wanted people to confront the question of forgiveness. What does it look like, what does it take, and what can it possibly give? Intellectually, I oppose capital punishment. But, if faced with the murder of a loved one, I have no idea if my moral objections would stand up against my desire for vengeance. This is a question one hopes to never face, but perhaps through this book people will think more about their own capacity to live beyond loss.

 Q&A with Naseem on Amazon 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Niki & The Dove - Mother Protect

Introducing another Nordic electro gem, the misleading name is actually a Swedish trio fronted by Malin Dahlstrom. They master an experimental synth pop edge with an inspired nod to the electro royalty of these parts The KnifeNiki & The Dove are in keeping with that nature centric fusing of experimental tech pop mixed up with the tribal beat of the landscape and pulse of mother earth. Definitely in the Norse paganistic pop league along with the veteran Bjork, through Jonsi and spilling out with the likes of Our Broken Garden.

It is so Fever Ray vocally and with the ancestral drumming merged with the futuristic bleeping, it does echo the magic of the Driejer-Andersson genius but with a more poppy accessibility which bagged them a session on Rob Da Bank's Radio 1 show.

They have already been NME Radar stars and with their icy and mysterious appeal, another track 'DJ, Ease My Mind' had been described by said pop press as 'about to give Robyn and Lykke sleepless nights'...

I think there's room for them all...but have a listen and see what you think! Definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the coming months...

 Related links:

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Whimsically Gorgeous...Our Broken Garden with 'Golden Sea'

Our Broken Garden's very bewitching Anna Broensted has produced an album of whimsical enchantment.  Golden Sea may bring you to the point of haunting beauty or, adversely, it will knock your whimsy socks off to the point you find it intensely irritating. For the most, I found it lovely.

The former keyboardist with Efterklang has gone solo as Our Broken Garden and  put together ten tracks of dreamy paganistic pop, preoccupied with death in places but in a 'new beginning' kind of way; shades of Bat For Lashes, a more downbeat Florence and the Machine, Feist and going back further Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. 

Of course the 'siren' Anna is distant and mourning in  some of these tracks, otherworldly and melancholic it could only be having been inspired after watching her fellow Dane's Lars Von Tier's movie 'Antichrist'. The simple use of guitar, synth and string, reverberated and sombre will have an acquired appeal for fans of Scandinavian peers like Little Dragon and Fever Ray with its earthy yet other realm element.


Lyrically it is very 'Bat For Lashes' with tales of wailing moons and tears, sea mists and lakes...these are tracks of blissed out sobriety, mixed with some grandiose piano tinkling on the edge of classical, especially with 'The Departure'

The unsettling mysteries of this music have been described by the BBC as 'music goths shag to' I would link to the appalling review  but it was so badly written, I can't be bothered. Interestingly 'new musical mainstream',  NME, love it though; it really is one of those you have to listen to really and make your own mind up. 

 You couldn't possibly criticise the wafting beauty of Anna's voice, even if on the odd track, the mix of musical genre is too busy at times with the  likes of  'Garden Grow' and 'Nightlife', detracting from the heart of the song...time will tell if they are growers though.  The Dark Red Roses is just magical on first listen...

'The Buriel' is worth checking out if you're at all School of Seven Bells inclined, you just' floaty' away quite nicely for it. Strangely the only track so far to have an official video is 'Garden Grow' a bit Goldfrapp circa folktronica phase, but I'm going to politely ignore it as I found it a bit clumsy.

 From the marching drums of 'Warriors of Love' to the the spooky electro pulse of 'Seven Wild Horses' no youtube clip so  for this one but 'thank you' soundcloud..jump here for this which is just lovely...  


Grandiose in every way...with strings, with keyboards, piano, guitar, ethereal melancholy and Nordic nature inspired melodrama, it's otherwordly loveliness. My absolute favourite on the album has to be 'The Fiery and Loud' ...enjoy for the whimsy overdose.


Was released on the 18th October on Bella Union... buy buy it fellow fanciful peeps!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A little reminder... Tying Tiffany with Peoples Temple

It’s time to introduce some ‘eyeliner- electro’, code for ‘goth’ of course, but don’t stop reading pop tarts. I reviewed this a while back for music site  Electronically Yours but thought with the new release of the second single 'Lost Way, a little reminder and some updating might be due.

This third album from the beautifully provocative Italian Tying Tiffany has some wonderful tech pop gems but be warned, her  previous albums should come with a 'eurotrash' warning for some tastes so skip straight to Peoples Temple.  Resurrecting the sounds of Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie Sioux, it has ditched most of the guitars and bought things up to electro speed for 2010 . Throw in some Depeche Mode with her vampish beauty, how could you resist?

The album kicks off with ‘3 circle’, Bauhaus fused with Siouxise...lovelove it and a great opening to the album. Moving on to track 2 ‘Storycide’, it sounds like something off of  Mode's ‘Violator’ in places,  confirming that only the ladies should dare to try this with too much male electro lately sounding like diluted Gahan/Gore. ‘Lost Way’ is synth heavy loveliness, upbeat but still feisty and for ‘One Breath’, someone clearly dug up Pete Murphy for guest vocals, Tiff comes in sounding very Toni Halliday from Curve with this curious mix.


‘Still in my Head’ is unashamedly sounding like The Cure but sexier, although that’s not hard really, sorry Robert, sexy you will never be, however biggup for latest collaboration with Crystal Castles.  Jump here if you haven't heard it Crystal Castles ft Robert Smith .

Back to Tiff now and disco electropop beep beep for ‘Miracle’, if some of the tracks are too goth synth heavy, this one should grab your pop electro ears and ends with a hint of Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’ too. ‘Cecille’, sounding like Curve mixed with Lush and a touch of Garbage, is basically fiery lady electro,  none of this girlie 'Little Boots' nonsense.

‘Borderline’, no don’t get excited, it’s not a Madonna cover but it’s great anyway! It starts sounding like Ladytron and then the Siouxsie element jumps back in, another track more on the edgier end of pop. For ‘Ghoul’, Tying Tiffany pulls off the femme fatale pop brilliantly and the album ends with ‘Show Me What You Got’ sounding very Chicks on Speed, what a great way to end.

Tying Tiffany has had a varied musical history, however, with this year’s Peoples Temple, the act seems to have found its niche. It could be argued that her success lately is due to a certain kind of 'following' being an ex fetish model, however, it looks like things have moved on a bit  and the music is taking more precedent over that for this album.

 I highly recommend this one for any fans of darker synth pop.  Check out 'Miracle' below, sadly the video doesn't include the vampish loveliness of the lady herself but it's not bad.

New single and video out 'Lost Way'


Ditching the thrashy ‘suicidegirl’ look for a more stylish Ladytronesque video, Tiff is subtly sultry in a metallic dress. Looking a bit of a dominatrix in a harmless pop Alison Goldfrapp kind of way with her dancing girls, the track ‘Lost Way’, I think shows a classier, more polished direction while keeping within the boundaries of darker electronic music.

The video is shot in cold sterling tones giving a space age futuristic feel so if you feel like a foray into the dark side of electronica, check out the crunchy synth heaviness of ‘Lost Way’ goth gorgeousness. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A dragon, some fever and loads of balloons...

Obscure title... yes maybe as my specialist subject this week has been not sleeping that well, leaving me overtired and brain power lacking,  fancies will be related to music, the food of love, and basically all I can muster for now...enjoy!

First is the lovely Yukimi Nagano of Swedish import Little Dragon, her beautifully woozy vocals make up for her very, very hairy band mates, however jokes about beards have got me in serious trouble in the past so I will resist...Here are Little Dragon doing the live thing with 'Feather', from Machine Dreams that came out last year and finally they are making some waves after some collaborating on Gorillaz current album 'Plastic Beach'. Yukimi's enchanting voice works so well with the  pop bleeping and swirling synths for this one...

The track featured below is my personal favourite, ‘Blinking Pigs’ is just hauntingly melodic with a great bassline, strangely enchanting lyrics about ‘phantom legs’, coupled with a fantastical Bjork esque video, what more could you ask for? Definitely ones to keep an eye on and do check out the track ‘Twice’ on their myspace which is just gorgeousness… enjoy!

This has served as a little reminder and prod to investigate ‘If You Return’ again, a collaboration with Maximum Balloon. Synth heavy pop material is coming from the debut from Maximum Balloon; a new direction and brainchild of Dave Sitek, jumping ship from alternative art rock to this new electronically focused pop, he is  the producer behind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals, Scarlet Johannson and former member of TV on the Radio.

 For this new project, he has full writing credits but has featured ten guest vocalists among who are Karen O, Aku, David Byrne, Yukimi Nagano and Theophilus London. Sitek, famously a prickly character and quoted for citing his annoyance at bands for not opening up to new ideas, can’t be all that bad to get this line up for his first solo album. Having moved his studio from Brooklyn to L.A, maybe it has ‘sunshined’ up his music resulting in a collection of pop gems for his solo debut.

'If  You Return' has been around as a one and a half minute promo for a while but finally a full version is available on YouTube, no video as yet but hopefully the dancer from the promo will feature.Have a listen to its synth pop loveliness, Yukimi’s fantastic soulful vocals mixed up with some Vince Clarke style bleeping does have an exquisite Yazoo quality going on.

And finally, a huge influence on Little Dragon and the absolute Queen of Nordic electro, Fever Ray, with 'Stranger Than Kindness', yes the album has been out a year now but until this week I hadn't seen this video. How could this have happened?

Fever Ray covering Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds could only be just brilliant and the video is just fabulously noir electro creepiness with the set from her live performance mixed in. Directed by Andreas Nilsson, it mixes the lasers with skulls and shamanic imagery in such an eerily Fever Ray way, weird perfection; she is always one to mesmerise and confuse all at the same time.

Apparently there will be no more Fever Ray now but a little consolation is that she has started recording with her brother again so watch out for that if you're a fan of The Knife... I don't have enough lovelovelove for this track!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Crystal Castles...goth noir collaboration for 'Not In Love' and a new video for 'Baptism'


Crystal Castles second album has been one of my favourites this year, on constant play with its 'uniquely' messed up experimental electronica and Alice Glass banshee squeal led by Ethan Kath's digital synth madness.

So for this week, two bits of good news on the Castles  front. After the strange 'quiet' since the release of  Celestica, there is finally a new single out with a surprising goth noir collaboration and a new video from another album track. Any fan would feel spoilt for choice this week with more from this work of musical genius that ranges from distorted drugged up rave, chiptune to shoegaze and always so untypical.

Never a band to be predictable, there were rumours of  the drugged up beats of 'Baptism' being the second single after the surprisingly melodic 'Celestica' but then it seemed 'Not in Love' was the big news just last week? Guest vocals from Robert Smith made me cringe slightly,  but it works, surprisingly his angst ridden often melancholic tones really pull it all together. Who would have seen this coming? If you haven't already heard it...listen here, it's out on December 6th!

It does make you tap your feet a bit more than the album version which is distortion mad to the point it sounds like it was recorded under water. In a recent NME interview Ethan Kath did refer to Alice as a 'poet', so it's nice to hear this poetry clearly for once with Robert Smith's audible vocals. As much as I like the screeching of Alice, sometimes I want to hear what she's saying, her plaintiff cries of lost love and empty hearts shows a new sensitive side.  I have also noted Alice Glass' Smiths t-shirts in a many a live clip, so if any day now Morrissey lends some vocals, I may jump for joy!

The only slight disappointment with this track is that when Alice and Robert's vocals are mixed, it is fab and such a shame there wasn't more of this in the single. It's postmodernism gone a bit mad with this track that's originally the new wave Canadian band Platinum Blonde, now given its Castles treatment and then done yet again with different vocals for single release.

A few radio play lists later and crowned 'track of the week' in NME with 'Not in Love', it seems 'Baptism' is back in the news with a video, a real one with Alice in it...what is going on? In Celestica she floated in a glam noir trance around a graveyard, for this one she's the more recognizable Alice of  madness and frenzied dance moves, however catchy the Robert Smith collaboration is, he's just not as interesting to watch really! So check out this gem and if you haven't bought the album yet, shame on you, it's brilliant!

Baptism has the energy of Alice Practise after the surprise of the melodic Celestica and this single really will be a winner for any loyal Castles fans. The messed up vocals,  8-bit bleeps and chaotic lead synths as everyone throws around labels like 'nu-rave' and 'chiptune' just leave you with a band that cannot be pinned down; you either love it or hate it.

Crystal Castles are feeling a bit more 'commercial' with this second album and it seems the recording of a single with The Cure front man Robert Smith has been a very clever move along with the two videos released from the album that have been a little more polished, if slow coming out.

 I think they will lightly brush the mainstream while keeping  their signature erratic bleeping and bass lines, embracing distortion and melody as the quite bonkers and brilliant duo. Maybe one day someone will get a decent interview out of the elusive pair... or perhaps they do just sit back and laugh at the press they get for just pleasing themselves?

Crystal Castles II

 Crystal Castles myspace