Tag: electronica

New Music Friday: Zandr

Northampton’s Zandr is 20 year-old producer Alex Howard, who pops up with these fascinating and euphoric chillwave beats, and DJ Shadow-style sonic journeys. Punchy new single ‘Void’ is just out…

Northampton’s Zandr is 20 year-old producer Alex Howard, who pops up with these fascinating and euphoric chillwave beats, and DJ Shadow-style sonic journeys. Punchy new single ‘Void’ is just out and already making people sit up and notice. New Boots has a chat to help joins the dots.

You’re at the university, studying music.
I am just about to top up my recently acquired HND in music production, to the full degree of ‘Popular Music’ by completing the third and final year. I would strongly recommend a course like this to anybody that is after a well-rounded approach to music. What you can learn from the different pathways you choose is eye-opening.

How did you start the Zandr project?
During the time of my two year HND we were encouraged to make music outside of the scheduled sessions to better our skills and begin to make what came naturally to us. I took the full advantage of having my chosen DAW [Logic Pro X] accessible to me at any time, and began to craft my sound and practice all the time . Whilst doing so I decided it was a good idea to choose a name to release music/ produce under. After some research I decided I wanted a two syllable catchy name that was visually recognisable and easy to remember. I had been thinking of shortening my name or making something out of it, but when my mates started jokingly calling me “DJ Xander” which is obviously a play on my full name “Alexander” it just fitted perfectly. To make it stand out more and look dynamic I then changed the spelling to something more out-there and abstract. And that’s where the name originated.

How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences?
Whenever I’m asked to describe my sound I always struggle to answer because I make quite an array of different styles under the electronic umbrella. I think as far as what I have released: chilled electronic music, with catchy melodies and punchy drops would be a good description. Although I’ve showcased that I can make more hard hitting tracks such as ‘Void’ also. I have so many influences in music, from big producers such as Pharrell Williams and Timbaland, who’s online MasterClass I took earlier this year. To the other end of the spectrum; course-mates and musicians I have as friends that are just starting out like myself. Listening to them starting to find their sounds is inspiring in itself. I feel a standout artist for me is Diplo – his sound is so versatile and he works with so many different artists whilst covering countless styles of music. Something I aspire to do one day for sure.

What was the reaction like to the ‘Cloud 9’ EP earlier this year?
The reaction was surprisingly positive, as I had no clue how people would react to it whatsoever. ‘Cloud 9’ in a nutshell was supposed to be a small collection of feel-good tracks, with euphoric vibes that reflected the project title. Bar the introductory song ‘3AM Brainstorm’ – that was included to create a contrast and set the tone for the songs that followed. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of my first proper piece of work, especially as I mix and mastered it all myself as well.

The meaning of the tracks:
‘Epiphany’ – I was originally going to do a course in marketing and advertising after completing A-levels as academically I suppose it’s what I’m interested in, but after reading a life changing book on holiday I literally had an “epiphany” and something told me to follow music. Easily the best decision I ever made.
‘Cloud 9’ – doesn’t really have a deep meaning, and definitely isn’t about anyone in particular. The aim was to make a simple but catchy club-style drop with my chopped up and pitched vocals driving the drop.
‘Nostalgia’ – this was the first electronic track that I ever made after learning the basics of production, and I called it Nostalgia as it’s my oldest track and It’s crazy to think how long ago it was!
‘Higher’ – a track I wanted to have a really cool ambient vibe to it. The simple and relatable lyrics aren’t meant to mean anything in particular, it’s more just to blend into the rest of the song and enhance it slightly. And to my complete surprise, amongst my peers it seems to be the most popular song from the E.P!

Tell us everything about this new release ‘Void’. You must be ecstatic it’s had so many listeners already?
It’s a track I’ve been working on for a while, it’s something I started, but put off finishing until I thought it was just right. The goal was to make a single that had quite a distinct feel to it, and I really wanted to incorporate this into a house song because it’s one of my favourite genres. I feel with making music it’s so important that you love the sound of what your making and that your doing it for yourself before anything, otherwise what’s the point? Although the response of listeners is important to me, I’m making what I want to make, any positive comments are a bonus. I’ve been over the moon with the response to the track, it seems like people are really loving the feel of it which honestly makes me feel amazing.

Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire? Do you have many peers you’re in contact with?
I would say I am part of a wider scene in Northampton, having grown up performing in bands as a drummer and building up the amount of people I know through music. Musicians I have met through college that I’ve became friends with have come round to my personal studio to jam or lay down melodies for me, etc. This along with attending local events has all contributed to being a part of the scene ! I feel producing and releasing music helps in itself. As far as peers I’m in contact with, I’ve been lucky enough to be the “resident producer” at a small events company called Yellowbrick, ran by one of my good friends in Nottingham. This means if they need any music for anything promotionally, or they have clients contact them for beats or anything like that – they get sent to me!

Any live shows on the horizon?
Doing live shows is something I want to start getting into, I need to further develop my DJ skills as I’m still relatively new to it all. However this is all in the very near future as I have a couple of small events in the works that will be perfect for me to get started.

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
The last album I listened to in full was Tyler the Creator’s IGOR. I’m a huge fan of him as an artist as he isn’t afraid to be different and explore innovative production styles, the album was a breath of fresh air.

What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have?
I’ve got quite a lot I want to do, I’m really looking forward to hopefully working with different artists and getting some features after I’ve crafted my sound a bit more. I want to also explore different genres as I produce a lot of experimental stuff and hip-hop as well. Following doing all of the vocals on Cloud 9 I want to really push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things and see what I can come up with, possibly implementing all of this into an E.P within the coming months.

Void is out now to stream and buy on the voidesque internet thingy machine you’re reading this on

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Album review: Maps

MAPS Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss [Mute] James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by…


James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by Mute Records. His 2007 debut album We Can Create was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. These basic facts are worth restating, as one suspects that most folk under 30 in Northants would probably not be au fait with his output. Which is understandable: he’s an outskirts type of guy after all, not a fame-hungry media whore.

Now on to his fourth album, Chapman has substantially rethought his usual working process [i.e. sitting in his bedroom, endlessly tinkering] and brought in a whole range of outside players, most notably Berlin’s Echo Collective, to help with strings and things. A more collaborative approach has bought its just rewards, as this is easily his most engaging work since that leftfield debut that took the Earls Barton boy on a quite remarkable journey around the world.

The album immediately brings to mind fellow Midlanders Spiritualized, mixing the ethereal psychedelic rushes he’s always conjured from his synths and guitars, but adding the warmth of brass and a drummer [Matt Kelly] who’s loud enough in the mix to push everything eternally onwards in propulsion. The sound is a natural progression of the previous album’s approach – it’s still unmistakably Maps, right from the breathless vocals of ‘Surveil’ that kicks things off. Maps has always been about miniature symphonic pop songs, but experimenting with the form. The songs are more suites, and Chapman rarely goes for the jugular. However ‘Both Sides’ here has enough accessibility to actually be a radio hit. ‘Howl Around’ is the sound of an animal trying to escape a cage, elegantly. ‘Wildfire’ captures a very specific emotional state that is both simultaneously euphoric and melancholic. You might need a lie down after hearing it.

Such heightened themes continue throughout, and unlike most modern albums there’s no flagging towards the end. ‘Just Reflecting’ is as huge as the buildings in the accompanying video [see below]. ‘She Sang To Me’ shows he can be more serene, sedate; bucolic even. Wait for the closing ‘You Exist In Everything’: with it’s sci-fi other-worldliness it could be the soundtrack to a peculiarly English documentary film on BBC Four. Certainly it’s splendour deserves quadraphonic speakers, not tinny smartphone devices.

Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss is as bold, grand, and wholly sparkling with ideas as you could hope for. It’s great to have him back.

Phil Moore


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New Music Friday: Nailbreaker

Digital hardcore artist George Hammond aka Nailbreaker has set the cat amongst the pigeons a little with his early recordings and performances. The Acolytes singer has just released his first…

Digital hardcore artist George Hammond aka Nailbreaker has set the cat amongst the pigeons a little with his early recordings and performances. The Acolytes singer has just released his first EP, entitled Spectrum Songs. New Boots locked him in a basement for a thorough interrogation.

How did you start this project?
I started playing around with the idea of doing something more electronic-centric around August-September 2018, in the downtime of my other band Acolytes not really doing anything. I don’t think there was anything particular in my listening habits that inspired me to start this project. I had just come out of a really difficult period in my personal life, I didn’t have anything interesting to say in Acolytes, I just wanted to make something different and unique and not look back. I put out my first single, ‘Shawn Michaels Circa 1999’, and the reaction was way more positive than I was expecting, so I just kept moving.

How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences?
Generally I find it difficult citing main influences for my music; I have a pretty broad taste in music and film so I pick up lots of different things from different places. I think my music fits most accurately under subgenres like digital hardcore or cyberpunk, so I reckon there’s some inherent influence from bands in those styles; bands like Atari Teenage Riot, Death Grips, Machine Girl, Deli Girls, etc. It’s the energy and ethos of hardcore punk put through a filter of industrial, harsh noise, breakcore, power electronics, maybe some rap. I don’t know, it’s very impulsive.

What has the reaction been like to your singles so far? Great to see BBC Introducing behind ‘Friday Aesthetics’.
Yeah it was well weird seeing BBC Introducing be so positive about it. In a good way obviously, it just wasn’t something I expected. I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve received so far from everyone; sometimes I have a hard time viewing my music in a context outside of ‘me dicking around and maybe some people might like it’. So seeing people say all this positive stuff, and seeing how many people have reacted well, has been really reassuring. Had a dude in America send me some anime fan art, which was wild for a project where I mostly work on my phone. But it’s shit like that that’s so cool about doing this project; that people feel inspired to create after hearing this stuff. That’s why I’ve also been really grateful for receiving requests for collabs and remixes and stuff. If I want people to take away one thing from my music, it’s to create their own art and creatively push themselves as much as possible.

Tell us everything about this ‘Spectrum Songs’ EP
I recorded, mixed, and mastered the EP in my house over an eleven day period. I didn’t leave the house, drink, smoke, use social media, or listen to other music until it was finished. As much as those things can help fuel creativity, I thought it was important [especially with a self-imposed deadline] to not put any kind of filter on my ideas so I could be as artistically raw as possible. That probably sounds bare pretentious, but it worked for me.
I wanted to make sure that every song on the EP had its own distinct sound and style, without sounding out of place in the context of an overall piece. When I put out ‘Friday Aesthetics’ as a single, I didn’t want people to take it as a teaser track because [other than being aggressive and noisey] none of the other tracks sound like that. Lyrically I didn’t want to be as message-orientated as I am in Acolytes; I think there are a lot of social and personal things that aren’t addressed in that band that I wanted to address here. On the EP I wrote about internet culture, sexuality, personal issues I face, whatever else. The lyrics are available to read on my Bandcamp page. I’d encourage anyone interested to read them themselves and come away with their own interpretation.

What are your live shows like?
I don’t really put a lot of thought into gigs in terms of things like, I don’t know, particular movements or whatever, I don’t want it be choreographed. I see bands do that kind of thing and it completely takes me out of it. The only thing I think I stay aware of is interacting with other people. I try to talk as little as possible during my sets, so making people feel personally involved in what’s going on is important to me, so physically I’m always as upfront and confrontational with the people there as possible. Other than that I like to climb and jump off of stuff. I bleed quite a lot during my shows. I normally have a drummer playing along live as well, either Marcus [from Acolytes] or Dan [from La Folivora]. I don’t know. Every single set I play is different so describing them is difficult; if anyone wants a better idea of what my shows are like then they should come join the party themselves.

Tell us a bit more about the NN10 Noise Club? Is Acolytes likely to come back at some point?
I’ve been asked the Acolytes question a lot recently and I’ve not really been able to give a proper answer. Right now none of us really have any desire to do anything Acolytes related. That doesn’t mean we’re not gonna play more shows or release more music at some point, but right now we’re all more interested in doing other things. Bewlay’s releasing music under the name Dylon Dean, Marcus has just started releasing his own solo material, Tom is playing bass in his brother band, Dan Pigeon.
NN10 Noise Club was an inside joke that got out of hand. Now it’s a collective of Rushden-based musicians. We use that name to put on shows, as a label name for releases, to shitpost on social media. We’ll figure out what it is eventually.

What has been your favourite Nailbreaker moment so far?
My second ever gig was a highlight. It was a house show in Bournemouth and was probably the most intimate space I’ve ever played in [the address of the house is also the title of the closing track on ‘Spectrum Songs’]. I also played a show at The Library in Oxford last month which was probably one of my favourite shows ever. Honestly I don’t reflect on things a lot, I just keep moving. I think I probably should reflect on things more often but it’s always more important to me to think about the present and the future. Maybe I’d call myself a futurist if I wasn’t so pessimistic.

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
The last album I bought was a cassette copy of Veteran by JPEGMAFIA, it’s my favourite album from 2018 and I’d been meaning to get a physical copy of it for a while. The last album I streamed was We Choose Pretty Names by Kermes, another one of my favourites from last year. Can’t recommend either of those albums enough. I think Kermes have some new material on the way from what I can tell, so keep an eye out for that.

What is your burning desire for Nailbreaker to do in the future? What plans do you have?
Play as many shows as I possibly can, I wanna bleed in as many venues and houses as possible before the year’s up [so if you’re reading this and you put on shows, contact me via social media. I would call that a shameless plug but this is an interview about my EP anyway, so fuck it]. Other than that, I’m recording new music but it’s not gonna be out for a while. I might be involved with another project this year, but I can’t talk about it yet. I’ll probably keep posting stuff on Acolytes’ Instagram account without having any plans to play or record music. Maybe there’ll be some collabs in the works, who knows.
All I’ll say is keeping watching. I said it was impulsive music and I wasn’t lying.

Spectrum Songs is out now on BandCamp and the usual digital platforms. Feature photo by David Jackson

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Album review: Ecco Pine

ECCO PINE ECCO PINE [self-released] Hailing from our very own ShoeTown are brand new alternative/electro-rock trio Ecco Pine – aka Adam [guitar and vocals], Ali [guitar] and Louis [bass and…

ECCO PINE [self-released]

Hailing from our very own ShoeTown are brand new alternative/electro-rock trio Ecco Pine – aka Adam [guitar and vocals], Ali [guitar] and Louis [bass and synth]. Though the band only formed last year they have certainly made a grand entrance to the music scene; their unique ambient sound means they are by no means late to the party. In a recent success for the band their track ‘More Than This’ was featured on the ‘Best Up and Coming Acts of the East Midlands’ Spotify playlist, alongside other favourites The Keepers and Sarpa Salpa.

The album’s seamless blending of rock and electronic tones creates a unique ambience that gives the band its distinct sound. Imagine the lovechild of Massive Attack, Vampire Weekend and Talking Heads – if you can! Nature is a constant element running through the album, from the panoramic artwork of an open road, stretching far into the distance, sandwiched between the sea and alpine woodland, to the carefully constructed tracks.

The floaty, atmospheric style immediately transports you to another place: a tranquil forest glade or mountain top of your choosing, somewhere entirely removed from the reality of everyday life. It offers an outer body experience for your mind. Such features beautifully combine in ‘The River’, with its crystal-clear, flowing serenity, and ‘Pines’, with its movement and moments of darkness, mirroring a night-time woodland trek.

The bands indie influence shows through, in tracks ‘More Than This’ and ‘Stranger Things’, the latter tipping its hat to the popular series of the same name. ‘Aliens’, of a sci-fi influence, and ‘White Wall’ further the album’s themes of escaping the here and now, echoing some melancholic lament for the current state of things.

Here’s hoping it’s the start of things to come for the band. Be sure to show some local support and stream or download your copy.

Rachel Thomas

Ecco Pine is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and Amazon Music

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New Music Friday: [sane]

[sane] is the name for a Northampton electronic quartet consisting of Gabriel Halford, Tim Robinson, Adam Bullock and Connor Webb. New single ‘Stitching’ sees the band return from the studio…

[sane] is the name for a Northampton electronic quartet consisting of Gabriel Halford, Tim Robinson, Adam Bullock and Connor Webb. New single ‘Stitching’ sees the band return from the studio with music after a bit of a hiatus. New Boots spoke to the guys to get up to speed.

How did you guys get together?
Gabriel: We formed the band about four years ago, off the back of these four songs I’d made as part of my music tech degree. When I moved back to Northampton and got to see so many bands I was really inspired to start performing again. I asked my old bandmate Adam first because I knew he could nail it and we shared similar tastes, then asked Northampton’s busiest drummer/musician Josh to join. I asked my friend Tim from school to join as we shared very similar tastes in music and I knew he could play keys. In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect as he’d never played in a band before, but when he learnt so much so quickly it became obvious that it was a great bet. The other guys were very keen to try another singer for a song, and after I eventually pushed my ego as singer aside, we got him on ‘Born Lever Puller’ and the difference was undeniable.
Connor: I was drafted into the band a little after its creation, I was originally a guest vocalist on a track (‘BLP’), did a couple of gigs with the guys where I sang on said track, as well as a couple others. I was made an official member sometime after that.
Adam: I was in a band with Gabriel when we were young. We had a break for a couple of years before starting [sane]. Gabriel had written an EP and wanted a band to do live performances and that’s where we started.
Tim: Gabriel had been making music under the moniker ‘sane machine’ for a little while before deciding that he wanted to put the band together in order to play live shows. At the back end of 2014, he assembled Me, Adam and Josh (our old drummer) to fulfil that. Gabs had previously been in a band, called Black Friday, with Adam whilst teenagers, and all four of us have been kicking around together for years. Josh left the band a while back and we gained a vocalist in Connor. He brought so much to the song and had a great feel for the music so we asked him to join .

How would you describe your sound?
Tim: That’s a tough one really. We dread having to associate ourselves with any particular genre because nothing quite fits! We usually tend to go with electronica/ambient techno, but there are elements from all sorts of different places.
Connor: Danceable, emotional electronica.
Adam: Electronic, moody, dance, infectious.
Gabriel: Poorly.

Who are your main influences do you think?
Gabriel: All the guys on Monkeytown Records (esp Siriusmo), Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Country Teasers, Flying Lotus.
Tim: We are all big Radiohead fans, so some of the songwriting is influenced by them for sure. Artists such as Siriusmo, Modeselektor and Alex Banks are huge influences in terms of production style. Most of what is put out by labels like Monkeytown, and Ninja Tune, is usually a pretty good bet. Bonobo, Machinedrum, Amon Tobin. Maribou state, Dark Sky, and vocalists such as Jono Mcleery, Thom Yorke and Sampha. To be honest, we all just really love listening to music. Our tastes are fairly eclectic, and massively overlap, but we each bring something individual to the table.

What was the reaction like to ‘help your self’ EP? Also, why the two year gap in releases?
Gabriel: It was generally really positive! We put a lot of effort into every song and making sure the CDs looked swanky and professional. We also learnt a lot about how to improve for our next release, mainly simplifying the arrangements. The main reason for the long gap is that we’ve been wanting to make an album. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s taken a long time to create material I’d be proud enough of to release.
Adam: We had a good response to HYS. I spent six months travelling around India at the back end of last year, so the band was a man down for a while also.
Tim: Generally pretty well received. ‘Holy Poly’ got a fair bit of radio play and is the one people tend to anticipate at live shows. It took us a long time to put together and we have definitely progressed a long way since then, in terms of production and songwriting. We did release another song, ‘Born Lever Puller’ the following year, which was the one that featured Connor. The big gap is down to a combination of perfectionism, lack of time, and various life events that slow the whole process down. Our drummer left the band, so we had to regroup a bit after that as it changed both the type of music we make and the way in which we make it.. And also just miscellaneous work commitments and trying to fit music around a functioning life. It would be great to be able to dedicate more time, but once or twice a week is about all usually manage.

Tell us everything about this new track, ‘Stitching’.
Gabriel: The song is about the feelings you go through after losing something and trying to put yourself back together again. The aches of grieving and trying to also be grateful for having had something worth losing in the first place. ‘Good grief’ I suppose you could call it.
Connor: Very melodic, multi-sectional, fun to play live.

What are your live shows like?
Gabriel: Kinetic.
Connor: Big in sound, lots of emotion.
Tim: For live shows, we have synths, guitar, vocals and a couple of midi controllers to deal with the drums and various samples. The recorded stuff adds piano in to the mix, so we have those on Ableton to drop in for added texture. There’s normally quite a lot going on!

Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire, playing with like-minded bands?
Gabriel: We’ve played with Usurp, Rise quite a few times. There’s a lot of mutual respect there I think. Those guys are amazing musicians. I have a side project called Mr Mulvaney with Angus McAlpine (formerly of Adolphus Tips), which is high energy stuff.

What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
Gabriel: Playing at The Garibaldi Hotel earlier this year, no doubt. Our live setup is technically pretty complicated so we’ve been haunted by very distracting issues a few too many times. It was about first gig since Adam got back and motivated us all to keep going!
Connor: Our most recent gig: everything ran smoothly, everyone performed well, it was our most successful gig up to that point and it felt like we’d really nailed it .

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Gabriel: Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy
Connor: Khruangbin – Con todo el mundo
Adam: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Tim: Djrum – Portrait with Firewood, and Maribou State – Kingdoms in Colour

What is your burning desire for the band to do in the future? What plans do you have?
Adam: Have bigger gigs with bigger bands and get more releases out on Spotify etc. Work towards an album.
Tim: To get our music out there, really. Its really satisfying to hear positive feedback. Its also incredibly gratifying seeing people dancing when we play live, so more of that. It would be nice to be playlisted somewhere, to get ourselves heard outside of the local scene.
Gabriel: We want to tour off the back of our next release and get some good shows and recognition. I myself want to do more solo live sets (Ableton live) in some different environments. Basically though, play Glastonbury!

‘Stitching’ is out now via the usual platforms

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New Music Friday: Fugues

Northampton/London electronic duo Fugues have just dropped their Merge EP. New Boots gets the lowdown How did you get together? Fugues started as Shannon and Chris O’ Conner with a piano and…

Northampton/London electronic duo Fugues have just dropped their Merge EP. New Boots gets the lowdown

How did you get together?
Fugues started as Shannon and Chris O’ Conner with a piano and voice around mid-2016. We always knew we were electronic focused, having similar interests such as Massive Attack, Hope Sandoval, Unkle, Coco Rosie, Moderat, etc. But it really developed in to what it is today when Jo Burns-Russell joined as co-producer, and we explored more techno and bass music to go with our songs. Since then Fugues has moved forward as a duo with Shannon and Jo. You can still hear Chris’s piano on the EP, but the end result has been more electronically focused. Musically we’re a blend of electronica, heavy basslines with Shannon’s ethereal vocals, and Chris’s classically influenced piano.

How would you describe your sound? The term “trip-hop” seems to be inadequate and do it a disservice.
It’s quite difficult to pin what we are doing into a genre really, which I think happens with electronic music, particularly when it’s not club-focused. There are elements of trip hop, house, glitch, techno…just interesting music. Shannon’s vocals are very poetic and meaningful, which is juxtaposed with the more electronic edge. Generally we’d say just give it a listen and see what you think!

How do you divvy up the work: do you both come up with musical and lyrical ideas?
It’s very much a joint effort. Our vocals were all recorded in a bedroom studio in Clapton, at Tobias Lawrence’s house. The piano at Chris’s home studio in Kimbolton. The other elements were created by Jo at her home in Duston, then it got married together.

Tell us about the EP.
‘Low Bass Lives’ was something Shannon came up with at a music festival and upon her move to Northampton. ‘No longer’ was written by Shannon and Jo in one night that just clicked, then Jo continued to develop it from there. ‘Smokey Red’ was another that was done in Kimbolton with piano and voice, drum and bass samples then developed by Jo over the coming months.

You’ve just started being a live band. How’s that going? Does being an electronic duo bring its own challenges?
Its definitely interesting trying to translate what is 90% computer-generated into a live show. We use Ableton with a series of controllers, Shannon plays synth and has a vocal FX unit, but luckily her vocal performance carries it. We’re investing in more synths and a drum machine soon to try and make the live experience as dynamic as we can. We’re also quite theatrical and want to bring lighting shows and projection mapping over the coming months. We want it to be an experience!

What has been your favourite Fugues moments so far?
We’re really pleased with how the final EP is sounding, at the last stages we bought in an engineer to help with the final mix down, Chris Pettifer [who is a Northants resident also]. He’s really bought what we have done to life. We played our first festival last weekend which was an incredible experience, and something we really want to do more of.

What is your burning desire to do in the future?
I think continuing to develop the show to make it an experience-led thing, with music, lights, projections etc. We are also really keen to keep the momentum going on our releases and hope to have more tracks ready by the autumn.

Merge is out now via Bandcamp. Fugues play the Wonderland Garden Party festival in September in south London

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Record Review: Venus Fly Trap ‘Icon’

VENUS FLY TRAP Icon [Glass Modern] Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as…

Icon [Glass Modern]

Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as a trio from the ashes of their other projects by Novak brothers Alex and John, they rose phoenix-like to be a central part of the local scene of the late-80s [and you can read all about those early days in the latest, fourth, instalment of the Have Guitars…Will Travel book series]. Fifteen or so ex-members later and the last three albums have been the work of core duo Alex Novak and Andy Denton. Indeed Icon completes their trilogy that began with Zenith in 2004 and continued with Nemesis in 2011.

This record is probably the strongest of the trio, taking all the ideas explored so far and crystallising them into short, sharp, energised songs. If you are unfamiliar with the music, then imagine a PiL-like band playing Taffey Lewis’ bar in the original Blade Runner film. A sound rooted in the dark wave/electronica sounds that emerged post post-punk, but one that isn’t confined only to that world. Dystopian sci-fi rock from Northampton means everything from Bauhaus to The Cramps, The Stooges to Sisters of Mercy. The VFT sound is instantly recognisable, but never falls into the trap of being too repetitive. Indeed, after the scene-setting instrumental title track that pulses with film dialogue, each of the remaining eight tracks could be pulled off the album and released as a single. The one track that already has been, ‘Vitesse’ [see below], is pure Blitz kids synth-pop with a memorable hook placed above the motorik underbelly, whilst Novak mixes up his automobile and love interest metaphors to great effect.

The love theme continues on the crunchy ‘Voodoo Voodoo’ and the cinematic ‘Flashback’, both which revel in the VFT interest in the psychedelic. The characters within this pair reveal themselves more and more on each playback, as you catch new parts of the story. The middle of the album is dominated by the slightly epic ‘Deadly Nightshade’, which warms of the dangers in human relationships, where you can find “instant karma in the perfumed garden”. The track is the most sonically pleasing on Icon, as it transforms from beatific to angry and back again continually on its six minute journey.

‘Return of the Sidewinder’ kicks off a trio of culturally-referencing tunes. This song, named after a 1968 TV episode, gives nods to fellow Midlands heavyweights: Bauhaus in the lyrics, and The Specials in the ‘Ghost Town’-esque musical pallete of smokey dub reggae. ‘The Genesis Of The Daleks’, meanwhile, was a 1975 Dr Who series, and the Delia Derbyshire-indebted opening gives way to post-punk guitars and throbbing synth patterns. The song is surely a love letter to those childhoods that were both scarred and enlivened by existential television dramas.

‘Puppet’ seems to take the lead from ’50s pulp fiction from Philip K. Dick, but this time taking the music in another direction into dream pop. It’s a tender lullaby – well it would be if the intonation of Novak [“you’re just my puppet”] wasn’t quite so unsettling. Icon finishes with ‘In The Moonlight’: a Paisley Underground-style acid-folk slow waltz with a Hammond organ dominating the canvas, and some superb background harmonies that drifts us ever farther away from the darkwave idea from whence they came. It’s a fitting ending to a formidable album that, if it is to be their swansong, sees them very much go out on a high.

Phil Moore

Icon is out June 29th via Glass Modern

*Interview with frontman Alex Novak*
NB: You’ve said this is the last studio album.
AN: Probably; more than likely. Never say never. It’s just the length of time it takes to write and mix tracks seems to take longer each time. Does the world need another VFT album? We will see…

There’s quite a bit of diversity going on here; musical references to reggae and dream pop, for example.
We never set out to write in one particular style, just see what comes out of various ideas, see where it takes us. Our inspiration comes from many points of reference.

That’s always been a VFT strength – you always look beyond the “dark wave” tag.
VFT certainly has a dark psyche at the core, but we like to layer it or dress up with different costumes. We tap into many influences.

Keeping one band going for over three decades without a break is remarkable. What’s your secret – sheer, bloody-minded drive?
Its had more twists and turns than a rattlesnake, shedding many skins over the years. Change keeps it fresh. We are the Doctor Who of music – transforming a constant metamorphosis.

‘Icon’ is out via Glass – a label who you have history with, via your old band Religious Overdose.
Full circle – my very first release was on Glass. There’s a symmetry to it all. I like Dave Barker the label boss, and the band’s he has released over the years. It feels like home for us.

Will you continue the band as a live concern in future years?
We will see what reaction this album gets, and take it from there…

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