This week’s roundup is a very transatlantic affair, as I’ve been left to my own devices – probably too much when it comes to song selection – so I’ve been able to indulge my weakness for the Scandinavian and the experimental.
Speaking of which, first up this week are Brooklyn’s Pear Moth with their track Proximity. With a light coating of guitar sounds to give a layer of emotional colour, the song sees the trio of Jacob Sunshine, Phil McNeal and Spencer Horstman build up layers of intricate rhythm and minimal percussion to serve up a real musical fusion. The vocals add an otherworldly aura to the song, which ultimately lives in a sweet musical spot between the more experimental side of downtempo and the bewitching low-key intensity of Public Service Broadcasting.
Taking a very different spin of experimentation and electronica is Zwang by HAUD. The song feels like it dwells in the outer reaches of downtempo, with infusions of trip-hop, drone, ambient and Industrial creating a sound that is unsettling but entrancing. From the opening bass which just bristles with attitude, through to the disorienting but engrossing vocals, HAUD have taken the basic building blocks of some very familiar genres, deconstructed them and rearranged them in to something challengingly new. The band says their sound is based on what they call the DAR (Distort, Accept, Repeat) principle – and it’s certainly effective.
Not One To Say is the latest release from London trio STITCH and is a real quiet storm of a track. The vocals are the real centrepiece of the song – something you’d not expect in an electronic track. The arrangement and melody of Not One To Say are great, with their blend of electropop, dance and indie influences delivering a smooth and sophisticated sound. But they let Gary and Nikita’s lush and expressive voices work magic as they soothe and tease the emotions of the listener. The song is taken from the band’s debut EP which will be released in early 2018.
RAINDEAR is the musical moniker of Sweden’s Rebecca Bergcrantz, who after a year since her last release is back with a bang courtesy of her new track, Diamonds In My Chest. Her vocals are stunning in range and tone, like a darkly primal Kate Bush or Diamanda Galas, whilst the track pauses and then pounces like it’s a tiger hunting for prey. Diamonds In My Chest is a pop song but a very intelligent one; lyrically and musically it’s in a different league compared to the cut and paste fodder that dominates the charts. It’s possible her upcoming album will outdo 2016’s Embers on the evidence of this track alone.
A very different form of pop music comes in the form of Irfan by Balkan Bump– aka the trumpet player / producer/ ethnomusicologist Will Magid. The Balkan influence in the track (and upcoming EP) is quite obvious, with hints of turbo folk and manele jostling for supremacy with a tight bass, some wicked brass licks and a cracking dancefloor sensibility. I undersell the track by describing it as being pop music, but that label is purely down to its catchy form of musical insanity as it goes around the world in just under three and a half minutes, gleefully taking on whatever inspiration it pleases to create a unique and addictive sound. You can find out more about listening to the track here.
Given Names describe their music as ‘dark, electro-pop’. On hearing East To West you’d have to say that label doesn’t fully capture the majesty and complexity of the sound. Yes it’s dark, yes it’s electropop but it’s sound and execution is more expansive than that – cinematic in scope, intimate in nature, the vocals put me in mind of early Neil Young, whilst the arrangement invites comparisons with bands as diverse as Radiohead and PreCog. The track is a warmup for the upcoming release EP 2 which is sure to be worth a listen. And I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a track inspired by the death rituals of the Egyptian Predynastic period before, which makes it something rather special indeed!
Swedish trio ELD take an anthemic approach to their complex synthpop sound on the track Desire. It’s the band’s third single, released after a year long gap and is a rewarding return – the track has the feel of an American hymn, but is not a fake folk or gospel track, more that it riffs on positivity and optimism. The vocals are rich and emotional, the slowly building arpeggios give the song an uplifting sense of warmth and the arrangement is low key yet captivating in the way it slowly ebbs and flows in conjunction with the vocals and lyrics. The band say it’s the first in a series of releases, and we look forward to hearing more.
Back in June we featured Sita’s Know By Now and she makes a welcome return to the blog with Around Me. It showcases a real musical progression from the previous single, her vocals full of sophistication and emotion, and though the arrangement still has the slightly Scandi sound, it adds elements of downtempo, RnB and more, as well as some pop phrasing on the vocals, making Around Me sound ethereal, intricate, soulful and chilled.
Sweden’s YAYA is another regular visitor to the blog, most recently with In My Body. Hot on the heels of that track is the sublime pop perfection of Chasing Highs – it’s more up-tempo than the previous release but it has the same quality production, again with a slight infusion of the classic piano rave sound. It’s the craftmanship of the song; the way that it uses tone, tempo, structure and lyrics to paint a picture that sets the song apart and shows YAYA is in the top tier when it comes to Scandinavian electro. Check out more of her music on Spotify, you won’t be disappointed.
In a very Scandi-centric roundup we finish off with another Swedish act, Julia Jonas. I say Swedish, but Jonas, born in Cape Town, South Africa and raised in Stockholm by a South African father and a Belgian mother takes musical references for other musical cultures and genres, as well as finding inspiration from found sounds. You can hear the success of this melange on Bridge Melancholia, a sweet and wistful lullaby, which twins the glacial sheen of Nordic electropop with the warm and engaging rhythms of Africa and beyond. It’s mystical, magical but most of all, it’s fun.
That’s it for this week, hope you’ve heard something you like and be sure to check out some of our past roundups for more great tunes. Until next week then!