The Bassturd feat. The Fantastic Plastics – What Even Is A Christmas Anyway?

bassturd.jpg

When is it appropriate to stop listening to Christmas songs in the twilight period between December 25 and New Year? In our house, it’s only about now that we start going back to our old playlists, still slipping in the odd cheeky spin of a few festive Christmas classics if it feels like the seasonal spirit might be in danger of slipping away from us.

This is a long way of justifying why I’m only just getting around to writing about ‘What Even Is A Christmas Anyway?’, a collaboration between The Fantastic Plastics and The Bassturd which forms part of the latter’s dizzyingly ambitious project 2019: The Year Of The Turd, which saw the secretive and industrious musician releasing a new track every single day in 2019. This track was number 337. Details on the full project can be reached through the Bandcamp stream below.

I didn’t do a rundown of my favourite albums of 2019, but if I had, The Fantastic Plastic’s sublime Malfunction from October would have been right up there near the top. I’ve followed this band since they first got in touch with me hawking their debut album Devolver in 2015 and their mix of high-energy pop, jagged guitars, retro synths and punky vocals has been a staple part of my listening diet ever since. As for The Bassturd, according to the bio, “The Bassturd was born, and now occasionally plays music. He does not care for deep house or cucumbers. Influences include alcohol, cigarettes, psilocybin and cats.” So there you go: not one for cucumber fans.

‘What Even Is A Christmas Anyway?’ consists of brilliant, effortlessly evocative one-note synth melodies, obligatory jingle bells, an unexpected banjo conclusion and a chunky beat, all infused with a certain lo-fi charm. Topping that is the kind of infectious, wry and adept observational lyrics that Tyson and Miranda from The Fantastic Plastics have made their own, the lyrics covering everything from the disappointment at never getting kissed under the mistletoe to the perpetually-overheard statement that people seem to start putting their decorations up ever earlier with each passing year. At its heart, the song is a deft commentary on the over-commercialism of the modern Christmas, dressed, as The Fantastic Plastics know best, as a smart electronic pop song.

Listen to ‘What Even Is A Christmas Anyway?’ at Bandcamp below.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Circuit3 – The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything

“My debut album sold out, so I spent all the money on more synths,” says Dublin’s Peter Fitzpatrick, who trades under the name Circuit3.

His third album, the sagely-titled The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything follows a 2017 collection of Yazoo covers and vocal contributions to Jonteknik’s intensely-personal Alternative Arrangements LP from last year. Both projects were reverential, in similar ways: they both looked back wistfully on songs that were important to their creators, songs that inspired their own individual musical journeys and fervent experiments with electronic music technology.

A prevailing sense of nostalgia for the best-preserved vintages of 1980s synthpop can be felt throughout Fitzpatrick’s latest record. This isn’t remotely intended as an insult. In Fitzpatrick’s hands, the signature sounds, drum machine rhythms and lyrical stylings of that era are handled with exceptional care, with the fragile mystique of a track like ‘Face In The Crowd’ sounding like a newly-discovered tape of a Reset Records session left in a dusty corner of Vince Clarke’s Splendid studio space.

Throughout the record there is a deep connection to the vibrancy and forward-looking – yet alien-sounding – optimism that came with that period of electronic pop music: that sense of punk rock (and its post-punk reconfiguration) sounding as dated and irrelevant as the hairy prog music that punk spat at so vehemently. Partly this is down to the palette of period synths that Fitzpatrick uses, and partly it’s a consequence of his vocal style. On tracks like the standout ‘Electric’ or ‘The Rain’, you hear a questing, unresolved quality in that voice, a sort of searching and uncertainty that offsets the shimmering melodies and arpeggios that characterise the ten tracks here. The effect is gently disorientating, being neither fully happy on the most upbeat of tracks or fully maudlin on the most saddening of ballads.

Perhaps the most surprising moment here comes with the cynicism and anguish of closing track ‘For Your Own Good’, a sparse, infectious, chunky little gem of a pop song which jerks back and forth along a pleasantly unpredictable, carefully randomised pathway. As I always suspected, The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything tells me that the future I wanted is hiding squarely in the past.

The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything by Circuit3 was released October 1 2019 by Diode Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Brook – Built You For Thought

Informed by thought and feeling, rather than fashion and nostalgia, beneath a backdrop of well-thumbed science fiction paperbacks, the debut album from Brook creates a soundtrack to the loneliness of romance gone wrong, a longing for the past to be corrected by the future

The wonderfully-titled ‘Prince’ is propelled by an Escher-style arpeggio from Howard Rider, which enables vocalist Beth Brooks’ voice to swoop and spiral around it, like a sophisticated cat taking occasional swipes at a persistent wasp.

Whiplash snares, isolated pianos and synthetic music box melodies complement the emotional weight of the confessional nature of the lyrics, while also providing a safety net letting Brooks’ elegant trapeze act soar above it. The temptation may have been to match the scale of the vocals with layers and layers of sound but that would have been suffocating and overpowering. Instead, the music swells and crashes. Standout track ‘Everglades’ swaggers confidently on to the dancefloor, heartbroken but defiant.

So many musicians still feel the need to fill the kettle above the water line; it’s pleasing that Brook have adhered to the recommended level, both in content and quantity. By taking a nuanced and subtle approach, the two distinct elements of Built You For Thought combine to create a cohesive, timeless, whole.

Built You For Thought by Brook is released on September 20 2019 by VeryRecords.

Words: David Best. David Best is from Brighton’s Fujiya & Miyagi.

(c) 2019 David Best for Further.

3 Questions: WARMLAND

WARMLAND are a Reykjavík duo of Arnar Guðjónsson and Hrafn Thoroddsen, whose debut album Unison Love is released by the Aeronaut label on June 21 2019.

Comprising twelve songs showcasing quietly sincere, beatific vocals and a rich, compelling tapestry of icy synth melodies, Unison Love is executed with a knowingly anthemic, widescreen intelligent pop smarts.

WARMLAND play Secret Solstice this weekend in Reykjavík. Watch the video for ‘Further’ below.

What is your earliest memory?

Arnar: Escaping kindergarten by digging a hole under the fence and running down the street when I was three or four years old. I managed to run quite a distance until a random person from the street spotted me and stopped me. I guess I never really liked kindergarten.

Hrafn: I guess it would be my dog, her name was Dimma (Dark) and she was absolutely crazy, but kind to me. She used to drag me across the playground, terrorise the postman and dig up the neighbourhood. She eventually went on to live on the ‘farm’.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

Arnar: Stay true to yourself and don’t worry about what other people say or think. Working in music and creative arts, you can’t make everyone happy and there are always going to be negative voices out there. So it’s very important that you stay true to your vision and never compromise.

Hrafn: Be good to people and don’t be an asshole. I gravitate to good people both professionally and personally so thankfully my life is asshole-free… mostly.

When are you most productive or inspired?

Arnar: Over the dark winter in Iceland. I get easily distracted by good weather and sun. Maybe the 24-hour darkness forces you to go within yourself and be more creative. Working on music in the studio in a snow storm is the perfect condition for me.

Hrafn: I get inspired after dark and I censor things less between the twilights. I sometimes sit and do nothing in the studio until the light fades, then things get going. The midnight sun during summer can be a bit problematic, but then you just go out and enjoy it.

Unison Love by WARMLAND is released by Aeronaut on June 21 2019. Buy the record at Bandcamp.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: Dresage

Since arriving in 2017 with her debut self-titled EP, LA-based electronic artist Dresage (Keeley Bumford) has quietly issued track after track of disarmingly emotional modern synthpop music full of the crystalline melodies that get all but the most hard-hearted synth heads excited accompanied by introspective, poetic wordplay. Keeley is also one half of the electronic unit More Giraffes with Mark Hadley, which they view as a place to experiment freely within the confines of pop.

Her most recent single, ‘Therapy’, a collaboration with fellow electronic chanteuse G. Smith, was released in April 2019, and a second Dresage EP is being worked on right now. A new More Giraffes collaboration with Brooklyn’s Sweater Beats (Antonio Cuna), ‘Playground’, is officially released on June 14.

What is your earliest memory?

I grew up in the mountains of Washington State, between Seattle and Vancouver in Canada. I remember always hiking and backpacking with my parents as a toddler around Mount Baker. Even as a tiny human only a couple feet tall, I can still recall the view I had from so close to the ground as I marched up and over ridges, snow patches and past glacial lakes. The damp ground, dark green trees and crystal blue skies of the Pacific Northwest are deeply engrained geography in my being. I feel very grateful for that.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

My friend Connie, who goes by the artist name MILCK, always drops massive knowledge when I spend time with her. She told me once that “clarity is kindness.” I’ve always been deeply afraid of confrontation in all aspects of my life, but when I try and practice setting clear boundaries for myself, I find it to be the kindest thing you can do in any situation, as opposed to being unclear and inefficient in communication because I’m afraid to be harsh, judged, or thought of as rude. This is something I try to apply to my professional life all the time. It’s a work in progress, but I think I’m getting better.

When are you most productive or inspired?

I’m most productive or inspired when I feel empowered by myself. It’s a cat-and-mouse game I play with my psyche, but when I’m kindest to me, I tend to do my best work. Speaking, looking, thinking with self-love goes a long way as opposed to an inner dialogue of anger, fear or self deprecation. Also candles, incense and meditation always help me get to a better place. This is also a constant work in progress: I start back at square one with every morning.

Therapy by Dresage and G. Smith is out now. Listen to Therapy at Spotify. Playground by More Giraffes and Sweater Beats is released June 14. Listen to Playground at Spotify.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: FRUM

FRUM

FRUM is the electronic pop project of Jenny Augustudóttir Kragesteen. Hailing from the Faroe Islands, an archipelago of nearly twenty islands between Iceland and Norway in the Atlantic, Kragesteen has quietly issued a handful of singles over the past couple of years that highlight her dreamy, gently heartfelt approach to pop.

Her latest single, ‘Ocean’, follows on from last year’s anthem to defiant individualism, ‘Beat’, a song that played with the rhythms and textures of R&B and hip-hop intersected by a buzzing synth riff and deceptively uplifting chorus. ‘Ocean’ finds FRUM racing headlong into euphoric territory again, blending springy electronics, chunky beats and a carefree, swirling vocal together in a mesmerising displaying of summery, emotional pop songwriting prowess.

FRUM’s debut album is expected to land in 2020.

What is your earliest memory?

I sometimes feel like I can remember when I was in my mother’s womb but I know that’s not true – I just wish it was. It’s actually probably when I was two or three years old, sleeping on my mother’s chest or maybe sitting outside on a swing, looking at the blue sky.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

Be honest.

When are you most productive or inspired?

Definitely when I’m out in open nature. I get overwhelmed by a powerful feeling that everything is a part of everything and that I am somehow connected to it. I’m also quite productive when I’m sad and when I feel lonely. Being creative always makes me feel better.

‘Ocean’ is out now on hfn music. Listen to ‘Ocean’ at Spotify.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: Niki Kand

Electronic pop singer-songwriter Niki Kand was born in Tehran but is now based in Liverpool.

Kand released two singles in 2018 and has just issued ‘Naughty Boy’, a subversive, slick track produced with Sweden’s Summer Heart (David Alexander Lomelino) that documents the messy collapse of a relationship thanks to infidelity.

Niki Kand will release her debut EP, Pinkish, later this year. While she continues prepping the songs for the EP, we subjected her to a handful of searching questions as part of our new 3 Questions micro-feature series.

What is your earliest memory?

I’ve got two sisters and I vividly remember the day my youngest sister was born. My aunt was looking after us and she was supposed to take us to the hospital to see my mum and my sister. I remember I cried all the way to the hospital just because I wasn’t happy with the way my poor aunt had done my hair. Now, when I look back, I can’t imagine how annoying I had been as a kid!

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

My dad always tells me to do my best but forget about the result. I like that state of having no expectations.

When are you most productive or inspired?

Inspiration comes from everywhere for me, but I’m mostly inspired when I meet and talk to people I don’t know. My productivity drops when I’m hungry, my phone isn’t silent and my workload is overwhelming – any one of those would be enough to affect me.

Listen to ‘Naughty Boy’ at Spotify.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.