Tag Archives: Mononoke

Climbing out of the rabbit hole: Unexpected musical returns

3 Jun

rabbit hole

Musical returns are nothing new, bands and artists have oft disappeared for years at a time only to return unexpectedly and triumphantly. Recent years have seen seemingly unlikely reconciliations and re-emergences from the likes of Blur, Suede and many others. Nostalgia TV shows and gigs have proved successful and paved the way for many an act to comeback, even when no-one was calling for it. In these cases there will always be some that are more surprising than others, and some that are more welcome too.

2016, and the last few weeks in particular, seems to have been overloaded with such returns. Some clamoured for, some not; some very exciting, some not so much. For example, Radiohead reappeared with a new album, as well as their now customary reduction of music critics into jibbering messes, forced as they are to live blog a first play just to deliver the hits that keep the advertisers happy. The often rumoured and dreamed of Stone Roses reunion also actually happened, though the decidedly marmite “All For One” may not have been all that was hoped for.

In the last few days in particular there have been three returns that have garnered varying levels of coverage and excitement across the blog world and beyond. These three returns have piqued our interest more than most and have us excited to see what comes next. So we thought we’d take a look at them in a little more detail.


Pixie Geldof

Pixie

One return we hadn’t expected to see but are absolutely delighted has come about, is that of Pixie Geldof. She’s not been heard musically since early 2013 when she released the utterly divine demo of ”Where The Wild Things Grow” with her band Violet.

It was a remarkable track; gorgeous, stunning and various other superlatives tripped off our tongue while describing it. It made our end of year list and then, nothing. Personal tragedy occurred and while Pixie evidently never stopped writing, retiring from the public eye was to be expected. Now though there is a double A-side set for release this month and a debut solo album, I’m Yours to follow in September.

One of the two tracks shared (both are wonderful) “So Strong”, has bewitched us entirely. Pixie’s vocal sounds in part cold and disinterested and in part sweet and seductive, it glides sublimely over the delicate string arrangement. The melody hangs low, an early morning mist across a bluebell laden forest floor. A barefoot rhythm walking carefully, almost imperceptibly through as the world gently wakes.

It is fragile and beguiling, tender and loving whilst detached and aloof. It is an heavenly return from an artist we are genuinely thrilled to see return. So Young is shaping up to be a must-buy already, not least because the press info also hints at a re-worked “Where The Wild Things Grow” appearing on it.

Pixie’s double A-side single “So Strong” and “Escape Route” will be released on 17 June and ‘So Young’ is due out on 16 September. Both via Stranger Records.


Stalk Pixie Geldof: Twitter


The Avalanches

Avalanches

The return that has unquestionably received the most buzz and media coverage this week has come from the much loved and missed The Avalanches. Their debut LP, Since I Left You, is revered and near worshipped in some circles. Some have even questioned if it was too good to follow up. As the years have gone by, a possible follow-up has taken on near mythological status. Like Dre’s Detox it has frequently been rumoured, excitedly whispered about and anticipated but never realised. Until now.

While only two of the original line-up are still involved, “Frankie Sinatra”, the first track to be taken from the fabled second album Wildflower, is brilliantly Avalanchesy. Crazy samples abound as the beat bounces like an oompah band on a trampoline while the guest vocals evoke (appropriately enough) early 2000’s Beastie Boys or Eminem.

The reaction to the track has been largely positive, though there are some who have bemoaned its Gorillaz like playfulness and its supposed lack of ‘relevance’ to 2016. As if a band that people love making music that sounds like the music they made before, that people loved, is a bad thing. Still, we expect these same people decried Daft Punk for not making exactly the same kind of music as before when they came back with Random Access Memories. There’s just no pleasing some people.

We are pleased with it though. It is fun, it is playful, and bouncy and a bit silly but not all music has to be serious and meaningful (we do like that kind of music too). It is worth remembering that “Frontier Psychiatrist” was a bit silly and playful as well and that Since I Left You was still, is still a remarkable triumph.

We are really looking forward to hearing Wildflower and seeing just how good it is.


Stalk The Avalanches: Website / Facebook / Twitter


Mononoke

Mononoke

It was only a few weeks ago that we found ourselves asking, whatever happened to Mononoke? Named after the fabled Studio Ghibli princess, she appeared shrouded in mystery in late 2013 and instantly won the hearts and minds of many a music fan with her magical, ethereal “Alice”.

This was followed up by two more tracks in 2014, “Bones and Glory” and “Barefoot and Broken”, promise was being realised and then, like Pixie, there was nothing. Seemingly, there was no wonder left in paradise as her tracks were removed from Soundcloud and this mysterious girl vanished back down the rabbit hole from whence she came.

In truth, she simply took a step back, feeling she wasn’t ready to move forward and wanting to take her time to get everything right and ready. Now she has returned, “Alice” is alive once more and now with a video (or ‘cinema graph’) and promise of a new EP.

While it is a little disappointing that Mononoke (we can see her face in the videos but we’re still not allowed to share [redacted]’s name) hasn’t immediately come back with the new music; “Alice” has lost none of it’s magic or charm. Tragically beautiful and beguiling it drifts, lilts and delights in equal measure.

New music is coming as well, while another of her previous tracks, “Barefeet and Broken” will appear on the Silence For You EP, so too will a title track and “Graceland”. If they are anywhere near as sublime and gorgeous as their predecessors, this could be a first step on a road to a wonderful adventure for Mononoke.



Stalk Mononoke: Facebook / Twitter

Header image via notevenathing flickr

Mononoke – “Barefoot and Broken“

24 Apr

Mononoke

One song was all it took for us to fall for the very obvious musical charms of the otherwise very mysterious Mononoke. “Alice” was a sublime creation and one that had more than just us scrambling to include the Warner Chappell signee in lists of artists to listen out for in 2014 and when follow-up “Bones and Glory” hit the net, you could hear the collective sigh of relief from bloggers the world over that it was, delightfully, just as good. This week Mononoke went for the hat-trick with “Barefoot and Broken” and what do you know, she’s caressed it perfectly into the top corner for a beauty.

Like its predecessors, “Barefoot and Broken” is startling in its gorgeousness and immediately you are captivated. Listening for the very first time is like witnessing the reveal of a newly discovered Van Gough or Monet. The veil is pulled back, your breath catches as before you stands a masterpiece. A wonderful example of the mellow-cholic sound she has cultivated, her vocals drift like the last kiss blown from a loved one as they turn to leave and your heart stops in realisation. You won’t see them again.

The simple piano notes fall like muted tears, trailing gently down your face as the anguish and pain builds in mist of soft electronics and synths. ”I did everything you asked me” she calls out, the emotion rising with the distress while the melody shushes and caresses like a concerned parent.

It is, as has fast become the norm for this young lady, heavenly and as long as she can make heartbreak sound this beautiful, we won’t mind the pain.


Stalk Mononoke: Facebook / Twitter

Mononoke – “Bones and Glory” (video)

9 Feb

Mononoke

Just one song and a little mystery from London by way of Liverpool’s Mononoke was enough to excite sufficiently to feature her on both our list of artists to listen out for and our Top 25 Tracks of 2013 countdown. Not many artists last year elicited such an immediate, excited and overwhelming response from us, listening to “Alice” was like playing one desperate final hand of poker, going all in with our heart and pulling out an Ace on the river for a royal flush.

Even so, that was one track and there would be questions over whether the Warner Chappell signee could match or even eclipse such a startling debut with her follow-up. Then last week “Bones and Glory” came along and for three and half minutes our world came to a standstill and only one word came to our mind. Wow.

Combining the icy, crystalline beauty of Lyla Foy with the distressed vintage feel of Lana Del Rey (Lyla Del Rey anyone?) “Bones and Glory” is, like “Alice” before it, a distant mist of melody, gentle probing beats and vocals of whispered kisses. Those kisses analyses the forensics of a relationship, her voice echoing out of the shadows like a dark exploration of what it means to feel while the sombre piano picks its way barefoot through the dilapidated remains of hope.

Who she is remains, for many, a mystery. Though right now the speculation seems moot for while the music is as special and beautiful as this, who she is matters not a jot. Just listen and enjoy.



Stalk Mononoke: Facebook / Twitter

2013 Tracks Of The Year – #20 – 16

9 Dec

Tracks of 2013 - 20-16

Here we go then with the second part of our Tracks of the Year countdown. After revealing the tracks that hit the spots marked 25 – 21 earlier today, it’s time to unveil the five songs that made it to the 20 – 16 places. But before we do, here’s a quick reminder of the random rules we have imposed upon ourselves.

The song doesn’t have to be an actual single and while that may seem a bit of a cheat, there’s a good reason behind it. We are looking at tracks that were released in one capacity or another over the last 12 months so that amazing album tracks will also be considered. We must note though, if a track was released online this year but will become a single next, then it won’t be included (“Anomaly” by Paper Crows fell foul of this rule for example). The only other arbitrary rule we have implemented is, one song per artist.

With that bit of admin out of the way, here are the songs we ranked from 20 – 16. Enjoy.


#20 Gems – “Medusa UN₡U₮”

We were originally going to put Gems’ “Medusa” here, but then, just a few days ago, they went and posted an uncut version of the track with an additional couple of minutes opening the track. Additional and different. The breathlessness is still there, the light as a feather monochrome beauty is still there but now the whole thing begins with something a bit more down to earth, a bit more base in tone. It’s still sparse but it doesn’t float, it is tethered to the ground, desperate to break free. These opening two minutes are like a walk through a long corridor in a stately home. Polished black and white tiles lead us to a great atrium where “Medusa” takes flight to the open sky above. It’s just wonderful.



#19 John Grant – “GMF”

He is the greatest motherfucker that we’re ever gonna meet (well, we hope to meet at least, it’s not happened yet) and on “GMF”, John Grant has no problem telling us. On an album that’s about as open and honest as it can get, “GMF” is one of many gorgeous and glorious highpoints. Introspective, self-depreciating, witty, angry, defiant, bombastic, broken, it runs a gamut of emotions while simultaneously sounding like one of the most sublime pieces of music around. The melody whispers and swirls like a solo waltz in the midst of shrapnel from a shattered and exploded relationship. Detritus lies all around, a memory here, a keepsake there, a heart still and cold discarded forlornly to one side as John stoically rises and falls through it all, bloodied but unbowed.



#18 Mononoke – “Alice”

Who Mononoke actually is, may remain a mystery for the time being but there’s nothing secretive about how sublime her debut track, “Alice” is. It’s a single tear of exquisite emotion with simple and stark chords alternating with finger clicks as the vocals caress the memories of a life that never was. It’s a beautifully haunting ballad that uses the imagery of Alice In Wonderland as a metaphor for something altogether more heart wrenching and bewitchingly beautiful.



#17 Mega Emotion – “Brains”

With their debut track, Mega Emotion announced themselves to the world with big seventies pop guitars and neo-disco basslines, brash, angular riffage and dark electro flashes. “Brains” is hyper addictive and bold, raw and powerful. The soft, cool (as the other side of the pillow) female vocals are superbly juxtaposed with the frenetic, non-stop energy of the track, and while you can’t get it out of your head, you still feel like it’s going to destroy you with its massive hooks and chaotically brilliant sound.



#16 Lorde – “Royals”

We came very late to the Lorde party this year, having somehow managed to not hear a damn thing by her until deep into autumn. We’d wondered what all the fuss was about and then, on hearing “Royals”, we got it. There have, evidently, been many arguments and discussions about her stance within the song (aspiration, envy, apathy etc) but all that is secondary to the quality of the music itself. For regardless of what else it may or may not be, or what people want it to be, it is a fantastic piece of pop. Lorde’s rich, soulful vocal resonates against the sparse beat and barely there tune. It’s bold and confident, yet restrained and understated. In fact, perfectly, it is the complete opposite of the brash in your face bombardment of the bling fuelled homogenised pop she is discussing in the song, and better than anything else that has come from those hit factories all year.



So that concludes the second part of our countdown, come back tomorrow for part three and the tracks we ranked 15 – 11.

2014 Preview – Listen Out For – The Full List, and a little extra…

7 Dec

2014 Previews The Full List

So, after a week and a half and 15 individual posts, our countdown of artists we think you should Listen Out For in 2014 is complete. Before we crack on (next week) with our end of year lists, for those amongst you who are lazy/busy/just like things all in one place (delete as applicable), we have collated the full selection of artists below with a handy soundcloud playlist of all 15 for your enjoyment. Should you wish to read more about each, just click on their name to see the full article.

AND, as if that wasn’t enough, we even have a little bonus below the playlist of the acts who almost made the 15 but who we felt were too good to leave off entirely. Some honourable mentions if you will.

#15 – Mega Emotion

”Full of big brash sounds, riffage and booming beats it also features soothing vocals and retro-sensibilities. It’s raw and powerful but calm and quiet too, like a circus muscle man cuddling a poodle or something.”

#14 – Mononoke

”What we do know is that she is blessed with quite a voice and, judging by her debut track “Alice”, song writing talent. With her tragically beautiful lament to a little girl trapped in a grown up world, a life of lost love, apathy and melancholy, she has set the bar very high.”

#13 – Port Isla

“As well as being super talented, they are the kind of lovely people that you just want to do well. They make such enthusiastic and warm music that you can’t help but like them.”

#12 – NONONO

”“Pumpin Blood” is the track that has broken out everywhere, with its ‘gets under your skin’ whistle. You may not know it, but you would probably recognise it. Big and brash, vibrant and frenetic, it’s the seven dwarves whistling while they work having dropped some acid and taken speed.”

#11 – Fractures

”…the gorgeous dreamy electro sounds of “Twisted”, complete with soft, soulful falsetto vocals that would stop a rhino’s heart, and the evocative crescendos of atmospheric folksiness on “Embers” were soon joined by the fabulous “Cadence” and “Tizer”.”

#10 – Embers

”They played two sets at The Great Escape, one in a grand high-ceilinged venue that allowed their music to spread and soar, the other in the cramped space of the Mesmerist pub where their sound exploded out at the audience, pummelling them with intensity and energy as veins bulged and sinews strained. It was one of the most intense, in your face performances we saw all year and we loved it.”

#9 –

”She is an artist that creates genuine excitement and a buzz of anticipation whenever she is about to perform. She even had the audacity to upstage the headlining AlunaGeorge on her recent UK tour and won many more fans in so doing.”

#8 – Pale

”It’s synth pop but ice cold, too cold even for Van Damme as it slides along stealthily like a glacier, taking you in its cool hand off to a world of desolate beauty. A world where the stark surroundings, the bleakness and desolation carry a majestic splendour, it’s not a world of disrepair but one that has been lovingly tended and cultured.”

#7 – Pawws

”Our love for the music of Pawws was immediate and full on, an infatuation. Her music is instantly accessible and enjoyable with influences from the likes of Robyn, Annie and Madonna and vocals that are beautifully sweet and heartfelt. She can do big vibrant rainbows of sound, all danceable and bright and she can do genteel and calm as well.”

#6 – Gems

”The vocals are sweet and breathless, a whispered caress on a smooth gossamer breeze of synths and electronic beats. Weightless and elegant, like moments of purity handed down from above, unsullied and unspoiled for us to enjoy and bathe in their beauty.”

#5 – Iyes

”They make pop music, but it’s not homogenised pre-packaged pop, it’s edgy and different but with enough accessibility to transcend the blogosphere and break the mainstream consciousness. Like Chvrches but without as many 80’s reference points and fewer lasers.”

#4 – Lyla Foy

”The songs are reflective and the arrangements offer an intimacy to the listener, a closeness brought from the instrumentation, the emotion and purity of the music and lyrics. It’s delicate, like the frayed edges of a heart whose thread could be pulled at any moment, and it’s utterly gorgeous.”

#3 – Avec Sans

”What they do so well, and what we absolutely adore, is make fantastically upbeat and danceable tunes. Electro sparkles and beats flash and pulse like a grand firework display against a night sky of synths and melody. Choruses are made to be sung along to while your feet tap and shuffle, heads nod, arms twist and bodies convulse in rhythmical movement; sprung into life by the infectious and compelling sounds.”

#2 – Empress Of

”Her music is addictive and tingle making, high art meets pop accessibility in the most gorgeous manner. Seductive tones, swirling melodies that draw you in and buffet you gently along as the beats take synths by the hand and swoon and sway along like cavorting partners, clinging to each other in the low light of a slow dance.”

#1 – Sivu

”He is a beguiling artist, telling tales born in the shadows of anguish, or inspired by theology in a rousing and heartswelling manner. Acoustic sounds marble with electronic embellishments, strings ebb and flow with the tide and all the while, introspections and observations pour out like nectar for our soul. It is entirely possible, ironically, to lose yourself in his lightly rasping voice and warm melodies. Even when singing “Coldhands” is like a walk across a warm yellow corn field on a calm day, fingers running over the tops of the long stems as they are rustled by a gentle breeze.”


Honourable Mentions…

Curxes

Curxes

If you’re wondering what that massive kaboom sound was just then, it was your senses under attack and your brain screaming out for more. Portsmouth/Brighton pair Curxes make blitz-pop and there’s no escape from its aural magnificence and energy. Last year they were one of the most blogged about artists in the UK (despite having no PR or representation) and while 2013 has been comparatively quiet, the new songs they played for us at Norwich Sound and Vision in October are sounding amazing and could take them to a whole new level in 2014.


Strangers

Strangers London Lights

We’ve been championing the case for this London trio for some time now and with their debut EP on the way, and a follow up scheduled for the new year it could well be that the breakthrough they’ve threatened for so long could be about to happen. Their dark hued electro pop is common cold level catchy but immensely enjoyable and danceable. And while you can get your groove on whilst sneezing your face inside out, we wouldn’t recommend it. Get down to some Strangers instead, it’s much more fun.


Jack Robert Hardman

jack_robert_hardman

Our main man Jack. As our ‘H’ artist we have been following the fortunes of Mr Hardman for a while now and we feel that bigger and better things are just around the corner. His debut album made our end of year list in 2012 and while this year has been more about remixing and a charming little video (below), 2014 should be all about JRH. There’s a new EP on the way, with guest vocalists and artists a-go-go and judging by the unfinished demos we heard a couple of months back, it’s going to be a beauty.


Abi Wade

Abi Wade

One woman, one cello, two foot pedals and an array of sound, melody, rhythms and innovation. Yes, she is a pair of cymbals between her knees away from full-on-market-square-one-man-band-status, but while that shark remains unjumped she is an incredible live performer and musician. She’s got the songs to back it up as well, beautiful and soothing but also full of drama and emotion when they need to be. She’s been writing recently so hopefully that means an album could be on the way in 2014.


Leon Else

Leon Else

Be it fantastical and mystical or very much down to earth and even carnal, Leon Else can and will deliver a tune and half with the deep but light rumbling vocal at its heart. He sees the world slightly differently from most of us but that just makes his music all the more interesting and captivating. With radio play from the likes of Radio 1 and Amazing Radio already under his belt, 2014 could well see his proclamation that the future is


Laura Welsh

Laura Welsh

Laura’s sophisticated, R&B infused pop has passed through our inbox on the odd occasion over the last few months and while we always very much enjoyed it, other commitments meant we never quite got round to writing about it (despite intending to). On seeing her supporting London Grammar recently, we were instantly filled with regret that said posts never made it out of our heads and onto the page. She was fantastic. Big danceable sounds were offset with a deceptively big and powerful vocal and softer, gentler moments were treated with care and affection. 2014 should be a big one for Laura and we won’t be making the mistake of not writing about her again, trust us.