Veronica Falls + Echo Lake live

@The Lexington

Originally published:  here

Echo Lake ease in tonight’s show with the allure of a seedy dive bar, unearthing breathy vocals and seductive waves of guitar-noise from behind floppy fringes and drawing on an aesthetic which is part Creation-era indie band, part Nico-esque ethereality. Frontwoman Linda Jarvis’ tendency to rise onto her tiptoes when the high notes beckon ensures a coy delivery but one nonetheless anchored by a voice which fully pervades the room with its impressive range. And with a debut EP – ‘Young Silence’ – and 7” single – ‘Another Day/Breathe Deep’ – currently out on No Pain in Pop, Echo Lake will arguably be headline fodder before the year is out, taking their Slowdive/Ride entrenched outpourings to new dizzying heights of recognition.

A slew of festival appearances and European dates, a self-titled debut and correspondingly, more press than you can shake a stick at and exquisite boy/girl quartet Veronica Falls must be pretty worn out. But as they take to their perch with a stride in their step – seraphim faces beaming at the prospect of tonight’s imminent performance – any negative effects of a full schedule are soon blanketed by their ensuing display of flawless musicianship and ability to more than fine-tune a melody.

It’s a sold-out show which boasts a comparatively varied demographic – indie-pop cognoscenti coupled with a raft of grey-haired gig-goers – and which promises instant gratification from the off in the form of the band’s ultimate pop-noir triumph, ‘Found Love in a Graveyard’. Sumptuous multi-vocal harmonies abound and the spine-jangling, euphoria-inducing chorus stands as proud confirmation of their enviable knack for a fine hook or two.

Deftly reeling off ‘Stephen’ – an ode to a fictional, near-perfect boyfriend – the icy, elongated ‘Come On Over’, current single ‘Bad Feeling’ and the effervescent froth of hit song ‘Beachy Head’, guitars tripping over the track’s maudlin subject-matter with a sense of pure, unadulterated glee, and any attempts at crowd-pushing my way to a primetime viewing spot are cruelly dashed by the band’s stubborn fanbase, who barely move their heads throughout for want of concentration. But there’s room at the front when new songs ‘Bury Me Alive’ and ‘Last Conversation’ rear their lovely, C86 adorned head and, teetering on the crest of a tantalising build-up – one of Veronica Falls’ signature traits – all the time bolstered by Patrick Doyle’s seemingly effortless and occasionally tambourine-incorporated drumming, both tracks carry with them the weight of future promise.

There’s extra cause for celebration among indie-pop fans tonight, considering Veronica Falls’ unprecedented (150th) position in the UK Albums Chart, a subtle but satisfying feat for the Bella Union signing who manage to veer on the right side of polished and espouse catchy, melodic pop, with their inimitability still intact.

Pussy Whipped – Meadham Kirchoff

Cover feature for Clash magazine (October edition)

 Bedecked with all manner of timeworn curios – from ornate china trinkets to a make-up streaked bra owned by friend and designer Louise Gray – the East London live/work space of Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff is a visual testament to their inquisitorial breed of creativity.

Both music lovers in their own right, a neatly stacked record collection sits on the shelf and as a plump black cat sidles into the room, our discussion soon turns to the inevitable.  “I read a Vogue article about Hole when I was around eleven or twelve and from that point on I became fascinated by Courtney Love,” admits self-confessed riot grrrl fanatic Ed. “I started collecting pictures of her and it quickly grew into something of an obsession.”

Many of us use the associative properties of music to construct our own personal timelines, equating particular moments in our chequered musical past with particular stages in our self-development. And after “a nine-year fling” with the raven-haired Siouxsie Sioux, a short-lived tryst with punk prior to that, as the eighties turned into the nineties, Ed was confronted by a whole new raft of sonic crusaders; the riot grrrls. Pinpointing the exact date of his riot grrrl awakening – Huggy Bear’s Valentine’s Day performance on The Word in 1993 – Ed grew more and more enthralled by these angsty anti-heroines, who, armed with brash sounding guitars and even brasher sounding lyrics, tore up the nineties in a flash of feminist fury. “For me, music is a very visual thing and so it was their whole aesthetic I admired. It wasn’t only about the music, but also about the look and of course the ideas,” he explains.

Their aesthetic permeates his work and Meadham Kirchhoff’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection, seen across catwalks the previous autumn, was heralded as a visual homage to the inimitable Courtney Love. Models sported tie-dyed hair in varying shades of pastel and candy coloured hues, their faces painted with grunge-obeying make-up, their bodies adorned with glitter, lace, ruffles and bows. Even the venue was a nod to the era, with whimsical flower displays aligning the stage and handmade zines placed on attendees’ seats.

But Ben’s musical heritage is not so pronounced. Growing up in Africa, his early musical consumption was limited to his parents’ Abba mixtapes – all five of them to be exact. “I had a weird upbringing where I was introduced to everything really late,” he says. “I moved to France when I was fifteen and by that point I was two years behind everyone else, so I had some serious catching up to do.” For Ben, the ethereal Kate Bush and folkloric PJ Harvey are key; exalting the former’s theatricality and the latter’s ability to reinvent herself at every turn. But he also recognises the influence of music on his creative efforts. “If we talk about connecting music with the way the label has progressed, then at the beginning it was all about Siouxsie Sioux,” he says. “It gradually progressed into Courtney and riot grrrl but there’s always been a female singer at the forefront. We’ve got a soundtrack for every season so who knows what it will be this year…”

Death Grips

Interview originally published: Clash magazine (November edition)

Something big is about to happen. A paradigm shift of seismic proportions is at this very moment thundering towards the chintzy, Cash Money edifice of mainstream hip-hop, ready to tear up its foundations in a blaze of confrontational and nihilistic glory.

And the perpetrators? The force of nature inadvertently leading this revolutionary mission is a self-confessed collective of Sacramento based “future primitive” musical visionaries, armed with a bombardment of rap-shaped bullets and a twisted bag of paranoia-induced imagery enshrined in visceral electronics. It goes…it goes…it goes…it goes…it goes…it goes…Death Grips.

Mexican Girl, Info Warrior, founding member Flatlander and drummer Zach Hill are the demolition experts behind the offensive with MC Ride their warped mouthpiece and subversive poster boy of quasi-gothic persuasion. His incendiary, chaotic, brutal and downright death-defying flow is the group’s explosive tripwire but Flatlander is quick to discount the need for any well-defined roles within the group, stressing instead that theirs is a shared, egalitarian endeavour. “We bang out sounds in a room and build out more specific ideas based on the vibrations later,” he spouts. “Everything we release is a hyper collaborative process of deconstructing each others’ ideas. We purposefully kill our egos to maximise the end material.” ‘Nuff said.

Within the bass heavy maelstrom of acerbic rhyme, Shangaan electro (see ‘Lord of the Game’ in particular) IDM, and digital hardcore a la Alex Empire, undercurrents of lo-fi punk are felt at every turn. Hella’s prolific West Coast stick wielder Zach Hill has in the past provided beats for Wavves and Boredoms, among others, and the group’s rudimentary production certainly adheres to the principles of DIY. “Sonically, we are drawn to raw sounds paired with the massiveness of club music. But we use only basic tools and lots of live playing when sampling,” says Flatlander. “Everything is an experiment in expanding on the original material to fit our concept. We know it’s working when we naturally start hearing our song more than the sample being used within it.”

Their free, 13-track mixtape ‘Exmilitary’ (opening with a disturbing sample from a Charles Manson interview) itself serves as further confirmation of Death Grips’ unyielding punk aesthetic – released on both vinyl and cassette on November 1st – and is accompanied by a raft of grainy, disorientating videos, all born from a wealth of Dadaist concepts. In the words of Flatlander: “’Takyon (Death Yon)’ is about trespassing in your own space or being a invader in your own environment, whereas ‘Black Google’ is the opposite; it’s more about escaping how you’ve naturally defined yourself through previous work before other people define you by that and only that.” You get the gist.

“Sexuality, numbers, death, The Zipper, drugs,” Flatlander reels off a list of influences, before adding – “occultism and the cult mentality are also strong themes,” (but then you only have to glance at MC Ride’s web of symbol rich pagan tattoos to pick up on this.”

The group also boast an almost unprecedented knowledge of science; “Grey Goo Theory is the idea of self-replicating nanomachines running out of control like a hyper-viral-bloom,” and are wracked with an overwhelming sense of technological anxiety; “The paranoia is external. Information registering as a feeling that’s internal. It’s the nature of things acclerating, people and confusion. We are very nature inspired and everything mirrors nature,” says Flatlander.

All in all, it’s a lot to take in…

Death Grips plan to release a debut LP early next year but for now – welcome to their nightmare. Just remember to wear a seatbelt.