The Warp/The Weft - Ummagma - Amadou & Mariam - Belle Game - Ritual Talk

The Warp/The Weft - Briars.

Background - “Briars” is powered by amazing spine-tingling, expressive high-register vocals by Shane Murphy. This song is a dark, haunted ballad that begins solidly in the folk rock tradition but gradually builds into a crescendo assault of rock grit and psychedelia. “Briars” is by The Warp/The Weft and is released on Admirable Traits Records, based in Buffalo, NY, USA. “Briars” is a single from the forthcoming album, “Mapping an Absence,” which will be released at the end of July.

The Warp/The Weft, active since 2012 in and beyond New York's Hudson River Valley, has earned praise for its uniqueness and song-crafting from casual and devoted listeners alike. Blending traditional and avant-garde styles, the warmth of a good wool sweater and the sometimes-bleak cold of an upstate winter, the progressive folk and psychedelia that the band brings to bear (compared to Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull) is propelled by poetic lyrics and a "spirit-conjuring," lilting tenor that "puts Murphy alongside Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg as one of the most captivating high-register voices in rock today" (Ron Hart, Chronogram). 2017's Mapping an Absence (July 29, 2017, Admirable Traits Records) introduces bassist Trevor Larcheveque, whose vocal harmonies help to anchor the band firmly in the chamber category. Website here.

I try not to overly use the "timeless" expression, however 'Briars' positively begs for it. This could be a folk rock song from the beginning of said genre. Even better, the audio quality benefits from modern recording techniques, however at the core of this, is a fabulous song where music and vocals are delivered with passion and quality.


Ummagma - Lama (Robin Guthrie Mix).

Background - Robin Guthrie Remix Announces New Ummagma 'LCD' EP as the Cocteau Twins lynchpin Robin Guthrie re-envisions Ummagma 'Lama'. Who says that you shouldn’t meet your heroes? Ummagma did and the result is a stunning remix that also acts as the lead single for their forthcoming ‘LCD’ EP.  After Robin Guthrie heard their track ‘Lama’, which originally appeared on the band’s debut album ‘Antigravity’, mutual friends put the band and the Cocteau Twins multi-instrumentalist in touch. The result is this wonderful new version of the song, which sees him not only re-arrange and re-mix the song but also add his own guitar parts into the mix.

Ummagma are a band whose unlikely back story matches and perfectly explains their mercurial music. Shauna McLarnon, a vocalist from the Yukon wilderness and Alexander Kretov, a multi-instrumentalist from small town Ukraine, met in the suburban sprawl of Moscow after pursuing many solo adventures and exploring unusual pathways. Bonding over their shared musical interests and fascinated by each other's divergent musical backgrounds, Ummagma began as an affair with love and sound, their relationship soon developing into both a musical and factual marriage. In 2013, Ummagma won the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio, representing Ukraine among 23 countries.

‘Lama’ exists in an alternate dimension of ambient drifts and sonic textures that wash over you in gentle waves and then recede back into a sonorous, twilight world of fading vapour trails of sound and vocals, seemingly found between reality and possibility. This is a sound that Guthrie and his fellow Cocteau Twins helped to pioneer and evolve throughout the 80’s – a sound that still informs much of his work, though here, his trademark feedback drenched guitar sound is used more to shimmer rather than shatter, to chime rather than slash.

As a calling card for the four-track EP to follow, ‘Lama’ is a perfect sonic snapshot, capturing the bands core sound, their ambient heart, and the often smoke-like musical sculptures they create. Dream pop, it would seem, is deliciously back on the menu. Ummagma ‘LCD’ will be released on September 22 via Label Obscura (cassette) and Somewherecold Records (CD), and is already available for pre-order on the duo’s own Bandcamp here. Bands website here, Facebook here.

Of the 'LCD' EP, the featured 'Lama (Robin Guthrie Mix)' is my favourite track. Don't let that suggest the other three songs are lesser, they are not, it's just that The Cocteau Twins (as regulars to Beehive Candy might have noticed) have been such an influential part of my musical journey. That this song contains some of that flavour, makes it only natural for me to be carried that way.


Amadou & Mariam - Filaou Bessame.

Background - 'La Confusion', the highly anticipated ninth full-length album from Malian musical duo and Grammy-award nominees Amadou & Mariam, is due on 22 September on Because Music. In celebration of the release the band has shared the lyric video for the track “Filaou Bessame”.

Alongside 'Filaou Bessame', the album also includes the single 'Bofou Safou'. Amadou & Mariam recently released the Bofou Safou EP via Because Music. The EP includes the first two La Confusion singles, “Bofou Safou” and “Filaou Bessame,” alongside remixes of the EP’s title track by Fatima Yamaha, Africaine 808, Henrik Schwarz and more. The term “bofou safou” is a Bambara (the Malian national language) nickname given to nonchalant young men who would rather dance than work. Of the new EP, the group notes, “We really like the remixes that were made for the EP. You get to hear our music in a different form, which is great. All five remixes manage to catch the essence of our song while really pushing those enticing afro pop and electronic vibes further.”

Amadou & Mariam met in 1975 while attending the Institute for Young Blind in Bamako (where they continue to play an annual benefit concert). Influenced by the records of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd as well as traditional African music, the couple began working as a duo in 1983. Their transition from world music stages to rock festival headliners came with 2005’s Manu Chao-produced ‘Dimanche à Bamako,’ one of the best-selling African albums of all time.

In recent years, Amadou and Mariam have toured with Coldplay and U2 and jammed with musical heroes David Gilmour and Johnny Marr. They’ve performed at a Nobel Peace Prize concert in honour of Barack Obama and played at the opening ceremonies of the last two FIFA world cups. Manu Chao and Damon Albarn have lent their production skills to their records and they have worked with some of the most innovative names in contemporary rock music via Albarn’s ‘Africa Express’ and other cross-cultural projects, such as ‘L’Afrik C’est Chic’. Website here, Facebook here.

I have stated this a few times & with no desire to bore you, I will write it again, 'Filaou Bessame' lyrics could be a rendition of the local train timetable, however this is another great example of where music can transcend languages, not only that it can lift the spirit and give some feel good vibes as well.


Belle Game - Spirit.

Background - Known for their unique ability to weave ethereal soundscapes into blown-out, crush-pop confections, Vancouver’s Belle Game announce their sophomore album 'Fear/Nothing' slated for release on 28th September on Arts & Crafts. Produced by Dave Hamelin (The Stills) and executive producer Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), the 10-track collection is filled with lush compositions, led by the powerful and hypnotic vocals of Andrea Lo. Today, the band shares the dynamic first single 'Spirit' – available today with all digital retailers.

About the track, Lo comments, “'Spirit' was created through the relinquishing of logic, allowing the music to take form through feeling with no end goal as opposed to structural forms. It’s the result of letting ourselves be playful, youthful and in joy, having no consequence or imposed judgment for what we created in that moment.”

'Fear/Nothing' combines the sweeping synth-driven dream pop of the Cocteau Twins with confident vocal-driven melodies of genre-defying artists like Empress Of and Jessy Lanza. From hushed anthems to distorted instrumentals, Belle Game teeters between two worlds. Whatever the mood, it’s always a celebration of the hard times and a refusal of fear.

Upon the release of their debut album 'Ritual Tradition Habit', the band earned critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, while their emotional live performances prompted Paste Magazine to name them one of the “10 Great New Bands of CMJ”. After performing at number of US festivals this summer, Belle Game will hit the road for a full North American tour as lead support for Broken Social Scene in September, with UK and European dates to be announced soon. Website here, Facebook here.

'Spirit' soars with emotional charm and when the deep rhythm kicks in, upgrades to a majestic piece. It's another mention for the Cocteau Twins today, as this song has some of their musical herbs and spices flowing through it, alongside the bands notable creativity.


Ritual Talk - Help, I've Been Dreaming.

Background - Brooklyn-based, psychedelic indie rock band, Ritual Talk, announce their debut EP, Rippled Glass, due out in September 2017. The EP was recorded in several places - 4 out of 5 of the drum tracks were produced in Philly, vibraphone and cello were recorded at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music with Jack Hallenbeck (Scott James, OSHUN) and nearly everything else was produced and recorded in the band's apartment in NYC. The EP was mixed by Chris Shaw (Modest Mouse, Wilco) and mastered by Chris Gehringer (Yeasayer, Chairlift). 

The band's lead single and video, "Help, I've Been Dreaming, is a woozy encapsulation of the hesitant feeling of being alone after ending a long-term relationship. Major chords and polyrhythmic structure display the emotional aloofness show through the lyrical narrative. Opening track, "Sense," is a slow burner that tells the personal story of needing to cultivate one's own path from a singular perspective. The track features pulsating synths, heavy vocal harmonies and fuzzy guitar. (It's the stoner-rock track of the EP, of sorts). 

Primary songwriter, Alex DeSimine (vox, guitar, keys), began writing music in his adolescence as a means of sorting out a jumbled mind. The band came to fruition when DeSimine moved in with bassist, Alex Tremitere and drummer, Tom Criblez, and elicited the help of Dylan Gleit (guitar, vox), who previously performed with Criblez and Tremitere, and TJ Alcala (keys, vox). The band's distinct vocal layers, with all five members signing live, added a new level of excitement to their live set. Facebook here.

There's some good psychedelic orientated or influenced music around currently and 'Help, I've Been Dreaming' leans in that direction. This song adds in some beautiful harmonies and a more sensitive musical arrangement, making it standout, and easily likable.