HYELIM KIM, SOUTH KOREA

By Patrick Widdess

South Korean musician and academic Hyelim Kim, has been bringing the taegum, a bamboo flute, to a wider audience since moving to London two years ago. The city has offered amazing opportunities to share her country’s traditional music and in turn it has broadened her own horizons. She is quickly becoming established as an innovative composer and performer with a debut album that uniquely fuses Eastern and Western, traditional and contemporary music.

“I grew up listening to traditional Korean music” she recalls, “but I also listened to jazz, western classical and Korean pop.” She admits that she was not always passionate about the music she was required to study as part of her classical training.

She started playing music aged nine and her love of wind instruments led to her taking up the taegum aged 11. This traditional Korean instrument is a bamboo flute with a membrane that buzzes to create unique sounds. It has a versatile range and sounds like the warble of a rare and exotic bird.

Hyelim studied at a prestigious government-run music school which was a highly disciplined setting to learn her art. “I didn’t have much freedom to express myself,” she recalls though it’s a time she’s grateful for. “I was lucky to get a good and intense education in traditional music from a young age” she says, and the experience inspired her to explore music outside her country.

When she arrived in London in 2011 to continue her PhD studies, she found greater freedom to find her own sound. She began composing, having previously focused on performing traditional pieces. “In Korea there’s a strict division between performer and composer” she says, but now she is free to be both.

Whilst Hyelim has always been influenced by both Korean and Western music; it is only recently that she has started to combine the two. She describes the difficulties in bringing together two fundamentally different forms of music. “Western and Korean music use different tuning systems” she explains. There are also differences in performance. “We don’t normally have a stage. When we have a stage it’s unavoidable to modify the original setting. Also we don’t have a conductor,” she continues. “If we want to play with musicians from other cultures we have to learn their system.”

Ironically it was Hyelim’s background in traditional music that helped her adapt to playing with other musicians. She explains that improvisation has always been a big part of traditional Korean music but its role has been overlooked as musicians focus on preserving traditional pieces. Hyelim’s ability to improvise on the taegum has enabled her to blend in with non-Korean musicians.

In 2012 she reached the attention of the producers of Late Junction on Radio 3 and recorded a session for the programme with German pianist Nils Frahm and UK hip-hop artist Ghost Poet. The three musicians had never met but Hyelim says, “We overcame our differences through improvisation.” The result was a unique blend of styles which received an enthusiastic response from listeners. “I thought that my traditional background would be an obstacle but actually, focusing on the fundamental methods of Korean music helped me adjust to that multicultural setting.”

Hyelim has been involved in further collaborations with Asian and Western musicians for the recording of her debut album, Nim. These include Simon Barker, a jazz drummer from Australia. He has taken the opposite route to Hyelim and studied Korean shamanic drumming which he performs on Western drums. “It’s a kind of mixture of compositions and improvised pieces and some traditional music too,” Hyelim says of the album. It includes commissioned pieces by Korean composer Taesong Kim and one of Hyelim’s own compositions.

Hyelim is pushing her musical boundaries but Korean music and culture remain at the heart of her work and she hopes her country will gain greater recognition on the world stage. “There have always been internationally successful artists from Korea but they don’t emphasise their national identity,” she believes. “Hopefully, more people will become proud of their culture and people will realise Koreans are talented in many ways.”

She acknowledges the accomplishments of other Korean artists and is grateful for the success of K-Pop global hit Gangnam Style. “The general interest in Korea and its culture is growing thanks to PSY’s success. I’m really glad more people are asking questions about Korea and listening to more kinds of music than just K-pop.”

Hyelim will lead a concert at the Royal Asiatic Society this month. It promises “an intoxicating mixture of east-west sounds. Cool beautiful Korean classical traditions, rhythmic Japanese shamisen, the earthy taegum with the ethereal Chinese flute, the passion of dark Argentine tango mixing with toe-tapping Irish folk,” which is culturally diverse even by cosmopolitan London’s standards. It’s a fantastic start to her future ambitions. “I want to make as many bridges as possible,” she says. “People like to categorise everything but sometimes these divisions are not necessary. I think I can build better communication through music.”

With passion and expertise Hyelim is quickly building those bridges and all the time creating music which is new, innovative and exciting.

Hyelim Kim plays The Royal Asiatic Society in Euston on June 6th.  Her album Nim is out now on Universal Music Korea.

Random Access Memories – album review

By Kris Amin

Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo touchdown to abduct you and travel back with them on a pilgrimage to the origins of electronic dance.  Random Access Memories yearns for a time now lost, bringing soul back to electronic dance music.

In recent memory, no build-up to an album release has received as much hype and expectation as the fourth release from the French duo. Eight years have crawled by since the release of their last album, Human After All, but the enduring popularity of the ‘best thing to come out of France’ has not waned. The marathon hype -campaign preceding the release of Random Access Memories on social networks, including interviews with collaborators and snippets of the album, has only served to fuel the expectation and mystery of the French House gods.

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Thomas Bangalter

And they do not disappoint. Random Access Memories is an education in electronic dance. An eclectic mix of disco beats, indie-dance crossovers and a West End spectacle. It rockets back to its origins, with the homage to its creator, Giorgio Moroder, and his revolutionary ‘click’ sound.  It tributes disco in its heyday and the catchy hooks of Nile Rodgers, where Lose Yourself to Dance has you stripping off from the humid sound, before Get Lucky grabs you by the hips and thrashes you around.

They lament today’s soulless dance producers in Within and Touch, which break up the love-in between the Gallic robots and their inspirations. They provide pauses for reflection and emotion with lyrics like “I am lost; I can’t even remember my name. Please tell me who I am?” and “Tell me what you see? I need something more,” recognising the lack of originality in dance music today. The originality, which has seen them continually innovate throughout their 20-year partnership.

The future of the genre is positive though, with Doin’ It Right optimistically reassuring us that “everybody will be dancing and be doing it right,” before the robots depart with Control, which builds to a head banging crescendo as the spaceship that brought them to Earth roars into the distance. Perhaps to return again in another eight years.

RAM is Daft Punk’s gift to Give Life Back to Music as the opening track suggests and they seem pretty proud with their work and philosophy as they defiantly state: “We’ve come so far, to give up who we are.”

Much adoo about Edward

By Lee Drage

He grew up in a council house in Gospel Oak and harboured dreams of becoming the next Trevor McDonald. But DJ Edward Adoo has in fact dedicated most of his life to broadcasting in pursuit of a diverse sound.

Edward Adoo is a man with a lot to say. His genial demeanour and warmth belie the passion that burns within when on the subject of the state of radio today. As a DJ and broadcaster since his teens, Edward is certainly well-versed on the topic. “Commercial radio has turned itself into a corporate machine,” espouses Edward, “it seems so controlled, which annoys me because growing up it wasn’t about that.”

We meet at Brent Cross shopping centre, that brutalist bastion dumped in a confusion of concrete in North London and an unusual place for Edward to launch his crusade against commercialism. It is here where shoppers worship at the Church of Consumerism, lurching from one store to another, laden with shopping bags, any semblance of humanity left at the automatic doors that welcome them into their faux-marble floored destruction.

A wistful Edward meditates, “I remember driving to college, putting KISS or RINSE or the pirates on and they were playing stuff no one else would play.” Our teas are plonked in front of us, unsmilingly, snapping Edward out of his reverie. “Everything’s kinda gone commercial,” he laments, soberly. He tells me about the thrill of switching on the KISS breakfast show and hearing a brand new garage tune- “I remember the first time I heard MJ Cole-‘Sincere’ or when 187 Lockdown blew-up. I was listening, thinking, ‘where the fuck did this come from?’ KISS FM was the only station that broke this music.”

Agitated, Edward fidgets in his chair as yesterday’s dream is replaced with today’s reality. “When Gordon Mac (KISS founder) left KISS and sold his majority share, the guys that were running it didn’t really know about London culture and bastardised KISS and tried to turn it in to a CAPITAL. With the shift it’s gone too mainstream,” asserts Edward.

His knowledge on the history of pirate radio is as encyclopaedic as his music taste is eclectic. This expertise is perhaps why he was approached to contribute to the new book, ‘Masters of the Airwaves: The Rise and Rise of Underground Radio’ by broadcasting legends Dave VJ and Lindsay Wesker. “The book related to who I was, where I came from and that whole musical legacy. It’s a testimony to black music radio- the artists, the culture. It’s kind of a showcase.”

At this moment the public address system calls for all shoppers to stop what they’re doing and bow down to the mighty pound. The latest deal they don’t need is being announced at some shop with an oppressive colour scheme and headache inducing neon strip lighting. A child cries. A mother sighs. Edward sips his tea. With the sound of crying ringing in our ears, we discuss how the commercial radio onslaught is impacting today’s youth. “For the new generation, the scary thing is, unless they’re die-hards, their connection with dance music is Guetta, will.i.am or EDM or whatever’s going on now.” Edward puts his tea down, concern growing in his voice. “We’re told we live in a demographic-age based society. When I’ve pitched ideas for content it’s very much ‘it’s 15-24, it’s 18-24’ or whatever it is. It’s ridiculous that you can pigeon-hole someone. For example, when you get to your thirties suddenly you’re not gonna like house music anymore, you’re gonna switch on to MAGIC or Radio 2. Music is music and it shouldn’t be stapled to a demographic.”

Ah. Demographics- the bête noire of radio broadcasting. The source of much banality and mediocrity on our airwaves as executive suits chase the dragon of market share and RAJAR figures. “I feel certain individuals like Steve Jackson and the likes of Rodigan, Fabio and Grooverider- the paradigm shifters- don’t get the credit they deserve. We live in a fast moving society where people say ‘Oh no, that was back then, they did their thing, let’s move on’ and it’s like, no! We need to pay homage to these guys because without them there would be nothing.” Edward pauses as he considers what should come next on his manifesto. “I think we’re having a retro-resurgence. A lot of what’s happened back then, we’re relating to it now. You can tell that people are being bored of being told ‘this is cool, this is trendy.’”

“My old man is a jazz musician- a Hammond organist,” Edward says, explaining the roots of his music mania. “I remember having arguments with my Dad in the 90s when I was like ‘Oasis are cool’ and he would be saying politely, ‘I don’t dig that shit.’” As a result the musical digest at home was jazz-oriented (“People like George Duke, Jimmy Smith, that kind of vibe.”). His Uncle, a DJ, gave him bundles of records growing up- rare groove, hip hop, funk, and was clearly an inspiration. “It’s essential to listen to everything,” affirms Edward, draining the dregs of his tea.

Feeling bolstered by Edward’s passion, we say our goodbyes, secure in the knowledge that people like him won’t allow the art of broadcasting die a miserable death at the hands of clueless execs. We blinkingly step into the world outside, leaving the shop-floor zombies in a perpetual state of emption. Edward is the ship’s captain who can steer us through the bromide seas of commercial broadcasting. Stay tuned.

East India Youth – prog trance meets synth-pop

Journalism course LondonBy Cai Trefor

First published in Clash Magazine 02.05.13

East India Youth is the alias of Bethnal Green-based 22–year-old producer William Doyle. His recent debut EP, ‘Hostel’, was issued by The Quietus after the (people behind the) website of the same name were so impressed by his material that they had to release it themselves.

Before going it alone, Doyle was the frontman for Southampton-based indie-pop outfit Doyle And The Fourfathers.

Of this period, Doyle says: “I was worrying before, trying to convey topics and themes, and I didn’t feel like I was expressing myself enough.”

William Doyle

Now, Doyle feels that he is creating music that comprises a truer reflection of himself. “It’s a bit more abstract,” he says. “Rather than facing issues head on, and spark a debate, I’m looking toward escape.”

Escape is certainly a word that comes to mind when hearing the nine-minute prog-trance track ‘Coastal Reflexions’ (listen to it above). But Doyle’s pop-orientated background ensures that, however abstract he becomes, there’s always a trace of melody present.

“It’s not one of my intentions, as such,” he says, regarding his balance of experimentation and accessibility. “But I do think that my history of being a songwriter is going to fall into whatever I do in electronic music. The melodies fall into the song structures naturally.”

It’s an organic realisation of the man’s ambition, a pop-minded style that weighs in with heavy digital design. The track ‘Heaven, How Long’ showcases this balance, this intertwining of genres.

“It’s more of a krautrock-y track,” says Doyle. “It’s synth-pop, Gary Numan-like, and ends with a big German-sounding 1970s sort of thing.” It’s certainly one of the easiest introductory tracks in the East India Youth catalogue to date, immersing listeners in a daydream ahead of the more complex arrangements of ‘Hostel’.

 

Recession friendly festivals?

Music journalism course

Sarah McRuvie

Sarah McRuvie hears from folk singer King Creosote why the disappearance of record stores is a tragedy for music lovers and why some music festivals are more worthy of our hard earned cash than others.

First published in Clash Magazine – 08.04.13

 

Loosening off with a bust ankle in his hometown of Crail, Kenny, known to most as King Creosote, expresses his views on festivals, record shops and the general bleakness of the music industry. An annual event for Kenny comes in the form of a decent sized rant. The passionate, and loveably down-to-earth, Scottish folk singer laments the current state of the music industry stating that “we have the money and desire to buy records, but nowhere to go for them. It’s a travesty, and immeasurably sad.”

With the rise in availability of free music online, and various methods of ownership, there has been an inevitable change in the structure and profitability within the music industry. Free music has become easily accessible to a new, younger generation, which has created the attitude of expecting music for free. This progression towards both free and digital music has changed how music is consumed and created a generation of clicking reamed with instantaneous joy. The effect of shop closures, such as the biggest entertainment retailer, HMV, and independent stores such as Aberdeen’s One-Up, impacts more than just artists. Everyone involved from music production, media, and manufacturing; the surrounding network is affected. “Sales of records supported recording studios, music shops, venues, rehearsal rooms, sound equipment hire, lighting hire, staging, tee shirts, badges, van hire, music magazines, photographers, journalists … quite a few casualties in there, ” Kenny lists off the numbers illustrating the snowball effect of loosing music retailers. He is clearly pained by a lot more than the bones knitting in his ankle.

This shift also reflects a cultural change in the expectation of free information and free music. A grim reality but one we must acknowledge. As Kenny remarks, “Phone texting addiction, social networking, youtube and video games seem to have replaced music altogether.” If record stores have closed then the experience and notion of physical browsing goes out the window altogether. Kenny describes the old school routine as an immersive experience where “a record shop was a meeting place for local bands and a supporter of local music scenes.” The record shop was not merely a source to consume new music but an entire culture in itself. To Kenny, and other veterans of the old ways, the record store is almost an idyllic notion in this ramshackle of a music industry. No laptop in sight, Kenny admits to no longer shopping online for music at all, confessing there are few like him. He recommends to “support your local shows above all else, and buy records and CDs from the bands you like right there and then.”

If you want to support independent artists and the music industry in general Kenny advises to “delete the Spotify and Itunes accounts from your PC or Mac, forget Ipods and poor sound quality gadgets – dig out your old turntable and hi-fi amp & speakers instead, crank it all up.” No it’s not the Tramadol talking, he really means it, and a wee jab of Scottish cynicism and tradition never hurt anyone. He explains that the production of records is expensive and that to help artists make a sustainable enterprise we need to be spending a realistic amount on fewer records.

Should we be supporting smaller festivals then?

Thinking rationally, “a festival field isn’t really the place to concentrate on music,” Kenny comments, gazing out into his luscious green backdrop. He points out the differences between the live musical experience and the inner, more intimate connection with music listening. “To generate a captive live audience for original songs I think having the records to immerse yourself in at home is absolutely essential, otherwise bands might as well become covers bands.” Kenny is absolute that you need the personal experience with music from the beginning. If there is an underlying problem of decreasing music sales, supporting smaller festivals is like soaking the leaves of a dying plant rather than feeding the root. “A festival atmosphere is all about big well loved songs being pumped out by big known bands. I know there are smaller tents for smaller acts, but if you’re a complete unknown at a festival you play to whomever is sheltering from the rain.”

Some larger festivals might seem like big corporate money-making machines these days, but Kenny suggests this is probably out of necessity than anything else. Meaning that recession-friendly festivals are ones that boast a smaller price tag.

Kenny recommends Festival No. 6, recalling it as his favourite summer festival of last year. Focussing on a gorgeous setting (Port Meirion in Wales), Festival No. 6 includes “a diversity of stages, hidden away woodland platforms, sea view pavilions, garden terraces, to the mud swamped mosh pit of a marquee tent,” Kenny reminisces.

Festival No. 6

Dates: 13th, 14th, 15th September

Tickets: From £170

http://www.festivalnumber6.com/

As a performer, Kenny recommends Glasgow’s West End Festival as the one to play at. “The West End Festival is held in indoor venues – what luxury! No camping nor toilet woes, no wallowing through mud, none of the festival horrors at all. Just good sounding music in a warm and dry room.” He adds that there are “certainly no queues for plastic tumblers of generic lagers.”

Glasgow’s West End Festival

Date: 23rd June

Tickets: £15 earlybird, £18 advance, £20 on the day

http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/event/the-twilight-sad-meursault-tickets/43971

Kenny reveals plans for an upcoming album later in the year explaining his lack of festival appearances this year. “I’m not playing too many festivals this summer for I hope to release an album in autumn, and the current thinking is that you avoid the festival circuit until AFTER the album tour, thus maximising your tour attendance.”

Festivals are full of highs and lows, and Kenny is no stranger to this, sharing his best and worst festival memories. His best memory is surprisingly nothing to do with sound but rather “watching my new label A&R man ‘fighting’ my old label A&R man at 7am on an August sunday morning, piling over sleeping folks’ tents and tangling up guy ropes – better than any music that was.” And god love the Scottish countryside; Kenny unearths his worst memory as “trudging what felt like 5 miles  with all our gear through the midge-infested Argyll countryside in search of artist camping only to be told on arrival that there was no such thing as artist camping.” Even with over forty albums under his belt, Kenny is just like the rest of us, minus the cynical exterior, and his hippy-esque, multicoloured dream-coat.

Kenny has given a glimpse of a genuine sadness for the music industry; a lost generation of record shops, entertainment stores, and a dying culture in the physical browsing and buying of music. He has recommended to support independent labels and artists by investing in their music. It is great to support mini festivals and smaller events but this will not help the root of the problem. Festivals, generally, are more relevant for already established artists. The cultural change and the methods of how the young are now listening have made it even harder for artists to make any money. If people only want to stream, listen for free, steal, or download, music buying will become irrelevant. Ultimately, if no one cares anymore, it is a lost cause. As Kenny says, “Without record sales, live tours are in trouble. Without live tours a career in music is in trouble, and without professional bands an entire music culture is in trouble.”

ILLUM SPHERE INTERVIEW: “MONEY JUST GOES, RIGHT?”

By Naomi Stanley

First published by Dummy Magazine 15.04.13

Often referred to as a DJ and producer who nods to the unusual, Illum Sphere is known for creating unapologetically unique sounds with relentless energy. “I don’t do too many interviews,” he tells me, when we meet for a chat in a Carnaby Street cafe on a punishingly cold day. “Would you if you were asked the same shit?” I nod as we steer through tables, chatting about his upcoming album released later this year on Ninja Tune. Ryan Hunn’s music offers only so much insight into what makes him tick – when you meet him, you realize his basic ethos is blunt. This down to earth attitude is cemented later as he frowns, “I don’t want to be spraying champagne all over some girls in the front row being like, ‘I’m Illum Sphere, fuck you’. I want to play music that I really love to people, and make them dance to it.”

While I recover from that particular image, I ask Hunn what he thinks of being referred to as a DJ with a “disdain for convention.” He stares at me with brief confusion and tilts his head, glancing around the room. “I don’t really know what that means.” Grinning, he continues: “I guess it’s where the individual aligns. I play techno, but also disco, African or Brazilian records, hip hop and grime within an hour, whereas others start and finish with a similar tempo. Maybe that’s the reason?…When people say nice things about my sets but their general thread is: ‘wow, that’s crazy!’I struggle with that idea as it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to do anything unique to be noticed. It’s more… I like hip hop so sometimes I’ll start with that, sometimes jazz, dub, whatever. I think people can be unaware of how much music actually works together, but that’s not a criticism.”

Could this be because people stick to what they know? “Not necessarily…” Hunn shakes his head, leaning back and visibly settling into a flow. “I’ve never really felt part of one scene. Not in a lonely way. I don’t sit at home crying ‘no one understands me man.’ I appreciate a lot of different musical movements. For me, it doesn’t matter if music is old or new, popular or not. Say I came to see you DJ [I raise an eyebrow and assure him that would never be allowed] I want to hear what you’re into, why you’re up there, not necessarily what the hottest new label has just released. People can fall into a pattern, I guess.”“The goal at the end of each gig is to know that I gave an honest account of me… I did my thing. Otherwise, I shouldn’t be there.” – Illum Sphere

Illum Sphere has evolved steadily, releasing through Fat City records, Marytn’s label 3024 and Pinch’s Tectonic, before dropping his latest EP ‘Birthday/h808er’ with Young Turks late last year. Hunn speaks about his first album venture with a mixture of excitement and exasperation, elucidating a wish to only use worthy sounds. “If I played one amazing piece of techno in between a string of mediocre techno, then the one piece I give a shit about would be lost.”

Polica at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire

By Archie Best

 

By the time Channy Leaneagh, the diminutive lead singer to Minneapolis based Polica, takes the stage the crowd are becoming restless. Between the warm up act, Barbarossa (piratical load of Pugwash) and Leaneagh’s arrival, someone managed to sneak backstage and force the captives in the Empire to listen to offensively inoffensive R&B – unsurprisingly this was not going down well with the verging on middle-age-despite-their-best-efforts-type punters who moved to Stoke Newington to escape from such musical banality.

After a collective groan of relief at her appearance, Leaneagh’s repeated almost apologetic confessions of nerves only heightens the atmosphere. Sandwiched between two imposing drum sets on raised platforms, and in an oversized coat, the effect is underwhelming. “I don’t think I’m nervous before I go on but now I think I am,” she whispers, blaming the size of the crowd for her anxiety. The last time Polica played in London was to a handful in the cramped CAMP basement.

Luckily, the packed Empire wasn’t going to pre-judge their new flavour of the night, and it soon became clear why everyone sat through the R&B; Polica are great. Two drums sets is a masterstroke, and particularly effective in the hypnotic ‘Wandering Star’ and the (relatively) upbeat ‘Happy Be Fine’. Leaneagh’s presence on stage may have been awkward, but her blissfully unselfconscious dancing and evocative vocals finally put an end to any lingering doubts.

Apparently they called themselves Polica because they thought it meant warning in Polish. It doesn’t. It means insurance policy document. Since Give you the Ghost, Polica’s acclaimed debut, they have been forgiven for the mix-up, and they are increasingly aired on BBC Radios 1 and 6. ‘Wandering Star’ is already one of the NME’s 20 best songs of the year, and is the third single from the album.

Given this performance they need to get used to large, restless and wildly expectant crowds, and soon. Anyone know Polish for headliner?

Father of Hippies: Going to The Source

By Matthew Edgley

First published by Clash magazine 03.04.13

The ‘hippie’ countercultural movement is commonly traced back to San Francisco in the 1960s. But it was in Los Angeles that a man called Jim Baker – later known as Father Yod and then Ya Ho Wha (“The Name Of God”) – created one of the ultimately enduring legacies of the movement, with his band YaHoWha 13 making some of the most mind bending psychedelic rock music ever heard, from 1973 up until Yod’s untimely death in Hawaii in 1975.

Some history: Baker was a decorated World War II veteran and jujitsu expert who moved to California in the mid 1960s to become a stuntman. Baker was influenced from the Los Angeles beat scene and embraced a vegetarian diet, a ‘natural’ lifestyle and the study of philosophy, spirituality and yoga.

This wide philosophical study and lifestyle change led to Baker founding an organic vegetarian restaurant called The Source on Sunset Strip in 1969, serving the rich, famous and hipsters of LA. Supported by the earnings of the successful Source restaurant, Baker transformed from beatnik to Western spiritual leader, changing his name to Father Yod and establishing a 150-strong commune in the Hollywood hills based around his own wide ranging philosophical beliefs.

While the beliefs of The Source Family were largely kept secret, they were based upon utopian ideals, communal living and healthy ‘natural’ eating. With Father Yod the charismatic, Rolls Royce driving, white suit wearing patriarch of the commune, the Family embraced the liberating influences of the era of ‘Free Love’ (Yod had thirteen wives from within the group) and spiritual exploration.

Then there was the music: with Father Yod the lead singer of his own bands The Spirit of ’76 and later YaHoWha 13 – made up of a revolving cast of young musicians from within the Source Family commune – they recorded nine albums of fascinating, epic, wildly improvisational epic space rock, with sessions usually beginning with a 3 a.m smoke of ‘sacred herb’ and their performance being part of a grander musical meditation ritual.

First album Kahoutek (1973) by Father Yod and The Spirit of ’76 can be firmly filed under ‘Far Out’ music, with cosmic minimalist noodlings underpinning the band leader’s improvised religio-spiritual evocations- a modern descendant can be found in the chanting mantras and distorted low end of God Is Good or Advaitic Songs by Om.

The emergence of successor outfit YaHoWha 13 in 1974 sees the sound of a serious and controlled rock n’roll band developing, with more structured garage band riffs and ritual drum patterns on I’m Gonna Take You Home and Lovers and The Chariot. Father Yod’s trademark chants make way for more distorted guitars and jazzy, occasionally funky rhythms across the spacey psych-noise of Penetration: An Aquarian Symphony.

YaHoWha 13’s distinctly trippy DNA can be found today in the hazy guitar fuzz and languid melodies of Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker and Wolf People’s proto-prog and folk whimsy. Psych and freak folk scene acts such as Bonnie Prince Billy, Joanna Newsom and the self confessed Father Yod devotee Devendra Banhart all share a freedom of expression through their collaborative efforts and studied position just outside the mainstream. These folk musicians also share label territory with the re-released recordings of YaHoWha 13 on Drag City Records.

While Drag City has just dropped another ‘lost’ collection of YaHoWha 13’s recordings, the excellent cosmic explorations comprising The Thought Adjusters, this resurgence of The Source Family in the public eye has been largely driven by the efforts of Father Yod’s widow and his appointed historian Isis Aquarian.

Isis Aquarian documented the life of the secretive Source Family through an exhaustive range of photographs, writings and audio recordings in the 1970s. She has now acted in the past few years as an increasingly public emissary of the almost forgotten hippie community, even releasing Echoes of a Crone, her own spoken word CD of the ‘Father’s’ spiritual teachings set to a typically New Age ambient soundtrack.

Isis’ quest to spread the Source Family’s message began in 2007 with publication of The Source:  The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wha 13 and The Source Family. The publisher Jodi Wille has co-directed and released The Source Family documentary in 2012, currently screening at several film and music festivals in the U.S such as SXSW in Austin, also home to its own annual Psych Fest. YaHoWha 13 has even reformed after over thirty years with exotically named surviving members Octavius, Sunflower and Djin.

With psychedelic music enjoying this popular resurgence today with the likes of the aforementioned Tame Impala, the lysergic-tinged Roky Erickson-esque Black Angels and even the dreamy psych-pop of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, what do they offer to the increasingly fragmented and commercialised music and festival scene of today?

Woodstock in 1969 and the many early years of Glastonbury festivals are still hugely significant touchstones in popular music and cultural history, remembered for their positive attempts to generate a sense of community and unifying love before the increasingly individualistic and commercial forces of our modern late 20th and 21st Century took hold of these events for the middle class masses.

With the gentrification of large festivals – the corporate VIP spaces, ‘glamping’ and slavishly sponsored amenities and services – even the ‘hippie dream’ has been bought, sold and commodified. We are now offered temporary escapes for the weekend with the odd organic falafel wrap, reiki head massage and an exotic body piercing to complete the hippie shopping list along the way.

With new psychedelic bands helping signpost the way to that lost dream of the 1960s, with new ‘old’ sounds –  maybe some of that spirit of Father Yod can be awakened at their festival appearances in us for more than a weekend. Yod’s primary philosophy was ‘Be Kind’. Why can’t we all be damn hippies?

Vienna Ditto – Liar Liar EP review

By Joe West

 

From their name you may assume musical duo ‘Vienna Ditto’ hail from Ultravox’s favourite Austrian city, and from their attitude laden tunes the impression is of a scuzzy, rockabilly Chicago blues band. Yet in reality vocalist Hatty Taylor and guitarist Nigel Firth operate from basements and boats in the UK. If Huw Stevens’ mouth-watering description of their sounds as like ‘Portishead doing a Tarantino soundtrack‘ does not command your attention then the first crunching riff on their forthcoming ‘Liar Liar’ EP will…

The title track is akin to crossing the threshold of a seedy bar with malintent but in a suit far too expensive for the surroundings; bruising but with hints of sophistication. Think a little of the raw, dirty guitar riffs of Deap Vally with the smoky charm of Misty Miller. The spluttering electronic undertones surface at the end of the track in a breakdown similar to what a hillbilly would sound like attempting to launch a spaceship.

‘The Undefeated’ begins with a distinct bluesy twang, reminiscent of the 3 stringed honesty of Seasick Steve, and a soft stomp that leads into Taylor’s dusty vocals. Joined by what sounds like someone banging the hull of an old rusty boat the track is an atmospheric affair which again builds to an eerily electronic climax. ‘Whatever comes my way’ shifts the tone towards the bands’ crisply acute melancholy side for a fragile, delicate track not unlike Laura Marling. It’s understated, absorbing and showcases the emotional resonance of Taylor’s voice.

The haunting, ticking opening of closing track ‘Little Fingers’ grows into a swirling fray of samples possibly including some panpipes and Jean Michel Jarre. Rounding off the EP in truly disorientating fashion it’s nevertheless a fabulous exposition of all that is wonderful about Vienna Ditto on a varied and captivating record.

Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs – Live At The Lexington, London

Journalism coursesBy James Young

First published in Clash Magazine 22.03.13

The pressure is clearly on for this London five-piece at the moment and they seem slightly unaware of the protocols for beginning a gig. Do you hover on stage setting up your equipment? Do you hold back and make a grand entrance? In the end, Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs amble on stage looking a little unsure. They are not the perfect shop mannequins the press would have us believe, yet there’s a large bank of photographers gathered at the front that may beg to differ. Make no mistake though, this band look great and have tune after tune to go with it.

By the second song ‘Be Nice’ it’s clear they can do no wrong, the lyrics are already being sung back at them and it just gets better. As the songs are so familiar to their loyal throng, it seems to be big news when they announce a new song, and proceed to play ‘That’s My Wish’, another stomper with a touch of glam about it.

It soon becomes apparent that the driving force is coming from the back courtesy of drummer Samir Eskanda, the sound he gets is what sets Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs apart from other guitar bands around at the moment. What appear at first to be three minute ditties soon throw out small patches of sheer aural assault; the band has lured you in and it is a wonder. There’s no filler, and new single ‘Things We Be’ seems to get a hero’s welcome even though it isn’t released until next week.

The group are at a pivotal point in their career and it’s a thrilling thing to witness. It’s at shows like this you see the transition happening before you. This is the latest in a run of headline shows in support of new album ‘Clarietta’, and it’s clear they are moving up a level. It’s also a sign of their current standing that when frontman Charlie Boyer breaks a string has to make a plea to the audience in order to get hold of a replacement guitar. No roadie waiting at the side of the stage ready to hand him a spare.

They end with the song that caused all the fuss in the first place, debut single ‘I Watch You’. It was produced by Edwyn Collins and live is where the music takes off. Once again Eskanda leads Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs off into a wall of feedback and swirling organ. Loud though this is, it almost struggles to drown out the cheers bouncing back at them from the crowd.

Their stage exit has much more intent than their entrance. They down tools abruptly, knowing that they have done what they came here to achieve, and leave the stage in solidarity, as a group.