Artist Interview – LABS

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LABS :: Electronic Pop/Rock

I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day that I find a band for whom I would drop everything and sprint to the venue in question if they toured nearby. It’s a great feeling, hearing the first chords of a previously unknown track and instantly realizing that what you’re about to hear is going to resonate with you. On that subject, LABS is an electronic art-rock band based in Victoria, British Colombia, consisting of Lindsay Bryan on vocals, Adam Sutherland on keys and guitar, Matt Longpre on keyboard, and Keenan Murray on drums. I discovered their debut EP, Down, released on February 9th of this year, through another music blog, and was hooked. I quickly related their sound to a few of my other favorite artists (synth-driven trio CHVRCHES, quirky chanteuse Ryn Weaver, and– most strikingly– dark pop duo MS MR), but in all honesty, this isn’t exactly a band you could accurately describe in terms of other artists. From the beginning of the EP, it’s easy to tell LABS are onto something great: BRAVE is a dark, spectral piece rife with themes of love and loss, featuring clapping drums and deceptively understated vocals. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you,” Bryan proclaims, blasted on all sides by glitchy synths and ambient samples. It’s a pleading, thumping dance track that only hints at the splendor of the following track. HOLD SLOW, the song that inspired this review, is radio gold: it boasts a fantastically danceable rhythm, euphoric production, and soaring vocals so expressive that you can feel the nostalgia and reflection in Bryan’s voice: “Old soul humming a new tune / turns out it’s something that I’m starting to get used to” ends HOLD SLOW’s explosive chorus. It’s about a breakup, yes, but in another sense it’s not– it’s about moving on, remembrance, and rebirth. At this point I’m already thoroughly sold, as I’m sure were most of their fans, but the next track– DOWN, the first I heard from LABS, heavily shared on social media– seems destined to become a hit. Preceded by a short, skittering intro, its tempo is slower, but no less exciting, taking no time as it struts casually through blasting bass and buzzsaw synths. The layered vocals in the second half are the real stars here; they leave the listener feeling satisfied and ready to reach for the replay button despite no notable crescendo. The final track on the EP, SCAVENGER, is a nearly five-minute-long closer with slithering chords and gorgeous guitar work, overlaid by breathy vocals and crashing drums. The lyrics are urgently inspirational, and by the time the song coasts into its instrumental final act, you can’t help but feel that the band’s done exactly what they’ve set out to do. The EP is an indie pop victory: addictive, original, and– fingers crossed– poised for widespread success. It’ll be in my library (and on my mind) for a long time to come, as will whatever else these people whip up. Follow them on Facebook here, or support them on Bandcamp here.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely founders of LABS, Lindsay Bryan and Adam Sutherland, earlier today. Keep scrolling to read our conversation.

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Rhythm Endlessly: First off, I definitely hear a lot of modern electronic and rock influence in your EP. Are there any artists from whom you’ve drawn inspiration?

Lindsay Bryan: Elements of rock are definitely always present in our style. Adam has produced tons of rock bands as well as played in rock bands, and I think our first love of music both came from rock bands in the 90’s (Foo Fighters and Silverchair were HUGE for me). Over the years we’ve definitely become drawn to interesting sonic styles that come from indie pop music like Robyn, St. Vincent, Kimbra, and Metric… it’s a great genre to draw inspiration from AND to add our inherent rock style to.

RE: No wonder I was so drawn to your material… St. Vincent and Kimbra are huge favorites of mine as well. What kind of experiences led to the creation of these tracks / is there any personal connection to the lyrics here?

LB: For sure. There’s always a connection to the lyrics, but I never know what I’m going to write about until I connect to the vibe of the music/idea Adam sends me to work on. If it’s dark/brooding (like our song DOWN) then I’ll tap in to those feelings within myself and let the music inspire the mood and tone of the lyrics I apply. It’s what I love about the collaborative songwriting process.

RE: It’s always interesting to see how lyrics can be built off of rhythm/mood, or vice-versa; this definitely shows in the way your vocals interact with the production. Speaking of DOWN, do you have a personal favorite track on the EP?

LB: Hard to say, but I’ve always loved our song BRAVE. I can remember how excited I was when Adam sent me the first imaginings of it. It feels really dreamy yet uneasy and it inspired lyrics about losing control, so I played with the concept of having a brave conscience that is willing to take on a destructive lifestyle.

RE: BRAVE is one of those songs that manages to sound leisurely yet intense; the layered vocals and synths really drive it home. HOLD SLOW was the standout for me– I’ve had it stuck in my head for days.

Adam Sutherland: Let’s see, personal fave is probably SCAVENGER. HOLD SLOW is definitely the most epically produced of the bunch. Up until then I had only programmed drums, but I felt that if we were going to have an interesting live show with a drummer, I’d like to use a combination of samples and live drums, so HOLD SLOW was the first song in that direction.

RE: Have you been gigging at all to promote the EP?

LB: Yes, we’ve been playing shows, but so far only locally in Victoria [British Colombia].

RE: What’s the experience been like during those shows?

AS: The response has been very good. We are constantly tweaking things at rehearsal to get them sounding as much like the recordings as possible. We actually rehearse with a pretty full on P.A., subs, etc. It helps put everything into perspective so we know what it should sound like in a club, but louder and with more low end.

LB: I’d like to add that when we first started making this music we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to take it to the stage, but we found 2 great guys (Matt Longpre on keys and Keenan Murray on drums) that helped us make our live show possible. It’s been so much fun and very rewarding being able to share these songs in front of a great crowd.

RE: Sounds like a blast. I can only imagine how invigorating it must be to show off your work in real time. I have to ask: are you still spending time in the studio along with your live sets? Is there anything new on the horizon?

AS: Yes, releasing the EP was intended to just get something out and start some buzz.. We already have more songs recorded/near finished and many on the way. Newers songs are being designed with more of a band mentality and considering aspects of live performance.

LB: We’re also in a unique position where we can do all the writing and production “in house”. Adam has a great studio with all the bells and whistles, so we’re able to constantly work on new material without the uncertainty of our next opportunity to get into the studio. It’s fantastic.

RE: I can’t wait to hear what happens next. Finally, is there anything you find unique or essential about LABS / what do you want people to take away from your work?

AS: I think one of our unique components is the way we use different combinations of sounds; the whole low-fi to high-fi contrast. I think Lindsay has a very unique voice and interesting lyrics that are creative, but also very connectable. I think there are too many cutesy vocalists trying to imitate each other these days.

LB: Good/tough question… I think what’s unique about LABS is that it truly is a collaborative effort between two people that are great at different aspects of songwriting but share an understanding and appreciation what the other is bringing to the table. Adam and I have worked together for nearly 10 years on various projects, but LABS is what it has all been leading up to. I want people to feel the coordination of the sonic vibe and mood of lyrics as well as enjoy our energy when we bring it to the stage. We have a great time working on this project and I want our product to reflect that.

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Author’s Pick (Submission) – The Tapestry

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WE TALK :: The Tapestry :: Alternative Rock

This two-male, two-female act from Manchester seems ready to take on the rock scene with determination and poise. Their relatively unknown (as of now) fanbase certainly hasn’t diminished their needlepoint-accurate sense of rhythm and mood, nor have they become any less original or creative. According to Katy, their own drummer, their sound is that of “Two guitars. Drums. Bass. No bullsh*t.” And hearing their work for the first time, I have to agree. WE TALK is a thoroughly enjoyable release, simultaneously danceable and singable, retaining the band’s self-proclaimed no-bullsh*t roots while gleefully shimmying through its nu-disco grooves and shouted bridge/chorus combo. I’m probably going to be mumbling, “Is this the way out / so I keep my head down” for the next couple of hours at least. Simultaneously joyful and dark, WE TALK is a clear sign of remarkable things to come from these fellows and fellas, who already have two earlier releases (INFATUATION and LOOK OUT) under their belt. Their audible self-confidence and eagerness to please current fans and new converts alike will surely send them rocketing to bigger venues and mainstream releases in the near future. The Tapestry’s UK tour, which begins on the 24th of March, is detailed below. These guys are huge fans of the tour life, so they’re sure to serve up a series of electric performances. Catch up with the band on Facebook through the link above, and watch for the track’s digital release on the 18th of March. Get your headphones out. Sounds like: Misterwives with a male lead, Ra Ra Riot with stronger vocals and fewer electronics

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Author’s Pick (Submission) – YUAR

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SIGNAL :: YUAR :: Electronic Pop

Arina Popova and Yury Poisik are YUAR, a Tel Aviv/Moscow-based electronic outfit who are gearing up for the release of their Signal EP. The title track, which I was pleasantly surprised to hear tonight, certainly serves as a chill soundtrack to a relaxing evening. It’s ambient, gently influenced by trip-hop and folk, and painstakingly produced: its hour of glory takes place from the two- to three-minute mark, in which Poisik’s swirling, spectral electronics reach a fever pitch and Popova’s gorgeous vocals soar high to match it. The final product is delightfully organic, especially considering the genre in which YUAR seems to dwell, and the vocal element is euphoric in its simplicity and depth. Again, check out the rest of their work on Soundcloud, and follow this duo on Facebook using the link above. Sounds like: a warm combination of Anima!, Feher, and Left., a pleading love story told in powerful strings and synths

High Five – 03/07/2016

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1. DOWN – Marian Hill – Alternative Pop

I’ve been patiently drumming my fingers and tapping my feet in anticipation of this fantastically original Philadelphia duo’s next release, and boy, has the waiting paid off. The follow-up to Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd’s spectacular seven-track Sway EP, this hypnotically chill track– soft, enticing piano verses punctuated by slapdash bursts of manipulated percussion and vocals– is sprinkled with lush vocals and distinctive production. These guys are blowing up right now– jump onboard, you won’t regret it. Sounds like: Ellie Goulding or Florrie crooning over relentless trap

2. POISON (FEAT. DEEBS) – Milk & Bone – Alternative

I threw a tantrum last year when this Montreal duo of Camille Poliquin and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne elected to release their debut album as an EP in the United States, but this track pulled my attention right back, instantly. Released about two weeks ago, it’s a dark, ambient, spacious track with a fantastic second act (courtesy of Deebs’ haunting production and the two vocalists’ whispery performances). Here’s hoping another official multi-track release is coming soon. I won’t be stingy this time, I promise. Sounds like: A bass-laden, multilayered Banks, Melanie Martinez but darker and more thematically diverse

3. OH – Mt. Si – Electronic

Mt. Si is an L.A. side project (?) of one of my favorite creative forces active today, Sarah Chernoff, and producers Jesse Kivel (of Kisses) and Michael David (of Classixx). OH is an ambient triumph off of their new EP, Limits, and I’m very content with the minimal, naturally beautiful music video. Enjoy Chernoff’s light, swooping vocal performance and her fellow producers’ soft and atmospheric instrumentation. Sounds like: Superhumanoids gone sparse and dreamy, Lana Del Rey over house beats

4. BLEEDING LOVE – ASTR – Electronic Pop

In one of the most well-conceived music video-song pairings in recent memory, ASTR (NYC duo Zoe and Adam) create a brilliantly dark electro-rock jam offering a glimpse into a twisted relationship, backed by gorgeous horror-show visuals evoking Fincher’s Fight Club and Kubrick’s The Shining alike. Their first EP was great, and their second is beyond memorable. Can’t wait for what comes next. Sounds like: Polarheart with an extra helping of nightmarish imagery, Purity Ring enters underground dance territory

5. BREATHE – ANIMA! – Alternative

ANIMA! is a California/South Africa duo (Arielle and Vicente) with an instantly recognizable and jarringly organic sound. Every single track they’ve released is well worth hearing, but their lead single BREATHE is a spine-tingling entry point– it’s an ever-evolving and ever-singable mass of drums and synths. This band rolls out hard truths about life, death, happiness, and sadness, barely leaving their fans room to breathe. Love it. Sounds like: Made in Heights in the wild, Oh Wonder loses its sense of direction

Album Review – LÅPSLEY

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LONG WAY HOME :: Låpsley :: Electronic

I first wrote about Låpsley, a breathtakingly talented singer and producer from northwest England, in this site’s High Five, in which I featured and raved about her track LOVE IS BLIND (also seen here as track 9). She’s nineteen years old, confident and poised beyond her years, and one of the most original and haunting vocalists present today. Echoes of Adele, Florence and the Machine, and even contemporary acts like Banks and Daughter abound, as the artist leaps from dark to joyful to desperate to subdued in the span of seconds. Here I review her debut album, LONG WAY HOME, out today on iTunes here. Catch up with the artist on Facebook here.

HEARTLESS – 8/10 – This is certainly what you’d call a suitable opener for Låpsley’s debut, gently swaying, full of flexible vocal aerobics and understated piano (and, soon, thumping bass and clapping drums). The vocals here seem slightly influenced by hip-hop; at times syllables tumble and roll so quickly it’s almost dizzying.

HURT ME – 9/10 – I’m biased because this is the song that introduced me to the artist’s work, but in my honest opinion, this track is a triumph. Its production is fascinating, its vocals are next-level dramatic, and its lyrics are heartbreakingly beautiful.

FALLING SHORT – 9/10 – I’m still biased because Track 3, originally released in early 2015, is a true classic. Låpsley does this incredible thing where she modifies her own voice to sound male and lays it over her normal vocals, creating a dissonant yet smooth effect. Here she crafts an understated, trip-hop-influenced gem of which I could never tire.

CLIFF – 8/10 – The most recent single taken from the album, this track starts off with subdued synths and vocals, and contains the repeated lyric: “I walk close to the edge / with this boy without a name / I try to save him”. It’s calm, ambient, and effective, but three-and-a-half minutes in, Låpsley drops hard-hitting drums an piano over a thrumming beat reminiscent of Kiesza’s runaway hit, HIDEAWAY.

OPERATOR (HE DOESN’T CALL ME) – 8/10 – Whoa, this is totally unlike anything else on the album thus far. Track 5 acts as a true testament to Låpsley’s originality and flexibility, reaching for a 70’s-inspired soul rhythm driven by omnipresent piano. Lyrics tell of a woman seeking advice to save a failing romance.

PAINTER – 8/10 – Released as a single in 2014, this track might as well be a lullaby, but it’s gorgeous and instantly nostalgia-inducing. A steady stomp-clap beat carries this understated pop piece as Låpsley’s ever-changing voice wafts over it in waves, like a gentle breeze.

TELL ME THE TRUTH – 9/10 – Here’s a mystifying track with a fairly straightforward theme; it’s replete with electronic percussion and a massively catchy chorus– Låpsley and her altered vocals simultaneously chanting “tell me the truth / it’ll hurt less / I guess”. Out of the new tracks here, this is easily among the best.

STATION – 9/10 – The most minimal song Låpsley has to offer (other than her earliest 2014 EP), this previously-released track is instantly recognizable and sticks in your head before the halfway point even comes around. Utilizing a toot-toot whistle and waif-like vocals, there’s no ignoring the pure creativity and emotion here.

LOVE IS BLIND – 10/10 – An absolute atmospheric pop masterpiece, this track is the cornerstone of the album, Låpsley’s vocals reaching previously unforeseen heights and depths as she soars through an inspired and brilliant yet somehow detached chorus. I’ve played it, suggested it, and sung it aloud (badly) countless times, and I can’t stop. Help.

SILVERLAKE – 10/10 – Whoa, what? This one is like a more upbeat and electronically sound Jessie Ware, and I can already tell that it’s a keeper. The chorus is a haunting, glitchy, string-backed powerhouse, and the verses are near perfection. Love it.

LEAP – 8/10 – Here we have a slow burn piece of electronica that fits perfectly alongside earlier releases BURN and DANCING. Artificial beeps and sirens sound as it dips into halftime, its beautifully written lyrics tracing soft lines across its instrumental palette

SEVEN MONTHS – 8/10 – In a beautiful closer, Låpsley laments an emotionally affecting change in a seven-month relationship. “I would take the long way home and you would follow up” she tells him over a skittering piano beat, ending the album confidently and coolly with her own distorted vocals.

LONG WAY HOME (FULL ALBUM) – 8.7/10 – Nothing short of expectations, wise-beyond-her-years Holly Lapsley Fletcher has crafted a beautifully conceived and thematically intelligent debut album with spine-tingling production and absolutely stunning vocals. For fans of subdued pop like Adele and Jessie Ware (and of electronic trip-hop acts like Banks and London Grammar), LONG WAY HOME is the perfect treat to satisfy any chill cravings.

Author’s Pick – Polarheart

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PARALYSE :: Polarheart :: Electronic Pop

Sydney-based Polarheart is Mary Rose and Chris Chidiac, and I’m just a gosh-darn fool for not having shared any of their stuff with the blogosphere thus far, despite having downloaded it onto my phone months ago. They make dark, entrancing electronic music, the production distinctly futuristic and otherworldly with lots of pleasant snaps and claps. In this little masterpiece, dramatic synths swell in the background as Rose’s soft and agreeable voice skips gleefully across staccato percussion, creating an intensely intimate affair that’s a surprisingly easy listen for such a hard-hitting genre. PARALYSE is simultaneously an intellectual slice of pop and a thudding dance number, appealing to multiple fanbases while retaining originality and poise. And besides, look how stylish and slick they are (see above photo and below music video for direct evidence). They’re releasing a new single soon, according to their Facebook, and as their growing mass of followers might agree, I can’t wait. Sounds like: a chill and understated ASTR, Kiesza producing gritty electro

 

Album Review (Submission) – SOME KIND OF ILLNESS

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SOME KIND OF ILLNESS :: Some Kind of Illness :: Alternative Folk/Rock

This is a fresh and interesting take on acoustic music that’s genuinely surprised me, both in terms of quality and originality. These tracks, performed by the Bolton/Manchester-based duo of Paul and Mark Hinks, are enormously atmospheric and brimming with tangible emotion. All in all, it’s a refreshing piece of work, It’s my pleasure to give a track-by-track review of Some Kind of Illness’ self-titled album, released in August 2015. You can find it on Bandcamp above, and keep yourself updated on their Facebook account here.

THE TEST OF TIME – 8/10 – I’m immediately and forcefully reminded of Modern English’s I’ll Melt With You. The vocals here are deep, haunting, and reverberating, echoing in one’s mind even after the track has ended. Guitar licks and swirling vocal layers leave a happy-sad taste in one’s mouth. The instrumentation is not unlike that of popular alt-folk phenomenon Daughter (comparison meant in all the best ways).

ANGEL BREAKDOWN – 8/10 – The first sixty seconds of this track serve as an almost inspirational monologue concerning the nature of the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. And according to the speaker, it works. It then evolves into a soft guitar-driven interlude, setting a peaceful stage for Track 3.

STARS – 9/10 – Slow and emotive suits this duo incredibly well, I’m finding. “Is this the place for me and you?” the duo asks repeatedly, inquiring into the strength of a relationship that hasn’t yet run its course. Doubting a close romantic before it’s come to fruition is a dangerous game, and the lyrics inspire instant empathy. Devoid of percussion, it’s touching, and also profoundly relaxing.

MAPLE LEAF (FEAT. DAISY DAVIES) – 7/10 – Well, if this isn’t just the cutest thing. Hollow wood-block percussion surrounds a sweet guitar melody as a young girl (supposedly the titular Daisy Davies) declares “I think of my best friend and the way she smiles”. The sugary rhythm fades pleasantly into Track 5.

THE LIGHT – 9/10 – Entirely string-focused, this is the band’s strongest lyrical effort so far, and undeniably romantic: “She’s the sweetest thing I found”, the duo sings, and then, heart-broken: “You said you’ve seen the light / Don’t see it anymore”. It’s the tale of a candle snuffed out too soon, perhaps a thematic sequel to Track 3. The guitar becomes briefly frantic near the three-minute mark, intensifying the sense of loss.

AND LIVE – 7/10 – This track is a soothing instrumental interlude with non-English speech sprinkled throughout. Strings are plucked delicately and intricately.

YOU HAVE TO LAUGH – 8/10 – Starting out with wobbling string production, this is easily the most intriguing of the album’s instrumental tracks, its auditory devices onomatopoeic and worthy of nostalgia.

MY SHADOW IN THE MAZE – 9/10 – “Seeing my world crash down and my life flash by” is the first lyric here, leaving traces of strong, tragic metaphors inside one’s mind. It’s the worst possible ending to a lost love; the narrator can’t forget his counterpart, and loses himself in the process of trying. It’s bittersweet and remorseful, but utterly beautiful.

RUSH TO WAIT – 8/10 – This is a looming and atmospheric gem, certainly a suitable penultimate track here. The guitar, while still present, is hardly the focus; instead, a series of haunting, descending tones walk the listener through the darkness.

FOOL MAN RUNAWAY (FEAT. CAOILHFIONN ROSE) – 9/10 – The echo pedal is used expertly on this swelling, vocally ambient closer, as are the understated guitar licks gently pushing the rhythm along. This album ends enigmatically and touchingly: raindrops.

SOME KIND OF ILLNESS (FULL ALBUM) – 8.2/10 – This vocally and instrumentally sound duo’s self-titled album is a calm, restrained, and ultimately rewarding landscape of love and loss. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself coming back to it soon; each track is individually thought-provoking, and as a thematic whole, this album is well worth its brief runtime spent listening, thinking, and learning.