10 May 2019

Song Crush Ep 16: Holly Herndon, Rhiannon Giddens, MorMor

From Song Crush, 4:28 pm on 10 May 2019

The Song Crush team this week play a song created by AI, an old ghost song, a fiery love poem, and some trade-aid jazz. 

Four Tet - Teenage Birdsong

Four Tet is an artist who must be doing well out of the streaming model, every single track he releases gets hundreds of thousands of listens within hours of it arriving.  

Mostly I just love that he’s made a song for alto recorder, which really shouldn’t be maligned nearly as much as the descant that we all played at school. Add in a percussive instrument straight out of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and a harp and I’ve drifted off into my happy musical heaven. KJ

Kate Tempest - Firesmoke

Kate Tempest’s last two (Mercury Prize-nominated) albums, 2014’s Everybody Down & 2018’s Let Them Eat Chaos, were shot through with vitriol as she outlined  her frustrations at the plight of modern day working class Britain. It’s almost a relief then that ‘Firesmoke’, the first volley from her upcoming The Book of Traps and Lessons, is a simple, sweet love song.

“The fire rises between us and makes us get on the wrong trains/ walk the wrong way/ make strangers smile greetings on Lewisham way” she murmurs; the kind of poignant, relatable sentiment Tempest excels at articulating. TS

Middle Kids - Real Thing

Middle Kids are a band from Sydney, made up of guitarist and singer Hannah Joy, bassist Tim Fritz and drummer Harry Day. This is the second single from their forthcoming album New Songs For Old Problems.

'Real Thing' is a blend of shoe-gaze fuzz and early 2000's emo-rock (think Coheed and Cambria). Hannah Joy's melancholy and questioning lyrics perfectly capture the angst of being in your early 20's and trying to figure out what love really is, but it's the hazy, wall of distortion sound of this song that really caught my attention. EC

Holly Herndon - Frontier

The third single from the upcoming Proto sees this American electronic artist continuing to blur the line between human and machine, enlisting an ensemble of vocalists to collaborate with an A.I. she co-developed called ‘Spawn’.

The clustered voices that open the song strongly evoke certain classic anime soundtracks for me, (they were actually influenced by sacred harp music), eventually fragmenting into a series of disembodied vowels as a colossal beat takes over. TS

MorMor - Pass The Hours

MorMor is a Canadian artist who’s straddling a soul-shoegaze-new-wave divide, with a distinctly British flavour - I hear Slowdive, The Beatles, and Joy Division all at once in his new EP Some Place Else.

He nails teenage alienation with this song (even though he’s 27), and has an irresistible honey falsetto - if you’re a fan of Moses Sumney, or Blood Orange this might be for you. KJ

Rhiannon Giddens - Little Margaret

This song about a woman dying of a broken heart and coming back to haunt her former love, has been around for centuries. An old British folk song that found it's way to the USA, it's been recorded hundreds of times and in countless different ways. But singer and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens' latest version is unique.

Instead of being accompanied by the folk instruments you'd expect, Giddens is joined only by an Iranian drum called a Daf, played by jazz musician and specialist in middle eastern instruments Francessco Turrisi.

It brings a tension to the song that I've never heard before. As the tale progresses and the drum gets louder and more aggressive it mirrors the narrative of the lyrics, increasing the drama in this already spooky song. EC

Kruff Kurtis - Ancestor

South Africa-born, Auckland-based beatmaker Kruff Kurtis has released a new EP called New Life - inspired by the birth of his first child

It was just the kind of hippy jazz I needed this week - he throws the whole trade aid instrument department in - wind chimes, rainmaker, kalimba, and steel pans as well as old archival recordings, and computer game sounds. KJ