Cold Pumas: blessèd persistence

February 11th, 2014 No Comments

Seventh and final post about the groups playing Emergència! 2014. We’ve spoken to Kíar, Gente Joven, Escarlata, Desert, Cuello, Montgomery and, now: Cold Pumas.

Over a blanket of repetition, melody. Over an abstract idea, precision. The world of Cold Pumas is built on apparent contradictions pregnant with sense and sensibility. The Brighton band comes of age at Emergència!, presenting their rock in a loud, experimental vein. Repetitive, hypnotic and intense.

We spoke to Patrick Fisher, the man behind the lyrics of all of the band’s songs. Fisher reels off details and references as he thinks out loud about the group, a champion of the most experimental side of alternative rock.

How did you start out as a band and why?

Dan, Oliver and I started the band in Brighton, when we first moved there around six years ago. We’d all lived in Exeter in the southwest before, and had formed the disco/funk-accommodating outfit entitled Oh Hell No, which I suppose was the first rung on the ladder to what ended up as Cold Pumas. It was a largely improvised entity, playing our most notable shows in the basement of a bookshop, so in that sense, perhaps Cold Pumas—or whatever it was before we christened it with that retrospectively regrettable name—was the idea of taking the loud, self-indulgent approach, and the Kraut influence that Can-enamoured John from the bookshop had pointed out, and harnessing it into something “proper”. In all honesty, we probably sounded like a misguided loop of The Rapture in the beginning, so it was fortunate that it took us about a year to play our first show.

Why the repetition in your music?

It’s hard to say objectively whether that’s changed over time. Certainly for the earlier songs we penned, it was our default setting when it came to playing together—in some ways because it’s comforting and self-satisfying to play something over and over again—and, in a more credible sense, because we’ve always liked things, disparate as they may be, where for example a change in the bass beneath a repeated part creates either a sad or euphoric moment that rewards or justifies the repetition of what has gone before. As things became less overloaded and spasmodic—especially rhythmically—in the songs that were the basis of what became Persistent Malaise, the repetitive approach has hopefully become subtler, the root rather than the purpose of each song.

Listen to Cold Pumas

What exactly is your approach to music? I read something about “metronomic rhythms mixed with noise”. That reminds me of good bands from the old days, from Neu! to Spacemen 3.

In the midst of writing a plausible second album, it’s suddenly quite hard to be objective again. On many separate occasions, we’ve fretted in the depths of a fruitless band practice and wondered “what is it we do again?!”, and then imperceptibly something comes together and we breath a collective sigh of relief. So while “metronomic rhythms mixed with noise” is not inaccurate, it makes me think of something that could be perceived to be detached and emotionless—even po-faced—which is perhaps not how I see us anymore. Although I am not to be the judge! In a perverse way, perhaps Cold Pumas is an anomaly for us in terms of not reflecting the obvious way any of us would approach music (perhaps that’s relevant to the crutch of repetition; the tension of ticking over, waiting for the inspiration!). Now we’re a four-piece, and three of the four are London-based, it’s changed this approach again. We now can’t fritter away weekly practices on indulgent wibbling and Kings of Leon pastiches, so we’ve had to find a fresh if somewhat inconsistent way of working anew. But I think such forced change has been invigorating in a sense—writing songs has always been a slog—and certainly it’s liberating to have a fourth set of opinions and ideas and directions, which has the advantage of objectivity.

Could you give me the names of five or six bands or musicians (or even styles) that have influenced you as a band—that inform your DNA as a project. I need the names, a YouTube link and a brief explanation of how the band and the song have influenced you, and why you picked these songs.

WOMEN – EYESORE

We played a handful of shows with Women over the course of a few years and got to know them, prior to their break-up and the sad and humbling loss of Chris Reimer. They were the first band we’d played with in a long time that we found the rare duality of a musical and personal kinship with, and that “Calgary Sound” continues to possess the melancholic urgency that bound us to Women instantaneously. Hearing Eyesore prior to the release of Public Strain made me question a lot of what we were doing up to that point, and I’m very glad it did. I like the unofficial video, too.

SONIC YOUTH – RAIN ON TIN

http://youtu.be/HwIDcobO4l4

 Sonic Youth have always been the band that we’d agreed on as being an influence, and although the Murray Street era is possibly not the most obvious one for some, it was an album we all shared when we were first getting to know each other.

DEERHUNTER – CRYPTOGRAMS

The first Deerhunter song I heard was Hazel Street, which is possibly my favourite thing they’ve ever done, but Cryptograms, the album, became a useful signpost in the practice room for describing abstract notions of what we wanted/didn’t want. I actually think Cryptograms, the song, sounds more like Dan’s other band, The Soft Walls, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

EX-MODELS – THAT’S FUNNY I DON’T FEEL LIKE A SHITHEAD

Listening to this now, it’s embarrassing how much we poorly attempted to emulate what is perhaps the epitome of Ex-Models at the height of their relentlessness. The reason I’ve chosen a live version in a comparatively intimate venue is because it represents the three of us watching them in similar surroundings—the first time we saw them with Kid Millions on drums—and being absolutely in awe.

NEU! – NEGATIVLAND

Everything that has been described as “Kraut-revivalist” in the last few years, with obvious exceptions, is predominantly referencing Neu’s Hallogallo above anything else. In terms of the rhythmic embodiment of such an influence, Hallogallo is admittedly the purest reference point, but Negativland—particularly at its most accelerated—is probably more of a relevant reflection.

@Jaime CasasB 

Montgomery Clift is not an actor

February 7th, 2014 No Comments

Seville-born Miguel Marín is a veteran of high-risk music. His CV includes names like Sr. Chinarro, Piano Magic and Arbol, plus his current project of contemplative electronic music, halfway between sound art and open experimentation. Determined to make a radical change, he is striking out on the path of art rock, full of pitfalls and perils. As a collaborative project, in Montgomery he’s joined by Gaby Vargas (guitar and latest member to join the ranks of Arbol), Miriam Blanch (bass and vocals, known on the nineties indie scene as member and co-founder of Seville band Explosivos Acme and currently director of the Intramuros sound art festival) and Amanda Palma (drums and vocals, also part of projects like Norris B and Katapulto).

We talked to Miguel about this new project, which he’ll be presenting at Emergència!

How did the project come about, and why?

Montgomeryis something I’ve been nurturing for two or three years. I wanted to throw off the melancholy and pressure that sometimes get to me with Arbol, where I decide everything. I wanted to form a band where everyone had a say, and it had to beMontgomery.

After being involved in countless projects, Montgomery is a more expressionistic, perilous territory. What do you want this new project to say?

More than saying something, I really wanted to make music with friends where everyone put in their ideas. We try not to impose limits. We mix acoustic instruments with production and electronic arrangements. It’s everyone’s project.

There’s a contained tension in all of the songs. It’s a kind of cross between Cosey Fanni Tutti and Julian Cope, to mention just two names. Would you agree that tension and atmosphere are the basic features?

Maybe; I’m a big fan of 4AD and Throbbing Gristle. There’s all kinds of influences in the band, we listen to a lot of subliminal jazz. Miriam, our bass player, mixes electronic music and is really into experimental music and field recordings. We all sing and we shake down well together. We like using 303 sound and mixing it with distorted guitar. We try to leave space and create tension, but with warm tones.

Listen to Montgomery here.

Are you an experimental group?

You could say we experiment with mixing styles and sounds. You end up hearing the influences, I guess. We sing in English because I lived in theUK for years, I still visit a lot and you could say it’s my second language. We also do instrumentals.

“Montgomery imbibed the Motown sound, absorbed major black Caribbean influences and, on his constant visits to the grooviest venues in New Orleans, incorporated jazz, before discovering and appropriating afrobeat and Irish folk.” What is this novelistic profile packed with snippets of pop culture? Tell me something about this amalgam of names and ideas.

[Laughter] There’s a dance spectacle by the Teresa Navarrete company, who I’ve worked with for years, where we’ve invented a character calledMontgomery, and that’s me. I perform some ofMontgomery’s music live in the show, but solo, in a barer version. This description comes from the press dossier of the show, which is called “Salón Otto” and came out last December.

How much of this project is you?

I set up the project with ideas I’d been working on at odd moments in hotels, airports, and so on. But always with the idea of forming a band and playing live. What I want is to play with people, and for these people to have the same importance as me in the group; I don’t want people to say this is the new project by Arbol’s Marin, though I suppose it’s inevitable.

Are you fans of Montgomery Clift? Why the name?

We are fans of Montgomery Clift, I always remember my mum watching those films. The name really came from Teresa Navarrete, the dancer/choreographer I work with. One day over dinner at her house, we were brainstorming and she came up with this name.

What are Montgomery like live?

A liveMontgomerygig is drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals, electronic music with a solid base. Really dynamic and intense with lots of nuances.

I listen to your music and think of the title of a book by Servando Rocha, Nada es verdad, todo está permitido [Nothing is true, everything is allowed]. In music, there are no truths and everything is allowed.

That’s our aim—as far as we’re concerned, everything is allowed. We’ve got some really varied songs; it would bore me to play three songs in a row with verse, chorus and back to verse, four As and then four times C-D. We like loops, repetitions and not much structure. The group is Amanda (drums and vocals), Miriam (bass and vocals), Jesús Guitarra (keyboards and vocals), Gaby—who can’t make it for this concert—(guitar and electronics) and me (vocals and electronics). We’re just starting to play together. I think we’ve got a long road ahead of us and I’m intrigued to see what we come up with.

 Will Arbol carry on as always?

Arbol is at full throttle with concerts planned and a new disc in the pipeline. But right now, I’m busy with a film soundtrack, I’ve recently finished a documentary and I’m working with several dance companies. WithMontgomery, we’re in the recording studio to bring out a disc this year, and we’ve got loads of practices.

@JaimeCasasB

 

Montgomerywill be playing on the Foyer stage on 15 February at the sixth and latest Emergència! festival.

(Català) Marta Segarra: “L’habitació pròpia de Woolf reivindica un espai mental”

February 5th, 2014 No Comments

Gente Joven: young people, modern people

February 3rd, 2014 No Comments

Like it or not, we’re all modern. And logically, though some people have never acted it, we’ve all been young at some point. Young people in the seventies longed to be up on the stage of Gente Joven, the programme broadcast by the only TV channel, dictated by circumstance. Today, young—and not so young—people are discovering that the music of Gente Joven retrieves the bygone sounds of Spanish lower-case pop. Under a mantle of languor and somnambulism, between early Sr. Chinarro, The Cure and Donosti Sound—including Vainica Doble—the three-piece band comprising Patricia Magadán, Pablo Álvarez and Fernando de la Flor debuts with their Roman-lettered disc (I, II, III y IV, Discos de Kirlian, 13) and minimum aspirations.

They’ll be presenting their set on 15 February on the Emergència! stage. We talked to Fernando de la Flor, the group’s ideologue with a long career on the Spanish indie pop scene.

An easy one to start: how and why did you form the group?

It started in the summer of 2013. I’ve played with other bands and I’ve always had my own projects on the boil. The difference this time is the incorporation of the voice of Patricia (Madagán). We sing together in almost all the songs. Pablo (Álvarez) later joined the project to form our current line-up.

Why did you choose a name that goes back to that whole authentic movement?

Firstly, “Gente Joven” is the TVE music programme we used to watch when I was a kid. Then there’s the concept of “Gente Joven” as a nostalgic and even decadent idea. Most of the retired people I know—and it’s a growing group—are more nostalgic about those days than about their childhood.

I see you’ve been identified with dream pop, with a kind of sleepiness, because of the way you sing. Would I be wrong to say that you go more by sensations than by labels?

 

The music we make doesn’t set out to emulate any particular style, but dream pop is a name that goes very well with what we want to express. The night-time mood, whispering voices and crypticism of some of the lyrics aim more at discretion, or stealth. I’d say we walk the line between keeping a low profile and not being invisible, if that’s an idea you can relate to music.

What stories do you set out to tell with your songs? What are they about? 

The sensations conveyed by the songs can be seen as melancholic or sad, without going as far as depression or anxiety. Heartbreak is a theme running through our debut cd I, II, III y IV (Discos de Kirlian, 2013). There’s also a touch of the mysterious and the inexplicable behind some of the more abstract, obscure songs.

The songs have a strong visual power. Your ideas have a striking visual content. Perhaps the images I see are like the “early lights with a blinding impact” you talk about in one of your songs. How do you go about creating these ideas that take visual form?

We like to focus on images or on the visual nature of a situation or scene. I don’t feel very comfortable with the confessional style. I shun the explicit, I prefer to take a roundabout approach and then hit home with a line or an expression that give a touch of reality to the song to avoid getting too surrealistic.

I think your influences explain your music. Not completely, but they are really illustrative. Can you name five of these names that contribute to the essence of Gente Joven?

Sr Chinarro – “NH3 Light”

The influence on our music of the more “abstract” period of Sr Chinarro is obvious. I love that mix of rather sad melodies and texts, run through with references from that time. I chose this video because the racing cars and the adverts on the racetrack represent Gente Joven’s idea of melancholy.

The New Year – “Disease”

The New Year/Bedhead are an example of what I was saying before about being discreet but up there. The Kadane brothers have exquisite taste when it comes to writing exciting songs without being heavy or pretentious. And Chris Brokaw on drums. What more could you ask for?

Wild Nothing – “Full Performance”

Wild Nothing is one of the current dream pop groups I like best. I saw this video at Pablo’s after a long night of beers and cider in Xixón—a live half-hour gig where they play their singles and best songs. If I ever form a band with a drummer, bass player and keyboards, I’d like us to sound like this.

Burial – “Stolen dog”

Squalid rhythms, endless echoes, melancholy, night time and cold. These are all important elements in the music we make and Burial puts them together like no one else. If you lose your dog or someone steals it, the sensation must be a bit like what this song conveys.

Galaxie 500 - “Temperature’s rising”

You don’t have to be a virtuoso to write great songs or sing like a nightingale to move people. Galaxie 500 are a good example of this. One of my favourite trios.

http://youtu.be/BvlgOsD6MuI

The Cure – “High”

Disintegration and Wish are two of the discs I’ve listened to most in my life. The Cure have always been an influence, my sister used to play them all the time. For me, this video is another mark of their sense of humour that belies the group’s labels of “dark” or “Gothic”. Images of Robert Smith being swallowed by a giant spider or hanging onto a kite are hilarious. It’s vital not to take yourself too seriously.

@JaimeCasasB

 

Gente Joven present their first disc “I, II, III y IV” on the Auditorium stage of the CCCB at the sixth Emergència! festival.

Kíar, a secret world

January 30th, 2014 No Comments

She’s 18 with just two songs on the Internet. She produces, sings and writes. Her name is Kíar, which is the way she presents herself to the public. She’s giving nothing away about her real identity. “Kíar is my artistic name,” she told me via email. “And since we’re dealing with art, with the public, I prefer to use this name. Because my real name is only for my personal life.”

Kíar is without a doubt one of the big surprises at this year’s Emergència! A highly personal and strangely familiar voice that is reminiscent of the best in singer-songwriters who skirt the limelight of mass success. Her music, like adolescent musings, of J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, for example, is about that moment when everything is possible and everything still lies ahead. Nothing sounds false, everything makes sense.

How come you’ve started to make such “adult” music at such a young age? It’s surprising in many ways, particularly the fact that it’s already so well defined. Tell me a bit about your history in music, which has been short but fruitful.

Music has always been in me. I started quite a while ago, when I was about eight. At the time, I lived in a valley, surrounded by trees. That was when I felt the need to ask for a piano so I could play the melodies that were forming in my head. Basically, I suppose I wanted to express the sensations I was receiving from my surroundings. So, time passed, and I just kept composing. But no-one except my mother knew about my work. Inside, I could feel sensations, emotions and feelings that I wanted to transform into language.

I suppose that in the end creation becomes a desire to share.

Listen to the music of Kíar here.

On the internet I read a comment about your work, saying it’s “the song of the wind among the flora in the beech wood of En Jordà”. Poetically, that’s fair enough, but it’s not very tangible. I find it hard to grasp the idea that your music has a direct relation with where you’re from—in your case, La Garrotxa. Your music sounds very English; how are you influenced artistically by the fact that you’re from La Garrotxa, which is not exactly known for music? If it has influenced you, of course…

It has, yes; surroundings are very important. And La Garrotxa is a very beautiful place, though it’s not where I’m originally from. I went to live there with my parents when I was three, in a very remote, idyllic spot. But I think it’s not just places, it’s people, too, with the way they see life, who experience and feel things. And so on.

One of your two songs, Mama’s blood, tells a dramatic story. It sounds like you’re talking about domestic violence. Is it about something that happened in your life? Where do you get your inspiration?

It’s generally feelings and emotions that inspire me. This song, Mama’s Blood, is one of those moments that reflects an instant in my life, when I couldn’t contain myself and used music to express that sensation.

When can we expect a disc? What are your plans?

In terms of plans, my ambition is to present my project abroad. I’ve always felt drawn to far-off places. That’s always been my aim.

For the moment, here I am, I’m thrilled at the proposal of Sergio, the director of the Emergència! 2014 festival and the chance to show a little part of my work. My plans include doing lots of concerts, if the opportunity and the right moment arise. And, most of all, making myself known.

You call your style “experimental sci-fi folk”. To what extent do you think it’s experimental? And what does the reference to science fiction mean?

I identify with the label “experimental sci-fi folk”, though I also have to say I’m not that comfortable with labels in general, for me or for anyone, in any field. It might seem like definite label, because it was written in the biography I had on a website somewhere, but it’s by no means official. It’s an early label someone came up with to give an idea of my musical genre. But as I say, I don’t like labels because they limit you, they stop you moving, and that takes away all your freedom.

Perhaps the “experimental” part refers to songs I haven’t released yet, but also to Alien Love, which is posted on YouTube.

I absolutely love science fiction. I’m a real fan of sci-fi films and Asimov’s novels. When I create, whether it’s lyrics, melodies or sounds, I visualize places in other worlds, extraterrestrial ones… I’m also really interested in the world of robotics. And, most of all, the universe. That’s where I get my inspiration.

I like that faltering style of your phrasing when you sing, it doesn’t sound at all forced. Why do you choose to sing like that?

As I just said, I really love everything to do with the world of science fiction. The universe, the planets and the beings that could inhabit them… So, when I imagine a way of talking and singing, that’s what comes from inside, when I’m inside the worlds I’ve imagined, or not…

What are your influences? You sing and perform with a style that reminds me very much of well-known female singer-songwriters …

My mum is a real music lover, and I suppose having so much different music around me all the time has made its mark, perhaps even when she was carrying me. More than influences, I could give you a list of a few of the ones I grew up with (because the list would be very long and varied): Richard Manfyed, Michael Jarre, Moby, Klaus Schulze, Kitaro, Muse, Placebo…

I should also say that I haven’t yet presented most of my songs, but I think they’ll probably give more clues as to my influences or any similarities with other musicians. What I do is simply create what I feel at a given moment and, well, I’ve never really thought about it. You should always find your own way, not copy other people. Everyone has their own path, and we have to respect that. In the same way that everyone is free to express their opinion, and that’s something I believe very strongly in.

 @JaimeCasasB

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