Emperors is the persona of gender-fluid drag king/queen Stephen/Cassandra, who aims to break the binary of electro-pop in “untraditional dada-esque fashion.” Their rallying call of a release, ‘We Are The Emperors’, seeks to do just that.
The production immediately chirps into life. Porter Robinson-style vocalisations echo out over rising synths before dropping away as Emperors arrives. What pipes up is a smooth, sultry baritone – like a more assured John Grant. It’s a striking delivery that drips like butter over the rolling, bassy verses and cries power on the triumphant, punchy chorus.
In fact, the choruses punctuate this track with moments of catharsis. The drum fills punch boldly in New Order fashion while white-hot riffs streak by. The bold, brilliant positivity is perfect for the sing-a-long lyrics. It’s anthemic.
Across the verses, Emperors urges the listener to take pride in themselves in a series of bizarre similes, “living lives as art/golden new nobility”. Regardless, the intention cuts through. ‘Go, and be golden’, says Emperors to everyone and no one simultaneously. It’s a timeless, passionate piece of pop we could all learn to live by.
“Taking their listeners on an otherworldly experience from start to finish, Punt guns’ daring nature and sense of originality never cease to amaze”
Neanderthal Cyber Rock formed by Godlike beings across the Balkans, Russia, China, and the sweeping plains of Mongolia – welcome to the world of Punt Guns. Based in London, Punt Guns are a twin attack of baritone guitar, six-string bass, and a whirlwind of cinematic atmospherics and industrial depth charges thrown in for good measure. Gearing up to release a brand-new album, the first glimpse of pure-spun gold on the horizon is Nemesis, an astonishing journey through dark corridors and forbidden zones with an accompanying video that will make your blow your mind and make your eyes melt. Forget everything you’ve ever heard – Punt Guns are the real deal.
Punt Guns were formed in 2017 by Marek Bero (bass/lead vocals) and Giampaolo Guarnieri (guitar/unearthly sounds) and have allied themselves with producers Andy Wright and Gavin Goldberg, whose credits include the likes of KLF, Jeff Beck, Simple Minds, and Massive Attack. The first stunning results were documented on their debut album, a mix of skewed pop melodies, violent rock riffs, and alien orchestras but this only hints at the glories to be heard on their forthcoming release. Now augmented by drummer, Dan Western and guitarist, synth maestro, and producer Jiri Novotny, their sound is derived from a sonic stew of classical, baroque, Balkan and Slavic music, soaked up by the band as their lives took them around the world. They’ve travelled for years and spent time in such disparate locales as Mongolia, Slovakia, Italy, the Himalayas and Lebanon. The band are influenced by the vast global array of music, but also influenced by the likes of maverick sportsmen (Giampaolo travelled the world as an extreme skier in a previous life) and film, with transgressive directors like Argento, Godard, Vadim and Bava all casting their shadows on their work.
Marek came up with the name “Punt Guns”. Long forgotten and then banned, this absurd gun with a gigantic, long canon was used to hunt fowls, leading to the angry duck that represents the band, as well as the ‘quacks’ which drown out any naughty words in the radio edit of Nemesis Esteban Ron in Buenos Aires arrived at the logo by using an angry picture of Donald Duck and reducing it to the band’s own Punt Guns duckling. You’ll have to wait until later in the year to hear the new album in full, with work currently underway at the legendary Rockfield Studios (Queen; Pixies; Royal Blood) in Wales but the first single, Nemesis is introduced by the band themselves:
“The main riff and harmonies of the verse came after a coaching session Giampaolo had with Jean-Marc Belkadi during which they worked on Ashkenazi and Russian chords and harmonies. Giampaolo translated such ideas from a standard tuning guitar to his baritone guitar. He played the tune to Jean-Marc who said that it was a “dark & unpredictable” vibe that reminded him of UK gangster style movies. This led Giampaolo to use part of the quote by Alan Ford defining Nemesis in the movie Snatch and use a voice-over actress, Sophie, to narrate it. Jiri started to create hooky electronic elements to the initial draft and Dan recorded drums for the chorus. Marek then laid down a huge bass line and a sick, slapping bass solo together with magical hooky lyrics that worked as a quasi-dialogue with Sophie’s narration. This track offers the “rock pedigree approach” of the band and then climbs to an electronic world reminiscent of the likes of Justice, Goose or Aaron”.
Glasgow-based duo der Mist have been readying themselves for the release of their self-titled album all year. On the 26th of February, listeners were gifted with the unique amalgamation of genres that make up the album, featuring elements of pop, rock, indie, electronic and new wave elements.
der Mist is Craig McKissick and Ali Whitty, both based in Glasgow, Scotland, and equipped with impressive multi-instrumental skills that give the band an enlarged sound as though there were 3 or 4 members, rather than 2. Previously in Crash My Model Car (signed to V2 Records) and Augusta Fireball, Ali found Craig through a local charity he set up which looked to help young musicians – this certainly proved to be the case as the pair decided to avoid the trappings of a traditional four-piece and use the combination of their musical and technical skills. Ironically, COVID-lockdowns proved to catalyse their work effort, making them even more committed to avoiding gimmicks and fake methodology to show the real people behind the music and the process of making it by using social media and vlogs on their Youtube channel to speak directly to fans.
The lead track, ‘It’s Alright’, which was released on the 15th January, was an inebriating concoction of indie rock found through experimentation with pop formulas, sensitively positive lyrics and some awesome guitar riffs. But the upbeat tempo and mix of synths add texture to the track and prove that there is plenty of room for guitars and electronic production to coexist.
The brilliant accompanying video, released on 22nd January, captures the energy, passion and positivity of the band, echoing some of the giants of 80s synth-pop like Duran Duran whilst containing rock elements influenced by the artists’ favourite rock bands, such as Pixies. This is most definitely a track to be blasting throughout the day; the lyrics are pertinent and reflective of the time we live in, imploring a positive mental attitude and assuring one that things will be alright. Whether you’re on your daily walk, cleaning your room or some kind of seemingly menial task – this is a track to inject some required positivity into your day.
Craig explains the genesis of the track:
“It’s Alright was the first track Ali worked on with me when I was 16 that I can distinctly remember having this feeling that we were on to something – that’s why it’s the debut track. Like a lot of tracks on the album, it went through so many versions. I remember at one point it had so much going on, I was getting carried away layering up sounds trying to turn it into a drum ‘n’ bass dance track. After hearing it, Ali swiftly decided we had to go back to basics and get the core elements of the demo and turn them into something better.
Some elements from my outrageous version are still in there, but my favourite part of the process was recording the guitar solo. We had so much fun trying to channel our inner 80’s child (even though I wasn’t born then), trying to get something unique and fresh but also something that evokes that nostalgic feeling. Lyrically the track harkens back to the uncertainty I and I’m sure a lot of people had growing up and just having the confidence to tell yourself everything is going to be ok. And yes there is a reference to Kool and the Gang’s ‘Get Down On It’ in there, why not!“
The 14-track masterpiece is teeming with catchy, charming lyrics and upbeat instrumentals that make the album full of fun and positivity; even the structure of the album is audibly appealing as tracks effortlessly lead into one another. However, it is the interlude that caught my attention, because ‘From the Inside Out’ slows things down a little bit as the lyrics are sadder, and instead of electric guitar we hear bells and Spanish guitar notes mixing together in a way that is contemplative and hopelessly romantic.
“Tearing me apart,
From the inside out.”
der Mist – From The Inside Out.
And this is not the only exploration of musical formulae, ‘Life is Flashing’ combines elements of spoken word and stylistically paced hip-hop motifs.
The final track on the album is ‘Connected’, and the opening reminded me of I Can See Through You by The Horrors. However, it drifts into a different direction that make it the perfect conclusion for the album.
“We are taking it to the top,
We aren’t going to take it no more.”
der Mist – Connected.
Overall, the album is an intoxicating blend of albums, coming together in a way that is almost anarchist in its lawless disregard for sticking to one genre and contains lyrics that are rebellious yet optimistic. In a year of confinement and authority, the duo fights back against the normative in a way that incites hope and amplifies the need for self-expression.
der Mist lifts the lid on every aspect of their lives as real musicians (vegan, teetotal musicians, no less!), leaving their forthcoming album to speak for itself.
Keep up with der Mist and their upcoming releases here:
Vietnam based artist Kiey has released a mystical electro-pop single with ‘Piccadilly’. It’s a soothing and dreamy track, taking inspiration from the place he spent 3 years studying in.
Having started producing for the first time in 2015 during his time studying at University at King’s College in London, ‘Piccadilly’ is a reflective tribute to the place that he started out.
Inspired by artists such as Lana Del Rey and Troye Sivan, Kiey has created a tranquil tune with expressive lyrics that is the perfect introduction to his experimental style of music.
Although he’s now a very long way from his old apartment back in Piccadilly after moving back to his home country, Kiey still reminisces on his time in the heart of the UK with this emotional number, and through the eerie music video that comes with it.
To keep up to date with Kiey, find his socials below:
In 2017, midway through promoting his debut album ‘Wanting’, Harp Samuels received the news that his father had passed away. Returning home to Melbourne (he has dual citizenship of Australia and New Zealand), be began to channel his grief and confusion into his art. Initially planning to produce a short film and the accompanying soundtrack for it, as work progressed the soundtrack gradually blossomed in scope and importance to the point of eventually overshadowing the film it had been conceived to accompany.
It was this soundtrack that evolved into Samuels’ upcoming album ‘Breathe’, to be released on the 14th of September. The seismic rupture with the past of his father’s death was mirrored in a striking left turn musically—drifting away from the sparse folk of ‘Wanting’, ‘Breathe’ incorporates influences from ambient and electronic music, with vocoder and synthesiser beginning to seep into the sound. The results are often homespun choral music, the celestial tones paralleling the churchyards and funeral parlours death forces one into, and the incorporation of distorted sounds expressing “the tension involved with grief and change”, in Samuels’ own words.
Mixed with analogue gear in Melbourne’s Sing Studios, the album nonetheless journeys away from the tangibility of acoustic instruments into more opaque and ambiguous musical and moral territory. This push and pull of the intimate and the infinite is captured in “Closure in C”, a song recorded on the piano owned by Samuels’ father, before it was sold. In time hopefully Samuels will find this closure, but for now he has a desolate and emotionally rich album to offer.
We’ll leave it to Adam 888, Warner’s latest signing, to explain the genesis of his latest single, Chakra 123:
“In our body we have something called nadis, which are energetic pathways that distribute energy throughout the body. We have about 72,000 nadis in our body and they have 114 important junction points – these junction points are called chakras. Of these chakras, we have 7 major ones that run our being on a physical and non-physical plane.
My intention with this song is to create an expression that symbolises the energy that moves through our first three chakras: the energy of self preservation; our survival instinct. I want to learn more about our body’s internal energy system so we can start to receive & generate pure energy made from truth and love. The song is a reflection of our first 3 chakras”
Blimey! Well, as you might imagine, this is trippy as you like trap (trip-trap?), all beautifully polished and oozing with oddness. Naturally, the accompanying video is equally mad, venturing into dark forests and ending in fiery freakouts. Don’t eat the mushrooms, kids.
Australia’s musical output has been a little wayward over the years – for every Nick Cave, there were ten Angry Andersons; bands who promised much (think along the lines of The Triffids and The Go-Betweens), found it difficult to break out of being critically acclaimed into commercially successful. However, when it comes to dance music, there has been far more influence and interaction with the world at large.
Electro house and progressive house artists have flourished in Australia and are largely seen as trailblazers in the scene. The likes of Cut Copy; The Avalanches; Pendulum and Flume have opened up what dance has traditionally been received as into something approaching a new strand of rock n roll which any kid can listen to and legitimately have a go themselves. Such is the case with Eztain (aka Jake Colson), who has emerged from the outer reaches of Perth to become the next Flume.
Taking house into the future bass arena, his EP shows the wide range of emotion and power that dance has come to embrace, being music to think to as much as music to dance to. The soundscapes are easy to lose yourself in which each track bleeding their essence into each other yet still existing as standing out in their own right. Hugely promising, it’s only a matter of time before the wider world picks up on Eztain, further blurring how dance music is perceived and how it can evolve even further in the future.
If you think techno and electro has nowhere else to go, you’re very much mistaken. The latest release from Nej!Las, a two-track EP featuring Washout and Fini, threatens to be a major crossover release. Featuring elephantine throbbing beats, this is an almost shockingly dark, seething crawl through a modern metropolis to the very heart of some gigantic robotic mastermind.
As well as soaking up the more obvious influences you might expect a producer and artist who has spent time in Detroit and Chicago to have in their arsenal, there are other more unusual angles: the organised, futuristic worlds of Flying Lotus; the ever-shifting soundscapes of Boards of Canada, as well as the noir-esque soundtrack work of Thomas Bangalter, John Carpenter and tomandandy.
Nej!Las is no ordinary artist, having founded a charity which has already delivered $2.5 million aid across the crisis-stricken areas of the Middle East, as well as creating her music in eight different cities across two countries. Like her ever-present black hoodie (which also serves as her logo) what may at first glance seem familiar hides a genuinely thrilling hit of cutting-edge dark-wave electro brilliance.
Check out the new single from alternative-electronic artist, Ciqala, entitled ‘Caving’ here!
Ciqala is the new musical vehicle of Israeli artist and singer-songwriter, Yafit Rahamim-Fleisher, who has teamed up with producer Shai Pelled to form their dark and evocative electro-rock single, ‘Caving’. Well worth a listen!
It’s not often that you get to hear music coming from Iran, but it’s a refreshing change to see what’s happening musically in other parts of the world as electronic artist, Vispa, drops his retro-infused dance track, ‘Cosmic Force’.
You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that ‘Cosmic Force’ is straight out of an 80s video game with its pulsating drum beat, resonating synths and sense of tension building. But this is perhaps the best part of Vispa’s music; his ability to draw on style of old and bring them into the modern day.
Not only this, but there’s certainly a dance factor to his music, made all the better with the expertly timed drops and changes in instrumentation throughout the track.
However, much like ‘Cosmic Force’ is a true space-explorer of a track, Vispa is an explorer of music himself, constantly experimenting with genre and sound to gain more ideas for his new material.
Categorising his sound under the sub-genres of ‘synth-pop’, ‘space music’ and ‘electro-orchestral’, Vispa finds inspiration from all over the musical world, taking influence from other notable artists such as classical legend Hans Zimmer, Tangerine Dream, Depeche Mode and synth icons, The Pet Shop Boys.