SPECIAL SOUNDS FOR STRANGE TIMES: Suzie Stapleton

Over the last few months, one of the things many people have been turning to during periods of isolation during the pandemic is music. Music for distraction, companionship, solace and joy. Whatever the reason, putting on a favourite album or discovering something new that pulls you in and hits the spot, intellectually or emotionally, can be a great and wonderful experience.

In this series we check in with musicians, journalists and broadcasters to see what has inspired repeat listening and provided some special sounds for these strange times.

Australian Suzie Stapleton has been living in Brighton in the UK for five years now, after the Sydney-raised musician spent the previous decade in Melbourne. Her long-awaited, self-produced, debut album We Are The Plague is set for release this Friday (July 31st) and follows her 2012 EP Obladi Diablo

If you’ve ever seen Stapleton live you’ll know she’s one of those artists who invests 100% in her music – emotionally and physically. There’s a darkness to her sound – a swirling, magical atmosphere that draws from post-punk, gothic rock and dark folk. Stapleton’s lyrics convey a bruised beauty and that, combined with her brooding, rich and raw voice and her evocative guitar playing, puts her in the same sonic territory as PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi, Patti Smith, The Gun Club and Chelsea Wolfe. 

Ahead of the release of her new album, Suzie kindly took the time to give us an insight into what she’s been listening to recently, during these strange times. 


Vic Chesnutt – North Star Deserter (2007)

I haven’t left the house since mid-March except to buy food and go for long walks on the downs or on the beach if I can steal a moment there sans people – the only exception being the Brighton BLM protest. In this time my garden has become my sanctuary and escape. We live in a row of terraces and have a small concreted, courtyard garden. There are garden beds along the edges and two small trees on either side by the back wall that I sit between watching sparrows flit from one to the the other and the clouds float by overhead. I feel fortunate to have this oasis.

It is here that I have donned headphones and found solace in music. North Star Deserter is an album that has found it’s way onto my playlist during this period. Vic Chestnutt is such a visceral performer, his music and vocals hit you straight in the gut, his lyrics are great too. The band on this album are fantastic, tip toeing around him on the quieter moments and launching into full post-rock attacks on other tracks. It’s very well orchestrated.

I regret to say I only recently heard of Vic Chesnutt. I was turned on to him during a recording session in December with Crippled Black Phoenix. They invited me up to Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire to record some vocals and guitar on their upcoming album. Thrown in the mix for the album were a couple of covers – one of which is ‘Everything I Say’ from North Star Deserter (an amazing song) – sitting in the converted chapel listening to Crippled Black Phoenix bring it to life was a transportive experience. 

I wish I’d known of Vic’s music earlier – especially whilst he was still alive. But that’s the beauty of music too, there’s alway new worlds to discover.


Humanist – Humanist (2020)

Humanist is a project created by guitarist and producer Rob Marshall. The day it was released I sent Rob a text saying “Congratulations – Amazing album. I was hoping to win all the album of the year awards but you’ve fucked that right up”.

Where to begin… The album has a cast of legends singing on each track – Dave Gahan, Mark Lanegan, Jim Jones, Mark Gardener…  you can look that up. As impressive and as great as each guest is, it’s Rob’s guitar and production that really blows my mind. Especially knowing that he recorded the guitar and mixed the record at home with a very limited set up. 

There’s not a dud track on this record, but of particular note are ‘Ring of Truth’ and its sense of foreboding, the epic ‘English Ghosts’, and album closer ‘Gospel’ which has a phenomenal build-up reminiscent of Rick Rubin’s production.

I was scheduled to tour with Humanist in March which was rescheduled to September and has just been moved again to February. I think we’re only just beginning to see the fallout from this virus. We’re starting to hear venue closure announcements in the UK and I fear it’s just the beginning. I dread to think what lies ahead with European tours in further jeopardy next year as a result of Brexit. I’m preparing for a dramatically different landscape.

It’s going to be tough for musicians to make ends meet. Recording costs generally aren’t recouped from online album sales and nobody makes any money from streaming (that is the greatest scam going, but that’s another rant…). We rely on the touring cycle to get in front of people, and a lot of album sales happen on the merch desk. I urge fans that are in a position to do so, to please support artists through this time and purchase music online, donate to live streams etc. 


Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss (2015)

I recommend putting this album on your device, armouring up in a face mask, and going to run your errands. You may only be picking up some toilet paper, or grabbing a pint of milk, but you will feel like it is the end of days and you are preparing to fight the alien lizard people as they descend to finally take over the earth… 

Abyss is such a solid album. The fragile, ethereal melodies against the aggressive production are entirely captivating. This is a dense sonic landscape from start to finish. ‘Iron Moon’ is perfection, with ‘After The Fall’ and ‘Crazy Love’ also must-listens. 

I came to Chelsea Wolfe via Mark Lanegan’s cover of her song ‘Flatlands’ from Unknown Rooms, my other favourite album of Chelsea’s. Really I could have picked any of her albums they are all great. Her writing, vocals, and guitar complimented by Ben Chisholm’s production is a brilliant combination.


Suzie Stapleton’s debut album ‘We Are The Plague is out July 31st on Negative Prophet Records / Cargo Records

Pre-Save We Are The Plague On Spotify/Apple Music

Suzie Stapleton is touring the UK with Humanist February 2021:

6th – YES (Pink Room) Manchester

8th – PRINCE ALBERT Brighton 

9th – THE LEXINGTON London 


NEW MUSIC: Azu Tiwaline – Izen Zaren

Today we’ve got a new track from the Sahara and El Djerid region in the south of Tunisia. Azu Tiwaline is a producer who blends dub-influenced and psychedelic desert electronica that moves and flows with a real fluidity and sense of spirit.

Izen Zaren‘ is a track that comes from the second part of her 2020 album Draw Me A Silence Part II (check out Part I HERE) and since then she’s also released the new Magnetic Service E.P.

There’s a wonderful techno minimalism to her sound. Dark and precise, heavily percussive and spacious and intimate at the same time. The atmosphere she builds across the track is both tribal and sci-fi as the sound-effects spark and scatter across the stereo spectrum, above the winding hypnotic melodies and ominous percussive march – of which ultimately is a soulful sound built on amazing sonic architecture.

NEW MUSIC: Tom Ashbrook – Oaktrees

Ambient and (neo)classical compositions can often tread a fine line, evaporating into the ethereal realm or overstating their grandeur. Both extremes lack the required balance of satiating the heart and the mind. In the hands of auteurs such as Nils Frahm, Brian Eno and Harold Budd, music of this ilk can blossom and sway with the most subtle of transitions and adjustments – and it’s those qualities we’re always looking for when we’re hunting out new artists and compositions.

Tom Ashbrook, a British composer, fulfils and exceeds the criteria on this new track ‘Oaktrees’, the third single released from his new EP Sensibus. You can hear the mechanics of his playing and the surrounding sonic detritus in the air. Soft synth pads widen the textural qualities of the piece and summon both the immersive sensation of being underwater and in space. Drift and a poetic sense of flotation being the common factor.

NEW MUSIC: Abracadabra – Dirty Pan

There’s a wonderfully deadpan, stylised quality to this new single from Oakland CA duo Abracadabra (duo Hannah Skelton and Chris Niles). It’s pure 80s synth pop – the good kind where robots and fashion were the future, Kraftwerk were kings and neon was a colour.

There’s also a playfulness to the music of ‘Dirty Pan’, a day-glo utopian sound built on lush washes of keyboards such as The Fairlight CMI and pulsing, robotic drums. It’s like Stereolab and Cabaret Voltaire jamming on the international space station.

Many of the songs reflect upon our fragility as humans, our inability to predict or control the future, and the struggle to remain stable despite the chaos of urban life on a deteriorating planet.”

Abracadabra’s self-titled debut album will be out on July 24 via Anniversary.

NEW MUSIC: Seatbelts – Sinful City

The jangly art-pop factor is high on this new track from the new project based around James Madden and Ryan Murphy of Liverpool indie pop quartet, Hooton Tennis Club. The horns are the clincher, giving it a soft soul sound before a fuzzed out guitar solo brings the song to an abrupt halt. Infectious as hell too. Reminds us a bit of a cross between The Phoenix Foundation, Parquet Courts and The Coral.

‘Sinful City’ explore the themes of capitalism, modernisation, and escapism touched upon on Seatbelts’ previous EPs. Big city living has its drawbacks – one can fnd themselves in high demand. How is our sense of self influenced by the temptations found in the shimmery delights of the modern city? “A lifestyle on constant trial… Despair and desperation take hope”, sings James Madden (vocals/guitar), his urgent vocal delivery painting a picture of an inner drama unravelling: a final attempt to seek beauty, hope, and clarity within a sinful metropolis.

NEW MUSIC: Mockcharge – Marauder

New York metal trio Mockcharge deliver in spades on their recent single ‘Marauder’, with its breakneck speed riffs, deadly screams and at its mid-point it drops gears and gets low-slung and sleazy before a hi-hat count-off sends the song to its crashing conclusion. To our ears it sounds like a beautiful collision between Motörhead and White Zombie.

Of the track the band say: “This song was inspired on classic action movies and games such as Doom and Call of Duty. It tells the classic story of the Rambo like guy who is the only one that can win the war. It’s a fun song to play and it’s been fun to listen, just like watching Rambo II and playing Call of Duty.”

Mockcharge

Ed Marson – Guitar and Vocals

Tatiana Turin – Bass

Donnie Hogue – Drums

NEW MUSIC: Midnight Garden

Midnight Garden is Nick Donlin and Zach Vouga, an electronic duo based in San Diego, CA. who have an album called Blue Tomorrows due out on August 12th, 2020.

Sad synth music is the perfect combination to our ears – that mix of synthetic, digital sounds and melancholic human emotion. Midnight Garden mix those ingredients nicely on their single ‘For The Last Time’. It’s a song that rises and falls on heartfelt sighs, tumbling toms and retro 80s synth sounds that never overplay their role in the song.

They’ve also just released a brand new clip for the single ‘Hold Me After’, an emotionally lighter sound but still just as effective with its sonic streak of nostalgia.

NEW MUSIC: IDLES – A Hymn

IDLES have released ‘A Hymn’, a new single and accompanying video clip from their forthcoming new album Ultra Mono, set for release on 25 September 2020 on Partisan Records.

The music video features the band driving with their parents through their hometown streets to the shops, providing a grey window into suburban English life that matches the song’s heavyhearted churn.

Frontman Joe Talbot says of the song: “‘A Hymn’ is a hymn that rejoices in the sinister flesh-eating virus of the pedestrian. It sings the tune of normal’s teeth sinking into your neck as you sleep stood up with your eyes open. Amen.”

Pre Order / Pre Save

I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame in the crack-like corpse un-cadaver reign I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame gripped tight like your withering fame We made it Shame.

Hot Zumba classes at the new church I lost ten pounds for the wedding I played happy til my teeth hurt Sofa surfer extraordinaire Lambert’s ash in my falling hair, yeh.

I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame cuts rips real nice as we change lanes We made it I want to be loved Everybody does We made it We made it

Shame.

Teletext has a place in my heart Ten percent discount, I’ll show you how Gregory’s birthday in a placid town, wow Janine held the flag with white knuckles I’m burning the Astra til the wheels buckle, yeh.

I want to be loved Everybody does

Shame Shame.