Richard Dawson’s ‘wonky’ pop quartet are influenced by Billie Eilish, cats and 12th-century composer Hildegard von Bingen
It is about halfway through our video chat that Trouble turns up. While Hen Ogledd officially comprise Dawn Bothwell, Rhodri Davies, Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington, today it also includes the latter couple’s excellently named cat. Trouble, “with a capital T”, as the wildly catchy chorus of their recent single goes, is as playfully unwieldy as the group. Although we are here to chat about new album Free Humans – a joyous constellation of “wonky” pop, free improvisation and sci-fi musing – it’s hard to stay focused. “Sorry,” says Dawson at one point, “I’m a bit distracted by the cat arsehole in my face!”
Dawson formed Hen Ogledd with Davies as a cathartically noisy improvisation duo in 2012, around the time that his own solo work was starting to reach a rapidly growing audience, leading to a string of acclaimed albums including last year’s opus, 2020. Meanwhile, Hen Ogledd expanded to include Bothwell for 2016’s Bronze, before Pilkington cemented the current lineup with 2018’s Mogic, their first on Domino Records.
The group have managed to balance a freeform approach to music-making with an increasing range of pop melodies and song structures, but make it clear that their vision of the genre is “multifarious”. “There is a definite level of wonkiness,” says Pilkington, “and fun is a big factor in the kind of pop that I like to make.” Influences on the album range from Abba and Billie Eilish to 12th-century composer Hildegard von Bingen, while the lyrics keep pace with such weirdness. As Bothwell jokes: “We decided to pick the most popular themes, typical stuff like sewers and the surfaces of other planets.” Something about the spirit and shared connection of the band give the whirling parts a gloriously odd cohesion.
Famed filmmaker Ken Russell tours the countryside in search of the roots of the English folk song in this eye-opening documentary. His travels reveal the history of the form, its remnants in modern music and the ways it evolved as it was carried to Ireland and the New World. Performances and interviews with Donovan, Fairport Convention, June Tabor and other artists help illustrate the changing face of English folk music through the centuries.
If you’ve always wanted to know how Putin could get away with highjacking our democracy in 2016, the book Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Electoral Interference will provide much-needed answers and insights.
Historian David Shimer spoke to dozens of officials, from the intelligence community to the Obama administration, who share what happened in 2016, what they wish they would have done differently, and the vulnerabilities that plague our elections to this day.
Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa are experts on authoritarian states who warned America about election hacking years before 2016. Here, they take a deep dive on the news, skipping outrage to deliver analysis, history, context, and sharp insight on global affairs.
There was a very odd cut-away from Senator Elizabeth Warren during today’s televised Select Subcommittee on Coronavirus Crisis hearing. Just as Senator Warren begins her question about the potential for conflict of interest involving Trump’s chief adviser for the White House vaccine program, someone at NBC/Comcast master control gives the tv director the “suggestion” to cut away. Why?
Trump’s chief adviser and so-called “vaccine czar” Moncef Slaoui, stepped down from his position on the board of directors at Moderna, a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company which is already planning a clinical trial for a vaccine it developed, to take on the job. His White House position is unpaid, according to the Associated Press.
But Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Slaoui still holds more than 150,000 stock options in Moderna. Those offerings were valued at more than $10 million on Monday before the company’s stock shot up after it reported promising early results from its vaccine testing. Shares have nearly tripled in value since the start of the year, Business Insider reported.
Moderna’s stock skyrocketed last month after the company announced it had received $483 million in federal funding for its vaccine development.