This May 23rd at London’s Scala comes the inauguration of an event which promises to turn Eurovision’s concept on its head, featuring a selection of European artists from the world of experimental and noise music.
The brainchild of artist and promoters Pil and Galia Kollectiv’s fascination with the Eurovision Song Contest, this one day conference will bring together a selection of 11 representative “punx and weirdos” to perform a single original song together, all being live streamed to an international audience, who in keeping with Eurovision will have a chance to vote for their favorite act.
Among the acts which will be appearing is Ireland’s Sissy. Known for their outspoken feminist politics and pro-choice activism, the lo-fi punk group may be the most melodic entrants of the bunch. ‘Sail and Rail’, their take on Enya’s ‘Sail Away’, garnered much attention for its brilliant parody of anti-abortion rhetoric. The song featured Radie Peat from experimental folk outfit Lankum, who are also well known for their political engagement. Read Lankum’s interview with Hot Press from earlier this year here. Other entrants in EuroNoize are cult Estonian group Winny Puhh, who actually competed in Estonia’s pre-Eurovision competition in 2013, as well as Russian experimental electronic trio Asian Women on the Telephone.
Pil and Galia Kollectiv are working with The University of Reading, Kunsthall Oslo and ARE Prague, alongside recieving EU funding for the project. Currently living in London, they were born and raised in Israel, ironically the controversial host of this year’s song contest. Seeing Eurovision on television growing up, they were struck by the program’s over the top spectacle: “the requirements on the one hand to represent an increasingly meaningless idea of national identity and on the other hand some kind of recognisabley Anglo-American popular music”. With EuroNoize, they hope to take their Eurovision fascination in a weird and boundary pushing direction. Continue reading →
In 2019, British and Irish folk music is more exciting and urgent than it’s been for years. Much of it sounds powerfully raw and immediate, with many groups recognising the politics of our times in their songs, and incorporating contemporary stories within more ancient musical motifs. Here are bands confronting the legacies of abortion rights; the oppression of women, homosexuals and other minority communities; the loss of minority language; the refugee crisis; and stories of people who have stood up to hate. They’re not doing so in browbeating, bluntly obvious ways either. Some are uncovering small but powerful stories of overlooked people, whose achievements we can learn from. Others are creating more oblique and moving work, highlighting the injustices that linger in our society.
Many younger makers of modern folk grew up during the turn-of-the-century indie-folk revival, where taboos surrounding less popular singing styles and traditional songs started to disappear. A steady flow of reissues by the likes of Bert Jansch, Shirley Collins and Lal and Mike Waterson has since revealed how much of our country’s folk culture had been neglected.
We could call this explosion “woke” folk – though there’s much more to this disparate collection of acts than a slogan. Some have an experimental edge, incorporating influences from other genres such as krautrock. Some are more accessible and rousing, but all of the British and Irish artists that follow here share a common musical sensibility: they sing in recognisable voices, without varnish and sheen, delivering messages straight and sure about who we were, and who we are now.
Leicester-based singer-songwriter and activist who found her calling as a political folk musician after the 2010 general election
It’s rare that an interview can vindicate the wishes of an artist. Rare, but possible. In 2016, the self-proclaimed “radically feminist and radically leftwing” musician Grace Petrie released the song, I Wish the Guardian Believed That I Exist, in response to an article in the paper lamenting the current lack of protest singers in folk music.
In fact, by that point the Leicester-based singer-songwriter had been making politically charged protest music for six years, since the release of her breakthrough single Farewell to Welfare. In that fierce, guitar-driven number, Petrie found a new calling as a political folk musician, spurred by the 2010 general election and the Tories’ subsequent coming to power, propped up by the Liberal Democrats. “It was when the government changed in 2010 that I started thinking a lot more about austerity and there seemed to be much more to protest about,” says the 31-year-old, when I speak to her over the phone from Leicester. “It hit closer to home how things would change, to impact my life and those of the people I knew. Nine years on and this regime of austerity has left Britain unrecognisable.”
Before the explicit political references began appearing, though, Petrie describes the music she used to make as “abstractly political”. “When I was a teenager I was writing what I saw as pop songs – songs about my love life, because that’s what pop songs are about – but my love life concerned girls, since I wasn’t in love with boys,” she says. “I never saw that as a political act initially, but now I see it as a really political thing; the visibility of queer musicians and centring that in lyrics.”
This visibility still sits on the fringes of the music industry. Having self-funded her first eight albums, she released last year’s Queer As Folk through crowdfunding, still eluding major-label interest. “My career has been completely outside the mainstream and I’ve never known it to be any different,” Petrie says. Even the folk traditionalists were proving hard to win over. “The content of folk songwriting at the moment can be amazingly radical,” she continues, “but I’m not sure the audiences are with them all the time. You have your very wealthy, white, Telegraph-reading folk-club regulars who are happy to hear a song about the peasants’ revolt, but if you talk about food banks in their town, that’s seen as really uncouth. You notice this awkward shuffle go across the room.” Continue reading →
For generations of shoppers in Dublin, the electronics store Peats was part of the city’s retail fabric. Peats of Parnell Street – as it was affectionately known – was the place where many of us bought our first Walkman or turntable or in-ear headphones.
Then, in 2013, after nearly 80 years on the high street, it closed down. In an environment where big chainstores and homogenous pan-national business survives and local services struggle, few were surprised, but many were greatly saddened by its demise.
Lankum, a four-piece group from Dublin comprised of Ian & Daragh Lynch, Cormac Mac Diarmada, and Radie Peat, is truly one of my favorite current acts.
They set incisive original songs with material taken from the traditional repertoire to fiddle, pipes, concertina, and guitar accompaniment. The result is a thick and captivating sound with intense, penetrating lyrics that makes their website’s motto, “Dublin folk miscreants” as apt a description of the group and their music as you’re likely to see.A short while ago, Ian, the group’s piper, reached out to let me know that the band would be embarking on a short U.S. tour this January, with stops in Brooklyn, Vienna, Va., Sellersville, Pa., Cambridge, Mass, and Barre, Vt. Longtime readers will remember my very enthusiastic reviews of their albums “Cold Old Fire” (which was recorded under the group’s former name, “Lynched”) in 2014 and “Between The Earth and Sky” last year, so you can imagine my excitement – it’s great that American audiences will have a chance to acquaint themselves with their music [ . . . ]