Beck needs no introduction. What does is his first studio album since 2008’s ‘Modern Guilt’. Titled ‘Morning Phase’, the LA-born musician’s 12th long-player proper is released in February via Capitol.

Clash has listened to the album and can report that it delivers on the promise of standing as a sequel, of sorts, to its maker’s much-celebrated, considerably downbeat 2002 collection, ‘Sea Change’. ‘Morning Phase’ looks inwards to express outwardly, comprising a set that handles understatement in a singularly striking fashion.

Naturally we’ll run rather more in-depth content on ‘Morning Phase’ nearer the time of its release. For now, we have an exclusive chat with Beck, touching on the new collection as well as his older, somewhat funkier incarnations. This is a man whose coat has worn many colours indeed, and he’s far from showing them all just yet…

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Beck, ‘Lost Cause’, from the album ‘Sea Change’ (2002)

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‘Morning Phase’ clearly shares tonal qualities with ‘Sea Change’, in the way it’s arranged – acoustic guitars, strings, a slightly country feel to some tracks. But I wonder how the emotions attached differ from what you were saying in 2002?

I mean, it’s from a slightly different perspective this time. If I think about this record, there are a few threads there; whereas ‘Sea Change’ was more specifically about one thing (the breakdown of a long-term relationship). You know, you have periods in life where you’re at different stages. You have periods where everything turns over, and afterwards you’re in a new space, at a new point in your life, be that through choice or circumstance.

It sounds, to me, like another record of separation – but this time around it’s touched by an optimism for what comes next. Does it feel like a ‘clean break’ album to you?

I do feel it’s a fresh start record. I think it sums up something, and for me I’ve gone through a long period of physical challenges, and that’s really been something I’ve put a lot of time and work into getting through. So, that went into the music. And it wasn’t an easy time.

I read that you were in no little pain for some time, and had suffered a spinal injury. There’s one track in particular on the album, which is dominated completely by these portentous strings…

That’s ‘Wave’, yeah…

…I wonder if that is specifically tied to that bleak period?

I think that does tap back into that period – it’s certainly one of the older songs on the album.

It struck me as quite the statement piece – not the sort of song that one typically expects of an artist like you.

I don’t know if I have any perspective on it other than: I sat down to write, and that came out. It’s one of those things where… Well, maybe when you sit down with an intention to write something, but it’s never exactly what comes out. And I don’t think I have a choice in that matter! You can only hear a song like that… I just have to accept that is what came out, and it represents something.

Elsewhere, certainly during the first few tracks of ‘Morning Phase’, there’s a real warmth and depth to the material – it feels full, without ever being cluttered, if you get what I mean. I suppose that standard of arranging can only come with time and experience…

Hopefully it does. This is something I do think about, about music so often. You hear a band on their first few records, and they’re great, but then they don’t go anywhere. Their quality diminishes over time. But you’d like to think that you can get better with time – or that you learn more, and become able to present that a little better.

I think, with this record, I was probably a little more… single-minded in what I was trying to get out of each song. For long periods, stuff just didn’t work – songs would sound too sentimental, or too middle of the road somehow. So I worked on them, relentlessly, and eventually something began to work about them. Some songs I gave up on, but it was really a matter of putting the time and patience into this record.

But I’d say, too, that there are earlier records in my career where [making an album like this] wasn’t necessarily the intention – I love things that are a bit rough, and a lot of my records were purposefully done in one take, out of tune, really rough around the edges. That was always intentional. It’s not that I couldn’t have spent time and worked on them, but… Over time, you come to appreciate songs that have that extra time taken on them.

I remember when Radiohead was doing ‘Kid A’, and Nigel Godrich went to do that after we’d done ‘Mutations’. Now, ‘Mutations’ we did in about 12 to 14 days. They spent two years on ‘Kid A’, and you can hear that. That sounds like a record that took two years to make. Also those are brilliant songs, but that is a piece of work that a lot of time was spent developing, so the band could go deeper, and explore its sound. With ‘Mutations’, I love the record, but it was more a case of throwing something down quick. It is what it is.

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Beck, ‘Loser’, from the album ‘Mellow Gold’ (1993/94)

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On the topic of albums rather than tracks, it’s pretty obvious that ‘Morning Phase’ is an album first, a collection of tracks second. It has that cohesion you expect of a quality long-player. So what’s your perspective on the consumption of music via a few tracks from an album, rather than listening to the whole thing?

I’ve always had that experience, because ‘Loser’ was probably the first thing people heard from me, and that was a single. More people bought that single than bought the album (‘Mellow Gold’). So I think I’ve come from a place where my first contact with an audience was based on a song, rather than a record.

I can’t say how people are going to listen to ‘Morning Phase’. I think that, even with this record… You know, I don’t have a lot of delusions: there will be a couple of songs that a lot of people really like, and those are the songs that will appear at the shows. But when I’m working on the album, it’s a matter of trying to come up with something that, whatever effect its creating, you don’t break the spell, you know. Whether you’re making a dance record, or an acoustic record.

I have other records where we wanted the songs to be jarring, to go to different places. On this album, I spent a lot of time making sure the songs were different from each other.

I certainly wouldn’t say they’re in the least bit samey – but they share a spirit, you know? I wonder if the intimate feel of the songs will transfer to smaller-than-usual shows to promote the album?

I would love to do shows with the band I recorded the album with – and we just did South America together – but it’s looking like the reality of getting a tour together with all of us is going to be difficult. Our drummer, Joey [Waronker], he’s in a band with Thom Yorke now (Atoms For Peace), and our bass player, Justin [Meldal-Johnsen], is becoming a successful producer.

My old keyboard player, Greg [Kurstin]… for years I’ve wanted to tour with him, but he’s become a successful producer as well. So everybody has bigger and better things happening elsewhere. So it’s really a question of when and if people have time – and they’re doing what they do for the love of doing it. They have other music to be doing, to support their families easier, and all that. So, we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll get to do a handful of shows maybe. I’m not sure.

Does life on the road still appeal to you these days, the whole cycle of recording, releasing and promoting?

Well, I like going out and playing shows. And I’ve been able to do that a lot more over the past two years. Those years I had without performing, those were really difficult.

Just how hard was that period, if you don’t mind me asking? Was it hard to take that break from music, to slow right down?

Well, I wasn’t even thinking about [music] – I was in so much pain, it was enough to just get through the day, honestly. I mean… in retrospect, I was just saving what energy I had left for my kids. But it was a hard period of time. And when I did look to music, when I did want to make music, it was very frustrating, because I was incapable of certain things. Watching my peers get to go out and do their things, and put out brilliant records… I really wanted to be a part of it.

But now you’re back in it.

Yeah, and that is a big part of this record: us all getting back together to play, and me being able to play my old guitar again. It just really felt like (laughs)… There was a powerful energy in the room, I can tell you that. It wasn’t forced for anybody.

As I understand it, you’ve accumulated enough songs between ‘Modern Guilt’ and now to release another album, after ‘Morning Phase’, in 2014…

Yeah, that is the plan. It’ll be quite different to this record. I actually have enough left over, too, for a record that I would say is more folk – but I don’t think I’ll put that out yet. Maybe I’ll wait another year, for that. But I do want to put out something that is a lot more up, and energetic, and melodic.

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Beck, ‘Sexx Laws’, from the album ‘Midnite Vultures’ (1999)

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I’ve got to say, and I’m possibly in a minority, that I did really like the ‘Midnite Vultures’ stage… I recall you wobbling around the Manchester Apollo stage, chairs stacked on your head, bits of what looked like vacuum cleaner tubes everywhere…

(Laughs) It makes me happy that someone remembers that.

But the fun-times, showman-cum-ringmaster Beck, he’s going to reappear at some point, do you think? Not to take anything away from this new album, of course…

I hope so, yeah. We just did this festival tour in South America, and it was just… The audiences were going along with us playing these songs. And I can’t deny that kind of a show, you know. I want to keep that alive, I want to continue that.

I think a lot of the shows we’ve done this year reflected that [feeling]. Unfortunately our tour in Europe got cancelled, so we need to come over and do some shows there. Hopefully in the New Year we’ll get to do that. I spent a month in London, in the summer, and I wanted to move there.

Slow down there – maybe look at Whitstable, somewhere coastal but close enough to London if you need to get there. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure…

Great talking to you. Come look us up when we’re over there. Take care.

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‘Morning Phase’ is released in February 2014. Find Beck online here.  

The new issue of Clash magazine is out now – it’s really good, so it is

Clash is chuffed to be able to premiere the new album from Finnish producer Ukkonen (pictured), ‘The Ancient Tonalities Of…

The album is Ukkonen’s second, after 2012’s well-received ‘The Isolated Rhythms Of…’, and furthers its maker’s odd relationship with the world of dance. Self-assured that he is not a dance artist, the Finn’s work is nevertheless tied to electronics, calling to mind peers such as Patten and Chris Clark. Someone, somewhere along the line, called this ‘Artic house’. It’ll do for now.

Decidedly experimental, ‘The Ancient Tonalities Of…’ doesn’t skimp on melodies for the sake of being inventive. It’s certainly an album for those taken with something like James Holden’s ‘The Inheritors’ (Clash review), another album of 2013 that successfully balanced accessibility with avant-garde tangents.

Released through No Pain In Pop on December 2nd, you can stream ‘The Ancient Tonalities Of…’ below. And you should because, basically, it’s a Very Good Record. Enjoy.

Watch the video for the track ‘Viva Las Huelgas’ below…

Find Ukkonen online here

Pre-order this album here

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The new issue of Clash magazine is out now – go and check it out, already

Jamie Blanco has created a special mix to celebrate the forthcoming party in Shoreditch, hosted by fashion label Blood Brother, Defected Records’ breakout label DFTD and Clash, on 12th December.

This collaboration is the first in a planned series of events showcasing emerging artists across London, and will feature DFTD artists including Andre Lodemann, Sonny Fodera, Jamie Blanco and Simon Morell.

Reflecting on the mix, Jamie says: "It’s a selection of current house records that I think would make a great party soundtrack, but are a little different and taken from smaller, less-established labels. There’s a great selection of music from new artists such as Machete Savane and Siafu, or the more established likes of Felix Dickinson and Andre Lodemann. The last track in the mix, Guy Andrews ‘7am' is an amazing example of someone making an emotional piece of music that can still be danced too, whereas the likes of the Hugh Mane track are just great examples of modern non-generic house music."

Listen to it now… Grab it HERE.
Right click, 'Save As…'

Tracklisting:
Hugh mane – My Midi Is A Mess
Siafu – Slunk Dub (Neville Watson Remix)
Felix Dickinson – Ousana
Matthew Styles – Freestanding Machete
Savane – Afterburner
Art of Tones – My Love (Miami Dub)
Christophe FT. Danielle Moore – Comeback (Christophe& Lukas mastermix)
Shaun J. Wright & Alinka – Come Together
Paolo Rocco – Move Body, Move Forward
Last Waltz – Trinkets (Bad Passion Remix)
Andre Lodermann – Coming Your Way
Guy Andrews – 7am

The event is invite only but we have a number of pairs of tickets to give away – click here to find out how you can get hold of a pair.

Ah, tis the season to be festive!

Which is why we’re gearing up to throw a serious party on 12th December in collaboration with Blood Brother Clothing, Defected Records and Pistonhead Lager.

This collaboration is the first in a planned series of events showcasing emerging artists across London, and will feature DFTD artists including Andre Lodemann, Sonny Fodera, Jamie Blanco and Simon Morell.

With the creative chaps at Blood Brother bringing the production and Pistonhead supplying the festive beverages, it promises to be a party to remember.

To enter, just answer this simple question below:

What day of the week is December 12th this year?

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The latest issue of Clash Magazine is available to purchase online – click HERE for details.

Laurel Halo’s evolution as producer has grown from her improvisations with hardware as a live performer and persistent genre experimentation, resulting in music of constant flux.

The disengaged vocals, which peppered her last release, are gone. Instead, the stark sinister energies of Detroit and Berlin techno are channelled into vigorous voids, intentionally devoid of warmth.

Amidst the austerity there are grooves and danceable tunes such as the title-track (below) and ‘Melt’, which has a beautiful breathy woodwind up front, skipping over a clattering, metallic base.

‘Chance Of Rain’ an album of dichotomies, both cerebral and heartfelt and as concerned with melody as it is system manipulation. Deranged and balefully bleak.

8/10

Words: Anna Wilson

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The new issue of Clash magazine, featuring M.I.A., is out now and looks like this.

Listen to ‘Chance Of Rain’ in full via Deezer, below…

With Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg comparing this covers album to “leafing through a scrapbook” of touring experiences, you’d expect it to be a nostalgic, emotive offering.

But despite lending his rich, soulful vocals to an eclectic collection of tracks, including versions of songs originally by Coldplay and Wye Oak, the streamlined, country-tinged production waters the songs down.

Although David Thomas Broughton’s ‘Ambiguity’ is beautifully intimate, the urgency of Xiu Xiu’s ‘I Luv The Valley Oh’ (video below) and quiet/loud dynamics of St. Vincent’s ‘Cheerleader’ get lost in sweeping guitar riffs.

The fact that it makes you want to listen to the originals suggests Meiburg has more of a connection with his own innovative tracks.

6/10

Words: James Evans

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The new issue of Clash magazine is out now and looks like this

Listen to ‘Fellow Travelers’ in full via Deezer, below…

And why the Dickens not? Twenty-eight years in, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, otherwise known as Erasure, decide it’s time to throw their Santa hats into the ring and record a Christmas album.

Alongside studied new versions of standards like the ever-haunting ‘Bleak Midwinter’ and ‘Silent Night’, the pair offers up some new tracks that rank among the best things they’ve delivered in the last decade.

‘Loving Man’ finds them in emphatic high-energy mode, while opener ‘Bells Of Love’ (listen below) has all the trademark emotional peaks and troughs of the classic Erasure ballad.

Get some eggnog inside you and give this enduring pair a little respect.

8/10

Words: Mat Smith

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The new issue of Clash magazine is out now. Head here for all the information

Listen to ‘Snow Globe’ in full via Deezer, below…

Even amongst the Scandinavian nations, Finland stands apart.

It's proximity to Russia – the USSR was for decades their main trading partner – the temperature, the style of government: all these things tend to make the Finns a law unto themselves.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi is a case in point. Already a cult figure in Finland, the songwriter matches dark, intense songwriting to a taste for pastoral sounds dominated by degraded, neo-psychedelic electronics.

New EP 'Dreamzone' drops on December 2nd via Domino offshoot Weird World. Lead track 'No End' is online now, writhing in dub-driven magnificence.

The clip for 'No End' was shot in the Scottish Highlands, with director Harley Weir returning to the landscape he enjoyed as a childlike. This is far from idyllic, though: the Lynchian like melodrama has a sinister undertone.

Watch it now.

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'Dreamzone' is set to be released on December 2nd.

The latest issue of Clash Magazine is available to purchase online – click HERE for details.

N-Dubz' Dappy has been kicked in the face by a horse.

It's Friday afternoon, and – we admit – there's not a lot of news in the world. Check out the BBC or CNN: if it's not crowds of marauding shoppers on Black Friday then they simply don't want to know.

So here's our mane story of the afternoon. Whilst venturing across a field in Hertfordshire, N-Dubz' Dappy has been kicked in the face by a horse.

The stylish urban star – some would say a clothes horse – was riding the animal at his home when the animal threw him to the ground.

Wait up! Dappy owns a home in Hertfordshire? He's a dark horse…

A spokesperson for the rapper told The Mirror: "I can confirm that my client was involved in a horse riding accident at home where he fell from his horse and was subsequently kicked in the face."

He added: "Dappy was rushed to hospital where he received medical treatment and is now recovering." (via NME)

He's neigh luck. Is this news? Well, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Some would say that we're flogging a dead horse, here, but y'know…

Horses for courses.

The latest issue of Clash Magazine is available to purchase online – click HERE for details.

It literally began in the streets.

Finding themselves short of cash, a group of young musicians in the North of England took to busking as a means of earning some spare pennies. Bonds were developed, technique honed – and soon Glass Caves became a reality.

Spending summer on the road, Glass Caves quickly became a word of mouth phenomenon. Each song seemed to be carefully honed, with the band's craftman-ship allowing them to gradually sand down rough edges, refining their voice on their travels.

BBC Introducing thrust them onto the Radio 1 playlist, before Glass Caves went back into the studio to record a new EP.

'Summer Lover' will be released on December 9th, with Tri-Tone / PIASUK stepping in to support the band. Four tales of growing up on an ordinary street in an ordinary town, the results are typically universal. 

Our final Track of the Day of the week, though, is a little more personal. 'Throw Down The Pistol' is buoyed by a jaunty chorus, with that percussive click ticking along underneath some jagged guitars. 

The lyrics, though, cut a little deeper. Glass Caves detail the pains of family alcoholism, of watching someone descend into an illness that even the sufferer can't quite comprehend.

Listen to it below.

'Summer Lover' is set to be released on December 9th.

The latest issue of Clash Magazine is available to purchase online – click HERE for details.