Cardiff's Estrons have shared biting new single 'Strobe Lights'.

The group's urgent rise has been bolstered by some fiery live shows, displaying a taut sense of energy.

New cut 'Strobe Lights' is skeletal post-punk draped in black, yet given a very 21st century update.

Emerging from Cardiff's intensely creative DIY scene, Estrons continuing push themselves harder and harder.

Singer Taliesyn Källström explains: “‘Strobe Lights’ is about the competition between love and jealousy – and the fallout when one defeats the other… We sometimes do crazy things to test our love for one another, no matter how nihilistic”.

Tune in now.

Estrons join Honeyblood at the following shows:

May
2 Exeter Phoenix (w/ Honeyblood)
3 Brighton The Haunt (w/ Honeyblood)
4 Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (w/ Honeyblood)
6 Wigan Museum of Wigan Life (w/ Honeyblood)
19 Brighton The Great Escape Festival
27 Liverpool Sound City

June
16 London KOKO (w/ Honeyblood)

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Oneman has launched a new event and radio series named Onedance.

The South London selector aims to bring together his roots in club culture, as well as acknowledging the fresh sounds that are emanating from the capital.

"ONEDANCE is a coming-together and celebration of my experiences of the UK underground in the past 15 years”, explains Oneman. “It’ll trace the routes of Garage, Grime, Jungle, Dubstep, Funky and more, finding common threads between the scenes and the cultures. Blending genres is something I’ve been known for in the past, so with ONEDANCE I wanted to join the dots between these different strains of UK underground music that have been so important — and present them as one."

Oneman is set to host a series of events at top fashion brand Patta's Soho store, with each night set to be broadcast live on Rinse FM.

To get things started Oneman has pieced together a mission statement mix – welcome Onedance into your lives…

Onedance dates:

May 11 | ONEDANCE x Rinse x Patta Oneman / Donaeo / DJ Q / Prez T / Loefah
RSVP here: rinse.fm/onedance

May 28 | ONEDANCE x XOYO Oneman / MJ Cole / DJ Zinc / Spooky b2b Logan Sama / Madam X b2b Barely Legal / Patta Soundsystem / + Special Guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/Onedance-XOYO

For tickets to the latest Oneman shows click HERE.

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Things you hope you’ll get from a new Steps album in 2017:

1. A title with a terrible pun on the name Steps
2. Um…

Having apparently failed at the first hurdle, we’re then forced to confront the question of what we want from the first album of original material in 17 years by the pop quintet. Frequently derided in their commercial heyday, Steps nonetheless had a long run of consecutive hit singles and have had three chart-topping albums (okay, two of them were greatest hits compilations, but let’s not split hairs).

The most successful comeback from a 1990s pop band is obviously Take That’s, but that’s not really a template Steps can follow. Pop paradigms can be fairly rigid, and while boy bands can grow into sensitive man bands, the same can’t be said for a mixed gender group who were always more about out-and-out pop tunes. Plus, no-one wants brooding, insular ballads from Steps, a statement that holds particularly true for those of us who still bear the emotional scars from being subjected to their losing-your-virginity confessional, ‘Experienced’, nearly 20 years ago.

Similarly, trying to keep pace with current trends would be just as embarrassing. Four fifths of Steps are in their forties now, and while that shouldn’t theoretically matter, the thought of them attempting to duet with Drake or incorporating a guest verse from Migos is utterly cringeworthy.

So does that leave Steps pigeonholed into attempts to repeat the formula of their biggest hits, which were, let’s not forget, a whole generation in the past? Well, yes and no. Somehow they pull of the trick of being unmistakably Steps while conjuring a feeling of welcome nostalgia rather than sounding naff and dated. In short, ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ is packed to the rafters with absolute bangers. Opener ‘Scared Of The Dark’ sets the mood with a thudding four-to-the-floor beat, replete with a bass drum that reassuringly whumps like a sledgehammer, and a killer chorus. And then it just goes on like that… and on… for ten tracks.

And the best thing is that it’s tremendous fun. Steps are under no illusions or pretensions and, at this point in their career, they’ve probably made the best album they could make. Sure, it’s got “drunken office Christmas party” written all over it, and it’s probably aimed at a fanbase who now spend a disproportionate amount of their time worrying about primary school catchment areas, but the hooks are so strong and the melodies so joyous that it’s a welcome reminder that there’s always time to switch off.

Like Pet Shop Boys and arguably Saint Etienne before them, Steps have shown that there is a direction for dancefloor-oriented bands to go once they’re deemed too old for Radio 1. They’re continuing a fine disco tradition and, at this point in time, are probably the closest thing we have to ABBA. ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ doesn’t rewrite any rules, it doesn’t make you think and it doesn’t address the current state of the world. But sometimes, none of that matters. Now if we could just get an awful play on words into the name of the LP, it truly would be mission accomplished.

7/10

Words: Joe Rivers

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Ben Howard has launched his own label, with A Blaze Of Feather revealed as the first signings.

The move has been in the works for some time, with Ben himself tweeted cryptic clues as to the identity of the band.

The group are in fact led by the songwriter's close friend Mickey Smith, sharing the same six-piece ensemble that broadens Ben's own songwriting.

New release 'EP1' drops on May 5th via Ben Howard's new Hell Up Records imprint, with new cut 'Carousel' leading the way.

Catch A Blaze Of Feather at Citadel Festival, London on July 16th.

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Phoenix has confirmed details of new album 'Ti Amo'.

The band broke cover recently, giving an interview to the New York Times in which they accidentally-on-purpose revealed plans for their next album.

Well, it's all true. 'Ti Amo' will be released on June 9th, and the shimmering, explosive pop of lead cut 'J-Boy' is online now.

Tune in below.

But wait: Phoenix are also heading out on tour, with European dates set to include a jaunt at Worthy Farm on behalf of Glastonbury.

Later in the year the French group will return, with Phoenix set to play Alexandra Palace on September 30th. Tickets are on sale now, but best be quick…

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Kele Okereke has released solo track 'Yemaya' – check it out now.

The Bloc Party frontman announce a flurry of intimate solo shows, due to kick off next month.

The British artist has released two solo records in the past, but new cut 'Yemaya' seems to indicate a nimble sideways step.

Online now, there's a sense of frailty at work here, and it's markedly different from previous work.

Kele explains: “In the west African Yoruba religion, Yemaya is the mother goddess of the ocean, she is kinda the patron saint of pregnant women and fertility”.

“According to myth, when her waters broke, it caused a great flood creating rivers and streams and the first mortal humans were created from her womb. When I knew we were having a baby she started to be appear in my thoughts and dreams a fair bit.”

Tune in now.

Kele Okereke is set to play London venue St. Pancras Church on May 22nd.

For tickets to the latest Kele Okereke shows click HERE.

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Laurel has always loved music. It’s been a fixture of her life since childhood, when she bought her first CD – a single by Lionel Ritchie, no less. Sure, it’s not exactly the coolest purchase in the world, it sums up her sheer, dogged, love of a great song.

“I remember I used to just put it on my CD player, laying in my room singing it on repeat for hours!” she laughs. “That’s probably the first musical memory that I can think of.”

Enraptured, music took a greater and greater hold on her life, until she was left with a stark choice. Finishing college, she choose to forego university and leave her south coast home town for the bright lights of London.

“I literally turned 18 and moved up a week after,” she tells Clash. “I had never lived on my own before, and I didn’t know anybody. A lot of people make friends through their workplace, but I didn’t know anyone. So it took me a while to find my feet and find my place in London.”

“I think I’ve always been quite independent, and that time when I first moved to London is probably why I’ve done all my own production myself. It’s because I really just didn’t have anything else to do! So I would just sit for the whole weekend writing music, figuring out how to play instruments.”

Quietly blossoming in the capital, Laurel moved through several different phases, continually accepting and then rejecting new ideas. “I think at the time I knew what music I wanted to make, but that music sounds different to what I want to make now,” she explains. “It’s only in the last two years that I have found the Laurel that is, I think, the right Laurel.”

It’s a sparse yet indulgent sound, one that promotes a certain intimacy while still evading standard songwriter tropes. A short burst of singles led to a deal with Counter Records, and last year’s enthralling EP ‘Park’.

“I thought they all had the same sort of tone – they’re quite organic sounding, the sound is all sat in the same sort of boat, and they all show a different side to me,” she says. “I just saw them all as one, together. So we released it, and it’s a story of events in my life in the order that it happened.”

“It’s pretty natural to me,” she continues. “I write a lot. A write a lot of songs. It’s weird. I don’t know – this is what comes out most naturally, I guess. Before I was trying to make it sound like a certain kind of music but when I sit down and write a song this is what comes out most naturally. I never really think too heavily about what I’m actually trying to create. It just kind of happens.”

Currently working on her debut album, Laurel also has a number of live shows to take care of – including a show at London’s historic, atmospheric St Pancras Church. “It’s just me at the moment,” she says. “It’s my favourite thing in the world – it’s just me, my guitar, and an amp. I have a pedal, and that’s it.”

“I think I’m going to maybe get a band together soon but the response has been great – it really shows the intimacy in the music, which is what I think my music is about the most. We’ll see. It’s not easy, though – I’m a one man band!”

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Catch Laurel at Live At Leeds on April 29th.

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The War On Drugs have announced a series of live shows – including a date at Alexandra Palace.

The band released new cut 'Thinking Of A Place' as a limited edition Record Store Day treat for fans, the first sign of where their fourth album could lead.

Placed online, you can now stream it via the site of your choosing – choose Clash, and choose this YouTube embed.

In yet more exciting news The War On Drugs have announced a flurry of live shows, including a show at London's Alexandra Palace.

Taking place on November 12th, tickets go on general sale from 10am on May 12th.

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Chris Clark has been unleashing barrages of twisted, noisy techno on the world for nearly two decades, primarily via cult UK label Warp Records. On his latest album, ‘Death Peak’, he coaxes the listener in using saccharine, enticing melodies – in his words, “the fun bit” – before building to a stormy crescendo and finally, a haunting melancholia.

“The start of the album is actually quite friendly and familiar,” he tells me over a cup of tea at Warp’s north London HQ. “It’s like ‘ooh this is quite friendly, borderline pop, quite mellow, not that taxing…’ But it was really important for me to have it as this gentle ascent that becomes really gnarly at the end. Because ‘Un U.K.’, I don’t wanna sound too OTT, but I just don’t think it’s been achieved before in music. There’s nothing like it structurally. It’s got elements of familiar forms but the structure of it is really new.”

This is certainly an album that takes the listener on a head trip – a journey described in the press release as being from butterfly filled meadows up to a ‘fearsome mountain peak, surveying a shattered landscape below’.

“I’ve always wanted to tell stories more than just expose technical aspects of electronic music,” he explains. “I still find it quite appealing at the end, I don’t want it to be full-on, repulsive shock, it’s got to have some softness or emotional coherence.”

The idea that the album is made up of contrasting parts is not just conceptual, though, it partly reflects the fact that it was recorded on both sides of the globe. “I made half of it in Australia and finished it in the UK in December – I finished ‘Hoova’ on Christmas day at my mum’s.”

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It’s got to have some softness or emotional coherence.

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His previous, self-titled album was made in a very remote, rural setting, and I wonder what kind of impact location had this time around? “It’s such a cliché, like, artist goes off into the wilderness. The fun part was Melbourne basically. It was fucking ecstatic; waking up at four in the morning while my girlfriend was asleep and literally dancing around the kitchen like ‘fuck sake this is amazing!’ – just overwhelmed with excitement.”

And the UK half? “It was basically UKIP-land – Lincoln. [Coming back] was like this weird way of holding onto this element of UK rave heritage. ‘Cause as great as Melbourne is, there’s not that much of that there.”

So if the first part was fun to make, does that mean the second part wasn’t? “The rest of it’s… not hard – I dislike this idea of it being frustrating – it’s difficult, though. It’s always difficult finishing an album. I think if it’s not difficult you’re doing something wrong and I think if it’s frustrating you’re also doing something wrong. It just takes time to filter things down and make those decisions. It’s more what you leave off, you know. There was this ravey banger at the end that, after ‘Living Fantasy’, was just like eh what, why is that there?

“There’s always material that falls away. It’s just getting that time on an album right – you can spend too long. I could have extended the deadline and it might have been a bit more finessed but you lose something in that as well, you lose that rush of adrenaline, of having to finish it, it just brings something to it. In the same way in the studio in the old days when you’d record something to tape you have to get it in that set amount of time. You can give yourself longer but you do lose something. It’s good just to close a chapter.”

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For his previous album he switched from using Logic to Ableton, a piece of software which he stuck with this time around. “Ableton, and then I sequenced a lot on tape, weirdly. I know that sounds fucking ridiculous in this day and age but I spliced some sections together on tape. I just love that idea of reduced form, and having the limit of 20 minutes to record a jam, pick the best bits, and that’s a track. If you can’t make music on cheap tools I don’t think you should be writing music.”

“It’s ridiculous, the reliance on expensive tools – it’s the opposite of punk rock, in a way, and I don’t think it makes people push themselves musically. It should start in your head – in your imagination.”

Clark’s music is certainly imaginative. On ‘Catastrophe Anthem’, he deploys a choir of children to chant “we are your ancestors”, a line that echoes over the track as an eerie mantra. “The idea was they’re singing to AI, basically, that they’re simulations. It’s the Matrix idea embellished and made into this intellectual, rational argument: that there’s a one in three chance that we’re living in a simulation. I love it ‘cause it’s not this kind of wishy-washy psychobabble – oh is that a glitch in the Matrix? – it’s this really concrete and logical argument that there’s a one in three chance we are.

“So I love this creepy idea that they’re actually simulations singing to the AI creator. I didn’t tell [the choir] that though! [laughs]. It was sort of awkward enough as it was. It was quite hard to get them to sing in tune.”

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If you can’t make music on cheap tools I don’t think you should be writing music.

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In less experienced, less self-aware hands there would be a danger of this high concept approach metastasising into melodrama, but fortunately Clark has a keen sense of humour. “I find vocals quite hilarious on some level, especially when I use my own voice. I started getting quite confident with it, if I just let go of the idea that I’m a singer or something, ‘cause I’m not, but I still just find the texture of it really inviting.”

And while he acknowledges that using choirs might be a cliché – something bands do when they’ve taken too many drugs, he says – he wanted to try it anyway. “The idea of censoring ridiculous ideas – I’m allergic to that, I’m really allergic. And I think people are far too cautious. Give it a try. I’m not heartbroken if things don’t work; I’ve got a thick skin. And it’s really exciting when it does work, that’s the win of that situation – when you pull it off.

“I mean there’s this thing in dance music where it’s just like who would’ve thought, meat and potatoes, they go together. It’s just so prescriptive; you’ve got this microwave fucking plate of food and there’s your meat, there’s your veg, there’s your pudding. It just bores me to tears.”

Is his confidence something that’s developed over time, Clash asks? “I think I’ve just started appreciating that people listen, and let go of that sort of angsty thing. If someone doesn’t like your music, fair enough, you know – it’s fine. I’m not gonna get a bruised ego about that kind of thing, it’s ridiculous. I mean the fact that people are even listening and I’ve got this really organically developed fanbase is really amazing.

“I feel like I haven’t had to compromise, I’ve just followed my instincts, and that’s really rewarding. I’ve just got nothing to complain about. I’m having a really fun time and I guess that gives you some sort of confidence.”

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I feel like I haven’t had to compromise, I’ve just followed my instincts…

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Recently, his instincts resulted in him producing the score for The Last Panthers, a TV series about the Pink Panther jewel thieves. It happened, he jokes, following “bribes and blackmail and Warp manipulating it”.

But it’s a medium that gives him the chance to explore alternative avenues creatively, he tells me. “One of my tricks is to build these really horrendous noise pieces, where there’s no melody and there’s no rhythm, but if you just have that dead quiet under the picture, so it’s barely audible, there’s just that tension. Ostensibly it isn’t there, but you just sort of suggest it. So you can do these really wild tracks for film that you wouldn’t necessarily put on an album. It’s just another outlet.”

Whatever the project, though, you can be sure that he won’t be abandoning his experiments in head-pummelling instrumentation any time soon. “I’ve been thinking about [drumming] again recently, but there’s something quite limited about drum kits. I just love drum machines. They always pull me back in – like the mafia.”

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'Death Peak' is out now on Warp Records.

Words: Alex McFadyen

For tickets to the latest Clark shows click HERE.

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The live experience sits at the core of modern music. It’s a way for fans to get close to the artists they love, and it’s a way for those artists to let their music breathe, to take it beyond the confines of the studio.

Each week – each night, even – vital shows are taking place across the country, ranging from arena tours all the way down to intimate, pop-up venues in some surprising corners.

Clash is able to launch a new monthly column rounding up some of the finest shows from across the land, and we’re delighted to be able to team up with Skiddle in the process.

Here’s the hottest shows for the coming four weeks.

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The Parrots – Sneaky Petes, Edinburgh (May 3rd)
Madrid garage rock types The Parrots are cult heroes in their home city, and the band’s sun-fried rock ‘n’ roll is heading to a town near you. The Heavenly Recordings aligned outfit are a superb live group, with the sheer zest and fun of each performance taking their unhinged garage rock to fresh levels of lunacy.

Shooting across the country, we’ve picked out this show at Edinburgh’s Sneaky Petes venue – intimate yet highly creative (it was a former Art School Union, after all) it’s the perfect place to catch The Parrots up close. (TICKETS)

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Big Daddy Kane – The Fleece, Bristol (May 8th)
Bristol has developed a prolonged love affair with hip-hop, and it informs a huge swathe of the city’s youth culture – from Bansky to Massive Attack, all the way through to 21st century rebel MCs.

Brooklyn’s Big Daddy Kane touches down in Bristol on May 8th, a figure who came of age in the twilight of hip-hop’s Golden Age but has kept the faith ever since.

Drawing on a superbly creative back catalogue, Big Daddy Kane points to the future while drawing on the glories of the past. (TICKETS)

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Transformer – Swans, The Fall, and more – Victoria Warehouse, Manchester (May 28th)
Transformer is a new series of shows in Manchester, and its name is a homage to the Lou Reed classic. Setting their sights high, this instalment would no doubt draw a smile to the curmudgeonly Velvet Underground songwriting, a cross-section of underground rock music almost without peer.

Swans headline, and this will be one of the final performances from this iteration of the group. The Fall are Manchester legends, while the line up also makes way for Royal Trux, Loop, Suuns, Little Annie, and more. An all-day affair, Victoria Warehouse seem to have hit upon something rather special indeed. (TICKETS)

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10 Years Of Outlook Festival – Ministry Of Sound, London (May 6th)
When Outlook Festival started Croatia felt slightly off the beaten trail, with tourists yet to fully explore the cultural delights of the Central European nation. Fast forward ten years and Outlook has sparked a festival revolution, with Croatia becoming the de facto home-from-home for a generation of British clubbers.

This anniversary bash takes control of Ministry Of Sound, and features everyone from Roots Manuva to Bugzy Malone, Foreign Beggars to Foundation. (TICKETS)

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System & Set One Twenty Warehouse Party – Mint Warehouse, Leeds (May 28th)
Leeds has one of the country’s most advanced club scenes, with the city’s nightlife drawing onlookers from across the UK.

Mint Warehouse is set to be the scene of a superb all-day and all-night party on May 28th, with techno icon Ricardo Villalobos returning to Leeds for a rare, and extremely special, set. Boiler Room control the second room, while the outdoor terrace is powered by a Funktion One system – yep, they really care for the quality of sound at these events. (TICKETS)

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Roman Flugel All Night Long – Hidden, Manchester (May 12th)
Manchester’s Hidden is one of the country’s most under-rated clubs, a spot that always makes way for cutting edge music in a controlled yet lively environment.

Roman Flugel stops past on May 12th, taking part in one of the club’s regular All Night Long sessions. It does exactly as it says on the poster: Roman Flugel digging into his record bag over the entire evening, dictating the pace and reaching into the furthest corners of his collection. Essential, in other words. (TICKETS)

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Let It Bleeds Presents Julio Bashmore – Unit 51, Aberdeen (May 27th)
Julio Bashmore could only come from Bristol. Fusing classic house shapes with stunning low-end, ‘Battle For Middle You’ changed the game on its release and the producer has never looked back.

Rubbing shoulders with the pop elite on his own terms, Julio Bashmore still spins a mean set – and the continuing rave-slaying popularity of ‘Au Seve’ testifies to that. Touching down in Scotland, things could get wild at Aberdeen’s Unit 51. Highly recommended. (TICKETS)

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Grab the hottest tickets on Skiddle – HERE.

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