Reports are coming in that hugely influential producer SOPHIE has died.

The electronic musician has produced some truly peerless work, operating in a field of their own.

Sought after by some of the biggest names in 21st century music, SOPHIE also became a trans icon, a genuinely groundbreaking creative visionary.

Record label PAN was amongst the first to suggest SOPHIE had passed, tweeting their respects in the early hours of January 30th.

This was then followed by a number of tributes, amplifying the speculation around the electronic musician.

A number of SOPHIE's close friends have also paid their respects, with artists such as Christine and the Queens expressing their sorrow.

Mixmag reports that SOPHIE died in a "sudden accident" while staying in Athens. A full statement from SOPHIE's team can be found below:

"It is with profound sadness that I have to inform you that musician and producer SOPHIE passed away this morning around 4am in Athens, where the artist had been living, following a sudden accident. At this time respect and privacy for the family is our priority. We would also ask for respect for her fanbase, and to treat the private nature of this news with sensitivity."

"SOPHIE was a pioneer of a new sound, one of the most influential artists in the last decade. Not only for ingenious production and creativity but also for the message and visibility that was achieved. An icon of liberation."

Truly devastating news. Clash will be publishing a full tribute to SOPHIE's life and work in due course.

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Valley Maker has shared new single 'Instrument' – tune in now.

The South Carolina songwriter produces work of incredible richness and nuance, matching indie rock tropes to elements of Americana.

New album 'When The Day Leaves' is out on February 19th, and his new single 'Instrument' gives an indication of the riches in waiting.

Recalling Conor Oberst's earlier work or even aspects of Elliot Smith, it's a rainy rumination that carries within it a spark of optimism.

A song about suffering and renewal, 'Instrument' is a tender portrait of perseverance, an ode to carrying on.

He comments…

"I wrote 'Instrument' as a meditation on the challenges of persevering, of loving the world and other people, and of maintaining a hopeful vision for the future in these times we're living through."

"The uncertain future of our planet, with climate change and related natural disasters, always feels very present for me in these considerations. So the song and video reflect both upon anxieties and affections for our world; they explore what it means to remain a part of it all, to carry on amidst human and elemental uncertainty."

Tune in now.

Photo Credit: Bree Burchfield

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If Chip’s pen game was ever under dispute before this album, I think it will be difficult to not have him as one of the top MCs after listening to his latest album ‘Snakes & Ladders’. Throughout the album, Chip doesn’t hold back in letting listener knows exactly what he thinks of some artists within the industry, and although he doesn’t share names it’s not difficult to imagine who he might be speaking about considering the recent exchange of words between Stormzy and Chip. 

The suspenseful build for the opening track ‘No Goat’ immediately grabs your attention all the way until Chip’s opening verse, where the momentum of the track is carried by the up-tempo offbeat kicks, snares and piecing bassline. One of the stands out tracks of the album is ‘Allow It’, where the stripped-back production and timely trap kicks drums give Chips lyrics more vigour.

Chip’s ability to seamlessly ride on more dance style genres like Afrobeats and Dancehall with the right cadence stands out for tracks like, ‘See Through’ and ‘Top Shelf’, featuring Kida Kudz and Tiwa Savage respectively. Its a shame clubs aren’t open because ‘Ignite’, featuring grime pioneers Dizzee Rascal and JME would be one to shutdown any club. The pumping horns and aggressive flow from all three artists make the track feel more special and authentic.

Chip’s link up with Bugzy Malone for the garage track, ‘Grown Flex’ came at a surprise considering the beef the pair had years back when they were coming up in the scene but their first collaboration together seemed to work well and gave the track a different dynamic with Bugzy’s deep, husky voice.

With Chip’s debut studio release going back to 2009, Chip perhaps wanted to remind fans of his lyrical pedigree across different tempos, and in a style which is more reflective of him – direct, with no filter. Something he wasn’t able to do as a signed artist, but can easily accomplish as an independent artist, Chip seems to have carried that combative rapping style he displayed in recent collaborative album, ‘Insomnia’, to this album.

Chip’s most convincing album to date, 'Snakes & Ladders' truly reflects gifted artist we saw burst on to the scene in 2009.

9/10

Words: Kofi Yeboah-Mensah

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London group Monsoon Radio return with new single 'So It Seems'.

The band formed a few years back, and honed their craft with a flurry of shows around the metropolis.

New single 'So It Seems' finds the project coming into its own, with the biting riffs and searing songwriting speaking for themselves.

A kind of mini-manifesto, it taps into the easy-going chemistry that makes this group of friends tick.

Monsoon Radio comment…

"'So It Seems' was the first song that was written entirely together as a band, combining each of our creative influences to define the Monsoon Radio sound…"

Tune in now.

Photo Credit: Valentin Rebours

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KHOUBA returns with new single 'Hallelujah'.

The Parisian rapper showcases another side to the French city, one in which immigrant communities nestle side by side.

As a result, his sound is a mixture of many different aspects, soaking up afro-bashment, trap, and more.

New single 'Hallelujah' is out now, and it finds KHOUBA upping the ante once more.

A punchy, super-addictive track, the rapper rolls with the punches, a blast of non-stop energy.

He comments…

"It's an introspective but also motivational track. It shows my hunger and motivation to make it in the Rap Game. It also shows my skills as I was able to hop on the Drill Genre and add my touch to it."

Tune in now.

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Joey Maxwell has shared his new single 'Leaves Blow Over'.

The London based songwriter has been stuck in the city for the past 12 months, with the pandemic causing him to hunker down.

Our Next Wave favourite is putting his time to good use, however, constructing a host of brand new songs.

Done and dusted in 1.5 minutes, his new 90 second single 'Leaves Blow Over' is an ode to escapism.

Alt-R&B meets indie pop in a neat melodic frame, it's a neat excuse to switch off, if only for (literally) a minute.

Says Joey: “‘leaves blow over’ is about just dipping out, it’s kinda short’n’sweet, like a daydream. The song lets me stretch my lyrical limbs out and I get to play on some of the imagery that comes into my head throughout, a stream of consciousness in that sense. I love short songs and what it lacks in size I think it makes up for in stature.”

Alongside this, Joey Maxwell has also launched a YouTube TV show called Try Not To Deep It – Episode One features Finn Askew and you can check it out HERE.

Check out 'Leaves Blow Over' below.

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Montreal based composer Ouri has shared a harp-driven take on her song 'Shape Of It'.

An extraordinary talent, Ouri was born in France, before moving to North America to chase her dream of becoming a composer.

Settling in Montreal, she was drawn into the city's nexus of DIY communities, finding these offered the chance of personal enlightenment.

Under-stated new song 'Shape Of It' was composed at the tail end of 2020, its release amplifying her penchant for immediacy.

Dominated by those spectral plucked harp notes, the ethereal performance seems to rise upwards to the heaven.

A song about the search for connection, 'Shape Of It' comes backed with an engrossing new video, one that neatly reflects these lyrical themes.

Tune in now.

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Chløë Black has a habit of popping up in our lives.

Everything the Australian born pop rebel scorches a path across the internet, bubbling alt-pop nuggets that sketch out a diagram of her soul.

With breakout single 'No Regrettes' earning an international audience, the Paris based force placed her single 'Sacrifice' on the colossal FIFA 2021 soundtrack.

New single 'Title Track' is a real affirmation, a brooding piece of melancholic melody that smothers you in beauty.

Dominated by that delicious vocal, 'Title Track' exudes class, charm, and charisma, projecting Chløë Black into a league of her own.

The video is online now, a lush, glamorous affair packed with neo-psychedelic effects.

Tune in now.

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York alt-rock risers Bull will release debut album 'Discover Effortless Living' on March 26th.

The band earned a blaze of hype through 2020, releasing a string of vital tracks.

Heading into the studio, debut full length 'Discover Effortless Living' is their biggest challenge to date.

Out on March 26th, it's teased by punchy new single 'Eugene', a song about a general dissatisfaction not just with life, but yourself.

"I wrote the song 'Eugene' when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing," Tom (guitar/vocals) explains. "It's kind of a self-hate song, you know when people talk about self-love? It's not that. I'm slating myself; it moves through the key changes and different moods, and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!"

A biting rock song, 'Eugene' comes equipped with clay-mation visuals reminiscent of early Wallace and Gromit or even Morph.

Tune in now.

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After weathering an anxious storm of anticipation, Zara Larsson’s reign of sporadic singles is over.

The 23-year-old Swedish singer has returned renewed and ready to share her obsession over escapist pop, progress on her secretive sophomore album, and an obscenely cheesy love story.

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Zara Larsson is on the cusp of one of her biggest career releases, but right now, she’s wrapped up, in Stockholm, on her bed wearing oversized cream sweats. Set up in a dark, wide sweeping room, the acclaimed artist confesses she hates video calls because she can never get them right. When I ask her how she’s doing she laughs, replying “not many people have asked me that recently, but I’m doing okay”.

Still, the pop star has made do with a bad situation; unable to tour and having faced multiple push backs on her second record, she’s been living with her sister to search for some rhythm of normality and herself. “There's definitely one part where I just hate the uncertainty around everything, but I have been really lucky,” she tells me. “This summer was one of the best summers of my life – I felt like I was a kid again. I usually work on summers, festival summers are sick, but now, with Corona, it was lowkey. It was like let’s go for a picnic or go swimming, and it was nice, it felt like I was fifteen again.

After unwinding across the summer, the singer found herself faced with the uncertainties of an unfixed schedule and with much more time on her hands. In that freedom, Zara has found her port of calm in all of the chaos – by reminiscing over hometown pop icons. “I've really been inspired by Swedish pop legends like ABBA, Roxette, Robyn – I’ve definitely been proud of my pop heritage,” she smiles. “One thing I realised is that, for me, pop has always been a form of escapism. Now we got Tik Tok, we got Instagram, and algorithms that sucks you in and take you away from reality, but, growing up, pop was my form of escapism and it always has been. I would look in the mirror and pretend I was somewhere else, that I was someone else. I think it's very tied to me wanting to entertain people.”

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In taking lessons from the Stockholm greats, Zara also learned to be more transparent with herself. “I feel a bit more honest. I feel I can resonate more with emotions and it’s mostly about love there. ‘Poster Girl’ – my album – is about what I want to do, what I want to talk about, and I always talk about love, because I feel that’s the most important feeling in the whole world,” she nods. I feel I have way more control creatively over this album, so I allowed it to be way more pop and dancey, because I fucking love pop. It's still the same old me, but I've just taken myself a notch up. If you liked ‘So Good’, I think you will like this album a lot. It's way more fun and if it helps people through these times then I think that is what’s really important.”

Continuing to persevere with her anthemic pop vision, the young artist admits she has grown with this record from a young girl to a woman. “I’m always in development mode. I don't think I'll ever be like, 'this is the new me' or, 'I'm a whole new person'. I'm never going to be a finished version of myself – it’s an ongoing process,” she explains.

“This pandemic forced me to realise I don't sit down and reflect on myself. I occupy my mind with things, because I'm scared of being lonely or overthinking. Right now, I'm talking to you on the phone, but I have a shopping site up behind me and my TV on in the background. If I wasn't talking to you, I would have a podcast on. I stuff my brain with so much information that it just never gets to breathe.”

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Taking time out to refocus has been crucial for the Swedish singer and part of that has been falling in love. “It's going to sound so cheesy, but I am so happy and in love. That is really what's gotten me through all this. I've never really felt love like this before. I don't know how to say this without being super corny, but I am just so in love. I'm like 'I want to have your babies', 'I want us to marry, I want it now' – it's insane!” she laughs. “Sometimes I think I can't be this lucky. I know, something bad is gonna happen to me really soon, because it's just not legal to feel this good.”

“You know, no one is strong by themselves and nobody is an island, especially in these times, and it’s really helped me. How are you supposed to be confident in yourself if you don't have people supporting and believing in you? I just don't think it's really possible. I’m just really grateful. I think it's so important to find your community, where people understand you and uplift you – it’s like finding your little tribe in a way.”

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Life lessons seems to have served the Swedish singer well as she’s poured her new, upbeat attitude into her highly anticipated sophomore record. Although, at times, the young artist has had to reckon with the realities of success and her own creative standpoint. “Honesty, sometimes I have a meltdown about what the fucking thread of this album is. I start questioning what I’m going to say, it’s purpose, or what I’m doing,” she sighs.

Mid-frustrated rant, Zara’s doorbell rings. Without hesitation, she picks up her phone, giving a humoured, brief tour of her house, glancing back at the screen as she continues her reply, pausing only to thank the delivery guy. “I overthink it so much. Then I'm like 'you know what, it's just a good fucking collection of pop songs that I love and it's not deeper than that. I really resonate with these songs, and when I hear them, I'm like 'play that shit again'. So, sometimes, I have to stop myself and say we're not going to Mars, we are just making a pop record!”

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Setting her phone down on the table, and her food also, the singer laughs, tosses the phrase “mukbang” out there before diving into her Munsell yellow Swedish soup. “I have really high expectations of everything I do, and I overthink it, which is why I've been pushing my album back quite a lot, because I wasn’t happy with it,” she tells me.

“I think my music will still resonate with people and it’s coming out very soon, but the pressure of this being my second album is quite high. I had such big success on my first album, and now it's been four years, which is a long time in the pop world. I’ve been trying not to think about it, because I know that it's a good ass album and I'm really proud of it. I can just do my best. I can't really do much more, really.”

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A quick glance away from the singer eating, reveals small ornaments and bookshelves dotted around the room. Clash asks the singer what led her to lead with the title track ‘Poster Girl’ and later give the album the same name. “In my teenage bedroom, I used to have so many posters up on the wall and they would all be like Beyonce,” she muses, thinking back. “But, in this version it’s me on the poster. It started off as a cool title track and then grew into something that made so much sense.”

“I think it’s a little nudge to the life I'm living, because I love pop and I love the glamour and the glitter and the show of it all. When I'm not on stage or having a press day, I walk around like this,” she gestures at her outfit and tied back hair. “It's not glamorous. I sit in my bed, I smoke my weed, I eat noodles, and that's the beauty of it, because it's both worlds. I could be a poster girl for pop and glitter and glamour, but I'm also a poster girl for just me being very normal, like everybody is.”

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Sitting there, dressed down, without makeup, and spooning away at her soup, it is possible to see the everyday Zara Larsson; the artist that wasn’t born on a stage, but one that rambles about her love life, her feelings, and wanting to do a good job with her music. Unaware of herself, the singer starts almost all her sentences with “to be honest” and it’s how she finishes her last too: “To be honest, I set myself up for failure like my therapist says. Since I was small, I’ve been like 'I'm going to be number one, or I'll just end my life' – no, I'm kidding!” she laughs, breaking seriousness.

“But I've always wanted to be recognised. I've always wanted to entertain, to make people feel good, and to be admired. Now, I’ve realised that it won’t bring you happiness. Instead, I am very happy with myself and just being me.

Now, almost post-pandemic, Zara Larsson has built something much bigger than a chart-topping record; she found solace in her creative sound.

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Zara Larsson's new album 'Poster Girl' will be released on March 5th.

Words: Zoya Raza-Sheikh
Photography: Luc Coiffait
Fashion: Kate Iorga

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

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