Astral Realm: An Alternative Roundup #19

Featuring jerry, Korby, Fabiana Palladino, Tariq Al-Sabir, Vanessa Bedoret, SuperJazzClub and more...

Deputy Editor Shahzaib Hussain navigates the cosmos of the newest, most essential alternative releases in this Astral Realm feature; a liminal space, and a guide to music emphasising experimentation and musical virtuosity. Each roundup features a Focus Artist interview, a Next Wave artist spotlight, and a curated selection of the month’s noteworthy releases.

Focus Artist: jerry

The Odd Future cohort – a revolving door of misfits, provocateurs, sensationalists and anarchists – occupy a mythic space in the consciousness of millennial listeners. At the heart of the cabal was Hodgy, who in a post-Odd Future, post-Tumblr landscape unveiled transitional projects and scrapbook EPs to muted acclaim.

Now, older, wiser and more hardened, he’s assumed a new moniker, jerry. Charting the next stage in his creative evolution, this iteration is anchored in the mosaic, tempered world of Toronto: a period of regeneration and reckoning documented on new album, ‘lovemesooner’. Released on Valentine’s Day, it’s a project that’s flown largely under the radar in a stacked first quarter, and deserves to be exalted. The 18-track odyssey is by turns downbeat, unobtrusive yet wide open. It’s enamoured with the entangled web of modern love, with jerry tracing the serpentine journey through unabashedly romantic, tragic and at times, painful terrains. It’s the kind of music that seeps into your bones, ripe with elliptical overtures made resonant through notes that linger.

In a typically terse exchange, it’s evident jerry is the same eccentric he’s always been. But this time, this guise is here to stay.

Would you call this next phase of your career a creative awakening? Is it a continuation of the experience you’ve accrued in your career as Hodgy, or does this feel like a shedding of skin?

I would say I began painting on a brand new canvas.  After I’m done with this canvas, I will begin sculpting a new memory. 

You teased this new iteration with the ‘piupiupiu’ EP last December. Was the ‘piuipiupiu’ a prelude outtake from ‘lovemesooner’ or created separately?

‘piuPiuPiu’ was ultimately a prelude to the next album, which is to be announced very soon…

Tell me why you settled on ‘lovemesooner’ as the title, and talk me through the menacing artwork rendered in greyscale?

That was the name that intuitively spoke to me first. It came to me during the making of the album, somewhere in the middle. For the artwork, I was looking for the maximum amount of information to give someone in one visual. It was personal for whom it belonged to.

Who were you listening to, what art were you consuming and inspired by? Equally what was happening in your personal life that informed the recording experience?

I would say experience is the only way that I find inspiration. It isn’t through listening to music or consuming art. I pursue my own gifts by not paying attention to the outside world, at all.

Photo Credit: Nadia Doss

You memorialised the track ‘facing the worst fears’ with a video of you on a ranch learning to how to ride a bull. It feels like a metaphor for relinquishing control…

When we first learn a task or a skill, we’re not going to be the best at it. The title to the album was based off of me learning how to love. 

The video for ‘kept my heart for myself’ sees you submerged in the water and it feels quite ritualistic. It’s another moment where you’re exposed and open. What are you purging?

Grief. Grief is key to most greatness. 64%.

Tell me in your own words what the project lays out in terms of your view of modern love and relationships? Is it as perplexing as ever? Do you have the cheat code?

I’d say we have it all at once. We juggle our pains and our pleasures as if its yin and yang. To answer your question: No, I don’t have it figured out. I think that once you have an answer the question changes. 66%.

You conceived this record with Benja, Leland Whitty and Chester Hansen of BADBADNOTGOOD, alongside British producer JD. REID. What did they bring to ‘lovemesooner’ experience?

I would say they brought the three other elements. Benja and I began as Earth and those guys brought Water, Wind and Fire. The balance is everything.

‘lovemesooner’ is driven by acoustics. The sense of momentum mostly comes through the strings, strums, riffs and licks. Talk me through that production choice?

It was a goal to create an acoustic album. We began acoustic and through that process, we realised that we wanted my vocals to remain a pillar. Songwriting lacks a lot of meaning today and it felt like avoiding masking songs with drums was a way to stay focused on keeping their meaning. When I create I don’t think, I feel. There was truly no intention, it was just a feeling.  In retrospect the feeling is the intention.

What lyric from this album best represents where you are in your journey as an artist today?

“Isolate. Iso.” or “You see me out in the middle of the grasslands /
Don’t make a comment on me
/ You’ll get backhanded”.

What track from ‘lovemesooner’ is the heart of the project?

‘you chose to leave’.

If this album is a dialogue between you the artist and the listener – many of whom are Odd Future/Hodgy acolytes – what do you most want to communicate?

I would like all three parties to be able to relate to one another. The listener, the artist and the music.

Next Wave Recommendation: Korby

Signed to Benny Scarrs’ prolific imprint Neighbourhood Recordings, Northwest London singer-songwriter Korby arrives with a self-produced, collaged sound spanning hypnagogic RnB, breezy indie and folky devotionals – sometimes all in the space of one track.

Debut project ‘I’ll Explain Later’ has an abraded work-in-progress feel, with Korby coming to terms with, and embracing, the cathartic power of song craft. Korby channels the turbulence of adulthood into self-actualising numbers, striking blue notes through a voice that recalls Sampha’s frayed tenor. Get to know an artist whose aspirations lie beyond gimmicks and mass-produced algorithms.

Korby’s aiming for the everlasting.

Tell me a bit about what sparked your love of music? Do you come from a creative or arts-driven background? Was music something you sought out on your own terms?

Music has always felt natural to me. There was always good music playing around me. My Dad is a drummer, so growing up it felt like rhythm was ingrained in me. He would have Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley playing on every car journey from a young age. Listening to music in the car was something that I always looked forward to. To be honest, it was never encouraged as a career, especially coming from a first-generation immigrant background, but despite going down the traditional route with my studies somehow, I could never avoid it.

You mention the traditional route. Tell me a bit about your studies in Neuroscience, and how that fed into your approach to understanding the mind and the human condition through music?

Studying neuroscience gave me the knowledge behind why music makes me feel the way it does. It showed me that almost all of my being is in my brain, and I began to understand why music affects me the way it does. Once I got a glimpse of that understanding, I couldn’t help but dig deeper, hoping one day to fully understand myself – if that’s even possible. Through my music I document my journey of trying to understand myself, my brain, and the world around me in the only way I can naturally express it.

Your music, even in its infant stage, has a timeless quality to it, which is something you mention in your press release for this EP. What timeless releases by other artists have left a similar impression on you?

‘Blonde’ by Frank Ocean, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ by Kendrick Lamar and ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis.

You’re signed to Neighbourhood Recordings which is an incubator for progressive UK talent. Had you heard of Neighbourhood prior to signing and what has the label afforded you in terms of resources?

I had heard of Neighbourhood, but I didn’t know much about them. From my perspective they had a tight-knit family aura around them which was very admirable. They have been everything I could ask for and I couldn’t imagine sharing this music in any other way, with any other label. We’re all in sync with the music and have a vision for it.

From your early singles, ‘Feel My Face’ was the most striking one to me. It’s still my personal favourite; a layered, subversive listen with these off-piste production flourishes throughout. Tell me about the production process creating this track and what you’re expressing lyrically?

‘Feel my Face’ came about as a result of me really trying to understand what was going on around me. I produced it on a piano I found on Facebook Marketplace for £50. That in turn provided me with the wonky piano melody that runs through the track. Then, I chopped a drum break to keep my head bopping while I wrote the rest. At the time, I’d been practising the bass guitar a lot and found a pocket for a bass to sit in which really set the tone. I don’t have an electric guitar but I wanted to improvise some lead guitar lines, so I just did them on the bass and tried my best to make them sound like an electric guitar, and that led to me accidentally stumbling into some crazy cool sounds that I ended up keeping in there too.

I was super fried that same night, and in usual Korby fashion, the lyrics came to me when I started contemplating where on earth I was and what was happening around me. “I rolled up all my sorrows and smoked them away” sums it up quite nicely. As the song goes on, I’m pretty much rambling my live thoughts out loud, but it felt so perfect over the beat I’d just laid. When I took it to my producer RJ, we tried to re-record the vocal a few times but it just wasn’t carrying the same energy of the night I recorded it at home, so we kept the original. The lyrics tell you in black and white what was going on in my life and how I was feeling at the time. I brought this messy plate of a song to RJ, and we cleaned it up together and he added some of his magic to it. Crazy track that one!

The artwork for your EP, ‘I’ll Explain Later’, features the piano positioned sideways which connects to the song ‘My Garden’, a heartrending piano piece. Talk me through the significance of the piano and the intimacy of your garden, both in the artwork and the song?

‘My Garden’ represents somewhere that’s yours, where you have the space to grow, nurture and cultivate whatever it is you want to, however you like. It’s quite similar to the mind. Really, it’s anywhere you feel safe and feel like yourself. On this song I repurposed the piano, and flipped it digitally in the latter half of the song because I wanted to give a new perspective to the instrument. On the artwork I’ve flipped the piano on its side and placed it in an unusual setting, but it makes perfect sense to me. It’s like a kid finding their favourite toy in the middle of the place they feel most safe in. It feels as though as long as you’re there and you have that instrument for self-exploration, the whole world disappears when you’re in ‘your garden’.

Was the video for ‘Garden’ a one-take recording? It’s brilliant by the way.

Thank you, yes it was!

What was the most challenging song to record for this EP?

It’s funny because whilst the songs on this EP are arguably some of the deepest I’ve ever written, they’ve also been some of the easiest to make. I was just honest, and let all my emotions out. If I had to choose a song it would be ‘To Let Go’. That one took the longest to finish, even though it was one of the first one’s I wrote.

What is the centrepiece on the EP and why?

Definitely ‘To Let Go’. That song is so real to me. I’ve let out my rawest emotions on that track.

If ‘I’ll Explain Later’ is a dialogue between artist and audience, what do you most want to communicate?

Allow yourself to feel something new. It can be scary, but it can also be a cool and meaningful adventure for you to go on. If you don’t want to listen alone, take someone or something with you on this adventure that reminds you of home, no matter how far you venture out.

Which artist are you enjoying right now?

In music, it’s Bob Marley. I listen to Bob Marley in intense waves. That’s all I’m listening to right now. Watch any Bob Marley live performance and you’ll know what I mean.

Beyond this EP, what can we expect from you in the near future? Are you in the throes of conceiving your next project? Where do you want to go sonically?

I’m looking to release more music and do more performances very soon. Being able to sing and play the music live is always the best part. The next project is definitely underway. Life is still moving and I have new things to say, and music gives me a way to actually say things to people I otherwise wouldn’t be able to express. Sonically, I’m working on building on the foundations I’ve set with this debut, so I’m not 100% sure on how to define it yet, but it’s on the way.

Release Roundup:

Fabiana Palladino – ‘Fabiano Palladino’

Exploring the tumult of a waning relationship, what emerges in the in-betweenness and after the wreckage, Fabiana Palladino’s self-titled debut is a masterclass in restraint, vocal embellishment and transportive world-building. This is music that smoulders across it’s breathless runtime. There is no padding here; every song feels essential, every retrofitted detail vital. Two tracks strategically positioned towards the end, have me in a choke hold: ‘Deeper’, a number furnished with luminous synth stabs and sustained harmony, and the percolating, programmed haze of ‘In The Fire’. Tightly-woven, taut but endlessly rewarding, Fabiana Palladino has delivered the most potent pop collection of 2024. Listen for a dose of sonic panacea.

Tariq Al-Sabir – ‘Unlike Yesterday Today I’m Ready’

Teen prodigy turned performance art trailblazer Tariq Al-Sabir comes into his own on new EP ‘Unlike Yesterday Today I’m Ready’. Produced with Dev Hynes, Al-Sabir artfully invokes his myriad disciplines; he plays piano, composes, produces and works as a Musical Director. The result is a cross-hatch of crackling, synthesised soul and downtempo gospel with the lustre of avant-classical detail. Thematically Al-Sabir alternates between quotidian notes on modern living and elevated dramatizations on seasonal shifts and self-care in a burdensome world. EP highlight ‘Unlike Yesterday’ is the point of arrival communicated through Al-Sabir’s bewitched voice, reformed into a solitary beacon and resampled into a chorus.

Vanessa Bedoret – ‘Eyes’

French experimental artist Vanessa Bedoret last month unveiled her debut album, ‘Eyes’, via Scenic Route – the imprint that brought us Nourished By Time. It’s a stimulating body of work that contorts the violin into a living, breathing embodiment of Bedoret’s unravelling psyche. ‘Ballad’ is a lost lullaby, Bedoret’s hymn-like vocal within reach yet somehow illegible, and the title track is a protracted ambient performance piece made raw and ritualistic. It’s difficult to surmise the narrative of ‘Eyes’ within an ambit that weaves in vocal sketches and field recordings as tectonic shifts. But that’s largely the point. ‘Eyes’ is a deep flow state, destabilising and transcendent in equal measure.

Hekt ft. Smerz – ‘ID’

Danish multimedia artist Hekt ropes in regular collaborators Smerz on a high-stakes, high-octane Nordic team-up. Lifted from his ‘Lens’ EP, ‘ID’ is a confounding and freaky smorgasbord of mutated bass and breaks. Smerz’ vocal, processed to sound to like an ASMR-automated dispatch from a distant future, bleeds into the stop-start motion of the track, rewarding the prudent listener with sustained dancefloor peaks. Sound manipulation of the highest order.

TEE – ‘code’

“Whatever feels good, feel it, say it and let it be free. That’s what code is for me…an answer to a question I’m not really sure of…”

TEE, a live programmer, arranger and producer, moves from the fringes to the rap mainstage with his second solo single, ‘code’. TEE endorses unfettered self-expression on this hybrid anthem which integrates scorched wordplay over Sinogime-meets-quasi-classical production. A mission statement indeed.

SuperJazzClub – ‘OFF’

My favourite Ghanaian supergroup are hitting the big leagues. Newly-signed to the label (Human Re-Sources) that vaulted RAYE and Lancey Foux to stardom, SuperJazzClub’s first offering of the year is a tension-and-release composition. SuperJazzClub know how to pick ‘n’ mix; their club-ready Alté anthems are rhythmically inviting but there’s a darker undertow frothing. In this instance, ‘OFF’ teases out a tale of two ex-lovers once again in each other’s orbit – an experience that promises to be galvanic.

Words: Shahzaib Hussain

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