Q&A: Lanu

Lanu: Her 12 Faces (Tru Thoughts, 4/19/11)

Lanu: “Beautiful Trash”

Lanu: Beautiful Trash

In order to fulfill his eclectic musical interests, producer/multi-instrumentalist Lance Ferguson created a separate solo image known as Lanu. Vastly divergent from his work with Australian funk/soul band The Bamboos, Lanu’s material combines dreamy pop melodies with hip-hop beats and electronic atmospheres to create a tasteful, lounge-worthy sound.

Lanu’s recently released second album, Her 12 Faces, displays a realized emphasis on songwriting and -crafting. But the 12-track collection also handsomely balances instrumental tunes with lush vocals by Australian pop star Megan Washington and others. Here, Lanu discusses his progression as a solo artist, working with the French language, and collaborating with Washington his newest record.

What couldn’t you achieve with The Bamboos that you’ve done with Lanu?

I try to push [The Bamboos] as far as I can, but at the end of the day, it’s still basically a soul/funk band. I’ve tried to sort of push the boundaries within those genres, but there are things I simply couldn’t do in The Bamboos —  I couldn’t really do a folk song or I couldn’t do stuff that’s too electronic. I guess for a while I was trying to use The Bamboos as a vehicle for all the music I liked, but I realized that there was this stuff that would never really fit. So I went back to my solo project and thought, “This is the best place to do this kind of stuff” — more electronic-based things and pop influences as well.

Zulu Records

Behind the Counter: Zulu Records (Vancouver, BC)

With an army-green facade out front and wood-paneled walls and retro furniture inside, Zulu Records is an established musical stronghold in the Canadian metropolis of Vancouver, British Columbia. More than a place to buy music (though it covers that angle pretty thoroughly), Zulu has become a family-friendly, cultural centerpiece of the community with a number of notable in-store performances, art openings, and a continued independent, DIY approach to business.

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

Zulu Records grew out of the ashes of an old store called Quintessence that specialized in prog and rock. It was 1981, music was changing, and there was a community of young punkers who were starved for all of the amazing imports coming out overseas. Zulu Records’ owner, Grant McDonagh, was one such fan with big ideas who saw his part-time job at Quintessence fizzle out and an opening present itself. Grant had ties to all of the great Vancouver punk bands and, in the early days, worked closely with  this community, including later starting his own record label to press bands that he felt deserved to be heard. Today, Zulu Records concentrates completely on being one of Canada’s finest indie music shops, and it still prides itself on the model of building and maintaining community ties.

Melanie holds Destroyer's City of Daughters
Melanie holds Destroyer's City of Daughters

What is the musical community like in Vancouver?

Vancouver’s music community is tight-knit. Vancouver has always had a bit of an annexed feel to it; we are in the corner of Canada, and the city is geographically bounded and can’t really sprawl endlessly like other major Canadian and American cities. As a result, the spots where bands play, practice, and congregate haven’t really changed over the last 25 years. There is still a very punk/DIY feel to how bands go about doing things, as really we are pretty far away from the spotlight of the business in Toronto. In fact, we have more of a West Coast / Pacific Northwest vibe going on, and certainly, Seattle feels like kindred musical spirits.

Little Dragon

Concert Photos: Little Dragon @ Relentless Garage (London, UK)

Swedish synth-pop quartet Little Dragon performed at HMV’s Next Big Thing festival in London earlier this month, alongside other up-and-coming artists like dubstepper James Blake and the great, ALARM-endorsed Stateless. Little Dragon, led by vocalist Yukimi Nagano, has been making waves with its ’80s-throwback dream pop mixed with dub and African rhythms. ALARM contributing photographer Gavin Thomas captured these images of the band’s show in London, and he even managed to snap a few up-close-and-personal portraits backstage.

Little Dragon


Behind the Counter: A-Musik (Cologne, Germany)

Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

A-Musik in Cologne, Germany is a multifaceted record store, label, and distributor. Established in 1995, the small but mighty electronic-music specialist has grown over the years to encompass a wide variety of genres and formats. Its involvement in the Cologne music scene is just as varied, from art exhibitions to deejaying around town. We spoke with Wolfgang Brauneis, one of four shop employees, and learned the basics of A-Musik.

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

The shop was founded by Georg Odijk in 1995. The motivation was, I think, pretty simple: to create a place for music and records for which other shops and mail-orders don’t really care. In the first place that was mainly experimental music (from historical artists’ records via industrial to contemporary noise heads) and electronic music, which around that time was really thrilling. Here it is also important to mention that Georg at the same time founded the A-Musik label, which was strongly connected to the shop, and released the debut albums by Microstoria (Jan Werner of Mouse on Mars and Marcus Popp of Oval), Marcus Schmickler, Schlammpeitziger, and F.X. Randomiz. The background of Odijk and his helping-hand, Frank Dommert, was in experimental music. They both played in the electro-acoustic combo Kontakta while Dommert was running the Entenpfuhl label (which actually released the fist Jim O’Rourke LP back in 1991!). Of course, things have changed in the last 15 years — the musical taste of the people involved in the whole thing, and also the fact that, for quite some time now, there are four people working at A-Musik. Now the background(s) also include guitar stuff from garage punk onwards, dub or hip hop to free jazz, dubstep and breakcore.

Georg Odijk holds Lithops' Formationen (A-Musik, 2010)
Georg Odijk holds Lithops' Formationen (A-Musik, 2010)

James Blake

The Groove Seeker: James Blake

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

James Blake: James Blake (Atlas Records, 2/7/11)

James Blake: “The Wilhelm Scream”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/02-Wilhelms-Scream.mp3|titles=James Blake: “The Wilhelm Scream”]

After gaining significant attention in 2010 with three EPs — The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke — London-based electronic producer James Blake is releasing his self-titled full-length on Atlas Records.  The EPs established Blake as a new go-to producer, whose soul-noir brand of dubstep has surprised many with its low-energy beats and restrained, ultramodern approach.  Blake’s music is a staggering, spacious collage of R&B and nu-soul samples suspended over deep drum kits, skittering glitch pulses, and highly saturated vocals.

But with so many musicians following the same avant-garde, cut-and-paste approach, Blake’s earlier music doesn’t so much break barriers as it tests fertile grounds.  Though the EPs contain danceable grooves and imaginative arrangements, they remain stamp-less, sounding like the supplementary material to an experimental music seminar on producing and remixing beats.

“Limit to Your Love,” the first single to his upcoming album, covers Feist, reducing the original to its simple piano phrase with a tension that lies somewhere between nerve-biting silence and wall-shaking bass.  But more importantly, the song reveals a voice capable of channeling the faint intimacy of Bon Iver and the soulful croon of Bill Withers.  It’s a warm vocal style that is crucial in realizing Blake’s appeal.