In only a few months since we launched, we’ve been proud to publish such an array of pieces from some very talented writers. From a short history of LGBT+ rave culture to exploring the intersection between music, art and science in audiovisual projects, each piece has sought to explore, interrogate and champion artists across the globe. We asked some of our team to talk about their musical highlights in what has been a very strange 2020.
Andrea Loftus, Writer
Iōland have been a welcome pocket of solace in the chaos of 2020, with their blend of percussion and electronica beats laying the pace for the new year. Their release ‘Yuki’ perfectly encompassed the subtle symphony of distanced socialising, the gentle melding of vocals with background beats akin to the pub atmosphere you missed out on this year. Nevertheless, ‘Unmo’ blended mellow tones with fervent melodies to culminate in a sonic depth a lot of our outings have lacked. Iōland reminded us that we can still create a melody with our detached moments, that we can solidify our intimacy through harmonious beauty no matter how distanced we are.
Neive McCarthy, Writer
A lot of 2020 has felt like one long, endless Sunday. Yet, Joy Crookes’ soulful, husky vocals provided the antidote: they’re the perfect soundtrack for that laidback day vibe. With straight to the point, anecdotal lyrics and gorgeously dark beats, ‘Anyone But Me’ is the prime example of what makes Joy Crookes so irresistible. Referencing Nina Simone’s ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, it’s bold and intimate, simultaneously haunting you and providing the ideal atmospheric escape from a year of lockdown and tiers.
Maddi Fearn, Interviewer + Writer
Whether it was sending out free books, delivering flowers or providing free meals for healthcare workers, Hyde Park Book Club has instilled in many what has been a rare feeling of joy and warmth over the past year. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that camaraderie and community matters, and Book Club’s selflessness and solidarity deserves more praise than we could ever fit into 100 words!
Euan Hall, Writer
My favourite music story from 2020 is centered around the release of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ album Just Coolin’. Recorded in 1959 in a New Jersey living room, this session oozes flair and is a fun journey led by some who would go on to become legendary. The Just Coolin’ tapes were rediscovered last year and it’s just fantastic that we can now all enjoy the creativity of that one session from over 60 years ago.
Matthew Davison, Creative Director + Session Lead
Seeing Elder Island play for the sixth time, a feeling of anticipation grew but something felt different this time. The venue was none other than Printworks in London, bringing with it an energy that wasn’t like a usual gig.
Elder Island tailored their set to suit the crowd, diverging from their usual formula which sees the energy rise and fall. This show just kept the energy building from song to song and did not let up, allowing the band to not look out of place performing between SG Lewis and the event’s headline act, Maribou State. Little did I know at the time that this would be one of the last events that I would attend this year as the coronavirus pandemic put paid to the live music industry, making it on reflection one of my most memorable moments of 2020.
Hollie Griss, Writer
박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s ‘How Can I’ dropped in June to redeem the summer of 2020. Her dreamy brand of Korean techno oscillates and glows across the six-track EP: from the addictive, seductive ‘Like this’, to the industrial beats of ‘NO’ and ‘How come’, through to the hypnotic chamber of sound that is the final track, ‘Beautiful’. An outstanding release up there with the best in this year’s electronica.
Amy Brown, Writer
Living, Breathing’ by ford. featured on my Spotify 2020 Wrapped. This was his first solo sound from ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective label, an amazing outlet curated by the duo for new musicians and artists alike. ford., aka Luc Bradford, is based in the US and this song is said to have been written whilst supporting Maribou State last year. The textured layers of lo-fi ambient waves give the piece a soft electronic sound; the artwork featuring a lily floating on water, emphasising the genres passing through song. These floaty sounds created the perfect accompaniment for the summer lockdown that had us all dreaming of festivals.
Caitlin Shortall, Creative Director + Editor
One documentary that caught my eye this year was ‘Sisters with Transistors’, which premiered at Sheffield Documentary Festival in Autumn. Generally, a history of women always seems to comprise of two parts: silence and breaking through. This is much the same for Lisa Rovner’s collection of archival footage of women in electronic music, who largely seem to have been forgotten from the history books. From the likes of Delia Derbyshire whose musical score for Doctor Who was instrumental in changing the perception of electronic music to Maryanne Amacher exploring the intersections of science, life and sound, women pushed boundaries socially, politically, creatively and emotionally.
Daphne Oram writes in 1972 that “we want so much to see one man as the hero of the occasion”, and so the same applies to women. Projects such as these are in danger of perpetuating another dominant narrative of the single female ‘pioneer’, which serves to elevate only a small handful of women to the same standing of their male counterparts. And so, in Rovner’s own words ‘Sisters with Transistors’ is “not the complete history of women in electronic music”, but a partial history nonetheless, and wholeheartedly worth a watch.
Jess Hodgson, Writer
Porter Robinson’s ‘Mirror’ was one of my favourite releases this year. Known for his impeccable creation of anthemic and expansive sonic worlds, Robinson has always been on my radar, and ‘Mirror’ blew me away. It’s emotive and experimental, its high-energy production displaying a litany of immersive electronic sounds and evocative spoken and melodic vocals. I remember listening to it once as I walked through the city as night was falling, and it made me feel truly alive. The ending in particular offers a reaffirming message that reflects 2020 – it will all be okay in the end.
Thank you to all our incredible contributors listed above. And a big thank you to those writers who were unable to contribute to this piece: Aneurin Edwards, Jenny Pudney, Holly Allton and Rob Day. Frisson wouldn’t be the same without you.