Fight off those feelings of content over-saturation with our easy-to-digest rundown of the best new artists of the month gone by
When it comes to new music, we live in an era of overabundance. Sure, hearing new music isn’t the problem, it’s working out what you should be really listening to. Allow us to help you out with our guide of the best sounds from the periphery.
Channeling the inherently anti-establishment spirit of the punk and hip-hop records she grew up on (she describes the two cultures as “siblings”), Swedish-Iranian electro-pop artist Nadia Tehran is unflinching in her commitment to being visible. “I think it’s important that there are role models from every ethnicity,” she tells me from her home in Stockholm, “so you can grow up and look to someone and relate.”
Last year, Tehran shared the stunning visuals for her track Refugee. The video was filmed illegally in Iran by Nadia and her father. Against a crunchy, distorted backing track evocative of golden-era Sleigh Bells, Tehran’s bars pierce through the noise. “With a mouth full of shit and a stolen tongue,” she preaches, “I’ll be running ‘cross the square, of your king’s lungs.”
Speaking over Skype, Tehran talks about her music and art in quite functionalist terms. She believes in the unity that can be found in shared otherness – that using her voice, along with other marginalised voices, can harness a newer, stronger kind of power. “Growing up, I always had this feeling of not belonging. Even though I really tried to fit in – I always knew I was different. It was a big pain in my life… It’s been so liberating.”
The political element of her identity-focused output was never something she consciously set out to craft, her sound and spirit has all extended from an affinity with countercultural movements. “For me, music was the only environment where I could speak my mind freely. I started in a punk band – I couldn’t play any instruments or sing. But it was a place for me to speak my mind, I was just talking about my feelings and getting it off my chest. I never intended to make anyone else think anything – it was just a deep need to express myself.”
Since then, Tehran has been making music and visual art constantly. Now, she says, feels like the start of her career. Her recent track Cash Flow is accompanied by a three-part video series and a written statement, which opens with the line, “Alienation can build a nation”. Tehran’s goal has only ever been to get her voice heard. In a climate like today’s – it’s hard for that not to be a political agenda. “Music has brought me closer to like-minded people,” she says before we sign off, “Nobody is powerful if they’re standing by themselves.”
M.I.A. / Tommy Genesis
There’s something pleasingly dramatic about Copenhagen duo First Hate. First up, that name – it smacks of youth and passion, the kind of name Posh Isolation might reach for if they were to Weird Science a terrace casual synth pop act into existence. And while these sweet and tender hooligans aren’t officially affiliated with the Danish label, their brand of synth pop does have the same strain of romanticism which bands like Var and Lust for Youth essayed so well.
OK, so some of their songs feel a touch too on the nose (their debut album is called Prayer for the Unemployed) but all is forgiven when it’s conveyed with the kind of passion – and daft dancing – that Anton Falck Gansted musters live.
Iceage / Lust For Youth
Glasgow-via-London trio Dama Scout haven’t been making music for a long time, but they’ve already managed to craft a winning strand of dreamy alt-rock from angular kraut melodies and loose, airy production. Singer Eva Liu allows her vocal to subside into the tide of her guitar – creating the kind of rich sonic atmosphere of Slowdive at their most remedial. Aptly, they recently opened for Jay Som at a sold out London show – both acts offer meditative compositions for bright days with open windows.
With a Bandcamp page steadily filling up with sophisticated melodies and experimental productional sounds, Dama Scout seem comfortable in exploration mode – we’re excited to see where things end up.
Slowdive / Jay Som
While deep house covers of chart hits are often misguided, Yaeji’s meditative flip of Drake’s Passionfruit is tastefully done. Indeed, the New York City-based producer, a regular at the city’s Discwoman events, is beginning to make a name for herself in classy, wistful house music.
It’s a style mapped out on Yaeji’s slinky self-titled EP. Released via Brooklyn label Godmode, the EP is shaped by her time split between New York City and Seoul. As her vocals – which switch between English and Korean – coalesce around cinematic washes of deep house, her raw and unpretentious delivery contributes something coherent and deeply personal as much as it evokes the woozy, club-friendly style of Mall Grab, who Yaeji nods to in her cover of his track Guap. A dreamy soundtrack to a hazy summer Sunday.
Galcher Lustwerk / Powder
Croatian DIY cassette label Low Income $quad have been giving lo-fi and downright weird electronic music the love it deserves since 2015, and Zagreb producer Strahinja Arbutina is an affiliate who deals in crunchy techno and industrial with a touch of 90s Memphis rap menace.
The song titles alone are often grimly promising: Pussy Boy’s Revenge, You Don’t Need This In Your Life and For Shirtless Dudes Only – a satisfyingly intense hardcore techno track which caught the ears of Resident Advisor. Having been kindly hosted by Manchester label Natural Sciences for a guest NTS mix, Arbutina demonstrated his proud passion for nightmarish music that would fuck up the club. You’re gonna love this guy.
DJ Swagger / Delroy Edwards