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Kerala Dust’s new album ‘Violet Drive’ is a record deeply affected and influenced by its surroundings. The band, formed in London in 2016, are now based between Berlin and Zurich, and the three Brits – Edmund Kenny on vocals and electronics, keys player Harvey Grant and guitarist Lawrence Howarth – have created a deeply European album torn between the past and future.
Formed out of a growing love of electronic music mixed with a history in indie bands, Edmund started the band at a time when making electronic music on a laptop “seemed like the most sensible thing to do”. He adds: “I got really into club music and used to go to Fabric and Corsica Studios loads. I got deep into the endless repetition of all of that music, and the way that, as it repeats incessantly, things unfold on you and it almost becomes a weird sort of mantra, leaving you in a clear headspace.” These hypnotic elements are a defining force behind Kerala Dust, whose music incorporates blues and americana mixed thrillingly with untraditional electronic beats. Through playing clubs worldwide for three years after forming, they honed a somewhat improvised and always fluid live show that broke their songs away from the shackles of their recorded forms and set the stage for a band determined to break moulds and keep rewriting their own script.
While releasing debut album ‘Light, West’ towards the end of 2020, the band were diving into their new base of Berlin and letting its deep, complicated history and landscapes influence their next move. During lockdown, Edmund became friends with film director Greg Blakey and spent his days roaming deserted streets and old abandoned buildings (with help from a website dedicated to identifying them, and the difficulty of which to access each one). “There’s a richness and strangeness to the history of Berlin, and how many people have occupied this space in the last 80 years,” he says. “I grew up with British history, but there’s a very different sensibility here. In Britain, we’re told that the battles and the wins of the empire are a victorious thing, even though it crumbled and a lot of it is quite a shameful history. There is a deep sense of pride for these things, whereas Germans at school get imbued with an intense, deep shame for them.
“These remnants are just standing there,” he adds. “Remnants of the wall in the middle of the city, old motorways built by the Nazis, all of these things that are left to rot because they are quite shameful. They all carry some weight of history that wasn’t even too long ago, and going around and looking at those really, really informed the sound or the record.”
In a break from past ways of working, the songs on ‘Violet Drive’ were built from the drums up, and this truly stunning, off-kilter percussion defines the album; in keeping with the record’s inspirations, they often sound like a war cry. Recorded in two weeks in a studio in the Alps just outside of Zurich by Till Ostendarp, the thudding backbeat laid down provide the framework upon which the album’s lyrics and instrumentation – flashes of blues-y guitars and woozy synths, Edmund’s deliciously deep, syrupy voice – bounce off and flesh the songs out. “I’d been previously writing in quite an Americana way,” he explains, “and this record is way more central European in terms of its influences,” with German legends Can a constant touchpoint.
The universe the album inhabits is also slowly being furthered with its accompanying music videos, which have been shot around Berlin and beyond, and feel interconnected with European history. Take the visualiser for ‘Pulse VI’, which was shot on an abandoned motorway bridge that became part of the wall between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Future videos have also been shot on an abandoned airfield that used to be a Soviet barracks and an old transformer factory in East Berlin respectively. “We’ve gone with a sense of a richer European history, and those divides between East and West,” Edmund reflects on the inspiration behind the album.
For Europeans, Edmund says, London has “dipped off the radar a bit,” with the greater sense of interconnectedness on the continent now more apparent in a post-Brexit world, especially for Brits living abroad. He says: “Last year we went to Prague and then Budapest and then Warsaw on a European tour. We felt this sense of actual, real interconnectedness between these cities, and this overarching European identity and sense of shared culture.” As a result, ‘Violet Drive’ became “a very, very European record”.
The sense of interrogating perceived wisdom around British and European history is at the heart of the fantastic, monumental ‘Violet Drive’, and Edmund looked to PJ Harvey’s 2011 masterpiece ‘Let England Shake’ for inspiration in how it tackles these knotty issues. “It’s melancholy, but also has a decisiveness about how to view history as well,” he says of the landmark album. “There’s an insecurity there.”
For him, and through the entirety of ‘Violet Drive’, nostalgia becomes the cure for this insecurity. “You can grab the unease of looking back in some way, while also looking towards the future,” the singer says. On standout track ‘Future Visions’, the straight and grounded drums anchor the song, while swinging bass swirls among it and serves as a peek into the future, with the drums and 1960s Mellotron nodding to the past. It’s a duality that defines the album and forms the thrilling beating heart of Kerala Dust.
“I just want to allow the universe to speak through me right now. What is it that I want to say? How do I truly feel?” These are the questions Rania Woodard found herself asking alongside bandmate Brian Squillace while working on their debut album, Music For The Future (out March 3rd via Run For Cover Records). In the Spring of 2021, Woodard and Squillace decamped to a remote cabin in northern Georgia to work on their new album. Beginning each day with a clear intention to create without expectations, the pair found themselves immediately inspired by their surroundings, and felt a deep connection to the spiritual world around them. “What happens right now is what’s meant to happen,” Woodard says. It is this undercurrent of unyielding trust that runs through Music For The Future.
After finding their own unique sound across 3 EPs, LANNDS has expanded their lush, electro-pop palette into new territory. Music For The Future is a confident, sweeping feat of enlivened production and intimate, emotional storytelling, both gentler and more mature than the band has ever been. Replete with messages of care and reflection, Woodard describes this album as an “open letter” to herself. At the time they began writing, Woodard and Squillace found themselves navigating a wave of personal changes, including the anticipation of their imminent cross-country move from Jacksonville, Florida to Los Angeles. Balanced on this daunting brink of transformation, the songs across Music For The Future are LANNDS’ most courageous yet, and serve as thoughtful reminders to their future selves, and anyone listening, that everything is going to be alright. On album opener “Fortune”, Woodard sings, “I’ll leave the light on for you”, over a bubbling arpeggiated synth, a comforting reassurance that sets the tone for the rest of the album.
In typical LANNDS fashion, Music For The Future was entirely produced, engineered, and mixed by Squillace and Woodard. Some of the vocal takes were taken straight from their writing sessions at the Georgia cabin, while the rest was recorded in Squillace’s apartment. “When we do it ourselves, even if it’s a little more “home done” sounding, it’s just more us,” Squillace says. Years of collaboration have allowed the duo to embrace each other’s creative skills – whether it be Woodard’s blossoming layers of vocal melodies, or Squillace’s soulful piano chords – and shape them into a sound they can truly feel at home in, without the weight of outside influence. On Music For The Future, this level of familiarity has allowed the band to experiment with new ways of writing.
Optimistic song “Wheels In Motion” has the washed out vocals and wavy guitar lines LANNDS has become well known for over the years, but descends into a fuzzy outro with sputtering, distorted vocals, and spiraling synth, like a TV channel tuned to static. “I’m think I’m falling in place / I feel the wheels in motion”, Woodard sings confidently. This kind of surprising shift inside the space of one song comes up repeatedly, as seen on tracks “Overseas/BACK 2 U” and “Forts”. While writing, the duo challenged themselves to resist the constraint of typical song structures, and instead playfully asked, “What’s the coolest thing that could happen right here?”
“Everything, Everything” is a firm anchor in the middle of Music For The Future, with stacked vocals that recall Frank Ocean and James Blake, set against a simple, repetitive piano line that crashes into heavy synth bass and percussion. “This song is just about being at your lowest, but knowing the universe is always going to be right there to cradle you,” Woodard says. “That’s how I felt: damn, she’s holding me right now.” Across Music For The Future, LANNDS isn’t afraid to confront the darker sides of growth and change, and they encapsulate that churning turmoil with glimmering, spacious production. “We were trying to explore sounds that aren’t necessarily recognizable, but are really big and overwhelming in a cinematic way. Like a sound that shakes you. Sounds we felt in our bodies,” says Squillace.
LANNDS is not afraid of the future. On “Wish You Well”, the most uplifting song on the album, Woodard sings, “I’mma wish you well / I wish you the best / I want you to fly” over a sparkling synth line and soft, ringing bells. Even if they’ve been burned, LANNDS knows how to rebuild, and savors the careful work of putting yourself back together, even when it hurts (maybe especially when it hurts). “At the end of the day, our philosophy has always been that it’s more important to capture a feeling than to get something perfect,” Squillace says. And that’s what LANNDS has managed to do so poignantly across Music For The Future: come up close to a feeling. Isn’t it the feeling itself that reminds us we’re alive? Days, weeks, or years from now, when we’re buried again in darkness or in pain, Music For The Future is a warm testament to this survival. You’ll make yourself whole again. You’ll walk once more, chin held high, face turned toward this brilliant, steady sun.