Dance to the Rhythm
Dance to the Rhythm is available via:
VIDEO RELEASE DATE:
29th March, 2018
The album, Time Elastic, is available here:
13th April, 2018
THIS is the time of the year…
when the sun starts to rouse from its slumbers and gets its bottom out into the working world. So far, it has been like a student during the first year of university studies: occasionally nipping into lectures but, for the most part, pissing it up the wall every night and spunking its student loans up the wall! I am not sure where that analogy is going but my point remains: it has not been showing its face as frequently as the average pasty Brit would like! That being said, today, there are ample signs to show spring may be, briefly at least, here! I have got my favourite new T-shirt out and am priming the arms for some much-needed warmth. To accompany my sojourn into springtime; I have been searching around for a soundtrack that can accompany all the moods I will assimilate into my movements. I am going to do a bit of a John Travolta strut; I will wistfully contemplate the changing seasons and, yes, I need something to provide some smile and curiosity. Alongside that, there is the desire to have the spirits uplifted and the mind nourished. That is a rather demanding rider but, right in front of me, is an artist I have reviewed once before: Laish is a fascinating talent whose almost-too-perfectly-trimmed facial hair is as spectacular as the music that emanates from him. Before I look at his new album – highlighting the featured track from it – I will address a few other things. I want to look at the city and all the wonderful things that intrigue and spike the mind; radio features and getting attention from some big sources; having incredible promotional videos back your music; the ‘northern spirit’; I will look at the way musicians can cram so much life and range into an album – touching on my desire to have a bespoke, all-encompassing music show on T.V.
‘Laish’ is the moniker of Yorkshire-born Danny Green and, to start, gets me looking at the North and the indomitable candour and grace of its people. My mind has been split between a move to South London: either that or locating to Manchester. I adore Yorkshire and, as part of my plans, want to visit a lot of the artists who play there. I have always been a massive fan of that part of the U.K. There is a natural inventiveness and variegation that exceeds expectation and tops that coming out of London. Laish moved from Yorkshire – he brings that homegrown wit and talent with him. One of the reasons I want to move to Manchester, aside from the warm people and humour, is the music coming out of there. Many critics and listeners overlook the North and the music coming out of there. This year’s best album, in my view, will be released by a northern-formed band: Arctic Monkeys look set to unleash the record 2018 demands. Even though Laish has replaced the rolling hills and splendid tea of Yorkshire for the too-cool-to-speak-to-you hipster bars of London and its irascible energy; he has translated and retained his key attributes and northern wit. That humorous dynamic has lifted his music from the realms of the ordinary – taking it to new heights and providing the listener with something smile-worthy and character-filled. His new record, Time Elastic, has been pressed by the respected (French) label Taitres and shows his music is unique. I have been casting my fishing net out into the musical lake and have been seeing a lot of sad-faced fish with no real colour and nutritional value. Now, as the sun is out and the water is clear, I have caught Laish and see something wonderful: great skin, eye-catching shades and a nice big grin. Maybe I need to lay off the early-morning shot of caffeine but I stand by my assertions. This year has seen some oh-so-serious music: the artists who provide a bit of fun and energy are in the minority.
I will move on to look at other areas but, before then, I want to stick with northerners and humour. I am not suggesting all musicians crack out the comedy numbers and do something funny. Laish is a serious artist whose music and mannerisms are special and multi-layered. What he does is go beyond what most listeners expect and chucks in a cart-load of bright and optimistic. His songs look at life and all the issues we face – struggling with love and the self; negotiating the hurdles of the city – but, rather than make it all mordent and gloomy; the sun is out and one is treated to something more accessible and nurturing. I guess there is that heritage and elements of the North that help bring the music beyond the pit of weary and samey. Laish’s mindset is clear: put out songs that people can connect to but will not bring the spirit down. This year has been a tough and challenging one for us all and, as we try and see what the world will throw at us; music is there to aid and assist our decisions. I have been pining for an artist who has that rare mixture of incredible lyrics, bright textures and a depth that the soul demands. Laish has been around a while and seen where there is a gap in the market. There has been a real lack of engaging and nuanced music that strays beyond what is out there and offers the listener a real burst of originality. Maybe it is the way he has transitioned from the North and located to London that has added all these fresh fabrics and tones to his music. The young artist has accrued a lot of experience and visions into his work; he has progressed between works and now, in 2018, he is making music that sets aside from the rabble and stays in the brain.
I have alluded to the city and how its energy and mix of people can lure and attract artists. Even though I am deciding between London and a move further north; it seems Laish has found his niche down in the capital. He lives with his girlfriend, instruments and, one suspects, a pet is in there somewhere. It seems like a very idyllic and comfortable life for the musician. What that provides is a security and inspiration that has bled into his music. Green’s movements and sense of ambition comes from the people around him and that established and life-giving core. I can imagine the flat Laish’s creator resides in: there would be the guitars hanging on the wall and an amp somewhere, perhaps. One might expect a piano in the corner – with some character and age; a cup of coffee nearby – and some great records propping up a turntable. Outside, I can envisage the rush of London and a rather charming backdrop. This might sound like the opening page of a Richard Curtis script but, when thinking about Laish’s music, London has fuelled his imagination and impacted the music. I am not saying, were he back in Yorkshire, he would not have access to the same humans and wonderful scenes. Laish has great venues at his door and some wonderful creative talents right in front of him. One of the reasons I have been looking to South London is the population: all ages, races and nationalities living together and integrating in the community. You have that blend of hectic and busy and places to escape to. For a songwriter; that choice and excitement can only seep into the body and provoke fantastic music. Danny Green has carried his Yorkshire heart and borrowed the bones and body of London. That anatomical cut-and-shut could, in lesser hands, be a mismatch and incompatible beast. Instead; it is the perfect conspiracy that has infused the music world with something rare and divine.
Maybe I am blathering a little but I have always been caught by Laish and how he does things. I will talk about his album in the conclusion but, before I move onto other things; I wanted to look at directing and how great collaborators can elevate music. I have talked a lot about Laish’s background and D.N.A. – without going into the music itself and reasons why it resonates. One of the reasons I have selected Dance to the Rhythm is because it seems to epitomise all the pluses and sides of Time Elastic. Green has always been a master of splicing emotions and a world of different themes into his music. 2016’s Pendulum Swing was a bold and varied work that stunned critics and showed how far Laish has come (since his debut). Time Elastic goes further and shows the songwriter at his brilliant best. The last time I featured Laish was when he unveiled the single, Learning to Love the Bomb. That was from his previous album and (its video was) directed by Ruth Pickett. I know her work to be good because, some sixteen years ago, I encountered her work, first-hand, at Cambridge. She was one of the brightest bulbs in The Footlights and stood out from the other performers in the society. Her repertoire mixed music and comedy; she had/has great dramatic chops and sprinkles the odd and charming alongside the grounded and gravelled. That curiosity and exceptional ability has mutated into screenwriting, directing and acting. She has retained comedic elements and that sense of fantasy in her directing. There are some great female video directors out there – they are not as proffered and exposed as they should be. The reason I bring Pickett, and directors, up is how a faithful and natural unity between artist and director can bring music to new audience. I love the video for Dance to the Rhythm. It has that low-budget brilliance but that does not squander ambition and visual delight.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Watts
What Pickett and Green have done is create something that stands out on its own. I cannot listen to the album without going straight to the single. Maybe it is the incredible sound and songwriting throughout: to me, there is that visual wonder and the way I associate the video with Dance to the Rhythm. You have to watch it to see what I mean but it is the visuals and scenes laid out that give the song a fresh brilliance and sense of memorability. There is a trust between director and performer throughout. I know, from seeing social media posts, the filming process was hugely enjoyable and a great experience for everyone involved. The shoot sees the bizarre and humorous integrate and conspire inside a London flat. Whilst it is easy to imagine songwriters’ personality and charms within music itself; great music videos showcase more and help clarify and cement that assumption. By that; I mean we see a new side to the musician and how they want their music to look. There are so many bands and artists who put out quick and lazy videos. Some put thought and invention into their work but, for the most part, I pass by what they throw out there. In fact, LUMP (a side-project of Laura Marling), have just released the video for their debut single, Curse of the Contemporary. It is a charming and wonderful video that, well…you’ll have to go and see it. Those videos that stand out and make you watch it time again are very rare in this day and age. I will come to look at that a bit more but there is an innate visual aspect to music. An artist can project a sense of theatre and the visual through their words – they turn that to a director and it is their job to bring something new from the song. One of the reasons I wanted to highlight Pickett’s work was the fact she can work on a smaller budget but does not compromise the artistic and visually-arresting.
Laish’s music is bold and sumptuous; it is a complicated and bountiful aroma that requires intelligent and respectful handling. Directors who mangle his work or conceive dull treatments are going to damage that track and put listeners off. Pickett has picked up on something in the music, and Danny Green, and been able to bring her personality into the fold. It is hard to quantify how many people have turned onto Laish’s music because of the videos – mere YouTube figures do not give you a clear and reliable guide. We often ignore the music video and assume it is not going to be worth watching. The past few years have seen very few out-and-out classics from that side of the industry. Directors do not have deep pockets and, unless you are a mainstream artist, you cannot afford to realise your most lurid, heightened and ambitious dreams. Many directors will work on a three/four-digit budget and have to deliver the goods with little luxury. I hope Laish and Pickett work together more because their unity is one that results in fantastic videos and memorable scenes. Both have the disposal and endless resources of London right next to them. There are lush parks and packed streets; historical monuments and some of the most arresting sights in the country. The fact the two can create wonderful videos – with the help of a crew – in the recess and comfort of a medium-sized flat amazes me! There is something, mind, about the aura and peripheral of the London buzz that filters into the nostrils of Pickett and her team. She has years’ experience and work in her toolkit and is an accomplished comedic performer and dramatic writer. I hope her expanding chops and confidence sees more fruitful Laish work. Danny Green, actually, seems like a natural and charismatic presence in front of the camera – maybe, a short film featuring him would be a natural next move?! In any case; I am hooked and compelled by the latest music video from Laish.
I will come to the song in question but, when thinking of Laish, I cannot help look back at his achievements and how many sources have turned onto his music. It is fuck*ng impressive looking at the roster of radio stations who have spun a Laish cut. BBC Radio 6 Music has been pretty involved with his music. Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson and Tom Ravenscroft have played his music and backed his work. Amazing Radio and other great stations have shown their backing of a great artist. It is hard getting people to play your music but there is that combination of dogged determination and natural talent that has led to this proliferation and accomplishment. Green, as a person, does not want his music to sit on the shelf like a misunderstood sin. Once the track has come out of the studio and been laid down to tape; he could easily let it fester and not really push it out there. He is active on social media and ensures every Laish movement gets as far as it can. He puts out his music to radio sources and lets people know about his work. There is that determination and need to get the music out the people and spread it as far as possible. He has achieved a lot already but, with Time Elastic fresh and hungry; I expect the likes of BBC Radio 6 Music will be behind it and features the singles released. I am not sure whether they have already played Dance to the Rhythm already – surely, only a matter of time before it gets played! There are few musicians who have been taken to heart as firmly and readily as Laish. I am compelled to see how far he can go and what his next moves are. So far, over the course of his career, he has been championed by British sources – I know international recognition and U.S. dates cannot be too far behind! I have talked enough about Laish and components that make his work stand out from everything else. I will come to look at his album but, right now, a look at a song that has caught my eye.
The track’s video sees the hero, in a wife-beater/vest and casual attire, move through his flat and sit on the sofa with a girl (his girlfriend?!). The song itself looks at songwriting and is very meta, in fact. His girlfriend – whether Danny Green is cribbing from a real-life conversation – has suggested he writes a song with a bit of a chiming and, I guess, banal cooing and chorusing. Maybe that is ironic and tongue firmly in cheek but, as Dance to the Rhythm starts; Laish talks about something commercial and peppy. Maybe the suggestion is aimed at producing something hopefully and happy; a chance to get the listener lifted and the radio smiling. Maybe there is that need to write something commercial and Pop-inspired. All these thoughts entangle and wrestle in a sweaty and sexual tussle as those calm and Noah and the Whale-influenced tones come through (there is a bit of Charlie Fink in Danny Green). The backing vocal and aural rush are infectious and gripping. There is a blast of 1960s Pop and something uniquely Laish; the vocal has a seriousness and masked expression to it – maybe, reflecting the fatigue and dubiousness of the hero. The girlfriend, proffering ideals of fame and celebrity or a need to get the song out there, is talking with the hero. She says (the song) will get onto Spotify and be sh*t-white-hot by this time next year. Laish turns to the camera and gives a look that one might give if they were given a box of elastic bands for their birthday: that mock-sincerity and forced smile. Maybe there is cynicism the song is intended for the hype and chundering (sic./sick) mechanics of the modern machine. Laish wants people to listen to his music but, perhaps, not intending it to nestle alongside your Ed Sheerans and Cardi Bs. The heroine is excitable and showing faith: our man seems more comfortable in his undercrackers and sharing a brew. Maybe that is a bit of Yorkshire dour and realism creeping into the bloodbuzz and commercialism of London – he does not want to think too far ahead and get carried away.
The song itself seems like a study and exposure of the creative mind and questions posed by labels and higher-ups. The moral of the song seems to be adding hooks and melodic sensibilities to the pot. The hero, in the video, is reading a book of lyrics/guides and nodding effusively. He wants to pen a song that has a sexy rhythm and gets the average body motivated and boogying. There seems to be irony and a bit of humour in the seriousness of the words. Laish is a great songwriter who does not pen his songs for the ultra-cool and those who want empty calories and untutored vowels. He does not create mindless choruses and songs, merely, that get the listeners grinning. That said, on the latest single; our man has crafted a flowering and heady nosegay that mixes ingénue backing vocals that has sweetness and infantile delight. It is great listening to a song that is about the nature of songwriting. One would listen to the song and feel the video is crying out for the likes of Michel Gondry – someone who would relish the chance to bring something to a song that looks at songs; bringing quirk and the visually-stunning to the mix. The reason I love Ruth Pickett’s direction is because it brings personality and the filmic from a small set and a physically-limited movement. Most of the action takes place around the sofa; relying on props, the bond of the lead actors and the beauty of the song. In fact…scratch that last bit! An alluring Devil’s claw (Pickett herself, I believe!) comes into frame and tempts the lovers into another world. The set transforms from a modest and homely – code for ‘lived-in’ – and places the sweethearts in a palatial and luxurious mansion. They are decked in finery and exquisite fashions; strangers to the value of the setting – a representation, I gleam, of commercial sacrifice and adding needless glamour and expense to a song that holds weight in its simplicity and honesty. Although the hero seems comfortable and acclimatised to thrones, Georgian makeup (almost like a George IV figure at this point, minus the enormous gluttony and gut!) and servants. The hero looks at love and how his life will progress.
PHOTO CREDIT: Michaela Meadow
One feels he is living a life that seems predictable and predetermined. There is that sense of living for someone else and doing what everyone else does: settling down and having children. In fact, Laish gives a wonderful Jarvis Cocker-esque “Why not?!” to camera upon that proposition. It is another nuance and angle that shows what a personality and sense of songwriting ability he has. The chorus swigs back in and Laish is backed by dancers and enthralled supporters. His wardrobe changes from that nineteenth-century grace to something a little more casual. He has the look of Jay-Z’s barber crossed with an extra from a Disco-inspired flick from the 1970s. He is getting more used to the changing landscape and adapting to the excesses and exhilaration of fame. To me; you get the view that, if you pen something danceable and energetic, you can get a number-one and rake in money. You would sell your ethics and talent for something more profitable and populist – how would the soul cope with that deal?! The sets get more elaborate – Laish transforms into a P.G. Wodehouse acid-trip – and the man, flanked by pipe-playing peeps and an elegant cane gets into the groove. The simplicity and bare-naked domesticity of the opening have transformed into the arresting and beguiling – adding an extra ‘0’ to the video’s budget, no less! The song seems to look at the lifespan of a song and the questions that come to the mind; how some sell-out and others have to make those compromises. Laish seems less resistant, and less happy when he gets big and popular. The track’s assessment of fame and commercial demands sees him bat away a Devil hand – not as tempted to follow this time… - and project a cooing chorus with less determination and passion as one would hope. Dance to the Rhythm is a wonderfully compelling and fascinating song from a talent who seems to get finer and more ambitious every time he brings out an album. It is a perfect embodiment of the wit, arresting colours and wonderful sounds one can experience throughout Time Elastic.
I have talked about music T.V. shows and why we should get a decent one on the box. Sounds like Friday Night is on and, well…it is aimed at the Pop market. We have Jools Hollands’ established and years-running show but there is nothing new that expands from that and features a range of musicians. The reason I bring this up is because Laish seems perfect for a retooled and rebranded music shows. I feel his music deserves television exposure and, with the video for his latest single out; many will see how he mixes visuals and music to great effect. His sound is unlikely anything else out there and warrants a huge and dedicated audience. In the past, we has music T.V. and it was much more popular and influential than it is now. I wonder whether YouTube is sufficient and (if) it gives musicians the reach and attention they deserve. I would like a brilliant new music T.V. show out there that captures the spirit of The Old Grey Whistle Test and would be a perfect fit for Laish. I will not speak in-length about Time Elastic – lest my hands fall off and I need reconstructive surgery on my buttocks – but the record is full of life and brilliance. Look at some of the songtitles – Listening to God, University and I Would Prefer Not To – and you are compelled to listen to the track to see what it is all about! It is a fulsome and expansive album that touches on a number of themes. There are those sides of love under-explored and look at the soul; introspective moments and the passing of time. The album’s title, in fact, raises questions around mortality, youth and our time of life. It is a wonderfully rich and candid work that has plenty of wit, intelligence and musical highlights. I urge people to check it out on Spotify (see at the top of this review) and investigate every track. I know Laish plays Brighton and London in the next few days. He is off to Newcastle and Bristol soon – heading over to France by the end of the month. Look at his Facebook page (see below) for all the updated news and gigs. It has been great returning to Laish and investigating a stunning song: Dance to the Rhythm is another marvellous cut from an artist who continues to produce music…
LIKE nobody else.