I recently learned about the talented young British artist Branwell “Bran” Black when he followed me on Instagram. Influenced by some of his favorite artists like Kate Bush, Madonna, Charli XCX, Kerli, Evanescence and Tokio Hotel, the London-based singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and model creates captivating synthpop music. Born in Oxford, England but raised partly in France, both Bran and his older brother Morgan developed a love of music while very young, as their father was an accomplished rock drummer. Being around live music much of his life and seeing fans reacting to his father’s music inspired him to start producing music of his own. During his years in France, Bran started to write and produce music with Morgan, with whom he eventually formed a band called Brothers Black/Posie. Spending part of his youth in France exposed Bran to a different culture and different musical elements as well, and a result he’s also recorded and produced music in French.
Bran has been a busy guy over the past year. In September 2019, he released his debut single “J’attends L’amour”, then quickly followed up with “What You Want”, as well as an EP Posie with his band Brothers Black/Posie. This past February, before everything shut down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, he performed at a sold out show with his back up band at O2 Academy Islington. And on May 8, he dropped his latest single “Love Life“. Bran told me the uplifting song has a double meaning: “It’s a reflection on my love life, and also a voice to tell me to love life itself.” He wrote the music and lyrics, played piano, sang vocals and produced the track, with Morgan providing added vocals. Matt Willis played guitar, Dan Rosu played drums, and mixing was done by Edwin Harris.
The song has a sunny and sensual retro 80s vibe, with a pulsating EDM beat and vibrant, shimmery synths creating a captivating soundscape. I really like Bran’s tinkling piano keys, as well as Matt’s edgy guitar notes at the end of the track. Bran has a soft, sultry vocal style that’s seductive, yet vulnerable as he plaintively sings of wanting not only another’s love, but also being able to love oneself and the life he has. Morgan’s vocals are also lovely as he sings the refrain ‘love life’.
I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever Laying staring at the stars never believing in better All around is all I see and all I see is you Love the one you’ve always known is true
If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it
Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup
So baby, I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever Telling memories, I want to be the one you can treasure Forever, and ever If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it Wake up Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup That’s life That’s what it feels like Love life
I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever And wherever I’ll be they won’t forget me in December Love life All around is all I see and all I see is me Forever, and ever Love life
In addition to his musical side, Bran has started to incorporate dancing into his performances to bring his music alive through physical expression. What that in mind, he’s now released a stylish new video for “Love Life”. The video was filmed, directed and produced by David Pear, and showcases Bran’s strong charisma, as well as the influence of artists like Madonna and Charlie XCX, exemplified by his and his fellow models and dancers’ voguing.
Hailing from Rotherham, England, the music project known as Random… (Random dot dot dot) creates multi-textured synthesized music that ranges from dark and politically topical to catchy EDM. Born Ben Ellison, the enigmatic Random… describes himself thusly: “Random… is reclusive, innovative and slightly insane. Those lucky enough to have met him will testify that his view of the world is warped, dark, but always entertaining.” Who am I to argue with that?
In May 2016, Random… released an EP Headspace, which featured spoken words by poet Wayne Dyson, and in April 2017 he released a remarkable full-length album Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness, an ambitious work released through Velvet Moron Records. The album was produced with contributions from two poets, Gav Roberts and Wayne Dyson, along with guitarist Mr Jiggs. I reviewed the album, which you can read here. Now, Random… is set to drop a new album Long Ago When Tigers Smoked Pipes, also to be released on the 20th of August through Velvet Moron Records.
The new album is once again a collaboration, this time with poet Gav Roberts. They explained their working relationship and creative process for the album:
“Random… met rather, well, randomly and they clashed heads from their two very different fields of creativity almost instantly. Having a mutual respect for each other’s work, Ben appreciating Gav’s poetic ramblings and Gav in turn enjoying the unique sounds that Ben creates. They are very much 50/50 doing their own thing and not interfering in each other’s work. Ben doesn’t like writing words and Gav can turn any musical instrument into something with the musical quality of your average Ikea table.
Indeed, the vast majority of what Gav records are poems that would otherwise grow old in notebooks, never to be opened, so he is overjoyed that Ben wraps them up in music. Both of them are neither precious nor pretentious about their work, both believing that creativity is an entirely selfish process that a human must go through in order to ease the mental passage through this mortal coil. ‘Long ago when tigers smoked pipes’ is the Korean equivalent of ‘Once upon a time’ and that is what Random… have created, a story, a journey through their lives.“
OK, so let’s get into the album, shall we. The first track “The Possibility of 0 or 6” opens with spacey, sci-fi sounding synths and a monotone piano chord, then a pulsating beat ensues. The instrumentals expand into a melodic soundscape as Roberts describes a scene on a platform of a train station, where a woman becomes fascinated with a man pacing back and forth counting. “To wait, on a platform alone with him she feels cursed. Just her and the crazy finger-counter, counting numbers backwards, forwards on his fingers he counts. / So on and so on, til the initial fear she had when she first saw him turns to passive intrigue. / Eventually, one cancellation and several delays announcements later, a full 45 minutes after fear forgot … she observes the pacing man. He’s a friend of hers now. / She’s totally transfixed with the possibility of 0 or 6.” It’s a fascinating and mesmerizing track that seems shorter than its 4:11 minute length, holding my attention from start to finish.
“Gingerbread” is a dark track about a doomed relationship in which the woman tried to make the man into something he wasn’t – the opposites that initially attracted them to each other now repel. The ominous synths beautifully convey the biting resentment expressed in the lyrics: “Within months, I was on a choke-chain of my own making. Wearing clothes that you had bought me, dressed up like some kind of mannequin… I started looking like a really ugly ken doll as the gingerbread-cutting phrases came thick and fast. ‘You drink too much, you smoke too much.’ So Julie I drank less, and I smoked less, but what you didn’t realize was that the opposites were attracting less and less.”
“Supernova” is a hauntingly beautiful and epic track, with dreamy, otherworldly synths. Roberts speaks of going against all common sense and good judgment, submitting himself fully to the passionate urges of love: “I am carefully turning supernova. Here, in the rain. For I have stood here a time or two, thinking of you with a wish or two, chanced away upon a fellow shooting star. I must congratulate you. And I must conclude that I am joining them in their letting go of the ability to hold on to anything, never mind, everything, never mind plans. The scientists have advised against it, and they have done extensive research and they have told me to stop thinking of you this time or two. But, I don’t want to. I’ve told them to fuck right off.”
The lively title track “Long ago when tigers smoked pipes” has a rapid EDM beat that has a sort of African jungle vibe, replete with animal-sounding synths – but of course! It’s predominantly instrumental, but halfway through Roberts says “This party isn’t over, it’s merely changed form.” Then, toward the end, we hear an echoed voice state “Long ago, when tigers smoked pipes, there was a world that lived in harmony. Without war, disease.” It’s a great song.
“We Occupy” is a hard-hitting protest song of sorts, encompassing many aspects of the human condition from suffering to triumph, and everything in between. Here’s a sampling of the compelling lyrics: “We occupy the shit jobs, the shop floor shelf-stocking rat race. / We occupy fragility in nursing homes and hospitals. / We occupy the uniforms that treat our dying loved ones with respect. / We occupy lives senselessly lost to war. / We occupy an education system manipulated to manufacture robot people with robot souls. But we will not listen anymore. We have given up on your promise of a house on the hill at 2.4. We occupy free thought, free religion, free love, freedom of any kind.”
Roberts assures a friend or loved one of his unconditional support on “Let Me Know,” a brief track with a languid beat and wobbly synths that feels more like a soothing interlude. Next up is “Sometimes making something leads to nothing,” one of the more unusual and arresting tracks on the album. The track begins with strange, sci-fi synth sounds, then the music settles into a synth-driven melody with guitar, strong bass, and sharp percussion, the eerie synths continuing throughout the song.
The equally unusual and engrossing video shows a man pushing a large block of ice for what appears to be miles through the streets of Mexico City. As he continues on his journey, the block of ice eventually shrinks down to a small chunk, which he nudges along with his foot, until it completely melts away.
The final track “It depends on YOU” is a dire warning about the growing trend toward authoritarianism now happening in many parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. The dark, sinister-sounding synths really make the disturbing words seem all the more chilling:
In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self abasement The sexual instinct shall be eradicated We shall abolish the orgasm There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the party But always, there will be the intoxication of power Always and every moment there will be the thrill of victory The sensation of trampling on an enemy that is helpless If you want to picture the future Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one Don’t let it happen. It depends on YOU
It’s a pessimistic end to a album that at first glance seems rather pessimistic on the whole, yet there are several glimmers of hope and optimism to be found. Random…’s masterful synths are the perfect accompaniment for Roberts’ dark but poetic words, and together they’ve created an enthralling and deeply contemplative work. The album will be available soon on many streaming and download platforms. Random… will give all of the profits from sales of the album to charity and is currently talking to a local independently run charity that helps people with mental health issues.
1. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (1)
2. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (6)
3. PAIN – The War on Drugs (2)
4. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent (5)
5. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (3)
6. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (9)
7. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (8)
8. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (4)
9. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (7)
10. RUN FOR COVER – The Killers (11)
11. BORN FOR GREATNESS – Papa Roach (12)
12. BROKEN – lovelytheband (13)
13. HAPPY HOUR – Weezer (10)
14. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (14)
15. &RUN – Sir Sly (16)
16. SEVERED – The Decemberists (N)
17. BEST FRIEND – Sofi Tukker ft. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno (18)
18. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + The Horses (20)
19. GOD’S PLAN – Drake (17)
20. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (N)
1. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (1)
2. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (3)
3. ONE FOOT – WALK THE MOON (5)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (2)
5. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (4)
6. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal.The Man (11)
7. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (10)
8. ANGELA – The Lumineers (12)
9. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (13)
10. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (14)
11. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (6) 19th week on list
12. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (8)
13. DEVIL IN THE DETAILS – VERIS (9)
14. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (7)
15. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (17)
16. PASSION – AWOLNATION (18)
17. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (20)
18. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (15)
19. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (16) 19th week on list
20. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (N)
1. THE MAN – The Killers (1)
2. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (4)
3. RUN – Foo Fighters (5)
4. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (2)
5. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (3)
6. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (6)
7. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (8)
8. HOLDING ON – War on Drugs (9)
9. HIGH – Sir Sly (7)
10. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (12)
11. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (14)
12. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (10)
13. ONE OF US – New Politics (11)
14. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (17)
15. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (18)
16. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (13)
17. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (20)
18. DIG DOWN – Muse (16)
19. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (N)
20. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (N)
I recently discovered a composer/producer of Electronica music who goes by the artistic name Random… (Random dot dot dot) when he reached out to me to consider his upcoming album Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness. Hailing from Rotherham, England, Random… creates multi-textured synthesized music that ranges from dark and politically topical to catchy EDM. With contributions from two poets – Gav Roberts and Wayne Dyson, along with guitarist Mr Jiggs – Random… recorded the ambitious 11-track album.
In his own words, ‘Random… is reclusive, innovative and slightly insane. Those lucky enough to have met him will testify that his view of the world is warped, dark, but always entertaining.‘ He calls his particular style IDM – Intelligent Dance Music.
Most of the songs on the album have a mysterious, otherworldly vibe achieved through the use of complex melodies, discordant multi-layered synths, repetitive beats and spoken poetic vocals. The albums opens with the deeply compelling track “Put All Weapons Down.” The song is a call for peace and letting go of hate that keeps us in a permanent state of war – whether it be with others or within ourselves. It opens with dark, cacophonous sounds, then to wobbly, textured synths, Gav Roberts admonishes us to ‘put all weapons down.’ The lyrics are a litany of weapons we use to hurt others. Here are a sampling:
“If your weapon is contained within the ink within your pen, set it down and rethink your motivation for writing.
If they be guns, take your finger from the trigger, empty the bullets onto the ground where you stand, put it down and step away.
Unstrap the bombs from your heart, go back and question the peaceful god who commands you to do this. Put all weapons down.
If you use god as your weapon, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or any other, do not speak to them anymore, or if you speak do not place your hate on them, then pretend that it was theirs.
Perhaps the most biting lyric is “Put them down, not even because you will hurt people with them, but because it is hurting you to hold them.”
Next up is “Rovrumoncee,” an infectious EDM track with echoed vocals by Wayne Dyson, while “Osmosis” has a sci-fi feel, along with Roberts’ electronically enhanced vocals. The spacey vibe continues with “Headspace,” in which ominous, scratchy synths, set to thumping bass, are overlain with Dyson’s chanting vocals.
Some tracks are strictly instrumental, such as “Kotto,” with its catchy uptempo beat, warm synths and crashing cymbals. (The video for the song uses animation based on The Pink Panther.) Other instrumental tracks include “Then We Came to the End,” with crunchy synths set to a hypnotic assertive beat that impels hip movement; the psychedelic EDM-tinged “Pete’s Gone to Leeds;” and “Elemeno Pea” with its marching band drumbeat and mysterious, pulsating synth chords.
One of my favorites is the melodic “Peristalsis,” with lovely guitar work by Mr Jiggs and spoken vocals by Roberts: “My friends think they’re the answers, but they forgot the question long ago. / Peristalsis is the motion I am feeling most of all. Almost too frequently to notice that it is there at all.”
“The Girl & the Water” is a six-minute long track featuring swirling, atmospheric synths that really do convey a sense of a pool of water. Strange animal-like sounds, accompanied by Roberts’ electronically-enhanced vocals, add to the song’s otherworldly ambiance.
The album is planned for release through independent electronic music record label Pink Dolphin Music in April 2017.
1. Put all weapons down (featuring Gav Roberts)
2. Rovrumoncee (featuring Wayne Dyson)
3. Osmosis (featuring Gav Roberts)
4. Headspace (featuring Wayne Dyson)
6. Peristalsis (featuring Gav Roberts & Mr Jiggs)
7. Then we came to the end
8. The Girl & the Water (featuring Gav Roberts)
9. Pete’s Gone to Leeds
10. Elemeno Pea
11. Hidden tune