A perfectly-timed release from Muddy Summers & the Dirty Field Whores, as ever saying what everyone is thinking: ‘Boris, I would call you a cunt but you haven’t got the depth or the charm’. Love this v much.
Catch MS&tDFW on 13 Dec at the Railway Southend for a Christmas Freak Show with friends T-Bitch, KristinaStazaker, SophieBurrows and I, Doris.
Petrol Girls’ explosive performance was a huge highlight of this year’s LOUD WOMEN Fest, as always! If you were there, you may have noticed the enormous banner they performed under – a hand-stitched patchwork of flags, reshaped to proclaim the words ‘NO LOVE FOR A NATION’. This video shows the story behind that banner, made on route across Europe, and culminating at LW Fest in London. Ren explains:
“We shot this video on the way from Austria to the UK for our September tour, via Germany and France. We got a bit of funding from PRS, and, whilst we were limited in the ways we could spend it, we wanted to find a way to feed some of it back into the politics that this song advocates and the community that we’re part of…
Nations create borders and borders create violences like detention, deportation and the denial of safe passage. It is a bizarre and often cruel way of organising societies on the basis of where people happen to have been born. It is those on the edge of this way of defining ourselves that suffer its harshest consequences – refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. It is not acceptable that 18,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, because they were denied safe passage on the basis of their nationality…
We stand in opposition to Fortress Europe but mourn Brexit as the result of populist nationalist politics and a xenophobic, dishonest and at times overtly racist campaign. We are not proud of Britain – we are embarrassed. Above all we are angered by the rise in racism and xenophobia since the Brexit result. We are deeply troubled and angered by the way in which populist nationalism has emboldened racists and fascists across the world.”
Catch Petrol Girls back on the road again this month:
NOVEMBER Mon 4: COLOGNE (DE), Carlswerk * Tue 5: HAMBURG (DE), Grosse Freiheit * Thu 7: BRUSSELS (BE), Ancienne Belgique * Fri 8: PARIS (FR), Elysee Montmartre * Sun 10: MILAN (IT), Alcatraz * Mon 11: MUNICH (DE), Tonhalle * Tue 12: BERLIN (DE), Huxleys * Thu 14: SOLOTHURN (CH), Kofmehl + Sat 16: BARCELONA (ES), La + Sun 17: MADRID (ES), Sala Cool + Wed 20: KIEL (DE), Alte Meierei Thu 21: HANNOVER (DE), UJZ Korn Fri 22: BREMEN (DE), Die Friese * with Refused and Thrice. + with Thrice.
I can’t quite put into words what Atigheh makes me feel. The opening vocals is like a call to home, pulling at something in the core of me. It asks me to be still, to listen. It asks me if it’s possible to be homesick for a place you never knew.
Atigheh (out now on Bandcamp) is the third EP by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani, entirely self-produced and independently released. Performing as her solo project DespicableZee, Zahra is an Oxford-based musician and composer specialising in leftfield, electronic lo-fi-pop. She’s been creating music for over 15 years, and also drums for acts such as Lafawndah and Young Knives on their UK and European tours. Her latest project is a music video for Clay Grouk, the fourth track of the EP, which I had the pleasure of previewing – and it hasn’t left my mind since.
Atigheh is a story of the in-between. The lyrics guide you through Zahra’s experience as a second generation immigrant; her father is from Iran and her mother is from Ireland. The songs explore the search we go through as immigrants to meld two identities into one body. But identity is never binary. In each person, it exists as an amalgamation of environments, influences, and experiences… yet there’s an unspoken feeling shared by all of us who walk this tightrope. We perform a balancing act between different cultures, never fully able to embody either, which invokes a constant longing to belong. It is this chord that Atigheh manages to strike, with lines that force you to stare your liminality in the face, such as:
“Foreign mind and soul in a white-washed zone, no matter where we land we always feel alone”.
The title track Atigheh derives its name from a ballad by Persian singer Hayedeh, whose voice is sampled throughout the EP. The song was released shortly before she entered a self-imposed exile in 1978 (the year before Zahra’s own father emigrated to the UK), leaving Iran so she could continue to sing. Zahra sings “to attempt to understand why her father left and what he left behind”. Having lived in Oxford her whole life, she has never been to Iran herself. For many of us who grew up in a place where you can never fully belong, home is a loaded word. The idea of “return” is tied up in an inherent shame of being so far, so other to yourself. Yet when she first heard Hayedeh’s singing, it resonated with a deep-rooted affinity for a shared home she could envision but couldn’t touch. Although she couldn’t translate the words, Hayedeh was calling to her and her directly. Zahra’s father translated the lyrics for her, at which point she realised the parts which struck her the most were when she sings about her exile and describes a longing for Iran; when they say that music is transcendent, I like to think this is exactly what they mean. Something in Hayedeh’s voice drew out a homesickness in Zahra that she hadn’t even recognised. It’s a certain magic that music carries, transcending the boundaries of language.
Zahra explains all of this to us on a sunlit Monday evening session of the Young Women’s Music Project. YWMP is an educational charity based in Oxfordshire that aims to provide a safe and supportive space for womxn to make music, collaborate, and discuss the issues facing them, whether it be mental health, sexuality, race, class, relationships, or other axes which affect their lives. As the director of the project, Zahra has seen first-hand how YWMP is a lifeline to many of us growing up in a place of “un-belonging”. The project means more to us – and to her – than I can truly express, because this isn’t just a group of womxn making music. This is sisterhood, in its purest form.
As a member of YWMP, I went to watch Zahra perform Atigheh as a solo set over summer. This was the first time I’d ever heard it, and one line lingered in my memory that I can’t shake off. Clay Grouk contains no other lyrics than the words “you force a silence in me”, over and over, which pulls at a space in my heart I never knew I had. The song samples her son Sé’s voice, and the sounds you hear are from recordings Zahra has taken from everyday motherhood: Sé at his playgroup, with a toy tractor, or from a trip to Modern Art Oxford where he played with a projector. Even the title Clay Grouk comes from Sé’s attempt to pronounce “play group”. The music video is a beautifully simple concept – we watch as Sé plays with parts of a drum kit, and dances around a pink-washed room, hiding under blankets and spinning round in circles. In all its simplicity, the video captures everything that Zahra is addressing through Atigheh. The drum kit represents her in the video, whilst the blankets he plays with are covered in Paisley – a traditional Persian pattern that was stolen and brought to England. To make the video, Zahra asked Sé to play “some form of musical statues”, achieving the candid shots of childhood lovingly captured as pockets of joy. I found it unexpectedly moving, watching in stillness from start to finish. Zahra describes the song as a reflection on “the chaos of being a parent – I’m not really with it most of the time. But there are moments. There are times when I’m travelling with Sé, and he falls asleep, and I’m holding his hand – and the noise stops. It’s the cliché thing that people say when they have kids, that it’s really hard work but it’s all worth it.”
The line keeps coming back to me. “You force a silence in me”. It’s exactly what happened when I first sat down to listen to Atigheh. It forced me to be still, to take it in, to let the notes ring around my room and settle in my stomach. The same thing happened when I first watched the video for Clay Grouk. I meant to take notes, to prepare for writing this up, but within the first few seconds, I stopped. I watched it through, and then again, touched by the underlying messages of motherhood that Zahra threads through the track, and wordlessly expresses through the clips of Sé. She describes the EP’s overall “sparse sound” as an “acknowledgement of the holes that displacement leaves”. And I get it. There are so many unnamed feelings that Atigheh digs up from the roots. Thoughts on belonging, on home, on heritage, and motherhood, or on the shared, silent loneliness of immigration. On what it means to be liminal. If any of these ring true to you, you need to watch Zahra perform Atigheh. It will force a silence in you, too.
Our video of the day today is ‘Adeleine’ from Brooklyn pop duo Water From Your Eyes – an enthralling stop-motion and animation mini-adventure, featuring Rachel and Nate as tiny living puppets, exploring the big city of NYC from the POV of the wee folk.
Directed by Abigail Austin, she tells us:
“I really enjoy playing with scale and I was interested in seeing how miniature Rachel and Nate could relate to different environments. In New York its easy to feel small, and it can control you in ways that you don’t always expect – so I wanted to make something playful and maybe even a bit silly to explore that.”
The song itself is dreamy, driving pop that sucks you in straight away. Nate and Rachel explained that
“lyrically the song deals with wondering if you missed your shot at something, if you deserve or will get another chance, and the presence and importance of another person in your life and the process of dealing with transitioning relationships – the difficulty of “pull(ing) the lever” and knowing that ‘nobody else could make me leave me behind’.
So who is ‘Adeleine’, referenced in the song title? A hero? A love interest? The band have a simpler explanation for the title:
“We just thought Adeleine was a cool name, worked well with the rhyme scheme.”
Adeleine is taken from the band’s newly-released LP, Somebody Else’s Song, which came out 25 October on Exploding in Sound Records.
Today’s flippin gorgeous video of the day is from South Shields’ Cortney Dixon, ‘What You Wanna Do’. Instantly-engaging pop, driving fuzzy-bass and a pretty singalong chorus – now there’s lovely. Courtney herself says:
“’What You Wanna Do’ is about that person who comes along and who you instantly fall madly in love with – except you know you absolutely shouldn’t. Both of you are made up of entirely different things and yet somehow it feels like you’re exactly the same. It‘s a love that turns you mental. It’s a love that’s not sustainable. It throws everything you thought you knew into complete disarray and turns your answers back to questions. It’s never going to work, and you both know that, so you have to decide – What You Wanna Do?”