Stealing Sheep — Big Wows (19th Ap., 2019) ♦ All~girl trio z Liverpoolu Emily Lansley, Lucy Mercer a Rebecca Hawley pracuje s kombinací éterických syntezátorů a zpěvu v rámci informačních a komunikačních technologií inovativní psych~folk, což je vyloženě okouzlujícím zážitkem. Lákadlem jsou harmonie a melodie. Ani zdaleka to není středověký a skopčácký folk. Jak mohl někdo vymyslet tak odporné slovo? Už ho ani nebudu opakovat. Pokud bych se vrátil k předešlému albu ‘Not Real’, bylo to spíše popové album typu Hot Chip, Bat For Lashes a zřejmě i La Roux, vokální linka je však dodávána s ‘nosovou’ bezstarostností stále živého Johna Lennona. Doprovodné vokály pak intonují melodii a tato kombinace má za následek rostoucí drone a ‘Calexico polštář’ nebo The High Llamas náladu alb ‘Can Cladders’ a ‘Beet, Maize & Corn’. Prostě velké překvapení. A když do toho slyším Rhodes Piano, jsem dostatečně mrtvý, abych do sebe mohl kopnout švestku.
♦ Koneckonců je inspirativní uvést část jejich interview od Tiffany Daniels (Drunken Werewolf) ohledně nahrávání alba:
♦ „Vyvíjející se signální zvuky jsou formovány novými nástroji, které sbíráme z turné. Zvedli jsme bambusový zither, mexické šejkry, ruční bicí a naše myšlenky pociťujeme eklektičtěji. Také děláme spoustu ilustrací a animací, které budou doprovázet album v nějaké vyvíjející se formě nebo tvaru.“
♦ Nadprůměrná alba jsou tu k tomu, aby jsme se k nim vraceli. A já se vrátím na jeho začátek. Zdůrazním píseň “Sunk”. Album bylo nahráno v Abbey Road Studios. To nejnovější album si však nachází cestu do mého srdce jenom pozvolna. Uvidíme.
Formed: 2010 in Liverpool, England
Location: Liverpool ~~ Abbey Road Studios, UK
Album release: 19th April, 2019
Record Label: Heavenly Recordings
01. Show Love 3:22
02. Back in Time 3:32
03. Jokin’ Me 3:35
04. Why Haven’t I? 2:59
05. Girl 4:03
06. Just Dreaming 2:11
07. Big Wows 4:21
08. Breathe 2:53
09. True Colours 3:57
10. Choose like You 3:33
11. Heartbeats 3:17
Ξ Emily Meghan Lansley Vocals, keyboards, electric guitar and bass guitar
Ξ Lucy Mercer Vocals, drum machines, percussion and acoustic drum kit
Ξ Rebecca Marie Hawley Vocals and synthesisers
♦ “Big Wows is shot through with glittery bounce and buzzing synth lines… Three albums in they’ve attained a mastery of their craft that’s a joy to behold.” — The Skinny — ⭐⭐⭐⭐
♦ “Stealing Sheep are responsible for some of the most progressive pop songs of the past decade.” — London In Stereo
♦ “Sophisticated pop… Shimmering, groove~heavy and playfully effervescent.” — Classic Pop
♦ “Liverpool trio’s impressive third… Blending synths, weirdo electro~funk, and expensive~sounding production, this is sparkling stuff.” — Uncut Magazine
By Anna Alger
Published Apr 17, 2019; Score: 8
•ƒ• Liverpool pop trio Stealing Sheep are delivering Big Wows, their third record and first since 2015’s Not Real; its lengthy gestation period was the result of collaborations with multiple producers in search of the album’s sound.
•ƒ• Taut and built upon arpeggiated synths coupled with a prominent rhythm section, the album pokes fun at our over~stimulated reality, while commenting on the struggles we face to retain individuality and authenticity. From its first note, Big Wows bursts into a kaleidoscope of sound, “Show Love” grappling with vulnerability, as the band’s interwoven harmonies ask: “Do you think we'll wake up feeling like we’ve changed?”
•ƒ• Bouncy pop is juxtaposed with sarcasm on lead single, “Jokin’ Me,” heard in the vocal, “I’ve seen this before, I know how it ends: ‘He’s all I got,’ she just says,” before launching into a refrain encapsulating the obsessive culture that online dating feeds into: “Do you think about me, think about me, think about me?” repeats ad nauseum into the chorus.
•ƒ• The album’s title track is a bass~led workout flowing from one dreamy melody to the next, as vocals from Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer harmonize effortlessly. At first, its lyrics question the innocence of youth, before harnessing naivety as a strength. Imbued with melancholy, steel pans trace the melody of “Choose Like You.” It stands out as a deceptively simple yet important statement about one’s autonomy: “Just ‘cause I don’t live like you, and choose the way you do,” is the central refrain, building upon pensive synths before transforming into an upbeat assertion.
•ƒ• Stealing Sheep harness programmed sounds to underlie necessary messages about retaining one’s sense of self in what can be a hyperactive world. The reflection in their lyrics allows Big Wows’ production to roam freely through worlds of pop and dance, anchored yet escapist. •ƒ• https://exclaim.ca/
♦ Big Wows is heavier, harder and weirder than Stealing Sheep’s previous work. Bold neon pop songs with rave percussion, steelpans, dreamy segues and breathy experiments. The *fsszzt* sound of lemonade opens the album with a hyper~real sense of optimism that progressively reveals the cracks of dystopian irony amidst sugar~coated pop; held together by Emily Lansley’s bass guitar, Luciana Mercer’s drum kit, Rebecca Hawley’s synths, and the trio’s swooning steely vocal harmonies.
Stealing Sheep describe Big Wows as “a slow rush”; taking shape over a period of nearly three years spent working out exactly what they wanted it to be and creating an album that levitated their identities as individuals as well as merging them into one unit “We’re each finding our own creative intuition,” says Bex “..and then we come together…and we back each other up” adds Lucy.
•ƒ• Just as the title suggests, Big Wows is both cynical and optimistic: dreaminess and pop dance rhythms are cut With eye rolling vocal styles inflected by heartfelt lyrical messages “We hit upon this conversational~style between the vocals and have alternating lead melodies. There’s a sarcastic tone to some of the music but there is always a strong wilfulness to incorporate honest integrity, which is hard to do but refreshing when it finally comes out.”
•ƒ• Side one opens with a burst of shimmery synths as ‘Show Love’ and ‘Back in Time’ lead you heart first into the headier feels of ‘Jokin’ Me’ and upbeat bounce of ‘Why haven’t I?’ following into the more progressive grooves for ‘Girl’ then fading out with the narcoleptic comforts of ‘Just Dreaming’.
•ƒ• Side two digs deeper into a dreamworld, with the manias and hallucinations of ‘Breathe’ and ‘True Colours’ as well as the gorgeous disillusionment of the title track and ending with an unexpected tropical club banger ‘Choose Like You’.
•ƒ• Running through the whole record is a response to living in a tech era: “We wanted sounds to represent TVs, computers and everyday glitches” says Bex “We started to have this feeling that life is like a game and how you can malfunction when you’re blasted with too much information…”
•ƒ• As well as composing with traditional instrumentation they also started songs solely on the computer; sequencing, building sounds, drum machines and responding to that non~emotional binary world. “The big challenge,” continues Bex “is making machines sound organic, emotional, finding their flaws. That’s why Delia Derbyshire is so important to us. All the effects that she uses serve to humanise the machines.”
•ƒ• Since the release of their last album, 2015’s surreal and fantastical ‘Not Real’, they’ve been in demand as multidisciplinary public artists as well as musicians — on projects including Wow Machine, which brings to life another more conceptual strand of ‘Big Wows’; in a mechanical light up stage with dancers and live music.
•ƒ• This summer they also performed at UK festivals with a 15 strong all~female procession to celebrate the centenary of Suffrage. “Being female has become more of a theme in our work” the band say. “It’s obviously always been there but now we’re playing with it more conceptually and thinking about empowerment.”
•ƒ• This greater confidence and rock~solid aesthetic mean that Stealing Sheep can take greater risks and reap more wonderful rewards. They have a broad range of influences — St Vincent, Michael Jackson, The Knife, Kraftwerk, Drake, Little Dragon — but they remain so resolutely and richly themselves. “We try new things out and we get more confident about what we like.” says Bex. “There’s a really good thing Grayson Perry says about developing your creative intuition. You get to a level as an artist where you know on a gut level what you like and what you don’t like. It takes a long time to feel comfortable in that place, to know your palette, to know you like these drum sounds or whatever it is.”
•ƒ• Lucy is working with a full drum kit now instead of just toms, Emily is playing bass guitar, Bex is making her own synth patches and they’re all using new equipment: they are developing and experimenting and moving forward together. “We wanted the machine sounds to be juxtaposed against a full kit and bass guitar, which we tracked live to feel intentionally loose in places. We like the idea of placing robotic tech next to real life energy.”
•ƒ• The songs began at home or in their studio at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory, laying down the main body of the tracks, then the band worked with various producers — including Marta Salogni (Bjork, MIA, Factory Floor), Andy Smith (Years & Years), Ash Workman (Christine & The Queens, Metronomy) and Joe Wills (video artist for Little Dragon) — as they’ve tried out different mixes and ideas to convey their messages.
•ƒ• They also teamed up with 8bit video artist Pastle Castle (Emily Garner) from Leeds, who created a Karaoke video series for the whole album; exploring Stealing Sheep’s digital dimension and their shifting identities amidst changing cultural moods and millennial paraphernalia. “It’s a crazy time and it’s challenging navigating through it, but it’s like ‘whatever’ bring on the BIG WOWS.’
Emily Lansley: https://www.facebook.com/emlansley
Tiffany Daniels interview: http://www.drunkenwerewolf.com/blog/interview-stealing-sheep/
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