Thursday, 17 December 2020

Paya Lehane Exclusive Interview


1) First and foremost thank you for taking the time out for this interview. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your first steps into creating music?

The pleasure is all mine Martin!:)

My name is Paya Lehane and I am a music composer, multi-instrumentalist and a music producer based in North London, UK. I also spend some time working on abstract art when I need to give my ears a little break. :)

I come from the Czech republic where I studied music since childhood. It was a pretty long journey as I started playing recorder when I was four. I have played the piano since I was six and then I moved to playing oboe as well. I was lucky because when it comes to music education in my home country you can find a lot of music schools for all ages. So I started with elementary school which is basically a music primary school where you can learn a very basic music theory, also singing and a music instrument of your own choosing. When I was 15 I got accepted to a music conservatoire in my hometown Pardubice where I studied classical music and an oboe playing and after six years I went to Janacek’s Academy of Performing Arts in Brno where I got quite a lot of practise in orchestral playing and chamber music.

While I was studying at the Academy I was already pretty much sure about my dream job. I didn’t want to be an oboe player in a symphonic orchestra or a teacher. I had a massive urge to create music so I decided to start writing my own music. While I studied the conservatoire in Pardubice I met a lot of great musicians and same creative beings like myself who wanted to establish a band focused on Celtic music.

So in 2008 me and my friend Stepan Honc (guitarist) along with two other friends (a violinist and a percussionist) from the conservatoire founded a band called Perkelt. We started off with our own arrangements of old medieval tunes from the 13th century and then we slowly moved onto making our own tunes with a Celtic folk vibe. For a while we used to call our style a Celtic-medieval speed folk as we were pretty wild young students who loved super energising upbeat music so it was pretty normal for us to play a two hour set full of insanely fast songs without taking a single break. :)

In 2010 we sadly came across a massive barrier.

We discovered that we can’t make full living out of making music and playing gigs in the Czech Republic. You see in the Czech Republic when it comes to public events as gigging opportunities for young folk bands, musicians are just constantly taken for granted and they never seem to get any respect or recognition for their work. To many people in the Czech Republic “being a musician” doesn’t even mean to have an actual job. They just never get paid and if they do it is a pittance which barely covers their travel costs. It’s outrageous.. I am not gonna dig deep into this problem as it’s not the main subject of this interview but it is a clear explanation why in 2011 me and my bandmate Stepan decided to leave our home country and move to London.

It was a fresh start and just living, creating, playing music and meeting other musicians gave us a big dose of hope for a better future and also a great energy to keep doing what we always loved doing.

It wasn’t an easy journey but it was worth it!

In the last nine years I have played (not kidding) hundreds of great gigs and I met lots of great musicians and exciting people. With some of them I had a great pleasure to cooperate on some music and theatrical projects and I am really happy here. About 2years ago I started my own solo project focused on world music and fusions of different music styles and I totally love it!

And that is where I am pretty much now :)

2) You’re a woman of many talents: a singer, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, media artist and painter. Do you have a favourite artistic pursuit or do you find joy and frustrations in equal measures?

First of all thank you so much for saying so! I am blushing a bit right now. :)

Uhm….I have always considered myself being more a music person and because of all my studies and experience in music I feel more competent and confident as a musician. Visual arts is something I just appreciate very much and to be honest since the first time I set my foot in the Tate Modern I feel like at home. :) Before the Covid crisis started I used to go there very often. That place just gives me so much creative energy and inspiration that sometimes I just simply have to get a canvas, grab a paint brush and paint something.

3) Your productions cover a number of genres for example folk, celtic and even drum and bass, which utilises both organic and synthetic instruments. Who or what are the main influences to your composition style?

There is a huge number of artists who inspired me. Some of them are very famous, some of them are less famous and some of them are just people in my life.

From the famous group I should definitely mention people like Bjork, Lisa Gerrard, Enya or Loreena McKennit. They all have one thing in common and that’s very unique compositional and singing style, beautiful voice off course and experience with film music score writing. These ladies are my huge idols.

When it comes to mixing up different music genres the biggest influence comes from a quite big circle of my musical friends. Not only friends from England but also some friends from Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Italy and Germany and many many others. I have met inspiring people who do Classical music, Gothic music, Traditional Bulgarian music, Country music & Americana, Folk music, Early music, Rock music, D&B, some people who focus on Epic Nordic music or Viking ritual music, Pagan Dance music, there is really so many music genres in the world that I could go on and on for hundreds of pages. All these people have inspired me and meeting them and listening to their great stuff was what probably transformed into my own music style. That’s why among all my music you get the D&B :)

4) You recently released Hollow Skies on Suriya Records which was produced by Youth. What did you feel his years of experience brought to the production of the album?

Oh yes!! Youth really knows his stuff!! :) His years of experience definitely made this album Great! Unique and Super Memorable!!

I have to say he taught me some new pretty cool ways of making music which I didn’t really have the guts to try until I came into his studio in Clapham. You see when it comes to recording myself I am pretty old fashioned. I am pretty stuck with my own routines. Firstly I write my music on a piece of paper, usually scores first then the lyrics. Then I make a list of instruments which I would like to record, then I write the structure of the piece, solos for instrumental parts and lastly I work on the intro and outro of the song. And after all these preparations I go to switch on the computer, set up the mics and press record.

With Youth this all was just not happening and at first it was making me rather nervous :). Youth asked me to be more spontaneous so we would usually sit down together and listen to the basic backing track that he had prepared for the session earlier in the day. It was supposed to help me to get into the vibe. I have to say the first few sessions were quite stressful as I was just super nervous which was making my voice to shake so the performance wasn’t very good. But later on I just got somehow comfortable with being spontaneous. I did a lot of improvising on the basic vocal lines which I improved later by adding some harmonies. So at the end I had some stuff actually written. Especially when it came to writing lyrics in a fictional language. :) Youth helped me to find my own musical language and taught me to trust my voice. Also he taught me that during improvisation if you really calm down:) lots of magic can happen…And it did. I think the album we made is truly magical. :)

5) While everyone is awaiting the return to normality, where we can attend live concerts many artists are reaching their fans by video streaming. Is this something you have in the pipeline?

Even though I have done some live streamed gigs with Perkelt when this cover pandemic started actually I have spent quite an insane amount of time in the studio which means that for the next year when the vaccine is rolled out and life gigs become more safe I will have a plenty of material to show. So I am really looking forward to that!!

6) What is your favourite performance of your career so far and where would be your dream stage to play?

My most favourite performance was in the Netherlands at a festival called Castlefest (Summer edition) in 2018 which is actually my most favourite festival ever and I can’t wait to be there again at some point!! The whole Castlefest is just a huge super-spectacular thing, amazing people around you, beautiful scenery, gorgeous costumes ( as it is a fantasy & music festival) and four days of a total paradise!! I have to strongly recommend it to everyone! It is a festival for all age groups by the way so no-one is excluded there which is what I love about it most. Everyone is welcome there and I promise you if you go there from the first day on you will feel like at home!!

7) What advice do you have for young artists and producers hoping to launch their career?

Believe yourself, be patient with yourself and others, have respect and self-discipline, learn and never give up!!!!


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

A selection of downtempo musical highlights from 2020


With the landslide of emails, shares and media streams of new music, it’s becoming harder and harder to scratch the surface of music releases. So this list of no particular order is quite frankly a selection of releases that either impressed me or I repeatedly played on the commute to and from the day job.

1) The Orb – Abolition of the Royal Familia

Back in March the was a bit of a buzz about this album, with many saying the Orb were back to their best. Although I really liked the predecessor COW (Chill Out World) I could see from the off why this album would have universal appeal.

2) Gaudi – 100 Years of Theremin (The Dub Chapter)

Alongside a selection of heavyweight dub pioneers, the Theremin maestro celebrated the invention of this eerie electronic instrument by cementing a union with dub reggae.

3) Gigi Masin – Calypso

A beautiful selection of sun-kissed Mediterranean ambience with touches of jazz. Just perfect to kick back and relax.

4) Yaima – Ceremonia

Quite simply a lovely acoustic album from this American folktronica duo, which is inspired by the natural world and aimed at encouraging growth in the hearts and minds of the listeners.

5) Matt Coldrick – Music For A Busy Head Vol 2

After many years Matt re-kindles this concept and dives deep into healing ambient textures, with touches of 70’s inspired prog rock guitar and gentle piano.

6) Paya – Hollow Skies

A selection of tracks from the classically trained vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, that spans celtic folk, electronica and pop. At times almost mirroring her idols Dead Can Dance. The album is produced by Youth, who compared her vocal capabilities to Lisa Gerrard.

7) Tripswitch – Momento Mori

After a number of years concentrating on progressive house, Nick Brennan returned to the folds of downtempo where he initially made his name. At times darker than it’s predecessors but still balanced with moments of light.

7) Erothyme – Steep Dreams

This was the second Erothyme release that I purchased after a long hiatus on my behalf. With three exceptionally strong tracks this album ignited my interest in those albums I’d missed.

8) Andrew Heath – The Alchemists Muse

Not having heard his latest release I can only go on the two releases of this year I have heard. This edges it ever so slightly for me. However, if you like Andrew’s brand of ambient soundscapes, field recordings and laid back piano then they all fit the bill.

9) Eguana – Serenity

Eguana has churned out a good number of releases this year without lapsing on quality. Quite frankly I could have included any one of them. This album steered away from the space themes of it’s recent predecessors, with the focus placed on nature before moving to more mythical and fantasy themes of his following release.

10) Kaya Project – Body.Mind.Soul.

Once again fusing tribal rhythms and world music with ambient soundscapes and ethereal vocals. Additionally featuring some re-mixes from Seb’s other projects such as Hibernation and Biotone.

Additionally ...

Richard Norris – Music For Healing (The Complete Long Form Series)

Richard followed on from his Abstractions albums with a series of 12 twenty minute ambient pieces, released weekly and aimed for relaxation or an accompaniment to practises such as yoga. Which is now available in a more compact version both digitally and on CD. There’s nothing really catchy about these releases they just suitably serve their purpose.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Kick Bong 'Zeltitude' Review



Kick Bong




Cosmicleaf Records


1st December 2020

From a glance this latest release from Parisian Kick Bong appears to reflect the emotions felt through this period of lockdowns and isolation. The opening track ‘We Will Survive’ paints contrasts of light and dark and when the beat kicks in, in the later third of the piece it explodes into life. ‘Strange Days’ begins in a melodic fashion reminiscent of the steel pan sound, and there’s no rush to apply the four-by-four with this track either. However, when he does it’s pulls together into an impressive melodic techno track. The mood gets darker and more atmospheric with ‘Let Me Fly’ providing a sense of winding up, and those little melodic flutters and guitar licks reaching for the desired release.

There’s a lovely balance of heavenly synths, circling loops and French spoken word that sits this track ‘Tu me Manques’ somewhere between 90’s progressive techno and the 80’s synth pioneers Visage. The title track begins dark and gritty with melodic bleeps running across. It morphs along route, throwing in some Cure like guitar riffs and the result is another wonderful piece. Whilst ‘Happy Inside’ is a bit of a plodder it runs the gauntlet of atmospheres and sounds you find through out the album. The pace slows down more on ‘The Calling’ where angelic voices and ambient tones drift in and out of atmospheric passages. Which leads nicely into the final track ‘Waiting Better’ a chilled piece of electronica with flutters of drums and flute like synths and chimes.

Reviewed by Woodzee


Friday, 4 December 2020

The Orb 'Auntie Aubrie's Excursions Beyond the Call of Duty pt. 3' Review



The Orb


Auntie Aubrie's Excursions 

Beyond the Call of Duty pt. 3


Liquid Sound Design


4th December 2020

I first came across the Orb among the shelves of a record store. It wasn’t an underground store that specialised in the latest imported 12’s, just a regular high street chain. The title of the item caught my attention ‘The huge ever pulsating brain that rules from the centre of the ultraworld’ I surveyed the listening booths and decided I wouldn’t bother queuing as with a title like this it must be good. I wasn’t wrong and for a few years I was bagging their audio and visual output, as well as enjoying them live at Glastonbury. Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of their releases and seen them perform on numerous occasions. There seemed to be a buzz about their album ‘Abolition of the royal familia’ and although I really liked ‘Chill Out World’ I could see why many were saying they were back to their best.

Now this release is a compilation of Orb re-mixes that for the most part have been released on various formats over the years, packaged into one handy playable album. Now like any artists who have been around this long they have their die-hard fans, who will already be eagerly awaiting their pre-order to be shipping to their doormats. So this review is aimed at those like myself, who like the Orb rather than the Orbsessed fanatics.

Now I’ve had this sat on my harddrive for a few months, and I have spent a fair amount of time comparing this collection to the originals I didn’t know, that I could source. I found it a mixed bag there’s artists we all know such as Coldcut and System 7 where the re-mixes are great alternatives. Obvious links to fans such as Youth & Gaudi, Killing Joke and the Transit Kings. Some were completely new introductions to me,as in the case of OMFO’s ‘Sirtaki on Mars’, which is a great piece of Russian chill out in it’s own merit and I loved the result. Whereas with the Gyuto Monks of Tibet’s ‘Legend of the Yogi’ I far preferred the original, but never-the-less was glad of the introduction. But all in all this is a collection that you can easily play through, with some great tracks and if you so desire a good reference point to explore further.

Reviewed by Woodzee


Monday, 30 November 2020

Orchid-Star 'Faster Reimagined' Review





Faster Reimagined


Pink Hampster


4th December 2020

Although I’ve always been partial to Orchid-Star both live and recorded, It’s been a while since I played the Faster CD. Now although I can see the cover has had a make over that will catch the eye, it’s the content that counts. So without further ado I’ll address the results of pressing play.

The album opens with the slow version of ‘Brighter’, which begins in an ethereal fashion before flickering as if it’s about to take off, then settles into a funky world fusion with melodic keys and vocals. Whilst band percussionist and DJ Sean Spindrift takes ‘Shouty One’ into the realms of the uplifting progressive psy-trance that he’s know for. Whilst Squazoid flirts with the tempos of ‘A Better Ride’, at times letting the vocals play out and at others applying plenty of fx and squelch.

The dnb mix of ‘Surya’ is a lovely piece of Asian electronica that centres around the vocals, a perfect tune for a stomp in the sun. In comparison the Trancient Dream mix of ‘Puja’ is more of light and chilled tribal plodder. The atmosphere changes once again with Pete Ardon and Sand-Ra’s mix of ‘Lotus Bloom’, which is on the whole a straight up world music track. However, that’s not to say it hasn’t got some interesting and unique nuances about it. The mood then switches again as Sean re-appears adding some punch to the melodic, with another progressive psy take on ‘Barefoot’.

After all these twists and turns of style the last three settle somewhat of an Orchid-Star formula with the Moai System remix of ‘Prchla, a cocktail of wonderful vocals, reggae riddims and gypsy violin. I could very well use the same description for the first section of the live version of ‘Orchid-Ska’, but as the title promises it picks up the pace with a unique ska fusion. Whilst the finale Inne’s Thankyou mix of ‘Dans La’ is somewhat slower with a touch of guitar.

To summarise this collection with it's fresh lick of paint, displays both the uniqueness and diversity that Orchid-Star offers. I've got a few personal faviourites in here and they may well differ from yours. However, if you're unfamiliar with the band why not dive in and have a listen and keep your eyes peeled on the circuit when the festivals return.

Reviewed by Woodzee


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Gaudi 'Theremin in Hand' Release News





Theremin in Hand


Dubmission Records


20th November 2020

Following on from the ‘100 Years of Theremin (The Dub Chapter)’ album and available to pre-order in both 7” vinyl and digital formats, a theremin re-working of Lee Carty's ‘Bird in Hand’ comes to fruition. Produced by dub pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in his Black Ark studio along with his renowned house band the Upsetters. Which in turn was actually a reggae cover of Naushad Ali’s Hindu love song ‘Milte Hi Akhen’.

Gaudi doesn’t just restrict himself to playing the theremin, but actually recreates the piece with his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, only utilising Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) to play the bass. Whilst the flip-side of the single ‘Theremin Memoir’ won't disappoint fans as Gaudi plays homage to the 60’s & 70’s film soundtracks, of the legendary composers Serge Gainsborough and Ennio Morricone.


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Evan Fraser & Vir McCoy 'Guardians' Review



Evan Fraser & Vir McCoy




Interchill Records


12th November 2020

The releases from this iconic label are more few and far between in recent times, however the quality usually remains. This duo were the founders of the world music group Hamsa Lila, who found notoriety for performing a 12 hour set in the desert, at the Burning Man festival. While Evan is more recently recording and performing, as part of the Americana electronic fusion trio Dirtwire, along with David Satori of Beats Antique.

This is an album which draws and often combines traditional American folk and world music, with themes of thanks and connection to the natural world. For exampleFertile Ground’ which is the first of three collaborations with Rising Appalachia. This is of no surprise as this female duo also combine the music of their roots, with influences they come across while touring the world.

While there is a more distinct switch to ‘Rare Earth’, which features some Tuvan throat singing from Soriah. They delve deeper into sounds of the middle east on ‘Hookahdome’ (which I would imagine pays homage to the Burning Man tent), an electro-acoustic number featuring David Satori. Whilst ‘Condor’ is a collaboration with Olox a duo who fuse electronics and rhythms with ethnic songs of Siberia’s Sakha people. Characterised by animal, bird and deep nature vocals.

Overall it’s quite a relaxed affair, that may introduce you to new artists that perhaps you may wish to explore. While it's as suitable to sit and listen indoors on a winter night, as it is around a firepit in the early hours.

Reviewed by Woodzee