Scheduled for release on April 2nd, Yppah's Eighty One is an album of glossy synth texture and crunching gravel percussion.
Reflecting Yppah's move to southern California to be closer to the waves he loves, the album's beachbreak beats and evocative, edge-of-consciousness aural impressions are clean, shiny, and just a little too perfect.
The perfect orthodonture of a Ventura Boulevard smile, the Euclidian spheres of Venice Beach bikini-fill, the minty-gel freshness of a Malibu curl.
Into this drops the voice of Anomie Belle, featuring on four of the tracks and bringing the grit and darkness that the album needs. A touring partner to the likes of Tricky and Little Dragon, Anomie Belle contributes the backbone of the album. Breathy and knowing, insinuating and cajoling, her vocals bring the night-time shadows of trip-hop and witch rock to balance the brightness of Yppah's sun-worship. Trebuchet Magazine caught up with her:
Trebuchet Magazine: What does Anomie Belle, the name, signify?
Anomie Belle: Beautiful alienation. The isolation of consumer capitalism, of a media-saturated culture, of an undisclosed fantasy, of the things we keep secret, of an unrequited crush…
Trebuchet Magazine: The video to your collaboration with Yppah: 'Film Burn', was available on YouTube for a little while, then suddenly became private or unavailable. What happened?
Anomie Belle: The “Film Burn” video was set to premiere on a Japanese site, so the general youtube link was deactivated for the first week while the video premiered there, and then went live again. When the initial youtube post got over 2500 views in the first 24 hours without any formal promotion, Yppah and I were delighted.
Trebuchet Magazine: What do you feel about the crowd-sourced removal of artist consent that goes with 'sharing' culture? Apologists tend to argue that they are helping the artist with promotion, but it's also perceived as something of a right. Do you think about this stuff at all, or accept it as a means to getting people to your gigs?
Anomie Belle: Times have changed. People seek out and enjoy the music I make; that is a lovely thing. And I am touched and grateful to all the fans who buy my music.
Trebuchet Magazine: Your solo work draws heavily on trip-hop influences, and you've toured with Tricky. On 'Film Burn' with Yppah, it sounds as if there's a deliberate attempt to make your voice sound like Martina Topley-Bird's work on Maxinquaye, there's quite a bit of post-processing and reverb on the vocal. Elsewhere your voice dosn't sound like that. How conscious was that reference, or is it a reference at all?
Anomie Belle: Nothing deliberate or conscious there, though a happy association. Maxinquaye is an amazing album. I recorded those vocals clean and sent them Yppah and he effected them in a way that blends well with his music. When I write vocals I try really only think about the mood and the vibe of the song, and write to that alone.
Trebuchet Magazine: Yppah sent you the album stems with the idea that you pick out a song to feature on. You ended up featuring on four. What drew you to those songs, and how did you come to work together?
Anomie Belle: Yppah and I met when we opened for Bonobo together a couple of years ago, and we connected quite naturally. He did a remix for my album The Crush, (that will come out in Japan soon!) and I offered him a trade in return. When he sent me Eighty-One, I was so impressed with the way I could hear his sound growing and evolving that it was easy to write to several of the tracks right away. As I listened through the album the first time, I used a little handheld mp3 recorder to jot down melodies that appeared in my mind. I only had two weeks, so I just started writing.
If we’d had more time, we might have done even more together. It was such a natural fit
For the four songs I ended up writing to, the melodies just sort of spilled out right away; same with the lyrics. Perhaps in this way, the songs chose themselves. If we’d had more time, we might have done even more together. It was such a natural fit, and I can’t wait to tour and do some co-writing together in the future.
Trebuchet Magazine: Acknowledging that it's pre-publicity time for the Yppah album, which is stunning, I'd also like to talk about your last solo album The Crush, for the obvious reason that it's got more of you on it. More vocal idiosyncrasy for one thing. On 'Inky Drips', apart from the overt sexuality/sensuality of the lyrics, there's a slurred witch-rock, Eartha Kitt delivery that doesn't feature anywhere on the Yppah record. What's the difference between solo work and collaborations? Does the ego take over, and how do you stay objective. Or, do you even feel the need to do so?
Anomie Belle: My voice can sound all kinds of ways, and you should expect it to. Each song, album or collaboration is an opportunity for me to do something I’ve never done before, and to give listeners a new experience.
Making music, whether collaborative or alone, is always an opportunity to meditate on the notion of ego. I write the most inspired things when I can let go of identification of self with ideas, which often leads to a writing process that feels more like pushing against resistance. Instead, I just try and listen, which feels much more simple and open. Working with other people just makes the whole experience more rich, challenging and rewarding. I value the balance between solo work and collaboration and consider it one of the most inspiring elements of my artistic career.
Trebuchet Magazine: Your website bio describes you as the soundtrack to the Occupy movement. There are other acts who claim something similar. Linking your brand to resistance culture is a well-established marketing ploy, if a touch cynical. Reassure us somehow that this is not your strategy.
Anomie Belle: Though I have not claimed such a lofty title as you suggest, journalists have linked my music with the Occupy movement, which makes me happy. I am inspired by the creativity of culture jamming artists like Bansky or the “subvertisers” who modify billboards and advertisements to create commentary out of them.
we are all still constituted by and complicit in the perpetuation of oppressive, unjust, and unsustainable ways of life
When I look in the mirror I see a lot of things in myself that speak directly to the society I live in. I am perplexed by the ways that, no matter how critical I may be of them, we are all still constituted by and complicit in the perpetuation of oppressive, unjust, and unsustainable ways of life that are not driven by values and ethics, but by profit and power. Occupy has provided a widespread, public platform for real conversations to happen around this kind of stuff, which is awesome.
Trebuchet Magazine: On 'Bodies Offering' you sing 'I was your lover, now you are my friend. Does that ever really work?
In that song you develop a metaphor between the experience of shared attraction and relationship with consumerism. Elsewhere you are critical of the negative effects of consumerist behaviour on society. Is avarice transformed to a positive trait when applied to love/lust?
Anomie Belle: Of course it can work (and yes, we’re still friends.) In that song I was grappling with the nature of sex and attraction, and also the way that consumer society plays on that part of human experience.
'I have done unconscionable things
In pursuit of things fed to me on the screen
And how is my life so much precious
Than anybody else?' [from 'Machine' (feat. Mr Lif)]
Ostensibly a chorus attacking the influence of media on our lives, turning us into megalomaniacs trampling on everything in our way to achieve a desired lifestyle. But what if we extend the metaphor from ‘Bodies Offering' to 'Machine'. What if what's fed to us on the screen pushes us past our conscience in pursuit of non-material gains – love, sex, adoration, power? Are we just an unconscionably ambitious race, and could we survive if we weren't?
Anomie Belle: The critique Lif and I make in “Machine” is fairly broad; that is to say, that when we become too focused on material gain and the promotion of self-identity (especially through consumerism), we can get sucked into a pretty empty, hollow world.
Trebuchet Magazine: I have to mention your voice. To do so without lapsing into superlatives is very difficult. You have a remarkable versatility – it's knowing, beguiling, husky at times; clean and clear at others. Above all, it's very controlled. Do you train it much, and if so, what does that involve?
Anomie Belle: Thank you… Trial and error, letting go, having fun with it, I suppose. The voice is just an instrument, and when you see it that way, it can be a lot of fun to play with. For me it’s about being authentic and vulnerable. I want to be honest with my fans, not just give them the little piece of me that feels the most comfortable.
it's easier to play than sample
Trebuchet Magazine: I asked you recently if there was a Nightmares on Wax sample on one of your tracks. Your answer was interesting: 'No, it's easier to play than sample'. For you perhaps. You're a classically-trained violinist, would you say your approach to making music is intuitive, technical, emotional, lyrical, none of those, all of those?
Anomie Belle: All of these. It has to be. But that’s what is so fun about it.
Trebuchet Magazine: That violin training is evident on the string build on the outro of 'Mosquito in the Closet'. A lot of musicians layer on stringwash using pretty simple harmonies around the same line. Your approach is a lot more intricate – you've written separate parts for each of the instruments. How difficult/satisfying is that, and who do you draw from for inspiration?
Anomie Belle: Incredibly satisfying. I grew up playing in orchestras and chamber groups, so that experience finds its way into my music here and there, which I enjoy. It’s more of a subconscious inspiration at this point, and I love that my musical worlds seem to come together more and more over time.
Trebuchet Magazine: What do you have planned next? Any touring coming up?
Anomie Belle: Yppah and I will be touring together this Spring and Summer, playing both Anomie Belle and Yppah material. Dates to be announced at www.anomiebelle.com
Sean Keenan used to write. Now he edits, and gets very annoyed about the word ‘ethereal’. Likely to bite anyone using the form ‘I’m loving….’. Don’t start him on the misuse of three-dot ellipses.
Divides his time between mid-Spain and South-West France, like one of those bucktoothed, fur-clad minor-aristocracy ogresses you see in Hello magazine, only without the naff chandeliers.