Tag: Sacred Bones Records (Page 1 of 4)


Nika Roza Danilova, born Nicole Hummel, is the artist behind the ZOLA JESUS project.

Having debuted in 2009 with grossly underrated ‘The Spoils’ LP, Hummel continued to charm in an almost witchy fashion through her output. At times more poppy like ‘Taiga’ to the dark and hunting ‘Okovi’, her main instrument being the eerie, operatic voice around which she builds her song structures.

With deep admiration of Russian language, culture and landscapes, her productions ooze coldness and depth, showcasing the darkest corners of electronica.

Historically Danilova would prefer to have reins over all aspects of songwriting, production and instrumentation; she would be the one constructing the finished piece. With ‘Arkhon’ however, she hit a wall of not being able to create and desperately felt she needed to bring in new blood.

That led her to sending her demos to Randall Dunn and collaborating with Matt Chamberlain. The latter, who was well known for his work with Bob Dylan and David Bowie, helped to define the sound of ‘Arkhon’. Spurred by others’ contributions, her creative juices started flowing, where she could feel that her ideas expanded “into a sound that (she) never would have been able to think of on (her) own”.

Indeed the opening ‘Lost’ serves as a perfect example, where the layered urgent vocals, sparsely placed over native drums claim the voice of desperation, yet are embroiled in hope. ‘The Fall’ marries vintage Zola and modern pop, meandering between paced and urgent, vocals at times reminiscent of the late Aaliyah and otherwise very Grimes.

The album’s synth marvel comes in next, embodied in the magnificent ’Undertow’, with darker elements meeting a twisted take on synthwave. ‘Into The Wild’ is gentle and innately beautiful, sung from the depths of consciousness while ‘Dead & Gone’ featuring friend and touring violist Louise Woodward is an epiphany of healing amidst gloominess.

The pulsating ‘Sewn’ written in total collaboration with Dunn and Chamberlain is fast paced and native, juxtaposed with the bare ‘Desire’ with its simple piano and palpable pain expressed upon the end of a relationship. Perhaps it wasn’t Danilova’s ‘Fault’ who is “only human and some things don’t make sense”. Possibly the best track on the opus, this gem with cleverly placed electronic elements is reminiscent of instrumental DEPECHE MODE marvels circa ‘Music For The Masses’ and with exhilarating vocals, towers high over many of ZOLA JESUS’ contemporaries.

‘Efemra’ goes back to tribal before the closing ‘Do That Anymore’ is loaded with the feeling of the new found freedom; “There is a moment where you stop fighting with yourself. That’s when things can really happen”. And they did…

Having to change the perspective on music making and allowing others to share in the process, ZOLA JESUS “could enjoy being in the moment, putting that into the music and letting it unravel or evolve in its own way. To let it have its own story that I only had a part in telling”. 

‘Arkhon’ doesn’t only mean “power” or “ruler” in Ancient Greek but also translates into a Gnostic idea of power wielded through a flawed god, tarnishing the corrupted humanity with ZOLA JESUS firmly believing to be the sign of modern times.

Perhaps not as accomplished as ‘Okovi’, this latest representation of Danilova’s abilities certainly ushers a new era in her song making. And perhaps having finally shaken the shackles, she will enjoy future collaborations to enhance her enormous talents.

‘Arkhon’ is released on 24th June 2022 via Sacred Bones Records on CD, cassette and a variety of limited edition coloured vinyl LP variants via https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/zola-jesus





Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photo by Shervin Lainez
22nd June 2022

Lost Albums: ALAN VEGA Mutator

Sacred Bones Records release the lost album from Alan Vega, entitled ‘Mutator’.

Vega was best known as a member of the trailblazing electronic-punk duo SUICIDE with Martin Rev who confused audiences with their lack of a drummer and would go on to influence the likes of SOFT CELL and SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK.

Vega sadly passed away in 2016 but he left a vault of previously unreleased work at his New York studio. ‘Mutator’ was recorded during 1995-1996 with Liz Lamere who became his wife and key collaborator in his solo career.

It wasn’t intentionally shelved but so prolific was Vega with his numerous projects that eventually included 11 solo albums he was already focussing on another work before this was completed. “Our primary purpose for going into the studio was to experiment with sound, not to ‘make records” remembered Lamere, “I was playing the machines with Alan manipulating sounds”

Given a final production treatment in partnership with fellow Vega collaborator Jared Artaud 25 years after the material was first put to tape, ‘Mutator’ will be the first in a series of previously unheard recordings to be made public. Influenced by the streets of New York, Vega makes his presence felt with a collection of moments that are at times uneasy, but also paradoxically beautiful.

As an introduction, the drone sound sculpture ‘Trinity’ is a ghostly séance as if Vega is communicating from the other side. Meanwhile the album starts formally with ‘Fist’ as its percussive variation shaped by repetitive rhythm construction, coming over suitably gothic and gloomy.

The rumble of ‘Muscles’ provides a sinister backdrop for Vega’s preaching but the gorgeous ‘Samurai’ is poignant with Vega giving a resonant speech before shouting “GOODBYE- GOODBYE- GOODBYE”, reflecting on life with a backdrop that could have come off the ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack.

The slow industrial of ‘Filthy’ utilises a combination of distorted mechanical noise and a nail bed of ice, with Vega stamping his wayward personality throughout while ‘Nike Soldier’ rises and reverberates in a manner akin to THE SISTERS OF MERCY reworking a DEPECHE MODE B-side.

Doing away with percussion, the sombre ‘Psalm 68’ relies on a bassline pulse and uncomfortable screeching ambience for its effect before ‘Mutator’ closes with the sustained synthesizer collage ‘Breathe’, with Vega eerily proclaiming “the show is now over”

“’Mutator’ bridges the gap between the past and present” Jared Artaud said, “It’s something we feel he would have been really proud of, seeing this lost album released today. In so many ways, his music is needed now more than ever.”

A fitting epitaph to the experimental spirit of Alan Vega, anyone who has ever enjoyed cult SUICIDE classics such as ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘Frankie Teardrop’ will find much to savour on the eight tracks that form ‘Mutator’.

‘Mutator’ is released by Scared Bones Records on 23rd April 2021 in various LP formats as well as CD and digital, available from https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr271-alan-vega-mutator





Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th April 2021


Sacred Bones artist Hilary Woods has documented the intensity of giving life and the labour of childbirth in her latest album ‘Birthmarks’ as a metaphor for the human condition.

Recorded during the winter of 2019 in Galway and Oslo in collaboration with experimental Norwegian producer Lasse Marhaug while heavily pregnant, it is the former JJ72 bassist’s second long player.

Written over the course of two years, as the title suggests, ‘Birthmarks’ deals with revisiting and caressing wounds left by the memory of their scars. If its predecessor ‘Colt’ was mysterious, then ‘Birthmarks’ is something much stranger, a cryptic alchemy with Woods pushing boundaries, using her voice beyond the song format with stark minimalist electronic sounds and dark atmospheres creeping in from time to time.

Comparatively conventional songs begin the process with the heavily volatile tension of ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ sounding almost ritualistic compared to the downbeat folkisms of ‘Orange Tree’ with its air of MAZZY STAR landing in Twin Peaks. Despite the sense of solemn foreboding, there is beauty in their soundscapes.

With a haunting cello-enhanced gothique, Hilary Woods herself said “For me, ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ is fierce, pliable and incessant. Navigating emotionally charged states of discomfort and becoming, it is a song deeply lodged in the body that yearns to surface for air and escape its own shadow.” Meanwhile, the more personal ‘Orange Tree’ deals with that dreaded fear of the unknown.

Introducing itself with an understated rumble, ‘Through the Dark, Love’ utilises a primarily acoustic base with a string section and an alluringly understated vocal from Woods that lifts with a beautifully simple piano middle section. ‘Lay Bare’ is more drifting and ethereal, while the sax inclined ‘Mud & Stones’ morphs into something of a collage experiment, ditto with the uneasy distorted overtures of ‘The Mouth’.

Quite unsettling, ‘Cleansing Ritual’ comes over as a cathartic slice of musique concrète with foggy ship klaxons recalling OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ before rumbling into motorised drones. Ending with ‘There Is No Moon’, a forlorn piano, treated keys and some enigmatic whispers provide some comparative lighter relief after the fractured nature of the pair of tracks before it.

‘Birthmarks’ is nowhere near as straightforward listen as ‘Colt’, but with its introspection and mistier field of view, it will find appeal for those who like to be musically challenged, with the degree of difficulty increasing as the album progresses.

‘Birthmarks’ is released on 13th March 2020 via Sacred Bones in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

Hilary Woods plays London Cafe Oto on Monday 18th May 2020





Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Joshua Wright
11th March 2020

JENNY HVAL The Practice Of Love

‘The Practice Of Love’ is Norwegian songstress JENNY HVAL’s seventh album and the opposite of its self-explanatory predecessor ‘Blood Bitch’ which included stark confessionals such as ‘The Great Undressing’ and ‘Conceptual Romance’.

Now with her anger more subdued, in conceiving her new album’s aural palette, Hval got nostalgic. “I kept coming back to trashy, mainstream trance music from the ’90s” she said, while “writing something that was multi-layered, a community of voices, stories about both myself and others simultaneously…”

Released on Sacred Bones Records, home of ZOLA JESUS and THE SOFT MOON, ‘The Practice of Love’ is quietly subversive like I AM SNOW ANGEL, a body of gentle and mature synthy pop with an ethereal quality which challenges the concept of conventional personal relationships without getting angry.

Featuring friends and collaborators Vivian Wang, Laura Jean Englert and Felicia Atkinson on additional vocals or sections of recorded conversation, it asks “What is our job as a member of the human race? Do we have to accept this job, and if we don’t, does the pressure to be normal ever stop?”

Lightly percussive loops, album opener ‘Lions’ featuring a monologue by Vivian Wang is an exotic pulsing number with Hval’s angelic vocal tones gaining great exuberance as the song progresses asking “Where is God?” in a Scandi-Gaelic styled vocal cross.

With more rhythmic looping and gated synths, ‘High Alice’ exudes a widescreen hypnotism with the surprise of slinky sax and a dreamy understated voice embroiled in optimism declaring “We are something better”. With sparkling arpeggios, the gorgeous ‘Accident’ comes over like a Nordic KID MOXIE, with harmonies, ethnic choir samples and more brass concocting some deep forest escapism.

An ambient spoken word art piece, ‘The Practice Of Love’ title track sees Laura Jean Englert and Vivian Wang expressing their thoughts on being childless. Making valid existential statements, it questions “What does it mean to be in the world? What does it mean to participate in the culture of what it means to be human? To parent (or not)? To live and die? To practice love and care?”

Recalling ‘He Said’, the gorgeous collaboration between Michael Rother of NEU! and Sophie Williams from 2004, the dreamy but solemn ‘Ashes To Ashes’ with its gorgeous swathes of synths has a subtle metallic backbone to contrast the mood. It steadily builds for a resigned acceptance of mortality as “I am digging my own grave / in the honeypot / ashes to ashes / dust to dust.”

Beginning like an avant-jazz jam, ‘Thumbsucker’ also has folky overtones but sounds unusual with a subtle electronic arpeggio figuring in the interesting hybrid of styles. The spacey ‘Six Red Cannas’ sees Hval’s friendship trio all together within a metronomic dance enhanced backdrop of trancey sequencer driven synths that still maintains a feminine mystery.

Closing with the layered hush of ‘Ordinary’ with whispers, gongs and synthetic raindrops drifting into a transcendental climax, Hval accepts “We don’t always get to choose / when we are close / and when we are not.”

A thoughtful celebration of female empowerment and the human condition, despite being only eight tracks in length, it does feel a lot longer though. Not for everyone, the lyrical expression and spiritual air may require additional investment. But for those who open-minded enough get both the sound and the sentiment, the enlightenment will undoubtedly prove rewarding.

‘The Practice Of Love’ is released on 13th September 2019 in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats via Sacred Bones Records, available from https://jennyhval.bandcamp.com/






Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Lasse Marhaug
6th September 2019

Lost Albums: MORT GARSON Mother Earth’s Plantasia

Released on the short-lived Homewood Records in 1976, ‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ by Mort Garson became one of those rare sought after albums, thanks to the fact that most of the copies pressed had actually been given away for free by its esteemed creator.

With its inventive use of the Moog IIIC modular synthesizer with a plethora of cosmic textures, it possessed a transcendental quality that was the antithesis of the FM rock that was dominating the American airwaves at the time like THE EAGLES and FLEETWOOD MAC.

The book ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird theorised that plants could hear prayers, predict natural disasters and receive signals from outer space. It led to a boom in indoor horticulture, while Stevie Wonder provided a soundtrack for the accompanying documentary and HRH Prince Charles enthused about how he talked to his plants.

The late Mort Garson was a composer best known for orchestrating arrangements with Doris Day but most notably, the strings on Glen Campbell’s ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’, one of a number of great songs made famous by the Country legend which were written by Jimmy Webb.

However, one day Garson met Robert Moog demonstrating the Moog IIIC at the Audio Engineering Society’s West Coast convention in 1967 and entered a brave new world. Garson’s electronic work was to be used as incidental music during the television transmissions of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. But as a man who lived and breathed music, making an album for plants to enjoy and grow to was a natural progression and right up his allotment.

‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ was weird, wonderful and tuneful. John Foxx once described musician Tara Busch aka I SPEAK MACHINE as “Doris Day in outer space” and Garson’s seedling was not far off that in terms of template, something exemplified by ‘You Don’t Have To Walk A Begonia’, something of a novelty show tune but without the vocals.

In common with his Japanese counterpart Isao Tomita, Garson loved constructing piercing whistles on his Moog with engineer Eugene L. Hamblin III, while the synthfluence of Wendy Carlos who found fame with ‘Switch On Bach’ also loomed. Together with a suitably psychedelic vibe, this all came together on the pieces like ‘Plantasia’ and ‘Symphony For A Spider Plant’, the latter also adding an ARP Solina string machine.

Jazzier overtones made their presence felt on the bouncy ‘Baby’s Tears Blues’ and the self-explanatory auto-rhythmed ‘Swingin’ Spathiphyllums’, while ‘Rhapsody In Green’ naturally borrowed a title from George Gershwin, although its spacey atmospheres ensured it sounded nothing like it.

Gently percussive, the swoops on ‘Ode To An African Violet’ were melodically otherworldly, less threatening than the ‘Fourth World’ overtures of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell which while inventive, were not always comfortable listening. And that was the thing about ‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’, it WAS a very comfortable listen, with tracks like ‘Concerto For Philodendron And Pothos’ photosynthesizing a sweetness for those moments when some sugar was desired.

In amongst all the brightness though was the comparatively sombre ‘A Mellow Mood For Maidenhair’ which came over more like a spy drama theme, while closing the short 30 minute suite was ‘Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant’, a beautifully classically-derived chocolate selection box piece in the vein of Erik Satie.

Perfectly timeless lounge synth music with an enjoyable connective AIR (Did you see what ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK did there?), ‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ fits right into the 21st Century despite being 45 years old. It is an album that very much subdues aggression in a world that very much needs that ethos right now.

‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ is released in various coloured vinyl LP formats and CD by Sacred Bones Records on 21st June 2019, pre-order from https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr3030-mort-garson-mother-earths-plantasia

Digital download available now from https://mortgarson.bandcamp.com/album/mother-earths-plantasia

The whole album can be previewed in full at https://youtu.be/SZkR3PyHTs0


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th June 2019

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