I don’t know how much the rest of you are into 4AD now or ever, but I’m much more into the early offerings from this iconic label. So when I heard that Vaughan Oliver, the artist responsible for virtually all the record labels released by 4AD during their golden years (i.e. before Ivo Watts-Russell sold the label), created the cover artwork for the latest offering from Tulipomania, it got me interested in having a listen.
Oliver give distinct visual identities for 4AD releases by many bands, including Mojave 3, Lush, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil, Pale Saints, Pixies, and Throwing Muses, in addition to numerous non-4AD artists such as David Sylvian.
It is no wonder that the band struck a chord with this legendary artist since their musical aesthetic is very close to such artists as A.R.Kane, Talk Talk, Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, the latter being artists that conceivably could have easily been on 4AD, still quite indie at that time (but found a more lucrative label to sign with).
Today we are pleased to present you the premiere of the new three-track maxi-single from this Philadelphia based trio, whose name was inspired by the 1637 Dutch tulip market collapse, has been categorized as ‘cult synth punks’, ‘glam-leaning’, ‘postpunk’, ‘art rock’, and ‘muscular chamber pop’.
Band members Tom Murray (lead vocals, bass, drums, guitar-organ) and Cheryl Gelover (synthesizer, background vocals) were joined by Mitch Smith (guitar, glockenspiel), who also contributed to the band’s eponymous first album, Richard Hartline (piano, percussion, engineering and mastering), and Howard Thompson (executive producer). Gelover and Murray first met in art school, and found themselves collaborating on projects for their Experimental Film and Animation classes.
All three tracks are filled with a hazy depth, outstanding production, and a melancholic innocent sense of emotional torment, as occurred with many Talk Talk masterpieces. This is the tamer side of psychedelia with atmospheric leanings towards certain Daniel Lanois, Robbie Robertson and Michael Brook compositions.
‘On the Outside’ is a dark and sinister, yet addictive, affair, contrasting internal battles between hazy dream-pop and angular indie, between fractious and shattered vocals and muscular beats, swirling psychedelia and sonorous, drifting keyboard washes.
Tulipomania, mesmerizing videos that augment the group’s artistry, involving painstaking frame-by-frame stop-motion animation techniques. Described as “artistic and inventive”, the music videos created by Tulipomania have been featured in film festivals worldwide. Their video for “Who Let You Know” is an official selection at the 2017 Leeds Film Festival and 2017 Aesthetica Film Festival in York, both of which are qualifying festivals for BAFTA and Oscar award consideration, and was an official selection and award finalist at the New Renaissance Film Festival in London last month.
‘Don’t Be So Sure’ was the band’s first hand-painted animation, featuring multiple passes of brushwork shot on thousands of individual sheets of black paper, visually allowing singing self-portraits to morph and dissolve in an atmospheric exploration of ambiguity. For the Seahawks Remix, the band re-photographed the original artwork, frame by frame, matching the new tempo and softer mood, which they felt also called for a more painterly, layered approach to the imagery.
The original version of ‘Don’t Be So Sure’ featured on the band’s fourth album ‘This Gilded Age’ (2016), described by Byron Coley of WIRE Magazine (May 2017 edition) as “…pretty whacked – something akin to a battle of the bands between Crazy Horse and The Kronos Quartet”. The remix featured on this new single comes from Seahawks, a duo made up of Jon Tye, founder of the legendary Lo Recordings (whose roster includes Grimes, Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Thurston Moore and Astronauts) and Pete Fowler, creator of Monsterism vinyl toys and perhaps most famed as illustrator of oh so many Super Furry Animals album sleeves.
1. On the Outside
2. Don’t Be So Sure (Seahawks Remix)
3. Don’t Be So Sure