Renu–They Dance in the Dark album review

Renu’s journey into the conflict between the head, the heart and the crotch. Hmmm, that’s a weird thing to say, right? Well… no it is, it’s weird–but I never let that stop me from saying whatever’s in my head.

Fierce in her beliefs and true to her art, if Renu’s released a new album it’s because she’s damn well ready to release a new album, and has planted her vision as fully as is possible.

It makes me smile to identify footprints audible in Midnight Radio that she has left throughout They Dance in the Dark. There’s much of that DNA in Queen of Heaven, and I love that–in the delay on Always You–in the spoken word. Water into Words is a good example of what I like about Renu’s style of composition, she puts as much effort into choreographing the slides from section to section as she does in the chorus.

When the EDM vibe is absent, the style is born from geo-political experimentation with a European, straight-edged bass and drum ensemble core and an arabic folk-twist with some beautiful vocals.

Always You got deserved playtime on 6 Music, and also is a proper good EDM tune. Sern Nos is what this album is about, it’s got the barebone, archetypal soul of this album. Throughout the album is a scattering of electronic phrases from the ages, vocal padding as in Chicane’s trance classic Saltwater, drums bit-squashed like IDM from the turn of the millenium in Raised Heavy with that disjointed cerebral IDM drum pattern. Even some guitar tone/effect akin to Radiohead in To the Mountain and Linkin Park in Raised Heavy.

Renu is exceptional at producing with vocal layers. She handles delicate, cracking and ‘overtonal’ sonic qualities as well as anyone I’ve heard.

When Renu gets outspoken with her production is where she seems to shine the most in the more EDM of the tracks on They Dance in the Dark. ‘Salma…’ is throbbing with modulating lead synth. She shouldn’t shy away from pushing her sonic statements right to the top of the envelope. Occasionally I find it isn’t mixed to the kind of limits like I’d want, 1984 for example. Therein lies that conflict between the head, heart and crotch

*Must stop saying crotch, it’s becoming a thing*

In contrast, Queen of Heaven is unmistakeable in its intent and comes right from the crotch, but as Santana points out, you play with your head, heart, soul, god (I think?), and your ‘kahunas’.
Queen of Heaven rings with Renu’s signature string layers which don’t sit smugly, instead they speak with a pseudo-improvisation–an organic dynamism that permeated Midnight Radio. At a point the pace is allowed to drop before all the instrumentation comes back together, as orbiting particles, never quite getting away until they unite back in the groove. I could wax lyrical for ages about Renu’s ability to be understated and therefore say so much. It’s wonderful to listen to.

Now, I really like Boys and that slightly worries me, not for the obvious pun, but because on an album that’s described with as much gender politics as this is, I sort of worry there’s a hidden musical extended-metaphor. Am I reinforcing the mysognistic imbalance? Am I being subversively objectified? Am I patriarchy’s misguided flâneur? Is this white guilt? OK, I exaggerate…
‘Boys’ is a great finisher and ups the pace right at the end, with some awesome Bernard Hermann style strings. And with that, it is almost as though we’ve journeyed from the intro EDM of Always You on into Renu’s head and on into her heart and now we’re coming out from a deep dive, back to the dance floor where we’ll eventually be asked to kindly leave, with some disco synth and 4/4 kick.

Good fucking shit.

Renu’s They Dance in the Dark:

Tennyson – Like What EP, brief review

Tennyson are going places, their previous release Lay-by is a work of brilliance, and it’s great to see they’re upping their game, and not allowing themselves to fall into formulae. If you like Stevie Wonder lashed funky chilled electro with hyperactive production and a brilliance when it comes to the gaps between the notes then I think you might like this. They have a style that’s reminiscent of the demo function on an early mass-market keyboard taken through a breakbeat mill and sprinkled with trills of the neo-soul patterns currently littering contemporary electro. Occasionally the sound quality almost feels like muzak, one step ahead of any criticism that can be imparted, they send themselves up in one brilliant post-modern ‘elevator’ moment. Worth your time!


The best songs in the world

*cover image

A list of some of the best songs that have ever been created, some not widely known, but all deserving to be.


Nuage & THRN“Don’t Exist” (Dream Box EP: Translation Recordings, 2011)

A vibraphone-driven ethereal, swollen trek through lush lo-fi with hi-fi throbs and soulful, searching vocals. For the head, drum and bass gets no better.

Renu“Time is Time” (Midnight Radio: Holykuti Records, 2012)

A poignant and breathtaking meditation on life, spoken – wordlessly – by a composer of enormous talent. Emotional and spellbinding.

tennyson – “Lay-by” (With You – 7 inch b-side: self-released, 2014)

Head-turning, trance-enducing, car door sampling electronic perfection that picks you up and drops you at exactly the right time.

One Self – “Bluebird” (Children of Possibility: Ninja Tune, 2005)

One of the better known tunes. On its production DJ Vadim, Yarah Bravo and Blu Rum 13 made an underground classic, from an album with a timeless hip hop feel but with an experimental edge. Like truly timeless music, this will breathe new life over and over again, for a long time to come.

Rameses B – “New Horizons (VIP)” (Freedom: self-released, 2011)

A liquid dnb tune that channels the continental trancestep (interpret that as you like) sound tearing its way out of your head into dizzying ecstasy highs with existential exploration to boot. Touchingly dedicated to lost loved ones. On first hearing, nothing that special – but let it in and it’ll show you its full spectrum of wonder. Contains a sample from the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder.

Algernon Cadwallader – “Casual Discussion in a Dome Between Two Temples” (Some Kind of Cadwallader: Be Happy Records, 2008)

Casual Discussion in a Dome Between Two Temples is a touching and beatiful jangly harmonic noisy piece of musical poetry. Hugely popular as a (now defunct) truly independent and underground band, and performers of a great live show who had one of the loudest drummers I’ve ever heard.


Cover image: “Love Music by c0tu” available at

The Staves at The Junction, Cambridge: February 17th 2015

The Staves played the last show of their pre-album launch tour to a warm and well attended J1/ The Junction, Cambridge. The Staves have been around a while now but have only more recently reached my radar. They did this through their 2014 Blood I Bled EP – cue the first subversion of the night: a joke about The Staves merchandise including tampons for the tour.

I am helpless in front of tangential stimulation and the three Staveley-Taylors were full of inspiration in that regard. From a passing comment about pre-ordering being ‘the way’ that one has to buy albums these days I detected a slash of label politics in the background. Add to that the assumption of them being of typical folk persuasion their relevance in a fickle world of music, sub cultures, ‘coolness’ and identity and I would imagine you would have label executives grimacing with potential pounds trickling from their grasp. They’re not exactly unattractive women – put it that way. Thankfully though they aren’t often compared to The Corrs. Ever ‘meta’, they alluded to the idiocy of all such discourse – if you can call it that – including a “fuck Bush!” as well as a gently sardonic promise to be playing not only new (unreleased) material that we’ve clearly not heard before but also their “greatest hits”.

Their forever-place in my heart was set.

The music, including identifiable perfect triple harmonising was polished, practised and brilliant. The rockier newer material had a serious groove, the gentle intimate acoustic songs where the other two gathered around Camilla’s mic ebbed and flowed into the audience. Their appearance could easily be described as demure (though thankfully they are happy to usurp that label) and ethereal yet more than that their performance imparted a true authenticity, beautiful music that spoke from a modern woman’s soul.

It was a great gig. Full of well refined sass, familial unison and a melting of sweetness with banter to produce one of the best sets for not only music, but talking; conversation and discussion between themselves and with the crowd. It was wonderful and a real breath of fresh air after having watched a few shows in recent years where there is no effort whatsoever to engage the crowd. I watched Band of Skulls a few years ago and between every song they allowed for a huge tuning break where they did not talk to the audience at all. It totally killed the vibe. Far from that, The Staves increased the wonder of the event by really, truly, engaging with the audience. Well into the set, Emily introduced the backing band, and Camilla, and somewhere along the line they moved on before she introduced Jessica (the rockier looking one of the three whom I noted in the crowd had attained the label, from a group of men, of the “fittest”) who kindly exclaimed “Oh I have to introduce myself then?” Later Emily turned to the other two and genuinely thanked them for a wonderful tour – to which the others seemed genuinely touched, but in an understated, taken-for-granted sisterly way. It was beautiful to see not just their utmost professionalism with their musicianship, but also their relationship play out before us: Jessica with the electric guitar, Emily with the keyboard setup as the eldest, and Camilla (Milly) the youngest, with an understated beauty, long luscious hair and faintly awkward smile.

They were very, truly absorbing and performed a brilliant set of exceptionally good music.