Brits in Hot Weather #12: Elephant Trees, DJ Chillz, Dream Reporter, Szjerdene, and Gagarin

In this edition of Brits in Hot Weather, we have edgy electropop from Elephant Trees, Afrobeat-tinged house from DJ Chillz, haunting dream pop from Dream Reporter, soulful house from Szjerdene, and the ambient soundscapes of Gagarin.

Welcome one and all to another edition of Brits in Hot Weather. If you’re discovering us for the first time, then the idea is simple. We showcase five songs from five British artists for your aural enjoyment.

As it has “Brits” in the title, it’s probably worth mentioning that the Brit Awards were on the telly last week. The predominant function of the Brits is to annoy middle-aged men who haven’t looked at the singles charts for at least five years. It’s also a shiny, soulless, popularity contest on a grand scale with awards given out based on what the “industry” people (probably middle-aged white blokes) believe people are listening to (based on what’s playlisted on Radio 1 and, again, dictated by middle-aged white blokes)

Of course, the whole thing is mad, and no one is ever going to agree on who should’ve won and who shouldn’t have. However, this year’s awards were remarkable for one other reason, the presence of women. For the first time, women were equally represented both in terms of nominations and in the winners themselves. Yeah! progress, right?

Well yes and no. What seemed like a breakthrough moment was somewhat tempered by a report this week from the official charts company that revealed that 91 of the top 100 songs of 2018 were credited to a male solo or all male group. So while the big, glitzy party with the free booze suggested that female artists are getting greater recognition, there is clearly still a hell of a long way to go before women manage to successfully elbow their way past the male gatekeepers and achieve success in their own right.

There are many many brilliant female artists out there. We need them but they also need you to help shift the balance. They need you to look a bit harder. They need your support to make it and they need you to afford them the opportunity to do it on their terms. So the next time you look at a festival line up and some dickhead on Twitter, with a haircut from 1996 tells you that there just aren’t enough female artists to be on it, you can tell them, oh they are coming, they are ready and they are going to kick all kinds of ass.

It just so happens that four of the artists here are female or fronted by a female artist. It’s not a theme. The songs on here on picked regardless of gender, age, sexuality or ethnicity and they are just damn brilliant.

So, in this week’s edition we have edgy electropop from Elephant Trees, Afrobeat-tinged house from DJ Chillz, haunting dream pop from Dream Reporter, soulful house from Szjerdene, and the ambient soundscapes of Gagarin.

Photo courtesy of Apertunes

Elephant Trees – “4100”

This promises to be a big year for Manchester based four-piece, Elephant Trees. After blowing minds and taking names throughout 2018 with their debut single “UNCOMFORTABLE” and their unforgettable live shows, the band have just released their latest single taken from their forthcoming debut EP.

“4100” is a brooding slice of edgy electropop with an indie edge as the band cultivates a rich sonic landscape that teases the listener in from the get-go. Musically, it’s a head-spinning whirl of hooks, loops, and samples as bright, bubbling synths ricochet against claps of percussion, throbbing bass and a sliced up vocal sample that sits, spinning in the middle like a kite caught in the wind.

Swirling amongst this musical maelstrom, singer Martha Phillips’ vocals slink forwards filled with a pervading sense of existential dread. As she lies exposed in the chorus with the line “I can’t spend another night without you in my life / Don’t make me suffer honey”, there is feeling that, maybe, this is a feigned sense of longing. That this is just a distraction from a deeper, more intimate craving that can never quite be sated.

Like a single candle in an otherwise empty room, “4100” is an illuminating presence in the dark. Burning with an inextinguishable intensity it’s a song that should see them leave scorch marks in the music scene throughout 2019.

Their debut EP is set for release on April 5th.

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Photo courtesy of the artist

DJ Chillz – “Lost Myself”

Nigerian born, London based artist DJ Chillz mixes energetic house beats, cool R&B and smooth neo-soul all sprinkled with a light layer of Afrobeat.

Built on a snaking synth line that sits in the passenger seat giving directions while expertly layered, Afrobeat-influenced percussion drives the song onwards, “Lost Myself” is an upbeat, house-tinged, R&B track with gloriously soulful vocals from Sarai Young.

Throughout DJ Chillz manipulates and manicures synths to create a warm sonic blanket that wraps itself around Young’s smooth vocals without smothering the track. Throughout Young intones the vocal hook, adding sensual “ooohs” that lift the song skywards while Chillz lights the way with Chillz magnifying their power with her richly textured production. Towards the song’s conclusion Chillz extinguishes all but the layers of percussion to guide Young’s vocals back down to earth.

On “Lost Myself”, DJ Chillz quickly steers the song into a cool, vibe, slips the gear into neutral and lets it idle away.

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Photo courtesy of Follow Green Light Go

Dream Reporter – “It Stays”

London solo artist Dream Reporter specializes in haunting dream pop. On “It Stays” she creates a track that envelopes the listener in a glorious, dark shroud of haunting, atmospheric electronics.

Opening in minimalist fashion with an ominous, ringing guitar riff, shadowy bassline and pitching synths that cast lengthy shadows, Dream reporter chants syllables that hang like warm breath hitting the cold air. Before long this wordless rhythm becomes a hypnotic mantra that disperses through the dusky musical backing.

As the song progresses, Dream Reporter creates an unsettling and disorientating mood with her vocals ebbing and flowing, hitting bewitching dead ends and making false turns, “It Stays” is an experience akin to finding yourself in a long, dark corridor, frantically opening doors that only seem to lead back to the same place.

As the tension builds the cracks begin to show as an agitated, distorted guitar line opens a fissure right through the middle of the song. Before it can find its feet, the song swells with the noise of all the instruments coming together that threaten to rupture the foundations of the song and leave it tumbling into the abyss.

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Szjerdene – “Restart”

After touring the world with Bonobo and collaborating with Lapalux, London-based singer Szjerdene is gradually making a name in her own right. Taken from her third EP Trace, “Restart” is a dizzyingly beautiful and dazzlingly intricate electronic track that highlights what an incredible talent she is.

On “Restart” Szjerdene composes a rich sonic collage from an eggshell like bed of fragile electronics and gentle percussion that beats out a tight, almost tribal rhythm. It’s the perfect bed for Szjerdene’s stunning voice. With an elegance and soulfulness that taps straight into the soul, Sjerdene manages to emote more in one line that some artists manage in an entire career.

As the beat kicks and synths dance, Szjerdene articulates the personal epiphany that comes with realising that you can support someone both physically and emotionally but that you’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness, however much you think you are. Ending with gliding strings atop bold, sweeping electronics, “Restart” concludes with the sense of a new path suddenly being illuminated.

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Gagarin – “A Herd of Wrens”

Gagarin is the solo incarnation of musician Graham “Dids” Dowdall. An artist who blurs the line between sound installation and dance music. His latest album, Phenomenology, features four tracks each based on a sound, an event or a “thing” – a phenomenon. With that thematic, connective tissue running through the album, “A Head of Wrens” features a sound found very close to home.

As the title suggest, the track is made up of samples of wrens that have actually made their home right outside Gagarin‘s studio. Adding twinkling keys and droning synths to the chirping bird song, the track becomes an ambient, beatless piece with organic and man-made sounds beautifully interacting.

It’s a gorgeously calming piece that transports the listener away from the hustle and bustle and straight into the natural world. A spot where time seems unimportant as the stresses of the day fall away. A place where you can simply lose yourself in the graceful chitter of birds.

Phenomenology is out now.

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So there you have it. Five British artists to get very excited about. As ever all of the songs on here can be found on our Spotify playlist which also includes the all songs from past editions of Brits in Hot Weather.

Lastly, please support all the bands on here. Give them your time, attention and possibly a few quid. They may change your life. Until next time, stay warm.