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August 26, 2014

Ibeyi: River

In the Studio with XL Recordings’ French-Cuban Duo

This week London-based label XL Recordings celebrates 25 years of turning next-big-things into global names—and following Prodigy, The White Stripes and The xx on the independent's illustrious roster is latest signing, Ibeyi. The 19-year-old French-Cuban twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Díaz are daughters of the late, Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club percussionist Anga Díaz. “We probably carry his love of mixing different musics and influences on in an unconscious way,” says Lisa, who recorded the debut album with her beat-making sister and the XL owner Richard Russell during a three-month period: “Recording with Richard has been a deep experience, we learned a lot about our music and about ourselves. He and John the engineer recorded everything that was happening in the studio. If one day you find one of our big twin fights on the internet, you know where it comes from.” Taking in Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello and Reggaeton as influences, at the root of the pair’s music is the culture of ‘Yoruba,’ which was imported into Cuba from West Africa. “Yoruba's culture is part of our lives and our music; mixing ancient religious chants with other western influences is what came naturally to us when we started making songs,” says Lisa. “It traveled to Cuba with the slaves but is largely unknown, so it's important to us that people discover how profound it is.”

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JBM: Only Now

Director Houmam Abdallah Creates an Uncanny Epic in Scotland for the Acoustic Star

“Nothing says goodbye like a steam train,” says Houmam Abdallah, the British director behind “Only Now,” the latest video for soulful Canadian singer-songwriter JBM. Capturing an old Jacobite steam train cannoning through the remote Scottish Highlands, Abdallah’s film merges real and surreal visuals in the same vein as his striking JMW Turner-inspired directorial debut for Beirut’s “The Rip Tide” in 2012. “Playing with paradigms to evoke a heightened sense of reality is where I find my kicks,” says the emerging filmmaker signed to production company Riff Raff Films. His background in post-production has seen him collaborate with Parisian director collective Megaforce, coloring pop promos for Dizzee Rascal, Paloma Faith and London Grammar. “We were overwhelmed by the eeriness of the landscape,” says JBM—AKA Jesse B. Marchant—of filming with Abdallah. “I think the video is beautiful. It haunts and comforts me.” Below, the filmmaker lets us in on his creative collaboration.

JBM’s Stray Ashes is an album that I highly recommend for anyone working in visual form.
When discussing ideas for this video it was so easy to set the mood and structure straight away.

The melted house came from questioning what would happen ‘hypothetically speaking’ if elements in a digital picture overheated. We made a 3D model of the existing house filmed on location, 3D printed a replica and melted it using a paint-stripping gun. This in return gave the feeling of creative freedom that you get from working with paintings or illustration.

There are many challenges when chasing after a train, but that’s music-video logistics that no one wants to be bored with. However, trying and failing to convince the police not to give the Assistant Director three points on his licence was probably the hardest.

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Spotlight

Forest Swords: The Weight of Gold

Benjamin Millepied Fills a Bright Dead Sea Landscape with the Experimental Artist’s Brooding Music

“I first saw Billy Barry perform at Juilliard four years ago,” says the acclaimed French choreographer, filmmaker and photographer Benjamin Millepied. “I thought, ‘Who is this creature?’ Billy’s quality as a dancer is so otherworldly, I immediately knew I wanted to create a portrait of him. The sense of solitude depicted in the film reflects just how different he is as an artist.” The chance to direct today’s music video for British artist Forest Swords’ haunting track “The Weight of Gold” presented an intriguing opportunity for Millepied, who was seduced after being inspired by Israel’s Dead Sea area’s landscape, including the Judean desert and Nebi Musa site that is dedicated to Moses. “We arrived at a beautiful location and I just let the music and the desert move me instead of forcing it,” says Barry, the young flaxen-haired dancer who earned a spot at Tel Aviv’s prestigious Batsheva Ensemble straight out of school. “I listened to the music a lot before the shoot and on the day we just went with what happened naturally.” Below Forest Swords, AKA Matthew Barnes, explores the musical side of this creative collaboration.

I grew up listening to a lot of mainstream pop music, and I was fascinated with the production and structure of it.
Then I gradually got into punk, hip-hop and electronic music. All that filters into the type of sounds, melodies and textures I’m attracted to now, though it’s difficult to be objective about that kind of thing when you’re making it.

The track “The Weight of Gold” came together fairly slowly. I pieced it together over a few weeks, adding and subtracting until it felt right and I mixed it outdoors like the rest of the record.

The locations Benjamin picked for this video really resonate with the track.
I’ve always associated the songs from my album Engravings with a British landscape—woodland and sandstone, because that’s the environment I live and produced the record in. Taking the music out of that context and placing it in Israel definitely shifts the track in a direction I did not expect.

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