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Pearl Poet – At the End of the World: Apocaloptimist Electro Pop

At the End Of the World by Pearl Poet

If the end of the world is nigh, we may as well follow the human proclivity to romanticise tragedy; there’s no better track to look at the apocalypse through an affectionate lens than the latest single, At the End of the World, by the Floridian producer duo, Pearl Poet. The pangs of euphoria as soon as you immerse yourself in the nu-disco landscape of melody, sincerity and harmony could turn up the heat in the bitterest soul.

As the lyrics and effect-imbued vocals euphonise on a thin line between existentialism and exuberance, the thematic duality of At the End of the World will take the reigns of your rhythmic and emotional impulses; relinquish control and you’ll find yourself in the safe hands of a gifted duo of apocaloptimist electro-pop producers.

The 80s pop aesthetic may continuously be revisited in 2024, but few artists are better placed to modernise the lush neon-lit synthetics as Pearl Poet. Wherever their creative journey takes them next, we want to be there for it.

At the End of the World will be available to stream on all major platforms from May 31. Stream and purchase the single now on Bandcamp.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

7ELIX found a new depth in intimacy with his emo rap vignette,  ‘CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK’

CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK taken from 7ELIX’s seminal LP, emergency exit, pt.3: death of a memory, is the perfect introduction to the Asheville, NC-born artist’s music which is offered as a salve for the outcasted soul.

The songwriter, producer and audio engineer created the ultimate testament to his motivation to advocate for mental health and suicide awareness by orchestrating this confessionally evocative emo-rap vignette of vulnerability. By illustrating the power of candid expression and giving an outlet for jagged emotions that become scars if they’re harboured for too long, he gave a lesson in catharsis in CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK.

The light production work on the intricately melodic track ensures that none of the visceral sincerity from the recording was stripped away. Painted in nocturnal light that depicts the intimacy of late-night thoughts cascading into vocalisation, CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK captures 7ELIX at his most uninhibited as he attempts to hold onto a relationship that is precariously hanging in the balance despite his tight grip on the affections that bring warmth to the bittersweet release.

It’s a heart-wrenchingly authentic release which is a clear sign of even bigger things to come from 7ELIX. We can’t wait to hear what’s lingering in the prodigy’s timeline.

CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK is available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Unveiling the Layers of Healing: An Intimate Interview with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side

Embark on an introspective journey with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco as we explore the depths of his latest album, “Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side.” This interview doesn’t just skim the surface; it plunges into the raw, unvarnished realities of personal trauma, resilience, and the profound healing power of music. Join us as Jonathan reveals the complexities of his path, shedding light on how his art has become a sanctuary for those grappling with similar battles.

Jonathan Thomas Maiocco, welcome to A&R Factory! Firstly, we want to congratulate you on the creatively candid and heart-wrenching triumph of the first part of your next LP, Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side. What inspired you to take the leap and share your story through your music? 

Thank you! Thank you for this opportunity, I’m honored to be here. This project has been such a labor of love. My music is always inspired by my real-life experience, so creating this album is an extension of living it. It’s been kind of terrifying to explore this part of my story in music, especially so bluntly. My first album, The Point of Contingency, was about the beginnings of this journey, but very cryptic. My new music is much more pointed, which was uncomfortable at first but necessary for what I wanted to convey.

I took this leap because I had to take this leap. I don’t know if I had a choice in the matter because I never envisioned myself not doing it. Creativity has always been like that for me. This feels like a silly analogy, but it’s something I think about a lot: when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice, it’s a natural by-product. And for me, when I go through heightened experiences (positive or negative), I create art about it, it’s just a natural by-product of me simply existing. I can’t not do it.

The next half of your album will be released one single at a time later this month before the LP is released in full at the end of August, is there a particular reason for this release strategy?  

Yes, there are a couple of reasons! First, I’m an independent artist with a handful of listeners, I’m still learning how to be comfortable on social media and building a fanbase. Music and social algorithms feed off consistent posting, so from the start, I knew that releasing this album one track at a time would be the best for exposure and opportunity. Another reason why I’m releasing this album in singles is because deadlines keep me focused. I could spend years editing, so giving myself clear release dates has helped me finish this project. I was also afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the entire album, so I figured releasing as I go was the best move.

Can you describe the emotional process of writing, recording, and producing an album which exposes the clearly still tender wounds of personal trauma? 

It isn’t easy. It’s a strange game of not feeling healed enough to share, and at the same time, knowing that healing comes through sharing. I spent so many years trying to not feel, so for me, the first step was feeling. It’s a non-linear process: some days you’re on cloud nine, and other days, you’re completely defeated and torn apart. I had to let go of looking productive or making anything of this journey. I think in our current culture, we’re encouraged to monetize trauma and it’s not healthy, that’s just another capitalist lie. The most important thing is navigating through the healing journey for oneself alone, regardless of whether it’s advertised or perceived as productive.

In the process of my healing journey, I would hear song melodies and lyrics in my head. I wrote them down but didn’t pressure them to be anything. I created a “music garden”, I planted the seeds but didn’t force them to grow. I would periodically return to the ideas and “water” them by adding new lyrics and production ideas. Eventually, these songs came into existence, not because they had to, but because they had the time and space to. They grew into the songs they are now, and when I could see what they became, I realized there was an album in front of me, one that I was terrified to share but knew I had to for my own healing.

Religious Trauma Syndrome will undoubtedly become a source of solace and consolation for queer people who have endured similar experiences to you, what piece of advice would you give to anyone struggling to make peace with the trauma of rejection from religious indoctrination?

I hope my music is a source of solace for my fellow queer family, I know creating this music has brought me peace!

In terms of advice, I would say – first – I am so sorry if you’ve experienced trauma and rejection, especially for being queer. Acceptance, belonging, love, and safety are basic human needs. From an evolutionary perspective, we are similar to pack animals, we need each other. Humans can’t live without other humans. So to be rejected, especially for who you are, is a primal and threatening experience. Recognizing the pain and feeling it, that is difficult work. Don’t do it alone, surround yourself with people you don’t have to prove your worth to. Healing is not an isolated journey. Be easy on yourself, you’ve been through a lot and deserve rest, understanding, and love. Healing is possible, it just takes time. Drop the timeline, drop how fast or slow you think this should go. This isn’t linear.

We know what you’d like to communicate to your friends, family and religious community who ostracized you by listening to the standout single, Heaven; have you been able to move past the anger, or is it still something you need to temper? 

A therapist once told me, “Anger is the emotion of injustice; behind all anger is pain.” I think it’s important to recognize that anger and pain go hand in hand. Anger is more popular than pain though because being angry is easier than feeling pain.

That being said, I don’t know if anger about true injustice is something to temper. It’s a completely valid feeling. However, I’ve made a decision that I don’t want to live my life as an angry person; peace is an inside job. Sometimes, I am sad and angry, but I choose to acknowledge it, feel it, and move forward. I can’t change the people who rejected me, but I can change myself. They may never be who I wish they were, but I can be who I want to be.

You’ve mentioned meeting many people in Los Angeles who have experienced religious trauma. How have these interactions influenced your music and your approach to this album?

I’ve been surprised at the number of queer ex-religious people I have met here. It’s almost comedic. I thought my story was original but now it feels cliche. Meeting people with similar stories has been so affirming, knowing I’m not alone. It’s also sobering though, it’s sad to see how widespread this problem is.

That being said, meeting others similar to me encouraged me to actually release this album. While I was writing it, I would think to myself, “No one will understand these songs.” But that changed for me one afternoon when I was hanging out with a friend. They are also queer and come from a traumatic religious background, being rejected by family, friends, and community. We were talking about music and so I played them my song Better Off on piano, singing it quietly for my first time to someone else. When I finished the song, I turned around and saw tears streaming down their face. I was shocked. I had never seen someone resonate with my music so quickly and viscerally. We were connected in that moment. And that was when I realized not everyone will understand this music and that’s OK, it’s not for them. It’s for the people who will resonate with it.

We can’t help but admire how much you’ve thrived in your career after all you’ve been through, what has been your proudest achievement so far? 

Thank you! I feel very lucky. It’s been a difficult journey but so worth it. There are a couple of achievements that I’m very proud of, like my degrees in music composition, writing additional music for mainstream TV shows, and producing different artists.

I think my two proudest achievements are, first, this album. This album is the culmination of me. It’s my experience, my training, my pain, my joy, all wrapped into one thing. I’m very proud of this album and I’m thankful to be releasing it! And second, I’m proud of my relationship with myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey and making this album. I went from being afraid of myself, not feeling like I could trust myself, to becoming my biggest champion, cheerleader, and confidant. It’s the cliche, “It’s not the destination but the journey.” I don’t care where I’m going now, I’m just thankful for who I’ve become on this journey.

Stream Religious Trauma Syndrome on Spotify and follow Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on Instagram and TikTok.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Nadine Finsterbusch Reclaimed Her Story & Embraced the Defiance of Youth in Her Alt Electro-Pop Debut LP, ‘My Space’

Nadine Finsterbusch’s debut LP, “My Space,” marks a fearless foray into alt-electro-pop territory, reflecting her determination to carve out her own niche. This album defies societal expectations for women her age, presenting an impetuous embrace of youth and raw emotion. At 44, the Berlin-based artist confronts the challenges that have defined her adulthood—early menopause, breaches of trust, and failed friendships—with a fresh, optimistic outlook reminiscent of youthful defiance.

The album’s 11 tracks are a rich synthesis of indietronica, pop, and rock, juxtaposing bitter realities with lush, harmonious tones. Finsterbusch’s voice, with its innocent yet vehement timbre, evokes the early influence of Björk This influence is unmistakable in the way her vocals weave through the album, combining playful innocence with a resolute sense of self.

“My Space” is a deeply personal narrative; Finsterbusch’s collaboration with producer Ramin Bijan provides the perfect backdrop for her introspective lyrics. The album was mastered by Dave Cooley, whose credentials include working with Tame Impala and Animal Collective, ensuring a polished yet authentic sound.

The lead single, “Why So Serious”, encapsulates the album’s ethos, inviting listeners to embrace their emotions without irony, much like teenagers do. Finsterbusch’s journey to this realisation—spurred by listening to Agust D’s “People”—adds ample to her work, underpinning her desire to enjoy the creative process and share that joy with her audience.

In “My Space,” Finsterbusch successfully balances sweetness without naivety and agony without ennui, creating a lyrically nuanced and emotionally resonant album. This work stands as a testament to her untainted dignity and her ability to transform personal adversity into compellingly relatable art. “My Space” is a triumph of self-expression, inviting listeners to reclaim their own spaces of joy and reflection.

Stream the album on Spotify now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

R34L dawned a fresh era of alt-electronica with ‘NEW WAYS’

Trippy, transcendent, and rhythmically compulsive, the latest artfully orchestrated installation of alt-electronica, NEW WAYS, from the producer duo, R34L, comprising Sarah Hartman and Cason Trager is a cultivated vessel to spiritual ascension, wrapped in the aura of Lynchian reverie.

Hartman’s vocal lines harmonise with the divine high above the leftfield mix of electronica that will heighten any Portishead and Caroline Polachek-orientated playlists. The sense of soul that Hartman brings to the release in synergy with the lighter textures of the luxe track allows tides of catharsis to wash over you as the strong glitchy backbeat juxtaposes the lush layers with a sense of gravity that you’ll want to anchor yourself to time after time.

Whether you find your body beat to it or use it to slip into a sense of serenity by following the dreamlike progressions as they exit material reality, NEW WAYS defies ambivalence with its potent alchemy, which is likely to be extended through R34L’s upcoming 13-track LP, Falling in Place, which promises to place the listener in the unchartered middle-ground of indie-pop & club music.

NEW WAYS was officially released on May 10th; stream the single on all major platforms via this link.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spotlight Feature: Be Bigger Not Bitter with Tago’s Feel-Good Hip-Hop Juggernaut, Let Me Talk About Mine

Tago stepped back into the spotlight with his latest single Let Me Talk About Mine, which is set to be a significant moment in his career. The Dallas-based rapper and producer, who has spent the better part of a decade behind the scenes, enriching other artists’ careers, now takes centre stage, showcasing his own story with soul-infused conviction that demands attention.

With Let Me Talk About Mine, Tago crafted lyrics that are both sharp and introspective, set against a backdrop of electrifying beats and cutting-edge electronica aesthetics that shake the dust off old school while tapping into the grit of it.

This single is an unreckonable assertion of self-worth and an invitation to witness his ascension in hip-hop. His narrative is potent, steeped in personal growth and the gritty realities of forging one’s path against the odds. Tago captivates through this monolithic hit, employing kinetic rhythms that propel the listener through his journey of self-realisation and unflinching ambition.

It’s a track that will stand the test of time as a testament to Tago’s ability to weave traditional influences into a modern sonic landscape that pulsates with energy. If you’ve ever felt overshadowed, step into the limelight with his emboldening instant classic.

Stream the official music video for Let Me Talk About Mine from May 16th.

Follow Tago on Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Reach Nirvana with DJ Roko’s Slice of EDM ‘Heaven’

DJ Roko dialled up the disco dance-pop euphoria in his latest burst of beat-driven euphoria, Heaven; 90s disco nostalgia permeates the exhilarated EDM production that embodies the UK producer’s influence of David Guetta, Tiesto and Calvin Harris while leaving plenty of room for his signature style to ensnare the airwaves. If rhythm is a dancer, as Snap! proclaimed in ’92 it would get down to this hit that will maximise your lust for life.

The West Midlands-born, Glasgow-based artist and DJ first exhibited his talent for fusing kinetic rhythms with melodies that melt into the mind through his official debut release, Velocity, earlier this year, and has already attracted over 10k monthly Spotify listeners with the infectious intensity within his sound that will undoubtedly flood dancefloors throughout 2024.

With his self-produced debut LP, in addition to several other projects, ready to drop later this year, DJ Roko isn’t a name EDM fans will want to ignore for much longer.

Heaven was officially released on April 27; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Locian became the architect of art-rock therapy with his sophomore single, Power

Artistic intensity is tempered by the dialectical quiescence in the stormily tender confluence of art-rock and trip-hop in the sophomore single, Power, from Sydney’s most promising breakthrough artist, Locian.

Aching reverberations course through the lush architecture of the syncopated progressions, providing the ultimate juxtaposition of discomfort and ease to pay a fitting tribute to the complex interplay of ennui and self-imposed affliction. Locian’s vocals, caressing with each whispered breath, provide the ultimate permission to surrender to the therapeutic virtues of this flawlessly poignant release.

By building into a corrosive industrial electronica sequence towards the outro, which becomes a sonic visualisation of the disorientating soul-tearing nature of self-destructive internal narratives, Locian ensured that Power hit with maximum impact.

If your introspection is more torturous than waterboarding, break free from the poisoned rumination through the resounding philosophy within Power; it’s far cheaper than therapy.

Power will be available to stream on all major platforms, including SoundCloud from May 10th.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Policy Orchestrated the Ultimate Shadowed Symphony of Alt-Electronica with Lunella in ‘Lights Out’

Policy

With his latest single, Lights Out, the award-winning producer, multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer, Policy, exhibited how his three decades in the industry have culminated through his heart-wrenching cinematic soundscape which paralyses with power from the first ominously reverberant synth stroke.

The dark and stormy instrumentals feed delicious disquietness until the dawn of the single breaks with Euro House nostalgic euphoria. Through it all, Lunella’s vocals keep an even heart-breaking keel, channelling ephemeral grace in the same vein as Bjork. Her voice, steady yet heartrending, navigates the complexities of quasi-heartbreak with a finesse that mirrors the track’s richly layered instrumentals. The refrain, “You only love me with the lights out,” acts as a raw nerve, exposing the pain of love that lingers in the shadows, never fully revealed.

Policy’s synthesis of trip-hop, house, and dystopic avant-garde synth-pop will leave you ensnared in the beautifully crafted chaos of heartbreak. Every note and lyric is meticulously woven to explore themes of love, rejection, and the introspective shadows of the human experience. For fans and new listeners alike, Lights Out promises a sonic experience that captivates and haunts in equal measure.

Lights Out will be available to stream on all major platforms, including Spotify, from May 7th.

Review by Amelia Vandergast