Derek Robertson

Freelance writer and editor: Guardian, Independent, NME, VICE, Timeout, The Quietus, The Face

'We Lost Ourselves': Future Islands Interview

“I’ve definitely done some journaling up here,” says Samuel T Herring. “A lot of lyrics too. It’s a great place for letting the mind wander.” We’re sat on a rocky ledge overlooking a swimming hole near the house in rural south-east Sweden that Herring – frontman of US synthpop band Future Islands – increasingly calls home. A former quarry, the pool is deep and clear, with sheer granite cliffs rising 10 metres in places.

The Swedish Housing Experiment Designed To Cure Loneliness

Erik Ahlsten is unequivocal. “This is the best accommodation I’ve ever had.” His friend and neighbour Manfred Bacharach is equally enthusiastic. “I really like this way of living,” he says. “It’s very much my cup of tea.” The two are referring to their new home, Sällbo, a radical experiment in multigenerational living in Helsingborg, a small port city in southern Sweden. Its name is a portmanteau of the Swedish words for companionship (sällskap) and living (bo), and neatly encapsulates the project's goals.

Inside Sweden's Controversial Socially Distanced Gigs

“It feels weird to do this, but also nice,” says Elin Ramstedt, lead singer of shoegaze trio Spunsugar, halfway through the band’s lush, euphoric set of fuzzed-out guitars and drum machines. The crowd at Malmö’s famed independent music venue Plan B hollers and applauds in response. We’re modest in number – there are 39 of us, to be exact – and everyone starts off a little shy, hanging near the back and the sides before slowly being drawn forward. Heads nod and feet tap enthusiastically; there’s even a little dancing.

'They are leading us to catastrophe': Sweden's Coronavirus Stoicism Begins To Jar

The Øresund Bridge – yes, that bridge – is an engineering marvel linking the Swedish city of Malmö and Copenhagen that normally transports 70,000 people daily. It has fallen eerily silent. Denmark is under coronavirus lockdown, and the Danes have imposed strict border controls. On the Swedish side, the Øresund remains open, although, understandably not many are making that journey.

Hush Now: In The Studio With Balmorhea

Saal 3 at Berlin’s Funkhaus is a glorious throwback, an old school recording space from the 1950s that’s been filled with some seriously high spec equipment. The whole complex, nestled next to the River Spree in a gritty, industrial wedge in the city’s east, was the former GDR broadcast centre, designed by architects and acousticians to be world-class in every way; at the time of its completion, it was the largest and most sophisticated recording facility anywhere on the planet.

Urban Sprawl: How Hip Hop Conquered Europe

For a stark reminder of how completely rap and hip hop has taken over mainstream culture, consider the case of NWA. Thirty years ago, the group released a song that so incensed the authorities and white America – ‘Fuck tha Police’, taken from their debut studio album Straight Outta Compton – that the FBI felt compelled to write a letter to the band’s label and distributing company complaining that “advocating violence and assault is wrong and we, in the law enforcement community, take exception to such action.” Police started to refuse to provide security for their concerts and, condemned by politicians, for a short while they revelled in their status as “the world’s most dangerous group.”

Blanck Mass 'Animated Violence Mild' Review

Hubris is a terrible thing to have to admit to. Watching the world fall apart and literally burn in real time is a particularly disorientating experience but really, do we have anyone to blame but ourselves? Benjamin John Power doesn’t think so. “We throw ourselves out of our own garden,” he writes in the press release for Animated Violence Mild, his fourth record as Blanck Mass. “We poison ourselves to the edges of an endless sleep.” It’s a bleak image for bleak times. Biblical parallels are f

Meet Lewsberg, Rotterdam's Answer To The Velvet Underground

From the outside, Rotterdam might not seem like a hotbed of underground culture and creativity. But the Dutch city has a long history of nurturing mavericks and misfits artists defiantly pleasing no-one but themselves. Lewsberg, a four-piece whose arty, lo-fi college rock rumble has drawn comparisons to The Velvet Underground, Television and The Modern Lovers, fit this mould perfectly – alongside a fierce independent streak.

The Visual: The NME Interview

To listen to The Visual is to escape: from this world, from life, from yourself. “I’m really good at daydreaming,” explains The Visual’s singer and guitarist Anna van Rij. “This is what I try to do with the music, to get people lost in the song. To give them space to forget the present.” Such an approach harks back to when van Rij first met co-founder Timon Persoon at Amsterdam’s Conservatorium and the pair would spend hours dreaming up fictional soundtracks and entire sonic worlds.

Tshegue 'Telema EP' Review

Tshegue are a duo born from pure musical joy. Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor, was an intoxicating blend of Congolese guitars and garage rock, a cosmopolitan Afropunk where every note fizzed with energy and threatened to burst through the speakers. Partly, this was a nod to heritage; the clattering, rackety rhythms and head-spinning electro recall singer Faty Sy Savanet’s native Kinshasa, a vibrant, music-obsessed city where sounds blare constantly from shops and homes.

Next Wave #908: Lewsberg

Lewsberg are a band who revel in doing things in their own, understated way. Hailing from Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, the four-piece – Arie van Vliet (guitar and vocals), Michiel Klein (guitar), Shalita Dietrich (bass), Dico Kruijsse (drums) – are very much the product of their idiosyncratic hometown, a place van Vliet describes as having “room for everyone, no matter how poor or ugly or strange,” and containing “a lot of functionalism, a lot of concrete, a lot of things and people without frills."
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