PICK 5: Poisonous Relationship
Poisonous Relationship is an exciting music project by Sheffield based artist, writer and musician Jamie Crewe, who after six shorter records/EPs, his longplay debut “Our Sex Life Is Brutal” and several remixes of artists such as SSION and Beyoncé has just recently released his new album “Garden of Problems” on Ecstasy (the wonderful label run by The Miracles Club). The album is a real revelation, a very personal and melancholic take on house, combining a smart, percussion-driven songwriting with smooth sounds and Jamie’s androgynous voice. You can purchase the record on the P.R. website, where you also find the whole back catalogue of the project as a free download (!).
I’ve already posted the beautiful video to the first Poisonous Relationship single (and album opener) “Men’s Feelings” (free download here, remix EP out on June 18) in our latest music ticker, and it amazed me so much that I asked Jamie if he’d be up for taking part in our PICK 5 series. He kindly agreed and send us this thoughtful and well-written commented list of his favorite web videos – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
1. Mica Paris – Contribution
“This is the music video for Mica Paris’ 1990 single ‘Contribution’, off her album of the same name. Mica is really underrated – she started off as a kind of missing British link between Anita Baker and Mary J. Blige, but by this, her second album, she had this vibe that was all her own – very London, very fresh, very vocal. On Contribution she’s like the excitement of the early 90s dance music underground condensed into a pop star. My friend Charlotte said the album sounds like songs you should already know, and she’s right. This video is directed by Patricia Murphy in gorgeous high contrast monochrome. It manages to be stark and stylised yet still have a deadpan kind of visual humour (the bouncing dogs, the frog), and give this glamour that’s classy and clean but still young and fun. When I first saw this video, the aesthetic just slayed me, and it’s informed a lot of the looks I go for and the visuals I create.”
2. Kelela and Inc. – The Softest Place On Earth (Rehearsal)
“This video captures Kelela and the boys from Inc. throwing around a version of Xscape’s perfect 1998 ballad ‘The Softest Place On Earth’. There’s just four hands on an electric piano and one voice, and there’s a bit where it seems like the words are forgotten, but it’s such a relaxed and steamy and impromptu rendition, and it sounds so good. Kelela’s voice is incredible, and I love that she’s becoming the real r’n’b star of Night Slugs and Fade To Mind, where people have worked with fragments and echoes of r’n’b for a while, but she also brings this singer-songwriter depth and sensitivity that adds something brand new and so sweet (my friend Alexis Penney told me she sang him Joni Mitchell’s Hejira in its entirety one night). Whenever I watch this video I end up harmonising with her and wishing I was there too.”
3. Nina Simone – Feelings (Live At Montreaux Jazz Festival, 1976)
“Nina Simone is one of those voices that as soon as I heard it I felt, with no justification, like it was part of my own brain and body (I have a similar thing with Spice). As well as being a formidable composer, she did so many amazing things with existing songs (the 17 minute gospel version of ‘My Sweet Lord’ with agnostic breakdowns and polyrhythmic clapping is maybe my favourite) and I think this performance is a great illustration of that. She takes a song which was regarded as easy listening and breaks it open like a pomegranate. I feel songs very deeply (hence why I can barely listen to most of Mariah Carey’s Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, or why K. Michelle’s ‘Fallin’ makes me want to throw myself out of a window), so when she says ‘I don’t understand the conditions that would demand the need for a man to write a song like that!’ with that look of outrage I recognise exactly what she means. Over ten minutes she undoes the song in so many fearsome and tender ways.
4. Cross Colours on Dance Energy 1991
“Dance Energy was a BBC2 youth programme from the early 90s about dance music, culture, fashion etc., and you can see a lot of clips of it on YouTube. The sets are these gorgeous graphic Haring-esque buildings, and the studio is just filled with young people dancing, mostly in really bright lighting. There’s amazing musical guests, including Inner City, Nefateri, Normski, and an incredible performance by Mica Paris and Omar, and sections where they concentrate on dancers and give them little mini-bios (Precious, 17, London, Cell Block H, Trainers), but I chose this segment as it also includes one of my favourite clothing brands, Cross Colours from Los Angeles. They made the most gorgeous streetwear, with these bold, confident shapes and colours and pithy slogans that weirdly (?) make me think of Gran Fury, the design collective who produced a lot of the visuals associated with ACT UP. This whole segment is so perfectly composed (@_SamBanks, dig the White Cap Crew), and it gives a really cool insight into the brand and the politics behind it.”
5. Pay It No Mind – The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson
“One of my favourite things about modern internet access is that you can find full-length films like this that you’d really struggle to view previously (I remember ordering sketchy homemade DVDs as a teen just to watch 15 minute features on Blacklips Performance Cult). This is a great insight into the life and philosophy of Marsha P. Johnson, a staple of downtown NY from the 60s to her death in the early 90s and co-founder of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Sylvia Rivera. You get to hear testimony from her friends and acquaintances, as well as footage of her speaking herself (I realised I’d never heard her voice before on watching this), and she has so much to teach about activism, generosity, and care in gay communities. I first saw this video when Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite posted it on her Tumblr with the following anecdote:
“when i first saw her lighting up 7th avenue one sunny day in her glowing spiritual attire,I gave herm a huge smile and then clapped loudly , as we do ….she turned around and flashed me the most radiant smile i’ve ever seen and yelled back a very loud ” hello Glory” . I had no idea then that she was the one who first stood up to the police , the day after Judy Garland died, and the night of the Stonewall riots which set the ball rolling for gay liberation today. what is beauty ? Marsha “Pay it no mind” Johnson”