A downbeat, trip hop giant, pregnant with heart-bursting emotion, Charlottesville is simultaneously a tribute to those who risk their lives to stand up against race hatred and a declaration of rage against right-wing extremists - especially those in the highest office.
In August 2017, members of far right organisations from all over the USA gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a rally called Unite the Right. Others gathered to protest against this incursion of neo-Nazis and their openly racist and homophobic agenda. It didn’t take long before violent attacks were taking place. But the chilling moment came on the second day of demonstrations, when a white nationalist drove a car headlong into a crowd of liberal counter-protestors, injuring 19 people and killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer.
"Aftermath, a trace of blood in the street," is the hauntingly minimalist first line from Spanish baritone Guillem Duquette, coupling it with the perfect pathos of: "The president sums it up in a tweet."
"Sadly, the events themselves weren't unique," recalls Adam Sabani, one half of NIGHT and the man behind the lyrics for Charlottesville. "We've seen the rise and re-emergence of far right forces throughout the western world for decades now. As most people, I was disturbed on an intellectual level when I heard about the demonstrations and the clashes and of course after hearing about the death of Heather Heyer. But sadly, I wasn't really emotionally affected. I guess we all get numbed down when we see the same disturbing things on repeat."
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence," said President Donald Trump, continuing "on many sides, on many sides".
He made no mention of white nationalists or the alt-right movement. And President Trump was criticised from both sides of the political spectrum for his failure to distance himself from the Unite the Right organisers. "We must call evil by its name," said Colorado Republican Cory Gardner. "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."
"It wasn't until president Trump's press conference in Trump Tower the day after the riots that I woke up emotionally," Adam continues. "It was just such a disgrace how he did not stand up for common democratic values and how he trivialised the violence. It really made me very upset and one reason was that I suddenly realised that I too had become blasé."
Adam has been friends with Gustaf Johansson since they were schoolboys in Stockholm; Charlottesville is the first track to emerge from the duo, but NIGHT have emerged fully-formed as a musical force. This first taste of what they are capable of is a mature, emotionally bristling blend of lush indie electronica and art rock with hints of Madrugada, Portishead, Massive Attack and Anohni.
Although the lyrics were written by Adam, the vocal by Guillem - who only met Adam and Gustaf in the Spring of 2018 - is palpably personal and impassioned.
"It's just me raging due to a world that seems to grow crazier," says Guillem. "I feel like a loudspeaker that looks into people's eyes and encourages them to act. I think that's what the song is about. It keeps giving the listener reasons to 'listen, act and rage'."
"I don't know if I can explain how it is that I reach such fervour when performing it," Guillem goes on. "This is the way I've always expressed myself the best. It happens quite naturally. When performing it, I fully engage to the moment; the events the song is based on deserve the best that I can give."
Whilst Charlottesville was inspired by world news events, Sweden has a shadow hanging over it much closer to home, where the government has been investing in the might of its armed forces and has re-introduced conscription, which had been abolished in 2010. But rattling a sabre in the direction of a superpower is a risky ploy for a nation of 10 million - fewer than the number of inhabitants of Moscow alone.
"The way Russia conducts itself certainly is a threat to open western societies," says Adam, "and one can't help to think that there is a big plan to divide and conquer in play. The Swedish defence budget, as in many other countries, has increased enormously as a consequence."
"But at the same time, lately, I have been leaning more towards a pacifistic stance," concludes. "Of course, it may be naïve to say 'give peace a chance' and that defence spending only increases spending on the other side. But I do think that there is a lack of those voices in today's climate."
Learn More About NIGHT Here:
About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.
4 March 2021
A high-speed combination of punk chorus and ska verse, Mustard Plug’s singalong Unite and Fight is just one of a sensational 28 tracks on the Ska Against Racism album compiled by Bad Time Records in 2020 to raise funds for non-profit organisations working to improve education, opportunity and justice for black people in the USA and beyond. With a barrelling momentum and a repudiation of violent action, this uplifting song is a call to arms for those of us committed to disarmament.
8 September 2020
Celebrating the determination of “one hundred thousand teenagers” to take over the streets of London to save their future from calamity, KIDSTRIKE! by novelist and singer songwriter JB Morrison – aka Jim Bob – is taken from the UK Top 40 album Pop Up Jim Bob released in August 2020 and inspired by the real life activism of countless young activists. But the song is run through with a rueful recognition of the singer’s own fading urge to save the world.
28 July 2020
Inspired in part by the fatal shooting in New York of a ten-year-old black boy by a white plain-clothes policeman, the audacious centrepiece of Stevie Wonder’s experimental 1973 album was a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation on the brutality of black America: Living for the City…