Joi Sound System - Monolith Cocktail

Tickling our aural delights this month Freestyle Records celebratory reissue of African percussion giant Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers’  influential African Party album; a retrospective from Asian Underground doyen’s the Joi Sound System; sublime psychedelic acoustic rock from Italian troubadours Dead Bouquet; the Casio keyboard lo fi Brian Wilson,  A Journey of Giraffes; The Provincials summer solstice EP; mischievous Berlin electronic in Soweto vibes from Psycho & Plastic and waltzing banjo lo fi from Frog.  Plus in our ‘shorts’ finale, we have new videos and tracks from Strange U, U.S. Girls, Kitty Finer, Temple Invisible, Vukovar and Bryon Lee & The Dragonaires.

Joi   ‘Joi Sound System’   (Real World Records)
LP released 29th June 2015

Instigators of a celebratory fusion that threw together the heritage of their Indian mother and Bangladesh father, the brothers Shamsher merged atavistic traditions with hip hop, reggae, dancehall, two step and a brimful of Asha beats, at the fag end of the Britpop era. Blossoming from the famous London Asian Underground scene that grew out of Mercury Music prize winner Talvin Singh’s weekly club nights at the Blue Note, the Joi Sound System rubbed shoulders with Cornershop, Fund-da-mental, Nitin Sawhney and Asian Dub Foundation before breaking out into the mainstream and signing a congruous deal with Peter Gabriel’s Real World imprint. Recording a trio of albums, all of which are represented on this collection, Haroon and Farook Shamsher emitted their unique brand of polygenesis dance music from there bastion of Bangladesh culture Brick Lane HQ to the world.

The Shamsher musical legacy was chiefly inherited from their professional flute playing father Soni, who’s jam sessions at the family home with a number of mystical Baul minstrels were recorded for posterity by the two siblings, and sold locally on the street. From these humble beginnings the lads started spinning records at the local youth club, as part of the Joi Bangla Sound System. Expanding from DJing to writing and recording their own music, Joi were joined by BBC world music award nominee vocalist Susheela Raman, guitarist Vik Sharma and percussionist Bongo Paul as they added flute, tablas and sitar to their dance music beats. This incarnation would go on to play the biggest showcase festivals of the day, WOMAD, the Big Chill and Glastonbury, and support Spiritualized and The Eurythmics on tour. Unfortunately tragedy would strike just as Joi were about to really blow in 1999 following the release of their Real World debut One and One Is One, Haroon died suddenly from a heart attack after initially contracting a blood clot. Cut down in his prime, the second LP, We Are Three, released as a posthumous tribute in 2000, featured a number of recordings Haroon had made when he travelled to his father’s village in Bangladesh; his omnipresent vibes indelible throughout. In 2007, Farook returned with the “shamelessly upbeat” Arabian/Asian fused album Without Zero, which featured a number of world music artisans (Mumbai-based artist Niladri Kumar, Algerian-born oud player and multi-instrumentalist Yazid and longtime collaborators, John Coxon and Ashley Wales of jazz/electronic duo Spring Heel Jack).

The best of these three albums now form a retrospective homage to a true transglobal phenomenon. Spanning two discs, the first chapter kicks off with their 1997 thumping break beat techno anthem ‘A Desert Storm’ – imagine The Prodigy frying under an Iraqi sun. From here on in we follow a loose passage of enlightened discoveries, spun into a woozy spiral of Bengali spiced instrumentation, Massive Attack churned drumbeats and a soothing soulful vocal on ‘Oh My People’, and romanced and twirled by sophisticated DJ Shadows-esque breaks and chimes, reverberated sitar twangs and tablas on the ‘Journey’. Other highlights include the swaying rally chants sampled loops on the political alluded ‘We Need Your Vote’, and the Jon Hassell fourth world music echoes travailing over a tight interplay of ascending Indian film score strings and techy beats on ‘Deep Asian Vibes’.


The second part of the Joi story opens with another career defining tune, the beautifully serene trance anthem ‘Fingers’ – which also featured recently as one of the key (and ‘choice’) tracks that marked the recent Real World’s 25th anniversary celebrations. Defining a whole genre of marrying electronica and dance music to traditional sounds from the Asian continent, Fingers is a highly influential record and is a synonymous encapsulation of the Real World label spirit. Other influential sparks can be heard with the Joi’s famous tabla reverberated shakes, so beloved of Missey Elliot’s freak on and so many other artists, or with the lushly applied Indian vocals that linger over a slow rotating bed of beats, found prevalent throughout the collection.

Taking the sounds of Asian subcontinent into new directions, Joi find a garage groove and R&B vocal fits the eastern acoustics on ‘What You Are’, and tailor a two step backbeat and vocals to the vibrating majesty of the sitar on ‘Come Back To Me’. Dub, ambient music and hip hop also play their part, the Joi more or less adapting any genre to their homeland traditions, and in the process forging something new.

A celebration not only of Asian music but a timely reminder of the UK’s multicultural successes, the Shamsher brothers retrospective could not have arrived at a better time; a reminder of the underground exchanges that helped shape London’s dance music scene.

Ginger Johnson - Monolith Cocktail

Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers   ‘African Party’ (Freestyle Records)
LP released 22nd June 2015.

The history of London’s celebrated polygenesis musical history would have been far drearier if Nigeria’s legendary band leader and drums master Ginger Johnson hadn’t decided to pitch up and make the capitol his adopted home in the 1950s. Progenitor of Afrobeat, a mentor to the forms most revered voice, Fela Kuti, Johnson’s raucous and often highly sophisticated mix of hi life, jazz, calypso and whatever else seemed harmoniously appealing at the time set not only Africa but the UK alight. His London home would become a kind of mecca, a center point for activity and gossip, whilst providing the ideal jam session spot for his fellow compatriots. Respected if not adored by those who gravitated towards his generous spirit, he was addressed fondly as ‘Father’.

Popping up throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s as the defacto – whether out of admiration and reverence for his position in the African music world or because of ignorance and racial stereotyping – exotic musical accompaniment of choice, Johnson and His African Messengers could be found performing soundtracks for 007’s jaunt into Blacksploitation cinema (Live And Let Die), or be seen appearing in the Ursula Andress starring cult Hammer Horror classic, She. He also added the essential “hi-energy” Voodoo spirit to the Rolling Stones’ dark arts conjuring masterpiece ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, when they played their infamous Hyde Park shindig in 1969. Always in demand, Ginger’s session work alone was enviable, as he backed Georgie fame, Osibisa, Madeleine Bell and Quincy Jones, and collaborated with a diverse range of acts that included Genesis, Thunderclap Newman, Argent and space cadets Hawkwind.

Yet he was also something of a socialist activist, giving back and sharing his wealth of experiences and knowledge with the local community. Instrumental in the early stages of The Notting Hill Carnival, he also opened the Club Iroko hang out in Haverstock Hill, North London, which played host to the great and good, with titans of their disciplines, Sun Ra, Osibisa, Funkadelic and Cymande (three of who’s members served their apprenticeships in Ginger’s band), all either playing or frequenting the joint.

Celebrating an icon, Freestyle Records have chosen to reignite interest in Ginger’s pivotal, and arguably most accessible ‘party piece’ showcase, the 1967 African Party album. With a full gamut of styles, moods and rhythms under his sauntering, and often vibrantly swinging control, Ginger and his talking drums hurtle through a jazz withering saxophone version of the Burundi ‘Watusi’; rise a snake handling Voodoo spirit in the pulp paperback, 007 environment, Soho club with the ‘Wicthdoctor’; and hot-foot across a mirage shimmering Tangiers with a polygenesis mix of both calypso Caribbean and feverish African influences on ‘Lord Morocco’. Choosing to close the album with a beautifully embodiment of his Hi Life roots, Ginger cuts loose with a chorus of carefree brass and infectious soul-shuffling drums: the archetype precursor to the, usually, faster and more funky Afrobeat style that followed. With the grand traditions of the motherland, and the terrain including its many inhabitants, from elephants to the insects, all entwined with contemporary jazz, rhythm and blues and floating flutes, the Messengers congruously enrich the atavistic tribal patters, jabs and rapid rolls of Ginger’s centerpiece percussion to create a window in on an underground fuelled 1960s jamboree.

The Provincials on Monolith Cocktail

The Provincials   ‘Ascending Summer’
EP released on 21st June 2015

Like some aquatic siren, a mermaid perhaps or one of Arthurian folklore’s lady’s of the lake, beckoning the listener to the waters edge The Provincial’s diaphanous vocalist Polly Perry summons the listener towards the fluctuating folk tones of the latest EP, Ascending Summer. Released in time for the summer solstice, the Winchester group’s sun-dappled auras shimmer on a suitably celebratory soundtrack. Not quite in Whicker Man territory, these delicately cooed melodies prefer the less esoteric traditions of eating scampi & chips, and visiting the far more welcoming and less isolated, and not at all pagan bastion stronghold of the – and I should know as I was born there – Isle of Wight. The title track does it’s best to magically conjure up a dreamy, “far from the madding crowd” getaway; alluding to the famous chain-link ferry that takes you from east to west Cowes and signposting local beauty spots along the coastline as if creating new folk mythologies.

Elegantly and softly ascending folk and jazz progressions on the EP’s most outstanding track, ‘Landing On Water’, Polly’s breezy vocals and her musical partners’ brassy reverberating pedal steel guitar strings drift almost aimlessly but in the most beautifully poised and pleasurable manner.

In two parts, Flights Of Helios remix the band’s ‘When The Light Changes’ with typical subterranean, esoteric flair. Part One rotates the breathy cooed vocals in a veiled vortex, and plummets into a dank, wall dripping, cavern, before part two picks up the pace and pushes the hypnotic loops into a ritualistic break out of techno beats. The Provincials far too nice to take part in any daemonic ceremony or go off on an avant-garde lilt do however lend themselves well to this treatment.

Ascending Summer is the most serene of joyful odes to the changing of the seasons; more reflective and escapist than hedonistic.

Monolith Cocktail

A Journey Of Giraffes   ‘It’s Is Nice To Be Nice
LP available via Bandcamp

On a pilgrimage of self-discovery through the actions and music of The Beach Boys, Baltimore maverick musician of esoteric surf music and whimsy, John Lane has done his best to emulate California’s favorite sons via a number of alter ego monikers. From channeling the lovesick adolescent soppiness of Pet Sounds on his She Sells Seashells LP as Expo – one of the very first albums to be reviewed on the Monolith Cocktail – to celebrating the Beach Boys’ Ashram years of transcendental meditation by praising the virtues of Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba as A Journey Of Giraffes on the Songs For Baba LP, Lane evokes his spiritual guides via a form of lo fi nostalgia. He is a Casio keyboard Brian Wilson, transducing those influences into dreamy broadcasts.

With his curious band name and album titles – his 2014 “quasi-documentary” LP, National Park Brochures, chiming perhaps with the wondrous menagerie of the 1960s, and alluding to the increased wealth of exotic pleasures, previously the reserve of only the super rich, now readily available to the many in the form of leisure and travel – Lane has still continued to underline each and every composition with a sense of forlorn and lilting Tropicana harmonious introspection. It’s Is Nice To Be Nice is another halcyon tribute, adopting and suggesting similar song titles, whilst delivering pathos through an obscured, funneled mouthpiece. Those “vega-table”, “take good care of your feet” mantras so beloved of The Beach Boys are once again used here, but as it was for the Wilsons, those clean-living health kicks and environmental messages were never adopted for long, as they slipped into the use of heavy drugs and medication to see them through the various forms of pressures and mental anxieties that crippled them. Hence the rather languid, sweet at times, but always sad and noir like echoes on Lanes own ‘Vvvitamins’ and ‘Cashews (Halves & Pieces)’.

It isn’t all California sunshine rays and surf noir, the LP also occasionally wafts into The High Llamas territory or dabbles with cocktail lounge jazz (‘The Usual Door’), and on the cosmic vibrating ‘Mama Satellite’, Lane remixes himself by merging elements of The Flaming Lips with a trance like electronic backing of floating synths to produce the album’s most inventive detour.

Encapsulating his musical heroes on a humble budget, Lane’s bemusing and at times heartfelt paeans can lift themselves beyond redolence and wash up onto charmingly alternative coastlines.

Frog  ‘Judy Garland’  (Audio Antihero)
Video for a track taken from the recent LP, Kind Of Blah

Poetically embodied by our resident Franco-Turkish novelist-in-waiting, Ayfer Simms, last week, New York combo Frog were furnished with a profound and erudite review. Taken from their recent LP, Kind Of Blah (critically applauded by all the right-thinking critics including us), and released on the most aptly entitled label if ever there was one (and we’d like to think, Monolith Cocktail friends) Audio Antihero, ‘Judy Garland’ is a magical esoteric hoedown, if darkly effected by an unhealthy dose of barbiturates, waltz to the troubled starlet. Imagine a sort of cross between Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah and a banjo plucking Modest Mouse and you’ll be half way towards making sense of this most sparkly piece of malady and hope.

Psycho & Plastic  ‘Day/Glow’(GiveUsYourGOLD)
Single released on 26th June 2015

Back with their fourth double A-side single, ‘Day/Glow’, our favourite electro oddities from the German capitol once again mix house, techno, Hip Hop and electro pop into a kaleidoscopic sponge of playfulness.

Psycho & Plastic can always be relied upon to integrate something new into the mix, and on the colourfully sophisticated, mechanised ants scuttling in the circuit boards, techno track Day, they drop Kraftwerk down in Soweto. As avid followers of the Monolith Cocktail themselves, we’d like to think their latest use of African guitar chops and licks on might have been in some way inspired by visiting the site. It’s a subtle melody and riff, but it is there, and it takes the group into new territories.

With slightly more thump in its bump, the second track Glow continues the subtle hints of Africa, but has a far more pan-European travelogue feel. Vocoder effects and quirky techno kooky sounds warp this track beyond tubular R&S steeliness and seriousness, taking us on a peaceable voyage across the dance floor of some cosmic Balearics. If you can’t wait for it all to kick in and prefer to travel a more direct path, there is a radio edit version that conduces the original into a more bite-sized affair.

dead bouquet - monolith cocktail

Dead Bouquet   ‘As Far As I Know’   (Seahorse Recordings)
LP out now.

Imbued with the alternative sound of the cerebral Grant Lee Buffalo, the mid-western drawled Athens, Georgia via L.A. band’s bass player Paul Kimble lending not only his instrumental talents but also producer skills to the Italian trio’s debut, the Dead Bouquet leave behind the antiquated capitol of their forefathers for the American troubadour highway.

Though they hail from Rome, and apart from the flowery if typically Dante-esque lamented poetics, the Italians sound like a cross between commercial 80s British Goth, The Waterboys, Smashing Pumpkins and early U2. At the centre of their acoustic rock maelstrom, vocalist and songwriter Carlo Mazzoli’s 12-string guitar leads with impassioned sweeps and gesticulating rhythmic grace, flanked by his two compatriots as they transcribe eloquent, and at times angry, prose.

The word psychedelic has been mentioned and bandied about, but it seems totally fatuous and at odds with the bands sound. Though offering a sophisticated and at times off-kilter interesting slant on acoustic rock, the band don’t exactly venture over the calico wall or sip from the electric kool aid. No, they merely inquire into the opening hours of the perfumed gardens, and retain a more progressive if anything, vibe throughout, bordering on early 70s Pink Floyd (‘Way Back Then’).

Strong in melodies and traversing reflected pained anthems (‘Nobody’s Sky’) or evoking a Celtic seafaring tale (‘Barking At My Gate’), the Dead Bouquet journey a well-travelled road with aplomb, angst and determination; daring indeed, as they evoke their many influences on the way, and by the sounds of it, find more millage from the magnificent songwriting of Grant Lee Phillips.

In short selection:

vuko - monolith cocktail

In short: Videos and tracks currently on our radar. We have U.S. Girl’s Meg Remy drawing on a vivid musical requiem of Catholicism and withering electro pop as she tassels with the themes of the female gaze; Kitty Finer welding together a jaunty dub amalgamation of early Madness and the Raincoats in the workshop; Strange U’s far from rose-tinted nostalgic trip back through 1970s Africa; a kaleidoscopic rasping and organic electro vista cooed beauty from Romanian trip-hop industrialist Temple Invisible; the most lush and melodic call-to-arms against the pervading forces of evil from the Small Bear Records super group Vukovar; and a taster form the recent Uptown Top Ranking double LP of ska and boss sounds legend Byron Lee and his Dragonaires.

U.S. Girls  ‘Woman’s Work’   (4AD)

Kitty Finer   ‘Girls In The Garage’

Strange U   ‘Strange Universe In Africa’

Temple Invisible   ‘Everything From Above’

Vukovar   ‘New World Order’   (Small Bear Records)

Byron Lee & The Dragonaires ‘Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey’ – Features on the Uptown Top Ranking compilation, released on the North Parade/VP Records labels.

Words:  Dominic Valvona


FFS - Playlist

The “choice” tracks that tickled our aural delights over the last few months gathered together now for your pleasure. Prepare yourselves for the most eclectic of selections, from the rock steady  Spector pop protestations of  U.S. Girls‘Damn That Valley’  to the waltzing majesty of  The Greg Foat Group’s Michael Moorcock inspired time-continuum surfing jazz odyssey,  ‘The Dancers At The End Of Time’.

That selection in full:

U.S. Girls  ‘Damn That Valley’

FFS (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks)  ‘Police Encounters’

Alabama Shakes ‘The Greatest’

Many Things  ‘Holy Fire’

Flies + Flies  ‘Later On’

Heartless Bastards ‘Wind Up Bird’

Tyler, The Creator  ‘PILOT’

Oddisee  ‘Belong To The World’

Cameo  ‘Polyphony’

The Greg Foat Group  ‘The Dancers At The End Of Time’

John DeRosa  ‘You’re Still Haunting Me’

Papernut Cambridge  ‘Rockers Delight’

Jacco Gardner  ‘Find Yourself’

C. Duncan  ‘Here To There’

Frog  ‘Judy Garland’

Dog, Paper, Submarine  ‘Ms. Moonlet’

William D.Drake  ‘Distant Buzzing’

Extradition Order  ‘I Love An Eyesore (LBJ ’60)’

Pale Honey  ‘Fish’

Falling Stacks  ‘Pool Party’

Thomas Truax/Brian Viglione  ‘I Got To Know’

Technicolor Hearts  ‘Who You Are’

The Grus  ‘To Be A Child’

Creature With The Atom Brain  ‘Night Of The Hunter (Part 1)’

Psycho & Plastic  ‘Day’

Die Wilde Jagd    ‘Wah Wah Wallenstein’

Xaos  ‘Free Fall’

Kobadelta   ‘Open Visions’

Prince Vaseline  ‘Radio On’


Frog - Monolith Cocktail

We’ve once again let our literary critic and resident Istanbul satellite Ayfer Simms loose.  This time articulately lending a poetic exuberance to the new LP, Kind of Blah,  by the hazy New York noise-niks Frog.

Frog ‘Kind of Blah’

(Audio Antihero) LP

A window. Scorching summer day, metal staircase and an alley. New York.

The breeze blows from the right, bringing with it a country sounding shine and bouncy melodies. It comes from the left and exudes an upbeat Indie abandon; from a distance, a concert hall with a languorous jazzy/rock atmosphere: All the styles wrapped around a gentle voice, while the heavy red bricks of New York cast a shadow from within.

With this album a surprise is around every corner; unexpected imagery, memories, impressions, alley cats, trumpets, noises, guitars, subtle effects, it’s definitely summer in the city and there is something dark, a world, seedy, defection, alienation, all sang lightly in a masticated slang, while the light gushes in a small apartment like a rolling wave, as if picked up by some artists in the street and thrown like a fire ball, gathering a fierce style on its passage: We forget the room, we go far, travel in time and space: There’s an air of intellectual mingling crashing through the guitar notes, all the neighbours are awoken and they want to join the party. Let’s knock on door 79!

The album is a guitar made of jazz, all improvised and rich, a ballroom filled with alternative shoegazers, beach boys waltzing in New York; snaps shots of images, the gloomy portrayed with words but not by sound, a bursting energy of chords and drums.

“The city is a womb of brown brick beds of clay”. Despite the lyrics coloured with a rough poetic rebellion, distorted with unusual additions the tone is joyful, catchy and soothing.

The orchestra bursts, it is made of modern guitars, heads are lost in a kind of sweaty trance, and we sing, “All dogs go to heaven”. The album is made out of a thousand pieces, smells, the abandon found in rock music from the 60s mixed with smoky parties on a staircase, civil unrest, wars, disheveled women running down the streets, Countless boroughs filled with bars, all that matters is the scars”, kids and sulphuric temperature rises. It’s hot in New York tonight with Frog.

Words:  Ayfer Simms


The Greg Foat Group - Dancers at the end of time LP cover

Back with another June instalment of our popular new music round, this cornucopia (among, if not the most, varied mix of genres on the net) features a big country panoramic imbued album from the Heartless Bastards; an inspired covers collection from one-man pastoral eccentric English pop and psych cottage industry Ian Button (under the moniker of  Papernut Cambridge); a three-way exploration of the Steinway grand piano by kosmiche pioneer Hans-Joachim RoedeliusQluster; and the latest sci-fi paperback inspired jazz peregrination from The Greg Foat Group. Plus a retrospective of the Afro-Cuban music legend Amara Touré, an EP from Newcastle’s heavy rocking Gothic Kobadelta and a new single from Austin psychedelic group Casual Strangers to pique your eclectic interests.

Heartless Bastards   ‘Restless Ones’   (Partisan Records)

LP  released 15th June 2016.

Out in the big country, recorded within the shadows of the great Rio Grande, those “restless souls” the Heartless Bastards are back with another cerebral western imbued rock album. Continuing musically and ascetically with the country themes, this there first album since the buffalo collage adorned Arrow in 2012, is a panoramic collection of songs that relish in stretching the group’s richly distinctively voiced singer Erika Wennerstrom to new heights and depths.Taking on some of their most physically demanding and expansive blues-y rock and roll mid-West anthems yet, and with the Grammy award-winning producer John Congleton (St.Vincent, Angel Olsen,Swans) adding vigour and edge to the band’s sound, Restless Ones is an impressive album. It’s rather unfortunate then that it loses sight of the ambitious landscape after such a roaring start, and lapses into commercial whimsy and balladry during the mid section. But it does make a full recovery later on.

The broad horizons of past and present, reflected in the LP’s artwork that depicts a Native Indian Chief and his warriors looking out over a modern valley of demarcated agricultural abundant fields, above them a flipped upside down image of a more snow covered Ohio street, are transduced through the speakers on the band’s most imaginative, experimental song and finale, ‘Tristessa’. More a sustained guitar sculpting soundscape than an actual tune, Wennerstrom delivers a fluctuating emotional array of raw vocals, howling and cooing from the twilight hour New Mexico desert.

Always informed by that prairie trail inspired ‘bury my heart at wounded knee’ spirit of reflection, and historical account of the real old American frontiers, the album’s finest moments are when the band strikes out with something more original and experimental. Though their Lone Justice meets The Black Keys (Ohio bedfellows who originally handed The Heartless Bastards demo onto the label Fat Possum in 2004) variant of alternative country pop can also, at times, shine.

Anyone who knows and has faith in the Heartless Bastards mission statement of “never making the same album twice” can feel reassured with the Restless Ones. Not only have they found more inventive, newer horizons to investigate, they’ve also daringly honed their faithful brand of rock’n’roll and country blues. With sophisticated aplomb they improve with age and maturity, the opening duo of ‘Wind Up Bird’ and ‘Gates of Dawn’ among the album’s best offerings, both showcasing the relaxed but anthemic quality of energy and knowing that has now propelled the band into making their, arguably, best LP yet.


Amara Touré   ‘1973 – 1980’   (Analog Africa)

LP released 22nd June 2015

Still foraging through the rare and untouched corners of the South American and African continent, the latest musical survey from the faithful and ever-dependable Analog Africa label showcases the shortest of retrospectives from the Afro-Cuban enigma Amara Touré. With only ten recorded tracks to his name, all produced during a eight year window between 1973 and 1980, the percussionist and vocalist from Guinea-Conakry became a phenomenon when he alighted to the Senegal capital of Dakar to ply his trade; a city energised by the feverish and sensually sultry grooves brewing up around the legendary Miami nightclub, it would prove to be the hub of a merger between the Caribbean sound brought over to the continent by Cuban sailors in the early 40s, and Senegal’s own indigenous folklore.

Interpreting and bending the Latin sound to his own whim, Touré fashioned a unique fusion of lilting, sultry dance grooves; tempered to the Senegal climate. Joining the Le Star Band de Dakar in 1958 for a successful and highly influential tenure, he set the country’s nightspots and ballrooms on fire with the most sauntering, hip-swaying rhythms and reverberating, evocative vocals before hotfooting to Cameroon to form his very own formidable Black And White ensemble. Still, it would take a further five years before the band committed any of their Latin hybrids to wax, finally releasing a series of singles between 1973 and 1976, all six of which make up the first half of this collection. If you love your floating Cuban music exotic, then ‘Temedy’, ‘Lamento’ and ‘N’ga Digne M’be’ will send you into a spin.

Ennui setting in, another move in the late 70s saw Touré move to the Gabon, where he joined the Orchestra Massako. An “aficionados” classic, this celebrated union produced a solid gold album of slinky, languid blaring trumpeted songs in 1980 (though following a distinctive trajectory in a different part of the continent, over in the Congo, you can hear some common Cuban traits in last year’s Analog Africa L’Verckys et L’Orchestre Vévé compilation). Those songs are featured here in the collection’s final quartet of showcase Touré treasures.

Analog Africa manage it every year, and this one is no exception. It’s official the summer starts right now.

Qluster - Monolith Cocktail

Qluster ‘Tasten’ (Bureau B)

LP released 10th July 2015

Now onto its third incarnation, the kosmiche group that first saw light as a trio in 1969, their inaugural work released by the publishing house and classical music label Schwann (also know for its venerated organ music), Qluster are back with another chapter in neo-classicism.

The moniker has changed and adapted throughout the decades since that inception, from pioneering early electronica to travelling full circle and once again adopting the classical piano sound. Changing the first letter each time, the initial conspirators of a new German sound were the infamous and celebrated Zodiak Free Arts Lab instigators Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler, and Dieter Moebius. As Kluster they reinterpreted the industrial landscape via the Gothic cathedrals of their homeland, three albums later they both lost the “K” and Schnitzler but gained the Teutonic titan of experimental production Conny Plank. The most popular and noted version of this lineage, whose only consistent would be and still is Roedelius, Cluster became one of the “Krautrock” legends, their sound a rich mix of crystalline elegance, avant-garde pop and peregrination rich electronica. Attracted to the strange alchemy at work in the backwoods of Forst, where both Roedelius and Moebius built their magical studio, convert and acolyte (Neu! co-founder) Michael Rother turned the duo’s head enough to record two albums under the Harmonia tag. A move to Hamburg’s Sky label in the second half of the 70s would coincide with Cluster’s most prolific period for releases, two of which would stem from collaborative sessions with Brian Eno.

Reuniting occasionally during the next two decades before disbanding in 2010, the duo would go on to work on various collaborative projects and release numerous solo projects, until the Cluster brand was incarnated once again as the intergenerational Qluster, with Roedelius (an octogenarian, now approaching his mid eighties) joined by the spritely (at only half his age) sound installation artist and keyboardist Onnen Bock on a quartet of live, extemporized albums in the late noughties. In 2013 the ‘neu’ duo became a trio once again when bass player virtuoso Armin Metz was congruously asked to swell the ranks.

The second album to be released from that line up, the pianist soundscapes Tasten (Grope!), is a further exploration in neo-classicism; a journey that began with Roedelius’ solo piano experiment Like The Whispering Of The Wind; a precursor to a reinvented style of classical music that dates back a century to Erik Satie. Following on from their last grand piano heavy suite Antworten but stripping away all other instruments and sounds, the trio caress, “grope”, and extract the most attentive descriptive pieces from a trio of Steinways.

The meeting of minds go to work on their respective muses, plucking, stretching and cranking open the piano’s lid to make every kind of lushly administered sound, including percussion.

Whether the titles came first or last, each instrumental reflects on an emotion, location or trace of human interaction. With the minimalist of adroit musicianship they evoke just the right Mediterranean atmosphere and chimes of an Über den Dächern’ (Italian Bell Tower), and the, at first, becalming tidal waves that turn into a tempestuous sea movement, on ‘Brandung’ (Surf). And later on, the most obvious of their meditations follows the motion of a fairground Karussell (‘Carousel’); a Brecht like light and tipsy composition that quickens until reaching a whirling crescendo that eventually breaks down.

Nuanced notes and informed lyrical flourishes harmonically interlock, the triumvirate of Steinways creating many layers of resonance and depth. Yet despite the expletory nature of this album, every touch seems purposefully well rehearsed – a result no doubt, of the trio’s ability to read each other’s thoughts and second-guess the next move. Barely lifting its mood from an informed melodic series of pronounced, sophisticated dreamy reflections, Tasten can however seem a little tiring.

A self-regarded ‘neo-classical’ chapter in the Qluster/Cluster/Kluster oeuvre, the progressive spirit has been put on pause for something grandiose, quivering and magisterially aching with quality: a soundtrack score for the Steinway’s less obvious characteristics.

Papernut Cambridge - Monolith Cocktail

Papernut Cambridge ‘Nutlets 1967-80’ (Gare du Nord)

LP released 29th June 2015

Building from scratch with his regular rabble of contributors a pastoral and glam imbued pop music scene in the coastal provinces of Kent, one-time Death In Vegas and The Thrashing Doves guitarist Ian Button perfectly encapsulates the very idea of a cottage industry. Producing (numerous records, including the recently featured Extradition Order JFK concept LP), recording and running his own label (Gare Du Nord) Button is at the center of a maelstrom of productivity.

His most recent super group of maverick compatriots Papernut Cambridge have already delivered two critically applauded albums of English psych and beat group magnificence, imbued by the sort of lost treasure you find on the various I Can See For Miles, Rubble and Circus Days compilations from the 80s/90s. With its analogy to personal and geographical loneness, the last release, the There’s No Underground eulogy-tribute-lament to life just outside the temptress bright lights of the UK’s capitol, London, continued to indulge and explore the nostalgia of Button’s youth. And though it was almost wholly engineered to evoke those influences, it was devoid of any covers. Now, with his very own Pin Ups nod to the sounds emanating from the airwaves and TV during his childhood, the Nutlets goes all out to encapsulate the halcyon memories that continue to motivate or inspire Button.

Not just any old obvious filler of show-off or clichéd covers, this eclectic collection features the odd – Lynsey De Paul’s saccharine-coated ‘Sugar Me’, made more creepy and Worldly by Button here-, the glam era’s most resigned – a plaintive, sober rendition of T Rex’s ‘Broken Hearted Blues’ from the Tanx LP – and most beautiful examples of pop gold – Edison Lighthouse’s pitched perfect hit ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)’. Button joined here by his ever-faithful court of artisan musicians, including serial offender Darren Hayman alongside Mary Epworth, Hélène Bradley, Robert Rotifer, Ralegh Long, Robert Halcrow and emailing his piano parts in from Spain, John Howard, makes some dubious choices sound remarkably credible; turning in some subtle versions of Alvin Stardust’s ‘Jealous Minds’, Hot Chocolate’s ‘I Believe In Love’ and Paul Jones‘I’ve Been A Bad Boy’. But from the teenage lovesick balladry and pop of the early to mid 70s, the album finishes on the cusp of a new decade with the celebrated reggae artist and King Tubby collaborator Mikey Dread and his jaunty but cooler-than-thou ‘Rocker’s Delight’: an inspiration to so many artists in the dying embers of punk’s demise, looking to find a more exotic and rebellious sound to regroup around.

Neither a mockery nor a homage, the Nutlets is very complimentary to its source material without losing sight of the Button production sound that makes it so unique. He’s even managed to breathe life into some of those dusty long forgotten hits, so beloved of the Jackie annual brigade, without succumbing to dewy-eyed romanticism and pastiche. And for that he should be thanked.

A footnote: If I were Cockney Rebel’s Steve Herley or Tony Burrows of Edison Lighthouse I’d be worried by the omnipresent curse that has seen off Alvin Stardust, Lynsey De Paul, the famous inventor of the no nonsense premier WEM speakers and amps, Charlie Watkins (his gear utilized to full effect on these very recordings), and Hot Chocolate’s inimitable Errol Brown both during and in the aftermath of the recording of this record. This nostalgic celebration has suddenly become a memorial!

Kobadelta ‘Open Visions’

EP and video available now

After a busy year that saw the group’s vocalist Dom Noble plucked from a Gateshead crowd to duet impromptu style with Nick Cave, the Gothic cloaked beasts of hemlock serving pub rock and Byzantium psych, Newcastle hardliners’ Kobadelta, have recently dredged the esoteric abysses and run freely through the Fields Of The Nephilim to produce the new requiem Open Visions.

Pitched somewhere in the shadowy ruins of daemonic ritualistic drone and funeral pyre Black Sabbath, the band seem to have relaxed into their stride with a more sophisticated, and at times even groovier, follow up to last year’s Repetition. Still channeling a drawling mix of Ian MuCulloch and the Lizard King Jim Morrison, this extended showcase indulges in black magik references; slipping the beat from metal to a Kasabian meets the Stone Roses on the road to Damascus shuffle.

Indulging in their influences with a relish but played with serious intent, Kobadelta’s cryptic lovelorn analogies roam a landscape dominated by Greek tragedy, imposing stoner constructions, burning effigies and Russian camouflaged metaphors. Musically extended to incorporate a whole myriad of styles, there’s even room for Hawkwind – the vaporous take off of England’s most infamous space rock cadets can be heard on ‘Watch What You’re Doing’ – and The Mission. Big, better, deeper and gloomier, Open Visions goes much further in pushing Kobadelta to more extreme adventures in heavy stoned rock.

From that very same EP, the band have just released a video for the downer apocalyptic rock blast ‘Blame It All On Me’.

Casual Strangers ‘Kangarang’

Single track available now

Though hailing from a state with more than enough of its own mythical deserts, the Austen, Texas psychedelic rock and pop band the Casual Strangers have chosen to absorb the mystical transcendental climes of the Outback on their latest single.

An extemporize performance that amorphously blossomed from experimental sessions, ‘Kangarang’ is a misspent night connecting to the cosmos and Earth mother on liberal helpings of peyote in the Australian wilds; a cosmic trip of synth modulations, backward guitars and esoteric country psych twangs that will act as a comforter to those waiting for the follow-up album to their 2014 self-titled debut – currently being crated as we speak.

The Greg Foat Group  ‘The Dancers At The Edge Of Time’ (Jazzman)   LP released 15th June 2015.

After years of hard graft, peddling his wares in some of the most unlikely of places, and misspending his youth with both various celebrated artists and miscreants, jazz pianist of increasing repute Greg Foat has wasted little time as bandleader of his own group. With four albums now in less than five years, each one arguably a potential future classic of the jazz peregrination bent, under his belt he is one of contemporary jazz music’s most prolific artists.

Still soaring, still looking beyond Earthly realms, Foat ventures both outwards and inwards on the Michael Moorcock borrowed The Dancers At The End Of Time entitled suite. Still channeling the Sci-fi paperbacks and brave new Architecture periodical influences of his first moiety of albums, the composer/pianist has a far more expansive feel and set of influences with which to play with on this conceptual soundtrack.

As a source from which to be inspired, you could do a lot worse than the esoteric worlds and visions that spawned forth during the 60s/70s from the mind of space rock’s choice author. Essentially the “last love story in human history”, Moorcock’s original Dancers series of books and stories envisage a baffling ‘mindfuck’ of a universe, systematically collapsing yet at a stasis, with its supposed-immortal inhabitants able to time travel at will, and where natural biologically created humans are in a small minority and morality is pushed to the limits. At the center of these visionary tales, are the lovelorn characters of Mrs. Amelia Underwood, a time-traveller from Victoriana complete with all the morals and religious undertones of that period, and end time futurist Jherek Carnelian, who’s morals and sexual predilections seemed to cross every Rubicon boundary of what is tolerated and deemed unlawful.

Foat’s inspired musical accompaniment seems to reflect both sides of this strange love story; going as far as to record the LP within the sacrosanct confines of a church in his adopted home-from-home of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Both for the purpose of exploring acoustics and mood but as a venerable statement too, the group performed around the church’s “centuries-old” organ, inviting a string quartet and woodwind section to build another layer of both diaphanous and sweeping majestic inspiration to the hallowed mix; a suitable musical representation of the atavistic, spiritual and arguably the theme tune to the character of the 19th century time traveller, Mrs. Underwood. Setting the scene with the self-titled opener, the sustained elegance of the church organ lays down a suffused atmosphere of Venusian porn film meets sophisticated carnal desires; the Moorcock stories transduced into one salacious, woozy jazz trip.

Moorcock’s omnipresent inspiration aside, a majority of the record pays homage to either Greg’s adopted Isle of Wight coastal retreat or further interesting space theological book titles. The Greek Goddess of health and nominal patron saint of Ventnor and Bonchurch ‘Hygieia’ is paid a tribune – possibly a gesture of good luck, hoping she’ll watch over proceedings with approvalby the lightened beauty of the woodwind section, and as a closing meditation, ‘Rocken End’ plays out the end of time perfectly, the protagonists looking out over a never-ending sea from a fossil rich coastal retreat of nearby Niton (part of the Ventnor coastline); the tide lapping for infinitum – or for ten minutes at least.

Dancers At The End Of Time is Foat’s most mature and sophisticated work to date, and the centrepiece piano playing truly exceptional, full of space, depth and nuanced interplay. And though countless influences lie only inches away at anytime, it is pure escapist jazz of the highest order and unmistakably a Greg Foat Group masterpiece.

Words: Dominic Valvona


Pale Honey LP - Monolith Cocktail

Marking her first anniversary as a contributor to the Monolith Cocktail cause, Franco-Turkish novelist and adroit music critic Ayfer Simms lends her literary bent to the new album from the rowdy Gothenburg duo Pale Honey. In a celebratory mood, we also include some of Ayfer’s most memorable and finest reviews.

Pale Honey   ‘Pale Honey’   (Bolero Records)

Gothenburg: They enter the stage with a flippant presence; with the album Pale Honey, there is nonchalance, an immense amount of it, explosions, gentle melodies and a super funky cool allure: Between electro music and anachronistic indie sound of the 50s, 60s and 80s we are thrown in a slow motion atmosphere with layers of speed and bursting energetic guitars, pulsating sticks on bolted barrels and subtle psychedelic keyboard effects: Joined all by a suave cool, sweet and strong voice, a little girl? Fierce, a ballad, not so easy, not so fast.

Everything seems to role in a slow motion, we are on the side of a sunny road, the gleam of a charismatic presence in the distance hangs like the gold pot under the rainbow, at arm’s length: The drums shakes the hand of the guitar and flirts with the synth, mingles with the vocal as if this whole was of an organic build. Sounds and effects seem to be climbing on top of one another to assert dominance whilst respecting the aesthetic of the general cadence. This devilish cold blooded union has the effect of making the listener’s body agreeably shake and move in jerky movements, in a seemingly slow world. We are the lizards under a hard sun, pursuing that alluring flickering presence in the distance, and we are the owls twitching at the rustling of the leaves in the middle of a dry summer night.

They are fearless: Day, night, on dry land or under the ocean: they jump and dive: It is Rock and roll on an extraterrestrial ground made of moving sand: it’s dangerous yet the pleasure of being trapped in this throb is too good: Honey-like vocals, electro guns, detached; their sound “taste like a peach” says Dennis Hoppers’ character in True romance, the peach has the edge of a tiger living on top of our roofs with smooth paws.

The last track, ‘Sleep’, releases us from our gripping adventure with a calm kiss on our forehead: “I been going down, oh how I long, honey I’ve been gone too long.”  Send us off in a slumber, on a small boat, we are off to reach new shores, but the destination matters little.

Elevating albums and songs to great heights, even when sometimes unwarranted, Ayfer has spent the last year honing her craft. Passionate to a fault, Ayfer has written some of the most poetically inspiring and descriptive critique; always respectful and always supportive of the artists she engages with (still insisting on buying copies of the music she reviews, she practices what she preaches). Here is just a mere smattering of her ‘greatest hits’, including her most popular review – and one that gained a massive response from our readership, all complimentary I might add – yet, Blue Rose Code‘s The Ballads of Peckham Rye.  Click on the images below to read the full reviews.

Blue Rose Code   ‘The Ballads Of Peckham Rye’

Blue Rose Code - Monolith Cocktail review

‘If all the beaten souls, the stupefied hearts, the vagabonds, the Christopher McCandless’ were to return from the dead, they would all gather around Ross Wilson’s to shake his hand in recognition of his prose, for rendering so well what many take to the grave: this album comes from a place between life and death, where the quintessence of the man’s core, drips slowly and beautifully in our ears like an elixir of life.’

Opal Onyx   ‘Delta Sands’

Opal Onyx - Monolith Cocktail Blog

‘The album is the sound of the shipwreck long after everyone has died in the deepest of waters, it’s the sound of the womb pumping the blood of life, it’s the sound of the planets silently creaking in the dark, it’s the sound of the devil himself disguised as a cellist who returns from the dead to heal the inconsolable grief of his beloved wife crying for his sake.

Opal Onyx, the atmosphere, the voice, the cello and other mysterious instruments and techniques used, and the esoteric theme running through the entire album calls for a standing ovation. Let the curtain fall, let them bow, humble and proud.’

Grumbling Fur   ‘Preternaturals’

Grumbling Fur - Monolith Cocktail

‘Grumbling fur is the tribal union of men crossing history, from the spark of life to the ancestral figures dancing in the collective conscience, it is all the things that gathered from nothingness, mingled in time with sometimes harsh or commendable experiences. Grumbling fur sets up the theatre of men’s evolution. Their sound is the sever gaze of man resigned in their efforts as they work the land and the iron, the face of the worker of the industrial age, the miner, the black smith, the farmer turning the earth in the vast lands, is the industrial fist of men, the cell under the water accidentally  playing harmonious sounds.’

The Van Allen Belt   ‘Heaven On A Branch’

Van Allen Belt - Monolith Cocktail review

‘Look up! Past the stratosphere, there is a psychedelic wavelength trapping a ghostly clamor, a cool jazzy voice, traces of an older era of sounds, perfectly paired, bred with something new, a feel, a new genre perhaps that has no label as yet. It is possible to name the instruments one by one, even describe the vocalist’s suave confident voice that echoes above our heads, yet put all together this become a breathless orchestra, upbeat and melodious that forbids any sorts of appellations: “don’t give her any, she don’t need none, she don’t need none”. Indeed, we want to apply this for the Van Allen Belt as they pull us in a trance like mood for a minute before throwing us in a befuddled happiness the next. The tracks are like a roller coaster, sounds from the past swirling above our world while carrying the darkest of us with it.’

Mike Gale   ‘Sweet Marie’/ 

Camp Dark   ‘Are You Hiding

Camp Dark - Monolith Cocktail


‘The track’s lyrics are like the echoes of known words diffused in the air, remote and impalpable. Yet, Sweet Marie, the chorus, comes out like the flutter of a bird that we grasp with ease and the rest matters less so; we embrace the mood through the guitar chords following and guiding the melodious whisper of a man wandering in a folk pop languor…Sweet Marie is, indeed, the ethereal traveler’s prayer.’

Camp Dark:

‘There’s a worrisome journey into the mind’s abyss’s, an inner excavation, a downward whirl to a place where one does not wish to go willingly, one must dig and one must face, yet, is compelled to it, from forces emerging from the very depth of the mind.’

Words:  Ayfer Simms


Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Monolith Cocktail

Our latest jaunt through the most tantalisingly delicious, obscure and invigorating new releases has thrown up Hellenistic voyages, a 1950’s Atlas Mountain backdrop movie soundtrack, disjointed slacker hardcore, a JFK tableau set concept extravaganza, languish trip hop from a picturesque Russia and the sound of an acoustically yearning suburbs. For the first time ever, sometime Monolith Cocktail critic, Mr. Sean Bw Parker, will be joining your editor-in-chief Dominic Valvona, on this grand revue.

This edition’s roll call includes Xaos, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Lake Michigan, Falling Stacks, The Grus, Grounders, Extradition Order and Acorn.

XAOS - Monolith Cocktail

Xaos   ‘Xaos’   (Independent Records)   LP  released 22nd June 2015.

Despite teetering on the brink of finanicial collapse for what seems like years now, with a new government voted in on the promise to bring an end to the EU camarilla’s incessant calls for further austerity, Greece has fought back both politically and culturally. With scant support for its artistic community, the music scene has if anything blossomed in the face of adversity. With a burgeoning psychedelic rock and electronica scene, the Adriatic oasis is striving to replace the nation’s stereotypic image abroad. Not since the joyous progressive rock and ethereal vocal talents of the country’s prime international titans, Aphrodite’s Child, has Greece fared so well musically. One such group of seasoned travellers, Xaos endorse Greece’s atavistic heritage with an evocative modern soundtrack suite, imbued with 5,000 years of Hellenistic yearnings and mythology. Presented as ‘post-Troika Hellenic Trance music’, the traditional instrumental scales and tones of a previous age richly swaddle or soar over an Apollonian landscape, merging Cage and Eno-esque ambience with processional marches and imaginary Byzantine scenes to create a magical and sometimes foreboding illusion.

Mirroring the Odyssey’s timeline, Xaos have spent a decade completing this their debut oeuvre. The brainchild of microtonal electronic composer, keyboard player and painter Ahetas and his performer, producer and writer foil Dubulah, the Xaos duo have both worked on and with a number of trance and world music acts, including Dub Colossus and Transglobal Underground. Here they absorb an extended cast of adroit vocalists and multi-instrumentalists into their mystical sound, adding the kind of plucked melodies and intonations you’d expect to hear on Orpheus’ journey into the underworld. Speaking of which, this purposeful suite takes in all that the region’s cultural history has to offer, linking a millennia of the battle between state and personal allegiances in just one song with the ‘Antigone In Syntagma Square’ Greek tragedy, which places the daughter of the infamous Oedipus and his mother Jocasta and heroine of Sophocle’s ancient play at the scene of many seismic shifts in Greece’s history, the 19th century constructed ‘constitution square’. The opening ‘Pontos Blues’ even attempts to redress the balance of usurped older Gods, the recognition of the ‘first born’ divinity of the sea Pontos, replaced by the Johnny-come-lately Poseidon in popular folklore.

Quite beautiful and subtly quivering, the ghosts of the past linger over this ‘post world music’ suite that attempts to bridge the esoteric and evocative traditions with a more contemporary attitude. The hardware has moved on, with computers and keyboards brought in to both reconstruct lost sounds and to put it all together, yet this album remains a sagacious study in the ancient, even if it does go a long way towards extinguishing the Greek farcical clichés that have constantly besmirched it.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis   ‘Loin Des Hommes OST’ (Goliath Enterprises)  LP  release out now.

In which the Dark One lays down his trident for three quarters of an hour, pairs up with one of his Bad Seeds and invokes their inner Eno.

Loin Des Hommes (Far From Men) is a film released in 2014 directed by David Oelhoffen from a Camus story ‘The Guest’. Aragorn himself, or Viggo Mortensen to his mother, is the focus of this Algerian War set buddy movie that plays out like a poetic Western.

Cave’s soundtrack features not his familiar; super self-conscious baritone, but the Paris, Texas in the northern Sahara washes, which always threaten His Entry regardless. A truly lovely, mature forty-five minutes of reflective, patient music, the Bad Seeds new redux foray is more boldly Art Noir than Lit Rock.

Words: Sean Bw Parker

Falling Stacks - Monolith Cocktail

Falling Stacks   ‘No Wives’  (Battle WorldWide)   LP  released 8th June 2015.

“No wives”: No kidding! I’m not bloody surprised with the racket they make! (excuse the pun).

Disjointed Fugazi larks a plenty now with the latest release from Bristol’s rambunctious, hardliner’s Falling Stacks. They sound, as they themselves would aptly put it, “like the thrashing and squawking of a buzzard with its leg in a mantrap”. Add to this already swaggering, cymbal smashing funhouse the regurgitated ravings of The Fall, Shellac and Sonic Youth, all administered with a sly knowing wink and a stream of conscious blaring lyrics about the idiosyncrasy of modern life – including a punctuated Sleaford Mods do Stooges posturing hardcore finale about a newly acquired dog.

Whether jittering and skittishly colliding with Pere Ubu on the schizoid-wave of a ‘Pool Party’ or channeling PiL era Lydon fronting Faith No More on the Central American slang dunk ‘Los Ticos’ the group’s ravings never lose track of a decent beat and tune. In fact musically this is a tight ship, one that is propelled by anvil-beating hysteria and low-slung trebly bass guitar menace.

Luckily for us, scuzzed up on a rich diet of New York and San Francisco “black hole” era post punk, with a liberal dose of grunge, the Falling Stacks stonk all over our sensibilities and spin us from one angulated prodding rave up to the next. And that is a compliment.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Extradition Order  ‘Kennedy’   (Jezus Factory)  LP out now

The theme of many songs over the decades since his Ivy League smiling, springer like bounding, convivial leap onto the world stage at the infamous USA Presidential campaign of 1960, and eventual win the following year, history has both critically condemned (even mocked) but for the most part adorned John F Kennedy with a hero’s status (and by some, placed him into the pantheons of Gods themselves). Hailed as the States most tragic figure by supporters and lambasted as a phoney by those critics, the fatalistic President who promised so much, is still revered and locked into the publics conscience, on both sides of the Atlantic. From the great “high hopes” of liberal America championing the lay about turn titan of international statesmanship, to the ‘fall of the house of Usher’ curse that not only finished off John but also struck his attorney general brother Robert – both assassinated in their prime – the rise and eventual murder of JFK is still a hot topic of discussion. The old clichés of the Kennedy clan representing the nearest thing to an American royal family still abound, but it is the conspiracy industry that keeps the cogs of interest well oiled. Disturbing even to grown ups like myself who can’t abide these ridiculous conclusions, the gunning down of JFK in Dallas on that forever synonymous morning of November 22nd 1963, does rattle even the staunchest lone gunman defence.

For their third album, the Warrington garage rock turn no wave blasting Extradition Order have created a loose conceptual tableau that not only plugs into the whole Kennedy phenomenon but also tells the story of the man who would be (in a fateful turn of circumstances) “king”, Kennedy’s rival for the democrat candidacy and then running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson: a man almost set to rise to power, his gilded stewardship of the senate guarantying his place on the throne, yet usurped by the lean, Boston rival. Set to an Electric 6 shares the disco arena with The Rapture post-punk dance beat, the band jerk out Lyndon’s cock-of-the-walk turn sour spite at losing out to his younger rival on the album’s ‘I Love An Eyesore (LBJ ’60)’. And yet, Johnson would not only take the reigns in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination but also go on to win the 1964 election with an outright majority; with the irony of such a cruel twist of fate, LBJ became the President after all.

After spilling a Talking Heads discordant staccato onto a Arcade Fire glockenspiel march for the opening distressed ‘Boy In Uniform’, Extradition Order stride through a polygenesis array of inspired influences. The darker ‘Founding Father’ channels Ian Curtis fronting Bauhaus, and on the skeleton-in-the-closet tale of the Kennedy’s sister ‘Rosemary’ – confined to the shadows after undergoing a heinous frontal lobotomy – they wrap their tale around a Heartbreaker’s drunken and drugged stupor. In an early 80s nocturnal New York, rubbing elbows with James White, the band take the 60s dream turn nightmare through some strange twists and turns; dragging no wave through the furrows left by the Arcade Fire and their Canadian ilk in the noughties, yet somehow sounding eccentrically British. This can in part be attributed to the fine production work of that one-man cottage industry of pastoral rock’n’roll, and trustee of forgotten English eccentric pop Ian Button (no stranger to this blog), who seems to make it all flow and gel together seamlessly.

From the President’s seal embossed on the CD to the bands mock up recreations of famous Kennedy (and his entourage) photo shoots, there can be no doubt how much time and effort has gone into this project. Neither a cynical indictment nor an elegy, Kennedy is an adroit and super tight performance –despite on the surface sounding at times languid, loose and hysterical – from a band at the height of their artistic powers.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Grounders  ‘Drawing Space’ (Nevado Music)   Single released 15th June 2015

From Perth, Australia to Toronto, Canada, Grounders have sunnily taken the baton from Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala. ‘Drawing Space’ is lovely, pop-sprinkled, balmy driving music, though you’d be hard pressed to tell any difference whatsoever between them and TI’s ‘Lonerism’. A windmilling, Byrdsian lead guitar line earworms its way through the track, chiming like Dennis Wilson on a mountainside, and it’s all over before you know it. Put another shrimp on the Barbie, Grounders – bandwagon-jumping is only a problem when the bandwagon is something like nu-rave.

Words: Sean Bw Parker

The Grus - Monolith Cocktail

The Grus   ‘Nest’   Digital  LP out now, vinyl version released sometime in mid-June.

Hailing from the relatively serene and picturesque north western town of Tver in Russia – always a noted if not well known part of the country’s fabric since Medieval times -, The Grus duo of Simon Gendor and cooing siren Alexandra Zhuravleva spend their days producing some of the most organically rich trip hop and dreamy electronic pop. Using a mix of analogue synths, handmade instruments, mics and old-fashioned discarded guitars from the “Soviet” era they create their very own wilderness and folkloric tapestry.

The Grus’ latest wind-up pastoral suite Nest is imbued musically and thematically with three different Russia’s: the ancient, the Communist era and its aftermath; those old remnants of the cold war period disappearing under a faux-capitalist dictatorial leadership are reflected on the album, which alludes and moves to the organic sound of nature staking its claim over technology. Obviously receiving radio signals from a Broadcast, Stereolab and Zero 7 dominated airwaves, the constantly churning trip hop opener ‘To Be A Child’ borrows much from Massive Attack and that often forgotten Britpop era synth pop outfit, The Sneaker Pimps. Zhuravleva holds more than a candle to Liz Fraser, her coquettish vocals almost evaporating before your ears but then sleekly soaring off on a held note into the ether.

A lumbering motion is kept up throughout, with industrial sounds, a yearning saxophone that acts like the collective sighs and alludes to the underbelly of a city, and the environment all playing their part. There’s even an excursion into the cosmos, with the Soyuz orbiting requiem to ‘Jupiter’; a track that sounds like it was plucked unblemished from the burgeoning trip hop era of the 90s. In fact the whole album sounds sweepingly majestically out of step with the times, and could be mistaken for an obscure record, dug up from that very decade. There’s also a couple of touchingly saccharine numbers, delivered on the piano, that as personally elegiac and respectful to the people and souls they are written for, could be skipped.

Apart from that, this mysterious green-fingered electronica opus is a pretty languid and sound production, which unfurls its delights at a placable pace.

Words: Dominic Valvona  

Lake Michigan   ‘Pylons, Telephones Wires, Trees In The Clearing’   (Ruined Smile Records)   7” release out now.

With the incense burning away and a bottle of red wine for sustenance, York’s lo fi exponent of attentive, raw acoustic guitar lingers Christopher Marks, brings us his latest collection of resigned poems from a self-imposed attic exile. Stripped to their bare essentials Mark’s quartet of succinct song titles sound like a slacker Leonard Cohen sharing a morose filled cup of sorrow with an acoustic Velvet Underground. And despite the opening gambit being entitled ‘Party’, the mood is more escape to a secluded oasis than celebration – more sweeping up the remnants and burning embers of a ball you weren’t invited to then parading down the Mardi Gras atop of a bejeweled carnival float. It is a somber if heartfelt toast to escapism; echoed later on with the reverberating plucked tones of ‘Snow’, Marks languidly wishing he was somewhere else as the “suburbs are screwing me”. As the wine and incense start to waft an intoxicating air of wistfulness, the timbre remains smoky and low but by the third song ‘Sober’ our troubadour has found a higher falsetto.

It won’t suit everyone’s tastes, and as the artist himself admits he’s “just putting it out there”. The alluded great American lake setting moniker doesn’t prepare you for the performance; the burr may sound mid-western but the sentiment is the all too familiar English preserve of fleeing the suburbs.

Words: Dominic Valvona

The Acorn   ‘Vieux Loup’   (Paper Bag Records)   LP  released 1st June 2015

Last but by no means least, we finish with the latest beautifully articulated and minimal soft folk electronica LP suite from the oaken-moniker Canadian artist Acorn. Attentively absorbing the cerebral ripples of Arthur Russell whilst hitchhiking across a warm and fondly sound tracked version of his native homeland, Acorn mixes tightly delayed acoustics with subtle synthesized melodies. From the shuffling but sedate lament of the ‘Rapids’, through the pop lush soar of ‘Palm Springs’ and the calming soul of ‘Cumin’; Vieux Loup is an album at ease with itself. The Acorn can certainly produce the revelatory, even when delivered in a hushed burr, and proves that it’s sometime better to downplay things rather than make all that unnecessary noise. A reassured and fragile tale, with many nostalgic influences, equally contemporary and fresh, this 8-track collection will take time to unfurl all its hidden charms.

Words: Dominic Valvona


William D.Drake - Monolith Cocktail

Ayfer Simms finds much to love about William D.Drakes‘ latest musical tableau Revere Reach.

William D. Drake  ‘Revere Reach’  (Onomatopoeia Records) 15th June 2015

The object piercing the thin fabric of time and matter, high above the sky, is a musical arrow, one that has managed to travel all the way from medieval/renaissance times; William D. Drake’s tunes have landed in our world, catching in their descent our moods and our dreams, perhaps our fantasies too.

This is the music of the ancient men tiptoeing through a wild forest uneasy of the wolf, and the sound of old kings and queens giggling in the corner of a castle; as it touches our asphalt it becomes the music of the ‘urban-er’ walking through the modern jungle marching to the office (with the same fear of the wolf, a different kind). A musical play, a folklore concert or perhaps an old costume show in a trendy but timid quarter of town. Why not go to a sultry vintage jazzy soirée for a few minutes? Everyone there is dressed in shirts from the 18th century.

Strolling with William D. Drake is like being the main character in a Tim Burton movie. While the chloral’s chants elevate the feet to the heart level, the head is light with uncontrolled images from the depth of our memory and subconscious.

William D. Drake is the one who shot the arrow to the sky and, like a boomerang it comes back charged with a musical static energy of past times: The traveler won’t mind stopping at the tavern and plunging himself in the heartwarming dizzying effect of the local folklore songs and rhythm. And then the funny man, the echoing bliss made up of a thousand instruments, pianos, drums, and flutes? Vocals are grand, a perfect story telling talent ludicrous and poetic words flying around the tunes like a little colony of bees around honey.

I flung myself to catch the flight of the arrow, to stay on that trip, one toward the past, the future, one of fantastical characters. What William did is not merely reproducing sounds from an old Époque, out of taste or ethereal inspiration; he brought some dramatis personae alive from other times teaching them our gracious colors. And they sing and shine under a misty sound, filled with passion, and they gaze but they cannot see, us, they are ghost, vividly living through the power of their voices and melodies.

“London bridge is falling down” songs to become something else.

Words: Ayfer Simms


Pete Rock

Matt Oliver selects all the best Hip Hop cuts, videos, mixtapes and news from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. 

Welcome to Rapture & Verse, the utterly indispensable/highly disposable hip-hop appraisal that has blown its monthly writer’s fee on the Cam’ron range of shower curtains and Mother’s Day cards, when it really should’ve been saving for the white 7-inch edition of Clipse’s ‘Lord Willin’. All the while we’ve been startled by revelations that hip-hop has actually been more influential than The Beatles. Talking of skewed academic logic, Lil John was a speaker at Oxford University this month.

Future samplers of Bob James beware – the source of some of hip-hop’s best moments (Ghostface’s ‘Daytona 500’, RUN DMC’s ‘Peter Piper’) is suing Madlib and Stones Throw for copyright infringement. The Game’s TV dating show ended up in gun-waving chaos, while Lil Kim will no doubt make for similarly compelling view on her own reality show. Best step away from the gogglebox and instead check when Jurassic 5 and Oddisee are in your neighbourhood in September.


‘Against All Authorities’ by veteran agitators Onyx should only be listened to in full riot gear – fight music that creeps its way to a six-track ambush. Compare this to cultish stress reliever ‘Aunty Pearl’s House’, where Paul White turns up to a bleary smokehouse with Eric Biddines. Cause of neck cricks comes from De La Soul’s ‘God It’, a legends-know-best reminder with Nas chipping in on the hook. Then wrap said injured neck in a mink fur so you can match the lolling funk of Grand Daddy IU’s ‘PIMP Intro’, a bit of a guilty pleasure with Marco Polo making music to rock “gators and ostrich” by. Then get humbled by Dylan Owen’s ‘The Best Fears of Our Lives’, a passionate introspection examining the reality of reality in dreamy folk-blues-alt-hop desolation.

Straight-up rat-a-tat freestyles from Papoose on ‘Banned from Radio’, ‘Blackout’ and ‘Get at Me Dog’ shows he’s still got more bars than a chain of prison-themed public houses. MaLLy’s ‘Say My Peace’ is the Minneapolis emcee cracking his knuckles over the mic, completely commanding a beat with a temper resting on a tripwire. Less delicate are New Jersey’s 050 Boyz, bursting through and going for theirs over an instant, posse-shot horn banger asking you to ‘Pay Them No Mind.’ Wu-Tang tales of the unexpected cross the murder mystery of Adrian Younge’s unsettlingly good ‘Return of the Savage’, to Killah Priest fighting the final frontier on ‘Alien Stars.’


Lavishly packaged while feeding uncut hip-hop into both eyes and ears, Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric re-energise Czarface for a second vengeful episode on ‘Every Hero Needs a Villain’. A glorious brawl letting fly with superhero special powers and bare-knuckled slugging, it’s a blockbuster sequel, pipping the original for high octane impacts. Full of body-bagging explosions, car chases, and epic fight scenes between three titans.

Not sure how many people saw this one coming…it’s Pete Rock’s ‘PeteStrumentals 2’, 14 years or so after the original. A clean-cut, layered loop session – not a groundbreaking voyage of flight and fancy, though it reaches out to a plethora of sets and scenarios – its humble alchemy of the funky fresh and effortlessly soulful is at home on both the streets and the beach. Marked by the Chocolate Boy Wonder’s high IQ of samples and kick-snare pressure, this has every intention of scaring off emcees as it rests in your headphones.

Sticking to the word-less script, HashFinger shows there’s nothing wrong with hitting an instrumental straight and narrow; headnodder’s sanctuary ‘Kites’ entwines closing time jazz, slow-handed funk, scratches and samples with the swing of a hammock in a Bradford breeze, equipped to kick like a coffee shop espresso. Instrumentalism in zero gravity from Beatnick Dee, Jaisu and Twiz the Beat Pro examines ‘Space’, a star strider regularly attacked by jitters. A classic exploration of back to the future boom-bap, as comforting as it is intimidating, will leave you wide-eared throughout.

UK grit ground into exotic, sometimes foreboding Indian flavours and colours, Statue Stance’s ‘Nomads Notepad’ is an ambitious culture clash with positive results, with Ryan Amos and Bambu Hands fully engrained in the locale and not just here as postcard-writing tourists. Your appreciation will be for a good cause as well. High Focus’ 5th anniversary is commemorated by Pete Cannon dropping off a generously chunky remix gift bag covering all the label’s top bombers – Dirty Dike, Edward Scissortongue, Fliptrix and Jam Baxter all take the cake on a comp ready for a stupendous number of rewinds after the candles have been blown out.

Once upon a time this columnist interviewed Murs, who basically revealed he was on the verge of retirement. That was 12 years ago, and now here’s his umpteenth album, ‘Have a Nice Life’. Still a slept-on, relatable storyteller, ever willing to let listeners in on his personal ups and downs, his craft and craftiness remains on the up. Sonically it spotlights the man sufficiently, albeit with some unspectacular and some over-reaching moments.

If you’ve followed the evolution of Lyrics Born, you’ll be pleased/unsurprised that ‘Real People’ doesn’t hold back on the big band numbers while showing he’s still one of the nimblest and most quotable emcees around. A rollicking good time stands up to hip-hop’s insularities, hotfooting its way across the stage with hard-to-hate pop gloss and invites of crowd participation. Also enterprising and opening itself to audience investment, STS and RJD2 combine for a very bluesy and funkily organic record, with the rhymer slaloming through the latter’s bold licks and pieces that foster his prestigious discography. RJ looks to lure you to a backwater bar with melody and musicality, while STS’s slick vocab has a peskiness that plays up to the music while also playing the game on its own terms.

Should you feel the need to hot-wire a flatbed truck and run red lights galore, head for the sign marked ‘Welcome to Los Santos’, which sends Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Ab-Soul, E-40, A$AP Ferg and more to meet a gang of electro-rock/pop ruffians on the command of Alchemist and Oh No. A medley made to reflect GTA’s in-game radio twiddling, it does enough to avoid the use of a joypad. emC, now a triple threat of Masta Ace, Wordsworth and Stricklin, present ‘The Tonight Show’. Strengths in group interplay, beats-and-rhymes standards and a smooth-to-rugged balance, are let down by too many skits peppering the album’s talk show concept. Yet another Canibus LP – his 16th – selects Bronze Nazareth as his latest soundboard. ‘Time Flys, Life Dies’ strains for supremacy, but shows there’s still fire in the belly of the ‘Bus – notably remaking Black Rob’s ‘Whoa!’ – and that he can still pull in a guest and shred a suitable beat.

On the back of some pretty preposterous artwork and an outdated acronym-title concept, Raekwon’s ‘F.I.L.A.’ isn’t without moments of Gambino goodness but doesn’t quite hit the spot, despite fronting up with A$AP Rocky, Ghostface, French Montana and Rick Ross. Still knocking the funk back and standing tall in the Bronx, Camp-Lo’s ‘Ragtime Hightimes’ doesn’t miss a step with Geechi Seude and Sonny Cheeba shoring up their back catalogue and coming in on the blindside of year-round choices.

 Monolith Cocktail

Versed in the ways of the golden age and not budging one inch from jump-up boom-bap and call-and-response throwbacks, Dutch rhymer BlabberMouf is hyped throughout ‘Da BlabberMouf LP’: like Mac Miller reworking the ‘Scenario’ remix or mid 90s Queensbridge 14 times over. A reissue of Lil NoID’s 20-year old ‘Paranoid Funk’ shows Southern swag in its gloomiest light, though the quality of the pressing may have something to do with the unease that’s like the album meeting a watery ending after passing through a sinkhole, grabbing at its gun and groin as it goes.

Mixtapes & VT

Muj’s ‘Beat Tape’ series harvests a prime crop of breaks, funk, 80s pop splices and TV bric-a-brac from Irn Mnky, a rogue visitor to the back of the second-hand shop putting shit together to a Yorkshire tee. He’s followed by Mr Galactus, another maverick arranger of dusty wax piled into a collage of suss funk, shambling rock and instrumental slyness to feed the hunger of those wanting the inside track on raw source materials.

Gruff trap from Ryan Hemsworth on the thrusting ‘Just Rap Mix’ fixes forty minutes of paper chases and rowdy pleasures put on by Gucci Mane, Future, Chief Keef et al, and low-rider schmoozing from Luniz ‘High Timez’ finds sunshine in predictable subject matter. Remi, who is presently scooting around the UK on tour, lays down ‘Call It What You Want’ with kindred boardsmith Sensible J, a flexible seven-track snapshot of the able Australian’s rising stock.

Hark: the reign of Oliver Sudden, Bishop Nehru pushing it, Lee Scott’s blurred lines and MNSR Frites balancing the books.

Words: Matt Oliver 



Monolith Cocktail

To celebrate the return of Bavaria’s number one psychedelic acid rock export to UK shores next month we’ve put together our very own ‘choice’ appraisal of the band’s most fruitful musical period (1969-1975). For the first time in aeons the group will be performing at The Village Underground in Shoreditch, London on June 12th; no doubt sharing the golden moments package from their most coveted albums Phallus Dei, Yeti and Wolf City, alongside more recent material – though performing together in various outfits and versions of the band over the years, they took 28 years to release an original album, 2010’s Düülirium. Announced almost out of the blue and with scant news on the horizon, who knows what to expect. Which makes it all the more exciting. Grab your chance to catch one of Germany’s rock music titans before it’s too late.

The Amon Düül II in brief: a short essay.

Borne of the Munich political arts commune, brought up on the lingering transatlantic hashish smoked coattails of the acid west coast scene, the quasi Egyptian and Germanic etymological entitled Amon Düül II spilt (with almost immediate affect) from their ephemeral and omnivorous bedfellows when they decided to put to tape all those previously untethered freeform experimental jams, and to whittle out all the stragglers and less talented musicians from what was an unregulated love-in. Two versions of the band co-existed for a while, before, as one of the latter’s founding fathers Chris Karrer had already sussed out, the more languid, free-spirited and amorphous Amon Düül fizzled out (but not before recording their own musical peregrinations; releasing a number of albums over the course of five years, but all recorded at roughly the same time as their debut in the late 60s).

Sharing both a sense of mystical cosmological fantasy, and for a time, a bass player (former Kipperton Lodge roadie holed up in West Germany, Dave Anderson) with England’s own psychedelic acid flight crew Hawkwind, the Düül’s own career mirrored that of their counterparts. A politically-charged kool-aid band of ‘heads’ carving out their own mythology; journeying way beyond their own Earthly prism for sonic adventures in space, yet articulating all the ‘shit’ that would threaten to crush their well-meaning attempts to escape the lines being drawn in West Germany by the radical left and the hung-over ex-Nazi’s and their sympathiser authorities, during the late 60s and early 70s. Close personally to the Baader-Meinhof members, but appalled by their actions, the group’s ‘make love not war’ mantra of resolution through revolution didn’t cut it: too slow, too forgiving and too bourgeoisie; a hang-over from the Woodstock era that promised so much but delivered so little. Sparked by ‘black power’, women’s liberation, generational alienation, the continuing horrors of Vietnam, calls for disarmament and the removal of Allied army bases from West Germany’s soil, and one of the main catalyst for a change in tact from protest to guerrilla war, the shooting of the student Benno Ohnesorg by a policemen as he attended a rally orchestrated by the exiled Iranian Marxists, against the Shah of Iran, the mighty Düül articulately forged their own folkloric ascetic.

Monolith Cocktail

An ever rotating cast of the extremely talented and miscreants joined, left and then on some occasions, rejoined the ranks during the band’s reign as one of Germany’s experimental rock music titans; even swapping and picking up members from their sibling counterpoint MK I. The founding hardliners, Karrer, drummer Peter Leopold, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist John Weinzierl and school teacher turn Valkyrie siren Renate Knaup were joined by UFO sound effects organist Falk-Urich Rogner, the already mentioned Dave Anderson, another drummer, Dieter Serfas, vocalist/percussionist Christian Thierfeld and, both infamous reaper shearing band logo silhouette and bongo/violinist, Sharat (whose image would of course grace the cover of their second album Yeti) on their first outing.


The band’s inaugural Phallus Dei outing would be their most cosmically loose and primal. Channeling a esoteric Gothic totem and piqued by the alien siren vocals and haunting morose of Renate, the band attempted to break away from Germany’s past Prussian and Nazi dominated history and culture to found a ‘new hope’. They at least succeeded in lifting off, and certainly produced an unworldly evocative atmosphere, one that seemed on the surface a light year away from the mounting social unrest, student demonstrations and dawn of armed political insurrection – carried out to a destructive end of misconceived martyrdom by the original members of the Red Army Faction.

Already finding a narrative through the uninterrupted passages of exploration and Gothic dream weaving, the band was already enervating the original freeform blueprint and honing their songwriting skills. Their mythical, Tibetan esoteric follow-up Yeti (a musical and lyrical theme the band would return to again and again, especially on Wolf City) was tighter with the emphasis on transcendental west coast psych and acid rock trips. Yeti would prove to be the band’s compass and feature heavily in their live sets for the years and decades to come; if the band ever strayed too far, the lure of this, one of their most acclaimed and venerated albums, would act as a returning beacon.

Accessible is a trite word and can’t possibly justify the band’s most accomplished – in both the eyes of many dedicated fans and Krautrock connoisseurs – grand outings, Wolf City.  Arriving at the end of an extremely volatile period, the group losing certain friends and members after their fairly experimental progressive soundtrack Dancing Of The Lemmings in 1971 failed artistically and commercially – an ambitious if amorphous and at times somewhat directionless double album -, yet picking up again the following year with the release of their most folk rock heavy song collection, Carnival In Babylon – which even made it onto John Peel’s radio show at the time – they would also record their transcendental zenith. In the upper echelons of Krautrock folklore (thanks in part to the talents of Popol Vuh band member Danny Flichelscher’s short term transfer to the Düül team) the keys to this majestic kingdom high above a panoptic dreamscape viewed from one of the ‘chariots of the gods’, would be tarnished slightly as the Düül embraced a weird concoction of Roxy/Bowie glam and earnest sincerity bordering on whimsy for their next two outings Viva La Trance and Hijack. Utterly disingenuous, both albums if of their time also featured the odd highlight and glimpse into the future, especially Viva’s almost debauched Weimar Republic punk hysterical ‘Ladies Mimikry’ and Renate’s prophetic Kate Bush performance on ‘Jalousie’. Hijack would be their most schizophrenic album of all, with a cast of returning band members from the days before the Düül I & II schism, and a musical direction that tended to work the art school pop sound into a cul-de-sac, with prog, jazz, strings and a vague boogie glam Mott The Hopple mish-mash.

Caught up in the burgeoning ‘Krautrock’ phenomena, with the major labels now taking a cash incentivised interest in signing up any half-decent band from West Germany, the band shook sweaty palms with Atlantic Records. The first release of that fatal US deal – though the band would also continue to release material on other labels in their homeland, principally the Nova imprint – Hijack was followed up with the highly ambitious Valkyrie rock opera Made In Germany. A kaleidoscopic pop, rock and glam misadventure through the country’s history (from the eve of German unification in 1871 through to more recent events), taking in various misdemeanours, including the drowning/suicide of the disney castle crowned King Ludwig and a satirical ‘shock-jock’ radio spot interview with Hitler, the eventual double-album (though it was initially released in both the States and UK as a condensed single version) would meet with hostility from label boss Ahmet Ertigon who was unimpressed with the mockery and Germanic political hubbub. Coupled with an extravagant, if misguided, PR stunt from the band who wished to fly a Zeppelin across the Atlantic to launch their grand opus on the unsuspecting American audience – remember this was still only 30-years after the war – the album was almost suppressed by Atlantic. The Marlene Dietrich homage cover masterpiece would eventually drop in 1975 and prove to be their most diverse if derisive outing, splitting opinion on the band and marking the end of a golden period.

Of course they would still carry on meeting under the banner, releasing a handful of albums until the beginning of the 80s before breaking up into various fractions, yet touring every now and then to feed the faithful’s hunger. Returning with their first original material in nearly 28-years in 2010, de facto band job-sharing leader John Weinzierl announced publicly that surviving members of the band would release a new album, Düülirium. Packaged alongside a number of live dates, the 21st century, internet savvy incarnation would take the caravan back out on the road. In correspondence with Weinzierl during this period, he was constantly drawing me away from the band’s past to concentrate on the present and future; sometimes dissuading me from eulogising the band and dismissing the whole ‘Krautrock’ mania – he also launched a few criticisms and dismissive broadsides at a certain past producer, the Baader Meinhof Complex film’s director and the whole nostalgia industry.

This latest, and if my memory serves me correct, their first performance in London since 2010, is a mystery. Will they perform the hits package or try out new material? Or both perhaps. Whatever happens on that June night in Shoreditch, it will prove to be an enlightening, evocative and transcendental mind fuck.

Give me the Bavarian soul, passion and faith of the Düül any day over the cold motorik monotony and steely futurism of Dusseldorf and endless improvised Cologne recordings.

 Words & music selection:  Dominic Valvona

Full in-depth fanboy reviews and such can be found on all the above albums. Just click the image below…

Phallus Dei

Phallus Dei


Sharat, the bands logo.

Sharat, the bands logo.


Carnival In Babylon LP cover (1972)

Carnival In Babylon LP cover (1972)


Amon Duul II - 'Wolf City' (1972)

Amon Duul II – ‘Wolf City’ (1972)


Amon Duul II 'Vive La Trance'

Amon Duul II ‘Vive La Trance’ 1973

Amon Duul II - 'Made In Germany' 1975, double LP version.


Monolith Cocktail

Our regular ‘polygenesis’ mix of ‘tickling our fancy’ reviews includes debut albums from Brighton psych, acid-rock and lo fi mavericks Prince Vaseline and the Dusseldorf neo-Krautrock duo Die Wilde Jagd, plus the new bonkers Theremin avant-garde LP from Italian adventurers OoopopoiooO. We also have the new single from Swedish new wave rockers Dog, Paper, Submarine; the latest EP from Austin psychedelic entranced dreamers Technicolor Hearts; and the upcoming survey of lost British jazz finds from the Jazzman Label, A New Life.

Prince Vaseline - Monolith Cocktail

Prince Vaseline   ‘A Naturally Coloured Pleasure’   (Sunhorse Records)  LP  out on June 2015.

I’ve never quite understood the demarcation lines that mark out a mini-album from an extended EP, but the Brighton based cornucopia that is Prince Vaseline are being quite generous with their “mini” debut LP A Naturally Cloured Pleasure. A showcase that runs to the sort of running time and boasts the sort of track list size you’d expect to see on the average full album, the group have cut the proverbial wheat from the chaff to produce one of the years most pleasantly sophisticated and purposeful psychedelic pop soundtracks. The pedigree is good with this one, the group featuring members from the coastal city’s lo fi, psych dreamers Milk & Biscuits and local institution the Brakes. All these various halcyon synth, acid folk and Wurlitzer fairground circling organ garage rock influences congruously gel together. But the real inspiration behind this album is the synth/baritone vocal partnership of Pulp’s His ‘n’ Hers classic, with occasional gestures made towards the pastoral diaphanous and carefully plucked tones of the Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention.

The album serenely drifts from the Ian Curtis fronting Inspiral Carpets of ‘Hungry Dog’ and ‘Walden Pegasus’, or a Postcard Records’ Velvet Underground on the leading classic pop nugget (featured above) ‘Radio On’, to the John Martyn stroked majesty of the beautifully acoustic ‘China’. There’s even an atmospheric excursion made to a land before, during and after time on the searing instrumental vignette, ‘Dino’s’, adding yet another spoke to the ever rotating Prince Vaseline kaleidoscope wheel. Impressively linking together musical time zones with the both the burgeoning dawns of the late 70s synth and pop scenes in Sheffield with the progressive folk of the earlier Canterbury and Scotland scenes, and breathing in a highly agreeable fumes of the late 80s Manchester and Liverpool alternative garage rock and pop days, they managed to circumnavigate nostalgia for something fresh and amorphous.

Technicolor Hearts   ‘Now We’re Here’   EP out now.

Veiled and rising from a dazed sepia ether of psychedelic pop and trip hop, borne in the renowned bastion of live music, Austin, Texas, the Technicolor Hearts have carved out a particular niche of hypnotizing, opium induced lushness on their latest odyssey, Now We’re Here. With trained-violinist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Naomi Cherie (ex-Agent Ribbons; guest violinist on Camera Obscura 2009 tour) and the equally talented beats maker and musical sparring partner Joseph Salazar (ex-Death is not a Joyride) combining their taste for the suffused majesty of artful electronica and opulent dream state orchestration, the results fall between the most languid (on the Portishead coy to passed-out megaphone raspy doo wop vocal, trip-y affair ‘I Dreamed You Brought Me Flowers’) and the searing synth lushness (the redolent pulsating heart beat pop hit ‘Who You Are’, which makes the usual saccharine and over-used repeated refrain of “shooting star” sound suddenly illuminating and profound). Naomi channels many such redolent sirens and placable whisperers of the genre, including Sarah Blackwood of the successful 90s Britpop electronic popsters Dubstar and Beth Gibbons. Not so much in the vocal department, but musically the duo hint at Beach House on the dry-ice 80s film score that never was ‘Return To Eden’ opus, the EP’s grand finale.

There’s something about the dry Texas air that proves inspiring, or it could just be that it prompts escapism. The Technicolor Hearts have certainly escaped their earthly surroundings to hitch a ride on an illuminated chariot to more sedate, magical worlds.

Dog, Paper, Submarine   ‘Ms. Moonlet’                                    (Small Bear Records)   7” out now.

Launching into their scuzzy punk, bordering on a love-in between The Cars and Weezer, storming ‘Ms. Moonlet’, the Swedish fuzz rockers Dog, Paper, Submarine remind me of a lost Britpop band. Redolent also of the more melodic fringes of the grunge era, and obviously picking up the transmissions from Television et al, the group’s power pop latest sounds like a jolt from the past. Clean though bristling with grime and swagger, this lively number wastes no time with flouncy introductions: the meat and bones succinct production and tampered energy grab you from the very first guitar chugs to even the dawdling shoegaze come-down: a real head-turner.

opopoio front

OoopopoiooO   ‘OoopopoiooO’

(Tremoloa Records)  LP out now.

More a phonetically Dadaist statement than a band name, the bizarre coded cry of OoopopoiooO sets off on a Theremin heavy voyage of lunacy. From adventures in the primordial soup of life to ever stranger ‘loonscapes’ where mooning Italians narrations meet an updated art of noise, the theatrically avant-garde duo of Vincenzo Vasi and fellow compatriot Valeria Sturbia explore the most extreme and most elegantly dreamlike crevices of electronica and trip hop. It will come as no surprise, even in the disturbing, comedic and often hyperactive experimental Italian scene that these two mavericks are producing some of the best and most far out music to emanate from the ‘boot’.

A seasoned traveller so to speak known mostly for his work with Italy’s answer to Tom Waits, Vinicio Capossela, and Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Vasi teams up with the relatively fresh-faced Sturbia for one of the year’s most eye-opening debuts. Highly sophisticated and surprisingly tuneful, songs which start off on one course often veer off into new directions, such as the huffing, paddled percussion and string yearning opera turn Frankie Knuckles Chicago house style ‘How Do You Feel To Be In Love With A Ghost?’ Plucked Dante excursions and Holger Czukay like sonic trickery are rife, the surreal nature – of what is a thematic soundtrack – offering up ever-more interesting sounds and dynamics, though often heavily accompanied by a yearning and adroit classical backing.

Odd in a recommended way, the OoopopoiooO have to be heard to be believed.

Die Wilde Jagd   ‘Die Wilde Jagd’

(Bureau B)  LP out on 25TH May 2015

Meaning business from the outset, the mythical named Die Wilde Jagd duo use German technology at its most adroitly sleek and well oiled to explore a semi-organic and industrial sounding series of spaces. In neon lit pursuit of their Dusseldorf inspirations Neu! and Kraftwerk the city’s future-past echoes are melded with the imbued spirit of DAF, Einsturzende Neubauten and Liaisons Dangereuses to create a kind of Krautrock “hunting music”: the “raucous jeering hunters from the netherworld” of the duo’s moniker in a redolent exploration of a well founded venerated music genre, echoing Herbie Hancock’s Headhunter transduction and appropriation of jazz.

Ralf Beck of the duo has worked with electronic pioneer and one-time member of the Kraftwerk factory Karl Bartos in the past, whilst his musical partner on this metallic sheen  peregrination, Sebastian Lee Philipp, plays in the electro-pop group Noblesse Oblige. For the most part sonically driving those UFO engines over industrial landscapes and firing up rasping synths and sterner modulations, there are more peaceable reflective moments – such as subterranean mournful procession ‘Morgenrot’ – to be found.

Seasoned ‘head’ fans and motorik disciples will find much to admire and lose their self’s in, though much of what is on offer has already been created and shared endless times before, Die Wilde Jagd do it extremely well and with conviction. It’s hardly surprising to see this release on the Hamburg label Bureau B who continue to hold aloft the flag of Krautrock and its inspired bedfellows high, releasing both some of the more interesting contemporary electronic, filed music, avant-garde experiments alongside carefully chosen reissues from Germany’s illustrious, gene-defining past.

Monolith Cocktail

Various Artists   ‘A New Life’

(Jazzman Records)  LP to on 1st June 2015.

The reliable resource for all your spiritual, modal and most esoteric jazz needs, the Jazzman label’s reissue roster continues to dig up previously lain dormant and unloved treasures (though they’re just as reliable with releasing contemporary finds too; three, and soon to be four albums from the mighty Greg Foat Group for starters). Whether it’s through their individual compilations or reverential Spiritual series, the dust is blown off and the music rediscovered; collated from both sides of the Atlantic, and from the furthest reaches of eastern Europe to North Africa, these born-again finds are accorded due-respect and lavished with the most subtle but refined re-mastering, adroit essays and beautifully put together packaging.

Closer to home once more after excursions around the globe, the latest collection surveys a forgotten British independent and youth jazz scene, for the most part only ever available on private pressings. Plucked from obscurity by the Francis Gooding and Duncan Brooker team that also compiled the jubilantly praised, hotfooting, Next Stop Soweto series, A New Life starts with the sophisticated cocktail hour in Soho ‘Sweet Martini’ by Joy, and moves through the abstract-expressionist horns and drum solo showcase of ‘Sixes and Sevens’ by the Nottingham Jazz Orchestra and summons up a spot of Cuban high spirits on Billy Jenkins & The Voice Of God Collective’s bustling exchange ‘High Street/Saturday’; all of this within the first three songs of this thirteen track collection. Mirroring those cosmic, progressive and psychedelic explorations on the other side of the Atlantic, the beautifully chorused but mournfully themed ‘Death Is Near’ by the London Jazz IV could be a lost recording from the late fifties and early sixties spiritual St. Louis or Chicago scene, and both Lori Vambe’s ‘Drumsong (One)’ and Edge’s ‘Danielle and the Holly Tree’ allude to a pan-African influence, whilst Cameo’s piano led psych bulletin ‘Poliphony’ paves the way forward for the 90s acid-jazz explosion.

Other discoveries on offer include Spot The Zebras’ gentle clarinet led dedication to natural history doyen David Attenborough, ‘Living Planet’, and the Walsall Youth Jazz’s swanky San Francisco China Town soundtrack ‘The Dragon’. Informed by the ongoing trends both in the USA and Europe, each track seems to drift further away from its original roots in the UK. And if no one told you, it would be extremely difficult to place these performances geographically or culturally. But then if the grey exterior and drab weather of a Midlands town is all you have to draw inspiration from, then perhaps dreaming of more exotic climes and magical jazz is your only form of escapism. Gooding and Brooker have delivered the goods and found a whole untapped resource of British jazz; the missing link – in some cases, just a joyful abandon – of experimentation during the late 60s, 70s, 80s and on the eve of the 90s.

Words: Dominic Valvona


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