Welcome to October’s edition of our new Singles, EPs, video tracks and odd curios round up. This month’s eclectic choices include Look Like, Bruse Wane, Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, Flies + Flies, Matt Finucane, Death In The Afternoon, Pati Yang, and The Migrant.
Look Like ‘B.a.b.e EP’ (Drumpoet Community)
Succinct information on the young Zurich artist behind this 80s and early 90s Chicago, Detroit and Berlin dance floor mined B.a.b.e EP. Look Like’s Luca (no surname is given) has had a field day cultivating and moulding the sounds of Lil Louis, Inner City, Frankie Knuckles and the UK’s own like-minded early advocate of house music, A Guy Called Gerald, to his contemporary bass sonic template.
Very astute, with each of the four tracks imbued with different qualities from the dawn of House music – with some excursions into the intelligent techno realms of the acid blueprint New York Synewave label – yet maintaining a real soulful yearn and dance floor tempo, the four-track collection will send you back to the best warehouse joints of ’88.
Bruse Wane ‘Hercules’
Batman fixated hip hop artist Bruse Wane is back with an hypnotic head-banger of a tune, the rolling deep ‘Hercules’. Released ahead of a new album, Earl Manigault Of Rap (due out on November 23rd), and following his last team-up with Sean Price on ‘Beast Inside’, the self-anointed CEO of his very own Wane Enterprises brand has been busy working with Baltimore beat-creator Dollars Tha Producer on this bejewelled strut. Fourteen years in, the Bronx native continues to lay down those purposeful, sagacious lyrics to most languorous and sophisticated beats.
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba ‘Musow Fanga’
Regular readers of the Monolith Cocktail will be familiar with our praise for the Malian master of the ngoni – who makes that atavistic, handed down through generations, lute like instrument burn, rattle and squeal as though it was played by Jimi Hendrix – Bassekou Kouyaté and his equally prestigious Ngoni Ba band. We gave his recent album, Ba Power, a glowing review, highly recommending it and naming it one of our favourite albums of 2015.
His most accessible album – and most lively – yet, Ba Power expanded Kouyaté’s blues and Afro rock sound, with congruous inspirations found in jazz, rock and roll and beyond. A tapestry of delights, the main themes now universal, Ba Power also featured a myriad of talent including Songhai blues guitar legend Samba Touré, fourth world music pioneer Jon Hassell, and of course the evocative vocals of Kouyaté’s wife Amy Sacko. One of the livelier Malian jams ‘Muscow Funga’, the second track to be taken from the album, features those impassioned yearnings of Sacko in a tribute to the “power of women”.
You can catch Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba this autumn in the UK at the following locations:
19 October – LIVERPOOL Philharmonic Hall (Music Room)
20 October – BRISTOL The Lantern (Colston Hall)
22 October – SHEFFIELD University (Firth Hall)
23 October – LEEDS Howard Assembly Room
Flies + Flies ‘Bury Your Young’
Having featured their recent ‘Later On’ in our ‘choice tracks of 2015’ playlist and before that their incredible cerebral debut ‘Bad Crab’ the year before, the heart aching electronic soulsters Flies + Flies follow up with another tempered and controlled moody affair, ‘Bury Your Young’. Still a word-of-mouth recommendation, the band has continued to hone their brand of art school electronica, largely undetected, though they have supported both Red Snapper and GoGo Penguin. Crafting a Depeche Mode-esque meets Kosmiche club land lament to our troubled times, Flies + Flies have once again produced another dystopian, hard won dreamscape.
Matt Finucane ‘Lilith’
30th October 2015
The inimitable forlorn troubadour of resigned but heartfelt bent-out-of-shape new wave Matt Finucane is back once again with another despondent but marvellous Gothic rhapsody. Using the demonic temptress of ancient history, reshaped as the banished lady of Eden – whether for copulating with archangels or for sticking up for womanhood and bitch slapping Adam; this gal ain’t bowing down to no man – ‘Lilith’ as his muse, Finucane withers and croons over a Bowie era Scary Monsters and Super Creeps industrial backing and Lou Reed imbued dose of healthy morose as he battles on through these troubled times.
Death In The Afternoon ‘We Don’t Have To Go Out Tonight’
Something to quench our sophisticated pop followers thirst now, the latest single from the soothing toned duo Death In The Afternoon. Effortlessly lingering between Bowie and Nil Rodger’s ‘Criminal World’ and the contemporary soundtrack electronic pop of M83, their new single ‘We Don’t Have To Go Out Tonight’ sounds like the perfect afterhours lament on the way home after quaffing cocktails at a 80s discotheque on Southern French coast. An exotic heat emanates from this subtle little pop duet, the falsetto of Christian languidly aching over the, almost eroded until ghostly, soothing lead vocals of Linda evoke an escape from the real world into a dream. Typically Swedish, with all the quality of the best meta pop perfectly sealed inside a time capsule marked 1983.
Pati Yang ‘Anonymous Face’
We were beginning to worry about one of our favourite electro pop soul chanteuses Pati Yang. Appearing on both the Monolith Cocktail and God Is In The TV (my other favoured site from which to pontificate, over the years) with her previous albums, EPs and singles in 2012 and 2013, it has been quite a while since we last heard anything from the Polish songstress. Already basing herself in London, we hear her latest venture, a new album, is set for release in 2016. Working with Tricky’s idiosyncratic foil Martina-Topley Bird, Yang has pushed her sound even further, both sonically and vocally. A recently unveiled teaser ‘Anonymous Face’ even has some harsh revenge-is-a-dish-best-served-cold words to say, delivered with a poisonous sassiness over a glacial, warped backing of Chemical Brothers meets Massive Attack motorik beat. If I didn’t know better, this thriller bound dance track sounds like it could have been a contender for the upcoming new 007 movie soundtrack. The omens as they say, are good on this one.
The Migrant ‘Silence’ (DevilDuck Records/Rockpie)
13th November 2015
Even though the Denmark – via the Austin, Texas panoramas of languorous folksy-roots and subtly layered psych – group The Migrant will be unveiling an album of wistfully but aspiring Americana they’ve chosen to lead with the more despondent, if lamentable ‘Silence’ ahead of the UK reissue of their last LP Flood – originally released and confined to Northern European territories at the beginning of the year, Flood is finally being given a wider re-release.
Choosing an album title that evokes the country rock mythology of Dylan and The Band, The Migrant, the moniker of songwriter Bjarke Bendtsen, liltingly sweeps across a well-toiled landscape and sound, yet finds a balance between resurrecting the progenitors of that genre with more recent incumbents such as Midlake and Fleet Foxes; with a hint of a rustic twanged Thom Yorke on vocals.
‘Silence’ is a grower as they say; a downbeat George Harrison-esque country lilting hypnotic downer that builds into a minor epic as it goes on; the vocal accompaniment of soaring choral “ahs” hinting at a crescendo that never arrives.
Catch The Migrant playing the following dates in the UK:
09.10. Manchester – Fuel
10.10. Ipswich – Cult
11.10. Cardiff – Gwdihw
12.10. London – The Harrison
October 7, 2015
Words: Dominic Valvona
Deerhunter ‘Fading Frontier’ (4AD) 16th October 2015
There can be no doubt that Deerhunter’s seventh studio album has benefited from a brighter and more melodic production: the penchant for sophisticated, inter-layered but accessible melodies and a tune counterbalancing the emotional pull and drag of an abstract, discordant wilderness. Yet, the mired resignation of depression, the result of both front man and guiding force Bradford Cox’s lifelong Marfan syndrome and last year’s serious car accident, when he was knocked down in the street, permeate the album’s lyrics. And why wouldn’t it? Depression is an evil incumbent foe to many but is when you think about it, a rational mental and emotional response in the face of these troubling anxious times – and if you need to know exactly which of the modern world’s problems are keeping Cox awake at night, then there’s a scribbled ideas smorgasbord of a wall chart currently doing the rounds that refers to the music industry, the internet, gender and more.
Still, a reflective, worn down but not yet out Cox is, if anything, ready to let go; the title of the LP referring to his vague preconceived boundary of achievement (maybe even recognition and success), a “fading frontier” no longer worth pursuing, if it ever really existed. Cox’s airbag like epiphany has spurred him creatively. And if Deerhunter fans and admirers alike long for the maelstroms and experimental sound sculpting of the past this slicker, even in places, funkier progression is their best record yet.
Still lurching in a multi-limbed fashion from one idea to the next, the founding members (Lockett Pundt, Moses Archuleta and Josh McKay) make sure Cox doesn’t have it all his own way. Much as we the critics single him out, Deerhunter has always been a team effort. Fading Frontier even features the band’s first duet, with Pundt and Cox in Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark harmony, channeling Green era REM and Big Star on the jangled theme song ‘Breaker’ – the lyrics laying out and coming to terms with a new found reflective philosophy: “Jackknifed on a side street crossing. I’m still alive, and that’s something. And when I die, there will be nothing to say, except I tried, not to waste another day, trying to stem the tide.”
Following up the “death rattle garage catharsis” (and disturbed Motown) of the band’s last outing, the confounding Monomani, Ben H Allen III returns to steady the ship, his Animal Collective production duties proving valuable, as the morose and amorphous indulgences are reined in (for the most part).
Sounding like a quivering reverb Lennon abandoned on the Mars surface, Cox once again channels his Parallax Atlas Sound crooner on the album’s most tortured-soul malaise ‘Leather And Wood’. A J.G.Ballard envisioned dystopian slice of Sci-fi, Cox is the man who fell to Earth, or more appropriately the man who fell under the anesthetic, as he tunes in and out of a morphine state to the sound of a room filled with hospital equipment from another world. Everything else is a breeze in comparison, the opening trio of songs ‘All The Same’, ‘Living My Life’ and the already mentioned ‘Breaker’ embracing an alternative pop ascetic – melodically sophisticated with the spirit and nostalgia of halcyon 80s Georgia. The latter of these even has an optimistic Animal Collective style buoyancy, sailing ever closer to a swimmingly Tropicana style Beach Boys paean to overcoming adversity.
Already out in the wilds, the teaser ‘Snakeskin’ is an odd shot from the hip, Beck like electric glide in blues. Funky, slinky, slithering like a southern swamp reptile in a glam boogie distortion of an electric Muddy Waters recast by Nil Rodgers and David Bowie, the loneliness and despair of Cox’s recovery is curiously laid bare in a liquid stonk. Other notable mentions should go to the abstracted Beach House bastardsation ‘Take Care’ – not only pendulously taking its cue musically but also the track title from the duo’s Teen Dreams LP. A percussive synth waltz in the dry-ice of a 80s neon-lit bandstand, this translucent sweeping dream features the misty cosmic keyboard and tape manipulations of Broadcast’s James Cargill – he of Broadcast fame. Fellow Brit and sonic komische traveller Tim Gane, formerly of the much applauded disciples of Krautrock pop Stereolab, appears on the new wave trip ‘Duplex Planet’, adding celestial electronic harpsichord charms. Another celestial work of art is the Numan-esque ‘Ad Astra’, which translates – as if the music and lyrics didn’t already give you a clue – as ‘to the stars’. One of the most diaphanous lush tracks on the entire album, Deerhunter languidly soars upwards into a cacophony of satellite transmissions, space shuttles and competing radio broadcasts: Quite beautiful.
Emerging from the underground with a dedicated fan base that I’m sure will follow them wherever they wish to travel next, Deerhunter have been one of the most successfully, artistically speaking, creative if not esoterically amorphous and experimental bands of the last decade. In an era where we crave for something more intelligent and daring in the commercial and pop arenas, the Atlanta band has just released an exceptional album that brokers the two. Without a doubt they have embraced both melody and song structures unlike ever before, yet the compromise has only made their sound richer, sophisticated and even more multi-textured. Fading Frontier is a stunning piece of work.
October 5, 2015
Words: Ayfer Simms
Ayfer Simms in her customary flowery and lyrical style follow’s up her review of Frog‘s Kind Of Blah with more praise for the New York band’s precursor, a extended self-titled – or mini album if you like – EP that’s presently doing the rounds again.
Frog ‘Frog’ (Audio Antihero)
Frog’s mini album is a prelude to their LP released last May: We witness the birth of a style, a murmur of dynamic instruments leading the mind within oneself and compelling us to keep the eyes closed while listening: the lo-fi sound resonates with a pulp. The vocals, a mixture of broken tone and soft lament emerge as if from a faraway place; the vibrations are spiced up with country music, a style cleverly distorted by a very indie alternative grip.
Indeed, the voice, distant, is enclosed in its own world, in heedlessly arranged rock tunes plunged in a sea of electric guitars saturating the air with a giddy energy. The music fills that space right before noise appears, the metallic tinkle is heartfelt with its subtle melodies and cords rubbing on our internal clock. There’s a buildup: Frog is the pistil of the flower, the orchid’s tongue fluttering, brave and charged with a rebellious, yet emotional satirical attitude. The stories are like a stick in the heart, inspired by portraits of hazelnuts characters, Frog sings: “the minds a beautiful thing to waste” and we linger together amid an autumnal local town, with songs like ‘Nancy Kerrigan’, and again, Frog sings “Time is a big city that rolls up majestically” driving us in the mind of the fractious American writer of the 19th century, Irving, borrowing its title and elements of Ichabod Crane for a song. Those little tiny references combined with a poetic mindset throughout the lyrics make for a rich ride, as well as the accumulation of echoes, acute singing, hoarse and delicate at the same time. Lost in a trance-like state, the mini album wears the air of an explosive cryptic state of the mind.
October 1, 2015
Hosted by Tramway, Glasgow.
With no disrespect to the artists involved in this year’s Tuner Prize, the annual contemporary art prize has always been about much more than the individuals shortlisted. Probably Europe’s most important – in column inches and media attention if nothing else – prize event, the Turner elicits a response; strikes up a conversation; stirs debate. But whether you bewail its choices or celebrate them, it offers a discourse on the state of not just modern art but culture generally. Even if it isn’t the case, the overall picture is far more nuanced than we are led to believe by its detractors, the Turner Prize has for a long time been dominated by London – either through the institutions or the city in which most nominees have chosen to base themselves. In more recent times a shift to hosting the event outside the capital has seen it travel to the Baltic in Gateshead, to an old army barracks in Derry-Londonderry, and now (and about time) to Tramway in Glasgow – as the name may suggest, previously shelter to the city’s trams, now renovated into the southside of the city’s most iconic arts venue.
It is to the credit of the city that the London-centric dominance of the 90s has changed and shifted northwards across the border, and now, if anything, the tendency is to feature an abundance of artists practicing in Scotland’s contemporary art hub or to pick former alumni from the celebrated and famous Glasgow School of Art (among the top ten arts institutes in the world according to recent league tables). Glasgow’s grip on the prize can’t be exaggerated, with 30% of all the nominees and five winners all formally attending the GSA; many of which have stayed in Glasgow or have produced their most iconic work there. A revitalised Glasgow, still on a roll since last year’s Commonwealth Games, certainly has a lot to offer the artist. Whilst it can’t compete economically with London, and it has its fair share of problems it is nevertheless an inviting place with cheap rents and studios.
But though last year’s winner was the Master of Fine Art graduate Duncan Campbell, 2015 has been unkind to Glasgow with not a single artist either formerly studying or practicing in Scotland on the shortlist. The city’s GOMA is however staging its own celebration of GSA, the Devils In The Making exhibition showing former alumni and Turner Prize winners/nominees for the entire run – including works made in Glasgow by David Shrigley, Douglass Gordon, Martin Boyce and Victoria Morton.
Unusually a sedate affair this year, subdued and measured, the four artists taking part in this year’s prize offer a diverse range of themes, delivered in a subtle fashion using a range of mediums. By now we should, even the less ardent art fan and well wisher, have come to terms with conceptual art. That it is here to stay. The idea that art is – as vague as it sounds – anything the artist wishes it to be has been around now for a century. So we shouldn’t be surprised, just curious, by this year’s nominees. The only real discourse, if there is indeed any this year, is towards the London-based activist art group Assemble’s ‘A Showroom For Granby Workshop’. Is it design, architecture or art? Well the answer is yes to all three. Renovating a number of houses with the local community of Liverpool in a previously abandoned and ‘tinned-up’ Granby triangle of streets, the “social enterprise” is steadily redefining art activism. By bringing an area that had seen everything from a recent decline back to its more affluent heydays back to life the 18-strong collective strive to offer real design and living solutions to the housing crisis. Outlining the process and extending their project to now include the setting up of a small scale manufacturing enterprise to provide long-term economic support and training to the area, a number of tactile prototypes and objects with character are on show alongside a catalogue of various goods. Everything from the marbled fashioned rock effect hewn kitchen sink to block printed fabrics and sculptured reclaimed door handles are offered up for review and dialogue. It is a worthy cause. A social design enterprise as produced by artists, which cofounds because it doesn’t immediately fall into the conformities of art. Isn’t that what conceptual and contemporary art is? Moving beyond conventions, raising questions? At least its hands are getting dirty and fulfilling a demand for real world problems.
On more familiar territory, Nicole Wermers series of ‘Untitled Chair’ installations and trio of ‘Sequence’ ceramic sculptures on first sight seem easier to grasp and form an opinion on. Placing a number of faux Marcel Breuer chairs, cloaked, hugged and draped by vintage fur coats, Wermers central premise of replicating the everyday act of ownership, performed in cafes and bars throughout the world, by claiming your seat with your coat seems a fleeting gesture of observation. The fact the coats are sewed to the seats permanently suggests otherwise. For one thing there is the choice of the iconic Breuer chair itself, designed by the genius student turn carpentry master of the iconic Bauhaus, which at least in theory was to offer good, comfortable utilitarian design to the masses, but in the end was priced far from reach of the average citizen – though many have copied, enervated and softened to fit all scales of income over the decades, the originals have themselves become prized art works and expensive artefacts. As for those vintage furs, well they don’t come cheap, so is this an indictment or observation on luxury and in some degrees, individualism? Is the act of personalising and ownership to be seen as an act of indulgence, a luxury we no longer can entertain, or am I digging too much now? Leaving this aside, another observational piece, and a clever one at that, is Wermer’s ceramic sculptured post it notes. I must confess it took me a while to realise what they were and that they were made from, so circumspect you could walk past them without even noticing as the blend in with the white walls of the space. Again another common but almost outmoded and outdated idiosyncratic method of social interaction – the reserve of those seeking house mates, forming a band and selling in the local community – the tear-off notices become another permanent icon and stand as curiosities from another age, despite the digitalised onslaught.
The conspiracy theorem nerve centre of Bonnie Camplin’s ‘Patterns’ echoes the paranoia of her “artwork as research” installation. Five video screens playing Youtube streamed talking heads from – you decide – deluded individuals who are convinced of their tales of illuminati, cybernetic conspiracies and visitations from beings both alien and from other dimensions are surrounded by rows of tables filled with books (including Alan Moore’s Prometheus graphic novel series), tracts, pamphlets, and all kinds of paraphernalia relating and displayed in a congruous fashion to each other. From quantum physics to the debunked Shaman stories of Carlos Castaneda, a head-spinning, befuddled myriad of theories, knowledge and in some cases scientific research compete for your attention. Informed is good, but an information overload can be dangerous or at least lead to joining up the wrong dots. Camplin for one is sympathetic to the subjects in the videos, suggesting the possibility that they are telling the truth. Maybe they believe they’re telling the truth, but in the vacuum that is the Internet, where these conspiracies and interactions can grow unabated, where hokum and the most fantastical will be believed by someone and even turned into an industry itself, the real disempowerment and globalised homogeny that has eroded both our sense of belonging and worth, our livelihoods and communities are not controlled by Lizards, Opus Dei or the Prioy de Sion like shadowy cables but manipulated to their advantage by those in plain sight of us all: humans.
The opening night was as you can imagine bustling with those both wishing to be seen at these kinds of events and those celebrating its inauguration. Though a respectful gaggle of the art world perused at their leisure the four nominees exhibits, it was a struggle. Especially with the choral performances composed by Janice Kerbel, whose group of tenors, sopranos and baritones performed an elaborate comedy eulogy to as series of unfortunate accidents, meted out to some clumsy individual. Performances were obviously sanctioned, and as we experienced heavily attended, though you could at least hear the aloof sometimes striking piqued shrills echoing throughout the gallery. Kerbel’s ‘DOUG’, missed by us at the time, gives operatic accompaniment to a haphazard individuals various dices with death, from falling down a flight of stairs (‘Fall’) to being struck by lightening (‘Strike’). Part vaudeville, part narrative ballad elevated to high art, Kerbel’s vocal dynamic piece is attempting to push new boundaries, in what she calls “compositional choreography”. A return visit is needed to truly experience it.
Not so radical this year, unless you believe that the entries redefine totally the idea of what art is and what it should stand for. A hushed, almost sedate show, multifaceted and complex, the Turner Prize 2015 continues to confound. The controversy that has to be fair, been light over the last few years, just isn’t there this year. For once we really can concentrate on the work, the most radical piece, Assemble’s workshop and renovation project will quite possibly win out in the end – the only true radical in this lineup, offering a sensible solution to a one of the most discussed topics of conversation and protest in the UK, housing.
Words: Dominic Valvona
September 29, 2015
Tickling our aural fancy, here’s our abridged ‘choice’ selection of favourite songs from the last three months, featuring a right rambunctious mix of genres with tracks from Deerhunter, Beach House, Public Enemy, Vukovar, Ocean Wisdom, Jimi Tenor, Afriquoi and Evvol.
Beach House ‘Sparks’
Deerhunter ‘Breaker’ (Review coming soon)
Drinks ‘Hermits On Holiday’
The Chemical Brothers ‘Born In The Echoes’
Public Enemy ‘No Sympathy From The Devil’
The Alchemist, Oh No, Havoc, Sean Price ‘Sheet Music’
Profit, Serocee, Mystro, Zoe Evangeline ‘Electric Smile’
Georgia Anne Muldrow ‘Monoculture’
UMO, Jimi Tenor ‘Naulamatto’
Owiny Sigoma Band ‘Luo Land’
Noonday Underground ‘Siren’
September 25, 2015
Lyrically given full approval by Ayfer Simms a couple of weeks ago, the Greek/German duo of Eleni Zafiriadou and Daniel Benjamin, better known as Sea + Air, bedazzled us with their daemonic sensual art pop album Evropi. Wishing to immerse herself even further within the duo’s nomadic whirlwind sound and narratives, Ayfer fired over some questions to Eleni and Daniel this week. From their first meeting, spurred on by chance encounter when sleepwalking, to personal background stories on displacement, Eleni and Daniel proved both affable and reflective.
Ayfer Simms: The idea of the past is very important on this album. Eleni, you are a nomad ever since your grandmother was expelled from Anatolia in 1922; could you tell us more, about your family and your own childhood? Is your childhood very different from Daniel’s?
Eleni: It was my great grandmother who had to leave overnight her home with her family because all of a sudden religion and nationality played a too important and dangerous role. They arrived in Greece where they had to start from the beginning and where they slowly realized that they would never return to the place they left. The mother of my great grandmother committed her daughter to the care of a rich family for a better future. As she was watching her playing in the garden she realized she was losing her to a world that was not her own. She decided to go and get her back. ‘Mercy Looks Good On You’ is the song that relates to that episode. I could go on with stories but I’m afraid it would end in writing a whole book, hehe. Luckily we wrote some detailed liner notes in the booklet where you can find out more about my family history: “About my own childhood: The first three years I was raised by my grandmother because both of my parents had to work. I remember it as a really joyful time cause I got to spend a lot of time with my cousin. I still have a close relationship to my grandmother. Daniel had a happy childhood, too. He had a full-time mom who was an amazing woman. When the women in my family first met Daniel’s mother they immediately became her biggest fans. There was something about her aura and they considered her as a saint.”
AS: On the album the lead vocals are shared equally, two voices with different personalities and yet combined beautifully together and obviously sharing the same views. Eleni and Daniel how did you meet and what are/were the crucial points that brought you together?
Daniel: I was bicycling one night and saw Eleni sleepwalking outside of the little village we lived in. So I guided her home. I knew where she lived, had seen her at school and knew she was a great dancer. That’ s why I assumed she would be a great singer, too. When I finally dared to ask her if she could sing she said: I can scream! That’ s how our punkrock band Jumbo Jet started.
AS: In some songs the tunes create a feeling of being at the dawn of humanity, reminding that all of us are intrinsically nomadic ever since we departed from Africa. Do you have a message, a lesson for today’s society drawn from the past?
E: In the end we all come from the same place. We all have the same path. We come into this world and leave this world solitary. In between we should try to bond with each other instead of creating hell on earth for other people. Both on the large and small scale. Be nice to your own family and then be nice to your extended family. Is my answer to esoteric? I really hope so.
AS: Now you are on the road (touring for more than 3 years) – you love being on the move. Do you think carrying your home on your back is a form of escapism, or on the contrary people who are settled down in one location are missing something?
E: I don’t want to evaluate the things other people do. Everyone makes their own choices for a reason. There is no wrong or right. For some it is important to see more than their own home, for some it is important to be at the same place because they are needed where they are. I always needed both to be balanced. There is a time for everything.
AS: ‘We all have to leave someday’ (and not the only tune) is filed with sounds form the element and chants as if coming from the depth of earth and history, as if our ancestors were talking to us; in your life and art, are you more drawn to the past than the future?
E: Well, on this album definitely on the past. And I guess we always have to look at the past to form the future. At least a better future.
D: I think looking at the past made this album very futuristic as well.
AS: Are you two of melancholic nature? That sort of melancholia that make you thrive as artists rather than plunge you into gloominess?
E: Melancholic, but also ecstatic, enthusiastic, spaced-out, you name it! All this comes together in our music. Melancholic only would be just boring.
AS: How do you feel about borders between countries? Are they still relevant you think? (Have they ever been?)
D: As travellers we feel they’ve never been relevant. Borders for us are only there to stop our flow.
AS: Two of the songs have a 1980’s pop edge to them. What were you guys up to in the 80s?
E: I remember dancing as a three year old in my father’s arms to Stevie Wonder’s “I just called to say I love you”.
D: I started buying music in the 80’s. Bicycling over to the next village, which had a music shop where obscure vinyl was really cheap. Since they were the only ones I could afford I got stuck with obscure music that can’t be labelled. Haha.
AS: If there was one thing you could both change in your lives, present or past, what would it be?
D: Maybe we should’ve moved to the USA in our teens and we would be millionaires now. Hahaha.
AS: If you had to settle somewhere, where would it be?
E: On an island in the Mediterranean would be cool. At least for a time, hehe.
D: Lake of Constance, right down by the lake. Or a north sea island for me please.
Thank you for the fantastic music, lyrics, vocals and atmosphere!
September 23, 2015
Banco De Gaia ‘Last Train To Lhasa (20th Anniversary 4xCD Set)’ and Various Artists ‘Strange-Eyed Constellations’ (Disco Gecko)
Despite, what on the surface, seems a plausible misconception, one of the UK’s chief progenitors of global trance peregrinations Banco De Gaia have become synonymous with all things Tibetan. Re-released on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, the Banco’s Last Train To Lhasa album may have borrowed the title and evoked a transcendent spirit of the country’s mystical Himalayan landscapes, yet the group’s founder and guiding force Toby Marks never meant to confine his world sounds to one particular place: In truth, more a pan-global sound palette with echoes and traces of the Middle East, Asia and the Orient.
Going as far as to refute suggestions in every subsequent interview since its original release, the LP only actually features a solitary sample from the region and only gained its title from Marks wife on completion. However, Marks lent space on the album’s sleeve to publicising Tibet’s struggle against its overlord Chinese masters, and would become a vocal advocate of the Free Tibet campaign.
Base camp on the enlightened journey to the ethereal, Tibet’s meditative disposition was no match for the authoritarian steamroller of the Communist party machine. And so an ill-at-ease occupation and stalemate persists. Its international vessel of protest, the Dalai Lama in his own affable and gentle way backed by the Free Tibet campaign continues to be a big draw, yet has decidedly been upstaged by events elsewhere. Clarifying his commitment to the cause, Marks was recently interviewed by the Free Tibet organisation in the run up to his trio of performances at this years Glastonbury and the anniversary Last Train To Lhasa release – perhaps a timely reminder.
Musically speaking, as I’ve already mentioned, the twentieth anniversary appraisal of Banco De Gaia’s blueprint, and Marks other complimentary release, his first ever compilation Strange-Eyed Constellations, reach far beyond any Tibetan influence, imbued by cultures both imaginary and real from both terra firma and the stratosphere.
Highly praised for merging trance and nuanced electronic four-to-the-floor beats with atavistic echoes from mystically envisioned landscapes, Banco De Gaia’s Last Train To Lhasa was released in the dying ambers of the second rave and house music waves in 1995. On the cusp of Britpop, hung-over from grunge, guitars were about to once again dominate whilst house and techno music in all its many guises had reached superclub status; the underground movements fractured and broken up into a myriad of smaller tribes. Ambient and trance, usually the preserve of after hours clubbing or allocated space in the “chill out” zones had already blossomed into its own industry. That unfairly and often fatuous “chill out” idiom used to sell everything from nirvana relaxation and transience to any ‘new age” missive. Never new in itself, until progress and technology made it easier and offered more options, the core ambient ingredient had already been in existence for decades. And despite what you may have read, Eno may have given it a name but he certainly didn’t invent it. In this evolving stage of dance music, Banco De Gaia went to town, sitting on a fluffy cloud, hovering between trance and techno.
LTTL’s suffused panoramic station-to-station soundtrack was different. Sharing some of the peaceable beautiful nephology of The Orb and Air Liquid but with the satellite guided twinkle and kinetic rhythms of Orbital, the album sounded every bit as organic as it did electronic. The original album is boosted by a further three CDs worth of alternative takes, mixes, remixes and the missing until now, Apollo moon landing inspired space-voyage, ‘Eagle’ – recorded at the time but left off the final version of the LP. A box set only available as a limited edition physical release – though now also available to hear on Bandcamp -, fans and admirers alike can really indulge, with 24 tracks of transcendent aural bliss.
Even if you are far from familiar with the source material, the general method applied is one of respectful tinkering and expansion, with Marks own alternatives plus a line-up of contemporary artists/producers remixes congruously immersive. A ‘Duck Asteroid Extended’ mix of the original ‘Kincajou’ for example, takes the steam driven new age suite on an epic, stripped and even more ambient, 44-minute journey: it takes the mix thirty-minutes to bring in the beats and reach a higher plain. Elsewhere, various tinkering’s of the holy misty mountain proverb ‘China (Clouds Not Mountains)’ takes the languid drifter into ever more esoteric territories, or in the case of Roedelius and Felix Jay collaborator Andrew Heath, adding a diaphanous piano to the meditative calligraphy-brushed valley narrative.
The reverberations of dub, bhangra, and the Orient are sometimes stretched into indolent escapism or given more power and lift on the varied versions of ‘Amber’. Sometimes as with the Carl Craig imbued Bluetech remix of ‘Kuos’, they are taken apart and rebuilt. Though nothing quite matches the rolling timpani introduction and celestial beauty of the original ‘White Paint’, ‘Where’s The Runway Dub’ and alucidnations ‘Dream Remix’ offer interesting interpretations; one a hymn in dub the other a suffused with kosmiche rays romance in the sky.
A carefully considered expansion of the Banco De Gaia panoramic worlds of the mid-90s, the 20th anniversary edition certainly offers the listener an immersive experience. And you can’t complain about getting your money’s worth, with over four hours of music over the four discs to peruse.
Following this legacy release, Marks inaugural compilation – which yes does feature both a Marks and Banco De Gaia track; compilers privilege and all that – has gone full circle: “In 1991, I saw my first tracks released on CD as part of the Ambient Dub compilations series on Beyond Records. Six years later, when I set up my own label [Disco Gecko], one of my aims was to start a similar series of down-tempo, left of centre compilation albums, featuring more or less anything I found beautiful and uplifting, irrespective of genre.” Seventeen years later as Mark says, “…it became a reality”, his showcase dedicated to Beyond’s founder Mike Barnet finally now sees the light of day.
Accompanied by the evocative photography and paintings of Andrew and Zoe Heath, this survey of harmonious lullabies, dreamscapes, heavenly and nebula horizons, with a title inspired by Thomas Hardy’s The Dead Drummer poem, is full of transient, breathy and venerable compositions. An amorphous bed of seraph tones, water spray tropical rainforests, lingering ghosts of spiritualism, ethnographic soundtracks and diaphanous exercises in melodic sky building echo throughout the albums well-chosen thirteen tracks. These Strange-Eyed Constellations chart naturalistic wonders on AstroPilot’s ‘Dum Spiro, Spero’ (the Ukrainian producer alter ego of Dimitrix Redko, who also modernizes Marks own LTTL title track on the 20th anniversary special), and builds an empyrean Popol Vuh like tribal trance soundtrack to the female water spirits of a famous Rhine landmark rock on dr trippy’s ‘Sirens Of Lorelei’. Other notable inclusions include 100th Monkey’s Artic requiem ‘The Inuit Snow Song’, which is given an ‘Icescape’ remix of drifting Polar winds and plaintive poignancy to create a supernatural atmosphere. Meanwhile, Radium 88 traverse a Peter Gabriel sounding world trance aria with the Cocteau Twins cooed ‘The Future’s Bright The Futures Incandescent’, and Marks’ own contributions, a Shanghai 8am mix of ‘Falling Down’, leaks the sounds from the mixing desk into the studio and out the door into the early hours of a mystery environment, and ‘The Nth Degree’, chants on a down-tempo pathway to Shangri-La.
A peaceable mostly tranquil collection, SEC isn’t as such a progression in the ambient or trance music fields, rather a continuation of the early to mid 90s experiments with slight modifications. Certainly evocative at times, and always sophisticatedly divine, there isn’t really a track out of place, each complementing the other. Marks took his time, and in a world that moves on pretty quickly, this assortment dares to press pause and take reflection.
Words: Dominic Valvona
September 18, 2015
HIP HOP REVUE
Continuing to pick through all the best Hip Hop tracks, albums, mixtapes, videos and gossip Matt Oliver‘s September edition of Rapture & Verse features a stellar lineup, featuring Opio, Gangrene, Semi Hendrix, Illinformed, Sean Price, Prof, Voice Monet, RoQy TyRaiD, Statik Selektah.
Rapture & Verse is still cursing that it never got its best suit back from the dry cleaners in time for the premier of ‘Straight Outta Compton’, something of a surprise smash despite the fact Compton itself doesn’t have a cinema to play it in. Chance the Rapper, BoB and YG were reportedly among those who didn’t receive post-audition call-backs for the film bound to trigger a zillion spin-offs – ‘Dogg Pound 4 Life’ is supposedly already being penned.
Tyler the Creator was banned from the UK for past lyrical provocations, Nicki Minaj’s Madame Tussauds waxwork caused photo op-roar, and Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def challenged any rapper to a battle…before quickly sticking his fingers in his ears and hiding. Wu-Tang Clan + classic kids board game Guess Who = Guess Wu, where Christmas wishlists write themselves. Styles P and Jadakiss pledged community spirit by heading a drive to open a chain of juice bars, and Kanye, the old scamp, kept his presidential options open.
For those who enjoy shopping in second chance saloon, represses of Common’s ‘Resurrection’, Special Ed’s ‘Youngest in Charge’ and MoP’s ‘Warriorz’ will get you polishing your styluses. Then go get a front row view of Stig of the Dump rocking The Old Blue Last on October 7th, and Roots Manuva bossing Islington Assembly Hall on November 5th. Slowdown Sounds have a helluva run of guests through to the year’s end, with appearances at the Mint Festival/Mint Club by DJ Yoda, Mixmaster Mike, Mr Thing and Big Daddy Kane giving Leeds what for.
Also involved are DJ Format & Abdominal, who reunite live throughout the country for the whole of November, and The Herbaliser, who touch down at the Electric Ballroom on October 23rd – also the date for Jazzy Jeff headlining at The Scala for The Doctor’s Orders 10th birthday. Dr Syntax & Pete Cannon aim to have Manchester’s Sound Control in their pocket on October 2nd, the High Focus gang march through October with Dirty Dike and Verb T & Illinformed promoting their newest wares seven times over, and Loyle Carner has four November dates bidding to build on his one-to-watch status.
Singles & EPs
Talking of which, Loyle Carner’s ‘Florence’ recounts unrequited love with a shrug, after hours vibing that has got live lounge written all over it. Marching to a bootcamp beat, Manage & Emcee Killa are on their organ grind in a bid to get ‘On Top’, simmered down by South London’s Bakery Boys, whose ‘Get Away’ is a smooth and balmy riser; a soul-stirrer refusing to pack away its Bermuda shorts.
With the phat content of a piled-high hog roast, J-Zone shoots and scores on plump drum break ‘Seoul Power’ before declaring ‘I’m Sick of Rap’ and giving the state of the game a real kicking. As chubby of drum, Opio’s ‘Stoned Temple Pilot’ bowls on through, sub-stoner cool enhanced by a metal detector rhythm doing G-funk. Dirt gets flung in NYC’s latest status reclamation on the Beat Butcha-produced, Styles P mic-share ‘Welcome to NY’.
Over a witch’s brew of metallic maximalism befitting his Barbadian background, Haleek Maul’s ‘Love’ is a sharply angled tropical storm, and King Reign’s ‘Don’t Fall In Love’ shows off fly short-sleeved funk – though it may just be a phase the Toronto rhymer is going through. Another Canadian, Montreal’s Wasiu, brings an eight-strong mix of Southern skitters and brooding step-ups across his shapeshifting invasion of ‘MTLiens’.
If you’re feeling frostbitten and are ready to batten down the hatches, these are the gloom merchants for you. Blue Daisy’s ‘Darker Than Blue’ is hip-hop ravaged by torment, a leftfield choice for those wanting scarred poetry uncomfortably sat atop reverb and deconstruction. Made for insomniacs long after the panic button has been pushed. Roots Manuva is also holding court just outside of the doldrums, with ‘Bleeds’ a stony-hearted set of considerations and warnings that includes the use of trap templates to his austere advantage (the disconcerting ‘Crying’). Where irked beats quirks, it genuinely sounds like RM is reacting to a spell in negative isolation, rather than exercising natural elder statesman wisdom.
Those dirtbags at team Gangrene are back for another muck-spattered stand-off. Oh No and Alchemist’s latest underground dredger, fortified live in a Californian foxhole, is dismissively called ‘You Disgust Me’. It’s another effortlessly swilled cocktail of ‘Gutter Water’ and ‘Vodka & Ayahuasca’ that drags Action Bronson, Your Old Droog and Evidence into its illicit ring of psych-rock flashbacks and funk binges.
A Grand Central reunion between Aim & QnC unveils ‘The Habit of a Lifetime (And How to Kick It’). The title itself is rare folly for an album steady sticking to beats and rhymes principles, with the Long Island duo dynamic still at large and the Cold Water musician helping prioritise fundamentals over flair.
Under the ambiguous alter ego Semi Hendrix, Ras Kass and Jack Splash send teacups flying when they go for ‘Breakfast at Banksy’s’ and sling forked bangers like it’s time for Grange Hill. The latter’s signature brand of hydro R&B jams receive bench time, so RK can flippantly work over a constant shuffling of styles still calling up swagger. Enough heat here to pep up any voodoo chile. Sling Talib Kweli your email address and you’ll get a free reply of ‘Fuck the Money’, trying on a variety of styles and finding most fit.
A major bonus of assembled Jigmastas material forms ‘The Prologue’, which captures the best of DJ Spinna and Kriminul and deals in iconic late 90s/early 00s independence; a wealth of sharpness dipping into the drowsy. Chicago’s Verbal Kent drops his own formula of ‘Anaesthesia’, but it’s no remedy for the sore necks and tingling ears you’re bound to experience. Determination, knowing the right way to go about things, a sense of pride in professionalism and a disconcerting cackle will have you breathing this in by the lungful. Caught between formats, Method Man’s ‘The Meth Lab’ is utterly awash with guests and seems content on only hitting an above average bar. Serviceable, if not one to take up residence in memory banks.
Verb T and Illinformed’s ‘The Man With the Foggy Eyes’ is assured, jazz-dappled goodness that can charge out from the middle lane to put a pair of pedigree top boys at the front of the grid. No clouded vision here, just long-established wit and wisdom. Illinformed also parades ‘The Mould Tape’, and whereas his Verb T collaboration was by handwritten invite only, here he fronts up 14 knockers and arms Leaf Dog, Smellington Piff, Lee Scott, Split Prophets, Q Unique and many more with megaphones. Almost sneaking past RnV’s ears, Philly B’s guest-loaded ‘Let It Play’, an impressive UK inventory lead by Jam Baxter, Dubbledge and Dabbla, holds down head bobs and ragga twinges still convinced the sun’s gonna come and play.
A nifty freebie from Deacon the Villain bags up a bunch of instrumental versions from his list of credits; always nice on the drums and rhythm, the collection shows it’s cool to take a breather from looking for the right rhyme. Pack mentalists Snowgoons are at it again, ‘Gebrüder Grimm’ dropping more hip-hop anvils and inviting like-minded knuckle-crackers Ill Bill, Apathy & Celph Titled and Reef the Lost Cauze to their latest cross-European headbanger rally. Sean Price’s final project, the posthumous ‘Songs in the Key of Price’, is a small snapshot of the Heltah Skeltah man’s curt niceness and domination of the mic device that has the mic stand buckling in fear once he steps up.
Mixtapes & VT
Funk and soul sultan Sam Redmore has done us all favour and put together a slick half hour mix of a dozen-plus Jungle Brothers favourites – go improve your playlist. Big-ups to Sammy B-Side as well, who selflessly goes through the High Focus back cat, picks 19 beauties for the ‘Highly Focused Selections’ mixtape, and watches a mighty free-for-all unfold involving all of the label’s merry men.
Come see the bird’s eye views of Prof and RoQy TyRaiD, Statik Selektah showing off and Voice Monet making sure everyone knows her name.
Words: Matt Oliver
Catch more from Matt Oliver in the Rapture & Verse archives….
September 16, 2015
Various ‘Feeling Nice Vol. 3’ (Tramp Records)
LP released 2nd October 2015
Pulling up at the jukebox pit stop with another salivating treasure trove from the funk trunk, Tramp keep the Feeling Nice vibe going with another volume of deep soul cuts. Procured from both near and far and from choice rare collections, Tramp selects 16 tracks of hot-footing, shoe-shuffling exuberance and at times highly enthusiastic break-neck R&B and funky soul for your aural pleasure.
Either too raw, unsophisticated and rowdy, or just lacking that essential spark of quality – a riff, melody or perhaps that defining break – that keeps if from the Billboard charts and instead resigns it to relative obscurity, the common cause of these chosen records is that they all remained undersold and on the peripheral. Certainly some are feverish and arguably more bedded in soul than their commercial counterparts: the edges are rougher; something you can’t always quite put your finger on but can hear why it failed to leap out and grab the public. Many were themselves influenced by titans of the scene – the J.B.’s being one obvious looming inspiration. Others though were merely trials; end of the session run outs, an excuse to let off steam. Some of these artists lacked the funds, contacts or nerve to get any further.
A Nuggets of deep soul then, though enthusiasts and collectors will already know of or even own many of the 45s on offer, it is still a handy compilation to have. Rare curiosities and rave-ups include the driving 1977 (horns over the San Francisco harbor) “funk masterpiece” from Nadine Brown ‘Leave Me Alone’, and the, picked up in Jamaica, supernatural saxophone nuzzling, reverb heavy Oladepo Ogomodede cover of The Isley’s ‘It’s Your Thing’. Produced, dashed off, in the dyeing minutes of their 30 minute recording session, Leroy & The Drivers slick Bar-Keys flavored funk-frizzled funeral organ work out boosts a detuned breakdown, and the no-hit wonders (with scarcely enough material it seems to fill an EP) Jack & The Mods’ (ages ranging from 6 to 18) self-titled James Brown party boogaloo riot was found by accident in a rundown shack in rural Virginia. For the Northern soul crowd there’s a furnace blast of “ahhhhh, good God!’” strutting funk from Clarence Reid, his ‘I Get My Kicks’ a renowned rarity on the Alston label, and the super soul opener ‘Your Soul Searching Heart’ from William Cummings. But a real highlight for your humble reviewer, is the thumping breakbeat shortnin’ Bread ‘Ghetto Boogie’ from Ellen Jackson. What a track! You’re very lucky indeed if you have one of these in your collection.
With the usual diligent linear notes, photos, and the first 400 of the 1000 vinyl editions being pressed featuring a bonus 7” from William Cummings – his now very expensive 45 ‘Make My Love A Hurting Thing’, pushed up to eye-watering sums by the Northern soul community – Feeling Nice Volume 3 sits in a congruous position alongside previous editions. A groove-heavy selection, raucous and often raw, Tramp’s jukebox prompts infectious breakouts of unadulterated dancing.
Words: Dominic Valvona
September 14, 2015
SEA+AIR ‘Evropi’ (Glitterhouse Records)
LP released on 7th September 2015
Once upon a time we had to say goodbye to our beloved crops, soil for the land once nurturing chased the last drop of human warmth from its core. Sea+Air with a mixture of discreet sadness and melancholia shows the palpable feeling of deep wounds, through oriental nomadic melodies, a rhythm that blows like a fast wind. Both lead singers are touched by grace, they walk on tip toe as they caress the listener’s spirit with gentle vocal harmonies, whimsical sighs and yet empowered fist like souls, made of steel.
Through the mantic chant of ancient men and the angelic quivering of both performers, we are projected in a modern fairy tale, we watch the traces left on the path of a wide desert: There’s a sense of departure, never lacking anxiety and yet mixed here with hope and beauty, effortlessly rendered in the album, with songs like ‘We All Have To Leave Someday’ or ‘Pain Is Just A Cloud’, ‘Lady Evropi’.
The music carries in its heart the blurred sparkle of the ancients; Sea+Air, in a long and resigned whisper, bid an eternal farewell to a space and time filled before by humankind, to the mother of all mothers, to the Lucy that we were once who rests in a mount of dust and rocks, to the past with all its adventurous wonders and gloominess.
The band makes their own past the past of us all, by adding elements of all ages: here the timbales of a castle in Europe, there a sophisticated clarinet, lively pop tunes from the 80s even, yet the soul remains old, charged with heavy experience lying in all hearts that they manage to extract beautifully.
There is a fierce demonic sensuality in the tracks. The birth screech of a child in the streets of an old town, on the side of a hill that existed for centuries, a forest as wild as an untamable roaring nature, the sob pierces the universe’s thin fabric swallowing us in it. Nature is good, but there is pain within it. Everything is raw on the album; it is tormented, gentle and peacefully charged with an intuitive musical freedom, creating a sort of historical, ethnic pop.
There is no desire for revenge in the atmosphere, instead compassion, courage, the wish to open one’s eye: Mischief lived by one, is mischief lived by all. All this comes out from the 12 tracks of Evropi. All that, and much more.