LP  REVIEW

U.S. Girls Half Free - Monolith Cocktail review

U.S. Girls  ‘Half Free’  (4AD)  LP released 25th September 2015


Beckoned to the label hotbed of deconstructive cerebral pop 4AD, the Illinois raised, Toronto relocated, polygenesis songstress Meg Remy continues to entrance with her latest U.S. Girls album Half Free. Transmogrifying the template evocation of Ronnie Spector and The Shirelles with a fresh perspective and penchant for glitter ball maladies, neon lit dub and glamorous scintillating bubblegum pop, Remy’s moiety of revisionary girl group backbeats and venerable candid, highly unsettling laments address an myriad of issues, from disparity between the sexes to the growing pains of modern womanhood – cue the unsettling vignette ‘Telephone Play No.1’, which plays out as a phone call catch-up between siblings but then unnervingly reinforces a deep resentment on stereotype psychology.

Her most dazzling, hypnotically eclectic album yet, both thematically and musically, Half Free is essentially a highly sophisticated and gracefully slick pop triumph: On a parallel, alternative timeline this could have been (stay with me on this one) a Camille Paglia championed Madonna era masterpiece from the mid 80s; her veracious sensual heartache and woozy dream like escapism is certainly evoked at various times throughout the album. Madonna aside, Meg takes on the mantle of various female personalities and vamps, but often desexualizes and reduces their carnal allure to a sense of isolation and discomfort. Her cast of troubled personas this time around owes a debt to the characters of John Cassavetes and Michael Ondaatje, and to the broken down protagonist of a lost 70s plaintive disco classic.

U.S. Girls Half Free - Monolith Cocktail review


Channeling the wallowing despair of Ronnie Spector, and loosely walking the line of the troubled Nora Bass from Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter novel, on the opening churning looped melodrama ‘Sororal Feelings’, Meg’s sisterly pleads of the broken wife yearningly progress through a Lee Hazelwood envisioned deep southern soundtrack: the strange fruit and methodology metaphorically replaced: “Going to hang myself. Hang myself from a family tree.” An emotional draining start, which grows on you with repeated plays, Sororal is followed up by the super-charged dub reggae hybrid ‘Damn That Valley’ – perhaps the most refreshing slice of on-message pop in 2015. Taking her cue from the acclaimed journalist Sebastian Junger’s Afghanistan front reportage War chronicles, Meg rages with a reverberating wall of sonic shrilling and grief as an imagined war widower riling against the futility and platitude sentiments of the government. Beating out an electro sound clash, part N.Y. City no wave of the early 80s, part Mikey Dread Jamaican dancehall, long time collaborator and Toronto producer Onakabazien takes it to the next level.

Already aired, Damn That Valley is the most colourfully vibrant of a trio of songs released since May in the run up towards the release of the LP. The second of these, ‘Woman’s Work’, closes the album. Extended from its more radio and video friendly version to a fading seven-minute plus requiem, the female gaze is sinisterly reproached by a Cindy Sherman posing façade and operatically Baroque gilded Moroder soundtrack. Amplifying the venerable atmospherics, Meg is joined by the siren sonic ethereal pitch of Ice Cream’s Amanda Grist – who can also be heard doubling-up on the Damn That Valley vocals – as they traverse an eerie veil of Catholic electro.

Released in more recent weeks, the last of this trio ‘Window Shades’ revives Gloria Ann Taylor’s original 70s unrequited disco ballad ‘Love Is A Hurting Thing’. Stumbled upon by Meg’s husband and DFA label signed artist Slim Twig (who contributes throughout the album); a touch of Madonna blusher and woozy glitter ball noir is added, whilst the universal theme is updated: apparently written after Meg watched the cod-autobiographical documentary Part Of Me, the meme circus spotlight on the life of Katie Perry that even with a soft coating of saccharine idolisation exposes the cracks and fatuous nature of celebratory.

Elsewhere on the album Meg appropriates the bubble gum glam of Bolan and the spikey punk beat of The Misfits on ‘Sed Knife’ (a minimal poem set to a bouncing backbeat, originally released as the B-side to 2012’s ‘Rosemary’). Whilst she offers an elegantly cool, misty oscillating sonorous bass-y air of mystique, – piqued by cold war jarred piano note suspense – clandestine variant on the spy thriller soundtrack with ‘New Age Thriller’: The actual battle it seems is between self-respect and male pressure. Red lipstick marks the collar of the churning, western guitar twanged, murky ‘Red Comes In Many Shades’, which itself borrows from the put-upon, downbeat beauty of Nancy Sinatra. Whether intentional or not, the song sounds like a slowed down version of New Age Thriller, and thematically dissects the struggles, and in this case, the betrayal of an affair.

 

Honing the darkness and plight of what was always celebrated as the innocent, teenage growing pains of adolescence with more gravitas, Meg’s robust themes swim amorphously through the dry-ice, crystal waves of the late 70s and 80s to produce a post modern pop triumph. Progressing from the basement tapes and reverberated Spector sonic loops of the past to her latest incarnation as the pining pop artist, Meg Remy’s production values are highly ambitious: her previous work a precursor series of experimental outings. Without a doubt Half Free is her best, most mature, meticulous and glorious sounding collection of songs yet.

  

Words: Dominic Valvona
















Public-Enemey-Products_DELUXE_B_WHITE_V2


Shorn of singles, EPs and curio odd tracks the regular Tickling Our Fancy round up has been re-jigged slightly and is now wholly dedicated to the LP.

A motley crew of albums for you this week, from the sublime to the blind leading the blind and most inane weirdoes, with entries from Bixigia 70, Public Enemy, The Telescopes, CAT AIDS & DJ URINE and Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut.


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Bixigia 70   ‘III’   (Glitterbeat Records)   11th September 2015


Speaking Fela fluently with marked respect and reverence, going as far as to borrow part of the late Nigerian bandleader and doyen of Afrobeat’s backing group moniker, Bixigia 70 may be inspired and informed but Kuti but they do so much more with his high energy polyrhythms and feverish hot-footed anthems. The eclectic Sao Paulo band, returning from a recent global tour off the back of the last album Ocupi adds even more flavour to the Afrobeat template. Energised by their performances in the hotbeds of fusion, from North Africa to Europe, and working with a decentralised method of producing new material, their third LP (conveniently entitled III) reaches out and embraces an even richer array of world sounds.

Finding a natural new home with Glitterbeat Records, Bixigia 70 confidently and organically lures the listener in with the woozy horn opener ‘Ventania’. A cornucopia of influences in itself, the song saunters magically to nuzzling drifting soul jazz, Samba sways and twinkled sleepy Hammond organ notes. Moving towards Africa, a tropical sweltering heat wave of relaxed and strident Ginger Baker works with Fela on a version of Shaft in Lagos soundtrack is evoked on the following ‘Niran’, and the lingering dusky tones of the finest imported Ethio-jazz enrapture ‘Lembe’. There may even be a spiritual nod to the Afro futurists of jazz, Pharaoh Sanders and Idris Muhammed’s presence – certainly in the introduction’s roots-y and blues-y cerebral sentiments – on the album’s finale ‘7 Pancades’: a pinning saxophone ushers in a vine-swinging pendulous Afro jazz backing.

Incorporating the rhythms and dances of their own continental home, Bixigia shake and shimmy to the local customs of cumbia and the sensual hip movements of the carimbo on a trio of slinky paeans to the indomitable spirit of joyous release.

Congruously they go, flowing from one source to the next deftly, passionately and with a raw powered energy, our Brazilian friends new relationship with Glitterbeat has proved to be a sound move; an ideal home for the group’s ever expanding fields of sound and exploration.







PE - Metropolis Live

Public Enemy   ‘Live From Metropolis Studios’





“London is ground zero, this is Public Enemy’s base.” Chuck D

“28 years in.” And so Chuck D, grandee progenitor of the most hardline, volatile charged protestations in Hip Hop, announces in 2014 to a very lucky Metropolis Studios audience of fans. For a musical form granted the same fatuous decries as the advent of rock and roll – a flash in the pan, a fad -, it’s an achievement to have lasted more than three decades and still remain relevant. But in one form or another Chuck and his comrades-in-arms have been manning the barricades since their inaugural baptism of fire in 1987, lighting the touch paper with their debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show.

Far from diminishing returns in popularity and creativity, Public Enemy has enjoyed a renaissance of late. With a flurry of celebratory anniversary collections, the reappraisal (not that one was ever needed) of their greatest opus on wax, the conceptual masterpiece that is Fear Of A Black Planet, the inspired use of their ‘Harder Than You Think’ as the theme tune for Channel Fours Summer Paralympics 2012 coverage, and the release of their thirteenth studio album Man Plans God Laughs, the group have once again caught the zeitgeist. And now, a year after their special one-off performance, the live recordings and video footage taken at the Metropolis show is finally being released to the world. On film you can chose the bog standard DVD or the high definition Blu-ray, whilst the sound recordings versions vary between double CD or Vinyl versions to the obligatory Super Deluxe box set: boasting all the above but with cleared pressed vinyl plastic and a 12” booklet plus a MP3 download coupon.

Quite an intimate gathering in an unassuming location, the Metropolis show attempts to close claustrophobic style in on Public Enemy’s powerful and reverent performances; the roof threatening to literary lift off as Chuck and Flavour Flav let rip to a crowd that is barely a arms length away from the action. Trying to light a fuse with the usual barrage of bombastic Bomb Squad drum breaks and missile-guided samples, supported by their usual live band, the S1Ws and DJ Lord, PE are able and willing, even if the wear and tear of age tires to scupper proceedings, to raise the audiences enthusiasm and “bring the noise”. Kicking off a greatest hits package in a volatile fashion with the warm up saluting the legends of Hip Hop (“Publlllllllllllllic Enemy!!!”), a siren flashed air raid is unloaded on the studio as the group launch into ‘Lost At Birth’ from their Apocalypse 91… LP. From the same ’91 release, PE perform raucous, and by this time after forty minutes without catching breathe, a energy-sapped but still decent version ‘Can’t Truss It’, and an exhaustive and more rounded funked out free riffing take on ‘Shut Em Down’.

 

Going way, way back to where it all began, Yo! Bum Rush The Show is represented by the sole car screech like punctured scratching anthem of ‘Miuzi Weighs A Ton’, with the lion’s share of material coming from their duo of most impressive albums, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear Of A Black Planet. Pulled from It Takes A Nation, the growled, J.B’s riff heavy, rap anthem ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ hasn’t aged a bit and is handled with sagacious pride by Chuck. ‘Black Steel In The Hour’ makes a worthy appearance, as does the Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s borrowed wondrous pining saxophone rich ‘Show ‘Em Whatcha Got’ instrumental vignette. And what PE performance would be the same without a jumping, bouncy call-out version of ‘Bring The Noise’ and, in this case, a swinging chopped funk guitar riffing ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’? From the latter album, the spotlight falls upon Flav, who laps up the attention and conducts the audience in a call and response introduction to ‘911 Is A Joke’, later on having fun with ‘Can’t Do Nuttin’ For You Man’. A song, an unwieldy maelstrom and strafe attack of a tune that I find captures the group’s genius is ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’. Not undervalued as such, it doesn’t seem to be as highly regarded as, another live staple, ‘Fight The Power’ (the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and synonymous with the end of the 80s civil unrest and ferocious calls for change). It appears with grit and veracity here, fading out until Chuck and Flav perform acapella to a live drum backing as they freestyle into the next track.

 

They finish of course on the revitalised ‘Harder Than You Think’, one of their returns to the glory days, a fist pumping stirring tribute to the trade and history of both rap and PE. Taken from their twentieth anniversary LP How To Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? – As harsh a condemnation on the state of modern music and civil rights as you can get – was a flammable retort, and its rousing anthem to survival in the industry. An inspired choice, brought back and somewhat out of its original context, it fitted perfectly to the spirit and mood of London’s 2012 Paralympic Games, and is now another staple of the PE live sets.

Chuck informs us that he “ain’t retiring”, and that’s a relief. Though fatigued at times, the 55 year old Chuck and 56 (!!) year old Flav still sound just an animated, angry, and on form – Flav in my opinion never sounding more fresher and energised. Alongside KRS-One, PE are the only Hip Hop artists to have survived so long and remain so relevant, and live they still maintain the adulated status as figureheads, whilst showing up their younger rivals.



The Telescopes   ‘Hidden Fields’   (Tapete)   7th August 2015



Like their Scottish counterparts, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Telescopes have over their career mined the depths of despair for a hint, a glimmer, of unearthing all the best caustic and abrasive hewn melodies. Approaching their thirtieth anniversary, and now onto album number eight, the vapoured drone experimentalists are still mopping around in the gloom as they drag out tunes from the abyss.

Breaking the bones of the Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground over a rocky primordial landscape, The Telescopes’ ‘anti-myopian’ forms of daemonic shoegaze and discordant sculpted feedback can be a hypnotically sensorial experience despite the corrosive gnawing of white noise. When Mogadon‘s roamed the Earth, Hidden Fields emerges whining from the soup, slumbering onto mount doom with the opening opus, ‘You Know The Way’; a seething mass of high pitched feedback that sharpens its ritualistic spear on Sunn O))) and Boris – two groups that have arguably benefitted from the band’s template. Following in its wake, both ‘Absence’ and ‘In Every Sense’ slip between the pit and the pendulum as Stephen Lawrie’s vocals dissipate; our protagonist’s obscured murmurings are transmitted from the shoreline of the topographic oceans. Even in the miasma, a quivered sliver of sensuality can be heard fighting to break free.

The final track really does sound like “THE FINAL”; an ending that drags its carcass hypnotically back towards the tar pits at the dawn of time on ‘The Living Things’, the album’s suitable epitaph. Aping the lord of dark morose and salvation, Lawrie’s Lou Reed intonations are lost to the lengthy and churning Venus In Furs sonic vista on this lengthy peregrination.

The Telescopes latest is a densely occupied suite of “Heavy Meta”, a prolonged journey through a dense field of fuzz and feedback that promises little respite for the listener but offers a glimpse of hope once in a while.





Cat AIDS and Dj Urine

CAT AIDS & DJ Urine  ‘CAT AIDS & DJ Urine’ (Nasty Wizard Recordings) 18th June 2015

From the twisted minds of Nasty Wizard, via the regular round up of crazed, maniacal and most esoteric music, the Ring Of Fire newsletter (sent out by Metal Postcard Records), comes the piss soaked kitty litter indulgences of Beijing’s finest, CAT AIDS. The Wizard’s house band so to speak, the Cat’s plunder GG Allin’s defecated offerings and post punk’s treasure trove to offer the most repellent noise and squalor D.I.Y ravings. I’m told that this time around the band have reemerged as a trio with the additional skills of virtuoso session guitarist Meow Ze Bong – not that you can tell. I have no idea what the hell is actually going on at any point during the bands seven song fiasco, only that they produce an ironical row; a bastardized shambles of The Killing Joke, PiL and industrial bellowing. It could be an utter waste of all our time, or perhaps one of the best things to ever be recorded. Nan Guazi’s rutting shark mounting a lovesick (spewing) unicorn cover art is worth the entry price alone, but the band surprise us all with their sometimes melodic, bass guitar prowls: sounding even vaguely sensible and serious on ‘Selfish Nation’ and ‘Heart Transplant’.




As you may have gleamed from the title, this is a shared experience with half the album’s running time given to DJ Urine’s deviant tasting misshapen soundscapes. Another of these underground miscreants, going about their noise shows, happenings and extemporized performances without any hope of exposure, Urine’s cut and paste mixes are absurd, weird and accompanied by a constant fuzz of tinnitus on the featured ‘Kosmos Bakelit’. Randomly splicing back together a car boot of smashed up and degraded records, the piss master plays his hybrid monstrosities live to an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes, as on this particular mix, happenstance coincidence and the odd in synch loop result in some exotic or tuneful highlights. The Bakelit’s dial is honed in on 40s and 50s matinees, goofball UFO stories, Foley sounds, faux-pastiches of the Orient and African jungles, and tales from the hokum crypt, all accompanied throughout by a steady stream of traffic, static and withering white noise.

I’m not sure if featuring this unholy union will just encourage them, but it’s too late now to turn back. I’m a sharing, giving sort of guy, and so here you are, Beijing’s least hopeful or best musical hope yet.




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Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut   ‘GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! PEANUT PUNK!’  (Musical Bear Records) 21st August 2015


Serving various diatribes and affronted shots across the bow of modern life in “peanut punk” morsels, Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut confront the mediocre, inanity and banality of both below stairs and the elite custodians of society’s shitpile. Hitting home without the Ritalin starved pecking ferocity of many; the group narrows its attacks on a collection of sneering, sarcastic catchphrase song titles. We’re in the disused, piss-stained mattress Sleaford Mods ballpark here, yet Here Are The Young Men and Uncle Peanut are more composed, less volatile and in many ways, more humorous: like David Shrigley or Modern Toss put to a cheap post punk combo of Casio keyboard pre-sets, Sham 69 and The Fall.

Not so much poetic, not really rap but observational snatches of overheard misnomers, condemnations and Estuary patois; their debut LP takes potshots at a cast of life’s most cunty personalities – including that 80s Tom Cruise throwback ‘Les Fucking Pardy’, and the middle management, rep company stooge on the road to a lifetime of delusion, ‘Job Satisfaction John’. Elsewhere there’s good use of Timothy Carey’s “Boys. Never but never, make fun of no cripple now” lines from The Monkee’s most excellent Head movie, on the knockabout, and I take it localism, ’78 Bamsey’, and a cake shop sexual predilection tale of GILF woe on ‘Custard Doughnuts’. A litany of the most vapourous pop glitterati troubadours are given short shrift on ‘This Is What We Call Music’, and there’s (and I can sympathise with this; a sufferer in my past) an incessant snarling retort to the bastard ‘Migraine’.

Ennui hasn’t time to set in, as each track barely troubles the two minute mark – well, a couple do -, the band are in and out, doing the damage and leaving before the bill arrives. A Margate The Streets, or a sillier Sleaford Mods, Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut deliver an indictment on the betting, charity and Poundland shop proliferated landscape of a despairing England.

Words:  Dominic Valvona






Landside - Landside Part 1 - Artwork Cover

Landside   ‘Landside Part 1’
EP released 28th August 2015





Imbued and informed by the colossal awe-inspired landscape of Iceland, Denmark and the Nordic regions, the new collaboration between Milan’s Hunter/Game duo and the Icelandic band Kúra soundtracks the contours, crevices and snow-capped peaks with a palatial suite of cerebral techno. Spanning two EPs (part one released on 28th August, with part two following on the 11th September), the Landside project will be debuted on Hunter/Game’s latest label venture, Just This.

Featuring two original tracks and two remixes; EP one lays down the groundwork and promises something epic. Evoking its opening titles, ‘Silence Before The Storm’ lends gravitas to a deep techno interplay of glacier shifting beats, echoed lush stirring vocals from Fanny Osk and rolling synth textures that mirror the trepidation of a incoming natural phenomenon. A remix of the original by Benjamin Damage takes it into the world of Basic Channel, with rotor bladed chopping and hi hat clapping percussion, and sharp four to the floor techno timing. ‘Still There’ has a more deeply soulful, two-step feel, with woozy, Morse coded staggered resonating vocals from Osk and a reverberating low bass line. Max Cooper’s remix keeps most of the elements but carries the original off into beautifully lit flights of fantasy with a transient trance like revision.

Intelligently crafted to imitate the sweeping vistas, Landside takes the listener on a techno panoptic voyage.




NEW  MUSIC  ROUND  UP



Acting Strange - Monolith Cocktail


From the ever over-abundant spring of new music that threatens to drown the Monolith Cocktail and those who serve with her, we pick out just a mere small selection of the greater good and more interesting releases. A companion if you will to our Tickling Our Fancy revue, this polygenesis round up with concentrate on singles, EPs and what you might call the miscellaneous. Our inaugural collection includes Cool Ghouls, Afriquoi, Fine, It’s Pink, Nadia Nair, The Provincials, Virginia Sook & Lake Michigan, David Lawrie and Acting Strange.

Afriquoi ‘Kudaushe (ft Kudaushe Matimba)’   (Wormfood Records)   Free taster from the upcoming LP Kolaba, released 11th September 2015





As African music finally looks to be breaking free of its fatuous ‘world music’ categorisation in the west, a new generation already at ease with both their heritage and the contemporary sounds of the last thirty years, seeks to embody the continents eclectic tastes. Many of us have heard over the years the lost reissues from Africa’s golden era of the late 60s through to the 70s, and many of us have also been hypnotised by the resurgence in Tuareg desert blues: practiced by such legendary nomadic groups as Tinariwen and Tamikrest. Equally at home with the traditional sounds of the Congo, Gambia, Botswana and, on this featured track, Zimbabwe, as they are with dancehall, dubstep, funky house music and glitch, the polygenesis Afriquoi offer a unique revitalisation of cultural exchanges.

Billed as a deeply rooted project, rather than ‘a one-off collaboration’ between a mix of musicians from all over Africa and the UK (were the band have pitched up and now live), the group has been working together for the last four years on their first major release, the upcoming LP Kolaba. Joining Jally Kebba Suso (kora), Fiston Lusambo (guitar), André Espeut (Vocals), Nico Bentley (live electronics) and André Marmot (percussion) for the album’s free taster track, the virtuoso Harare founder member – one of the only bands playing Zimbabwean dance music in Europe – and marimba specialist Kudaushe Matimba joins the Afriquoi for a bright and jaunty, uplifting slice of marching carnival and High Life radiant electronica, ‘Kudaushe’. Promising an eclectic mix of styles, pitching Congolese soukous and rumba with Jamaican dancehall, and Mandinka griot with drum and bass, this could be the year’s most vibrant performance.

Expect a full album review at some point over the next month. You can catch the band showcasing their new album at London’s South Bank Centre on the 11th September, where they will be joined by the scintillating company of African Head Charge, Kog + The Zongo Brigade, Electric Jalaba with the Nubiyan Twist on DJ duty.


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Cool Ghouls   ‘Creature That I Am/ See You Around’ (Dizzybird Records)   Single released October 23rd 2015





No panic and a little early I know, but San Francisco’s Cool Ghouls are currently promoting their upcoming American tour with a pre-emptive taster of their next single, the double A sider ‘Creature That I Am/ See You Around’. Released in October on Dizzybird Records, the band keep up the 60s beat, country and garage rock flame alive with another Beau Brummels-Gene Clarke-Syndicate of Sound-Thirteenth Floor Elevators inspired jaunt. An extension if you will of their Monolith Cocktail praised 2014 LP A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye, the band take a convertible trip down the Sunset Stripe before slipping the automatic into cruise control through the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood.



Nadia Nair   ‘Hardships’   Single released 28th August 2015



Pouring a rich heritage of Swedish and Malaysian Indian into her soulful polygenesis form of electronica and vacuous resonating, almost mystical, R&B pop, Nadia Nair carves out a distinct niche for herself in a field heavy populated by less sophisticated and sonorous voices.

Influenced as much by the late Ravi Shankar as by M.I.A., her latest single ‘Hardship’ also benefits from the Lorde School of production, and mixes tribal drum loops with downplayed but ambitious all the same, crescendos to produce something incredible and raw. Whilst she doesn’t emerge from just nowhere – Nair has been releasing tracks and EPs for the past few years, and collaborating with fellow Swedish compatriots – this single will propel her to a wider audience.



Acting Strange   ‘Night On The Tiles’   (In Black Records)   EP released 8th September 2015





Regular readers and followers of the Monolith Cocktail will know we recently upped sticks and moved our HQ to Glasgow from Sussex; one of the main benefits being the music and arts scene. With a new energized appetite and Scottish bent to our site, we’ve been sousing out the locals. One such Glasgow band is the Mersey beat inspired Acting Strange duo of cousins Ali and Billy Strange. Forged both in the city’s East End and in the taxidermy workshop of their late uncle Gabby who taught them guitar and a variety of other instruments when they visited his Oban retreat during their summer holidays, the Acting Strange sound is a throwback to the halcyon but raw songwriting days of the 60s, with an occasional nod in the direction of the Velvet Underground and Dylan.

Leaping out from the upcoming new Night On The Tiles EP, with a shambling north of Hadrian’s Wall ‘Rumble’ through early T-Rex and the Fab Four, their opening flourish of acoustic bashing Canned Heat – with Beck style slide and leftfield verve of country bluegrass – is an encouraging start to proceedings. They follow it up with more Scouse lilt, but with a side order of Dagenham’s The Tremeloes, on the whimsical ballad ‘Dreaming Away’, channel the spirit of Lennon on the jangly ‘Universe Blues’, and evoke the La’s via the hazy distant resonance of a harmonica playing Dylan on ‘Oh No’.

An apt tribute to their dear ol’ uncle Gabby, Acting Strange recorded their mini showcase in his workshop (days before it was pulled down), on a haphazard and antiquated Tascam 8 track. The sagacious gathered dust; memories and tributary atmosphere of their surroundings can be heard throughout this rambling quartet of back beat inspired observations on modern life’s idiosyncrasies.



Fine, It’s Pink   ‘Young Burns’   Single released 25th September 2015



A sonic road well travailed, the Romanian psych rock and wistfully melodramatic trip-hop band Fine, It’s Pink attentively soar towards aria style heights on their debut single ‘Young Burns’. Slowly lilting in a lucid dreamy world, inhabited by a veiled presence of Radiohead and Warpaint, with a cooing vocal floating on the breeze, this wafting journey drifts into the realms of a less somber, bluesy Portishead.

Not the most encouraging of band mythologies, FIP formed in an Iaşi (the former capital of the long since renamed Principality of Moldavia, and once, for a brief period during WWI, the capital of Romania – I’m just showing off now) karaoke bar. Starting out as a covers band in 2013, they’ve since concentrated on writing their own material, influenced by a diverse range of artists and sounds that includes Alt-J, Pink Floyd and Sigur Ros. Gaining attention at home as one of the brightest new musical hopes, they now seek ambitions abroad, and you can help them by embracing this, their inaugural, fantasy to the pure of heart.



Virginia Sook & Lake Michigan  ‘Spilt’  (Ruined Smile)   Spilt LP on tape released 6th August 2015





From the surreptitious Brisbane label Ruined Smile a new ‘spilt’ LP – Well it’s called an album, but it’s more in keeping with the EP concept; very short and only four tracks in total, split between two acts -, shared by the rustic Australian down home Virginia Sook and York’s erstwhile attic troubadour Lake Michigan.

For a label more suited to the Lo Fi and D.I.Y. ascetics, this curious companionship between the two artists boasts one of their most commercially viable contributions yet. With her charming cooing, earnest country tones, accompanied by a tenderly plucked group of fellow red soil travellers, Sook’s muted ballads recall an American mythology rather than Australian one; redolent of the Heartless Bastards, a more subdued lamentable Lone Justice and The Band. The production and playing is kept humble, frail almost with soothing reassurance, and is the kind of Lo Fi country that could fly. Very downplayed, understated, but tinkling with a quivered melody and benevolent beauty.

Meanwhile Christopher Marks, otherwise known as Lake Michigan, continues to strum, pick and dejectedly lean on his acoustic guitar whilst mumbling a lamentable moiety of pained cut-price poetic Cohen and John Cale morose eulogies. Drifting through troubled waters like some lost 70s English songwriter down on his luck, supping liberally from a bottle of red wine, Marks’s languid and trailing heartaches are languid, almost sleepy, but charged. Tenderly he goes on his contributions: ‘Esme’ an almost sighing reflection on age and fragility; ‘Sunspots’ a rejected, miserable break up that even the radiant weather can’t fix.



The Provincials   ‘Ascending Summer’





Ascending summer on the Isle of Wight, The Provincials have taken a serendipitous meander along my old hometown of Ryde for their latest video. Taken from their recently featured EP of the same title, their paean to both the Island and the summer solstice is a serene and gentle seasonal breezy folk, hinting at a Pentangle and jazz influence, blessed song; delivered with light and diaphanous calm by the band’s vocalist Polly Perry, who penned this song in memory of the holidays she used to have there.

With its sun-dappled auras and esoteric western soundtrack tinged musings, the Ascending Summer EP is a joyful, sensuous ode to the, now unfortunately, passing season.




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David Lawrie   ‘Dorothea EP’  (Ishikawa Records)  EP released 21st August 2015





Taking a keen interest in the progress and development of the York, currently residing in California, chamber pop and electronic Baroque troubadour David Lawrie since his stark and magically laid-bare Storm Petrel EP of 2013, the Monolith Cocktail has marked each new step of his intriguing career.

A modern John Donne figure, flouting a romantic and cosmological version of alternative pop music, Lawrie’s seminal and cerebral last offering, the crowd funded Dorothea’s Boat album, is one of the year’s best-kept secrets. With its rich menagerie tableau of allegorical symbolist animals, totem sound beating drums and Toto meets the Animal Collective in a halcyon panoramic kingdom of wonder vibe; the record’s centerpiece Dorothea was a blossoming triumph. A few months later, with not only glowing critical evaluation but also many others under his belt, Lawrie has since produced a record for Echo Wants Her Voice Back, and as chief sound designer contributed foley, effects and the opening theme to David Diley’s feature length docu-film Of Shark And Man. That opening soundtrack is included on this congruous expansion of the original LP, the B-side to Dorothea. ‘The Opportunity’ is a deft piece of intricate, spindly plucked chamber that has Lawrie lamenting to the sea in a quasi-Dave Gahan style: a perfect introduction to the morose beauty of the docu-film it accompanies, which itself receives a director’s cut premiere screening in London this month.

The second half of this EP features a slower, more trance and blissfully airy remix version of the two-step pastoral, and organic timepiece ‘Over, Under’, and a stripped-down, au naturel acoustic version of ‘Traffic Lights At Night’, recorded live in the forest.

Working away on it for months, David will be unveiling his eagerly anticipated ‘Dorothea’ video this Friday. Until then, you can catch up on this wonderful diorama addition oeuvre.

Words:  Dominic Valvona




HIP HOP ROUND UP 



Public Enemy - Monolith Cocktail


Matt Oliver continues to bring you all the gossip along with the best new cuts, videos, mixtapes and albums from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. Mentions this month for Kendrick Lamar (well his trainers anyway), Ocean Wisdom, Verb T, Skuff050 Boyz, Public Enemy and shout outs for the following team ups, L’Orange and Kool Keith; Tragedy, KRS-One and AG; and Skepta, Tempa T, Chip, Wretch32 and Ghetts.


Normally the Rapture & Verse intro is light of heart, what with Chief Keef wanting to run for Chicago mayor, Chance the Rapper joining the personalised homebrew brigade, Run the Jewels debuting the first track of their moggy-related sideline, and a petition wanting OutKast to be added to Atlanta’s Stone Mountain monument. But hip-hop has been rather a serious business in this last month. There’s Dr Dre’s new album, which isn’t the perennial white elephant ‘Detox’, and two significant beefs. The barney between Meek Mill and Drake had gossip folks foaming, trading blows after impersonating a poison pen-pal program, and Action Bronson (fresh from offering punters gift verses and personalised birthday greetings) was put in his place by a miffed Ghostface; a prompt apology didn’t nip matters in the bud either. The untimely death of Sean Price, keenly felt by the underground community, gave the squabbles some perspective.

In other news, here’s a pic of Kendrick Lamar’s new Reebok trainer.

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Singles & EPs

Ruggedness with heart on sleeve from Kyza and TE1 on the ‘Ourverione’ EP has you by the scruff of your neck in one hand while holding a mirror to the streets in the other, brewing up six strong storms. Another diamond half dozen bags up ‘Evidence’ collected by Dr Syntax and Pitch, funk busters rightly claiming to be “the cat’s whiskers and the dog’s bollocks”, and Brighton’s Ocean Wisdom absolutely peels open Dirty Dike’s crime thriller banger ‘Walkin’’ with a flow to roast the second-rate.

 



Also with fine toothpick and magnifying glass, Verb T is in prime predatory form as he and Illinformed ram home pre-album taster ‘First Stone’ like a brick through a glasshouse. Elliot Fresh’s arid humour on ‘Kebab Vomit’ comes after trying to straighten himself out by ‘Surfing’; something Skuff probably has on his to-do list along with claiming the prized sunlounger on the “summer anthem in the crappy weather” ‘Cali Mist.’ Bringing a monster truck to the beach, Trigga x Chimpo x Sam Binga’s ‘Who Run Tingz’ is simply the biggest and bashiest.


Wild West pistols at dawn from the ever grimy Gangrene won’t backtrack on the threats made on ‘Reversals’, as Angelous, with his Jigga-like twang, earns his wings on grievous trap track ‘Squad Up.’ A veteran’s schooling from Tragedy, KRS-One and AG whips up a scathing symphony on the rallying ‘Modern Day Gangsta’, and DanO rides Buckwild’s searching thudder to explain what ‘Paradise’ really means. Method Man is the anchor leg for ‘Straight Gutta’, bringing home the haymakers after Streetlife, Hanz On and Redman – a decent new album alert. Nottz’ beat for Koache’s textbook golddigger tale ‘Karma’ smokes like an out-of-control BBQ, and Your Old Droog’s ‘The Nicest’ EP slides down like premium liquor; unerringly smooth and incisive.






Albums

With absolutely no Drake involvement, Ghost Writerz helm the sound system carol ‘GWz All The Way’, hip-hop given a dub dressing down by Harry Metcalfe and Jason Bradshaw. Hot bashment vibes park speaker stacks where they please and grind with an infectious bass culture giving tower blocks a jolly rogering. Through leisurely skanks and rapid fire shifting, you’ll be glad this gives it the big’un: rudebwoys that have got the right recipe for when the sun decides to don its best fitted.




Fans of Apathy presumably still have Cheshire Cat grins stuck to their faces. Not only has the Demigod piled in with 50-track blockbuster ‘The Black Lodge’ – an all-embracing monster scooping up collabs, one-offs etc, featuring all his usual tooled up buddies and including a stick-up of The Monkees theme – he also drops battle-hardened project ‘Weekend at The Cape’. Using the mic as an extra digit to flip and demonstrating his career-long toughness impervious to any comebacks, this one comes has the balls to…well, we’ll let you name that kid’s TV theme…




Self-explanatory goodness from Genesis Elijah allows you to delve into his ‘B Sides & Bootlegs’, a Brixton bull-n-a-china-shop brouhaha of underground uppercuts implicating Dubbledge, Just Blaze, Novelist, Chase & Status and Wiley.  Trap-grime emcees wielding synthesized threats muscle their way into the picture on ‘Concrete Jungle’, a comp of fast life road rap with mainstream aspirations from scene cream Skepta, Tempa T, Chip, Wretch32 and Ghetts. ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’ by Section Boyz leads the charge.

k-os brings his usual quality mix of styles and showmanship to ‘Can’t Fly Without Gravity’, continuing to rattle off route one hip-hop (‘Boyz II Men’, an all Canadian posse cut blasting infinite ammo) with R&B-fringed numbers and pop approachability. An old school ultimatum from Paul Nice and Phill Most Chill as hip-hop clean team the Fabreeze Brothers lays down lino like red carpet.

B-boy stances are held like an architect’s muse, and the stuffing of samples, one-liners and retro attitude mocks all modern day interpreters of the art – or suckers, as they’d most likely call them. An eccentrics brainstorm connecting L’Orange and Kool Keith conceptualises/wings it on ‘Time? Astonishing!’, an album so underground it’s probably hidden on the Circle Line. A chemical reaction of rundown jazz run through a re-animator and sleep-deprived rhymes of pseudo-science, creates some deep burnt gold.




New Jersey is revved and ready when native sons 050 Boyz start slamming doors. Raucous from the first whistle, the trio’s pack mentality makes sure everyone knows ‘Everything 050.’ No slow jams or jokey interludes here, just gritted teeth on some can’t-stop-won’t-stop shit throughout; it’s the sort of hip-hop that’ll get traded like contraband, where half-assed crews get demolished and bruised. From NJ to NY and teasing pun-makers into some bear-in-cakeshop imagery, Grizzly Gato study hip-hop’s bricks and mortar and construct the knockin’ ‘While You Were Sleeping’ – a duo with bigger chemistry than Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. This represents the real but is no one trick pony, keeping it “wildstyle, even on autopilot.’ Snooze, you lose. Quick mentions also for the lyrical scorch marks care of Joell Ortiz (‘Human’) and Hopsin (‘Pound Syndrome’, which features the hilariously yet painfully accurate ‘No Words’).

Blasé but with the slyest titbit of a bite under his tongue, Quelle Chris puts his Detroit smarts on slouch when crossing ‘Innocent Country’. Set up by Chris Keys’ watery, sleepy boom-bap spread on a Madlib/Jay Dilla/Declaime dustsheet, what could’ve got bogged down in vapours is instead just long enough to get semi-reflective. The ever-informative Mr Lif treads ‘Terra Bella’, fronting collaborative hip-hop past the margins with producer The Polish Ambassador and chanteuse Ayla Nereo. Of a very clear gameplan and structure, the prominent soul-pop hooks and upwardly mobile beats lay this on a plate for those seeking a little more enlightenment from promises of no BS. Sounds like a dead cert to rock live shows as well.



Mixtapes & VT

Provocateur Confz lays down ‘The East London Agreement’. Dextrously wide-eyed past midnight, forget cloud rap, this is thundercloud hip-hop from a master deliberator, scheming in a plume of digital smoke, gradually emerging from his self-created urban spectre. Do not ignore this guy’s terms and conditions. The Age of LUNA are agents on the come-up in polished, live-staged consciousness and kickbacks. Quadruple-distilled smoothness flaunting a neo-soul finish, ‘Live Under No Authority’ is hardly a lawless rampage, but slickly follows the blueprint for rap nightcaps.

‘Speak Awn Eht’ is a handy beat tape stopover from The Dopplegangaz, a travel-sized selection of spooked instrumentals and light-headed stretch-outs. Showing Brooklyn’s backbone can’t be shanked, Skanks the Rap Martyr’s ‘Back by Popular Demand’ is a street patrol you can count on, and if Finale’s ‘Odds & Ends’ didn’t give you enough of the Detroit promise-keeper, hit up House Shoes’ sidecar mix ‘Bits & Pieces’, which gives you another 50 minutes of steady Motor City knowhow.

This month, cock an eye at Sean Anonymous’ theories, MondayFriday’s condiments, Public Enemy’s latest power fight, and Philly B’s inner circle.



















LP  REVIEW


Stereo Total - Monolith Cocktail

The chic lo fi pop exponents of…well, ‘yé yé existentialism’, Stereo Total are given adulated respect in this latest compilation of their work from Blow Up Records. Compiled by Paul Tunkin, in conjunction with the Franco-German duo, this celebration charts all their kooky career highlights: from the 1995 debut, right up until their last studio LP in 2012. Who better to wax lyrically over this collection than our very own Francophone Ayfer Simms.


Stereo Total   ‘Yéyé Existentialiste’   (Blow Up)


The delirium of free spirits, tongue twisting languages brings a nice breeze of explosive pop, punk, and elastic rock genre all together mixed under a very European banner of French, German and English, even stretching the borders to Japan and…space. Romantic avant-garde movie scenes, uncanny bedrooms, rooftops with sun kissed people, disco techs, aliens, childhood melodies, Stereo Total gathers all kinds of effects and shrug their shoulders: The singer is a fiery, fragile, bony and cool chick, un peu chic and Bohem, in the grand old tradition of French women who are able to scream while whispering.

Sophisticated, outrageous, this is a good time to give you a lesson of Frenchness: with a superb elasticity of the limbs, attitude, lyrics, nonchalance, a pinch of creative bratness, the band manage to give birth to a great bold pop tune collection with catchy bouncy rhythms. The Duo is Franco-German but the prevalent spirit is without a doubt French. The compilation is quirky, non-French speakers may experience butterflies on the tip of their tongue and let a “Ohlala” escape in joy of that bistro world invaded by light headed and free beings: “I like threesome love, I know it sounds démodé”, pretty and subversive; A world of boots and sandals, of bikinis and raincoats; There’ll be some messy intercourse with robots from the 70s and some feast fights in muddy craters, and there will be more intercourse and more mischief: There’ll be rolling down a puddle of electric funny sound with a  gigantic hysterical fit of giggles, a walk to the nearest “café” big sloppy love making and expresso consumption, naked perhaps.

The tunes are bubbly and the accents suave. What is it with the French Je ne sais quoi?  The German punch? It works, in all its Saint-plicity, pray for us!



Words:  Ayfer Simms





NEW  MUSIC  REVUE


Bixiga 70 - Monolith Cocktail


We’re back again with our popular and regular round up of all the best new music from around the world. Tickling our aural delights and fancies this week, the latest re-release special from the legendary On-U Sound label, Singers & Players’ 1981 dub-generator War Of Words, the latest brooding electronic soundtrack from Evvol, and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s recent Psychocandy reenactment, Live At The Barrowlands. In shorts we have the brand new singles from Edinburgh 5-piece Delta Mainline, the Minneapolis collaboration of rapper Kristoff Krane and Camp Dark’s main man Graham O’Brien, and Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids new 45 for Berlin label Philophon Records. We also have a cut from the upcoming Bixiga 70 album for Glitterbeat Records and the new EP from Glasgow’s polygenesis rave-ups, Golden Teacher.


Singers & Players ‘War Of Words’

(On-U Sound)  LP Released 21st August 2015.




As part of an ongoing revitalisation process, the venerated label that perfectly managed to capture the burgeoning cultural exchanges in the post punk scene at the end of the late 70s and dawn of the 80s, On-U Sound is re-releasing some rare treasures, once again, on vinyl. The brainchild of the dub-generator supremo Adrian Sherwood, the On-U label reverberated to the sounds of London’s in-situ squat generation; moving from the spit and vigour of bastardised rock’n’roll, transmogrified into punk, towards subtler soulful rebel music. A comradeship already identified and linked with the dub sound systems and languid protestations of reggae, the post change-of-guard were now turned on to a less aggravated form of roots music. And were now just as ready to rescue Krautrock from the embers as they were to embrace hip hop, industrial and avant-garde music.

Intrinsically linked to the London scene but reaching out internationally, Sherwood’s striking, sometimes over-egged, echoes, reverb and phaser dub techniques became a trademark and helped create some remarkable music. Bringing the sometimes-obscure Jamaican dub stars into contact with the post punk set, Sherwood produced a unique and highly influential back catalogue. Part of a recent restoration, the entire collection, including compilations and miscellaneous items, has been made available via an array of digital sites. This project is the most complete picture yet of the On-U Sound label. The latest album to be plucked from relative obscurity is Singers & Players’ 1981 debut War Of Words. Originally released by the New York no wave imprint 99 Records, the LP’s creative Kingston sound system force of iconic deejays Prince Far I and Jah Woosh, were joined by members of the Arabs and Roots Radics, and featured guest appearances from PiL’s Keith Levene on guitar and The Slits’ Ari Up on backing vocals – spiritual cousins across the Atlantic.

Submerged in a liquid dub reservoir, the album’s sonorous depths are explored with a languorous gait; the songs or riffs often dilated until nothing remains but a warbled fleeting wave or shaky echo that continues into infinite. With a pendulous, sloping rhythm and laidback candour, the opener ‘Devious Women’ introduces us to the album’s cover star Bim Sherman, who’s softly administered vocals, drenched in multiple effects, are sweetly soothing in addressing the lamentable augur of a misjudged relationship.

Taking the production to the dizzying heights of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry escapism, ‘Quante Jubila’ references the good book whilst bounding across the east African holy land, and ‘Sit & Wonder’, with its reassuring and nurturing cooed Ari Up backing vocals, has Bim, the wanderer, in a somnolent state singing from all corners of the studio, and what sounds like the next room: the record button is left on as our protagonist waltzes out of reach of the mic, almost disappearing completely, just the barest remnants of his Babylon rhetoric audible in the soup.

Almost amorphous in places, the production so relaxed and only constant a usually prowling palatial bassline leaving monumental spaces between notes, it sounds to all intents and purposes as though the group were making it up as they went along. Even with the “fight the powers” mantra protest of ‘Fit To Survive’, there is a bittersweet soulfulness and stoner jig sway to rebellion. ‘Reaching The Bad Man’ sounds like its been recorded on a convex lunar sound stage – the strange side of the moon – and ‘91 Vibration’ could be the degrees by which the reverb soaked track has been warped. All great of course, loose but highly atmospheric and plunging the depths of dub reggae to pull out something transient and hypnotic.

In its wake, released a couple of months later in October, there will be the concatenate War Of Version EP. Featuring a quartet of previously unheard tracks from the album session, pressed on 10” vinyl, this companion piece – if it is conceivably possible – adds even more layers of cosmic, vaporous dub to the original’s ‘Devious Woman’ and ‘Reaching The Bad Man’; Sherwood ricocheting the pair off into deepest space.

 

Part of the On-U disco plate archival series, and following on from the popular Record Store Day 10” An On-U Journey Through Time & Space, this studio set will pique many enthusiasts interest with the additional deejay cut by the group’s Jah Woosh, ‘Don’t Be Greedy’, and Prince Far I’s vocal cut ‘Calling Over The Distant Sea’. The first of these fusions features a peaceably sloping and low bassline from Jah Wobble, the other, preaches a carefree message of love from Far I, over rattling African tinged percussion and breezy chopped guitar licks. Both drift off almost aimlessly into the ether, yet have a lurking resonance and as befitting of the history and roots of the music, plot a wandering course towards revolution.




Evvol - Monolith Cocktail

Evvol ‘Eternalism’
(!k7 Records)  LP released on 24th July 2015



Brooding souls of the night the Evvol duo of Julie Chance and Jon Dark find hidden sultry melodies and vapourous swooning pop in the dark recesses of a cold, steely, cityscape. An Irish/Australian duo based in the cybernetic romance of Berlin, Evvol have built a name for themselves sharing stages with Grimes, Austra and Peaches. Using a subtler plotted form of synth blues and lamentable electronica their sound slickly shimmers like liquid between halcyon 80s dry-ice atmospherics and cyborg soul love.

Scratch deeper beneath the gleaming, rasping and sizzling pulse and you’ll find a far darker subterranean of intrigue and complex emotions. ‘Starcrossed’ lovers orbiting ‘Sirius A’ all sounds cosmically dreamy but the duo’s lyrics betray an ominous sense of foreboding in a world of synthetic complications: reassuring words of comfort suddenly sound sinisterly like mind control, in the context of a Blade Runner imbued world of an alternative present.

 

An introspective dark wave manifestation, moving forward and evolving from their previous excursions, Eternalism inhabits a whispery, almost haunting series of locations. Delivered with a diaphanous, often hushed and cooed, vocal the first half of the album takes its time to unravel. By the time we get to ‘Your Love’ the tempo is quickened and we’re into the realms of kinetic dance music; moving to an aloof and classy club electro beat. The flip side to that trans-Euro sheen number, ‘No Love’, loses itself in a 80s smoke machine of Nil Rodgers and Bowie-esque sophisticated dance pop – very sultry and introspective indeed. They even chug along the Thin White Duke’s Station-to-Station train tracks on the vapourous ‘Denoucement’.

 

Changing the program, until recently touring and producing work under the Kool Thing moniker, Evvol’s gilded moods offer more than the usual from woe betide me synth pop. There is an intricate beauty at work, layered sublimely over minimal but powerful hazy synthesizer constructed melodies. And despite this being very much the vogue over the few years – though it comes in cycles – the nocturnal sirens offer something more unique.




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The Jesus And Mary Chain ‘Live At Barrowlands’
(Demon Records & Edsel)  LP + 10” + CD/ 1 x CD out now


Forged in a miasma of drudgery in 80s East Kilbride, mainlining there bastardised Spector wall of sound candy girl group dramatics, seedy Stones and Boho Velvet Underground & Nico inspirations, The Jesus And Mary Chain’s reputation as a totem and beacon for those that followed in their wake has never diminished, or burnt out: if anything their acclaim has reached ever more dizzying heights of venerable adulation over the decades.

Their maelstrom of unwieldy feedback, whining dirges and slowgaze hallucinogens made one of the most influentially felt impacts on everything from rock’n’roll to the obvious and logical development in alternative guitar music, shoegaze.



The Reid brothers and their rotating line up of bass players and drummers – most notably a fresh-faced pre-Primal Bobby Gillespie cutting his teeth, stomping out a troglodyte beat and swinging the club Pausarius style – did all they could to alienate their audience. Leaving them wanting more, their initial shows lasted only ten to twenty-minutes before descending into chaos – in part down to an overcompensation of alcohol for their nerves and also as part of their self-appointed Svengali manager Alan McGee’s staged shenanigans -, but it would be their confrontational soundbites, sometimes arch bravado other times dryly provocative, combined with the sunglass hung-over look and abrasive music that would set them apart from their peers. Despite any of this, the band was able to resurrect a decent tune from the withering slurry and discordance. Essentially they channeled pop, they themselves and the media even abounding references to The Beach Boys. As dark and sometimes seedy as it sounded, the group had a great ear for melodies. And so in 1985, as much out of spite at an industry that was ready to write them off and crush them, the band released their debut statement of turbulent intent Psychocandy. With thirty years of progression under their belt and various break ups and reformations, the Mary Chain have been pro-active in reappraising their classic rites of passage with a series of live shows, playing the entire album in its original track listed form on a short tour of the UK last year in readiness for a thirtieth anniversary celebration in 2015. One of those returns to glory, a homecoming gig of a sort, was performed at the legendary and infamous Barrowlands, here in the Monolith Cocktail’s new home of Glasgow. Recorded for posterity, the congruous pairing of Edsel and Demon record labels has just released that concert as both a deluxe edition and a single CD. Featuring a 40-page hardback book with essays, previously unseen photographs and interviews with the Mary Chain’s band members and of course with Alan McGee – who the band resigned with in recent years -, this tantalizing artifact houses a 180g vinyl version of the performance and an exclusive 10” of the seven-track prequel set of fan favorites and singles that was played before the band launched into Psychocandy. For those with more shallow pockets there is the pared-down singular CD version.

 

The prospect of the Mary Chain recreating their fateful archetypal opus all these years later is an interesting one. Full of vigor, spit and sneering indignation could that spirit of raw and powerful youth now be meaningfully reproduced in the modern age, with the original band members now into their fifties. Slightly softened, and obviously with the bonus of hindsight and maturity, they’ve rounded the edges and added layers of sophistication to their rebel pop blueprint, yet it sounds just as relevant and energetic as it ever did. Starting with an assortment of choice singles and tracks from their oeuvre, the band take to the stage with a low suffused horn and reverb soaked accompaniment before rattling off a sequence of proto-shoegaze classics, including ‘April Skies’, ‘Head On’ and ‘Some Candy Talking’ (misconceived by certain DJ dotes on its release as a paean to heroin; the Reid brothers would of course deny it had anything to do with drugs). Congruously sliding out west to the halcyon out lands of psychedelia, they do a sweet melodic version of the track ‘Psychocandy’ (which strangely enough never appeared on the actual album of the same name), and then enter the realms of Gothic rock’n’roll with ‘Up Too High’, and rev up for a Stooges imbued act of sneering martyrdom on ‘Reverence’.



No less finely tuned and sounding just as good, the Psychocandy album suite begins with The Ronettes pounded transmogrified ‘Just Like Honey’ and powers through a caustic and heavy bedraggled bank of cleverly administered feedback on ‘The Living End’ (a fucked-up, strung-out 60s beat group covering ‘Fortune Teller’) and ‘Taste The Floor’. Faithfully recreating the heart’n’soul morose of ‘The Hardest Walk’, squealing and taking off on a Boing jet for the surf pop garage rock of ‘My Little Underground’ and lumbering to the candy slop of ‘In A Hole’, the band aren’t precise or even precious with their old material, rather they embellish it with age and are, I dare say, having fun with it. With the songs messages now sounding like affirmations and even more spiritual. And as it turns out, the audience (their presence made aware of throughout), now swelled with at least a generation if not two of new fans that weren’t even born when the album came out, loved it. And now lavishly presented with the usual reappraised adulation and contemporary marketing that now elevates every record ever made from the past to staggering levels of faux-importance. The Barrowlands is thankfully not one of these; it’s importance in no denial. As for the ins and outs of bands paying tribute to their own legacy with the ever more popular ‘classic album’ performance, we could take a cursory swipe at the Mary Chain for falling into this, it seems, inevitable spiral of self-reverence, but then we’d miss a great live performance, which seems to have been a worthwhile treat and timely reminder of a great talent. Sneak into your crypt, turn the lamps down low, draw the curtains and immerse yourself.





Monolith Cocktail

Shorts:


Golden Teacher   ‘Sauchiehall Enthrall’
EP released 4th August 2015


It has been a while since the hallucinogenic mushroom disciples of the occult rave scene, Golden Teacher, released any recordings; the extemporised dance music with psychedelic overtones collective, sporadically dropping tracks on various compilations and taking part in the video artist Phil Collins love letter to the groups hometown of Glasgow (Golden Teacher performed a prequel to the works main feature), Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, are hard to pin down on wax.

Named after Glasgow’s main drag – the thoroughfare for the city’s thriving nightlife; with the Glasgow School of Art and the Mackintosh building branching off – Sauchiehall Enthrall burbles, buzzes, zaps and saunters to an amorphous groove and mix of Brazilian, African, American house music and no wave funk. The collective are a wonderful polygenesis explosion of amorous and exotic mystery; one that recalls the street sounds explosion of 1980s New York: the crossroads when Hip Hop, Latin, new wave, soundclash, reggae and post disco all came together.



Delta Mainline  ‘Vultures’
(Fox Box Records)  Single out now

Rising steadily from a mix of OMD dreamy romantic atmospherics and Spiritualized’s hymn like worshipping strings, Edinburgh’s Delta Mainline soar towards an awakened crescendo on their recently unveiled debut single ‘Vultures’. A swooning belter of a tune in two halves, the bombastic recalling a myriad of Britpop darlings, including Rialto, the lavish but humble production sounds likes an angelic Jesus And Mary Chain.

Already muted as an alternative guitar band of sensitive souls to watch out for, backed-up by a well-received LP in 2013, Oh! Enlightened, the Delta Mainline cut this latest sweet anthem at both the Chem 19 and the legendary Abbey Road Studios, where they imbued their sacrosanct sound with the Cairn String Quartet (who have also worked with both the iconic and contagious Echo And The Bunnyman – certain tones can be heard on this record- and fellow Edinburgh group, Young Fathers).

Keeping a Scottish theme, both fellow compatriots Miaoux Miaoux and Remember Remember wistfully add electronic beats and reverbed effects to the original. The first of these applying radiant waves and rasping tropical beats, the second drifting off into the ether, with echoed vocals harmonies and woozy droplet drum beats.




Bixiga 70  ‘100% 13’  (Glitterbeat Records)
Taster from the upcoming  LP III, released 11th September 2015.

Sao Paulo’s exotic musical collective Bixigia 70 are back and once again reaching out from their Brazilian base camp to absorb sounds from not only Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 halcyon hey days in Nigeria, but also from the Caribbean. Sauntering to an inspired dose of cumbia, dub and Afro-funk with their latest temptress teaser sountrack ‘100% 13’, the group of maestro performers mark the upcoming release of their third LP III, and recent move to one of our favorite labels of the last two years, Glitterbeat Records. The album itself promises a dazzling, heated and exuberant mix of every style imaginable, though this tantalizing marker is a composed and sophisticated horn-blowing journey down the back streets. Expect to see a fill review on the Monolith Cocktail in the coming months.




Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids  ‘Rhapsody In Berlin Part 1’
(Philophon Records)  7” released 6th August 2015

Lush Pygmy flute and exotic peregrination horns work their magic on the latest 45 from the Berlin label Philophon Records; Max Weissenfeldt’s Afro-funk and rare jazz grooves label, currently releasing a host of treasures from some of the most famous cats of the Ethiopian jazz and funk scenes. Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids returns with another scintillating rhapsody, grooving languidly through a Rousseau painted jungle, on his ode to the German capital.






Monolith Cocktail

Kristoff Krane   ‘Out Of Line’
(F I X)   Single out now

Reviewed a while back by Ayfer Simms, the ‘Artemisia absinthian-like world’ of Camp Dark’s ‘Are You Hiding’ track was a remarkable haunted protestation, echoing from across the ages. The alter ego of Graham O’Brien, Camp Dark created an extraordinary, almost peaceable but effective sound production on that record. Channeling that wafting, magical energy into a new enterprise, O’Brien has added his vapour trails and echoes to the new Kristoff Krane record, ‘Out Of Line’. Taking Hip Hop in a fresh direction with the adroit Krane, he teams up with the Minneapolis rapper on both this and his upcoming album.


Words:  Dominic Valvona




 

Photo credit to Alexander Hallag

Photo credit to Alexander Hallag

 

Mick Harvey Solo supported by Suzi Stapleton @ the Òran Mór, Glasgow (2nd August 2015)

Six weeks after leaving our former abode in Sussex for a new and enriched life in Glasgow, our live music scene baptism of fire could not have gone any better than spending the evening in the company of the former Bad Seed and adroit Australian polymath Mick Harvey. Crossing over the threshold of the sacrosanct housed Òran Mór theatre, music venue, restaurant and stained glass illuminated whiskey bar complex for the very first, sealed the deal: the vestiges of the former iconic church a highly apt auditorium for the choir boy who’s music is often poetically imbued with a sense of the divine; especially his more recent FOUR (Acts Of Love) songbook of wanton forlorn and paeans to romance, which often looked beyond both Earthy and ethereal realms for inspiration and answers. A sizeable slice of tonight’s set would revolve around the beatific and attentive FOUR, but first, we’d all bare witness to a striking solo performance by fellow Melbourne compatriot, Suzi Stapleton. With a touch of the young confident and swaggering Chrisse Hynde about her, Suzi withered, stomped and sassed her way through an impressive set of Australian delta landscapes – as envisioned by Faulkner and Nick Cave – and metaphorical and allegorical flooded scenes of bloodletting, or cleansing – especially of one’s sins.

 

With her disheveled Boho chic look and devil-may-care attitude, Suzi’s vocal style is both gruelling, raging from confessional shouting to gentle caress, and pained guttural workout. Not only does she flex that Gothic country deep voice, which often plunges so deep as to hit the bottom of a hellish abyss, but takes it out on her guitar and box of tricks, hammering away as though an outside force has possessed it. An impassioned, if at times heavy, introduction for many of us, Suzi proves a shrewd, complimentary and congruous support to tonight’s star billing – especially the reminiscent echoes of PJ Harvey, who of course Mick has produced on numerous occasions and much of his backing band have played with.

Mick Harvey live - Monolith Cocktail

In an affable mood, amongst old friends it seems, an acoustic guitar strapped Mick took to the stage with his musical sparring partner and foil J.P. Shilo and drummer – flown in from Geneva that morning – Jean-Marc Butty. Similar to Nick Cave’s relationship with Warren Ellis, J.P. flits between lead guitar, violin and discordant maelstroms of anger, pain and epiphany whilst also lending backing vocals. Paying reverence to and marching to the drum of Lee Hazelwood, Mick begins with a ceremonial cover staple of ‘First Street Blues’, before turning in a sullen, but heartfelt, eulogy to the ill-fated and late Australian music legend Rowland S Howard, ‘October Boy’ – I say sullen, more of a serious mood (though J.P.’s heavy Orson Welles brow and brooding Errol Flynn resemblance cast a thoughtfully sad shadow, the multi-instrumentalist is in fact enjoying himself thoroughly throughout), one befitting a sad tribute but also a warning to the rock’n’roll myth.

 

In a knock-about manner, Mick’s banter and bemoaning criticism of his equipment – a few minor teething problems, but nothing to cause any concern, or impact on the energetic performance – break-up the succession of songs from his last few albums. However, it would be Mick’s first solo LP of wholly original-penned songs, Sketches From The Book Of The Dead from 2011 that would dominant proceedings. Rousing versions of ‘The Ballad Of Joy Givens’, ‘Two Paintings’, ‘The Bells Never Rang’ and ‘Frankie T & Frankie C’ were reeled off in sagacious fashion. From his 2007 album Two Of Diamonds, we were treated to a storming, more aggressive and pumped-up version of ‘Slow-Motion-Movie-Star’, a bitter sweet, brooding ‘photograph’ and a Passenger style Iggy strutting ‘Out Of Time Man’. Going back even further to 2005’s One Man’s Treasures, his first proper solo outing, we’re treated to a more jaunty and humorous take on ‘Hank Williams Said It Better’.

 

But personally speaking, it is his 2013 LP FOUR that really shines and sounds so wondrous tonight. We often go on about this, but we were the only blog as far as I know to feature it in the best albums of the year on its release, and to even praise it. Possibly the most romantic and poetically descriptive of all his works so far, the album channeled hallowed wantonness and worshipped at the suns benevolence. The opening paean to the elements and love itself, ‘Praise The Earth’ has never sounded so venerable, live and played with certain vigour by the band tonight. And ‘I Wish That I Were Stone’, as close to pop as Mick himself confesses, benefits by a bouncer, slightly faster timing – sounding indeed like a classic pop hit. Both songs remain two of our favourites in recent years, and to see them finally played live, lifted from their more subdued, but still bright and enthralling recordings, is a joy. Chaos reigns on the cover ‘Summertime In New York’; J.P. working overtime, wrenching a squealing rabid noise from the lead guitar, drowning out poor Mick at one point, who jokingly berates his foil for his excessive indulgence at the end.

 

Finishing with aplomb, brought back for a pared down, at first, encore (after a lot of messing about to get the right effect working on Mick’s guitar first), the trio performed Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Bonnie & Clyde’. Lifted from Mick’s homages to the French genius and lothario, the coquettish duet, normally performed with his wife, is a solo effort this evening – his partner otherwise unwell and unable to make it. A teasing gesture really, as Mick is alternating solo shows with an extended cast and strings adorned sets of concerts of his 90s tributes to Serge, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants. He did suggest that he might bring the show to town at some point, which I’m hoping is a serious consideration. But then he also quipped that he might bring it to T In The Park, before suggesting that Scotland’s biggest – and for the most part commercially dull – festival was rubbish, wasn’t it? Looking to us for confirmation with a mischievous wink, he couldn’t remember if The Bad Seeds had even played it, which of course they had in 2009.

 

Despite the intimate setting, Mick’s pan European and modern Australian folkloric song collection is played with a real ferocity and energy. Breathing life back into his oeuvre, Mick proves that his durable songwriting talents should get more of an airing. And lets hope he sticks to his words and follows up by bringing the Serge showcase to Glasgow soon.

 

 

Words:  Dominic Valvona

Mick Harvey Four

 

Mick Harvey ‘FOUR (Acts Of Love)’ (Mute)

Wearily beaten by the afflatus ‘hammer’ from above, Mick Harvey waltzes through an attentive cycle of concatenate forlorn and romantic paean on his latest LP, FOUR (Acts Of Love).

Imbued with, a seriously, impressive CV (Antipodean’s principle hardliners of elegant morose,The Birthday Party, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and PJ Harvey’s collaborative producer on her successful Let England Shake) Harvey follows up the 2011 Sketches From The Book Of The Dead with a loosely threaded ‘three act’ concept.

Whistling vignettes (Midnight On The Ramparts), Wim Wenders’ pining desert song (Fairy Dust and the cover of PJ Harvey’s Glorious), and throughout, eye towards a prevailing hallowed presence, the endearing luxuriated Harvey burr and lyrical delivery remark on loves awkward synchronicity and heartache.

Channeling the pensive balladry of The Walker Brothers and rich sound of Grant Lee Buffalo, he pays tributary to a diverse cast of influences: covering songs by, fellow Australians,The Saints (the Stephen Trask redolent The Story Of Love), Van Morrison (an esoteric organ pitched The Way Young Lovers Do), Exuma (meandering jazz version of Summertime In New York) and the ‘other’ synonymous man in black, Roy Orbison (wistfully sad take on his Wild Hearts).

Divided into sweeping ‘universal contemplation’ sonnets and brief stirring segue ways, the album’s perfect running order is set out like a wanton play on vulnerability from an antagonist, worn down but not yet taken over by cynicism.

 

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LP  REVIEW



Beach Moon/Peach Moon - Monolith Cocktail



Our Franco-Turkish critic and literary poetic contributor of renown, Ayfer Simms, is wistfully enchanted by the new placable album from Beach Moon/Peach Moon. The brainchild of Robert Prisco, the translucent passages of his Kite Without A String songbook inspired a warmly woven stream of descriptive prose from Simms.


Beach Moon/Peach Moon   ‘Kite Without A String’
(Paper Trail Records)

 



Robert Prisco’s music simply drips from the sun as if made up of its rays; it is warm and embracing with its guitar cords following the honey like voice of the singer. The tunes are extremely relaxing allowing the listener to stop breathing for a moment and lie still in front of a sunny window. There, in a half awaken slumber, memories, hard and young ones, fresh punches of a break up, or fond exhilarating flirtatious moments of no heavy consequences, lightness of being with little sorrows: The dramas don’t cause distress here, there are no tears, no regrets, just the peaceful abandon of a bright afternoon, the warmth of the scent of some distant nostalgia.

These chords are made to slow down your heart rate, avoid the mind exhausting excitements, instead we stay in that screenshot of an 8mm movie with cadenced slow movements, we become the legs dangling from the side of an old train, breeze, love, poppies, sunflowers. Love again. Everything is peaceful, even sadness. Outside all the houses on the way have green bits and ghosts, those reflections of the travellers heart, and we gently rock and look, with a “heart full of happiness”, and listen, and chill, on a sunny sunny day. It’s acoustic and it’s charming.

Words: Ayfer Simms




NEW  MUSIC  REVUE



vukovar - monolith cocktail


Aural fancies this week include a psychogeographic opus from The Classical; lush shoegaze and riled pastel agit rock from Vukovar; two new compilations of material picked from kosmiche and electronic legend Conrad Schnitzler’s archives; and spunk rock and new wave rattlers from White Reaper. Plus we have some dream wave electro from German duo Ayu, a quirky transmission from the potting shed of the Nimzo Indian, trashy Brooklyn pop from Snarkmuffin and Etho-jazz from the legendary Hailu Mergia in our shorts section.



The Classical - Monolith Cocktail

The Classical ‘Diptych’
(Time Sensitive Materials)  Physical LP released 31st July 2015


Whether its withering in the psychogeograpahy of Palermo’s open burial catacombs, lamenting a Grecian Suzanne Vega like hymn to the departed souls, or rising from a subterranean cell towards the first signs of glimmering light, The Classical conjure up the most daemonic tableaus. Previously the preserve of the chosen few, lauded in their Bay Area home of San Francisco and by anyone who by happenstance came across it in 2014 via its self-release on Bandcamp, their finely tuned agitated jazz/theatrical explorations into the gloom Diptych, has thankfully been reprieved and given a physical release.



A morbidly curious songbook in the style of Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch and The Drift, the album is a series of acts, the protagonist singer-songwriter Juliet E. Gordon channeling a host of ghosts, fantasists and harbingers of revenge. Abandoning a career in the acting trade, Gordon’s skills have been put to good use with some adroit vocal performances; her voice at different times taking on the characteristics and intonations of Vega, Beth Gibbons, Lene Lovich and Patti Smith, whilst the Brian Viglione like pendulous and kinetic thrashing drums of her foil Britt Ciampa (brilliantly played throughout) ebbs, caresses or crashes upon the sirens rocky stage.

Transformative post punk and no wave meets junkyard jazz, The Classical can, with finesse, produce the sounds of either sumptuous strings laden tenderness (‘Byzantine Tango’) or lull ominously to a Portishead and Walker-esque bedevilled beat (‘Escapeboards, Pt.1’). Mesmerising, hypnotic if not entrancing, the deep chills of hell’s hornets nest and the harrowing reverberations of atavistic horns, the death knell or signal from Jericho onwards, act in unison with the punctuating energy and startling beauty of this album’s more melodic and Avant-pop moments.

Highly impressive and enriched with an array of acroamatic and cryptic portraits, Diptych is a cerebral and powerful testament, positively glowing and rippling with intelligent sensibility.






Conrad Schnitzler - Kollektion 5


Conrad Schnitzler - Con-struct

Conrad Schnitzler/ Pyrolator   ‘Con-struct’
(Bureau B) LP released 17th July 2015

Conrad Schnitzler ‘Kollektion 5: compiled and assembled by Thomas Fehlmann’
(Bureau B) LP released 31st July 2015


Resurrecting many fine albums from the Kosmiche and avant-garde electronica cannon, German label Bureau B once again has paid homage to one of its leading composer and artist acolytes Conrad Schnitzler with a double bill of releases. The first a compilation of his 80s sonic excursions, re-aligned and congruously reassembled by Thomas Fehlmann for the label’s guest curated Kollektion series, the second a ‘re-construction’ of Conrad’s abundant archive by Kurt ‘Pyrolator’ Dahlke.

Soliciting the favours of compatriots, former musical colleagues and fans, Bureau B has already asked Lloyd Cole to compile his choice Hans-Joachim Roedelius tracks and Stereolab honcho Tim Gane to pick out his favourite flights of synthesizer fantasies from the famous Sky Records label back catalogue. Now having already re-released a number of his original albums and peregrinations, they’ve asked Beats label founder and former Palais Schaumburg band member Fehlmann to channel Conrad’s 8Os “Con” suffixed explorations into a flowing, almost uninterrupted, mix for the purposes of the 5th Kollektion instalment. Stringing together various pieces and cross fading at the opportunistic moment, Fehlmann does justice to the Zodiak Free Art Lab ethos, producing a complimentary interstellar soundtrack of immersive experimentation and though none of the original’s have been tampered with (leaving the tempo and form intact), they take on a new perspective.



A progenitor of the Kosmiche and Krautrock era, Conrad’s various stints, usually as a founding member and instigator, at the helm of Kluster (forming the trio with fellow Zodiak club stalwarts Roedelius and Dieter Moebius in 1969) and Tangerine Dream (an early member of the group in 1970, featured on the group’s debut LP Electronic Meditation), would reverberate throughout his solo and collaborative work, right up until his death in 2011. By the 1980s, he had a strong body of work behind him and was once again forming new bonds and ideas with Germany’s post-punk generation: integrating some of the more interesting ideas into his synthesizer based modulations and soundscapes.

Alongside the numerous ‘Contempora’ extracts, picked from Conrad’s 1981 album of the same name, Fehlmann mixes up the original running order to reshape and build new relationships between the various cosmic fragments.

‘11’’s sophisticated cascaded space dust wanderings and modulating spheres recall his time with Tangerine Dream, especially when it then fades into ‘09’’s satellite roaming overhead, alien bubbling cauldron of primordial soup.

Later on ‘04’’s shooting stars visions and the chain-reaction pollen explosion ‘10’, act as a returning leitmotif, connecting the space voyages over the lunar terrain together. Segments from Conrad’s Con 3, Conrad & Sohn (both sides of that record, produced with his film-maker son Gregor, featured here in an alternative sequence), Congratulacion and Consequenz albums, all figure in this otherworldly journey, piquing the interest with the Kraftwerk school of vocalized industrial Dusseldorf soul, and rain splashed ‘Tanz Im Regam’ (some proto Sky Records material from the Con 3 suite); the steely art school, scaffold pole percussive ‘Komm Mit Nach Berlin’; and rum-spliced tribal techno exoticness of ‘Copacabana’. Catalogued by dates, the oddities found on the 1987 LP, Congratulacion, vary between the twinkly celestial droplets of the magical ’21.8.86’, and the Wendy Carlos switched-on Baroque of ’19.8.86’; both tracks I’ve never before searched out and even heard, but both mischievously maverick. Fehlmann does a superb job in juxtaposition, keeping the Conrad signature of exploratory surroundings but refreshing it for a contemporary reappraisal.



In a similar vain, Kurt ‘Pyrolator’ Dahlke amps up Conrad’s synthesizer collection of daily experiments; collated from his vast sound archive, originally put aside for use in his live performances; forming a library of jump-off points, ideas, and sonic soundscapes. After reissuing two of Conrad’s albums in 2010, the Berlin label m=minimal’s founder Jens Strüver was granted access to these library tracks. Instead of a straight compilation, he came up with a series of ‘con-structions’, in which the material was not so much remixed as built from new. Different electronic musicians have been invited to remodel Conrad’s oeuvre, with the contemporary German techno and sophisticated electronic group Kreidler’s Andreas Reihse responsible for the second instalment, and now the solo artist, and one-time member of Der Plan and D.A.F., Kurt Dahlke goes to work on the third chapter.

With a darker and more caustic approach, Dahlke builds Conrad’s live fragments into ‘intelligent’ and cerebral techno soundtracks. But what first meets the aural receptors is a noodling moiety of tech sounds from the Tannhauser Gate, and the slipping towards a subterranean vacuum of ‘389-8’ and ‘288-1’; the dual presence of unworldly cybernetics and particles sounding both celestial and ominous at the same time. The pace picks up by the third transmission, with the spindly Baroque loops of ‘289-5’, and continues to get going with the kinetic lumbering ‘287-14’: an alien world that rotates between timings, from half time to rapid twitching.

By the Mars sandstorms of ‘296-16’, Dahlke has added the acid, and with ‘287-13’ he’s made the dance floor with a tribal, tubular shaped blast from the Tresor, circa 1999: arguably Conrad was one of the most important links in the chain from the early days of pioneering synthesizer music to the dance music created decades later in both his hometown and in the German capitol. Dahlke has certainly injected some bounce and moody





White Reaper - Monolith Cocktail

White Reaper   ‘White Reaper Does It Again’
(Polyvinyl Records) LP released on 17th July 2015





Just a group of young spunks out having fun, goofing on a fiery Molotov cocktail of spiky power pop, melodic punk and college radio, the White Reaper release their debut in a chaos of fuzz, thrills and punctuated rock and roll riffs. Hyped up on what sounds like a diet of The Ramones, Ty Segall, Johnny Thunders, Generation X and, even, the vaporised synth suffused anthems of The Cars, our Louisville, Kentucky outfit inject adrenaline into a dying art.

From the opening count in of ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ to the snot rock bombast of ‘BXT’, the album fizzes with glee and verve; riffing on their influences, throwing in bellicose solos and squeals with a knowing wink, they are what The Vaccines could have been if they weren’t so shambolically uptight. A reformation of garage rock and AM rock, dragged through the 80s and 90s and into the present, White Reaper Does it Again is a gas.



Vukovar ‘Emperor’
(Small Bear Records)





Punching well above its weight, the serendipitous label of vaporous lo fi and languid shoegaze Small Bear Records has slipped onto the market its most ambitious marvel yet. From their Isle of Man recording HQ, the Vukovar builds a funeral pyre for the ‘new world order’.

Helping them man the barricades, Rick Clarke and Dan Shea (also of The Bordellos and Neurotic Wreck) formerly of the “disintegrated” The Longdrone Flowers, are joined by an extended cast of Small Bear artists; with the dreamily aspiring Postcode’s Mikie Daugherty, Jonny Peacock and Marie Reynolds, and Circus worlD’s Mark Sayle all making guest appearances: a super group performance if you will.

Rallying round the decree of “idealists, voyeurs and totalitarians”, and referencing a list of one word actions/stances (“Ultra-Realism”, “Depravity”, “Monotony”) to describe their sound, the band’s lyrics certainly seem fuelled with protestation and anger. Yet for the most part, they sound despondently magnificent in the most melodic, beautiful shoegaze fashion. Their brand of lush 80s driven alternative rock and more caustic, punchy industrial noise is far too melodic and majestic to be truly brutal.

Taking their name from the infamous Croatian city, the site of an heinous blight on modern European history (always conveniently airbrushed from bellicose EU propaganda; the sort that preaches its union has put paid to and secured the continent from conflict and war amongst its neighbours), when 300 poor souls, mostly Muslims, were rounded up and barbarically executed by Serb paramilitaries and the Yugoslav Peoples Army (the worst committed atrocity of its kind since WWII), Vukovar appeal to the listener who wants to scratch beneath the surface of the banal mainstream. They offer an invitation into the darker recesses of history and social politics unseen in much of the dross that calls itself alternative – even their bandcamp page features an exhaustive manifesto style edict (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) of intent. And so they offer a an out-of-body majestical shoegazing waltz through Reinhard Heydrich’s honey trap brothel and centre of Nazi espionage, the ‘Regular Patrons of Salon Kitty’; drift into Spiritualized and New Order territory on the softly pranged hymn to a former Japanese princess, ‘Part 1: Miss Kuroda’s Lament’; and channel a despondently romantic but resigned Ian Curtis as they utter with despondent beauty that “we’re cowards” on the beautifully sullen and dreamy ‘Nero’s Felines’.

With a maelstrom of clanging, fuzz and Inspiral Carpets jamming with a motor city turned-on Julian Cope vibe, the group yells, shakes and rattles on their more noisy outings, ‘Lose My Breath’ and ‘Concrete’. Not always their best material it must be said, they add some tension to the more relaxed melodic and – dare I say – pop songs, which sound far more convincing: ‘Koen Cohen K’ and ‘The New World Order’ are just brilliant; imagine what Joy Division might have sounded like if Ian Curtis had lived on and found solace in the lush veils of shoegaze, or if he fronted Chapterhouse.

Fiddling romantically whilst Olympus burns, the Vukovar’s stand against the illuminati forces of evil couldn’t have sounded any more beautifully bleak, yet somehow liltingly inspiring.




Shorts:


Sharkmuffin   ‘First Date’
(State Capital/ Little Dickman Records)





Far too sophisticated and melodic as to be written off as dumb shit trash garage rock, the Ramones style wit and adroit melodies of the Brooklyn trio Sharkmuffin are raucously energetic certainly, even rough around the edges, but they never as moronic and unappealing as those noisy kids who just play around with the punk shtick. Thrashing out a Lena Dunham style riposte to the contemporary dating scene fascination, the group wraps up the subject in a ceremonial 1 min and 14 seconds homemade video.

Already courted by the likes of NPR and Flavorwire in the States, and named as one of the “20 All-Female Bands You Need To Know’ by Billboard, the band are now attracting attention across the Atlantic. The ‘First Date’ video will be followed next month by their new album Chartreuse and a tour.


Ayu   ‘Try (Bothering Me)’



Drifting into view across our radar earlier this month, Ayu’s lushly administered rays of hazy synth and icy cool electronic soul imbued brilliance aroused our attention. The Berlin/Hamburg duo of minimalists of Eliana and Eve call their brand of diaphanous entrancing dance music ‘in between the waves pop’. The brooding duo’s most recent glowing hotbed of heartache, ‘Try (Bothering Me)’, is a sultry and passionate simmering pop ripple: by which we mean it’s a great track.


Nimzo Indian  ‘Speakon’



More serendipitous mayhem from maverick musician/composer/artist and Duchamp chess movement admirer, the Nimzo Indian, who takes us on a strange voyage into the Indian sub continent on his latest transmission, ‘Speakon’. Finding the most original and sometimes silly noises from both conventional and home-built musical instruments and constructions, Andrew Spackman (formerly of Zoom Quartet) adds the lingering and enchanting sounds of an exotic tabla heavy soundscape to all kinds of electronic weirdness on one of his more charming releases.


Hailu Mergia  ‘Hailu/ Yegle Nesh’
(Philophon) 7” and digital versions available now



Lovely, enchanting and entranced vibes from east Africa now as the first new tracks to emerge in 30 years from the legendary Ethiopian jazz doyen Hailu Mergia; who emerges with two fine new etho-jazz and sub Arabian impersonations, released both on 7” vinyl and digitally. Recorded in Berlin at Philophon records’ studio under the label boss and prodigious rhythm master Max Weissenfeldt (known for his collaborations and work with Dr. John, Dan Auerbach, Whitefield Brothers and the Poets of Rhythm), the two tracks of jaunty, charming atavistic meets reggae style gaited grooves take you on a dusky carpet ride over a magical desert landscape. We’re glad to have him back.

Words:  Dominic Valvona






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