Ayfer Simms finds herself enamoured by the amorphous, ethereal drifting sounds of the Boston Duo Sonnymoon. Formed whilst studying at The Berklee Collage of Music, imbued and led by the languid and loose nature of the L.A. scene, Anna Wise and her musical foil Dana Orr have since shared stages with an eclectic array of artists, including Shabazz Palaces, Flying Lotus and Roots. With a penchant for transmogrifying R&B, Sonnymoon take the genre  beyond the normal excepted confines towards the avant-garde and mysterious. 


Sonnymoon   ‘The Courage Of Present Times’   23rd March 2015.


Sonnymoon, The entrapped soul of the puppet doll.

With her eerie and powerful vocals Anne Wise appears with this album like the “bright soul” of a bewitched marionette that was trapped by a dubious toy maker and rests in a somber display room, anchored on a dusty shelf: Her skin is cold, her cheeks are high, round eye and innocent looking: Yet there’s an explosion of sounds enclosed in the hollow of the plastic creature and the pupils of its eyes are restlessly fluttering with that sound, click clack click clack from the batting of the eyelid: Inside is Sonnymoon’s world: A place where the usual rules of rhythm do not apply, of a suave and confident “laissez-aller”, of control of wild bits of music, ever so lightly infused by the gloom of the outside without so much affliction.

Sonnymoon’s album, The Courage Of Present Times, is a splendid mix of varied instruments and intonations, a moody vibe awakened by a voice, strong, steady and piercing like an arctic wind blowing impetuously; the rhythm breaks off, stops and gathers momentum again, there, a piano brings melancholia to the atmosphere, here a jazzy orchestra, yet elsewhere it is a lingering gospel of steel with metallic sharp sounds accompanying it, another tune displays children playing and laughing in the background while Anne rhythmically hums “innocence is gone, you’ve moved on”.

It’s every single cell of the body that is shifted from its place, the bones, and the mind, all the way to the very centre of the body: She says “The core gets hotter” and the tune builds you up to the final liberation of your limbs and mind. Discreet sounds populates the album, like little electrified bugs with unpredictable movements.

With Anna Wise and Dane Orr you can look back, through the tiny little doll’s eyes, but you cannot leave, you are trapped in their world: ‘come near the centre’ implies the tone, here are where the sorcerers of twisted beauty leave, where pieces of instruments and powerful bits of sound echoes in infinity, echoes and echoes, clack clack clack and there comes the dejected groove again.

You are not far, you are inside, that’s your soul dancing, your inner cells, your organs having a party on their own; that is your heart beating.

The single Pop Music is the epitome of the album brought to the last stage before the explosion, a tribal offbeat in the very details: it is the inside of things at microscopic level; the heart drums while veins gush from excitement, the vocal cords warm up before exhaling out, fingers tapping, the nervous system fires from within to the outer side of the body. A whistle starts the tune, like a boiler about to explode. The gathering strength of a volcano which lavas are about to be thrown out to the world, releasing the tribal groovy jungle-like presence. This track is mad. It will drive you insane with pleasure, it will fill your inside with inferno, with alacrity. AND, it ends. Abruptly. The silence that follows is part of it. They have you.



Hanoi Masters - Monolith Cocktail

More eclectic album choices from around the globe including Glitterbeat Records inaugural Hidden Musics series Hanoi Masters, the latest Spiritual Jazz compilation from Jazzman Records, Brazilian acid rock samba from Oz Brazoes and the ambitious debut from Bedford band The Grubby Mitts.

In no particular order the full line-up includes Spiritual Jazz Volume 6, Oz Brazoes, Ginger Johnson And His African Messengers, The Grubby Mitts, Psycho & Plastic and the Hanoi Masters.

Various   ‘Spiritual Jazz 6: Vocals’   (Jazzman Records)   9th March 2015

Mining the veils of time for the most sacrosanct and enlightening of spiritual jazz paeans, laments, psalms and peregrinations the ongoing Jazzman Records series concentrates its efforts on the vocal messenger. After already surveying the jazz scenes of the US, Europe, Iron Curtain and beyond over five volumes of sublime exploration, we’re introduced to a selection of theological and flighty lyricism: some examples purely in praise of a greater force, an omnipresent creator, others sauntering, using vocals as an instrument.

We’re in the venerable presence of ‘spiritualism’ so shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a lot of adulation set aside for God. But these cats, far from the lame, white bread, Christian rock of ridicule, are effortlessly cool in flexing their chops in the most creatively grooving ways. Take E W Wainwright’s paean Imani for example, a loose tribal and twinkled free form jazz odyssey, with the most soulful and unburdened with doubt vocals, declaring a love for God, not one bit shamelessly condescending or cringing.

Stirring from the mysterious Africa of the great pyramids, Nubians and griot traditions, Clifford Jordan pays homage to Coltrane via the fertile seeds of that great continent, whilst the great Pharaoh Sanders (no volume could be complete without him) goes on a camel packed caravan pilgrimage with his diaphanous, shimmering Prince Of Peace tribune. Adulating beneath the life radiant rays that parch the landscape, Eddie Gale and his singers dance a hypnotic psychedelic chant in the African Sunshine and in a more somber mood, Max Roach offers Tears For Johannesburg.

As ever, the Jazzman team picks out some of the most rare nuggets – though many can be found distributed or shared around the net -, including (new to me) The Singers And Musicians Of Washington High School’s The Ladder and Gary Bartz’s, revelatory slinky Celestial Blues. In congruous union, each of these carefully placed songs tries its utmost to ascend the listener to a higher plain, a new world, and a much better one. Volume 6 is one of the most transcending and best yet.

OB - Monolith Cocktail

Os Brazoes  ‘Os Brazoes’   (Mr Bongo Records)  22nd February 2015

Formed in the late 60s, Rio de Janeiro bongo rhythmic psych act Os Brazoes briefly set the Brazilian scene on fire with their combination of acid rock ‘n’ roll, samba and dreamy beat group music. The performance backing band of fellow compatriots Gal Costa, during her much revered Tropicalla period (apparently they never went into the studio to record with Costa), and Tom Zé the Brazoes own fuzz-soaked renderings took the indigenous vibes to the US west coast and beyond; incorporating lunar and primordial like psychedelic effects with Latin rhythms to produce a liquid like melding of contemporary and earthy tradition. With further nods to their roots, the band cover Gilberto Gil’s Pega a Voga, Cabeludo and Jorge Ben and Toquinho’s Carolina, Carol Bela, whilst dropping in plenty of sauntering local moves.

Reasonably scarce since its 1969 release– though digital versions can be found if you look – Mr.Bongo is re-issuing a customary version of Os Brazoes. This follows on from their recent Brazil 45s series Brazilian Beats: Brooklyn compilation that featured a cut from the band’s front man Miguel de Deus’s highly sought after 1977 LP Black Soul Brothers.

A rare oddity that sometimes loses its way between the Fourth Dimension and Os Mutantes, the album does have its moments, both experimental wise and in the shake it stakes; an incredible garage rock/psych/bongo/Brazilian classic just waiting to be loved and played.

Ginger Johnson And His African Messengers   ‘I Jool Omo/ 7” Single’  (Freestyle Records)  March 2015

“I am so happy that my father’s album will finally be re-issued. His music will live on in the old and new audiences, who will now get to hear his work in its full glory! We call ‘African Party’ The Holy Grail Of Afrobeat – as he is The Godfather of Afrobeat!”

Dennis Dee Mac Johnson (son of Ginger Johnson).

Playing a pivotal role in the development and exposure of African music in London, the late great Nigerian émigré percussionist Ginger Johnson not only arguably laid down the seeds for Afrobeat but also acted as a father figure to its most celebrated exponent, Fela Kuti. Over four decades, Johnson cemented his reputation as the ‘go to’ guy for African percussion; a role that saw him play alongside an eclectic mix of groups and artists including Georgie Fame, Hawkwind, and most famously, backing the Stones at their infamous Hyde Park gig in 1969. His band can even be seen playing the part in James Bond’s Harlem/New Orleans via the crypto Haitian veiled adventure, Live And Let Die.

Aside from his performing, Ginger was also involved in orchestrating the Notting Hill Carnival and opened his own legendary hive of activity, the Club Iroko, which hosted shows from Osibisa, Cynamide and was frequented by the jazz luminaries Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Roland Kirk.

From the smoky jazz lounge of Ronnie Scotts to the feverish warmer climes of Nigeria, Ginger’s legacy has remained largely untold – from his formative years as a sailor, trawling the globe and visiting all the most hip jazz clubs and venues to the story behind his nickname. Putting this right, Freestyle Records aim to once again appreciate and reprise his back catalogue, starting with the release of the I Jool Imo 45” next month, followed later in the summer by the African Party LP. Every bit as sauntering and rhythmically hypnotic as you’d expect, these records, with his famous African Messengers, are among the earliest examples of African fusion, using the traditions of the talking drum, calypso, jazz, Cuban and Highlife to create something new. Indeed, the Party album is cited by many, including Ginger’s son Dennis, as the forbearer of Afrobeat.

TGMitts - Monolith Cocktail

The Grubby Mitts   ‘What The World Needs Now Is The Grubby Mitts’   (Lost Toys Records)  9th March 2015

In development for the last eight years, the Bedford based Grubby Mitts have been working hard to complete their “part anthology, part debut” opus. A loosely concatenate album of songs, monologues, instrumental passages, and what sounds like experimental field recordings, What The World Needs Now… is as ambitious as it is at times whimsical and twee. Working with long-time collaborators and friends, and led by artist Andy Holden, the collective of Johnny Parry, Roger Illingworth, James MacDowell and John Blamey share similar tastes but also bring their own individual eclectic ideas to the table. With no demarcated roles or hierarchal structure, everyone is allowed to motion ideas and to write, with the vocals being shared out appropriately: with mixed results.

A Polyphonic Spree of goodwill and unified languorous joy radiates throughout the album; the group in a leitmotif chorus rising out of the lamentable and sometimes wistfully charming accompaniment soar with repetitive mantras – some of which are slowly unraveled over time and at other times repeated incantation style like a sacrosanct truth or a borrowed text of wisdom, taken from a litany of spiritual and philosophical sources: “We sat together the mountain and I, till only the mountain remained.”

Though whisked across string stirring vistas and carried over a constant emotional shifting series of highs and lows, the group’s often cosmological yearnings are grounded in the pastoral. They sound like a green-fingered Arcade Fire or Flaming Lips and have a touch of the Fanfarlo and Octopus (another English collective with a similar taste for incorporating a multitude of musical influences, even if they were unceremoniously grouped in with Britpop). They cover most of these influences on the opening song alone, but go onto embrace the anthem building of Elbow with Worms Of Eternal Return, and both that old bastion of soft, glowing fireside rock, Bread and the Kinks on Home At Last.

Our journey sways gently or clatters along and picks up pace, throwing up a few surprises on the way. Showing an ear for a good tune and also able to go off on an experimental tangent – playing with what sounds like marbles to a plaintive string quartet on Last Stop For The Good Old Times, and wistfully tuning up to a weirdly lilting, orchestra on Chewy Cosmos – The Grubby Mitts weave together elements of languorous jazz, pop, shanty folk music and poetry. Under their self-confessed “nostalgic and progressive, familiar and experimental, sincere and ironic” sentiments, the group certainly sounds like they mean it; the true swansong finale a children’s choir backed sweet eulogy to their close friend and former collaborator Dan Cox who passed away in 2011, the heartwarming requiem Goodbye If You Call That Gone. An eccentric opus if at times too twee, with some tracks occasionally devoid of purpose or narrative, What The World Needs Now is still an ambitious work of art overall, and on every listen reveals something new.

Psycho & Plastic  ‘Nerev/Cell’   (GiveUsYourGOLD)   20TH February 2015

Returning with a double dose of amorphous electro this month, our favorite Teutonic duo of rambunctious electronica escapism Psycho & Plastic release the Nerve/Cell moiety. The first of which takes us trance style to the Indian subcontinent – nicely interlacing low kazoo sounding weird mystical sounds, sitars and spicy reverberations – and the second a twang-y hook riff rich, meaty, beat-y odd and tasty, fluffy version of Juan Atkins techno.

There is method in their madness of course, the duo using only actual acoustic spaces in the recordings; adding space and definition to electronic sounds by playing them back and re-recording them in handpicked rooms that offer the best sonic results.

Before ever committing to tape, the guys work and rework their ideas on the road and in various studio sessions – as can be seen in the accompanying video of Nerve.

Various   ‘Hanoi Masters: War Is A wound, Peace Is A Scar’ (Glitterbeat Records)  30th March 2015

A side excursion, travelling due east to Asia and breathing in the evocative songs of Vietnam, Glitterbeat Records launch a new series of field recordings entitled Hidden Musics. Finding a congruous musical link with their usual fare of West African releases, the label sent Grammy-award winning producer Ian Brennan (credits include, Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones) to Vietnam in the summer of 2014 to record some of the most lamentable and haunting resonating war-scarred music. Indelibly linked to what the indigenous population call ‘the American war’, the examples of both yearning and praise pay tribute to the fallen: delivered not in triumphant or propagandist bombast but in a gentle meditative manner, these survivors, forty years on from the end of the harrowing and catastrophic (the repercussion still reverberating in the psyche of the burned America and its allies) war still undergoing a healing process. Tinged with an omnipresent lilting sadness these songs are imbued with battle scares (hence the albums sub-title War Is A wound, Peace Is A Scar), featured artisans and traditional music masters who had joined the cause, sometimes for the first time in years, allowing their voices to be heard once again. Brennan’s notes are littered with these various connections to the war: ‘…thirteen year old whose job was to sing to the troops to boost morale and provide solace. Another was a former AK-47 issued village leader who had not sung in over forty years and proved to be the most dead-on vocally.’

‘Un-mediated’ and as raw as you’ll ever likely to hear these fragile, half-forgotten songs without being there yourself, played on the most obscure accompaniment of moon-shaped 2-stringed and zither instruments – including the strange K’ni, a plucked instrument clasped between the teeth, the local dialectic language spoken through the single string to produce a weird otherworldly vocoder like effect –, each documented performance is a lingering trace of an old world. Industrialisation and technology it seems have no respect for the past, increasingly infringing on even the most remote and relatively atavistic traditions in the mantra of “progress”, replacing those indigenous songs with the cultural imperialism of their south east Asian neighbours (Japan and South Korea) K-pop and karaoke genres. Here then, before they vanish forever, Vietnam’s victors speak; from the sweetly yearned Phạm Mộng Hải eulogy to departed souls For The Fallen to the dew dropping off the blossom love paean to her homeland, Nguyễn Thị Lân sung Road To Home, each purposeful – with the occasional clanging up tempo surprise – song is a revealing glimpse into loss, exile and resistance.

Considering the history and ill blood between cultures – though this has eroded as capitalism takes hold and the country opens up – it has in the past been difficult to investigate for the serene and attentive beauty of the Vietnam music scene, but this earnest and adroit study into a world seldom covered proves enlightening.

Words:  Dominic Valvona

Hip Hop Revue

Rapture & Verse Feb Edition: The Four Owls

Matt Oliver  returns with more frontline bulletins from the Hip Hop sphere. This month’s revue includes the most recent and upcoming singles/EPS/LPs/Mixtapes and videos from Verb T,  Your Old Droog,  Fashawn, Ecid,  Smellington Puff,  Vocab Slick,  Flip, and  F Stokes.

A chocker RnV skims through headlines that saw Drake making a mixtape statement (‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’), Kendrick Lamar dropping an equally bold declaration (‘The Blacker The Berry’), Dr Dre turning 50 (ok, sometimes we like to read the personals), 2 Chainz throwing his hat into the ring for Georgia mayor, Lil Wayne suing an under pressure Cash Money for a big chunk of change, and the murder of West Coast stronghold The Jacka. There was also Nas and Chance the Rapper attempting to boost Madonna’s street cred, and Raekwon & Ghostface going behind-the-scenes to honour their all-time great Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Plus, all that award show stuff involving the re-crowning of Missy Elliott and Kanye West joining the Beck fan club.

Live and direct, Pete Rock pops down Proud Camden this coming Thursday, and Ty is in town on Friday for BrixtonJAMM’s latest knees-up. DJ Yoda piles high the goodness at London’s The Forum with support from The Mouse Outfit on March 14th, and fabled enigma Divine Styler will swoop into your city for a Spring tour. Further down the calendar, The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 and West Street Mob will be handing out summertime lessons across the country (including at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival), and this year’s Outlook Festival has announced a bill of rap classicists old new, with performances from Run the Jewels, Flatbush Zombies, Pete Rock, Jeru The Damaja and The Beatnuts.


‘A Special Episode Of’ Open Mike Eagle unveils a miniseries of shoulder shrugging, prey-circling lyrical dexterity that’ll also satisfy your inner rhyme geek. Micall Parknsun champions ‘Grade & Liquor’ over a real fusty banger full of second-hand sweat and blowback, and the keenly felt comeback of Cannibal Ox bears two previews of typical blockish bluster from Vast Aire and Vordul Mega – doomsday anointment ‘Iron Rose’ with DOOM, and boom-bap bad dream ‘Harlem Knights.’

Apathy justifies the funk-fed title of ‘The 45 Killer’ with a business-as-usual beatdown. Kaytranada skims the surface while Vic Mensa mines the depths, so a head-swim gets met with a slap on ‘Drive Me Crazy’, drifting through the streets. Bringing his head down from the clouds is Verb T, whose short bitter-sweetener ‘I Just Wanna Live’ is powered by a poignant twang blurring colours out of the melancholy.

Kool Keith coming off the top over L’Orange’s chop-ups turn ‘Sometimes I Feel’ into a suspenseful and lopsided drama. ‘Unity’ is the standout from Zion I’s ‘The Sun, Moon and Stars’ EP, pro-activity at its best it denotes the split of the always consistent Zumbi and Amp Live. Exotic electronica, maximal Tropicana and lyrical gloss from Cakes da Killa is a lively combination for the leftfield that balances dance music style with tight mic performance on ‘#IMF.’

Midlands funk and soul saviour Sam Redmore opens the doors to his Mardi Gras remodelling school, with Q-Tip, Jay-Z, dead prez and Missy Elliott parading carnival flavours in the midst of Bossa nova bootlegs and cheeky two-track cut-ups. For classic, consummate, commanding mic presence, look no further than Your Old Droog and his eminently rewindable ‘Kinison’ EP – another warning shot for the year ahead from Nas’ doppelrhymer.


If the name sounds cartoony, Onoe Caponoe’s rebuttal is to use superpowers schooled in the dark arts. Voices from Planet Cattele is the captain’s log of a hungry sage-like emcee, an all-seeing eye in a youthful, know-it-all head. Paired with great space beats from Chemo - mired in bogginess, embracing zero gravity, vast opuses and solemn trundles – it’s a late night essential for bloodshot ears.

The Four Owls set a high homegrown bar with 16-track magnum opus Natural Order. Verb T, Fliptrix, BVA and Leaf Dog respect neck-stiffening beats and rhymes ripped from a stuffed notepad, perfectly navigating the posse mentality with go-for-self performance. They pull off a coup with a guest production from DJ Premier, and announce that 2015’s standard has been set with an LP that stands tall from start to finish.

Self-proclaimed “archbishop meets Bart Simpson” Fashawn has been touted by Nas as a big deal after previous slow progress. His animated, rounded, rational exasperations across The Ecology, bounce off polished production making no apologies for aiming mainstream. Whether or not he could do with something grittier, it’s not doing Fashawn’s prospects any harm, with accessibility key to steering the album away from the middle of the road.

A clash of starship funk and raspy gangsterisms comes from Note; obviously a Valentine’s Day realist, given his album is called Love & Indifference, it is indeed reasonably noteworthy. More about hearts and flowers was Pharoahe Monch’s timely 14th Feb collection Lost in Translation, a round-up picking out the sweet centres of his back catalogue.

B Dolan’s third House of Bees sits on the fringes but never on the fence, putting up pointed points of view while the record continually flips through styles to throw your preconceptions of him. Scroobius Pip and Sage Francis show up as likeminded support. Delegates of Culture spring clean the vaults for you to discover the Inaccessible. The crew headed by Skuff and Inja bring a bunch of B-sides, bootlegs and scraps blinking into the light after being kept under wraps for 15 or so years. A doughty UK bounty.

European superpowers Fulgeance (of France) and DJ Scientist (of Germany) go safecracking on The Soviet Tape. Sent from Russia with love, the, mainly instrumental alliance homes in on scuzziness and retro recognition, and is a top ranking dossier of thick jazz and funk breaks, unearthed samples, cold fronts and delighted Balkan jigs. On a crunk, turned-down-for-what flipside, club trasher Bionik gargles on glo-stick juice to heighten Sonik Boom, where waves of rash synths and drum machines turn tendons and brains to spaghetti. Entertaining, confrontational and bizarre rides from out wide dominate Ecid’s Pheromone Heavy: no loverman strut, these are super fast downloads from the brain and fierce DIY therapy and freedom to an 8-bit backdrop out of Minneapolis.

The interminable album formula of one producer plus umpteen invited rhymers is the one for Miami’s DJ EFN and his ravenous appetite seeking out past and present (Gunplay, Milk Dee, Killer Mike, King Tee) for the thorough Another Time. The tunes are stocky and everyone makes themselves at home, so it’s all good. The nonchalance of Kenn Starr is the biggest draw for Square One. Unassuming but always on-target, it’s a soul-soaked album set to a low heat but still able to blister ear lobes. Your recommended daily allowance of Soul Veggies comes from Mega Ran & Storyville, golden aged, meat-and-potatoes tag teamers not afraid to mix it up (‘Rappin’ About Rappin’’ zings as a trap parody/evaluation). They don’t overcook their ideas, and you couldn’t ask for a crisper set of Philly-bred greens.

Mixtapes & VT

With feet in both camps, DJ Nu-Mark takes his soldering iron to Jurassic 5 and The Pharcyde and comes up with super fresh best of both worlds Craft Services, getting to the bottom of each crew’s crates. Lil Wayne’s Sorry for the Wait 2 is a predictably rambling pre-album stopgap, getting things off his chest and chasing his own tail with some choice one-liners buried within a bunch of borrowed beats. DJ MK and DJ IQ veer between bass-heavy hip-hop and grime so skillfully, they’re comfortable naming their joint venture The Mix Tape That Doesn’t Have A Name Yet.

Closing visuals this month from Smellington Puff, Vocab Slick, Flip, and F Stokes.

Words: Matt Oliver


David Lawrie Dorothea's Boat Digital Artwork

David Lawrie   ‘Dorothea’s Boat’   (Ishikawa Records) Released 9th March 2015 – Limited Edition 12” vinyl and Digital download.

Hewing a distinctive musical pathway as a chamber pop or Baroque electronica John Donne, the serious and poetically romantic York born troubadour/composer David Lawrie has spent the past few years on releasing his masterful Dorothea’s Boat grand opus. A series of delays and setbacks – mostly outside his control – have stalled previous attempts; the eventual release funded by a Kickstarter campaign last year. Intricately put together like the pieces of a fine Swiss watch, Lawrie’s clockwork mechanical, overlapping layers and nuanced artfully prosed rich songs tend to inhabit their own space outside the confines of easy demarcation; neither wholly contemporary nor reliant on referencing the past, this all-encapsulating cosmic and earthly suffused songbook uses both atavistic instrumentation and electronic devices to build an imaginative world, populated by literature molded peninsulas and a cast of wondrous wild animals. Almost a tragic loss then, Lawrie’s most important work to date has managed a reprieve, saved from total obscurity and the ‘what could have been’ regret of so many shelved or lain dormant projects. Arguably the pinnacle of his recording career, Dorothea’s Boat is pushed out onto the vast and mostly unfathomable seas of exposure in the hope that it will float.

A concept album of sorts, in so much as a universal theme of lament, curiosity and love run throughout each vista expansive journey, and the musical leitmotif of course which time and again emerges like a melodic symbol of comfort and hope. Stripped and laid bare, the opening psalm like I Am Megalodon, creates a venerable atmosphere with its triple-tracked vocal harmony arrangement. Named after the prehistoric shark like predator beast of the deep, the allure of a moonlit typographic ocean, lapping on a mysterious shore, Lawrie plaintively yearns for the woman he hasn’t yet met. As the lulling tones dissipate, Lawrie pipes in with an upbeat panoramic African style adventure, opening up a tribal beaten toms chamber pop epic with the album’s signature track Dorothea. A kaleidoscope of Animal collective, Toto, Depeche Mode and Sparks in a neo-Rousseau colourful and childlike jungle of wonder, Lawrie magic’s up a series of expressionistic painted purse stealing baboons, baby sharks (another recurring reference) and tigers. So good is the main thrust, tune and rhythms on this one that Lawrie brings them in again and again throughout the entire album; sometimes almost remixed and other times played by different instruments and woven into new shapes. You can hear it in the following, more ambient, half time steam-electronica of the paean Flourine; in the second half of the safari adventure, Hypochondriacal; and in the glitch-y organic 2-step of the diaphanous pastoral Over, Under.

Sounding like leather and wood being recorded stretching over time, the quaintly Baroque plucked introduction of Storm Petrel (the video of which we featured exclusively on the Monolith last year) builds towards a ‘tidal wave’ of stage set thunderous percussion and growling synth, Lawrie strapped to the mast, singing in defiant joy. From there on in, the album seems to follow a slight detour, the previous half following a more congruous lineage, and investigates new vistas; starting with the eastern flavoured (or even Adriatic) cosmological observational deck Species: Lawrie poetically embodying a star formation as he gazes down upon the Earth and astronauts floating about in ignorance of their mission. Following in its wake is the acoustic guitar strummed tetchy sad digital breakdown Gravity And Oxygen and the slithering Panda Bear-esque toms pattered The Serpent And Her Fangs. But the biggest surprise is saved until last as Lawrie strums out on a Pablo Honey era Radiohead meets Green era R.E.M. night flight, Traffic Lights At Night (Yumiko); beatbox percussion over a steaming sustained wash of tablas and indie guitar, Lawrie searches for meaning amongst the fatigue of the humdrum.

Sumptuously crafted, creating a magical metaphysical vista, Lawrie composes one of the year’s most colourful – if brooding at times – ambitious pop soundtracks. Not only does it float but sails triumphantly into port on a wave of adulation.

Words: Dominic Valvona



How To Hold Your Breath (Zinne Harris) @ The Royal Court Theatre, London 9th February 2015.

‘The Miseducation Of Dana’

With each breathe, fervour outburst of spittle and even dust visible and tangible, the Royal Court setting allows one of the most intimate, up close theatre experiences you’re ever likely to witness. Put the inimitable – arguably one of the greatest and rawest talents of her generation – earnest Maxine Peake at the centre of a two hour play, and you find yourself privy to a most mesmerising performance, even if the opening scene of Peake’s Dana character canoodling post-coital with, what might be a metrosexual Mephistopheles, Jarron (Michael Shaffer) makes you feel like an eavesdropper or voyeur. This initial spark and as it proves twist of fate, leads to a series of ever-more harrowing episodes, the principle characters including Dana’s sympathetic older sibling Jasmine (Christine Bottemley) embarking on a journey across Central Europe during a rapidly escalating financial disaster.

Come “hell” or high water, the much – almost ruinously – tested character of Dana navigates a bankrupted Europe teetering and then progressively pushed over into a modern version of Candide; one that negates the “best of all possible worlds” optimism of the omnipresent Professor Pangloss. Leaden at times with metaphors – and if ever in doubt as to the theme’s subtexts, there’s a constant stream of references from the mysterious librarian’s ever-ready trolley of book titles and authors – with even the stage moving in tandem with the literal “earthquake” seismic events, How To Hold Your Breath offers a glimpse into a world turned upside down; a role-reversal of the present day migration and escape from North Africa to Europe and beyond, the promised land in this scenario the ancient seat of wisdom; a city graced with one of the original seven wonders; once home to the greatest library in the known world; Alexandria. Our close sisters set out on a course of action but find themselves suffering the sins and turmoils of the venture capitalist, shareholder, bankers and digital tech companies brave new world; in limbo, marooned in a insignificant German city, 1000 miles from their destination.

Despite the often Dystopian, dog-eat-dog scenes of despair – including an all too painful and shook by the lapels performance later in the play by the grieving Jasmine – Zinne Harris’ play has its tender and warmer moments, notably in the knockabout banter and expletive riddled ribbing of the two sisters dialogue. Dark but humorous, even the relationship between the demonic protagonist Jarron and Dana can at times prove candidly witty. Assiduous throughout, the sequence of events moving along at a good pace; props and sets bare but ample for the progressively crumbling scenery that reflects the decay and rapid breakdown of society; Harris’ script is handled with economy and a spirit of experimentation – the ferry crossing stage plunge into an abyss, a striking example, the supporting cast disappearing beneath the floor to their fate.

Portrayed and almost ridiculed for her supposed vulnerability and naivety the surly northern lass Dana is often far stronger in courage, emotion and humble then the plot demands; a prejudice of mine no doubt, used to seeing Peake play some of the strongest roles; her usual fare of characters knuckling down and eventually rising above all those who surround her. A break from the usual casting perhaps, she nevertheless plays a gritty tormented soul who only a through supernatural circumstances beyond her control, has her will broken, as she carries around a an indelible mark left by the arsehole Jarron – another literal marker, the scars never healing and rottenness seeping out.

On a near peerless form of late, off the back of a successful role as Hamlet on the stage and as the maternal, love-trapped heroine of The Village last year on the BBC, Peake holds every scene, even when demoted to arched, resilient or suspenseful face pulling in the background as the rest of the cast take centre stage. However, everyone is on form and naturally at ease, without any minor missteps or mistakes – well visible to an admittedly novice theatre goer like myself. The zeitgeist is long over, and the abundance of recession/depression themed plays probably starting to run out of originality, Harris has though put a certain “slant” on the post-banking crisis, adding something relatively fresh to the dark days that still cast a shadow over our future.

Words: Dominic Valvona


As the general “do not disturb” hangover from the new year sign is replaced by the “business as usual” one, the Monolith Cocktail rolls up its sleeves and knuckles down, perusing so you don’t have to, a fair chunk of the most interesting and quality assured releases from the multitudes of solicited requests. A bumper crop of albums await in this edition of  “tickling our fancy” ; from the squawking, blurted awkward jazz of  Populäre Mechanik to the nuanced percussive and synthesized Kenyan veldt Krautronics of  Schneider Kacirek.

The full line up includes: Schneider Kacirek, Populäre Mechanik, The Unthanks, Vincent Peirani, Vision Fortune, Craig Ward & Radbound Mens, Sean Bw Parker & Ettuspadix.

Monolith Cocktail reviews

Schneider Kacirek  ‘Shadows Documents’  (bureau b) Released 19th January 2015.

Translating the ethnography of Kenya music into a modern peregrination of sophisticated synthesized and percussive sounds, the highly articulate sonic explorers Stefan Schneider and Sven Kacirek sail close to the fourth world “possible music” soundscapes of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno on their latest venture, Shadows Documents. Obviously enriched with the ancestral rhythms and drums of their Kenyan source, their nine-track odyssey has a metallic, nighttime kinetic energy of deep brooding German electronica that almost erodes all traces of their tribal inspiration. With a slight twist on previous unembellished field recordings – carried out under the auspices of the Goethe Institute and UNESCO -, the duo have manipulated their documented findings to create a threatening and curious omnipresent atmosphere; an ambient soundtrack to a satellite orbiting state of futuristic inertia.

It won’t come as any surprise to found the indelible Teutonic markings of Klaus Dinger, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Hans-Joachim Irmler and Jaki Liebeziet on this record; all of who apart from Can’s metronome drum titan, Schneider – the founding member of Kriedler and To Rococo Rat – has worked with in some capacity over the years. There is also the direct lineage inclusion of former Afrika 70 band member Niklas Addo Nettey – Fela Kuti’s impressive and much put upon band -, though the Berlin resident (since the early 80s) musician plays a veiled and obscured accompaniment of otherworldly and resonating plank sounds.

Lit up by the autobahn traffic, streaming a interconnected sonic landscape of 808 pre-sets, birdcall vibratos, primal analogue effects, long fuzzy waveforms and the odd plucked out melodic transmission, the album surfs a ever-changing terrain.

Populäre Mechanik   ‘Kollektion 03: Compiled By Holger Hiller’  (bureau b)  26th February 2015

Released by the same label, bureau b, the third of the new kosmiche and krautrock family tree Kollektion series – following on from a Sky Records compilation and Lloyd Cole selection of Roedelius choice tunes – release for the first time on vinyl/CD the sporadic, awkward and disjointed workings of the Teutonic jazz punk free-thinkers Populäre Mechanik. Dreamt-up or rather beaten into existence by the former Ton Steine Scherben instigator Wolfgang Seidel, an early apostle of the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab – which sowed the seeds of Krautrock and electronic music in Germany – and sometime musical partner of the notorious club’s founder Conrad Schnitzler, the Mechanik turned their back on the rock scene and instead went underground with a D.I.Y. approach. Recording and editing long uninterrupted jams onto a four-track recording device and than issuing forth their broadcasts on cassette only, Seidel and his comrades made music both quickly and cheaply – except for the one time they received a cultural grant to record in a “proper studio”, which never sat well and was never repeated. Always awkward and opposed to assimilation, shunning the punk and post-punk communities, they never quite fitted in with any scene. Plowing their own distinct amorphous furrow, the group produced a phaser, warbling and at times tubular reverberating effects rich soundscape of dystopian jazz and 80s fusion.

Released by the same label, bureau b, the third of the new kosmiche and krautrock family tree Kollektion series – following on from a Sky Records compilation and Lloyd Cole selection of Roedelius choice tunes – release for the first time on vinyl/CD the sporadic, awkward and disjointed workings of the Teutonic jazz punk free-thinkers Populäre Mechanik. Dreamt-up or rather beaten into existence by the former Ton Steine Scherben instigator Wolfgang Seidel, an early apostle of the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab – which sowed the seeds of Krautrock and electronic music in Germany – and sometime musical partner of the notorious club’s founder Conrad Schnitzler, the Mechanik turned their back on the rock scene and instead went underground with a D.I.Y. approach. Recording and editing long uninterrupted jams onto a four-track recording device and than issuing forth their broadcasts on cassette only, Seidel and his comrades made music both quickly and cheaply – except for the one time they received a cultural grant to record in a “proper studio”, which never sat well and was never repeated. Always awkward and opposed to assimilation, shunning the punk and post-punk communities, they never quite fitted in with any scene. Plowing their own distinct amorphous furrow, the group produced a phaser, warbling and at times tubular reverberating effects rich soundscape of dystopian jazz and 80s fusion.

Inspired but also weary of the Zodiak’s “Totally free music. Everyone plays. Anyone plays. Everyone can do it” manifesto, Seidel began on the drums before, due to a lack of space in the studio of his erstwhile music collaborator Schnitzler, moving to transposing rhythms onto synthesisers – for which he was nicknamed “sequenza”. However, pining for his drum kit, Seidel returned to drumming in the late 70s, forming through a small ad a likely gang of musicians, every bit as imbued by the spirit of the times and goofing on Devo and XTC. Those heady days of experimentation are gathered together here by the Palais Schaumburg vocalist Holger Hiller; picked from two original cassette productions, released in the early 80s and featuring a new interview and discussion on the course of rock and pop music over the last 45 years.

Pretty obscure, and easy to have slipped by your consciousness, the ‘kollektion’ is a quite revolutionary sound, mixing not only the genres already mentioned but also adding a disjointed, jerk of reggae and menacing constructivism to the caustic mix. Imagine a disjointed awkward DAF jamming with PiL, the band lumbering in a languid motion between ideas and influences without a care in the world to create a lolloping avant-garde cacophony. Though they wished to move away from the ‘rock’ part of the Krautrock affixed label, they nevertheless have a quality imbued with the augur spirit of Irmin Schmidt, Klaus Dinger, Michael Rother and the Roedelius/Moebius partnership. Intrinsically linked to that lineage, Seidel – of course there at the very start, a comrade of one of the scenes doyens, Conrad Schnitzler – but of their own times, the Mechanik’s thoroughly deserve more than just a footnote in the development of music in Germany, this ‘kollektion’ going someway to defining and establishing their valuable contributions and explorations.

The Unthanks - Monolith Cocktail

The Unthanks  ‘Mount The Air’  (RabbleRouser Music)  9th February 2015.

The earnest and humble Unthanks folk troupe attracts both an abundance of sentimental reverence from admirers and a literal spewing forth of musical influence heavy referenced veneration from critics. From mentions of Gill Evans and Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain to Sandy Denny’s ‘Next Time Around’, or the PR paraphernalia that goes on to describe each and every track in full robust detail, accompanied by a convincing guide for us critics to copy verbatim, noting who they sound like, this band could be rightly described as ambitiously embracing a wide range of influences, even if they are essentially following in the atavistic footsteps of their forbearers. In fact many of the songs on Mount The Air rework traditional laments, ballads and lullabies; adding either extra personal and poignant lines or merging together into long drawn out and sophisticated, paced epics.

Vocally hushed and breathy, the startling subtle but majestic voices – ranging from solo spots to two-part and even three-part harmonies – of the leading ladies Rachel and Becky Unthank, and the fiddle/violinist Niopha Keegan sound like convincing echoes from a hardy, struggling but dignified past; a lineage that can be traced back to the industrial mill towns of the north to civil war England. Beguiling and full of earthy toil, the Northumbria burr and location of this songbook plays on the psychogeography of the group’s hometown and county. Recording in their makeshift studio for the first time, over a two-year period, this latest album is imbued with the roots they’ve set down, the Unthank sisters living next door and bringing up their kids only yards away from where they’ve chosen to record – this is after all a family affair, the extended band growing from an original all-female outfit to a faux-orchestra, including the all-round instrumentalist Adrian McNally who is married to Rachael. A personal tribute if you like, the continued ebbing tidal washes suffused throughout the album are honed from recollections and their group’s life; a poignant enough reminder, ‘For Dad’ is a homage to Keegan’s Irish father who passed away a couple of years ago.


Steeped in a certain bewitching vapour of tradition but balanced with the more pressing matters of the contemporary, Mount The Air is a curious songbook that features stirring melodies and enchanting plaintively heart-aching odes from characters pacing the Thomas Hardy hilltops, yet despite the quality on show and beautifully administered musicianship it never quite rises above a whisper. Hints of Robert Wyatt (who is a fan of the band), Pentangle, Portishead (who’s Adrian Utley has worked with the group on a previous project) and rather interestingly, Blonde Redhead (on the LP’s most diaphanous, breathtaking cinematic ‘Flutter’) lock with fabled old wives tales of ‘Magpies’ and folk operas built around the Thomas Coram Foundling Hospital in London and the old dreamy adage of being sent off to a Golden Slumbers sleep. In all this is a superb album in the folk tradition, a little too languorous and procrastinating at times, but beautifully executed and timeless.

Vision Fortune  ‘Country Music’  (ATP Recordings)  9th February 2015.

In a thinly applied smear of clattering percussive minimalism and stripped industrial ambience, the catatonic Vision Fortune enter the mainframe. Never entirely sure of what I’m actually listening to or even how you’d describe their sound, the band use homemade metallic object sounds to produce a toss up of Grumbling Fur, The Normal, and vocally, The Liars.

Drumming with lacrosse sticks or striking a bell they lumber into earshot with ominous tidings of no wave, as they fall into the abyss on the debut LP Country Music. Applying and reapplying textures until the melody and rhythms linger like mere echoes and traces of a conventional song, each off-kilter and methodically worked track finds a natural progression through the haze and incessant clicks and ticks.

Constructing their own atmosphere and soundtrack with the submerged beneath a sun-dappled pool, 808 preset techno and Eno-esque proto-synth new wave of ‘Cleanliness’ and ‘Back Crawl II’, the Vision come up with some very interesting music. Bordering on 80s R’n’B meets raw electro, the instrumental ‘Tita’ slips in a reverent ethereal choir sound wave just to keep us guessing. Whilst ‘Ties And Bounds’ is a softened screeching primal alarm from a Scott Walker-esque scarred factory, and ‘Drunk Ghost’ loiters in a Herzog/Vuh Krautrock nightmare. For the most part, synths and effects are left to run their course, sounding almost inhuman as they hover and arch off into the ether: taken over by the soul in the machine.

It will certainly ‘challenge’ you but will also pique your interest and even prove hauntingly lush in places.

Vincent Peirani - Monolith Cocktail

Vincent Peirani  ‘Living Being’  (ACT)  9th February 2015.

It seems to be an contractual obligation on the part of the German jazz label ACT that everyone on its roster should either be at least a virtuoso with decades of experience and reverence or a rising star, weighed down by plaudits and accolades galore.

With a triumvirate of such prizes and awards already, the genre spanning French accordionist Vincent Peirani has picked up a Prix Django d’Or and ECHO Jazz award, and also been acclaimed as the ‘artist of the year’ by Jazz Magazine France. Perhaps more for his amorphous approach to the accordion and ability to merge the best of experimental European jazz with alternative rock, spiritual soul and blues, Peirani has been celebrated for untethering the classical French instrument from its stereotypic origins as the maudlin or cheery accompaniment to a million humble Parisian scenes. Just as imbued by electronic music as jazz and classical, Peirani explores a “cornucopia” of cultures and ideas, taking the squeeze box into uncharted territories, often facing off or underlying in ambient washes beneath the accompanying soprano and tenor saxophone of Emile Parisien – who has worked on previous projects with Peirani, including the more recent Duo Art series release Belle Époque.


His latest adventures in a worldly sound call for a new band; brought together to create an unspecified and amorphous suite of tunes. Once again the core partnership boasts the adroit saxophone talents of Parisien but also includes new recruits, R’n’B and hip-hop musician Julien Herné on the electric bass-guitar, Art Blakey and Elvan Jones fan Yoann Serra on drums, and keyboard player Tony Paeleman who’s worked with a myriad of singers and pop musicians. Not unsurprisingly this group gels together successfully, each member a friend or fellow band member at some point of their conductor, and all originally from his hometown of Nice – but now all based in the French capital -, a congruous spirit flows throughout, so that no matter where the music ends ups they’re all heading in the same direction. What this sounds like is an organic, almost at times ambient, emotive liquidity of free jazz emotions. Neither following a narrative or pattern.

The opening ‘Suite en V’ duo of sparsely deconstructed jazz and twinkled harmonic Fender Rhodes rich exploration begins with a probe into acoustic Aphex Twin territory and gently prods away until climaxing on a blues note in the finale. They make a meal (a tasty three-course one I may add) of Jeff Buckley’s plaintively stirring ‘Dream Brother’ requiem – all trebly discord Rhodes, cracking, tripping off-step drum rhythms and swaddling lamentable accordion – and they grapple with and turn out a sublime, patient to progressively hectic, version of the abstract sound collage ‘Mutinerie’, written by leading European free jazz doyen Michel Portal – the fellow compatriot who’s clarinet/saxophone skills and explorations have featured on a diverse range of recordings and performances, including a Stockhausen cycle in 1969 and on a litany of French films.

Whether it’s navigating moments of Floyd like progressive soul (‘On The Heights’) or flexing a Herbie Hancock – Miles Davies era – diaphanous sparkled jazz funk (‘Air Song #2’, ‘Some Monk’), the group imaginatively play around with all their influences and inspirations to produce, a post-modernist jazz ascetic, unburdened by the set-patterns of solos and ordered performance; a “living being” of sound and musicianship.

Craig Ward & Radboud Mens  ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ (Jezus Factory)  23rd February 2015.

Awkward as usual, the challenging Belgium label and hive of rock and electronica mavericks Jezus Factory Records are to release a limited cassette (with download code) of Craig Ward & his erstwhile latest musical partner, Radboud Mens, quintet of sonic suites The Drive To Taxonomy.

The Argyll-based guitar sculptor and one-time member of Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, The Summer Of Mars, The Love Substitutes, Elton Genocide, iH8 Camera, True Bypass, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen Very saddles up for another ambient picturesque journey, accompanied by sound-installation and electronic music artist Radbound Mens – involved in a similar dizzying number of collaborations and projects that have included Technoise, Hyware, Fitness Landscape and Cloud Ensemble. If Kubrick directed Inner Space, the duo explore a biological terrain, peering down the microscope and giving a musical sound to the organisms that slither, slide, procreate and split below. A minimal, stripped score to the science of Taxonomy, defining characteristics with the use of a manipulated guitar and series of low drones, blips, crystallized shimmer, and fuzz, over an ever-moving bed of organic matter.

Sometimes we are gently guided over the omnipresent subjects, and at other times, piqued and awakened by sharper, more forceful sonic effects from a stirring primordial soup kitchen. Probing the surface and prodding at what lies beneath, a reaction often breaks the lull. But this is a placable experience for the most part, only occasionally entering something discordant or threatening us with some looming ominous chasm. Ward and Radboud compliment each other’s methods, though it is difficult to tell who is producing what sound at anytime. Following on from his last – given the thumbs up from us in 2014 – ambient, psychogeography rich, soundtrack, New Third Lanark, Ward continues to offer some highly interesting atmospherics. This partnership works extremely well, and I hope to hear more in the future.

And Finally….

Sean Bw Parker & Ettuspadix Beautilator  ‘Ninja Lit’

I’d never hear the end of it, so for my penance here is the latest offering from our sometime-contributor and writer/artist of renown, Sean Bw Parker. Managing to convince some poor unsuspecting soul into his miscreant, mischievous plans, Sean has roped in Ettuspadix Beautilator to conjure up a suitable backing track for his Orwellian uttering style observations. A degenerate Yello being heckled by a polite murmuring tirade of well-articulated and thoughtful abuse, ‘Ninja Lit’ arrives out of the blue as the teaser for – yes, I will warn you now – a whole album of similar miscreant nicotine stained, boozy tavern besmirched philosophical candor. Of course all the best statements, rhetoric, ideas and poetry come from the debauched or meager paid artistic suffragettes, struggling in their garrets. And this is no exception. And by that, we mean we approve wholeheartedly.

Words:  Dominic Valvona 



Hanne Kolsto - MC

Ayfer Simms takes time out from publishing her debut novel to escape through the dimensions of time and run away with the latest album from Nordic electronica siren Hanne Kolstø. Forever Maybe receives the full customary literary and lyrical review.

Hanne Kolstø   ‘Forever Maybe’  (Jansen Plateproduksjon) Released 19th January 2015.

The youth and moody side of the 80s is spilled on a fluid shimmering indie sound of the 90s, with Hanne Kolstø, vocalist who bares the coolness of a Luc Besson female character; carrying about something both fragile and destructive, she is both Nikita’s juvenescence evolving about in the seedy world of secret towns and Leeloo’s innocence and yet powerful inner ability to save the world. She is also Top gun’s sassy instructor: the album has gone to the future and came back, bringing a luminous mix of époques and offering us a hybrid of different atmospheres.

“Shame my shadow when in the sun, I break up with everybody, my only friend the night”

It is also Blade Runner and the fate of the Replicant doomed with a short lifespan hiding in the shadows of a cold night. Hanne K, quirky strong persona chants in the streets of a dystopian city, she is made of plastic from the 80s, warmed inside by the distorted and wild guitars of the 90s.

The voice of our taciturnly unaware female hero is as accommodating as YOUTH itself wearing a thorn ballet skirt and red runny lipstick, Hanne’s twisted tomboy glare declares “I am alone that’s where I want to be”, “Nothing to talk about” with a provocative shrug, to an audience that will fancy more of this Electronic rhythmic pounding sound layered with smooth catchy pop melodies and synthesizers.

The album, Forever Maybe, has the allure of the before dénouement in movies: The pace is placid, whatever dramas cropped up are now cooling off, letting us enjoy the recess of the hero.

Hannah is the offspring of a mind, of the Joe Bucks and the Ratso’s of Midnight Cowboys, an atmosphere of hope and gloom, regurgitated and born back in a record: Vintage, rebellion, a bit of selfish indulgence: Agreeable little album.


Words: Ayfer Simms

Selection 023

February 3, 2015

Welcome to our popular ‘selection’ series of polygenesis tracks from our regular DJ sessions and imaginary radio show.

The RAah Project 2009

You can peruse further and discover more via our Spotify account, or catch us at our regular new spot, DJing at Sean Bw Parker’s Music @ Muchos Nachos soiree ever Saturday night.

If you like what you hear, and wish to embrace the Monolith musical ascetic, than contact us on our email for possible gigs and events: monolithcocktail@gmail.com


Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats  ‘Heavy Heavy Heavy’  (EMI)  From the 1974 LP Let’s Have A Party.  

Panda Bear ‘Mr Noah’  (Domino)  From the 2015 LP Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper.

Blurt  ‘Get Original’  (LTM)  From the 2003 compilation LP The Best of Blurt Volume 1: The Fish Needs A Bike

The Feminine Complex  ‘I Don’t Want Another Man’  (Athena)  From the 1969 LP Livin’ Love.  

Aguaturbia  ‘Eres Tu’  (Arena)  From the 1969 LP Aguaturbia.

The RAah Project  ‘Covered Up In Stars’  (Knowfoowl Music)  From the 2009 LP Score.

The Charlatans  ‘So Oh’  (BMG)  From the 2015 LP Mother Nature.


Francine Thirteen - Monolith Cocktail

The most polygenesis mix of releases from the world’s of jazz, scuzz, kosmiche, ambient, electronica, frat to garage rock, psych, drone, hip hop, Afrobeat, griot, desert blues, daemonic, transcendental, dengue, prog, doom, Siam, and umpteen thousand other sub or neo faux genres.

Tickling our fancy on this occasion are Francine Thirteen, Keroscene , Marius Neset, Klaus Marten, and Slows Down.

Francine Thirteen   ‘4 Marys And The King’

Mirroring the sagacious Afrofuturist Sun Ra, who convinced us all of his Saturn linage, the sensually adroit artist Francine Thirteen, via her succinct but no less poetic bio, announces that she was beamed down from the planetary womb of Venus to Dallas, Texas. Inhabiting a dual mantle of naturalistic and daemonic mystery, Francine’s sophisticated amalgamation of earthy gospel and otherworldly soul is heavily influenced by “the magic of sacred female archetypes” and the elementals of alchemy themes.

The concept of her upcoming debut 4 Marys And The King, casts a quartet of these archetypal women in a dystopian empire; each variant of the Mary character’s (Mother Mary, Queen Mary, Sister Mary and Lady Mary) song a singular but concomitant episode in the sensory sung and adroitly played story. The tropes of power, hierarchy and the relationship between a state and its citizens, is woven into the richly synthesised and vapourous tunes. Some of the connotations are obvious, Mother Mary the ‘archetypal’ venerated and worshipped icon, repeating her religious and mythical role in this futurist tale, herself an incarnation of centuries old motherhood figures. Over a low grumbling, prowling fog of bass and not much else, Francine’s Nina Simone meets Martina Topley-Bird vocals repeat Mother Mary’s plaintive “dead or alive, he’s always mine” eulogy, as she embodies the unbreakable bond between child and mother that no one can ever escape.

This and its moiety companion, ‘Queen Mary’ are currently doing the rounds until the EP is released in the summer. The second taster, no less pivotal, is a hypnotic flailed beast of trip-hop and hymn like reverence – the thrashed sounds of a swaying, chained mass and beautiful but lamentable vocals evoking the deep southern gospel of the shackled slave-gang – describes the hollow crown solitude of the uneasy Queen; more or less living in servitude and under the fearful whimsy of a Tudor-style king – one of the other main characters in this four-way split tale of woe, is the far more powerful and controlling King’s mistress. Manifested by unsettling shifting percussion, constantly tapping away with unease and an ominous sense of tragedy the sorrowful Queen wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tricky album.

Shaping up to be one of the year’s most mystically interesting releases, Francine Thirteen’s inaugural EP will leave many unnerved and curious, but few would disagree she is an emerging talent. And what a voice! Moving like liquid gold between the spiritually aching and the sexual. We look forward to hearing much more from Francine in the immediate future.

Keroscene   ‘Cotton Candy/ Storm O.K.’   (Dream Machine Records)   Released  2nd  March 2015

Fiddling with Nirvana and psychedelic 80s indie pop whilst Rome burns, the London-based quartet Keroscene, take the dried old bones of Seattle’s once thriving music scene on a stellar-bound trip with their upcoming debut double A-side single. Named after a drunken exchange of opinions between the group’s lead singer, David Troster and a journalist who claimed that there are no more scenes as they all quickly burn out, the portmanteau of “Kerosene” and “Scene” suddenly seemed quite apt.

As a bird-finger salute, the group have voyaged deep into the sort of 80s alternative drone and space rock, beloved by the Horrors, to forge two caustic and thrashed-out laments. The first of these, ‘Cotton Candy’ is a searing contrary sweetener of a grunge-y, jittering guitar anthem, its counterpoint, ‘Storm O.K.’, lifts off from Britpop terra firma into space rocking orbit; the signals and transmissions lost in a vortex of swirling waning guitars and phaser effects.

The self-confessed “multicoloured melancholy” of Keroscene presently curate/host their very own monthly club night residency at their Unit 4 Warehouse. The next date in the calendar, February 25th, will see the band play alongside Brighton’s esoteric beguiling Esben and the Witch.

Marius Neset  ‘Pinball’   (ACT)   Released  30th January 2015

A second appearance in under a year from the award-winning Norwegian jazz saxophonist of mounting repute on the Monolith Cocktail, Marius Neset’s last LP, in collaboration with the equally assured and respected Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Lion (for which he has just received Norway’s most glittering music award, the Spellemannsprisen) was a well-rehearsed tumble through quasi-Gershwin horn skylines and honking fusion. Pretty much lending his talents to any style, Neset is back once again with his long-time associate and fellow compatriot drummer/percussionist, and on this album co-producer, Anton Eger. Back to what he does best, Neset showcases his improvisational and compositional skills, producing what he would argue was his “strongest artistic statement yet”.

Recorded on the tranquil Norwegian island of Giske in the Atlantic sea view studio of Ocean Sound Recordings, Pinball is guided and imbued by the quality of the space it was performed in: a studio where musicians can inhabit the second floor living space and if they wish, escape to the nearby beach for relaxation and inspiration. Comfort and an environment to breathe in at his leisure, Neset encamped on Giske in 2014 with a cohesive backing band, made-up of players from numerous connected projects; including Swedish bassist Petter Eldh, who both Neset and Anger worked with in the People Are Machines band; pianist Ivo Neame (handling not only the piano but eliciting diaphanous runs and trembled phrases from the Hammond B3 organ, CP80 and clavinet) who formerly worked with Anger in the trio Phronesis; and vibraphonist Jim Hart, a musical partner of Neame. With a lineage inspired by such past and present saxophone luminaries as Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Chris Potter and Jan Garbarek, the Norwegian virtuoso bridges jazz with the non-western folk music of Hermeto Pascoal, Joe Zawinul and Trilok Gurtu to produce something highly melodious. The off-kilter polyrhythms and avant-garde skipping curveballs still remain as challenging as ever, and the usual cross-pollination of musical styles still amorphously blend with the classical.


Handclapping an introduction, the album’s opening pan-global dual suite, ‘World Song Part 1’, skips, probes and blows hard through an imaginative Don Cherry in Africa landscape. ‘Part 2’ is the comedown; the dusky Notre Dame bell tolls in the distance and snuggled saxophone, twinkly descriptive marimba/vibes playing a noir theme, before ending on a more groovy up-tempo outro. The title track however squawks and surreptitiously breathes through a scuttling avant-garde mix of lighthearted, cartoonish bounces, and the Modern Jazz Quartet; completed with a soaring free flowing flute solo. Staying in the experimental field of exploration, the feline like abstract marriage of clashing cymbals, skipping piano and bowed, stretching double bass, ‘Jaguar’, is in a hurry to scramble through the jungle terrain, whilst it’s Jim Tenor tribal tube banging stripped counterpart ‘Music For Drums and Saxophone’, hides the sax well behind an exotic percussive chant.

Nowhere does it suggest that Neset is a follower or fan of Radiohead, but both the lilting, diaphanous reminiscing ‘Odes Of You’ and cascading ‘Theatre Of Magic’ sound melodically in tune with the Oxford “miserablelists” Kid A/Amnesiac period of jazz keyboard sadness; the latter sailing close to ‘Everything In The Right Places’.

Despite the often nuanced performances and dancing interplay, with rhythms and riffs working on various levels of complexity, the Neset sound can be quite a pleasantly placeable listening experience at times; sweetly melodic and thoughtfully comforting. However working outside the confines of traditional jazz to encompass both naturalistic and worldly concerns, both vigorously and in a free flowing spirit, Pinball apes its title: spring-loaded, flipping and bouncing off the walls. Neset can rest easy on his growing reputation, this latest showcase, released via the notable German jazz label ACT, another creative triumph.

Klaus Marten   ‘Honey’   Released 6th January 2015

Bushwick, Brooklyn’s leading maverick lo fi composer (disclaimer: we have no evidence to prove our claims!) and Monolith Cocktail regular, Klaus Marten is back with another collection of fuzzy, wailing and lingering sustain shaped experiments. Honey, like most of his titles, neither gives an indication nor describes in any obvious manner what you’re about to experience. Instead the ‘Intro’ begins one long-resonating wave of manageable synthesized ambience, accompanied by Marten’s foggy-recorded unruly guitar solos. Like a bastardized low-cost Hendrix mangling a state if the union address, these 60s faded emanations sound improvised; sometimes almost running out of places to go and stuttering as Marten decides where to travel next.

Almost uninterrupted, the continuous underlying soundscapes that are left to amble and languidly lurk in the background, quiver or run impeached as a catalogue of effects, including backward looped tapes and Mogodon trip-y breaks applied to slow down the flow, adding various piques of interest: from the sacrosanct environment of the ‘Black Book’ to shoegaze caustic drone of the title track.

A beacon of light in the lo fi world of subterranean and searching vistas, the stand out – notably the production is louder and brighter in comparison – stirring ‘Underwater Effect’ is a mysterious keyboard soundtrack, and one of the best tracks on the whole LP. What it has to do with aquatic effects is anyone’s guess.

The more you listen the more you notice, and Marten’s almost minimalistic creations can either promise an epiphany or leave a corrosive aftertaste of vapourous bewilderment. We happen to find something in the stirrings and ungainly wild flayed guitar offerings to recommend Honey for the soul.

Slows Down  ‘Slows Down’   Released 11th February 2015

Hazily sublime, enraptured in a vacuous whispery backwash of ether-veiled production, Alexander Hawthorne regales ambitious Baroque chamber pop and Morricone western laments from the comfort of his London-based abode. Under the pseudonym of Slows Down, his self-titled EP – ahead of the upcoming album – is submerged beneath a cloak of dreamy shoegaze resignation and esoteric Middle Eastern drone. Beneath the multiple hypnotic layers, Hawthorne’s vocals remain obscured, untethered and ready to disappear into the shrouded mists he’s created.

The four-track suite opens with the enervated Blix Bargeld era Bad Seeds meets the Durutti Column plaintive journey into “the heart of darkness”, ‘The Blue Easing’. Following in its wake is the liltingly sad pranged and twanged ‘On My Street’, a slowly suffused melancholic number that has lingering touches of Spiritualized – though it eventually builds towards one of those Morricone crescendos that transport the listener to the plains of a celluloid imagined Texas.

The cover of The Walker Brothers ‘In My Room’ reinforces Hawthorne’s penchant for the dramatic, and for the pains of the pure of heart. Originally orchestrated by John Franz into a bombastic chamber pop classic of despair, and sung by Scott Walker with existentialist anguish, Hawthrone’s own take conjures up a chilling, haunted and resonating version with just the faintest traces of a vocal that threatens to evaporate. In a similar mode, the last of this quartet ‘The Way Down Leering’, is another beguiling, mysterious soundtrack that pits Hawthorne’s Velvet Underground and Nico imbued voice with a Theremin warbled apparition and tolling bell backing: pitched somewhere between a tremolo strummed Ian Brown or Jason Pierce fronted version of a spaghetti western.

If these songs were an image it would be a Victorian black and white postcard depicting an séance or an overexposed camera obscure effect. Lost in the veils of another time and space, Hawthorne’s broadcasts seem to emerge from the gloom, neither wholly nostalgic nor modern. A ghostly parallel of head music meets beguiled cinematic soundtracks.

Our Daily Bread 141: Nanaki

January 28, 2015



Nanaki Monolith Cocktail


Ayfer Simms poetically navigates the Isle of Man guitarist Mikie Daughtery‘s latest release as the post-rock/experimental Nanaki – his first album under the moniker since 2003. No stranger to this blog, we’ve previously played host to his work in the shoegaze dreamy troupe Postcode. But it is his Nanaki alter ego that bookended 2014; releasing an EP at the start of that year and finishing it with The Dying Light LP. 


Nanaki   ‘The Dying Light’   (Small Bear Records)   Released 31st December 2014


‘Nanaki, where the dark clouds are’


Everything is made of steel; the seagulls are floating in the air like instrumental notes caught in the middle of a mood, a guitar cracks inside a glass bottle thrown out in the immensity of the sea: A prayer for all, for the glimmer buried inside the heart, for the people that are gone and for those who are here yet. Nanaki’s horizon line is the space before silence falls, the last minutes before it all ends.

The album is reflective, giving a sense of the everlasting question: Why? Yearning? Subdued anger against the light that falls on earth with a slant touch rather than bright as a glorious summer day, against the fog that traps a humid and chilly air to launch it on our land.

Nanaki kneels down like a Celtic indie knight in front of the mass of dark clouds: It roars at it, dances for it, curses at it, confronts it and in the very end sends tears to it, hoping to get some love in return.

Nanaki is about life and death and the trespassing of borders, the absurdity of us having to say goodbye: A Bronowski that declares, “I am sad to leave because I will miss you all”.

The Celtic atmosphere is present in the background, from the depth of the land surrounded by vastness, it echoes in form of discreet sounds, like heavy drops resonating in somber caves from an ancient world, weaved in with the indie soul as if sewed with a thread made of the alternative rock guitars. Titles like ‘Hiraeth’ are a wistful longing for the lost nest; we wonder where the den is, lost forever? We are plunged at times in a “Wild at heart” atmosphere, Nanaki sends us on a long stretch of road where crashed cars lay, offering its dead like a canny present: There we witness our own end, with fear and yet a romantic desire to be “all right”.

The album is moody, hypnotic, and runs like a tamed wild beast on the greatness of a Kafkaesque landscape.


Writer: Ayfer Simms



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