William D.Drake - Monolith Cocktail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words: Ayfer Simms


Pete Rock

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Monolith Cocktail

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

Mixtapes & VT

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

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

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

Words: Matt Oliver 



Monolith Cocktail

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

The Amon Düül II in brief: a short essay.

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

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

Monolith Cocktail

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Words & music selection:  Dominic Valvona

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

Phallus Dei

Phallus Dei


Sharat, the bands logo.

Sharat, the bands logo.


Carnival In Babylon LP cover (1972)

Carnival In Babylon LP cover (1972)


Amon Duul II - 'Wolf City' (1972)

Amon Duul II – ‘Wolf City’ (1972)


Amon Duul II 'Vive La Trance'

Amon Duul II ‘Vive La Trance’ 1973

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


Monolith Cocktail

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

Prince Vaseline - Monolith Cocktail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

opopoio front

OoopopoiooO   ‘OoopopoiooO’

(Tremoloa Records)  LP out now.

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

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

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

Die Wilde Jagd   ‘Die Wilde Jagd’

(Bureau B)  LP out on 25TH May 2015

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

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

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

Monolith Cocktail

Various Artists   ‘A New Life’

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

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

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

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

Words: Dominic Valvona


Monolith Cocktail blog

Ayfer Simms‘ lends her customary flowery poetic critique to the new solo project from Postcode guitarist Kieran Bell.

Skyline Advantage   ‘The Songs Of Stuff EP’   (Small Bear Records)

The Songs About Stuff EP is an energetic alternative rock ballad trip to the sultry world of Kieran Ball, who with his fond guitar bestows a familiar indie glow upon us. The 4 track EP opens ajar the door of a quiet and simple dwelling: Letting us catch a glimpse of the intimacy of a frail young spirit armed with hope and fidelity: “I want to be the one that comforts you when you have a bad day”.

With these earnest lyrics and a melodic delicate voice, Kieran extends a welcoming humble arm, like a newly blessed knight: a modern hero with disheveled posture and soft gaze: a romantic younglings perhaps.

The cords of the guitar are fierce and bring speed to the music, Kieran’s voice tones it down, the drums push it forward, and Kieran sings, to create a gentle “laissez-aller” in our steps.

There’s enough gentleness in the melodies to feel rocked, while guitar riffs surges though the tracks. He is encouraging: “You’re not the only one scared, don’t give up now”, yet Kieran is not a father figure, rather the progeny attempting to uplift the heart of his peers. He appears like the young dragon slayer, his guitar, a gilded instrument for crusades: Kieran is at the beginning of the journey, and the armor is covered with yet untarnished shiny scales; He is leading the way to a joyously moody walk under a semi cloudy land of green pastures, the dulcet sound of his voice rings…this is only the start off, it is grunge and it is good you see. The romantic slayer will soon become a roaring indie star.

Words:  Ayfer Simms


Jon DeRosa   ‘Black Halo’    (Rocket Girl)   25th May 2015 

Judging by the $7 million payout by Ph. Williams and RU. Thicke for desecrating the filicidally upsetting grave of Marvin Gaye – seen by many as The Postmodern End of Creativity – Jon DeRosa should be quaking in his Californian cowboy boots at the prospect of Messrs Simon & Garfunkel catching wind of his ‘The Sun is Crying’ and taking him to his Brooklyn cleaners copyright court for ‘being inspired by the feel’ of their ‘Cecilia’. Pretty much note for note, but easily surpassing the 60s slattern’s tale in atmosphere and its own form of loveliness.

The crest of neo-folk rootsiness and songwriterly dark dramatics kicked in a few years ago by Anna Calvi and Beirut are brought into mandolin-by-Mariachi horns focus, given dark romance by the Rat Pack-esque crooning of DeRosa. Calvi’s vampires-in-a-church-with-a-Gretch aesthetic works perfectly for the ex-La Monte Young student DeRosa, his plaintive croon resonating around Black Halo like Dean Martin in an old school Presbyterian chapel on a mountain in deepest south Wales.

There are some genuinely beautiful moments on this second album, hipsterishly belying DeRosa’a tattooed and bearded Hells Angels look. No one can tell what anyone is anymore. He’s seemingly strongest with a foil to work off, for example with Carina Round and her unpretentious, bell-clear perfect pitch in the sublime ‘Dancing In A Dream’. ‘When Daddy Took The Treehouse Down’ is a charming piece of nostalgic whimsy, those Mexican trumpets sashaying in again to remind the listener she is too young to remember Daddy’s eccentricities.

Jon DeRosa very early into his recording life (I hate the word career, especially these days with careerists EVERYWHERE) has total control and authority over what he does, not too surprising when you take into account the training he’s received and the environments surrounding him. Every possible cool box on consistently excellent label Rocket Girl is ticked, hopefully not straightjacketing the Booklyn beardy weardy too much for future endeavours. Basically it sounds like majestic album highlight ‘Knock Once’ might do a Beirut’s ‘Elephant Gun’, and go off worldwide. Such single-minded dedication that DeRosa possesses surely deserves it.

Words:  Sean Bw Parker


U.S.Girls - Monolith Cocktail blog

Another polygenesis round up of new music that includes neo-dub kaleidoscopic pop from U.S. Girls; serial killer stoner psych rock from Creature With The Atom Brain; venerated choral harmonies from C Duncan; arena-style pop from Many Things; twanged Morricone meets Lee Hazelwood western lament from Sacri Cuori; and Baroque chamber psych from Jacco Gardner. Plus in short, new tracks from Reptile Youth, flies + flies and Thomas Truax.

U.S. Girls   ‘Damn That Valley’   (4AD)

In a congruous and highly apt transfer to the label of choice for colourful polygenesis soundclash mavericks and experimental artists 4AD, Meg Remy’s U.S. Girls will release a new album, later in the year. As a precursor, Remy has just put out this latest marvel, the Ronnie Spector fronting a Mikey Dread/Grace Jones hybrid, ‘Damn That Valley’. Moving away from the idiosyncratic and candid 60s girl group tape loops towards a dub and esoteric R’n’B sonic, and decked out in a strange, Bowie on the cover of his Live LP, pale blue suit and Hilary Clinton hairstyle, Remy hooks up once again with Canadian cosmic hip hop and head music producer Onakabazien. Though the best whine in the business stays and the echoes of The Ronettes and Crystals remain firm, there is a distinct change in direction.

The title, taken from American author Sebastian Junger’s War memoir, dramatises a widowers frustrated and pitiful riling against the administration, as she forlornly shakes a fist at the various seats and symbols of the state capitol, before she places a lingering touch on the marble memorial wall of the dead: a place on the grandiose memorial and government gratitude hardly seem sufficient compensation. Superimposed over these Washington’s monuments, Remy caresses the ether and imaginary connections, as she croons in certain despair at the all too real consequences of US policy.

She joins the likes of Ariel Pink, tUnE-yArDs and Scott Walker on what must be one of the most enviable rosters of any label, though she holds her own and this latest track is one of her strongest yet: the album sounds promising.

CWTAB - Monolith Cocktail blog

Creature With The Atom Brain ‘Night Of The Hunter’

Hitching a one-way ride to damnation on the serial killer trail, the previous solo project of Belgian musician Aldo Struyf (blossoming and boosted by a collaborative roll call of fellow compatriots later on), Creature With The Atom Brain calls time on their subterranean psych with their last furore, Night Of The Hunter. Grabbed from the Robert Mitchum starring film of the same title, allusions are cast as the deep underbelly of pulp and noir fiction is explored through a two acts in five-parts musical suite of hypnotic stoner, heavy and Krautrock. Embarking on this sonic voyage is a cast of Antwerp’s great and good, plucked from the alternative and hardliner scene, and including both dEUS and Eagles of Death Metal’s guitarist Tim Vanhamel, dEUS founding member Tom Barman and performance artist Danny Devos – who lends a creepy air of vocal ‘psycho-killer’ derangement to Side A’s ‘Part 2’. From outside the Belgium borders, the Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan swoops in to supply the main vocals on the opening Byzantine-meets-Dirtmusic (without the African vibe, as strange as that may sound) ‘Part 1’: all belly dancer trinket shimmering on the trail of the Zodiac killer, Lanegan’s commanding skulk plays off against Struyf’s Beck-esque languorous oozing vocals. The bombastic, timpani style motoring opener lays down the template, winding down before creeping into the second chapter of ghoulish chills, rim scuttled drum rhythms, post-punk synth arpeggiators and Mexican killing fields vihuela guitar flourishes.

The second movement on the B side is both brooding and suffused with a prowling sophistication, the miscreant group of guests and long-term band members imbued with the spirit of Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave on the moonlight confessional ‘Part 1’. Whilst ‘Part 2’ channels Crime And The City Solution riding into a Morricone western, and ‘Part 3’ methodically reworks all the main themes into one final curtain call of mournful redemption.

Somewhere between a motor city rock and Teutonic hard place, with devilish undertones and a certain mature philosophical resignation, Struyf’s CWTAB – whether it was intentional or not – produce a ‘killer’ shadowy concept album – as loose a concept as that may be.

C Duncan  ‘Here To There’   (FatCat Records)

Gently illuminating angelical tones from Glasgow’s pastel shaded interior, as artist/musician Christopher Duncan issues a venerable choral treat ahead of his debut LP, Architect, in July. Referencing and imbued with both the breezy but deeply sophisticated American folk-psych and rock of Midlake and The Fleet Foxes and the classical reverence of Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré, Duncan’s self-produced (created in his Glasgow flat) intimate bedroom masterpieces dare to be hauntingly epic. ‘Here To There’ follows in the grand tradition of Scotland’s brave dreamers who channel the harmonic noir of the American west coast to deliver the most beautifully beguiling hymn.

Many Things   ‘Holy Fire’   (Dew Process)

We’re quite taken with the expansive, arena pop of London-based three-piece  Many Things. The latest single ‘Holy Fire’ is a melodically grand and intelligent affair, devoid of platitudes and embarrassing earnestness. Playing out some strange allegorical apocalyptical survivors tale in an opencast mine, the band’s stride through all the meteoric highlights of James and Simple Minds with a touch of 90s indie. They join London Grammar, The Hives and James Vincent McMorrow on the Australian label Dew Process, and will release their debut LP this summer.

Sacri Cuori   ‘Delone’   (Glitterbeat Records)

Quite a departure for a label so synonymous with the best in contemporary African music, the kitsch 60s inspired sounds of the Italian band Sacri Cuori sit almost uneasy with the majority of the Glitterbeat Records output. Though it would be harsh to suggest the group play it for kicks alone, as they carry the torch for the giallo/slasher/spaghetti western/Fellini chic existentialism era of their homelands most cool perceived golden age with such sophisticated aplomb. You should throw in the influence of the Pieros (that’s Piccioni and Umiliani), Ritz Ortolani, Nino Rota and the landscapes of their home of Romagna, the Mojave Desert and the beaches of Rimini to the nostalgic mix.

A pastiche, but damn good one, their latest imaginary soundtrack – they have a good track record where this is concerned; composing and performing an original score for cult movie Zoran – il mio nipote scemo in 2014, which won the EST Film Festival award for best soundtrack – is the mirage conjured western Delone. From the protagonists Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood whistling theme song to the Anton Karas meets bossa nova salacious kooky ‘La Marabina’, the music luxurious and dramatically escapes from the celluloid. This pan-Europa soundtrack sang in English, Italian and French, fluctuates elegantly between the western valley homage of Mexican Go-Go and pastoral folk and occasionally emotes a touch of melodic sadness.

A collaborative effort as usual, the band working with countless luminaries and artists over the years (Hugo Race, Robyn Hitchcock, Calexico’s John Convertino), they manage to lasso Marc Ribot, Sonido Gall Negro, Evan Lurie (of the Lounge lizards fame), Steve Shelly (Sonic Youth’s stickman) and Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand) to make a cult fantasy. Django wants payback!

Jacco Gardner   ‘Hypnophobia’   (Full Time Hobby)   5th May 2015

There are some quality Baroque curiosities to be found on the latest album from Dutch musician Jaco Gardner; from the perfumed halcyon studio of Zwaag his new collection of psychedelic folk and beat from behind the dyke Hypnophobia emits dreamy and hypnotizing comparisons to the late 60s calico wall era of beautiful experimentation. Floating freely in the ether with Syd Barrett and John Maus, gliding along with The Wands and Halasan Bazar, and dotted with a number of telltale signs from the Stereolab and Broadcast sonic dashboard, Gardner opens up his escapist fantasy to the world. This is all done with a suffused quality of sophistication and care; travelling in a smooth fashion between foggy witchery, waltzing Wurlitzer and majestic pop. A great fuzz sepia toned fairytale of an album that just keeps on giving.

And in short but no less deserving of our attention…

Thomas Truax - Monolith Cocktail

Thomas Truax   ‘I’ve Got To Know’

From the rambunctious strange mind and eyeball metaphorical looning workshop of the maverick Thomas Truax, another voyeuristic peek inside his recent Jetstream Sunset LP (reviewed here recently…). With his wingman, one half of the equally wild and weird Dresden Dolls, Brian Viglione, amusing himself with a tribal drum circle of pursuing breaks, Thomas wheels away on his own ‘mother superior’ drum machine and fiddles with his homemade ‘scary aerial’ to create another daft but highly intoxicating deadpan marvel of Gothic post punk.

flies + flies   ‘Later On’

Featured back in 2014 on the blog, the failed art project transduced into a successive meld of finely tailored concrete electronica and heart aching soul, flies+flies are back with another one of their raspy synth flavored songs of controlled and languid rage. Building on their ‘Bad Crab Hand’ debut, ‘Later On’ is a gracefully brooding affair, moving along in (as the video’s protagonists enact) a choreographed fashion.

Reptile Youth   ‘Away’  4th May 2015

Thumping shuffled drums with hints of Flaming Lips, MGMT and an L.A. relaxed niteflight ELO, Reptile Youth carve out a very glowing niche for themselves. Not entirely sure of exactly where this one is heading, only that’s a psychedelic pop nugget that demands your attention…yeah you. If you find this upcoming ‘Away’ single to your taste, an EP is slated to follow in June.

Words: Dominic Valvona


Cherry Bomb

Matt Oliver picks out the best upcoming gig and cuts from both the UK and Stateside, including KRS-One at the Jazz cafe and tracks/albums/videos from Tyler, the CreatorOddiseeRoots Manuva & Four TetRyan BowersDynas and Slick Rick and Chrome & Illinspired

This column would like to distance itself from salacious tabloid tittle-tattle reporting on Drake being snogged by a pensioner, someone on TV’s Divorce Court claiming his wife had bedded the entire Wu-Tang Clan, the whole Tidal circus, and someone updating the bible with Kanye as lord and saviour. R&V is more interested in the news of Killer Mike attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Mykki Blanco’s retirement into investigative journalism, De La Soul celebrating (or making a mockery of?) achieving a Kickstarter target for a new album; and a whole host of classic LPs from Common, Redman, Ice Cube, Warren G, Ghostface and more, getting a vinyl repress. Although we’re cool with Slick Rick partnering Will.I.Am for a new range of sunglasses.

For your flyer collection this month: People Under the Stairs, Onyx and KRS-One are all playing The Jazz Cafe throughout May. Black Milk’s European Tour squeezes in a Bristol date on May 2 – ‘I Guess’ sees him sear a soulful sway as an appetizer – and Phife Dawg hits up London and Manchester in the year’s merriest month which also sees the Boom Bap Festival get an East End warm up headed by Lewis Parker. EPMD and Lords of the Underground school The Scala mid-June, and Akala is currently up and down the country knowing the ledge.

KRS - One at the Jazz Cafe


‘Stone Soup’ sees Huddersfield’s Jack Flash offer four sharp perspectives and sweet/sour tales you’ll be rooting for. Another gaining strength from pain is DRS’s wispily fluted ‘Try Out’, and there’s none better than Cyrus Malachi at channelling the hurt of the streets, as he does with Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost on ‘Pariah’/’Who Are They.’ Undecided as to whether he’s Oxford or Cambridge, Roots Manuva is in the box seat for Four Tet curiosity ‘Facety 2:11.’

J-Zone’s inimitable bump-n-bawdiness crashes the good old days through a plate glass window on ’Time for a Crime Wave’. Apathy’s controlled ‘How to Breathe Underwater’ is the milder of two beatdowns – second-in-command ‘Warfare’ bowls through the streets with a real lung-squeezer, a technique shared by Wildcard and Celph Titled’s dangerous score-settler ‘Prince of Vengeance’. From the left of NYC, Aly Aboushaca measures the angles of the express ‘Xprmnts’ EP as the terse captain of a ship on the verge of shedding fluorescent cargo. The resurrection of Rammellzee reveals a ‘Brainstorm’ of B-boy electro/turntable futurism; the daunting intensity comes aligned with a remix from the equally fervent filler of the soundbed, Divine Styler.

A sunny stroll from Don Miguel, that Rapsody and Rashad do their best to cower from, puts ‘Forever’ up there with caffeine and yoga as a good way to start your day. Dynas and Slick Rick’s ‘Who U?’ is a cracking old skooler adding itself to the list of 9-5 brighteners, along with the smoothed out ‘Monster’s Ball’ presided over by South London’s Benjamin AD. Should your day come crashing down before bedtime, Nosaj Thing and Chance the Rapper’s delicately threadbare ‘Cold Stares’ is probably the sedative for you, but if you wanna ride into the dusk on the low, Ande Bishop’s muggy ‘Ocean$’ EP will have you hustling to the last. For dozing in a cold sweat, head to Nick Black and Stinkin Slumrock’s ‘Luxor’.

In a clutch of pre-album tempters, new Czarface takes over the metropolis – ‘Deadly Class’ teams with Meyhem Lauren and beats its chest like the most infamous of skyscraper apes.’ RJD2 and STS mix the gritty, grandiose and beguiling at once and for all seasons on ‘Hold On Here It Go’, and the usual Lyrics Born song and dance has Galactic helping ‘Rock-Rock-Away’ yee-haw and kick high.


Not finding hard to live up to his ‘Mr Wonderful’ moniker, Action Bronson rocks a dicky bow with “very loose pants”. Living on gourmet funk romps, boom-bap slants and 80s references run by Mark Ronson, Alchemist and Party Supplies, Bronson’s personality continues to bring chalk n cheese subjects/ lunacy (see his part-time crooning) to his own terms that’ll he bringing to the UK live in September. Also in the entertainment business, Ludacris defines ‘Ludaversal’ as a Full Monty of concepts, battles, tongue-twisters, call-n-responses, punchlines and energy, from pop sheen to the stickiest of club floors. Quick mention for Tyler, the Creator’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ – pleasingly more musical with soulful flourishes telling the unwieldy lose-it moments to play nice, and garnering a lot of NERD comparisons. It’s sharply spat of course, even if the levels are a bit indiscriminate.

“From the US to the White Cliffs of Dover”, class is in session again with J-Live producing another virtuoso performance. ‘His Own Self’, a fully loaded one-man show, is the latest education homing in on simple truths that simply drag your ears towards speakers. With both the sun on its back and specks of dirt on its hands, Oddisee’s vibrant, funk-smoked ‘The Good Fight’ offers abundant, scholarly showmanship, pushed on by his home bankers of skills and experience. If it triggers your interest in his back catalogue, clear your schedule for the foreseeable.

Joker Starr brings out ‘The MACKnificent’ from a secure location, a cane-swinging bawse running DJ IQ’s racket of velvet-crushing funk and depicting the pimp’s life with a healthy dose of well-meaning swagger. An album with great flow. Ramson Badbonez as ‘Silva Surfa’ – the next great alternative superhero, not a pensioner who’s just discovered Google Chrome – goes stratospheric with fantastical proof of powers and special teams featuring Jehst, Jam Baxter, Kashmere, Fliptrix and Micall Parknsun for a classic comic book carve up. In the spirit of Goliath slaying, Grimm fairytales and Sweeney Todd barbering, Emcee Killa and Grim Reaperz confront constant peril on the tightly reined ‘Zapatista’.

B-boys, take heed of the Boca45 mantra ‘Dig Eat Beats Repeat’, a diet of funk breaks, flipped samples and hip-hop honour – you know how he does – with a little soul (Stephanie McKay as the sass-pot) added to a party full of hulas and headspins. Drags of Aussie-moored funk, hip-hop, ragga and R&B bounce off one another with Dizz1 hitting the flippers. ‘In Sickness & Health’ drafts Aloe Blacc, Sadat X, Frank Nitt, Motley and Tame One for a clash of styles and twangs always keeping the dancefloor within touching distance.

“We may be independent, but we all major”: power-broking that gonna stick to the underground’s upper echelons like a limpet all year long, taken from Blueprint’s ‘King No Crown’, whose all-round game sets up his throne like a deckchair looking for a heatwave. Cutting through lazy day vibes and soul quivers with a comfortably held rapier, where minds wander before bolting upright, choose from Red Pill’s ‘Look What This World Did to Us’ (‘Leonard Letdown’ is a self-deprecating star of an album where it’s ok to accept limitations); or Big Pooh’s ‘Words Paint Pictures’ where the inevitably autumnal/sepia-vibed beats frame realities marked with blunt brush strokes.

Ceschi fights his way to the top as a modern day knight of valour, helped in no small part by the folk lineage that runs through ‘Broken Bone Ballads’, which couldn’t be better titled. There’s a funk a-brewin’ on Asphate’s ‘Closed Doors to an Open Mind’, and trouble to go with it if you don’t grab an on-point underground bubbler that probably won’t accept being one of the year’s most underrated long players.

Billed in the Madvillain mould, L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae’s rickety slickness and sample pillages are sure to Pied Piper a cult following with ‘The Night Took Us In Like Family.’ Homeboy Sandman and Gift of Gab are privy to the pair’s secret handshake. Made up of smoke clouds, synths singing at the stars and rhymes that either cut through or cling onto the low rider vapour, Vancouver’s Emotionz turns up his ‘Psychedelic Boombox’, an album that develops to put a few dents in the rainbow trail and straightens out the pimp strut.

Pay attention to Chrome & Illinspired’s wax factor, Ryan Bowers kick-flipping it, Sleaze and Sonnyjim heading to where the grass is green, and Kingpin taking it to the Tower.


Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab - Monolith Cocktail review

Ayfer Simms takes an adventurous musical  trip on Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab‘s  halcyon psych and pastoral kaleidoscopic beat group ‘yellow submarine’.

Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab   ‘Beyond The Silver Sea’

If this album were a number, it would be 66, ‘1966’. Beyond The Silver Sea is not a mere number from the Prisoner, however restlessly the main character tries to escape an imaginary 1984-Kafkaesque-Terry Gilliam cinematographic reality: It is the musical journey of that character, Max, who is uncontrollably attracted by a vision of something else, out of the ordinary world of ours; depicted throughout the album as a tremendously boring and sensible place. The quest is bathed in the holy sound of the sixties.

Welcome, to the burlesque fate of a man, and between tracks, listen to the story itself.

Theatrical, yes, obsessively entangled in setting the scene, Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab’s storytelling ambition is stupendous; from track one to track twenty four, we follow the path, rocky and discreet, of a shy enough lad realizing he could be more than just a “cog” in the system.

Max is not a hero, he is an X, Y, Z man with a vaporous dream that gives him the faint hope that, this is not ALL there is to it. Perhaps he is a sort of Sam Lowry, incidentally pushed outside the norm.

Just like a Sam, Max walks on eggs shells broken to pieces and, OUT comes the sound of a crackling orchestra charged with the chime of erotic cymbals, of a psychedelic baroque sunshine and the classical familiar Rock and roll pop from half a century ago. Everything bounces BIG onto doors opening to tightly sealed walls, staircases facing a wide sea-less pit where a yellow submarine fails to reach the so longed ocean of a glittering gray.

Beyond The Silver Sea is a choreographic set of songs sewn together by a thread of narrative links: Max walks on a stage painted with a swirling spiral, goes after his “shine” to the underground, filled with a joyous timber that reaches the sky, even the cosmos, while melodies, the beat, the guitars, a Beatles-like vocal and cheerful zest plunges us in the everlasting question of life: absurd and mundane world or ours, we are nothing but in line to become shiny stars and all we have left is to sing along with Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab:

”Beyond the silver sea (…) Beyond this and anything, be yourself through everything”.

 Words: Ayfer Simms

A Malian Double Bill of LP Reviews

Terakaft 'Alone' Monolith Cocktail

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba   ‘Ba Power’   (Glitterbeat) 27th April 2015.


Terakaft   ‘Alone’    (Outhere Records)   11th May 2015.

It’s difficult, nee impossible, to review and feature the music emanating from Mali without briefly outlining the country’s past and current difficulties. Such is the devastation and injury caused during years of civil war which began with a rebellion in the north by the Tuareg – for various reasons unhappy at their treatment and alienation from the Malian central government; fighting for an autonomous region, named the Azawad, in the north east -, though the instability caused by the spread of an ever more aggressive hardline form of Islam from outside the country and natural concerns such as drought have conspired to pull Mali apart.

Whilst the Syrian conflict – for good reason – continues to dominate the news feeds internationally, the countless infractions and acts of brutality in North and West Africa struggle to make the headlines. Whether vaporised by western technology or bullying the local populations across the region, ISL, ISIS or whatever the abbreviation is these days, the victims in this bloody battle to establish a tyrannical caliphate are for the most part Muslim. With a zealous taste for punishment and a puritanical mindset that would put Cromwell’s prudish stoicism to shame, they’ve all but condemned any practice, activity and spark of creativity that falls outside their myopic perimeters. And if, like many tribes that make up the fabric of Mali your customs and atavistic roots heavily feature song and music than you’re for the CHOP! After years of civil war between the government and the Bedouin Tuareg people an uneasy but stable truce has returned some kind of normality back to the country. A “rebellion” that was dominated both by hardliner Tuareg groups such as Ansar Dine and insurgents from outside the country, the recent embittered conflict threatened to escalate as fanatical Islamist elements dominated. Invited or not, they saw an opportunity to conquer and spread their Sharia dictate, much to their ill-at-ease comrades in the more moderate National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. Far too complicated and nuanced than the space given here for a music review, the eventual outcome was a three-way battle between all parties as the Tuareg fell out with each other. With the capital of Bamako at risk – though the fountain of Mali knowledge and much-venerated ancient seat of learning, Timbuktu was captured by the Tuareg groups and made the state capital of the Azawad region, before being recaptured by government forces – the Malian government were forced to work with their former colonial rulers France to take back control.

It’s hardly a surprise to find countless poignant allusions to these events throughout the Malian music scene, from the Tuareg desert bluesman to the capital’s hallowed-out canoe-shaped ngoni players. Despite this or perhaps because of it, Mali’s adroit musicians have provided some of the most richly rewarding, inventive and evocative music of the past few years. The triumvirate desert caravan of Tamikrest, Tinariwen and Terakaft and leading Malian greats like Samba Touré and Bassekou Kouyaté have taken back the blues and rock’n’roll from the USA and once again imbued it with the ancestral roots of West Africa to inject a much-needed new electrifying jolt of power into a limp genre: in the case of Bassekou, Ba Power. Following in the wake of Songhai bluesman Samba Touré’s nimbly picked Gandadiko LP earlier in the year, comes two more entrancing Mali peregrinations from Terakaft and Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba.


The first of these groups sighs for the simpler times, before the conflict, and emphasis an isolated resignation of loneliness; the other adopts an outward approach to both themes and musical inspiration. Terakaft, a moiety of the desert blues and rock progenitors Tinariwen, sing of hope eroded, their political and social aspirations torn apart by both internal and external strife. Yet despite the Alone title, the music on this album edges ever closer to the dance floor with a kick and locked-in Saharan strut. Swaying effortlessly with a groove so cool it would shake the Wailers (before the cod-reggae years took hold) from their languid candour, the Terakaft jerk doesn’t dwell on the hardships and blues for long, instead it glides along in a progressive, hypnotic and funky manner throughout its transient rise from the drinking-tea-amongst-the-sand-dunes landscape to the world’s airwaves. Fronted by the dual dynamism of, old-hand, desert rhythm acolyte Diara and the younger “Saharan cowboy, with Wah Wah Watson sideboards and full Rock and Roll attitude” Sanou, the group shake, rattle and roll through a shimmering mirage of Gnawa trance and camel-trail rhythms to create their best album to date. Partly recorded at Peter Gabriel’s renowned Real World Studios in Wiltshire by the British musician/producer of repute Justin Adams (Robert Plant, Tinariwen and Juldeh Camera), there is a relaxed buoyancy to many of the songs: an enticing, melodious shuffle that proves enticing. Though the venerated atmosphere – sometimes in hushed hums, as on the heartbeat pulsed strut ‘Tafouk Télé’ (The Sun Is There) – of religion and the turmoil of conflict can’t be missed, most of the music shifts like the desert sand in a light breeze. Alone is a soulful, deeply spirited but mesmerizingly solid rock and roll album, the group on another level entirely locked into a groove of kinship. This isn’t just a recommended purchase; it’s an essential one.

Bassekou K Monolith Cocktail

Elevating the atavistic griot storytelling tradition of Africa, backed by an interlocking quartet of quick, articulate and blazing ngoni players, renowned Malian musician Bassekou Kouyaté follows up his critically acclaimed last LP Jama Ko with something a little bit different. That previous record led to a two-year global tour, which gave the tightknit family band amble time to lock-in their incredibly intense Afro-rock and blues sound. Though the reverberations of the past centuries still resonate – especially through the beautifully primal cry and evocative vocals of Bassekou’s wife Amy Sacko and the lute-like instrument magic of the ngoni – this is a very modern album; amped up and warped with a full-on wah wah pedal frenzy. Billed as his most “outward looking” album yet, with the musical inspiration net cast wider to include rock and roll, jazz and Afrobeat, Ba Power is not exactly Bassekou electrified for the first time, but it does boost the earthy and striped plucked sound of old for something tougher and wilder.

A number of the great and good of the Mali music scene join Bassekou on this latest venture, including both the Songhai blues guitar legend and label mate Samba Touré and veteran master of the horsehair, single-stringed Soku and singer Zoumana Tereta; the pair lend a nifty series of blues licks, grizzled wise vocals and vibrato eastern-mystical flavor to the choppy ‘Fama Magni’. Elsewhere, Afro-pop artist and mainstay of the, Mali capital, Bamako’s club circuit, Adama Yalomba sings soulful vocals on the drum’n’ngoni-dominated dance floor shuffler ‘Waati’ – a meditation on Time -, Robert Plant’s The Sensational Space Shifters’ and (another Glitterbeat signing; though arguably this whole LP is a label like family affair) Fofoulah drummer Dave Smith rattles off a nice Dirtmusic meets Afro-garage rock polyrhythmic backing on the opener ‘Siran Fen’ – which also features current Lemonheads member and one-time Thurston Moore Band guitarist Chris Brokaw marvellously channeling (and wrestling) both western psychedelia and Afro-rock on lead chops -, and “fourth world music” inventor and paragon of polygenesis fusion Jon Hassell playing expansive, sometimes low foggy horn, yearning trumpet lullaby’s and keyboards on ‘Ayé Sira Bla’.

Bassekou is himself on fine form, blazing through and ripping apart the ngoni rulebook as he takes the instrument to new heights of sophistication and energetic exuberance with his trio of nuanced practitioners. Enriched by the Glitterbeat production method, handled like a true craftsman by label head honcho and musician Chris Eckman (who’s had a series of successes with the quality label of contemporary West African music, and helped steer Tamikrest and Aziza Brahim to a wider audience), this will be Bassekou’s most accessible and lively album yet. If Jama Ka was a cry from the centre of a conflict ravaged Mali, in the middle of a civil war, then Ba Power strives to appeal to more universal themes and to finally establish Bassekou and his group as major players on not just the “world music” but also the music world stage. Whilst we look inward at our own scene in Europe or look across the Atlantic to the States, it is becoming quite clear that the mostly seen as exotic African music scene is leading the way, with Mali standing out as a provider of the most imaginative, transcendental and hypnotic blues and rock and roll.

Words: Dominic Valvona


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