LP  REVIEW

 

Opal Onyx - Monolith Cocktail Blog

 

Regular readers of the Monolith Cocktail will by now be used to the literary adroit moody reviews of our novelist, Ayfer Simms. Adding a certain gravitas to the musical landscape,  Simms digs deep and resurrects daemonic metaphors galore, conjuring up something dark for the debut LP by Brooklyn duo Opal Onyx.

 

Opal Onyx   ‘Delta Sands’   (Tin Angel Records)  Released 25th August 2014.

 

Truly, madly deeply, Opal Onyx and the encounter with the devil.

 

Nobody knows that hell is beautiful and the devil, a prisoner locked up in a den of quarks, is about to rise above our unpoised world. His heart beats while we wait, his heart beats while a somber ominous cloud spreads at the foot of humankind. Opal Onyx has unearthed the path to the wretched empire of the devil and fallen to its knees in adoration.

The devil is slender and paces his own cell up and down, waiting his acquittal with a steel eagerness, calm and yet burning like a bull before his death in the arena, the sound of his breath is filling our air with an invisible thunder. The devil is a man, yet up close his uncanny nature betrays him. From the depth of his cell, his grievous voice escapes and while his tails rattles, he summons all enslaved consciences to be aware of his existence. The devil is not vile, he is the stillness of a cold blade. There is no empathy in his mind, there’s a subdued anger. He is looming while the wind swipes our world. Opal Onyx’s vocalist Sarah, with her siren sublime voice stumbles upon him at the darkest hours of her consciousness, like Lankester Merrin unearthing Pazuzu’s amulet under a scorching sun, she knows the time has come to face the demon, and to love him. She is the one sitting at his feet, she is the one falling for him. Opal Onyx has brought this world to us and we in turn fall for these strange sounds and bewitching voice hardly able to forgo the abominable consequences of such a betrothal.

We wonder dazed, was hell so beautiful? Was the faint scent of the Indian sitar married to the cello the instruments of the dark pit? The embodiment of the nirvana?

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

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

 

Emma Anderson Lush - Monolith Cocktail

 

As the feverish Britpop love-in continues, with artists and bands from the 90s most, arguably, successful music scene either facing reverent accolades by a music press running out of ideas or are inevitably re-discovered by a new generation, the Monolith Cocktail has refused to get all dewy-eyed and reminisce. Probing and cutting to the core of that period, Sean Bw Parker has interviewed some of the key players and most enduring artists from those heady days, including Danny McNamara of Embrace (in the process we believe, getting the universal exclusive on their return and new album in 2014) and Martin Carr, formerly of The Boo Radleys (another exclusive).

One of the most creative and as Sean puts it, ‘…compelling, incendiary bands’, to be lazily lumped into the Britpop club, Lush formed almost a decade before that genres peak, in the late 80s, a progenitor of the ‘shoegaze’ scene alongside bands such as Slowdive. Sean catches up with the former band’s vocalist/guitarist Emma Anderson, who founded the group with her Queen’s College, London, school friend Miki Berenyi. As a keen music fan she started up the Alphabet Soup music fanzine and featured in numerous band line-ups until Lush took off in 1988. Anderson would go on to start a new band Sing-Sing in 1997 with vocalist Lisa O’Neill, before calling it quits on New Years day 2008. Anderson currently resides in Hastings and spends her time…well, ‘tinkering’.

 

At close of the 80s and beginning of the nineties, Lush were one of Britain’s most compelling, incendiary bands. What were your thoughts when Nirvana arrived?

Well, that very nice of you to say that about Lush. I am not sure we saw it that way but then you don’t when you are actually the protagonists! Nirvana? I didn’t think very much actually (if you mean…did we see them as some sort of ‘competition’? – which is a ridiculous notion). At first I thought, musically, they were a bit of a follow on from the Pixies, actually though I was aware they had grown out of the Seattle grunge scene (which I wasn’t particularly a massive fan of). I liked Nevermind and used to play it a lot but I never saw Nirvana live. Cobain undoubtedly was a massive talent though and I liked the fact he was very knowledgeable of British underground music (e.g. he was a huge fan of The Vaselines) so it was refreshing to see someone like that achieve such mainstream success. How that success finally affected him was obviously tragic and he died way too soon. Very sad.

 

What did and do you think of the tags ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself’ and ‘Shoegaze’?

Well, they’re kind of tiresome, obviously. The Scene That Celebrates itself wasn’t so much of a ‘musical’ term, i.e. invented to describe a genre; it was coined to talk about bands that (in the press’s eyes) allegedly used to hang out at gigs propping up the bar and that ‘all’ went to an indie disco club called Syndrome in Oxford Street every Thursday evening. Of course it was all massively exaggerated and sensationalized. I think I only went to Syndrome twice ever. ’Shoegazing’, on the other hand, was more of a ‘music/genre’ term though it was essentially invented to ridicule bands that supposedly had long fringes and stared at their shoes mainly because they were using so many effects pedals to produce these ‘sonic cathedrals of guitar swathes’ (type stuff). Again, though, like so many of these terms it was lazy. I don’t actually think our music sounded very much like, say, Slowdive’s. ’Shoegazing’ wasn’t a term of endearment, that’s for sure, but it stuck and the irony with that is I think at the time certain sectors of the press, music business and even music fans thought that this ’scene’ would probably be quite short-lived and the music would die away and be forgotten; it wasn’t to be taken seriously. That hasn’t actually turned out to be the case.

In term of Lush’s public image at the time, it seemed that Miki Berenyi was the feisty party girl, while you were more of the mysterious wallflower songwriter (with furious moments). Is that how you see it?

Ha, no! I am not even sure that is what the public image was…did Miki have more of a party girl image purely because she had red hair? In terms of our social lives she certainly wasn’t going out more than I was. Maybe my lyrics were more kind of veiled than hers – some of her lyrics were very direct and mine tended to be more obscure…I don’t know! At the end of the day, she was the lead singer and had red hair but I think it’s very lazy to assume that she was more outgoing than me. For one thing, Miki wrote half the songs for Lush and she was a bloody good songwriter. Also, if anything, in certain aspects it was I that was more driven and outspoken certainly when it came to opinions re the band and what we were doing.

 

It seems in retrospect that Lush’s most commercially successful period came after the early eighties alternative movements, into the Britpop time of riches. How did that affect the psychology within the band, and between the members?

Ergh, whatever happened to the psychology within the band around the time of Britpop and Lovelife I don’t attribute to the type of music we were playing or what was around musically at the time. I think a lot of the way we were feeling (which, I don’t really need to state, was quite negative) was due to the people that surrounded us, who had been quite important at our inception, were now hardly anywhere to be seen. Ivo wasn’t as present anymore, Tim Carr, who had signed us to Warners in the USA, had left the label. Some of the people we had got on with at 4AD had also gone and we had new management that, I have to say, was not really right for the band. I would blame a lot of the problems on the fact we felt a little at sea as we weren’t really dealing with people who were on our wavelength or understood us as people or as a collective. It led us all the kind of withdrawing into ourselves, I think, and we weren’t really communicating properly with each other anymore. Add to that the massive pressure to ‘break’ America, which had been there from day one and it, was a fairly toxic mix. It was odd because Lovelife was the most commercially successful album we had put out (in the UK anyway – not in the US that was Spooky) and we were enjoying the extra exposure to a certain extent (it didn’t lead to any extra financial benefit, I should state!!) but underneath things weren’t so great. Being in a band wasn’t ‘fun’ anymore and it should be. We weren’t being supported or listened to by anyone. Personally, I felt very alone and was seriously questioning why I was doing this, as it seemed very different to when we had started and had been dealing with some great people who were genuinely fans of what we were doing. That had all changed and we just felt like a commodity that was being marketed – especially in the USA. The human aspect seemed to have long gone. It was not a good time.

 

How do you look back on the Lovelife album now, and particularly the single ‘Ladykillers’?

To be honest, it’s my least favourite album. There are good songs on there but I am not keen on the production approach (though it’s well produced) which, at the time, was an attempt to try and capture the immediacy of our live sound but I think in that process we lost something. I like all the effects we used on earlier albums and EPs etc. But with Lovelife there was a conscious effort to move away from that.  Maybe we were sick of the ‘always the bridesmaid but never the bride’ notion from the press that (we thought) had been directed at us for a while (which was referring to the fact that most of our peers were getting into the Top 40 but could never seemed to achieve that, though ‘For Love’ had charted at 35 in 1992). Therefore, I think when we wrote the songs, Miki and I were moving away from the more languorous feel that was on Split and were aiming for a more ‘upbeat’ feel that fitted more with the times (though I would add there was no ‘masterplan’ behind that – it just happened) but…when I listen to Lush, and I do now and again I actually can’t listen to that album. I would add that that is probably also because of the associations I have with events that occurred at the time too and the way those events made me feel. (I don’t really have an opinion on ‘Ladykillers’ as separate to the rest of the album).

 

A difficult subject, but Lush split up after drummer Chris Acland committed suicide in 1996. Can you give a deeper insight into how things were at the time, and how you see that moment now?

I have said all I can do re this in earlier answers and don’t want to add to that, Sorry.

 

Which of your albums, with Lush or Sing-Sing, are you most proud of, and why? And least proud of?

My favourite Lush album is Spooky. I am really fond of the pop, bubblegum sound of it. As you are probably aware, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) produced it and, even thought it has its obvious flaws (and a lot of the criticism it received was based upon how our ’sound’ had been drowned out by Robin’s over-effected production), it still appeals to me more a little more than the others. I like its ‘weirdness’ and the kind of space age feel it conveys. It’s a very pop album and I think the most positive one mood wise. It makes me smile.

The Joy of Sing-Sing is my favourite Sing-Sing album I would even go as far as to say that, I think out of every album I have made (including Lush ones), as a body of work it’s the best. It’s the most consistent and one I can listen to as a whole, which I find a little difficult with the Lush ones. It’s a bloody good album and should have received way more attention.

If anything, the one I am probably least proud of is the second Sing-Sing album Sing-Sing and I. It has some really good songs on it but it’s a mish-mash of producers, mixers and it lacks cohesion. I also think that personally I was running out of steam by the time we made it. Sing-Sing was very hard work and by the time we did that album I was working so hard on managing the band and the label I think it affected my songwriting capabilities. I do agree with the argument of let the musicians be the creative people and let other people do the admin (well, to a certain extent!).

I am proud of everything I have done though. I am probably being very picky as you are making me really think about this! None of it is perfect and I would probably go back and change bits if I could but I think everyone that makes records thinks that. They are probably a little weird if they don’t.

At the time that your music became successful, it looked as if with enough hard work and hard partying, an indie band could indeed break through and achieve what they wanted. Then the internet came along and blew everything to smithereens. Do you think Lush would have survived through what was necessary if they were starting out now?

I don’t think Lush would fare very well in 2014. The thing that strikes me the most about bands that start out nowadays is that they are fully formed from day one. The DIY/punk aspect, that I think Lush still benefitted from at the end of the 1980s when we started, has long gone and people now expect bands to be able to play and sing like a professionals from their first recording. Even some singers in ‘alternative’ bands nowadays sound like contestants from mainstream talent competitions on the TV. Miki and I could hardly sing at all! A lot of band members now actually seem to come from fairly well-off backgrounds and have had music lessons from the age of five and maybe even have attended the likes of the Brit School or BIMM. I am not going to lie – most of the members of Lush came from middle-class backgrounds (albeit very unconventional ones) but we still couldn’t play any instruments when we decided to form bands and we just picked them up and taught ourselves in the true DIY manner. We grew up in public with the help of a great label like 4AD and its head, Ivo, who could see our potential early on. That doesn’t happen now. You have to explode onto the scene now fully formed and proficient with a fully made album in the bag, it seems. There is no room for error.

 

On the subject of the internet and new music distribution, how do you get your new music these days? 

I am a single, working mother so don’t have a massive amount of time to keep up with new music, I look on Facebook and Twitter for recommendations and I listen to 6Music and Spotify. I don’t buy many CDs anymore (also because I don’t have a lot of disposable income).

 

Any new music recommendations for us? 

Oh…I like stuff that is quite well known – my favourite artists from the last few years are Tame Impala, Cate Le Bon, John Grant…they are not that new!

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Just tinkering.

Can I get you a drink?

Large red wine, please.

 

Label   Overview

Kirigirisu Recordings - Monolith Cocktail


Seeking musical adventures abroad in Tokyo, former Audio Antihero label stalwart Neil Debnam, traversing post-rock peregrinations as both Flying Kites, and after an accident which put him out of action for a time, formed the more stripped back Broken Shoulder, has launched his very own experimental imprint, Kirigirisu Recordings.

Even though Debnam has christened this lo-fi venture with a suitably oriental flavor and added the Kyoto via Fokuoka duo Sonotanotanpenz to the roster, Kirigirisu is an international showcase that features artists and bands from as far afield as North America and Europe.

Released in a baptism of fire all on the same day, back in May, the triumvirate of recordings by Sonotanotanpenz, France and Debnam’s own Broken Shoulder, showed a penchant for the challenging, languidly arching between performance art soundtracks and pastoral minimalism. The first of these, Sonotanotanpenz’s faded transmissions from down the hallway 3, is the third such washed-out, blanched collection of bedroom meanderings from the duo. Childlike and at times wistfully enchanting, the album sounds like it was recorded in a somnambulist state; the record button switched on ad hoc as the protagonists drowsily waft towards the mic or pick up whatever instrument lies near and pluck away or coos down a tin can telephone.





The dark to the placating quaint and kooky light of the dreamy Japanese duo, their bedfellows France whip up an hour long possessed ritualistic drone; part Tony Conrad and Faust Outside The Dream Syndicate, part Velvets on a bum ride. Recorded live and broadcast on the Ondes Magnétiques program on Radio Vassivère, the mangled hurdy gurdy orchestrated France a Tarnac is an entrancing performance, monotonous and hypnotic, primal and industrially caustic. Beware of the vortex pull however, as you may never manage to break away from their tormented, but most excellent raging Krautrock beast, grasp.




Following in its wake, label founder and composer of both angulated and panoramic post-rock, Debnam’s third album proper, as the injury suffrage, Broken Shoulder, is the most progressively melodic and epic. 300 Bicycle Seats – mastered by fellow Audio Antihero signing and Monolith Cocktail celebrated, Benjamin Shaw – entwines low humming pulsations and white noise with delicately trembled and reverberating guitar loops. Shifting methodically towards unworldly vistas, each instrumental passage sizzles with nuanced care and attentive attention, similar in a manner to the work of drone static wizard, Klaus Marten, gradually revolving and unveiling some mysterious wilderness – a theme that translates across most of the label’s releases.





Jorge Boehringer, an American living and composing in Prague, is the latest artist to release an ambient soundscape for the label. As the bewildering entitled Core Of The Coalman, Boehringer’s hour long cryptically subtle soundtrack Amphibious Radost, simultaneously evokes the balmy Cajun swamplands and a Japanese water garden. It comes as no surprise that this two tier naturalistic suite was created in the basement of a family cottage in the Vsenory wilderness, a la Harmonia or Cluster.

Invited to create a lengthy piece of music for the radical Czech body and performance artist Darina Alster, the Coalman’s amorphous movement circumnavigates an insect chattering ‘noise cannon’ (composers description not mine) and what sounds like an esoteric music box; piqued occasionally by a rough-hewn repetitive viola and distant barking dog as reptiles serenely rustles through the undergrowth.





Going about its business in a subdued, word-of-mouth, manner, with all releases so far confined to Bandcamp and limited edition CDs, available in only a handful of congruous Japanese outlets and websites – though this will expand in due course -, Debnam’s imprint provides a home for a myriad of wandering, not just under but off the radar completely, unhurried artists. Admittedly challenging and mostly appealing to those willing to invest time and patience, each unique album unravels its reification-layered conclusions slowly. France on the other hand are just maddening.

Merely in the first flushes of its burgeoning enterprise, plans are afoot for a collaborative series of podcasts (the ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’) and live events with fellow Japanese label, Bijin Records. Undoubtedly future releases will make their way to us at the Monolith Cocktail; in the meantime peruse the featured back catalogue.




LP  REVIEW

Ruined Smile Records - Monolith Cocktail

Launched on to the Brisbane scene this summer, the alternative indie label Ruined Smile scoured the globe for their inaugural ‘sampler’ release.  Our most literary bright hope, Ayfer Simms, reviews this congruous panoramic collection. 


Various  ‘Ruined Smile Sampler #1′  (Ruined Smile)  





The indie alternative mythical beast, scattered around the globe, has gathered its body for a celebration under the Brisbane based label Ruined Smiles. Armed with a confident, versatile, slightly fierce and defiant armored trunk, the wild thing offers an array of spirited and vivacious tracks, proving that the voice of the Indie/Punk/Pop/Emo has lost nothing of its former YAWP: The general mood is explosive (No Ditching, Manku Kapak), dejected at times (Snow What, Plaids, Deadverse) prone to riots against the spectacle of the inner self and the day to day worldliness, sensually dexterous in making you feel burgeoning and brave (No Action, Plough Lines).

 

Throwing us from the beginning into the familiar territory of the gentle insurgence, ‘Tug of War’ (by Sleep Kit), with its slow reverb guitars and calm vocals lures us in the den of the indie animal as if the strenuous battle was behind us, yet in no time the emotion changes to bouncy punk tracks, racing against boredom and earthly routines: with tunes like ‘Nowhere Girl’ (Doe) we are thrown into questioning our simple right to be free by doing nothing, the portrait of a girl who uses her right to remain motionless, other tracks like ‘Sorrow’ (The Daydream Fit) bursts out with a seductive rage seeking the “only truth I know” and conquering.

Poetic and personal images with ‘Spontaneous Human Combustion Should Happen More Often’ (Trouble Sleep), a plea to remain sane with ‘Nothing’s sake’ (Revenge Surgery), “I dont want to be free, dont understand what it means, just want to be less fucked up”, an upbeat twisted rock track with ‘Machismo’s Last Stand’ (The Machismos) a yearning for an anticipated blank future with the balmy vocals of ‘Football etc’ (Audible), a ravenous guitar craving with the Manuals, these same guitars trying to swallow Wade’s vocalist who willingly abandons himself in a melodic plaintive serenade with a combative pursuit…

The 16 tracks unfold as if there were all part of a creature’s metal skeleton, rattling, clinking and moving freely intermittently floating and poking the ground with a firm fist.

This compilation is like the chanting of a young army of “enfant terrible”, a group of desperadoes marching with an “élan vital” that detonates along with strong tumultuous guitars and vocals competing, fighting, and mingling with each other all under the big wild indie stray animal.



LP  REVIEW

Merchandise After The End - Monolith Cocktail

Merchandise ‘After The End’   (4AD)   25th August 2014.

Moping around the darkened swamplands and back lots of a southern sunshine state in existential, switchblade, angst, Tampa Bay’s lost boys once again shift closer to a subtler, rounded and cerebral pop ascetic. Despite all the talk of their DIY punk and hardcore roots – living and recording together in communal bliss – Merchandise have always flirted with a Howard Deuth and John Hughes vision of 80s adolescence. On their latest transmission from the margins they effortlessly slip between the intellectual aloof alternative rock – the Athens, Georgia scene in particular – of that decade’s college radio stations, and the ray ban donned pop of more recent times as they peruse an imaginary teen doom film set.

Since their inaugural baptism with the mostly applauded 2012 album, Children Of Desire (depending who you listen to, their first album proper), the band have pulled a few surprises from their kit bag – the skulking panoramic moiety of ‘Begging For Your Life/In The City Light’, from the beginning of the year, sounded like Chet Baker teaming up with Gene Vincent at a Velvet Underground happening Boho -, making it difficult to either venerate or write them-off: prone to procrastination and sulky indulgence at times.

Their last hurrah, 2013’s Total Nite, marked the end of another cycle, as the group left their last label to sign with 4AD (home to Scott Walker, tUnE-yArDs and Deerhunter), expanding their ranks in the process and enlisting outside help from producer Gareth Jones. Presumably Jones was picked for his work with the lords of morose, Depeche Mode (moving to the iconic Hansa Berlin studio and recording the bands Bowie mirrored trilogy of Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward and Black Celebration), and for notable duties carried out on albums by Interpol, These new Puritans and, the lighter and disarming Grizzly Bear.

Merchandise shot

With a far more patient, effortless and breezy demeanor, those maladies remain less intensive, drawn-out from a mostly melodic envelope of multiple guitar tracks. A case in point is the rattlesnake tambourine accented and Gothic Talk Talk piano spanked title track, appearing as the penultimate, frayed emotional downer. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Merchandise adopt – and the jury’s out on this one – a palm tree patterned short-sleeved wearing Mott The Hopple guise for the kooky ‘awaiting on a call’ love sick phaser-beamed ‘Telephone’. A most peculiar, almost old-fashioned vernacular roll back, that once again recalls some hazy 80s high school drama (more Rumble Fish than Ferris Bueller).

But the main pulse mainlines a sophisticated accentuated blend of The Smiths (languidly lost in a protestation merry-go-round on ‘Looking Glass Waltz’), the Psychedelic Furs (on the richly melodic, interplaying acoustic and electric guitar, pretty in pink, ‘Enemy’ and broody heart pranged ‘True Monuments’) and early REM. There’s even a quasi-bass line and twisted lick from Bowie’s Scary Monsters period on the group’s most dynamic and catchy standalone, ‘Little Killer’.

 

As pop becomes the default setting, even for many alternative bands, Merchandise lend it a certain introspective swoon and quality; they may lounge around in moody reflection but they know how to write a meandering but congruous melody.

Not quite as adventurous as their label mates, Deerhunter, or even Bradford Cox’s – though both frontmen share the same surname, their vocal delivery couldn’t be more different, the Merch’s Carson Cox curl-lipped with a subtle southern drawl, sounding like the Tampa Springsteen – solo Atlas Sound side project, the two bands have returned to a harmonic abstract form of rock’n’roll.

Regulated to a point, toned down and spaced evenly throughout, After The End demands repeated plays and attention, before it unveils its multilayers of nuanced and deftly touched craftsmanship. Far from a leap of faith for the ever evolving and experimental band, the move isn’t as drastic or bombastic as we’ve perhaps been led to believe; the hype and numerous interviews and band quotes harking towards a dramatic plunge into the unknown. Like many before them, that progression, both musically and ambitiously from DIY to, potentially, populism, without fatally compromising the spark that set you apart in the first place, has been on this occasion a successful one.

Rainbow Reservoir - Monolith Cocktail


‘Angela Space of Rainbow Reservoir, the coo-coo hearted girl hums as energetically as possible in a surreal world where all seems possible: There’s Cocteau’s cat perched on one of the instruments, trembling to the beat of the rich sound of the orchestra, there’s a Victorian burlesque play on a scene without spectators rehearsing in paradise, a voice echoing all over the clouds of a wide ludicrous sky: Dragon’s flying, exotic plants, a clown, a beast slayer, a crab about to trespass…all in good spirit.’


Ayfer Simms as lyrically adroit as ever, recently perused the latest release, 400 Imperfect Rhymes, by Oxford musician and singer, Angela Space, who strums and liltingly performs under the amorphous Rainbow Reservoir moniker. Ayfer follows up that review with an interview; probing those musical and literature inspirations and references and straying from the usual litany of most often posed questions to a little deeper.



What are your non-musical inspirations?

Planes, love, crowds, love, stories, love, pain, love, desperation, love, trains, love, clouds, love, rainbows, love, smiles, love, fears, love, hate, love, rhymes, love, science, love, books, love, museums, love, snow, love, yellow roses, love, TV, love, poetry, love, art, love, life, love, love, love, love.  Also love.


Do you use your dreams at times to write your lyrics?

Not generally though I did once have a dream that I had a crush on a dentist so I wrote a song called ’27 Teeth’. I felt this weird combination of wanting to hide my cavities and wanting him to invade my space, see my blood and fix me.


Do you have or ever had a recurrent dream that you think about and maybe would like to use in your songs?

No, I wouldn’t want to write or sing a song that was that disturbing.


The first thing that comes to mind when listening to your music is “a bit surrealist and theatrical”. Can you apply this to your own life, are you this kind of a person?

It is very unclear to me what I am like though I am certainly drawn to surrealist artists and writers.  Perhaps that is a part of who I am.  There are people who appreciate the way I look at things and there are people that smile politely and change the subject to the weather.


What’s the quirkiest detail about each of the band members?

There was a moment last month when I thought I knew them but I think I was wrong, so, hard to say.  Oli enjoys playing Christmas tunes all year and Max listens to Slayer…does that count?  We all agree that we do not much care for the word ‘quirky’.
If I were to try to answer your question though, I might say the most notable characteristic about them is that they are both unapologetically unlike anyone else.  In a world full of homogeneous and interchangeable conversations, ideas and opinions I appreciate that they are neither.



The band’s music sounds very rich and almost like an orchestra, and I think all of you have some classical training, could you talk about that?

I made the recording with Oli and Rob Steadman before I met Max and Oli.  They both have a ton of training on their instruments and are fantastic musicians.  I feel really lucky to have been able to work with them.  They have influenced me enormously musically and professionally and I hope I’ll get the opportunity to work with them again.
As far as the sound of the music goes, I like layers of simple things that when they are all together they sound more than they are.  I have always played in bands and orchestras and am a sucker for a good ostinato or contrapuntal line.  Blame Sousa I suppose.


How long have you been together as a band and how did you get together?

We’ve been together since April of this year.  Max and I bonded over my big muff pedal.  Then we made a flyer and Oli answered.  He said he liked rainbows and Kathleen Hanna and that was more than enough for me.  Also his name was Oli which was convenient.


Your music calls for plays and other rich visual related art, would you be interested one day in working with movies, plays, or other kinds of art projects?

Yes all of the above.  I’m particularly interested in modern art and artists and ideas and themes and stories and new ways of representation or expression.  I thought it was super cool to work with Kirini Kopcke on the artwork to 400 Imperfect Rhymes.  I liked seeing how she visually interpreted the music and the end result is just fantastic.


Who would you consider your current “competitors” in the UK or worldwide in your type of sound/genre?

I know I won’t win so I don’t think of this as a competition.  But people have often told me the songs are like the Magnetic Fields or Kimya Dawson.  I like that.  Other people have said it’s like Belle and Sebastian or even the Pixies.  I like that too.


If you were a writer, who would you be?

If a literary ménage a trois between Emily Dickinson, Julio Cortazar and Shel Silverstein produced twins I would be both of them.


Our thanks to Rainbow Reservoir’s Angela Space for taking the time out to speak to us. You can purchase the recently released, and Monolith Cocktail featured, 400 Imperfect Rhymes here.

LP  REVIEW


Johnny Sedes


Johnny Sedes and his Orchestra   ‘Mamá Calunga’ (¡Andale! / Tuff City)   Released  22nd  July  2014.



Prized by aficionados and feverish collectors alike, the famous Fonseca label’s original super rare Mamá Calunga, can now be enjoyed by the many, thanks to a recent ¡Andale! reissue (an imprint of the New York label Tuff City).

For the very first time since its inaugural release in 1969, the Latin crossover sound of Venezuelan musical prodigy Johnny Sedes and his Orchestra has escaped the confines of a specialist market to find a wider audience.

Recorded in the city that first seduced the young South American saxophonist, composer and band leader, New York’s infamous melting pot of polygenesis cultures inspired the young Sedes, who after spending time absorbing the Latin scene there in the mid 60s, returned home to formulate a new dynamic sound.

Already renowned as a burgeoning talent in his native Venezuela, Sedes had worked alongside the notable pianist Ricardo Ray and singer Bobby Cruz, recording one of the earliest examples of an album to feature the salacious ‘salsa’ in its title.

Signed to the ‘Latino sound’ label of choice, Fonseca, whose reach extended from the Big Apple to Puerto Rico and Cuba, both Ray and Cruz would feature in the ‘hand-picked’ roster of talent that appeared on Sedes’ mighty dance floor filler project, Mamá Calunga. Joining the swelling ranks of luminaries, instigated by that label, on the 1969 classic, were veteran percussionist Candido Lamero, vocalists Chrvirico Davila and Leo Gonzales, trumpet players Pedro Rafael and Don Palmer, and fellow saxophonist Mario Rivera.

Intrinsically bedded in the traditions and voice of Venezuela – the opening, sauntering hip-swinging tribute to the Caribbean coast city of ‘Carupano Canta’, where the ‘liberator Simón Bolivar issued his 1894 decree ending slavery, paves the way -, but also adopting the native music styles and phrases of its former Spanish Colonial neighbors, Sedes cleverly mixes and absorbs the improvised desgarga (meaning ‘unloading’), rhumba variant Guagaunco, mambo, country music guajra and jala jala.

The musicianship is as nonpareil as you’d expect, peerless even: so loose and giddy it has to be tight to work so well. Blown inside and out descriptive horns that place you on a bustling scorched Havana street scene (the staple Cuban earnest peanut vendor ode, ‘El Manicero’); both passionate atavistic throwback and crooning soulful vocals (the South American western ‘Dos Cascabeles’ and serenaded ‘Te Vas Bolero’, being two of the finest examples); and a constant infectious foot-shuffling percussion transport the listener from the gypsy byways and mountains to the various tropical heated dance halls and hotspots of the city.

No passport is needed on this trip however; the sweltering climate and essential Latino spirit can all be found waiting to explode from Johnny Sedes and his Orchestras’ 8-track debut, without travelling the distances. Sensational sound and among the best examples of the South American shake and shimmy spirit.



Tickling Our Fancy 009

August 11, 2014

Our regular round up of singles, tracks and miscellaneous oddities features the following mixed bag of trick noise makers:  Fractions,  Opal Oynx,  The Green Seed,  Olde Worlde,  Papernut Cambridge,  Kormac,  The Garden,  Black Strobe  and Fofoulah.


Olde Worlde - Monolith Cocktail

Opal Onyx  ‘Black & Crimson’   (Tin Angel Records) Taken from their debut LP, Delta Sands, released 25th August 2014.



Lurking in a basement somewhere in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the ominous bewitching Opal Onyx duo have conjured up a musical murky dense – thicker than milk – fog, from which dusty old chopped up record soundscapes serve as a constantly vaporous thread for the most esoteric of female vocals.

Constantly churning in a gracefully tripped-out Portishead-esque manner, ‘Black & Crimson’, amorphously slips in and out of consciousness in a hallucinatory cycle of languid indulgence and horror.

If that drags you under the ebbing tide, then you can find more ‘fragile’ experimental sampled, cello and guitar multilayered dream/nightmare states on their upcoming debut LP, Delta Sands.



Papernut Cambridge  ‘The Ghost Of Something Small’  (Gare Du Nord) Taken from the There’s No Underground LP, released 13th October 2014.



Already attracting our ear with his recent spilt single back in May – sharing the billing with the similarly kaleidoscope viewed bedfellow Picturebox – former Death In Vegas guitarist Ian Button returns with another album as the quintessential English garden psych outfit, Papernut Cambridge. Revealing a glimpse into the follow up to last years Ogden era Small Faces alluding Cambridge Nutflake, our exclusive(ish) teaser ‘The Ghost Of Something Small’ is a cracking example of what you can expect to find on his October released songbook, There’s No Underground: perfectly encapsulated power-pop nuggets, from the edge of London town; literally at the end of the tube line. With a bit of Cockney Rebel here, some Edison Lighthouse there and still sounding like The Las tearing the free Circus Days compilations and 7” records of the front of the Strange Days magazine, Button’s oscillating arches and bending illuminating sounds create a haunted, tambourine shimmering, foot-stomping lament to the broody inner thoughts.

Despite moonlighting as a producer for Darren Hayman (who also appears on this album; a regular contributor to the Button cause) and Go Kart Mozart, and drumming for Wreckless Eric, Button’s own band could be hardly considered a side project. Recorded back in the spring, There’s No Underground features the collaborative talents of Robert Rotifer, Robert Halcrow (from Gard Du Nord label mates Picturebox), Ralegh Long, ex-Hefner pedal steel guru (apparently!) Jack Hayter, Button’s former Death In Vegas band mate Mat Flint, three quarters of the Mary Epworth band and Ruari Meehan (son of producer and Shadows drummer, Tony, and were informed, formerly of Belakiss).

The upcoming album is itself a paean of sorts to Button’s spiritual home in the outskirts of London – as Button himself puts it, ‘where the postcodes turn Kentish and the M25 lurks behind the next row of hills, almost within earshot’ -, a statement on the areas outside the epicentre, left out of the bubble but more and more where most of us have to live as we’re priced out. Promising a certain estuary angst and melting pot of influences, as obscure as The Rotary Connection and familiar as Ray Davis, There’s No Underground is set to be an odds on garage-rocking Stiff Records power pill popping triumph from a middle aged mind of experience.



Olde Worlde ‘Stuck In Hibernation’  (Groundhog Records)  Taken from the forthcoming The Blue Musk-Oxen LP, released 1st September 2014.



Honed on the power pop and indie rock drifting from the American Forces Radio, Japanese multi-instrumentalist Sohhei Numata embraced the jangly and angulated hooks and melodies emanating from across the Pacific and merged them with his own native kooky jauntiness. Adopting the Olde Worlde moniker, Numata has set out to craft some light but just so, awkward indie pop on his September scheduled album, The Blue Musk-Oxen.

As a precursor, a tempting morsel if you will, the Nirvana on their uppers, Elastica and Subcircus bent ‘Stuck In Hibernation’ is a cleverly composed charming mix of Britpop and friendly grunge. Adding weight and experience to the Tokyo – drummer/bass-player/singer/piano/Guitarist/Moog and not forgetting ukulele playing – polymath’s LP, the American producer Brad Wood, whose whooping roll call of credits include The Smashing Pumpkins, Tortise, Placebo and Ben Wood, sits in the driving seat, transforming Numata’s ditties into sun-lit crafted nuggets.



Fractions  ‘Breathe’  (Edlis Records)   Taken from the forthcoming Fractions EP, released 8th September 2014.



Searching for more ethereal plateaus and crossing over into sophisticated electronic pop, both current and ex members of the north east England hardcore rabble Lavotchkin, have surprisingly taken to their dramatic musical style change with adroit aplomb.

Cradled with a certain Twin Peaks lilting sadness and classy sweet but achingly pained female vocal, the leading track from their upcoming self-titled debut EP (released in September) ‘Breathe’, is a sizzling magnetic-charged synth lament, so slick it hurts and with a melody that just won’t quit: fading out a number of times and then appearing once more from the ether like a rousing banner for the pure of heart.

The rest f the EP is similarly oozing with slick neon lit charm and tubular shaped synthesised patterns. They sound like CHVRCHES covering The Horrors covering A Flock Of Seagulls. And that is a compliment. Promising, very promising indeed.


The Green Seed  ‘Jude Law’  (Communicating Vessels) Taken from the Drapetomania LP, released 15th July 2014.



We use the ‘conscious’ word as a compliment I gather, but it shows just how fucked-up Hip Hop has become, that anything with a message or considered articulate enough must get its own sub-genre. Hell, what happened to the golden era, where clever, experimental, political and street level philosophical epistles were rife, even dominant for a good many years? Forgive the gripe, but groups like our featured The Green Seed here, hailing from the deep south of Alabama, shouldn’t need the tag. View it as just a damn fine 70s jazz funking show tune trumpeting, Wu-Tang meets Jurassic 5, fronted by Daddy-O, lost Lex Records maverick.

Hardly an ode to the one-time leading English actor, ‘Jude Law’, their latest track and accompanying video, uses the title as a bounce and rub, as they spit a mix of kung-fu-action-B-movie-flick lyrical dexterous brinkmanship and goading; taking a few broadside swipes at the current scene’s litany of pranksters and commercial darlings.

Adding balance to the force, The Green Seed craft a mean and sophisticated update of the much beloved golden age of the late 80s and early 90s.


Kormac feat. Bajka  ‘Wake Up’  (Bodytonic Records) Taken from the Doorsteps LP, released 20th October 2014.



Dublin-based dust junky and crate digger Kormac has made the leap from sampling a wealth of obscure, archaic and odd finds to producing original beats on his upcoming opus, Doorsteps.

Fashioning material from some surprising sources and featuring not just guest musicians but a particular Scottish author of repute too, Kormac with his portable recording studio set up visited the homes of Irvine Walsh, Micah P. Hinson, Speech Debelle, Vyvienne Long and a host of rappers, soloists and even opera singers to compose an ambitious cinematic, trip hop extravaganza.

Taken from that album, ‘Wake Up’ features Bonobo vocalist and spoken-word artist Bajka, who, in a Beth Gibbons coquettish style, swoons over a moody soulful hotbed of gramophone crackling 70s horns and steady urban breakbeats.

There’s much more where that came from in October, so keep those ears peeled, as we’re bound to review it in the future.

Check below for full track listing details.

Track Listing:

1. Wake Up (ft. Bajka)

2. Superhero (ft. MC Little Tree)

3. White Noise (ft. Speech Debelle)

4. Reprise

5. Another Screen (ft Irvine Welsh)

6. Drown Me (ft Vyvienne Long)

7. Cloning (ft Koaste)

8. Everything Around Me

9. Connect

10. Get Up, Go Away (ft. Micah P Hinson)




The Garden - Monolith Cocktail

Time Bankrupt selection:


Before I bemoan our plight, it’s a good sign and proves we’re reaching more and more people all the time, but our inbox and delivery of new releases is reaching a hyperbolic state of exhaustion – though that doesn’t mean stop sending in and isn’t meant as a gentle fuck off to bands/artists/labels/promoters; by all means keep on keeping on. With all that in mind, here are just a few tracks that also tickled our fancy but we just haven’t had time to dig deeper on.

The Garden  ‘Cloak’  -  Ahead of their European tour, a brand new track.



Black Strobe  ‘Folsom Prison Blues  (Precise Master)’ (Blackstrobe Records) – Taken from the upcoming, and future Monolith Cocktail review, Godforsaken Roads, released October 2014.



Fofoulah  ‘Make Good’  (Glitterbeat Records) –  Taken from the upcoming Fofolah LP, another future review on the Monolith Cocktail. Released 19th  September 2014.





LP/EP  REVIEWS


Dr. John

Exiled from his Istanbul home of ten years, Sean Bw Parker, now back on his native shores of  England – it’s a long story, and I’m sure he’ll regale us all with it sometime soon – breaks with convention, reviewing a triumvirate of releases in one bite-size rant.

 


Dr John ‘Ske-Dat-De-Kat…Spirit Of Satch’   (Proper Records)   1st September 2014


Growling old Gumbo eating Bayou swamp monkey Dr John pays homage to fat trumpeter Louis Armstrong, with smilingly jaunty, boogie-woogie results. Starting out as a barbershop doo-wop version of ‘What A Wonderful World’, it is rather appropriate for the time of year, in a very New Orleans kind of way, if not a middle-eastern one. An unrecognisable but utterly compelling ‘Mack The Knife’ follows, with fantastic Funkadelic-style horn riffs, and a possibly out-of-place aggrandising rap.

The percussive, acid-fried psyche-bluesman Dr John responsible for the fascinatingly frazzled ‘Gris Gris’ back in the proper hippy mists of time is quite absent, but in his place a mature, full-voiced singer, more Beaujolais than Bonzai.



Grass On The Sun   ‘Grass On The Sun EP’   5th June 2014





Just two tracks here – one gets the feeling that Italian ‘psych’ duo Grass Of The Sun might have let the greyhound out of the traps a tad early. Surly, mumbled, illegible vocals float alongside Suicide/Jesus and Mary Chain drone grooves, nary a chord change in sight. ‘The Corner’ and ‘I Feel It Coming’ are perfectly workable shoegaze rooftop dwellers, but without being full of acid or to be honest whatever your poison is, Grass On The Sun are for now very much a ‘watch this space’, night-time pair.



Koria Kitten Riot   ‘Rich Men Poor Men Good Men’   (Yates Records)  6th October 2014



Twee Fins Koria Kitten Riot present, as their third album but first as a full album, something that their PR company describes as ‘at times you forget that you’re not listening to a soundtrack of a heart-warming indie film’. Well that’s true, and if you like Wes Anderson or that flick about a down on his luck Irish musician, you’ll probably like this. I presume the band name is an attempt to sound po-mo interesting, akin to Super Furry Animals, with similarly cringe-inducing results.

Good album title though, and the sound throughout is a very polished, very accomplished, excruciatingly polite and business-like mash-up of Mercury Rev, Wilco, Neutral Milk Hotel and yes, Coldplay. The boys themselves look very nice and all that, and I’m sure they are, but possess what we could call an absence of need, edge or any other kind of existential pain. The main worry with this ‘genre’ is that offered a tie-in with The Big Bang Theory, Starbucks or any film with Colin Firth in it, they’d accept, no questions asked. It sometimes feels like that might even be the aim.

They deploy the occasional ‘fuck’ in order to sound pissed off, but it really comes off as aimless angst, Mumford & Sons style over-egging. Each track has some instrumental colour, immaculate strings here, perfectly balanced horns there, etc. It’s a very warm, comforting album, but just rather…beige trousered.




LP  REVIEW


Klaus Martin


Klaus Marten  ‘In A Dream’   Released 5th June 2014




 

Emerging like a paranormal broadcast from his Brooklyn bedroom studio, Klaus Marten once more coaxes the cerebral from the most minimal of white noise. His latest patchwork discovery of sound collages, unruly guitar strangulated buggery and vaporous acoustic wanderings drift surreptitiously between the hazy, ominous and languid.

Expanding, in a manner, beyond previous ‘lost and found’ tapes collections, Marten picks outs many a pastoral, Barrett-esque, extemporised tinkered tune on the acoustic, flirts with the submerged candy psych of Ariel Pink, and serenades the listener, under a insect-rich cacophony sweltering twilight hour sky.

 

Eased into the evaporates stream of consciousness, Marten’s blueprint permeating, panoramic sweeping, wave forms slowly take on a tangible shape on the opening ‘Loops’; the sustained and later on holy choral drone, are piqued by regular bobbing bass notes and drumbeat, heading in the direction of My Bloody Valentine. The scary shit comes next, in the guise of an séance, one that’s turned nasty on a Mars basecamp. An unworldly presence shifts around in the shadows on the heightened futuristic ghostly ‘Outpost’.

In a schizophrenic roll of the dice, two distinct identities step forward from the particle-frazzled soundscape. There’s a tender, more with strained, even at times bordering on making it up as he goes along, mood and then the Marten who wrestles for control of the foot pedal and dial marked unwieldy: squealed, wailed and fried, the acoustic is amped up and fucked about with until distressed and unable to continue, it vanishes into the dispersed ether of white noise, Martin in a bastardised mode finally succumbing under the strain of fucking around.

Lingering in relative obscurity, our Brooklynite composer posts his transmissions in the digital equivalent manner of leaving an unmarked tape on a park bench or phone box; who knows where it might end up and what emotions it will rouse when picked up by some unsuspecting passer-by. Putting the soul into noise and sustained minimal sine waves, his In A Dream collection of passages, vignettes and soundtracks prove thoughtful, resonating and even diaphanous.



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