July 28, 2015
Our Franco-Turkish critic and literary poetic contributor of renown, Ayfer Simms, is wistfully enchanted by the new placable album from Beach Moon/Peach Moon. The brainchild of Robert Prisco, the translucent passages of his Kite Without A String songbook inspired a warmly woven stream of descriptive prose from Simms.
Beach Moon/Peach Moon ‘Kite Without A String’
(Paper Trail Records)
Robert Prisco’s music simply drips from the sun as if made up of its rays; it is warm and embracing with its guitar cords following the honey like voice of the singer. The tunes are extremely relaxing allowing the listener to stop breathing for a moment and lie still in front of a sunny window. There, in a half awaken slumber, memories, hard and young ones, fresh punches of a break up, or fond exhilarating flirtatious moments of no heavy consequences, lightness of being with little sorrows: The dramas don’t cause distress here, there are no tears, no regrets, just the peaceful abandon of a bright afternoon, the warmth of the scent of some distant nostalgia.
These chords are made to slow down your heart rate, avoid the mind exhausting excitements, instead we stay in that screenshot of an 8mm movie with cadenced slow movements, we become the legs dangling from the side of an old train, breeze, love, poppies, sunflowers. Love again. Everything is peaceful, even sadness. Outside all the houses on the way have green bits and ghosts, those reflections of the travellers heart, and we gently rock and look, with a “heart full of happiness”, and listen, and chill, on a sunny sunny day. It’s acoustic and it’s charming.
Words: Ayfer Simms
NEW MUSIC REVUE
Aural fancies this week include a psychogeographic opus from The Classical; lush shoegaze and riled pastel agit rock from Vukovar; two new compilations of material picked from kosmiche and electronic legend Conrad Schnitzler’s archives; and spunk rock and new wave rattlers from White Reaper. Plus we have some dream wave electro from German duo Ayu, a quirky transmission from the potting shed of the Nimzo Indian, trashy Brooklyn pop from Snarkmuffin and Etho-jazz from the legendary Hailu Mergia in our shorts section.
The Classical ‘Diptych’
(Time Sensitive Materials) Physical LP released 31st July 2015
Whether its withering in the psychogeograpahy of Palermo’s open burial catacombs, lamenting a Grecian Suzanne Vega like hymn to the departed souls, or rising from a subterranean cell towards the first signs of glimmering light, The Classical conjure up the most daemonic tableaus. Previously the preserve of the chosen few, lauded in their Bay Area home of San Francisco and by anyone who by happenstance came across it in 2014 via its self-release on Bandcamp, their finely tuned agitated jazz/theatrical explorations into the gloom Diptych, has thankfully been reprieved and given a physical release.
A morbidly curious songbook in the style of Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch and The Drift, the album is a series of acts, the protagonist singer-songwriter Juliet E. Gordon channeling a host of ghosts, fantasists and harbingers of revenge. Abandoning a career in the acting trade, Gordon’s skills have been put to good use with some adroit vocal performances; her voice at different times taking on the characteristics and intonations of Vega, Beth Gibbons, Lene Lovich and Patti Smith, whilst the Brian Viglione like pendulous and kinetic thrashing drums of her foil Britt Ciampa (brilliantly played throughout) ebbs, caresses or crashes upon the sirens rocky stage.
Transformative post punk and no wave meets junkyard jazz, The Classical can, with finesse, produce the sounds of either sumptuous strings laden tenderness (‘Byzantine Tango’) or lull ominously to a Portishead and Walker-esque bedevilled beat (‘Escapeboards, Pt.1’). Mesmerising, hypnotic if not entrancing, the deep chills of hell’s hornets nest and the harrowing reverberations of atavistic horns, the death knell or signal from Jericho onwards, act in unison with the punctuating energy and startling beauty of this album’s more melodic and Avant-pop moments.
Highly impressive and enriched with an array of acroamatic and cryptic portraits, Diptych is a cerebral and powerful testament, positively glowing and rippling with intelligent sensibility.
Conrad Schnitzler/ Pyrolator ‘Con-struct’
(Bureau B) LP released 17th July 2015
Conrad Schnitzler ‘Kollektion 5: compiled and assembled by Thomas Fehlmann’
(Bureau B) LP released 31st July 2015
Resurrecting many fine albums from the Kosmiche and avant-garde electronica cannon, German label Bureau B once again has paid homage to one of its leading composer and artist acolytes Conrad Schnitzler with a double bill of releases. The first a compilation of his 80s sonic excursions, re-aligned and congruously reassembled by Thomas Fehlmann for the label’s guest curated Kollektion series, the second a ‘re-construction’ of Conrad’s abundant archive by Kurt ‘Pyrolator’ Dahlke.
Soliciting the favours of compatriots, former musical colleagues and fans, Bureau B has already asked Lloyd Cole to compile his choice Hans-Joachim Roedelius tracks and Stereolab honcho Tim Gane to pick out his favourite flights of synthesizer fantasies from the famous Sky Records label back catalogue. Now having already re-released a number of his original albums and peregrinations, they’ve asked Beats label founder and former Palais Schaumburg band member Fehlmann to channel Conrad’s 8Os “Con” suffixed explorations into a flowing, almost uninterrupted, mix for the purposes of the 5th Kollektion instalment. Stringing together various pieces and cross fading at the opportunistic moment, Fehlmann does justice to the Zodiak Free Art Lab ethos, producing a complimentary interstellar soundtrack of immersive experimentation and though none of the original’s have been tampered with (leaving the tempo and form intact), they take on a new perspective.
A progenitor of the Kosmiche and Krautrock era, Conrad’s various stints, usually as a founding member and instigator, at the helm of Kluster (forming the trio with fellow Zodiak club stalwarts Roedelius and Dieter Moebius in 1969) and Tangerine Dream (an early member of the group in 1970, featured on the group’s debut LP Electronic Meditation), would reverberate throughout his solo and collaborative work, right up until his death in 2011. By the 1980s, he had a strong body of work behind him and was once again forming new bonds and ideas with Germany’s post-punk generation: integrating some of the more interesting ideas into his synthesizer based modulations and soundscapes.
Alongside the numerous ‘Contempora’ extracts, picked from Conrad’s 1981 album of the same name, Fehlmann mixes up the original running order to reshape and build new relationships between the various cosmic fragments.
‘11’’s sophisticated cascaded space dust wanderings and modulating spheres recall his time with Tangerine Dream, especially when it then fades into ‘09’’s satellite roaming overhead, alien bubbling cauldron of primordial soup.
Later on ‘04’’s shooting stars visions and the chain-reaction pollen explosion ‘10’, act as a returning leitmotif, connecting the space voyages over the lunar terrain together. Segments from Conrad’s Con 3, Conrad & Sohn (both sides of that record, produced with his film-maker son Gregor, featured here in an alternative sequence), Congratulacion and Consequenz albums, all figure in this otherworldly journey, piquing the interest with the Kraftwerk school of vocalized industrial Dusseldorf soul, and rain splashed ‘Tanz Im Regam’ (some proto Sky Records material from the Con 3 suite); the steely art school, scaffold pole percussive ‘Komm Mit Nach Berlin’; and rum-spliced tribal techno exoticness of ‘Copacabana’. Catalogued by dates, the oddities found on the 1987 LP, Congratulacion, vary between the twinkly celestial droplets of the magical ’21.8.86’, and the Wendy Carlos switched-on Baroque of ’19.8.86’; both tracks I’ve never before searched out and even heard, but both mischievously maverick. Fehlmann does a superb job in juxtaposition, keeping the Conrad signature of exploratory surroundings but refreshing it for a contemporary reappraisal.
In a similar vain, Kurt ‘Pyrolator’ Dahlke amps up Conrad’s synthesizer collection of daily experiments; collated from his vast sound archive, originally put aside for use in his live performances; forming a library of jump-off points, ideas, and sonic soundscapes. After reissuing two of Conrad’s albums in 2010, the Berlin label m=minimal’s founder Jens Strüver was granted access to these library tracks. Instead of a straight compilation, he came up with a series of ‘con-structions’, in which the material was not so much remixed as built from new. Different electronic musicians have been invited to remodel Conrad’s oeuvre, with the contemporary German techno and sophisticated electronic group Kreidler’s Andreas Reihse responsible for the second instalment, and now the solo artist, and one-time member of Der Plan and D.A.F., Kurt Dahlke goes to work on the third chapter.
With a darker and more caustic approach, Dahlke builds Conrad’s live fragments into ‘intelligent’ and cerebral techno soundtracks. But what first meets the aural receptors is a noodling moiety of tech sounds from the Tannhauser Gate, and the slipping towards a subterranean vacuum of ‘389-8’ and ‘288-1’; the dual presence of unworldly cybernetics and particles sounding both celestial and ominous at the same time. The pace picks up by the third transmission, with the spindly Baroque loops of ‘289-5’, and continues to get going with the kinetic lumbering ‘287-14’: an alien world that rotates between timings, from half time to rapid twitching.
By the Mars sandstorms of ‘296-16’, Dahlke has added the acid, and with ‘287-13’ he’s made the dance floor with a tribal, tubular shaped blast from the Tresor, circa 1999: arguably Conrad was one of the most important links in the chain from the early days of pioneering synthesizer music to the dance music created decades later in both his hometown and in the German capitol. Dahlke has certainly injected some bounce and moody
White Reaper ‘White Reaper Does It Again’
(Polyvinyl Records) LP released on 17th July 2015
Just a group of young spunks out having fun, goofing on a fiery Molotov cocktail of spiky power pop, melodic punk and college radio, the White Reaper release their debut in a chaos of fuzz, thrills and punctuated rock and roll riffs. Hyped up on what sounds like a diet of The Ramones, Ty Segall, Johnny Thunders, Generation X and, even, the vaporised synth suffused anthems of The Cars, our Louisville, Kentucky outfit inject adrenaline into a dying art.
From the opening count in of ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ to the snot rock bombast of ‘BXT’, the album fizzes with glee and verve; riffing on their influences, throwing in bellicose solos and squeals with a knowing wink, they are what The Vaccines could have been if they weren’t so shambolically uptight. A reformation of garage rock and AM rock, dragged through the 80s and 90s and into the present, White Reaper Does it Again is a gas.
(Small Bear Records)
Punching well above its weight, the serendipitous label of vaporous lo fi and languid shoegaze Small Bear Records has slipped onto the market its most ambitious marvel yet. From their Isle of Man recording HQ, the Vukovar builds a funeral pyre for the ‘new world order’.
Helping them man the barricades, Rick Clarke and Dan Shea (also of The Bordellos and Neurotic Wreck) formerly of the “disintegrated” The Longdrone Flowers, are joined by an extended cast of Small Bear artists; with the dreamily aspiring Postcode’s Mikie Daugherty, Jonny Peacock and Marie Reynolds, and Circus worlD’s Mark Sayle all making guest appearances: a super group performance if you will.
Rallying round the decree of “idealists, voyeurs and totalitarians”, and referencing a list of one word actions/stances (“Ultra-Realism”, “Depravity”, “Monotony”) to describe their sound, the band’s lyrics certainly seem fuelled with protestation and anger. Yet for the most part, they sound despondently magnificent in the most melodic, beautiful shoegaze fashion. Their brand of lush 80s driven alternative rock and more caustic, punchy industrial noise is far too melodic and majestic to be truly brutal.
Taking their name from the infamous Croatian city, the site of an heinous blight on modern European history (always conveniently airbrushed from bellicose EU propaganda; the sort that preaches its union has put paid to and secured the continent from conflict and war amongst its neighbours), when 300 poor souls, mostly Muslims, were rounded up and barbarically executed by Serb paramilitaries and the Yugoslav Peoples Army (the worst committed atrocity of its kind since WWII), Vukovar appeal to the listener who wants to scratch beneath the surface of the banal mainstream. They offer an invitation into the darker recesses of history and social politics unseen in much of the dross that calls itself alternative – even their bandcamp page features an exhaustive manifesto style edict (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) of intent. And so they offer a an out-of-body majestical shoegazing waltz through Reinhard Heydrich’s honey trap brothel and centre of Nazi espionage, the ‘Regular Patrons of Salon Kitty’; drift into Spiritualized and New Order territory on the softly pranged hymn to a former Japanese princess, ‘Part 1: Miss Kuroda’s Lament’; and channel a despondently romantic but resigned Ian Curtis as they utter with despondent beauty that “we’re cowards” on the beautifully sullen and dreamy ‘Nero’s Felines’.
With a maelstrom of clanging, fuzz and Inspiral Carpets jamming with a motor city turned-on Julian Cope vibe, the group yells, shakes and rattles on their more noisy outings, ‘Lose My Breath’ and ‘Concrete’. Not always their best material it must be said, they add some tension to the more relaxed melodic and – dare I say – pop songs, which sound far more convincing: ‘Koen Cohen K’ and ‘The New World Order’ are just brilliant; imagine what Joy Division might have sounded like if Ian Curtis had lived on and found solace in the lush veils of shoegaze, or if he fronted Chapterhouse.
Fiddling romantically whilst Olympus burns, the Vukovar’s stand against the illuminati forces of evil couldn’t have sounded any more beautifully bleak, yet somehow liltingly inspiring.
Sharkmuffin ‘First Date’
(State Capital/ Little Dickman Records)
Far too sophisticated and melodic as to be written off as dumb shit trash garage rock, the Ramones style wit and adroit melodies of the Brooklyn trio Sharkmuffin are raucously energetic certainly, even rough around the edges, but they never as moronic and unappealing as those noisy kids who just play around with the punk shtick. Thrashing out a Lena Dunham style riposte to the contemporary dating scene fascination, the group wraps up the subject in a ceremonial 1 min and 14 seconds homemade video.
Already courted by the likes of NPR and Flavorwire in the States, and named as one of the “20 All-Female Bands You Need To Know’ by Billboard, the band are now attracting attention across the Atlantic. The ‘First Date’ video will be followed next month by their new album Chartreuse and a tour.
Ayu ‘Try (Bothering Me)’
Drifting into view across our radar earlier this month, Ayu’s lushly administered rays of hazy synth and icy cool electronic soul imbued brilliance aroused our attention. The Berlin/Hamburg duo of minimalists of Eliana and Eve call their brand of diaphanous entrancing dance music ‘in between the waves pop’. The brooding duo’s most recent glowing hotbed of heartache, ‘Try (Bothering Me)’, is a sultry and passionate simmering pop ripple: by which we mean it’s a great track.
Nimzo Indian ‘Speakon’
More serendipitous mayhem from maverick musician/composer/artist and Duchamp chess movement admirer, the Nimzo Indian, who takes us on a strange voyage into the Indian sub continent on his latest transmission, ‘Speakon’. Finding the most original and sometimes silly noises from both conventional and home-built musical instruments and constructions, Andrew Spackman (formerly of Zoom Quartet) adds the lingering and enchanting sounds of an exotic tabla heavy soundscape to all kinds of electronic weirdness on one of his more charming releases.
Hailu Mergia ‘Hailu/ Yegle Nesh’
(Philophon) 7” and digital versions available now
Lovely, enchanting and entranced vibes from east Africa now as the first new tracks to emerge in 30 years from the legendary Ethiopian jazz doyen Hailu Mergia; who emerges with two fine new etho-jazz and sub Arabian impersonations, released both on 7” vinyl and digitally. Recorded in Berlin at Philophon records’ studio under the label boss and prodigious rhythm master Max Weissenfeldt (known for his collaborations and work with Dr. John, Dan Auerbach, Whitefield Brothers and the Poets of Rhythm), the two tracks of jaunty, charming atavistic meets reggae style gaited grooves take you on a dusky carpet ride over a magical desert landscape. We’re glad to have him back.
Words: Dominic Valvona
July 17, 2015
Matt Oliver’s Hip Hop Revue
A man in demand as they say, Matt Oliver might ave skipped a month but he’s back with a bumper bi-monthly edition of his hip hop grande tour Rapture & Verse. Strange esoteric, hallucinatory psych from Hey!Zeus.I , a lyrical strewn homage of a sort to Stanley Kubrick from Stig of the Dump, straight talking from MNSR Frites, B-movie horror schlock from Ghostface Killah & Adrian Young, and Chali 2na goes undercover in this ripe collection of the best new rap cuts, videos, singles, albums and remixes.
Scraping itself off the tarmac post-heatwave, the newly refrigerated Rapture & Verse is playing catch-up with Tyler, The Creator announcing the passing of Odd Future, Gucci Mane becoming an Agony Uncle, and super-producer Scott Storch declaring bankruptcy. Coming to a tavern near you – Wu-Tang and Run the Jewels beer? Looking to put rappers out of business, a Finnish scientist claims to have a built a rhyme-generating robot that can out-flow the best humankind has to offer. This column is not bricking it at all. Thankfully the newest supergroup to save us all is reportedly Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, and 9th Wonder.
Black Milk is top of the tree at The Jazz Cafe this coming Sunday, with Pro Era’s CJ Fly hot on his heels on the 18th and Peanut Butter Wolf bringing his bag of 45s to the same venue in August. Cannibal Ox’s UK tour is in gear with six dates across the country this month, but save some pennies for a first vinyl reissue of BDP’s ‘Sex and Violence’ from 1992. Dead Prez’ ‘Let’s Get Free’ also get replenished on wax, and the collector-caring Jukebox series offers all-time classics from Mobb Deep, Raekwon and MOP and more on 7” for the first time.
Adjust the bass and let the Alpine blast with something a bit rocky, a bit pimped and a bit poppy on hip-hop’s outside edge: Royal race through the costume changes on a six-track EP chunky enough to slip through the cracks of categorisation. Nametag Alexander is this month’s financial advisor by investing ‘Paper’ over a classically dusty Detroit jitter. Passing on personal wisdom, Joker Starr tells everyone ‘I’m All About Everything’; the original has Micall Parknsun boxing clever on the boards, followed by three nod-ready remixes. Light-headed clarification from Hey!Zeus.I features Strange U getting cross-legged with Jehst, before Dr Zygote’s remix sends the trip spiralling. ‘Holy Cow’ indeed.
Sean Anonymous’ high-speed theories on the highly-strung ‘Big Bang’ burst with drama that’s more from the stage than street, with Lizzo and P.O.S. along for the ride. References galore from Jakk Frost meet DJ Premier’s funk bullion for the true skooler ‘Dope Boy Talk’, and priming itself as a summer smash is SuperSTah Snuk’s ‘Falling in Love’, linking arms with Statik Selektah for the benefit of all smitten soft-top pushers. Straining from the wrong side of tracks, Bobby Capri & Michael Christmas’ ‘Never Fall Short’, Supreme the Eloheem’s ‘The Corner’, Napoleon & Ghostface’s ‘Game’, and Apollo Ali’s ‘Pray 4 Us’ all put hoods up and barge through traffic.
The announcement of ‘I’m Good’ by Confz is an East London go-slow at high-speed, made to make you relax on an intense scale. Peckham prankster Mr Mini entertains and proves he’s ’StreetSmart BookSmart’ with seven impudent, Slim Shady-meets-Kano bounces off walls. Over in Manchester, Red Venom goes hell for leather on ‘There’s No Killing What Can Not Be Killed’ and sunbathes in the furnace heat of a house of horrors, and Clubs & Spades’ strongly-built ‘Clearer Coast’ is a big-sounding break-up song full of Sheffield steel.
Stig of the Dump ain’t playing on ‘Kubrick’. Supremely focused as he turns his routine aggravations into a concentrated burst of informed fire-breathing, and pretty much made foolproof by Jehst being on the boards throughout , it’s his best work to date. With a slick set of promotional materials to go with it, it’s a block of heaviness to send the springs on scales flying.
Another fabled fairytale of instrumentalism from 2econd Class Citizen bubbles towards toil and trouble on the fittingly titled ‘A Hall of Mirrors’. Brighton’s audio apothecary stirs his thought provoking signature of darkly mediaeval magic and lute-thrashing funk, pored over until it reaches the outer recesses of your skull. Gratifying, regressive relaxation.
Keeping its cool throughout, Golden Rules’ ‘Golden Ticket’ is a spirited collection of hip-hop leaning towards boho status, particularly when including a slow jam of Luther Vandross appreciation. Hatched between South London and Florida – the sunshine of the latter dominating – Eric Biddines and Paul White have come up with a summer accompaniment both playful and up-to-speed.
Lunar-C spewing premium Bradford brat rap on ‘Breakdown Rebuild’ is a corruption of 16 beats made to test any competitor’s manhood. Relaxed straight talker MSNR Frites rides ‘The River Wandle’ like a thoroughbred. Unwaveringly clear cut skills punt on beats both calm and choppy – ‘That Rain’ is sumptuous go-hard-or-go-home fare – and the Granville Sessions man is never found treading water.
Cheerleaders for the cheerless Mr Key and Greenwood Sharps look at ‘Yesterday’s Futures’ with patient, articulate pessimism that’ll take pride of place in the collections of the world-weary. It may sound like nothing but grey skies throughout, but over time it generates its own kind of ear-clamping warmth. Mild-mannered beatsmith Handbook is the man on hand with audio ice cubes – and he’s even polite enough to call his album ‘Thank You’. Blissed out vibes, save for one forceful drive from Supreme Sol & Marvolus, from the York soul controller.
One-time hip-hop messiah Papoose declares ‘You Can’t Stop Destiny’ – fast-paced, urgent, Havoc, DJ Premier and Showbiz producing, and spraying bars across most bases while holding up a #1 salute throughout (‘Global Warming 2’ is that conceptual wordplay he unsheathes so easily)…there’s enough here to keep fans believing he can be rap’s redeemer. The Wu-Tang dynasty goes astral, with Killah Priest’s ‘Planet of The Gods’. Dourly rhyming his ass off as if his tin can is running out of fuel, it dovetails nicely with Cannibal Ox’s re-entry to the fold earlier this year. A weighty reading of sci-fi hieroglyphs sent back to street level. More grainy footage of reopened murder cases from Adrian Younge means a second dossier slash comic book of ‘Twelve Reasons to Die’. Ghostface Killah leads a team of investigators that includes Lyrics Born, Raekwon and Vince Staples to pick off A-grade funk, and sleuth in darkness before bursting the doors open. Deathly slick.
B Dolan‘s ‘Kill the Wolf’ blows the house down with indisputable prophecies of rage relinquishing a place on the radar, and the sound of the future having its arse kicked. Rock-edged boom bap and electronic takeovers are laid down hard and built with a springboard for the truth-seeking moshpit welcoming him below. Gaskets are left strewn all over the place – and you wouldn’t want to cross him at his calmest either.
Wringing the remaining drops from the trap/cloud rap model, A$AP Rocky’s ‘At. Long. Last. A$AP’ is a rambling follow-up but has notable moments of developed, well-delivered thought. A quick reshuffle of instrumentals from Alchemist on ‘Israeli Salad’ makes Middle Eastern mountains out of messing about on the MPC, the latest in his empire of cross-continent bangers. On some elder statesman’s reaffirmation that also doesn’t outstay its welcome, Large Professor solidly presents ‘Re Living’. Without re-writing the rulebook he helped pen back when, it’s still flecked with a lineage you can trace back to his heyday.
Jedi Mind Tricks’ eternal damnations continue on ‘The Thief and The Fallen’, whetting their axes to grind, though markedly spreading out the sonics a little more. Re-upping a bunch of J Dilla bump-n- slouch, Slum Village sound up for the role of summer sultans before settling into a groove playing to their neo-souled strengths. ‘Yes!’ is the name of the album and there’ll fist pumps for their golden touch supported by Phife Dawg and De La Soul.
Mixtapes & VT
The Nick Black mixtape ‘SMBS’ lurks on dark East London corners and turns the screw for maximum atmospheric resonance writhing into a bitter drowsiness. All about the very last detail, it cracks few smiles in adhering to the motto of badboys moving in silence.
Optical solutions this month come from The Doppelgangaz’ gangland style, PRofit’s gigawatt grin, Motive’s age-old advice and Chali 2na getting on the case.
Words/selection: Matt Oliver
July 14, 2015
C Duncan ‘Architect’ (FatCat Records)
LP released 17th July 2015
Successfully integrating the choral impressionism of the classical French master composers Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré with the affecting angelic paeans of 80s and early 90s pop, the Glaswegian chamber symphonic troubadour C Duncan has produced one of the year’s most impressive albums. Born into a rich heritage of classism, both of his partners earning their crust as professional classical musicians, and graduating from the city’s revered Royal Conservatoire, Duncan waxed lyrical on the piano and viola before the temptations of rock and pop led him in a slightly off-kilter direction. Joining a number of bands whilst at school, he added the lead guitar, bass guitar and drums to his extensive oeuvre.
But rather then use the grand and extended orchestral tools and acoustic spaces of classical music, Duncan methodically and intricately layers his ethereal, and sometimes transcendental, songs in his bedroom studio. Precise, purposeful and planned to the latter, each note, chime, melodic suffused wave and example of interplay is meticulously placed. Architect is then, perhaps one of the most finely crafted albums of late. Yet, most impressive of all is Duncan’s ability to make this precision sound so dreamily and amorphously lush and drifting.
The sound itself is heavenly. Hushed reverence appears like a leitmotif throughout, Duncan’s multi-tracked vocals sounding like Harpers Bizarre or The Beach Boys seeking sanctuary in an isolated Gaelic monastery. The opening cerebral bliss of ‘Say’ magically recalls Talk Talk, but also sounds like an early 90s Sting backing track (both of which are gloriously merged together), and the titular mini-requiem nods in the direction of the US west coast; the inspired harmonies of Sagittarius, and The Turtles clever ascending vocal riffs, wafting over the Atlantic and back through time to be placed in a stained glass setting. From then on in, we’re treated to the sort of lost celestial sacrosanct cooing you’d find on Medieval arrangements, brought right up to date with veiled gestures to Kate Bush and The Cocteau Twins. Featured a couple of months back on the Monolith Cocktail, Duncan’s ‘Here To There’ changes the mood with the glorious Spector reverb imbued Baroque meets the backwater folk of Midlake and the Fleet Foxes style lifting lilt.
Gentle and at times lingering like a reverberating memory from either a 60s Californian beach campfire serenade or a hymn recital at the 7th century Iona abbey, the ebb and flow is never too intense an experience or too vague as to be vapourous. And because of its venerated, intimate and breathy subtlety, Architect will need some space and time to unravel all its riches. Make no mistakes, C Duncan is an exceptional talent (annoyingly a really decent artist too; exhibiting throughout Scotland, his artwork adorns all his releases), and his album is one of the most refined, accomplished nuggets of 2015.
Words: Dominic Valvona
July 12, 2015
By now (or so I believed) the well documented rise and fall and than revival of one of pop music’s titans and true geniuses, shouldn’t come as any shock. Perhaps the nuanced details remain a mystery to most, but the crippling mental fatigue and illnesses that conspired to overwhelm Brian Wilson now go hand-in-hand with and are synonymous with The Beach Boys legacy. Plagued since childhood by the overbearing bullying of others, Brian was made nearly deaf by the clouting punishment of his patriarch Murry Wilson (a failed composer with little talent, forever enviously cruel towards his eldest son), worn down by his cousin and bandmate Mike Love – a year older than Brian but may as well been twenty, the omnipresent ‘straight’ put off by anything less than sweet and commercial, constantly grappling in a power game to control the band -, and emasculated, cut off from the world by the dubious therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. Arguably this triumvirate of manipulative, all damaged in their own way, individuals reflected their own insecurities, envy and even misunderstandings – Love just not getting it and stoic in not wishing to rock the proverbial boat of success – onto Brian; and perhaps due to a lack of ego himself, was unable to believe in his own self worth allowing others to both take advantage and question his musical aspirations.
Unnerved, strung out and growing isolated from both his childhood sweetheart and first wife Marilyn, and his siblings, Brian went into a slow and long drawn out decline. Rare touches of genius would still sparkle occasionally, but after the less than rapturous reception at the release of Pet Sounds, and the aborted (though saved from the ashes and finally recorded and played live forty years later) American peregrination behemoth SMiLE, it was more or less, downhill all the way. Adrift now of The Beach Boys, wheeled out sporadically but later sacked, Brian had already undergone numerous treatments during the late 60s, and in 1975 at her wits end, Marilyn called in the services of the quack to the stars, Landy. Though as the movie depicts, his motives and less than orthodox style of treatment appeared quite sinister, he did manage to reduce a bloated lethargic Brian into a slimmer, healthier individual, ready to return back to the Beach Boys fold. However as it would transpire, Landy took rather too much of an interest, going as far as to attend band meetings and make decisions on Brian’s creative dealings. He was ceremoniously sacked and cast out, losing not only his golden egg, but also losing his professional licence for his methods and liberal pill dispensing (the press would christian him Dr. Feelgood). Yet ironically he was recalled back during the 80s after Brian, at his lowest ebb, took an overdose of alcohol, cocaine and psychoactive drugs. This time Landy gave no quarter and micromanaged every single aspect of his patients life. Brian would be completely cut off from everyone, and handled like a simpering child by his new legal guardian (who merely replaced Brian’s monstrous real father Murry), with a team on standby to make sure he never wandered from the good doctor’s path of recovery: a recovery that led to Brian’s eponymous solo album of 1988 (Landy brazenly got credits as executive producer and co-writer), of which the opening track Love & Mercy is used for the film’s title. In fearing of being institutionalised, Brain would meekly allow this infringement of his privacy and daily life. Over stepping his remit, and coming up against Brian’s, depending on who’s account you believe, saviour Melinda Ledbetter (a model turn Cadillac sales women), Landy was eventually forced out when his name mysteriously appeared as the main benefactor on Brian’s will. Already handing over a percentage and forced back into the studio to cover costs, Brian’s publishing rights would still not satisfy Landy’s mounting costs – charging an eye-watering $430,000 annually between 1983 to 1986 – and this along with Melinda’s timely intervention conspired to finally remove him.
A complicated story then, the emphasis on redeeming a fragile genius from a reversion to a near childlike numb state, the film makers and script writers can’t possibly capture every nuance. Instead, Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner‘s touching story and unconventional story arc focuses on the perspectives of Brian and Melinda, and hones in on two specific timelines: the mid 60s and 80s. Whilst the story begins with the muddled mind of a younger Brian (an uncannily fragile and compassionate performance from Paul Dano) fading out to darkness, followed by a background montage of the Beach Boys more naive, carefree days (though even these moments show an already uneasy Brian plucking away on his bass guitar, wishing to be anywhere but on stage or in the limelight), we’re speedily propelled forward to John Casuck‘s placid later day Brian’s first meeting with Melinda. Virtuously played throughout by a thoroughly convincing, purposeful Elizabeth Banks, director Bill Pohlad uses her face as a gauge for reaction; whether it’s being played a whimsically beautiful piano motif or hearing the disturbing abuse meted out to Brian by his father. In her opening scene she attempts to sell him a car, before Landy and his posse arrive, but not before Brian slips her a note with ‘Lonely, scared, frightened’ scrawled on it.
Not that the intention is to show any balance in Landy’s depiction, the wig adorned Paul Giamatti is a raging control freak; ready to suddenly blow in a torrid at any time, and constantly, even when smoothing things over, adding a creepy and threatening undertone to every word of advice and suggestion. Meeting one of the only real forms of opposition, Landy’ warnings towards Melinda eventually boil over into some hostile confrontations: an early scene in the dating storyline, with Giamatti’s Landy holding court whilst flipping burgers, grows steadily uneasy and finally ends with an explosive outburst, as a doped up Brian petulantly interrupts a boorish egotist regaling his own questionable writing virtues with calls to be fed.
Faithfully recreated, Dano’s parts are sometimes tear-jerking. Though we’ve grown used to the back catalogue, hearing the building blocks and attentive beginnings of ‘You Still Believe In Me’, ‘Surf’s Up’ (this performance further convinces me of its eulogy quality and that it belongs on the 1971 titular LP rather than SMiLE), and ‘God Only Knows’ (stunning even its most fragile form, when the young Brian seeks his father’s approval but is despairingly put down by pater’s heartbreaking responses) send chills down your spine. Enthusiasts will be interested in seeing the mechanics of the Pet Sounds and SMiLE sessions; the fantasy of seeing the famed and near mythical Wrecking Crew at work. The crew’s revered and experienced drummer, possibly the best session drummer of the 60s, Hal Blaine is used as a vessel to get the plot moving; his references and reassurances (in one memorable exchange and moment of doubt, the elder statesman’s and cool Hal, sucking on a cigarette, assures Brian that having worked with Phil Spector and a legendary rooster of other talent, the young pup is on another level entirely of genius) are used to settle a young Brian in the grip of mania. But wait until the final sequences, a redeemed Brian breaking from his stupor, soundtracked by the stunning, and reflective diaphanous ‘Til I Die’ Surf’s Up – a song that took Brian a year to complete, and was to no one’s surprise by now, originally dismissed before being embraced by Mike Love.
With the emphasis on these characters, most of the extended cast are reduced to walk-on parts and though some background is referred to, Van Dyke Parks and many others aren’t introduced at all, merely swanning about – apart from a meeting in the swimming pool – at various dinners and pool parties. Even his poor siblings Dennis and Carl are more or less demoted to the odd clueless look whilst Al Jardine doesn’t even get a line: Dennis himself succumbed to his own torments, which left him adrift of his family and band mates; his spiral into drink and drugs ended tragically when he drowned just weeks after his 39th birthday in 1983. It is the mixed portrayal of his cousin Mike Love that is emphasised, not really a hero or villain, but malcontent and totally unhip individual uneasy at the changing face of a turned-on L.A. in the grip of LSD. I feel a little sorry for Mike, played I might add brilliantly by an unrecognisable Jake Abel, who would eventually have to lead the group and take up the mantle; always that little bit older, not so fortunate in the hair department (his fetish for hats arguably covering up his early balding), and ever the professional he found it hard to fit in.
Love & Mercy moves full circle, Melinda coaxing the responsive artist and adult from his child like shell, and finishes with Brian’s – and I was lucky enough to attend one of his comeback shows with the Wondermints – return to the stage in the noughties, performing the titular song. Those stumbling blocks and manias that prevent not just geniuses, from making their ideas concrete, still persist. But at least Brian finally received the correct diagnosis of manic depression with auditory hallucinations that can be successfully treated: Landy’s schizophrenia diagnosis and treatment did more harm than good, arguably worse than the cocktail of illicit drugs that Brian was popping so freely before the quack came on the scene. The best hope is that this movie encourages discussion; that we can talk candidly and address the controlling mechanisms that condemn many people to a life spent dealing in isolation with their mental health.
Words: Dominic Valvona
For the record, our personal favourite Beach Boy albums.
July 8, 2015
Eking out their very own version of Hawthorne, California on the south coast of Brighton, the diaphanous west coast lit Hanscomb brothers have in recent years released their own version of lapping tide and spruced greenery inspired lush paeans and lovelorn melodies, under the Junkboy moniker. Released to rapturous acclaim, the duo’s 2014 album Sovereign Sky is a languorous and hazy affair, with one ear lent to those US of A inspirations, the other closer to the melodic acid folk of home.
Expanding that sentimental love for pop and rock music’s most gloriously diaphanous period, brother Mik has been a chief instigator of the Brighton club night 8 Miles High: A monthly evening of psych, acid and Laurel Canyon troubadouring, played out to kool aid visuals.
In a Junkboy special and exclusive, the brothers Hanscomb have picked out a congruous summer playlist for the readers of the Monolith Cocktail, which includes cherished nuggets from Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, The Smoke, Mark Eric and Thorinshield. They’ve also included some brand new halcyon, sun-dappled, photos (taken by Jolene Burt) and, from their last LP, the beautiful ‘Release The Sunshine’.
The Lettermen ‘Mr. Sun’
The Beach Boys ‘Summer Means New Love’
Jan & Dean ‘Fan Tan’
Giant Jellybean Copout ‘Awake in a Dream’
Surf Symphony ‘That Bluebird of Summer’
Danny Hutton ‘Roes and Rainbows’
The Left Banke ‘Desiree’
The Smoke ‘Looking Thru the Mirror’
Mark Eric ‘California Home’
Mike Clifford ‘Golden Breed’
NEW MUSIC REVUE
Tickling our aural delights this month Freestyle Records celebratory reissue of African percussion giant Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers’ influential African Party album; a retrospective from Asian Underground doyen’s the Joi Sound System; sublime psychedelic acoustic rock from Italian troubadours Dead Bouquet; the Casio keyboard lo fi Brian Wilson, A Journey of Giraffes; The Provincials summer solstice EP; mischievous Berlin electronic in Soweto vibes from Psycho & Plastic and waltzing banjo lo fi from Frog. Plus in our ‘shorts’ finale, we have new videos and tracks from Strange U, U.S. Girls, Kitty Finer, Temple Invisible, Vukovar and Bryon Lee & The Dragonaires.
Joi ‘Joi Sound System’ (Real World Records)
LP released 29th June 2015
Instigators of a celebratory fusion that threw together the heritage of their Indian mother and Bangladesh father, the brothers Shamsher merged atavistic traditions with hip hop, reggae, dancehall, two step and a brimful of Asha beats, at the fag end of the Britpop era. Blossoming from the famous London Asian Underground scene that grew out of Mercury Music prize winner Talvin Singh’s weekly club nights at the Blue Note, the Joi Sound System rubbed shoulders with Cornershop, Fund-da-mental, Nitin Sawhney and Asian Dub Foundation before breaking out into the mainstream and signing a congruous deal with Peter Gabriel’s Real World imprint. Recording a trio of albums, all of which are represented on this collection, Haroon and Farook Shamsher emitted their unique brand of polygenesis dance music from there bastion of Bangladesh culture Brick Lane HQ to the world.
The Shamsher musical legacy was chiefly inherited from their professional flute playing father Soni, who’s jam sessions at the family home with a number of mystical Baul minstrels were recorded for posterity by the two siblings, and sold locally on the street. From these humble beginnings the lads started spinning records at the local youth club, as part of the Joi Bangla Sound System. Expanding from DJing to writing and recording their own music, Joi were joined by BBC world music award nominee vocalist Susheela Raman, guitarist Vik Sharma and percussionist Bongo Paul as they added flute, tablas and sitar to their dance music beats. This incarnation would go on to play the biggest showcase festivals of the day, WOMAD, the Big Chill and Glastonbury, and support Spiritualized and The Eurythmics on tour. Unfortunately tragedy would strike just as Joi were about to really blow in 1999 following the release of their Real World debut One and One Is One, Haroon died suddenly from a heart attack after initially contracting a blood clot. Cut down in his prime, the second LP, We Are Three, released as a posthumous tribute in 2000, featured a number of recordings Haroon had made when he travelled to his father’s village in Bangladesh; his omnipresent vibes indelible throughout. In 2007, Farook returned with the “shamelessly upbeat” Arabian/Asian fused album Without Zero, which featured a number of world music artisans (Mumbai-based artist Niladri Kumar, Algerian-born oud player and multi-instrumentalist Yazid and longtime collaborators, John Coxon and Ashley Wales of jazz/electronic duo Spring Heel Jack).
The best of these three albums now form a retrospective homage to a true transglobal phenomenon. Spanning two discs, the first chapter kicks off with their 1997 thumping break beat techno anthem ‘A Desert Storm’ – imagine The Prodigy frying under an Iraqi sun. From here on in we follow a loose passage of enlightened discoveries, spun into a woozy spiral of Bengali spiced instrumentation, Massive Attack churned drumbeats and a soothing soulful vocal on ‘Oh My People’, and romanced and twirled by sophisticated DJ Shadows-esque breaks and chimes, reverberated sitar twangs and tablas on the ‘Journey’. Other highlights include the swaying rally chants sampled loops on the political alluded ‘We Need Your Vote’, and the Jon Hassell fourth world music echoes travailing over a tight interplay of ascending Indian film score strings and techy beats on ‘Deep Asian Vibes’.
The second part of the Joi story opens with another career defining tune, the beautifully serene trance anthem ‘Fingers’ – which also featured recently as one of the key (and ‘choice’) tracks that marked the recent Real World’s 25th anniversary celebrations. Defining a whole genre of marrying electronica and dance music to traditional sounds from the Asian continent, Fingers is a highly influential record and is a synonymous encapsulation of the Real World label spirit. Other influential sparks can be heard with the Joi’s famous tabla reverberated shakes, so beloved of Missey Elliot’s freak on and so many other artists, or with the lushly applied Indian vocals that linger over a slow rotating bed of beats, found prevalent throughout the collection.
Taking the sounds of Asian subcontinent into new directions, Joi find a garage groove and R&B vocal fits the eastern acoustics on ‘What You Are’, and tailor a two step backbeat and vocals to the vibrating majesty of the sitar on ‘Come Back To Me’. Dub, ambient music and hip hop also play their part, the Joi more or less adapting any genre to their homeland traditions, and in the process forging something new.
A celebration not only of Asian music but a timely reminder of the UK’s multicultural successes, the Shamsher brothers retrospective could not have arrived at a better time; a reminder of the underground exchanges that helped shape London’s dance music scene.
Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers ‘African Party’ (Freestyle Records)
LP released 22nd June 2015.
The history of London’s celebrated polygenesis musical history would have been far drearier if Nigeria’s legendary band leader and drums master Ginger Johnson hadn’t decided to pitch up and make the capitol his adopted home in the 1950s. Progenitor of Afrobeat, a mentor to the forms most revered voice, Fela Kuti, Johnson’s raucous and often highly sophisticated mix of hi life, jazz, calypso and whatever else seemed harmoniously appealing at the time set not only Africa but the UK alight. His London home would become a kind of mecca, a center point for activity and gossip, whilst providing the ideal jam session spot for his fellow compatriots. Respected if not adored by those who gravitated towards his generous spirit, he was addressed fondly as ‘Father’.
Popping up throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s as the defacto – whether out of admiration and reverence for his position in the African music world or because of ignorance and racial stereotyping – exotic musical accompaniment of choice, Johnson and His African Messengers could be found performing soundtracks for 007’s jaunt into Blacksploitation cinema (Live And Let Die), or be seen appearing in the Ursula Andress starring cult Hammer Horror classic, She. He also added the essential “hi-energy” Voodoo spirit to the Rolling Stones’ dark arts conjuring masterpiece ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, when they played their infamous Hyde Park shindig in 1969. Always in demand, Ginger’s session work alone was enviable, as he backed Georgie fame, Osibisa, Madeleine Bell and Quincy Jones, and collaborated with a diverse range of acts that included Genesis, Thunderclap Newman, Argent and space cadets Hawkwind.
Yet he was also something of a socialist activist, giving back and sharing his wealth of experiences and knowledge with the local community. Instrumental in the early stages of The Notting Hill Carnival, he also opened the Club Iroko hang out in Haverstock Hill, North London, which played host to the great and good, with titans of their disciplines, Sun Ra, Osibisa, Funkadelic and Cymande (three of who’s members served their apprenticeships in Ginger’s band), all either playing or frequenting the joint.
Celebrating an icon, Freestyle Records have chosen to reignite interest in Ginger’s pivotal, and arguably most accessible ‘party piece’ showcase, the 1967 African Party album. With a full gamut of styles, moods and rhythms under his sauntering, and often vibrantly swinging control, Ginger and his talking drums hurtle through a jazz withering saxophone version of the Burundi ‘Watusi’; rise a snake handling Voodoo spirit in the pulp paperback, 007 environment, Soho club with the ‘Wicthdoctor’; and hot-foot across a mirage shimmering Tangiers with a polygenesis mix of both calypso Caribbean and feverish African influences on ‘Lord Morocco’. Choosing to close the album with a beautifully embodiment of his Hi Life roots, Ginger cuts loose with a chorus of carefree brass and infectious soul-shuffling drums: the archetype precursor to the, usually, faster and more funky Afrobeat style that followed. With the grand traditions of the motherland, and the terrain including its many inhabitants, from elephants to the insects, all entwined with contemporary jazz, rhythm and blues and floating flutes, the Messengers congruously enrich the atavistic tribal patters, jabs and rapid rolls of Ginger’s centerpiece percussion to create a window in on an underground fuelled 1960s jamboree.
The Provincials ‘Ascending Summer’
EP released on 21st June 2015
Like some aquatic siren, a mermaid perhaps or one of Arthurian folklore’s lady’s of the lake, beckoning the listener to the waters edge The Provincial’s diaphanous vocalist Polly Perry summons the listener towards the fluctuating folk tones of the latest EP, Ascending Summer. Released in time for the summer solstice, the Winchester group’s sun-dappled auras shimmer on a suitably celebratory soundtrack. Not quite in Whicker Man territory, these delicately cooed melodies prefer the less esoteric traditions of eating scampi & chips, and visiting the far more welcoming and less isolated, and not at all pagan bastion stronghold of the – and I should know as I was born there – Isle of Wight. The title track does it’s best to magically conjure up a dreamy, “far from the madding crowd” getaway; alluding to the famous chain-link ferry that takes you from east to west Cowes and signposting local beauty spots along the coastline as if creating new folk mythologies.
Elegantly and softly ascending folk and jazz progressions on the EP’s most outstanding track, ‘Landing On Water’, Polly’s breezy vocals and her musical partners’ brassy reverberating pedal steel guitar strings drift almost aimlessly but in the most beautifully poised and pleasurable manner.
In two parts, Flights Of Helios remix the band’s ‘When The Light Changes’ with typical subterranean, esoteric flair. Part One rotates the breathy cooed vocals in a veiled vortex, and plummets into a dank, wall dripping, cavern, before part two picks up the pace and pushes the hypnotic loops into a ritualistic break out of techno beats. The Provincials far too nice to take part in any daemonic ceremony or go off on an avant-garde lilt do however lend themselves well to this treatment.
A Journey Of Giraffes ‘It’s Is Nice To Be Nice
LP available via Bandcamp
On a pilgrimage of self-discovery through the actions and music of The Beach Boys, Baltimore maverick musician of esoteric surf music and whimsy, John Lane has done his best to emulate California’s favorite sons via a number of alter ego monikers. From channeling the lovesick adolescent soppiness of Pet Sounds on his She Sells Seashells LP as Expo – one of the very first albums to be reviewed on the Monolith Cocktail – to celebrating the Beach Boys’ Ashram years of transcendental meditation by praising the virtues of Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba as A Journey Of Giraffes on the Songs For Baba LP, Lane evokes his spiritual guides via a form of lo fi nostalgia. He is a Casio keyboard Brian Wilson, transducing those influences into dreamy broadcasts.
With his curious band name and album titles – his 2014 “quasi-documentary” LP, National Park Brochures, chiming perhaps with the wondrous menagerie of the 1960s, and alluding to the increased wealth of exotic pleasures, previously the reserve of only the super rich, now readily available to the many in the form of leisure and travel – Lane has still continued to underline each and every composition with a sense of forlorn and lilting Tropicana harmonious introspection. It’s Is Nice To Be Nice is another halcyon tribute, adopting and suggesting similar song titles, whilst delivering pathos through an obscured, funneled mouthpiece. Those “vega-table”, “take good care of your feet” mantras so beloved of The Beach Boys are once again used here, but as it was for the Wilsons, those clean-living health kicks and environmental messages were never adopted for long, as they slipped into the use of heavy drugs and medication to see them through the various forms of pressures and mental anxieties that crippled them. Hence the rather languid, sweet at times, but always sad and noir like echoes on Lanes own ‘Vvvitamins’ and ‘Cashews (Halves & Pieces)’.
It isn’t all California sunshine rays and surf noir, the LP also occasionally wafts into The High Llamas territory or dabbles with cocktail lounge jazz (‘The Usual Door’), and on the cosmic vibrating ‘Mama Satellite’, Lane remixes himself by merging elements of The Flaming Lips with a trance like electronic backing of floating synths to produce the album’s most inventive detour.
Encapsulating his musical heroes on a humble budget, Lane’s bemusing and at times heartfelt paeans can lift themselves beyond redolence and wash up onto charmingly alternative coastlines.
Frog ‘Judy Garland’ (Audio Antihero)
Video for a track taken from the recent LP, Kind Of Blah
Poetically embodied by our resident Franco-Turkish novelist-in-waiting, Ayfer Simms, last week, New York combo Frog were furnished with a profound and erudite review. Taken from their recent LP, Kind Of Blah (critically applauded by all the right-thinking critics including us), and released on the most aptly entitled label if ever there was one (and we’d like to think, Monolith Cocktail friends) Audio Antihero, ‘Judy Garland’ is a magical esoteric hoedown, if darkly effected by an unhealthy dose of barbiturates, waltz to the troubled starlet. Imagine a sort of cross between Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah and a banjo plucking Modest Mouse and you’ll be half way towards making sense of this most sparkly piece of malady and hope.
Psycho & Plastic ‘Day/Glow’(GiveUsYourGOLD)
Single released on 26th June 2015
Back with their fourth double A-side single, ‘Day/Glow’, our favourite electro oddities from the German capitol once again mix house, techno, Hip Hop and electro pop into a kaleidoscopic sponge of playfulness.
Psycho & Plastic can always be relied upon to integrate something new into the mix, and on the colourfully sophisticated, mechanised ants scuttling in the circuit boards, techno track Day, they drop Kraftwerk down in Soweto. As avid followers of the Monolith Cocktail themselves, we’d like to think their latest use of African guitar chops and licks on might have been in some way inspired by visiting the site. It’s a subtle melody and riff, but it is there, and it takes the group into new territories.
With slightly more thump in its bump, the second track Glow continues the subtle hints of Africa, but has a far more pan-European travelogue feel. Vocoder effects and quirky techno kooky sounds warp this track beyond tubular R&S steeliness and seriousness, taking us on a peaceable voyage across the dance floor of some cosmic Balearics. If you can’t wait for it all to kick in and prefer to travel a more direct path, there is a radio edit version that conduces the original into a more bite-sized affair.
Dead Bouquet ‘As Far As I Know’ (Seahorse Recordings)
LP out now.
Imbued with the alternative sound of the cerebral Grant Lee Buffalo, the mid-western drawled Athens, Georgia via L.A. band’s bass player Paul Kimble lending not only his instrumental talents but also producer skills to the Italian trio’s debut, the Dead Bouquet leave behind the antiquated capitol of their forefathers for the American troubadour highway.
Though they hail from Rome, and apart from the flowery if typically Dante-esque lamented poetics, the Italians sound like a cross between commercial 80s British Goth, The Waterboys, Smashing Pumpkins and early U2. At the centre of their acoustic rock maelstrom, vocalist and songwriter Carlo Mazzoli’s 12-string guitar leads with impassioned sweeps and gesticulating rhythmic grace, flanked by his two compatriots as they transcribe eloquent, and at times angry, prose.
The word psychedelic has been mentioned and bandied about, but it seems totally fatuous and at odds with the bands sound. Though offering a sophisticated and at times off-kilter interesting slant on acoustic rock, the band don’t exactly venture over the calico wall or sip from the electric kool aid. No, they merely inquire into the opening hours of the perfumed gardens, and retain a more progressive if anything, vibe throughout, bordering on early 70s Pink Floyd (‘Way Back Then’).
Strong in melodies and traversing reflected pained anthems (‘Nobody’s Sky’) or evoking a Celtic seafaring tale (‘Barking At My Gate’), the Dead Bouquet journey a well-travelled road with aplomb, angst and determination; daring indeed, as they evoke their many influences on the way, and by the sounds of it, find more millage from the magnificent songwriting of Grant Lee Phillips.
In short selection:
In short: Videos and tracks currently on our radar. We have U.S. Girl’s Meg Remy drawing on a vivid musical requiem of Catholicism and withering electro pop as she tassels with the themes of the female gaze; Kitty Finer welding together a jaunty dub amalgamation of early Madness and the Raincoats in the workshop; Strange U’s far from rose-tinted nostalgic trip back through 1970s Africa; a kaleidoscopic rasping and organic electro vista cooed beauty from Romanian trip-hop industrialist Temple Invisible; the most lush and melodic call-to-arms against the pervading forces of evil from the Small Bear Records super group Vukovar; and a taster form the recent Uptown Top Ranking double LP of ska and boss sounds legend Byron Lee and his Dragonaires.
U.S. Girls ‘Woman’s Work’ (4AD)
Kitty Finer ‘Girls In The Garage’
Strange U ‘Strange Universe In Africa’
Temple Invisible ‘Everything From Above’
Vukovar ‘New World Order’ (Small Bear Records)
Byron Lee & The Dragonaires ‘Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey’ – Features on the Uptown Top Ranking compilation, released on the North Parade/VP Records labels.
Words: Dominic Valvona
The “choice” tracks that tickled our aural delights over the last few months gathered together now for your pleasure. Prepare yourselves for the most eclectic of selections, from the rock steady Spector pop protestations of U.S. Girls’ ‘Damn That Valley’ to the waltzing majesty of The Greg Foat Group’s Michael Moorcock inspired time-continuum surfing jazz odyssey, ‘The Dancers At The End Of Time’.
That selection in full:
U.S. Girls ‘Damn That Valley’
FFS (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks) ‘Police Encounters’
Alabama Shakes ‘The Greatest’
Many Things ‘Holy Fire’
Flies + Flies ‘Later On’
Heartless Bastards ‘Wind Up Bird’
Tyler, The Creator ‘PILOT’
Oddisee ‘Belong To The World’
The Greg Foat Group ‘The Dancers At The End Of Time’
John DeRosa ‘You’re Still Haunting Me’
Papernut Cambridge ‘Rockers Delight’
Jacco Gardner ‘Find Yourself’
C. Duncan ‘Here To There’
Frog ‘Judy Garland’
Dog, Paper, Submarine ‘Ms. Moonlet’
William D.Drake ‘Distant Buzzing’
Extradition Order ‘I Love An Eyesore (LBJ ’60)’
Pale Honey ‘Fish’
Falling Stacks ‘Pool Party’
Thomas Truax/Brian Viglione ‘I Got To Know’
Technicolor Hearts ‘Who You Are’
The Grus ‘To Be A Child’
Creature With The Atom Brain ‘Night Of The Hunter (Part 1)’
Psycho & Plastic ‘Day’
Die Wilde Jagd ‘Wah Wah Wallenstein’
Xaos ‘Free Fall’
Kobadelta ‘Open Visions’
Prince Vaseline ‘Radio On’
June 23, 2015
We’ve once again let our literary critic and resident Istanbul satellite Ayfer Simms loose. This time articulately lending a poetic exuberance to the new LP, Kind of Blah, by the hazy New York noise-niks Frog.
Frog ‘Kind of Blah’
(Audio Antihero) LP
A window. Scorching summer day, metal staircase and an alley. New York.
The breeze blows from the right, bringing with it a country sounding shine and bouncy melodies. It comes from the left and exudes an upbeat Indie abandon; from a distance, a concert hall with a languorous jazzy/rock atmosphere: All the styles wrapped around a gentle voice, while the heavy red bricks of New York cast a shadow from within.
With this album a surprise is around every corner; unexpected imagery, memories, impressions, alley cats, trumpets, noises, guitars, subtle effects, it’s definitely summer in the city and there is something dark, a world, seedy, defection, alienation, all sang lightly in a masticated slang, while the light gushes in a small apartment like a rolling wave, as if picked up by some artists in the street and thrown like a fire ball, gathering a fierce style on its passage: We forget the room, we go far, travel in time and space: There’s an air of intellectual mingling crashing through the guitar notes, all the neighbours are awoken and they want to join the party. Let’s knock on door 79!
The album is a guitar made of jazz, all improvised and rich, a ballroom filled with alternative shoegazers, beach boys waltzing in New York; snaps shots of images, the gloomy portrayed with words but not by sound, a bursting energy of chords and drums.
“The city is a womb of brown brick beds of clay”. Despite the lyrics coloured with a rough poetic rebellion, distorted with unusual additions the tone is joyful, catchy and soothing.
The orchestra bursts, it is made of modern guitars, heads are lost in a kind of sweaty trance, and we sing, “All dogs go to heaven”. The album is made out of a thousand pieces, smells, the abandon found in rock music from the 60s mixed with smoky parties on a staircase, civil unrest, wars, disheveled women running down the streets, “Countless boroughs filled with bars, all that matters is the scars”, kids and sulphuric temperature rises. It’s hot in New York tonight with Frog.
Words: Ayfer Simms