Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab - Monolith Cocktail review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Words: Ayfer Simms

A Malian Double Bill of LP Reviews

Terakaft 'Alone' Monolith Cocktail

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


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

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

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

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


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

Bassekou K Monolith Cocktail

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

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

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

Words: Dominic Valvona


Camp Dark - Monolith Cocktail

Ayfer Simms adds her lyrical magic to the leading tracks from the new Camp Dark and Co-Pilgrim front man Mike Gale albums – Gale’s Finger Bone From Swan Wing is out now, whilst Camp Dark release their Nightmare In A Day LP in May.

Mike Gale   ‘Sweet Marie’   (Battle Worldwide Recordings)

A distant dream bursts into the sky and disperses like fragments of clouds, amidst pastel tones of a melancholic sunset evening. Mike Gale’s voice is a distant serenade, an impression rather, shifting in the sky, like dots of paints on a clear canvas, the unbearable lightness of poppy’s on a lonely field.

The track’s lyrics are like the echoes of known words diffused in the air, remote and impalpable. Yet, Sweet Marie, the chorus, comes out like the flutter of a bird that we grasp with ease and the rest matters less so; we embrace the mood through the guitar chords following and guiding the melodious whisper of a man wandering in a folk pop languor…Sweet Marie is, indeed, the ethereal traveler’s prayer.

Camp Dark   ‘Are You Hiding

There’s a worrisome journey into the mind’s abyss’s, an inner excavation, a downward whirl to a place where one does not wish to go willingly, one must dig and one must face, yet, is compelled to it, from forces emerging from the very depth of the mind. The tune scrapes the intellect’s barricades, the cells; are bleeding and dripping and there’s no comfort despite the singer’s appeal: “Are you hiding I’d like to… help you”; bewitching really, the bass pounds, a haunting voice, and then a drum tickles, charges, inhabits and invades, finally forming a bizarre and eerie magma of sounds, alternative, melodious and alluring. This “Indie-ogenous” track smoothly towers a deserted land, a cavernous world, consciousness itself? Portrays the blackout of one, the emergence of another, an uneasy mirroring. The album Nightmare In A Day is released in May, a long time to be waiting after tasting the drizzling Artemisia absinthium-like world of Camp dark…

Words: Ayfer Simms


Thomas Truax - Monolith Cocktail

Thomas Truax   ‘Jetstream Sunset’   Released 6th April 2015

Truax was a teenage post punk, according to track two here. Doesn’t sound too surprising, as the proto New York slacker’s DIY aesthetic continues to hang light heavy over Jetsream Sunset. A veteran of the early 90s coffee shop ‘scene’, Truax holds all the cooler than thou references you need. Beck insouciance? Check. Steve Malkmus absurdity? Check. Guided by Voices sense of determination? Check. Julian Casablancas address book? Possibly not, or more people would have heard of the truth to materials obsessed Truax by now. Or maybe he’s avoiding that, who knows.

Truax has a tendency to make his own instruments out of baked bean tins, washing up liquid bottles and bits of string, and then tour the world with them. He started this approach way back in order to differentiate himself from the sea of other sensitive singer songwriters in NY at the time, and this idiosyncrasy has served him well, in critical if not commercial terms. Jetstream…has many stirring, lo fi, moving moments on it, particularly in Driving In The Dark and Shine Brightly As You Can. His inclusion of the slightly retitled standard You Are My Sunshine is gratingly tiresome though.

Stubborn, idealistic troubadours of Thomas Truax’s calibre are not exactly in short supply right now, but his longevity and tenacity can’t help but be affirming. Past that, Jetstream Sunset is a perfectly gritty, sunny, soulful, down-home way to while away 45 minutes or so.

Words: Sean Bw Parker


Fotheringay - Monolith Cocktail

Fotheringay   ‘Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay’  (Universal)

Though shining for only the briefest of moments in the early 70s, the venerated, and rightly so, cult folk rock band Fotheringay managed to record an enviable collection of earnest, toiled and perfectly pitched songs. Due to the tragic circumstances of the band’s leading lady and ethereal siren Sandy Denny and her untimely death in 1978 at the age of 31, the group’s songbook has been attached with certain poignancy and resonates deeply amongst those fans that still hold a candle to the band’s bright but all-too-soon extinguished flame. Despite leaving an indelible mark in the folk rock and acid country community and winning the Melody Maker awards in the same year for best vocalist, Denny’s ennui ambitions to break free just before each project took off – both artistically and in some cases commercially too –made it difficult for the band to continue, as she left just before their second album Fotheringay 2 was finished – performing a farewell concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the end of January 1971. Denny had form of course, leaving British folk institution Fairport Convention on the eve of their landmark album, Liege & Lief, to form Fotheringay – the name borrowed from the 1968 Fairport song; itself a reference lament to the castle Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned – with her then partner/band mate and future husband Trevor Lucas. Citing ambitions to go solo, Denny would carve out a celebrated, but cultish, career releasing a series of iconic, diaphanous and atavistically roots-y folk albums (her last, Rendezvous, selling so poorly she was dropped by the label) before once again returning to the Fairport fold in 1974 – leaving again the following year.

Such were Denny’s and Lucas’ standing, anticipation for their post Fairport project was so overwhelming that they were booked up for live performances and requests before they’d even recorded a single note. However, concomitantly continuing to plow a similar rich musical furrow, taking in ancestral traditional “fayre” and Dylan covers with liberal servings of their own compositions they didn’t waste anytime in recording the debut album (produced over seven sessions between 18th February and 18th April 1970) and setting off on a tour (March 1970). An unequivocal success, with modest sales, that debut, with its depiction of a minstrel troupe lifted straight from a Tudor tapestry artwork, would be enough to cement the band’s legacy. So much in fact, that the abandoned follow-up LP, succinctly entitled 2, was eventually finished three decades by the surviving members and released in 2008 around a hive of renowned adulation: a number of tracks penned by Denny would appear on her first solo LP, The North Star Grassman And The Ravens in 1971, whilst the odd nugget would make it onto later samplers and compilations.

Though of course there was far more to the Forthingay sound than just – as stirring and eloquently masterful as they were; delivered straight from parchment – Denny and Lucas’ impressive vocals, the rest of the band were every bit as integral: reflected in the balance of instruments, sounds and musicianship of drummer Gerry Conway, bassist Pat Donaldson and guitarist Jerry Donahue, with every member of the band both the sum of their individually adroit parts and as a whole.

For those either in admiration for such a fleeting existence and for those new to the cause, the new Nothing More complete collection attempts to piece together the most comprehensive story of the band yet; told over a triumvirate of CDs, a special DVD live performance and accompanying hardcover book – which features a new essay from Denny biographer Mick Houghton. Beginning with their stunning debut oeuvre, the first of the CD trio, features the original running order and a number of both demos and alternative takes. The opening grand piano gushing, burnished drums and expressive guitar, Tudor intrigue through contemporary eyes imbued lament Nothing More alone proves the band’s worth, without the castaways in the middle of a most sublime unsteady tide of emotions, The Sea. Or indeed the Dylan epochs of John Wesley Harding crossed with Pat Garrett and Billy The Kidd style, Lucas-penned outback-western goer The Ballad Of Ned Kelly; a moiety to the actual Dylan Too Much Of Nothing cover the band perform later on, led by a soothing Lucas on vocals and a backing that evokes the great bards most important sparring partners and backing group, The Band. Subtly stripped down versions of that album’s pinning Canterbury tale, Winter Winds, The Pond And The Stream are accompanied by a gentler, more lilting alternative version (far less lumbering and exhaustive) of the traditional soldier’s lament Banks Of The Nile.

The second disc runs through the, left dormant and unfinished until more recent times, follow-up 2. Much the same stylistically but with a more pastoral feel, and dash of Celtic and Gypsy folk rock; closer to Pentangle and Fleetwood Mac than Dylan, even though an obligatory cover of his is included, the intoxicated love hang-over I Don’t Believe You, and the Lucas/Pete Roach Knights Of The Road rolls on down the great juggernaut travelling highway in a fairly free and laid-back country rock manner. A bonus selection of treats await, with a number of mixes by the American producer/writer and man-on-the-scene at a litany of iconic developments and moments in folk rock – notably when Dylan went “electric” – history, Joe Boyd – nuanced and delicately subtle, Boyd adds a certain trebly warmth to the Arcadian Denny anthem Late November.

There’s an alternative version from 2004 of the Jack Rhodes/Dick Reynolds original Silver Threads And Golden Needles – first recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1956 – and two versions of the wayfarers folk tale Burton Town that never made either album – one a rehearsal take that despite the sometimes gargling wear and tear on the tapes vocals and scratches sounds breathtaking, and a 2015 version that feature the original Denny vocals but with a new lighter backing.

Not entirely exclusive but nonetheless gathered together for the first time in one place, the third disc features nine live tracks from their 1970 Rotterdam concert. Of these, there is the previously unreleased Gordon Lightfoot cover The Way I Feel from their debut LP, performed with a real intensity and energy, Too Much Of Anything and The Ballad Of Ned Kelly. Even if you have managed to acquire a copy, the concert is an intimate window on a band at their peak; emerging from the omnipresent shadow of their previous band, Fairport Convention. Denny herself sounds in fine fettle, surreptitiously moving across the stage from leading or harmonizing on vocals to tentatively playing the piano – of which she references as she makes herself comfortable before launching into Nothing More. It shouldn’t sound too surprisingly but the concert material ends on a swinging, chugging version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Tennessee, Denny proving she has the rock’n’roll chops. The rest of the live oeuvre is taken from various appearances on the Beeb; a previously unreleased collection of performances that includes The Lowlands Of Holland from BBC Folk On One, Bold Jack Donahue from BBC Sounds Of The 70s and a brief interview with a upbeat Denny followed by a rousing version of The Sea, from BBC Top Gear. But for the true “holy grail”, as it’s billed in the PR notes, is the previously unreleased footage from the German – equivalent to our very own Ready Steady Go! – 60/70s music show, the Beat Club. Originally held back from broadcast, versions of Nothing More and John The Gun now join Gypsy Davey and Too Much Of Nothing for the first time: a nice little complete set.


Grounding to an abrupt end, the breakup of Fotheringay was sad but it hardly hurt the careers of everyone who was apart of it. Lucas would produce some of Denny’s best solo work, before the pair once again joined the ranks of Fairport along with Jerry Donahue. For such a brief, almost passing fancy, the band leaves an incredible, enduring legacy and receives an honorable tribute with this, most comprehensive of collections.

Words: Dominic Valvona


Choice tracks from the first three months of 2015. 

Django Django   ‘First Light’


Panda Bear   ‘Mr Noah’


Cantaloupe   ‘Ambition’  <Review>


The Charlatans   ‘So Oh’


Susanne Sundør   ‘Fade Away’


The Unthanks   ‘Flutter’   <Review>


Ghostpoet   ‘Off Peak Dreams’


Nubiyan Twist   ‘Work House’   <Review>


Ghostface Killah/ Badbadnotgood    ‘Gunshowers (feat. Elzhi)’   <Feature>


Mello Music Group/ Apollo Brown & Masta Ace   ‘Trouble’   <Feature>


Oliver Sudden   ‘Cold Capital’   <Feature>


Fashawn   ‘To Be Young (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)’   <Feature>


Ginger Johnson   ‘I Jool Omo’   <Review>


Samba Touré   ‘Su Wililé’   <Review>


Os Brazoes   ‘Pega A Voga Cabeludo’   <Review>


Aphex Twin    ‘diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13′


Vision Fortune   ‘Habitat’   <Review>


Sonnymoon   ‘Pop Music’  <Review>


Psycho & Plastic   ‘Cell’   <Review>


Ettuspadix & Sean Bw Parker   ‘The Dervish Whirls On’   <Review>


Populäre Mechanik   ‘An die Hoffnung’   <Review>


White Noise Sound   ‘Heavy Echo’   <Review>


Kim Halliday   ‘Fabric, Torn, Time, Slips’  <Review>


The Four Owls   ‘Think Twice’   <Feature>


Cannibal Ox   ‘Opposite of Desolate (feat. Double A.B.)’   <Feature>


Francine Thirteen   ‘Queen Mary’  <Review>


Cloud   ‘Melting Cassatt’   <Review>


David Lawrie  ‘Dorothea’s Boat’  <Review>




Ayfer Simms casts her poetically rich gaze over the most recent retro-pop, contemporary electronica, offering from Greek “crooner” Sillyboy.

Sillyboy   ‘Stalker’   (Klik Records)

Silly boy is a crooner, with a half husky, half sizzling soft vocal cords pushed to a raw state of “peach(ness)”, in a field of well-designed mantra, melodies that rest on the listener’s shoulder, bouncing back and forth, up and down handsomely. The world of Sillyboy is a subtly light Zen dance music with occasional guitar riffs and synth, evocative of the 80s. The man takes with him an imaginary gang, a toned down version of Michael Jackson’s doomed creatures, absolutely trimmed, leading them through his steps, creating a choreography-like buzz, on the spot, in the mind of the listener at least. Some tracks like “cry like a girl” are pounding and carry on an edge of the dirty bad boy, but rather Silly boy is perfectly squeezable even in his nostalgic moody attitude. The tune Stalker, “Whenever I feel sad, I stalk her”, is an appealing sympathetic pop, grabbing, and friendly one despite the potentially chilling connotation of the title.

Throughout the album, the music is solitary and celebratory at the same time. Leads you to a seemingly obscure path, at night, but then throws clean looking dancers at you, the asphalt becomes the stage of the malleability of their limbs. And then you are one of them, shaking, sultry and confident out in the street, letting go, feeling good, forgetful, and tranquil. If there is a single word to describe the album, it would be unassumingly-cool-and-cadenced-electronic-vintage-pop.

Words: Ayfer Simms


R&V Hip Hop Revue

Matt Olivers returns with another bonanza of the best moves, shakes and anticipated releases from the Hip Hop world. Bursting at the seams and chomping at the bit, Matt crams in the biggest selection yet with mix tapes, singles, albums, videos and gig news from Mobb Deep, Flying Lotus, Apollo The Great, The Mouse Outfit, Rewd Adams, Action Bronson, The Milkmakerz and many more.


Amidst news of Record Store Day specials stumped up by Jurassic 5, Cypress Hill and DOOM (a pop-up book of KMD’s controversial Black Bastards), two very important issues resonated this month. Kendrick Lamar’s gregariously funky, lyrically shatterproof, conceptually aware To Pimp a Butterfly showing the Comptonite as still the man to beat; and Erick Sermon waxing lyrical about getting into the carpet industry (no metaphor) and bigging up his new Def Rugs enterprise that’s surely coming to an Argos catalogue near you.

Got a blank diary? Good – go see the coup of Marley Marl taking to the decks at the Trapeze Basement on April 3rd. The Beatnuts and Jeru the Damaja seize the Jazz Cafe on April 7th, where you can also catch Your Old Droog in June, and DJ Premier and Royce da 5’9” as Phryme will be as live as it gets at Islington’s Assembly Hall on the 20th.

For the first fortnight in May, Mobb Deep treats the UK to a 20th Anniversary tour of the ever supreme ‘The Infamous.’ Flying Lotus and DOOM fire Brixton Academy’s Soundcrash on May 1st, and the Shabazz Palaces world tour features a precious couple of UK dates also featuring FlyLo. The Four Owls are giving a hoot at venues up and down the country until the end of June. And for all future tent pitchers, July’s Iceland ATP festival has Public Enemy and Run the Jewels at the forefront, and the Wu-Tang Clan topping the bill at July’s Nozstock.



Playlist plumping this month begins with Hg’s ‘starLOG’, an instrumental drift across space terrain that becomes paranoid as the surroundings dawn on the Oakland producer. Further sobriety from TSK; ‘Bottle in the Bath’ circles the drain with isolated rhymes set to Marlon C’s piano-teetering dirge. A mixed bag from the always articulate Essa includes two live contrasts, a Tall Black Guy remix and a slightly muted banger making up ‘Evade & Seek’.

Rhyming to the day’s dying embers before walking towards the flames, Lego’s ‘Jazzmatic’/’Get That’ flips between enigmatically sullen to cold and calculating in a heartbeat. Goldlink wades into BMB Spacekid’s ‘FBGM’: choppy, twangy trap with a surreal lull thrown in for good measure. The frankness of Apollo the Great on the funk-soaked ‘Frames’ tells the truth less told, and New Yorker Nutso holds a flush hand of street raids on ‘Divided Soul’, even if it’s more in regulation than his name lets on.

L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae’s ‘Taken by the Night’, a tumbledown, out-of-town dawdle, sets up an LP sure to be cloaked in intriguing dust. Definitely not caring for neighbourhood strangers are Alchemist, Oh No and Earl Sweatshirt, asserting mob rule on ‘Play It Cool’ when running for leadership of GTA’s Los Santos. The rose-tinted ‘Push It Along’ is snug cipher business between Slum Village and Phife Dawg: warm fuzziness may result.


The jazz-brushed, ragga-flecked Step Steadier is sound advice handed out by The Mouse Outfit; generals of the live stage, their close crew control bags an uncomplicatedly fine album both warm and crisp, with a slew of invites and extended family upholding their ethos. Once Life MC gets started he’s virtually impossible to stop; with producer Badhabitz tending to an “MPC making love to an SP1200”, Split Prophets don’t do half measures on the greatly satisfying Deep in the Trenches.

Another Duracell bunny on the mic is Rewd Adams, exhibiting all of his punchy, ravenous, tale-telling qualities in noticeably compact bursts on Hunger Pains 2, taking everything from trap to mournful crackles in his stride. Jman’s generosity of wild spraying, ragga vibes and beat riding make Free Dank an offer you shouldn’t refuse. As is the promise of 1 Hour Bangers, a second electrified UK clash between Illaman and Dee Scott reporting live from a hot tin roof. Leaving the turntable tricks at home, DJ Yoda and his sensible head (well, almost), lead a newly formed, UK-spanning live outfit, with Breakfast of Champions strictly dealing in jams and performance to toast – no corn or flakiness. Classic UK crash bang wallop from Big Toast is all in the name of The Wedding Fund – Mrs Toast is a lucky lady, especially if she likes full-bellied head nodders and sweary, pint-downing rhymes.

Tell your headphones how much you love them with Drew Dave’s SynthBASED, expressing an obedience of easygoing neo-soul fuzz from behind his keyboard; and The Doppelgangaz, who turn the mics off, the lights down low, and bring out the ice bucket for the open-ended tact of Rhyme Over Beats.

Vursatyl strikes out on his own; with the Lifesavas emcee and Blackalicious affiliate tackling Crooked Straights. Slick, engaging, grown hip-hop and supple soul in a funky/drowsy sauce, Vurs comes from the school of faith restoration when you think the scene is sagging. Constant Deviants are still plugging way, with the laconic delivery of M.I. dragging the beats of DJ Cutt under his control; Avant Garde isn’t exactly that, but never lets slip the standards the pair have set for themselves for two decades. The pair also contributes to Sparrow the Movement’s The Jacob Theology, a crew and album fully ingrained in beats and rhymes philosophy that can’t be doing with time wasters and the faddish.

Cannibal Ox’s Blade of the Ronin comes 14 years after the fabled The Cold Vein; the return of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega is full of faithful underground weaponry twisting their rap galactica street-wards. If it seems to be trudging and dragging its heels down a black hole within a firmly set template, intensity is high all the way through and the lyrical contrasts are still a unique threat.

Big Shug has bluntly been calling it as he sees it for a while; Triple OGzus is the Gang Starr sparring partner gathering his thoughts and barking out orders over hard-knocking street clean-ups.

Your one-man-monthly free-for-all (told you there’s always one) comes from the worldly Flip, who serves a Bavarian boom-bap buffet for the visiting AG, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson and Killah Priest: ‘Reflection’ knows its oomph from its oompah. Rediculus is another telling a bunch of mic seekers to go nuts, casting a wide net for In Response: Dee-Fi, and coming with a consistent balance of ups and downs in pressure.

Make sure you scoop up Persona; the label compilation of Mello Music Group, whose roster clears its throat and fights the good fight for a set of hip-hop purring into the realms of the purist. You’ll be hard pressed to defeat a team calling on the hard soul and hardened souls of Oddisee, Apollo Brown, Open Mike Eagle, Quelle Chris, Gift of Gab and Masta Ace. Hood up, head down for CRASHprez’ gloomily woozy More Perfect, an intriguing, sometimes indulgent opus that knows how to keep a quick-silvered tongue in cheek when needed.

Mixtapes & VT

The Milkmakerz’ up-and-at-‘em synth struts, soul tweaks and chest puffers are all about ‘The Anthems’ and the Fleetwood Mac-sampling swag of DJ Milktray and Jon Phonics. PS4080’s ‘Back of the Bus’ showcases “some of the greatest artists you probably don’t know about” – and as you can get 22 tracks of durable independent hustle for free, you’re happy with such a guarantee. Spring has sprung, and then darkens again within ‘Twenty(4)Seven’, due to Afromaniac’s set of tight instrumental skimmers. Claiming to have welded together 200 bruisers, Get Cryphy’s ‘Last Action Heroes’ is a megamix to get your house party started – and trashed – inside 40 minutes.

Watch Doomtree’s appearance on ‘Come Dine With Me’, Clipping’s version of ‘They Live’, and Action Bronson revealing the magic of TV.

Words: Matt Oliver



Cloud Zen Summer - Monolith Cocktail

Cloud   ‘Zen Summer’   (Paper Trail Records)  April 7th 2015

If Tyler Taormina’s last album Comfort Songs was a nod in the direction of The Beach Boys during their sobering pinning Surf’s Up period, than his diaphanous follow up Zen Summer is a meditative, transient stab at the Ashram years.

Reviewing his debut anxiety strewn Comfort Songs suite for God Is In The TV, back in the summer of 2013, I called it a “surf noir” collection of “communal psychedelic” laments – pitched somewhere between Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear and The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. A self-confessed shoulder to lean on for those tormented by heartbreak and sadness, that debut was nevertheless seeking out hope: a break in the “clouds”. Suffering from his own personal anxiety and tribulations in light of that album’s release, Tyler has since moved out west to L.A. and broken the “dark spell” he was under. Though he has kept those old connections, once again recording with his Long Island Practice Room collaborative group in New York, Tyler has since signed to a relative new start-up, the Irish label Paper Trail Records.

With a Zen like optimism his summer requiem improves on the richly textured efflux of buzzing static, reverb soaked slackened (but anguished and mature) vocals and majestic Pacific Ocean breezy atmospherics with even more shimmering dappled reflections on the coral seabed candescence and beautiful shimmering tunes. These highly sophisticated and “organically” rich improvements are filtered once again through Californi-a’s most celebrated sons The Beach Boys as well as Panda Bear and Galaxie 500.

Suffused with an undercurrent of busy, rotating and tidal sounds each song features a lilting and beautifully palatial melody. A melting feeling of psychedelic yumminess, transcribed through a tunnel of love boat trip on the South Seas, the standout track from the album is without a doubt is the angelical caressed harp and Mike Love transcendental lamenting sung Melting Cassatt. This halcyon daydream reflects both lyrically and musically the state of its author who is looking for reassurance and a calming presence in a metaphorical sea of anxious flux; this is alluded to by the track that follows it, Elemental Smile. Changing the flow and plunging into no less opulently administered lush backing, only deeper and more lolloping, Tyler surfaces from a churning headiness to breath.

Notable highlights can be found everywhere throughout this near faultless collection of concatenate songs – and one vaporising photographic memories instrumental title track vignette. But the opening, Fly Into The Mystery, shows us what The Beach Boys working with Neu! might have sounded like; the motorik driving drums and Rother style nuanced guitar tweaks laying down a cosmic kaleidoscopic sunbeam for the surf pop vocal trepidations, Tyler reliving his concerns and arrival in L.A. And the parting shot, Rainbow Road is an upbeat LCD Soundsytem meets Merriweather Post Pavilion era Animal Collective, complete with a warm female harmonious chorus, triumph. It ends a most stunning, hazy and opulently languid album on a high; easily a contender in the end of year “choice” albums list, with Melting Cassatt one of 2015’s best singles. This year’s “dreamboat”.

Words: Dominic Valvona


David M. Allen was the producer behind some of the most important records of the 1980s and beyond, from The Cure to Depeche Mode, The Human League to Neneh Cherry. With his new band The Magic Sponge about to release the new track ‘That’s Just What Girls Do’ on Seraglio Point Productions forthcoming Chi-Signs II compilation,  Allen spoke to Sean Bw Parker about London, his distrust of  ‘vision’ and stumbling drunk around YouTube.

SBwP: The Magic Sponge are about to release their second album. For listeners new to the band, how would you describe your sound, influences and how you arrived at where you are now?

DMA: I’m not the leader of the Sponge or the main writer but one of the main influences is “Brian Pern” with a hefty dose of punky jangle.

There are very few producers in the UK who can claim to have had more influence over the sound of the alternative music scene since 1980 as you. If you do, how do you differentiate your producer and musician hats?

I don’t own a musician’s hat. I don’t really know what I do. I say that I am like a blind man walking up a mountain, as long as I keep going up, I’ll get there. I distrust ‘Vision’.

How do you see the Internet revolution’s affect on the music industry? Democratic saviour, valueless sea of dross or something else?

Too early to tell. It does look increasingly like impoverished leisure and digital slavery for the many, wealth and splendour for a few. Plus ça change (that’s to wrap the French connection).

You were the producer of The Cure’s ‘purple patch’ of albums throughout the mid-eighties. Do you think they should have packed it in after Wish in 1992, when many claimed they lost their edge?

No. I admire them for the tenacity and stamina to keep creating and playing shows that give their fans great pleasure. What’s wrong with that?

What did you think of the recent Guardian article that accused their sets of being too long, and Robert Smith’s furious response?

Journo [Caroline Sullivan – Ed] didn’t pay for her ticket. I haven’t read Roberts’ response.

Looking back over the last three or so decades, what would be your fondest musical memories, and least? And who were your favourites and least favourites to work with?

I’m a pain in the arse, it’s been great to find some fellow travellers.

Still being a resident of London, how do you see the apparent massive expense of living in the city, and the exodus of creative types to the south coast?

I love this whole country, even Rotherham. Realisation of equity is a big part of moving from the city to the coast. I don’t have any and I am lucky enough to have a great landlord. Dunno, London does chew you up.

Any plans to play live in support of the new album?

We’ve had a lot of chats about doing something but no one can actually fit their schedules together to have a meeting about it, weird.
I’ll let you know…

Any new musical recommendations for us?

Not really, I’m like everyone else, I just get drunk and stumble around Youtube…I was big into witch house last week.

Finally, what are you drinking?

Hobgoblin and whisky.


Thanks, Dave

Some of our David M Allen choice highlight as a producer/co-producer:


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