Words: Nicola Guerra

The Monolith Cocktail has been exchanging posts with our pen pal partners at the leading Italian music publication Kalporz for the last two years or more now; an exchange that continues unabated in 2021. This month Nicola Guerra introduces us to the Italian band A MINOR PLACE; a group who it seems leave smiles on the face with some well-chosen eclectic covers.

A MINOR PLACE  ‘It’ll End In Smile’
(Self-Released) 29th January 2021

Sad songs to be happy, happy songs to sink into a miraculous nostalgia. It sounds simple in words, but who can really do it with notes? I have a short list, but it would be misleading in approaching It’ll End in Smile, the new double self-produced effort by the Teramo band A MINOR PLACE.

Let’s start from the end; in this double disc there are covers of Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and the Marine Girls songs (and two others that I won’t reveal): that’s ‘Splendid’ by Chesnutt, ‘In the Neighbourhood’ by Waits, and ‘Second Sight’ by the Marine Girls. How much happiness can you store in just three songs? I still cry with Chesnutt, but the tears have happiness written all over them between water and salt.

What about nostalgia? You may say, we have more right to be nostalgic now, thinking back to our disfigured normality. But here nostalgia is overloaded with love; the songs do not live in the present but neither do they regret the past. They are simply suspended, they are a snapshot immortalized in a precise historical moment, which each of us has been lucky enough to experience at least once in our lives.

Here comes ‘Love’ and we are reminded why we always need POP; why we need the soundtrack that will make us nostalgic for having been happy tomorrow. And that’s the secret; listening to songs that give you the feeling of being stuck in a timeless bubble, capable of bringing a smile to your face even when the situation doesn’t call for it. This is A Minor Place’s skill: distilling pure joy in three minutes, cutting out the essence and sticking it on posters that remind you that your happiness may not last long, but if you carry it with you it can replace any medicine.

Songs flow like credits and when you listen to them again you are almost moved, as if you were really the protagonist told in sunny songs like ‘Sunglasses’, romantic ‘Christmas in Summer (Greetings from Aldo and Derna)’ (one of my favourites, with doo-wop-like choruses and electric guitar to unhinge certainties at the end); or just perfect because they are tinged with strings and colours, as if it were the simplest thing in the world ‘Total Football’. But what is simple is only the ability to be a band that really believes in it. These days, believing in something is fantasy. To believe that a smile can change the world is something magical.

Ah, I’ll tell you; the other two covers are ‘For a Spanish Guitar’ by Gene Clark and ‘Capricci’ by Ban-Off (a garage-punk band from Teramo). You already have a smile on your face, don’t you?

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA

Various ‘La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990’
(Bongo Joe) 5th March 2021

“The inner wave”, La Ola Interior is a welcome survey of Spain’s post-Franco explosion in underground experimentation; the kind that soaked up Jon Hassell and Eno’s collaborative “possible musics” game-changer peregrinations on the cusp of a new decade, as opposed to the nosier, more industrial and provocative generation X screams of Alex Carretero’s curated Spanish Underground Cassette Culture compilation, released back in 2018.  Both “waves” were lo fi, diy, and released in limited numbers, usually on cassette tapes, but one pontificated year zero intent, the other, opened itself to Hassell and Eno’s “fourth world” possibilities of amorphous ethnic-cultural blending.

As with that other redundant term “world music”, the fourth world title turn tag for a fecund of geographical sonic collages is, by perhaps those who are a little to sensitive, frowned upon for its connotations of post-colonialism: looking at anything outside the Western sphere as the “other”, “exotic”.

There’s a certain amount of that on this double album spread, put together for Bongo Records by Loïc Diaz Ronda. That is, weaving exoticism into the early development of post-punk electronic and ambient music. Some artists on this comp do that rather subtly; others bathe in its influence. And some do it rather well (sublime even), whilst others not so convincingly.

Mostly the preserve of the cultish and obscure, “Musica discrete” (as it’s referenced here) did also snare some iconic names, such as the ethno-transient trailblazers Finis Africae (probably one of the only names most people will be familiar with on this collection). Their utterly beguiling, entrancing and dreamy Popol Vuh mystical choral voices meet Talk Talk ‘Hybia’ and amorphous rain dance ritual ‘Hombres Lluvia’, are both borrowed for this sonic travelogue. Finis seemed much richer, more inventive as worldly musical travellers in an era when not many people could afford the luxury of physically visiting such exotic locations. Many artists made do with the traditional instruments of these cultural influences instead, bought in flea markets and such: used to various degrees of success on these interpretative and dreamt-up versions of seamless acid exotica.

Chronicling a movement that spring up in the dying embers of Franco’s regime, Ronda’s compiled world buffet of experiments features examples of early looping and sound sampling: sampling it must be said much of the sonic territories Hassell had already transformed on his own body of work. In that respect, tracks such as the compilation’s most fleeting vignette by Mecánica Popular (surely a twist on, or a knowing wink at the Teutonic sonic ensemble Populäre Mechanik) breathes in Hassell’s vague atmospheric blows across ambiguous map coordinates. Yet there’s also various Kosmische style riffing going on as well: Camino Al Desván, one of the only female sonic explorers to be featured in a male-dominated scene, oscillates mirror-y projections of Sky Records on the oft-trippy ‘La Contorsión De Pollo’ (or in translation, the rather odd “Chicken Contortion”); though her second contribution couldn’t be more different, ‘Fock Intimida A Gordi’ breaks out the industrial chemist set on a paranormal broadcast of neo-classical hauntings and static.   

Notable mentions on an exhaustive collection (linear notes included) are as follows: The Conny Plank proto-acid flash, zaps and laser-bouncing ‘Última Instancia’ by Orfeón Gagarin (more early Techno experiment than “ethnic” traverse); the Jules Verne oceanic submersible iron-lung ‘20000 Lenguas’ by Victor Nubla; the filmic, timpani bounding Arabian drama ‘Sheikh’ by Esplendor Geométrico; and the Popol Vuh (them again) Andean haunting ‘Flu’ by Eli Gras (the only other female to feature).  Bamboo music, garbled vague suggestions of gamelan, contoured bird-eye views of Morocco, flighty fluted soars and Indian swirls can also be heard, woven into ambient, trance and post-punk synthesised renderings on an album full of untapped forgotten traverses.

La Ola Interior is a well-researched and interesting compilation that fills in yet more of the electronic music story; especially in Southern Europe during the 80s. A worthy showcase of geographical transcendence and transformative immersions that deserves this curated effort.

You may also find the following posts from the Archives interesting:

Spanish Underground Cassette Culture

Notes From The Spanish Underground

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

The playlist revue is our chance to pick out the choice tracks that represent the last monthly period in the Monolith Cocktail’s output. This includes new releases and the best of reissues, plucked from the team: that’s me Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.

February’s edition features another flight of African fantasy from The Invisible Session, a teaser from next month’s Edo Funk Explosion (released by Analog Africa), the post-punk, krautrock wrangling of Camera, Kabbalah C86 indie of Mazeppa, a stripped down in lockdown version of The Wedding Present, the third single from the Joy Division meets Smiths too-cool-for High School, and an array of essential Hip-Hop cuts from Strange U, Jam Baxter & Sumgii, Illman & Norm Oddity and Your Old Droog. In all, 40 eclectic tracks.

Tracks:-

The Invisible Session  ‘West island’
Akaba Man & The Nigie Rokets  ‘Ta Gha Hunsimwen’
Byard Lancaster  ‘Jazz Lady’
Altin Gün  ‘Sevda Olmasaydi’
Samba Touré  ‘Tamala’
Baeshi Bang & Ip Koa Son  ‘Guna Hae’
Camera  ‘Kartoffelstampf’
Hifiklub & Eugène Chadboune  ‘Torso Corso’
White Ring  ‘Got U’
Hooveriii  ‘Control’
Haich Ber Na  ’87 Days’
Qwazaar/Batsauce/Hellsent  ‘No Ghosts’
th1rt3en & Pharoahe Monch  ‘Triskaidekaphobia’
Lion’s Drums  ‘Music From Memories’
Mazeppa  ‘Storm’
The Crushing Violets  ‘Embers’
The Wedding Present  ‘You Should Always Keep In Touch With Friends’
Dolph Chaney  ‘Status Unknown’
Ocelot  ‘Perhosia’
HighSchool  ‘De Facto’
The Legless Crabs  ‘Billy Joe (L)’
Strange U  ‘Maybe’
Jam Baxter & Sumgii  ‘Salsa Valentina’
Roc$tedy  ‘Gemini (Heaven & Hell)’
Illaman & Norm Oddity  ‘Ok!’
Your Old Droog & The God Fahim  ‘The Dunking Dutchman’
Grant Shapiro & Kool Keith  ‘42nd Street’
Nous Alpha & Christopher Bono  ‘Fibonacci Failure’
Graham Costello’s Strata  ‘Eudaimonia’
Lon Moshe/Southern Freedom Arkestar/Black Fire  ‘The Hutch’
His Name Is Alive  ‘Either’
Mapstation  ‘No No Staying’
Obay Alsharani  ‘Northern Lights’
Anansy Cissé  ‘Nia’
Jah Wobble  ‘Old Jewish East End Of London Dub’
Liz Davinci  ’10:23’
Animal Collective  ‘Sand That Moves’
Dom La Nena  ‘Todo Tiene Su Fin’
Marianne Faithfull & Warren Ellis  ‘She Walks In Beauty’
Matthew Sweet  ‘Best Of Me’

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA

Anansy Cissé ‘Anoura’
(Riverboat Records) 26th February 2021

We can’t blame the unfortunate Malian artist/guitarist Anansy Cissé for taking so long to release a new album. Originally started back in early 2017 but now only seeing the light-of-day (hence “The Light” translated title…to a point) four years later, Anoura was conceived in the turmoil of insurgencies, ethnic violence, droughts, the loss of a dear friend and collaborator on this record, and the on-going stand-off between the National Movement For The Liberation Of Azawad and Mali’s central government in Bamako in the fight for an autonomous state in the country’s northern, Saharan bordering regions. And that’s all before you throw in Covid-19 to the mix of sufferings and setbacks.

The catalyst however for Cissé hiatus from and pause in finishing this album was (ironically) an invitation in 2018 to a “peace and reconciliation” festival in his hometown of Diré. Situated on the left bank of the River Niger, and part of the greater Timbuktu region, Diré is a culturally significant centre but falls within the very areas fighting for independence. Originally this was a Tuareg-led struggle (one of many over the last century) that gained sizable traction in 2012, leading to whole swathes of Northern Mali and important towns such as Timbuktu itself being taken by the NMLA and other groups. To further muddy the waters, hardline Islamist groups, both emboldened by events in Syria and as a consequence in part of the volatile breakdown in Libya, hijacked the fight: working in part, in the beginning, with those rebels fighting against the Malian government before turning on them. Pushed on by Islamist militants, such as the Ansar Dine, this insurgency grew momentum, making its way south towards the capital of Mali before being met with force by the government and invited French troops.  The Islamist insurgents were stalled, yet took to planning less audacious frontal attacks in favour of guerilla terrorism tactics. As it stands the toxicity and violence has been taken across the border into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso; those northern regions of Mali still tenuously controlled by the NMLA. A recent ethnic war in the central belt of Mali has concentrated a combined alliance of French and Malian forces, though of writing this piece that conflict has been brought to an end with a truce. The government itself was ousted in a military coup only last year, and in the last month, the usurpers have themselves stepped down.

It’s with all this upheaval, threats of violence and geo-political tumult that Cissé found himself in 2018 being dragged from the vehicle his band were travelling to that Diré festival in by an armed gang, who meted out beatings, destroyed their musical instruments and held them captive. Traumatic you’ll agree, this led to Cissé questioning the madness unfolding in his homeland. With no guarantees of safety and the freedoms of performing, travelling through Mali stifled if not deadly, the celebrated guitarist withdrew to his humble home studio to make sense of it all. Although already capturing the willowy, frayed rich sounds of the late souk master Zoumana Tereta, who contributed his accentuate and reedy single-string fiddle tones to the album tracks ‘Balkissa’ and ‘Talka’ just before his death in 2017, Cissé turned away from his own album sessions to concentrate on recording other artists, mostly an emerging pool of rap artists. Though making ends meet and at least keeping a hand in the business, it wasn’t enough. And so prompted by the birth of his first child, he found his mojo and resumed work on what would eventually be the light-bringing Anoura.

Despite the time period and turn of events, this album is concerned less with politicizing and more with the “here and now”. Yet there’s a couplet of songs, the opening desert blues sighing, trickling and falling notes and lines ‘Tiawo’ and brilliant, nurturing ‘Talka’ that “stress” the need for education and opportunity for the young in a desperate Mali reeling from constant upheaval.  More personal reflections, dedicated to Cissé wife Bally (who adds a most diaphanous harmony and voice, alongside Oumar ‘Choubs’ Diara, on many of the album’s tracks) and their daughter Kady, sit congruously with sagacious reminisces of better times and a tribute to the family’s lineage of “murabouts” (religious teachers).

Brought up in the predominantly musically rich Muslim realms of Mali, Cissé roots and traditions merge seamlessly with atmospheric currents, echoing flange and a touch of desert mysticism. Songhai (the language Cissé speaks and sings in throughout this album) blues and traces of the legendary Malian guitarist Lobi Traoué breath and tremble alongside front porch dirt music, boogie swamp rock and even the psychedelic on a magical album of scene setting mirages and homages.

Encircled by sirocco winds, drawing contoured phrases and riffs in the sand, Cissé manages to traverse a sort of Tuareg Canned Heat meets Ash Ra Tempel on the spoon-percussive slapping, fanned electric ‘Mina’, and takes on a reggae gait dub feel of Ben Zabo on ‘Foussa Foussa’. Harmonically beautiful, the musicianship first class, gentle, forgiving, hanging in the air and hypnotising, Anoura is a wonderful and masterful album. The long wait has been well worth it. 

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

EP REVIEW/MATT OLIVER

Illman ‘Ugly Days’
(Potent Funk) 18th February 2021

Should any global implosion occur – and right now that’s not a very big should – the mic will remain the sole property of Illaman. Of noted livewires Problem Child and Pengshui, Illaman, troubled and tightly wound before falling back, reaches a crossroads of riding out the apocalypse and wondering where it all went wrong; but where demons are treated like a pen pal and ignorance is a useful defence mechanism, he never lets on as to whether Ugly Days is catharsis, cry for help or just a shrug to deal with the matter. After all, there remain “so many questions, not many answers”.

Right-hand man Norm Oddity plugs into an electrified vista that those with the world on their mind and shoulders can take solace from, simultaneously triggering itchy souls into taking action, unblinking in the eye of the storm. For headphones and hoods under low light, “these emotions run rife when you’ve spent your whole life trying”, the breakbeats of ‘Everything Bless?’ stalking Illaman to scuttle down dark alleys. Unapologetic in its vulnerability and bruised introspection, the title track is aware that situations could slide even further, the guesting DRS providing an even more numb, dead eyed view as electronic shoots of optimism are shushed down.

On the nobility of ‘OK’, promoting a positive hook as doom takes a breather, Illaman boldly puts his backbone into it: a low-key rousing of the troops speaking up for the outsider (“make some noise for yourself fam, go celebrate your weirdness”), even if the message comes through gritted teeth. “I stay strong like ox, stay on course when you flop/cos all them little battles is what you remember at the top” is a lesson crossing the cipher into the real world, ahead of ‘Universe’ re-upping cause for cautious cheer. A lo-fi headswim with a montage of life lessons flashing before Illaman’s ears, it represents the EP causing and curing insomnia, and the orator’s substance intake both blocking the bigger picture and boosting confidence in a bleak midst.

The psychological profiling of eerie closer ‘Way Home’ is another to split itself: this time between self-help insight and unreachable scratch, Norm Oddity peers through the blinds in a sole instance of the producer perhaps losing faith while Illaman dismisses any fairytale ending. Austere and wide open, allowing for time to breathe and explore, Oddity represents the spaced out in both the extra terrestrial and mind-altering sense, offering unspoken yet meaningful encouragement that’s not without its moments of claustrophobia: take Illaman out of the equation and you have a rich half dozen of brain teasers before bedtime. The emcee’s forcefulness, conviction, anger and erudition, standing as the last man of reason out of hiding, makes him both untouchable (as both man and emcee) and as exposed as everyone else. Never proclaiming to be a saviour, it’s this everyman sharing of hopes and fears that moulds Ugly Days into a tome for all modern existence. Matt Oliver

Matt Oliver joined the Monolith Cocktail team over five years ago, contributing the leading Hip-Hop column in the UK. In recent years Matt has selected tracks for the blog’s Monthly Playlist Revue and written one-off reviews. You can see his professional practice as a dab hand at biographies and newsletters, blurbs long and short, liner notes and promotional texts, and putting words to the promotion of singles/EPs, albums/compilations, and upcoming/established artists/DJs/producers/events on his portfolio-style website

Apart from the Monolith Cocktail Matt has written features & reviews in print and online for Seven/DMC Update, Hip-Hop Connection, Breakin Point, Rime Magazine (US), Undercover Magazine, One Week to Live, IDJ, Remix (US), FACT, Clash, BigShot (US), Mrblunt.com (US), Worlddj.com, Datatransmission.co.uk.

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

The Invisible Sessions ‘Echoes Of Africa’ (Space Echo) 29th January 2021

The very first sounds you hear on the long awaited follow up to The Invisible Sessions last album in 2006 are those of an aircraft touching down on the runway, somewhere between a straddled geography of Lagos and Addis Ababa. From then on in those compass points of inspiration permeate the collective’s first album for the newly launched Space Echo imprint.

An odyssey across the motherland, The Invisible Sessions instigator Luciano Cantone (also the co-founder of the Schema label) is joined by the multi-instrumentalist and trombonist Gianluca Petrella, poet, rapper/MC, lyrist Martin Thomas Paavilainen, and a host of respected players on this respectful homage to African music, culture and consciousness. A congruous display of riches, from Egypt 80 Afro-beat epiphany to trinket shimmering spiritual jazz, the extended ranks of this group benefit from the stirring spindled and spun weaving of the Gambian kora maestro Jalimansa Haruna Kuyatech and the rhythm setting Ethiopian drummer and percussionist Abdisa “Mambo” Assefato.   

In the intervening years, busy with other projects, running a label and sow forth, Cantone has taken note of all the world’s ills and woes, from BLM to the climate change emergency: two themes that dominate what is a loose drift, limped and brassy heralding strut through the continent’s rich musical heritage. Ethio-jazz, and more specifically, the vibraphone spells, reverberations of the iconic Mulatu Astake inspire tracks like the bandy, bendy guitar lolloping reggae gait motioned ‘Journey To The East’, the more quickened, sprouted ‘Breathe The Rhythm’, and the Addis Ababa version of The Shadows casting dreamy vibrato and twanged shapes over the city ‘Entoto’.  Elsewhere it’s a fluency of Kuti and Tony Allen that is suffused throughout the simmering upbeat ‘West Island’ and funkier, skipping, knowing ‘Pull The Handbrake’. Both of which also evoke hints of Orlando Julius and The Heliocentrics recordings.

It’s soul music that sumptuously seeps into the tunes with either a conscious stream of narration or repeated silkily voiced enforced message of social commentary action. In that mode there’s the Issac Hayes in Africa, or even a touch of Curtis Mayfield and The 4th Coming, echo-peddle dreamy ‘Ideas Can Make The World’, the Undisputed Truth affirmation, horns rising ‘People All Around The World Can Make It’, and Gil Scott-Heron (at a pinch), earthly plaint ‘Mother Forgive Me’.  Paavilainen is joined in his loose style of spoken wake-up calls, despair and half-sung laments by fellow stateside vocalist Joyce Elaine Yuille, who shadows, harmonizes and wafts along.

A conscious ark of funk, jazz and soul; a homage and thank you to a continent that has heard, inspired Cantone and his sparring partners, Echoes Of Africa is a travelogue of protestation, spiritualism and love performed by a most impressive tight unit of African music acolytes. 

Don Cherry ‘Cherry Jam’
(Gearbox Records) 26th February 2021

On his way to becoming the restless musical nomad of jazz lore, the mid 1960s Don Cherry was already well acquainted with Scandinavia, especially Denmark. The burgeoning trumpeter and cornet star played in the country’s capital of Copenhagen in ’63 with Archie Shepp, and in ’64 with Albert Ayler before returning in the pivotal year of ’65 to record a quartet of original and standard performances for Denmark’s national radio station.  Though often dismissed by cats like Miles Davis for a lack of technical proficiency, Cherry’s constantly evolving visceral style had gained him an envious apprenticeship, partnering up as a foil to a litany of be-bop, hard-bop and free jazz doyens: from Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane and Ornate Coleman, appearing in the pioneer’s groundbreaking Shape Of Jazz To Come quartet of ’59.

Just a short time from releasing his first album as band leader – the “landmark” Complete Communion for the prestigious seal-of-approval Blue Note – Cherry once more found himself in the northern European hub of jazz, collaborating in a jam session mode with the Danish pianist Atli Bjørn. It was this set up and communal that attracted local attention, leading to the session recordings that until recently lay dormant in the radio station vaults: only ever heard when first broadcast over the airwaves in ’65.

Those sessions was collected together as the Cherry Jam EP by Gearbox Records;originally for Record Store Day. Now in 2021 and to tie-in with the recent opening of offices in the land of the jazz obsessive collector, Japan, the label is making this record more widely and worldly available – previously part of the Japanese Edition series that GB launched exclusively for the far east.  

Mastered from the original tapes and showcased in the label’s customary well-furnished style and linear notes, this four track EP is neither wholly rehearsed nor spontaneous in the way it sounds; capturing as it does a still reasonably tethered Cherry, yet to completely immerse himself in those out-there traverses and world fusions.  

Working with the Danish quartet of tenor saxophonist Mogens Bollerup, double-bassist Benny Nielson, drummer Simon Koppel and the already mentioned, and future Dexter Gordon foil, Bjørn on piano, Cherry toots, pipes, trills and spirals through a trio of his own compositions and the Broadway legend Richard Rodgers alternative, sassy stage ballad ‘You Took Advantage Of Me’.

In an expressive, playful mood Cherry and his troupe provide a disarming, bluesy rendition of ‘The Ambassador From Greenland’ – written by Cherry in his youth. Too light to be bumbling, there’s a certain hang low like noodling, descending feel to this one. The sax and cornet almost override, bump into each other at certain moments, with even a few muffed notes and a piano style that moves between stage and striking, struck high notes.

The second Cherry original, ‘Priceless’, has a bop-like swing to its jamming candor. Duel horns contort, swan and blurt as the drums bounce and double-bass runs away with it. Everyone gets at least a spotlight opportunity on a track that sends the listener back to NYC. ‘Nigeria’ is the most obvious example of Cherry’s Marco Polo spirit of embracing international sounds: a more freely flowing bluesy performance that saunters along to Afro-Cuban influences.  

To finish it off, the cover of Rodgers stalwart theatre number is soulfully handled, the playing like a sort of mating-call serenade: a dinner jazz sorbet.

There’s nothing especially dynamic about this captured performance, but as a lost recording chapter in the development of Cherry’s time in Denmark and his craft it is an intriguing link in the story; and a testament to the icon’s abilities in the run-up to his first album as a band leader.  

Omar Khorshid ‘With Love’
(Wewantsounds) 26th February 2021

It seems there were few styles the dashing and tragic Middle Eastern hot-trotting Omar Khorshid wouldn’t weave into his Egyptian imbued guitar-led music; from the cinematic to rock and roll, Arabia to the giddy spindled Hellenic chimes of Zorba the Greek.

As it would seem in the land of his birth, most of Egypt’s stars diversified as matinee screen idols, singers, musicians for hire, and Khorshid was no different; pursuing a career in the film business before dying in a motorbike accident at the age of only 36, in 1981 – apparently speeding down Giza’s El Haram Street, his pillion passenger, the third of four wives, Dina miraculously surviving the head-on collision with a pole.

Born in 1945 and wasting no time in picking up the violin and piano, it would be a third instrument, the guitar that would make him famous. By the mid 60s he had attracted wide attention as part of the Western-influenced, pop(ish) act Les Petits Chats, invited to play with fellow compatriot and legend Abdel Halim Hafez, who in turn led him to the country’s most celebrated, accomplished and rated of divas, Umm Kulthum.

A new decade brought civil and international strife for Egypt and its neighbours: war with Israel, the oil embargo. Khorshid upped and left the homeland for the Lebanon in ’73, where he began recording records for the Voice Of Lebanon and Voice Of Orient labels. As peace was finally agreed between Egypt and Israel later that decade, the Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadet invited the roaming guitarist to play at the celebrations that came after the famous Camp David peace treaty, taking part at the White House. For a brief time during that same period he hopped over into Syria, where he acted and soaked up even more musical influences, before once again returning to his roots in ’78: the year that this instrumental classic, now remastered and reissued for the first time on vinyl by those Arabian specialists Wewantsounds, was originally released.

A rich tapestry of Egyptian and extended Arabian fusions, With Love offers up a serenade and desert-romance camel led caravan of transformed timeless cover versions from some of the regions greats. Mohamed Abdel Wahab’s ‘Ahwak’ in the deft hands of Khorshid sounds like some undersea enchantment with its mermaid-like sung aria high quivers and submerged production. But then just when you think you have this song pegged, this beautifully ethereal composition suddenly comes up for air in a sort of Joe Meek version of Egyptian rock and roll.  

An interpretation of Farid El-Alrache’s ‘Hebbina Hebbina’ (a favourite we’re told of Eno), with its tambourine trinkets, heavy flange and galloping tremolo, could be an Arabian Shadows. Whilst the Rahbani Brothers‘Rahbaniyat’ slides towards rattled hand drums, synthesizer laser bobbing Arabian disco.  

I’ve already referenced that famous Greek signature evocation, ‘Zorba’, which Khorshid plays with dizzying skill, spindling that original into a sort of mix of Anton Karas zither and an old fashioned fairground ride. Unfamiliar as I am with much of the remaining material, ‘Habibati’ saunters and trots between romantic thriller and a Wurlitzer matinee soundtrack, and ‘Beyni Ou Beynak puts vibrato siren like spooks amongst cult Italian 60s cinema.

Almost at odds with the times it was made, yet ahead in adopting subtle hints of synth and Western musical influences, this gift from the Egyptian icon swoons in and out of the decades that preceded it. With Love is a dreamy fantasy of balladry, surf-y twanged cult rock and roll and film scores; an Arabian adventure amongst the sand dunes and Cairo discothèques that serves as a showcase for an artists able to flip between Mambo, music hall orchestration, the blues and even psychedelic. A tribute to an Egyptian musical innovator that can now, at last, be yours to own.

His Name Is Alive ‘Hope Is A Candle: Home Recordings Vol.3’
(Disciples) 12th February 2021

His Name Is Alive with the sound of beatific abrasive reversals on the third such collection of untethered incipient sonic renderings from Warren Defever’s creative process archives. Part of a much wider survey of the prolific HNIA appellation Detroit artist, producer, engineer and remixer that now includes (with this latest volume) a trio of albums of home-recorded developing material, Help Is A Candle features much of the nucleus of music that was duplicated on the “infamous” tape that first caught the ear of Ivo Watts-Russell, leading to a seven album run for the 4AD label in the 90s. Elements of which were reworked for the album Livonia: the title a reference to his birthplace in Michigan.  

Circulated in a bootleg form for many years, Defever now showcases this archival scrapbook of sonic ideas in a new light; remastered from the original tape reels so that the quality now shines through.

Guides, impressions and slowly, gently unfolding, the candle light is never in danger of blowing out as atmospherics and ascending tones emerge from blessed post-punk ambience and industrial, coarser reverberations. You’re going to hear many comparisons to both This Mortal Coil and The Cocteau Twins, and that’s more than fair. But much of this material remains cut adrift of either example, neither dissonant nor vaporous. Traces and lingers of familiarity offer a semblance of Daniel Lanois, Eno, and the collection’s most caustic, sharpened knife cutting reversal of dark matter, ‘Halo’, evokes a vision of a fuzztone Hendrix as lead guitarist in The Telescopes. 

Murky, lurking moods sit alongside tingled enchantments and even country music ragas, as hints of rattled, transformed hand drums, spindled zither-like spiritual crystal shimmers, slapped and crying, waning bass guitar and mechanical tic-tocking devices resonate.

Envisioned as his very own Reichian Music For 18 Musicians, though falling short at the first hurdle having few friends let alone 18 to enact such a grand scale performance, Defever instead contributed to developing a rafter of music scenes off the back of his 80s home recordings. You can hear the seedlings, inspiration in the work of artists as diverse as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Dean Blunt, Inga Coupland and Land Observation. It’s no wonder he was on Bowie’s radar and playlist.

Following on from All The Mirrors In The House and Return To Never, and part of a greater light shedding exercise in evaluating, elevating Defever’s formative experiments, Hope Is A Candle is subtle and minimal. This album points the way to some of the more developed pieces in the series. It works though as a showcase for the visions to come; tracks that you can take a lot away from; tracks that evoke; tracks to mull over.  

Camera ‘Prousthuman’
(Bureau B) 19th February 2021

Third, fourth generation disciples of Krautrock, the decade-old Berlin instigators of “guerilla” tactic performance art-rock Camera once more shed band members for a new intake (well, partly) of idea-bouncing reciprocators on the fifth studio album, Prousthuman.

With all the connotations and baggage that title’s titan of prose holds, the newest conception of the trio thrash, jerk, limber and lollop through familiar influences in the Teutonic cannon. Anchored by the only original, remaining, founding member Michael Drummer, Camera moves away from the dual keyboard dynamics of the previous album (Emotional Detox) for a more squealing, flange and phaser swirled new wave, psot-punk and even C86 guitar suffusion. Drummer, who unsurprisingly is the band’s drummer, but also weighs in on the guitar riffs, ropes in the composer and musician Alex Kozmidid as a six-string sparring partner. To finish this trio off and informally first joining Camera for their 2017 USA tour as a performance and video artist, Tim Schroeder unveils a talent for the synth.

Locked down in self-isolation for at least some of the recording sessions and jams for this latest Krautrock replica, the trio’s methodology and process has obviously been affected by the raging pandemic. Rather then claustrophobic, the latest chapter contorts or glides out of confinement in the search for space, room. Even when coming on like the sound of Island Records ’79 new wave meets the Gang Of Four, Wire and Neu! on the opening guitar squall and no-wave disco hi-hat action jam ‘Kartoffelstampf’ (that’s “mashed potatoes” in English).

They’ve already changed the timings and mood style by the album’s next track, ‘Alar Alar’; bounding to a stretched quasi-dub gait that also features the drifting melodies of something Egyptian or Turkish: plus loads of dial bending Kosmische fun.

It’s a soundtrack that weaves motorik Klaus Dinger with the solo Kosmische scores of his brother Thomas; the Au Pairs with Sky Records’ greats; Dunkelziffer with Holgar Czukay; and Faust radio broadcasts with Cluster and early 80s Tangerine Dream soundtracks. Though at its most spiky, wrangling and fuzzy, tracks like the buzzy ‘Schmwarf’ mash NIN with Kriedler and Can. Skying in synthesized harpsichord mirrored circles, grinding out a submerged woozy and gauzy dream envelope, and tuning into old frequencies, Camera emerge from their basement studio and the pandemic with a brilliant and knowing post-punk-krautrock-kosmische trip. 

Mapstation ‘My Frequencies, When We’
(Bureau B/TAL) 26th February 2021

A second album on the Bureau B imprint roster this month that benefits from and taps into the Hamburg label’s ever-expanding catalogue of Kosmische and neu-electronica explorers: even some of the form’s progenitors, from Roedelius to his early foil Conrad Schnitzler. Both of these doyens can be heard permeating this, the 8th album under Stefan Schneider’s Mapstation alias, the former, prolific soloist and co-founder of the Kluster/Cluster/Qluster arc and mini Kosmische supergroup Harmonia, Roedelius even paired up with Schneider for an eponymous entitled collaborative album in 2011: A very congruous union as it turned out.  

The Düsseldorf artist and label honcho (running the Tal label) channels that Kosmische first, and second, generation influence on a highly sophisticated minimalist traverse if Sci-Fi, futuristic and tubular metallic looping and warping environments. An album for the times we find ourselves in – at least methodology and production wise -, for the first time in years Schneider flies solo. This stripped down, undulated pulsing and rhythmic album is marked by an absence of collaborators and guests.

Simplification is key it seems, with Schneider aware that the intensity of some of his past productions may have got lost in the enthusiasm to add too many instruments and sounds. My Frequencies, When We then is very considered sparse production of lo fi futurism; rich with reverberations, signals, squelches and the chiming acid-techno rings of early Warp Records, 90s Seal Phuric and Kreidler; even touches of Matthew Dear and a stripped Boris Dzanck. 

On the opening mused ‘No No Staying’ Schneider adds Eno-esque hushed voices to a pared down form of techno. Whilst tracks like ‘My Mother Sailor’ evoke images of Tangerine Dream standing in front of a large patch bay apparatus, plugging leads into various holes as gaseous and reversed loops swirl around them. Elsewhere you’ll hear the motor buzzing hum and throb of Affenstunde era Popol Vuh, synthesized bells, 808 drum machine pre-set percussion, slithered electronic magnetics and Schneider’s whispered underpass anxieties about the, now distant, movement, bustle of cities.

I’d suggest that Schneider has found a good balance in creating intensity, and setting moods with a more sparse, minimalist intelligent sound. Lean but just as expressive, this new Mapstation album might be amongst his most sagacious and sophisticated; a coming together of various strands in the electronic music sphere that soundtracks the current emptiness and unsure atmospherical moods of the present.

Julia Meijer ‘The place Where You Are’
(PinDrop Records) 26th February 2021

A consolidation if you like of recent singles and the self-titled song from the debut album, Always Awake, the Swedish singer-songwriter and guitarist’s latest EP seems a good opportunity to catch up with Julia Meijer’s tactile songbook.

From glacial enormity to the more intimate; the hymnal to indie-pop; Meijer has proved a very interesting artist over the last few years, and this showcase offers a full oeuvre.

The glimpse into a dream EP opener is sparse but full of depth and moving atmospherics. It’s a lushly conceived slice of folk and pop, with Kate Nash-esque tones and an air of Fairfield Parlour about it. Next we have the first of a couplet of singles to feature ex-Guillemot and regular foil Fyfe Dangerfield. ‘Under Water’ is submerged in a suffusion of both lulling and sighed harmonies, dreamy undulations (again) and splashes of cymbal. The song melts between two rhythm signatures on a snorkeling meditation beneath an aquatic expanse.

Scandinavian illusions are cast on the EP’s third song ‘Skydda Dig’; a song originally even more intimate, performed as a solo live that’s now given a steady and minimal augmentation by guests, guitarist Andrew Warne and bassist Jamie Morris, who actually turns to the keyboard for this recorded version. A protective plaint theme wise, Julia’s Swedish evocation resonates with haunted sorrow and almost otherworldly trembles as turns over a sort of late 80s, early 90s, American indie riff.

The finale, and second song to see Julie accompanied by Dangerfield, ‘The Place Where You Are’ expresses loss to an ebb and flow of subtle organ and Irish folk lament.   Beautifully conceived as ever, flowing between a never world of dreams and indie guitar music reflections, Julia’s latest showcase serves her talent for experimenting without the loss of melody and songwriting craft well. I recommend you seek her back catalogue out.

Obay Alsharani ‘Sandbox’
(Hive Mind Records) 19th February 2021

Finding solace and escapism in equal measures in the colder Baltic air of Sweden, Syrian migrant and beat-maker Obay Alsharani, forced to leave behind the chaos of an imploding homeland, takes in the awe and beauty of his Scandinavian refuge on the debut album Sandbox.

For despite a background in composing lo fi productions of dusty Arabic samplers under the Khan El Rouch moniker, Obay now reaches out into more glacier tonal ambient soundscapes; finding sanctuary in icy snow-covered and woodland gladded environments on an album geographically remote from the heat and sandy horizons of the Middle East.

It’s good to hear a success story in the convoluted tumult of the Syrian crisis. A decade on from the civil war that has now engulfed almost the entire region, and grown into the most complicated of proxy wars, Syria’s ruling Bashar al-Assad regime may yet collapse due to an economic fall out prompted by neighbouring Lebanon and the catastrophic failure off its government and banking crisis. As it stands, and now with the global pandemic just another tier of burden upon a region and population that’s suffered beyond any of our imaginations, Russia now has that foothold it always wanted on the Mediterranean coastline of Syria; Turkey has widened its own borders, unopposed in threatening the Kurds in the south, who are fighting for autonomy; and ISIL have been all but beaten, with fragmenting survivors scurrying away to spread panic and their death cult into Eastern and Central Africa. Those resistance groups that grew from the oppressive clamp down by the Syrian government remain in small clusters, holding on, whilst Iran without its nebulous mastermind and death-bringer general Qassim Suleiman, remain in the area holding up Bashir’s regime.

The fallout has resulted in eye-watering numbers of displaced people, with more than six million Syrians forced into neighbouring safe havens or further overseas into Europe and North America. Obay gained a lifeline himself through a scholarship in Sweden, leading to an extended period of stay in refugee accommodation in the far north of the country. After finally gaining a permanent residency, Obay was able to resume his music, whilst also experimenting with visual art (providing the colourful-feedback cover art for the limited edition cassette format of his debut album).

Branching out sound wise, Obay now captures the breath-taking spectacle and calmness of his new home. Literally, those breath-chilled winds of the far north can be heard channeled through often majestic, gliding and crackled static textured ambient suites: all of which evoke a certain stillness and sense of spaciousness. Less sandbox and more Artic, frozen tubular and piped notes, haunted but lovely church music and icicle-like droplets drip, drift and are cast across a snowy pine-covered land as the Northern Lights shimmer and play with the refractive light overhead. ‘Release’ evokes a far breezier scene though, out on the porch of some woodland cabin, with birds chirping away in the noisy movement of branches and leaves. Added to this weather recording are glassy piercing bulbs of synthesized music and what sounds like a lingering electric-organ. From coarser static grains and blowing, to soft bellows and concertinaed wisps, and even a bestial landscape of unidentified wildlife, Obay subtly creates a moving scenic and reflective study of a very different horizon to the one that he was forced to abandon. It sounds as if the Syrian beat-maker turned assiduous composer has at least sonically found a semblance of solace and a safe environment in which to reflect and heal. Music almost as therapy, Sandbox without any context is really just a deeply affected fine example of minimal and ambient mood music: A most beautiful conception.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA

White Ring ‘Show Me Heaven’
(Rocket Girl)  19th February 2021

As tags go the one that was first attached to White Ring, over a decade ago, is quite near the mark. Though dreamt up when Myspace was still a thing, Witch House does prove a good fit for this paranormal electronica coven. Though rather more apt would be Witch Techno, or, Witch Industrial. The most important thing however is that White Ring have more than grown out of that lazy pigeonhole since.

With a checkered history behind them, they complete a ring cycle (if you will) of consoled grief and acceptance with only their second album proper, Show Me Heaven, which now completes the Black Earth That Made Me and Gate Grief arc of such thematic records.

Unfortunately minds have been fatefully concentrated with the loss of founder member and siren from beyond the ether Kendra Malia. Malia tragically passed away in 2019, just as her long-term foil Bryan Kurkimilis was writing material for what would be this seething, vaporous mire of healing and cosmic Gothic brooding. Back down to a duo, with Kurkimilis providing the often expanding but also skulking backdrop to the wisped, translucent and ethereal treated voice of Adina Viarengo, who joined the fold back in 2017, the pared-down White Ring dedicate this heavenly entitled endeavor to Malia and her documented struggles. 

Finding as much light as they do despondency and supernatural incandescence in coming to terms with such a big loss, the duo wither between gauzy veiled escapism and twitched tubular synth produced Gothic post-punk, dark pop and electro on an ambitious grieving process.

Kurkimilis has himself said that this intensified knock at heaven’s gate is “about the consequences of darkness”. A theme they get across by immersing themselves in a rippled glassy and chilled suffusion of synthesized music. They never quite wallow in it but search for some glimmer of radiance. And on that score, nothing’s more light bringing than the recent single and album opener, the universal chimed ‘Light Hours Linger’. And what a statement to start with: a weary but lulled dream pop haunting that expands into a sizzled static cosmos of diaphanous plaint. Featuring alongside that lead single is the agitated voiced and synthesized bell-tolled, more menacing, ‘I Need A Way’; a creep into NIN’s industrial sonic mausoleum.

Elsewhere there’s much in the way of vapoured 80s influences – whether intentional or not –, with tracks such as ‘Calm Down’ sounding like a supernatural romance, as envisioned by Moroder and Carpenter: a soundtrack world in which The Lost Boys meets Pretty In Pink on the dancefloor. Those dreamy 80s moments also recall the Chromatics, albeit a version of the hushed synth popsters holding hands at an séance.

It would seem disingenuous at this point to bemoan the album’s length; rather see it as an ambitious attempt to mine that grief cosmology, giving the fans their money’s worth – which they do in both intense and expansive spades.

Drawn towards the light, opening up their souls, White Ring bewitch once more with a both crushing but also translucent phantasm of industrial-strength emotional release. Heavy yet also just as alluring and diaphanous, Kurkimilis and Viarengo continue to conjure sonic spells whilst navigating the pain.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

The Singles/Videos/Tracks Section:

Ålesund ‘Lightning’
26th February 2021

This is quite a bewitching little commercial pop ditty, one I enjoyed listening to, which is the point to music I suppose: to enjoy it, I think. Ålesund might make a interesting pop star as she looks a bit out-of-her-tree, away with the Fairies, but also looks like she has a depth to her, which is only a good thing: anyone who has the away with the fairies’ factor and depth is to me one big plus point. When commercial pop is now at a point of becoming irrelevant to life, we need new young pop starlets to pop up and make pop life interesting again.

Hooveriii  ‘Control’
Out Right Now

I like this, it reminds me of the first Dandy Warhols album and it has a rather fetching organ/keyboard riff that the Stranglers would be overjoyed to have grace one of their fine songs. All in all a fine catchy single and the first track taken from their forthcoming debut album, an album I will have to make a mental note to check out when released, as this is indeed a rather nifty single.

The Albums/EPs Section:

Spam Javelin ‘Three Chords Of The Apocalypse’
(Self-Released) 29th January 2021


 

Spam Javelin, the near legendary north wales punk trio, are back with tales of modern day living on the Three Chords of the Apocalypse album; an album full of humour, disgust, and alienation, and what more can you ask from punk rock. It has everything one could want, and the everything one can want comes wrapped in such wonderfully rock n roll guitar and bass riffs you really could not ask for more. ‘Cogged Off’ is almost Fall like (my fave track on the album I may add) and the riff on ‘Super Twat’ is worthy of The Cramps, and that is what pushes Spam Javelin up to the upper echelons of punk rockery, their wonderful mastery of the punk rock riff.

This is an album to play loud and annoy your neighbours with, unless of course your neighbours enjoy a bit of punk rock and in that case an album to bring your community together, and what more could you ask for.

Cherry Fez  ‘…and other stories’
(Self-Released) 30th January 2021

Cherry Fez have given us an album of lovingly written and performed jangly guitar pop songs that at times reminds me of a poppy Felt. They have soaked in the spirit of C86 and mid 60s beat bands. They even do a pretty good cover of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, all beautiful melodies and open guitar chords. Often, this album drifts into Baroque territory, especially on the lovely ballad ‘Mary Pays’.  

… and other stories is an album that many will enjoy, as well written guitar songs never go out of fashion and this album is far superior to many I get to hear.  Available to download on a pay what you want basis or even for free so all you readers out there who need a bit of jangle in your life as those hip cats say: “Check it out”.

BOYA ‘Momentary Moments’
(Metal Postcard Records) 7th February 2021

An atmospheric journey into the netherworld of somebody you do not know, muffled voices join in a floating aural mist of softly plucked guitar strings and echoes of places from your past, vinyl records crackle and poetry cling together in a quiet slow dance of sadness and hope. Yes, this mini album is an atmospheric delight of empathy. It’s like eavesdropping on a lost soul as he potters around his house alone, his daily life filled with stained shadows of the past and the cracked hope of the future; an album that any lovers of the excellent strange music Wormhole World records release would lap up for breakfast, dinner and tea. A truly beautiful release.

Seth Martin & The Dish Boys  ‘The Golden Book Of Favourite Songs’
(Self-Released) 26th February 2021

I don’t really get to write about alt country much, which is a shame as I’m a lover of country music. So listening to this makes a welcome change. The Golden Book Of Favourite Songs is a 30 track (yes 30!) tracks retrospective of the so far seven albums Seth Martin & The Dish Boys have released, and this I find is more country-tinged alternative rather than pure country, and has a Rocky Ericson feel about it or the Meat Puppets or even Mudhoney or even Demented Are Go, so not even country at Tom T hall. So let’s call it a slightly country tinged grunge punk delight.

Yes it may not be what I was expecting but it is very welcome and is a great point to discover the wonderfully strange world of the Dish Boys. It is a world where country, punk and psych collide to form an aural sculpture of obscene delight; a Mars bar touched by the inner thigh of a young Marianne Faithful; the last swill of whiskey to swirl on the lips of Hank Williams; an album that engulfs the hidden treasure of rock n roll past to celebrate the present in all its unhealthy glory. “Howie Gelb Said” is a country psych delight that rocks like a mother fucker who likes to rock and “Heartworn Highways ” is a song touching in the same way a Towns Van Zandt songs touches you, and TVZ is even name checked in the lyrics.

This 30-track mammoth of a release is well recommended to country and rock music fans alike, and as I’ve said, an ideal way to discover this fine band.

Air Hunger ‘F-I-X-E-R’
(Shore Dive Records) 26th February 2021

Anybody who knows me knows I have a thing for lo-fi music, so when this arrived in my inbox and I read it was recorded on an iPhone there was no possibility that I wouldn’t give it a fair hearing. And how glad I did, as it is a beautiful album. An album with much going on. An album full of texture and softness.

Whispered vocals softly strummed acoustic and electric guitars and layers of atmospheres, an aural flotation tank of pureness. At times reminding me of The Red House Painters, at other times reminding me just how beautiful life and music can be. This is an album to lie back relax and enjoy. I’m glad that somebody has done something worthwhile with an iPhone [as once again anybody who knows me knows of my hate of the mobile/smart/iPhone or phones in general in fact], so well done Air Hunger. This album is available as a very ltd cd and at the time of writing there is only 4 copies left, so if I were you I would go and snap one up, you will not be sorry.

Monolith Cocktail Social #52

February 10, 2021

Playlist/Dominic Valvona

The inaugural Monolith Cocktail Social playlist of 2021, the blog’s eclectic/generational spanning version of our ideal radio show, includes the unusual mix of wonders, gems, missives and oddities from across time. With a couple of tracks in tribute to those we’ve recently lost too (including former down ‘n’ dirty Doll face glam puss Sylvain Sylvain and British progressive folk darlings the Trees siren Celia Humphris).

Tracks:..

Grazia  ‘Soyle Beni’

Tiger B. Smith  ‘Everything I Need’
Sylvain Sylvain  ‘Trash’
The Spaceshits  ‘Backstreet Boogie’
Paladin  ‘Third World’
Prince Lasha, Sonny Simmons  ‘Psalms Of Solomon’
Hareton Salvanini  ‘Seios’
Cleveland Eaton  ‘Chitown Theme’
Rotary Connection  ‘The Weight’
Christy Essien  ‘Take Life Easy’
King Tee  ‘At Your Own Risk (Marley Marl Remix)’
Blade  ‘Fade ‘Em Out’
Killa Instinct  ‘The Bambi Murders’
Black Sheep  ‘Yeaaahhh’
Marion Brown  ’27 Cooper Square’
Night Beats  ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’
Tucker Zimmerman  ‘Bird Lives’
Anne Briggs  ‘Step Right Up’

Trees  ‘Epitaph’
Sven Wunder  ‘Toryanse’
Jody Grind  ‘Plastic Shit’
Andrew Cyrille  ‘Metamusican’s Stomp’
Colosseum  ‘Take Me Back To Doomsday’
Electric Moon  ‘Hotel Hell’

Rialto  ‘Untouchable’
Made In Sweden  ‘Winter’s A Bummer’
Mythos  ‘Terra Incognita’
Odd Nosdam  ‘Wig 02’
Rancho Relaxo  ‘Sugar For The Devil’
Annexus Quam  ‘Osmose I’
African Head Charge  ‘Crocodile Shoes’
MRR-ADM  ‘11even’
The Auteurs Vs µ-Ziq  ‘Chinese Bakery’

Colin Newman  ‘I’ve Waited Ages’ Martin Dupont  ‘I Love The Lovers’
Ron Geesin  ‘Parallel Bar’
Krohme  ‘Goon Opera’
Azanyah  ‘Let God Come First’
Yumi Arai  ‘曇り空’
Dino Valente  ‘Tomorrow’

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

Mazeppa ‘S/T’
February 10th 2021

Formed four years ago in the atavistic gateway city of Haifa in Israel, with all its connotations and history, the Mazeppa quartet channel both Middle Eastern mysticism and the intense lyrical verses and prose of the Bohemia-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke on their ambitious debut album. Led by the incredible diaphanous siren voice of Michal Pérez Noy, who both invokes a Kabbalah Patti Smith and Siouxsie Sioux, the band follow up on a string of Mazzy Star meets Byzantium incense burning psychedelic and shoegaze enriched singles (both of which, the rallying, enticing hypnotic esoteric ‘The Way In’, and paisley underground ‘Roses’ are included on this album) with an expansive soundtrack of cosmic grandeur.

Enraptured by the highly influential poetics of the widely travelled and sagacious Rilke, Michal and her musical partners Amir Noy (on drums), Elad Bardes (bass) and Asaf Koren (guitar) originally put the band together to incorporate his searching prose into song; prose that is often itself stirred by the many forms of European Christianity (from Lutheran to Orthodox) and by the vistas of his eventual home in Switzerland.

That source material now sits alongside the burgeoning lyrics of Michal and her band mates on an album of various atmospheric mini-opuses and shorter post-punk, C86, psychedelic, alt-country anthems. I say alt-country, but I mean something wholly in keeping with the band’s roots and home; a tremolo like sweeping evocation of the desert frontiers, with images conjured-up of wandering band members seeking spiritual answers, like Biblical characters under the stars in a mountainous, sandy and arid wilderness.

They keep up a richly, deep and entrancing spell throughout, with nothing labored or strained musically or vocally. In fact even in the crescendos, the moments of crashing dissonance, and even when Michal rouses a fighting shout, the playing is always melodious and controlled.

A magik and romantic wanton gravitas of the spiritual, dreamy and the Gothic, permeates this work of considered poise and wispy drifting. It’s a sound that weaves in and out of washes of the Black Angels, Siouxsie’s Banshees, The Velvet Underground, the Besnard Lakes and the more symphonic examples of 90s Britpop. As heavenly as it is steeped in eastern mysticism, Mazeppa’s debut expands the Israeli band’s scope and ambitions: which I say they’ve more than matched. A passionate, thoughtful but powerful esoteric and more earthly-bound songbook, Mazeppa is already among my highlights in 2021.   

Suggested Reading:

Mazeppa ‘Roses’

Mazeppa ‘The Way In’ 

  

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

%d bloggers like this: