NEW MUSIC REVUE ROUNDUP
Words: Dominic Valvona
Re-contextualized atavistic Peruvian folk songs from Sounds and Colours; time-warping toga-wearing pastiche from The Bongolian; more avant-garde Bowie imbibed and machinations trip-hop from Raf and O; bedroom recordings from David West; garage permutations from Os Noctàmbulos; grandiose alternative rock from Unkle Bob; and the Afro-Latin flavoured staccato summer pop indie single from the Yip Man Of Scotland.
Raf And O ‘Portal’
Sucked through a Portal into a parallel musical universe, the idiosyncratic London duo of Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith submerge the listener once again into their beguiling futuristic panorama. Re-imagining a world in which a Memory of a Free Festival arts lab and Gemini Spacecraft Bowie enmeshed with Portishead, Raf and O’s gothic and magical references are twisted to conjure up ominous visions, to a backing track of free-spirited avant-jazz drumming, trip-hop and contorted machine music.
Portal is where European storytelling, nee fairytales, meet the mechanics of a foreboding age: From the unnerving poetic siren evocations of the ‘Dream Machine’ to the abstract Sci-Fi cinematic kinetics of ‘Mona Lisa Smile II’, the duo combine lyrical lament with the cold resolve of technology.
Regular followers and Raf and O admirers will know that this is the duo’s second release in the past month, the precursor split Sonnet 62/Ink EP with burgeoning electronic music talent Robert Logan (who has previously remixed Dream Machine, and continues to work with the duo) was reviewed and featured by us in Tickling Our Fancy 035. Featuring two tracks from that release, the Shakespearean ‘Sonnet 62’ and Trans-European ‘Worms’, the album’s remaining rich tapestry of cerebral art school trip-hop reinforces Raf and O’s growing professionalism as musicians and songwriters.
Raf’s vocals tiptoe, linger and fluctuate between moods and eras: one minute lost in a Kubrick-esque baroque diorama, switching from esoteric Italian to plague originated nursery rhyme English, on ‘Drunk’, to channeling a smoky bar room Scott Walker vibe, on ‘Neurons’. Often unnerving yet always diaphanous and melodious, Raf’s voice is off-kilter and lilting throughout. The accent on certain lyrics and delivery is amorphous without being clumsy and messy, and showcases Raf’s range, which can be almost childlike in one song and like a thousand year old soul on another. O meanwhile interprets the lyricism with his own amorphous musicality. Never losing the pulse and beat, no matter how somnolent and airy, he provides a semblance, a trace, of a well-‘travailed’ pathway.
Paying homage once again to their biggest inspiration, David Bowie, the duo’s most magical moment on the album is a tribute to the great dame’s ‘plastic soul’ period ‘Win’. Fair play to them for their choice of song, the ballad from the ‘city of brotherly love’ Philadelphia soul incarnation Bowie period, can’t have been easy to cover. In my, and even in the staunch Bowie berating Lester Bang’s, opinion Young Americans is perhaps his finest jump and creative absorption, and ‘Win’ is one of its best tracks. The maverick soul ballad is a sophisticated adroit challenge, and Raf and O rise to it. Enervated of its soul swooning demur, the duo transforms the original into a beautifully melting, strung-out plucked love recital. Brilliantly shimmering with an affectionate, ruminating and heart-aching vocal, it is a signature kooky modern take, almost on par with the original: I love it.
Raf and O continue to grow, progressing with every release, pushing themselves into new directions. Portal is no exception, being both a chance to catch-up with missed tracks, released over the last couple of years, and a showcase for new material, the album cementing the partnership’s unique narratives and poetic views of a machine age and cybernetic world.
Various ‘Sonidos Raíces del Perú’
Released by Sounds and Colours
Premiered last month on the Monolith Cocktail, Psilosamples dreamy ‘Qoychuquy’ reinterpretation was an enchanting example of the reworked traditional Peruvian recordings project, Sonidos Raíces del Perú.
Conceived by the South American cultural news hub Sounds and Colours, this reimagined, contextualized window on Peru’s musical heritage features the original recordings of the nomadic French film-maker Vincent Moon, who toured the country in 2013; almost surreptitiously capturing for posterity the ancient voices and folk songs of the people. With varying degrees of manipulation, a contemporary assortment of Latin America’s leading electronic music artists/producers have turned these recordings into exotic and often mysterious peregrinations or, congruously coaxed them towards sauntering tropical beachfront dancefloors.
Already well-versed in the process, having reimagined sounds from Costa Rica on the SIBÖ collaboration – recently ‘revisiting’ their original and allowing a similar group of artists to remix it – Brazilian producer Sentidor (João Carvalho) and musical ethnologist Nillo (Johnny Gutierrez) lend a similar treatment to ‘Curanderos’. Creating an evocative enough atmosphere, the duo adds nuanced but busy beats, sympathetic tot the campfire burning atavistic lament of a weeping environment. Elsewhere Chilean producer El Sueño de la Casa Propia transduces a trio of Andean folk songs from the maestros of the genre, Jorge Choquihuillca and his family, on the echo-y, rasping, rustic-strung percussive ‘La Familia Choquihuillca’, and Argentinian wiz Panchasila, as the title suggests, gives the thousands of meters above sea level misty mountain songs of the past a resonating, space-y, dub echo on ‘Cariñito Dub’.
Though the wellspring source of rich material was only recorded a few years ago, in the hands of Latin America’s contemporary electronic music visionaries, these native Peruvian folk songs become esoteric; like voices from beyond the ether; a spiritual continuation, channeled through centuries of familiar lament, paean and offerings. Sounds and Colours go deeper into the South American continent than most, finding previously ignored or rare music and bringing it to life. This latest experiment is no different: opening up new musical collaborations and injecting a modern equivalent into the roots and traditions of Peru’s past.
The Bongolian ‘Moog Maximus’
Released by Blow Up Records, 5th August 2016
Crisscrossing timelines, travelling between re-imagined legendary music high point, the “Big Boss Man” Nasser Bouzida once again ignites the flux capacitor for another excursion. A back lot at the golden era of historical MGM epics; a fatalistic set from Westworld; or an Italian auteur filmmakers bongo mad club scene version of the ancient empire, we’re never quite sure of Bouzida’s Roman inspired intentions and inspirations.
After his roll neck existentialist mooning homage to the beatniks, the bongo maverick returns with an ennui pastiche-driven trip through countless musical genres. Leaving little to the imagination, each pun and wordplay suffixed track title leaves the listener in no doubt as to the parodied style or artistic tribute. However, perhaps the most amusing, ‘Jan Hammer Of The Gods’, is more Moroder Euro breakbeat than either signature Hammer 70s softened synth or 80s vaporized, dry iced soundtrack.
Moog Maximus, the fifth LP under The Bongolian moniker, as the title suggests is heavy on the “moog” and retro-futurism. But the “maximum” is on the volume of musical genres that our hand drums maestro can absorb and pump out with both reverence and a knowing wink. Afrobeat Kuti horns and hip-hop breakbeat sample standard drums herald the arrival of the toga-adorned maverick on the opening Caesar-saluting ‘Octavius’, before we’re whisked off and thrown down into the boogaloo Hammond soul-clap of 60s Mod London with ‘Googa Mama’. And so it goes on, The Bongolian time machine landing in aria Spaghetti Western territory on ‘Vatican Westworld’, 70s Amicus horror soundtrack schlock on ‘Boudicca Rides Again’, and leaping into the strange cartoon world of children’s TV on the Style Council meets Sesame Street kitsch ‘Kids Love Moog’.
Like Candido and The Incredible Bongo Band on acid or, the Go! Team at a Fellini celluloid nightspot, Moog Maximus is a frenzied, gratuitous bongo fueled gas.
David West ‘Peace Or Love’
Released by Tough Love, 5th August 2016
Languidly transducing his free and easy scraps of bedroom recordings into something resembling an album, the Pacific crossing maverick David West (based both in Australia and the USA) ties-down enough material to fashion eleven tracks for posterity on his latest release.
The follow-up to the Drop Out Of Collage cassette tape, Peace Or Love is a cornucopia of ideas, some fleeting others ambitious, delivered in the dreamiest, gauze-y obscured way. Using a collage of samples, jams and more thought-out song suggestions, West sometimes meanders into somnolence, yet also stumbles into more fertile pastures. His soft bulletins evoke a post-disco feel and groove on the funky keytar dance track, ‘Happiest Man In The Room’, and breezier, 99 Records meets Postcard ‘Au Contraire’. Somewhere between baggy indie and New Order, a synth pop 80s New York vibe is flittered with on the ‘heaven can’t wait’ poetic lilting ‘Dream On Dreamer’.
Purposely creating a lo-fi mood, West still hints at the bigger ideas. Strings, sampled I presume, can often be heard stirring throughout, lending either a plaintive note of mooning resignation or certain grandeur to proceedings. Vignettes such as ‘At Peace’ use them for a mixed emotional response: the title might suggest the comfort of death and this bears out in the instrumental which is itself a mournful and ambient noise collage that features strange scrambled flickers of something from beyond the earthly realm.
Shifting genres, ‘Do You Miss Me Around’, with its overloaded noise gate distortions, sounds like a stab at No Age, and the first of a three-act suite, ‘Darkness In My Heart’ has an air of Wolf Parade. Touches, no matter how slight, of Tim Goldsworthy, ESG, Archie Bronson Outfit ‘Chunk’ period, Young Marble Giants and even Cabaret Voltaire all seem to make an appearance. And with contributions from an axis of San Fran/LA/Perth friends and West’s various stints with the Red Columns, Liberation and Rank/Xerox to expand and inspire the musical horizons, Peace Or Love is filled with some interesting hybrids and possibilities.
Os Noctàmbulos ‘Strange’
Released by Stolen Body Records
Troubled by the tribulations, torments and ills of the modern world – but then apart from hedge fund investors, ISIS and Putin, who isn’t worried? – the Paris-based Os Noctàmbulos haven chosen to envelope their concerns in the Sundazed age of the garage band phenomenon. In the shadow of the Calico Wall, returning to the source, they funnel a mix of the Tex-Mex Hammond broody Outcasts, The New Breed and ? And The Mysterians, and the dirty country psych and blues of The Seeds, Syndicate of Sound and New Colony Six.
Following up a smattering of releases the four-piece return to Stolen Body Records for their second album, ‘Strange’. With renewed confidence – so the press release says – they bounce back with a mix of backbeat psych, acid country and an ever-present suffused organ swell. Skulking for ‘Changes’, rallying against ‘Medication’ or, sulking like teen creeps up to no good in the dead of night, lurking around in the crypt, on ‘Jodi Taught Me’, Os Noctàmbulos apply a hallucinatory lo fi veil to their raw and live kicking sound throughout.
Every generation finds something nuanced and different, mostly a result of the times they’re living in, to add to the beat and garage band blueprint. And with traces of both 80s revivalists The Gruesomes, and a group that started off all in paisley homage to the psych forbearers, The Stone Roses, the band find enough depth and space to offer their own unique take with Stranger. They also do it a lot better than most of the current bunch.
Unkle Bob ‘Maybe Mediocrity/ I Watched Your Heart’
Released by In Black Records
Taken from the recent mini-album The Deepest Seas, two finely crafted songs of blessed heartache from Unkle Bob. Formed in and around Glasgow University in 2006, the alternative college radio rock band has recently fallen into the orbit of the burgeoning Glasgow-based label In Black Records (Acting Strange, Mark McGowan). Currently doing the round so to speak, this duo of romantic-pranged numbers both start from similar stirring beginnings before reaching anthemic crescendos.
The idea that ‘Maybe Mediocrity’ is perhaps the only choice left for our protagonist, rather than face loneliness, the first of these songs has a lamenting sigh of resignation about it. Earnest folksy tones of Cat Stevens and delicate burnished swelling percussion make their way slowly like ships passing in the night towards a gentle finish. Poised and purposefully sad, ‘I Watched Your Heart’ pulls at the proverbial. A song of two halves, it begins with a plaintive piano opening before building up towards a higher register (almost weepy) Rick Webster vocal, backed by the momentum of a Elbow/Snow Patrol style march to the finish line.
Ambitious enough, with gravitas, these two examples from the current minor opus bode well for the future; a band at the peak of their maturity and professionalism.
Yip Man Of Scotland ‘For Your Own Good’
Released by Armellodie Records. Teaser from the upcoming Braw Power LP.
Hardly a celebration or joyous release of optimism, Al Nero as the barely disguised Yip Man of Scotland, has penned one of the most sauntering carnival pop songs of the summer. The grooviest of break-ups, pitched somewhere between Squeeze and A.J. & The Hackney Empire, ‘For Your Own Good’ is surprisingly bright and uplifting. Math-rock without the pretensions, Vampire Weekend without the Ivy League schmaltz, the Yip Man’s backbeat and staccato-like guitar riffs sound like an unlikely amalgamation of Scottish wit, African rhythms and South American jauntiness.
Reflecting this breezy, light-hearted song is a equally smile-inducing video or, if you prefer, you hunt the track down and buy it on Bandcamp. ‘For Your Own Good’ will also be on the forthcoming album, Braw Power, released later in the autumn.
Words: Dominic Valvona
HIP-HOP REVUE ROUNDUP
Words: Matt Oliver
In these troubled times of unprecedented political and social uncertainty, Rapture & Verse is here for you. Choice cuts and essential albums that wreck shit over Brexit. Mixtapes to make your mouth water. And news that Cam’Ron’s entrepreneurial spirit has told him to take on the toilet paper industry, Beastie Boys’ Mike D announcing his arrival in the man bag game, verbal ding dongs between Talib Kweli and Diabolic, then Joe Budden and Drake, and El-P inexplicably becoming a PokemonGo jump-off. Respect the below tweet of Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp upon the death of PM Dawn’s Prince Be, then look into the eyes of DJ Khaled. Now you’re good to go.
Jazz Cafe patrons will be getting bang for their buck throughout August, as The Beatnuts, Ty, Pharoahe Monch, The Underachievers and Slum Village all pass through, with KRS-One tapped up for a September show-stopper. Nas visits Bristol Academy to bring August to a conclusion, and Flatbush Zombies have September dates in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester. Marc Mac lays down his breaks and protest series of albums on a smart commemorative 10 year vinyl run, or you can plump for the Bad Boy 20th anniversary box set: five discs of prime Diddy jigginess.
Lifting you from the shadows, Darkhouse Family – Metabeats and Don Leisure – are indestructible on ‘Solid Gold’, 25 minutes worth of jazzy, live instrumentals to sink your ears into. There must be more to life than stereotypes, so Jack Spectacula and P739 get blustery on the ‘Stereotyped Street Poet’ EP: swagger able to sound a note of caution. Bleeding Burnley claret, Seek the Northerner’s ‘Extra Gravy’ lays it on thick with eight punchy tracks of, well, everything really: something for everyone, never giving less than 100%. With new album ‘Mirrors’ on the way, Elliot Fresh’s three track teaser pre-empts what should be a beats and rhymes bonanza, with ‘Rats’ running the early show.
A re-up of seminal cut-n-paste classic ‘Lesson 6’ from Cut Chemist in all its tutorial glory shows newbies a clean pair of needles: flunking this should be impossible. Will a single of Fudge be good enough until it’s time to eat? ‘In My Shoes’ is the team of Prefuse73 and Michael Christmas projecting wavy images that haven’t been tuned in properly, with Alex Mali providing caramel goodness on the hook. Surprisingly J Cutta’s ‘SOS (Summer of Sam)’ didn’t make the cut for the new Independence Day film: trap that sounds like it could wipe out the universe.
The AlliYance run a classic break and a ‘CREAM’ snippet to give up the good spit on ‘Seltzer Water’, and Mazzi & SOUL Purpose get busy on the punk-swatting, horn-and-drum uppercut ‘WYD’. Dropping science – and we mean proper, lecture theatre business – GZA’s ‘The Spark’ could well blow your mind if the psych guitar loop doesn’t get there first. Jonwayne shows perfect technique as master mic athlete on ‘Jump Shot’ while choirs capture the moment in suspended animation.
A double from the evergreen distinction of Sadat X, ahead of new album ‘Agua’, gets hands up on the Pete Rock-produced jangle ‘Freeze’, then sets the streets to saluting a second time on ‘Murder Soundtrack’.
With the great British summertime playing hooky, Ed Scissor and Lamplighter’s ‘Tell Them It’s Winter’ is a sobering trial by hip-hop when you can’t see the woods for the trees. Out by themselves on the normally boisterous High Focus roster, the album barely rises above a whisper and whose drear is in the detail. Throwing up more questions than answers, it’s an intriguingly created world of wisdom, paranoia, numbness and finding peace in its own mind.
Sonnyjim’s down-among-the-dead-men flow casually picks off opposition while going through his inventory of assets and gastronomic indulgences. That ‘Mud In My Malbec’ lives in a world of pretty rich funk with a touch of folk intrigue, only heightens the I-can-you-can’t experience. Grimy glamour from a wily operator that the average ear can’t handle. At the peak of obnoxiousness on ‘the gangumentary of the century’, Sleazy F Baby rocks an ‘All Blahk Tracksuit’ monogrammed with IDGAF, a one more posse threat overwhelming hazardously grubby beats.
“Verbalist journalist” Invokal gives his all on ‘Collaborations’, the Brighton rhymer passionately reporting every last word when closing the gap between fact and fiction. At home with both crashing backdrops and considered beats, his collection of team-ups goes from hip-hop to a musical medley. Theatrical, yet never one to take a dive. Two more perfect examples of a clear cut, UK sound next, with Broken Poetz’ ‘Soul Searching’ precisely holding it down between boom-bap margins, and ‘The Tone & Smyth Show’ by Tony D and Locksmyth giving a value for money performance with a touch of gloss.
The rugged wisdom of Ugly Heroes graduates from the school of hard knocks on ‘Everything in Between’, taking nothing for granted and taking pride in doing themselves and the game absolute justice. The generously curmudgeonly trio of Red Pill, Apollo Brown and Verbal Kent – alma mater motto: “self deprecator/doing haters a favour” – won’t bullshit you, safe in the knowledge that the cream will always rise to the top.
Walkman blasters Lessondary present ‘Ahead of Schedule’, pushing strength in numbers inside a snappy half hour set of true flavoured soul food. The industry-aware ‘The Art of Saying No’ scoops hook of the month as well, as likely to shush front rows as it to gee ‘em up. On a yellow shade of mellow, Vritra’s ‘’Yellowing’ is the former Pyramid schemer blending ATL and LA scenes into a left of centre drowse, tricky to solve like a greasy Rubik’s Cube. Lo-fi, hi-tech hip-hop in its own zone, for dark, sticky sessions with enhancements to hand. Ill Bill is back on the butchers block with ‘Septagram’, a swift half hour hatchet job that still leaves plenty of time to pledge eternal damnation. Favoured goons Q-Unique, Goretex and Slaine help oversee the ritual of heavy metal hip-hop spun with celestial malevolence.
Long drive ahead? On foot through the streets? On a mission? Keep Jewels Hunter’s ‘Footnotes of a Jewels Hunter’ within reach. Out of Seattle, jazzy angles get worked over before powerful bursts make statements that don’t shirk responsibility. On the graveyard shift but getting by with woozy keys and velvet, star-wishing vibes, Yogisoul’s ‘By Nights’ is very much pro-neo, with emcees adding moonlight spit and crackle to keep you from drifting. Sunup/sundown hip-hop, pouring nightcaps the right way.
A double header of boom bap karate chops from Manchester’s Matt Kuartz ensures ‘A Little Samurai Soul’ goes a long way to satisfying your instrumental itches. Big beats, luscious licks, no tricks, disciplined to bruise and bless your boombox. Disciples of alt-hop troublemakers New Kingdom have Mongrels duo Kid Acne and Benjamin to thank for throwing down a 20th anniversary mix of the NY crew’s wild ride ‘Paradise Don’t Come Cheap’. Did we mention the changeable nature of the weather? Leave it to Jazzy Jeff and MICK, the sundance that is ‘Summertime vol. 7’ welcoming everyone from Norah Jones to Nas, Eric Clapton to Birdman, 50 Cent to Hall and Oates. Simply laid out all in a row and well up for guilty pleasures, the names speak for themselves.
This month’s easiness on the eye: Fliptrix, Durrty Goodz, RA the Rugged Man, Chillman and Dabbla.
July 11, 2016
New Music Review Roundup
Words: Dominic Valvona
Tickling Our Fancy 036: Bringing you the most eclectic of music roundups the Monolith Cocktail trawls the perimeters for the most interesting, sublime, obscure and mesmerizing sounds to bring you another polygenesis installment of the ‘Tickling Our Fancy’ revue. We have a double bill of Spanish releases from the world music label ARC, dystopian leftfield hip-hop from Ed Scissor & Lamplighter, a crooning ambient backlit opus from The Fiction Aisle, a reprised version of Die Krupps original metal machine requiem, and a cult favorite from the UK’s 80s post punk scene; The Tempest’s 5 Against The House.
Ed Scissor & Lamplighter ‘Tell Them It’s Winter’
Released by High Focus Records, July 15th 2016
Emerging damaged and deeply troubled from the miasma underbelly of modern life, the congruous leftfield hip-hop partnership of wordsmith Ed Scissor and Glasgow-based producer Lamplighter convey a sad poetic beauty in their dystopian visions. Much has been made of the duo’s caustic, and at times nihilistic, articulations and augurs. And their latest remote collaboration – the duo rarely share the same room as each other during the writing/recording process – Tell Them It’s Winter does explore familiar morbid curiosities, both musically and lyrically.
Yet, despite the travails, despite the gloom and all too real drudgery of an algorithm-driven society, Ed and his Lamplighter foil offer glimmers of light. Reminding us constantly of the universal infinite, Ed describes forces beyond the mundane. References to astrology, metaphysics and science flow like relentless streams of consciousness from Ed’s lips in a delivery style that shifts between rap, spoken word and, even, grime. Abstract elements of hip-hop and trip-hop mix seamlessly with the Shakespearean and biblical to produce the poetry, whilst tetchy minimal electronica and slow methodical beats layered over cLOUDDEAD expansive atmospheres and traces of neo-classical strings and looped recordings of old scratchy records create the backdrop to Ed’s winter of discontent.
Each track is free of demarcation and often floats off on different pathways before returning to focus once again on the central mood. There’s no room for prowess and flexing, Ed’s verses constructing a framework of unflinching honesty. Cormac McCarthy and Winterfell metaphors aside (the critics consensus analogies and reference points it seems for this album), the impending Machiavellian horsemen of doom bolted a long time ago. Tell Them It’s Winter is, if anything, a reminder that nothing has changed and that the central tenets of human suffrage carry on unabated in the 21st century.
The Tempest ‘5 Against The House’
Released by Optic Nerve Recordings
Shining in a phosphorus light for only a short time before burning out, the Northampton post-punk band The Tempest lasted for just over a year in the early 80s. Remembered more for their future connections – founding members Mark Refoy joining both the Spaceman 3 and splinter cell Spiritualised, and Alex Novak joining Attrition and Venus Fly Trap – The Tempest’s band members did manage to create a critically lauded LP in 1984, the reappraisal of which is heralded by this reissue. Available both on vinyl – a fetching limited edition on blue and white splattered vinyl with a suitable Sci-fi pop culture illustration from the band’s Novak – and CD, complete with an additional trio of non-album bonuses, 5 Against The House is both of irresistibly its time yet unique in traversing punk, Goth, drone and in ushering the twilight approach of shoegaze.
With hints of a late The Damned, Killing Joke and fellow Northampton skulkers Bauhaus, the group’s rattling rim-shot rhythms, brooding angulated and contorted rapid fire guitars and solar wind chilled breezes give the alternative indie template a thrashing. However, that’s only half the story, because the quality and spark which first brought the band to the attention of John Peel and Kid Jensen was the spikey bounce and aloof prowling pop of songs such as ‘Montezuma’ and ‘Lady Left This’, both singles which drew favourable reviews and entered the indie charts. After hearing them on Radio 1’s Roundtable show, Steve Strange, in an overly complimentary mood, anointed them and declared, “This is the sound of 1984.” If Strange heard the band’s ‘Blame It On The Breeze’ then he’d recognize a passing resemblance to a twisted Gothic twanged version of his own Visage sound.
Inspired by the polygenesis spirit of the times, The Tempest integrate A Certain Ratio and Blurt style white funk and jazz on the extended bonus instrumental ‘ABC’, and pay an avant-garde 1920s marimba homage to the siren of the silver screen, ‘Clara Bow’.
Failing to even see out the release of the debut, and band’s only LP for obvious reasons, The Tempest split far too soon. The only clue to how they may have evolved manifested on their future collaborations and performances.
The Fiction Aisle ‘Fuchsia Days’
Released by Chord Orchard, July 17th 2016
Still crooning the same unrequited dramas in the Bacharach/Sinatra/Hawley tones, Thomas White as The Fiction Aisle has however moved on from the plaintive sumptuous orchestral suites of his last epic Heart Map Rubric for something more explorative. Inspired in part by the ambient panoramic sweeps and mood pieces of Eno, White’s smooth longing timbre lingers palatial style over a series of expansive soundtracks on his latest epic, Fuchsia Days.
A musical polymath on the Brighton scene, used to adapting new sounds, White has successfully shifted between the enervated halcyon psych of the Electric Soft Parade and the rambunctious indie/alternative country rock of the Brakes, to hone a solo career as a wry and weary romantic crooner.
Wistfully, lilting, occupying the same sentiments and musical ground as Robert Wyatt’s Cuckooland and Paddy McAloon’s I Trawl The Megahertz, Fuchsia Days, despite its often-lamentable themes, allows White’s vocals to wander meditatively. On the stirring suffused, Spiritualised heaven bound, ‘Tonight’ and the cinematic minor opus title track his voice disappears completely; emotion and heartbreak described instead by the subtle instrumental layers of gradual release.
Though imbued with his new ambient settings, White still repeats the melodic traces of McCartney, and occasionally Harrison; especially with the underplayed romance, but less cynical heartbreaker ‘The Dream’: a real tear-jerker that you could imagine being penned by a Sunflower/Friends era Bruce Johnston. And on the universal encapsulated opener ‘Dust’, there are reverberations of both ELO and Queen’s vocal effects.
There’s nothing to pine over, no regrets, White’s latest vessel still channels the same balladry emotions and concerns. The songwriting has just been given more space to breathe; flowing, fluctuating and lulling over sweeping romantic and sometime elegiac organ evoked maladies to capture age-old woes and boons. Another successful transition from White.
Ana Alcaide ‘Leyenda’
Vigüela ‘Temperamento: Traditional Songs From Spain’
Released by ARC Music
Delivered recently through the Monolith Cocktail letterbox, a duo of illuminating Spanish discoveries from the ‘devoted’ world music label ARC Music has proved particularly beguiling. Though our tastes, as regular readers will be aware, are incredibly diverse, the modern Celtic pop and balladry take on Spanish tradition found on the latest LP by Toledo enchantress Ana Alcaide, isn’t usually something we’d find especially appealing; unless there was something special about it of course. But despite the sometimes commercially, almost Eurovision, overtones, there is a real depth to the Alcaide’s Leyenda album that borders on the exotic and esoteric. It has that special glimmer and quality which lifts it above the mediocrity and stereotype of those Celtic reverberations.
This is an ambitious album with some lyrical but serious intentions: Alcaide setting out to explore and understand ‘the ancient world of the feminine that has passed down through the generations but we have lost touch with’. A highly personal suite of twelve ballads, laments and paeans, Leyenda uses legends and myths as metaphors on femininity or, rather how the female role as goddess and earthly authority was lost through the ages. Often magical, inhabiting a dream world state, Alcaide is nevertheless, as she puts it, creating ‘…a modern image of the magic world, avoiding the classical ‘fairy tale’ look’.
And so we set off on a fantastical meditation through the atavistic imagined ‘mother Earth’ of Mexican mythology on the opening ‘Tlalli’. A gentle introduction, Alcaide’s lilting vocals drift on the Central American jungle breezes as a wooden flute, birdsong and lush rain-soaked atmospherics build a suitable picture postcard from the region. From Mexico to China next, though played with a Spanish and gypsy flair, Alcaide recounts the end of matriarchy itself, with the tale of Luolaien and her jealous fiancé. From the legends of the Deang Dynasty, this all-too obvious analogy sees the fatalistic goddess’ wings clipped, forever tied-down and restricted.
There’s no mistaking the Spanish heritage, Alcaide a native of Toledo, both musically and in the choice of source material. ‘La Ondina de Vacares’ is an ode to the fabled water spirits, the Undines, of Granada’s Lake Vacares. A riff on the sirens of ancient Greece, these miscreant creatures transformed from birds into altogether more seductive propositions, intent on enticing their prey to a watery death. ‘La Mujer Muerta’ is a more romantic tale (again) fatalism, the victim of a sword fight between love rival brothers, the ‘beautiful Blanca’s’ lifeless body reclines to give shape and a name to the Guadarrama mountain ranges; a sorrow and yet gravitas of awe given a wistful, melodramatic song. Whatever the outcome, each of the female protagonists and objects of desire usually lure or fall victim to the patriarch of their ire, except in the case of the bridge-builder tale ‘El Puente de San Martín’, where the wife of the builder makes a sacrifice out of love for her husband, and the ‘Folía de la Primavera’, a more ‘joyous’ instrumental to springtime.
Inspired in part by Alcaide’s adoption of the Swedish folk instrument, the nyckelharpa, its dulcet plucked and ringing tones can be heard throughout, lending an almost Medieval sound to the Western European backing track. But then there are also allusions to further afield influences, with a touch of Muslim Spain on the dusky Arabian flavoured ‘El Puente de San Martín’, and echoes of Japan on the plaintive themed ‘Kari Kalas’.
Countless woes are delivered with enchanting grace; Alcaide’s voice both floating surreptitiously and lushly through a real and imaginary timeline swoons sonorously, giving a fantastical voice to her cast of nymphs, spirits, and demigods and duck footed oddities.
The second ARC album is again inspired by Spain’s folktales and traditions but musically stays confined to the borders, true to the country’s heritage of cultural preservation. Vigüela’s Temperamento is imbued by the group’s hometown of El Carpio de Tajo and its autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha’s connections to one of the country’s greatest novels, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. The birthplace of that worthy tome’s author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the area is also home to the town of Toledo, the real feet-on-the-ground home of Ana Alcaide. Whereas Alcaide dwelled in various fantasies and imaginary worlds, Vigüela reconnected to the arable fields of Spain’s agricultural past.
Earnestly translating the rural heartlands with an 18-song collection of both impassioned homages and resigned laments, the assiduous quintet put their own personal distinctive mark on songs from the great Spanish songbook. Reverential throughout, with commendable articulate performances, Temperamento is as much about education as entertainment. The album’s accompanying booklet offers a wealth of context, historically, geographically, culturally and thematically explaining each song’s provenance. Delivered vocally with the most humbled and toiled vocals, each of the band’s highly-talented musical partisans is equally capable of stirring up images of the brow-beaten oppressed and working classes sweating out a living under the relentless sweltering Spanish sun. Combining a number of phonetically poetic, accented vocal styles, Vigüela sound impressive; especially when using melismatic melodies – a style in which several notes are sung to one syllable.
Familiar instrumental signatures such as the lute, castanets and guitar are accompanied by a omnivorous choice of percussion; the band literally including all the utensils from but not including the kitchen sink. Whether it’s shaking olive trees for the Gañana style paean to the olive harvesters on ‘A la Acceituna Temprano’ or, the crackling birch fire that accompanies the lone fatalistic voice of the group’s Mari Nieto on the festive Sones style ‘Di, Dianna’, Vigüela bring the experiences and environments of their subjects to life.
Covering more or less every square inch of Spain’s rural folk, there are Fandangos, Seguidillas and a Jota to the lyrical suffering of ill fated and rebuked love trysts, cowgirls, sick of the enamored attentions of the local men, and even an ode to the shearers of mules, donkeys and sheep – a lost art it seems.
Though indebted to tradition, with a sound steeped in generational ties, linked intrinsically to the land, the group plays with conventions, changing, manipulating those root musical styles with free passages, additional lyrics and polyrhythmic tweaks. The past ain’t quite what it used to be.
Die Krupps ‘Stahlwerksrequiem’
Released by Bureau B
No stranger to incubating some of German music’s most innovative and revolutionary artists, lending its industrial cityscape to a host of Kosmiche and Krautrock doyens, Düsseldorf would however, have to wait until 1981 to receive a soundtrack that reflected its darker recesses. Dinger and Rother had immortalized the city with a motorik but pastoral transcendence, and Kraftwerk had composed a grand utopian synthesized symphony to the machine, but the Die Krupps trio of natives Jürgen Engler, Bernward Malaka and Ralf Dörper would create something hewn from the frightening abandoned ‘stahlwerks’.
Progenitors in a sense, certainly one of the first to recognize it, Die Krupps helped coin industrial rock with their original Stahlwerksinfonie suite. Uncompromising, stalking its listeners with a mangled squeal and skulk of unwieldy guitar, wails, shouts and a monotonic bassline, the trios intentions were at the time, highly ambitious. Reinventing the (steel) wheel, aiming to create something different, they sounded to all intents and purposes like a natural successor or, an extension, of the Komsiche/Krautrock brand. Yet their original inspiration was not Krautrock but Lou Reed’s infamous Metal Machine Music album. Even though they recorded at Can’s Inner Space sanctum, Die Krupps were unfamiliar with the previous generation’s explorations. Since that album’s release, the group has done its homework, in particular, finding common ground with the earliest work of Cluster.
A reprise this time around, featuring some of those Krautrock legends, and from the Düsseldorf punk and techno eras, Pryolator (who recently released a reconstructive collection of the late Conrad Schnitzler library tapes), Engler and Dörper are joined by a Bureau B label super group. Featuring a litany of artists from the German label, there’s Guru Guru’s mischievous founder and drumming pioneer Mani Neumeier and the inimitable heavy drum and bass partnership of Faust’s Jean-Hervé Peron and Zappi Diermaier helping to enrich and add an extra layer of sonorous menace and pants shitting doom to proceedings.
A moiety of two acts, the reprise Stahlwerkrequiem skulks around an abandoned industrial space once more. In a caustic swell of steel-mesh flayed percussion, continues wild unruly gnarling guitar and Gothic resonance, a steady prowling bass line and stoic drumming, the factory requiem growls through a miasma of Faust’s misdeeds, Bauhaus, Wender’s captured steals of Cave and the Bad Seeds during the Berlin years with Crime And The City Solution and countless other unsettling musical furors into the abysses – all we’re missing is the Baroque horror baritone of Scott Walker.
The monotony of the bass and drums anchors the serialism of the unkempt guitar solo that drives on relentlessly, until a beam of cosmic light shines down on the gloom and whips up a suitable crescendo of zapping rays before disappearing in a Lovecraft vortex.
Minus Peron and Diermaier, the second act continues to inhabit the same space, only there’s a brighter, cleaner sound and production this time. Cymbals shake and shimmer rather than prick the sensibilities, and the metallic sheet panel beat is far more hypnotic. Less hostile and grueling, the Die Krupps and extended Krautrock ensemble return full circle to the Cluster inspired ‘Live in der Fabrik’. Intense, every inch of space filled with an atmosphere of industrial psychogeography, the requiem sounds like an antidote to the optimistic confident celebration of the machine and technological age, as pioneered by Kraftwerk.
July 5, 2016
Words: Ayfer Simms
Melody Parker ‘Archipelago’
The musicians behind Melody Parker form an orchestra unique for each track; kindling the day with its bright and dense aura. The early morning sun burns the dusty tarmac; the city, the village, the town, the burg wakes up in style.
Brightness. Parker is lavishly and eloquently crushing everything on her way on that empty street, with the weight of that voice, songs and lyrics she composes with brilliancy.
Festivity and pleasure exude from the album.
She is love, witty and vast and vintage, the songs are old school at times, sensual, jazzy, and ethnic always followed by a voluptuous orchestra fiercely loyal and discreet, with multiple personalities cohabiting peacefully and passionately. With this song it’s Europe, a bit of accordion pre-war style, the gents are having their last drink buried in humid velvety round arms. Then, with that song it’s post war and the same music plays, the uniforms are damaged; eyes are cloudy and melancholic. And the music spins.
Other tracks are busy fluttering near oceans, under Hawaiian bells and a choral that rocks the mood, gentle, sunny, heated.
The music will not let a label stick to its skin, the wiggle of the compassionate and yet wild snake will flee as soon as you do, but come back from a warm embrace.
She is on a Broadway stage, running in an alley hopping with her generous music.
She is her own light in an explosion of comforting notes.
She is joy, brightness and quirkiness.
To kindle any day, we must listen to her.
Welcome to the second of our 2016 quarterly playlists; a chance to catch up on the last three months of posts and features on the Monolith Cocktail. We got everything, from polygenesis New York sass and funk, done Columbian style by the M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, to the return of the menacing augers of doom Radiohead. There’s Afro-Haitian vibes from Tony Allen and the Hispaniola Island’s best musicians alongside the all the best new Hip-hop cuts from Mr. Lif, Apathy and Danny Brown, and a wealth of folk, progressive, psychedelic, Krautrock, jazz and troubadour magic from Melt Yourself Down, Raf and O, Vukovar, Cate Le Bon, Spain and Mick Harvey.
Florian Pellissier Quintet ‘Cap de Bonne Esperance’
Radiohead ‘Burn The Witch’
PJ Harvey ‘The Ministry Of Defence’
Orchestra Of Spheres ‘Trapdoors’
Acting Strange ‘Sharp End’
Cate Le Bon ‘Wonderful’
Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut ‘Goggles’
The Orielles ‘John’
The Velvet Hands ‘Trains’
Melt Yourself Down ‘Dot To Dot’
Star Parks ‘Theoretical Girls’
Mianka Cultural Troupe ‘Apolo’
El Sueno de la Casa Propia ‘La Famillia Choquihuillca’
June 27, 2016
Skylab 3 ‘View From Above’
Released by Babygrande 10th June 2016
A cursory search engine check on the whens and whys of producer Ben Frascina reaches logical conclusions. Taking his name from the second manned mission to the American space station in the 1970s, ergo Skylab 3’s A View From Above is gonna get on some tin can business recounting the three cosmonauts looking down at God’s own marble. The fact that it’s released on Babygrande however – traditionally a hip-hop hotbed, so this is more Kasim Keto than Outer Space – and recorded in Sheffield and Cardiff, are variables enough that this particular mission isn’t as cut and dried as first thought.
When on the fringes of hip-hop instrumentalism without taking into the realm of cloud rap, many a space cadet would do well to practise their interstellar couplets for the right to take over the likes of ‘Everything Under the Sun’, the 8-bit gnarls bearing in mind Skylab’s recent remix of Cannibal Ox’s ‘Iron Rose’. While the prime objective of A View From Above is to comfort you for the long journey of re-entry (‘Dying Afternoon Light’ deals in beautiful vastness and dreams of golden sands), there’s a tiny bit of discomfort and mental debris niggling away in the back of Frascina’s locker. Without overdoing the space travel shtick, it’s akin to adjusting to life back on Earth. Flashbacks and gentle aftershocks come and go in its own, measured version of PTSD, extending into the occasionally abrupt conclusions to tracks that bolt upright from the verge of rest. ‘Forty Thousand Winks’ isn’t the most comfortable of naps as is advertised. ‘Rosetta’ conflicts with drifts of Bollywood entering the subconscious, and a simple piano line on ‘Swarm Intelligence’ is enough to enable an engagement of turbulence.
The passage between electronic comfort – big, arcing synths, wondrous atmospheres, ambling tempos – and causes of concern – stocky beats, blurred realities, undercuts of interference – has no particular chronology. Whatever Frascina’s coordinates, the environments he crosses are rarely vacant, ranging from glistening in high definition to grittily terrained, as much for background accompaniment as dedicated investment of the senses, falling into the parallel brand of chillout where it’s best listened to at loud volume with the windows open. In attempting two of electronica’s most well-worn themes in space and relaxation, and without diving headfirst into the stock library of NASA samples, A View From Above gets in and around the space traveller’s helmet to become a very accessible listen. The basics in chillout and after hours listening are there for all to hear; but with the Balearics never knowingly undersold on downtempo assistance, this’ll do the business below the stars.
June 23, 2016
Words: Dominic Valvona
Inspired and finding it far more fun than he originally envisaged, Mick Harvey’s 90s English translations of the louche coffee society genius of wit, salacious and often dark humoured song, Serge Gainsbourg, were given a new lease of life in 2014. To coincide with the anniversary of the bawdry polymath’s birth, Harvey’s moiety of homages, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants were re-issued and followed up with a small number of select live shows in Australia and Europe (including shows at Primavera and London’s Union Chapel).
Invigorated by this return to the back catalogue, the one-time Bad Seed and his present congruous band mates, which include the assiduous multi-instrumentalist J.P. Shilo and the no-less talented Glen Lewis and Hugo Cran, set up camp in Harvey’s Melbourne base of operations to record another two volumes of Gainsbourg prose.
To be released a few months apart, Volume 4: Intoxicated Women, as the title may suggest, will be an all-female tribune with half a dozen vocalists channelling Gainsbourg’s various ‘put-upon’ subjects of both reciprocated and unreciprocated desire. Whilst Volume 3: Delirium Tremens pulls together lesser known, and sometimes forgotten, singles and album tracks, five of which are from the 1967 TV special Anna: starring the Danish actress and for a few years during the 60s, the wife and muse of French cinema auteur Jean-Luc Godard, Hanne Karin Bayer, who adopted the Anna Karina persona and lent her vocals to the accompanying Gainsbourg soundtrack.
Using a familiar set up as before but with the luling, la la tones of both Xanthe Waite and Harvey’s wife Katy Beale stepping in for previous femme fatale Anita Lane, as the Gainsbourg muses Karina and Jane Birkin. Recalled for the various string arrangements, Bertrand Burgalat once again adds a certain orchestral elegance and gravitas to proceedings.
And so the timpani rolls, the chamber pop choruses chime with despondent resignation and the inebriated waltz of spiralling contempt is once more suffocating. Harvey’s often dry burr and creepy, verging on a voyeuristic Jarvis Cocker hiding in the wardrobe levels of sinister, narration is in fine fettle; beginning with the opening Gauloises smoked baritone sung minor requiem ‘L’homme à Tête De Chou’ (‘The Man with The Cabbage Head’). Taken from the concept album of the same name, this typical tale of an older lothario protagonist goofing after a ‘free-minded’ younger object of passion more or less sums up Gainsbourg’s pursuits, and continued his fascination during the 70s for producing these kinds of concept-based thematic projects.
And like many of those records, which Harvey translates on this collection, they left their audience at the time dumbfounded and confused, selling few copies, though critically well received in later years. Despite those carnal declarations of undying love, Gainsbourg was often cynical and enjoyed goading his pubic. Another of the concept epoch albums, Rock Around The Bunker, was Gainsbourg’s very own Springtime For Hitler. Dealing with his childhood memories, both real and vividly imagined, growing up under the jackboot of the Nazis, this theatrical dark comedy played on Gainsbourg Jewish ancestry. Far from shying away, Gainsbourg penned a series of satirised bombastic anthem piss-takes. Harvey has chosen to take on one of the album’s most hellish gratuitous stomps, ‘Est-ce Est-ce Si Bon’ (‘SS C’est Bon’). Menacing, even sneered, with a ridiculous accompaniment of the nationalistic anthem and black leather SS parade shtick, Harvey drives home the caustic wit.
Far less decadently morose and daunting, there’s a number of earlier singles from the late 50s and early 60s period. Harvey wearily whirls and staggers with a certain flair to an enervated jazz rhumba on his version of the title track ‘Ce Mortel Ennui’ (‘Deadly Tedium’), and in a hushed tone does his best to raise his head from a lovers hangover on the jaunty ‘Couleur Café’ (‘Coffee Colour’). There’s also a pumped outlaw country version of the 1967 classic prisoner’s lament ‘Chanson de Forcat’ (‘The Convict Song’) to look forward to: a particular highlight of the album for me.
From the televised Anna special and soundtrack, Harvey has chosen a quintet of romanticised and resigned paeans, laments and elegies. Though already providing a wistful, sometimes-coquettish pop sigh, to a number of the previous tracks, Xanthe Waite now takes leads or duets with Harvey. There’s belle époque chanteuse heartache on ‘Un Jour Comme Un Autre’ (‘A Day Like Any Other’), and a lingering trace of ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’ on ‘De Plus en Plus De Moins en Moins’ (‘More and More, Less and Less’). And the enchanting ‘Ne Dis Rien’ (‘Don’t Say A Thing’) defies the wry wit and cynicism of most Gainsbourg material for heartfelt declarations of adoration.
Harvey performs the final duet with his wife Katy, standing in for Gainsbourg’s English muse Birkin, on ‘La Décadanse’ (‘The Decadence’). You could imagine billowing white gauzy curtains blowing, as the two lovers drift together to embrace only to reject each other on this stirring waltz style ballad. It is a wonderfully romanticised closer, handled with a steady dose of reverence and fun, like most of the album. Though some fans of the French maverick won’t be so enamoured by this treatment, let alone the English translations, Harvey and his collaborators have reinterpreted Gainsbourg into something both accessible and joyful. Pitched somewhere between The Divine Comedy and The Bad Seeds, but with an idiosyncratic Gaelic shrug, this latest volume in the Gainsbourg works is magnifique.
HIP HOP ROUNDUP
Words: Matt Oliver
Rapture & Verse usually prides itself on disseminating game-changing fact and bringing you the news that matters…but really there are only two places to start this month: Pusha T reportedly being the mastermind behind that shit-eating grin of a jingle known as McDonalds’ ‘I’m Loving It’ catchphrase (this, in the same month he dropped ‘Drug Dealers Anonymous’ with Jay-Z); and Posh Spice’s Roc-a-Fella project, once thought to be just a bad dream featuring ODB and MoP, finding its way online. Listen to it? We’d have been out of our mind.
Big names in the big smoke and beyond are incoming: Illa J takes guard at Birthdays to open up July, and Oddisee can be found at The Garage and Birmingham’s O2 at the end of this month, stopping off in Brighton, Glastonbury and Oxford the month after. Hopsin will be spilling his ill mind all over Brixton and Manchester mid-July, Dilated Peoples make The Jazz Café their expansion team on a July Tuesday; and a little way down the line, Pete Rock & CL Smooth commemorate 25 years of giving the game their own silky touch with a special Highbury show in September. Quick mention also for a vinyl reissue of Aim’s ‘Cold Water Music’, the watershed Grand Central beats and rhymes classic, giving this column the excuse to feature its favourite blood curdling boom bapper.
In the thick of battle, Ill Move Sporadic & Tenchoo blow the doors off ‘Panic Room 9’, a combative eight tracks that includes their airwaves-aggravating collabo with Sleaford Mods. On ‘Life as a Simpleton’, Moraless is much wiser than the title lets on, revelling in keeping tabs on life from afar. A safe quintet, in no small part to Hezit’s wily, drizzly production. Aidan Coker proves he has something to add on ‘Nothing New’, dictating rays of fine clarity over suffocating trap beats, while Durrty Goodz’ ‘Organise’ drops it a notch and comes well prepared with methodical reasoning.
Regardless of whether they’ll extend the life of your washing machine, Granville Sessions knock out a banger fusing a Glasgow Kiss with a Chelsea Smile – ‘Calgon Sunrise’ takes lumps out of noggins. As Endemic does one of his soul drops from a great height, Oliver Truffe aims to leave opposition choking on his fumes on ‘Chequered Flags’. Up close and personal, Dizraeli strips back to mic and acoustic guitar for the intimate invitation to ‘Eat My Camera’, a six-track performance flirting with folk and this summer’s back tent schedule.
Clipping’s new EP is called ‘Wriggle’. ‘Spasm’ or ‘convulsion’ is nearer the mark for their LA methods of getting under the skin. A five-for of funk from Bop Alloy – Marcus D on beats and Substantial on the mic – gives the gift of the ‘Present’ EP, getting golden in Virginia. Killer Ben’s rhyme spree driven by Twizz the Beatpro, makes ‘Invincible Ben’ an authority playing hardball across eight innings. Red Venom’s latest injection of Manchester poison reels in Daddy Kruger and Bobby Steele to ‘Take A Shot’ of 100 proof of pavement pounding. Once guzzled, observe Reks’ ‘The Recipe’, giving you a well cooked pound of stodge with Nottz conducting street orchestras, but do not cross John Reilly in the corridor or cafeteria. The flavoursome ‘Bully Pulpit’, featuring Rich Quick and funked by Rediculus, is well up for stuffing the game into a locker.
“Everybody wanna rap, but nobody wanna work” – the opening line to Apathy’s ‘Handshakes With Snakes’. The moment Ap stops giving his all and kicking up a stink, we can all go home, and his latest cobra clutch, an anti-pop, pro-Peanuts show-n-prove, overflows with knuckle-breaking punchlines and talk-it-while-I-live-it rhetoric. ‘No Such Thing’ has got frat parties locked for the next 100 years as well.
The inimitable performance of Homeboy Sandman, on the fairly pertinently-titled ‘Kindness for Weakness’, is full of verbal lolls, bolt upright enthusiasm and cynicism, and a swiftness of tongue banded between the two. His favourite topics of relationships and how to conduct yourself in whatever situation, come through a real criss-cross of beats taken forward by Paul White, RJD2, Edan, Jonwayne and Until the Ribbon Breaks. The mystique and legend deepens. Or whatever.
The beats of Morriarchi reside just above the doldrums but are anything but repellent. ‘Buggzville Sessions’ is perfect for a bunch of pests like Bisk, Stinkin Slumrock, Joe Dirt and Black Josh to dart around. ‘Miverione’ has Kyza, the “real life black Victor Meldrew’, still spitting fire and smoking lugholes like he’s lighting rounds of premium reserve Smirnoff.
The cut and run of Jon Phonics skitters and shimmers in and around hip-hop’s borders. ‘Letters to Home’ sizes up the club and dents R&B gloss at various tempos, through Phonics’ own doing and with Dirty Dike, M9 and Lee Scott digging their mics in. The thrill and rush of the future, with hip-hop dirt under its fingernails. Inviting a whole bunch of emcees around his turntable, Jabba Tha Kut’s ‘Fingertip Music’ hardly boasts a lightness of touch. Steady supplying weight for the likes of Emcee Killa, Dizzy Dustin, Soloman Gehazi and a string of talent to sling into a search engine, there remains plenty of opportunity to leave tone arms tortured.
This month’s mic-less maestros are deep. Or rather, Deep, an NYC instrumentalist whose ‘Bushwick Beatfeed’ piles high drums and loops for your ears and neck to get greedy with. The same goes for London’s Sleepless, who as his name suggests, works on the drowsier side of things. ‘Progression’ is a good source of chilled flavours to come alive to around midnight or come round to the next morning. The travels of 9th Wonder towards ‘Zion’ takes 36 small steps in MPC-heavy creaminess. Where thumping pads glisten with dewy TLC and feathered soul reigns supreme, it’s a finely tuned blend of the buttery, smack bang in the middle of the head nodder’s realm.
Lessondary, the many manned crew including members of Tanya Morgan in a network of emcees and producers, have got an LP coming soon. DJ Low Key preps the event with ‘Never 2ndary’, a pretty indispensable stockpiling of the group’s previous appearances across the board. Conscious, cool and also ready to cock back, it’s a great place to start and spoil your appetite with.
If Benetton did mixtapes, Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ would be the billboard head turner. Ever closer to mainstream domination and Kanye’s crown, his gospel singalongs and afterhours wisdom both ignite and simmer down a colourful and cosmopolitan volume that’s really a full blown album. Bishop Nehru’s ‘Magic 19’ has just the touch, expressively stepping over trap trudges and glossy sheens ahead of a new album – if the beats aren’t much to write home about, the response will be he can rock any style offered. Nowt weird about Oddisee’s ‘The Odd Tape’, jazzy downtime designed for the finer things in life. Hire yourself a grape feeder to get the most out of 12 instrumentals gently massaging your scalp region.
From grape feeding to melon twisting, The Last Skeptik offers you out again on ‘Your Beat Tape Sucks Volume 2’, a dope 10 track array of synth stings and funky things. The Underachievers’ ‘It Happened in Flatbush’ flat-track bullies 30 minutes of trap, crucially never found out of earshot on a proper wig splitter. For when your BBQ gets boozy and you need a garden-to-club conversion, LA’s Caspa & B hold the deeds for energetic, rowdy, R&B-buffed, 63 track (!) bump and grind – ‘Charge Up!’ will turn elbows into weapons, stat. When a ‘Refresher Course’ becomes an intensive West Coast cram session, Ras Kass piles up guest spots, favourites and such, keeping it thorough with a new album in his sights.
See EV Zepplin get lost in the toxins, Danny Brown’s weather forecast, and the redemption of Ugly Heroes.
June 15, 2016
NEW MUSIC REVIEW ROUNDUP
Words: Dominic Valvona
Welcome to another edition of ‘Tickling Our Fancy’, the polygenesis roundup of the most interesting, sometimes obscure, new releases. You’ll find Swizz psychedelic adventures from Lord Kesseli And the Drums, a triptych of ambient and electronica from Renu, a Haiti and Afrobeat collaborative project steered by the legendary Tony Allen, and the latest avant-garde sonic adventures, a split collaboration EP with Robert Logan, from Raf And O.
Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra ‘A.H.E.O’
LP released by Glitterbeat Records, 24th June 2016
Progenitor and embodiment of the Afrobeat drum sound, still in high demand four decades after his explosive partnership with Fela Kuti, the much-venerated Tony Allen once more extends his infectious percussion style beyond the African homeland. Sharing an obvious entwined history with Africa, the shared Hispaniola Island of Haiti proves both an esoterically mysterious and congruous collaborative foil to Allen’s distinct drumming patois.
Invited to perform in 2014 by the French Institute Of Haiti’s director Corinne Micaelli, Allen’s visit would end with a public broadcasted concert in the main square of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Collaborating with Allen would be a cross-section of local percussionists and singers recruited by vocalist, dancer, ‘voodoo priest’ and director of the Haitian National Bureau Of Ethnology, Erol Josué. Josué would himself lend his sweet yearning and reflective tones to two of the tracks on this album.
The call went out and the great and good of the Haitian music scene came. Racine Mapou de Azor, the Yizra’El Band, Lakou Mizik and, featured on the Monolith Cocktail at the start of the year with their highly-rated Manman M Se Ginen LP, RAM. Another Monolith regular and one-time Port-au-Prince resident, Mark Mulholland was drafted in as the experimental orchestra’s guitarist, and as it would turn out, eventual legacy overseer. Swelling the ranks still further were Olaf Hund, recruited on keyboards and ‘electronics’, and an old friend of Allen’s, the bassist Philippe Dary, who became the de facto musical director. With only five days of studio rehearsal time to gel and work out their performance, the sessions proved both, as Mulholland observed, ‘chaotic’ and overwhelming’. Based upon various sparks of inspiration and rhythmic workouts the eventual structured compositions took shape from organically flowing jams. At the heart of each, Allen’s signature Afrobeat drums and Dary’s liquid, and often funky sumptuous basslines.
A mesmerizing fusion of downtown Lagos candor and shuffled grooves and Haitian ‘voodoo’, the results of this enterprise were first shared at the Le Fête de la Musique festival in Port-au-Prince. The original plan was to record the live show, however a tense atmosphere arising from the late running order and the setting off of a tear gas grenade right in front of the stage combined with a number of technical problems meant this would not be possible. Looking increasingly like a missed opportunity, and with a number of performers heading home the next day, the chance to record the project for posterity seemed lost. However, multi-track recordings from the rehearsals survived, which Mulholland went back through, eventually piecing together the eight songs on this album. Josué along with his fellow Haitian singers including Sanba Zao, were called back to re-record the vocals. Still it wasn’t until Mulholland, ever the musical wanderer, re-located to the Mali capital of Bamako and crossed paths with Glitterbeat Records head honcho, and global music polymath, Chris Eckman that plans to release the recordings became a reality. And we’re grateful they did, as this hazily, raw exotic series of Afro-Haiti travails sound almost supernatural and magically unlike anything we’ve heard before.
Combining the traditional tools and song of both environments with eerily Theremin like quivers and whispery wind generating electronics, the album creates a mysterious but stirring alternative route for Afrobeat. Allen’s constant evolving tempo and scuttling, rattling snare shots offer something familiar, but the concertinaed swirls of ‘Salilento’ and the banjo redolent plucked cosmic lamentable traces of ‘Mon Ami Tezin’ offer an interesting counterbalance. Mulholland supplies dirty fuzz rock and desert blues (in the style of Tinariwen) guitar riffs whilst Dary’s deep bass dips into the funk. Talking of which, the choppy licks found on ‘Wongolo’ evoke something of an Isaac Hayes Shaft In Africa vibe. As for the diverse range of voices, both lead and backing, the contemporary vocals of Marc-Harold Pierre veer into reggae, whereas the Zikiki & Mirla Samuel Pierre pairing juxtapose longing female spiritualism with a rapid, energetic male delivery.
Elevating beyond the borders it was created behind, the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra’s root foundations shuffle and shake free of their stereotypes to move freely in an increasingly amorphous musical landscape. You’re just as likely to hear vibrations and traces of Dub, native Indian plaintive ghostly echoes, Sun Ra’s otherworldly jazz and funk as to hear the indigenous Haiti sounds and Afrobeat pulse. Tong Allen is once more at the heart of another bustling, dynamic explosion in rhythm.
Lord Kesseli And The Drums ‘S/T’
Available now, released by Ikarus Records
Suitably imbued by the Swiss town of St. Gallen’s stunning abbey landmark, the Lord Kesseli And the Drums duo of multi-instrumentalist Dominik Kesseli and drummer/producer Michael Gallusser open up their eponymous debut EP with an ecclesiastical canta, before launching into a churning swirl of holy choral echo chamber psychedelic and trippy rock. Yet despite the reverent atmospherics, the duo’s quest for the ‘sacred and profane’ is a secular one.
Submerged beneath a gauze of echo and reverberation, the six tracks on this EP float between the imaginary and the critical, taking hallucinatory aim at state and religious corruption as they encourage the listener to escape the institutional for the personal experience – though perhaps you should avoid the mindbending seduction of ‘MDMA’; the envererated protagonist repeating in an intoxicating lull fashion“MDMA I want to marry you” to a paranoia cyclone and galloping entranced backing.
Playing to all their influences on the post rock and emotive psych opening ‘Arnold’, the duo wait for the arrival of their mysterious figure to the sounds of Mogwai, Sigur Ros and, much missed, The School Of Seven Bells. From the ritualistic Latin introduction to the expanding epic sonics that flow forth, the ambitious soundscapes creep across a monumental landscape of both sanctuary and resigned despair. One of their most impressive tracks, ‘Fade’, is a shoegaze requiem that, as its title suggests, fades in and out of a throbbing vortex of desperate lament. The final swansong, ‘Kid’, at over nine-minutes is another ambitious stab at encapsulating such plaintive and despairing emotions; rippling with a low emitted charge of haunting guitar, choppy synth and subterranean whispers before heading into stoner pastoral organ psych and swelling to a wash of drum crescendos. After building a stirring wallowed pitch of sadness, it ends with a fading echo of delicate and serene piano.
A visage of pan European cosmic sensibilities that has yet to transfer across the channel, Lord Kesseli And the Drums vaporous soundtracks proves to be a hadron kaleidoscopic rotation of psychedelia, shoegaze, drone and stoner rock.
Released by GiveUsYourGOLD 10th June 2016
In just the latest chapter of what is a long history of taking risks and exploring new musical horizons, the celebrated multi-percussionist/instrumentalist, producer and composer Renu has located to Berlin to produce electronic music. Primarily known for her tabla playing prowess, Renu travels the globe, from Brazil to Cuba and Spain, to study various musical styles and perform with a host of artists and bands. Starting out playing percussion on the UK’s Asian Underground ( Talvin Singh, Asian Dub Foundation and Fun-da-mental) scene at the end of the 90s, Renu has gone on to perform and tour with Grace Jones, Tunde Jegede and Alabama 3. If that wasn’t enough she is also an experienced composer, songwriter, musician and producer with three finely crafted albums under her belt and regularly writes for theatre, choreography and film.
Raf And O / Raf And O & Robert Logan ʻSonnet 62/ Inkʼ
Split EP released by Telephone Records, 27th June 2016
Originally coming to my attention with their strung-out avant-garde version of David Bowie’s brooding ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ lament in 2013, the highly experimental South East London duo Raf And O have continued to release a host of expletory sonic adventures that merge the most mysterious electronica with Trip Hop and Krautrock. Imbued heavily with Bowie’s spirit, liberally drawing inspiration from his back catalogue – one minute a taste of 1. Outside, the next a visual reference to his ‘memory of a free festival’ art school/mime days -, Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith have paid homage once again on their upcoming LP, Portal, by covering the plastic soul period ‘Win’ from Young Americans. Singing in a gauzy somnolent lullaby fashion, Raf channels Alison Goldfrapp on this most dreamy of diaphanous tributes.
Released next month on July 27th by Telephone Records, the duo’s third LP – celebrated with a special launch party on July 22nd at St James The Less, Westminster – is preceded by this four-track split EP, Sonnet 62/Ink. The first half features two tracks taken from Portal: a sort of warm-up before the main event if you like. Originally receiving a commission two years ago to create a piece of work inspired by Shakespeare, the duo chose to recite the bard’s ‘Sonnet 62’ verses on jealousy and self-preoccupation to a supernatural metallic soundtrack. Raf, sounding at her most rich and mature vocally, soothes and coos like a cross between Beth Gibbons and a female David Sylvain over Richard’s kinetic but dreamy soundscape. Evoking a raspy motoring ride across some futuristic hyper freeway, but in fact inspired by a drive through Europe and the German town of the title, ‘Worm’ , the second of these tracks from the upcoming Portal album, is a clean cut techno sheened instrumental that reverberates with lingering traces of post-Krautrock, the Gamelan music of Java and Bali and Sheffield synth new wave.
A collaborative affair, the second part of this EP features a project between the Raf And O and the much-feted electronic artist Robert Logan (Bomb The Bass, Grace Jones, Brigitte Fontaine). Remixing a track for their 2014 Time Machine EP, Logan collaborated with the duo on a series of sessions, exploring a number of deconstructive and fragmented soundscapes, two of which are featured here. Aboard a haunted freighter in the deepest reaches of deep space, ‘Ink’ has Raf’s whispery and melodious voice drift and fluctuate amorphously with a jittery, cut-up of breakbeats and ghostly trip hop. It is both equally seductive and alien, a machine driven twitchy gallop into the ether. Creeping into the dense hallucinatory environment of ‘A Reason To Try’, the trio stir untethered in a strange soup of churned up beats and solar tidal waves. Sounding like a slumbering Sneaker Pimps meet Grus, the collaborative partners wade through the thick fog of disorientating washes.
Maturing well, progressing on every release, Raf And O expand their musical horizons still further. As collaborators their signature traits prove flexible enough. As a duo their precursor to the album tracks, ‘Sonnet 62’ and ‘Worms’, suggest a certain sophisticated and more polished sound. All the best attributes are still there; it’s just that the challenging production and Raf’s vocals seem to have got even better and richer.