Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - Grey Guides

Grey Guides   ‘Beast Mask Supremacist’
Released through Crow Versus Crow, 21st October 2016


Feel that the true spirit of Halloween has been lost in the overload of candy-coated commercialism? Remember when it was the sole preserve of those who wished to dance with the daemonic and communicate with those beyond our world? Well as luck would have it, just in time for the witching hour, disturbing tape manipulators the Grey Guides have just released their latest harrowing transmissions from the gates of hell, Beast Mask Supremacist.

A hive of activity, the multidisciplinary label Crow Versus Crow label that plays host to Lynden St. John and Matt Hurricane Salt‘s miasma of séance summoning lost creatures from purgatory and caustic grey – not white – noise includes a community radio show, podcast and a limited edition press. Tuned into the Fortean Times this duo’s reification cacophony of subliminal and subconscious entities – messages from the damned and inter-dimensional – is a most unnerving soundtrack. Imbued in part by early Throbbing Gristle, Blood Stereo, and of course the archdeacon of strange macabre and strung-out visions, William Burroughs, Beast Mask Supremacist is an imaginary (we hope) field recording expedition beyond the ether. Whether they got out alive remains questionable; the found remnants sounding like a battle between complete immersion and total destruction.

Giving at least some abstract clue and steer the track titles offer a wild description of what the duo are wrestling with. ‘Millipede In A Doll’s House’ for example does sound to some degree like a maddening legion of killer scuttling arthropods swirling around in a vortex. And the poor souls consumed in the flames of ‘Just Burned Down A Care Home’ attempt to haunt their pyromaniac tormentor. ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Payback: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ is a strange one (even by the Grey Guides standards), counterpoints the notorious real estate magnate who was made most infamous in the early noughties, accused of paying for the murder of a business associate in the late 60s (though sentenced to a ten-year stretch, his conviction was overturned on appeal), and the famous Manchester poltergeist incident of the 90s, as featured on the ridiculous Ghosthunters series, to a scrabbling backing of tape fuckery and bestial violence. The only obvious signs of the process, before the obstructive veil of horror transforms each collage, is found on the bastardize twin cover moiety, ‘Yoo Doo Rite/Mr. Pharmacyst’. Lynden and Hurricane punning and riffing on both Can’s original Monster Movie free-rock Hendrix trip and the garage punk standard add a pinch of dark arts to their source material.

Following on from previous macabre rituals and drone led tape collages CDRs Back To Mucus and Songs for Gruppen Aleph-Aleph, the Grey Guides inaugural release on Crow Versus Crow is another limited edition paranormal mindfuck soundtrack of equal horror.

The professionally-dubbed cassette version of this release, available as a limited edition of 50 hand-numbered copies, comes with art work by the label, full-colour printed on an extended 4 panel J-card, housed in a clear plastic shell, but you will also be able to download it form bandcamp (see below).

Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - John Howard

John Howard   ‘Across The Door Sill’
Released by Occultation Recordings

Returning from a self-imposed exile, after what has been a checkered but fruitful career as both an adroit singer/songwriter pianist troubadour of the most sublime and usually mournfully lyrical songs, and as a highly successful A&R man, John Howard has enjoyed a late blossoming of acclaim over the last decade. Faithful followers and well-wishers alike have carried Howard on a wave of adulation; introducing his unique visions to a new generation. Not so much a tragedy or tale of missed opportunity; Howard was discovered early on, his dissipating Glam rock era élan finding favour with CBS Records in the mid 1970s. Not from want of trying and plenty of critical acclaim, Howard’s first trio of albums for the label, starting with the revived in recent times debut Kid In A Big World, failed to gain the public’s attention and imagination. Refusing to play his all-important ‘Goodbye Suzie’ plaintive single (considered to be to “depressing”) the radio camarilla cut-off one of the vital links to that audience: rumours that his sexuality may have had a lot to do with the decision certainly hold water.

Leaving CBS for a brief stint, in which he played the “fashionable restaurants and piano-bars” of London and worked with a burgeoning Trevor Horn on a number of singles, Howard soon returned to record another album for the label at the end of the 70s. The new decade though, apart from a smattering of recordings with different producers, saw Howard change tact, moving into the business end of the music industry to take on a role as an A&R man. What in hindsight has proved to be a very short retirement, Howard moved to the idyllic countryside of Pembrokeshire in 2000 before returning as a recording artist in 2005 off the back of a reissue of his debut album. What has turned out to be his most prolific period began with the Robert Cochrane collaboration, The Dangerous Hours, and Howard’s first collection of wholly original material in decades, As I Was Saying, albums. Another seven albums of quality songwriting followed but it was his 2015 collaboration with Andy Lewis and the estuary pipe-dreaming Gare du Nord record label chief Ian Button, and one of his signings, Robert Rotifer, under the John Howard & The Night Mail moniker that really set things in motion. Garnered with countless plaudits and five star reviews that most brilliant album drew the biggest attention yet and proved another ideal opportunity to perform the back catalogue. However, two years on from his last solo effort, My Name Is, and with a renewed vigour to try something different, Howard’s latest minor opus is a quintet suite of unburdened serial piano and multilayered vocals freethinking.

Monolith Cocktail - John Howard 2

Stripped back with no discernable hooks – the lush beautifully pining strings dropped for a more but no less melodious gravitas – the attentive accompanied Across The Door Sill album is a sagacious stream of consciousness. Not so different, and certainly keeping many of his rich sophisticated musical and lyrical traits, the results of Howard’s challenging new process offers broader brush stroked expanses and vistas. His source material, a collection of unhindered, unhurried and floating poems, were developed overtime, set to music in an organic fashion. Hence why three of the five songs on this LP are nine-minutes long; each left to run its natural course and ebb away once there’s nothing left to say. This new process is itself informed by Howard’s discovery, via the Internet, of the 13th century poet Rumis ‘Quatrains’ poem, which encourages us to broaden our horizons and to not just accept what we’ve done in the past. Well into his fifth decade, Howard has been moved to take the eloquent poets philosophical words to heart.


Ghost-like memories in the shape of the various characters that Howard references overlay and inhabit the disused, left to rust, ship and rail yards, backstreet alleyways and desert dioramas both lyrically and visually throughout the artwork – courtesy of Christian Cook. An imagined ‘state-of-the-Union’, the stunning opening lounge music lament ‘Who Cares’ seems to be rich in its description of decline; those pictures that accompany the lyric sheets showing an industrial past now deemed unviable, a burden left to rot. Poised, stark but still shimmering with romantic swells, the Aladdin Sane meets L.A. troubadour lyrical travail conjures up vivid descriptions – “Loved ones in Miami washing memories from their hair/Cheating at canasta”, dancing girls approaching a best before date, ready to be cast aside, and the “Agents and failed managers” that still thrust contracts at their feet, just a couple of those evocative sad descriptions of the decline and fall from grace. It’s like an update, a resigned last plaintive encapsulation; the America Bowie was inspired to chronicle on ‘Drive-In Saturday’ and ‘Young Americans’ – “Drive-by music lovers living someone else’s dream/Who built a swimming pool to remove them from proving what they are.” Each line is delivered as a profound indictment yet sung with a caring affection, and opens the way for the stirring evocations that follow; namely haunting fatalism and dreamy panoramas of reflection.

From the cover illustration an apparition emerges from a Manet reclining nude, gesturing to a sleeping protagonist in his garret come bedsit, alone in a disheveled double bed, Howard once again projects and muses on fate with the equally lengthy ‘Outward’. A touch of Pink Floyd’s ethereal female cooing adds a sense of deep sadness to the ponderously reflective theme. Featuring a relentless wave of the most brilliant poetic and magical lyrics (“Crazy kids in next-door’s garage/A bridge too far and a middle eight/Straight into our hearts and minds for a lifetime.”) Howard recalls what might be real or imaginary memories, set to a train journey metaphor. Upbeat in comparison the Rufus Wainwright hybrid ‘Preservation’ sounds like a show tune, albeit a mix of Weimar and Broadway. A Glam melodrama, there’s a cleverly pursed and profound musing on life, the universe and everything, but most importantly a testament on our ingrained search for “praise” and our own failings in dealing with “pride”.

“Dreaming of a better time”, the tiptoe lighted ‘Pigs ’N’ Pies’ continues that Wainwright redolent accompaniment – which Howard originally coined in the first place. No less sad and philosophical, Howard’s multilayered vocal flourishes sigh with resigned eloquence; a world-weary baby boomer’s hopes dashed by the empty slogans of the late 60s, repeated like the “It’s a crazy mixed-up world” shrug that accompanies each decade in this sorrowful tale. Yet…Howard isn’t entirely despondent, taking his chances and swimming dreamily “Towards the sky of pigs and pies.”

With glimmers of faint hope on the horizon, Howard’s parting shot, ‘Stretching Out’, has a lulling diaphanous; weaving along on a gentle caressing, but solid, piano melody. Pushing through the miasma of fame, adulation and ego, the beautifully if saddened lyrics expand upon the inspiring poetry of Rumis, coming full circle, prompting an escape from the world that fails to nourish both mindfully and creatively.

Not so adrift and experimental as to have cut all ties to his signature profound sincerity and sad romanticism, John Howard’s Across The Door Sill dares to go further with an even more immersive experience. Expanding his poetic lyricism and piano performances, stark and stripped-back, his vocals multiplied to fill the space and build the atmosphere; Howard has room and time to create some stirring music. It is a most sagacious reflection from the artist, still finding the inspiration to develop and take risks. In doing so he’s reached what could be one of the creative pinnacles of his career.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail

Dominic Valvona‘s latest instalment of eclectic music reviews includes free-jazz and African Krautrock extemporised peregrinations from Toronto-based collective The Cosmic Range, kosmische ‘hey, ho’ punk from Tekstis TV 666, and The Casual Strangers romantic shoegaze gesture to recent band member nuptials, the Wedding Album.  He also reviews the brand new provocative lo fi album from the weary and demoralised – but still fighting the good fight – St. Helens trio The Bordellos, and features Seb Reynolds charitable inspired remix of Meursault‘s ‘Dearly Distracted’.

The Cosmic Range  ‘New Latitudes’
LP released via idée fixe, 28th October 2016

Monolith Cocktail - The Cosmic Range


Capturing for posterity the amorphous results of his polygenesis experiments, Toronto based everyman Matthew “Doc” Dunn and his multi-limbed collective of faces from the city’s most recent creative rise to prominence, release the fruits of a two-day interstellar recording shindig under the moniker of The Cosmic Range. Making the abstract more real, Dunn as spiritual guide and instigator rather than bandleader, channels the ensembles penchant for free jazz, Afrobeat, Krautrock, otherworldly funk and progressive music into a number of quantified jams that represent both Earthly and imaginary panoramas.

The latest stopover in an ever-developing musical journey that begun over a decade ago, Dunn’s many collaborations, from a sojourn in the Matt Valentine and Erika Elder combo MV/EE to the “social music” explorations of The Transcendental Rodeo, have informed this latest project. Though it is also a response and expansion of his solo work and album All Is that sparked The Cosmic Range’s blossoming in 2014, the new set-up performing a “reinterpretation” of that album before venturing into the studio at a later date.

Each member of this Kosmische-styled supergroup adds their individual signature to the mix. Personal on this trip include the U.S. Girls connection of Meg Remy’s spouse Slim Twig on raging, wild wah-wah licks, and Isla Craig on ethereal siren vocal duties. Kieran Adams (Diana) sits in on drums and tinkers with electronics, whilst Brandon Valdivia (NTW NTF/Lido Pimienta) plays the congas and percussion. This leaves both Mike “Muskox” Smith (Jennifer Castle/Sandro Perri) and Jonathan Adjemian (Hoover Party) on keys and synth, with Smith also lending his bass-guitar skills.


The album opens with the album’s most tranquil, contemplative moment; the ambient paean ‘Morning, Ontario’: A province awakes to an Ash Ra Temple style evocation of immensity and natural light – or as the press release states, “an ode to infinity”. The first of many more up-tempo bursts of energy follows in its trance dissipation, the loose title track shaking through a mix of Afro Krautrock and funk, with suggestions of Eno + Karl Hyde’s Highlife and the whining, flailing guitar posturing of Ax Genrich, Zappa and Michael Karoli. Ginger Baker locks heads with Brainticket or, Guru Guru makes a raucous entrance on Embryo’s Africa, there’s a strong Germanic/African hybrid of primal jamming running throughout, though both influences are looking towards the stars.

In a more relaxed, almost slinky mode, ‘Love II’ liquid movements traverse Bitches Brew Miles Davis and a more riled-up Nucleus. Exotically louche and salacious the enervated panted vocals, bestial guitar bleating and tribal congas workout marches onwards before tumbling into a minor freefell and picking up a quasi-reggae gait. Interjecting with a short vignette, the group pull apart and piece back together a strange circuitry board of bit-crush bending retro-futurism on ‘Barbara’. All aboard some H.G. Welles imaginary vision of technology, there’s an ominous rotor sound of a zeppelin or bi-plane passing overhead as the fizzles and dials oscillate.

Redolent in many ways to the similar, though far more ennui-driven Kosmische jazz tapes of Monolith Cocktail favourites, Zacht Automaat, normal service is resumed on the strangely uplifting ‘Kowboy’. A bright, sparkly organ trips the light fantastic in a off-kilter fashion to a glorious Daniel Lanois style cosmic rays dance and a theremin like ethereal voice adds a touch of gravitas as the latitudes cross over both the peyote strewn deserts of South America and the mystical shrouded landscapes of Tibet. The album’s swansong ‘Look At What Our Love Has Done’ flows with a resonant trace of a romantic Florian Fricke and Roedelius. The piano-led suite is lightly administered with only a background offering of attentive serial drum rolls and cymbal splashes, and the high vocal call of Isla Craig.

Sonically mapping New Latitudes with some success – though the originality is not so much in the source influences as in the way its merged together – The Cosmic Range provide one the year’s best Kosmische Afro funks: A free-spirited global sound clash, perfect for the times right now and ahead.

Teksti-TV 666   ‘1,2,3’
Released by SVART Records

Both the practitioners and listeners of Krautrock took drugs of a certain nature to stimulate, synchronize and connect with it, favouring the psychedelics for obvious reasons (mushrooms to opium). Finland’s Teksti-TV 666 however take a more direct route; injecting a speedball into the Germanic template for a far more raucous trip. That’s right. Imagine Neu! on speed, motoring along the sublime trans-Europa highway to oblivion or, Klaus Dinger’s La Dusseldorf jamming with The Ramones. This is only half the story, for this trio of originally limited edition EPs, pulled together by SVART for the first time and released to a wider audience in one concatenate package, also blazes a trail across shoegaze, power pop and punk.

Heavy…most certainly, yet even with a wall of electric guitars – a quintet of them that occasionally swells to a sextet – the driving force of the 666’S muscle rock is actually quite descriptive and sophisticated. Gnarling, snarling, intense and even industrially strengthened, this wall of sound is hardly a solid lump or cacophony of discord. If anything, this squadron of guitar players are quite controlled and unified.

Ringing doom chords and caustic feedback permeate, rocking alongside flashes of The Buzzcocks (‘Sä et tuu enää takaisin’), Generation X (‘Neljä seinää ja puolikas sielu’) and The Damned (a Krautrock transmogrification of New Rose is thrashed out on ‘ Kaheksan päivää viikossa’). Elsewhere the group’s gothic looming shadow falls on stoner rock, New Order, The Loved Drones and even The Cramps; all rattled off at a rapid pace. Surprisingly there is a real depth and melodic quality to these supernova blitzkriegs, and even a sense of fun, despite the fact every song more or less hurtles towards its finale after going through various timing and moody changes.

Probably as influential as it’s ever been, one of the most over-used, misunderstood and clichéd influences, Krautrock – a missive if ever there was one – occasionally acts as a springboard to more interesting and unique places. Teksti-TV 666 takes it towards a gothic CBGBs, as motorik goes “hey, ho”.

Sebastian Reynolds remixes Meursault’s ‘Dearly Distracted’

Monolith Cocktail

Making his third appearance on the Monolith Cocktail in the last few weeks, the busy polymath Sebastian Reynolds is dividing his time between countless projects, including solo work, collaborations and promoting. We featured the first taster from the upcoming, Kickstarter-funded, multimedia Mahajanaka project, for which Seb is providing the mystical Thai meets Western electronic ambient soundtrack, last month. But it’s his role as an in-demand remixer that finds him once again featured on the blog. This time transforming the original languorous ‘Dearly Distracted’ minor opus by Neil Pennycook’s Camus inspired Meursault into a condensed but no less haunted expansive traverse.

The centerpiece if you like of Pennycock’s acclaimed (Scottish Album of the Year 2012 nominee) Something For The Weakened LP, the original stirring strings and beautifully expanding melody form the backbone of Seb’s echoed, lost in the ether, style remix. Celebrating in some way the news that Pennycook is once again taking on the mantle of the folktronica Meursault, after retiring it a while back, it’s also a timely reminder of the memorial concert that Seb promoted and Pennycook headlined in 2012 as a tribute to Leila Soltau. All proceeds now as in 2012 will go to both the Douglas – the first ever hospice specifically for young adults, which looked after Soltau before she passed away – and Helen House Oxford-based charities.

The Bordellos  ‘How To Lose Friends And Influence No-One’
LP released via Small Bear Records 

Monolith Cocktail

Despite the caustic bravado and world-weary bitterness channeled into the antagonistic song titles on this new album, The Bordellos lo fi edicts are always surprisingly melodic. Think of them as a tuneful The Fall; resigned and swiping at society but hopeful enough to challenge it despite banging their collective heads on the doors of the music industry for years.

A well-kept secret, not from want of trying to reach the masses, the St. Helens trio arrived a little too late on the scene for the likes of the ‘ignored and dismissed’ championing John Peel. Sulkily and with some wry provocation they ask, “Did the bastards at the BBC kill John Peel?” on the track of the same name. More an indictment on the ‘canonization’ of a maverick treated by his employers as a nuisance and with some resentment when alive; passed from pillar to post and given the graveyard shift for his amorphous and far from slickly produced radio show. It is a little hypocritical that those who once harangued and attempted to box him in now pontificate on his rebellious stoicism in death. Despite the fact that his show basically consisted of pulling the most odd and random demos/records/performances from a landfill of DIY artists and bands and playing them however and in whatever order he liked – even twice in a row if you so wished – there hasn’t been anyone to replace him. Even in an age when access to music has never been so widely available and easy. Far from adventurous and eclectic, radio has become safer.

A self-confessed “love letter”, albeit at times a poison pen letter, The Bordellos spirit is constantly crushed under the despair of the modern world. Nostalgic one minute for a pre-digital, pre-streaming (the LP features a swipe at the current much demonized streaming behemoth Spotify) age but equally keen to pour a bucket of cold sick over the hazy village green ideals of yesteryear too, the group pick and choose icons and bands encapsulating the values they hold dear. In a despondent Julian Cope meets The Velvet Underground indictment, ‘I Don’t believe In Motherfuckers Anymore’ pitches the failings of a sanitized culture, devoid of personalities; an industry filled with TV show and stage school fodder. Further diatribes are leveled at the music press – I’d hope the Monolith Cocktail could omit itself from this attack –, but essentially the boom in blogs, and the vinyl record collector – more interested in the value of the pressing than the music it contains -, on both occasions making relevant and valuable points.

Showing an almost subdued, caring side and vulnerability, a rare Dan Bordello penned solo spot ‘Stone Turns To Stone’ is one of the album’s standout tracks. Inspired we’re told by the death of the irreplaceable David Bowie; Dan’s lament is one of the most tender and stirring moments to be found in the group’s catalogue. Aside from the Dylan-on-a-budget crosses paths with post-punk and Goth leanings, The Bordellos venture towards jazz on ‘Betty And Siouxsie’ – not that you’d know it mind, the group sounding more like a corrupted Django Reinhardt riffing on ‘Tequila’ – and absorb OMD, Joy Division and the Durutti Column on ‘I No Longer Speak The International Language Of Kojak, Kapiche’.

The mood is of a melancholic nature, ye this isn’t a eulogy or the last rites. It should instead be taken as a soft call-to-arms; a wake-up call if you like. That passion which first ignited and led to the formation of The Bordellos is still there, as weary as it is. And as the digital age reveals its true face, a disruptive marketing experiment that after a good decade and more hasn’t offered a viable alternative that suits both the creators and the audience – funneling instead even more of the wealth towards a Silicon elite of facilitators and leaving the artist out of pocket – we may yet see a recall and fight back.

Casual Strangers  ‘Wedding Album’

Monolith Cocktail

Austin, Texas shoegaze flouncers Casual Strangers have decided to mark the auspicious occasion of the group’s band members Katey and Paul Gunn-Waclwasky’s marriage by recording their very own Wedding Album. Riffing on John & Yoko’s infamous nuptials experiment of the same name but far less indulgent, and replacing the fluctuating bewails of Lennon’s muse with Katey’s more subdued and ethereal tones, the couple create a misty vaporous and often dreamy songbook of paeans and mood pieces.

The shoegaze peregrination signatures remain with echoes of My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized throughout. Yet with a romantic twinkle in their eyes, the group ape John & Yoko’s kooky Japanese pop serenades – as performed by The Flaming Lips – on the lovers lullaby ‘Baby’s Happy’, and recall the late Alan Vega on the crystal-powered cosmic ‘Eyes For You’. Despite the arpeggiator cascades of love vibe the Wedding Album features its fair share of languid, muffled mystery and sense of otherworldliness. Stranger Things 80s soundtracks sit alongside odd metallic and cartoon voiced breakdowns and the ebbing tides of a topographic ocean.

Chronicling the build-up and courtship leading up to the big day, so to speak, this loosely concatenate soundtrack may indeed be a romantic gesture for posterity but it also marks the group’s most experimental album yet.

Words: Ayfer Simms

Monolith Cocktail - Water Pageant

Water Pageant   ‘Outline’
LP released by Glide Records

Gentle, gentle. Water Pageant has peace to bestow. Their music leaves no room for anger nor anguish, but confers a safe place, a resting den, a needed break; even if the devil wanted to set foot in your skin to inject sadness, it would not anchor as long as the chimes of water pageant blew, like a whistle on a soft ocean, whispering to your conscience, the grief would fly above your shoulders, carried by the motion they set; peace wants to strive, even though your heart is obviously heavy, for man’s melancholy is unshakable. And you listen, with the greatest joy and the greatest sadness the tunes they entrust; their sound awakens both energies of mercy and despair, as if it was one and the same thing, an unbreakable atom, a luminescent force in its own darkness, and the faint flicker of a candle in a cave of wax.

The voice, fragile and loving is comforting, forgiving, and open, like a prayer that offers pardon; appeasing the tempest’s efforts to finish us off. They take the blow and we listen in awe. The guitar drops notes like a light rain before a long voyage, in front of the uncertain horizon, we slide with that chant with us, tiptoeing, until we reach safer grounds. Warm and solitary. Touching.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - Ben Reed

Ben Reed   ‘Station Masters’
LP  released  by  Gare du Nord,  October  7th,  2016

Joining the estuary pipe-dreamers of glorious nostalgic induced rock’n’roll and pop, Gare du Nord, and continuing what is a running theme of railway-related references, the talented multi-instrumentalist and English psych disciple Ben Reed releases his first ever non-instrumental album, Station Masters, for the label. Both a fond halcyon nod to a romanticized age but also making a relevant point about struggling on the peripheral as an outsider – Gare du Nord’s end of the line analogy, stuck looking in from the borders of the London metropolis but alienated and unable to be apart of it.  Ben Reed is a congruous extension, though lucky enough to be living inside the perimeter, brought up in Ealing on a healthy diet of eccentric and idiosyncratic psychedelia from the city but also imbued, it seems, by the famous Canterbury scene: essentially the Soft Machine and its band members Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers; vocally for the most part but you can hear their melodic versus the avant-garde jazz discord on the opening title-track.

On an entirely different plane to his recent bass-guitar duties on Frank Ocean’s last two albums, Endless and Blond, Reed waxes whimsically in a world of pastoral acid-folk, breezy progressive jazz soundtracks and summery Californian psych. Between the quaint and the kitsch, the various stopovers on this pastel-shaded metaphorical journey pulls in at a diverse range of destinations. Shimmering as they step off the train ride, arriving at a platform marked Nordic louche jazz, guest vocalist Laura Groves ponders wistfully on ‘Drifting’. At the next station, it is Reed who takes on the lead vocals, wearing the mantle of a beachcombing troubadour on the acoustic lilting reinterpretation of Portuguese poet Manuel de Freitas’ ‘Errata’. The American West Coast beckons as we move further down the line, the lulling influence on the instrumental ‘Allgones’, and a touch of Dennis Wilson’s nautical analogy “ahoy” lament on ‘Woman Overboard’. There’s even a hint of the 5th Dimension’s astrological paean harmony, and some psychedelic L.A. soul on the sweetly pursed ‘My Gold Is The Sun’.

Relaxed and subtly played throughout, Station Masters takes a smattering of themes and sounds from a golden age – between the mid 60s and mid 70s period. Passing fancies and full-on reverberations of The Association, Duncan Browne, Caravan, Mark Eric, Karin Korg, Hatfield & The North and Bruno Spoeri appear liberally. And despite the warm rich glow and bright fluttering, flitting of the RMI Electrapiano and organ and cooing lush female vocals pushing towards a far balmier climate, it remains a quintessentially maverick, Barrett-esque English trip.

Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - Orkesta Mendoza

Tickling Our Fancy 040:  Orkesta Mendoza, Antti Tolvi, Köhn, Happyness, Sebastian Reynolds and Kobadelta.

In this instalment of our eclectic review roundup we have a double bill of neo-classical experimental piano and drone exploration from the Kirigirisu label, with new sound pieces from both Antti Tolvi and Köhn, the latest fantastical and supernatural Arizona/Mexican cultural exchange from the bizarre mind of Sergio Mendoza, a taster from Sebastian Reynolds transcendental traversing ambient scores project Mahajanaka, a new EP from Newcastle’s daemonic prog-rockers Kobadelta, and Athens, Georgia imbued breezy jangly pop from Happyness.

Orkesta Mendoza  ‘¡Vamos A Guarachar!’
LP  released by Glitterbeat Records,  7th October 2016

A scion of the Calexico-Giant Sand-Xixa axis of Arizona/South and Central American cultural exchange, Okestra Mendoza keep the faith in these tumultuous times. Whilst President Trump certainly seems a possibility, thankfully the blowhards proposed border control wall is presently only a threat. Not that that will stop the Galexico band member and co-producer Sergio Mendoza from inhaling the intoxicant thrills, exotica and voodoo of Mexico and beyond. The multi-instrumentalist bandleader grew up in the “hinterlands” of Arizona after all, listening to the sounds emanating from the Mexican AM/FM radio stations. This heady mix of cumbia, mambo, mariachi, big band orchestras and the salacious swaggered ranchos was eventually channeled into a cornucopia of collaborative projects and bands. Merging these traditional forms with tremolo twanged rock’n’roll, psychedelia and electronic vibes Mendoza has created a timeless junction between neighbours on both the previous Orkesta LP (Mambo Mexicano) and the latest ¡Vamos A Guarachar!

Inhabiting a supernatural imagination of the cactus-strewn borderlands, where the otherworldly amorphously interchanges with ritual and reality, ¡Vamos A Guarachar! is both mysterious and fantastical yet equally kitsch. Imbued with the cumbia rhythm, which has enjoyed an electrified renaissance over recent years, Mendoza weaves both the dance styles sauntering hip swivel and more galloping raciness into the rich melting pot. ‘Cumbia Volcardora’ is a perfect example of this; wafting in the southern breezes with its cantina serenaded horns, ? And The Mysterians style ghost house organ, theatrical voodoo narration and Spanish vocals. A similar pattern of cross-pollination continues throughout the album: on the two-speed ‘Redoble’ the band fluctuate between a more up-tempo chase to Brazilian rocksteady, and evoke both the feverish Mambo of the title but also a Balkan polka on ‘Mambo A La Rosano’.

Between ages with a penchant for a strange nostalgia, as seen through an esoteric lens, ‘Misterio’ is a curious tango crooned matinee that sounds like a lost theme tune from the 1950s. There is a Mexican film of the same name from 1980, which starred Juan Ferrara as a TV star who blurs reality with the plot of a soap opera he’s filming. It’s quite conceivable that this could be the band’s inspiration; the lamentable enchantment a good fit for the movie’s fantastical waltzing premise.

Though the esoteric and alien quivering magnetism atmosphere casts a spell over the album, there’s a host of quirky turns and a lot of fun to be had. For a starter there’s a kooky homage, or augur, to the spirit of the racoon on ‘Mapache’, and the zappy, rock guitar gnarling candy treat ‘Caramelos’. The times may be changing for the worse in Mendoza’s backyard but the Orkesta put a raucous, colourful and upbeat shine on the political miasma; defending and celebrating the “honest cultural exchange” between both sides of the divide with relish and a certain oddness.

Happyness  ‘Tunnel Vision On Your Part’
EP  released by Moshi Moshi

Monolith Cocktail - Happyness

It’s probably been remarked upon and singled out countless times already, and for obvious reasons, but the London three-piece have an air of the US college radio and, in particular, the Athens, Georgia jangly indie pop sound about them. Hardly a surprise when one of their biggest influences is the obscure, shining for only the briefest of moments, Georgia band Club Gaga – forever playing second fiddle on search engines to Lady Gaga. Unlike their stratospheric contemporaries on the scene R.E.M., Club Gaga have left few traces, with it seems only one album to their name and a merge smattering of videos. Happyness raves about them though and on their new EP they not so much cover as reimagine the group’s sardonic ‘Friend Of The Revolution’. Less of a drag they brighten up the original with a more dreamy and melodious lilt, transducing the wry into something sweeter yet maintaining a light sulky off-kilter quality.

In a similar mode they also take on California’s favourite sons, The Beach Boys, with what seems on the surface a melting romantic campfire rendition of the their balladry lullaby ‘Surfer Girl’. With an enervated whispery crooning Dennis Wilson like echo the trio add a sad veil of vulnerability; delivering an ever so slightly unique take, neither homage nor ironic.

Doing the rounds for months ‘SB’s Truck’ is a whimsical tribute to Samuel Beckett, which frames a famous slice of trivia from the playwright polymath ‘stranger than fiction’ life story within a Big Star twinkled and harmony rich grunge-y musical experiment. Paying respect to both a giant of theatre and literature and the real life size André The Giant, Happyness remind us of those almost fantastical connections that turn out to be true; Beckett inhabiting the same world as the much loved 80s wrestler and star of The Princess Bride. Beckett of course is known to have helped out by giving him a lift in his pick-up truck, taking an oversized André to school, because even as a child he’d already outgrown the family car.

Elsewhere the trio keep up the harmonies, breezing in with a Teenage Fanclub and The Thrills thumb a lift to bratty 90s L.A. on the opening ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’. The stand out original track on the EP it is a well crafted softened around the edges, drowsy sighed pop treat; a lost nugget from the Athens, Georgia golden age. They close with the congruous but equally discordant lament title track, which stretches out past the six-minute mark, wilting with a jangly acoustic and country melodic feel. As the song progresses a doleful, pleasant piano starts to act more erratic and plaintively; eventually reaching a discordant crescendo, as the pianist slumps the lid down in languorous resignation.

Though the name is familiar, I’d yet to hear the Happyness until Tunnel Vision On Your Part arrived in the post a few weeks back. And so whether or not their new EP continues to foster the signature sound of previous outings or reaches beyond into new ideas and sounds is something I just couldn’t tell you. All I know is that this is a great little five-track spread of finely produced and played melodic pop songs; a chip off the old Athens, Georgia “Ionic” column.

Antti Tolvi   ‘Leijunta’
Köhn  ‘Arbres’
LPs both released by Kirigirisu

Monolith Cocktail - kohn

Sharing a similar penchant for uninterrupted flowing scores, Gent composer Jürgen De Blonde (recording under the appellation of Köhn) and Finnish sound artist polymath Antti Tolvi have both recently released minimalistic compositions for the unassuming Kirigirisu label.

The first of these the most difficult of sales is an hour-long continuous force field like drone inspired by and dedicated to the trees on Blonde’s hiking jaunts in the Belgian Ardennes. Monotonously pulsing like a Popol Vuh generator, the one-track album Arbres gradually gains momentum, its rotary humming increasing in volume before slowly fading out; disappearing into the ether. Inspired by the environment this natural force also has an aura of the alien or supernatural; sounding like a UFO suspended above the pines, emitting a low sonic call.

Monolith Cocktail - Antti Tolvi

With a varied and diverse CV, which includes a number of sound installation projects and a “Fantasia” suite for a quintet of tractor engines, Tolvi’s latest album features a moiety of semi-improvised Ibach grand piano pieces. Simply entitled Leijunta1’ and ‘2’ these neo-classical serial performances, recorded on Kemiö Island in Finland, have a watery flow. Part one progresses from a pitter-patter trickle to a cascade of alternating deftly played trebly and bassy notes. The resonance from this constant repetitive motion adds subtle tonal differences. The second part is marginally gentler with a layer of longer, drawn-out notes that almost glide and shimmer in the nuanced interplay. Leijunta translates as “hover”, yet these two compositions evoke a trembling liquid feel, constantly gushing or spilling over.

Both albums acquire the listener’s unreserved commitment with Arbres a more difficult proposition: best enjoyed whilst navigating your own path and ventures into the woods.

Kobadelta  ‘The Metaphysical EP’
October 8th 2016

Monolith Cocktail - Kobadelta

Continuing to embrace a passion for Byzantine esotericism and bewitching leaden heavy rock the Newcastle 5-piece Kobadelta have both improved markedly and expanded beyond their remit on each of their EPs. They confidently prowl the daemonic landscape, balancing a clash of drums and ominous distortion with more nuanced, less dramatic, but calmer breaks in the tumultuous barrage and drone: There’s even room for reflection and introspection in the often solid block of atmospheric doom.

Beginning as they mean to go on, the opening heavy gothic ‘Hold Yr’self’ channels Kasabian and the Archie Bronson Outfit on its journey from a pan pipe scene-setting Amazon to the dark arts. Under the silvery moon a dreaded serenade twists in torment to the melodic drone of a distant echoed The Mission on ‘Ride By The Light’, and a motoring incantation reverberates across the holy land of myth on ‘Bathsheba’. But even in the suffocating midst of a dystopian world, such as the doomed rock sustained augur ‘Is This The Start Of Something Beautiful?’, Dom Noble’s vocals remain stoned and languorous. And on the parting shot, ‘You Don’t Need To Ask’ there’s a sense of romanticized balladry at play; attempting to escape the eastern bell spectre of a Medieval esoteric Russia meets Portishead grief.

Lyrically, modern themes and social-political protestations merge with the ‘metaphysical’ – hence the title. The contemporary on this EP is often given a flowery embellishment courtesy of the Biblical; a deeper motive or meaning cryptically interlocked and given a certain gravitas.

Producing a more savoury, intricate and melodious form of heavy rock without reverting to stereotype and showboating, Kobadelta once again walk a fine line between stoner doom and progressive rock, experimenting all the way without losing their signature swagger.

Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Mahajanaka’

Monolith Cocktail - Seb Reynolds

Recently reaching the funding target for a dance and music collaboration based on and around the ancient Jataka myth Mahajanaka, Oxford musician/producer/remixer and promoter Sebastian Reynolds is celebrating by releasing the projects first trance peregrination taster. It also marks the official launch of Reynolds solo debut, with unrelated but equally traversing albums to follow later.

As you might expect from the Flights Of Helios, Braindead Collective and Keyboard Choir (to name only a few) sonic navigator this latest voyage reflects both his exploratory music interests and spiritual pursuits: such as meditation. A keen enthusiast of eastern and oriental cultures in particular, especially Buddhism, Reynolds has recently travelled to Thailand as part of a British Council/Arts Council England funded trip. During that visit he laid down the groundwork for the Mahajanaka project, a collaboration fusion of both traditional Thai forms and Western contemporary dance and music, which reinterprets the ancient stories of Buddha on his multiple incarnations journey of perfection towards becoming fully enlightened.

Partners in this reimagining include Neon Dance and the acclaimed dancer/choreographer Pichet Klunchen, and on this featured track both long-term collaborator Jody Prewatt (on keyboard) and the Thai pop group The Krajidrid Band, under the direction of composer/producer Pradit Saengkrai. Recorded playing the classical Thai “piphat” ensemble music, The Krajidrid Band’s evocative sacred finger cymbal chimes and placable soft mallet accompaniment is sampled and looped by Reynolds to produce a gently overlapping and mysterious ambient flight of fantasy. It certainly creates the right mood, successfully merging the source material with the atavistic, transformed by Reynolds’ signature process of reinvention. A work in progress, this brief taster already sounds very interesting and once expanded to accommodate a performance will be quite stirring and magical.

Monolith Cocktail - Silver Apples/ Playlist

PLAYLIST : Choice tracks of 2016 part three.
Selection: Dominic Valvona

Three quarters of the way through 2016 already, as the summer – though in the UK we’ve enjoyed a burnished reprise and late run of sunshine through the month – finally dissipates and the long autumn/winter trudge beckons, the Monolith Cocktail is ready to announce another ‘quarterly playlist’ of choice tracks. Featuring both tracks we’ve reviewed and those we never had time to squeeze in, our popular selection is as ever the most eclectic with esoteric Americana, left field hip-hop, Mauritania griot psych, Cape Verde funana and a wealth of hybrids and cross-pollinations all coming together under one roof. Bat For Lashes, M.I.A., Sadat X, Wolf Parade, Grumbling Fur, Gaslamp Killer, Elliot Fresh, Wild Beasts, Vaudou Game and Bob Lind….yes, BOB LIND!! They all make an appearance. It is a bumper edition, with we believe more tracks than we’ve ever featured before on one playlist: It’s generous alright.

The Tracklist In Full

Wovenhand  ‘Come Brave’
Wolf Parade  ‘C’est La Vie Way’
Martin Creed  ‘(You Put Your) Hand In My Hand’
Melody Parker  ‘Love’
The Gaslamp Killer  ‘Haleva’
C Duncan  ‘Wanted To Want It Too’
Jellyskin  ‘Grey Glass Hat’
Water Pageant  ‘Cavalry’
Bat For Lashes  ‘Honeymooning Alone’
Wild Beasts  ‘Celestial Creatures’
Raf And O  ‘Win’
Os Noctambulos  ‘Changes’
SonnyJim, DJ Nonames  ’24 Karat’
Elliot Fresh  ‘Piece Of Mind’
Tenchoo, Ill Move Sporadic, Sleaford Mods  ‘Who’s On The One?’
WHITE  ‘I Liked You Better When You Needed Me’
Xenia Rubinos  ‘Mexican Chef’
M.I.A.  ‘Go Off’
Jewels Hunter, Qwel  ‘Annotations’
Ill Bill  ‘Make Them Die Slowly’
Kool Keith, MF Doom  ‘Super Hero’
Sadat X, R.A. The Rugged Man, Thirstin Howl III  ‘Industry’s Outcast’s’
Atmosphere  ‘Like A Fire’
Awate  ‘Fever’
Noura Mint Seymali  ‘Suedi Koum’
Vaudou Game  ‘Locataire’
Goat  ‘Try My Robe’
Senji Niban  ‘Atomic Blues (Emergency Mix)’
CHUCK  ‘Pictures’
David West  ‘Dream On Dreamer’
Grumbling Fur  ‘Acid Ali Khan’
Thorn Seyma, Am Chorn Pond  ‘Bong Euy Sdaap Pkor (Hear The Thunder)’
Bob Lind  ‘From The Road’
Happyness  ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’
Ian William Craig  ‘Power Colour Spirit Animal’
The Fiction Aisle  ‘Dust’
Silver Apples  ‘Fractal Flow’
El Michels Affair, The Shacks  ‘Strange Boy’
BROOKZILL!, Fafa de Belem & Kiko Dinucci  ‘Mad Dog In Yoruba’
Onoe Caponoe  ‘Return Of The Cyclopes’
Ryu, Gravity Christ, Divine Styler  ‘Radio Pollution’
Bitori  ‘Bitori Nha Bibinha’

Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - Analog Africa 10th anniversary



Analog Africa Tenth Anniversary Special

Unearthing dormant musical treasures for a decade, Samy Ben Redjeb’s assiduous Analog Africa label has done more than most to celebrate and spread the African continent’s rich musical heritage. Over the years he’s reintroduced us to the Africa Screams raw and psychedelic 1970s sounds of Benin and Togo; the Islamic funk belt of Ghana; the hypnosis sauntering innovations of a forgotten Angola; and in more recent months revived the salacious accordion and ferro scrapped dynamism of Cape Verde’s Funaná with a reissue of the archipelago’s greatest musical export, Bitori Nha Bibinha. Previously forgotten and often ignored links in the African music story such as the Congolese maestro of electric guitar Georges Mateta Kiamuangana aka Verckys and the mighty Afro Funk ensemble Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou have enjoyed enlightening reappraisals too. Extending beyond its moniker, the label has also taken congruous excursions to South America, releasing the essential Diablos Del Ritmo and Mambo Loco: Anibal VelasQuez Y Su Conjunto Colombian compilations. Samy’s even navigated a path downstream to the Amazon town of Cametá to find the mysterious sound of Siriá, compiling a showcase of the style’s leading exponent Mestre Cupijó.

Though the Monolith Cocktail wasn’t established until halfway through the Analog Africa decade, we’ve followed the label closely and reviewed near enough most of the albums they’ve released. Currently on their 25th release, we pick ten choice records from the back catalogue and a playlist of our favourite tracks to celebrate.


1. Various  ‘Legends Of Benin’  (2009)

Analog Africas 'Legends Of Benin' 2009


In case your knowledge of African geography is shaky, Benin is in the west and borders Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. Tightly caged in by its neighbours, the influence of all these regions leaks into the music to create a unique mash-up of rhythms and beats that switches from rhumba to rocksteady in the blink of an eye.

The artists on this album include Gnonnas Pedro, a politically charged crusader; El Rego, an entrepreneur of dubious enterprises including a brothel and a boxing club; Antione Dougbe a much feared Vodun priest, and Honore Avolonto, responsible for the country’s biggest selling album of all time

Original review…


2.  Various  ‘Afrobeat Airways West African Shock Waves Ghana & Togo 1972 – 79’ (2010)

Monolith Cocktail - Afro-Beat Airways 2


Essentially a tale of two separate, but interlocked and musically linked, countries, this congruous compilation praises and extols the virtues of both the Islamic-roots Togo sound – part of Redjeb’s own turn-of-phrase “Islamic Funk Belt scene”, that stretched from northern Ghana to northern Nigeria – and the more robust and well-known Ghana sounds. Any obvious signs of demarcation like borders is lost, as the two nation’s voracious colourful musicians criss-crossed and shared the much common ground of passion for screaming organs, arching twanged gestured guitars, roaring tilt to the heavens horns, and side-stepping infectious poly-rhythms.

Original review…


3. Various  ‘Bambara Mystic Soul: Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-79’  (2011)



Our favorite purveyor of the recondite, forgotten and lost treasures of Africa, Samy Ben Redjeb unearths some ethereal soul from an untapped part of the continent.  Making our albums of the year in 2011 this compilation came up trumps with its mystical reinvented Stax revues, Afro funk, ghostly-recorded evocative laments, and blasts of disco from the tucked away, landlocked, Burkina Faso.


4. Various Artists   ‘Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960 – 1985’  (2012)

Monolith Cocktail

On the northern tip of Colombia’s Caribbean facing coastline lies the polygenesis voracious port of Barranquilla, a magnet and “Mecca” for seafarers and traders from across the globe. Bringing their goods and barter, these various visitors also shared their music and culture. It’s uncertain when the African sound first wowed the Colombian town, but its seismic impact upon the South American Latin-dominated horizon is beyond doubt.

As ever the exhaustive compiler, researcher, musical aficionado and pioneering erudite Samy Ben Redjeb, through his critically exhorted label Analog Africa, serves-up a hearty panoramic purview; bringing to life a much forgotten epoch in the annals of musical development. No one quite sums up, or interacts like Samy, his insightful imprint doesn’t just take from its source but forms a long-standing beneficial relationship with the artists: Whether it’s setting-up a royalty and license deal with that original artist/band, or in this case exchanging his own prized and rare collection of African records for those featured on this compilation – in turn these nuggets have been used to compete in the famous local carnival’s sound system rivalries.

Original review…


5. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’ (2013)

Monolith cocktail - Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’

In some respects a timely tribute to the ‘all powerful’ group’s founder Melome ‘The Boss’ Clement, who suffered a fatal heart attack in December of 2012, The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk features 14-tracks, never before heard outside their native land.

More variety than previous editions, this third chapter still thumps with that ‘Meters support James Brown at the Cotonou Apollo’ explosive vibe, but moves omnivorously through screaming Farfisa organ funk and Nigerian delta blues (Ai Gabani and Houzou Houzou Wa), infectious Stax r’n’b rattlers (Houton Kan Do Gome) and plaintive Spanish-twanged soul (Min We Tun So).

Original review


6. Various  ‘Angola Soundtrack 2 – Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969 – 1978’ (2013)

Angola 2


Building on the award-winning inaugural compilation (which won the German Record Critics prize for best ‘black music’ album in 2010), volume 2 features another cast of stripped down reedy wah-wah bluesmen and gentle horn blowing, cowbell tapping dancehall bands, serenading the shoe-shuffling congregation. Sedately enchanting, though still able to cause even the most reserved of listeners to shake it, the album shuffles along, evoking moments of samba, Cuba, Colombia and even the Shadows twang (especially in evidence on the spring-y África Ritmo instrumental, ‘Agarrem’).

Original review…


7. Verckys et L’Orchestre Vévé   ‘Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969 – 1978’  (2014)

Monolith Cocktail - et L’Orchestre Vévé


As glowing endorsements of musical prowess and live performance go, James Brown’s seal of approval must take some beating. Catching the chief instigator of the Congolese music scene – protégé guitarist turn entrepreneur, record label owner, producer and doyen of a whole new generation of emerging talent – Georges Mateta Kiamuangana, better known by his stage persona Verckys, in Kinshasa in 1974, the Godfather of soul anointed him “Mister dynamite”. When you hear Verckys at his most robust and funk-trunk shaking best, it’s pretty obvious why. Channeling the atavistic and contemporary shifts in black music from both across the Atlantic and from his homeland, Verckys turned his inimitable, nimble fretwork onto a myriad of dance rhythms; seamlessly rephrasing the South American staples of rhumba and pachanga with Afrofunk, pop and soul.

Original review…


8. Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo  ‘Siriá’  (2014)

Siria LP cover art for Monolith Cocktail


Coming up trumps with a showcase of rambunctious marches from ‘master’ Brazilian composer and conductor turned philanthropist, provisional lawyer and municipal councillor of Cametá, Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo, the label rediscovers the ‘cross-pollination’ rich Siriá style of music. Incubated on the shores of the river Tocantini, in the escaped African slave founded settlement of Quilombos, the ‘scorching’ siriá sound crosses the native Amazonian sound with that of Africa to create a popular rave up, played and enjoyed to great effect throughout the extended state of Pará at the traditional festivals and street parties. After spending a sojourn living with the locals and learning their sound and culture, Mestre Cupijó modernised the original with his newly formed Jazz Orquestra os Azes do Ritmo; recording a total of six soulfully high-spirited albums. The first two records were enthusiastically knocked out with ‘rudimentary equipment’ in a Cametá dance club, the third recorded in a Belém studio.

Original review…


9. Various  Artists   ‘Space Echo –  The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed’ (2016)

Monolith Cocktail - Space echoes


350 miles adrift of the West African coast, Cabo Verde (probably more familiar to many of us as Cape Verde) lies almost isolated out in the Atlantic Ocean. But this former overseas ‘department’ of Portugal fatefully, so the local legend goes, happened to be stuck in the exact right place when a shipment of the latest Rhodes, Moog, Farfisa, Hammond and Korg synthesizers and keyboards bound for the Exposição Mundial Do Son Eletrônico Exhibition in Rio De Janeiro ended up marooned on one of the archipelago’s ten volcanic islands in 1968. The real story grows mysterious, as the cargo, destined to reach a promising market in South America, disappeared off the radar on a calm morning the same day it set sail from Baltimore, and ended up 8km away from the Cape Verde coastline in a field near the village of Cachaço.

And so it goes: a musical manna from the heavens or space; a cargo that literally dropped into their laps from out of the stratosphere sets into motion a new dawn in music history. Whatever the truth, Cabo Verde’s musicians were certainly transformed. The melting pot of Mornas, Coladeras, carnival and previously prohibited – deemed far too risqué and sensual by the Portuguese overseers- Funaná styles of music were given a new lease of life and modern twist by the booty of futuristic sounding synthesizers.

Original review…


10. Bitori  ‘Legend  of  Funaná – The  Forbidden  Music  Of  The  Cape  Verde  Islands’ (2016)

Monolith Cocktail - Legend of Funaná – The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands


Though Funaná’s infectious quick-step is due to the driving percussive rhythm of the kitchen knife scrapped iron rod, christened the ‘ferro’ or ‘ferrinho’ by the islanders, it’s the bellowed dizzying sway and short concertinaed melodies and lead of the gaïta that gives the genre its signature sound. Originally brought over to their West African colony in the early 1900s by the Portuguese, the gaïta is a diatonal accordion, adopted by the Cape Verdeans and made their own. Spreading from the Santiago capital, it lent a continental swing and lilt to the traditional rhythms of Africa. But the authorities weren’t keen on this adoption, especially as Funaná became the protest music of Cape Verde’s most poor and displaced. Earnest but the most soulful and hopeful of all styles, Funaná was used as a vessel to proudly announce one’s heritage. Even when lamenting or in a more serene mood, it is always fast moving and energetic, surviving the staunch Catholic rule of Portugal with aplomb. Banned until the mid 1970s, musicians were flung into prison and tortured for playing it. One of the tragedies, but at least giving a wider international voice to the plight, was the diaspora that resulted from this hard-lined authoritarianism. Huge swathes of the native population, forced out because of oppression and poverty, moved throughout the globe, with many setting up in the colonial masters own backyard, usually Lisbon, and others moving north to Rotterdam.

Original review…


And here’s a selection of our ‘choice’ Analog Africa tracks…

Words: Ayfer Simms

Monolith Cocktail - Xenia Rubinos ‘Black Terry Cat’

Xenia Rubinos   ‘Black Terry Cat’
LP  released  by  ANTI-

Abundantly funky, the album is a fist raised high above the head, above the wild mane of the singer, the sound folks, a fist that says it is time to assert our being, here and now because we are drenched: 100 years, 200 years, 300 years of history latched onto our corpses, we must not shut our lips.

Xenia Rubinos wants to bite, deep. She sings like an intimidating snake in the outback, her venom appears thick and long, like a spitted chewing gum from the mouth of another, yet she is like candy. She must understand the coarse skin of the enemy, perhaps teach a few lessons, she must not fear but simply face it, sing with it, groove with it, with tunes that make our tendons tremble.

The music vibrates all over the streets, green fields, through reinforced concrete buildings, while something in her gaze shows assertiveness; she is like a one eyed titan who whispers “swallow your pride human child”. She is a primitive aura, she scatters free lyrics, her power of coolness, some strong footsteps, and she scoffs a little, to plague built up values; she is a pas de dance for those who get sent off without a letter of recommendation.


Rubinos chooses distortion, a brave hop of the finger to who ever, and while she flares, up in the air, her sweet face, smiling, adorn the perfect racy street kitten cape to greet you. She is a woman created by Picasso in his own image, huge, enormous, present, Rubinos, a nude from 1906. Hip, Hop and soul, nutty, bold, uncurbed, a fierce voice, with spasmodic rhythms, familiar though. Disguised in an urban daredevil, there’s no real grudge here, style and subjects are up to date, the banter is mutual, the succeeding embrace even stronger. Her battle of the raised fist is to boost consciousness, for the better and worse but really for the better.

Words: Matt Oliver

Monolith Cocktail - Rapture & Verse - Dabbla

The goss: some bemusing respect-your-elders squabbling between Pete Rock and Lil Yachty via Young Dolph, Run the Jewels expanding their brand even further with a Gears of War tie-in, rumours of a new A Tribe Called Quest surfacing, Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def visiting London for a two-date October stopover, Talib Kweli coming to the capital in December, and Vanilla Ice, on ice, pre-Christmas; just let that soak in for a moment.

Anyway, down to the nitty gritty, and the second in Rapture & Verse’s irregular mix series is a blinder of bold and blunted vibes from HCKYTMPR aka Brighton’s Al Penfold. Wrapping a stream of psych/rock weirdness around the best of J Dilla, Massive Attack, RJD2, RTJ, Jurassic 5, Aesop Rock, Beastie Boys and old skool mic swapping, you’re guaranteed 64 minutes of gloriously blurry lane-changing that will still smack you like a puck to the mush.


Royal rap-rock renegades Prophets of Rage – Chuck D, B-Real and three quarters of Rage Against the Machine – take up moshpit residence for ‘The Party’s Over’ EP. Two originals and three live trade-offs bulldoze their way into the hands of festival bookers as obvious darlings of uprising. If they’re looking for a convenient running mate, Zack de la Rocha, produced by El-P in typically bomb-lobbing fashion, brings the pane when ‘Digging for Windows’. Front rows may get gobbed on.

The usual standard measures from 100-proofers Pete Cannon and Dr Syntax gets heads lapping up ‘The Tonic’, a half dozen hamper of monkeying around, rap remedies and mercurial mastery. Make it one of your five a day, with ‘Cats & Dogs’ making a bid for club banger of the year. Shattering the porcelain ‘Red Light’ is East London’s Confz, where a gentle rocking turns into whiplash you’ll know about.

With similar contrast, Ric Wilson paints how it really is to a flourishing, Sunshine Anderson-styled soul burst telling everyone ‘We Love Us,’ and Remulak’s willowy woodwinds of ‘Highlife’ are starkly handled by M9 and Skriblah; Evil Ed provides a subtle glisten of a remix. A couple of trife lifers from Hus Kingpin – ‘Wave Palooza’ and ‘Wizard of Dons’ – block out the sun with grim spectres, and Czarface swoop back into view with superhero/rockstar timing on ‘All In Together Now’. We must include DJ Premier’s remix of Desiigner’s ‘Tiimmy Turner’ for attempting to get away with samples of South Park and the old BBC cricket theme.


Dabbla’s geezer skills on ‘Year of the Monkey’ jump assorted flavours rattled by Chemo, Tom Caruana, Sumgii and GhostTown, and slap them silly. “Good job I got that confidence within myself, because if I’m honest I ain’t really feeling no-one else”: a perfect summary for Paddy Smashdown’s likeably loutish but razor sharp mic grip. Add in appearances from Ocean Wisdom, Dubbledge and Jam Baxter and you’ve got an album scurrying its way to the top of the tree for 2016.

Cappo’s ‘Dramatic Change of Fortune’ isn’t an album of lucky streaks or hoping gambles come off. Painting a dour, mostly ashen scenery to that ever-calculating flow eliminating those low on IQ, its maker becomes even more enigmatic. With electricity in the air and the quiet storms ‘OOB’ and ‘Ether’ moving and exploding like stealth bombers, when autumn becomes winter, here’s your listening.

Only describable as an ‘odyssey’, Clipping’s typically individual ‘Splendor & Misery’ thoroughly disproves that no one in space can you hear you scream. Stark lines over minimally provocative electronics and spectacle-adding sermons from the LA leftfielders will clamp you to the edge of your seat before you can react.

On ‘Westside Highway Story’, a rich Latino backdrop spun by Salaam Remi conjures images of the ebullient Joell Ortiz, Bodega Bamz and Nitty Scott MC spitting on the streets in the middle of a heatwave while rubbing tequila salt in haters’ wounds; so a party album that definitely ain’t playing. And yes, the group are really called No Panty.

Soul swirls and hard knock boom bap, keeping its head up while the sun pokes through gloomy skies; there’s your forecast from Apollo Brown & Skyzoo. Perhaps never better summed up by The Carpenters sample on ‘Spoils to the Victor’, album ‘The Easy Truth’ is a great listen, sounding like it’s in a rut but pushing forward with spirit and conviction.

With a supply of old skool references and licks, and a flow always ready for a dust-up, Ryu of Styles of Beyond brings tons’o’guns to ‘Tanks for the Memories’. He’s a fair fighter – uncompromising but accessible – with the same going for Divine Styler on production. ‘The Devil Got a Plan’ elevates his yarn-spinning abilities, ‘Who’s Next’ is a bar-buying jump-up anthem, and the man has the knack of getting results deserving a rewind.

Reactivated after a four-year festering period, Holy Smoke’s self-titled album mines the lowest of the lo-fi underground, Jeremiah Jae and Zeroh responsible for blindly testing the foundations. Foreign film dubs meet a B-boy chop shop on Oso Blanco’s ‘Blancowood’, an instrumental soundclash with floods of Madlib/Wu-Tang-learned mystique and rickety assed-beats fuggin’ up the place, set to subtitles looking elsewhere. Repeatedly hitting the target to keep your head in credit, Ben Boogz opens up a stocky stockpile of jazzy and phat flavourings on ‘I Moreno’. Not one for sleight of hand, the direct stance heads into the red like a boombox-carrying bull. The best of Jack Diggs rubbing balm over boom-bap forms 28-track instrumental collection ‘Out the Dust’. A cool customer and expert on the axis of rugged and smooth, he runs through the Revorg catalogue and drops freshness alongside. Let it play in the background until it takes over the room.

R&V would wager a big chunk of change that Brookzill!’s ‘Throwback to the Future’ receives a flood of adjectives involving the words ‘melting pot’. A global road trip caught in exotic traffic, it’s a native tongued culture clash called to order by a surprise cast – the legendary Prince Paul, Digable Planets’ Ladybug Mecca, and maestros Rodrigo Brandao and Don Newkirk. The Latino spice, edge and colour shimmying around hip-hop might miss the point of a dreary October, but it shows there’s nothing wrong with just a little samba.

Reks will never stop fighting, which is handy seeing as ‘The Greatest X’ is two discs and 35 tracks long. Long occupying the negative, the Mass emcee either fights a lone battle or moves you into marching alongside. Don’t take his observations as woe-is-m:, plus a touch of relationship insight helps break down what was always going to be an ambitious statement (in fairness, a rare trait nowadays). Reks puts his endurance to the test with a live Jazz Cafe date later this month, alongside veteran heat bringers Edo G and Artifacts.

Amongst his library of soul cinema and folk threads, Wax Tailor keeps pockets of hip-hop to hand on ‘By Any Beats Necessary’, the Frenchman’s Bond theme auditions and gentleman B-boyisms interrupted by RA the Rugged Man, AFRO, Ghostface and Raashan Ahmed. Producer Blockhead doesn’t have a history of particularly forcing the issue, but finds rhymer MarQ Spekt putting the bit between his teeth and advising to ‘Keep Playin’. Resuming from 2014’s ‘JustPlayWitIt’, Spekt is the wide-eyed, tale-telling hitchhiker, riding shotgun – figuratively and literally – to Blockhead’s firm, unflinching grip of the wheel. Do as the title says.


Dusted off from sometime around 1999, J Dilla’s ‘Back to the Crib’ captures a bunch of funk, pop and soul classics inside the mind of the MPC master. A very necessary high grade mix from DJ Matman celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Cypress Hill debut, stuffed with classics and source material. Helle Hooper commemorates the same milestone of Main Source’s ‘Breaking Atoms’ in similar fashion, never missing out on any vital ingredients.

To close: the visions of Onoe Caponoe, and floods of consciousness from Red Pill.

%d bloggers like this: