Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Alessio Bondi ‘Nivuru’
(800A Records) February 2019


The prodigal son returns: And not for the first time. Returning to the bejeweled Mediterranean oasis that is Sicily, after various adventures travelling across South America and Africa, the Sicilian troubadour, balladeer and romantic poet Alessio Bondi once more embraces his roots on a new songbook of heart-wrenched soul and pop.

It’s hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with the Island home of Bondi, despite its obvious dark history – though the grip of organized crime has been loosened in recent decades; Sicily breathing far more easily with a certain confidence, as it enjoys a rightful renaissance, and attracts more and more tourists -; a landscape enriched not scared by its conquerors; the various impressive architectural styles and monuments of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spanish so ingrained as to be taken for granted by the locals strike a sense of awe and exaltation in the tourist. Having visited the cosmopolitan palmed metropolis capital of Palermo myself a couple of years back (making a return trip I might add in April) I was astounded, hypnotized by the film set like scale of it all: The incredible Triumphal and Porte Felice gateways that stand like titanic totems at either side of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele could have adorned the entrance to an MGM studios sword-and-sandals imagined Babylonian set.

Long ignored, unless for all the wrong reasons, Italy’s often discarded treasure is abundant with a culture and art scene far more polygenesis and open to outsiders than its official Rome-centric administered overlords. Rome pulls and sucks in those looking to escape the provinces in the same way most major capitals or cities of influence do. For example, even one of our hosts when we last stayed in Palermo was based there; the natural international draw for generations of Sicilians, including even Bondi, who moved to Rome to study theatre, graduating as an actor from the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica Corrado Pani.

Continuing to celebrate the melancholic malaise and, almost, sagacious pessimistic – but philosophical – language that runs deep in the Sicilian mindset and art, Bondi follows up his 2015 debut album Sfardo with an equally inviting lyrical collection of both yearning sonnets and more uptempo declarations of love.

The darker pained expression of torrid love affairs, love spurned heartache, the troubled mind and the uneasy relationship that exists between Sicilians and the active volcanic force of the omnipresent Mt. Etna are adhered to by the title of Bondi’s second album, Nivuru, which translates as “black”. Sung in the Sicilian dialect, which isn’t totally alien to those who know their Italian, but has a number of accents, turn-of-phrases and localized pearls of wisdom wordplays unique to the Island, Bondi’s lyrics emphasis a passionate attachment to the “black” miasma that has fueled so much of Sicily’s literature and music.

However Nivuru is predominantly a reference to the “nivi nivura”, the ‘black snow” by-product of Mt. Etna when it erupts. Bondi, channeling Jeff Buckley, pens an especially metaphorical poetic soundtrack to the volcano behemoth that looms ready to one day perhaps destroy the Island, but also nurtures it, on the song of the same title: “Eyes of onyx, ocean of anisette. A volcano’s sciara above me, volcano of flowers inside me.” Evidently, the “sciara” of those lyrics relates to the cooled-down lava when it becomes solid; a phenomenon that attracts tourists; best seen at night when incandescent and showing off its full palette of colours. I only know this because the artist includes footnotes throughout the booklet that accompanies this LP.

Elsewhere Bondi pays a paean of sorts to the Island on the drum shuffling, musing flute and trumpet serenaded ‘L’Amuri Miu Pi Tia’ (“my love for you”); running through a menagerie of Sicily’s natural inhabitants in a swooning declaration of love. But the album’s most heart-twanged lament, ‘Un Favuri’, features an imaginary conversation between Palermo’s famous Formula 1 legend Ninni Vaccarella and his ill-fated son Giovanni; the consequence, in this tale of following in the footsteps of a famous father, ending in tragedy.

The language quirks, expressions are all Sicily, but musically Bondi absorbs the musical influences of his travels to add an often-tropical lilt and rhythm to the earthy romanticism of the Island’s folk traditions. Geographically nestling at the toe of Italy, Sicily is actually a gateway historically, especially in recent years with the migration crisis, to the African continent. Less than a hundred miles from the Tunisian coastline and the next disembarkation spot after the tiny islet of Lampedusa – the first port of call for many migrants making the crossing from Africa to Europe -, Sicily has seen an untold cycle of arrivals. Taking a more practical, even welcoming approach Palermo’s most liberal of mayors, Leoluca Orlando, has attempted to help and integrate these vulnerable migrant arrivals; or at least keep them out of the clutches of the mafia, who he has successfully fought against, jailing in high numbers, confiscating their ill-gotten gains to the benefit of the public, and changing the attitude of locals by encouraging businesses to stop paying for protection (extraordinarily brave in the past, but growing in recent years, shops, cafes et al can even display a sticker in their shop window professing their refusal to pay); encouraging tourism and in the process as, arguably, the architect of Palermo’s renaissance – a city that only two decades ago resembled a war zone, with shoot-outs, explosives and hits carried out on a daily basis, in broad daylight by rival Mafioso clans. Bondi reflects all this by absorbing Afro-funk and fuzz and West African percussion (Djembe, Balafon) on such tumultuous heartbreak as ‘Dammi Una Vasata’ – though there’s an unmistakable air of The Balearics about this song too.

Bringing his signature South American lilt on Bolivian flute to the jazzy, metaphorical drinking-in atmosphere of ‘Café’, fellow Sicilian (well half, the other half being British) troubadour of note, Sergio Beercock helps widen the musical eclectic influences even further.

From a kind of sexy Curtis Mayfield funk vibe to musica popular do Brasil, smooth jazz horns to outright commercial pop, Bondi filters his various musical-peppered travels to produce a cosmopolitan sound: the very epitome of Sicilian culture itself.

Literally baring one’s soul, heart worn on the outside, Bondi is almost always the protagonist, though he shares his sons with a host of hot-blooded Latin stereotypes yet to sign-up to the #metoo agenda –some rather touchy-feely examples. A sensitive poet, Bondi even pens a strange searching requiem to the sisterhood on the starry and filmic ‘Si Fussi Fimmina’, which may lose something in translation (‘if I were a woman”) but is also quite a pained attempt at solidarity.

Guilt, loss, revelation and longing, the full emotional gamut is represented as Bondi, like a cross-between Devendra Banhart and St. Francis of Assisi, or, a penitent balladeer of Sicilian lore breaking bread with Jeff Buckley, channels the earthy soul of Sicily to produce an unguarded love letter to his Island paradise.



Words: Dominic Valvona

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Reviews Roundup: Dominic Valvona




Each month Dominic Valvona brings us the most eclectic recommendations roundups, with reviews of albums, singles and EPs from across the globe and genres.

 

This latest edition includes a brand new album of unsettling cosmic traverses from Krautrock and Berlin guitar legend Günter Schickert – working with Ja, Panik main man Andreas Spechtl – based around the concept of his home city’s transport system and a moth; the return of the peaceable voiced folk maiden Katie Doherty and her The Navigators pals; the debut album of Latintronica, psych, prog and Kosmische peregrinations from the Argentine artist Santiago Córdoba, ‘En Otres Lugares’; a trio of World Music showcases from the prolific ARC Music catalogue, with collections from the Vietnamese zither maestro Tri Nguyen, the co-production and musical Sufi mystical transforming partnership of Abdesselam Damoussi & Nour Eddine and traditional Thrace mythological imbued Rodopi Ensemble; the debut solo album of ‘attic noise’ from Benelux alt-rock scenester Heyme Langbroek; and the brilliant new album of sentimental dreampop from Toronto musician Charlie Berger, under his newest incarnation With Hidden Noise.

There’s also the upcoming playful psychedelic pop and tropical lilted dance around the Berlin architecture EP, Rooftop Trees, from Aurélien Bernard – under his 3 South & Banana alter ego; the latest in a line of singles from the Oxford-based Swedish angulated indie pop songstress Julia Meijer;and the profound afflatus elegiac opener, ‘When You’re Gone’, from the marital fronted Settle band Society Of The Silver Cross.



Albums

Günter Schickert ‘Nachtfalter’
(Bureau B) 15th February 2019


Notable progenitor of flanging echo-pedal guitar, free-jazz instigator of the traversing cosmic GAM, No Zen Orchestra and Arumaruma (among the least obscure succession of groups), the Berlin Krautrock legend Günter Schickert continues, like so many of his surviving WWII born and Boomer generation comrades, to circumnavigate the sonic unknown; probing for tears in the fabric, looking to penetrate new horizons.

An extension of Schickert’s previous solo flights of guitar exploration – the 1975 Brain label debut Samtvogel, and the Sky label follow-up of 1980 ÜberfälligNachtfalter features all the signature echo-y reverberations and waning searching guitar accentuations. Recorded back in the summer of 2018, in collaboration with Ja, Panik navigator Andreas Spechtl, who refashioned Schickert’s untethered live performances, adding his very own drum accompaniments and loops, this instrumental album evokes both the cosmic mysticism of Ash Ra Tempel and the more haunting, ominous deep space Kosmische of Tangerine Dream. Spechtl’s production, drum patterns and effects however, add a touch of tubular metallic sheen, futuristic tribal percussion and nuanced Techno to the otherworldly, often threatening, mood.

There are two inspirations at work on this LP; the naturalistic progress and presence, and then demise, of the moth that this album is named after (this said moth also features in the artwork) and the motion, rhythm of public transport in the city of Schickert’s birth. As the artist himself says, “I was born in Berlin and I am a true city child.” And like so many before and after, the city has left it’s indelible mark; the beat (not to be confused with the Dusseldorf birthed ‘motorik’ rhythm of Klaus Dinger) on Nachtfalter mirrors the industrious clang, rattle and cycle of Berlin’s metro and buses to an extent, though the northern European atmosphere of the city’s psychogeography attracts a more darker, eerie misaim throughout. The opening ‘Nocturnus’ (as the title might imply) is especially creepy with its Kubrick monolith pulse and unsettling conch shell horn – imagine Faust and Tangerine Dream invoking the arrival of a cosmic Viking long ship, emerging from the mists. The final all-encompassing merging of Schickert’s full gamut of guitar manipulations and strides, ‘Reflections Of The Future’, even evokes moments of John Carpenter’s synth-tracked horrors.

Despite the heart-of-darkness moods and craning instrumental eulogies to the moth that by happenstance entered the studio (clinging to the ceiling all night before dropping dead the next morning) during recordings, there are occasional bursts of energetic thumping rhythm: bordering on juddering Electro on the gliding, county bowed guitar arching and leaning ‘Wohin’ (which translates as ‘Where’: indeed where?!!). There are glimmers of light to be found amongst the darkened unknowing mystery, and far from suppressive and heavy, Schickert’s guitar roams freely, drifting, wafting and expansively has he accents the spaces before him.

An impressive cool transformation of the guitar innovator’s echoed enveloping signatures and traverses, Nachtfalter benefits enormously from Spechtl contemporary and energetic production. A dynamism and touch of modern electronica is added to the Krautrock messenger’s articulations to produce a most unsettling, interesting of musical experiences.




Santiago Córdoba ‘En Otros Lugares’
(Sounds And Colours) 8th February 2019





A gateway to everything worth celebrating (as much as it might also be confounding and a mystery to many) about the South American and Central American continent, the Sound And Colours hub, which includes one of the most in-depth of reference and news sites, guide books and events, has proved a rich essential source for me. Whether it’s through the site’s cultural, political and historical purview style series of accessible guides to Peru, Brazil and Colombia, or their considered catalogue of music projects, I’m kept up-to-speed and introduced to some of the continent’s most interesting artists and scenes. The latest of which is the emerging and burgeoning solo artist Santiago Córdoba, who releases his panoramic multi-city composed suite En Otros Lugares on the site’s in-house label this month.

 

ormerly a percussionist band member of the ‘revolutionary’ Tango outfit Violentango, the Argentine born Córdoba left his native home in 2016 for a ‘peripatetic’ life, moving from one place to the next; making a fleeting base of operations for himself in Madrid, Italy and Beirut. Backpacker travails and the sounds of each short-stay imbue this eclectic travelogue; though these often free-spirited peregrinations also stir up cosmic, magical and transcendental horizons as much as the Earthly: As the album title itself alludes, En Otros Lugares translates as “in other places” or “elsewhere”.

Both geographically and musically diverse, the opening panorama, ‘La Llamada’ (“the flamed”), traverses an amorphous Andean outback landscape, filled with ghostly echoes, arid hums and a trance backing, whilst Fuck Buttons meet School Of Seven Bells astral planning over the Amazon on the progressive psychedelic ‘A Dos Leagues’ (“two leagues”).

Post-rock influences merge with Latintronica, 2-Step, free-jazz crescendos, the Kosmische, Refree like harmonic plucks and brushed guitar, and radio transmissions tuned to poignant past figures of interest on a condor flight of fantasy and mystical voyage of thoughtful meditation.

The former Tango agitator expands his tastes and picks up a host of new instruments to fashion an impressive ambitious slow-burner of a debut album. Another brilliant South American export.






Katie Doherty & The Navigators ‘And Then’
(Steeplejack Music) 25th January 2019





Sidetracked, in a positive and inspiring way, by a detour into stage production, folk maiden Katie Doherty has probably taken a lot longer than she envisioned to release another album.

The award-winning songwriter released her debut, Bridges, to favorable reviews back in 2007 and went on to share the stage with such luminaries as Karine Polwart, the McGarrigle Sisters and Ray Davis on a giddying trajectory, before (as Doherty herself puts it) ‘life got in the way’. In that time Doherty, far from idle, took on roles as both a composer for a number of Northern Stage productions and as a MD for a Royal Shakespeare Company production. It is these roles, and ‘broadening’ of horizons that now inform Doherty, her Navigators (Shona Mooney on fiddle and vocals and Dave Gray on the button accordion melodeon) and wider backing group (which includes more chorus vocalists, a cellist, percussionist and double bassist) on the concertinaed pastoral theatrical And Then.

Three tracks specifically sound like they were plucked from the stage. And in a roundabout way they were; the peaceable air-y bellowed shanty dedication to ‘leaving a beloved city behind’ ‘Yours’ and gentle-building lulled symphony finale ‘We Burn’ were both originally commissioned by the November Club for ‘Beyond The End Of The Road’, and the enchanting picturesque scene-setting waltz ‘Heartbeat Ballroom’ was commissioned by the Wallsend Memorial Hall for the reopening of the town’s grandiose ballroom.

Marking ‘change’ in various forms and analogies Doherty’s themes encompass the change of the seasons, the life-altering change of bringing up a child in a changing society hooked-up 24 hours to, an often, poisonous internet, and the rapidly escalating changes in society as a consequence of the equality debate: Doherty, in the shape of an enervated ‘anti-apology’ framed protest, takes a dignified stance on the album’s title track, giving a more considered intensity to a R&B pop-folk backing as she reassures us that “This is not war music. This is not a fighting song.”

Such heavy important anxieties, such as the pressures of expectation (epically in our validation age of social media shaming, easy inflamed indignity and virtue signaling) and responsibility are woven into a lovely songbook, as Doherty’s lightly caressing vocals waft and dance to a mix of Celtic tradition, snow flurry landscape malady, buoyant sea motion affairs of the heart and Eastern European travails.

After years spent away from the studio, Katie Doherty emerges with a purposeful and composed reflective collection of distilled folk.




Heyme ‘Noise From The Attic’
(Jezus Factory) TBA





Spending much of his formative musical education in the Benelux, playing with a litany of alternative underground rock and experimental angulated Antwerp bands (Kiss My Jazz, IH8 Camera and Lionel Horowitz & His Combo), the Dutch-born musician Heyme Langbroek now sets out on a solo mission with his curious debut, and self-explanatory entitled, album Noise From The Attic.

Settling (for the last six years at least) in Poland Heyme puts all his past experiences into an understated album of songs and instrumentals created by the use of a loop station; Heyme using this unit to build a basic track which he then plays over the top of with various overlapping melodies, rhythms and improvisations. A quaint routine, Heyme’s attic noises, as the title makes clear, were all recorded in the said attic garret of his house, mostly on alternate Sundays. It might be nothing but by choosing the traditional day of liturgy worship to record his music on, it could be read as a metaphor for cathartic release; unburdening ideas, sentiments and regrets at the altarpiece of a home-recording studio.

Tethered to the past as much as moving forward experimentally, Noise From The Attic is imbued by many of the same performance recording techniques as used by the Antwerp collective of Kiss My Jazz; a group that Heyme served with alongside members from, perhaps Belgium’s most revered and recognized alt-rock group, dEUS. Heyme even reprises one of the band’s estranged songs, ‘Burn In Hell’; a woefully mooning ‘fuck you’ break-up submerged beneath a vacuum of Hawaiian rock’n’roll warbles. On the remainder of the LP he despondently wanes to a suffused template of Casio keyboard like presets, snozzled oozing Roxy Music and Hansa Studio Bowie saxophone, forlorn northern European melodies and chugging guitar. Within those perimeters the moody attic troubadour of alternative lo fi brooding pop does a Sparks, on ‘Klara’, evokes 70s era Floyd, on the mentally fatiguing ‘Paranoid’, adopts Blixa Bargeld’s tonsils and trans-European malady, on ‘Where She Goes (She Goes)’, and channels Eno’s ‘Another Green World’, on the far from discordant row, ‘Noisz’.

Showing the ‘proverbial’ Dutch courage, unloading worn, grizzled sentiments the solitary Heyme provides one of the year’s most peculiar reflective solo experiments. Fans of the solo work of the former dEUS guitar triumvirate of Rudy Trouve, Mauro Pawlowski and Craig Ward will find a fourth such inspired maverick to add to the list.






With Hidden Noise ‘Beside The Sea’
(Loss Leader Records) 18th January 2019





Rising with a certain languid tremble from the nocturnal wintery Canadian frontiers before dissipating back into the ether of a somnolent dreampop soundscape, Charlie Berger under the guises of his newest project, White Hidden Noise, wafts in and out of a fluxes state of pining and sighed romanticism.

Well versed in the dreampop, shoegaze and slowcore departments the Toronto musician-singer-songwriter’s diaphanous brooding album is a congruous continuation in a career that includes stints with Soft Wounds, Slowly and Tone Mirrors, and the launch of his own diy label, Loss Leader Records – of which this LP is released through. In that mode, with influences like Low (a huge influence in fact), Cigarettes After Sex and The Red House Painters lingering throughout the wistful fabric, the veiled Beside The Sea opus dreams big. Berger woos expansive heartache across the panoramas; meditating on the loss of memory to a considered purposeful backing that builds from suffused lulls to gradually built-up and swelled indie-shoegaze choruses.

The album title and gentle prompts, including the artist’s own guidance that this eight-track suite could be “moody late night driving music”, pretty much sets the listener up as to the mood, environment and sentiment. Amongst the bendy tremolo flanges and placid rhythms of the brushed cymbal and echo-y forlorn, the trio of songs, ‘The Other Korea’, ‘Close The Door’ and ‘Look’, placeably break out from their dreamy state into beautiful shoegaze-y Britpop anthems – hues of Slowdive, Gene and Sway drift around in the general absorption of influences.

It could just be me, but I can even hear a touch of early REM in the fanned-drift and soft pained harmony of ‘Further More’ and The Bends era Radiohead on the opening tenderly swooned ‘Window’ metaphor heavy plaint.

Berger’s yearned and pined ‘drive time’ soundtrack beckons the listener into a moody dreamy atmosphere of emotive outpourings; the subject of these songs remaining a lingering presence, lost, with only the traces of those memories remaining. Beside The Sea is a beautiful album – ok, some tracks do overstay their welcome – that reimagines Low as a British 80s dreampop combo.






Rodopi Ensemble ‘Thraki-Thrace-The Path Of Dionysus’
(ARC Music) 25th January 2019

Abdesselam Damoussi & Nour Eddine ‘JEDBA-Spiritual Music From Morocco’
(ARC Music) 25th January 2019

Tri Nguyen ‘The Art Of The Vietnamese Zither-Đàn Tranh’

(ARC Music) 22nd February 2019




Among the most prolific of world music and folk labels the ARC Music catalogue spans eras, genres and geography: In-depth surveys, collections and performances from the Welsh vales to Andean Mountains, from the South African veldts to Arctic Tundra. Probably sending us the most CDs of any label on a weekly basis, ARC’s diverse schedule is always worth further inspection, even if the cover art and packaging suggests the kind of CD you might pick up from a garage – filed under ethnocentric muzak. Far from it, each release is always a showcase of adroit musicianship with only the best examples of every style and tradition covered.

Usually built on the foundations of each respective artists or troupe’s heritage, these albums offer a contemporary twist on occasion: even a fusion.

Not so much randomly but just taking a trio of recent releases from the ARC stable we find three very different examples of this with the music of the atavistic recalled Thracian imbued Rodopi Ensemble, the masterful Vietnamese zither expert Tri Nguyen and Sufi-inspired advocates of Moroccan spiritual music partnership, Abdesselam Damoussi & Nour Eddine. All three commit a new energy to very old forms, and merge with influences outside their source material.

 

The first of this trio reverts back to the ancient moniker of what was straddling region that encompassed Southern Bulgaria, North West Turkey and the tip of Greece, Thrace; an area dominated by the 240 Km stretching mountain range behemoth that lends its name to this quintet’s ensemble, Rodopi. Steeped in Greek mythology, the Rodopi is synonymous for being the final resting place of Queen Rhodope and her husband King Haemus of Thrace; the lovers, so it is told in legend, rather unwisely offended the Gods Zeus and Hera, and were punished by being turned into the said mountain range.

Inspired by this homeland, Rodopi musically travel through Ottoman dervish, fluting Egyptian and Balkan folk on an erudite and immaculately performed collection of matrimonial, free form and scarf-waving giddy dances. Providing a swirling, but when acquired equally poised forlorn performance, the spindled spiraling lute and Kanun, heavy range of percussion (from the exotic ‘riqq’ to ‘dara-bakka’ and bendir’), swooned clarinet and weeping violin conjure up a vivid homage to a continuously changing landscape. In dual-language, songs and titles cross between Greek and Turkish; wrapped up in the obvious history of the two former dominant Empires: whether it’s in the traditional romantic flower and fauna metaphorical accompaniment of Asia Minors Greek refugees ‘Menexédes Kai Zouboulia’ (Violets And Hyacinths), or, in the tribute to the ensemble’s late clarinetist, Sol Hasan, on the improvisational ‘Roman Havasi’ (The Air Of Gypsies).

A wonderful dance of yearning remembrance and tradition, the music of Thrace is brought back to life with a touch of contemporary dynamism, flair and love.



Presenting the Vietnamese Zither, otherwise known as the sixteen-string Đàn Tranh, in a new light, ‘bi-cultural’ practitioner Tri Nguyen uses both his classical Western training and Vietnamese ancestry to delicately accentuate a collection of poetically brush-stroked scenes and moods. This congruous marriage of forms and cultures often results in moments and swells that evoke the gravitas of the opera or ballet, yet seldom drown out the light deft touches of the lead instrument.

Just as renowned for his adroit pianist articulations as he is for bringing the Đàn Tranh – a cousin of the Chinese ‘guzheng’, Japanese ‘koto’ and Korean ‘gayageum’ – to a wider international audience, Nguyen caresses a diaphanous web of descriptive quivers over classical strings and percussion on this latest showcase.

Emphasizing his native homeland and the countries that border it he mirrors the elements (the flow of a stream; the droplets of gentle rain), wildlife (the blackbird singing proudly; a galloping stoic horse) and moods (a contemplative sad refrain that ushers in a seasonal and metaphorical change; the joy of returning home after a sojourn spent away).

From lullaby to the Imperial, whether it’s a picturesque meditation or a tale from the time of China’s Three Kingdoms, the musical performances are beautifully immaculate. In truth, too classical and varnished for my taste, I have to admire the faultless musicianship.






Personally the more interesting for me of these three ARC titles is the co-production partnership of Moroccan composers Abdesselam Damoussi and Nour Eddine, who bring together a cast of authentic Sufi singers and musicians on the dynamic Jedba album showcase.

With backgrounds in everything from Hip-Hop to Jazz, Rock, Electronica, World Music and (in Eddine’s case) the Vatican’s vaults of Classical music, both musician-producers provide an exciting backing of bombastic percussion and hypnotizing rhythms to the venerable spiritual mystique of the Sufi tradition. Literally invited and transported into the studio from their impromptu performances in the famous walled marketplace of Jemaa el-Fnaa, located in the heart of Marrakech, a cast of mystics, poets and players from various tribes and disciplines gathered together for one collective exchange: The “Jedba” of the title referring to a collective dance in which people from multi faiths including Jewish, Christian and Muslim hold hands in a symbol of harmony and friendship; “united in love of the divine”.

The magic is in the fusion, as instruments as exotic and diverse as the wind equivalent of the Scottish bagpipes, the ‘ghaita’, rasps over a swanning break beat like percussion on the opening title-track, or, Arabian female tongue trills excitably warble in divine celebration over a dramatic filmic bounding accompaniment on the song-of-praise ‘Allah Hay’. Encompassing Berber desert rock, the adoring commanding vocals of Yemdah Selem (the ‘diva’ of desert music as Damoussi puts it), the solitary prayers of the bred and born Sufi and imam of a mosque in Tangiers, Said Lachhab, and giddy dance, the chants and exaltations of these Marrakech street performers is given a new dynamism and energy via the dual purpose of preservation and in beaming this entrancing mystical tradition to a new audience.





EPS

3 South & Banana ‘Rooftop Trees’
(Some Other Planet Records/Kartel) 1st March 2019





Stepping-out from the sunny-dispositional ranks of the psychedelic indie and tropical lilted London-based Cairobi – formerly, for a decade previous to the name-change in 2017, Vadoinmessico – the group’s drummer Aurélien Bernard follow’s up on his last two singles with a new EP of bright disarming soft-shoe shufflers.

The French-born but Berlin-based all rounder uses his adoptive home as inspiration, though musically the compass is pointing towards the tropical equator. The angulated skip and catchy opening track, ‘Magdalen Eye’, treats Berlin as a jump-off point; its architecture and history (where do you start?!!) echoing and reverberating in what sounds like a psychedelic dream pop with Nirvana grunge drop Ariel Pink. It also reminds me of the recent brilliance of fellow French new wavers, grunge and indie sensations Brace! Brace! The very French-esque float-y and whistle-y ‘Soleil’, sung in the native tongue, wistfully bids farewell to the long Berlin winter as the “first warmer sunny days of April” ease in.

Named after one of Bernard’s previous singles, the four-track EP includes 2018’s ‘Rooftop Trees’ and ‘Fake Jungle’ records. The first of which poses a meditation on the tensions between man-made and natural structures to a woozy psychedelic jaunt: Literally dancing to architecture, Bernard dapples the catchiest of psych and cool Gallic pop on a concrete environment. The latter, rather unbelievably, was inspired by a one-off jam session with James Brown (a throwback to Bernard’s days as a session drummer in Las Vegas), and sounds like a swimmingly Malian Syd Barrett produced by Nino Ferrer.

Light and jaunty but with a depth and sense of concern, Bernard’s oddly entitled 3 South & Banana alter-ego delivers a sumptuous cantaloupe lolloping EP of playful catchy brilliance.







Singles

Julia Meijer ‘Train Ticket’
15th March 2019





It seems almost obligatory, at least in the last decade, to affix the fatuous term of Scandi-pop to every single artist or band emerging from Sweden: whether they play guitars or programme synths. Native Swede songstress-musician Julia Meijer is no different. Even though she lives in Oxford her taciturn, slightly skewed angulated indie-pop sound falls easily into the Scandi-pop fold of classification.

With a string of singles behind her, Meijer is finding her feet; trying out new things on every one, with the only real consistency being quality and depth.

The latest, Train Ticket, is no different. A collaborative affair that features a couple of Guillemots in the ranks (Greig Stewart on drums and Fyfe Dangerfield on suffused low-ray burnished Hammond organ) and Oxford’s busiest polymath of the moment Sebastian Reynolds (Flights Of Helios, the Solo Collective, Mahajanaka project) on swallow undulated synth duties, Meijar’s musical partners construct a counterbalance between a Kate Nash fronted New Young Pony Club version of art school indie and looser, almost, quasi-Talking Heads African lilted mirage-y chorus.

Every bit as taut and tense as Meijer planned – reflecting the lyrical anxious sentiments of uncertainty, expectations and disappointments –yet bendy and supple when that same tension is lifted, the page-turning autobiographical Train Ticket proves to be yet another sophisticated slice of unsure protagonist yearned pop, and wrangled, just raw and edgy enough, indie.

Still adapting and evolving, Julia Meijer has laid down a quality series of singles thus far, all slightly different. We’ll be able to soon experience the full effect when she delivers that debut album, Always Awake, in May.




Society Of The Silver Cross ‘When You’re Gone’





Feasting out on the strength of their most afflatus (and only) single, ‘When You’re Gone’, the venerable marital-fronted Society Of The Silver Cross have built up quite a momentum and drawn some considerable weighty acclaim. Wafting on to my radar at the end of last year – included on the last Monolith Cocktail ‘choice’ playlist of 2018 – this bellowed harmonium and zither-droned esoteric profound elegy reimagines the Velvet Underground led by a lapsed-Catholic Kurt Cobain.

Achingly diaphanous despite its forlorn succinct wise cycle of lyrics (“When you’re gone, you’re gone, you’re gone. We’re only here for a while. We’re only here for a day.”), this humbled sea shanty-motion mystery was in part inspired by the band’s husband and wife protagonists’ travels across India; part of that Velvet imbued sound enacted by the Indian auto-harp, the shahi baaja.

With the spotlight drawn towards this Seattle outfit’s Joe Reineke and Karyn Gold-Reineke partnership, the Society Of The Silver Cross does also include a small but extended cast of enablers on an accompaniment that features the mellotron, accordion and host of similar evocative instruments.

Vividly dreamy in a plaintive humbled atmosphere filled with various visual references of haunting iconography, Society Of The Silver Cross’s inaugural single is a most sagacious opener; a stark but confident creation of real quality and depth that merges the underground with Gothic Americana. Brilliant.





Words: Dominic Valvona


Album Review: Gianluigi Marsibilio



Beirut ‘Gallipoli’
(4AD) 1st February 2019


A scratch in a forest of familiar sounds.

The new Beirut album is a freaky object, but in some details it revives the old fuses placed by the band on the battleground.

The shining of good past ideas is a necessary work to reaffirm the identity of the Beirut that are exalted in the Farfisa organ and in the galloping sections of winds, as in ‘Family Curse’.

This album follows in the footsteps of an album like March of the Zapotec, throwing us into an ocean of summer images, continental Europe still seen with an eye to the utopia of union. Zach Condon like Thomas More and his island of Utopia draws a world, even today, where contaminations flow and merge win on the walls, closures and fears.

Gallipoli is a bay where the Balkan folk, like Bregovic, can germinate and mix with the ideas of Condon, who uses a very similar instrumentation compared as to that of his previous masterpieces Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup.

Another peculiarity comes from the choice to capture the record in a fortress in Puglia (Italian region); to reflect by vibrations on the record are the walls of a castle that attaches Beirut not only towards geographical but also historical borders.

Overall, the work is able to light up in pieces like ‘Gallipoli’ or ‘When We Die’, but the feeling is of being in front of a rib, a sequence of the season and not a new and well focused chapter.

The danger of sound homogenization is strong, but with his head held high Condon’s ability to write songs on the thread of wool comes out, with a defined and precise register, a plot now well experienced by Beirut. To attenuate, however, the similarities of the work with the previous discography of the group there is the strong sound contamination that Gallipoli has suffered, while travelling in studios in Italy, Germany and New York.

The ukulele of the first works has disappeared, but the optimistic attitude of Beirut is reflected in background voices, in the raw keyboards and in the wind sections.

Gallipoli is a celebration of the talent of a musician with incredible ideas, so even if not everything is perfectly successful on the album, there is no room for disappointment, tracks like ‘When I Die’ or ‘I Giardini’ are worth it alone.



Words: Gianluigi Marsibilio


Album Review: Words: Andrew C. Kidd





Welcoming our newest guest writer to the Monolith Cocktail fold, Andrew C. Kidd pens a most philosophical purview of the recently-released About B. collection of reworked and previously unreleased “memory sketches”, by the German-based composer Tim Linghaus.


Tim Linghaus ‘About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings)’
(Sound In Silence) 18th January 2019


“Memory, even if you repress it, will come back at you and it will shape your life”, postulated the lauded German writer and academic W. G. Sebald in what would be his last published interview1. After listening to About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings), I am left ruminating on Sebald’s statement highlighting the inexorable influence of memory.

Memory has been the focus of other experimental musicians. One such project that comes to mind is Everywhere at the End of Time, the bold, six-album series written by The Caretaker, a pseudonym of James Leyland Kirby, that chronicles the gradual diminution and distortion of memory in the context of Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike Kirby, Tim Linghaus does not pursue a linear narrative in his wistfully elegant collection. Instead, his 17 compositions are sketches, or rather, brief snapshots in time that seek to capture the subtle moments that occur in a life.

Although About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings) does not follow a linear course, to suggest that Linghaus considers memory to be non-linear would be incorrect. His interpretation of the linearity of memory, or to put it simply, the idea of memory as a continuum with our self-development in present day being highly influenced by memories of the past and future memories unconsciously being shaped by past events, occurs through a series of recurring motifs. These include the distinct but detached sounds of radio static, the familiar crackle of a vinyl record spinning atop a platter and the muffled warmth of the mechanical assembly of hammers hitting piano strings as keys are pressed. He also captures the often fleeting and frustratingly fragmented aspects to memory through the periodicity of his analogue synth arpeggios and the ephemeral nature of many of the pieces (some are as short as 30 seconds).

Devoid of intelligible words (the dreamy Where Is My Girl does feature a disguised vocal harmony), I do wonder whether Linghaus has opted for the piano as an instrument to represent his ‘voice’. The warm tonality of the piano, or perhaps even temperament (in the piano tuning sense), evokes many emotions. Snow at Franz-Mehring-Platz is melancholic. Anatomy Of Our Awkward Farewell Gestures springs into a slow waltz and contradicts the other pieces around it. The piano notes on Chased By Two Idiots are long and sustained; this track engenders a feeling of darkness which is further augmented by the deep bass-sequence and the glassy drone noises.

People listening to Tim Linghaus will of course draw comparisons to the German-born British composer Max Ritcher, particularly when presented with the complex rhythmic structure on Before Berlin (About B. End Title), the legato played on Jonathan Brandis and the plaintive strings that flood over I Was Atom And Waves (Reprise, Pt. II). The shifts of tone colour on Repetitive Daydream Sequence, Pt. VI (Humboldt University Chemistry Class 1975) are very reminiscent of the American producer Oneohtrix Point Never and his Russian Mind EP (No Fun Production, 2013). The oscillated rhythms of Looking For Dad In Radio Noise (Reprise, Pt. III) and Plaenterwald are akin to the now disbanded group, Emeralds; in particular, their Does It Look Like I’m Here? LP (Editions Mego, 2010).

Of the 17 tracks on About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings), 4 are reworked versions of compositions from a previous album. Only Linghaus will know whether he calls the memories that featured on his debut album differently. Alternatively, these recollected memories may indeed be the same, but perhaps on further introspection he felt it necessary to make alterations to the original interpretations to better record their deeper meaning. Nevertheless, memory is a thoroughly complex faculty and an extremely difficult subject to explore and document. I applaud Tim Linghaus in his attempt to preserve his memories in the form of music.



1Jaggi M. The Last Word. The Guardian [newspaper on the Internet] 2001 Dec 12 [cited 2019 February 5].




Review Roundup: Words: Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello




Delicate Steve ‘Till I Burn Up’
(Anti/ Epitaph) 1st March 2019


Well this LP by Delicate Steve is a music publisher’s dream, if I had handed this into my publishers they would be performing cartwheels and my back would be bruised from all the backslapping. Nine well written well performed instrumental works that are catchy without being annoyingly so commercial, without being overly commercial. Tracks that will be played on both FM and alternative radio shows; instrumentals that one can be imagined used in adverts and TV shows of all genres, Sci-Fi, spy, romantic dramas, tunes being played behind the days sporting highlights.

This LP is ideal for soundtracking your daily routine without interfering too much in it. The music goes from having a modern day vibeness funk of Daft Punk, ‘Selfie Of A Man’ to the wonderful opening track ‘Way Too Long’, which if anything is way too short: With its squonky Synths and Robert Quine like guitar this is the kind of track you would have run home from school in the 70s for.

My personal favourite track is the royally majestic procession of a thing, the synth driven beauty Purple Boy, a song if not named in tribute to the sadly missed wonder that was Prince should have been.

It’s an LP that is well worth investigation.





Mozes And The Firstborn ‘Dadcore’
(Burger Records) 25th January 2019




An LP that wants to be a mixtape, a very good idea; an LP that is a love letter to rock music is music to these ears. Anyone who knows anything about my band The Bordellos loves such concepts, and know all-too-well how we go for things like that: Our How To Hate Friends And Influence No-one was a hate letter to the music industry and how bland it was becoming. I can happily report that this LP is in no way bland or boring but is a fine power pop album: All Glitter band drums, Raspberries guitars and melodies you could float on.

Songs that mention radio in the lyrics is always a good guide, whether the band have pop nouse and can be trusted with your pop heart, and any band that rips off The Beat’s ‘Save It For Later’ (or should I say is influenced by it) is alright with me as one should also try and rip off the best.

The opening title track is a fine example of what The Clash performing the Bay City Rollers ‘Saturday Night’ might sound like, if you ever wondered. Any lovers of The Eels and Fountains Of Wayne will no doubt embrace this LP; it has all the right chords in all the right places, it has its heart in its art; it has the right amount of darkness – as we all know when the darkness meets the light magic can happen and it does happen on a number of occasions on this LP.

It’s also nice to see that Burger Records can get things right occasionally (they turned down the chance to release a Bordellos LP (I’m not bitter, just a little twisted) but I do not hold grudges, even if I did I would still say this is a worthy addition to any lover of guitar pop collections.





Bibi Den’s Tshibayi ‘Sensible’
(Pharaway Records) 14th February 2019




This album is a gem of Ivory Coast Funk, kicking off with ‘Africa Mawa’, a wonderful mixture of jangly guitars and post-punk-funk like Synths; if it wasn’t for the vocals you could imagine it fitting nicely on Orange Juices’ Rip It Up album: A great way to start an LP. It is followed by the quite lovely ballad ‘Djwa Yango’; again of its time, this LP being recorded in 1983, it has the 80s synth sound but a wonderfully repetitive haunting synth riff.

Track three started and it sent me spinning back into the past: I was all of a sudden 18 again listening to the wonderful John Peel show, as he so very often filled the airwaves with quite wonderful African funk and the Sensible title track is indeed wonderful African music – maybe my favorite track of this four track album, quite marvelous in fact. Chanting vocals, funk guitar and incredible drumming, a song that puts the fun into funk. Then the final song comes all to soon the only fault I can find with this LP that at just over twenty five minutes on length it is over all too soon. I have not heard an album this joyful in a long time. In fact I’m going to put it on again.





Sir Robert Orange Peel ‘Turn That Bloody Racket Down!’
(Metal Postcard Records) 31st January 2019




Another LP from the wonderful Metal Postcard Records; this label releases so much wonderful music that is wrongly ignored. I am here to put that right.

This LP is a fine example; any LP that starts off with a wonderful farting synth and proceeds to erupt into a fury of lo fi funk before going on to a sample of telephone scammers over a slow drumbeat (slow very funny and very strange) is what the world is crying out for; music that deals with everyday life but with a dark smile on its face.

Who else would take a 70s sample of Mastermind the TV quiz show, when the persons specialist subject was the Sex Pistols, and just put a simple drumbeat behind it?!! As I have already said, insane but brilliant, the whole LP carries on in a similar vein and conjurers up both feelings for the nostalgic days of the past and the horrors of the world today.

I will not go into the subjects of all the tracks, as I do not want to spoil this wonderful eccentric dance record for you. GO AND DOWNLOAD IT AND CHEER YOURSELF UP!





Words: Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello

Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Kel Assouf ‘Black Tenere’
(Glitterbeat Records) 15th February 2019



Mirroring the borderless Nomadic freewheeling of the Berber ancestral Tuareg people, a loosely atavistic-connected confederacy (to put it into any kind of meaningful context) of diverse tribes that have traditionally roamed Sub-Saharan Africa since time immemorial, Kel Assouf channels a wealth of musical influences both historically and geographically into an electrified reworking of (as vague and over-used a term as it is) desert rock.

Headed by charismatic Gibson Flying V slinger front man Anana Ag Haroun, who’s own lineage takes in both the landlocked behemoth Niger and bordering Nigeria, the highly propulsive, cyclonic spiraling trio propel that heritage into the 21st century; thanks in many ways to the futuristic cosmic electronic and bass frequency production of the band’s rising innovative keyboardist/producer Sofyann Ben Youssef – a name that should be familiar to regular readers as the dynamic force behind the multimedia musical Pan-Maghreb Ammar 808 project (one of our albums of 2018) and member of the electric jolted Algerian borderlands Bargou 08.

Informed, if not driven, lyrically by Haroun’s Tuareg roots, the Black Tenere album wastes no time in drawing the listener’s attention to the violent struggles endured by the Bedouin in their fight for autonomy and survival. A diverse society of various people, grouped together in an age that demands definition and demarcation, even the term ‘Tuareg’ is highly contested: arguably brought into the lexicon through the language of European Colonialism, though etymology traces the term back further to multiple sources. Haroun would prefer we used the original ‘Kel Tamashek’. The elliptic soft lunging rhythmic desert canter opening ‘Fransa’ poetically, in earthy earnestness, encapsulates these struggles and travails:

 

“The war during the French colonization was won
by the swords, shields and spears of our ancestors.
How do you want potential allies to provide you with modern cannons and
missiles?
Do you see your sisters every day climbing the border mountains (Tassili),
 clandestinely, exhausted, on their knees with bruised feet.”

 

Much is made of the past and ancestral rights, but the plight of the Kel Tamashek is ongoing. For now an uneasy truce exists between the various city-state governments and their rural and desert populations, especially in Mali, the Kel Tamashek uprisings that first kick-started a decades long fight for an autonomous state, known as the Azawad, in the north eastern desert regions of the Mali, began in the late 1960s; continuing throughout until more recent times when they made worldwide headlines as their struggle was hijacked spectacularly by Islamist insurgents – worryingly gaining ground as a Trojan Horse within their nomadic allies fight for independence; the destructive Islamist fascists horrified many when they took the ancient seat of West African learning and trade, Timbuktu, and preceded to demolish it like barbarians. Former Colonial masters France were forced to intervene, finally halting the insurgents progress before forcing all groups involved back to where they started, and many across the border. Far from ideal, the Islamist usurpers dissipated to a degree but then switched to sporadic acts of terrorism, carrying out smaller militia attacks in Mali’s capital.

In the bordering Niger, the Kel Tamashek have remained more obscure as they fight to maintain their lands and way of life, which is being eroded by climate-change and over-desertification (when relatively dry land becomes increasingly arid, losing bodies of water, vegetation and the wildlife with it).





Sonically given a dynamic but equally yearning, even romantic (especially on the gospel organ and mulling guitar accompanied ethereal-scenic paean to a virtual oasis, ‘Taddout’), boost to the nomadic heritage, they have a certain synthesized edge and twist missing from fellow desert rock groups such as Tinariwen (a major influence on Kel Assouf) and Tamikrest. Those familiar circling trance-y guitar riffs and camel-ride motions of the desert rock genre remain, yet the influence of heavy-hitters such as Hendrix, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin blend with acid psychedelic rock and more languid stoner rock, ‘astral ambience’ (their words not mine) and even club beats, take it in new directions. Add to this bubbling stew Haroun’s absorption of the cross-pollinating international music of his hometown – for the last eleven years – of Brussels, and the inclusion of local Belgium jazz drummer Oliver Penu adding off-kilter swerve, bounce, shimmery cymbal crescendos and limber, and you have a truly exciting global sound that evokes tribal medicine man dances, ambient traverses, rockier elements of Funkadelic, the Muscle Shoals studio, Black Merde, Terakaft and labelmates Dirtmusic: Sonorous beats and various desert settings from Africa, Mid Western America and the Australian Outback are evoked at any one time in this blazing mix.

A stunning rock odyssey that draws its multiple sources together in both defiance and in the spirit of communication – the Kel Tamashek plight, as guardian-custodians of the desert, translated via the poetic heartfelt earthy soulful lyrics of Haroun – Black Tenere stretches the roots of nomadic rock and blues to reflect ever-expanding musical horizons as the global community grows ever-smaller and music becomes more fluid and spreads with ease. Kel Assouf are on another plane entirely; propelling rock music into the future.





Words: Dominic Valvona

 


Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Houssam Gania ‘Mosawi Swiri’
(Hive Mind Records) 22nd February 2019


Already established as both an accomplished student and innovator of the traditional Islamic dance, music and poetry exaltation ‘Gnawa’ and the three-stringed lute-like instrument that goes hand-in-hand with it, the ‘Guimbri’, the twenty-three year old Houssam Gania has fused his Moroccan roots with artists as diverse as James Holden, and on this latest album, a troupe of lively young musicians from the country’s fishing port town of Essaouira.

A chip-off-the-old-block, Houssam follows in the footsteps of his legendary father Maalem Mahmoud Gania. A stalwart master of Gnawa, famous the world over, a repackaged special reissue of Maalem’s sublime venerable Colours Of The Night performances kick-started the Hive Mind label in 2017 – a label I might add, with a considered taste in some of the more understated, lesser known recordings of world-class artisans. This youngest scion of the virtuoso Maalem has obviously inherited all the right attributes, performing as he does, a remarkable adroit soulful ritual of off-kilter spring trances both earthy and transcendental on this new collection.

Aping the North African street market store trade of cassette tapes – artwork wise too; influenced by the packaging of Maalam’s legendary Tichkaphone tape – Houssam’s inaugural recording for the Brighton-based imprint will be limited to only a 100 copies on cassette, though there will, as usual, be a digital version. Though only on its, official, fourth release Hive Mind makes a concession for Houssam’s Mosawi Swiri LP; the label’s original intention being to release everything on vinyl, which on previous releases they have.

Made up of six tracks, Mosawi Swiri takes its inspiration from the ceremonial Musawiyin Suite, the blue-section (we’re informed) of the trance ritual during which the participating musicians invoke Sidi Musa, the master of the sea and sky spirits. As I’ve already mentioned, connecting to the ‘sea’ part of that evocation, Houssam works with a number of aspiring – and as it proves rhythmically locked-in and elliptically elastic – musicians from the coastal Essaouira town and region of Morocco. Fusing together two different disciplines the opening ‘Moulay Lhacham’ track combines an overlapping groove of desert blues, effortless cool polyrhythmic Mali struts, offbeat drum splashes, melodic heavenly synth and deft ‘guimbri’. Cross patterns seem to connect to produce interesting nodes and riffs in a shuffling jam of masterful pan-African musicianship. It stands out as the album’s most electric and eclectic number, the rest of the ‘suite’ settling in for a trance-y meditation and prayer.

Accompanied by his brother Hamza Gania, Mohammed Benzaid, Khalid Charbadou and Amine Bassi the rest of the album springs and canters through a rattling stringy-rhythm of constantly itching lute and a scuttling, scraping tin-like percussion. Following a similar pattern throughout it is the timings and lead and chorus of excitable, soaring and in reverence vocals that offer variation to the untrained ear.

The second album of Moroccan holy music I’ve reviewed this month (look at for the electric-Sufi Moroccan treatment, Jedba, by Abdesselam Damoussi and Nour Eddine, in my upcoming roundup this month), it seems the spotlight is honing in more and more on North East African region – the emphasis in recent years thrust upon the funkier, psychedelic desert rock and Afrobeat of the Central and West African belts. Subtler in impact, the Islamic divine trance of artists such as Houssam Gania is no less dynamic and encapsulating. Mosawi Swiri is another sagacious ‘choice’ release from Hive Mind; an introduction to new voices and sounds, usually lost in the noise of the Internet hubbub.





Words: Dominic Valvona


Reviews: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Little Albert ‘Why’
(Metal Postcard) 26th January 2019


I approach this release with a little trepidation for a few reasons; firstly it is an LP of Hip Hop from Hong Kong. something I can honestly say I have not really listened a great deal to, secondly it is released on Metal Postcard Records a label I myself released my solo LP on. But the main reason being the opening track is a cover of ‘Gucci Gang’ by Lil Pump, one of the more annoying tracks from last year. But Little Albert has transformed this track from an irritating piece of rap fluff into a slightly sinister dark chant, all amusement arcade beats and switchblade kisses.

The next two tracks continue with the sinister uneasy vibe, ‘Shadows’ being backed with a machine gun beat and ‘Vege Milkshake’ a slower hypnotic keyboard riff. Track four, ‘Asking Why’, wraps itself in an urgency that builds and builds and slowly starts to irritate in a good way: like the person you love poking you in the chest with a wilting dandelion stem.

‘Compulsive Peeping’ apart from having a great song title is maybe my favorite song on the LP; a much more relaxed and laid back affair if I could understand what the lyrics were it would be the perfect Hip Hop track, sparse and dangerous like all the best Hip Hop tracks are.

‘ADHD’ is probably the most attractive in the musical commercial sense. A song one could hear on the radio any day of the week, that’s if radio stations played Hip Hop from Hong Kong. ‘Asthma’ is all clickbait drum beats and harmony glass smiles, whilst the LP finale is a wonderful piece of experimental Hip Hop psychedelia called ‘Repeating’ and alongside ‘Compulsive Peeping’ is the standout track on, what is, a very enjoyable album.





Living Hour ‘Softer Faces’
(Kanine Records) 1st March 2019




Now then, there are loads of bands at the moment who currently sound like this, Dream pop, Shoegaze, New Psych or whatever you want to call it. I myself do not see this as a bad thing if it is the type of music you want to play or the type of music you enjoy listening to, fill your boots. I on the whole very rarely venture into Dreampoppery but on the whole I really enjoyed this LP. It has a dark sweetness about it like a candy floss Red House Painters. There is a pureness in the vocals: ‘No Past’ ​is quite a beautiful track and the layers of vocals and the church like organ of the final song ‘Most’ are highlights.

As I have already said there are plenty of bands currently making this kind of dream art but Living Hour do it better than most, so I’d recommend Softer Faces to anyone who enjoys a touch of the ‘ethereal’ in their pop life.





Amanita ‘Sol y Sombra’
(Pharaway Sounds) 14th February 2019





This is a vacuum bag filled with sex, alcohol and happiness that you have smuggled into your mother in laws home and opened when she has decided to go to bed. It is the soundtrack to the end of the working week, the joyfulness that can be found knowing that for the next 48 hours all you have worry about is managing to stay awake and enjoy the ongoing non stop party.

Funk, jazz, salsa and the lost faraway memories of how sex and yearning would have been portrayed inside a cocktail shaker on a cruise ship in a TV movie set in the 60’s/early 70’s. In fact this is he extended cocktail hour that will last as long as this LP.

This is the music Frank Zappa would have insisted to be played whilst his tuxedo was pressed and ironed before wearing and playing the Royal Albert Hall in 1968. It is the sound of a much better life that you will never have…it is pure suntanned sequined joy. If only I could be that unbuttoned shirt on this hairy chest rhapsody I would live and die a happy man.



Lite Storm ‘Warning’
(Out-Sider) 14th February 2019





This reissue was originally released in 1972 but was recorded in 1968 and could not have been recorded any other time. A typical wonderful post psychedelic rock release, all hip shaking mamas, pass me the drugs, and get down and boogie.

At times reminiscent of The Big Brother Holding Company, especially on the out there cover of the standard ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ – I wonder what Jo Stafford would have thought of it? The LP is a must have just for this demented version; it’s a song to base a whole career on, in fact The Coral probably have.

 Litestorm it seems eventually gave up music and started a hippy commune and after hearing this LP I am not too surprised. Hopefully they still perform at the commune. If so, what a joyful occasion it must be: simple lyrics calling either for peace, party love and sex, or all of the above, sang by a lead vocalist who reminds me of the great Sky Saxon at his, shall we say, enthusiastic best. I wonder if he wears a headband it sounds like he does.

This is certainly a LP for all fans of late 60s rock n roll or people who just want to own the craziest version of ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ ever recorded.




Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. Each month we pile a deluge of new releases on his virtual desk to see what sticks.  


Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Dub Colossus ‘Dr. Strangedub (Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Dub The Bomb)’
(Echomaster) 20th January 2019


Galvanized by political turmoil and the shambolic progress of Brexit, polygenesis visionary Nick Dubulah revives two of his most successful world music troupes, Dub Colossus and Transglobal Underground, in the pivotal year of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Spending the last few years watching from the sidelines, convalescing from cancer treatment and an operation, Nick’s not only in good health but raring to go with a schedule of live performances and records.

For the first time since 1996 he will be appearing once more with a full Transglobal line-up; bringing back the international traversing group he formed in 1990, leaving seven years later to start-up the congruous Temple Of Sound, but dedicated since the mid noughties to the amorphous soundsystem echoing Dub Colossus. Both groups found favour in the world music and electronic scenes: the Transglobal famously featuring the alluring exotic tones of Natacha Atlas, and the Colossus rotating a singing circle of various toasters and East African sirens.

Off the back of this shared new album of originals and remixed versions of tracks from the 2014 championed Colossus LP, Addis To Omega (his first album for the Echomaster label; one of a trio of albums released under this moniker), Nick will bring together a stellar cast of vocalists and instrumentalists, as he takes both bands out on the road in 2019.

With barely controlled indignation and countless allusions, references in song titles and lyrics alike, Nick and his guests make it obvious which divisive side of the Brexit fence they stand. Framing Kubrick’s satirical dark comedy, with its all too serious consequences of mutual assured nuclear destruction, with the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU, the pun-tastic Dr. Strangedub (Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Dub The Bomb) takes aim at all the main players in this debacle. Sounding like an exasperated schoolmistress taking charge of an unruly brattish battle-bus of immature public school boy politicians, one of the many guests on this album, the burlesque star Immodesty Blaise, contemptuously brings into line Boris and Farage on a magical mystery coach tour over a cliff edge ‘Tainted Dub’ (the ‘Brexitbus Mix’ no less). PJ Higgins meanwhile, accompanied by the evocative pining hues of the deft Polish mandolin player Bolesław Usarzewski, gives David Cameron a deserved kicking on ‘Family Man Dub’.

Though Brexit preys on the mind, the album is also inspired by the exotic; both wandering and dreamily vaporous, roaming the Patagonia and African landscapes. A mirage of the first is imagined on the Lee Scratch Perry at languid ease, love song ‘Whole Lotta Dub’ (about as far removed from the Nordic demi-rock-god cock-swinging Led Zep version that you can get), and the latter, is evoked by the reggae moonwalk, Orb meets Kubrick, title track, which pays a special paean to the featured vocalist Sintayehu Zenebe Ethiopian homeland.

Other guests and musical soirees include Nick’s foil on the brilliant 2015 ‘post-Troika Hellenic Trance music’ project Xaos, Ahetas, playing subtle pace-y drone microtonal keyboards on the metallic searing ‘A World Without Dub’; the evocative throat singing of YAT KHA vocalist Tuvan Albert Kuvezin on the Mongolian cosmic plains ‘clubdub mix’ of an Addis To Omega track, ‘A Voice Has Power’; and a sauntering touch of Cuba, on another Addis treatment, ‘A Spy In The House Of Dub’.

Drenched in a dubtasim of effects, with voices and instruments and sounds resonating and reverbing incessantly, Dub Colossus ratchet-up their raison d’être; taking the form on both an earthly and cosmological circumnavigation; drifting and wafting, blending and crisscrossing musical borders with ease. Nick announces his return with an expansive dub showcase that reunites old friends and introduces new; a return at a most important time; a voice of protest and alarm that hopes (probably in vain) to stop a calamity.




Words: Dominic Valvona


Hip-Hop Review – Matt Oliver




An overdue happy new year from Rapture & Verse – it’s safe to say that once our back was turned for Christmas duty, all the while resisting a trip to Soulja Boy’s house of electronic bargains, the UK dropped an absolute glut of Yuletide goodness. Into the singles first, and it’s heads down hoods up for Baileys Brown’s ‘Horses Mouth’, a gloomy, watery gift for Datkid and Jinxsta JX to stare down in waiting for vengeance to take shape. Should you keep spending most of your life listening to Old Paradice, you’re doing well – Confucius MC and Morriarchi make ‘The Last Resort’ a nice six-track resting place for ears, while a wary eye keeps watch to keep it all business. The ‘2018 Switch Up’ by Benjicong sets a stall out for the new year by niftily weaving in out of Charles Edison’s crystalline stepper, without spilling a drop of the pint his delivery orders.





Jaroo will bruise a few good men when in cahoots with Aver, the six-track ‘Inner Process’ ensuring none shall pass until an epiphany with Tony Skank and Benny Diction lightens the load. A top notch quintet of remixes from Evil Ed includes the geeing up of Ric Branson, and going in to give extra legs to Triple Darkness and Tesla’s Ghost. ‘Heavy Baggage’ has beats and rhymes academics Gee Bag and Downstroke answering the question as to who’s gonna take the weight, a flavourful four tracks to hoist onto your shoulder via ghettoblaster so the whole street knows. Drums to dislocate jugulars already feeling the gust of one-way verbal traffic, IMS and Joey Menza are less about being woke and all about ‘The Wake’: no naps allowed.






Albums

A collaboration that nearly fell through the cracks, Cappo and Cyrus Malachi embodying ‘Postmodernism’ rise from classified coordinates to torch the whole underground radius. A contrast of lyrical imperiousness, to productions from Evil Ed, Chemo, DJ Drinks, Mr Brown and Wytfang that manage to be both modest and a seething reflection of its orators, this is rap combat carried out by chess grandmasters. Exceptional underground hip-hop.

Few fucks are given by Black Josh, running wild towards a smoke-damaged throne stained by cold sweat, doing so by the light of a blood moon, and reminding those who think it’s grim up North that they really have no idea. Then settling into something approaching a more contented train of thought about halfway through where angles start to blur, ‘Yung Sweg Lawd’ stays fluid in intimidation.

Continuing to live a life of diamonds and fun, Juga-Naut’s ‘Bon Vivant’ is always freshly dipped, full of ear-catching pearls of wisdom in his own version of La Vida Loca. Always with the goods to back up the flash, you get gourmet Notts know-how and a tightening game face as the album progresses. Unconvinced? “I dare you to keep up with the wave”. Let MysDiggi entertain you as he scales the ‘Tip of Da Mysberg’ for a third time, a wordsmith whose batteries will never run out, able to pants emcees before they realise their career is around their ankles. Witty and wily as ever, and easygoing even at his most spiteful, a firm UK favourite has your full attention for 18 tracks.





Hey babe, take a walk on the mild side with Lee Scott’s ‘Lou Reed 2000’, a more reticent outing than you may expect, but still inimitably sweating the small stuff. The curtains are drawn back and the sunglasses are off, but Scott as undisputed bard of the bedsit is still “in a league of me own, losing to me self”, when not announcing “compared to me, the speed of light is slow”. You could argue there’s nowt slower than an ‘Acrylic Snail’, but Dirty Dike is a whirlwind with scant regard for the destructive trail he ploughs. Once his mollusc is in motion there’s no point arguing the toss – no holds barred, and painting some pretty repugnant pictures without ever missing a stroke. An endangered species who can flip the script and look into the depths of his soul when not – or peaking at – being “dumb, numb and comfortably ill”.





Proven shit-stirrers BVA and Leaf Dog ‘Return to Stoney Island’ as the Brothers of the Stone, riling front rows as Illinformed dresses soul in steel toecaps and initiates old fashioned bar brawls. You can’t spell boisterous without BoTS, with MoP and Inspectah Deck nailing their colours to the mast so the album crashes through its destination. For all the stink that’s kicked up, a marksman’s precision underlines everything they do – not the only bros to spark recent conversation.





For as long as the world prices up handcarts and one-way tickets to hell, Big Toast’s megaphone will always be in play. Cranked up by 184 on the boards, yet wise enough not to get in Panini Grande’s way, ‘Prolefeed’ maintains the “you are not special” manifesto, passionate defence and cold fact meeting unconcealed incredulity. Like a red cap to a bull, all Hooray Henrys best button their lip or get their ballot box punted down the river.

Boom time for the B-boy union once Chrome winds up and laces a ‘Dopamine Hit’, headlined by the super sprint ‘Shockwave’ with Andy Cooper. Perpetual motion never dwelling on just the nostalgic, Chrome’s dope dealership knows what’s really real, giving the party some perspective amongst the jump-ups. Triumphantly flicking V signs, Damu the Fudgemunk casts ‘Victorious Visions’ of upbeat instrumental boom-bap that checks itself, and a feelgood factor that doesn’t get cosy. Remoulded from his prior ‘Dreams and Vibrations’ project, the purist hallmarks and soul core are what make the visions loud and clear, while ‘Back in the Trenches’ does rugged with the best of ‘em. Beats to set your body clock by. Depending on how hard your hormones are raging, The Doppelgangaz’ latest ‘Beats for Brothels’ appointment has got you covered, all of their instrumentals marked with a certain strut as they move from room to room, from hard thrusts to smooth touches. ‘Volume 4’ is money well spent. Klim Beats provides the soundtrack to a B-boy retreat providing relaxation and pleasant aromas on ‘Crystals’, beginning with mystical orientation before letting breaks simply do their thing so listeners can you use their own imagination.

Full moon scientist Yugen Blakrok is on a relentless grind to the summit on ‘Anima Mysterium’, prophecies and riddles raining down like an RPG sherpa, where you best take the right path or else. Her totem-like standing as the elements rage around her, sounds like she’s memorized every single scripture the universe has to offer. In an apocalyptic world telling you to believe everything and nothing, producer Kanif the Jhatmaster drives on as a similarly irresistible force.





Street cinema to have ‘em hiding in the aisles, the dark arts of ‘A Piece of the Action’/’Motion Picture’ from FLU, ETO and RGZ keeps the situation critical, capitalising on wild west slinging against modern mobster rules. The provision of balance from Blockhead comes with the offer of ‘Free Sweatpants’. Some fine deep space, backpack readies for Homeboy Sandman, Marq Spekt and Armand Hammer, mix in with instrumentals vaulting you out your seat before returning to sender. Aesop Rock uniting with TOBACCO for ‘Malibu Ken’ builds an instant reputation of being a raw synthed, Rubik’s cube of rhymes , yet both happen upon a sharp splinter of hip-hop pitching to the left, but not way out left. Rock’s visual skill and enthusiasm and TOBACCO’s electro neons jumping with VHS flicker and musical 8-bit strain, create a spacious, well paced, Technicolor bounce, easing any trepidation.




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