Hip-Hop Revue
Matt Oliver




Singles/EPs

Rapture & Verse is King, a wise man may have said – onward! Undimmed by the fact that ‘A Lot of People Tell Me I Have a Fake Guitar’, Morriarchi goes inside his astral plane for a gentle handful of spellcaster instrumentals drifting in its own funkular helix (even if one happens to be called ‘Veggie Farts’). ‘The Wave’s Coming’ warns Bristol’s Wish Master, who might offer you salvation but isn’t afraid to let go either, parallel parked with Buggsy and Tac to the Simiah-produced track that tightropes between dreamy and booby trapped.




Imaginary Other and Chuuwee’s rebirth of slick on ‘THE (Hawaiian Button Up)’ shows a smooth mack game when all around are losing it in the woollens aisle. The balance of confidence/arrogance from LA’s IQ brings melody with a hidden jagged edge following ‘Everywhere I Go’, and the same goes for Tha Truth’s ‘Cool With It’, cutting the tension with a barely concealed blade (and a great hook), despite declaring being “cool like the breeze on a warm summer’s eve” like it’s an Andrex vox pop.

 

Albums

‘Dusty’ will leave you feeling at ease with the mathematics of the inimitable Homeboy Sandman, that slightly kooky persona that’s actually just pure skills unfazed by tempo, and turning fleeting thoughts into elaborate dissections. Just when you’re thinking he’s coming in from a softer side, he goes absolutely nuts on pots-n-pans slam ‘Yes Iyah’, before heading to the just lovely ‘Picture on the Wall’ and the pretty sleazy, yet entirely forgivable, ‘Pussy’. Long may the cult of the Sandman continue.




Out the blue, Brother Ali’s ‘Secrets & Escapes’ produced by Evidence is a helluva early Christmas present, the near enough spontaneity of the recording sessions making the respective skills on display even more sickeningly good. You know how they do – wise, open-eyed rhymes, evocative slash ready-to-scrap beats – plus guest spots from Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli, and ghoulish artwork open to a thousand interpretations. How’s that? Give their gifts this season.




All that glitters is ‘Green & Gold’ when Mr Key and Greenwood Sharps combine for something that, in other hands, would be dour or boorish (the delivery mixing label mates Verb T and Ed Scissor) in letting fading memories slip away. The pair prudently raise themselves and those in earshot from a slump, chronicling slow but sure shoots of recovery and understanding, knowing they still have to put the work in to do so (being woke ain’t the one either). The mere seven tracks become an engrossing evening’s listening.

Red alert under a full moon: ‘The Creature from Beneath the Mainstream’ is Genesis Elijah’s perfect Halloween soundtrack, good and angst-ridden as he stomps the warpath straight to your front door, switching between fire-breather and whispering death on the creeping, skittering back story. Rewind ‘Haunted Trap House’ three times and expect to catch your last breath. A strong starting XI makes Reklews’ second squad of ‘Rap Type Beats’, bassy head shots splashed with a fear traceable to emcees flinching at the quality of gauntlet thrown down in front of them. Perfect for bleak midwinter forecasts.

Whenever Big Toast starts limbering up you know it’s not gonna be a fair fight, and with Strange Neighbour matching him punch for punch, the Tuff Boyz twosome splash off the top rope on ‘Bat Night’. Wading in while Oliver Sudden takes scalps on the boards with funk thicker than the stodgiest of winter stews, this is all girth, no gimmicks. Snowflakes, this really isn’t for you, though the eight track running time is the only mercy shown.




His usual dice game generating wisdom from an inward path, now attending to extra grown man business, and trigger-nometry taking casualties, including an interesting rework of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Klashnekoff’s ‘Iona’ is a welcome return to the forefront. An album epitomising the need to sleep with one eye (and two ears) open, and a model example of navigating life’s shark-infested waters without scoffing at vulnerability.

Hell bent on stuffing you into a locker while balancing a ghetto blaster on its shoulder, Uncommon Nasa and Kount Fif’s ‘City as School’ is the New York underground incarnate; at pains to not fit into ‘traditional’ parameters but making so much sense in doing so, where the post-apocalyptic is unerringly, unnervingly near to modern day. Blockbuster burners laid end to end as outlaws of the corridors, “trust the process, avoid the nonsense” at all costs.

On the subject of local representation, 21 tracks and 50 emcees later and you should have a pretty good idea of the Motor City sound according to Apollo Brown. The sepia-toned soul of ‘Sincerely, Detroit’ is seamlessly able to shake itself down and roll with force to stay on course, and everyone involved – from staple spokesmen Elzhi, Illa J and Royce da 5’9”, to project investors Boog Brown, Nolan the Ninja and Bronze Nazareth – takes their time so the intimated free-for-all is avoided. Pull on your headphones, get snug and let the accomplished Michigan craft leave you misty-eared as Brown hits the peak of his powers.




Admittedly/inevitably there are a bounty of guests, skits, questions as to its timing and whether there’s really enough of its ever eloquent protagonist to go around, but Gang Starr’s ‘One of the Best Yet’ is a respectful honouring of the Guru legacy. Business as usual from DJ Premier’s infinite stash of kicks and snares, chops and swoops is the ultimate case of if it ain’t broke, and the 2019 reboot find its direction through introspection without overturning too many applecarts.

“A dive into the complex dynamics of the eternal paper chase, about capitalism, greed and excess” – so kind of unsurprising that the piece de resistance of Crimeapple’s ‘Viridi Panem’ cites ‘All About the Benjamins’ like a grim business studies 101. Another to approach the day of reckoning like it’s a Sunday morning stroll, zombie relentlessness enabled by Buck Dudley’s production, the apple of your ear only takes half hour to save the world.




Stalley’s ‘Reflection of Self: The Head Trip’ isn’t quite as meditative as it suggests, but as a mini-album lolls nicely thanks to Jansport J’s clement, lightly fuggy soul, and Stalley’s ease on the mic when sorting those needing putting in their place. “You can try and box me in, but I’m a find my way out” indicates his ease of finding solutions when others struggle with the instructions.

Reviews
Dominic Valvona





Reaching a grand eightieth edition of my eclectic roundup, the Tickling My Fancy column continues to highlight the curious and recommended from across the globe. With no agenda, no demarcation of any kind, you can expect to find spiritual jazz alongside dream pop, space rock doom alongside desert blues.

My latest edition includes the long awaited new LP of timeless hushed reverence from Boa Morte, phobia-themed withering contorted progressive industrial jazz from the Russian band Rootea, the latest tactile album of dance music from the Shanghai Restoration Project, a new EP from the maverick lo fi dreamer Origami Repetika, the new aria space apocalypse augur of beauty and supernatural doom from Elizabeth Joan Kelly, and a double bill of cult excavations, the heavy metal prog Lucifer Was and more genteel short-lived soul-psych-folk-beat-group The Fox, from the Guerssen label hub.

Leading the charge though is the upcoming compilation of Somali funk, disco and Afro-Caribbean nuggets, Mogadisco, from Analog Africa.


Various ‘Mogadisco – Dancing Mogadishu (Somali 1972-1991)’

(Analog Africa) LP/ 13th December 2019



In the making since a security nightmare of a trip in 2016, Analog Africa’s chief instigator, Samy Ben Redjeb, finally releases a treasure trove of previously unreleased and passed-over nuggets from the vaults of Radio Mogadishu.

Researched and compiled on that same crate and archive-digging excursion, Analog Africa put out a celebratory compilation of the first two albums by Mogadishu’s legends-in-exile the Dur-Dur Band in 2018; the first bonafide release of the group’s tape cassette ‘volume’ albums. The infectious loose-limbed funk and fuzz pop group provide a trio of sweetly laced movers and serenades for this showcase of Somali wonders. All recorded in 1991, the last year this compilation covers, whilst exiled abroad, the Dur-Dur Band offer a stick-rattling feverish Indian summer love paean (‘Daradara Muxibo’), slicker dabbing mid-tempo funk workout (‘Shaleedayaa’) and oriental dappled-organ swoon (‘Ladaa’).

Covering a generational period arc, from the burgeoning optimistic dawn of Somali under the dictatorial leadership of Siad Barre to that same leader’s fateful swan song in 1991, as a once more liberal regime in just twenty years lurched towards the repressive, Mogadisco reflects the changes in a fractious state. Barre of course took power in a coup (though with an emphasis on the peaceful), yet the arts and music scenes flourished, with an explosion in both state-sanctioned and private bands. Many of the acts on this collection were hot-housed in the various ministerial department affiliated show bands or in the theatre (notably the Dur-Durs), and were open to outside influences, from Flea Kuti’s Afrobeat sensation – brought back, we’re told, to Somalia by the Mogadishu featured Iftin Band, after representing the country at the Festac Festival in Lagos in 1977 – to Bob Marley’s global-conquering brand of reggae, and later on, a moonwalking Michael Jackson. One of the most obvious of these, and continuing to influence Somalia’s finest in the second half of the 80s, Omar Shooli’s spiritually voiced ‘Hob Isii’ languorously sways to a proto-Wailers rock steady beat. Equally the influence of Motown, Stax, and as the compilation’s title makes apparent, disco can be heard ringing loudly throughout this mixed bag that Samy himself describes as music that “swam against the tide”.

Before Somalia imploded in the 90s and descended into a near anarchic state, the capital enjoyed a tourist boom; the Mogadishu boulevards loaded with ever-luxurious hotels, all playing host to the country’s best and most popular groups. Mogadisco however, selects previously dormant and forgotten recordings from the city’s top broadcaster, Radio Mogadishu. Filed away under ‘mainly instrumental and strange music’, an assortment of discarded jingles, background music, interludes, TV show tunes and theatre numbers now finally see daylight on an eye-opening collection of exotic funk-fried shufflers and sashaying Afro-Caribbean swoons.

Notable mentions should go to the Iftin Band for their Ethno-jazz dreamy shimmer ‘Ii Ouy Aniga’, both the Bakaka Band’s uptown rankin’ slinky ‘Gobonimada Jira’ – think the Lijadu Sisters meet Althea & Donna – and their swimmingly spy-thriller like transformation of a warrior’s song, the tropical Highlife tingle ‘Geesiyada Halgamayow’, and the southern ‘Orleans flavoured raunchy disco turn, ‘Baayo’, by Mukhtar Ramadan Iidi – a slicker 80s Arthur Conley if you will.

As always, the usual due diligence and insights into each and every artist/band and label on this latest brilliant compilation are chronicled in the accompanying booklet; a purview of Somalia’s musical legacy set within a tumultuous historical setting. Analog Africa are the first label to actually set foot in the country in years; the capital especially immortalized for a generation or more as one of the most dangerous places on Earth, synonymous for fractions-at-war and pirates. Progress has been made in recent years, hence Samy gaining permission to visit, albeit under heavy protection. For once though, here’s a celebration of the country’s music; a fit and proper essential joyful showcase of disco and funk inspired dynamism.






Shanghai Restoration Project ‘Flashbacks In A Crystal Ball’

(Undercover Culture Music) LP/ 8th November 2019



If brooding synth poets Japan had taken more stimulating drugs and been dragged onto the dancefloor they may very well have sounded a little like this colourful arpeggiator-cascading duo, the Shanghai Restoration Project. Though based in Brooklyn, the electro-symphonic duo transport the listener to an exotic Orient and beyond on a magical, ruminating flight of fantasy.

As the name suggests, on previous recordings the former Bad Boy label songwriter and producer Dave Laing and his foil Sun Yunfan have transduced the jazz and showtime music of a pre-WWII Shanghai; aligning it with, and filtering it through, nuanced electro pop, techno and hip-hop. The results of which have furnished a myriad of adverts, soundtracks, and even the Beijing Olympics.

SRP’s latest neon-lit dreamy dance album is framed as a reaction to “the increasingly fragmented and mindless soundbite culture we live in”. Softening the edges and lightening the tensions, the crystal ball flashbacks on this serene trip err towards elegance and the sophisticated rippling tactile.

This is a landscape of chopstick percussion, pagoda shaded water gardens, undulating marimba vibes, vocoder chanson, mirage-y waveforms, classical Chinese instrumentation and biplane rotor drones. Futuristically motoring and bobbing along, there are shades of Air, Moroder, Mark Ronson, Cuushe and Cornelius on a cosmic soundtrack of avant-garde Tango dalliances, retro-fit rapping R&B, 2-Step jazz, super-charged Tron video arcades and sweetened elegies.

Flashbacks In A Crystal Ball is a pliable dance album full of bright and magical lilted brilliance and fun; slow building dance music of the highest and smartest caliber.



Boa Morte ‘Before There Was Air’
(Gare du Nord) LP/ 29th November 2019


The understated majestic swells of the Irish band Boa Morte don’t come easy, or arrive regularly. Only the band’s third album proper in twenty years, the misty expansive mini-opuses found on the long awaited Before There Was Air are like gentle but deeply resonating ripples from a distant timeless shore.

Slow, methodical, every second of these air-y hushed suites moves at a stately pace: in no hurry to arrive, with many of the beautifully purposeful songs disappearing into the ether, out of earshot but somewhere carrying on forever.

Signing to Ian button’s one-man cottage industry Gare du Nord label this year, the Cork dreamers’ first complete work in nigh on a decade is worth the wait. Maturing in all that time, the peaceable sagacious results are augmented with subtle synthesized tones and stirring ambient atmospherics; building vague landscapes of longing; a constant ebbing tide lapping on the cerebral.

This is a classy magical music that doesn’t make allowances: the equivalent of slow food culture.

Elegantly unfurled, the burnished and brushed soundtrack moves between entrancing folk and the classical, between the choral and yearned. Songs such as the tenderly rendered ‘Cans’ evoke a more soulful Mogwai and, musically, Robert Wyatt, whilst the pastoral dainty ‘The Garden’ transports the listener to an Elizabethan Hampden Court. The pinning guitar-voiced ‘Sea Creatures’ has an air of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score.

Lonely pianos, romantic prose, shimmered cymbals and sighed strings reverberate on metaphorical nautical terms of lovelorn detachment and the dangers of an emotional landslide. A finely crafted sweeping album Before There Was Air exudes a timeless quality; one that by all accounts has been well worth the wait.





The Fox ‘For Fox Sake’
Lucifer Was ‘Underground And Beyond’
(Sommer/ Guerssen) LP/ 13th November 2019




Churning out untold forgotten and cult missives and classics alike, the Guerssen umbrella of reissue imprints knocks out albums and compilations at a fair old rate. It’s often easy to miss the odd trio of same date releases from this hub of specialist labels: such is the turnover. One strand of this operation in digging up everything from 80s Spanish political underground cassette tape culture to 70s Turkish kitsch pop, is the 60s/70s garage band, psych, prog and heavy rock leaning Sommor, who retrieve and facilitate first-time vinyl reissues of albums by the blue-eyed soulful psych outfit The Fox and proto-metal theatrical troupe Lucifer Was.

The former of these has been a much sought-after album from a band of also-rans who’s sound harks back to the fag-end of the Mod boom; when beat group combos graduated to more psychedelic and progressive, heavier heights. Recorded a couple years after inception in the Mod haven of Brighton, The Fox released their debut and only LP proper, For Fox Sake, on the cusp of a new and changing decade. Though not entirely past-the-sell-by-date and removed from those shifts, the able-enough group could have been contenders (to a point).

With a dazzle of classical psych-baroque and faux-gospel church organ ala Procol Harum, softened fuzz guitar and swooning soulful vocals this fleeting South Coast combo recorded some glorious, if redolent, halcyon pop paeans and psychedelic shakers. Trouble is, Love Sculpture, Spooky Tooth, The Moody Blues, The Gods, Marmalade, Bread and Chris Farlowe had pretty much already covered this ground already rather well. Outside of those influences The Fox played with a Get Back/White Album honky-tonk McCartney (‘Goodtime Music’), Bacharach (‘As She Walks By’) and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (in fairground waltzing mode on ‘Madame Magical’).

Notable for supporting the Orpheus imbued Herd and opening for a burgeoning Bowie, The Fox’s brief fandango came to an end a year later; the only fruits of their labour being this album and a single. Still, in certain collectors’ circles this is a cult classic. For Fox Sake has its endearing charms and a couple of fuzz-thrilled love potion hits to make it worth the entry price.





A far heavier, and just as rare, prospect is the album-that-never-was from the Nordic psych-metal marauders Lucifer Was. Despite that satanic moniker (the group wore a number of macabre cloaks, such as Empty Coffin/Autumn Serenade and Erza West, before sticking with the daemonic Lucifer Was) the group’s debut dramatic opus is influenced as much by the flighty flute-playing prog of Jethro Tull as by the scuzzed leaden menace of Black Sabbath.

The first incarnation formed in Oslo in 1969 and lasted until ’75. Though they built a reputation and fanbase on the strength of their performances, this bewitched coven never actually recorded an album in that entire period. Songs were written and played live, yet lay dormant until more than two decades later, when a middle-aged version of the band picked-up from where they left off, entering a studio and finally recording that debut showcase. And so with music from another age now propelled into the late 90s, Underground And Beyond is a strange missive of fighting fantasy Tolkienism and River Styx schlock dark arts preening – all brooding romantic warrior troubadour, yearning for his muse whilst skulking by mythological waterways.

If you dig your Edgar Allen Poe, baroque metal, fairytale tangos and doomed tormented love lost suites then get a load of this. Josefus, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple and Ipsissimus hatched by proto-metal Vikings: what’s not to love?!

An album no one asked for, but buy it anyway.





Origami Repetika ‘Night Of The Jaguar’
EP




None the wiser after receiving the second CD of maverick chiming psychedelic pop from Adam Sigmund (otherwise known as Origami Repetika), I’m going blind with this recommendation. With scant information at hand, Sigmund’s drifty hallucinating-like music can be summed up as a stained glass lo fi union of Brian Wilson and Gary Wilson.

Following on from a recent radiant and glorious album, Singing Gulls, the four-track Night Of The Jaguar EP offers something slightly more dreamy and moody. Named not in homage to any literary title, the Jaguar of the title refers to the iconic electric guitar; a birthday present that’s put to good experimental use over a quartet of mellow vibrato and gauze-y alternative melodramas.

Romantic driftwood at its most idiosyncratic; a diy Beach Boys if they signed to Anticon; there’s a certain oddness lyrically. The naivety of the melting candy maudlin ‘Meet Me At The Peppermint’ belies a slight whimsical jar in its finale wafts: “It’s the way you smile, before you lost your teeth”.

This is cozy surf-psych pop and lo fi ambition at its finest. Disarming yet attuned to the ways of the world. Seek out this maverick pop excellence immediately.



Rootea ‘Phobias’
LP




I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as a collective noun for phobias but the strung-out Russian prog-jazz and industrial post-punk band Rootea attempts a reification of thirteen such debilitating fears on this untethered freeform therapy session. An often caustic, sometimes haunted travail, Phobias moves in an unshapely form. The vaporous soundtrack even threatens to drift off and escape from its performers: both riled and wafting into the ether, or down ambiguous passages and the dark recesses of the mind.

Emanating from east of the Urals, from Russia’s “third” city of Yekaterinburg (or Ekaterinburg), Rootea might very well be tapping into not only this Tsarina-christened (named in honour of the first Catherine, Tsar Peter The Great’s wife) city’s historical vantage but its more troubled psychodramas too. This is after all the fatal site of the Romanovs’ horrific, and botched, execution.

Anguish, paranoia, fear but also dream-like slumbers are triggered across a spectrum of air-y pondered phobias; from ‘Autophobia’ (that’s a fear of being alone or lonely) to the oddest, ‘Hellophobia’ (fear of Greeks; perhaps a hangover of that old adage, beware of Greeks bearing gifts). Thirteen tracks long, with a finale of post-industrial withering in its name, sufferers of ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ may want to avoid this album. But for the rest of us, this record (if over long) is a wrangling, caustic hallucinating avant-garde therapy session of apparitional narrators, strangulated guitars, sonorous trickles, Gothic throbs, gangly buzzing resonance and hi-pitched pecked saxophone. Permutations of dank lo-fi, Einstürzende Neubauten, A Happy Kitchen Is A Clean Kitchen, Faust, Cabaret Voltaire and 39 Clocks revolve like a languid carousel.

Untied to a particular location or time, Rootea amorphously linger in both the cerebral and visceral as they transcribe the untranscribable on an ambitious work. A difficult, often overlong, experience Phobias should be prescribed in small doses.





Elizabeth Joan Kelly ‘Farwell, Doomed Planet!’
LP/ 25th October 2019




Into the great expanse of a universe as ominous as it is magically mysterious, New Orleans-based composer Elizabeth Joan Kelly ventures far on her latest electronic suite. From the enormity of space the Cassandra of imperiled doom gazes back at Earth from advantageous lofty heights: a siren voice of lyrically cryptic lament and woe, strung-out aboard some sort of Kubrickian mission to gather research.

Equally deft at composing contemporary symphonies as she is Warp label imbued kinetic and industrial electronica, Kelly coos and soundscapes a lamentable vision of the apocalypse that combines aria-like space operatics with tubular metallic breakdowns, stirring ambient swells and darker twists of contorting nuanced sonics. Kelly even transduces the afflatus classical hymnal music of Bach on the swooned and serene ‘Trinity Quadrant Cantata’.

From pollution on land and in the seas to inner existential angst, the protagonist cosmonaut at the centre of this bleak analysis mourns amongst heavenly bodies in the celestial.

An album of both impending doom, yet filled with wondrous pulchritude, Farwell is a haunting enough score with evident supernatural atmospherics on tracks such as the reversal ethereal elegy ‘Harm’ – echoes of a spooked Broadcast and Quimper – and the ghostly nuclear landscape desolation ‘Exclusion Zone Earth (Or, All Hail Chernobyl Wolves)’.

Present vocally on a majority of the album’s tracks, Kelly’s voice is often veiled and gauze-y: so much so that you can barely hear a trace of it. Even in full song that voice is obscured; sounding like either a spirit from beyond the ether or, a distant broadcast from deepest space and time.

Cinematic in places, setting an astral mirage of dreamy and bestial proportions, Farewell is a beautifully scary drama that evokes touches of Bowie, Tangerine Dream, Bernard Szajner, Diva Dompe, Moroder and Vangelis. Kelly does wonderful things amongst the stars; the apocalypse has seldom sounded so celestially operatic and electronically choral.





LP REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




The Provincials ‘The Dark Ages’
(Itchen Recordings) LP/ 15th November 2019


In full Panavision, The Provincials duo of vocalist Polly Perry and guitarist and author Seb Hunter articulate a mesmerizing and spellbinding miasma of a domesday on their long awaited second LP, The Dark Ages. The original dark ages epoch was named so for a lack of documentary and archeological evidence from as, we now know, a rich if tumultuous period in the history of these Isles and beyond: A time that roughly marks the decline of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the next millennium. It’s used here of course to weave a lyrical, sometimes Shakespearean, vision of our contemporary times: Brexit especially (I presume). Even if they portray it with a diaphanous lulled and beautifully administered deft touch, The Provincials paint a bleakly poetic diorama of being swept under a despairing riptide. Depending on which side of that divide you feel comfortable pontificating or barracking from, Brexit and by association (though far more complex to all tie-in) so-called “populism” in politics, you either believe that this is all an exciting, tide-turning, opportunity or, the end times!

And so reminders of past imperial ventures overseas (an empirical vague gesture to the infamous ‘Inkerman’; a decisive score draw monumental battle in the Crimean War saga) and the slaughter and PTSD anguish legacy of WWI (the Shell-shocked Medieval waltz ‘We Lost Our Minds’) are woven into a musical hallucination of dour romanticism and melancholy. However, the pains and woes are handled deftly; especially from the aria like performances of Perry, who’s range longingly flows between the ethereal and dramatic. Counterbalancing nimbly-picked Pentangle folk with more rousing swamp boogie and flange-dreamy Britpop, Hunter’s acoustic and electrified guitar playing rings out, offering both stripped-back accentuate caresses and moods, and more punctuating punches. The only additional instrumentation (the barest of stirring ambience, with trickled and sonorous bass note piano parts and drums courtesy of producer Dan Parkinson) is used most sparingly, with the most full-on songs being the breakout rocking ‘Inkerman’, which sounds like a crescendo stomping combo of The White Stripes, Anna Calvi, The Classical and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More winding and suffused with mysterious ambient tones tough, the sonnet-like trickling ‘The Western Shore’ bears the atmospherics of Popol Vuh’s Affenstunde.

Meandering along a path that stretches from the Norman church dotted shingly shoreline of the southeast coast of Romney to a revenge-soaked Iberia, The Provincials conjure up a lamentable present. Perhaps we are indeed doomed. Perhaps these are the end days or the darkness before the light. Whatever the truth, this diaphanous duo has articulated such augurs with a gauze-y, beautiful veneer worth savoring and improved no end since their last album.








REVIEWS
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team at the beginning of the year. 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. His most recent project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted a couple of months back through Metal Postcard Records.

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


The NoMen  ‘NoMania’
LP/ 30th October 2019


The New album by underground Scottish cult band The NoMen once again explores their love of genre hopping musical delights, from folk to psych to punk to pop to rockabilly to Krautrock and back again: sometimes in the same song. All the tracks are brimming with a joyful enthusiasm that can only be found when the music is being made by music lovers and not flag waving careerists.

This is an album of songs that are not afraid to take themselves too seriously, by a band that music lovers should take very seriously indeed.

It’s not everyday you come across a band who understands the joy and magic that can be achieved in making willfully experimental genre hopping pop music with a smile on its face.





Telgate ‘Cherrytight’
Single/ 22nd November 2019




Aw bless Telgate’s little Teflon trousers; they don’t half make me feel old with their lust for life and their contagious excitement of being in a band. I remember those days well, all those years ago rehearsal rooms, gigs in little toilet venues, dreaming of the day when they will see their names in lights when they are wrote about in the NME. Not that being written about in the NME is possible anymore, but the Monolith Cocktail will have to do it instead. I remember those days and good luck to them.

I like this single. I like that it’s four minutes twenty two seconds long and in that four minutes twenty two they achieve nothing that has not been done before and that is a point in its favour. It is simple glam punk rock’n’roll. They are young and they are enjoying themselves. Iggy Pop did not do anything new or original with The Stooges and he is considered one of the greats and rightly so. And this just carries on that rock’n’roll tradition of being sexy, being enthusiastic sounding, like you are enjoying life. I like that they will think who is this jaded old cunt reviewing our debut single and they are right to think that as I am on all counts old jaded, and a cunt. And I like it even more because it does not sound anything like Oasis: it sounds like they have not even heard of Oasis. Oh wouldn’t life be grand if I had never heard Oasis.




Dub Chieftain ‘Puppo Shadets’
(Metal Postcard Records) LP/ 22nd October 2019


Now this is something I like. It’s inventive. It’s fun. It’s Psych with the “delica” attached. It’s fun with the letter k attached at the end. It’s the sound of a playful mind revisiting the golden age of could-not-really-give-shit; an album made with personal enjoyment in mind.

Folk pop and psych weave in and out of bewitching instrumental wizardry; young children’s voices scrummage toy like wonkiness evoking the memories of the spirit of Brian Wilsons’ SMiLE and Joe Meeks I Hear A New World. This really is a gem of a release one of the many that Metal Postcard Records has released this year and one that deserves to reach out and grab the lovers of the slightly unusual by their eccentric gene, shaking heartedly until exploding into a spurt of joy.





No New Dawn ‘Double Dream’
(Other Voices Records) LP/ 2020




The darling sound of 80’s keyboard nostalgia wrapped up in a post punk soundscape of gothic delights; an LP to stride around the room whilst holding your cape aloft and declaring your love to the montage of dead dried flowers you forgot to send to the person of your fancy.

Double Dream would have gone down a bomb with the ripped beer mats thrown in the air brigade: all Wayne Hussey sunglasses thigh length boots and Casio flavoured velvet underpants. Music to watch a vampire chase a young lady in an alternative nightclub in the 80s to.

Very enjoyable and entertaining I can imagine a whole host of middle-aged Goths driving their kids mad with this. It made me smile anyway.




Automatic ‘Signal’
(Stones Throw) LP/ 27th September 2019




Automatic are the sound of youth, the joy of skinny hipped hollow cheek boned beauty personified, all wrapped up in the caress of Psycho killer bass lines and early Human League synth noises. The Automatic offers the soundtrack of a forever Friday night, a walk down the wild side kissing under the neon light with the boy or girl of your dreams, dancing wildly to your favourite new wave hit from your parents record collection.

The past and future collide on this impressive collection of post punk synth bass led tunesmithery. An LP I recommend wholeheartedly, it’s fun sexy and chic in all the right ways without any pretensions of being too grown up or planned. Rock ‘n’ roll is never grown up or planned.




Review
Gianluigi Marsibilio 



Big Thief ‘Two Hands’
LP/ 11th October 2019


U.F.O.F. introduced the Big Thief to a cosmic, celestial dimension, in which everything was quiet and melancholy static: it was like being in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. But with Two Hands, Big Thief instead return to a more earthly and frank dimension that, within a year, reaffirms the Brooklyn band and elevates the poetic universe of Adrianne Lenker.

Also, in this case, the voice of Big Thief is based on the delicate atmospheres that have the ability to transcend space and time. The delicacy of songs like ‘Wolf’ or ‘Forgotten Eyes’ is an important key to understanding an album that is the best proof of the band.

With Two Hands there is less DIY, a less crude construction, the search for sound starts first of all from a poetic dimension, from the need to narrate a story. The goal achieved is in the construction of a sound zone where Big Thief have become, not merely recognizable, but unique. The structure of the songs play on balances of sensitivity: the slight inputs of the xylophone, the melodic intersections, the rhythms that settle down and come to life between the words of the songs, are a very precise poetics of the band that now has a well-defined sound. The semantic field of the record is very clear and works with the themes of U.F.O.F., making them earthly, tangible. The idea that Two Hands is an earthly twin of the previous work is interesting and in focus. The sounds of Lenker’s guitar and voice build a rough anatomy of perceptions; everything can be touched and becomes extremely corporeal. The most abstract forms become clear when meeting Adrianne’s voice, a line like “The wolf is howling for me” actually becomes a symbol of this textual and poetic research.

Two Hands has the corporeity of a performance by Marina Abramovic, but also the noble crypticity of a live performance by Bon Iver. The lyrics are a bridge that crosses very wide poetic universes, Adrianne Lenker is like Walt Whitman in his Passage to India; there is a dimension of renewal, construction and humanity that unfolds throughout the work.

Two Hands is a gateway to a universe, which represents us and makes us feel good.




Video
Dominic Valvona



Elizabeth Everts   ‘Black Is The Colour’


Recently featured in on this blog with her diaphanous malady EP of controlled tumult of romantic brooding and lament, Contraband, the Californian born but Munich-based confessional balladeer Elizabeth Evert further accentuates that signature melodies ebb and flow style with a visual accompaniment. When articulating her own original songs Everts sounds vaguely like a cross between Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Raf Mantelli put to an accompaniment of lounge-jazz, trip-hop, Casio keyboard presets and the classical, but on the recent EP’s closing elegy, the attuned weepy cover of the traditional Scottish folk lament, ‘Black Is The Colour’ she almost plays it straight. Made famous to a degree by that controversial folk troubadour Christy Moore, Everts pays homage here with a new video.

Evert offers the following insights, and explains her choice of ancient malady:

“Black is the Color” is a folk song that is said to originate in Scotland. I have always loved this song and wanted to do my own version of it. One day it hit me that the version I would create of this lovely song would be nostalgic, a bit intense – to explore the dark side of vulnerability.

 As I worked on the song, it made me start thinking about how love can create such a vulnerability that it can lead to destruction. This destruction can occur in multiple places, even all at once, or in its simplest form of one individual suffering in the beauty of love.

 I tried to capture these ideas in the video – when light exists, darkness must also exist and that is sometimes difficult to manage emotionally. And in my experience, the lighter the light, the darker the dark.

The video was primarily filmed in Munich, Germany and I created the video myself. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Lyrics

Black is the color of my true love’s hair

His lips are something wondrous fair

The sweetest face and the gentlest hands

I love the ground on which he stands

 

I love my love and well he knows

I love the ground on which he goes

If him on earth no more I see

My life will simply fade away

 

Black is the color of my true love’s hair





PLAYLIST
Dominic Valvona




Cult B-movie European soundtracks, spine-tingling schlock and spooked, chain-rattling horror fuzztones aplenty. Yes, its that time of the year again, the bewitching hour is nigh, and so another one of Dominic Valvona’s special Halloween playlists.

To accompany any freaks ball, ghoulish themed soiree, candelabra lit dinner party, macabre shindig and black mass, the perfect soundtrack of devilish nonsense. Includes the bell tolled meaning doom of Acanthus, the kool aid hell-trippers St. John Green, the rebel county seedy James Gang, horrorcore rap doyens The Gravediggaz, the despairing Gothic romantics Vukovar, bewitched folk troupe Sproatly Smith and many more.




Previous ghastly selections:





Review
Nicola Guerra



GIRL BAND  ‘The Talkies’
(Rough Trade)  LP/ 2019


I often travel to Ireland for work and the thing that most intrigues me is to observe the differences between the Anglo-Saxon and Italian working class. We are both in the shit, it is clear, but the approach to the exteriorization of feelings is quite different. You can perceive it in any daily gesture, in the common life but above all in art. Music, as such, is a litmus test of general dissatisfaction; while in Italy the baggage of “committed singer-songwriters” has been gradually replaced by a frivolous and unconscious approach, in Ireland noise (not necessarily made with traditional instruments) seems an excellent alternative to all this crap. In short, all angry and frustrated, but here in Italy, we rebel shaking with the summer hits of Giusy Ferreri while in the UK the Idles with foaming anger sing, “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant, my blood brother’s Freddie Mercury, a Nigerian mother of three, he’s made of bones, he’s made of blood, he’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me, Unity”, and the Irish Girl Band respond with a second album more claustrophobic than their debut four years ago, Holding Hands With Jamie.

The Talkies, published again by Rough Trade, is more than a record; it’s state of mind, a delirious but lucid attempt to escape from the fears, which often inhabit our psyche. Surely Dara Kiely, voice of the Dublin quartet, is mainly responsible for the suffocating climax that you breathe in this record; he screams, spasms, anxious breaths and the same fear that the animal has when it is cornered. The music that accompanies the deliriums of the frontman oscillates between industrial, noise and dance from the bowels of the earth, indulging anger, frustration, the few oases of peace “ambient” (the lullaby that queries the post-punk assault of ‘Laggard’) are just a physiological breath, the breath of air that serves not to suffocate, the attempt to look away towards the imminent end of the world.

Incredibly cohesive, sharp, direct, difficult to digest and yet as fascinating as all things that speak of real life, the second album from Girl Band is a manifesto of the intolerance of a generation that wants to escape and at the same time react, without having any idea of how to do.

We are really in a tight spot and the four sound killers slam it in our faces, not playing to show us something but giving us directions on how we should behave.

Nicola Guerra








You can find all the previous Kalporz posts here….



 

Music Revue
Dominic Valvona





Reviving a roundup special from the early days of the Monolith Cocktail’s blossoming, The Singles, Teasers & Oddities Perusal is a chance to catch-up and to share music that has been left wanton in our inbox or left hanging around. The sheer volume of requests we receive is crazy, and so here is Dominic Valvona just dipping into some of the more interesting and choice tracks from the last month.

Haich Ber Na  ‘Everywhere’s Home’
(RAGS)  EP/ 16th October 2019


Global citizen Haich Ber Na releases a second cerebral, tactile and sophisticated EP of tingly soulful experimental brilliance this month. Though an introspective journey, Haich expands those grime and hip-hop roots further, merging House with languid R&B, downtempo electronica, the avant-garde and Liars. Homesick, though for where, the troubled swooner tackles the topics of isolation, work life balance and a sense of belonging on this often swoozy if dislocated dreamy five-track mini opus. Accompanying the Everywhere’s Home EP is a documentary type film visual accompaniment; a sort of day-in-the-life of an artist going about his mundane daily routine, only he happens to live in a UFO shaped pod: think Basquiat meets Sylvie Fleury.


Giant Swan  ‘Pandaemonium’
(KECK) Single/ Now


The seething underbelly of post-punk daemonic techno, Giant Swans newest single is a sinister sinewy caustic cry and top dance track to boot. Taken from the Bristol duo’s (Robin Stewart and Harry Wright) upcoming self-titled debut LP, and ahead of their European tour, ‘Pandemonium‘ is a barracking metallic clarion call to arms.

Originally conceived as a side project from their roles as guitarists in the band The Naturals, Giant Swan is a step towards more nuanced but expanded sonic horizons; galvanised dark materials that evoke Coil, Current 93, Throbbing Gristle, pushed onto the dancefloor via R&S.

Despite the harsh and abrasive sizzling and throbs, the duo point out that their music is created unconsciously and not in a riled tense state of agitation and anger. As a teaser it promises great things from this burgeoning duo.


Junius Paul  ‘Asé’
(International Anthem)  Single Teaser/ 22nd December 2019




Imbued with the spirit and magic of the The Art Ensemble of Chicago, rhythm wingman for fellow windy city contemporary conscious and spiritual jazz doyan Makaya McCraven, bassist extraordinaire Junius Paul is set to release his debut album, Ism, next month.

Providence wise, Paul has appeared on the recent The Art Ensemble of Chicago 50th Anniversary LP, We Are On The Edge, and on McCraven’s In The Moment, Highly Rare and Universal Beings albums, as well as being the go-to man for numerous sessions.

A long time coming, Ism was recorded across a handful of live & studio locations in Chicago, and features over a dozen instrumentalists, friends & collaborators including Vincent Davis, Justin Dillard, Corey Wilkes, Isaiah Spencer,Tomeka Reid, Marquis HillIrvin PierceShanta Nurullah and McCraven (who also produced the record).

As a teaser, the bandy yet taut noodling double bass elastics Asé’ ushers in a deeply thoughtful chapter in Chicago jazz. Just wait until that those shimmering cymbals and that rifling bounce of the snare and lovely swaddled horns luxuriously and tantalisingly comes in…delicious spiritual jazz at its most tentative and refrained.


Bear With Me  ‘Cry’
EP/ 11th October 2019


Despair, a cork on the ocean, a speck of dust, a mere crumb, how the enormity of it all just gets on top of you sometimes, the underlying anxiety that propels the Danish band’s new despondent dream pop EP, Cry, can make us all feel rather insignificant. Yet despite this, Bear With Me have produced a slow crushing crescendo release of shoegaze lament and brilliance. I really love this title-track; epic sorrowful lo fi pop at its most crooned magnificent. Keep an ear out for these guys.


Land of Ooo  ‘Waiting For The Whales’
Single/ 11th October 2019


The third single track to be left to roam free from its mini-LP, Wry Cry, the dreamy and noisey in equal measures ‘Waiting For The Whales’ siren call combines shoegaze, grunge, C86 and the Banshees on a most lulling flange-y affair. There’s an intensity and fuzzed streak of dissonance yet the course is set for something less caustic and harsh. Hailing from Graz in Austria, Land of Ooo was founded in summer 2018 by Nora Köhler, Leonie Bramberger and Julian Werl. A debut album is promised in early 2020.


Sun Ra Arkestra  ‘Yeah Man! Live In Kalisz’
(Lanquidity)  Teaser/26th October 2019 


Despite leaving these earthly realms some time ago, the venerated Saturnarian Sun Ra continues to shine his constellated rays down upon us mere mortals and inspire. In goes in waves of course, but the doyen of spiritual and cosmic jazz seems to influence and have a profound effect on every generation. And so interest in the Egyptian deity adorned pioneer’s music is in the ascendence. And if you can find those rarest of legendary recordings, or in this case performances, than you’re on to a winner.

The faithful, though ever-changing and developing troupe that Sun Ra once conducted, the Arkestra, continues to play and tour in his honour. But from 1986, when the sun king was still head of the congregation, the Arkestra played their first ever gig in Poland, at Kalish.

Recently rediscovered, the complete tape of the little known concert was forgotten for almost three decades in a Kalisz basement collecting dust.The recordings have been remastered by Marcin Cichy (Ninja Tune), and don’t they sound just grand.

A teaser, Yeah Man is Sun Ra’s live version of the original big band swing arrangement by the legendary and highly respected bandleader arranger Fletcher Henderson; a throwback almost to those heady days of early Ellington.


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