Monolith Cocktail

Inundated with solicited requests for reviews/features/interviews and even just the most tenuous and brief of mentions, the Monolith Cocktail (and this is a good thing by the way; we’re not bemoaning our increasing popularity) is currently snowed under with releases.

In an attempt to hone in and clear some of the more interesting of the backlog, here is a round up tracks we’ve been sent over the last few weeks, which includes the interstellar voyages of LNZNDRF; the Holy Mountain drone and drudgery of the Spanish Underground’s G.D.D.L.F; the acid hallucinations of the Casual Strangers; the expansive crystalline anthems of Snowball II; and the latest shoegaze waltz of protestation from Vukovar.


Whilst The National’s frontman Matt Beyninger has gone all 80s alternative pop Talk Talk with EL VY, the Ohio group’s Devondorf brothers, Scott and Bryan, have joined forces with Beirut band member Ben Lanz to form the interstellar overdrive LNZNDRF. Another 4AD love-in, the trio has added another tier to the record label’s family tree by signing to the label. Not so much a side project or even complimentary extension of their main band activities, the trio venture untethered into the moterik and progressive psych realms: just passed the Chariots of the Gods, but not quite setting the controls to the heart of the sun.

Their self-titled debut peregrination has taken a while to materialize; the band having first got together in Auckland in 2011. Recorded in the venerable settings of a church in Cincinnati over a three-day period, the originally extemporised jams were edited and cut into more palatable tracks. Driven by a Klaus Dinger beat and Jaki Liebezeit’s internal metronome, LNZNDRF progress through astral enlightened plains, romanticised ancient sacred cities and grand scale landscapes. Influenced heavily by Krautrock, the trio sometimes sounds as if they’ve learnt the same tricks as the late The Secret Machines, especially on the epic traversing but thunderous ‘Beneath The Black Sea’. ‘Mt. Storm’ however, is a Gothic Teutonic dragged post rock dirge anthem that sounds like The Cult and Besnard Lakes stranded on Venus. By the fourth song, ‘Kind Things’, we’re riffing on MGMT, lolloping around in electric bliss to the new age of pop, and later on cruising across a version of Cliff Martinz’ Drive soundtrack set in the world of Tron. But the reverberating presence of the Germans is never far behind, as Harmonia’s expansive waves and magical meditative melodies eat up ‘Hypno-Skate’.

In modulating intrepidness, the LNZNDRF astronauts give the Krautrock and progressive rock influences an inspired trip around the cosmos, landing their ship beneath ancient seas and on the walls of the world’s most ancient city for a most entranced psychedelic and neon-lit electric experience.

Snowball II   ‘I Can Come’

One of the more interesting and ambitious sounding tracks to make its way to us recently is from the Los Angeles band Snowball II. Self-styled shoegazers, hailing from the Californian coast, the group’s impressive, expansive sound is a blend of clean and shimmering dreamy grandiosity. Led by the 23-year old multi-instrumentalist and producer Jackson Wargo, the former Berklee College of music student indulges in the kaleidoscopic typography of psychedelic pop: namely the Animal Collective.

Lifted from their debut album ?, ‘I Can Come’ features a mix of Panda Bear and Jónsi Birgisson vocals soaring over cascading sparkly synths, tom pattered beats and a whirling atmosphere of Mew and Sigur Ros landscaping. Twinning L.A. with the crystalline atmospherics of Iceland, Snowball II creates an immersive and diaphanous sonic experience, with visuals to match (catch the Kevin Anton and, Cloud troubadour, Tyler Taormina co-directed video above).

The upcoming, self-released, album is due out on March 11th. If the single is anything to go by it look set to be one of the year’s highlights.

Casual Strangers    ‘Pink Panther/ Holocene Dream’

This band of Austin, Texas dreamers first appeared on our radar back in 2015 with their esoteric outback trip ‘Kangarang’. We mentioned then that the psychedelic meanderers were busy crafting a follow up LP to their self-titled debut of 2014. And now we finally have confirmation that it will be released on 26th February 2016.

The LSD inspired Pink Panther album features both the title track and ‘Holocene Dream’ songs featured above and below. The first of these is a Tangerine Dream immersion into Tropicana oceans, with dampened languid heartbeats and modulating synth notes that recall 80s American VHS slasher and Giallo soundtracks. It sounds like the bounding echoes of The Man Who Fell To Earth, a missing piece of the film’s soundtrack. The latter of the two is just as dreamy and unworldly, yet has a far busier drum section, and squall of electric guitars, with hints of Ash Ra Temple’s mind bending meditations, played on evocatively inspired lunar landscapes. You can hear that the Casuals have expanded the space in their music, and charted new territories, though as ever there is a spark of Krautrock reverence at play – even one of the album’s tracks is named after the Teutonic titan supergroup, The Cosmic Jokers. Here’s the full track list.

Track Listing:

1) Holocene Dream (3:56)

2) Cosmic Spaghetti (5:00)

3) Kangarang (4:12)

4) Brinca! Brinca! (2:45)

5) Turing Test (7:12)

6) Cosmic Jokers (3:20)

7) Pink Panther (3:31)

8) Lost Coast (2:48)

9) Future Passed (3:09)

10) Little Lids (10:45)

G.D.D.L.F   ‘Andrómina’

The mysterious cult that is one of Spain’s premier underground bands, the veiled acronym G.D.D.L.F (or Guerra Despues De La Fiesta in longhand), has appeared a few times on the Monolith Cocktail. Featured in our “notes from the Spanish underground” exposé, a few years back, they caught our ear with their entrancing brand of shoegaze noir and esoteric drones. Continuing to navigate a similar pathway from the daemonic to the transcendental, their latest LP Andrómina takes the Jesus And Mary Chain up the Holy Mountain.

Haunted by the dreaded hum of Latin incantations, Velvet Underground Byzantium dirges, sleazy morose BMRC guitar and tambourine shaking, and Goth malaise, the brethren drag their way towards an eventual release.

 Vukovar   ‘The Blood Garden’    (Small Bear Records)

Impressing with us with the 2015 downtrodden anthem protestations Emperor LP (so much that we placed it in our choice albums of the year post), Vukovar release another plaintive maelstrom of Joy Division doomed malady, the beautifully tortured The Blood Garden single.

The title track builds gradually from a heart aching imbued Wedding Present to a swirling, noisy and animal carcass-beating pulse surge of energetic discourse. Lifted towards a Spacemen 3 like veneration, a chorus of voices gives the song some hope at least. Accompanying the lamentable showcase song is both live and concatenate versions of the (keeping the Jason Pierce connection going) Spiritualized meets an Oriental obsessed New Order, ‘Part 1: Ms Kuroda’s Lament’. ‘Part 2: Ms Kuroda’s Lament (The Sailor)’ brings a new character to the original Emperor featured track, but adds a vortex sucking haze of backward taped guitar and drums to the Aztec Camera on Mogadon vibes. Recorded at one of Glasgow’s backstreet hideaways, the Old Hairdressers, a live heavier version of that original song is brutal, and is so loose at times it threatens to fall apart. It is however an honest performance.

Still fiddling with romantic and earnest protest whilst Olympus burns, the Vukovar are fast becoming one of the best underground bands in the UK. The Blood Garden single keeps up the pressure.

Words: Dominic Valvona