NEW MUSIC REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail - RFA review


Tickling Our Fancy 032: My regular roundup of the more interesting new releases this week includes Ian Buttons estuary supergroup Papernut Cambridge, peregrination improvisations from the Danielsson, Lund and Neset jazz trio, Hanne Kolstø‘s stripped back and venerated live performance at the Tøyenkirken altar, the isolated Northern American frontier myths of A Dyjecinski, the first ever compilation from Pittsburgh label Nonstop Everything and Small Bear Records new ‘no wave’, ‘this wave’, ‘any wave but that wave’, Istanbul signing Reptilians From Andromeda.

Various   ‘Get It Right’

Released by Nonstop Everything, available via bandcamp now




The brainchild of Pittsburgh songwriter/producer Benjamin Ferris, the cerebral kaleidoscopic in cinematic scale trip hop, jazz, psych and alternative indie Van Allen Belt remain one of our favourite discoveries of the past five years. Conceived back in 2007, spawning numerous projects and collaborations, with Ferris going on to work with a number of artists across America both as an extension of the Van Allen and as a separate entity, the group’s label Nonstop Everything is home to many of the results.

Released a few weeks back to celebrate Ferris’ birthday and his expansive, varied back catalogue, Get It Right is the label’s first ever compilation showcase. Wearing their political leanings on the proverbial sleeve, the ten-tracks by ten different artists spread will see all proceeds from the album’s sale donated to Bernie Sander’s presidential nomination campaign: A dignified coloured-pencil rendering of the socialist’s great hope adorns the cover.

 

The title is itself paraphrased from the Van Allen’s ‘If We Can’t Get It Right Right Now’, a cover of which kicks the collection off. With a bright collage of hand clapping jive, saxophone and gospel, backed by a 60s style R&B beat, it is another surprising string to the group’s already eclectic bow. Following them there’s the Talking heads on an anti-folk march ‘Video Comes With Real Guns’ protest by Seth Faergolzia & The 23 Psagez; a 80s New York style polygenesis team up of Laurie Anderson, the Art of Noise and MC 900 Ft Jesus rap by Mrs. Paintbrush; the quasi-classical strains and wafting, haunted French language electronic suite of Frédéric Choudin; and the David Sylvian brooding Bill Rivers.

 

For the same price as the minimum hourly wage in the States, you receive a generous aural transaction, triggering off a curiosity for some lesser known, or altogether unknown, artists. You might, if the persuasion, find yourself playing a small part in getting the right man into the White House while you’re at it.


Danielsson Neset Lund   ‘Sun Blowing’

Released by ACT, 29th April 2016

Monolith Cocktail - Danielsson Lund Neset


‘Conceptualized’ on a train ride back from the 2012 Jazz Baltica festival to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, bassist Lars Danielsson, saxophonist Marius Neset and drummer Morten Lund’s proposed jazz trio project would be left hanging until an opportune moment, two years later. The Nordic triumvirate of virtuosos – all major contemporary jazz players in their own right – had previously crossed paths in various set ups and had all decided to base themselves and live in Copenhagen, but working as a three-piece together was an entirely new and exciting venture.

Offered a free day’s recording by the owner of the Millfactory studios in 2014, Lund invited his musical partners in waiting to take part in an improvised session. The only rules stipulated were that each of them could only bring a maximum of four songs along as stimuli for an unprepared and unrehearsed performance. Starting at 2pm and working through a six hour session, with only a couple of small overdubs and some subtle programmed harmonies added at a later stage, the resulting Sun Blowing album is a traversing, fluid and flexible suite; captured for posterity by the assiduous Siggi Loch (invited by Lund).

 

Though a shared experience half of the material is attributed and authored by Danielsson. The first of which, a first take, is the skipping, springy hard bop style ‘Little Jump’. Leaping from the speakers, with no lead-in, no introductions, it is a bustling, lively opener that barely touches the floor. The playing is superb, the interplay between Danielsson’s double bass and Lund’s rapid fire, tight rolling drums is constantly flexing and on the move. Neset not to be outdone adds a sweet melodic tenor sax beauty to the free falling rhythms. Danielsson’s title track has a more burnished and shimmering feel, settling down from the fervent opener, and musing over a breeze-trembled rippling soundscape. Later on, his introspective bluesy veiled ‘Blå’, of which Neset said ‘it felt like home’, is another less hyper exchange of free form jazz wanderings.

Not that you’d have noticed but this improvised method was a little different to Neset’s usually meticulous and thorough planning method of recording. Yet his often sublime, and throughout, freed-up articulate descriptive style bonded well with the new looser musical environment. Bringing only his previously never recorded, and only ever performed a few times live with Daniel Herskedal, ‘Salme’ with him, Neset’s performance is imbued with the tones and ‘keening’ sound of Jan Garbarek on what translates as an accentuated psalm. With its longing passages and naturalistic panoramas, there’s plentiful space to set Neset free.

 

A common bond between all three, the legendary saxophonist/composer/bandleader Michael Brecker is paid certain homage on the album – Lund played in a duo with Brecker during a workshop, Danielsson toured with him in Europe during the 1980s and Neset has named him as a massive influence. Though a cover of a Don Grolnick composition, ‘The Cost Of Living’ is given a Brecker like makeover. The original’s lead piano is replaced by Neset’s uninterrupted reed slaps tenor saxophone and Lund and Danielsson’s progressive, spiraling, backbeat. Steeped in bluesy American jazz traditions Grolnick’s original heads back to Northern Europe and the avant-garde.

An inspired project, bringing three of the most gifted players of the contemporary European scene together in a freely flowing enterprise of improvisation, Sun Blowing is an extraordinary nuanced, well-paced and empirical testament to experimental jazz.


A Dyjecinski   ‘The Valley Of Yessiree’

Released by Sideways Saloon Recording Company, April 29th 2016

Monolith Cocktail - A Dyjecinski ‘The Valley Of Yessiree’


Featured in the last edition of ‘tickling our fancy’, the hewn from the solitude landscape of Canada homage and metaphor for the tropes of loyalty, loss civilization itself, ’Dead Horses’ received a glowing review. The sullen but beautifully weather-beaten fragility of its author, Dracula Legs frontman turn soloist, A. Dyjecinski promised something special off the back of this meditative Americana styled single. Thankfully his album The Valley Of Yessiree is every bit as despondent and parched, a loose soundtrack to isolation, or the lack of it.

An accompanying booklet of still monochrome photographed snow-covered mountains and woodlands gives the listener a reference point, those atmospheric influences made tangible. From these lonesome pines and snowdrift panoramas Dyjecinski carves out his own western mythology, which is just as much about the psychogeography of the northern frontier as it is about the artist’s need to escape his surroundings for somewhere remote: a space to think.

Though that geography is big the music is intimate throughout. Following the protagonist as he traipses through the snow unaided and alone, the seclusion of his travails is mirrored in the poised, slowly unfurled backing track. Like a grizzled Antony Hegarty fronting a No More Shall We Part Bad Seeds, the earnest, bedraggled Dyjecinski mixes Gothic country with hymn and gospel elements. Grueling at times, grinded down but always yearning a certain beauty and melodic quality, we lumber through ‘Goad By The Valley’, we ponder tentatively on ‘I’m The Woods’, liltingly watching the tumbleweed blow by drinking to the thirsty ghosts on ‘The Resurrection’, and bare witness to the final hours of the artist, enervated by the harsh conditions unable to make it through the storm, on ‘Ivorm’. This final track finishes with what sounds like the dying embers and breathe of the protagonist, the last sounds being the flapping blanket of a tent or cabin tomb in the softly howled winds.

Words are succinct kept to a minimum, or missing entirely: the title track and its moiety ‘Hunger’ both pining instrumentals, descriptive of the hard worn valley surroundings, with faint echoes of Red Indian toms and twanged cinemascope Ry Cooder. But for the most part they are timeless, playing into the analogy and myth of the musical landscape that Dyjecinski has created.


Papernut Cambridge   ‘Love The Things Your Lover Love’

Released by Gare Du Nord Records, 13th May 2016

Monolith Cocktail - Papernut Cambridge


After covering a hazed glow of ‘Top of the Pops’ annuals glam rock and pop nuggets from the of the 1970s, Ian Button’s Papernut Cambridge ensemble now craft their own original redolent versions of those radio-friendly hits on their latest album for lovers. One of the busiest people in independent music over the last few years, Button’s estuary, end of the London transport hub, movement supports a cottage industry, where recordings, events and productions under the Gare Du Nord moniker emanate.

The label’s house band of a sort, starting with excursions into quintessential English pastoral psychedelia before recent transformations in the direction of an alternative 70s sound palette of fondly reminisced pop and, even, rock steady, the Papernut Cambridge has grown from being just a vague idea or note, as Button sings on the album’s ‘We Are The Nut’, “in a notebook in the back of my mind”, to being something far more tangible and ambitious.

 

As with previous releases, the great and good of the Button stable and a host of other comrades join the party: the finale theme tune of the band introducing us to all the members, from Jack Hayter on pedal steel guitar and Darren Hayman on drums to Emma Winston on organ. Everyone involved also lends his or her vocals to proceedings, whether in a doo-wop fashion or as a cooed chorus back up. Drawing on a host of influences, the group treads a fine line between pastiche and comforting nostalgia. From the knowing and weary pages of a discarded and knocked about Jackie annual songs such as the title track (recently released as single for Valentine’s Day) evoke both the lovesick mooning of teenage fandom and the more tragic, meaningful tropes of adult relationships simultaneously.




Essentially an album of exquisite pop treats and meditations on the loss and memories – in all its metaphorical guises – of unrequited and mysterious love and the passing of time, it leans heavily on a Mott The Hoople, Alvin Stardust and Marc Bolan arc sound wise. On ‘Radio’ however you can hear a rainbow phaser effect Jeff Lynne, and country twanged ‘Chartreuse’ has a Marmalade and Apple’s Beatles feel to it, most notably sounding like McCartney on Abbey Road crossed with a bit of Badfinger for good measure. They also meander into more exotic and esoteric realms on the Byzantine tremolo creep through the catacombs ‘Them’, which has shades of the Edison Lighthouse meeting The Velvet Underground in the misty veils of Avalon, and on the shimmery, tambourine shaking vortex ‘Mirology’, which flirts with 80s Siouxsie and the Banshees gothic pop. Retrieving psychedelic and beat group threads from their 2014 There’s No Underground LP, the queer sounding, ominous tale of ‘St. Nicholas Vicarage’ is both lyrical and thematically Syd Barrett-esque, and the echoed strains of ‘I Promise’ transduces The Shangri-Las leather chain biker motifs through the Downliners Sect and Stone Roses.

Carving out a niche for themselves as the outsiders, marooned on the outskirts of the big city, the joyful and naïve music of another generation is made relevant, detached from its own age. Inspired by their very own Nutlets 1967 – 1980 covers album, Button and his troupe have managed to create a unique timeless homage to the glam and psychedelic pop of that very age.


 

Reptilians From Andromeda  ‘Sonic Rabbit Hole’
Released by Small Bear Records, available via bandcamp now





Jumping head first into the metaphorical Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, Small Bear’s most recent signing free falls through a vivid, and often distorted, mix of post-punk, no wave and toms flaying patent leather Candy pop.

Sipping from a kool aid contaminated Bosphorus, the Istanbul husband and wife duo of Aybike Celik and Tolga Özley, joined by the suitably trashy rock’n’roll named Johnny The Tramp on drums, sound cool-y resigned and chic as they pop magic pills liberally in a luminescent 80s colour palette of garish electric neon.

The band tends to vary their influences on each song. The opener ‘Psychic Girl’ recalling a shoegaze downer version of The Raveonettes, whilst the following track ‘Jungle’ gallops along like a New York Dolls fronted by Debbie Harry pastiche safari – complete with a tongue-in-cheek menagerie of sound effects. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs spring to mind on the tribal pouncing ‘We Are Who We Are’, and the kooky shimmering synth ‘Wicky Wacky Witches’ sounds like Best Coast at the Sabbath.

Distorted, even hysterical at times, with Tramp’s cymbal smashing clashes loud and proud throughout, it’s quite surprising to find how melodic and tuneful it all sounds. Like a coy Jesus And The Mary Chain or a switchblade carrying Blondie, or even a Siouxsie Sioux collaborating with Death from Above 1979, the Reptilians mix and match to create a psychedelic mind warp. Your favourite new obscurity and curio from the Turkish capital.


Hanne Kolstø   ‘Live At Tøyenkirken’

Released by Jansen Plateproduksjon, April 22nd 2016

 

Monolith Cocktail - Hanne Kolstø ‘Live At Tøyenkirken’

Having previously only featured just one out of the last five albums from the idiosyncratic Norwegian artist Hanne Kolstø on the Monolith Cocktail, I can’t claim to know or be overly familiar with the talented songstress work. And there is a lot of it, either out of ennui or a need to record her every waking hour of electronic suffused blues and lament pop, she has released an album every year since 2011, the most recent being 2015’s While We Still Have Light. The only time we did feature her, was when our most lyrical critic Ayfer Simms granted Kolstø’s 2014 Forever Maybe LP a favourable thumbs up.

 

With something new in mind for 2016, Kolstø goes acoustic, reinterpreting a selection of songs from the back catalogue for a venerable performance in Oslo’s Tøyen church. Stripped back with only the fluidly attentive accompaniment of pianist Andreas Stensland Løwe to keep her company, the vulnerable singer gives a quite stark spine-tingled concert. The partnership works wonders, as these plaintive and often fighting to break free themed electronic pop originals acquire a new gravitas. It helps that Løwe has previously played with Kolstø before, in both Post and Elope, the latter of these a free improvisation pop group. His purposeful descriptive notes, paused breaths and often-sonorous waves give a certain classical feel to the songs, which now laid bare carry a resonance often lost in the original’s shimmery and crystalline production.

 

As for the material she chooses to transform, it’s her 2013 album Stillness And Panic that provides the greatest number of songs for the minimalistic set. There’s a sinking in tumultuous emotional tides version of ‘Nothing Out Loud’, a fragile, frayed ‘One Plus One Makes One Out Of Two’, and an arched and longing voiced ‘Someone Else’. Fitting into a concatenated set list, there are achingly plaintive versions of ‘The City’ (from 2011’s Riot Break) and ‘La-La-La-Lovesong’ (from 2012’s Flashback); both of which prove to be showcases for Kolstø’s rich tonal and experimental vocal range.

The Tøyenkirken concert allows us to concentrate on Hanne Kolstø the songwriter like never before and hear that voice unaided – except for a tinge of echo every now and then and harmony back-up from Løwe – as she performs a sort of reimagined greatest hits package live. Far from being a pause in writing new material or a breather, this congruous album is every bit as important, and took just as much hard work to achieve what is a stark and entrancing performance.


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