Words: Dominic Valvona

Angels Die Hard - Monolith Cocktail

Welcome to another polygenesis installment of our popular new music reviews roundup. Tickling our fancy this month, albums/EPs and singles from Many Monika, Angels Die Hard, Martyn Heyne, Tuath and Tau. Plus the latest compilation of ‘deep cuts and spiritual jazz obscurities’ from Tramp Records; the first volume in their recent Peace Chant series.

Various   ‘Peace  Chant  Vol. 1: Raw, Deep  and  Spiritual  Jazz’
Released  by  Tramp  Records  3rd  June  2016

Monolith Cocktail - Peace Chants

Re-releasing all kinds of obscure and forgotten soul, funk, R&B and with this latest compilation, jazz albums and 45s, Tramp Records can always be relied upon to dig up previously over-looked treasures. Covering a wide timeline, 1963 to 2014, the first volume in the ‘peace chant’ series of deep and spiritual jazz travails and lamenting civil rights protestations features nine tracks of varying rarity.

With a real Afro-jazz journey of spiritual awakening, the compilation opens with the highly influential German outfit Das Goldene Zeitalter. Featuring members of the 1990s (and throughout the 2000s) trio of much respected neo-funk groups Poets Of Rhythm, The Whitefield Brothers and The Malcouns, the group’s previously unreleased percussive be-jangled and sweltering heated esoteric backed – with a Pharaoh Sanders redolent vocal – trip ‘Don’t Give Up Your Smile’, could have been a lost classic lifted from the dawn of conscious soul-jazz.

Arriving on its tail in almost leisurely pursuit, the No Art Quartet’s shuffling and louche skimming ‘Black Bandit’ is a seductive cocktail jazz number that dares cast the listener back to the bright lights of New York in the early 1960s. Recalling The Last Poets, San Fernando Valley church organist Walt Bolen adds flute and guitars to his ‘peace chant’ recording. This funky little number, which lends its title to the collection, was was originally recorded on his Ar-Que record label in 1972, one of only a few that featured him as bandleader.

Enraptured in the mystique and history of Africa, the oldest track on the album, dating back to 1963, is an exotic instrumental by the Luna Brothers, named in honor of the much-troubled ‘Mozambique’. Though most definitely caressing the African continent, there is a cornucopia of sweet serenading influences at play, including a touch of the South Seas and calypso. To the other side of the world, and Hozan Yamamoto supplies a wondrous riding flute and horn adorned modal ‘Spotlight On Sapporo’. The Tokio University lecturer, crime jazz Japanese bamboo flute (the Shakuhachi) player and one-time member of Tony Scott’s ‘Music for Zen Meditation’, recorded this sassy beauty in 1972.

From all four corners, the Peace Chant collection finds enough interesting head- turner recordings to appease and feed the inquisitive. If you believed that the Spiritual Jazz resurgence of the last few years had run dry, than this first volume of the series will surprise you.

Already doing the rounds, a second volume is also now available, and you can purchase the pair together in one bundle.

Tuath   ‘Existence  Is  Futile’
Released  15th  June  2016

Emerging from the meandered veils of hallucinogenic Pink Floyd trip hop into the open; from vaporous washed Mono to full-on Prog guitar solo welding Stereo; Donegal band Tuath wander the land in existential anxiety on the title track from their latest EP Existence Is Futile. As an introduction and promise of what’s to follow it perfectly encapsulates the fluidity of the group’s electronic/shoegaze/noise fusion, though the ‘noise’ remains accentuated and enervated on this particular release.

‘Nation’, ‘people’ or ‘tribe’, the old Irish word ‘túath’ signifies a bond. It is this atavistic language, this etymology of the old country that the band weaves and integrates into their music now, keeping it alive in a modern world. Singing in both English and Irish, Tuath move amorphously between cultures to create something far more mysterious.

Finding despondency in not just the eroding and loss of their native language, there are plenty of other equally important and troubling issues to pen songs about. The sweetly laced saxophone and arching and bending shoegaze meets a Gothic The Smiths ‘Who Do You Want Me To Be’ yearns about the breakdown of a relationship, whilst the haunting, gnarling choral misty vale ‘Take Refuge’ focuses on the ongoing refugee crisis. The final Gothic drone requiem ‘Poll’ pulls scorn on one of modern life’s most obsessive distractions the mobile phone, and how over time it turns people into pacified wretches.

With a very serious catalyst lying at its heart, namely speaking out about the epidemic of mental illness that stalks their hometown, made worse and in many ways caused by their remoteness economically and geographically from the wealthier areas of Ireland, Existence Is Futile captures a current mood of isolation and even ‘nihilism’. That’s not to say this EP is full of foreboding dread and anger. In fact it is often psychedelic, smothered in echo-y effects and submerged in shoegaze fuzz and often quite mesmerizing.

Many  Monika  ‘Mixtape  Side  A’
Available  now  on Bandcamp

Monolith Cocktail - Many Monika

Many Monika’s unique take on the dramas and tribulations of adolescent heartache and anxiety, as channeled through a bedraggled Howard Deutch female hero out of her environment and restless in a post-grunge 90s setting, play upon the ownership of identity and authenticity. If you’ve never clapped eyes on Monika and haven’t read the blurb, you may of course guess from the vocals that this is indeed a dude singing like a lady. Not that the entire premise rests solely on this vocal twist or that Monika is in fact the less exotically feminine ‘Sean’, but the purposely lo fi, transistor radio quality recorded songs are in themselves quite catchy.

Currently causing a stir in the Bristol music scene, a friend as it happens to Monolith Cocktail favorite Edward Penfold, Monika opines bubblegum lamentations on growing pains, mental anguish and…well, being a girl in general, exposed to the ‘instagram’ fetishized world, where every love and life decision you make is saved for prosperity. Sounding like a bratty cross between Brian Molko and The Breeders, Monika slices through an assured petulant rawk of garage punk and teen candy pop doo-wop on the album that was sent to me Mixtape Side A (already well over a year old). In what sounds like a duet between Monika and Sean, ‘Things Are For The Best’ from that collection could be a lost rehearsal tape from some abandoned New Order and Happy Mondays collaboration. In more recent months Monika has uploaded songs to a Soundcloud account, which you can peruse here.

Beyond a novelty or quirk, there are some real interesting themes and ideas behind the Monika alter ego. And as I already said, Sean Warman’s play with gender opens up a curious dialogue on ownership and identity. I’ll be keen to see where this project goes and if it expands. For now, I recommend you unearth this, so far regional, Bristol maverick.

Martyn  Heyne  ‘Shady  &  Light’
Released  by  Martyn  Heyne,  available  now

Monolith Cocktail - Heyne

A pleasant introduction to the accentuated and carefully placed serenity of the German musician/producer Martyn Heyne, his latest collection of wandering, sometimes stirring, instrumentals Shady & Light is quite poetic. So far evading my attention, Heyne materializes slowly onto my radar now with six well-crafted and descriptive guitar led peregrinations. Known as much for his own work as producing in and lending his Berlin studio ‘Lichte’ to bands such as The National, Nils Frahm and Efterklang (including their most recent LP Piramida), Heyne has also worked with Dustin O’Halloran on the Emmy Award winning Transparent soundtrack. It is this soundtrack work that imbues the mostly delicately threaded vibrations and echoing washes on Heyne’s new mini-album.

Interested, inspired even, by the ideas of juxtaposition, Shady & Light as you may have gathered plays on a common musical trope, albeit with a slight twist. In keeping with Heyne’s idiosyncratic methodology, his use of the word ‘shady’ denotes something shifty. Adding improper and incorrect subtleties is his signature trait. The examples here are, however, far from discordant or unsettled. Nothing so much as lurks in the shadows. Instead, the dynamics are kept very attentive, the accent and intensity given more power and volume when it needs to reach a crescendo or drive home a dramatic point, yet done so naturally with adroit tenderness that it is always majestic.

Like a less motorik Land Observation, harmonics and melodies build up purposeful rhythms on undefined but progressive journeys. Tremulous reverberations no matter how beautiful and dream like, and often without an obvious metronome let alone beat, never seem aimless.

Shady & Light ripples with the most serene and beautifully searching guitar passages, often taking on the characteristics of the harp or evoking the sound of droplets of water dripping through the Vale into lushly surrounded whirlpools. Small changes mean everything here, Heyne’s meticulous gestures gently stirring up the passions.

Tau  ‘Mother’
Released  via  Fuzz  Club,  17th  June  2016  (download  single  only)

In a suitably evocative ritualistic procession through the sacred deserts that inspired their conception, the Dublin-born and now Berlin resident Nunutzi and his partner-in-sound, the Venezuelan-born, Gerald Pasqualin, pay a panoramic musical homage to the most sacred site of the Wixarrica Huichol Indians with the matriarchal pilgrimage ‘Mother’.

The Mexican desert air and beliefs of the people infuse the esoteric hypnotic blues of the duo’s recently formed collaborative project Tau. In particular the incubator, according to their myths, of the world’s creation, the ‘Wirikuti’.

Taken from their upcoming album on Fuzz Club Records Tau Tau Tau (which translates as a chant of “Father Son”), their prowling rites of passage through a shrouded Western of atavistic mystery, spiritualism and prayers signals a most atmospheric auger of what’s to come. Released in September, the album promises a trans-global flavor of North and Central America and the Middle East, with collaborators including Knox Chandler of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Earl Harvin of The Tindersticks and Miss Kenichi.

Angels  Die  Hard  ‘Mood  Ring’
Available  already  via  Heaven  Hotel  and  distributed  by  Sonic  Rendez-Vous in  the Benelux  region.  In  UK  the  album  will  be  released  on  July  1st  via  Jezus  Factory  and  distributed  by  Shellshock. 

Originally featured a couple of years back on the Monolith Cocktail, the eponymous debut pop-sike-on-the-Krautrock-silk-road peregrination from Antwerp’s Angels Die Hard evoked the cult soundtrack to a counter-culture biker gang marooned on one of Les Baxter’s exotic Polynesian islets style movie.

The Belgian underground collective, made up of members from Bad Influence, Black DenverGore SlutOwWilderwolves and the Strumpets, made like the proverbial banana and split to pursue other more dignified and spiritual paths. Their percussionist/drummer Rob Eelen walked barefoot wandering the globe drawing rivers and soccer stadiums, keeping his hand in by recording an album of steel drumming with a group of singing Myanmar army officers (who hasn’t); guitarist, bell player and all types of sundry sound maker Thomas Noppe and harmonica, synths and loop controller Alex Van Herk meanwhile started a flute/marimba duo-project and did a short Asian tour as a support act for some a-list artists (like Enya), but got fired after 2 gigs. Thomas then picked up his old profession as a tree inspector (mostly bamboo we’re told, very important) and spent a month meditating in a small cave near Kyoto, eating nothing but honey, brought in by the bees that also lived there. Alex moved to Thailand to produce three female friendly police action movies (hey, no sniggering, he’s an artist). There was no dialogue in the movies. The movies were simply called (in order of release): A, D & H. The movies went straight to DVD.

Fortunately for us they decided to reunite in 2015 for one big love-in, extending the lineup to include Elko Blijweert, Jan Stoop and someone called Alain Rylant who it’s said, ‘helped them out with some percussion and also did a lecture about knives.’

So what sonic delights are there to bombard the senses this time around? Well, there is definitely a harder edge on the group’s new LP Mood Ring. Still encroached in the same Krautrock, shoegaze and psychedelic roots, there is however a more serious and also meditative tone. Whereas the last album was Amon Düül this one is more Faust.

The opening gambit ‘Rat Park’ is all Theremin like quivers, space tomfoolery and motorik raging fuzz. From then on it’s the subaquatic alienness of uncharted Earth to the alienness of space, as the Angels Die Hard roam the strange landscapes and seabeds of science fiction pulp novels. Envision if you will, illustrations of exotic creatures flying across far away planet vistas, or mystical mountain ranges inhabited by the same misty choirs that enriched Popol Vuh’s journey’s east into the Carpathians. They leave the most ‘angelic’ and ethereal until last. ‘The Blue Angel’ finale gentle wafts and floats over an imaginary Hawaiian island of paradise to settle in the most calm of waters – a return to the islets of their previous album.

That’s not to say there isn’t a bite: tangled garrotting guitars grind away in a wild discourse at times, and the odd fizzling Molotov gets thrown as probing drones strafe at will. But for the majority of the time the group seem comfortable in their dreamier state. Fans of their previous album will find a complimentary and congruous follow-up.

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