Words: Dominic Valvona

Monolith Cocktail blog - PABST

In the most eclectic of musical review roundups, tickling our fancy this month features Jinko Vilova, who once again align motor city rock and the Kosmische on their new LP Líquid, the disarming melodies of Robert Rotifer’s new EP Our Only Entertainment, the turbo pop grunge of PABST and soft power indie pop of Scandinavia, the Gothic folk psych of Daniel Jones and the latest transmission from the mysterious oblique A Hundred Million.

Jinko Vilova  ‘Líquid’

Monolith Cocktail - Jinko Vilova

Converging the explosive motor city sound of The MC5 and Stooges with Neu! and Can, the Spanish underground marauders of high quality space rock Jinko Vilova remain a well-kept secret. Not from lack of trying, the Monolith Cocktail has been supporting and raving about the Barcelona band and a scene that’s been largely ignored outside the Iberian perimeters. Breakouts from a post global crash and EU crisis Spain include The Suicide Of Western Culture and Jupiter Lion, yet a wealth of esoteric and psychedelic bands and labels are still waiting to be discovered – from the Kosmische daydreamers Celestial Bums to the opium dank drone outfit Guerra Después De La Fiesta.

Bringing together a number of artists, all with various side projects (hence the delay in a new album), the Jinko channels and concentrates the dynamic forces of heavy, stoner, space, punk and Krautrock into a refined production that despite the energy and experimentalism is actually quite polished. Building on the band’s last LP, 2012’s Cru!, there’s an abandonment of the repetitive free-jazz and shoegaze for more ambitious cosmic influences. Líquid is tight and weighty enough to ‘kick out the jams’ and grunt like a preening Iggy Pop but also loose enough to float off into deep space; encircling satellites in a vortex haze. There’s also more in the way of vocals this time around; either in a quasi-Iggy mode or robotic dictate fashion – as on the metallic buzz curio ‘Outer Space’.

Highlights include the opening thumper of motorik Louisiana swamp boogieing – think Guru Guru transmogrifying Canned Heat – ‘You’re Standing’, the hypnotic Dead Skeletons Byzantine ritual ‘Xahau’ (great fun that one), and the final epic blast of oscillating mind warped dark arts, ‘Shadows’.

With a full tank of rocket fuel onboard Jinko Vilova once more blast off into space with a cargo of salacious nihilist motor city and mind-bending Teutonic rock. Their best album yet, Líquid should propel them forward into our conscious and gain them a much wider audience.

Robert Rotifer   ‘Our Only Entertainment’
EP released by Gare du Nord Records,  4th November 2016

Monolith Cocktail - Robert Rotifer

When near enough every sentiment and emotion has been voiced it becomes increasingly difficult to sound anything but a cliché let alone lay your heart on your sleeve without coming over all saccharine. On what the earnest singer/songwriter Robert Rotifer describes as, “my most shamelessly self-indulgent set of lyrics yet”, the title track of his latest refreshingly pure and honest EP addresses these very concerns. ‘Our Only Entertainment’, taken from this year’s Not Your Door LP, and featuring Citizen Helene on backing vocal duties, has Rotifer “show his hand” so to speak; referencing both the very “tropes” and platitudes that litter the troubadour handbook whilst sounding convincingly like he means it. Delivering a breezier ode to baring one’s soul, Rotifer tackles the masculine façade that blocks a majority of the male population from honestly sharing those same feelings on ‘Keep It Together’. Despite the self-deprecation and themes the song’s attentive tambourine shaking bright demeanor lightens the gravitas and resigned sighs. It follows over into the lilting country twanged ‘Writing A Song On A Train’, which poses this gem, “When you’re looking for truth in a Glen Campbell record you know you’re in trouble my dear.”

Unashamedly melodious with a keen ear for a disarming tune, Rotifer’s songbook wistfully recalls The Hollies, George Harrison and Bad Finger. Later on the first of two cover versions, he channels Van Morrison on the slightly sharper but faithful Kevin Coyne song ‘The World Is Full Of Fools’ – chosen as a tribute to the legendary combative leftie Austrian singer/songwriter Sigi Maron who used to sing a Viennese version of the same song, having been a friend of Coyne’s and recorded with his producer Rob Ward in the early 1980s. Rotifer was lucky enough to get to know and play with Maron before he died earlier this year, and pays a lovely homage here.

The second, and EP curtain closer, cover is a delightfully relaxed version of The Beatle’s beautiful and often forgotten classic ‘For No One’. Recorded originally for German Rolling Stone’s recent cover-mount CD of cover songs from the pre-fab four’s Revolver, it features a subtle nod to McCartney’s understated White Album sonnet ‘Blackbird’ with a chorus of chirping birdsong and rounds off the EP on a lovelorn high.

PABST   ‘Skinwalker EP’
EP released by Crazysane Records

Monolith Cocktail - PABST

Concealed beneath the quasi-noisenik Japanese photography (cue authoritarian figure being strangled by a rebellious antagonist) and typography is a turbocharged trio of north European grunge revivalists attempting to do justice to the modern indie rock genre. Channeling a teen angst of Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Ty Segall and a version of Tame Impala that’s free of the more indulgent bullshit, the Berlin-based PABST are hardly original in casting their net for influences. What’s different is how well they do it: extremely well. Sounding like they might actually mean it despite the petulant and sometimes languid attitude their five-track debut is full of dynamic vigour and fuzzy pedal exuberance.

Heavy but not in any macho postured way, the squall of electric guitar and busy cymbal action that permeates throughout the opening collage radio track ‘Bias’ could be equally attributed to the female-led Throwing Muses and The Breeders as The Pixies; the male lead vocal bordering on the effeminate. By the time the group reach ‘Members Only’ they’ve added a distinct Goth vibe to the early 90s signature; sounding like Todd Rundgren meets The Cult or a lost 4AD label act. And on the following cyclonic ‘Ocean Cruise’ bump into Sam Flax and Jonathan Richmond in a whirlpool of 80s phaser effects. ‘Watching People Die’ however is a discordant grunge tumult of adolescent rage, and quite possibly the best Dinosaur Jnr. track they never recorded.

They are in short pretty impressive at what they do, giving a knowing edge and depth to a sound that’s become the preserve of the tragically hip in recent years. Good luck to them, they’re a solid act.

Daniel Jones   ‘The Manic or The Varied Dancing Flames Of The Eternal Human Spirit’

Monolith Cocktail - Daniel Jones

Fluid with his inspirations and influences the East London bluesman Daniel Jones traverses soul, folk, rock and a darker shade of esoteric poetry on his latest LP The Manic or The Varied Dancing Flames Of The Eternal Human Spirit. Traces of a transitional Marc Bolan (most notably My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair…) on the impassioned country blues style ‘You Are Metal’ and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn era Pink Floyd on the supernatural psychedelic ‘Araneae’ are two of the most obvious nods of recognition. But you can also hear echoes of Hendrix’s guitar pedal effects and the Satanic Majesty’s period Rolling Stones swirling around in the void.

A ‘sincere emotional statement’ of intent this album of various pathways begins with a live feel delta blues bar room soul rocker ‘Red Automatic’ and continues with a number of similar tragic Jeff Buckley New Orleans romantic pronged laments. A slight excursion on the third track ‘Seed’ takes us towards the folky Baroque, with a pastoral instrumental of descriptive guitar work. Things take a turn for the Gothic when we reach the saga ‘Eastern Roar/White Rings/Black Robes’. Jones’ ominous two-act song takes up residency in a mysterious bohemian mansion, moving from psychedelic blues to creepy biblical Book of Revelations spoken word: “Black robes hide your figure frail/The wishes of mankind along your tail/Shall bring disease among your hail/Black robes mask a deeper veil.”

A one-man operation this time around, Jones uses rustic acoustic rhythm guitar and subtle tentative electric lead alongside the glockenspiel, piano and tambourine rattled percussion to produce an earnest magical take on the blues.

A Hundred Million  ‘I Am The Newport Office’

Monolith Cocktail - A Hundred Million

In what sounds like a rallying post-punk clarion call with the esoteric branch of the Welsh Valley twinned with the Kremlin choir in tow, the mysterious A Hundred Million unfurl their banner once more. The Newport office of what exactly, remains oblique at best. And the most notable addition this time is the attempt at a veiled Gothic vocal from the barricades. With only one other track from the mysterious outfit to go on it’s difficult to know where they’re heading. And while ‘I Am The Newport Office’ is certainly in accordance and spiritually in union with that previous track, it also shows the group in a different light.

Scandinavia  ‘World Power’
LP on Artefracture Records, released 2nd November

Monolith Cocktail - Scandinavia

Encapsulating an entire era of despondency with just an album cover, Scandinavia’s fourth wry survey World Power features the cringe-worthy Tony Blair, of the cool Britannia missive, in mock Stratocaster pose; more embarrassing disco dad than rock legend. And once past the gatekeeper of venture capitalist self-aggrandizement the contents references a gluttony of inherited ‘world power’ failings alongside the kind of lesser ‘first world’ problems that send the middle classes into a spin. They do this with a lively colourful buzz of Britpop and alternative indie; parodying and poking fun rather than shouting via the soapbox. Despite the air raid sirens and news roll of sound bites – from North Korea’s own Tokyo Rose to Owen Jones – of the introductory ‘Dead Air’ media spinning pun, Scandinavia use ‘soft power’ to make their point.

Disarmingly they cross Shed Seven with The Go-Betweens (credited in the PR blurb as one of the band’s trio of influences) and Bloc Party on ‘Strawman’, and Hall & Oates (another major influence) on the two-parter holidays-in-the-sun ‘Leisure Rules’ and ‘San Pellegrino II’ – the first, a parody on summer pop anthems that name checks the short haul budget airline of choice Easyjet, the latter a hangover stage comedown.

Elsewhere an over-the-top dig at the smug 90s uber show that won’t die, Friends, and one of his most idiotic characters, ‘Chandler Bing’, eulogies with an angelic opening before bouncing along to a bastardised The Rembrandts and Barenaked Ladies soundtrack satire. With yet another recent anniversary and renewed media storm of interest in the show, Scandinavia deliberate on our fascination with celebratory culture, as the show and cast seem destined to be forever revived and forever young – frozen in their loft apartment living spaces.

Taking a different direction on the electro pop ‘Sexlife’, the group pastiche the celestial crescendo crystalline synth gravitas of New Order with their most sincerely sad songs, originally written as the eponymous title of an independent film, which went onto be selected for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015.

Playful trumpeted protestation with plenty of hooks wrapped inside a kooky indie band, which despite the name hail from the UK and Hong Kong, Scandinavia’s World Power is a soft-around-the-edges affair with the most serious of messages.

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